Banana Muffins

July 27, 2011

Hello Friends!  Today the weather is a little less oppressive (don't even get me started on the heat/humidity combo we experienced here in the Northeast last week), and I decided to do something brave.  I turned on the oven and baked something! 

Truth be told, it wasn't just the cooler temperatures, but I was also motivated by the pile of rotting bananas on my counter.  I just bought them yesterday, and I swear they looked fine in the store (does that ever happen to you?).  But regardless of when I bought them, I needed to deal with the bananas before they bred a whole colony of fruit flies in my kitchen.  The result was a big batch of my favourite banana muffins. 

When I graduated from high school, one of the things my mother gave me was a small recipe box filled with some of her standard recipes.  Admittedly, I cook very different than my mother on an everyday basis, but this was a good start for me at age 18, and is still the place I turn when I just need to make something basic.  For me, banana muffins are basic.  I love my mum's recipe, but it's not very healthy.  It has a ton of butter, sour cream, sugar, and chocolate chips.  Sounds delicious, right?  Well it is, but today I want to share with you both the original recipe (because sometimes you just need to indulge and eat a cupcake while calling it a muffin) and my modified recipe.

Healthier Banana Muffins

400F for 20 minutes
Yeild: 12 regular sized muffins

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup apple sauce
3/4 cup sugar (some combination of white and brown)
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional - but my kids really like them)

Combine flour, oats, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in one bowl.  Cream butter, sugar, and eggs in a second bowl.  Mash bananas in a third bowl, and add both the sour cream and apple sauce to the bananas.  

Fold together the contents of the three separate mixtures in your largest bowl.  Be careful not to over mix, or your muffins will be tough.  Add walnuts (and chocolate chips). 


Spoon mixture into muffin tins (either lined with papers or greased).  I often find that I have enough batter for one or two more muffins, so if I'm doubling the recipe, I'll do a batch of mini muffins too (those cook for 15 minutes).

Bake for about 20 minutes.  Muffins should be rounded on top, golden brown, and cooked through the center.

And here is the original recipe for those of you who love butter, sugar, and lots of it!

Original Banana Muffins

400 F for 15 minutes
Yeild: 12 regular sized muffins

1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
3 ripe bananas, mashed 
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or whatever looks good to you)

Combine flour, soda, and salt in one bowl.  Cream butter, sugar and eggs in a second bowl.  Mash bananas in a third bowl, and add sour cream.  

Fold together the contents of the three separate mixtures in your largest bowl.  Be careful not to over mix, or your muffins will be tough.  Add chocolate chips. 

Spoon mixture into muffin tins (either lined with papers or greased).  I often find that I have enough batter for one or two more muffins, so if I'm doubling the recipe, I'll do a batch of mini muffins too (those cook for about 10 minutes).  Bake for about 15 minutes (or maybe a little longer, but you don't want to over bake them).  

I am not one of those bakers, that will take a recipe for a dessert, and then cut out all things that make it delicious (the fat, white flour, and sugar).  But I'm a little more ambitious when it comes to muffins and making them healthier.  I don't worry as much about them having the perfect consistency, because as long as you don't change everything from the original, they will at least be edible.  I find that with most muffin recipes you can decrease the sugar by close to half, replace at least half the fat with applesauce, and trade out some of the white flour for something a little healthier.  For these mufffins I used whole wheat flour and oats.

And since I actually prefer to eat muffins that don't just taste like cupcakes (called muffins because they have some 'healthy' ingredient like pumpkin, bananas, zucchini, or apples), for me this is the way to go.  I don't know how healthy my recipe actually is, but it's a whole lot better than the original and I really do like it more (sorry mum). 

Do you find yourself cooking similarly to your mother (or husband's mother) or have you branched off in a totally new culinary direction?  We eat mostly vegetarian at my house, and I love cooking with spices my mother has never heard of, but I still find myself constructing some similar meals to the ones I grew up with.  Especially in the summer, when we often sat down to a supper of boiled new red potatoes, a variety of fresh vegetables from our garden, and cottage cheese.  Yum.  I could eat that all summer long.     

In other non-related news, my three year old hums or sings to himself while he is playing.  It's pretty adorable.  His song of choice - It Takes a Woman (from the musical Hello Dolly) - which is possibly one of the most sexists songs he's ever been exposed to.   I mostly find this hilarious since he has no idea what the song is really about.  Do your kids have any favourite songs to sing that fall into this category? 

