Musical pairing – Mama’s Song by Carrie Underwood

‘Ever wish you could freeze frame a moment in your day, and look at it and say, “This is NOT my life”?’ Daniel Hillard, Mrs. Doubtfire

Funny how when we travel, we always seem to end up at a Panera’s – they have comfy benches, decent coffee, killer cinnamon crunch bagels and free Wi-Fi, not to mention, people watching is always fun.

During one of those visits, I found myself at a particular busy cafe – familiar sounds of buzzers going off, folks placing orders, babies crying, silverware clanking and LOTS of  discussions that involved everything from what’s on TV tonight to students discussing new classes – it is a happening place!

Sitting right across from me is a little guy about 8; he had finished his sandwich and just could not sit still.  Mom and dad are very annoyed and whispered through clenched teeth (none to quietly, I might add) to ‘SIT STILL!!’ Mom is last to finish and the little man is saying, “Come on, come on, come on,” all the while wrapping both arms around his head and then rolling head and arms side-to-side, across the table top.  Mom wolfs down the last 2 bites to end the agony.  I swear the entire meal took less than 10 minutes from start to finish.  I resist the urge to laugh out loud for fear I would get punched.

Across to my right is a mom with 2 toddlers; she navigates the cafe with both boys, one walking, the other she’s carrying on her hip along with her food, their food, drinks, purse and diaper bag.   While she’s buckling the youngest into a highchair her cell phone rings – she’s cutting sandwiches, carrying on the phone conversation and at the same time saying to her guys, “Boys, just tear off the pieces; Evan, take a bite of ham.”  But Evan doesn’t want a bite of ham, he wants his cookie and the one in the highchair has now tossed his food on the floor . . . finally she says, “I’ve got to go and help these kids with lunch.”  The one in the highchair is now arching his back, flailing his body around and shrieking with such a high-pitched shrill, I swear only dolphins in the next county will hear.  My right eye twitches.  Evan, who looks to be about 3, now declares, “I need to go potty,” grabs his wanker for all it’s worth, takes off down the hall by himself.  Mom unsnaps the youngest and heads after Evan, leaving her purse, diaper bag and uneaten lunch on the table.  I can hear Evan now screaming in the bathroom.   My teeth ache.  My ears ring.  I need a nap.  Sigh . . . so for all you moms out there  . . . I have nothing profound to offer other than – this too shall pass . . .

This is a recipe that my mom made for years while we were in school; I have no idea where she got it but she always made it in a 9×13 pan and then cut the cake into squares.  I decided to add some raisins and walnuts and bake them as muffins so that I could freeze them and then pull out on the mornings when I’ve hit the snooze button one too many times.  I also switched up some of the all-purpose flour to whole wheat pastry flour.  These are tender, moist and quite tasty with a cup of coffee or tea – they are also perfect as an after school snack!



  2. People watching in Panera…… always a favorite of ours too!! and you describe every detail so perfectly…….that now MY teeth hurt! haha

    Thanks for the recipe

  3. I’m feelin’ a little deep today, so I’m gonna get a lil’ personal, hope you don’t mind. :o)

    First off, I love! people-watching. (And I love Panera.) Second, wow. Barry and I can’t have kids, so I don’t think I’m ever gonna know what it’s like to be the mother of antsy and screaming children. If it were me in that Panera, I’d probably breathe sigh a breath of relief, because that wasn’t me trying to juggle children, phone calls, and lunches all at the same time. Then I’d go home and cry… because that wasn’t me juggling children, lunch and phone calls all at the same time.

    Thanks for a lovely play-by-play, because then I can at least eavesdrop on what I consider a beautiful parenting moment…


    P.S. Wow, delicious looking muffins, too! During the week, I usually leave the house at 6:30 AM. I wonder why it has never occurred to me that I can make-ahead muffins and eat them in the car???

  4. I always cringe when I see such restaurant (or grocery store) scenes, and thank my lucky stars that my son was so remarkably patient when young.

    Just love these healthy, yummy looking muffins and your approach of keeping a stock in the freezer for a quick morning bite. Perfect for me, since my laser-like morning focus is always on coffee, and I can rarely be bothered to make breakfast.

