Silent Snow

Silent Snow

This morning, I woke up in what seemed like an entirely different place. I woke up in a winter wonderland. The Hudson Valley had its first big snow of the season, and this Texan couldn’t keep the smile off her face…and at 7am in the morning, this is quite a feat if you know me at all.

I got to spend this snowy morning with Maddy, Ryley, and her parents. Ryley was one of my first friends in CCF at this school, and my second friend to graduate and move on to the next big phase of her life. She will be in Colorado, no less! Congrats and good luck lady! You will do great things, no doubt.

Anyways, as I admired the snow this morning, I realized that I had never seen this campus so still, so quiet. The snow reminded me of a chapter from one of my favorite bible studies, In The Wait, by Holly Holt. The chapter looks at a passage from Isaiah, talking about the distinctive purpose of snow.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” Isaiah 55:10-13

We may not realize it, but snow waters the earth just like rain. Sometimes God speaks to us abundantly, and we are instantly watered and see his work bud and flourish in our lives. Other times, it is the dead of winter and it feels like He is silent. “In some seasons of what feels like silence, God’s words may be like gentle snow falling in our lives without a sound. The snow is accumulating in our souls without realization. In our limited perspective, we feel cold and God’s silence feels colder” (Holt 41). That silent snow is like the rain, and it is accomplishing something in our lives.

God will send his words in snow rather than rain when He knows that instant watering won’t yield the type of fruit that He wants for us. And then, when the time is right, God brings the sunshine to begin melting the snow (Holt 42).

The chapter goes on to talk about the juniper and the myrtle. Both are evergreen variety trees that not only thrive in the winter, but they also produce fruit. Cold temperatures and snow actually produce something that summer and rain never could (Holt 43).

This past week was difficult. One of the most difficult weeks I have had at this school thus far. I have been in Modern Banquets for the past 3 weeks, and in the final week following Thanksgiving break, my group and I transferred to a new kitchen with a new chef, and instead of rising to the challenge, we crumbled under the pressure. No, we did more than crumble. We broke. As individuals and as a team.

There was yelling, there was cursing, there was absolutely no teamwork. People were thinking about their individual tasks and their individual stations, regardless of the fact that collectively, we were putting up 2 complete dishes together.

My class is currently divided. By goals, by work effort, and by nationalities. And as group leader, the divide seems so deep sometimes that I feel at a loss with how to fix it. Everywhere there are problems. Everyone is so at odds with each other that none of us want to work together, nor spend time with each other once class is over.

It’s very hard for me not to care. And it’s very hard for me to leave the problems and focus solely on my life once I leave the kitchen. I care too much and I see too many problems to ignore it.

During this past week, I felt entirely alone. God was seemingly silent, and the angry voices from my classmates seemed to drown out His presence even more. But as I woke up with the silent beauty of snow blanketed across this campus, I realized that I myself am in a season of snow. I don’t know what He is teaching me during this season, but just because His work is silent, doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful. God, you’re teaching me something that I never would’ve experienced without this silent snow. I will rejoice and be glad in you, because you are a true artist. And you work all things out for the good of those that love you. I trust in you, and I am in awe of your creation. Thank you for your silence. Thank you for this peaceful snowy morning. Thank you for your love. I will continue to honor you and seek you.

Life is hard, but I know I’m not doing it alone.

Be Bold,

Sig_Al

If you are interested, please check out In the Wait, a six-week study on waiting by Heidi Anderson, Courtney Bobko, Holly Holt, Amanda Jass, and Chelsea Ritchie.

My First Thanksgiving Away from Home

My First Thanksgiving Away from Home

thanksgiving-1This Thanksgiving looked a little different than my past holidays. I wasn’t surrounded by the Lyon pride, but instead I went to visit my boyfriend Cody and his family in Fort Valley, Virginia.

It took a train and a bus to get there, but I met Cody and two of his friends in Washington D.C. On my journey there, I found the iconic NY coffee cup that I’ve been searching for, a major accomplishment in my opinion. And I conquered the NY subway system on my own!

