Category Archives: homemaking

Donabe for Christmas

naoto with his new donabe pot Our Christmas Day centered around the contents of that box. I gave Naoto a donabe, Japanese hot pot, for Christmas, sending him over the moon with excitement. Donabe are used for table top cooking of Japanese meals, particularly shabu-shabu. We’ve been talking about buying our own donabe and making shabu-shabu at home forever. We casually looked at them while we were in Japan, but it just isn’t practical to carry around a big, breakable pot when you are traveling by train and subway. So, I did what any American would do…I bought one on Amazon. This one, as a matter of fact. It is made in Japan, Naoto’s favorite color and available on Prime. (I was shopping somewhat last-minute. Also, not an affiliate link.) japanese donabe vegetablesWe made our annual visit to Mitsuwa on Christmas afternoon to pick up the table top burner and ingredients for shabu-shabu. We bought (clockwise, pictured above) cabbage, scallion, tofu, shirataki (yam noodle), enoki mushroom, and carrots. The carrots were supposed to be cut like flowers, but Naoto is still working on his skills. (But I do find that those little carrot pinwheels very charming!) And we bought a pound of the very thinly sliced beef. cooking shabu shabu, japanese donabe, japanese hot potNaoto cooking Shabu Shabu, donabe On Christmas night, we made a cocktail, lit some candles, and fired up the little stove. Naoto seasoned the water with some seaweed.  cooking shabu shabu meat 2When the water was bubbling, he took out the seaweed and we were ready to cook! It only took a couple of swishes and the beef was cooked to perfection. cooking shabu shabu meat 3And the best part…the ponzu dipping sauce! The citrusy sauce is the perfect complement to the beef! I want to put it on evvvvverything!

We borrowed Japanese Hot Pots and Donabe from the library so we can learn how to expand our donabe cooking beyond shabu-shabu. And tomorrow night, we are hosting a mini shabu-shabu party for Naoto’s birthday. I’m excited to try a few recipes at the dining room table this winter!

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Recipes and Cookbooks in a Pinterest World

Better Homes and Gardens NEW COOK BOOK , 1989 editionFor the past few years, I’ve been going to Pinterest more and more for recipes. On Pinterest there’s an endless variety of choices, instant access to reviews, and of course that bottomless rabbit hole of internet clicks. A search for a quick supper recipe quickly unravels into a hunt for table setting ideas, crafts, and other nonsense. Basically, what should be a five minute search for something to eat becomes a thirty minute internet time-suck.

So lately, I’ve been craving the comfort of my own cookbooks. First of all, curling up with the iPad and falling into a net of random blogs and untested recipes is not the same as paging through an old cookbook of tested, tried and true recipes. I love sticking page flags on the top contenders and building a meal from several cookbooks. 
And–more importantly here for me–constant searching and making Pinterest recipes doesn’t leave a paper trail.

My mom has a metal box packed with delicious recipes that we’ve eaten through the years. It’s like a little family time capsule of yellowed 3-by-5 cards in her own handwriting, my great-grandmother’s handwriting, my grandma’s handwriting, my aunts’ handwritings… It’s so fun to poke through the box and see who brought each recipe into our mix of regular meals and family gatherings. She also has her Better Homes & Gardens cookbook from the 70s that is so well-used, the pages are falling out of it. 

My own recipe box consists of a handful of recipes in my college handwriting and has pretty much been untouched since then. My own cooking history lies in my Pinterest pins and my internet search history. If I don’t change things now, when I’m old, I won’t have that paper trail of my own recipes. I won’t have creased and yellowed cards in my mom’s handwriting. I won’t have little handwritten notes about what worked and what didn’t when I tried a new cookbook recipe. I won’t have stained and wrinkled cookbook pages, tangible evidence of a well-loved meal.

I’m trying to break the Pinterest habit and rely more on my cookbooks and recipe box for meals and desserts. (I mean, why have them if I’m not using them?) And I’m trying to write down some of the favorites I have found online, like Kathy’s grandmother’s cranberries

Naoto and I have a small collection of cookbooks, mostly vintage ones with a few Food Network titles mixed in. (We used to watch tons of Food Network shows together on Saturday and Sunday mornings.) The backbone to our collection is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. We both brought versions of this cookbook into the marriage. Naoto’s is the 10th Edition (1989, pictured above) and he got it in college when Auntie Judy (his host mother in Hawaii) took him to Waldenbooks and bought it for him. Mine is the 11th Edition (1996) and I, too, got mine in college, as a Christmas gift from my parents. We are emotionally attached to our respective cookbooks so we’ve kept both of them. Plus, even though the editions are only a few years apart, mine has some newer recipes and even the old standards have slight changes to them. We have favorites in each edition. My mom is bringing her edition to Thanksgiving so I can see if we are missing out on some good 1970s standards. I will report back. 

