Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Look Both Ways Before You Cross The Street...Or Leave Behind A Year

A lot of y'all are reflecting back on 2008, a few are looking forward to 2009, and some are just MIA. Not that I blame you. I'd be MIA too if we had family around ☺

I want to take a stroll back through memory lane 2008 so sit back and relax. If you have any chocolate or cookies left, grab a handful. This may take a while.

Because honestly, this has been a year of HUGE changes. You know about the big move to Argentina in August but that's only part of our story.

Okay, let's back up to January. That's when we hit 60% of our support. And just stayed there. For almost two months.

It's also the month we had meetings in different churches every Sunday and every.single.weekend.we.were.socked.with.a.storm. Remember that? NOT fun! Our car heater just couldn't keep up and I would bundle up in my cuddle duds, boots, long skirt, thick sweater, warmest winter coat and hat and gloves and take two fleece blankets and STILL BE COLD. There were days when we had to scrape ice off the inside of the windows. So yeah, NOT missing Midwest winters!

February was more of the same.

March brought glimmers of warmer weather and as the temperature edged up, so did our support level. 63%... 69%... And we continued our crazy traveling schedule every weekend as well as making plans to move out of the parsonage at the end of April.

April was INSANE and EXCITING. Packing boxes for Argentina, setting aside things to take to Indiana, throwing a bridal shower...watching the support level rise week-by-week. Not knowing how long we'd be in Indiana with the hubby's folks before we could leave for Argentina, it was hard to know what to pack for that mini-move.

The uncertainty was tied to the support. We couldn't buy our tickets for South America and make firm plans until we hit 90%. And then, on the very last day of April we got the call. You know, THE call. The one informing us that a church was taking on a significant chunk of our support which would push us OVER the 90%!!! Woot! It was with merry hearts we packed up the car (to the gills!) and set off for Indiana on May 1st.

We wanted to spend as much time as possible with Mom and Dad before we left and the best way to do that was be right there with them. We also thought the hubby could help them get a few things done around the house. And that's all true. But we hadn't anticipated the amount of traveling we'd do in those final months. We had a number of meetings back in Michigan, some in Indiana and even a few in Ohio. Plus all the packing for the big move to Argentina was taking place back at the parsonage.

We got a bit of whiplash from all the back and forth.

June and July sped by! How grateful we are for the time with Mom and Dad and for others in the family who came to see us (from Colorado and Georgia). God provided opportunities to see old friends and reminded us about what's really important. Which is easy to forget in the midst of all the craziness.

In late July our home church hosted an amazing commissioning service and folks from another congregation joined us in praise and worship to the God who makes it all happen!

Goodbyes are hard, no doubt about it, but we were pretty excited to finally be on our way after FOUR LONG YEARS of deputation.

Since we arrived in Argentina we've seen God continue to do powerful things. We were able to get the paperwork for our national ID cards done in one day. That's unheard of! It usually takes weeks and multiple trips and standing in long lines for hours... While we won't actually receive our cards until February or so, the paperwork was accomplished in less than six hours.

He provided a house with almost everything on my "wish list". I have an excellent Spanish tutor who is patient with her middle-aged and painfully slow student ☺ We've enjoyed great fellowship with the other missionaries in Argentina, as well as wonderful times with our co-workers here in Carlos Paz.

The list goes on and I've blogged about most of it right here at Just A Southern Girl. Blogging has been a lifeline this year. With all the traveling, the moves, the un-settledness that was our life, blogging has been a constant. Reading your blogs, writing on mine...

I hope to continue the blogging in 2009. I really don't know what to expect this year. I know what I hope for: a higher level of fluency in Spanish. Shoot, I just want SOME level of fluency!

I hope to finish cleaning and painting and unpacking boxes until it feels like we BELONG here. I want to hunker down and make this house a home. After all the moves this past year, we need this.

I hope to make friends and start getting involved in lives. I hope to be a light for Jesus and make a difference. There's a lot of darkness here...a lot of New-Age-feel-good-about-yourself teaching and believing going on. And that takes us back to the Spanish. I can't do much if I'm not able to communicate.

So there you have it, a wrap-up of 2008 and my dreams for 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I See What You're Saying, Christmas Edition

What would I do without my kids? I couldn't find the instructions the son gave me last time on how to post a vlog, and he's en route to his in-laws right now. BUT the daughter came through. Thank you, daughter!

While waiting to be rescued I've been checking out the other entries in I See What You're Saying, Christmas Edition hosted by Linda at 2nd Cup of Coffee. Linda knows how to throw a party!

