Zucchini Bread

When my sister and I were young, my Mom worked hard to pass on her few domestic skills to us. I remember her teaching me how to make french toast, how to take a blood stain out of a favorite pair of pants, how to sew a button onto a new blouse. One of my favorite memories, though, is making zucchini bread.

I can remember every step of the process, from the garden my parents tended in our spacious backyard every summer, to the warm, sweet smelling loaf. If you’re from Kentucky, you know, the first Saturday of May is the Derby, the second Saturday of May is for planting. Every year, without fail, my Dad tilled the deep brown earth into perfect, symmetrical lines. Then my mom, and some years my sister and I, would walk along the rows and put these adorable baby starter plants into indentations carved by our thumbs.

Every morning of our summer break, before the heat and humidity of Kentucky summers made it miserable to do anything, we would grab a wicker basket and gather the red tomatoes, plump and firm in our hands, the yellow squash, just as pretty as the blooms they were born from, and of course, the zucchini. I’ve often wondered if it was just our soil, or a Kentucky thing, but the zucchini grew the best. Within weeks we had deep green, gorgeous zucchini, as big as your forearm.

When you have pounds and pounds of zucchini sitting around, you have to get creative to get rid of it. People don’t realize how versatile zucchini is, either. You can fry it, bake it, grill it. It can be sweet, spicy or savory. It can give you different textures depending on how you treat it, but it always tastes good. I can remember our kitchen counters, and eventually table, too, having stacks of multicolored vegetables, a cornucopia kitchen. We had to get creative in reclaiming our space.

By August, we were all tired of zucchini. People stopped accepting our gourds as gifts and held their hands up in surrender. No more zucchini! That’s when the baking would begin. I’ll be honest, Mom and Dad did the bulk of the work when it came to the garden, but when it came to the baking, Allison and I stepped up. Mom would announce, usually on a day when  we were stuck inside by rain or sweltering heat, that we would be making zucchini bread. My mom is not known for her cooking. She will freely admit that. But she makes a mean zucchini bread, and luckily, she passed that recipe on.

On these Zucchini days, we would pull every loaf pan in our house out and line them up in an anticipatory row, the aluminum disposable ones sitting next to the glass and the blue cornflower patterned ones that make me think of ancestry and heritage and recipes passed down for generations. The goal here was to make an assembly line, efficiently filling, baking, and pulling the loaves from counter to oven and back up to counter.

The real bulk of the work, though, came from peeling and grating zucchini. Allison and I would sit at the kitchen table, one of us with a trash can in between our knees, peeling zucchini and revealing its soft, white-green insides. The other sister would balance a big bowl on her lap and grate zucchini into it until our hands ached and our fingers were shiny and red. Mom would play the same albums that stand as a soundtrack of my childhood, The Beatles, Sheryl Crow, Dido, and Van Morrison.

Once we had grated our weight in zucchini, mom would supervise the measuring and mixing. My mother, who claims to be terrible at math, taught me how to add and convert fractions as she explained why we should make a double or triple batch to speed up the baking process. Filling our assorted loaf pans with thick, cream batter and sliding them long-ways into the oven was always deeply satisfying. The smell that filled our entire house was warmth and cinnamon and melted brown sugar. Everyone’s mouth was watering on the whole block by the time the first batch was done. The first couple loaves never even made it to the cooling rack, as we all burnt our fingertips and tongues on the soft, sweet, spongy bread.

What I remember most about zucchini bread, though, is giving it away. After it had cooled and been covered in plastic wrap and, sometimes, tied with a bow, Allison and I were instructed to go to our neighbors and give them bread. I remember one neighbor, an elderly, widowed woman, was always so happy to see us. We would also walk in and sit with her for a little while. Through these visits, and many more instances in my life, my Mom taught me to be kind to everyone. Zucchini bread taught me to put love and care into baking. It taught me to have and show gratitude when cooking, because it is an opportunity to feed yourself, your loved ones, and your soul.

