Banana Bread

 

A few days ago, I bought a large bag of very ripe bananas at the insanely reduced price of $1 at my local store. There were TEN ripe, medium sized bananas in the bag! Wow, I thought, it looks like I’ll be making some banana bread!

When I peeled the bananas this morning, all but two were perfect inside – no bruises. Amazing that they’d want to get ride of a perfect product just because it ‘looks’ bad on the outside. I guess this is my commentary of how the world is in general: just because someone or something appears less than perfect on the outside doesn’t mean that they are imperfect on the inside. And so what if someone or something isn’t perfect anyway! My sweet Mother used to always say “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” – a mantra I’ve always embraced.

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Mashing Ripe Bananas

Back to banana bread.

So first thing this morning, after my breakfast, I got busy making banana bread. I got out my loaf pans and prepared them by oiling all the inside and lightly dusting the bottom with flour.

I assembled all my bowls, measuring cups (one for dry ingredients and one for wet), measuring spoons, and ingredients. Then I began mashing the bananas one at a time on a plate with a fork – it’s really quite easy. I added each banana to the measuring cup after mashing it but I know from past experience that I’ll need 5-6 bananas for this recipe. This recipe is for 2 loaves – which freeze nicely if you want to save one for later. With the rest of the leftover bananas, I mashed up another 2 cups of banana to store in the freezer for later use. You can also simply put a very overripe whole banana in the freezer to use later.

Once baked, this banana bread should cool on a wire rack in their pans for about a half an hour. Then it’s ready for taste-testing. A slice of warm banana bread, with butter spread generously on top, and a cup of tea is to die for.

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Banana Bread Recipe (2 loaves)

2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 5-6 bananas)
2/3 cup oil or melted butter (please don’t use margarine)
1 cup honey or brown sugar
4 eggs (I use local free-run eggs where the chickens aren’t caged)
3 1/2 cups of flour, preferably whole wheat
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup hot water

Beat the oil and honey/sugar together. I like to use as few dishes as possible so I crack the eggs, one at a time, in the measuring cup I just used for the oil. I beat each egg, then add it to the mixture before going on to the next egg. Mix well after all the eggs have been added. Add the mashed bananas. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) together. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the hot water, to the banana mixture and mix until smooth. Pour equally into 2 greased loaf pans.
Bake at 325F degrees for 55 – 60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for half an hour. Slice and enjoy!

 

from my family cookbook Mom’s Recipes

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Made In China

I went looking for a new toothbrush the other day. As with everything else I buy, I always read the label to see where it’s made. A simple toothbrush is no exception.

I prefer not to purchase anything made in China. Sadly, a lot of items are made in China these days – things from food to cosmetics to …… well, toothbrushes. How hard can it be to find a toothbrush made even in North America? Apparently, impossible, I found out. After spending my valuable time in three different stores reading the labels of every single toothbrush sold, I finally found one that was not made in China. It wasn’t made in North America either, but in Switzerland. I just shook my head at the thought of little children brushing their teeth with plastic toothbrushes made in China where the standards of food grade plastic are questionable and quite frankly, not up to Canadian expectations.

How are toothbrushes made in China actually made, I wonder? Mass production factories by people paid a fraction of a percent of what the toothbrush is sold for? ‘Slave labour’ by inmates? It’s an ethical thing for me I think.

I’m not ‘holier than thou’ because I do have products in my home that are made in China. Most of these products I bought second hand but some I purchased brand new. It’s not that I didn’t search for items made on this continent. They are just not manufactured here any longer. Factories closed years ago and production sent overseas.

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Car packed with electronics to be recycled

 

I remember when one of my sons loved to take one of those individual fruit cups to school in his lunch. His favourite was the Delmonte mixed fruit with extra cherries which was made in U.S.A..  I was shopping once and I happened to notice that they changed the packaging to a glossy cardboard so I studied it suspiciously. Yup, low and behold, it said “Made in China”! I refuse to buy food from China.

Other items can be made in China using raw materials from North America – then shipped back to us. Other times, products are made in China with materials produced or grown in China – body products, jewelry, food, and make-up come to mind. There have been ‘recalls’ or bans from our government on kid’s jewelry from China which contained unacceptable amounts of lead. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How many more products are there that haven’t been tested or meet our country’s standards.

You CAN find products made in Canada or even the northern hemisphere but you HAVE to read labels. Reading labels has been a practice of mine for decades since I began reading food labels. I wouldn’t buy any food products with sugar as one of the first three ingredients. I looked for whole grain ingredients and less sugar – back in the day, ingredients were barely listed on products and with little detail. Hence, why I moved away from packaged products to homemade.

I’m not prejudice against Chinese people, honest.

All I can say, is that it’s a continual job to read labels every time I buy something even if it’s a product that I’ve bought for years. Well, at least I have a new toothbrush.

