April 30, 2012

10 Fun, Frivolous & Affordable Kitchen Gadgets

One of my favorite things about cooking is all the modern utensils that are available to help make every step just a little bit easier.  Some items are almost a little too frivolous nowadays.  A mango pitter?  Special knife just for cutting watermelon?  Banana slicer?

I'd like to think that my little gadget indulgences are at least a little bit practical and I'd like to share 10 of my all time favorites with you...

  1. Strawberry Huller. ($7.95)  My friend Marcia gave me one of these for my birthday and I had never used or thought that I needed one.  Wrong.  Now, with strawberries in season, it gets pulled out once a week to effortlessly pluck their little green tops off without sacrificing too much of the actual fruit. 
  2. Garlic Peeler. ($9.00) I've always silently cursed garlic for being so darn difficult to peel.  It's sticky and there are a million layers and it makes your fingers reek for days.  With this simple, silicon tube you just stick the garlic bulb inside, roll back and forth and voila!  You're done.
  3. Citrus Reamer. ($3.95)  I use lemon juice for just about everything.  On fish, chicken, vegetables or to add a little flavor to water.  A reamer is great for squeezing literally every little bit of lemon (or any citrus fruit) juice out.  
  4. Salad Dressing Mixer. ($14.95)  A dressing mixer is a must-have in every kitchen cabinet.  Just add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, some mustard, salt and pepper to stir up a simple and delicious homemade dressing.
  5. Silicone Basting Brush. ($10.00)  Use it to apply egg on pastries, BBQ sauce on chicken, olive oil on vegetables.   
  6. Cherry/Olive Pitter. ($7.95)  Okay, this one is a teeny bit indulgent but it's so, so convenient and everyone's accidentally bit down on a pit and almost chipped a tooth, right?  Simply place your pitted food item inside the little holder and press down to remove the tooth/choking hazard.
  7. Ice Cream Scooper.  ($12.95)  Just say no to using a regular spoon for scooping your ice cream.  Seriously, there's something so nostalgic and just a tad fancy about using one of these classic kitchen gadgets.  Bonus Tip:  Soak in hot water beforehand to make serving dessert even easier!
  8. Grapefruit Spoons.  ($4.00)  Grapefruits are so much more enjoyable when all you have to do is slide a little serrated spoon into each citrus wedge.  That's what she said.  I'm sorry, I couldn't help it.
  9. Bamboo Skewers.  ($6.95) Pair these with a plate of meats, cheeses, pitted olives, fruit, tea sandwiches or other mini appetizers for dainty nibbling.
  10. Egg Poach Pods.  ($9.95)  Poaching eggs is a bitch.  But not when you use these little beauties.  Boil a few inches of water in a pan and float the greased-up silicone poach pods.  Crack an egg in to each and you'll have a perfectly poached egg in only a few minutes.

April 29, 2012

Etched Coffee Container

I've been wanting to do some iteration of this project for ages and finally got around to it tonight.  Ryan and I are big coffee drinkers.  Starbucks.  7Eleven.  Coffee Bean.  And of course home brewed.  

Instead of storing our coffee in the bag that it comes in, I wanted to make something cute and counter-worthy.  Enter my glass etching project below.  To be perfectly honest, this was the single most difficult craft I've ever done.  It's really hard to get the letters etched cleanly without any smudges.  I had to use a teeny tiny paint brush to touch up these problem areas after I was done but I think it turned out nicely.  Enjoy. 

First, gather up a piece of paper with your lettering printed or traced.  Using an Xacto knife, cut out the area that you want to have imprinted and tape it on to your glass object. 

Then, grab a paint brush and some Armour Etch.  Paint on a thick layer.  Be very careful...this stuff is more or less acid.  Seriously.  After 5 minutes, rinse it off.  Depending on how successful you were with this first round of Armour Etch, you may or may not be done.  If the lettering (or pattern) is crooked, use a tiny paint brush to re-apply the etching creme in the areas you may have messed up.  

My crafty project involved etching the word coffee on the glass container below.  You could do any number of things though: initials on wine or juice glasses, a pattern on glass plates, a special date etched on a glass picture frame, etc.  

April 25, 2012

DIY Colorful Aida Fabric

I have a not so secret love of cross stitching.  The brand Aida more or less has a monopoly on the cross stitch fabric market, but their color selection is...meh.  Mostly white, beige, grey, etc...except for a handful of 14 count fabrics.  For those who don't cross stitch, 14 count is for old/blind/arthritic people who can't maneuver on fine fabric.  So I roll with the 18 count.  And sometimes I want to get cah-razy...

...so, I grabbed a box of Rit dye and made the Royal Blue fabric below.  It literally took 5 minutes to color and overnight to dry.  I'm already fantasizing about all the fun I'm going to have with this new little crafting trick. 


April 23, 2012

Aprons For The Hostess With The Mostess

I have very dear friends.  Dear friends who give me darling aprons from Anthropologie for special occasions.  In my world, this is the equivalent of giving Justin Bieber concert tickets to a 10-year-old girl.

These are such a perfect gift for anyone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen.  I love being able to toss one over my clothes, tuck items into the pockets and wipe my hands if needed.  They're almost too perfect to get dirty!  Grab one for your culinary-inclined friend for her next birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day or for the very best occasion...just because! 

