Monday, August 17, 2009

Zucchini Bread. Mmm. Tasty.

It's that time of year when coworkers, neighbors, and family start pawning off zucchini to anyone with an appetite. Any gardener who has ever grown her own zucchini knows that one plant could feed the entire town (or at least it seems that way). Our first few zucchini of the year ended up as zucchini fries, stir-fried zucchini, or parmesan zucchini medallions. As the novelty wore off, I knew my kids were ready to try a sweet recipe. Enter Zucchini Bread. (nut free because we have a nut allergy in my house). My husband says this recipe is so good that you could put cream cheese icing on top and call it a cake. We tried one loaf in a cake pan, and it baked just fine!

Zucchini Bread - nut free!
1 cup canola oil
2 cups sugar (or 1 cup splenda, 1 cup sugar)
3 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
1 8oz can crushed pineapple
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 2 large loaf pans (or 6 mini loaf pans, or 2 8-in round cake pans, or a bundt pan).

You'll need two separate bowls. In large mixing bowl, add oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt (we use a wire wisk because we don't have a sifter). Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, stir just until moistened. Add zucchini and pineapple and finish mixing. Bake for about an hour, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean (mini loaf pans take about 35 minutes). Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack. They freeze well, too! Just wrap in foil or plastic wrap.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

There's nothing like a good hole-in-the-wall

Annually, I make a Southern trek and visit one of my favorite hole-in-the-wall discount warehouses. Located in a run-down industrial part of town, it looks like it might have been an old grocery store at one time. Always fun, always disorganized, and leaving you with a feeling that you need a shower afterward, it has aisles and aisles of random dusty products that no one really needs.

Except me. I've found some of my greatest I Spy Bag treasures at this store, digging up to my elbows looking for forgotten trinkets and fabulous miniatures. This year, I took a friend with me. I explained on the way there - we're looking for a needle in a haystack, and we don't even know what the needle looks like. Sounds like fun, eh?

They have aisles of old fashioned floral ribbon that is stacked horizontally (instead of vertically like you would see at other craft stores). Among the rows of Christmas decorations, potpourri scented fake flowers, and glass votive holders, many treasures can be found. Last year, I stumbled upon hundreds of realistic plastic ants, tiny babies, and Trojan coins. I was really hoping for more ants this year (no dice), but I did find these incredibly tiny Santas and fun little tennis rackets.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

3 weeks strong!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've begun a new work regimen by scheduling general tasks for each day of the week. How is it working so far? I'm happy to report that this is my third week, and it has worked wonders for me!

I'm seriously able to get so much more done in a day, and I'm really surprised at that. I think the amount of work looming over me was actually paralyzing and I wasn't accomplishing much.

With my new plan, I'm able to compartmentalize each of the tasks, and only work within that category for the day. For example, today is my "computer" day. I'm supposed to update my blog, work on PR opportunities, read my HARO queries, check in with my Etsy teams, Twitter under the Modern Handmade Child account (part of my contributions to the EtsyKids team), read up on the latest Etsy gossip in the forums, catch up on my blog reading, etc......

NOW, don't get me wrong - I cannot do all of that in one day. BUT, I'm able to just sit in front of the computer and do what I need to do. Allow myself to browse and read articles, and write posts, and not worry that I'm wasting my time. Because this is what I'm supposed to be doing today. And (lo and behold) it actually brings me business, and keeps me informed of the amazing cyberspace art-i-verse. Before this plan, I would feel guilty sitting in front of the computer and feel the need to be designing, or sewing, or photographing. But now I design on Mondays, sew on Wednesdays and the weekend (and the evening sometimes), and photograph on Thursdays.

