Episode #143: A Home Cooking Episode

This week, we are chatting about home cooking, our dream kitchens, and our most loved family meals. Plus, we are answering listener questions about controversial preferences and creative projects.


You can stream the episode here, on the blog, or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

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Show notes:

Emma’s most repeated meals: deli-style tuna salad, stir fry, air fried chicken wings, broiled steak, and homemade cashew chicken.

Elsie’s most repeated meals: fruit salad, something frozen with the air fryer, homemade garlic noodles, and homemade pizza.

Emma’s top UberEats: Thai or Mexican food

Elsie’s top UberEats: Nicoletto’s Pasta, Five Points Pizza, and Emmy’s Squared Pizza

Emma’s dream kitchen features: a quality hood vent, air fryer, an island with stools, closed storage, a mini-fridge for beverages, and a lot of outlets.

Elsie’s dream kitchen features: A white and gold Italian stove, wine fridge, a hood with little nooks, and a griddle on the stove.

Party throwing tips: keep things to make a cheese board in your fridge at all times and use food tents if you’re entertaining outside.

Emma’s favorite cookbooks: Everyday Dinners by Jessica Merchant and Joy the Baker’s Holiday 2021 magazine.

-We mention Episode 47: A Cooking Episode

-Watch Elsie’s organized fridge reel

-Here’s the link for Emma’s cheese knives and double air fryer

The prettiest air fryer

-Check out Elsie’s Great Northern Popcorn Machine

-How to get unstuck from a creative block: try doing something else, set a timer, and give yourself one easy win.

Check out Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

P.S. Tell us in the comments if you would install IKEA cabinets with custom fronts in your kitchen!

Miss an episode? Get caught up!

Episode 143 Transcript

Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast. This week, we’re chatting about home cooking, our dream kitchens, and our most loved family meals. We’re answering listener questions about controversial preferences and creative projects. 

Emma: Oh, yeah. 

Elsie: Okay, so I started listening to The Power of Moments this morning, which is one of our book club selections for spring. This is not the book report episode. We’ll probably do that next week or the week after, but I just wanted to tell everyone, this book is incredible. It is incredible. So I’m going to tell one story from it if that’s okay. It kind of is like blowing my mind. It’s also a really short read. The audiobook was like, I think it was like six hours long or something like that. That’s like half the size of a lot of the fiction books I read. So it’s quick, you could read it in a day or a couple of days, depending on your schedule. So Oh my God, you’re gonna love this. So The Power of Moments, it’s about how to make kind of like the things you remember. There’s so many things in life like sometimes there’s whole years where you feel like you don’t remember an individual memory but then there’s these little seasons where you remember every detail. So it’s a lot about the differences between those things, and how you can create more of that in your life. Which is especially interesting for me as a mom with little kids because they’re starting to get to the age where their core memories are something that I think about a lot. Yeah, I want to create more core memories, like what mom doesn’t want that. It’s a really exciting thing. So he told a story about this hotel in California, I think it’s called The Magic Hotel, or the magic something, the Magic Castle Hotel. Anyway, it doesn’t matter the name of it. Basically, it’s a regular looking hotel. It’s sort of a middle-grade affordable family hotel. He described it as being kind of boring, it’s painted yellow. It’s kind of cute, but it’s not like a hipster hotel with like a ton of Instagram moments. It’s like a very basic looking, if you think of a Holiday Inn, that’s what the rooms look like, just regular. They have like a couple of things they do that are really special and really weird and it makes their reviews so high and their customer satisfaction so high. The things are so at the pool, because it’s a lot of families staying at this hotel, it’s like near Disney and stuff, at the pool they have a red telephone, and it says like popsicle hotline. All you have to do is call it and someone brings popsicles out to the pool on a silver tray. It’s just so simple but so special, memorable, and cool. Then there was this other thing where like, you can call for room service, and they’ll bring you a selection of like little candies or something for free. It’s just like a fun thing. It’s something that anyone could do but I don’t know, just like a different strategy. Instead of trying to make their rooms cooler, paint more murals or get nicer things or worry about the things that one random person was complaining about, they did this special specific thing.  I’m sure it’s like significant effort to have a staff member there all the time manning this hotline, but really big payoff. So anyway, I’m just super inspired to put more things like that into my life. I kind of just wanted to give a hard sell for everyone to read this book, because I can just tell it’s like one of the big ones, like a personal development or self-help book that’s like a really special one. I want everyone to read it. Does that make you want to read it?

Emma: Oh, yeah. I mean, I was already going to but yes. Now I really want a popsicle. 

Elsie: Yes, on a silver platter. It’s like so specific. I saw a picture of it.  I looked up pictures of the hotel immediately. So I was like, is it really as bland as what he’s saying? It really was. It was just simple and plain and the popsicles were the freaking thing. Yeah.

Emma: It was the power of that moment.

Elsie: Yeah, it’s like a memory. My kids do, the things that they remember, it’s things like that, for sure.

Emma: Even just like pressing the button when they’re saying goodbye on FaceTime or just little things. It’s like the little things are special.

