Gluten Free Chocolate Banana Muffins

 

**Image above is a stock photo. The entire batch was eaten before I remembered to snap a pic. Since these are made with coconut flour, their presentation is not as perfect as the one above. However, don’t let that stop you from making them.  My entire family eats them- that says a lot!

 

  • 3 Very ripe bananas
  • 6 eggs room temperature
  • 4 Tbsp coconut oil melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (75g) coconut flour, packed
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 oz. chocolate chips

 

Instructions

  1. Grease and/or line your muffin tins and preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large bowl or mixer, combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted coconut oil, vanilla extract until fully combined.
  3. Add the coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the wet ingredients and mix well. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour the batter into your muffin tin.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean and if you press down light on the top of the muffin, it should bounce back.

 

Family Montana Vacation

Thinking of vacationing in Montana?  Here is a recap of our family trip.

My fondest memories of our family time spent together are most often in nature.  The forced separation from media is always good for connection and conversation.

We traveled in July (2nd-7th actually).  We flew from Atlanta to Bozeman, Montana on Tuesday and returned on Sunday. 

This is the Big Sky Montana townhouse we stayed in.  It was a little snug for our family of six, but totally worth it for the budget-friendly price and the views/convenience.

Day 1:

We arrived in Bozeman at 2p. We drove into Big Sky and checked into our townhouse.  Then we ate a delicious meal at Olive B’s.

Then we drove straight to West Yellowstone to look around. We shopped and visited the tourism center. Good thing we did because the park ranger gave us the most important tip of all: 

Pack a cooler full of drinks and food in your car BEFORE heading inside Yellowstone!  This is a super important detail because there are just not many gas stations/restaurants inside the park. When you get hungry, you can’t just head to a near restaurant.  The few restaurants I did see looked like a Golden Corral (not very enticing).  We ended up eating many picnics while inside.

After the tourism center, we shopped West Yellowstone (think Gatlinburg type trinket stores) and headed back to Big Sky for the night.  It’s a beautiful 45-minute drive away.

We downloaded the Travelstory’s app for our own personal tour guide. I thought I purchased a tour that included the North and South-like a bundle option. However, today I do not see that choice.

Day 2:

We woke up super early (5am) and headed to Yellowstone National Park (west entrance). Ideally, you want to get in the park early to avoid crowds and the animals are moving more early morning and late afternoon.

For lunch, we had a picnic at Yellowstone. We saw a lot of Buffalo and geysers including Old Faithful! 

For dinner, we had pizza at Wild West Pizzeria.  We hiked an insane amount this day and were all ready for a hot meal. Pizza did not disappoint.     

Day 3:

Today is the 4th of July! 

Today we drove back to Yellowstone for Day 2 in the park.  Another picnic lunch AND dinner. We stayed in the park late because we wanted to watch the animals in Lamar Valley.

Day 4:

We spent today in Big Sky.  No early wake-ups, woohoo!  We had a slow breakfast in the townhouse, coffee and cinnamon rolls.  Then horseback riding at 9:00. Followed by white water rafting in the afternoon. We booked both activities through Geyser Whitewater. Highly recommend them! We had stellar guides both trips 🙂

For dinner, we ate at Gallatin River house in Big Sky.  They have outdoor fire pits and games for the kids. Really long wait because we didn’t have a reservation but a super night with a good atmosphere, food, and amazing views.

Day 5:

Last day. We slept in and then had brunch at Blue Moon Cafe.

Today we went on a ski lift to the top of Big Sky mountain.  We wanted to ride a van to the top but the tickets were sold out.  I didn’t know that would be something we needed to advance purchase.  However, the ski lift was super scary to me without seatbelts and no snow beneath us, yikes!!  The rest of the family LOVED this.

We also shopped around this village. and grabbed coffees.

Then we went on an easy hike to Ousel Falls.

For Dinner, we walked from our townhouse to eat at Michelangelo’s.   Pricey but the food was amazing! I especially loved being able to walk to dinner 🙂                                             

Day 6:

Fly home.

