Thursday, October 13, 2011


For all of you juniors in High school, the infamous PSAT is approaching, looming over us like a vat of toxic un-awesomesauce, just waiting to tip over and dump its slime and drown our little, scrawny bodies. It cackles as we whimper for help and keeps us from sleeping by attacking our thoughts telling us that if we breathe wrong, we will fail. But never fear young tadpoles! I am here to give you advice about taking the 2011 PSAT that basically will ruin the rest of your life and make you an angry fascist who is dissatisfied with how you look. Here are some simple steps for getting through it.
  • Don’t be illiterate- Do you know that you cannot touch all of your teeth with your tongue? If you just checked to see if this is true, and promptly realized that I made you look rather idiotic, than congratulations, you are not illiterate and can follow basic instructions. You are two steps ahead.
  • Don’t fail-no scholarship, no college; no college, no job; no job, no love life; no love life, no family; no family, no friends; no friends, no parties; no parties mean no tacos. And you know what that means . . . 

  • Don’t Party the Night Before-Yes it is Friday and we all gotta get down on Friday, but chances are Rebecca Black never has and never will take the PSAT so what does she know? Join the rest of social outcasts and go to bed at 9:30 so as to be fully rested and look beautiful when you take the test. At least if you fail and then can’t get a real, fulfilling job you will be all set to work as a model.
  • Wear Underwear- Other than your number 2 pencils and knowing how to spell your name, this is the worst thing that you could forget. Even if you thrive by going commando, please keep yourself contained.
  • Don’t Panic-It may stand for Pain Suffering And Terror but please chill because it will not harm you . . . permanently.

Good luck tadpoles! All will be well and we will still have tacos and each other for when times get rough and the modeling career is going slow. 

P.S. Click on the picture above to get the full affect.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How to Be a Super Super Villian

Dearest Readers,

This post requires you to go back in time and read some of my past articles that I had published on Sparklife. I was making a series of these articles but alas, I never sent the editors this post and by now it is too late. However, I thought this topic might interest many of you and feed your ambitions. In order to fully apreciate the genius of my guide that oozes with awesomesauce, I first suggest that you click this THIS and then read my first two publications. Cheers!

  • Undergo a tragedy-like your superhero adversities you must live through something horribly life altering. Stick your finger into an electrical socket. Lose your pet bunny, Thumper, and become a dark unforgiving human being because of the trauma.
  • Become skilled in the arts of science and engineering- Learn how to turn a microwave into a Trans-Morphing Machine 3000. Learn how to turn a microwave into a coffee cup. Learn how to turn a microwave into a snuggie.
  • Get a face job- Skin grafts and Face paint are favorites. You don’t want to be standing on top of a building announcing your diabolic plan to the citizens of the metropolitan below and have Mrs. Gertrude recognize you as the third grader who wet their pants on the first day of school.
  • Minions- Gru had his yellow balls of walking cheese; Snow White had her seven dwarves. Get yourself some weak-minded, demonic platypuses or robotic aardvarks to help you perform the most mundane tasks.
  • Create an Evil Laugh- giggles and shy whimpering laughs will not be tolerated anymore. Cackles, snorts and cahoots work. Either have a deep roar or a laugh with the frequency of a dog whistle.
  • Choosing your name- Don’t be too original. Settle for Doctor something. It never fails.
  • Develop your sarcasm skills- Nothing gets to an aspiring do-gooder more than using your snarky cruelty to tear apart their hopes and dreams and image and making them look like fruity pansies. Pick on their fashion choice of spandex or their curly greasy fro. Sue Sylvester style.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Day 5: I Got Lost...And Very Little Else Happened

