Baking Banana Bread on a cold Friday night

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It’s minutes to 10pm and I just decided I wanted to bake some banana bread. I have three huge bananas that are overripe and ready to be mashed and mixed into some goodies. The recipe I am thinking of following says I only need 10 minutes and bake time of just over an hour. I have time. What I love best about this recipe is it doesn’t call for the mixer. Yay!

I have come to enjoy baking during the pandemic with all the time spent home, and the need to do something different. I do have a mixer but I loathe the washing that needs to be done after the bread has baked and has been sliced. So here’s one for a recipe that actually just needs a mixing bowl and a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon. I’ve done quite a few of these recipes, but I thought I’d try a local Filipino favorite, if only because I found the best pandesal recipe on this website, Panlasang Pinoy.

All done as promised within 10-15 minutes. Oven preheated as I mixed the ingredients and it’s well into its first 10 minutes of the hourlong bake time. I have baked enough banana breads to know which ingredients I could tweak, so I avoided the raisins, and then added walnuts on top, and a sprinkling of chocolate chips but only one side of the loaf. So I’m going to sit it out here watching Blue Bloods and trying to complete a blogpost before the oven timer rings. I don’t know if I was inspired to bake because I wanted to write, or if I got inspired to write because I decided to bake and there was the wait time until my bread came out. But I’m doing both.

It was a very cold week for New York and many parts of the country. We are luckier than others as we are used to this winter onslaught of snow. I didn’t even bother to go out yesterday and today because the temperatures were just freezing, and the weather unforgiving. I decided I would sit this one out, 10,000 steps out the window. I’m trying to be more forgiving of myself for breaking my streak last week when the first big storm hit. One thing living in New York has taught me is you can’t taunt the weather and be smug about the cold. There are days when you just have to concede to Mother Nature. We’re having quite a few of those these days.

Snow in New York

The lady at the checkout register at the neighborhood grocery put it succinctly, when she reminded me we need a good amount of snow to prepare for the dry summer. It’s a long ways away but she was right. And I guess we can’t really complain.

So I’m riding out the snow and the rain and the ice. Work has kept me busy most of the week. It’s been rather hectic but manageable. It was one of those weeks where you found yourself relieved that Friday finally came. I think that was one reason I wanted to write. And there goes an audible sigh of relief.

I can smell the sweet banana scent wafting through my home. It’s that kind of warm and fuzzy that just comforts you on a cold night like this.

I’ve taken a break from writing postcards tonight. It’s been a busy two weeks sending out cards, arranging swaps and posting to my postcard collecting account on Instagram, @ postcard_storyteller. The destashing and organizing continues. I even found a stash of older mint stamps I bought from eBay some years ago when I was doing various swaps. Not just postcards. There was a time I got into Artist Trading Cards or ATCs, journal exchanges and other mail art projects. A lot of people are not aware that older and usable stamps are available online, not only as collector’s items, but for use in regular mail. Most sellers will sell it in lots at a partial discount — say , a lot of $25 stamps for $22. For postcard collectors and stamp collectors, or those who are into mail art, using these unique stamps lent a certain flair to the postal journey of whatever we sent out. It was part of dressing up the envelope or the postcard that went through the postal system.

And although I haven’t been journaling, I’ve been working on the art journal by sprucing up the first signature of the new one. I still have odds and ends to work on with the 2020 book, but I feel so thrilled to see what I’ve accomplished with it last year. Valentine’s Day having come and gone, I have an idea for a love-filled signature I want to pull together this week.

My heart is full.

The line keeps flashing in my head — and ringing in my mind, like an echo waiting to find expression in a bundle of pages of hearts. I have a lot to write about in reflection of how I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so much love. Some people tend to be bitter or cyclical about the commercial aspects of celebrating Valentine’s Day — but it’s not all about lovers. It is, however, all about love. Like last year, I have a bit to say, even if my little guy and I had to forego our valentine date. There is next year.

My weekend has begun and my banana bread is done. It came out a little darker, and I think it’s the chocolate chips that somehow spread out. I tried one end — couldn’t resist — and I’m happy.

