Happy First Birthday to Marin Mama Cooks

Happy Birthday Marin Mama Cooks

Hip Hip Hooray!  It’s Marin Mama Cook’s 1-year celebration. Can you believe that this blog has only been alive for a year? I can’t, because honestly this blog has become such a huge part of my life and has really transformed me. I now have a hobby and passion that I adore.  This post is going to be a bit long, so grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea, sit back and settle in.

Why did I start a blog?

Yes, why did I start this exhausting hobby, I often ask myself this question.  A year ago I struggled with finding a passion, something creative that I could do while the kids were in school. I thought about going back to school, getting a part-time job or possibly getting back into interior design. All of those options sounded great, but I wasn’t really passionate about any of them, and going back to school would mean that I would be compromising my job at home. I was envious of people who got out of bed with a passion for the day. They just had that extra spark because they were doing something that excited them and brought them joy. I loved reading blogs and secretly wanted to have a blog of my own, but wasn’t sure I was ready to put myself out there, and I also wasn’t sure what I wanted to blog about. One day I got up and decided to create a cooking blog for my friends and family with all of my favorite recipes. A cooking blog seemed like a natural fit, as I was always cooking up something new, and my friends would often ask me to email them the recipe. I thought, why not take some photos, write out some recipes, and have my friends and family just come to my blog to get a recipe. It would be way easier than emailing them all separately. So, I had a blog idea and now I just needed a name. All of the sudden, the name Marin Mama Cooks came into my mind.  I LOVED it and it was a perfect fit.  I’m a mom who cooks and I live in Marin. It couldn’t get any easier than that, right? At first, I posted about 3-4 times a week. I had so many recipes that I loved and I wanted to get them out there.  I soon learned that I needed to set some limits, as posting 3-4 times a week was not something I could maintain if I wanted to have a quality blog and basically a quality of life.  I slowly worked down to posting 2 times a week and I feel like that is the perfect amount for me.

Highlights from my first year

The biggest and most exciting thing that has happened (for my family and I anyway) is that I have become such a better cook over the past year.  I have tried so many new recipes and learned so many new cooking techniques and skills. The best way to become a better cook is to cook often and try new recipes. You should also try a recipe that intimidates you once in a while, because you will feel such a sense of pride when you’re finished. I have definitely had my share of failures as well as successes, but I don’t fret over the failures, because I know that its just part of the learning curve. Luckily, my family has been kind and eaten some of the recipes that we’re not so palatable.  Below is an example of one of my failures.  It’s a photo of a s’more cupcake  that never made it to the blog.  Hmmm… I wonder why?

Cupcake mishap

Oh, there’s why. I think you can see why the recipe never made it to the blog.  Can you say DISASTER?

These cupcakes were the messiest things I have ever made and I was cleaning the oven for hours.  YUCK!

Cupcake disaster

My kids become such adventurous eaters. They have tried so many new dishes and so many spices that their taste buds have changed.  Zoe is such a foodie now. She requests kale salad weekly, and sometimes I catch her and Eli battling it out over the last piece of kale, I kid you not!  When the kids were younger, I use to make 2 separate meals, one for John and I, and one for the kids. That was so labor intensive and my kids ended up eating the same dish over and over, boring!  A few years ago, I started feeding my family the same meal at dinnertime, and you know what, my kids adapted and starting liking and appreciating new foods.  Now, when we have a week off from trying new recipes, my kids get bummed out.  They truly love exploring new recipes as well as John and I.  Below is a picture of the kale salad that turned us all in to kale lovers!

Kale Salad

Our diets have changed as well. We use to consume much more meat, but since starting this blog, we have cut back considerably.  I have learned how to cook amazing meatless meals. Our daily veggie intake has gone up considerably as well.  These days we find ourselves craving these refried bean tacos way more than our standby buffalo tacos.

Paul McCartney's refried bean taco

I have not only become a better cook, but a better photographer and writer as well.  My spiritual coach told me 10 years back that she didn’t see me doing just one thing. She said she saw me writing, doing something creative and artistic, as well as working and connecting with other people. It’s truly amazing because with this blog, I’m doing all of those things. I love that!

This blog has also connected me with people I would not have met otherwise.  I love the new friendships and relationships I have built, and the blogging community I have become a part of.  I love helping and connecting with people, and I really get to do that with this blog. I love being out and about and having someone recognize me from the blog and come up and say hello. It makes my day meeting someone that has randomly found my blog. Most of the time I’m recognized at the grocery store when I’m grabbing a head of kale (kale obsessed mama) or when I’m with one of the kids. So, if you see me out and about, please say hi!