This was my first trip to Washington D.C., so the boys showed me around our nation’s capitol. We saw the Washington National Monument, Abraham Lincoln, TEXAS, and the White House. It’s much smaller than I imagined. And they had already started working on the stage for the impending inauguration, so no good photo spots… The Lord also blessed this town with a CHIC-FIL-A so it was a requirement for us to stop there.

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We made it to Woodstock, Virginia, said goodbye to Nick and Albert (Alfred?), and then got in to Cody’s very roomy car: a Pontiac Solstice… rode with my luggage in my lap the whole way over the mountain!

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I was so tired from a day of traveling and site-seeing, but stayed awake long enough to greet the immediate family. The next day, we went for an early morning Rhino ride around their property and Cody let me drive!  We also saw some more of Woodstock and Fort Valley, before going to Grandma Pauline’s for Thanksgiving lunch. With me included, we had a small gathering of 72 PEOPLE all under one roof. These people could create their own town if they wanted to. They also seemed to run this town anyways. Everywhere we went, we were stopped by somebody that knew Cody or another member of the Fitchett fam. Small town charm for sure.

After lunch, the annual family football game commenced. I cheered from the sidelines, and continued to be amazed at how many people could fit in one house. So many names to remember. But I was pretty observant and figured out who was related to who. The Black Friday sales were in full swing, so after football we hit the sales in the neighboring towns. I guess it’s nice to find a man who likes to shop? We even went to Wal-Mart! Quite an experience.

The next day, we attempted to ride the 4-wheelers, but they never seemed to charge. So instead, we went all over town, ate Italian food, and saw more people that Cody knows! It’s fun to see where another person grew up. In the afternoon, we drove on the backroads and went up to the Woodstock Lookout Tower and got a clear view of the 7 bends in the river that snake its way through the Valley. It was beautiful with the Blue Ridge mountains in the background. I’m a sucker for a good view. And a good hike. I’ve never felt closer to God than when I’m completely surrounded by His creation. It is also a known hang-gliding spot, with a clearing and a bench to get another look at the killer view.

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My last morning, we got up a little earlier and had breakfast at Pauline’s house. I’ve notice that Cody is very good with older women, since they make up the majority of his family. Breakfast was classic home cookin’, with one new classic for me to try: Scrapple…tasted like cornmeal. The rest of the morning was lazy, with Gilmore Girls episodes (!!!) and some BBQ before meeting Nick to head back to Washington D.C.

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I haven’t been dating Cody for very long, so meeting the family, and meeting that much of them, seemed a bit sudden, but I was glad that I got to spend more time with him since he isn’t at school with me right now. It was a blessing to get be around a family to celebrate Thanksgiving, even if it wasn’t my own. Family is everything to Cody, and it meant a lot to meet the people who have shaped him into the man he is. So much love and laughter. His whole family, and probably the whole Shenandoah Valley, seem to know and love Cody Fitchett.

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This is my favorite photo from the whole trip. It was within minutes of being with each other again. Happy faces.

Thanks for letting me meet everyone.

Be bold,

Sig_Al

Scholarships & Tacos

Scholarships & Tacos

ahlef-7This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to go to a scholarship luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, hosted by the American Hotel and Lodging Education Foundation. This organization has been gracious enough to award me a scholarship for my education at OSU as well as my current degree pursuit at the Culinary Institute of America.

I have been invited to this meeting every year since I first received a scholarship at the end of my freshman year, however, I was unable to make a trip up to NYC. Now that I am only a train ride away, I happily traveled to the city to shake hands with the people who have invested in my education more than once.

This trip was a reminder of how the Lord has blessed me. He has watched over me thus far on my journey to pursue my dreams at the Culinary Institute of America, and He has made this financial burden light. I will continue to trust Him alone in my time here, and pursue what His will is for my life, because it is greater than my own. Thank you for everyone who has been praying for me as I have been in school, and I am very much looking forward to coming home for Christmas!

In addition to having lunch at this beautiful , historic, hotel (nicest bathroom I will probably every step foot in), I visited the New York Public Library, Bryant Park, found BREAKFAST TACOS (!!) and a donut the size of my face. Another CIA student and friend went with me and was patient enough to be my photographer and capture the excitement of finding GOOD Tex-Mex in the city. God Bless Texas and Tacos.

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The ceiling in the Rose Room at the New York Public Library.

