Saturday, September 25, 2010


This past spring I started to see a few ants here and there in the kitchen. It was never more than a few ants at a time, so I never really worried about them too much. I would just kill them and continue with whatever I was doing. I tried to be very conscious about wiping down the counters and not leaving anything that would be enticing to ants laying around. This seemed to work well until one day in August I was really busy. I don't even remember what all was going on but, I do remember that one of the things I was doing was baking some cookies to take to my husbands softball tournament and my friend's party later that afternoon. So, we went to the tournament and I left after their first game to head to my friend's party. When I finally got home it was fairly late so I cooked up something quick for dinner and when I went to wash the dishes (remember, I didn't have time to do them that morning because I was crunched for time) there were ants everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE!!! Hundreds of them. Clearly they had found the crumbs I had left then gone back to their nest and let the whole colony know about this gold mine. I stood by our sink squishing ants for a good 30 mins. I must have killed at least 150-200 ants.
After that incident they kept coming back looking for more food. It was really frustrating, so I was talking about this at our labor day party and one of my friends said she had a similar problem (with ants in her kitchen). She said she read online that ants hate cinnamon, so she created a line of cinnamon where they were coming from and she hasn't had a problem with them since. She said she even had ants waiting to cross the cinnamon coming out of her pantry!
So, I took her advice and created a wall 'o cinnamon to deter the ants.

As you can see the wall has been messed up a little bit, but it still serves it's purpose of keeping the ants out. They all came from that corner. I have only seen one ant since putting the cinnamon there almost a month ago - and I think he was already in the kitchen when I put the cinnamon there so he couldn't get back to his nest.
Lesson learned: If you ever have ants in your kitchen all you need to do is figure out where they're coming from then create a line of cinnamon for them to cross and you'll never see them again :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Black Bean Cakes

I recently tried this recipe for dinner. I was excited to try it because I used to eat black bean cakes in college, and I loved them! The fact that this recipe didn't contain any weird ingredients was also a plus.

The recipe was super easy, and I really liked that I could use prepared salsa (aka - salsa in a jar) instead of having to chop tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.

First I had to mix together mashed black beans, salsa, corn bread mix, and some chili powder. Here's a picture of what the mixture looked like before cooking:

black bean cake mixture
Next I put about 1/2 cup of the mixture in a skillet for each black bean cake. Actually - I put a heaping scoop which I later learned wasn't the best idea :)

black bean cakes before being flattened and flipped

Flipping the bean cakes wasn't quite as easy as I thought it would be. Next time I'll definitely use only 1/2 cup (or less) per bean cake. The black bean cake at the top in each photo is about 1/2 cup.

black bean cakes after being flipped

As you can see - flipping the black bean cakes turned out to be a little messy. I had in my mind that flipping them would be similar to flipping pancakes. What I didn't take into consideration was the fact that black bean cakes are much denser than pancakes, and I never put more than 2 pancakes in the skillet at a time (I'm just not that skilled yet).  So, flipping 4 oversized black bean cakes was a bit tricky, but all-in-all they turned out well.

Will's plate (note that the black bean cakes are plain)
My plate (note the delicious salsa and sour cream topping!)
I served the black bean cakes over a bed of lettuce - just like they used to do at Furman! I also served them with a sweet potato which worked really well as a side dish, but really half a sweet potato (instead of a whole one for each person) would have been plenty.

The black bean cakes turned out really well and were delicious! I really liked the salsa, bean and corn bread flavor combination.
My husband complained that there was no meat on his plate, but still liked the black bean cakes. He said he would prefer them as a side dish instead of as the main course. I thought they worked well as a main course :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sawfly Larvae

Just as a forewarning what I am about to write about is kind of gross - especially if you don't like bugs.

My mom came up this past weekend to help me with house stuff. One of the things she helped me with was the front yard - the flower bed in particular. She showed me how to weed more efficiently and effectively than I had been doing before. We also spent some more time trimming the bushes - particularly the ones closer to the ground that I wasn't sure what to do with before. And she helped me clean up the flower bed in general by raking, etc. After about 10-15 minutes into working on the flower beds my mom asked out one of the bushes. Can you tell which one??

