Saturday, January 28, 2012

Beverly vs Martha

For my husband's birthday yesterday, I decided to make a new chocolate cake recipe (sharing the recipe below) from the Cake Doctor cookbook my mother-in-law gave me.  I engaged the kids, since they love all things related to baking and chocolate, we got messy, and had fun.  Furthermore, it was absolutely delicious, perhaps the best cake I have made, but perhaps not doing my chocolate addiction any favors...Nevertheless, by the end of the day, the house was in hurricane state, the kids were in crazy-tear-up-the-house mode (perhaps too much cake batter?) and I was happy, but exhausted. As a result, I came to the following conclusion...My role as 'full-time mom', (FTM) is a daily tug of war between two states: 'Martha' versus 'Beverly'.  Martha refers to the accomplishment of any creative or professional task that is above/beyond the typical FTM duties, including anything as simple as uploading photos, organizing recipes, writing thank you notes, to more intensive pursuits including working professionally from home, volunteering, entertaining, writing, painting, sewing, etc.  The Martha state allows you to pursue the challenges that our pre-baby selves were raised to enjoy WHILE raising our families.  However, since we are limited to 24 hours in a day, this state always comes at a cost, typically a by-product that manifests itself in the form of toddler melt-downs from too little attention, tornado-style rooms, overflowing laundry bins, etc.

As a sidebar, unlike preceding generations, ours (post-feminism) was raised with the advantages, opportunities, and beliefs that women can aspire to be anything and everything. We were focused on academics, sports, careers, professional-you-name-it, with little to no formal training on the typical FTM skills our preceding generations had (i.e. classes in home economics, sewing, etc.).  And although we wanted to raise a family one day, we did not grow up actually aspiring to perfect those skills needed to raise a family.  Rather, we focused on all of the aforementioned non-domestic skills/achievements.  As such, (particularly from the perspective of prior generations), we are a spoiled generation, lucky enough to have dreams, opportunities, and skills beyond those of our mother's, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. However, as any modern FTM can attest, we have new challenges. We want to raise our families AND continue to pursue at least some of the creative or professional interests/skills on which we were raised, at least SOME of the time. Meanwhile, since we had zero training on the domestic skills required to raise a family, we have to learn all of those from scratch.  There are simply not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything, much less everything WELL.

Before I had children of my own, I never would have imagined how much hard work goes into the bare minimum FTM duties.  Just the constant love and attention required by our children alone, could keep us busy 24/7...then, to also manage keeping house (cleaning, cooking, laundry, maintenance, etc.) it is a daily 24/7 grind.  So on any given day, if we pursue any of these interests or skills, by default, we are not spending as much time with our children, or cleaning, or organizing...something has to give.

To the other extreme, the 'Beverly' state refers to an existence where we pursue nothing but (with all due respect), a Beverly Cleary stereotypical 1950's existence.  We ONLY do the following: spend quality time with our children, complete several loads of laundry, iron shirts, clean/organize rooms, cook a perfectly balanced meal from scratch, tend to the vegetable garden, and look flawless while doing so. In this state, the children are happy and engaged and therefore misbehaving and melting down less....which makes Mommy feel more effective in her role as FTM, happy to have well-behaving children, an orderly/clean house, and all her ducks in a row.  But somehow, by the end of the day, she still feels like something is missing.  She is yearning for something more, something else that fulfills her, makes her want to get up in the morning, not only to keep her orderly ship afloat and peaceful, but something that kindles her spirit and soul....which is where Martha starts knocking at her door...and you know the rest.

So, the modern FTM must figure out this tricky balance that keeps everyone in the house at a maximum state of collective welfare and happiness....We must ultimately determine the appropriate balance for how much Martha time we need to achieve fulfillment and sanity without taking the fulfillment and sanity away from our children and homes. In my case, I was simply trying to bake a chocolate cake that tastes delicious (very Beverly of me), AND furthermore looks beautiful (very Martha of me), and although the kids had a ball helping out, the afternoon still resulted in all of the Martha by-products of toddler melt-downs, chocolate messes, tornado rooms, etc.  In conclusion, it seems some days are better served pleasing Martha, while others Beverly, so we must take one day at a time, say a prayer they get along, and laugh at ourselves while doing so!

"Darn Good Chocolate Cake"

Oil spray for misting pan
Flour for dusting pan
1 pkg dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1 pkg (3.9 oz) chocolate instant pudding mix
4 lg eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup veg oil
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Place rack in center of oven, and preheat oven to 350. Lightly mist 12-cup bundt pan w veg oil spray, then dust w/ flour. Shake out excess flour. Set pan aside.

2. Place cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, warm water, and oil in large mixing bowl. Blend w/ electric mixer on low speed  for 1 min. Scrape down sides of bowl, increase speed to medium and beat 2 to 3 min more. Batter should be thick and well combined. Fold in chocolate chips, distributing well. Pour batter into pan, smoothing it out w rubber spatula. Place in oven.

3. Bake cake until it springs back when lightly pressed w finger and just starts to pull away from sides of pan 45 to 50 min. Remove pan from oven and place on wire rack to cool for 20 min. Run a long knife around edge of cake and invert onto rack or cake stand to cool completely.

"Chocolate Ganache"

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or chips)
1 T liqueur such as Grand Marnier, framboise, or peppermint schnapps (optional)

1. Place cream in small saucepan over med heat. Bring to boil, stirring. Meanwhile, place chocolate in large mixing bowl. Remove pan from heat and pour hot cream over chopped chocolate. Stir until chocolate is melted. Stir in liqueur, if desired.

2. To use ganache as a glaze, let it stand at room temp for 10 min before spooning over cooled cake. To use ganache as a frosting or filling, let it stand at room temp for 4 hrs, or chill until it thickens.

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