big and small things

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I have been thinking about this post for a while. And now, on day 2 of our snowed-in experience, I have a window of time. Much has happened in the past few months that I have been itching to write about.

Between now and December, when we watched a little person turn 3 and press a toy backhoe inches into in their very chocolate birthday cake, many big and small things have happened. For instance, yesterday while the snow blew around and my son and husband napped, I emptied out half of my son’s closet to store things away into newly organized storage space upstairs. The plan is to fill the cleared closet with totes to host clothes for a new baby due at the end of June. Our son is pretty sure the baby will not need a room, least of all need to share his. But we figure clearing out closet space and moving him into a “big boy” bed are a fair beginning to the process of acceptance.

As for being nearly 5 months pregnant… I can say I am extremely grateful to be beyond the nausea/fatigue stage that lasted up to my 16th week. Sometimes I watch my husband drink a beer and recklessly throw himself down a snow hill with our son and I think, “Thiiiiis sucks.” But then there are moments like today, when I took my first belly selfie in the bathroom mirror. And I thought, “Holy crap! Look what my body can do!” And I feel very, very humbled and blessed indeed.

People often ask me if this pregnancy is different than the first, and I answer yes! In every! Single! Way! I think that is mostly because everything about our phase of life was different when we were expecting our son. We were living far from family, working short-term jobs, anticipating a move and a return to school, living in a basement, phasing out of college-life. I don’t envy those two people. And looking back, I am sure other people were worried sick about the little guy we were about to bring into the world. I can honestly say we were too. But now, after all of that and then some, our now rascally, smart, and loving 3-year-old is destined to become a sweet, most caring big brother. In spite of us.

A few small things to mention: Thanks to a junk pile behind my husband’s work place, we now have pantry shelves to hold the contents of our overflowing kitchen cupboards. And with any luck, the pantry will also host the contents of our summer garden.

In March, I will be hosting a 3rd-5th grade art show at the elementary school I work at. I am busy working out the fine details and getting my students excited. But as I was thinking about it this morning, it dawned on me that my Grandmother, who passed away just a short week ago, will not be there.

It hurt to think about that. Because I know that if my grandma hadn’t suddenly left us, she would have most certainly forced someone to drive her to the show. She was every one of her grandchildren’s number one fan. And no matter how old I got, she made a persistent effort to be involved in my life.

In fact, I can still hear her for the 22nd time on my 22nd lap of a college track meet, running the Godforsaken 10K. I can still see her just before the 300 meter mark, standing alone, yelling quite loudly and taking pictures with her disposable camera. And there are no other runners around me because very few athletes would voluntarily compete in such a race. And I can still feel her strong hands gripping me in a hug when I finally finished, almost yelling in my ear, “Did you hear my cheering?”

I didn’t appreciate her because she was always there. She had been there ever since I was a baby.

When she died, I felt that I not only lost her, but also lost a bit of my own life, my childhood, memories that shaped so much of who I am. It’s funny how that happens when you lose someone you take for granted. You feel surprised to lose a part of yourself.

Last week, after her funeral, my family started going through her house to collect things we could use or wanted: sentimental belongings… chairs and couches and Tupperware. We ended up picking out quite a few toys for our son. Toys that I had played with when I was little. We washed them and put them in totes. And since then they have become his favorite things: fake food and a picnic basket (including a startlingly real-looking E.L. Fudge cookie), toy plates and cups, a small yellow dog house with stuffed puppies, a fishing game. He has been playing exclusively with these things all week. And though I expected this to make me sad, to make me miss her, it has had the opposite effect. In some strange way, seeing him play with things that belonged to my Grandma brings her back. Every time my son brings me a tray of fake hot dogs for “my dinner”, and every time he asks me to play the “shark” game, it feels a little more true that she indeed lives on.

Which brings me here on a snow day. It feels so good to be here, to write all of this down. And yes, to share a recipe.

If I were to flip through cozy winter breakfast recipes looking for something delicious but quick, I would have to toss this aside. This is not a quick breakfast. This is one that demands a few pots and pans, some prep, and wait-time. But oh my, on a slow, snow-day morning, it is just the most perfect thing.

When making this recipe, I improvised quite a bit from Megan Gordon’s original “spiced bulgur porridge” and used steel-cut oats instead. I swapped out her almond milk for dairy milk due to a nut allergy in the house. I added spiced apples in place of her almonds and golden raisins and threw in some orange zest with the dates. A warm, spiced aroma filled the kitchen as it cooked and I knew I had done something right. We ate it happily, served with a fair amount of honey and our favorite orange juice. The leftover porridge tasted very good the next day with a scoop of yogurt as well.

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Spiced Steel-Cut Oat Porridge with Dates and Spiced Apples

Serves: 4

  • 2 /14 cups water
  • ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup whole milk (or a non-dairy alternative)
  • 1 cup pitted and chopped Medjool dates
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 apple of choice, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • Dash ground cinnamon and cane sugar

1n a medium saucepan, bring water to boil. Add vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and salt and stir. Stir in oats, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for the next step.

In a small saucepan, warm milk with dates and orange zest until little bubbles start to form on the edge of the pan. Don’t let it come to a full boil. Pour hot milk mixture over oats and let cook, partially covered over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat coconut oil until liquid and toss in apples with cinnamon and sugar. Allow to cook until soft and fragrant.

When porridge is done, remove from heat and cover. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes. The consistency should be a bit loose but creamy.

Serve porridge with apples on the side, honey, and yogurt if desired.

This dish will keep for 3-4 days if covered and refrigerated.

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