A Lauren/Spencer Project Venn Diagram

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Delicious and a Little Bit Fancy Banana Bread Cake

I went grocery shopping a little while ago and bought some bananas and as humans tend to do, we let them start to get too freckly for out liking. I felt a strong connection to the rapidly ripening bananas at this point, because I too get very freckly in the summertime. "Bananas, I'm here for you," I said, to which the freckly bananas said nothing because bananas can't talk. If they could though, I can imagine they would have encouraged me to bake them into banana bread so they would have served some warm and delicious purpose in their short little lives, just as we all hope to some day (...weird) (sorry). 

I have a go-to banana bread recipe that I have used for years which, as it turns out, I haven't made a blog post about to link here, but maybe I will one day. Anyway, this time, I decided to finally try out a new one. Joy the Baker (who Lauren and I love) (you should listen to her podcast) (really really you should) has a recipe for chocolate bourbon spiked banana bread which sounds nutty even before finding out that the recipe has actual nuts in it.

I didn't have bourbon (nor did I know anything about bourbon) and I didn't have walnuts, so I replaced them in the recipe with rum (leftover from a previous baking adventure for one of Lauren's birthday cakes) and pecans, so I guess now I've created a new recipe (with an excessively long and confusing title).

I really don't know if rum is considered a substitute for bourbon in baking recipes, but the end result is really good, so I'm going to say yes. I should probably just Google it. Or Bing it if I'm going to be that girl. Someone named Joe C says yes that's okay in a Yahoo answers thing, so I'm going to trust him because he sounds like a trustworthy guy.

The recipe has lemon juice in it which isn't something I've ever found in a banana bread recipe before. I really liked how this recipe turned out. So did my dad. So did Leo, when I accidentally dropped a crumb on the ground and then rushed to retrieve it from his silly little mouth (Leo is a puppy, not my brother or something, because that would sound quite strange if you didn't know).

I made it in a round cake pan instead of a loaf pan because I like the way things look when cut in wedges. Also, I like when my sandals are wedges. I suppose that part is unrelated to the recipe.

This recipe is more cakey and less bready than the other recipe I've used. I just found out that my computer dictionary doesn't think "cakey" OR "bready" is a word, which is weird because I use them both just about every day, if not every conversation.

You should make this if you have freckly bananas on your counter who feel worthless:

2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder (Isn't that just a tablespoon? I don't understand why it's written like that.)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt and a little more than the recipe called for because that's how I roll)*
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs
about three ripe bananas, mashed (or 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of rum
1 cup of pecans (I left them whole but you could chop them or draw a little face on them with one of those edible ink pens or whatever if you want)
1 cup of chocolate chips

I mixed all the dry ingredients together and beat the butter and sugar until fluffy (or about 4 minutes) in an electric stand mixer. Then, I beat in the eggs, one at a time. I stopped the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and added the bananas, lemon juice, and rum. I turned down the speed of the mixer to low and added all the dry ingredients. Then, I stirred in the pecans and chocolate chips with a spoon, and poured it into a greased round cake pan. I baked it for about an hour, possibly a little less, at 350 degrees (F). 

*I'm a little disappointed that this recipe isn't for rolls because that would have been such a great pun.


What I'm listening to right now: Like The Wheel by The Tallest Man on Earth


Two Festive Summer Pies

Basically, I just needed to make some festive pies. There comes a time in every young person's life when that person basically just needs to make some festive pies. Do you understand?

Summer is not my favorite month, and I would even go as far as saying it is my least favorite. If you don't remember the tremendous number of "aoeisjt  omgggg I love autumnnnnn" posts from last year, then I can just tell you now, I'm really into fall and winter. Even spring is beautiful. Spring is the time when I decide I'm going to like summer this year. When this spring came, I made the same decision as always, but this time, I'm trying really hard. I put all of my fall and winter nail polish colors in hiding for the season and have been making an effort to spend a lot of time outside (Leo is a big help with this one). I even started actually burning scented candles that aren't called "mulled cider" or "autumn leaves" or "a cozy winter night in" like I usually do. I think the one on my bedroom desk right now is pink (pink! not even brown!) and has the word "tropical" in the name, so you know I'm serious about this liking summer thing.

So there I was, on July the fourth, anniversary of when Paul something or other warned some guys about something or other and alas (alas!) (I don't know if I used that right) here I am, in a somewhat free country where people like to eat fast food and talk about how their "hearts go out to" whoever is going through something publicly tragic.

And I thought, I have some marshmallows and fresh berries in patriotic colors and graham crackers that I bought directly as a result of the summer-loving inspirational display at the grocery store about how if I eat s'mores made with Honey Maid brand graham crackers this summer, I'll have friends and be happy, etc. etc.

So I made a couple of graham cracker crusts (they were really good, you should use this recipe) and I made some pastry cream (which is actually a fancy name for custard) (Lauren and I learned this the hard way some years ago when we asked multiple grocery store employees if they could point us in the direction of the pastry cream and no one knew what we were talking about), and I mixed a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips into half of the custard while it was still hot and poured the vanilla custard into one crust and the chocolate into the other crust (as depicted in image 4.5a) (that was me pretending this is a physics textbook). I basically just threw a whole mess of berries on the vanilla one and sifted it with powdered sugar and spread some 15 second microwaved marshmallows on the chocolate one, and put it in the broiler for just a few minutes (burning very easy so keep a close eye) and BAM (BAM!) a patriotic and seasonal fruit pie and a s'mores pie. Look at me go, everybody. Look at me go!

