Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Satirical Autobiographical Sundae with a Cherry on Top

In middle school I was gawky. Suddenly tall, growing out a bad perm from the "I want Baby's hair from Dirty Dancing" phase, I bumped my bony crane-like elbows on the end of our kitchen pass-through almost every day, for a year. Everything stuck out and bumped into stuff and felt newly uncomfortable. My elbows, my knobby knees, my screwy hair, my emotions, my beige lace training bra, my striped rugby shirt that I wore way too often with the matching green scrunchy and did I mention my emotions.  It was all confusing and humbling and sweaty and humiliating. I had a crush on the coolest boy in school. He was blond and played soccer and had the kind of smile that made me feel things I couldn't describe at age thirteen. I'm pretty sure he had no idea who I was. Basically a bad John Hughes script. But the place where I always felt poised and smart and fearless was in my favorite class, Reading.

We chose elective classes for the first time in middle school, and instead of Study Hall or Home Economics again, I chose Reading in eight grade. Isolated outside in one of the trailers that had to suffice as a classroom after our school population outgrew the existing building, Reading was the perfect 50 minutes of my Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There were expectations about how many books we read, roughly one a week if I recall, but no forced reading list. Monday and Wednesday we just read. No, seriously, we just read whatever books we wanted, for 50 entire minutes and the teacher actually encouraged this behavior. And then on Fridays we had to deliver our book reports.

Most students dreaded the book reports. But our teacher, (whose name sadly escapes me, sorry Mr. ?,) alleviated our fears of writing books reports and gave us a choice each week. You could write a standard book report or you could take an oral book report quiz. I flipped between the two during the semester. But the style of the oral quiz has always stuck in my mind. With almost every book I read I still give myself this quiz at the end. Mr. ? would take the book we had just finished and then turn to three random spots in the book, read us a brief section, two to three sentences, and then ask us to describe what was happening in the book at that point. It was brilliant. I'm certain he had no idea what was actually going on in most of the books, but he could tell in just two seconds whether you knew what you were talking about. And given the opportunity to talk about a book instead of write about it, everyone in the class chose the oral report about 95% of the time.

The books I read that semester helped ground and get me through the most awkward years of my young life. They helped me understand the constantly changing and developing world I was finding myself more and more aware of as a teenager. It was scary and exciting and confusing and books helped me cope with all of it. I discovered Scarlett O'Hara that year. I read my first 1,000 page book, and I got to talk about books every week. It was the best part of my day on many days. So in honor of Mr. ? and 8th grade Reading, here are my book reports from the last two weeks, I picked the written format. So what was your favorite class in middle school?   


Oranges are not the Only Fruit

The Sugar Queen

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sun-dried Deliciousness

Let me just say right off the bat that I will be making this meal again, and soon. Any meal that illicits several "Oh, this is good, this is lovely," followed by about three appreciative kisses from Joe, is a meal that will be repeated. Or as he so eloquently put it, "Sun-dried tomatoes make everything taste better."

I initially intended to use a recipe out of my Weight Watchers cookbook, "Turkey Cutlets with Feta Topping" and I kind of did. But it was more of the inspiration than the actual recipe. Because as you can see, those are not turkey cutlets and there were a few things I changed from there. You can use that recipe, which I'm sure is just fine, but here's what I changed and why. The basic ingredients: crumbled feta cheese, light if you prefer, chopped sun-dried tomatoes that have been softened a bit by sitting in boiling water for about 2 minutes, minced shallots and garlic, oregano and basil, dried or fresh and 4 turkey cutlets, or in this case two medium pork chops.

