How heirlooms become Heirlooms

Some of the items in my home carry only memories of people or times gone by. Others are there not just because they carry wonderful memories, but also because they are incredibly useful.

When I was small, i spent a lot of time at my grandmothers’ house. In the US north east, winters presented special challenges with organizing outer wear and foot gear. The winter gear of my brothers and I (there were 4 of us) created a big pile at the front door, which Grandma had to push out of the way or sort through as we came and went. What a mess!

Her solution was a bench, built by Grandpa, that had hooks for hanging lots of stuff, an under cabinet for shoes and boots, and a seat to sit on. It took some training to get us to use it ‘every time'; for us, it was easier to just drop it all on the floor and continue into the kitchen (perhaps we would have learned earlier if there weren’t cookies always waiting for us when we got there!). However, we eventually recognized the value of the piece, for reasons not just related to shoes.

How heirlooms become Heirlooms

The piece sat in the alcove at the front door, out of the way of house traffic. While we could fit, the cabinet offered a great hiding spot for Hide-and-Seek (although sometimes my big brother just sat on the lid and wouldn’t let me out), and stowing secret treasures until it was time to go home. The bench was used as a time-out seat, but was also really convenient when we were older, and had a girl to sit with, in relative privacy. But its main purpose – storing winter gear – was its best aspect.

As we grew, so did our feet, and our shoes! By the time we were in our teens, we were wearing sizes 10 through 13, and had a couple optional pairs as well. They all fit into the cabinet (although we weren’t tidy about it) and the front entry could be as neat and tidy as Grandma wanted it.

After my grandparents passed, I got the bench. I put it at the front door, and have sat on it many times dressing my own kids in their little snow suits and boots. Their book bags will hang there, and they will sit there in ‘time out’, as I did, many, many times. And, when necessary, I will stow all the winter gear of my own family into the cabinet, open the front door and welcome guests into my tidy, organized entry hall. For ideas for your own shoe storage benches check this out. 

How to Best Barbecue Chicken by Mabel Contreras

Ever want to wring the neck of the cook at a barbecue you went to because the chef really didn’t know what they were doing? Here in Del Mar, California, the warmer weather means outdoor cookouts are a way of life, but I didn’t know that not everyone here knows how to barbecue chicken correctly. I’ve had some badly grilled poultry before, but this was something another bird altogether. Dry, burnt and tough as tire rubber, this acquaintance of mine may have lost some friends that day. So, for one of my first blogs here at, I decided to take this nightmarish personal experience of mine and help you avoid these mistakes so you don’t disappoint your friends at your next cook-out. If you follow these guidelines, there’s no reason why you can’t make the most succulent barbecue chicken you and your guests ever wolfed down.

cooked out chicken

1. Marinating is your Friend

Half of the work of a good grilled meat is done before you even light the coals. There a multitude of chicken marinade and rubs you can buy at the grocery store, but even just marinading your breasts, thighs and wings in lemon juice, salt/pepper and brown sugar or any type of simple meat tenderizer for an hour before you grill it is the easiest way you can prep your poultry. Or you can get creative. Soak it in beer and rib-rub overnight! Fill a plastic zip-lock bag with your favorite BBQ sauce and refrigerate it for six hours! Find a cheap red wine from the gas station and mix in some rosemary and seasonings and bring it to a quick boil and paint the skin of the pieces you’re cooking like Picasso. The main thing you need to remember is that you want to prep the skin and meat of the chicken with a sweet/salt or tangy mixture to soften the meat and reduce the amount of time you need to grill it. Citrus-based marinade actually pre-cook your poultry to a certain extent so you don’t have to do much work.

2. Don’t be afraid get things…..smoking!

You could simply put the chicken on a regular gas or charcoal grill – but if you want to maximize the flavor you get from barbecue, you got to smoke it up! Any type of regular barbecue grill will work (although nothing beats a giant pit grill) as long as you make sure you allow air to pass through it at a slowed pace so smoke has a chance to accumulate. Adding wood chips soaked in either flavored-tea or red wine really helps build a signature smoke flavor. You’ll want to create a pink smoke ring noticeable when you first bite into it. Build your fire to last at a decent temperature for a long time. It takes anywhere from half and hour to 45 minutes to properly cook raw chicken all the way through. Cook with the skin on and don’t be afraid to let the juices from the chicken to fall onto the coals or wood you’re burning with; the dripping fat only fuels the fire and enhances the smoke signature. Remember, in this situation, smoke is your greatest ally. You might even want to use a sliced lemon or a slightly shaken-up a bottle of beer and spray your chicken with it as it cooks (and maybe take a sip for yourself.) Either way, basting your chicken as it smokes is another important step of grilled/smoked poultry perfection.

3. Know When it’s Done

This is the part that separates the barbecue masters from the wannabes. If your cooking boneless pieces, mainly breasts or thighs, you will want a meat thermometer to keep from over-cooking your poultry. Let the internal temperature rise to 160-165 degrees. But if you use bone-in chicken, it’s easier just to cook the chicken for a half and hour, then look for the bones to protrude more prominently. You’ll know ready when the joints are sticking out of the meat and the skin is stretched out over the muscles to the point of breaking. Then pull it off immediately. Let it sit for five minutes (it’s still basting in the remaining juices, so it’s not done until it cools slightly.)
Then, enjoy. And for those have already read this and came back here to after trying this for yourself……you’re welcome.