Sunday, January 31, 2010

So I Finally Got Asked to Milk a Cow...

Hi all,

Today I was literally all over the place! I slept in until 10 (more or less, lots of racket!) and spent some time romping with the children before people came back from service. I sometimes feel as though I'm a human jungle gym, but it's usually a lot of fun to evoke the peals of laughter that come about.

Since today was house mom's birthday, one of the villagers treated us to brunch in the nearby town. I found out I AM not an equal to the "Farmer's Breakfast". However, after a few weeks of burnt pancakes, I enjoyed the fluffy monstrosities that came with the meal. However, it turned out that the fine batter was a product of Aunt Jemima. Yeah...

When we came back for a small rest hour, I used it to my advantage to frost the carrot cake. For those of you lucky enough to have had it, you can imagine the rave reviews it got! There's also probably at least a solid 1,000 calories per slice, so it ought to be good! An on-going problem today was that Hilda's zipper was stuck on her outer skirt (she usually wears about 5 layers of tights, long underwear, pants and a skirt or two....). It took me most of the afternoon, and some helpful internet tips to get her out of it! We also found out Hilda will be leaving the house, and going to another one tomorrow. Our house is a little too energetic for her...and it will be nice that we won't have to lock up the kitchen at night now!

I went with one of the villagers to go see the new calf (born last Monday). Unfortunately, she couldn't tolerate the smell, so I had to wait by myself to see it and then pick up our fresh milk. I met 2 co-workers that I hadn't yet. One is the horse trainer, and she seemed as though she'd be more than happy to have me ride - as long as I could ride and showed up reliably! (Never really a problem with me...) So hopefully that will be a new day-off activity??? She also asked if I was there to milk...but I took a rain check. I'm battling an urge to go do research on youtube about it though!

Today was the eve of St. Bride's Day. So we put out our votive candle holders along the path. We'd made some frozen ones, and some painted jars. Mine was the cutest though (in my very modest opinion, of course!). I used the children's bunt cake pan (like 5 inch diameter) and plopped in some Haribo gummy bears. The tea light fits perfectly inside and casts a colorful glow. Lighting all those candles in the dark was EXTREMELY cold, and my fingers were pretty numb by the end! The play that was put on by the "youth group" was very cute, and they did a very good job. There was a respectable crowd and a good amount of applause.

Hope all is well,

Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's Official - I'm in Forbearance!!

Hi all,

That was definitely the exciting news of the day. My Americorps account finally got set up properly and got my forbearance requests sent through (except my private one and Perkins...not sure if it'll work?). Other high lights included: getting caught singing along to my Ipod in the co-op (At least I wasn't dancing...) during a grocery run, getting my 2nd to last poster (ahem, James?), baking a cake for house mom's birthday tomorrow, and using an Oxford comma.

It's a little bit of a challenge to be stuck at home on a day "off". When the weather gets better, it'll be easier because I can go off exploring some. However, I have a hard time not coming down and volunteering to help out of habit. I had a partial morning's work, which really helped to skew my brain. However, it means that I get to sleep in tomorrow. So that's lovely.

I gave in and picked up my mattress, trying to figure out the strange off smell in my room. I'm glad I didn't find anything there, but I'm still a little stumped. I wonder if my vent is connected to the bathroom? Scary thought...

Anyhow, I'm off to wash some dishes. Perhaps a movie with myself later - if I get daring, I could even light my candles...ooh, the nerve!

Hope all is well,

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Mean, Really, Who Knew You Could Burn Rice?

Hi all,

Yes, they're still letting me run amok in the kitchen...Today I was supervising the home work crew while frantically trying to come up with inspiration for a meal. Since today is oats, it just wasn't working for me. I decided to add more flavor to the rice by using broth (since I've done it with lots of other things, like couscous and millet), but apparently that causes it to stick to the bottom. Who'd have thought? So, yeah...Fortunately I managed to salvage most of it, being smart enough not to scrape the bottom when I transferred pans. I ended up making a rather tasty sweet and sour stir fry thingy, and got no complaints, although there was not enough for seconds.

On a completely unrelated (hopefully) note, I've noticed that something smells a little off in my room. Now, I have a scent diffuser and scented candles, and my garbage is empty. However, we do have a villager who has been known to sneak into other people's rooms. Not to steal things, but to hide things. So I'm slightly paranoid that somewhere, in some corner, something has been hidden in my room that's slowly going bad...keep you posted...

Anyhow, tonight we had a special fund-raising dinner for "Save the Children" in Haiti. I was stuck at a very lively table. Normally this would be ok, but as they'd burned something in the kitchen, I was actually having a little trouble breathing and was quite miserable for a while. I was also surrounded by lots of people with anxiety, so I was not helping. Luckily it cleared up after a bit. I also got to talk to several other co-workers, but it was impossible to have a full conversation. Afterward, I really needed to find something to do with my charge. She LOVES music, so I brought in my radio/ipod thingy, and let the music roll. I had it on random, and then I fiddled with it, but we listened to:
Wir Sind Helden, The Artic Monkeys, Michael Buble, Death Cab for Cutie, Joss Stone, Meiko, and of course "The Lion King".
We pretty much danced our bottoms off...she had names for all her moves: the rainbow, tree, wave, etc. I too, had most of these moves in my - highly distinguished, of course - repertoire, so we made a fine crazy-dancing team! Once we were done shaking it, we did teeth-brushing and some reading before bed.

I, for one, am exhausted.

I had a full day at the co-op, where there were only 3 of us. The other co-worker was working on a fully itemized list of what we carry, and so I got introduced to making the Friday list for ordering food. This was tedious, and slightly nerve-wracking. I don't know how fast we go through a lot of things, so I usually guessed based off of dust levels....only partially joking...
Anyhow, I am enjoying the co-op for the most part, as it gets me out of the house (and away from burning things, apparently...) and I enjoy most of the people I work and get to interact with.

