Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I won!

Actually, I got first place in the cherry tomato division of the Farm and Garden competition at the OC fair. It's my first placing at the county fair! Sadly the day to pick up my ribbon was this morning from 7am to 9am and I didn't hear about my placing until this afternoon. :( I don't even have a picture of the tomatoes because we completely forgot to visit the farm and garden competition display and take one. They go off display as of today and are now property of the OC fair to probably throw away, including my ribbon! There is one more pick up day for the next round in the competition, so maybe I'll go and see if they still have it. I hope! I entered a new variety of cherry tomato just sold this season from Burpee called "Black Pearl". Not as tasty as I'd hoped, but they do look quite striking. I have more than I know what to do with, so I think I will try to sun dry some of them, or maybe freezing. I could even make jam out of them! I wonder how that would taste. Hmmm.

Speaking of too much produce, I also have tons of zucchini (surprise). And since many of my readers are in Utah, I know you have extra zucchini too (or will soon). So with that in mind, here are my best zucchini recipes! Enjoy!

The best cake recipe I've found is in the Richey family cookbook "Nearer Home" on page 273, 'Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake' (for those of you who have it). There are also tons of zucchini bread recipes in that cookbook on pages 208-210. But the very best zucchini bread I've made is from the "Best Ever Banana Bread" recipe below, just substituting 2 cups of shredded zucchini for the bananas.

For something more main-dishy, I really like my mom's 'Zucchini Boats' (see below). And I just discovered a zucchini recipe that my boys, who WILL NOT eat zucchini, actually like! It's a zucchini pancake recipe, though I like to call them "Zucchini Patties" to avoid confusion.

I am also in the process of trying 'Quick Zucchini Pickles'. They are like the familiar cucumbers in vinegar water we all know.

Even with all these recipes at my disposal, I still have to give some of my zucchini and summer squash away! And unlike most Utahans I actually try to pick my zucchini while they are still small! However, since the zucchini are the same color as the leaves they are sometimes hard to spot, so often I am surprised by a giant after I thought I had picked them all! They are VERY prolific plants! I'll have to check into preserving them. Then I can have zucchini bread all winter!

Happy to have a garden,

================================================================= Best Ever Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 bananas, mashed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter, sugar and eggs. Mix sour cream and soda in a separate bowl; let stand until foamy. Add vanilla, bananas, salt and flour; mix well.Place in 2 greased, floured 9x5x3"loaf pans or one bundt pan. Bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Freezes well. ================================================================== Zucchini Boats

Cut in half lengthwise:
4 medium zucchini

Scoop out pulp, reserving:
1 cup pulp

Place zucchini cut side down in a large casserole dish with:
1/2 cup water

Microwave on high for 3-5 minutes, or until zucchini becomes slightly tender

Mix in separate bowl:
Reserved pulp
1/2 lb. ground sausage, cooked
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup saltine crackers, crushed
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
Some of your favorite herb, fresh or dried
1 clove minced garlic

Drain water from zucchini and place cut side up in casserole dish. Spoon mixture from bowl into the boats. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Serves 4 to 8. ================================================================== Zucchini Patties

Shred on the large holes of a grater:
2 1/2 lbs. green or golden zucchini

Sprinkle lightly with:

Mix together in a bowl:
2 large eggs
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (or medium firm tofu)
1/2 cup dry unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup flour
1 bunch scallions, slivered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
Salt and pepper to taste

Quickly rinse the squash, then, using your hands or a towel, squeeze out the excess liquid. Add the squash to the batter.

Heat in a large skillet:
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Drop in the batter, using 1/4 cup for 4-inch cake. (Flatten if needed). Fry over medium heat until golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Turn and brown the second side (I like to sprinkle them with cheese here). Keep the fried patties warm in the oven while you fry the remaining batter, adding more oil if needed. ================================================================== Quick Zucchini Pickles

Cut zucchini in thin slices and place in a colander. Salt generously, rubbing the salt into both sides of the zucchini. Let it drain over a sink for 30 minutes, squeezing the excess water out every few minutes. Rinse well in cold water. Transfer to a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 Tbsp dried dill, and enough water to cover. Refrigerate for an hour. Enjoy! ===================================================================

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thank You!

