Monday, June 27, 2016

Home with Hyer Wools

Last week was a special week for us as we got to go home. Home to Cameron's parents house. Home to where I spent my childhood. Home to where we were married. Home with people we love.

When my family moved from Edgewood, I thought for sure I'd never find home again. My 14 year old heart was broken. Through the years and the moves though I've learned that home isn't just a place, though it can be. Home, for me, is where my loved ones are. Home is where my heart is. So now home for me is Northern AZ with my little family of 4. Home is my memories of EAC. Home is visiting my parents. Home is being with Cameron's parents. Home is The Ranch. Home is all over. And that makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world to get to call so many places Home.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tried it Tuesday: The Great 2016 Zucchini Bread Catastrophe

While we have expanded the scope of our blog to more than just "Pinterest Projects Gone Wrong", we definitely don't want to get rid of those all together! We still have them. We know some of you still have them! 

Most of the crazy pins have been debunked...but sometimes, despite best efforts, even these normal pins turn on one of us every now and again. 

Today, we have a Pinstrosity for you from Rachel in the Sonoran Desert!

"There are so many places where I could start this story, but I guess that I'll begin it at the point in which my friend Liz gave me like eight zucchini from a stash she bought from a local non-profit called Produce on Wheels - Without Waste (POWWOW) which sells 60 pounds of produce for $10 each Saturday in rotating locations in Central and Southern Arizona. There are many mass production farms here in Arizona and over the border in Mexico, and POWWOW "rescues" the extra produce from these farms, sells it to individuals, and then uses those funds to supply food for Borderlands Food Bank. This produce is close to expiration, so you have to use it quickly. Liz saddled me with lots of zukes, so I needed to come up with something quick.

Flash backward about a week when, at my work's end-of-year (school teacher, here!) potluck, a colleague made the most delicious zucchini bread EVER. I mean, I had to physically restrain myself from eating too much of it. It had the perfect level of spice, and sweetness, and it was moist and...I could go on.

When Liz gave me the zucchini, I had a certain level of excitement usually reserved when one finds a $10 in the pocket of a pair of paints that just went through the wash. I didn't have my colleague's recipe, so I headed to trusty Pinterest. No one's ever had a pin go bad from Pinterest, right?! ;-)

I looked through a bunch of recipes and found this one. The lady literally calls it the best - even better than her own mother's recipe. I don't know about you, but there are few people who can only come close to recipes my mother (grandmother and aunt, too!) perfected. After reading through everything - even the comments - this seemed fairly fool-proof, as I'm an adept baker (I worked in a bakery for five years in high school and college). 

I double and triple checked the ingredients and method. I tasted the batter, and it tasted delicious! I set my timer for 30 minutes, though the recipe calls for 45, because oven times vary. I wound up resetting the timer for the additional 15 in five-minute intervals. I did the toothpick test, and it came out clean. The bread looked set, there was no jiggling. I thought I had serious success. And I clearly did not anticipate failure because I took no pictures along the process.

I let the bread cool on the counter while I packed up the kiddos and went grocery shopping, daydreaming of the zucchini bread I was going to try to sneak while my kids weren't looking (because, let's be real, it should be called zucchini cake not zucchini bread).

We got home from shopping about the same time as my husband from work, and as he's helping to bring the groceries into the house, he made an off-hand comment being sorry. I thought he meant about not being able to go shopping with us.

What he really meant was the Grand Zucchini Canyon."

That is a straight-up cavern. The ENTIRE center of the bread collapsed on both loaves. It was as hollow as my zucchini-bread-desperate heart. I tasted a piece of the baked, non-deflated portion, and it did taste delicious. 

I have no clue what happened, as I followed the recipe verbatim. I will not let this deter me, though, as I'm on the hunt for a new, fool-proof recipe (please send them my way!).

I'd never had this happen to me either! So I took to Google and found a number of excellent articles about why quick breads may fall in the middle!

For a great "diagnostics" on a zucchini bread that just kept falling, check out this link!

The three main culprits I'm reading about for sinking quick breads are:

  1. Too much moisture. 
  2. Too much batter in the pan
  3. Over mixing the batter. 
1. Too much moisture

This can come from the zucchini itself, or from too much sugar in the recipe! Again, check the link above for a great conversation about this very topic. Try pressing the zucchini between paper towels to reduce water content, and reducing sugar (1 1/2 cups for 2 loves often does the trick). 

2. Too much batter in the pan. 

As the bread rises, it clings to the sides of the pan and then forms the top crust from there. If the rising bread runs out of pan to cling to too early in the baking, it won't have strong enough sides to support the middle an you'll get a bread canyon. 

