This cake is the bomb {Tiramisu Layer Cake}

Do people still say “the bomb” anymore? Probably not. Oh well, I’ve never been trendy, and it’s too late to start now! :) Perhaps this week, as you plan out what you will do for Easter, you are thinking about what to serve for dessert. And if you are, let me humbly suggest this masterpiece of a cake.  I found it on allrecipes.com, where I’ve found most of my favorite recipes by searching through their five star ratings.

I first made this delight a few years ago for Mother’s Day, when tasked to bring “an amazing dessert”. This cake delivered. My mother-in-law talked about it for months afterwards!

This cake has all of the elements to be a blockbuster success: mascarpone cheese, coffee, Kahlua, heavy cream, more Kahlua… so very, very good. :)

I’m not a food blogger, so I didn’t do that cool step-by-step picture thing. I’ve tried that before, but I always forget after step 6 or 7, throw it all together, and then barely remember to take a photo of the final product. So. Here’s the recipe.

Ingredients: (don’t be scared by the long list. A lot of the items are repeated. Also? This is one of the recipes where you shouldn’t skimp or substitute. Go with the good stuff.)

CAKE:
1 (18.25 ounce) package moist white cake
1 tsp. instant coffee powder
1/4 c. brewed coffee (I use French vanilla coffee for this and it’s divine.)
1 Tbsp. Kahlua

FILLING:
1 (8oz) container of mascarpone cheese
1/2 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 Tbsp. Kahlua

FROSTING:
2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 Tbsp. Kahlua

GARNISH:
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 (1 oz)square of semi sweetened chocolate.

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 9 inch cake pans.
  2. Prepare your cake mix according to the directions. Divide 2/3 of the batter between 2 pans, and then stir the instant coffee into the remaining batter. Pour into last pan.
  3. Bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool on a wire rack until completely cool. Combine your brewed coffee and 1 Tbsp of the Kahlua, set aside.
  4. For the filling: In a small bowl, with mixer on low, combine mascarpone, 1/2 c. confec. sugar and 2 Tbsp. of Kahlua; beat just until it gets smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  5. For the Frosting: In a medium bowl, beat cream, 1/4 c. of confec. sugar and 2 Tbsp of Kahlua with mixer on med-high until stiff. This will take about 10 minutes. Fold 1/2 cup of this cream mixture into the filling.
  6. To assemble: Place one plain layer cake on a plate. Poke holes in cake with a skewer, about an inch apart. Pour one third of the reserved coffee mixture over cake, then spread with half the filling mixture. Top with coffee flavored cake, repeat holes and pour another third of the coffee mixture over this layer. Spread with remaining filling. Top with remaining cake layer, poke holes, pour rest of coffee mixture over the top. Spread top and sides of cake with frosting. Place cocoa in a sieve and lightly dust the top of the cake. Shave chocolate square into curls and garnish top of cake. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

I know it seems like a lot of work. It will take a while, but if you make the filling and the frosting while the cakes are baking, it really cuts down on the length of time. And because you can’t taste something through a computer screen, you’ll just have to trust me that it’s that good. Worth the time and the extra ingredients. I am now considering making this on Saturday for our family brunch. :)

jenny

 

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Posted in cooking | Leave a comment

Friday Favs Vol. 20

Here’s a few of the things that have caught my eye or my heart this week. Hope you enjoy them too!

**This adaptation of I Corinthians 13 for mothers had me in tears almost instantly.

**I’m making this Thai Chicken Stir Fry tonight for my in-laws. It looks delicious, I’ll let you know if it turns out well!

**I’ve had Laura Story’s Blessings on repeat this week.

** I loved this interview that Erin did with her elderly neighbor on mothering in the 1950′s.

**And lastly, this Mother Theresa quote has been convicting me quite a bit lately.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Thousand Sleepless Nights

what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? 


It’s been a long time since I have consistently slept through the night. I’m nearing a thousand nights, literally. Javi  is two and half, and there was a brief period of about six months between when he started sleeping through the night, and I got pregnant again, where I was actually getting a full, comfortable night’s sleep. Keilana teased a bit with a few full night’s sleep about a week ago, but has since had some really rough nights where she is up over and over and over. The kind of nights where she just wants her mama.

