Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 Year in Review - UPDATED (to include December)

Typically I wait until the year is over to do my year in review. However, it occurred to me that we are sending out these holiday cards that include a link to the blog. Since other people typically send a holiday letter about their year with their cards, it made sense to me to have the year in review waiting on the blog for the people who got our cards.

So here I go, a little early. I will update this with December details in January. Check back in if you are interested a Very Carusillo Christmas.

2015 was the year of all the cooking.

In January this year, we rang in the new year with new and old friends. Some of you may recognize my freshman undergrad roommate Carolyn. As it turns out, she and her wife had recently moved to Austin too.

New Years 2015

We also had visits from the parents in January. Cale's mom came out and we showed her the sights.

Annette Visits Austin

A photo posted by @seereeves on

My parents came out and became deathly ill.

We continued to explore Central Texas with a visit to Enchanted Rock.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Cale got a new motorcycle...for himself...for Valentine's Day.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

Sara took a photography class and participated in a +Acumen MOOC (massively open online class) on Storytelling for Change.

And a picture of a dress on the internet completely blew my mind. That shit is white and gold, people.

March was a pretty good month for visual activities. My photo class assignment was to shoot an event, so Cale and I found a break dance competition.

Created with flickr slideshow.

I was also assigned to create an image that represented time. I ended up spending many hours up on the 360 Overlook.

Time Photography Assignment

Created with flickr slideshow.

We tried to go to SXSW, got sick of the lines, and saw the Night Owls at Bangers instead.

Night Owls at Bangers

There was a PhD wedding.

Created with flickr slideshow.

My favorite Austin festival. HonkTX. Though, if we are being honest with ourselves, the only Austin festival we have gone to.

Created with flickr slideshow.

And the MBAs celebrated Holi.

Created with flickr slideshow.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

And so begins all the food pictures.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

April was the best month of the year, I think.

We had a Very Veltri-Gillet Peace Corps wedding...

Created with flickr slideshow. Yosemite National Park.

Created with flickr slideshow.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

We saw Dengue Fever at Red 7 before the venue was closed later in the year.

Created with flickr slideshow.

And went to the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

We also continued to explore our new home.

Cale closed out his first year as a PhD student quite successfully with the his first publication (though it was for his work at IU). While Sara headed to Ghana with an MBA Global Connections course.

Created with flickr slideshow.

In June our country finally made a big leap towards equality and legalized marriage equality.

And more cooking

A photo posted by @seereeves on


We celebrated our independence with Indiana friends who are in Texas now too.

Independence Day 2015

We discovered the wonders that are all the waterways so very close to our backyard and ate all the queso at the Mohawk Quesoff.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

And we headed to the coast for a beach vacation.

Created with flickr slideshow.

And more cooking

A photo posted by @seereeves on

In August school started up again. Cale was back for his second and last year of PhD classes. But, more importantly, we added a new member to the family. Penfold. You can call her Penny.

Cale and Jodi entered the Austin Hot Sauce Festival with their offering, Hot Blooded, a blood orange hot sauce.

Cooking Hot Sauce

And...more cooking...

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

Based on Facebook and Instagram, a whole lot of nothing happened in September, but we did do a lot of cooking.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on


Cale presented at his first professional conference, one step closer to becoming a prestigious doctor.

And gratuitous Penny picture.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

We had another PhD wedding.

Created with flickr slideshow.

And I had my big event for the year at work.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Gratuitous Penny picture.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

Annette came back down to Austin and joined us for the Thanksgiving with all the foods.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

A photo posted by @seereeves on

UPDATE: December
The cooking continued.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

It was a Very Carusillo Christmas in Indianapolis that also included more cooking. Cale bourbon glazed a ham and made a spinach mushroom lasagna, I baked a pie and a turnover, and between the two of us we also cooked a broccoli gratin and mashed potatoes. As we were sitting down to eat, it hit me, we completely forgot to make the salad. Clearly that was not one of the priorities!

Created with flickr slideshow.

Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Year in Review TK

I imagine that our recently mailed holiday cards may be driving some people to the blog hoping for news on Cale and Sara. I am in the process of posting our 2015 Year in Review. Check back in a day or two for details on our year.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Name This Plant: Celosia "Twisted"

Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana

I first saw this plant in Ghana at the Cocoa Research Institute and snapped this picture. It did not occur to me that I could do a Name This Plant with it until I happened upon the same plant in Whole Foods just a few weeks back and was provided the name. Otherwise it would have been hard to google red squiggly flower and find the name.

As it turns out, it is possible it hails from East Africa where it is known in Swahili as mfungu. But I do not remember running into any while we were in Kenya. It also appears to grow back home in Indiana where it is called cocks comb, but I do not remember having seen it there before either.

This particular variety of celosia is know as "twisted." It appears the more common variety looks like this:

Surprisingly, in addition to being decorative, celosia is also edible. According to Wikipedia:
Celosia argentea var. argentea or Lagos spinach (a.k.a. quail grass, Soko, Celosia, feather cockscomb) is a broadleaf annual leaf vegetable. It grows widespread across Mexico, where it is known as "Velvet flower", northern South America, tropical Africa, the West Indies, South, East and Southeast Asia where it is grown as a native or naturalized wildflower, and is cultivated as a nutritious leafy green vegetable. It is traditional fare in the countries of Central and West Africa, and is one of the leading leafy green vegetables in Nigeria, where it is known as ‘soko yokoto’, meaning "make husbands fat and happy". In Spain it is known as "Rooster comb" because of its appearance.
Clearly, its the leaves and not the flowers that are being eaten. It also appears to have many medicinal purposes.

So now you know.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Name This Plant: Mango


Strangely enough, despite living in Samoa for two years and spending three months eating all the mango and sticky rice in SE Asia, I had never seen a mango tree before. I am not sure why I found how they grew surprising.

The entire time I was in Samoa, I didn't eat a single mango. During training, another member of our group discovered that he was allergic to mangoes by developing a full-body rash and swelling. He itched everywhere. In one commiserating session, he compared his allergies to my boils and we both came to the conclusion that we would rather have my boils than his allergic reaction. They told us in training that the mango tree is in the family of poison sumac and poison ivy. Though I am not allergic to poison ivy, I decided I didn't want to take the risk.

However, by the time we got to Thailand, I was over my fear. It was probably the mango and sticky rice that did it. Seriously, best food item ever. Sweet. Salty. Delicious. We ate it I think just about every day for breakfast in Chiang Mai.

I wasn't totally free of the mango allergy. As it turns out, it's the skin of the mango that is the problem. As long as I ate peeled mango, I was usually ok. However, if the skin had rubbed against the flesh or if it wasn't skinned well, I would get what I called mango lips. Aesthetically, mango lips are great. My lips would swell a little and take on a redder hue. Looked great. But they also had a strange rough texture and itched. According to Wikipedia:
The skin of unripe, pickled, or cooked mango can be consumed, but has the potential to cause contact dermatitis of the lips, gingiva, or tongue in susceptible people.
I am a susceptible people. Just like I am one of those lucky few that have a reaction to doxy. Lucky me.

Cale's family is from rural southern Indiana near the Kentucky border. Apparently, they referred to bell peppers as mangoes when he was growing up. It had never occurred to him that was unusual until we were listening to a Way With Words where an Indiana listener called in to ask why her family calls bell peppers mangoes. Wikipedia explains:
When mangoes were first imported to the American colonies in the 17th century, they had to be pickled due to lack of refrigeration. Other fruits were also pickled and came to be called "mangoes", especially bell peppers, and by the 18th century, the word "mango" became a verb meaning "to pickle".
Fun mango facts!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Name This Plant: Fig

A photo posted by @seereeves on

I was a little disappointed to learn this was a fig. Cale and I were at the grocery store when I happened on them. I wasn't sure what they were, but decided with Ramadan just around the corner this must be what a fresh date looks like. Somewhere inside of that thing was the date I was used to seeing. I was super excited to do a timely, Ramadan-themed Name This Plant.

