Morning-Changing Granola

Let me tell you how much I love cereal. It’s my breakfast of choice. This past September, we traveled to Bar Harbor, Maine, where we stayed in a “just the necessities” kind of motel. Our philosophy is why pay a lot for a room you’re just going to sleep in? The cheap and dated, but tidy motel didn’t have in-room mini fridges. This meant, we had to wing breakfast (a lot of times, we’ll buy cereal and milk at our destination if continental breakfast isn’t offered). So, after three mornings of trail mix, granola bars and apples for breakfast, I was dying for a bowl of the good stuff. In fact, I told my husband that I would much rather have a bowl of cereal each morning than drive a cool car (like the Fiat we were rented) for the rest of my life.

My go-to cereal? Store-brand bran flakes with a handful of walnuts and a couple spoonfuls of raisins. It’s taken me 30 years to realize the only way to get the right ratio of cereal inclusions is to do it yourself.

Just recently, I stumbled upon this recipe for Banana Walnut Granola. Having a couple of bananas heading south on my countertop, I gave it a go. It’s good. It’s really good. I will tell you I omitted the cashews (totally unnecessary, but I’m sure a nice bonus) and I baked it all on 2 cookie sheets.

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Delicious on its own, this granola has revolutionized my breakfast.

Behold the tastiest bowl of cereal!

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Pour a base layer of store-brand bran flakes. Then add granola. Top with a couple spoonfuls of raisins. Finally, soak it with 2% milk or plain almond milk. Pure morning heaven.

Cookie Showdown

One of my personal beliefs: if you have to work 40 hours a week to make a living, then you should have a homebaked treat in your lunch. My favorite? Cookies. Two. Carefully packed in a non-Ziploc-bag container.

This past week, I noticed something that I’ve been doing ever since I’ve worked 40-hour weeks. When it’s time to eat my cookies, I inspect both and save the one which I suspect to be better to eat last. Because, no one wants to eat a really, really good cookie only to be let down by the second cookie. (This works for other things: sandwich halves, pairs of tangerines, apple wedges, etc..)

What makes a good cookie the best of 2? Inclusions–lots of nuts and chocolate chips. And a soft center bordered by caramelized crispy edges. Sometimes I choose right. Sometimes I don’t.

So, I took pictures of 4 days’ worth of cookies so you could give it a try. Sorry, I don’t have any actual cookies to share with you, just pictures. (Maybe one day I’ll organize a real-life cookie showdown so we can all enjoy homebaked treats together.)

 

Cookies_02
Top or bottom?

 

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Top or bottom?

 

Cookies_03
Top or bottom?

 

Cookies_01
Top or bottom?

 

Here’s the cookies I chose to eat last: Top, Top, Bottom, Top. If you had paired some of those top cookies together, I think it would have been a tie, though.

Next week: how I separate my M&M’s by color and the order in which I eat them.

Thirty Before 30 Update: Number 13

30 Before 30 List
The Final Thirty Before 30 List

13. Bake all of my bread: I am happy to say that I haven’t bought a loaf of bread since December 25, 2011, when my husband gave me a bread machine. Truly, making homemade bread is a cinch with a machine. It takes no more than 15 minutes to collect and dump the ingredients into the loaf pan. Then, you plug in the machine, set it and wait about 3 hours. (Sometimes I scrape down the sides after 30 minutes, but this makes very little difference in the quality of the loaf.)

I’ve been asked if it’s cheaper to make my bread than it is to buy it. The answer is no. You can always buy a loaf that costs $1 at your local grocery store. But, I subsisted on that dollar bread when I was in school. And, you know what? That bread is pretty lame compared to the loaves that come out of my machine. I’d much rather spend a little more money on the ingredients.

This is one goal I highly recommend to everyone. Even twenty-somethings nowhere near 30. Invest in a bread machine! With the leftover slices each week you can make this:

Homemade Croutons
Homemade Croutons

Croutons! Cut slices into squares, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with seasonings of your choice. Bake at 350F until they become golden, crisp and oh-so-good and then enjoy!

Thirty Before 30 Update: Number 29 Done!

