I have been in love with the summer weather we have been having here lately. Late-night Midwestern summer thunderstorms, cloudy early mornings, and sunny blue-sky days. There is really nothing like a Midwestern thunderstorm. My years in New Orleans and New York City had their fair share of weather, but nothing compares to the hot and humid rolling drama the heartland provides. This is summer to me.
I was lucky enough to spend this last weekend with my three best college girlfriends and former roommates. Our years in New Orleans bonded us in the best kind of way. Living in separate states makes it difficult for us to join up more than once a year, but boy, when we four former music majors do, it’s full of laughter, storytelling, and all-out song (in harmony, no less). In college, these ladies were all a year ahead of me in school and always, in my eyes, my three big sisters. When they graduated, it was the first time I felt somewhat on my own, the tiny beginnings of the encroaching adulthood ahead; full of change and adjustment, new people, places, and experiences.
And so this weekend, like our other reunions, was all about comfort. A weekend full of “y’all” and “y‘all!”. Late night chats and long mornings full of coffee. Reminiscing on the past and breaking down our presents and futures. Laugh. Sing. Repeat.
Last summer was what I dubbed the “summer of paint”. We had bought our house about 4 months before summer break and I had big plans to paint many of the rooms while I had the free time. Initially, I was pretty confident about the colors we’d chosen for the living room and the bedrooms, but still took the time to use samples and sit with each color with its messy splotch on the wall for a few days. Foolproof, right?
Let’s just say that I painted the living more times than I’m willing to admit. And while we’re at it, let’s add the master bedroom to that list, too. On a weekly basis it seemed, friends or family would enter the house and say, “You painted the living room again!” I know a few of them thought I was losing it. Warranted, yes. (I’d like to blame it on the paint fumes and not my Type A-ness being in peak form). In my defense, the light in this old house is tricky, and when color doesn’t look right, it just doesn’t look right.
These chocolate banana bread muffins with chia seeds are packed with protein, fiber, nutrients, and Omega-3’s while still sweet, chocolatey, and moist. Gluten-free.
I have always had a strange love/hate relationship with bananas. I really want to like them for all the practical reasons – they’re healthy, portable, and low maintenance. But every time I buy them, the optimism I had in the grocery store about eating a banana all on its own quickly dwindles and they sit on my counter and go uneaten. It’s weird, I know. We drove down to southern Missouri this last weekend for a lake trip with friends (I always forget how beautiful the Ozark region of Missouri is!). Prior to the trip, I bought bananas, forgot to pack them in the car, and knew without a doubt I would not want to eat them when we returned….
This Blueberry Olive Oil Cake is made with almond flour and corn flour and sweetened with honey. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free.
Last week we headed west to California. Our first stop, after a day wandering the streets of San Francisco, was Napa Valley where we met up with our friends Megan and Bryon to taste and see what Napa does best. This wine tasting trip has been in the works for the last year in honor of what Megan and I call our “25th best friendiversary”. No one really needs an excuse to go wine tasting I suppose, but this felt like a worthy cause.
Next up, Heath and I drove halfway down the coast to San Luis Obispo to meet with my LA-living sister and her boyfriend, where we watched (much to Heath’s dismay) the OKC Thunder lose to the Spurs in a friendly bar that made us all feel like locals. And later, some more wine tasting. Our third leg led us north and east away from the coast toward Yosemite National Park. Beautiful seems like such a minuscule word when trying to describe Yosemite. The fact that we have so many awe-inspiring places like this in the US is always so shocking to me. I could have spent days there.
Prior to our trip, I had done some research on gluten-free bakeries and other food related places of note for our expected destinations. In Napa, we checked out the Oxbow Public Market, full of wonderful organic food vendors, wine, and cafes. This felt like a gluten-free haven to me. One of the vendors, Cate & Co., is a gluten-free bakeshop and eatery where I had my first true breakfast sandwich in what felt like eons….
Cherry Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies made with almond and coconut flour, oats, dried cherries, and sweetened with honey – an easy gluten-free cookie recipe!
Graduation always seems to be a true mark that summer is finally here. Our school held graduation ceremonies this last week in the very same auditorium in downtown Kansas City that my commencement ceremonies were held (13!) years ago. As I sat there this week watching the seniors cross the stage into adulthood, I couldn’t help but think about my own high school graduation and the horrible migraine I suffered that very day. With my best friend and walking partner by my side, my primary goal that day was to cross the stage without getting sick. When it was over, it felt like an eternity before we arrived back home. I spent the rest of the day in a dark room (or running to the bathroom), missing graduation dinner with my family.
I have countless memories like this – sometimes, it is easier to pinpoint events throughout my life based on the degree of the migraine I had that day. But what struck me the most this week amidst 2014’s newest graduates, was the absence of fear. This weekend will mark a year and a half since I had my last migraine, and I can only attribute this to going gluten-free. For about 15 years I carried around with me an element of fear that a migraine would hit and I would have no choice but to halt what I was doing, take some kind of med as soon as possible, and pray that I didn’t end up having to go to the emergency room 12 hours later to find relief. I feared that things I was so looking forward to would be ruined – graduations, vacations, reunions with friends, my wedding. Fear had a much greater hold on me than I ever really realized. And it wasn’t until this week that it truly hit me that fear has not had that hold for at least a solid year now. Amazing. And so freeing!
Today’s recipe was inspired by an end of the school year gift from my friend and colleague Daniel. He gave me LEON Brownies, Bars & Muffins, a little cookbook focused on naturally fast recipes. Does he know me or what?…