A quick shoutout to a kitchen tool that does a great job at exactly what it’s supposed to do: the Kyocera mandoline.

Trusty mandoline by Kyocera

I love the simplicity/efficiency of the design here, which, aside from being existentially pleasing, means that this item takes up the least possible storage space.  Super sharp, it adjusts to slice at 0.5 mm, 1.3 mm, 2 mm, and 3 mm thicknesses.  It makes quick work of carrots for, say, Carrot and Beet Salad.

Carrot and Beet Salad

Sometimes you make up a dish with whatever you have on hand and it turns out more attractive and tastier than you had any reason to expect.  My sister C is visiting from Florida, and she, her three kids, and my mom came over last night for pizza.  It was Auntie C’s first time meeting the twins.

Auntie C is a little bit happy to meet her niece and nephew.  Photo credit: my mom, S.

I wanted to throw together a salad, but the baby spinach I was counting on was well past its prime.

I used one of my favorite kitchen tools, the mandoline, to slice up some carrots and (precooked and vacuum-packed) beets, drizzled with a balsamic glaze I’d forgotten was in the cupboard, and sprinkled some crumbled goat cheese and sunflower seeds on top. Look how pretty!

I realized when cleaning up dinner that I had some fresh thyme hanging out in the fridge, which would have been a nice addition to this dish.  If balsamic isn’t your jam (or, in this case, glaze), you could use lemon juice instead.  A lot of nuts could work in place of the sunflower seeds.  I think if I ever actually planned to make this, I might choose pistachios.  Yum.

You might notice, in the second photo above, that the bottle of balsamic glaze is sharpied with yesterday’s date.  I try to remember to date containers of things — spices, salsa, pretty much anything that comes in a jar — when I open them.  That way, D and I can make informed judgments about whether to dispose of stuff weeks or months (or, ahem, years) later.

Bedroom upgrade

A Christmas gift from my parents has got me thinking about size.  That’s right: this post is about size in the bedroom — insert joke here.  So many to choose from!  But seriously, folks, having things be The Right Size For The Space is key.

Earlier this year, D and I replaced our queen bed with a king.  We were getting ready for the arrival of the twins and needed (a) more under-bed storage for clothes, as the room where D kept his clothes was slated to become the nursery, and (2) enough room in the bed for a family of five (us) to pile on and, for example, open Christmas stockings together.

Christmas morning family selfie.  Photo credit: D.

Upgrading to a king bed involved a new bed frame, a new mattress and mattress pad, new sheets, a new duvet and duvet cover, new bedside tables (the old ones no longer fit), and new lamps (wall-mounted in order to maximize utility of the smaller bedside tables).  It was a big project and, for us, expensive.

What we didn’t buy: new pillows.  The old ones were perfectly functional, and spending yet more money just to upgrade to king size pillows seemed extravagant.

King bed with standard pillows

I bet you can see where I’m going here.  My thoughtful parents gave us king size pillows, pillow protectors, and pillow cases for Christmas.  Are you ready to see the Big Difference?

King bed with king pillows

So much better!  So. Much.  Better.  Pillows that are The Right Size For The Space improve the look of the whole bed, right?  Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Selfie w Twins

Achievement unlocked: selfie with twins (sort of).  Yes, the below image is a little blurry, but it is my favorite because:

  • In an effort to keep everyone attentive, I was singing “Silent Night” here.
  • My singing apparently caused A to crack up.  This is the very first time I have seen her smile.
  • My singing apparently caused H to throw signs to other members of his very tough, plaid-wearing baby gang.
Selfie with H and A

Christmas Eve Eve Dinner Party

A & H ready to party

We had a few folks over for dinner last night (nine people around the table, plus twins in various arms), and, as usual, I was so busy hosting and enjoying that I neglected to snap any photos.  Luckily, I did take a few minutes before the shenanigans got under way to catch the twins (age 6.5 weeks) in their dinner party outfits.

Here are some spiced candied pecans that I put out with the appetizers and then again with dessert.  They are that good.  Recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.

And today is the first time ever that the twins are wearing shoes.

Cork Strip Art Wall

Long before their small motor skills are minimally developed, kids in daycare bring home a lot of art.  A lot.  Of art.  And by art, I mean concoctions of construction paper, glitter, popsicle sticks, marker, glue, paint, yarn, crayon, rips, and tape that sometimes defy description by even the artists themselves.  (We could have a whole discussion, of course, about whether any artist is truly qualified to describe her own work, but that is BSTB – Beyond the Scope of This Blog.)

