The Very, Very, VERY best Oatmeal (IMO)

A few days ago something prompted me to search the internets for a banana curd recipe. Most likely it was the pile of rotting overripe bananas on my counter; it is also possible that the onset of cold weather contributed to my sudden craving for rich, butter-and-egg-enriched custardy goodness. Banana-flavored, of course.

I did find a lovely recipe (which I made, and promptly inhaled, and which you should consider making, too, if you have a pile of bananas, an egg, some sugar and a stick of butter lying around); however, it is not the banana curd I wish to gush about today. No, it is the oatmeal. The banana-curd-recipe author casually mentioned adding said banana curd to her oatmeal, which she claims is the Very, Very Best. I always feel inclined to challenge people when they claim to be good, and even more so when they throw in the superlative. Except….

The segues that lead one to a particular discovery on the internet are usually long, winding, and irretrievable if you happen to close all 36 open browser tabs by mistake. Fortunately, I was able to retrace my steps by going back to the banana curd search, which easily and happily led me to the Very, Very Best Oatmeal. Whew.

Except it’s not.

Now, I am a non-confrontational person, but I’m just going to say right here that I disagree with the author of the Very, Very Best Oatmeal’s eponymous claim for one simple reason: texture. I guess this is where subjectivity and personal preference enter the equation. While she and I both abhor gummy, sticky, soupy oatmeal, I happen to like mine a little creamier, rather than crunchy. And moister. I like moist oatmeal, otherwise I call it granola. And so, with a very small tweak of adding more liquid to the recipe and a longer steaming time, I have found what is, for me, the Very, Very, Very Best Oatmeal (IMO). But I will say that if you tend to prefer your oats a bit crunchy, and drier, then you will love FauxMartha’s version immensely and give her the oatmeal crown, because texture aside, her version is brilliant and may just be your oatmeal epiphany.  Of course, this is not a competition in any sense, just a quest for a tasty (yet healthy and hips-friendly) breakfast. 😉

Very, Very, VERY Best Oatmeal (IMO) (Original Recipe found on FauxMartha)

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats (I did not try this with quick or instant oats, or even steel-cut, so I cannot report on whether those variations would work)
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp or thereabouts kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/4- 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon, if desired

You will need a deep sauce/frying pan with a lid.

Melt the butter in the sauce/frying pan over a medium-ish (technical term) heat. Add oats and salt (if using) to the pan and stir to coat them with the melted butter. Gently move the oats around until they become fragrant and take on just the faintest bit of color, which takes about 2-3 minutes with my setup.

Toasty oaties


Because I am lazy, I do not remove the oats from the pan as the original recipe suggests. I just take the pan off the heat, pour on the liquid (go slowly, as it will sputter at first), add cinnamon or other spices (ooh, I bet dried fruit would work, too!) if desired, then return to the heat and stir until liquid comes almost to the boil.


Cover pan, turn off heat, and let the oats steam in their liquid undisturbed for 20-30 minutes. Don’t cheat and peek early, or your steam will dissipate and you’ll be out of oatmeal luck.

This next photo was taken after 20 minutes of steaming, because I am impatient. You can see there’s a little bit of liquid left in the pan, but they were not the least bit chewy.



(Tip for other lazy and not-morning-people: do this at night, just before bed; you can uncover the pan in the morning and heat the oats briefly before digging in.)

Oh, and for ultra decadence and tastiness, stir in a spoonful of banana curd, which is how you got here in the first place.

Banana curd!?!






When I was about 12, I briefly studied piano with a creepy, bearded guy (not that the beard made him creepy, but it’s the one thing I remember about him, other than his bizarrely long, nicotine-stained fingers and the fact that he had this absolutely awful pedophile vibe). That did not last long, because we moved to another part of town where cheap piano lessons were not to be found (mostly because I was busy doing other things, like speech team and band, but possibly also because I didn’t want to deal with another weirdo trying to look down my shirt while I poked out a scale on the keyboard). I loved the piano, though, and kept playing throughout the years. But I am mostly self-taught, which is not always a good thing. In some instances – piano perhaps being one of them – it is advisable to have a teacher to critique and guide and encourage you.

