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As of last night when I first settled down to write this post, my son had not stopped talking for approximately 12 hours.
This is not a joke, folks. With the exception of sleeping and the time it takes for him to chew his food and drink a beverage, silence in our house is unheard of. This kid has something to say about everything in his path. And fear not. If you don’t answer him, he doesn’t mind. He’s perfectly happy answering his own questions; a quick upwards thrust of his pointer finger, a raised eyebrow-induced “ah, yes” response, and on he goes to the next tangible thought waiting patiently inside that cute little head of his.
In the weeks since Aidan has developed this amazing talent, I’ve realised two things.
First, I love listening to his mind work. The way he connects his own imaginative stories with what he’s experiencing in the real world is both inspiring and entertaining. Conversations about trees, for example, lead to conversations about apples. Apples lead to fruits; fruits to bananas; bananas to monkeys (or minions); monkeys to funny sounds; funny sounds to inappopriate bodily noises, and so on. Though I do usually stop him at this point, as I question whether he’ll jump from words to action in this specific situation.
Second, after 12 hours straight of his nonstop chatter, I have a headache like no other. The muscles in my lips are also unable to produce audible responses beyond: “Because it is, Aidan, that’s why” or “Mmhmm. That’s nice”.
It’s not hard to locate the source of how Aidan came to possess such raw verbal talent. Full disclosure: As a child, I may have been a bit of a gabber…
Ah man. I need to confess that I just snorted aloud at the thought of publishing that sentence as is. I can’t possibly write that in good faith. Scratch that.
Fuller disclosure: my younger brother did not learn to speak properly until he was nearly six years’ old because I answered for him every single day of his life. Right. That sounds more like it.
So yes, I admit that Aidan likely inherited my “charm” as a conversationalist. But let’s be real. Amidst the swirl of Aidan’s impressively diverse genetics pool, he didn’t stand a fighting chance in the “let’s play the quiet time game”. For in addition to my own chatter box tendencies, Aidan also carries with him the gift of the Irish gab.
Living in Switzerland, Stephen and I constantly talk (no pun intended) about how Aidan will connect with his world as he gets older. As a multicultural family connected to the United States, Ireland and Japan, we often wonder just how passionate Aidan will be in representing these cultures as an adult.
To this end, my husband has been amazing at making sure Aidan knows that in addition to where we live now, Ireland is also his home.
Every St. Patrick’s Day, Stephen brings Aidan along on a celebratory journey paying tribute to Ireland’s foremost patron Saint, along with everything else that defines this country; things like loyalty, lush green landscapes, and of course, a bit of Irish luck.
Due to my attempt at alliteration, I couldn’t find a creative way to squeeze in “and a pint of Guinness to wash it all down.” I also didn’t want my readers to think my husband shares Guinness with his three-year old son on any occasion. But there you go.
Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to what I think is a pretty unique St. Patrick’s Day recipe — chocolate stout cupcakes. Found on the creative blog theculinarychronicles, this recipe takes baking with beer to a whole different level. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a Guinness fan. Every time we visit Ireland, I take a sip out of Stephen’s, and each and every time, I’m somewhat disappointed that my taste buds continue to reject this unique stout.
Luckily for me, the taste of Guinness in this recipe is minimal. You get a pinch of its nuttiness, but that’s about all. So what’s the point of adding it? Moisture, moisture, moisture. It’s very similar to adding a cup of coffee to chocolate cake and never noticing the flavour once everything is baked. What you do notice is a dessert that is rich in everything else.
I followed this recipe to a tee. Guinness, sugar, cocoa powder and more…
Needless to say, they turned out exactly as I had hoped. A bit of Irish buttercream frosting on top, and we were set to go.
For the topping, I played around with a bit of green fondant, some heart-shaped cookie cutters, stick shapes to bring them together, and a bit of drying time (once you add a dab of water to bind the backs). Viola, an Irish shamrock to top.
And there you have it. Irish cupcakes, to be enjoyed by all, including those less inclined to order a pint of Guinness at the local pub. I swear one of these days I’m going to love this drink.
Now, for those of you who may be thinking “why put so much effort into a holiday that is not really yours?”, allow me to explain in more detail why this holiday is still important to me.
Sure, I married an Irish man and my son is Irish by birth. Very obvious factors. The reason I feel pride on this day, however, goes far beyond these two males in my life.
I’ve moved a lot in my life, from Chicago to Iowa to New York to Washington DC to Japan to Hong Kong to here. My mother no longer lives in the same house or neighbourhood in which I grew up. Nor do my siblings. We are bound by blood, by our past, and by our love for one another. But we are not bound by location. We haven’t been for a very long time. Given how rare an occurrence it is for all of us to be together, home for my family seems to float somewhere between our yearly (if we’re lucky) reunions and group video chats.
Our definition of “home” is simply something that exists amongst us. And I love that.
I’m not Irish. But in the sense that I’ve just described above, Ireland has also now become somewhat of a second home to me. It checks all the boxes of what I believe a home should feel like. It is a place of comfort. A place where the family I married into come together. A place where people depend on each other, support each other, and make time for each other. And that, my friends, is why I bake these on St. Patrick’s Day.
Home is a feeling, be it in a Skype conversation or on Yellowbatter Ave in my husband’s hometown. It’s not a permanent place. It travels as you travel. And if you’re lucky, it rests where you sleep soundest.
Sleep well, my friends. And enjoy the cupcakes.
(Visit the theculinarychronicles for the full recipe and instructions)