I'm participating in the One Skein secret pal exchange and I got my first skein over the weekend. I love it! It's 100% organic cotton, so smooth and soft, and in pink! Gorgeous! So I just want to say a big thank you to my secret pal!

This past weekend we also went to the OC Fair. We went on opening day because parking and admission were free between 12 and 1pm. It was fun, but crowded. We went with out friend Vicky and her 2yo son. And I got to take some pictures of my crochet entries (I found my camera). They weren't displayed very well, and my picture taking abilities leave something to be desired, but here they are anyway.

I've got 4 free tickets to the Fair!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Cornell's Bush Delicata squash

So I got a bush winter squash from some free plants that were donated to our community gardens. It's growing great and has some interesting white fruits growing on it. I'll post a pic soon. I couldn't remember what the variety was so I of course did an online search. Here's what I came up with! Very interesting! My husband's brother is going to school at Cornell, so I think he'll appreciate the link. I'm excited to see how the squash turn out. That is assuming the gophers don't discover them first!

Doing the Native American keep-gophers-from-my-garden dance,

Orange County Fair

Surprised? I was too when I discovered that OC has a county fair! With livestock and everything! Why do I bring this up? Well, just today I dropped off my entries for the fair. Crocheted, of course.

I entered a new category this year called "Help a Child Smile". You enter an item a child might like or need, such as a blanket or a stuffed animal, hand crafted of course. The items are judged and at the conclusion of the fair, they are donated to a local children's hospital. I thought it was such a great idea! I've actually been wanting to do something like that for a while, but couldn't find the right venue. This is perfect! So I crocheted a pink hooded baby blanket to donate. It's cute! And fun to make in bright pink, which I don't often get to do as I have two boys and no girls. I'd post a picture, but my camera is missing (!) and the item is already gone. Maybe when it's on display at the fair (assuming I find my camera!) I'll take a pic and post it.

The other item I entered was the blue ponchette posted here many months ago. It's still new since I haven't gotten up the nerve to wear it (or wash it!). Maybe I'm just weird, but I hate to wash and wear things that I've crocheted myself. That's why I like to give things away as gifts. I don't mind if other people wear them; that's what they were made for! I just don't like to wear them myself. I just like to make them. Is that weird?

Well, enough rambling for today.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hello again to all my friends.

Hi! Are you surprised to see me? I'm not dead, just busy. I've been called as the primary 1st counselor our our church and I've been on vacation. I'm back, but still busy!

I just had to share this with you. I found this Best Ever Banana Bread recipe. Sure, you say, every recipe says it's the best. But this one actually lives up to it's moniker and you will see why once you read it. Plus, it not only makes great banana bread but it is easily modified to make any quick bread you can imagine. I've made pumpkin chocolate chip bread and just today I made zucchini blackberry bread (with my own garden produce, I might add!). Just substitute any soft fruit or veggie for the bananas in the recipe; about 4 cups for the 4 loaf recipe. I like to make the recipe for 2 loaves and bake it in a bundt pan.



Monday, April 03, 2006

Singing Time,

I know I just posted, but this was too cute/funny to pass up.

We have lately taken to watching "Signing Time" on PBS Sunday mornings, and renting their DVD's from the Library. Why? Too involved to tell now. Anyway, my boys are singing one of the songs from an episode we recently watched. It's quite a catchy tune. My older ds is singing "I'm a boy, I'm a boy, I'm proud to be me" and my younger ds is singing the next line "I'm a girl, I'm a girl, I'm proud to be me". Sorry, it's not as cute in print. I guess you'll just have to imagine you can hear the cute 3yo voice of my ds singing that he's proud to be a girl to really appreciate it. And he's actually singing in tune! He's just picked that up recently, he used to sing in a monotone.

