Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tourin' the South Part 1

(Last summer my mom and I went on a road trip through the South. I wrote this recap on a different blog last year. I thought I'd write it up again, add photos, and share the trip with new readers. Enjoy!)

Mom and I have been planning this trip since last Fall, and by "planning" I mean buying plane tickets, draw an imaginary circle, and mentally taking notes of places we'd like to visit. I've never been to the South, and Mom has been to one or two of these states, so this seemed like a great opportunity. Both of us love history and this of course is a great place to study. We only had a few certain things on our itinerary. Instead, we are winging most of this trip!

Day 1 - Tuesday, June 29th - Our town to San Diego
Mom doesn't want to consider this part of our trip, but since it involved getting up early and traveling, I will consider it. We stopped at David's Bridal in San Diego so I could order a bridesmaid's dress for a September wedding, and made a couple of stops at some stores (where I found shoes for the wedding for $15!), and picked up Nick and Linda at the airport and went out to dinner.

Day 2 - Wednesday, June 30th - San Diego to Nashville, TN
Nick and Linda got up early to take us to the airport. After dropping us off they headed back to Mexico to be the wonderful people they are and help hold down the fort while Mom is away with me :) Our flight was from San Diego to Denver, then Denver to Nashville. It was nice because each flight was only about 2 1/2 hours, and our layover was only an hour. I'm so used to flying Alaska, that it was a little weird to fly a different airline (Frontier), but of course it was fine.

We arrived in Nashville and got our rental car and were on the road by about 6:30. Our hotel was south of town, but flipping through a tour guide for the month of June showed that they were showing "The Wizard of Oz" at a park in Nashville for free, so we headed over there, thinking it started at 7pm. Well, it didn't start at 7, but waiting around for the movie gave us enough time to get some popcorn, strawberry lemonade, and cupcakes bought from a bus. We didn't end up staying for the movie, but we got in plenty of people watching. For me, it was so nice to sit outside on a warm summer evening and not be cold! Mexico can be warm during the day, but at night it gets so chilly - I never sit outside at night without a big sweatshirt and jeans!
We made our way to the hotel, and settled in.

Day 3 - Thursday, July 1st - Nashville, TN
We had scoped out our day to include plantations and music. We stopped first at the Belle Meade Plantation, a plantation built around their thoroughbred horses, one of which is the ancestor of many champion racing horses in America. A beautiful place, we were the first ones there and got our own tour guide through the mansion.
After that we headed into downtown to visit Jack's BBQ on Broadway. We seemed to hit the restaurant just as the Presbyterian convention liberated its people for lunch, so we had to wait a while. When you are waiting for something like this, you always wonder if it's worth the wait. It was. I had a pork shoulder plate with green beans and mac and cheese. Delicious. One thing I enjoyed was the ability to choose your own side of bbq sauce. The highlight of the meal was when Mom got up the courage to pass her cards to a group of Presbyterian pastors. Networking!

Jack's was a recommendation from a friend, as was Hatch Show Print, the famous printing house known for its distinct style. Still in business, Hatch Show Print creates many show posters and announcements that you continue to see around town. They had fun posters to see, and fun souvenirs.

We headed over to the Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 - 1974. We took the tour, which was a nice precursor to the show we were going to see later on in the evening. I knew the Ryman was an important building, but gaining all of the information about the start of country music and the community it influenced was great. They had a small, special exhibit about Johnny and June at the Ryman. It was amazing to know that this was the very stage where so many influential country stars got their start.
After the tour, we meandered around downtown, looking at boots, checking out the river, getting some ice cream.
We were scheduled to see a concert at the Ryman, so we walked back over and were surprised to find that there was a pre-concert concert on the plaza in front of the auditorium. It was a great distraction while we waiting for the doors to open. At 7:30 we got to see Ricky Skaggs and the Kentucky Thunder, a wonderful show included in their Bluegrass Grass Nights at the Ryman series. Seriously, wonderful musicians. It was such a fun show, a great environment, and very inspiring. Ricky's band were so talented, it was just amazing to watch, it (mostly) distracted me from those hard wooden pews!

