If you know me in real life, you know that I've wanted a dog for at least the last 5 years (more really, but I think 5 years ago is when I really started trying to figure out how to have a dog-friendly lifestyle). Specifically, I have wanted a bull terrier. I grew up with Australian Shepherds and they are amazing dogs, but we always had plenty of land for them to run around on. I knew an Aussie wouldn't suit my future non-farm lifestyle so I started researching other breeds. And for some reason, I fell head over heels for bull terriers.

Turns out, bull terriers are sort of hard to find! I had no idea until we really started looking. I checked Craiglist, PetFinder, Adopt a dog, and local shelters constantly (obsessively) and we kept our eye on a local rescue for months and months, but so many of the dogs that came up for adoption had dog aggression issues, which I wasn't super confident I could deal with. I also want to bring my dog into my office, and dog aggression definitely won't work for that. We had some weird experiences with Craigslist people - a strange woman who told me her whole life story for 3 hours and then gave her dog away to someone else, a man who sent me a photo of his bull terrier with a rat in its mouth (???) - so we gave up on that pretty quickly. SIDENOTE: If someone on Craigslist gets mad at you for asking questions and seem like the money is the most important part, RED FLAG. Don't buy from them.

So after a long saga of trying to find the right fit, we decided that a puppy might work the best for us right now. We started looking around at some breeders in Oregon, all of whom breed mini bull terriers and made some contacts. The price for a reputable breeder's puppy is quite high, but we felt like this was the only good option we had. And then weird fate intervened.

My friend Liz stumbled across a Facebook post from some people about 3 hours away from us who had a litter of bull terrier puppies, and after contacting them and chatting a bit we got a good feeling and decided right then, on that day, to drive all the way out to meet them and the puppies. There was one girl in particular that we liked and wanted to see how she was. The couple was really nice, answered all our questions (cue me googling "What to ask puppy breeders" and "how to pick a puppy" on the drive over) and we ended up loving the pup we had liked initially, so we put down a deposit and left. And then spent the whole drive home freaking out!

On Jan. 19, two weeks after we met her, we brought home Ada, our 8-week old bull terrier pup. She was so tiny and cried and pooped all through her first night with us.

She is now 11 weeks old (!!!) and has chunked out a little more, loves to play and bite us and is starting to really show her hilarious and stubborn personality. We have been on a roller coaster of emotions since day one - we have some really good days and some really rough days and feel like we're doing amazing and then feel like we're failing. Potty training and bite inhibition are HARD you guys. And having a dog in an apartment is also really tough. But we're working through it, taking it day by day and trying to really cherish the moments where she's having fun and loving on us (and not the ones where she's biting our hands or throwing a tantrum).

If you want to follow her adventures, I post a lot on my instagram and I created an instagram for her @ada_the_bullterrier 

The art of family photography is something I have always been fascinated with (Sally Mann being my photo hero) and something that my Dad was particularly good at. Our photo albums are filled with impromptu photo shoots of me as a kid doing all sorts of things - pretending to talk on the phone, wearing silly hats, playing with my shadow, etc. Those photos have always felt so precious to me, and are a big reason that the work of Shin Noguchi with his daughters particularly resonated with me. 

Shin began taking photos of his daughters after his father passed away and he discovered a cash of previously unseen childhood photos of himself shot by his mother. "They show me such beautiful moments, I think it’s a gift, the gift of beautiful moment they gave, these extreme gifts appear in front of me, I can’t help but catch them," Shin says on his website. 

The photos are charming, sweet and poignant, capturing a magical childhood. Here are some of my favorites:

I cannot tell you the last time I had a real Christmas tree in my home - maybe not since before I left for college? I bought a little white fake table top tree and called it good for all these years. But this year a certain guy got so excited about getting a real tree that I also got excited about it and off we went! We went small with a tree lot, but maybe next year we'll attempt to go cut our own tree down - who knows? I must admit it did feel super Christmas-y to be in a tree lot surrounded by the smell of fir trees and having a mini candy cane. Maybe my Grinch days are over :)

We're going to be going out of town to my Dad's for Christmas so we'll only get to enjoy the tree until the 21st and then hopefully it will still be ok when we get back! It's making our apartment feel so cozy and it smells incredible. 

