May 21, 2008

The Ideal Morning: Homemade Muesli

Any of my friends can tell you that I have long been fixated on the way people spend their days. Get a drink in me, and I will most likely ask you to walk me through, hour by hour, meal by meal, how you are passing through this life of yours. I ask because I am, in a sense, collecting data. How do other people do it? And I mean, how do they get through life with humor and fun and style and ease and a sense of fullness? I think about this a lot, to be honest, because (to paraphrase Annie Dillard) the way we spend our days is, after all, the way we live our lives. I want to know the best way to live; I want to craft for myself the ideal way to get through. And from all the interviews and data collection, and some adventures and trial and error, I have a pretty clear sense of what I want. Unfortunately, in some ways, it is not like what I have now. And that drives me crazy. But tell me I’m not the only one; does anyone else have a crystal clear vision of what their ideal life looks like?

When I picture that dream life, mine includes lots of sunshine, a feeling of expansiveness, lots of colorful textiles, calm happiness, blooming geraniums, wholesome evening dinners, a red bicycle, access to a swimming hole, readily available friends and family who will regularly come over to eat, and also this breakfast. In my mind’s eye, the ideal me eats yogurt, fruit and muesli while basking in the sunshine. The real me eats this breakfast too, but the ideal me does so without stress, without being shifty with anxiety, without thinking how late she already is to work.

In a way, it seems like you’ve got an ace in the hole knowing what you want. But then for me the question becomes: how do we bridge the gap between the imaginary and the real, the idealized and the quotidian? How do we make that life we can see right there happen? And how do we appreciate it once it’s at hand? I do, for instance, have blooming geraniums on the living room windowsill. When I wake up on sunny days and open the bedroom door to drink a tall glass of water and make the coffee, the sunlight streaming in on those red blooms and deep green leaves never fails to fill me with a sense of grateful awe. But what about the swimming hole? The pack of dinner mates? Or, and please tell me this isn’t so, is the ideal just and only that? A gem of an idea we can tuck away, pulling out when times are so far from what we want them to be so we can put ourselves at ease thinking, “if only….” and “one day…”

makes about 5 cups

Muesli was originally invented in 1900 by Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner for his patients and became popular stateside in the 60’s thanks to all those hippies. The mixture, which is basically like untoasted granola, can be served “fresh” by soaking the oats overnight in water or fruit juice, or a combination of yogurt, milk, and some sort of acid like lemon juice or cider. I like eating it raw, just quickly mixed with strawberries and yogurt as it is here. Many recipes call for wheat flakes; I saved myself the trouble of having to buy assorted grains by picking up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill 7 Grain Hot Cereal. Added bonus — it has flaxseed.

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill 7 Grain Hot Cereal
3/4 cup finely chopped dried fruit (I used apricots, cranberries and prunes — don’t judge!)
1/2 cup finely chopped seeds and nuts (I used sunflower seeds, cashews, and almonds)

Gently mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Wouldn’t this make a nice gift, too?

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  • Suzy: Great! I just found out yesterday that my iron (and B12) levels are low, and apparently muesli is quite high in iron…A timely post, indeed. So you know what I’ll be breakfasting on in the near future (along with fistfuls of supplements). Thanks for reading my mind!
    7 years ago

  • EB: I have to say, I’m more of an ‘eggs in a hole’ gal… but your vision of sun drenched muesli munching does sound lovely.
    7 years ago

  • Hope: I am SO with you in the interest in others’ passage of time. I get obsessed with the thought of how in the world am I to do all the things that we are supposed to do: exercise, take vitamins, manage budgets, spend time with friends, clean house, eat right, be creative, blog, and all the other stuff we HAVE to do. I have that mental picture too, and strive toward it. But, in the little time before and after work with which I am left, I’m exhausted just thinking about all the tasks I need and want to do. With that, nothing ever seems to get done completely. I do have a red bike though and am working toward my eternal to-do list. Best of luck on yours!
    7 years ago

  • Sarah: Suzy, High in iron, you say? Well, it was invented by a doc! So glad to give you what you need. :)

    EB, I used to not like anything even vaguely sweet in the morning, so I feel you.

    Hope, Yes! That is so true — with the free time that we have, the list becomes stressful/exhausting. How do some people manage to look like they can do it all? I am very jealous of your bike. :)
    7 years ago

  • Joy: I really hope that life isn’t about having the ideal in snatches and spending the rest of the time hoping for it. I think the difference with your goals (which I whole heartedly agree with, although I have a silver, not red, bike) is that they aren’t all about winning the lottery, getting a porsche or waking up looking like Angelina Jolie. They’re all ways of making a life more enjoyable and hopefully very obtainable.
    7 years ago