Well, screaming children have arrived home, and it's soon time to go and lock up the kitchen. It's a nightly ordeal with Hilda and must be done properly or she'll climb in through a counter window...

Hope all is well,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

3 Cakes in 5 Days...

Hi all,

As usual, I'm exhausted, but undoubtedly this post will grow. Today we celebrated the first birthday of the year in the house. The house mom made the cake, while I took over lunch (usually I do dinner...) and we had pizza for dinner to celebrate. I made a more condensed version of the soup to pour over rye (the grain of the day, that house mom made) and it was actually quite tasty. Apple Barley soup sounds a bit dubious, but it was completely savory and a good pairing with the grain.

It was LONG day at the co-op, even though I went in a half an hour late because I needed to accompany someone to the doctor's office. There was constant bickering and the other co-worker had to duck out a half an hour early. I was trying to figure out the spreadsheet short cut to continue a formula, going off what I'd observed (mouse only...) and I FINALLY got it, though I'm still not entirely sure I could duplicate the process. So maybe not...

Anyhow, the birthday dinner went well, and the chocolate cake was delicious. My day off this week will be actually starting around 11 or noon on Saturday until the same day on Sunday. However, it's supposed to my day for brunch. It's also house mom's birthday, so that really makes me determined to not leave her in a lurch. I have some eggs to use, so I'm thinking of an egg bake? We don't have any ham, but we do have hamburger. Just have to wing it.

Also, because of the birthday today, the birthday on Sunday and the fact that I volunteered to make a cake on Monday (for orientation), leaves me a little stressed. We also have to do a bunch of things for Candelmas, which is less than thrilling. Combine this with a very out of sorts villager, and I feel as though I'm being slowly driven crazy. Ok, I may be exaggerating...

I do like baking, but I hope I can find something to do on Saturday as an outlet. Will have to see, I guess. It'll be easier once I can drive, although that may still be several weeks away. Although with unknown and windy roads with ever increasing levels of snow (a blizzard warning today?), I'm pretty much ok with that.

Anyhow, 2 funny things today.
The co-worker from India has some strange habits. Today I walked out of the kitchen to see him drying his hands on a small table runner. I promptly quipped "If you were a 6 year old, I'd spank you!" We had an extra guest over today for lunch, and he promptly obliged me! Gave me a good chuckle.
The second was that I was in the co-op (agonizing over the damn spreadsheet), when a mostly-German part of the estate group waltzed in. I got teased for being on the computer (Facebook? MSN?) and so I muttered something about Germans. One said something about not having German in my head/body (?) and so I said "What?" and he repeated it. So then I said "Was?" And I then got to have my first, nerve-wracking (SO out of practice and under close scrutiny!) official German conversation. Not sure they were impressed, but it did catch them by surprise!

Hope all is well,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Proud Recipient of some Mail Lovin'

Hi all,

It's been a LONG day today. However, my days are nicer to come to my room now that I have had my posters shipped (thank you!) and pretty much set up. I'm still waiting on a print from snapfish (they left one out...) and from my brother. But it's really coming together well. Makes for a nice and relaxing place to wind down in!

Today I didn't get as long a nap as usual, as we had our neighborhood meeting. We discussed the upcoming Candlemas festivities preparations and it's a little daunting. The meeting is open to everyone in the neighborhood, and honestly it was a little hysterical today. They were giving a report from the youth rejuvenation meeting when one of the older members in the room piped up (with responses in parenthesis):

"May I say something?!?...I feel...I feel I want my youth days back!"
"I'm already 49" ("Aren't you 42?) "SAME THING!"
"And I've worked in the shop for a long time, but I feel like I want to do more...I need animals to love!"
(Don't you have a cat, and don't you work at the barn??")
"That's DIFFERENT! I have to pay for the cat's stuff and the cow pushes me!!!"
"I need to volunteer and have something to give my love to!"

And then she was in tears, with several others joining in.

Of course, the delivery was what made it so fantastic. I can see where she's coming from and they're definitely legitimate feelings, but you'd be hard pressed to find a single person able to keep a straight face. This woman is larger than life and can really move it on the dance floor. Her cat spends most of his time trying to sneak into our house because he's a little, as the house mother puts it, "micro-managed".

Anyhow, I've just found out that there will be a walmart run I'm off for cake making supplies in a bit!

Hope all is well,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Out for Lunch

Hi all,

So, I don't remember if I mentioned it, but I managed to get myself asked out to lunch at another house today. It'd somehow come up in the conversation that I hadn't really seen a lot of the other houses yet and so I was promptly asked to lunch. Today worked because it's my day off to cook as the house goes to the cafe.

I trekked over to the other house (although I did have to find it on the neighborhood map first...) and was welcomed in. It's a very different demographic than my house. Older, with more villagers and co-workers. Apparently it got mixed up and combined a few months ago, so they're still in some transition? Anyhow, their house seemed a lot more settled, and had some beautiful stained glass pieces. There was a lot more quiet, and they sang a blessing I haven't heard yet but now must learn for my house! Lunch was around a round table, and except for when I was having difficulties understanding one of the villagers, things seemed to go smoothly. I met two co-workers that I hadn't yet and enjoyed the yummy lunch!

Earlier in the day I'd missed morning work because I had to go with to a Dr.'s appointment. It was thankfully non-invasive and not a big deal. My high-light (other than the cafe for coffee break!) was the fact that as we left the office "Build Me Up Buttercup" was playing on the radio. It's the song I've been waking up to - so I got it stuck in my head even more!
(The logical thing would be to change it, but how can you be grumpy waking up to it?)

Hope all is well,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lamb Korma: 1, Steph: 0

Hi all,

Today, things did not go smoothly in the kitchen for me! The house mom, bless her, is very good about not trying to micro-manage, but I know she was wincing. I was definitely not looking forward to hacking the lamb from the bone, and was even LESS thrilled to find out it was several bones, including some ribs. Combine this with not so sharp knives and there was definitely an issue. Luckily, I had help with the onions and the lamb.

