Things I Love Thursdays

Stick-eez Clothing Labels by Oliver’s Labels

I have 6.5 years of labeling experience now and I can state with confidence that my favorite labels are the Stick-eez Clothing Labels made by Oliver’s Labels.  They are meant for clothing, but I’ve put them on everything.  They are tiny (a feature I prefer) and they survive the washing machine just as well as they survive the dishwasher. The designs are great and totally customizable.  We are currently loving the Eric Carle “Brown Bear” themed labels.  Plum was two before I figured out that if I put only my family’s last name on the labels I could use them for the entire family!  (Duh.)  They aren’t cheap, but they are worth it (says the woman who has recently purchased 3 replacement water bottles because she forgot to label the first two. Ugh.)

labels

 

One-Man Band Toy by Vilac

What a cool toy! I might even travel to France to buy a few of these for my nieces and nephews.  C’mon, what kid wouldn’t love this?!  I do think, however, that the parents of said nieces and nephews are probably glad this toy is so far away and so hard to get.

homme-orchestre-vilac

 

Casco Bay Butter Co.

I’m pretty sure good bread with good butter is one of the world’s most perfect things. Truly. Simple and indulgent. You have to try these amazing butters made in Maine by the Casco Bay Butter Co.  I’m a sucker for the traditional sea salt, but every one I’ve tried is excellent.  Blue cheese butter melted over a steak?  Garlic and herb butter stirred into mashed potatoes? Yes, please!

logo

butter

 

(Links are for your convenience only.  I don’t get any money – or free butter – for recommending this stuff, it is simply stuff I think is great.)

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Things I Love Thursdays

A few happy Things I Love on this first Thursday of August…

Pengoloo

Penguins

 

A game I never mind playing!  Pengoloo is a memory game made of hysterical little penguins and their colored eggs.  The game is easy to understand, fun, and fast!  It is loved by all three of my kids.  And we’ve given it as a birthday present in the past and it has been well-received. Only negative? The eggs are a choking hazard so stick to playing with kids who are 3+.

Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

I do admit that I am usually anti pumpkin food stuffs.  And it isn’t fall.  But these are easy (one bowl!) and tasty.  My kids adore them (because, really, like most muffins, they are basically cake).  Smitten Kitchen is brilliant – I’ve loved every recipe I’ve tried (except the gingerbread, but I think that was more about me and less about the recipe, but I digress…)

Make these muffins.  I cut the sugar down to 1 cup, and eyeball the pumpkin amount.  I also eyeball the spices.  And the muffins are always great.  The recipe is really forgiving. I’m going to try making them with a 50/50 white/whole wheat flour mix in the next few days.  I bet they’ll still be great. Added bonus? These keep beautifully for a few days, unlike some muffins with fruit in them that get soggy on day 2.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (I usually just use cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
  • cinnamon sugar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 and put muffin tins in a 12-muffin pan.
  2. Whisk together the first 4 ingredients.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except the cinnamon sugar and whisk ingredients together.
  4. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way full.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine are always done at 25).

Enjoy these August days – eat as much ice cream as possible and run in those sprinklers – it’ll be back to school soon enough!

You Get What You Need

I want a cup of tea.

Not herbal. The real stuff. With milk and sugar.

And I want someone to make me popovers.

Which I will eat warm with a little butter and cinnamon sugar.

 

I want someone to wash my duvet cover and then put it back on my comforter. Because if we’re honest with each other, that is a four-person job.

 

I want a week to declutter, shuffle and reshuffle, purge (stuff, not vomit – though both usually make you feel better), think about writing something, nap.

 

I want dinner to be done, meals planned. But really, I want to do that stuff myself.

I want a bedside clock for my husband that isn’t the brightest clock on the planet.

I want the socks paired.

Oh the socks.

 

I want not to worry about the four RSVPs, camps, birthday party to plan.

I want to be grateful that I have parties, camps, birthday parties to worry about.

I want new work shoes that I don’t have to break in.

I want to use the hours between 8:30pm and 10:30pm wisely at least once a week.

I want to figure out how on earth to spend more time being and less time doing.

 

I want to cook every day. Walk every day. Sleep more. Pick up less. Read to my kids more. Explore more. Love more. Give more.  Fight more for the things I think are worth fighting for. And sit on a blanket on the grass in the sun.

 

I want to spend more time doing silly and creative things, and less time wondering what could have possibly spilled on the floor to make it that sticky.  I want more time with my kids. I want more time with my husband. I want more time by myself.

I want more time having grown-up conversations. With wine. I want more music in my house. I want less dust. I want my kids to eat less yogurt.

 

I want more dancing in my life.

 

And I want the thank you notes to write themselves.

 

Brownie Paradise. Best Ever.

