Say Cheese!

Who has a big, bulky camera that doesn’t get used nearly enough because of its size? Yep, me too. When Oliver was born, we got a big SLR camera, I felt like we had to appropriately capture Oliver and my compact camera wasn’t going to do the trick. The new camera was great, I only used the automatic settings, so never really experienced the full effect of having all of the bells and whistles. The issue was I hated lugging it around on vacations or Halloween or the first day of school or whatever.

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Enter one of the best gadgets I’ve purchased this year, the Sony DSC-RX100 ($649), measuring in at a teensy 4 inches by 2 3/8 inches. I cannot say enough good things about this camera and everyone else seems to agree as the reviews are excellent. What prompted my purchase was our first trip to Disneyland in September. I wanted something I could throw in my purse and still take fantastic pictures/video, hence, not excited about taking my big camera. After some research and going into a few camera stores, I was convinced I needed to buy the Sony, and now I had a reason – Disneyland (as if that trip wasn’t ridiculously expensive already). This camera does it all. I love it. Again, there is much more you can do on this thing than I have the patience/care to learn, I keep it on the automatic setting and I’m good to go (although I did capture a pretty sweet panoramic shot of California Adventure). The 3x zoom is the only negative, you definitely can’t be super far away and get a good shot, but for most of my needs, it’s a winner.

Bonus for you, it’s on sale right now just about everywhere for $550 and you can upgrade to the version with Wi-Fi for an extra $100. If you’re looking for a big ticket item for Christmas and in the market for a camera, this would make a sweet gift.

I will be using this little bad boy to capture the Pi Phi Christmas party I am hosting tomorrow, so look for the post on Monday!

A Few of My Favorite (Kitchen) Things

One of the best things about getting married, aside from my adorable son of course, was the realization of my cooking tool artillery. The marriage may not have worked out, oh well, but my kitchen essentials are still getting it done, every day. As we are getting into the full swing of the holiday season and Black Friday deals are aplenty from now until Christmas, this is a fantastic time to stock up for yourself or get them for your cooking gurus as gifts/stocking stuffers. I already shared a few of my faves in last week’s gift giving post, but here are a whole bunch more!

Ten of My Fave Kitchen Essentials:

 

OXO Nonstick Tongs 9″ ($9.95) – I literally don’t know what I would do without these guys. I roast a lot of veggies, these are the best tossers around. I used these for pan frying the meatballs on Sunday. Made of stainless steel with no-scratch nylon tips that are heat resistant to 400°F. Dishwasher safe. Why you wouldn’t have some of these around, like 2 pairs, makes no sense, so just get some.

Garlic Peeler ($9) – I use a lot of garlic in my cooking. I usually double what a recipe calls for because who doesn’t like garlic? Sometimes I get lazy and don’t pull the peeler out, I cut the ends off and try to peel it off by hand, but my hands are wet, it’s really sticky, a total mess. The peeler makes a big difference. It’s amazing how easily this floppy tube peels a clove of garlic. Simply insert whole unpeeled cloves, press down firmly, and briskly roll back and forth for a few seconds, until you hear the peel snap. Love.

All-Clad Stainless-Steel Splatter Screen ($59) – Fits 10-12″ pans, dishwasher safe, handle stays cool. I have been using this much more in the past year, as I’ve been moving towards pan-frying steaks exclusively, rather than broiling. It makes a big difference with the mess factor of splattering grease all over the stove when you use this. Please do yourself a favor and pan-fry your steak, there is no better preparation.

Epicurean Utensils Chef Series Turner ($14.95) – This is what I choose to sautee any veggies or brown meat. I really like the shape, the wood, the hard edge. The lightweight yet durable wood-fiber composite won’t harbor bacteria or absorb unwanted flavors and odors. Dishwasher safe.

Le Creuset Stainless Steel Nonstick 12.5″ dia. Frypan ($159.95, on sale from $210) – I need a non-stick pan. No question. I make eggs, a lot, and using my Le Creuset braiser on All-Clad stainless is just a nightmare with the stickage/clean-up factor. Dishwasher-, broiler- and oven-safe to 500 degrees. This is my second Le Creuset Stainless Nonstick pan in 7 years, my old one just got really scratched up. I love this thing. There is no Teflon, so you’re not at risk of poisoning your family, it cleans beautifully. You gotta have a good non-stick frypan and this is a winner.

