When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I thought I’d be a capable-but-remote mother. I have never particularly liked children, and had never intended to have any of my own; but I was prepared to take the responsibility seriously and try to do well at my job.
I couldn’t have imagined, then, the rabbit-hole that is falling messily and helplessly in love with your babies.
As it turns out, far from being remote (or, some days, even very capable), I am a mother who actually can’t stand being away from her kids.
I can’t describe the mixture of anxiety and guilt and mild heartbreak that I feel when I have to do something without them for more than an hour. Of course, I can function without having them with me constantly, but I don’t like it one bit.
But yesterday morning, by the time my children and I had hobbled through several hours of games and puzzles and baking and bathing and breakfast, and it was not even 8:00, I was looking for something much stronger than milk to add to my insultingly decaffeinated coffee.
And I also felt an unfamiliar sensation.
I couldn’t put my finger on it until my husband, bless him, offered to take the kids out, and I realized that what I was feeling was the need to not see them for a little while.
That feeling didn’t last long, but while it lasted I took advantage: I pulled a chair out onto the back deck, put my feet up on the railing, and gobbled up this last breakfast bar in blissful silence.
These are a great breakfast, eaten slightly warm with a bit of yogurt drizzled on top. They are also an excellent take-along snack, treaty but healthy and yummier than store-bought granola bars.
1c brown sugar
1/2c oil (I use melted coconut oil, but any vegetable oil would do)
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2c oats
1c whole wheat flour
1/4c wheat germ
1/4c unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom
1c chopped dried apricots
1/4c chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8″ square pan with parchment.
In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in oats.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, coconut, baking powder, and cardamom. Add dry ingredients to wet, and stir to combine. Stir in apricots, craisins, and chocolate chips.
Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over mixture and, using the plastic wrap as an aid, press batter very firmly and evenly into the pan.
Remove plastic wrap, and bake 35 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool in pan, on a rack, for as long as you can stand it before cutting into squares.
I know, I know, of course there is.
But at this moment, eyes and nose streaming, ears clogged, throat raw, sleep-deprived and generally miserable as I am, I am finding it hard to keep some perspective.
In fact, I am so miserable that there is really only one thing I am willing to eat – and it is pictured above.
This silken, soothing custard is the ultimate comfort food to me, and my childhood dish of choice when anything really unbearable came my way.
Give me this, and some hot water with lemon and lots of honey (no whiskey, I promise), and I may live to see another day.
Baked Vanilla Custard
adapted from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook
1 tsp vanilla
a sprinkling of nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil a kettleful of water. Lightly grease a one-litre ovenproof dish.
Combine milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk until milk is very warm (do not bring to a boil, or you will have a curdled mess rather than a silken dreamy thing to eat) and sugar dissolved.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs an vanilla. Pour milk mixture into egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Pour custard into prepared dish, and sprinkle with nutmeg. Place dish in a roasting pan and place in the oven; pour boiled water into the roasting pan, until it reaches half way up the sides of the custard dish.
Bake 25-35 minutes, until almost set. Remove custard from roasting pan and leave it to cool, in its dish, as long as you can. It might be marginally better cold, but I never get that far.
Serves two greedy people.
I’m grateful that it seems to be nothing serious, just a bad cold and a bit of a fever; and although it has resulted in such an astonishing lack of sleep at night (even for us) that I have been stumbling through my days woozy and disoriented, I’m less bothered about that than one might expect.
I am actually a little bit grateful, because in the long nights and (even longer, frankly) days that he’s not been feeling well, he and I have been stuck together like glue.
I love everything about holding him so close, constantly – and it’s a rare treat given that he is my second child and my affections, considerable though they are, are (necessarily) usually divided between him and his sweet sister.
I’m grateful to have had some extra moments to inhale his sweet-apple scent and wonder that he won’t take a soother – so unlike his sister! – and that he gets panicky, just like I do, if he doesn’t have one foot uncovered in bed.
I am also grateful because as I write this, he is asleep.
He stayed asleep (mercy!) when I slipped out of bed.
And the rest of my family is still sleeping, too, giving me an unfettered moment to enjoy a luxuriously hot cup of coffee (I’m on decaf these days, but the placebo effect is remarkable) and make everyone pinwheels for breakfast.
When I was growing up, we had pinwheels for breakfast when we were out of eggs so pancakes or muffins were not an option – because we never knew when they were coming, these resonate in my memory as the best kind of treat. The recipe, of course, is Gwenn’s.
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1c all purpose flour
1c whole what pastry flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2c + 2 tbsp butter
6 tbsp soft brown sugar
cinnamon, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine milk and vinegar and let stand while you get on with the making the dough:
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in 1/2 c butter until it is the size of peas and dough is crumbly.
Pour in soured milk and mix just until it clumps together. Turn out onto a floured board and knead gently 11 times (not more, not less. Seriously! This is the key to the success of your pinwheels!). Add more flour if the dough seems excessively sticky.
Roll dough into a rectangle about 14″x10″. Melt remaining 2 tbsp butter and brush evenly onto dough. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter, and dust with cinnamon.
Roll dough up longwise, to form a cylinder, and pinch along long edge to seal. Cut crosswise into slices about 1″ thick.
Place pinwheels on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 15 minutes, until golden.