Monday, August 26, 2013

"C" is for Cookie and "D" is for Dairy-Free

Now what starts with the letter "C?" Cookie starts with "C." Let's think of other things that start with "C?" Ah, who cares about other things.
"C" is for cookie, that's good enough for me.
"C" is for cookie, that's good enough for me.
"C" is for cookie, that's good enough for me.
Oh, cookie, cookie, cookie starts with "C!"

–Cookie Monster, The Cookie Song

I'm not a big fan of baking cookies. It takes a lot of time {a minimum of 2 hours a batch. Perhaps I'm just slow?}, dirties a lot of dishes and they disappear all too quickly from the plate only to reappear on my hips and thighs later. So I mostly buy cookies. Or at least I did until I gave up dairy. I still buy Oreos, because they are dairy-free {which makes me wonder what sort of chemicals they use to concoct the "creme" centers}, and I started buying a really yummy Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie at a health-food shop downtown every once in a while when I'd stop in to pick up vegan sour cream for taco night. And then I decided that a $1.79 for one - 12,000 calorie cookie was kind of ridiculous. I figured out that I could buy a bag of dairy-free chocolate chips and make about 12,000 - one hundred calorie cookies {which comes out to about 8₵ a cookie} instead, so I changed my tune.

I found this recipe at The Live-In Kitchen. It was already in its third iteration, so I think it is OK to share my take on it because I've made a few tweaks.

Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 cup butter or butter substitute
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
2½ cups old-fashioned oats
¾ cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips or dairy-free mini chips

• In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
• In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and coconut. Slowly add to the butter, sugar and egg mixture and beat until combined. Add the oats and chocolate chips and mix to incorporate.
• Drop by rounded tablespoon onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350˚ for approximately 10 minutes; let stand on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 6 dozen

Notes:
• If you are using real butter, use it at cool room temperature. If you are using butter substitute {I prefer the kind made with olive oil}, use it straight from the fridge.
• 10 minutes in my oven plus 2 minutes on the baking sheet {a preheated Pampered Chef baking stone} produces the perfect cookie — not to crispy and not too doughey. You may have to adjust for your oven and/or baking sheet, especially if you make larger cookies.

--

And everyone needs a good chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe, even the dairy-free folks.

Arlene's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup shortening
½ cup butter or butter substitute
2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 cups flour
⅔ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cups milk chocolate chips or dairy-free mini chips

• In a large mixing bowl, cream together shortening, butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.
• In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add to the butter, sugar and egg mixture and beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
• Drop by rounded tablespoon onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350˚ for approximately 10 minutes; let stand on baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 8 dozen

Notes:
• If you are using real butter, use it at cool room temperature. If you are using butter substitute {I prefer the kind made with olive oil}, use it straight from the fridge.
• The type of cocoa powder you use makes a difference. In the first batch, I used regular cocoa powder. I was disappointed with the color and the flavor. The second time I made these, I used Hershey's Special Dark, which is a blend of regular and Dutch-processed cocoas and it made a huge difference. Someday, I may even get my hands on 100% Dutch-processed cocoa.
• Obviously, the flavor will be different if you use milk chocolate chips versus the dairy-free semi-sweet chips. Whichever chip you use, I highly recommend that you use mini chips. They're just so darn cute.
• 10 minutes in my oven plus 2 minutes on the baking sheet {a preheated Pampered Chef baking stone} produces the perfect cookie — not too crispy and not too doughy. You may have to adjust for your oven and/or baking sheet, especially if you make larger cookies.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mormon Messages: The Shiny Bicycle

We have all made incorrect choices. If we have not already corrected such choices, I assure you that there is a way to do so. The process is called repentance. I plead with you to correct your mistakes. Our Savior died to provide you and me that blessed gift. Although the path is not easy, the promise is real, "Thou your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." (Isaiah 1:18) –Thomas S. Monson, The Three Rs of Choice, October 2010

Friday, August 23, 2013

The One Where The Not-So-Little-Bugs Go Back To School

The calm and balanced mind is the strong and great mind; the hurried and agitated mind is the weak one. –Wallace D. Wattles

Yesterday was the first day back to school for the Not-So-Little Bugs. I wrote this post all day in my head yesterday, but there just wasn't a minute to squeeze in actually typing it out. The moment has almost passed and this post is almost irrelevant, but I wanted to capture at least a little of what I was thinking of yesterday, because I'm still thinking some of it today.

