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Archive for the ‘Self-care’ Category

Life is sort of weird right now.  I’ve been serving on a jury since last week.  My new routine is wake up, take the D train to the Yankee Stadium stop and report to the Bronx Supreme Court.  On Sunday, I’m running a half marathon.  My dreams have been filled with the worst case senarios.  I show up without my bib or without running shoes or worst of all with no idea why I am there.  My life could use a little normalcy right now, before I start thinking of “juror” as my new job title.  It’s times like these that baking therapy helps.

Recently, I stumbled across A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg’s memoir-cookbook that is just incredibly lovely.  Remember when I made some pancakes from it?  Mmmm I have to make those again soon.  Anyhow, the banana bread recipe in that book had been in my recipe queue for ages and was beginning to sulk and fret and beg that I make it.  This is the post on Molly’s Orangette blog that the recipe originally appears in.  I love Molly’s description of the bread, it is probably close to the description in her book but the recipe in the book is slightly different.

Well I am here to tell you, if you ever happen to find yourself let out of jury duty early on a rainy March day during which you were vexed by race anxiety daydreams, this bread will do the trick.  This bread was a miracle worker for my mood.  Ok, so it’s not bread.  It’s cake.  Let’s just lay that out there right now.  If you eat it for breakfast, as I definitely did, don’t try to kid yourself–you are eating cake for breakfast.  But I’ve made my peace with that, and so should you.

Here is Molly’s recipe, my substitutions are noted:

6 tbs unsalted butter, melted

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( I used 1 cup whole wheat plus 1 cup white flour)

3/4 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar)

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips)

1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 large bananas)

1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt (all I had in the house was raspberry yogurt from my CSA, it worked great!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray, and set aside.  Make sure to melt butter first (in the microwave) and then set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Add chocolate chips and crystallized ginger, mix to combine.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly then add the banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and stir.  Molly stresses not to overmix….although the batter will be lumpy, you don’t want chunks of flour.  Pour batter into the pan you prepared and pop it in the oven.

Bake until the bread is golden and firm in the center.  This takes about 1 hour.  Cool the bread in the pan 5 minutes and on a wire rack until completely cooled off.  I ate it all before I had any to freeze, but Molly says it freezes very nicely as long as you cool it completely first.

Enjoy!

Oh, and a little jury duty humor to brighten your day, you’re welcome!

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won·der·ment

noun

Definition of WONDERMENT

1: a cause of or occasion for wonder
2: astonishment, surprise
3: curiosity about something

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the days leading up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve.  When I was small, although I enjoyed December because it promised presents and cookies and staying up late, I mostly loved this season because the air seemed heavy with mystery and magic and wonder.

The reality of the adult December is often the whirlwind of holiday shopping, the onslaught of corporate messages reducing the holiday to dollar signs, the stress of pleasing friends and relatives, the overeating of treats, etc, etc, etc!  All of this can slowly drain December of any trace childlike wonderment.

So what are you doing this month to take back December?  A while ago, I decided that the specter of “The Holiday Season” would only overshadow the beauty of this month if I allowed it!  Though many of us cannot shirk the responsibilities of present buying or cookie baking, we can all take a bit of time to slow down, turn inward, and perform a little self-care.  When was the last time you took a deep breath and felt a sense of wonder about life?  Now is the time!

Here are some things that are helping me maintain a sense of wonder through this entire month, I hope they inspire you:

 

Nourish yourself, body and soul

I just wrote this post on Circle of Food about my love for soup-making this time of year.  Now is the time to make sure you are eating healthfully.  Holiday shopping and low blood sugar do not mix!  I am a big fan of Christmas cookies and treats, but at mealtime I like to fill my belly with hot soups.  It not only fuels my body but it seems to nourish my mind and soul!  Enjoy the lentil soup recipe I wrote about–it freezes really well so you can make a double batch and have the rest on hand for later.

 

Spend time with friends, but take the stress out of the equation

My roommates and I threw a Hanukkah party.  Although we did prepare quite a spread of food, we asked friends to provide the drinks.  This took some of the stress out of it.  We had a wonderful time and enjoyed the company of great people.

Here are Danielle and Caitlin preparing latkes!

Latkes are time intensive, but well worth it!

Mmm, cupcakes!  Danielle brought out her battery operated menorah–nicknamed Manny the menorah 🙂  She also said the prayers over real candles in her other menorah.

Here we are with friends from our building who just had a baby!

Take time to meditate in the company of candles or the lights from a Christmas tree

For many years of apartment living, I have had a teeny tiny fake tree.  The other morning, I was passing the bodega on our corner and I smelled the beautiful scent of freshly cut trees.  There were several for sale, just waiting for a loving home.  I decided then and there that I would buy one and put it up in our apartment.

Why postpone happiness?  A simple thing like a real tree has brought me so much joy in the short time I’ve had it up.  I was a little worried that I didn’t have many ornaments, but I soon discovered that there were several decorations around the house I could hang on the tree.  For instance, I had some Tibetan prayer flags and some angels that are hanging on my wall and I am using those as ornaments.  Though they aren’t traditional looking, they are beautiful nonetheless.  I also cut out some stars from cardboard and covered them in tinfoil and hung those on the tree.

Isn’t it a beautiful little tree?  I’m trying to spend at least five minutes in the quiet with the twinkly lights every day from now until January.  If you do the same, I guarantee you will find some December serenity.  I like to use that time to cultivate gratitude for all the good things going on in life.

Relive or recreate some of your favorite December childhood memories

The other night, I went to see New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker.  The crowded theater was packed with smiling faces.  Although many of those faces belonged to lucky children, there were countless adults of all ages who wanted to relive (or experience for the first time) a classic holiday experience.  Here we are outside the theater:

And inside the theater:

I’ve also been trying to enjoy as many Christmas movies as possible!

 

 

Wherever you are, I hope something here has inspired you to take a little time today to cultivate December wonderment.

 

 

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