Jan 24, 2010

Wish List

So that I don't forget, I am going to list a few things on my wish list - things to buy when I have extra money, or things to ask my mom and hubby for for the upcoming birthday (still a couple months away, hehe).

First of all, a dutch oven. I found this one at World Market. You can see a link here. I have been in the kitchen a lot lately whipping up all sorts of new recipes and I have run across quite a few that suggest using a dutch oven. I know I don't have a ton of room in my kitchen, but I feel as though I at least need to be adequately prepared with the basics so that I can continue my new found hobby.
Next, a pretty pie plate. It doesn't have to be this one, but I did find this at Anthropologie (my favorite store ever, btw). Food tastes so much better when it comes out of something that looks pretty, right?
And speaking of looking pretty, isn't this cute?? And incredibly well printed! I think it would look awesome hanging from my silverware drawer where I usually stash my kitchen towel.

Other items I would love to add to my kitchen/home collection include:
1. Saladmaster pans. I have 1 that my grandmother gave me and I swear everything turns out better in Saladmaster.
2. A compost bin and a pitch fork. I have started a compost pile, and so far it is going pretty well. Drew even took out a load of composting materials last night in the rain, isn't he sweet? It would be a lot better though, if I had a bin to put said compost pile in, and a pitchfork to turn it.
3. A pretty table cloth that actually fits my table and that you can't see through. All of my table cloths either are too short or too thin.
4. A drill. Ours died the other day and hanging art and curtains will be incredibly difficult without a new drill.

In other news, Keep Calm and Bake on is on it's way to my house! Yay!

Keep Calm and Bake On

Being an adult is funny... no one ever really tells you what it would be like, and even if they did, you probably wouldn't believe them. I know I would not have believed it if anyone told me that I would experience emotions that would absolutely put to shame the happiness, sadness, anger and everything else I felt in high school. Do you remember those days? Thinking that every single thing that happened to you was the worst/best you'd ever experience? I am reminded of that on a daily basis in my classroom - seeing the tears and the smiles and hearing the laughter of my students as they go about their day. It really puts things into a new perspective, and reminds me constantly to relish each and every experience, whether good or bad, and to make the most of every situation. Life can be incredibly difficult - your house can catch on fire, your heater can break, your pipes can freeze, and you can be frustrated and sad and jealous and broke all at the same time, and then you can be walking down an isle at the grocery store and see a sweet little baby smile at you and it makes those trials seem not quite so overwhelming. I have found true joy in quiet days with my wonderful husband, and I know that for us, the best is yet to come, and I can't wait to truly live each moment.

I have also found a new joy in my life - spending time in the kitchen. I think I always thought of this as more of a chore until recently, and of course you can't enjoy a chore, or it wouldn't be a chore anymore, right? The rhyming in that last sentence was completely unintentional, hehe. I absolutely ADORE spending time planning recipes, shopping for ingredients that are the best for my family (local, organic, fresh), and then spending hours in the kitchen prepping and cooking. Heck, I even enjoy cleaning my kitchen these days, because I have so much pride in my space and can't wait to be in there again cooking away. Dirty counter tops just won't do!
In light of this recent discovery, my new must have is this: Keep Calm and Bake On poster from Etsy by KeepCalmShop. This will look so good hanging above my apron hook! hehe.
On with the photos you say! Here are some great photos from my recent adventures:
First of all, one of my all consuming frustrations has been the work being done on the den after the fire. Tim, our contractor, does absolutely amazing work. The den turned out to be quite a bit more of an involved project than anyone anticipated. Here he is stripping the ceiling: It was a big goopy mess and took weeks to finish. The walls are now done, and look absolutely amazing. Just a few more touches (outlets need to be replaced, and the floors need to be done). But hopefully it will be done soon and I can move the couch out of my dining room, haha.

Another adventure I had the past couple of weeks was making my very own bread. I hadn't ever tried this before, and I had a ton of fun kneading the dough and then hearing Drew's comments of how good it smelled when he walked in the door from school. I will definitely try this again - I can't even imagine how much money I could save making my own bread rather than buying it at the grocery store. Plus, there are so many different recipes and additions you can make so that you don't have to have the same thing every time!

Then there was the trip to Ikea with my dearest friend, Macy. A trip to Ikea is always dangerous, especially when you haven't been in a while, and when you borrow your grandfather's truck to take with you, haha. I did pretty well though, and didn't break the bank... well, the bank was probably already broken, so there was no worry of that! Drew bought an original screen print by our friend Jonathon Kimbrell of Napkin Art Studios. We've had it for a while and I finally got it framed and matted. Ikea has the best frames for cheap... this one was only $20! Plus the mat board - free, haha. Totally beats taking it to Michael's for a couple hundred bucks, right!?

