Forever ago my friend Ermelin, from Cooking Hat, and I decided to have a baking night! We had the hardest time simplifying and limiting ourselves so we didn't take on too much! Originally we planned to make bread, butter, cheese, and two kinds of pie. But that list quickly got shortened to bread and butter. I'm not complaining. I feel like those are the two best things in life.

Ermelin is an amazing, hard working, mom with a full time job. So, needless to say, she's busy! She worked a full work day, then brought her family over to my house and we started our baking around 8pm. Between our excitement to finally be baking together and our exhaustion from daily responsibilities, we were a tad on the delirious side.

Neither of us read through our recipe fully before starting (which is like the number one rule in baking. You can't really just wing it.) so each of our breads struggled to come together. I was making Sweet Hawaiian Bread from Barbara Bakes. She was making a 100% whole wheat bread (from King Aurthur Flour). I'm all about a recipe where everything goes in at the same time. Neither of our recipes were of that nature.

Baking bread has been one of my absolute favorite things on earth. I LOVE fresh bread. I love fully proofed dough. When its all big and soft and pillowy and dreamy. I could seriously sleep on a bed of proofed bread dough. Yum. Imagine the dreams I'd have.... Okay I'm getting off track. But, when my dough wasn't rising properly I was devastated. So I decided to try a different recipe as a consolation.

I went with Julia Child's white sandwich bread, and I found it here. I was determined not to have another failed loaf so I read the directions very carefully. Truthfully, this is not a difficult recipe, none of them were. And on a normal day without distractions, and a few diet cokes under my belt, we would have breezed through any of them.

My Julia Child's dough rose twice as fast as my Sweet Hawaiian and Ermelin's Whole Wheat. I was so excited to see that I hadn't lost my touch completely! I rolled it out, folded, then rolled into a loaf and was so proud when it finally made it into the pan. As far as the Hawaiian Bread, I didn't have my heart set on success so I formed it into a ball and baked it in an pie plate. Even though her dough started off iffy, Ermelin's whole wheat bread came together in the end!

While our bread was rising and baking we started on our butter. I don't know why I've always wanted to make butter. Probably because in culinary school anytime someone over-whipped their whipped cream our pastry chef would ask us why we were making butter. I always felt dumb in the moment, but it piqued my interest. So when Ermelin suggested making butter I was immediately on board.

Here's what you need:

Heavy Whipping Cream
Salt (optional)
(no really, that's it)

Stand or Hand Mixer (Or a whisk and some serious biceps)
Mesh Strainer/Sifter
Bowl of Ice Water

1. Pour cream into Mixer and continue full speed ahead.

2. Continue Mixing until Cream thickens

3.Continue Mixing

4. Mix More

5. Keep Mixing until Cream becomes chunky
(photo on left)

6. Continue Mixing

7. Don't give up. Keep Mixing

8.Stop Mixing when your cream has separated into milk fat, and butter milk.
(photo on right)

9. Transfer into your strainer (which should be over a decently deep bowl.)

10. Start squishing and squeezing until you've removed as much buttermilk as possible.

(It should look like this when you're done)
*Keep butter milk and use it in pancakes or biscuits, or whatever else you use buttermilk for!

11. Now you're going to wash your butter! Place your butter into the bowl of ice water. This will cause the milk fats to solidify and separate from your buttermilk! You'll need to empty your ice water and repeat this step a few times until your water is no longer murky.

12. Salt to taste (if you want) and enjoy on a slice of warm fresh bread with a drizzle of honey!

13. Die and go to heaven.

I enjoyed this process tremendously. It was hands-on and resulted in one of my top 5 favorite foods. Now you're probably wondering, why don't more people make their own butter?? Two reasons: 1. Butter is cheaper than Cream. 2. Buying a pound of butter is easier than making it. So maybe it doesn't make sense financially or time-wise. But, I will say that it is an experience that I think everyone should have.

To see one of our every day staples made from start to finish was so interesting. The only thing cooler would have been if we made it like our grandparents and great grandparents and filled a jar with cream and rolled it back and forth on the floor. I think I'll make sure my kids get to do that at least once in their life. FHE idea?? Perhaps! Do you think Gunner is too young for that? Hah!

Overall the night was a blast! My Julia Child's recipe turned out perfectly. I had zero complaints. Ermelin's Whole Wheat bread turned out perfect as well. She got great feedback from the people she shared it with. My sweet Hawaiian bread was a pretty severe failure. But only because I forgot to set a timer and took it out way too early and the inside was completely raw. I was so disappointed because the parts that were fully cooked were delicious! I couldn't believe it! If I had just set a timer and cooked it fully, it would have been a success. Although, Ermelin's husband liked it so much he ate it even in its fallen state.