In the meantime, I’m cracking open the cookbooks to get ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow. And cleaning…

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The Lanai 2015

balcony looking south, lanaiSummer is almost over and I haven’t shared photos from the lanai! It actually looks really different now because I spent some time out there yesterday giving up on some plants (RIP, little guys) and repotting my newly purchased mums*. balcony looking south, lanai, sitting areaI changed up the seating area from last year, moving the wicker love seat along the windows to give it some extra protection from the elements. I liked it a lot better this way, even though at only 4 feet deep, it’s a tight squeeze out there. balcony looking north, lanaiThe “dining area” is pretty much the same. I have six hanging planters of various flowers. I bought a portulaca and a mixed planter and I built my own of begonias, petunias, vinca vines, Creeping Jenny, Mexican Heather, allyssum, various coleus, and some other greens and blooms. (It feels like I did all of this a lifetime ago…it was before Japan!) I really enjoyed building my own planters but this winter I want to do some reading about pot designs. Some of the pots filled out nicely, but others never really filled out, even now at the end of the summer. large pot on the lanaiMy parents gave me this giant pot after Japan and I was so excited to fill it. I bought some cheap impatiens, petunias, and coleus and added in perennial sedum that I’ve had for years. Next year I would like to fill the giant pot with all perennials to keep costs and maintenance down. But I have to say, this pot still looks amazing and full and lush, while most of the others have suffered a bit in our heat lately. old geraniumMy old geranium is still going strong. I really weeded through my geraniums this winter and kept the strongest ones. I didn’t know which colors I would end up with since nothing was blooming in March, but I have one bright pink, one coral, and one white one left. I’ll bring them in when it gets cold. The geraniums hang out on a little cart with some perennials I planted this winter. None of them really thrived in the light on my balcony, so I need to replant them at my parents or give them to someone else who gets more sun. Most are still alive, just not blooming…kind of a bummer. Split Second Morning GloryNext to the big pot, I planted seven types of climbing vines. So far, only three have bloomed. (Womp, womp.) But, I love going out there every morning and tending to the blooms I have, so…I’m making the most of them! The one above is a Split Second Morning Glory, obtained through a “seed swap” on Instagram. (Thanks, Lauren!) They’re double flowers and are very peony-like. Now that I know how successful they are, I’m going to plant lots more of these beauties next year! President Tyler Morning Glory President Tyler Morning GloryThen there are the gorgeous blue President Tylers, obtained at the actual seed swap. The deep purplish blue is so striking on the railings. Heavenly Blue Morning GloryAnd last but not least, the Heavenly Blues…which really, how gorgeous is that color? I took this photo yesterday right before a huge downpour that completely battered the bloom. I’m so glad I captured its perfection!

Next week, I’ll do a community garden update which shall be called All About the Tomatoes. Have a good weekend!

*The Mum Disclaimer: Yes, I feel like it’s too soon to usher in fall, quite frankly, but it is after Labor Day and they were so cheap at Menards! I had to snag a few while I was there! It’s going to cool off today, so maybe fall is really right around the corner? As much as I love fall, I’m all for soaking up the season we are in. I’m not ready to pull out my boots and scarves (and pumpkin spice lattes!). I’m still enjoying the last bits of summer while I can!

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Home Is A 1970s Apartment: Our Living Room, Spring Edition

Kimberly AH living room 2015 Last month, my parents visited and Naoto bought flowers, so I figured while the living room was all tidy, I would take some pictures to share. I haven’t done a full post about our living room since this one in 2012, and things have changed ever so slightly since then…dare I say the living room is almost done? Kimberly AH living room 2015 Kimberly AH living room 2015 The living room arrangement could use a couple more chairs and some art above/around the television, but I’m waiting for the perfect solution. (I have some chairs in mind…just waiting for a sale, and I’d love to do something simple and 3D behind the TV since there’s that weird empty corner there. I know a lot of people do the gallery wall thing around their televisions, but how many gallery walls can one room have?)Kimberly AH desk 2015I’ve been plagued with lingering art on the floor so I spent an afternoon readjusting the “gallery wall” above my desk, adding art and re-centering things to make up for the addition of the drawer unit in the middle. It was actually pretty easy, except for the time I slammed my head on the ceiling. I’m apparently pretty tall when I stand on my desks! Kimberly AH living room 2015  I am thrilled that the artwork is hung! Maybe now I won’t be so tempted to buy more…Japanese wall hanging, japanese postI bought this banner in Japan at Tokyo Station last spring. I’m sad to admit that it’s been folded up in a drawer all year while I decided where it should go. art above desk, kimberly AHI realize the art looks a little wonky, especially from this angle. I need to straighten things out with some Command squares or something. For now, I’m just happy the frames are all off of the floor. And, I will admit that my desk hasn’t looked this clean since about five minutes after this picture was taken.