New York City Family Summer Vacation

We serendipitously ended up traveling to NYC in the summer, never “planning” to go as a whole fam.

I had some sky-miles and randomly heard about Google Flights. You just type in your preferred dates and preferred departure airport. Leave the destination blank. Hit search, now you can scroll for the least expensive flight. That is what I did! The least expensive flight from Atlanta was to NYC (and again today it is :).

Heading there with virtually no expectations, we were so pleasantly surprised! It far exceeded our imaginations. All six of us Loved our vacay! Maybe its was the sensory overload (sights, smells and noise galore) or the contrasting culture? There was something to see and absorb on every corner. We walked around 8 miles daily and my 5 year old rarely complained. He did notice, however.  Now that we are home, Gaines will say “let’s go back to NYC, but not walk this time.”

 

Day 1

Arrive via Uber 11:30 am

  • Made by Melissa cupcakes
  • Stowed luggage
  • Grand central station
  • Shake Shack 
  • Subway to battery park
  • Staten Island ferry- We didn’t get off at either stop. I heard Ellis island is really boring. The ferry ride was fun. We also didn’t actually go to the Statue of Liberty- I had heard it is difficult to get through security and it’s crazy hot. We were able to see it great from Brookfield Place and all were happy with just seeing it 🙂
  • Sea glass carousel
  • Trinity cathedral
  • Wall Street saw the bull
  • Kids bought $10 snow globe 
  • Back to hotel
  • Snack supper with our amazon prime delivery and “mandatory” Hyatt market credit – our hotel rate included money towards this little market … thumbs down. I hated to waste the money so we often ate from here even when we didn’t want to.
  • Walked down 42nd to FDR to watch fireworks (It was the fourth of July 🙂 unfortunately there were No food trucks or bathrooms anywhere near us)
Family New York City Vacation

Day 2

  • Plaza hotel downstairs food hall – adorable but didn’t see anything Kids’s would actually eat
  • 10:45 Moved to Sara Beth’s got the lemon ricotta pancakes enough to split w child
  • 12:15 Central Park official carriage ride so hot best and fastest way to see it all
  • 1:30 American Girl store
  • 3p St Regis tea for girls (This was super expensive and the food is definitely over priced, underwhelming. However, it was definitely one of the Most memorable parts for my girls)… Lego store, FDNY fire station (Gaines got the cutest T-shirt here) and Nintendo for guys
  • M&M store
  • Sat across Fox in a plaza snacked on smoothie and pretzel
  • 5:30 Top of the Rock Times Square 
  • Then Stardust Diner – there was an 1.5 hr standing outside wait. We all enjoyed it. The waiters and waitresses are also the entertainment -they take turns singing Broadway songs and they are REALLY GOOD! It was so fun- Definitely something great to experience if you can. Oh And… the food is great! We all split the Chocolate chip lava cookie w vanilla ice cream for dessert- amazing, as well as the French onion soup (we didn’t split the soup, ha! I ate all of mine)
  • Times Square again late, bought fake purses and quick family pics and walked back to hotel.

 

St Regis Tea New York City

Day 3

  • Breakfast in hotel.
  • Creme brûlée Doughnuts from doughnut plant.
  • The Museum of Natural History (used app to find way) I’ve heard of friends kids being bored here but we watched the movie prior to our trip and all kids thoroughly enjoyed the museum. I also bought this book in advance to read with Gaines. I recommend you buy your tickets in advance. We did not and had to wait in line a long time outside in the rain.
  • Patsy’s pizza -meh
  • Back to museum -G devastated no real tablet of akmenerah
  • 9/11 Memorial Brookfield Place- Beautiful views over water.  Upscale shopping center near the World Trade Center. There are some sit-down restaurants that look out on the river too. There are basically two parks out back and a marina all with an awesome view of the Statue of Liberty. Great for nightly stroll and makes beautiful pictures.
  • Ate at Mighty Quinn’s in Brookfield Place – bbq brisket, wings, sp casserole, corn nuggets 
  • Sprinkles cupcakes chocolate marshmallow 

Day 4

  • Breakfast in room
  • Bryant Park for an early lunch 
  • Walked down 42nd Shopped a bit
  • New Amsterdam theater for Alladin
  • More shopping near Times Square Rock center cafe
  • Dylan’s candy store
  • Long walk back to hotel… collapse, ha!

