Gift Guide 2016 with Uncommon Goods

I have been a fan of Uncommon Goods for years, I buy a lot of gifts for people from them. So when they approached me about doing a post highlighting my favorite items from the site, I jumped on it. I only work with companies that I really like, that I feel are doing something really special. Uncommon Goods is one of those companies.

I like Uncommon Goods not only because they have some of the most unique and amazing products, but because they’re also dedicated to offering products that are sustainable and environmentally friendly, and mostly handmade. And they are also a founding member of B Corporation which helps consumers understand the impact of their purchases from companies like Uncommon Goods. They also give their employees benefits and living wages. They are all-around just a great company. So, you can find wonderful and unique gifts and feel good about the purchase.

This gift guide is not just for the upcoming holiday season (but, by all means, check it out for that too) but just for gift-giving in general. And heck, you’ll probably find something you want for yourself too, I know I always do. Follow the italicized header links below to find even more gift ideas, these are simply my handpicked items, but there’s so much more to discover for yourself on the site.

So, without further ado, Beth’s 2016 Gift Guide in partnership with Uncommon Goods:

Wedding and Anniversary Gifts

Are you going to a wedding soon and have no idea what to get them? Do you know a special couple with an anniversary coming up? Take a look at some of these great gifts for couples.

Personalized Hearts Four-Across Game

connectfourgame

This is what I’m talking about with the uniqueness of this site. What a fun and unexpected gift for any couple! ($75.00)

Custom Love Is Art Kit

artkit

I love this idea! A kit for making a piece of art together. What a way to foster a couple’s connection, and let them share their creativity, and create a piece of art that is unique and is theirs. And they will always think of you when they look at their masterpiece. ($70.00)

Date Night Bucket List

datenight

For the married couples. We all know how beneficial it can be to go out on date night, and sometimes the old dinner-and-a-movie gets stale. But what else is there to do? This cute gift will provide endless inspiration for that special couple in your life. And get another one for you and your S.O. too! ($18.00)

Gifts For Her

Uncommon Goods has a ton of great gifts for that special gal in your life: moms, grandmas, wives, girlfriends. You can find something truly unique and special. Here are some of my favorites.

Elephant and Her Little Peanuts Necklace

elephant

Mother’s jewelry can feel a little dated and antiquated sometimes. But this necklace is cute and original, and brings a little whimsy to the concept. Any mother would love this necklace to represent her role as mama to her brood. ($90.00-$115.00)

Birdie Bird Feeder

birdfeeder

I just love the simplicity and the beauty of this bird feeder. A winner of a gift for the bird watcher in your life. ($40.00)

Trace Elements Bath Salts

bathsalts

A special bath time treat. Sprinkle in the bath for the healing power of trace elements. Choose from Magnesium, Zinc and Copper. ($24.00)

Tea to Go

teainfuser

I am a big tea drinker, and I love getting tea related gifts. This unique cup allows you to steep loose leaf tea on the go. Simple fill with water, shake to steep, and open from the other end to drink. For any busy tea drinker, this is a great way to get that morning cup of tea on the go. ($28.00)

Gifts for Him

Men are thought of as hard to buy for. But not so, when you can find a beautiful and unique gift. Here are some of my top picks.

Beard Pack

beardpack

Everything he needs to keep his beard and mustache lookin’ good. ($40.00)

DIY Hot Sauce Kit

hotsauce

So he can make it just the way he likes. ($45.00)

Baseball Bat Bottle Openers

batbottleopener

Uncommon Goods has a wide variety of sports-themed gifts, but this is among my favorite. A bottle opener made from an actual bat from his favorite team, you can choose his favorite team. ($115.00-$135.00)

Desktop Skee Ball

skeeball

Everyone’s favorite arcade game, downsized for desktop play. Perfect for the guy who’s stuck in a cubicle. ($35.00)

Personalized Gifts

Personalized gifts are a great way to make the gift-giving process more meaningful. Uncommon Goods has a lot of really cool items that can be personalized. Here are my favorites.