Friday, July 29, 2011

A good read

We all need a good read once in a while, right? I couldn't help but snatch this picture.
By the way, those spots on the floor: I didn't put them there, and they won't wash away. I try not to be that gross.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Manfriend time.

Hey there! It's only been two weeks (insert eye roll) since my last blog entry. On one hand I haven't had much talk about. On the other hand, I have, but have been lazy with my camera. I'll try to do some updating as I go along, but I can't promise that it's terribly exciting.

Manfriend came and visited last week. We had last seen each other at the beginning of June, and the span of time from June 5th to July 16th (6 weeks) was the longest stretch we had gone without seeing each other since we've been together. We did it, though. On visits past we've taken a ton of pictures, but I guess our excitement has died down. We took one obligatory "we're together so we should take a picture" picture.

Manfriend actually works from home, and so this time he brought his work with him. What a jip. We spent most of our days apart, while I taught kids and did dishes and other stuff, and he hid away in his room, working on his computer. That was strange, but a good introduction to what it will be like when we both have real jobs, and aren't seeing each other all day because we're on vacation, visiting each other.

I insisted on taking a picture when we made milkshakes. Why? Manfriend had never had homemade milkshakes before. WHAT? That's crazy. I know! That's why I took a picture of the occasion!

By the way, that is a look of pure enjoyment, not disgust. I know it could go either way.

Manfriend left me all by myself here in Mexico. He was like "Sayonara!" and off he went. It was easier this time, however, because I will see him at the end of August, and at THAT time we will start living in the same city. Excitement abounds. Also, we e-mail about 20 times a day, so we can't miss each other that much, right?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A good run

I've still been easing back into the running thing. And when I say easing I mean like... really easing. Even Tuesday I was running a super slow pace and only did 3.5 miles, although I wanted, and intended to do 4. Today I just set out and told myself to just run, no matter the pace or distance.

So I ran, and I kicked it up a notch, thinking that I would just run faster for however long I felt that I could, no pressure. Somehow, but by the grace of God, I ran 3.5 miles at that pace. A full minute off of my mile pace from Tuesday. I have no idea how that happened, but it did. And it felt good.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Love Charts

This is why usually I can't talk to people about things - it never ends up as a real discussion. Not only that, when having a discussion presenting new ideas or wondering about different sides/takes on things is never accepted. The other person has never been okay with just the wondering. When I can't wonder, I quit.

Source: I Love Charts

Friday, July 8, 2011

Harbor Run

I came up to San Diego yesterday, and spent the night last night. Usually when we're in San Diego I don't bother running because we don't stay in an area that's good for it. However, I didn't want to push my run to  tomorrow morning (Saturday), so I decided to be brave and drive down to the harbor for a run.

I had visions of a cool morning by the harbor, gleefully running along. But, just like my town in Mexico, San Diego has been experiencing a mini-heat wave. It's not exactly extremely HOT (it was about 85-90 yesterday), but it's been humid, which just makes it worse.

I do not run well in the heat. I never have. This is one of the main reasons I get up at the crack of dawn to run. I hate running in heat. But, at 6:30 this morning the temperature was already at 75, and humid. I had planned on doing 4 miles, but I think I only got in about 2.5. I'm actually fine with this, because, after all, 2.5 miles is better than nothing.
It really is a nice place to run (save for comments made by men on benches). I specifically ran away from the restaurants and attractions and out toward the airport - there's a path that goes quite a ways. There are a lot of people out biking, walking, and running, and the parking at the actual harbor is free before 8am.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I have spent too much time over this past school year working on letters with my kids, and now I'm finally focusing on some real English basics. I think this has been an okay decision in two ways:

1) Now that my kids have heard English and have, by themselves, picked up English words through class usage, I feel that they're listening more intently and repeating better.
2) Sadly, we have less kids during the summer. This is sad because this means some kids won't get these English lessons. However, this means that the kids I do have focus more easily and it's a little more fun to do activities with them (not as much classroom management).

