**Shameful picture alert!** Seriously bad hair and gangly limb warning! Proceed at your own risk!
And also, if you EVER tell my girls that I was once a cheerleader, I will make a fancy pair of earrings out of your kidneys. There will be no cheerleaders in the house of Chez T. We are a cheerleader-free zone here; cheerleaders are blood-sucking zombies in disguise.
I will also take a moment to preach against the wrongness that is my hair. Sun-In is whack, people! Ah, the 80's. So much shame, so little time.
Stephanie moved to my town the summer before eighth grade. She hailed from Connecticut and was far, far more mature than me. Initially, she was bitter about the move from her beloved East coast, but after a while, she settled in and focused on more important things. You know. Boys.
Unlike me, Steph could flirt. She could even converse with boys. She wasn't afraid of them, which boggled my mind. She could walk past a group of boys, stop, say a few words and move on without pissing herself.
She also had glorious, thick red hair, boobs and a closet full of Guess jeans. Why she hung out with me, I have no idea.
But boy, was I grateful, because the summer before eighth grade, in typical teen-girl-mean-girl fashion, my circle of friends decided that they hated me.
That summer, they called me in the middle of the night and whispered, "Everybody hates you, bitch." They bribed the most popular of boys to ring me up and deliver blows like "Hey, did you know they all got together this weekend and burned every picture of the group that had your face in it?"
Until Steph arrived, that first day of 8th grade loomed in front of me, black and horrible. And then, like some East coast angel, she fell on my doorstep and I was saved. She was worldly, unafraid. By her side, I could be brave.
Like many teenage girls, Steph was always on some crazy diet. I'd never been on a diet before; I needed a few spare pounds, honestly. But watching her, my sophisticated and gorgeous friend, pore through Seventeen magazine for diet tips, I was smitten. It seemed like a very savvy and glamorous thing to do. So, like any good Lemming, I followed.
We went on some doozies. There was the Smoothie Diet, the Lean Cuisine Diet, the Cottage Cheese Diet, the Baked Potato Diet. Of course, neither of us needed to diet. Not one bit.
Steph had a mother who tolerated these little bouts of craziness; her mother struggled with her own weight and knew diets like the back of her hand. Steph was fully allowed to sit down at the dinner table, refuse the meal being served and slurp down some sludge of fruit and yogurt and wheat bran.
If I'd tried a stunt like that, Mama would have eaten my head.
So I really only could "diet" over at Steph's house. The routine was usually the same: I'd spend the night on Friday, we'd follow the diet through Saturday and then, bored to tears by rabbit food and hungry as pirhanas, we'd eat our way through Sunday.
It was rather easy to de-rail at some point, because Steph's mom was a terrific cook and baker. There was always some amazing treat in the kitchen, luring us in.
One weekend, after a particularly dismal Saturday on the Grape Nuts Diet, Steph and I smelled these muffins baking Sunday morning. Between the two of us, over the course of the day, we killed the dozen.
Who needs Grape Nuts when you can have these succulent, not-overly-sweet muffins? Just don't eat the whole batch yourself.
Banana Tia Maria Muffins
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup honey
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup mashed, ripe banana
1/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons Tia Maria, Kahlua, or other coffee liqueur
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups whole wheat flour
Cream butter and honey until fluffy. Beat in eggs, bananas, milk and Tia Maria. Sift together the salt, baking powder, soda and flour. Add to banana mixture by hand until just moistened. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Drop into greased muffin cups, filling almost to the top. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.
~These muffins also do nicely with about 1/2 cup of nuts or mini-chocolate chips stirred in.
Blessedly, Stephanie and I are still friends. Although our diets were destined for failure, our friendship endured. As soon as she grasped that high-school diploma, she ditched our mid-West butts for her beloved East. But though the miles between us are many, our hearts still know each other, in ways only old friends can.