Getting paid to play


I don't know if I've explained my job yet on the blog, but I get paid to play with kids after school. Yes, we still do the boring stuff like homework, but we spend the rest of the day playing playground games, discovering nature, and learning new skills that the public schools don't have the budget to teach. These kids, who I now think of as my kids, are predominantly 2nd generation Mexican kids between the ages of 5 and 12, and there's about 16 on average each day.

The age group is difficult because it spans over a huge difference in interests and capabilities so I constantly have to plan each day with the age thing in mind. We also have a very limited budget, which actually makes it easier to get creative with thinking and inventing games and activities. That being said, here are some of our favorite games/activities.

Capture the Flag
Ultimate Frisbee (just taught this one, with a playground ball though)
Fitness tests

Learning computer skills
Nature hunts
Cutting up paper and throwing it all over the floor
Cooking...and eating!

And the funniest to me, Memory. They go nuts over memory. I took the video of it on Friday, but here's a pic...the kids get down right vicious playing Dr. Suess memory. Just wish my brain was as bright as theirs' are.

Playing Money Management (do any las vegas kids remember this? I created my own, less-cool version of my 5th grade teacher's game, and these kids go crazy over it!) Actually, I'm going to just talk about this one really quick. Every Friday, I count up the "money" that the kids have earned during the week by doing their homework and helping out with tasks around the club like cleaning or reading to the kindergarteners. Then they gather around the game board which is just a poster board split in half between "Busy City", and "Rikaville". Their goal is to save up enough money to eventually move out of the child-laboring factories and live on the magical islands of Rikaville, while getting an education, working, and paying bills.

Quick story, I draw names each week to select 4 kids who have an event happen to them. One girl, who just graduated from fake law school rolled the dice and ended up having a baby. She bothered me all afternoon about it, because she was adamant that she was not ready for children and had a career to focus on. I told her that this is just a game, but sometimes in life, parents have kids that they're not really planning for and at first they're upset but usually (and hopefully) come around and see how beautiful and sweet this precious baby is and are changed forever. She didn't buy it and asked if she could give it away. I eventually told her she could put it up for adoption for $5000 (the price of a house). We'll see what happens. She's 10, and says that the baby idea is giving her nightmares.

I have two more weeks with these kids and then I'm not sure what I'm going to do for a job. I have some photography jobs and weddings over the summer but am actively looking for the full-time deal. Five different part time jobs just aren't cutting it anymore.

Special Sauce


A couple months ago, one of the groomsmen from our wedding, who's also a good friend of ours, went on a cross-country trip while living in his van and graced us with his presence for a couple of weeks. He taught me something that changed my life and my relationship with pasta forever. And now, I'm going to bestow this knowledge onto you, you lucky goose!

Remember last fall when I attempted (and succeeded) to can an entire bucket of roma tomatoes? Well, this tomato sauce kills that homegrown version because of it's simple yet fresh and balanced flavor. Ready for it? So easy! Go!

(this is my amended version which I made this weekend for a make-your-own pizza night with some students).

1 large can of tomatoes (get crushed if you don't have one of those handblender whiz thingies)
1 can of fire-roasted tomatoes (adds an extra zest-you don't have to though)
a little bit of sugar
salt to taste
3 cloves of garlic (or in my case, i used 3 of those frozen cubes of garlic from trader joes'-it's deliciously garlicky!, but you don't have to do this part either)
half a stick of butter (secret ingredient! don't leave this out!)
Half an onion

Prep time: 3-5 Minutes, makes enough for pasta for 4, or pizza for 8

Throw everything into a pot and boil, then simmer for an hour or so while stirring occasionally. Don't do anything to the onion, just stick it into the pot and the layers will eventually separate as it cooks.

After a while, take it off the stove, pull out the limp onion layers, and serve. If you used whole tomatoes, just whiz it up til smooth.

SO EASY! And, I might add, perfect for the creative types like me that hate recipes and are determined to tweak and change depending on mood, the weather, or other variables. The smartest thing to do with this recipe is make a bunch of it and keep it in the fridge for a quick and easy meal.

The Garden-


I have never been good with plants. It's funny, I like plants, but I've never been successful at keep plants alive for any period of time. However, since we've been here and have been blessed with the promise of a more permanent living arrangement (something I haven't had since I was about 14 years old), I have had this little sprout of a dream to grow my own food.

I wrote several articles on gardening and interviewed many seasoned growers about what it takes to start a garden and I was convinced that I could do it. It's taken a couple months but we have just installed and planted about 15 little plants that will hopefully give us some good food this summer.

We tried to be cheap as possible but it turns out that the cost of a garden still comes with a price tag. Here's the major expenses of starting a garden:

Soil-$40 (a special kind, supplemented and mixed with local soil)
Plants-around $15 or so
Shade-$15 for a 6x3 piece
Wire for mole prevention-$12
Plant food-(hey i need all the help I can get!)-$10
Watering device-$15

So it was about $120 to start this garden. We used recycled wood from a barn that was torn down as well as invasive bamboo to hold the shade up, because our poor little plants were about to die from all the sun they were getting. My hope is that we will be able to keep it up and the up front costs won't be as high next year. Plus, garden veggies are WAY better tasting than store bought vegetables. Here's what's in the garden:

garden beans, basil, yellow squash, swiss chard, spinach, red pepper, sage, eggplant and some tomatoes in a planter.

I want to repeat that I still don't feel like I know what I'm doing because there are so many factors that I'm still learning about with predators, soil types, composting, and taking care of a garden. So I'm just learning as I go along. So far, most things are still alive, and I only have about two pepper plant casualties that were fried by the hot sun.