Baby Boy's Room Mood Board

Now that I'm in the third trimester, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night to ponder many things like... 

What will our baby look like?

Will I gag a lot while changing diapers?

How in the world am I going to give birth to a human? Ew.

While I think it's fine to wonder these things rather than being naive about them, I do know that I don't need to fret and can trust that God will guide us through all of the unknown.

However, there's another tug-of-war my mind likes to play. I'm trying to figure out how to design this baby's room when we haven't even met him yet. We don't know his personality or preferences, other than he likes to kick and hiccup, especially around 4am. I feel half guilty for pushing my own style and preferences on this baby, yet that is suuuper silly because he's not in the womb looking at Pinterest or baby blogs for ideas. He won't care one bit what his room looks like until probably he discovers a love for something like Teletubbies. That thought makes me shudder. Hopefully at that point he won't care either. Can you imagine Teletubby wallpaper? So creepy.

Trying to figure out a theme/style for a baby room can be quite overwhelming. There are a plethora of ideas on the interwebs, and Pottery Barn Kids and Land of Nod and really cute baby boutiques suddenly love to show up on all of my feeds, so where to begin? I started with maybe forest animals to South American/Andes-inspired textiles with fluffy alpaca stuff. Then I decided that since I'm the only one in this family with travel experience to the Andes that that might feel a little strange and unfamiliar, so I thought it might be a more educational (?) and interesting to go with a desert theme cuz, you know, we live in the desert. Cactus-patterned things are super easy to find these days, and since desert animals aren't the cutest or most cuddly, there will probably be some alpaca or llama appearances. I know they're not native, but there are quite a few alpaca and llama farms around the southwest.

Although baby boy's due date is less than 12 weeks away, the thought that he could come at ANY time freaks me out since all of our office furniture and Kelvin's futon from his bachelor days are still taking up residence in the baby's room. (Btw anyone want an Ikea futon? Excellent condition.) I keep having recurring dreams that baby comes, and we still have nothing ready. Haha. What a great feeling. To clarify, currently all is well with baby and there aren't any signs that he will come early, so we'll prob be okay; it's just something that has been in the back of my mind.

Below is the board motivating me to get to some shopping/baby registry-ing done. That's probably more productive than using baking as my way of nesting (if you've seen my Insta highlights, you know. Just simply cannot stop.)

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floor lamp / knit pillow / nursery glider / brass wire basket / rug / llama stuffed animal (currently unavailable) / desert landscape photo / cactus lamp / dresser / crib / gold cactus blanket (no longer avail) / palm leaf quilt (no longer avail)/ llama mobile

Any other mom friends out there feel this strange guilt yet excitement when decorating baby's room? Any advice? I'm all ears!

10 Valentine's Day Treat Ideas

I used to hate Valentine's Day. In high school, my friends and I wore all black one year in "protest" to the holiday. I even went to Target the day before to buy an all-black outfit. In college, I just ignored Valentine's Day. Most of my friends were single anyway. Now as a teacher, I really loathe it because students are FULL of sugar, and it's like, "What's the point?" (Please don't get me wrong, I do love my students.) However, this year I am really looking forward to Valentine's Day because I've gotten into this crazy addictive baking kick, and out of all holidays, Feb. 14th is probably the best excuse to bake. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! < That is literally how I feel inside right now when I think about baking.

Throw your New Year resolutions aside, and check out some fun baking ideas below. Some of them don't even involve baking! The first 5 are super easy and the last 5 require more skill. Which one do you want to try? Imma try #8.

For the less experienced baker, or the one who's short on time...

1 Strawberry Short Cake "Shish Kabobs" - I recently made these for a gathering with friends, and they were a big hit. The recipe suggests using popsicle sticks, but I used bamboo skewers, and they worked great. They're super easy for kids to (make and) eat, too. 2 Chocolate-Caramel Truffles 3 Strawberry Pretzel Chocolate Swirl Bark 4 Love Bark: Rose + Chocolate - I've made a similar recipe using rose water. Rose + chocolate is just yummmm. 5 Pink Popcorn - nuff said.

1 Strawberry Short Cake "Shish Kabobs" - I recently made these for a gathering with friends, and they were a big hit. The recipe suggests using popsicle sticks, but I used bamboo skewers, and they worked great. They're super easy for kids to (make and) eat, too.

