Monday, January 28, 2013

Easy & Healthy Banana Bread

I made banana bread this weekend to procrastinate take a break from studying for my exams and to use up some nearly-too-ripe bananas I had. 

Since I don't have a go-to recipe for banana bread, I had to look one up. It took some searching, but I finally settled on this one from Smitten Kitchen. While it called for millet (hence the title of "crackly banana bread"), that's not really something I just have on hand all the time so I omitted it (along with the cloves, since those aren't staples in my kitchen either). So the title doesn't really make sense with my version, so I'll just call this "Easy Banana Bread" because that more accurately describes it.  

Seriously, this had to be one of the easiest things I've ever made. It only requires ONE bowl for prep, which is nearly unheard of in the baking realm in which I dabble. It's always mix the wet ingredients separately from the dry ingredients then slowly add the dry to the wet until just combined (my friend Shooty [not her real name] from high school, who regularly used to make pies with crust from scratch just for the heck of it, taught me to do that). But not with this recipe! No, one large bowl will do, which translates into less dishes to have to clean up later = winning

First gather your ingredients and mash up those 'naners. 

Then whisk in the egg, oil, brown sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Sprinkle the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg and stir until just combined. Do the same with the flour after. 

Pour it into your greased/buttered loaf pan, drop it on the countertop a few times to get those air bubbles out (another tip I learned from a friend in college). 

Leave it in the oven for about an hour or so, until the toothpick comes out clean from the middle. Cool on a rack and enjoy :)

Condensed version here:

Easy Banana Bread

3 large ripe to overripe bananas
1 large egg
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease / butter a 9x5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, mash bananas with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon until smooth with a few tiny lumps remaining. Whisk in the egg first then add the oil, brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla extract. Sprinkle the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg over the mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the flour until just combined.

Pour the mixture the greased / buttered pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle (approximately 50-60 minutes). Cool loaf in pan on a rack and enjoy!

Tip: According to Smitten Kitchen, the loaves keep well in the freezer wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for about a month. At room temperature, the loaves keep for about a week, gaining moisture each day. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

One day I will remember these things.

I've noticed a trend in me always writing on / about the weekends… I'm pretty sure the only reason is because that's when I have time to take photos and sit down and write about what's been going on. However, the posts are mostly recaps of how I saw Husband and what we did and how much we studied and so on and so forth. 

The original point of the blog was to write about daily life as a way for Husband to stay updated on the details of weekdays, which is when we have limited communication. 

But that's not really what's been happening. 
And I'm okay with it.
So I hope whoever reads this is, too. 

Because I'm okay with at least documenting what I can. I mean, Husband and I have gone back through his blog looking at old entries and it's really fun and interesting to look back on memories and certain times in our life together. I hope we do the same with this blog once we're living together again and remember to never take our time together for granted.

The weekend:

On Friday there was this craaaaaazy blizzard that I braved during rush hour. What normally takes me about 45 minutes on a good day to get from our apartment to Husband took me about an hour and a half. At one point, I was going 5 mph just to merge onto the expressway because everyone was just crawling. Visibility was shot, the ground was completely covered in snow and slush and forming ice… I would have turned back but I was so determined to see Husband that I just gripped the steering wheel for dear life, prayed for safety a million times over, and went suuuuuuper slowly the whole way, keeping what seemed like a quarter mile between me and the car in front of me at all times. 

When I got to Husband, we changed our plans from going out for dinner to ordering in. We changed into comfy clothes and watched some House (how appropriate for us, right?) while we relaxed together. A low-key night, but as I've always mentioned, I do tend to enjoy more low-key things anyway so I was okay with it. 

Saturday morning we woke up and immediately headed over the med school to do some studying. Once the afternoon came around, I decided to go back home to get some things around the apartment done and crack down on studying since I have two exams coming up this week. It was hard to say goodbye to Husband, but I brushed aside my sadness and trudged home. 

It wasn't until later that night that I started really having a hard time. I don't know why it sometimes still affects me so much (especially because it's not like we're really far from each other), but the distance just really discouraged me. I tearfully called Husband to talk, and after some discussion, he decided to drive over. What a guy. 

Although our time together was short, I was able to rest easy and calm my nerves. Even the small act of just falling asleep and waking up next to the one you love is something so huge when you don't have it every day. 

