Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mom's Banana Bread

Few things bring me back to childhood the way certain taste memories do. My mom's banana bread is one of them because it has always been different from every other banana bread I've tried. Mostly I don't care for banana bread because it is so dry. And don't even try to add walnuts! Having a mother who is allergic to all nuts, I grew up never having crunchy nuts added to brownies, cakes or muffins. Now I occasionally like them that way but Mom's banana bread remains nut-free.

The reason this recipe makes such a moist bread is the use of shortening rather than butter and the fact that it is baked in a shallow, square pan rather than a loaf pan. Having a shallow pan allows the bread to bake through the middle before the outer edges get overdone.

There is nothing simpler than this quick recipe. The kids love it and I often make extra and freeze it for a future weekend morning treat. Once you try this recipe you'll never fear those leftover bananas anymore. Happy baking!

Mom's Banana Bread
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
2. Peel bananas. Place in a medium bowl and mash well with a fork. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl beat together shortening and sugar until creamy.
4. Add eggs to sugar mixture and beat only until blended.
5. With mixer on low speed add mashed bananas and beat until well combined.
6. Add flour, soda and salt on top of wet mixture and beat on low until thick batter forms.
7. Spread batter evenly into greased 8x8 square pan.
8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until center is set.
9. Cool in pan and serve with softened butter.

from mistysmornings.com


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Daybook :: Holy Week 2014

Looking Up
Spring has burst the doors open this week.  How kind of it to finally arrive and to set Easter weekend off in a proper fashion. 

Coming out of physical therapy one day, I stood waiting for my mom to drive around and pick me up at the door. (Crutching -it's now a verb at our house- is not easy for long distances.)

As I waited, exhausted, sore and a little down in the dumps, I happened to look up, and hanging right overhead were the most amazing poufs of pear blossoms.

I imagined that they had been a bit down in the dumps just a few days earlier, eager to bloom and come into their yearly glory. They lifted my hopes and reminded me that though I am still awaiting my own Springtime, eventually, it will  finally  arrive.

Listening to
Wind whipping against windows, the wreath scratching the glass on the front door, boys awakening for the day and conversing with my sister in my kitchen.
The butter knife scratching across toasted bread, clinking spoons in cereal bowls, the whirring of a Dr. Who screwdriver.

I thought I would be reading constantly during my recovery. Alas, I have finished only one book, The Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford.   In search of my next read, I went over to my long list of books I want to read at Goodreads , remembered I have Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist and pulled it off the shelf.  So far I love it, the descriptive mixture of memoir and recipes is satisfying right now. And making me itch to get back into my kitchen. I miss it so.

The Restore Workshop has been a tremendous source of inspiring reading lately. Elizabeth's essays on rest, exercise, planning, marriage, choosing friends and following the Holy Spirit as women, wives and mothers could be published as a book they are so excellent. Each one is written like a personal letter from a wise friend or a peek into a friend's private diary. So much there to process - it will keep me thinking for quite a while.

One of my favorite lines from the essay on creativity:
"When I walk free of the fear of failing, I really can bring creativity into almost everything." Elizabeth Foss

Around the house
I am feeling like one blessed woman these days. So many people have been such amazing helpers as I have been laid up at home. My mom left after a six week stay on April 5 and was immediately replaced by my sister and brother-in-law.  They leave at Easter and we will have one week alone as a family before more help arrives - my in-laws who will stay until May 12.  (All this help is because I am still unable to drive or walk without crutches.)  I am living lessons in humility, dependence, patience, fear, pain, hope, gratitude and familial love.  What a beautiful experience this deeply sacrificial Lent has been. It has changed us all.

Easter Vigil this year holds an extra significance for our family as my mother will be confirmed into the Catholic church this Saturday night in Arizona.  The original plan was that my family would be there in person to witness the holy event. Plans changed with my health and now I have to miss out on something that still takes my breath away to think about - my mom is converting from Presbyterian to Roman Catholic!

When I converted in 1998, I never expected, hoped or even imagined my mother ever converting. It wasn't something I needed from them and we have never discussed it happening.

Luckily my mother has had many more Catholics in her life besides me over the past years and she has been moved by the way they live the Gospel in their daily lives. She began her investigation slowly, watching EWTN, especially The Journey Home, reading many books beginning with Catholicism for Dummies. She began attending Mass with a close friend and overcame her sense of confusion during the more solemn style of Catholic Mass.

