What in the world is better than getting a letter from a faraway pen pal?
Getting a letter AND box full of yummy food!
Last month I cam across this Foodie Pen Pal program. I have no idea how I stumbled upon it in blogland, but I signed up a soon as I read the parameters.
I was assigned a pen pal in Chicago and one from Tuscon was assigned to me. We were to send each other a box of foodie goodness by the 15th of month, so a blog post would be ready for the reveal on the 30th!
It worked! Sure enough, last week a box of goodies addressed to me arrived from Tuscon, AZ and I was giddy as I opened it.
Tuscon Food Guy and I exchanged an email in which I outlined my preferences and told him the Zoom family is just fine with Hot & Spicy. He didn’t disappoint. Lots of spice came in that box!
Thanks so much to my new foodie pal. I can’t wait to figure what I’m going to do with that Prickly Pear Jam!
Want to join the Foodie Pen Pal program? Check out the neat button below for more details!
4 weeks is almost a month. Feeling really good about this phone dump business! Though I’ll be honest and tell you this almost didn’t happen today. It’s just so dang hot.
And then there’s this. Which was all kinds of fun.
Happy (hot) Friday!
Back in May, while at the beach, my sweet cousins asked if I’d take a couple sibling snaps of them for a top-secret super special project (Happy Anniversary Aunt Ann and Uncle Neal!).
There were a couple of hiccups that went along with this shoot. I forgot my battery charger, parentals were always around, and the “golden hour” rudely coincided with happy hour.
On the last day of the week-long trip, we finally got our acts together and snuck away from the wedding festivities for a quick shoot on the beach.
Photography School 101. Bright sunlight on a beach is hard to combat. Also, don’t shoot from below (duh).
Despite my having had, ahem, several glasses of champagne prior to taking these shots I think some of them turned out pretty well.
And, I was inspired to start yet another frivolous business. Selfies: $5 a pop. I’ve got references.
These three are really fun. They were my “baby” cousins when I was a kid and after they turned about 6 there was a long span of time I didn’t see them. A couple of years ago when our first cousin got married, we met up again and boy had they grown up. I’m finally starting to create pictures of them in my mind that are of their present grown-up selves, not the sweet toddlers from my memories.
That guy there. He’s pretty cool. And a genius. I used to change is diaper. Womp, womp.
And these two, I just adore. They are the kind of sisters I love to be around. They are happy and fun and the best of friends.
Cousins: I love you to bits and I had such a great time snapping these pictures of you. Could it have been any colder out there?!? Miss you lots!
Yay! I’m so excited I just got to write that as a title post! And, I’m even more excited to share with you little bit about a project I’ve been working really hard on over the past month.
When I turned 16 I had my first two jobs (simultaneously) as a lifeguard and barista at a local coffee shop. That first summer I worked my tail off. Some days I’d be by the pool for 8 hours and others I’d work a double shift at the coffee shop. It was such a buzz making my own money, having my own debit card, and being a little bit grown up. Every summer thereafter, I’d work 2 or three jobs, stashing away my money for new Abercrombie & Fitch duds during high school and then for study abroad adventures and keg parties during college.
After I graduated, I had a string of unfulfilling jobs in multiple industries. That buzz I’d had for working was totally lost when I began working at a real-life grown up job. In fact, it was so lost at one point that I started moonlighting at a local coffee shop just for kicks. And then I up and sold my life on Craigslist one month and moved to Ireland. Talk about needing a change.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I’ve got the “job” I’ve always wanted and hoped to have. I feel so lucky that our little family has been able to make this work. Staying at home with the Zoom’s is the most challenging but fulfilling job I’ve ever had. That said, there are some days I dream of waking up, taking a shower, going to work, taking a lunch break, socializing by the water cooler, meeting for drinks, and commuting home. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit jealous (but mostly insanely proud!!!) of my little sister who’s successfully climbing the corporate ladder and taking business trips to New York, Chicago, and Santa Barbara. That life…it calls me sometimes.
I don’t know what the future is going to hold for me. I don’t know if I’ll continue to stay home with the munchkins or if I’ll attempt to reenter the workforce (though I have no idea what industry or job I’d even apply for at this point). I do know that I am completely and utterly obsessed with the idea of having my own small business. I have been for years. Mr. Zoom can attest to the fact that in my mind I’ve started several businesses already: Irish soda bread baker, fitness instructor, private swim coach, burp cloth seamstress, at home dinner chef. The list goes on and on, and gets more absurdly laughable as it progresses. When I get together with friends or relatives who are business owners I ask them a million questions, desperate to soak up their knowledge and glean some inspiration.
