Well, Hello There

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I've been neglecting the blog. I can't even count how many posts I've written in the last few years that begin with "Well it has been a while...". What can I say? A little mix of being busy and a little mix of trying to take a step back from everything. Part of me is content just reading all of the blogs that I enjoy keeping up with and the other part of me misses having this space to just talk. 
So I'm back! For now. 
So much has been going on since the last time I really wrote anything in February. Bret and I are pretty settled into our house in Philly now and I can't believe that it has been a year since I moved. Taking that plunge and leaving California was such a big deal. I was so ready, but also really hoping that everything would work out and the transition to living together from doing long distance for so long, would be an easy one. And it sure was. 
Bret proposed in Maui in August when we were on vacation with my family. It was the perfect day and I was really surprised! I am impressed that he was able to catch me off guard because nothing really gets past me. I was on edge the first day or so, looking around every corner, wondering when it was going to happen and if it was even going to happen on this trip, but sure enough, Bret had it all planned out months in advance. 
We have a little family tradition of taking a drink down to the beach at sunset every night before we go out to dinner or BBQ or whatever our plans are for that night, just to enjoy the most amazing sunset that you can ever imagine. It is really something special that we have been doing for years. On this night, about 3 days into the trip, I decided to dry my hair (I figured we needed some pictures without my wet messy bun all of the time) and put on some makeup. Everyone besides me (and my mom) knew what was going on and thought that I'd found out. Thanks guys, can't I just look like a human being one night for myself? 
We headed down to the beach and Bret had the ring box in his pocket. Usually I'm very aware of details like that but he wasn't acting unusual or nervous or anything. We get down to the beach and he suggest that we take our drinks and walk down a little farther near Black Rock. I hesitated because like the rule follower I am, I didn't want to take our glasses on the beach, which I think is against the rules. My dad was the one who finally said "just go! Who is going to come and arrest you?". So off we went and Bret was walking SO slow. I always do everything with purpose so I was trying to pull him along and he told me to slow down and then started talking about our future together and once we got to the end of the beach, where it was pretty crowded with people, I turned around and saw that my family had followed us and had their cameras out! It hit me all of a sudden and before I knew what was going on, Bret was down on one knee asking me to marry him. I was so overwhelmed and excited it was the best feeling of joy and excitement. Obviously, I said yes and we spent the rest of the night celebrating! 
I can't wait to marry this man in a little less than a year. 
What a whirlwind! We came back through CA on our way back to Philly for a few days and Bret's wonderful family threw us the best engagement party. All of our friends and family were there and his sister in law decorated everything (and there was booze and cake so I was happy). It was a Pinterest and Etsy explosion and honestly the most gorgeous party. We feel so loved by everyone and I couldn't have dreamed up a better engagement. 
Hawaii was amazing and we did so much and nothing at all! Lots of beach days and lots of drinks in the pool, mixed in with some snorkeling and exploring. Maui is someplace that has been so special to me growing up coming here with my family and now it is special to us too. 
We also made it to Brooklyn this summer which is something that we have been talking about doing for a year. Every time that we go to New York (which is only a short train ride away), we always stay in Manhattan and have never gotten over to Brooklyn. It is the cutest area and we didn't even leave! There was so much to do. We had to get Juliana's obviously and it didn't disappoint. I can't believe we waited in line for 45 minutes for pizza, especially in NY, but it was delicious (especially after you are starving standing in line at 2pm...)


The next cities on our list are Boston and Cape May! We have to see more of the east coast before we have to pack up and move again. 

All of the Cookbooks

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

I love cookbooks, I don't think this is any secret. Through Blogging for Books, I almost ALWAYS pick the cookbooks to try. I love trying new recipes, and usually turn to Pinterest for my source of new recipes, but lately, these cookbooks have been my go-to. 

