Traveling and Muffins

By: Wendy Rhein

I am traveling for my day job this week, which means my life job suffers. Maybe “suffers” is the wrong word – my life job, raising two boys and living with an aging parent who needs some help, gets the hiccups. I am more comfortable with that: gets the hiccups.

I have found the equation that works: Days out of town = days of preparation for going out of town.

As a single mother, I’m grateful that I don’t have to travel weekly, as many people do, for their jobs. When I was lucky enough to have more than one job offer a couple of years ago, the infrequency of travel was one of my key decision points. And, I’m incredibly grateful that my mother is able to stay with my boys while I’m away. I honestly don’t know what I’d do otherwise. She does the best she can with them and they have the consistency of having her there, like they do every day. And as long as I plan everything out and deal with the details, there are few, if any, tears.

It is all about the math. Away for three days/two nights? That’s three dinners that need to be prepared and frozen, or at least all the elements placed together in the fridge and labeled in the cabinet. Don’t forget to get the colander off the high shelf because my mother can’t reach above her head any more to get things down. Miss that step and expect to hear that dinner for three nights was scrambled eggs and toast. If I am only gone one overnight, I can pack two lunches in the pre-dawn hours for that day and the next without guaranteeing it will go stale. How many snack packs of carrots can I pack in advance? Six seems to be the limit before my son wrinkles his nose at them. Are there enough chicken apple sausages for Sam because that’s all he wants for lunch on the days he’s not in daycare. Don’t mess with the sausages. If I make 2 dozen morning glory muffins before I go, that’s enough for breakfasts and after school snacks for 3-4 days for all involved.

Are there enough clean clothes for everyone? Diapers? Is there an extra gallon of milk just in case? I find myself mentally scanning the calendar a week before I leave for field trips, apartment maintenance schedules, Mom’s doctor’s visits and half days at school. I’ve been known to make a midnight run to the store before a 4:00 AM alarm for extra toilet paper and sandwich bread. My mom struggles in the cold and wet weather that this time of year brings so I need to be sure that as many outside trips as possible can be avoided. This time, because I have a Friday night red-eye home with a very early Saturday arrival, I also booked our favorite babysitter to meet the bus on Friday and take the boys to the park, order in pizza and give my mother a break. Two days and two nights of child care are pretty much the limit without outside reinforcements.

I can sleep on planes very easily, generally out of sheer exhaustion and adrenaline let-down. By the time I’ve navigated getting dressed in the dark without waking anyone, left love notes for everyone including the cat (because it was loudly noted last trip that the cat was sad I did not leave him a love note so I better come home right away and kiss the cat) and lugged my pre-packed luggage out the door, fought traffic, and navigated the airport, my day is half done. Just getting to the departure gate is a trip in itself.

Some say I should relish this time away. The chance to sleep a full night or eat in a restaurant without a kids’ menu. I admit that I do like the chance to drink a cup of coffee in the morning before it grows cold. But mainly I miss my family. I feel like less than who I am without their hugs and small faces inches from mine. By the end of a day away, I itch to go back where I belong.

Here is the recipe for the Morning Glory muffins that my family inhales. Based on a recipe from King Arthur flour, I’ve made some changes. They are sweet and moist and full of mother-approved nutritional goodness. I may not be there, but the muffins are, and for a day or so, that works.

Morning Glory Muffins
Makes 24-30 depending on your desired muffin top (the muffin’s, not yours, though I suppose there is a cause-effect relationship here)

1/2 cup yellow raisins
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrots
1 large apple, grated (I leave the skin on and pick a tart apple like a Granny Smith)
2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/3 cup wheat germ (shhhh… don’t tell them. Or omit it, it’s optional)
3 large eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners.

Cover the raisins with hot water in a small bowl and set them aside to soak. In a mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour, spices, sugar, baking soda and salt) and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and the nuts. Whisk those together to thoroughly combine and break up the eggs. Add to the flour mixture, and stir until evenly moistened. Drain the raisins and stir them in. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, almost to the top.

Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, until nicely domed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes in their pan on a rack, then turn out of pans to finish cooling.

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Wendy Rhein

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