If you follow me on Instagram stories at all (@elletrain) you know I love to cook and bake. My grandmother was an amazing Southern food cook and baked the most delicious desserts. My stepmother is half Italian and has always cooked and baked fabulous holiday treats and special birthday meals. My youngest brother works in the food industry and is an avid fan and tester of all Alton Brown’s recipes. My mom is an incredible cook who has hosted international dinners in her home where she’s researched traditional foods from various countries to serve to complete strangers. (#brave) I think it’s in my blood.
I didn’t use to love to cook, but being surrounded by such wonderful foodies in my life, I had no choice but to take up interest. Once you spend a little time trying out recipes and building your repertoire of kitchen tools you learn the genuine satisfaction that comes with making a delicious meal or treat. I know many of you out there probably share my interest or know someone who does. For you or them, a great kitchen tool is really a priceless gift that will be used again and again.
Here, I’ve tried to gather useful, beautiful kitchen gifts that I would absolutely love to receive this Christmas. They’re also all available with Amazon Prime shipping, so you have time to get them ordered before next weekend. From mixers to cookbooks, there’s a little something here for every price point and every cook.
These are another type of favorite gift to give because I have so much fun picking them out! And maybe buying them for myself! Yep, that’s a box wine cooler you see above. Holiday parties are about to get real fancy around here…I found some delicious gifts for your favorite hostess that has everything and pretty little things for home. Holiday hosting & toasting gift ideas right this way…
For Mother’s Day, the boys bought me this picnic basket, featured on one of our Mother’s Day gift guides. Apparently, it was Pax’s idea – he must read the blog (terrifying). In any case, after the initial Picnic On The Bed, both Pax and Raines had been after us to go on a real picnic. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal – right about now is when we start playing fast and loose with bedtimes in preparation for Summer….
…but this RAIN, you guys. THIS RAIN. I just can’t even.
Anyway, before I bore you with more talk of the weather, suffice to say that on Saturday, we were supposed to have a few hours of sun. And high temps. So Mike and I, in a parenting fail of near-epic proportions, promised to take the boys to the beach. The freaking beach, people. For a “quick” picnic. As you can probably guess, we took longer than expected to leave the house (playing nearly an hour of every City Dweller’s favorite game: Where’s My Car), and by the time it was all said and done….it was pouring at the shore, with a 90% chance of continued rain.
Hell hath no fury like a Pax denied.
So instead of the shore, we trucked on over to the banks of the Schuykill River where we had – count ’em – 20 minutes to eat and play before it rained again.
We’re just going to chalk this one up to a really good try. A picnic dress-rehearsal, if you will.
The good news is that our picnic game is now on point. We’ve got the supplies, a can-sit-all-day-in-the-sun menu (vegan and gluten-free, thankyouverymuch), and are going to rock the heck out of a beach picnic this summer. GAME FREAKING ON.
So, this gift guide was maybe a little too easy for me to write. Include any of the keywords “small-batch”, “indie” or “handcrafted” in a product name and you’ve got my number. Bit food snobbish? Totally – but often leads to delicious outcomes and the warm fuzzies from supporting small companies that are passionate about good food. It’s not hard to see why grassroots food movements like these are so popular when they taste like bourbon spiked chocolate sauce. Have anyone on your list that knows the best source for heritage grains or is part of the raw milk underground? They’re going to be pretty ecstatic with any of these indulgent foodie gifts (and the fact that you support their fussy tendencies). If you’re lucky, maybe they’ll share…
1. Olympia Provisions Salami of the Month Club: Easily my husband’s favorite holiday gift last year. Every month a salami from Portland, OR (obvs) “crafted from local pork using an old-world technique” magically appears in your mailbox, with tasting notes included. It was the equivalent of a monthly Christmas for my 4 year old, who discovered a love of cured meats and weird cheese. Might have created a monster…
2. The Greatest Guest Gourmet Giftbox: Staying with friends or family over the holidays and need a stellar hostess gift? You’ll go down in history as the favorite guest of all time if you come bearing this bounty of American-made indie food gifts. Brooklyn-based (again, obvs) company Mouth sourced tasty snacks & drinks for the whole crowd – like bacon jam (yes), DIY cold brew coffee, sea salt & pepper pistachios and small batch tonic syrup.
3. ROK Manual Espresso Maker: Heads up, coffee lovers: this electricity-free espresso maker “extracts maximum oils”, making any ground coffee taste amazing. 5-star reviews for quality, consistency of great coffee produced, ease of use and because it’s pretty enough to keep on display every day. It’s portable too, so they’ll never have to drink bad coffee, even while camping. (On clearance!!)
4. Carry On Cocktail Kit: Your persnickety tippler doesn’t trust the flight attendants’ bartending skills? A gin & tonic travel cocktail kit including tonic syrup, jigger, bar spoon & linen coaster is just the thing – they’ll think of you fondly while mixing life-giving cocktails en-route to spend quality time with relatives. Maybe get two.
