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Monday
Jul072014

Back in action!

Technology and I tend to be like oil and water - sometimes if you shake us together real hard you get a delicious suspension like an aioli, but most of the time we don't play too nicely.

For some reason my domain name and the hosting couldn't figure out how to talk to each other for the past year or so, and I kind of gave up. But people keep asking if I have a website for cakes or other goodies and I have to shamefully admit that I am bad at computers and stuff... but today my darling friend Kate waved some kind of super-magical wand and we are now back in action. Miss you, Kate! Thanks for hooking a girl up.

Wedding season is in full swing here at the HBB - stay tuned for snapshots of upcoming weddings!


Cheers,

Abby

Friday
Dec282012

getting ready for 2013

(photo credit: love song photo)

 

Hey kids.

I kind of like the last week of the year, giving you a chance to look back over your accomplishments and failures, and looking forward to a fresh start with new goals and continued self-improvement. Onwards and upwards!

To be honest, I'm a little sad seeing 2012 go. It was definitely the best year for me in recent history. I got a job I didn't hate, I took a ton of vacations, I started running and biking and lost 15 lbs, and to boot I landed a super dreamy boyfriend. I'm still in debt and my skin is inexplicably shitty, but overall I am pretty stoked about how 2012 turned out. I can only hope that 2013 continues to be awesome.

Recently I read an article that basically stated that you are what you make yourself. If things aren't going your way, don't wonder why others aren't helping you accomplish your goals, look at something you don't like about yourself and go on and FIX IT. If you improve yourself, good things will come your way. I'm taking this advice to heart and striving to be better this year and always. With this in mind, here are my 2013 resolutions:

1) Cut debt in half. I know this is a perennial favorite but it's a good one. I will make a conscious effort this year to reduce waste and be deliberate in the money that goes out of my hands, in addition to putting away more in savings, putting less on credit, and putting more effort into alternative revenue sources.

2) Finish one quilt a month this year. This goal is quite ambitious, I know, but I have at least a dozen quilts nearing completion, and it will feel so good to tie up loose ends - that way I can get started on exciting new projects! A secondary part of this resolution is to set up a craft night for non-summer months to help me block out time to accomplish this goal.

3) Continue to focus on making my house a home. I've been there eight years and have been slipping the last couple of years - I allowed clutter to accumulate and did not give my home the attention it needs, and did not feel good about the space. I haven't entertained in forever and that is one of my greatest joys. Entertaining, fresh flowers, tackling clutter and odd tasks are all part of this goal. Painting the main space Thanksgiving weekend was a great start!

I am really excited to see what this year brings. I wish you the best in 2013!

xo

Abby

Tuesday
Oct302012

some artists I love

A very short list of people who make things that I enjoy looking at. I decided to limit myself to telling you only one thing I love about their work, because art is subjective and you will love your own things about their work. 

 

1. Wayne Thiebaud. Amazingly saturated colors, especially in the shadows.

 

2. Chuck Close. Photorealistic details and fascinating techniques.

 

3) Maira Kalman. Both her writing and illustrations are witty and sweet and are charmingly unrefined - sort of "the feeling is on the page but rather than refine it to perfection I'll go on to the next great idea" which, to me, is the most joyful way to go about life. *blog

Monday
Oct152012

the well stocked kitchen

My dreamy boyfriend recently asked me what my absolute minimum requirements were for a well stocked kitchen. Though I do have a lot of kitchen wares, there are some I definitely don't use, some I personally like to have doubles or triples of (because I like to multitask!), some I thought were a good idea at the time but now feel indifferent about, and some I would not be caught on a desert island without.

Some of these things are probably a little overkill for a beginning cook, but if you make dinner at home more than a couple of nights a week, here's my list of beloved essentials.

 

1. Cast iron frying pan. I'd get a 10-12" one. The bigger ones can certainly get heavy, but you can do a million things in these (even roast a chicken, or bake any number of things) and there's no better way to get a good sear or make a delicious Dutch Baby. It's a classic for a reason.

2. Dutch oven. This is not 100% essential, but really nice to have. You don't have to go for the Le Creuset, any enameled cast iron will perform exactly the same for probably a quarter of the price. The one I have is a Martha Stewart number from Macy's that I got on sale for $40.

3. Stockpot. I have this one from IKEA. It was under $30, and is great for soups or boiling pasta, or you can set a metal bowl or pyrex container over it if you need a double boiler.

4. A small nonstick frying pan is a great supplement to your big cast iron one, especially if you ever cook eggs. I like to get one with a lip that's not too deep or straight so I can just flip things with a flick of the wrist rather than actually stirring them. One less spatula to wash really appeals to my lazy side. I like to invest in good stuff usually, but I've found that expensive nonstick pans get shitty just as quickly as cheap ones, so I pick these up at Ross or any other discount store for under $10.

5. A set of three melamine mixing bowls with a handle and spout is priceless. I got a set of these as a housewarming present eight years ago (thanks Kate!) and can't imagine my life without them. There is the right size for everything here and they are sturdy, nonslip, and dishwasher safe. *note: I actually broke one of these last night and almost cried. Stupid ceramic tile floors...

