Bars of the Midwestern Variety, Snow, and Flaking Out

All hope is lost if I can’t get my shit together to write a blog post for the new year, so here I am! Happy New Year! I went ahead and took a six week break from blogging. It’s a bit of a slog, you know, writing these things, and I just didn’t want to. But now I do. This is probably 100% due to that shiny new year feeling where all things feel possible. I can stop staring slack-jawed at facebook! I can read all the books on the table next to my bed! I can not eat sugar after every meal! I can write a blog post every week! This feeling is fleeting, I know that, but I’m going to make the most of it while it’s here.

Top stories from the last six weeks:

I booked myself a seat on a bus to D.C. to attend the Women’s March on Washington. My friend Molly was going and I wanted so badly to go too. When the opportunity came up to get a seat on a bus that would take us there and back for $220, and we didn’t have to try to find a hotel because we could just sleep on the bus, it sounded perfect. In the past few weeks I’ve noticed that my feelings on this subject have changed pretty dramatically. A 30 hour bus ride to DC, 8 hours of marching, and then a 30 hour ride back started to sound pretty terrible. This feeling was compounded by the fact that this would be my first overnight trip away from my kids, which came with a whole other set of anxieties. I’ve been surprised and disappointed in myself that no part of me was excited for this trip. Molly found out that she has a non-negotiable meeting in LA that Monday, so she’d have to fly there from DC and miss the bus ride home. It was all the excuse I needed. I’m quitting the thing. I’m going to write to the organizer to see if she can donate my seat to someone who would like to go, and I’m going to go to the Austin march instead. I feel bad for wasting $220 and for bragging that I was going to be a part of this thing to everyone and then backing out, but I feel a lot better having made this decision. Also, I know I’m way overdue for an overnight trip away from my kids. I’m gonna make this happen soon, but for one night instead of four and for something fun and invigorating instead of a 60 hour bus ride.

Y’all wanted to hear more about my lady parts happenings, right? I thought so. I’ve got two more days of birth control pills and then I’ll be done with my three month experiment. It has been an unmitigated disaster. On the pills, I have bled every other week, for the entire week, for the full three months. The second week of every month has been light, the fourth week, heavy. It made my skin feel greasy and I have felt more tired (probably all the bleeding?) and blah about everything. I’m gonna go off it for a while and see what happens. I don’t have high hopes that everything will straighten itself out, but I’ll carry a little glimmer with me because if this doesn’t work I have to go back on a different kind of birth control pills/ring/what have you to see if that has any effect. I’m adding “getting my uterus in line” to my list of 2017 goals.

We didn’t do homemade Christmas this year for the first time since Henry was born. I got a one-month free trial of Amazon Prime and I bought everything there and was done shopping super early in the month and it felt amazing. I did make one thing to give to the boys and my nephews- a magnetic slime that is supposed to stretch itself to reach rare earth magnets and swallow them up. It’s been in its tin since Christmas morning because it dyes your hands black when you pick it up. I still have black lines around the edges of my nails a week later. So the moral of this story is that homemade stuff sucks.

We spent eight days in Portland with my parents and brothers and sister and their families. We played in the snow and read a lot of books and ate a lot of gummies and had a generally lovely time. Pictures below! Plus a few random tidbits from the last month and a half.


Gluten Free Apple Pie for Thanksgiving. This is just a token photo to acknowledge that Thanksgiving was a thing that happened.


Acai Bowl. Did you have any doubts that this was a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe? I have never felt douche-ier than when I had to ask a Central Market employee where I could find goji berries and chia seeds. The goji berries are monstrously expensive, and so is the frozen acai sludge, and I stained my shirt with the stuff. But this was delicious and I felt fancy and sophisticated eating it and you can’t put a price on that, can you? You can. I won’t make it again.


Henry and Qui-Gon joined me at a rally outside a mosque on the UT campus to show solidarity with our Muslim neighbors. 10 points if you can make out what Henry wrote on his sign. I got interviewed on the local news at this event. They asked me why it was important to me to bring my kids. The honest answer is that I didn’t have a choice- if I wanted to participate I had to do it with them. The answer I gave is that I want them to learn early on that we have to stand up in support of people whose voices have been marginalized. I think probably I just looked like a crazy person who named her kid after a D-list Star Wars character.


We harvested the one and only prickly pear that grew on our cactus this year and made every kids’ favorite, prickly pear lemonade.


These kids put on their butterfly wings and knitted hats and had themselves a lightsaber battle. Why not?


Okay, so one of the things I did while I was not blogging was read Kitchens of the Great Midwest, which was fun and surprising and had the recipes for these bars in it. The top picture is of the peanut butter bars, which end up being an important plot point and which the author describes with breathless adoration. They are the best thing in the world, blue ribbon-winning, untouchable. The second picture is of Kraft caramel bars, which are also mentioned. In the book, there is no comparison between the two. In reality, the caramel bars blow the peanut butter bars out of the water. It’s not even kind of close. These caramel bars are one of the best desserts I made last year, thrillingly good. The peanut butter bars taste like an inverted peanut butter cup. They are good, but they’re something you’ve tasted before. Andy had the audacity to completely disagree with me on this- he picked the peanut butter bars. Judge for yourself:

Peanut Butter Bars

2 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1 cup melted Grade A butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup milk chocolate chips with 1 teaspoon Grade A butter

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, peanut butter, and sugar. Pat into a greased 9×13 inch pan. Melt the chips and butter and spread them on top of the bars. Set in the refrigerator until firm. Cut into bars.

