Saturday, February 26, 2011

Unable to Resist Temptation

Hmm, I did post in February once, but I started writing it in January, so I guess it doesn't count. This one will count for February though, and there are so many great topics to choose from, but these two are the ones I will write about.

The peanut butter penalty jar is at 23 leva, or 11.50 Euro, or $15USD. It's growing!

Snowboarding, a Five Day Crash Course:
Every year, there is an event called Ski Week for our school, which I love and dread at the same time.

Why do I love it?: Because it is a chance to get outside, get paid to do snowboarding, and enjoy the great outdoors. That's right, we have five school days where I get to actually snowboard instead of teach first grade squirrels. How cool is that?

Why do I despise this week?: Because it usually means I am going to do something stupid and attempt to kill, badly bruise, or cause bodily harm to myself on the snowboard. I could ski, help Kindergartners get up, or do an outdoor program where they ice skate and hike, but that's not nearly as exciting as snowboarding. Last year, I was doing great, until the last day on ice and I wiped out and had a huge bruise on my ass for two weeks.

But, I cannot resist snowboarding, even though I know I will probably end up super sore and bruised at the of the week. Here is a rundown of my snowboarding adventures this year.

Day 1: Decided to go and practice my moves with a few colleagues in Borovets, in an attempt to not look like an idiot when I snowboard with the sixth graders eight days later. I got a little too ambitious with a rented board that wasn't quite fitting my foot. On the third or fourth run, I go flying into the air upon trying to make a turn, and bounce once, then fly into the air again and fly further, landing a second time. I hit my head both times on the ground. The sounds of the people on the lift were:


My reaction: I stand up and shout out to Suzanne above: "I'm fine!!!!!"

Proceed to snowboard for another 90 minutes, eat lunch, drive home from Suzanne's apartment, and then decide to take nap. Everything was fine, but I was tired, mostly from waking up at 6:30am on a Saturday.

Wake up with major headache and nausea, and assume I got the dreaded flu virus that infected 80% of my class. Cursing myself for getting flu virus. Call Alex to tell him I am sick and not going out tonight. Alex tells me to call Rado to let him know I am not going out tonight, I proceed to call my other friend Rado in Balchik. I do not realize this until the next day. Headaches and nausea continue on Sunday, but I am bamboozled why I am not seriously ill with a flu virus that makes people throw up violently.

It is only on Monday that I realize that I don't have a mild version of the flu, when my first grade squirrels need to tell me three times about the schedule, and I keep skipping the number three when I count to ten making tens with the money we are counting. Suddenly, I realize I don't have the flu, but a mild concussion. First grade boys are worried a little, as they realize their teacher is forgetful with remembering to bring things to school, but there is something wrong because he always can count.

Decide to take the day off, and probably should have taken Tuesday off as well, but decide to be stubborn and go to work to prove myself. I do not go to the doctor, as they would have told me to just rest and do not exercise. I do have Diane and Dave track me for dinner at the sushi place. Overall, I do a great job, except for putting the soy sauce in the wrong dish.

Sidenote 1: I went shopping and bought a very ugly mustard yellow shirt because it somehow reminded me of riding and showing horses when I was growing up. At least it only cost 39 BGN leva, or about $25 USD. I would be really pissed if it had cost 200 BGN leva, or $130. Plan to keep shirt as a reminder to not go shopping while having a mild concussion.

Sidenote 2: I decide to buy a helmet from my boss for 100 BGN leva, or $60 USD, for days 2-5, as I want to make sure I have some protection from myself on the snowboard. This proves to be a good investment, plus I look super cool in it. Had I had this helmet on day one, I never would have had the concussion.

Sidenote 3: I would have gone to the doctor had the headaches gotten worse, but I knew the only thing they were going to tell me is to rest and let them know if the headaches got worse after getting a concussion 10 years ago. I also had a connection to see the best neurosurgeon in Bulgaria if it got worse, so I felt covered.

Days 2-4: No incidents on the bunny hill eight days later, where my head is clear, and I focus on make all the necessary turns and do those very, very well. I go back to the scene where I flew threw the air and successfully go down four times without killing myself. Snowboard instructor tells me on Day 2 I am in excellent shape and I have a great body, as I have to take off layers because it is super hot in polypropolene walking up and down a hill 40 times in one day with the sixth graders, who are not wearing long underwear. Sadly, our snowboard instructor is female, and this further proves a crazy theory I will write about in another edition.

