Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My 5 Most Favorite Kitchen Items



If there is something I love it is seeing what people use in their kitchens. I also think if you watch anyone prepare a meal you can learn something new and implement it into your own kitchen and cooking skills.  

Cooking is a big hobby of mine and there are a few staple items I use over and over. I'm sharing them today because I think it is fun and because it might help one of you out. Also, this isn't a sponsored post in any way I'm just sharing from one friend to another. 

Oh, and this really is 7 items not 5.... I'm great at math. 

My Top 7 Favorite Kitchen Items


Yes, we can both admit these are expensive but they are worth it. I put this on my wedding registry and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law purchased it for me. However, even if I hadn't received it off my registry I still would have purchased it. They have similar ones at TJMaxx as well that are a good deal too if you don't want to dish out the money for a LeCreuset. 

This Dutch Oven is amazing and also very forgiving. You can cook on the stove with it and bake with it in the oven. You can let it simmer for hours on the stove or you can use it to bake bread. It's so versatile. 

Also, I should tell you that there was a morning that I was prepping some chicken for dinner. I thought I would cook it, turn it off, go to choir to play piano and then come back and finish dinner. Well, I was sitting at the piano in the middle of choir and it dawned on me that I had not turned off my pan! Eeeek! However, I knew the lid was on and I knew how sturdy this pan was so I just figured I'd have some blackened chicken. The chicken was indeed a piece of charcoal but our apartment didn't burn down and after some scrubbing the pan works just as well. 



Another super versatile piece is my cast iron skillet. I actually own two. The one in the picture was my Grandma's on my Dad's side. She was a famous chef in Albuquerque, NM and had her own little cafe. I'm pretty sure I inherited her love of cooking and I'm so glad I got her cast iron skillet. 

If you want a cast iron skillet you can get your own at Walmart for around $20. I think these are so fun because the more you cook with them the more they season and add flavor to your foods. You can cook steak, hamburgers, eggs, potatoes, bacon and so much more in these pans. 

You can never wash these with soap either because it strips the seasoning but my sister-in-law purchased me a chainmail scrubber and it cleans the pans amazingly. 

Side note - if you have a glass stove top read the manual to see if you can use cast iron on there. 


3. Wooden Spoons

Wooden spoons were on my wedding registry and I also purchased a few more when I was in Burma. I think these stir foods really well and they also don't scratch the bottom of your pan nor do they melt. Win! Win!

You need some wooden spoons in your life.


4. Scissors

I learned how handy scissors are when I was at someone's house and discovered that their favorite kitchen utensil was a pair of scissors. I put them to the test and agree that they are super handy!

You can use scissors to cut up chicken, veggies and a whole lot of other things. I think scissors make cutting fat off of meat much easier rather than trying to chop it with a knife.


5. Cuisinart Submersion Blender

This gadget right here was a game changer! It makes smoothies in no time and I love that it is so small. It's much easier to use this than to get out my huge heavy blender. You can also blend soups, potatoes, and drinks with this. I use this thing all the time.

Oh, and I must credit Dena for introducing this to me! Her website is full of amazingly quick and healthy meals.



This coffee maker is the pour over method and you get your coffee grinds wet and let them 'bloom'. Somehow that helps take some of the acidic taste out and leaves you with a smooth cup of coffee. 

They do slay this is a 'slow' coffee maker and by slow they mean a whole whopping 5 minutes. I have a lot to say about how our culture is focused on making everything so fast that we can't even take 5 minutes to make a pot of coffee.... however, that's not what this post is about. =) I just think living abroad gave me a different perspective on slowing down because I used to be the person that wouldn't make a coffee if it too more than 5 minutes. 



7. Spiral Gravy Whisk 

This thing makes amazing gravy and leaves no chunks. When I went to Burma Pam had one and then our friend, Linda, that came to visit was gracious enough to bring me one. That thing came all the way back to the US with me and I use it every time I make gravy. I believe it is from Pampered Chef. 


Things I don't own: 

A KitchenAid Mixer - Not only are they Goliathly gigantic but they don't mix the bottom of the bowl. It drives me nuts. I use a hand mixer and it works just fine. 

Keurig - see notes about slowing down ;) However, I have friends that have them and they are pretty fun. I've also seen a new teal one around and it is super pretty. 

Automatic Can Openers - Do I need to explain why? 