Personalized Cutting Board

cuttingboard

For your favorite couple, new or not. ($159.00-$166.75)

Custom Lake Art Cribbage Board

cribbage-board

Made personal with someone’s favorite lake, or a lake that means something special. ($59.00)

Custom Etched Growler

growler

A handsome, sleek growler, customized with your name or a message. ($85.00)

Personalized My Alphabet Letter Blanket

blanket

For the wee ones. A personalized blanket they can cozy up with anytime. ($75.00)

This is just a snapshot of some of the amazing gifts and home goods you can find on Uncommon Goods for yourself or anyone in your life. If you haven’t seen their site before, I encourage you to check it out. Happy shopping!

[I received compensation in exchange for writing this gift guide. However, although this post was sponsored, all opinions are my own.]

 

 

 

Making Your Own Bread and Other DIY Adventures

I’ve been on this major domestic kick lately, and have been trying to find ways to make certain food items at home to save money. Tops on my list included bread, jelly, yogurt, dried herbs, snack crackers, fruit snacks and cheese (specifically ricotta).

I’ve been hard at work at the bread thing. I was browsing Pinterest and stumbled on a recipe for “no knead dutch oven bread.” I made it and it turned out ok, and then I wanted to try to make it again, but obviously I didn’t “pin” it and promptly lost said recipe.

So, I did a web search and it turns out there’s a lot of different versions of this recipe. I’ve tried a WHOLE BUNCH of them, so you didn’t have to, and I’m here to tell you that this is the one. This. Is. The. One. Instructions so easy to follow that even me, a total baking incompetent, could follow them. Four measly ingredients that you always have lying around anyway.

It’s slightly time consuming, you have to remember in the morning that hey, I wanted to make bread for dinner tonight. But other than that, piece of cake. Er, bread. Whatever.

I found this recipe on a site called Girl Versus Dough. Click on the link, and make your life a whole lot more interesting.

Next, I’m going to try to perfect sandwich bread. I think it can be done. Anyone ever had luck with this? Without a bread machine, I mean. We got a bread machine as a wedding present and used it a lot those first few years, but then it sat in the cupboard and we decided to give it away at some point. I’m missing that thing all of a sudden…

What sorts of items do you make at home rather than buy pre-made? What are your biggest successes/failures?

my bread

Picky Eaters Anonymous

Mention online somewhere that your kid or kids are picky eaters, and you’ll get a whole lotta “feedback” from other moms whose kids “eat all their vegetables!”, “love peas!” and “I can’t keep enough salad around for her!” They’ll also throw in helpful tidbits about how “you’re not trying hard enough.” or “your’e not doing it right.”

I am not that mom.

I feel your pain. I understand. Let’s start a support group.

My boys both started out as amazing eaters when they were babies. AMAZING. Ate everything I offered. Even stuff I won’t touch. Green beans? Check. Peas? Check. Broccoli? You bet. But then, when they hit about two years of age, they suddenly started turning up their noses at everything. I thought for a while that Ferris was “less picky”, but I’m slowly discovering that just because he eats foods that Bowie won’t doesn’t mean there’s not a long list of foods he won’t touch too.

I was advised by our preschool director that it is our job to put the healthy foods on their plates, and whether they eat it or not is up to them. And also if you put the tiniest little portion, like teaspoon sized portion, of whatever “healthy” food it is you want to serve, but think they won’t eat, they’re a lot more likely to try it, because the portion size is so much less intimidating. And we have instituted this advice, with some success. They both definitely tried foods they wouldn’t normally have gone for, and even enjoyed some of them, broadening their eating repertoire.

But, there are still those lunches and dinners where they refuse to eat a single bite, and it’s a big argument, and then they go hungry, which I hate. But, we all learn from it and the next mealtime is often infinitely easier.

I’ve got a list for you of foods that are nutritious, or at least mildly so, and that my boys will eat, for whatever reason. For those times when you don’t want to have the argument, and you don’t want them to be hungry. You want them to eat a healthy meal, and you want them to get a full belly. I’m going to skip the obvious choices, like fresh fruit, cheese, brown rice, ketchup, you guys know all about that. These are ideas to get you (and your kids) out of your rut. So, here it is:

Beth’s Top Ten Favorite Healthy Foods for Picky Kiddos

1. Avocados. I don’t know if it’s the creaminess, the mild flavor, the fun color, what. But they gobble them up. And they are packed with fiber, iron, potassium, vitamin C, amongst other things. If your little one turns their nose up at slices or chunks, try mashing it. Weelicious has great recipes here and here. Think non-spicy, non-chunky guac. Serve with some whole wheat pitas or low salt tortilla chips.

