Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Judging from how many people ask me for this recipe, these must be pretty good...I'm not that crazy about bananas, so they are only "not too bad" in my book, but everyone else seems to get all woozy with delight over them. I bake muffins or some other breakfast-type thing for the staff every Saturday morning, and these are, hands-down, their favorite. I guess sometimes fancy isn't what you are after. I have no idea where I got this recipe, so if it's your creation, let me know and I'll happily give you credit.
Banana Crumb Muffins
Makes 12 muffins or 24 mini-muffins
These are not very big muffins, so you could make 10 instead of 12 if you want them a bit bigger. Whatever you do, don’t skip the topping; it’s what sets these muffins apart.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups or line with muffin papers.
2. In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into muffin cups.
3. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
4. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean
Because my family will only accept "perfect" bananas (i.e. those without spots or blemishes of any kind, and just the merest hint of green shading the top inch or so), which are "perfect" for a full 20 minutes of their existence, I end up with a continuous supply of "displeasing" bananas, which I let ripen to their proper state (i.e. to the full blush of yellow, and with the occasional black freckle.) and then freeze them for this express purpose. I let them thaw out overnight, and then use them, but I will warn you, bananas in this state are not for the faint of heart, they look unbelievably disgusting; they practically slither out of their peels, and they require no mashing because they have almost disintegrated in the freezing/thawing process. Don't say I didn't warn you. But they are excellent for making muffins with.
Girl 1: (talking about her boyfriend) "....and he's lazy and dresses badly. He's not very smart and I hate the way he eats. He didn't do anything for my birthday...."
Girl #2: "So, why don't you dump him?"
Girl #1: "Oh, he's not that bad."
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This was all kinds of entertaining until Toby got too worked up and toppled right off the table, still with his head in the bag.
Friday, January 23, 2009
The Internet There was a time when finding information that you wanted was either time-consuming (i.e. going to the library) or expensive (buying a book or magazine or newspaper) or ridiculously inconvenient (finding the right person to ask) NOW you can go onto the internet and find out just about anything you ever wanted, plus a whole lot of stuff you didn't. Even after years of taking it for granted that I can go online and just....find what I want, right in my own home, without paying hardly anything. I'm still kind of amazed that it can happen.
Cell phones As I was texting Thing 1 this afternoon when I was picking her up from an exam, I again marveled at the idea that I can just carry a phone around with me all the time. Unbelievable! It sends a signal all the way into space, and back down to any other phone in the world and it's totally mobile and it takes only seconds to do so.
USB sticks This little bit of plastic and metal that is the size of a quarter of a Kit Kat bar can hold an astonishing amount of information; words and ideas and pictures and movies and entire books and music, and you plug it into a compatible place and boom, there it all is! I am dazzled every time I see it happen.
Chocolate Chocolate is the least likely thing to ever occur, if you ask me, and it's kind of wonderful that it ever happened at all, let alone that it's as ordinary as it is. Somewhere some kajillion years ago, some Aztec said, "hey, why don't we take this rather unremarkable looking berry, we'll roast it and bash it around and mix it with other stuff and it will be awesome!" Then, for the longest time, chocolate was a rare and expensive treat that most people only tasted a couple of times in their lives. Now I can go out and buy the stuff almost anywhere, and for a pittance, too.
Digital cameras When Thing 1 was born, we had a crappy camera that took lousy pictures. (I sold it at a garage sale for 5 dollars, and the guy that bought it asked if it took nice pictures. "No", I answered, "that's why I'm selling it for 5 bucks." He bought it anyway.) We had to make sure we had enough film all the time, and that the film was properly loaded, lest we come back from her baptism or first birthday party with all the pictures glommed onto one useless frame. Don't even get me started on when you used to have to have flash cubes. NOW, it's frigging amazing that, not only do you not have to worry about wasting precious film, you can see the picture right after you take it, and decide if you want another one or not. It's phenomenal.
