Volunteering!

21 03 2011

Whew! My weekend went by entirely too fast! I always feel like I could use an extra day, don’t you?

I told you last week that I’d let you know when my cousin posted my pictures on her blog. Well, they’re up!! Here’s a peek, but you should check them out, she did SUCH a good job! I love them all! If you live in NC and need a photographer, she’s your gal!

Recently, Chloe talked about one of her New Year’s Resolutions. Last year and this year, I made a New Year’s resolution to volunteer once a month for the year. It could be any kind of volunteer work that I wanted, from chaperoning a field trip to working a water stop at a race. I really enjoy giving back to the community, and it is a great way to meet new people and do something fun! All of the activities I’ve done so far have been one-time deals, but I’d like to find something I can do more regularly.

This month, I went with a few friends from church to help prepare food for the homeless at the DC Central Kitchen.

DC Central Kitchen’s mission is to  “use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities.” They provide 4,500 meals per day to shelters, transitional clinics, and rehabilitation homes! Now that’s a lot of food!

They get it all done with the help of a steady stream of volunteers, and some of the students and graduates of their Culinary Training Program. I think this is one of the coolest things about DC Central Kitchen: They provide culinary training and education to unemployed adults overcoming homelessness, addiction, and incarceration to prepare them for careers in the food service industry. What a great idea!

We started our day with an orientation from the volunteer coordinator, a graduate of the Culinary Training Program:

He told us everything we needed to know to get started, and led us back to the kitchen where we go to put on these:

Hairnets, plastic aprons, and gloves. Sexy, eh? I guess it’s better to be sanitary, right?

We started our 3 hour shift with some salad prep:

I helped slice up some cucumbers.

We chopped up two of these full tubs of cucumbers!

Several others peeled and shredded the carrots:

And a few others diced up some tomatoes:

After all of the cukes and tomatoes were done, they needed us to help cut up some onions for the ratatouille the others were working on:

Thankfully, this job didn’t last too long, since shortly after we started, it was break time. I don’t know that my eyes could have handled it for too much longer!

Some boys from another group helped prep the salad dressing, by blending some roasted red peppers into some Italian dressing:

That’s a lot of dressing!

Finally, the salads were assembled for delivery:

While the salad assembly was happening, I was put to work on the ratatouille:Double, double, toil and trouble!! What a crazy large cauldron! I was stirring it with a paddle, and it felt like I was canoeing through some SERIOUS seaweed!

The ratatouille had a bunch of veggies in it: eggplant, onions, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, purple cabbage…I think that’s all of them! The head chef (also a graduate from their program) put in some chicken stock and some spices to bring it all together. It smelled tasty!

I helped pack up the ratatouille, and before I knew it, it was time to go!

This was a great experience; I’m so glad I had the opportunity to do it! I love that I was doing something I love to do, and was helping others while I was doing it! I definitely want to look into future opportunities to come back. Anyone want to join me?

Last night was Eating Club, and we had a special guest. Stay tuned for a recap!

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Cuteness overload!

11 03 2011

Happy Friday everyone! I had to think about what day it actually was before writing that. Being on vacation, I forget what day of the week it is! Anyhow, Chloe is en route back to DC now and I head back tomorrow. Boo for vacation ending.

Oh, I told you that I was visiting someone very special to end my vacation. Well, that person is my cousin and her 2 month old baby!

Introducing Baby Laila!

Isn’t she just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? I think I’ve said, “Oh my goodness, she’s sooooo cute!” like 50 bajillion times since I’ve arrived.

She’s super photogenic too, which isn’t surprising, since her mom is a professional photographer.  Check out some of her mom’s work here: Tara Molles Photography.

Today,  I get to watch Tara in action! She’s got a  shoot in the afternoon, and then afterward yours truly is having a photo shoot of my own! I’ll be decked out in my tri gear and hopefully I’ll be able to work the camera just like little Laila;). I’ll let you know when Tara posts some of my shots on her blog.

I saw another cutie while I was here:

That’s Buster, my Aunt and Uncle’s 6 month old pup. My Aunt and Uncle live about 20 minutes away from Tara, so we went over their place for dinner. My Aunt made a yummy home-cooked meal for us:

Corned beef (just in time for St. Patty’s day!)

Mashed potatoes

Carrots

Corn bread

And of course, sweet tea. I am in the south, y’all;)

I haven’t had corned beef in AGES and this one was delicious! She had two crock pots going all day with two different corned beef recipes. One was pretty traditional, and the other had some orange flavor to it. I really liked the orange one; it was a creative twist on a classic. Shoot me an email if you want the recipe!

For dessert, she served this:

Holy deliciousness! This was like a chocolate chip cookie but in brownie form, topped with a chocolate glaze.  It was really sweet, but soooo good!!

Clearly, I enjoyed it.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is the recipe for you! (Passed on to my by by Aunt, who got it from a friend. Thank you!!)