For fun and a few laughs, I thought I would share with you some of my older photos and their updates below. These are some of the blog outtakes or should I say, do-overs.

You will notice that all of the older photos had a fancy white border, kind of like a polaroid picture.  Most of the photos were taken at night without any editing, as I had no clue how to edit a photo.  Wow, I’ve come a long way but still have so much to learn.

Chicken parmigiana

First off, the recipe is for chicken parmesan, not chicken parmigiana. Is that even a word? I’m sure I confused a lot of readers. I love that plate, but it’s not the best china to use for food photography, as it takes away from the actual food. I’ve learned that simple is better and that taking an overhead shot of certain dishes works better.  In the updated photo below, the chicken parmesan looks much more appetizing with all the red sauce surrounding it, don’t you think?  I just want to take a fork and dive in there!

Chicken parmesan

What can I say about the pumpkin enchilada below?  The enchilada looks overcooked, the sour cream looks like bird poo, (per Eli) and there is really too much going on in the photo, not to mention the photo is overexposed. Oh, and there’s that china again.

Enchiladas with pumpkin sauce

I simplified the photo and just showcased one enchilada from the top view, (best view with dishes such as this) and added a hint of green as the enchilada needed a pop of color.

Enchilada with pumpkin sauce

So I made these dark chocolate chip cookies around Christmas time. I thought it would be cute to place the cookies next to those mini trees. It’s cute, but the cookies don’t look too appetizing.  I’m not going to say what they look like, but you really don’t have to use your imagination. These cookies are best not photographed from above either.

Black forest cookies

This is a much better shot of the cookies, and as you can see, they photograph better from the side.

Dark chocolate chip cookies

Ok, I’m saving the best for last.  Zoe and I cracked up when we saw this photo on my post for the best chocolate chip cookies a few months back.

We decided we needed to update the photo ASAP.

The old post title said, “Got milk have cookie?”  Zoe and I decided that it should have said, “Got milk, have plate?”

Get it, because the plate is showcased in the photo, not the cookie?

Best chocolate chip cookies

Here is the updated photo.  Again, cookies look much better when photographed from the side.

Chocolate chip cookies stacked

Let’s continue this trip down memory lane, shall we? Here are some of the old headers I created all by myself (so proud) before I had a professional design my header.

Header 1

This was my first header. I love that I have a random shot of a half eaten sandwich; I don’t know what I was thinking there.

There’s a photo of our favorite chocolate cake with a chocolate frosting (too rich with the chocolate frosting).

The photo next to the chocolate cake is a random quinoa dish I threw together.

There’s the cake from Zoe’s 11th birthday, awwww!

There’s a picture of one of our favorite things, popovers.

Marin Mama Cooks first website header

Header 2

There’s that failed cupcake.  I used the photo for the header, but never posted the recipe.  That cupcake, btw, was the only one that came out looking halfway decent.  I can tell that this header was done after Thanksgiving because I remember most of those recipes came from Whole Living’s Thanksgiving edition.

Marin Mama Cooks second website header

Header 3

That tangerine bundt cake was such a production, but so good.  All of my photos of the cake were overexposed as I had the camera on the wrong setting, so I had to really edit them.  I think that is another recipe that should get updated. Whoopie pies, yum!

Robert’s absolute best brownies also got a facelift.

Marin Mama Cooks third website header

Header 4

This was the last header I did before the current design.  This one had a much better flow than the previous headers. It also looks a bit healthier as it’s showcasing a kale salad and smoothie as well as this whole-grain skillet corn bread.

Marin Mama Cooks fourth website header

What’s next for Marin mama?

People often ask me what I want to gain from this blog?  That is a tough question, and I really don’t have a definite answer right now.  I’m just enjoying seeing the blog grow and I’m going to let the blog organically transform into what it will. Ok, I do have a small dream. I dream of one day opening up a cafe in Marin called, Marin Mama’s Cafe. It would feature recipes from my blog and would be a community gathering place, casual and comforting. My favorite chocolate cake, brownies and cookies would be available daily.  My cake would sit on a pedestal under a cake dome for people to purchase by the slice.  I could see Zoe and her friends stopping by after school to grab a snack and hang out, as well as helping out in the cafe on the weekends.  Eli would be there greeting everyone and helping to take orders and get water. There would be lots of take out items such as pre-made turkey burgers, veggie burgers, kale salads, pastas, green smoothies, basically all the recipes form the blog.  Moms and dads could swing by before dinner and grab the featured menu item of the day to take home for dinner or they could come by and eat in the “kid friendly” cafe. Maybe there would be cooking classes for kids, adults and new moms. I might even have kids teach kids. Who knows? I have tons of ideas, but for now, I’m just gathering the ingredients and will assemble the recipe later.

