Place the raisins in a shallow, microwave-proof dish. Add the vanilla. Add water to the dish just to cover the raisins. Microwave until the water is very warm but not boiling. Alternative method: If you don't want to microwave, pour hot (not boiling) water over the raisins. Allow the raisins to steep in the hot water a minimum of 15 minutes to overnight. Drain the raisins and place them on a paper towel to dry.
For the oatmeal:
Bring four cups of water with ½ teaspoon salt added to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the oats to the water, stirring constantly.
If the oats are cooked on too high a heat a gummy foam may form on top. It can be skimmed of with a spoon. It is just the starch from the oats and is perfectly edible if you chose to leave it.
Continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently for 30-45 minutes until the water has absorbed and the oatmeal texture is to your liking. We like ours on the dry side.
Remove the oatmeal from the stove and immediately spoon into serving bowls. Top with the sugar and raisins. Drizzle with the cream or half-n-half just before serving.