This is Grasshopper. Yesterday was his first day of 8th grade. I remember being in 8th grade. I can hardly believe I have an 8th grader.

This is LadyBug. Yesterday was her first day of 6th grade. I can remember being in 6th grade too.

And this is me on my first day of being the mother of a 6th grader and an 8th grader. {Sidebar: I didn't decide we were taking milestone photos until after Mr. Bug had left for work yesterday and he didn't get/ignored my text requesting that he snap a selfie and e-mail it to me.}

I never was one to get teary when my kids went to school. In years past I may not have been excited about it, but the reason for that is that we had to get back on a regular schedule with early mornings, strict bedtimes and homework. Leading up to the start of school this year, I was ambivalent. Staying on top of homework was at the top of my list of anxieties. In the perks column, with school back in I get to sleep in between thirty minutes and an hour every morning and I'm so over a 9:00 pm bedtime. {Sidebar: I considered keeping an earlier schedule in order to have a little sewing time in the morning, but I know myself and I would never be content with the amount of time available and would be grumpy to have to put away my project to go to work. Work first, then play seems to work best for me.}. And now that school has started and I've had two guilt-free work-days in a row now where I haven't had to worry about the Not-So-Little Bugs being alone, trying to mediate disputes or meet needs over the phone, and making it home well before they get out of school so that I can have a bit of time to decompress after work has been a huge relief. And that trumps tricky homework schedules any day.

If there hadn't been a need for it, I don't think I would have ever chosen to go back to work when my kids were this young. It has been hard, but it has also been good. My hours at work kind of grew to more than I expected, though, which was very stressful where the balancing act is concerned. At the beginning of the summer I asked to reduce my hours back to what I'd been hired for. I hoped that I could keep them steady at that level even after summer, and it looks like it is going to work out on both ends. A coworker who is a single mom needs more hours in order to qualify for health benefits so she has been picking up the slack for me. And the reduction in wages that accompanies fewer work hours hasn't pinched our budget too much. Finding the right balance has been hard for me over the last several years. At the risk of jinxing myself, I think I've maybe got it. At any rate, I'm glad the kids are back in school.

Speaking of which, they should be home any minute now and I want to hear all about their days.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Grandma Week 2013: Day 5, Lagoon — Let Fun Reign

A well adjusted person is one who makes the same mistake twice without getting nervous. –Alexander Hamilton

Half my lifetime ago, I worked at an amusement park right here in Utah. It was the best job I ever had {well, maybe I've romanticized it a bit, but I loved working there}. During this time I developed somewhat of an unfortunate habit of locking my keys in my car. It happened enough that I kept an extra set of keys at work and my parents had an extra set in case I locked my keys in the car somewhere other than at work.

I must have been channeling my 20 year-old self in anticipation for our Grandma Week trip to Lagoon because when I got home yesterday afternoon I locked my keys in my car. I didn't discover it until it was time to go today, which was after Mr. Bug and his key to my vehicle had already gone to work. Not having a spare set of keys at home and the need to get to our last Grandma Week activity of 2013 kind of fried the circuits in my brain. I called Mr. Bug, who is almost always calm and collected and he suggested I call the police department and see if they could recommend a locksmith, or if they might do it themselves. I did. They would. And two officers came and unlocked my car.