A normal coffee pot - I just have never purchased one. I don't have a good reason either. I guess I just use my Cheme and other brewing devices. 


What gadget do you have that you use all the time? 

Do you ever watch people in their kitchen and learn skills or am I the only creeper out there? ;) 

What item do you not have?  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Home Tour: The Kitchen & Dining Room



I love my kitchen!

When Dave and I were house hunting I knew a nice kitchen was a must for me. I cook a lot, it is something I'm passionate about and I wanted a place that I would love to be in. I also told Dave that I had to have a gas stove or a house that had the connections for one. I just think gas stoves cook better as you can control the heat very well and it is either 'on or off' all the way. I am not a fan of flattop stoves. I know many people are but they just aren't my thing.

I guess a white kitchen was a must for me too. I don't mind dark colors but I prefer white and bright and cheery. Half my cabinets are a deep espresso but I think it blends well and balances out the rest of the white in the kitchen. Oh, and you'll see that I have many pink kitchen gadgets. I love them a lot too. =)

This kitchen was move in ready. We didn't add to it or renovate. I'm really glad we didn't purchase a reno house because old homes, as we are learning, have a lot of work to them as is. I might have to post about that a different day.

Anyways, my kitchen is amazing and I really love it. Here's a peek into it.


The Sink Area & Glass Door Cabinets 

I have had several people ask me about these glass door cabinets: "Do you like them? Is it hard to keep your cabinets organized?" And I'll tell you what I tell them, I'm weird and my cabinets would be this organized even if they weren't glass. I love organized cabinets. However, my pantry isn't organized but my dishes and utensils and silverware have to be. I'm special like that.


The cute cherry blossom tea cups were hand painted ones I purchased in Korea. I put them up high so if kids came over they could easily access every day dishes without easily accessing my tea cups. =)


I like the modern hardware on the doors.


To the left of my sink is a pull out trash can / recycle drawer. I really like that the trash is hidden. I also have never been a person to recycle but it is only $12 a quarter so we do it. 


The stove area 


To the left of the stove were these really fun open shelves. They look a little different now as I moved my coffee stuff to a coffee cart but I still put flour, sugar, brown sugar and a few decor items on there. 

The prints are from Maria Watercolor and I highly recommend her beautiful work. I did a full post and giveaway about her shop and you can see that here.


Bar Seating Area 

To the left of the stove is a seating area where I have two white bar stools. I sit here a lot in the mornings or like now, when I'm blogging. Dave doesn't like this area because he thinks it's too cramped but that's okay. It works great for what I need and sometimes Dave will sit here with me if I really want him too. =)

The bar stools were purchased from Wayfair and I'm pretty sure I paid right around $100 for both of them. They aren't selling these exact ones anymore but they have a big selection to choose from. <-- Also, not sponsored by Wayfair at all (I wish!) but just wanted to share about their awesome products. 


The Brick Beam and Dining Room 

People always comment how they love this brick beam. I like it too, except when we had a horrendous storm and some water came through it. Aaaaaaah! #oldhouseproblems.

Our table is a hand me down. It's simple and works great for us.







Refrigerator & Pantry Area

If you are at the stove and do a 180 the refrigerator and pantry are there. The pantry is the perfect size. That little area to the left is where I put my coffee cart. I didn't have it yet when I took these pictures but I hope to do an update on that coffee cart one of these days. 





And there you have the kitchen friends! I'm really thankful for it. It's been a super fun kitchen to cook in.

If you missed any of the other house tours you can see them here:

Master Bedroom
The Living Room 
The Spanish Guest Bathroom

What's your favorite room in your house? 

What is a 'must have' in a kitchen for you? 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bean Box - Specialty Coffee Beans Delivered Right to Your Front Door


For all my coffee loving friends out there, this post is for you!

For the past few months I have seen Bean Box pop up in my FB ads. I don't normally pay much attention to those but a box of specialty coffee beans, roasted within 48 hours, from Seattle, delivered right to my front door? I was sold!

After checking out more of Bean Box's website I e-mailed them and requested a box to try out in exchange for sharing about their products with you on my blog. They were gracious enough to accept my offer so today I'm here to share with you about this awesome company and to review the coffees I tried.

