Tag Archives: cookies

A Different Kind of Holiday

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Yes, I haven’t written since right around Thanksgiving. Yes, we are basically at the end of another year (I’m sorry, wait, WHAT?!).

Was this holiday season a blur for anyone else or just me?

A scene of quiet and breakfast the day before Thanksgiving. Pumpkin and blueberry muffins!

A scene of quiet and breakfast the day before Thanksgiving. Pumpkin and blueberry muffins!

That’s how it all started. I made pumpkin muffins to bring into the office two days before Thanksgiving. I then hopped on the train that night and served up the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. My mom was on the same page and had blueberry muffins on hand, too!

What else would you expect?

What else would you expect?

Of course it wasn’t long until I was throwing flour all over the place. That’s my unbaked apple pie. If you look closely, you can see that the pie crust was a little rough this time around. Lots of tears and holes. But you know what? It all works out. I would insert a picture of the baked pie, but then my phone broke before I could upload the rest of the pictures, and I lost all the photos between Thanksgiving and mid-December. Womp womp. Trust me. The pie looked nice.

I moved into an apartment right before Thanksgiving! A couple weeks later, my family was kind enough to rent a van and bring down my bedroom furniture. I went ahead and bought a couple of counter-height stools so I could actually sit at the counter and eat or do work. It’s a little nicer than sitting on the floor. Shocking, I know.

Mostly I just try to enjoy the view from my balcony. And dream about the glamorous sunset cocktail hours and bright Sunday breakfasts I can host on it.

Took this photo as I was running out of my apartment to a work event. But come on! How could I resist?

Took this photo as I was running out of my apartment to a work event. But come on! How could I resist?

Maybe I should get a couch or something first, though. So more than two people can actually sit down.

I started working with a new client at the beginning of December. They’re fantastic, and there’s nothing more I love than having a jam-packed to-do list. I’ve had multiple days where I leave my apartment before the sun is up and I’m not back until long after it has gone down. There’s a lot to get done, and I know I’ll love a vacation eventually. But for now, I know that I love to work, and I’m very lucky to have a job that challenges me and makes me excited for those long days.

Between the new client and the new apartment- all of the newness- the holidays arrived and started racing by until all of a sudden it was the weekend before Christmas. It didn’t feel like Christmas yet. I hustled around Michigan Ave. a bit to finish my shopping. I tried to listen to some Christmas music while I worked. I bought a poinsettia and set up my nativity set.

You know what really got me ready, though? Baking like a maniac that whole Saturday.

I decided to put together a box of cookies for my wonderful coworkers in another office. The key to a good cookie box (or tray) is variety. First up were apple cinnamon oatmeal cookies and sugar cookies. These photos have also gone missing. My apologies. The oatmeal cookies were to have a fruit-based flavor, and to get some hearty texture. The sugar cookies are just classic. I didn’t do cut-outs for this box, but I did cover them in lots of green and red crystals.

Next up were peanut butter blossoms. The recipe is on the back of a bag of Hershey’s kisses. For real! Get a bunch of peanut butter and those Kisses, and you’re probably good to go.

Glossy, sugary, crackly blossoms of joy.

Glossy, sugary, crackly blossoms of joy.

These are a no brainer. Putting peanut butter and chocolate together is always a crowd pleaser. Note: these are not the easiest to package. You’ll want to layer them on parchment paper in your container. Also, I would suggest having a glass of milk on hand. These are dense, rich, and a little sticky.

Third in line: double chocolate chip cookies with candy cane kisses. Can anybody please come up with another name for these? Basically, prep a double chocolate chip cookie. I used this recipe. Bake them all the way, let the cookies cool for a couple minutes, and then press the kiss in while the cookie is still soft. Let cool completely before you store or package them. Like the peanut butter blossoms, they need to be layered, not tossed around.

They are just the cutest and most festive cookies!

They are just the cutest and most festive cookies!

I love these for how Christmas-y they are: those stripes and that peppermint flavor make these appropriate only during this time of year.

Because I still miss Chile, and these never fail to impress, I also made alfajores with homemade manjar. Find the alfajores recipe in one of my Chile posts. For those new to the blog, alfajores are basically shortbread sandwich cookies filled with caramel (dulce de leche, or in Chile, MANJAR). Prep the manjar ahead of time: you’ll need to boil the can of sweetened condensed milk for at least two hours, and it needs to cool completely before you can spread it.

Warning: they might stick to paper towels. Not that that happened here...

Warning: they might stick to paper towels. Not that that happened here…

These actually didn’t make it into the cookie box. My friend C. came over, taste-tested the cookies, and then kept me from crushing too many cookies into that one Tupperware.

And then, it was Christmas.

First, there was a train ride.