I then discovered that not only had I left the keys in the ignition, I'd left them turned half-way on and the battery was dead. So, I called Mr. Bug again. Still his calm, cool and collected self, he reminded me that we have a fully charged car battery that he bought to use to power his CPAP machine when he goes camping with Grasshopper, but also for a back-up power source in case of emergencies. Such as when his wife locks her keys in the car and runs the battery down. {Sidebar: Mr. Bug made the comment, "boy you must have been tired when you got home yesterday. You've never done this before." I blame the migraine.} I hooked up the jumper cables, got the car started and we were on our way.
{Top Left: Keys discovered locked in the car
Top Right: The police arrive to get the keys out
Middle Right: These guys aren't Gone in 60 Seconds
Bottom Right: Resorting to the Slim Jim
Bottom Left: Brand spanking new jumper cables and a back-up battery to get the party started}

We had lots of fun. Most unfortunately, my mom {a.k.a. The Grandma in Grandma Week} sustained a small injury while rollerskating on Saturday and wasn't able to make it to Lagoon. My sister, Robin and her husband, Jeremy, came and so did my brother, Andrew, and his wife, Ellen, in addition to my other two sisters, Julie and Jill, and their kids. We're quite the crew.
{Top Left: Frog, Julie, Cap'n Underpants, Mantis, Miss Butterfly, Grasshopper & LadyBug
Center Left: Cricket, Jill, Toad & Lizard Boy
Right: Cricket, LadyBug & Grasshopper
Bottom: Grasshopper, Toad, Andrew, Ellen, Mantis, Jeremy, Cap'n Underpants, Robin}

Lagoon has evolved quite a bit in the last 20 years. It has changed from a stationary carnival to almost a proper amusement park, complete with overpriced concessions {overpriced everything, really}, seven eight roller coasters and several dozen other rides and attractions. They even have a teacup ride, new this year.
{Top Left: Jeremy & Robin on the Paratrooper (ferris wheel on an angle)
Center Left: Capn' Underpants on Scamper (little bumper cars)
Bottom Left: Lizard Boy & Toad on the Dinosaur Drop
Top Right Grasshopper, Andrew & Ellen on the Tipsey Tea Cups
Bottom Center: Toad & Julie on The Bat (suspension coaster)
Bottom Right: Toad on Scamper}

We pretty much rode until we dropped. Julie and her crew and I with my two were pretty much the last ones out of the park at 10:30 pm, despite the fact that we both had to be up early to get back to real life the next morning.
{Top Left: Miss Butterfly & LadyBug on the Paratrooper
Second Left: Frog on Scamper
Third Left: Robin & Jeremy on The Bat
Top Right: Capn' Underpants & Lizard Boy on The Bat
Center Left: Selfie (me) and Lizard Boy on the Wooden Roller Coaster
Bottom Left: Toad, Lizard Boy and me on the walkway in line for Bombora
Bottom Right: LadyBug, Jeremy & Miss Butterfly on the Tipsey Tea Cups}

Thank you, Grandma, for a fun week! We can't wait until next year!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Grandma Week 2013: Day 4, What Matters Most

What is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should let them know. –Thomas S. Monson, Finding Joy in the Journey, October 2008

Sunday is a day apart. The bouncy house gets put away, and outside activities are set aside. Our plans include going to church and spending time with the people who matter most. Family is what Grandma Week is all about. We've had so much fun the past few days; the Not-So-Little Bugs with their cousins and grandparents and me with my silibngs and parents and nieces and nephews. But we decided to come home and spend the afternoon with Mr. Bug, because we haven't seen him since Wednesday {and because I had a stupid migraine and hadn't slept in a bed for three days}. Mr. Bug, I love you.

And just in case you didn't know, Mom, Dad, Julie, Mark, Jill, Robin & Andrew, and all the cousins, I love you, too!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Grandma Week 2013: Day 3, Saturday Skate and Other Fun Stuff

If you don't fall every now and then, you're not trying hard enough! –Unknown

When I was little {and I say "little" instead of "when I was a kid," because I'm pretty sure I'm not a grown-up yet} we used to go roller skating every other Saturday morning. We'd usually go to the 10:00 session, pay our admission, get our hands stamped, rent our skates and spend the next two hours having a fabulous time rolling around the rink. There was a D.J. who would play music, dedicate skates to "couples only" {I forgot to ask my sister, Julie, if she remembers what what we did during those; I imagine we sat them out because we were only in elementary school}, led the hokey pokey, announced birthdays and had the skaters reverse direction every now and then to keep it interesting. Because we went so often, my dad had his own skates. He was pretty good, too. He could skate backwards and everything. So it was a bit nostalgic and a lot of fun to go roller skating during Grandma Week this year. My dad dusted off his skates and was the first one on the rink. He was skating like a pro from the word go.
{Top Left: Dad (a.k.a. Grandpa) lacing up his skates
Bottom Left: Still got it
Right: Skating backwards

