Monday, August 27, 2012

Things I'm Glad I Registered For: Kitchen Edition

Second and final installment of my obsession with kitchen gadgets. First installment here.

KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer

While I'll admit (since my husband does read this) that the KitchenAid received very little use our first couple years of marriage, it's been used quite frequently ever since. Am I aware that it's a status symbol that most 20-30 somethings always have on their registry? Yes. Was I willing to be a follower and totally jump on that bandwagon, even if I saw no real need at the time of our marriage? Totally.

Pinterest just gave me a new way to shred chicken (loathed job) using the paddle. Haven't tried it yet, but place warm, cooked chicken in the mixer, attach paddle, turn on to a 2-3 and watch it shred for you. Yessss.

KitchenAid Toaster Oven
We're those people who tossed our regular toaster and replaced it with this bad boy. I always loved the one we had growing up that seemed to make the best peanut butter toast. Now this is all we use for just about everything. It's great to heat/cook things for lunch without heating the whole house. Those cheap frozen pizzas conveniently fit perfectly in there, eggrolls, pulling some cookie dough out of the freezer to make 1 or 2 ice cream sandwiches without having to turn on the big oven... such a lovely thing.

Cuisinart 8-Cup Rice Cooker
I understand rice cookers aren't for everyone, but the Wilsons love ours. I use it at least 1-2 times/week. Without burning, it cooks up brown rice, white rice, basmati, jasmine, Indian rice (turmeric added without staining!), Spanish rice, couscous, quinoa... the possibilities are endless. Being a vegetarian, lots of these grains and seeds are part of my daily consumption and I simply hate monitoring the rice on the stove that will inevitably bubble over and create an awful mess. I've bought this for at least 3 people for their weddings (of course they registered for it) since receiving ours. If you own one or plan to buy, let me know and I have some tricks for making it easier to clean... because that is definitely a flaw of this machine.

Cuisinart Immersion Blender with Attachments
I rarely use the immersion blender part (though it's so great to blend up soups!), but I really love the mini food processor attachment! I use it often when chopping up lots of ingredients and especially to make my favorite peanut-lime sauce for pastas and chicken. I have a large food processor that my mom bought me at least 10 years ago that still works amazingly, but sometimes it's too large for a small job and has too many parts to clean. This is far easier to whip out and clean up.

Blendtec Total Blender Four Side
This should come as no surprise to anyone who reads since I talk about this a lot. I'm not kidding. If there were a fire, there would be some things I'd retrieve. All things Andrew, some Benjamin things, our external hard drive (with all photos), my new Le Creuset {more on that later!}, and this blender. We originally registered for the Breville blender at $199 and realized quickly that the stainless steel on the top and bottom didn't match (lame!), but that it was super expensive and made with plastic parts! This, my friends, has all steel parts and a lifetime warranty. My mom did just buy the Ninja and says it works great! I've also read wonderful reviews on it... so that's a nice consolation for not wanting to spend 1/4 of your mortgage on a blender. Hah.

Set of Crate & Barrel Glass Bowls
I use these bowls all. the. time., so they deserve a spot on the list. In the $20-$30 range in total, so nothing to break the bank and makes a great gift, I think! I also have a bunch of wood serving trays and bowls and salad bowls and appetizer plates from Crate & Barrel that we love among many other things. Just not the durability of our tableware set. Though we still love the looks and heartiness of it.

Crate & Barrel tongs
Maybe trivial, but these get used daily in our house. We have a small and a large.

There were a few flops that I would not purchase again, but the main one is something so many people have and register for. I don't understand why it was so poorly designed and sells so many! We love tea in our home and the tea kettle is used often. But this design has a huge flaw. The handle has a small rubber strip that is surrounded by metal! When heated, it is very hot and impossible to hold without burning yourself. Here it is... the tea kettle.
KitchenAid 2-Quart Porcelain Tea Kettle (we have the gray metallic... matches our KitchenAid mixer)
Perhaps a new beauty is in my future once our current one bites the dust (probably never).
That may or may not match my new dutch oven. omg.
Alright, so let's hear it. What is your absolute favorite thing in your kitchen?

