Monday, December 14, 2009

Best. Chocolate. Cake. Ever. Seriously.

It is the best chocolate cake you will ever make. Seriously.

Nov 13 048

No one does cakes like Toba Garrett.

1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 lb semisweet or bittersweet dark chocolate

Boil heavy cream. Turn off heat. Add chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips). Use rubber spatula to stir. Pour into bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Yields 3 1/2 cups

Nov 13 026

Chocolate buttercream
2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 lbs 10X confectioners sugar
1 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
3 Tbsp meringue powder
1 tsp salt
5 fl oz (150 ml) chocolate liqueur (like Godiva)
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups refrigerated ganache

Nov 13 019

Prepare ganache. Cream butter and shortening for 2 minutes. Stop to scrape bowl. Cream mixture for additional 60 seconds.
Sieve cocoa powder and confectioners sugar together. Add sugar mixture 1 cup at a time to creamed butter and shortening. Mix until well blended. Add meringue powder and salt and beat for one minute. Mixture will appear dry.
Add milk, vanilla extract and chocolate liqueur to buttercream. Beat until well combined.
Add ganache 1 cup at a time and beat until light and fluffy.
Yields 2 1/2 to 3 quarts

Chocolate Fudge Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz melted semisweet chocolate

Flour Tower

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and parchment (or sugar) two 8x2 inch baking pans. Measure all ingredients (except chocolate) into a large mixer bowl.
Blend for 30 seconds on low scraping bowl constantly.
Blend in melted chocolate and beat 3 minutes on high.
Spoon into pans and level well with spatula.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
Double wrap in plastic to store.

Nov 13 056

I tend to get something everywhere!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Head Coach Roberto

roberto bebe

The roots of the Academia de Atlestismo began with his grandfather.

Until he was two, Roberto lived with his mother and father. It was an unusually happy beginning for a child in Nicaragua. But his world changed that year when his father left. Not only because he no longer had a dad, but because his mother began working full time (full time in Nicaragua is Monday through Saturday) to support their smaller family, so he rarely saw her either.

Roberto spent plenty of time alone and with friends, but he also spent time with his grandparents, his absent father's parents. At age 8 he moved in with them and would go to the stadium with his grandfather (who was a track coach for the university), but when he moved back in with his mother a year later, he stopped. He played nintendo, he played with his friends, he played baseball, he forgot about the track.


When Roberto reached 12, and showed no signs of special promise at baseball (a friend of his is currently training with the Mariners, it's a common Nicaraguan dream), his grandfather began to petition him, nearly every day, to start running again. By this age it was more common to begin training for track and so there was already a group of boys Roberto's age there.

In the beginning, he was a little fat, but his grandfather and great-uncle, who was also a track coach told him he had potential. That was encouraging, but he was mostly faithful to training because that's where his new friends were.


At first he ran distance, like 5000 meter races. His grandfather had been a marathon runner and so he saw that potential in his grandson. But despite constant training, Roberto never managed to win a long distance race.

When he was 15, Roberto switched to 800 and 1500 meter races. There he had a bit more luck, winning occasionally. But at 17 he switched again, this time to the 400 meter race.

And that was that.

Months later he won his first Central American Championship in Guatemala with a time of 50.36 seconds. He felt very relaxed at the beginning of that race, he wasn't favored to win, but even today he can hardly describe the elation he felt as he felt the finish line pass by and he heard his national anthem while on the medal podium.

My entrevista 1

He followed that with a win at the same competition the following year in the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 56.87 seconds. In those years, Roberto was traveling to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Cuba and England for races.

In some of these races Roberto was representing the National Athletic Federation, in others he ran for the University Polytechnic Rivas, located in his hometown. After graduating from high school, Roberto received a scholarship of $15 per month to attend this University he had been running for (organizations can have runners within their clubs that have no other affiliation to the organization). It was because of this running scholarship Roberto was able to graduate four years later with a degree in Banking and Finance.

And what if that diverting force hadn't been there?

At best Roberto could be working in a hot bakery or pedaling a rickshaw from street to dusty street with his high school education.

But more likely he would be like the other guys from his neighborhood. Pushing a filthy arm between bars on the door of a home to beg for money, to buy a little more crack. Filled with scars from close calls with the wrong end of a knife. Or learning how to do worse while in prison for armed robbery.