My banana bread this Friday

The weekend this weekend

It’s almost 2am and I’m just getting ready for bed, and for some reason, i decided I would write a post before I tried to bring myself to lala land. So if this turns out to be an incoherent attempt, blame it on the late hour.

It’s been a busy week. I’ve tried to start sewing again several times with no success. I am hoping I get to do some tomorrow. The art journal has been receiving lots of attention these days and I’m actually very happy at how that’s turning out because I am already thinking of next year’s journal.

I decided to take my daily walk later today, with the goal in mind of grabbing dinner along the way. It was chilly but not freezing cold. I walked with the determination of a woman craving a treat, and while I did get my grilled octopus and managed a bed of homemade Caesar salad to put it on when I got home, I think I overdid the dessert. Buyer’s remorse. Too late, I know, but I felt I deserved it. My diet app would tell me I’m being so emotional (with a “baby” at the end, to boot!) but I will live. I will try to be good for the rest of the weekend. Indulging myself last weekend resulted in gaining back some of the weight I had shed, but I’ve lost enough not to panic over it. Besides, I’ve started shedding it again.

Grilled Octopus over Caesar Salad at home

I’ve managed to walk 10,000 steps minimum everyday for the last couple of weeks– seeming out inclines and making sure I walk to a fast beat. (Donna Summer’s “Heaven knows” being the current favorite. ) I’ve counted the steps between two points in various configurations that I can easily plot which direction I should go to make my daily goal. I have been surprised at how close distances actually are between home and places I used to ride a cab to– not realizing they were actually walkable.

I like weekend walks because I’m not pressed for time like I am during the week. Whether I walk before officially starting my work day, or sneaking in a stretch during my lunch break, I don’t quite have the same freedom to walk as much as I want without worrying about the time. So tomorrow and Sunday are what I would call “adventure walks”.

But for now, it’s time to lay my head down on my pillow and drift off to dreamland. I am just so glad the weekend is finally here.

Winding down

I’m hoping that the road to La-la land will be a smooth and short one tonight. Just knowing that it’s Friday brings me a sense of calm — looking forward to sleeping in, even if I already know I’ll probably wake up way earlier than I had hoped.

It’s summer here in our part of the world, and that means longer days. Earlier sunrises and later sunsets. Even as I sleep, my “eye” sees the daylight outside even with blackout curtains, and extra layer of paper on the window pane to boot. I somehow know the day has started, even when I wish it wasn’t beginning quite that early. Maybe I’m just getting old. No matter how I try, I cannot muster the kind of sleep that my teen is able to do with such ease.

I’m hunkering in this weekend. I don’t know what I will bake but I do know I have the bananas and the other recipes. I am down to three of my oatmeal raisin cookies. I might attempt a simple roll.. or if the inspiration hits me tomorrow, i might try to bake some bread. Maybe.

I’m sorting the craft supplies again, and I’ve had some measure of success. I’m still hoping this weekend sees me picking up my tools. My free time has been focused on figuring out which ties to use for my masks, and how long the elastic should be. My cord stopper has arrived, but I’m torn between using them and not using them. I lay the last prototype down tonight and decided it can wait another day. After all, I’m staying home. I need not worry about returning to work anytime soon.

I was going to do a Friday Five but decided I just wanted a quick post — something to tie up the loose ends at the end of another workweek.

Happy Friday.. I wish you a good weekend wherever you are, and whichever way you choose to spend it.

Me, I’ll be in my happy place — even if only in my mind, thinking about my favorite desserts, walking my favorite parts of the city.. and maybe I’ll reminisce about that while sipping a glass of wine.

Slow Saturday

I have been taking it easy today. Wonder of wonders, I actually woke up at past 9am which was a real treat. I fixed myself some pancakes for breakfast and then picked up my crochet hook and yarn and continued my current obsession: crocheting triangle scarves. I have three scarves in different stages of production. I am in no hurry. Two of the three are using my existing stash of yarn, so I have to pause in between to look for additional spools to use. I only stopped (briefly) to cook lunch and do some cleaning. And I put the hook and the yarn down for my post today. (The clock is ticking.)