Friday, August 24, 2012


It was a nice week here for us. Autumn is looming and we're grateful for the reprieve from the heat. There's a special boy a-growin' and that's always wonderful. Basement demo is almost completely done and we received a quote for the floors yesterday. We never thought we'd be so excited about flooring. Our basement will be fully refinished by the end of the year... but hopefully sooner. Doubtful, though, because the months of September and October have us traveling almost nonstop. We're not complaining. I've said it a lot lately, but clearly #firstworldproblems.
Last Friday I met 3 of my girlfriends and 3 of their kiddos at the local Arboretum (aka: coolest place in Illinois besides Chicago itself). I brought some sandwiches for our picnic. En route.
Smallest members of our crew. The B-man and his buddy (a much longer NICU babe born at 33 weeks), Aaron. They're 2 months apart and will likely be the best of friends... we're hoping! Because his parents are pretty cool peeps.
Picnic, minus the babies & Liz (photog) & half of Kirstin's head. And my face, apparently.
State of my husband's garage space last Friday. Post anything free on Craigslist or Freecycle at 10:30 p.m. and get 8 responses in 10 minutes. This was for a complete basement bar setup. The Wilsons just aren't bar-in-the-basement kind of people.
Also gone quickly: old recessed can lighting from the basement. We may replace some of these, but with a more eco-friendly option .
Benjamin channeling his inner chef. Watching the best of the best, Julia Child.
The bird-squaker himself.
I nearly fainted. Except, it's the oval and I realized I much prefer a round oven myself. I love me some Crate & Barrel Outlet.
On his half birthday, I broke out the cart cover. Because obviously no celebration is complete without a trip to Target.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

1/2 Birthday

What did that lady say?
I'm SIX months old?
Holy breastmilk!
We're really not those parents who would've been excited for a half birthday. But then you lose a baby who you intended to celebrate many, many birthdays with, you celebrate everything when given that chance again. We're celebrating screams, breaths, poops, head control, smiles... everything in this house. We had full intentions of dinner and dessert out of the house at Red Robin a fancy restaurant, but then Benjamin called the shots once more and decided not to nap all afternoon until 5:30. Poor guy had some more shots today and was feeling a little under the weather and needed extra snuggles. No problem. Frozen pizzas it was. Happy half, little one. You light up our lives more than we could've imagined.

{update: we have a new ped and she is awesome. He's healthy and growing and is now in the 10th percentile for the CDC charts. Steady growth in all three categories and meeting all milestones. No mama drama today. Hooray. Thanks for the ped recommendation, Amy!}

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Things I Wish I'd Registered for: Kitchen Edition

I love to cook. However, I didn't really uncover this love for the kitchen prior to marriage. I was too busy in school, teaching, dating, being social, and not grieving and being an overall hermit crab. But then we moved and I became a wife and a stay-at-home-mom and lost a child and wanted to do nothing but stay at home and sometimes starve myself and sometimes gorge myself. Much heavier emphasis on the gorge myself part.

Back in the day, we got married. Four years ago, so while it seems like I've lived a lifetime married to my amazing husband, I really haven't. Most of our kitchen gadgets and goods came as wedding presents, hence the reason I titled this post the way I did. I've purchased some items, but the majority were gifted. So we've been married 4 years and my cooking skills are relatively new to boot. With that said, there are some items I have either recently bought or have on the list to purchase in the near future. Or things I have but would like to replace or upgrade. Here's the list (no affiliate links because Illinois sucks and won't allow them).

