This is a story that begins with a crying baby by the bathtub and ends with a crying mommy by the bathtub. Ready? Ok.

Small One loves taking baths. He normally fusses when I take his clothes off, but as soon as I throw the towel on him, Small One knows – bath time is coming. He cannot contain his delight, the squeals come out of his smiling mouth, and I have to avoid getting kicked by his happy legs. Once in the bath, he plays with a singing German duck, eats the water thermometer and splashes around. He’s been sitting up in it unassisted for a while, and now crawls around in the water.

During the day he will often wander into the bathroom, pull himself up on the side of the tub and make “Eh eh eh” noises, his grunting way of saying that he wants in. He wants a bath.

I did not give him a bath for three nights in a row, so last evening the longing for one must have burned a bit more deeply into his little being. He was standing next to the tub, holding on and looking in as I filled it with water and checked the temperature.

Then he started crying and hitting the side of the tub and looking at me with upturned angry, mournful eyes, big tears rolling down his cheeks.

If he could talk, I think he would have said,  I love baths, why won’t you put me in? I need a bath, why haven’t I had one in the past few days? This is the highlight of my day – I don’t understand why you are tempting me like this. You aren’t nice. You are mean to me. You are unkind. You don’t love me. 

Small One has no idea that in five minutes he will be splashing around happily in the tub. He has no idea that I am filling it to the right height and making sure it’s not too hot and not too cold. For him. 

All of my effort, it is for him to enjoy in five minutes. 

He cannot comprehend this, and in the moment, in this brief moment, his full reality is consumed by what he sees to be true – his mother is keeping him from the thing he loves most.

I talk to him, I tell him that it’s coming, Only five more minutes, kiddo, Mommy is just making sure that the water is not too warm, I don’t want you to get burned. I touch his head and stroke his hair, Oh kiddo, it’s ok, I’m here. You’re ok. You’re going to have your bath soon. 

And soon enough the tears are rolling down my cheeks as well because I am hearing the voice of my Parent in my heart saying the same things, Oh kiddo.. if you only knew how much I love you, if you only knew what is coming in your life, if you only knew that I am not depriving you of what you want or what you think that you need, if you could wait.. just keep waiting, a little while longer, only a little while longer Devi, you cannot imagine the good plans I have for your life. 

I carry a crying baby out of the bathroom, put a still-crying baby on the change table, take off the clothes of a baby that continues to cry until the towel is thrown on him, then he is happy. He knows what comes next.

I lower him into his bath – water at the perfect height, warm enough to keep him happy but not hurt him, his toys perfectly arranged for him to play with – and he squeals, he laughs, he giggles. He is so happy. He gives me his cheeky, flirty eyes, and we play peek-a-boo on either side of the tub.

We are all waiting for something. Security, healing, a job, children, a spouse, a new location, money, possessions, a new body, more money, and the frustrations, anger, pain and fear that come with waiting, I find, more often than not we direct toward the people whom we think are responsible for bringing those things to fulfillment. God is the one who has born the brunt of my intense emotions, and every time he has carried his crying child out of the bathroom, to the change table, and then back again I have forgotten the very basic truth – he was with me, and there was always something good on the other side of the waiting.

I gave Small One an extra-long bath yesterday. It had been too many days, and to be honest, I just like listening to him squealing his little heart out. I watch him, and the tears flow freely for me as my own parent heart breaks a little bit. Being able to give my child something that brings him pure joy is the best feeling in the whole entire world, and what I feel is a small reflection of the image of the only perfect Parent who also loves to bring his children joy, and if I just keep listening closely, I know what he is saying.

Five minutes. Wait a little bit longer. I have not left you. I am with you. Wait a little bit longer. 

Today is the second day of May, and Small One and I ventured out this morning in the rain, I in my boots and coat, him in his bear suit, because it was around 15 degrees (Celsius), and honestly I was ready to have a bad day. The list against this day was long: the weather (obviously), only six hours of sleep, the possibility of a missed nap time because of a doctor’s appointment, and have I already mentioned the weather? Are you sure? It was cold and rainy, very cold and rainy, and it’s May. I just want to make sure you understand.