Now it's Laughing Time,

April Fool's!

No, this isn't a late April Fool's Day post, though I did think about doing a fake post on April 1st announcing I was pregnant. But that would have been too mean. So this is what we did instead:

In the morning, we had breakfast and 'someone' had switched all the bags around in the cereal boxes. So my younger ds asked for 'squares' and he got Cheerios instead! My older ds asked for 'guys' and got some of mommy and daddie's high fiber cereal. Both boys thought it was the funniest thing, and kept asking us to put cereal in their bowls so they could see what would come out. We also put food coloring in their glasses so when we poured the OJ in, it turned blue. It's one of their favorite tricks.

But it didn't stop there. For Lunch we had cake, green punch, and mixed veggies. But not so! We had meatloaf cake, jello punch, and candy veggies! My older ds, who is no slouch, came in after we called them to lunch and said "Why are there tomatoes on the cake?" Oh well, you can't fool them all the time. We got their reactions on tape, though I think they were a little confused by it all! They liked the 'cake' okay, but I think next year I'll do cupcakes instead. The boys and I don't like meatloaf enough to eat a whole cake of it. The Jello was too much for them; It was a green apple flavor and not very good. But I think the gag is good for a repeat, with a different flavor. The candy veggies where the big hit, of course. Too much work and sugar for me. Bleh.

My dh went the the priesthood session that night, so lunch was the last of the tricks; he didn't want to miss any. We thought about putting 'dummies' in our bed but then thought maybe that would be too traumatic. Maybe in a few years.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

On callings...

It is so fun to hear about others experiences with callings. I'm a little surprised to hear of other people who have refused to be released. I'd imagined it didn't happen that often, because we frequently hear how we shouldn't refuse callings because they are inspired from God. You'd figure it works the other way too, that if it's time for you to be released, that is inspired too. (That idea really helped me a lot when the time came to leave my mission.) But I guess some people don't make that connection. Or maybe it's just that they've gotten so comfortable where they are, they don't want to change. I can kind of relate. I'm really comfortable with my current calling and when I thought they were going to give me a new one, I was quite nervous. Never enough to refuse a release though. I also wonder if someone might refuse a release because they feel they can do their calling better than anyone else in the ward....

On another vein, one of my most favorite callings was Family History Coordinator. Fun, and not a music calling (my only one, if you don't count my mission)! And the spirit of Elijah is awesome! As far as music callings go, believe it or not, I actually enjoy being choir director! I've been choir director 3 times, twice in a singles ward, and once in the married student ward. That choir was AWESOME! Of course my next calling will be one I dread, like Primary President or nursery leader.

Well, enough musing for today.

Monday, March 27, 2006

False Start...

On the offense... 5 yard penalty... Repeat 2nd down.

So, funny story. I went to my appointment yesterday and the bishop come out, shook my hand and said "The situation has changed, and we no longer need to interview you." So, no calling! lol I've never had that happen before. Anyone else have? The nearest I can guess is that they were going to call me to be ward organist. I heard a rumor to the effect that they tried to release one of the current organists and they refused. But I'll never know for sure! Weird.

Thanks to everyone who posted a guess! As far as I know, Kim was the closest! I'll send you some seeds! How about okra? ;)

I'm actually kind of relieved. Any calling they could give me would be more work than RS accompanist (except maybe Primary pianist). So I guess I can settle back into my lazy ways now.

Once in a music calling, always in a music calling.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Big brothers and win big!

Wow, it's been a while. Really my life has been mostly boring lately. But I do have two things to post about today! First, a cute story about the boys and second, a contest!