If you have any trouble at all with time management, you should definately give this approach a try. It is just flexible enough that I'm able to get a lot accomplished, and not so rigid that I can't take a day off to shop for supplies, or have a play date, or have coffee with a friend. Instead of making me feel like I'm putting something off, I simply feel like I'm shuffling things around. Let me know if you are making over your time - I'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kids Travel Happy

Having just sent off a fresh order of I Spy Bags to one of my favorite wholesale customers, it occurred to me that I really should share their awesome site with you! Kids Travel Happy is a website dedicated to keeping your child happy and safe during all kinds of travel - by train, plane, or automobile (and everything in between). I especially love the unique search feature - search by mode of transportation, by age, or even by what kind of travel tray you own. (and if you don't have a tray yet, you can buy that there, too!)...

Some of my favorite items are the packable hula hoop (who knew you could pack a hoop?), magnetic paper dolls, crayons that won't roll away, and even a travel toy tote to keep it organized! And, check out this baby holder - you'll realize how ingenious it is if you have ever had to use a public restroom while traveling alone with a baby.

Kids Travel Happy has the best selection of travel toys and travel gear, pulling from both commercial and handmade markets. I am honored to be among the industry's best in this shop! The next trip you take - whether a plane ride across the ocean, or a trip to the grocery, visit this site first. They are a great customer of mine, and I'd love for you to show them some love! Don't forget you can also find my I Spy Bags there :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Now this is some serious catnip...

I decided that our kittens deserved a treat after surviving a month with my toddlers, so I went on the hunt for some catnip. We have none in our garden, and none of our neighbors seem to even know what it is... I wished my mom lived closer. I know she has some right outside her door! Anyway, I finally found a promising seller on Etsy - Layla of Flowering Tree Botanicals. Described as "highly fragrant and fresh" and "the strongest catnip we have ever stumbled across" - I was sold, and eagerly handed over my paypal money.

HOLY CATNIP! I swear the cats came running the day the postman arrived with the package. I sprinkled a bit over the kitties' heads and they wrestled with eachother for at least a half hour. Later I found my cats cramming themselves into the trash can in an attempt to sleep on the outer packaging that held the catnip. As the catnip lay in its ziplocked bag on my desk, the kitties milled about my feet yowling. I knew it had to be hidden. or up high. or something. A disaster was surely in the works. I put it on top of some fabric on my highest shelf of the studio. Literally wedged between a pile of fabric and the ceiling, it was finally out of reach.

OR SO I THOUGHT. The next thing I know, I've left the room for a glass of water, and I hear a crash. One of the cats climbed my entire wall of fabric and got his claws in the bag enough to bring it down. Within seconds the cats had jumped that bag like they were lions on a zebra (you know, like on the discovery channel).

I think "some of the strongest catnip we have ever stumbled upon" is an understatement. In the market for catnip? Look no farther. And be prepared with a lock box.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A walk in the park

Friday is my non-work day. I don't have a sitter, and I'm left to fend for myself. Taking care of 3 little kids isn't so hard (as long as I'm not trying to get ANY work done). It has taken me a while to realize this - but now I actually enjoy Fridays because I don't have to work and I get a chance to enjoy my kids.

Yesterday we explored a local park and discovered an oak tree completely covered with these:

At the time, I had no idea what they were! At first I told my daughter that it was a caterpillar, but we poked at it and determined that it was very solid (although fuzzy and soft) and was most definitely NOT a caterpillar. So I googled around when we got home and learned that it is an oak tree gall produced by a small cynipid wasp (which is harmless to humans, by the way). It is actually created from the cells of the Oak tree leaf, mutated by an injection from the wasp. Then the wasp babies live inside it. Freaky. But cool. This type of gall is called a hedgehog gall (cute, right?).

The other highlight of the day was seeing two noisy swans on the lake. Most of our lunch conversation centered around what a swan sounded like. I can't say that I remember ever hearing a swan before (aren't they usually quite silent?), but their honk rivals Molly Lou Melon's. Each kid had their own way of making the sound, my 3yr-old's rendition sounded like a gutteral "dump, shump." My 5yr-old's sound involved a mixture of "honk" and "quack," and my baby just squealed like a pig (which was adorable, but sounded nothing like the swan to my ears). Luckily, we met no one on the trail, so our sound pollution likely didn't bother anyone (except perhaps the wildlife).