So Anyway. . . (my morning, Christmas, and ethical goods.)

morning

So, anyway. Today was supposed to go like this:

Drop kids off

Rush home

Eat breakfast

Work out

Art until 1:30

Instead, this was it:

Drop kids off

Find straggler kid still at home (who should have been mid-route walking already)

run him to school via car

call doc’s office re: missing immuno records @ request of the school

eat breakfast

remember bills need to be paid

pay bills

make more coffee

remember there were Christmas presents I was going to order early

order early Christmas presents

YES. I ORDERED CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!

Search for vintage present we’ve had in mind for a month now

remember I wanted to order one of these

Farmgirl Paints Etsy

for someone special

get side tracked looking up song lyrics

Remember I’m supposed to be working out

Drink more coffee.

Decide I should just write a post, already on these companies I’ve both discovered and fallen in love with over the past few months, because, you know. . . . Christmas is coming.

Maybe you’re a little like me and you want to get your shopping done early.

Guys, I’m serious. I want my shopping, save that last-minute top-secret stuff for the littles, to be done by October 30th.

I’m not kidding. I want to head into November (almost) footloose and fancy free. Which means as I come up with fitting ideas right now, I’m ordering them and making it happen.

These are a couple of gifts I have on my radar because I ♥♥♥ the products, but even more so, the purpose behind their products.

Prosperity Candles

Every candle purchased helps provide a living wage for the women of Prosperity Candle, who have recently resettled from refugee camps and are working to build a brighter future for themselves and their families in the United States.

 

Friends – I seriously get giddy when I browse their website. I love that our purchases are helping right here in the US, but when we buy we’re also providing a loving place for people of the world. There is so much variety there, and the candles are stunning. You can design your own or select something that’s ready to ship. Prices range from about $15 to $45, and each product comes with the story of the woman who made them. (Be still my heart – that’s an absolute bonus in my book!)

I’m thinking this pack of three (for $30) would make the perfect purchase for me to break up between our lovely teachers, and then wrap them up with a gift card to Amazon, Starbucks, or iTunes. . . .

Fikire Pouch | fashionABLE

Ok, but then I have a soft spot for these leather pouches by fashionABLE too . . . I’ve had my eye on them for almost a year now, always keeping in the back of my mind that their price point is right near perfect for gift giving ($22).

And with this commitment statement, I feel nothing but warm and fuzzy knowing who I support when I purchase:

… we believe our role is to INVEST IN A WOMAN.  When a woman is empowered with work to do, whether in the home or in an office, she not only experiences the joy and satisfaction of developing a skill, she also creates change in those around her. FASHIONABLE’s role in this story is working with women, both locally and globally, who have overcome challenges ranging from prostitution to addiction to a lack of opportunity.  Every one of us understands what it means to overcome, and we are all ABLE to find purpose in the work we do.

Also? Their game-day scarves. Again – school teachers? College students? Die hard football fans? I think our options are endless when we consider who might enjoy wearing one of these. (And $36 ain’t so bad. . . .)FA_skinnyBanner101-GameDay

So, Ok?

Two more companies, because, friends, this has become important to me – finding companies that do good and not harm for their people. I want my purchases to build up rather than keep down the men and women who are creating the goods I use in my life.

The Shine Project. You can read the whole story here, but the gist of it is this: Ashley employs inner city youth to make jewelry so they can become first generation college students. Making jewelry becomes their game-changer. And guess what? It’s gorgeous.

_MG_1292

With so many options – bracelets (individual or stacks), rings, earings, and necklaces, it’s really hard to choose (I know, because I’ve tried. . . . ) Stacks are on the more spendy side, ( and so SO dreamy!!) but single bracelets are very affordable (ranging from $12 – $28). And c’mon now, I can totally rationalize spending a tad more if I know it’s going to help an inner city kiddo be the first in their family to go to college!

