Monday, May 25, 2015

Actual, Real, Graduation

The graduation ceremony at Emma's school is nice, because the classes are so small. With just 14 grads (her class was particularly small), the Director is able to tell personal stories about each child --great laughs for us parents, since these are usually things that happened at school that we weren't aware of. 

Also, the grads (8th graders) create a skit, where each one of them plays one (or more) of the 7th graders, and roasts them. And the 7th graders create their own skit, where they play the 8th graders and roast them. These were hilarious to those of us who got the inside jokes --Emma was pefectly roasted, in good fun, without any malice.

When they get their diplomas, the two classroom teachers also have the chance to talk a bit about the strengths of each grad and tell the audience where they'll be heading to high school, and what their goals are. We've known some of these kids for the last 8 years, and it was really fun to see them at this point and hear about their plans. 

They all got on stage at the end for a photo opportunity.
There is a group of 4 boys on the left, in shirts and ties --those four boys came to several of Emma's birthday parties when they were all in the elementary grades. Such stylin' boys now :-) Only one of them will be going on to the same high school as Emma, but it's my favorite one. Emma is standing next to her best friend, K --they were both very excited to finally get to this day.

After the ceremony there was cake,

 and peanut & tree-nut free cupcakes. And then K had to go clean the blue frosting off of her red lipstick.

One of the grad's father is a wonderful artist, and he drew each of the grads for their diploma covers.
 
In the afternoon, Emma requested that Rob take her out to take some fun photos of her while she was in her dress.


Then we picked up her boyfriend and had a nice dinner out at our favorite restaurant.

High school next year will be SO different --it's a huge school. But she's ready, and there are some things I'm looking forward to. While her classmates for the last 8 years are nice kids, she's only really connected with one, her friend K. (Most of the others are just not into the same things as Emma.) K has some great qualities --she is very funny, very real, and a good friend. But her early schooling and her broken home life have combined to leave her academically adrift. The teachers at Spectrum (she's been there for the last 4 years) pulled her up significantly, but she's not someone Emma can connect with on academic interests. I'm looking forward to Emma interacting with new kids in her honors and AP classes, and developing friendships that connect on some of those interests. 

Also, as with most private schools, Emma's classmates have been the elite. There is a world of less-privileged kids out there, and now she'll be meeting some of them and interacting with them. This has already happened a bit, as she's been hanging out in town, meeting up with her boyfriend and his friends. I think it's important to understand that the real world does not just consist of families who value education and have enough money to send their kids to a private school. People come from all different backgrounds, and deal with those differences in different ways. Her high school is not urban-poor, or in the center of a big city, but it is a step away (and toward the real world) from the small private school experience. 

I am grateful for the educational foundation she has gained at Spectrum School, and also looking forward to her moving into a larger world.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The End of an Era

Emma graduated 8th grade from Spectrum Progressive School today. There were 14 graduates. One part of the ceremony involves slide shows of photos of the kids, set to a song they pick. Each kid gets ~45 seconds, and it's a lot of fun to see the photos. These are some of the photos Emma chose.

Her early introduction to good music :-)
With her best friend. They each included a shot like this in their slide shows.
With her boyfriend.

After the slide show, I had to turn to Rob and say "We have the coolest daughter." :-) Emma and I agreed later, too, that her dad takes great photos, which made it much easier to create a good montage for the occasion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Pots

Because of my hip surgeries the last two summers, I had tough gardening seasons. This year, I've been able to accomplish a lot more, and enjoy it so much more. In looking around the gardens, I see pots of annuals, and it feels like such a win! Last year the pots sat empty, with weeds creeping in. This year on Mother's Day we shopped for plants, purchased a 50lb bag of potting soil, and filled lots of pots with flowers. Now I walk around the yard and it just seems so much more finished.

First we planted the three pots on the patio near our fire pit. Two of them are a purple/white mix, and one is red/pink. All three have ivy, because Rob loves ivy.





While Rob and I worked on those, Emma completed two container fairy gardens.



Then we had three pots that are off the mudroom door.

And finally, a pot by the woodshed.



This morning, as I was taking photos, I noticed a robin fly out of the woodshed. Inside I found this:



I like how she incorporated some of my gardening twine in her nest --I should probably do a better job of cleaning that stuff up :-)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wherein I Ate Rhubarb

Yes, I actually ate rhubarb. Usually that sentence would say "hate" rather than "ate".

But this Blue Apron dish called for pickled rhubarb, and I figured --why not? I can pick it out if I don't like it. But I did like it --it really added a wonderful dimension to the flavor of the dish.

The instruction said to use a peeler to make thin slices, and their photo showed these beautiful white curls. Mine was similar . . . 
You pickled it by heating up red wine vinegar, sugar, and some water to boiling, then pouring it over the rhubarb and letting it soak for at least 10 minutes. 