And it’s hard. I love sleep. I’ve always hated being woken up in the mornings, by anyone. When I was a teenager I bought myself an alarm clock because I would be furious with my dad every morning when he came in my room to wake me up. I absolutely adore that feeling of waking up slowly, to the morning light, in the quiet and stillness of the early hours.

But that’s pretty near impossible with two little ones. Most nights are a combination of intense work to get them to sleep, then several wake up calls from little Keilana, usually a bout of early morning insomnia (I’m so tired! Why aren’t I sleeping? The kids are sleeping!) and then desperate morning sleep up until I hear the banging or crying begin again.

 

I said all that to get to my point. When I get enough sleep, I find it easy to be a mama. I’m patient with my kids, consistent with discipline, willing to put the necessary work into the day. I have the mental space and the energy to listen to Lover’s work stories, and even to invest in my friends. I pretty much rock. Easy peasy. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last three years, it’s that parenting is not supposed to be easy. Two years ago, almost to the day, I read this and posted it on Facebook:

Parenting is so difficult because God is making it purposefully impossible. Why??? So that it is always SLANTED TOWARD JESUS. Keeping us near Him. Keeping us in prayer and constantly crying out to Him. -Rare and Beautiful Treasures

This morning, driving home from Wegmans with the kiddos in the back, Laura Story’s Blessings came on the radio. (Which is not surprising, because it was K-Love. Sorry, inside joke) Every time I hear this song, it takes me to task. The idea that God allows trials, hard times, difficulties in our lives, because he wants to bless us.

Apparently, it takes at least a thousand sleepless nights for me to know that God is near. Parenting is so hard for me. I’ve never been a “kid person” I wasn’t the girl cuddling the babies, jumping at the chance to babysit for friends. I never had that “ache” to have kids. I love deep, meaningful talks with adults, a clean house and independence. Oh, and sleeping.

But as it turns out, God is a “kid person.” Jesus was always looking for the children, welcoming them to him, using them as illustrations. He talks about how they will inherit the kingdom of God. The Psalmist says that children are a heritage from the Lord. He says the parent who has many is…happy.

God forgive my prideful and arrogant ways, thinking that I wasn’t a “kid person”. Because if I truly want to be like you, and I do, then I need to love children the way you do. And if it takes a thousand more sleepless nights, then that’s what  I need.  Show me how to love them like you do, help me to see what you see.

Soften my hard and angry heart, resentful of yet another interruption, another night with little sleep. Show me how to be the mother you want me to be, regardless of the rest I’ve gotten. Open my eyes to the treasures that my children are, and how you have blessed me. Give me the patience and the strength for today and especially for tonight.

jenny

 

Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

A Day in the Life {March 2014}

I thought it would be fun to document a typical day around here. I’m sure when I look back at this post in a year or two that I’ll love remembering what life was like with two little ones! So here’s our day, which was actually last Monday. 

7:00am I wake up slowly, a luxury that doesn’t happen often around here. The kids are magically still asleep, and Lover is breathing deeply next to me. I lay there in bed, pray a little, think through what we have on the docket for today, and snuggle with Lover. He goes to shower and I hang out in bed for a few more minutes, until I remember that I need to make Lover’s lunch today. So I throw on my robe and head downstairs.

7:30am Lover leaves for work and the kids are STILL asleep! I make myself a cup of tea and go over the plan for the week and work on dinner ideas and make a list for Walmart later this morning. I’m drinking in this unexpected quiet time.


7:55am I hear both kids stirring, so I head upstairs. I open Javi’s door, he’s curled up next to the heater vent by the door just like every morning. At least this morning he’s not banging his head on the wall. (A very common occurrence) We go into Keilana’s room, she’s just transitioning to her floor bed and has started sleeping through the night. Hallelujah! She’s hungry though, so I nurse her, then change and dress both kids and we head downstairs.

8:35am Breakfast is served, we’re keeping it simple with frosted shredded wheat, bananas and oatmeal for Keilana. I try mashing up bananas and mixing her oatmeal in with that, but still have no success getting her to eat her oatmeal. Oh well, we’ll keep trying.

