Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

As if banana bread needed to be improved upon, I have a new recipe.

Actually, its my standard banana bread recipe, written on an old blue note card in scratchy script. I've actually got it memorized, but I always pull out the card anyway. Very rarely do I change up the ingredients, aside from a handful (or two) of chocolate chips, when the whimsy calls.

However, I've managed to give birth to a girl that somehow did not get the loves-banana-bread gene. Which is really odd, since it's a dominant trait in the line of my people...there isn't a sweet bread alive in which we'd turn up our noses. So, you can imagine how I've tried to turn that sweet girl over to our bread lovin' generation. But, for thirteen years she has politely declined.

Until now...

A couple weeks ago I decided to change up the standard recipe by decreasing the flour by 1/4 cup and replacing it with cocoa powder, and throwing in several handfuls of chocolate chips. Never underestimate the power of chocolate. 

I am proud to tell you that she not only likes this bread, but eats it readily. This isn't just one those things she'll eat when there is "nothing good to eat in the house." Oh, and making them into muffins is helpful too. It doesn't matter how old you are, its hard to resist a muffin; and the baking time is cut in half compared to a loaf.

Here's the recipe:

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Banana Muffins

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2-3 ripe bananas*
1tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour**
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (use more or less to your liking)

Preheat oven to 350 and place cupcake holders in tin. Cream butter and sugar together. Add salt, soda, vanilla, banana and eggs. Mix well. Add cocoa and flour, mix until fluffy. Stir in chips. Scoop batter evenly into prepared tin.

Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

*You can pre-smash the bananas, but I don't... I just throw them in!
** Don't let the idea of whole wheat throw you off. I use this whole wheat white flour, which is white wheat, instead of red... giving you all the benefits of whole wheat with lighter flavor and texture. You really cannot tell the difference in this recipe.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Five on Friday: All Things Lovely

1. Fresh flowers in my kitchen.

2. English Lavender in the garden.

3. Learning something new.

4. Powerful creatures with gentle dispositions. 

5. Scenic drives along the way.

Happy Friday...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Crocheted T-shirt Basket

The people of the Little Yellow House on the Hill are afraid. 

I've learned how to cut T-shirts into one continuous strip of yarn, and now... no shirt is sacred. 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I did start the Russian Rug, but I didn't love how it was hooking up. It's very simple, but I think I need different colored shirts; and I think they need to be cut into wider strips. So I put that project on hold and decided to try my hand at a little basket making. 

I found a great (free) pattern online. The directions are easy and the pictures are helpful. 

I ran out of white yarn, so I had to switch to blue. I was surprised how much yarn this project consumed. The white part alone was three (xtra large) shirts and the blue handle is one (medium) shirt.

It was a quick and easy project, taking only a couple hours start to finish, but was physically demanding. Using a smaller hook (10mm) for the yarn size, made it very difficult to move the hook with ease. After I finished, my hands and some random muscle deep within my upper right arm, were sore for two days. If I hadn't had to fight the hook this basket would have stitched up in less than an hour. Having to work that hard made the project a little less enjoyable. One of the benefits of crochet is that it's relaxing... running the hook through the yarn with repetitive ease is good for what ails you. I didn't love the cardio by crochet method this project required. Although... maybe I should start a new extreme exercise fad.

With that said, until I can get some T-shirts in colors I like for the Russian Rug, I was thinking I might try my hand at this Mandala Floor Rug. It's also made with T-shirt yarn, but a 15mm hook, and a weave that doesn't look quite as tight might not make it so cumbersome. Maybe crocheting with super bulky yarn is like giving birth... your forget about the pain when the hard work is over, and the next beautiful project overrides your fear. Maybe...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rubber Snakes, Tobasco, and One Handy Man

Last weekend I declared war on the pests in my garden. Not only did some pesky varmint dig a massive hole in my tomato bed, something mowed down 50% of my cucumber seedlings.  Grrr...

Every year, I try to keep the garden organic. It is a challenge. Pests and bugs are not easy to eliminate, especially when there are some bugs you want to keep in the garden.

