Five sentimental kitchen items

So, Jen only asked for the previous two “five things” posts. Once I got to thinking about it, I realized it would be fun to do another “five things” post. This one is all about things in my kitchen that I am sentimental about. Things that matter to me beyond their function, and generally make me smile every time I use them due to the associated memories.

I have to be honest. This was, by far, the hardest post to do. The last “five things” post was easy because it turns out I only had about five things in the kitchen I truly regretted, and the first post was easy because I had many daily users, but those were either the oddballs or the expensive and I don’t want to replace. This post, though? It showed me that I really have invested in my kitchen in a way I had not realized. There are so many, many items that get used in my kitchen that are both functional and trigger sentimental memories. This post, then, is just five of them. I can’t even swear it’s the top five. Instead, let it be the five that will always have a home in my kitchen, no matter how much or little they’re used.

h2. Grandma L’s Jello Molds

I’m a very lucky woman. I’m in my early 30s and almost all of my grandparents are still living. I don’t know how I compare with my peers, but I know many people are not so lucky.

For a long time, my grandmother and grandfather lived abroad, as he was in the military, so I did not see them very often as a very young kid. However, when I was about 12 or so, my grandfather retired to New Mexico, where I was growing up. They settled about six or ten miles away from my folks’ house. From that point forward, I spent a lot of time with them, often in the house my grandmother kept.

These guys were always hanging over her kitchen, all over the place. Very fun, and pretty. The lobster was always my favorite, because it just seemed so ridiculous to think about a lobster cake. Plus, the lobster is very shiny.

My grandfather died in 2006, unfortunately. Some time later, my grandmother started downsizing the stuff in her house, as she wanted to move into something smaller. At one point, she asked me what I wanted from her house, and I told her that I’d honestly always loved her copper things. Thus, I came to own these guys, plus some gorgeous pieces that don’t live in the kitchen.

I was surprised when she told me they are jello molds only – not to be used for baking. I still don’t know why. Will they melt? Seep nasty things into my cake? Simply wear out faster? I don’t know. But, though I’d looked forward to making a lobster cake, I figured I’d decorate with them and love them.

I’ve had them now for two Thanksgivings, I think. So far, I’ve tried both holidays to get a cranberry lobster on the table. No dice, as yet. I will, though. You mark my words!

h2. Great Grandma Ella’s “Holiday” Cookie Cutters

I actually did not realize these were originally my Great-Grandmother’s cookie cutters until I was an adult. My mother had them when I was growing up, and many Christmases we’d pull them out and make cookies with them. Or so I think. I don’t think it was every Christmas, and I think many Christmases all we did was make cookies – we didn’t decorate the cookies or anything of that nature.

I just remember thinking these were so pretty, and so much fun. I didn’t pay attention to the fact that baking that angel was so poorly designed that her neck would stretch or burn while trying to deal with the skirt. I didn’t question why we made a Christmas bunny, or why the holly leaf was the same size as the tree.

We also had this giant plastic “many cookies in one” tray. This one, in fact. I never liked it as much. THAT one, I could tell that things were going to burn while others still weren’t done. I also never could figure out why a giraffe was a Christmas thing. As I type this out, I think that was supposed to be a reindeer, but it still looks like a giraffe.

That red one, I don’t have. The copper ones, I do. Someday, I will learn to decorate beautiful cookies made with those cutters. (And others – but we’ll discuss the others some other time.) I accept decorating tips! The only requirement is that the frosting has to be tasty too. I have no time for pretty cookies that taste like nothing but the internal tears you’re crying at wasting calories on this fat & sugar-laden cardboard.

h2. Green Glass Pitcher from Kitengela Glass

In 2002, I traveled internationally for the first time in my life. Despite growing up in New Mexico, I had never before traveled outside of the country. Bill thinks this is strange, as his family used to go to Mexico a lot. As I tend toward doing nothing in half measures1, my first international travel was a study abroad to Kenya for a full three months.

Who does that?

As you can imagine, I learned a lot. I was utterly discombobulated for a long time. I lost a ton of weight. I made friends. I fell in love with the country. I fell in love with lions. I found patience with things that had always pissed me off, and lost patience with things that had never bothered me before. I theoretically learned how to sex a zebra (it’s harder than you think, as I recall), but I forgot. It changed my life utterly.