Elsie: It’s true. Yeah. So anyway, I’m really inspired now. Like, how can I add more of that specific little magic into our life? I’m really glad I’m reading it so early in the year because I feel like there’s still so much we can do this year. I have been kind of like, in a rut with feeling like, I want things to be more special. So yeah, it feels really good. Okay, we did like one food cooking episode so long ago and it was always Emma’s favorite. So I did this episode just for Emma, but it’s also for me, you will see, but it’s definitely like, I just wanted to do a whole episode about home cooking. I do feel like that through the pandemic years, I definitely cook at home a lot more than I used to. A result of having little kids and other reasons too, I’m sure. But my husband, it’s his main hobby. And dun dun da, I finally started designing my kitchen yesterday. So I’m so excited about it. But the thing that I’ve been putting a lot of thought into is like, there’s all these, fancy little things you can add to your kitchen design, that it’s like are seemingly so wonderful. For anyone who’s house shop, it’s like the kitchen is like the main room that you scrutinize, check the drawers and check how much you liked the appliances and like things like that. So anyway, but I feel like the thing I really want to keep at the top of my mind as we design the kitchen is how it’s going to be used. You know what I mean? Like the things that we really cook, the traditions that we always do all the time, like how can I make it more perfect for that stuff? Instead of more like perfect for Pinterest.  So that’s where I’m coming from this episode, I’m just like thinking about like what are like the little details that make it magical. I just want to talk about like cooking, what we really cook, we had a few questions about our most made meals and things like that so we’ll go through all of that. Okay, so do you have like seasons of your life? What do you think defines this like seasons of your life where you feel like you’re cooking at home all the time versus seasons of your life where you feel like you’re going out a lot more?

Emma: Yeah, I think it might have to do a little bit for me like weather and then busyness level. Then now the whole new thing is like Oscar, so Oscar goes to sleep around seven. So typically, we don’t all eat dinner together right now. It’s like he has his little fourth meal, snack time, and then once he goes down Trey and I make our dinner and all that but eventually that’s going to change. So anyway, so I think there’s kind of like, those sorts of factors but I do love cooking, though. So probably, I don’t know if it’s more than the average. I don’t know. But I definitely cook at home a lot and always have because I just enjoy it.

Elsie: Okay, so what are the things that you think make it like the, when you’re like really in your groove with home cooking, what are the things that are making it the most practical and the most joyful for you? 

Emma: For me, I think it’s my kitchen staying somewhat organized and not too cluttered. Just like my work desk, or anything else in life really, I just get kind of distracted if things are super messy. I’m not really very type A and I’m actually not the cleanest person ever, you could ask my husband and like, I could be pretty cluttery. But if there’s just too much visual clutter, I get really distracted really easily. So the kitchen staying kind of organized is a big one for me. So that and then other than that, just like having everything you need, which I feel like kind of messes with the first goal of keeping things organized. It’s like you want to, sometimes you want to buy a few random ingredients because it’s just exciting to have some things around and you might make up something random one night when you’re cooking or whatever. But then if you do too much of that all of a sudden, it’s overflowing everywhere. You’re like, uh oh. So it’s kind of this ebb and flow all the time of like, oh no, I’ve gotten way too many spices, what am I going to do? Then I’ll clean things out and then all of a sudden, I’m like, well, this is a little boring. I need some new spices. It’s just like the cycle that you kind of are always back and forth with a little bit like waves of the ocean. It’s like never really stationary, tide comes in tide goes out, that’s my spice drawer I guess.

Elsie: That’s interesting. Yeah. I agree the organizing is a big part of it. The other thing is just like freshly grocery shopping, the more consistently I’m grocery shopping. For me, there’s like a big difference between if I grocery shopped just for that day or just because we didn’t have anything or if it’s really stocked. Like after I go to Trader Joe’s is like the best my kitchen ever is because I get the freezers filled up again. We love a lot of their frozen foods. It’s just like, they just have like all the staples and I feel like when I go to the other grocery stores, I’ll be just getting things for like a day or two. Okay, I wanted to share a little bit about like sharing my organized fridge on Instagram, this is kind of funny. So a couple of weeks ago, I posted a video I did fridge organization for the first time ever. I don’t think I’ve ever had this type of organization before, where it looks pretty like a Pinterest picture.  Okay, so I’ll say the pros and cons and then I’ll say how people responded. The only con I would say is that you do need to move like you put the organizers in, the plastic bins and stuff like that, you need to move it around a lot. I don’t even know if it’s a con. It’s just something that I had to get used to is that like, it’s going to change every week a little bit because we don’t keep the exact same fridge staples every week, maybe some people do, but we don’t. So yeah, it’s gonna change a little bit. I think that’s not a big deal at all. But it kind of bugged me at first because I was trying to squeeze things into weird places. Then I was like, you know what, I actually think one shelf with no organizers is what I want. So I guess I’m just still like, getting into, finding the groove. There’s really so many pros, first of all, there was moldy stuff in there. Everyone’s fridge who’s not, I mean maybe you’re like a better human than me, but most people’s fridge is gonna have something in it that’s expired, right? Like something old in the back or whatever. 

Emma: Some jar of something and it’s always the moment you go to use it. Then you’re like, had this expired a year ago and you’re like, oh no.

Elsie: Then the other thing I felt really inspired about is that, so my husband has a huge collection, you couldn’t really tell this from the picture, how big it is, but like of Chinese, it’s not really spices, like condiments, It’s like Asian cooking condiments, and they’re mostly Chinese. It’s just like, little jars of like, paste and things like that so that all those organized together, and he can really see what he has. I was really proud of that because before it was like they were kind of all over the fridge. So yeah, getting things organized by section, honestly, like there were no cons except for that the next week, I kind of needed to reorganize it again for the new groceries. Like maybe that’s just what you get used to is that each time you get new groceries, you spruce it up again. Maybe you don’t always need the bins like you can put some of them away and bring them back out later. I guess that’s probably just a part of it that I just didn’t know. So let’s talk about people’s responses. It got so funny and a little bit weird on Instagram.  I didn’t take it personally. Yeah, I didn’t take it personally because it’s not the kind of thing that I feel like I need to take personally. But the way that I posted it, so I had made a reel of like before and after with my fridge looking bad and my fridge looking really pretty. But the way I posted it was like the first slide was a picture of the fridge and it said like, do you like organized fridges? It was like 50% yes, 50% no, or something like that or maybe it was like more nos. It was like a lot of people saying no.

Emma: I put no because I always troll you on Instagram. That’s what I do. 

