Springtime joy and carrot cake baked oatmeal

I am thrilled that Spring has finally arrived. My desert-loving bones really felt the chill of winter this year, as we had a lot more snow than usual here in the Midwest. Since I grew up just south of San Diego (I could see the hills of Mexico from my second-story bedroom window), I really had no idea about what winter was all about in the rest of the country. It gets very frosty and even freezing overnight in the desert, but still warms up to a pleasant shorts-and-a-tshirt temperature during the day, even in the middle of winter. I remember that we got a very rare hail storm once and I naively thought it was snow and tried to make a snowman out of the tiny pea-sized pellets. You can guess how that turned out.

My son was born in the middle of winter two years ago, and we snuggled up and hibernated indoors for a few months after his birth. We were so excited to bask in the warm sunshine after months of blankets and heaters! He gets very excited by the coming of Spring now, and begs to eat almost every meal outside on the sunny back deck. He even asked to nap outside the other day, and simply laid down on the deck and said “Marlon sleep outside,” so I got his pillow bed I made him and a blanket and we camped on the deck. He slept so well, and it was so refreshing to drift off to sleep (I sleep during his naps too when I can) with the cool breeze blowing over our faces, gazing up at the yellow buds of the maple tree glowing in the sun against the deep blue sky. We even saw two flocks of what looked like white geese flying North, so far up they were barely pinpricks, their formation undulating like foamy, rippling water. It was a sight I would have never noticed if I hadn’t been laying on my back, looking directly overhead with not a thought in my head. It’s wonderful to slow down and have simple moments like these, especially during the season changes, to mark the transition points in the year. That’s a huge part I love about having kids; if you listen, they get you to slow down and enjoy all your senses and the wondrous experiences around you.

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If anyone is interested in making this cute little pillow bed, I can definitely post a tutorial. It’s basically a long piece of fabric sewn into four or more connected pillowcases. I need to make myself one now, they’re so comfortable for naps!

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(It usually lives in the tent my husband and I made for Marlon, but it typically gets commandeered by Remington, as you can see.)

One of our recent meals that we have eaten outside was this lovely carrot cake baked oatmeal from Oh She Glows. I had never baked oatmeal before, but it looked pretty simple as well as delicious, so I had to try it. I made a few modifications from Angela’s recipe; first of all, I prepared everything except the raisins and walnuts the night before and stuck it in the fridge in a covered bowl. (I like to soak my grains overnight for easier digestibility.) The next morning I put it into a baking dish, topped it with the raisins and walnuts and about 1/2 a cup or so of fresh pineapple that I happened to have cut up already. I love pineapple in carrot cake, so I knew this will taste great! I should have let it come up to room temperature before baking, but I couldn’t wait that long so I threw it in the oven and baked for about 25 minutes or so. The top was golden brown when it looked done, so I served it up with a scoop of plain yogurt (I was craving whipped cream so bad, but didn’t have any) and a healthy glug of maple syrup. I go through so much maple syrup when I’m pregnant. Here it is fresh out of the oven and all plated up:

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This was absolutely delicious! It tasted so much like carrot cake, especially with the creamy yogurt, and completely satisfied my sweet craving with no refined sugar. I must also add that I just recently started reacting to cinnamon, so I had to leave that out as well, but I subbed in some nutmeg and I really didn’t miss it! I have been staying away from some of my favorite desserts like carrot cake because of the cinnamon ban I’ve been under. No fun! So if you are allergic to cinnamon, know that you can still have your carrot cake and eat it too!

Marlon loved this so much, especially the reerees I put in it (raisins). And I was impressed he got a lot of carrots into him, as he hasn’t been a huge fan of those yet. Here’s my little stylish dresser (he picked out this colorful outfit) enjoying his oatmeal in the sunshine:

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Go see Anglea’s delicious recipe on her site and check out her new cookbook! I’ve just ordered mine, and I can’t wait to try more of her recipes.

How are you all enjoying the beginning of Spring? What are some of your favorite meals to eat outdoors? Is it just me or is anyone craving watermelon yet? I can’t wait!
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