Hola! Today we slept in until about 10:40 which I must say was lovely, and made me feel like I was on vacation.  We went to mass at noon, and some how the priest figured out that we were English and got so thrilled by this fact that he had us come up in front of the whole church and recite the "Our Father" prayer in English. A very little, oblivious, and ancient old lady came up and just stood with us. I hope to goodness that I am that cute and provide that much entertainment when I am also 106 and senile. After mass went back to one of the houses for lunch and pool time. My day probably would have killed me with boredom except for I got lost and therefore I was saved. I decided to leave lunch early with my friends Emily and Anju  to go back to the house that we were staying in so that we could be "ahead of schedule" and get to the computer before everyone else did. Supposedly the house was just right down the street and so we took the only house key and started to head back. I have come to the conclusion that Spain is somewhat like Hogwarts. Within Hogwarts there are staircases that shift and change directions all the time. So you can never be sure that you are going to end up in the location that you want to get too. The streets in Spain seem to be under this spell as well. I swear we were on the right street, but for half an hour we were lost on it. For half an hour, we wandered with no food, no money, no purses, barely any Spanish under our belt and at this point broken, hysterical English that no one would be able to understand. We got directions that sent us a different way each time. Eventually we made it out to the main road still very far from where we were supposed to be. Just as I was getting kind of excited about being a street urchin for the rest of my life, we found the apartment. So much for being ahead of schedule. We then made a mini walking pilgrimage over to Zuburan, an Opus Dei center. We were given the chance for to go to confession and benediction. It was a lovely way to spend our evening. When I got back to our apartment there was a little surprise waiting for me; my cousin, Therese! She came last minute and surprised us all, much to our great delight. So my day wasn't as low-key as it was promised to be. All sorts of surprises seem to await me at every turn of this trip and I don't know whether or not to be scared or excited for whatever is coming next!

Note: This picture has no significance nor is related to this post at all. I just didn't take any pictures on this day and I needed a picture in this post. However, I did take this picture in Spain.

PAELLA!....The Recipe...Nom Nom Nom

How to Make: PAELLA
serves 10-12

There are two parts to this recipe. The first part is the broth and the second is the rice with veggies and meat. For this recipe you need a paella pan and lots of time!

Broth Ingredients
13 cups of water
3 T. olive oil
1 whole chicken- cut up
2 whole carrots-peeled
2 celery stalks
1/2 large onion 
salt and pepper to taste

Other Ingredients
4 cups of pearl rice
4T olive oil
4 cloves of garlic-crushed, or finely diced
1/2 large onion-diced
2 medium tomatoes-diced
1 yellow/orange pepper-cut into thin strips
1 1/2-2 cups of peas
Italian green beans-found in frozen sections of grocery stores
2 pinches of saffron
salt to taste

1. In a large pot, brown chicken pices in 3T of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Once it is browned on both sides, add the carrots, celery and onion (all whole). Cover with the 13 cups of water. Bring to a gentle boil, and then turn the stove down to low and cover for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally. 

2. Remove the cooked chicken pieces and set them aside in a covered dish. Remove the carrots, celery and onion and discard. 

3. In a large paella pan (18 " diameter), heat 4T of olive oil. Add the diced onion and garlic. Cook for 4 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables. Cook and stir for 3-4 minutes Add the rice and saffron. Stir for 3-4 minutes. Add the broth in, one cup at a time. The broth should be mostly absorbed into the rice mixture before adding the next cup. 

4. Once all the liquid is added, arrange all the chicken pieces on top. Allow the paella to cook on low (or medium-low) for another 20 minutes.

*If rice is still a bit crunchy on top, place a clean, hot and wet dish towel over the paella pan for 5-10 minutes.*

**Optional: garnish with lemon slices and chopped flat-leave parsley**

***This recipe is good with shrimp and sausage in addition to the chicken***

Day 4: Toledo!

Today was a very busy and exciting day! After mass, we went to catch a train to Toledo (prounced Toe-Lay-Dough).