For one graham cracker crust:

12 graham cracker sheets that you put in a plastic bag and take out all your aggression on (or food processor, I GUESS)

5 tablespoons of butter, melted

1/4 cup of sugar

1/8 teaspoon of salt (I think I used slightly more because I really like salty with sweet) (also, I used coarse kosher salt, but you can use any kind) (I mean not like the kinds that aren't meant for human consumption) (like for real man, just get some edible salt, PLEASE)

So you just put them all in a bowl and mix mix mix and then press into a greased 9 inch pie pan and bake for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees. It should smell really good. If it doesn't smell really good, you did something wrong.

For the pastry cream:

2 cups of milk
1/2 cup of sugar
4 egg yoks
1/4 cup of cornstarch
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
a pinch of salt

In a saucepan, mix together the milk, salt, and half of the sugar, cooking over medium heat until it begins to simmer. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, and the rest of the sugar. Pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg yoke mixture gradually. Then pour it all back into the saucepan, still over medium heat, whisking continuously. This process I believe is called tempering and the point is that you don't want the egg yolks to cook like scrambled eggs because yuck. Keep whisking for about two minutes, until the mixture is noticeably thicker. Transfer it to the bowl of an electric mixer, add the butter, and mix until the mixture cools, about 5 minutes.

If you want to make the chocolate one, just throw in several handfuls of chocolate chips. I was not precise, but it would taste really good with literally any amount of chocolate added. Yes, even 75 pounds of chocolate. I know you were about to ask that. Mix it up and the chocolate will melt and it will be great and all your guests will love it and you'll have friends and a great summer just like the Honey Maid ad said you would!

You can put whatever you want on these after the custard part. For the berry one in the picture, just cut up a bunch of your favorite seasonal fruit and arrange them in a pretty way at first that later turns into you just sort of tossing them on every which way because what does it even matter, and for the s'mores one, put all of the marshmallows left in the bag of marshmallows in your cabinet in a bowl and then in the microwave for about 15 seconds and they'll get really comically large and then you can scoop them out and spread them over the top. Stick in the broiler for just a few minutes, checking frequently, until it's golden brown and lovely like toasted marshmallows.

What I'm reading right now: Seriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres 


It was a bloody July 4th!

not that kind of bloody...

No one got their leg shot at by a firework or anything. Actually, no one (me) did not go to any kind of patriotic bash where I could have gotten my leg shot at. I just stayed in the residence hall, watched my shows, and drew a couple little illustrations. I did see some fireworks out my window though, and they were bloody great! 

Here's a little ditty (I know, inappropriate choice of word, but I like it) on what a Fourth of July "date" would look like on the "Bachelorette."

And here I look at July 4th from the perspective of the animals.



Some emoticon fun

So I was just bored, and I thought it would be cool to do this...because that's what normal people do...

Liz Lemon?









Starbucks lady


pooh bear


Lady Gaga



Pee Wee Herman





I made door tags for my residents based off of residents I previously made and highly recommend!

Thank you Smitten Kitchen and Martha Stewart for the majority of my inspiration :)



Wrapping up the fall semester...

just in time for Christmas. 

I took my Dutch exam today. It was bittersweet because my teacher is going back to the Netherlands. Our class will have a new instructor for Dutch 2.

For our last class, Chris Van Wolffelaar gave us little, painted, clay clogs, just touristy gewgaws, but precious all the same. She also gave us pepernoten for Sinterklaas. They are like little gingerbread cookies. They come in a mix with gum drops and these sweet, colored candies that are molded into shapes of presents, horses and torches.

The reason behind these shapes will make more sense if you read a brief background of Sinterklaas: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/netherlands/

On the night of Sinterklaas, the children put their shoes out, and "Sinterklaas" leaves the pepernoten in them. My instructor realized when she was telling us the story that it may be considered gross to eat candy straight out of your shoes...She was not certain if everyone's parents did this or if some put the candy in wrapping first.


Also, I have a new coffee combination that you may be too embarrassed to recite, but if you do you will find it delicious.

It is a venti lite ice coffee with egg nog and 2 pumps of caramel brulee and 2 pumps of chai.
It is very festive.

But because it is so long, and I do get embarrassed, and customers save 25 cents by reusing any mug, I always wash my cup and just bring it back; that way I save myself the long-winded order.

However, apparently I mutter, actually, I know I do because my dad has reminded me repeatedly, the barista heard "Alana" rather than "Lauren." I thought it was such a coincidence when this happened on three separate occasions. I took this picture so I could put it on Instagram with a caption like: I got "Alana" on my cup 3 times in a row. How weird!"

But...before I posted it, I realized it was just the same cup...that I had reused; I had just forgotten. What is even more embarrassing is I told the last barista, on the third time, what a strange coincidence it all was. I wonder what she was thinking?

This is just something I was staring at for too long while I was lying on my floor, as I often do. I think the raised parts of the plaster make a shape that looks like a gator's head. Don't you think? Maybe you have too look at it for too long.

The gator is looking off to the side, it's nostril is on the right side, it's eye is in the upper middle of the frame, it's mouth is slightly open and facing downward at an angle.

See it?
Also, do you hear those voices?


This is a mini, fake, Christmas tree that I dug up from the closet when I was moving my stuff out of the house.

I used to decorate it with lots of tiny ornaments each year and put it in my room, next to my bed.

I have heard about people decorated Christmas tree with popcorn and cranberries and I had wanted to try it. It actually doesn't look like garbage. Surprised?

The deep red contrasted with the fluffy white is actually quite nice against the faux evergreen. I put it in the hall's lounge.


I am leaving here for winter break in a week.

My first stop is SF's house, and then I am going to visit my parents in the mountains.

I plan to do some video blogging during that time though I do not know why you would want to watch a summary retelling of my life.

However, it is fun to make video blogs, and they will help me remember things when I'm grey. Also, now I have a video camera, albeit point and shoot, so I might as well.