Monday, October 15, 2012

Music Monday: Trampled by Turtles

I do not have a playlist for you today because I have actually been obsessed with a certain album in particular. Trampled by Turtles has an album called Palomino that was released in 2010. 

This album has been on a constant loop, the music and the vocals just match the changing fall leaves and brings a smile to my face. It also broke me out of my Jack White-around-the-clock week. 

Please enjoy. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My first Gluten Free Baking Adventure: Banana Oat Muffins

As per my 4 simple goals before 2013, I have really looked into going Gluten Free. While I may not be ready to 100% commit I make sure that 75% of my diet is gluten free. 

I posted a Facebook status about having a GF recipe swap and my Sister-in-law's friend Mindy directed me to Amy Green's website and I immediately bought her cookbook. You can check her out at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free for the cookbook and some of her recipes. 

Well, I decided that the best place to start for me was breakfast, because I make better choices when I start with a good breakfast! Luckily Amy Green has a ton of amazing muffin recipes that seem simple enough. So as my first Gluten & Sugar Free Project I chose the Banana Oat Muffins. 

Before I go into the recipe, I will share Amy's 'basic flour blend' which shows up for most of the 
Gluten Free Baking. 

To substitute white flour, the Basic Flour Blend is: 

4 cups garbanzo-flava bean flour 
4 cups sorghum flour 
2 cups potato starch 
1 1/3 cups tapioca starch 

Mix well, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 

(you will find out most of these ingredients & leftovers will have to be refrigerated, so clean out the fridge before going forward). A lot of these can be found at the local health food and specialty stores as well as the supermarket. I did discover VitaCost which has a lot of these specialty ingredients at a discounted price - which is super helpful!

Now: Banana Oat Muffins 

Ingredients for 12 Muffins:

3/4 cups low fat milk
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 large ripe banana 
1/2 cup agave nectar 
2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 1/4 cups basic flour blend 
2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, or canola oil 

(it is not all there, but I have limited counter space)

So, turn on that oven to 400 degrees while you set up the counter to make it nice and warm for you. The best part of baking in the fall is your kitchen gets nice and toasty! I chose to line my muffin tin with pretty cupcake liners and I got started. 
Place the oats into a medium size bowl and mix in the milk. 
In a smaller bowl mash your banana with a fork and leave some chunks. 

Whisk the Agave, eggs & vanilla into the mashed banana 

and then combine with the oats and set aside to soak 

In a large bowel whisk together all of the dry ingredients (this will be the bowl everything gets combined, so if you have a Kitchen Aid like me, use the Kitchen Aid bowl) 

Add the butter or oil to the wet ingredients and put the soaking oats into the dry ingredients 

Mix on low for about a minuet until just blended 

You will know it is combined when this is the texture: 

Then, evenly distribute the batter into your muffin tin 

Then bake for 12-15 minuets 

If you are like me there is a huge mess in your path, like while making these one of my glass contained spices fell from the cabinet shattering leaving me to clean it up while the oats were soaking. I cannot tell you if this was a good thing, but the muffins are super moist so I would suggest letting them soak for 5 minuets. I actually cleaned the whole counter, unloaded and loaded the dishwasher all in the time this was baking, and they were just about ready when I was finished setting up the cooling rack lined with paper towels. 

When you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean into any of the muffins, they are finished! Mine took 13 minuets. Let cool in the tin for 5 minuets before moving them to the cooling rack

What made me happy was the muffins smelt like my famous Hummingbird cake. The Hummingbird cake is a heavy, flavorful cake that I love to make. But is is dreadfully not gluten or sugar free, and when the batter (yes I tasted!) and the aroma mirrored the cake I got extremely excited. 

After cooled, enjoy!

I made these muffins for breakfast purposed, so to store them, I wrapped each individual one and put them in the freezer, I have breakfast for the whole week!