Elsie: Then because of the way I presented the information with the first picture, I think a lot of people did not know that that was my fridge. Then they like sent really mean DMs about how the fridge which is really funny but actually easy to roll off because it’s like it’s just a fridge. The most thing that people say is that it’s unrealistic or people aren’t going to use this stuff or that it can’t stay that way. It was really really fun and I would recommend if you want to do like A Home Edit looking organized fridge, I would recommend the project 10 out of 10 because why not try something like that. The stakes are not high and if you don’t keep it like it doesn’t stay perfect, who cares? At least you’re like cleaning out your fridge, you need to clean it out anyway, right? Like wipe it and get rid of old stuff and you’ve done that like, so I actually do not understand why people are so heated about it. But it wasn’t amazing.

Emma: Yes, well, okay, I’ll say one more thing before we move on to dream kitchens, that has to do with like, you know, if you’re in a season of cooking and stuff. We’re kind of talking about grocery shopping and I think that kind of leads into meal planning. So here’s a little tip and I think I’ve shown this on Instagram before, but I honestly forget, every time I get a new cookbook, I immediately want to look at it because that’s what you do when you get a new book, obviously. But I take little posted tabs, and I mark all of the recipes that I want to make. So then whenever I’m making my grocery list and meal planning, especially if I’m feeling a little bit of a rut, like, oh, I make the same dinners every week, and I’m a little bored. I’ll really notice that if I start not using the groceries that I bought and ordering more takeout. And it’s like, oh, you’re bored and you’re just like kind of being wasteful now. So like, let’s change up what you’re cooking for dinner. So anyway, then I already have my cookbooks have the little tabs and it’s just faster and easier to be like, oh, okay, well, here’s three dinner ideas from this new cookbook, which one do I want to make this week or whatever. Then I’ll write down on my grocery list things that I might not have that are in the recipe. I don’t know, it’s just like a little thing and I also just love seeing them on my shelf with all the little tabs sticking out, the little post-it because it just makes me so excited for all the things that I can cook. I don’t know. It just gets me really jazzed for cooking so there you go.

Elsie: I love that.

Emma: I do with magazines too. 

Elsie: Can you say real fast what’s your most recent best cookbook?

Emma: I mean, the thing I’ve been cooking from the most recently was two things. One was like a holiday edition of Joy the Baker’s magazine. They just had a few recipes in it and I’m still making them and it’s not even holidays but I’m just into it. Then another one is called Everyday Dinners and it’s from Jessica who does House Sweet Eats and that’s her blog. As the title suggests, it’s pretty simple, but really delicious dinners that you can make during the week so they don’t take hours and hours. They’re simple but still very flavorful and good.  I have so many posted tabs of things. There’s one recipe though, in particular, in the book, it’s like a sheet pan cashew chicken. I’ve made it a bunch of times for meal trains when friends have babies. Apparently, I have a lot of friends who’ve had babies this year because I’m like, I’ve made that a lot. I’m like, oh, yeah, well, everyone had a baby this year. 

Elsie: Nice. I’m gonna try the post-it notes thing. I just got a new cookbook the other day, and I haven’t even had a chance to look at it yet. I’m going to do your tip and see if it makes me make more recipes.

Emma: That’s fun. We’re going to talk about dream kitchens. That’s what’s next. All right.

Elsie: Okay. I’m really excited on this. Like I said, I’ve been designing my dream kitchen. I can talk about it all day. But first, I wanted to ask you, besides hidden trash, everyone knows your hidden trash obsession, besides that what are your dream kitchen features? Do you have more where that came from?

Emma: Yes, I have a fairly long list. Strap in. 

Elsie: Tell us everything. I love this stuff. I love it. 

Emma: Yeah, so I’m not really like designing a kitchen at the moment so this was truly kind of just the dream for the future. So some of these are like half-baked ideas, but I’ll just go through them. So we’ve already mentioned hidden trash, no need, feel free though. Someone to make me a t-shirt that says hidden trash for life because that’s like, where I’m at.

Elsie: It sounds really bad. 

Emma: It does. It sounds terrible. It’s like skeletons in your closet or something, I don’t know. Okay, so I’m also really into quality hood of some kind. So we often broil things or cook things on very high heat, and it can get very smoky. So a quality hood is a big deal to me. In my last house, we didn’t have a hood at all and it drove me nuts. It was so annoying. So I’m just like that’s like a thing. I’ve also seen where if you have a layout where a hood just isn’t going to work, Elise, our third sister, had one in her current home, where it kind of like pops up out of the counter, you press a button.

Elsie: I think it’s called a downdraft maybe.

Emma: It can kind of suck the smoke or whatever, cooking fumes, and then you can press a button, it goes back down into your counter. I think that would be a pretty cool option too. Okay, so also here is a controversial opinion and I’d love to hear what other people think. So I have had an electric range before so like stovetop cooking electric. I’ve also had gas where there’s more of a flame like the gas turns on, and then it ignites a little flame. Gas is like what everyone says is nicer and better and I just don’t like it as much.

Elsie: I think it’s better.

Emma: I like electric. We might go back to that someday and it’s weird because it doesn’t look as cute.

Elsie: What are the specific things that you like better about it?

Emma: I feel like it heats water if you’re like going to be cooking pasta or anything where you need to boil water, I feel like it heats it much faster. It would heat things more evenly because I’ve noticed like our pots and pans, they get so hot, and like whatever’s in them is still not that hot. I have to use like a potholder to grab the handle of the pot and I didn’t use to have to do that with an electric and the contents would still be warm. So maybe it’s our range, I don’t know. But we might go back to electric one day, I don’t know. I don’t really love the look of it as much and it’s not as easy or I don’t love cleaning them as much. It’s not as cute at all as a gas range. Then also we use our air fryer so much. I talked about my air fryer. I just wrote a post about favorite air fryer foods and I did this like Instagram real recently. So I feel like I’ve talked too much about my air fryer already but I’m like Emma, don’t go too deep, don’t go down the fryer rabbit hole. We use our air fryer every single week, multiple times a week, and it’s one of those appliances that kind of sits out on the counter all the time because we use it so often and ours is awesome. It works so great. It has two bays, but it’s not the cutest thing. It’s not like my favorite looking things sitting out on the counter.