Art details, top to bottom, left to right: You Are My Sunshine print-I can’t remember the seller//Cat Moves, signed “For Presley”-Lucy Knisley//All You Need Is Cats-Paper Pastries//photo of Presley//calligraphy quote-Dancing Pen & Press//Girl on a Swing paper cut-Tina Tarnoff//Lord Byron Letter Writing print-Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress//cat postcard from Japan//Make Something Today screen print-Life Love Paper//photo strip//Comparison is the Thief of Joy-I made it//Ironhead collage-Vivienne Strauss

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Hasegawa Happy Hour Menu

Hasegawa Happy Hour menu coverIn a sign that I *may* have too much time on my hands (or that I was avoiding doing something productive), I typed up a menu for our Hasegawa Happy Hours. And when I say “typed” I mean typed on the typewriter because that’s how I roll. I know a menu seems weird and excessive, but honestly, if I didn’t have a set cocktail planned for our HHH guests, I was looking through my archives for suggestions. This way, I have all of my favorites in one place. Hasegawa Happy Hour menu openI typed the menu on a piece of 8.5×11 card stock scored and folded the long way. It’s very simply “formatted” since it was done on the typewriter and it’s spring-centric, which means I can type up another one for summer (ooh, for balcony cocktails! I can’t wait!) Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 1I have a section for “Think Spring” cocktails, which are coincidentally all gin-based. (Eagle eyes will notice that I messed up on the Vieux Mot and typed the wrong ingredients. Womp, womp.)Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 2Then there’s a section for “Cozy Nights” that includes mostly whiskey cocktails, perfect for right about now when it’s damp and cold outside. Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 4In the “Deliciously Bitter” section, I have a small list of bitter cocktails. I’ve added several bitter liqueurs to my collection this year and these four are tasty winners. Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 3And, on a removable tiny business card, I typed up two Hasegawa originals, the CAP Cocktail and Pining for the Queen. It’s harder to keep those ingredients readily on hand around here, so I like to be able to remove the card if we don’t have any pomegranate juice or rosemary in the house.

Hasegawa Happy Hour, sushi nightWe tested the menu out last weekend when we had friends over for a little sushi-making party. It worked like a charm!

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Old Painting = New Art

P. Rambert oil paintingIn January when I went thrifting with my parents, I found this old painting. It was only twenty dollars, it’s an actual painting, not a print, and for reasons I can’t explain, I really liked it. The painting is signed P. Rambert, which means nothing to me, but apparently people on Ebay think some of his paintings can fetch $50-550…mmhmmmmm. P. Rambert oil painting I’ve been working on hanging up more art (again) and so I tried this one in the living room near the lamp. (I do think the matchy-matchy pillow looks a little ridiculous…an interior decorator I am not!) I didn’t plan to keep it there, but it’s grown on me and I’ve really liked having some color on the wall! (I think my desire for spring and something other than grey skies and a grey home is getting to me!)

Am I the only one who freezes and fears decorating decisions?

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Plot #6: Winter Sowing Experiment

winter sowingI started gardening this week!! Back in December, Peggy (who seriously should be a contributor to my blog since she provides me with so much blog fodder!) sent me this blog post from A Garden for the House about winter sowing. Neither of us had tried it before but we both found the idea intriguing. I always feel like it’s late summer before all of my balcony flowers are really in bloom and by then, it’s sometimes too hot and busy to enjoy them. And last year, I had my best balcony garden but I also spent more than I normally do on flowers because I was addicted to having a lush, full garden. (I didn’t break the bank or anything…it was just more than usual.) Hopefully, if this winter sowing thing works, I can get a jump start on gardening, and I can start more things from inexpensive seeds instead of buying a lot of full-grown potted plants this year.

Winter sowing involves planting certain types of seeds in winter and keeping them outdoors in little protective “greenhouses”. Depending on your zone, you can plant perennial and hardy annuals as early as January. I waited until Tuesday (March 3) to start planting, so I planted some tender annuals, too. This blog post tells more about what you can plant when. winter sowing, seedsI worked on my winter sowing in my kitchen on Tuesday afternoon. For my greenhouses, I used distilled water jugs that I’ve been collecting all winter. (Naoto has been very suspicious of this “garbage collection”.) I drilled ventilation holes in the top and drainage holes in the bottom of each one.winter sowingThen I cut around the middle of the jug, leaving a little hinge underneath the handle. (Presley decided to take a bath while this was happening.) winter sowingI worked in my kitchen sink, filling each jug with a few inches of soil. Then I soaked the soil with running water and let the water drain out into the sink. After that I planted my seeds, one type per jug, labeling as I worked.

