Banana Rum Muffins

Ever buy a bunch of bananas and have every intent on eating them, but then days go by and they seem to languish on your counter? I personally believe that's why banana bread recipes were use up the over ripe bananas. Because let's face it, the texture of super ripe, mushy bananas in your mouth is not the most appealing. Mashed up on toast? Sure. Pureed in a blender with milk and honey? Of course. But eating on their own while they squish through your fingers trying to hold onto them? No thanks.

This morning I made some Banana Rum Muffins. My mom can not have a lot of nuts (potassium rich foods are on her "in moderation list" for kidney disease), so I left out the toasted walnuts. You could use other nuts such as hazelnuts or pecans. Toasting them in the oven before chopping them up really brings out their flavour.

Banana Rum Nut Muffins

1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large bananas, mashed (be sure the bananas are really ripe)
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp dark rum (or 1 tbsp rum extract)
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts), toasted and chopped

In a large bowl, combine the flour. baking powder, baking soda and salt. If you are going to use nuts in this recipe, add those in now and coat with dry ingredients. Form into a well and set aside.

In another bowl, stir together the mashed banana, sugar, egg, rum and melted butter. Pour the liquid mixture into the center of the dry ingredient well and mix until just combined and dry ingredients are moistened.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full with batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (12-15 minutes for mini muffins. Remove from oven when tops of muffins spring back when touched. Allow to cool in pan on wire cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

We had some of these warm with hot earl grey tea before heading out to run errands. It was especially foggy here and we were not looking forward to having to go outside. So it was nice to linger for a moment and enjoy the warmth of the muffins and the tea, which gave us a little bit of a push to start our day.

Hope you enjoy!


Venetian masks are known world over for their elaborate designs and striking colour combinations. They are generally thought of as only being worn during Carnevale di Venezia (Carnival of Venice), but this wasn't always the case.

Originally, the masks were worn daily; and by doing so the wearer could hide his or her identity and status. A high born lady could wander the streets of the market, a common man could pass himself off as a successful merchant. The masks also allowed the wearer to act more freely without the constraints of their given social class and ignore the boundaries that would otherwise apply. This was especially true at a party, where the host would not have known whether the wearer was high born or not but could not risk offending invited guests, and so would have to have welcomed everyone wearing a mask. This is what makes the story of the Montagues sneaking into the Capulet masked ball without detection plausible (Romeo and Juliet).

However, given the possibility, the mask could be used for good as well as bad intent; one might sneak out from their manor house to speak with their lover in another part of town, opinions might be more openly voiced in conversation, or a knife might find its way into an enemy's back. Who was that masked man? Nobody knows.

Therefore, the daily use of masks was restricted - almost disappeared except for on rare occasion. Then, in 1162, a festival was held to commemorate a military victory. The festival became an annual tradition, and as it developed and became larger and more colourful each year, the Carnevale di Venezia was born. The masks became more and more elaborate and the balls, dances and parties lasted for days. That is, until 1797 when the King of Austria outlawed the Carnival and strictly forbid the wearing of masks.

Over the next 200 years, masks were usually only worn at private parties or at exhibitions as part of an artistic expression.  In 1980, a Carnival revival began in an effort to attract tourists to Venice.

There are three popular types of masks worn at Carnival. The first is the Bauta, which hides the whole face, but extends away from the lower part of the face so that the wearer can still eat. The extension also acts as a tunnel and alters the voice of the wearer, furthering the disguise. A Columbina is a half mask, which is often highly decorated with feathers and silk flowers, and is either held up to the face by a baton or tied around the head with a ribbon. Medico della Peste (the Plague Doctor) is the third type of mask, which got its ominous name from the Plague in Italy during the 17th century when it was worn as a precautionary measure against contracting the disease. It is easily recognized with its long beak and stark appearance without decoration.

Today, you can find masks pretty much everywhere you turn in Venice. Some are authentic and made in Venice. Most are not.

Tonight is the staff party for work, and the theme is Masquerade, which is a type of masked ball. Perhaps we will see if people do indeed act more freely behind the guise of a mask (there is no worry that some one with ill intent pulls a dagger out before running off into the darkness of the night). I'm sure it will be a lot of fun.

Happy New Year - 2015

Today starts a brand new year! Although most of today will be spend in a state of doing nothing constructive or creative (i.e. lounging on the sofa in my pj's), I have given some thought to what I plan to accomplish in the coming year.

I have set my resolutions up as short term, mid term and year end goals. First, in the short term, I need to clean. I mean, really clean. And purge. I have too much stuff. I need to go through my storage and throw out all the old paint cans from ten years ago. I need to get rid of a lot of old stuff in there like light fixtures that don't work, old shower curtain rods ....useless stuff that once a while back I thought I would need again. Now it's ten years later and I've lived this long without them. They can go.

I need to securely wrap up and move any bolts of fabric that I am not working with into the newly created space in storage. I have too much fabric in my studio. I know, I know....there is no such thing as too much fabric. But it is not a very large studio and it is feeling very cluttered. Cluttered spaces are not productive spaces. So they will need to be relocated. Temporarily, not for ten years.

I have too many mannequins. I have six child and six adult mannequins. I can cut that number down, since I no longer do art shows where I need to display a whole bunch of dresses and such. Twelve mannequins takes up a lot of room. I will photograph them and put them up on craigslist, since they weren't cheap when I bought them and someone can definitely use them.

I will (finally) grout around my fireplace tiles. Doing this will mean I can then give all the tiling equipment and tools back to my parents. The extra grout and supplies can go away (though I will keep a small container of the grout powder for any touch ups I may need to do). This will give me an additional two feet of space along the back of the sofa, where I have been storing these tools and equipment for the past couple years.

I will recover my sectional and either sell it or keep it and sell the sofa. Yes, I have a full sofa plus a full sectional. I live on my own and can seat 12 people in my living room. It's going to be hard to determine which I want to give up, but I do need to choose one or the other. I just want the space back.

This means by April (mid-term goals), I will have my dining room area back. Which means I can host a Birthday Brunch. And diner parties. And Sangria Sundays. I also want to visit Cuba. Or Prague and Vienna. Cuba first, then Prague and Vienna.

I want to redo my kitchen. I would like new counters and will probably need a new refrigerator this year. The one I currently have has started making funny noises with increased frequency. This is not a good thing. I want to remove the dishwasher entirely. The only time I use it is .....never. It leaks, and so about two years ago I stopped using it. I have so few dishes I just do them by hand when I need to. Although, if I start hosting more people, I may reconsider this idea. But it would be nice to turn that area back into a cupboard for baking equipment. I'd keep the hose hook-up for if I ever sell my place and move.

And I need to renovate my main bathroom. Big time. Especially the shower.

So there you have it. I've committed my resolutions by writing them down and making them public.

Have you made any resolutions? Let me know big or small. Remember, start with small steps and build momentum for greater success. The biggest (apparent) reason people fail in keeping their resolutions is that they resolve too much too quickly.

Hope you are having a great start to your new year!