Photoshop and photoprinting Again, you used to have to pay through the nose for photo re-touching and photo printing, and with Photoshop and a printer, I can do it myself at home, for almost nothing.
Knitting and crochet. Lest you think my mind is only blown away by modern technology, rest assured that I'm just as impressed with stuff that's been around for a long time. Knitting and crocheting is basically the process of taking string, twisting it around with some specialized sticks, and ending up with actual clothing. I'm always kind of astounded when my ball of yarn transforms itself into something useful.
Strawberries in January. I live in a place that is currently covered in snow (and plenty of it) , and yet, I can walk into almost any grocery store anywhere and pick up a carton of fresh, ripe strawberries, and be kind of picky about which ones I choose, too. I am thrilled every time I do so.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
- Going to bed earlier means it's easier to get up earlier. Because she has started high school this year, Thing 1 has to get up a lot earlier than she used to in order to get to school on time. I'm pleasantly surprised at her ability to just get up and get on her way, without any drama; if she's finding it difficult to haul herself out of bed, she's certainly keeping it to herself. Thing 2, on the other hand, whines and complains every morning, and clearly holds me entirely responsible for the time on the clock. It would probably help if she went to bed earlier than, say, 10:30 every night, but she doesn't, and refuses to acknowlege that it would make any difference whatsoever. She's always a little annoyed with me when I go to bed earlier than her, but completely dismisses the fact that I get up with relative ease.
- Avoid a mess rather than clean up a mess. The "Touch Once" Rule really works: rather than put the towel on the floor and then hang it up later, it's much easier to just touch it once; hang it up after you've used it. Simple, huh? Not making more work for myself is my number one priority in life. Not so for my children, whose rooms look as though there has been a fight to the death involving all of their clothing they are not currently wearing and Halloween candy wrappers.
- Anything to do with taking care of your hair. Despite the fact that I have been in the beauty business for 25 years, I have conversations such as the following daily: Child:"My hair is fuzzy/frizzy/flat/flatulent, and I hate it", Me:"Why don't you brush it/put some product on it/wash it/domesticate it" Child:"That won't help". Every. Day.
- If it's cold outside, wearing clothing designed to keep you warmer, will do so. You'd think this one is pretty obvious, but my children insist on denying reality and leave the house every day without decent winter gear. I'll admit the same folly in my own youth; I went an entire winter when I was a teenager not wearing a winter coat, but in my defense, it was one of the mildest winters on record, and after one blistering cold walk home from a bar in only a denim jacket, I wisely revised my policy. It's been brain-numbingly cold here for the past little while, and those two routinely go out without mittens or a hat and then have the gall to complain about how cold they are.
- Hand-written thank-you notes are worthwhile. I've only ever had one person complain to me that I shouldn't write thank you notes, that it was making her look bad and she wished I wouldn't do it. (She is, frankly, a nutbar, so I didn't take it very seriously.) My kids don't understand that hand-written thank you notes are something people don't forget (in a good way) and worth every nanosecond they take to write.
- Being ready a few minutes before you have to leave. I'm not sure why they don't believe me, but it is possible to be early for something, you know. Timing your preparations for the exact split second of departure only makes you frantic and forgetful and cranky, and your mother crazy.
- You don't have to love every single thing you eat. My kids got the idea somewhere along the line that eating something you don't especially like is akin to a human rights violation, but they have it. I don't adore broccoli, skim milk or bananas with spots, but they aren't torture to get them down, either.
- Walking a perfecty normal activity, and humans were designed to do it.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Here she is trying to heave a shovel full up onto the waist-high snowbanks beside the driveway. She's a trooper.
But, in contrast to the outdoors, I was delighted to discover that my hibiscus plant has bloomed:
All that glorious, lush and dazzling show was very welcome on this snowy, January afternoon. It will be spring someday!
