Photo Friday:Guatemala meets Cornerstone

I have these two pictures from our recent trip to Guatemala  up in my classroom, and the kids ask about them a lot. They've asked all kinds of things, including are they my kids?, but I love getting to tell about them. I love getting to talk to my students about the opportunities I've had to travel, and what a mission trip is all about. I love telling them the ways that these kids are different than them, and how they're the same too. How the boy in the lower picture makes his home in the city dump, but is also very joyful and kind, and how the families in the top picture live in tin houses with dirt floors, but they know their needs are met in Christ. 

This week with my 4th and 5th graders, we're reading about what it's like for children to go to school in Guatemala. How often, they have to walk a very long way and have class with children of many ages all packed into one room. Also, how very few families can afford to send their kids to school past 6th grade and how many of the villages only have primary schools. We also talked about how this leads to a cycle of inaccessibility to education that keeps many villages in poverty. It made my students feel very lucky and thankful for the opportunities that they have for education here, but they didn't stop there. They immediately began brainstorming about how we could raise money, like we're currently doing for Haiti, to help kids in Central America out with their education. I don't know how much of a notion these students have of their own families' struggle to provide a better education for them. What they could see is that there is need somewhere else, and they wanted to do what they could to help in the face of a need like that. And I was really proud of them. 

And, by the way, these types of conversations are one of my favorite things about being a Spanish teacher.

Birmingham: Grey Haven Community

Some of the most encouraging, inspiring, and optimistic things that I've observed and been a part of here in Birmingham collide in a gathering called Grey Haven Community. Grey Haven is a community for local musicians to collaborate, support, and perform with one another. I have over and over again, both as an audience member and now as a performer, been delightfully surprised by the genuine atmosphere of creativity, community, humility, and over-all good vibe surrounding this thing. And all that aside, the music is dang good. I say all the time that one of the things I love most about Birmingham is the accessibility to get involved in good things going on here, and Grey Haven is a great example of that. 

So, if you're lucky enough to live in the 'ham, I'll be making my humble Grey Haven debut singing some background vocals with some really rad people (Neil and Havilah) who I just met a week ago, exclusively through this community (which is cool enough in itself). Don't come to hear me, come to hear a great variety of gooooood music, and witness something beautiful coming together before you're eyes.

Friday, January 29. 7:00@Urban Standard.

Mid-Week Quotables

"Senora iz a b!%#$ from the entire 6th grade."

Yep, that's right. Scrawled into the back inside cover of one of my Spanish textbooks. And not so tactfully edited, I might add. Welcome to the not so glamourous side of teaching middle school students. I guess something like this was bound to happen sooner or later, and my reaction is mixed. It's hard not to take something like this personally, to avoid wondering, "does the entire 6th grade really think that about me?" "Golly, what did I do to make a student so mad?". But then what I realize is that it's not about me. A lot of what it boils down to is my students are constantly confessing to me that they have no idea how to maintain self control in the face of one, raging emotion: Anger. It leads to fights, both physical and verbal, causes them to become so distracted and upset that they can't concentrate in class, and I suppose leads to destructive behavior such as treating a textbook like a bathroom stall.  And when I think about that I'm moved to pray for my students and I'm reminded of my own need for the Lord to prepare my heart every day to deal with my own anger and frustration in a way that sets an example for them of self-control, gentleness, perspective, and love. 


Tuesday Tastes: Two Food-Blog Recipes Meet

(photo from fresh365)

Tonight's dinner was a result of combining two recipes that I've been wanting to try from a couple of blogs that I read. And it was soooo tasty. I don't know If I've ever been so excited about leftovers.

The first recipe, Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, is from smitten kitchen, and has been sited on several other blogs. I was drawn to both the simplicity of it and the hype. It contains 3 ingredients, and no chopping! All you do is throw a can of whole tomatoes, 5 Tbsp of butter, and a halved yellow onion in a pot. Let it simmer for 45 minutes, season with a little salt, and you've got a really delicious, EASY sauce! I'm not sure I'd go as far as some of the bloggers go on about it, but if you proportion the taste with the ease, it's a winner for sure!

And then . . .

I used that as the sauce for a baked penne recipe from fresh365. Instead of making a spicy garlic sauce, I kept the sauce simple and toasted the breadcrumbs for the topping with garlic and red pepper flakes. I also cut down on the cheese a lot because the sauce was so rich. 

It turned out great!


Photo Friday

Some of my 8th grade students on the day of the Christmas Program.

It's pixelated because I couldn't figure out any other way to post larger pictures. Any solutions out there?

Catching Up

So already I'm behind, but that's okay, we just keep movin' on.

So, to combine quotables with a focus on Birmingham, and as we celebrated his life this week, I bring you a few quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail. It's amazing that so much monumental history occurred here in the city where I call home. I wish I could walk the streets and see it all happening overlaid on the life that I live here now. Sometimes I feel the scars of hatred and division and injustice as I drive past block after block of empty, dilapidated buildings, but I know I can never know the full weight of it. I think about how Birmingham was a place of change and of hope and dreams. And I feel that too. These words, written in 1963, are so relevant to our time.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people."
. . . 


Tuesday Tastes: A tiptoe into the world of cheese making.