2. Eggs. I know you have probably been on the egg train for a while. This one is kind of a no-brainer. But, I’m including it to remind you how versatile eggs are. Look beyond the scramble. Embrace the hard boiled, either whole or mashed up for egg salad (which you can mix with flax, veggie purees, chia seeds, whatever your go-to sneaky additive). Consider over-hard fried for breakfast (just the whites too, if you want to go that route). They can eat it on toast like a sandwich or chopped on top of rice or quinoa.  You can serve them baked, I have a great recipe that is just eggs, leeks and cream, baked in ramekins. So yummy even Mommy and Daddy will enjoy. I serve them for dinner! Or try a frittata, or a quiche, load them up with veggie purees. Eggs are cheap, versatile, and they’re loaded with protein. I’m telling you, eggs are your friend.

3. Since I just mentioned it, we’ll move on to quinoa. I love quinoa. It’s so easy to cook, you can replace your rice with it in almost any recipe (I love making quinoa fried “rice”, fabu) and it’s got a nice nutty flavor and great texture. My guys really like it with a bit of oil and vinegar. I cook it in chicken stock for added flavor and nutrition, and I add in little bits of veggies that they may or may not pick out, but they’re in there. Quinoa is a whole grain, a great source of iron and fiber, and a protein powerhouse.

4. Edamame. Otherwise known as soybeans. You can find them in the frozen section, in pods or out, or sometimes in the fresh produce, pre-cooked and seasoned and packaged up. They have a nice, mild, non-intimidating flavor. Some people don’t or can’t do soy, so this obviously isn’t for you. But edamame has a long list of vitamins and lots of fiber and protein, is fast and easy to cook, and is easily snackable for the park or a day at the zoo.

5. Fish. Not your average store-bought fish sticks, just fish. Real fish. Sometimes I doll it up and put a crunchy batter on it myself, but usually I can just serve it as-is with a tasty sauce, and they’re totally on board. I serve salmon with a yogurt-dill sauce or with a tasty miso sauce. I serve white fish like tilapia or cod with a yummy cumin lime butter or another yogurt sauce with herbs like mint or cilantro. Or just fish tacos with sour cream. If it’s got a nice mild flavor and you can pair it with a topping they already like, they are highly likely to eat it. Fish, especially salmon, is a great source of protein, as well as the all-important omega-3 fatty acids.

6. Trail Mix. This works because it’s full of nuts and dried fruit (if you have a nut allergy in your house, obvs. this one’s not for you), but the kids just see the M&Ms and think they’ve won. We pour a small amount for each one, maybe 1/4 cup, and the rule is they have to eat all of that before they can have more. This prevents them from picking out the chocolate and leaving the rest. Nuts and dried fruits are great sources of nutrition, and trail mix is often low-salt or no-salt (check the sodium level). We like to get the giant bags from Costco, or to just make our own.

7. Hummus. Ok, confession: Bowie won’t eat hummus. But, Ferris LOVES it. Can’t get enough. And I’ve seen plenty of my friends’ picky eaters gobble it up too. Put a big gob on the end of one of those thick pretzel sticks or on a big cracker, and watch them (maybe, hopefully) devour. Hummus consists mostly of chickpeas, which are overall just really great for you. And hummus comes in a wide variety of flavors so you can find one your kids will like. Ferris likes roasted red pepper flavor.

8. Quesadillas. I’m not talking your standard burrito-place 1/2 inch thick gob of cheese between two white flour tortillas here. I’m talking take that idea, and turn it up a notch. I like to make them with whole wheat tortillas. I spread them with a very thick layer of refried beans, beans are crazy full of fiber, and I sprinkle ground flax over the top of that. Then I sprinkle on a modest amount of shredded cheddar cheese. I serve it with a dab of sour cream (I don’t know why, but kids LOVE dipping their food into stuff), sometimes I add a little flax to the cream too. Or cumin, which has a nice authentic yet mild flavor, and is actually really nutritious itself, offering fiber, iron and even calcium. I am also a MAJOR fan of the Breakfast Quesadilla from Weelicious. Her recipe just calls for egg and cheese, but during step 3, I also add chopped spinach or kale, like really finely chopped, and just a dusting. They’ll hardly even notice it.

