My Photography

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Kindergarten, here I come...

Yesterday I posted an announcement on Facebook:
So I guess it's official... resignation handed in, locker cleared out, new contract signed, legalized, and delivered... this girl is gonna be a kindergarten teacher next school year!!
The post got a ridiculous amount of "likes" within a very short amount of time, and plenty of comments as well. I guess that bodes well for my new job!

Part of the reason I haven't posted much this month is because I've been very busy due to this career move. A colleague told me about this school she was applying toa Turkish school that would be teaching mostly in English (some subjects in classical Arabic) that would be opening in the fall. I went over to the school to drop off my CV, was immediately interviewed by the Turkish principal and was offered a job on the spot! They needed a kindergarten teacher, asked me if I'd be up for that, and while the idea scares me to death I wasn't hesitant with my YES. The negotiations, decision and paperwork took a few weeks, but finally yesterday I handed over my contract, Othman met the principal and it all became real!

So I'll be teaching kindergarten to mostly non-English-speaking children come September, which means that a huge component of the classes will be language learning, this the schools interest in me, given my background in ELT. Therefore what I'll be doing is basically CLILContent Language Integrated Learningwhich is something I've been interested in for a while in my job at British Council. So I'm not going in totally unequipped!

That being said, I'll have a pretty steep learning curve and have been perusing lots and lots of K-teacher websites of late to get an idea of which I'll be doing come fall. The fact that I'll be part of the team that opens the school, and that it's a private school without a state-mandated curriculum is a bit terrifying, but it'll be a good opportunity to learn how shaping a school works! It'll be a really, really great learning experience, and will be a big challenge to live up to!

A facebook friend just posted this... it sums up my feelings pretty well.

My post will actually be more than just a teacherthere will be two Kindergarten classes, and I will be in charge of coordination of both classes, including communication with parents, some extra curricular programs (little concerts, plays, lunches etc.) and other minor management things. The school is beginning small with only K-2 this year, so I'll be in charge of a pretty significant percentage of its activity. I'm really excited about that as well, because ever since working as a student manager for the Huddle (Notre Dame's food court in the student union) I've known that I really enjoy that aspect of work.

All this is great, but even better is that my hours will be much improved (I'll be done at 3 everyday instead of 9!), the school is on Othman's way to work, and I'll get a pretty nice pay increase. Not to mention the invaluable experience I'll get! I'm planning on keeping a class each term with British Council, because cutting ties with them would be a terrible idea, especially after how supportive they were of my going for this new opportunity.

When Othman and I went to the school yesterday we took our his phone and snapped a few photos of the building, which is still under construction, but very impressive nonetheless.

The view from the back courtyard where the
playground will be. There are two subterranean
levels also, one with offices and the cafeteria,
another with a gym and a 450-capacity auditorium.

The front left of the school.
The main entrance, featuring our car and
the Turkish principal!

Front right: the principal again, Othman and a construction worker.

If any of you reading this know anything about teaching Kindergartners (or any kids in a foreign language) please don't hesitate to offer any advice or thoughts with me! Also, if you're in Casa and are interested in placing your young kids in a really unique, English-speaking school (for a much better price than the American schools), feel free to get in contact with me!

Here's to experiences!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Whirlwinds, Bo Bun and some jackets!

Othman and I have a sort-of tradition that the weekend before I go to the USA each summer we make a trip down to Marrakech. It's a nice little way to spend some time together before I leave, and Marrakech is of course the best place to get gifts for family and friends! I'm leaving on Monday (insert small squeal here), so this year we displaced the 'Kech trip to last weekend so it wasn't the day before I left.

Marrakech as seen from the one big hill
 it has within the city limits, which of course
 has a slum built onto it.

And again.

On our trip down we witnessed something I've never seen beforewhirlwinds! It felt like we were in the wild west or something! We spotted at least 6 different ones in difference places; it was a bit surreal. I took a few pictures without much hope of getting a good shot, but this one turned out nicely:

In the midst of the whirlwind photography Othman nudged me to look straight ahead:

 Oh Morocco. =]

We only spent one night there, and went out to a Vietnamese restaurant we had discovered back in March. While there are plenty of generic "Asian" restaurants in Casablanca I've yet to find anything resembling authentic Bo Bun. Well lunch at Le Bol de Saigon (on Blvd Abdelkarim al Khattabi for those of you in Morocco) back in March satisfied my cravings for a while, but I was hankering for some more this time around. Othman and I had a nice dinner there, and we took these pictures on his phone as proof:

Allow me a tangent here: after our March trip to Marrakech there were a few blog posts I meant to make and never did! One was about how we met up with one of Othman's good friends from France and her man, after they got back from a trip to the Sahara. We only had a few hours with them, but they joined us for Vietnamese and it was great for the two of them to catch up and for she and I to get to know each other better, since we had only met a few times briefly:

Seeing all that lovely hair on Othman makes me rue the day I cut it!