For starters, Bean Box has their marketing in tip top shape. The box I received was packaged very nicely and even had some coffee bean tape on the outside. Each sample of coffee was clearly labeled, it had the roast date listed, the strength of the coffee, a description of the coffee as well as where it came from. There was an insert in the box on how to brew your coffee to give the maximum flavor. I thought that was pretty helpful.

Each sample made two pots of my 4 cup Chemex, which equals out to 8 pots of coffee. It was nice to have enough of each to try twice to get the full taste test.


I love the little beans on the right so you can tell if the beans are strong or a medium roast. Clever idea!


Here is a little recap of each coffee I tried.


Ethiopian Sidama Shiocho -  by True North

This coffee was my absolute favorite. When I brewed it I thought it looked like tea and was a bit skeptical that it wouldn't be strong enough. However, after one sip, it was some of the smoothest most balanced coffee I've ever had. I ordered two 12 oz. packages of these beans because they were just that good! I highly recommend it.


Siena Blend - by Fonte´ Coffee Roaster

This was one of the stronger blends and if you are looking for a bold coffee this is it. I had two of my friends over, both who are Moms, and they decided this was a good strong Mom coffee. I also think this would be a really good espresso blend.


 Colombia Selecto 3 - by Herkimer Coffee

As soon as I opened the package the beans just smelt amazing. I know all you coffee lovers know what I'm talking about. This coffee was rich and bold but also balanced.


 Caffe Del Sol - Caffe Vita Coffee Roasting Co.

This coffee was very balanced. It was not too weak and not too strong.


I really enjoyed trying this out and I'm pretty sure I'll be a frequent customer of Bean Box. There are several ways you can enjoy these coffees: 

- 1 Month Sample - This gives you a chance to try it out and see if it is something you would want to do on a monthly basis. 

- Monthly Subscription - You can sign up to get a monthly box. If you sign up for a year in advance you get a bigger discount and you get a discount for a six month subscription as well. The great thing about this is that you can change the preference of the coffee you want, you can skip months or cancel at any time. Lastly, if you sign up for a subscription your first box is only $9.99 when you use the code AUTUMN999

Coffee Gifts - Not a coffee drinker? That's okay because you can buy a gift for someone or even a gift certificate so they can enjoy their own Bean Box. 

-Discounts - You get a 10% credit from your total purchase from Bean Box. You can also earn a $5 credit by referring a friend and you get $1 credit per coffee you review. 

All in all I give Bean Box two thumbs up! I think it would be a great addition to your coffees and I also thin it would be a really good Christmas gift. 

You can check out Bean Box directly from their website and they on Facebook as well! 

Have you heard of Bean Box before? 

Do you sample coffees before you buy them?


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Some thoughts on the Election, The Gospel & Why I'm Voting


If you are anything like me I am sure you're stomach is in knots about the election.

It isn't just so much the election but the state that our nation is in. To come to a point where Trump or Clinton are our two main choices really are a reflection of where much of America is today. That saddens my heart.

I have had a lot of mixed emotions about this election. I've also had a post of '5 reasons why I'm voting' but after seeing and reading so many things, that got tossed to the curb. I do still plan on sharing why I am voting, though.

I don't really know how to properly get to the point of this post but to just say what has been on my heart. The thing that has resonated with me the most is what an opportune time us Christians have. I can't think of a better election where both candidates are so horrible that the best thing I can tell people is to look to one man: Jesus. That doesn't mean we don't vote. It doesn't mean we sit idly by and do nothing to fight for what is right but seriously, think how grim this season of our nation is and how beautiful the gospel is in the midst of this.

Jesus didn't talk horribly about women in a bathroom. He openly forgave a women caught in the act of adultery.

Jesus wasn't for murdering little children in the womb. He said, 'let the little children come unto me."

Jesus never hid an e-mail but He plainly gave us His truth in the Bible. He is Truth.

Jesus never promised us one thing and left us wondering if He'd actually follow through. He followed through - all the way to the cross, until it was finished and then He rose again.

Jesus probably never faked baked either but I don't have a Biblical analogy for that one. ;)

But what I'm getting at is this - we as Christians have a really big chance to rise to the occasion and to share the hope of Christ with people. Is this not a great opportunity to tell people that the best Kingdom is the one to come and that by repenting of their sins and trusting in Jesus they can be a part of that?

