Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wednesday is Footprint Baby Shower Favors

The Sampler Winner is...

I was really pleased to have 48 entries this time! The winner of our Sampler Giveaway is #39, Tammy G., who tweeted and posted from Vermont right through Hurricane Irene! (Glad you're OK, Tammy!)

Thank you all so much for participating. If you didn't win this time, I promise there will be other giveaways soon. We'll also be offering some samples with orders; more details to come, so please keep reading!

Have a great day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One day left...

Here are some of the goodies I'm giving away tomorrow.

Have you entered yet for a chance to win? You have until noon EST on August 31. Check out details and leave your entry here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Be Awesome

This is the front of one of my son's new back-to-school t-shirts. (In case you can't see the photo, it says, "Plans for Today...Wake Up. Brush Teeth. Be Awesome!")

This makes perfect sense to my 11-year-old. I mean c'mon, what else would he be? He just seems to understand these things, which is why we only need to remind him to "be your best." I remember my own mom saying, "If you just do your best, that's all anyone can ever ask of you."

It's great advice, isn't it? I wonder when I realized that the second part isn't always true. The truth is, sometimes people will ask much more of you than your best. They will want things done faster than you can do them, with extra bells and whistles that you just may not know how to provide. They will want you to live up to their expectations, to be THEIR idea of the best, not yours. Has that ever happened to you?

It struck me last week that regardless of expectations, I really don't know how to be someone else's best. I only know how to be my own best. I can wake up, brush my teeth, and be awesomemy OWN awesomeand that's all I can be. What's more, I'm pretty sure that's all anyone can be. Mom was right about that (big surprise there).

I hope you have a great week doing your best and being awesome!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Kiva Catch-up

It's been a couple of months since I made my last Kiva loan, and I just got a message yesterday letting me know that almost $100 had been repaid on the other loans! So today I made three more loans.

This time my loans were made to women in Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Peru. All are working in retail—one even sells cosmetics!

If you haven't heard of them, you can learn more about Kiva here. I've also blogged about Kiva a couple of times. Oh, and here's another. What I love about it (and I know I've said this before but I still think it's brilliant) is that as the loans are repaid, the same money gets loaned over and over again. So I get to help people through micro loans (each one is $25) in countries all over the world. And then help some more.

Up to loan 23 and counting! What do you think?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How I bake with veggies

I know I said a few weeks ago that I was done with the zucchini. That wasn't totally a lie, because this week's recipe isn't just about zucchini. And I talk about one recipe, but really you can apply this to many recipes.

I realized when I was baking these cookies the other night that you might think you need a "special" recipe if you want to add things like zucchini (or pumpkin and squash in the fall). The fact is, I usually just tinker with a recipe that I already like. How do you do that? you might ask. Here's an example.

Take the Toll House cookie recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. Now I don't always use these chocolate chips, and I don't always use this recipe, but I think most bakers are familiar with it so it's a good place to start. This is what it looks like:

- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large egg
- 1 (12 ounce) package NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
- 1 cup chopped nuts

When I want to add zucchini (or squash or pumpkin) to my cookies, I will reduce the butter by half and replace it with the same amount of pureed or grated veggie. So in this case I would use only one stick of butter and 1/2 cup of veggies. Of course I usually can't stop with making just that one change; usually I reduce the sugar by 1/3 (I promise you that no one will notice if there's ONLY a cup of sugar instead of a cup and a half). And I replace the white flour with white whole wheat (also no comment with this change, though you may need to bake with a mixture of white and whole wheat and gradually increase the amount until your family is used to it).

Now I've always done this because a) it's a great way of getting veggies into kids and b) it makes the cookies lower in fat. But as I'm sure you've noticed, these are chocolate cookies pictured here. And what you can't see is that they also have toffee bits in them. And espresso powder. So I surely wouldn't call these health food (although they DO have zucchini in them...and just like Bill Cosby's chocolate cake, they also have eggs! and wheat!). In case you were wondering, I add 4 Tbsp cocoa and 1 heaping Tbsp espresso powder. And I leave out the nuts. Oh, or sometimes replace the nuts with oatmeal.

The other thing you'll need to know for these cookies is that after you spoon them out onto a nonstick pan, you'll need to pat them down a bit. You know how regular chocolate chip cookies will melt down and flatten out? Yeah, these won't do that as much. With less butter, you'll have to help them out. The result, though, is a super cake-y cookie, very soft and light. (I still bake at 350 or 375° for 10 minutes.)

I have other recipes that called for pumpkin and I found that shredded zucchini was just as good (if not better). And as fall is coming and the apples are getting ready to pick, I should also mention that I bake a lot with applesauce, too. (I know, it's not a veggie, but it works about the same in these recipes.) If you have a favorite recipe that you think would be good with squash or pumpkin or...yes, my favorite, zucchini, just give it a try! The great thing about cooking experiments is that the mistakes are often delicious. What do you think?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Keep Calm

This poster was on display at Maine Highland Games on Saturday. I debated picking one up because I think it should be my new mantra.