For first time visitors, thanks for stopping by! Y'all come back now, y'hear?

And for my faithful family, I always love your visits. Especially when you leave comments ☺

video

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Just Another Day In Paradise

At least that's what I think the PARASITES are thinkin'. But I'm onto them, I know all about their little scheme to take over the world my body. It took me a while to wise up, to see the cyclical pattern of their attack. Now I'm on the counter-offensive and we'll just see who survives the pretty pink pills. hahahahaha (Okay, that's more hysterical than maniacal laughter but the parasites won't know that. Will they?)

We are nearing the end of a 13 day treatment for the little buggers, as well as being about due for another attack if the treatment isn't working. So we'll see who gets KO'd in this round. Because I'm confident of one thing. No matter who wins, the other will be back up and swinging in no time.

*sigh*

Feeling the need of comfort food, I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes for lunch (we eat the bigger meal at noon since who really wants to eat that much at nine or ten o'clock at night when dinner time rolls around?). I'm just as excited to have meatloaf sandwiches tomorrow with the leftovers :-) And the peach tree continues to drop its bounty so we continue to eat peaches. In yogurt, with chocolate cake, over ice cream...

Also have some spaghetti sauce simmering in the crockpot, on the floor next to my chair in the living room. I figured it was easier to bring the crockpot in here rather than disassemble my transformer-that's-hooked-up-to-my-Christmas-tree-lights to take into the kitchen. I like to keep the Christmas tree up as long as possible, at least until January 6th (Three King's Day).

We hauled all the things that had been stored in the back bedroom out to the dining room and the hubby is working on deep cleaning that floor. He's using ammonia to loosen up years of old wax build-up and a putty knife to scrape off the more resistant layers. A smelly and sweaty job! Proves once again, he's a keeper :-) I just hope the fumes don't impair his ability to slice and dice peaches.

I've read a few blogs whose owners have already finished their "I See What You're Saying" videos. I still haven't even figured out what to say. Am I the only procrastinator in B'ville? No doubt I'll be frantically taping take-after-retake the night before. Or the morning of.

I have sort of started preparing to think about it. You know what they say about the camera adding ten pounds? Well I conveniently invited a family of parasites to come over and help me lose some weight, plenty enough so I'd look thinner on camera.

And I figured if Queen B can have her hubby help her dye her hair, so can I. Only my hubby doesn't know up from down when it comes to hair dye, and I don't know enough Spanish to read the directions on my own. And between the two of us, it took half an hour before we realized we were looking at the BACK SIDE OF THE DIRECTIONS. I'm happy to report that once we read THE RIGHT SIDE, we did just fine. So a scrawny gray-haired woman won't be scaring the kiddies with her video.

Scrawny, no. The parasites may have taken off 25 pounds but there's still another 25 that needs to go. Not that I want to give them to the parasites, just sayin' there's more where that came from. And gray-haired no more thanks to L'Oreal and my hubby. Didn't I say he was a keeper?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Peacock Feathers, First Peaches & Surviving Christmas Away From Family

What? You can't see the connection?

Yesterday was a good day. An excellent day in fact. It was also a hard day. I did pretty well but sadness lurked just beneath the surface of my emotions all day. I also realize that even had we been in the U.S. we probably wouldn't have seen much of our kids anyway. The son is married and (rightly so) starting his own family traditions with his wife in their home. No doubt the daughter would have taken off mid-way through the day to spend time with friends. It's the nature of having grown "kids" who have lives of their own.

At least that's what I tell myself. Makes the 6,000 mile separation a little easier.

But I have an amazing hubby who made me peaches and cream for dessert and bought me peacock feathers. So the sadness never overwhelmed and I enjoyed Christmas in Argentina.

Our picnic in the Sierras was wonderful. We had a beautiful day for it, bright and sunny and warm (but not too hot). Aguila Blanca, a former mica mine, is now a scenic park with stone asadors tucked into the hillsides and a bubbling creek winding through. Poplars lined the area where we set up our picnic. The girls immediately headed for the water. Who could resist? While the men started the fire. We came prepared with our own wood and charcoal so it didn't take long to get a good fire going, and the parilla (metal grate) fit perfectly into the stone base. Mmmmmm, doesn't all that meat look yummy? The hubby isn't venturing too far from it :-) It was while they were manning the grill that a boy came to see if we'd like to buy a peacock. Well...no. None of us have a big enough yard. But the hubby bargained the kid down on a couple of the feathers. I wasn't there but our co-workers told me my hubby was practicing his African bargaining skills :-)

By the time we finished eating all the goodies and meat and potato salad, we were exhausted. As you can see. Eating is hard work!

