Well, I had another baking flop today. Not that the cookies I made were bad, but after I made them I realized just how un-authentic they were. I was attempting to make a dark sugar cookie hailing from western Columbia. But I failed to spend the time researching like I should have, and instead just went with the first recipe I found. I should have known better when I saw that recipe was from Pilsbury. (How much more American can you get?) Here is the recipe I used.
After I made them, I started researching. (I know, shame on me.) First I found out that I should not be using dark brown cane sugar but rather panela, a solid sugar cane substance that is then grated into the recipe. Second, the recipe called the cookies “cucas” but according to the Word Reference Forum and Local Spanish, cuca is a dirty word in Columbia. Eek!
It just goes to show that research is important and the internet is not always correct. But regardless, the cookies were pretty good if you’re looking for something a bit different and on the line of a Columbian cookie.
I don’t think the icing is authentic either but I figured I’d add it any way. Who doesn’t like a little extra icing, right?
Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C.
Did you ever see the movie the Little Princess? If not, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. The movie centers on an English girl who is being brought up in India when her single father is called to war. He brings her back to the UK and puts her in a boarding school with no expenses spared. But when the British army believes him dead, everything is taken away from the girl and she is forced to become a maid in the school. Despite all that happens, she believes in her dreams and her father’s words that she is princess.
Every Thursday afternoon I’ve been volunteering with Spero Project and helping with the children in our local refugee community. Thursdays seem to be the day where they don’t have much homework so in general, we just play. Yesterday I put out a stack of paper, crayons, tape, and ribbon and just let the kids create what they wanted. There was everything from t-shirts, to paper finger claws, to purses. But what struck me the most were the crowns. With little girls from Malaysia, Turkey, and Myanmar, every single one of them wanted to make a crown to wear. Every one of them wanted to be a princess. As I watched them play, it reminded me of the movie. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what language you speak, all girls are princesses.
When Hubby and I moved to San Diego last July, we weren’t sure how long we were going to be there. I didn’t have a job and he was completing a one-year fellowship. With so much uncertainty, we put all of our life in a storage unit in Georgia and signed a 13-month lease for a fully furnished apartment. We drove across the country with whatever would fit inside or on top of our car. For the past 15 months we have lived out of 6 suitcases and 12 boxes (most of which are hubby’s medical books). The opportunities for us in San Diego were so great, it was worth putting our lives in a box and living from a suitcase for a while.
Yep, that is all of my life in 10×15 foot box.
As I write this, I think of all the other bloggers who are currently abroad and living from a suitcase. Like Megan from Soulshine Traveler who has jumped around South America, lived in Russia, and explored Europe. Or Ashley and Justin from This Parallel Life who moved from their New York apartment into a storage unit in Denver while they seek adventure traveling the globe for a year. Or my dear friend Mary from Mary in Haifa who has split her furniture between her parents and friends while she takes a year away from her career to complete her Master’s degree in Israel.
For each of these bloggers, they have put away their material possessions to seek something they cannot achieve at home. Whether it is adventure, culture, education, or just a change from the norm, they have prioritized the experience over their belongings. From personal experience, I can honestly say this is not easy to do. But looking back on the last 15 months, I can say it was worth it.
Hubby and I are back in the south this weekend to celebrate our nephew’s first birthday in my husband’s hometown of Dallas, Georgia. Dallas is a small city of 11,000 about 30 miles from Atlanta and a hub for southern culture. My husband’s family has now lived in Dallas since my in-laws were very young and being a small town, everyone knows everyone, something much different from where I grew up. If you ever visit, you’ll hear plenty of authentic southern accents, you’ll find a church on every street corner, and you should definitely treat yourself to some good barbecue at the local Hickory Hut.
After a busy day of helping prep for the big birthday party yesterday, the family went to the downtown square for the monthly car show. It was fun to walk around and experience my Hubby’s hometown culture while being stopped regularly by his past teachers and family friends. I also really enjoyed seeing the cars. While all of the cars were American, they ranged in age from the 1920s to present and in quality from ugly to incredible.
Arrr! While digging through some old photos, I found this picture of me from a cruise I took with my parents after I graduated from college. I know I’m late for International Talk Like a Pirate Day but the picture did get me thinking about cruising.
Cruising is my parents’ preferred method of travel. They love not worrying about transportation or packing and unpacking as they move from one country to another. They have also been extremely generous to take my brother and I along during our younger years. We have certainly had some fabulous family vacations while sailing the high seas. However, with all vacations come lessons learned. If you’re planning on cruising this winter, here are my words to the wise:
- If your 21-year-old brother/son goes missing, assume he has found some girls to hang out with and has not fallen overboard.
- Be nice to your cabin steward. He will give you a lot more chocolates on your pillow.
- Unless you are with a big group, request your assigned dining table to be with other passengers. It’s a good opportunity to practice talking to strangers in a fairly comfortable environment.
- Go to the shows. They are actually pretty good.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. It will help you keep that weight off from the buffet.
- If going with a group, be sure not to do everything together. It’s great for everyone to go do their own excursions while at port and then get back together at dinner to share stories.
- Balance eating on board and eating at port. While the food on board is included and usually delicious, you don’t want to miss out on the cultural cuisine of each country.
- Margaritas and sea sickness don’t mix.
- If you are on a cruise while in your early 20s, expect that most people on board in your age bracket are either on their honeymoon, in an on-board wedding, or are part of the crew. (Excluding spring break week.)
- Buy one of those photographs they take of you at dinner with the pirates. Eight years later, you’ll be glad you did.