 

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New Deck

When we moved into this house in 1981, there was a small deck out back overlooking the river. In 1990, we enlarged it considerably (17 feet by 32 feet) to accommodate our growing family and friends. About 10 years later, we replaced the top deck boards with spruce 2×6’s as they were beginning to rot but kept the framing. That was over 15 years ago and the deck boards were now in bad shape > so bad in spots, that my daughter Nellie thought I might fall through and break a leg any time! So she texted her brother Darin and told him that they had to do something! Then she told me that Darin and her were going to build me a new deck.

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old deck

 

Okay, I thought, yes they are right – that deck is in bad shape when I have to tiptoe on the nails to avoid stepping on the rotten spots! Yup, I had to admit it: I needed a new deck. We began with a deck planning session where we finalized the design and some of the materials. I wanted an area right outside the mudroom door, big enough to open up the screen door and be able to pass through before going straight down any stairs. We also needed a big deck area for sitting out or eating but not as big as the current deck which could accommodate our neighbourhood. And I also needed to access my clothesline and have stairs on the other side as well. This time, I wanted to use the new, eco-responsible treated lumber so it would outlast me.  Then Darin and I went to Home Depot to pick up some of the deck blocks and materials for the framing to get things started. Over the months of construction, I purchased material from both of our small town lumber companies to support the local economy.

We began one beautiful sunny weekend with ‘Deck Demolition Day’: Nellie, Darin, my 12 year old granddaughter Kalia, and I worked ALL day! Darin cut the 16 foot deck boards into three pieces with while Nellie and Kalia diligently removed all the old nails. We had the old deck down and the old deck boards stacked neatly beside the firepit at the river by suppertime.

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During demolition, we discovered that some of the ledger board (the 2″x10″ board attached to the house which the deck is attached to) under the mudroom door was rotten. So we spent another entire day repairing this and the adjoining mudroom walls. There is still more work to do in that area but we had to focus on the deck knowing that it’s a project for next year.

During the week, I spent every day moving the composted leaves that had been under the old deck down to my garden – 19 wheelbarrow loads!

 

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The next weekend my son Melvin and and his girlfriend Cassidy joined Darin, 11 year old granddaughter Livi, Nellie, and I to begin the process of rebuilding. We had to measure everything out and place the cement deck blocks in place. We decided to go with free-standing deck blocks instead of digging down 4 feet through large tree roots. Each three foot deck post and all the framing had to be precisely measured and leveled. The kids worked well together like a well-oiled machine on the new deck while Livi and I did things around the yard like pick raspberries for lunch (I think we actually ate more on the spot); made lunch; made another little bridge for the back of the pond because the other one had rotted (we used two of the old deck boards that were in good shape); set up the badminton net; and played badminton for hours. And the girls played with the new kittens.

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Livi multitasking

 

Darin set up the table saw out front of the garage for cutting all the wood that was sitting in the driveway. Cassidy even got a lesson and an opportunity to use the table saw. Livi also took time out to be the painter who coated the end cuts of the deck wood with special paint to protect them. Darin, Melvin, and Nellie attached all the deck hangers and supporting cross pieces which took a LOT of time. But finally, the framing was all done and we were ready to begin applying the deck boards next time.

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The next weekend we stated the decking. Each piece had to measured twice and cut once (as my FIL used to say). Livi applied the paint to the end cuts then I carried each deck board through the garage to the backyard. Finally, I was able to do something besides play badminton, eat raspberries, and make lunch!! Darin and Nellie steadily screwed down all the deck boards – boy, there were a bunch of them! We worked all day over two Saturdays and got almost all of them in place so we were actually able to stand on the new deck! And I was able to hang out my laundry for the first time all summer! And the best part was that I didn’t almost fall off the deck while putting clothes on the line because of the rotten board and the fact that the I had to lean out to reach the line before.

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always time for playing around

 

All that was left were the two staircases. Darin has a special tool to measure out the angle which we penciled on to the board. Then he cut out the risers with Nellie and I holding the board. Three per staircase, so 6 risers. And two deck boards per stair. Finally, the whole deck was done! I have to thank my DIL Amanda who brought down supper a few weekends. Darin and Nellie rocked! They worked long days each weekend to “get ‘er done”. My granddaughters worked hard too, and best separately and away from each other ;). Melvin’s strength was a bonus as he carried all those heavy deck blocks from the front of the house to the backyard.

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One of the first things I did, was sit outside on the deck with a cup of tea looking at the water, birds, and my back yard. I love that I can walk right around the deck now because it’s two feet shorter – I don’t have to go all around the chimnea fireplace to get to the other side of the house.  Nellie helped me move my big planters of spider plants outside to the edge of the deck and I took out the small outdoor table and a couple of chairs.

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Initially, I had planned to put lattice screens up along the base of the deck to hide the framing underneath but I changed my mind because it really looks nice, considering there’s a lot of money in that frame. So I’ve decided to transplant some garden plants underneath and along the edge. The other day, I planted some perennial geraniums and I have some real nice hydrangeas, hostas, and day lillies to add next spring. I also have some extra walkway ‘stones’ that my husband made years ago to put at the bottom of the stairs.

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That deck is so solid, if we ever had an earthquake, the house might fall down but the deck will be left standing!

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