And it was right about then that the sky started getting dark. So we quickly packed up and high-tailed it for home.

Hadn't been home for long when hubby saw peaches on the ground out back. Some were ripe so he peeled and sliced them, added some cream and voila! we had dessert. Yummy! The peaches are coming on fast so I foresee a busy time of figuring out what to do with all of them! We had a freezer for 28 years but left it in the States when we came (220 instead of 110, you know). Really miss having the extra freezer space, especially at times like this, so we're going to see what it would cost to buy a small freezer. With it just the two of us now, we don't need a big one. But it sure would be nice to pull out bags of peaches in the dead of winter next year :-) Also thinking I really need to find some canning jars and make some peach jam.

Of course for now, we'll eat as many as we can fresh. Have you ever had a peach right off the tree? WON-DER-FUL! We had some with our yogurt and granola this morning and when the hubby goes shopping later he'll get some vanilla ice cream. Because vanilla ice cream and fresh peaches is his absolute, all-time, most favorite dessert.

What's yours?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

FELIZ NAVIDAD!

We were up well past midnight to enjoy the traditional Christmas Eve fireworks extravaganza. Told hubby that next year we need to have some of our own :-) The fireworks tapered off by one but people were out on the streets until about 4 a.m. It felt a bit more like 4th of July than Christmas, but that's just my home culture showing through.

And now we're getting ready to head out for a picnic with our co-workers. That is their Christmas tradition. Not sure where we're going, because they don't know. They just plan to drive into the Sierras until they see a nice place to stop :-) We'll follow happily along, with our contributions for the meal: potato salad and a "birthday cake" for Jesus -- one of our Christmas traditions.

Instead of ham we'll be feasting on grilled beef. Instead of mashed potatoes and gravy, potato salad. Instead of snow and ice and snuggling up under quilts, we're wearing our sleeveless shirts and sun visors. But despite how different it is from what we're used to, IT'S STILL CHRISTMAS.

Feliz Navidad!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not Everyone Is Having A Merry Christmas

Dear friends, missionaries in Ireland, made an emergency trip to the U.S. this past weekend when their son was hospitalized and daughter-in-law died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Thankfully their grandson is fine. But what a heartbreaking way to spend Christmas!

The police are now involved in a criminal negligence investigation. They believe that the cause was a faulty heating system in the apartment that this young couple had recently rented. Evidently another renter moved out after being told by her doctor that she was breathing carbon monoxide. She told the landlord about it and he didn't do anything to change the situation.

We're thankful to hear how their community has rallied around, holding two separate fund raisers to help with funeral expenses. There may be people like the landlord who never look beyond the bottom line, but there are many more who see a need and respond because their hearts are tender.

We hurt for this family. They join the legion for whom Christmas will always bring back memories of tragedy and loss.

Situations like this should make us all the more thankful for the incredible gift that the very first Christmas brought. Yes, a young wife and mother is dead. But because she believed and accepted the gift of salvation that Christ offered, she is now with the same Lord who came to earth two thousand years ago. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reporting from Santa Rosa

Our mini-vacation didn’t start out very relaxing. By the time we cleaned the house, packed up all that we needed (or thought we needed) to bring and hit the road, it was almost 5 p.m. We arrived in Santa Rosa two hours later to find that sometime in the last few weeks a power outage caused the breaker to the refridgerator to trip and turn it off. So we had a very nasty mess of mold and mildew to clean up first thing. Eeeewww!

The floors were really gritty, too. Probably because there’s been a painter here off and on the past month and the yard right around the house is currently more dirt than lawn, so a good amount was tracked inside. Nothing a couple hours of sweeping and mopping couldn’t handle.

Once that was done, THEN we could relax :-) It’s been raining most of the time since we arrived, and you know there’s nothing like snuggling up with a good book -- or a quilt project -- while the rain pitter patters outside.

Hubby isn’t making much headway on his list of outside chores. It cleared up enough Monday afternoon for him to plant 10 of the 13 citrus trees that friends gave us. I'm glad he's getting some enforced down time; he really needed it. Although he hasn't been completely idle, puttering around taking care of things inside.

