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Black Bean, Zucchini & Goat Cheese Panzanella

I love panzanellas for being so fresh, versatile, and delicious.  However, with just white bread, tomatoes, and cucumber, I'm usually hungry a couple of hours later.  So I went with my staple - some black beans - to add some protein, a heartier homemade wheat bread, and my beloved goat cheese (since I was out of feta).  The result was ridiculously delicious and the epitome of end-of-summer goodness.

Black Bean, Zucchini & Goat Cheese Panzanella
adapted from here

Good olive oil
6 cups of bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used a homemade whole wheat, but any kind will do)
Kosher salt
2 zucchinis, diced
1 large bell pepper of any color, diced
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (or 3 large tomatoes, diced)
1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
1.5 cups cooked black beans (or 1 can)
6oz goat cheese
1/2 cup olives, pitted & sliced (I had some pimento-stuffed ones, but kalamata would also be great)

For the vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (preferably whole-grain)
1/4 cup vinegar (red wine or white)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed.

2. Place the zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, and black beans in a large bowl.

3. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the goat cheese, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend (or eat right away, as we did - still delicious). Serve at room temperature.

*Note: If you're going to keep this for a little longer or overnight, keep the bread cubes separate from the vegetables.

A Dozen 1st Birthday Party Themes (that don't involve cartoons!)

Much as it saddens me to admit, kina's first birthday is right around the corner.  First birthdays are big in Indian tradition, so I've been thinking of doing a little party for her.  She is super social, so I think she'd love a party with all the people she loves.  I'm a sucker for themes, but didn't want to do anything that required too much planning, preparation, or expense.  Also, character-and-animal-themed birthday parties (Mickey, Dora, monkeys, whatever other randos are out there) are...not my thing.

Since I was doing all the research, I thought I'd share the wealth.  Here are a dozen cute (but not cutesy), relatively simple, and classy first birthday party themes:

A Dozen 1st Birthday Party Themes
(that don't involve cartoons!):

1. Library:
My friend did this for a baby shower, and I think it would be great for a 1st birthday with all of baby's favorite books.  I especially love The Very Hungry Caterpillar fruit plate - so adorable.

Nat especially loves all the old airplanes at the Air & Space Museum here, and I think this would be such a cute theme for a 1-year old or older child.  I love that it's not just, "I have a boy! Must do some sort of vehicle party!"  It's sweet and cute without being too...obvious?  I think it would be super cute to (cheaply) print some pictures of old airplanes to hang around, or design some easy printables on your own.  You could also thrift an old atlas to use a bunch of fun maps.  Here is another cute one.

I love the old fashioned feel of this party, with the old cameras and suitcases.  Lower the expense by asking friends/family for old props, and using cheap streamers to tie in different colors.

This one kills me.  The craft paper signs, the fruit/veggies in the produce baskets, the cupcakes in egg cartons, the craft paper popcorn holders, the flowers in old cans...kills me dead.

With a baby that is suuuper into frozen treats, this is right up her alley.  And, ahem, mine.

How cute is the cutout fish plate?  I especially love that it's not too masculine; this theme would be equally adorable for either gender.

My friend did this for her little boy and it was just darling.  I mean, egg cartons for Cheerios?  And check out that cardboard box airplane!

Who doesn't love the circus?  So colorful and fun.

9. Owls:
Owls are the one exception to my "no animal themes" rule.  There are a million iterations of the "Look Whoo's One" theme out there, but that doesn't make it any less sweet, especially for a fall birthday.  We did one for Nat's first birthday specifically revolving around the book In My Tree, which was his favorite.  Maybe I'll get it together enough to post about his party, which I LOVED.  Maybe.  Two years later.

I love that this just uses some simple colors to pull everything together.  Adorable and cute for a boy or a girl.

 I love that this is girly and sweet without being too frilly.  And lemons make such pretty decorations!

The Francophile in me just adores this sweet little party.  I mean, the black tape Paris skyline?  The best.

Any amazing themes you've done?

DIY Coconut Honey Face & Body Scrub


Ah, yes, the coconut oil obsession continues.  I made this scrub as a quick DIY addition to some Christmas gifts last year and have been using it regularly myself ever since.  It's the perfect thing as we start to look down on some cooler weather!

I started out using this as a hand scrub.  Then I transitioned it to the bathtub, where I'd use it on my body while showering.  Then I ran out of face wash and tried this out and have been using it ever since.

