banana bread

We’ve had very (very) ripe bananas on our counter for the last week, and I’ve been threatening (promising?) to make banana bread the entire time. So today, while the boy entertained himself for a while, I baked. And boy, did this banana bread deliver. It’s the best I’ve ever had. (Not that I’ve had banana breads from everywhere or am some sort of connoisseur, but it’s pretty damn delicious.)

Here’s the recipe– I used this one as a starter.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (microwaved to liquify)
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal (old-fashioned)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 4 medium bananas (very ripe, mashed with a fork)
  • 2/3 cup pecans (I buy them whole and break them into pieces)

Optional (for sugary crust)

  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/8 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat together the coconut oil, eggs, vanilla, and sugar. It should be frothy and thick when you’re done.
  3. Combine flour, oatmeal, baking soda, salt, chia seeds, flax seeds, and cinnamon in separate bowl.
  4. Add buttermilk to mashed bananas, stir.
  5. Add half of dry mixture and half of banana mixture to egg mixture. Mix well.
  6. Add remainder of dry mixture and banana mixture to batter. Mix very well.
  7. Fold in pecans.
  8. Pour batter into pan. (I used a round cake pan, but a boring old bread pan would work too.) :)
  9. (Optional: combine sugar, cinnamon, and pecans in small bowl. Sprinkle mixture across top of the batter: make sure to cover all corners/edges.)
  10. Bake for 50-60 mins.
  11. Let the bread cool for 15-20 mins.
  12. If you went rogue and baked it in a cake pan, cut into nice pie slices.
  13. Try not to eat half the loaf.

I’m not much of a baker– I greatly prefer to cook. When you bake, you can’t improvise (to the same degree as when you cook), and I like to taste and adjust as I go (something I’m obviously not going to do when baking). But ever since my dad introduced me to baked oatmeal, I’ve been playing around with other ways to bake with oats and various hippy things (chia seeds, flax seeds, alternatives to sugar (though nothing artificial), coconut oil, etc.). Thus far, it’s pretty damn delicious.

dear ned

Dear Dad,

Happy birthday! I know that you don’t care much for fanfare on your birthday, so I won’t embarrass you. But I’d love to take you out for a beer. Jason and I found the perfect place to celebrate with you — there’s a bar on the lake, and people can pull up on with their boats or jet skis or whatever they have, and have a beer or two. On the weekends, there’s live music on three or four different patios, and I’m sure you would appreciate that there’s a variety of cuisines to sample. The first time we went there, we commented several times on how much you would love it there. We can even introduce you to a few Texas brews, though between you and me, there’s no comparison between Wisconsin and Texas beers.

See? I’ve come a long way from the Berry Weiss days. (I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to your “don’t fruit the beer” rule at first.) I didn’t realize this for a long time, but you (and what you taught Jason) have greatly influenced my beer drinking ways. These days, Jason and I often split a beer (just like you taught us), and grade them on an A-F scale. Thankfully, we haven’t encountered too many Fs, but my discerning taste now labels many of them in the B-/C+ range (average, decently made, but nothing special). The Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout has been our favorite this year– we bought many of them at Costco over the winter, and even enjoyed some at the Beer and Chocolate tasting we went to in February. (It was hosted by Ginger Man, another place I think you would love.) You’re welcome to join us for one, though with the weather steadily getting warmer, maybe the Sam Adams Cold Snap would be more appropriate.

Rest assured, we do more than just drink beer these days. I don’t know if he told you, but Jason passed his most recent actuarial exam. I’m so proud of him– this was a tough one, but after some setbacks, he endeavored to persevere, and was rewarded for his hard work. I think he finally understands your life better: working hard in his career, while making sure the kid(s) have what they need, researching new restaurants, foods, and festivals for the weekends, and making sure that his family goes to church regularly. He’s not just a good provider for our family, but he’s a fantastic dad and a great husband. We can trace so much of his dedication, involvement, and humor back to you, and our kid is very, very lucky to have the two of you in his lineage.

Speaking of, your namesake is a treat these days. I wish you could meet him. I have a feeling he’s going to be the exact mix of smart, curious, and wildly energetic that makes some little boys so destructive. I’m sure that you could give us some advice on how to channel that appropriately. Maybe over a beer?

Until next time,

Harriet

dear little one (v)

Dear little one,

Today, while you were napping your little heart out, your dad came home for lunch. As we do often, we talked about the past, and our plans for the future. In this iteration of our usual talk, we discussed going to Amsterdam with you sometime in the next few years, and looked up resorts in Portugal that are both family-friendly and near the ocean. We also talked about how we were lucky enough to meet one another so early in life.Though we’ve seen one another make more mistakes than either of us care to acknowledge, we also have dozens of great memories from the last ten years.

Like the time we stood outside Gordon Commons, and the wind blew the leaves around us in swirls while we hugged. At the time, I remarked that I felt like we were in a movie, the cliché ending where the lovers embrace while the camera pans all 360 degrees, before doing a close-up on the kiss.

Or the time we went to a dance club just down the street from our apartment. I left early with your dad’s keys, and when he was leaving, he saw my purse hanging in the coat check. After arguing with him for a bit, your dad gave the bouncer $20 for my purse. Once your dad was outside our apartment, he realized that the haggling was not in vain, since I was already home and deeply asleep (some day you will understand). His chivalry saved him a cold night on the porch.