Also, before I forget, I once read on another blog about this website called that you can use to track Amazon purchases. For example, say you want to buy an Oxo steel can opener. You search Amazon and copy/paste the link to it and CCC will tell you the current price, the highest price it's ever been, the lowest price it's ever been listed for, and show you a neat little graph of the price changes. That gives you a gauge on whether it's good to buy... since Amazon changes their prices a lot and therefore you want to be buying when they list at a lower end. Sometimes they change the price multiple times a day even. You can track the price and when it meets your desired price, they'll send you an email. That's when you buy. Cool, eh? I even use this when buying diapers because Amazon has some crazy query on how they raise and lower prices based on supply/demand. I can't explain it because I don't know the insider scoop, but over many years of buying on Amazon, I have noticed this trend.

Here's an example of the can opener on that
It would be a poor choice to buy now, since it's at its highest price, but it has been this high since January, so it's not looking like it will be lowered soon. But good to know that the prices do lower and raise frequently.
So totally off topic. Here's my first item I wish I'd registered for:

Le Creuset 6.75 Quart Dutch Oven.
I know some of you have one. And I'm utterly jealous. But $300+ for ONE item? Gasp.
I'm not even particular about the color. I love them all.
A mandolin(e). I could really use one of these, but seriously just do it all by hand. Anyone have a brand they love/recommend that won't break the bank?
Stainless steel cookware. I already own a Calphalon set that works just fine and is pretty great, but I do wonder how different my cooking would be (I'd have to use more butter, obvi) with a SS set. I also worry slightly about the risk of cancer and other altogether terribleness that may accompany using teflon products. But then... I'm gonna die anyway.
Corningware. It would be nice to use something other than clear Pyrex. These are fancier to serve meals in.
Better white dinnerware. We have a lovely, hearty set from Crate & Barrel that is rustic and awesome, except it has some enormous flaws: not microwave safe, not dishwasher safe (or small enough to fit), chips easily.
Anyone else have some kitchen goods on their wish list?
I think I'll post another about items I'm glad we registered/bought for our kitchen.

disclaimer: this was not written as a list for family to buy me things. Ehhm, mothers. You know who you are. I love you, but please spend money on Benjamin and visiting him/us instead.

Friday, August 17, 2012


A sort of chill week here at the Wilson abode. Food was obviously cooked, grief was had, and babies were loved. Otherwise, the basement is getting a makeover. Stay tuned for plenty on that. I'm sure.
Homemade calzones with whole wheat dough. We recently went to a cute little joint in Milwaukee that made THE best calzones of our lives. Mine was chock full of veggies and had cooked, thinly sliced potatoes in it. I attempted to re-create. Veggie version: thin potatoes, oregano, basil, sundried tomatoes, spinach, onion, mozzarella. Meat version: Italian sausage, pesto, sundried tomatoes, thin potatoes, oregano, basil, spinach, mozzarella. They were yummy.
My dough recipe always makes enough for two whole pizzas or 4 calzones (equivalent to 1/2 pizza each), so I just made dinner for the next night since everything was out and the dishes were dirty. Benjamin does not afford me intensive dinners nightly, so I have to double-up sometimes.
Losing Andrew + Stressful B pregnancy + Pushing 30 = le wrinkles & le sigh
The face of joy. And love. And potential.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Today's a Rainy Day

It always feels like I miss Andrew more on these days. Like my early days of grief, it was cold outside and snow was covering the ground-- but instead-- we are inside because the rain keeps us here. Babies don't exactly understand that rain is fun to play in quite yet.

So we find other things to do.

Today is also the first day of school. Every single year since I stopped teaching, I've been a little somber on these days. I held B at the window this morning (because he's been gracing us quite early these days) and watched a mom take her child's photo in front of the front door as he prepped to head off to his first day of school. I watched the little boy across the street head off to the bus stop and saw the bus pull away with children inside, so excited for their first day with a new teacher, new friends, new grade, new shoes and clothes that they probably slept in the night before because they were so excited.

I miss it. I miss teaching.

I miss Andrew. We're rounding the corner to two years and it just seems so shocking still, at times.

