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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Microwave Coffee Mug Cakes and Cucumber Sandwiches

As I was getting her wardrobe pruned and sorted and generally getting ready for school, I couldn't help thinking how much I will miss the Teas with Ana I've come to enjoy on many a lazy summer afternoon. The tiny triangular cheese and cucumber sandwiches, microwave cakes, and mint and fennel teas were more than just a casual afternoon pastime. It was a Ceremony.

These were not the "pretend teas" that happen frequently. This was our very own ritualistic High Tea, occurring not more than two or three times a month. From announcing and planning to dressing and preparing the items, Ana seemed to get into the spirit of the whole experience. It has been just a Mom and Daughter Tea, sometimes Enid joins us.

We start by getting proper attire fit for a formal Tea - fancy dresses only. Wig and jewelry optional. Ana's rules, not mine. Left to me I'd be in my lounge pants that have become my second skin. We choose a table cloth. Arrange the table with place mats, tea set, and cutlery. We make weak herbal tea ceremoniously (I pour the hot water for steeping, of course).

And, while the tea is steeping, we start the Microwave Cake. Now, there are lots of recipes on the web for quick microwave coffee mug chocolate cake. The trick is to know one's microwave intimately. We sacrificed a couple of early batches at the beginning of summer to figure out time and proportions, so, the following is just a starting point to come up with your own. Simply combine the ingredients in a sturdy coffee mug and microwave till done.

Why coffee mug? Well, philosophically speaking, Why Not?

However, it is handy, nice for small hands to pour the ingredients and stir with a small spoon or mini whisk, and it goes in the microwave usually without fuss. But, we've made it in other various microwave-safe bowls. Anything's fine. Also, rather than lemon cake, can make chocolate cake by using baking cocoa (dark) and omitting the lemon juice and food color.

Microwave Cake
1 Tbsp Egg Beaters
¼ tsp baking powder
4 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp milk
3 Tbsp oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 drop yellow food color
½ tsp vanilla essence

2 minutes at high power.

Once the cake is done, we "present" it - either cut up into small portions or put in a small waffle cone and decorated with icing and sprinkles.

Sometimes, we've used ready-made cake mix, especially the Devil's Food kind, and used
1/3rd cup cake mix  +  2 Tbsp oil  +  4 Tbsp milk
stirred well in a bowl and and microwaved for 2 mins.

I love this microwave method as it is quick, and we only make such a small batch with each portion/serving just about the size of a mini cupcake, even if the taste and texture are not quite top-notch.

The best part of these Teas for me is that it helped me talk to Ana about things she wouldn't talk to me  under other "normal" circumstances. Why don't you like singing in your school program, Ana? I love to sing, Amma, but not in front of all the people. I don't enjoy that at all. But,  I like to sing when I am at home, when I am happy, even when I am a bit sad.

Why do we leave smell trails that animals can follow with their noses and find us? 
When did fairies come into this world? Were they here before us? Why do fairies like to hide?
I like Cinderella because she was working all the time cleaning up and sleeping in a straw mat by the fireplace and she had mean sisters and mommy. It is nice that she became a princess with fairy godmother's help, otherwise her life would have been not so good.

[While my aversion to merchandising and marketing ploys surrounding Disney-esque princesses still remain, I've allowed Ana to be introduced to Fairy Tale princesses as much as other kinds. That has to be its own post someday: the subject of Little Girls and Princesses.]

I like to play by myself, Amma. Sometimes I like to play with Oggie. You can play dollies with me if you like. 

I am going to make your hair pretty, Amma. Sure enough after gentle assault by a hairbrush and 2 dozen assorted hair accessories, my hair does somehow look pretty 20 minutes later.

Let's have a party for the fairies in the garden, and see if they will stop hiding from us. Watching her dressed up in her fairy skirt and wings, calling out, "Fairies, fairies, come out and join the party... it is for you. I want to be your friend!",  my heart felt squeezed by a tight fist, but, I knew it was a good sort of squeeze... the kind that transported me to my childhood where I desperately wanted to meet the kind and friendly hidden folk who will help me with everything from getting my homework done to flying up in the air like them.

The summer days flew by, mildly structured, yet strongly entertained. Thanks to sleep deprivation, I wasn't scrambling to pack the summers with a tight schedule till kids tire out and scramble to get their bearings.

The daily trips to the parks are the ones I'd remember most: packing our little snack, we'd walk to one of the nearby parks, enjoy the water feature on a blazing hot day, else just seek out the next challenge - be it the monkey bars or climbing wall for Ana, the tall slide or the balance beam for Og.

Anyway, as she prepares for another school year, I prepare myself to not dissect every single episode over summer where I could have handled things slightly differently. I remind myself that children respond to a non-immediate-family authority figure quite differently from the way they respond to their own parents. At the end of the day, I call upon all the hugs, kisses, and I Love Yous to reassure me that there is no wrong way of parenting when it is guided by unconditional love.

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At 9:20 AM, Blogger Dee said...

this is really fun!..can't wait for D to grow up :)

At 8:17 PM, Blogger ranjani.sathish said...

This was such a beautiful post...the kind of creative things you come up with, never ceases to amaze me ! Loved your last para...yes it is important we remember that we are doing our best and not be so hard on ourselves.

At 9:56 PM, Blogger ChoxBox said...

Lucky fairies - being invited to such an enchanting tea party!

At 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Sweet, Sheela!

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Praba said...

adorable. That microwave cupcake is such a neat idea. Can't wait to try.

We have a budding tea party loving girl. S has a couple of plastic teasets - one, much to my annoyance, disney brand! :( She had asked for a set for her 4th bday and it was a quick find at the local disney store and very inexpensive. And the other slightly decent looking. Will send you pics. She has been making mint/basil tea for me. Nothing elaborate and real as yours. :) We might graduate to that level in a year or so. I am loving the pretend tea games with S. K was not quite into them. More via email.

Came to check your lovely kozhakkatai recipe and I am going on and on here... bye!:)

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Kay said...

awwww! you and your writings are such a joy to read!!

Such special tea party moments! we have a fairy custom in our home too! We have a myth that faeries come after we sleep and sprinkle soem sparkles on us - it started as a ploy to get her to sleep - now sometimes she tells me!!!

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Dee: I can't wait for D to grow up either - first to see the winter sweater/hat set on her and then to see what she is into :)

Ranjani: Thanks so much... I remember reading your post about similar experience with your S and S a while back (having them home for the summer hols, I mean)... Just realized there are 3 S's in your household :)

Choxie: Wish they'd not be so darn invisible - poor Ana stands out there assuring them that she is their friend and will keep their secret :)

Rama: Thanks much!

Praba: I still can't believe S is four which makes K eight?! Gosh! They grow up so fast and all we have is these little snapshots frozen in time!

Kay: Thanks! I was thinking about you and how your transition into a more busy life is going. What a cute fairy tradition you have and what a neat way to get little Mischief to sleep!


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