This dish was a chicken salad with smashed potatoes, asparagus, and goat cheese. It also contained tarragon as the herb.
I haven't cooked with tarragon in many years. Many years --30 years ago I had a boyfriend who made a chicken dish with grapes, tarragon, and cream. For some reason, I thought it was called Chicken Lorraine, but when I google that, I'm not finding recipes that have tarragon and grapes, so I must have the wrong name. Anyway, tarragon is kind of sweet for an herb, so it worked well in this recipe too, with the pickled rhubarb.

The dressing had an enormous amount of poppyseeds, some mustard, and some of the pickling liquid. Overall it was very yummy, and made plenty for the two of us. (I offered it to Emma, but she always turns me down.)
The one thing I'd do differently in this recipe is to cut the rhubarb into bite size pieces after making the thin slices. Because it's not cooked, it's pretty chewy, and impossible to cut with a fork or butter knife. 

In addition to using ingredients I haven't used much or at all, I'm also learning some new cooking techniques. That's an added plus to this experience.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Art of Awareness Blog Hop (not)

I was not able to participate in this blog hop. I purchased a bead from Swoondimples, and I will use it in the future, but I just didn't have time. I hope you will visit the other participants!

Here, you can find the list of participants.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Aztec Soup

Well, I made my second Blue Apron dish yesterday --a soup with flavors inspired by the Aztecs. This was the recipe I felt most hesitant about when I originally read through all of them. Ground pork, tomatillos, (onions left out, of course), cilantro, lime juice, a spice mixture, and hominy. I'd never prepared tomatillos before, and I'd never tasted hominy. The soup is garnished with radish slices, roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds, roasted in a pan), and avocado. And I just realized I forgot the avocado!

Well anyway --it was delicious! I had a small bowl, just to test it you know. When Rob got home I told him to help himself, and the next thing I know he's got the pot upturned and is saying "Can I just finish it?" So this meal would have been on the small side for us :-) I had a snack later to round out my dinner. Rob liked it just as much as I did --we both really enjoy trying new foods, but it's hard at restaurants because of his onion allergy. So this is working out well for us :-)  We have one more meal to go --"pulled chicken quesadillas with mole sauce". I tried mole sauce once, a long time ago, and didn't care for it. But that was a long time ago --I'm willing to give it another try.

And here is a photo of my favorite tulip, just because.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Cooking with Blue Apron

So, I got my first Blue Apron delivery today. I heard about them accidentally, through a friend, and immediately thought it was a wonderful idea :-) I signed up for meals for two people (the other option is four people), figuring that mostly it would be Rob and I eating them (although today's meal made enough for Emma as well).  You get three meals in each delivery.

The basic idea is that they choose (based on some input from you) three meals, send you detailed instructions/recipes, and all the food you'll need to make them. I've always enjoyed cooking new things, but I'm bad at meal planning, and I hate grocery shopping (I hate every kind of shopping). 

The box, with the three recipe cards.

I unpacked all the food. I admit I marveled at that cactus leaf pad --I didn't even know you could eat prickly pear!

I put the food away, then took the recipe cards to my chair with a cup of coffee and read. I decided I wanted to make the meal with the cactus, just because I'd never cooked one before. The recipe card said to clean it and remove the spines, but I thought some further instruction might be helpful, so I looked on YouTube and watched a couple of videos. I'm glad I did :-)

So, I had a nice time chopping up all my ingredients, and putting them in little bowls :-)
That's the chopped prickly pear in the yellow bowl.
I had to leave the onions out, of course. The final dish would have been slightly better with the onions, but that's just how it is with allergies. This recipe called for making rice, and the red sauce, and then putting the enchiladas together and baking them.

Once the rice was finished cooking, you simply added the cactus, black beans, lime juice, and cilantro. That's the filling that went into the enchiladas. The cactus is such a pretty green.

Of course I forgot to take a photo of the enchiladas when they came out of the oven, but here's what they looked like when they went in :-)

 The stuff on top is Oaxaca cheese. I enjoyed the final meal. The cactus has a very mild taste, and basically just seemed to add a nice (and pretty) veggie filler. (This meal was vegetarian --the other two from this box have meat.)

After Rob and I had eaten, Emma and her boyfriend tried the remaining enchilada. He ate his half, she was not impressed :-) 

There was a bit of clean-up.
 I'm never terribly bothered by that, though. I specifically chose Friday deliveries because I have time on Fridays and the weekends to spend more time cooking and cleaning up. Since I don't have to be on campus on Fridays, it's a relaxing kind of day.

All in all, I found this to be very successful: I made a new recipe, I had just the right amount of ingredients and I don't have lots of extras that will go bad in the fridge. Perfect.