Counting down to exams

Don’t study because you need to

study because 

Knowledge is power

study because

they can never take it away from you

study because

you want to know more

study because

it enhances you

study because

it grows you

I’ve all but moved into the library leading up to my first exams this week, and I can’t say I’m loving it. I’m tired and frustrated and finding it hard to focus. I’ve never really had to study before, so these past weeks have been a challenge. I’m both very comfortable with the what I need to know, but also in a constant state of panic because I haven’t had an exam in over a year and what if I don’t know how to write and essay in 40 minutes anymore, or what if I can’t think of any examples or theories, or any of the 1 million other things that I need to know. In reality, I passed all those AP exams on my ability to write essays just like the ones on this exam and I have a better idea of these topics than I ever did an AP test. So I should probably calm down a bit.

Alex

 p.s. when I’m not drowning in books, I’ll finally post the Lisbon and Madrid photos, just a few months late!

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Procrasti-baking: Cinnamon Rolls

Procrasti-baking, or baking when you should really be doing work. My preferred way of spending a Saturday evening, or a weeknight if I can spare some time. For a form of procrastination, it’s a fairly productive one, you at least end up with some food for the week, or for friends at the end.

I’ve been using the past few weeks to attempts some recipes that seemed complicated, or I’ve just never tried before. I’ve fallen a bit in love with making bread, or anything using yeast, to be honest. This was last week’s Saturday night baking, though I just finished them off  this weekend.

I grew up eating homemade cinnamon roles, and while I’ve helped my grandmother make them, they’ve never been something I’ve done alone. I’m not sure if there is a formal recipe for my grandmother’s cinnamon rolls, but I have to say these weren’t too far off in regards to texture.

I started off planning to make some banana bread with leftover bananas but stumbled across this recipe from Minimalist Baker. It was incredibly simple, and the use of bananas really cut back on how much sugar was needed. Since I buy vegan butter, it was also nice that this was such a great easy vegan recipe and didn’t affect the final product at all.

I didn’t include the bananas withing the rolls, just in the dough. I also skipped the nuts, because I am a simple uni student who does not own chopped walnuts. I also can’t say I followed the directions to a “t”, I let the dough rise twice, instead of the once the recipe suggests. I added vanilla extract, but I add that to everything.

It’s a really simple recipe, and I like to justify it by using the time it takes for the dough to rise by going for a run. That burns off those fresh out to the oven cinnamon roll calories, right?

 

ONE BOWL BANANA BREAD CINNAMON ROLLS
Prep time
1 hour 30 mins
Cook time
30 mins
Total time
2 hours
Simple, fluffy vegan cinnamon rolled infused with banana bread flavor and made in just one bowl!
Author: Minimalist Baker
Recipe type: Dessert, Breakfast
Cuisine: Vegan, American
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) instant/fast acting yeast
  • 1 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter (I use Earth Balance), divided
  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana + 1/2 cup sliced banana, divided
  • 2 3/4 – 3 1/4 cups flour (I used a ratio of 2/3 unbleached all purpose, 1/3 whole wheat pastry)
  • 1/2 – 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts or pecans, crushed (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, heat the almond milk and 3 Tbsp Earth Balance in the microwave in 30 sec increments (or heat over medium heat in a large sauce pan), until warm and melted (never reaching boiling). Let cool to 110 degrees, or the temperature of bath water. It should be warm but not too hot or it will kill the yeast. (If you used a saucepan to heat the milk, transfer to a large mixing bowl now.)
  2. Sprinkle on yeast and let activate for 10 minutes. Then add 1 Tbsp sugar, salt and stir. Next add in 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana and stir.
  3. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring as you go. The dough will be sticky. When it is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so, adding flour as needed, until it forms a loose but still springy ball. Only use as much flour as it will take.
  4. Rinse out your mixing bowl, coat it with canola or olive oil, and add your dough ball back in seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size (see photo) – mine only took 40 minutes.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a long rectangle ~1/4 inch thick. Brush with 1/4 cup melted vegan butter and top with 1/3 cup sugar (I used a little brown sugar mixed in with the cane sugar) and 1/2 – 1 Tbsp cinnamon (up to preference). Then add about 20 very thin banana slices so it’s easy to roll, and most of the walnuts.
  6. Slowly and tightly roll up the dough and situate seam side down. With a serrated knife or a string of floss, cut the dough into 1.5 – 2-inch sections and position in a well-buttered 8×8 square or comparable sized round pan (you should have about 10 rolls). Brush with remaining 1 Tbsp melted vegan butter and sprinkle with a bit more sugar (brown or cane) and remaining walnuts.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and set on top of the oven to let rise again while you preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Once the oven is hot, bake rolls for 28-35 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve warm.
  9. Optional: Frost with dairy free cream cheese frosting or a simple dairy-free glaze