 

Other Random thoughts:

  • My friend ate food from their Amazon delivery in their hotel room each night, but that didn’t work for us bc we stayed out so late.
  • To save money, we only ate two real-meals per day. Brunch and Dinner – with snacks along the way, splitting a street pretzel or something out of backpack.  Worth mentioning, my favorite meal of the trip was the Wafels and Dinges food truck (Belgian waffles).
  • I carried my Longchamp bag with a lightweight raincoat (which doubles as sweater for colder buildings) and my wallet w strap. I kept thinking I would get rid of the large tote but actually carried the whole time even though Keith had a backpack. Gaines’ transformer dinosaur from the museum and his rain jacket, room key, medicine, phone, snacks were all in my tote.
  • We traveled using the Metro and wished we had bought the unlimited Metro card. If your family is smaller you can get away with just grabbing a cab.
  • Lectrofan micro -this sound machine was saving us in our hotel room. Many of the NYC hotels can be super noisy.
  • I took my list and opened up Iphone Maps app. Search each item and then make it a favorite. Once you’re done with your list those appear on your map and you can see it better because you for sure wanna stay in same area as much as you can. Then they are saved on your map in 5 years when you go again and cant remember. 
  • I ordered amazon prime now to have delivered when we arrived. Bottled water, cheese, turkey, peanut butter and jelly, paper plates, milk, etc.

New York City Date Weekend

In October, Keith and I stole the opportunity to getaway in NYC alone for a date weekend. Our trip did. not. disappoint! We went in July as a family, details on that trip are here.

Once again, I was surprised HOW much I love NYC! I don’t consider myself “fancy” at all and actually love a slow vacation (think warm blanket, mug of coffee and a book in hand). However, I do in fact LOVE New York City. It is sensory overload in the best way. The smells, the sounds, the food, the lights and the people watching- hard to top!

Since we had recently vacationed here and done all the touristy things. This time we could focus on just being together, eating good food, shopping and seeing new things. Really low pressure 🙂

Here was our weekend Itinerary.

Day 1: We had a departing flight from Atlanta at 3p but our flight was delayed by 2 hours due to weather. Then, upon landing, we jumped in the wrong Uber, had to turn around and return to airport for correct Uber. There is also major construction at LaGuardia airport. Pretty great instructions on how to navigate are here.  After we arrived at our hotel. It was pretty late but we found our way to Jack’sWife Freda for dinner- We had the most delicious Crab cakes, fried zucchini cauliflower and arugula salad. The atmosphere was perfect too.


Day 2: We slept in and headed to Black seed bagel. I ordered the BEC on everything w Café au lait. Then we walked (almost 8 miles that day to be exact) through Chinatown and Little Italy, more shopping and had an early Dinner at Supper – the best tiramisu on Earth- I would know 🙂 Followed by  Beautiful the Carole King Musical -incredible, seriously Best day/date ever! Beautiful far exceeded my expectations and is now hands down my favorite Broadway Show.


Day 3: We began the day by eating again!! We were in line bright and early before Clinton St. Baking company opened to get a seat. They serve the most delish pancakes and Keith got a large mug of apple cider. Later we watched the Auburn football game at St. Pat’s Bar and Grill. The food was typical pub type food, nothing impressive. However, it was neat to hang out with NYC Auburn fans. And, while there we even met a couple actually from Auburn and another couple we were friends with in college. Crazy to be in NYC and see people you know. After the game, we walked to Hudson Yards, The High Line and The Chelsea Market (which was so insanely crowded it couldn’t be enjoyed).


