Friday, January 29, 2010

Fabulous Small Kitchens

Yesterday I posted about finding a photo of food writer Mark Bittman's home kitchen - and being surprised at how small and unelaborate it was. It reminded me of a similar incident a few years ago when I came across the tee-tiny french kitchen of a dessert cookbook author. It was even more surprising than Mark's! But it was very inviting and quaint.

So I went in search today of some photos of small kitchens that make use of their limited space, and do it with style. Want to see what I found?

I love the unexpected funky-girlishness of the one with green walls and a chandelier. But honestly, this bottom one makes me want to walk right in and start cooking, and it's probably the least decorative among them. The others make me want to sit and stare. :)

Which one of these is more your style?

Thankful for the beautiful creativty displayed in interior design.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No More Kitchen Excuses

I like my kitchen, but it is not very large. Counter space and storage space is a bit lacking. Rick and I can cook in there together, but it's a like a dance -- we have to stay aware of where the other one is and coordinate our movements to make it work without bumping into each other. I'm definitely guilty of thinking I need a bigger kitchen. Or that I could cook better with better facilities.

Then I saw a photo that astounded me.

You familiar with Mark Bittman? Food writer for NY Times, and author of How to Cook Everything and Food Matters. Mark loves food, and loves to cook. He's was also on a food & travel TV show I loved: Spain on the Road Again. In short, he is a biggie in the food industry.

His kitchen, however, is surprising small. This is Mark Bittman's Manhattan kitchen:

Notice there is no counter space on the other side of the rather-generic-for-a-food-writer stove? And only maybe a foot or two of counter space between the stove and what looks to also be a rather generic sink? His kitchen, Mark says, is 7 feet wide by 8 feet long.
Surprised? I was.
I also noticed, however, that it's super clean - the white stove, counters and cabinets look sparkling. I don't see much clutter either. The natural light pouring in from the large window is great, and the pale blue paint color looks lovely. Plus, doesn't that meal he is making (braised turkey breasts) look delish?!
Here is proof positive that we don't need a food prep station, a baking station, a walk-in pantry, and a 6 burner Viking stove to make a great meal.
So, no more using our small, dated, or otherwise crummy-in-our-opinion kitchens as excuses for not cooking and enjoying cooking. Get in there, embrace the challenge that is your kitchen and make something yummy this weekend! And if you need some recipe ideas, check out my friend Mary DeMuth's new blog A Daily Recipe . I would love to hear about what you make!
I'm thankful for my kitchen today and friends who share yummy recipes.
{This post is linked to Food on Fridays at Ann Kroeker's}

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Message in 2010

I've started reading The Daily Message ... it's a through-the-Bible-in-a-year-book in the Message translation. The Message is a very modern translation, written by a pastor (Eugene Peterson) who not only has a passion for the Word of God but a passion for words and writing as well.

It translates from the Greek thought-for-thought, more so than word for word.

You can learn more about this translation and it's author here.

When I first came to Christ, I read the New King James Version. I still have lots of verses committed to memory in the NKJ. Then after several years, I moved to the New International Version, and memorized many in NIV as well. After years in that, I moved to the New Living Translation, which I've loved for the last several years. And this year, I'm diving into The Message.

I realize some people take issue with newer translations, feeling that they can get too far away from the original language. I respect their passion for purity. But I've found it really helps me to hear things I've read for years said in a different way. I notice more, or notice it afresh. And that invigorates my walk with God, which is a main reason I'm reading the Bible.

So if you'd like to read through The Message too, click on the photo above to buy the book and just jump in at whatever day it is when it arrives. Don't worry that you didn't start on January 1. You know how the book starts (there's creation, and a garden called Eden, and a guy named Adam ...).

Don't even worry if it's already summer, or fall, when you find this invitation -- dive in and start now. You can finish up at the beginning in January 2011 if you want and complete the journey. The important thing is to just start reading the Bible regularly - yes?

So sit down your inner-perfectionist-gotta-start-January-1st-or-it's-ruined self, and tape her mouth shut. Contrary to her beliefs, she isn't always right! Then jump in at today's date and enjoy the journey. The readings take maybe 15 minutes a day, and end with 2 thought provoking questions by Peterson.

