And I am a bookaholic.
If I am a crazy old lady that ends up on Hoarders it will be for my castle made of books.
There’s actually a book store in LA that I want to visit with my family sometime. Because I am the type of person who goes on vacation to read. Srsly tho. Click that link and put that on your bucket list.
It’s been one week since my last binge read. The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series. My eyes ache, and my soul is a little empty, because I have to wait at least three more months for the new series to come out. AHH. Tolkien had a word for it. Mythopoeia. As much as I am loathe to admit that Stephanie Meyer is right…Cassandra Clare does create a world you want to live in. Well, at least, a world in which I would want to live, where mundanes like me can rest easy, because angels walk among us, fighting our demons for us.
I am also the type of person that will fall in love with an already cancelled show, so I watch until just a few episodes before the end, so that it’s still going in my mind. I suppose I’m that way with books. Sometimes I will read a book so slowly or not finish the last chapter, because in my mind, the story continues. (Ironically, the Never Ending Story is on that list.) It’s been this way for Go Set A Watchman. I know that for certain there will never be another Harper Lee novel, and I am treating this book like the long lost treasure it is.
To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite book. It is a piece of literature that has touched the depths of my soul. I will say this. That if ever in the pages of a book, a white knight resided, Atticus Finch would be mine.
And if I gave a voice to Scout. It would be that of Reese Witherspoon. I have got to buy the audiobook! Because even when I’m not reading a book…I’m still reading a book. Or rather, having one read to me.
Alas, it’s the middle of the night, and I am writing and not reading, PROGRESS! Even if it’s just writing about reading…
Love and Mockingbirds,
Oh, Christmas. I love you, and you exhaust me. Whatever made me think getting married three days before Christmas was a great idea…I don’t know. Maybe it was Magic Mommy Juice.
There are some people that bah-humbug the holiday, and that’s fine. Just don’t rain on my Adoration Day Parade. They had a Light Up ceremony that was akin to the Charlie Brown Christmas tree in terms of celebration on this side of the pond. I miss driving through the lights with the kids. Sometimes three times in a row. Nothing beats Silver Dollar City at Christmastime. Is it any wonder that I love Christmas? I did personalized Christmas ornaments as my profession for three seasons and worked at a year round Christmas shop. It’s really no wonder that my Instagram is filled with holiday decorations. Tis the season.
It also means sending twenty Christmas cards, half a dozen packages, and ten shoe boxes. The shoe boxes sounds like a lot, but I wish I could have done ten times that number. I wish I could volunteer at soup kitchens and read to kids in the hospital. I am only one person, though.
I grew up in a small Baptist church environment. Some years when I thought I wouldn’t have much of a holiday at all, they showed me the true meaning of Christmas.
Now I try to give back as much as I can, and it often leaves me drained. It’s why I can’t shop the month of December. I reserve that time for baking. Nearly 20 loaves of banana bread for the school faculty and friends/neighbors…banana bread again? Yes, I am actually being lazy. I don’t want to bake 20 dozen cookies. I also have to make four dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale this year. I don’t even wanna think of Christmas Eve dinner or my son’s birthday twelve days after Christmas. A Grinch could not do it. Would not do it. That’s okay.
Because I was a crazy woman that got married seven years ago, three days before Christmas. That is a day that I try to silence the holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid…Kwanza, whatever that may be (if you know without Wikipedia, feel free to try and find the comment button–I think this stupid layout put it at the top of the post)…that’s the day I focus on my husband. Sure, he gets other days. Valentine’s, His Birthday, and Father’s Day…but I married a Grinch. His favorite Christmas movie is Die Hard. He is all bah humbug until he opens his gifts on Christmas morning. Kinda like my dad.
He needs that couple of days before Christmas to keep his head from exploding.
I think we both do.
But especially him. I mean, he married me.
This year I am planning our anniversary festivities. I can barely keep the awesome secrets inside. It’s going to be epic. I’ll have to blog about it in a couple of weeks, or I will surely explode! Let’s just say. I might be the annoying type of person, but sometimes there is a fine line between annoying and awesome.
