Know Any Good Cast Iron Jokes?

Most people know the basics of cooking. But did you know that in order to make a meal truly special, you must begin by arranging all of your ingredients in pretty bowls and placing them on and around the antique kitchen scale your husband balked at? It’s true. Do not skip this step. No substitutions.

Ingredients from Blue Apron for Chicken Bolognese & Rigatoni Pasta with Mascarpone Cheese & Summer Squash-Arugula Salad

Brandon was a little confused by the scale’s arrival, seeing as how we don’t have all that much counter space in our kitchen, but I showed him, didn’t I. Everyone appoints their kitchens according to an item’s photogenic qualities, yes? (It could have been much worse.)

And it’s cast iron, which goes nicely with our cast iron stove and my new cast iron braiser. I haven’t seen Inception, so I had to ask Brandon if it was an appropriate reference for making a joke here. All I know is it’s a dream about a dream inside a dream… swap out the “dream” with “cast iron” and there’s a joke in there somewhere. No? He said no. So I challenged him to come up with something better, which he could not, because it seems I had not stumbled upon the comedic goldmine I thought I had.


I do love that new braiser though. I’ve cooked with cast iron and baked with enameled cast iron before, but I would have normally used our big stainless steel sauté pan for a dish like this (chicken bolognese & rigatoni pasta with mascarpone cheese from our latest Blue Apron delivery). The braiser is about the same size, but it regulates the heat much better on our crazy stove and it was still easy to clean. Plus, it is a lovely shade of pink.

I did not have something suitably twee for making the summer squash-arugula salad, and so I had to settle for a perfectly useful but not terribly cute stainless steel mixing bowl. My assistant made up for it with added cuteness, which was welcome — though she did keep stealing slices of the squash.

Making Summer Squash Salad

Summer Squash Salad

Look, the scale is useful once again!

Dinner Scale

That pasta was tasty. I don’t think I had cooked with mascarpone before, and it added a nice creaminess. That’s part of why I like Blue Apron: there’s usually an interesting ingredient or twist on a classic dish that we wouldn’t have thought of. Having the meal planning done for us is awesome too, and everything ships for free. If you want to get an idea of what you get, you can browse their recipes. Don’t the Thai-spiced salmon and hoisin-glazed chicken thighs look good?

Chicken Bolognese & Rigatoni Pasta with Mascarpone Cheese & Summer Squash-Arugula Salad

The Family Plan with a delivery once a week works for us, but they also offer two shipments per week or a smaller 2-Person Plan, and you can skip or cancel any time. I’m always happy to share them on the blog, and Blue Apron is offering the first 100 readers that sign up here two free meals on their first Blue Apron order!

And I was close to something with the cast iron thing there, right?

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  • Samantha
    July 29, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Thank goodness your guinea pig got knocked up so you didn’t have 100% sponsored posts for the last 6 posts.

    • Amanda
      July 29, 2015 at 3:11 pm

      I am not usually one to balk on sponsored posts, everyone has to make money. I get it :) But genuine posts are important. We don’t love everything. I personally enjoy seeing what you liked, what worked, what you learned, and even what wasn’t so lovely. That’s what the Blue Apron site won’t tell you. Happy blogging! – Amanda

    • Maria
      August 8, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      You are right !

  • Emma
    July 29, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    I would be interested to hear your view on the transformation of the blogosphere from content-driven writing to sponsored-driven photography. Your blog used to have hundreds of comments on a single post. Not many blogs can boast that kind of commenting traffic these days and I do not think your choice to abandon that “old school” approach to making a living is in any way unique, but somewhere along the line a blog ceases to be a blog and becomes an infomercial instead, and it is simply not interesting to readers to interact with an infomercial. I have always thought very highly of your blog and your integrity and would be super interested to hear what you think about this change. More sponsored content –> less interaction in comments –> eventually fewer readers… Are we approaching the end of blogging?

    • Staci
      July 29, 2015 at 5:40 pm

      I have noticed the same– very few comments on even the most popular blogs. In my opinion, it can be traced to more blogs overall which also leads to shorter attention spans by readers (less personal connection). More of a Pinterest/Buzzfeed reader culture (more consumption and less dialogue). I follow -lots- of blogs and feel that I have “so many to get to” –I’m rushed and don’t always comment (my problem, not the author’s problem). Secondly I feel that the bloggers themselves have less time to respond to commenters (not singling Nicole out– just making a generalization in this regard) since they also feel pressure to advertise/market (organic growth doesn’t happen the way it used to).

