Late Summer’s Harvest ~ Dana

As another season draws to an end, as the kids go back to school, and as the evenings come sooner and sooner, many of us find ourselves with the last of our crop of summer veggies. I say “us” knowing full-well that I didn’t grow one thing in my garden this year. But look what are being built as we “speak”…

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Yep. Those are three really big vegetable planter beds (and a fire pit). I’m including myself with you gardeners because I’m almost there! But I do have a father-in-law who has been more than generous with his crop this year. I know that there are lots of recipes for zucchini bread out there, but I came across this one this year and it’s really easy and really delicious.

So finish up the last of your zucchini before it’s time to start thinking about my Kitchen Witch’s Pumpkin Spice Bread for fall. Take a loaf or two to work, or drop some off at a friend’s house. Gift a loaf to your child’s teacher… Miss Binford, you’re getting some on Tuesday! And enjoy the last official days of summer before the wheel turns again.

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Although not necessary, a princess assistant is very useful when baking this bread.

Zucchini Bread (adapted from Magenta Griffith)

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional, and I haven’t tried, but yum!)

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (about 8½ x 4½ inches). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, and add to the egg mixture. Stir until the dry ingredients are mixed in, add the zucchini and mix until all are evenly distributed. Add chocolate chips, if using, and blend briefly to distribute them through the batter. Divide evenly between the pans. Bake for 1 hour, cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and unfold onto the rack. Let cool completely before serving.

“Simplify, simplify, simplify, I say!” ~ Dana

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It all started with my husband and I hating our lawn. It seems like no matter what we do to it, there are big brown spots that appear on a regular basis. We’ve increased the water time, fertilized, and yet, there they are. Big brown spots.

So since we are in this record draught here in Southern California, and since our water district offers a cash incentive to those who convert at least 1,000 square feet of turf into draught tolerant landscape, we have decided to eliminate our front lawn completely, and rework our backyard to reduce the amount of turf by about half. I won’t go into how it seems un-American in my head to not have a front lawn, but that is a different issue altogether.

In the back, we decided to put in five huge, raised planter boxes that I will use for a major vegetable garden. My husband half-joked, half-seriously-asked, “You know that if you plant all these vegetables, you’re going to have to actually work outside, right?” Hardee-har-har. But wait, he’s right. It’s not the work that is making me shudder right now, but the time that I will need to find to fit it all in. Like most of us in this modern world, I feel stretched for time as it is. Between raising two daughters under the age of four, keeping our house livable, planning and cooking our meals, I have to make a concerted effort to carve out time to write for this blog, to see friends, to visit family… and to be honest with you, I feel like I fail at the “fun stuff.” Big time. So how on earth am I going to fit in time to maintain and grow a successful garden?

This had led me to evaluate what I do on a day-to-day basis. Although it feels like there is nothing that I could cut out to give me more time, when I really paid attention to my days this past week, I’ve found a very simple answer: I am going to pretend like I don’t have a smartphone. I am amazed at the amount of time that I spend checking emails, which is ridiculous because all of my emails are from other blogs or from shopping websites. There has only been one email from an actual person in my inbox this whole week. I also check Facebook like a fiend. Damn it. I can’t believe I’m admitting that, but I do. And Instagram. Oh my gosh, I need an intervention.

I started carrying my phone constantly a couple of years ago, when my dad got really sick. My excuse was that my parents “might” need to call me, there “might” be an emergency, and I wanted to be readily available. (Mom, I know you’re reading this, and I’m not blaming this on you!!) And then it became just so easy to quickly check my newsfeed, to snap a few pictures of the girls, check-in at whatever fabulous place we were spending the afternoon, and suddenly, I was hooked.

And what I notice now, is that I’m checking it constantly, which only means that it takes me longer to complete the tasks that I do during the day. The constant quick checking, I’ve found, also makes me feel kind of frantic. I am hurrying to get my chores done, but I’m also hurrying to read a funny article that someone has posted. Then I see a quiz entitled “10 Questions that will reveal your inner Disney Princess.” It’s only 10 questions, right? I can easily zip through that. So I do. But all of these little quick reads or quizzes or other wastes of time really make me feel unfocused. My attention is on a bunch of extra things, which add nothing of value to my life. I miss the days of a quiet mind, and let’s be honest. I already know that my inner Disney Princess is Belle.

So I am going to channel my inner Henry David Thoreau and “simplify!” And I’m going to grow good vegetables. Instead of wasting my precious time reading crap on the Internet, maybe I’ll finish the books I’m reading faster. Maybe I’ll get to the literature that I’ve got on using essential oils in the home. I bet you I’ll even have time to make larger quantities of all-natural products to put up on our Etsy store.

But first I’m going to have to do some reading on vegetable gardening.

Tra-La! It’s May! ~Dana

Whether you called it May Day, Beltane, Walpurgisnacht, Flores de Mayo, or simply another Thursday, yesterday was the first of May! When I was a child, I remember making May Day baskets at school to give to friends or neighbors when we got home. The tradition was to place the basket on the front porch, ring the doorbell, then run away. In other parts of the world, the first of May is a lovely spring celebration, complete with maypoles, folk music, dancing, and the crowing of a May Queen.  Why don’t I live in a place like that??

Whatever your beliefs, and wherever you are, we’d like to take this chance to wish you a happy May! It’s been such a tough winter for our friends and family back East and in Canada, and those of you in the Midwest and South are still struggling with some nasty weather. But we hope that sometime this weekend you’ll take time to honor this glorious season. Get out and go for a walk, soaking up some vitamin D. Plant some flowers, even if it’s just one pot with a little marigold. My girls and I planted sunflowers today against our back fence, and I look forward to sharing them with you when they’re in their full 10-foot-tall glory!  The sunflowers, not the girls.

And my favorite way of celebrating May is listening to the song, “Tra-La, It’s May!” from Learner and Lowe’s Camelot. Here’s a link to the video, in case you aren’t familiar. This song is especially fun. I’ll leave you with just a taste of the lyrics:

It’s May! It’s May! The lusty month of May,
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray!
It’s here! It’s here! That shocking time of year,
When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear!

Happy May, everyone!

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My little May Queen, hamming it up.