Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recipe Recaps: Blondies, Bars,and an Onion Tarte

I had Women's Night in the 'hood Friday night and the hostess wanted to do a recipe exchange where everyone was supposed to bring a favorite recipe. It wasn't really spelled out, but I assumed you were supposed to MAKE the recipe and share it as well. Is that not how a recipe exchange usually works? One other neighbor and I each made something, but she did so mainly because I mentioned that I was actually making two things. I just couldn't make up my mind, and I had two new recipes I wanted to try.

The McWife: Overachiever.

Anyway, I made the two things for my Women's Night, and I made one thing for the McHusband to share at a poker night he was going to. Cuz that's what every man wants to do: arrive for a guys' night with treats to share.

I chose Baking Blonde's Peanut Butter Oatmeal Dream Bars for the McHusband because I had everything I needed to make a half-batch and they were going to be easy. I had about a half-cup of leftover sweetened condensed milk that I needed to use up so this seemed like a good choice. Overall, I think they were pretty good. They had mass appeal with the milk chocolate and peanut butter chips and the peanut butter-sweetened condensed milk layer. And with all that oatmeal, well, they were practically health food!

Mmm, gotta love a gooey middle.

You REALLY need to love a gooey middle to appreciate the blondies I made for the recipe exchange. This was a recipe I found in the newspaper. Someone had written in to ask for the butterscotch blondie recipe from a restaurant that shut down. These blondies are about twice as thick as any normal blondie or brownie and even though I cooked them slightly longer than the recipe called for, the middle never got all the way baked. Oh well, as we decided at Women's Night, you'd much rather err on the side of gooey than overbaked.

I wasn't kidding about the gooey factor.

The blondies around the edge were just about perfect though.

And lastly, I made an onion tarte. I had high hopes for it, but I was less than impressed. I'm not sure why - maybe it was because the dip was soupier than I expected it to be? It shouldn't have been because I added extra cheese, but maybe my onion was juicier than expected or something.

I want to try the blondies again, but I'll either make a half-batch or I'll divide the whole recipe between two 9 x 13 pans. I think I've made better peanut butter-chocolate-oatmeal bars, but the recipe was so easy that I want to keep it around just in case. And I don't think the onion tarte will ever make another appearance.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rock climbing

The McHusband and I each bought a Groupon for rock climbing at a local indoor facility, Triangle Rock Club. Neither of us had ever been before and it seemed like something interesting to do, especially at a discounted price.

What we saw when we walked in:

We spent an hour and a half or so with our instructor, Mike, and 7 other people. We learned how to put the harness on, how to tie our ropes for both climbing and belaying, and we practiced climbing and belaying.

All harnessed in and ready to go!

I actually didn't mind climbing and being up high. I'm not generally too fond of heights, but I wasn't bothered by them in this situation.

Once I made it safely up and back down, the McHusband had his turn.

There was a group of three girls and one was nice enough to take a bunch of pictures for me. I was surprised when I looked at the camera and saw that she'd even gotten ones of me belaying.

Belaying is what the person on the ground does to prevent the climber from falling very far. I'll let Wikipedia explain further. For me, belaying was harder than climbing. There's a certain rhythm to it that I just couldn't seem to find (I know, can you believe that me and rhythm weren't working?). I had not one but TWO random experienced climbers talk to me about my "technique." I certainly appreciated their tips, but what I really needed was lots more practice just to get comfortable with the moves.

The McHusband decided to do some free climbing (he probably thought it was safer than having me between him and a 20-foot fall).

One more picture of the facility, this time from the upper level. It was definitely a neat place, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to give rock climbing a try.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

SPD '11: R and R

The day after the party was beautiful, the kind of day that makes you want to be outside doing just about ANYthing, even if all you can come up with is requisite yardwork.

I was able to resist that urge and spent the majority of the day in my favorite spot. I even had the McHusband take a picture to document it.

Sure, I could've chosen to sit outside in the sunshine (or in the shade next to the sunshine like Tucker) to snack on leftovers and read my magazines.

But there's no TV outside, and it's just too hard to watch the one in the den through the windows.

So while the McHusband got started on clean-up duty, Tori and I did our best to stay out of his way.

The mess really wasn't that bad so I didn't feel too guilty about waiting until the last minute to help.

Emma liked the way we had the dining room arranged with the chairs pushed against the walls and was in no hurry to have that room put back together. Thank goodness I'd thought to cover the chairs the night before.

Morgan sided with me and was very happy to stay inside in or near a sunny spot. We kept her up way past her bedtime the night before.

What's missing in these pictures? Oh yeah, the McHusband laying around looking miserable. He finally followed through with what he's been intending to do at the party every other year: He ate enough, drank enough water, and didn't drink too much alcohol.

And that's gonna wrap up our party this year!

Friday, March 25, 2011

On the skids

TGIF! And I really mean it because if my Monday started out like today has, I'd throw in the towel on the whole week.

I typically eat a two-part breakfast during the week. I have a Dannon Light yogurt with my flax oil mixed in at home, then I eat my FiberOne Oats & Chocolate bar when I get to a certain point in my morning commute. I highly recommend these bars, by the way. They are VERY tasty and at 140 calories, they even make a good not-bad-for-you dessert if you have a craving or you're out of Skinny Cow Truffle Bars.