My face has always preferred "scrubby" cleansers (lightly exfoliating ones, like this) to just clear or foamy ones, so this was perfect.  It's a little rougher than what I was used to, so I make sure to scoop enough oil or mix it with a bit of water in my hands before rubbing on my face - you don't want to damage any skin.  But OH, it feels nice.  I don't even use any makeup remover - I just scrub this on, massage with a washcloth and warm water to get the residual makeup off, and done.  I haven't had a zit in...since I've been using it?  It's terrific.

DIY Coconut Honey Face & Body Scrub

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 T honey
2 T olive oil
Some sort of jar (could be a fancy mini snappy jar thing, or can be a leftover artichoke jar...I know it will shock you that I used the latter)

Scoop sugar into the jar.  If you're feeling fancy, you can mix everything in a bowl and then transfer, but, more dishes??  Pour in coconut oil and stir.  Mix in honey and olive oil.  Use on your skin and marvel at how soft and moisturized it is.

11 Months

Oh, Babette,

It half breaks my heart and half thrills me to no end that you will be ONE in less than a month now.  Today, I held another little baby (you smiled at her at first, and then decided to get all clingy and possessive, as much as your happy little personality could, and gazed at me imploringly) and it reminded me that you!  You're not so much a little baby any more.  You looked pretty giant next to this teeny 6-week-old.  Your daddy and I were just thinking the other day that when you stand up next to your brother, he's no longer looking enormous by comparison.  With your newfound height, we moved you into your big-girl convertible carseat this month since you'd exceeded the height limit for your infant one (although you may be 12 before you hit the weight limit).

Speaking of standing, once you started, you were all systems go.  You love pulling up all over the place, and have even stood without support for a few seconds on your own.  And while you'll hold our hands and walk a bit, I think (hope!) you're still a long way from walking on your own.  You have started doing this hilarious little crab walk, especially when we're on a hard surface and you don't want to injure your delicate little knees.  You'll either walk on your hands and toes, or have one knee sort of down and the other up to walk on your toes on one side.  It's just the funniest.  You also cut another little tooth a couple of days after your first, the other bottom one, but no more since then.  You did bite me a couple of times while nursing (ouch!!), but fortunately, it only happened those few times and then stopped.  You're still eating a good bit, although not nearly as much as last month.  We have started taking your paci away when you're awake and trying to reserve it mostly for sleeping time.

toothy toothy!
You've found a funny game in rocking back and forth in your booster seat that you find hilarious, along with looking at yourself in the mirror.  You also always grab your bum during diaper changes, so I have to be quick with getting a new one on and making sure to have toys on hand for you to hold, but hopefully not stick down there.  Ack.

You still love to follow us all around the house, especially your brother.  Whenever he goes into his room to play, you're sure to be right behind (or if he happens to be sleeping and you're awake, you'll crawl to his door and wait outside it).  It nearly makes my heart burst at how you two play so well together now (usually...).  The other evening, you and he played in his room for upwards of an hour while I made dinner and listened to a book.  Granted, I came in and found 90% of the toys in the room inside the washing machine (I'm fairly certain nat contributed the toy jostling while you contributed the hysterical giggling), but hey, an hour's an hour.

Nat has started treating you more like a little person now, which is so nice to see.  The other night, it was a little late so I was going to skip your bedtime book.  But Nat noticed I hadn't read you one so he ran and grabbed one of his current favorites, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, because he said he didn't see Moo, Baa, La La La, which he astutely remembered to be one of your favorites.  He's gotten so good at sharing with you and is so sweet about letting you use his water bottle (your OBSESSION), and even thought it was hilarious when you found his paci and were sucking on it (with a little mischievous glint in your eye after spitting out your own) while camping. You both love playing on our bed and pretending it's your "train" and it's hilarious watching the two of you giggling like loons together.  Your independent play has also continued to be excellent.  In the rare instance when you're awake while Nat naps, you'll easily play by yourself with some blocks or books for 30-45 minutes.  I'm just really proud of you for loving to learn and study things out.

You are still the most social little thing and love being around us and all people, although you've finally started to show a liiiitle bit of stranger anxiety and a decided mama preference.  You still love having new people around and are a pro flirt, but as far as being held, your favorite place is in my arms.  (You'll hear no complaints from me.)  You also will come right over to me and chat my ear off when you want to nurse or need a diaper change; you try so hard to communicate and it's just the cutest thing.  You used to just look at me imploringly and open your eyes really big and sort of grunt meaningfully at me, but it's progressed to full on chatter in an effort to get your point across.

The smiles still basically never stop with you.  Everyone we see comments on it, no matter the time of day or if you need something.  We did a beach day trip this month and we came home tired/hungry (we forgot our picnic so snacked on some random nachos)/and poopy (which we realized after we walked in the door) and you were still totally happy and smiling.  You are so ridiculously patient, and sometimes I just want to hug you and let you know it's okay to speak up for yourself a little more. You are getting there, though, with some screeches expressing your displeasure when a toy is snatched from your unwilling hands by a certain sibling.  The only time you really get screechy, though, is when you want food, stat - especially frozen treats.  You love ice cream and frozen yogurt as much as...well, me.