First, there was a train ride, and an unexpectedly sunny view of the skyline.

And an unexpectedly sunny view of the skyline.

Then, there were even more cookies. It’s not Christmas without these cut-outs!

My brothers get all the credit for frosting these, as I was trying to finish up some other baking. Didn't they do a lovely job?

My brothers get all the credit for frosting these, as I was trying to finish up some other baking. Didn’t they do a lovely job?

Then there was some pizza bread. And so much cheese and crackers.

This recipe needed a little rescue after I didn't take care of the dough. Thank you, Daddy!

This recipe needed a little rescue after I didn’t take care of the dough. Thank you, Daddy!

And then, there was just a really pretty tree, and a very beautiful, blessed family.

Couldn't ask for anything more.

Couldn’t ask for anything more.

And that, my friends, was Christmas. Just a few days before, I mentioned to a friend that it didn’t feel like it was time yet. My apartment wasn’t decorated, I hadn’t made much time to celebrate in the midst of work and learning the city, and everything was just so new that I didn’t know where my usual traditions fit in. But even though it maybe didn’t feel like the typical holiday season, and even though I maybe didn’t create enough time to reflect and just “be,” it was still a beautiful, meaningful holiday, with lots of time to appreciate and be grateful for what has been an incredible year.

That’s probably the best way I can describe what Christmas felt like this year: grateful. Appreciative. Just so unbelievably thankful for everything that has happened in 2014. Rather than buy extravagant gifts and plan out an elaborate party, in the moments I did think about Christmas, I kept returning to all of the things I’m thankful for. New friends, opportunities, adventures in other states, moving again closer to home, the closeness of old friends, college graduation- the list goes on and on.

Maybe that will be another post. But for now, I hope you have had a very merry Christmas, and that whatever holidays you celebrate have overflowed with blessings big and small.

With love,

Gaby

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The College Girl’s Guide to Dorm Baking

That’s kind of a bold title. Disclaimer: I don’t pretend to be an expert about baking in a dorm. But I do know a few things. And since people ask me how I do it, I figured I would share it on the internet. Also, I’m not trying to be sexist by saying “college girl.” This is also for the “college guy.” Or “college gender non-identifying student.” “College student” just didn’t have the same ring as “college girl.”

“Yeah yeah yeah,” you’re saying. “Just show me the baked goods!”

This apparently is the first documentation I have of my dorm baking efforts. Fall of sophomore year.

This apparently is the first documentation I have of my dorm baking efforts. Fall of sophomore year.

One more disclaimer: the lighting in our dorm kitchen is less than beautiful, and many of these photos come from before I discovered Instagram and the magic of filters.

This guide is not for you lucky college kids who live in apartment or suite-style situations where you have your own kitchens, with your own fridge, drawers and cabinets to fill up with your own ingredients and equipment. Go read a real food blog and do what they’re doing. I’m talking to everybody like me, who lives in an older dorm with an ill-equipped, often less than spotless, communal kitchen, and must make do with the ingredients offered by the convenience store.

Oh, this light. So harsh and cold. I promise these tasted really good.

Oh, this light. So harsh and cold. I promise these tasted really good.

I started baking regularly in my dorm kitchen when I was a sophomore. I had been inspired that summer by my discovery of Joy the Baker, and subsequently, of Foodgawker. Both became a daily habit, and while I couldn’t make anything nearly as spectacular as the stuff I would find on those sites, I decided that I would try and do what I could with what I had.

These are super easy , a huge crowd pleaser, and I totally forgot to make them this Christmas. Maybe for another holiday soon!

These are super easy , a huge crowd pleaser, and I totally forgot to make them this Christmas. Maybe for another holiday soon!

I worked in an academic office that year, and my coworker and I started bringing in baked goods most Mondays. She had an apartment and brought in things baked from scratch, with multiple ingredients. I, on the other hand, learned how to use brownie and cake mix to make all kinds of cookies. And it worked.

The classic Funfetti cookie. You can never go wrong with Funfetti.

The classic Funfetti cookie. You can never go wrong with Funfetti. (Also, paper towels can substitute for cooling racks.)

So how did I do it, you asked? Here’s how:

1) Bring your own stuff and store it in your own room. Things disappear in communal kitchens, intentionally or unintentionally. I learned really quickly that there were only about three things I could ever count on being in my kitchen: muffin pans, vegetable oil, and an assortment of greasy measuring cups. So I went to the dollar store and to Walmart (real talk) and bought myself my own (really really cheap) supplies. These include: mixing bowls and spoons; spatulas (both the scraping kind and the flipping kind); cookie sheets; a rectangular cake pan; and measuring cups and spoons. I also recommend obtaining a whisk; Tupperware; potholders or oven mitts; and dish soap. Check out what kinds of ingredients your convenience store sells. If you have a grocery store nearby, or at least a way to get there, awesome. For me, I know that if I want to get anything beyond what is required for chocolate chip cookies, or boxed cake and brownie mixes, I will need to go to a store or bring it from home with me.