My latest Blogging for Books nag was this awesome book, Slow Firews by Justin Smillie and Kitty Greenwald. I was pleasantly surprised by this book but as most cookbooks, it does have some pluses and minuses and this is my honest review of both sides of things. 
This cookbook is great if you are the kind of person who is pretty adventurous and loves trying new things and new ways of cooking. This is NOT your cookbook if you are a comfort zone person who loves a quick and easy weeknight meal and gets your new recipes from the mommy blogs. This book is for someone who likes to step outside of the box and try things that are completely different with new ingredients that you not only have never cooked with, but might not have ever heard of  (a whole octopus?!). For those of you who are more adventurous with your cooking, you would find this book interesting and refreshing, even though you might spend a little more time on these recipes and finding some of the ingredients. The authors do lay out detailed instructions on use of ingredients and a background/info section in the beginning of each recipe to talk about the idea behind a certain dish and how this dish should end up coming out. The recipes seem kind of intimidating, but if you were wanting to try something new on a relaxing Saturday night in the summer and want to take your grill for a spin, this is a great resource. Think of the recipes as dishes you'd find in a restaurant but can try at home. They are creative and sophisticated, but broken down in a simple, easy to follow along format (but again, don't let the long list of ingredients deter you from trying it!). Some of the recipes have multi-step instructions (make the dough, then make the pasta, then make the sauce) but all of the recipes look rustic and delicious. 

I am excited to dig into this more this summer and explore some of the recipes that I would otherwise be intimidated by. I am trying to expand my culinary skills (so fancy) and this book seems like a great place to start for the chef who is past the first stages of cooking and on to needing a bit of a challenge. 

Shouldn't we always be pushing ourselves, both in the kitchen and in life? I think so. 



Life Lately

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Again, another several month long break between blog posts. I'm not getting any better at this, am I? 
It has been quite a busy few months and I can't believe that January flew by so quickly and we are in February now. I can't lie, that does make me happy because I'm really ready for spring and summer. I can only tolerate winter for a little while. I wasn't even Philly when the big snow storm hit and I'm complaining about winter! 

NYE was a blast and I admit that after I was the one being a negative Nancy about paying a lot of money for a ticket to this NYE party in Philly at a great place called Union Trust. The event was in a beautiful old bank and ended up being great as a one stop place with an open bar and food. We had some friends visit us from South Carolina and it ended up being so much fun and not a headache at all, like I thought it would be. We all dressed up and I made tacos at home for our group of friends before the 8 of us headed out to center city. 


I am the only one in the whole city dressed incorrectly. It was about 30 degrees

view from the art museum steps

The next day, New Year's Day, we tootled around Philly with some friends, spent a few minutes at the parade (I can only handle so much of that craziness) and had lunch near the art museum. We knew that one of our close friends was going to be proposing to his girlfriend that day, but he wouldn't tell us when. I was on edge all day, thinking that every time he moved, he was going to kneel down, but we got home and they went out to dinner alone. He texted us and asked us to meet him at this gorgeous park, Rittenhouse Square, after their dinner to take pictures. It was so fun to get to be there when he proposed. I've never seen anyone propose and I'm so glad that we got to be a part of it and capture a few pictures of it all. 



Life Lately- November

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I am officially a resident of Philadelphia! Well, I still have my CA driver's license, and as far as work is concerned, I'm all over the place, but my stuff is in a house in Philadelphia, therefore, it counts. 
I have been here for almost 3 weeks and I'm slowly settling in. I must say, the first week or so was difficult. It was more of a shock than I realized it would be, and about midway through the flight to Philly, I panicked and it hit me. It wasn't the "what am I doing?" kind of panic, it was the "this is really happening" kind. I had been so busy the last few weeks before my move, selling things on craigslist, wrapping up things in California, that I hadn't really dealt with just how big of a life change this was going to be. I was leaving my family, moving clear across the country to a state I've never lived in (I've never lived on the east coast), and it was just coming down on me. I got a little teary on the plane and the first week of being here was tough. I was edgy and anxious and kind of just a mess. Bret has helped tremendously and I'm starting to feel a LOT better. I've been getting the house organized (although we have a long way to go) and I think feeling more organized and getting into a routine is helping me feel more settled. 
getting there- those bare walls though... 

