Saturday, January 30, 2010

85,000 Meals for Haiti




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Eighty Five Thousand meals for Haiti? Where did they come from and how did we do it? Northland A Church Distributed is a very generous church and so are its members. Last weekend and this one, Northland partnered with an organization called Kids Against Hunger. This was only one of four projects taking place simultaneously. The other three were off site at area churches and food banks, since donations have been overwhelming and volunteers are needed everywhere. God is good! People are good, too!

We were set up with 14 people to a table (actually about three tables in a long line) with the first four people facing each other with bins containing soy, vitamin powder, seasoning, dehydrated vegetables, and rice which were funneled into plastic bags. Each meal had to weigh more or less 390 to 400 grams and when cooked can feed up to a family of four. Once each package was weighed it had to be handed over to be sealed and then packaged in boxes. We ran out of supplies before we could hit the 100,000 mark, but we got close.

In the packaging, the tricky part was not going under and not going over. Since we knew that the people receiving these meals are often going hungry, we tried to get as much as we could in each bag without going over. Most of our packages weighed 398 to 400 grams. I would know since we had two people weighing packages and I was one of them. Time went by so fast.

It went by so fast because, I was around the nicest people which made the work light. There was Kim, a nurse at Florida Hospital, and her husband, Ken with their daughter, a high school student. Kim kept us entertained with conversations about things in the news ranging from all the hoopla over Tim Tebow's positive pro-life ad for the Super Bowl to where we all worked, etc. On the other hand, Ken, was competitive, and kept us informed as to how we were beating all the other tables in packaging. He also teased us that the camera crew was nearby and we were all wearing these silly head nets. You can imagine. In spite of all this laughter and banter, we ran our table like a fine tuned engine.

Kim's mom and dad were also there, and he had been an usher at Lyman High School, where Northland used to meet off site when NCC was meeting at the Rink, and we conversed about that, too. Since Northland built the new sanctuary, Lyman worship closed down. They said, " we miss Lyman," and I can understand; it was a cozier worship community. But we can't have everything, can we? Today's commission might have made up for it, even just a little.

Being at the Rink brought back so many precious memories of God working some wonderful things in our lives. He did it again today. Time just flew by and I couldn't be more satisfied.

* Maybe you can make it a community effort to package some meals as several churches in the community gather to do an event like this. It is so doable. Contact Kids Against Hunger Make it happen.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Favorite Restaurant in Puerto Rico





Though, I wasn't born in Naranjito, it is has always been home. Titi Sarita, La Rueda, Las Lomas, Bingo games, where my wedding dress was sewn, the summer living there when I was ten, El Salto and so many other memories. Add Las Cataratas: my favorite restaurant.

High up in the lush mountains about a ten minute drive from Naranjito (an hour from San Juan) in the middle of the island, on Route 152, on the road up to Barranquitas, you will find Las Cataratas. Las Cataratas is a clean but unpretentious restaurant nestled on the side of a mountain overlooking a rocky ravine through which a river flows as it ambles down towards the sea. That is where I recently went with my sister Doris after we visited Mom in the nursing home in early January. On other happier occasions Mom had come with us, as well as my brother and other sister.

"What shall we eat?" Though we ask that question, we already know the answer as we look at the menu. The chuletas or pork chops with white rice and pink beans that smell of cilantro. The chuletas are nicely seasoned with a touch of garlic and salt, deep fried, moist inside, but crunchy on the outside. They come with the best pink beans on the island seasoned with sofrito, a Criollo mixture of onions, cubanelle peppers, ajies, which are small green spicy peppers, and for an added zest, some cilantro. For some reason their particular beans, have an extra dose of cilantro that can be described as a little bit typical and a little bit of heaven.

To that add a side order of crunchy tostones as well, and on a good day, a profuse gushing river below rushing towards the ocean, which brings me to the surroundings. The surroundings are almost as important as the meal itself, since the restaurant is surrounded by breathtaking nature and typical country scenes, such as la finquita or small farm with its rows of banana trees, mango and breadfruit trees, and ornamental palms as well as coconut and royal palms dotting the hills below. On this day we spotted an illegal resident, an iguana, trying to see the ocean as it perched itself on top of a avocado tree. Who knows what you will see on your visit?

So if you want to enjoy an excellent meal of typical Puerto Rican fare at reasonable prices with good service that you will want to visit again and again, this is the place for you,: Las Cataratas. I've included a picture of the menu with the restaurant's information on the cover. Let me know if you visit, won't you?
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Or better yet, which is your favorite restaurant?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Surprising Encouragement

Today I was walking back to my classroom after my daily fourth of a mile trek to the main office and back when I sort of ran into one of my ex students. I was walking towards the front of the Media Center, while he and his twin brother were taking the ramp to the second floor and I could hear him whispering, hey there is Ms. Vazquez. It was David. David was a talker and I had him in ninth grade and then was blessed with him again in tenth. LOL. I am rolling in laughter now, as I recall how many times I had to tell him "excuse me, I'm talking" and he would go on and on. Kids they drive you wacky! Still laughing. Anyway, he tells me, "Ms. Vazquez, I passed the FCAT!.... Thank you." "Thank you?" I said, "Oh, no you did that all yourself." To which he responded, as he went up the ramp, " No, thank you. I swallowed. What could I say to that? "Thank you for saying that. It is a real encouragement," was all I could say. And we talked for a few minutes more, and he went up to the second floor and I walked along to my class, feeling a whole lot different. God bless David, that big talker.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Final Stretch

Essays, grades, planning, planning, planning. Pretty much sums up my weekend. I hope my week is more fun. I really want to watch a movie, or read a novel, or one of the books I am reading but I'm in a pressure cooker right now. Two weeks till *FCAT Writes and about a month until FCAT proper. So it is not only tense in school, but the tension spills over into free time. In spite of all that, I am so pleased with what I am doing right now. Though it has been a sacrifice this weekend, I hope it pays off in quality lessons that will stimulate growth in the students and result in academic gains. I am off to read a little but I had to do one of my favorite things: write. It's obvious, isn't it

I just realized that many of you probably do not know what the FCAT is. FCAT is an acronym for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Students are evaluated for their academic gains and schools are evaluated for how much the students have learned. There is a monetary reward associated with bringing a school up a grade. Our school went from a D to a B last year and we are hoping to at least keep our B or raise our grade. We have evaluated the students systematically for progress since they have been bobbling to say the least, so everyone has used the data to focus on covering and reviewing essential areas of weakness. So my weekend was definitely spent on that.