2 Chocolate-Caramel Truffles

3 Strawberry Pretzel Chocolate Swirl Bark

4 Love Bark: Rose + Chocolate - I've made a similar recipe using rose water. Rose + chocolate is just yummmm.

5 Pink Popcorn - nuff said.


For the more experienced or ambitious baker...

6 Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies - can't go wrong with one of Deb's recipes. 7 Conversation Heart Cookies 8 Valentine's Day Chocolate Cake - I'm planning to make this for Valentine's Day, but don't tell Kelvin! There's an amazing video tutorial on Zoe Bakes' Instagram, in her highlights. 9 Valentine's Day Almond Cake  10 Mahlab Sugar Cookies

6 Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies - can't go wrong with one of Deb's recipes.

7 Conversation Heart Cookies

8 Valentine's Day Chocolate Cake - I'm planning to make this for Valentine's Day, but don't tell Kelvin! There's an amazing video tutorial on Zoe Bakes' Instagram, in her highlights.

9 Valentine's Day Almond Cake 

10 Mahlab Sugar Cookies

A Special Announcement!

We have a special little "project" happening and growing in ma' belly! It's pretty obvious from the images below, but yes, we are expecting!!!

Here's what we know so far:

  • BOY
  • Healthy
  • Loves to move
  • Able to suck his thumb (that was CRAZY to see on the ultrasound!)
  • Due May 8
  • Name TBD
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Our announcement on social media and this blog is so late (I'm 20 weeks) because
1) we're busy people who happen to be a little lazy,
2) we tend not to put personal things online, and
3) we had a miscarriage last spring and wanted to take things one day at a time (more on that below.)

Being pregnant is awesome but such a strange experience. I cannot believe how quickly time has gone. It seems like yesterday that we first spotted that little nugget on the 8-week ultrasound. It's only been one week since the 20-week ultrasound, yet it feels like it happened just hours ago. The speed at which these little creations grow is mind boggling. Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones, but I keep making a parallel in my mind between our son (feels so weird to say that!) and Dart from Stranger Things, Season 2. Dart, Dustin's Demodog, grew super quickly, as is our baby.

Week 8 ultrasound - super tiny and hard to see 'cuz of my full bladder! Oops.

Week 8 ultrasound - super tiny and hard to see 'cuz of my full bladder! Oops.

 
Baby Dart (source)

Baby Dart (source)

Thumbs up! Week 20 ultrasound (I think it's funny how the baby's face looks like a creepy skull, but it's actually turned to the other side.)

Thumbs up! Week 20 ultrasound (I think it's funny how the baby's face looks like a creepy skull, but it's actually turned to the other side.)

 
Halfway grown Dart! (source)

Halfway grown Dart! (source)

See how the ratios of size resemble each other? Now hopefully our baby won't have the urge to eat people's guts like demogorgons do. So far, so good.

I do want to say that it's a very joyful but hard thing for me to make this pregnancy announcement. It took us 1.5 years to get pregnant the first time, and I struggled so much with jealousy, fear, and discouragement while we were trying because a lot of our friends were getting pregnant, and then getting pregnant again. My heart would feel happy for our friends yet the sting of bitterness felt so real when another baby announcement would pop up on my feed. When we finally got pregnant last January, we found out early on that it wasn't viable. I had a blighted ovum, which is an implanted egg without an embryo inside. My grief felt so unjustified because it was just an empty shell, not even a baby. What's worse is that it took 4 months for the miscarriage to carry out, while it takes most women about 2-3 weeks. We are so, so grateful for this baby, and I wonder if we would even be able to feel the depth of this amazing gift without having a miscarriage first.

I know I'm not the first to speak up about struggles with infertility, but if you or someone you know is struggling with it, please know that so many women and couples stand with you. There's not much I could say to make things better, but I do want to say that one thing that hurt more than helped was putting so much pressure on myself to get pregnant and to put on a happy face when I just felt discouraged and sad (and a lot of times, selfish.) I constantly compared myself to women who happened to be very fertile, and I wondered what was wrong with me. Please don't do that to yourself. There is nothing wrong with you or your body, and as hard as this may be, this is part of God's story for you. He IS going to make all things new and right! You are loved and important. Happy holidays, merry Christmas, and peace and love to you!

Kitchen Reveal

Does a house renovation really ever end? If you've had any experience with renovating, you're probably answering with a disgusted, "NO!"

