Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Back to School Butterflies

It’s back to school time. I know this because I am now officially late. To everything. Even publishing this post. I know lots of parents everywhere are rejoicing at the return of school. And I can’t say I’m sorry to see summer go. As a working mama, it’s financially exhausting to pay more than half your salary so you can have a job. But now I feel as though I’ve traded one kind of exhaustion for another. The kind that keeps you up all night making color-coded schedules and packing wholesome lunches.

Back to School
This year, we’re facing the herculean task of putting one child in middle school and the other in kindergarten. I feel like Atlas straddling two worlds, trying to keep our lives whole, suspended by the strength of my sheer, stubborn will. And like any parent, I suffer through sleepless nights, wondering if I’ve made the right decisions. The one that puts my child’s needs ahead of my own fears and ambitions. Choices that didn’t come from the specter of anxiety that sits on my shoulder and whispers doubts into the hesitant curve of my ear.

I am always overwhelmed by the frantic, frazzled pace of big transitions like these. And I know what I feel is just a fraction of the sensation kids get buried under when they go to a new school. I know because I was that kid. I attended ten different public and private schools before the age of 17. Some places I never stayed long enough for anyone to learn my name. I was the new girl. Always on my way to somewhere else.

Back to School
Before you start feeling too sorry for me, I'll confess that I feel glad for that experience. It taught me something powerful. It's a lesson I try to instill into my kids at the start of every school year. I remind them to look around at all the chaos and uncertainty and remember one thing.

Everyone is as nervous as you are. Unsure and painfully vulnerable.

All of us.

The trick is that we respond to this discomfort differently. Some kids get quiet and shy, curling in on themselves. Others get loud and boisterous, seeking attention to fill the hole that anxiety has suddenly opened in the pit of their stomach. There are kids who respond with defensiveness, growing aggressive or seeking to exercise power so they can feel some measure of control.

Back to School
I remind my kids not to drown in their own distress in times like these. I encourage them to look up and pay attention. To really see the new boy, sitting alone at a lunch table and trying to make himself small to hide his embarrassment. I tell them that if they peer hard enough, they’ll see the fear behind the taunt from the girl on the playground. The best way to step beyond our own crippling, self-conscious anxiety is to act with compassion. When I throw a lifeline out to others, it makes my own insecurities seem less significant. I encourage my kids to take a seat next to someone who is alone, to throw their arms about misfits and outcasts and declare them friends.

Because the secret is this. We’re all bluffing. Each of us feels lost and inadequate and overwhelmed. As an adult, once you gain some measure of control over your life, this sense of isolation recedes a bit. But it never leaves completely. And the people in my life I have been so grateful for were the ones who saw past my defensiveness and reached out with a smile and an outstretched hand.

Back to School
As my kids head back to school and the awkwardness of those first moments ease, I want them to look around and see the kid afraid to make eye contact, the one whose hands are clenched tightly in misery. Maybe in that kid they’ll recognize themselves and extend the kindness they want desperately for themselves. I hope these days of nervous anticipation teach them the importance of compassion and that it has the power to lift us beyond ourselves.

If you have a child in your life who is overwhelmed and lost right now, let them hear this encouragement loud and clear. Even the biggest of kids feel small sometimes. We're all in this together.

Did this post settle some of your back to school butterflies? Come visit A Sweet Little Life on Facebook for more parenting against the grain.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Homemade Peanut Butter & Jelly Oreos


Yep. Oreo wouldn't do it, so I did it my damn self. And clearly, we're all puzzled why Nabisco thinks Swedish Fish flavor is a fantastic idea but hasn't yet delivered a classic combination like PB&J. Don't they understand the power of salty and sweet?