3. Overmixing. 

Hand mixing or slow mixing until the ingredients are just combined is the way to go. Too much air introduced into the batter makes for uneven rising and can cause a collapse.

But, as Rachel said...even though it's not pretty...they usually still do taste great! You know what I'd do with that cavern? Fill it with a cream cheese or custard filling like that was the point all along. ;) 

Thanks Rachel for sending us your Pinstrosity! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

10 Tips on How to Be an Adult

Raise your hand if, as a child, you ever said, "I can't wait until I'm grown up!" or "Grown ups have all the fun!" 

Okay, now that we most of the internet with their hands raised, let's ask this question. 

How many of you want to go back and slap 10 year old you because that kid had no idea what was in store! Good, I see I still have many of you with me. 

Adulting is hard. Adulting is rough. Adulting really should be it's own verb. It's not what most of us dreamed of as kids. But is it all bad? No! Is it tricky? Heck yes! Which is why sometimes you'll still find me in a blanket for with my teddy bear and some ice cream. 

But, despite all the bad rap it gets, being an adult can be pretty awesome. Granted, I only have 12 legal years of being an adult to back me up, but I've come a long ways in those 12 years. I wanted to grow up, got a taste of growing up and decided I didn't like it, tried to pretend I wasn't growing up, and then realized that growing up really doesn't have to be bad!

I've been thinking on this for the past month after receiving an email from Personal Capital about this very topic. So many people want to stay in Neverland, but it's time to embrace adulthood and get our grown up on! It's not as bad as it seems!

So, here are my 10 tips to being an adult that I try to follow. I'm not saying I'm perfect at doing all of these all the time. Far from it. But I find that as I try to follow these tips, my life is better, as is the life of my family. Some are fun. Some are just logical. 

1. Don't Feed the Drama Llama

Drama Llamas. Trolls. Chip on the Shoulders. Haters. Whatever name you want to give them. We all know them. There's often one down the street. And we all have them on our social media accounts here and there. And all we want to do when they post up something offensive, ridiculous, or contrary to your beliefs is to comment and right the "wrong". Don't. Don't feed the Drama Llama. It is always hungry, no matter what. Raise you hand if your convictions were ever changed by an argument on Facebook? Not many hands I see out there. How many engaged in one and left with hurt feelings, anger, or even damaged relationships? Lots more hands just shot up. Don't feed it. Show restraint and maturity and just don't. 

2. Budget

Oooh, the B word. "Dave Ramsey is ruining my life!" a friend joked on social media the other day. Budgeting is hard. Budgeting isn't fun. But budgeting seriously saves your life. We are horrible budgeters. Horrible with a capital H. Why? Because it's hard and we get lazy. Not a good excuse. I know that. So we are working on it. Reading Dave Ramsey. Setting up rules. Trying to do better! Living in a tiny house taught us a lot. It was worth it to save that money. "Live like no one else now, so later you can live like no one else!" -Dave Ramsey And now we live away from the fast food and quick trips to Walmart...which is really going to help us learn to stay on budget better! 

3. Take a road trip. 

Grab your family, your kids, your best friend, your mom, your dog, or your Grandma, and go. It doesn't have to be far. It doesn't even have to be overnight. But get out and go. You've heard me talk before about how doing and seeing new things bonds people together. It's true. Put some good tunes on the radio, grab something yummy (and legal behind the wheel!) to drink, and get on the road. A big key to this one though...put down the phones. You can't make memories if you're staring at your phone the whole time. Talk. Laugh. Enjoy! 

4. Apologize. 

This one is huge. It doesn't happen much these days. When you've hurt someone, physically or emotionally. Apologize. Sincerely. Without excuses. Excuses cheapen the "sorry". Be the first to apologize. 

5. Learn that you don't find Happiness, you Make It! 

Too many get out of college with their big bad degrees and hit the world, thinking they are walking into dream jobs and dream lives. For a few, it happens. For many, it doesn't. And for some this is completely soul shattering. They based all their happiness on landing their dream job with their dream spouse in their dream house. And they can't be happy until they reach their next milestone. If you're waiting for something to make you happy, it won't happen. Choose to be happy now. 

6. Buy a piece of furniture, without going into debt. 

I can't tell you how grown up I felt when we bought our first brand new piece of furniture. Well, something not from Walmart. Choosing the color, the style, and the fabric of the couch felt like such a grown up decision. But even more, buying it and paying cash. Knowing our limit and sticking to it, even though that put the most BEAUTIFUL couch off the list of possibles, was key. We felt proud of ourselves that we'd saved enough to get us a new couch, and one that looked good, and didn't put it on a credit card or start store credit for it. 