9. Spinach tortellini or ravioli. It’s got pasta, which they love, and inside, along with some yummy cheese, is spinach. That’s right, SPINACH. My boys tuck the tiny dumplings into their mouths like popcorn. Either they don’t notice the green stuff, or they don’t care. Either way, they’re each getting a serving of spinach in their belly. I buy spinach tortellini virtually by the case from Trader Joe’s, where a 10 ounce package of the fresh stuff (which I freeze) is only $1.99. I cook it, put a little olive oil, salt and pepper on it, and sprinkle with parmesan. It’s a lunch box staple for Bowie. It only takes me 3 minutes to cook it in the morning.

10. Sushi. Ok, hold on, don’t run away. Hear me out. I know some of you are thinking, “yeah right, I’m going to take my kid out for raw fish.” But, sushi comes in many forms. And sushi restaurants have a plethora of regular menu items that kids worship. It’s probably Bowie’s favorite meal. He likes the miso soup. Miso good for them, and he also likes the protein-filled tofu. And the onions and seaweed just go down the hatch with the broth. And of course there is edamame (see #4), which is a cheap menu item, sometimes even free. Both guys also like avocado rolls (see #1) and our local place has a tempura roll that has tempura-battered shrimp in it. So they get the nori (the seaweed on the outside) and avocado and shrimp. And I always order the tempura veggies. Yes, they’re fried, but the batter is very thin and holds less oil. Ferris will eat huge florets of broccoli and slices of zucchini and eggplant. Bowie likes the carrots and sweet potatoes. They are also different from other deep fried vegetables in that the pieces of vegetables themselves are gigantic. Most of the nutritional value is kept intact, and not cancelled out totally by the oil. And if you can get your kid to eat fish, of the cooked variety (see #5), most Japanese menus have a wide variety of fish to choose from, and lots of sauces. My boys are both sort-of fans of teriyaki salmon.

10 1/2. I don’t know why, but both of my guys like frozen peas and frozen corn. Not cooked. Just straight from freezer to plate. They don’t care for either one in cooked form, but frozen? A treat, somehow. Maybe give it a try?

This is ONLY what worked for MY kids. And if I know picky eaters (and I DO), then your picky eater’s personal list of That Which Shall Not Be Touched is probably totally different than it is with my guys. I’m also kind of a fan of the hiding-healthy-bits-in-the-yummy-stuff, but I know others don’t really like this approach, so just do what feels right, of course. I just hope this gave you at least one idea. Or half an idea. Just hope it helped.

Please let others know in the comments what your ideas are. What are your go-to healthy kiddo foods? Meal ideas, snack ideas? What’s your favorite way to add nutrition to their favorite foods?

ferris eating

 

 

Bowie Approved

[NOTE: Giveaway has ended.]

Kindergarten is different from preschool in so many, many ways. He’s gone for twice the amount of hours per day. There’s homework. He’s dog tired when he gets home. But, the biggest difference for me as Mom is: lunches. Lots and lots of lunches.

Now, we could shell out the measly $3 a day for hot lunch, but that adds up. And if they’re serving something he doesn’t care for, then there’s no guarantee he will actually eat lunch. So, at least for now, I’m packing his lunch.

It’s hard to think of different lunch box combos and ideas every single day of the week. I mean, I have read countless blogs that are heavily focused on creative non-sandwich lunch ideas for kids. And I’ve studied them and pored over them. I think I’ve gotten the gist of it.

But I can’t always have all of those foods on hand at my disposal every morning. Usually I have a couple kinds of fruit, some crackers, maybe some meats and cheeses, and dinner leftovers (provided he actually liked and deigned to eat that dinner). And I mix and match all week and then try to get something different for the following week.

Even though I’m trying my best to give him variety, he’s still got a touch of the pickies, and we don’t go through food fast enough for me to have a zillion different options on hand all the time. So, I know he’s getting a little burnt out on certain stuff.

I usually stick one of his water bottles in there with just water in it, because milk will get too warm, he can’t have the amount sugar in a juice box (it affects his behavior), and soda isn’t allowed (not that I’d even give him soda at all, but you know, not an option). So, I was so excited to discover Drazil Kids Tea.

It’s got a healthy tea blend of Hibiscus, Rose Hips, Rooibos, Pomegranate, and fruit pieces, with a touch of juice for flavor (35% less sugar than a juice box), and best of all they come in easily packable individual serving sized boxes, like boxed juice. It’s packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, has no added sugar, no artificial flavors, and is caffeine free.

