Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Makin' Cheeeeeese


For Christmas, Will got me a cheese making kit. It's the perfect gift because:
        1) I love cheese
        2) I love making stuff
        3) You can make cheese 30 times from the same kit, which means if you love it, you can love it a lot. And if you mess up the first time, all is not lost - you can try, try again!

That last point is not made to say that I failed. My ending result somewhat looked like and definitely tasted like cheese. I feel like this is impressive considering I've never really MADE any food from scratch, unless you count turning bouillon cubes into broth.

I jumped in to the cheesemaking process without realizing you couldn't use aluminum pots (which we have) - you need stainless steel (which we do not have). And also, I was using powdered milk instead of a gallon of milk, so I should have mixed the milk the night before and let it soak in and turn delicious over time. Also, I had no heavy cream, so I made some with milk and butter.

You heat the milk to a certain temperature (the kit comes with a cheese thermometer!) and mix in the cream and citric acid, then remove the pot from the heat and add in the rennet tab. As you let it all sit for five minutes, you stir slowly and everything separates into curds and whey.

You're supposed to have clear whey and a thick mass of curds in the bottom of the pan, which you then cut into manageable pieces. I don't know if it was the "fresh" powdered milk or faux heavy cream, but mine never solidified into one mass, and stayed as separated curds, so I pulled them into smaller pieces instead of using a knife.

You pour it all into a colander and the whey goes away (hehehe) and leaves you with curds. You heat water to 180* and dip the colander in and out of the hot water until the cheese gets gooey enough to stretch. You stretch it over and over, add in some cheese salt, and then form it how you want. You can even make string cheese with this kit!

Each batch from the kit is supposed to make a pound of cheese, but I didn't have that much. Again, I'm not sure if it's because of the powdered milk, faux cream, or just because I'm a first-timer. I decided to make small balls of mozzarella - half plain, half rolled in oil, pepper, and basil. I did that and then put them in ice water so they'd firm up and keep their shape.

They might not look like mozzarella, but they tasted pretty damn good, and you can't beat nibbling warm cheese! I can't wait to try again and see how the next batch turns out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Random Round-Up

I've been keeping a note on my phone for the past month or two called "Randoms." I knew there would come a day when I had no clue what to blog about, so I figured I could pull from that list.

Well, that day is today. But none of these topics seem worth their own post, or maybe I'm just too lazy. So it's a Random Round-Up.

+ My fiancé showed me a link to an author he kinda-sorta knows who is on a Kickstarter-like site. This guy wants to be able to write, instead of devoting "time and energy to finding freelance work." Or working a regular job, I guess. This absolutely infuriated me for some reason. No, not for some reason - I know exactly why. You expect people to give you money so you can sit back and write? (Ok, I know real authors do this, and it's the dream, but stay with me.) What happened to people working full-time jobs, coming home and doing chores and being with family, then staying up late or getting up early to write? Isn't that half of the appeal of being a writer? On the plus side, when I checked the site to get some wording for this, he was making less than $100/month...but still! People are GIVING him that money and he feels entitled to this because he thinks his work is soooo good. GRRR.

+ I took a professional development class for six weeks this semester, in addition to my two MLS classes. It was called "Children with Disabilities in the Library" and taught through the ALA. We read four fiction books that had main characters with disabilities, had book talks about each, and did projects that were hypothetical "If this character/someone with this disability came to our library, what would we do?" It was an excellent course and really got me thinking about what I want to do with my degree. I have at least a year to go, but I'm so excited!

+ We had the Memphis version of snow early Monday morning, which meant snow days yesterday and today! Everything was pretty much closed down as of Sunday night, so I was desperately wishing for nothing to happen. It's always fun when the city overreacts and shuts down and then the streets are dry and the sky is clear the next day. It had been 60 degrees Saturday, so I figured I had a good chance of being right. It seemed to be mostly ice, but the grass was covered in white so it was really pretty. My five-year-old stepson is visiting us right now, so this was his first time being old enough to play in snow - that pretty much made it worth it right there.

+ I've been breastfeeding for just over eight months now. I know some of you won't be proud or understand why that's a sense of pride for me - I used to be that way too! Women would brag about how long they had breastfed their babies and I just didn't get it. Even when I started breastfeeding, I didn't get it. Thankfully we had no latch or supply issues, so it was effortless. But there have definitely been times of extreme pain, and sometimes it's just so taxing to be the ONLY one who can feed the baby. Or when you have a kid who will sleep through the night almost from birth to four months, then starts waking up to eat thrice a night. Sometimes it feels like he's sucking my will to live, but... Eight months. Not only did I grow and give birth to this baby, I have kept him alive with my own body for eight months. Crazy.

