Sunday, August 31, 2014

Going out of my Gourd: A Zummer of Zucchini

Hello? Who is this? Mother Nature, you say?
thanks to Intern Elizabeth for letting me take these with my iTouch

You want me to what?
Pick the Zucchini?
It's growing out of control?
1 bucket full just of cucumbers and one bucket full of zucchini from the office garden; 
1 morning's harvest to be joined by the pile on the table from the superintendent's garden

I mean, we're trying to harvest them before they grow out of control ... but
there's only so much you can do when you are getting zucchini the size of babies.
I'm not kidding. This one was 5 lbs and 7 ozs. I weighed it on the postage scale.
And when you are going of your gourd on zucchini, you get a little silly after a while.
photos: courtesy of Christine's iPhone; Emma is proud mom and Auntie Tahra is cooing in delight

So you bake, share, bake, share, and share some more.

left: traditional zucchini bread from ye old-Better Homes and Garden recipe book (see below)
right: Chocolate Zucchini Cake from Summer 2014 Penzey's Spices Catalog

Zucchini Bread

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, white
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup sugar, white
1 cup finely shredded unpeeled zucchini (I peel mine)
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

In a mixing bowl combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg. In another mixing bowl combine sugar, shredded zucchini, cooking oil, egg, and lemon peel; mix well. Add flour mixture; stir just until combined. Stir in chopped walnuts.

Pour batter into a greased 8x4x2-inch loaf pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes or till a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.

Remove bread from the pan; cool thoroughly on a wire rack. Wrap and store overnight before slicing. Makes 1 loaf (16 servings).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chocolate Zucchini Cake from John and Lois Thomas

  • 1/2 Cup margarine or butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 13/4 Cups sugar
  • 1/2 Cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 Cup buttermilk or sour milk (1/2 Cup milk plus 1 tsp. white vinegar = sour milk)
  • 21/2 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Cups grated zucchini, peeled if desired, drained (about 2 medium)
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 Cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 325° (for a glass pan) or 350° (for a metal pan). In a mixing bowl, cream together the room temperature margarine/butter and sugar. Add the oil, eggs, VANILLA and buttermilk and mix well. In a small bowl, combine the flour, COCOA, baking soda, CINNAMON and salt. Gradually add to the wet ingredients and mix well. Fold in the zucchini. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nuts over the top of the cake. Bake at 325° for 45-50 minutes or at 350° for 35-40 minutes. Let cool before cutting.

Prep. time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 35-50 minutes
Serves: 12-15

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Today's creation is destined for chivalrous neighbor Darryl who always insists on holding the door for me (even though "I know you are a strong, independent, and capable woman, I have to do this. My mama [said with a Southern-inflection] would be angry at me if I didn't.") and graciously admiring my "confidence" and silver streaks. The smells coming out of my oven were an interesting counterpoint to the nasty and quick summer rain monsoon and wafts of ozone from oh-that-was-too-close-unplug-everything lightning that were coming in my window about 2 hours ago.

From Betty Crocker website: 

Cinnamon-Topped Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread


  • 3 cups shredded zucchini (2 to 3 medium) [Or 1 ginormous one, cut down to get most of the seeds out]
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups Gold Medal™ whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • Topping

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter or margarine

  • Directions

    1. Move oven rack to low position so tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 (8x4-inch) loaf pans or 1 (9x5-inch) loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray. 
    2. In large bowl, stir zucchini, 1 2/3 cups sugar, the oil, vanilla and eggs until well mixed. Stir in remaining bread ingredients; mix well. Divide batter evenly between 8-inch pans or pour into 9-inch pan.  
    3. In small bowl, mix topping ingredients with fork until crumbly. For 8-inch loaves, sprinkle evenly over batter in both pans. For 9-inch loaf, sprinkle over batter in pan. 
    4. Bake 8-inch loaves 50 to 60 minutes, 9-inch loaf 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on cooling rack 10 minutes.  
    5. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on cooling rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

    Saturday, August 30, 2014

    Reading on the Rails: #IReadEverywhere

     "This summer, The New York Public Library is celebrating the excitement and personal joy of reading with the hashtag #ireadeverywhere. Beginning on Aug. 5, we are asking all of you to join authors, librarians and other readers from all over the world to share your favorite — and unusual — reading spots, along with the hashtag and our handle @nypl, all in an effort to inspire others to pick up a book (or an e-reader) and start their own adventures."