Day 4: We started our day at Blue bottle coffee company iced latte and an egg muffin that I’m still daydreaming about. Then we returned to our room to pack up and fly home.

Random extra thoughts:

  • Many of the NYC hotels do not offer in room complimentary coffee. So, I had to get completely dressed to go down to the lobby for coffee. Random but important.
  • Do NOT stress about what to wear. You cannot be unfashionable in NYC. You see it all. I stressed too much about what to pack/wear and upon arrival I quickly realized it was all wasted time.
  • I forgot to bring my Phone battery pack and wished I had it.
  • K downloaded a NYC subway app which proved to be super helpful and we bought the $29 metro card.
  • Many restaurants are cash only.
  • New Yorkers are really nice. I had heard the contrary but both times I met the most interesting, kind people (that I decided I wished I could be friends with:). One cultural difference to note is they do not make eye contact and smile like most southerners do.
  • I wanted to go to church on Sunday really bad. However, we didn’t because I thought we didn’t have time. Next time, I’ll plan my trip to ensure I can visit Hillsong and maybe Brooklyn Tabernacle. I think that would be awesome to experience a worship service there.

How to Read More

I’m often asked “How do you read so many books?”

Well, it is actually much simpler than you would imagine.

Five Ways to Read More:

  • Change the Rules– I used to think I had to read through one single book chronologically to completion. I’ve abandoned that notion. Now, I read the book that is near me. For example, If I’m in the car waiting on piano lessons to end- I read the book that is in my car.
  • Keep more books on hand– I keep a book on my nightstand, one in my purse, one by my bathtub, one in my car, etc.. By always having a book in sight, I’m able to read more.
  • Listen to the books on Audible. I subscribe to Audible and have listened to so many books while traveling, doing chores around the house and running errands. The more you listen, you might even get comfortable listening to audiobooks faster (and then, you can complete the book quicker). Much to my husbands chagrin, depending on the narrator- I may listen double speed. Certain books are elevated when narrated by the author. Here, you can find a list of my favorite audiobooks.
  • Read what interests you. I’m typically in the middle of multiple books at once. Some nights I feel drawn to a deeply spiritual book, other times I am in the mood for a light fiction book or a business book. I read almost exclusively based on my mood at that time. When I need direction in my life on parenting, marriage, relationships or business, I turn to books. There is so much we can glean from those who have walked this road ahead of us. I try the words on for size, embracing what feels true and discarding the ideas that don’t fit.
  • Shift your perspective. Mostly, I view reading as an indulgent pleasure that improves our lives. Now, we have the ability to purchase any book imaginable for less than ten bucks on Amazon- that’s some seriously inexpensive entertainment 🙂 However, in the rare circumstance I view it differently, I just remember its importance. Tremendous Jones, a business leader famous in the sixties is accredited with a quote I love: You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” I want to grow and not remain stagnant, so…I read. The greatest benefit I’ve gained from ALL the books I’ve read is my broader perspective on humanity. Surprisingly, we are all more alike than I could’ve ever known.

Favorite Audiobooks

Below you will find my favorite audiobooks. These are not affiliate links.

 

Audiobooks are especially great on long road trips, when flying, when running errands in the car and when doing mundane house chores.

I’ve completed a surprising number of books (often listening at 1.5 or double speed) just carting my kids around town and back and forth to work.

After typing the list, I noticed that I prefer to read, highlight and hold more educational self help type books. And, I prefer listening to the author narrate books 🙂 It feels even more personal to hear the book in their voice.

You can learn other ways I am squeezing in time for reading Here.

Enjoy!

 

Influence

Recently I heard something that has really stuck with me.  I want to give proper credit but for the life of me cannot remember where I heard this.  Maybe the Raising Girls and Boys Podcast, Maybe Beth Moore or Sally Clarkson- they’re all my virtual friends I esteem highly?!