As it turns out though, fresh dates don't look much different from the ones you see in the grocery store.

*I can totally see how a date is hiding in there. It's not really hiding that much.

There were, however, no dates hiding in those figs. And figs aren't really the traditional food of Ramadan. So there goes my timely post.

Figs, which this post is actually about, are native to western Asia and the Middle East. If you thought it was a fruit, you were totally wrong. According to Wikipedia:
Although commonly referred to as a fruit, the fig is actually the infructescence or scion of the tree, known as a false fruit or multiple fruit, in which the flowers and seeds are borne.
Also, the bits on the inside that you are eating are called druplets, and that is a fun word.

Figs are one of the oldest plants to be cultivated by humans (older than wheat and other grains), and fig leaves are an ancient/historical way for people to clothe their genitals. Just ask Adam and Eve. Figs are actually all over the old and new testament. They are both famous for being one of the seven plants that feed people year round in Deuteronomy and infamous for being the plant that couldn't feed Jesus, so he cursed it. Damn you fruitless fig tree!

It's not just the Christians and the Jews that are big on fig. Buddha apparently became enlightened under a type of fig tree, and it is mentioned throughout the Qur'an as well.

And who can forget the Fig Newton?

"Fig-Newtons-Stacked" by Evan-Amos - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

Name This Plant: Artichoke

A photo posted by @seereeves on

This was a pretty popular name this plant. It was fun to watch people realize what it was in the Facebook comments. They pretty much had the same reaction I had when I stumbled across the plant in the wild.

Cale and I were walking to the grocery store and passed this plant in a neighbors lawn. Is that? It can't be? Is that what artichoke looks like? Cale did a quick Google, and yes, in fact, it is.

I know, you're thinking, "But, Sara, this is what an artichoke looks like."

You're right. But apparently, given enough time, they can look like this.

And for those of you that guessed thistle, you weren't actually wrong. Apparently, an artichoke is a cultivated species of thistle.

It just so happens that Cale and I already had an artichoke in our fridge we planned to grill today.

A photo posted by @seereeves on

I'll let you know how they turn out.

Name This Plant

A photo posted by @seereeves on

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Global Connections: Day 9

Friday was the last true day of the McCombs Global Connections trip to Ghana.

We started the morning visiting what is called the Cape Coast Castle. As our guide pointed out, there's really nothing castle about it. It is a fort.

A slave fort to be specific.

Hundreds of thousands of humans as chattel passed through insufferable, inhumane, unconciounable conditions in this fort. Many of them died. Many of them wished they had died.

More than 100 men would have been shackled and crammed into this light-less, air-less underground dungeon for months after having been basically death marched across the coast, only to be packed into ships to suffer similar conditions on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean and then sold.

It's a really tough thing to see.

Women and children were also crammed into tiny dungeon spaces, but they were given a window. The window in the picture above had iron bars across it when this was a functioning slave fort. Today the ledge gives weary visitors a place to rest.

*There were many interesting moments framed by windows while at the fort.

Prof. Raj knew the visit to the fort was an important historical and cultural site to include in this trip, but he also knew that it could be emotional for the students. When we were planning the trip, our travel provider wanted to schedule the fort at the end of the day because our second activity for the day was outside and she was concerned about the heat. However, Raj correctly insisted that we visit the fort in the morning so that we did not end the day on such an emotional low. We needed to lift the students' spirits after facing such a hard part of human history.

After lunch, we went to the Kakum National Park. I believe a visit to this park is required for all tourists in Ghana, as I have never seen any pictures out of Ghana that didn't include this park.

Kakum is a rain forest, so it was appropriate that it was raining when we arrived. Fortunately, it immediately let up and we were able to make the hike into the forest under only the occasional sprinkling from the wet leaves above. Though Kakum is home to several animal species of interest, including monkeys and elephants, they are shy and do not come near to the part of the park accessible to tourists. This is fine though, since what people really come for is the canopy walk.