With breakfast done and Javi playing happily with his toys, I see my chance for a shower. I put Keilana in the jumper and run upstairs for a short, all business shower. I’m very efficient, since my mantra these days is “a toddler left to himself brings his mother to tears.” Its amazing the amount of mess a 2yr old can get into in ten minutes by himself.

I’m clean and decent, so I go back downstairs, get KK who is now fussing, and bring her up with me while I do my makeup and hair. Javi joins us, and proceeds to climb into my bed (which I just made) and pretend sleep while I finish getting ready. He also tries to eat my chapstick. KK is still fussing, so I decide that she needs a nap before we go to Walmart today.

9:45am Keilana is down for a nap, and Javi pretends to sleep in his room (where he is allowed to have his binkies.) I convince him to come downstairs with me, and we spend some time reading and going over Brain Quest flashcards that my aunt bought for him. I try to do something intentional with Javi during Keilana’s morning nap, and these cards have been great. He loses interest after about fifteen minutes, and goes off to play while I clean up from breakfast and finish my grocery list.

10:25am Keilana is up early from her nap, so I pack everyone up and load us all into the van. Javi at first refuses his jacket, which I allow, but then decides he DOES want the jacket, and he wants it zipped up and with the hood on too. He runs out the door yelling “binkie in seat!” (he’s also allowed a binkie in the car)

10:45am We wander the aisles of Walmart for the dozen random things that we  need or are out of. Walmart takes way too long, as always. We stop at Wendy’s on our way home for cheeseburgers and scarf them down when we get home.

Noon We videochat with my parents almost every Monday once they get home. They email me that they’re home, so we log on and chat with them for a bit. The kids are ridiculously loud throughout the call, so we mostly talk in snippets here and there. Javi shows Yayo and Yaya his trains, talks on the phone with them, and licks the back of his chair. Pretty typical! Keilana fusses a little, pours on the charm for the camera, and then plays on the floor for most of the call. I change diapers, try to talk in coherent sentences, keep tabs on what Javi’s doing, oh, and try to eat some lunch while I’m at it.

12:50pm We say our goodbyes and Javi hangs up on my parents in the middle of a sentence. I grab Keilana and get Javi heading up the stairs for naptime. Keilana is more than ready since she had such a short nap this morning. She may be asleep before I’ve finished settling her in her swing. I change Javi’s diaper, read him Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and go over Quiet Time Rules before I leave his room. His struggle to hold up the right amount of fingers for rules 1, 2 and 3 always makes both of us laugh.

1:20pm The next two hours go by in a blur. They’re always my busiest hours of the day, but also my quietest. I spend some time reading and praying, then work on selecting pictures to print for family and notes for this post. My goal is to have time to work on a painting for Keilana’s room, so I work as efficiently as I can, although I do my best not to rush through my devotions.

3:30pm I’m done with devotions and the computer work that needed to happen today. I pull out the stuff for the painting and get started, getting in the zone but keeping an ear out for Keilana. Sure enough, she’s up within about fifteen minutes. I bring her downstairs and get her engaged in some toys, and try to work on the painting a little more. I really like how it’s coming out, but it’s taking a long time.

4:00pm Javi’s up, and comes downstairs. He sees me still painting, pulls a chair over and tries to “help.” I rescue the canvas and let him play with the paints still on the plates for a few minutes. Once everything is cleaned up we go back into the living room, where Javi watches Thomas the Train, Keilana practices crawling, and I start the first few chapters of Bossypants, a book I’ve been looking forward to reading for forever. It’s really vulgar though, so I don’t make it past the fourth chapter. That’s annoying.

5:00pm Its almost time for Lover to get home, so I make sure the house is somewhat picked up and we’re ready to head out. Our Sams Club membership expires today, and we’re buying two twin mattresses for a project in the basement. We’ll grab some pizza there too (and call it dinner :)


5:30pm We wander the aisles of Sam’s Club for a while, and Javi has a blast checking out one of the sheds that’s all set up in the club. Keilana takes everything in from her perch in the carseat, and once again refuses any food. We let her chew on a pizza crust which makes her super happy and Lover and I chat about our day so far. Javi is in seventh heaven when we let him ride on the cart with the mattresses, and “help” load them into the van. It takes a little finagling, but we manage to get both mattresses, both carseats and all four of us safely in the van to head home. Stow and Go seating rocks! We stop on the way home to pick up the photos I ordered earlier.


