Chai Banana Cake

Are you noticing a banana theme?  I obviously had some bananas in the freezer that needed to be used up and rather than the usual banana bread or banana bars, which are delicious, I wanted to experiment and find ways to use other items in the cupboards.

I was looking for a banana something and came across this cake recipe from the spoon, fork, bacon site.  It looked like the recipe I knew I wanted to make, so I decided to go for it.  I was using a chai mix that I had received as a fit, and in hindsight, wish that I had used the chai tea from the store instead.  But, I’ll try this again in the future.  Another reason I loved it?  It gave me a chance to use the great oval dish I bought last spring at an antique store!

Chai Banana Cake

2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 c whole milk (I used fat free half and half that was in the refrigerator)
1 Tbsp chai
3 medium ripe bananas
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c light brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325.  Pour milk and chai into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes, later discarding the chai.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Stir in vanilla and other spices.  Add the milk, bananas, and flour and stir together until combined.
Grease an 8×8 baking dish, oval baking dish, or bread pan and pour in the batter.  Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
At this point, I used some pre-made cream cheese frosting that had come with cinnamon rolls a few weeks ago and spread it across the top.   This was a nice addition to the recipe.

The post about nicknames…

At some point, when I was in grad school, I learned an activity where a person introduces themselves and shares their full name, how they got their name, nicknames, etc.  It’s one that I’ve continued to use throughout my working life when I’m forming a group — most frequently with my orientation staff.  Some folks approach the activity with great fervor.  Their name has a lot of meaning behind it and they embrace it.  Others get up and share, but are rather timid in their approach, showing a little bit of a lack of pride in their name.  It’s never easy to predict who will take which approach, but there are always several who take each approach.  I always feel it gives me some insight into the person’s history and the way in which she or he views herself or himself.

When I share my name, I have a lot of pride with it.  My name comes from my mother and an aunt.  My name has a 9-8-7 in number of letters from first name to last name.  I also share several nicknames that I have had throughout my life, starting with Gwenny Benny Static (2nd grade) and moving all the way to Face (grad school).  Most of my nicknames are a spin off of Gwen, i.e. Gwennifer, Gwenjamin, G-dubs, etc.  However, by and large, throughout my life I’ve been known as Gwen.

I know nicknames are a form of endearment and might reflect something specific about my relationship with folks.  One of my sisters and I refer to each other by our relationship.  It’s not uncommon that when we call each other, our greeting is “Hey Sister,” in the same way our mom and dad are referred to as that.

In the last several years, as I’ve entered my professional life, I’ve noted some interesting aspects of the nickname.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the students with whom I work almost always attach themselves to Face, because it’s pretty amusing, and when I share how that nickname came to be, I like to think it reminds them of their close friends as well.  However, for my colleagues, many of them have attached themselves to Gwenny or Gwennie (depending on how they spell it).  Of the several nicknames I’ve had, it’s intriguing to me that this didn’t come about until my professional life.  A lot of people lose the “y/ie” at the end of their name as they move into professional life and mine has just now come about.

For the first couple of years, I wondered whether this was an age-thing.  A way to reinforce that I was younger.  As someone who has incredibly high amounts of respect for authority and hierarchy, I now question whether these nicknames are sometimes used to subtly remind folks of their place.  I’m not bothered when my doctoral colleagues call me Gwenny.  For several members of the cohort, we have a variety of nicknames, and it seems like it’s a way to support each other and recognize our community.  But,most of the time, nicknames demonstrate a level of affection or a level of appreciation for the relationship between two people.  However, it is also noteworthy to recognize the ways in which and the individuals with whom we are invited to use a nickname.

All of this is to say that language is important.  And names are tied to identity.