Our family grew up in two sets; the big kids {me, Julie & Mark} and the little kids {Jill, Robin & Andrew}. My memories of Saturday skating trips mostly include my parents and the big kids. I think the last time I went skating was in the 80's. But the little kids went skating too. Jill, who is the oldest of the little kids, was quick to get on the rink and got her groove right back on.
{Top Left: Mantis
Second Down Left: Cap'n Underpants
Third Down Left: Grandma & Cricket
Bottom Left: Miss Butterfly
Top Center: Julie, Miss Butterfly, Jill
Center: Jill & Cricket
Right: Grasshopper
Bottom Right: Grandpa, Mantis, Grandma, Cricket & Julie}

We had a few spills. I think everyone fell down at least once. My skating skills were pretty rusty. I have a couple of new bruises, but it was fun to visit this childhood memory and share it with my kids. Grandpa spent time helping any of the grand kids who needed a bit of coaching. Everyone was on skates at one point or another and rink allowed scooters as well, so almost everyone switched off a bit. Miss Butterfly rented roller blades and kept up with the best of the skaters. Grasshopper preferred to scooter most of the time. And whatever the mode of transportation {see also, Baby Cricket in her stroller} everyone had a really fun time.
{Top Left: Lizard Boy
Center Left: Toad
Bottom Left: LadyBug & Grasshopper getting their skates on
Top Right: Grandpa, Julie, Jill, Frog, Grandma & Cricket
Bottom Right: LadyBug and me}

As is tradition, my mom also rented a bouncy house to go in the back yard. The kids bounced in it off and on all day long. The kids watched as the Guy With the Bouncy House got it set up. Toad came in to report that it had been staked to the ground, blown up and if it was OK with Grandma, it was OK with the Bouncy House Guy for them to jump in it. When Grandma gave her approval, a delighted Toad announced, The bouncy house is officially open!
{Top Left: Cap'n Underpants
Center Left: Mantis doing a flip
Bottom Left: Miss Butterfly
Top Right: Grasshopper, Frog & Mantis
Bottom Right Front Row: Cap'n Underpants, Mantis, Toad, Lizard
Back: Frog, Grasshopper, Miss Butterfly & LadyBug}

In between the bouncing and skating, we had cookies for breakfast {you can when you're at Grandma's, you know}, ate crêpes for brunch, stayed in our jammies until noon, had a good time chatting with each other, cooked hamburgers on the grill and ate ice cream bars and popsicles.
{Top Left: Frog
Top Right: Cricket & LadyBug
Bottom Left: Mantis, Cap'n Underpants, Grasshopper, Woodland Sprite, LadyBug, Toad, Miss Butterfly
Bottom Right: Pixie

Disclaimer: I used my iPhone for all the photos over the last few days, but I doubt that my fancy camera would have made much of a difference in the quality {well, maybe if I read the instruction manual} as it is hard to shoot a moving target. Obviously, we're going for quantity over quality here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Grandma Week 2013: Day 2, Antelope Island

When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass and so, we are all connected in the great circle of life.
–Mufasa


Today was day two of Grandma Week, an annual staycation organized and hosted by my mom. Today we visited Antelope Island, Great Salt Lake State Park. It was pretty awesome.
{Top Left: A buffalo
Top Right: Antelope in the grass at the foreground, a buffalo on the salty/sandy beach and Farmington Bay beyond that
Bottom: A herd of buffalo}