Kraft Caramel Bars

1 bag caramels
5 tablespoons cream
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the caramels and cream in a double boiler. Cool slightly. Combine the butter, sugar, oatmeal, flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until crumbly. Press half of this mixture into a 9×13 inch pan and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chips, the nuts, and the melted caramel mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining crumbs and bake for 15-20 minutes more at 350 degrees. Don’t overbake. Cut while warm. The caramels and cream may be melted in a microwave.

(I can’t resist adding a couple of notes to this recipe- first I needed to use closer to 2/3 of the oatmeal crumb mixture to cover the bottom of the 9×13 pan. This is okay. Second, I used a really salty marcona almond as the nut and I think it really made for something special. Third, I cut half the bars while warm, as instructed, and it was messy and gooey. I cut the rest after letting them cool completely and they cut beautifully. I don’t know why that instruction is given- I’d cool the things first.)


Even though I wasn’t blogging, I still took pictures of most of the dinners I made. I’m including this one here to point you towards this butternut squash with sage pesto recipe, which is perfect in every way. Henry ate half a squash all by himself- we all wished there was more.


We got to spend the night in a beautiful cabin on Mount Hood. I love the maniacal look on Henry’s face in this one, as he plots where to throw his first snowball.


Oh my god the gloves. Getting the kids to put their fingers in the right holes was a never-ending horror. You’d finally get it and then the kid would pull the thing off somehow and you’d have to start all over.


This guy! He’s a natural!


More snowballs.


A cold front came through Texas the weekend before we left for Portland. When George got out of the car at Grandma Mary and Grandpa Art’s house and felt the wind he burst into tears and had to be carried to the front door. I feared for what that would mean for our impending trip up a snowy mountain. But George nailed it! He stayed outside longer than any of the other kids and sledded and threw snowballs and did all the things!


Just a couple ladies stealing a turn on a child’s sled!


It’s scientifically impossible to ride a sled without a shit-eating grin on your face.


On the way home from our mountain adventure we had a gorgeous lunch at Solstice. Jordan and I split this cherry, chorizo, and goat cheese pizza. Helen had a winter salad with Mountain Rose apples, braised leeks, currants, hazelnuts, & smoked ricotta on top of a parsnip purée and it was outrageous. So many exciting flavors and textures. I wish I had some more right now.


Lying on the floor! Lying on the floor! I’ve come undone.


Cookies for Santa. It was important to Andy that we be honest with our kids on the whole Santa thing, so we were. Henry was glad to hear it, having never cared for the idea of the man, but George was made for this stuff. He loves magic and make believe. And since we were celebrating Christmas in the same house as our niece and nephews who go in for the Santa stuff, we reminded the kids not to say anything about the big man and we put out the cookies and milk, and a carrot for the reindeer. On Christmas morning when George woke up, he walked right past the impressive display of presents around the tree and checked on that plate of cookies. He gasped when he saw the plate empty, the carrot chomped on. Later he said to us, “I guess you were wrong about Santa!”


On one of the last days of our trip, we went on a long and meandering hike through a random park that was near the Target where my mom and sister were shopping. We slipped down a steep hill and ended up in a muddy swamp-like thing. We hiked up to the trail and then back down again and found a twisty creek. The kids were so proud of their discovery.

There and back again! Thank you mom and dad, for having us for Christmas and for all the fun and adventures.

And now it’s back to the real world. I hope to do better in this new year. More books, more writing, and a more intentional use of my time. Lots of (local) social activism. Less vaginal bleeding. Happy New Year, dear ones.


9 thoughts on “Bars of the Midwestern Variety, Snow, and Flaking Out

  1. Gangie January 2, 2017 / 7:54 am

    Nice to have you back! Wonderful post. I’d love to try those caramel bars but sadly…

    • arielleclementine January 3, 2017 / 4:00 am

      Thank you, mama! Feeling good and healthy is worth way more than one of these bars, no doubt! Love you!

  2. Barbara January 2, 2017 / 12:09 pm

    Welcome back! I love that George told you that you were wrong about Santa Claus. XO

    • arielleclementine January 3, 2017 / 3:59 am

      I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Also I smiled like a crazy person when he stood on his tip toes to look at the empty plate of cookies. What a darling! Love you!

  3. Abbie January 2, 2017 / 3:36 pm

    HURRAH YOU ARE BACK! My Mondays are saved and maybe you can come cook Ottelenghi with us????

    • arielleclementine January 3, 2017 / 3:57 am

      Thank you! That was one of my first thoughts too but it turns out my niece’s birthday party is going to be on that day. I don’t know what time yet though- if there’s any way for me to do both I definitely will! I’ll email when I hear what time the party’s going to be. Xoxo

  4. Alyson Spier January 3, 2017 / 1:56 am

    Happy New Year!’ Hope to see you soon! Ps I think Henry’s sign says “we support you”

    • arielleclementine January 3, 2017 / 3:56 am

      Nailed it! Yes! Would love to see you soon! I’ve been using my beautiful jalapeño oil- I love it and think of you every time I do!

  5. nannydeb January 3, 2017 / 6:10 pm

    Love the snow pics of ya’ll! Adorable!

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