My sister and I are currently trying to wrangle together our family Christmas party and I have a feeling we'll have more cheese than necessary, which is what the holidays are really about I'm sure. Harry and I are also going to two holiday parties, hosting an open house and going to the Nutcracker (and baking a ton!) all before we leave, so this month is feeling like crunch time. I'm trying so hard not to get stressed by it all but I'll admit that it's closing in on me a little. Wish me luck!

Here's a little sneak peak at my wrapping aesthetic this year - stars and holographic paper and ribbon! My love of stars is no secret so I'm sure everyone who knows me is rolling their eyes and saying "of course it's stars themed - like every year" but THIS year is HOLOGRAPHIC OK??? It's different I assure you...
From ALBMAdream on Etsy

This year, my Christmas list is mostly just fun little "nice to have" things - honestly I'm super happy with everything I have right now. The only thing I'm hoping for in the new year is that we find a bull  terrier to call our own! But while we wait for that to happen, here's a list of some cute things that are on my list this year:


+ A very "me" themed little clutch from Madewell

+ A cute little dog themed robe

+ This cozy flannel PJ set

+ This heavenly fragrance (which smells like encaustic wax to me - might not be a selling point for you but I loveeee it)

+ A cute little bluetooth speaker for playing tunes or these pretty rose gold wireless headphones

+ A starry night noodle bowl

+ These cool measuring scoops from Sur la Table

+ This set of pots and pans from Costco (or any good non stick set with a big rounded bottom pan)

+ This cheerful duvet set

Orrrrrrr everyone could just get me a Terry's Chocolate Orange and some peppermint hot chocolate and call it good. 

Sometime in the summer, my friend Adrian requested that I make one his favorite cakes - the Battenberg. Then in the fall, he helped me and Harry move into our new apartment, so I thought the time had finally come to make him this cake. 

I have never made a Battenberg cake before, so I decided to follow the recipe in this book and give it my best shot. This recipe actually ended up make two cakes and in the end was an adorable tea cake. For my first time I think I did alright, but I definitely almost gave up a couple of times along the way...

For the first part, I baked two different cakes, one colored with pink food coloring and one plain. Then once they're cool I cut them into long rectangular pieces which was surprisingly challenging. Getting them all even and not falling apart was tricky! Next I thinned out some apricot jam on the stove with a little bit of water and then used it to "glue" the pieces together into a square checkerboard pattern. This was so hard! I don't know how people make this look so easy - it's like building a little house or something. Finding pieces that all fit together with no gaps was near impossible. 

Marzipan Mishap

Then I tackled the marzipan that coats the cake. Following the recipe in the book, I bought "ground almonds" to make the dough - not realizing that you need blanched ground almonds. When I was making the first batch I kept thinking to myself "This doesn't seem right" but it took it getting to this stage - 

- where I said OK, this is nonsense. This isn't working at all and it doesn't look anything like white marzipan. So after some Google searching around I realized that you have to use completely blanched almonds. At this point I was so upset and frustrated I very nearly threw this and the cakes all in the bin. But after I couple of deep breaths, I grabbed my keys and headed to the grocery store to search for the almonds. 

I managed to find fine ground blanched almonds in the organic baking section and came home re-inspired to make this darn marzipan work. Here's attempt two:

This time it came together so much easier and didn't look like a bunch of strange granola. 
I then rolled out the dough into a thin sheet and carefully rolled it around the "cake stacks". The end result was a bit clumsy but not terrible considering I'd never done it before (is what I keep telling myself - secretly I am furious it didn't look neat and tidy and perfect! Does anyone else beat themselves up about silly stuff like this?)