The rain makes all these emotions seem as fluid as itself. In so many ways, there are three lives I want to be living, all at the same time. A teacher. A mother to Andrew. A mother to Benjamin. But it doesn't seem like any of the three can happen concurrently. This is where I am meant to be right now.

We spent the day in the kitchen, as usual, creating and concocting and reflecting. Benjamin has spent the majority of the day with his thumb in his mouth and teething something fierce. The shrieks he's learned to make will send your heart racing as you'd assume he was being tortured or something. Nope, just a new sound he somehow learned.

We're nearing 6 months with Andrew's brother and we're just still so in awe that he is ours and he is here and real and living among us. Time to go rescue him from his crib. I can hear the sounds of a little boy just waiting to be cuddled. And by cuddled, I mean a child who will wriggle in my arms, turning his head side-to-side as not to miss a thing, insisting that I hold him and walk him from room to room.

I can hear the shrieking now. Must go.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Weekend Recap - South Haven, MI

We spend a lot of time in a little beach town about two hours from Chicago. The directions are simple. Follow Lake Michigan around the coastline and you end up in a quaint little town with a lovely beach, cutesy shops and good eats. We had dreams of bringing Andrew there when I was pregnant and spent some time there walking the sand and getting excited about taking him into the warm Lake Michigan water. Pictures from that trip are still hard to look at. The fact is, those dreams never died. We have dreams that still remain to bring our children there and rent out a beach house for a weekend with friends in the summer and BBQ and stay up late and eat ice cream.

Benjamin's first visit out of the womb was this past weekend. We drove by last year on our way home from our Upper Peninsula vacation to Isle Royale National Park and spoke out loud that we'd return for the epic blueberry festival that takes place in August of each year in South Haven.

And so we did.

I'm not sure the words epic should be used, but it was relaxing and fun and nice enough to earn a spot in our annual plans if we're in town. We got home from our UP trip and promptly marked the date on the calendar. A few months ago, we booked a hotel for Friday night (with an extra large bathroom for the pack 'n' play. SCORE!).
I surrender! South Haven, MI Pier
First Parade
U-Pick Blueberries at DeGrandchamp Farms
Pregnant with Andrew at the same U-Pick place
Blueberry baby
B's not looking... so we'll have to do another take (blueberries cost $1.25)
B is now looking and that guy is sticking out his tongue. And apparently it's winter (not the 75 degrees that it was).
Nom nom. I love blueberries.
Can you tell?
Here's a video of Benjamin's very hands-on approach to spoon feeding. He's usually much cleaner than this! He also usually ingests more than he wears. He proceeded to rub his eyes when he was done feeding, too. Awesome.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Baby's first Olympics
Best. Toast. Ever. 
{Used full recipe, cooked in 2 loaf pans instead of rounding}
So perfect. I can barely handle it.
She's at it again. Blendtec carrots for the little monster.
Filling and sealing potstickers
Kisses, anyone?
Target Love.
Wednesday's dinner. Sriracha love.
5 months old and first passport. I didn't have one until I was 24. He'll have at least two stamps by October.
As if Target needed any more of my business. And now they go selling Greek Yogurt with perfectly shaved pieces of CHOCOLATE? Good Gracious.
Cactus fruit to start off the morning. Consensus? Return to your regularly scheduled breakfast. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pinterest. It's What's For Dinner #2

I've made a few new recipes recently, inspired by Pinterest. All of my local friends automatically ask if I got the idea from Pinterest and the answer is almost always, yes. I'm a visual person, whatcanIsay?

Mexican Stuffed Shells
So unconventional and so easy. You really don't even need a recipe. Pull together your favorite Mexican food ingredients (chicken, ground beef, corn, peppers, salsas, sauces, cheeses.......), cook pasta, mix ingredients, stuff, top with sauce & cheese and bake. Done. One box will make dinner for four with maybe a salad on the side for added veggies. I made dinner for two and have half a box of shells to use again soon.

