All of Us!

All of Us!
Finally! All together with enough time to spare (??) to capture a picture of all six of us in the same spot, same time. Now this is a precious photo! I tried to get one last year for our Christmas card and didn't succeed. So when I had the chance I threw out the lasso and rounded everyone up (at my niece's graduation party) to grab a couple snapshots. My oldest son, Casey, and his girlfriend Nika are on the left; and my youngest son, Brady, and his girlfriend Jenne on the right; that leaves Bob and I in the center. (Bob is the one who doesn't look very happy about having his picture taken!!)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Big Apple: Day 5, Leaving NYC --There's No Place Like Home

[Sidenote:  As you know, it was almost a year ago -- October 2011 -- that I went on this trip, so I figured with the one-year anniversary coming up, I'd better darn tooting get my butt in gear and get this posted.  So here it is.  The last stop in my big adventure.]

I can't believe it!  It is actually Day 5 and it is time to go home.  This has been such a wonderful, memorable trip for me, that it is almost too hard to put into words -- oops -- except for the (probably) thousands that I have already shared with you already! LOL!

Well, what would this journey be if I didn't include one more post -- so let's giddy-up and take it home, folks!

Getting up what we thought was early enough to catch an 8:00 flight sometimes isn't necessarily early enough.  Did I mention I went to bed at 2:00 last night (this morning)?  I got up at 4:30 and laid there for a few minutes. Then by 5:00 figured I had better hit the shower.  I was going to try to do some packing last night - well, we all were but we were just too plain tired.  It has been a wearing week.  I have kept everyone up late at night by me just being up; I got everyone up earlier than they are accustomed to by getting up early and turning on the light (even if just to read) or go on my computer; and, poor Casey, has had to work through all this, too!  Not to mention that Nika is probably sick of being confined with me in the gotta-keep-going mode that I shifted into once we landed in NY.  Good thing when we got home last night that I had Casey run and get me some OJ to have by my bed.  I certainly didn't want to have to hit our wetbar -- too expensive!  But I suffered another low this morning -- not good timing, but, I'm sorry, sh_t happens!

Yep, and it sure did this morning.  I was running around trying to pack and get everything together, making sure we (I) didn't leave anything behind ... chargers, clothes, shoes, shoes, (did I mention shoes?).   When I finished getting ready in the bathroom, I literally pushed everything into my toiletries bag and then we were shoving shoes into anything that would hold them.  Ugh!@!

We loaded up (yes, I am not being slight here when I say loaded up --- Casey and Nika will attest to that -- poor things).  We are headed downstairs to catch a cab and drat, I'm afraid I'm going into a low again.  I told Casey to run across the street quickly while we hailed a cab -- okay, we had to have a SUV cab -- so he could grab me some orange juice.  I was extremely afraid that during our ride to the airport, we would get stuck in traffic and I would start to bottom out.  So we needed to take the time now.

The cab ride to the airport seemed to go quickly.  We paid the cabbie, jumped out, unloaded and here is where I get extremely lost. Once we enter the airport terminal, I’m not sure where to go.  Casey and Nika have been here dozens of times, so I’m leaving this part up to them.  I’m just following behind.  Earlier this week, Casey did some finagling with our seats, so we ended up with seats in the emergency exit section.  I didn’t quite know what that meant but they seemed happy, so I was, too. 

Next, we bolted off to the TSA checkpoints.  At O’Hare, I had sailed through with flying colors.  I was hoping for the same this time through, too.  As we got in line, I realized that I hadn’t pulled out all my diabetic supplies which I had done in O’Hare.  I was starting to panic a little thinking I was going to cause a problem and delay us.  Casey started saying quickly take off your shoes and put them in the bins, give me your IPad and laptop and we’ll put those in here, too.  Nika and Casey both said don’t worry about your jewelry because Nika never takes her’s off and she never gets stopped.  Okay, again, I am just here to listen and keep moving the line forward, especially when we had a group of big guys behind us who looked (and sounded) like they were off to a weekend trip to Vegas.  I didn’t want to be stomping on their parade. 