All that being said, I’ve decided to start a series called Inspired: Be Your Own Boss. The series will run weekly and will feature one small business owner in each post. The response I’ve had so far has been incredible and overwhelming. I have 12 weeks lined up for you and I hope I’ll be able to continue indefinitely. We’ll meet all types of business owners from photographers, to DIY bloggers, foodies, and shop owners. I can’t wait to share my new friends with you. I hope you’ll read their interviews, visit their shops and media pages, get to know them, and be inspired.
If you or someone you know is interested in being featured in this series please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
Big Zoom is in summer camp all morning this week. The first drop off was a little rough. He was more interested in the playground than the playschool and we had to have a little chat in the parking lot.
I was like a frantic mother hen getting him ready yesterday morning. WHO AM I? I had to keep reminding myself that it was only summer camp. That this is not the beginning of the end. That he’s not going to turn 18 tomorrow. So much for me thinking I’m missing some crucial mothering gene. It’s definitely there friends. I was a nut case yesterday morning.
Yes, it’s only summer camp for a week. But I couldn’t help snapping a couple of pictures of him this morning with his backpack on.
Fast forward three years and this will be a shot of him waiting for the school bus (hopefully without that green frog). Goodness me; I need help. You’ll be happy to know that I tackled our ongoing laundry situation and cleaned exactly 1 shower in his absence. I’m calling it a success.
Mr. Zoom is a super fantastic father. I wanted to do something special for him this past Father’s Day and since we’re not much into big fancy gifts around here we thought it would be fun to spend a real family day together. Mr. Zoom and I both love a good road trip. We love to pack the car, plan the route, and get out of town. So we decided on a mini road trip to celebrate Dad’s Day.
When we’re on the road, we don’t like to waste time. This has become even more crucial with two kids. You parents out there will be able to attest to the “window” of time available when you’re doing anything with little ones. So we like to pack a picnic and stop at a rest area for lunch. We’ve been super lucky with rest areas in North Carolina. They’re usually beautifully manicured, have much cleaner restrooms than fast-food joints, and are always almost empty. Plus homemade sandwiches, potato chips, and cookies scream road trip to us.
The Lazy 5 Ranch is about 2 and a half hours from our house. After 2 hours in the car we decided to stop for lunch. Rest area rating: awesome. After lunch we exited the freeway and hopped on an old country road. It never ceases to amaze me how rural much of North Carolina is. It goes without saying that once off the freeway, one of us will turn to the other and say “can you even imagine living out here”? This state is the American Pickers dream come true.
We arrived at the ranch just as they opened. The website boasted a drive through park with over 600 animals willing to come right up to your window for a snack. It didn’t disappoint. Meet our tour guide.
This place was a total trip. I think Mr. Zoom and I laughed harder in the first 10 minutes than we did all last year. We were hysterical over the donkey-goat-deer animals poking their noses right into the windows of the car looking for snacks. At one point we had 6 animals swarming us. The lady at the feed stand warned that one animal could easily eat an entire bucket of food, and she wasn’t lying. About 5 minutes into the tour a gnarly Zebra yanked 1 of our 2 buckets from Mr. Zoom’s hand and ran off into the woods. Another literally blew snot all over me when I refused to give him bite.
We let Big Zoom sit on Dad’s lap and “help” steer as we drove 2mph through the park. I held Little Zoom and the boys both loved looking at the animals.
That thing above was quite awful. There were many of his kind with their beady little eyes in the park. I have a vivid memory of a turkey “beaking” a cousin of mine (Hey, Vic!) when I was a little girl. This thing resembled that turkey a little too much and I shrieked every time it came near us.
My favorite animals are giraffes, and this place had a whole lot of them. They’d swoop down with their long elegant necks and eat from our sunroof. I managed to get some neat shots of them from below.
