The Annual Zucchini Roundup

I'm sitting here in my new house, on my new street, in my new neighborhood, in a new city.  Granted, it's just two miles from the other one, but still.  It's new to us.  We are unpacked and making our daily living space work for us.  I am not sure I thought I could be more content with less space than I'm used to, but geez - I'm happy with this space.  It took me a whopping 8.5 minutes yesterday to clean all the rooms but one.  That deserves a "woohoo" if anything does.

Oh, and look at these sweeties: my little kitchen helpers.  Goodness, do they make me melt.  Big Sister just keeps me at the edge of my seat, waiting for the next awesome thing she's going to say (like yesterday: "Hey, Mommy, you're the best mommy in the world.  I like being with you.  Now will you please go out of my room?").  And Little Girl is pure spunk: keeping up with the big kids, and running to give kisses and hugs like there's no tomorrow.  She likes to shush her baby dolls, ask for things by name (I finally figured out "nee-nets" means Kleenex), and generally do everything by herself.  

Oh, the zucchini, you say?  I almost forgot that this is a post about zucchini.

Here: friends from church gave us some.  The picture doesn't do it justice, but look at the one at the back, and then realize that it's as wide as the cart it's sitting on ... which is 18".  Yes, a massive zucchini.  I promised these friends that I'd repay the kindness with a little rundown of what I was doing with the zucchini (as well as a little treat, but shhh, don't tell!).

Here's what we've done so far:

Chocolate Zucchini Bread, with chocolate chips of course.  I actually reduced the sugar by half and upped the amount of shredded zucchini in there.  According to custom, one must refer to this as "vegetable bread" and must eat some whenever one's body needs some vegetables.

Goat Cheese-Zucchini Tart: using this recipe from Fine Cooking as a springboard, I used up about 4 oz. of goat cheese mixed with some local herbs (ehem - from my back herb garden!), spread on a pastry crust.  I did make my own crust, but I think a storebought dough would work beautifully as well.  It's a pretty simple recipe, and the flavors really mix so nicely!

Zucchini tacos: OK, no recipe here.  But I chopped up some zucchini into 1/4" cubes and sauteed them in oil for a bit - so they'd get soft but not mushy - then added a tablespoon or so of fajita seasoning.  Then we just layered them in tortillas with the works before gobbling them up in about 42 seconds.

There's still half a zucchini left: that's going on tonight's pizza along with some eggplant, tomatoes, pesto, and parmesan cheese.

(and yes, it will be followed by vegetable bread.)


Stovetop Granola (and normal eating during transitions)

Recipe from NOLS Cookery, 6th Edition.

Makes 6 cups, serves 4

5 Tbsp. butter
3 cups uncooked oatmeal flakes (I used old-fashioned rolled oats, but not the instant kind)
1/3 to 1/2 c. brown sugar or honey (depending on sweetness of fruit)
1/2 tsp. salt (if nuts used are unsalted
1 c. dried fruit
1 c. nuts and seeds

Chop fruit and put into a bowl, add water to cover.  Melt butter in a frying pan.  Add uncooked oatmeal and salt, stirring to coat with butter.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the top; add drained fruit and nuts.  Keep stirring until oatmeal is fried to a golden brown.  Can be served hot as is or with milk, or cold.

Friends, we are moving across town!  And we are so excited.  But it is hard work to move.  It's also hard to think about maintaining our food routines while we're in transition - which I'm realizing is important when there are young kids involved in a move.  One or two things out of whack is enough.  No need to throw in crazy digestion.

SO ... I usually make my favorite granola in big batches and keep it in the pantry ... but, I packed up most of my bowls and pans a while ago.  What I DO have available is a cast iron skillet.  I came across this recipe in a NOLS cookbook the Mister gave me for Christmas (intended for our family camping adventures, but suitable in this instance too!).  I've made it a few times in the last week - one batch is perfect for a breakfast (and gives me a bit of leftovers to snack on later).  I LOVE that we get to eat homemade granola without waiting for the baking and cooling processes.  Within 10 minutes of thinking, "This would be a great morning for granola!", it's on the table.  Seriously.