I made these with my RA, spring semester of sophomore year. These are coconut lime cookies, and we made something so "fancy" because she had a car and could get the stuff.

I made these with my RA, spring semester of sophomore year. These are coconut lime cookies, and we made something so “fancy” because she had a car and could get the stuff.

2) For the love of God, clean up after yourself. Chances are, the housekeepers or custodians in your residence hall are not responsible for washing the dishes people leave behind in communal kitchens- and they shouldn’t be responsible for it. You are almost an adult. Be a good person and leave the kitchen at least the way it was when you arrived. Create some good kitchen karma.

These are M&M cookies made from a cake mix batter. Yes, the taste and texture are a little different. But they're still cookies and they were easy!

These are M&M cookies made from a cake mix batter. Yes, the taste and texture are a little different. But they’re still cookies and they were easy!

3) Get good recipes based on boxed mixes. There, I said it. In my own house, I rarely use boxed mixes. I’ve used real flour in the dorm only a handful of times. The cost, the time, and the clean-up are much reduced when you go with ready-mixed ingredients. Click the links for the master recipe I use for cake mix cookies, and the recipe for my beloved brownie chip cookie. Is there a difference in taste? Yeah. Do your friends notice or really care? Absolutely not.

These are loaded sugar cookie bars, made from refrigerated sugar cookie dough and Valentine's M&M's. Super easy, super sugary, and a big hit.

These are loaded sugar cookie bars, made from refrigerated sugar cookie dough and Valentine’s M&M’s. Super easy, super sugary, and a big hit.

4) Make adaptations and learn about ingredient substitutions. For instance, maybe a recipe calls for melted butter. But all you have is vegetable oil. No problem! Melted butter and vegetable oil substitute for each other in exactly the same quantities. (Softened butter and vegetable oil do NOT.) Applesauce can replace butter in some cases. Maybe you need vanilla and almond extract, but you don’t have almond extract? Just add more vanilla. Trust me, you won’t miss it. Are you trying to bake banana bread but can’t find a loaf pan? If you have a rectangular cake pan (usually 9 by 13) or a muffin pan, perfect. Bake banana muffins! Or banana CAKE. (You can call it cake and it’s really just the banana bread recipe. Don’t worry. I won’t tell.) You can bake both brownies AND cookies in a muffin pan, assuming you don’t have to have that perfect brownie square or round, flattened cookie shape. (Can you tell how much time I’ve spent baking everything in a muffin pan?)

These are chocolate crinkle cookies. Made from chocolate cake mix!

These are chocolate crinkle cookies. Made from chocolate cake mix!

And we now skip over an entire semester of baking when I went to Chile (and you thought that we’d get through a blog post without mentioning Chile. HA.), and enter the era of the iPhone/Instagrammed pictures.

These are from scratch Oreos. My old RA came to visit and she brought the ingredients. Super tasty. (But most college students will opt for the packaged kind.)

These are from scratch Oreos. My old RA came to visit and she brought the ingredients. Super tasty. (But most college students will opt for the packaged kind.)

These were cake mix snickerdoodle cookies. Not the most outstanding. You really do need cream of tartar to get that little extra something.

These were cake mix snickerdoodle cookies. Not the most outstanding. You really do need cream of tartar to get that little extra something.

5) Keep it simple. Keep it easy. It doesn’t take a very complicated recipe, or crazy flavor combinations, to impress people and brighten their day. College kids in particular appreciate the little extra effort you’re making by baking something fresh. Even if it isn’t 100% from scratch or organic or a Dorie Greenspan recipe.

During hall staff training, I made these gluten-free muffins. The ones without chocolate chips are also vegan. They were hearty and great.

During hall staff training, I made these gluten-free muffins. The ones without chocolate chips are also vegan. They were hearty and great.

These started out as a snickerdoodle cupcake and turned into churro muffins. I need to bake these again.

These started out as a snickerdoodle cupcake and turned into churro muffins. I need to bake these again.

Fresh baked goods have a way of making people feel at home. Although I’ve complained plenty about my dorm’s kitchen being…not the best, it’s a favorite space of mine because it is such a great gathering space. Mixing something up in that kitchen has been one of the very best ways for me to see residents, talk to them, and get to know them a little bit. That’s why I bake.

Remember that one time I made alfajores entirely from scratch? That was work. And 110% worth it.

Remember that one time I made alfajores entirely from scratch? That was work. And 110% worth it.

Totally from a box. All of it.

Totally from a box. All of it.