My husband and I really enjoyed them, you do not really miss the sugar and the oats make the muffins very filling. Our dog Annie also really loved them, she took our wrappers out of the garbage right in front of us! I think I will make Amy Green's Blueberry Muffins next - I will let you know how that goes!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Throwback Thursday

I bring you 16 year old me, and my 18 year old husband, at his Senior Prom in 2005

Taken with the always reliable disposable camera at Majestic Gardens this was one of my favorite photos for a very long time. Yes, I am extremely skinny and part of the reason for this post is to be my own 'thinspiration' but also this was my favorite prom dress. 

Yesterday marked 4 years since we got engaged. Here we were 2 years into our relationship. The day after prom we went to Adventureland. That night, we went to the beach that three years later he would pop the question and now we are married. 

We have albums filled with embarrassing prom photos, and because of nostalgic romantic me I wanted to take the time this #tbt to share. 

More essays coming soon. 


Monday, October 8, 2012

Music Monday

Since my previous post about White and Fuse's showing of It Might Get Loud last night I have been on an 'all things Jack' kick. But, I do Music Mondays (when I do Music Mondays) a tad differently than the rest - well actually I do not know how most people do it, but I like to create playlists. So, my Music Monday Playlist is as follows: 

"Death Letter" - The White Stripes
"Phenomena" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"Song About an Angel" - Sunny Day Real Estate 
"Gold Dust Woman" - Fleetwood Mac
"She Talks to Angels" - The Black Crows 
"Apple Blossom" - The White Stripes 
"Psycho" - Imelda May
"Queen of Apology" - The Sounds
"Lipstick" - The Buzzcocks 
"Ask" - The Smiths 
"I'm Sailin'" - Mazzy Star 
"Jolene" - Dolly Patron 
"Angie" - The Rolling Stones
"The Boxer" - Simon & Garfunkel 
"Truth Doesn't Make a Noise" - The White Stripes 
"Litte Black Sandals" - Sia 
"Yellow Sun" - The Raconteurs 
"Kentish Town Waltz" - Imelda May 

As a rule my playlists always run on even numbers and have a flow to them that goes from up to down in a pleasant way for when you are listening. I actually obsess over song orders if making a mix CD or short playlists. Long playlists I design to shuffle. But anyway here are my Music Monday selections. As a rule also, I put She Talks to Angels and Angie always on the same list together. She Talks to Angels is one of my all time favorite songs to sing, and Angie has to follow at some point. I don't know when I married to two, but I did. Also, I am obviously obsessing over The White Stripe's 2000 album De Stijl. It is my favorite one, and I just cannot get enough of it. Fall is when I bust out a lot of moody favorites. I feel like adding these to Autumn's soundtrack make the leaves turn a little slower, and the colors a little brighter. But that is just me. 

And oh, have you heard of Imelda May yet? Well buy her CDs and add them to your catalog because her rockabilly style and bluesy vocals will make you swoon. This love song is one of my favorite's to belt out:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Matters of Life & Death

When you are a part of a large family it is rare if you are not introduced to death early on in life. You realize that life is on a cycle, and will end one day, and normally this realization is held on the tails of losing someone you love. It is not fair or explained, but it happens and you just learn how to deal with it. As a child, dealing with it came to me in forms of anger, mistrust, communication and confusion. After gaining more experience this settled into the normal dose of sadness but also a lot of gratitude. You see, I found that when faced with the devastation of losing a loved one there is no right or wrong way to go about your feelings. For the most part you will put walls up, swallow a lot of sorrow out of pride but you are still faced with the harsh reality that the person you have lost is not going to physically be a part of your life any longer. When you add a healthy dose of gratitude to these motions, for one reason or another, the rest of the emotions you will experience are warmer than they would be without them. Through the initial tears of loss, I say to myself ‘I am so lucky to have had this person in my life, not everybody got to have them in their lives, and I will celebrate them though I will miss them’. This when coupled with cherished memories and jokes dulls the hot sting of the vicious and relentless cycle.  