Day 5: My brain decides to take the morning off because I had a nightmare the previous night where I felt like someone was choking me to death at 1:00am. Yes, this really happened, and yes, I really felt like someone was pressing their hands to my throat, trying to choke me to death.

Terrified, I searched my entire apartment for an intruder, and then watched podcasts and played solitaire, scared shitless to go back to sleep until 3:30 am, as I believed someone was going to kill me in my sleep. I only fell asleep out of exhaustion, convinced that Freddy would stalk my nightmares and my street changed its name to Elm instead of Charlz Darvin.

As a result of this nightmare and not sleeping well, our fearless hero falls badly while trying to use the moving button lift, and forgets everything I learned about turning. Knee suffers bruise which finally goes away as I am writing this blog issue.

Afternoon is much better and I gain a second wind, doing turns and acting like a pro going down the hill, showing off for all the first grade squirrels stuck sidestepping up a hill on skis.

End result: I am an intermediate snowboarder, which means I can go down the hill, make some turns and not kill myself 75% of the time, use a button lift and look like a pro, and know the difference between heel and toe edges of the board. I decide to take the rest of the season off, but I am interested in buying a board, since I have all the other equipment besides this. I might as well throw down the money and get more ambitious. I have a helmet, am fearless, and I look cool doing it, so I am completely sold on this. Nothing is going to stop me from being intermediate plus next year.

Bulgarian Census and Being an Illegal American:
This year, Bulgaria decided to have a census for the entire country, and wanted to count everyone, including the foreigners. There was an online census from February 1-9, and then they had people go door to door from February 10-28. If you did not fill out the census when they came to your door, you faced a 250 BGN fine, or about $160.

First, I tried to take the online census, as two million Bulgarians did. I was trying to make life easier for the census and have one less foreigner to count. However, my personal identity number is invalid for the online census, as it was for all foreigners. The foreigners overwhelmingly preferred to take the online version, but none of us could because Bulgaria wanted to actually go through the trouble to count us, and see how many illegal Americans there are in Bulgaria!

Well, it is now February 27th, and no one has come knocking on my door. I think they came when I was in Borovets or in Koprivshtitsa, so I go uncounted because I will not get home until late tomorrow night because of a birthday party. No one is going to ask me whether I have indoor or outdoor plumbing. No one is going to ask me why the 78 year old woman isn't living in my apartment where I get discounted bills for electricity. Instead, I will be one of the countless illegal Americans living and working here in Bulgaria.

Officially, there are only a little over 200 Americans in the entire country. But when you add all the uncounted illegals like me, we're over 2,000. We rampage through Sofia demanding streets without potholes, a highway that goes somewhere, Skippy peanut butter, and not having babas beat us up when we try to buy bananas on sale at Carrefour. This illegal American also demands ground turkey and turkey sausage. We have rights too!

Pumpkin Brownies:
Some people think the peanut butter brownies I make are devine, but these brownies are purely devine, and very few people have tried them.

How great are they? After eating a full dinner of pasta and chicken, the four guests and I could not control ourselves from almost devouring the entire pan of brownies. Each of us had 4-6 brownies, including a very thin woman and a gay guy not wanting to gain weight, who cursed me the next day for making something so wonderful. Even I could not resist this in my goal to become Oprah thin, and I ate 5 of them, and then ate two more then next morning, reluctantly saving one for Viktor.

Be forewarned: If you make these the correct way, you will be powerless against the taste, and will go back for a lot of helpings. Pumpkin and chocolate combine to form an excellent choice. The secret is to bake real pumpkin, then puree it when it is soft. The canned pumpkin from the store in the states simply doesn't deliver the same taste as a real pumpkin, and it has a lot more presevatives. I am convinced my pumpkin brownies and pumpkin pie are amazing as a result of this process. I will never used canned pumpkin again, unless there is little choice when pumpkins are not in season and I am making something with pumpkin in the states for friends in the summer.

Pumpkin Brownies:

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips, preferrably Belgian dark chocolate chips

In a bowl, combine sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix thoroughly.

Divide batter equally into two bowls. In the first bowl, add cocoa powder and chocolate chips, and stir until well blended.

In the second bowl, stir pumpkin, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Grease 9x12 pan well. Add chocolate batter first to create bottom layer. Then, add pumpkin layer. Spread evenly with a spatula, then use a knife to cut through the two layers and create a marble effect. Bake at 350F/175C for 40-45 minutes. Cool, and try to share these with someone you love.

Sidenote: If you eat the entire pan, you cannot be blamed for being unable to resist the taste of pumpkin and chocolate together.