I like brownies made from a box. I do. They are moist, chocolatey goodness that makes an appearance at every potluck and picnic. But a few months ago, one of the recipes that showed up in my Google Reader (R.I.P) was Julia Child’s Best-Ever Brownies, as posted by The Naptime Chef. I like recipes with “Best Ever” in the title, and I like recipes by Julia Child. So, I gave them a go.

(When I was a wee lass of 3 or 4 I would creep downstairs early in the morning, and switch on the TV – much easier in those days – and watch PBS reruns of Ju-Ju [as I called her]. So we go way back.)

I’m pretty sure this is, indeed, the best brownie recipe ever.  Halfway through making these for the first time I became annoyed by the seemingly extra step of whipping half (?!) of the egg mixture before incorporating it into the rest of the ingredients.  But now that I’ve made these a few times I’m pretty sure that step is what makes these amazing.

Brownies (adapted ever so slightly from The Naptime Chef, but originally from Julia Child)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 C. flour
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 2 sticks butter (unsalted, but I use salted and still loved them)
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (chop it if you want it to melt better)
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (same thing with the chopping)
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla (the good stuff, people)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Stir together the flour and salt and set bowl aside.

3. Microwave butter and chocolate on low, stirring often, until just melted. Add 1 C. of the sugar and stir, then add the vanilla. Pour this mixture into a large bowl, if it isn’t already in one.

4. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs and remaining 1 C. of sugar. Pour half of this sugar/egg mixture into the chocolate and stir well. Whip the remaining sugar/egg mixture until it is thick, pale yellow, and doubled in volume.

5. Carefully fold the whipped egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, only until it is just combined. Then carefully fold in the dry ingredients.

6. Pour the batter into lightly greased (or better, buttered, per Julia!) 9-inch square pan. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick has only a few moist crumbs attached.  (My brownies required a few more minutes than that, but that could be my oven.)

Timer Tick Tock

PS – Yes, I am aware that two of my recipe posts – of which there are few – are brownie recipes.  Shut up.

Soupish Delish

I haven’t added a recipe in a while, so I figured it was time.

Lovely Ladle

I did a crock pot recipe about this time last year, too.  That is just about the right frequency for me.

I don’t love crock pot recipes.  I want to.  I am lured in by the promise of easy, warm, filling meals.  But I usually find them to be not all that easy, overcooked, and tasting a lot like beef stew.

But this recipe?  I like it.  It is a mish mash of bunches of recipes I found.  It is flavorful and easy (really!). And it is relatively good for you.  The first time I made it, I added the kielbasa at the beginning, which didn’t work as well.  Also, you could replace the spinach with kale if you were so inclined.

Crock pot for the win!

White Bean and Kielbasa Soupish (meaning, thicker than soup and thinner than stew)

  • 1 lb dry, small white beans
  • 4 C. chicken broth
  • 1 C. water (plus more as needed)
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, your favorite herbs
  • 1 kielbasa, cut into 1/2 inch half-moons
  • 1 bag/box fresh baby spinach

Add all ingredients to the crock pot, stir and set on low.  Leave it alone for 6 hours.  Check it, and add more water if it looks too thick; there should be a little soupy broth floating around. (When I made this, I added about an extra 1/2 C. of water.)  Add the kielbasa pieces. Continue to cook on low for approximately 1.5 hours.  Taste it to make sure the beans are cooked, and add any salt or pepper you think it needs. Add the entire box of spinach to the hot soup, and stir it in so the spinach wilts.  Eat.  With crusty bread if you’ve got it.  And enjoy it for lunch the next day. And feed it to your 10-month old; she’ll love it.

Thanks! The Grand Finale!

50 Days of Gratitude

Days 41 through, er, 49

Okay, so clearly calculating calendar dates isn’t my strong suit (even when I use a nifty online date calculator).  What was supposed to be 50 days of gratitude turned into 49 days of gratitude.  I am not less grateful, I am simply less accurate.  I consider it a happy accident, because my very favorite number in the world is 49.  It really is.  Think about it – it looks random and odd, but it is a square!  And the 4 and the 9?  They are both squares too!  Joy joy!  (Yes, perhaps I do have some quirks.)

Back to the list…

188. Lounge wear – Now that I am “out” in the blogosphere – meaning that my family, friends and boss(es) now know about this once-secret blog – I feel a bit constrained.  I feel a bit like I can’t say what I want to say, like here, where I want to write, “When I get home for the day I love my lounge wear because I don’t really like to wear pants.”

189. Feeling rested – Someday I will achieve this again, I just know it. 

190. ShortbreadOh no! I just linked to the Panera Nutrition Calculator! Don’t click on it.  No, really don’t.  But I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that the nutritional info ain’t so pretty when a food is made up of butter, with some butter added. I may attempt to make a copycat using this recipe here

191. Darn Tough socks – These are so great I wrote an entire post about them. Really.

192. Art – Of all kinds… including this kind…

193. Dumplings

194. Lap cats

195. Ice cream – Some ideas for new flavors: raspberry square (oatmeal cookie and raspberry swirl in vanilla ice cream) and trifle (vanilla rum ice cream with yellow cake pieces and custard and jam swirls)

196. Maple trees

197. The smell of the heavy Sunday Times

198. Good bolognese – Having no Italian blood in me whatsoever, I have to turn to my favorite recipe source, Cooks Illustrated.

