Sunday, August 26, 2012

Monster In the Garden

I am sure by now, if you have a garden, that you have grown at least one of these:


Monster Zucchini.

We have had our fair share of these monsters growing in the garden over the years, and have come to make friends with them, instead of throwing them straight into the chicken coop.

We make bread. And, lots of it.

 I have tweaked, and toiled with this recipe and have finally hit my stride, settling into the fact that it needs tweaking no more. It is fine tuned, delicious, and now, I share it with you.

The monsters pictured above are actually too big to taste well, even in bread, because they tend to get a harder shell that is not very good to eat. They are best in the bread when they are on the big side, but not too gargantuan. You can most certainly use little zukes too, if you like.

                                     Monster Zucchini Bread

                      2 Cups shredded green or yellow zucchini
                      1 Cup Brown Sugar

                      2 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar

                      2 Tsp. Vanilla

                      2/3 Cup Vegetable oil

                      2 Eggs

                      1 1/2 Cups Flour

                      1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder

                      1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda

                      1 1/2 Tsp. Cinnamon

                      3/4 Tsp. Nutmeg

                      1/4 Tsp. Ginger

                      A pinch of Cloves

                      3/4 Tsp. Salt

                       3/4 Cup Frozen Raspberries

                       3/4 Cup Frozen Blueberries

                       1/8 Cup Sugar mixed with 1 Tsp. Cinnamon

 Oh, and this recipe makes one loaf, but I usually double the ingredients to make two; one to eat now, and one to freeze for later. It freezes beautifully and actually becomes more tender.

Preheat your oven to 350 Degrees.

Prepare your cinnamon sugar mixture by mixing together the 1/8 Cup of sugar with the 1 Tsp of cinnamon to make cinnamon sugar. Grease your loaf pan with butter or a nonstick spray, then dust it with your cinnamon sugar reserving half of it to dust the top of your loaf later. Dusting your pan with the cinnamon sugar instead of flour will give your bread a tastier crust, and will also help it come out of your pan easier.

Prepare your zucchini. I use my trusty grater on my food processor to make the job quick and painless.

In a kitchen aid mixer bowl, or large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, the 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, the vanilla, the vegetable oil, and the eggs. Mix well.

Once mixed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt. Mix well. It will be a little soupy, but that's okay, that's the way it's supposed to look.

Add the shredded zucchini, folding it into the batter. Next, gently add the frozen berries. These really add to the bread, so make sure to include them. Freezing them beforehand makes them much nicer to fold into the batter, and won't leave you with blue batter, or tiny bits of raspberries. You want the whole berries in the slices of bread, and freezing them beforehand ensures this.

Next, pour your batter into your prepared loaf pan. Spread it out evenly, then top liberally with the reserved cinnamon sugar mixture. This will give it a hard, shiny, yummy top crust.

Bake for 55 minutes to an hour, or until done. Make sure and test it and make sure your knife comes out clean as bread can be tricky to tell when it's cooked all the way through.

Cool on a wire rack and let cool completely before removing it from the pan. If freezing a loaf for later, wrap the cooled loaf tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap it another time in foil to make sure it freezes nicely.


I'll be back next week with highlights from our Cannon Beach trip.

Sand in my suitcase,

Sand in my toes,

Sand in my toothbrush,

And, Sand in my nose

Vacation went too quickly, it's back to the old grind,

I wish there was a button, so I could hit rewind.

: )!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dog Days

Well, well, well.

Summer has finally arrived. I won't be snooty and ask where it's been, I am only happy to humph my way around in a tank top, finally, and bask in the evening breeze that floats in through the windows that don't close until bedtime.

I do love August something fierce. These next three months are the months I live for. The late evening sun with warmth like warm, yummy, leftovers. The peak of harvest, where "what's for dinner?"means heading to the garden instead of the grocery store and coming out with an armful of inspiration. Beach, beach, and more beach. I could go on and on.

Even though I love September too, fall is already readying it's jacket and reaching for the shoes, and I am not ready. I pointed out cans of Libby's pumpkin puree to Grace at the store today and said "soon", and we are already talking Halloween costumes, and school supplies. We are finally in a groove where having her home means more work for me, but the pleasant kind, and I will miss her company so, so much come September, but she misses her buddies, and I understand that.


The summer of seven is almost over.

Here are some things we have been up too, in these dog days I wish could go on, and on forever.

           Berries. And in true Forrest Gump style, " And that's all I have to say about Thy-at."

          My Sous chef.  Btw, that knife she is holding is not that sharp, it just looks menacing and makes me look like a questionable mother. It a kids Ikea knife. I swear.

She is obsessed with flying, and leaps off anything high if she has anything that resembles wings on her back. I am pretty positive with my extreme fear of heights she will most likely become a pilot. I am quite sure of it. Sheesh.

                                                        My seven year old butterfly.

    She's got legs. And knows how to use them. I picked up this chippy chap at our local thrift store.

                           One hour, tops, I thought. Ya, I know. I suppose I was born yesterday.

             And here she is. My new butter yellow sofa end table. Worth the trouble after all.

        Summer evenings mean bonfires and meteor shower watching. Blankets and Hot Cocoa,too.

Only thing is, once you get anywhere near ground level, you'd better beware. Daisy's tongue will be kissing you in a frenzied, french kissing fashion. Ew....ewewewewew. Yes. Cover your face.

Ladderball tournaments. We yell inappropriate things at each other right as one is about to throw. We have schooled Grace that "Ladderball language, stays only in Ladderball, K?"  Told you I was a good mom.

                   This is our fan base. They seem awfully quiet though. Almost eerily so. I think it's because they have crazy hair. Yes, that must be it.