I also bought a "dresser" for the office to put the random crap we had on a book shelf somewhere where it wouldn't be seen. I absolutely love it - especially having one room in the house that I know is clean and tidy, such a great feeling. The art above the shelf is an original screen print as well put out by Drew's favorite band, Isis. We love having art in our house! I would love to make a deal with some of my artist friends for some art to fill other rooms as well.

Well, I can't waste all of my day here on blogspot, so I must depart. Until next time!

Jan 12, 2010

More on "How to Sew A Button"

The book I mentioned in the last post, "How to Sew A Button..." by Erin Bried has quickly become one of my top ten books to recommend to a friend. I love this book. It is charming and intuitive and so very true. We young women were brought up in a world of convenience. Most of us to not know how to do a lot for our own house... much less how to properly fold a fitted sheet! This book is full of interesting how to's. I made my very first loaf of bread yesterday after reading that chapter of the book... I used yeast and kneaded and then felt amazingly accomplished when my husband came in the door and said how good it smelled baking. The Dallas Morning News published an article this week on the book along with interviews of real local grandma's. I am so excited that this book is gaining popularity. I would love for it to be the "hip" thing to take care of yourself, your house

Old-fashioned housekeeping tips from Dallas-Fort Worth grandmothers

03:39 PM CST on Friday, January 8, 2010
By JAMIE KNODEL / The Dallas Morning News

Grandmothers are masters of handing out hugs and kisses. They're also masters in the kitchen, with a needle and thread, in the laundry room, and at handing out advice. They know how to make a home and keep it in running order. And more often than not, they know how to do it without spending much money.

Younger generations seem to have missed out on some of the lessons that their grandmothers knew so well. Those everyday, practical skills – sewing a missing button on a cuff, roasting a chicken, getting a garden to grow – can help stretch today's household budgets as well.

Author Erin Bried got tired of not knowing these skills, so she went straight to the experts: grandmothers. She cataloged household tips and practical advice from 10 grandmothers across the U.S. in How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew (Ballantine Books, $15).

We wondered what lessons North Texas grandmothers had to share. Here are their tips for making a house a home, and a home that can stick to a budget.

Lila Brooks, 81, of South Dallas

Her family tree: 4 grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren

What her family calls her: Big Mama

Get a routine and stick to it: In Brooks' home, Saturday was cleaning day – the bed linens were changed; the laundry was washed, ironed and ready to go for the next week; the floors were scrubbed; windows were washed; and all the work was done before the family went out to have fun. They didn't have to worry about heavy-duty chores for another week.

Get familiar with your sewing kit: Save your clothes and extend their lives by knowing how to patch jeans, sew on buttons and repair busted zippers.

Forget about dilly-dallying: Get up and get busy. "Get your house straightened right away. Start off by making your bed first thing," Brooks says.

Expect the unexpected: Brooks is always ready for whoever might drop by, something she learned from her own grandmother. The house is kept tidy so when guests pop in, there's no need to scurry around, straightening the house.

Frances Beckwith, 92, of Fort Worth

Her family tree: 6 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren

What her family calls her: Mimo

Above all else, have some respect: Whether it's for people or for things, treat things properly.

Love your linens: "It's a shame that today people don't use linens the way they used to." Dress a table before having company to a dinner or party, Beckwith says. Retire place mats and cloths when years of use and laundering start to show.

Quality counts: Save to buy the nicest pieces of furniture you can afford, then care for them. Keep furniture dusted and protected from sharp-edged decorations.

Good day, sunshine: Hang your clothes to dry on a clothesline, "so they'll smell sweet like the sunshine."

Use the good stuff: If you've got china, use it when entertaining. Paper is almost never OK in Beckwith's book.

Bea Kassees, 79, of East Dallas

Her family tree: 14 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren

What her family calls her: Grandma Bea

Don't be afraid to accept help: Kassees' mother-in-law lived with her when her children where young. "She loved to cook, and I loved to let her cook." Kassees appreciated the help as well as the skills she learned from her husband's mother. To this day, her mother-in-law's Middle Eastern recipes are the ones her grandchildren request most often.

Ground hamburger is your friend: Kassees says to help her grocery dollar go further, she came up with "10,000 ways of cooking hamburger."

Utilize the oil of the gods: Kassees used olive oil to help ward off everything from stomach trouble to complexion issues. She's been known to apply it directly to superdry skin to provide relief.

Be a teacher: Parents need to get their children started with chores early. Teach them skills as you're doing the tasks. Let kids help make the beds, wash the dishes, put away the laundry. There's no need to wait until they're a certain age; teach them bit by bit. Before you know it, they'll be better than their teacher.

Norma Field, 86, of North Dallas

Her family tree: 2 granddaughters, 2 great-grandchildren

What her family calls her: Mimi

Eat leftovers: Don't let foods go to waste. If your husband doesn't like them, train him to by serving them until he eats them.

Simple is best: Keep clutter and knickknacks to a minimum; there's less to clean around that way.

Jump into new challenges: When she got married at 29, Field had never cooked a meal in her life. That didn't stop her from learning.