By the time everything was said and done, it was like 2 am and we literally almost blew up our air mattress for them to spend the night. We were all exhausted! But, we filled our bellies with the fruits of our hard work and quickly slipped into a carb induced slumber (the best kind!!)

I'm not sure if this is really considered a baking post? I'm still trying to figure out how I want to go about sharing my recipes and triumphs/mishaps in the kitchen. Any feedback/suggestions are welcome! I want to know what you guys want to read about!

Thanks for reading this extra-long post!

P.S. If you love to follow food bloggers, be sure to follow Ermelin's blog HERE!


The Nation's Capital

Our little family had a blast in DC a few weeks ago! We weren't able to spend as much time as we'd have liked, but we got to explore the national mall for a few hours. It was very humid, and a little rainy, but so much fun!! 

 // Gunner was getting antsy in his stroller, so we took turns holding him. \\

// It wasn't long before he wanted more freedom. So we let him run! \\

// And then HEAVEN FORBID we try to put him back in his stroller \\

//  So we let him climb most of the way up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial  \\

// He climbed up and turned around to pose all by himself. I think he's starting to learn that mama always needs a picture of every single thing he ever does. \\

// I always wonder what the world looks like through his eyes. \\

// The Lincoln Memorial was our favorite part! \\

// And the Washington a close second \\

// We cannot wait to come back and explore so much more!!! \\

Have you been to DC? What was your favorite part?


Update: New Years Resolution

As we rang in the New Year I started thinking about resolutions (duh. Who doesn't?) I took inventory of all the aspects of my life that need improvement. Keep the house cleaner, read to Gunner more, read my scriptures more, get fit, spend more time with Zack, write more letters, eat healthier, be a better friend, be a better daughter, be a better sister, do family history, take better pictures, okay blah blah blah you get the point. The list was endless.

As I laid in bed I broke into a cold sweat thinking about how scrambled my life is. I felt guilty and embarrassed that as a wife and mother, I don't have it all together. I'm still not sure where all of these feelings of incompetence were coming from. 

When I'm home around my mom and sister, whose lives are so different from mine, I get a little jealous or maybe just insecure. I see all the stability in their lives and in comparison, my life is pretty disorganized and chaotic. These are the women I look up to the most; the women I most want to be like. But my life is different. I don't own a home, we are living on student loans, I'm away from family, our future is very uncertain. As I make this list in my head, all those things are bad things, or trials. But then I read them back and can see that these are some of the best things about my life. They are the things that make my life special, unique, exciting!

So as I lay awake, restless, I decided, I'll take on only one resolution this year. I'm going to love MY life more. Just because my life is different from my mom and sister and friends, and far from what I expected for myself, that doesn't mean it's wrong, or bad! It's just different and different is good.

Here's a shot from my instagram:

I think that accountability is KEY in keeping my New Years Resolutions. So, since we're about a quarter into 2014, I thought I'd do a quick update on how I've learned to love my life more! 

Just stop. Your life is your life and you'll never have anyone else's life. So accept it. I look at my mom's current situation and it's very different from mine! In fact it's very different from the majority of her own life. Her years as a young mother were spent much like mine! Traveling, picking up and moving, scraping by financially, supporting an ambitious husband. How could I possibly expect my life at 23 to be anything like my mother's at 57?  She has spent the last 30+ years building the life she has. Maybe I'll have it someday, but not today. This is my life today and comparing the hardest parts of my life with the best parts of other people's is self-defeating and frankly, stupid! 

Think of the things in your life you can control and have the most influence on your happiness. It may be: get more sleep, try new things, pursue your goals. Whatever it is (pick just one at a time) and make it a priority! Since it's winter and we spend a LOT of time in our apartment, I decided to make housework a bigger priority. For me, a messy house is a chaotic house! My mom and sister are probably laughing out loud because I have a history of being a slob. But that's one aspect of my personality I have decided to work on! I made myself a list of five things that must happen each week, then assigned them to a weekday. Each day, that is my, "if I get nothing else done today, atleast I ______" (did laundry, cleaned the bathroom, sanitized the kitchen, floors, decluttered something). I have been making lists about what is really important to me (I'm a list person. Can you tell?). That way when I want to lay on the couch and catch up on the new season of modern family I can decide, will this really make me happier than a sparkling clean bathtub? Half the time the answer is yes. Yes it will. But organizing my priorities has helped my life feel a little less out of control. 