There is an old ranch out on Antelope Island that was a working ranch up until a few years back. There were lots of interesting things to see. And of course, we had to stop for a few photos. Here are all the grandkids with my mom {the Grandma in Grandma Week} and dad {a.k.a. Grandpa}.
{In front of the tractor: LadyBug, Grandma, Baby Cricket, Pixie, Mantis, Cap'n Underpants
On the Tractor: Lizard Boy, Miss Butterfly, Toad (formerly Mouse), Frog (formerly Roly-Poly), Grasshopper, Woodland Sprite, Grandpa}

Here's my little family. I'm the oldest of the siblings.
{Top: Grasshopper's first day as a blacksmith's apprentice
Bottom Left: Elizabeth (a.k.a. LizzieBug, a.k.a. me) & LadyBug
Bottom Right: LadyBug, Elizabeth & Grasshopper}

This is my sister, Julie, who is next in birth order, with her little and not-so-little bugs.
{Top, Left to Right: Mantis, Julie, Frog (formerly Roly-Poly), Miss Butterfly, Cap'n Underpants
Bottom Left: Miss Butterfly
Bottom Right: Cap'n Underpants, Frog}

This is my brother Mark, and his two cuties. They are more mythical woodland creatures than your every day garden variety bugs.
{Left: Markus (formerly Mark), Pixie & Woodland Sprite
Top Right: Pixie
Bottom Right: Woodland Sprite & Pixie}

This is Jill, my twin-ten-years-younger, and her bugs.
{Top Left: Toad (formerly Mouse)
Top Right: Baby Cricket
Bottom: Toad, Jill, Cricket & Lizard Boy}

We have one more sister and one more brother, who don't have kids yet, but who are always welcome at Grandma Week and who will join us for some other activites in the next day or two.

After we explored the grounds a little, we enjoyed a picnic lunch in a grassy area shaded with large and very old trees. And then we explored the ranch house a bit. It was very old. I think the ranch was originally built in the 1850's. The ranch house had been updated somewhat, but looked and felt like it was from the early 1900's. There were lots of interesting things inside, not the least of which were these two old quilts. The Courthouse Steps quilt looked like it was about ready to fall apart. I kind of wanted to execute a rescue mission.
{Quilts in the Ranch House
Left: Snowball & four-patch, hand quilted with baptist fans
Right: Courthouse steps, tied}

And there were three old and beautiful sewing machines which I might have carried off if I could have gotten away with it. The White Rotary, in the top right, was in beautiful condition. I don't know if it worked, but I'm sure that if it were cleaned up it would look almost new.
{Sewing Machines in the Ranch House
Top Left: Bel Air
Top Right: White Rotary
Bottom: Singer Treadle}

After we finished at the ranch house, we headed out to explore The Great Salt Lake. The lake is at least twice as salty as the ocean and can be up to eight times as salty as the ocean in certain areas, depending on rainfall and evaporation. There are no outlets, so the salt just accumulates. In some areas there are 3 or 4 inches of salt sitting at the bottom of the lake. Brine flies and brine shrimp flourish.
{Left: LadyBug
Top Right: Lizard Boy with a brine shrimp on a rock
Bottom Right: Grasshopper's knobbly Hobbit feet, covered in sand}

The water was very shallow for a long way into the lake, and it was very warm. I loved Grasshopper's enthusiasm on this outing. He is kind of at an awkward age; too big to be a kid anymore but not big enough to be an adult. It was fun to see him enjoy himself without trying to figure out exactly where he fit in. He has his "teenage" moments, but the for the most part, he is a very mellow, helpful, kind, thoughful boy. I am amazed at what a neat person he is becoming.
{Grasshopper splashing in the Great Salt Lake, after which he pauses to wipe the salt off his glasses}

LadyBug loves the water. She, Miss Butterfly and Grasshopper were the first ones in the water and the last ones out.
{Top Left: LadyBug
Top Right: Miss Butterfly
Bottom: Grasshopper, Miss Butterfly, Mantis & LadyBug}

The kids all had a fun time floating in the salt water.
{Top Right: Lizard Boy
Top Left: Frog
Bottom: Cap'n Underpants}