Don't try to do it all yourself: Field's husband helped around the house. They split the household chores – he cleaned the bathrooms, she did the cooking – and took a team approach to housekeeping and child-rearing.

A fresh start: Always start the day by making your bed, and never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.

How to Sew a Button

Author Erin Bried decided to collect tips and tricks from grandmothers when she realized she had forgotten or missed out on many of them from her own grandmother. She shares them in How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew, and several video demonstrations, including how to make pie or fold a fitted sheet, can be viewed at howtosewabutton.com.

Bried thinks every adult should know how to:

• Roast a chicken.

• Garden and grow food – even if it's just a window garden or patio tomato plant.

• Know the power of baking soda and vinegar. When it comes to cleaning house, there's little else you need to make things sparkle.

• Find and identify quality clothes that will last.

• Be a good neighbor and friend.

Jan 7, 2010

Fun things

For interim term at school this year, a co-worker and I will be teaching a class on the Art of Domesticity (cooking, how to set a table, how to "keep house", and on the benefits of buying local/organic/healthy foods). How cool is that?

I have been doing some online research today and found some really interesting things I'd like to try one day. So, I'll put them here to remind myself:

First of all, Rainbow Cake from Whatever... Isn't that so pretty? I think it would be fun to make for a party... a TEA party! I have been talking about having one for ages.

As soon as the heater repairmen leave (yes, my heater is broken on the coldest day of the season), I plan to head over to the book store to pick up How to Sew a Button: and other nifty things your Grandmother knew. I am intrigued by this book. For years I have been teased about being an "old soul" or a "domestic" or "old for my age"... I distinctly remember my cousin asking me if I shop in the old lady section at the department stores... "where else do you find a cardigan", she asked. Well, ha! Now they are all the rage, and being domestic, crafting, cooking, and generally taking care of your house are back in style... at least in my circle of the world. I can't wait to check out this book to see what kinds of things they discuss. Apparently it is written with a sense of humor as well. I love how to books with humor.

So, do you think if I show my students a diagram like this one, they will be overwhelmed? hehehe

Jan 5, 2010

The Art of Domesticity

Ahh a new year... a new decade even. I have a real good feeling about this decade. I think great things are going to happen. I mean shoot, it's only been 5 days and I'm already liking it so far! I think it started out on a good foot because just before the last year ended... we had a white Christmas... in TEXAS! How cool is that?

I am thinking that this year will be the year of Domesticity. I absolutely love being able to spend time working on my home, making it look nice and feel comfortable, and even more so... spending time in my kitchen whipping up things that provide nourishment for my family, happiness for my friends, and a calm and peaceful spirit for myself. I think my new found muse is cooking. Drew's aunt and uncle gave us a gift card for Christmas to Bed Bath & Beyond. Now, I should mention here very quickly how much I absolutely detest that store (I mean, who really spends $150 for a set of sheets when you can go to Target and get the same dang thing for $40??). But I was excited to go scour their kitchen section and come home with a few new gadgets.
One thing I picked up that I have had my eye on for a while is a pie crust shield. No more will I tear off little sheets of foil to cover the edges of my pies. From now on, I will use a machine washable, reusable pie crust shield. Mom and Diane, do not rush out and buy these, because they will be in your mother's day gift, hehe. They are easy to use... just put it on top of your dish before you put it in the oven and it works exactly the same as the strips of foil that women have been using forever!

My other new favorite kitchen item comes from the AMAZING bulk section at Central Market. Name a spice, I dare you... they will have it! And not only will they have it, but they will have lots of it, and you can pick how much you want... AND it will be cheap! Not too long ago, Drew and I bought a store brand jar of Cracked red pepper. It was at least $3. But at Central Market, not only do I get a product that is more fresh and better quality, I also get a huge bag full for 39 CENTS! Yes... that is cents! I got whole cloves for my apple cider for only 24 cents, and enough bay leaves for 2 recipes for a nickle! They also have vanilla beans (which I have used to make vanilla infused sugar and home made vanilla) and so many more options. It's like going to the toy store for me... I just love finding new things to experiment with. Cracked Chili flakes are my new favorite spice, but I'm sure I'll find something new to play with soon!

Tonight, I made a home made Chicken Pot Pie. Doesn't it look pretty?
Here is the recipe - it is SO easy!

2 premade pie crusts
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced (I used part of a rotisserie chicken)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk
1 cup frozen mixed veggies (you can use fresh, this was just easier for me tonight)
1 tsp cracked chilis (see above)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp all purpose seasoning
1 egg, beaten
Lightly spray a pie plate with non stick spray. Lay out one of the pie crusts and lightly press to the pie plate. Mix chicken, soup, milk, veggies and spices together and pour into pie crust. Top with second pie crust, pinch the edges together so that the filling does not spill out and cut slits in the top to vent. Brush the top with the egg and place in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or until golden.

Happy New Year everyone! Hope it brings you joy and peace.