September is just a month full of festivals…and I love it. This past weekend we were invited by a friend to the Greek Festival in OKC. As a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, she knew everything about the food, dances, and traditions. Being escorted by a “local” definitely enhanced the entire experience. She taught me how to pronounce everything correctly, told us what we should try and what to avoid, and introduced us to a number of the people running the festival. I even got a picture with the pastor’s wife in her full costume.
We ate our way through the festival. With each ticket came two al a carte items or the Greek dinner so Hubby and I decided to get one of each. First we did the gyro and loukoumades. We both agreed that the gyro was one of the best we’ve ever had. The tomatoes and onions were diced small making it easier to eat and the flavor was delicious.
The loukoumades were equally good. Similar to a donut hole in appearance but not texture, the fried dough balls are very light, similar to a puff pastry. Covered in honey and cinnamon, we probably ate all of our calories for the day in just that one dessert.
But we were not done yet! Next came the dinner which was a choice of lamb, chicken or pasticcio (the Greek version of lasagna). We went for the pasticcio which was served with Greek-style potatoes, green beans, spanakopita, and pita. I loved the pasticcio but the potatoes were incredibly salty. Since Hubby is not fond of spinach, I ate most of the spanakopita and it was pretty good too.
And finally we were thoroughly entertained by our friend’s daughter and her dance troop, the Opa! Dancers. Ranging from age 4 to 9, these kids put on four performances in one night.
Raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, I was never exposed much to other cultures until I went to college. Although my alma mater is also in Atlanta, it draws students from around the U.S. and the world and prides itself on diversity. It wasn’t long before I realized that Emory’s Hillel was a whole lot bigger than the Baptist Student Union. With approximately 1/3 of the student population being Jewish, it was normal to see a guy walking on campus wearing his Yamaka or groups of students walking to Shabbat services on Friday night. There was even a student in my residence hall who had obtained Israeli citizenship and served in their army between high school and college. Judaism was part of the culture I was in.
By the time I graduated, more of my college friends were Jewish than not. And though I am a Christian, thanks to my friends, I had opportunities to celebrate Passover, attended several Jewish weddings, and even had the Hora at our wedding.
Yes, that is me screaming. The hora is scary!
My first Jewish holiday was actually celebrated while I was in Argentina. It was Hanukkah and my best friend was finishing up her culinary school exams when I first arrived in Buenos Aries. While there was a huge electric menorah outside of her apartment, she had nothing inside. So I researched all I could about the holiday while she was at school and made her a paper menorah. We hung it on the fridge and every night we added a lit yellow paper flame to celebrate the oil not running out. When she came home I bought her a real menorah and even keep Hanukkah paper in closet just for her.
Last night at sundown Jewish people around the world began their celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year which starts the High Holy Days. While I won’t be joining any friends to celebrate this time around, I want to wish all my dear friends shana tovah umetukah, which is Hebrew for “a good and sweet new year.”
Start the sweetness of this new year with a Rosh Hashanah tradition of apples and honey. Find out about other green ways to celebrate at Greenopolis
When Jennifer, a dear student from San Diego, posted on Facebook that she her host family from Spain would be visiting her in California, I immediately asked her if she would do a guest post. I couldn’t think of a better way to be global from home than welcoming the family that showed her so much care and support in Spain to the U.S. As one of the most entertaining and genuine people I know, I’m so excited to share this guest blog from Jennifer on her experience.
Guest Blog by Jennifer Guerra:
Host: a person who receives or entertains other people as guests
Family: a person or people related and so to be treated with loyalty and intimacy
The sky was dark; there was a table covered with a cherry design tablecloth that had obviously been used for several years filled with food plates I did not recognize; laughter echoed from everyone in attendance and there was the sound of flamenco music in the background. I was immediately greeted with kisses on the cheek and tight hugs and was pointed to my seat. The chatter ceased and a prayer was offered to bless the food and the fellowship. Everyone quickly started back to their conversations while passing the plates of food around. I was completely overwhelmed. This was the first Sunday away from home and I was missing my family, my church, my friends, my comfort. As I smiled around and attempted to make conversation, my host mom would often interrupt saying, “She is our daughter from the States.” My host dad made sure my cup was always filled with lemon flavored Fanta and would often check in with me with his eyes. At the end of the night, once the guests were gone and the music of the crickets was all that could be heard, my host mom held my face in her hands and kissed my forehead. Looking back it was that night that sticks out in my head as my favorite time that I spent with my host family. There was genuine intentionality, love, empathy, care, and understanding.
Landing back into the US leaving that behind was one of the hardest transitions I have had to make, so when I got the news that they had the opportunity to visit, I was thrilled!!!! One of the nights they were home, I made sure to take them to the beach. There was a bonfire prepared along side with worn out beach chairs and all the works for hot dogs and s’mores. The night followed the pattern of that fist night in Seville but the roles were reversed…it was I who had to make sure to make eye contact with my host dad and reassure him that his marshmallow would indeed be ok even if it has been engulfed in flames. It was I who made sure that my host mom’s soda can was replaced, and it was I that reminded her that “host mom” was no longer a proper name for her. She was now “mi madre Española” (my Spanish mom).
You know, if you learn to enjoy the journey, the finish line will be bittersweet. It is a reminder of all the moments and struggles that made that finish line so worth it and valuable. The drop off at the airport was the day we had all been avoiding. There was a huge difference this time. The first goodbye was in a tiny airport in Spain; we truly never knew if we were going to see each other again, if the connection would ever be developed. This time around, we said “see you soon” for we are family now and family will move mountains to see each other and keep in touch. Instead of exchanging tears, we exchanged hugs and laughter as they walked into the crowd of people and disappeared. We will see each other soon and not care how many days, weeks, months and years pass by until we embrace again.
Jennifer (far right) with her American and Spanish family (sitting)