When we were finished, even though we all had showers, we all still had a fine layer of salt on us after we dried.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Grandma Week 2013: Day 1, The Aquatic Center

Excuse me. I'm looking for the swimming pool. –Unknown

Every summer my mom hosts a fun staycation for her grandkids. Grasshopper and LadyBug start asking when it is going to be before school ends in the spring. In early July, she did had a few unofficial Grandma Week activities with some of the grandkids. My sister and her husband went to meet his parents in England at the end of their LDS Mission there and left their kids with my mom. She invited whoever could make it to do a couple of activities while my sister was gone. I wasn't able to make it because of work, but Grasshopper and Ladybug and some of their cousins road the light rail system, went watersliding and made a trip to the dollar store.

Today kicked off the official Grandma Week for this year. Swimming is always on the schedule. This year, we went to an outdoor aquatic center and had a super fun, splashy time. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

{Top Left: Mantis, Cap'n Underpants & Lizard Boy
Top Right: Jill & Baby Cricket
Bottom: Grasshopper, Miss Butterfly, LadyBug, Mantis & Cap'n Underpants}

{Top Left: Toad (formerly Mouse)
Top Right: Grasshopper
Bottom: Miss Butterfly, LadyBug & Grasshopper}

{Grasshopper jumping off the low and high dives}

{Left: LadyBug jumping off the low dive
Top Right: Miss Butterfly jumping off the low dive
Bottom Right: Cap'n Underpants doing a flip off the high dive}

{Left: Frog (formerly Roly-Poly)
Top Right: Lizard Boy
Bottom Right: LadyBug}

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Easy Zucchini Quiche Supreme

When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat. –Gwyneth Paltrow

It is that time of year again. Zucchini season! And I love zucchini. Did you know that August 8th is National Zucchini Day, otherwise known as Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch day? I don't usually grow zucchini because I have a very kind neighbor who always brings me some of hers. She doesn't even have to sneak it over because I always appreciate it. Zucchini is awesome.

I know it's been a few days, but if someone snuck you some zucchini and you're still wondering what to do with it, try out this bit of deliciousness.

Easy Zucchini Quiche Supreme
2 medium-large zucchini {about 4 cups} sliced about ½" thick and quartered
4 oz. {about 1 cup} coarsely chopped mushrooms
¼-½ cup finely chopped onion {to taste}
3 large tomatoes {about 1½ cups}, seeded and chopped
½ cup butter or butter substitute
2 eggs, well beaten
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons dried parsley or ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
¼ teaspoon dried basil or ¾ teaspoon fresh minced basil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano or ¾ teaspoon fresh oregano basil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 {8 oz.} can crescent rolls
2 teaspoons mustard
2 cups grated Monterey cheese

• In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat; sauté zucchini, mushrooms and onion until tender. Add tomatoes and heat through.
• Heat oven to 375˚. In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, garlic, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.
• Separate crescent rolls and press into the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan. Spread the crescent rolls with mustard and place the zucchini, mushrooms, onions and tomatoes into the pan. Pour the egg mixture over the zucchini and then top with cheese.
• Bake for 18-20 minutes, making sure the eggs have set. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Notes:
• I made my quiche dairy-free by using butter substitute and vegan mozzarella. I used a lot less than 2 cups {probably about ½ cup} because it just doesn't act or taste like real cheese, but does add a bit of nice flavor. The fresh veggies give enough great flavor that I really didn't miss the cheese at all. As a matter of fact, it was so yummy that Mr. Bug and I ate nearly half the quiche between us.
• If you don't have all of the veggies called for, substitute in what you've got. It would be delicious with yellow squash and/or bell peppers of any color.

For lots of other yummy zucchini recipes, here's a fun recipe book. To print the booklet, print the file out on both sides of the paper {if your printer won't do it automatically, print odd pages first, flip the pages and arrange so that the first page is on top, printed side down, and so forth. Then print the even pages}. Fold down the middle and you've got lots of new recipes to try.

