Dairy-free banana bread

I hate throwing away bananas that are a little past their prime when I know they can be turned into treats.

There are a million and one banana bread recipes out there, most of them have tons of butter in them, and they’re good, but when I was nursing my daughter I couldn’t have dairy and I found this recipe on Food.com for dairy-free banana bread. I LOVE IT.

I think using oil instead of butter makes the bread or muffins (which cook much faster) more moist and fluffy. This thread from Cakecentral.com explains what role butter and oil play in recipes and their effects on sugar molecules, in case you’re curious (I’m a geek about this stuff and I was).

I made the banana muffins using the Food.com recipe with my kids this morning. They loved smashing the bananas and adding the ingredients to the mixing bowl. Our muffins turned out great! My son said, “Deeeeelicious!”

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I cooked them at 325 for 20 minutes. The recipe made 18 muffins for me, using a 1/4 cup scoop to put them in the muffin tin.

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The platform is the medium

Interesting “Mediator” column from the New York Times this morning about news media outlets seeking the right to collectively bargain with digital platforms, namely Google and Facebook. While newspapers had print distribution networks and television stations and networks have had the air waves, the drastic shift in news consumption to digital is also shifting ad revenue to digital. Kudos to Facebook and Google for being ahead of the game, but hopefully Congress and the parties involved realize how much they need each other to remain successful. Here’s the column:

Birthdays

I’ve reached the point in my life when birthdays are bittersweet. On the one hand, I want to celebrate the gift of another year of life. On the other, birthdays make me take stock of what I’ve accomplished, where I am, what I still have left to do. I don’t have any regrets really, I just have a list of so many things I still want to do.

Time is finite.

The problem is I still FEEL 20. But I’m not. The age of Katie in the mirror is different from the Katie in my mind. It makes me wonder if, from a self-actualization standpoint, I should aim to make them one in the same, to fully realize where I’ve been to better know where I’m going, or if I should live like I’m 20. Almost the last decade of my life has been dedicated to getting married and having two wonderful kids. But it has been an absolute blur. Whether that’s the sleep deprivation, the stress of it all, the anxiety about trying to keep two tiny humans alive while not falling behind in my career has all been overwhelming. And while those precious years have been such a blessing (one I was reminded of as my daughter sang me “Happy Birthday” this morning), I don’t want to miss a single second.

I try so hard to hold on to those seconds and I think this year, I’m going to have to start letting go so that I can really just enjoy them. I hope in some sacred corner of my heart and my mind those moments stay with me without needing a white-knuckle grip to hang on to them.

The same goes for taking some leaps. How can I expect my kids to do great things if they don’t see me taking a chance? If I’m sitting here thinking the time to jump was ten years ago, then the time to jump is absolutely now. Let’s do this 32! (Hahahahahaha, I wish….)

Investigative inspiration

Columbia Journalism Review published a great best-of list for 2016 of investigative reporting. Sharing for inspiration for myself and others out there.

Here it is. They’re all worth a read.

Down payment program primer

I’m passionate about this series I’ve been doing on down payment assistance programs for WWL-TV. The down payment help is sold as a “grant” that doesn’t have to be repaid. But it isn’t exactly free.

The first story on the “grant” program run by the Jefferson Parish Finance Authority is here: Jefferson Parish Finance Authority investigative report 1

Here’s a Facebook live I did with lots of info about the programs in advance of my story airing on WWL-TV at 10 pm tonight. Hope you’ll check it out!

 

 

 

Over the Limit

It sounds simple enough: down payment assistance grants are supposed to help encourage home ownership, increase economic development, widen the parish tax base and give people a sense of pride in their community.

Those are all reasons that have been given over the years for why governmental organizations, many established as public trusts, are still allowed to give out down payment grants.

But when the boards and executives overseeing the programs that run them are spending hundreds of thousands on operational costs and perks for themselves, it begs the question of whether the public trusts are operating with the public’s interests at heart.

One of the things I couldn’t fit in my first investigative report on the Jefferson Parish Finance Authority’s down payment and closing cost assistance program was the limitation placed on the number of meetings that board members can get paid a per diem to attend.

My report for WWL-TV, which you can find here, exposed the fact that the Board of Trustees of the JPFA meets weekly and the eight trustees on the board get paid $150 in public money to attend every meeting.

In addition to those weekly board meetings (which last about 22 minutes on average), some of the trustees are members of oversight committees which meet outside of the weekly board meetings. There’s an Administrative Committee and a Marketing and Advertising Committee. The trustees on those committees get paid $150 to attend the committee meetings as well.

The trustees can also get paid $150 to attend two bi-annual luncheons. So, they get a free lunch and $150 to attend.

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This Jefferson Parish ordinance (as published on Municode.com) limits the number of meetings board members can get reimbursed for. It specifically says board members may get per diems for “no more than 52 meetings per calendar year.”

Take a look at these shots of annual audit reports submitted to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor by the JPFA.

In 2014, three of the trustees got paid for more than 52 meetings. In 2015, four of the trustees did too. It’s one of the things the Jefferson Parish Inspector General will likely look into as he completes his look at the agency.