So as I sat on the bus and prepared for the bad day to come, I sat next to a Filipino lady, and we started talking. Two things happened – we had a lovely conversation, and we had that conversation in Tagalog, a language I used to speak fluently. While I can still understand it almost perfectly, my ability to speak has considerably diminished, but today the Tagalog rolled off my tongue, and it felt great. I got off the bus, and I felt good – happy, even – and had a great visit with the doctor. On the way home, I stopped at a Moroccan cum Tunisian cum Algerian cum a whole lot of other things patisserie for a chocolate croissant and gazelle’s horns (a Moroccan pastry).

After living in the French part of Switzerland for now almost-two years, I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are very few bad things in the world that cannot be remedied by consumption of a chocolate croissant.

We returned home with Small one giggling and screeching to himself; he took his morning nap, and I came across a particularly encouraging blog post and a song that is giving me a frame for this time in my life.

This is a long and circular way of saying that I was going to have a bad day except that it became a great day, and the weather never changed.

There is no moral to this story – at least, not yet – but I am thankful to feel thankful right now at 2:28pm instead of grumpy. This soup makes me think of this day; you think it’s going to be a jolt of tasteless, gross health, but instead it surprises you with its smooth, delicious flavour with some tart pops from the tomato and the crunch of the asparagus.

  • Potato, Leek and Asparagus Soup      I made this soup last year, and this time I combined it with part of this recipe. Basically I sauteed an onion, then added the leeks and eventually added potato and covered it with water plus salt and bay leaves. Adding veggie stock would make the flavour fuller, but I didn’t do that this time. In the mean time, I roasted the asparagus in olive oil. When all is cooked, I threw it all into our blender minus the tips of the asparagus. I saved those and mixed it in when the whole thing was blended, and I added sun dried tomatoes into the bowls. Delicious, nutritious, and simple.

 

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. There are probably several reasons for this – my mother made us warm breakfasts every morning of most of my life at home (I cannot remember seeing a cereal box at the table). When I cooked for myself in university, I resorted on many occasions to pancakes from Walmart pancake mix from a box for breakfast, lunch and dinner (in my defense there were often blueberries in the pancakes, and blueberries are great for brain power, especially when combined with lots of maple syrup). Eggs are one of my most favourite things ever in the whole world, and it’s a convenient breakfast option. Then there were the years I spent in Australia, undoubtedly the breakfast capital of the universe. You have not truly lived until you have had breakfast in Australia, and yes, British people. I’m talking to you, too.

I’m sure I’ve written about Australian breakfasts on this blog before, but on this point redundancy is worth it. Where else can you find sweet potato hash browns with a poached egg and tomato relish? Or a scrambled egg with smoked salmon, pesto and spinach? Or corn fritters with bacon, poached egg and salsa? I’ve lost count of the number of memorable, meaningful and ridiculously tasty breakfasts I consumed in Melbourne with dear friends.

Finding good breakfast places in Switzerland – and I would generalize and say all of Europe, but really, I am not bitter knowledgeable – is next to impossible, and I am happy – more than happy, people – to be proven wrong on this point.

The one benefit of our lack of breakfasting places is that I’ve been forced to make breakfast creations of my own to satisfy my need for tasty mornings, especially Saturday mornings.

I woke up this past Saturday without bread and without eggs, so basically in a breakfast quandary because most of my morning creations involve those two ingredients. But I have had the idea of a cous-cous based porridge in my head for a while. My Moroccan cookbook introduced me to the idea of a steamed, cous cous base with stewed fruits on top.

So I started with that idea and ended up with what I’m calling a multi-ethnic porridge. Honestly the basic flavour of it reminds me of a Sri Lankan dessert called payasam, but I’m calling the porridge multi-ethnic because it combines Moroccan cous cous and Sri Lankan flavours but uses fruits found mostly in the northern hemisphere. It was fairly simple to make, but delicious and for me the taste of the cardamom-infused milk with honey drizzled on top was divine.

