In which I am walking on sunshine.

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St. Anne Line

I have a new favorite thing to do when I get into work in the morning.  I head over to Songza, and figure out what I want to listen to.

Songza1I decide that what I really need on this Friday morning when I haven’t had my coffee yet, is Waking Up Happy.  So I select that, and it takes me to this:

Songza2I’m not so much in a Pop or 90s mood, and without coffee I’m not sure I’m up for a Surprise.  So I choose Timeless Pick-Me-Ups.

Songza3Which takes me to this awesome set of choices.  So I pick Walking On Sunshine, and I jam out to tunes at my desk all morning while I process address and tax changes, and refax employment verifications, and make badges for contractors who are fixing the automatic doors in the hospital.  This is some of what I’ve heard so far:

I think my favorite part was when I started singing “Baby, you can call me Al” while I was talking about our reference check process with one of my coworkers.  Thankfully she took it for the compliment it was.

It’s a good morning.  Also, I got coffee!

Today I am praying for Hauwa Musa.

In which there is salad and heartbreaking Handel.

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St. Damian

It’s starting to be the time of year when salads sound good again.  After Christmas, all the magazines push leafy greens like they’re the magic elixir of life, pandering to all of those weight loss resolutions everyone is supposed to have made.  But salad doesn’t sound good in January.  Stew sounds good.  Soup, risotto, anything thick and warm that requires a spoon to eat sounds good.  And while the cold winds howl around the houses bereft of Christmas decorations, that’s pretty  much how it stays.  Grilled cheese, braised meats, any kind of chili variation- that’s what I want to eat.

But right about Valentine’s Day, things start to change.  I don’t know if it’s the gradually lengthening days, or the knowledge that spring is creeping closer and closer, but I start thinking about how nice it is to crunch into a lovely fork full of salad greens, or tomato slices gleaming on a plate, or the particular moist crackle when you break apart a ripe pepper.  Then sometimes the winter weather falters a little, letting a little breath of spring-ish warmth through (you know, one of those days when you don’t have to button your coat), and I start thinking about new spring greens, and pea shoots, and wondering whether or not it really is too early to start radishes.  And it is too early.  I know it is.  Even if next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.  Really you should wait until St. Patrick’s Day at least.  But still.

Among other signs that the seasons are changing, our choir director distributed two songs at last night’s practice for us to start rehearsing for the Easter Vigil.  We started working on the music for Lent as soon as Christmas was over.  Choir has continued to be a joy for me.  I started cantoring last month, and now my director has started asking me to work on special pieces. I can’t remember the last time I sang solo in front of an audience before this.  Maybe when I was part of the choir at Corpus Christi probably some 15 years ago?  I had forgotten how terrifying it is to get up all by yourself in front of a bunch of people and sing.  It’s funny – I can speak in front of any number of people, no problem.  I’ve gotten up and told bad jokes to entire bleachers full of high school students, and didn’t break a sweat.  But singing?  That’s a whole different story.  My hope is that the more I do it, the more I’ll get used to it, and maybe by this time next year I won’t even bat an eyelash.

The biggest piece I’m learning is He Was Despised from Handel’s Messiah, which I will sing as the prologue music before Sunday Mass on March 8th.  It’s been lovely to work on it, though my version of working on it is mostly singing along to the recording (my favorite is Elizabeth Shammash singing with Apollo’s Fire) over and over again as I drive back and forth to work.  The entire song is musical variations on the words: “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief.”  It is such a song of grief, and if I could sing it the way it is in my head, it would go from incredulity at the fact that this loved one could possibly be despised, to righteous anger that this should be so, to utter heartbreak, the kind that comes when someone is yelling because they do not want to cry, and then dissolves into weeping.  I’m not that good.  But I’m going to see what I can do.  We’ll see how it goes.

And in the meantime, I think I’m going to make some salad for dinner.

Today I am praying for Margret Watsai

In which I am The Queen.

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St. Angela Merici

A little something fun for your Tuesday afternoon – Tatler has a lovely quiz up: What Member of the British Royal Family Are You?  I highly recommend it.  Also, apparently I am The Queen.

Of course.

Today I am praying for Mary Amor.

In which Chocolate Banana Muffins are a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

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St. Hilary of Poitiers

Some days, it’s really hard to get out of bed in the morning.  First there’s the waking up, which is its own ordeal, and then after all that, you still have to pull yourself out of the warm and snugly nest of soft pillows and cozy blankets into the cold, cold world that waits to pounce on you the instant your feet hit the floor, like a two year old who’s been waiting all day for his older brother to get  home from kindergarten.  I don’t care how many hours of sleep you got the night before, this is still a challenge of epic proportions.

This time of year, the challenge gets harder.  It’s not just the winter that finally arrived with its snow and ice storms and sub-zero temperatures, or the after-Christmas slump.  For me, it’s also remembering the brother who left us on a cold January morning six years ago yesterday.  I miss him.  I always will.  The other day I saw something on Pinterest that I wanted to share with him – it was something from Tumblr about fruit snacks and Monsters, Inc. Jacob loved Monsters, Inc., and I know it would have made him at least chuckle. It was such a little thing, but it made me suddenly miss him so much my chest hurt.