Closeup of the goodness. Veggie version: black beans, olives, green peppers, corn, cheese, sauce, shells & guac to top
Both versions here. This is how I cook most of the time. One veggie-friendly, one carni-friendly. Usually = lunch for tomorrow already done!
I didn't find these on Pinterest, but found the idea somewhere else. Then I went and searched for the recipe on Pinterest by using the search bar on the top. I found a recipe that fit my standards/ingredient interests, and dinner was served. Not quickly, however. Note to all those interested: these take forever. Don't attempt with a 5-month old standing by or a husband who works late. But otherwise, they're pretty easy to make and so yummy. Again with the shells above, these can hold anything you want.

I bought a bag of undressed coleslaw at the store (already shredded carrots/cabbage!) for cheap and repurposed two chicken breasts my husband had left over from dinner out at an Italian restaurant the night before with friends (Yes, J&K, the Chicken Vesuvio!). It was Italian seasoned, but after marinating in rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and scallions and dicing into tiny pieces, it was now Asian! I took the coleslaw mix and sauteed in a pan with some sesame oil and garlic until translucent. The chicken was already cooked but diced really small. Found store-bought won ton noodles in the produce section of my grocery store, wetted a frame around each wonton and got stuffing and pinching and boiling and pan frying. Phew. Like I said... not for the lazy or for people with stuff going on. Read: all of us. I made it anyway and it was tasty. We just dipped them in Lawry's Sesame Ginger Asian marinade (those are great dipping sauces that don't need to be used as marinades!) and some Sriracha (always find excuses to use that yummy sauce) and eat!

Picture of the wrap stage to come on Insta-Friday. :)
After forming and sealing shut, boil in bouillon water or stock (I use a veggie bouillon) for a few minutes until floating
Transfer right into a heated saute pan and pan fry with a smidge of oil (if you want. and I want.) Then eat. Immediately. Because yum.
Realize you have approximately 672 extra and put on a cookie sheet to freeze and keep to boil/saute for another meal.
Pesto Pasta with Spinach, Sundried Tomatoes, and Rosemary Foccaccia
In my attempt to use a big, ridiculous box of Bisquick I bought to make some terrible 7-Up biscuits, I am trying to find recipes. That's where the foccaccia comes in. Nothing special. Just some random Bisquick recipe with added garlic, onion and fresh rosemary (I bought an organic plant of it and promptly killed it within a week) and a pesto pasta I make all the time. It's my go-to for a fun and fancy meal. Pretend it's awesome and fancy and super unique if I ever make it for any of you for dinner, mmmkay? Great.

My pesto pasta is usually made with some fun pasta shape, jarred pesto, Trader Joe's sundried tomatoes, lemon juice (use a lot so you can keep it moist and add less oil/pesto making it lower in fat), garlic, and this time, spinach. I never add spinach but have been buying large quantities because it's healthy and easy to prepare and I happened to have a lot that needed to be consumed that night and forced it into the meal. Have I ever mentioned that produce is the number one way I plan what we'll be having for dinner? I hate letting fresh produce go to waste that I will literally plan our entire dinner around green beans. Not too hard to imagine, though, considering I am vegetarian.

A few more things I've made recently that I didn't take photos of myself:
Crunchy oven fries. The trick is to soak them in water to release some of the starch and when they cook, they are crispy and not soggy. Worked well... will try again!

I had leftover spring roll wrappers in the freezer and thought I'd make these taco cupcakes. Again with the ingredients on hand... no recipe really required. Put egg roll wrapper on the bottom to use as a shell, fill with favorite Mexican ingredients, top with cheese, and bake until brown! Will make these again!

I posted this in Insta-Friday a couple weeks ago and it's so good I'm posting again! Avocado & Greek Yogurt Dip. So healthy and so delicious. It also packs lots of protein, is a crowd pleaser, and has tons of flavor. Best dippers I think are tortilla chips and raw veggies. We had leftovers so I used it just as I would guacamole for the next few days!