The original design was created in Britain early in World War II by the Ministry of Information, which thought that British citizens might need a boost to morale. The threat of invasion would cause anyone to freak out, but happily I don't require anything anywhere near as serious!

Last week I had more than a few "freak-out" moments. Does that ever happen to you? You start making your to-do list and it's growing faster than you can get it done. (Or hey! Get it started!) I even posted about it on Facebook, commenting that I was gonna try something different for a change and do the first thing without freaking out about the second. The number of comments makes me think this is a common feeling among my friends!

Sometimes I joke that the first thought when I start my day should be "Don't panic!" And I'm not even a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist. What I love about this poster is that they felt it was important for EVERYONE to remain calm and carry on. Not just "important" people, but everyone. Things run smoothly when everyone does their job. And it's a lot easier to do your job when you aren't freaking out.

If you need me this week I'm the one over here, keeping calm and carrying on. How about you?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Family Heritage

I took a rare day off Saturday to go to the Maine Highland Games with a friend. We've gone in the past to see the sheepdog trials, to hear the pipers, and to watch the Highland dancers. We check out all of the cool thistle products and sometimes we sample the fish and chips (my husband really likes the bridies, too). This year my friend needed to find a fabulous dog collar for her own sheepdog, and I needed to check in with my Clan.

I share a name with my grandmother, a Graham from Vermont who was only a few generations removed from Scotland. In past years at the Highland Games I would look for the Graham tartan in the vendors' booths. I'd find it on keychains or mugs, and we'd point out the Clan booth in the row of other clans.

This year I went right in to say hi. I signed the book and chatted with the other Grahams, who were kind enough to take our picture right under the banner. I don't know why I wanted to check in this year, but I'm glad that I did.

We had a great afternoon enjoying the music and dancing (and the kilts!). I think next year I'll have to bring the whole family so everyone can sign in!

What about you? Do you celebrate your heritage? Where is your family from?

The winning dog!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What's Pouring? Babylove

I spend a good part of my time making cocktail lip balms for bachelorette parties and bridal showers, but more recently I've started making baby shower favors, too. I decided it wasn't fair to the moms-to-be to serve cocktail balms, so I made up some "mocktail" flavors for baby showers!

One of my favorite baby shower balms is based on a mocktail called a Babylove. Imagine a non-alcoholic piña colada with banana! Here's how you make the real thing:

Babylove Mocktail Lip Balm
1 1/2 oz coconut milk
3/4 oz cream
2 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz banana syrup
1 banana

Mix the first four ingredients and shake well over crushed ice. Strain into a Collins glass and fill with crushed ice. Top with banana slices, and serve.

Yummy! What drinks do you usually serve at a baby shower?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sampler Giveaway

I think it's about time for another giveaway, don't you?

After the last one I asked my Facebook friends what they'd like to win. I got a couple of answers, including "lots of lip balms" and "summer fragrances." So this time we're giving away a sample pack of lots of different products in a bunch of different summery fragrances and flavors.

There will be sugar scrubs and bath gels, lotions and hand creams, and an assortment of lip balms in a bunch of flavors. Please note that the photos here don't necessarily represent what will be in the assortment; I'm still adding to the gift box, and will keep adding items until I select a winner at the end of the month. If you've ever been curious about trying our products, this is one giveaway you won't want to miss!

How do you enter? You must be a U.S. citizen over the age of 18. Check out and take a look around, then come back here and leave a comment sharing one or two things you'd really like to try. Make sure you leave your name and email address so I can contact you if (when!) you win.

For extra entries, you can:
2. Tweet about the giveaway (only once a day, please). Copy and paste this tweet: Enter @gcdspa's Sampler Giveaway!
3. You can join our mailing list, too.

Make sure you post a comment here for each separate entry. We'll choose a winner at noon EST on August 31st.

What do you think? Which of our products would you like to try? Leave your comment below for a chance to win!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Seeing Clearly

Last week as I was looking out my kitchen window, I realized that the view was really lacking. The marigolds are in full bloom out on the deck, but everything looked dull and dark. I took a closer look and found that not only was the window smudged, but the screen was also covered with dust. (Guess who doesn't "do windows" around here?)

After a quick dusting and a swipe of window cleaner, everything came into focus: the blossoming petunias, the hummingbirds visiting my nasturtiums every morning, the weeds growing between the basil plants. Seeing clearly meant I saw every lovely petal and leaf, every fragrant herb and blossom, and each pesky slug and beetle, too.

