Monday, November 21, 2011

I came across my personal statement today as I was sifting through documents on my computer, preparing to write yet another motivational statement.  I have to say, I'm actually getting a lot of the experience I hoped for.  I'm looking back at this statement, and this is what I wanted.  This is why I chose to do AmeriCorps:

I saw a quote a few years ago that perfectly captured my persona as a young girl: “I am convinced that given a nice cape and a tiara, I can save the world.” As a bright-eyed five year-old, I informed my dad that I would travel the world. It started with a TV program about Brazil. It followed typical Brazilian families, many of whom were living in poverty.  My mission to travel the world was born of curiosity and a yearning to help people in other countries. I had no understanding of the extent of global poverty, but I knew I was called to serve.  

In high school, I pursued my dream of traveling. I developed fluency in Spanish while living with host families in Argentina and Spain. Spending time abroad increased my passion for international service, and I wanted to bring awareness of global issues back to my school. So, I founded the International Club. The club was devoted to spreading cultural awareness. Our greatest accomplishment came during my junior year when we raised $5,000 to support a global AIDS awareness campaign run by a local non-profit.

In college, I became interested in the Arab World. I was perplexed by the events in the region, and I hoped to be of service there. In my junior year, I won a grant to study Arabic in Morocco. While there, I met many Westerners who were involved with aid work.  I was inspired to put my language skills to use towards those same ends. However, when I began my job search, I was disappointed to find that Arabic-related jobs were mostly related to counter-terrorism instead of service. After my initial disappointment, I came to an important realization: It was never a particular language or region that had motivated me; it was the desire to be of direct service to others.

I will continue to “think global,” but I want to “act local.” The poverty in Washington, DC can often be just as stark as in the developing world. The cost of living is astronomical, and close to 20% of residents live below the poverty line. Each day I pass men and women asleep on cement stairs or sifting through trash to find something to eat. Of course it is impossible to know why anyone ends up in this position, but it is certainly problematic that education, healthcare, and social services are often inaccessible. Overcoming the lack of services without sufficient resources is insurmountable for many residents. I am committed to engaging in full-time service work in order to be of assistance to residents in need. I understand that service work will require me to work many hours with little financial compensation, and I am ready.

I am now twenty-three, and the five year-old girl who was convinced she could save the world is still alive in me. Along with other committed staff at Bread for the City, I will have the support and resources to make a meaningful impact. I truly believe that there is no better way to “save the world” than to start by serving my fellows.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Run a Half Marathon

Ok, I'll be honest: this will probably not happen while I'm 23.  But I'd like for it to happen when I'm 24.  And that's ok.  Part of this blog, these goals, is learning to be flexible but continuing to strive (a life lesson that I could use throughout all areas of my life).

I am still running though and Ben and I are signed up to do a 10k in mid-October.  (If you're in DC and you're interested, let me know!) I'm also thinking about doing a 15k in December which would be 9 miles and a friend and I did do the Cherry Blossom 10 miler this spring which I would like to do again next year (and may have convinced Ben to run it with me).

But I think back to summer 2010.  I was living in Chicago, I was not accustomed to running, and I made the decision to make it happen.  My goal: get to the point where I could easily run 3 miles, a few times a week.  I'm not going to say I'm THERE, because I don't always do it.  But, I can.  And Ben and I have been running together which is really awesome.  This morning, for example, we ran about 4 miles (with a block of walking in the middle thanks to me feeling a little winded- again, flexible).   I've come a long way from those 1 mile runs in Chicago last summer, and for that, I am grateful.

Considering I am very low on money these days, running is beautiful because it's free.  And I definitely benefit from the outdoor time- I'll also be biking to work, which is a great way to save money and spend more time outside!

I'm keeping the goal of running a half marathon though- next year!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I have been making SO much progress on the list...