There were many times we walked through new snow on campus, the whole world muted by the soft, white flakes. (That first thick snowfall is the only thing I loved about Madison in the winter.) I’d call your dad and say, “Let’s go marching.” We’d start walking, not knowing where we were headed, and taking turns picking, left, right, or straight. We’d talk about our plans for school, and the people in our lives, and later, when we both knew we’d eventually get married, we’d talk about our plans for a family.

Just before you were born, we also went on many walks. These walks were similar: we’d discuss our plans for work, and you, and our marriage. We’d plan for the future while reminiscing the past. We rarely walked the same loop, because I read somewhere that taking a different route when walking/driving somewhere familiar helps ward off Alzheimer’s. These walks were punctuated by the heat, but we pressed through to burn off the nervous energy. We were so excited that you were coming, but we knew we’d have our hands full.

And boy, have you delivered. You’re full of attitude. You’re all smiles, as long as you’re entertained. Boredom rivals hunger for what aggravates you the most. You want to hang out with me, unless I’m holding you and dad’s in sight. And as I predicted as soon as I could feel you moving around, we’re in deep trouble the minute you can move on your own. You’re a lot of fun, and a lot of work, and I’m so very glad that your dad and I had all those years (and walks) together before you arrived. We’d be in over our heads otherwise.

I love you, little one. I look forward to walks with you, whether here or in Amsterdam.

Mama

dear little one (iv)

Dear little one,

When I put in my notice at my current job, I knew that I was planning on staying home with you for a while. The truth is, I miss you during the day, and I really miss having lunch every day with your dad, and feeling on top of things at home. I’ve never been  concerned about being overly clean– as long as the dirty dishes are contained to the sink or the counter near the sink, I don’t care when they’ll get done. Our floors often have crumbs or dust on them, and as long as the bathroom is moderately clean, I’m not worried. But these days, I feel like I can’t get settled. Things feel like they’re in disarray, even though your aunt has been a fantastic help in getting the dishes and laundry done. I think this unsettled feeling has less to do with the actual mess, and more with being far from my base during the day.

I’m quite excited for next week. I’m excited to get up with your dad when he goes to work, putz around here for the morning, have lunch with you and your dad, go for a walk, and leisurely cook dinner while you nap. I’m excited to feel more like myself again, and I think a month or two here, with you, will go a long way to restoring my calm.

That being said, I want you to know that I’m not a stay-at-home kind of mom. I love you to the moon and back, and I thoroughly enjoy your funny head-bobbles and the way you shake your fist in front of your face before you stuff it all the way into your mouth. I think you’re hilarious, and I could sit and chat with you for hours. But I’m not cut out for being home with you in the long run. I don’t quite know what I’ll be doing when I go back to work, but I know for a fact that I need to work. I need to be around adults (specifically, adults who behave themselves as adults), and I need to use my brain to work on complicated issues. I need to feel as though the work I do is important, and carries weight. I also need to talk to people about things other than you.

I know that this won’t mean anything to you for a long time, and you may not even really think about it until you have your own children (hold your horses on that one– I will ground you forever if you make me a grandmother before I’m 50), but it’s important to me that you know that your mom is happy with her life outside of you. Not being my only source of joy will free you up to make mistakes and have your own life. Knowing that you are not solely responsible for my happiness should give you ample opportunity to develop your sense of independence and adventure.

In the meantime, I look forward to snuggling you closely for a few delicious weeks.

Much love,

Mama

dear little one (iii)

Dear little one,

Tonight, I needed some comforting, so instead of letting you settle yourself down, I nursed you to sleep. You seemed to need a good cuddle, but I may just have wanted one myself.

I’ve had a rough run of it these past few weeks. I’ve gone back and forth and back and forth on whether or not I should work while you’re still so young. True to form, I can argue both sides excellently, which complicates not only my decision, but your dad’s attempts to help me figure out what I want. Despite this, I finally realized that I was asking the wrong question. The question wasn’t whether I’d like to be home or at work (yes to both), but whether I wanted to be in my current position.

To the correct question, I could answer with a doubtful but nagging “no?..” The truth is, I’ve become so comfortable with discomfort that I started to question whether I was truly unhappy there. Despite the fact that I’ve known for over a year and a half that I wanted out, I became so conditioned to second-guess myself that I couldn’t tell if I was right in wanting to leave.

I don’t know if I believe that God interferes in the minutia of our lives, or if He directs our moves as though we are mere pawns. But I do know this: when I needed to be honest with myself about my next steps, I was provided with the perfect circumstances to get a clear reading on my true feelings. Last Wednesday, I finally had my wisdom teeth removed. Despite the serious and invasive nature of the surgery, I couldn’t have been happier to be home for a full five days.

If you’re thinking that it’s strange that anyone would elect dental surgery over being at work, you’re right–that’s not normal. And I want you to remember this: if where you are, who you’re surrounded by, or what you’re doing ever makes you (theoretically) opt for painful dental work instead of that, get out. Find something/someone new. Especially if that person/place/thing makes you feel crappy about yourself, and makes you doubt you can find something/someone better.

I know I can’t protect you from getting hurt, or from bad situations. My hope is that when you encounter these situations, you have enough faith in yourself to walk away.

Love,

Mama

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