When she called to tell me she had decided to begin RCIA I was shocked with surprise. I had not seen it coming. Her bravery to step out of her upbringing and into a whole new world of worshipping has once again made her a role model in my life.

God bless you Mom! You are an inspiration to me and I am so excited to share the beauty of the Catholic Church with you!

If you are so inclined, would you pray for her as she enters the church this weekend?  Her Patron Saint is Elizabeth Ann Seton. I am sure she would greatly appreciate your intercessory prayers. 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Petals :: 52 Photos Project

Where I live the Bradford Pears have bloomed and blown and the Cherry Blossoms are in full blossom.  Even though that means our allergy season is now officially underway, I cannot help opening our windows every morning in hopes of hearing the birds singing to greet the day. 

Springtime has conveniently coincided with my personal recovery process from knee surgery.  As I am slowly re-gaining mobility on crutches it seems an added encouragement that the weather is also improving and the trees are welcoming my return with their flowers. What a treat it would be to be able to put down my crutches in time for Easter Sunday and walk again on my own! (I am doubtful but one can hope.)


Monday, February 10, 2014

Sunset Moments {Learning to Live Hands Free}

As  Murphy's Law would have it, I had a cell phone crisis while reading Chapter One of The Hands Free Mama by Rachel Mary Stafford. I reached my cell data limit a full week prior to the turnover to a blank data page. A full week early. This has never happened before. Not even close.

At first I thought it was my kids.  Surely they had been streaming Netflix on my phone at basketball games all month. "Those little guys are racking up all my data!" I thought. "They really have a problem with screen time and it must be stopped. Time to tighten the reigns!"

I checked the data usage. Nope. It was me. All me.

Does it make it any better that I was live streaming lots of Joyce Meyer podcasts while driving alone  to and from millions of appointments and errands over the past few weeks? They're Christian and uplifting, right?

Oh, and I must admit to watching a fair amount of The Blaze TV while preparing several freezer meals for my family. I must stay on top of current events, right?

And I watched lots of weather forecasts during our snowpocalypse. I had to keep ahead of the school closings, right?

And I also clicked through to all the lovely blogs I read while having my knee iced at physical therapy. I had forced blocks of down time so I might as well surf my blog list, right?

Because of the fear of crazy expensive overages, I was forced to put down my phone. I turned off the cell coverage and even turned off the phone overnight.

It was a wake up call and I am willing to go so far as to say it was a divine wake up call.

You know when the electricity goes out and it takes a while to remember it because you keep turning on the light switches in every room? Having no cell data was similar. I'd pick up my phone to check email, then put it down. Pick up again to check Instagram, put it down. Pick up to check the weather, put it down. It was Pavlovian - like a trained animal looking for a treat and not finding one.

I embarrassed myself by the need to hold the phone in my hand from room to room just in case the school called and my child was sick. Just in case a friend texted and I needed to respond immediately. Just in case my husband called from overseas and I might miss the chance to connect with him.

I consoled myself with the idea that at least I generally do all this streaming and checking when my kids are at school. But did I really?

It was such a good feeling to sit with them after school and not even know where my phone was. It was a blessing to fall asleep face to face with my youngest, not his face to my cheek illuminated by the light of a small screen in my hand.

Then I started to get irritated with my husband. Being forced to put down my phone while he was not made me gratingly aware of every moment he was on his phone when we could have been chatting together instead. Suddenly I was ready to impose my own limits on him as well. I got a bit grouchy - probably a sign of withdrawal.

I started reading him passages from my book. He wasn't much interested. This bugged me even more.

Finally, I realized that what was bugging me was the realization that I was extremely tethered to my phone. It was humbling. I never thought I was the one with a problem.

In her first chapter, Rachel describes that everyday life has "Sunset Moments" that we often miss because we are too busy with our to do lists and too tethered to screens to look up and notice them.

The irony is that we are so busy trying to get everything done so we can get around to having our "Sunset Moments". But they cannot be planned. The beauty of these experiences is that they occur naturally and we need to be open enough to notice them and able to slow down enough to participate fully in them when we do.