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SO MUCH EXCITEMENT OVER THOSE TACOS!
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So. So. Good. And the salsa was heavenly.

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Be Bold,

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A Visit from the Mile High City

A Visit from the Mile High City

This past weekend I was off to NYC yet again, but this time to meet up with two of my favorite people in the world: Brooke and Jeremy Brown. Brooke was my big in phi lamb at OSU, and Jeremy is her other half, and sometimes my twin…we usually have similar shoes on. Brooke had a med school interview in Harlem, and since they had never been to the Big Apple before, and one of their favorite people (😀 ) is a short train ride away, they decided to make a vacation out of it all!

I had to work Friday, but early Saturday morning I hopped a train and met them at their hotel. I arrived in Grand Central Station and walked the few blocks to meet them, and I must say, I’m starting to get more confident in my NYC navigation skills (but I was still too nervous to take the subway alone).

After a bagel and schmear at Bagel & Schmear, we found ourselves walking all through Central Park. The best $15 we spent the entire weekend was probably on the hour-long rowboat rental at the boathouse! It was a beautiful day, we were in beautiful company, so we got some great photos. Everywhere we rowed, I kept thinking of different movies and TV shows that were filmed where we were. Sadly, none were being filmed while we were there. bj-nyc-9

My friend, Chloe, had given me a few spots to checkout in Brooklyn, so we headed over to that neck of the woods for the latter half of the day. Lunch was at Grimaldi’s, a well-known pizza place. There is a godfather-like figure at the door that writes your party’s number (not your name) on a clipboard, and then you go stand in line down the sidewalk. And then after an hour, when you’re hangry, you get seated. Then another 30 minutes go by, and you get some pizza.

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This is a hangry face. This is our pizza. It was eaten quickly. And then the hangry face was gone.

It was pretty good. Cool experience. But I think I’ll find that 99 cent pizza store I’ve heard about next time…The godfather was entertainment for sure though!

I have been dying to go thrifting since I got to New York, and after being tipped to go to Beacon’s Closet in Brooklyn by a fashionista, I HAD to go. It did not disappoint! While we were there, we decided to buy halloween costumes instead of normal clothes, and man did we score! We also enjoyed a beverage across the street at a place with a hipster feel and a hilarious bouncer at the door.

bj-nyc-4We made it back to the hotel room with our new threads and some Chinese food. A few hours later, we had eaten, changed, and taken a subway to the Beetle House, a Tim Burton-esque restaurant and bar, perfect for Halloween weekend. You may not know that one of my favorite Halloween costumes of all time was the year I dressed up as Beetlejuice…

but BEETLEJUICE HIMSELF WAS AT THIS BAR. One of the servers was in costume and character of the ghost with the most, and I was fangirling the whole time before and after I got up the courage to take a picture with him.

The next place was not as impressive and super crowded, so eventually we headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest…I think we walked a total of 13 miles that day? And I arrived safely back in Hyde Park the following Sunday afternoon.

It’s been almost a year since I got to see Brooke or Jeremy, and I hope it’s not another year before I get to see them again. Thanks for coming to visit!

Be Bold,

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See y’all down under!

For those of you who are unaware, in order to obtain my associate’s degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America, I have to complete a 15-week externship. It must take place at a site approved by the CIA as well as consist of 80% back-of-house experience. Other than these requirements, the students are free to select the externship site they want.

I started my externship search basically on Day 1, back in May. I had one goal: to complete my externship abroad. I did not have the privilege of studying abroad while attending OSU, so I was going to see how possible the opportunity was for my externship at the CIA.

After speaking with the career services advisor about my plans, and finding a few sites on the Culinary Connect website that were already pre-approved for students, I was told that finding and securing said externship would pretty much be up to me. Challenge accepted. I narrowed my search to those sites that provided housing, and then sent out e-mails.

The next few months involved interviewing and signing the contract. My last step was to book the flight, and now that I have, I can share my news with all of you!

I am SO SO SO excited to announce that I have accepted an externship at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld, Australia. This resort has a two-hatted restaurant, one of the top wine lists in the world, and the menu changes daily based on the produce harvested from the restaurant’s garden located on-site. I will be leaving on Saturday, January 21, 2017, and will be in the land down under until May 13, 2017.