I've made this in the dorm every Christmas since freshman year. This year, I bagged it all up for hall staff. And promptly forgot it in the community fridge.

I’ve made this in the dorm every Christmas since freshman year. This year, I bagged it all up for hall staff. And promptly forgot it in the community fridge.

Also, it tastes pretty good.

It's true!

It’s true!

With love,

Gaby

P.S. If you would like any of the recipes shown or have any of your own suggestions, please leave a comment!

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Home for the holidays

Merry Christmas! / ¡Feliz Navidad! I hope that you are all enjoying some kind of a slowdown or a break right now, and that you have plenty of time to spend with your loved ones, wherever you are.

I came home from school on the night of the 21st, in the middle of a big snowstorm that ended up dumping about 8 inches of the white stuff in our neighborhood. The next day involved lots of shoveling. On the 23rd, I went shopping (I swore I’d be done by then), baked three kinds of cookies, and wrapped all of my gifts. In my head, I was going to be finished with all of those tasks by about 5 o’ clock. I finished at 12:30 AM.

Idyllic, until you have to shovel it out of your driveway. (Oh, why am I complaining? My family did most of it.)

Idyllic, until you have to shovel it out of your driveway. (Oh, why am I complaining? My family did most of it.)

Cookie baking started at 8 AM...

Cookie baking started at 8 AM…

...picked up again around 5 PM...

…picked up again around 5 PM…

...and finally ended around 11 PM.

…and finally ended around 11 PM.

The next morning, I did a little cleaning, prepped a breakfast casserole, and baked a coffee cake for Christmas morning. After all of that, the huge payoff was a slow and lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We like to draw things out in my house- wake up, make the coffee, maybe open the stockings, then eat breakfast, then open a few presents, then take a break to talk to family, then a few more gifts, then a break…and so on until it’s all done. We may have established a new record for longest Christmas gift-opening this year- not because we have hundreds of gifts, but because we take our sweet time. I will be doing the same with my own children and they will probably lose their minds.

No words.

No words.

Just about sums it up.

Just about sums it up.

In other news: I got the grant! And…I’m not going to Chile this time around. For one thing, flight prices went up and would exceed the entire award. For another (and more important) thing, it would just have been too much stress to organize a trip right at the end of finals week, and then be traveling for almost the entirety of my shorter-than-normal break. Conversations with no less than two advisors, my boss, my parents, and four friends confirmed my instinct that all of the craziness would not be worth it. So I’m taking a break and spending more time at home than I have since last winter break.

I knew barely a day into it that this was the right decision. I haven’t been this relaxed and relatively unoccupied in months. My life would be so incredibly hectic right now were I to be heading to Chile next week. This is not to say that I don’t miss everyone and everything in that skinny little country and that hot, bustling city I’ve called home, but sometimes you just need to stick around in one place for a little while longer. And for me right now, that place is here. I know that I’ll be back in Santiago one day. The links are too strong now for it to be any other way. But this was not the time. If I were supposed to be going, I would just know, and I would not have agonized over the decision, and it would not have caused me so much stress. Being an ambitious person makes it really difficult to say no to an opportunity like a paid international trip. But I also needed to realize that the bigger opportunity may have been this very vacation that I’ve got right now. Everything happens for a reason- and so far, it’s turning out very, very well.

Life is good, friends. I hope that you can celebrate the holidays a little while longer, even beyond New Year’s. If you’re Catholic like me, remember that Christmas doesn’t technically end for us until Epiphany- so don’t stop until then! Appreciate the time you have with your loved ones, and let them know that you’re happy to be there with them. Put away your phone and shut your laptop down for a while (…says the girl writing this on the Internet). Just sit. And smile. Think about how good this year was- and how much more awesome next year will be.

Wishing you peace, joy, and above all, love,

Gaby

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Fall Break Baking Extravaganza

Alternatively titled, Working the Kinks Out Before the Holidays.

I more or less lived in my kitchen during this fall break. When I wasn’t doing homework or keeping ahead on thesis research, I was baking. This will probably be the most time I have for baking until…I’m not sure when. If I’m lucky I’ll eke out two pies the day before Thanksgiving (the kitchen belongs entirely to my dad on Thanksgiving Day). And this year, I don’t get home for Christmas until December 22nd. Three days before Christmas. Last year, I arrived home from Chile on December 12th and started baking probably the next day, affording me 12 whole days to bake. Ideally, I don’t bake on Christmas Eve Day. That means that this year, I get two days to bake, including the day I come home from school. TWO DAYS. This will require advance planning, likely including baking at school once my exams are finished, as well as a limited menu and no new recipes. Just the classics. (My family is probably happy about this. Less time to bake = less cookies to eat,  less ingredients to buy, less mess in the kitchen.)