Things were going well, but time-crunched, until I got to the seasoning. For whatever reason I blanked and added cayenne pepper. Oh dear lord. I frantically tossed in cinnamon-turmeric-cloves-ginger-cumin and even sugar...but to no avail. Even the coconut milk and double the yogurt couldn't tame it!

The other co-worker (from India) had the day off today for special reasons and was absolutely thrilled when he came down. He kept exclaiming "It smells like India! It's like my soul is there!" and was reveling in the korma. He was incredulous that me, a white girl who'd never been to India could cook like this. Of course, I found it EXTREMELY spicy, but still managed a small portion. We only had 3 villagers for lunch today, and two liked it. Although one asked me why her lips were burning after her second portion...

The third villager took one bite and said "WUUUUUF" and shove her bowl away in a decided manner. We all broken into laughter, couldn't help it! So, lamb korma officially kicked my butt. House mom's opinion was to try it again, and console me with stories of other people's culinary misadventures. Next time I'll hack apart the lamb (appetizing, no?) the night before and mix the spices properly and with no hurry!

Hope all is well,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Because, Really, Who Wouldn't Want a 3 Hour Nap?

Hi all,

Yes, I may have slept a decent portion of my day off away. I also figure that if my body is deciding to crave sleep that it can only help with conquering my cold. Much of my day was spent in my room, slowly clicking together jump rings and listening to music. I did take brunch and dinner with the house, and both were delicious.

We've started following the anthroposophical concept of "a grain a day" which has been interesting. Thursday, the day I missed making lunch, was rye. The house mom was innovative enough to come up with "beef loaf", which was just like meat loaf but had quite a bit more texture. I found it to be delicious. At any rate, this brings up two points: finding things to make with these grains, and then getting them done!

As I work in the co-op, I get a pretty broad spectrum of people from the village coming through. I was able to chat with someone from the admin building (and as I was sharing our trip through the grains, I discovered is apparently a common phase here...) she mentioned that she had some good cookbooks that followed the concept. They're in German, of course...Although that really shouldn't be a huge issue for me and actually a very good way to get some practice in. I don't really feel as though I know any of the Germans well enough to ask/know if anyone would like a tandem partner yet. Anyhow...I have to go and pick that up on Tuesday after work...

Secondly, I realized today that tomorrow is rice, and so the best day to do Lamb Korma. (YUM!). I also realized that 1, my recipe is actually on the family computer at home and 2, there will have to be an early co-op run done tomorrow! I have the meat defrosting on the counter, and so this should be very interesting - as I've only done chicken korma before. Honestly, the chicken cooks during the 25-40 minute boiling process, so I'm not anticipating any difficulty on that point. Hacking the raw shoulder into pieces could be much more interesting...

On a completely different note, I did notice that one of the packages was accidentally labeled "Lama" instead of lamb. I'm assuming it was an accident...

Hope all is well,

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mother Fletcher

Hi all,

So, I really just need to write my posts immediately before bed. Someone had spoken to me yesterday about a group going out, and promised to call about it. No call came, so I figured transportation had fallen through, or the like. I got a call at 9:10, stating where to be at 9:15 for a ride. This naturally corresponded with a place I was unsure of the exact location for. I bumbled my way into a group, only to find out that one of the lady's birthday was today - and that everyone was actually going out as part of a celebration. Slightly awkward. However, everyone was very welcoming and cool about it.

I was in a car with 4 other people, 2 decided to leave almost immediately, one to drop one off and come back....except he never did...strange. The band was called "Mother Fletcher" and it was quite eclectic and loud. I really liked the violin and the unorthodox percussion, although the electric accordion seemed a little funny. Although the pub was minuscule, so it was packed. Amazingly, out of the 70 people there, a strong 25 were from Camphill! I thought this was nice, and was a bit surprised that this rarely happens. Too clique-y? Anyhow, I had a good amount of fun, and actually got to "talk" i.e. yell with a few other co-workers that I'd only barely met before. I met a really fun female co-worker - and just in time...(more later). We stayed until the band stopped playing, and so I was in bed by 1. I was oblivious to the drama that I'd caused.

When I'd mentioned I'd had to rush out the door earlier, I forgot to mention that "Hilda" had started yelling out after me. I yelled back at least 3 times that I had to go somewhere and needed to go now. Apparently she wasn't pleased and proceeded to lock the door - something we don't do here. She'd forgotten that one of the other villagers was out at an event - so he got locked out and was REALLY displeased with her. She was so ashamed this morning that she wouldn't speak up to ask him herself for the milk, and waited for everyone to finish and then ate in the kitchen.

We had an outing today to go to the movie theater to see "Young Victoria". The music was quite good, and now I do want to marry a German prince. Other than that, it wasn't especially memorable, with little real climax to the plot. The family wanted to go to the library together so I volunteered to try to find another co-worker (since 7 villagers is WAY too many for one, as we took 2 guests as well). I managed to get the co-worker I'd met last night, and on her day off no less! She was fantastic and I think she had fun too. It was a lot of fun, but kind of stressful too. People can be rather impatient, although the movie theater staff was fantastic.

Anyhow, I have my day off tomorrow and will be going to the kitchen in just a bit to make some chocolate no-bake cookies for tomorrow's dessert. I also re-arranged my room this evening and am now waiting for the posters that I'm getting sent from home, and the prints I enlarged and ordered from online. Should be nice...I'll post a photo one of these days...

Hope all is well,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Guess Who's Coming for Dinner?

Hi all,

Tonight we were short one of our villagers. She goes out Friday nights to another houses (most rotate at least one meal a week at other houses). Someone from the house she eats at comes to ours for dinner. The house father asked the guest (an older lady) what they were having for dinner at her house and she triumphantly yelled "Hilda!*". The whole table erupted into laughter, except the poor visitor. We had to clarify that we'd asked "what" and not "who". She's a bit prickly (the one who was out), so we had mixed feelings on this pronouncement....