OK back to business: in the dinner picture you may notice the lovely jacket I'm wearing. The story behind it goes back a ways.... When my older brother Patrick came to visit Morocco in October 2012 we took him on the obligatory tour of the old medina of Marrakech, making our obligatory stop at Othman's distantly-related-but-we-call-him-uncle's shop, where he sells beautiful leather jackets. He gets them made specially and they're very high quality, so I told my brother if he ever wanted a leather jacket, now was the time to get one. He did end up buying one for a very good pricethe family price!

Patrick during his visit sporting his jacket!

About a year after that I decided the time had come for me to own a real leather jacket for the first time, so when we were in Marrakech last September I talked with Othman's uncle and explained to him some modifications I'd like on a model he had, and he said he'd get it made and get back to us. We didn't hear anything for months, but when we visited his shop last weekend he got out the same jacket I had wanted the modifications made on, and I tried it on. I realized I really loved it "as is", and after thinking a bit I decided to get it, and Othman told me to go for it. When we asked for the reduced-family price, Othman's uncle categorically refused any payment, saying it was a gift! I couldn't believe it, and we both kind of felt bad taking it, because it's so beautiful, so well made and would certainly sell for a lot. But he insisted, and I walked out with a new amazing piece of wardrobe. I know I'll keep it for years and years and will always remember the amazing generosity of Ami (uncle) Abderrahim. 

Happy me!

Merci beaucoup Ami!!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not goodbye, just seeya soon

So you may remember the restaurant La Squala from when I posted about a goodbye brunch I had with some colleagues back in January. Well this past Friday I had another chance to eat therefor the same sad reason of saying goodbyethis time for dinner. It was a really lovely evening, which started with four of us getting there before the others, and chatting about all sorts of things. I snapped this picture of my colleague with OthmanI love their easy-going friendship.

I took the opportunity of us being few at the table to present my friend with a small gift I painted for her. Othman drew it back in February and it took me ages to finish painting it, but when I was about 1/3 of the way done I decided it would be the perfect gift for Rimnot least because she's moving out of the country and it's flat and light! She also shares my love for turtles so that works out nicely too.

Others arrived and we all ate delicious food, and talked and laughed and talked some more. The neighboring tables must have been a bit confused by the mishmash of French, English and Arabic, but we were all able to follow!

Three English teachers, featuring a bottle, menus and lots of hair!

Rim and I became very good friends this year and I'll definitely miss her! From team-teaching to shopping, from getting waxed to birthday dinners, we've had a really fun year. We're all crossing our fingers that her next job is in a country close to Morocco!! We actually worked together for almost a year before really noticing each other and becoming friends, but I'm just really happy for the time we did have. 

Finally about 3.5 hours after we got there we made our way out, with full bellies and big smiles, but not without first taking a girls picture:

Actually MANY girl pics, with Othman snapping them... I found this one in the bunch, absolutely loved it and had to post it. That looks very much like a "are you done yet??" look.

And we rounded off with an everyone picture. We can thank the waiter for the slight blur, but to be fair my camera can be a bit confusing. It was a wonderful night with lovely people, and was over too soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sushi time!

Last Sunday Othman and I finally got out the sushi-rolling mat and dried seaweed we had bought months before and experimented in making sushi! It was an adventure, but we ended up with some pretty tasty food! I got the sushi rice recipe here and continued with that blog here for rolling instructions. It was harder than the blog made it seem, but that didn't make it any less delicious.

The ingredients (minus the rice vinegar which escaped notice behind me):

The construction station:

Counter clockwise from back: a rolling mat covered in plastic wrap, dried
seaweed, sushi rice in the big bowl, cut cucumber, avocado, salmon, tuna
and sesame seeds! (And a dirty cutting board...)