Anyways. Given all of that, I took advantage of plenty of uninterrupted kitchen time.

There were chocolate chocolate chocolate chip muffins, from the Joy the Baker cookbook. Yes, three times the chocolate.

Look at those crackled tops. COME ON.

Look at those crackled tops. COME ON.

Just a close-up.

Just a close-up.

White chocolate drizzle. Because why not? Oh, and calling them muffins means they're an acceptable breakfast.

White chocolate drizzle. Because why not? Oh, and calling them muffins means they’re an acceptable breakfast.

Joy does it again, throwing in buttermilk and extra chocolate and calling them muffins and not cupcakes. I made a second batch today and they turned out just as great the second time around.

Then I gave Joy’s recipe for cream cheese pound cake a shot.

All was going well. The batter was gorgeous. Silky and fluffy and creamy, just like it should be. It went into the pan. I thought, hm, the pan looks a little full. Well, maybe it won’t rise that much.

I was wrong.

Looks delicious, huh?

Looks delicious, huh?

One side of the cake- just one side, not both, thank goodness- overflowed and oozed through most of the bake time. So once the rest of the cake was done cooking, we took it out, let it cool, and then I cut out the ugly part and salvaged the rest of it. It really is a delicious cake. It’s tangy and dense and moist (such a horrible word but so right for desserts). It just has  a chunk missing.

The sad part is, I had meant to send that cake to friends away at other schools. So I had to figure out something else to do. Snickerdoodles worked out as planned.

Such pretty little things!

Such pretty little things!

Soft, crackly, and covered in cinnamon sugar. Easy fall goodness.

Soft, crackly, and covered in cinnamon sugar. Easy fall goodness.

Last dessert of the week: oatmeal raisin cookies, because we had leftover raisins from another recipe. I’ve made these before. I’m pretty sure I’ve made them from the same recipe before. And here is what happened.

Fail #2 of the week.

Fail #2 of the week.

To be fair, they’re edible. They are chewy and soft. But they were so spread out and some of them were rather dark. I think it was either that the butter was too warm when I incorporated it, or there just wasn’t enough flour. It was probably a mix of both.

So, two fun baking fails this week. Let’s hope that that means smooth sailing for holiday baking.

But I haven’t even gotten to the best part of my baking/cooking this week! Guys! I made empanadas! ¡Empanadas chilenas caseras!

Here is the pino (filling) before getting wrapped up.

Here is the pino (filling) before getting wrapped up.

I did the filling according to the cookbook my host parents gave me: chopped top round, browned and cooked with caramelized onions, green chile pepper, and a bunch of spices. Since I couldn’t find merkén, I made a substitute with chili powder (I used guajillo), paprika, cumin, and coriander, with salt and pepper to taste. It got pretty darn close! And of course, each empanada had a whole black olive, half a hardboiled egg, and raisins.

Going into the oven! My folding may need a little work.

Going into the oven! My folding may need a little work.

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

Empanada de pino con una ensalada de lechuga, tomate, y palta.

Empanada de pino con una ensalada de lechuga, tomate, y palta.

You can take the girl out of Chile, but you can’t take Chile out of the girl. I will absolutely be making these again, hopefully with merkén and with better folding.

So besides all of that, I took some walks.

Fall 1

Fall 2

Fall 3

Fall 4

Tomorrow is the last day of calm before the big push begins. The last eight weeks of this semester, and I think especially the next four weeks until Thanksgiving, are busy with a capital B. There will be papers and RA duty and other deadlines and continued job searching and a million other things that will come up. The first eight weeks of the semester were a gift, considering how manageable and evenly paced it all was. But it’s probably going to be a hurricane, not a tornado. Which means that I can see it coming and get ready before it hits!

So I’ve got a plan. I’m making an awesome playlist, because if there’s going to be a lot to do, I’m going to dance my way through it. I’m going to keep exercising because everything they say about exercise giving you more energy is absolutely true. I feel better and I work better mentally when my body works hard. I’m going to keep journaling and incorporate more prayer time, which is a far more constructive way to clear my mind than say, Facebook. I’m going to schedule the heck out of every day and push to get everything on every to-do list done, whenever possible. There is nothing like going to bed at the end of the day knowing that you are keeping pace and aren’t behind in the morning.

It takes focus. It takes discipline. It takes a recognition of my own mental and physical limits, and also a willingness to push and ask more of myself. More than that, it takes confidence, and the belief that I can do it all, and that I won’t break under pressure.

So let’s get to it then!

With love,

Gaby

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A comer!

That’s how we call each other down to eat in my Chilean family. And this is a post about FOOD.

Why now? Because I leave tomorrow and yesterday I completed a year since I first moved in with my Chilean family and I’m probably going to write a post about all of that when I’m on my combined 11 hours worth of flights. (Everyone is aware that I find flying very uncomfortable, right?)