At the end of last week I was teaching the kids "my name is _____", but I know that they can't simply repeat it a couple of times and have it memorized. I had to think of some activities to help them cement it in their brain. So, we did a few fun things.

*On the first day that I taught them the phrase, I gave them a piece of paper that said "Hi! My name is ______". I filled in the blank and gave them a circle for them to draw their own face. I made my own example of "My name is Meghan" and drew my own face.
*On the second day, when we reviewed, I found little paperdoll-esque cut outs and had the kids color in the figures as themselves. When they were done, they attached these to a popsicle stick, and I had them practice with their "puppets", saying "my name is ____".
*Then, in their first lesson this week I had them work with play-doh. We needed something to break the monotony of paper and crayon. I instructed them to make a little person out of their play-doh, a model of themselves. When they did that, I asked "What would your person say? They would say 'my name is____'."

I can see now how these lessons have really helped to make the phrase stick in their heads, and given them ample opportunity to see it used. Also, by giving them a lot of positive reinforcement (even if their speaking wasn't that good), I've given them the courage to try even more things, as I had a class today try to say "What's your name?" and have someone give an answer.

I didn't take many play-doh pictures, but I got a few from my oldest class. This was one of my examples for making a version of yourself. I'm pretty impressed with myself and how the hair turned out. I know I impressed my kids.
 Oh yeah. Hard at work.
 At least Martha is hard at work.
 Rodrigo's rendering. I told him it had big muscles, and he said "Yeah - like Kevin!" Kevin is our super tall intern.
 Two more little people. Sorry they're not upright!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


There are a lot of drinks in Mexico that I don't really care for. I can pass on the horchata, the atole, and many of the aguas that are available at taco stands and street markets. I have, however, found one I really like, and that's jamaica. I know that when you read that it looks like Jamaica, the country, but I assure you that it's jamaica, better known to Americans has the hibiscus flower. In Spanish, it's pronounced ha-MY-ka. My question up in the air right now is whether the country or the flower was named first, but I still have some research to do in that department.

I enjoy a nice cup of jamaica, but when I buy it here in town it's usually super sweet. Have you heard about Mexican Coke and how it's sweeter than the American version? It's true, and I think it must apply to every other drink here in Mexico as well.

When I was visiting Seattle, I had jamaica at a Mexican restaurant that was just perfect. It was sweet, but I could still taste the tartness of the flower, and I just loved it. At that point I realized I needed to learn how to make my own jamaica.

After some quick advice from a couple of people here at our mission, I set off to accomplish my jamaica-lovin' dreams. And accomplish I did. It was so incredibly easy, and I was so happy to be able to monitor the amount of sugar involved in the process. So here's how to make jamaica.

My dried jamaica flowers were in a plain, unmarked bag, but then again, I live in Mexico. You might be able to find it at a Mexican grocery store where you live, or perhaps in the Mexican food aisle. You can see how much I used, and this eventually made about 3-4 liters of juice.
 Just stick the dried flowers in a 3-quart size pan, filled about a 1/3rd with water.
 Boil for 15 minutes.
 Use a colander to catch the flowers as you collect the concentrate.
I put the water in the containers before the boiling concentrate, so I wouldn't be pouring boiling water into those plastic containers.
I put the juice in the refrigerator, and then added sugar to taste when it was cold.

Uhh... Yum.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Last year one of our interns started a little side business of selling treats to our visiting American groups. It worked out great - she would make the treats and just set them out in our large dining hall in the afternoons and evenings. The group members would just leave money in a jar. She enjoyed baking, and so this was an obviously great way for her to earn a little extra cash.
She went home at the end of July and I decided to take over the "business". I make some pretty awesome chocolate chips cookies. I can say that with a straight face and a firm belief. I've never had a homemade cookie as good as mine. I get requests for them from friends and family, and I have made them for travelings rock bands (who then ask for them the next time they're in town OR ask for the recipe to give to their wife - true story). Trust me on this, guys. I am a person who can fully acknowledge when I don't do something well. I'm actually pretty good at saying "eh, this didn't turn out great". I don't do many things well, but these cookies are out of this world.

