Sons & daughters, individuals defined

When I write my posts I usually start with the title but in this case I don’t have a clear tag line to head up my words.

Also, as this is a holiday weekend, and I don’t mean bunnies and baskets of candy but a weekend that for the vast majority in our society is a religious observance of great magnitude, one might expect some sort of thankfulness contained within my title.

As I am non-religious, and don’t believe that what I am about to discuss has anything to do with a divine grace or power, saying thanks doesn’t seem appropriate either.

So…

I had an epiphany of sorts yesterday. Back story first though.

You have undoubtedly read my posts regarding new homes, new jobs and new relationships for my children. This epiphany  concerns the oldest two. Not to leave the youngest out of the picture as I am consistently amazed by her, but in this regard her life and situation at this moment isn’t applicable to the epiphany in the way it came about.

I don’t know about all of you parents, but somewhere in my head I always held onto the notion that if my children were happy in their lives, found people that they chose to share those lives with who also brought happiness, who found a measure of fun and enjoyment and yes, even success, in their careers, that somehow I had done my job.

My epiphany allowed me to realize that all those notions are pretty darn self-serving. Yes, I gave birth to these individuals and I socialized them to be acceptable human beings according to our societies standards. None of them, that I know of, have been deemed deviant or a menace to society. They are and have been well-informed and contributing members of our planet. They have probably taught me more along the way about so many things than I ever taught them. While I would love to take credit I can’t. And so when I received exciting, no- amazing news, about the two oldest over these last few days my little inner voice was chanting:

Look what your kids have accomplished. Look at how they turned out. Look at the wonderful man and woman you raised.

Much like a smack in the head, although I could have easily used the light bulb analogy as well, my epiphany came when the facts struck me full on -BAM- square in the face. In the midst of congratulating my son in particular yesterday I was hit with the knowledge that he and his sister, while of my flesh, are two of the most autonomous, capable, intelligent and deserving individuals that I know. Their recent successes have nothing to do with me. I didn’t work alongside them earning part of their wages, or making them invaluable employees. I have nothing to do with the fact that they take the time and initiative to expand their knowledge, to be informed, to be self-taught, to have voices and use them in ways that not only help others but showcase modestly their talents, opinions and beliefs. I have had no part in the decisions they have made in choosing partners, both of which are regarded quite highly themselves in this picture.

All of those self-serving statements my little voice was making are rubbish. I birthed them, but I did not make them who they are. They deserve every ounce of credit. They have found success and happiness by their own hand, their own determination.

It was momentarily humbling to realize that I had this whole parenting thing all wrong for so many years. Then it was even more joyful to realize that the lives that I hoped they would have seem to be coming into focus. The struggles they have faced as adults are now slipping away. The real success is that they did all this themselves. I was an observer, not always silent on the sidelines, but an observer non-the-less. This man and this woman are my children, but they are so much more. They are individuals, wholly of their own making. I couldn’t be prouder or happier that I had nothing to do with how they turned out.

And now I have a title for my post.

 

This is what 7 months old looks like

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With a tad bit of a grumpy face as she wanted me to help her reach her toys and I just wanted to take her picture.

She is almost crawling, as you can see by the picture she gets the hands and knees position but can’t quite coordinate arm and leg movement yet so ends up lunging herself forward, hoping to get close to whatever it is she wants.

And this is where she ended up today using her foolproof roll and scoot method.

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This is roughly an 18 inch space between couch and wall. She made it here and tucked herself into this spot from all the way around the front side of the couch and past a large ottoman.

No idea what I am going to do when she really learns to crawl. This is challenge enough.

Cheese making redemption

I did it! My second attempt at making paneer was a success and I am quite happy.

What changed this time around:

Used 1/2 gallon whole milk instead of an entire gallon

Made sure milk came to a full boil

Tried to be less impatient waiting for curds to happen

Used 4 tablespoons lemon juice total rather than the recommended 3

Realized that as some recipes suggested my whey would be evident but not as watery as described. *I had read that the whey would separate so completely that you would have very obvious curd and a thin, watery, greenish whey. This never happened the first time and so I over-used the lemon juice in attempts to achieve this effect. 

I was still skeptical as I poured the contents of my pot into the cheesecloth lined strainer but as more and more curds settled onto the cheesecloth my excitement grew. In fact I was so pleased with just how much cheese I made that I forgot to get a picture of it sitting in the strainer 😦

However, here it is after draining and starting the pressing process:

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I’m really not pressing it with a towel here. I have a clear glass plate on top of the cheese and with all the whiteness I didn’t want a weird, reflective picture so I threw the towel onto the plate. There is still some reflection (I fail at photos 101) but you get the idea.

Here it is in the cheesecloth after about 20 minutes of pressing:

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And finally, unwrapped from the cheesecloth and ready to go into my refrigerator!

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Isn’t it lovely? I would estimate that I got about 8-10 ounces total and although not perfectly rectangular it mimics closely the same size as a brick of cream cheese.

I have renewed faith in my skills and can hardly wait to use this to make mattar paneer.

 

A day with the future Mrs.

Just got home from the wedding dress review and have to say right off that I cannot post pics. Sorry but no sneak peeks, everyone will have to wait until the big day then see all the candid shots I can snap.

This was Meredith’s second go round with dresses. Her first was in store with about 10 dresses that just didn’t scream out PICK ME!

So today it was her moms dress and three others. She ordered these online so we had the convenience of shopping at home. It was a fairly quick process to eliminate one right away. There was also one standout but it was in direct competition with another and her mom’s dress. Mom’s reminded me somewhat of my own wedding dress-at least in the neckline and it looked lovely on Meredith.

