Monday, December 29, 2008

Trying to stay strong, spirit willing:

Rooming with Hannah at Sarah & the Mollys' house this week. It is lovely. My life lately has been full of wonderful coincidences. Thomas canceled our Spanish lesson tonight (I wasn't prepared). I got a job immediately after school let out. Hannah flew into the KC airport, giving me an excuse to meet up with a dear old friend in Independence.

Currently sitting in Sarah & the Mollys' living room unwinding with a glass of wine and wishing, as always, for just a little bit more out of life.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dulce de leche!

¡Feliz Navidad! Though I am now employed, I still had to take the cheap way out and make a few Christmas gifts. So I decided to make Dulce de Leche! My friend Anna told me you could just boil a can of sweetened condensed milk and get a version of Dulce de Leche. It doesn't compare to the real thing, but it satisfies a craving.

I read a few recipes online and went for it.

And failed. Don't poke holes in the top of the can. I read this on a few websites alongside warnings of exploding cans and tried it. The milk leaked out and the cans were making some pretty violent sounds.

So I started over and managed to get it right the second time. Here is what I did!

Take the labels off of a few cans of sweetened condensed milk. Do several, because it takes 2-4 hours. The only other thing you will add is a little vanilla. And love, but that is optional.

Stick the cans in water in a large pot. It needs to be deep enough that the cans can submerged in the water by an inch or so. All the recipes I looked at said this will keep anything from exploding. Sounded good to me.

Boil the cans in the water for 3-4 hours. If water starts to boil off the top, make sure to add more (so the cans don't explode...). I boiled mine for just under 4 hours, but I think I could have boiled them a bit longer.

Cool down the cans before opening them (again, explosion rumors). I just left the cans in the pot and threw in a few ice cubes and cold water. You should get something that looks like this (and tastes like heaven):

To make it even yummier, add a bit of vanilla. I added about twice as much as is shown in this photo.

And the final result!!

This shortcut to happiness is worth it. Try it on pancakes and crepes or use it as a dip for apples, pretzels or nuts. YUM! My friends Matias and Pablo would tell you to skip the crepes & apples and just eat it with a spoon.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Santa Baby" singer dies on Christmas

Eartha Kitt died today from colon cancer. She was 81.

Check the New York Times and the Washington Post for a few good pieces on her life.

To my generation, she may only be famous for her song, but I do remember her from movies like Harriet the Spy & Holes.

She was born to sharecropper parents and worked her way up...all the way to Hollywood. She even dated Sammy Davis Jr. She has quite the story. I think the picture Wil Haygood paints of her in the Washington Post piece is priceless. I wish one of my grandmas walked around in a yellow turban with a poodle in each arm.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Feliz Navidad

I can't help but think about the people I love on Christmas, and many of them live very far away. Here is a completely inappropriate, offensive video that reminds me of a French man I love very much, Vincent. Enjoy.

Monday, December 22, 2008


It was so cold today that I didn't have to pay the parking meter while I was working at El Rancho. The meter maids took the day off.

And I don't blame them.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Because Kyle Cook is awesome, I got to see Slumdog Millionaire today for free. I really enjoyed this movie. It reminded me a bit of Kite Runner (the book, I still haven't seen the movie), but less graphic and less depressing.

Be sure to stick around for the Bollywood shout out at the end!

Spanish word of the day

laughing stock

literally: make me laugh

I had to look this word up and sound it out several times before I realized how obvious the definition is! "Haz" is the command form of "hacer" which means "to make" and "reír" means "to laugh." Brilliant.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Spanish word of the day

This one comes from Disfrutando la Gastronomía, where I am learning some good Spanish cooking vocabulary. I can't wait until I am finished with this semester so I can spend some time experimenting w/ the recipes!

dientes de ajo:
cloves of garlic

While I was in Madrid, I think I mistakenly used the phrase "clavos de ajo," because it sounded like a more direct translation. I am glad I was wrong, because a garlic tooth is way cooler than a garlic clove!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Finals week!

This week has been productive:

2 tests taken. I understood all the questions, that has to be a good sign!
1 movie watched. Razzle Dazzle, a mockumentary about preteen dance competitions. It is as amazing as it sounds: it's in Nancy's top 10 now.

Lots of artificial substances in my body. Too many of them coming from the robusta bean.
1 story written for the Missourian. 1 to go.
1 Christmas present bought! My savings account is now quite tragic, though it did not make me cry, unlike one of the guys I interviewed today about the economy.
1/2 an inch of snow. I didn't make the snow, but I did make it get the hell off my car.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ry Cooder & the Dodger Stadium

I've been teaching Spanish to Tom since I got back to the states. A few weeks ago, he introduced me to a bilingual album by Ry Cooder, Chavez Ravine . A summary from by Thom Jurek explains the album better than I could:

"It documents in mythical style the disappeared Los Angeles neighborhood of Chavez Ravine, a Mexican-American district that fought over by real estate developers, urban planning activists and city government. It was bulldozed in a sleazy deal was cut and it was razed order to erect a stadium that would lure Walter O'Malley's Brooklyn Dodgers to L.A."