Some of the other breakfasts we've got on our minds during the move: 
-scrambled eggs with cheese and salsa verde on toast (remember, I kept out the skillet)
-smoothies (I have a handheld immersion blender that's about as valuable to me as the aforementioned pan) 
-these whole wheat oatmeal muffins (I made a double batch and stashed them in the freezer, but they're easy to whip up in just one bowl, and could be made into a "coffee cake" and baked in a cast iron pan if muffin tins are already in boxes).

Whether or not your summer plans involve a change of address, I'd encourage you to try out this recipe!  Hope you love it like we do.


Before and After: Thrifty Lamp Re-do

You probably remember how much I love finding things for free, especially finding them on the side of the road for free - something about that just feels so awesome.  I'm pretty sure it was last summer that I picked up this lamp from a heap of stuff in my neighborhood: functional lamp, but definitely not my style.  Talk about unfortunate.
Lamp re-do: BEFORE
Fast-forward many, many months.  We decided to move out of our current house into another house across town, and I told myself I wouldn't take any half-finished projects with me.  It was either toss this into my own roadside pile for the next lucky scavenger, or get cracking.  As you might guess, I decided to just jump right in.  So glad I did!

I'm squeaking this baby in just under the wire!  11 days until our move, and now, the lamp is finished!
Lamp re-do: AFTER
I hot glued sisal rope around the lamp base, coiling it around and around.  It's a little shaggy looking, and very rustic - much better than a yellow porcelain dandelion.  And here's my little "untutorial" on how to do a lampshade: check out this post by Young House Love.  All you need is a lonely and/or desperate looking lampshade, some hot glue, and some fabric.  And ... go!

Total project cost: less than $10!  It did take a lot of hot glue, but this was a seriously thrifty project!

The move, the push to finish projects, and general summerness is accounting for my lack of frequent posts these days.  I'll try to squeeze in a few more project finishes if I can, and at least another recipe or two during our transition!


Improv Modern Baby Quilt (a quilt for Nibbler)

We've enjoyed lots of special visits with dear family and friends recently - a precious wedding, celebrating a new house, a potluck reunion on a lawn with old friends, walks and playdates and water adventures and more - all kicking our summer off to a most lovely start.

There's another big family event coming soon - "Nibbler," my little neice or nephew, is due in July - and we are all beside ourselves with excitement.  I knew I wanted to make a special little quilt for the newest family member, and dreamed up this idea while I was teaching an improv class earlier this spring.  

I went with a giant stitch-and-flip project, with each white block measuring 9 inches. The final quilt measures about 33" square.  

I love that it looks like just one quilt square!  I've seen a few other quilts that have taken traditional patterns and enlarged them, but this is my first time trying.  It won't be my last.  I am thrilled with how it turned out!

The back is a VERY light green-polka-dot-on-white (that barely shows up unless you're looking for it).

And the quilting - well, I tried something new.  It certainly came together quickly - just up and down loops across each block, with the opposite direction in each colored triangle.  This was a fun one!

Alright, Nibbler - we can't wait to meet you!


What To Do With Too-Small Onesies

I've been in a massive cleaning and purging mode over the last few weeks, which has felt AWESOME.  One thing I've run into though is too much of one thing (baby onesies that don't fit a growing-taller baby, for example) and not enough of another thing (t-shirts that don't swallow said baby whole).

So I had the idea - why not just upcycle onesies into toddler t-shirts?

No sewing required.

Just snip straight across the bottom of onesie ... aaaaaaand, you're done.  Because onesies are made of knit fabric, they don't fray.  They'll roll up a bit with wash and wear, but won't come unraveled.  