Saturdays are my “me” day. While most people will make plans for the weekend and do something exciting, I’m more inclined to just plan to stay indoors and chill and get some chores done.

I washed my make up brushes, hand washed some scarves, and before I sleep,, I’m preparing to do a cursory sorting of clothes I can give away to make my closet “breathe” a little. I was watching one of the series in one of my streaming subscriptions and was kind of surprised by the minimalist wardrobe of the lead character. Of course, she was kind of obsessive compulsive and had every little thing in neat order and almost numbered, and she stuck to a very basic corporate style for her work attire. Totally not me. But, it makes me want to continue culling my wardrobe.

And there are the take out containers that I almost always end up washing and reusing. They do tend to accumulate and every so often, I just throw them away. I figure I will find a disposable container if and when I need it– there’s always this nagging feeling something reusable will eventually become useful and then it doesn’t. So I’ve started throwing them in a garbage bag to be put in the plastic bin.

Tomorrow is laundry day.. or maybe not. New York City public schools are off until Tuesday because of the Jewish New Year, so I am seriously contemplating working from home on Tuesday and maybe getting that done then. In which case, I chill tomorrow.

I like to be able to enjoy a leisurely day even when it means cleaning the house — I do it at my own pace and in my own time. I get to accomplish something and yet not feel pressured to go out unless I have to, and I feel myself re-energized even after all the chores.

Maybe I’m just getting older. Short of taking time to nap, I’m often taking the time to just stop for a break and breathe. That’s my slow Saturday. I hope you had a good one, too.

#10daywritingchallenge Day 5

This post is Day 5 of the #10DayWritingChallenge. Below are related links to this blogging list.

10 Day Writing Challenge

Out of Focus

One Day Soon

Sewing Decisions

Fridays be like

Getting back up on your feet again

Autumn Monday

Taking it easy

When you fail again

Self love

Paying closer attention

Saturday into Sunday

I promised myself I’d make it a no pressure but productive weekend, and so far I think I’m on track. I’m just a tad sad, though, that my last post here was practically a month ago. Four posts are in my virtual editorial calendar and I’m hoping at least two make it to publication here.

The days have been busy but not quite as stressful as the first part of the year. Or could it be that I’ve started coping better, so I am not all over the place and ready to pull my hair out when things start taking me over. I haven’t been meditating much so it can’t be that. It could be my newfound focus on losing weight and taking better care of me.

For starters, I get ahead of myself when I feel like I’m getting worked up. I step back and remind myself there are other things I can focus my energy on. Maybe that’s one reason I haven’t been too keen about keeping my meditation on a regular cadence. I am not stressed out enough to seek it out. I know that’s not the right way to get my mind into a better plane but I will try. I recognize meditation has done wonders for me during my lowest of lows, and I really should heed my own advice not to wait for an emergency before attending to things that ail us.

Weight has been lost, indeed! Six weeks ago, I decided I’d get on the keto diet bandwagon. Now this journey has been a pretty interesting one and merits a post all its own, but I am happy to report that I have lost 13 lbs, 2 lbs short of the achievable weight that I was aiming for. Not bad at all. I am back to my usual weight and can now work towards (1) firming up the flab (which I have a lot of!), and (2) losing more. I am not quite where I should ideally be, but what I have lost brings me to just “slightly overweight” instead of “really overweight”. So I can definitely say I’m making progress on the “taking care of me” part.

As the weekend spills over to Sunday, I’m feeling okay with Monday not being too far behind. No wishing for a longer weekend– I am actually excited by the thought that a new week is just right around the corner.

In my corner

Grand Central

For days on end, I’ve been trying to get myself to write a post here and in my craft blog, but the truth of the matter is, life had me sidelined by more pressing matters that needed immediate attention, and we sometimes have to pause other portions of our lives to deal with it.