On Fridays our ward has a park day for the young mothers and their kids. It's been pretty rainy lately so we haven't gone, but today is really nice, so we went! They switch parks around often and this week's park was pretty far away. We had just pulled out onto California when my younger ds started to scream! For a second I thought he'd been stung by a bee, he screamed so loud. But no, he had dropped his 'magic wand' (a stick about 3 inches long) and couldn't get it. He was quite hysterical about it. His seat is right behind mine, so I tried to reach it while we were stopped at the stoplight, but I couldn't find it. Meanwhile, his brother, kept telling him calmly "We'll get it when we get to the park" and patting his hand. That calmed younger ds down a bit, though he was still crying. Then older ds started singing to him "don't you cry, we will go to grammie's" and the crying stopped. He continued to sing to him all the way to the park, and as soon as the car was stopped, he jumped out of his seat and retrieved the 'magic wand' for his younger brother. It was so sweet. It's nice to know that even though they sometimes don't treat each other very well, they really do love each other and are looking out for the other.

Last night, while my dh was at a meeting at the church, I got a call from the executive secretary (is that right? You know, the guy who schedules appointments with the bishop.) At any rate, he asked if I could meet with a member of the bishopric on Sunday! So we scheduled a time to meet between choir practice and sacrament meeting. This is totally unexpected! There's no other reason for me to meet with the bishopric except for them to give me a new calling. I guess it's time, I've been the Relief Society accompanist since we moved in 2 and 1/2 years ago. I'm really nervous. RS accompanist is such an easy calling, I'm afraid I've gotten lazy. I might actually have to do something now!

So here's the contest:

"Guess what my new calling will be!"

Enter your guesses in the comments. On Monday morning, I'll announce my calling and the winner! The winner will get a packet of seeds of their choice mailed to them. (This contest is for family and friends only! And maybe friends of family if they want to guess too!)

Happy guessing!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Yummy Yarn

Today I went to a yarn tasting at the 'local' yarn shop, Yarn Lady. A yarn tasing is like a wine tasing, only with yarn. I've been to one once before and tried to make a scarf with the yarn I was 'tasting' but it didn't quite work. I just couldn't keep the sides even with the different weights of yarn I was using. So I decided to try something different this time. I started out trying my hand at a little freeform crochet, but I couldn't remember enough interesting stitches to make it work. I had made a circle with some yarn intending to incorporate it into something freeform, but I added another yarn around the edge and it worked so well I just kept going. It turned into a nice little hat! It's really cute, but sadly it is too small for anyone here because I didn't have a head handy to try it on. But I will definitely be ready for next yarn tasting! I'll post a pic of it here soon!

Wondering what side dish goes with yarn,

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Spice of Life

I'm starting this post without anything in mind to blog about. Well, maybe one thing. I have discovered a new spice that I love! I bought it around Thanksgiving time because it was included in a pecan pie recipe that I was going to try. The pie was great! And this new spice, Chinese Five Spice, was the reason. It's a blend of five spices (obviously). The blend I found has cinnamon, anise seed, cloves, ginger, and fennel seed though there are different blends out there. I use it in any dish that calls for cinnamon, just in addition to the cinnamon, not to replace it; 5 spice is very powerful. The scent is quite exotic and adds that little extra kick without extra effort. Mmmmmm... (Google Search on five spice)

I finally got my grow light set up! It's a 4' shop light with 2 fluorescent bulbs (one cool and one warm to get the full light spectrum) suspended by chains from a PVC stand so I can raise and lower it. Plus I've got a seed starting warming mat to speed germination and a timer so I can be sure the seeds get 18 hours of light. Plus I have 2 miniature green house seed starter kits. So I'm set! I've started some black pearl tomato seeds. Hopefully they'll grow! It's funny how with all that preparation, I still can't be sure that the seeds with sprout or grow properly or at all. That's the mystery of creation, I guess.

Hoping to see a green tinge on my thumb,

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Potter Musings

I'm currently re-reading "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" and I've noticed a few things that I find curiously coincidental.