Friday, January 16, 2009
Part of what I hate about this kind of weather is that it is impossible to maintain any level of attractiveness whatsoever. No matter how much effort you put into your appearance, it's all for naught once you suit up and head on out into the elements. After you have bundled up enough to survive the cold, you look like a walking refugee from several countries, and then, once you arrive you've got hat head, your eyes are streaming and your nose is passionately red. Then, as your brain thaws out, it tried to escape from your nostrils, and your nose runs enthusiastically for at least a half an hour after you come inside. It's all very glamorous.
Last Tuesday, when the weather was howling and I walked the 20 minutes or so to the library, I had an inkling as to how bad I looked, judging from the faces of the librarians upon my entry. When I went into the bathroom to set myself to rights, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and even I was startled...I looked like I'd been shot out of a cannon. My hair was fuzzy, staticky and as lively as I've ever seen it, my cheeks were shiny (from the tears) and roseate, and my nose was positively exuberant. Now, I don't expect to look especially enchanting after such an outing, but I was hoping, at least, to avoid "frightening".
I've given up styling my hair in any manner for the time being; what's the point. Even after I've blow dried it and put some goo in it, after I take off my hat it will look like it's been styled with a Cuisinart anyway. My feet are cold all the time, so I've taken to wearing my huge Yeti socks, which makes me look as thought I have hobbit feet which do me no favors in the looks department. My skin is dry, my hands are gnarly and my expression is decidedly peevish.
Sooner or later, the temperature is bound to moderate, and I can wear lipgloss again without getting it all over the inside of my scarf. Or I can enter a room without immediately sussing out the whereabouts of the kleenex, or walking outside wearing just the clothes on my back. But for the time being, I'll just have to put up with looking like Nick Nolte's mugshot.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
So, when I took my usual walk to Starbucks from the salon first thing, I figured it couldn't be good when I saw that the intersection immediately to the south of us was flooded with water. Any sensible water would be frozen solid at these temperatures, which meant that, unless a small stream had suddenly emerged because of an earthquake or a volcano, there was a water main busted. (Our salon is in an older part of town, and water mains burst with wild abandon at all times of the year, but they are particuarly fond of self-destructing during exceptionally cold weather.) And a water main burst that close to the salon usually means that we will be without water until they get the problem fixed.
Sure enough, about a half an hour later, a particuarly disheveled and highly emotional city worker burst in the door and announced in the most dramatic tones that the water was going to be cut off for 2 to 4 hours. (This actually makes a refreshing change from the usual listless city worker, who casually annouces such things...."Yeah, so, like, your water's gonna be shut off? And, like, we don't know for how long? I guess that's gonna be a problem for you. Have a nice day.") Lack of water IS a significant problem in a hair salon, but this guy nearly cried on our behalf. (Maybe he was thinking of himself and how he was going to have to work with spewing water on the freaking coldest morning of the winter.)
We've had this situation before, and we've always managed. Cutting hair's not a big deal; usually you can just use the spray bottle to get the client's hair wet. With chemical work, it's a little different; you want to get stuff off reasonably quickly. I had one client in my chair, who had come from out of town to get her hair done...she was willing to take the chance, and lo and behold, we had water when it was time to take out her highlights. My next client wasn't so lucky, but she was one of the stylist's sisters, and like all family members of hairdressers, has learned to roll with the punches and take what comes her way. I ended washing her hair with the water we had stockpiled earlier in the day....a messy business, but effective enough. By the time we were putting on the conditioner, the water had come back on. She was a good sport though; I think she was game to see if we could do the whole shebang with bottles and buckets. (We did call the other salons in the area and asked if we could bring our clients down to them, and they were all accomodating, but I was loathe to ask a client with a wet head to saunter down the street in sub-arctic temperatures.)
It livened up an otherwise mundane day, trying to figure out how to solve the problem and still get our work done. I'm just glad I'm not the guy who had to actually fix the water main.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Check out the statue of Venus. She's shivering.