What? You have trouble silencing your inner perfectionist, you say? Well, I've been reading the hardback book version, but I think I'm going to order the audio version as well so I can listen to it on my treadmill. If your inner perfectionist insists, through the tape, that you start at the beginning, get the audio version too and listen to it while cooking, folding laundry or running errands and you should get caught up fairly quick.

I'll be posting here periodically (not daily, but regularly) on things that strike me as I read this Bible this year. So feel free to chime in, even if you're not reading thru The Message this year.

Thankful for the freedom to read the Bible.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spies, Eggs, Landfills & Non-Stick Polymers

Last night I watched the premiere of show called Human Target. I had no intention of doing that until it was was described as "James Bond on Adrenalin." Isn't that redundant? I had to see what would be "James Bond on Adrenalin."

The show was over-sold, but still pretty good. It's about some sort of top secret get-the-bad-guys team. Like spies, but not quite. And apparently the adrenalin part is that they keep flashing forward, then flashing back, then flashing back again. It made an OK story slightly more interesting.

I'm going to try that technique in this post - in hopes it will make this OK post slightly more interesting.

Last Thursday night I had a nightmare. I was at the stove, trying to fry an egg. People were watching me do this for some reason. The details of this dream are sketchy. I must've been watching the Food Network before bed.

So I'm trying to perform egg-frying before the audience but it is sticking horribly to the pan. I go through all the pans in my kitchen, and it won't work on any of them. This upsets me greatly and I wake up all the sudden with panicked heavy breathing. (You mean you've never had a nightmare involving eggs?)

About 7-8 years ago Rick (yes Rick, not me) was pining for Calphalon cookware. I found a great deal on a set of Calphalon non-stick. Plus I had a 20% off coupon for that store, so we bought them. I have loved them (and only hand washed them and only used nylon utensils in them). However, the non-stick coating was starting to flake off in the most used pans.

Not only is this frustrating, causing food to stick to them, but we've all heard the health warnings about ingesting the non-stick coating stuff, right? Eww. Those warnings get to me.

Yesterday my husband announced that he knew what he wanted to buy both our children when they get married. Both our kids are currently under the age of 12. "Um, what?" I took the bait. "Calphalon," he replied decidedly.

So what prompted this given that our Calphalon non-stick was not sticking to the Calphalon?

Not only do health warnings get to me but so do all the warnings I hear about how our landfills are filling up. I'm into recycling. So the idea of throwing away perfectly good, expensive cookware because the top 1/16th of an inch of coating was failing, made me cringe. But I can't fix these pans either. So the first week of January, I spent $12.00 to ship them all back to Calphalon, with a letter explaining my ordeal.

Every Sunday this month I've been going to cooking demonstrations at Williams and Sonoma. They're free and fun - although they're not really free unless you can get out of the store afterwards without buying something. I love me some (overpriced) Williams and Sonoma, y'all. Well, the nice lady at Williams and Sonoma told me Calphalon might replace my pans with new ones if I sent them back. But if they did, she said they would replace them with the newest version of the same product. Meaning, more non-stick cookware. I didn't want more non-stick, given those health warnings and my proclivity for Epicurean nightmares.

On January 6, Rick, the kids and I walked our boxed up flaking Calphalon into the UPS shipping store. We chatted it up with the nice 20-something man working the counter. He told us his mom gave him new Pampered Chef cookware for Christmas because she got it 1/2 price for hosting a party. Pampered Chef lets you return anything that fails at anytime if you have the receipt. The guy said, "So I've now got cookware for life! When it wears out, I'll send it back for free replacements." You're seeing the impetus here for Rick's wedding present idea.

Enclosed with the flaking cookware was a letter I wrote, kindly telling Calphalon that I would love some replacement pans if they were willing to send me some but that I absolutely didn't want non-stick coatings on them. That I'd rather get nothing back - have they not read those health warnings?

So that Friday morning I wake up still rattled by my egg-frying dream. I come downstairs and eat a Zone Perfect bar for breakfast - remember all our pans were shipped back over a week ago. Then I sat down to my desk to work. Ding-Dong. Thud. I open the door to find a large brown box on the porch. Inside were brand new, Calphalon One, hard-anodized pots and pans without the traditional non-stick coating. There is some non-stick polymer thing, however, infused down into the pan. They say it cannot scratch or flake off.

