May 28, 2015

ESL "Graduation"

David and I have spent this semester teaching ESL classes through the RALC here in Richardson.  When we moved into our house last Fall, we knew we wanted to find ways to get connected in our community.  Our church has an ESL program that someone had asked me to volunteer for, but it's held during the work day so I couldn't do it.  But it gave me the idea to look for other opportunities to get involved with ESL.  So I asked David if he'd be interested in doing it with this semester.  We went to a training in January and then started our classes--David taught level 4A class and I was assigned to the Intro class!  

Last Thursday night we had our last night of ESL of the semester, so we had a ceremony where our students received certificates.
Goodies for my class on their final exam night last week

My class with their certificates!

David handing out a certificate to Emilio.  Emilio was in David's class and his wife Belsi was in my class!

David's class with their certificates

After the ceremony, we each had a part with our class.  My students brought a whole bunch of delicious homemade Mexican food (our 2 Vietnamese friends brought drinks).  They were all so worried about whether or not I would like the food and I assured them that Mexican food is my favorite--and authentic homemade Mexican food it about 10x better than anything else!

My students were so sweet and several brought my little gifts and notes.  And we took pictures with them
 This is me with my friend Tania.  Below is a picture of me with Tania's little boy Kenneth and another student, Reyna.  Kenneth came to several of our classes throughout the semester and was always very entertaining

It was a pretty crazy semester for me.  When they first called me to teach the Intro class, I felt like there was no way I was capable of that.  And then add to that the fact that they were piloting a new curriculum with the Intro classes and I felt way in over my head.  But I also felt pretty strongly that God had called me to this program and so I jumped in.  It took a lot of preparation--and a lot of prayer for His work in me--but I feel like the semester went pretty well overall.  I am so proud of my students.  Most of them have full time jobs and families and all kinds of responsibilities, but they came twice a week every week to learn English.  They were all so dedicated and invested and it was a joy to get to be with them for the semester!

They did it!  This group stuck with us the whole semester and finished strong.  They all did well on their final exam and have learned so much!  I'm grateful that I got to be a part of it.

May 25, 2015

Cooking up Memories: Mexican Rice

This recipe is another one from my old co-worker, Becky.  It is one of the few side dishes I had, so I just hadn't gotten around to putting it into our weekly meals until now.  But I decided to make it tonight along with a fajita recipe I had found.

Since it was raining for Memorial Day (and pretty much all of May) we couldn't use our grill, so I was excited to try a recipe I found on Pinterest for Easy Oven Fajitas.  The fajitas and the rice both turned out well and were a delicious dinner for us tonight.  Definitely something I will make again!

Mexican Rice
*3 tablespoons Oil *1 cup uncooked Rice *1 teaspoon Garlic Salt *1/2 teaspoon Cumin *1/4 teaspoon Onion Powder *1/2 cup Water *2 cups Chicken Broth *8 ounce can Tomato Sauce
-Fry rice in oil until beginning to turn brown
-Add chicken broth & water
-Add mix (spices) & tomato sauce
-Simmer until rice is tender

May 23, 2015

Cooking up Memories: One Dish Chicken & Rice Bake

As I said a few weeks ago, I knew I got behind on the recipes in April when I was dealing with a broken foot, going out of town for a funeral, and getting ready for a week-long vacation.  Our weekly activities during the school year are all wrapped up for summer now, so hopefully I'll be able to have some more time in the kitchen.  

To try to catch up a little, I planned a dinner this week that included this main dish, Muffin Tin Rolls, and Double Chocolate Chip Cake.  I had planned to make it Wednesday evening, but we ended up with last minute dinner plans with friends, so I pushed it back to the weekend.  

We were planning a double date night with our friends Amy and Chad and when Amy suggested a low key dinner and game night, I told her I had all the ingredients for dinner ready to go.  So we enjoyed a night of dinner and Banagrams.

This recipe came from my Aunt Sandy.  It was very easy to put together.  I cooked it a little longer than the directions said, but some of the rice still didn't seem to get cooked completely--but other than that it was pretty good and definitely a simple dinner for busy weeks.

Served up with a side of broccoli and yummy rolls.

One Dish Chicken & Rice Bake
*1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup *1 cup Water *3/4 cup uncooked Regular White Rice *1/4 teaspoon paprika *1/4 teaspoon pepper *4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
-In 2 quart shallow baking dish mix soup, water, rice, paprika and pepper.  Place chicken over rice mixture.  Sprinkle with additional paprika and pepper.  Cove
-Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until chicken and rice are done.
*For creamier rice, increase water to 1 1/3 cups {I did use this amount of water, but the finished product seemed a little too liquidy to me when it was done, so I probably will only use 1 cup the next time I make it}

I posted all 3 recipes for this dinner/dessert today, so be sure to check them all out.  The rolls and cake were both delicious!

Cooking up Memories: Muffin Tin Rolls

This recipe for rolls is from David's Nanny.  David has lots of fond memories eating at his Nanny's house because she makes some of the very best food.  And she is always so sweet to make special goodies for us whenever we come to visit.