First, there are only 12 members of the Order of the Phoenix (besides Dumbledore) mentioned in the book: Sirius, Lupin, Moody, Tonks, Kingsley, Mr. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley, Bill Weasley, Snape, Sturgis, Mundungus, and McGonagall. (Now I may have missed someone, so just let me know if I'm off in left field.) Remind you of any other group of people? Maybe from the New Testament? Who's leader died? Would that make Snape Judas? Is is proof that Dumbledore is coming back? Hmmmmm.

The other thing I've noticed rereading the series is that all Trelawney's spoken prophecies come true! Not the ones related second hand, and not just the ones she gives in her wired voice. For example, in "Goblet of Fire" she says (paraphrasing) death is hanging over the school. Harry selfabsorbedly assumes she means he will die, but if you look at the actually wording of the prediction, he isn't mentioned. It's Cedric who dies. In OotP she tells Umbridge she is in 'grave danger'. It's a little far fetched, but Umbridge does get hauled off by centaurs. And in "the Half Blood Prince" she mumbles something about towers on fire and the dark mark appears over Hogwarts. I haven't done any extensive checking on this (ie. finding all the spoken predictions and comparing the results) so I could be totally wrong. Feel free to point out my mistake!


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Tempest Tossed

Here's an article about 30-somethings in debt. This kind of hits home since I just turned 30! But thankfully, I am not in the the same situation as most 30-somthings, according to the article. I managed to graduate with my undergraduate degree and NO debt. Now a lot of that can be attributed to luck; I got a full tuition scholarship from my alma mater and my parents made enough money for me to qualify for lots of grants. (Yes, my scholarship was due more to luck than hard work. I had a friend who had the same GPA and ACT as I did who did not get a scholarship.) Oh, and I lived in my grandparents basement rent free. But graduating with no credit card debt I can attribute to parents who taught me to be thrifty and following the advice from the church to stay out of debt. How thankful I am for that. That is not to say I didn't have financial troubles. I bounced some checks and missed some credit card payments, but these mistakes amounted to under $100 since I wasn't spending much in the first place. My dh also managed to get his BA without any debt. Because of this, I can stay home with our kids while my husband goes to grad school full time. Yes, we're going into debt for it, but without undergrad debt and still no credit card debt, it is definitely an acceptable level of debt, nowhere near what was described in the article. Just another example of the blessings that come from following the prophets council.

Counting my blessings,

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

And now a word from our sponsors....

Here's some cool stuff I've found that I want to share with everyone!

First, Wonder Soil! Every previous year I've started seeds directly in my garden. Living in CA it's warm enough to do that pretty early. The first year, they did pretty well. And then the bunnies came. Somehow they figured out how to get past the rabbit proof fence. They would eat my seedlings before they even had a chance (especially the sunflowers). So this year, I'm starting my seeds indoors so they will at least have a fighting chance against the bunnies! (The bunnies don't have a huge impact on mature plants.) I'm getting a grow light from my dad and a seed warmer mat that I bought with birthday money from my mil. I have peat pots and even little plastic greenhouses. Now all I need is seed starting mix. I live in an apartment, and I really don't relish the idea of trying to store a bag of DIRT in here somewhere. That's where Wonder Soil comes to the rescue! A 1 lb. tube holds the equivalent of 15 lbs of potting soil! And each wafer expands to fill a 5in. pot which should be ample for my seed starting needs. I got a deal on 2 tubes and I figure they will last me until we move, about 2 years from now!

Speaking of seed starting, check out this new variety of cherry tomato; Black Pearl. Makes me think of "Pirates of the Caribbean". Anyway, I was very intrigued by the description, so I bought a seed packet. At $5 a packet, they are not cheap but the plants sell for $10! Maybe I'll start a bunch and make a killing selling them for $5 a plant! I wonder if there's a way to collect the seeds from tomato plants. They probably wouldn't produce the same fruit as the parent plant. Oh well. I wonder if these tomatoes would make good jam.