Elsie: Have you seen the Drew Barrymore one? 

Emma: Yes. But it’s not a double, but it’s so cute. 

Elsie: There’s a double 

Emma: Oh, she has a double. 

Elsie: There is a double. 

Emma: Okay, I’m interested. 

Elsie: I’m contemplating getting it. It’s the beautiful brand so we’ll link it in the show notes. It comes in a lot of colors. I know they have like a grayish, a grayish and a green. We’ve used our air fryer to death as well. I would say we probably use it every day. I’ve recently been thinking about since you are such a big fan of the double I was thinking about an upgrade.

Emma: I love the double so much. Yeah, so that’s sort of my complaint with it and I’ve considered getting a range that like has an air fryer in it. I would love to test it first. I don’t feel sold that it’s going to be the same as a small appliance that you plugin.

Elsie: I don’t understand. 

Emma: Yeah, that’s where I’m at is I’m like, if this is good, then I would love it because it means less clutter on the countertops, but I just don’t believe it is. I don’t see how it could be so I don’t feel sold on it but I’m interested. So let’s remember that. Also, I would love to have an island one day, with stools on one side. So we used to have a peninsula, which was great but I noticed that anytime I would have a large group of friends over the peninsula just makes it where you can’t circulate. People would kind of get trapped in one area or the other. 

Elsie: Islands are definitely better. I had one of those as well. I think islands are the way. 

Emma: Yes, and it doesn’t work for every layout in every house, obviously. I couldn’t put an island in my current home so this is just on the dream list. So I would love an island one day, and I would love a little more closed storage. Then I also would really love, so one thing that we don’t have any more than we used to have that I miss, is a little fridge. We had a little fridge that was built into our cabinets, we basically replaced a trash compactor that we weren’t going to use, we put a mini-fridge in there. That was where we would put all of our Lacroix or Bubbly or whatever all of those cans. Then I would usually have like one or two bottles of like white wine. So it was just like I always had chilled white wine. If someone ended up coming over something like that, then I already had it in the fridge. I kind of miss it because our fridge, a huge part of our fridge is taken up by all these cans. So I would almost love to have a small fridge that’s kind of just for beverages that maybe also has a nice icemaker. 

Elsie: Hell yeah. 

Emma: So that and then I think that’s basically it. Yeah, I already said more closed storage, just so not everything has to be perfect all of the time. But it’s nice to organize things and I do but it’s just nice to have a bit of close storage. Just for like appliances or like random little things that you’re like, oh yeah, I want a waffle iron but I don’t really want to see it all the time, just like stuff like that.

Elsie: True. Yeah, I don’t use my waffle iron hardly at all, like not even once a month. So I would know when it’s sitting out where I could see it.

Emma: Yeah, or like on a shelf where you can see it all the time where it’s like, I don’t forget that I have that so I don’t need to see it all the time. I like to be able to see things that I might forget. So yeah, but not so much that waffle iron or small things like a popcorn maker. 

Elsie: That was a really good list. I really liked it. I’m gonna use some of those ideas because I like to steal your ideas.

Emma: Do it. 

Elsie: It’s one of my traits. 

Emma: Also, lots of outlets. Lots of outlets, put an outlet everywhere so you can plug things in.

Elsie: That’s a good idea. Okay, so I have just started designing my kitchen. So okay, my biggest hang-ups I’ll talk about my little challenges and then I’ll talk about my dream stuff, but my hang-up is two things. First of all, I feel like we have a decent budget for our kitchen but it’s not an unlimited budget, and prices where we live have gotten so expensive. So I do need to do like a splurge and save situation like I need to pick where the upgrades are and where we’re saving. I think that I want the splurge to be on the appliances, so I’ve been researching lower-end cabinets. Also, that’s the main thing, I guess I definitely probably won’t do super expensive floor tile, I’ll stay reasonable in like so many areas. But yeah, I want to hear what everyone thinks about this situation. If your house, like our house for the value of it in the area and stuff like it should be aspiring to be at least like a luxury kitchen. So is it okay to do the Ikea cabinet thing with the custom fronts in a kitchen like that? That’s what I want to hear people’s opinion on because I’m kind of thinking about it and I don’t think I would think that that was like a downgrade. But I know a lot of cabinets are custom. We’ve just built some of those in other parts of our house so like, I know how that is. I understand why they’re valuable. But I need to find a place that doesn’t matter as much to cut some costs. So like, is that okay, what do you think?

Emma: I mean, I think so. So two thoughts is one I bet you if you’re worried about resale one day, I bet you there’s a lot of people who can’t tell the difference. I think there’s definitely people who can but I think there’s also a lot of buyers who wouldn’t know, they would have no idea. So not that you’re trying to fool them but I just mean, I don’t know if everyone really notices that. But also, on the other hand, I kind of recognize like, I’m not a high-end person. So sometimes it’s easy for me to think like, oh yeah, no one will care about that when like actually, people might, but I just don’t have that perspective because I’m just not a luxury person. Not that I don’t aspire but that’s just not like how I grew up, or how I think about the I don’t know. 

Elsie: I guess the better question is like, do you think it’s more important to have custom cabinets, or do you think it’s more important to have fancy appliances? 

Emma: Fancy appliances. 