I was excited to try out this recipe for rolls and kept looking for the right dinner to make them with.

I gathered all the ingredients and mixed them up.  While the dough was rising I cleaned our kitchen and did all of the dishes from these rolls and the cake I made.  

Baked them up and they turned out beautifully.  These rolls were so delicious!  We all loved them.  And they are pretty simple to put together, so I look forward to making them for lots of dinners in the future.

Ready to be served up with dinner

Muffin Tin Rolls
*1 package Yeast (dry) *1 cup Warm Water *2 tablespoons Sugar *1 teaspoon Salt *1 Egg *2 tablespoons Shortening *2.5 cups Flour
-Dissolve yeast in warm water
-Add all ingredients except 1 cup flour.  Beat smooth
-Add remaining flour.  Cover & let rise until double (about 30 minutes)
-Stir down batter and spoon into greased muffin cups--1/2 full
-Let rise until the rolls reach toy of cups (about 20-30 min)
-Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees

Cooking up Memories: Double Chocolate Chip Cake

I wanted to make a dessert to go along with our dinner this week and this recipe for a chocolate cake seemed pretty simple.  I ran by the grocery store on my way home yesterday and picked up a few ingredients for it and then I set to work.

My favorite part of this recipe is that the instructions are as simple as--mix together, pour into 9x13 dish and bake.

So I did.  And then it baked for an hour while I worked on the other parts of dinner.  When it was done my house smelled amazing and we had an awesome moist cake ready to go.  This recipe was just for a cake and I decided to try it without icing since that is David's least favorite part of cake.  And it was plenty delicious just by itself.  

We served it up with vanilla ice cream and a little chocolate syrup.  Yum!

Double Chocolate Chip Cake
*1 small package instant Chocolate Pudding Mix *1/2 cup Oil *1 small package instant White Chocolate Pudding Mix *1.5 cups Water *1 package Yellow Cake Mix *4 eggs *1 cup Chocolate Chips
-Mix together, pour into buttered 9x13 dish.  Bake 350 for about 60 minutes {mine was actually done after 60 minute!  One of the few recipes that my oven has cooked correctly}

I've made several bundt cakes in the past with cake mix and pudding mix, including a chocolate chip one that is similar to this.  But I loved baking it up in my normal cake pan--it was nothing fancy, but it was easy and very tasty!  Next time I'll try it with some chocolate icing.

May 21, 2015

UTD Graduations 2015

Last year I talked about going to graduation for 2 of our international friends, and I was excited to get to celebrate with a few other friends this year.  Our friend Teng was matched with David through the International Friendship Partner program in September 2013 when he first came to Dallas.  It's been fun building a friendship with him.  Over the past {almost} 2 years Teng has joined us for Football watching, the State Fair, Christmas celebrating, Chili cooking, a Roadtrip, and lots of evenings sharing dinner.  So we were honored and excited when he invited us to celebrate his graduation with him--and we are grateful he will be staying around after graduation so we can keep hanging out!

A sea of caps and gowns

 Teng crossing the stage
 We were glad to meet Teng's parents after graduation!  They have traveled from China and are spending a month here.  They were in town for graduation and then he will take them to travel around the country.  We'll get to see them again next week for dinner and we are looking forward to it!

Friday morning I woke up to an email from our friend Qinfang saying that had tickets for graduation and would love for anyone who could to join her. Since I was up at UTD for Teng's ceremony right before hers, I decided to stay and celebrate with her
So proud as she gets her diploma

Qinfang has been in our ICF bible study for the last 2 years off and on, but her husband lives in California, so she will be heading there to join him.  He came in for graduation so it was nice to get to meet him

I went around campus with her to take some pictures

 And we ran into some other sweet friends who were celebrating Ivy's graduation.

I'm always so impressed with our friends who work so hard on their Master's degrees here.  It's fun to get to know them during their time in America and I loved getting to celebrate this huge accomplishment with them!

May 18, 2015

Universal Studios

On Thursday morning we got back to port and we took a shuttle to the airport and then went to our hotel for our last few days in Orlando.  We dropped our bags off and then headed to Universal Studios for the afternoon.  We decided to start off with Islands of Adventure.

We walked through Suessland and looked for gifts for our niece and nephew before heading to the Harry Potter section of the park.  I am a pretty big fan of Harry Potter--I've read all of the books (more than once) and David has watched all of the movies with me since we've been together.  When I went to Orlando with my family almost 5 years ago, this part of the park had just opened.  Jeremy, Aja and I checked it out and really enjoyed it.  It was fun to go back and to check out the Harry Potter section in the other park as well.

We were all set to ride the main ride that's inside the castle.  We waited in line for a while and for the first 30 minutes the line was moving well, but then it suddenly stopped.  They made some announcements about how they were trying to get the ride up and running again, so we eventually decided to leave and check out the rest of the park and try to come back.