I had pork chops in the freezer, so we went with pork chops. I'm not a huge fan of turkey cutlets, so I would probably make this with chicken breasts next time.  First I minced the shallots and garlic, but instead of leaving them raw like the recipe, I went ahead and cooked them in a bit of olive oil just until they were softened and transparent. I don't like raw garlic and shallots. I'm sure they would have cooked a bit under the broiler on top of the pork chop, but I prefer the milder flavor of cooked garlic and shallots so that's what I did. Then I swapped out the basil for some Italian parsley since that's what I had on hand. Once all of the topping ingredients were cooked and chopped, I mixed them all together with a fork and broke up the larger chunks of feta. Cause I like tiny feta. Then I dipped the pork chops in a little bit of egg, dredged them in Italian bread crumbs and pan fried them with a touch of olive oil, still light and fairly healthy right? After cooking the pork chops for about 5 minutes on each side, I put the chops on a pan, topped them with the cheese and tomato mixture and let them broil for about three minutes or just until the cheese started to melt.

There was plenty of cheese topping to go around. I went ahead and made the full recipe which was enough for the four turkey cutlets, so I saved the extra for salad topping, which was perfect. I loved that pungent soft feta mixed with the sweet chewy tomatoes and little hits of mild shallot and tangy garlic, yum. Pork chops accompanied by roasted new potatoes, a spring green salad, and a glass of Chianti, it was a lovely Wednesday night meal. Give it a try. It had all the things I look for in a healthy dinner: strong flavors, easy weeknight prep and a good balance of protein, veggies and carbs. Though I may have eaten a few more potatoes than I would like to admit, those little guys are addictive and pop-able right into my mouth. What are you making for dinner tonight? Any recommendations for my next new recipe?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

About a Month and a Day Late

I asked myself, sitting in class last Friday, whether I should bother writing a post about Christmas. I hemmed and hawed. Once Christmas and New Year's have passed I'm kind of a "you're dead to me, Holidays," at least until next Thanksgiving sort of girl. I take the Christmas music off the iPod, all the decorations get tucked back into the basement right after New Year's Day, presents need to find a tucked away space, because I'm ready for real life again. I'm ready for that slightly empty looking house, and salad instead of cookies. I don't know why I feel this way, but when I see Christmas lights up in late January it makes me kind of pissy. Like "Come on, people!" at least unplug them.

For some reason I kept putting off sorting through the vast collection of photos and actually taking the thirty minutes to sit down and describe the holidays in writing. I think the heavy blogging in December burned me out by January. Or I'm just lazy. Yet when I started catching up on the last ten years of photos and memories, I realized, hell, it's only a month late, and I'm going to regret not capturing our Christmas spent up in the snowy wonderland of Wisconsin. So here you go, Christmas 2010.

Joe and I drove up to Madison under threat of looming bad weather on the Thursday before Christmas. But nothing happened. It was cold but totally clear, and we brought Mac too. We don't normally bring the dog with us up to Madison. Jim and Katy have two cats, two small boys and the last thing they need is a dog running around but our vet was booked, all of our Mac lovers were out of town, so Mac traveled too. We got to Jim and Katy's lovely new house, the Sands Estate, relaxed a bit, while they were out celebrating Christmas with Katy's family. Joe's parents arrived shortly after we did. Their car was so full of gifts that I'm pretty sure Sherry almost had to leave John at home. We all unloaded their car, it may have taken four hours, I don't recall, but it took awhile. And then it was time for beer. Which I vividly recall! The four of us headed out for dinner at The Great Dane, a great local brew pub with an enormous menu, and did I mention the beer!?


We each ordered a different hand crafted brew, taste tested while we waited for a table and then we tucked into a tasty meal, lively conversation and the odd fact that every single table had it's own big bottle of hand sanitizer. I guess Madison just wants to make sure you've got clean hands.