199. The comfort of my own bed

200. Big band classics

201. Raspberries – These little sweeties are always in my top 3 of favorite foods ever ever.

202. Wildflowers in the median strip and other examples of beauty in unlikely places

203. Museums

204. Relaxation

205. College – Oh sweet nostalgia. It appears have finally reached the age where I can safely say, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Bonus? I can also say: “Get off my lawn!” 

206. New crayons – Is there anything that says “anything is possible!” like a new box of crayons? (Well, maybe a lottery win, but you catch my drift.)

207. My left-handedness

208. My husband – for too many reasons to list

209. EZ Pass – I used to pay the tolls with tokens! TOKENS!  I am that old.

210. NEW COMPUTERS! – Sure, my husband will probably try to get many many miles out of this push present/birthday present/anniversary present but I don’t care!  It’s mine, all mine!

211. Baby bath time

212. Coconut cake – One time, on a rare trip to my parents’ cellar – a dark, scary, dirt-floored, spider haven – I found a half-eaten coconut cake on the bench. What a mystery!  It turns out, my father was sneaking down to the cellar to eat coconut cake out of the view of me and my mother who were on diets.  It has become a family joke. And coconut cake is still a favorite.  Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a Smith Island Coconut cake – they are incredible. 

213. Maps

214. Whimsy

215. Sunglasses

216. Long weekends

217. Belly laughs

218. Lemonade

219. Those potette travel potty things – Yes. It’s true. I’m thankful for a travel potty.  But seriously, when your 2.5 year old says, “It’s time!” That means IT.IS.TIME.  Our trip back and forth to New York City was made infinitely easier because we had one of these along. 

220. The Majestic – A magical view of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade from our 4th floor perch above the crowds.  I’m pretty sure I was more excited than my too-small-to-remember children.  It was awesome.

Pickle and Spidey

221. Kids who travel well

222. King sized beds

223. Cherries

224. My family

Central Park – Late Afternoon

225. My friends

226. Love

227. Hope

228. Peace

229. Kindnesses

230. Humor

I have all of my teeth, so…

Two front teeth? Check!

With that checked off of the list, I’m feeling free to put some other crave-worthy items on my Chrimbo list.  Chrimbo.  That is the abbreviated version of Christmas I heard my friends from Down Under use on several occasions.  Those crazy Aussies (and Kiwis too, to some extent) just love to shorten their words and make ’em cute.  Australian? Aussie. Breakfast? Brekkie.  Presents? Prezzies. Barbecue? Barbie. Christmas? Chrimbo.  I always felt like that last one was a stretch.

Here are a few items that are on my list this year. Nothing crazy and exciting. I’m hoping I’ve been more nice than naughty this year.  I do admit that as I spoke stern words to Pickle the other day (just put yer dang pants on!) he said, “BE NICE, MAMA!”  I’m hoping Santa didn’t hear him.

(Click on the photos for links to the items.)

LL Bean Washable Wool Plaid Blanket in Rustic Purple – Not sure why this speaks to me but it does.  I picture picnics, 4th of July Fireworks, campfires (not that I camp), and passing this down to grand-kids.

LL Bean’s Washable Wool Blanket in Rustic Purple

 

Sonia Kashuk Make Up Brushes – I don’t have any makeup brushes.  Okay, to be honest, I don’t get too far past running a regular brush through my hair most days.  But my sister has lovely makeup brushes, and they make applying makeup so much easier.  I like the curve of these, and the price!

Sonia Kashuk Tools Limited Edition Starter Set

Rubio Balsamic Vinegar – It is Chrimbo! The one time of year when asking for a $32 bottle of vinegar doesn’t seem totally crazy.  I love this stuff. I can make a bottle last (almost) a year.

Rubio Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Salumeria Italiana

Crate and Barrel Parker Nesting Bowls – I have a set and I’m wearing them out!  Time for a new set in some great colors before my first set bites the dust.

Crate and Barrel’s Parker Nesting Bowls

UncommonGoods Felt Birdhouse – I love cute and interesting and useful all rolled into one.  And I love felt.  Something about these cute little bird houses just speaks to me. UncommonGoods is great for a browse on a lunch hour.  Interesting products that you won’t find elsewhere.  It’s like a cool little boutique!

Felt Birdhouse by UncommonGoods

Part of me wants to ask for a good vacuum (we really need one) but I fear if I ask, I might actually get one!  And who wants a new vacuum for Chrimbo?  (She says, sheepishly raising her hand.)  Honorable mentions go to gift certificates of any kind, housekeeping services, a new pepper mill and perhaps a set of mittens with a hat.

What’s on your list?