S9 started taking lessons from a wonderful, non-creepy teacher last March.  Shortly after she began, I happened to mention my own small experience with piano, and the teacher happened to mention that she had another adult student, and it just became obvious that I should become her student, too.  Aside from a desire to improve my meager skills, it seemed like a good example to set for the kids, who are being forced to endure their own music lessons.  I am such a horrible, mean mom, making them do something so awful as playing music.

So the teacher and I started last June.  We began with some easier classical pieces that, after several months of work, I can say are no longer being absolutely butchered at the keyboard but are now, instead, only slightly maimed at each playing. The first pieces were Bach’s Gavotte from the Third English Suite and Beethoven’s Fuër Elise.  At our teacher’s Christmas party I played a version of Peter, Paul & Mary’s Gone The Rainbow.  In late December, I started working on Mozart’s Fantasy In D Minor.  I even accompanied O8 at her violin recitals the last two weekends.  Nevermind that my hands shake uncontrollably when I play in front of people.  If we are never uncomfortable, we are not learning or growing, right?

I still have my childhood piano.  It is a modest spinet, not a super-high-quality instrument, but she’s served her purpose without complaint over the years, and it’s hard to part with her.

Nancy Hart
My childhood piano, a Nancy Hart spinet by the Grand Piano Co. We just call her Nancy.

But on Christmas Eve, my husband took us out to choose a beautiful, marvelous new piano, which was delivered two days later.  So now we have not one, but two pianos in our living room.

George Steck
Our new piano, a George Steck. We call him… wait for it… George.


I love that, at any given moment of the day, someone is usually playing something on one of the keyboards.   Even O8, who is not interested in piano lessons at all, plays daily.

There’s no moral to this story, other than perhaps you’re never too old to learn something all over again.


And that music is for everyone, even cats.

El Destroyo

I was going through some pictures from my phone and came across these ones I took back in April.

The uninitiated among you might just see an ordinary cardboard box here. But you would be deceived.  Ordinary mortal.

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This is actually S-then-8’s Super Fighter Warship Plane.  The military should really consider a few of these.  They are both Sharkproof AND Bombproof:

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Shock Proof AND High-Turbulence Proof:

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not to mention Dangerous, When Sounding Siren:

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Please note that there is a hefty fine for theft of property:

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As if anyone would steal it though, since it’s:

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Just in case, please:

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Look at all of these features! I mean, really. Wouldn’t you want to just push a button for “Repairments and Maintenance?”

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There are security features galore:

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and defenses if an enemy dares try to get close:

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And when all else fails, there’s always the “El Destroyo” button as a failsafe.

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Found Art

I also posted this on the kids’ school blog, but wanted to share it here as well.

Both of my girls are very prolific artists, S8 particularly so. I often find drawings and other artsy endeavors around the house. Recently, inspired by a book of fairy stickers a friend sent us, S8 made this crayon and sticker drawing/collage.


Another fairy drawing:


I love this one, of rabbit astronauts playing space tag ball:

I love that the ball has “SPACE” written on it.

For a time, they got into making pirate maps. I couldn’t scan one because they make them on huge sheets of paper, but they are really detailed and usually involve some sort of island, a body of shark infested water with a dire-sounding name (like “Shark Bay”), and a dangerous forest. Then they play games using the maps. Recently, I found some notes they had written as part of one of their games. It appears that they were pretending S8 was the president of an island that was sinking, and O7 was a professor who was an expert on sinking islands. S8 had written to O7 to get advice about running her sinking island.

Professor, a professor friend who studies geography (rock study) said i should focus on the economy, ect., instead of the island! Do you think i should listen to him? If i listen to him, the island will never be seen again! I think the island should be seen in its last days above water, by humans. Very deeply. Sincerly, President V. Samantha.
Professor, consequences are piling up for me. I don’t know what to do! Focus on island, or economy! I just got your scrap and you’re right. Hope we find the treasure.
Sincerly, President V. Samantha

At first, O7 (“Professor Molly”), who is not nearly as fond of writing as her big sister, scribbled pretend notes in reply.


But eventually she got into the game enough to write “real” replies. Hers are much more concise. She also uses a lot less paper. (She wrote them all on little torn scraps.)


Such drama.


This one didn’t scan as well, but I love the executive tone.