     ~ Per the New York Public Library
    I'm so happy (and relieved) to be riding the rails again. I now have almost 2 hours a day when I have NO EXCUSES but to pick up a book and read. I mean, I could read anywhere, anytime, anyplace, and everywhere -- so ... I try to. But, when reading on the train platform, it's important to WATCH THE GAP!

      via iTouch, despite the top left picture, I wasn't reading trash, thank you very much!

    Book featured: Introvert Power: Why You Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D.

    Friday, August 29, 2014

    Quote of the Day: The Power of Words

    "What is that old children's rhyme, 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?' Anyone who says that doesn't understand the power of words. They can cut deeper than any knife, hit harder than any fist, touch parts of you that nothing physical will ever reach, and the wounds that words leave never heal, because each time the word is thrown at you, labeled on you, you bleed afresh from it. It's more like a whip that cuts every time, until you feel it must flay the very skin from your bones, and yet outwardly there is no wound to show the world, so they think you are not hurt, when inside part of you dies every time."

    ~ From Laurell K. Hamilton's A Shiver of Light 

    Easing back in ....

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

    Quote of the Day: The Power of Holding Hands

    "There's power in the touch of another person's hand. We acknowledge it in little ways, all the time. There's a reason human beings shake hands, hold hands, slap hands, bump hands.

    It comes from our very earliest memories, when we all come into the world blinded by light and color, deafened by riotous sound, flailing in a suddenly cavernous space without any way of orienting ourselves, shuddering with cold, emptied with hunger, and justifiably frightened and confused. And what changes that first horror, that original state of terror?

    The touch of another person's hands.

    Hands that wrap us in warmth, that hold us close. Hands that guide us to shelter, to comfort, to food. Hands that hold and touch and reassure us through our very first crisis, and guide us into our very first shelter from pain. The first thing we ever learn is that the touch of someone else's hand can ease pain and make things better.

    That's power. That's power so fundamental that most people never even realize it exists."

    ~ from Jim Butcher's Skin Game, the most recent in the Harry Dresden series, page  30.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

    Retroblogging: Sweets for Summer Survival

    After a busy week preparing for the opening of the Festival, with lots of late nights, and then a fancy dress-up party, it's fun to come home and open sweet notes from nieces. Strip off your bling, put on your robe, slather on girly-pampering gels and masques, and enjoy hearts, flowers, and rainbows and a book report from Ms. Amber.

    Dear Aunt [Nettie], I would like to let you know that I like Nacy (sic) Drew, Black Beauty, and Black Staleon (sic). I would like to thank you for sending them to us. I hope to see you soon. Love, Amber

    I send along some of my favorite books from childhood for her birthday and Christmas presents, and she was slowly working her way through them.

    I miss you too Amber, but won't be able to visit until next year. See you on the computer soon.

    photos c. February 2014

    Tuesday, August 26, 2014

    A Map of the Introvert's Heart


    Artist Gemma Correll has quite accurately illustrated what truly occurs within the heart of an introvert in her illustration, “A Map of the Introvert’s Heart", which is available as an 8×9 poster through Society 6

    It's not too soon to start dropping hints for holiday presents, is it?

    This can be purchased here!


    Monday, August 25, 2014

    Back to School 2014: Letters from Drew

    This guy headed off for his first day of Fourth Grade today! 
     Fourth Grade!

    He continues to amaze me with how grown-up he's getting. I mean, listen to this letter I got about a month ago, relaying his some of his summer adventures and travels.