Now that my cell data has returned, I have the challenge of staying detached from my phone. It hasn't been easy but I am trying. The key has been to create a docking station in the kitchen. This is the place to drop all devices and leave them there.

My friends and family have commented that I am less reachable lately, not responding as quickly to texts. I think that's ok.  I have sunsets to capture, tender spur of the moment moments to spend with children who are growing up and away from me each day. And I have a husband who needs just a bit more convincing that even he could live a little more hands free.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Frosty Melting Days and My To Do List

How can it be February already?  The past two weeks of snow day drama made January evaporate as quickly as the frost on the tree branches. Now here I stand looking into February with these tasks on my mind:

~ Prepare for my mother's arrival on February 13 (she is staying for two months which requires intense bedroom/closet/drawer/bathroom preparations)
~Valentine's Day prep for school parties and a dance for our middle schooler
~ Plan two birthday parties for my boys turning 11 and 12 this month (send invitations, buy gifts, cakes, make arrangements etc...)
~Prepare my own accommodations as I will move into the downstairs guest room for a while post knee-surgery
~Continue the "Great Purge" of closets and drawers to clear my mental clutter and make the family run smoothly without much help from me
~Stock up on groceries and freeze ahead meals to assist my mother
~Finish my One Little Word pages for January and start on February
~Include Ali's 31 Things Pages and 52 Lists in my OLW binder

Phew! Just writing this out is a bit of a relief for me.  Now to make the time to get it all done in the next two weeks. 

What does your February look like?

P.S. I am experimenting with allowing anonymous commenters since so many of my family and friends don't have on-line profiles and therefore cannot leave me a comment on my blog. We'll see if my SPAM goes up or if I am enough "off the radar" that this setting can work.  I hope so!


Friday, January 31, 2014

7 Quick Takes {Catholic Schools Week, Stance Socks and The Brady Bunch}

It was Catholic Schools week this past week. Our boys attend the local parish school and participated in collecting tuition donations after Mass last Sunday (not for their own tuition, but money to provide assistance to families who may want to send their children to Catholic school but cannot afford it).  My favorite part of Mass was when Father R. asked people to stand if they were a product of Catholic schools.  There must have been 75% of the congregation that stood.  Clearly, Catholic education (whether in a parish school or a homeschool) fosters life-long Catholics.

~ 2 ~ 

This boys has had a drippy nose and cough all week.  He is learning how to blow and wipe his own proboscis but we have to work on conserving tissues.  He is a one wipe and done Kleenex user.  I guess I can't blame him when I think about it but we really cannot go through an entire box of tissues per sneeze.

 ~ 3 ~

Anyone else have sons who are obsessed with these socks?  They are called Stance Socks. My husband calls them old man socks but the boys want a new pair every week and they love to wear them to basketball practice. It's fun to see the boys grow into their own sense of style.
I remember obsessing over jelly shoes and Guess jeans back in the day. This is one obsession I can handle!

~ 4 ~

Have you tried the Project 365 Pro app? It is such an easy way to capture your everyday life via photos.  Each day you add a photo and at the end of the month it makes the collage for you.  I'm not a scrapbooker by nature so this is brilliantly easy for me.

~ 5 ~

Hi, my name is Misty and I have a planner addiction.  I cannot seem to resist picking up the latest pretty paper planners Target keeps tempting me with. I have had them all month and am unable to write in any of them until I decide what each of them is specifically intended for.  It is a serious problem but I have a friend who confessed to the same issue and we plan to stage a mutual planner intervention together over coffee, and planners, soon. (MG I'm talking to you!)

Winter Storm Leon brought us ten inches of snow and paralyzed our beach town.  That didn't stop anyone from motorized sledding.  We did this on wide open farm land growing up but every time a scene like this drove by my house I held my breath hoping no one swung into a mailbox or a parked car.  It was so icy that a small tree and a light pole were knocked down  in our neighborhood but thankfully there were no sledding injuries!