The co-op was pretty quiet today, with only one real "rush". We got these amazing oranges in though, called "Satsuma" oranges. They're very tiny, but pack a HUGE punch of flavor! I'll try to find a picture to put up...there. Oh, and apparently their in the mandarin family, although the ones we have are a much more vibrant, deep reddish-orange color. Absolutely delicious!

I might have a chance for some socialization with some other co-workers tonight, which could be fun. I did get to go into Copake today, and managed to open a checking account! The manager was awesome (I'd had to wait 15 minutes...and we'd gotten there late...) and managed to squeak me through in 15 minutes! Pretty impressive, I'd say! Nice to get something accomplished.

Anyhow, I'm off for now,
Hope all is well,

*And of course, her name is not actually Hilda...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Heavy Petting

Hi all,

Isn't it something, that cats can always seem to tell who don't/can't like them (allergies) and then promptly decide that their lap is the only one for them? Both the house cats have taken a liking for me and are usually pretty delightful, if a little stir-crazy. Tonight both of them decided to try to fit on my lap, but the bigger one got there first - and he's pretty hefty! So the other one had to be content with snuggling up as close as possible. She's a real sweety and likes to hid her face into the crook of your arm. Her less endearing habits include climbing up onto the table to help herself to someone's water if her bowl isn't full...

This morning I woke up feeling awful - probably due to not sleeping well as I heard the sick person getting up 2-3 more times and then the fact that I'm in the midst of a good cold. I hear it's slowly picking off co-workers, so at least I'm not the only one. I was told today by a neighboring house mom that this was my test, and that now I officially belong here. It's a dubious honor, but nothing much I can do about it! Fortunately, I haven't been throwing up, and after a few extra hours of sleep I managed quite nicely. I'm a little run-down feeling, but nothing I still can't manage.

Anyhow, I need my sleep...
Hope all is well,

Just Kidding

So, just as I was drifting right into the first stage of sleep, I was abruptly awakened by a knocking at my door. Followed by the pronouncement of a throw-up. Honestly, it's not something I was exactly thrilled by. I'd even wondered at one point if it would happen while I was here.

I suppose I can feel flattered that they felt I was a safe choice (although I would have thought that the house mom would've been the first choice, I don't exactly come off as the most maternal person). It is a dubious honor. At any rate, my overwhelming feeling was just a sinking-pit-in-the-stomach feeling. I all too well remember making a similar trek to my parent's room when it happened when I was young, and how horrible you feel. So I tried to do like my mom always did.

Water, clean up the mess (which wasn't at ALL bad, considering), throw things in the wash, offer support and a hug and get a basin, and then finally back to bed with clean sheets. Oh, but I put pants on first.

So now I'm waiting a bit, not tired so much and hoping that there will not be a second incident tonight. Might be a long day tomorrow...

Hope you're all sleeping,
PS I'm sorry I ever said it was a boring or uneventful day. That might've come across as ingratitude...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Really,Actually a Short One

Hi all,

Between a full day's work, making dinner for tomorrow and a little fun time, I didn't have much time tonight to write. I could rack my brains trying to think of something charmingly witty to talk about, but I am staring at my 6:30 alarm and I'm afraid it's just not worth it tonight!

Hope all is well,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Crowning Achievement.

Hi all,

Today, after much planning (and over a week of questions) we finally made a paper crown, fit for a princess! It was super fancy, boasting construction from the finest RoseArt yellow construction paper possible, and Crayola's vintage blend of crayons. Plus, we made a matching one for her stuffed animal. Duh.

One thing I haven't touched on yet here is the rest hour I get every afternoon. I still vaguely remember my Kindergarten days, trying to lay still during the rest for a chance to pick out the record (!!!) the next day. Strawberry Shortcake was an easy winner...At that point, I'm sure I slightly resented having to not talk for SOOOOOOOOO long (those 20-30 minute I didn't discover the joy of napping until my freshman year of college. Every day we had a "chapel" hour that was optional. However, no classes could be scheduled then. Hello naptime!

My napping habits grew more sparsely planned throughout college, but I definitely realized how much I would miss them when I graduated. I was right. I did sometimes sneak some naps in the summer or even at Turkey, but those were of a different caliber. Napping brought on by stress, I think. At any rate, I'm THRILLED to have a regular naptime again. I once again find myself telling me to enjoy it, as it will probably not happen again until I retire (or am completely zonked if I have children...but that, again, won't count!). So, I am essentially relishing every nap now!

I'm betting a majority of you are jealous.

Hope all is well,

Monday, January 18, 2010

When a Dragon Breathes Fire, Does he Burn his Mouth?

Hi all,

Every once in a while, the girl that I work with really catches me by surprise. (Like the dragon question, and asking if the beaver was glued to the wall). When considering all the implications: for starters, the fact they don't exist and then the logistics if they did, I still have no answer. So I usually just laugh. Luckily, she's a pretty happy camper most of the time, and seems to enjoy it as well.

Today I had my "orientation" class, which is not exactly how I envisioned it would be. We drove out to see a straw house (google it if you'd use straw bales for insulation, essentially). They decided (they, being the other co-workers) that we need a place to hang out - which is true. So they formulated a plan to build an economical, Green, and very simple building. There's a guy who has a engineering background and I think he realized how far in over our heads we might be. Their house isn't MUCH bigger (albeit with running water, a bio-toilet - don't ask..., and 2 stories) but still cost around 60,000 WITH a ton of volunteers. I think they'll still look into it, but I'm not sure how long it would take for them to build (they planned their house for 6-7 years!) and how to pay for it.

In the end though, I think the most important thing was realizing that this orientation wouldn't exactly be helpful. I mean, it was fine to hang out, but the cliques are well-established and I haven't seen any efforts of team building (although, in all fairness, it might have happened in the 6 months before I came? At any rate, the group lacks cohesiveness). It's a shame really, as it could be a terrific support system. Not that I feel like I'm particularly lacking in that area, but I know some households are run by people who run workshops and don't really have time to train in new co-workers.