Bowie is a big fan of tea, he drinks all kinds of it all the time. When he was small, he would find my cups of cold Earl Grey around the house, abandoned and/or forgotten by me, and finish them, and then ask for more! So, I knew these would be right up his alley.

I toss them in two or three days a week. I vary it so he’s always pleasantly surprised, and it adds a little bit of fun to the monotonous packed lunch. Once in a while he will even thank me after school for putting one in his lunch.

Drazil is available in markets across Northern California, and is also available on Amazon.com.

It’s a great, delicious, nutritious way to add a little variety to their day. I approve. And so does Bowie!

And one of YOU, my lucky readers, can win some Drazil Kids Tea for free! Just:

1. Leave a comment below with your favorite lunch time ideas for kids.

2. Head to Facebook and “like” the Drazil Kids Tea page.

I will pick a reader at random to receive some Drazil! (Winner will be picked after 8pm Pacific Time, September 11, 2012. Winner will be notified shortly after.)

Good luck and thank you!

 

I was compensated for this post by Drazil Kids Tea, but all opinions are my own.

On Diapers. And the Environment.

What seems like a million billion years ago now, I was pregnant and mulling over having to cover another baby bum. I was also lamenting that we had used thousands (no exaggeration on that one) of Pampers for Bowie. We try to be as green as we can in our every day lives, but we had just let this one slip. I was on the hunt for a greener solution the second time around.

After a little digging, I came across the newly founded The Honest Co. which really is a great company all-around, and the diapers are better for baby and earth than conventional ones, but still getting tossed in the trash, all 5000 of them. Was there something else? Or was I being too optimistic?

Then, I mentioned The Honest Co. in a post, just in passing, and I was approached by the EarthBaby company recently to try their diapers, which are not only fully compostable, but a delivery person comes once a week, every week, to drop off diapers and wipes and take your old diapers away with them.

I was a little skeptical at first about the whole process. I can’t remember why now, it’s all been going so smoothly. I think first and foremost I wondered if I could keep a bag of stinky diapers around my house for a whole week without it getting to me. Answer: a week goes a lot faster than you think. (Duh.) We’ve yet to encounter an odor problem.

I also wondered about the quality of the diapers. They’re meant to be composted, after all, so how sturdy could they possibly be? And to be truthful, they are slightly more delicate than the average disposable diaper. A few times, I had the tabs come off when I was struggling to fasten them to a squirmy little baby. But, once they are on, they stay on, and we haven’t had one rip while actually on the baby.

I also wondered how well they’d hold in the…stuff. If they’re made to be fully compostable, the absorbent materials must be sub-standard, right? Well, so far, not so. We haven’t had a single leak. In fact, we’ve even had issues with Ferris peeing through diapers overnight (the Honest diapers) so we got a box of conventional branded diapers made especially for overnight. The other night I forgot to put an overnight one on, and he wore an Earth Baby diaper all night, no issues, no leaks. Color me impressed.

I also didn’t want the hassles of a delivery service. Having to deal with a stranger and coordinating drop off and pick up times and blah blah blah. But with EarthBaby, you leave your diapers on your stoop the morning of your delivery day, they come by and take them and leave the new diapers and wipes. No appointments, no doorbells, nothing. And if you forget to leave your dirty ones out, you’ll still get your new ones, you just leave the dirty ones the next week.

I was also concerned about cost. I was getting this bundle deal from The Honest Co. and when I priced it all out, it seemed marginally more expensive than conventional diapers, but cheaper than most other delivery services. So I punched the numbers again for this post, and the difference was a couple of dollars per month. The two services are essentially the same price, and one service takes my dirty diapers and composts them. I think we know who comes out ahead here.

And I know some of you are thinking, well why can’t I just toss them into my green bin? The answer to that is right on their FAQ page:

Human waste composting is a very different process than curbside composting for kitchen scraps, lawn trimmings and cardboard. Please do not put soiled diapers in your city composting bin as it contaminates their composting stream.

And for the truly green among us who are composting in their backyard:

Reaching the high temperatures required to kill harmful bacteria and pathogens found in human waste is difficult and inconsistent when using common home composting techniques. To ensure that the soil produced when our products are composted is 100% safe, we only offer our diapers and wipes as part of our inclusive service whereby the products are composted in our regulated industrial composting facility.