One thing about these bars is that they aren't really compact like some granola bars, even the chewy ones, tend to be. The mini chocolate chips have been known to fall off the bar. I usually do a lap scan when I'm done to look for errant chips and when I find one, you know where it goes, right? Straight down the hatch.

I apparently didn't do my lap scan this morning, which means that errant chip made its way under my leg where it stayed for the duration of my drive in. Then I made sure to smear it up my pants leg when I scooted out of the car up arrival here at the office.

So yes, I'm sporting a poop-brown (I swear it's not poop!) skid mark on the back of my leg, way too close to my butt for any spectator's comfort.

(I know the McHusband's sweating over the car seat and isn't worried about my pants. Don't worry, McHusband, I went down and cleaned it up.)

Guess where you won't find me during my lunch break today? Meandering through the mall, strolling the aisles at Target, walking through Harris Teeter. Nope, I'm going to park my smeary butt in my no-longer-smeary car seat and try to keep it there.

Let me say it again: TGIF!!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Room Redo: The Front Bedroom

I bought a new duvet and shams for the twin bed in the front bedroom. But then I decided I preferred the new stuff in the back bedroom. The brown in the fabric just went really well with the already-brown walls. So I took the striped bedding from the back bedroom and put it on the twin bed and went looking for a light, airy gray for the walls in the front bedroom.

Now that all the walls are painted, they look clean and fresh, but the difference isn't exactly exciting. I mean, they went from boring builder beige to boring gray. So I want to show you the difference between the two colors after I'd trimmed around the edges because otherwise you'll really wonder why I spent time and money painting the room.

It's really hard to get a good after shot of this room. I'm either pointing the camera at the windows and therefore into the sun, or there's not enough natural light so the flash washes everything out. So I'm just going to show you pictures of most angles from both earlier in the day and later and hopefully you get the gist.

I would say that this picture is fairly accurate of the wall color (or lack thereof).

My makeshift valances using curtain panels left by the previous owners and some gift-wrapping ribbon.

You finally got the see the chandelier's after. With the boring walls, I'm so glad I went with such a vibrant color for the light fixture.

This picture is a good one of the wall color.

As far as makeovers go, this one isn't too exciting. But it's nice to have a fresh coat of paint on the walls and to have to room set up so that someone could actually stay in it rather than using it as a way oversized junk drawer.

I'm on the lookout for stuff for the walls, which the room desperately needs. I definitely want to bring in some color and, hey, if whatever I like isn't a good color already, then I'll just grab a can of spray paint and make it work for me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

SPD '11: Party People

At this time one week ago, our St. Patrick's Day party was going strong. Not quite as strong as last year, but that's not necessarily a bad thing considering 2010's party had the burnout in the driveway, the cannon going off twice, and a certain Hammons-who-won't-be-named practically passed out in the driveway. Fun times unless you were one of our neighbors or that Hammons fella, er, person.

Before I get to the people, you know I have to give you the lay of the land. I had the drinks set up in the kitchen.

Plates, napkins, utensils and cupcakes (because I was out of room on the table) were on the buffet.

And my table was full of food.

Let's see who made it to the party. Surprisingly, people used the couches this year. Usually everyone just stands around in the kitchen, but not this year.

This is Dr. Vanessa (on the left) with her sister-in-law and her boyfriend. We're so glad they made it this year.

Kim and Vickie made themselves comfortable on the floor.

Shawn, Christina and Freshman Mike. I think he was called that way back when to differentiate him from another Mike. He's a teacher now and I don't think the other Mike is still in the picture, but he'll always be Freshman Mike to me. Maybe after he and Christina get married this summer will he graduate to just "Mike."

Rick and Sabrina at what is probably their last St. Patrick's Day party at the McCasa. They are moving to Boston in a couple months for a job opportunity for Rick. First Kevin and Jenny, now Rick and Sabrina. Everyone's deserting us for the frigid north. Enjoy those winters, suckas!

We were really glad that a few of our neighbors attended. That's Kara, Scott, David, Kim, Tawnya, and Steve. Tawnya and Steve live at the very front of the neighborhood and walked down wearing their drinking shoes - bright yellow Crocs.

Sara, Cliff, and Tricia were there. Sara's pregnant with a baby boy and due this summer, and she's STILL running and taking yoga and being active. She's a rock star.

Jovyn came down from VA for the party, and Heather and Bruce, who had other plans last year (but we forgive them), made it this year.

Jennifer came all the way out from the other side of the city. Thanks for making the trip, Jennifer!

Jeremy and Scott wandered up to the bonus room at one point for some Tucker Time and maybe a little peace and quiet from the hubbub downstairs.

Guess what? I was there, too! I have witnesses: Sara, Jovyn, and Vanessa.

Why is everyone ending up on the floor? Heather was cold so she covered up.

We let the dogs down from the bonus room once the crowd thinned, and Scott thought Morgan looked cold so he put the blanket on her. She didn't seem to mind.

When everyone left, I realized the McHusband and I didn't have a picture together so we did a quick self-portrait.

Then we cleaned up what was absolutely necessary and went to bed. The time changed that night and it's amazing how one little number jumping ahead can suddenly make you so tired. We're too old for 3 a.m. bedtimes any more.

I haven't checked yet, but I'm pretty sure St. Patrick's Day will be on a Saturday next year. It'll skip ahead two days instead of one because of it being a Leap Year. Mark your calendars now!