7:00pm Lover unloads the kids and the mattresses while I step outside to make a quick phone call about the workshop I’m teaching next weekend. Javi spots me and runs out with me, sans coat or shoes, and proceeds to have the time of his life. We run up and down the sidewalks and he throws snow at me and laughs hysterically.


7:45pm My neck and back have been aching and bothering me all day, so I draw a scalding hot bath with epsom salts and soak for about half an hour while Lover plays with the kids and they watch Doctor Who. I browse blogs, check my email and mostly just relax.

8:20pm I can hear KK crying and know that she’s ready for her nap/bedtime, so I finish up my bath and we round up the kids and head upstairs. I change and nurse KK and put her to sleep while Lover gets Javi into PJs and has him brush his teeth. I make it into Javi’s room in time for a Bible story and prayer time, and then it’s lights out for Javi.
8:45pm Lover and I head back downstairs, breathe a sigh of relief that both kids are in bed (although we hear Javi banging for a while), and cuddle up on the couch to watch some shows. I eat one of the cheese danishes we bought at Sams Club (Lover steals a few bites) while we watch one of our favorite shows, the Good Wife, and a new show called Crisis that has been very interesting so far.

10:00pm Keilana shows no signs of waking, so we head up to bed. I go in to Javi’s room and put him in bed, since he’s fallen asleep next to the heater vent, under the rug like it’s a blanket. Totally normal. I do a jigsaw puzzle on my tablet while I get ready, I just discovered this app and I love it. Once in bed we chat for a few more minutes, and then roll over to get some much needed shut eye. It’s been a great day with few tantrums and we got a lot done, so I’m pretty happy. I sleep like the dead until Keilana wakes up around 2am. Bummer for not sleeping through the night tonight!

Posted in 2014 | 1 Comment

Giveaway!! Printcopia Photo Canvas

****This giveaway is now closed. ****

IMG_4125
It’s Monday. Sigh. Lover’s back to work and our week is full of life stuff. :) I don’t feel quite ready for the week to begin, so let’s ease into it by talking about pictures for a minute, shall we? I’ll go first. :)

I’m a bit of a photo junkie. I love taking pictures. I love looking at pictures. I love seeing my pictures printed and hanging on the wall. So when Printcopia offered me a chance to review one of their 8×10 photo canvases, I was psyched! :) The hardest part of the whole process was deciding which picture of the thousands that I have to turn into a canvas. Decisions!

My friend jen snapped some great pictures of us while on vacation last month. So I chose to use one of the pics of Keilana and I that she took, since little KK doesn’t have quite as much representation around here, due to her young years. :) This picture makes me smile every time I see it.

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I ordered the canvas on a Monday. The uploading software is very easy to use, and really the only difficulty I had was realizing that the image must be saved in a landscape format in order to load correctly. I chose the mirror image edges on the canvas and I was really happy with the look. My canvas arrived the following Monday, in a very well packaged box, keeping it nice and protected.

I’m picky about color cast, quality and feel when it comes to prints of my photos (or my talented friend’s pictures!) I was pleasantly surprised to see that the image is nice and clear printed on the canvas, and both the canvas itself and the frame it’s stretched on have a great weight and feel really high quality.

Printcopia is generously offering another 8×10 photo canvas to one of my readers. (US residents only, sorry Mom!)

To enter the giveaway, all you need to do is comment on this post and tell me approximately how many pictures you have saved on your computer! :)

I’ll announce the winner on Friday. Have a happy Monday!

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Posted in 2014, Uncategorized | 21 Comments

Jesus Calms The Storm

482px-Rembrandt_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Lake_of_Galilee

Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

I’ve been browsing the interwebs for great songs about the resurrection. Easter is about a month away, and I love finding songs that move me to really reflect on the beauty of the story of the Resurrection.

In the process, I  found the song Rescue Me by Selah, and it got me to thinking about the story where Jesus and the disciples are in the boat on the sea, and a storm comes up and Jesus calms the storm. You’ve all heard the story, right? It’s a popular one in Sunday School. But sometimes I think we become so desensitized to the miraculous nature of these stories because we’ve heard them so many times. Allow me to tell you the story again, with some of my thoughts sprinkled throughout.