You can check out Anthropologie's assortment of here to start mentally picking out your future-best-ever-gift. 

April 22, 2012

Party Game: Guess The Celebrity

Last night, it was Ryan and my turn (is that proper grammar?) to host a dinner party for for two of our favorite LA couple friends.  After all the wine and appetizers and Southern-inspired food was eaten, we considered our options for the rest of the night.  Card game?  Trivial Pursuit?  Charades?  

We settled on a game of Guess The Celebrity with a questionable lack of rules.  Basically everyone writes down a handful of celebrity names (real or fictional) and puts them in a fish bowl.  We split in to two teams and everyone had 1 minute to get their team to guess as many celebrities as they could.  The only think you couldn't say was the celebrities name.  Hilarity ensued.  

Kim Kardashian - "Big butt. Sex tape."
Christina Aguilera - "Big boobs. Reality singing show."
Paula Deen - "Eats a lot of meat. Diabetes. Food Network."
Elizabeth Smart - "Kidnapped and held in the woods. Mormon"
John Hamm - "Hot guy from Mad Men."
Katniss Everdeen - "Hot main chick in Hunger Games."
Chevy Chase - "Comedian who likes to fall down stairs."
Michael J Fox - "Has that shaky disease. Family Ties."
Sarah Jessica Parker - "Married to Ferris Bueller" 
Kate Winslet - "Titanic. Shows her boobs a lot in movies."
Michael Jackson - "Thriller. Might have touched boys."
Tom Cruise - "Might be gay. Risky Business." 
Rosie O'Donnell - "Definitely gay. Talk show host. Not Ellen."
Steadman - "Oprah's man friend."
Buster Bluth - "Pass." 
Octomom - "8 Babies! 8 Babies!"
Tim Tebow - "Jesus quarterback."

As the night went on, the celebrities got markedly weirder.

Cliff Clavin
Jo Polniaczek
Jared From Subway
Alfred E. Newman
ee cummings
Dick Cavett
Steven Seagal
Chaz Bono
Michael Bolton

I think I speak for everyone when I say we could have done this all night.  But it was 11:30 and we aren't 21.  Highly recommend as party entertainment for your next get together.  I promise you'll die laughing.

April 14, 2012

Citrus Felt Coasters

Like me, you've probably been racking your brain, reaching deep down inside yourself to answer the question:

"What would be a great craft project using felt?"

Or maybe these are just my internal monologues.  Regardless...fret not my friends, because I have the solution for you.  Thanks to everyone's new addiction, Pinterest, I have a slew of crafts in the queue for Practically Martha.  Starting with these brightly colored citrus coasters made of...FELT!

As with all crafty projects, you'll first need to gather your supplies.  You'll need:

4 citrus colored pieces of felt
(I used orange, green, yellow and pink)
1-2 cream/white pieces
Sewing pins
Needle & thread
Several glasses in a variety of sizes
A pen or marker

Using the largest of your glasses (I used a circular coaster), place it on one of the brightly colored pieces of felt, tracing along the outside.  Do this twice and cut out two circles. 

Using the medium sized glass, trace and cut out one circle from the cream/white felt. 

(I bet you can guess where I'm going with this last step)

Using the smallest glass, trace and cut out one circle from the bright colored felt. 

Grab one of the large, bright colored circles, the medium cream circle and the little citrus triangle slices you've made.  Note: you can add the look of seeds to these by folding the triangle in half and cutting out a little notch.

Pin them together like the photo below and then start stitching the slices on one by one.  This will also adhere the cream piece. 

Next, line up the other large circle as backing for your coaster.  Sew along the middle of the 'rind' of the coaster, knot and you're done!

April 7, 2012

grey. yellow. navy

I just got back from my very dear friend Erin's wedding in Seattle last weekend and am totally in love with the color palette she chose: pale grey, yellow and navy.  It was so spot-on for her classic Northwest nuptials so I grabbed a few photos of the picture perfect wedding to share with you. 

 First Row: Bridesmaid Dress; Groomsmen Pocket Square
Second Row:  Bridal Bouquet; Bridesmaid Bouquets
Third Row:  Wedding Favor;  Reception Place Card
Bottom:  The Bride & Groom

I also had the pleasure of going to my friend and neighbor Andrea's bridal shower today and you'll never guess what her wedding colors are...yup, you guessed it...

 Her sister threw her the most gorgeous, Martha Stewart-esque soiree with an abundance of lemon drop and smokey grey details.  

 First Row: Pale Yellow Cupcakes; Grey & Yellow Globe Lanterns
Second Row:  Marimekko Napkins; Shower Favor Labels
Third Row:  Lemon Themed Candy Bar
Bottom:  Close-Up Of Globe Lanterns

And, because everything is better in threes, I wanted to share my last, completely envy-inducing example of these beautiful and modern colors in action.  

I've had the good fortune of getting to know architect/design power couple John & Gregg over the past few years.  Their eye for everything beautiful can be seen in...well, just about everything they do!  Including one of their ridiculously gorgeous Santa Barbara homes...the reason I first fell in love with the grey/yellow/navy color combination and the original inspiration for this blog post.