Thursday, December 10, 2015

Kitchen Gift Ideas

When it comes to the holidays and exchanging gifts there are two kinds of people. The list people and the non-list people.

My family, non-listers. The husband's family, definitely list people, very detailed list people in fact. Let's be real, both have their pros and cons. I enjoy trying to figure out just what the non-list people in my life would like to receive, it feels a bit more personal to me, but it is also pretty nice (and easy) to pick something from a list and know the person will be pleased to receive it.

So whether you are trying to make your own list or looking for the perfect gift for someone who likes to cook, I've put together a few of my favorite kitchen staples. These aren't the big fancy kitchen gadgets that we all love (I'm looking at you, food processor), but they are things that I use daily. I also happened to receive all of them as gifts at one point or another. And bonus, all but one are under $15.

1. Lodge Striped Hot Handle Holders After absent-mindedly reaching for our cast iron handle one too many times while it was still hot the husband gifted me a pair of these. They are great. They slip on and off the handle of any pan easily and protect against any nasty burns.

2. Pan Scraper If I'm honest these little things were the complete catalyst for making this list. Each time I use one I wonder if people know these exist. I didn't until I received them as a gift a couple of years ago. They are perfect for scraping all the extra bits of food off of pots and pans without having to get a sponge/brush/whatever you use all gunky. I love these!

3. Whisk After having poorly made, cheap whisks that felt like they were always on the brink of falling apart for many years I was so happy to find this one made by OXO. It feels sturdy and has a nice handle grip, plus it is America's Test Kitchen's top pick so you know it has to be good!

4. Bench Scraper These are great for dividing dough, scraping up messes on the counter, or transferring chopped vegetables from a cutting board to the pan.

5. Wooden Spoons I think it is nearly impossible to have too many wooden spoons. I use them for everything. I love how these are a little more beefy than some.

6. Kitchen Towels I've come to realize in the last couple of years that I am very picky when it comes to kitchen towels. These towels are the best I've had yet. They look nice, they're super absorbent, and after six months of use they are still stain free. The only downside I've found is that the color fades slightly after many washes, but so far it hasn't been a deal breaker for me.

7. Kitchen Shears I think everyone needs a good pair of kitchen shears. And if you have small kids you probably need two or three pair as they are perfect for cutting food quickly into bite sized pieces. The big advantage of these over regular scissors is that they are dishwasher safe. Ours are constantly in use.

8. Bread Proofing Baskets Ok, so I don't actually use my proofing baskets everyday, but multiple times a week. When I first started making our bread I tried to proof it in ceramic bowls, these work a million, give or take a few thousand, times better. I've had mine for two years now and they look and function as good now as when they were new.

9. Cast Iron Skillet Come on, after numbers one and two up there you knew I had to throw this in. With the very rare exception, we exclusively use our cast iron skillet. A brand new one can be a little harder to clean, but once it gets good and seasoned it's a snap. I love that it heats evenly, gets super hot (great for searing meat), and I don't have to worry about any chemicals leaching into our food.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Season for Everything

I'm sure we've all heard it; to everything, there is a season.

There is no doubt that some seasons are more enjoyable than others. There are seasons of plenty and seasons of want.

A season for gardening, with fresh tomatoes straight from the vine, strawberries still warm from the sun, and sweet lettuce just picked from the garden. And a season of well, no gardening, the cold winter months when the ground is frozen and all there is to do is look through seed catalogs and dream about spring planting.

And a season for eggs.

Did you know this? Eggs have a season. I had no idea.

Right now we are only gathering between one and two dozen eggs each week, a far cry from the six dozen we were getting each week last spring. I feel like we've let down our "regulars" who buy eggs from us each week. And for the first time in a year I even resorted to buying eggs in order to have enough over the Thanksgiving holiday. It's a bit sad.

After a bit of reading I've learned that it is completely normal to see a big decrease in production when winter sets in, the hens are molting, and daylight is short. Some people would suggest using a light to extend the "daylight" hours, but we want to give the chickens their much deserved break and let them follow a more natural course.

There is always something new when is comes to this farming adventure. There is so much to learn. While our current egg shortage is not ideal, we will adapt. Not only do we plan to add more hens to the flock, but we will adapt how we use the eggs we do get.