Anyway, at times like these, it helps to have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  Big reasons, like The Love Of God or The Laughter of Children are important, of course, but they’re a little too big at 5:30 in the morning when your pillow is trying to hold on to your head.  Little reasons work better, like there happen to be chocolate muffins downstairs in the kitchen, and if you can get yourself down there, you can have some.  It’s just enough to help you break the inertia.  Once you get down there, with a little muffin in your belly and perhaps a hot mug of tea in your hand, your brain can start working enough to remember the other reasons why you want to be awake this morning.

These muffins are a particularly nice reason to get out of bed in the morning.  They are a dark chocolate lover’s dream, with both cocoa powder and chopped up bits of baking chocolate.  Since I don’t eat sugar, when I make them the only sweetness comes from the bananas.  To my mouth, it’s plenty, but others may want to add in the optional brown sugar, or use regular chocolate chips instead of the unsweetened bakers chocolate.  The oat flour adds fiber and an illusion of healthiness.  If you don’t care for it (or don’t have it on hand) feel free to substitute whole wheat or regular white flour.  My favorite add-in is walnuts, though any other kind of nuts or coconut are also good.  The recipe is endlessly adaptable, and always good.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Banana Muffins To Get Out Of Bed For

makes 1 dozen

  • 4 lg bananas (400-500g)
  • 1/3 c. oil
  • 1/3 c. yogurt
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. oat flour (can also use wheat flour)
  • 1/2 c. white or whole wheat flour
  • (optional – 2 T. sugar)
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 2 T. cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped or equivalent amount of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. walnuts
  1. Preheat your oven to 375° F.
  2. Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl until they are smooth.  I use my stand Kitchen Aide, but a potato masher also works.  Mix in the oil, yogurt, vanilla and egg.  Mix in the sugar (if using).
  3. In a seperate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, salt.
  4. Combine the wet & dry ingredients, and mix just until combined.  Mix in the chocolate and nuts.
  5. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.  The batter is sticky, so I like to spray the inside of the paper liners with spray grease in order to avoid having half my muffin coming away when I try to peel the liners off.  Use your 1/3 c. measure to spoon the batter into the liners.  You should have just enough for 12 muffins.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean.
  7. Let cool, eat, enjoy.  These are especially good the next day (or the one after that) split in half, toasted, and topped with cold cream cheese.

Today I am praying for Na’omi Luka.

In which there is Dinner Tonight.

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St. Hadrian

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen.  You see, back in November(ish) I acquired a new roommate.  Some of you may recall Pippi, my friend in the Air Force who moved away to Albuquerque a few years back.  To make a long story short, she’s now out of the Air Force, and has moved back to Dayton to be closer to her boyfriend, her school (she’s in the process of getting her MS in Chemistry at Wright State), and her friends.  Johnnycakes and I had a room open, and I was going to need another roommate anyway after he gets married & moves out this Spring, so we decided that she and her bird would move in with me.

When we were discussing the nitty gritty details of our housekeeping arrangements, we came to the topic of food.  We made an agreement that if I would cook, she would do the dishes, and we would split the cost of groceries.  The beautiful thing is that I think both of us is secretly convinced that we are getting the better part of the bargain.  One of the things I quickly realized was that, while I’ve always cooked the majority of my own food, the stuff you cook for yourself (throw veg & pasta in a pot to cook together, drain, add protein & some sort of sauce, have dinner) just doesn’t quite work when you’re cooking for someone else.  Now eating at the end of the day isn’t just putting enough nutrients in your mouth so that your stomach doesn’t bother you (remember that night when dinner was half a bagel left over from Sunday, some almonds, and that stray piece of cheese from the fridge?).  Now it has to be Dinner.  An actual Meal.  It’s a whole different thing.

So the last month or two I’ve been suddenly planning dinner, and figuring out what foods Pippi likes, and where those intersect with the food I like, and getting a handle on what is quick and easy to cook when I’m coming home tired from work.  I’ve discovered some awesome recipes in the process, several of them from my new favorite food website, Food52.  I think the biggest hit so far has been Roasted Sausage, Tomatoes, & Peppers, which I usually serve with a big pot of polenta.  And then there’s Lamb Pasta with Yogurt Sauce, something I created by kinda mashing Diane Kochilas’ Pasta with Yogurt & Caramelized Onions up with Creamy Mushroom Pasta, and adding ground lamb.  Bean Soup with Chorizo is going on the repeat list too, especially when I serve it with Buttermilk Bacon Grease Cornbread.  And there’s lots more things I want to try.

The cooking has become even more important lately.  For the New Year, I made a bet with two coworkers – whoever can go the longest without buying anything in the cafeteria will be treated to dinner at Tacos Locos by the other two who caved.  I’m bound and determined not to lose this bet.  My sleepy brain isn’t really up to making many decisions before I have my coffee, so that means having lunches packed & ready to go in the fridge.  So far it’s been really easy to grab a container of leftovers from the night before.  My lunches have never been so tasty!

Today I am praying for Glory Yaga.

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