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    August 31st, 2010

    Fresh produce. We recently discovered a tiny farm with a produce stand close to our home, and I love stopping by for fresh, yummy goodness. Today we got squash, plums, tomatoes, strawberries… it doesn’t get better than that.

    Fun blogs about doing art with kids. These two are my current favorites- SO inspiring!  Filth Wizardry (best name EVER!)  and The Artful Parent.

    Books about butterflies. We’re obsessed with them around here recently. A World Of Butterflies is stunningly gorgeous- an art book more than an identification guide. We found Butterflies & Moths (Smithsonian Handbooks) to be much more helpful in that regard.

    Pruning back our flowers. I don’t even know if pruning is the right word- basically just taking all the dead brown yucky bits off. (We had some casualties around here during the couple day heat wave.) There’s just something wonderful about pulling off all of the deadness to reveal the green beneath… I think there’s a potential post in that, so I’ll leave it for now. :)

    Finding a fun new recipe. I discovered what looks to be a delicious one for curry chicken salad. If it turns out as wonderful as it looks, I’ll share tomorrow!

    What’s one of your favorite things today? Do share!

    Running errands

    August 30th, 2010

    A couple of weeks ago I was wandering around the internet and stumbled across a blog where a woman was describing her family’s schedule. Among the activities she laid out she mentioned going grocery shopping and running errands “once every month or so“.  How is that even possible? I’m comforting myself with the idea that she must live on a farm or something, because I’m at the grocery store at least two or three times a week, and I feel like I’m running errands more days than not.

    So, I decided to assess my schedule and see if there isn’t a way I could condense my errands – plan ahead and not have so many last minute runs out to the store.  I looked at my calendar for the upcoming month and figured out days that need planning for- preschool days that I’m teaching, parties I’m hosting, and came up with a list of things to be done in connection with them.  (I still have to figure out when to do those things, but it’s a step in the right direction.)  Then I planned out our meals for the next two weeks (I usually plan just one week in advance) and did that shopping today. Already I’ve realized I forgot a key item, and I’ll probably need to do a milk run in about a week, but I’m hopeful that skipping the almost daily trips to the store will cut down on the spending that goes with each trip.  (We will be making stops at the local produce stand, but that counts more as an activity than an errand. :) )

    So tell me, how many times do you grocery shop? How many days are you running errands?  Do you have any tips on how to condense, plan ahead?

    Here’s to Fall!

    August 28th, 2010

    Oh, it has been a while, hasn’t it. Can I claim I was just taking the summer off? Let’s just go with that. :)

    Looking back over my “yay, it’s summer!” post, I have to be pleased with what we actually accomplished this summer. Lots of swimming, lots of playing with friends, lots of reading, (both by little miss and to the little miss and her sister), and a decent amount of organization.

    And now it’s time for fall. I love autumn, I really do. I love the shift in the weather; the cool mornings are  inspiring to me in a different way than the bright, sunny mornings of summer tend to be. I love the feeling of new beginning that a school year starting brings.

    Around here we’re planning out our school year (ABC school for the 2 year old, a year of Book Adventures for the 4 year old) , as well as planning lots of art projects, field trips, and time with nothing much at all planned.  I’m trying to get back on my cleaning schedule- it works so well when I’m actually on top of it!- and attempting to cull the clutter overtaking my house. All of which I will hopefully write about here.

    Do you have any great fall plans? Do share!

    The Post about Zucchini

    August 27th, 2010

    The alternate title of this post is, “The Post Where I Learn that Zucchini is Spelled with an H”…

    I love the idea of gardens full of produce.  That beautiful cornucopia of squash, tomatoes, beans, and all things fresh and good.  Don’t forget those delightfully green and refreshing cucumbers!  I love gardens.

    I don’t have a garden but I am hoping that 2011 will be the year of my first garden.  We will see…

    While I love the idea of gardens, I am not always sure what to do with the produce that my wonderfully generous neighbors pass onto me.  So I decided that this summer will be the year that I learn how to feed zucchini to my family.

    I don’t find zucchini by itself all that exciting.  I think it is stunning to look at.  I love the bright, vivid green and yellows motled together on a smooth shiny surface.  I just love it.  However, eating it has always left me a bit disheartened.  I don’t find the flavor as exciting as I wish I did.

    So to remedy my bias toward zucchini I have decided to learn some recipes that will utilize its true yumminess.  Here are a few that I have found:

    Lemon-Zucchini Cookies (See my comments below before attempting these delicious cookies)

    Stuffed Zucchini with Potatoes and Peas

    Zucchini Oven Chips

    Zucchini Gratin

    Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

    Zucchini Bread

    I have made two of these recipes (the lemon-zucchini cookies and the zucchini bread).  Both turned out super yummy.