Several years ago I received this book as a gift and it has become my own garden Google. Many of my favorite organic garden tips come right from the dog-eared and dirt-covered pages.

For instance, let me introduce you to my little garden friend, Mr Tobasco. Mix him up with a bit of soap and water and he will keep aphids from eating the veg. The only problem is that it has to be reapplied every couple of days. And try not to spray downwind on a windy day. Tobasco and soap in the face really does take the hungry right out of you.

Tip #2 - Last year we were inundated with bunnies and squirrels who ate quite a bit of the small garden I had growing. This year, they're not invited to dinner.  It was recommended to take an old garden hose and paint it to look like a snake. But I'm the mother of a boy who used to have an obsession with reptiles. I will admit ten years ago I was not happy when my brother bought these fake snakes for him. Finding them in various places around the house (the shower, the kitchen counter, the garage) has contributed to many a gray hair. Today, I can say I am glad The Boy (aka, The Packrat) had placed all his beloved rubber reptile collection in an attic tote for safe keeping. Let's hope I don't scare myself every time I go to the garden.

Tip #3- Though it is not mentioned in the book, I highly recommend you find a handsome and patient man, who will willingly double re-enforce the gated area with more deer netting (even though he's already done it before and you think just a little more would be better.) That little bit extra might just hinder the critters from jumping in for snacks, and keep snakes from slithering below... and it will provide you with something nice to look at while he quietly does his work.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Five on Friday: Spring Things

1. Iris' in bloom. Honestly, explosion would be a better term. These flowers have outdone themselves this year. There are at least fifty blooms in my front yard. 

 2. Kitten kisses. The Carpool Queen went and got a baby this week. His name is Max, and he is the sweetest little thing.

3. Nursery view. Every spring I head out to my nearest wholesale greenhouse. It's warm and humid and smells of soil, and I love it.

 4. Slow slithering. When you live in the country you have to take the good with the bad. Thankfully this baby Copperhead was still a wee bit slow when my husband accidentally stepped on him.  The snake was fine, and slowly slithered away. I hope he's the last snake we see this year.

5. I really wanted to steal Max from CPQ's house yesterday, but she threatened to check my bags before I left. Plus, Max has eyes for only one girl... it was amazing to see how he would mew for Susan and then do his best to crawl up in her lap to rest. We spent four hours together just sitting and watching this creature sleep and play... best four hours ever.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Crochet Crazy...Again

Since Christmas my crafting mojo has been off. There was nothing I could do to conjure inspiration. Then last weekend, as if someone turned the creative switch in my brain, I'm once again buzzing with happy artsy endorphins. It seems to always happen that way, one minute your flipping through the new Crochet Today magazine, uninspired and cool, when suddenly something sparks that burning coal and you're a smoking whirlwind of hooks and yarn. Aahhhh... back home, happily running yarn between my fingers.

Within 48 hours I had hooked up the body of the Wildflower Bag.  I didn't want to take the time to get bamboo handles (I was in The Zone), so I just crocheted a couple of straps.... and then, as I imagined my pencils and gum wrappers falling out of the crocheted body, I decided it needed a liner.

Once I played with the fabric and figured out how to make the lining without seams, I discovered I could use my sewing machine to sew the fabric directly to the yarn. No hand sewing, hooray!

I thought I liked it just the way it was, but remembered flowers make everything better.... so I added a few. Afterall, it is the Wildflower bag.

This project is finished, but I am not!  I've already started this project and can't wait to show you how it is hooking up!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Song of the Garden

I'm thankful for the garden each year, I love to get my hands in the dirt. This year feels even more like a gift, a new song. A beginning.

It was this time last year when I woke up on a Thursday morning feeling fine, but within two hours panic and anxiety had taken hold of my heart. I really haven't been the same since that day. On the outside you cannot tell, but my heart has been changed for the better... though there were days I wondered. The garden last year all but withered and died, the fruit small and wanting. A picture of the time to come.

