Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Italy in Chicago

Back in October, Tyler gave me a very special (and perfect) birthday gift - a Groupon for a cooking class in Chicago at Affresco.

This Italian restaurant out near O'Hare has been hosting cooking classes for 6 years now. They've fine-tuned it to perfection. It was one of those experiences I won't forget.

The class was not a hands-on experience, but it was just as helpful and so fun. They seated us in a separate room in their restaurant where tables lined one wall in an "L" shape. The chef stood at the front at a table with all of his ingredients, a gas stove and pans ready. Only about 12 of us were there on this evening, so it was very personal and we could ask whatever questions throughout the night.

One of the things I loved about this particular class was that it was an all-senses experience. Not only did we watch the chef cook, but he let us smell the dishes, taste them and Tyler got to try some knife-skills as well (he volunteered!). As the chef demonstrated, courses of an Italian meal were served to us - salad, pasta (Tyler enjoyed this part, not me...gluten-free), chicken and dessert. From 6-9pm we got to slowly eat each course, while learning tips and tricks about cooking well and buying the right ingredients.

The featured cooking item on this particular Monday was chicken. How helpful to learn about this staple! Sergio, the owner of the restaurant and the one teaching us, had lots of handy tips about other things too that I would have never thought of before (like putting a little bit of white wine in your basic red pasta sauce!).

The best end to the evening? A surprise! Affresco hires one of the best up-close illusionists in Chicago on Monday nights. And even better? His name was Leopold. I mean, really, Leopold did magic tricks at our table. I pretty much gaped the whole time; it was mind-boggling and hilarious! All of us were fully entertained. Tyler and I left with full tummies and smiles on our faces thanks to Leopold and Sergio.

Thank you Tyler for this memory! There's no one else I'd rather go with to a cooking class than you!

Monday, November 24, 2014

One Box

Cared for.

When I received a green slip in my mailbox with an "X" marked on the checkbox with the word "package" next to it, I was definitely curious. I was completely shocked to find a little box waiting for me behind the counter of our campus post-office. It was from M.P., a friend I've only met once at a JV Conference, but am thankful to know. 

The package was filled with little things - like a toothbrush, Christmas candy, lip balm and fuzzy socks. I texted my mom to see if she knew the story behind the package, and yes, she did! M.P. is an author, but also someone who has dedicated her life to serving Third Culture Kids. She found out the names of some TCK's who wouldn't be home for Thanksgiving, and sent them care packages. Yes, this means so much!

Growing up as a TCK did make me flexible and able to adapt (...not always, and sometimes slowly!). But it's still hard at times being so far away from the world that was home. Chicago has also become home, mostly because of the people here, along with the new experiences and memories I have in this place. But I'm thankful for this reminder today that it's ok to feel sad about not being present for the usual "JV Family" Thanksgiving. It's ok to be excited about change and newness too. Feel. Remember. Connect. It's all one story, and continues to be. 

Thank you, M. for thinking of me; for thinking of and caring for us TCK's. Thank you.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mint in a Bucket

It all started in Goshen, Indiana.

Just to the left of that red barn in Goshen was a patch of mint. When we stayed with the Millers for our bro-sis retreat, they made us a delicious iced tea from fresh mint and it made me giddy. I was so excited about it that Mr. Miller offered to give me some mint to take back to Moody.

Umm, YES!!

Minutes before we left to go back to Chicago I remembered the mint, and Mr. Miller grabbed a bucket and dug up a little patch from where it grew wildly. I sat with this bucket at my feet all the way back to school (the car smelled great!).

I wasn't sure if it would survive in my room, in this bucket. It was wild mint, after all, and what do I know about "caring" for this kind of plant?

I picked leaves from it until only the "branches" were left. It mad me sad that it looked so bare.

But a few days later, hope came in the form of a bud. That bud grew until there was a full sprig of mint.

I've watched this bucket of Indiana dirt change over the past month. And look where it's at today.

It keeps coming! I've heard that mint sometimes takes over, and I'm fully happy about that! I continue to find new buds popping up every day. I'm not sure how it can be thriving so well in my room with just sunlight from my window and regular watering. Yet it is.

This is my venture. This is my piece of nature in the dorms. This is joy every day.

This makes the best tea.

Thank you, Mr. Miller for the mint! I love it (especially because it's still alive!)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

I have worked in Events and Guest Services at Moody for over a year now, and it has been such a good learning experience. I actually love my job. I'm the Student Event Coordinator, so most of the time I work with students and forms and coordinate with other departments on campus to make sure that student events have everything they need in order to make the event happen (like catering requests, room reservations, etc.). So that's more on the organizational side of things, with lots of e-mailing and submitting requests. 

But there are also unique things we get to do when working with Events and Guest Services - like decorating for Christmas on campus.

A couple of the full-time employees in our department are in charge of making our campus look festive for the Christmas season, and the part-timers get to help out too. What a joy! I won't get to decorate at home, so this is a privilege. 

Kaitlyn (top left corner) is also a part-timer, and she's sweet friend of mine too! 

Although I'm usually one to wait until after Thanksgiving to start anything Christmas-y, it's different here at Moody. After Thanksgiving break, we only have two weeks left of classes, and then by the time I'm done with studying for finals, working on last projects, and once I fly home, there will hardly be any time to enjoy all the traditions and happy feelings of Christmas preparation. And so, I'm ok with starting a little early. Because in my mind, the weeks before Christmas (and particularly Christmas Eve) are the best part!

What I love about decorations is how they bring people together. Since we decorated our floor lounge, people have been sitting out there more throughout the day. Students gather more in our campus coffee shop area when there are lights and trees. It's just fun to see what a little warmth and charm can do for community.

And I'm glad to participate in setting that up here at Moody!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Freezing, Already?

Today, it was cold.

Really, really cold.

Way too cold for November.

It's been this cold for a few days now, and I finally pulled out my big winter coat last week. Somehow it just seemed to early, but as soon as I stepped outside once without it, I never left it again. I heard a rumor back in September that this was going to be a colder and snowier winter than last year... is that possible??

Chicago - we're going to get through it!