Mom guilt is everywhere. Even reading articles about how stupid mommy guilt is makes me feel guilty. We should be doing more, we should be doing less, we should be doing better. Aye aye aye!! How about slow down for a second and just be you. Not a wife. Not a mom. Not an employee. Just you. I have started going to the gym. Again, people who know me are rolling on the floor laughing because I have passionately hated exercise for the majority of my life. But I decided one day that I needed a half hour to myself. I decided to go down to the gym in our building (how lucky are we!!!) and walk on the treadmill and watch whatever daytime television happens to be on!  And you know what? I have actually started looking forward to my Mon, Wed, Fri workouts. I run now! I lift weights. And I LOVE it! I haven't started dropping big lbs yet or anything (that probably has something to do with the cookies I bake once a week!) But ultimately, I've just taken a little time out to just be Sally and do something that is really good for ME. I feel like I'm a better mother and wife when I'm loving myself. A big part of loving myself is shutting down the negative dialogue that I have going through my head all day. I think this is something a lot of women face. In fact, I think it's one of Satans trickiest tools against us powerful and strong women! When I see a skinny or pretty lady I start to think of all the ways my body sucks. When I make a mistake, I dwell on it and assume everyone thinks I'm a huge idiot. I have had to work hard to shut down those ugly thoughts and remember that I am a daughter of God who was fearfully and wonderfully made. I deserve my own love and respect as much as I deserve anyone else's!

A new habit I've been working on forming is writing more. My nephew gave me the coolest journal for Christmas. He even made me these amazing bookmarks with sweet messages. It's probably one of my top 5 favorite Christmas gifts of all time. It has inspired me to write more! I used to feel like I should only write the really important things down. Or sometimes I felt like my journal needed to flow like a book and I needed to include all the details of everything that's ever happened to me.Well that's pretty overwhelming and I usually gave up because it was impossible. But I decided last month to write stories. Real life stories, from my day to day life. Just the simple things I experienced  that day. A funny thing Gunner did, or the weird lady I met on the train, or a thought that I had. I have had so much better success with this. I don't feel pressured to write something meaningful, or include all the related back stories. These are just tidbits from my everyday real life. I like to think my grand kids will enjoy reading random and ordinary stories from the life of a young mom in New York City. I wish I had something like that from my grandparents or great grandparents!  The benefit of writing these things is that it has helped me find inspiration and clarity in my life. As I dwell on the events of my day, (mostly the positive ones, but not always!) while writing, I can better reflect on why they happened, or how they've affected my future. Writing has helped me take apart the pieces and put them back together again, exposing details and purpose that could have been overlooked. This leads me to my last tip.

Find purpose in your life as a whole; and equally important, find purpose in your life's small moments. Our lives are comprised of billions of moments working together for our own good. To mold and shape us; to perfect us. Each moment, each experience is an opportunity to grow, to make us better. If you believe you are here, in this exact place, in this exact moment, for a reason, you will not allow significant things to become insignificant. For most of my day, I find purpose in being a mother. I know that I'm doing the most important job I could possibly do! When Gunner doesn't go down for his nap, or he falls and bruises his face, or he climbs into my lap with a book. Those moments aren't insignificant. These moments are the building blocks of what my experience of motherhood is. I find the majority of my purpose and direction through my relationship with God. Whether you believe in God, or you believe in science, or Karma, or Buddha, believe in something. Whatever you choose to devote your life to make sure you're doing something that matters. Nothing brings great joy and peace into our lives than when we are doing something that matters! 

Honestly, it's been a tough couple of weeks. These things have definitely helped me love my life, but I've been struggling a bit more lately. How do you guys find joy in your life? I'd love to hear your tips for loving life! Anyone else still holding on to their new years resolution? This is seriously the first time I've made it past January!

My goals for moving forward with this resolution is to focus more on being grateful! I know that gratitude changes everything and I'm hoping to get a little better at being thankful!


P.S. Please Pin away on these quotes I made. They were sort of an experiment, but I think like how most of them turned out! I'm still learning.


Charm City

For Spring Break we decided to take a quick trip down to visit some family in Maryland! We stayed with my cousin Joyce who just overflows with generosity!  Not only did she offer up her guest room, but she also offered us her spare car! It was so convinient! We got into town on Tuesday and had an awesome time catching up with family that evening! Gunner was in absolute heaven with all the attention from cousins! 

Wednesday was a rainy day, but we decided to go into Baltimore to explore anyways! It is such a cool city! Its right on the water and has a beautiful harbor with tons of shopping and restaurants! We made our way to a local favorite called Blue Moon Cafe! It's a breakfast/brunch place which was exactly what we were looking for! Apparently they are most famous for their Cap'n Crunch French toast. Yes you read that right. It's breaded and deep fried in captain crunch cereal. How could I not get that? I had to! Zack ordered something called "Oh Sweet Baby Jesus" ! It was pretty delicious as well! It was a mound of hash browns, poached eggs, crab meat, tomatoes, hollandaise sauce, and probably more! It was just like a pile of yummy!! 

The atmosphere all together was very cool!  The outside, not surprisingly, was painted blue with a few moons! Classic oldies played on the radio and the brick walls were brightened up by bursts of the vibrantly hand painted tables and chairs! Local artists' work hung on the walls and the diners were a very eclectic collection of locals! 