The only way for me to aleviate the horror that is mid-January, is to crawl into bed, get comfy and warm, and eat lots and lots of birthday cake.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Our smoke alarm goes off at the very slightest provocation. Thankfully, nobody smokes in our house, because the smoke alarm would go berserk. ANY time the oven is turned on, the smoke alarm goes off, even when there's nothing in it. (And before you diss my housekeeping habits, it IS, in fact, a self-cleaning oven, which even I can manage to make use of regularly.Which also sends the smoke alarm into spasms.) It even went off once in the middle of the night, scaring the snot out of everyone in the house, when there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that there was any incineration of any kind going on in the vicinity. (It scared the snot out of everyone except me, who managed to sleep entirely through the whole thing. Which is kind of scary in and of itself.)
(In my parents condo, the smoke alarm is just as touchy, and it is like that in all the units....when the woman a few doors up takes out the toaster, her little grandson claps his hands over his ears.)
Last night I was making croutons for a Caesar salad, and was somehow able to cremate, not one, but TWO batches of bread cubes, and what do you know? The smoke alarm remained distinctly silent throughout. Not a peep out of the stupid thing while there were actual flames eminating from the toaster oven. Here is a picture to show you that I am not exaggerating when I say these things were not just burnt, they were reduced to ashes. (Appealling, no?)Do you see the actual scorch marks just above the door? And yet, the smoke alarm took no notice whatsoever.
I'm hoping that the smoke alarm has saved itself for bigger, more dangerous fires, and can't be bothered with the tiny, sterile fires that I produce. Of course, I will have to test that with the big bad self-cleaner on the oven some day soon.
Monday, January 12, 2009
(Just in case you want to know: peel and chunk up a butternut squash, put it in a baking dish with a bit of butter and brown sugar and chuck it into the oven for the same amount of time as the chicken. When it's all soft and the edges have browned up a bit, bash it around a bit with a tablespoon or two of cream or evaporated milk until it's kind of smoothish, and try not to eat it all right out of the baking dish before it gets to the table.)
While I was making the gravy and mashing the potatoes (with some help from Thing 2, who is a very enthusiastic masher and stirrer) I put the squash back into the cooling oven, just to carve out a bit more counter space in the mad flurry that is the "end of the meal prep" frenzy. I nuked the corn and some lima beans (Thing 2 adores lima beans. And she dislikes cake. I'm pretty sure she's an alien.) and flung the whole delicious meal on the table, where we devoured everything like we were at a UN refugee camp and the supply plane had finally arrived.
This morning I opened the oven to make meringues, and lo and behold, I found the squash from last night.
After staring at it in disbelief with my jaw hanging open and my whole brain convulsing with the task of making sense of it all, I pulled it out of the oven and stared at it some more. How could I have missed that???? (I have doen this sort of thing before....once I opened the BBQ for the first time in the season only to find a dessicated baked potato that had been left on the grill since the previous autumn. Yummy.)
Eventually, I gave it a taste, declared it fit for human consumption, and made soup out of it. (Sauteed some shallots, dumped in the squash with a bit of ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and chicken broth that was in the fridge and pureed the whole lot.) It was delicious.
I'm not sure when your brain farts are considered serious enough to be called dementia or Alzheimers, but I'll let you know when I find out. If I remember.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Young woman: "Could I please have a non-dairy mocha latte, please?
Cashier (calling to the person who makes the coffee): "One soy mocha latte!"
Young woman: "Oh, I don't want soy milk.....don't you have any other non-dairy milk?"
Cashier (somewhat confused): "Other non-dairy milk?"
Young woman: "Yes, like, skim"
Cashier: "Skim milk is still dairy, it's just had all the fat taken out of it."
Young woman: "But they take all the dairy out of it too!"
Cashier (calling to person who makes the coffee): " Okay; One non-fat, mocha latte!"