Art wall, take 1:

What does a loving parent do with all of this treasure?  Well, this one tried a few different strategies, and the second to last strategy was a kid art wall.  Husband D is a little twitchy about tape on the interior walls (as I discovered the first Holiday season during which we cohabited, when I scotch taped all the cards we received to a door frame and he had a verrry quiet conniption.  Now I use painter’s tape.  Much better.), so I surfed Pinterest (briefly — I am a bad Pinterester) and eventually settled for stringing wires on the wall and clipping the projects to them.  The available wall was mostly vertical, however, so I did something I hadn’t seen on Pinterest: I mounted the wires vertically (with Command hooks at the top and bottom).  It ended up looking like this.

Art Wall, take 1, with wire. Feb 2016.  I know, the Command hooks are out of frame.  If I could turn back time . . .

Cute, right?

I might have known, however, that craftier Pinteresters than I had rejected this system for a reason.  My smug sense of self-satisfaction faded over the subsequent months, when the wires occasionally but persistently failed to actually stay on the wall.  I came to realize that the Command adhesive (in the size hooks I used — no offense, adhesive monolith 3M) was insufficiently strong at the key points.  Sometimes the wall’s failure was exacerbated by the dog’s tail’s hitting the whole setup as she trotted by.  Thanks for nothing, dog.

I made this gif with GIPHY. Never did that before.

Art wall, take 2:

The next and final version of the art wall involved these cork strips and this Gorilla tape.  (Sorry, honey. I love you.)  I lined the cork strips up vertically end to end, trimmed the two at the bottom (This involved a cleaver. It wasn’t pretty. Did I mention that I am really not that crafty?), taped the ends of each strip to the wall et voila!  Art wall!  I then mounted the art on the cork with clear plastic push pins.

Et voila! That’s the sum total of my French.
Family Portrait by M, age 4. Crayon on paper.

EDIT:  M saw her family portrait on the wall and chided, “It’s upside down!”  Of course it is.  Sorry, M.  Here’s the corrected image, which does actually make more sense.

Right side up.


Santa, according to M

December 6 is apparently St. Nicholas Day.  Four-year-old daughter M and I went to a little event at our church with dinner, crafts, and story time about St. Nicholas.

M as Santa, sort of.

Near the end of story time with Pastor Hughes, she talked to the kids about similarities between St. Nicholas and Santa.

Pastor Hughes: Have you ever seen Santa at your house?
Kids: No.
PH: Why do you think that is?
Kid: Because he’s invisible!
PH: Well, I’m not sure he’s invisible. Can you think of another reason?
M (age 4): He’s nocturnal.

Vocab for the win, you guys.  Next up: crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk).

Santa and a skeptical-looking me. Circa 1980?

The Chop Wizard

I know, I know, the only cutting tool a chef really needs is a sharp knife.  Chopping an onion is tearfully breezy.  Do you remember in Julie & Julia (2009) where Julia Child (Meryl Streep) has to practice cutting onions in order to compete with the dude chefs?


Knife skills are basic as far as a chef is concerned.

Here’s the thing, though: I ain’t a chef.  My knife skills are distinctly amateur, and I get really tired of chopping vegetables.  Like, the prospect of dicing a bell pepper is exhausting to me.  Enter the one, the not-so-only Vidalia Chop Wizard.

This $20 plastic and metal marvel makes short work of vegetable chopping.  You place your vegetable chunk on the metal grate, then use the white plastic lid to push it through the grate into the clear plastic bin below.  Depending on the degree to which the food fights the process, the Chop Wizard’s pushing motion makes a substantial, sometimes very loud thunk as the two halves of the device become one.  The gadget’s two grates make it possible to chop foods into satisfyingly regular half- or quarter-inch dice.

I use this thing all the time, in recipes like Black Bean and Cauliflower Soup, where the prep is way easier with the Chop Wizard than it would be without.  If you are considering this handy tool, ignore the cheesy sticker/label, do not use it on a wood surface (wood can end up imprinted with the shape of the round plastic feet), and make sure that any sweet potato planks you chop are relatively thin.  Enjoy!