  5. I remember those days….three kids under three and meals out were NOT a lot of fun..
    My sister loves Panera, but I seem to always stop at Cracker Barrel when I travel.

  6. It sounds like you were the only one in that place who was actually relaxed and taking their time. I’ve learned how to slow down, watch, listen, breath, enjoy my food. I watch other people and wonder how in the world they get through the world, the days, as if their everyday lives are just one long hassle! And these muffins are the perfect slow-down comfort food!

  7. Can I just say that I love how your site is laid out? One of my favorites, for sure! And I loved hearing your Panera story…I use to work at one in Denver, so I have plenty stories of moms and babies and homeless men to share! Your oatmeal muffins look divine, your writing is great, and as always I’m leaving with a smile on my face!

  8. I have 3 nephews (all under 4) and I know what it’s like to go to a restaurant with little ones. The muffins look so gooooood!! Perfect with my morning tea.

  9. I can’t say I am a big fan of Panera, but your muffins look delicious. And I want to be able to take photographs like yours (smile)!

  10. Kudos to the young mum balancing 2 bounding boys, a mobile & lunch. I’ve sat in cafe’s in total awe how mums pull that one off. Nice take on the Oatmeal Cakes too 🙂

  11. I think these look better than any muffins I’ve seen at Panera’s! We love muffins here…might be time to make some more. First I want to try those scones!

  12. Oh my gosh, how I remember those days. And they were just a few short years ago! The muffins are simple and lovely–would be wonderful with a cup of tea.

  13. I think I only end up at a Panera when I’m traveling these days because they are reliable and usually pretty consistent–but I don’t live near one anymore. It’s one aspect of suburban life that I don’t miss at all–and the scene you just described is why.

    (Granted, we have plenty of other chains, especially in Midtown, where that exact scene plays out anyway).

  14. Debra, this is the best post ever! I was giggling all the way through. Just perfect.

    When we travel, we always end up at Starbucks in the morning, for many of the same reasons: reliable coffee and muffins, free wi-fi, American style bathrooms…

  15. OMGosh, I am a fool for Panera, and seriously pick lunch up from there 2-3 times a week…I an like Norm from cheers…when I walk in they all go COLLEEN! lol
    I soooo know exactly what you are talking about. I love their soup, breads and sandwiches! A great place and this looks like a great recipe! Thanks!! I have never made an oatmeal muffin and will add it to the list for cooking with my kids this weekend!

  16. Oh yes… I AM that mom, Debra. That’s how I feel every single time I go out in public with 4 kids!

  17. These look great, and I would love one right now with a cup of coffee!

  18. I love a hearty muffin in the morning. Great recipe and post!

  19. You set the scene so well! I don’t know how those busy moms do it! Can’t wait to meet you at fbf this weekend. 🙂

  20. These are the most beautiful pictures! I want muffins! Might have to go over to the Union and see what Starbucks has to offer… I know it won’t be able to compete!

  21. Bwa-Hahahaha, that’s hilarious! You know I have theses fuzzy flash backs from time to time but no clear memories of those days. I do believe our brain deletes moments like that while we sleep so that we can carry on the following day. Otherwise we would have thrown in the towel before our kids reached first grade. Love your mom’s Lazy Daisy recipe and your tweaks to it 🙂

  22. OMG! I have been to that Panera!! I love kids but now that my son is grown I appreciate the serenity of a kidless atmosphere. I guess I’ve done my bit with wriggling, moving, flailing, screaming meemies. Anyway, a nice cup of coffee (or glass of milk) and one of these muffins later and everyone will be calm and smiling. Mmmm.

  23. <>

    That’s all I’ve got to say.

    Well, that, and those muffins sure look yummy.

  24. Oh my gosh… just reading that story made my head hurt. Though, I must admit, I was definitely not always a sweetheart when my parents took me out (though I did fine in restaurants and grocery stores… anything with food in it).

    These muffins look incredible and I love that last picture with the empty wrapper!

  25. oh i deeply intimate with that second panera scene. thank goodness the one here is littered with grandparents who smile knowingly at me. sometimes i want to yell – this is SO much less fun than you remember it! but i don’t and i respect their nostalgia.

    and these muffins look really good!

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