I'm trying to be more aware of the seasonality of our food. Now eggs will have to be part of that equation too. While we still buy more than I would ideally like that is not local or seasonal, hello bananas currently sitting in our fruit basket, it's all about baby steps. In my wildest dreams we would raise every bit of our food right here, just steps from our back door, all while the house is perfectly clean, the kids are on their best behavior, our meals are planned and executed to perfection and nothing goes to waste.

Reality check, this is real life and that isn't happening... ever. Not in this season we're in, or any other that comes our way.

But, I guess it never hurts to dream.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Plan for the Laundry Room

Of all the rooms in our house, if one were to be taken away I think I would miss the laundry room the most. Is it my favorite room? No way. But man alive is it useful. Not only is it laundry central, which as we all know the laundry never ends, but it is also our mudroom and the entrance we use from the garage in and out of the house multiple times a day. Plus it houses a second refrigerator and freezer which are a total luxury and so nice to have. 

Truth be told though, the laundry room takes quite the beating. It's the catch-all room. Anything that doesn't have a home seems to find it's way to the laundry room and then sits there. Sometimes for a day, sometimes for much, much longer. It's enough to drive me crazy. 

I've been daydreaming about how to spruce up the space for quite awhile now, making it more functional and adding a splash of "pretty" in too.  The other day I finally took a minute to put all my ideas together. 

Here's what I've come up with... 

Getting this all put together may actually take quite awhile. As does anything that requires time and two hands lately. Between school schedules, activities, and a baby happily hanging out on my hip, there's just not much time left for projects. But just getting the ideas down feels like great progress and I'll slowly work on it when I get the chance.

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Create Share Inspire Link Party at A Burst of BeautifulThe Wicker House, and Tidbits

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Salted Caramel Sauce

I feel like I should start this with a confession... 

Salted caramel is basically my version of kryptonite. I simply cannot resist it. 

I have always been a caramel fan. Growing up we would go on vacation to this little resort town that had a candy store, we all could pick out one piece of candy and I always chose the caramel. I can still remember what it looked like stacked up in the display case, individually wrapped in parchment paper. I would take tiny bites and let it melt in my mouth to try and make it last as long as possible. 

Point is, I love me some caramel. And then someone, somewhere went ahead and decided to add just a hint of salt to my beloved caramel and seriously, can it get any better?! 

When I first saw a recipe for salted caramel sauce it was a no brainer that I needed to try it. Now a couple of years later it is a staple in our house. This stuff is delicious. We use it most often on ice cream, but really the possibilities are endless, drizzled over grilled fruit, or cheesecake, a dip for apples, eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon, whatever suits you, I'm not here to judge. 

This recipe for salted caramel sauce is similar to many other ones you'll find with just a few changes that have given me better and more consistent results.

Salted Caramel Sauce
2 cups sugar
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp fleur de sel (I've tried a few different kinds and so far this one is my absolute favorite)

To start make sure you have all the ingredients ready and nearby.

In a large heavy bottomed pot begin melting the sugar over medium heat. Using a spatula or wooden spoon continue to move the sugar around. The sugar will clump up, don't worry, just keep moving it around and it will start to melt. Using an instant read thermometer you want to cook the sugar until it is 330 degrees. It should be a deep golden color. I usually have a few sugar clumps left when it gets to temperature, that's ok, they'll be strained out later.

Once the sugar has reached 330 degrees add in the butter and whisk until the butter is fully melted and incorporated.

Turn off the heat and while whisking slowly add the heavy cream. At this point sometimes it will look like you've ruined it and that the sauce is starting to separate, just keep whisking, and very soon you should have a beautiful golden sauce.

While it is still warm pour your sauce through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of any sugar lumps that didn't fully melt. Whisk the fleur de sel in to the strained sauce. Continue whisking/stirring occasionally as the sauce cools.

When the sauce has cooled refrigerate it and enjoy!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Measuring Up

This is one of those projects that has been a loooooong time in coming. When I first saw a growth chart ruler years ago I knew I wanted one for our house. About a year and a half ago I found an old piece of 2x12 sitting out in our pasture and knew it would make the perfect board for the ruler. And bonus, I didn't even have to fake the weathered look because it had been sitting out in the rain for so long.

Then that board sat leaning up against our garage for about six months. When I finally got tired of looking at it outside I brought it in to the garage so it could "dry out", which apparently took about a year because I just got around to bringing it inside and actually doing a project with it last week.

I mean, why rush things?

