Wednesday, August 27, 2014

(Yet Another) Zucchini Roundup

I know, this time of year everyone and their brother talks about all the things you can possibly make with zucchini and tomato. I'm just gonna go ahead and jump on this bandwagon, because I've been lucky enough to eat half my body weight in zucchini and summer squash this year. 

In my personal opinion, zucchini and summer squash are delightful just as they are, and can be consumed with pleasure in just about any form. My husband disagrees. 

In the interest of fairness (also because for the first time in five years it was a mild enough summer for me to spend more than 38 seconds in my kitchen), I decided to bake some of those delightful vegetables into delightful treats. 

The first thing I made was a coconut zucchini bread.


It was tasty, especially if you like coconut. Dan wasn't crazy about the texture (the coconut flakes were on the chewy side) but Sister and I thought it was delicious. Unfortunately, the fiendish dog struck, and we only got to eat about half the loaf. 

Next up was this absolutely incredible double chocolate zucchini bread. They call it bread mostly because you bake it in a loaf pan--but it's basically cake. And decadently delicious. 


Mine didn't bake quite long enough, so it didn't have that perfect crumb, but it was still amazing. Very rich, but hey, you're sneaking a veg into your dessert! 

Then I decided to go the route of plain old zucchini bread. I tested out two recipes. First, from The Kitchn. 

I'm generally a big fan of the Kitchn, I think they have great tutorials and consistently delicious recipes. They are actually a go-to for me when we are having company and I want something on the more impressive side. 

Thus, it was quite a surprise that this recipe wasn't fantastic. It made a perfectly fine zucchini bread, but not the moist, crumbly treat that I associate with the title. Instead it was a little dry, and (dare I say it?) cardboardy. Not my favorite. 

Finally, I found this recipe from Good Housekeeping (go figure). This was exactly what I was looking for in a zucchini bread recipe--moist, just a little sweet, perfect texture. This is now my go-to recipe. 


Those has been my squash-related escapades this you bake in the summer? Have a go-to summer recipe? 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Work in Progress

One of the most exciting things about being a new teacher is essentially starting with a blank slate in your classroom. It's thrilling to walk in and envision everything you want to happen in that room--the bright decorations on the walls, the brilliantly unique work from the kids proudly displayed, and of course, students busily at work and engaged in the exciting lessons you've planned. 

But sometimes, before you get to that point, there is some organizing to do. 

I was lucky enough to inherit a very well-stocked classroom...meaning, the previous teacher left behind a lot of her resources and materials for me. This was a relief, since kindergarten is a very play-centric grade, and I was thankful to not need to buy toys and games for a whole classroom at once. 

However, as any teacher can tell you, each individual has their own way of organizing said materials. A new teacher coming into the old teacher's way of organizing can mean a lot of change and thus, a lot of work.

Thus, over the last week or so (plus a few scattered hours at the end of July), my classroom has gone from looking like this: 

This is actually after several hours of work in the "library." Those book bins are halfway sorted.

This is approximately where I started hyperventilating.

About halfway through the closet project. 

To looking like this. 

My first poster in my room! 

Still not done, but definite progress.

There's even room to grow! 

It's been a lot of hard work already, and I'm (clearly) nowhere near ready for students to come in, but progress is progress! I think I'm about ready to do the fun stuff! 

Bulletin boards, cubbies, name tags, posters....

...wait, aren't those things fun for you too? You mean you don't lie awake at night planning student work displays? 

So tell me, what DO you do with your end-of-summer? 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I Dream of Cookies

Cookies are probably my favorite dessert.

Well, cookies and ice cream.

I like to keep things classy, you know?

While I will eat and enjoy just about any cookie, I do love an excellent cookie. And lately I feel like I've hit my stride when it comes to getting the butter and sugars creamed just right, and the cooking temperature perfect, to make those cookies that are lightly crisped around the edges, chewy in the middle, and full of rich, buttery flavors and textures.

Then I found this article. A million and one variations on the chocolate chip cookie, complete with all the science and voodoo behind it. I need a cookie, like now.

And now, even though I'm supposed to go work on my classroom, all I want to do is hit the grocery store and bake cookies all day.

Maybe I can find a happy medium.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


For someone who only has one year of teaching experience, and has never purchased supplies for an entire classroom, I have WAY too many books. 

And these don't include the books that are already in my new classroom. 

Some of these have (thankfully) vacated my living room, but now I have to figure out how to organize my classroom library. 

Ideally I'd like it to look like this: 


But I'm thinking realistically we'll have to settle somewhere in between those two photos. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Yoga Photo Dump

I started practicing yoga several years ago, but for a while it was pretty on-again, off-again. In December when we were on week 4957 of sub-zero temperatures (I hope you can tell this is dripping with frozen sarcasm), I decided to give hot yoga a try. Sweating, after weeks of freezing, was somehow appealing to me.

So was the prospect of warm feet.

Anyway, I purchased a two-week unlimited yoga pass, and went to 4 yoga classes in 2 weeks. I couldn't believe the change in my body over a two-week period--I was sleeping better, had more energy, and was way more flexible, just that quickly.

Fast forward 7 months, and I've been doing a work-exchange program with tAra Yoga (regular yoga, not bikram) twice a week. I clean the studio and check people into class in exchange for free yoga. It's pretty sweet, and I've continued to see my body, my attitude, and my perspective shift.