Love and Maple Syrup,
Okay, to some people, it might not be the “best ever” per say…but it’s my favorite recipe. People seem to really like it. If you actually read my blog, which is unlikely, but if you do, then you know that I just said that after baking I never feel like blogging. That’s true usually, but this is while it’s still quiet in the house. The kids aren’t awake yet, the neighbors haven’t pulled out their power tools, and I’m enjoying the silence and a cup of coffee. This is before the four yapping dogs, drills, saws, and my bickering children have had a chance to crush my spirit for the day. Besides, the website where I originally found this recipe is down. I had to have my husband search the dark spaces of the internet for a cached copy, so that I could write it down (and tweak it a little).
For people who already know how to bake and don’t appreciate my witty monologue, trust me, I understand. In a couple of hours, I’m going to have two kids in the house who don’t care how it magically appeared. They will just want to consume my offerings and go numb their minds with some form of technology. Such is the life of tweens. (Editor’s note: I am not a bad parent, or at least the worst. Most of my kids’ games have been educational and non-violent. They also love reading. I’m not suggesting they are going to play DOOM or Grand Theft Auto while facebooking and tweeting.)
So, I’ll cut to the chase. Post the recipe here, and then go through it for clarification for some people who might not understand certain terms or know what substitutions can be made. People, say, perhaps a software engineer who might tell his wife that he can bake, but ever since the Great Cookie Debacle of ’07, she might tend to believe otherwise. (I’m lookin’ at you, Osmani.) He is a web wizard, though. If your ‘ key suddenly stops working, as mine did earlier, he will fix ‘er right up. If you need a caked iced, though, he’s more likely to lick the spoon when you’re finished than help. I know a lot of people who will see how long it takes to make this recipe or the ingredients, and they will feel intimidated and not try or just “wing” it. For those people, I’ll give a few tips at the bottom, but for people who know how to bake, I’ll shut up and get on with it.
Elle’s Awesome GF Banana Bread
(My recipe, so I get to name it.)
1 1/4 c. Gluten Free Flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xantham gum
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
2 1/2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C
Prepare bread pan
Melt and cool coconut oil
Mash bananas with a fork. Mix wet ingredients along with the sugars together with hand mixer until combined.
Measure the remaining dry ingredients in separate bowl. Whisk until cinnamon, salt, xantham gum, and baking powder are incorporated into the flour.
Slowly add the dry mixture into the wet mixture and mix with hand mixer until combined.
Pour into pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy! Should make 1 loaf. <3
Now, for the some people that might look at some of this like:
I mean, why is sugar a dry ingredient, but is almost always mixed with the wet ones? I don’t know. I’ll tell you what my Grams always tells me…because I said so, that’s why.
Some people don’t think pre-heating the oven is important. It takes a few minutes for the oven to heat up. You want your food to cook thoroughly and for it to come out at the correct time. Some people would say: I know that, I’m not an idiot. You would be surprised. I find myself forgetting to turn the oven on first sometimes. Usually before my first pot of coffee…
The difference between greased and prepared is pretty simple. A greased pan is coated with an oil. I prefer to use butter when I am baking (making sure to get into the corners really well.) I just think it works nicely and tastes better than trying to use say…olive oil. A prepared pan is greased, then you tap flour around the inside (cocoa powder if you are making something chocolate, like brownies or a cake) until it’s lightly dusted. Even though the oil I use in this recipe is coconut oil, I still prepared/greased the pan with butter (note: allow the butter to “soften” a little before you use it), and although this recipe only makes one loaf, I greased an extra pan to show the difference.
Now, when it comes to the coconut oil. I usually measure it out into a glass measuring cup, then I can just microwave it at 30 second intervals, adding a little oil if needed, as I go. This is the WARNING: that I write on my recipe cards, so that even I won’t forget it. Make sure the oil is cooled before you add it! Otherwise, it will scramble your eggs. Literally. You don’t want your eggs to start cooking until they are in the oven.