Tom and I worked through the song Barrio Viejo (old neighborhood) and learned a lot of vocabulary. I translate a few stanzas below, to give you a taste of its poetry.

Here are the lyrics to the song, which I am posting because it was actually quite difficult to find them. When I did find them, it was in an obscure chicano literature newsletter and I'm pretty sure whoever put it together just wrote down the words to the song as he/she heard them. I fixed the few errors I found, but there are probably still inaccuracies.

Barrio Viejo

Viejo barrio, barrio viejo
Solo hay lugares parejos
Donde un dia hubo casas
Donde vivió nuestra raza.

Solo quedan los escombros (Only ruins remain
De los hogares felices Of the happy homes
De las alegres familias Of the happy families
De esa gente que yo quise. Of these people who I loved)

Por las tardes se sentaba
Afuera a tomar el fresco
Yo pasaba y saludaba
Ya parece que oigo el eco.

Como está Doña Juanita.
Buenas tardes Isabel.
Hola que dices Chalita,
Como está Arturo y Manuel.

Viejo barrio, barrio viejo
Que en infancia te goce
Y con todos mis amigos
Iba descalzo al a pie.

De lay Mayer hasta “El Hoyo”
Desde “El Hoyo” hasta la hacequia,
De la hacequia hasta el rio,
Ese era el mundo mio.

Dicen que eramos pobres, (They say we were poor
Pues yo nunca lo note. Well, I never noticed
Yo era feliz en mi mundo, I was happy in my world
Ese aquel barrio que adore. In this neighborhood I adored)

Bonitas las serenatas
A las tres de la manana
Que le cantaba a mi chata
Pegandito a su ventana.

Por la calle de el convento,
Una casa destruida,
Quedó como momumento
Al gran amor de mi vida.

Pobrecito viejo barrio,
Como te debe doler.
Cuando en nombre del progreso
Derrumban otra pared.

Viejo barrio, barrio viejo, (Old neighborhood, neighborhood old
Yo tambien ya envejecí I also have already gotten old
Y cuando uno se hace viejo And when one gets old
Nadie se acuerda de ti. No one remembers you)

Vamanos muriendo juntos, (Let's go, we are dying together
Que me entierren en tu suelo That they would bury me in your ground
Y seremos dos difuntos And we would be two dead
Rodeados de mil recuerdos. Surrounded by a thousand memories)

To me, this is another "paved paradise" song. I love its sentiment and historical value. I also love that there are two different words for happy in this song. Alegre and feliz. The reason other languages captivate me so much is this-the subtle differences you can't translate.

Spanish word of the day

whimsical, capricious

As in: La pelicula Big Fish es caprichosa. The movie Big Fish is whimsical. Speaking of Tim Burton, how excited are you about the Alice in Wonderland movie? If you haven't already seen it, check out Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Sweet.

Anyway, I like both of these words because they both sound whimsical. The 'ch' sound isn't very popular in Spanish, which adds to the foreign-ness of the word for me.

(Thanks for helping me out David!)

So long ago!

Here's a little gem from the freshman year iLife competition. Noey and Damian look so young! Nancy looks exactly the same. Be sure to stick it out til the end-there's a blooper reel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My dear friend Parker's blog lovely. He is an old friend with a sharp eye. He did photo-j at the Journalism school. The man has skills.

Spanish food blog

The other day I found this great food blog in Spanish, disfrutando de la gastronomía (enjoying food or gastronomy). It is done by a Culinary Arts Professor in Toledo, Spain. It's all in Spanish, but the recipes vary. Some are traditional Spanish food, but a lot of it is recipes for food from around the world. I'm excited to learn some cooking vocabulary and hopefully some traditional Spanish recipes! Check it out!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spanish word of the day

dumbfounded, astonished

I love this word because it is so simple. Boca is mouth in Spanish. Abierta is open. Open-mouthed. Jaw-dropping. Love it.


If I could have any super power, I would choose communication. Now, that may seem like a lame Heart on Captain Planet. Look, he's always in the background on the group pictures. Wouldn't I rather make tornados or fly or something?

No. I wish I had the time to learn every language on the planet. I don't, but I try not to let that discourage me from trying. This website is perfect for those who are mildly curious about other cultures and languages. Anytime I think about seriously taking up a third language, I go check it out here first. The website has a great index and great descriptions on the history of the language and its roots, not to mention all the resources. They include everything from Catalán to Elvish. Haha.

