September 15, 2017

10 Tips to Achieving Success in the Kitchen!

We all want to waltz into our kitchens with unshakeable confidence and create something equally beautiful as it is delicious, right? A perfect afternoon spent in the kitchen with no hours wasted, pans burnt, or ingredients spilt is for sure the ideal scenario in our heads; but take it from me, things never go 100% according to plan. Even after five years immersed in the culinary industry and having picked up SO much food knowledge (plus all those episodes of Masterchef on TV 😜), I am still more than capable of screwing up a recipe that I've made dozens of times before. Sigh, I'll never understand it.
And although expecting a perfect outcome every single time is quite the unfeasible goal, we can still do everything in our power to get as close to smooth-sailing as humanly possible. We can!
Those of you who are well seasoned in cooking, baking, and all things culinary, these tips may be considered common sense to you. To be honest, I have assumed that these are as well known to everyone else as they are to me. But this totally isn't the case! If there's one thing I've learned over my 26 years of life it's that just because I may know a certain skill, it doesn't mean that my friend, husband, co-worker, or Mom know it too. The best written work comes from people who write about what they know, so imagine if we all wrote about our knowledge and personal experiences--we'd learn so much from each other!
So here we go, these are my 10 best personal tips for achieving a successful cooking and baking endeavour!

1. Read Over Your Recipe Carefully.

When going off of a recipe--before you even start preheating your oven--read the entire thing from beginning to end. Skip over nothing so you miss nothing! You do NOT want to end up with a bunch of surprises half way through. Also, ask yourself the following two questions to avoid any other surprises:
Do I have the necessary equipment to execute this recipe? Wait, I need a muffin tin to bake these muffins?! 😂 Or: I need a whisk attachment to make this meringue?! Oops.
Do I have enough time to do this recipe? You don't want to promise your friends at that party in two hours that you're gonna bring a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls if you haven't even started prepping it and only now just realized that it takes over an hour to proof the dough. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you're gonna be sooo late to that party, unless you're a cheater and opt for the grocery store cinnamon rolls instead.

Remember, some recipes don't have to be executed at one time. For instance, when I bake pies I always make my pie dough the night before, which means I only have to focus on my rolling, filling and assembling the following day. When I bake cakes or cupcakes, I bake my cakes/cupcakes the day before and fill/frost them the next day. It's so much more enjoyable when all you have left to focus on is the piping and finishing touches (also known as, the fun part)!

2. Check Your Ingredient Supply.

This is a huge one for me. Whenever I'm about to bake something, I'll put the recipe on the kitchen counter and read through each ingredient listed one by one, scanning my pantry shelves, cupboards, and fridge to see if I have those ingredients. If I don't, I write down the ingredient AND its quantity on a piece of paper or on the Notes app on my phone. (Writing down the quantity is important too because in the past I've written down that I needed confectioners sugar, only to realize later that I only bought half the amount that I needed.) Even though I only live literally a minute drive from the nearest grocery store (which I'm SO grateful for), there is nothing worse than starting to work through a recipe after already making a grocery-trip only to realize I forgot to buy an ingredient or that I didn't buy enough of it.
This means I have to put my shoes back on, grab my purse, run down the stairs, get into my car, drive to the grocery store, find a place to park, speed walk all the way to the back of the store (why is that one ingredient always furthest from the check-out?),  make a mad dash to the checkout, wait in the longest "express" line ever because you just remembered that it's Saturday and EVERYONE decided to come here too, run back to my car, get stopped at that annoying red light on the way back to my apartment, park my car, run up the steps, and then continue on baking feeling all out of sorts all because I forgot that ONE ingredient. Friends, I beg of you--learn from my mistakes and carefully check your ingredient count.

3. Begin With A Clean Kitchen.

There's nothing more satisfying than beginning your baking adventure in a sparkling clean kitchen! Now, how does that saying go again? A clean workspace is a happy workspace? Well, it's totally true. Not only is it way more sanitary for the food you're about to eat, clean countertops provide a sense of organization and motivation. I know that if I'm in any room in general that's super messy I can't think straight and grasping for a sense of focus is ill-fated. Also, when my counters are already spotless, it makes me more inclined to keep them in that condition which brings me to my next point...
4. Clean-As-You-Go.
The first time I had ever learned this concept was during my time in culinary school. We'd actually lose grades for having a messy workstation. Why, you ask? Go work in any commercial kitchen--your executive chef will lose it on you if you're cooking in a mess. A messy kitchen is unsanitary, and it decreases surface area (there is NO kitchen with more-than-enough counter space to begin with). But worst of all, it's a horrible feeling to turn around after putting your cake in the oven only to discover that a tornado has obnoxiously made its way through your kitchen. When did this happen?! The sight of all those dirty dishes and buttercream-smeared counters is overwhelming and if anything it makes you just wanna crawl up on the couch and call it a day. The concept "clean as you go" can be executed like this: I just used this knife to slice a lemon into wedges, so I'm going to immediately go to the sink, wash it, and lay it on the drying towel next to the sink.
I like to keep a big bowl of hot soapy water in my sink so that I can toss dirty utensils in there and let them soak/disinfect as I continue on cooking/baking. Keeping dirty dishes and utensils soaking in water keeps the food from hardening onto it thus, making it a breeze to clean!