    "Dear J dog, it's soooo hooooooooot dagaaaay here, it feels to me like the world is in slow-motion, so I thought I'd write back to you today on this fine Thursday here. Where do I start? Ah I know. I'll start at the beginning. So it all started when it was Saturday after I learned I was staying at grandma and grandpa's in Bloom-in-ton so I had to start packing for three days there and a week with the other grandma & grandpa (both new records). So the next day after church they came over and picked me up. When we were there I upacked. (sic) At 9:00 I read and went to bed. The next morning I woke up at 5:00 in the morning my time and I was pooped. Grandpa said we might not go earlyer (sic) that night but the weather changed and we ended up going. All three days we had the same routine. So after we went kayaking the third day. I showered and grandma & grandpa took me to mom and dad to go to gamdg Hughes. The next day we woke up at there (sic) house and I was in the guest bed and I was not the first awake. next paper -->  I was actually almost the last one to. That day we went swimming at our cousin's city pool. A few days later on Monday me, Levi, mom and dad went to Lagoon. If you know what Lagoon is, in your next letter write to me that you know but if not I think you should look on they're (sic) website. After we were done we went back. A few days later we packed up and hit the road. After that things were pretty normal, dad taking naps, mom going to work. On Tuesday we went and saw the M[redacted] cousins. Then on Thursday me, mom, and the kids drove to Axtell for three days, and I can tell you, I got eaten (sic) by mesquitoes (sic). I almost got bitten by a spider while watching fireworks! We watched the parade the next morning going to the Reber's house is always fun. The second to last day were there, me, Laini, Levi, and Uncle Matt went swimming. The next day we started packing and left. After that everything was normal! And now you have part of my summer.

    Love, Drew"

    And conveniently enough, Grandmary and Grumpa sent me pictures of Drew and his cousins playing at the grandparents house.
    l-r: Nathan, Elle, Amber, Drew's back

    The twins do solemnly swear they are up to no good, 
    which Nathan can't believe, and Cannon just grins off and tries again.

    Finally, for some quiet, a DVD started playing in the library, so the "big kids" could goof off in there.

    More from Grumpa:
     Drew on the water kayaking and then refilling his poor empty belly.

     Blink, and you miss it.
    Breakfast inhaled.
    Hey. He's a growing boy and paddling is hard work!

    Keep writing Drew!

    Sunday, August 24, 2014

    Random Musings: Weekend Wrap up

     Caramoor's Office Garden: aka Flowering Fields of Fennel?
    Scene of much dirt therapy, weeding mayhem, squash scratches, and so many cucumbers ...

    Given that I was notoriously anti-outside, anti-sweating, anti-getting dirty, anti-bugs, and anti-weeding as a child, the fact that I'm the one out there playing the dirt/mud, weeding, talking to the bugs, and picking the veggies this year for the office? The irony is not lost on me.

    I came home on Friday with two bags of veggies from the Caramoor office garden semi-daily harvest designated for the neighbors and friends, and it seemed one bag was oozing. Reason 150.85b why I don't like tomatoes. I think they are trying to kill me. Those sneaky buggers.  All innocuously healthy looking on one side. Beady eyes and oozing wound-y mouth on the other saying: We are going to killlllll you.

    Granted, it is a derpy face saying WE ARE GOING TO KILLL YOU, but I still think the tomato is out to get me.

    Read: I don't particularly like tomatoes. On a scale of chocolate (love) to bananas (loathe), the tomatoes are closer to bananas, though I will eat them on BLTs and as sauce/ketchup, gazpacho, and soup. I'm weird. Get used to it.


    If all advertising for eggs was as cute as this roadside stand, I would buy more eggs. The lady offered to go get them "fresh out of the coop" for $6 - but I know what "fresh out of the coop" looks/feels like. I'd rather just look at the cute sign.
    Spotted somewhere in Fairfield County, CT

    It was nice to hang with my friend Barli on Saturday, running around parts of CT exploring estate, tag, and yard-sales, but then she decided to park near Campo Beach in Westport and check an app to find our next destination. This was the closest to the beach I have been in almost a year. It took all my will power not to dash out of the car and into the surf. There was free wi-fi at the beach ("Yes. It is Westport, after all!"), so yay for wi-fi distraction or the fine WASPy folks of Westport would have seen a scarey sight.
    So close and yet so far.
    I'm still kicking myself that I didn't buy this at an estate sale so I could totally rip it off. "Take a picture, it last longer" doesn't work when you are trying to replicate a pattern.
    WHOOOO's a wise one? Not me!
    This flag was my BEST PURCHASE OF THE DAY! Totally appropriate as it was Doctor Who premiere day. My Attic is turning into an Anglophile/beach/shabby chic mecca. Would it be inappropriate to use the Union Jack as a throw blanket, and/or hang it out on my fire escape on July 4th?
    Keep Calm and Take a Nap!

    Today was more of a traditional old-school Sunday. Sleep in, my date with Charles Osgood and the "church" of CBS Sunday Morning, brunch with my friend Susan-who was driving through town, a shop, the Sunday papers, chores, phone/Skype calls with friends and family, and catching up with my correspondence. (Almost all the elements of a traditional religious Sunday - minus church and a nap, but .... it's better than when I was working.)