    • Making it Lovely
      July 30, 2015 at 8:42 am

      Comments on blogs in general are falling off, so that’s not the most accurate barometer. Interaction has moved to social media, so the conversation has followed suit (or been replaced by a like or double-tap-to-heart). It may not be the case for everyone, but I definitely do still read every comment I receive, here or elsewhere, and I do my best to respond. Sometimes it takes me a day (I was away from my desk yesterday, hence responding this morning to everyone), but I value the feedback, good or bad. I don’t moderate or delete comments, so what you see here is the same as what I see on my end.

      You’ve probably noticed, as I have, a lot of ‘State of the Blog’ posts over the last six months or so. People are taking a step back and reevaluating as the blog world has changed. There is a lot of pressure for more! bigger! better! and a post that takes five minutes to read takes the blogger hours to produce. As a result of this and other pressures, people are burning out or walking away. I’m still excited about blogging, but it is an ever-changing landscape that long-time bloggers are always adjusting to and trying to figure out.

      • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
        July 30, 2015 at 11:15 am

        Thankfully, my best blogs are (still) going strong. Including Making It Lovely! Hope you stay with us Nicole. Everyone would miss you. On another level, there are many, many blogs I’ve tried to read, to enjoy, but couldn’t. Especially when a/the blogger keeps writing and writing, no photos we can identify with. Boring and mundane. Love reading “mommy stories” about their children. My niece has 2 gorgeous toddlers. Often I will send Alexa the posts. She has very little time to read though! Travel blogs are fun. At our ages we do not travel any longer via airlines. Just short, car trips (to restaurants!!) are plenty. Ha!

      • judy
        August 5, 2015 at 7:43 pm

        I really don’t understand the comments that seem to be so opposed to sponsorship of Bloggers,posts that feature some product that the blogger has tried and is demonstrating how it is utilized and why they like it. It seems as though those commenters want to lock bloggers/writers in a narrow parameter of what? Spend hours a day- personal outlay of all costs involved, or I -your faithful reader- will desert you for greener pastures. What bloggers do seems to me to be a very rare skill. To be interesting,witty,full of talent and a skilled communicator is not to be given for free forever, why should it? When I watch TV I either pay for cable or I endure endless commercials. The few ads that bloggers use are fine with me.

  • Val
    July 29, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    It’s a post about cooking dinner. Why does it matter if the food came from Blue Apron or from the grocery store? Why does it matter if the content is sponsored? Rigatoni is rigatoni. I know folks get tired of Blue Apron because they flooded all the lifestyle bloggers at once, but it’s just really not that big a deal.

    I have a very similar braising pan in a beautiful turquoise blue. I use it almost every night and it is probably the nicest thing in my kitchen. It’s still going strong five years later. (And sometimes I even cook Blue Apron food in it…gasp.)

    • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
      July 30, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Yes! Agree Val. Folks can be so down on silly things. Personally, I enjoy the advertisements. We are not forced to purchase a thing! Common sense.

  • Susan
    July 29, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    I’m so tired of seeing blue apron sponsorship on ever blog these days.

    • Sarah
      July 30, 2015 at 8:35 am

      Someone needs to make a Mean Girls meme. Stop trying to make Blue Apron happen. It’s not going to happen.

    • Making it Lovely
      July 30, 2015 at 8:48 am

      Marketing tends to happen in waves. I’m sure, if you watch television, that you’ve seen a commercial several times over the course of a couple of weeks, right? In blogging, you’re not seeing the exact same content (because we are free to create our own), but you will often see the same brand on many sites at the same time. Just as channels 2, 5, and 7 may not know when or how often a commercial is running, bloggers often do not know how many blogs will be working with the same sponsor and at what frequency.

    • Marcee ... ILLINOIS
      July 30, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Doesn’t bother or matter to me one little bit Susan. I do not take any type of “selling” personal. Switch it on or off is easy enough. I exactly do that with TV commercials. Anything related for/to “insurance” is immediately clicked o-f-f! Same with car ads. There are several “food crates” advertised on television these days. Usually less than 15 second spots. Not an issue for me. I do believe in American businesses. Hopefully they’ll all be successful. Anything is possible.