5. Mise En Place Your Ingredients.

This fun and fancy french word means to "put in place"; it's a concept that I also learned in culinary school/every cooking show that's ever been on TV. It means to read through the recipe, measure and prep each ingredient, and put them all into individual containers or bowls. (Dollar Tree/Dollarama sell these little packs of bowls for cheap! Personally I love their little glass ones.) When you take the time to carefully measure out each ingredient before mixing anything together, it's rare that you'll make a mistake such as neglecting an ingredient or mistakenly adding an ingredient twice because you forgot you already added it!
I'll be honest with you, I don't always practice "mise en place". Even though it's so helpful, sometimes my laziness takes over. Since I try to hand wash everything I bake with, the more bowls I use for mise en place, means the more bowls I have to clean. And seriously, can't we all just agree that washing dishes is THEE WORST part about baking?!

Although I don't practice mise en place as much as I should, I am however really good at putting ingredients away right after I use them. My personal more frequently used version of "mise en place" starts with me putting every ingredient that I need onto the counter. As soon as I'm done measuring and adding an ingredient to the mixing bowl such as chocolate chips, I immediately wrap up the bag tightly and put it back in the cupboard. As soon as I've scooped and measured my little teaspoon of baking soda, I put the container back in the cupboard. This gives me visual affirmation that I've already used this ingredient, and no longer need it (in case something distracts me and I forgot). Out of sight, out of mind!
6. Take Notes.
A super helpful thing to do is to print out a recipe, and as you're working through it take notes on literally everything. This will seriously help you when you find yourself making this recipe again in a few months and have already forgotten how many extra tsp's of lemon juice you added last time to make the perfect lemon cake.
I'm just going to be blatantly honest here, I am horrible at taking notes while baking and cooking. I just want to get things done as quick as possible and feel like taking notes will slow me down; once again my laziness gets the best of me. BUT, this is something I am seriously striving to get better at. I even bought a bunch of sheet protector sleeves and a binder to keep my recipes in, safe and secure. So unfortunately no, I have not taken notes for every single recipe I've conquered, but I have for some and here's an example of them:
1 tsp vanilla 2 tsp vanilla.
The batter is very thin--this is normal.
Cupcake tins need to be filled up to the top.
A medium cookie scoop made 24 cookies, a small cookie scoop made 36.
This recipe yields 24 cupcakes, when doubled this recipe yields 3 8" round cakes.
2 lemons = 6 TB lemon juice and 3 TB lemon zest.

7. Stay hydrated/energized.
I can't even tell you how many times I've started a baking endeavour on an empty stomach. It's not really a huge deal if you're making something quick and simple like chocolate chip cookies (although it may entice you to eat most of the cookie dough 😏 ). But if you're tackling a layered cake project that takes a few hours, you can begin to feel fatigued and a little fuzzy-headed partway through. I don't know about you but fatigue and impatience go hand-in-hand for me and one does not want to lose patience over decorating a cake! The last time Jarryd witnessed me beginning to get frustrated whilst cake decorating he wasn't havin' any of it! He sat me down on the couch, made me some food, handed me a glass of water and made me sit for 30 minutes. I felt a zillion times better after that half hour breather was over; I couldn't believe that a little rest and replenishment was all I needed to bring myself some clarity.
Speaking of hydration, water is always a good choice, in general. I learned the hard way that drinking a Coke while trying to perfect my buttercream recipe was a bad idea because my palette was totally inaccurate from all the Coke sugars. 
8. Put some tunes on!
This one's totally optional, of course. I mean, I don't think there's scientific evidence to back me up on the idea that music will lead to better tasting baked goods (wouldn't that be nice?). But, what I do know is that listening to music while working on a daunting task can make you feel a little more "loosey goosey" as they say. If I happen to be home alone, I'll turn our TV on to one of those music stations and turn up that country music reeeeeal loud. (If my husband is home, I'm usually baking to the sounds of UEFA commentators or Jarryd shouting joyous praises because Ronaldo just scored.) Other times, if I'm working on a brand new recipe that's quite tedious and complex, I don't want ANY sounds going on around me because undivided concentration is key. Because let's be honest, when your favourite song starts playing your whisk somehow transforms into a microphone and your kitchen is your stage. But I will say that playing music during the clean-up part is a fantastic idea. It helps to take your mind off of those annoying buttercream-clogged piping tips you've been trying clean.