But I haven't been blogging about it!  I'm totally slacking.  I do have a partial excuse:  We don't have internet at home yet.  F Comcast.  Woof!  We have been through such an ordeal with them, for real.  Three trips with the same conclusion, but no resolution.  Until last Monday when Garret (the only one who stuck with us) actually finished the deal.  But no wireless yet, and my computer is rejecting ethernet.  Alas, here I am at Starbucks while Ben does some lesson planning.  And I'll share with you a few recipes:

GRILLED Fish Tacos (it is VERY important that they are grilled.  Who wants fried fish tacos?  YUCK)!
-recipe adapted from

These are SOOO good!  They're extremely light and fresh, best served with chips and salsa verde! Yum city....

1 pound firm white fish, such as tilapia, snapper, cod, mahi mahi, or catfish
2 limes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for oiling the grill grates
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small head of green or red cabbage (about 14 ounces), cored and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Small can of mandarin oranges or pineapple chunks

1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
6 to 8 soft (6-inch) corn tortillas
Sliced avocado, for garnish (optional)
Salsa, for garnish (optional)
Sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Hot sauce, for garnish (optional)

1.  Place the fish in a baking dish and squeeze a lime half over it. Add the garlic, cumin, chili
powder, and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt and pepper and turn the fish in the marinade
until evenly coated. Refrigerate and let marinate at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the slaw and
warm the tortillas.

2.  Combine the cabbage, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl and squeeze a lime half over it. Drizzle
with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Taste and
add more salt and pepper if necessary.  Add canned pineapple or mandarine oranges and set aside.

3.  Warm the tortillas by heating a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tortilla at a time,
flipping to warm both sides, about 5 minutes total. Wrap the warm tortillas in a clean dishcloth
and set aside while you prepare the fish.

4.  Brush the grates of a grill pan or outdoor grill with oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot.
Remove the fish from the marinade and place on the grill. (Frying pan works too)

5.  Cook without moving until the underside of the fish has grill marks and is white and opaque on the
bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and grill the other side until white and opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes
more. (It’s OK if it breaks apart while you’re flipping.) Transfer the fish to a plate. 

6.  Taste the slaw again and season as needed with more lime juice. Slice the remaining lime halves
into wedges and serve with the tacos. To construct a taco, break up some of the cooked fish, place
it in a warm tortilla, and top it with slaw and diced avocado.

And to sweeten the deal, try this ice cream recipe:

Brownie and Coffee Ice Cream
- recipe adapted from Emiril Lagasse on

If you do the brownies right, this will be the best ice cream ever.  Try adding toasted pecans and I'm sure it would be delectable (I'll be trying it soon)! 


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 6 egg yolks
  • store bought box of brownies, prepared


Prepare a box of store bought brownies a day ahead.  Cut brownies pieces, and tear small chunks, rolling between fingers to create small, smooth chunks.  Place into a airtight container, separating layers with wax paper.  Freeze overnight. 

For ice cream, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and coffee in a medium, heavy saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat.
Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk 1 cup of the hot cream into the egg yolks. Gradually add the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream, to the hot cream. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and reaches 170 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean container. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the surface to keep a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Remove from the refrigerator and pour into the bowl of an ice cream machine.  Fold in frozen brownie chunks, place in airtight container, and put in freezer for at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Life at Twenty-Three... is hard.

Oof, this year has been such a challenge.  Thank goodness that I committed to this blog!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One Day Before International Travel!!!!

If you know me, you know I love to travel.  At least every year since I was born I've left the country (hahah, mostly to Canada).  But when I was16, I took my first solo trip abroad to Argentina.  Since then I have traveled internationally at least once each year; some years, much more.  But since returning from Morocco TWO YEARS AGO (I cannot believe it!) I haven't left the country.  BIG SAD FACE!

I've been stuck in real life- graduating,  trying to find a job,  moving (a few times), finding a job, quitting job(s)...  Travel didn't seem to fit in.  But, it's in the very thread of my being. And so, I'm very happy to announce my return to the international circuit.