In Kingsolver's book, in a chapter I haven't even gotten to yet, is a recipe for making your own mozzarella cheese. What could be more intriguing than that? I checked it out, and the stuff has four ingredients in it. Three that I just about guarantee are sitting in your kitchen right now (lemon juice can be used instead of citric acid). The fourth is called rennet, and I must admit that this little mysterious guy intimidated me. I'll look for rennet next time I go to Whole Foods, but in the meantime my researching lead me to discover another Italian cheese that is made with only two common ingredients.

That's right! Mascarpone cheese is made from these two simple ingredients: cream and lemon juice (although you have to be sure that the cream is just pasteurized and not ultra pasteurized). 

My lovely friend and kitchen inspiration, Stephanie, came over yesterday and we got down to business. Our little bag of tricks included a large skillet, a glass bowl, water, cream, lemon juice, a kitchen thermometer, paper towels, a sieve, and another bowl.

We followed this recipe as closely as we could, and just as the author describes, we were pretty certain by the time the whole process was over that we had totally ruined it. It was difficult to get the cream up to a high enough temperature and difficult to tell if the cream actually curdled when we added the lemon juice. Just as she says, it looks exactly like a custard or creme anglaise. Then, we totally made a mess trying to use cheesecloth instead of paper towels and the liquid went straight through. (So I highly recommend using heavy paper towels instead of cheese cloth to line your sieve. )

But, in the end, it worked! I checked it about eight hours later and it was creamy, thick, sweet and buttery . . . cheese!

Basically the process goes like this . . .

You heat the cream to 190 degrees F in a double boiler-like contraption. At that point add lemon juice and stir for a few more minutes until very thick and creamy.

Take it off the heat and let it cool for 20 minutes. Then you place a metal sieve over a bowl and line it with four layers of cheese cloth or paper towel. Spoon the mixture into the sieve, cover and let it set over night. Not very much liquid comes out, but it gets super rich and creamy, almost like cream cheese. 


The hilarious thing is that I've never actually had store bought mascarpone, so I have nothing to compare it to. Try it and let me know! Hopefully we'll be trying mozzarella soon, maybe even with local milk. In the meantime, I'll be using my mascarpone to make this lemon mascarpone blondie recipe for community group tomorrow night! 


Monday Musings: Good Food

Around this time last year I began thinking about the connection between food and God's word. After all, scripture calls itself edible, sweeter than honey in fact, and in Revelation (10:9-10), John is even commanded to eat it. And stranger still, Jesus tells us to eat his flesh, and to remember him whenever we sit down to break bread and share drink with other believers.

I want to eat scripture. To desire it and savor it and devour it. To ingest it and have it become part of me. And at the same time, I want to think about what it means to remember Jesus when I eat. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are choices in the way we eat that will either help or hinder remembering him, and even affect the way we sit down to the meal of his Word. Fast food versus slow and savored. Seeking the welfare of the city by investing in local food. Considering where our food comes from: Were the people who worked to produce my food treated fairly or kept under the yoke of oppression as I consume ease, efficiency, and low prices? Were the sources of my meal grown or raised in a way that reflects good stewardship of the plants and animals that God created for us to care for and to eat? Are the calories I'm putting in my body a cheap imitation of real food, or lasting, healthy goodness?

These are questions that I'm thinking about in new ways all the time. I'd love to hear your thoughts, and I'm sure you'll hear more of mine as we continue together.

Two books, woven together with story and not just information, have educated me, inspired me, and kept the wheels of my thoughts turning. Eat this Book, by Eugine Peterson (author of The Message), and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (The author of several great books including Poisonwood Bible).


You're in for a treat.

I told Keith about my new blogging plan, and he was so supportive that he agreed to post every weekend!

a fresh start

Okay, here goes. I think my new-job hiatus from blogging has lasted long enough. I've missed sharing with you, but I haven't really known where to begin. How to blend what I spend a good deal of my time and energy doing--teaching Spanish to 220 inner-city children from the ages of 4 to 14, and the other stuff that I really enjoy writing about--food, recipes, photography, etc. The juxtaposition of a new vegetarian chili recipe and my musings on how to better serve the urban poor just seems odd.

But, this is my life. And the Gospel is the thread that creates harmony in the hours I spend teaching children, and our church's vision to deeply invest in those kid's neighborhood, and the church community that makes up our Birmingham family, and the little family that Keith and I make in our home together, and the ways that we spend our time and money in our home--all the way down to the food that lands on our plates.

So, because I want to share all of those things with you, without feeling the need to explain myself every time I jump from my latest homemaking endeavor to my thoughts on how to change the world, i've decided to set up daily themes that cover a variety of topics throughout the week. I think it will make sitting down to write a lot easier for me, and hopefully it will be enjoyable for you.

Without further ado, my plan.

Monday Musings: ramblings on whatever I happen to be thinking about that week.
Tuesday Tastes: a recipe. Probably not original, but I'll share it the way it worked for me.
Mid-Week Quotables: from my students and other interesting sources.
Local Thursday: Life in Birmingham.
Photo Friday: A picture.

This is not a new-years resolution. Just an idea. Usually my ideas flow so fast that I have a hard time keeping up with them, so we'll see how it goes.

P.S. It would encourage my return to consistent blogging if you would give me a shout-out to let me know that you're still with me. Thanks!