Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sinfully Good Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Last Friday I had an exceptionally busy day.  I had work to do, a house to clean, groceries to shop for, dinner guests to entertain and cook for, and (completely separate from the dinner guests) my sister and her family were house guests for the weekend.  For a girl who is lucky to get dressed in real clothes during the day, it was a lot. 

I survived (with a couple hours of help from my babysitter--love her!).  I got my work done, cleaned the house, bought the groceries (with both girls in tow), prepped food, showered, and actually "got ready"!  This was all very exciting.  I went with a pretty simple meal: grilled t-bones, hamburgers for the kids, baked potato wedges, salad, and watermelon.  Yum!

My original plan for dessert was to buy some of that pre-made cheesecake filling, use a pre-made graham cracker crust, and plop some strawberries on top.  Easy peasy.  Unfortunately (or not) my grocery store doesn't carry that cheesecake filling stuff, so in the middle of the grocery store (again, girls in tow), I used my phone to track down a recipe I had read that morning in a blog.  Mind you it was not a blog I subscribed to (I do now; it's fabulous!), and I had gotten to it from a maze of other blog links.  After much searching, I was very happy to find the recipe and quickly picked up the ingredients.

And here it is: Confessions of a Cookbook Queen's Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars.  No pictures from me, I'm afraid...I had a lot going on!  But they are every bit as delicious as they look in the link.  The middle layer has the consistency of those school lunch peanut butter bars (am I imagining these?) but, of course, these are a millions times better. Rich and dreamy.  I followed the directions exactly, except I couldn't find the Minis the recipe called for, so I bought Miniatures and chopped them into quarters.  The dinner guests, the house guests, and my family loved them.  I hope yours does too!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Keeping a Neat Garden

OK, if someone had told me last year I'd be blogging about how to keep a tidy garden, I would have literally rolled on the floor laughing.  It's always been a struggle for us to keep the weeds at bay, but last year after an untimely vacation (is there such a thing, really?), we came home to the biggest weed patch I've ever seen.  Surprisingly there were still some thriving veggies in there, so what's a girl to do?  We put our neighbor girls to work.  It took two teen girls almost four hours to get the job done.  And they were working hard, trust me, I was watching them from the air-conditioned comfort of my kitchen window.  It got a little embarrassing when one of their mothers came over to offer them support and an extra pair of hands for a little bit.  I was even shamed into coming out to help.  We paid the girls well, and it was worth every penny for us; I'm not sure the girls felt the same way.

Each year since we moved into our first house, over six years ago, our gardening efforts have gotten more and more involved.  The first year the garden was an afterthought.  I planted, but I didn't really expect anything to really grow.  That was the year I learned that radishes thrive in my soil, I ate some unidentified weeds thinking they were early spinach, and I handled all of the weeding (not that I did much).  I grew a very, ahem, "natural" garden.  It's a strategy that has persisted until this year.  Let me tell you, veggies grow just fine when they are surrounded by weeds.  And I have a theory that all of the weeds throw the rabbits and deer off track.  They seem to have stayed away from our plants when they were the weediest. 

Since that first year, our garden has grown.  The variety of plants has expanded.  This is my first year for potatoes, peas, and cabbage!  Last year it was okra and broccoli.  Over the years I've learned a few things.  I've learned I can actually grow watermelon large enough to eat (IN MINNESOTA!), only to have them all crushed by baseball-size hail days before harvest.  By the way, that was the only year I've been able to grow them.  I try again every year and fail--usually because I can't find the young plants in the tangle of weeds.  I'm trying again this year, and so far they look great!  I've  also learned two people really can't consume a 10'-row worth of radishes even if the radishes do grow really really well.  The same goes for cucumbers.  You can only eat so many.  We've added a fence after rabbits and deer ate the leaves off of two big rows worth of green beans and to keep our dogs out after they ran all over our freshly planted seeds scattering them everywhere.  Last year we got fancy (ha!) and used string to mark our rows to supposedly help me know where my pants and not the weeds were coming up (did I mention I ate weeds?!?!). We've learned a few things.  But clearly we had some room for improvement in the weeding department.

Last year, my husband asked someone at the nursery what they do to control weeds in their garden.  She said they use Weed Barrier.  Now we've talked about it before.  Weed Barrier is an investment.  It's not cheap, but after Weedgate 2010 I was willing to give it a shot.  Once the initial tilling was done and the weed barrier was down, I was responsible for doing the actual planting.  I will say it was hard work this year!  Cutting strips out of the weed barrier to plant the beans, peas, radishes, and carrots took extra time and energy.  But just LOOK! 

It's June and everything we planted is thriving.  I weeded the garden the other night and it took me minutes!!!  Not to mention I can do it in flip-flops and come out with toes still relatively flesh colored.  Totally worth it.  My husband tells me we can use the weed barrier for several years, so I think we have a winner. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

One of Those Days

Yesterday was just one of those days.  The kind of day I wish I could wear headphones and still be an effective parent.  Seriously, I think scientists should study my daughter.  It must be medically significant to be able to talk, sing, laugh, cry, scream, grunt, giggle, groan, holler, and otherwise vocalize astonishingly loudly, nonstop for 12 hours all without the slightest strain of the vocal chords.  I blame my husband; he's the talker in the family.  When I married him I guess I didn't realize I was signing up for that same quality in a three-year-old!
It was also one of those days where after putting the girls to bed and finishing up my freelance work, I finally got a long-overdue shower.  It was lovely.  I enjoyed every minute.  Then I got out, dried myself off, towel-dried my hair, and was half dressed before I realized while one of my legs was baby smooth, the other one sported several days' growth.  Yes, I had only shaved one leg.  So I re-undressed, the towel came off my head, and I went back into the shower one more time.

Have you had one of those days?  Where you forget to shave one leg?

I also learned these fun facts yesterday. 
  • Sheets are disgusting.  According to this article, "sheets can contain 0.1 gram of feces, salmonella, and E. coli after just one night's rest. That means they'd collectively contain about 10 billion microbes." And that's nothing compared to the feces party in your carpet.  Seriously.  Disgusting.
  • There's a birth control shot for men.  Well, it exists, but approval is still being worked out in India, the home country of the shot's inventor, and maybe in the next year or two the FDA will start it's own research in hopes of eventual approval in the United States.  So basically by the time I'm menopausal, there will be a birth control shot for men.  Sigh.
  • I had one more thing, but my browser isn't working to bring up the article.  Basically it was all about the harmful effects of the sun, including the risks of skin cancer.  And since we had a week of 90-degree temps here and I've been outside with my daughters every day in that blistering sunshine, I was suddenly alarmed at the sight of my slightly darkened (compared to the the usual pasty white) arms and ashamed at my previous pride in the first glimpses of a tan in years.  Damn you, sunshine!
Coming soon: Fighting weeds in my garden the lazy way.  And this year I don't mean hiring the neighbor girls to do the weeding.