These thoughts were inspired today by my Great Aunt Mary who we lost on September 30th of this year. Aunt Mary was everybody’s Aunt, and she was 90 years young when she was taken from us. The long bountiful life she lead was an example that I have reflected a lot upon through the hours since her service. Aunt Mary made us all family, and this is true. My Elementary School Principal (her nephew) delivered the Eulogy. Through Aunt Mary, we were all family, and this was important. When you treat everyone in your life like a family member you will gain so much more in your lifetime than you lose. There were a lot of wonderful things said about her today, which made the hollowness of her loss a little fuller. 

Sitting in the pew behind my parents with my cousins I listened as Father Sean delivered the most beautiful Homily that was inspired by Aunt Mary. Most of it reflected upon Kings Park, my home town, the tiny dot on Long Island and how Aunt Mary was Kings Park, she was what it is all about. Now many of you reading this may not understand how Kings Park is different than most towns out there. Kings Park is a true community, it is one of the only places left that operates as a true community within a town. When push comes to shove, differences are put aside and we take care of our own. Aunt Mary was a pioneer of Kings Park. She was a town staple. Everyone knew who she was - and she knew who you were too. You also knew never to refuse the spot next to her in Church, because during ‘Peace’ she would slip you a 5 dollar bill while she kissed you on the cheek. Aunt Mary was everything good in this world, and we should all learn a few things from her that I will share on here today. 
  1. Age is only a number: People who get caught up in age, get old. Aunt Mary was a young 90 years and she refused any help in her final years. She wanted to live on her own, take care of herself, and she was going to have it that way. You never once heard her utter how hold she was, that she was tired, that she was aging or ‘too old for that’. She marched in town parades, relished in positive attention and made jokes that sometimes could make you blush. She never once let the years slow her down. Because of this, her 90 years were lived exactly how she wanted them to be lived. When you start focusing on the time that has passed instead of the time ahead, you age yourself and limit yourself. Limitations based on age are meaningless. 

    2. Remember the good things. Aunt Mary had a memory like mine, where she knows you and what happened to you 10 years ago up to today. Any story you shared she knew, and could one up you with another. Something that Aunt Mary didn’t do was pass along bad stories. Maybe the stories would be silly and funny but never cruel or hurtful. If she knew an unflattering thing about you, she took it to her grave with her. She may have been a stubborn woman, but she was never a spiteful one. 

    3. Traditions matter. You go through life learning little things from those who came before you, and while you will pave your own way, their example matters. Holding onto traditions like having a pot of soup on the stove at all times may seem silly to an outsider, but all that matters is that your Grandchildren know and understand where you are coming from. When you lose sight of such things you lose sight of who you are. 

    4. It does not matter what your reward is, always do the right thing. Aunt Mary was a staple in Kings Park History. She was there as the town was made. She went to daily mass, she was good to everyone and never expected anything in return. She went to the wakes of the people who would pass, she made sure Saint Joseph’s Church offered mass for every one of her fallen friends. She never let a day go by that she was not looking out for other people, even in small ways. The words said about her today proved to me that living your life this way is the only way to go. 
It is discouraging sometimes, growing up in this selfish generation that has really lost the meaning of community. But, listening to the words said about Aunt Mary today while the sun shone through the stained glass windows of St. Joseph’s Church in Kings Park made it all make sense. We should all strive to have those things said about us. She had the ability to walk into a room and catapult your mood from bad to good with her just being in your field of vision. Not many people have that quality, and she was one of the greats. 

It hit me that Aunt Mary was gone when I walked into Clayton’s Funeral Home and did not see her. Like I said, Aunt Mary always paid her respects, and always went to make you feel better. At my Uncle Tom’s wake back in 2002, she walked in and saw me sitting alone by the door. She immediately exclaimed ‘Stephanie! You beautiful little thing you, let me introduce you to my seniors.’ Her Seniors were in fact her friends who were all 5-10 years younger than her that she drove to Clayton’s that evening. She held my hand. She knew I was sad, and sitting alone and she held my hand and comforted me without calling attention to the pain I was in. She was magic. At her wake, she was not there to hold any hands, we had to old each others the way she taught so gracefully, and I would say we did her proud. 