Last year I feel like I ate a lot differently. There was a lot of salad in my house. I brought lunch along a few times a week, and that usually involved a salad of some kind, maybe a sandwich or a wrap if we were low on salad goods. And then we’d eat a lot of salad for dinner. This time around, the weather has been COLD. Much colder than last year. Probably because last year I arrived as winter was slowly on its way out, and this time I got here right when it really kicked in.

This time around, my office has provided me lunch five days a week. There are two options at work- the normal plate, which is a big portion of the entrée (inevitably some kind of starch plus a protein) (and by big, I mean huge), soup, a small salad (often just cabbage, just tomatoes, or just lettuce with half of a tomato), bread, and a little dessert. After the first week, in which I consumed large portions of beans, pasta, and potatoes, I switched over to the “vegetarian” (spoiler alert: not really vegetarian) or “diet” plate. Which is a normal portion of a starch with a protein, soup, a big salad, bread, and dessert.

The cold that we experienced every day in the office usually meant inhaling the entree and downing the soup as soon as it wasn’t scalding, just to warm ourselves up. Typical entrées were: rice and chicken, chicken and potatoes, tortilla (like Spanish tortilla, a veggie-based, crustless quiche) with rice, quiche with rice or potatoes, and two times, palta a la reina, which is avocado filled up with stuff (in our case, quesillo)…with a side of potatoes.

I ate my salad at lunch and then rarely at salad at home at night. Guys, when it’s cold, I have no desire to put more cold things into my body. So I would compensate with solid portions of pasta, meat and rice, or carbonada, which is a typical Chilean stew filled with potatoes AND rice, some kind of meat, corn, squash, peas, and whatever else the cook likes.

In summary: I ate rice or potatoes at least once a day every day. I have not gone running since I left campus in May. And I miss it.

I spent a lot of time wandering around the supermarket this time as well. Our office was just down the street from one, and most days after lunch we would walk over there to get some air and usually pick up chocolate and other snacks for the afternoon. Here are some of the more interesting things I saw:

Lenguitas del Gato. Translates to Little Cat Tongues. Really it's just a long cookie covered in chocolate, and apparently it exists in Europe as well. But come on. Cat Tongues?

Lenguitas de Gato. Translates to Little Cat Tongues. Really it’s just a long cookie covered in chocolate, and apparently it exists in Europe as well. But come on. Cat Tongues?

This is tea. Called Hot Love. It's just raspberry and vanilla flavored, but the kicker is that it's in English. And I don't know what's particularly hot about raspberry and vanilla.

This is tea. Called Hot Love. It’s just raspberry and vanilla flavored, but the kicker is that it’s in English. And I don’t know what’s particularly hot about raspberry and vanilla.

I never saw these once last year. They look like potato smiles (you had a deprived school lunch life if you don't know what I'm talking about), but made out of corn flour and are raspberry flavored. Found right by the cheese puffs.

I never saw these once last year. They look like potato smiles (you had a deprived school lunch life if you don’t know what I’m talking about), but made out of corn flour and are raspberry flavored. Found right by the cheese puffs.

I've actually had Chis Pop a couple of times. They're like blown up Trix. This is something I would never buy myself...but I always sneak a few if they're around.

I’ve actually had Chis Pop a couple of times. They’re like blown up Trix. This is something I would never buy myself…but I always sneak a few if they’re around.

Okay, this isn't a weird food at all, but it's probably my favorite thing that I can't find in the States. Ramitas are delicious little sticks covered in some kind of slightly cheesy or really cheesy powder. If I were to get a care package from Chile, I would want these, manjar, Watt's peach juice, and Sahne-Nuss.

Okay, this isn’t a weird food at all, but it’s probably my favorite thing that I can’t find in the States. Ramitas are delicious little sticks covered in some kind of slightly cheesy or really cheesy powder. If I were to get a care package from Chile, I would want these, manjar, Watt’s peach juice, and Sahne-Nuss.

They're still selling Christmas candies in this store. No joke. We are now at less than six months until Christmas comes again, guys.

They’re still selling Christmas candies in this store. No joke. We are now at less than six months until Christmas comes again, guys.

Oh, and speaking of Christmas…

We made Christmas cookies to celebrate 6 months until Christmas, and the one year anniversary since I moved into this house. Aaaahhhhh!

We made Christmas cookies to celebrate 6 months until Christmas, and the one year anniversary since I moved into this house. Aaaahhhhh!

That’s all I’ve got for now, friends! My next post will probably be published once I’m stateside again.

Chile, you know I love you. See you again…in October, maybe?