    Now before you make either of those, I have a confession.  I hate following recipes.  I am what you might call an “organic cook”.  Not organic in the sense that I only purchase organically grown items, but organic in the artistic sense of the word.  I like to use recipes as guides.  I rarely, if ever, follow a recipe exactly as it directs.  I add a little bit of this and a little less of that depending on how the fancy strikes me.  My results are not always consistent but usually they turn out great.  Some people might call that a flaw, but I just call it Cooking Character.  I have Cooking Character in spades.

    The bread recipe above turned out delish!  The only change I really made to it was that instead of egg substitute I used actual eggs.  I think I used about three eggs, maybe four.  I also used my whole zucchini which came to more like 3 1/2 cups instead of the 2 1/2 the recipe calls for.  I do really like the amount of spice in this recipe.  It turned out quite flavorful.  Kind of heavy, but I don’t mind heavy.

    The cookie recipe was all wrong, in my opinion.  It turned out amazingly delicious but I just wanted to warn you that I am recommending a recipe that I completely changed.  Hear me out first before you skip that one by.

    I started out making it as Martha Stewart recommended but I thought it was too runny and not really sweet enough.  As is, I think it would make a nice tea type cookie.  That’s not really what I was craving so I added about 1/2 C brown sugar and added more flour, maybe about 3/4 C.  Then I decided to add a few eggs because I have a huge carton of fresh, delicious eggs sitting on my counter.  Why not?  I also added some baking soda so that they would rise a bit.  Oh also, in the interest of full disclosure, I added some applesauce as well.  Ok, ok, ok, I also doubled the recipe, did half butter and half applesauce, and in the additional flour that I added about 1/2 C was whole wheat flour.

    OK, so basically I made an entirely new recipe but I think if you try the recipe Martha Stewart suggests, you will like it.  That’s all I am trying to get across here.  It also makes a great jumping off point if you want to experiment and try it your own way.  I have eaten way too many.  I’m feeling a little ill.  Like WAY too many, not just a few too many…

    The next recipe I am going to try is similar to the zucchini gratin recipe above.  My mom was telling me about it over the phone.  You basically make a quiche type dish with eggs, zucchini, bread crumbs, cheese, etc and bake it until it is solid in the center.  I might make that tomorrow night.  I think it will be super yummy!

    Finally, the old stand by recipe in our house for using up zucchini and other summer squashes is a stir fry.  How can you go wrong with that?  It’s always fresh tasting and (dare I say this word one more time?) delicious!

    Do you have any favorite zucchini recipes?  Please share them in the comments.

    A New Start

    May 3rd, 2010

    Is it summer where you are?

    It’s not really summer here either, we’re still solidly in spring, but preschool has ended and it’s time to set up a new schedule.

    Our new schedule will include lots of being outside, crafts, swimming lessons, and parks. It will also include cleaning, organizing,  cooking, and learning how to read. The ever present question is how to balance everything so that it flows together and forward, keeping us moving and happy. I’m thinking a spreadsheet is in order.

    How do you fit everything you want/need to do into your schedule? Is it written down? On the computer? How often do you reassess? Do share!

    Look in a book

    April 17th, 2010

    Some of the books inspiring us around here recently:

    Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life

    Calm and Compassionate Children: A Handbook

    My Heart’s at Home: Becoming the Intentional Mom Your Family Needs

    Writing Motherhood

    and some great, inspiring websites:

    Mom Shots

    5 Orange Potatoes

    Rhythm of the Home

    Childhood Magic

    What’s inspiring you?

    Outdoor Challenge Day 6

    April 17th, 2010

    Posting a day late. Yesterday was filled with a new park, friends, too much sun, a little sunburn, lots of running, and lots of fun. No time to post when you’ve got that much going on! :) Are you getting outside  this weekend?  I hope so!

    Outdoor Challenge Day 5

    April 15th, 2010

    Today’s outdoor adventures ended up being all about birds. First we saw this:

    As we walked we noticed the flock of little birds flying above, but when they were joined by the HUGE hawk, all 3 of us gasped.  Truly gorgeous.

    Later, when we stopped for lunch, we decided to eat outside. While we ate, some birds decided to wait around to see if we’d drop anything, and we noticed the varied calls the different birds used.

    My lesson learned today? In both instances it would have been so easy to miss both of these experiences. If we’d been too distracted to look up, or too busy rushing through eating to stop and listen to the birds, we wouldn’t have noticed them at all.

    Outdoor Challenge Day 4

    April 14th, 2010

    Sometimes you just need to borrow someone else’s outside.

    PS. The problem with comments is fixed. So please leave some, so I can be secure in my illusion that we weren’t getting comments solely because they were broken. :)

    Outdoor Challenge Day 3

    April 13th, 2010

    A whole wonderful field of muddy fun

    A makeshift “tree house”

    A found the one puddle left to splash in.

    Have you ever tried to take a picture of a hummingbird??

    PS. A plea : I’ve been getting reports that people aren’t able to leave comments. If you got here from Facebook could you  please try leaving a comment, and if you get an error report, leave a comment on Facebook letting me know? Thank you!