Living near family is probably one of life’s greatest gifts.
We’ve been pretty lucky in that regard thus far… we have never been truly alone anywhere we have lived. We resided in the same state as Jason’s family in college, we had my older brother Andrew in D.C. with us, and we finally have Jason’s sister Natalie in Denver. [Heck, she even lived next door to us for a year, which was seriously the biggest bonus of all.]
It’s a challenge though, being away from those you love – from your support system and those who are such intrinsic parts of your identity. It’s heartbreaking to miss out on milestones, to not be able to celebrate a birthday with a parent or even to say goodbye to a grandparent on their deathbed… both of which we experienced in the last two weeks.
But what makes these missed moments so much brighter is the prospect of all of the new ones to come.
Case in point: my younger brother Alex visited us this past weekend. He’s toying around with the idea of moving here [no pressure!], and the entire weekend served as one big glimpse into what that kind of shared life might entail.
Friday dinners chowing down on South Federal Pho or Colorado Ave Hot Pot. Saturday excursions to farmer’s markets and one of the many Colorado craft breweries nearby. Day trips to outlying towns like Fort Collins. Sunday sibling supper at our house, complete with games and taking turns “shooting nerds” on Overwatch. Experiments in the kitchen and home brews bubbling in the basement. Walks around the neighborhood with the dog and leisurely hikes in the foothills. Random “do you remember that one time…?” conversations, always ending in laughter.
Basically, legitimate bonding time with my brother. With family.
It’s an easy picture to paint and one we pray will come true should the stars align to allow it. But until then, we’re simply thankful for the time we are afforded and for the weekend getaways that remind us what family is all about and what my brother really means to me.
My brothers — siblings, in general — epitomize the concept of family for me. Because in reality, we have no true responsibility to one another and share very few post-hometown life experiences. And yet I can’t help but admit that they make every holiday gathering and every shared experience worth it. They remind me of my past but also point me to my future. I hurt when they hurt, and they hurt when I hurt. They are my siblings, and let’s face it — we’re in this together, no matter how near or far from one another we might be.
Though if we had our druthers, they’d be with us here and now and always.
These banana muffins were the theme of our weekend with my brother. We greeted him with them upon his arrival, and sent him away with the last of them upon his departure. We ate them for breakfast and snacked on them between meals. Let’s just say they were delicious and we definitely intend on making them again.
- 2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. cake spice
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/3 c. coconut oil, melted [or olive oil]
- 3 large bananas, mashed
- 2/3 cup milk
- 6 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1/3 c. pecan pieces [optional]
- 1/4 c. fresh blueberries [optional]
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin pan.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, hand whisk the egg and brown sugar together until smooth and no lumps remain. Add in vanilla extract, coconut oil, and bananas, whisking until combined.
- Gradually add in dry ingredients, mixing by hand until just incorporated. Stir in the milk and mix until just combined. It should be a bit lumpy. DO NOT OVER MIX!
- Fold in chocolate and pecans until evenly distributed.
- Fill each muffin container 3/4 full with batter. Sprinkle the tops with a pinch of sugar and press about 5 to 8 blueberries into the top of each. Finish with a very thinly sliced banana slice before baking.
- Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until tops are no longer wet and become slightly golden.