I did some little marzipan decorations on top and gave Adrian the best looking of the two cakes. Hooray! I don't know if I'll ever make another one of these, but I definitely have so much more respect for everyone on The Great British Bakeoff who has! 

Pay no attention to the hole...

What's the most challenging thing you've ever made? I don't know if this is mine, but it's definitely a contender! 

We are finally all moved in! We spent all weekend hauling boxes and cleaning the old apartment and were completely exhausted at the end of it.

Our amazing friends offered to help us move and we really couldn't have done it without them. It definitely would have taken three times as long and we would have been three times as tired - so thank you Adrian, Angela & Isaac!

Luckily Harry talked me into renting a 15 ft truck instead of a 10 ft (I was overly optimistic) and we were just able to squeeze all my large furniture into it. Then we nervously drove that giant truck through the streets of Portland to the new place, which is about 20 minutes north of where I was living. "I can't believe they just give you the keys to these trucks and let you drive off with them," Harry remarked while we were trying not to clip every parked car we drove by. It was tense!

It was really hard to say goodbye to the old apartment. I lived there with Emily for 3.5 years and so much happened during that time. I loved the neighborhood we were in and got really emotional when we were doing our final walkthrough (I CRIED A LOT). Goodbyes are really hard for me. It's a bummer how when this great new chapter is opening up in your life it almost always means closing the door on other chapters forever - it's bittersweet.

The night after we took the last stuff out by car, Harry and I went to get pizza and just have a moment to decompress. It felt really good to just sit there and be in the moment, and reminded me of a story my dad told me about when he and my mom were trying to decide if they should move to Whidbey Island over burgers at Toby's Tavern (a seaside dive bar). Even though our move probably isn't as grandiose, it's still a moment that feels pivotal. (Also, get a load of that laundry day shirt. We were on like day 3 of wearing the same clothes and I felt SO gross!)

So on to the new place...it's so lovely so far! Tons more light for my plants and a gorgeous kitchen that I cannot wait to get baking in (pumpkin bread for all!)
We're still in a bit of moving box chaos but are starting to get things put away and how we want them. More to come!

Kitchen of dreams

My new toaster of dreams

Watching Cold Justice while unboxing

Harry the hero putting together the couch

The moving mess begins...

In two-ish weeks I'm moving to a new apartment and I'm having some FEELINGS. I moved into my current place when I first moved to Portland, around 3.5 years ago. I moved in sight unseen - my roommate Emily and her boyfriend toured it and loved it so I said yes and packed up my things. It was a really hard adjustment and I spent the first month of my Portland residency frantically searching for jobs and riding TriMet buses all over the place.

So many things happened during my time living here - I got a job where I still work, I made friends, I threw a couple of parties (including pity parties haha ahhh), bonded with our neighbor's cat, walked to the Portland Nursery, Horse Brass Pub, and Movie Madness. It was both a good and incredibly hard time in my life. I worked on recovering and grieving my mother's death here.

I'm now getting ready to move in with my amazing boyfriend, into a new place in North Portland, and start what feels like a brand new chapter in my Portland life. It's funny how you can really feel it when you're on the verge of a big shift. I think it's a good shift - the right move - but big changes are so hard and scary for me. I worry constantly about making the "right" choices. I have a tendency to mourn what I'm leaving behind, even if it's left me behind already.

A desk and books that are now sold & gone!
My sister came to visit and help me get rid of a bunch of stuff and it felt good to be rid of some possessions but it also made it all feel real and reminded me how much more I have to do before our move in date! I don't know how one person can accumulate so much stuff, but here we are. She was a HUGE help coordinating sales on Facebook marketplace and meeting up with strangers to sell my desks, a keyboard, vanity and more.

Anyway, this post is a little rambly but I just wanted to say that I'm moving, and I'm both really excited and really sad about it. Saying goodbye to an era of your life is tough, but I'm looking SO forward to all the exciting moments this new chapter will bring.