My thoughts for the day...
Hope all is well,

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I Saw Fireworks

Hi all,

But they didn't last long. Only about 15 seconds, and no one knows why. I guess there were a few birthdays in the village today, so maybe it was a birthday tribute? No idea.
They were almost as exciting as the response to my delicious lemon and blueberry pound cake. It had a beautiful glazed exterior from the pan and was dense, moist and delicious on the inside
(ha ha KT...).

We also have about half of it left...exciting.

Today was a bit of a circus, we had a visitor who got to be climbed over like a jungle gym by the children. After the last fiasco with nail polish (one had to be tossed, the other had the consistency and appearance of chocolate paste + wouldn't come off with the "all natural" remover), I'd smartly picked up some nail stickers. There's enough for about 10 times I think, for only a dollar. Plus, she can peel them off whenever she likes!

I fortunately did not have to go to service today, and instead caught up on my cleaning task that I missed yesterday: cleaning the bathroom. It may seem as though that's not a very good deal, but I like having the time to plug myself into my ipod and sing away. It almost became clean too quickly (although it gets cleaned lightly almost every day, so that's not saying much!).

Tomorrow I have the orientation training (not sure if I'm a fan yet...though it's probably not optional) so I won't be at the co-op. Hopefully there will be an activity or two this time, as it would be nice to actually get to know some other people! All in good time, I suppose.

Hope all is well,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Silly Songs With Steph

Hi all,

Today was a nice and mostly relaxing day. I tried to sleep in, but I'm afraid my cold wasn't helping much there. I'll spare you the details. I had meals with the house, for the most part. I also got to go to HUDSON! (Yay!) I got to walk around the old town part, went to a coffee shop and also went to a used book store. I was with the house mom and 2 of the kids. She kept noticing that we got odd looks. However, her youngest was switching hand to hand with us, and her wedding band isn't a traditional design. I'll let you fill in the blanks?

My title refers to the nightly (and sometimes morning) saga of flossing and teeth brushing. I work with a female who is highly responsive to music and also has a highly evolved gag reflex. We're getting a whole routine down. First her favorite stuffed animal gets the deal with the flossing (thank goodness for the handheld ones!)

Splish Splosh I was Flossing your teeth! Tee da dee dum
(Repeat as necessary, with different emphasis and pitches)
Ta da da, ta da da, te da da da, da da.
(Splish, Splash I was taking a bath...)

then the brushing song:

Brushy Brushy Brushy!
Scrub! Scrub! Scrub!
Brushy Brushy Brushy,
Half Way Done!

Brushy Brushy Brushy!
Scrub! Scrub! Scrub!
(Repeat as needed)
Brushy Brushy Brushy,
NOW we're done!

Ok, So I never claimed to be a rocket scientist or a singer/songwriter.

However, occaisonally, she asks for Michael Jackson's "Beat It". Fortunately, I have NO idea how it goes, but if I just chant "Beat It-Beat It-Beat-It...Just Beat it!" she seems satisfied. Oh, and the Elvis/disco move and spinning helps too. It's a full work out! However, I'm finally getting on Youtube to see how it actually goes, the better to embellish my performance.
Other themes have involved pirates (stuffed animal becomes a parrot...) and beavers.
I know you're probably laughing, and my dignity is ok with that...

Hope all is well,

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bring Out the Flamingos!

Hi all,

Just a quickie (although they seem to grow when I say that...). My title refers to this evening's entertainment, but more on that after the rest of the day!

Today the other co-worker made pancakes for the first time. He was rather nervous, but did a good job. Have I mentioned lately how much I dislike porridge? I also discovered that some houses eat it EVERY morning. God Help Me - or them, rather.

It was a taxing day, as one of the family members (in an extended sense) is going through a rough patch and it's been taking a lot of patience to get through it. Luckily for me, I got to spend ALL day with them! Yeah. I was supposed to go into town today to take care of some things (bank account, small items I'd forgotten - I miss q-tips!) and just to get out for an hour on their Tues/Fri run. However, apparently you can call in to reserve a spot and yes, it was full. I was rather bitterly disappointed. I was upset, but held it together and realized that most of that feeling was due to the stress of settling in and constantly learning new things. I went upstairs to my room, and found a website to make me laugh. Supposedly crying helps, but I'd say I'm still a long, long way from that point. Plus it irritates the heck out of my eyes. Although, red is a good color on me... : p

The family (host mom/dad + kids) had their usual Friday evening out so I trooped down with the rest of the household (giving the other co-worker some free time) to the flamenco dancing performance. We'd tried to get in for the dinner beforehand, but shockingly (ie, par for the course) it was already full. So we had soup and bread. The soup was sweet again, but I will accept no blame/credit for tonight's soup!

There was a dancer and a guitarist/singer who performed. The dancer was very slight, but her control was amazing. I don't know much about the style, but I admire how it makes the women look so strong. Of course, if they're only dancing to get the attention of men that might change things. But it was still quite impressive. At points, the audience members would lose all inhibition, and I caught one peppery older woman hiking up her skirt and dancing around with a flower clenched between her teeth! Something purple and completely un-rose like. They played a song at the end for everyone to dance to (so my thing, right?) and I ended up in a ring of 4 females swaying. However, I think that my main charge was QUITE disappointed that the dancer wasn't wearing pink, and didn't have any feathers! (This was an ongoing discussion point, the last few days...)

Oh, and I also got called a penguin today.

Hope all is well,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"You're Beautiful!...Like a Penguin!"

Hi all,

I must admit, it was the nicest compliment I got all day. Although, I wasn't 100% sure it was heartfelt until I mentioned it at the dinner table. Apparently this was a good compliment, as other people are usually referred to as strawberries, noodles, or (in one unfortunate man's case), a toilet brush. A penguin? Yes, please!