After feeling a touch tipsy after one Velvet Hammer, named appropriately, we headed back to Jim and Katy's. They showed up shortly after we got back, with Jackson and Connor. Jackson was a little sick, sleepy and snotty but adorable. And Connor was on a serious Christmas high. He ran back and forth between all his new Christmas toys, showing us each one and explaining which were his and which were Jack's, but he assured us that Jack would share with him. We hung out, played with the boys, and looked in awe at the vast amount of cookies, bars, snacks and treat, ate some too, and introduced Mac to the two rulers of the house, the fluffy yellow Max and Jake. Max essentially stared at Mac off and on all weekend, they skirted each other respectfully, but Jake walked right up to Mac, glared at him, when Mac approached he wacked him smartly across the face with one paw. And dominance was declared, the smack down was delivered and the cats owned Mac for the weekend. It was perfect. And then the combination of travel and beer and animal introductions and excitement hit us, and we all went to bed.

Connor and Papa John

Connor and Mac

Snotty Jack

Connor and Jim in the snow

Christmas Eve was filled with kids and sleeping in and sushi covered in red and green tobiko, festively requested by Jim. Then a random trip to Home Depot for dart board cork, which for the record, they do not stock. Then the most adorable church pageant in the history of church pageants commenced.


We walked into the entryway of St. Maria Goretti Church and it was filled with gangs of small angels, shepherds, wise boys and girls being tended and wrangled by their parents.


Wise girls

It was sweet and uplifting. And then we cut out of church before mass had even begun. No, we didn't cut out to go smoke and make out behind the sanctuary, we aren't sixteen, we had to go pick up the final, missing Sands, Jon, from the bus stop. We picked up Chicago Jonny and headed back to the house for a little Chicken Surprise dinner and family time. Wrapped up the night with a sporadic viewing of Love Actually, and bed and then it was nearly Santa time.


Chopstick Mustache

Christmas Eve California Roll

Festive sushi

Chicago Jonny

More butter is better

Joe and gingerbread man

Glowing Tree

Super Jackson

Sweet baby Jesus, it was a Christmas explosion on Saturday morning. One whole room was nearly filled with piles and towers of gifts. I was afraid the little boys might get lost in a sea of wrapping paper and Santa bags. Hours of present opening, coffee consumption, little boy laughter and looks of amazement and glee. Squeals and running, Connor actually got tired he had so many things to open. It was excellent.

Present Frenzy

The sleepy grandparents

Christmas Smooches

Aunt Bonnie

Santa arrived for a personal visit around 10 o'clock wearing a hefty luxury watch (clearly this Santa gig is paying well) and with a face that looked vaguely like Katy's older brother Chris.

Santa Tierney

Jackson and Mommy

Katy's parents, Tom and Mary Jo, brother Chris, and Aunt Bonnie came over for brunch. We played with the kids toys and our new toys. Aunt Bonnie and I talked iPads. We had eggs benedict and monkey bread, because who doesn't want those delicacies on back to back weekends? We bagged up piles of wrapping paper, chased kids and dogs and just hung out for a few hours.

Eggs Benedict

Festive Hot Pads

Connor and Mimi


Merry Christmas iPad

Afternoon was movie time. We all headed out to see True Grit. I think everyone loved it. The story, performances, the writing, costumes and set, it was fantastic, just a classic, well done Western even the Duke would have been proud of. Other than having to shush some idiot teenage girls sitting behind us, they kept offering questions and unhelpful commentary, it was a nearly perfect two hours. Back home for more food, more family and somehow our Christmas holiday was nearly over. A big thanks to Jim and Katy for hosting everyone. It was wonderful to get to see Connor and Jack on Christmas morning and to simply have the chance to spent some extended time together with the whole family.