Somehow I forgot our camera existed after the sushi was all rolled. I would say we were just too hungry and ate them up before I could snap a photo, but actually we made them in the afternoon and ate later on. I guess my brain was too focused on salmon avocado rolls to think about taking photographic evidence of them! There is a shot of our first attempt below, and while I like to think that our later rolls were more... roll-y... to be honest I'm not sure how true that is. 

Anyway I'd definitely recommend using the links above and trying out your own sushi-making session. The ingredients weren't hard to find, and although it took a while--and was very messy--it was all sorts of fun!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A chocolate cake for everyone!

After a conversation with a friend online I realized I had never put this recipe on my blog, which is practically a crime since it’s one of my go-tos for cakes. It's light, fluffy and delicious and enjoyed by anyone with tastebuds! It's perfect for birthdays, baby showers, holidays, or just as a pick-me-up for gloomy days. I like to top it with a frosting of cooking bar chocolate combined with butter and vanilla on the stove and poured on top. (Incidentally that combination also makes for a great ice-cream topping for those of you who can indulge.)

The best GAPS Chocolate Cake there is!

Original recipe found here.

- 3/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 10 eggs
1 cup melted butter or coconut oil
- 1 1/2 cups honey (or a bit less depending on taste)
- 3/4 tablespoon vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl (sift your coconut flour as needed). Put honey and butter/oil in larger bowl and use a mixer to blend them up nicely. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and blend a bit more. Add the dry ingredients and blend again! Don’t worry about mixing it too much, that isn't really possible. If it seems too liquid-y at first just let it rest for a minute or two, and the coconut flour will begin to absorb and it’ll become thicker.   

I like to bake this cake in two smaller pans (WELL buttered) but you could make a big one, or put the batter in a bread loaf pan or even make cupcakes!

Bake at at 325-350 for 35-40 minutes, but if you’re doing cupcakes keep an eye on them because the cooking time will be shorter. Let cool, demold, frost if you want and enjoy!

Note: these pictures were taken last fall and were meant to be showing off my usage of many wedding/wedding shower gifts, thus the weirdly-placed dirty measuring cups, etc.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Paint and chocolate

Earlier this spring I spent many hours of many days working on this painting on canvas:

but in the end I didn't really like it. I've been looking for someone to give it to as a gift, but it's hard to give away something you don't like yourself. Today Myriam, a friend who I see much too seldom, came over to hang out and paint. She doesn't paint herself but has always wanted to, and knowing that feeling well I encouraged her to come try it out with me! It was a really wonderful day, and as an added bonus I was granted the opportunity to give the above painting to someone who liked it! 


We spent a really nice afternoon eating my sugar-dairy-gluten-free chocolates (recipe to come), drinking tea, talking together and painting up a storm. The painting she left with at the end of the day is so hopeful and bright and happy, looks rather Moroccan and really reflects her personality! Best of all she did the whole thing herself, from the design to the finishing touches, with very minor guidance from me. 

 At the same time I worked on a piece I had begun a week or two ago, which I think I'm done with now. It's a different style from what I've done before and I like it!

I, in turn, got guidance and help from Ingridthe catalyst of my own painting adventurewho stopped by at lunchtime to share in our wonderful afternoon for an hour or two. 

Myriam went home all smiles, with two paintings and some coconut oil in hand, the better to make chocolates with! Assessment: friendship, conversation, chocolate, painting and Yo-Yo Ma's Bach Cello Suites make for some seriously lovely times.

Easy, guilt-free GAPS chocolates

We all know that chocolate is good for our health, it's just all the junk and sugar that come with it that are bad. With this recipe you skip the nastiness and have total control over what goes in, and makes your guilty pleasure guiltless! It's like being a kid all over again.

-good quality coconut oil
-cocoa powder

-vanilla extract
-shredded coconut
-coffee grounds
-chopped raisins

Mix equal parts coconut oil (in liquid state) and cocoa powder with a fork till smooth. Add honey and salt to taste. That's your chocolate! Easy!

Now comes the fun part, where options abound: pour it into silicone molds, pop them in freezer and be done, or add one or more of the optional flavorings above and follow same procedure, or freeze some chocolate in the bottom of the molds and add shredded coconut (mixed with a bit of honey to make it pack-able) on top and then more chocolate, etc etc etc. So many options, so much yumminess, so little guilt!

Keep them in molds in the freezer, as you can see from the photos the coconut oil melts very quickly—too fast to take a decent picturebut that melt-in-your-mouth goodness is simply an added bonus. 

Eat, smile, enjoy!