Professor, I share your concern in the sinking island project. We should send exlorers out there to find the treasure in those two weeks. Phone me your opinion tonight around 8:30 pm. If you think explorers should go there, I strictly advise that well trained explorers only should go. Please. I do not want our explorers to disappear along with the island as well. Sincerly, President V. P.S. Send the explorers with enough to last each and every explorer for 12 days. I want them back in twelve days no matter what.

I have no idea what happened to this island. Or the explorers. Or whether it was reported on Fox News. What a cliffhanger!

And It’s Not Even My Birthday

The other day, we got a surprise in the mail.

I would show you a picture of said surprise as we first found it, cheerfully waiting for us on the porch; but as soon as the girls saw that it was from Australia, they ripped the box open and beyond all recognition.  It just looked like a pile of funny cardboard at that point.  The insides were much more interesting to photograph.

Inside was a treasure trove (pretty sure that is the first time that phrase has been used around here) of fun, adorable, sweet, thoughtful Australian memorabilia.  Like, if I ever went to Australia (which I still hope to someday), these are all the things I would have chosen as souvenirs.  So it’s like we’ve been there, even though we haven’t.  Or something like that.

First, we discovered adorable little patriotic Koalas (Koalae?):


I just heart the boomerangs, too:


Then there was excited gasping (I believe “squee” is the appropriate phrase) when we discovered there were fairies inside:




We heart fairies around here, too.





There was also a tube of Vegemite, which makes me think of an 80s rock tune by one of my favorite bands.  (No, not Midnight Oil; the other famous 80s Australian rock band.


It answered burning questions for all us Yanks in the house.


I think the highlight was the pink flannel fabric used to line the box. It is still a source of endless excitement, even several days later.



So versatile.


There were all sorts of other exciting finds inside, too. Like tattoos:



(O7 has tattooed each forearm and is still sporting them a week later.)

There were lovely Australia pens:


more fairies:


more koalas (I think there were four altogether, but they scattered as soon as they were set free):


chocolate koalas:


and sweet little lip balms:


And there was the nicest little note:


Thank you, SB and boys! You sure know how to make a girl’s day. 🙂

Kalahari Day 2

Today we hung out at Kalahari with my mom.  In the morning, we made breakfast in our lovely kitchen.  I adore having a kitchen in a hotel like this.  Even though we are not really cooking complicated meals (like, nothing more involved than heating up canned soup), it’s great to be able to keep food in a fridge and have real dishes to eat off of.  Even things like drinks are fabulous.  How many times have you gotten settled in a hotel room and realized you (or someone in your group) is thirsty?  And who wants to drink hotel tap water??  What a luxury, to open the fridge and pull out OJ, or apple cider, or my new favorite:


Luxury, indeed.

So, in the AM we made a little breakfast of cereal and toasted bagels with cream cheese, and fruit, and I made coffees for Nana and me. Then we went to the waterpark for a while.

At the waterpark, O6 was grumpy. I don’t think she slept well last night, and for some reason, everything was just wrong today. First she said she really wanted to go on Victoria Falls, so we went on Victoria Falls. When we got to the top of the stairs, she said she was scared and didn’t want to go. I made her go down with us on the raft. She got off of Victoria Falls skipping and happy. But she did the Jekyll and Hyde routine all morning.

We sat in the hot tub outside and caught falling snow on our tongues and hair. That was neat. Then S8 met up with her friend, S6, and they started hanging out in the waves. O7 felt left out and sorry for herself and hung back. I’m sure the girls would have played with her but she just turtled up and became my Velcro baby again. So I took her on the lazy river while Nana kept an eye on S8.

After a few hours, we decided to head back for late lunch and to get ready for the conference. We got cleaned up and ate a little snack in our luxurious kitchen: peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, fruit, soup, and salad with picnic crack.

And then the girls practiced their violins.

Practicing violin

They also practiced Nana’s new iPad.


At 3, we gathered our 18″ Madame Alexander dolls and their wardrobes and headed down to the registration area.  It just took a few minutes to get our registration stuff and schedules.  I picked up our t-shirts and tote bag.  Then we did a few cartwheels while we looked around for a gathering of 18″ dolls.  We found them hanging out under the stairs at the convention center entrance. There were about 15 kids and dolls and it was really cool.



They decided to have a talent show. I’m pretty sure this was S8’s idea.


This little boy had his doll, Rosita, do a little ice skating demonstration.