    Yes, Virginia, people still write and send old-fashioned letters.

    ~ all photos iTouch

    Saturday, August 23, 2014

    Photo of the Day: Clouds on the Coast

    July 23, 2014
    Oregon Coast ~ Near/at Cannon Beach

    Photo by Grumpa Max

    Grandmary and Grumpa were on the road a lot this summer. One of their journeys took them down the Oregon coast line. Occasionally they like to share/taunt me with photo attachments in my e-mail inbox. This was one of the more spectacular ones.

    Beach + Photography = family shared love/passion

    Friday, August 22, 2014

    Quote of the Day: Unexpected Memories Lingered Beneath Words

    As I work my way back to semi-regular blogging, I'm going to share some of the quotes from books I've been reading ... some of the random things that have perked my interest, and persuaded me to keep using this forum to share things, family history, etc.

    "Over the years, Aunt Ailis had tried to lure Finnegan into the world of computers, the lines of software code that she studied as if they would give her a key to the inner workings of the human brain, if not heart. Finnegan understood the satisfaction she derived from the act of coding, her ability to aim for and achieve something she already she knew she wanted -- but for Finnegan, his interest in people's stories was always the unexpected memories that lingered beneath the words, waiting to come out. As far as Finnegan could understand, the purpose of coding was to create a form of stable perfection, a series of commands that could reproduce every time exactly what was intended. The opposite of humans, who were interesting to Finnegan precisely because of the way their narrative changed, hid other meanings, shifted with time and perspective.

     So he reached out and took the stories in, knowing that they had nowhere else to go, unable to refuse safe haven to memories that otherwise would disappear unnoticed. And yet, at times, he was overwhelmed by the weight of other people's lives, the stack of notebooks that surrounded his bed.

    "You could publish them," Aunt Ailis suggested. But Finnegan knew, somehow, that wasn't the answer. What he had experienced in the transfer of these stories was as intimate as touch, a table for two in a crowded restaurant. Still, he didn't know what to do with them, didn't know who he was without them.
    And so he sat in his room, surrounded. ... He sat on his bed and picked up one notebook after another, reading."

    ~ From Erica Bauermeister's The Lost Art of Mixing, pages 231-232

    Emphasis throughout my own.

    Thursday, August 21, 2014

    Pardon the Blog Hiatus

    The next day?
    I'm exhausted from the last 2.5 months.

    I knew the summer would be long and hard. It was definitely something I KNEW would happen.

    But man...

    I don't have the stamina I did when I was in my early 20s.

    This summer was LONG ... and EXHAUSTING.

    I don't want to make any promises, but ...

    but ...

    I think ...

    I'm beginning to emerge from the "Festival Fugue" that sucked me down, in, and under ... when, from early June to August, you are working so many hours/days in a row, that you can barely remember to eat, go to the bathroom, and pay bills on time, forget blogging.

    There were many days -- in a row -- when I didn't know what day of the week it was ... It was just the "Saturday schedule." There were four or five "Saturdays" in a row, due to weirdnesses with weather, generators, holidays, and weekend.

    There were late Festival weeks when I was just on autopilot: [get up, shower, get dressed (in a dress), find the rental car, go to work, work, rinse, repeat], that I forgot that I had scheduled myself NOT to be there. I was so worried about all the other people on the schedule, I TOTALLY BLANKED ON MY OWN DAYS OFF!

    I mean...

    COME ON!

    Others are on vacation now. I'm back on a train-commuters' schedule. I'm reading more. I'm sleeping/napping. It's quieter. I'm catching up. ... I think .... I'm slowly emerging from "the Fugue."

    Maybe I will find more time now, to blog, and to retroblog -- once this introvert has finally regrouped from having to act like an extrovert for more weeks than her reserves could handle. (Adding to the Fugue-state/zombie-hood.).

    I still need about 2 more weeks BY MYSELF to finally feel like myself. Since THAT won't happen, it's self-imposed exile when and where I can.

    And, I need to retroblog.

    A lot of family stuff happened this summer.
    A lot.
    Some pictures were taken this summer.
    Cute mail came in this summer.
    More plans were made for next  summer.
    I have more Wishes and Dreams that I need to articulate, as some from last year are actually coming true.

    But for now...


    I'm sunny, but I'm still drooping.
    Kinda like this