In that one crazy week I realized life can change in an instant without much warning, and when it happens there isn't much you can do but cling to Jesus, and trust He will carry you though.

And He will, and the dust settles and life rolls on, and you have to keep trusting. Every. single. day.

The great news is this:  God comes when you call Him. He will not delay. I know that is true.

I'm memorizing Psalm 40, a plea and a praise for God's saving help. I chose blindly, but it was no accident-- God has lifted me out of my own slimy pit, and has given me a firm place to stand.  I need to have this truth pressed deep into my heart, though I haven't yet dared to forget.

Life is tender and fragile, yet hearty and full. Amazingly, those attributes are all intertwined. That is often hard for me, in life and in faith. I want to appear STRONG and COURAGEOUS, yet the weak shall inherit the earth. It is in our weakness we find our Strength.

He lifted me from the pit of anxiety and fear, and set my feet on a Rock. I'm learning to sing a new song. Sometimes the song is mournful, grieving that old self-reliant way--those weeds cannot stay. Other times the hymn is sweet-- God is faithful and loving, I can rejoice in His saving help. I can proclaim The Lord is Great! in ALL times. Both sing equally true.

I don't walk quite as tall in my own ability anymore--false security is always weak, even on its best day. When fear and panic starts to rise, I will trust in the saving help of a faithful God from who fear will flee. With His help I will remember His truth. Last year's garden was sorely neglected because I wasn't well... but this year holds new promises for me. May my song, in joy and affliction, always be one of praise.


Psalm 40

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.
Blessed is the one
    who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
    to those who turn aside to false gods.
Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
    but my ears you have opened-
    burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
    it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
    I do not seal my lips, Lord,
    as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
    I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
    from the great assembly.
11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
    may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
    my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
    come quickly, Lord, to help me.
14 May all who want to take my life
    be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
    be turned back in disgrace.
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
    be appalled at their own shame.
16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”
17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
    may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    you are my God, do not delay.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Light on the Sea

2nd morning
Recently my family headed to Topsail Island for a week of R&R. Nearly every morning The  Mister and the kids slept in, as one is supposed to do on restful beachy vacations, but I just couldn't do it. My heart and mind were set on the sunrise way before the break of day. It was futile to lie in bed and miss it.
3rd Morning
Wrapped in a blanket and clutching a warm mug, I would anticipated the glorious picture soon to be painted across the water. I was like a kid on Christmas morning, bleary eyed, but ready.  Often I was the only one outside, and I wondered: Do people know what they are missing? Why am I the only one out here?
5th morning
Each dusky dawn brought forth a show of wonder and glory... a new gift of mercy, for needy folk like me.

But on April 25, I received two gifts: one in the morning, and one in the night.

That week happened to be the week of the New Moon. I knew the moon on the water would probably be amazing. I was really looking forward to nighttime on the surf. 

When the sun set I was surprised I didn't see the pale moon face in the clear sky. It got very dark with no moon in sight. By 9:00p it was pitch black outside, I could barely see the surf just yards away from our deck. This wasn't what I was anticipating. A quick Google search informed me that the moon would rise at 9:08p. In all the sunrises I've eagerly waited for, I had never seen the moon rise over the sea!  My sweet family often entertains my crazy love and excitement for God's display of beauty through nature. So when I asked them to watch it with me, they happily threw on sweatshirts and blankets and headed out to see what would happen. 

We were not disappointed. 

It was awesome-- at first it was a tiny red sliver clinging to the horizon, but soon the moon was full, the colors of fire. It looked as if you could reach out, with just a little bit of stretch, and hold it.

Within minutes her color changed and she was radiant and bright, reflecting on the water. We watched until we all shivered in the cold air.

I took this picture after 10pm while standing at the kitchen sink. If my son (you can see him texting on the couch below) hadn't laid claim to that spot for his bed, I would have slept there. Can you imagine falling asleep with moonlight on the sea? Wonder full.

Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
Were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
They would be too many to declare.
~Psalm 40:5