I do. And that's why I made these little nuggets. Golden shortbread cookies sandwiched with a rich, salty peanut butter frosting and a dab of sweet strawberry jam. Like all my treats, they're on the petite side and perfect to tuck into lunchboxes for back to school treats. PB&J Oreos have arrived, friends and it's glorious. 
Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Shortbread Suspects
Let's start with shortbread basics. And yes, that's everything. Looks pretty sparse, but these turn out crisp and buttery and just as satisfying as an actual golden Oreo. Let's be honest. MORE satisfying. Because butter. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Buttery Beater
Cream it and chill. It's like Netflix and Chill. And just as yummy.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Rolled and Ready
Take your little roll out of the fridge after a few hours and slice. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Stamped Sandwiches
And if you're a monumental over achiever like me, you can adorn these little biscuits with messages. Just be sure to re chill afterwards or the spread that goes on in the oven will take out your lettering. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Oreos from my Oven
See! Adorbs. I am dying to put these in my kid's lunchboxes. But first we have to stuff them with more sugar. Because that's how cookies work. Wait. What?

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Peanut Buttercream Players
This peanut butter buttercream is amazing. You'll want to slather your face in it. And you can do that. But later. For now, let's whip it into a frenzy.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Buttercream Beater
You want this stiff but still spreadable. I think you know what to do next. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Peanut Butter & Jelly Pile-Up
Yep. Pile it on and add a dollop of jam before you top it with another shortbread. An Oreo that mimics a sandwich. If a sandwich was an amazing salty sweet fest in your mouth. Which it's not. Sandwiches have other talents, but they'll need to move over in the lunchbox to make room for these little morsels. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Oreo Ovation
Have fun headed back to school, kids. I'll just be right here. Stuffing all these little sandwich cookies in my mouth. Until next time friends, keep it sweet. And a little salty.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
I love you, PB & J
Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Sweet Sandwiches
Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Ode to Oreos
Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Layered Line-Up
Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Tiny Treats
Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos
Lunchbox Lovelies
Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos

Homemade Peanut Butter and Jelly Oreos

For the golden oreo cookies:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup sugar

For the peanut butter buttercream:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup strawberry jam

Beat butter until it begins to turn lighter yellow in the bowl of a mixer. Add sugar, and beat together until well combined. Half a cup at a time, add the sifted flour to the creamed butter and sugar. The mixture will become like a course meal and will stick together when you press it. Roll it into a log about the diameter of a half dollar, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate an hour or more until solid. 

Slice the chilled dough into 1/4 inch slices, shape into rounds, and adorn or mark them in anyway you'd like. Chill again until cold. Bake in 325 degree oven for 12-15 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. The edges should just turn slightly brown. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream butter and peanut butter until light in color and smooth. Add powdered sugar gradually, then cream to get a spreadable but stiff consistency. Add salt and whip for another minute. Keep this in the fridge until the cookies have cooled and you're ready to frost.

To assemble the cookies, apply a liberal amount of frosting, a dollop of jam, and top with another cookie. Press together lightly and pop immediately into your mouth. Peanut butter and jelly oreos, where have you been all my life?!

Did this post provide the perfect combination? If you want more salty and sweet, follow a Sweet Little Life on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Craft Lake City: A Carnival of Curiosity and Creation

I'm an avid local gal. I do all things Salt Lake City. And then I write about them. You might have seen my library of local reviews floating around the internets. If not, here ya' go.

Kaz's Salt Lake City Savvy 

I know my city. And I adore it. So believe me when I say there is no event more Salt Lake City than Craft Lake City. It used to be that ArtsFest was THE event. But I don't know anymore. I feel like this DIY festival has transformed in the last few years into something quintessentially and beautifully local.

Craft Lake City

For those of you who don't live here. I feel like I need to explain something. You've probably heard that Utah is the home of the LDS faith. And that's absolutely true. SO true. Utah itself is conservative and Republican and steeped in traditional family values that seep out the pores of every suburb. But Salt Lake City proper is a safe harbor in a sea of societal expectations. Like an island for misfit toys, the city opens its arms to outcasts of every walk of life. Joyously and without judgement. SLC locals are easy to spot. They're the ones covered in tattoos, with piercings and bright shocks of hair. The alternative vibe is a direct reaction to a conservative culture that attempts to control, and it runs rampant throughout the city. We're weird and wild and it's absolutely wonderful.