Side note: I give military spouses so much credit. I have no idea how they can bear the separation. Amy, whose blog I read regularly, has written about it on several occasions, so I've gotten a glimpse into that type of living but I can't really understand because I don't experience it firsthand. I mean, Husband and I are apart five of the seven days of the week on a regular basis, but at least we get those other two days / nights. Also, when we need it, he or I can make the trek to see each other. Military couples don't get that. In fact, military spouses are constantly terrified for their spouses' lives when they're apart. Like I said, I give them so much credit. 

So that was our weekend. 

When I someday go back through these posts, when Husband and I are living under the same roof together once again, I will remember that horrible feeling. 
I will remember how I felt like I would give anything in the world to just be with Husband. 
I will remember saying to him how we will never, ever do this ever again if we can help it. 
I will remember to be grateful for our time together. 

I love and miss you, Husband.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nursing school snow day & a burning home.

I thought I was done with snow days when I graduated from high school.

Then during my freshman year of college, my school shut down for one day for the first time in decades due to a total white-out blizzard (I think the only class I missed that day was one 50-minute Spanish V lecture…not too exciting). 

After I graduated from college, heading toward a career in social work, I was sure I was done with snow days.

Then during the year I decided to go back to college for my bachelor's in nursing, my school shut down once again for one day in January due to a dumping of a couple of feet of snow overnight (and I happily skipped my 2-hour microbiology lab!). 

After that, surely I was done with snow days.
I was very wrong. 

Today I received a most wonderful text at 5:58am from my nursing professor announcing that clinicals were cancelled for the day and to stay safe and warm. 


So what did I do? 
Satisfyingly fell back asleep and didn't wake up again until 8:45am.
Then, because I'm Monica, I got up and cleaned around Husband's place for a couple of hours. 
After that I packed up my school stuff and headed over to Tim Horton's down the street to consume lots of hot coffee and do some studying and homework for a few hours since Husband made me promise him I wouldn't attempt to drive back until the afternoon when the roads have been thoroughly plowed, salted, and warmed by other cars. 

Soooo, I've officially used up all my snow days as an adult by now, right?
We'll see. 


Also, a house across the street from where my sister, brother-in-law, their three kids, and Husband live caught fire and the entire back half burned down today. Husband wrote about it and posted some photos and videos of it happening here on his blog. Very scary. Keep the family who lived in that home in your thoughts and prayers. 

Also, it's incredibly cold here in the midwest (namely the west side of Michigan along the lakeshore) so whoever is experiencing this chill, stay safe and stay warm!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Scones & Views

I may have a new love affair with a bakery in Husband's city: 

I kid you not that is probably the best chocolate and cinnamon chip scone in the whole world. 
I'm drooling just thinking about how good it was yesterday...

Also, I appreciate this view much more than I used to now that I don't get it nearly as often throughout the week:

Aaaaand this is my view for the rest of the day today:

Low-key weekends are the best, in my opinion. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Homemade Laundry Detergent Dispenser's Death.

So, I've been making my own laundry detergent using this recipe for about a year and a half now. While a cheapo plastic drink dispenser has served me well for all this time, it sadly bit the dust today as I went to put a load in the washer. 

See the crack? 
I know it seems small, but it definitely made its presence known. 

I realized there was soap leaking all over my hands and could not for the life of me figure out where it was coming from until I felt the crack. 
And then saw the liquid seeping out. 
And then I realized I had to say goodbye to my trusty plastic detergent dispenser. 
And then I realized I had to (quickly) find something else to put all that soap in.

So what did I do?
I got...creative

That would be (from left to right) an ALDI-brand orange-pineapple-banana juice bottle, an Arnold Palmer jug, and another ALDI-brand cranberry apple juice bottle. 


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Life of a Nursing Student.

I just have to display how much it takes to complete a single nursing assignment.

Yes, it is just me in this "group" study room in the library. 

This is all thanks to a particular assignment called the Nursing Process Worksheet (affectionately known as the NPW). 

The NPW is a complete workup and analysis of a single patient. It includes diagnosis with clinical manifestations, patient presenting signs and symptoms, lab work and diagnostic test results, a care plan, discharge information, and a whole host of other components that require extreme preparation and work to reach completion. 

Hence, the hoard of books and binders (and a packed lunch, since I'll be in here for quite a while...) taking up an entire table intended for use by four separate persons. 

So go out there and give a BSN-prepared nurse a pat on the back. 
Because this is what we endure for four years so we can eventually take care of people!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Probably the best catalog ever.

New semester.
New clinical. 
First full day on the floor today. 

While I won't be divulging any information on this blog as to where I am or with what population I'm working, I will say everything about it is just mediocre at this point. I knew going into it that this clinical wouldn't be my absolute favorite so it's not like it's a disappointment or anything. It's just seven weeks that I'll have to buck up and muscle through! 