We are on day three this week of no school thanks to the snow. Somehow I came across The Brady Bunch re-runs on TV and convinced my boys to watch with us one night.  Four episodes later we had to force them to go to bed, promising to watch more episodes the next day.  We saw the classic attic bedroom episode when Marcia and Greg fight over who gets it, the Greg becomes Johnny Bravo episode, the Peter gets fired from the bike shop episode, and the Cindy loses her mom's earrings episode.
It was amazing to watch the show now that I relate more to the parents than the kids.  Mr. Brady and Mrs. Brady were equal, respectful, partners. Mr. Brady was actually portrayed a wise, fair and loving father.  How clearly this show contrasts with the current youth-targeted shows where the father and most adults and teachers are portrayed as out of touch idiots and fools who have no idea what their kids are up to.
The Brady parents also teach natural consequences!  When Peter was fired I almost expected Mrs. Brady to storm into the bike shop demanding her poor son get his job back. She didn't.  When Greg and Marcia fought over the attic space they gave it to Greg because he was older. They made the rule and let Marcia and Greg work it out on their own. They didn't build an addition to let Marcia also have her own room so it would be "fair".
But what is the deal with Alice?  Why did it never strike me as odd that they had a live-in housekeeper? It is a riot to hear Mrs. Brady choosing recipes and asking Alice if she thinks she can make them.  Wow! What a stay-at-home-mom life she had!
Anyway, if you are looking for a family-friendly show that teaches good-old-fashioned G-rated values, try The Brady Bunch.  It's a hoot and a fun trip down memory lane. (Find it on TVland.)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter Storm Leon

Unlike last Wednesday when we awoke to a snow day glistening in the sun, today's snow day is the very image of winter, smokey gray sky and everything else draped in starkly white snowdrifts.  I can tell the boys had enough of the snow last week because they went out once and came back in quickly.  Their teachers sent them home with homework this time in anticipation of missing several days and it looks like they'll have plenty of time to get it all done. Our dear neighbor had to make it in to work and promptly wound up stuck in front of our house.  With a little shove from my husband he managed to make it out of the neighborhood. Hopefully he is safe and sound on his ship by now. Our beach town is ill equipped for snow this deep.  They declared a state of emergency last night and have brought in snowplows from elsewhere to help clear the roads.

In the rush of excitement for this snow storm I stocked up on goodies. I plan to make a Mexican meal of chicken enchiladas, guacamole , a favorite in our household.  I also bought several disposable tin pans and will be making some foods for the freezer in preparation for my surgery in three weeks.  The plan is make extra enchiladas, beef and bean burritos, lasagna, banana bread and pumpkin breads. We'll see if I get around to it or end up dropping everything to read by the fire.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Snow Day in the Life

It must seem like overkill to our relatives up north that we make such a big deal of a few inches of snow falling in one night. Having grown up in snow country and raised my boys in Chicago during their younger years, we are more than comfortable with a little snow. I think that's why we notice its absence all winter long here by the sea.

We have been praying (literally) for at least one snow day this year and now we are on day two of no school!  What a treat! We pulled out the snow pants, boots and mittens and had a good laugh at how much the older two have grown.  RW's pants are at least three inches too short but they still fit around his slim waist so they worked just fine. They first headed outside at 7:00am yesterday.  Then again at 10:00, 1:00, and 4:00.  By that time I found myself silently grateful that we only do this once a year.  What a pain it is helping these boys out of muddy boots and soggy snow pants, then hauling everything to the dryer only to start all over again by the time the cycle ends. I had forgotten about the tears that accompany a five-year old whose mittens came off in the snow and who comes inside sure that his hands are permanently frozen.

On the bright side, we had plenty of cocoa and chocolate chip blondies, interspersed with long stretches of time to play in the sunbeams by the windows, to play X-box with other snow-stranded friends, and even time for me to take lots of photos throughout the day.  At some point I realized I was doing my own version of day in the life by Ali Edwards. Seeing the way the light changed throughout the day led me to want to capture it on my camera. The more I am aware of the boys growing up the more I want to imprint each moment of the present on film.

I even dared to take a snap of myself, in all my un-made-up glory as reflected in the bathroom mirror. This simple post impacted me and I am trying to get my(real)self back in the picture a little more this year.

And yes, our unadorned Christmas tree is still up.  We thought it finally seemed appropriate now that there is white stuff on the ground. As much as I am ready to move on to spring, the glowing evenings beside the tree are the perfect end of each day. I took the ornaments off after Epiphany but the boys don't want us to take the rest down. That's the beauty of artificial trees, the magic can last and last.

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