Zucchini Carrot Muffins

I have an all-or-nothing problem with fresh produce. I’ll either buy way, way too much or not enough. I’ve been reading the French classic cookbook Je Sais Cuisiner and am trying to get better about meal planning. But the reality is that sometimes veggies start to fade before we can munch them up.

This week we had an excess of carrots and zucchini, and they weren’t looking too good. Since it was 92F/33C degrees yesterday, making an easy but hot puréed vegetable soup didn’t sound too appealing. Instead, I tried my hand at making zucchini carrot muffins ?? with the added challenge of making them as healthy as possible. After some recipe research and drawing on my experience with muffins in the past, I came up with a pretty good recipe, based on this one, but with much less sugar. We were all out of whole wheat flour, but that would have made it a tad more healthy, too. In all, I’m quite pleased with the result and will definitely use it again.

What you need:

2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 average-sized finely shredded unpeeled zucchini
3 small-to-medium-ish finely shredded carrots

What to do:

Using a food processor, finely grate/chop the zucchini and carrots.

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease 12 muffin cups (I have been using a great all-natural grape seed spray).

In a mixing bowl, beat the oil with eggs, sugars, and vanilla extract.

Combine the flour, soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; add to the wet ingredients; stirring until blended. Fold in the shredded zucchini and carrots.

Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of one comes out clean.

Old-School Embroidery Take II

When we lived in Paris I picked up a few vintage linen dishcloths at a flea market. What was unusual about them was that they had never been embroidered, so I did some internet research and created my own simple monogram to match the classically simple red-stripe design. Check out that project here.

Embroidered dish cloths are old school, literally. In the time period I study (late nineteenth-century France) girls learned how to embroider, knit, and sew in school. They also learned basic reading, writing, and math skills, but until the twentieth century the curriculum for girls and that for boys were drastically different. Not cool. What would be cool is if everyone learned needlework skills and science. Can’t we all benefit from using both sides of our brains?  This fall I’m giving a paper on one woman’s interesting educational theory for girls during this period. Maybe I’ll try to justify spending more time crafting as part of my “research.”

But back to the dish cloths: When it came time to celebrate my soon-to-be sister-in-law, Kendra, I thought I’d give her a French monogrammed dish cloth as a gift for the occasion of her bridal shower.

Since working on that first project I’ve discovered a fabulous site with vintage embroidery patterns that you can find here. I browsed around and came across a script alphabet that I think I prefer to the one I used on my own dish cloth.

Check it out here. See anything missing above? No W – this is actually quite common in French patterns (words that use W’s are only recent additions to French). I suppose you could just put two V’s together… Taking a look again, there isn’t a separate I or J, either. I guess you would use them interchangeably? Luckily I only needed the letters K and B this time.

After downloading the above file, I used the screen capture function on my computer to “cut” the letters I needed and then lined them up in Preview to create my custom cross-stitch pattern.

I then embroidered the initials onto the dish cloth, not worrying too much about finding exact squares, although it was fairly easy to do so on the thick linen.

Voilà. A little touch of everyday French elegance.

April Florida Trip

When we heard Seth’s parents and sister were headed to Florida for a week, we decided to join them for part of their vacation. There is so much to do there which makes a great place to meet up. Highlights of our trip were a waterslide park, trips to the beach, and a full day spent in Key West (my first time there), where we visited Hemingway’s house and of course indulged in some Key Lime pie. We loved the laid-back atmosphere of Key West and would love to return for a longer stay. But we were also satisfied with taking it easy in the sand and walking along the boardwalk in Hollywood Beach.

Thanks for all the fun, Ron, Carol, and Renée!

Ice Cream Sandwich

Can you spot the baby frog? There were teeny, tiny frogs *everywhere* on the beach at the lake near Seth’s parents’ place… and tadpoles in the water!

Fun with Aunt Née

Snack Break

Ernest Hemingway’s House

Southernmost Point of the continental U.S.

Train Excitement

The trip back from Key West

May Festivities

May has always been special to me, since my birthday is the 13th. But now with Mother’s Day as well, I have another great excuse to celebrate spring! What have we been up to?

Playing soccer in the backyard:

One Saturday, while the boys did this:

I did this:

These table linens were embroidered by my great-grandmother. My aunt Diane gave them to me on our last trip out to California. That table cloth in the back was Seth’s grandmother’s. I was able to get them looking crisp and new by pre-treating decades-old stains with OxyClean and then drenching them in sunshine after washing. These are so special to me, and I’m glad they add a touch of history and elegance to our meals today!

