Blogger Interviews: Abbie and Emilie

I’ve been really excited about writing this post for a while, because it doesn’t involve much writing on my part, and I get to feature two other blogger-friends of mine who have been on the other side of the world since this summer. When I was working on my undergraduate degree, I attended one of the Study Abroad fairs and grabbed several brochures and magazines for studying, volunteering, and sight-seeing in other countries through my university. Most of the information I picked up was for Egypt, South Africa, or Western Europe, since those are places I’ve always wanted to explore. Although I don’t think I would be able to do a whole semester in a different country (I’m too afraid of missing things), I wouldn’t have minded a two-week experience.

Abbie in Malawi, and Emilie in Istanbul

Abbie in Malawi and Emilie in Istanbul

I met Abbie, who worked as a Resident Assistant while she was in college, through my sister and her friends. She is currently in Malawi (in southeast Africa), teaching at a secondary school, and posts on her blog, Traveling and Teaching: Living and Learning. I got to know Emilie through all of our related activities and mutual friends while we were at YSU together, and got to work with her during my graduate internship. She is studying abroad in Istanbul, Turkey (at the same school where Sarah spent last year’s fall semester!) and blogs at overandout while preparing to apply to graduate schools. I asked them a few questions about their experiences in their respective locations…

Abbie's Form 2 Students

Abbie’s Form 2 Students

1. What made you want to travel to this location?

Abbie: I wanted to come to Malawi because I already had such a strong connection to this community as I had previously traveled here in 2010. I’m back in the same part of Malawi and working with the same NGO (non-government organization) as before. This time instead of two weeks, I’m here for a year.

Emilie: I chose Turkey for a number of reasons. For one, Turkey is one of those mysterious countries that it seems no one really knows anything about, and this obviously attracted me. I wanted to meet the people, eat the food, find out for myself if those silly stereotypes that people believe about the middle east are true. A second reason is because Istanbul is quite literally the center of it all. Half of the city lies in Europe while the other half is in Asia. It’s a mix of people from all over the world, 15ish million of them, all living in this crazy, historic, fascinating city. This also makes it easy/quick to travel almost anywhere in the world, with the exception of North/South America, of course.

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

View from the upper balcony of Hagia Sophia

2. What has been one of your favorite experiences?

Emilie: One of my my favorite experiences so far has been having a HUGE traditional Turkish breakfast with a wonderful, sweet family I met here through some people at home. We had never met before I came to Turkey, but they welcomed Ed (the other YSU student here with me) and I into their home, showed us all over the European side of the city, and have been so generous and kind to us. A few weeks after we arrived, they invited Ed and I over to spend the day and eat with them. It was the most incredible breakfast I’ve ever had, quite possibly the best meal I’ve ever had. Not only because of the food, but the company also made it unforgettable. I only wish I would have taken my camera… rookie mistake, haha.

Abbie: One of my favorite experiences actually happened the first weekend I was here. One of the girls, Alice, who hangs around the lodge/NGO where I stay frequently asked to take me on a tour of the village. As we were walking she asked what my surname was and I told her. She started to smile and talk in Chitumbuka to the other girl walking with us. I asked her to explain and she told me that my surname is the name of her sponsors. What that meant was that my parents sponsor her education. On top of that, I am her math teacher at her secondary school! Alice took me to see her house that is made of mud and sticks and has a thatch roof. Her family welcomed me and offered me a seat on their front porch. Alice told her brother that my parents sponsor her education. Her brother began to tell me in broken English how grateful they were for the sponsorship because by bettering Alice’s life with an education, it’s also bettering her family’s life, as well as the village. Education here is the only way out and a lot of the times it’s not possible because of money.

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia

3. Have you had any trouble adjusting to anything?

Abbie: Everywhere I go I stick out like a sore thumb. When I go to the market, when I walk through the village, when I do my laundry in my back yard I am entertainment for most people. As I walk down the road, kids from everywhere will yell “Mzungu!” meaning, “white person.” I’m unable to be anonymous here and that has probably been the most difficult thing to adjust to.