Unicorns and Rainbows

July 19, 2011

Last summer I came back from visiting my parents with a suitcase full of fabric, notions, patterns, and knitting needles belonging to my grandmother.  My dad picked up bags and bags full of sewing supplies from her house for me to go through, and I was happy to sort and choose things that I could use.  She had a lot of yarn that we donated, but there was also a lot of fabric that made me very excited.  One of my favourite pieces was a white knit with printed unicorns and rainbows on it.  It's fabulous in that early 80's kind of way (think Care Bears), and it reminds me of something that I would have worn when I was a child.  And since my grandmother occasionally sewed for me when I was young, there is a chance that I did wear it (although I think I would have remembered something as awesome as that...).

I considered making a shirt for myself out of it, but I'm not sure that I can pull it off anymore.  I think I'm too old now for something so whimsical.  But, I have happily made it into little skirts for several of my older son's preschool friends.  The first skirt I made with a fold-over yoga style waist (without an elastic), but this time I wasn't in the mood for that.  Instead I made a simple gathered skirt with an enclosed waistband in a coordinating pink knit.  Since this particular knit came in a tube, this was a fast project to make.  It was as simple as cuting off the appropriate length of knit, attaching the waistband (with the elastic already placed inside), hemming the bottom, and adding my tags. 

Here is a close up of that fabric so that you can enjoy the unicorns and rainbows in all their glory.  And let's be honest, they are glorious, aren't they?

Like I mentioned, this was a simple skirt to make.  The skirt was gathered by setting both my stitch length and tension on the max, and then later adjusting the gathering to fit the waistband.  When I made the waistband, I sewed the piece of pink knit into a tube, and pressed it in half.  Then I joined my elastic together and put the loop of elastic inside of the pink waistband.  I am lazy and I hate feeding elastic through a casing and then sewing it shut afterward.  I prefer to completely construct the waistband and then attach the whole thing to the skirt all at the same time.  Once the waistband was sewn on the skirt I topstitched around the top with my double needle to sew down my seam allowance and give it a finished look.

I still consider myself to be a novice at sewing knits, and I used to think it was impossible to make a nice, professional looking bottom hem.  I have been using the Sew Liberated tutorial and Sew, Mama, Sew, and I really recommend this method.  It doesn't work well with super stretchy knits, like ribbing, but it is perfect for most knits.  The inside doesn't look amazing, but the outside - the part you can actually see - was perfect, so I was happy.


Last, I added my tags. I know I've mentioned before that I sometimes feel awkward about this, but I think it's nice for people to know who made things (especially since this skirt is a gift), and it is always crucial to know what size things are. 

In other news, you may see a few more girly projects from me in the future since we found out last Friday that we will be welcoming a baby girl to our family in December.  Yeah for girl sewing!

Simple Summer Top

July 14, 2011

I left you all hanging by promising a project with the blue fabric I picked up at the thrift store last week.  Unfortunately, I may have to disappoint, because I didn't end up using it.  I was planning on copying the red shirt, but once I unrolled the blue fabric and started ironing it, I realized it was way too heavy for a top. It would be great for a skirt that needs a little structure, but it would have looked ridiculous as a shirt.

Instead, I rummaged through my stash of fabric and came across this pretty green cotton print that was light and flowy - perfect for a summer top.  I'm not sure about what this weight of cotton is called or who makes it since I picked it up last summer on the clearance rack at Fabric Land in Canada.  From what I can tell, I think it's similar to a voile.  And I think I paid $2 a meter for it.  In any case, it made a lovely shirt.  After I finished sewing, I put it on and wore it for the rest of the day.

If you are interested in making a similar top, I can assure you that it is easy.  This is a one nap (i.e., 2 hour) project--the best kind in my opinion.  I was sewing, taking pictures, and blogging about it all in one day, so I wasn't organized enough to draft a pattern.  But, I can share with you the measurements for the back pattern piece.

The front piece is almost identical, but I made two changes.  The first was to cut the neck hole about 1 1/2" lower in the front.  Tops are usually more comfortable when the front is lower than the back.


The second difference between the front and back pieces was a little room I added in the front.  I used the pivot technique to do this.  I'm not sure if you can see in the picture below, but I stuck a safety pin in the top folded corner (the center of the neck), and rotated from there.  I added 5" total to the front piece along the bottom hem (sorry for the blurry measuring tape - like I said, I was racing against the clock to get things finished before the little one woke up from his afternoon nap).  By pivoting on the top corner, all the lines stay the same on the side so that everything will still match up when sewing the front and back pieces together.  