Everything went through fine ... that is until I started walking through.  Beep!  “Step back ma’am and walk through again.” Beep!  Oh crap! “Ma’am, please come over here so we can give you a full body cavity search.” Okay, no, they didn’t quite put it that way, but that was what was rolling around in my mind.  Casey and Nika were quickly slipping their shoes back on, gathering up our stuff (again, mostly MY stuff), snickering a little while watching me beginning the pat down.  All the time I was thinking the underwires in my bra and imagining having to strip that off in front of everyone – yes, I know, wild imagination.  I was sure they would make me go behind some x-ray machine while I was taking it off and so all the world could watch from the other side ... yep, still wild imagination.  A very nice, female TSA worker started working her way down through, carefully patting me down.  After she was done and while I was explaining to her that this was my second flight on a first-time flying experience, she whispered to me “I thought I would tell you that it was your necklace that set it off.”  Couldn’t help it but my evil eye popped out and immediately went to my traveling companions!  They, of course, thought it was funny.  Not funny enough, though, if we were going to miss our flight.  So off we flew with our luggage weighing us down (okay, again, yes, mostly my luggage as we each had a carry-on bag).  That doesn’t include, of course, the three checked bags which were all mine. 

Once we were on the airplane, Casey and Nika settled in for sleepy time.  Not me.  I was going to savor these moments as best I could.  And, on this return trip, I was doing it with plenty of leg room.  Now, heaven forbid that something would happen, and I would have to be “in charge” of the emergency exit.  But the leg room sure was nice.  I was able to twist and turn, and stretch the whole trip.  The return trip did, however, have another first for me.  Using the airplane bathroom.  I drank quite a bit of coffee which I was afraid of doing because my bladder does not bode well with coffee but it is a necessity so we ... pardon the pun ... go with the flow.  This meant I now had to "pay the piper" and witness first-hand the horrors of what I was told from others about “don’t use the airplane bathroom!”  From “it’s too cramped,” “you’ll get claustrophobic,” to imagining getting sucked into and stuck on the toilet – yes, I was a little phobic about this next adventure.  Surprisingly, though, it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  I didn’t get stuck, I didn’t get sucked in and I didn’t go manic from being enclosed in a broom closet big enough for a mop and two brooms. 

All in all, the flight back just wasn’t too bad.  I got “felt up” in front of God and everyone, had a potty break that didn’t go terribly wrong and was able to stretch out and nod off for a couple minutes, too, all the while taking in the scenery from down below and up above whenever there was some. 

Once we landed at O’Hare, we caught a cab, loaded it up and headed back to Casey and Nika’s apartment where my car had sat for a few lonely days.  The kids were tired and I know longing for another nap and I, too, just wanted to get home.  So, I said my good-byes, thank you’s and love you’s, jumped in my car, hooked up my GPS and set out for the Wisconsin countryside.  Getting to Casey’s apartment always seems like it takes longer than when I leave.  Chicago was kind to me on my return trip and didn’t make me wait on the freeways.  I made it as far as the Belvidere Oasis rest stop and knew it was time to fuel up the car and my body.  I am one who usually only drinks coffee in the morning.  (Remember my mention earlier that it goes right thru me!)  But I needed caffeine, so I went inside and got a large Starbucks to go.  I knew it would last me quite awhile which was good to keep me awake.  But no matter how much caffeine you have, sometimes you just need to move around a little more or the stagnant position you are sitting in makes you sleepy.  When I realized that I had missed my turnoff at Rockford, I took the next one at South Beloit.  Once I had driven through that burb and was in the country, I pulled over, got out and walked around the car a couple times.  Yes, it was 2:00 in the afternoon and I was tired.  I jumped back in and got to the other side of Monroe before I had to repeat the same act.

