Thursday, December 21, 2006

Gadgety Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Kitchen Gadgets Zmrzlina Loves

I'm pretty hopeless in the kitchen. I am vegetarian and I'm usually happy just stir-frying a bunch of veggies until they are merely warm, tossing in some spice and/or soy sauce, and serving over wild rice or soba noodles with a side of seasoned tofu. But, since moving to Pittsburgh I've tried to vary things and I am starting to enjoy cooking.... just a little bit. It helps that G is willing to try whatever I cook, and often does his own experimenting in the kitchen. These are some of our favorite gadgets.

1. Rev 'n Chef Herb Chopper. I use this for herbs, but also to make quick work of dicing up small bits of onions and peppers.

2. Silicone Pinch Cups. I like having everything all measured out and ready to use before I start cooking.

3. Stainless steel hanging baskets... the old fashion kind that don't seem to be in many kitchens anymore. I keep my garlic and other non-refrigerated produce in them.

4. Glass jars, on the shelf over the sink, where I store my grains. I use lots of whole grains and like to have the out so I know exactly how much I have left with just a glance. I also store my most often used spices (cumin, curry, chili, turmeric) in small glass jars on the same shelf.

5. Silicone cooking utensils. I love these. I am getting rid of all the ugly plastic ones and getting all silicone.

6. Cooking utensil holder. I have a vintage looking container on the counter to hold all my utensils. For the first 30 years of cookinghood I had them in drawers. So much easier to have them out and ready for use.

7. Nut chopper. I like chopped nuts in my salads and this little gadget is perfect to pull out and chop a few nuts. Rinses out easy and back into the drawer.

8. Pampered Chef Wine Bottle Opener. Love how the little foil cutter takes the top off so neatly. I collect those little cut off tops. And the cork remover is pretty cool, too.

9. SiliconeZone Lid. Covers my biggest pot and skillet. Very cool for letting me see what's cooking. Just have to be careful of escaping steam and hot water when lifting lid.

10. Recipe book holder. I have a plain, stainless, no-frills holder that folds up small to slip beside the cookbook rack. Cooked for 30 years without one and now I can't imagine why. So much easier to have the book, or magazine, held open and upright in front of me!

11. Perfect Tear Paper Towel Holder. Mine is a bit different than the linked one... brushed not shiny and a nicer top. I love how the towel comes off with just a one-hand tug.

12. Hershey silicone bakeware. I don't have these, but I want them. We saw them a while back, but since we don't eat sweets and I don't ever bake, I didn't buy them. But I do want them. I don't know why, I just do.

13. Lastly, a bit more than a gadget, but indispensable, my Keurig Coffee Maker. I love the perfect cup of coffee I get and I can use my own coffee in the resusable K-cup filter assembly that I bought separately.

Lately we have been finding it very hard to stay out of shops like Sur la Table. But, we don't really buy many gadgets because we have a tiny kitchen with not very much storage space. But someday....

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. WestOfMars
2. Writing Aspirations
3. zzz

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

'rents, you gotta love 'em

It ain't easy being a parent. We all know that. Kids can be mean as hell. We can be as mean as hell. And then there are the other times. Most of the time, if you are lucky (and I am). I've received two cards in the last couple days that make me think about being a parent.

The first is from a woman in Massachusetts whose daughter got one of my random postcardx postcards. The woman wrote that her daughter always loved receiving cards, and then that her daughter had died in September. I did a quick bit of research and found the obit... 33 years old, "peacefully in her sleep," the only child. The mother's husband died a while back. I don't know if she is alone now... I hope not.

And then today I got a card from parents in Pennsylvania whose daughter had posted to postcardx that she had been "causing them a lot of grief lately." I sent a pretty snowflake postcard with something simple written on it (I don't remember what) and ended by saying "Julia loves you." I am guessing that Julia does love them, because why else would she post their names and address to a public website and ask for "beautiful things" to be sent to them? Anyway, the card I got today is signed by Julia's mother and she says she has read and reread my postcard and will keep it. She ends by saying I'm "very fine." It made my day.


Every year about this time I get to wondering how to explain the sort of celebration I observe come the 25th of December. I do like to give and get presents on Christmas, but I am not christian and don't think of the holiday as a religious celebration. I like the crazy shopping. I like the wrapping. I like the decorations. I have a Christmas tree. It is purple with white lights and is decorated with snowpeople and snowflakes. But, I don't like to say I celebrate Christmas. I celebrate Giftmas.

I don't like the nasty required gift giving that may come with the holiday, those gifts to people you barely know just because you can't go empty-handed to a gathering of more than two at this time of year. I don't like buying gifts for people who expect something perfect. I don't like buying gifts for office parties. But, I do like buying gifts for family and friends. I usually have no trouble at all finding gifts I want to give. And that's how I shop for gifts. I think of what would make me happy to give a particular person and it usually results in the recipient getting something that makes them very happy. Although, I have to say, it hasn't been quite the case with G. I don't have a great track rating with giving him gifts that work, though I am getting better.

Anyway, this year, because I am unemployed, I am not observing Giftmas. Instead, my daughters and I will take a road trip next spring, out to Ohio to ride coasters and maybe to Hershey, PA, to ride coasters and eat bad chocolate. I would love to buy Greg something wonderful, but I can't. Once I am employed, there will be gifts, though. I know just what to get him, and this time I am not going to be wrong. Christmas weekend we will go to visit his parents in West Virginia. They aren't so into the holiday, so any gift giving will be limited to books and bags of good coffee. But, I did go up north, to New York, last month for a family gathering where we celebrated every end of the year birthday (there are lots) and a sort of Giftmas.

We had agreed that there were to be no gift exchanges between adults. Just the kids would get gifts. There are three boys, my nephews, ages 9, 10 and 11. I spent the $150 worth of Borders Rewards money (one good reason to quit working at Borders... I spent too much money there!) and my last monthly employee $30 gift card on the boys. They didn't get as much from me as in the past, but I find some good buys and I am sure they are happy with what they got. The rest of my family went nuts. It was a gift orgy. We did make the boys open presents one at a time, and made sure they acknowledged the gifter, but even so, it was a crazy scene, which I can't really capture with this image, but I don't like to have photos of people other than myself on my blog.

I don't really like the gift orgy thing so much. I would have preferred something a little less frantic, but I guess with three boys that young, frantic can't be avoided. I don't know what we will do next year, but I kind of hope there won't be any gifts at all. I'd rather do something like take a family holiday somewhere warm, or go to a show in the NYC and stay at a nice hotel. We can send gifts to the boys to open when they open all their other presents. When frantic happens and I am not in the room to observe it, then it really hasn't happened.