A tag sale benefiting the local historical society was held almost literally in our backyard, at our neighbor’s. Knowing the neighbors and having seen their awesome 1920s house, I knew the stuff would be good. As predicted, I came away with many treasures, including this 22-carat-gold-plated china set made by Limoges USA (I know, American Limoges?!), from the 1920s:

I’m almost embarrassed to say how much I paid:  it would have cost more to see a movie in New York City.

I also picked up the most cheerful vintage recipe box:

and a pretty bowl, which I assume to be crystal because it weighs four tons:

Ah. I live for tag sale season.

Jax grew me a Mother’s Day gift at preschool:

He loves watering it and sometimes dumping out the excess water when it gets a little full.

Jax helped Seth mow the lawn on the morning of Mother’s Day:

For lunch that day we treated ourselves to delicious Mexican food. The table-side guacamole preparation was captivating:

While not a huge fan of the taste of guacamole, Jax did enjoy the cheese quesadillas and refried beans:

A big, quesadilla-filled smile!

For dinner that evening, we used one of my great-grandmother’s white tablecloths:

Seth gave me the beautiful rose plant I’ll be enjoying for months. It has since sprouted even more blooms.

Jax helped me open my Mother’s Day gift, a necklace with a charm that says “jax”:

Last weekend we used my birthday as an excuse to get together a bunch of local families with Jax-aged kids we’ve come to know. We had a picnic that lasted something like five hours, with friends coming and going all afternoon. It was great!

I have been so spoiled for my birthday and received many wonderful gifts that I so much appreciate. I now have Martha Stewart’s Craft encyclopedia and some great movies I’ve been meaning to watch and now can. There are also new treats from France and some fun new accessories I’ll be enjoying well beyond my birthday. So sweet!

My present to myself was finishing the last chapter of my dissertation.  Now on to a summer of editing and rewriting, interspersed with many more picnics and some short trips to see friends and family. Happy times!

Proud

A couple of weeks ago Seth started a new endeavor to blog about Google for Fortune Magazine’s online tech section. Although he is still working around the clock on his original brainchild, 9to5mac.com, ironically he’s now spending most of the 9-5 time slot in midtown Manhattan covering Apple’s formidable competitor. {Thankfully, he is a much more prolific blogger than yours truly.}

To launch the new blog, Fortune is featuring him on the Fortune.com page of the current print issue of the magazine.

What’s that you say? You’d like a closer look? In case you live in a city where one of my family members has bought every last copy of the magazine, here’s a close-up of the Q&A, so that you, too, can enjoy Seth’s comments on Google, Apple, and blogging.

Things I learned from my mom

Happy mother’s day to you, Mom! I didn’t get your gift to you on time (and I know you don’t even expect anything, which is why you deserve it even more) but I *can* give you this list of lessons I’ve been remembering as I continue my adventure of motherhood as well. I love you!

~Rachel

Things I learned from my mom:

1. Singing “Oh what a beautiful morning” when you wake up really does make any morning beautiful.

2. You also have really fun hairdos first thing in the morning.

3. People who stutter need to be patiently listened to, not spoken for.

4. Don’t bring chips, sugary cereals, or store-bought sweets into the house on a day-to-day basis, but never host a party without home-made chocolate chip cookies or carrot cake.

5. Let kids slather onto vegetables as much butter or ketchup as they please, and they’ll develop a liking for the vegetables themselves.

6. When conflicts arise, deal with them immediately and head-on, hug to make up, and never, ever hold a grudge.

7. The smaller the child, the larger art space they need.

8.Give kids only primary colors to work with and they’ll have fun discovering for themselves how to mix all the colors of the rainbow.

9. Everyone should know how to sew on a button (bonus if you know how to make a wedding dress.)

10. As ye sew, so shall ye rip.

11. Class has nothing to do with money or stuff.

12. To give means to take pleasure in knowing the receiver will do as they please with the gift, no matter what that may be.

13. To receive is to remember that first and foremost, it is the thought that counts. Be grateful for the people who care about you.

14. Candlestick salad is a fun treat: take a round of pineapple, stick a half banana in the middle, and put a dollop of peanut butter on the top.

15. You are precious.

16. Laugh lines are infinitely better than the alternative of taking yourself ?? and life ?? too seriously.

17. Some situations require the presence of a whoopie cushion.

18. Being a part of your children’s activities is one of the most important things you can do.

19. Choose water or unsweetened iced tea with lemon.

20. Tackle home repairs yourself first. You’d be surprised at how easy some projects (like painting or resurfacing a driveway) can be.

21. Don’t act like a prima donna (but know that you are immensely important to this world).

22. Who are you saving the good china for? You and your family are worth it: bring out the porcelain for everyday use.

23. Go outside.

24. Stand up for what and who you believe in.

25. Say “I love you.”