We looked at a classic style and a fun unique style. Both had great aspects.

She did say yes to one of those three but that’s all I will reveal until October, although I would love to tell more.

I also got some great news about both her job situation as well as a great prospect for my son’s current level of employment. If all goes well with his news then a definite move is in their future. Luckily it’s not too far, just northward a bit and that will be the most practical thing for them.

They now move on to figuring out food and catering and the men’s attire. We know bow ties are involved, but don’t think traditional tuxedos at all. You may remember my comments about the illusion of the 1920’s, Downton Abbey ideal (at least I think I mentioned that in a post earlier), yet also think an eclectic version of that. I think it’s safe to post one of her ideas from Pinterest.

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Yes, the checked shirt stays.

Her color palette includes

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I’m leaning toward the moss for the mother-of-the-groom attire. What do you think?

We had a great lunch after. It’s always a pleasure to talk with her parents and sister. They are a great family and once more I am reminded of how wonderful it will be to have Meredith join our family.

It’s another tutoring post

We lost one of our tutors a few weeks ago. She is a college student who needed a full-time position and the money that goes with that.

Today we gained her replacement. This tutor comes from Arizona where she taught Art, and she is working on her math credential.

She came into class today with the same amount of training that the regular group got before our first meeting with students way back in October: roughly 45 minutes last night, and it prepared her for nothing.

The best advise we could give was to be flexible and learn as you go. It was the advise we all got and eventually we got the hang of this job.

The core group of tutors has been having issues with a particular class and a particular instructor for a while now, and today we spent our break time fervently discussing the situation, our opinions, and what to do to make things better. I think we have come to the consensus that we may never make things better. Unfortunately, we exposed our new tutor to this discussion today. It was something we needed to talk about because we have to come prepared with a united front but having this conversation with someone new to the program and procedures had to have been shocking, overwhelming and probably made her question her decision to say yes to this job.

At the same time, it would have been extremely rude to ask her to go sit by herself while we held this little pow-wow. I have sort of taken the stance that we can’t do much with the students as we don’t have the backing of the individual teacher. She has created her own system, tries to defer to us as if we are in charge, which we aren’t, and has never given clear definition even when asked. Consequently her students are suffering, becoming increasingly lazy and see little to no point in this process. At this point in the school year I am of the mind to say we make the best of what we have. Others want to pin her down and I think we are up against a brick wall.

Anyway, it was an ugly scene for the new tutor and I felt bad for her but it was one of those train wreck situations whereby you take that first step to look or be involved and you just can’t escape, no matter how painful it becomes.

On to brighter news…

I love my 8th grade group this time around. I have already been the tutor for four of them and the two new students are great. This group is so much fun that it’s hard to stop when our time is up. I truly hope that we can keep these groups to finish out the school year.

We are giving the 9th graders a taste of what this program is like at the high school so that they are prepared when they move across the campus next fall. At that level we group students by subject questions rather than a mixed group from core classes. I love this way of tutoring as I think it makes the sessions more focused and the groups tend to be better suited to help each other as they should. These students were great today as well, even my deadbeat (oops, did I really say that?) student who typically sleeps during each session. And I mean that literally. He came prepared and participated more today than he ever has. He obviously knew the material and felt comfortable with it. He was able to stay awake as well. I was astounded and pretty darn happy.

I hope that somehow we didn’t completely ruin this process for the new tutor. She will find out soon enough that this system is flawed, but I know we gave her an earful with our bias and we should have toned it down. It’s easy to let complaints get away from you and easy to forget that keeping lips closed is sometimes better.

I hope that she comes back Friday.

Cheese maker? Not so much

I whipped up a modified version of chana masala a few days ago by adding in some spinach because I add spinach to most everything anymore. This made me want to whip up a Palak Paneer or better yet a Mattar Paneer, but alas I had no paneer and that is a central focus for these two dishes.

Do you know of paneer? It is often referred to as cottage cheese in Indian recipes.

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Think of a more solid form of ricotta or haloumi, although that is made from goats milk. These mild flavored cheeses are great because they don’t melt, can even be fried and sort of squeak when you eat them.

So I asked around to find local shops that carry paneer and got a few suggestions. I have been able to get haloumi really close to home, which would work in a pinch, but at last check it was $10 for about 8 ounces. No way.

My lovely son-in-law suggested making my own paneer. He uses milk and buttermilk and gets paneer. Basically you just bring to a boil whole milk and then he adds buttermilk. Recipes found on the web suggest adding lemon juice or vinegar. As long as you add an acid, curds will form and then you can strain out the whey through a cheesecloth. Squeeze out the curds, press and you have paneer.

I bought a gallon of whole milk and some lemon juice this morning. I brought my milk to a boil, took it off the heat and begin adding lemon juice. My milk began to curdle nicely but not much. The recipe I was using suggested adding a bit more lemon juice slowly until you could easily define curds from whey. After what I think was way too much lemon juice, my large curds went back to tiny curds and sort of blended right back into the whey. At this point I just said F*** and strained it. Maybe I should have reheated it and tried again but who knows.

I did make some paneer although it ended up being such small curds that they went right through the cheesecloth and left me with roughly a golf ball size piece of cheese. I rinsed it, squeezed it and had it on a piece of toast with honey drizzled over the top.

The outcome of this experiment was not as successful as the granola bar episode. That one in fact needs to be repeated soon as we are almost out of granola bars.

I am going to try cheese making again, but use only a half-gallon of milk, and maybe try the buttermilk trick instead of the juice. Or I could just head to my local cheese shop and buy the ready made version. Where’s the fun in that though.