Ingredients:

Cake:

2 cups brown sugar

2/3 cup shortening

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

12 oz chocolate chips

Chocolate glaze:

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup cocoa

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

How to:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cream together brown sugar and shortening. Add the eggs and vanilla until blended well.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the we ingredients.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour into a greased 13 x 9 pan and bake for 25 minutes.

While its cooking, make the chocolate glaze:

In a small pan, mix and heat sugar, butter, cocoa, milk. Bring to a rolling boil for 1 and a half minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

Poke holes in warm cake and pour glaze over it.

Serve warm. Maybe even top with some vanilla ice cream;-)

Enjoy!*

*Disclaimer: I am not responsible for a sugar rush or cavities that may result from partaking in this deliciousness.

 





Goodbye Paradise

8 03 2011

Today is a very sad day. I’m leaving the Caymans and headed back home to the States:(

BUT I will still be on vacation!! I’ll be spending the rest of the week with a very special person to end my vacation:)

This has been an absolutely incredible trip. I’m SO thankful for the hospitality of my friend Michelle and her husband Jonathan, and the opportunity I had to visit them! I’ve had a super relaxing and very enjoyable time here on Grand Cayman Island. I definitely want to come back!

Here’s a few things I learned while I was here:

1.) In the Cayman Islands, they drive on the left hand side of the road. I rented a car, so I was constantly saying to myself, “Stay to the left. Stay to the left.”

That's a left hand turn lane to my left

2.) The other cars on the road probably know that I am chanting this to myself, because my license plate is white. Rental cars have white license plates, locals have orange, buses have blue.

3.) There are wild chickens all over the island. I’ve seen roosters, hens, and little chicks. I haven’t really been able to get a good picture of them, since they seem to run away whenever I got close! The joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” now has new meaning for me.

4.) There’s a place on the island called, “Hell.” I have been to Hell and back;-)

Basically, Hell is just a limestone formation. My Fodor’s Guide said it was one of the most over-rated attractions. I would agree, but you go just so you can say that you have.

5.) Cemeteries are on the beach.

Reminds me a little of the above ground cemeteries in New Orleans. But I don’t think they always were above ground like this. According to this site, it made sense when people first settled on the island to build them in the sand becuase the heat on the island made it necessary for a quick burial, and they didn’t have the tools to dig in the limestone that makes up a large part of the island. Since the technology has become available, the burials are still on the beach, but now they are usually in vaults.

6.) The island is shaped like a wrench, and the U-shaped part faces up, and the handle is to the right. In the middle of the U, there is a large sandbar, where I went yesterday. A 30-minute boat ride from shore, and I was at Stingray City, where I was able to pet, hold, kiss, feed, and get a back massage from some friendly stingrays!

It’s crazy! The boats (mostly tour groups) just come up and set anchor. Then, these HUGE stingrays swim up to you. They were probably about 3 feet at their widest, some maybe even 4 feet! They bumped into your legs, swam at the surface skimming their fins against your belly, and let the tour guides hold them for a long time. I took my underwater camera with me, but of course I have to wait to get that developed (Developed, what? People still do that?). It was definitely an unforgettable experience.

7.) Fresh conch tastes a little like salty raw coconut meat. It’s actually quite tasty.

We may or may not have found the conch on a boat tour. It was as fresh as fresh can get. (I’ll leave it at that, since I’m not exactly sure it was supposed to be taken from its home.)

8.) You can drive around the island in only a few hours (I did it yesterday). Along the way, you will see the Facebook Cayman Shoe Tree. It’s a little off the beaten path, but its covered in shoes! I took some pics and found them on Facebook. The only info they have about it is: “See how many shoes you can find on Cayman’s not so popular beaches… YOU WILL BE SURPRISED !!!!!!!”

Those are some of the random things I saw here. But here’s a little weekend recap (sorry there’s not a lot of food pics!)

Friday: 4 mile run. Read on the beach. Photograph Michelle Kite Surfing!

Watch the sun set from their backyard.

Eat dinner on the deck. Visit with friends.

Saturday: Read on the beach. All. Day. Long.

Snorkel for a little, and dinner at this place. Sorry I didn’t get any food pictures, but since we were eating outside after the sun had set, the lighting wasn’t that great. The menus even had a little light inside of them so you could read the selections! Michelle and I were eyeing the same two dishes on the menu, so we decided to each order one and share. I love that I have friends who like to split things! I ordered the grouper: “Pan Sauteed Grouper, Marinated in Teriyaki and Sesame Oil with and Ortanique Orane Liquer and Bacardi Limon Sauce topped with steamed seasoned Chayote and carrots on a citrus sweet plantain-Boniato Mash.” Michelle had one of the night’s specials, Crispy Sea Bass. It had an equally as enticing description that I didn’t write down (sorry!) so I won’t even attempt to do it justice. Let’s just say it was DELISH!

Sunday: 3 mile run. It was really hot and I got really sweaty.

Swim with dolphins.

Kayak in the mangroves.

the mangroves are off to the right, not in the picture

Read on the beach. Made this recipe. Then enjoyed church with friends.

And now its time to say goodbye. It’s been real Grand Cayman. I had a blast here in Paradise. So long for now. I will be back.