Last night I stayed up until 1 cooking my carrot soup (which was oddly sweet, as the carrots are very sweet). It turned out pretty well (also had potatoes, onion and garlic/spices in it). I thought I might terrifically tired the next morning, because I also had to get up early to shower. However, I think that the "me" time of getting to have some alone time belting out with my ipod was highly beneficial. It may become a weekly routine!

Work was fine, although the co-op manager forgot to leave the key to unlock areas and the maintenance didn't have the master for anything but the front door (which we already had). We still found things to do, and luckily not many people requested things that were locked away!

Tomorrow promises to be a full day with me doing some new recipes (bulgur rice and baked sweet potatoes), getting out of the village and into town, and going to a special event for dinner. I'm also rather excited about the fact that I'll have Saturday off! I plan on sleeping in, working on my jewelry, doing some German Rosetta and baking a lemon/blueberry pound cake! Should be a good next two days!

Hope all is well,

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Touring and The Beaver

Hi all,

Today was all over, but I'll try to sum it up neatly.

This morning we had the regular work crew and I found out how to get to the cold storage room. While I'm used to cooking for 2-6 people, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the concept of 12! However, I think we ended up with enough carrots, potatoes and beets. Not too excited about the last one though. I was, however, excited about eggs for breakfast! Not my favorite, but a clear winner over the "porridge"!

I went to my first neighborhood meeting, which happened to be a finance building. So much of it was completely over my head, needless to say. However, there was a birthday for one of the house mothers, so mine baked a delicious chocolate cheesecake. I enjoyed it greatly! When I got back to the house I was informed that I was expected to go to the admin building to finally get a tour. My guide was rather talkative and the main point of every extended narrative seemed to involve the chickens. It is her job to close the gate at night, and it is her thought that the chickens are rather bright as they seem to put themselves in because it's cold. Clever chickens rather tickled my fancy!

I got to see most of the workshops, and got a thorough tour at only one. However, I'm sure I'll be doing some exploring at one time or another! I made it to work about 45 minutes late. Making a great impression, aren't I? The great irony is that I've always striven to be punctual and consistent. However, it can only improve from here then! The work was fine, though I already know that repackaging and pricing bulk items will be my personal bane. Could be worse, I suppose!

My daily 1 on 1 time is proving to be a challenge, but can be quite funny at times as well. Topics are easily prone to being fixated on and can be annoying. Today, we shifted the focus (I hope!!!) from the last 3 days of bobcats to beavers. I was talking about my experience in Germany with the stuffed beaver (should be around somewhere in the Spring) and here's an example from the conversation: M (me) H (her).

M: ...and so they hung the beaver on the wall.
H: What did the car look like?
M: Oh, I don't know. I only saw the Stuffed Beaver, it was hanging on the wall.
H: Maybe it was just closing its eyes.
M: No, it was dead...not sleeping. They stuffed it and hung in on the wall.
H: Did they glue it to the wall?

I must admit, I was a bit stuck on the last one (ha, ha...) and luckily we changed topics quickly. The questions often come rapid-fire, as quickly as I can answer them. Point of view is unclear at times, so by tomorrow, she might have been the one to see the beaver hit by the mailman and then she glued it to the wall with its eyes closed. Never can tell.

Anyhow, I'm in charge of making dinner tomorrow night and since it'd be a tight squeeze with work I'm going to go ahead and do it tonight. However, I have to wait until everyone is in bed, or there will be one person in particular who will hound me about the kitchen being closed.

Hope all is well,

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Hi all,

Anyone a fan of the schmaltzy title? I have to admit, I wasn't extremely pleased to find out that they'd decided to place me in the co-op. I'd really hoped to come to learn something new. Even if weaving (for example) isn't the most practical life skill, it'd be something I could feel a great sense of personal accomplishment in doing. I'd also found it ironic, as the one place at home growing up that I'd never had to work at was the grocery store. Serves me right, I suppose.

On that note, though, I've also been reflecting on how events in my life have led me here. Spending the last 10 summers (more or less) working with people with varying degrees of physical and (mostly) mental developmental disabilities, working last summer in a restaurant as a cook, and my failed attempt at being an au pair in Turkey, have really come together for me. It's hard to say how much of my demeanor of interacting with people with special needs comes from an innate sense, and how much I've slowly learned over the years. Additionally, the restaurant stressful environment and cooking skills I picked up have already come in handy for meals here. I also am more fully able to appreciate the wonderful parents that the house parents are and know my limits better. All of these skills have really come in handy.

Back to today though! We had lunch at the cafe, so I had reprieve from cooking lunch. They actually had some amazing meatloaf (sorry Mom... : p) and the freshly steamed carrots were really good. However, the potatoes were rather vigorously peppered for my taste. It was funny to hear from the kids that they appreciated my cooking a lot more (considering that usually only 1 out of the 3 on any given day will eat their!). I did really like the apple crisp though!

After lunch and a rest, I headed off to the co-op. I was slightly dismayed to find it locked and everyone late. At least one day a week it is closed, and I thought maybe more than one for a while! Luckily, people with keys eventually showed up and I more or less settled in with ease. There are some great senses of humor in the afternoon shift and I felt like I fit in. The co-op is also a good place to see a large amount of people, as most tend to wander in or out at one point or another! The person in charge of the co-op, ironically, wasn't in today. He came at the end though and so I got to meet him. I'm looking forward to going back, so I think that's a good sign!
I also know that things will change up again when summer comes and having a little seniority and know how will certainly help!

Anyhow, that's it for now!
Hope all is well,

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hit the Ground Running

Hi all,

The title pretty much sums up my experience for the past week (!), as it will be tomorrow. I had my last official briefing meeting for the Americorps, and have a good idea of what I'll have to do to track hours. Sigh. Which I suppose I should do tonight. Today I had a good taste of a typical Monday.