I had another eye-opening experience last week. Someone I was working with did something I couldn't understand, something I considered wrong. I suddenly saw them with different eyes, in a way I never expected or wanted to. Seeing them this way was sad and hard, but helpful and necessary. When I finally see someone clearly—slugs and all—I'm not sure that I can go back to the smudgy, dim view I held before (as much as I might want to).

This isn't the first time this has happened, but I'm left wondering if I sometimes choose not to see things clearly because I know that a soft focus is more forgiving. It's hard work to clean those windows, and sometimes we don't like what we see.

Is it better not to look too closely? Or is it always better to see everything as clearly as possible? What do you think?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Zucchini and Tomato Pasta

I promise this is the last time I'll write about zucchini. At least this year. OK, at least this week.

My husband said I was blogging too many zucchini desserts, so I think I'll wrap up this week with an easy pasta dish. A few summers ago we had lots of eggplant and tomatoes in our garden and we found that this was a quick and delicious meal, perfect for hot nights when you don't want to turn on the oven. Zucchini works just as well as eggplant for this pasta.

You'll need
2 small zucchinis cut into 1/4 inch slices
2-3 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped (I had to use canned this time because our tomatoes aren't ready, but fresh are better. Drop whole tomatoes into boiling water for about a minute to easily remove the skins.)
fresh basil (I use a handful of leaves and tear into small pieces)
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan
angel hair pasta

Cook the angel hair pasta and toss with a bit of olive oil, then set aside. Warm a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan or wok and add the onion and garlic, cooking until translucent. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, and basil.

You may need to add extra water to the sauce depending on how juicy your tomatoes are! Stir until the zucchini is tender. Then pile your plate with angel hair pasta, top with the tomatoes and zucchini, add fresh grated Parmesan, and serve. That's it!

Of course you can add salt and pepper to taste, and any other fresh herbs you'd like. But veggies straight from the garden don't need much of anything "extra" to be delicious.

What do you think? Have you tried any of our zucchini recipes this week? What's your favorite?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

I've been eating zucchini every day for about three weeks now. My favorite way to eat zucchini is still to grate it, sauté it with some fresh herbs and garlic, then use the resulting "spread" on pizza, wraps, pasta, etc.

My second favorite recipe? This bread. Would you believe me if I said I've made this three times in the past few weeks? When I find yet another zucchini hiding out in the garden (how do they DO that??), my husband and kids all request this bread. Even over cookies or brownies. So you know it must be good!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour (white whole wheat is great)
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips (I use the semisweet chunks)

Preheat oven to 350, grease a loaf pan and set aside.
Cream the butter with the sugar, add eggs and mix well. In a separate bowl mix the flour, soda, salt, and spices. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix. Then mix in the zucchini, and follow with the remaining flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chunks and pour batter into your loaf pan. Bake for an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean (sometimes this takes an extra 5 or 10 minutes in my oven). Remove loaf from pan and allow to cool before cutting.

Ah, if you can wait to cut this, you are stronger than anyone in my family! Plus, isn't bread so much tastier if it's warm right out of the oven?

Do you have a favorite zucchini bread recipe? Do you like it better for breakfast or a midnight snack?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Zucchini and Onion Fritters

Yesterday I shared a recipe for Double Chocolate Zucchini Waffles. As much as I love baking desserts with zucchini, most of the time we eat it sautéed, grilled, roasted, or steamed.

Last week a friend on Facebook mentioned zucchini fritters. Zucchini and onions in a batter, pan fried? I knew this was something my kids would even like. The spices listed in many of the recipes didn't really appeal to me, so I added my own. And fritters really need a dip, too, so I made a yogurt raita dipping sauce. If your garden or CSA share is overflowing with zucchini, onions, fresh herbs, and cucumbers, try making these.

Zucchini and Onion Fritters
2 cups shredded zucchini, drained
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup panko or other bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1-2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
several Tbsp oil for frying

Preheat griddle or frying pan with 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Combine all ingredients and form into patties, then fry until brown on both sides. Serve warm or cold with:

Curry Cucumber Raita
1/2 cup low fat or fat free plain yogurt
1/4 cup finely chopped or grated cucumber (remove the seedy middles and use only the firm outer part of the cuke)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp curry powder
pinch of salt
pepper to taste

Combine all of the above ingredients. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve, then garnish with fresh cilantro.

Have you ever tried zucchini fritters? What spices do you use? What do you serve them with?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Double Chocolate Zucchini Waffles

If you are what you eat, this week I'm about 75% zucchini. Back in the spring I planted a whole row of them because I wanted to make sure I had enough. Since we also have a share at a local CSA farm, we've had to redefine the word "enough" as it relates to zucchini. At one point a few weeks ago I had a dozen of them in my fridge. Folks, this is when we get creative.