Sunday we packed up a considerably lighter load into the car and headed south to spend the day with my dad and Kristy, my stepmother, and her family who live in Sterling, IL, just a couple of hours from Madison. It was a laid back relaxing day. Lots of football and snacking, hanging out with Kristy's parents, Paul and Phyllis, siblings Karla and Kevin and spouses and kids. I played dueling Fruit Ninja on the iPad with Isabell, chatted with Maranda, and listened while Joe gave Lightroom photo software lessons to Mason. We got to meet the sweet and lovely Shannon, Logan's girlfriend and talked caramel and peppermint patty recipes with Phyllis and master candy maker Paul. We headed out of Sterling and spent the night in Davenport with plans to leave early Monday morning with plenty of time at home later. But we woke up Monday morning and Iowa was blanketed in freezing fog. So we hung out at the hotel, for a few extra hours. But once we hit the road late morning it was a quick trip home. And that wonderful feeling of walking in your own front door after a few days away, washed over me. I think we all had a great time and I can't wait to see our nephews, and of course their parents and grandparents again soon, but it was nice to be home.

So that was Christmas. I'm sure I missed something since it's been a month, but now currently stuck in the doldrums of January, it was kind of fun to flip through photos and think back a few weeks to that festive peppermint smelling, wrapping paper ripping, snow, and kid giggle filled weekend.

Photos by Joe and Jim Sands, I'll let them argue about which ones belong to which.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Catching Up on the 52's

52 recipes, books and creative somethings (my pseudo resolution for 2011) is going well at the end of this third week of January.  We did a lot of things around the house this weekend, between celebratory dinners out and Kansas City Restaurant Week support, I think we both got a lot done.  Yesterday Joe ran a passel of errands while I cleaned house, worked out and tackled another round of work on my scrapbook project.  I've finally gotten all of the photos and mementos laid out and affixed to the pages and now Joe and I just need to sit down and fill in all the little anecdotes and memories that we want for each trip or event. I've left a goodly amount of space for some writing and that's always been my favorite part of other scrapbooks I've done. Just the casual, normal handwritten notes and stories jotted down next to some beautiful photos.  Guess who kept me company while I cleaned house, scrap booked and worked out this weekend? Some wild British teenagers!

Cape May 2008
New York 2005
New York 2005

I think I watched roughly the first entire season of Skins on Saturday. It's the perfect background show. I've already seen it so I don't have to watch every single scene closely. It's compelling, funny, racy and amusing enough to keep me interested when I look up from whichever project I'm ensconced in. And though I haven't watched it, and don't plan too, I'm dead certain it's 1,000 times better than the controversial Americanized version airing on MTV now. Please don't watch that one. The first three seasons of Skins are on Netflix instant watch, so just go there. But be prepared to give up a huge chunk of your evening.

So back to my 52 goal. Today I got up early and ran to the grocery store, cleaned our disgusting refridgerator and reorganized our pantry, all in an effort to fill the house with healthy, tasty lunch, dinner and snack options. I whipped up a big batch of Taco Soup, an old Weight Watchers recipe that is spicy, filling and healthy, chock full of tomatoes, sweet corn, three kinds of beans and some jalapenos. I made a quick olive and feta tapenade with two jars of olives hiding in the back of the fridge and some feta that was about to turn past good smelly cheese into scary smelly cheese territory. It's another rich and delicious snack and much cheaper to make at home than to buy at the store. And then my new recipe for the week! Phyllis Cannon's Caramel Apple Cake.

My stepmother's mom, Phyllis, is a great cook. Last time they were in town she was talking about this recipe and was kind enough to mail it to me a few weeks after their visit, along with a recipe for jambalaya that I have yet to make. And since one of my coworker's birthdays is this week, and it's my turn to provide the dessert, what better time to make a little Bundt cake?

Caramel Apple Cake

This was a pretty easy cake to make, lots of ingredients but nothing complicated. After peeling and dicing four apples, I used two Braeburn and two Jonagold, all the ingredients mixed up fast and smelled spicy and delicious, but it was a very thick batter, way too thick, like hard to stir thick. I hadn't even added the apples or walnuts yet and it was more like cookie dough than cake batter. Something was a bit off. I'm guessing there was supposed to be milk or another liquid included in the recipe, but it didn't call for it, so I went ahead and added a little over 1/2 cup of milk to thin it out and that seemed to solve the problem. Then the caramel frosting, which is just a quick melted brown sugar, butter, cream saucepan full of yumminess, drizzled not so delicately over the cake.  It's not my prettiest cake, but I think it will be moist and flavorful. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to see how it tastes. I'll let you know what my co-workers have to say! If you want the recipe just let me know in the comments and I'll email it to you.