 We headed over to the Jurassic Park area for lunch and to visit the dinosaurs!  And we rode the River Adventure which was a lot of fun

 Then we headed to the superhero section.  We rode the 3-D Spiderman ride and took some fun pictures inside the daily bugle.  From there we headed over to Hulk.  As we were going to get in line the guy informed me that I would have to take my cast off to ride the ride.  He said I could walk up in it and just leave it with the attendant, but I didn't feel like it was worth it to try to ride without it--and I felt like that could be pretty painful.  So I rested for a few minutes while David rode the roller coaster.

We headed back through the comic strip land and snapped a few pictures. 

Then we decided to try Harry Potter again 

Excited that we made it this far in the line!  We were able to ride the ride the second time around

 Then we rode the Hogwarts Express over to the other park.

 David enjoyed hanging out in the phone booth in "London"

Diagon Alley (the newer Harry Potter section) was pretty cool.  Everything about it felt true to the books and movies and we enjoyed walking around there.
From there we headed back to our hotel for the evening.  Our hotel in Orlando was very nice and spacious.  It was a great place to relax after a long day of walking around.
David's favorite part was that there is a Giordano's pizza closeby and so we ordered dinner and caught up on our Thursday night shows while we ate.

Friday morning we headed back when the parks opened.  We started the second day in the original park
Our first adventure was with the Minions--which may have been David's favorite part!

From there we walked around the different areas of San Francisco and headed to ride the roller coaster in the Diagon Alley section.  Then we checked out Men in Black and shot some aliens.  

 After we spent Thursday afternoon at the park, I realized that I probably would not make it through a whole day of walking around on Friday with my foot.  So we planned a break in the middle of the day Friday.  Luckily right outside the parks is Citywalk which has lots of restaurants, shops, and a movie theater.  We ate at a Mexican Food restaurant and then caught a matinee of the new Avengers movie which we both really liked.
 We headed back in to the park to buy a few last souvenirs.  We took the Hogwarts Express from the older park over to the Islands of Adventure and bought a few last minute things before heading back to our hotel.

We rested Friday night and then headed to the airport on Saturday morning.  While it was sad to end our vacation, it's always nice to return home.  

And we were glad to see this girl and give her the souvenir we bought for her--okay maybe we bought it for us because we thought it was pretty cute!

May 16, 2015

Cruisin to the Bahamas

We got back last weekend from a great vacation--and I'm just now getting a chance to look through our pictures and blog about it.  This was our first big vacation since our Honeymoon almost 2 years ago and it was great to be away.  We decided around Christmas time that we wanted to try to do a cruise.  So we booked it right around New Year's and planned to spend a few days in Orlando between the cruise and coming home.  

Here's a few memories from our cruise.  I'll post pictures of our time in Orlando in another post.

 We were on the first bus from the airport to the port Sunday morning so it didn't take us too long to get to the board the ship.  We ended up having several hours on the ship before we could get into our room so we enjoyed lunch and the view of all the other cruise ships

Monday morning we got up bright and early for our first (and only) excursion.  We booked a Jeep Tour around Freeport.  They picked us up at our hotel and took us to the Jeep sight.
 We were paired up with another couple--Jason and Jayci-- in our jeep.  There was a caravan of 5 jeeps following our tour guide
The first stop was the beach where our tour guide went through some Bahamas trivia and gave us some good information.  On our tour we drove out into a strip of land by the water, visited the Garden of the Groves for lunch and touring, and then ended with an hour long beach party.  I didn't get in the water but David had a chance to
Some of the beautiful scenery at the beach and the garden.  The ocean is so blue and clear in the Bahamas!

 My touring buddy
 The line of jeeps

Tuesday we were in port in Nassau.  We hadn't booked an excursion there and planned to just walk around and explore.  When we got off the ship that morning it started pouring down rain, so we only made it about 15 minutes before we decided to turn around and just spend the day on the ship.  We did a lot of resting that day while my cast dried out from the rain :)

We were a little bummed that 1 of 2 days in port was too rainy to explore, but we still had a good time.  And there's plenty to do on the ship.

We enjoyed several of the ship's activities throughout the week.  In addition to all the good food!
 We went to the comedy show 2 of the night.  They had 2 different comedians and we got to see them both during our cruise.

 Tuesday night we went to the Hasbro game show where they had audience members engage in games like Yahtzee Bowling and Operation Ski Ball.  We enjoyed watching with one of the other couples from our dinner table.

 Then we stayed after the game show and played Bingo.  We got Bingo cards and official souvenier daubers

And every night at the end of dinner our servers danced or sang for us and had us swing our napkins to get the party started

And we came back from dinner every night to find our towel animals.

I also did a lot of this on the trip.  I was able to get around pretty well, but still needed to rest quite a bit after walking for part of the day.  So I spent a lot of time with my feet up.  When I broke my foot in April and realized that I'd be in the cast for our cruise I was pretty disappointed, but we made the most of it...
 ... and I realized one of the positives of a broken foot while I was packing--I only had to take my Left shoes, so it opened up a lot of space in my suitcase :)

Overall, it was a great week away with my favorite guy