Elsie: Okay, that’s what I think. I think that that’s, that’s what it’s coming down to. Obviously, if I can do both, I will, but probably, maybe that won’t happen. My other main thing that I am coming up against is, I know that I don’t want to do an all white kitchen. But I also know that I don’t want to have a busy like, I know that I don’t want a pattern. I know I don’t want different colors of cabinets, probably. But I would think about like a combination of white and wood or paint and wood. So I guess my next challenge is is wood a color? You know what I mean? Like, if I do like a white kitchen with a lot of wood, does that count as like not a white kitchen, or do I need to do something that’s a little more colorful? I don’t think I would do like a bold color but I would do a subtle color. I’ve been thinking about that like that. Those are my big hang-ups, which are like very big picture things. But I feel like I know what I want for the details but I don’t know what I want for the big things, which is confusing.

Emma: Yeah, that’s interesting.

Elsie: Okay, so send me a message and tell me what you think if you have strong opinions about that kind of thing I’m very curious to hear. So as far as like dream kitchen special things, I really want like one of those beautiful Italian stoves. That is like white and gold. That’s like my dream stove. So I don’t know if I’ll do that one or more like well-known brand, maybe. I’m between that. I definitely agree with you like a wine fridge is the best idea ever. Our beverage fridge is one of the things about our kitchen that’s like number one best and most used and useful. It’s like a crowd pleaser when people come over everyone just loves that there’s like so many things to choose from so that’s fun. I would never be able to keep that many beverages in our house without it. So I agree with you about the hood. I want a hood with the little nooks where you can hide the oil to the sides, like you look inside of it into the sides there’s little shells. I really liked that idea and I think that our oil right now is like up in cabinets. It’s like we use it so much that it just makes more sense for it to be right there by the stove. The other thing I’ve been thinking about is my husband, he cooks probably more than me. I would say bake a lot more and he cooks a lot more and he really likes the griddle things on stoves, when there’s like a panel in the middle where you can make like pancakes and you can do like tortilla shells and things like that. He really likes that. So I think we’ll definitely find an appliance that has that option. But yeah, I’m so excited about it. But I mainly just want it to be like the most Christmas cookie-making kitchen of all time like the memories are so much more meaningful to me right now. I like the idea of making a fancy kitchen but in some ways, I like don’t care. You know what I mean?

Emma: I’m the same. I’m just like, I just want it to be really useful because it really is where you hang out a lot.

Elsie: So next question.

Emma: Do you have any go-to party throwing tips?

Elsie: Hell yeah. So I pretty much try to keep stuff in my fridge to make a cheese board all the time. That’s just what I do now because I feel like we can always use it before it expires. Sometimes we just make them on a Sunday, like as our dinner.

Emma: Exactly in my notes is like that and then coming up on the outline is like your ultimate at home date night or at home family night and I’m like, use up the cheese board stuff if nobody’s come over.

Elsie: It’s the thing. Yeah, like so many times in the past, someone would come over unexpectedly and I felt like I didn’t have anything. I feel like now with my cheese, there’s like a cheese drawer in our fridge, with the cheese drawer. Then, of course, we always have crackers and then the drink fridge, I feel like we could have a party any time which is the best feeling ever. It’s not really wasting anything because we always do eat the cheese just like ourselves. Y

Emma: Us too. Yeah, well, like make a cheese board for dinner with whatever else we have around or whatever. It’s awesome. Yeah. I don’t know about you but like growing up, I remember certain people’s parents, like certain people’s moms or dads who always seem to have baller snacks when you would go over. 

Elsie: I remember that too. 

Emma: I always thought they were like, cool and fancy. I was like, wow, they just have this stuff. That’s so like, whoa, I don’t know, like you’re a kid and you’re impressed by anything, I guess. But now I’m like, all right, here’s my chance to be that mom.

Elsie: It is your chance. Yeah, it’s all of our chances. I love that. 

Emma: Oh, and I had to mention, I recently bought some new cheese knives from Etsy. I’ll link them in the show notes. But I want to describe them a little bit. So they’re made of wood and it was like a set of, I think six or seven. They look like knives, except for one of them looks like a tiny ax, and like I said they’re made of wood. They’re great for cheese. Like we’ve used them a bunch of times already. But also they’re not actually sharp. 

Elsie: Yeah, that’s definitely one of my cheese board tips is basically like, if you need a knife like just cut it ahead of time. Just cut it up and put it on there. Don’t leave a tiny, tiny little metal knife for people to cut a block of chatter with because then they just won’t use it. The soft cheeses will get eaten and the other one won’t which is like not cool. So, yeah, cheese tips. Okay. To be honest, we have not had a ton of parties, yet. We moved during COVID. I am looking forward to having more in the future. But most of our parties so far have been pool parties because of having a pool. Also just like lots of friends with kids and also that’s just like what makes people want to come to our house for that. If you have a pool or if you just want to have like an outdoor porch party, there are a couple of things. The first one is so there’s these little like food tents. Have you ever bought one of these like food tents? 

Emma: No. 

Elsie: Okay, so it looks like, it looks like a little tent. I’ll link it in the show notes. So it’s just like a little mesh thing. So if you make a cheese board or something or a veggie tray and you take it outside, you can put this little tent over it and no flies will be able to touch it. It can be out there for like an hour because it’s gross to leave snack food outside for a long time and then eat it. Those are like the best thing ever. I would definitely recommend them. 

Emma: That’s cute. 

Elsie: But yeah, I am so excited to throw parties again. I do feel like it’s like too late to have a housewarming party. But I also feel like maybe we should still have one because most of my friends haven’t been over here yet.

Emma: I don’t see why it’s too late. I also think each time you get a major renovation done even if it was like just your bathroom, maybe you should just have a reveal party. Just go ahead and do it. Why not? 