Green Monster Soup

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

South for the Winter

Give thanks for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow. –Fernanda Miramontes-Landeros

Since July 4th I've been puttering around with my Patriotic Sampler. This is a project I started before LadyBug was born {which was 11½ years ago. Can she be that old already?} and is my second oldest Ph.D {Project Half-Done}. I keep thinking I need to put it away and work on something else, but there is always another something fun to tinker with on this quilt. I put together 120 flying geese for the outer border. I geese. And I this no waste method for flying geese.

I also made the transition pieces for the centers of the flying geese border. When I originally planned it, I'm pretty sure I envisioned diamonds {square in a square} at the center of each side between the geese. But because I didn't write my plans down anywhere, I had to come up with it twice. When I finally added the border to my layout graphic, I put in alternating strips of red and blue to bridge the gap between the different colors of geese. But once I had my strip sets sewn, I knew they needed to be diamonds rather than squares/rectangles.

I scanned the blocks and added them in to my layout. I really like how the diamonds look {compare to the previous incarnation}.

I forgot math while I was working on my border centers and accidentally made the ones for the sides too long. It took me for. ev. er. to get the background triangles in the corners right. I only discovered the blocks were too long when I went to square them up. But aren't they pretty?

Anything that I went to that much trouble to make does not end up in the discard bin. I decided to use them as a part of one of the place mats. {Backstory: I have this huge blank wall in my kitchen. I want to make a quilt for every month to display there, and have coordinating place mats on the table, which is next to the wall.} Place mats are fun, but I think for any future quilts, I'll probably do a table runner instead of place mats. Because no one will eat off these place mats. Ever.

A row of geese on each place mat was the original plan. I really like how it looks. There will be a sashing strip between and a border of the same width all the way around.

Since I used those discarded stripey diamonds on that first place mat, I decided to mix it up a little on some of the other place mats as well.

Another one with a row of geese.

Three diamonds made out of the geese units seemed to fit really well with this block.

And another one with just geese. It was purely coincidental that I ended up with three with rows of geese and three with something different. It was also purely coincidental that I posted them in alternating order.

I love the pretty red, white and blue scrappiness of this project. And I love the tan that ties everything together.

I started to put sashings on the quilt blocks for the top. Here it is on my living room floor up on my design wall. I debated about whether to just go ahead and put the top together, but I still need to finish eight of those tiny paper pieced five-point stars {I made three more since my last report} that go at the corner of each block. And didn't want the quilt top to sit folded somewhere for the next nine months until I can get to quilting it, so I only put things together insofar as they won't have to be folded when I put them away.

My last bit of puttering was to figure out how to label this puppy. Two of the blocks {The Old Red & Blue and Land of Liberty} are original designs by Marcia Hohn at The Quilter's Cache and her terms and conditions of use stipulate that any original block be credited to her and her site referenced in a permanent manner on the back of the quilt. I picked up ideas and/or patterns for a number of the other blocks from other folks around the internet {credits here}, so in fairness to everyone who creatively contributed, I decided to make a little embroidered label for each block. They are between 1½" and 2" tall and 4" wide. There's also a label with the name of the quilt {This Land Is My Land} and credits to me for piecing, layout and quilting. I'm going to put them together in a strip that will go up the back of the quilt along length of the seam where I join the two pieces of fabric to make it wide enough. I'll add varying lengths of strips of red and blue fabric or left over geese between each embroidered piece. I'll keep the labels in my go bag for hand projects for when I know I'll be sitting and waiting. Hopefully, I'll have them all finished when I'm ready to get this quilt out again and finish it. {Sidebar: LadyBug had her pre-6th grade well-child check the other day. I didn't bring anything to work on because I thought we'd be in and out in a jiffy. The last few times we've been in for other things, I've barely got my project out when they're ushering us out the door. But after 10 minutes in the waiting room, we sat for a full 30 minutes in the exam room before the doctor came in. I think they forgot we were in there because they weren't busy. We entertained ourselves with a rousing game of "I Spy." Lesson learned. Always bring a project. Always.}

I put everything back in the storage tote today. I made myself little notes and put things in separate baggies so that when I get this back out again, I won't have to reinvent. There's not much left to do before I have a flimsy. Eight 5-point paper pieced stars; adding the sashings and corner stones to the blocks, sewing the blocks together, sewing the flying geese border together and adding it to the quilt.