 

Do Not Call?

Whatever happened to that Do Not Call Registry that the Federal Trade Commission administers? It sure doesn’t seem to stop telemarketers from calling my cell phone, and I’m guessing it doesn’t stop them from calling yours. These days, I’m getting 3 to 4 calls a day from phone scams or calls with no one on the other end of the line.

I looked it up (investigated, if you will) and the FTC registry doesn’t seem to stop the scam artists from getting through. The FTC even says so in this Q&A. But the scam calls, IMHO, are the most dangerous type of telemarketing call and it has me wondering, what is the point of the registry if it doesn’t stop the worst of the worst?

I checked my number to see if it was registered and this is the confirmation email I received back.

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I registered my phone number back in 2005. Yes, that’s right, 2005! So, why am I still getting those annoying calls? The FTC’s tip sheet offers the following groundbreaking advice: Hang up. I never thought of that (insert eye roll).

But the FTC does explain why that’s the right move. Apparently pushing 1 or 2 to ask to be placed on the scam’s “do not call” list tells the scammers that they found a live one, that your number is a good number to call to try and solicit information from you, such as your bank account information or to get you to send them money at a future time. I have a feeling that’s why I’ve been getting so many calls lately. I always wait to “ask to be removed” from their call bank.

This article from NPR called “Why Phone Fraud Starts With a Silent Call” explains it. In it, an Atlanta security expert says even those silent calls could lead to more scam calls.

“You even cough and it knows you’re there,” Vijay Balasubramaniyan, CEO of Pindrop Security says in the NPR article.

The question then becomes what is the FTC doing to try and enforce the law that created the Do Not Call Registry? Apparently, they have filed 105 enforcement actions against companies to date. See screenshot of their website below:

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The FTC also recommends reporting the scams and the calls when you get them. But who has time for that? Especially since the calls themselves are an interruption to your day.

It boggles the mind that even though the registry has been around for more than a DECADE, only 105 companies have been found in violation. I know they’re hitting me up multiple times a day. How about you?

 

Planes in the sky on 9/11

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My almost 2-year-old son gets scared when airplanes fly overhead. He hears the roar of the engines, looks up to the sky and points saying, “Airplane, Mommy” shortly before he hugs my leg. He did it a few times today on as we were playing on the playground.

“Airplane, mommy!”

On this day, of all days, the day when two planes plunged into the twin towers in New York, a third slammed into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania 15 years ago, my son’s innocent little fear made me wonder: How many babies said it to their mommies that day?

Now, 15 years later, what is it like for people who were there that day to hear planes overhead? Fifteen years later do you still flinch? Do you hold your breath hoping that roar just tapers off?

That fear for those who lived it is not an innocent fear. It’s a poison pill planted in the hearts and minds of not just 9/11 survivors, victims, widows and first responders, but in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans. But the terror attacks didn’t just leave us with fear. They unified us with resolve and determination to overcome the hatred that led the terrorists to attack.

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Fifteen years later it is not lost on me that I still have the freedom to take my babies to the playground on a Sunday. It is not lost on me that so many lost so much that day. It is something to celebrate that airplanes are back in the sky today. The terrorists did not win.

It’s crazy to think that some high school students are now learning about 9/11 as a historic event, not something that happened during their lifetime. I just hope they all understand and appreciate what happened that day, and for those of us who did see it unfold, even from afar, why it forever changed what it means to be an American to us.

That includes my son. And my daughter. Who will probably always look at an airplane in the sky differently than those who saw the planes hit the twin towers. I hope I do a good enough job as a parent in teaching my kids why they’re lucky they do.

#neverforget

10 things you “get” living in New Orleans 10 years after Katrina

The only thing my husband salvaged from his Lakeview house that flooded during Hurricane Katrina

I wasn’t living in New Orleans at the time of the storm. I moved home to Nola in 2006, the year after it devastated the area. I moved into the aftermath, then married someone who lived in Lakeview and lost everything. Everything except this clock.

It doesn’t work anymore. And it’s a cheap clock from a discount store, but it will always hang in our house.

That being said, here is my list of the 10 things you “get” if you’ve lived in New Orleans in the 10 years after Hurricane Katrina:

  • “HELLUVA JOB” MEANS THE OPPOSITE
  • THE ROAD HOME DOESN’T ALWAYS LEAD THERE
  • CRANES IN THE SKY
  • GETTING WATER DOESN’T MEAN GRABBING A BOTTLE OF FIJI
  • HANDMADE STREET SIGNS
  • THE LOT NEXT DOOR
  • MR. GO MUST GO
  • BLUE ROOF
  • ICE IS GOLD
  • (OK, 11 things) WHY WE WILL ALWAYS KEEP THIS CLOCK

THE BACKLOGS

MY LATEST INVESTIGATION FOR TV: LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES DON’T JUST HAVE SEXUAL ASSAULT KIT BACKLOGS, THEY HAVE BACKLOGS OF DNA MATCHES

http://www.wwltv.com/story/news/local/orleans/2015/07/22/dna-matches-also-backlogged-in-state/30540895/

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