But, in the beginning, I was still a bit of a scared kid. I desperately wanted something familiar to hold onto, and I had almost nothing. It was pretty rough.

The day we visited Kitengela Glass, I saw an amazing amount of art and glass and functional and decorative items. And I fell in love with this pitcher. Then refused to buy it, because I was just sure it was going to be pulverized traveling home.

One of my fellow students, Erika, talked me into it. I remember her as yelling me into it, actually, but I suspect my memory is faulty. I suspect she just rolled her eyes as my chickenness and scolded me for not even being willing to try. So, I tried. And, amazingly, it’s still with me.

It doesn’t get a lot of use – there’s still that kid who is scared it’s going to get broken in me. But it gets some, and it gets more used as I get older. And it always reminded me to at least be willing to try.

h2. Rocks Glasses

These are fairly new in my life, but I love them so very much. Not only are they simple and pretty, they’re solid. They have a nice heft to them. They clean easily. And they were something of a wedding gift, so they always make me smile.

Last Christmas was our first Christmas as a married couple. Marsha, a long-time friend of Bill’s mother and a very nice lady, sent us a wedding gift around Christmas time. It was truly wonderful, and very well geared toward who Bill and I are as a couple. There was some delicious caramel corn which we devoured almost instantly. There was also some salmon jerky (who knew???), some awesome salmon rub and a gift card to a kitchen store. We were thrilled!

Now, most of that gift card went to totally mundane things like rubber spatulas and mesh strainers. However, we found these rocks glasses there, and we loved them. I was hesitant to buy them there, because often you can find good glassware at thrift stores. But we really liked them…

We ended up visiting a couple of thrift stores and finding nothing we loved as much. So Bill said, “Come on. We’ve been wanting rocks glasses, and we loved those ones. Put that one down and let’s go get the ones we really like.”

I realized he was completely right. When you really love something enough that you’ve looked at them in the store a few times, it might be time to accept it. I then also realized that Marsha would probably appreciate that we bought something truly fun with her gift card. And now, when I use them, for cocktails or mocktails, I think of meeting Marsha. I think of Bill and I picking these out together. I think of our wedding. And I am grateful to Marsha for giving us the push to get these glasses.


Ok. This thing is as silly as they come, while also being exactly perfect and totally serious about it’s capabilities.

See, Bill has this friend, Phil. I like Phil. Phil is swell. I like Phil despite the fact that he is prone to filling up my fridge with twelve 750 mL bottles of distilled coffee.

Phil not only makes distilled coffee and makes me curse his name, he makes steins out of unused, extremely thermally insulated lab ware. These things are awesome. They keep hot things hot. For hours. They keep cold things cold. For hours.

They are hefty. They are flashy. They work. And, they’re just plain FUN.

From the first moment I laid eyes on Phil’s stein website, I wanted one. Oh, MAN, I wanted one. It appealed to me as a science geek. As a beer geek. As a tea geek. Basically, on every level. But… Somehow I never did get myself one.

Bill? He’s wonderful. He knows me. So, what did he do? He got me one for my birthday last year. And, knowing me, he gave it to me as soon as the clock struck midnight, so I went to bed knowing I’d wake up and have birthday festivities with my STEIN. Good guy, that one.

I used the hell out of it for about five days. Then? Then I tripped and fell and it shattered.

And that’s when I realized the truly amazing thing about these steins. They’re surprisingly self-contained. That stein was in my purse, capped when I tripped. When I pulled it out, there wasn’t a shard of glass in my purse. I thought, at first, maybe it’d survived. No, but it kept my hands safe as I fished it out.

I doubt it’s always going to be that lucky. Because of the vacuum that makes them so thermally insulated, they can occasionally explode mightily when dropped. But that it was even possible for such a break to be self-contained? I was amazed and grateful.

So how does it still have a place in my life, if I broke it? Well, see, Phil’s a really good guy and a friend. When Bill ordered mine, Phil sent on a second one as a gift to Bill. They both agreed that I should have that second one, despite my clumsiness.

Good guys. I’d have a beer or a tea with either of them any time.

fn1. Or at least starting nothing in half measures, I’ll be honest.