A quick note about Lazy 5 Ranch. I get sort of sad when I visit zoos. I always want to go and see the animals, but then get a little upset that they have to be penned up. The Lazy 5 didn’t leave me with that feeling. The “safari ride” is 3.5 miles long and there seemed to be tons of land for all the animals to graze. They seem to be healthy and happy, and are certainly well-fed. We had a great time out there and would certainly recommend the place to anyone looking for a different zoo experience in North Carolina. It was truly a great Father’s Day.
It was a great week. Even if half of us were laid up with sickness for most it, we managed to do some fun stuff this week. An impromptu birthday party, a firetruck parade, southern fried chicken, fun at the pool, and whoopie pies with friends.
Have a great weekend!
On this, Mr. Zoom’s birthday, we’ve had a doosie of a day. Up since 4am, two kids down with fevers, and cancelled dinner reservations have been our story today. And even with all the drama, he’s still smiling.
Happiest of birthdays my dear. Though our plans have changed I hope these sweets make you smile. You are my very best friend, the backbone of this family, a whale of a father, and a super handsome dude. We love you dearly and are so thankful for you.
All your (sick and sniffling) Zooms
Last week we headed out to Vollmer Farm with our cousin-friends for an afternoon of blueberry picking. As I mentioned, strawberry season was super early and short this year, and unfortunately the Zoom’s and I didn’t make it out in time to pick strawberries.
It was an iffy day, weather wise. The sky alternating between bright blue and blue gray meant an afternoon thunderstorm was highly likely. As we arrived at the farm, the sky opened up for a quick shower, but stopped almost as soon as it began. We got to picking right away.
We were so lucky to have hooked up with Mr. Zoom’s distant relatives when we arrived in North Carolina. We’ve been so warmly welcomed by their family and have had some great adventures with them. Big Zoom loves to follow his big boy cousin-friends around. As far as second and third cousins go, we like them a whole lot.
This place is great. They charge by the pound and though they seem expensive at $6.99 per, I’m quite certain our crew ate as many as we bought right off the plants in the fields. These blueberries are killer. Not a bit tangy, they taste like candy. I never had the chance to bake them into anything because they were eaten by the handful straight from the fridge.
This is my favorite picture of Little Zoom to date. That face captures his personality perfectly.
We never escape an afternoon of picking without a scoop or cone.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m so so so glad I’ve stuck with this hobby. These are some of my most favorite recent pictures and I know I’ll look back on these when I’m a hobbling old lady and smile.
Get ready to eat some cookies. Or “energy balls”. Or whatever you decide you want to call them. I just call them yum.
I have this friend. He’s kind of big time. He works for this big time publishing house in San Francisco and has meetings with the biggest of big time “cool” companies. Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Land of Nod, Williams Sonoma. Basically all my favorite places. He’s infinitely hip and took me on as his “pet” project many times during my
terrifying awesome adolescent and teenage years. If it weren’t for him, I’d still be wearing Eddie Bauer sweater vests and sporting some sweet tunnel bangs. I’m not even kidding. He pretty much saved my life. And, he loved Dawson’s Creek as much as I did, even if he’d never admit it.
When the babies were born, he took them on as well sending care packages full of cool American Apparel onesies, sweet books, and rocket ship building projects. I’m not sure what we’d do without him. Certainly we’d not be nearly as well dressed.
A few weeks ago he sent me a link to these Energy Balls. They are vegan and gluten free and even though we’re not, I decided I’d make them immediately. And then they were so good and gobbled up in mere hours that I decided I’d make them again.
The first time I made these I used the flaxseed but subbed in regular oats and regular chocolate chips. Delicious. The second time, per my super cool friend’s recommendation, I used toasted walnuts instead of the flaxseed. Um yum. I suggest you make them the super cool way. You won’t be sorry.
Don’t mind Big Zoom above. We’re working on manners people. Two years old is tough for this kind of stuff. Especially when there is chocolate involved. We ate them as balls but also alongside vanilla ice cream. The were gone by bed time. Next time I’m making a double batch.
No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls
Makes 12 balls
(adapted from Honest to Nod)
1 cup oats
1 cup toasted coconut flakes
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
Mix well. Refrigerate “dough” for at least 1/2 hour. When chilled scoop dough with ice cream scooper or spoon into balls.
Eat. Die. Make another batch. These are really good and really quick.
For all my nut, dairy, and gluten free friends: these are so easy to adapt. Gluten free oats, vegan chocolate chips, and any peanut butter substitute (sunflower, soy nut) you like.