I don't know if they will hold up any better over the next 7-8 years, or if the sticking-egg dream will become a recurring nightmare. (Rick's first batch of scrambled eggs stuck to the pan, but cleaned up easily with Bar Keeper's Friend.) But for just $12 in shipping, I'm willing to give this new set a try.

If it doesn't work, perhaps I'll call on the team at Human Target to pay a little visit to the team at Calphlon and demonstrate to them the kind of adrenalin I experience at night when I have pans that won't fry eggs.

Thankful for good customer service and my new pans.

{This post is linked to Food on Fridays at Ann Kroeker's blog}

Friday, January 15, 2010

Message - too many possesions

I'm reading through the Bible this year in THE MESSAGE translation. I'm using the book to the left if you want to join me - just buy it now on Amazon or at your local store and jump in at whatever day it arrives ... it's not like you don't know how the book begins!

So the other day (day 6), I was reading about Abram and Lot returning to Negev from Egypt -- where Abram passed his wife Sarai off as his sister and let the Pharaoh take her into his harem - paying Abram handsomely in livestock and possessions for the privilege.

It says, "By now Abram was very rich, loaded with cattle and silver and gold" (Gen 13:2), and that, "Lot, who was traveling with Abram, was also rich in sheep and cattle and tents. But the land couldn't support both of them; they had too many possessions" (Gen 13:5).

And that's the part that jumped out at me: the land couldn't support them because they had too many possessions.

I don't know if you are anything like me in this new year, but I'm looking to streamline, organize, de-clutter, and once again re-evaluate my spending habits. I'm quite certain I have more possessions than I need. And my land - my home - doesn't support it well. My house has the smallest closets you've ever seen. I kid you not. My kitchen pantry is 24" wide by 13" deep. That's 2 feet by 1 foot, people. Plus, my coat closet and linen closet are the same size! See, I told you. I don't know why the builder made these closets so small - or why I thought I could live with them!

(my tiny kitchen pantry)

The next line in Genesis 13 says, "They couldn't both live there—quarrels broke out between Abram's shepherds and Lot's shepherds." I assume they were fighting over who got to graze the limited pasture land ... who got to decide how the limited closet space and budget would be spent.

Too many possessions.

I'm not a "neat freak" by any stretch, but it does bother me when things are piling up, or cluttered. That happens either because I don't know where to store it or I don't really have the space for it. And when I'm bothered by the mess, I get testy and easily irritated. Same goes for my husband ... quarrels can break out.

So today I'm readying a load to take to the women's consignment shop and another load to take to Good Will. And if I have the time and energy later, I'll clean out that pantry. I'm pretty sure that box of blackberry Jello has been in there for 3 years.

What's the status of your closets? Clean and organized? Or busting at the seams?

Do you suspect you have too many possessions to live with harmoniously?

At least, I bet you feel happier about your own closet space after hearing about mine!

You're welcome.

Giving thanks today for my warm home with tiny closets.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Got Friends?

Just wanted to take a moment to say publicly that I have some pretty great friends! Let me show you a few examples of what I mean.

In just a few days my friend Melanie will release her new marriage book called What a Wife Needs From Her Husband. This is her second marriage book. It's really cool to have a friend you can talk to about any marriage issue.

Last fall my friend Glynnis released a book called When Your Child is Hurting. It came out about the time my son was having difficulty at school. He was hurting, which means this mama was hurting too. My ever helpful friend Glynnis sent me a copy of this book in the mail - a godsend.

And then there is my friend Luann. If I need prayer, I head for Luann faster than a formula one heads for the finish line (can you tell I live in Carolina?). I know I can count on her to pray for me and to give me the positive, encouraging faith-lift I'm needing. Hey, you can too because she takes calls on the radio every Saturday afternoon at Encouragement Cafe, and she's holding her first Encouragement Extreme conference in just a few weeks in Greensboro, NC.

At Proverbs 31 Ministries we consider you part of our family, so I can say for sure that you have some pretty cool friends too!

Thanking God for good friends and godly influences today.

In Praise of Pears

(I know you read this post title and thought: Pears - who cares?)
I've discovered that I do.
Go figure!

I forgot to mention in my last post, I bought something else whilst in Myrtle Beach:

And these were half-price because it was post-Christmas, even better.