Emilie: Ah, well, living in Istanbul has required quite a bit of adjusting. Not only is the culture overwhelmingly different, moving from small-town Ohio to one of the most overcrowded cities in the world was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The traffic, the pollution, the (not always reliable) public transportation, lack of greenery, it was all pretty frightening at first. Now, I appreciate all of the differences for what they are, I’ve stopped expecting Istanbul to be just like Ohio, and it’s finally starting to feel like home. I guess if I wanted everything to stay the same, I wouldn’t have come. But I definitely know now that I can’t live without nature, it’s just so depressing!



Check out Sarah’s post about her impromptu cave camping trip in Cappadocia!

4. What is one thing you wish you could bring home with you?

Emilie: The one thing I wish I could bring home is the incredibly cheap produce. Seriously, the fruits and veggies and fresh bread are sooooo cheap here, and the quality is so good (assuming you know what you’re looking for). There are bazaars all over the city every day of the week full of vendors selling fish, produce, cheese, just about anything you could ever need. The bazaars and the produce are something I’m really going to miss.

Abbie: One thing I wish I could bring home with me is the kitten I recently got for my house! She is ADORABLE! Her name is Kim Jong Kitten and she eats all the nasty critters that lurk in the corners of my house. (she was named by a PCV friend). Also, I want to bring home ALL THE BABIES!!!!! They are soooo cuuuuute!


I wish I could share all the gorgeous pictures these girls have taken. I’m so jealous of each of their journeys and I hope they both continue enjoying themselves. I can’t wait to read more about them! Thank you, Emilie and Abbie! 🙂

Make Dinner Easy: Roast a Chicken in the CrockPot

Looking for something easy and inexpensive to make for dinner tomorrow night? Have a CrockPot?

If you’ve answered yes, then I have a recipe for you!

It’s no secret amongst my family and friends that chicken is probably my favorite food. Mostly, I love it because it is such a versatile ingredient. So, I’m always looking for new chicken-related recipes.

Although I don’t mind more complicated recipes, easy recipes are always great to have when you’re short on time or simply don’t feel like putting the effort into making some extravagant meal. For example, I made Chicken Paprikash a few weeks ago for the first time and by the time I was done I needed a nap (just kidding).

So, I was very excited to learn that you could roast a whole chicken in the CrockPot. Oh, I love the CrockPot…haha.

Roasted Chicken is always a good bet.




— 1 whole chicken for roasting*

— 1 cup water

— Olive Oil

— Seasoning of your choice**

*Make sure you buy a roasting chicken and not a frying one. All of the roasting chickens available at my grocery store were around 6 1/2 to 7 lbs.

**I used Chef Paul Prudhomme’s “Chicken Magic” Seasoning. However, feel free to use whatever you want. Many spice brands have a rotisserie spice blend that would be good. Also, you can never go wrong with plain salt and pepper!


— 1 Large CrockPot (Remember, you’ll need to have a CrockPot that the chicken will actually fit in. My CrockPot is oval and works really well for this kind of recipe.)

— 1 pair of tongs

— 1 basting brush

— A small oven safe dish or ramekin (to prop the chicken up with)


1. Place the chicken in your kitchen sink and remove it from the packaging. (This can be somewhat messy, so have your waste basket on hand.) If your chicken was frozen, it should be completely thawed prior to cooking.

2. Once you’ve removed the chicken from its wrappings, you will need to remove any of the “innards” (giblets) that have been left inside the chicken’s abdominal cavity. Sometimes the giblets are in a small bag, but sometimes they are loose. Your best bet is to use tongs to remove them. After you’ve removed these items, rinse out the inside of the chicken’s abdominal cavity.

3. Prepare your CrockPot. I wanted to prop my chicken up a little in the CrockPot, so I placed a small oven safe corning ware dish in the bottom of the CrockPot. Also, spray the inside of the CrockPot with some non-stick cooking spray.

4. Place the chicken in the CrockPot.

5. Take a small amount of olive oil and baste the chicken with it. This will help the skin brown and become crispy.

6. Sprinkle your chosen seasoning over the chicken, making sure to coat the legs and wings.

7. Before you begin cooking the chicken, pour about 1 cup of water into the bottom of the CrockPot. Feel free to use less or more, depending on your personal preferences.