  • Great Plains Sarah: Like Sarah and Hope, I used to spend a LOT of time thinking about how other people manage to live the dream. Then I was diagnosed with Leukemia, had to quit work for a while, ended up with seemingly endless amounts of free time, and I *still* couldn’t get everything done. (See my current blog post— haha!) The key (at least for me) is to enjoy and find beauty in it all. I sure enjoy gazing at the bunch of lilacs in the vintage vase on a clean kitchen counter, but now I also kind of enjoy the dirty milk glass and cookie plate by the bed; they are a sign that I was happy, cozy, comfortable and safe in bed last night.
    7 years ago

  • Sara Rose: Hmm. Well. I’m not much of a muesli girl but the husband of mine is a muesli man so I may make him this. I do eat something similar though far more boring in the mornings when I don’t drench my cholesterol levels in sunny side up eggs and buttered toast- I usually eat grape nuts mixed in with greek yogurt, honey, and some sort of fruit- usually bananas- I am all sorts of boring when I have to be to work nearly every morning at 5:45.

    I have attempted, in a sense, to stop wondering and worrying how other people manage it all and ten something sort of magical happened- I suddenly was better able to manage it all and mysteriously became one of those strange beings that everyone else comments about always “having everything together”. I think it’s because I kind of stopped being a yes person and started thinking about things mre logically. I also think this kind of thing happens often when children come into the picture.

    Don’t get me wrong I still have a very clear “ideal me” and “ideal life” that I am striving towards and I am often struck with flights of insecurity and all but I would rather concentrate on making sure my journey is magical and happy.

    Of course this magical journey does include a heavy addiction to foods high in cholesterol, fat, and sugar, and brain trash magazines and allowing my child time in front Dora nearly every day. :)

    I think it’s coming time to devote a blog to my favorite breakfast food of all time that can have a million variations and till be amazing- Eggs Benedict!
    7 years ago

  • Ann: I’m totally with you about trying to figure out how to live my dream life — half the problem is I have about five different dream life scenarios! I thought I’d tell you that it seems like you already live a totally dreamy life already, cause it never hurts to hear it from the outside. :) BTW “Capture The Castle” finally made it to the top of my reading list after you mentioned it ages ago, and I just adore it so far.
    7 years ago

  • Liberto M: So, wait, if you don’t want to eat it raw: do you soak _just_ the oats, then make the rest of the recipe in the morning? And why does one soaking method require “some sort of acid like lemon juice or cider”, while the other soaking method doesn’t?
    7 years ago

  • Sarah: Liberto, according to wikipedia, it’s not necessary to soak modern rolled oats — that’s just a traditional method from the olden days, but if you wanted to partake, you could soak everything just to soften it all up.

    A story like Great Plains Sarah’s really puts other little gripes in perspective, doesn’t it?

    Sara Rose, Sounds kind of like romance — as soon as you stop looking for it it appears, right?

    Ann, your life looks pretty dreamy too. But I really suffer from “grass is greener” syndrome — what everyone else has going on looks especially peachy. Anyone else afflicted by that? :)
    7 years ago

  • hellskitten: looking at other peoples beautiful blog photos always has me wondering how come my life isn’t just like that. we forget that there’s usually a messy room / stressful job / list of errands just out of the frame. my friend and i discuss this idealism vs reality thing alot and came to the conclusion that if we saw our lives as someone elses, we’d probably want it to be us.

    i think our problem is the perspective, if you could see your life from outside, it would look alot more ideal than you (or i, or anyone) can appreciate from inside it.

    on the foodie front, have you seen this flickr group, i find it fascinating looking at other peoples lunches, and it inspires me to eat healthy too:

    7 years ago

  • el: I’m with Ann, it does seem like you already live a totally dreamy life. Yours is the life I “fixate” on via RSS feed. I learn so much about the “best way to live” from this very blog. And, as a bonus, my domestic vocabulary has grown leaps to boot (daube! tole tray! peplum! etc., etc.)
    7 years ago

  • Sarah: hellskitten, I couldn’t agree more — that the dirty dishes, mail pile, junk room, etc etc, are just out of view in the photos in blogs (I know mine are). Everyone creates a little bit of fiction with their blog — at least, they’re not the WHOLE truth, just a part of the story. It’s really important to keep that perspective in mind, so thank you.

    el, ha! i’m so glad i taught you about peplums! and i’m really honored that you’ve picked up some “how to live” tips here — that’s truly superb.
    7 years ago

  • Christie: Our ideal lives sound so similar! I definitely have mine; it features a huge kitchen, a blue bike, kittens, daisies, and a room lined with bookshelves, among other things.
    I like the idea of starting off with this muesli, though!

    7 years ago

  • Sarah: Christie, I think you and I are most definitely birds of a feather.
    7 years ago

  • Michael: This is awesome! And I love your writing and wit. One Q: in place of the 7-grain cereal mix I’d like to craft it myself. What grains can I use?3 years ago

  • Hi Michael, Try dry rolled oats or whole grain oats and see how it is.3 years ago

  • The A List | Health Foragers: […] (Source) […]2 years ago

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