Sunday, August 17, 2014

Unemployment Uniform (or, saving shoes until a puppy destroys them?)

At first, I thought it would be GREAT to not dress up for work every morning. Being “reasonable”, I decided to limit my wearing of yoga pants all day to Tuesdays, which is my yoga class day. For a while, I was annoyed when I had another meeting on a Tuesday, preventing me from wearing sweat pants. But the remaining days I pledged to wear jeans and a decent t-shirt. No more dry cleaning bills for me, except job interview suits and blouses!
How did my thinking about that change? One of my former colleagues had joined Toastmasters International at the insistence of her boss at the time. She was terrified of public speaking but became proficient and much more confident. I decided to attend a Toastmasters meeting with someone from my church who was giving a speech, though I confess at the time, I believed I would benefit more from networking than learning speaking skills. I got dressed up for the meeting, and was amazed to hear some compliments on my outfit, which I hadn’t received in MONTHS. I also said “ah” more than five times that day at the meeting, and realized that I needed to join Toastmasters.
I concluded that my jeans and sweatpants days were not good for my self-esteem. I also learned that I’m excellent at public speaking when it’s a topic I’m comfortable around in front of an audience I feel connected with (but could strengthen my impromptu speaking skills). I wore a nice outfit today when I gave a speech at Toastmasters, and after the meeting, the staff at my hair salon commented on my better-than-usual apparel. One of them said she saved her nice shoes to wear on special occasions, but a puppy recently chewed on 3 pairs!
I’m not going to wear “dry clean” clothes every day, but I’ve decided to look at what I can wear next that I haven’t put on for months. At least now I can see what I have because I cleaned out my bureau and closet shelves since I have time! I’m also going to dig into the china cabinet and use special glasses and plates more often than just on holidays, even if they can’t go into the dishwasher!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Off the beaten path: Massachusetts

When you see these photos, you may think: “No way in heck that’s in Massachusetts!” Hence, off the beaten path in Gloucester, MA (which some people may in and of itself find to be off the beaten path).
The medieval-style castle was entertaining to tour and fun to photograph. The website for Hammond Castle advises guests that the building is not wheelchair accessible. Keep in mind that it’s not truly medieval, but the architectural design does include narrow stairs and multiple levels.
The grounds are peaceful, especially on a foggy day. The interior isn’t as dark as the photo suggests, but seems mysterious because I was enchanted by the windows and didn't mind that they were the focal point of the shot.
Do you have a favorite off the beaten path destination? Where?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Lower Gluten/Lower Sugar Banana Bread

I haven’t made banana bread in years, although I love it, because of the perception I held that my family recipe was unhealthy. Past substitutions of whole wheat flour and a simple reduction in the amount of sugar have not always resulted in a “new and improved” recipe! After recently trying a number of excellent grain-free recipes that used interesting nut flours and honey or maple syrup instead of sugar, I decided to make-over the famous banana bread recipe…but didn’t have the confidence to make it entirely grain free.
Photos of banana bread in the making are singularly uninteresting, so I’m showing unrelated photos of a marvelous recipe  I didn't change at all, except to substitute blackberries and nectarines.
Here is the new banana bread recipe:
Blend ¼ butter, ¼ cup oil or applesauce, 2 eggs, and 3-4 mashed bananas. Add 1 cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup flax meal, ½ cup almond flour or hazelnut flour, ¼ cup coconut flour, ¼ cup white sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup maple sugar, and ¼ cup honey or maple syrup. Add 2 and ½ teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, and a pinch of salt.
I got this idea from Kitchen Concoctions
Bake in a loaf pan at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until browned on top and not jiggly in the middle. I really liked this version, finding it to be almost too sweet for me, even though I reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe! Next time I would leave out the ¼ cup of white sugar.