Pools of Caramel Icing, Mmm

Then on to the 52 books, I finished Boomsday, the third book of my year, and I love it. But I'm not in the mood to review it today. Much like a cranky third grader, I don't want to do my homework, I just want to go play. So that book report will have to wait until later this week. I'm reading Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson now. It's strange and fascinating and I love her work, but it's a little harder to read than I expected, partly because of the subject matter and partly because of her writing style. But it's worth it.

So that's my 52 update. The recipes are going gang busters, the scrapbook might have to count for 10 items, and the books, I'm getting there. How are your New Year's resolutions going? Still hanging in there? Or have you moved on and let go?

Friday, January 21, 2011

60 is the new 50, right?

The mother daughter relationship is assuredly one of the most complicated, intimate, sporadically frustrating, demanding and beautiful in our lives. If you have a mother or a daughter or know one of either, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. Even the best relationships between a mother and girl child can be tricky. Like a lot of mothers and daughters, my mother, Becky, and I have gone through many different stages in our relationship.

My mom and her little brother, Herb- 1956.

Some wonderful, some hideous. Those hideous ones were certainly prevalent in my teenage years. Sorry, Mom.  Every comment my mother made then was idiotic or old fashioned, taken the wrong way and blown out of proportion. It got better as I got older, I think. But even now we make assumptions about what the other is trying to say, are overly sensitive and don't listen as well as we should. We both do this. We don't mean to, but with so much history, skillful button pushing and love, it's messy.


Becky, young married, 1970 something, I loved wearing that apron.


Mom and my brother, Mike at our Red Bridge house- 1980.

Christmas around 1983. This was the year she made a scavenger hunt for me to track down the 
Annie movie soundtrack album hidden in the house. I was giddy.

Family reunion in 1992, Mike, Mom, me and those bangs, and my grandmother, Mary.

 Early 1990's career woman, silk blazer and serious eye shadow.

I love my mom. She has a bright white smile that lights up her eyes. She is beautiful.  She can strike up a conversation with anyone, anyone at all, and often does. She laughs easily. Her kind heart and open front door always made our house a place to congregate with friends when we were younger, because she listened and had good snacks. She cares about making things beautiful. She lets me take goofy self portraits with her out in public places.

7 Days:6 - Better Hang Loose, Mom Says So

She has a youthful exuberance about the things she really loves, and though I mock her for it, a deep abiding love of all things Twilight and Robert Pattinson, (he likes older women according to her.) She used to adore the Phantom of the Opera, but Robert has stolen the spotlight. I think she would lobby for President Obama to declare a national holiday when the next movie comes out. It keeps her young.

Despite her ridiculously teenage taste in movies, my mom has: taught me how to run a house, encouraged my love of reading and writing, driven me a gazillion times back and forth to the library, made me macaroni and cheese when I was sick, inspired my creativity, taught me how to apply eyeliner and mascara, dried my tears and listened to my sob stories about boys, or breakups, or school or fights with friends, taught me how to be a great hostess and throw a bash, brought me my amazing grandparents and little brother, cleaned up and sprayed that evil Bactine on my scraped knees, helped me paint my bedroom bright pink, sewed Halloween costumes, curtains, pillows and doll clothes late into the night. She helped mold me into an independent, bossy girl, much to her chagrin sometimes.