  • Multi-Ethnic Breakfast Porridge    Cook your cous cous according to packet instructions (I just added the correct quantity of boiling water to the cous cous) – I added a few cardamoms (cracked open) and star anise to the boiling water to give the cous cous a bit of spicy flavour. Warm the milk on the stove with a few cardamom pods in it, again crack the pods to let the flavour out. Don’t let the milk boil, so keep the heat low, but make sure that you’re getting the lovely smell of cardamom as it warms up and infuses the milk with its flavour. Combine strawberries and blueberries with some chopped mint. When the cous cous is cooked, fluff it up with a fork, remove the cardamoms and star anise, put into a bowl. Ladle the warm milk into it – whatever quantity you feel like – and top with the fruit and mint mixture. Warm honey in the microwave until it’s at a thin consistency and drizzle over the whole thing.
  • Husband used the leftover cardamom-infused milk for his coffee, and it was good.

My family went on a holiday to Baguio almost every year that we lived in the Philippines. Set in the mountains about six hours away from Manila, we first journeyed there by public transports on buses that careened around bends and showed horrifying Filipino action movies. When we started taking our car, a holiday to Baguio meant leaving our house in Manila at 4am to beat the traffic, singing all the way there – I don’t think any of us napped in the car – and for two years, stopping at a Shakey’s (a pizza place) to watch the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz NBA Championship game.

We normally stayed at a guest house for missionaries that had the charm of little American bungalows with fireplaces and thick blankets. Our days were spent playing ping pong, reading Nancy Drew books (me), eating my parents’ fabulous barbecues and going shopping. We enjoyed the special treats of strawberries, broccoli and lettuce, which grew in this city.

To an ordinary traveler, Baguio is probably no longer anything special. It used to be a refuge for us with cooler temperatures and pine trees but now it is polluted and crowded. But if I ever returned to the Philippines, I would be back to Baguio in a heartbeat. Some of my fondest family memories are hidden in those hills.

One year while we were at the guest house, another family also on holiday made beef stroganoff. I can’t remember if they gave us some to eat or if they only told us about it, either way it has obviously stayed with me because my first winter in Geneva, I felt like making beef stroganoff, the first time I’ve eaten it since that visit to Baguio.

So I did. And then I made it again. And again. And again. Why? Not because it reminds me of a family holiday – although in a strange way, it does – but because this recipe is so incredibly easy, and most of the ingredients are probably in your pantry.

  • Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff    (from Taste, an excellent website for recipes – the Aussies do food best) I don’t deviate from this recipe, and it probably takes me 20 minutes from start to finish. Here’s a tip if you want it to be quicker – I think I’ve done it like this once. Put oil in the pan, fry the onions then add the beef, don’t remove the beef, just add the mushrooms then the stock then the Worcestershire sauce, then the sour cream. Personally it’s a bit better when the beef is under done, so I like the briefly-pan-fry-the-beef-first method; it probably adds five minutes of cooking time. I rarely follow the recommended sour cream quantity, but just go with however much I want to put in there (which is usually a bit less than the recipe suggests). On Friday night we ate it with wholewheat pasta, but it’s great with rice as well. Oven-roasted asparagus finished off the whole meal.

This week, I pondered…

1.The irony of a woman who spent most – if not all – of her life leaving friends and family but who now lives in a city where she is the one who is perpetually getting left behind by “everyone” else. She is having a hard time dealing with this, p.s.

2. The Backstreet Boys/NKOTB concert in Geneva next week – to go or not to go? And whom should I go with because I love Husband too much to ask him to attend.

3. An article about women in the Middle East and an article about violence against women in the United States, and I couldn’t help but think that women in all parts of the world wrestle against similar things. Definitely not the same issues, but similar.

4. Some fascinating details about Mitt Romney’s family tree are out there.

5. The infrequency with which I wash my hair. Day 1 wash and blow dry, day 2 fluff, day 3 fluff, day 4 pigtails or side pony tail and brush, day 5 pony tail. I’m not even kidding.

6. If I will wear my coat all “summer” long as we approach the end of April with minimal sun and not-high temperatures.

7. How easy my life can be with Jamie Oliver’s chicken legs roast. Five minutes of preparation plus almost two hours in the oven equals dining joy.

8. Why I feel more tired now that our baby is sleeping through the night.

Happy weekend one and all.