Upon further inspection, and to our horror, we found this (or these depending on how you look at it).

Ummm, EEEEEEWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!! WORMS EVERYWHERE!!!! We looked some more and they were all over the poor bush eating it to pieces (if you couldn't already tell from the first picture). 
Mom was adamant that we needed to find out what these were and how we could get rid of them - ASAP. So, we clipped them off the healthier bush (they were just beginning to infest the bush to the right) and put the clippings in a bag. We then took the clippings to Lowe's to figure out what we should do. They had a professional arborist who was really helpful and told us that my bush was infested with "Sawfly Larvae." These little creatures eventually grow into wasp-like bugs, but they don't sting. 
The solution? Spray them with this soapy liquid. The sawfly larvae apparently breathe through their skin, so the soap adheres to them and basically suffocates the larvae (fine by me!). So we bought a couple bottles of the soapy stuff, went home and began spraying away.
I have continued to go out every day and spray any remaining larvae I can find that are still alive. And we now have what I like to call our "Sawfly Graveyard"...

Yes - those are the dead larvae. There are several patches of them below the bush. I don't feel sorry for them at all. Here is what they did to my poor bush:

They ate EVERYTHING! The guy ay Lowe's says our bush has a 50/50 chance of surviving :(
Here's to hoping it survives!! I will continue to diligently go out and search the bush for any more of those darn sawfly larvae. I shall let you know what happens with the bush.
Hopefully it will be strong enough to regenerate...

Happy healing little bushy!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fruit Salad

This past Saturday my husband and I hosted our first party in our new home...and our first party as a married couple (if you don't count our wedding). While preparting for the party Will had the great idea that I make a fruit salad and use the shell of the watermelon as the bowl. Well, the idea progressed and with the help of a couple friends I ultimately decided to make the watermelon into a basket.
I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do this, but I had a general plan that evolved as I went. Will wanted all of the melons in the fruit salad to be balled using a melon baller. I tried out our melon baller a couple days in advance and decided that was going to be too much work and that simply cutting up the fruit would be much easier and more efficient.
So, here's the process I used to make this watermelon basket. I started out by cutting out two pieces thus making the "handle" of the basket and giving the guidelines for where I would make the jagged edges.

Making the horizontal cuts was much harder that I thought it would be and they didn't exactly give me the right angle I was aiming for. I started out with small pieces then cut it down bit by bit to where I wanted it to ultimately be. I figured it would be easier to cut more out if necessary, but putting pieces of the watermelon back would be basically impossible.
Unfortunately, during this process of cutting the opening down to where I wanted it I accidentally cut one end of the handle :(

Oh - and I cut out the watermelon in the handle using a steak knife. Any smaller knife would do. I just needed a small blade for the more detailed work. As you can see my horizontal cuts aren't exactly perfect, but that's ok.
Before fixing the handle I decided to go ahead and make the jagged edges and hollow out the melon. I figured I could use the flexibility of the handle at this point to my advantage.

After cutting out the edge I attempted to cut out the center using a couple different knives, but none of them were working, so I resorted to the melon baller. It actually was pretty easy to hollow out the melon using the melon baller, but it was a little tedious. Since I was doing this only a couple hours before the party started I had several other things that needed to be done, and my husband asked if there was anything he could help with, so I put him to work hollowing out the watermelon. I tried to take a picture, but he left the room every time I lifted the camera to take a pic. So, you just have to trust me on this one :)
Once the watermelon was hallowed I filled it with fruit. 

After filling the melon with fruit I finally fixed the handle using toothpicks.

Everyone loved the fruit salad! I originally didn't cut up all of the fruit I had thinking I had bought too much. I refilled the watermelon with what I had cut up and everything was eaten.

fruit salad in watermelon basket = success!!
If you have any suggestions for something you'd like me to try let me know - I'm feeling fairly confident after finishing this lovely fruit salad :)