Monday, July 30, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: grandma's famous zucchini bread

i was fortunate enough to grow up in the same town as my grandma (grandmommie, as we used to call her). not only was she an incredible woman, but she was an amazing baker. this week, many of my family are gathered in san diego for a family reunion. grandmommie will be missed and i feel an empty void without her here to enjoy the family all together. in honor of her, i am sharing her *famous* zucchini bread recipe for you all to enjoy. xoxo


3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups pealed and grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon


beat eggs until light and foamy. add oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. mix lightly but well.

mix four, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. add flour mixture to first mixture and blend. (may add chopped nuts, about 1/2 cup, if desired).

grease two 9x5 loaf pans. divide mixture into pans, bake at 325 degrees for one hour or until it tests done.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

70 years of memories

last month my dad turned 70 years old. he is already one of those people that is a challenge to find a gift for so i was *freaking out* trying to come up with a fantastic, memorable, creative and FUN idea. while browsing other blogs, i found a *brilliant* idea from nothing but bonfires that she had come up with to celebrate her dads 6oth. i quickly borrowed this fabulous idea, made a few changes of my own, enlisted the help of my little sister and we ran with it.

the hardest part was tracking down all of the emails we could (it may or may not have involved hacking into my dad's computer address book). once we had emails the next step was coming up what to say and then getting it out to as many people as possible. here is what we ended up with:

Hello everyone!

If you're receiving this email, you probably know that our dad, xxxxxxxx, is turning 70 next month. To celebrate his birthday on June 20th, we'd like to put together a little surprise to let him know that his nearest and dearest are thinking of him. We're going to try and create "70 Years of Memories" by filling 70 envelopes with a memory his friends and family have of him.
And this is where you come in! 

If you have a spare moment in the next few days, we would be so grateful if you'd jot down a favorite memory you have of our dad and email it or put it in the mail. It doesn't have to be anything fancy -- you can just write it down on a piece of paper and sign your name or send a quick email (we will take care of the formatting and print it out). You can mention anything you like -- although the more nostalgic the better! Please absolutely feel free to send more than one memory (in fact, we welcome it -- we've got 70 envelopes to fill)!

Please email your memories to: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
If you would like to mail memories please send them to: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Thank you so, so, so much for participating -- we know everyone is busy with their own lives, and we do appreciate you taking a few minutes to do this; it will be so worth it when he reads all the memories people have of him! (Please don't forget to keep it a SURPRISE until then, though!) 

Thank you so much again. 

P.S. PLEASE help us by forwarding this e-mail to anyone that you think might have a memory to share of our dad. We have tried to gather as many emails as we could, but know that we have missed some. We would appreciate your help in spreading the word. :-) 

we sent it out and then we waited. a few started coming in right away....but we started *panicking* (70 envelopes was truly a LOT to fill). the emails kept tricking in, some amazing people forwarded the e-mail onto others and we also sent out a couple follow-up reminders that really helped. i must note that it wouldn't have been the same without the help of one AMAZING cousin of my dad's that personally took on the challenge to call each of his elderly aunt and uncles to transcribe their memories of him and get them to us-- (thank you, holly!!)

we gathered all of the memories, stuffed 70 numbered envelopes with them and then tied them together in a neat, tidy stack and made a cute little label.

we took my dad out to a fancy steakhouse to give him the stack of envelopes. he was floored. we laughed, we cried and after a few hours (yes. hours. it may have been the worlds longest birthday dinner). side note: thank you to the amazing people at the steakhouse at azul la jolla for being so generous with letting us occupy a beautiful ocean view table and never making us feel like we were taking too long. if you have never been to azul, you must. not only is the atmosphere beautiful, but the food is among the best that san diego has to offer.

there were lots of laughs and even some tears. the memories that people shared were thoughtful, loving, kind and some were downright hysterical. they came from aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends and friends that are like family. each envelope that was opened took us on a journey and led to more stories to be told and memories to unearth from the depths of our minds.  my dad loved reliving all of the memories and said that (in a good way) it was like being able to attend his own memorial service and hear what people would say. 
look at that *giant* stack of letters!

a little boo-hoo-hoo-ing

he may kill me for posting this crying one. :-)

we took turns reading at some point. are my mom and dad not the cutest?!

a special thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone that participated to make this such a special birthday for my dad....he will never forget it and neither will our family. what a very special celebration! 

so, if you are looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind gift i would suggest trying this. not only does it make a fabulous birthday gift, but i think it would be a great anniversary gift too. let us know if you end up trying it yourself! enjoy!