S8 and her doll, Samantha, decided to sing. They sang a song that S8 wrote minutes before, called “Sing It Out”. She is in the process of writing down the lyrics and is planning to perform again at the talent show on Thursday. I did record it, but haven’t figured out how to post videos here, plus I’m not sure her adult self will appreciate me posting a video of her 8 year old self holding her doll up to her ear and singing a (let’s just face it) improvised song a capella. So I won’t bother. Let’s just say I think she’s awesome and has guts for getting up there and Singing It Out. Rock on, S8.

O7, of course, did not participate. She is in full-on Shy Mode, though she did sit in the audience and watch the other kids. And then she got bored, and started doing cartwheels, and other gymnasticky stuff.


The doll meetup kind of petered out anyway when Paxton organized a game of Zombie Tag. Here is S8 getting some clarification on the rules.


Basically, human kids run. Zombie kids do not run, and they are supposed to hold their arms out in front of themselves as they shuffle.

Every day I’m shufflin’…

O7 did cartwheels while S8 played Zombie Tag.  Nana and I sat on a couch and I worked on weaving in ends on my soon-to-be-born niece’s baby blanket.  It was very relaxing, in spite of the zombies.

Then we went into the ballroom for the family fun night, which was a mini carnival with balloon sculptures and silly games and face painting and lots of loud, fun dance music.  A lot of shufflin and Gangnam-stylin’.

We got in line for balloons.


Here’s O7 watching this girl make her a puppy dog balloon.



S8 wanted to get her face painted. She opted for a butterfly.


She is holding her fairy wand with a heart on the top. Part of the handle came off when she made a particularly vigorous wave of magic. We happened to run into the balloonist on the elevator and she fixed it for us. Sweet!

Before heading up to bed, we stopped at the arcade and played a game of bowling with Nana.



Back at the room, we called DH and told him about our fun day. Then we all played some assorted electronica (iPad, iPod, tablet, laptop) and went to bed.

Kalahari Day 1

Wheee!  We are at the Kalahari, a really neat indoor waterpark / hotel / convention center / small indoor city in northwest Ohio.  This is our fourth year coming here for an annual homeschool conference.  The kids are beyond thrilled.  Me, too, mostly.


My complaints are small and petty, and pretty much insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  First world problems, as a certain friend likes to say.  They are things like, “the arcade is insanely loud and overstimulating and makes me dizzy and I hate that we have to walk through it to get to the water park.”  Or, “the bathroom in our hotel is so narrow that it’s hard to dress in there, and I don’t want to come out naked from the shower into the common area of our room that we’re sharing with my mom.”  Etc.  First world problems, indeed.

Dizzy arcades and cramped loos notwithstanding, we are having a very nice time.

The conference itself starts tonight, but we came in a day early (1) because the hotel extended our group rate to include Sunday night as well as the four nights of our conference and the rates are ridiculously awesome so who could pass up that kind of deal???, and (2) my mom is leaving on Weds to go hang out with my sister while she  has a baby, so that gave us some extra time with Nana.   And if you’re eight or seven years old and have a really fun grandma, wouldn’t you want to hang out with her at a waterpark?  I totally would.

My mom flew in from Florida on Saturday afternoon, and we spent the day visiting with my grandma (who is also very cool, but she’s 92 and waterparks are a little too much for her now). On Sunday, we got up and made breakfast with DH, and then we packed the van. And when I say we packed the van, I mean we put so much stuff in there it looked like we were MOVING to the Kalahari instead of just coming to stay for a week. But only half the stuff is going back to my house in the end, so it’s all good.

We got here at 4pm, which is check-in time anyway, so we went right up to our swanky room on the sixth floor and unloaded our stuff. That took a while. We made it in one large trip with two luggage carts and the kids dragging their own suitcases and violins, but it was a huge exercise in luggage logistics. Then Nana and the girls unpacked groceries while I parked the van.

Our room has a full kitchen. Check it out:


Now, some people do not like to cook while they are on vacation, but I am a nerd and totally love to make food while I’m in a strange kitchen. It’s super-exciting for me to try to figure out how the stove works (I hate electric cook-tops, though) or to MacGyver a kitchen utensil. (Right now I am using drinking glasses as tapas plates.) It is also a lot cheaper this way. It only cost us about $20 a day extra for the kitchen room, but we would have spent waaaay more than that going out to eat for three meals a day x 4 people. So we have things for breakfast and lunch and snacks in our room kitchen, and then we’ll go out for dinner. Perfect compromise.