9. Gather Up Inspiration & Look For Help.
If you're feeling stuck on what baking/cooking project you should tackle next, I go to the world-wide-web for inspiration. (I'm not a big cookbook person, I only own like 5 of them and truthfully they're gathering dust as we speak.) On Pinterest I type in "baking" or "desserts" and when a specific dessert catches my eye, I might use their recipe, but most of the time I turn to Google Search or AllRecipes to find a perfect recipe for it. (I LOVE AllRecipes--seriously, you can't go wrong with a recipe that's been given 4 or 5 stars with thousands of reviews!)
If you want to learn a new skill like how to lattice a pie, or how to make a sugar tuile, or how to perfectly boil water for instance: Youtube. After I finally purchased a huge set of piping tips and my cake turntable a few years back, I immediately went to Youtube and searched "buttercream roses" and that is where I learned how to pipe my very first buttercream flowers! Because I'm a visual learner, reading step-by-step instructions about what angle the piping tip should be at or the amount of pressure you need to give with your hand does nothing for me. Youtube tutorials however, do everything for me! Watching someone pipe a flower while explaining in detail their every move taught me tremendously and gave me a whole new skill in just one afternoon!

10. Nominate Some Taste-Testers.
When I was doing my first wedding cake back in April, I tested a cake, filling, and frosting recipe two or three times because I HAD to get it perfect. My number one most reliable, and HONEST taste-tester is Jarryd. He will never tell me something is good when it's not. And bonus, he has a killer palette (much more accurate than mine). My next go-to's are my in-laws because they too will give me honest feedback. You need people like that in your life because there are some folks who will just tell you what you want to hear or tell you something is perfect even when it's too sweet or too salty.
Nominating taste-testers is a win-win because your friends and family get to indulge in delicious (free!) desserts and in return you get honest critique!

So there you have it guys, my 10 best tips to achieving success in the kitchen! Do any of you guys practice these tips too? Did you learn anything new? Is there anything you know that would help you tremendously but neglect to do it anyway (like me and my mise en place and note-taking 😬)?!
But most importantly, do you have any tips of your own to add or things that work for you? I would LOVE to hear them because I'm always looking for ways to better myself in this area! Thank you guys so much for reading and I'm so thankful we can help one another out. Happy baking, friends! 💖

September 6, 2017


I cried more this past weekend than I have in the few months of summer combined. It's as if I've been saving it all up for this very weekend. It's not like anything detrimental occurred either--such as a death in the family, a really tough goodbye, or a job loss.

Three words: lack of sleep. I think that's definitely what caused most of the tears. (Well, that and all the Grey's Anatomy episodes I invested in last week, which always make me cry like a baby).

The other night while lying in bed I experienced an anxiety attack. Thanks to the inevitable passing of days I am now emotionally detached from this event and I feel totally comfortable writing about it. Time heals all wounds right?
It was the first one I'd had since starting my new job three months ago, which is really good in leu of my track record. When I worked at my old job I'd get them pretty frequently because I've noticed having to wake up before 6 am for work (solely for work) is a trigger for it. Lord KNOWS I have such trouble getting myself to bed on time, which is why my previous work hours of 6 AM to 2:30 PM were a huge problem for me. I loathe not getting enough sleep.

I'm the kind of person who needs 8-10 hours of sleep a night to feel sweetly well-rested when waking up the following morning. Yes, I'm one of those people. My husband on the other hand can survive a 6 hour long night of sleep and actually function the next day; it completely boggles my mind. I'm very meticulous about sleeping hours too, constantly calculating the exact hours and half hours of sleep I'll accumulate if I go to bed at __(insert time here)__. I'd say I'm on the verge of obsessive.

With my new job I have to work every other weekend. So once every two weeks, I have to be in by 6 am on the Sunday, which means that those Saturday evenings/nights are awful for me. 

So this last Saturday night went a little something like this: First, I set my alarm, shut off the bedside lamp, turned onto my favourite side-sleeping-position and pulled the covers up to my ears. Thankfully, more times than not this is followed by me falling asleep, and callin' it a successful nights' sleep! Phew.