I love how this multi-frame pic came out, achieving overlaps and shadows of the typically busy scene at the grand concourse of Grand Central Station. I picked a corner and tried to hold the camera still. I wanted to capture the movement of the people but keep the building itself as a steady backdrop to the action. It captures what I sometimes feel going through my head or my heart or both.

I’ve been trying to sit with unsettling feelings instead of wasting time fighting them off. It works for me. So yes, I’ve been listening to my meditation guide and trying to imbibe what he is urging me to do, although it has been days since I took the time to meditate. (NOTE TO SELF: meditate.). I never quite realized that avoidance takes more effort that just acknowledging the feeling and letting yourself settle with it. I try.

Meanwhile, I have set a few goals for the weekend, but mostly putting my house in order— literally. I have projects waiting which I will write about in my other blog, and I look forward to just resting and recharging. To me that means going through my magazines, maybe reading a chapter or two and creating. We all have our means of coping, and fortunately for me, I had long ago identified what takes me to that place of calm.

It’s quiet. This weekend is mine. And while I enjoy weekends spent with my boy, I like the silence and the space to just think and worry about me. I don’t need to worry about taking care of anyone, just this weekend and days like this. I can venture out and go to the city, or do something different and maybe visit a museum or just go window shopping, but the gusts blowing outside make me yearn for the coziness of home. And more and more, I find that the quiet moments help me to deal with the noise when I return to the world come Monday.

I have also just returned to posting on social media again — and I am many posts behind. I’m getting there. Sometimes I think I should just post the pictures, no hashtags, no blurb. But just as I blog more for myself than for anything at else, I need those tags to remind me what that moment was all about. Even when I post about a meal I may have had, its more than just that food that was instagram-worthy. It’s more about the feeling of the moment and the company and the conversations and the memories that were made. My boy and I have started a new tradition when his weekends are mine. We now go on a Fridate. He and I are liking the new routine and then we head home together. I take a picture of the food and yet that encapsulates that one evening and the joy it brought. Happy thoughts.

I like quiet weekends when I can be alone with my thoughts and just be still. I used to think that I needed to keep myself busy outside to explore and enjoy and experience life. Then I discovered I could do the same without leaving my home. Of course, there are days when I feel the urge to just go out.. I might, tomorrow. Or I might just stay home.. and keep busy. Or maybe I will just rest and recharge. I kind of like it here – me in my corner.

No pressure

Friday came and I was feeling the pressure to do a Friday Five post, but the evening slipped by and I was just having too much fun trying to sort and organize my beads.

Sunday evening and I realized I had a Monday Musings post to put together — and I could have — but I wanted to take it easy and enjoy what was left of my weekend. I had spent the weekend indoors, tidying up and doing chores, and binge watching some shows I hadn’t caught up since their return from the winter haitus.

No pressure.

I’ve always believed that blogging should be a relaxing and spontaneous activity. At least, it is, for ME. Maybe that’s the reason why I have failed to monetize my writing. I write when I feel like it. I didn’t get to do any of that this weekend, but I feel like I got to accomplish a lot.

So this weekend, I forgot about lists and just took care of what was to be done with the things in front of me, instead of me thinking of things to do beyond what was already there. One habit I’m trying to cultivate is dealing with the tasks I can at the very moment it occurs to me that something needs to be done. No more procrastinating and putting off things that can be done this minute. I have this tendency to put off putting away things and leaving them “for later”. They tend to be forgotten. And then they pile up or just end up lying around. I put away what I can and discarded what needed to be thrown away. Much accomplished in that respect!

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Junk mail tends to float around so nowadays, I don’t even put the mail down “for later”. I sort them as I pick them up and get rid of what I know is not essential.

My favorite part of the weekend was just catching up on my favorite TV shows and sorting my beads. I think the weekend was more productive that way.. and I know I can write when I can..

It can only get better

I tried starting a blog post before the week began, talking about how I was trying to pump a lot of optimism into my upcoming week. It had been a rather chaotic one. I like “busy,” but sometimes it doesn’t work too well with other distractions. Still, I capped the previous week with some much needed “me” time last Friday which was the best part of those 7 days. (Note to self: you should do this more often.)