Thank you!

The best thing about this blog is YOU!  Thank you for stopping by and reading my posts and making the recipes.  I really enjoy hearing from each and every one of you.  Truly, it makes my heart sing knowing that people are actually reading my words and cooking from the blog.  I’m writing this blog for me and for you!  Where will it be in a year from now?  Who knows, but I hope I will still be posting and growing and that you will all still be here with me.

With love Jackie
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33 thoughts on “Happy First Birthday to Marin Mama Cooks”

  1. We all soooo enjoy your blog and you make OUR cooking so much easier. I can look at your Sunday blog and have ideas for all week, its a no brainer for me:)
    I didnt realize how much the blog has changed, and I have been a reader since day 1!
    Keep the blog going, you rock!!!!

    1. You’ve been such an amazing friend and supporter from day one Amanda, so thank you! You have become one of my cooking buddies and I love our daily cooking texts! See you at hot lunch!

  2. Andrea Pierpont

    Go Jackie and Happy Birthday to you and the blog – you are on to something special and a path that’s right for you! I’ve shared with many friends and family and they are fans too. Keep exploring for yourself and cooking for us! xox Andrea

    1. Thanks so much Andrea! I love that you have passed the blog onto friends and family and I have received numerous emails from people you have passed it onto, so thanks! Also, thanks for that amazing turkey burger recipe. It is now one of our favorites, as you know!

  3. Absolutely awesome post and there’s so much I want to say – but first, congrats on 1 year. A HUGE milestone to start up and STICK with blogging. It’s easier said than done as an armchair quarterback til one starts it. And yes, blogging about food WILL make you a better cook, a more adventurous one, and it will by default turn your family into more adventurous eaters. Really, on that level, it’s such a win!

    Then, it turns you into a photographer and a writer. People think food/cooking blogs are about being a good cook and recipes. Well, that’s a good start but there’s so much more and that’s what I love about it, too. It challenges you in many different ways and aspects.

    Love this post and reflections, Jackie. And congrats!

    1. Awww! Thanks so much for the kind words Averie. You are totally correct abut a food bog being so much more than just recipes. I also totally get how hard it is to make through the first year. There were times, (many times) where I almost gave the blog up due to it taking so much time and what not. I know you get it, and I still admire how you get a post out there every day. You amaze me.

  4. Your blog has completely transformed thy way I cook for my family. Our staples now include heirloom tomato soup, cauliflower soup, penne vodka, chicken parm. I am still getting requests to make that chocolate cake again.

  5. I LOVE this post! Hilarious 🙂 You’ve come such a long way – the enchilada picture especially is SOOOO much better! My own one year blog anniversary is in a couple of weeks, I might have to do a comparison post like this one 🙂

  6. Happy Birthday Marin Mama Cooks! I love this post! It’s so cool seeing how much your blog has changed over the past year. The old headers were beautiful, but I like your new one so much more. I hope you keep blogging for years to come.

  7. Sending my happiest wishes for you and your bog! I celebrate with you in this grand adventure. You are quite talented in the kitchen as well as behind the lens. Thank you again for sharing these terrific recipes and your family life as well.
    I would love to stop in at your restaurant someday. Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy your fabulous blog. Congrats!
    Love, Jill

    1. Hi Jill! Thank you for all your kind comments. I’m so glad you discovered the blog and that you’re continuing to come back to read each post, as well as make some recipes. My daughter always checks to see if you left a comment, as she loves reading them. Have a wonderful day Jill!

  8. aww – I was waiting to post until I had something coherent to say – but that time doesnt seem to be coming soon so Im just going to write anyways.

    BIG congratulations!!! As the biggest consistent blog loser of all time I applaud and honour you. I also know youve said what partly kept you going was knowing how proud it made your kids – and I really feel that aspect of you (the wonderful mama aspect) is such an integral part of the blog and another thing that keeps people coming back. I hope to be somewhere near as good/ loving and fun as you!

    I also LOVE a) your genoristy as a blogger – encouraging everyone else and never viewing it as a competition b) your realness c) your photos (cos they are super ace these days)d) your mix of healthy and indulgent e) your self deprecating comments (I love the comment about the randomness of the Carly SImon video – yep random!!) f) the inclusion od zoe and eli.. they are ridiculouslunkly cute etc etc ETCETERA. Basically I just love you and your blog and Im so glad you did it and that we met and yada yada yada. And as for the cafe?? Give me a flight back and Louis a visa and we’d be there 24/7. I know your cafe would enscapulate (is that not a word?) everything wonderful about your blog. Its the perfect dream/ vision for you.