My trip to Costa Rica, lasting 10 days, will be one of my shorter stays in-country.  I tend to pride myself on longer trips where I get to know the place a bit better.  But, despite being bummed that I won't have more time to refresh my language skills, this time it's all about getting out of the US. 

This is my second attempt at going to Costa Rica.  Back in Summer 2007 (after a treacherous year in Indiana), I purchased a ticket to Costa Rica, only to cancel it a few weeks later. As you know, I almost canceled this trip as well.  But even though I'm amidst a move, a rekindled relationship, and unemployment, now is the perfect time to go.

As I mentioned when I updated my list, chances are I won't be able to cross Brazil off the list.  (Brazil was the first country I ever expressed an interest in at the mature age of three).  But going to Costa Rica is an accomplishment in its own right.

As of now, less than 24 hours prior to departure, I do not have an itinerary.  There are places I would like to go: Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, Jaco... But I'm challenging myself to keep it unstructured- we'll see where the trip takes me! 

And yes, I will be taking my camera!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Update on the List!

Hold a 1 hour conversation, entirely in Arabic
---- So I don't think I had a blog post dedicated to this topic, but I can honestly check this one off the list.  Thanks to a few friends that I made through the Arabic language meet up group, a lot of flashcards, and listening to more BBC Arabic podcasts than I can to admit, I was successful at speaking for an entire hour in Arabic.

Now, I don't think I could do it again now, which is discouraging, but OK.  I don't know if I'm meant to use Arabic in my professional life.  But I do know that those roots, grammar rules and countless words are buried somewhere in my brain.

Plan an anniversary party for my parents
----  Success!  It wasn't as glamorous as I once hoped, but what ever is?  It was a great party, lots of people, and wonderful food (which I helped put together).  Check out the post here

Get personal training
----  This is EXPENSIVE, and with my life now paycheck to paycheck, it isn't feasible for the long-term.  But I did purchase a LivingSocial deal back in February for Fitness Together which is a one-on-one training facility.  Rates are around $90/hour, woof.  But the two sessions that I went to were both great! For now, I'll stick to running and yoga.  

❒ Run a half marathon

❒ Complete my yoga teaching certification; film myself teaching a class

❒ Go to Brazil
---  I may not make it to Brazil, but I leave for a week in Costa Rica this Friday!

Move in with Ben
----  We moved into an apartment this weekend!  The place is really cool, right near the Capitol.  In fact, I passed it on my way to work this morning.  I don't know that I'll ever stop thinking the Capitol building is super cool. 

❒ Take either a dance or computer class

❒ Take an art class of some sort

❒ Take 3 pictures (or create 3 new art pieces) and frame them for wall art

❒ Try 5 meet-up groups

❒ Read 5 books, that aren't romantic comedies

Start a spice garden
----  I did!  Actually, it was an herb garden, and it became a vegetable garden as well.  Little did I know how horribly hot DC would be- most of my herbs and veggies were unsuccessful (because they were in containers and dried out WAY too quickly.  But, it was definitely a learning experience and I feel much more qualified to try again in the future. 

Host a fancy dinner party while my friend on the West Coast, Alice, prepares the same meal
----  Check!  I cannot believe I never blogged about this.  But we both prepared an excellent Moroccan stew that I ate for weeks.  We even had Moroccan guests that made awesome (and authentic) mint tea.   

❒ Try 15 new restaurants around the DC and share the experience

❒ Find 15 new recipes to try, prepare them, and document the successes (or failures)

❒ Start a blog, and write in it at least twice a month

And the quest continues....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Change of Plans

Well, if you haven't already learned via FB or suspected from my Woody Allen post, big change of plans:  I'm not going to Costa Rica!  Not now at least, and probably not for any length of time in the next year or so.  Why?  Because I'm fighting the urge to move constantly, and I'm going to sit my little butt down in DC for at least the next year. 

