Wednesday, June 27, 2012

All the Livelong Day

We thrilled to hear his story about the time he had hiccups for four days straight. He tried everything to get rid of them, he said. Every suggestion people had. Eating cabbage, standing on his head, drinking water upside down, walking backwards on a railroad track, everything. Eventually, they went away. Now, he said, he drank pickle juice to keep them away. Eww, we squealed.

She would always let us pick what special dessert we wanted her to make. We always chose strawberry pie. She used huge strawberries whole, and her pie crusts were delicious.

His truck cab was filled with candy. Moderately disappointing to an 8-year-old, however, because every single kind was sugarless. Those pastel discs still remind me of climbing all over the front seat of his truck.

She kept the door to her bedroom closed tightly. The one place in the house we were not allowed to venture-it was a great mystery. When we eventually saw her room after she died, the stacks of organized excess that she kept hidden did not come close to measuring up to the explanations in our imaginations.

His prickly chin would press into your forehead as you hugged him goodnight. He seemed moved when we'd chorus, "Goodnight. I love you, grandpa."

She pulled out some of the old clothes she'd kept for us to dress up in. We put on her fancy hats and dresses from the 50's and 60's, and she'd give us accessories to match-gloves, purses, and jewelry. We'd ask if we look beautiful, and she'd assure us that we did.

He and my grandma had had separate bedrooms for ages. But why, we'd ask? I snore like a locomotive he'd say. His room smelled of shaving cream, cedar, and just a hint of smoke. His was a bit cluttered, and there were piles of letters requesting funds to fight cancer, help children with leukemia, take care of aging firemen, etc. He gave to every one.

In the big grassy lot next to the house, we'd run imaginary bases, creating ghost runners to take our place so we could have another kick or one more swing of the bat. With only two players, we bored of the games quickly. We spent more time making up rules and planning the newest game than we actually did playing it.

That same grassy lot eventually held a lifetime's belongings spread out for people to pick through and bid on next to the small house where my dad grew up. In that one weekend, my father let go of the flotsam and jetsam of his parents' lives, the path he walked to school, and the one he wore into the carpet of his childhood home. He had few strong ties to his hometown anymore and it was unlikely we'd ever be back again. He said goodbye, and he let go so gently and quietly that, as small children, we didn't realize the extent of that goodbye then.

Image Unknown

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hello, Baby!

Look who's coming to live at our house in a week or two!

After a grueling search for a club chair to replace the fraternity house love seat formerly in our living room, (which we sent home with my parents after Memorial Day weekend,) I finally settled on the Brooklyn Club Chair from Pottery Barn.

It's definitely an investment, but it is absolutely lovely and so, so comfy. (That leather is like buttah. I cannot even tell you how excited I am to curl up in there with a book!) I have been researching everywhere from Craigslist to local antique dealers, but finally settled on a new, old-looking chair instead of an old, new-looking chair because of its sturdiness and reasonable price (believe it or not, leather club chairs are hella expensive, no matter their age).

This chair has good bones, which is important in all furniture purchases because then you know they will never go out of style, and it will always be worth it to just recover them instead of having to buy a whole new chair again.

In her defense, the fraternity house love seat also had good bones (Is that just asking for someone to make a lewd joke?), which was why I recovered her, and why she stayed in our house almost 10 years after we graduated, but she had way too many cushions and Nathan couldn't deal with straightening them anymore.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Great Song

First heard this at the end of Suits last night. I've been listening to it all day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How to Cook Without a Recipe

Some people think that it takes some sort of talent to be able to make a meal without going by a recipe, but I'm going to tell you the secret. It doesn't take talent at all. The key to throwing a dish together without a recipe is starting out small.

First, start by using recipes. That's how you learn amounts of ingredients to use in the future, things that go well together, and flavors that meld. Using recipes helps you learn what 2 tablespoons of olive oil look like in a pan and how much salt it takes to flavor a dish.

Read up and research. You can find a recipe for anything and everything online. And even better, you can read up on all of the hints from other bakers and cooks who have already used that recipe. Often these hints and suggestions come in handy on other recipes down the road.

Notice and remember interesting and unexpected complementary flavors in recipes and at restaurants (mango & chili, nutmeg & cheese, balsamic & dijon, ginger & lemon, bacon & well, everything). These are the touches that will make your meals taste extra special.

Go off recipe. When you make something, make notes about what you liked and what you didn't like. The next time, leave out the red pepper flakes or add extra lemon juice.

Experiment! This advice might be intimidating, but tasting as you go means that you can control how the dish turns out. And if it bombs, it's honestly not a big deal. Don't experiment before important events or when you're having guests, of course. You want this to be fun, not stressful! Again, be sure to make notes or even write whole new recipes so you remember for the next time.

Talk to others. Ask about ingredients you've never used, talk to people about their favorite techniques, ingredients, or dishes, and ask for advice on things you've had trouble doing.

All photos from my instagram @hannakinsey.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Conversation #12

I can see it.
Me: The ladies at work were telling me that in our wedding picture, you look like Jake Gyllenhaal. They said maybe I shouldn't tell you so you don't get a big head about it, but I told them you wouldn't know who he was anyway.
Him: I know who he is. He was in Spiderman. The short guy.
Me: Nope. Not even close.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Don't Worry, I Washed Them

When I get new clothing, just like when I was little, I tend to wear it pretty often. I just realized today that I've worn the new pair of pants I have on today 4 times in the last 8 days! To think I wasn't sure if I would keep them because they're a lot more fitted than I normally wear.