But this time around, it turned into a repetitive loop of random thoughts and images in my brain. Because I'm a chef, these thought loops typically resemble culinary-related subjects and events that I experience on a 40 hour a week basis. (I remember one time when I was in middle school I had a thought-loop of the America's Next Top Model show--it was incredibly annoying to say the least!)
This night in particular was about cleaning and seasoning chicken breasts. Over and over again, my goodness it just wouldn't end. If you haven't ever experienced these weird random thought-loop-hallucinations you'll never understand it and you probably think I'm a little nuts right now, but I'll try my best to enlighten you of this unfortunate weirdness of mine.

August 23, 2017

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies w/ Walnuts & Sea Salt Caramel Chips

The other day Jarryd came home from work saying that his co-workers thought it'd been too long since they've had my baking (they all make my cookies disappear in a flash). So the next day (on my day off) I decided to bake my favourite cookies in the world: oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with walnuts. Being that I'm enrolled in Food Photography School, photographing everything I bake is an absolute must--gotta get that practice in!
So, I recently posted one of these cookie photos to Instagram and asked if any of y'all would want the recipe. I got a bunch of enthusiastic "Yes's!" from you guys in the comments and several requests outside of that as well! Thank you all so much! I almost DIDN'T ask because of my fears almost getting the best of me...what if no one wanted the recipe? What if people roll their eyes because there's nothing specifically complex or extravagant about these cookies? What if my comment section ended up being just the humiliating sound of crickets chirping? But ultimately, I'm so glad I swept those fears aside and decided to go with my gut because now I get to do what I love: share my tried and true recipes with you guys!

I'm not someone who is constantly sharing recipes on her blog--YET, because I only want to share the best. Quality over quantity, right? I've been baking these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for YEARS and I can sincerely testify that these babies are delicious.
Now, if you're on a've come to the wrong place. Although, I'd love to convince you to have a little cheat day and bake these cookies! So just keep scrolling down and I'll let the chocolate chips and butter lure you in. 😉

If you're looking for a simple and quick recipe, with easy-to-find everyday ingredients (most of these ingredients are probably sitting in your fridge and pantry right now!), you've come to the right place.

If you love cookies with alot of different textures, the chewiness that the oats bring, the crunch from the walnuts, and the crispy edges from the caramelized sugars...then you've DEFINITELY come to the right place.

July 19, 2017

Rejection and the Wait for Something Better.

Well guys, once again it's time for another update of my super exciting, ever-changing life! Ha! Jokes. My life is definitely not that stimulating. In fact the exciting parts of my life seem to come in waves. And of course the rare time I actually do something fun and out of the ordinary, is the time when my co-workers don't decide to ask me what I did on my day off. Pfft. People only seem to ask me about it when it was a fun-filled day of scrubbing shopping...pulling out the long hairs from my vacuum cleaner head...and Netflix. Therefore making me appear to be just another run-of-the-mill-boring adult. Haha. We're all the same, aren't we?
Anyway, a couple of months ago I wrote a blog post about how I applied for a job (Click here to read)--one that I really really wanted. I experienced a very thorough interview and a high-hoped waiting process, only for it all to end with a crisply-folded rejection letter in the mail. Although your resume and qualities were impressive, we have decided to go with another candidate.Ick.

Whilst reading that letter and the few moments that followed, I was fine. OK, it's all good. Obviously this wasn't meant to be and now I can move on because God has closed this door, and now I don't have to think about it anymore!

BUT I DID. It was all I thought about for the next month. I'd been trying to ease my way out of the food industry and I thought this library job would be the PERFECT start to a new career. It's comfortably indoors, the environment is quiet, I get to wear nice clothes and do my hair every morning, be surrounded by books all day, interact with people, no more early mornings, and get paid to execute my obsession with organization! I even had the perfect Instagram bio already written out in my head: "librarian by day, baker by night". (LOL, not really.) Sigh. But those words of rejection stung, and of course I took it all a little personal.

God, am I not meant for something more? Is this my lot in life? To work at a job I'm unhappy at, one that makes me both mentally AND physically exhausted every single day? Am I no better than this?

July 8, 2017

To My 18-Year-Old Self

I'm seeing graduation posts pop up left and right on Facebook of my friend's younger siblings and my little cousins--who aren't so little anymore. Last month was their high school graduation and it's left me feeling a little sentimental and reminiscent. Trust me, I don't want to go back to high school, I'm perfectly fine being in this mid-twenties post-college married chapter of my life, and have zero desire to move backwards. But with all these high school graduations happening around me, my mind can't help but take me back to that beautiful time in my life when every choice I made was going to majorly impact the direction of my life. Oh nostalgia.

