The best kitchen innovations of 2013

I partnered with Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine editors to test dozens of kitchen tools, appliances and gadgets and found 18 kitchen superheroes that cooked the competition, saving all of us time, effort and even some dough. Check out the whole article in the September issue, on newsstands now, click here to read the online version and read on to see my favorite kitchen sidekicks.

My main squeeze
Loads of my favorite recipes utilize the fresh-squeezed juice and zest of lemons and limes—poultry dishes, sweet treats, even G&Ts. So it’s not hard to understand why this lemon-lime press with a zester became one of my favorite multitaskers for the kitchen and bar.
Zest n Press
A Whiz in the Kitchen
You no longer have to chop ‘til you drop. The Pull’n Slice mandoline speeds up the prep process by slicing tomatoes, dicing onions, julienning carrots and cutting potatoes into French fries with lightening-fast precision thanks to a collapsible finger guard that keeps your digits light years away from the blade.
Pull'n Slice mandoline
Now You See It; Now You Don’t
Out, damn spot. That’s what this magnetic spot scrubber promises—to get into all those narrow-necked vases, pitchers and decanters, where water, juice and wine stains seem to stick. Drop the silicone-scrubbing disc into the dirty vessels, add warm, soapy water, align the magnetic scrubber with the disc and rub.
Magnetic spot scrubber
Flat Line
A spoonful of sugar is easy to measure. It’s the oil and honey that give me problems. But a new set of flexible, tip-free measuring spoons that lay completely flat rescue countertops from slippery, sticky spills. I love that each spoon is also labeled with half measurements, making cutting recipes simple.
Measuring spoons
Got It Covered
Don’t let the sticky rubber texture of these fun food savers scare you. These reusable balls stretch to form an airtight seal around bowls, plates and cut fruits and veggies, protecting your leftovers against rot and mold.
Cover Blubber

Pretty simple centerpieces


I didn’t want there to be anything complicated about the table settings for our wedding. I envisioned rustic elegance with pure simplicity and a touch of the unexpected.

Remember the mood board I created for the wedding here?

I love the look of burlap but wanted a bit more color on the table. I found a gorgeous dark turquoise embroidery floss and enlisted my mom to help stitch peacock blue seams down either side of each runner. Note: This was an incredibly time-consuming process because we hand stitched them, but the result was fabulous!

We then used the leftover burlap to fashion napkin rings for my off-white linens (we bought these because it ended up being cheaper than renting them). To tie in the peacock blue, we wrapped each of the burlap rings several times (I’m talking like 10-15), then just adhered it with a dot of hot glue.


I wanted my centerpieces to be a mix of texture, colors and heights and include something vintage. I painted these seven-inch wooden boxes the same peacock blue I used on my map project and handed them over to my very talented friend and florist Sally Preston-Gonzalez of Exquisite Blooms to work her magic.

I found the blue glasses at TJMaxx and Marshalls one shopping trip, then enlisted family and friends around the country to hunt down as many as possible. I wanted to use them on the tables as votives. To add a few more candle holders to the table, I purchased a variety of glass containers at thrift stores, then purchased cylindrical vases in 3.5″x6″ and 4.5″x4.5″ sizes and spray painted the insides of each a metallic bronze. I peppered the table tops with small twine balls to introduce a natural element. Alarm clocks (purchased on ebay) set to various numbers told guests which table belonged to them. Time to eat.

Get creative with reception seating for weddings

Map
Scott and I don’t take ourselves too seriously; therefore, we didn’t want anything about our wedding to be too serious, as evidenced by the menu I referenced here.

We both lived in several places before settling in San Diego—and meeting each other–so we both have family and friends spread all over the world. I thought it might be fun to show where our guests traveled from to be with us. One of the best men (we had two) flew in from Turkey and another groomsman came in from Australia.

I decided people would find their place (table number) on a giant map in lieu of traditional place cards. Annie, from Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store, gifted me this world map cork board (thanks, Annie!) after I commented how perfect it would be for our wedding after I featured it in a Parade article last year.

Remember the wood palett wall in our bedroom I recently blogged about? I painted the leftover boards Behr’s Bermudan Blue and stapled them to a simple standup easel frame.

I cut small triangular flags from peacock blue card stock, wrote on them with this amazing gel pen and pinned them to the board. I needed to increase the surface areas of California, Arizona and Louisiana since a lot of our guests traveled from there, so I bought a roll of cork, traced clipart printouts and cut out the states. I planned out my map and adhered the cork geography with hot glue.

Make your own invites

Scott and I got married almost 10 months ago, and I am finally getting around to blogging about the décor I created with lots of help from my mom.

Scott and I wanted our wedding to feel very much like us, so we exchanged vows by the beach in San Diego, California, served street tacos (my favorite) and mac and cheese (his favorite) and kept everything fuss free.

For the décor, we kept it pretty simple with lots of homemade touches. You wouldn’t expect anything mass produced from me, would you?

I chose a peacock blue-and-copper palette and created an inspiration board to help me lay out my favorite ideas. Here’s what I came up with.
Wedding board inspiration
I didn’t want anything to feel theme-y so I started with the invitation design to set the tone for the wedding. This is, after all, how I was going to express to my guests that they were invited to an elegant but laid-back wedding at the beach.
I have a resource I’ve used numerous times for paper. I searched the inventory and found this incredible embossed white faux-bois card stock and this teal one too. Paper and More cut everything to my size specifications. (I had them cut the blue so that it would be 1/8-inch larger than the white on all sides.) This was an incredible time saver. I have yet to invest in a commercial-grade paper cutter. My Crafting Rotary Paper Trimmer would have made it through three sheets at a time at best.
Wedding invite sample
I designed this very simple invitation and a response card in Word. You read that right. Word.

North Shore Printery found me a great metallic copper Pantone and printed everything for me. This DIYer wasn’t about to attempt printing on textured card stock.

My mom and aunt helped create perfect circle response cards using the Martha Stewart Crafts Large Circle Cutter. We just made the teal blue cardstock a slightly larger circle size than the white. We used EZ Runner permanent tape to adhere the teal blue cardstock to the back of the white cards. Glue can get bubbly. This kept everything super flat. I bought a rectangle hand punch, 30 feet of bronze grosgrain ribbon from Save-on-crafts.com (currently unavailable), a 100 yards of turquoise-and-white baker’s twine and a heart punch.

The assembly line began. Scott, my brother and my mom helped assemble the invites.
IMG_0931
IMG_0937
Here’s how they turned out.
Invites
(Invite photos by Kim Mowbray)

How to make crackle art

Dining room inspiration
I found this dining room photo in Elle Decor while doing some research for a client, and the artwork immediately caught my eye. I loved the texture (whether the apparent cracked plaster was real or fake) and the colors.
Glue
While working on the Anthropologie display team, I discovered the incredible power of Elmer’s basic glue. We were prototyping a wall treatment for one of the San Diego locations and by accident found that Elmer’s basic white glue on top of paint creates a crackle effect.
wendyjamesdesigns-6
For these faux crackle pieces, I used lightweight foam-core board and thrift-store frames that I painted–some silver and others gold. I cut the foam-core to fit the frames (glass removed) and brushed on a coat of acrylic metallic taupe paint.
Gold paint
When the paint was completely dry, I smothered on a generous coat of Elmer’s glue over the entire thing.
Glue over paint
When the glue got tacky, I painted on a layer of Martha Stewart’s satin acrylic paint in Wedding Cake.
White paint
As it dried, it crackled.
Crackle effect
(This photo shows the first signs of crackling.)

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