So, there it is folks. EarthBaby in a nutshell. Great product, convenient process, friendly customer service. Unfortunately, however, they currently only deliver to homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. But that’s where many of my readers are! So I just had to spread the good word anyway.

The company has offered my readers one month of service, one pack of diapers and one pack of wipes FREE with this coupon code: VERYBLOGGY13 If you live in the Bay Area, please take advantage!

If you’re on the hunt for a great diapering solution, I highly recommend EarthBaby!

Disclaimer: I was compensated by Earth Baby with product for this post, however all opinions are my own.

Farmland Adventure

When a toddler is old enough to hold an iPad or a smart phone, and you’re about to embark on a long plane ride–you are inundated into the world of apps for kids. At first it seems silly, apps on these sophisticated devices geared just toward children. But let me tell you, these can be lifesavers on a plane. Or at the grocery store. Or at the doctor’s office. Basically whenever you need them to go against all of their natural toddler instincts, and be focused and quiet instead. They can also be good learning opportunities, if you pick good ones. And it’s always fun to find a great new kids’ app and pass the word on to all the other harried parents.

A friend and fellow San Franciscan Aleks Petrovich, who does fantastic artwork, is getting into the kids’ app game with his company Gnomie. The first app, Gnomie Farmland Adventure, has recently been released for download on iPhone, iPad and Android devices. I’m excited to help get the word out about this fun app for kids.

It’s a fun way to introduce young kids (the app is good for about ages 2 to 5) to farm animals, the sounds they make and how to say the name of each animal in several languages. And there is a music video kids can sing along to and learn more about the farm. The app is very interactive, and easy enough for kids to use on their own. There is even a feature where you can record yourself reading a story for your kids to listen to later. A very fun way to stay involved, even when handing over your iPad to keep ’em quiet.

Good, solid apps for kids that actually teach them something are harder to come by than they should be, in my opinion. But, here is one that fits the criteria. Check it out, and pass the word on! And you can also follow Gnomie on Facebook or Twitter for more info, updates and deals.

Exciting Bloggy News

I’m so excited to let you know I’m working with SocialMoms (formerly known as TwitterMoms), helping them to moderate their discussion forums for online selling tips and promotion of handmade goods by moms! I’m also working with them to choose items for their new “Shop” tab!

This is my formal invitation to all of you SocialMoms out there to join the fun on Facebook and promote your products or ask questions about online selling, or really just to hang out and connect with other online moms, there are tons of different discussions and ways to get involved.

Click here to check it out!

Beth’s Picks: Handy Kitchen Tools

A while back I started writing a post that was a list of all the kitchen tools I consider to be really important for the 5 star home chef, but that list got a bit lengthy and I didn’t know what to keep and what to cut. I like my kitchen tools. A lot. Just ask my friends, who have had to listen to me drone on about my amazing potato masher or my beloved juicer. I’ve also given short lectures on the importance of having a good steamer.

Anyway, I switched gears a bit, and I give you: a very abbreviated list of some awesome products that I tracked down on OpenSky. If you’re without these, you’re not alone, and will probably get along fine. But they sure are fun and nice to have around.

Slow Cooker

This just happens to be the one that I have (though I don’t have that “Little Dipper” deal, and I’m curious what it’s all about). I LOVE MY CROCK-POT. It is such a versatile kitchen tool, and you can make the most amazing meals and barely lift a finger. It does all the work for you, while you are going about your day. Probably my number one recommendation.

Crock-Pot 5 Quart Chrome Slow Cooker, $53

A Good Set of Whisks

They might not seem all that fancy or important, but I love my whisks. I use them for a multitude of things, including whipping up my famous lime vinaigrette. This set is particularly nice because of the silicone coating. Everything will just slide right off–so easy to clean–and they can stand up to pretty high temperatures, and won’t damage your metal cookware. Also, it’s great that they come in a variety of sizes, because sometimes you just need a tiny little whisk.

Three Piece Whisk Set, $18

A Good Set of Rubber Spatulas

Like the whisks, a set of rubber spatulas come in handy for a variety of kitchen tasks. Personally, I like to use them in place of wooden spoons when I’m frying or sauteeing, because they don’t soak up the oil. They are also the best tool there is for getting every last drop of something out of a pan or bowl. I only have two, but I should get more, I use them often and sometimes it feels like they are always in the dishwasher.