Vegetable Steamer with Feet ($11.95) – Not sexy, just super practical. I steam green beans and broccoli pretty regularly (if I’m too lazy to roast) because it’s healthy and I actually think vegetables taste good! This steamer just works. I think I got mine from my mom about 15 years ago, but it’s held up great.

Glass Nesting Bowl Set 10-Piece ($29.95) – This is essential for “mise en place.” This French term means literally, “to put in place” or “everything in its place.” The concept is: A cook should have at hand everything he or she needs to prepare and serve food in an organized and efficient manner. I like having everything prepped before I really tackle the cooking, and this set is perfect for holding everything from herbs to chopped onions and garlic!

Ramekin ($2.95) – in the spirit of the nesting bowls, I love ramekins. I also use them for “mise en place” or snacks, or small desserts! The uses are endless.

Stainless-Steel Beverage Bucket ($199) – A must have if you’re hosting a party! You can monogram this guy as well, which is always a fab option. Holds 4–6 lb. of ice and 8 bottles of wine.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Towels, set of 4 ($19.95) – Always nice to get some colorful new kitchen towels. Just freshens the kitchen up! Love getting rid of old ones and replacing with new ones every few years!

Would love to know which kitchen essentials you can’t do without and why!

Holiday Gift Giving for Normal People

Sorry for the absence! I’ve been a little…distracted…but I’m back and thanks to some inspiration from one of my fave pals and most loyal followers, Damiana Smith, I give you today’s post, Holiday Gift Giving for Normal People. I realize “normal” is a bit subjective, but I’m thinking of it in terms of not on Gwyneth Paltrow’s aspirational, out of touch, Goop gift giving list. Generally, these are gifts under $300.

Hard to believe, but the first night of Hanukkah is next week, on Thanksgiving! And Christmas is a mere four weeks away. It’s time to start thinking about who’s getting what and I hope my little list helps a bit! And please, please do me the favor of checking for coupons, there will be so many with Black Friday and holiday sales! Save yourself a little bit ‘o cash and use it towards yourself!

Nespresso Citiz
Nespresso Citiz

Nespresso Citiz Espresso Maker ($187) – All Nespresso machines are 25% off on both Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel  right now, a great time to buy. The Citiz model I purchased doesn’t come with a milk frother, this is straight Espresso/Americano, but for me, it’s perfect as I like black coffee. There are several models out there with frothers if you’re into Lattes/Cappuccino. I am very particular about my coffee and think Nespresso pods taste pretty darn fantastic! I get the purple Arpeggio pods, which are a 9 out of 10 intensity. I order the pods from Nespresso directly at $.65/pod, but they come in one day, super easy. Making a cup of coffee in one minute is just preferable to brewing a pot, especially when it tastes this good. Now that I have one, I can’t imagine not!

Bose SoundLink Speaker
Bose Mini SoundLink

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker ($199) – I reeeeeeeally want one of these guys, so take note Mom & Dad! This little bad boy goes wherever you do, no plugs, great sound, connects seamlessly via Bluetooth, and the battery plays up to 7 hours. It has 5 star reviews on Amazon. No brainer purchase for a dude or lady.

Juliet Roger Jewelry ($60 – $150) I stumbled upon local Queen Anne jewelry designer Juliet Roger about 5 years ago at a holiday bazaar. Her stuff is just gorgeous and very reasonably priced! I have two pairs of her earrings, both of the styles pictured, and I love them. And I don’t have one of her cocktail rings, but would like to! I have bought the earrings as gifts for friends/family and they’ve been a hit. Total winner.

Folle de Joie Parfum
Folle de Joie

Folle de Joie Perfume ($95)Alright, I’m giving away one of my secrets here, but this is my newest scent and I am obsessed. I have been wearing various Jo Malone scents for awhile now, so this was a really great change of pace with the layers. “The scent opens with a burst of freshness from an intimate blend of calming sweet citrus mixed and a light woodsy floral, giving way to playful hints of rich cognac. Folle De Joie’s mid notes of jasmine and rose add a feeling of summer’s carefree essence while exotic warm base notes of spicy and rich wood and leather nuances broaden the seductive scent.” Yum.