Tara, the owner, did one of those pose-a-day challenges, and while I did nowhere near the 31 poses, I did a handful. This is the coolest part to me about yoga--I'm pretty self-critical, and lately I've hated almost all photos of myself. I don't know if it's age, changing body, or what. I was a little hesitant to have someone photograph me in my fitted yoga clothes in weird poses, but I decided to go for it.

Upward facing bow/wheel pose

Headstand, after months of trying. 

Half-lord of the fishes pose

Low lunge

Wild Thing...this is my favorite picture of the bunch. 

Half-moon pose

The truly incredible thing about this process was that, even though it's the same body that I was so displeased with in our family picture, I'm thrilled with these pictures. I feel like the focus is taken away from "ugh my thighs are so big, my arm looks funny, I'm slouching and it makes me look fat."

Instead, I think "Look what my body can DO!"

That, my friends, is enormously empowering. I still want to go further, do more, and take my practice to the next level. But rather than my practice being about looking skinny or fitting into a smaller size jeans, it's about feeling strong in my body and being content with where I am NOW.

Do you have a particular exercise that makes you feel strong, instead of sapped? What makes you feel powerful and proud?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Green-ish Smoothie

This summer, I've been on a smoothie kick.

It's definitely part of the eating-healthier movement in our home, and let me tell you, I can think of few better ways to start your day than with a nutrient-rich green smoothie!

There are a million and one recipes out there for green smoothies, detoxifying smoothies, smoothies that will diminish bloat and clear your favorite is pretty basic, and pretty well-rounded.

I like to start with a heaping handful of organic baby spinach for the green part. I've tried kale in the distant past, but the texture and bitterness were too much for me. Spinach is also full of vitamins and calcium, and it's very mildly flavored.

Dan and I vary at this point, but since this is my blog post I'm sharing my favorite combination. So there.

After the spinach, I add a heaping teaspoon of plain greek yogurt, a 1-2 inch chunk of frozen banana (fresh works too, but we have a hard time eating all the bananas exactly when they are ripe, so a few inevitably wind up in the freezer), and fruit. My current favorite is strawberries and mango--full of antioxidants, vitamin C, and also deliciousness.

 Because, let's face it--if this smoothie wasn't tasty, it wouldn't on my daily menu.

Here is where it will vary a little bit for you. Dan and I have a NutriBullet, one of my very favorite kitchen appliances. Dan bought it kind of on a whim, and it was an excellent whim. I use that NutriBullet to make smoothies, grind coffee beans, puree soups, and more. It's awesome, and has a very small footprint, which is very important in my small kitchen. Anyway, because the NutriBullet cups are for people who don't like to measure, they have a "max fill" line. You can pack solid ingredients in above that max fill line IF you add some liquid up to the line.

I fill the cup to the Max Fill line with half unsweetened coconut milk, and half water. If your blender doesn't have a measuring line like this, you might have to experiment with exactly how much liquid to use.

Blend away!

Sometimes I like to shake it up by adding other fruits--blueberries, peaches, pineapple--depending on what we have in the kitchen. But, spinach + yogurt + banana + strawberries + mango + liquid is my go-to formula.

You should note that the shade of green will vary depending on the exact ratio of fruit to spinach. If you really wanted to go nuts you could easily add other green foods--cucumber, chard, even celery. Fewer blue and purple shaded fruits (usually berries) will mean a brighter green, which is important to some people. I personally don't mind a slightly muddied color, it still tastes great.

The reasons this is awesome? You get a huge hit of nutrients right away in the morning, it's quite filling, and it takes about 5 minutes start-to-finish (including cleanup). I like to add a hardboiled egg for a little extra protein and call it breakfast.

Do you like smoothies? Do you have a go-to method of getting some extra nutrients in your day?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Not-So-Dirty Hippie: Update

I realized that I never updated you guys about my bath and beauty products! My bad.

A few months ago I mentioned that I've been swapping out "conventional" brands for more natural products--you know, since it's stuff I slather on my skin and hair and it makes sense to me to minimize the amount of chemicals seeping through my pores on a given day.

At last mention, I'd picked up some shampoo, conditioner, and bar soap from Trader Joe's.

I still love the conditioner, and Dan has actually started using and loving the bar soap. He still struggles with acne and oily skin, and the bar soap is drying without being harsh (which means I use it in the summer when I'm not struggling with dry skin as much). I can't use the soap on a daily basis because my skin is already dry, but I use it every so often because it's gentle and cheap.

On the other days, I actually use the shampoo as body wash because I love the tea tree oil and other great ingredients, and it leaves my skin feeling soft without feeling greasy.

My hair, a whole other story.

I have thick, somewhat curly hair. It used to be super curly, but as I've gotten older the curls have softened. It has, however, always been dry. A friend suggested this crazy notion--using an apple cider vinegar wash instead of shampoo.



So, I take an empty bottle (in my case, a finished bottle of TJ's conditioner 'cause I'm classy like that) and fill it about a quarter of the way with apple cider vinegar. Fill up the rest of the bottle with water. Rinse hair with the wash, then with plain water. (For about five minutes, since I now smell like apple cider vinegar.)

You guys, this has done wonders for me. I've had pretty bad dandruff since I was a teenager (I know, gross) and for the first time in over ten years, I have a healthy scalp. It's incredible. Plus, the ACV wash leaves my hair soft and super clean and shiny.

After my non-shampoo, I like to brush a little coconut oil into my hair in place of conditioner. Go easy on this part. A little goes a very long way.

I do this treatment (ACV + coconut oil) about once a week, and just use Trader Joe's conditioner every other day., you be the judge. Does this make me a dirty hippie, or just a hippie?