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I am a fan of goat cheese.  And all cheese, really.  So when I saw this recipe for goat cheese mashed potatoes and saw that I still had a nice number of baby yellow and baby red potatoes from my CSA this summer, I knew I had to try this out.  I’ll be honest, I liked the potatoes, but since I was doing some testing for things to potentially make for Thanksgiving, I don’t think I’d make these for Thanksgiving.  There’s just too much flavor for what our more traditional Thanksgiving will include.  Nonetheless, they were a great accompaniment to the meatballs I took out of the freezer.Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes


Ina Garten’s Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes

3-4 lbs Yukon Gold and red potatoes
5 large garlic cloves
10 oz goat cheese
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c half and half
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the potatoes, garlic, and salt in a large pot with enough water to cover the potatoes.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20-25 minutes, until tender.

Drain the potatoes and garlic and start to whip them.  While they are still hot, stir in the goat cheese, butter, sour cream, half and half, salt, and pepper, until smooth.

Pour into a baking dish, smoothing the top.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top and bake 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned.

Banana Raspberry Muffins

Remember how I mentioned trying to use up some things that are in my house?  Over the weekend I looked at my pantry and my freezer to decide what I should make to bring to campus on Monday for the students with whom I work.  With our being on a one course at a time curriculum, students have finals every four weeks, and this week happens to be one of those weeks.  When I can, I like to bring in a special treat to help recognize the fourth week with some snacks and treats in the office.

Back to my freezer.  I almost always purchase bananas with the intention of eating one each day and do a fairly good job, but end up getting a couple past the point of eating, so into the freezer they go.  So, I knew I needed to use up some bananas from my freezer.  I was also almost out of sugar, and was happy to get rid of white sugar in my cupboard.  I also had some left over sour cream, and raspberries in my refrigerator.  So, it seemed like an opportunity to put it all together.

I started with this recipe from the What’s Cooking, Love? blog.  I made a few edits to the recipe based on what I had in the house.  I also decided to make it into muffins, instead of a loaf of bread, so a few differences occurred.

Banana Raspberry Muffins

Raspberry Banana Muffins

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c sour cream
2 mashed bananas
3/4 c raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Beat together sugars and butter.  Add vanilla, eggs, and beat in baking soda.  Slowly add the flour.  Mix in sour cream.  Then mix in bananas; then fold in raspberries.
Scoop into muffin cups (I was able to get 18 muffins out of the recipe) and bake for 30 minutes.

I was so happy with how they turned out and even more happy when I was able to take them to work to share with the students!

She’s a feminist…and she quilts, too!

This one is a bit of a ramble.  Apologies in advance.

On a recent weekend, I found myself getting out my sewing machine, finding some unfinished quilt squares, and deciding it was time to once again focus on decluttering.  I feel like I’m doing that in a lot of areas of my life right now: decluttering.  Over the course of the last couple of months, as stress at work has increased in some ways, I find myself wanting to take back control of some aspect of my life.  And for now, that seems to be reducing the “extras.”  So, I saw the piles of fabric and the quilt that I think I love that has been gnawing at the back of my mind, and decided that I’d get back to making some progress in this area.  I find a lot of peace of mind in quilting.  It’s similar to the peace of mind and positivity that comes from cooking.  There’s a process.  Sometimes, there isn’t a right or a wrong, but there are some steps that need to be taken in order to achieve success.

In all actuality, five years ago when I was applying to my doctoral program, I wrote my admissions essay about this.  About the process of quilting.  About how in my last position, I came to appreciate my process orientation and recognize the ways in which process was important to me.  It’s also one of the ways I recognize I can leave a project half finished or rush through the end of it, although I usually get frustrated afterwards.

In the intersection of my academic life and my quilting life, I often think about what a contradiction it is that I love quilting so much.  I’m a feminist, through and through.  It’s a part of who I am.  In a lot of ways, through the definition that feminists are folks who think all folks should have some equality, I’ve always been a feminist.  It’s a little disappointing to see the number of young women celebrities who are asked about being a feminist and who are not willing to own the term, even when they clearly celebrate feminist ideals.  Similar to my discussion a few days ago about privilege, I think the label of feminist can be a political label to assume, which is unfortunate, but is where society stands at the moment.