6. Pyrex liquid measuring cups - get the 2 cup AND the 4 cup. Great for measuring liquids or even larger quantities of dry ingredients. You can microwave these, use them as a double boiler, even mix small amounts of things in them. Best of all, they nest inside each other and fit into the melamine bowls! Space saver!

7. 3 quart saucepan. I actually have a 2 quart and a 3 quart, but 3 quarts is enough to boil pasta for two or three, or rice for six. Get a heavy bottomed one with a handle that's comfortable - I like this Revere Ware one that I got at the outlet mall. I think it was about $15. A lot of the fancier ones have weird handles that are hard to grip when you're trying to pour something sideways out of the pan. Watch out for this.

8. 9x13 Pyrex baking dish. Why don't you have one of these already? You can roast a big old turkey in it, make any kind of casserole, bake a birthday cake, use it as a water bath for your cheesecake or pots de creme. Indispensable. Again, get it at the outlet mall for half price.

9. Half sheet jelly roll pan - 13x18, twice as big as the Pyrex. This heavy aluminum pan is pro-grade and will last forever. Don't put it in the dishwasher or it will discolor; for extra long life line it with parchment paper. You can get two-packs at Costco for a reasonable price, or pick one or two up at a restaurant supply store that's open to the public.

10 & 11. Measuring cups and spoons - I like the metal ones with sturdy handles for scooping things, and love the round bowls on the measuring spoons. You don't have to go crazy, but definitely make sure you get something that's quality as these are probably the ones you'll have forever.

 

1. The CLASSIC vegetable peeler. Don't bother with something "ergonomic" or whatever. This is the classic, the standby, The. One. for a reason. It's $5. Get it.

2. Swing-A-Way can openers - also cheap, also The Classic, also for a reason.

3. Cutting boards. I prefer plastic as they go in the dishwasher and don't warp. They're $2 at IKEA. I have some bamboo ones too but the IKEA ones are definitely used most in my kitchen.

4. Whisk. I got a big-ass whisk from my dad's best friend as a high school graduation present. It's glorious and I use it on a weekly basis. I like the wood handle, though it's definitely looking worn from its many trips through the dishwasher; it is just nicer to hold onto. I don't bother with a smaller whisk; that's what forks are for.

5. Microplane. I suppose you could have a box grater but why? The microplane gets ALL OF THE ZEST from anything, grates your nutmeg like a dream, you could even shave truffles with it if you're into that sort of thing. Just watch for the skin on your fingers, because this will slice it all off like so much zest. I'd totally get this over a box grater, and just buy your cheese pre-shredded.

6. Rubber spatulae. Quality matters - I have several different varieties but like my Williams-Sonoma ones the best. They have a nice rounded wooden handle and, most importantly, an edge on the spatula that is thin enough to really get down to the edge of the bowl or whatever you're scraping. Also since it's silicone you can stir really hot stuff like caramels without worrying about it.

7. Chef's knife. Nothing is more important in the kitchen than a good sharp knife. Sharp knives are safer than dull ones, and make any kitchen task faster and more pleasurable. The Shun 8" chef knife is the best I have ever used. It has a great handle, great weight, is light enough to handle for a while, and is gorgeous. At $170 it's not cheap but is an excellent investment. They have them at Bed Bath and Beyond, so save those annoying 20% off coupons and get you one.

8. Bread knife. I have a $15 one from Fred Meyer. This is not a place where you need to go all out, just get something that's heavy and serrated and it will last a long time. This is another good candidate for outlet mall shopping.

9. Paring knife. This rounds out my trifecta of necessary kitchen knives. The 3.5" Victorinox was first discovered by our family on a 1997 trip to Switzerland and we immediately bought half a dozen and keep giving them as wedding and housewarming gifts, because they're cheap and perfect for every small knife job. I even use them as steak knives in a pinch!

10. Metal spatula. This is great for your cast iron pan or dutch oven - the flat blade can scrape things off the bottom of your pan. The one I have is a super cheapie deal with slots but this one would be great too.

11. Nylon spatula. This is the only one that can go in your nonstick pan. Great for flipping eggs or pancakes, and nonstick safe.

12. Kitchen tongs. The locking handle mechanism is nice but not essential - but why wouldn't you? These are great for anything you have to turn without poking a fork into, or is too unwieldy for a spatula. (I'm looking at you, delicious steaks)

13. Wooden spoons. Great for soups, or stirring batters. I have a bunch of bamboo ones because I find the cheap wood ones get kind of torn up in the dishwasher, but if you go for a hardwood that would probably work really well. I would say get two and you can use them as salad servers!

You don't have to spend a ton of money (except on the knife. invest in the knife.) to get nice things, and this is a pretty pared-down kitchen tool list. I have a few things I would add if I had a bunch of room in this hypothetical kitchen: an electric kettle (can't boil over when you forget about it), a hand mixer (it sucks creaming butter and sugar by hand), a food processor, cake and/or loaf pans for more baking - but that's totally subjective and up to the individual cook.

I hope this is helpful! Happy cooking :)

at

Tuesday
Sep252012

wise words

 

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

-Max Ehrmann