USA: it had better be dang warm and sunny when I get home. If it turns out to be one of those cool, damp summers, I will not be happy.

And Border Patrol: I have fifty minutes to get off my plane and get through customs before I start boarding my next flight. Help me out.

With love,

Gaby

 

 

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Things I’ve Learned About Chile/Chileans, Part 2

I’ve just been working. My mood/patience have improved since I last wrote, for anyone who was worried. It has been sunny and warm here, which means basically nothing for the temperature of my office, and has made the smog worse. I spent all day Friday out in the streets- yes, like walking between cars and trucks- collecting money for my office. And when I came home, I had a headache, probably from inhaling exhaust all day.

But, any faith that I had lost in Chileans (which really wasn’t that much) was restored that day. They are givers, those Chileans. They may have only contributed a little individually, but they were actually really receptive to us walking around and asking for change. I would even dare to say that I had a better experience collecting money from Chileans than I’ve seen with Americans. And I include myself in that! It’s really not that often that I give to the Salvation Army at Christmas. I fail at the whole rice bowl thing for Lent. So to see all the people who had change ready to go, who rolled down their windows and waved me over if I didn’t see them, or who were wearing stickers telling us that they’d already given, was quite encouraging.

Last year I wrote this post, which was inspired by this post. (Side note: if you are traveling or living abroad, you MUST read that blog! Ms. Liv is a great writer and has a lot of wisdom to share about what it’s like to live in other languages and other cultures.) Considering that I have no earth-shattering revelations about life or work this week, I figured I’d have a little fun adding to my own list about what I know about living here in Chile:

The dairy products are not as good. Yeah, I’m biased because I live in Wisconsin. But it all just tastes funny, and anything “light” is loaded up with very strong artificial sweeteners. I would love a big, cold glass of Wisconsin skim milk right now. I’m confused as to how more pasteurization makes their milk and butter smell more like the cow. Also, I can’t get behind the idea of milk sitting in boxes, unrefrigerated. Which is how they sell it and store it here.

You can buy things in individual units here. You know how we usually buy yogurts in packs of six or whatever, and the price is for that many yogurts? Not here. They price yogurt per unit. You can do the same thing with juice boxes, chocolate milk boxes, all kinds of things that Americans usually buy in multiples.

Child rearing is a little different. Okay, I’m obviously not saying that Americans have one way of disciplining and forming their children, and Chileans have another way. What I want to say is that overall, children stay younger, for longer. I’m usually referred to as a niña. Which, when I learned Spanish, meant “little” or “young” girl. I thought that by now I’d at least be a muchacha, if not a full-fledged mujer. Not here. I wonder if that’s a cultural-linguistic thing. Language and culture are very closely linked. Could the fact that they’re still referring to girls my age as “niñitas” or “chiquillas” reflect how young they think we are, or how young they should treat us? Then again, people wonder why a girl of my age- aka, marriageable and child-bearing- is not pololeando (in a relationship).

But seriously. Americans, if you don’t like the idea of dating people who still live with their parents, good luck avoiding that in Santiago. If the person is from Santiago and unmarried, chances are, he or she lives at home, even well into their twenties or thirties. Sometimes there’s a push to get married, but there is no rush for people to get out of the house and start living independently while they’re single. None at all.

The taxi drivers almost never talk to you. This is the opposite of the New York cabbie stereotype, where they want to tell you everything about themselves and want to learn everything about you. They are silent here. Which is why I was shocked a couple of weeks ago when my cab driver complimented me on my Spanish and proceeded to talk to me over the course of a twenty minute cab ride. He was also probably the only cab driver who didn’t overcharge me!

This country is low on immigration in general, although more and more immigrants are arriving from Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. Because there are so few immigrants, they are easy to spot, and the Chileans are the best at knowing who’s a Chilean and who’s not. They can also probably pick out the person’s nationality. I’m working on another post about how to spot a Chilean versus a foreigner. How could you mix them up, you ask? Because Chileans, especially in certain parts of Santiago, are really quite European compared to other Latin Americans. When I get on the metro in the morning, most of my fellow passengers would fit right in in the States, and we would never guess that they don’t speak English. Stay tuned! It’s actually a pretty fun game.

A favorite pastime of young Chilean couples is to make out on public transportation. And when I say make out, I am not exaggerating. In the US, we tend to groan if people even sneak a kiss or hold hands on the sidewalk. I would be grateful if I could see a couple limit themselves to that. Nary a day goes by where I don’t see a couple making out so hard that they’re not even coming up for air. The other day, I was standing in one end of the car, and all the way at the other end, I could see a guy basically digging for clams in his girlfriend’s mouth. Yes, I am modest, but seriously! No one wants to see that! Not even the other Chileans! (Until they’re the ones doing it…)

They’re really into brushing their teeth. Which is good considering all of the tea and soda they drink.

