Workin’ Girl

Well folks, I’m a working girl now. Technically I am an “Americorps volunteer” but in my opinion this is a full fledged job (without the glorious salary attached to it). I wake up everyday at 5am and by 6:45 I am at school, caffeinated with espresso, and ready to power greet some high school students! I know what you all are thinking…”Abby, up and semi-pleasant before 10am? It can’t be true!” But believe it or not people, that’s the truth. BOY, things can really change! Like the fact that I am forced to wear khaki pants everyday for work and I am almost giving up on complaining about it. I’m growing up – slowly but surely.

My first few weeks of school have been plagued with observations of the discrepancies faced in the education system, but they have also been blessed by meeting so many amazing young adults. I very seldom take the time to reflect on my own educational experiences that date past college because to be honest, I took every part of my academic life for granted until my last year of college. After meeting all of these youthful students I am forced to think back to my own studies. As it turns out, I was extremely privileged to experience the secondary education system from a rural school in Minnesota. I was given a lockers and books to take home if I so chose. I was given worksheets to write on and a planner to keep track of my assignments. I was given a clean schoolhouse with plenty of desks to sit in, but most importantly I was given trust.

I haven’t spent much time working in the Miami-Dade school system but the observations I have had in these first few weeks have made me sick to my stomach. Watching students being shuffled down the hall like a herd of cattle has been the hardest adjustment to make. I learned a term during a Habitat for Humanity conference that sums up the feeling that I get every time I step into the schoolhouse now: it’s called constructive discontent. To me this is how we have the ability to take unsettling emotions, reframe the situation, and either bear witness to what is happening around us or to begin making sustainable changes with the people around us. Although I have always been one to sit back and let the education system develop around me, working with City Year has cause me to develop some serious constructive discontent. I am starting to feel that it is part of my calling to take an active part in changing this structure in the United States. Who knows, maybe after this year I will be saddling up for the journey of an educator.

Don’t worry folks, I haven’t spent all of my Miami time working. I have been cooking like a mad woman lately: soups, cookies, egg rolls, etc. Cooking pretty much consumes my life since I don’t have an extensive budget to go out on the weekends (hopefully soon I will be able to post some of my recipes). I also go to the beach frequently, and sometimes even take Winston with!

Here he is, sunbathing under a strangers chair :)

Here he is, sunbathing under a strangers chair 🙂

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You know your official when they call you a “park yogi.”

I have finally been able to take up yoga since I found free yoga in the park every Saturday! It   has been a relaxing and replenishing journey so far and I am really excited to see where it takes me.

Miami has been incredibly great so far. Although there are always things that I find to complain about, the reality is that I live in a beautiful city with so many opportunities to enrich my understanding of people, culture, and ideas. I have so much to be grateful for here that it is hard for me to tell you all that I have been extremely homesick lately. I hate that fall is beginning in Minnesota and I am still sweating everyday from 7am to 7pm. Luckily, I had two awesome friends come to visit me last week. Although I still had to work, I was able to go with Ian and Amanda to the Everglades to see some alligators 🙂

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Well I think that’s enough for you all to digest for now… I’m going to go enjoy some Miami sunshine before the sun sets. Until next time my friends, until next time.

– Abby

My Miami Life

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Well folks, I am finally here! After 8 months of waiting and planning and worrying, I am finally settled into my cozy Miami apartment.

As most of you didn’t know, I left on Saturday night and made the long trek to Miami. Just Winston and me. We made it in 36 hours which seemed like forever, but we made pretty good time considering the fact that we had to pull over every two hours to stretch and wake up! Mainly it was because Winston got far too hot in the car with the sun beating on him constantly.

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Overall it was a pretty good trip down, no crying, no bad weather, and best of all we drove primarily at night so there wasn’t any traffic 🙂 Although the ride was pretty smooth, I still wish I could have been Winston. He was fortunate enough to sleep the entire ride and I don’t think he could have been happier.

