We're well into the parent observation month. Each child's parent(s) come to observe for an hour in the morning.
Today I went to school with twenty-five child-filled days ahead of me. I left with only twenty-four. Where did the day go? I must have misplaced it. After searching in my pocket and underneath my chair, I found it in my camera.
So as not to misplace any more of these precious few days, please join me as I document my last days as a Montessori teacher in Mexico, my last days before the big move, my last days with my children. Follow along here, or at my flickr account.
My goodness I look serious. My day was a good one, even if I refrained from doing cartwheels in this shot. I'll let you guess if I did actually do a cartwheel behind the scenes.
Again, thanks for your words of support after my last post. Also, thanks for humoring my mad scientist/cook of a husband. Truth be told, he really is the cook of the family. Don't get me wrong, I like cooking, but only if I have a really cute apron on to get me in the mood. An apron and a leisurely weekend morning. Now we're talking.
This is Meg's husband, Patrick. She asked me to write up the experience of making caramel popcorn for the first time this morning. I based it on a recipe I found in a Ready Made magazine. It was fairly easy, actually, once I figured out how to overcome the problem of crystallized sugar.
First step, make the popcorn. This is just as easy on the stove top as it is in the microwave, and you can avoid all those synthetic chemicals that fool your tastebuds into telling you you're eating butter. Just buy some popcorn kernels and heat a large, covered pot on high for a minute or two. Add some oil to the bottom, which will help ensure that all the kernels get heated equally.
You need to let it get really HOT, at or just below the temperature at which the oil starts to burn. (There is a small amount of water inside the kernel, and you want it to very rapidly reach the boiling point so it causes the kernel to explode. If you start on too low a heat, the pressure generated by the water boiling will escape slowly, and you won't get a fluffy piece of popcorn.) Test the temperature by throwing in a couple kernels. If they pop in 10 seconds or so, you're probably good.
Now throw in all your kernels and cover it. I added a little less than a cup of kernels, and probably got somewhere between 8 and 10 cups of popcorn. Now, wearing your oven mitts, move the pot around over the heat, ensuring that the kernels all receive heat, and shaking so that unpopped kernels fall to the bottom. Like in the microwave, turn off the heat when the popping slows almost to stopping. If you leave the pot closed, some kernels will keep popping. Be sure not to burn the popcorn too much.
Mix in some unshelled peanuts with the popcorn, to taste.
For the caramel, I added about 1 cup of sugar to a saucepan, then 1 cup of water. You heat this on a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, allowing it to boil and bubble away, stirring often. It should turn a nice golden color at some point. When it's a nice brown, turn down the heat. Then add about 6 tablespoons of butter and stir it in. If you have extra water, like I did, I don't think it's a big deal. You could try to pour it off (since the caramel will sink), but I decided just to pour it over the popcorn and peanuts too.
BE CAREFUL not to touch the hot caramel. It will be scorching hot and STICKY - a bad combination.
The first time I did this, the sugar suddenly crystallized on me, coating my pan with hard rock candy. (If you've ever taken a good chemistry class, you might be familiar with the reason for this. Sugar dissolves in water at higher temperatures and with mixing. As the water boils off, the ratio of sugar to water increases, and the solution can become saturated, meaning no more sugar can dissolve in that amount of water. If you continue boiling off the water or lower the temperature of your mixture (which I did), the solution will become "super-saturated." You have more sugar dissolved in your water than is actually possible to dissolve! This is very unstable, so any disturbance - such as your mixing spoon - will cause the excess sugar to crystallize, touching off a process that will quickly turn your liquid into a solid.)
I think this happened to me because I live at a very high altitude, where water boils at a lower temperature (due to the lower atmospheric pressure). So, when I followed a recipe written for you low-landers, I didn't add enough water. The sugar didn't get hot enough to carmelize before most of my water boiled off.
Not to worry, I simply turned off the heat, added more water, and used a wooden spoon to scrape all that crystallized sugar off the bottom. I started up the heat again, this time stirring the entire time. The sugar eventually redissolved, turned that golden brown, and though I had a little extra water, once I added the butter, it made some delicious caramel popcorn!
Planting corn this morning with the children
Have you noticed? My postings have been less frequent as of late. Often, when I sit down to write, I feel this need to say something meaningful - to somehow illustrate with words a certain experience, to digest and make sense of my thoughts. I've been having a hard time with this lately. Here's my best shot at why:
I'm in the midst of a huge life shift coming up in a mere six weeks, when we leave Mexico and move back to the United States. I'm also totally treading water to keep from drowning in all of my responsibilities. This entire month I have parent-teacher conferences, I'm packing and preparing to move across a not-so-nice border, and my little pattern business is asking a lot of my time as of late. (Lola will be out very soon!) Oh yes - and I'm embarrassingly behind on my emails. In addition, I have a few more projects that are in the works that I'll be able (hopefully) to tell you about sometime soon. In short, I'm beat.