It may sound strange, but Aunt Mary was an icon. Professors and Key Food knew who she was based on her daily visits. She was a part of a growing town and survived her whole high school graduating class. It is the end of an era for a community and for a family for sure. Death is just a matter of life, and I am so thankful to have had Aunt Mary - but it does not mean I will miss her any less. 

The words that were spoken in her honor were incredible - we all should strive to have those things said about us when we pass. If I know her, she is in a new shiny red car with Uncle Andy watching over Kings Park as I type. God Bless You Aunt Mary, you were a shining example for us all. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Defending Jack White

Being that I am just another twenty something with a useless blog and a taste for writing I figured I, as well as every person on the planet will lend my reaction to Jack White’s New York City Antics this past weekend. As any other audience attendant I have been devouring the story. On our way into the city on Sunday, my Husband searches the internet to see if anything was written about the night before. When we found out about the walk out, my heart broke a little. These tickets were his gift for our one year wedding anniversary and a make up for when we missed out in May. We are avid Jack White fans, and have been for quite some time. We were buzzing with excitement to see the man himself live. This does not have to mean anything to anyone, but I figure before I over-analyze anything like the rest of the internet I will start at the beginning. 

To illustrate my bias, music is my favorite type of media. My favorite art form. My favorite escape. I discovered the healing qualities of music as a child when my parent’s large black boom box seemed to be my best friend while I blasted the Aladdin soundtrack until I went through the CD cabinet and stole Carly Simon, Billy Joel and Carol King albums all because the covers were nice to look at for a child. Little did I know these albums held records that would never leave me. ‘River of Dreams’ by Billy Joel is my favorite song (and yes, as a music lover I do have a favorite song) and whenever it comes on my world reverts into a blissful 6 year old’s existence. I connect with music on a personal level and each song that I take a liking to nourishes a part of me whenever I listen to it. Growing up my music taste evolved and grew, the roots inside my parent’s CD towers. From Simon and Garfunkel to the Beatles the classics were instilled in me. The knots of the trunk formed branches and I ate up every single genre of music and studied them. I wanted to know everything and everything about songwriters and what it takes them to create their art. My Mother would dance and sing to Queen, my Father would relax to Bob Dylan and I would collect a musical catalog that would keep me company and teach me lessons as my tree grew taller and taller. 

These songs became a soundtrack to every event in my life. Each new song I attach to will pull up or create memories, and music will always be a love that never leaves me. I cry at most concerts because of this. When a song gets played live that I scream in my car, or listen to on repeat, or just hold close I lose it when I see the musician lay it out on stage. There is nothing better than a musician performing their songs the way they intended to. It is absolutely brilliant how the performance of one of your favorite songs illustrates where that piece of art came from, where, and how. In a way, it is a gift to the listener - a type of ‘yes, I know you hold these lyrics close, I wrote them, and here is why’. It is a sacred thing, which is why most music lovers flock to live shows. 

Unfortunately, live shows are a lot like sporting events now. The ticket price is high and most of the time the event is ruled by trends. Most people flock to live events to tweet through them, check in, and brag about who they saw and what happened. The music ‘scene’ is just that, a ‘scene’ instead of an appreciated experience. Because of the ticket pricing, it is hard to not feel entitled to such an experience. But the musician’s motivation could be slightly deflated because of the trends, because the audience is ruled by the economy and hashtags above the die hard enthusiasts who normally are working overtime while the concerts are going on. 