Young woman: "And without dairy"
Cashier: "Don't worry, he'll get it."
Young woman: "Oh, and with whipped cream, too."
Cashier (somewhat wearily) "You know that has dairy, right?"
Young woman: "Seriously?"
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
This has amused Thing1 and I so much that we spent the better part of the day texting our own lies to each other, when we should have been doing other, more constructive things. Among our various lies to each other:
- The number "8" is actually a code to Narnia when used correctly
- Eagles are part of the horse family
- Wearing a necklace while eating a taco is illegal in Ohio
- Frogs can grow hair
- Red-headed children are 50% more likely to be bad at piano
- There is a bridge in Dubai made entirely out of camel hair
- The word "taupe" is from teh Hebrew word for "perpendicular".
- Cats will dissolve in wine.
- Richard Simmons and Elvis are 1st cousins
- Wigs are made by the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys.
This is what passes for Mother/Daughter bonding in our house.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
- Hot drinks taste better out of white mugs with thin rims. Orange or yellow mugs with big, honking thick rims are worse than useless.
- It is more fun to bite into a triangle than a square.
- If there is a towel or a piece of paper on the floor, a cat will have to sit on it.
- Reading in the bath sounds luxurious, but it isn't. Smoking in the bath is even worse. They do it all the time in old movies, but it's way more stressful than it's worth, and the towels stink.
- You're not hungry until you see someone else eating, especially if it's pizza.
- It is much nicer to get into a made bed, even if you just made it immediately before you got into it.
- It is very disappointing to bite into something peppermint. Other than toothpaste and gum, there's not much need for anything to be peppermint.
- All cold drinks taste better in a tall slim glass, rather than a short stubby one.
- If your teeth hurt or your feet hurt, you really can't think about anything else.
- A little too much salt is WAY too much salt. Not so for sugar.
- You remember someone who's rude way more than someone who is nice.
- Being too cold is way worse than being too warm.
- Cat breath isn't nearly as bad as dog breath.
- At least once a day you will find yourself thinking about something and then think "what the hell made me think of that?".
- Even the most mundane picture looks more "profound" when it has a frame around it.
- The sound of your own voice recorded sounds just awful to you.
- It is actually possible to put too much garlic in something: Chocolate ice cream
- You never run out of salt.
- Singing in the car isn't nearly as much fun when there's someone else in there with you.
Monday, January 5, 2009
A few things I noticed at the Biggest Mall in All The Land:
- There is a hell of a lot of walking at the mall. This mall in particular, which has a hellish layout and is the most discombobulating mall on earth, is mentally and physically taxing. I think, I think it is vaguely in a figure 8 with a couple of off-shooting loops, but in all the years I've been going there, I've never really figured out how to get around it without the help of signs and a Sherpa. And it seems that no matter what store we want to go to, it is at the exact opposite end of the mall and requires a snack before embarking. Big Liver Girl very nearly barfed right in the middle of that mall that last time she was there; she says from the flu, but I think it was dizzyness from trying to negotiate her way from the parking lot to the Gap.
- Store that cater to my children's age group are all very dark and very loud. I'm not sure what the strategy is behind "So! Lets have minimal lighting in here, so that you can barely make out if you are holding a wetsuit or a nightie, and then make sure the music is blaring so loudly that you can't even ask the person who works here! And also! Let's make sure our employees are all brain-damaged from the noise, and can't hear you anyway! It will be so cool!" Seriously, that marketing genius should have to spend time in their own stores as penance. I want to remind them that the person with the money is the cranky, middle-aged scowler in the corner, and if you want me to spend it in your store, you should not look at me like I'm Sadaam Hussein when I ask you to turn the music down.
- Believe me, I know what a nightmare it can be to work retail; I've done it. In fact, I think that every single person over the age of 15 should be required to work as a waiter or in retail.... just young Israelis are required to serve in the army. But honestly, while you are doing it, would it kill you to acknowledge my presence or even, heaven forbid, say hello or smile? Believe me, you would look much cooler and hipper if you didn't look like you had spent the last week in rehab, and now weren't sure if you could keep it up.
