It All Rests On The Challah

Another topic I never knew I would be posting about, but here we go! Before we go deep into this whole story, I want to start off by saying I’ve always considered myself more spiritual than religious and I think I have found a bit of a balance between the two at this point in my life. I also want to say, there has always been an aspect of me that has considered Judaism as part of my heritage, my makeup, part of just who I am and not so much has my religion. I think that too also applies to me today. 

I was raised in a reform (VERY reform) Jewish household. My Mother is Jewish, my Father is not religious. We attended services at our synagogue, which I was very active in for quite a lot of my childhood/early adolescence), we did Shabbat prayers at home every Friday night, we celebrated the high holidays, but also ate bacon as well as meat and cheese together. I had a Bat Mitzvah when I was 12 and slowly I started to slip away from the community. 

For quite a while I bounced back and forth between Judaism and Christianity, just wandering a little while. It wasn’t anything special and eventually I just kind of faded away from both, choosing to be spiritual, to pray, but not to follow anything specific religion wise. And that was ok! I was ok, things were great, all was well. 

Then a few things happened in short succession. I’m not a big believer in “signs” or what not, but I do kind of feel like things aligned a little bit to point me in the right direction. 

The first thing was visiting the Synagogue in Rome.

We stopped in the Great Synagogue of Rome and walked through both the museum and the Synagogue and there was something about being presented, front and center, with my heritage that just had me longing for some of it back. So many memories came flooding back, singing in temple, the Friday Night prayers and meal, Challah, the Torah, and the feeling of just having a bit of my “people” back. I don’t know if I realized how much I missed that until that moment. 

Shortly after we got back I started thinking about it a bit more, and then a bit more, and then a bit more. I did a little soul searching to understand what Judaism meant to me and what role I would want it to play in my life. I realized how disconnected I had become to that (even in the reform upbringing that I had). We aren’t a very religious family (in the sense that we don’t go to church, synagogue, follow any of the “rules” of organized religion). My husband is a Catholic and we just kind of blend in the fact of not really practicing anything to much of an extent. I should say- I don’t think that will change, we aren’t going to suddenly become church or synagogue goers, BUT I wanted to know for myself where that longing could fit back in. 

As I was thinking about all of this (I am a notorious over thinker), we experienced one of those things where you can’t help but take it as a “sign” of something. We experienced the most incredible rainbows over the span of a few days, and one night included a double rainbow.

It was one of those moments where the sky is still storming, but the rainbow just breaks through and BAM it just strikes you as an incredible moment. A true feat. I just knew it was a sign. Maybe not necessarily relating to my internal conversations, but a sign of something. 

So, in comes my Challah test. 

One of my favorite things about the Jewish Culture is the food and the meals that are had centering around the food. I LOVED every high holiday as we would gather with friends and family and feast over wonderful hand-crafted meals (until Passover that is). It was just such a warm time and full of fuzzy feelings. Now, I’m a bread lover and one of my favorite additions to the Jewish Meal is Challah. This sweet eggy bread is just…chef’s kiss and when I realized that making this bread was much easier than I originally thought I knew that I had to try and make it. 

My wonderful, irrational, mind turned my making Challah attempt from just a fun thing to try to a high stakes turning point of my internal debate. In my irrational mind, if this worked then that would seal the deal with my faith, heritage, and that part of myself. If it didn’t work, I was lost from that for good. Everything rested on my ability to make this Challah and make it right (aka exactly as I remembered it from my childhood). Really rational, huh?

I gave myself two attempts (because the first attempt was garbage – I had gotten everything but the consistency right – and I didn’t want to “fail myself” based on just that) and it was my second attempt that sealed it. 

*Warning- I’m going to toot my own horn now*

My second attempt at Challah was…incredible. Chef’s Kiss. Beautifully golden, hand crafted with love (and it shows) and tastes exactly like it should. It tasted like something that I had long forgotten, and I felt so…complete in making it. And I knew, that while I wouldn’t be running off to Synagogue tomorrow, that Judaism is still a massive part of who I am. 