The actual project itself was actually super simple. The only prep I did to the board was give it a light sand to eliminate any big splinters. I used the Silhouette to cut the hash marks and numbers out of black matte vinyl, one foot at a time.

Now let's talk about these hash marks for a minute. The extremely OCD side of me really, really wanted to divide each foot into sixteenths just like you would see on a ruler. Twelve hashmarks just isn't a thing. BUT with a little convincing from Bryce, I realized it really does make so much more sense to have each inch marked. Thus, authenticity be darned, we've got twelve hashmarks for each foot.

My first attempt at putting the vinyl on the wood was a total failure. It just wouldn't stick. So I sent a SOS text to my fantastic and very crafty sister-in-law and she suggested using spray adhesive. She's a genius. I gave the back of the vinyl a quick spray of Elmer's Spray Adhesive before putting it on the wood and it stuck without any problem.

I had great intentions of putting a top coat on the whole thing, but so far it hasn't happened. If the vinyl starts to peel or if little hands start picking at it maybe I will, but for now I'll take the easy way out.

I've been saving the kids' visit summaries from their pediatrician since Audrey was born just to be able to one day add them to a growth chart. It's fun to be able to see just how much they've grown and how they compare to each other a different ages.

If anyone is interested I'd be happy to share the Silhouette file with the hashmarks and number. Simply leave a comment with your email address or email me directly at

Posted at:
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Weekend Retreat Link Party at AKA Design

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hanging On

Normally by this time in October we have woken up to frost covering the ground a few times. This year has been different. Based entirely on my opinion and without regard to any scientific fact, I'm pretty sure this is one of the warmest falls we've ever had. There has yet to be frost and we were still seeing temperatures near 90 degrees just last week. 

While it is a bit disappointing for my fall loving self, it has been great for the garden. We are still up to our ears in summer vegetables. 

To be honest though, I'm having a bit of gardener's guilt. While I love our garden and everything we are able to get from it, by this time of year I start getting antsy to get things cleaned up a little. Despite our best efforts we have lost the battle with the weeds in dramatic fashion, one too many plants have gone to seed, and the tomatoes are so dense that trying to get to the ripe ones in the middle is nearly impossible.

What it boils down to is I've lost control of the garden, I'm blaming kid #3, and I'm ready to rip the annuals right out, clean up the beds and restore a little more order to the whole place.  

But then that would also mean the end of garden-cut bouquets and snacking on snap peas and "hey Audrey, run out and pick us something to have with dinner tonight" and BLTs (because there is no point in a BLT if that T isn't fresh from the garden) and the list goes on.

So for now I'll refrain from ripping everything out and consider myself lucky that our growing season just keeps getting longer, giving me just enough time for another BLT or two!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Peek into our Kitchen and Dining Room

Don't you just love a good home tour? I know I do. I enjoy getting a sneak peek into someone else's home so I figured it would be fun to throw ours into the mix. 

First up... the kitchen. One because it is kind of my dream kitchen and quite possibly my favorite room in our house and two because it is the room that is the most "done" in terms of decorating and has been for quite awhile (mostly because there really wasn't much decorating to be done!) 

So say hello to our kitchen... 

I spy the top of Owen's head! 
We decided to forgo a traditional dining room for more of a dining "space" right next to the kitchen. You can't see it in these photos but our living room is also open to these two areas. We spend the vast majority of our time in these rooms.

The open shelving in the kitchen is one of my absolute favorite features. I love both the look and the ease of getting to our dishes. We are often asked if the stuff on the shelves is just "for show" and it isn't. With the exception of maybe one or two pieces everything is stuff we already owned or were gifted and it is used regularly. In fact, when we hosted Thanksgiving last the shelves were looking a little sad as I had pulled most everything down to use. 

Our biggest kitchen splurge was the 48" Wolf range. We both knew we wanted a nice range, but I thought going this big and having a 24" griddle was completely unnecessary. I'll be the first to admit, I was wrong. That griddle is the best thing ever, I literally use it daily. We cook everything from pancakes to stir fry on there.

Needless to say, I love our kitchen. It suits our family and our style perfectly. And while I love a beautiful room, our first priority was always something family friendly and usable. After having lived here for two and a half years I think we achieved that and more. We love this space and really wouldn't change anything about it.

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Create Share Inspire Link Party at A Burst of Beautiful