Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How To Make the Best Oatmeal.

Yes, oatmeal: that warm morning cereal you probably eat because you can put it in the microwave for a minute and half and be done.  Oatmeal, whose popularity is due to a convergence of convenience and health.

You might add brown sugar or honey to taste.  Maybe you're even a bit fancier with a sprinkle of cinnamon or a dash of vanilla.  But you probably haven't spent countless mornings varying your oatmeal routine in search of the Very Best Oatmeal*.

I learned fairly quickly Old Fashion Oats, also called Rolled Oats are best for breakfast and left quick oats for breads and steel cut oats for soups or pilafs. Thus, my experimentation centered on these oats.  I learned:
 - To increase creaminess, stir more often!  Use 1 part milk for 2 parts water!
- To decrease creaminess, toast oats before adding any water
- To avoid adding sugar & to start the morning with a serving of fruit, add diced apple as water is boiling; don't wait until you add the oats
- Wheat germ!  Just a tablespoon lends the whole thing nutty flavor
- Speaking of nuts... add some!  Whatever you have on hand: pecans, walnuts, sliced almonds, etc.
- A splash of coconut milk just before serving makes the whole thing seem more decadent
- For even more decadence: nutella.  Yes.  

Currently, I make two or three servings of oatmeal every morning- though it looks unappetizing and glob-like leftover, it is actually quite good reheated with a sprinkle of water.  And then I don't have to clean a pot everyday.  Since I'm not eating dairy (the baby doesn't like it when I do!), this is how I make my oatemal:

1. Resign myself to the fact that the baby will be up for the day within the next half hour.  Decide to make breakfast while I can
2. Measure just under 3 cups of water and set on high heat to boil.  As its coming to a boil, I dice an apple as fast as I can, throwing the apple bits into the pot as the section is done. 
3. Add a shake or two of cinnamon and a few raisins
4. When its boiling, furiously measure out 1 1/2 cups of oats, using only the 1/2 measuring cup to minimize dishes
5. Reduce heat to medium, stirring often
6. When it begins to stick, take off heat, pouring the day's serving into a bowl and the leftovers in pyrex
7. Add nuts and coconut milk if on hand.  Hear the baby crying
8. Shovel the oatmeal into my mouth as my husband changes her diaper, before feeding time. 

*if you have, please tell me!  I'd love to meet a kindred oatmeal-loving spirit.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Farting is Healthy And Other Mid-Week Links

Pope John Paul II biking
Classic hipster.
You should fart.

Recently canonized saint was a hipster.

So. Much. Sugar! Yikes.
(But all sugar is not created equal.)

Pessimism.  It helps you save money.

How to split rent.

Basil is a Man's Name

Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  Mythical, fictional owner of a lovely statue, perhaps carved by Michelangelo, and beloved by run-away Claudia and her brother Jamie, caused me much confusion as a young adult, traveling through Berlin.

 When I was twenty-three, two friends and I decided to travel to go behind the old iron curtain, to see for ourselves the land of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Czars, and revolutions.  Our youthful sense of adventure, limited funds, and innate frugality led to two days travel before we arrived in Moscow: overnight flights to London (the cheapest place to fly into in Europe); a day breathing out money in London before Ryan Air out of a second London airport to Berlin; a night in Berlin and discount fares on Air Berlin to Moscow.  A circuitous route, to say the least.

Our frugality didn't stop there.  No, cheapskates that we were, we arranged to stay with friends of Hungarian Annie's uncle in Russia and friends in both Milan and Rome, where we traveled after our Eastern European adventures.  Only our night in Berlin was without a host.

So, with the aid of a German friend, we wrote to a friend of a friend in Germany, to see if they knew of anywhere in Berlin we could stay.  A person named "Basil," (in my head, BAY-SIL, like the herb) wrote back, saying that we were welcome to stay at Basil's place, located in the Turkish quarter of Berlin. I accepted.  At first, I assumed that Basil was a woman, like Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler of my childhood reads.

As we corresponded, however, I began to have my doubts. Basil had three roommates: a Macedonian man and two Italians.  The tone of the emails, though in broken German, sounded more like a man.  By the time we arrived at the appointed metro stop and called our gallant host, I was not so surprised to find a tall, bespectacled German man (pronounced BAH-SIL).  

Basil-the-man took us on a "cruising tour" of Berlin, showing us the train station, pieces of the wall, and the place where Hitler shot himself before we arrived at his apartment above the Turkish coffee shop.  He regaled us of stories of graduate school and his parents meeting while studying with Joseph Ratzinger.  As I lay on my pallet on the floor, listening to my friends' continued conversation with Basil, I wondered what made me question the masculinity of the name Basil, whose patron saint was a bearded Greek bishop.

The answer was thanks to my mother and grandmothers, who never fully abandoned their maiden surnames-- two out of cultural practice, one out of feminist principles-- let alone their first names.  No, as a child, I remained ignorant of the whole proper-women-use-their-husbands'-first-name thing.  By the time I learned of this custom, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler existed only in the far reaches of my memory, the name Basil long enshrined as an aspect of her femininity. 
St. Basil

Monday, April 28, 2014


Where people pay $80 so they'll close off the streets for a group run. *

Captain America near the end of the half-ers.

*One of the least favorite things of my sister Michelle^ is when someone takes her joke and says it louder.  Then everyone thinks that person (our other sister!) is the funny one and Michelle's comic brilliance is left unknown.

In the interest of full-disclosure-- and maintaining a good relationship with my sister: she said the above.

^Footnote to a footnote: Michelle ran the half marathon, along with my dad and my sister-in-law.  Michelle was quite proud of placing 334th** out of 1034 for her age group.

**Footnote to a footnote to a footnote: Michelle just informed me she finished 299th.  Significantly better as she placed in the two-hundreds.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Have a Happy Spring Weekend!

It's the weekend!  Time to make pancakes, go to the farmer's market, and keep teaching my baby how to roll back over to her back- too much tummy time for her!

Here's some informative, interesting, or fun links:

How to support a friend through a miscarriage and make a delicious nutritious lunch from Verily

When Cities Work

Caramel Sauce!  Yum!

Lie Detection and Intuition Apparently we can tell when someone's lying subconsciously much better than consciously.  Have you experienced this?

Young Families  Or, why we are fascinated with Will and Kate. Do you think this is true?  (Are you even fascinated by Will, Kate, and their little babe?)

Sleep! It's important!  (I wish I was getting more)

 Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Babies Don't Know How To Do Anything

Like most people, I was long aware that humans have to learn to walk and talk, tie their shoes, and read.  I knew that, were I ever to be come a mother, I would have to teach my children these things, along with how to be nice and play well with others.

Gradually, as my friends had kids, I learned that babies have to learn even more than this: how to crawl, sit up, and roll over.  Parents assist their children in these things, celebrating each miniscule milestone in their babies' development.

It wasn't until I had my own baby, however, that I realized babies don't know how to do anything.  Though most of what they do when they come out is eat, sleep, and poop, we have to help them even with those things.  Yes,we have to teach them everything: how to go to sleep, stay asleep, and sleep in their cribs; how to eat; how to be held-- and, perhaps most importantly, that we are there for them, to comfort and provide for them.

It's true: our vocation as parents is inextricably linked to that of teachers.  We are called to aid our children in coming to know reality in all its glorious aspects.

I mean, sometimes they even need help farting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Buttermilk is Awesome.

Just don't drink it straight.

Growing up, my Cuban mother didn't bake. She or my dad did, on occasion, make pancakes-- but never with buttermilk.  Always the classic light and thin pancakes from the quintessential Southern Cookbook, Virginia Road Recipes, which we picked up the year we lived in Fairfax County, Virginia, while my dad worked as a hot shot lawyer in DC.

Anyway, buttermilk!  Our pancakes didn't have them; waffles and scones and biscuits were things of restaurants and coffee shops, not home-cooked fare.   I recognized the name in so many delicious pastries, but what was this elusive substance?  Was it butter?  Or milk?

So on a trip to Milwaukee to see my dear friend Annie during college (oh, the days of flight vouchers and free visits to friends!), when she jokingly included buttermilk in her list of beverage options, I said yes.  I wanted to try this thing that had brought so much joy to my weekend brunches and weekday scones at the the classroom building's cafe in college.

Kind, sweet Annie tried to dissuade me from taking her offer seriously.  When I insisted, she poured only a small amount, enough to taste.

Then she poured me water.

Thank you, Ms. Annie.  The water proved necessary after sampling the buttermilk.