Girls have a thing about washing their hair. Like, it’s gotta be washed and clean before they can go out, even if they’ve already showered that day. I don’t understand it.

The cookies are really not that good. Which is why when my host mom asked if I wanted to grab a bag of Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix, I absolutely said yes.

Proof that there is a God who loves us.

Proof that there is a God who loves us.

I can make better ones from scratch. But this was cheaper than buying chocolate chips.

I can make better ones from scratch. But they were still delicious, and this was cheaper than buying chocolate chips.

Carbs and wine make for a good, chill Saturday night.

Carbs and wine make for a good, chill Saturday night.

My NGO constructs houses. So for our fundraising campaign, we collected money in little houses!

My NGO constructs houses. So for our fundraising campaign, we collected money in little houses!

We had black bananas. Of course I made muffins.

We had black bananas. Of course I made muffins. With cinnamon sugar topping.

That’s life right now, guys! Keep an eye out for another post soon. Oh, and if anyone would like to contribute to the “Things I Know About Chileans” list, please comment!

With love,

Gaby

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I’m still here!

Oh hi there!

I’m still here. But see, I’m also a college student, which means that if I’m posting really often, I’m probably not doing the things that I should be doing. And yeah, it’s finals week, so in theory this is the least likely time for me to be posting. But I have my finals under control, my schedule for the day is planned out, and I have time for this right now!

Fun story: I go back to Chile in less than two weeks. That’s right. For those of you who may have forgotten, I have an internship this summer with an NGO in Santiago! I will be working full-time, from 9 to 6:30 every day, like a real adult. I get to enjoy both rush hours on the metro AND the bus, in the dark, in the cold, both ways. Yes, friends, it’s very quickly turning into winter in Chile. I’ve been following their weather, and right now we’re actually at the point where the weather here in the Midwest is very similar to the weather in Santiago: lows in the 40’s and highs in the 70’s with lots of sun and occasional rain. The difference is that by the time I leave my dorm for the day and am walking around outside, it’s usually warmed up to the 60’s, so I can dress for the high temperature. That will not be the case in Santiago. I will need to dress for all of the temperatures, ranging from 45 degrees (with no central heat!), all the way to 75 and sunny. In the same day. Layers are key, friends. The first time I realized that I’d have to dress for that range of temperatures, I asked my host mother what to wear, and she said, “todo tu closet.” Helpful.

But change in seasons aside, I’m very excited to be going back. I have my moments, as I do before any major event or travel, where I wonder if I’ve made the right choice, if I’m qualified for this job, or if I should be home this summer. But then I remember a few things:

1) This is a huge opportunity. It’s fully funded, so while I’m not getting paid, I shouldn’t lose any money on this either. This internship will show me if I really want to work in this international development gig or not.

2) My university and the NGO chose ME, just ME, out of all the other applicants in a highly competitive pool. They saw something there that they liked, and they think that I can do this job. So I can! And I will!

3) Yes, I’ll miss my family tons. But I miss  them no matter where I am, whether it’s here at school a few hours away or 11 hours of flights away. And I get to go back to my Chilean family, which should make the whole resettlement process that much easier.

There are tons of other reasons I’m excited to go back, of course. I miss speaking in Spanish. I miss living in a big city. I miss my friends who are down there studying. All of this should add up to one memorable summer- well, winter.

As we all move on to the summer, to the next school year, to new jobs or new schools for those who are graduating, here’s a quote I saw on Facebook the other day:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

Don’t play small! Play big! Don’t let insecurity and uncertainty hold you back. We were made to be awesome and do awesome things- so go out and do them!

Here is what life looks like lately:

The tabernacle in the Basilica at school, after the Easter Vigil.

The tabernacle in the Basilica at school, after the Easter Vigil.

We spent a lot of time in here during Holy Week.

We spent a lot of time in here during Holy Week.

Graffiti on the side of a restaurant downtown.

Graffiti on the side of a restaurant downtown.

Pretty accidents.

A gift from someone in my office. Dangerous.

Downtown on a Thursday night.

Proof that you can make your own Oreos in a dorm kitchen!

The magnolias trying to bloom on a cloudy day.

Another excellent finals week/general life quote.

More baking! These are cake mix snickerdoodles. They mostly tasted like cake and not a lot like snickerdoodles.

The magnolias in full bloom on a beautiful blue day.

I live in a really pretty place.

Get in there and smell those flowers!

Teensy and pink. Just a happy thing to see.

Kudos to whoever it was that put this motivation outside of the library before finals week!

Good luck with finals, friends! Make time to enjoy the beautiful weather- spring has finally, finally sprung!

Expect pre-departure updates soon. 🙂

With love,

Gaby

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