There were many reasons for making this change but here are a few of them:

- My cousin, Lisa, and I had a conversation when I was back in Cleveland for my parents' anniversary.  We were talking about life and work and travel.  Lisa was fortunate enough to finish college at a time when the US wasn't in the Second Great Depression.  I know this because she was able to work for a while, take off and travel for a few months, and then return to her job.  If only that could still happen!  But what she said that really struck me (and I don't even know if she intended it to) was that sometimes, you have to stay put in one place for a while, even if it is uncomfortable.

- I had a job interview!  Now, this job may not come through.  And if it does, who knows if it will be the right fit or my dream job.  BUT, the fact that I had the interview gave me renewed vigor towards this city.  I have put a lot of effort into establishing connections here in DC, and I don't want to leave before the miracle  happens so to speak.

- I'm applying to Americorps, and originally I thought both Costa Rica and Americorps would be compatible timing wise.  But, I learned that the direct service branch of Americorps (called State and National) typically takes volunteers only in the fall.  This is an opportunity I don't want to pass up.

- I've been doing a lot of journaling and meditation, and I'm trying to listen to my gut.  Yes, I feel silly having told everyone my grand plans for Costa Rica, and I have no doubt that it would have been an amazing experience.  But, my gut is telling me, to the best of my knowledge, that staying here is the right choice for now. 

I was talking to a friend yesterday who paid me a tremendous complement.  She commented on the honesty in this blog- and I am really grateful that she appreciated that.   Sometimes it can be humiliating to admit that I've changed my mind, AGAIN. My being honest means that I'll remain willing to share my sudden changes of heart- of which I'm sure there will be many.  I'm just doing my best to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And just another nugget:  A friend sent me this video- its the 2005 commencement speech given by Steve Jobs at Stanford.  I found a lot of inspiration in this speech, and I think its worthy of being shared (you can find the text here).

And now, to keep working on the list, exercise more, fret less, and keep moving forward.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Contributions to a Terrific Tuesday

- Flash-mob Beyonce!
-This song
- Meeting Ben for lunch
- Dinner party plans for this evening
- Craigslist
- Pleasent weather in the mornings
- A cold pint of summer beer after work
- Maggie! And happy hours with lady friends

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Reminder

“Most people in the world are out to help, not hurt you. We spend so much time being told not to accept candy from strangers because they are going harm us that we forget that sometimes, the woman next to you on the bus just has some spare sweets to share.” – Alex

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Things I Love Thursdays

- yoga classes at Yoga District
- this amazing salted caramel ice cream recipe (freezes in a perfect gelato-like consistency)... if you don't have an ice cream maker, it's time to get one now, for this!
- walking around this city!  I can't imagine living anywhere else right now
- these shoes
- feeling sore after exercising
- Chai Creme Frappuccinos
- tea with LOTS of cream
- days that go quickly
- Baily's playlists

Today, this is so true.

I don't usually do this quote thing.  But, I love Woody Allen, so I'm going to share this one:

"If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans."

Now I just need to laugh, too.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Have the Heater On!

It's summer, and I'm sick.  I've been sick three separate times this month with the same sort of illness- its a slight cough, sore throat and glands, and stiff neck.  It hasn't put too much of a wrench in my plans, but its annoying, and I am VERY MUCH ready to be done.  The worst part is that I've seemingly recovered twice- let me tell you, false recoveries are horrendous.

At first, I thought it was stress.  Then I thought it was some horrible disease.  Currently, I'm reflecting on the very real possibility that it may be my body protesting the constant change of climate.  Not only does the city itself vacillate between moderate and sauna, but so does the office I sit in all day.  I have to have a heater at my desk sometimes, and some of the rooms are so cold I shiver.  I don't know the answer to this dilemma.  Any wisdom?

On an unrelated note, I just came across this website: Food Cyclist!  What a cool project.  I've read a bunch of the blog already and this place was a gem- Church Brew Works.  Check it out!