Not So Pro Tip: In the picture the eggs are in my other glass measuring cup (if you look closely you can see I have one for the US and one for the UK). I was taught to crack my eggs in a separate container, so that if you crack an egg with say a “gross little surprise” inside, it won’t go messing up all the ingredients you already have in the bowl. Also, it makes it easier to pick out shells.
I’m sure you could try to an egg substitute if you wanted to make this a vegan gluten-free recipe. We like eggs, milk, and meat in this house, but the head of the household can’t handle his gluten. (I’m lookin’ at you, Osmani.) You could also use melted and cooled butter, sunflower, or canola oil instead of coconut oil. (It goes without saying that the sunflower and canola oils are already melted and cooled, but I’m saying it.) I like coconut oil in this recipe, because I think coconut oil is better for you, and the slight trace of coconut flavor compliments the banana more than it would say, fried chicken.
I find myself having to substitute quite often, but google it first, don’t go guessing all willy-nilly. I left the gluten free flour up to the imagination a little bit. There are a few types of GF flour. I use a blend. I would not compromise or omit the xantham gum if I were you, though. A lot of gluten-free baked goods are dry or crumbly. This is the ingredient that gives it that faux-gluten texture in my opinion.
When it comes to the bananas, make sure they are ripe. Try not to bake with green bananas. Brown ones are great. I like to buy the discounted brown bananas at the grocery store, peel them, and throw them in a bag in the freezer to use for pancakes, muffins, bread, and smoothies.
Here’s another little tip that I learned when I first started baking. Another, oh, yeah, that’s totally obvious tip. Don’t measure your ingredients into the cups/spoons over top of your mixture. Measure out over another bowl or plate, so that if you go overboard, you don’t have to adjust all your ingredients accordingly. For sugar this isn’t as bad as say accidentally spilling a tablespoon of salt into the recipe.
I could just tell you this, but I am adding a photo to show off my heart shaped measuring cups, because they are pretty.
And here comes the heart-shaped whisk (but if you aren’t fab enough for the heart shaped whisk, you can use a fork). Make sure the flour, baking powder, salt, and xantham gum are blended before you add them to the wet mixture, so they are evenly distributed. You don’t want a clump of salt in your food.
Don’t over mix the bananas with the hand mixer. The original recipe said you could combine everything in the blender or food processor, but I like to make things harder on myself. Which is why I mixed everything by hand, because I like to be difficult and forgot to remind myself before my first cup of coffee about the arthritis in my hands and wrists. Ususally, though, I use a hand mixer for this recipe.
Not So Pro Tip: When you put the bread into the oven, put it on a middle rack, so that you don’t over bake the top of the bottom. I have a tiny British oven, so I put it on the middle rack for 45 minutes, then check the bread, usually moving it down to a lower rack for the last 10-15 mins, so that the top/edges don’t burn.
Since the pan was prepared beforehand, it should pop right out of the pan after you pull it from the oven. I put my bread on a wire cooling rack, but it barely had a chance to say hello to the air and let me take a picture before it was gobbled up. This is a family and friend favorite recipe. If you found out before now that I don’t actually eat the banana bread, you might have stopped earlier and said “screw this.” It’s a great recipe. People love it (I have one friend who seems to ask me every Sunday at church when I’m going to bring her some more), but I prefer cookies. *insert winky face*
I hope that I helped people who might need to eat Gluten-Free but think they can’t bake much more than a frozen pizza. It’s not as hard as it looks/sounds. Promise.
Night Day and Good Luck.
Love and Loaves,
I know it’s not Father’s Day, but I’d been thinking about him lately, and even though he’s a pretty busy guy, I called my dad tonight and actually got to talk to him and not his voicemail. This rarely happens, and so he inspired me to write a little something.
A lot of people say I look like my mom. My Grams and I have a lot of similar characteristics. The fact that she is younger than your average grandma means I often get mistaken for her daughter. I’m not really sure what my dad looks like. I grew up without a father, but about twenty years ago I got a Dad. We might not look a like. Actually, it’s horrible that when we go out people often think he’s my husband. Talk about gross. I’m not sure anything is more embarrassing when you’re a teenager.