I spent Monday working on pieced pillowcases I plan to give as Christmas gifts. No pattern, no rules...just fun sketching some ideas and then playing with the fabric and seeing what happened. I used to be a very by-the-book quilter but in the past few years have enjoyed the freedom of doing WHATEVER I FEEL LIKE. (lol) I’ll post pictures after Christmas (wouldn’t want the recipients to see what they’re getting!).

It feels so incredibly GOOD to just spend a day sewing for fun. Not thinking about all the other things that need to be done. Now THAT is relaxing!

We also went into Belgrano last evening and tracked down some cheese. It's not cheddar but at least it has flavor. Also stopped at an heladería and had the best dark chocolate ice cream -- yummy! Ice cream here tends to be sweeter than what I'm used to and even the chocolate varieties have a fruity flavor (hard to describe) but this was deep and rich and cocoa-y which translated into a blissful ten minutes :-)

We're reading stories about how cold it is in the U.S. with widespread snow and ice storms. Not missing that at all! On Saturday it was close to 100° and the sun is just so intense (reminds us of Africa in that respect). The rain has cooled things off considerably; I was actually cold on Sunday evening since we didn't think to bring sweaters and it dropped into the 60s. The daughter lives in northern Indiana and had no sympathy, however. She said, "Mom it's zero here. That means we have NO degrees!" hahahaha Guess it's all a matter of perspective.

Found a cyber cafe that allows us to plug in our own computer which is really nice, and how I'm able to post in the midst of our time away. Yay for cyber cafes!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I am an exhausted Par-tay Animal

My niece Kathy tagged me for a little game. It came at a great time because I wanted to post this morning before we leave for Santa Rosa, but I am absolutely DRAGGING after not enough sleep. So the bulk of this post will be the Picture Tag game.

But first, gotta tell you, these Argentines are serious par-tay-ers! In true Argentine fashion we didn't begin to eat until after 11 p.m. I was not crawling into my bed until 2 a.m.

We had a blast! The girls (one pretteen and six teens) enjoyed the paper crafts I'd set out. Everyone also took turns on the computer checking their facebook accounts :-) I showed a few people the absolutely adorable video the son took of his two dogs playing tug of war. [You have to understand, Leo is a Black Lab/German Shepherd mix and weighs over 80 lbs. Bailey is a four month old puggle puppy (part Pug, part Beagle) and is about 1/16 the size of Leo. It's like Leo is trying to teach Bailey the art of tug of war. Just too cute!]

The men, as is the custom, remained outside huddled around the asador and quarter-backing whoever was manning the grill. It was truly a collaborative effort and hugely successful! We enjoyed chorizos, costillas, morsilla and chicken. Yummy! We also had potato salad, a green salad, fresh bread, pizza, and pan dulce. And I made popcorn balls for everyone to take home (recipe at end of post).

There were fifteen of us gathered around the table. We were missing some and I'm guessing they had other parties to go to. They like to par-tay here just like we do in the U.S. :-) We had a wonderful time laughing and sharing what we are grateful for, because of the work of God in our lives and His provision over the past year.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now for the game. The rules of the Picture Tag game:

1. Go to the 4th folder in your computer where you store your pictures.
2. Pick the 4th picture in that folder.
3. Explain the picture.
4. Tag 4 people to do the same.

This is the parsonage, where we lived for ten years. Lots of memories associated with this picture! We moved in on a hot day in July of 1998, a month after the son's auto accident so he was still in a wheelchair. Our church family turned out en mass to help which was SUCH A BLESSING. They moved our stuff, they helped clean and unpack, they finished some plumbing that needed to be done...They made a tough job a lot easier!

Over the years we hosted a many youth group activities in this house, and later small group gatherings, various parties (remember I am a par-tay animal!), and a lot of teenage angst and drama as our kids grew up. I painted the walls (numerous times in some cases) and rearranged the furniture probably too often, I walked up and down those stairs to the basement to wash untold loads of laundry, and spent many hours looking out that small kitchen window near the front door as I cooked and did dishes.

It is the house I felt most at home in during our 29 years of marriage.

Maybe because we invested so much of ourselves into it. The year before we moved in we worked hard to get it ready. We painted from the ceilings to the baseboard, all the window and door facings, replaced floors or refinished them, painted all the kitchen cabinets...Hours and hours of labor. So when we moved in, it felt like "ours". I unpacked everything (many places we never did unpack it all) and really settled in.

It was a great house and we had some amazing years there. I still miss it; mainly the memories of our family together there. I miss the past few years when we were able to sit around late at night with Rob, the other associate pastor who lived with us, and just catch up on the day. I rarely made it too late but the guys would stay up into the wee hours of the morning, talking theology and ministry.