Here, is when I clicked my shiny red shoes (okay, not shiny, but they were red slip-on tennis shoes!), and repeated, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”  Before I knew it, I was pulling in the driveway.  I was tickled to see Bob, Pongo, Wolfie and the cats and they all greeted me graciously, too.  Bob, of course, was wondering what foreign country I had traveled to and it seemed like I had only been gone a few days so how could I come home with all this luggage.  Men -- they just don't understand what women need to have with them so they are prepared at all times. 

I have to say -- it is fun to travel, it’s fun to fly, it’s fun to see and experience new adventures, but yes, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home. 

The Big Apple: Day 4, Part 6: SoHo Shopping and Dinner in Little Italy

Nika, me and Casey at Il Picolo Bufalo in Little Italy
The final part of my last day in New York City is about to come to a close.  What better way to top it off than shopping and Italian dining.  

After leaving the American Museum of Natural History, Nika and I hopped back on the subway and headed back to the hotel to freshen up.  There we met Casey, just finished with work, and off we went to my next big adventure – shopping at Soho and 5th Avenue – and then dining in Little Italy.  

I have to say that Casey was certainly right when he kept instructing me to not, not, not pack much for clothes, etc.,  when I made my trip to New York.  He said the shopping was out of this world.  I strongly (in my mind) disagreed, thinking that the prices would be "out of this world" and that I would find nothing.  Huh! Well, let me be the first to confess -- I was wrong, wrong, wrong!!! He kept telling me that we would head out to Soho to do some shopping and that I would be fascinated with what I would find.  Okay, again, I was wrong, he was right!

When we stepped off the subway at Spring Street I immediately fell in love.

Trendy shopping, it's cobblestone streets and cast iron buildings.  SoHo is called the heart and soul of New York City.  And with its prominent place in being the backdrop for many movie locations, fashion shoots, and one of the best places in the city to catch a glimpse of famous stars, many of whom live in SoHo, I can certainly see why.  

SoHo is shorthand for south of Houston (pronounced "how-stun"). It is the first official acronym given to a neighborhood in NYC.  The official historical district from 1973 together with Houston to the north, is north of Canal Street, and between West Broadway and Crosby Streets.  The history of SoHo dates back to the early 1600's when it was just grassy meadows where Indian Tribes settled.  This neighborhood has gone through many drastic changes over the years to get to what it is today.  

Nika and I
We strolled down the streets of SoHo taking in the many shops and storefronts while browsing about inside to find some great deals.  We did some haggling with street vendors and with ethnic shop owners.  I snagged a Coach purse, some (5) shoes, some gifts, some clothes.  While we were “negotiating” on a price for my Coach purse and a Louie Vitton purse for Nika, a group of guys gathered close by to anther street vendor located next to our salesman.  I think he was thinking the same thing we were – something might be brewing and neither he nor us wanted to be witness to or in the middle of whatever transpired.  It worked out well in our favor, as his expression was continuously, “hey, you are killing me here” all the while aware that a storm might be brewing to his right.  But, he has never dealt with a Wisconsin girl who has learned Garage Sale Haggling 101 from her mother.  They have never published the book, but it is lessons you pick up when you are young and handed down from generation to generation – you might be embarrassed to see your mom do it, pledge you would never, ever do the same thing, would never, ever attend a garage sale, let alone be caught dead “bargaining” on a price – but yet that day comes and the next thing you know, you look in the mirror and, yes, you've grown up and you are looking, acting and sounding just like your mom trying to snag a deal.  Man, those genes certainly don’t fall far from that family tree, do they!

My new short rainboots

Casey and Nika had both forewarned me that haggling was allowed.  I told them to step back and let Momma into the front line with her assault rifle.  I was going to snag a deal, come hell or high water.  In this case, it might be a neighborhood (or gang, for that matter) brawl, so either the vendor or I was going to have to kneel down to the other.  I was determined it was not going to be me, and I triumphantly walked away the victor for both Nika and myself.  The guy didn’t know what hit him! Huh!  I am told that is may be why they pack up shop and go running when they see (or hear) a Wisconsin girl coming down the street!  Hah!

