Thursday, April 22, 2010

When I am nervous my knees shake...conquering my fear of public speaking

I was asked to speak in church this past Sunday. It was an experience that I am always grateful for, but that does not change the fact that public speaking makes me very nervous.

My first experience speaking in front of a crowd that I can remember was waaaaay back in 4th grade. I had a speaking part in a school play (and by speaking part I mean I had one, 4-word line) and I thought my heart was going to jump into my throat. When it came time to recite my line, I was so nervous that only a soft, shaky whisper emerged. The strange thing is that when I got off that stage, I was so enamored by the feeling of being on stage that I wanted more opportunities to conquer my fear. Consequently, I pursued many years of dance, drama and debate in order to improve my comfort level in front of a crowd. 

I am happy to report that I have come a long way since those elementary school days. I am certainly not a professional when it comes to public speaking but I have learned to speak slowly, clearly and disguise the nervous shake in my voice. There is still one aspect that I cannot seem to control - my  knees. When I open my mouth to speak, my knees start trembling.  

So what's a girl to do?

Well, this girl always wears long skirts and prays that she will be standing behind a stand when she speaks.

Despite my shaky knees, I do enjoy the opportunity to improve my skills and abilities. Perhaps one day I shall have these knees conquered.

For those of you who find they have particular trouble with public speaking, I suggest you avoid listening to pieces of advice like "just picture your audience in their underwear" because those things do not work. Who wants that image in their mind anyhow? I will suggest checking out this list of tips for public speaking that was put together by Toastmasters International. It has been a great help for me to review this list when I am preparing for public speaking so that I know the important things to remember.

Believe it or not, public speaking can be a fun, enjoyable experience. Now if only I could communicate that to my nerves that send my knees into convulsions.

Happy Speaking.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Please keep you hands and arms on the bicycle at all times...and enjoy a Vegan Banana Muffin Recipe

I'm back!

After semi-disappearing from the blog for a month, I have returned. I guess I forgot to leave a message saying that I would be gone. But, that's in the past.

The last month has been full of adventures. Our Little Man has hit some very exciting milestones; including pulling all of the wetwipes out of the container. We also had visitors for a couple of weeks. It was exciting to be able to introduce others to a taste of the Dutch culture that we have come to love so dearly. We made sure that our guests got the full Dutch experience: cycling, market, canals and herring among many other fun things. That said, I have realized that I was not born to be a tour guide. It was fun while it lasted, but I am happy to be hanging up my tour-guide-hat until we have some more wonderful guests.

In other news: 

Remember my plea for The Muffin Man to help my sad state? Well, it was answered! And it turns out that it is not a Muffin Man at all, but a Muffin Woman. Thanks to Gina over at Health Nuts Blog I made some fantastic (and healthy) Banana Muffins. Of course, I veganized it. If you would like to make the original recipe then go on over and check it out here. If you would like the vegan version then read on. 

(please note:  I cut the original recipe in half. The original recipe yields 2 dozen and that is just too much for our little family to eat. You could definitely freeze the extras, but we have a small European fridge which means there isn't room to freeze muffins. If you would like more muffins, feel free to double the following recipe.)

Vegan Banana Muffins

1.5 c. whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 t. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T ground flaxseed*
1/2 c. Agave (you could try out Maple Syrup too. If you are not trying to make them vegan, stick with the honey as called for in the original recipe as honey will help your muffins to stay fresher, longer)
1/2 c. applesauce
1/8 tsp. vanilla
3 T water*
2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°. In large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir to combine. Fold in nuts (if using). Pour into greased muffin pans. Bake for 28-30 minutes. Transfer to to a cooling rack. When muffins have cooled, store in an airtight container.
Yields 1 dozen muffins.

*The ground flaxseed and the water are to replace the eggs. Gina suggested that you could also increase the apple sauce to replace the eggs. Apple sauce is NOT an egg replacer, however, it would work in this instance since there are bananas in the recipe which will fulfill the role the eggs would have played. I used flaxseed because I like the nutty flavor that it gives to the muffins.

Final Thoughts
Hubby and I both really liked these muffins. They tasted like Bran Muffins with banana. They are sweet enough for a treat but healthy enough for breakfast on the go. We will definitely make these again! If you try them out, be sure to let me know what you think and head on over to let Gina know how much you love her recipe.

Happy baking.