Since I'm up to my ears in zucchini, this week the blog will be, too. I'll be sharing zucchini every day; today I'm starting with breakfast. These waffles are kid-approved.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Waffles

2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 cups flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cocoa
3/4 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat waffle iron as directed by the manufacturer. Shred 1 small or 1/2 medium zucchini until you have about 3/4 cup of shreds (If you've never shredded zucchini, you needn't peel it; rinse it well and simply cut off both ends, then use the coarser side of your grater to grate the quantity you need.) In a medium bowl beat the eggs, then add milk and oil. Beat in cocoa to mix completely, then add sugar. Add the dry ingredients, mixing well, then stir in zucchini shreds and chocolate chips. Follow manufacturer's instructions to use the correct amount of batter in the waffle iron (mine uses 1/3 cup). This recipe makes about 8 waffles. Sprinkle waffles with powdered sugar or top with fresh fruit and syrup.

What do you think? What's your favorite way to eat zucchini for breakfast?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Catch of the Day Shark Products

Last week we celebrated Shark Week on Facebook by sharing cool shark-themed products every day. In case you missed it, here's the week's Catch of the Day products:

Monday was Shark Soap by The Pig and the Peacock.

Tuesday was Shark Bite candle by Blue Moon Candles.

Wednesday was Monster Shark for soda can from Handamade.

Thursday was Shark Hoodie from Mouthman.

Friday was Hungry Shark Porthole Wall Decal from Wilson Graphics.

And today's Catch of the Day was Handpainted Moleskine "le hammerhead shark" Notebook from le animale.

I have to admit that I ordered the Shark Bite candle from Blue Moon Candles and I LOVE it! The fragrance is described as "a day at the Seashore...captured in a Candle." If you can't be at the beach, this is the next best thing, right down the the sparkly blue surface.

What about you? Did you celebrate Shark Week? What's your favorite shark-themed gift idea?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

What's Pouring? Shark Bite

Cue the Jaws music. It's been in my head all week because (of course) it's Shark Week. Last Saturday I mentioned that I'd be celebrating that infamous fish this week on Facebook. I also introduced a new Limited Edition Shark Bite lip balm. I'm tucking one into each order this week.

This lip balm is based on the cocktail of the same name, so of course that's what's pouring this week. If you want to make a Shark Bite at home, you'll need:

3/4 oz Captain Morgan® Original spiced rum
3/4 oz light rum
1/2 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
1 1/2 oz sweet and sour mix
grenadine syrup

Shake the rum, sour mix, and blue curacao with ice, then strain into a rocks glass (or another fun glass of your choice). Add crushed ice or ice cubes, then add several drops of grenadine.

Did you know there are also cocktails called Gummy Sharks, Shark Attack, and Shark's Tooth? What other fun cocktails are you serving? If you need a Shark Week Drinking Game, someone's already way ahead of you! Kids can play, too: trade three sips for three swipes of the Shark Bite lip balm when anyone gets submerged in a steel cage (#8 in the game).

What about you? Have you been watching and celebrating? What's your favorite shark week cocktail?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Old Mother West Wind

Childhood sleepovers with my grandparents always included games, snacks, and of course, bedtime stories. The Old Mother West Wind stories were some of our favorites. Written by naturalist and conservationist Thornton W. Burgess, these stories featured all of the typical New England woodland critters, like Jimmy Skunk and Johnny Chuck. I always imagined that the Smiling Pool was just beyond my grandparents' orchard, and could almost hear Grandfather Frog's "Chugarum!" at night.

I saw recently that the Centennial Anniversary Edition of Old Mother West Wind stories has been published. I think this is a terrific baby shower gift or present for that soon-to-be-grandparent! The author's love of and respect for nature is obvious, and his descriptions of the animals, big and small, are delightful. (Please note that this is not an affiliate link; I just love these stories, and I think you will, too!)

What were your favorite bedtime stories when you were growing up?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Taking New Measurements

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a friend who was debating whether to add a snarky comment to someone's Facebook wall. He had gone to school with this guy years before, but hadn't seen him since graduation. My friend decided to take the kinder route, reminding himself (and me) that he was probably expressing disdain for a person who "hadn't existed" for 20 years.

I thought this was a pretty profound concept. How many times do we interact with people based on who they used to be? How often do we put aside expectations established years ago and see people as they really are? I know that I'm not the same person I was five years ago, or ten. And 20 years seems like a lifetime ago. Are you the same person? Why expect that anyone else would be the same?

George Bernard Shaw said, "The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew every time he sees me while all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them."

I wonder how much different the world would be if we were ALL sensible tailors? What do you think? Do your relationships change as people change, or do you find that you expect people to be the same? How do you accommodate changes in your friendships?


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