Tackling one tree and banana oat bar at a time

My word of the year is embrace, as in, embrace the craziness that life launches at me. It’s almost funny just how much craziness the Universe has dealt me so far this year — high highs and low lows and rarely a dull moment in between. One moment my family and I were saying goodbye to my cousin, who died far too soon. The next moment, I was in India for one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips. More recently, I was indulging in the richness of New Orleans and squeezing in a Memphis adventure, only to follow with the Modern Love Machine’s knee surgery on Thursday.

I’m sure this goes without saying, but it is so, so hard to watch someone you love be in pain. You wish for the magical power of being able to take away pain, and yet the best you can do is try to minimize any additional discomfort while they work through the pain on their own. And dole out the Percocet every four hours. Knee surgery is mostly a routine thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not painful. And the MLM apparently excelled at screwing up his knee. “Go big or go home … he definitely went big,” his doctor said post-op.

The MLM and I have spent at least one day or night away from home for four of the past five weekends. Combine that with long, busy hours at work trying to get an app launched, and I feel like I’ve barely seen my house lately. So while I was not looking forward to the MLM’s surgery so much, I was happy about being forced to stay at home for a few days, both as a postmortem to all the travel and a precursor to the crazy of getting both of us to and from work and rehab appointments when only one of us is allowed to drive.

Of course, as soon as I sat still in the quiet of the house for a few moments while the MLM napped a bit, I realized just how overwhelming the to-do list seemed. Thanks to a few weeks of neglect, the house is disgustingly dusty and a bit dirty — as in, actual dirt, not messiness. The budget needs to be balanced so that the medical bills can be paid. The contractor needs to be nudged into returning to the house sometime soon. The front flower beds need weeding, the bushes need trimming and flowers obviously must be planted for sanity’s sake. My own physical and spiritual health has been a bit neglected lately, so a trip to the gym (or a lap in my running shoes) and an outing to Mass are both overdue. And it would be nice to clean out that blogreader and actually get all the blog posts I’ve written in my head over the past few weeks typed out, but that’s obviously a luxury.

Or is it?

My tendency is to want to wipe out that entire list at once, lest the anxiety of it all overwhelm me. My old editor would tell me I could never see the trees for the forest, while my therapist would remind me that the only way around the forest is through it, and the only way through it is to get around one tree at a time.

So I’ve been tackling one tree at a time. Embracing each tree, if you will. I can’t exactly say I’ve been crossing the chores off my list, either. I’ve watched the Grizzlies game, played XBox with the MLM, made a quick trip to the Farmers Market while the MLM napped and sat in the sun while typing this very post. Oh, I did get the front flower bed weeded, so 10 points to Gryffindor for that.

And I’ve cooked. Not cooking for the sake of eating, but cooking things because I felt like it. Like this Asian Peanut Noodle Salad. Ok, that was more preparation than cooking, and it did feed us for dinner, but I only made it because I felt like it. It was simple and delicious, though I was short on honey so I didn’t quite have enough sauce.

This morning I woke up to beautiful sunlight and a cool breeze streaming through the kitchen window. I wanted to be making Banana Oat Bars in front of that window instead of paying bills or going to Mass (God, forgive me). Plus I had bananas that had been in the freezer for a few too many weeks, and I’d rather make something of them than throw them out. (When your bananas go bad, throw them in the freezer. When you’re ready to make banana bread or banana oat bars, pull ‘em out and let ‘em thaw and go to work). When I bake things I prefer mostly unhealthy things with lots of butter and flour and sugar, but these bars don’t have any of that, and yet, I love them. They’re also incredibly simple to make.

mushy old bananas in the sunlight

One note about the recipe: several ingredients are listed as optional. Let me assure you, they are not optional. Everything that has a pinch of sweet needs a pinch of salt, and the vanilla and nutmeg/cinnamon add depth.

banana mush with oats in the sunlight

Another note: chocolate chips should be mandatory as well. I’ve done this recipe with and without them, and chocolate chips add some necessary heft that the nuts alone don’t accomplish. I suppose you could add something else chunky, but I like the added sweetness of the chocolate. And I just like chocolate.

chocolate chips and pecans in the sunlight

I often make a double batch and throw it in a 13×9 pan. Today, I didn’t quite extract enough pulp from my way-too-old bananas, so this batch turned out a little dry and crumbly. Nothing that can’t be solved by just shoving it into your mouth a little faster. What I don’t eat straight out of the pan I cut up into squares and wrap with foil or Saran Wrap to grab for an at-work snack.

banana oat bars

Today? Maybe I’ll get around to the bills and do a little cleaning. The MLM is a little more mobile and insists on going to see Iron Man 3, so that will happen for sure. Maybe Mass, maybe some cilantro pesto will get made. Whatever doesn’t happen today, I’ll work on tomorrow.

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One Response to Tackling one tree and banana oat bar at a time

  1. katelin says:

    i mean these look delicious. i’ll definitely have to give these a try.

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