Hello again to all of the wonderful readers of Allie and the Oven. Just like so many of you the past year had been hard and different. Some amazing things have happened also. I just wanted to take a quick moment of your time to catch you up on what I have been up to over the last year. I also want to let you know that more recipes and silly stories about my family are coming back!
Right before lockdown I made, photographed and edited 2 different butter pound cake recipes to compare and post about for the blog. Just as I was going to write up my post, my husband was told that he couldn’t come into the office anymore. Unfortunately, at that time, we only had 1 computer and suddenly my husband, a computer engineer, needed it full time. A year later, we have 2 laptops, a desktop computer, 2 iPads, countless sets of headphones and internet connection optimizers. Needless to say our house is a fully functional office now. At the end of the day though, both cakes looked beautiful but were each not perfect in their own ways…so…that post will probably never happen.
I did jump on the sourdough bread bandwagon like so many other people during quarantine. I texted our good friend Steve to see if he had any tips for me about sourdough. He has been baking sourdough for a long time for his wife, April, who is gluten intolerant. She has no problems with sourdough bread though. He was so generous and that very morning, he brought me over some of his starter. I am pretty sure that the piece that he gave me has now been spread to at least 15 other people. I have made bread, biscuits, pizza dough, cheddar bread, banana bread and focaccia with my starter and I am truly obsessed.
If you have been following along for a while you might remember that we were in a temporary apartment while we waited to close on our house a little while ago. Last year, we decided it was time to update the bathrooms of the house. They were pretty sad looking and ready for a redo. We hired an amazing designer and found a contractor to take on the project. We were nervous about starting the project during covid and decided that to keep everyone safe and speed up the project, we would move out to another temporary house. We rented an airbnb that was conveniently on the next street over from ours. As you can predict, the 4 to 5 week project took 11 weeks. We told them we had a hard deadline that we need to be in by and they kind of met that deadline. Let me explain. We had another baking project in the works, our 3rd son was born at the end of June and we needed the house finished before he was born, we had extended our airbnb as long as possible and wanted to be home for delivery. Ultimately, we were able to get back into our house, but our 3 full and 1 half bathroom house was now a 1 full and 3 half bathroom house.
After our sweet baby was born and quickly initiated into the family by his 2 older brothers, we had an excellent summer exploring and soaking up the warmth and glow that is summer in Chicago! After he had his first round of vaccines, we decided to spend some time with our families back in St. Louis and let the construction crew come back in and finish up our house. Due to virtual learning, we were able to start the school year in St. Louis and have an awesome 2 month stretch of times with our families. During that time, my sister Amy welcomed her 3rd child also and we got to be in town to meet him! Our boys got to play with their cousins, swim in my parents’ pool, decorate and carve pumpkins with their aunts and uncles and have sleep overs with Mimi and Papa. Looking back it really was amazing.
As you can imagine though, virtual learning with a 4 year old on the computer 4+ hours a day with homework that needed to be submitted on top of that, was not a winning situation. We made the difficult decision to pull our oldest out of school and homeschool him and his brother. I am amazingly fortunate to have a masters degree in early childhood education and years of experience to fall back on for homeschooling and I really enjoyed it. It was not without its challenges, but it was so fun to see them make progress and grow as students, on our schedule and at our own pace. Construction wrapped up and we ended up being able to make it back to Chicago in time for Halloween which is really special on our street. They usually close it down and we give out over 1,000+ of candy to trick or treaters. To make it safer this year we made a candy shoot for the boys to throw candy down and it was awesome. All the neighbors did an amazing job coming up with creative ways to keep everyone safe. Fewer masked little friends came by this year. It was super fun getting to dress up as the characters from Room on the Broom one of our favorite books, and give out treats and for the boys to get some as well.
The holiday season brought about some new traditions and some that are hopefully only around for his year, like having to pick and choose who you will see and not see to try to keep everyone as safe as possible. We spent our first Thanksgiving as a family of 5 together in Chicago. We ordered dinner from a local restaurant and it was beyond amazing. I tried my hand at Japanese milk bread for the rolls and they were a hit! In fact, I’m pretty sure that is all that the boys ate from that entire spread. At Christmas, we got to be a part of my sister Andrea getting engaged. Her cutie boyfriend, now fiance, Doug gave her a ring as the surprise last gift of the night! As you can imagine, with my whole family there, the excited screams were very, very loud! We can’t wait for next year though (hopefully sooner), when we will get to see both sides of our family and the boys will be reunited with their Colorado cousins, who we haven’t seen in WAY too long!
As the new year rolled around, one of the most wonderful things of all happened. Our oldest sons’ class was able to go back to school 5 days a week. We were able to re-enroll him in school and it was the best thing ever for him. He LOVES school and loves to learn. He has wonderful teachers and the sweetest group of kids at school with him. My husband has also been able to return to the office. He is tested every week for Covid to make sure he is healthy enough to be there and so is everyone else in the office. Kevin and I were both able to get vaccinated this spring and the playgrounds in the city have finally be reopened. Small glimmers of hope are popping up all over!
So, it finally feels like it is the right time for the blog to come back from hibernation and for me to be able to dedicate some time to continue to learn new baking tricks to share with you guys. I cannot wait to post again soon. Lastly, I hope that even if your year has been hard, there have also been bright moments and glimmers of hope for you and your family.