Having pulled off enough deals to satisfy my shopping craving (well, that and I was being told we were going to have to start shipping things home if I didn’t stop), and the fact that my feet were starting to hurt for all the walking that day, a mutual decision was made that it was time to get some grub. 

Loaded down with packages, we strolled off to Little Italy to have dinner. Eccentric Little Italy in New York City was once the energetic home of most of NYC’s Italian population.  Now it is the top tourist destination in Manhattan.  The narrow cobblestone streets, located on Mulberry Street between Broome and Canal Streets, lay beneath decades-old fire escapes lined with Italian restaurants.  It is said that these cosy restaurants serve up some of the best Italian food outside of Italy.

Two pairs of brown heels, my black/white shoes and my furry (ugg-like) boots.

We were headed for Il Picolo Bufalo - a quaint, little Italian restaurant with fantastic food, where Casey had eaten before a few times and remarked at the start of my visit that we had to go there.  This place labels itself as the "Taste of Naples in New York -- in the Heart of Little Italy."  And it certainly did not disappoint.  It truly was fine authentic Italian cuisine. 

After stuffing our bellies, it was time to think about heading back.  Since my feet were now thinking they needed a vacation and, as I said, we were loaded down with packages from our shopping excursion, I made the executive decision that we were not going to try to take and juggle all this stuff on the subway (okay, maybe I was a little frightened about taking all my "priceless" treasures on the subway), so we hailed a cab and off we went back to our hotel.  The original plan, of course, was that we would try to do one of two things at this point -- go up the Empire State Building (too many packages to carry up that) and/or carriage ride in Central Park (it was raining, so we nixed that idea, too).  Life is so hard when you have so many options, but dang it, my feet were hurting from so much walking, and since they were protesting (quite loudly, I might add), we figured it best to head for home (or, in this case, our hotel).
Some chocolates I picked up for Bob at the Willy Wonka store in Times Square.

We arrived back at the hotel, saved from the rain by taking the cab ride, and I began unpacking my "finds" for the evening.  As we got ready for bed and I rummaged through my purchases, then crawled into bed with my laptop to download the pictures I had taken that day plus make notes of the adventures we had taken, too, that day, I reminisced about the day. I got to do a lot of shopping. I got to do a little wheeling and dealing on prices.  This was fun.  It was almost like not even being away from home – somewhat akin to garage saleing in Wisconsin! Ha!  You can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but ... you can't take Wisconsin out of the girl.

So, here we are.  The last night of my big adventure.  I have to say it -- what a perfect ending to a perfect trip.  

But now it is time to get some ZZZZZs because in the morning "I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane."

Banana and Chocolate Chip Muffins: A Whole Lot of Goodness

Times have been tough as of late.  The world around us seems to have fallen into a deep, deep hole of despair.  With the recent nearby fire claiming lives, the aftermath of truth spilling out of the depths of hell from that, the bombings overseas, all the unnecessary killings, sometimes we need to seek the comfort of something more familiar.  I am not saying that we need to replace it with food, but sometimes a little sweetness never hurts.  So I say, let’s try to kill off the iniquities of this world with one bite of savory sweetness at a time.  I’m going to start with these banana and chocolate chip muffins. 

When my son, Brady, had his recent ACL surgery, I stopped in to sit with him while his girlfriend Jenne was at work.  On the second day after surgery, she had made some banana and chocolate chip muffins for him to eat since he had to take all these pain meds and needed something in his stomach.  Brady offered one to me and I have to say that I was totally pleased at how moist and delicious they were.  I asked Jenne for the recipe which she gave me with a little sidenote -- that she changed up the recipe a little by adding in some whole wheat flour and flaxseed. 