5. MarieBelle Hot and Ice Chocolate Gift Set: Does your chocolate fiend refer to hot cocoa as “drinking chocolate”? They’d flip over this fancypants hot chocolate mix set with four flavors – Aztec, Spicy, Milk & White, plus the phrase “single-origin” is thrown around a lot. Include a bottle of their favorite way to spike hot cocoa, and you’re set. I’m an iced tea girl no matter the weather (Dunkin Donuts 4 life) but I’m seriously considering changing my ways, especially since these would make delicious ice chocolates too.
6. Denim Walnut Serving Board: A gorgeous wood serving board (with rubber-coated navy handle) is an amazing backdrop for instagramming fancy, obscure cheeses and rustic artisanal breads. I love gifts that elevate an everyday item, but that you probably wouldn’t think to buy for yourself. Hit the cheese section and bakery at Whole Foods for a sweet spread and wrap it all up with this amazing serving board for a thoughtful gift.
7. Cocktail Party Every Month: This exists. And it sounds beyond fabulous for new parents’ date nights at home, besties or your spouse (so you can partake of the awesomeness). Depending on how generous you’re feeling, subscriptions can be 3, 6, or 12 months. What’s in the box? Small-batch snacks and mixers from brands you’ve never heard of – basically everything you need except the booze. Goodies in a recent shipment: “Real tonic syrup for making the best G+T ever, seed-studded farmhouse crackers, smoky tomato tapenade, buzz-worthy “snow” honey for cheese, pickled green tomatoes perfect for garnishing, and salty-sweet bacon brittle”. As Liz Lemon says, I want to go there.
8. kate spade Recipe Binder: I feel like I’m constantly pinning amazing recipes then forgetting about them. Meal planning? Whaaa…? Give her a pretty binder and inspire her to finally make some of the recipes she collects online – bonus points if you scope out her food board and jot down some recipes you know she’ll love.
9. Artisanal Salt Cellar: Spice up their life with hand-harvested, limited availability salts from around the world. French salt smoked in Chardonnay oak barrels, mountain spring salt from ponds 10,000 feet high in Peruvian mountains, superfine Sel Gris that melts on your tongue like butter, silky black Hawaiian lava salt – the mind boggles. (If you’re into poetic descriptions of salt, check out the full flavor list.) They’re packed in little glass bottles (perfect for storing spices later) in a really cool bamboo case, so display worthy.
10. Whiskey Wedge: It’d be a shame to water down your small-batch bourbon with regular ice cubes. The stylish “wedge” of ice melts slower, plus looks so cool in the glass.
(Note: Much of this post is tongue in cheek; I realize those that can make food choices like these are privileged indeed. xo)
Me: Raines, since you’re going into First Grade, you’ll be eating lunch at school everyday. You need a lunch box!
Raines [unenthused]: Ok.
Me: Lunch boxes are cool! You can get all kinds of different designs….wait – do you even know what a lunch box is?
Raines: It’s a box for your lunch, Mom.
Me: Well, yeah. But you can get really cool ones like….maybe space, or dinosaurs….
Me [now at the computer, googling]: Ok, look at this one – it’s camo!
Raines: Mom, I want a lunchbox with the Battleship New Jersey on it.
Me: There’s also one with sharks, or– wait, what?
Raines: The Battleship New Jersey.
Me: Yeah that’s not gonna happen.
Raines: Why not?
Me: Honey, it doesn’t quite work like that. There’s a ton of options to choose from, but not anything in the world that you can think of. I can find sea-related lunch boxes like sharks or pirates, and I might be able to find a lunch box with a boat, but I really don’t think–
Raines: Google it, Mom. Just type in, “Battleship New Jersey Lunchbox”.
Me: Ok honey. We can google it, but see, there’s really noth-
You gotta be freaking kidding me. It’s the actual Battleship New Jersey….on a lunchbox.
And check out at the inside:
So this lunch box can be found on Zazzle (here’s the direct link if anyone else has a WWII battleship obsessed kid), but this lunch box is made possible because of Yubo.
Yubo makes BPA-free and Phtalate-free lunchboxes that are also dishwasher safe and recyclable (including the inserts shown above). But the really cool part? The faceplates are fully customizable. As long as you can find a picture, your child’s wildest dreams can become a lunchbox. And when your kid outgrows their obsession, new faceplates can be purchased without having to shell out for a whole new lunchbox.
Yubo also has some really cool stock designs, but I think Pax (my youngest) would get a kick out of one with his face on it. We already know what Raines is getting.
Also, if you are in a rush, Amazon prime does have some Yubo lunchboxes in stock.
Thus concludes my story of getting schooled by Raines. “GOOGLE IT MOM.” Sheesh.
Lastly, Anthro is currently offering an additional 20% off of already marked down product. The discount will be reflected in your cart at checkout. Check the sale shop (I’ll add pieces as I find them).
It's me, Cams. Some of you may know me by now, but if not…well, hello. Nice
to meet you! :). I blog over at Life in Mod– all about being a mama, styling
through all of the changes life brings, yada yada. It's a fun gig. ps. I am now
14 weeks pregnant with our 2nd…which is awesome.