I couldn't just sell chocolate chip cookies though, even if they are as scrumptious as everyone says. I rounded out my offerings with brownies, peanut butter cookies (that are also quite delicious), and the famous peanut butter bars. The former intern gave me this recipe.

I want to tell you right now that I'm not a peanut butter/chocolate combo lover. I've never liked it. HOWEVER I heard over and over again about how good these bars are. Last week I made two trays of them because they were sold out almost immediately. They're fairly simple to make and don't require baking. Here's the recipe, for all interested parties (and for your interesting parties).

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
4 cups crushed graham crackers
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups peanut butter
1 cup butter (melted)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 Tablespoon oil

Just looking at those ingredients, you can see how great this could be. 
Crush the graham crackers. I use a rolling pin (or other objects) and a plastic ziploc.You can use other methods, but I cannot guarantee success.
Mix together all crumbs, powdered sugar, peanut butter, and butter. I put the melted butter on last, as I think it helps with the mixing.
When it's all mixed together well, spread at the bottom of a 9x13 pan. I've just figured out that using the back of a spoon to smooth it out helps a LOT. It only took me 12 times of making these suckers to figure that out.

Melt chocolate chips and oil together and mix well.
Spread chocolate on top of the peanut butter/crumb mixture. It's a much thinner layer. 
Refrigerate for an hour, cut the pieces, then keep refrigerating for a few more hours, until completely firm. Cutting them after an hour prevents the top chocolate from hardening completely. If the chocolate is completely hardened, it's hard to cut, and the chocolate just cracks and splits.

Voilá! You have just made Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars and everyone will think you are the best person ever. Have fun being popular!

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I finally ran 5 miles today. It doesn't seem like much, but it's been a long time to get back to this point. I had give myself the time, and be patient with myself.

The reality is, I have a weakness. This weakness is soda. I can live without sweets (and often do when I live by myself), but I love soda. I know regular soda is bad for me, and diet soda is just as bad, just without the calories. But I have a weakness.

And that weakness is called Mt. Dew. Living in Mexico, I rarely have it - they don't carry it here. Every once in a while I get it when I go to the States.

The last time I went to the States, a week and a half ago, I picked up a can, brought it home, and put it in my refrigerator. It has stared at me, all that time, and I decided that it could only be consumed after running a 5-miler.

Finally! Today, you are mine, Mt. Dew.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jogging the World

This week we had a visit from a stranger.

One of our friends here in town has an ambulance and offers EMT services. This is important in our area because emergency services of any kind (Fire, Ambulance) are hard to come by, especially in the outlying communities. He has also been hired to provide EMT watch on many of the big off-road races on the Baja.

Somehow, Tony Mangan got a hold of him, and he escorted Tony for a while this week. Why would Tony need an escort and EMT services?

Because he's running around the world.
I know, I know, if you're a runner, you've probably heard it before. Dean Karnazes runs across the States, so-and-so runs around the world, but Tony is serious.

This isn't a "let's run around the northern hemisphere" run. It's not a "I'm gonna skip whole continents" run. This is seriously running around the entire world. It will mostly likely take 4 years. 

And he will cover 31,000 miles.

I thought I had a hard time finished 3 and a half miles this morning.

We offered Tony a bed for the night, a warm shower, and wireless internet. We got to talk about his trek over lunch. After years of racing, Tony is getting to accomplish his real goal - running around the world. You can follow him on his website.

As for my own running, I haven't said much about trying to get back into it after a lazy Spring. I walk (run!) a fine line between not being too hard on myself or not expecting too much, and telling myself I can absolutely be back at where I was. It's frustrating to find myself "running" paces so much slower than I ever have, yet I know it will only get better with time. We'll see. I have an American treat in my refrigerator for when I finish that "first" 5-miler.