Nowhere is this more apparent than Craft Lake City, where the curious and the crafty are on display. It's a vintage, foodie, free love fest that brings out the heart of the city. The DIY organization behind the event have done an incredible job of building a core community of exhibitors who return year after year to a friendly, relatively cheap festival that embraces small and sustainable. Craft Lake City happened just this past weekend, and if you didn't' get a chance to take a peek, mark your calendars for next year. Here's just a few reasons you won't want to miss out on the fun.


Craft Lake City
Sprinkle and Dash
So much tasting, so little time. This festival is a foodie paradise. Many of the local vendors that flock to this annual market also work the farmer's market circuit. And several of these Mom and Pop shops have struck it big. Remember Lick'd? I do. They started off handing out two or three flavors of homemade popsicles in a little cart at the downtown farmer's market. Now they've got a deal with Harmon's and Whole Foods. Startup to superstar and this is the place to sample it first.

Craft Lake City


Craft Lake City
Sparrow and Jay
Where else are you going to find Star Wars nesting dolls? Succulents in cement?

Craft Lake City
Craft Lake City is the perfect place for niche crafters, whose wares can't sustain the cost of a storefront. It's like browsing Etsy in real life. Barrel art? Check.

Craft Lake City
Northeast Barrel Company
Want a grammophone for your iphone? Betcha didn't even know you wanted one until right this second. And now? Now you can't live without one.

Craft Lake City


If you've got a taste for that vintage vibe, you need to head to Craft Lake City to get your fix. Tons of vintage vendors stock up their shelves and roll them out into the street where you can take your pick of retro red rompers or deliciously detailed dresses from decades ago. Even the vanilla is vintage.

Craft Lake City
Peck's Vanilla


Craft Lake City
Craft Lake City sponsors an entire building based on stem activities, science, and engineering for kids. Google Fiber sponsored the space this year and it was an incredible, interactive, ideascape full of innovation. Kids got to try VR, electronics, robotics, 3D printers, and much, much more. Younger kids have multiple craft activities and rotating workshops to keep them busy, and when that fails, bouncy houses. Cool off in Gallivan's curtain of water, another feature that's fantastic and free.

Craft Lake City
The Gallivan Center


Still not convinced? Not even if there's free music? Come on. Who couldn't love that face?

Craft Lake City
Oskar & Julia: Sauce Rock Duo
Come take a peek at my finds at the festival and try to convince yourself this isn't fun. 

Craft Lake City
Ingredients for Lovely
I stock up on exquisite, unique jewelry at the festival every year. My tastes are very particular and run toward rustic antique. Craft Lake City keeps me satisfied with a constant stream of eclectic adornments.

Craft Lake City
Hey June Jewelry
Every year, we buy my daughter something sweet and frilly from vintage fern. These hand sewn garments are made locally and my fashion savvy girl adores her new skirt.

Craft Lake City
Vintage Fern
And of course, who doesn't like to pick up a little something for herself. I got this shirt for a song from a local vintage vendor. 

Craft Lake City
Fluorescent Grey Vintage
And last, but not least, I brought home these marvelous macarons and a bit of encouragement from local baker and caterer, Sprinkle & Dash. Look at the feet on those macarons! They could dance all night. 

Sprinkle & Dash
Someday, I'll be able to create meringues as miraculous as these beauties. Until then, I'm gonna sample, shop, and savor the best of Salt Lake City. Keep your eyes peeled and your calendars open. Craft Lake City comes back next August and you should be there. 

Want more local lore and Salt Lake Savvy? Follow A Sweet Little Life on Facebook

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream

If you haven't had a blueberry blintz before, you and blintzes should meet over breakfast this weekend. I'll do the introductions. Hi, friend. This is a blueberry blintz. It's a hearty crepe, folded around a ricotta and lemon filling, drenched in blueberry syrup, and dusted with powdered sugar. It belongs in your mouth. Immediately. Pretty sure after you have a bite, you and blueberry blintzes will be going on a second date.