My mother's birthday was Wednesday. The weather was horrible on her actual birthday, so we didn't get together and postponed our celebrations to tonight instead.  I look forward to a little conversation and wine and laughter tonight. Because this is her 60th birthday. That's a significant milestone in anyone's life, and yet probably one that my mother would like to ignore. 60 is a little scary. But I think she needs to celebrate. The last few years have been challenging for her. But 2010 and beyond look so much more promising that I simply want to help her focus on that and on 2011. Mostly next to the celebrating, I just want to thank her. Thank you for all that you have done for me through out the years, despite our fights and disagreements, I hope you know how much I appreciate you and want to wish you a very happy birthday! I love you, Mom.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

National Body Challenge: Tiny Goals

I've written a few times about my battle with my weight here. Probably more times than you've actually wanted to read, but this is a great place to vent and complain and get good feedback. I received some lovely and supportive comments from healthy, active women last month when I wrote about my weight battle around the Reverb 10 prompts.  Over Christmas, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law kindly passed on a photo they had found of me at my highest weight. To say it was unflattering is an understatement. And I felt two things as I looked at this version of myself from seven years ago, proud that I've lost so much weight since then and hopeful that if I did it then and kept it off, I could do it again. I put that photo on my fridge for about a week. I looked at it everyday, and then just over the weekend I threw that away. I threw her away, because it hurt me to look at it and I'm ready to move on to the next step.

After taking a month to just think about it and a couple of deep conversations with good friends, I've decided to stop calling this whole thing a battle. Partly based on that feedback and partly based on my own frustration and anger around this struggle and my perceived failures. The word "battle" sounds so adversarial. Who am I trying to battle? Just myself. And does warring against yourself sound particularly healthy? Nope. I'm trying to change the way I talk to myself about this. So combined with changing the voice in my head, I need some more help. I can't just try to eat better and work out.  My deepest happiest inclination is to eat buttery, fattening, sugary, carbliscious things and only a salad when I crave it, lay around and read books and watch fabulous movies. And that's not good or balanced. So for my health I need to actively focus on weight loss. Hoping to start a family, I need to be in better shape. So I've signed up for something that I think will be a big help. And it's not a battle. The National Body Challenge!

I'm going with small, focused, controlled goals and I'm joining a community for support.  So I'll keep you posted about how it's going. I'm going to take some before and after photos, track my measurements and weight, which I refuse to share publicly (I'm too vain for that,) but I'll let you know how this challenge works for me. It's run by the Discovery Channel and has a lot of recipes, work out ideas and expert feedback. It's probably a lot like many other diets, but it's free and there are thousands of other people signed up. Other people just like me, some thinner and fitter, some heavier and more out of shape, but I feel better just knowing that there are a lot of other people trying to get focused, trying to make better decisions and trying to treat themselves with the respect and care that they deserve.

So I have two reasonable goals for the 8 week challenge:

1. Lose 16 pounds. That's 2 pounds a week. I think I can beat that, but my doctor has said that 2 pounds is reasonable and easier to maintain.
2. Work out at least 45 minutes, 5 days a week. And I'm setting up an exercise chart with STICKERS!!! and rewards at the end.

If I reach these two goals then I'm treating myself to a massage. Ah, a massage. I feel more relaxed and melty just thinking about it.  Cross your fingers for me.  And if anyone wants to join the fun, just let me know, we could have our own little Body Challenge Club, the more the merrier!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bravely Obey Cribs Edition: Kitchen Confidential

Wide Shot, Small Kitchen

Our kitchen, sweet lord, was it ugly when we bought our house seven years ago. The first major offense: carpet. Why would anyone dream of using carpet in a kitchen or a bathroom? The most humid, messy rooms in the house and you want to layer the floor with an absorbent, nearly impossible to clean covering? And it was hideous 1970's carpet, dark blue, brown, green, in some kind of strange optical illusion bad MC Escher pattern.