And we’re at Wednesday. I try to write more but I really need a major push forward there.

Work was hectic as can be, and while I don’t think we’re getting a reprieve for what’s left of the week. I hit the ground running and energized. Maybe it was the quiet weekend with my not so little guy. I took the time to breathe, stayed up late on Saturday with a new earring design I couldn’t stop making (!), and slept til noon the following day to give my body a chance to bounce back.

And Friday came again.

There are times when you really just need to pull away from the fray and sit quietly in a corner.  It was one of those days, and I focused on happy and positive thoughts, and some happy time over lunch.  I needed to recharge. I needed to lift my spirits up and find those feel good moments to make up for the bad ones. I had dessert. Without guilt.

Dessert from Ortzi
Gone are the days when I would be chided for even considering one. Part of me hasn’t quite gotten used to the idea that it IS okay to indulge once in a while…I still ask if I can get dessert. (And I’m trying to get rid of that habit..)

Focus on the good things and then tuck the negative away, and embrace the thought that it can only get better. Take care of you!

Weekend breakfast = “ME” time

Weekend breakfast: cheese pancakes
I’m writing this as I’m enjoying that stack of cheese pancakes I whipped up for brunch this Sunday.  I save the big breakfasts for the weekends when I have the time to actually cook one, and because I like to eat lightly during the week when I’m watching what I’m eating.  Breakfast then would be my regular iced coffee and a quarter cup of high fiber oat bran, mixed in with a third cup of warm skim milk and a dash of sweetener.  I let it sit for a few minutes to thicken and I end up with almost a half cup of my version of an oat meal breakfast.  Or I would occasionally pick up a bread pudding muffin from my favorite stop on my way up to work these days: Eli Zabar’s over at Grand Central Market.

Weekends, though, are different.  I wake up when I want to (unless my thirteen year old wakes up before me and requests for a special breakfast which is rare!  — waking up earlier and asking for a special breakfast, that is!). I would know what I was having the Friday before when I would make a “bread run” through my favorite bakeries in the city — say when I feel like whipping up some French toast (give me some real challah bread!) .. this time, I only picked up some tomatoes (craving my tomato scrambled eggs), and I knew I would have pancakes for Sunday.

Weekend breakfast: tomato scrambled eggs and iced coffee

And there are the weekends when I’m on my own, and I get to structure the whole weekend around me.  (Laundry time included.)

I love the complete pancake mixes.  (I don’t know what I would do without dear Aunt Jemima!) While I don’t mind having them as is, slathered in syrup and heavy cream, I make a fancier version by adding something along the way.  I grew up on Maya hotcake mixes, and I remember happily making pancakes for merienda (afternoon snack) for the entire family.  Of course back then, I used a carajay (our Filipino version of a wok) and had to mix the egg and water in and cook the pancakes using a touch of oil or butter.  Fast forward to now in New York where I’m a mom and after I actually discovered I could cook!  We have Aunt Jemima and our old reliable non stick pans for those gorgeous pancakes..

My favorite version is a decadent caramel pancake where I sandwiched sliced bits of caramel squares in between, or put a good layer on top and microwave to melt..  I had tried mixing in the caramel as slivers in the batter, but the caramel would melt and stick to my turner. Messy.  When you are simply adding the caramel, there is no adjustment to the recipe.  I follow the 1cup mix: 3/4cup water as prescribed by Aunt Jemima.  

It gets a little trickier when you are adding dry ingredients like shredded cheese or mashed bananas, because the consistency of the batter changes.  How much you add of your extra flavoring ingredient depends largely on how much you want to have that flavor present in your pancakes.  I go by the simple rule of thumb that if I’m adding something to flavor up my pancakes, I don’t want a hint of it, I want it present and adding oomph.