Background: Jesus and the disciples (and others in other boats, according to verse 36 in Mark) get into a boat to sail across the sea after a full day of teaching and ministering to others. Jesus had taught some of his most famous parables that day, namely The Seed and the Sower, and the parable of the Mustard Seed.

So Jesus is understandably tired (I always find it tiring to be with people all day long. Have you ever wondered if Jesus was an introvert or an extrovert? ) and lays down in the back of the boat with a pillow while they set out.

As they are sailing, a storm comes out of nowhere. It sounds like the disciples try to navigate through this storm for a while, as it says that the boat fills with water. I’m assuming that doesn’t happen immediately. Either way, Jesus sleeps through this whole event in the back of the boat.

Now, remember, this is a boat. Not a cruise ship or an ocean liner. I’m guessing he wasn’t below deck, camped out in a plush cabin. I’m assuming that he was getting cold and wet, but still slept through it. Which makes me think of two things. 1)He must have been very, very tired. 2)He must have had an amazing amount of trust in the Father. He knew the Father wouldn’t allow him to die before he had accomplished the purpose for his time on Earth, so he didn’t waste time worrying about drowning in storms. Seems like something I could apply to my life.

So the disciples are now certain that they are going to die. And they are in amazement that Jesus is still sleeping! They go and wake him up, with the plaintive question “Jesus, don’t you care about us dying?” The question, by the way, is reminiscent of Martha’s question “Jesus, don’t you care that I’m the one doing all the work?” Of course Jesus cares.

Jesus immediately gets up. I love that about Jesus. He always responds immediately to us. We ask for peace, for comfort, for love, and he’s always there.

He rebukes the wind. Rebuke means to express sharp disapproval or criticism. This part makes me smile. I love the idea of Jesus scolding the wind. The wind! Everything really is under his control. He says “Peace, be still.” And.It.Does.

By the way, living in Rochester, I know I’ve rebuked the wind and the rain plenty of times, and all I get for my efforts are a colder, wetter face. I’m just forced to put up with it. But Jesus? Nope, he says “knock it off” and the wind is like “yes sir! so sorry sir! never again, sir!”

This is the amazing part. The storm literally disappears. Living in Rochester, we’ve experienced more than our fair share of storms. I’ve never been in danger of dying, but there have definitely been some storms that make me nervous. I’m trying my best to imagine myself in one of those storms, with Jesus by my side. I’m trying to imagine him standing up next to me, and saying “Peace! Be still!” and the storm instantly disappearing.

I’ve always wondered, by the way, how Jesus said those words. Did he bellow them out so that his voice boomed above the storm? Did he speak them quietly and matter of fact? Clearly he spoke them authoritatively, with every assurance that he would be obeyed.

So now the storm is gone, the danger has passed, and Jesus turns to his disciples. And what does he say to them? “Why were you so afraid? Where is your faith?” That’s a mind boggling question. If I had been there, I probably would have said something brilliant like “um, Jesus? Did you not just see that we were about to die? That’s some scary stuff!”

And that’s really the crux of the matter. Jesus admonishes us over and over throughout Scripture to NOT be afraid. We are not to live in fear. We are not to make decisions out of fear. We are not to find ourselves crippled with fear, wondering what will become of us as we look at our circumstances, certain that we are about to die.

Ironically, when he says this to the disciples, they are more afraid. It says that they were exceedingly afraid, wondering what kind of a man can make the wind and sea obey him. I’m not saying their reaction isn’t understandable. What I am saying, is that we can learn from this story, that we all learned in Sunday School, that Jesus is always in control, and there is truly nothing to be afraid of. Nothing at all!

jenny

Posted in inspiration | Leave a comment

The Story of a Bread Knife

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My grandfather passed away in March of last year. He was the first of my grandparents to die, and with his death I was unwillingly ushered into a new club that I had previously never been a part of; Losing Someone You Knew Well.

He had been sick for several weeks, and my mom flew home from Spain at the beginning of the month to see him. I was in the first few months of crazy pregnancy sickness with Keilana, doing my best to get through the days as well as possible with my little Javi toddling around. My mom would go over to my grandpa’s house (he lived alone, my grandparents separated years before I was born) and spend a few hours with him, mostly trying to get him to eat something. I asked a few times to go with her, but she discouraged me against it, saying that he was belligerent, emaciated and barely a shell of the person he had once been.