Yes. Next year is definitely the year to get this quilt finished. But for now, the 120 geese {and company} are flying south for the winter.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dairy-Free Basics: Taco Seasoning and Ranch Dressing

Food allergy side effects may include healthier eating habits, improved baking skills and an increased number of meals together at the dinner table. –Tiffany Glass Ferreira at Food Allergy Fun

Going dairy-free was not a lot of fun. Besides all the yummy things like pizza and ice cream that you have to give up, dairy is hidden in a lot of places you'd never expect to find it. Shortly after giving it up I made chicken tacos, which is a favorite at Bug Cottage. At the time, I was kind of at a loss about what to eat and when I planned my menu for that week I figured I'd be safe as long as I didn't put any cheese on mine. As I was putting the tacos together, I decided to check the ingredients and discovered that there is dairy in the seasoning packets you buy from the grocery store. I didn't know what to do. It was getting late and everyone was hungry. So I made the tacos for my family and had a bowl of cereal {with rice milk} for myself.

Later, after talking with a neighbor who has kids with lots of food sensitivities and allergies, she gave me good recipe. If you've been dairy-free for a while, this is probably old news but I thought I'd share anyway.

Taco Seasoning
½ tablespoon chili powder
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes {or ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper}
⅛ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon Cumin
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon dried onion flakes
¾ teaspoon Pampered Chef Southwest Seasoning {optional}

• Combine all dry ingredients. Add seasoning and ⅓ cup water to one pound of meat. Stir to combine; simmer until the liquid is gone.

--

Ranch dressing was never my favorite, but as soon as I couldn't have it anymore, I suddenly wanted it. My friend, the same one who gave me the taco seasoning recipe, gave me this yummy dairy-free version. I like it a lot better than the lactose-laden original. Probably because it doesn't give me heartburn.

Ranch Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dried parsley or 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced
1 teaspoon onion powder
⅓ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

• Mix mayonnaise and vinegar together until smooth. Add parsley and spices; stir to combine. Keep refrigerated.

Lately, I've been on a fresh-herb kick. Dried herbs are good. And it takes a little more time to chop fresh ones, but it seems like the fresh ones are just a little bit better. Plus, they make nice garnishes.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mormon Messages: Dare to Stand Alone

May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so courageously, strengthened by the knowledge that in reality we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven.
–Thomas S. Monson, Dare to Stand Alone, October 2011


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tiny Stars All In A Row

[Miss Tick] said, “Are you listening?”
“Yes,” said Tiffany.
“Good. Now . . . if you trust in yourself . . .”
“Yes?”
“. . . and believe in your dreams . . .”
“Yes?”
“. . . and follow your star . . .” Miss Tick went on.
“Yes?”
“. . . you’ll still be beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy. Goodbye.”

–Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

Since July 4th, I've been puttering around with my patriotic themed quilt. I finished the last two blocks for the top and then started putting together some tiny 1" paper pieced stars. My little pile has grown from seven to 20 of 31 {27 for the front and four to go on the label on the back of the quilt}.

I also decided to measure my blocks for accuracy. This is one of the first quilts I ever started {it's my second oldest Ph.D} and I knew that some of the blocks were a little off. The blocks I did last year and this were OK, but most of the older blocks needed fixing. Some of them just needed to be taken apart, the pieces squared up and put back together with an accurate ¼" seam allowance. Others, I unpicked, changed out a few fabrics and put back together, and I even completely remade a couple.

I'll probably be moving on to another project soon, but my goal is to have the pieces close to being ready to put together into a quilt top when I get it back out again next year. I'm think I'm done with the stars for now. But I put together the blocks that go in the corners. I love how they came together!

I think I'm going to work on the flying geese a little bit, and then it will be time to put this quilt away for a while. Next year, I will remember to get this out in time to have it finished and displayed for the holiday!