Tuesday, January 20, 2015

State of the Union (Nica Version)

It's funny to think about the last time I watched the State of the Union: in my cubicle on the fourth floor of the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill. Tonight, I'll watch it in an open air room, sipping a cold Tona and probably hitting the router because the wifi isn't the best in Nicaragua. Not only does the State of the Union mark another year passing for this administration and our country, but also for me. SOTU nights felt like quintessential DC way back when, and now, I'm barely getting internet somewhere deep in Central America. It's one way to measure how much things have changed, how much I've changed, since those cold January nights in DC.

But enough about politics.

I've already fallen a little bit in love with Granada. The city itself has charming patches, and they can't all be found in tourist sections. There are enough expats and visitors here to keep the restaurants ubiquitous and the drinks flowing. I've found an Irish pub, a few pizza places, Nica's version of Chipotle, Mexican food, American bars, and plenty of Nicaraguan restaurants in between.

The kids I'm "teaching" are precious and horrible all at once. They can be incredibly annoying. I have kindergarteners, and they punch and sass back and won't stay still for longer than 20 minutes and always want something. But they also want to be hugged and loved on all the time, and I can't help but oblige them. Well, none of us can.

And I do mean us, because you can't help falling into a group when you live with 15 other people. There's a sort of kinship I feel with my housemates and fellow volunteers. Perhaps because we all live together very...simply. No hot water is enough to make any two people bond. Or maybe it's because we all help these sweet children. Maybe it's because we all enjoy beer. I don't know. Whatever it is, I'm finding myself more and more at home with the people of Casa La Libertad, all 15 of them.

Friday, January 9, 2015

{Five Things}

In the throes of packing
I leave for Nicaragua today, and I am ready. I'm all packed (kind of); my bag is complete with two journals, sturdy sandals, and plenty of sunblock. I may be projecting, but I imagine people think I might be a little crazy to leave everything I know for a random country, a random city, a random volunteer organization and a random adventure. In my experience though, no adventure is random. Our paths are placed before our feet at exactly the right moment in our lives, if only we take notice. My next path will lead me south to warm weather and...who knows what else. The unexpected is why we travel, why we abandon the comfortable and embrace the new. I'm praying that I greet whatever comes with a positive, open heart, without fear or hesitation. I'm excited to share this journey with you.

The cutest soap and soap dish from Pottery Barn

Abilene souvenirs for my future Nicaraguan friends

Almost identical shirts that I'll probably keep in constant rotation.

And finally, I said yes to the dress BOTTLE!! #releasethecrackenfrombeingsingle
(And yes that's a drop of wine that dripped down while I was drinking this with the bride. I wouldn't have it any other way.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

All My English Feels: Review of Downton Abbey Season 5, Episode 1

Downton Abbey premiered on Sunday night, and I was filled with immense joy. I fell in love with this show after the first two seasons came out, and wrote about it shortly after (which you can read here). Apparently a lot of other people fell in love with it too, because 10.1 million Americans tuned in Sunday night to find out what's next for the Crawley family.

***Warning! Spoilers ahead!

The season opens with Edith going to visit her love child with Michael Gregson, who went off to Germany to get a divorce from his institutionalized wife in order to marry Edith, and then mysteriously disappeared. I feel sorry for Edith, who seems unable to figure out the whole life/man thing. She is always sad, and even though she's not my favorite character, I really hope she's be able to find happiness this season.

Mary is still trying to figure out what she wants from Tony Gillingham, and then he asks her to be his lover, which felt pretty bold for this period show where liberal women are often seen as pariahs. But I think it's well-timed for this season to have a little more scandal, a little more female independence, since women were finding their voice during the 20s and realizing that they didn't have to wait around for their dads to marry them off.

How badass is Cora? She told off Barrow after he thought he was so clever, and I couldn't have cheered for her more. Now that Thomas has been put in his place a little bit, I hope it leaves some room for Miss Baxter and Mosely to get together, because he's another person that can't seem to catch a break, and I think they'd be cute together.

Then there was the fire and Barrow redeemed himself a bit. He's not going anywhere anytime soon since he saved Edith while her room was burned to a crisp. As if she didn't have enough to worry about. How much did you gasp when Lord Grantham walked in on Jimmy and that woman getting it on? Though I'm kind of sad that Jimmy may be leaving Downton; he's always been very easy on the eyes.

As always, it's the little things in this show that make it one of the best on television. The witty banter between Mrs. Hughes and Carson. Bates and Anna's sweet marriage. Mary and Anna's friendship. Isis. Rose's spunk and youthful enthusiasm. The sprawling scenery out of doors and the beautiful interiors. The perfect, roaring 20s outfits. I could keep going.

Though I won't watch the rest of the season as it comes out, I'm looking forward to a long weekend of binge watching every episode when I return from Central America. I won't move from the couch, and I won't even be sorry.

Isis sometimes wishes for a simpler life at Downton.

What did you think of the premier??

Monday, January 5, 2015

Monday Meals: Taco Pie

A lot of times (about every other day), I will have a hankering for really delicious Mexican food. Though there are some good places in Abilene, both authentic and chain restaurants, I love a good homecooked Mexican dish. This is an easy, delicious recipe that can be whipped up in no time, and satisfies all.

PS. This may be my last Monday Meals for a while. I'm hoping to feature some Nicaraguan dishes in the coming months while I'm there, but I'm not sure how much cooking I'll be doing. In the meantime, I hope you find your own inspiration in the kitchen!

Taco Pie

1 8oz package of refrigerated crescent rolls
1 lb ground beef
1 1 oz package of taco seasoning
1 can black beans
1 8 oz container sour cream (original recipe called for a 16oz container, but I don't like a ton of sour cream so I only did half.) 
1 package shredded Mexican-style cheese blend
1 bag crushed tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay crescent dough flat on the bottom of a square cake pan and bake 10-13 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the taco seasoning and black beans and stir together well. When dough is done, remove from oven and place meat mixture on top, then layer with sour cream and crushed nacho chips, and then top off with the cheese.

Return to oven and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Serve and top with salsa or pico de gallo.