He passed away on March 13th. He had made arrangements for his body to be cremated, and wanted no funeral, memorial service or remembrance of any kind. He simply wanted his ashes to be spread on the land that he owned a few hours to the south of our city.

My grandfather was many things, among them, a full fledged hoarder. The family started clearing out the house almost immediately, knowing that it would take many, many hours of work. We sorted through bookcases, cupboards and cabinets, finding food that had expired years ago. My uncle sat at the kitchen table and patiently looked through thousands of receipts, old bills and tiny, scribbled notes, trying to locate important documents like the deeds to the house and land, and make some sense of the rest of it. We looked through boxes of books that had been stacked up for years, sometimes finding duplicates and triplicates of the same book. We found more band aids, rubber bands, sharpies, twist ties, post it notes, and Q tips than I have ever seen in my life.

After all of the worthless items had been disposed of, and there was some semblance of organization to the items, my family urged me to go through his kitchen items to see if there was anything I wanted or needed. I stood in his little office, a room I hadn’t seen in years because it had been packed full of stuff, and looked through piles of utensils, cups, serving dishes and kitchen gadgets. I pulled out a few things, one of them a bread knife. I had mentioned to Lover just a few weeks before that I wanted one. I put it in the box along with a few other little things I had chosen to bring home – a crab magnet that I always remember being on his fridge, a mortar and pestle, a few Sharpies.

We use that knife almost every day. So often, when I grab it to cut into a steaming loaf of bread, hot from my oven, I think of my Grandpa. I have terrible memories of his last few years while he suffered from dementia. He would call me up sobbing, apologizing for events that I had no idea what he was talking about. Other times he would call and yell at me, berating me for some simple sentence that I had said to him, that in his mind had become the worst of offences. He either missed family gatherings completely, or showed up looking gaunt and bewildered. It broke my heart each time.

So instead, I think of the memories I have of him from when I was a little girl. Sitting in his living room, watching Karate Kid for the thousandth time, while my mom cleaned his house. Sitting on his lap at the old kitchen table, while he fed us Nutter Butters from the bread box on his counter.

The way his mustache and beard tickled when he kissed me on the cheek. Eating grapes from the vines he grew outside his door. If there was a way to take those grape vines, I would have. “Working” for Grandpa to pay my way to horse camp, which mostly consisted of coffee and donut breaks, lunch and afternoon snacks. The time he took me school supply shopping, where I bought a tiny purple stapler and the most expensive sneakers I’ve ever owned.

I remember him telling us that he had finally quit smoking, and how he was moved to tears when my mom told him that my brothers had prayed every day for years for him to quit.

I remember his funny and unique laugh, that sounded like an exclamation point. The day he came over with my Grandma and held baby Javi, ever so carefully, his worn, gnarled hands cradling my infant son. My grandma chided him to be careful, and he barked back “I know what I’m doing!” And he did, he had seven children with my grandma, five of them boys!

We celebrated his life last summer, just two weeks before Keilana was born. I looked at the display of photos and was struck by how much my uncles each look like him, in different ways. My dad spoke about my grandfather and did a wonderful job of remembering him without glossing over the difficulties of his personality. My grandpa was not without flaws, but he’ll forever be my grandpa, and I’ll always think of him when I use that old bread knife.

jenny

 

Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment

10 Kitchen Gadgets I Can’t Live Without

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I’m not a big gadget person in the kitchen, unlike some people I know. *cough Lover cough* That said, I thought you might like to know what gadgets I do use, all of the time. And because I’m a firstborn, and therefore bossy, I’m telling you that you need these ten things in your kitchen, pronto. :) Pull out your wallets.

1. Hot Pot

I registered for this brand of hot pot when we got married. We are now on our second one, because I literally used the first one so much it died. What do I use it for, you ask? Welp, I use this hot pot to heat up water every.single.day. No lie. I use it for tea, for oatmeal, for making Jell-O. It heats up a cup’s worth of hot water in less than five minutes. It tucks away in a cabinet very easily, but 9 times out of 10, it’s on my counter because it gets used so much. Also? I’m a bit of a snob about my tea water. I hate heating up water in the microwave because it gets that nasty scum on the top of the water. And I hate the way my mug gets ridiculously hot in the microwave. Besides, while I love a pretty tea kettle, the hot pot heats up water about 1000x faster than a tea kettle. And yes, I measured the time. :) Seriously, you need this little appliance in your life.