What an amazing experience.

I am not super fond of heights. Though for me, the problem with heights is getting back down, once I have gotten up. At Chichen-Itza, once I was at the top of the pyramid, I was basically trapped. I had to work my way back down one step at a time on my butt. In Siem Reap, there was one temple where I had to abandon the climb because the steps were too tall and too steep, and just too, too for Sara.

However, I did not have the same fears on the canopy walk. Even though the structure is basically wooden planks laid over metal ladders all wrapped up in rope. Even though it swayed and bucked with the movement of other people. Even though we were quite a ways above the forest floor. I was not particularly afraid. Instead, I was able to enjoy the beauty and the scenery.

After the canopy walk, we weren't quite finished for the day. Our guide, Nii, was able to arrange a cultural show for us that evening from a local dance troupe.

The students had a chance to learn some moves.

The fire eating was particularly dramatic.

Several of us were called on stage to pick up these small balls of fire and throw them into the air for the performer to catch in his mouth.

Mike was successful, though he did burn his fingers a little. Mikhail was also successful in this endeavor.

I, however, was not. It is very hard to bring yourself to pick up fire.

Apparently it's actually not that hard to do. If only I had seen this video first.

Fire eating isn't a bad way to end a trip really.

On Saturday we all loaded into our bus for the last time and headed back to Accra. We lunched at the Fiesta Royale and then everyone set out on their journeys home.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Global Connections: Day 8 - Part 2

Many months ago I was selected to be the staff the MBA+ Global Connections Ghana trip by default. I was the only staff member willing to travel to Ghana during the ebola scare. My main arguments? One, there wasn't ebola in Ghana, but there was in Texas at the time. Two, one of our trip options was Israel, and Ghana felt safer than Israel.

When I agreed to staff Ghana, my first comment was, "As long as we aren't visiting an orphanage."

But we were.

I was extremely concerned about an orphanage visit. To the extent that I ended up creating a classroom presentation to discuss issues related to poverty tourism, support for children with out parental care, and the role of donors.

I shared an article with the students on Ethics and Poverty Tours that I thought was particularly relevant.

Through my research, I was able to see ways that this type of site visit can be done carefully, but I was still wary of visiting an orphanage.

On Thursday, on our way to Cape Coast, we had that visit with the Village of Hope. It was an excellent site visit.

Araba first sat with the students to explain the VoH model.

This is a Ghanian run organization that starts with rigorous assessment and investigation by social workers before a child is accepted into the orphanage. Only children without living relatives who can care for them are accepted. Often, in the course of their investigation, VoH social workers discover unknown relatives who can take in the children.

VoH is not an adoption agency. Children taken in become VoH children. There have only been three adoptions in the entire history of the organization, and they were unique circumstances.

VoH children live in families of ~20 children in a single home headed by house parents. These parents are married couples who serve as these children's parents (not simply as their care takers). When the parents have biological children, then become VoH children as well and live with the families. Since the homes are single sex, if a couple has a biological child of a sex different then the one in their home (such as our guide who is the father to a female house, but who has a biological son), their biological child will live in another house nearby.

When VoH leadership realized that the local primary school could not serve their children or the community well, they built their own primary school that is open to the community. When they realized there was no secondary school for their children to attend in the community, they built one. When their children needed medical care, they built a community clinic that has since become a fully functional hospital.

As the VoH model was described, I became increasingly impressed with their operations.

At the end of the visit, we had an opportunity to engage the secondary school students. The MBA contacts, Perla and Lauren, had arranged to bring some school supplies they wanted to share with the students, and the entire MBA team was given the opportunity to talk with the students in smaller groups.

It was a beneficial exchange for both parties, the VoH students who had questions about the US, studying business, and just about the MBAs in general; and the MBA students who had questions about these students' lives and studies.

Though I was initially hesitant, I was happy that I participated in this site visit.