8. Turn the CrockPot onto the Low setting and cook for 6 to 7 hours. If you wish to cook the chicken in a shorter amount of time, you could cook it for approximately 2 hours on High and then reduce the heat to low for another 2 to 3 hours. When it comes to cooking chicken, it is all about temperature. The chicken is done when the internal temperature of the meat is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

9. Once the chicken is cooked, it will look like this:

10. Carefully remove the chicken from the CrockPot. Allow it to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. This will allow the chicken to retain its moisture.v

Serve and enjoy!

The Easiest, Most Delicious Potato Recipe Ever

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Smells, sounds, tastes, feelings that just send you back to a previous time and place. It’s really amazing if you think about it. I heard a song on the radio last week that I probably hadn’t heard since it was first popular in 2000 — you know, one of those one hit wonder songs that were so bad they were good?  Even though I cringed at the lyrics that I now get at age 24 and went over my head at age 12, I still smiled and chuckled. It made me remember the people and events I spent those formative years with, and those memories, bad song or not, are always worth remembering.

But random memory triggers aren’t the only things that can bring you warm feelings. Consistency does that too.

Every Christmas Day, I go to my Aunt Susie’s (my Grandma’s sister) house for a huge Christmas open house. Situated on the border of a large park system, her house is a dream for a history person like me. It is filled with hidden nooks and crannies, with a double staircase, and a summer kitchen. And every year, like clockwork, she and my Grandma make what they have dubbed “Christmas Potatoes.” Even when my Grandma makes them at other times in the year (for smaller occasions) she still calls them Christmas Potatoes.

Really, they could be called Hungarian Potatoes. Or Paprika Potatoes. Or as they’re called in my own brain, Amazing Potatoes.

They’re probably so good because they are just so simple.

So, I figured I share the recipe with you.

Amazing and Easy Paprika Potatoes

Serves 4 -6 (All depends on how many potatoes are in each can)


4 cans of Whole White or Whole New Potatoes*

1 stick of margarine (or butter)

1 heaping teaspoon of good Hungarian Paprika**

*The two names are interchangeable — they’re the same thing.

**The paprika is the most important ingredient. While you can make the potatoes with any kind of paprika, the better the  quality, the better the taste.


1. Open and drain the cans of potatoes. Cut any dark spots off the potatoes.

2. In a small saucepan, melt the margarine.

3. Add the paprika to the margarine, stir.

4. Drop the potatoes in the paprika-margarine mixture and coat them thoroughly.

5. Place the potatoes in an oven safe dish. I use a cookie sheet, but any oven safe dish or pan will work. Cover with aluminum foil.

6. Bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.

7. Enjoy!

Kumpir: A Twist on the Baked Potato

After much hemming and hawing over having a whole lot of nothing to say, I have decided that maybe my “nothing” is enough to say.  This “nothing” is a recipe.

This afternoon I could not find a good recipe for kumpirs, something that quite honestly I do not need a recipe for.  I watched those tasty loaded baked potatos get made a handful of times in Turkey, enough for me to know how to make one.  for potatoes and cheese to make myself a cheap, filling dinner.  What I wanted was for Google to reassure me that my memory of the kumpir served me correctly, but instead I got a handful of boutique kumpir recipes very unlike the buttery, cheesy fast food version I had in Istanbul.

I know perfectly well how to prepare a kumpir, so since Google is lacking in solid kumpir recipes, I thought I would share.  For about $10, you too can make an “exotic, foreign” dish.  You can pat yourself on the back for being all swanky and multicultural.  All it takes is a microwaved baked potato and, truthfully, whatever leftovers you feel like wrangling out of the fridge.  The toppings I list are the standard kumpir toppings, but the kumpir is more of an art form of throwing everything you can find on a baked potato than of following a specific recipe.  Given the dismal economy and rising food prices, I think a lot of people could get on board with my quest to lower my grocery bill without feeling like all I eat are ramen noodles.  So I present the kumpir, a gloriously fatty, delicious, cheap meal.


I neither made nor ate this particular kumpir, but it looks legit.  I found it on Google, which does in fact have many good things even if the specific kumpir recipe I want is not one of those things.