I'm 26 years old now and have lived exactly 8 years since my high school graduation. (Um, wow; this is a hard pill to swallow, considering I still feel like a teenybopper sometimes.) If my 26-year-old self magically showed up at my graduation and pulled my young-platinum-blonde-haired-bright-eyed-18-year-old self away for a few minutes to tell me what the next 8 years of my life were going to look like...I would not believe a word of it. There's no way! Would I be totally happy and pleasantly pleased with everything I'd hear? Honestly no, and that's only because I had such different expectations for my life at that time. I didn't know how much I was going to change the following years after high school and I especially didn't know the hardships I was going to face.  And I can't imagine being told in advanced the exact struggle I'm going to experience in a few years. I think it'd be the same concept if God laid out our entire future on this earth in front of us, our future according to HIS plans. I imagine there'd be some disappointment and/or confusion as it definitely wouldn't match up to our plans, but God knows best you guys. "The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

Besides a little shock and disappointment, some of the things I'd hear would absolutely blow me away! I mean, if I could I'd give myself a huge high-five! Way to Go, self! How'd you ever manage to pull that off?! WHO ARE YOU?!

With that said, things I would say to my freshly graduated 18-year-old-self regarding my future:

One day, you're gonna wish you hadn't tanned so much. Look at those crows-feet next to your eyes! You should have listened to your mother, Jennifer. Tisk tisk.

That guy that you're pining over right now, the one who never showed up today, he's actually gonna break a little piece of your heart this summer. Hard to believe, I know. Of course you'll go through some healing over time, but then...he's gonna come back into your life and break off another piece and you'll feel the hurt all over again. I wish you weren't going to give him so much of your time and thoughts. Even though I wish you would have just kept your standards high from the beginning, this season of heartbreak you're about to endure will teach you so much not only about yourself, but about the qualities of a guy you're looking for in a future husband, the man that you're going to choose to spend the rest of your life with. I know you're not going to listen to anyone and you'll ignore all the red flags because you're so hung up on him, but just know that God's got you throughout this whole thing.

Your huge princess high-school-graduation dress cost more than your wedding dress. Isn't that funny?!

June 15, 2017

Our Weekend in Charleston Part III

Hi friends and welcome to the third and final blog entry for our weekend in Charleston! I honestly can't believe that this 2+ day getaway has required 3 whole blog posts, but I'm extremely passionate about photography, and Charleston has got to be one the most photogenic cities I've ever visited. There were so many trees, historical buildings, dinner dates, and even residential doorways that deserved my Canon's attention. So I figured that the best strategy was to sift through the hundreds of photos, choose my favourites (which was so hard because my favourites seemed to be never ending), and divide the photos into different blog entries so that you guys wouldn't be scrolling and scrolling for hours on end. See? There's always a method to my madness.

After our lovely afternoon spent at the beautiful Magnolia Plantation & Gardens (Click here if you missed the previous blog post!), we headed back to our Airbnb house on James Island to get freshened up for our EVENING PHOTOSHOOT!
That's right! Leah Judway Photography, also known as, our favourite photographer ever, moved from our neck-of-the-woods down to Charleston (an excellent career move, right? Actually, make that an excellent life move as well) and was doing a shoot with us that evening!

Before our trip, Jarryd told me about his photoshoot idea (yes, this was ALL him!!) and that he originally was going to make this a surprise for me but then quickly realized that a "surprise photoshoot" wouldn't be the greatest thing in the world to give to his wife. Jarryd knows that a photoshoot is a big deal to me; one reason is because these photos last an entire lifetime and actually longer than a lifetime considering they get passed down to your children. Also, you don't want to wear just ANYTHING for a photoshoot! I can't imagine having on a casual pair of shorts and a tank top with my makeup all mediocrely done and my hair up in a frizzy ponytail (I hate when my hair is up) while Jarryd tells me: SURPRISE! We're actually on our way to a photoshoot! Instead of a happy reaction, he'd receive a tearful and anxious reaction--one that he wasn't hoping for at all. (I don't know, maybe some of you ladies aren't this way; maybe some of you would thrive at the prospect of a surprise photoshoot, but not me. I love and need to be prepared--hello, perfectionist over here!) So because Jarryd is awesome he decided to tell me about it before we left for Charleston so I had my outfit picked out and everything ready to go. Yay!