You know I hate throwing anything possibly useful away.  So, thanks to an idea from my neighbor, the leftover bottom parts of the onesies are now going to be fine motor skill training experiences.  I trimmed off the excess fabric and left just the thick trim with the snaps.  Big Sister will LOVE this on our next car ride, I just know it.  Snap, unsnap, snap, unsnap, snap, unsnap.  I bet it will keep her occupied for at least 3 1/2 minutes.


Our CSA (Alternative)

I love the idea of a CSA ("Community Supported Agriculture") box - a farm subscription for a season that provides us with fresh and local produce while at the same time gives a farm a reliable source of income.  Seriously - I love it.

Kale buds: yummy on salads.  Also, very random.
But we've never done a CSA before.  Instead, we came up with an idea last summer that works for us.  I like to think of it as my CSAlternative.  A bonus is that we have a little more autonomy over what we get each week, and we don't have to shell out hundreds of dollars up front for things we may or may not really want.

We take $20 per week out of our grocery budget and put it in a farmer's market budget.  (I literally do this with cash ... I find that I like the more tangible presence or absence of cash when it comes to budgeting).  Every weekend, we go to our little market and make ourselves spend our money.  To be quite honest, it was a little tough at first ... $4 for a head of lettuce made me want to shriek in agony.  But we made ourselves get on board with spending our cash - because, after all, it is farmer's market money ... just a few dollars here and there throughout the market, until we were out of money and had a few new things to try.

It definitely doesn't get us through the whole week, or let us try everything we might see.  But it does make it possible for us to be consistent at a farmer's market on a pretty tight food budget.  And $20 is pretty do-able, right?

It's worked out nicely that if we travel, we can just try a different farmer's market.  In the winter, we spent our market cash on other local goodies (or hot chocolate from the cafe near the market).

It's just a little thing, but it's worked for us.  Maybe one day we'll venture into joining a real CSA, but for now we're satisfied with our alternative.


The Story Behind Unconvenience

This business of going all "Unconvenienced" started with a coffee pot.

Or, more precisely, without a coffee pot.  Once upon a time, our nice high-end wedding present of a coffee maker got a short in it and went on the fritz (i.e., it started melting from the inside of the display and caught ever so slightly on fire before we unplugged it).  At the time, the Mister was in graduate school, I had quit working to stay home with our kiddo, and we didn't have the space in our budget to replace said coffee maker.  So like any resourceful outdoor enthusiasts would do, we raided our bin of camping gear and resurfaced with a sturdy french press.

Sure, making coffee with a french press required more time and energy than we had spent on coffee prep before.  But the coffee was SO good (noticeably, outrageously delicious) that we decided we didn't mind the extra steps it took.  There was something we actually enjoyed about taking some steps "backwards" - that is, away from the nice convenience of a coffee pot with a timer and brew strength button - that made it feel like more of an accomplishment and less of a hassle.

That was the start of the Unconvenient for us.

We hear that it's good to "unwind" after a stressful time, that occasionally "unplugging" from technology is helpful ... so, reaching for the "Unconvenient" isn't really that much of a stretch.  Unconvenient - not inconvenient, but Unconvenient.  Backing away from Convenient.

There are so many things that I assume have to be a certain way - how I buy my groceries and prepare food, for example - that Unconveniencing myself requires something to jolt me out of my routine (like a coffee pot catching slightly on fire) and finding other - possibly slower or harder - alternatives.

Don't read into this too much to think that I believe Convenience is bad.  I LOVE my washing machine, a grocery store where I can buy produce and packaging tape at the same time, and a car to get around in.  But my two little words for this year - "intentional" and "simple" - have got me thinking that quicker is not always simpler, and more often than not convenience is the enemy of my intentionality.

Oddly enough, I think some of the Unconveniences in my life that make me slow down or spend more time on things are really, really great ... because they make me slow down and spend more time on things.  

So, there you have it: the Unconvenient Truth.

PS.  Also, this is not a rage against coffee makers.  I love coffee from any source.  And I would love to have a cup with you sometime, friend.