Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kitchen Essentials

What are your must-haves for a kitchen?  Not the things you want, but the ones you need.  The items (big or small) that you give/wish you could give for gifts?  Here are a few of mine...

Kitchen Aid Mixer
Okay, so this is a really big item, but I use mine several times a week and absolutely love it.  I know for a fact that I wouldn't make as much homemade bread as I do now without it.

Rival Crockpot
My crockpot has also been seeing use several times a week.  This one has a built in timer which is great for church or keeping food warm when it cooks quicker than I expect.

Pampered Chef Garlic Press
I also know I wouldn't use fresh garlic nearly as much if it wasn't for this handy little tool.

Oster Blender
I think ours is an Oster.  It's no VitaMix or anything like that, but it makes smoothies and that's what I care about. :)

Oxo Squirting Dish Brush
Essential when we didn't have a dishwasher, I still use it multiple times a day for items that are too big for the dishwasher or can't go in it.  Tip: definitely get the brush head as opposed to the sponge head.  One wash of the cheese grater and your sponge is done for.

How about you, friends?  What are some of your must haves?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Christmas Gift Ideas

I know it's barely the end of October, but I've already started thinking about Christmas gifts.  (Not celebrating Christmas...that comes at the end of Advent.) :)

Here are some ideas I've come across while browsing the Interweb.  Like I said, I know it's early, but because they can sometimes take time, I feel it's best to start early and not be stressed.  There's also that little matter of a baby arriving about a month after Christmas, so I'm trying to keep on top of things.

Gifts that I am planning on giving this year aren't listed because who wants people to find out their present beforehand?  Not me.  But I'll try to post pictures of what I make after the fact. :)

I haven't tried all these, but the ones I have done went well.

Etched Glass  (I've done this several times and it is actually quite easy. One hint: don't use a glass coffee table as your surface, even if you cover it in newspaper.)

Button earrings (can't wait to try this!)

Porcelain Painting

Book Clock (I made one for my brother's birthday and really want to make one for my kitchen from an antique Betty Crocker cookbook)

Mirrored Box/Planter

Wooden Spool Advent Calendar

Accordion Photo Gallery 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Needing to Be Creative

The other night after our Garlic Chicken, we sat down to watch a movie.  Before it started, though, I informed Chris that I needed to knit. Between packing, moving and unpacking, it'd been way too long since I'd gotten the chance to be creative, and it was about to drive me nuts.

So, I grabbed my yarn and needles (which took a bit of looking; haven't set up my craft area yet), the two knitting books I'd gotten from the library and searched in vain for a pattern that a) was at my skill level and b) used either size 8 or size 3 needles.  Finally, I found the instructions for a doll shawl that I thought might work for a newborn. So, I cast on and started knitting!  (I'm also banking on us having a girl...if Higbaby is a boy, the project will probably become a gift, so friends, you can't say you weren't warned.)

An hour into the movie, this is what I had to show for my work:
(The camera batteries died JUST as I was going to take a picture.  Imagine a triangle about 5 inches wide.)

It's not perfect--bonus to no picture means you can see the holes--but I was being creative. And that, my friends, is just what I needed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Recipes We Love: Garlic Chicken

This was dinner last night, along with Herbed Pull Apart Rolls and corn.  (Also, a game of Ticket to Ride, the results of which we will NOT discuss.)  I believe the recipe originally came from Girl Talk.

Garlic Chicken

2 t crushed garlic (I usually just crush a few cloves)
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c dry bread crumbs
1/4 c grated Parmesean
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used thighs last night)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Warm the garlic and olive oil to blend the flavors (confession: I skipped this step last night and we all survived).  In a separate dish, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Dip the chicken breasts into in the olive oil and garlic mixture, then into the bread crumb mixture.  Place in a shallow baking dish.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until no longer pink and juices run clear.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Recipes We Love: Default Pizza Dough

I thought I'd share some of our favorite recipes on my blog.  We're not gourmet by any means (though I harbor fantasies of it, and then reality of time/energy/budget sets in), but here's one we use for our traditional Friday night pizza.  In fact, it's currently rising in the oven.

This recipe comes from Thea, a wonderful friend from B-town, mother of two adorable girls (one of whom was a flower girl in our wedding) and husband of Mitch, a great guy.

1 c bread flour (any flour will do, she says--I use white)
1 c whole wheat flour
1 T sugar
1 t salt
1 T yeast
1 T olive oil
1 c warm water (105-115 deg.)

1. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients.

2. Combine oil and water, then add to dry ingredients.  (I usually add more flour here to prevent stickiness.)

3. Knead for 2 minutes (speed 2 on a stand mixer).

4. Let rise for 30 minutes.

5. Shape and cover with toppings, then bake at 400 deg. F for 15-20 min.

Simple and delicious!

Friday Ramblings

Gretchen wrote a post of random topics in bullet form today, and she inspired me.