Breakfast was oatmeal (which it is 3 times a week, something I'll have to gag my way's hard to be a texture person!) and I had some personal care time with the villager who will be my primary focus. Upon reflection, the male co-workers have a HUGE advantage, as do those women with villagers in their golden years. Although, I suppose everyone has their quirks. The house mother had to go out today, so she sent her youngest over to the neighbors and I supervised the morning work crew, helping out as needed and getting lunch done. Which, was quite tasty.

I sauteed garlic, onions, delicata squash, carrots and finally swiss chard (treated like the kale, stripped from the stem) and then added tomato paste, red cooking wine, beef bullion, assorted green flakes (guessing oregano and basil...) and a splash of soy sauce alternative (salt free) was also added. I also tried my hand at couscous made with mushroom bullion, which got a hearty approval. I also managed to whip up some more honey mustard dressing. Lunch was a success.

I went for my final meeting after rest time to the admin building, only to be sent to the orientation meeting (although most people started it in Sept, so I'm slightly out of place) instead of the co-op. So, hopefully tomorrow is the day for that! There were quite a few Germans and everyone was excited about the prospect of building a small one-room building for co-workers to hang out at on off days or in the evenings. Apparently previous arrangements have fallen through or not worked out in the past. For various reasons and failings on both sides, from what I was able to gather. I was excited to meet other co-workers, but no one really made an effort afterwards to say hi, so it might be a little tougher than I imagined. At least I'm kept busy at home!

Tomorrow is another day,

Hope all is well,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I was Not King for a Day

Hi all,

More on the title later. Sunday is the rest day here, as only proper for a christian-based (?) community. I got to sleep in until 8! Whoo hoo! Anyhow, I was the only one of the co-workers who went to the service with the villagers. The house mother told me it would be an "experience" and one that I should see at least once. It slightly reminded me of what I would assume a pre-Vatican II mass would be like, but with three readers with their back to the audience. Minus the Latin, of course. It was slightly unnerving, and my overactive imagination likened it to a cult, which, given the message read and expounded on is entirely incorrect. It had a simple message, straight out of the new testament without any embellishments. Still, I think it may be my last Sunday "service".

We trundled off to a far off house in the community (a good half mile) after the service. A small house (technically part of the village, but not a "house" in the normal sense of the word housing only a small actual family) who were gracious enough to host us ALL for a pancake breakfast! It was a bit of a squeeze, but in a cozy way. I'd always thought that I wasn't a pancake eater, but apparently I wasn't eating the right type! I'm a fiend for whole wheat (especially buttermilk!) pancakes! I even tried a type of sesame-nut butter, which was slightly similar to peanutbutter.

The rest of the afternoon proved to be a bit long, as the house is still adjusting to my presence and so there is some unusual behavior (though nothing too severe) going on. At dinner we had a belated King's cake (cake with something in it, and whoever gets that slice becomes King for the Day) and the quietest member of the house got it! We agreed he might be the most beneficient choice, and I think he was far more excited about getting a mint than the crown - a paper deal that he declined to don.

Tomorrow I have another meeting at the admin building for Americorps paperwork (oh, yay...) and will hopefully start work at the co-op. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this yet, as I think I would have preferred to be able to be in a craft shop learning and designing, but nothing is necessarily permanent and I will try to have the best attitude possible for working there. I suppose it correlates to me thinking it would be like working at the bank (which was fine, except I could get SOOOO bored when there was nothing left to do). At this point I know that if I'm kept busy at work that feels like it's useful, I can get through about anything and come out with a feeling of self satisfaction, at the very least.

Hope all is well,

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Where are the Pictures Already?!?

Hi all,

The answer to today's blog title is: not coming. I had to sign a waiver which relates to the protection of a vulnerable population through image dispersion. (Impressive sounding, isn't it?) Which simply means that I have to be very careful about what I post. Plus, it's just too darn cold to go wandering around, so I haven't even seen most of the village yet!!

Today we had Saturday morning cleaning, which really isn't anymore fun than it sounds. It all got done, eventually, more or less to someone's satisfaction. It also just took me a minute to remember what we had for breakfast, so I know the days are still stretching out. It's an odd paradox. Every day seems longer than just one day, but since I feel like there's so much to learn it seems like no time has passed at all. All in good time, I suppose.

I went to the cafe today and met a whole slew of villagers, including one gracious enough to draw my portrait...twice! That picture may be coming soon, as I now lack the energy to take a good photo of it and then do a little cropping, as my birthday and full name are unnecessary for this. Definitely interesting.

We went to a concert tonight, piling into the 15 passenger van and taking some neighbors. It was a presentation called about the dream of Olaf Asteson. (I think...) It was kind of a morality song, although I found it a little taxing to try to follow and just enjoyed the rest. We had fun on the way back telling funny (and some not-so-funny, though I didn't tell my penguin joke...) stories.

Anyhow, I have a little correspondence to do and, as usual, I'm tiiiiiiiiired. Whine for the night accomplished! : p

Hope all is well,

Friday, January 8, 2010

No Late Night for Me!

Hi all,
Well, I zonked out last night, only to have strange dreams (involving chocolate, which made it better!) and to have my body insist that 5 AM was the perfect time to get up at! Not likely.
The reason I was up so late was because we had the first house meeting (only co-workers) and so I had a lot of questions to get answered. I found out there's two schools of thoughts on days off (Sat or Sun are the only permissible days because of the work week) either going with the "you're part of the community suck it up vs. balance and rest does you good. Thankfully my house proscribes to the latter, and seem rather flexible about it!

Today I helped do house chores in the morning and then prepared lunch. I got a rough idea of what needed to be cooked (never having worked with Kale before, I was uncertain about the stems...) but it turned out very well, I think. I didn't get to stick around to eat it, as I had to be at the main admin building by 12:30 to get a ride to get fingerprinted. The driver was a bit...erratic, and so I ended up not feeling like trying to eat and keep food down while traveling. So, I tucked into my tupperware in the waiting room. Apparently the fingerprinting guy travels around and usually doesn't say much, but we had a thrilling conversation about the weather (not) and the question of why a brand new bread machine was in the "office" (they stick him in the storage room).