  • Katrina
    July 29, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    I tried Blue Apron after seeing it on the blogs. It’s an environmental *nightmare*. It’s a piddling amount of ingredients sent in a huge cardboard box with tons and tons of plastic packaging, disposable ice packs, etc. Just disgusting.

    I can’t believe all these people are shilling for a company that requires a 2 foot by 3 foot box to feed two people.

    • Angela
      August 2, 2015 at 8:32 am

      Thank-you for this! It’s such a terrible amount of waste. Let’s also not forget the use of fossil fuels to aid in the delivery of the oversized plastic packaging. I’ll loom up my own recipe, drive 5 minutes to the store, buy what I need. I simply cannot condone this type of service.

  • Jess
    July 29, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    So yeah, I generally don’t contribute anything remotely negative to the comments of the blogs I read, but I have to say that the overall lack of original, unsponsored content here is giving me the sads. I’m sure it’s awful to have a job in which a zillion strangers who think they know you feel free to tell you how you can do it better, but you can do this better. You know how? By doing it the way you used to. I’ve read this blog for years and I really feel like you used to bring us into your world of design and DIY in such an inspiring way. Now I feel like if you ever write about something that’s not completely advertorial and sponsored, it’s just a post about something you want to buy. I’m really sorry if I sound like a turd, and I hate to contribute to the critical snark that overruns blog comments, but I’m really afraid you’re losing a lot of people here. And if the plan is to continue blogging, that might not be so good. Sorry :-/

    • Making it Lovely
      July 30, 2015 at 8:53 am

      Thanks, Jess. The plan is definitely to continue blogging, and I’m taking all of this to heart.

  • Heather
    July 29, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    I’ve been a reader for years Nicole, since you were pregnant with E, and a happy loyal reader at that. And I am sad to say that you are, as others above are mentioning, losing us. Are you moving on from blogging? Have you already? Or is this all attributed to the new house? The style is just so very different than your last house and there have been other more pressing needs in the house (nursery, electrical, etc). I really feel for you and I want to want to keep reading, but I find myself clicking over less and less often. The amount of sponsored posts and the lack of true Nicole content has me saying goodbye, I promise to check in once in awhile, but goodbye my friend.

  • Kelly
    July 30, 2015 at 1:00 am

    I’ve been a reader for years, and I enjoyed the obvious energy and love that went into your last house.

    I’m saying good-bye, too. The infomercial style of this blog has pushed me over the edge, along with the lack of relatable content. I know you’re busy. But you can do better than this!

    I’ll check in once in a while and I do wish you the best of luck. You have the natural talent and eye for design, you do! Find your muse and I will be back.

  • Dulcie
    July 30, 2015 at 9:41 am

    It was Bette Midler who once said she had a rule to live by. She said she never, ever, wanted to look back at her life and say she had done something “only for the money”.
    We all get that the blog is your livelihood, but the endless sponsored posts and shopping posts have reduced this to “I’m only in it for the money”. You were a delightful and refreshing voice at one time, with so much content. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  • Pikaeva
    July 30, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    ‘There is a lot of pressure for more! bigger! better!’
    Nicole, in this case I’m afraid it was you who went for more, bigger, better when you bought your Victorian, not your readership.

    ‘and a post that takes five minutes to read takes the blogger hours to produce.’
    But that happens to all professionals! A journalist, an author, a copy writer etc invests long hours in producing a piece of content that people will read in a few minutes. Why should blogging be different? If you want to be a PROFESSIONAL blogger, then you must accept the fact that 1) it’s a job, just like anybody else’s, which will demand an effort from you, not a magical source of income, and 2) readers are your ‘clients’, i.e. they DO have a right to demand quality from you from the moment you go professional.

    If you buy the new issue of a magazine you used to love and find that 90 percent of the pages are ads, you have a right to complain. Then the editor answers: ‘Well, yes, the magazine world is changing… I actually work really hard… It doesn’t show but I do, really… I have twins, you know… It’s exhausting…’ That would be incredibly unprofessional. A magazine editor would never do/say something like that. Neither would/should a PROFESSIONAL blogger.