So my challenge to you, if you are a born again Christian, is this: pray that God would open doors for you to share the gospel during this season. And that probably won't happen over an argumentative post on FB either, just a friendly reminder to me and you. It will probably happen one-on-one as you love people and share Christ with them.

Also, please don't think I'm advocating the position of "I'm not voting because I am a Christian." I'm absolutely not. I think we as Christians have a great privilege where we can elect people. And to all my Christian friends who say they just can't vote for Trump or Clinton so they aren't voting at all- why not study the ballot and vote for local people and positions?

Here is why I'm voting this year:

Freedom to share the Gospel

I want to vote for people who will protect religious freedom. Do you know how privileged we are to able to walk into church and hear the gospel without wondering if we will be arrested? I want to protect that so that we can continue to share the gospel with as many people as we can. Also think that if you aren't able to share from the pulpit that sin is sin, how can people ever know that they need a Saviour?

Life Matters

For some reason God has brought abortion to the forefront of my heart lately. Our nation is in deep trouble for this sin and I know God is grieved. I will be voting for people who are pro-life. The thought of voting for someone who is okay with ripping body parts off of a tiny innocent human and smashing their brains in with scissors doesn't sit well with me.

Judges

The next President will appoint at least 1, if not more, Supreme Court Judges. I'm not a huge fan of Trump but the judges he has selected are pro-life. The last debate I heard, Clinton did indeed say she wanted to appoint judges that were pro-choice (pro-murder) and who we pro-gay marriage. Both of those things are wrong and putting judges in place that are for that, will greatly affect not only me and you, but our grandchildren.

Military

I'm so thankful for the military who served for me to be able to vote. People literally have died so I could freely walk into a voting place and cast my ballot. I also have a brother and sister-in-law who have sacrificed time together as well as seeing their children so I can have freedom to vote. My brother has missed 2 out of 4 of his son's birthdays so I could vote. I really appreciate that! So thanks L & A.

Freedom

After living in Burma I can't tell you how thankful I am for my freedom! Americans have it really really great and for all those boo-hooers who just think it's awful, I guarantee you someone in Burma would gladly change places with you. Voting is such a privilege and I'm so glad I have freedom to do that. I'm voting because I'm free!


Here are a few resources for you:

- If you are in Kansas and haven't registered to vote it's super easy! You can do it on-line right here. The deadline to vote is Tuesday, October 18th! If you aren't in Kansas just google 'how to vote in whatever state you are in'.

- To see the full ballots for both National and State in Kansas just go to this web address and type in your address and it will pull it up.

- This website has a list of what both Hillary and Trump stand for.


I want to encourage and remind both you and me to pray. Bathe this election in prayer. Pray for our country. The Bible in 2 Chronicles 7:14 says, " If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." That is a call to us Christians and if we want to see change, it will come from our humble prayers that touch the heart of God. 

Lastly,  come back tomorrow because I'll have a post completely different than this - it's all about coffee =)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Let's Move Kansas - A race to benefit the Carol A. Johnson International Missions Scholarship


This past weekend our family participated in the Let's Move Kansas Run. It's an annual run put on by the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians, also known as KAFP.

KAFP was the group that Carol worked with so it is neat to support the organization that she served with. Our family all signed up as the, Carl A Johnson team, in honor of Dave's Mom. Her favorite color was purple, which is why we most of us are in purple gear of some kind.

Something we are honored to share in, is that part of the benefits from this run go to the Carol A. Johnson MD Family Medicine International Mission Scholarship. This scholarship provides funding for one resident each year to go on an international medical mission trip. It's a blessing to know that Carol's passion for sharing the gospel of Christ as well as meeting physical needs for others will be continued through these residents.

The race was a 5k run as well as a 1.5 mile walk. I really wanted to run but Dave took a look at my foot and told me I would be better off walking and not impacting my foot after having the cut I had. I got my race entry switched into Dave's name and he ran a 22:30ish 5k. He wasn't happy with his time as that is slow for him and I just eye roll. I'd love to run a 22:30! ;) He didn't train due to having a cold so I am sure that he will be faster after a bit of training.