June 9, 2017

Our Weekend in Charleston Part II - Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

Our second day in Charleston, South Carolina consisted of us waking up after a gloriously much needed eight hour long sleep. There's always that age-old debate when you're on vacation: should I catch up on sleep so that I can feel fully rested and ready for the big day ahead of me...OR should I screw sleep because sleep is for the weak wake up early so that I can have more time to make the most out of the short time that I'm here? I personally feel like there's no right or wrong answer to this question. Sometimes it's hard to enjoy vacation when you feel so completely drained and exhausted from the work week that's now behind you. Let's face it, working full-time is HARD. But sometimes when vacation has long passed and you're half-way into the following work week you can't help but feel a tinge of regret that you didn't cut your sleep short so that you could spend more time exploring and vacationing, awake.

So yes, we did indeed choose to not wake up at sunrise, but truthfully I woke up around 7 am because I was just SO excited to be in Charleston!! This happens to me everytime I'm in a new city/area, I have trouble falling asleep and sleeping in because I spend so much time daydreaming about what's ahead! I think that the ladies can agree with me on this, that it's nice waking up before the hubs because this gives you a chance to get ready without feeling a little rushed by the guy with uber short hair and a makeup free face. Haha...

June 5, 2017

Our Weekend in Charleston: Part I

When my boss announced to me that my workplace was actually going to CLOSED for Memorial Day, I immediately texted Jarryd, I have Memorial Day weekend off--let's go to Charleston!! 😍  It's so rare that both Jarryd and I get the same holidays off so we figured that this was our only opportunity to make the most of this time!

Over a year ago we invested in Southwest Airlines credit cards, and have been racking up flying-points just with our normal spending (groceries, gas, bills, Starbucks...ect). Having all of these Southwest points, along with a Companion Pass (I get to fly for free with Jarryd!) was probably the only reason we even entertained the idea of flying anywhere for the weekend, because otherwise we'd have had to pull the money from our own pockets and that just wasn't going to happen. (We're definitely not rich over here.)

And why Charleston, South Carolina you ask? Well, to be honest I had two cities at the top of my "long weekend" travel bucket list, (one stored mentally inside my head): Boston and Charleston. But I was wanting to getaway to somewhere that felt different from Maryland. In regards to the colonial states, Maryland is right in the middle of them, but I feel it still has that same New England/Northern mentality that also encompasses Boston. I feared that it wouldn't feel any different from Maryland, which would actually negate the whole purpose of "getting away". Long story short, I was--and still am--a bit tired of the fast-paced lifestyle of the northern east coast. I was in desperate need of some southern hospitality, relaxation, (and palm trees) in my life....

May 11, 2017

Why I Love Being Married.

This has been an immensely busy season for Jarryd and I. Both of us have so many different things going on, making life not so easy breezy these days. On my drive home from one of my many obligations, this time of busyness got me thinkin'...I knew that Jarryd was already home from work and that he would be there awaiting my arrival. Just the thought of having someone to welcome me home when I step foot into our apartment after such a crazy day lead me to this conclusion: I'm so thankful I don't have to do this alone!

Marriage is fantastic--tough at times, but incredibly rewarding. The best things in life come with commitment and hard work, no? So in no particular order, I decided to write a list of my favourite things about marriage:

1. You have someone you can be your total self around and have the comforting knowledge that they'll love you unconditionally. I know for me, I am NOT my total self with most people. I'm pretty sure that if I were, they'd never want to hang out with me again. I'm not referring to the flowery "Be Yourself" or "Love Yourself" because you're such a unique and special snowflake. I'm talkin' about the crankiness, the cynicism, the breakdowns, the venting, the neglected hygiene (showers are such a hassle, y'all), the ugly sobbing, and the complaining. My husband--(and maaaaybe my siblings) are the only people on earth who will ever see that fallen and humanly side of me. And guess what? I know they'll always love me and I'll always love them!

2. You always have someone to watch TV with. Some of my favourite evenings consist of coming home from work, ordering our favourite take-out (either pizza, Chinese, or McDonalds--these details are important), and literally doing nothing but talking, laughing, and watching a great show together. (Until I fall asleep, that is--for some reason I am ALWAYS the first to doze off on the couch...I never used to be this way, guys. I'm getting old!) Right now our current TV show of choice is Friends...once again.
Side note: we are constantly pointing at each other during this show saying "that's SO you", and we've come to the conclusion that Jarryd is 1 part Chandler and 1 part Joey (not Ross, thank goodness!). And I am a solid mix of the three girls Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica; I have Rachel's emotions, Phoebes sweetness/quirkiness/flightiness, and Monica's cynicism.
Moving on.

