Friday, August 27, 2010

And it begins...

Well, I am starting to wrap things up on the homefront. I leave in a measly 9 days, and I am feeling it more and more each day. (And a paper update: I am down to 12 papers left! My goal for the day is to break into the single digits. I thought I would warm up my writing with a blog!)

Anyway, the goodbyes have begun. Today I went up to work for my "goodbye potluck." I still teach 3 more times, but because I work in the evenings I don't often see everyone at once. It's a bit odd because while some of the people are relatively new to the IRC others I have known for 3 years now. Afterward I was chatting with a couple of our caseworkers who are from Rwanda and Burundi and they told me that there are fantastic African neighborhoods and restaurants in Brussels. One said that he has 4 sisters living there. I feel better knowing that if I start to miss my students I will be able to just follow the kangas and brightly printed clothes to that part of the city. The other caseworker said that the neighborhood I am going to be living in is full of good food (even if she did also say that it was really loud and always had fights!). My Latvian coworker told me she has an old Latvian friend in Brussels working for the EU. It somehow makes me feel better that I could run into someone with a connection to home while I am there. I am also really excited to be living in such an international city.

So yeah, the goodbyes start to get rough, especially for the people that I won't see when I return, but it's amazing to think back over all the great experiences had and the wonderful people I have gotten to know these last few years out here. It's a good start on the goodbyes. (Saying goodbye to my students won't be so easy! But more on that later...)

Anyway, we had some sweets to make it all go down more smoothly. Above is my "BYE" banana pudding, and below is my ESL/book cake my coworker made for me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Two Weeks And Counting...

Two weeks from tomorrow I will be flying to Brussels! I've been so busy that it hadn't fully sunk in how close it was getting! I have 6 classes to teach, 2 work meetings, and 24 more papers to write. (Ouch. Trying not to get too overwhelmed about that last one!) It feels very official now that I have turned in my 2 weeks notice. Soon I will be officially homeless AND jobless.

And I couldn't be more excited about it.

I am also starting to think through my "last meals." I haven't been drinking too much soda lately and I was debating on drinking a Dr. Pepper the other day. Then I realized I am about to go three months without one. I've started putting together a mental to-eat list (which is a lot more fun than my to-do list!). I had chicken-fried steak the other day (actually for the first time in a long time), so that is covered. Some good steak at my parents and of course Mexican food is in my near future (I'm a Texan after all). I'll have to make a trip to Railhead Smokehouse before I leave (aka, the best brisket in town). My Lan, our neighborhood Vietnamese, merits a stop too.

If I'm forgetting something good, remind me. Otherwise, never fail, I'll remember right after it's out of reach! But I'm figuring, even if that happens, I'll just go have a kebab and some Belgian chocolates and call it even.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fall Music

I've been sitting around in coffee shops and libraries for the last couple of weeks in the over zealous air-conditioning listening to "fall music" and have almost tricked myself into believing it is fall. (Then I walk outside and get blasted by the 106 degree heat...) I love the fall, and the newness of a new semester and the colder weather always makes me want to listen to a certain kind of music. This plus getting ready to head back to Europe has had me making new playlists on my iPod and looking around for some new tunes.

So I'm taking a break from the paper writing (down to 35 papers and only 50 pages left to read!) and using the school's wifi to download some tunes. Krystal gifted me an iTunes gift card they had laying around. I've been plotting for a little bit trying to decide what to buy. As I haven't really been paying attention or buying music in a while there are lots of albums out there that I debated on. What did I finally decide on?

Phoenix's album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

I came across Phoenix at the beginning of the summer and downloaded a bunch of their older stuff in China (Did you know you can legally download music from Google in China? ...OK, are at least *legal* according to the Chinese). They are a pop rock band from France (although they sing in English). I've been listening to them for a while, and I even heard their song Lisztomania on the Abilene radio this week (pleasant surprise Abilene!). So, I just downloaded their new album (which, ok, was released over a year ago).

It's pretty awesome. It's got everything you want in fall music--moodiness, excitement, dancy-ness, with a Euro-flair.

Also related, iTune's "Cancion de la Semana" (their Spanish free song of the week) has a free song from Polock, a band from Valencia, Spain. When I previewed it, the song made me instantly think of Phoenix. And what do you know, that's exactly what the iTunes description said too. But honestly, the song really baffled me. I previewed their entire album and these are Spaniards, singing in English...without an accent. Spaniards ALWAYS have accents. Although listening to the full length song you can hear a twinge of it, I'm still really baffled. Anyway, it's a good fee song.

For the free download:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Problem Solving Cooking

So, I like to think that I have pretty good problem solving skills. Now, don't worry, I fully realize this is because I get myself into so many situations where problem solving skills are necessary.

Lately I have been doing some problem solving cooking...

First I decided to bake up some macaroons. I was thinking about Spain again and looking up recipes for the almond nun cookies they make in Salamanca. I came across a recipe for macaroons and remembered I had coconut so I decided to make some.

Unfortunately I didn't know that my parents oven doesn't cook right when you put two pans on the same shelf. They were supposed to bake for 20 minutes and 10 minutes in I smelled them burning. What? Yep, the bottoms of them were a nice shade of black. Boo.

I refused to let them go to waste though. I cut off the tops, mushed them all together in a dish and melted some semisweet chocolate on top. It turned out to be a winner after all!