Elsie: That’s cute. Yeah, that’s what I need to do.  Okay, so the next one is this question is actually asked so much and I don’t think we’ve answered it, but are just like most repeated meals like week in the life, what do you cook at home like on an average week?

Emma: Yes. So I have five things. One of them’s a lunch, but then four are dinners. So the lunch thing is I make this like deli-style tuna salad and I’ll just eat that with like crackers, or even carrot sticks or whatever for like days. It’s just like, once you make it, it’s just in your fridge so it’s like you can have really fast because that’s kind of my thing. Unless I’m eating lunch with a friend or something, I just want to eat a really fast lunch because I’m just like trying to get all my work done or maybe I’ll have time to go on a walk then or whatever. I’m just never like, oh, I want to sit down and have an hour-long lunch break just to myself like I just don’t feel that way. Unless I’m meeting with someone, I’m just wanting to do something fast. So that’s like something I make fairly often making it this week again, so that. Then here are four dinners that are on heavy, heavy rotation, like we have these almost every week we have all four of these almost. Some kind of stir fry because as everyone knows, or if you don’t, I have a dream of making a TV show someday called So You Think You Can Stir Fry? Not really. But I do love stir fry so you can like throw anything together to great one for like leftovers. You can also stir fry with noodles or with rice. I have a whole post that’s like building the perfect stir fry and I can link that up. It has kind of a fake food pyramid that I made for it just to visualize the whole thing. Anyway, so love stir fry. We also do air-fried chicken wings all the time and we do broiled steak, which both of these I have blog posts for I can link them. Those are two things especially the steak, that’s a dinner that Trey makes always because I’m not in charge of the steaks because I mess them up. But chicken wings, either one of us will do that, and stir fry either one of us will do that. Then also about once a week I make some kind of homemade cashew chicken, which I have a cashew chicken sauce post in our archives on the blog. But I don’t usually bread the chicken. Here in Springfield, Missouri, there’s like very breaded cashew chicken and it’s delicious. Let me just say that. But that’s not the version I do for home because it’s just like a deep-fried thing and I don’t really do deep frying at home, because just too smelly. But yeah, so this is like baked chicken that’s usually not even breaded, but it does have some kind of cashew chicken type sauce and then rice. I like to put real cashews in there and things like that. So yeah, when we got married, we were both basically vegetarians, and now all our meals are like meat, meat meat. Who knows, life’s weird, life’s long.

Elsie: Life is weird. Yeah. I actually think I don’t cook that much meat as you do. That’s interesting. So a couple of weeks ago when I did that organization thing, I bought a ton of fruit. It was more than usual but it was like the first day of spring break. I was like, I’m just curious if we can eat all this fruit and we did. It was amazing except for like a little bit of lemons and limes. We ate all of it. So it made me realize that just having more fruit around is like, it’s the best snacks for our kids having it like low down at the bottom where they can reach it is good. They both like different things. So we’ve had a lot of fruit salads lately, and I think I’m going to try making a recipe reel about this, but we’ve been making this fruit salad with mint leaves like cut-up real tiny, and it’s super good. It’s way better than regular fruit salad. So anyway, that is a great meal because you can have it for any meal. My kids just are loving their fruit. Then our second heavy rotation is something frozen with the air fryer. So we cook a ton of dumplings, like frozen dumplings. A lot of the time from Trader Joe’s. I specifically really like the cilantro ones. I know Cilantro is a controversial thing. I also liked the chicken ones, and my kids really liked the fried rice from there so we cook that a lot. It’s just easy and simple and just like our go-to. Then the thing that I make the most that sort of from scratch is homemade garlic noodles. So it’s basically just butter noodles with a lot of garlic and super good and my kids love it and I love it. Anytime that we don’t have like stuff to cook with, we usually have all of the ingredients for that still so it’s just nice.

Emma: Yep, that’s my I’m out of groceries meal.

Elsie: Yeah, I love making pasta. My kids really like pasta so that’s helpful. Then the thing that we make that special and like, I don’t know, like cute right now is pizza, homemade pizza. So we make that a lot. My husband is learning his like still testing like crust recipes and things like that, or dough recipes. We’re still trying toppings and sort of like trying to master the woodfired pizza experience so that’s been really, really fun. It’s something we usually do on Friday nights and it’s like a way to like kick off the weekend and brings a lot of joy.

Emma: Yeah, I’ve been over for the pizza before and it is awesome. The last one was before we get to listener questions from Instagram was about ultimate night at home and a date night in kind of thing or like family night so you did kind of just mention the pizza. We also kind of talked about cheese board and how if nobody comes over, then that’s like, well, we get to have a cheeseboard. So that whole thing. I kind of wanted to add to this, basically, what are your favorite Uber Eats? What are your takeout or delivery number ones like what are the top two or three?

Elsie: So our favorite Uber Eats we have three and if you live anywhere in the Nashville area, you probably have at least some of these. We love Nicoletto’s Pasta, Five Points Pizza, and Emmy’s squared Pizza, which they also have like an amazing salad. So those are probably like most go to UberEATS. What are yours?

Emma: Yeah, anytime I’m in Nashville, I’m like, can we get Nicoletto’s.

Elsie: Nicolette’s Pasta is like my number one most nostalgic, like carry out.

Emma: So we have a few places that we can walk to and so we will like do that a lot. There’s a taco place we go to a lot and there’s a place that does like rice bowls. So we’ll do that a lot. But as far as what I order Uber Eats I kind of have my top two my favorite two which Trey has different favorites. My favorite two is Thai. I love Thai food so much and it’s not something that I cook very often. So Thai food and then I also love Mexican food, which again, no real reason but like I just don’t usually cook that very often. I also think of it as definitely kind of a little bit like just indulgent because it’s usually like a ton of chips and cheese like that’s basically what I’m after is the chips and cheese. 