30 Before 30 List
The Final Thirty Before 30 List

29. Unplug for a week: Mark it off the list, folks. Done and done. It was hard. Ends up I troll Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. when I am bored. And, I wonder why I don’t read or craft more. Sheesh!

I cheated. (Some will read that statement and say, “duh.” I’ll tell you some other time how to cheat at the game of Battleship.) I used my email more than I thought, mostly passing a quick message or two with one of my sisters. I did have to get onto Facebook for work reasons and while I was able to not scroll down on my feed, I did read my messages. (I was concerned they’d have urgent news.) Yesterday, I got onto Pinterest to update my “2012 Books Read” board.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Social media can get you down if you’re on it too much. My friends and family have amazing, fun lives filled with love and happiness. They (and I) put their best foot forward on social media and show the good, good stuff (and I’d have it no other way). But, sometimes it makes you a little blue if you’re already a little down. It’s important to remember: best foot forward, that bad foot hasn’t figured out social media yet and still likes sending snail mail.

2. I started to slow down and appreciate life. I often found myself thinking, “Ooooh! I should put this on Facebook!” and because I couldn’t, I took a picture of it and enjoyed it for what it was truly worth, no “likes” needed.

3. I figured out how to download ebooks onto my iPhone. Thank you, The Public Library of Cincinnati! I swear, I will always pay my overdue fines and will happily pay taxes and support funding for this fine establishment so I can continue to enjoy “free” reading! You know my bored problem? I think ebooks could be a cure. Each “page” is only a paragraph or two making it easy to steal a moment or two of reading. Also, I pretty much felt like a speed reader since I got to turn the “page” so often. Go me!

Here are some pics from my week that you won’t see on Facebook or Instagram:

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I baked Chocolate Krinkles for the family.

 

These stickers went onto the home-canned goods we gifted and some Christmas cards.
These stickers went onto the home-canned goods we gifted and some Christmas cards.

 

Christmas morning. My in-laws gave me a waffle maker. These are buckwheat blueberry waffles. I made the second batch this morning. (It was a double batch so we can have waffles throughout the week.)
Christmas morning breakfast. My in-laws gave me a waffle maker. These are blueberry buckwheat waffles. I made the second batch this morning. (It was a double batch so we can have waffles throughout the week.)

 

Tiny knitted gnome magnets. Need I say more?
Tiny knitted gnome magnets. Need I say more?

 

C, T and 2 dino krazy straws. We have a thing for initials and dinos in my house.
C, T and 2 dino krazy straws. We have a thing for initials and dinos in my house.

 

And then this happened: homemade cranberry liqueur with club soda. Delicious!
And then this happened: homemade cranberry liqueur with club soda. Delicious!

 

Burt's Bees. Even the boxes are good.
Burt’s Bees. Even the boxes are good.

 

Some years later, it's finally framed. English major for life!
Some years later, it’s finally framed. English major for life!

 

Snow! Snow! Snow! Key to driving safely in the snow: 1. Leave early. 2. Don't freak out. 3. Leave late. 4. Turn your car into Rudolph (optional).
Snow! Snow! Snow! Key to driving safely in the snow: 1. Leave early. 2. Don’t freak out. 3. Leave late. 4. Turn your car into Rudolph (optional).

 

Speaking of Rudolph: my sister made this jawesome diorama of my Rudolph car. The antlers are off of my car now, but I just may call my Vibe "Rudy" year-round.
Speaking of Rudolph: my sister made this jawesome diorama of my Rudolph car. The antlers are off my car now, but I just may call my Vibe “Rudy” year-round.

 

First fire of the season.
First fire of the season.

 

Corey the Cat! finally figured out how good it feels to snooze on a human's lap. (Those are my legs under that plaid fleece blanket.)
Corey the Cat! finally figured out how good it feels to snooze on a human’s lap. (Those are my legs under that plaid fleece blanket.)

 

That’s it, folks. It was a pleasant social media-free week. I’m officially back, but I may only be checking Facebook/Twitter/Instagram–gasp!–once a day. I’ll catch you here or there.

Happy new year!