Anyhow, I have some off time and I think I will go nap now. I feel like I'm constantly on the go but it's a good kind of busy. Rather than standing around and feeling a little out of place, I'm having fun in the thick of it!

Hope all is well,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Full Day

Hi all,

Just a quickie for today (well, it got longer!)- internet is slow and I’m TIRED!

Today I got up at what will be my regular time: 6:45. I can tell that I’ll be observing a more moderate bedtime, because the days are definitely full here.

My first challenge of the day was with breakfast. We had oatmeal. I have a thing about textures, and the fact that the other co-worker decided to add tapioca (I wasn’t the only one who found this to be odd, which was good!) – so that only helped to enhance the slimy nature of it. Luckily, there were some raisins (craisins, perhaps?) in it, so that helped some. At the table I help out a few of the villagers by pouring drinks and helping to cool things off (by adding milk or water, usually) or cutting things sometimes. Such as lunch today.

I got to visit the co-op and helped to shop for groceries and some necessities. It’s a good thing I’ve seen east coast prices, or 7.40 for a tin of hot cocoa would’ve really thrown me. I know, that practically EVERYTHING here is organic - ever seen an organic cheerio, by the way? – but the prices still make me boggle a bit. Plus, there’s the convenience factor, I suppose. At any rate, it turned out to be a good thing, as I found out I will be working afternoons there. Should be interesting.

I also was in charge of dinner today, and had a slightly odd experience as EVERYONE was gone! So I brought down my ipod and speakers to keep me company. My potato soup was excellent, by the way…especially due to the garlic I roasted. I’d say I’d made Julia proud, but it wasn’t her cookbook. Honestly, sometimes there’s just no pleasing people!

At any rate, tomorrow is a big day. I probably won’t be going to work until next week, as I have to get finger printed tomorrow. Big excitement…not. I don’t have to bring 10 dollars this time though, so there’s the positive side.

All right, I’m off to check e-mail and then go to bed!

Hope all is well,


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Today, Julia Childs Wept

Hi all,
Ominous title, no? This morning I threw myself into the brunch with the house dad. He normally doesn't cook, but his wife had other issues and so I volunteered to jump right in. We had a villager helping us (medieval giggle...) and she helpfully dragged out all the ingredients for clafoutis. For those of you who don't know what that is (like me...), it's a rather simple but delicious fruit flan. One might even say it's impossible to mess up.

They'd be wrong, by the way.
See, I thought things had gone swimmingly, and was rather proud of my first effort. The house mom looked at it thoughtfully, but praised the golden edges. She decided we should whip up some cream, and so I did it, adding a little sugar to sweeten it up. I tasted it, and then had a very bad feeling.
I approached the house mom and rather abashedly told her "We have at least one bad thing...and maybe two..." Unfortunately, I proved my worse fears were confirmed.

The "sugar" that the villager had so helpfully fetched turned out to be salt. Yup. And who knew, but apparently a full cup of salt does funny, funny things to a recipe. Not limited to, but including giving the texture and taste of playdough. Yay...

I really know how to impress people, don't I?

Anyhow, we ended up whipping up some delicious buttermilk pancakes and ate pretty much on time. Though apparently this story is going to be whipping through the village and so I may be soon known as "that" co-worker.

As for the rest of my day, it was long but mostly fun. I'm beginning to see who will challenge me and in which ways. There was also plenty of humor, as one of the villagers accidentally washed and then dried a load of clothing with floss in the pocket. Who knew that approximately 1/3 a spool of floss could make 2 inch cluster knots? You could literally grab 1 piece of clothing and the whole bundle would follow! It will definitely take some time to figure everything (anything!) out, but people seem patience, nice and very friendly. So, I'll keep you posted!

Hope all is well,

PS I found out my address and will update my facebook with it. Otherwise, shoot me a comment or e-mail and I'll be more than willing to share!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Transplant Success!

-----------------This is Supposed to be a Cute Picture...but it isn't ---------------------

Hi all,
I have to admit that 5 am is NOT a pretty hour for me. But I made it up this morning and after a LONG line to check in and a slight mishap at security (they finally caught me not taking my liquids out...5th time's the charm, hm?) I made it through and boarded successfully. Somehow, the regular flight to Chicago got over 25 minutes behind, leaving me with a scant half hour to race down the terminal to my connecting flight. It, too, managed to be 25 minutes late coming into Albany. So, resourceful as I am, I managed to page my ride from the Info desk. And then I met the first member of my new house. One of the long-term co-workers of the house picked me up. He filled me in a little on his wife, their 3 children and a little about the other short-term co-worker and the villagers. After an uneventful ride we arrived at my new home. Big and square on the outside, and cozy on the inside.

The picture above is one of the decorations made to welcome me by the kids. They were quite excited to meet their newest playmate...erm, co-worker, and started filling me in on everything. They also had priorities for what I should do, with choosing a napkin ring for the table near the top! I managed to get my unpacking done (with a captive audience...) and managed to meet the entire household, plus the two cats within the first 2 hours. We had tea and then went to a story/play at the hall.

Mittened kids in tow, we tromped over to the hall (on good paths...a lot of walking done here apparently) and settled ourselves in. For the first time ever, I got to watch a real tree being lit up (well, we've BBQ'ed our fair share, but this was with candles). The tree was HUGE (at least 30 feet!) and I have to admit it made me slightly nervous...especially as one of the lighters wasn't quite paying attention to where her flame was wandering around to. The story was cute, and got a good response.

Afterwards we had dinner, the high light for me was probably the olive bread, which literally had chunks of olive in it. Quite tasty. There was plenty of horse play and games afterwards, at a level only the under-10 can muster. I'm not really sure what to expect from tomorrow since it's the last day of their Christmas celebration things will be slightly off-kilter even without me! Luckily, everyone has been very nice and helpful, so I'm not too afraid of making any mistakes!

Hope all is well,

P.s. I'm definitely needing to re-name my blog...any suggestions?