I wanted to build some shelving units to go on both sides of the TV since this room is large and open. After poking around at a few different plans online, Bret and I came up with our own plan for an industrial looking wooden shelf. We had a few hiccups but I think it turned out pretty well. Most of the plans I was seeing online were wanting to anchor the unit into the wall, and I really wanted everything to be freestanding so that we could move them easily. 

I have been working on a few other little DIY projects, like these pots for the shelves and this cabinet (below) that Bret bought at an antique store that was SO ugly. The finish was coming off, it was dingy looking and definitely needed a little TLC, but it wasn't a complete throw away. I popped over to Home Depot and found a dark navy paint and now it lives in our guest room. It turned out so great and looks a thousand times better. 
before

done!

Here are those little pots for the shelves. i bought them at Ikea and taped them off to paint them white. After that, just a little black speckle paint (hello, 1990's) and voila! 

I will post pictures of the rest of the house once I actually get around to getting everything finished. 




Salted Caramel Apple Pie

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bret's mom brought me a huge box (3 pounds!) of apples from her orchard, and I was so excited, I had to hop on Pinterest to find a few new apple recipes. It just happened to be my dad's birthday on Monday and his favorite pie is Apple, so I figured I'd make him a pie and try out a new recipe. My mom made him a carrot cake as well, so he was doubly spoiled with desserts for his birthday. 

I found this fantastic recipe on Pinterest for a Caramel Apple Pie from the blog Sally's Baking Addiction and decided to give it a try. I hadn't ever made a caramel apple pie, but I'm a sucker for caramel (especially homemade, yum). The recipe was pretty easy, however, it was VERY time consuming. I think from start to finish, it took me about 3 hours. 

I made the caramel from scratch and it was so simple- it would be great to make and keep in the fridge for ice cream or other desserts. The lattice crust was obviously my biggest challenge (and biggest fail on this pie- whoops) and looks pretty messy, but don't let that deceive you- it tasted great!


Ingredients:

Basic Pie Dough

2 and 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour (measured correctly)

1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt

6 Tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

3/4 cup (154g) vegetable shortening, chilled1

1/2 cup (120ml) ice water

Filling

homemade salted caramel sauce (recipe below)

2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest

1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice

6 large apples, cored, peeled, and thinly sliced2 (approx 10-12 cups total - use a variety for better flavor, such as Pink Lady, Granny Smith, or Honey Crisp)

1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour (measured correctly)

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar

1 large egg, beaten

coarse sugar for topping

Directions:

  1. Read all of the directions that I wrote in this post before beginning the following recipe. It will help you!
  2. Make the crust first: Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal (pea-sized bits with a few larger bits of fat is OK). Drizzle the cold water in, 1 Tablespoon (15ml) at a time, and stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon after every Tablespoon (15ml) added. Do not add any more water than you need to. Stop adding water when the dough begins to form large clumps. I always use between 1/3 cup (75ml) and 1/2 cup (120ml) of water. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and, using your hands, fold the dough into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats. The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky. Form into a ball. Divide in half, then flatten each into a 1-inch disk and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. For a visual guide to making this crust, see my step-by-step photos.
  3. Make the caramel using my step-by-step photos as a visual guide. Do this as you wait for the dough to chill.
  4. Next, make the apple filling as the dough is still chilling: Put the lemon zest and lemon juice into a very large bowl. Add the apples and toss gently. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar. Pour over the apples and gently toss to combine. Set aside.
  5. Roll out the chilled pie dough: On a floured work surface, roll out one of the discs of chilled dough (keep the other one in the refrigerator). Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until you have a circle 12 inches in diameter. Carefully place the dough into a 9x2 inch pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth. With a small and sharp knife, trim the extra overhang of crust and discard.
  6. Fill the pie crust with the apples. There are a lot of apples, but pile them tightly and very high. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of the salted caramel, reserving the rest for topping.
  7. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
  8. Make the lattice crust: Remove the other disc of chilled pie dough from the refrigerator. Roll the dough out, 12 inches diameter. Using a pastry wheel, sharp knife, or pizza cutter, cut 16 strips 1/2 inch wide. I always use a clean measuring tape or ruler as a guide to assure the lines are straight. Carefully thread the strips over and under one another, pulling back strips as necessary to weave. Using a small and sharp knife, trim the extra overhang. Clamp down the edges of the dough with a fork or your fingers.
  9. Brush the lattice top with the beaten egg. A very thin coating - you don't want scrambled eggs on top of your dough. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  10. Place the pie onto a large baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Keeping the pie in the oven, turn the temperature down to 375°F (190°C) and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes. If the top of your pie is getting too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil. The pie will be done when the caramel begins to bubble up. A small knife inserted inside should come out relatively clean.
  11. Allow the pie to cool for 4 hours before serving. Drizzle the pie with the extra caramel sauce to serve. This apple pie is best served on the same day, but it can be covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  12. Make ahead tip: The pie crust dough can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using. Baked pie freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