7. Plan for the future. 

Make a rainy day fund. Put 72-hour kits together. Set up a retirement account. Learn to can tomatoes. Don't have those resources yet? Keep you car gassed up so you can get to a friend or family member's house if disaster does strike. I'm not saying go mooch off your family and never prepare! I'm saying to do what you can at the moment, always taking steps (even if they are baby baby steps). Gas in the tank can be step one. A rainy day fund can be step two. Take it bite by bite! But plan ahead, because life has a way of stirring things up when we get too settled. Broken pipes and a flooded house. Extended unemployment. Foreclosure. Natural disasters. Retirement. Big family vacations. Nest Eggs. Just plan, and then do the work to make the plan doable! 

8. Bake a cake. From scratch! 

(I did not make this cake! Trust me, mine would look disastrous. You've seen our cake attempts! This was made by Cakes with TLC). 

Most of us aren't chefs. Many of us bake a cake that you pour out of a box (and I know I'll burst a few people's bubble here...baking a cake from a Betty Crocker cake mix is not baking a cake from scratch...start with the cookbook and pull out the bag of flour!). Some of us even are able to burn ice. Even if it's not pretty (and most won't be - this is Pinstrosity after all), you'll feel accomplished. And bonus points if you give it to someone. They'll love the extra time and thought that went into it! 

9. Build people up

Think of two groups of people, each stuck in a pit. In pit #1 the people are all climbing and clamoring over one another, pulling each other down in an attempt to climb to the top first and to get out ahead of everyone. The are all worried about themselves. In pit #2 they are all working together to help everyone climb and rise. They give boosts and before long they are all out of the pit. Which pit do you want to be in? Me? #2 all the way! Don't tear people down. It doesn't make anyone stronger. It doesn't do any good. Be the Good in the World. "A rising tide lifts all boats." -JFK

10. Keep building blanket forts. 

Keep your heart young. Growing up doesn't mean putting away your adventures, suppressing your joy, getting stuffy, and living a boring life. Growing up is just the opposite! It's an adventure all on it's own. One that has twists and turns, bumps and bruises, joys and heartaches, and sometimes the GPS doesn't quite work right. It takes work to be an adult (because I believe that being an adult is way more than just turning 18), but all good things take work. And this, this wonderful life we've been given, is worth the work! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The First Note from the New House

We did it! We moved! For the 2nd time in 10 months. Ug. But we're here, and we love it already! 

This past month has been amazing. Pure chaos and a lot of work, but utterly amazing. We are very strong believers that God has a plan and reason for everything, and watching things just unfold the last few weeks has been incredible. We know this is exactly where we need to be. We don't know why, but we'll figure that out as we go. 

We haven't really been able to say much online because things were so unsettled for so long, and because we couldn't let the cat out of the bag. But now we can! 

The charter school Cameron worked for this past year has two campuses, but at the end of this school year they decided to close the campus in Winslow. Just as we'd thought we wanted to maybe put down roots there. They offered him a job at their other campus an hour and a half away, which he accepted after a lot of thought. 

But that meant moving or an hour and a half commute. And if he commuted, that pretty much meant that we'd need a 2nd car and we couldn't move out of the One Bedroom Wonder. So we knew moving made the most sense. 

None of the housing leads we found panned out. Too expensive. Too run down. Not kid-friendly. And nothing felt right. In fact it all felt wrong. We were confused. We knew the job was what Cameron needed to do, but the housing just wasn't working. 

And then suddenly the perfect plan and place came out of nowhere. We would live 45 minutes from the school and Cameron would help bus some kids to and from the school each day. This opened up a whole new area to look for housing, and a whole new feeling of hope. I knew something was in the works. This felt good. This felt exciting. This felt right! 

We made appointments to look at rentals and excitedly drove over. Each place had it's pros, but each had a lot of cons too. We drove back trying to decide which one was our best option, and feeling a little down about the options. And then we got a phone call from one of our church leaders (who had a rental we'd just looked at). He'd found another possibility for us. So we turned around and went back. He'd found a couple who were just wrapping up a complete remodel of a rental they had, and we rented it on the spot!

"We should have this place ready for you in one week!" I spent the next day and a half packing everything I could and then we packed up and headed south for 4 days for the styled shoot I'd been working on and planning for a while.

Thankfully my sister volunteered to watch Darrow for us, and we returned home Monday night and packed like crazy the next few days and moved on Thursday. 

And now we're here! We haven't been here a week yet, and already I'm falling in love with this town and our neighbors. There's a yard for Darrow to play in. We're not all in one bedroom (I can't wait to show you the goofy but awesome kids room)! And we love it here. 

So there is a very condensed version of our life the past month! It's truly been crazy, but sitting on this end of things I am in awe of how it all came together. I've learned, I've grown, I've had my faith strengthened, and I'm ready for this next adventure!