Surprisingly, your ability to nurse in public has actually improved this month.  I don't know if it's that I've been using the cover less (I think it actually makes you MORE distracted because you're so intent on getting out from under it) or that you've just been really hungry the times when I've needed to, but your focus has improved, thank the heavens.  Your nursing at bedtime, though, has gotten a little trickier, in part because you're no longer swaddled!  You had been getting out of it pretty consistently, and had a few nights when you'd wake up just because you had come unswaddled, and you'd go right back to sleep after being re-swaddled, so we decided to get rid of it and switched you over to a sleep sack.  In any case, because of this, you've been more easily distracted while nursing before bed since your arms will flail around and you'll pull off and sit up a bit.  But usually if I can get you snugly tucked in and hold your arms steady, you're do okay.

You've had a few nights of sleeping through the night this month (including the night after we switched you to your sleep sack - which worked much better than having nothing at all, as I'd tried for your naps that day), so I'm really hoping that continues.  We've tried night weaning you several times and had you wait longer, rocked you, let you just cry for LONG periods of time (much to the chagrin of our neighbors, I'm sure), and you've still just really needed that feeding.  I've finally decided that you must have a high metabolism and need some more food then.  It's usually not until 5 or 5:30, but it would be really nice if you could start pushing through a little more.

We had another camping trip this month, at which you did much better than your first camping adventure.  You slept great at night and for your nap, loved all the camp food, and we just overall had a ball.  You also attended your first baseball game this month, where your brother was delighted to hear the entire crowd chanting "Let's Go Nats!" (He was also rather enamored of the shirt I made him.)  Fun times, those are.

First time in a hammock, not too sure
Out of focus, but that excitement!  The NATS shirt was a hit.
 You've acquired a couple more tricks this month.  You're still saying dada consistently and usually on command, still love clapping all the time, and think peek-a-boo is totally hilarious.  You will occasionally deign to say "mama."  If we say "ahhh" and open our mouths, you do it back and it's THE cutest little sound in the world.  If we say that we're going to say a prayer, you fold your arms without prompting, oh, it is even more adorable than it sounds.  Your bye-byes have moved to you waving your entire hand from the wrist, and you've started pointing at things that interest you.  You also love to do flips and swings in our arms and at the playground.  You still scratch your head with both teen arms reached up when you're tired, it is hilarious.  You also now give kisses on demand and it understandably melts my heart every time.

But maybe best of all, the cuddles.  You've turned into a total cuddlebug when you're tired and it is. THE. BEST.  I cannot tell you how it just makes my heart want to burst right out of my dang chest ever time you lay your little head on my shoulder and throw your sweet, teeny arms around my neck and arm.  Before, when swaddled, you couldn't really cuddle a ton.  But now, with your arms free, OH.  There are no words for that feeling.  You just lay on me while I stand and rock and sing you a song before nap and bed.  And coo.  You coo-hum through that whole song at me.  I always wonder if you are asleep, but no, you never have been good at falling asleep in my arms and your eyes are just open and you're calm, so calm.  And snuggly.  It is gut-wrenching to put you down when you're being like that, and I take extra time each time.  All those sleep experts who say I'm creating bad habits by rocking you to sleep?  Must never have held a sweet, snuggly baby on their chests.  And gosh darn, this time is so very very precious to me and I refuse to give it up.  The only thing that gets me to put you down ever (usually only after you've finally raised your head a teeny bit, giving me the extra push I need to set you in your crib) is the fact that I know you need your rest and you won't fall asleep while I hold you, otherwise you better believe I would be holding you like that allll the livelong day.  Every time I leave the room after snuggling you, I just cannot believe my good fortune and the the warmth that fills me from my very core out.  That heart-bursting love I have for you and your brother, and that dad of yours, it is good.  It's really good.

Kina, you are just the most charming little person.  It's more than you being beautiful or cute or coy or friendly - you are truly charming in every lovely and delightful and virtuous sense of the world.  As I nursed and rocked you the other night before bed, I said a little prayer of gratitude for the light you are in the lives of everyone around you, and your middle name, Deepa, or "light," popped into my head.  Both your dad and I felt strongly that that needed to be your middle name, and I cannot think of one more fitting of your personality and gifts.  Kina girl, thanks for lighting up my year, my life, and my eternity.  You're a treasure.


(These were taken by Nat and I kind of love them.)