I think Americans could stand to learn a thing or two from the French about the beautiful flavor and versatility of the pear. They're great thin-sliced on a turkey sandwich with some white cheese and cranberry mustard. Or baked in cinnamon. Or diced up in a chef salad with some Gorgonzola or Roquefort and candied pecans. Plus its hard to beat a really nice, bright, ripe pear eaten in hand at its peak on a winter day.

Before you knock it, when did you last eat a fresh, ripe pear?
Anybody got a favorite pear recipe? I'm thinking of trying this one. It sounds slightly freaky, I know - what with the Swiss cheese and all. Yet, it's strangely appealing to me.

So what did you eat today that you'd really like to thank God for?

I'm giving God thanks for pears.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Surprised by Integrity

After Christmas we snuck down to Myrtle Beach for a few days vacation with some long-time friends of ours, The Bolducs. Together we enjoyed the beach.

We enjoyed the indoor water park during the day, and playing charades in the evening.

We ate meals together.

(Rick, me, P.J., Bill, Haley, Alania)

I think my favorite was my daughter's birthday lunch at the Margarativille restaurant. Not only did they give Alaina a massive strawberry shortcake birthday cake, but a gal on stilts came to our table and made Alaina a giant balloon hat. Then had her wear it while taking her up front, getting the entire restaurant's attention, and having them all sing happy birthday to her. Now that's a memorable birthday moment.

And we enjoyed some shopping at the outlet mall. I got a new Calphalon pot (only $24!), my daughter got a winter coat, my son got a book and socks. Rick got a case of the blues ... because he lost his wallet there, which contained his licence, university ID, debit card, American Express card, and lots of cash.

We made various phone calls to the mall when we realized - 2 days later - it was missing. But no one had seen it. Then we canceled all our plastic cards, prayed for protection from identity theft and asked God to somehow return the wallet to us.

A week later, the outlet mall called saying they had it and would mail it to us. I wondered if it would be empty.

Yesterday it arrived with every singe thing in it, including all $125 dollars! God is good. So is the person who found it and turned it in as is. May they be blessed 100-fold this month for that display of kindness and integrity.

Giving thanks God for honest people.

Monday, January 4, 2010

In 2010, hapiness is ...

My friend Marybeth wants a new post, an inspiring New Year's sort of post. And what kind of friend would I be if I didn't try to oblige?

So here it goes, MB.

Ben Franklin said, "The Constitution only guarantees American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."

Ever notice that? Life and liberty are fully granted by the U.S. Constitution but the wise authors of this document knew that happiness can't be granted. It has to be found. Or developed. Or maybe carved out.

I am quite sure it has to be nurtured if you want it to last.

What exactly is happiness - ever thought about that? We recognize it when we feel it, but in the lulls between those warm, fuzzy feelings, can we define it? I don't mean define it like Webster would, but define it for us individually. Because I'm thinking we don't always feel it when it comes around. I'm thinking we sometimes miss it ... Even better, can we define it as Christ might if He were to hop on blogger here and post a comment to this question.

So what is your happy?

And for that matter, what can you do to catch it? Or create it? Or position yourself to receive it?

How can you start your day differently in 2010 to catch more happiness?

How can you approach your work and responsibilities differently in 2010 to catch more happiness?

How can you set up your environment differently in 2010 to inspire more happiness?

How can you react to interruptions or distractions to preserve more happiness?

How can you complete your days in 2010 to catch more happiness?

I can't answer those questions for you, but this much I know: If you define your happy in terms of your circumstances - like having a big, clean house, or a big, cushy income, or a hassle-free day - you'll probably experience less happiness than if you define it more simply. More organically. And that's not just because most people will never have a big, cushy income, a totally clean MacMansion, and a hassle free day all at the same time.

Listen to this key to happiness from the author of Hebrews 13:5: "Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, 'I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.'”

And this one from Psalm 16:11: "You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever."

Or consider this from Ecclesiastes 8:15, "So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun."

So give it some thought. "What's your happy?"

And if you give this a lot of thought and decide to really embrace this notion of defining and catching your happiness - which I plan to do in 2010 - I really hope you'll share your answers, process or outcome here. Because we can all use a little more happiness ... and a little instruction or inspiration for catching it. Right, Marybeth?
Thanking God for the chance to puruse happiness in 2010.