The comment was essentially “In spite of all the worldly influences in our daughter’s lives, especially social media, music and their friends voices… You, as their mother, are still the most significant influence/role model in their lives.  Whether they admit it or not, the number one person they long to emulate when they become adults is their mom” 

It may look like they aren’t listening to you, but not only are they listening to you but they are watching you.  That is dually refreshing and daunting all at once! 

The good news is that we DO have influence and we are not out of time! Our daughters are watching us.  

That thought has really been powerful for me and inspired me to be even more intentional. What is my attitude like, how do I speak to others, what music do I listen to , what books am I reading, how do I handle hard situations, communicate my faith, how do I treat my body?  

We may not always get it right, but we can’t give up trying.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

  • Martha White Chocolate Chip Muffin Pack (like this)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of Milk
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of pumpkin pie spice (or sub cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine all and spoon into a greased muffin tin.

Bake approximately 15 minutes.

*I love, love these so much that I have to refrain from eating the entire pan. They’re a Fall tradition in our house. The next time I make I will experiment with adding some protein powder to the mix.

All the Fall Things

Who knows why, but I am especially nostalgic recently. Maybe it is because my baby is now 6. There are so many things I see that make me realize this season is ending. He will not be amused with those novelties soon, teardrop.

Typically super practical and frugal, I have splurged more lately- justifying these purchases because I know the kids are changing stages of life and outgrowing so many things.

I better decorate more now, I better buy him the sweet pajamas, I better do all the things while I still can 🙂

For example:

  • I have already bought giant pumpkins and a wreath for the front porch. I bought these to decorate with and Keith bought these.
  • While shopping at TJ Maxx, I bought a delicious Pumpkin pie scented candle for the kitchen – Much to Keith’s chagrin. He has an aversion to smells, especially deliciously strong ones. Thankfully, when I was shopping they didn’t have these. They’re my absolute favorite. T
  • Splurged on these for Gaines, running out of time for things like this. Nothing sweeter than a “baby” in sweet and soft pajamas.
  • Stumbled on these cute gift tags, haven’t gone all in yet.
  • Enjoying drinking my first cup of coffee on the back porch since the temps are a smidge cooler in the morning. These fall cups elevate the experience.
  • These remind the kids of Fall and so of course I have already purchased a bag. Yep, even the dentist’s kids eat candy, ha!

This is the recipe that I make every. single. fall. I love to make them in muffin tins.

What are your favorite fall traditions?

PS. Adorable infant costumes that I shared with a friend: I thought this , this and this was cute  

Becoming

Reflections on Michelle Obama’s Book Becoming

I listened via Audible while traveling to Orlando for AADOM conference.  Overall, I enjoyed the book.  It was a book that I feel Audible upgraded.  Sluggish in parts, I may have abandoned the physical book.  Hearing Michelle’s voice felt like a friend riding along in the car with me.

This book successfully did what I feel a good book should- it caused me to ponder questions/topics I had not ever considered.  I most enjoyed how it reminded me how connected we all really are.   Despite our cultural backgrounds, all of our stories, triumphs, struggles, life experiences and losses are surprisingly similar!  

I could especially relate to her struggles and challenges as she strived to be a good mother, wife and employee.  Open about how serving in the White House was never her goal, Michelle put her dreams aside to support her husband and his dreams.  She esteemed the institution of marriage above her own ambition.  She successfully communicated the gravity of the roles of President and the First Lady.   At times the emotion and weight of the story and her circumstances overwhelmed me and I cried.  I could vividly imagine how she must have felt.  Prior to “reading” this book, I had not ever considered the sacrifices a family must make to serve our country in this capacity.  

Overall, I have a new respect for her!  She is testament to what determined women and luck crossed with opportunity can do.  The  intentionality she brought to her role as First Lady is admirable.  While no job description existed, she knew that this was a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in our nation and humanity that she would not squander.  She knew the role came with tremendous power and influence and she wanted to wield it for good.   I appreciate her and President Obama’s intentional and unwavering commitment to ethics, honor and integrity.