Oatmeal (and a book recommendation)

I’m currently reading Balanced & Barefoot by Angela Hanscom (usually while out at the playground with the kids) and while it’s an excellent book, it’s a frustrating experience because her critique of current play and parenting trends rings a little too true (maybe I should stop reading it at the playground). I don’t have coherent thoughts to share yet, but hopefully I will be able to write them out soon. So for now, read it! It’s good! But read it with coffee, in your yard, away from people who might give you dirty looks for reading a book while your kids explore.

Now, important things in life: oats. (Books and play are important too, but those things don’t happen if there’s no breakfast!) For your entertainment and edification (and to see if I could ever hope to make it as a food blogger!) I took elaborate process pictures of our morning oatmeal routine. Excited yet?

In all seriousness though, oatmeal is great. I had always been more of a sugary cereal kind of girl growing up, and then I moved out and had very little money. Enter: oatmeal. Back then I just scooped out some oats from a big bag into a bowl, poured an approximate amount of water straight from the tap and microwaved it until edible. With molasses and a splash of milk it was enough to get me through my mornings of mostly boring lectures on Education in Ontario. After that, I gave up real breakfasts in favour of a wake up routine of espresso, chocolate and dried mango (with a side of literature), followed by a smoothie mid-morning. Somehow I doubt that particular paradigm would work with the small humans… This does though.

SUPER TASTY OATMEAL FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!!

  1. Toast your oats on medium heat in some kind of delicious fat. Pictured is coconut oil, but butter or bacon fat work nicely too. I make 1 cup of oats for our family (2 adults, 2 children 3.5yo and 18mo) but I think that will need to increase soon, as the small ones seem to be eating more every day.
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  2. Pour over twice as much water as you had oats (by volume). So here we used 2 cups of water (in my favourite measuring cup that we got from Kyle’s grandma’s kitchen things). Let this simmer away with occasional attention while fending off toddlers loudly requesting bananas.
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  3. While the oats simmer (and if you can distract the screaming toddler with a wooden spoon and a bowl so she forgets about the bananas) prep your add-ins. THIS ladies and gents, is where things get real. I am fond of desserts, and like to make fruity, spicy and even chocolaty (I mean, it’s in the name…) breakfasts. Today we’re chopping some nice dried coconut chunks, some maple syrup and (not pictured) some raw cacao nibs.IMG_0326
  4. Once your oats are looking almost cooked (or a bit earlier if you’re using dried fruit and want it to plump up) throw in those add ins, including the sweetener of choice if you’d rather avoid the 3 year old in your life adding his own preferred dosage of maple syrup… Not that I’m speaking from experience here. Look at that lovely pool of maple goodness! This is the point in the game where you actually give the toddler that banana and tell her to go put it on the table with some spoons, she can carry spoons! And wrangle any helpful older child(ren) into putting yogurt and fruit compote and bowls on the table.  IMG_0327
  5. And now! Into the bowl it all goes! The basic idea is Oats + Yogurt + Fruit. Today we’re lucky and we pulled out the last of the roasted strawberries from last spring, more often than not it’s applesauce (which is tasty but not quite as photogenic) or just chopped fruit of some sort. IMG_0328

So there you go. Oatmeal. SUPER SIMPLE. But also complicated. BUT! Delicious. Other than the “Banana Split” version pictured here, house favourites include:

  • Gingerbread (Golden raisins, ginger, nutmeg, molasses, pecans)
  • Camping special (Dates, almonds, cinnamon, brown sugar, powdered milk)
  • Swedish pastry (Cinnamon, cardamom, raisins, hagelzucker)
  • Apple cinnamon (Apple chunks, cinnamon, nuts)
  • Plain (Maple syrup, served with plain yogurt and apple sauce)

So, what’s your favourite breakfast? And what are you reading lately? And do you read at breakfast? 

Love.
Belligerence&Chocolate

Easter Eats.

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The candle is from Easter Vigil in Germany last year. I love it. We try and remember to light it during the Easter season.

Happy Easter! Holy week and Easter week have been rather bustling with activity, even though we did try to keep it rather quiet…

It turns out we really do like having people over and feeding them so in spite of having decided to just have a family Easter we changed our minds on Holy Thursday and ended up with 3 guests, a prime rib roast, rainbow salad, tiny roasted yams, carrot cake shaped like a bunny and friends bringing delicious Persian food and bakery bread and fancy petit-fours. Truly fancy local beers, red wine and “race-car cola” rounded things off nicely.

