Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Day

Bricks for Casa Padre Wasson

Today is my first day of work at Habitat Sheridan. As with all new life changes it's exciting and scary with innumerable possibilities.

When I walk into the office for the first time I will be meeting all strangers, but I have no doubt I will quickly come to feel as though I have known them forever.

And yes, that could be good or bad!

Buuuut, I'm sure in this case it will be good.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Americorps and the PSO

Busy V's

Do you know what a PSO is? Neither did I.

What about TCB, VMSU or VISTA? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Welcome to the world of the US government. Unfortunately, even though I don't receive the benefits (such as all federal holidays off), I still have some of the responsibilities including learning and translating a crazy quantity of acronyms.

Vista (the program I am a part of) was founded in 1965 (Volunteers in Service to America) by President Johnson. The organization was put under a new umbrella of Americorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) by President Clinton in 1993. Other groups which were created in the mid-nineties and put under the CNCS include Teach for America and the Senior Corps.

Vista was created specifically to fight the war on poverty. Every Vista Volunteer works within local organizations which attempt to alleviate poverty within their community.

They also only take on responsibilites which provide indirect service. That means they don't teach kids, feed the hungry or directly serve the poor. We are a capacity building group, we are there to work ourselves out of a job.

We will organize programs, train volunteers, write economic plans. And then we will leave.

We are only there for a year (in most situations). We will come, learn, plan and teach. Then, if all goes well, if we are astute in our observations of need, ability and cultural expectations, if we are careful in our prioritizing and communicating, if we are lucky, our work will be carried on by those in the organization we served and the community we lived.

And the Pre Service Orientation (PSO) is where you learn all that!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Adjusting Again

NPH Nicaragua New Property

It's still hard to believe I'm not going back.

Almost two months after I left Nicaragua, even though I felt very ready to move on, I find myself looking back.

I suppose it's a natural process to reflect on those two years, moments gathered together in a catagory because they happened in the same geographic region.

I'm still not quite sure what to say when asked where I'm from. Saying I'm from that little third world country seems rather presumptuous that Nicaragua would want to consider me one of their own.

But I'm not from anywhere in the US in particular anymore either. I'm headed toward Wyoming, but I'm not there yet and it's going to be temporary too.

So I suppose I'm still between countries. Never quite belonging to one, but not fully adjusted to the other either.

How long does it take to belong?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why Write

Teepee Raising
The teepee building team on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation 2003 (I'm on the right, still in glasses)

I have a confession, I am not perfect.

Ok, that's it, I'm not perfect.

I don't have a perfect memory either.

And I don't know everything! While I may have pretended otherwise in front of you at some moment, I really don't (and I've known for quite awhile that I don't).

So, while I love letting you know what I'm up to, my opinions on everything and believing that you think it is just as enthralling and awe inspiring as I do, this blog isn't actually just for you.

It's also for me.

Someday I will go to work at the same place day after day and hopefully I will love it. But it will not be the stuff of exciting posts. And those days that are especially not thrilling at this everyday-job-of-my-future, I will look at these posts, reminise and say to myself....

What was I thinking?!

Because I'm still learning, still changing, still forgetting the lessons I should have already learned.

But this blog will help me remember ancient history, you know, like 2003.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lemon Mousse

Nostalgic Lemon Mousse

Easter in my family is full of traditions. Being a pastor's kid, it's the end of a hectic week and everyone is ready to sit back and relax in some of the first sunshine of the year.

Lemon Carnage

But the belly full of ham, scalloped potatoes, rolls and green salad want something more before quieting down completely for the day.

It wants a light dessert.

And so I thought lemons! Lemons can be a light dessert!

And I was right. They can be.

But this recipe was not it.

Whisking Lemons

Don't get me wrong. It was good.

It was real good.

It just wasn't light, it was one of the richest, most decadent desserts I've ever eaten.

But man, it was worth it!

Lemon Mousse

Lemon Mousse Recipe:

Lemon Curd Ingredients according to the Pie and Pastry Bible (more complete recipe found there, you can also sometimes find lemon curd already made in your grocery store)
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (I left this part out 'cause I don't like it)
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
6 Tbsp lemon juice
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
a pinch of salt

Whipping Cream Ingredients
1 cup whipping cream

Beat yolks and sugar until well blended in saucepan. Stir in lemon juice, butter and salt. Cook over medium-low heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and resembles hollandaise sauce. It must not boil or it will curdle. When mixture thickens (196 on thermometer), pour it through a strainer. Press with back of spoon until only coarse residue remains. Gently stir in zest if desired and cool.