Everything feels like it's coming to a close here in Mexico. I want to write about that - about the mixture of emotions I face every day. The whole experience certainly merits reflection. But I can't fit it into a blog post. Oh - and if you haven't read between the lines yet, this whole thing is about more than just leaving Mexico. I'm also leaving teaching, for the most wonderful of reasons. I will not be looking for a Montessori job in North Carolina because we hope to start a family. I'll be focusing on the pattern business, crossing my fingers that it brings in enough supplemental income to live on Patrick's grad school stipend and hopefully having some babies really soon and staying at home with them - the thought of which brings me such immense joy!
So there it is. I'm feeling excited beyond belief. Sad. Nervous. Really happy. All wrapped in one. Which is why I can't write about it in any intelligible way.
So I know you'll understand when I tell you that I need to take the pressure off of myself to put things into words. Instead of being frustrated by my inner emotional soup and my inability to figure out the darn recipe (and how to go about serving it - because right now it feels like it would go best with a little whine, if you know what I mean) I will be offering you a photo journal of sorts for the next few weeks. My wish is to make this space a pressure-free refuge by using my lens to capture some of my Mexico, in my all-too-short time left. I'm not sure how long I'll be short-winded, but I'm leaving that open-ended. It could be two weeks, it could be until we're finished with the move.
I just wanted to close this rather long-winded explanation of my short-windedness by saying thank you. For your support and dear comments, and for your encouragement ... without which I never would have fathomed putting my designs out there in this big, often scary world. I wish there was an adequate way to express my gratitude. How 'bout this - you all rock. Mil gracias a todos.
Thank you, Mom, for your smiles. Thank you for your patient sighs. Thank you for your intuition. Thank you for surrounding me with beauty. Thank you for worrying. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. Thank you for your selflessness. Thank you for everything.
I leave you with the verse of Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass:
There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
The early lilacs became part of this child,
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.
The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road;
And the old drunkard staggering home from the out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately risen,
And the school-mistress that pass’d on her way to the school,
And the friendly boys that pass’d—and the quarrelsome boys,
And the tidy and fresh-cheek’d girls—and the barefoot boy and girl,
And all the changes of city and country, wherever he went.
His own parents,
He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave him afterward every day—they became part of him.
The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on the supper-table;
The mother with mild words—clean her cap and gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person and clothes as she walks by;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean, anger’d, unjust;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain, the crafty lure,
The family usages, the language, the company, the furniture—the yearning and swelling heart,
Affection that will not be gainsay’d—the sense of what is real—the thought if, after all, it should prove unreal,
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?
Men and women crowding fast in the streets—if they are not flashes and specks, what are they?
The streets themselves, and the façades of houses, and goods in the windows,
Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank’d wharves—the huge crossing at the ferries,
The village on the highland, seen from afar at sunset—the river between,
Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on roofs and gables of white or brown, three miles off,
The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the tide—the little boat slack-tow’d astern,
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.
Okay, so I have a funny story. When I was back in my hometown for for my cousin's wedding, my Mom and I made an essential stop at the local fabric shop, Fabrics on Mill Street, which was one of the first retail stores to carry my patterns. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had made a model of the Emmeline Apron for their storefront. But that wasn't all. When I walked in the store, it was bustling with customers. One of them was asking Jenny, the owner, a question about the Emmeline pattern. At that moment, Jenny looked up, saw me, and said "Oh! Well why don't you ask the designer herself!"
The woman buying the pattern was about as surprised as I was. You wouldn't believe what happened next. She asked me to autograph the pattern.
No. Way. Somewhere between mortified and flattered, I pretended like that question wasn't really asked and found what my embarrassed self considered to be the middle ground - I printed my name and blog address on the back of the pattern.
I mean, a signature? I just had to chuckle. Perhaps if I am going to be making fabric store appearances I should spiff it up. Right now, my signature is just about the least artistic thing I do with my hands. Other than wash the dishes. It's just plain doctor-ish, just like my Dad's chicken scratch.
Yes, the entire situation was just so funny. My mom laughed at me for hours afterwards. She told me she was laughing at the look on my face when asked for my signature. I hope it wasn't too hilarious. I'm just an introvert living in the mountains of rural Mexico - and not used to such questions! :)
In other famous Emmeline apron news, did you see that Jennifer of Craft Sanity donned her Emmeline when she went in front of the T.V. camera? Way to go, Jennifer!
So, although Miss Emmeline loves the spotlight, I will be more than happy to pull, cut, and sew together her strings from behind the scenes, thank you very much!