And speaking of jam, here's a no cook freezer jam pectin that I love! I used it today to make strawberry freezer jam with my two boys. It is soooo easy! My older ds helped me cut up and mash the strawberries, then both boys helped me stir in the sugar (only 1 1/2 cups, much less than other pectins). Then after we let the sugar dissolve, my older ds gradually poured the pectin in while I stirred. Then we took turns stirring for 3 minutes, let it sit for 5 minutes and ladled it into jam jars. I ladled and my ds told me when it was full, moved the funnel to the next jar, and put the lid on the full jar. Then we put them in the freezer! So easy, yet so fun. And you can't beat strawberry freezer jam. MMmmmm.... The hard part is keeping it around for any amount of time! My boys especially love it.

Speaking of my boys, we've decided to sign up for Upromise. Basically, when you buy certain products affiliated with Upromise, they put a certain amount in a savings account to use for college. It's not a lot, but it's more than nothing! It's kind of like a rewards card, without the extra card. You register your credit cards and any store cards you want to use online. You can also earn when you shop at certain online retailers. Then you choose the students you want to save for, in our case our two boys. I think you can add as many as you want. And family and friends can sign up to contribute you your students as well! So if any of you would like to contribute, or just open an account for yourselves, I'll send you an email. But only if you want me to, I don't want to spam anyone!

Sorry if this post sounds like a commercial break! It's not meant to be.

And now back to our program!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Christmas: The Final Chapter

My last two Christmas projects are made with the same yarn, Chenille Sensations. First, the bitty bear. The pattern is here and is super quick to make, though a little fiddly since it is so small. The finished size is maybe 2.5 inches tall. Sorry about the fuzzy pic, my camera doesn't do close ups well! My older ds gave the bear to his best friend, a little neighbor girl.

And last, but probably my favorite project this year (the elephant was a close second), a baby girl's 'snow queen' dress with headband and booties (that I designed myself). I got the pattern for the dress and headband from Crochet! magazine and have been dying to make it, but never had the opportunity until now. I ran into trouble when I discovered the yarn it called for had been discontinued! But thankfully I was able find someone at crochetville that had some in their stash and was willing to swap! The yarn wasn't the color called for in the pattern (a dark purple), but personally I like it better in this color. It was made for my newest niece, who was only 2 months old. The pattern is for a 6mo, so it was a little big, but she'll grow into it!

And that's it for my Christmas projects! More coming in a year!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Christmas part 3: Blankets

I made two afghans for Christmas presents this year; the pink, purple, and green one for my bil's mother using this pattern and the blue one for my dad from this pattern book. I used a Q hook for both of them so they were quick and easy, a must when making afghans! Last year I made a blanket for my mother with a much smaller hook and a more complex pattern. It took forever! I almost didn't get it done in time. My hand started cramping up at the end as I rushed to finish it. It looked beautiful but I learned my lesson. Unless I have a whole year to make it and take my time, use a Q hook!

Make you Christmas afghan requests now!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Christmas continued: Girls Ponchos

Lion Boucle ponchos! I gave these to two of my nieces; my brothers just over 3yo daughter and my sil's just under 3yo daughter. They both looked adorable in them! (Since I have no girls, I have to crochet all the cute girl stuff for my nieces.) The ponchos are simple to make and work up very fast, so they're perfect for Christmas giving. I used the recommended yarns for these, which I do not do very often! But no one else can match the vibrant colors of this yarn.

More to come.....

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Christmas Projects Revealed! part 1: Pink Elephants

Hi all! Did you miss me? Now that Christmas is over I can share all the projects I completed as presents. First, a pink elephant! This was made for my niece who is not quite 3yo. It was made with yarn that I got from my husband's mother's husband's first wife's yarn stash that I inherited. It is my first attempt at crocheting a stuffed animal. I was quite pleased with the result and I think my niece liked it too! Here's a link to the pattern I used. I did the eyes differently, used a scarf instead of a bow, and didn't add any of the extra details, but I didn't alter the basic shape.

To be continued......
Alberta Young