Marshmallow Science!

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My students brought my their food science project today. I’ve never had anything other than overly processed chewy marshmallows, straight from a bag. I didn’t even know you could make them at home. These are so much better!! I taste vanilla and powdered sugar and they are fluffy and have just the right amount of give when you bite in. It makes me really sad that we didn’t have a food science class. I think that might have been one science class I would have gotten As in.

I’d like to say I’ll never buy another of the store bought kind. Maybe after I microwave a s’more in the teacher lounge.

Later Do Not Microwave Homemade Marshmallows!!
They were not designed to withstand such abuse. They will melt into fluff, which, although delicious, does not yield very good s’mores.

Luckily, I had a spare marshmallow and made this untasted version, and it was yummy.

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A Grand Finale

Dear Meredyth,

If you had asked me a year ago how I would want to spend my last long weekend in Botswana, I would not have said, “hanging out with 65 teenage girls, eating Setswana food, sleeping on the floor with six other volunteers, teaching sessions, playing camp games and leading many, many, many cheers.” Alas, that is how I spent my holiday weekend (it was Independence Day here in Botswana.) You know what? It was effing amazing. I spent every last ounce of my energy and patience, but it was absolutely worth it.

The first test of my patience came before camp even got started. Transportation is always an issue here Botswana, this time was no exception. Three of my girls and I waited at the bus stop in Phitshane Molopo from 10:30am til 1:30pm. Did we get picked up in that time? Nope, we were told to go home, and come back to wait again at 3:00pm.

ImageDimpho, Amogelang, and Kelebileone, being good troopers while we waited on our ride. Three of my favorite girls!

Eventually we were picked up at 5:30pm. We squeezed onto the 25 seater bus with 40 other campers and Peace Corps Volunteers. This is a typical transport situation in Bots, everyone knows the drill: three to a seat, assembly line the bags to the back, and find a spot to shove them.

Once we all arrived, ate a late dinner, played a few ice breakers, laid down the rules and gave some instructions on how to survive the accommodations (oh, I forgot to mention, the boarding school we were staying at has no water. It just adds to the fun?) My other PCVs and I piled into our room for a quick, bleary-eyed meeting about the schedule for the next day before giving in to exhaustion.

The camp went so well. Our theme was, “I am woman. Hear me roar!” To honor that theme we made the girls scream ‘roar’ at every opportunity, as well as listen to the Katy Perry song, “Roar”. I have never been a real fan of KP, but that song was certainly fun and fitting for GLOW (girls leading our world) camp.

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Thulaganyo, Maatla and me making our vision boards. Notice Maatla’s hoodie says, “Girls Rule”. So appropriate.

 

 

 

 

Mere, you would have been so proud of me; I was the energizer bunny when it came to leading icebreakers, games, and dances. Most impressive was my friend Liz; Saturday was her 24th birthday, she led four sessions teaching and doing crafts, and still found energy to sing, dance, and play with the girls at every free moment. We celebrated her awesomeness at the end of the night, when she was trying to keep herself awake until we finished our meeting.

Camp Birthday Cake:

Vanilla cake made with olive oil instead of butter. Why? Because that’s what I had to work with and I am on a baking with olive oil love train.

Easiest chocolate ganache frosting in the world: When you pull the cake out of the oven, place your favorite chocolate bar on top. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then slowly spread it over the cake. Boom, chocolate frosting.

After six months of planning, budgets, government purchasing order, lesson planning and coordinating transport, GLOW camp finally came, and sadly went. I wasn’t sure how this project would go for me, it being my last two weeks as a PCV in Botswana (I thought my senioritis would take over). But this camp gave me some of the best memories of service. I love my girls to pieces, and I am so happy that we got to experience this camp.

ImageIn those few days the girls went from shy kids, sticking to their school groups, to dancing, singing, roaring, best friends with everyone, contagiously smiley young women. I am absolutely ending my service on a high note, I would not trade this experience that for anything.

 

 

 

 

 

All my love and roars,

Julia

Puppies and Pancakes

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20130921-170931.jpgOur Saturday morning began with a dog pile. We are fostering a young lab that we might just have to keep. Penny, as you can tell from the picture, isn’t hugely excited about it. Maybe because the puppy (we think he’s about a year old) likes to play bite her face. And legs.

Ian is, though. Penny thinks of him as the alpha so she won’t cuddle with him. But Desmond does!

Yes, he has a name already. And he’s worked his way into Ian’s heart after only one night.

Because of doggie adjustment upheaval during the night we didn’t get much sleep and slept in. So this morning we had a late breakfast.

Pancakes and bacon are one of my favorite breakfasts. And lately I’ve been modifying it with a variety of fruit ingredients. Today’s was pumpkin, although I think I need fresher spices and more pumpkin. You could barely taste any pumpkin! I used six tablespoons like the recipe called for, but nope!

They were still good though, and the bacon was mind blowing good. Maybe because I cooked it slower and longer than usual.

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Martha Stewart’s pumpkin pancakes:
Whisk 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour; 2 tablespoons sugar; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt; 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg; and a pinch of ground cloves. In a separate bowl, stir together 1 cup milk, 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 egg; fold mixture into dry ingredients. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat; pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup.

Friends and Quiche

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As we text back and forth about recent events, I am laying down two strips of bacon in the pan. The smell fills my small kitchen in Austin, Texas, while my texts speed towards another Austin, far away in Virginia. A julienned bunch of asparagus wait on the cutting board.
She tells me about her job and what she’s been doing and I read her text in the moments after I’ve scraped my chopped asparagus from the pan, where it sautés with the left over bacon fat.
I pour the whisked egg mixture into a pre made pie crust, then add the chopped red bell peppers, asparagus and bacon. I dot goat cheese around the quiche and slide it into the oven. I sip my wine and reach for my phone on the counter.

I swirl a fat pat of butter in a pan while waiting for her response about my latest news.
We haven’t talked for months but even the cold screen of my phone seems to radiate her particular voice, and attitude. I can see her bright, caring eyes peering through her glasses at the screen as she types, her lips pursed or smiling widely.
I replace the lid on the home fries I’m making and tap back a response until the potatoes start to sizzle and then I hit send.
Then I stir them again and repeat the process, lid on, text reply, wait for the sizzle.

When I mix the salad greens and pull the quiche, which is now golden, I reluctantly tell her I have to go. Dinner is ready is a phrase she knows well.

No one here seems to be as interested in food like my friends back home. They enjoy food but don’t get too excited about it. I can’t describe my passion for bacon wrapped Brie and figs to my new friends here without sounding like a curiosity. No one invite me over to dinner just because they want to try a new dish. My excitement over my CSA box is appreciated but not shared.
We have other things in common, and I am happy to have them as part of my new life here but nothing compares to the fun I used to have, discussing menu ideas with this circle of women.

Ian can get excited about my food, and couldn’t stop raving about the quiche I made, or my home fries. I am grateful at least, to have some one who so thoroughly enjoys the fruits of my friendships in Virginia.

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