Now, I know this all sounds kind of hokey and like I’m walking this fine line of lunacy, BUT I feel like sometimes we fall into that. Sometimes life just brings all of these different, random, moments together to remind us of parts of who we are. And being Jewish is a part of who I am. 

Welcome to Our House: Entry and Kitchen!

While the library/office may be one of my favorite areas of our home, the Kitchen is the heart of our house. It’s the first room that I fully unpacked and put together, the room where I probably spend the most amount of my time, and it is an area that brings me a lot of joy (and practical utility). Our kitchen is a pretty fair size here in Europe and I have found different ways of maximizing our space and trying to keep the counters as clear as possible.

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I am attaching our little front entryway to this as it is the second thing you see when you walk into our home (the first being a welcome sign) and I really like how it came together. Also, I will put where things came from if I know, or where you could find something similar in parenthesis after.

So, we’ve got a tall wardrobe right when you come in which holds handbags and coats, as well as cleaning supplies and some kitchen linens. Spinning around you see our “home” sign which changes out seasonally (given to us as a gift), and then our storage cabinet (Target). The top drawer is a sort of “junk drawer” and the bottom cabinet portion is full of cookbooks and such. On top of the cabinet will rotate seasonally, in the spring/summer I’ll typically have fresh flowers, then in Autumn/Winter I’ll have a candle burning. This is also where any mail or papers that need to be handled will congregate.

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The pictures on the wall were all taken by me. From Left to Right: Stream at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, Cherries from our Backyard, Taco Night, Tea in Northern Virginia, Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany.

Now, to the kitchen…

Before I get really far into this- I think my favorite part is that our kitchen has its own door to the backyard. It’s a benefit not only for hosting in our backyard, but with keeping the kitchen cool. We don’t really have too many wall decorations in our actual kitchen, aside from a little bit here and there and I don’t know if that will really change as time goes on. We will see.

So, now getting into the actual kitchen. It’s a fairly basic set up, the first two drawers being our cutlery, the bottom cabinet being baking dishes and pie pans. The first top cabinet is my little tea and mug heaven at the front of our kitchen. On the counter we have our produce basket (I would recommend looking at Home sense/Home goods for one), toaster, and cookbook stand (Amazon). All of our cookbooks are stored just outside the kitchen except this one, which holds the recipes I use the most often.

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The next cabinet holds our spices and baking things (flour, sugar, brown sugar, etc.) and as you can see, the shelf above that holds various drink items. The drawers hold all of the cooking/baking utilities and measuring cups. The cabinet underneath holds pots, pans, and bowls. We’ve also got our most used cooking items, knife set, kitchen aid, and cutting boards on the counter. I feel like our counters are right at the cusp of being too cluttered, but I feel like it still works out well and the kitchen is able to be used without much complaint this way.

IMG_2986Before we get to the next rounds of counters, you can see our meal board and recycling station. I’m a big meal planner and found that having a board that lists the dinners for the week for everyone to see really helped eliminate the “what’s for dinner” conversation I seem to have daily with my family. Recycling is very big here in Europe and we have a total of 4 of these containers to separate out almost all of our things. The three you see here are for plastic, mixed, and glass. The basket on top is for paper recycling and our metal bin is above the fridge. Bins are from IKEA.

 

The second side upper cabinets holds all of our plates, bowls, and drinking glasses. We’ve also got the smaller cabinet for to go cups and water bottles and a portion of another larger cabinet is for my husband’s work meals/snacks. The bottom cabinet holds our large collection of Tupperware.

We have a large cabinet at the end of the kitchen that serves as our food storage/pantry. We bought a shelving unit from IKEA to add some much-needed space and it’s been working out very well for us at this point. Honestly- our pantry never ends up being as organized as I would like it to be (never has been), so it is something that I am continuing to work on. Shelving unit was perfect though (IKEA).

Finally, one of our only décor pieces is this sign above the door. We purchased this at a Cracker Barrel right after we got married on our way to our Honeymoon. It’s just one of those phrases 🙂

And that’s our kitchen! I hope you enjoyed! We’ve got one more room to “unveil” and I’m just working on putting the last touches on it before showing you.