dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
I’m a working mom who stays home with the kiddos for part of the day because now they are all in school. Seventy percent of my paycheck goes to preschool but at least eighty percent of my sanity is intact.
So while the twins are at preschool, I’m working. I had fanciful visions of going to the local chic café, ordering a cappuccino and a scone and working on my laptop… until I nearly froze in their rustic hardwood floor and vaulted ceiling eating area and spent $8 that I didn’t really have. That was nearly satisfying until I couldn’t send an email because the wifi was so blasted ineffective. Back to the warm, quiet and free library. So now I work off-line in the car with a pre-packed snack, my favorite coffee brewed strong enough to resemble used motor oil and a lovely wool blanket that kept me warm in Colorado and still snuggles my daughter. It even doubles as a picnic blanket in the spring and summer. A fine investment if I do say so myself.
So goodbye dreams of fancy workspaces; the best one is my trusty minivan and the good ol’ fashioned public library.
I make better scones and when I can one day afford my own espresso machine, I can put my six years of barista skills to work and make a better cappuccino. Who needs hardwood floors and antique forks?
To make your own workspace that much cozier, take one of these scones with you and I promise that your cubicle, car or park bench will feel more like a chic suburban café.
Orange Oat Scone Recipe bogarted from the book, My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur which they borrowed from Stars Bakery in San Francisco (now loooong gone). And so the karmic circle of baked goods passes this recipe along to you.
3 cups flour
½ cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups whole oats
zest of 1 orange (or ½ teaspoon of dried orange rind)
¾ cup heavy cream or buttermilk
¼ cup coarse sugar or turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top
Preheat the oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Combine the flour, turbinado sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor. (I use a battered medium sized bowl and a 25 year-old pastry cutter and that seems to work just fine. Also, you can measure out these dry ingredients and set them aside easily if suddenly you find you need to run a carpool or referee a sibling squabble. You can do this really quick and then finish up the mixing and baking when you have a little more time.)
Add the butter piece by piece, pulsing until pearl size. If you’re using a bowl and a pastry cutter, then cut the butter until the flour and butter mixture is fairly uniform and mealy and the butter pieces are very small. Transfer the dough to a bowl if you used the food processor and stir in the oats and orange zest.
Stir in the cream or buttermilk until just moistened. (I ‘make’ buttermilk by measuring out my milk and then adding 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and then voilà, you have buttermilk.)
Bring the dough together with your hands and gently pat into an 8-inch round. Cut into triangle shapes and transfer to the prepared baking sheet, separating them so they do not touch. Sprinkle the tops with course sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. I always rotate my baking sheet about 2/3 of the way through because my oven is crappy and I want to make sure all the items get baked evenly.
**There are a number of variations and substitutions, including switching the orange for lemon zest and then adding 2-3 Tablespoons of poppy seeds. You can also add 1 cup of dried currants, raisins, cranberries, cherries or blueberries as you bring the dough together. Seriously, the possibilities are endless.
Note: Check out the cookbook from your local public library and ooh and ahh over the photographs of the bohemian ‘60’s and ‘70’s (there’s even a belly dancer!) and all the wonderful, whimsical décor. It is a lovely cookbook as well as a collection of history and style.
Ms. D is currently on maternity leave of sorts (more on that subject shall come later) and is recycling a bit of writing she did for a mothers’ group a couple years ago. She hopes you continue to enjoy the subject, despite the fact that the writing is not current. You may look forward to more of Lifestyles’ wit and charm in the future, as soon as she has enough sleep to operate the articulate parts of her brain. Cheers.
My husband was at work a few months ago, talking with a customer who was shopping with his toddler. The two fathers exchanged a few pleasantries about their kids, and then the other dad asked my husband when his wife’s ‘shift’ began, meaning when did my husband go home to take over child-rearing while I got ready and went off to work.
“Oh, my wife doesn’t work,” my husband replied. “She’s a full-time, stay-at-home mom.”
“Wow,” said the other dad. “She’s lucky.”
Ah, yes. Lucky.
When my husband recounted this little exchange, my first reaction was to refrain from verbally ripping his head off in self-righteous anger, since after all, he wasn’t the one who naively blurted out such a loaded cliché. Instead, I took a deep breath and asked if he could instead tell people that I was a dance instructor. This would alternatively categorize me as a part-time-working-stay-at-home-mom, and come closer to increasing my title to an entire line of hyphenation.
Do I feel lucky– lucky to be living back at my parent’s house again, at the age of thirty-five, this time with husband and child in tow? Or am I lucky to be a stay-at-home mom (this command-infused label makes me feel a little like a dog in obedience school) because the cost of full-time daycare far outweighs my wage-earning potential? Am I lucky to stay home and do the laundry, the vacuuming and the cooking, all while being responsible for the developmental, social, and physical well-being of a toddler, all in a manner that is both entertaining and efficient?
Lucky—like I tripped over a four-leaf clover and ended up with this life, or like I didn’t have any particular opinion or power over what happened.
Did my lifestyle ‘happen by chance’? It sure doesn’t feel that way to me; I vaguely recall having an active part in creating it. Luck is where you find it, or maybe it is what other people have that you don’t. Luck is the name we give to something when we don’t have the courage to call it hard work and sacrifice.
But do I want to be considered unlucky?
My cousin is a paramedic and her husband works for the county sheriff. When her little girl was three months old, she had to go back to her twelve-hour graveyard shifts. She and her husband work lots of overtime hours in order to pay down the debt they accrued to buy land and a house in which they could raise a family. When she found out that I wasn’t working after having my first child, she gave a half-sigh and said knowingly, “Oh, you’re so lucky.” Perhaps I am, but she’s lucky enough to own a home in a community where she can raise her children and where they all can live for years to come. My cousin also is extremely lucky to live next door to her mother, who cares for her the children when both parents are at work.
Perhaps I am just old-fashioned, or perhaps I am setting a new trend. Mostly, I just feel poor, and this is the way my family and I have chosen to live, so that we can provide for our child and ourselves in the best way possible. Every bit of it, however, is a choice.
So, am I lucky? You bet I am. I am lucky to have a fully engaged part in raising my own child, and lucky that her dad is there when I have to go to work. Her grandparents are lucky, too, that they get to spend two years of her life under the same roof (a roof that they have heaven’s graciousness to provide) and get to watch her learn, and grow and explore. I am extremely lucky to have a career, however small, that I could easily return to after having a baby, and about which I am still quite passionate.
Lucky? I guess, but I planned it that way.
shamrock courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net