We definitely do not feel like our project is complete because of those "finishing touches" that drag on and on. If you're optimistic like my husband, finishing touches are fun because of the progress, and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you're an average Debbie Downer like me, finishing touches are frustrating because 1) money, 2) time, and 3) if you need a worker or contractor to come in, you have to figure out a time for them to come, hope they show up when they say they will (since August, we've been at about 3 for 10), and then you have to clean up after them. Despite the stress and frustration, we've had some really hardworking trades, and we feel so at home here even though it's somewhat incomplete.

Out of the entire house, our kitchen by far took on the the biggest change. It used to be a tight 8-ish by 4 foot galley kitchen in the middle of the house and made the rest of our home feel very compartmentalized (see this post), but now our kitchen is located in the front of the house and is more open and much larger. We even still have a couple of empty drawers and cabinets!

Do I have any regrets with the kitchen? Aside from installation problems with our backsplash tiles, no. However, I was on the fence with the tiles after installation. I originally wanted white tiles, but some people convinced me otherwise because of the size of the kitchen and the white cabinets and counter top. Since white was out, I was on the hunt for a clean, bright color that was still kind of subtle, and online these tiles looked like a great option. They're from Cle Tile, and the sample tiles we received had a brighter hue to them, whereas our entire order was more gray with just a few bright pieces, so I felt a little bummed at first, but they've really grown on me. I love the tiles' organic look and how none of them are alike. Now that I see the "finished" (haha) product, I'm glad we didn't choose white. With the kitchen being such a wide space and the bright natural light coming in, I think my eyes would hurt.

Well, here is our mostly finished, spacious, airy, and open kitchen. We really feel it reflects our style and is the perfect space for how we function in the kitchen. See my notes below each photo for where some of the finishes and products came from (nothing in this post is sponsored - I'm too small for that).

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Originally, this entire space was a sunken living room. We had it filled with some planks as opposed to cement so there wouldn't be any bubbles in the new flooring. When you step in the kitchen, you hear a slight echo through the floor. It might sound strange, but I like that sound. It reminds me of what this room used to look like and how much it has changed. The pendant lights are from Schoolhouse Electric, the cabinet pulls are from CB2, and the stools are from a garage sale.

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The rug on the left is from West Elm and is part of our dining room. Photos from that space will come soon! Also, I spy a lifetime supply of rice.

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Styling the shelves was a struggle for me. They were empty for a few months until Ikea came out with some fancy new glasses and mugs. The floating shelves are from Target, the wire baskets are from Anthropologie, and the lemons are from our tree. Please pardon my sad looking basil plant.

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All of our major appliances are from Samsung in stainless steel black. And may I just say how efficiently designed this fridge is? The shelving inside the fridge is so functional. The space between the shelves is much shorter than your average fridge which scared me at first, but then I realized that 95% of the food we store in the fridge is not that tall. There's still enough space for taller items like cartons of milk.

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Our faucets are from Delta in Champagne Bronze, and yes, our sink is black! It's a composite quartz Elkay single bowl from Home Depot. It's nice because it disguises stains and scratches but is deceiving because you don't think you need to clean it as often.

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During the week, our island often gets piled on with mail, used containers from lunch, and Costco receipts. But when it's clean and has some small decor in the middle, I feel invited to cook and bake and experiment with recipes. That's really how I feel about our kitchen in general - invited to come, be creative, be ourselves.

Have you renovated a room in your home? Do you have any regrets, or are you completely happy with the outcome of your home?

Toasted Sesame Bread + My First Recipe Video!

This is my F I R S T  R E C I P E  V I D E O  ever! I was so stressed while recording it that I got a bit of a tension headache. Then I spent like 3 hours editing it and was like, “Why did I think I had to get it perfect the first time?” Anyway, baking and cooking should be a relaxing experience, and so I hope this bread baking is relaxing for you.

Have you seen the no knead four ingredient bread recipes floating around the internet? I’m not super experienced with bread baking (aside from living vicariously through bakers on The Great British Baking Show) so I gave a couple of those easy recipes a shot, experimented with a couple ingredients, and then jazzed it up with some sweet rice flour to make it a little more stretchy than the average loaf, not to mention the sesame seeds and sesame oil for an amazing toasty flavor. I love it, and it reminds me of a healthy version of jin dui without the bean or lotus paste. Oh, toasty, sweet, greasy jin dui. Do yourself a favor, go out for dim sum, and order some jin dui. And other tasty dim sum. Anyway, this Toasted Sesame Bread is way less unhealthy and is super delicious.