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By the time we finally made it to Miami, Winston was wide awake and ready to tear shit up and I was in tears, partially from a lack of sleep and partially from the huge culture shock. I kept telling myself prior to the move that it wasn’t even going to phase me and that I would be completely fine. However, one stop at a gas station in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami had me in tears. There was music blasting from every car that drove by, bars on the gas station windows, and people yelling in languages I couldn’t even identify. My senses were on overload and I definitely needed time to calm down.

Unfortunately things only got more complicated when I reached my apartment. It was 96 degrees, I was hot and sticky from the humidity, and when I reached the office it was almost as if they weren’t even expecting me. I waited for over an hour to get my apartment keys only to find out my air conditioning was broken and the office was already closed. I cried for about 10 minutes before I realized that I just needed to find a little place of home, just a little bit of comfort in this foreign place. I got on my calling machine and googled the closest target I could find.

Within five minutes I had A/C and a mall that could almost beat those found in Minnesota. Sad to say, but I was instantly calmed down to be surrounded by familiar Up and Up and Market Pantry brands. After a few homesick phone calls to the family and a cart filled with goodies I was feeling good enough to make my way back to my apartment. I nested into my apartment, blew up my fancy air mattress and finally got some shut eye.

When I woke up in the morning it was a brand new day. Instead of fearing a place that was so different than Minnesota, I began to seek out the similarities and appreciate the differences. As Winston and I went out for our morning walk, we were greeted by almost every caretaker and maintenance staff on the premises. Even if I didn’t speak their language, the staff still stopped, smiled, and giggled at the goofy face Winston would be making at the time. Needless to say things were already looking up.

By Friday I had my beautiful kitchen set up and was cooking delicious breakfast meals 🙂

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I finally have a bed (or at least a make-shift futon bed) to sleep on and some chairs to sit on. The nesting process is almost complete. I know I make my whole “nesting” process seem like a huge deal, but the truth is that it is the only thing I can control and know what to expect in my new life here in Miami. I went to my registration for City Year Miami on Wednesday and realized that my adaptability strength is going to be put to the test this year. As much as I am looking forward to working with a program and people that embody the same values as I do, I am nervous for the different ways in which I will be tested.

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I can’t wait for the year that awaits me: fun in the sun, challenges, and new connections within the local community!

Thanks for staying in touch and stay tuned to my blog for more Miami happenings.

-Abby

I leave for Miami in about three weeks and I only have three nights left at my job. Although there is a ton of packing to get done, I have made room for my favorite thing…COOKING!IMG_3117

To kick off my three-week cooking streak I decided to make some tilapia fish cakes yesterday while I had the kitchen to myself (which almost never happens)! On top of the fish cakes I made a fresh red cabbage slaw and chunky tomato bisque soup. It was an absolutely delicious meal that I was fortunate enough to share with my boyfriend, Alex.

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 It is days like yesterday that bring me one hundred percent joy! I am so thankful that I was able to spend hours unleashing my creativity by preparing a healthy and rich meal. And on top of that I actually got to see Alex for more than five minutes (which rarely happens since we have polar opposite work schedules)! All in all it was a day to be grateful.

Horseradish Dill Tilapia Cakes with a Mustard Dill Sauce

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Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Main Ingredients:

  • .5 lbs Tilapia (about 2 fillets coarsely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp horseradish sauce
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 2 tbsp chopped green onion
  • pinch of coarse grain salt
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (panko)

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 small white onion chopped
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

How the cakes are created:

  1. In a medium bowl combine mustard, egg, horseradish, and lemon juice.
  2. Add lemon pepper, dill, and salt to mixture.
  3. Add tilapia and onions to bowl.
  4. Combine breadcrumbs into mixture and form small cakes about 3 inches in diameter (makes about 6 cakes).
  5. Heat oil in 12″ skillet on medium heat.
  6. Fry patties for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  7. Serve with a mustard dill sauce.

How the sauce is created:

  1. Melt butter in skillet, add onions, and cook for 3 minutes.
  2. In separate bowl combine mustard, broth, cornstarch, and lemon juice.
  3. Add liquid mixture to skillet with sautéed onions.
  4. Cook on low heat until desired thickness is reached.
  5. Serve with tilapia cakes.

 

Home cookin’ once again