When I got home this afternoon, I checked the mail and was welcomed by quite the gem of a scrubs catalog for Husband. He ordered some this earlier year with his school's mascot embroidered on the tops (and pants, too, I think?) as part of a fundraising thing or something of the sort and the company must've sold his mailing address to third parties or they somehow snagged it another way. Hooray. 

I snapped a few of my favorite model poses:

By the way, this is what health care providers really do - just fist bump all the time…while others listen to music and creepily give room to do so… 
Again, we just stand around like this on a regular basis…especially like purple there in the middle striking quite a sassy pose. 
Thank goodness these aren't required anymore.
This is so we can blend in with our natural surroundings…naturally. And as you can see, they're unisex! What a plus!
I just really like the brand - Med Couture. So chic. 

Because who said that health care had to be unfashionable? 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

1st Weekend of the Semester

Well, Husband and I survived the first week of this semester…and I barely made it. 

The fact that Husband was coming to town on Friday as soon as I was out of class that afternoon was pretty much the only thing that kept me going this week. I'm not sure what is going on with me, but I have zero motivation so far this semester. Usually, I'm all fired up for the next four months or so, ready to tackle my classes and get a jump start on all the studying and homework. However, if anything, I've had this dragging feeling, like I'm just barely pulling myself along. I'm hoping this is just an acclimation period to the new school schedule, because if this feeling keeps going, I'm going to find myself in big trouble when deadlines start creeping up (which really is already this week with quizzes and other various assignments due…eek). 

On Friday we got Chinese takeout and spent the evening relaxing on the couch watching the two available episodes of season 3 of my current favorite television series on iTunes. I actually bought the "season pass" so I'll get notifications when the episodes are available AND get access to the last five episodes of the season a full three weeks early than the release date. Nerd? Yes. No shame

We slept in on Saturday and ate a homemade breakfast of waffles and eggs and juice, just like we used to do nearly every morning this past summer. While the majority of the afternoon and evening was spent in the study nook, it was so nice just to have Husband be present, sitting across the table from me, available to talk face-to-face and grab a quick hug or kiss here and there. 

On Sunday, we went to church in the morning. Between our vacation, the holidays, and being out of town, it had actually been quite a while since we'd been able to worship with our church family and it was very refreshing to be at our home church and catch up with people after the service. Once we got home, we ate lunch and I did some chores around the apartment and then we ended up taking a two hour nap. It was both irresponsible and glorious at the same time! Sadly, after we woke up and ate some dinner, Husband had to leave and our weekend together was over. 


Only 106 days until the end of the semester…but who's counting? 

(Belated) Re-cap: Christmas, New Year's, Rest of Break

So I realized I never did a post on Christmas and New Year's and the week of relaxation.


Looks like I won't be getting to a lengthy one thanks to the chaos that is the current semester…so a compact version it is!

We got back from Punta Cana very very late on the 23rd. Randomly, we decided to give each other the Christmas gifts we'd bought. Husband actually bought mine (a fun kate spade cross body purse with a matching wallet I'd received for my birthday) this past summer so he was off the hook shopping-wise way back in July when I'd picked it out during a sample sale online. For him, I had to do some searching, but I ended up picking out this really cool computer stand to save his neck muscles. Since I'm notorious for being bad at picking out gifts for him without any sort of help or hint as to what he'd like, I was pleasantly surprised to find out he truly loved it! In addition to the stand, he also received a renewed Popular Science subscription good for the next two years. After exchanging our gifts, we spent another few hours unpacking, doing laundry, and re-packing for the next three days of holiday celebrations. I think we stayed up until 3 or 4am just getting everything together…and that was after a full day of traveling!

The 24th we headed to Husband's hometown to spend Christmas Eve with his dad. They ate lobster while I happily enjoyed some fettucine alfredo (there's something about those eyes and antennae that make me lose my appetite…that and the shell breaking and tearing into the insides of the crustacean…makes me almost become a vegetarian). We exchanged gifts, had good conversation, and just enjoyed each other's company for the evening. 

Late that night we drove to Husband's mom and stepdad's home. Once there, we did their traditional sibling exchange and opened gifts with Husband's younger brother, Travis. While Husband's older brother and wife had sent gifts from Maryland, we decided to wait to open those until the next day. 