Toasted Sesame Seed Bread


Ingredients

2 C unbleached all purpose flour

½ C unbleached bread flour

½ C sweet rice flour (available at Asian markets; sub another ½ C bread flour if you don’t have or can’t find this)

½ tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted

1 Tbsp black sesame seeds, toasted

1½ C warm water

2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil, divided

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Directions

Sift or pat through a mesh strainer the flours over a medium bowl: all-purpose, bread, and sweet rice. Stir flour mixture around, then scoop 3 cups of the mixture into a large bowl. Set the leftover flour in your medium bowl aside for later.

Add the yeast, salt, sesame seeds, 1 Tbsp sesame oil, and warm water to the 3 C flour mixture and combine just until evenly incorporated. Cover the bowl and let rise for 8-24 hours. I prefer mine to have a less fermented taste, so I like to let mine rise for a shorter amount of time, like 16 hours max, although I left mine for 24 hours in the video. Of course, if you’re out running errands or sleeping or going on a day trip and forget, letting this dough rise for 24 hours will still be great.

Once the dough has risen, heat the oven to 450F and put your baking pan of choice in the oven. I like to use my Dutch oven since it’s deep, thick, and has a nicely fitting cover. While the oven and pan are preheating, grab that extra flour from earlier and sprinkle some flour over a smooth surface like a countertop or cutting board. Also flour your hands. Carefully pull the dough out of the bowl, place it on the floured surface, and pick any leftover pieces out of the bowl and add it to the dough. Grab some of the dough from the bottom and pull it up to the top. If it sticks to your hands too much, add more flour to your hands, your work surface, or sprinkle onto the bread. Don’t be shy with that extra flour! Continue pulling all around the bread. Turn the bread upside down so any seams will be on the bottom of the loaf. Let the dough sit for 30 minutes, or if you’re impatient like me, until your oven is fully heated.

Carefully pull your baking pan out of the oven, add the remaining 1 Tbsp of sesame oil to the pan, and spread it around using a paper towel while wearing an oven mitt that at least covers your wrist so you don’t burn yourself – that baby is hot! Carefully plop the dough into your baking pan, enjoy the little sizzle sound, add some more toasted sesame seeds to the top of the dough, cover the pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes. Uncover, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

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Cool the loaf on a wire rack until it’s cool. This loaf will be good wrapped in foil for about a week, but it tastes way better the first couple of days after baking. Enjoy with some roasted tomato soup, eat as avocado toast, a hole in one, or, one of my fav combos: cream cheese, lavender, and honey. How would you enjoy your toasty slice?

Roasted Tomato Soup

 
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Hello friends, 

It's been so long since I've posted on The White Wong. I'm sorry for the absence, not sorry 'bout that rhyme.

We are officially in our house and unpacked! I've been very much enjoying our new kitchen and am working on some recipes for end of summer/fall. However, I have not been working on getting our house clean and organized enough to take photos and post them here. Cuz, ya know, making food and taking photos of it (and video - coming soon!) takes care of hungry husband and recipes for blog all at once. Having a clean and organized house? Nobody wants that. Anyhoo, all that to say, check back soon for house pics!

For now, enjoy this tasty recipe. It's the last one that I took photos for in our apartment, so it feels a little reminiscent to me (so, any countertops/floors in the pictures are old). This recipe is one of my favorites to make during busy times because it's healthy, delicious, and easy to make! It is a tad fall-ish, which I apologize for since we all love summer (except us Phoenicians), but I figured this would be a good way to use up one's tomato harvest.

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Roasted Tomato Soup

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

2 lbs. tomatoes (I use vine ripened tomatoes, but is delicious with a variety of other tomatoes like Campari, Roma, Heirloom, etc.)

1 chopped onion (see my guide on How to Chop an Onion)

1½ tsp minced garlic

Drizzle of olive oil

16 oz. vegetable broth (or chicken broth)

½ tsp dried or fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

Tomato Soup 2.jpg

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or liner.

Wash and quarter the tomatoes. Peel the onion and chop.

Place the tomatoes, onion, and garlic onto the lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and add the salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the veggies start to char a tad.

Remove veggies from oven and carefully scoop the roasted goodness into a large pot. Add in the 16 oz. of broth or stock, ½ tsp thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.

Turn off the heat and either puree the soup mixture with an immersion blender, or carefully scoop into a large blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Serve warm and enjoy plain or fancy. Sometimes when I need an extra oomph of flavor, I add a little feta just before devouring. This soup is also perfect with a grilled cheese, garlic toast, or crackers.