    • Making it Lovely
      July 30, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      I agree. There is a difference between making excuses and explaining something, and I wasn’t trying to complain.

  • Making it Lovely
    July 30, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    I spent last night thinking about the feedback I’ve gotten here, and I would appreciate if you would read today’s post and let me know what you think. Thanks.

  • Lynn
    July 30, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    I read this entry after i read “today’s post” about sponsorship. as i commented over there, I support you using your blog to to receive items to make your home beautiful and yours. But this entry is off putting. The tone here is so sales-y. It’s one thing to talk about the sponsor, and link to their site but then to move on about something else. But this whole post was written as if one of their marketing staff wrote it. There’s a lot not to like about blue apron. I’ve used it. I’m sure there’s something you didn’t like about it, too. It would be great to hear that side of it as well. I don’t feel like you’ve painted a true picture of the service here, and i would hope moving forward with sponsored posts, that we’d hear the good WITH the bad.

  • Lynnly
    July 30, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Note to Blue Apron- These posts are not working on me, your target consumer, and you are verging very close to oversaturation! I honestly thought “Blue Apron- blah!” when I saw this today. I’ve still never tried your product, even though you continue to bombard my favorite blogs with free stuff.

    Note to Nicole: Get yours! I’ll just skip the posts that don’t interest me, bore me, bother me. You should do what you need to do to get paid. No more comments from me about it.

  • CPeter
    July 30, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    I rarely post on blogs. I am posting now because I really enjoy your blog, and I can hear concern in your tone of this post.

    I would much rather see you remodel a kitchen (or bathroom, or house, or even cook a meal) with all the resources at your disposal. Your resources include your money, your time, your tools, furniture or items given to you by family, sponsorships that work for your family, etc. etc. etc. It would be disingenuous to me if you did not fully utilize your resources to get the most out of any project. Attempting to restrict yourself to projects that all your readers are interested in or are capable of doing in their own home will make you crazy.

    I appreciate your transparency in writing sponsored posts. When I come across a sponsored post I am not interested in, I don’t read it. It is staggeringly simple for me to just move on with my day. Seriously, it’s not a problem. Good for you for making some extra money for your family, working on your photography skills, and trying out new products. I may eventually stop reading a blog if all the content is not relevant to me, but that occurs regardless of if the content is sponsored or not. I have stopped reading remodel blogs that became parenting blogs, and I have stopped reading DIY blogs that became shopping blogs. Real people are writing the content for blogs, and their resources, interests, and life are likely to change as time goes on. Sometimes the change in their life doesn’t coincide with my interests. That’s not really a problem for me, and I think I would be more suspect if bloggers I read for years are posting the same type of content for years. Change is natural.

    The last thing I would add, is about BLUE APRON. Geez. I never would have heard of this company and lately pretty much every blogger I read is cooking their food. I am not a member, but I did take a look at their site. They post a ton of their recipes online, and you can change it to suit two to four people. They are healthier recipes than I generally cook, and have calorie information included. I like to cook, and the recipes are easy to follow and use interesting techniques and flavor. The recipes are not overly time consuming, but sometimes require an extra trip to a specialty grocery store because the ingredients aren’t always ones I have on hand. If I could afford a membership, I would get one. Every recipe I have made from their site has been a win.

    Cheers to you. I look forward to seeing more of your journey in your home. Thanks for sharing your life with the world, I am sure it is not always easy.

    • CPeter
      July 30, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      I am sorry, I shared my thoughts on the wrong post! Feel free to delete this, I posted over on your kitchen remodel post. : )

    • Lisa
      July 31, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      I also wanted to chime in on the discussion, I read all the comments on your kitchen remodel post and the ones on this string as well…I agree with a lot of what CPeter has said as well as Kait below.

      I haven’t noticed a huge shift in your content…you still post and write about things I enjoy to read about so I haven’t seen an issue. As CPeter said, change is natural and I just assumed your taste and styles have changed and evolved over the years as you grow as a person/designer/stylist/blogger/wife/mother etc. Which is TOTALLY fine and good, because people are supposed to change and grow. I liken it to a relationship in which two people either grow together or grow apart because of various things happening in their lives. It seems like a lot of your readers want you to stay exactly the same as you’ve always been and really, that’s just unrealistic.

