Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Posted by mrssmythe on July 31, 2015 in Baking |


Have you been gifted any zucchinis yet this summer? We received our first last weekend – a large, flawless, foot-long monster that I immediately began plotting a fate for. I wanted it to be something fun. Something unusual. In the end, I decided to make a “Chocolate Zucchini Cake” using a recipe I found in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book.


The cake, itself, was pretty easy – no fussy steps, and only basic ingredients. I did leave out the orange rind and walnuts, though, knowing the kids would object to those. Even without them, though, the cake was very good – moist and cinnamon-y and not quite as decadent as a straight-on chocolate cake would be. It had more of a carrot cake vibe, if that makes sense.


The recipe also suggested Coffee Frosting, but I chose plain chocolate – again as a nod to the kids’ tastes. (But, you could even use whipped cream for this cake, and it would be good.)

If you’d like to give Chocolate Zucchini Cake a try, you can find the Fannie Farmer recipe (including a recipe for Coffee Frosting) HERE.

If, like my kids, you prefer plain chocolate frosting, here is the recipe I used (also found in Fannie Farmer).

Chocolate Butter Frosting
(2 cups)

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate             6 TB butter, softened
6 TB milk                               Dash of salt
3 cups sifted confectioners' sugar*     1 TB vanilla

Melt the chocolate in a small cup or bowl set in a pan of simmering water. (I used cocoa powder mixed with vegetable oil, so skipped this step). Bring the milk to a boil, then pour it over the sugar in a mixing bowl, and beat vigorously until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat well. Let the mixture come to room temperature, then beat in the butter, salt, and vanilla. If the frosting is too runny (mine was), beat in more sifted confectioners' sugar to make and frost an 8 or 9 inch two-layer cake, or the top of a 13x9 inch cake.

* I did not sift my confectioners sugar.


So, there you have it – another use for your abundant summer zucchini. Enjoy!

From the dining room table, pretty sure The Fannie Farmer Baking Book is one of the most helpful and varied baking book I’ve ever owned,

Mrs. Smythe

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The Bird Seed Garden

Posted by mrssmythe on July 30, 2015 in Critters, Garden |

Last week, I finally got around to planting my window box. I found some impatiens on sale at the garden store, popped them into my container and thought I was good to go.

Imagine my surprise when, several days later, I noticed the window box looking nothing like what I remembered.


The impatiens were looking straggly, and what was all that additional green stuff?

Where had that come from?


Turns out the birds had been dumping quite a bit of birdseed out of the bird feeders. A good portion of it had landed in the window box, and, apparently, it doesn’t take very long for bird seed to germinate. If bird seed had been what I had been trying to grow, I would have been thrilled.

But, no. I’d been attempting to grow impatiens. And, the impatiens I’d planted were clearly distressed. What in the world had been happening to them?


Squirrelly. Squirrelly had been happening to them. (Yes, we now call the squirrel “Squirrelly”.)

For about a week now, Squirrelly has been hanging out in the window box, using it as a launching pad or a resting place, depending on where the bird seed is.

The little rat.


The above photo pretty much sums up what squirrelly thinks of my window box.

From the dining room table, getting ready to watch The Scarlet Pimpernel – the 1930’s version,

Mrs. Smythe

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The First Tiger Swallowtail of Summer

Posted by mrssmythe on July 28, 2015 in Critters, Garden |


Today, we saw our first Eastern Tiger Swallowtail of the season. It was hanging around the butterfly bush in the front yard, looking fresh and dainty despite all of the thick heat.


I say “thick heat” because that is exactly how the air felt. Thick. It was incredibly humid – one of those days where just sitting outside leaves you bathed in sweat. And, as the next few days are supposed to follow suit, sitting on the front porch and watching butterflies may be about all I do this week.

From the dining room table, hoping more butterflies decide to drop by,

Mrs. Smythe

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Ginger’s Snaps: Seeing Green

Posted by mrssmythe on July 24, 2015 in Ginger's Snaps, iPhone photography, Photography |

Ginger’s been at it again. Last week, we were at Five Guys, enjoying the last of our meal on the outdoor patio, when she asked to use my phone. For pictures, she said.

I was skeptical. Looking around, I didn’t see anything particularly photo worthy. Ginger, though, disagreed, and, when she brought my phone back, I could see I’d been mistaken. Ginger had managed to take all sorts of interesting photos – none of which looked like it had been taken outside of a burger joint.




It was a good lesson for me. Interesting photos can be taken anywhere. I’m beginning to think photography isn’t so much about the subject as it is about the perspective. Thank you, Ginger!

From the dining room table, looking forward to a weekend of gardening,

Mrs. Smythe


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Behind the Scenes at the New England Aquarium

Posted by mrssmythe on July 22, 2015 in Mrs. Smythe |

One of the best things about our recent trip to the New England Aquarium was the behind-the-scenes tour we took. These are open to anyone and run twice a day. The groups are kept small – no more than eight people. We were the only ones on our particular tour, which highlighted the area behind the Amazon River exhibits.

aquarium (19 of 26)

Our tour started at a fascinating locker filled with all manner of fish related things – fossils, teeth, bones, shells…. Our guide (the gal in the green shirt and black vest) asked what we were interested in and then chose items accordingly. I’m a huge fan of sharks, so we naturally focused on that.

Here, Ginger holds a jaw that once belonged to a tiger shark.


And, here I am, holding a Great White tooth in one hand (the right) and a tooth from a prehistoric shark – C. Megalodon – in the other.

aquarium (18 of 26)

Several years ago, I was able to see one of these teeth in person at the American Museum of Natural History. That, in itself, was super exciting. Imagine how thrilled I was on Sunday to be actually holding one of these teeth in my hand!

All right. I’ll calm down now and stop talking about sharks.

Here, our guide explains the complex feeding chart used to arrange meals for all of the Amazon River exhibits’ occupants – everything from eels to anacondas.

aquarium (20 of 26)

And this is the area where they breed fruit flies, which are eventually fed to some of the animals in the exhibits.


More interesting signage:


I love the tiny note at the bottom that reads: “(they stink)”.

The sign warning workers to keep their hands out of the electric eel’s tank is more self-explanatory.


And, speaking of eels, here’s the back-up electric eel (which I think they should name “Generator”).


They put a shrimp-filled Kong dog toy in his tank to give him something to play with.

I could go on and on about this tour, really. It was so interesting. And, I imagine all of the different behind-the-scenes tours the Aquarium offers are the same way. We left with a much greater appreciation for what workers in these kinds of facilities do. It’s so easy to take it all for granted when you’re walking from one polished tank to the next. It’s good to be reminded that things don’t just start out shiny and beautiful. There’s a lot of hard work involved, too.

And, speaking of hard work – can you imagine transporting some of the fish and critters you see at zoos and aquariums? I’m sure it gets done every day, but I never think about it. Our guide showed us this plastic bag – a remnant from a shipment of piranha that came to the Aquarium a while back.


Can you imagine?


From the dining room table, still finding it hard to believe that I actually got to hold that prehistoric shark’s tooth,

Mrs. Smythe

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