Elsie: Okay, so for date night in or just like, for me, it’s like the ultimate like weekend night when we’re tired pretty much. I’ve been doing this a lot lately is we make our like, we have our popcorn machine and I wrote a whole blog post about it recently so I’m gonna link to that in the show notes.

Emma: It’s awesome.

Elsie: So first of all, we had it for like five years in our old house, but it was like in our basement in the closet and we probably used it one time in that house. In this house, we use it at least once a month. So I will say like, buy a little bar cart and put it on there and keep it if there’s any way you can do this, keep it in like your TV room, where it’s just always there. It just gets so much more use that way. I can’t believe the difference. Okay, so we have some listener questions. So okay, these are both from Instagram. The first one this is such a random question, but I kind of thought it was fun. What is a popular TV show that you’re just not into like everyone else has watched it? It feels like the whole world is watching except for you.

Emma: Yeah, I feel like my answer is like everything because we just don’t like lately we just don’t really watch TV shows. We watch a lot of random YouTube videos but the one thing I did want to mention though, was did you watch Bridgerton Season Two yet? 

Elsie: No. 

Emma: Okay, well, I watched it. I love Bridgerton, love season one so much. I really liked season two. I love all the actors, love all the sets, costume design, it’s beautiful, just like season one, but it just basically just say it wasn’t horny enough for me. I didn’t think so. It wasn’t quite like season one.

Elsie: Okay, so my show that everyone in the world watches except for me, I guess I have two the first one’s Ted Lasso. I just feel like everyone is like gonna throw a tomato at me but we just didn’t watch it and it wasn’t because I thought it was too cheesy because I love cheesy stuff. I just didn’t like it just didn’t connect with me. Sometimes something just like doesn’t hit you and you don’t know why. That’s all it is, I don’t know why. I just didn’t. I don’t know. Okay, so the next question, it’s a creative one. I love this. It’s a good one to end on. How do you get unstuck from a creative block, for example, painting? Creative blocks are like a big topic, we always get a lot of questions about them. My creative blocks are like, it’s all or nothing like I’ve had it before. But when I had it, it was so bad. I don’t usually get small ones, though. What about you?

Emma: I feel like minor more like, I’m either in the habit of something or I’m not, it’s more like that or I’m at the stage of a project where I’m really overthinking it or scared that it sucks, or that kind of thing, too. Anyway, so I had two things for this, and they’re pretty different from each other. Okay, so one is to just try something completely different. So like, if you’re painting and you’re feeling creatively blocked, do something else, try writing try something with clay, like whatever, like just something completely different. For me, what this does is it takes the pressure off. It also like forces my brain back into this creative zone but without feeling like I’m doing the thing that I’m for whatever reason getting blocked on, if that makes any sense. So it’s kind of like a little trick, I guess. So that and then the other thing is to set a timer or you can just look at your clock, whatever. Just kind of tell yourself, like however much I get done in this 30 minutes, I’m happy with that. For me, anyway, I’m putting a lot of pressure on getting far with the painting or the writing or whatever it is that I’m doing. So sometimes I need to kind of be like, you know what for 30 minutes or one hour, I’m going to whatever I get done, I’ll be happy with it. If I write two sentences in this hour, I’ll be happy with that I just have to do something. This is all I’m allowed to do for the next 30 minutes or an hour. I’m not going to scroll. I’m not going to go clean my dishes. This is it. I’m doing this right now. It just kind of like, I don’t know, in a way like it’s like a little kid in the backseat of the car where you’re like you’ve lost all your toys, except for one, and all of a sudden you’re like, well, I’m going to find lots of different ways to play with this. It just kind of forces you into this little corner. I think that can kind of bring about I don’t know like if anything, you’re maybe gonna get just a little bit bored, and then you’ll have to create something. So yeah, those are my two tips.

Elsie: Yeah, I think that those are really good tips. So the only thing I have to add to that is like for me f I have a block it’s a bad one. Like where I don’t want to think about the thing, I don’t want to do it, I will do anything to avoid it. It’s kind of pretty all or nothing. So if you have that type of personality, this is the best thing that I think can work, it’s kind of the same thing. It’s like a baby step is to give yourself one easy win that you know you can finish. For me, like how I know I’m in a block is that I keep starting over, and I can’t do any, like, I can’t finish anything, I’m just always unhappy with it and keep starting over. Which is like a lot of people have that like before they’ll put their work out into the world, they just feel like it’s not good enough, oh, I need to redo it, or I need to take a class, just like excuses. It becomes like a milestone or a hurdle that you can’t overcome. So, yeah, I think just giving yourself anything that you can finish in a day, and just like finish it and whatever the thing is for you like if posting it or putting it out into the world in some ways is helpful, then definitely do that. If it’s more just like showing it to a loved one, or whatever. I think every creative project is different. But I think having you’re having a little action item to just like boost your self-esteem is probably like the best thing. For like the 50th time I do have to say the Stephen King writing book, so good. It’s called on writing. I just want everyone to read it no matter what kind of creative work you do but he talks about writer’s block and stuff. I think that sometimes you just have to make yourself get back in your right place. Prove to yourself that you’re not lost. 

Emma :So thanks so much for listening and indulging us as we talk about food, talk about dream kitchens and all of that. If you’d like to suggest topics for future episodes, you can write us at podcast@beautifulness.com and we’d love love love it whenever you share our podcasts on Instagram or with your friends. If you just don’t anyone who you think my life the show, it means a lot if you share it and we do see it especially if you tag us so thank you in advance. Bye.

Elsie: Bye

Read More
  • Cabinets vs appliances? IMO splurge on a nice range but the rest won’t last. Get better than IKEA cabinet boxes. I love an IKEA kitchen but they don’t hold up great to daily use and kids! And what a nightmare to replace in 5 years! Much easier to replace/upgrade appliances! Loved this episode!!!