Tonight I decided to figure out a way to use up some feta. After eating fresh Greek salads daily in Greece I wanted some feta. We accidently bought a Sam's size container of fat-free feta crumbles. OK, so it was not fresh, crumbled and fat free--3 strikes against it, and it tasted pretty similar to chalk. I didn't want to waste it though, so I figured out a way to make it taste good--baked feta. We'd had it one day in Greece and it was delicious. It's basically feta with marinara sauce on top to make a kind of Greek queso dip to go on bread.

(OK, so this isn't exactly what mine looked like, but close!)

It turned out pretty tasty! All I did was spray a baking dish, add the feta, mix in some minced garlic, a squirt of lemon juice, oregano and basil (and I put in a little bit of butter to make up for the fat-freeness!) and then top with marinara sauce from the jar. (I also read that it tastes great with a drained can of basil and oregano diced tomatoes, or, you know, actual tomatoes.) You bake it for 20 minutes at 350 and then spread it on to sliced up french bread. Yum! This might be my new go-to recipe for potlucks.

Oh, and here is the macaroon (or MA-croon as I always end up accidentally saying) recipe if you make them the normal way!
  • 8 ounces, weight Unsweetened Shredded Coconut
  • 8 ounces, fluid Sweetened, Condensed Milk
  • ½ Tablespoons Vanilla
  • 2 pinches Salt
  • 2 whole Egg Whites
  • 6 ounces, weight Chocolate Chips

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix together the coconut, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Set aside. In an electric mixer, beat the salt and egg whites to stiff peaks, fold together softly to incorporate.

On parchment paper, use two teaspoons to place each macaroon. Bake for 21 minutes until the tops have browned.

Once the macaroons have cooled, melt chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave (be sure not to burn it). Dip the bottom of each macaroon into the chocolate and place back onto the parchment and into the refrigerator to cool.

This recipe will make 16 large macaroons or 32 smaller macaroons. (

Monday, August 9, 2010

Spain Pangs

The term "Spain Pangs" was coined by my good friend Meghann. It's the kind of thing where you just find yourself missing and dreaming about Spain.

Some days random things set it off. The smell of cigarette smoke. Alejandro Sanz on the radio. The smell of potatoes and garlic frying. People with lisps. One rainy day I caught a whiff of rain mixed with car exhaust, and was taken right back to my apartment in Santander.

Beautiful, I know.

When I was flying home from Istanbul I ended up stopping over in Madrid for almost 3 hours. Although I didn't have time to leave the airport, I had plans. These plans mostly involved food. I literally ran around the airport looking for the things I hadn't eaten or drunk for a while. First stop:

tortilla de patatas

Second stop:

turron de alicante

Third stop:

sugary cherry straws filled with marshmallow cream. (They sound weird and I used to scoff at my roommate when she ate them. Then I tried them. They come in all different shapes and lengths, but I would gladly make myself sick on them any day of the week.)

That one took a while, but I finally found some of them in a newspaper shop by my gate. Finally I gave up on finding churros con chocolate and settled in for:

a cup of cafe con leche.

I kid you not, it was the best cup of coffee I have had in YEARS. It was just from some sandwich shop, was in a paper cup and cost maybe a euro fifty. But man. Best coffee in probably 2 years.

So today, after talking to my old roommate from Spain and our friend Matt over the weekend, and looking at wedding pictures from some of the people at my church in Santander...I have a serious case of Spain Pangs.

The remedy?

A bit of turron and some (nescafe) cafe con leche


estrella morente casacueva y escenario.jpg

(some flamenco music)

All I know is that I am ready to be back on the European continent where I am just a quick flight away from Spain. I haven't seen my schedule yet, so who knows what kind of time off I am going to have, but I am crossing my fingers to make it back to Spain.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ok, so I wasn't kidding about spending all of my free time in coffee shops writing papers and reading. In fact, I have been hitting up the coffee shops enough the last couple of weeks to come up with some strategies.

I've been in Fort Worth mostly so there have been lots of options for places to study. Some places have good regular brewed coffee. Some places have free refills. Some places have delicious frappuccinos/etc. Some places have organic/free trade stuff.

And...some places are cheap.

After making my way around town, I have come up with a couple of good strategies. For example, for the next couple of months or so Starbucks will stamp the back of your receipt if you come in before 2pm with their "Treat Receipt" stamp. THEN you can come in after 2 to get a grande cold drink for $2!

So say you have an afternoon to spend studying...Here is the plan, you go before 2, get a cheap, small cup of brewed coffee for less than 2 bucks. After you have worked a while and gotten through the first cup of coffee (and after its 2pm) you go and get the grande cold drink. All for less than you would have paid for a small cold drink in the first place!

You're welcome.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Nose Job

A quick Emma update! Last week Emma had her first (of probably 10) surgeries. They fixed her cleft lip and her nose, as well as put in a gum and palate appliance. (They said putting in a denture-like gum-thing will help her face from caving in and might actually stimulate teeth to grow on that side of her mouth.)
She looks so different! She was feeling pretty crappy afterwards and the meds made her start throwing up (so much for her weight gain!). The surgeon told Danny and Angie (her parents) that she had an attitude! Angie rightly said, if anyone deserves to have an attitude, she does! It's probably what has kept her alive in the first place!

But even though she was feeling sub par, she still gave me some smiles. She even let me hold her while Angie ate. She wanted my sunglasses and gave us some more of her "attitude." : )

Ha, this kid is great. Anyway, today she is getting her stitches out. They are going to have to put her under again, but hopefully she won't react to the meds again. She gets to wear the splints on her arms (so she won't touch her mouth) for about 3 weeks I think. Prayers for her appreciated!