- My daughters spend a puzzling amount of time in a change room. I think next time I will bring a book to pass the time; I don't know what the hell they are doing in there for all that time, but they look considerably older when they come out.
- The correct outfit for a day at the mall is not what I was wearing. One should not dress as though one were going outside, even though one has to go outside to get to the mall. One should dress as though one were going inside. I was wearing a winter jacket, mittens, a turtleneck and winter boots. The mall's internal temperature is closer to the surface of the sun than Ontario in January, and I nearly fainted several times, from heat stroke.
Believe it or not, my two daughters have just asked if I would drop them off at the mall this evening (our local mall), and I will happily do so, as long as I don't have to go in.
Friday, January 2, 2009
I used to dread them having sleepovers; it always seemed to be an awful lot of work for me with no visible payoff whatsoever. (My children's joy and happiness notwithstanding, of course. Still...) But as they have gotten older, my role in the sleepover has dwindled to nothing more than providing snacks and not making too much noise when I get up in the morning. When they, and their friends, were younger, there was always the issue of where they were going to sleep, was I going to have to sleep downstairs if the basement was the site of choice, betwetting friends, friends who got spooked in the night and wanted to go home at 3 a.m. and the inevitable breakfast ruckus which always seemed to involve me making 12 different dishes, all involving copious amounts of maple syrup. By the time the friend's parent showed up to take them home, I was usually waiting on the front step with the child all packed and ready to go. Often with in a peevish mood and with maple syrup in my hair.
Now they are all old enough to take care of themselves, and other than buying the snacks, I have little to do with the party at all. In fact, parents staying out of the way is preferable when it comes to sleepovers. (Thing 1 tells the story of going over to a friends house, and the dad not only coming down in the wee hours to check on the crowd sleeping in his basement, he foolishly stopped to go to the bathroom before he went back up. Apparently the kids were not asleep, and nearly herniated themselves laughing at the sounds of a very loud, very long pee going on within their hearing.)
Last night Thing 1 had three friends come over, and they did what they usually do at sleepovers and I don't expect to see any signs of life from them until the early afternoon. Himself heard them still up at 5 this morning, and as I peeked in on them when I got up, it looked very much like a gangland shooting has occured in my family room: there are bodies flung all over the place, and the furniture has been punished severely. They are very likely to do it all over again at someone else's house.
When I can make my children happy and fill their lives with joy by staying in my own room and not being disturbed at all? Suddenly, I like sleepovers very much.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
This year is going to be different, though; this year I'm going to make the kind of resolutions that will be easy to keep:
- Watch more television. I don't have nearly enough trash in my life....watching reality tv with no redeeming values makes me very glad that I live the life I do.
- Spend more time on the computer. Instead of berating myself for all the time I spend watching YouTube or seeing what everyone else thought of last night's "America's Next Top Model", I'm going to embrace my indulgence and think of it as research towards my master's degree in pop culture's influence on modern society.
- Eat whatever the hell I like. I've got loads of time before the Type 2 diabetes and heart failure show up.
- Yell at stupid people in malls and parking lots. They deserve to know that their behaviour is doing them no favors. I'm performing a public service, really.
- Wear my pajamas out in public. Nobody's looking at me anyway.
- Stop exercising altogether. Oh, wait, I do that one anyway. Nothing new.
- Sing out loud, no matter what my children say.
- Stop putting everything back where it belongs. I'm going to follow my family's example and leave things wherever they happen to fall. Such a waste of time organizing and being predictable.
- Forget about the RRSPs. I'm going to Vegas.
- Fiber is for wimps. I'm going to declare that jam counts as a serving of fruit.
- Start smoking again. I looked so cool.
No doubt I will forget these resolutions, too. Which is probably good.