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Australia, here I come!

Be Bold,

sig_al

All of NYC in a day

All of NYC in a day

This past weekend I went into the city, walked a total of 8 miles, and sped through a few more on the subway. By the end of the day, I felt like I’d seen the whole city! (Not hardly, but we still saw a lot).nyc-cody-1

We got an early start, on the 6:50AM train, and arrived at Grand Central Station by 9AM. Very slow in the morning, but the sunrise was beautiful streaming in through the windows. I kept looking for the Humans of New York photographer, but had no such luck. We walked through Times Square on our way to find breakfast, and it was similarly deserted. It was a strange feeling to be in such well known places before they got extremely busy. But I didn’t mind. Why did we go to the city so early do you ask? To make it to the first service at Hillsong NYC of course!

We went to the Times Square campus in the Playstation theater. The facility itself was incredible, but the people were even better. “Welcome to church!” Friendly staff, warm lobby, and they even passed out Oreos and cups of water for everyone.

nyc-cody-4Hillsong just released its newest album, and worship was a set of songs from the new CD. There are no words for how powerful the worship was. Beautiful. God’s presence filled the entire church, and the worship was only one aspect of his love. The message was from the college youth pastor on What is the bible? He talked about what the bible isn’t and about three main contributors to the bible: Abraham, David, and Paul.

When service ended, we took the subway to Chinatown, in search of some major deals. It turns out, I was too nervous to go in any back rooms or look through any catalogs in a back alley, but my friend did get suckered in to buying a watch. It was a nice watch, but I don’t think the guys were going to let us leave if we didn’t buy anything…they started to get rather aggressive. All of the seafood, produce, and dry goods that spilled out from every shop onto the sidewalks was quite interesting. And pungent. I stopped to get some Thai milk tea before we walked through Little Italy.nyc-cody-3

Next stop was Chelsea Market. It was my second visit, but my first time eating at Creamline. Their food is farm to tray, with all food that is locally sourced. Best turkey burger I’ve ever had! I definitely appreciated the less crowded meat-packing district that surrounded Chelsea Market after coming directly from the noisy, cloudy, smelly streets of Chinatown.

We then went to see the World Trade Center and the 9/11 memorial. The sun was just beginning to set, so the lighting was absolutely breathtaking.

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We found out that the Staten Island Ferry was free, and made it there just in time for the last route around the Statue of Liberty.

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We ended the night with a trip back to Times Square at night to see all the lights, before grabbing some Chipotle for dinner on the train back to Poughkeepsie.

NYC is starting to grow on me. Once I figure out that subway system, I think I’ll like it a little bit better…We also happened to stumble across some restaurants whose owners I was able to meet at the Board of Trustees dinner that I was nominated to attend two weeks ago. Sadly, they were both closed on Sunday. But now I know where they are so I won’t get lost when I stage for them!

 

Who did you go to the city with, Allison? His name is Cody.

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Be Bold, 

sig_al

10 Things I Learned in My First Semester at the CIA (besides food)

I can’t believe that I am already finished with my first semester at the CIA! I already started Meat I.D. and Fabrication today, but before I study for Day 2, I decided to sit down and reflect on all that has happened this first semester. As I did this, I managed to narrow everything down to a list of 10 things that I learned during my first semester at the World’s Premier Culinary College (besides food).

10) Eating on the weekends can be a challenge when you live on campus. I have the base meal plan. It does not include any “gold points,” which can be used anytime, anywhere. Thus, I don’t have food on the weekends included in my meal plan. Am I going to pay more money to this school? Sorry, but no I am not. I don’t have an extra $300 lying around, and I’m not always on campus on the weekends. So I got creative: There are events on the weekends, and a bus on Saturdays to run errands and grab a meal. Sometimes you have leftovers from what you make in class, and you also make friends with people that have cars. If you are really lucky, you also find a family willing to open up their home on Sunday nights for you and your friends to cook dinner. Shout out to the Tartter family. Or you work, and they feed you family meal there. All different opportunities to overcome this obstacle. God will always provide.