Beat whipping cream until it has stiff peaks.

Fold whipping cream into curd until desired intensity of lemoness! Use with ladyfingers for charlottes, eat alone, or with classy nilla wafers.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hierloom Recipes

Heirloom Recipes

Food is traditional. Inherently it is passed down from one person to another, no matter how indirectly.

I wanted to make sure I preserved my families food traditions, so a few years ago, I contacted my grandmothers and mom to make sure I received the recipes they considered theirs and family tradition.

Maybe I should have known since I had to ask, but I didn't exactly recieve an avalanche of information. I got a couple cookie recipes.

So I've adopted recipes from my best friend, too many ex-boyfriends mothers and other random places of recipes I like.

I figure if you can make families in any way, you can make family recipes in any way too!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gardenia Sweetness


My memories of my grandparents are inextricably linked to the wafting fragrance of flowers around their homes.

As they have all sold or are selling their homes and moving into retirement places, I try to keep those memories in other ways.

Here, in a photo of the last blooms at the back steps, I even love the imperfections of the bruised petals because that's how they really are.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Prickly Ornament

Prickly Ornament

A liquid amber tree

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dutch Babies (aka German Pancake)

Grandpa's Lemon

Mmmm, lemons from Grandpa's lemon tree. Does it get any better? Any tarter? Any sweeter?

What could I possibly do with those that warrant carrying them from San Diego to Spokane?


An old favorite for sure, Dutch Babies. Corrupted from the word 'deutsch,' they're really traditionally German pancakes. A really thick, eggy pancake.

And a Little Bit of This

A fairly neutral base, they're made of just egg, milk, flour and salt.

Lemon Cuts

More importantly, they serve as the perfect conveyor of mouth puckering lemon and snowy powdered sugar to my mouth.

Powdered Goodness

Perfect to share with my family after six months away, or to eat all by myself as they all go to work!

Oven Babies

They'll raise in the oven to impressive (and sometimes scary) heights due to the steam created by the water in the butter. The moment they're taken out of the oven, they begin to fall, so serve immediately.

Dutch Baby Served

Dutch Babies Recipe:

3 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 - 3 Tbsp butter

Preheat 10 inch oven safe skillet or muffin tins at 450 while preparing batter. Beat eggs, flour, milk and salt in blender on high speed for one minute (can also be done by hand, but takes a little longer). Melt butter in skillet or tins (divide butter equally), tilting to cover bottom and sides. Pour in batter.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, the lower heat to 350 and bake another 10 minutes.

Serve with lemon juice and powdered sugar. Other options include applesauce and cinnamon, honey, jam or maple syrup.

Littler Dutch Babies

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Too Much Too Quickly


We've all heard about it, we've all complained about it. We've all thought to ourselves, 'well, I probably shouldn't.'

But somehow, just about all of us manage to accumulate incredible quantities of stuff. Some call it affluenza, others call it the American way.

And in the process of aquiring and maintaining, it can get in the way of living.

My grandparents are having difficulty paring down their posessions to move from their three bedroom home of 24 years into a two bedroom apartment in their retirement village.

I had to leave almost half of my things in Nicaragua after only two years because I didn't want to pay for more than one 50 pound suitcase. I had taken two suitcases there, but managed to accumulate as much as I used up.

With the recession, sales statistics clearly show that people aren't spending as much money, but have we, as a country, truly changed our ways to avoid repeating what brought us here in the first place?

It doesn't seem like it.

What do you think? And more importantly, what are you going to do (or not do) about it?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Persistance Doesn't Always Pay Off

Ok, I think this is the last of the family home videos and photos I'm going to torture you with, at least for a little while.

While Charlie is persistant, he doesn't always find what he is looking for!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Good for America

NCTHA House 2003

A house for the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Housing Authority, built by HOPE VI funding and lots of volunteers!

The Edward Kennedy Serve America Act has been passed by the house and will be signed into law as soon as President Obama returns from the G20 summit!

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, the new service bill will (among other things) increase the number of Americorps volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000 over the next eight years.

It also will increase support for social entrepreneurialism. For those of you with short attention spans like me, here is a link of the highlights.