      As far as blue apron goes, who cares if you post a series about cooking with blue apron. People need to eat and cook so why not try out a new service that makes it easier on you? I guess I don’t read enough lifestyle/decorating blogs to see that so many other people are reading the same content. (They didn’t really affect me anyway because I’m not the cook in our household; I leave that all up to the hubs)

      So, I guess what I’m saying is I’ll still be a reader regardless and I can’t wait for the kitchen redo. And you should do it exactly how you want (free stuff and all…I think people are really just jealous.)

  • Chelsea
    July 30, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Just here to add my opinion on the sponsored post convo in relation to this specific post.

    I definitely don’t mind sponsored posts overall, but I’m just not into cooking or finding/trying new recipes. I know a good portion of the female population enjoys it, but that’s not why I read. I like this blog for design and I would prefer to read about adventures in design and updating the house instead of cooking dinner. I would read a cooking blog if I was interested in that. I guess that’s more of a content comment vs sponsored posts comment. I know that ad revenue is a big part of making money and yay for lifestyle blogs (I especially liked the guinea pig post), but I guess I’ll just skip over the content I’m not particularly interested in. I’m not going anywhere.

  • theveryflowers
    July 31, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Another reader sick of Blue Apron. I mean, one post from a gaggle of bloggers is enough. Also, it’s something that I would never consider doing! Completely unrealistic; to me, frivolous, really. I’m sorry, but bloggers seem so out of touch these days. This post in particular comes with the added sting of a fancy $400 pan to cook the sponsered food in…purchased on sale or not, it’s just over-the-top to me.
    It’s sad how so many beloved blogs, including this one, have become unrelatable, because that was their initial appeal! :(

  • Kait
    July 31, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    I really don’t get what the big deal is… yes, bloggers do sponsored posts from time to time, yes they make a bit of money off of them (and who doesn’t want that?!) but the bottom line is genuine bloggers will only be working with brands, companies and products they believe in! And I think it’s quite clear that you do that.

    As for those saying that there are loads of blue apron posts out on the web – companies to blogger outreach programs and campaigns and they tend to exist over a specific time span.

    I don’t mind sponsored posts so long as it’s obvious the blogger is clearly supporting the brand/product featured… and I’ve always gotten that from your posts! Plus you always manage to put your, unique spin on them. Stay true to you, girl!

    …Now can I have a plate of some of that???

  • Hayley
    August 3, 2015 at 7:06 am

    Another quick thought – since it is the volume of sponsored posts that is upsetting people, why not just charge more per post, so you can run fewer. Double your rates and some companies will decline to continue advertising with you, some will still want to, and we get to see half as many sponsored posts, whilst you have fewer sponsored posts to write / photograph / administer. Just simple supply and demand. If sponsors are queuing up in numbers enough to sustain multiple posts per week, they will pay more.

  • paula
    August 3, 2015 at 6:38 pm

    I have read every single comment here and on todays post and as a long time reader of your blog Nicole, I have to say that it has changed, but its still great!
    I have absolutely no problem with sponsored content, and am quite admiring of the way that other professional bloggers and yourself have managed to monetize their blogs. If I dont want to read something (and yes, I too am overstaurated with the Blue Apron posts) I skip that post. Noone is forcing us to read every single post.
    That being said, I have noticed that your blog has changed over time to more sponsored posts which sometimes sounds a little bit too sales-y but I still thoroughly enjoy your design posts and the mommy posts and I encourage you to keep writing them! You are good at your job! I check your blog a little less often than before, but I continue to enjoy your writing when i do.
    I would also encourage you to use every resource at your disposal for the kitchen remodel as I enjoy your design process, sourcing and final products more than I care about affordability and where the products are coming from.
    dont get discouraged by some of the comments! Keep up the good work.

  • Making it Lovely Blogger, Nicole Balch, Talks Sponsored Content | BlogBase
    August 4, 2015 at 7:55 am

    […] now Nicole is getting candid with readers yet again. On one of her recent posts sponsored by Blue Apron, Nicole received a lot of backlash from readers. The comments ranged from concern to outright anger […]