Monday, July 23, 2012

mmmmm, mondays: eggplant pasta

(recipe and photo credit: real simple magazine)

it's eggplant season and i don't know about you.....but i just never know what to make with eggplant. i was lucky enough to be served this yummy dish at a friends house and it is truly fabulous. this recipe serves 4, but i have been doubling it for the yummy leftovers. give it a try and let me know what you think. enjoy!

1/2 box penne pasta
1 medium eggplant cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup of grape tomatoes, cut in half
6oz fresh mozzarella cheese cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon each crushed red pepper, sea salt, and pepper
1/2 tablespoon of crushed garlic
optional: cut basil leaves to garnish

cook pasta according to directions on the box.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water, drain pasta, and return to pot.

at the same time the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet or pan and cook eggplant until tender and brown(ish)-about 8-10 minutes

add tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, salt and pepper to the eggplant, continue cooking until tomatoes soften, about 2-3 more minutes.

combine pasta with eggplant mixture, add reserved water and mozzarella, toss and serve.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

simple solutions: laundry soap dispensers

sometimes i see something so amazingly simple and brilliant that i just have to share. these last couple of weeks, i've been visiting family. my mom had this simple solution that is absolutely genius. i couldn't help but share. if you have a simply genius idea to share, please pass it on so we can all benefit. together we can rule the world!

okay, so if you have a huge bottle of laundry detergent, you know how messy it can get when you use the little dispenser cup and then have to put it away. who wants to rinse it out each time? so, here's the solution.

normal laundry soap dispenser...normal high efficiency washing machine...

pour in your laundry soap like normal. 

when you are finished putting in the detergent, just place the cup into the space for the detergent.

close the lid to the washer and run the machine like normal.

when the load is finished washing, your cup will be clean and ready for the next load. 

simple genius.

Monday, July 16, 2012

mmmmm: lemon basil potato salad

i am not a mayonnaise fan...never have been. the only time i like it is when it's mixed with pesto sauce. so, when i saw this fabulous recipe for a no-mayo potato salad, i was all over it. this is delicious. it's cool and refreshing on a hot summer day. enjoy!

lemon-basil potato salad

10 medium potatoes

1/2 large red onion, chopped

fresh basil, stems removed, chopped

salt and pepper


4-5 cloves of minced garlic

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

juice of two lemons (or about 1/4 cup lemon juice)

2/3 cup olive oil

wash the potatoes. leave the skins on and slice about 1/4 inch think. boil the sliced potatoes in salted water approximately 12 minutes. drain and let cool. mix garlic, mustard and lemon juice in a large bowl. whisk in the olive oil. season with salt and pepper. add potatoes, basil and onion and mix well. enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

friday fun finds: chopped salads

summer is the perfect season for current favorites are the chopped variety. do you have a favorite chopped salad recipe to share and enable my obsession?

chopped salad from espresso and cream

chopped greek salad with shallot vinaigrette from food and wine

chopped mexican salad from greatist

chopped chicken salad from how sweet eats

california pizza kitchen chopped salad from

chipotle chopped salad from veranda interiors

classic chopped salad from better homes and gardens

southwestern chopped chicken salad from greens n chocolate

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

men and their tools

my sister, hubby and i went on a walk tonight. my man was telling one of his cool stories and talked about "humping" his way up a mountain in the jungle. well, my sister and i, having the juvenile humor that we do, couldn't contain our giggles. seriously, which male decided that the term "humping" should have a double meaning?

that led me and my sister on a good, long, laughable tangent that landed us imagining a trip to our local home improvement store. i love home improvement. i love projects. i love shopping. i love good customer service. however, thanks to men everywhere, i hate going into a home improvement store. without question, some helpful man in an orange vest will come up to me and my five children and will ask what i am looking for and how he can help me. 

here is where men everywhere have messed with women. i don't think there is a product in the home improvement stores that don't have a double meaning. seriously, hammer, nail, screw, and my least favorite of all: am i supposed to get through home depot with a straight face? i had to find a dark brown tube of caulking to match the baseboards around my flooring. how do you ask where that is located without creating an awkward customer service moment? 

maybe we should just own it. maybe we should make men everywhere as uncomfortable as we are in those situations. maybe someone should just walk in to a home improvement store and ask as many questions about caulk as she can think of, just to see what happens. if you have the guts to do that, please let me know. i'll be searching the aisles aimlessly so i don't have to use the words brown or white and caulk in a sentence together.