6 Tablespoons (90g) salted butter, cut up into 6 pieces

1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
  2. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn.
  3. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added.
  4. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Very slowly, drizzle in 1/2 cup of heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added.
  6. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down before using.
  8. Make ahead tip: You can make this caramel in advance. Make sure it is covered tightly and store it for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Warm the caramel up for a few seconds before using in a recipe. This caramel is OK at room temperature for a day if you're traveling or gifting it.



Spinster, a Book Review

Monday, October 5, 2015


To be honest, I was struggling to get through this one, and I rarely struggle to get through a book. I chose Spinster for my latest Blogging for Books read and I should have probably stuck to my usual cook book selection, which I enjoy. 

This book was a bit slow. Kate Bolick has some great stories that are relateable to most 20-somethings who have navigated the single life, however, it kept reverting back to unknown literary women from history. I can appreciate her trying to create a theme and draw a parallel between her experience with men, dating, her career, family and life with the (famous?) women of history, but it just did not work. I wanted to be drawn into the book and get that "I just can't put it down!" feeling, but I kept putting it down. And then it just stayed down. 

It felt scattered and not organized well. I really wanted to like this book, I liked the background and hoped I could relate, as a 20-something, who is not any longer single, but did have a period where I wanted to look back and think "oh yeah, me too, sister!". 

I think there are too many other good books on the market to waste time on this one. Disappointed. 



Fall Changes

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It seems like everyone looks forward to Fall because of what it represents, and no I'm not talking about Starbucks bringing back the pumpkin spice latte. I'm talking about the fresh start, the changing weather, the coming of the holidays, school starting back up, new routines. I personally love fall, mostly because it means no more 90+ days in NorCal anymore and we get to break out the cuter of the yearly wardrobes, if you ask me. 

This year is bringing another really big change in my life, and I couldn't be more ready or more excited. But first, New York!

Bret and I met my parents and aunt in NYC 2 weeks ago for the long weekend, and we had a blast. It was my parents' first time in NY and they basically wanted to cover a week's worth of tourist activities in 3 days, so we did just that. Everything you can think of: Empire State Building, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 memorial and museum, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Times Square, The Village, Museum of Natural History, Central Park (and Tavern on the Green), riding the subway and we ate at SO many great restaurants.   



We ended up walking about 20 miles the whole 3 days which was crazy, but we got to see everything we sought out to see, and I think my parents were happy. The weather was nice and only slightly muggy, and there weren't as many tourists as usual since it was Labor Day, which is more than I can ask for. I am looking forward to visiting NY again with Bret around the holidays. 

So now about that big change... 

I will be moving to Philadelphia in about 3 weeks! I couldn't be more excited to start this new adventure. Obviously, Bret's job has him in Philadelphia for a few more years, and after that, who knows where we will be, but we will be doing it together. I am very much looking forward to spending less time flying across the country (I will still be traveling for work and to visit my family) but am SO ready for the next chapter in our lives.