Nordstrom cashmere wrap
Nordstrom Cashmere Wrap

Nordstrom Woven Cashmere Wrap ($176) –  After losing the black cashmere pashmina my mom gave me years ago (yes, I said pashmina, does anyone have those anymore or have they just been rebranded as “wraps” now?), I purchased this in black at the Nordstrom Half Yearly sale. This one is a little weightier than a typical scarf, but I love that. It’s soft, warm, delicious, and big enough that you can also use it as a wrap if you’re wearing a dress.

Amazon Prime Subscription
Amazon Prime Subscription – 1 Year

Amazon Prime 1 Year Subscription ($79)FREE Two-Day Shipping on millions of items, no minimum order size, unlimited instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows with Prime Instant Video, a Kindle book to borrow for free each month from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Boom. Done.

Kindle Fire HDX
Kindle Fire HDX

Kindle Fire HDX 16GB with 4G ($329)If we’re talking about Amazon Prime, we might as well talk about a pretty sweet little gadget, the Kindle Fire HDX. I have a Kindle Fire from last year, mine is only Wifi, I wish it was 4G, but I love it. I use it for reading, watching movies on airplanes, and taking to dinner for Oliver’s entertainment. Great purchase, but the one catch is you have to buy/rent your movies on Amazon, either streaming through Prime or downloading via their marketplace.

Netflix GIft Subscription
Netflix GIft Subscription

Netflix 1 Year Streaming Subscription ($95) House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, thousands of other movies and TV shows (I am currently bingeing on Parenthood). Plus the added benefit of lots of great kids shows so you can keep them quiet while you make dinner or actually enjoy a glass of wine. I think $95 is actually ridiculously low for what you get. My Netflix obsession was documented in one of my first posts here.

Frye Toiletry Kit
Frye Leather Travel Kit

Frye  Logan Leather Travel Kit ($178)Spruce up your guy’s travel sitch. This is a gift he would probably never buy himself, but totally enjoy! There are lots of choices out there in various price ranges if you don’t want to spend this much.

Le Creuset Braiser
Le Creuset Braiser

Le Creuset Braiser ($290 for 5-Qt) On sale right now at Williams Sonoma, this is probably my favorite pan, rivaled by my Le Creuset Dutch Oven. Anyone who loves to cook will appreciate this! It is heavy, but I use to make sauces galore, so easy to clean! This is a staple.

Happy Shopping and I think I might do another post about stocking stuffers too, so please send any ideas!

Stick It To Me

Who has their holiday cards done already? I DO, I DO! Yep, it’s November 12th and I’m bragging, I have never gotten them done this early. They will go out promptly after Thanksgiving…yay me! I wanted to do something fun for my return addressing, since I obviously can’t be bothered to address 75 envelopes by hand. In the past, I’ve used one of those stampers that everyone seems to have now, but I’ve moved since then, so the address isn’t current. I thought it might be fun to do stickers as an inexpensive alternative, so I began my search and found the most adorable shop on Etsy, “IlovedielineStudio“. She has a ton of other stuff as well – gift tags, stationery, doilies, notepads and cards.

The price is $6 for 48 stickers, there are so many cute choices and you can customize the colors. I chose the chevron stickers in red. A low cost way to spruce up any card/invitation/note. Etsy rules. There is definitely a ton to sift through, but it’s worth it to find a little gem like these stickers!

For my holiday cards, I got them on Minted for the second year, I’m a total sucker for nice paper and ended up spending $120 for 75 cards (after a 20% off coupon). Since I’m Jewish and Oliver celebrates both Hanukkah with my family and Christmas with his dad’s family, I have adopted the “Happy Everything” card to cover all bases. Here is last year’s card from Minted, I loved them.

2012 holiday card
2012 Holiday Card – Merry, Bright & Sparkly design from Minted

I cannot believe we are already 2 weeks out from Thanksgiving. But since every commercial is already Christmas themed, ’tis the season. Well, this Jew is ready with her holiday agnostic cards! Happy Everything!