All in all it was a really great day and I'm thankful we have this opportunity to remember Dave's Mom. I'm pretty sure I'm always delayed in grieving things because this year I have missed Carol more than ever. There are questions about her time in Burma I'd like to ask her. I'd love for her to know I married her son. I'd love for her to be at holidays with us. I'm sad for myself and for my family,  but I do know these feelings are part of life when someone is no longer here. But then I think of heaven and how great she has it and I'm so so glad for her! To be with Jesus in heaven will just be amazing and I'm so glad she is there with Him.

I don't have many pictures in this post because I made another video. It's been fun to make videos. Also, I'm trying to get familiar with it so I can make one for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. =)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Colorado - Rocky Mountain National Park


Last month Dave had a 6 day break from work so we packed our bags and headed to Colorful Colorado.

Dave wanted to explore Rocky Mountain National Park as he hadn't spent a lot of time there. Long's Peak is there as well and Dave wanted to hike that.

The first night in RMNP we camped at Timber Creek. There was a scenic drive you could take to get there so we opted for that. It was not only scenic but very bumpy as the road was not paved. We stopped for a hike along the way as well as some scenic look outs.


If you notice, our campground does not have trees in it. Apparently there is some type of beetle that is infesting the trees and they are having to cut down many of the trees in the area.

This area is also known for wildlife and we were on the lookout. I spotted a big brown bear and started screaming for Dave to pull over and when he did, I got out to see, because it's always smart to run towards a bear. However, after getting a little closer I told Dave it was a big elk and then he asked me if I even knew my animals as it was a moose. ha ha!


The second day we got up early and did another scenic drive and headed to the east side of the park to Long's Peak campground. There are only 26 spots and they are on a first come first serve basis, so we headed over earlier in the morning and thankfully snagged a spot.

The scenic drive over was one of my favorites. It was peaceful and was packed full of amazing views. There was also a spot on this drive to go to the Continental Divide but we opted not to because of time.


We camped 3 nights at Long's Peak. The first day in that area Dave and I hiked together for a few short hikes. We hiked to several lakes and it was a relatively easy hike.


The following day, Dave was a trooper and woke up around 3am to climb Long's Peak. You have to get a super early start to get to the top and down before the thunderstorms roll in. Long's Peak is one of the harder 14'ers to climb so Dave went by himself for this one. Honestly, I'm just not a fast hiker like Dave so us hiking together wouldn't have been fun.

While he was hiking I built a big fire, read, drank coffee and found a shower as it had been 4-5 days since I had showered. ew!

It should also be noted that I bought a percolator and it makes some really good coffee!


I planned to climb up the trail to meet Dave on his way back down but a storm rolled in so I waited in the car. =) Dave climbed Long's Peak in about 12 hours. Apparently a big storm did roll in on the way down and he got hailed and rained on. I'm so glad I didn't climb as I would have probably loathed and cried when the hail and rain came, but I am proud of Dave for climbing.

After RMNP we went to Boulder and Denver. Denver had the Botanical Gardens, which were amazing! We also drove up to the top of Mt. Evans, which was gorgeous! I highly recommend the drive up there just be warned, there will be traffic. Also, if you are extremely afraid of heights I'd do some research before you go.


Do you spy Dave in this next picture?


Look at the traffic!


On the way back into Denver we went to the Red Rock theatre and did a trail in that area.


Also to be noted is that Dave went to IKEA with me. =) We spent about 45 minutes there and I purchased a coffee cart that I had been eyeing for a long time.

And we can't forget our iconic stop at Mt. Sunflower, the highest point in Kansas, on our way home. It had cows, flat lands, a little book where you could sign your name and lots of wind! ha ha! My hair is hilarious.


Tips 

- Buy a National Park Pass! They are $80 a year but quickly pay off. We used ours for park entries and it also covered the entrance fee up to Mt. Evans.

- Arrive at camping spots early as they fill up fast.

- Bring clothes for warm and cool weather. Also always bring rain gear in the mountains.

- Dry shampoo will save your hair if you are a girl and are camping. You're welcome!

- If you plan to do things in Denver check Groupon for deals. I wish I would have. Also, that isn't sponsored I'm just sharing some ways to save you some money.

- Want to travel to Colorado but do it savvy? Check out my full Colorado budget report for tips and tricks on how to make Colorado affordable.

Lastly, I made a video! A big thanks to Amanda for inspiring me to finally make a video of our trip. I hope to do more of these and sure wish I would have done them in Asia.


And if you have never been to Colorado I highly encourage you to go. It is such a beautiful place!

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