While we were waiting in the train station, I overheard a group of people speaking English.  This made me very excited as we hadn't met anyone who didn't speak Spanish as their first language yet, and it was a group full of young people so I concluded that they must be World Youth Day pilgrims! I grabbed my friend, Margaret, and went off to introduce myself. They were from South Africa, a fact which I find very very exciting. They had the most fabulous accents that I have ever heard, and I swear that this how people will be speaking in heaven. It was like a Jamaican accent had a baby with a British one. I was correct, and they were in fact in Spain for WYD. I talked to them for about 20 minutes about faith, WYD, and Lifeteen!!  Lifeteen is sort of like a universal youth group that many charismatic parish's throughout the world take part in, including mine. It turns out that they were all part of a Lifeteen group in South Africa. I never would have thought of Lifeteen being present in South Africa and it tickled me pink to have been able to have had such a random connection with this group. Once we got to Toledo we met even more groups here for WYD! We met groups from France, Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rico, Australia, and of course, (my personal favorite), South Africa.  Meeting people is such an important part of this trip for me. Having the knowledge that there are  people who share the same faith as me is so uplifting and it helps me to remember that I am not alone in my faith. It is inevitable that someday Christians will be truly persecuted again. However, it isn't something to fear because there are so many like-minded people in the world. A lot of Christians fear solitude and estrangement because of their faith, I have defiantly felt that many times. I realize now how silly that is because there are so many of us out their in the world and we won't be alone. It is like having a giant, loving family who populates every corner of the world and will always back you up.

Back to Toledo. Toledo was an ancient city, set high up inside fortress walls. Think castles, suits of armor, and cobblestone streets.

We began by touring a small museum which held ancient paintings from the 11th to 15th century and it had a whole room dedicated to El Greco artwork. We toured the military museum and we walked around on the winding, narrow streets. It was such a historical treasure, and I appreciated how perfectly preserved this ancient city was. The one downfall was how touristy it was. However, the tourists were mainly World Youth Day pilgrims and it is touristy for a good reason.

After having a full day in lovely Toledo, we re-boarded the train and went back to Madrid to visit with The Chivas, friends of many of the girls in our group because their girls lived in Chicago for a while as exchange students. They are family of ten, which is very rare in Madrid and even more amazing than that is they adopted a baby with down-syndrome. Spain does not have a high birthrate, and so this family is truly walking off the beaten path which is amazing and very honorable. They were so warm and hospitable and they fed all thirty of us a dinner of paella. We got home very late after an adventure on the subway where we had no clue where we got lost and had to walk a half an hour to get home.

COMING SOON!!! Paella Recipe, directly from Spain!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Day 3: Rolling Along

Day number 3 in Madrid. Today was one of the those days where we really had to roll right along with the punches because our plans for this trip shifted quite a bit. The day started with confusion concerning mass times. We then loaded onto the metro and headed over to the WYD offices to do a service project. I have to give a little back story before I begin to talk about mess-up of this day. We have been planning this trip for a year, and a big part of it was that we were going to do a service project of sorts. We had one planned in a hospital and another in a camp but both fell through. And then the opportunity to work in the World Youth Day offices came up. Unfortunately, it looks like we will not be able to serve at all on this trip. The World Youth Day planning committee is very unorganized and they were very overwhelmed by the size our group. They were also very disappointed that not all of us were bilingual.  So therefore we spent the rest of the day shopping. There is no use in hiding how disappointed I am that we can't do the service project, as I have been eagerly awaiting it for a year. However, I know that we will make the most out of the time that was supposed to spent in service. Despite the disappointment, the day was fun! We spent the whole day shopping. We went to a department store which was very Americanized and then headed over to Goya, an expensive shopping district where I of course got stopped by a security guard for shoplifting. Of course I didn't actually shoplift. What happened was, one of our Spanish friends, Marta, brought us into one of the most expensive shops on the street. Imagine $1,000 t-shirts and and other overly priced items. Just as I was fingering some 3 million euro necklace (or somewhere along those lines), with a saleslady closely watching me with mistrusting eyes, our chaperon announced that it was time to leave the store. As I casually started walking out the door the security alarm went off, and the saleslady swooped down on me as did the security guard standing by the door. There I was, an American Deer caught in the headlights, wishing that my mother had anticipated that I would somehow get caught into a situation like this and had taught how to say "I want to see my lawyer" in Spanish. She checked my bag, and of course my overly active imagination sent terrible scenarios running through my head that maybe something had fallen into my bag, and I began to wonder if they would send me to the American Embassy first and if not what were Spanish prisons like? Of course, all was well and my imagination was wrong, but from then on my purse set the alarm off in every single store. Figures. I had to explain in broken Spanish to each security guard that "mi bolso es loco." Anyways, the big, expensive stores were no mi gusta so Marta led us to "Los Hippies de Goya" who sold handmade goods out of booths in the middle of the streets. I got some awesome baggy pants that all the Spanish girls are wearing nowadays. We then hopped on the subway to go home for dinner and now bedtime!!!