April 30, 2017

Strawberry Shortcake Bars

The initial weeks after my big wedding cake extravaganza (on April 1st), I was all baked-out. Actually, I wouldn't even go that far. I was just exhausted. I was tired of being on my feet all day at work and then all evening after work. I was tired of spending my precious, much-needed weekends cooped up in the kitchen causing me to be too tired to see friends or visit family. I needed one of those weekends where I had no obligations, no reason to set an alarm in the morning, and no one to answer to (Jarryd being an exception, of course).

Easter weekend was on its way and showing up at the family gathering without a dessert in-hand would just be unacceptable. (Yes, I'm the "designated dessert bringer" and I'm totally OK with that!) I needed something easy, super quick to put together, and just stress-free...

April 25, 2017

Baking My First Wedding Cake.

Hello friends! Guess what? I baked my first wedding cake! OK, I'm sort of lying. Technically, this isn't my first wedding cake, per say. I have done one once before but that was alongside a friend (a.k.a I had someone to share all the stress and balance out the crazy emotions with).

Whereas this time around, it was all me, 100% me. (Note: I did have some help at the very end, but I'll get to that later!)
Plus, the first wedding cake I did was completely different from this one! It was an 8" round cake with fondant, sugar flowers, and cupcakes on the side. The wedding cake I did this time around was made up of TIERS, frosted with buttercream, and decorated with real greenery.

I wrote this blog entry so that I could share with you what this wedding cake journey was like for me, and perhaps encourage a fellow baker or two that you don't have to be a "professional cake designer" to execute a beautiful wedding cake. If I can do it, so can you!! So, let's start from the beginning, shall we?

Back in the Fall after our good friends got engaged, I received a pretty little card in the mail from the future-bride-to-be that said: will you do us the honour of baking our wedding cake for our wedding on April 1st, 2017?

April 23, 2017

Giving Up.

Hello friends!

This blog post is dedicated to the fact that I can't get the new Unicorn Frappuccino from Starbucks to save my life--SOLD OUT. I'm officially giving up. OK, I'm totally kidding. I've only attempted trying to order that drink once in my life, which was 10 minutes ago, and I'm never going to give up trying to get a taste of that pink and blue beauty. There are other Starbucks in the area I can try...and once I get my hands on one, you'll know!

ANYWAY, what has my life come to, where I only write a minimum of one blog post a month? Or worse than that, NONE at all?! As I took a quick peek at my archives I found this to be such a sad realization, mostly because I love writing and blogging. I feel like blogging is my one chance to share my true self with the world without losing my train of thought, not quite saying what I meant to say, being constantly interrupted, or stumbling over my words.
I feel like every conversation with an acquaintance or even a friend is a rough draft of what I'm trying to say, and my writing/blogging done in solitude is my final draft. It's my final flawless piece, my perfectly executed chapter of this dramatic and extra-lengthy non-fiction novel that I like to call my life.

April 18, 2017

I Have This Hope.

As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don't want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

But sometimes my faith feels thin
Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear
Or will You just leave me here?

But I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

So, whatever happens I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take
You calm the storm when I hear You call my name
I still believe that one day I'll see Your face

And I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me
I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You're with me and You won't let go

-Tenth Avenue North

April 6, 2017

Come To Jesus.

Weak and wounded sinner, 
Lost and left to die, 
O, raise your head for Love is passing by

Come to Jesus,
Come to Jesus,
Come to Jesus and live

Now your burden's lifted,
And carried far away, 
And precious blood has washed away the stain... so

Sing to Jesus,
Sing to Jesus,
Sing to Jesus and live

And like a newborn baby,
Don't be afraid to crawl,
And remember when you walk sometimes we fall... so

Fall on Jesus,
Fall on Jesus, 
Fall on Jesus and live

Sometimes the way is lonely,
And steep and filled with pain,
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain... then

Cry to Jesus,
Cry to Jesus,
Cry to Jesus and live

O, and when the love spills over,
And music fills the night,
And when you can't contain you joy inside... then

Dance for Jesus,
Dance for Jesus,
Dance for Jesus and live

And with your final heartbeat,
Kiss the world goodbye,
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side... and

Fly to Jesus,
Fly to Jesus,
Fly to Jesus and live

February 18, 2017

Fun Facts About Me!

Hey!! It's that time again, the time when I share with you some random, weird, funny, absurd, and quirky facts about me that make me who I am. I've done this a couple times before, so forgive me if I have shared the same facts twice over the years.