However, after two decades together, we do act alike. I find myself singing off-key tunes about my surroundings like I’m living in a broadway production, even though I used to roll my eyes at his musical numbers. I have no shame. This I get from him. I will dance in front of my kids’ school or in the middle of a crowded store. (After ten years, my kids are immune to this, but my friends’ kids are quick to act like they don’t know me and beg me to stop.) I will dance in the rain when other people run for cover. I am not too old to jump on trampoline or play hide and seek, and I don’t think I ever will be. My crazy antics and childlike ways are all from my dad.
The practical joker inside of me definitely didn’t come from my mom. We all have that one friend that is constantly jumping out shouting “BOO!” and trying to make us pee our pants. Well, I am that friend. I get it honest, though. Now my dad lives seven time zones away, so I have to settle for torturing my husband…with love.
Like the time we shared a Spotify account (this is probably how I ended up getting my own premium account), and I added this pop song that he absolutely LOATHES randomly to his over 100 playlists, if the playlist was really long, I’d add it twice. He spent over a year removing it, and I’m sure there’s still a couple hanging around. My dad used to throw random things in the grocery cart while my mom wasn’t looking, we’d have cart races, and play “football” in the aisles with a roll of paper towels. In hindsight, this is probably how he ended up never having to go with my mom to the grocery store.
I say the same smart aleck responses that my dad uses. The same annoyingly parental unit come backs.
Oh, Hi, Hungry. I’m Elle. Nice to meet you.
What’s for dinner?
What kind of food?
The kind you eat.
Believe me, I face-palm myself even thinking about it. I stop myself sometimes and go: How did this happen? I grew up groaning over these antics. I suppose eventually we all grow up to become our parents. The things that made your eyes want to roll back into your head while you sighed so hard you almost blew the house down? Yeah…one day you’ll do and say those things. I used to stop short and shake my head, but I’ve come to embrace them. Maybe one day my children will pass on the Starving Brain Sucker to my grandchildren.
Love and Cheese,
It’s me again. Long time, no write.
It’s been…awhile. I had forgotten what you even looked like to be honest.
Well, as you can see, I still look the same.
Two of my oldest and dearest friends have called me out on my writing…or lack thereof. (I like to call it Chronic Writer’s Block, and I’m still working on experimental treatments.) It’s funny how we all have those friends. The ones that have known you so long that even if years pass without saying a word, you can pick up right where you left off without missing a beat. These friends also have the tendency to accurately call you out on your BS.
So, here I am trying to fit a blog post into my crazy life at two o’clock in the morning. Never mind that I have to be up in five hours, still have to get ready for bed, and I have a dentist appointment tomorrow afternoon. Those are just the minor details that I like to call life. I started another blog, and abandoned it. (Big surprise, right?) I have so many things I want to do that often times so much gets overlooked, and the truth is that, sadly, my writing has been pushed to the back burner. Once upon a time, when I felt that I had no voice, I realized that on paper I could let myself finally be heard. I once even won a trip to Washington, D.C., all expenses paid, for a week just because of an essay I wrote at lunch and printed out as the bell was ringing. It used to come so easily. Now, I sit for hours staring at the cursor while it mocks me with its pulsating blink. Write it down on paper, you might say…oh, the paper wad mountain in the recycling bin is just as frustrating. Other times, I can manage to close myself off, get it all down, then I go back to the habit I have had since livejournal and myspace blogs…I highlight and delete, convinced that my voice doesn’t deserve to be heard.
I mean, look at all the blogs out there. Everyone and their mother has a blog. Some people have blogs with their mothers. I am hardly the first person to have an Autistic child, and I am certainly not the first wife and stay-at-home mom. I am not a trailblazer, because I moved from the Ozark Mountains to London. There is no novelty for most people in travel in a world of been there, done that, and I’m still a novice at it anyway. Sure, I bake gluten-free goodies that rock pretty hard. I bake a lot of things that are awesome, but what did I make that I didn’t already get from another blog or one of my many cookbooks? I can craft my little heart out, but when I’m covered in paint, mod podge, or just burned my finger with hot glue, I’m not exactly dying to take pictures every step of the way, and write a how-to manual. To those crafty blogs that I often read, y’all deserve gold stars.
