Lincoln’s been having a quite a year and today, February 12th, is his birthday. Between public muses from Obama himself to Hollywood attention and hopeful Academy honors, you could easily say that he is the hottest politician of the moment. All the more reason to nab one of these hand-crafted mugs by Justin Rothshank from Catherine’s Table. Loosely wheel thrown, it has gentle nubs and dents for your fingers; each is a one-of-a-kind. But don’t worry, Abe ain’t delicate. This mug is sturdy and meant to be used every day. A special treat at $42. Order one now for your smart sweetheart before they are sold out. And don’t worry, if politics isn’t your thing, other mugs by the artist feature authors, poets, or musician icons.
The Claim: Got some fresh milk in the fridge? Have about an hour to plan ahead before serving your next Mexican-themed meal? Why not make your own Queso fresco, with this kit from Urban Cheescraft. The Portland, OR company brings the local food wave right into your kitchen. They supply most of what you need — a plastic cheese mold, a fine cheesecloth, cooking thermometer, a bag of citric acid and cheese salt — along with easy to follow instructions. Use this kit and you’ll have delicious, salty, crumbly Queso Fresco to sprinkle on huevos rancheros.
The Situation: It’s a Friday night tradition with our friends Jenn and Gordon. One week it’s their house, the next ours. The other Friday, Jenn wisely had a crock pot full of tortilla soup brewing, and was eager to host. “I’m making cheese,” she said. I got there and discovered she was just cracking open this kit at around 5pm. Could we really start this now and have cheese done by dinner tonight? We had three kids under 5 running around, phones beeping, beers pouring. Distracted though we were, we managed to make this cheese! The hardest part was making sure we didn’t let the milk boil. It tasted yummy and was the perfect topping to the soup.
The Verdict: This cheese kit is not cheap ($30 at williams-sonoma.com). When you consider that it makes 10 7 oz. wheels of cheese, it is not too expensive, but it doesn’t really save you money either (especially when you pour in your own two gallons of milk). We have some great local stores and farmer’s markets near us where you can easily buy the stuff. Unless you really really love Queso Fresco or want to bundle it up and give them as presents or something, I think it’d take a long time to use this whole thing up. Like a year. This cheese kit is a great learning tool, but it is more a novelty than a must-have.
Still Curious: Visit urbancheesecraft.com
This Friday, December 7th marks the 50th Anniversary of Crate & Barrel, and while we don’t need any reason to swoon over their holiday catalog, they have given us a great reason to do our shopping there tomorrow. All day, the company is donating $5 from each purchase to a great charity, rebuildingtogether.org. We learned about their efforts following the post-Sandy devastation of the east coast, and are very inspired by their rebuilding campaigns. Everyone should visit the org’s site and consider making a one time holiday donation. In the meantime, if you’ve been eying any Crate & Barrel goodies, tomorrow’s the day to bite the bullet and buy! Here’s what’s on our shopping list:
1. Reindeer Tea Light Holders (in stores only), $25 each. Hand crafted in Africa, they are double-plus good. Purchasing one of these festive guys also helps create and support jobs for African women.
2. Eva Zeisel Classic Century Sauce Boat, $48. Your holiday dinner gravy will never look more beautiful than when presented in this classic serving bowl.
3. Molcajete pestle and mortar, $30. Great for hand-grinding spices and pastes, this is a kitchen gem you’ll use over and over every summer. Trust us.
4. 5-piece Beer Sampler Set, $30. Instantly turn any dinner into a beer tasting treat with this handy set. Pour a different ale or stout into each numbered glass, and have your guest take note of his favorite.
5. Bodega Bird Chalet, $70. Rustic and modern at the same time, this little birdie bodega is extra appealing.
Here’s a great gift idea that will warm someone’s heart — like your favorite teacher or helpful neighbor: Jessica Rust’s adorable Mr. Bunny set. It says “Hoppy Holidays” or you can personalize your message. He comes in a gift box along with an 11 ounce mug and a stacking 6″ square plate. Since this little guy has a touch of sparkle (via a platinum glaze) you can’t put him in the microwave or dishwasher. Treat him gently and he’ll serve you forever.
$28.50 at rustdesigns.com.
I promise we won’t be writing about the Sandy the Superstorm forever, but I can’t I’m not done yet! Last week, during our five powerless days, we literally burned through dozens of tea lights. I thought we had enough to last us for a year and poof, they’re all gone! We even pulled out our half-burned squirrel candle from last year. As we start preparing for the next natural disaster (it’s only a matter of time, right?), I’m going to order a couple of these lightbulb candles from Branch.com. They’re on sale marked down from $32 to $25. Not only would they light up a table, but they’re sure to provide a smile. Now, if only this wax transistor radio could give us a weather report, too….