APRIL

I wrote about March almost halfway through April, sitting on a train. I wrote that I needed something new, a little calmer, I needed a break. I failed to realize that April wasn’t going to be that. March and April bled together into a muddled mess of travel, stress, and change. It’s honestly hard to tell where one ended without looking at a calendar. On that train where I wrote about March, I remarked on the rainy day with a phrase I’ve heard people say most of my life. “April showers bring May flowers” While the friends I was with had not heard this phrase, I don’t think there is a better one to sum up this month. Here were April’s showers, and I’m hoping they’re bringing me a few May flowers.

 I began April in Lisbon with family, which is still probably the highlight of the month. Missing family is obviously the hardest thing about living so far away, and being away from home for 6 months is not easy. No matter how great that week was, saying goodbye at the end was incredibly difficult. I don’t think that will change.

IMG_7136

April ended in the middle of Roses, a huge sporting event Lancaster has against Roses each year. The run up to Roses for me was a 24hr trip to Brussels for a conference, a night in the airport, followed directly by classes, standing outside for hours reporting for our student newspaper, and dealing with the drunken party that apparently everything becomes during Roses. Honestly, the end of April is probably the perfect summary of the month.

 When I say April was full of travel, I mean I traveled every single week of April. April was 3 countries, 4 planes, 9 trains, and quite a few taxis (I have been reminded to count some tuk-tuks in this as well). What I find incredibly funny and frustrating is how often people tell me they’re ‘jealous’ of how exciting my life is. But I feel like it’s easy to see the travel and conferences and see them as interesting and fun, when you can ignore the dark circles under my eyes and the late hours spent working to make sure everything is done. I promise this life looks a lot better from the outside.

When I wrote about March I was looking for a break. April wasn’t one. But maybe May will be. I’m not traveling, not even for fun. It’s sad when you’re too tired for a holiday, but that’s where I am now. It’s the run up to exams, and the beginning of the countdown till I go back to Texas for Summer. I’m not saying it will be stress-free, and someone told me today when looking at my calendar that my schedule looked ‘so busy’ when it’s the freest it’s been in months. I need to revise more, and I need to sort out details for leaving. But I also really need to take a break.

So this month I’m volunteering with kids, something I have missed a lot this year after two years of PALS. I’m staying in Lancaster, or at least not going anywhere I have to pack for. I’m being selfish. So here’s to May, and all that it’s going to bring.

Until then,

Alex

 

Brussels 

Brussels is a very pretty city. Well, what I saw of the city in the 24 hours I spent there. I can very much attest to the inside of the Charleroi airport being decent, though not the best. 

 

Though it was an incredibly fast trip, it was a great trip. I went to Brussels to attend the TRACE Conference held at the Ministry of Justice.  In the past year as TR:ust Project Leader, I’ve been so lucky to travel as well as attend a number of talks. TRACE was an amazing way to end the year, and my time as Project Leader. 

   
 
The city was beautiful, and definitely one to go back to, if only for some waffles. For now, I’ll just eat the excessive amount of chocolate I brought home. 
Alex