Because I have no pictures in this post, I am going to include some Spanish pop music! This song is really popular in Spain right now, and it was played at all the WYD events. :-)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Madrid Day 2: Being a Tourist

Second day in Madrid and my feet already hurt like heck and smell like dead cheese. We had a full walking day, similar to how it is with my family whenever I travel with them. If this is how it is going to be every day of this trip, I will defiantly be prepared for the 12 kilometers that we will be walking to meet the pope. We began our day by taking the metro and going into the heart of Madrid. Our first stop was the Catedral de Almudena, Madrid's main cathedral, which was built after Madrid became the capital of Spain. It is the only church, outside of any in Rome, to have been consecrated by a Pope. We started the tour of this massive structure inside of the crypt, where we walked on top of a lot of dead people. Next we went into the church sanctuary and walked around for a little bit. It was a fascinating work of architecture because it drew from almost every period in history making it very eclectic. The Spaniards think it is really ugly, but I loved it as did the rest of our group.

I kind of wonder how our tour guides could take us seriously. Wide eyed with wonder and enthusiasm, we suck in every word that they say, and then squeal with delight when we see a tour shop and march out with overpriced t-shirts and coffee mugs. Anywho, our tour guides were WYD volunteers who spoke very little English except for when it came to the architecture. They LOVED giving the history of the architecture and now I know more about the difference between Baroque versus Gothic ceilings than I ever cared to have in my brain. They brought us over to the Palacio Real, the Spanish palace, where the queen and king do not live. We then toured the streets of Madrid, going into every church that we passed (there is virtually one on every street corner) for 3 hours. After our tour, we settle down for a nice lunch of tapas. Tapas are a Spanish version of appetizers. Let me go off on a sidetrack for a second and give you a bit of a Spanish culture lesson. Around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, Spaniards stop everything that they are doing and have an afternoon siesta. This is when most shops close and people go home for a big midday meal and nap. Because of the size of this big midday meal, in the evening they only eat a light supper which is oftentimes just tapas. However, Cris really wanted to give us a taste of tapas sooner rather than later, so our group sat down for a meal that seemed to be making fun of us. Imagine a group of 30 hungry girls crowded around a table with a plate of cheese, jamon, and shrimp. It was survival of the fittest. If you didn't arm wrestle you would starve. I am still recovering from the starvation and physical output of this meal and I now know why Spaniards are all so skinny. After being tortured for an hour we went over to Madrid's most famous plaza, Plaza Mayor. We walked around, shopped, and enjoyed the many mimes. I saw a fat spiderman (FAILBLOG!), a headless woman, and a man in a baby carriage...pretending to be a baby.

It takes a very secure man to do that. To conclude our walking, we went to the Prado Museum; one of the world's most famous museums. The museum holds treasures by artists such as El Greco, Fra Angelico, and Velazquez. The high point of the museum for me was seeing "Las Meninas" by Velazquez.

To tour the museum, we split up into smaller, more manageable groups, and unfortunately I was with a group who did not appreciate art at all and so my chaperon rushed us from room to room. I was quite put out. Seriously, one of the most famous art museums in the whole world is not to be rushed through. I almost lost my mind from the inhumanity of these young lassies who barely glanced at Las Meninas. After the museum, I was chosen as one of the lucky few who got to ride home in the car of a friend of one of our chaperon's. The car was incredibly tiny and my knees were up to my chin but we arrived home before everyone else and decided to bide the time by going into a Spanish* grocery store. Travel tip: If you ever travel to Spain bring your own Pringles from the USA because they are very expensive overseas. We ended our day with mass and now it is bedtime!!! Oh, one final note. I spoke lots of Spanish today. I am so excited!

*Note: It may seem silly to put the "Spanish" in front of every location that I went to, and yes I know where I was for 2 weeks. But you must understand how excited I was to go into something that was normal as a supermarket and realize that in fact it was Spanish because it was in Spain, everyone spoke  the Spanish language, and the employees were Spaniards. I am not mocking your intelligence or trying to make mine look nonexistent. I am just an overly enthusiastic tourist.