When I pulled out the recipe the other day, I decided to change it up even more using all whole wheat flour and flaxseed. All in all, I think it would be great either way.  

The ingredients

Hmmm, you're saying, did she just say flaxseed?  Yes, flaxseed.  It has been titled one of the most effective plant foods on Earth as there is some evidence it may help decrease the risk of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes and may reduce the inflammation that accompanies certain illnesses (such as Parkinson's disease and asthma) by helping to block the release of certain pro-inflammatory agents. Studies have indicated that flaxseed may have a protective effect against breast, prostate and colon cancers. But, it should be used in the form of ground or milled flaxseed as your body is better able to digest it versus whole flaxseed which passes through your intestines undigested and hence provides no health benefits. 

Flaxseed is high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and lignans (which act as antioxidants).  The Institute of Medicine has established that an adequate adult daily intake for omega-3 fatty acids would be between 1.1 to 1.6 grams a day. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed provides 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.  You can use flaxseed in baking, such as cookies, muffins and other baked goods by substituting it for the eggs and/or oils/butter; or you can add a teaspoon to hot/cold breakfast cereal, a teaspoon to mayo or mustard for sandwiches or a teaspoon to an 8-oz. yogurt.  However, it should be noted that it’s use is not recommended for pregnant and/or breast-feeding women.

Mixing the Batter
As I mentioned above, I ended up using all whole wheat flour instead of white.  Now, don’t be confused here, as I am saying I used whole wheat flour not wheat flour.  The difference - wheat flour (or white flour, enriched flour, etc.) is the when the whole wheat is harvested, all the nutrients are removed, and then a few are added back in.  Fundamentally, wheat flour is white flour.  Whole wheat flour, on the other hand, is just as it states –  whole wheat with all the nutrients left in.  

In this recipe you can use some of each if you like, or all white or all whole wheat. In some recipes the 1:1 ratio doesn't quite hold up as you may have to add some more liquid for whole wheat substitutions.  Items baked with whole wheat flour tend to be denser and healthier.  The good news is that ¼ cup of whole wheat flour counts as 1 ounce in the Grains Group.  For a 2,000-calorie diet, the daily recommendation is about 6 ounces; ¼ cup of whole wheat flour has 15% of the daily recommended amount of fiber.

When you consider whole wheat flour vs. white flour, the major difference is the nutritional value. Most of the essential fibers and nutrients are absent in white flour while whole wheat flour has more fiber and more nutrients. The bottom line is that whole wheat flour is healthier than white flour and should be integrated into your regular diet. 

But if you want to "come over to the dark side" a little at a time, a good rule of thumb would be to use 1 part whole wheat flour for every 3 parts white flour.  For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, use ¼ cup whole wheat flour and ¾ cup white flour.  Then once you have adjusted to using whole wheat, you can increase the ratio as time goes on.

I used my tablespoon scoop for just the right amount of batter in each muffin hole.

Whichever way you decide to go -- with the flaxseed or without -- whole wheat flour or white flour -- this recipe is delicious either way.

I do need to give some kudos, though, to Jenne's Aunt Marsha.  The original recipe appeared in the latest Primrose Church Cookbook as Banana Bread.  The banana bread, as is, I have to believe would be just as fantastic.  So, there you have it -- you can have your bananas with your chocolate and still be eating healthy!

The delicious end product!
Below you will find the original recipe.  If you substitute ground or milled flaxseed, make sure you read the label on the package.  It will direct you on how to do the substitution.  For the directions below, I yielded a dozen muffins that were decent size (not overly huge, and not small, but just right).  Enjoy!

The original recipe:

Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1-1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup mashed bananas
3/4 tsp. baking soda
Optional: Nuts or chocolate chips (mini’s are good too)

Mix all ingredients together well.  Add nuts or chocolate chips at the end.  Pour into a sprayed loaf pan or muffin tins.  Bake at 350 degrees F.

**If you double the batch and put in muffin tins, you will yield about 30.