2.Clean Edge Can Opener:

(Mine is a Pampered Chef one that I bought years ago)I love not having those raggedy edges on my cans – hello safety! It always takes other people a minute to figure out how to use my can opener, but I really do prefer it to the old kind.  If you get one of these, you’ll probably also want a can strainer since you can’t use the lid because of the way this can opener works. By the way, you should always have a manual can opener in the house in case your power goes out!

3. Silicone Coated Wire Whisk

A coated wire whisk was one of those things that I thought, meh, I don’t really need that. Until I got one and gosh do I love this thing. Why, you ask? The coating means that it doesn’t scratch your pots. Bonus, it also does not make that metal on metal sound that drives me up the wall. And, it cleans up 137 times easier than a regular wire whisk. Mine hangs right next to my stove so that it’s always at arms reach.

4. Kitchen Scissors.

I’m trying to cut down on the amount of duplicate items we have in our house. But one of my must haves is a pair of scissors just for the kitchen. I use them more than you might think is possible. A short list of things I use them for? Snipping herbs into my cooking. Cutting open packaging. Cutting up meat. Cutting up bacon for anything. :D Cutting up food into bite sized pieces for the kiddos.I have a slot on my knife block that they go into so I always know where they are. These ones will cut just about anything, wash up very easily and have not rusted at all.

5. Pyrex Glass Measuring Cups

The fact that these are glass means that you can melt stuff in the microwave (hello butter, I love you!) in them. You can whisk up dressings, marinades and spreads in them. You can steam vegetables in them. II may be stating the obvious here, but they are great for pouring. I have the 1-cup, 2-cup and the 4-cup and I use them all constantly. Oh and because they are glass they still look the way they did the day I bought them.

6. Bamboo Cooking Utensils

I use these babies every single time I cook. Soups, sautees, sauces, you name it. They are awesome. You don’t have to worry about scratched pots, and they look great in a crock on the counter. I’ve been meaning to pick up a new set, since mine are starting to look a little worse for the wear, since I use them so much.

7. Garlic Press

(Mine is by Martha Stewart) We cook with a lot of garlic. Like, a lot. Most recipes call for the garlic to be diced, and there’s not much in the world I hate more than trying to dice up that little clove of garlic, and then dealing with the sticky, smelly residue that it leaves on my hands. A garlic press makes everything easier. Also, I just recently learned that you can press the clove without peeling it first. #lifechanger!

8. Pampered Chef Spatula.

Very, very rarely do I tell someone they need to buy a specific brand of something. But these Pampered Chef spatulas are the bomb. I have the mini, my friend Sara has the bigger one, and they are so perfect for serving baked goods I could cry. Too much? OK, they’re just awesome. They don’t bend, they’re not flimsy, they clean up easily – perfection.

9. Oxo Pro Vegetable Peeler

You know how when you peel ten pounds of potatoes a vegetable peeler starts cutting into your palm and becomes a permanent part of your arm? And how the blade works on like 65% of the potato, but then just stops working randomly? And it also does that wonky spinning thing so that the dull side is facing whatever you are peeling, and you are now just wasting your time? Yeah, that doesn’t happen to me anymore. This one is comfortable to hold in your hand, needs minimal effort to peel, and does it right every time. Go buy one today. You’ll thank me.

10. Stainless Steel Measuring Cups

Another gem that I registered for. These all hang next to my stove and get used constantly. I got metal because I didn’t want to worry about them warping or getting dull and scratched looking (I hate when things look old and used), and that was definitely the right call. If I ever needed to replace them, I might switch to these, just because I may or may not have bent the handles on mine a few times. They bend right back, but it’s still a little annoying.

So there you have it, ten of my favorite kitchen items that make my life a whole lot easier. Tell me, what gadgets can you not live without?

jenny

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On Finding Peace

On any given day, if you were to stop into my house at some point throughout the morning, one or all of the rooms in my house will look like this.