Kitchen - Before

Just as an example of how idiotic carpet is in a kitchen, here is a list of things spilled on this floor in the last seven years: shattered glasses and dishes, blood, leaves, mud, poop, pee and puke (all from the dog, I promise,) a entire bottle of vanilla extract, ice, snow, dog food, a entire pitcher of frozen, half-blended margaritas, dropped peanut butter side down 1/2 of English muffin, one butter covered knife, a head of lettuce, the inside guts of a cantaloupe, 1 tablespoon flour, and enough crumbs to fill Royals Stadium. Would you want to clean all of these up off of carpet? Yikes. 

Sink and stripes

Dirty, ugly, drab, the kitchen had a layer of grease on the back splash that made the beige tile and grout a full shade darker. The old dingy fruit wallpaper border, the brass handles on the dry oak cabinets, the bland fake wood counters were at least in good shape, and that beige back splash again, dull. But there were lots of positives: the work triangle with the stove, sink and fridge were good, plenty of counter space and lots and lots of cabinets, a big window over the sink facing the woodsy backyard, and a large pass through into the living room. Brand new dishwasher, stainless steel sink, workable stove and nice wide white blinds, not bad.

Looking into the living room

The window and the pass through make sure that the kitchen is open and bright. Our whole main living area is wide open, entry way into living room into small dining room right into kitchen, there's really no separation. And it makes the small space work for us. But that kitchen needed some serious work. We started with the floor. Within the first six months that we had moved in, Joe installed some beautiful ceramic tile in a gray/beige, with a dark gray grout. It hides everything, is easy to clean and made the kitchen look so much larger and brighter. And we tore down the fruit border, we had to. It was sad and needed to be put out of its misery. But then we kind of got stagnant.

Oxo party

Finally, two years ago we decided to paint the cabinets and it made a enormous difference. Huge! I feel like we got a new kitchen. We traded out the old brass handles and hinges for some inexpensive but nice silver ones from Ikea. We took nearly six weekends and many nights after work to sand, prime and paint the cabinets and it was absolutely worth the time.

Cook Book Piles

Lots of bright accessories, lots of stainless steel tools, stacks of cookbooks, little things like hanging racks and built in microwave cabinets make it a functional and fun kitchen. We spend a lot of time here. And you can watch TV while your cooking, thank god for that pass through.

Oil and Vinegar

Our kitchen is filled with Oxo kitchen tools (Joe is a touch obsessed with them,) Fiestaware dishes and accessories, one of my favorite tools is right below there, an Alton Brown salt cellar that Joe got me for Christmas a couple of year ago. Grabbing a pinch of kosher salt out of that little cellar and sprinkling it into my cooking always makes me feel like a professional. It's the little things.

Salt Cellar

Packed Crock

I love our kitchen. The warm, striped rug, the refrigerator covered in old postcards and magnets from our travels and poetry tiles and recipes and of course Oxo mini kitchen tool magnets. I love our hanging pot rack, bright red tea pot and yellow pitcher, our shiny red Fiestaware butter dish, and that hefty knife block.

Pots and Pans

Our kitchen isn't perfect. For some reason my rosemary plant is not thriving in here. I blame the kitchen. We still have the boring fake wood counter tops but they are innocuous and in good condition. And that bland beige back splash, it's clean now and cleaned frequently. But it's still boring. I'm just pretty sure that we'll never get around to changing either one. It's just not a priority, and our desire to move in the next couple of years keeps us from wanting to do anything major to this house.

Barely Alive Plants

Glass platter

I think we'll save our creative makeover skills for the next house. That dream house with some glass front cabinets, a huge island, gas stove, big fridge and a perfect upright space for cookie sheets. I want one of those. But this is our first kitchen in our first house together, and it will always be a warm, festive space. We've cooked Italian feasts, perfect Caesar salads, basic grilled cheese sandwiches, birthday cakes, it's a place filled with celebrations, sustenance and solace.  All this kitchen talk, I think I need to get cooking.
What's your favorite thing about your kitchen?

Fridge Chaos


Photos by me, except that great one right up there which is by the equally colorful Joe Sands.