So, go forth and educate yourself!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Youtube video of Obama's public works pledge

Here is the youtube video the NY times article references.

Re: The Visitor

I mentioned a few days ago in a post about this movie that I interviewed Steffany Boster, a woman who adopted children from Ethiopia and is currently hosting an Ethiopian woman in her home. If you would like to read more about her life, check out her blog!

Obama wants public works

I am very excited about this. Obama wants to create public works jobs to boost the economy, according to a New York Times article today. I think this is a great idea! There are some criticisms in the article (i.e. the Federal debt is already so high!), but I think history has proven that this kind of plan works.

In the 1930s, Franklin D. Roosevelt's answer to the Great Depression was the Conservation Civilian Corps and other groups like it which essentially built our National and State Park systems. Groups like these gave my great-grandfathers jobs and put food on my family's table.

My great-grandpa, James Lyman Shearrer, was actually born on the land that became Sam A. Baker State Park in South East Missouri. He worked for the park, managing Corps members, in the 1930s. He helped reintroduce the wild turkey into that area-which my uncles now hunt.

I love the idea of a public works campaign because the long term effects are wonderful. I still enjoy the state park my great-grandpa helped build almost a century ago. My grandparents actually bought land adjacent to the park and we spend our Thanksgivings up there now.

The cabin my grandparents helped to build on land near Sam A. Baker State Park

It will be a burden to get the program started, but if we chose public works that will lead to steady jobs in the future, I think it is a great plan. Think of all the jobs the highway system has created!

What would I like to see?
1. Better mass transit. High speed trains, metro systems in every major city & commuter trains.
2. Better infrastructure for green energy projects. Make a system where it is simple for the family consumer to choose to go "off the grid" for their municipally supplied electricity.
3. Anything we can do for public education.

Lastly, I don't think I'll ever stop being surprised at the interest other countries take in mine. Check out the El País version of this article.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lily Allen cracks me up...

"Everything's cool, as long as I'm getting thinner"
"I'm packing plastic"

She cracks me up. Check out her new song, The Fear:

Ten First Days

My friend Ash (Bridgette in the credits) who hosted me when I came to visit her & Amanda in Santa Monica just emailed me this movie she starred in. It is super short and great! I have such good memories of the time I spent at their apartment. Ashlee was so spirited and giving and inspired me to feel the same way.

Check it out!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Studying in Spain next semester?

I had to sign up for all of my own classes in Madrid with very little advisement or help. This website was incredibly helpful. It explains a little bit about how the Spanish Higher Ed. system works and explains some of the technical vocabulary.

One of the things that surprised me the most about the system at the Universidad de Complutense was that everything was done on paper. When I enrolled for a class, I had to give a 'ficha' or card of personal information with a photo to my professor. Then I had to fill out a form showing which classes I was enrolling in and take it to the ERASMUS (European study abroad) office. This made everything go slowly. I spent the first three weeks of each semester trying out classes before actually enrolling in them.

While I was at the Complutense, they were in the middle of trying out a new system based on the United Statesian way of doing things. The trial classes included things like mandatory attendance, homework and midterms. God forbid! Globalization changes everything.

Happy song

In one of the trailers for Happy-Go-Lucky, I heard this catchy song and googled the lyrics. Kate Nash is from the UK and reminds me a bit of Katy Perry (I kissed a Girl) and Lily Allen. Check her out! I really like "Merry Happy" (the one from the trailer) and this one:

Post Secret auf Deutsch

For all of you who read Frank Warren's blog like it is crack, here is another fix! Click on the link to the right to show the translations. Unlike the Spanish site, the French, German and Korean site have original secrets each week.

My favorite so far is from the French site:

It says: I like being bilingual because I can read twice as many PostSecrets.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Visitor

Last night I went to Schnucks to get a movie to cheer me up. I checked out The Visitor because the box said "uplifting." While it was not uplifting, it was a gem of a film.

I interviewed a woman in Columbia a few days ago, Steffany Boster. Steffany adopted two children from Ethiopia and is currently hosting an Ethiopian woman in her home. She has started numerous homes and projects to help people in several African countries. She isn't a part of any organization. She isn't a missionary. She's a mom with means.

Just like the main character learns in this movie, there are opportunities all around us to make an impact in someone's life. Sometimes going out of your way to help someone can change your life for the better too. Check it out!

Earth Album

A year ago, when I was preparing to go to Madrid, I stalked the city on Google Earth. I looked at photos of the neighborhood I was going to live in to get a feel for the city. Now a website called Earth Album has exactly the same information except you don't have to download anything. Go! Live vicariously through the internet!