But Roberto was fortunate. He doesn't have to face that person because of the support, love, community and life lessons he received at critical moments in his life from so many.

The Academia de Atletismo truly started long ago. It began with Roberto's first pair of running shoes and his first pair of track spikes, all gifts from his grandfather. It's potential grew through lunch and dinner every day for eight years at his grandparents house. It was not always a sure thing as Roberto's mother and grandfather fought with him to stay in school.

But in the end the Academia born out of and became a place for the same actions, love and the raising of a child.

And he wants that for other children in Rivas. This is why.

Roberto: I began the Academia de Atletismo first because I am very grateful for what was done for me. Now I want to help other children who are going through what I went through, or worse.

My hope for the children is not that they all win races, but that they get an education and a career. I hope that they become people who are good for society. I hope that they learn respect, discipline and to love one another as brothers and sisters.

The value of helping isn't very strong in Nicaragua. But I hope that as a group, as they help each other every day, they learn how important it is and that someday it will seem normal to them. And then they can help others.

Campeonato Infanto Juvenil C 004

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The First Atleta

Said Victor Castillo

Said: My name is Said Victor Castillo, I come from a family of 6 siblings and I am youngest. I'm 16. My mom is Hilda Esmeralda Castillo, I never knew my father. I'm in my second year of high school and right now my main goal is to become a lawyer. My family has few resources, the same as most families in Nicaragua, but I'm sure with sacrifice on my part and God's help I can become a lawyer.

I live next door to Roberto Delgadillo. One day, I was hanging around outside and he stopped to speak with me. He asked if I wanted to be a part of the running club he was starting. I liked the idea of training. I've always liked to run, but I've never been in a track club.

I like being with Roberto, he is my neighbor and I really respect him. I heard that he had traveled to other countries (as an athlete in college) to compete and the idea made me excited that some day I could leave to visit other countries and represent Nicaragua.

Festival de Atletismo 29 Agosto 09 015

Roberto: Said is very committed to his studies and is extremely disciplined. He was the first child in the club. He trains with much commitment and gets better every day. I think he has much potential as an athlete and as a student.

He lives in a home that is approximately 500 square feet with 8 family members. The front facing the main street is a concrete wall, the rest is wood and metal cobbled together. One reason it is possible for everyone to fit is because there is no bathroom in the house. Even though they are within the city, they have a pit outhouse in the small backyard where they also keep a few pigs.

As the youngest, he has suffered abuse, mostly from two drug addicted older brothers. One of his sisters, Siedys, and her husband (who both also live in the home), have taken care of Said to the extent of their ability. They provide him with clothes, food, money for school and when he was younger, they tried to protect him from abuse during the hours they were at home.

They can't always be there, however, as Siedys sews clothing in the industrial zone of Rivas and her husband is a carpenter. The Academia provides Said with a safe place to be, other friends with professional goals and an example of a different life.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Beach Break

Entrenamiento Playa Marcella 059

No, no beach break for me.

It's for the Academia de Atletismo runners! And they deserve it!

After running around the dirt track in Rivas loop after loop after loop, Roberto decided to take a Saturday and give them a little variety.

So they borrowed a friend's truck and drove the 15 miles (it's still a one hour drive) to the beach on the Pacific!

Entrenamiento Playa Marcella 023

Life in Nicaragua looks pretty good when it's through this lens!

Entrenamiento Playa Marcella 027

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Central American Youth Championship

campeonato centro Americano Costa Rica 09 004
Raylinds with his mother and little sister waiting for the bus to the competition.

On the 28th of November, the Nicaraguan delegation went with their best youth athletes to the Central American Championships in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Among these athletes was Raylinds, a small and thin athlete from Rivas. With much work, discipline and training, he had already conquered the first hurdle to qualify for this competition.

Raylinds: I felt very excited and happy to represent my country in this competition. I was very nervous because it was my first time in a central American championship. My trainer had told me that the competition would be fierce, but I was prepared to win a medal.

Everything was a new experience for me. It was the first time I left Nicaragua, and was away from my family for 4 days. In the city of San Jose, Costa Rica everything was different, the food, the way the buildings looked, I had no idea how it would be in another country.

campeonato centro Americano Costa Rica 09 104
Competition track in Costa Rica.