9) Campus looks and feels completely different before noon, so don’t sleep the day away. It’s a waste of your time and a serious waste of money. You’re supposed to be investing in your future, not sleeping until class time, especially PM students who don’t have class until 1:30pm or later. And guess what, you can still function at 6:30AM. You can actually even be productive at that time! That’s why they invented coffee.

8) If you show up on time, you’re late. Pretty basic principle. I’m a former marching band kid, so I got used to “Mason Time,” my band director’s definition for time, which was 15 minutes early. Always. AND, be prepared. Be over-prepared if you can.

7) You have to take care of yourself. This includes fitness, sleep, feeding yourself, relaxation, and stimulation. In a class that sometimes last 15 weeks, you miss 5 days and you fail. In a class that lasts 14 days, you miss 2 days of class, you fail, regardless of the reason. So, you have take care of yourself. Get the proper amount of sleep, take vitamins, stay away from that friend with the flu, anything to ensure that you can make the most of this education. That also means taking some time to relax and enjoy everything that the Hudson Valley has to offer. You can get so much more out of your time here if you also seek opportunities to learn and explore off of campus.

6) Take advantage of what’s around you. The library, clubs, jobs, mentors, the farmers markets, NYC, the list goes on and on. All of which are opportunities to LEARN. You’re at SCHOOL, you’re PAYING to be here, so read as much as you can, taste as much as you can, see as much as you can. Every event/social/gathering/volunteering/job is an opportunity to meet people, make friends, and establish connections. And if you stand out for your work ethic in class, chefs take notice of that. They will help you anyway they can.

5) Lead with kindness not anger. Someone not pulling their weight in the kitchen? First, bring it up with chef and/or the group leader privately. Then, talk it over with that person if necessary. Do you know all that is going in on that person’s life outside of class? No. But it is our responsibility to treat others with kindness. They had to jump through the same hoops we did to get here, and while they may not have the same work ethic in the kitchen, they will either learn it now, learn it on the job, or figure out that this industry isn’t for them. But it’s not my job to shove that realization down their throats.

4) Procrastination is the enemy. There is too much to learn to put anything off. Classes last 3 weeks. You have to read and study everyday. And then you get tested on it in order to advance to the next class. You have to perform and give your all every single day. Things move too swiftly here for you to procrastinate. And, it’s college. So…studying gets you the degree…and the job.

3) “Yes, Chef.” It is heard all over this place, but  we have to understand that this may not necessarily be the right answer all the time. If your class hasn’t finished their 100 tournes, and you start plating your food, the answer is clearly not “Yes, Chef I am ready for service.” And then, you have to be prepared for the onslaught of criticism for why you haven’t done what Chef asked. If you aren’t prepared for class, you didn’t bring your timeline or you didn’t sharpen your knives, you obviously can’t say “Yes, Chef, I can slice through that slab of raw meat no problem.” But overall it is the ultimate sign of respect, and it shows that you are competent and prepared when that is your answer. Regardless of circumstances, they earned the title of Chef, so you better address your instructors that way at all times. And, always reply when a chef is talking to you.

2) You don’t know until you ask. Do you not understand a cooking technique or a French term for something? Ask. Don’t know where you’re going? Ask. This also goes for opportunities. Within the first few weeks of being on-campus, I was asking students about jobs because I knew I needed one. And then one day, I saw the GM of Apple Pie Bakery Cafe, and struck up a conversation about doing a stage in the breads department; something I am extremely interested in. So I did the stage, and I got a job in Apple Pie as a culinary student. I also knew once I got here that I wanted to do my externship overseas, so I asked to see if it was possible. And it was. You don’t know what’s possible unless you ask.

1) It’s okay for things to not go as planned. We lost a group member in a tragedy this past semester. We had a lot of trash parties. I didn’t get an RA position like I wanted. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but does that mean you stop? No. The days keep going, classes keep learning, and you’re still alive to take advantage of another opportunity. God still has a plan for everything, so my plan doesn’t have to be foolproof. That’s impossible anyways.

Obviously, this list could be much longer and more extensive. Did you know they taught about food here too? Kidding. But the all-inclusive list from above was weaved in and out with a vast amount of culinary knowledge. And no doubt I will learn more in semester two.

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Be Bold,

sig_al