*note, this post does not have any pictures- I know!  I made a commitment to take my camera around with me and I didn't.  But this is a renewed commitment to having pictures on the next post.  Good news, I have my re-chargeable batteries back- thanks Emily! 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

350 Bites of Wonder

I still don't have a camera to use that takes great pictures.  I ordered one online that I was very excited about, but when I got home and opened it, I realized: hmmm, this camera sucks.  The one I already have is sooo much better.  Alas, I need to hunt down those batteries from Emily, buy some regular AAs, and get to using that old camera :)

In the meantime, I'm left with my phone.  Honestly, it does an ok job.  But just ok, in my humble opinion. 

Anyways, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the preparation of 350 appetizers is no small task.  I think I did about 4 hours of prep work on Saturday and then 6 hours of cooking on Sunday.  It all started with the shopping. 

I LOVE shopping in Cleveland.  Well, in particular, I loved shopping at Sun Plum Market in Willoughby (I also really like their impressive website).  This place is amazing.  We bought enough produce for all of my appetizers, and then some, food for 70 people and my family for the entire week... how much?  In DC, this would cost around $150.  At Sun Plum, $50.75.  I gasped.  Well, shit.  Cleveland has its upsides. 

Then, the chopping.  
I. chopped. for. hours.  Peppers, onions, olives, slicing bacon in half length wise... I even outsourced some of it to my dad (which I swore I wouldn't do).  

But it amounted to some wonderful appetizers- I didn't get pictures of them all.  But I made:

Beef and Potato Empanadas
Bacon-wrapped Prunes
Carmelized Onion, Gorgonzola and Walnut Pizza
Grilled Eggplant, Roasted Pepper, Green Olive and Provolone Pizza
Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Crostinis

yummmm city!

Beef and Potato Empanadas (adapted from this recipe)

Bacon-wrapped Prunes, super easy, no other ingredients!

Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Crostini, again, very simple

AMAZING: Caramelized Onion, Gorgonzola, and Walnut Pizza

Amazed by Blogs

After yesterday's post on hyper-connectedness, I am (as we all are) being a hypocrite.  Today, I am enjoying our connectedness as I spend copius amounts of time reading the personal insights, fears, and expressions of other human beings- people I don't know and may never know, but whom I find inspirational.

Today I stumbled across a She's in Love with the World.  The whole blog is wonderful, heartfelt, and hits very close to home.  Sarah, the blogger, has a page of quotes about travel and women and this one caught my eye:

“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.” 
                                                                                                                         — Jane Austen
I think one of my favorite things is to go from blog to blog via recommendations of the author, often found on the right-hand side.  There are some awesome people in this world, seemingly writing for me!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

We are all so ConNECted!

In an effort to think less about the future of my life, I came across this blog that has a lot of interesting articles about traveling... falling in love while traveling, getting sick while traveling, being CONNECTED while traveling...

There are no answers to this dilemma of connectedness, not that I see right now anyways. I am the proud owner of a smartphone- and it has made life easier in a lot of ways (I have a GPS, I can get in touch with any business I need to, I can listen to music for free).  But the smartphone, when combined with 9 hours a day in front of a computer, leads to utter over-stimulation- too much connection!  It's a shame that I'm on the internet so much at home, but it's even more of a shame most of us are glued to computers while traveling as well! 

Sometimes I wish I could shake the travelers around me and say, “Get off Facebook! You’re in Italy!” Technology is helpful but we need to learn to turn it off, especially when we are in a place we may never get a chance to come back to. We need to learn to the technology off. Then again, maybe I just need to learn to turn the technology off (Nomadic Matt's Travel Site).

This is not to say that I will be remove myself from the internet.  In fact, the author is a travel blogger, so just like the rest of us, he is a hypocrite.  BUT he and I both have the awareness of over-stimulation, over-connectedness, a preference to be talking to people in a virtual reality versus the ones right in front of your face.  I'm not going to analyze why that is or what I (or we) should do about it.  I'm just going to let it be. 

Just about a month from now, I'll be in Costa Rica.  I will still be connected.  But I will be without smartphone and my days will not be spent in front of a computer.  I am avoiding setting expectations, but needless to say, I am looking forward to a change of pace.