For cheese, I usually end up putting in a quarter cup to each cup of mix, and then I up the water to a full cup.  I use shredded cheese that comes in those packets and when I’m out of that, I would usually do two tablespoons of the grated Parmesan which is stronger in flavor.  Just a heads up that the cheese can add pungency to the pancakes, so sensitive noses beware!  Personally, I prefer cheese pancakes with corn syrup, and I do them with a generous bath of heavy cream.

Weekend. Real fast: cheese pancakes
Another nice addition to pancakes is bananas which will give you a banana bread-like flavor.  I mash up half a ripe banana to each cup of mix and again, up the water from 3/4 cup to 1 cup.  You want your pancakes to flow and settle on the pan and not be chunky and all clumpy.  Mashing the bananas will give you clumps, but you also need those to incorporate into the pancake mix seamlessly.  I try not to mash my bananas to too smooth a consistency because I like biting into my bananas as I eat my pancakes.  If you want only the flavor without the banana bits, then mash away to a smooth paste and watch it disappear into your batter.
Weekend breakfast: Banana pancakes
Finally, how about some red velvet pancakes?  There was a time I had left over red velvet cake which I needed to disappear quick before it started showing in my middle portion. Again, rule of thumb to add around a quarter cup of crumbled cake bits to every cup of mix, but with this one, no adjustment necessary for the water.  The cake comes moist and literally extends the batter without adding more dry ingredients that would stretch the liquid portion of the recipe. At least that’s how it worked for me.

There are so many ways to make breakfast for one a special treat to celebrate you.  We often get caught up making special meals for others that we forget we deserve the special treatment, too.  On weekends when all is quiet and I only have me to worry about, I give it the extra effort to create a special treat and take care of me.

My weekend 

Midday Shadows in NYC. Awestruck and speechless.. thinking about the things and people I miss, but missing them all in a good way-- with happy thoughts and memories and promises of more. #nyc #mynewyork #mynyc #manhattan #midtown #midtownmanhattan #newyI started writing this post Friday but had early on decided it wouldn’t be a “Friday Five” post.  Yes, that’s me, pretending to go against the norm.

The previous week had seen me working hard and I was mentally and physically exhausted as my weekend began.  So this weekend was all about more planning and getting ready for yet another long week ahead.  I was hoping to put up my Christmas tree (– note that the goal was to put it up, not decorate it yet), but that didn’t happen.  I have been trying to decide on my Christmas card (to make or to print?) but I have the idea but have a lot of refining to do on that end.  I had hoped to find and finish some jewelry pieces (for me, and to give as gifts) but I had gotten so wrapped up watching “Westworld” and catching up on “This is Us” that you guessed it, I didn’t quite get to even beginning.

I had been lugging my book in my tote all week but only to move less than a dozen pages, and I said to myself, there will surely be time to read this weekend — and again, I was wrong.  Sometimes we start the weekend with all these grand plans and find ourselves nowhere near getting to any of those things we thought we would be able to do.  I used to feel so disappointed, but I have learned that lists, at most, are for guidance.  Weekends are supposed to be a time to chill, and chill, I did.

We’re counting days to 2017 and I’m kind of sad to see 2016 go with so many things still up in the air… I have to move in one direction or other, not out of necessity or desire to, but because the world is just moving faster than me.  And it’s not about pushing or being pushed– life just doesn’t stop for anyone.  So while I don’t always move in the way and towards that which I want, I try to keep moving and to keep going.

So I went down to the city to do some errands and get my week started early this gorgeous Sunday.  For once, the bus was not rerouted, and we actually made it in on time.  And for the first time in many weeks, I got my fromage (cheese) dinner rolls from Madison Kayser.  Happiness that was under $2!!  I would have wanted to sit down and have my French Onion Soup, but I didn’t have the time.  I really didn’t have much time for everything I had wanted to do which would’ve required a day and a half but I got to do enough to make it feel like real “me time”.

I guess that’s the reason why I don’t feel like the entire weekend flew by with nothing accomplished.  I was able to spend time to do some things that were solely all about me.  That makes for a weekend well spent — and a productive one, at that– for me.  Hope yours was, too.