Monday, July 9, 2012

mmmmm: lime-pear jello salad

i love jello in the summers. something about it is reminiscent of my childhood. this recipe is cool, smooth and delicious. it tastes like a dessert and has become one of my favorite summer treats. enjoy!

lime-pear jello salad

1 large package lime jello

1 large can pears

1 8-oz package cream cheese

8 oz cool whip

drain the pear juice in a pan and bring to a boil. stir in the lime jello to dissolve. pour the mixture into a blender and whirl. add the cream cheese; whirl. add pears to the blender mixture; whirl. add the cool whip to the blender mixture a small portion at a time, whirling between additions. pour the entire mixture into a jello mold, bowl or a rectangular dish. refrigerate until firm.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

independence day

the fourth of july is one of my favorite holidays. maybe it's because i lived in a foreign country for several years. maybe i'm just especially patriotic. regardless, i love today.

i was going to post a fourth of july craft, a fourth of july dessert, any number of fourth of july fun ideas. those, however, will have to wait until next year. instead, i'm declaring today a personal independence day. this will be my mommy manifesto, if you will. maybe it will catch on.

today i'm declaring my freedom from the following:

1) the bondage of perfection. don't get me wrong. i love pinterest. i love every beautiful, crafty idea that it holds. it is amazing. however, somewhere along my pinterest pursuit, i've looked at all those things and somehow felt less than adequate if i couldn't somehow fit all that loveliness into my daily life while keeping up my house, raising good kids, and just maintaining my own sanity. somewhere along the line, we've moved the line of what is considered successful and have set the bar for ourselves immeasurably high. i am hereby lowering the bar. sometimes good enough is just that...good enough.

2) self doubt. i am a good mother. i am not perfect (see #1 above) but i am still good at raising my kids. the days when i lose it, when i want to run away and hide, the moments when my kids are on my last nerve and i say something i should not, when we have hot dogs for dinner three nights in a row, all of those moments do not diminish my success as a mother. this thing called motherhood is tricky and i'm doing the best that i can. it may not be today, but someday, my kids will see and understand that. i will trust that i am good at being a mom.

3) a negative body image. i have had five kids, for crying out loud. for some reason, when i look in them mirror, i expect to see my 20-something-self, never-had-a-baby-body staring back at me. i'm going to give my 30 something self a break. the fact that i can fit into any pants at all after having five kids is nothing short of miraculous. that doesn't mean that i don't want to be healthy or that i'm willing to just blow up like a tick as i get older. it just means that if i have wrinkles, if my skin sags in places it shouldn't, if gravity has done some damage that can't be repaired, i'm going to move on. it's not worth feeling bad about myself all the time. i'm going to be okay with what i look like.

4) comparing myself to others. somewhere along the line, we all do it. we compare our mothering, our kids, our lives with other people. it is exhausting and we will always find someone who is doing something better than we are. what is it in our make up that somehow makes us feel better by showing how successful we are next to someone else' failures? what makes us feel so horrible when we line up our own shortcomings next to someone else' success? why can't we just stop and learn to be comfortable in who we are, both good and bad? comparisons make me crazy. i'm choosing to be sane.

5) discontentment. life is messy. things get hard. there is always something more to do, pennies that need to be pinched, kids that need to be disciplined, relationships that don't get the priority they deserve. life is not perfect (again, see #1). i'm going to determine to make the best of it anyway. when things are really horrible, i'm sure i can imagine something worse. when the end of the year comes, i know i'll look back and remember the good. so, why not find contentment in the midst of the mess? i'm not saying this is going to be easy for me, i'm just saying i'm going to try my best. i don't want to miss a chance for happiness in the everyday. i'm going to strive for contentment.

6) ungratefulness. i sometimes wonder if my own children's lack of gratitude comes somewhere from the example i've set for them. i am so quick to complain when things aren't perfect, when there's a traffic jam, when the grocery store doesn't have an item i need, when my cell phone drops a call. it's no wonder my kids are quick to jump on that bandwagon. how did the universe come to owe us so much? i'm going to remember to look around in awe as i walk into a fully stocked grocery store. i'm going to look at my refrigerator and be thankful that today is another day that i won't go hungry. we are such a privileged people...sometimes too much so. we are quick to forget how good we have it. i'm going to choose to remember.

there you have it. the six areas where i'm declaring my own independence. what about you? perhaps i should take signatures like our own mommy declaration of independence. perhaps you'd like to add something to the manifesto. feel free.