Roberto: The day of the competition arrived and the javelin event had 8 participants. Raylinds was fifth and in his last throw of 6 tries, he threw a distance of 42.81 meters and secured a third place finish to win a medal for Nicaragua. He yelled with happiness, it was a feeling he couldn’t describe.

Nicaragua took third place among all the countries in the competition (Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala). Now we will begin preparation for the new year as we will continue to achieve goals and to represent our country in future championships.

campeonato centro Americano Costa Rica 09 096
Raylinds (on right) with his medal.

It's Cold

Banner, Wyoming
Banner, Wyoming Pop. 65

We're hoping for a high of 0 degrees today. I'm not too sure we're going to make it!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Joandra and the Academia

Joandra Con Su Mama

Yoandra: Hello, my name is Yoandra, I have two brothers Max and Edgar. I love sports and I love running.

My mom was good at that and I know I will be better than her, because that’s what my trainer says. He says I have all the potential to become the best runner of the world. I am in fourth grade of elementary school and attend school in the morning. I am a good student because my grades are good. In the afternoon I go to my training sessions in the stadium.

I want to say that I love my coach because he is so kind to all of us.

Roberto: Nine year old Yoandra Yady Martinez Aragon was born in Rivas, Nicaragua.

She comes from a very economically poor family which was only recently able to save enough money to complete the corrugated metal roof over their three room home. But it is also a family rich in running history. Yoandra's mother, Jacqueline Aragon, used to compete in the 400 and 800 meter dash in the 80's and has won the Central American championship.

Jacqueline is willing to help her daughter in every way she can, although she is a single mother and she is working very hard to provide food and a good education for Yoandra with the little incomes she makes as an independent saleswoman.


Nicole: I'd like to point out that Yoandra's trainer is her cousin Roberto!

One hot December day last year, she was on vacation from school and came over to visit. The power was out, so without much else to do, we sat on the breezy front porch and I quizzed her on multiplication tables and long division.

She got every problem right.

Yoandra has won so far against incredible odds of poor educational opportunities, a drug and violence infested neighborhood and cultural prejudice relegating girls only to passive, sexual and maternal roles.

The Academia de Atlestismo would provide the support, comraderie and discipline that could keep her story a success throughout adolesence and into adulthood. But to do this, we need help. The Academia is providing professional training, clothes, shoes, doctor's visits, vitamins, nutritious food and more to their athletes.

All donors who provide a mailing address will receive a thank-you card with the signatures of all the athletes. If you would like to donate in someone else's name, please provide their name and address. (although sooner rather than later if it's for Christmas since the card will be coming from Nicaragua and usually takes about 1 1/2 weeks to arrive).

If you would like to donate with a credit card, simply click on the 'Donate' button on the top right of the screen. (Remember 2.9% of the amount will be taken out for accounting costs by the Paypal system)

If you would like to donate by check, just email me at the address in the upper right corner of the screen and I can get you the information you need.

If you would like to see what is needed and what costs are, as well as more information about the Academia, please click here.

If you would like any additional information, please contact me at the email address in the upper right corner of the screen.

Hey you! Thanks for reading all the way to the end! :)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hey! You Forgot Your...

Coyote Decorations

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Little Winter

But not too much winter. It's just showing up around the edges of life.

Dec 1 057

And the shady edges of Tongue River Resevoir.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Republican vs. Social Service

Click on image for interactive map from the New York Times to see food stamp rates.

Wyoming is a traditionally Republican state, no surprise there. However, here in Sheridan, that does not bear on social services. There are over 150 registered nonprofits in this town of 15,000 people.

The beliefs that the government should stay out of the way and that a community should take care of itself, including the impoverished among them, are not mutually exclusive.

In some ways, it makes so much sense. By cutting government programs out of the picture, taxes aren't as high (theoretically, as there is no Wyoming state income tax anyway) and so people who need those programs aren't being charged for them. Social service programs are supported by private donations, foundations and grants, many of which are local and therefore can address issues that pertain specifically to that community.

I've just never seen it actually work that way before.

But in this small community without many people moving in or out, it does seem to.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Still Works the Same...

Rural Life

Life on a rural road...