So first, we had a snack.  And then we went to the waterpark (which, face it, is what we’re here for.)

S8 in her new bathing suit

That was really fun. First, S8 and Nana went on Victoria Falls, which is a tube slide.  After climbing an insane number of stairs to the dizzying heights of the waterpark, you board a huge yellow raft (large enough for up to four people). The raft goes down through a big, enclosed yellow tube that actually goes outside the waterpark briefly before coming back into the building and dumping you into a pool, where the kind (but really bored) lifeguard assists you in exiting the raft with absolutely no grace whatsoever but without drowning.  Repeat.

Now, O7 and I like Victoria Falls, but her absolute favorite ride in the world is the Zip Coaster, so we did that while my mom and S8 went on the raft ride.  The Zip Coaster is a roller-coaster-shaped raft that is shoved through an orange tube (via a fast-moving belt) in a nauseating hill-and-valley fashion at an improbable speed and with water blasting you in the face the entire time.  It’s not for the faint of heart, or those wearing contact lenses.  But I took her because you need two people to ride the Zip Coaster and I am just that awesome of a mom.  We only went once.

But then we went on the Lazy River, because we saw the line for Victoria Falls was really long and figured S8 and Nana were still waiting to go down.  The Lazy River is really nice.  It’s not that lazy, because there are an unnerving number of empty inner tubes floating around like so much flotsam and jetsam, occasionally blocking up the river and making it a pain to get around.  It’s hard to just float laziliy along when you keep getting jammed up.  And then there are occasional waterfalls and jets of water and drips of water, so if you close your eyes and start to feel lazy, sooner or later you’ll get a faceful of water an a very UNrelaxing sort of way.  I think it’s to keep drunk people from passing out on the inner tubes.

We  made one pass through the lazy river and then headed back to the landing area of Victoria Falls to wait for S8 and Nana.  They were the very next raft down- perfect timing!

Next, the kids wanted to check out the wave pool.  So we did that for a few minutes, but then I was cold and said it was time to do something that the grownups wanted to do.  So we went to the hot tub.  There are three or four or maybe even five indoor hot tubs here, and two of them are indoor/outdoor tubs, which is really cool.  You swim under this plastic curtain that is very reminiscent of a drive-through carwash, and then you’re outside!  Fun times.

Then we went back to the wave pool, and there we met up with S7, a girl we met here last year and who instantly became BFFs with S8.  They hung out for a long time in the waves together.  O7 got bored and went back to the hot tub with Nana.  Then we all met back up and the girls did one more slide on the main play structure.  Then we went back to get rinsed off and dry (read: warm).  It was a lot colder this time than last year.  Brr.

Back in our room, we fixed a light dinner.  We had planned to go to one of the restaurants, but it was 8pm and we just kind of felt like something small.  So I heated up canned chicken veg soup and made the girls a PB & J sandwich (O7’s on pita bread, S8’s on multigrain).  I had a nice salad wrap with hummus and vinaigrette.  Nana had a PB& J on diet thinbread.  We ate a bowl of fruit and then pigged out on some raisin cookies Nana had bought at the bakery back home.  It was great.
Dinner in our room


Then the kids played Hello Kitty World in Nana’s room, while she and I chilled out and drank our coffees/tea.


By now it was nearly 9:30. We decided to go for a walk and see if the ice cream counter was still open. Damn, it was.


S8 ordered rainbow sherbet, and O7 got “Kitty Kitty Bang Bang”, which is cheesecake flavored ice cream with raspberry ripple and chocolate chips. I have no idea how it got that name but it tastes pretty good.

Then we walked through the aforementioned dizzyingly loud arcade. They still had our favorite game, Fruit Ninja. I let the girls play one round each.


We also walked around the main lobby. There is a cool view of the waterpark from above.


Just ignore those crazy children in the front. You know, the ones who look like gorillas.


By now it was about 10:30 and we were all suddenly very tired.  So we came back to the room and went to bed.  Tomorrow is the first day of our conference and Nana’s last day here, so we have to fit a lot in.