    HAPPY ONE YEAR!!! (clearly I need to start blogging again and then maybe I wouldnt feel the need to leave 4 pargraph long comments right?!)

    1. Oh Em! Where do I start! Your comment made me shed a tear, but in a happy way. I am so glad that we met through this crazy blogging community as well. If you and Louis moved here and we opened out cafe together, that would be AMAZING! Keep thinking about it, ok? I miss your blog because it’s honestly one of my top faves to read, so I can’t wait for you to get it up and running again. Everything you said about me above, I feel the same about you. You emit such grace, love, kindness and enthusiasm for life that people just want to be around you. You’re extremely smart and witty, but so down to earth! I miss you and can’t wait for you and Louis to move to the states!
      I will keep checking wineandbutter everyday to see when there’s a new post. I can’t wait to check out the updated site.
      Love, Jackie

  9. Congratulations! You have come SO far in such a short time!! I’m a newer fan and LOVE the way your blog is organized. THANKS

  10. Happy Blog Birthday!!! Your blog has become one of my most favorite to read each week. I can’t believe the transformation you have had in only ONE year! This post was so much fun to read 🙂

    1. Thanks girl! I remember way back when you made the lemon chicken recipe. We’re actually making that next week! Congrats on the marathon girl and thanks for sticking with and becoming a loyal reader! It really means a lot to me!

  11. congratulations on your one year anniversary! you are awesome and inspiring! you have done so much in one year. if i ever bump into you (though I live in Phoenix!) I will certainly say hi! i blog too as a hobby (www.cwmoxie.com) and hope one day to start to learn how to take nice pictures! i loved the former vs. after shots! your humility and kindness really show through. 🙂

    1. Hi Christina! You’re so sweet 🙂 I will totally check out your blog. As far as the picture taking goes, it just takes time and when you find a setting that works for you, then go for it. I find that I’m actually using P (programed auto) on the camera most of the time. I’m not sure what that setting is on a cannon, (I have a nikon) I think it might be A. Anyway, I do try and use the manual setting, but it takes a lot of time and when I’m cooking, there’s not always time. Another thing I’ve learned to do is not to compare my photos to some of the bigger sites. You have to be happy and content where you are now and be proud. I use those sites for inspiration though. What I love about photography is that you’re always learning and it changes all the time! Have fun with it!

  12. Okay so I am just now getting to your blog and I am wishing you a very late but very happy First Birthday! I am so glad you have met you through your blog and you are just wonderful. Your food is amazing and creative and gorgeous and I love reading your menu each week. I know we both are devoted to our family and we know the importance of putting what matters first but i have to say whatever you do just keep this up because you are sooo talented!

  13. Happy Anniversary! I remember when you would only eat sugar snap peas and carrots! You’ve come a long way baby! Keep going girl and congratulations.

  14. I just came across your blog….and this post I just love! first happy belated 1 year birthday – yeah. I just love seeing how your photography has developed…wow… I like to think I have hope then lol…we will eat the food up and I forget to take the picture!

    1. Thanks Angela! I’m glad you found my blog. The photography thing has come a long way and my family has gotten use to me being late to the table because photos need to be taken. I end up eating a cold dinner the nights I photograph. I love it when I can re-make a dinner that I already posted because I can enjoy it hot!

  15. I’m pretty dang late on reading this post, but I loved it! I really loved viewing your transformation over the one year. What a transformation it was! You should be so proud of yourself. I love your idea for the future, too — so cute!

    1. Hi Kelli! Thanks so much for checking the post out and for your kind words. Isn’t is incredible how much our blogs change and grow from year to year? I will be coming up on my 2 year anniversary this October and I still feel like I have tons to learn. It’s a fun growing process though and it’s fun to track the progress. 🙂 xoxo, Jackie

  16. That means Marin Mama Cooks is about two years old now, huh? Congrats! 🙂
    I loved reading this; you have clearly come so far. Your pictures are beautiful! I know I will go back one day and laugh at my pictures and writing too. It’s funny to see how much we change.

    By the way, I would totally come by your cafe when I am in Marin! I hope your dream comes true one day.

    1. Hi Sarah! Yes, two years girl and I can’t believe I haven’t posted my 2 year blog anniversary yet. I wish I had someone who would write my posts up for me at times because I have so much to post, but so little time to actually get on the computer! It’s always fun to look back and see the growth. I see it in not only my photos, but my confidence in the kitchen as well. I still have to work on my all of grammatical stuff, as my friends are always pointing out errors to me 🙂
      Someday, if I do open my cafe, I would love to see you there 🙂 Thanks again for your positive and uplighting comment, it made my day! xoxo, Jackie

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