1. This isn't a very fun fact actually, but I'm gonna share it anyway. At my last trip to the eye doctor, I found out I had: Pinguecula. (A fun word to say, right?!) It's a raised yellow bump(s) on the whites of my eyes. They're caused from too much sun exposure--so apparently I went on one too many cruises and Florida vacations without wearing any sunglasses. It's super annoying because it actually stings and then the rest of my eye-whites get inflamed and therefore turn red. Yes, my eyes are always red and I hate it. Of course, I should count my blessings because there are worse health-issues that I could be stuck with, but it doesn't change the fact that this stinks. My eyes always feel so dry, as if my eyes haven't "slept" in days. So those of you who have beautiful white eye-whites, FEEL SPECIAL and know that I am jealous of you.

2. One of my greatest pet peeves is when people use the same word in a sentence twice. For example, "I'm feeling so many feelings". Gahhh. I'm cringing just typing that. Or "this stressful situation is causing me so much stress". Just please stop. 😫

3. High-strung, intense, fast-paced people bother me. Why are you expending SO much energy on such minuscule tasks?! Just take a breath and slow down before your inevitable-future-heart-attack catches up to you.

February 11, 2017

Heart-Shaped Strawberry Hand Pies.

Hello, friends!! I feel like it's been forever since I've done a lengthy and detailed blog post dedicated to all things buttery, sweet, and delicious. With Valentines Day just around the corner (this upcoming Tuesday!) I thought it'd be best to do some heart-themed baking BEFORE the big day rather than after. I remember last year I did my big foodie-blogger debut of beautiful chocolate-covered strawberries almost a week AFTER Valentines Day had already passed. Oops. And despite it being about the time when everyone's already soooo over the heart's and XO's, that blog post received fabulous feedback among friends and family and encouraged me to keep pursuing my love for baking. So here I am, one year later with strawberry heart-shaped hand pies busting my belt under my belt.
Truthfully I wanted to get started on Valentines themed baking in mid January, but with that month being so...difficult, the heart-shaped-everythings had to wait. To explain, I was sick and feeling under the weather for about 3 weeks, and then Jarryd's grandmother passed away at the end of January. It was a month of sickness, hospital visits, tears, and grief. So, baking didn't even stand a chance. Although I did bake two different large batches of cookies for the funeral so that was good for my baking-spirits. In conclusion it was a very hard month, but also good at the same time. All I can say is that you don't grow through the easy times, it's the rough gut-wrenching seasons that make you stronger. 💕

January 11, 2017

Cookies and Cream Layer Cake {My Birthday Weekend}

I'm 26! I'm Twenty-six years old, and so far it feels better than twenty-five did! It's crazy to believe that I'm now on the climb to thirty, or would it be better phrased as falling down an inevitable steep downward slope? I vaguely remember back in the day teasing my 9-years-older-than-me-brother about how he was turning 30 and calling him SO OLD and such. And now, I'm officially on my way to that same "old". (Well, in four years at least!)

Now, onto my birthday weekend. But first, let's rewind a bit here. Three years ago Jarryd and I were invited to a lunch/watch football/play games day at our friend's Jon and Michele's house, where our friend Cameron met Jon and Michele's niece (A.K.A his FUTURE WIFE) for the first time on sort of a "blind dinner party date". We were all having so much fun that we ended up staying not just for lunch but DINNER TOO. (That's how you know it's good!) The two singleton's hit it off and three years later they're happily married! And not only did they hit it off, but the six of us as a "couples" group did too! So, the following year we decided to keep up the tradition and do it again! And now, for the third year in a row we had the same plans set--Sunday lunch immediately following church, games and football in the afternoon, and pizza for dinner. And this time I brought a cake with me!! 😃

January 6, 2017

Lemon Raspberry Muffins With Streusel Topping

We are now six days into the exciting and hopeful year of 2017 and I can confidently say that it already has not gone according to plan. Truthfully I didn't have much of a plan, but I at least envisioned myself being a healthy person full of energy and productivity.

It all started with New Years Eve weekend, where I was sick as a dog...with a COLD. It was honestly the worst and weirdest cold I have ever had. I say worst because it actually had me bed/couch-ridden, a cold has never done that to me before. I even had to call in sick to work (after a three day weekend yet!) it was so bad; and I say weirdest because I woke up Saturday morning feeling completely deaf. Both of my ears were plugged and my nose too; not to mention my head was aching like crazy. This is Maryland climate I tell you! When I lived in Canada my colds consisted of a dry hacking cough that's constantly itching. In Maryland my colds are all in my nose and ears. This type of cold has definitely been a first for me.