Better Life Bags. Friends? I’ve had all the heart eyes for this company since the first time I spotted them on Instagram. I am not a bag girl – I’ve never spent more than $45 on a purse, and at that point, I use it until it looks downright deplorable. So the thought of sending $100+ on a bag makes me gasp for air a little ( I know this is not a big deal for some of you out there, but y’all, we just love different things!) HOWEVER – I do so want one of these bags, and by golly, I’m gonna get one as soon as I can stash the cash away and jump that mental hurdle. Just look at them!

And (EEEP!) you can design your own! They’re adorable, durable, unique, and you are supporting hardworking women in the US.

The bags started as a hobby for designer, Rebecca Smith, but then:

In 2010, she and her family moved to a low-income area of Detroit, Michigan and her eyes were opened to what poverty, unemployment, and blight can do to a city and the people living there.

When orders experienced a boom in 2012, she turned to her neighborhood for help.  She hired a woman originally from Yemen, named Nadia, to start sewing bags alongside her.  After a few months of spending time with Nadia and paying her for the work she was doing, Rebecca saw a shift in her attitude and economic status.  Her family was finally able to afford bed frames for their four children and a dining room table.  Better Life Bags was making lives better in Rebecca’s own community.  Our mission is to hire women who have various barriers to employment to make our custom leather and fabric bags.  They are adopted into our Better Life family and given a chance to succeed in life, family, and friendship.

This is what a Better Life Bag does, beyond making you look super hip and chic. Yes, please.

And last but not least, if you are a regular reader here, or on IG, or FB, you know about these guys: Mitscoots and their Kickstarter Outfitting Project.

This is how their company works: Get. Give. Employ. They sell 100% Great American socks. For every pair you purchase, they give away another pair to someone in need, and they take pride in employing those transitioning out of homelessness to package everything up.

I love this mission, and their Kickstarter has roughly 50 hours left at the time that I’m typing this. You can shop for Christmas, give to someone in need, and help them take their company to the next level – all with one purchase. That’s a pretty sweet incentive to shop there!

Ok, now seriously. Stop distracting me. I need to go workout.

Except, now it’s lunchtime. . .

Back to the blog – Part II, {Plus Zucchini Pound Cake!}

zucchini pound cake

We’ve got cake!

Far overdue, in my humble opinion, because this baby arrived in my kitchen back in May, it just never made it to the posting stage, because, well, you know – life.

As I type, I’m actually a little concerned I won’t be able to find my little notepaper where I scribbled my itsy bitsy changes. The bottom line is, it’s a Joy The Baker recipe, and there’s really never a need to change any of her cakes. Or doughnuts. Or pumpkin scones. They’re pretty much perfect. The girl knows her sugar/butter/egg combos. The only reason I changed anything at all had much, much more to do with what I had on hand than it had to do with necessity to alter anything. (If you love to bake and haven’t bought either Joy the Baker Cookbook yet, you probably should. At least one. Right now.)

But before we get to the recipe (just scroll to the bottom if you’re too antsy to wait!), I’ll finish the catch-up game:

Food? I spent nearly all of my internet trips back here revisiting old recipes – like shredded beef sandwiches, burritos, and roasted chicken. I also repeatedly searched for my Chimichurri recipe – which I now realize I need to post – because it’s not here. Posts I’m sure need to happen at some point? Buttermilk Biscuits, Chimichurri (I like redundency. I like redundency. (That’s a joke. Clearly.)), Asian chicken lettuce wraps, Sauteed corn with lime and cilantro and a delightful Mexican cheese whose name eludes me at this particular moment, and a dreamy fried french toast we had this morning. . . .