I had an epiphany last week. Cake batter ice cream exists. It's a thing. A really big thing. Just ask Cold Stone. Can't we make pancake batter ice cream? The answer is yes. Yes, we can. And it opens a world of possibilities to scoop and savor. 

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream

This ice cream starts as a pancake batter base, featuring ricotta and bright notes of lemon. Before it's done churning, it'll sport a swirl of blueberry sauce that'll transform that decadent base into a berry beautiful thing. It emerges from your freezer as blueberry blintz ice cream, chock full of fruit and whipped into a fluffy, smooth frenzy of fantastic. 

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Ice Cream Ingredients
This ice cream begins with the basic ingredients for custard, with a twist. A bit of ricotta replaces the cream, giving a tart, rich undertone to the base. 

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Custard Consistency
If you're a newbie to ice cream making, let me give you some advice. Everyone overcooks their custard. Don't do that. It's an easy mistake to make and when it happens, you get curdled eggs that make your ice cream lumpy and gross. You don't want to EVER get that custard to a full boil. It's done when you can swipe your finger along the back of the spoon and leave a mark. Yep. Just like that.

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Batter Beat Up
Once you put the dry ingredients into the custard base, you'll notice lumps. Lumps are great for pancakes. All those pockets of air and flour make soft, tasty pillows. But they're pretty undesirable for ice cream. Enter your blender. Put the base in and give it a whirl until it's smooth. 

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Batter Up
This batter will need some time in the fridge to chill out. While you wait, you can whip up the blueberry sauce. 

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Blueberry Sauce Standouts
It's the same standard ingredients that you'd use to concoct blueberry pie filling. Fruit, sugar, lemon juice, and a little thickener at the end. As you'll see, it all comes together into a pretty sweet deal.

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Berry Blueberry
Stick it in the fridge until your base is cold, then start churning. This recipe makes about a quart and a half, so adjust accordingly.

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Churn, Baby, Churn
Wait until the very end to swirl in the blueberry. Too soon and you'll end up with monotone instead of sweetly swirled.

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Scoop and Swirl
Let it set for a few hours and then let the licking begin. 

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Blueberry Bite
That's right. We just invented an excuse to eat ice cream for breakfast. You're welcome! Until next time keep swearing, swirling, and keeping it sweet, friends.

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Blueberry Beauty
Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Blintz It Up!
Breakfast Is Served
Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream
Blueberry Blintz In A Bowl
Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream

Blueberry Blintz Ice Cream

For the pancake ice cream:
4 large egg yolks
⅔ cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup ricotta
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

For the blueberry swirl:
1 cup blueberries
juice of one lemon
zest from one lemon
1/4 cup granulated Sugar
1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water

Whisk the yolks and ⅓ cup of the sugar until creamy. Set aside.
Heat the cream, milk, ⅓ cup of sugar, and salt in a medium pot and cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the cream is nearly simmering. Lower the heat and scoop a ½ cup of the cream mixture into the yolks, whisking the entire time to combine.
Pour the heated yolk mixture back into the pot, still whisking to combine. The custard should thicken in 3-5 minutes. You will know it's ready when it coats the back of a spoon and holds its shape when you draw your finger through it. Remove from heat and fold in the ricotta.
Toss flour, 1 Tbsp. sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and then add to the custard base. Fold in the vanilla extract.
Transfer to a blender and pulse until smooth. Chill 2-3 hours until cold.

While the base is chilling, Put blueberries, lemon juice, zest, and sugar in a saucepan. Turn stove to medium and heat until berries began to soften. Mash with fork to accelerate process, simmering 2-3 minutes. Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl and then add to the berries in saucepan. Heat on medium until the fruit sauce thickens, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and chill.

Using an ice cream maker, churn the base until mostly frozen and thick, about 15-20 minutes. Slowly pour in blueberry sauce and then turn off immediately. Scoop into container and chill until set, 4-5 hours. Makes 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream. You'll want to eat every last bite.

Did you find this ice cream irresistible? Follow A Sweet Little Life on Pinterest for more ideas. 


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