She's amazing, eh? Let me just say that first and foremost. She has been such
an amazing example of strength for me these past few months. Every time I have
spoken to her within the past couple of months she has blown me away with her
positive attitude. It's like, wow…if I was in the same situation would I
handle it with such grace, patience and …even spunk? Probably not. She's a
superwoman. S, I am so happy to have met you via the blogosphere. I consider you
a dear friend (as silly as that may sound since all of our communication has
been 99% blog related). Still. I really do. You are a blessing to so many. xx.
So….Mike and I are pretty great cooks. Actually, Mike is downright amazing. HOWEVER: Should you ever come to our pad for dinner, you may leave wondering what the hell happened. More often than not, we'll be running so behind that you'll have to help. Our kitchen will be a disaster. Something will have been horribly over-salted, and there's always – always – one epic failure. (Sometimes we catch it in time to hide it from our guests…but not always.) I once served "caramel apple sundaes" (my invention) that had the consistency of snot with suspicious bits of undissolved peel. Sigh.
So imagine our surprise when we perfectly executed an on-the-fly creation: an insanely-healthy, inflammation-reducing take on chicken tacos…for over fifteen people. It was so good, no really – SO good, that even people who were decidedly anti-kale gobbled it up.
Lastly, our Holiday Style Guide has outfits for any age and stage…and might work well for a festive Valentine's Day.
What are your plans for the weekend? We're going to take the boys to see the Arden Theater's production of Cinderella. I hear it's a great twist on the classic – no poufy dresses or simple happily ever afters. We can't wait.
Oh, Mamas. Summer's lease hath all too short a date. R is in pre-school, mornings have a chill in the air, and time marches on. This was likely my very last summer with a baby. Good things are ahead, certainly, but I can't help feeling a little lost. I'd like one more beer at the end of the dock, please.
If the back-to-school routine snuck up on you…here are a few good things I found:
Raines' new backpack. The half-pack size is perfect for pre-school, the nibbler size for younger. If you are local to Philly, Nest has them in stock.
We've been using Skip Hop's Bento lunchbox and it's awesome. It's technically a bento, but simpler and less intimidating. I can still throw a sandwich in there (cut up into fourths) on busy mornings. I actually bought this set a while ago, but somehow* lost all of the lids. When I called Skip Hop for replacements, they sent me out a new set – gratis!
Also, this thermos keeps soup warm for five hours. Perfect for grabbing something out of the crock pot in the morning.
I'm so happy with the pre-school we found for R. They go outside everyday, regardless of weather (except for insanely cold temps). We have to keep a pair of rainboots at the school, so I wanted to find something cheap-ish, yet durable and cool (no crazy animals or cartoon characters, please). These plain black Tingley Stormtrack rainboots were only $14, and are awesome.
What are you up to this weekend? I think we're going to try and catch Philly's Open Air exhibit, which lets you record a voice message, and then uses robotic lights in the night sky that will react to your voice's frequency and volume. No joke. They even have an iPhone app. R will be totally geeked out (and so will we).
*Pax went through a "throw things in the trash" phase.
With the end of school and the first official day of summer just around the corner, the vibe has already relaxed around our house. But we’re left with a bit of time to fill, so H. and I have been experimenting in the kitchen during Little Lou’s post-pool naps as the baby man sits and gurgles at us. All this week—our first official, full week off from school—we’ve started and tossed a sourdough starter and whipped up some delish crème fraiche to top off H’s first (mostly) solo cake.
I read Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting a few weeks back and wanted to try the yogurt cake recipe. H. and I already love cooking together, but Bringing Up Bebe points out that baking helps kids feel a sense of accomplishment and teaches deferred gratification (the book extols the benefits of teaching children to wait and be patient). The recipe uses the yogurt cups as the main form of measurement, so babes can easily whip up the cake on their own. It was a blast to act as baker’s assistant and Huck is beyond thrilled to be taking a cake he made all by himself to our Friday play date. It’s also super yummy and I actually learned how to make crème fraiche, which is way easy and much more tasty than store-bought.
As for the book itself, I was intrigued by a lot of the ideas in Bringing Up Bebe, but in short, this is a love/hate book for me. Love the idea of getting kids to sleep through the night, teaching our kids to be more patient and independent, assimilating children into adult culture rather than the reverse, providing a strong framework and relaxing our expectations of ourselves as super-parents who always put the kids first. Hate that so much of what is possible in French parenting is perhaps less so here: it’s probably a lot easier to make yourself, your career and your relationship a priority (and stay calm!) when you have access to free childcare, five weeks of paid vacation, unlimited sick leave and an actual 40-hour work week. So, I’m struggling a bit with its relevance in American culture and whether in fact I should just move to France.
I thought the sourdough idea from Monday’s Mom Street Style might be fun, and it was, until it started smelling and I realized I’d basically taken on responsibility for yet another living thing. I can barely remember to feed the dog, let alone a fermenting lump of dough on my windowsill, so I guiltily dumped it in the trash. I’ll revisit in fall when school’s back on and the weather is cooler.
Apparently I’m obsessed with food right now, because I became absolutely giddy when I saw this on Pinterest the other day: hash browns in the waffle iron. Total. Genius.