Back-to-School Shopping: It’s not just for kids anymore

 

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Target sells black chalk board tape! Love it. Here it’s used with chalk markers.

It’s Back-to-School Time!!! The most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, I know that this kind of enthusiasm is typically reserved for that OTHER best time of the year, which believe me, I go nuts for, too.

Here I am, a married adult woman. No kids. It’s the middle of August, and I’m giddy like the proverbial school girl.

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August 1982 B-T-S issue of Seventeen – The memories!

I still remember the summer when I was twelve years old, and my mom bought me my first Seventeen magazine. It was the Back-to-School issue, and I was sure all of the mysteries and wonders of being a cool teenage girl were contained inside those smooth and shiny, uncreased pages. Along with my new Seventeen, she handed me a shiny, marbled hard-plastic compact in navy blue, with Bonne Bell printed in silver on the top. I opened it gingerly, and inside, I remember so vividly, were a rainbow of six eye shadows, three lip glosses (in colors!!!) and a blush, with a mirror on the top of course. My first make-up! I think I may have cried a little. Bonne Belle was the Coco Chanel of my childhood.

My tastes have changed a little since then. Instead of Seventeen magazine, now it’s the Fall of issue of Vogue I anxiously wait for, all 500-plus pages of it. One thing that hasn’t changed however, is the thrill I get from school supplies. Fresh notebooks. Clean white, college-ruled pages, in a colorful new three-ring binder. A virgin, fine-tipped pen. A number two pencil sharpened to an exquisite point.

Why should kids get to have all the fun? So I did some school-supply shopping and thought I’d share some of the goodies I found, in hopes that it will inspire you to let your inner kid out to play, and perk up your desk or office.

11885079_1199219460104223_5621247479853338702_nNo plain old Trapper Keepers for this girl. Notebooks and folders are inspired by textiles with bold prints and vibrant colors, with color-coordinated accessories to match. Summer might be over but I want to keep the hot colors and floral prints throughout cool fall months.

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Washi tape is a huge trend that doesn’t show any sign of slowing down any time soon. I use it to customize my file folders and journal. No manila folders for me.

I visited a couple of local paper boutiques and book stores and found some new takes on classic items, mixing humor and technology, with some great retro flair.

11887846_1199218216771014_4565567492953652332_nHey preschoolers! Nana-nana boo-boo! Adult coloring is cool. We’ve got the coloring books to prove it. Who doesn’t want to color the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?

Kids these days! No puffy stickers or scratch n’ sniffs for them. Now it’s all about emojis. But they still use Number Two pencils! 😉

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I like to have a flash drive handy at all times. So Clark Kent is always at the ready on my key chain or in my drawer at work, for those quick Power Points in the conference room.

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I’d like to say I was giving this new paperback version of The Outsiders to one of the teenagers in my family. But I have to admit, I’m rereading this one by S.E. Hinton. I’ve read everything she’s ever written. Maybe I’ll pass it along to cousin Isabelle after I’m done. “Stay gold, Ponyboy!”

And because I’m not a complete scrooge, as long as I was out shopping, I picked up a few things for the neighbor girls, as well as to donate to schools in my neighborhood.

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Check with your local school or businesses to see if they host school-supply drives. I like to think every kid deserves to start the new school year fresh and excited, with a clean slate and endless possibilities, like the blank pages of my brand new Mead notebook.

College-ruled, of course.

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Blogger Mel B, a Smart Perks employee, refuses to grow up and still buys Dr. Pepper-flavored Bonne Bell Lip Smackers.

From Garden to Table: Time to Get Your Zucchini On!

I love vegetables, especially if they’re fresh from the garden. This year, I can actually say we’ll be enjoying zucchini, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, and sweet corn from our very own garden!

After 20 some years without one, it’s about time.

I have to give my husband all the credit as he did the tilling, planting and tending. In my defense, he’s semi-retired so he has the time to do it. I don’t.

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San Marzano tomatoes from blogger Mel B.’s garden last summer. She blanched, peeled, and froze these in Zip-Loc freezer bags to use in sauces throughout the fall and winter.

The tomatoes aren’t quite ripe yet (I can’t wait for BLTs! I also like them sliced with a bit of salt & pepper – my mouth is watering just thinking about it!)

The zucchini and cucumbers, on the other hand, are growing like crazy! In fact, my husband brought in a giant, blimp of a zucchini the other day. My first thought was, what the heck am I going to do with this?! Since I couldn’t exactly use it as a door stopper, I had to come up with other uses for this humongous summer squash. So, I searched online for recipes featuring zucchini as one of the main ingredients, and found the perfect recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread on allrecipes.com (see recipe below). I figured as long as there’s chocolate in it, my husband and son will eat it (make that devour it!).

Because I had a surplus of the green stuff, I made a double batch. I kept one cake-size pan of it at home and brought a loaf in to work to share. I must admit I’m not much of a baker (I don’t have the patience and usually make a huge mess in the kitchen), but I’m proud to say my zucchini bread was a big hit with both my family and co-workers.

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Ingredients
2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate until melted. Stir occasionally until chocolate is smooth.
2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, grated zucchini, vanilla and chocolate; beat well. Stir in the flour baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED © 2015 Allrecipes.com

This is my own recipe for a super-easy side dish you can whip up using fresh zucchini and tomatoes.

Zucchini & Tomato Parmesan

Ingredients:
3 medium-size zucchini, sliced
2 large tomatoes, chopped or 2 cans stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup diced onions
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. olive oil
Italian seasoning (basil & oregano) to taste

Directions: In large skillet, sauté zucchini, tomatoes and onions in hot olive oil for 5 minutes. Add Parmesan cheese and seasoning. Stir to coat well. Serve hot.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

This is a recipe that Smart Perks blogger Mel B. has been enjoying since she was a little girl. It was her grandmother’s recipe.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk (milk w/lemon juice or vinegar 1/2 tbsp for 1/2 cup milk)
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cup flour
1 tbsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups grated zucchini

Topping: 1/3 cup chocolate chips, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Directions: Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Pour into 13 x 9 greased and floured cake pan. Sprinkle topping over all. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.

Even if you don’t have a garden of your own, you can find fresh zucchini and other healthy, delicious and home-grown produce at your local farmer’s market.

Whether your veggies are the fruits of your labor, or your local grower, enjoy the fresh taste of summer!

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Little dog, big zucchini. Home office dog, Beanie.

Smart Perks Blogger, Catherine B, a Smart Perks employee.