After brunch we made our way over to the Walter's art museum! Normally I'm not overly anxious to go to an art museum, but it was a cold rainy day and we didn't want to wander around outside for too long! The Walter's Art Museum was awesome! It wasn't very crowded and we were able to let Gunner walk on his own and explore. It was so much fun to see him get excited about things! We wished we could have stayed a little longer, but we had a grumpy baby and our parking meter was running out! 

We had a blast exploring Baltimore and I wish we had a few more days! There was so much we didn't get to see! We can't wait to come back (hopefully in a couple months!!) 

P.S. I think this counts towards bucket list item #30


A Day in New Joisy

Zack and I have always been a little intimidated to go over to New Jersey! If we were to rent a car or take a taxi, the tolls alone would bankrupt us. We had no idea it would be so simple. That's why friends who grew up here are very handy!!

Our awesome friends the Leals talked about going to Carlo's bakery for Angel's birthday! I promptly invited myself because, A. It's on my bucket list! And B. It's Cake Boss!!! Even though it's been on our list this whole time, I have just been too intimidated to get over there! So I was thrilled to have some experienced city dwellers to show us the way! 

Getting there was a cinch! We took the train to Penn Station, then hopped on the Path Rail, which is actually cheaper than the subways in the city! And we were there in like 20 min! The hardest part of the trip was maneuvering 34th street! It was the weekend before St Patrick's day and a Knicks game had just gotten out! We literally had to throw around elbows to get through the crowd! And don't even get me started on the mean ladies at the elevator! 

Once we crossed the river and got off in Hoboken, we looked back across the river and I couldn't get over the view!! I'm really starting to feel like the city is becoming our home! The walk from the train to Carlos took maybe 10 minutes! It was just a few blocks and Hoboken is SUCH a cool town! New Jersey sure gets a bad rap. I expected it to be gross and trashy. But it was clean and people were friendly! 

We have been told there is always a long wait to even get in the door! It was a Saturday so I expected at least an hour, but it only took about 10 minutes! We must have been really lucky because by the time we got out, the line went across the street and down the block! These three jokesters entertained us for our quick wait! 

Inside the bakery was complete madness! You take a number when you enter then you can browse the bakery until they call your number then you have to order! My browse time went way too quickly. But that's probably for the best or I would have ended up with like 100 treats! I was suprised that prices were about the same as your average comer bakery in NY. I expected them to be sky high because it's a famous bakery. Once I ordered and paid I just couldn't get out of there fast enough! It was so crazy! 

The Leal's were in there so long I was starting to get concerned! Were they okay in there? They were more than okay! They were just busy meeting one of the bakers and stars of the show, Mauro! I can't believe in my hurry to get out of the mania I missed this!! I saw him pop his head out from the back, but didn't even think to hang around and ask for a pic!! I'm seriously regretting it now! 

We found a bench outside to enjoy our spoils! If we had any hope of saving some for later, that went out the window almost immediately. Every single thing was delicious. As in Perfection. Omg. My mouth is watering just remembering.  We ordered a chocolate cannoli, a regular cannoli, a cream puff, and a raspberry linzer cookie. My favorite was obviously the chocolate cannoli. I have a thing for cannolis.  And by thing, I mean obsession.  Dip them in chocolate and I just don't stand a chance. I mean really. But the rest was delish too!

I think its safe to say there is no flattering way to eat a cannoli!

Ally was so sweet to share! Although, I think she ended up regretting it!
After all the treats, we decided to let the kiddies run off their energy. Gunner sure loves his freedom! And the red string from the box!!

Just before we left we decided to pose all together by the storefront for a picture just as two of the sisters walked through the door! We posed for pics then watched them walk towards the door to leave! This was my moment! We were finally going to meet and take a picture with a "celeb". There I was standing like a dummy right next to the door as they walked out and I froze and got star struck and didn't say anything. You guys how stupid is this?! I don't even watch cake boss! Like I haven't watched it in years, but I was still standing there like an idiot! Hahah I was so embarassed! 

We decided to walk down to Jersey City and grab some dinner! By the time we ate and were ready to head home it was freezing! Our optimism in dressing for warm weather had proved naive! We decided to run into an H&M just to grab an extra jacket for Gunner. Somehow we ended up with like 3 pairs of pants, two sweaters, a hat, sunglasses... How does this happen?!?! Haha! But his new hat is my most favorite ever!!!

Gunner and Ally are inseperable! It is so much fun to see my little one learning about friendship!! I could have died when I saw these two holding hands!!

The day was long, but full. I'm so glad we've gotten back on track with our bucket list. Especially because we don't know how much longer we'll be here! I'll be absolutely heart broken if we have to leave in two months. But I am so deeply grateful for the new friendships that already feel life-long!


P.S. A few more of Gunner... just because!