+ The last thing on my list is "Lyrics for witch doctor". I have no idea what that means. I remember lying in bed one night with the song stuck in my head, and I asked Will how it went because I couldn't remember some of the gibberish part. So he started singing it aloud, and then I did, and then we had to look up the lyrics to see what was right. Maybe that story was why it was in my notes, because I just re-read the lyrics and nothing jumped out to me. It's pretty damn funny to remember us in bed singing that song, though. Picture it - two adults in bed, singing a gibberish song over and over, correcting each other, while their baby sleeps peacefully in the next room...unaware that he is the most mature one in the house.

+ If you read my posts through a feed, you probably don't know that I have a new header. It's not a major blog overhaul or anything, but it's really cute and I made it the FIRST time I was in grad school and never got to use it, because I hated that program, so when I found it a month ago, I knew I wanted to use it now. LOOK AT IT!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Job Journey (and What I've Learned)

I read some posts by other bloggers about their job experiences after college, inspired by TheLadders, and I decided to write about my own experience and what advice that would lead me to give. It's perfect timing because I'm in a Masters program for my dream career, which was a dream I'd had since I was little but didn't go for right away. It's a long journey, so I'm excited to have a chance to share it.

When I was a kid, I loved libraries and wanted to be a librarian. But as I grew up, I went through a variety of dream careers. I wanted to be a writer, a nurse, a dentist, a teacher, a music producer. Some I was half-serious about. I toured a handful of technical schools to become a producer, even applied and registered for a program, but it didn’t feel right.

My parents let me take a year off after high school; I worked two jobs and tried to figure out what I wanted to do. I applied to a four-year university for journalism, because I loved to write. But journalism was boring. It wasn't what I wanted at all. I fell in love with photography during that time, and transferred to a community college for graphic design. I knew the program would teach me what I needed to get out there and work, and it did. I got an internship, which led to a job and job security - my associate's degree is the one that's paid off the most.

That being said, I didn't feel ready for a full-time job. I transferred back to the four-year university, this time studying English and Creative Writing. That was the writing I loved - not journalism! A Creative Writing professor encouraged me to get an MFA in Fiction. It seemed far-fetched, but I told myself I'd apply to ten schools; if I got a free ride to one, I'd go. If not, I'd work for a year (still at the graphic design company), and then apply for a Masters in Library Science.

I got a free ride for Fiction Writing! I moved to Washington, D.C. to dedicate three years to reading, writing, and teaching! Except... I hated it. I wasn’t into our required reading, I couldn’t write what the teachers wanted, and I hated trying to explain the rules of grammar to twenty uninterested freshman. But I couldn't give up a free degree just because I didn't like it, could I?

I did. I moved back to my hometown and took a job at the graphic design company (THANK YOU, associate's degree!) and worked for a year, until it closed and laid everyone off. Instead of competing with my former coworkers for limited design jobs, I traveled for four months straight. Traveling alone put me in a lot of uncomfortable situations and made me depend solely on myself for everything. I still think that was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I'm not saying it solved everything, but I stopped doing only what was needed to get by. I came home ready to settle down. I volunteered in a field that had always interested me - working with adults with disabilities. Yes, it was drastically different than reading, writing, and graphic design - but I was passionate about it, so I was good at it. The volunteering led to a full-time job. I put a lot into that job - forty hours a week at the office, several more at home, and it never left my mind. I was burning out.

I met my fiancé at that job, and when I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to stay home with my baby. What better way to explain a gap on your resume than to be earning a degree? That's right... I was finally going to get my Masters in Library Science!

I'm three semesters in and loving it! As much as I hated my MFA experience, I now see it was just a bad match. I'm thankful for the experience because now I know that loving these classes and being excited about my career path means that it's the right thing for me. I'm focusing on literacy and library services for people with disabilities, so I'm following my two biggest passions and combining them into one.

All of that builds up to my advice, which is simple: Trust your gut. Do what makes you happy. Take time to explore your options and find your interests. Don't be afraid to volunteer to show what you can offer - I got a job that way, and we hired volunteers after that, too. Show your passion. Follow that passion - even as it changes! Gone are the days of getting a job after graduation and sticking with it - or the field - until retirement. Don't hop from job to job, burning every bridge behind you, but don't be afraid to try something new when you feel like a change is necessary. Don't be afraid to explore all of your interests and all of your options until you find the right one.