What led us to the Jack White show was a long relationship with the artist that is obviously one sided because we do not know him personally which is why sometimes writing these blog posts seem like utter bullshit. Well, they are utter bullshit fueled by self absorbency (case in point, I just rambled on about myself and music). While I do roll my eyes at myself it still does not prevent me from further typing. So, I will continue. Like a lot of people, my first encounter with Jack White was a bunch of Legos changing shapes on my television screen. Soon the barely 2 minute song became a staple onto every one of my mix CDs and White Blood Cells became a coveted album of mine. The White Stripe’s simplistic yet empowered sound was exciting and enjoyable. I remember being indifferent to Jack & Meg White as people. Their under the radar lifestyle was fine with me because their music was fantastic. I never paid much attention to Jack White until I saw an interview with him that stuck with me. While I can’t quote it, or reference who or what the interview was for I remember White talking about artists, and how true artists do not go to the store to buy teal paint, they go home and mix primary colors until they find the perfect shade they were looking for. That struck me. I understood The White Stripes on a new level at that point and my fandom only grew from there. 

For one thing, The White Stripes created a cool sound that was a backdrop to lyrics that were interesting on paper. When White’s side project The Raconteurs graced my ears I was pumped - another sound to add to Jack White and he became more interesting to me. The Dead Weathers were next - and by far my moody favorite but now I am getting sidetracked and maybe screwed up the timeline some where in there. My opinion of Jack White was honestly made once and for all when my husband urged me to go see ‘It Might Get Loud’ with him. We went to a small movie theater and I sat in awe of the documentary on the guitar, and types of guitar players. Jimmy Page is known as a God, and to watch him strumming a mandolin while strolling outside was phenomenal. But the man who took the film for me was White. The explanations he made about music, his skill, his guitars were all visual masterpieces that really blew my mind. I enjoyed his sections and admired his integrity. His busted Kay guitar that his brother gave him from a thrift shop to his custom Gretsch were all beautiful. Instruments just as interesting as the stories they play for our ears was a concept I appreciated and relished in. The fact that White has his Kay, and plays it on stage to me shows a level of integrity that gets lost in the fame of the industry, White plays for himself first, and that is made known. 

At that moment I decided that Jack White was the greatest musician of our generation because of this integrity, attitude, and imagination he exuded on screen. Him making a guitar in the opening scene to him sitting while Jimmy Page jammed away out of respect. His stories, his work, everything that Jack White presented in that film made me respect him and become a fan for life. 

Since the film I watched him in various television clippings, like American Pickers and The Colbert Report. All showcasing a lighter side to him, but he always has exemplified the fact that the most important part of his persona was the music. Interviews and jokes aside, he wants to play his music, that is what he is about, that is what he takes seriously. When I read about KT Tunstall (opening for White), pressing a note into his hand claiming he was her hero and him hugging her in return was also a story that solidified his sincerity in what he does. I know his past antics included throwing an Olsen Twin out of a show, and declaring his distaste for ‘hipsters’ but none of that matters to me, his music does. I can actually relate to his dissatisfaction with the trends of today. The ‘hipster’ movement is one I will not even let myself understand. Looking like 90’s toddlers with sullen stares with artistic aspiration means shit. Honestly. You all clog up concerts and speak loudly through sets over analyzing each song and performance instead of actually experiencing the live show...

...I am getting ahead of myself again. Back to Jack White and Radio City Music Hall. Sitting on that train reading about the ‘Fuck Jack White’ Chants I was disheartened that we may get cheated out of the experience I was reading about. The Jack White who plays in parking lots, and closes big festivals. I looked at my husband who shrugged - we just wanted to see those guitars and hear those songs, and see The Peacocks (those girls can PLAY) flounce around behind the musical mastermind that we have so much respect for. Thankfully we saw a set, but we missed out on the full experience. 