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Pewee Valley Aminal Clinic: A Review

This summer,  for the first time, I decided to get my big, fluffy kitty Kush groomed.  I’ve never seem the need before,  but after missing a few brushes his fur had gotten matted and he was getting dandruff. I figured he would be more comfortable and i could stand to not brush him twice a day. 

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There’s something you should know about Kush. He is feisty.  And I don’t mean like normal hyper kitty who chases feathers.  I mean like small bobcat with a taste for blood. You’d never guess it by looking at him.  He’s usually very laid back and loving,  but when you piss him off, it’s over.
So I knew I would need to take him to a real veterinarian to get him sedated.  What I didn’t know was how hard it would be to find someone who will shave a cat.  I must have called 10 vets and clinics before I found Peewee Valley Animal Clinic.  Most places told me they didn’t groom cats.  The ones that did gave me estimates between $100-150 for a sedated bath and shave.  That was way out of my price range. I was considering googling “how many benadryl would knock my cat out.” Almost as a last resort, I called PeeWee Valley, even though it was about 40 minutes away.
The receptionist was friendly and reassuring.  She explained the process and,  best of all,  quoted me a price that was half of every other place I’d called! I was able to make an appointment within the week, though i suspect they get full quickly at the beginning of the summer.

Kush was not a happy camper on the ride there–he knew where we were going!

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But I felt good about the place from the beginning.  It was clean,  the patients and workers were friendly, and there were adorable pictures of pets and their owners on the walls.  I was able to give specific instructions about what I wanted done, and for the most part they followed them.  My only complaint was that I asked not to clip his nails and they did anyways. 
That was honeslty my only complaint.  The cut looked good and he didn’t seem to traumatized. Haha

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Overall, it was very affordable and a positive experience for us. It was well worth the drive and I would definitely take Kush there again.

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The Magical Mystery Shirt (and the joy of being a daughter.)

According to Blogging University, the next post I write should be the post that made me want to start a blog in the first place. I’ll be honest with you, reader, it all started with a shirt. You see, last weekend we had a yard sale. There are many positive factors in having a yard sale. You make money, you get rid of junk, but the best part, for me, is it’s a family affair. Every year either Mom or one of her sisters hosts a yard sale and we all get a part of yard to lay out our stuff. By “we all” I mean my cousins, aunts, sisters, and me. I grew up in one of those stereotypical Kentucky families you may have seen on a bad TV movie. We were all raised Roman Catholic, Mimi had five children, and three of them had three. My generation seems to like a minimum of three so far, too. We just love big families, and a yard sale is just an excuse for us to sit around and gossip and pick through each other’s junk.

That is how the shirt came into my possession. Mom was studiously hanging the nicer clothes line while I was laying out some old dinnerware with orange mushrooms painted in the cups. I could hear Mom’s loud, audible in-take of breath. Like she had seen a giant spider, or twisted her arm the wrong way, or found an a hundred dollar bill in the pocket. She makes that noise a lot. So, obviously, I freak out, “What! What?!” And she holds up the shirt, with a smug, all-knowing smile.

“Go try this on.” Was all she said, and knowing my mother well enough, I didn’t see any reason to argue.

I mean, it was obvious I was going to hate this shirt. From the hanger it glared at me with disgust. The fabric in the front was short enough to show inches of midriff, with black fringe comprising the rest of the length, with the back fabric being normal length. I never, EVER show my belly, not even in the summer, not even in a swimsuit. The neck was huge, scooping, and flowy, with wide short sleeves. It would show my bra straps and annoy me. And the pattern! It was about to be summer and this was drab, dark, and too maroon for my taste. But I tried it on, for Mom. I had dark jean shorts on.

This shirt, if you haven’t figured out yet, is magical. I fell in love as soon as I looked in the mirror, and swore to buy more items with fringe in general. The fringe flatters my middle area more than I ever thought possible, and the sleeves and neckline shows off my wicked tattoos. The red tones of the pattern, it turns out, compliment my complexion and the pattern, once I looked at it closer, is very bohemian meets gothic, which I love. I ran back outside to show my mom the shirt she so spot-on picked out. And she turned her nose up. “That shirt shows way too much midriff.”

It just goes to show you, you can never judge a shirt on the rack.