We have had a good summer so far. Plenty to do, thankfully healthy for the most part, but most of all, able to spend time with each other, which I can never get enough of. I want to squeeze the sunshine out of each evening and put some in my pocket for later, but for now I will deeply inhale it's lovely-ness. To be true to this, I am taking the next week off from posting, and will return in two weeks.

Skies are clear. Nights are short, but the stars are shining and throwing out invitations to view the night sky with the family. This week is the Perseid meteor shower, and I invite all of you to bring out blankets, sit on the porch, and stare at the sky while contemplating the wonders of the universe while you slap off mosquitoes.

You won't be sorry you are tired the next day. It is worth it.

I promise.

Happy Summer-ing!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

In Pieces

Dawg is panting at my feet, and a soft, warm, middle-of-the-day breeze is trying to find it's way into the room. Even though the temperature is supposed to hit 90+ today, the air, it carries a coolness off the Puget Sound waters as it travels to spread it's welcomed wings across our little Island, and it is cooling the room I am in, providing a nice, cozy temperature. This morning, the first thing I heard was the hum of the ceiling fan, wobbly, just a little off balance, and I smiled because I often curse the thing the rest of the eleven months as I stare up at it in bed, motionless, and wonder why we even have it. Ahhhh... we have it for those two or so weeks in the summer that actually feel like summer. Hot August. I want it.

Jeremy told me this morning that I am due for a word heavy, deeper post. Honestly, my mind is numb and lazy, as Sarah and I have had one wedding reception and two other weddings to shoot in the past eight days. Throw in another summer bug that took me down for two days, and that has been my week, so I'm not feeling particularly wordy, but have been gratefully busy.

What I am reflecting on, is how I am functioning. I am taking a step back, and looking at my life from the outside looking in, and quietly pondering how I got here.

After Vanessa died, the two years that followed, was pure hell. I slipped into the rabbit hole that swallows souls, branches ripping it apart, as you fall to your death. I couldn't leave the house. Answer the phone. Do much of anything except sob and pray my way to therapy once a week, and if I could, drag myself to my job with my mom at the Pharmacy. My broken heart lay in pieces, and my mind went somewhere else as the reality set in, and I wouldn't have it. My head didn't feel normal. I couldn't think, or read more than two sentences in a book, or focus on anything for more than five minutes. As time went on, things got worse, and I became severely agoraphobic. For some reason, being near people stressed me out, and not just a little, but, big time. Anything that had to do with facing the public, forget it. I would have these terrible panic attacks doing normal, everyday tasks. It got so bad, that I could not go anywhere by myself. Or drive. I was already dead inside, but at the same time, I was dying. My mind felt like it had short circuited, and has never felt "normal" since. I keep it well hidden now, but to be very honest, everyday things feel complicated, and I get through them, but it takes tremendous effort. I feel broken still, that part of me, unrepairable. That's what happens I suppose, after a life altering event. You are never the same, so you have to let yourself go.

For some reason, going to the grocery store stressed me out the most. Carrying on with the mundane everyday things were all day consuming. For months, just getting the dishes washed, or folding a hamper full of laundry was an all day affair. When I went out in the daylight, my mind literally buzzed, and things didn't look real. I felt crazy, or that I was going crazy, and maybe I was. My baby was gone, and I just couldn't process that in my mind, body, or soul.  I drove my therapist nuts, begging her, negotiating, as if she could magically bring her back. I was just not in this reality, and it took a very long time to slowly realize and accept, that no matter what I did, she wasn't coming back, but back then, I didn't and wouldn't believe that.

It wasn't until Grace was nine months old, that I had a significant breakthrough. Her early infancy was just as black for me, as I wandered my way through the darkness, but now with a baby in tow. I had talked myself into going to our local Baby Group, where moms with other children around the same age gather and connect. That was big for me. Huge. It took all of me, and then some, to drag myself there, and to share a bit, and I told myself over and over until I was blue in the face that it was for Grace's benefit. She needed me to push myself out of hiding. I almost quit after the first meeting, but reluctantly went to the second one. And then the third, but always had one eye on the door. One afternoon, on our way home after one of the baby groups, feeling a push of confidence and courage, I pulled into the Thriftway parking lot. I hadn't been to the grocery store by myself in over three years.
I turned off the ignition and sat. I only needed one thing. "Just go grab it." I told myself. "Do it." I would have Grace in my arms, which grounded me, and her babbling in the back gave me the extra boost I needed to frantically unhook her from her car seat and bolt in before I totally lost my nerve.

My heart was pounding and by breath was steady as I counted my steps to keep calm as my feet found a good pace. I wasn't puking, or thinking I was going to die. I wasn't screaming. I wasn't hyperventilating, but almost. I grabbed what I needed, and stood in the checkout line thinking "I am doing this!!! OMG, I am DOING this!!! I bought my item with trembling hands and left the store. The whole trip in and out lasted under five minutes, but I did it! I sobbed the whole way home, as I had just done something I was sure I would never do again. It was a huge moment for me, even if it sounds corny and lame, and I'm a little embarrassed for having shared this, but, too late now.

Since then, bit by bit, like piecing together a puzzle, I was able through family support, love, grace, and a whole lot of prayer, to do what may come easy for most people. Function. Even though it feels more like I am piecing together a Jenga puzzle, I am grateful for the mundane, and feel extreme moments where I look to God and say thank you, that now I am able to walk through the grocery store, drive my car, wash my dishes in under an hour, cook dinner, build a business, talk on the phone, go to dinner with friends.

Almost ten years later, I am standing in shoes I thought were completely impossible.

Oh, God, thank you, and let me keep standing.

                                                        Pieces put back together