This really was the easiest top to make.  It was just a front and back piece, but I decided to also add a neck facing.  I thought this would look nice, and would ultimately be easier than fighting with hemming along the curved neckline or using bias tape to finish the top edge.  If you've never cut out a facing before, it's simple.  Basically I just cut the same shape as my neckline and made the piece 3" wide following the same curve of the top edge.  The light blue dotted line in the measurements diagram shows this. 

To sew it all together, start by sewing the front and back pieces together along the shoulder and side seams.  I finished these seams with a simple zig-zag stitch because it's fast and I didn't need it to look fancy on the inside.  Next, sew your facing together at the shoulder seams.  Sew the facing to the neck, being sure to match right sides together.  Press the top edge flat.  At this point, I thought I was clever and stitched the seam allowance down to the facing.  This keeps the facing from flipping up, and keeps the top layer nice and smooth.  I also added my tag to tack the facing down even further. 

At this point, all that is left is to hem the bottom edge and the sleeves.  I kept things simple by pressing the bottom edge under by 1/4" and then again by 5/8".  Then I sewed this down with two rows of stitches.  I did the same for the sleeves, except I made the hem smaller (only about 3/8" the second time I turned it under) and only used a single row of stitches.

Here is the finished top.  I know in the first picture it probably looked huge, but if you are like me and mostly wear knits, it's always a bit of a surprise to see how big woven tops look.  I typically wear a medium, and this fits perfectly (the style is meant to be a bit oversized).

Sorry folks, I was too lazy to get out the tripod for these pictures.

And if you are wondering why I needed to add all the extra width to the front piece, here is why... 

My three year old took this picture, so please excuse the unnecessary highlighting of my drain pipe.

No, not a big lunch, but I'm expecting my third baby.  I have been unsure about the proper blog etiquette to announce a pregnancy, but I guess this is as good of a way as any.  I'm 18 weeks pregnant, and we are hoping to find out tomorrow what we are having (boy or girl that is, since I'm very confident it's a human baby).  Any guesses?   

The Post - My Favourite Thrift Store

July 12, 2011


Emily mentioned last week that we were both at home visiting our parents.  I was just there for a week, but I managed to make it to my favourite thrift store twice during that time.  You know how they say that your first real love will always have a special place in your heart?  Well, I'm not sure I feel that way about my first serious relationship, but I do feel that way about my first favourite thrift store.

I know I've mentioned before that I've been a thrift shopper for a few years, but I have lots of fond memories from shopping at my favourite thrift store, The Post, with my best friend in junior high.  The Post and I, we go way back.  When I first starting scouring the thrift stores, I was buying a lot of vintage clothing.  Things like tops (a favourite was a screen printed Bay City Rollers tank), dresses (I showed you what I wore to my high school graduation), and let's not forget the jackets (in those days I was always on the hunt for the perfect down filled parka). 

Last week, Emily and I happened to show up on a one day sale where everything in the store was 50% off.  Fantastic!  I happily walked away with lots of good stuff and spent under $7 on the whole lot.  Here is what I picked up:

Zippers.  10 to be exact.  There was a giant basket of zippers, all for 25 cents a piece, and since they were 50% off, that made them 12.5 cents.  I picked out the most useful looking zippers (read: not the peach ones), and was happy that some were invisible, and others separate at the bottom and can be used to put in jackets.  I haven't found a thrift store anywhere else that has as reliable a selection of sewing notions, knitting needles, crocheting hooks, and patterns.  The Post is the thrifty seamstress' dream come true.   

Notions. I picked up a few packs of red piping (the theme for today seems to be red and white - a tribute to Canada I guess), and this kit for making a covered belt buckle.  I have a dress (that came from my other favourite place to shop in my hometown) that was a sample and the matching belt did not come with a buckle.  Not unless you count the paper one that they had sewn on to mock up a real buckle.  I've had the dress for years, and I've always meant to track down a kit for making a covered one.  I think I tried to buy one in NYC on my last trip to the garment district but I was deterred by the price tag.  12.5 cents seems more up my alley.  

Fabric.  The two pieces I came home with are not exciting, but remember I have two boys.  The piece on the left has tiny blue and white pinstripes, and has nice body.  I think it will make a great sunhat for the littlest man.  The blue fabric on the right is a lighter weight cotton and I have plans for it that I hope to show you on Thursday.