Tippi Sweater in Linen, Deep Cinnamon, J.Crew
Waverly Chino, Midnight, J.Crew
Limousine Flat, Dark Pewter, American Eagle
Kinsey Necklace, HannaKinsey, Etsy
Earrings, Target, 5 years ago

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ingredients You Probably Don't Have in Your Kitchen But Should

Not only are they great to snack on when you just need something crunchy, but they're a tasty addition to pretty much any baked good. Plus, sometimes you can even grind it up really well and add it to flour if you're running a little short for your recipe.

Capers come in a pickling solution, so they keep practically forever in the refrigerator. Do not make Chicken Picatta without them, and they add a great zing to pasta or potato salads.

Not only do you never know when you might need to whip up a chocolate ganache, but there's really no substitute for being able to add cream to pasta sauce for an amazing depth of flavor. An unopened carton can last a surprisingly long time (I've managed to keep it for a month at least before, though don't count on that during the summer.)

Dark Chocolate Chips
Like with the cream above, you never know when you might need to whip up a quick batch of ganache to use as frosting, cookie or ice cream topping, or truffle center, not to mention nothing is better in chocolate chip cookies than Ghiradelli's 60% cocoa chocolate chips. Nathan also eats these frozen by the handful, so I try to have them on hand for a quick chocolate fix.

Kosher Salt
Especially during grilling season, I prefer this to sprinkle on grilling meat or seafood because the bigger flakes adhere better and last through the whole cooking process better.

You really can't make any sauces taste authentically Thai without lemongrass. It also adds a really nice flavor to stir fry, and don't even think about Tom Yum Soup without it. Usually you can find it in the produce section of the grocery store, but luckily we can get it already chopped and frozen from a local Asian grocery store.

Fresh lemon or lime juice is much more flavorful than bottled. There are a ton of ways to use slices, zest, or the juice of lemon or lime. Just to name a few, we throw them in with fish and vegetables on the grill, add them to pitchers of water when we're sitting outside on a hot day, use lemons in Chicken Picatta, and limes with black beans or mango salsa. They keep very well in the fridge so you really just need to use them within a week or two of buying them. (I do have bottled juice as well, but only as a backup if I need more than I can get from the fresh lemons or limes I have on hand except when it comes to lemonade-just use bottled juice and throw in some lemon slices.)

Good Olive Oil
While it is not cheap, there are some things that justify using a really good olive oil. For one, any homemade salad dressing tastes much more amazing with good olive oil. My favorite is hojiblanca, which has a peppery bite to it. Yum!

Fresh Parsley
If you keep it either completely dry (wrapped in paper towels) or with the stems in water, parsley will stay fresh a few weeks. Fresh parsley really makes a difference in everything from lemon vinaigrette to pasta salads, chicken and fish dishes.

Pine nuts
Pine nuts can be pretty expensive, but you don't have to use a lot in any dish. One cup of pine nuts can go a very long way (I store unused pine nuts in the freezer). First of all, you absolutely cannot beat the taste of fresh pesto. There has never been a jar of pesto that tastes even half as good as homemade. It's really easy, and you can freeze it into multiple containers so you have enough for just one meal at a time. (Freezing the pesto doesn't change the taste at all.) Also, pine nuts are really great as a substitute for regular nuts in cookies or toasted and thrown in a salad.

There are two dishes we make relatively often that require shallots. One I've mentioned recently, and the other is a citrus salad with a warm vinaigrette from the In the Kitchen with Rosie cookbook. Even if you don't have a go-to recipe that calls for shallots, however, I find myself using them when I make fish or even vegetables like spinach or green beans. They have a slightly sweeter, more delicate flavor than an onion. That difference is really noticable, which is why I don't just use onions instead every time.

Sparkling Water in cans
I've started drinking La Croix instead of soda for those times when I just really need the fizzy burn, and I've noticed how handy it is to have sparkling water on hand for other things. Flavored or unflavored, you can use it to make pretty much every mixed drink tastier. Plus it keeps for practically forever as long as it's unopened. Sometimes I substitute this in for the water in lemonade, and it's delicious. But best yet, Pimm's Cup is my current summer afternoon adult beverage of choice, and you can't make it without it.

Images (via flickr) from left to right, beginning in top left corner:
Roasted California Almonds; Capers; cream is good; Blueberry Papaya Cucumber Juice and Chocolate Cake with Ganache;
kosher salt; Olive oil, lemon, both Golden; Lemongrass Stalks; Olive Oil;
Parsley; Toasted Pine Nuts; Mixed Shallots; La Croix

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Happy 200th!

balloons by Brandi Sims

Today is my 200th post! Not bad for just over two years of blogging. Thanks for reading and commenting and/or emailing, everyone! My next goal is to post 100 times this year! Last year I had 88 posts, so that should be pretty easy to attain.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Office decorated? Check.

You may remember back in March (Really? That long ago?!) when I was trying to decide what to hang on my office wall. The frames and photos arrived, and I finally got building services to drill some holes in the wall for me. I was a lunch break purchase of an electric drill away from doing it myself.

I added part of an unfinished vintage quilt to my wall, a few new frames for some of my art, and an antique lamp I just bought this weekend, and now I feel like it is finally done. Balanced, colorful, and just a little bit cluttered...just like home.