I only made it through seven jugs before I ran out of soil, but I’m hoping to run out today and buy more so I can finish the job this week. So far, I’ve planted broccoli, snow peas and lettuce in preparation for our community garden plot. And I’ve planted Evening Primrose, Columbine, Zinnias, and Achillea for the balcony. I have at least ten more potential seed packets waiting for winter sowing, depending on how adventurous I feel.

I put all of my seeds outside on the balcony. (I’m hoping my neighbors do not complain about the unsightly water jugs…condo living is challenging sometimes.) The seeds are sharing a table with my perennial sedum for now (which looks dead in the top picture, but I promise it’s just resting). That table gets the most sunlight and it gets snowed and rained on, so I figured the seeds will have the best chance there. For now, I wait…the hardest part of gardening!

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Homemade Granola

trader joes, homemade granola, blueberry almondI hosted book club on Saturday morning. I knew, since we were going to get home late from the Blackhawks game Friday night, that I wouldn’t feel like getting up to bake muffins or something in the morning. So, I tried to think of something tasty that I could make a day in advance, that would still taste fresh and “homey” the next morning. Then the idea of a yogurt bar popped in my head and I decided that would be easy enough, even if I made homemade granola instead of serving store-bought.

This Martha Stewart recipe for Blueberry Almond Granola looked like a winner and -best part ever- I could buy all of the ingredients at Trader Joe’s!! (That’s always a bonus for me…I like my tiny Trader Joe’s and hate having to go to a second grocery store for one ingredient.)

On Friday afternoon, I whipped up a batch of granola and even though I followed the directions to the letter, the granola was over-toasted. It wasn’t really burnt. (I still liked it, but I also like my toast one step below blackened.) But the coconut was really toasty and it kind of affected the taste of everything else. I didn’t feel like I could serve it to guests. So, I gave it another go and so I’m sharing the recipe and method that worked best for me in hopes that no one else will burn their coconuts.

Blueberry Almond Granola

2 cups rolled old fashioned oats

1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

1 cup dried blueberries

Pre-heat oven to 350°

Place the oats and the almonds in a large bowl. Mix oil and honey in a small bowl and drizzle over the oats and almonds. Stir to coat evenly. Spread the oats and almonds on a large baking sheet and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. (Mine was done at 15. Keep an eye on it.)

Place shredded coconut on baking sheet and put in oven to toast separately. I left my oven door open and stirred every minute or so for about 4 minutes. You can also toast the coconut on the stove using the method explained here.homemade granola, trader joes Once the coconut is toasted, add it to the oats and almonds and allow to cool. trader joes, homemade granolaStir in the dried blueberries and it’s ready to eat! I served mine with vanilla yogurt and fresh raspberries and blackberries. I think the book club enjoyed it, too…either that or they’re a bunch of good actors!

The granola is a lot less sticky sweet than store-bought granola but you don’t really miss the sugar because the toasty, oaty deliciousness is enough. And I have to say, even my coconut-hating husband liked it!

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Scenes for Halloween

decorated bar cartHappy Halloween! Here are a few scenes from around the apartment this year.Halloween decs living room Halloween decs dining room Halloween decs dining room Halloween decs living roomHalloween decs bathroomWe aren’t hosting a party, but we have had friends over throughout the month. But even without visitors, I’m glad I decorated. There’s something fun about having a festive home, especially as the days get shorter and darker and you find yourself inside watching spooky movies and reading scary stories.

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Urbs In Horto

Urbs in Horto, Starshaped Press, Letterpress PrintI bought this amazing “Urbs in Horto” print from Starshaped Press last year at Show of Hands. This weekend, I finally framed it and hung it…one of those things that should have happened last November but didn’t. I originally bought the print for our front hallway. We have kind of a travel/map/Chicago theme going on in there. But I thought the print was too amazing to be stuck in a corner that we barely see coming in and out of our apartment. So I hung it up in the living room where we can see it all the time.

Urbs in horto, Latin for “city in a garden,” was Chicago’s slogan in the 1830s, celebrating Chicago’s commitment to parks in the city. (This article from the Chicago Park District can tell you more.) Starshaped Press created the print to celebrate Chicago’s 175th anniversary in 2012. The print is made with only antique metal type and letterpress printed in seven colors…it’s truly a work of art. I’m only sorry I waited so long to hang it up!

The weather is gorgeous in Chicago all week long, so if it gets a little quiet around here, just know I’m out soaking up the last bits of summer…now that fall is almost officially here!

P.S. To see some impressive detail shots of the print and the incredible set-up of all that type, go here!

 

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