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Bunny cake! It’s a carrot cake because the rabbit ate the carrots so they’re inside him now.

We skipped my family tradition of making bunny-shaped orange bread for breakfast with excellent intentions of just moving it over to the 2nd Sunday of Easter, but that ended up not happening, so we’ll just try and get around to it sometime between now and Pentecost. Easter is a season, may as well take advantage of it!

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All the eggs in one basket!

We did manage to make time to dye eggs on Holy Saturday though (between getting Squamish and Kyle new Easter hats and trying to get people to nap before the vigil). Neon-food colouring on hard-boiled eggs, with elastic bands and wildflowers as resists. Nothing too fussy, the kids are young. It was pretty fun and they thought it was absolutely magical. Chinook just stared and said WOOOOW!

We ate those and fancy rhubarb yogurt for breakfast before sending the kids out to hunt for candy filled eggs in the yard.

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She was more excited about the Easter grass in her basket than finding eggs…

Dinner was simple cooking, but tasty ingredients.Prime rib with salt and pepper, seared in the cast iron pan before going on the BBQ for a nice low and slow cooking. The key here is really to get the nicest meat you can afford. We don’t get this cut often, but when we do there’s no fancy rubs, no marinating, just making sure not to overcook it. Yams small and smooth, brushed with oil and tossed in a hot oven until tender. Rainbow salad (Squamish’s favourite) red cabbage, baby spinach, yellow bell peppers, crated carrots, radishes and red peppers, carefully arrayed in a baking pan by your handy household 3 year old, sweet maple-poppy seed dressing drizzled at the table. It’s easy. It’s good food.

The bunny cake was this recipe more or less exactly decorated like a lovely spread we saw in the latest issue of Marie Claire Idées, my absolute favourite magazine. The round we used was a bit too shallow, even with two layers to give enough height to the bunny’s face, so I cut them in half and had four half-circle layers. The kid was satisfied and it looked quite nice from the front, if a little odd from the back.

Easter Monday we took a cooking break, walked over to the neighbouring bakery for chocolate hot cross buns, grabbed the leftover boiled eggs and let the kids play in the park. It was all in all a lovely and delicious weekend.

How was your Easter meal? Do you have strong food traditions?

{SQT} So, what’s your hobby?

As a homemaker, I sometimes get stumped by the  “What do you do?” question. My standard response is usually “Oh, I’m retired!” with a laugh and a wink, but that’s more of a dodge than an answer. It might just be my personality but, “I run after small children and keep everyone fed and clothed” is accurate, though difficult to say without a good deal of snark… and it’s not the whole truth either. I have HOBBIES!

I’m continually jealous of people who have just one hobby. My husband Kyle, for instance, paints miniatures. He has a paint desk, with a paint lamp, paints, paint brushes, paint water, and a paint chair. And things to paint.* And that’s that. I, on the other hand have been picking up and dropping and picking up again and juggling and experimenting with and dropping and picking up again any number of hobbies from age 8 or so onward.** I have finally accepted that this is just a fact of life for me, and fortunately, Kyle understands that there will just be piles of “materials” for approximately 3 to 5 different crafts out in the open at all times. I like to think that this helps nurture creativity in the small humans as well as keeping me sane, but for the moment it falls short of the “blogging mom with a side business” ideal I apparently aspire to.

And now! A quick overview of my hobbies/crafting history:

  1. WritingIMG_0016.JPG
    The written word is a deep and abiding love of mine. The meaning and the mechanics. So I’ve written poetry and attempted short stories and I’m blogging now, but I also love hand lettering and calligraphy. To the point of once doing a paleography “just for the fun of it”***. I’ve had a set of fountain pens for heavens knows how long and I have been trying my hand at brush lettering lately.
  2. Sewing
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    Aren’t they cute in their ridiculous Christmas outfits? I made my first dress in 2011 and wore it while wandering around Prague on our honeymoon. I cringe a little at the pictures now, knowing I could do a much better job, but I was really quite please with it and I’ve been making a few clothes here and there for various family members and friends. I’ve made a few quilts (3?) as well as various cushions/covers and bags.
  3. Embroidery
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    My grandma first taught me embroidery when I was very little and I keep coming back to it. I find it grounds me. There are few things more relaxing than re-watching Jane Austen movies while sipping tea and stitching. I also love how portable it is and how easy to put down and pick up it is. Musts with small children about. Above is a new little experiment with floral designs that I’ve designed with the intention of putting them in little tiny 1″ hoops.
  4. Paper crafting
    This one definitely comes in phases. I’ve been trying my hand at keeping the house cheerily decorated with cute paper banners in addition to making cards for special occasions, which has given me some extra outlet for it, but I gave that up for Lent. One less thing to distract. It’s been good, but I look forward to colourful bits of paper on the walls!
  5. Baking
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    This is the most consistent hobby/crafty thing I do. I love feeding people. I love trying new recipes.  I read cookbooks like novels. I pore over foodie magazines and spend hours staring at the bulk section of fancy grocery stores. The magic of
    Dough in // Pastries out
    amazes. me. every. single. time.
  6. Gardening
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    I am a big fan of the *idea* of gardening. I’m a big fan of picking food in my garden. I am less of a fan of actually getting the work done. Thankfully the men in my life (the afore-mentionned husband and our son) do enjoy the work and are happy to be kicked out to work on the garden every so often. And of course it does rain outside sometimes, so on the whole outdoor plants fare better than indoor ones around me.
  7. Crochet
    This is a new one! No pictures,  no projects yet, just ambitions and a class on Craftsy that I should go and work on now.

Don’t forget to check out everyone’s links at Kelly’s! I’ll try to pop in with some serious thoughts sometime during Holy Week, perhaps some bread making on Holy Thursday.

So, what’s your hobby?

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*There’s a bit more equipment than that, but you get the point…
** In case anyone was curious, I sewed clothes for those tiny keychain beanie babies we had in grade school. Oh, the 90s.
***Paleography is not “fun” it is HARD. It gives the most incredibly dreadful headaches. But then you realize you’re reading something that someone scribbled in a ledger 600 years ago, so it all makes up for it. Until you go out in the sunshine again and it burns your eyes…

Surprised.

“An Ambush,” said Owl, “is a sort of Surprise.”

“So is a gorse-bush sometimes,” said Pooh.

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

It surprises me that I’m sitting here typing this out into the void. It surprises me even though it was planned and deliberate. It has been years in the making and it’s nothing special. But at last, no joke, it’s here. It will surprise me to hit publish, as it surprised me a week ago to be buying a domain. The name of this little patch of Internet surprised me too, coming at me at the height of stress of my erstwhile career as a middle school teacher.

Belligerence is a lovely word you see, with a less than lovely meaning. It rolls off the tongue has the thrill of Latin roots (my inner medievalist and closet-amateur-philologist selves have a little squee together over it). But I can’t really spin it as a positive attribute. It’s something that I work at keeping under control, if not under cover. I am a headstrong (my dear mother would say pig-headed). I used to pretend I was a super hero called Marie-Éclair* when I was a kid.  St Ignatius of Loyola, St Joan of Arc, St Scholastica and St Hildegard are some of my heroes. Fighters and Leaders. This goes deep. I need to channel my inner rage creatively. Beauty will save the world.

Chocolate is well… delicious. And I could stop there, but I won’t. I love to feed people. My old landlady used to introduce me to people as “The French girl who bakes”. I used to leave work in a rush every other Monday to feed a hoard of 4th year physicists who would take over my dining room to finish their assignments. I’ve driven across town in the pouring rain to get cookies and casseroles out to friends who needed them. Competitive desserts, elaborate dinner parties, huge backyard BBQs, brunch for a crowd, triple fondue dinner, bi-weekly soup night, impromptu invitations where I wasn’t sure I even had food for these people and no way to get any before they showed up, that’s how I roll. It’s what I do best. And if there’s chocolate in there somewhere, so much the better.

I’m surprised again! You’re still reading! I look forward to sharing some of the Beauty that comes out of the Rage, and more than a few recipes (with and without Chocolate).

Love,
Claire

*Éclair like lightning, not the pastry, but I guess that would work too.