Perhaps, on the other hand, these women are afraid to assume the label because it sometimes seems as though feminism does not allow for all aspects of one’s identity to play out.  Yet, if that were the case, I doubt I would be such a fan of spending some free time on domestic areas of my life on occasion.  Instead, I’d be insisting on living in the academic or advancing womanhood.  Does feminism allow for several forms of one’s identity to intersect?  Is it an identity or a political stance?

For me, I guess, feminism is an identity, and a political stance.  As Carol Hanisch stated, “The personal is political.”  Does this mean that I agree with every stance that the feminist movement (whatever that is at the point)?  No.  But, where do I agree with anything without also questioning it?

So, I guess, I need feminism to allow me to be domestic.  To allow me to enjoy quilting and cooking and being all of the things that I am.  But, as a quilter and a cook, I also need to believe that there is importance in being a feminist.


Laundry Detergent

Yesterday I was on-call at work; I am one of about ten staff members who take turns each day serving on-call and responding to emergencies on-campus.  For me, this is a great time for me to catch up on things that need to happen around the house.  One of the items that’s been on my to-do list for a long time has been making laundry detergent.  I had all of the supplies and decided that yesterday would be the day I finally did this.

To start this process, I spent a lot of time over on the pinterest, looking for different ways to make laundry detergent and sought the “recipe” that seemed to make the most sense to me.  I finally decided the instructions over on the Saving By Design page.  The folks over there do a great job explaining the cost savings for making my own laundry detergent.  It was actually quite remarkable, so head over and take a look when you have a moment.  Overall, it just made the most sense to me.  The entire process was pretty easy, although I haven’t used the detergent yet (I think I have about five loads worth left in my current detergent status).  I followed the instructions, although it’s essentially buying a bunch of things and then putting them in a five gallon bucket and stirring them together.  The most time-consuming aspect was grating the fels-naptha bars.  I considered grating them in the food processor, but ultimately I decided to do it by hand.

As I put the detergent together, I tried to do it in layers, just to help the mixing process happen easily.  Apparently, I need to use about 1 Tbsp per load of laundry.  I’m pretty excited to start using it.

laundry detergent supplies

Laundry Detergent Recipe

  • 1 bottle Purex crystals
  • 1 box Borax
  • 1 box washing soda
  • 1 container oxi clean
  • 4 boxes baking soda
  • 3 bars fels naptha bars

Mix these items together in an air tight container, like a five gallon bucket (fills about half the bucket).  Use about 1 Tbsp per load of laundry.

laundry detergent finished

Reflecting on Privilege

Entering into the upcoming holiday season, it feels a bit like a time of excess and I am having an extreme negative reaction to it this year.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that our inclusion conversation this month at work was around class and I’ve been reflecting on the ways in which class plays out in the world.  Last week was privilege week on campus as well, which has had me thinking a lot about the many privileges I hold as an educated, straight, white, Catholic woman, who earns a salary, has reached an age where (for the most part) people take me seriously, and who is currently physically-abled.  In fact, on the big eight, I don’t have think about privilege much, because I have it.

Despite, or because of, this, I feel even more compelled to be thoughtful and reflective of my privileges.  I am grateful that the student affairs staff of which I am a part takes time each month to discuss these privileges and integrate aspects of the Social Justice Training Institute into our regular practice.  Yet, despite the few days leading up to these discussions, I know I don’t take enough time to reflect on my privilege.  Far too often, it is easier to think about the ways in which I see myself as one-down, rather than one-up in the world.

So, instead of thinking about the ways that I am one down in the world, although I do not intend to ignore those feelings, I am working to do a better job of paying attention now, or panning, what is going on around me and the feelings I am having connected to this.  Each day that looks different, but today, as I have spent some time walking to work to pick up some things I had left there yesterday, I was especially conscious of my physical abilities and the warmth of my coat as winter approaches.  These can be small considerations; yet, I am highly aware that even the most micro things need to be recognized.  Otherwise, it’s too easy to write them off.

This whole post feels a little superficial, but, we need to start somewhere and being conscious is the first component of noting privilege and making a positive change.  So, moving forward, I’m hoping to write and go further in-depth, but this is one step.