Rachel Ray 3 Piece “Spoonula” Set, $18

Prep Bowls

I have already spoken at length in a previous post about the importance of the prep bowl, so I will spare you. But they are super handy to have around, especially if you’re making something that calls for a large number of ingredients to be chopped, sliced, minced or cubed. You can have it all organized and ready to go as you cook the dish. This is a technique that I credit for completely changing how my food turns out. Really.

CaliBowl Cali Stack Nesting Bowls, $30

Handheld Citrus Juicer

This isn’t exactly the juicer that I own, but it’s very similar. And, like I said before, I’m in love. We squeeze a lot of lemons and limes in this house for a lot of stuff, from vinaigrettes to margaritas, and this tool is indispensable for us. If you came into our kitchen on any random day, chances are you’ll see it on the counter, recently used. I like it because it extracts the juice quickly and easily. You’re not grinding it on a point like the juicers that catch the juice in a dish. And you don’t need to by some fancy automatic juicer. Just slice in half, squeeze, enjoy.

Amco 8-inch Two in One Citrus Juicer/Squeezer, $27

Beth’s Picks: Holiday Gift Guide

It’s that time of year again! And there’s nothing I love more than browsing lists of gift ideas online and in magazines, to get great ideas for the people in my life. Here’s a tiny little OpenSky gift guide from me to you and yours. Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping!

Intemperantia Chocolates Mini Assorted Truffles: A delicious 9 piece sampler set of these great bit sized truffles. They come in a variety of flavors (dark, milk, white, etc.) Best of all, they are gluten free and all natural–perfect for any chocolate lover! ($15)

Custom Initial Onsies: About as personalized as it can get! You choose your color and your initial and a custom onsie is sent right to you and your baby! Great gift for new little ones in the family. They also come in long sleeved (for $1.50 extra), because it is winter after all! ($11)

Blue Sandtimer Cufflinks: For the gentleman who has everything, some cool cufflinks! A conversation starter, a classy addition to any suit and a unique gift he’ll remember forever. Chrome plated. ($25)

Marx Foods Truffle Salt: A special treat for the foodie in your life! Truffle salt can be added to foods like regular salt, but adds the earthy flavor of black truffles. A delightful treat and a special addition to your cooking. 3.5 ounces. ($26)

Groovy Peace Bronze Necklace: For the hippie in your life. Funky, fun, eclectic and sends a positive message. My high school self would be drooling over this fantastic necklace. ($75)

Three Bar Bacon Soap Set: Know someone who REALLY likes bacon? This soap would be the perfect stocking stuffer! Just be sure to tell them it’s soap before they take a bite, haha. ($18)

Picnic Time Tool Kit: A handy, compact (12.5″ x 3.5″ x 17″) and durable tool kit for anyone you think could use it, from the kid going off to college to that neighbor who is constantly borrowing your tools. ($36)

Love and Kindness 8oz Soy Candle: An all-natural, clean-burning soy candle in a reusable glass jar with 50 to 70 hours of burn time. Comes in a wide variety of scents, and supports American farmers. You really can’t go wrong with these great candles! ($12)

Food Groups: For the kiddos, a great wooden food toy set to teach them all about their food groups. Durable and non-toxic.  ($18)

Stickr Black Frame Kit: Genius idea! Frames that stick to the wall, but won’t damage it when removed! And they can be moved around over and over. Set includes Doiley 5×7”; Queen Elizabeth 8×10”; Broadway 4×6”; Gumdrops 4×6”; Gumdrops 4×4”; Grandma’s Tiara 5×7”; Grandma’s Tiara 4×6”; Doiley 4×6”. ($20)

Ultra Moisturizing Cream Gift Set: A fantastic moisturizer that I have sung the praises of previously on Very Bloggy. This gift set comes with four 2 oz. jars, in the Fresh Lemongrass, Coconut Lime, Almond Vanilla, and Vanilla Fig scents. Great gift for a friend, or stocking stuffers for lots of friends! ($40)

Cookie Treat Cuatro Gift Set: For the doggie lovers. A gift pack of four different yummy organic and all-natural dog treats, with no wheat, corn or soy. A yummy holiday treat for any pooch! ($33)