Whatever happened on that Saturday night must have been bad for White and I honestly sympathize. Do you want to know why? I, like everyone else pay for my ticket. I pay a stupid amount of money that I don’t have for whatever damn seats Ticketmaster will come up with to stand on line an hour before the doors open to be herded in like cattle to the merch table where I buy a T-Shirt then I find my seat and wait some more. As this is happening I am surrounded by a crowd of people that I never seem to fit in with. Normally this is ruled by the theory I touched on before - the trends and the economy rule the audience of shows, especially in Manhattan, and I never find myself with music loving people who are there for that live connection or experience. My main example of that is that fact that people think it is perfectly fine to walk into the venue while the Opening Act is playing on their cell phones speaking loudly and creating an unstable energy in the air. It honestly infuriates me. For one reason, I waited on line to get in, to settle and to enjoy the opening act. Some of the best performances I have seen were from Opening Acts (65 Days of Static, Cold War Kids). On this night of September 30th we discovered Pokey Lafarge and the South City 3 and they were nothing other than splendid. Yes, splendid. The sound they create from all acoustic amazing instruments with a polite demeanor easily made them one of my favorite bands two songs in. What absolutely sucked was the fact that people would walk in, mid song, sit down, take a few photos of themselves while gabbing loudly and distract the whole experience of watching this band play. While the self shots were happening in front of me, behind me a very loud person arrived speaking of all of the other bands they saw in the past month or so - completely demolishing any chance of the people around them to listen to what was happening on stage. My blood boils with this. You paid the money, to come late, and miss half of the experience and you still act like the headliner owes you something. The headliner normally chooses that opening act for YOU, for the audience to experience. They set the tone for the experience. It is normally a simple tone played with all heart - but it is a brilliant experience not to overlook and it kills me that these opening acts get stomped all over. It obviously hurts the headliner too - because if they care about their craft, the total live experience means something to the big picture. 

When Pokey’s set ended, the crowd buzzed with anticipation with what could happen. When the dapperly dressed roadie came out and instructed the crowd that ‘we are going to try this again’ I had to laugh. Jack White came out with a vengeance. He tore his set up, and did not say a word to the crowd. While I danced all night, screamed every lyric, I did notice the quickened tempo and the huge elephant in the room. But in those moments I did not care. I was watching Jack White - the artist I grew to respect and adore tear his songs to pieces. Yes, I have read the reviews and everyone has analyzed the set to be spiteful and anger driven - but even so - it was a great show. I am a little upset that I did not get the normal Jack White Experience I hear about, the one where he interacts with the crowd, but I did get the experience that he plays what he feels. And if he felt annoyed, rushed, and angry over whatever happened the previous night - that is what we got. He is not a stupid person, do I think that some of the performances were calculated? Of course, but he did sing ‘We are Going to be Friends’ and ‘Hypocritical Kiss’ - which could have been a little ode to ‘I fucked up’ but are we really still stressing over a musicians antics? At least he isn’t like every other ridiculous pop star that pulls a stunt and then checks into rehab. What I found gratifying is that at the end we got a ‘Thank You’ and a bow - which is a sign of respect to the crowd. So what if he didn’t feel like talking - I paid for a show, not a therapy session. 

What I did love was how there was a pretty girl, in a flouncy dress adding vocals and the tambourine. That was amazing. And the lights, the set, the mash ups, the reprises, The Peacocks giving anyone and everyone who ever put women in music down a big fat perfectly polished finger. The whole experience was one I will never forget. I will see Jack White again, again and again. The whole stunt did not make me lose any ounce of respect for him. His walking off stage and leaving fans hanging does suck, they paid their money and took their time, but you paid for the experience. Unfortunately your experience wasn’t the best, but maybe White’s wasn’t either. Did you show up 20 minuets into the opening act spilling your beer while sending a tweet? I am guilty of checking in and tweeting with the rest of them, but during the show I am all in. Jack White does not owe any of us anything but an awesome follow up album to Blunderbuss. I know I am just a second rate wannabe freelance writer from Long Island, but I needed to lend my voice to this topic because of the insane internet Jack White blow up. The reasonings and the articles on how his set list was his explanation, and the comparisons to other performances were extremely interesting and some of the writing was quite fantastic, but enough is enough. 

I wanted to defend him, because he came onto a stage that once yelled ‘FUCK YOU’, and he picked up his Kay.