Art?  Why do I feel like such a poser when I write about this? I feel like an imposter trying to be an artist. It’s been so long since I’ve been fully immersed in it – 16 years, actually.  I feel genuine satisfaction in creating again, yet, at the same time I feel such anxiety over what people might think of me and the  crappy (< that’s the mean voice in my head) art I’m making. I’ve partially trained, yes, but not totally. I’m learning as I go all over again. There is a huge shame factor I’m going to need to overcome if I’m going to progress at all. I enjoy making art; it brings me peace. I feel at the same time like I know it, but I still have so incredibly much to learn. I love the way I feel when I make it, and I want to work on projects for hours and hours and hours. Until I make something I hate and then I crash and burn and loathe it all and want to crumple it up and thwack it into the trash can. No, not really, (kind-of really) but there is a true and real depression to sludge through when I can’t make something work. In fact, I currently hate this painting:

unfinished abstract

And I was dissappointed by this outcome.

rock sketchbook

BUT.

They were just practice. The painting is unfinished, and well, there’s no reason I can’t still work on the sketch. #worksinprogress.  I’m trying to find what’s mine by trying out what I see elsewhere, by taking classes, by experimenting to see what feels good to me. What comes naturally? What is satisfying? What makes me feel happy when I’m finished with it? What do I want to know how to do that I don’t know how to do? What is it that feeds me and brings me the most joy and in turn will feed others and bring them joy too? I’m still searching. . . . I imagine it’s a long, long journey that never really ends.

Speaking of never ending . . . ramble!

Enough about all this. Let’s make cake and we’ll finish catching up when our mouths are full of confection.

Part III coming next. . . .

Zucchini Pound Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese (& Sour Cream) Frosting

This cake is delicious, homey, and like Joy describes, almost grandmotherly. You really don't even need the frosting if you feel like skipping that step. The original recipe is divine. I only changed this because 1) I always feel the need to substitute whole wheat flour when I can, and 2) poor planning meant I ran out of cream cheese and had to substitute sour cream in the frosting - however - it still turned out to be an incredible crowd pleaser. So, enjoy it either way. You can find the original recipe in Joy's book, the Joy the Baker Cookbook, 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • For the Frosting:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream (plus 1 more, if necessary for texture)
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (plus more, if needed for texture)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

For the Cake:

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan and set aside. (Grease well! Make sure there is no spot left un-buttered, or it will spell doom for your cake!)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition, then add vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the melted butter and increase speed to medium-high to beat until velvety smooth, about 3 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture, all at once, to the mixture. Beat until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the zucchini, and incorporate the rest of the flour. The batter will be thick, not pourable.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When completely cool, frost the entire cake with frosting, recipe below.

For the Frosting:

Place cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the cream cheese for about 1 minute, ensuring that it is soft and pliable. Stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the softened butter to the bowl. Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 1 minute, until thoroughly combined. Add in 2 tablespoons of the sour cream and mix again until well combined and smooth.. Add dark brown sugar to the cream cheese mixture and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, followed by the vanilla.Beat until almost incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Beat on medium speed until all the powdered sugar has disappeared and mixture is velvety soft. If the frosting is too firm, add a couple teaspoons of sour cream to soften it up. If it appears too wet, add more powdered sugar by the tablespoon until you reach your desired consistency. Remember, it will firm up some once it is refrigerated. Use immediately by spreading over cake.

Store frosted cake in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Source

Adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook, by Sara|Home is Where the Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2015/09/15/back-to-the-blog-part-ii-plus-zucchini-pound-cake/

 

Back to the Blog – Part I

sunrise

Ohmygoshitsbeen4months!! (PLUS!!)

I’m telling you, I’ve popped over here a few times just to check in and see what’s happening. I’ve fiddled around on the “new post” page, as though I were going to write something.

Ha! As though.

The thing is, I had no idea where to (re)start.

