Monday, August 29, 2016

El Lago del Bosque...

...diversión sin corte...amigos y español!
Sorry about that, I just burst into song. And in Spanish, no less.
These things happen after you've been at "El Lago del Bosque" having one of the best weeks of the year!

Allow me to explain.
"El Lago del Bosque" or "Lake of the Woods" for my anglophone friends, is a camp in Bemidji, Minnesota (official town motto: yeah, well we haven't heard of you, either) where you get to practice Spanish all day! Woohoo!

I realize this probably doesn't sound like the dream vacation hiding behind that giant sign on "The Price is Right" to everyone. 
But to me, it is heaven. So much heaven, in fact, that I forgot about the "camera function" on my phone and have about four usable photos for this whole blog post. With apologies...

The best parts of our best week of this year:
 #1: La Tienda = The Store
The camp has a bank (el banco!) where you can change dollars for real Mexican pesos and then use them to purchase all manner of sundries in the camp store. This was REVOLUTIONARY for the Little Dragans. Do you see those items around their necks? 
Yes, those are pan flutes.
Do you mean you don't have a pan flute? Why not? Now we have two. But I'm sorry, we can't lend you one. You should go buy your own pan flute like the Little Dragans did.
It was really nice to be able to let my kids go to a store by themselves and buy things. I realize this sounds so silly, but just to let them have that freedom here was really refreshing. 
They spent $40 each (that's 400 pesos) on coca-cola flavored gummies and Toblerone. Because I'm raising them correctly.

#2: La Comida = The Food
This terrible photo is meant to demonstrate the little song we sang before each meal.
But, sweet readers, the FOOD. Just, wow.
Every meal is based on the cuisine in a different Spanish-speaking country and is all super tasty and informative.
But do you know what the best part is?
I didn't have to shop for it.
I didn't have to put it in the cabinets.
I didn't have to prepare it.
I didn't have to listen to complaints about it.
I didn't have to clean it up.

It was perfect. 10/10. Highly recommend.

#3: Super Español = Super Spanish
Every night after dinner, a masked superhero flies in to award one or two campers with a special prize for speaking Spanish all day.
Little Guy did not win last year. B did. All year Little Guy wondered if this would be the year he would win. And he did!!! Check out his face when he won:
I mean, I just want to want ANYTHING that badly. The camera was shaking in this pic because I was crying I was so excited. 
Not to be outdone...
She won the next day. I'm not sure I would be any prouder of these two if they had won Nobel Prizes.

The rest of my pictures are either non-existent or just utter garbage, so I'll not subject you to them. Suffice it to say I could go on and on about the friends that we have made at this camp, the incredible staff who go out of their way to make this week what it is, or even the setting which is that beautiful wildness of northern Minnesota that I could never have known I would love as much as I do now. 

Summer Camp was an important part of my own upbringing, both because of the relationships I developed there and because of the independence I gained by going each year. 

There is a powerful possibility for reinvention at camp where you can step outside of your normal life and be someone a little different for a week. 
Someone a little more spontaneous, a little more relaxed, a little more open, a little more fun...

Maybe it's not that we're really different at camp. 
Maybe it's just that we're better versions of ourselves.

If you're interested in checking out Concordia Language Villages who have summer camps of many lengths, for all ages, and in FIFTEEN different languages, please check out their website!

On the last night, through her very sincere tears, B asked me why we couldn't just stay there all year long. 
I wish I'd had a better answer, because the truth is that I wish we could too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

In a Pickle

This was supposed to be a delightfully charming post about homemade pickles.

Can't you just see my DIY-smugness radiating out of that mason jar? Oh wait, that's my cat's whiskers, photobombing.

We signed up for a CSA again this year. Nichols Farm & Orchard, if we're being all specific. It's awesome. We get a huge box (3/4 of a bushel if we're still being all specific) with veggies and fruit every week. The Little Dragans call it "Vegetable Christmas," which is perhaps less a commentary on the bounty of offerings from Nichols and more an indication that Santa might need to step up his game around here... but I digress.

A few weeks ago we got a bag labeled "Pickling Cucumbers." So we decided to make pickles, naturally! How hard can it be??

I will state for the record that we did research and choose a recipe. You will note that it is not linked here and correctly assume that this means that it turned out horribly. Since I don't know if it was my fault or the recipe's, I'll not drag the name of the recipe's author through the proverbial pickle brine here, but suffice it to say that she is well known for her own brand of DIY-smugness and apparently wears potholders so she never has to "Drop it Like It's Hot."

With B as my witness, we dutifully followed that recipe to the letter. Here's the finished product.

Promising. So promising.

The recipe said to let it sit for two weeks. So we just sat there for two weeks staring at it.
Finally, the big day arrived!
B took a class last year with an organization called Purple Asparagus in which she was exposed to many exotic fruits and vegetables and instructed to always take a "polite bite."
This pickle taste test represents a type of final exam:

I give her an A! That is very convincingly polite disdain.

Little Guy--having not yet benefitted from the Purple Asparagus curriculum--offered this response:

He turned to me and deadpanned: "Pickle fail, Mom."

Obviously I had to try them. Gentle reader, what follows is perhaps the worst collection of photos of me any human ever posted on the internet, but I am publishing them because JOURNALISTIC EXCELLENCE. You have been warned.

Mmmm....pickles, this should be fun.
Something is not right with this pickle.
Something is--in fact--desperately, offensively, terribly wrong with this pickle.
Why did I go back for another pickle?? Oh no, there it is, the existential dread setting in...

So this post will not be about charming, delightful homemade pickles at all.

Sorry about that.