  • OMG, the Magic Castle Hotel is SO FUN! We stayed there with my 12 and 5 year olds a few months ago on a trip to Harry Potter World. My kids (and husband) now compare all hotels to Magic Castle! The popsicle hotline is so stinking cute! The best part…. they have a soft serve ice cream machine and you can make yourself a cone pretty much 24/7! I think we ate our weight in ice cream and chips HAHA! They will never forget that place ! LOL Highly recommend to any family!

    Now on the kitchen front… At first I thought, you should spend on the cabinets. Appliances are replaceable but cabinets are forever! I do think Ikea cabinets with custom fronts are lovely though! Those Ikea cabinets have all the fun drawers and storage solutions. I would 100% buy a house with well done Ikea cabinets.

  • Hey – just listened to the episode last night, and I agree with other commenters, go with better/custom cabinets. I’ve personally installed 3+ Ikea kitchens (I love them and would most likely do them forever) BUT I think you are in a more expensive market and your kitchen budget will be more (I’m going to guess 80k+). Honestly, you do not need to splurge on ALL your appliances, but if you are picturing a statement stove (and/or fridge, whatever it is), I’d prioritize that and do cheaper/more budget-friendly on the other appliances. Trust me, you can always replace/upgrade an appliance if you want to in the future… but not all the cabinets. Good luck!

  • Emma, I think I also prefer electric stoves and I’m glad to hear you say it too. We recently moved from a house with a fancy kitchen/gas stove to house with a basic kitchen/electric stove. Water heats up so much faster on the electric stove. I don’t notice any difference in the end result (food tastes the same). There are also some environmental downsides to using gas, which are mitigated by using electric. The only thing I dislike about the electric stove is that the coils don’t sit exactly flush with the cooking surface, so small pots and pans tilt slightly to the side. Overall, even if we decide to make this kitchen fancy one day, I’m planning to stick with electric!

  • Loved listening to this one. I love looking through cookbooks like magazines! Here is my thing: I just don’t get what you all mean by “season” of cooking a lot or not? If you don’t cook dinner, what do you eat? I mean, I cook pretty much every night and have been since my kids were born (oldest is 22). I may not cook if we are invited to another house for dinner and we do get pizza or other take out once every few months (we upped it during the pandemic to try to support our towns restaurants), and we eat out when we are travelingWhen you are not cooking, are you just getting take out? I could never really justify the cost of that when pasta with either pesto, red sauce or butter/oil and cheese takes less than 15 min and is actually easier than dealing with take out! ( I am frugal by nature and live right outside of Boston, so a very High Cost of Living area).

    • I go through “seasons” of cooking, so I found that relatable. During the cooking seasons I’ll be into trying new recipes, meal planning, making it out to the farmer’s market once a week, etc. During the off seasons it’s a lot of convenience foods from Trader Joe’s, pasta with sauce right out of the jar, mac and cheese, and going out to eat a couple times a week.

  • Loved the episode this week!! Elsie- would you ever want to do. Trader Joe’s Instagram story to let us know some of your favorite things there? I get so overwhelmed in the freezer section, haha!

  • Oh man, I never comment! Yet here I am! Quality cabinets would be my choice. Appliances can be purchased by-and-by if the budget needs a trim. But good quality cabinets hold up over time and given your house size, it would be expected to have good cabs. Appliances die. I currently have cheap cabinets AND non-luxury appliances. The appliances work well but the cabinets are slowly falling apart

  • Elsie- Definitely splurge on appliances but do not skimp on cabinets. They take a beating and add an enormous amount of value to a home. I would highly recommend going with a nice RTA cabinet that is more high quality than IKEA as a good budget option. IKEA cabinet boxes are too cheapy. There are great options for high quality stock cabinets that will help your budget.

  • I would do a custom island (if you are going to have one) combined with IKEA cabinets. (I have a combo of custom and less expensive cabinets in my kitchen and nobody knows this except us!) If i had a pantry door (I don’t), I’d also do a cool vintage door or something custom. I splurged on my appliances and people do notice this–especially my fridges.

  • I went with a combination of the more expensive Ikea cabinets and custom built shelving. It looks great (IMO).

  • I love the podcast, ya’ll! At first I thought cheap cabinets would be the way to go, since I don’t think I would notice them if I was house shopping. BUT! After I thought about it, I think that custom cabinets would be better. Appliances don’t really have to be custom made for your house/space/layout. Of course, you might have to get a certain width of stove, etc but that is pretty easy. And as the gas vs electric stove debate proved, everyone has different appliance opinions! Someone who buys your house in the future might want their own appliances anyway. Perfectly fitted and made to your space specifications will always be a luxury. (PS- I LOVE your fridge organization and honestly don’t know why people hate on that stuff!)

  • I’m team cabinets! I am by no means a ‘luxury person’ but I can tell a difference. When opening and closing drawers and cabinets multiple times a everyday it just stands the test of time. My parents opted for cheaper cabinet boxes with nicer fronts and after the first few years you could really tell how poor the quality was, things started breaking and needed replacements / repairs.

  • Hey! I do have an opinion about cheap vs. expensive cabinetry. I would go for better cabinetry. I know it’s kinda a boring thing to spend money on, but cheap cabinetry does not age well, especially in the classic finishes. Think of it this way: in ten years, expensive cabinetry will still look great, and you will have replaced at least your dishwasher by then. I don’t know the lifespan of specialty appliances or luxury appliances, but there are no guarantees they will last to their expected age any way. If I were you, I would do expensive cabinetry and upgrade your appliances as a phase 2 – once the originals die, or once you save up and upgrade one by one over the years. If you’re planning on staying in your house a while, this is a way you can have it all, eventually. Just my two cents!

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