Summer? It was long, and really – honestly! – wonderful. We traveled more than usual, we barely did anything when we were home, and I was nowhere near ready for the kids to go back to school when they did. In fact, I suffered a minor emotional breakdown at 11pm on the eve of the first day, I was so not ready for school to start yet. It felt like we barely had any time off, and I said so much (and much, much more) to my husband, who found me to be an odd and unpredictable creature in that moment. He had no idea who I was. It’s not unlike me to happily participate in a champagne toast with my girlfriends to celebrate the first day send-off. Not this year folks. I’m slowly figuring out what is causing this emotional unrest, and I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that I’ve been in full-time mommy mode for 17 years and counting, and I’m itching to be a “grown up” and do grown-uppy kinds of things (basically: hone skills beyond wiping bottoms and policing homework). At the same time, I’m hyper aware that this is the last year of all six of us under this one small and precious roof. In a few fragile months, our biggest will be off in the real world living his own grown-up life, and that’s crazy scary/exciting/sad/amazing. It’s the first year of not having a little-ish wing man (or girl) with me everywhere I go, every second of the day, which is liberating/sad/exciting. . . . As a family, we’re playing with the idea of moving to a house that works better for our family in as many ways as possible. But have I ever told you how I feel about change? I don’t like it. I like predictability. I like what I know. I don’t like having to put on big girl pants and do the stressful grown up things like – oh, I dunno – find a house and a community where we can best raise our family/grow into old, wrinkled grandparents together (maybe), weighing pros and cons of schools, commute times, old neighborhoods vs. sprawling suburbia, distance from friends and established relationships, plus honor All The Feelings regarding necessity vs. overindulgence? That’s a lot of pressure. You know what happened to me last time we moved – 13 years ago?? Migraines. Lots of migraines. Do you sense the trouble I’m having with my emotions at the moment? Grown-up vs. not-grown-up? #reallife

Books? I read like it was my (part-time) job this summer.

Orphan Train (can I just say yes? Go get it, and read it. Lose yourself and feel all the feelings. It’s beautiful.)

Dancing on Broken Glass (I wanted to love it, I really did. I’d give it a solid 7 out of 10. The writing style was engaging, and the light shed on bi-polar disorder was eye-opening, but, I dunno. It just wasn’t all there for me to feel emotionally attached to it from now until forevermore – like The Help, and Kitchen House, and Me Before You.

Wearing God – oh my. It’s on my “must read again” list because – well: 1) big words and 2) so much to think about 3)it’s so poetically composed I’m certain I missed a few big points purely because I was simply swept along by her writing. This one gets a permanent spot on my bookshelf where I’ll go back to the oldies but goodies over and over again.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – ummm, yes. Let me just say: You’re supposed to work start to finish on one particular category and finish in one day. My closet took me three between all the snack-getting and child-shuttling and play dates. It was a disaster during all those middle hours, and I was fairly ruthless with my discarding. Out of just my own closet and drawers (and I don’t have much storage space!) I eliminated nearly eight kitchen garbage bags full of clothing and shoes I wasn’t using because of the way they made me feel. And I don’t miss them. This was the state of things mid-project:

tidying in action

Don’t be jealous. . . .

I moved on to the kids’ closets the next week, and accumulated another 4 bags. I’m not finished yet – the next phase is books, and I know I’m going to need to be ruthless all over again. I just know being ruthless with books is going to be much more of an emotional challenge for me. . . .

For the Love –  I’m such a fan girl of Jen Hatmaker, it’s almost embarrassing. Along with thousands of other women, I secretly wish she could be my new best friend.  I snort-laughed my way through her chapters on turning 40 and the atrocious fashions these days, and I felt real knots of tension and guilt unravel through her chapters on calling and motherhood. Oh! And I made the Beef Bourgiunon on page 40. I might still be dreaming about it. . . .

Bittersweet, by Shauna Niequist. I want Shauna on my BFF list too. Her writing is just so genuine and true. I found this book at the library after reading Bread and Wine (which I also LOVED) and once I finished it, I promptly ordered two more for dear women in my life.

Currently, I’m in the middle of Show Your Work, Simply Tuesday, and Tattoos on the Heart.

There’s so much more to catch up on, friends – but this post is getting too, too long.

Check back soon, because we’re catching up in installments. Part II will be coming shortly – and in that one, there will be cake!!

xoxo!