 

There’s a good chance that the baby is babbling away at the top of her lungs, and the toddler is chirping out three word sentences, also at the top of his lungs. “Mommy! Come here!” “No touch! Javi do it!”

 I can pretty much guarantee there are cracker crumbs in places that should not have crumbs. There are smears on the window, and messy dishes on the table and the counters. Odds are I’m wearing not quite clean clothes, and someone’s diaper needs changing.

Just a few years ago, my definition of peace would have been something like “quiet, orderliness, an absence of conflict.  A clean house.” There’s not much of that in the structure of my days right now.

 But God’s been teaching me a different meaning of peace. A new layer of peace, if you will. The kind that comes from within, is constant and steady, and is unruffled by the circumstances around me. Which is a good thing, because this happens often.

 

So I may not have the clean house right now. But most days, I  have peace. Peace that can be defined like this: :

peace: harmony in personal relations

There’s a lot of harmony around here. There’s laughter, giggles, tickles, cuddles on the couch while reading Drummer Hoff for the hundred and sixtieth time.

 There’s a smiling 6 month old who loves to put her hands on your face and stare into your eyes.

There’s a toddler whose most used phrase is “OK!” and whose “I wuv oo!” melts our hearts.

There’s a Lover who is solid and dependable, and silly and romantic. Who still brings me flowers, just because.

It’s hours of conversation with my husband as we plan our future. As we discuss how we will raise our children. As we get to know each other on an even deeper level.

 

That’s peace.

 

peace: freedom from disquieting thoughts or emotions

It’s refusing to allow guilt to dictate my thoughts and actions. My kids watch TV. And eat sugar. And have parents who love them and tell them so every day.

It’s refusing to dwell on the “what ifs?” the dangers that could befall anyone of us, but for the grace of God.

It’s knowing that I am not perfect and that I will make mistakes. Knowing that those who love me love me anyways.

peace: state of tranquility

It’s a peace that gets me through another long day after little sleep. That holds me up when my husband is down for the count with a back injury, on vacation, and I’m caring for the little ones, and packing up the van, and driving the hundreds of miles to get us home.

One of my favorite passages has always been John 14, where Jesus says “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. “

That’s what I want, His peace. The very best kind.

xoxo,

Jenny

Posted in 2014 | 1 Comment

The Basement 0verhaul Chapter 7

I bet you forgot about our basement renovation. :) Considering we had the work done two summers ago, and I still haven’t shown you what it looks like today. If you want to read the old posts in this basement saga, be my guest. I’ll wait while you refresh your memory. :)

Last we left off, the bathroom was drywalled and the electrical was run throughout the rest of the basement. Hang on to your shirts, because you’re going to see a whole lot of progress in the following pictures. Ready?

In a nutshell, drywall went up and was spackled.

Stair risers were added, and new stair treads made the old, creaky, scary stairs so much better.

The stairwell walls were skimcoated to make the new drywalled spots seamless with the old plaster walls. Dust was everywhere.

Then the guys told me that I needed to plan a day out of the house so they could do all the sprayed priming. They were worried about all of the fumes affecting Javi. So we hightailed it out of there, and they spent hours spraying every last crook and cranny of the basement. We came home that evening to… (sing it with me) “a whole new world.” :)

Now it’s really looking like a room we can live in, right?

The ceiling is my favorite part of the whole basement. Because the house is nearly a hundred years old, it was built on enormously thick wooden beams. There was too much crazy going on in addition to the beams to just leave them as they were, so we opted to prime the entire ceiling. I love the way it all looks now.

Then they painted the floor with porch and floor paint. We were originally going to use a floor epoxy, but our contractor’s paint guy said the off gassing is terrible, and that it’s not cleared for indoor use. So we used “ultra durable” floor paint, which has proven to be very non-durable. It’s great for the interim, but eventually we’ll have to address that issue. But it instantly made things look all fancy pants!

The guys also finished the bathroom, but this post is getting too long. So we’ll fast forward just a few months, thanks to the magic of the internet, and show you a quick preview of the wall color we chose down here. And… then it was on to the fun parts! Furniture! Rugs! Decorating!

xoxo,

Jenny

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