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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Just Don't Call It A "Vahz"


I am in love with all the beautiful vases and pots I’m seeing this summer. Brightly colored and covered in interesting textures and glazes, they are as beautiful as the flowers we put in them. They are like little pieces of art in their own right. My most recent acquisitions are from Pier 1 and Nell Hills, respectively. 



This little 3-part pot also comes in orange and green, and I really struggled over which one I loved the most. In fact, I’m toying with the idea of getting one of each color to use as indoor herb pots. I can’t tell yet if it’s a brilliant idea or if I’m just trying to justify buying them all. I just love the funky reactive glaze! Pier 1 also has matching 3-part bud vases...on clearance...that I am sorely tempted to get as well...along with these very cool taper holders (that I would probably pop the metal part out of and use as vases). 

Bud Vases
 


I clearly have a Pier 1 problem that may soon require professional intervention.
For the time being, my plan for the little yellow planter is to grow some cat grass for mon petit kitties. 3 cats, 3 segments...I thought it was a cute idea. Maybe then they will leave the rest of my indoor plants the heck alone (wishful thinking I fear). 


The three gatitos, clearly plotting their next plant massacre.

As for this turquoise porcelain vase, I bought her on a whim while on a shopping expedition at Nell Hills. 



I couldn’t resist the gorgeous shape and bright color. Instead of filling it with flowers, I cut some herbs from the garden (oregano and cilantro). This way they are right on hand when I want to use them for cooking, and I won’t be so angry when the cats demolish them (after all, they ARE meant to be eaten). At least that’s my theory.




Monday, June 13, 2011

Spicy Fritos vs. The Citrus Coma


Anyone who knows me knows I am obsessed with, and very sensitive to, smells. Smell informs much of our daily routine. Half the products advertised on TV are meant to either add or remove smells from our lives: shoe inserts, odor-block trash can liners, deodorant, shower products, perfume, air fresheners, laundry detergent, household cleaning products, deodorizing kitty litter, etc. The battle between good and bad smells is never ending. Our sense of smell is tied to our memories more closely than any other sense...one whiff of something familiar and a deluge of memories spring up. I find this fascinating. 
College made the triumph of good smells nearly impossible. My roommate and I always had the “hangout” room. At any given time there were between 2 and 5 people occupying a space that can only be described as inadequate. Food preparation, dirty dishes, piles of laundry, improper ventilation and the tang of hormonal youth all crashed together in a cacophony of smell. In short, our room generally smelled like week-old spicy Fritos. Not pleasant. In an effort to battle this, every Saturday I would literally fling my roommate and all our moveable furniture out into the hall and give the room a thorough scrubdown. My poor roommate studied for many a test sitting in a beanbag in the hallway. Despite all attempts at keeping things clean, the Frito smell lingered. By junior year we admitted defeat and resorted to buying an air freshener, agreeing that no reed diffuser or potpourri would be up to such a monumental task.
The goal was to buy something subtle yet effective. Something light and clean. Something fresh. Something that wouldn’t give us a headache. We decided on a plug-in with a nice citrus scent. After all, lemon is a known odor absorber, right? And it was quite lovely. For the first minute it was plugged in. Then it became so overpowering we had to unplug it. Left plugged in for more than 10 minutes, we likely would have been knocked unconscious by the scent wave. So we got into a routine of constant plugging and unplugging to keep the Frito smell at bay, an effective but obnoxious plan.

Then, last month I saw it: the answer to our prayers. Nevermind that it was several years too late to do our dorm room any good. Finally, it existed! THE SMALL SPACE AIR FRESHENER. Some R&D team finally got it together and realized that not all spaces are created equal, and therefore all air fresheners must not be equally pungent. Hallelujah. 

No longer confined to a dorm room, the task of keeping my living spaces nicely scented has been much easier (with the exception of the apartment I had above a very, very heavy smoker...in that case, charcoal filters and a lot of baking soda were needed). As far as my living space goes, I like light, clean and fresh smells. Ideally, I don’t want my living space to smell like much of anything at all, with perhaps the barest hint of something like fresh laundry or lavender or "crisp bamboo" (thank you Pier 1!). No longer having to battle the spicy Frito smell, I enjoy trying different, more subtle methods of fragrancing my space: reed diffusers, sachets, gel beads, candles (not all at the same time, mind you...subtlety is key).

Out of curiosity, I got online today to look for interesting solutions for small space freshening. I was looking for things that were outside the box, as it were, going beyond the traditional sachet and reed diffuser and such. My favorite idea that I turned up was hanging nice smelling tea bags in the space. I assume the space has to be quite small for this to be effective, so I am planning an experiment involving my closet and some jasmine tea bags. I don't know how it will turn out, but I do know I will never have to go back to the plug-unplug-plug-unplug routine we had in college. 

Thank goodness for that.




Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mo' Fresher Mo' Better


Saturday morning I got up early and went to the farmer’s market Downtown, one of my favorite things to do in Kansas City. When I was little my dad and I used to go almost every weekend. We were the only ones in the family who didn’t mind getting up at 6am on a weekend, so it became something special that just the two of us did together. The market has expanded quite a bit since then and many of the booths are remain open and offering quality merchandise even by 11am, but I still prefer to get there as early as possible.
Kansas City has several farmer’s markets, including one in Overland Park and a fabulous little local one in Brookside. However, I still like the downtown one best. Not only does it remind me of my dad, it is the largest and offers, in my opinion, the best food variety and the best people watching. A wide variety of produce, plants, spices, teas and homemade breads, jams, pastas and crafts are available at incredibly reasonable prices. 
Recently, my boyfriend and I have been indulging in the homemade pastas one booth has to offer. They provide a variety of different flavors and types of pasta along with recipe suggestions for each one. Last week we tried the porcini linguini (which we made in a cream sauce with fresh porcini mushrooms and cold water lobster tail meat). This week we bought a lemon chive angel hair (which I’m planning to serve tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, asparagus and seared bay scallops) and a saffron spaghetti. The pastas are a bit on the pricey side, but the splurge is absolutely worth it for the quality you get. 
This week I also bought ingredients for fresh salsa, the perfect summer snacking food. I like to keep things interesting when I make salsa, so I decided to make a tomatillo salsa. Here’s the recipe...hope you enjoy! 

Tomatillo
Note: I was hoping to find yellow tomatoes but didn’t see any this week. However, I highly recommend using them if you can find them, as they add beautiful color and a rich flavor that’s a nice addition to the red tomatoes and tomatillos. 


Our ingredients
My favorite new kitchen toy: a citrus saver (compliments of the TJ Maxx sale section). No more random lime halves in saran wrap for this girl!

Ingredients: 
 4-5 tomatillos (go for the medium or larger ones, they will be sweeter)
 1 large or 2 medium red tomatoes
 1 large or 2 medium yellow tomatoes
 2 jalapenos
 1/2 of a small yellow onion
 1 handful of cilantro
 1/4 of a lime
 Pinch of salt

Peel the tomatillos out of their wrappers and rinse well. Dice the tomatillos, tomatoes and onion. Mix together in a bowl. Dice the jalapeno and add to the bowl*. Finely chop the cilantro and add to the bowl. Mix ingredients together. Add the salt and juice the lime over the mixture. Mix well. Let sit for 15-20 minutes to allow flavor to develop. Enjoy!
*To control spiciness, you can either leave all the seeds in, remove them all, or remove half of them. The more seeds that go into the salsa, the hotter it will be. Also, either wear gloves or be careful to avoid touching your face after dicing the jalapenos. The oils will stay on your hands for several hours, even after washing them.


Ta da! The finished product.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Growing Pains

Whew! It's been a while since I last posted. My family has been in the final throes of the ultimate nesting action: gutting and redoing the kitchen. Things have been busy busy busy! After almost seven weeks of grilling and microwaving our food while the kitchen was being redone, we finally have a real, working stove and oven (and the people rejoiced)!! No more Kashi frozen dinners for me, thanks. Can’t wait to do some cooking again and share my ideas here!

The process of redoing the kitchen raised some very interesting questions for me regarding the development of taste and style. When my mom downsized and bought this house a year ago, she knew right away that the kitchen had to go. Crappy cabinets, a crooked glass top stove, cutesy floral wallpaper and a horrible setup make the kitchen cramped and no fun to use. For a family of culinary adventurers, it was stifling.

Deciding to gut the old kitchen was easy. Designing a new one was not. My mother agonized over every detail for months, trying to figure out what she wanted it to look like. I found this interesting, since she and my father had designed the kitchen in the old house with relative ease. They knew exactly what they wanted. This time around, my mom was on her own and she was finding the process much more difficult.

This got me thinking. Maybe the source of the problem was not lack of creativity (in my mother? never). Maybe it was style growing pains. This is the only house my mother has ever owned by herself. She and my dad started living together when they were 21 and spent the next twenty-something years together. Their style had grown and developed together. My mom had never had a space all her own, to decorate as she wished without having to compromise and incorporate my dad's vision as well. When my father died six years ago, my mom stayed in the same house and didn't have to worry about redecorating. However, this new house put her into unfamiliar territory.

How does a person who operated as a couple for thirty years suddenly cope with being alone? The move to this new house was good. It was a literal "moving on". She loves having complete authority over her own space. She still asks me and my brother for style advice, but ultimately the decision is hers. Now in her fifties, my mother is discovering her personal style for the first time. Though she is staying mostly true to the style she and my dad developed together, I can already see slight differences in the way she has designed and decorated the kitchen. It's a little more modern, a little more streamlined. And 100% my mom.