Christmas day we woke up around 9:30am (it's nice not having kids quite yet so we can still sleep in!) and first took a look in our stockings (another tradition of Husband's family). After that, we ate a wonderful breakfast prepared by Husband's mom and then sat by the table to read the Christmas story out of the book of Luke. Once it was time to open presents under the tree, it was nearly 11am (again, it's nice not having kids yet and take things slowly!). I think it took us about two hours or so to get through everything! The rest of the day was spent cleaning up, making use of our new gifts (Husband received a really nice ping pong paddle from his mom and stepdad and then his mom received one as a surprise, too, so they played for HOURS that day on the table in the basement!). 

The morning of the 26th we drove with one of my three sisters and her family in their eight passenger van a couple hours up north to my mom's hometown to celebrate with the extended family on my mom's side at the church in which she grew up. We've been doing this for as long as I can remember, and as the family has grown, we've slowly moved from celebrating in my grandparents' house, to one of my aunt and uncle's house, to finally the church we've been celebrating in for the past few years. It's always so nice going there and seeing my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and their kids that I usually don't get to see any other time of the year. We played BINGO with fun prizes, ate way too much good food, and just relaxed the whole day. 

On the 27th we celebrated at the church of one of my other sisters and her family with my side of the family. It was especially great since my oldest sister and her family, who live in Texas, were able to celebrate with us and that day we finally saw snow! Once again, we ate way too much good food, opened presents, and just enjoyed each other's company. 

For New Year's, we rang it in very relaxedly at the home of some of our good friends from church. We kept it low-key with pizza and a movie and good conversation. We didn't even watch the ball drop since they don't have cable so we nearly missed midnight! Luckily we managed to catch the time change on the clock on the wall so Husband and I started off the the new year with a kiss :) 

The last week of break was spent doing nothing in particular in the comfort of our own home. We slept in a lot, watched some movies and television shows together, I worked on the quilt I've been sewing for Husband since this summer (and no, I still haven't finished it…!!!) and did some cooking and prepared freezer meals for the semester, and Husband relished in his free time with video games and pleasure reading. 

Needless to say, it was quite the bummer to get back to reality and head back to school!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bavaro Princess Resort in Punta Cana = Disappointment

Mmmm vacation…

Earlier last spring, Husband and I began discussing plans to take a vacation either during the summer before he started med school or around the holidays while we would both be on break from school. He and I had been saving basically since we'd been married (approximately three years' worth)  to take a big trip in the future anyway and we'd accumulated a respectable amount by that point. We decided to go through a travel agency in town to get the best suggestions on deals and make our arrangements. This was an easy decision because when we booked our honeymoon on our own, we'd run into major problems thanks to swine flu ravaging Mexico (where all of our cruise's destinations were scheduled) and our itinerary changing from sunny warm weather to the frigid temperatures of Canada without any warning. Husband spent every day after work for two weeks trying to communicate to airlines and Royal Caribbean that (to their surprise somehow?) we did NOT want to go to northern California and British Columbia for our honeymoon despite their offer of $300 onboard credit and that we'd just like our money back since, after all, we bought insurance for everything just in case something crazy like this happened. 

Anyway, we made our plans in June put down our deposit. In the fall, we paid for the rest of the trip and all that we had left to do was wait in anticipation. The generating excitement for our much-needed getaway together truly helped get me through the semester. Each time I was about to break down from stress and the demands of school and life in general while living apart from Husband, I looked at the countdown to our vacation for motivation to keep on going. 

Needless to say, I think I built the trip up in my head as the months of waiting went by. However, I don't think it was completely unrealistic. I dreamt up holding hands on a constant basis with Husband, sipping fruity drinks on the beach, squishing sand between my toes, the warmth of the sun flooding my face, ocean waves crashing in the background everywhere we would go, eating (pre-paid = "free") meals provided for us whenever and wherever we wanted, watching some fun entertainment at night before retiring to our air-conditioned room and sleeping in each day… 

However, in reality, our trip was actually not very glamorous. Husband wrote a very long post here on his blog outlining and detailing everything that went wrong during our stay (which, unfortunately, was a lot). While he reassured me several times during the trip that he would pay all the money I felt we just wasted just to spend time with me, I admit I cried on at least three different occasions, lamenting about what a disappointing and anti-climactic vacation we had both been anticipating for so long. 

Bottom line, though - at least we got to go on a trip at all. I am so grateful to at least have had the finances and the chance to travel with Husband to another country to relax and enjoy what we did during the week. While the overall trip could have gone a lot more smoothly, I will look back on the good memories we did have with fondness (and hopefully / probably laugh about the bad stuff in time). 

Here are a few of my favorite (unedited) photos we took during the week: