Some thoughts on pancakes...and breakfast in general

Olivia woke up hungry yesterday morning.  When I asked her what she wanted for breakfast, she exclaimed, "Pancakes!"  Now usually, pancakes are a part of our Sunday morning tradition, and making them on a Friday would mess up our schedule, but I decided to go ahead with it since she asked so nicely.  Ever since I have been a cooking woman, I have never made pancakes from a box.  No Aunt Jemima/Bisquick (sp?) heavy hockey pucks for me.  What is it about these pancakes from the box?  They never brown evenly, the taste is at best mediocre, and the consistency is . . . well . . . like a flimsy piece of rubber.  I have tried many recipes, but my favorite by far is Texas Pancakes (recipe to follow).  
I have always been a lover of large breakfasts.  In fact, I love breakfast so much, I was willing to get up extra early every Friday morning of my senior year to enjoy it with three of my closest friends: Liz, Wes, and Jenny.  I'm sure that part of the reason I have such fond memories of those mornings is the company, but the breakfasts at the Escalon Bakery were nothing short of divine.  Their pancakes were huge - probably 5" in diameter, branded with "Bakery" at the top, and the consistency was close to perfect.  They also had great southern hash browns, cinnamon rolls (with raisins!), and Irish oatmeal.  Sadly, it closed a long time ago.  Now it houses Arthur Sipma Insurance Agency.  I guess all the farmers were drinking too much coffee and not enough food.  I have yet to find a place for breakfast I enjoy as much - although Café Deva in downtown Modesto is a close second.  Café Deva has the northern California hippy staples: homemade nutty granola (just ask for soy milk with it), dense homemade bread with homemade preserves, omelets filled with fresh veggies, and my personal favorite for the name alone: British bangers (picture breakfast sausage with little more length and much more girth)and mash.
The other standby for that little something special on weekend mornings is Baked Oatmeal (recipe to follow).  Lindsay, my college roommate, opened my eyes to this variation of the basic mush, and I think I have finally perfected my own version of it.  For me, oatmeal is all about consistency.  If it's too thick, it tastes like cardboard, and if it is too thin, well . . . it's just too thin.  
I get pretty picky about my morning fare, because mornings are bad enough as it is.  No matter what, I need to have freshly brewed gourmet coffee, a glass of water (OJ just seems too harsh on the palate right after waking up), my breakfast of choice, and a long, hot shower.  On that note, here are the recipes, as promised.

Baked Oatmeal

2 C. Oatmeal
1/3 C. brown sugar (more or less, depending on your taste)
1/3 C. fresh or dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, chopped apples, blueberries, peaches, etc.(opt.)  1 tsp. baking powder
Some nuts, if you wish (pecans are my favorite)
some cinnamon, if you feel like it
Add some ground flax seed and/or wheat germ to add some extra good wholesomeness (I did just write that)
Mix these together, then, in a separate bowl, combine:
1 1/2 C. Milk
1/2 C. Applesauce or a container of flavored yogurt (I really like this option, because then I use very little sugar to sweeten the oatmeal, and it adds a lot of fruit flavor.  Just adjust your milk quantity so that together it totals 2 cups of liquid).
2 Tbsp. Butter, melted
1 egg
Add to the dry ingredients, poor into a 1 1/2-2 quart oven safe dish, coated with cooking spray, and cook at 375° F for anywhere from 20-25 minutes, depending on your desired consistency.  I find it the perfect consistency after 23.

Texas Pancakes, or Texas Panakoeken, as Wes would say:

Combine with a whisk:
A couple of dribbles of canola oil - think somewhere around 2 Tbsp.
1 C. Milk
1 egg
Add and mix with a whisk until smooth:
1 C. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. baking powder (Trust me.)
1/4 tsp. salt

Before placing them on the griddle, stir the batter.  It bubbles up (a lot), and you don't want it to do that until its on the griddle.  Stir again in between batches.  Do 'em up on a griddle set to 350°, or over the stovetop at a little lower temp than you would normally cook pancakes.  These make extra fluffy, perfectly browned pancakes.  Don't even think of adulterating them with blueberries or chocolate chips!  ;)  


A year has passed

About a year has passed since I started blogging, and I am not very impressed with the quantity of entries. When I started blogging, I made the list, "In the next 11 years, I hope to...", so here is where I am on that list, a year later.

Get organized: Yeah right.
Audition: I just attended my first NJ audition this past weekend, and didn't make the cut. It was refreshing to enter back into the scene, though.
Become a women's rights activist: Does standing up to my husband and giving him lip count?
Write a piece of literature with some significance...: At first, I wanted to keep this to myself because I didn't want people inquiring on its progress, but I have started to write something on a larger scale than this blog, with the hope to eventually publish.
Start using my gym membership: I did do that...and then school started, I got pregnant, and I quit. Ugh.
Finish reading Anna Karenina: It looks so nice on my bookshelf! I have started a book club with my former roommates, though.
Audit classes...: Not so much.
Continue loving my family: Easy some days... ;)
Have another kid or two: Welcome, Zoe!
Become president: I really hope Sarah Palin doesn't steal my thunder on the woman part of this, because if she gets into office, I'm afraid no one will vote another woman into office again.
Live a life full of meaning: Whatever that means.

There. Now you can hold me accountable.


Stranger in My Home

That's me. The last two days I have gone into the basement, glass in hand, to sneak a shot of gin into my glass before adding 100%-no-sugar-added cranberry juice. When the in-laws are in for a visit, our house transforms into a vegetarian, nonfat milk drinking family of teetotalers. These are all not true of our family on any other day, but when we host Scott's parents, we put on another face, false as it may be. It bothers me that we do this altogether, but for the sake of peace and aged obedience this transformation has continued for seven years.
There have been lapses, of course, like the time Scott and I came back from our honeymoon in California's wine country with a bottle of wine for his parents. As he handed the bottle to them, a look of horror passed over their faces. We haven't brought alcohol back to their house anymore. Even now, Scott hides any alcohol we have in the basement during a visit and, if there is an open bottle of wine shortly before they arrive, he is sure to empty it before their arrival (not down the drain, of course).
During this past visit, as we shopped for the week's groceries, I informed Don that our family drinks 1% milk, with great gusto. I backed off, though, claiming that the only reason we did this was because Olivia needed the fat in her diet, according to her pediatrician. Quite frankly, I can't stomach the taste of nonfat milk anymore. It tastes like white water with an awful aftertaste.
Even Scott's dad has lapses as a vegetarian. Nearly every time we visit each other, Scott's mom makes meatloaf, and Scott's dad eats multiple helpings of the stuff. Seeing this window of opportunity, I cooked chicken the following night. He ate none, and filled himself with rice and salad at dinner, followed by multiple helpings of multigrain cheerios (with nonfat milk, of course) and dannon light 'n' fit yogurt. When he asked about my former vegetarianism, I told him that my pregnancy with Olivia brought irresistible cravings for burgers...made with beef. He looked at me with disdain and called me a 'failed vegetarian'. Oh well.
I say this all with tongue in cheek, but it does raise a question:
How long and to what degree must we 'honor our parents'?


Staying Home

I have decided to stay home with my girls. Enter your knee-jerk reactions.

Anytime I tell some one this in a 'real' conversation, unlike this hypothetical conversation (assuming people read my blog), there are two basic responses. One of them is "Wow, that will be a big change. How do you feel about your decision?", and the other is "Congratulations!". Sometimes I question the sincerity of those who say the latter. Do they say this because they feel it is the necessary response? I wonder if what they really want to say is, "What the heck are you thinking? You're in debt, you just finished your masters degree, and now you're staying home? What a waste."

Okay, sometimes that is what I'm thinking, and I think it has to be what others think, too. After all, that very label used to be something I would spit out of my mouth as soon as it entered. Sometimes I wonder if I should be contributing to the greater good of humankind in some other venue. Sometimes I wonder if home is the best place to start. Sometimes it feels a little self-indulgent. Sometimes it feels like the most selfless act I've ever done in my life. But, as soon as I say that, I guess it isn't really selfless, is it?

Lately I've noticed that most stay-at-home moms have something else going on-either a business run at home or another business held outside the home during evening hours. Now that I am one of these stay-at-homers, I feel the need to say, "But I am doing..." But what? What am I doing? As a person hoping to return to the 'professional' world after a few years, there actually is a need to do 'something'--and by 'something' I mean a position I could place on my resumé. I have played with a few ideas, but none of them seem to promise fulfillment, and none of them would look impressive on a resumé.

My conclusion is that I'm staying at home with my girls because I want to, because it seems like what needs to be done at the time. I know it will be trying on my patience and my pocketbook...and the almighty 'professional' resumé. But there is a beauty in the monotony, the simplicity of everyday life as a mother and nothing else. The last two nights, Zoe has awoke in the middle of the night for her feeding, but for some reason or another she has been unable to go back to sleep right away. In exhaustion and frustration, I have called on Scott to walk her around, but it always ends with me standing, rocking her in my arms, as she reaches up and strokes my hair and falls slowly back to sleep. That is why I'm staying home. There is nothing more beautiful and fulfilling than that.


10 Things you should NOT say to an overdue woman:

10. Boy, you don't look like you've dropped at all.
9. You look like you just have a basketball under your shirt! (I guess this is preferable to "You're really carrying that baby all around, aren't you?")
8. Why are you still here?
7. I was 3 weeks late with mine.
6. I can see your belly.
5. You look like you're about to pop!
4. Boy, you look uncomfortable.
3. Not in labor yet, huh?
2. You should be at home with your baby.
1. Moo. (Thank you, Sam Gettleman, you jerk.)


A Confession

I love this time of year--like a child, giddy with excitement on the first day it snows.
Anyone who knows me well is aware of the fact that it is almost impossible to rouse me in the morning; and when it does happen, I am completely unproductive until I have some caffeine. I woke to the sound of Olivia crying instead of moaning, as she usually does. My first thought was, "It's going to be a long day." Upon opening my eyes, I became aware that the lighting was different this morning, peaked out of the blinds, and, after realizing that it had snowed, stepped spryly out of bed and scurried up the stairs to comfort Olivia. After she settled down, I showed her the snow.
"Wet," was her response.
Apparently she hasn't developed the same Christmas joy I have. Then, she inquired on the whereabouts of Scott.
"Daddy wuhk?"
"No, Daddy is sleeping."
She leaps from my lap and goes to the stairs, reaching for my hand to guide her down the steps. She goes to our bedroom and I put her on the bed.
She pats her daddy on the head. "Daddy, up-up!"
She repeats this four times before she gets a response. After we are all up, I stick some cinnamon rolls in the oven (purchased from Ikea the night before--I'm not that domestic), brew some coffee, and turn on my Holiday mix on the iPod.
So yes, I am a living, breathing holiday cliché.
But, as my theatre professor used to say during rehearsals of Oklahoma!, "Embrace the cliché, Rachel."
This is my advice to you.
It is a much happier existence.


A Poem of Old

Something I have realized for my own artistic expression is that I need to be depressed to produce anything of worth. I have fallen into a rut of complacency in the past year or two, or maybe I have just been so distracted by the life of my own daughter to spend any time reflecting upon my own life. Here is a poem I ran across in an old journal of mine, written during my senior year of college.

O Lord my God.
I cry out to you.
Where are you.
I search for you
You are nowhere-
So I have concluded.

The world-this world I live in
Is so full of hate
And misgivings
And hypocrisy
How can I find you in all this
Where is the hope
Where is the love
Where are all things found in you?


I am a pit of nothingness.

Producing nothing of worth
Loving nothing
Risking nothing
by hating everything
And everyone.

How can you love me?

I cry, Lord, I cry to you
till my mouth is dry
and my throat is destitute
till I open my mouth
and all I produce is silence.

Because that is all I hear.

I am deaf.

I am deaf to your answer,
your whisper, your shout
I am deaf to you.

And if you touched me,
I did not feel it
because I am numb,
Numb to all touch
The brush of your embrace
The breath of your life upon my lips
goes unnoticed.
I cannot feel.

I searched and searched for you-
but did not find
My eyes were covered
with the veil of my selfishness
My own selfish ambition
and I am afraid that
I will be blind.
This haze is turning to black
And I will not be able to
see you-
Not even if you stood
Inches from my face.

Tear this from me, Lord.
Heal me.
Make me love.
Make me care.
Take this wretched, lifeless
being I know to be myself-
Scarred and bleeding
Injured and ignorant


Resuscitate me.
Resuscitate me into life anew.