With all the voices out there struggling to be heard, I’m pretty sure mind would get lost in the wind, or at least somewhere along the information highway. I always think to myself, ¨Is this original? Has it been done before? Done to death? Do I sound like an idiot?¨
I think now, it’s probably the sleep deprivation talking, and I promise not to delete this in the morning, but I think that it doesn’t matter if I’m not the first. I don’t have to be a trailblazer, and no matter how quiet my voice is, that maybe there are a few people willing to hear it. My life isn’t a Hollywood movie. It’s not even a made-for-TV or straight-to-DVD movie. It’s just life. It’s messy and complicated. It’s loud and most of the time, utterly exhausting, but it’s mine. I wouldn’t change that for the world. Would I change things about myself? Sure. Loads, probably. Not my life, though. I love where I am and those that I get to spend my days with.
Possibly… it might even be semi interesting enough to write about. I’m sure I can find a few things in the last few years to ramble on about, because currently the best I got is that it’s the kids’ last day of school tomorrow, and I’m having a crown. The one that involves a root canal, not the fun party or royal kind. I feel like I’d rather be chased by a serial killer clown than write about that, and I don’t want to imagine how painful it would be to read. Now, I should probably get to bed.
Tomorrow’s a brand new day.
Procrastination and Love,
I hope that reminds someone of Veggie Tales.
I know I have a Water Buffalo.
Right. So, this blog is dedicated to my seven year old daughter, Heaven Leigh, and I have called her Leigh Leigh for as long as I can remember. Heaven, she insists, is very much like her father. A little devious. “Mad Evil Genius,” he would say.
Her first devious after school act was committed curled up on a chair with a library journal with an evil little giggle. Anytime I came near her, she hid the notebook, and her end result… You know, when I saw it, I thought, it’s like a mini Adnan Osmani came up with that.
When I saw it, she laughed and laughed, but then again, so did I, laughed so hard I could hardly breathe.
Suddenly, she stops laughing and says, “Mama, you have to put this online, so you can get a million hits. You will be famous. Even more than Daddy!” I chuckle at her. Me? Famous. I don’t think so. My husband has two books and more than twenty thousand twitter followers. Me? I bounce between fifty eight and sixty two. She’s an optimist for sure. Over thirty thousand stalkers on his blog and I barely have a few hundred. Enough about who is more awesome than who (it’s me, clearly). I’m actually very proud of my husband, and who do you think pushes him all the time? Well, I wouldn’t say a push, sometimes all someone needs to succeed is a nudge- someone to believe in them when they don’t believe in themselves.
I wouldn’t even be writing a blog right now if Leigh Leigh didn’t ask me to. I’ve got to pack two children to move to London in what feels like virtually no time at all! To say I’ve been frazzled is an understatement. I can barely write my own name, let alone a blog, but I’m taking time out between laundry and other late night clean up activities to introduce to you, my seven year old, Heaven Leigh Osmani, the devious, yet adorable, Mad Evil Genius.
The part that made me laugh was her depiction of her father. Spitting image. For that I’ll get a face-palm, I’m sure.
There you have it, Leigh Leigh’s million hit Silly Blog. I love my kids so freakin’ much! I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
She really did put a lot of effort into it and used me as a spell check for some words (she, however, prides herself on knowing the difference between but and butt), colored her art work, and wrote an endearing little message. She deserves her own blog. Someday when she’s older.
Love and Growing Pains,
L & LL
I know. I’m so punny.
I planned on writing this second part far earlier than this, but it’s a crazy month with at least twelve family birthdays, my husband’s and mine included. Among other things. Like starting the Leap Year off with a tornado.