Shirt.  I rarely buy things for myself anymore, but I couldn't walk away from this one for $1.  It looks like something my stylish younger sister would wear, so I decided to give it a try.  I looks deceptively boxy and simple, but it's really cute on.  The other nice things is that it will be easy to replicate.  This little number is pure polyester, but I am dreaming of making it in linen to help me stay cool on these hot and humid summer days. 

Do you have any favourite thrift stores?  I personally love small town thrift stores.  They are the kind where you can find gems, and the workers are all volunteers and 70+ years old.  Those are by far my favourite.  Have you made any good finds lately?  My friend just told me this morning she picked up a Skuut balance bike for her son at a local store for $10.  Nice find (and I'm jealous by the way)!  Or are you more of a yard sale shopper?

Baby Legs and Baby Tights

July 7, 2011

A week ago, when looking for pants for my little one, I spotted a pair of size 10-12 girls tights in the clearance section.  The tights had a teeny hole in the top, but they were otherwise perfect.

For three dollars, I made one pair of baby legs or leggings, and one pair of cute baby tights.  The baby legs are perfect for protecting the knees of my little crawler, and the tights - well I just love tight fitting pants on fat baby legs.  So, so cute!  I've seen quite a few tutorials online for making baby legs out of socks, but I think that large sized girl tights work better as you have lots more fabric to work with, and they are nice and stretchy.

Carlee and I are both visiting my parents right now, so this was a project we made together.  We are rarely in the same place so it was fun to do a quick sewing project together.  (Okay, Carlee did all of the sewing and cutting because she's better at it than I am.  I pinned and took pictures.  Does that still count as sewing together?)

We started out by finding a pair of my little girls pants that fit, and using them as a guide for sizing. 

For the baby legs, we cut two legs, and then bands for both the tops and bottoms of each. The top and bottom bands were all the same size. The measurements were just eyeballed, as we were sewing for a baby who didn't care, and also with knit which is pretty forgiving. We made the baby legs the length of the lighter coloured pants from the crotch to the bottom of the hem. The original tights were long enough that we were able to have enough fabric for all of this.

For the tights, we cut off and used the original waist band as the band on the tights, and all the same crotch and seaming as well.  In addition to sewing the waist band back on again, we also sewed on two bands to finish the bottom edeges.  For these, we cut a length of the tights and folded it in half.  This gave us a nice bottom hem, and all the cut edges were sewed together at the same time. 

The sewing part was easy.  (I think, Carlee did it pretty fast.)  I pinned all the pieces together so raw the edges touched.  Carlee sewed using a zigzag stitch, and went around each seam two times to be sure it would hold.  On the tights, to prevent the seam from getting too wavy, she sewed on top of a sheet of tissue paper.  This kept the knit from getting as stretched out. The tights we used were really stretchy, and this made it hard to keep the seams looking clean.  Carlee is pickier about this than I am, but this extra step didn't add very much time to the whole project. 

I'm happy with the finished product!

Oh, okay, do you want to see the finished product on the model - here you go!  Babies make everything cuter, don't they?

The Best Picnic Game

July 5, 2011

One of the things that I love the most about summer is all of the picnics and barbeques that happen.  I love all of the food, sitting around and talking with friends, and playing games.  My husband's family loves to play blongo.  My family's favorite is something we call "The Stretchy Thing."

This piece of fabric doesn't look or sound like much, but it sure is fun.  It is just a long piece of swimsuit fabric serged together so it is in a tube.  To play "The Stretchy Thing Game," you need four people.  The participants stand making a square with the fabric around their waists and pulled tight.  

My mom and sisters are good sports and good models.

When ready, two people standing across from each other run, switching positions.  You should always pass to the right.  Once the first runners hit the fabric, the second pair runs, switching positions and passing on the right.  As you continue to run back and forth the fabric stretches and bounces you back so you are flying back and forth. 

This thing is so much fun.  It is a game for older kids and adults, because the little ones don't get it, and just bump into each other.  Little kids like to play with the fabric though.  We had two adults, on either end holding the fabric tight, and let the kids run around inside the tube.

To make your own stretchy thing, you'll need 4 1/2 yards of swimsuit fabric.  Choose the cheapest (and probably the ugliest) kind.  Ours is the width of the fabric, which is 60 inches.  Take the fabric, fold it in half right sides together, and serge it up.  Ta da!  This is the easiest and most fun ever!

Has anyone ever seen this before?  Does it have a name?  Do you have any good name suggestions, or does "The Stretchy Thing" suffice?

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