What you will need

Really large potatoes

Shredded mozzarella or feta cheese


Hot dogs (about 1 hot dog for every 1 large potato)

Macaroni salad


Optional, suggested additions





Ketchup & mayonnaise

Anything you need to eat right away before it goes bad

How to make your kumpir

1. Microwave cook the baked potatoes.

2. Heat up the corn and hot dogs.  Cut the hot dogs into little pieces.

3. When the potatoes are cooked, split them open.  Leave enough of the potato skin uncut that the potato still stands upright like an oval rather than flat on the plate like a disc. 


This is an example of how NOT to slice your potato.  I overcut mine and it turned into a flat, listless baked potato.  My sense of spatial reasoning is not so great…

4. Scrape the potato off the skin and mash it inside the skin.  Keep the skin upright here still. 

5. Add the cheese in and mash it with the potato.  Don’t be shy about adding cheese because in this case, the more cheese the better your kumpir will taste and look.  (If you are using butter, also add it now.)

6. Add the pickles, olives, macaroni salad, etc.

7. Add the corn and hot dog slices.

8. Top with ketchup & mayonnaise.

9. Enjoy.


This is how the finished DIY kumpir should look.  I wish I could credit myself with producing this baked potato, but my boyfriend made this one.

The budget friendly breakdown

$2 Two giant potatoes

$2.17 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, only about 3 oz of which were used

$2.28 Macaroni salad

$1 Package of eight hot dogs, two of which were used

$1.50 Jar of pickles, half of which were eaten

$.70 Corn

Total cost: Under $10

The best part?  We will each get two meals out of those two giant potatoes, so this $10 recipe serves four people.  You even have ingredients left over.

Cookie Table Project: Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies

Note: This is part one of a double post (the posts, though, are unrelated and do not have to be read in order).


In my last post, I gave you a little history lesson on the cookie table and previewed the first cookie I was going to try in my little “cookie experiment” in the months leading up to my cousin’s wedding.

The first cookie I  tried was: Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies. I found the recipe through Pinterest, but the original recipe can be found on the blog.

Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen small cookies.


  • 1 Lemon Cake Mix (approximately 18 oz)
  • 8oz. Cool Whip (thawed)
  • 1 egg*
  • Powdered Sugar

Baking Tools:

  • Parchment Paper
  • Stand or Hand Mixer
  • Cookie Sheet(s)

Parchment paper is essential for making this recipe. Plus, it makes cleaning up a breeze!



  1. If your Cool Whip is frozen, make sure to thaw it completely before starting.
  2. In a bowl, combine the cake mix,  Cool Whip, and egg.
  3. Beat the mixture well, for 1-2 minutes, until all ingredients are fully incorporated into one another. The dough will be slightly sticky and look a little like taffy.
  4. Place approximately 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl (to roll the cookies in before placing them on the baking sheet.)
  5. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. IMPORTANT: Do NOT use wax paper. Wax paper should not be used to bake with and is not an alternative for parchment paper.
  6. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into the powdered sugar, completely coating the dough ball before placing it on the cookie sheet. 
  7. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

    These are what the cookies look like when about 2/3 of the way done. They will still be soft when you take them out, but leaving them sit for a minute or so will make them firm.

  8. Cookies will be soft when first removed from oven.
  9. Cool cookies on a rack.
  10. Eat!



  • *A commenter on the blog suggested using 2 eggs for a fluffier cookie. I might try this next time. My cookies were a little flat, but not so flat that they were a failure.
  • Thaw your Cool Whip but keep it cold. The colder the Cool Whip is, the easier the dough is to handle. I definitely noticed that as the dough got warmer, the cookies didn’t come out as nice.
  • Watch out for the powdered sugar! Coating the dough leaves a lot of powdered sugar on the baked cookies and if you inhale the wrong way, you’re left with a powdered sugar-induced coughing fit. Haha!


The Verdict:

These cookies were amazing. Plain and simple. They were light and slightly chewy. Just lemony enough without being overpowering and not overly sweet. I will definitely make them again and hope to make them for my cousin’s wedding. The only downside to them is that I don’t think they are the kind of cookie that will freeze well, so I’d have to make them close to the event.