Now lets take the DeLorean for a spin back to November. A surprisingly calming time, despite the chaos of a trip across the ocean, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday shopping all in one week. (Yes, I am one of those insane people that waited in line for hours for a three dollar waffle maker. Actually, it was a ten dollar Crock Pot.)
Back to Belgium –
We went to the city a couple of times for we left. Where did I really want to go? The Aquarium.
Why? Because my husband is amazing (sometimes- don’t want him to get a bigger head than he already has), and he fulfills those childhood memories that I never got around to making. I’ve also never been to the zoo, but he’s saving the London Zoo for my first time.
He also took me on my first train ride. It wasn’t the Orient Express, but it was still a train ride. I live ten minutes from an actual train station, and I have for about fifteen years. Despite that little detail, I didn’t go on a train until I went to London in 2010. I know, I’m super lame in the face. I do things like hang out backstage to see Sum 41, hang out with Gallagher at the Landing, and I like to hang out with magicians…these are not very impressive details to a general audience. It’s okay. I’m aware of my own lamedom. You have to own who you are.
Okay, so that’s not the best photo from Aquatopia, but it’s my favorite. I could make a whole blog dedicated to the aquarium Let me just say that it’s a great place to visit. You can bring your kids or your dog. Or your ball and chain… You’ll have fun. Get some great photos and make some memories. I definitely say check it out if you’re there.
Such activities did not include being in a protest. After grabbing some amazing deals at some sales, we walk out to see a group of hippies and semi regular looking people marching and chanting in Dutch. I know enough about human nature to know it was definitely a protest. So, we joined in to see where they were going with it. They were playing instruments made of sticks, balloons, and a homemade looking drum. Being that we got to Antwerp during a Dutch holiday weekend, Addy was convinced that it was a parade or some sort of festivity.
I know, I’m usually right. Girls usually are. To the ladies, boys will never learn. To the gentlemen, you’re in a constant state of denial…but it’s okay. I’m accepting of this. It’s like how women are completely insane. I’m aware of this in a million different ways, but I can’t change it. That’s like me trying to be black. There’s no reverse Michael Jackson for that. In a lot of ways, you can’t change yourself, even if you want to. We are who we are. Own it.
Now, back to this trip, before this becomes the most annoyingly long of my posts by far…
One thing I really enjoyed were the creative window displays.
Yes, it’s a dress made from braziers in a lingerie shop window. My husband liked the metallic Marge Simpson in the window of the hair salon, but it’s my blog, not his, and my next picture will redeem me in his eyes.
Belgian street art…
Okay, now I look like a lameface. Why? I know nothing of European comics. I grew up to Family Circus, Garfield, and the Peanuts in the Sunday funnies. I grew up with Inspector Gadget and even Matthew Broderick couldn’t make that worth watching. I do know that he’s beloved in Europe as Blue’s Clues is to North America.-
I don’t care if I saw Steve Burns in real life, I’d make him sing We Just Got A Letter.
At any rate, my husband thought that this cartoon was TinTin and begged me to take a photo of it with my camera. Turns out someone corrected me, which I welcome. My husband will object, saying I need to be right, but honestly, I don’t mind being wrong. It just so happens that in his case, I’m usually right. ;-D
Where was I?
At this point, I wonder if it’s not worth posting just a bunch of random photos or a slideshow. It’s getting late, and I have an early, big day tomorrow.
What Would Hunter S. Thompson Do?
Probably drop some acid, huff some ether, and stay up all night. Also, write something far more entertaining than this that would contain at least one hallucination. Unfortunately, that’s not even in the realm of possibilities for me.
I could’ve posted a couple of pictures of the beautiful architecture, art, music, or any girl’s best friend…the diamond district, but that wouldn’t be me. That would make sense.
I do know that if you’re American, you won’t starve. There’s a pizza place on every corner, Europe is not without Aldi grocery stores, and I even got to eat at a Chili’s. Fajitas and cherry bubbly alcoholic drinks for the win! The people are lovely. The place is lovely. I definitely wouldn’t mind going back, but I really have my heart set on the Canary Islands for my next vacation.
Love and Fajitas,