The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity for my family. Homeschool plays, recitals, and the basic ins and outs of life delayed my gardening a bit this year. But I did get my seeds and plants in the ground last month, and things are finally getting green in the garden. Here’s what’s been growin’ this spring. Mouse over for the caption and click for a closer look.
This is a paste tomato. It and one beefsteak tomato plant on the deck are the only tomatoes I’m growing this year.
The lettuce blend is coming up nicely
I bought this Romaine at our favorite Amish nursery
Green Bell Peppers
Trying Pole Beans this year. Hope they don’t take over!
The spinach is taking forever to grow. .
I planted a ton of kale this year. Now all I need is a dehydrator to make my chips!
Last but not least, an old standby. Swiss Chard.
You may have already met Fluffernutter, our beloved feline. Well, Fluff’s fluff has been a bit of a challenge lately. So much so, in fact, that he has several yucky matts on his fur, making his normally shiny plush coat a bit, well, lumpy.
Matted fur, when ignored, can do more than just make kitty lumpy. It can irritate the cat’s skin over time and even cause skin infections.
We have friends that had a matted cat. They ended up shaving him once a year as a matter of course to help prevent further skin irritation. While the idea of having a shaved cat nicknamed Fluffy seemed delightfully ironic, I just could not bring myself to consider that option before exploring all the alternatives. So as is my custom, I began the obligatory web research. Most of what I read recommended the same four options:
Like I said, not there yet. Moving on…
- Detangling by hand by pulling the matt apart in sections.
My cat’s not putting up with that. He’s got a line, and once you cross it…look out. And besides, who has time for that?
- Cutting Them Out
Obviously this does work. I had previously cut a few off of our cat. But after reading account after account of cats going to the vet with gashes in their skin because their owners got too close to the flexible stretchy skin attached to the fur, I swore off any more cutting.
- Baby Oil
Apparently, all you have to do is rub a little baby oil on the top and bottom of the matt at its base (by the skin) and after just a few days…*poof*… the well-oiled matts fall off. Post after post attested to it’s effectiveness. Magical matts dropping to the ground all over the place. This caught my attention.
The idea of using baby oil freaked me out a bit, though. The crunchy granola, chemical eschewer in me did not like the idea of my cat possibly ingesting baby oil from grooming the application site. Then I saw a few other posts about:
- Olive Oil
Hmmm. This sounded a bit better. So the next time the cat was in the kitchen I put a little olive oil on one of his more pesky matts. Worth a try, I thought.
Two days, nothing. Three days. Still no change. Reapplied one more time. Nothing. Then one week later…
There was the matt. Sitting on the floor. Just like everyone had described. I’m a believer. The next matt is getting oiled up this evening. I will keep you posted if it works again.
Obligatory Disclaimer: I’m not a vet. Olive oil did not harm my cat, but you may want to check with your vet before you slather some on yours.
You really can’t go wrong with any recipe that has “chocolate” twice in its name, can you? Well, this recipe is no exception. I originally found this recipe on About.com. The only thing I did differently was to use the extra muffin batter for a brownie-like cake (more on that below.)
Adapted from a recipe by Danilo Alfaro on About.com
Click here for a printable version of this recipe
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 1¼ cups whole milk
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus 1/3 cup additional chocolate chips for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Thoroughly grease and flour a muffin pan, or you can use paper muffin liners.
- Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
- In another bowl, combine the milk and the melted butter. (I add the milk just a little bit at a time so the butter doesn’t harden up again.) Then add the oil, and finally whisk in the beaten eggs and stir in the vanilla extract.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not over mix, or your muffins may be tough or hard. The batter should be visibly lumpy.
- With a rubber spatula, gently fold 1 cup of chocolate chips into the batter. Again – don’t overwork the batter.
- Carefully spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan. I was able to fill the muffin cups up about ¾ of the way and they rose just the right amount for my liking.
- Finally, sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips onto the tops of the muffins, and transfer to the oven immediately.
- Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
The original recipe says this batter makes 12 to 18 muffins. It definitely makes more than 12. In fact, I had enough leftover batter to pour into a small 8 inch round cake pan. I kept a close eye on this cake in the oven and pulled it out before the muffins (at about 15 minutes.) The resulting cake was thin, but still moist and a perfect base for a brownie bottom sundae. :-) However, you can always just make more muffins, if you have more than one muffin pan. Enjoy!
This little smoothie was a bright spot in my otherwise dreary day yesterday. I had gone since November with nary a sniffle, but then…WHAM! A head cold hit out of nowhere. Well, actually, I think it came from the direction of my son’s room. But let’s not point any fingers.
As I trudged around the house yesterday morning, my head heavy and my back aching, the thought of a smoothie entered my addled brain. The ultimate reward of something cool and tangy to sip quickly overtook my fatigue and before I knew it I was raiding the fridge, freezer, and fruit basket. Mango…check! Yogurt…check! Banana that’s not completely disgusting yet…check! I even had the mental wherewithal to write down measurements as I went, just in case it was post-worthy good.
Well, it definitely made the post-worthy cut. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The mango and cranberry provided the perfect blend of sweet and tang, along with a healthy dose of the vitamin C that I was craving. Just what the doctor ordered on my feel yucky day. Feel free to substitute and trade out what you have on hand. That’s the joy of smoothies, after all!
Click for a printable version of this recipe
Makes 2 servings (or one if you’re feeling greedy)
- ½ cup mango (peeled, chopped)
- 1 banana (peeled, chopped)
- 1 (5.3 oz.) container Chobani Mango Greek Yogurt (that’s what I had on hand, substitute to your heart’s desire)
- 1 cup orange juice (mango or apple juice would also be yummy)
- 1½ cup ice
- ¼ cup cranberries
Directions – Place ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Sip. Feel better.
Savory like chili, but not as spicy, this soup is both comfort food and health food all in one delightful bowl. Lentils’ health benefits include fiber, of course, but they contribute significant amounts of folate, iron and magnesium, too.
What I like best about lentils? They are super easy to prepare. No long pre-soaks like other beans.
Click here for a printable version of this recipe
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 (32 ounce) carton chicken broth
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 large carrot, diced
- juice of half a lemon
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- sour cream for garnish
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, kosher salt, black pepper, and chili powder. Cook and stir 2 minutes more until the spices are fragrant.
2. Stir in the chicken broth, lentils, and carrot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes.
3. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the cooking pot, or use a conventional blender, pureeing the soup in small batches and returning to the pot. If desired, do not puree all of the soup. This will leave it a little chunky. I prefer it pretty smooth.
4. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, then season to taste with salt. Drizzle with additional olive oil and a dollop of sour cream to serve.