  • While reheating Meaty Spaghetti for lunch, I spilled a noodle on my freshly cleaned stove.  Grrrr.  However, the recipe is delicious so hopefully I'll share it soon.
  • Health insurance is ridiculously confusing.  I don't recommend switching companies across state lines while you're pregnant.  It ain't easy or cheap.  But...I'm thankful to have coverage.
  • Higbaby has been getting the hiccups!  A friend asked the other day if s/he had been getting them, and I said I didn't know, but after some googling, I found out that those rhythmic kicks were actually hiccups.
  • Speaking of Higbaby, yesterday was the start of trimester three!  Hard to believe that our precious child will be here in a few short months.  I painted the crib this week and baby kicked during the process, which I'm hoping means that s/he a) approved of the paint job and b) plans to sleep lots in it.
  • For Thanksgiving we'll be staying in T-town and hopefully having some co-workers of Chris' over.  I am SO excited to cook for people, minus the turkey.  That scares the stuffing out of me.  Speaking of stuffing, anyone have advice for that?  I've never been a fan of it, until Chris and I started dating and I tried his step-dad's Southern dressing/stuff.  So. freaking. good.  It has cornbread and turkey in it and he starts it at something like 2 a.m. the night before.
  • I love our traditional Friday pizza night.  I'm planning to make dessert tonight, too.  Not sure which one yet as I'm out of chocolate chips, but surely I'll find something else/be struck with inspiration.
  • We got library cards last night and I picked up two knitting books; one on socks and one on mittens.  Who wants to be my personal tutor??
  • Enough to bake!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Simple Play

This post has been in my Google reader for awhile, wanting more than just a cursory skim.

It's not long, but very well written.  As I look ahead to motherhood, I'm constantly having to fight the urge to acquire "stuff" both for the baby and for after the baby is born.  Even though the newest gadget may look cool (and promise to make my child a genius), is it really necessary?  Or will it just be crowding up our house with things we don't need?  That's why I'm trying (and honestly, not always succeeding) to make sure our purchases have multiple uses--I've found this is key in the kitchen, too--are made to last and are things we'll actually use.

I want my kids to know how real bread dough feels and shapes, not just brightly colored playdough*.  I want them to use their imaginations with sticks, stones, cardboard boxes and not to find their inspiration for playing in toys that do everything for them.  Call me too nostalgic, but I, like the author of the original post, long for the days where a new doll is cherished above all else, a pig's bladder becomes a balloon (okay, I'm not saying we'll raise pigs or play with their bladders, but you get the idea) and life is simpler.

*I'm not necessarily anti-playdough...I just don't want my kids to always be playing with the "fake" substitute instead of the real thing, but rest assured, I plan to make play-dough for them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just a Small Town Girl...

I've always been a small town girl at heart.  To me, "cities" consist of places with 50,000(ish) + people, which, quite frankly, is a bit too much for me.  I'd much rather live in a town where people know my name, are friendly and it doesn't take 30 minutes to get across town.

Now, we live in such a place. :)  After living in Y-town (70,000+), T-town is proving to be a refreshing change.  (It has 10,000ish peeps.)  We had to purchase some box springs upon our arrival, and I was genuinely shocked at how friendly the people at the store were.  The same goes for the antique store I stopped at a few weekends ago.

Along with the friendliness and ease of driving across town does come a few quirks we're still trying to adjust to, such as a library that's only open 3 days a week, Costco being 45 minutes away and odd hours at other places.  But!  We have the charmingest German bakery and an adorable downtown.

The last few weeks have confirmed what I've always thought--I'm a small town girl at heart and wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, October 18, 2010

From the Land of Swimin' Pools and Movie Stars

We're in California!  I realized that every time I mention our new state, I reference the Beverly Hillbillies.  Maybe I need to expand my horizons in terms of California culture references?

Our house is coming together pretty well.  Still need a dryer (the one we brought with us was electric and the house is gas), table/chairs and box springs for our mattress.  I won't go into details as the last item in that list has been rather frustrating, but hopefully next weekend we won't be sleeping on an air mattress anymore!  Though I must say that I am beyond thankful my parents let us take theirs when we moved, or else we would be sleeping on the floor, and let me just tell you that pregnant + floor sleep = bad news bears.

We even have Internet now!  Finding it was an adventure in and of itself, but life is much easier now (hello craigslist) and I should even be able to blog regularly (or at least I won't have an excuse if I don't).  Our new town is quite charming--it's small and the people are super friendly.  There's even a cute downtown and some fabric stores that I must visit soon. :)

Higbaby is doing well--very active!  Chris got to see my stomach move when baby kicked the other night, which was really cool.  I'm in the process of trying to find a new midwife, but should have that figured out soon, I hope.  As a side note, I've been working on switching my health insurance today and have been pleasantly surprised at how kind and helpful everyone in the health insurance industry has been...on a Monday!