I miss Christmas there with the big, freshly cut pine tree crowding the living room. I'd turn the overhead lights off and just sit in the semi-darkness enjoying the twinkle of the string lights on the tree, around the window...sipping hot cocoa and munching a cookie the daughter had baked. *sigh*

Okay, I'm going to tag my son and daughter in an effort to get them to blog (laying on a little guilt goes a long way in getting your kids to do what you want), my fellow missionary friend Sarah who's on the other side of the world (Hi, Jungle Wife!), and I'm going to leave the 4th slot open for anyone else who might like to participate. Let me know if you do, 'kay?

* * * * * * * * * *

BEST EVER POPCORN BALLS

3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup margarine
2 teaspoons cold water
2 5/8 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup marshmallows
5 quarts plain popped popcorn

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the corn syrup, margarine, cold water, confectioners' sugar and marshmallows. Heat and stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Carefully combine the hot mixture with the popcorn, coating each kernel.
2. Grease hands with vegetable shortening and quickly shape the coated popcorn into balls before it cools. Wrap with cellophane or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

Friday, December 19, 2008

We're having a par-tay!

Tonight is the annual Christmas dinner for the group of believers in Carlos Paz. It's raining and looks like it might keep up all day but that shouldn't affect anything. Our asador is under the patio roof and we'll be eating indoors anyway.

I'm making potato salad and am considering making popcorn balls. I just think that would make a pretty centerpiece, to have the balls covered in saran wrap and tied with a bow, then piled in a basket. Plus it's a treat not common here so it would be something different. I'll probably also make a cake of some sort.

Normally I am super organized and would not only know what I was making, but already have it made. But this week isn't going according to plan and I'm surprisingly okay with that. The laid-back culture here is growing on me :-)

Tomorrow we head to Santa Rosa de Calamuchita for a few days. I've actually been more concerned with getting ready for that trip than thinking about tonight's dinner. Making lists, going through boxes to figure out what we need to take, brainstorming with the hubby about our plans. He wants to get some work done while we're there, so we need to figure out what materials and tools to take.

The plan is to start working on a new, sturdier fence...in hopes the neighbor won't be able to get in and let his animals graze -- and leave droppings -- on the lawn any more. Also going to trim some trees and bushes that have become quite overgrown. I'm taking my sewing machine and a few projects.

One of the things I've really missed is good cheese. I mean, you can find good cheese here but NOT cheddar. And I love me some cheddar! Especially sharp white. So we've been on a quest to find something that approximates cheddar flavor, without success so far. A friend recently suggested that we check in Belgrano the next time we're in the area. And Belgrano happens to be the town right next to Santa Rosa de Calamuchita :-) Founded by German settlers in the 1930s, you can find all kinds of yummy food stuffs not typical to Argentina but common in German cooking. So I'm hoping!!!

Because we'll be out in the country where they still haven't run phone lines, we won't have internet. And I won't be posting much, if at all. Last time we were there, we went into a nearby town to a place with wifi but it was so slow that when I tried to upload a blog post, it kept timing out. We won't be back to Carlos Paz until Christmas Eve so I may be taking a blogging break until after the holiday.

I have a feeling I won't be the only one. Sounds like everyone is very busy and this next week y'all are going into hyperspeed with parties and family gatherings and the kids home from school and...Hope you all have a very blessed, wonderful Christmastime of celebrating the birth of Jesus!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Little Tour of Downtown Cordoba

Tuesday my language tutor took us on a little tour of downtown Cordoba. We really enjoyed the museums, churches and part of the original building that houses the University of Cordoba (dates back to early 1600s). Also had fun cooling off in Patio Olmos Shopping Center that once housed a primary school. Since it was 97° in the shade, we went into the air conditioned mall a couple of times for quick relief from the heat.

Anyway, for a rundown of our day...We took the bus from Carlos Paz to Cordoba rather than driving because (1) driving downtown is no picnic; and (2) parking downtown requires patience and money. Lots of money. It was cheaper to take the bus. Plenty of buses going back and forth. In fact the one we had tickets for on the return filled up before we made it to the door. No problema; just waited while it pulled out and another one immediately pulled in and we climbed on board. Since the bus drivers know where they're going (we don't yet) it also took less time than driving ourselves.

Our first stop was the Museo de Belles Artes Emilio Caraffa that is hosting an exposition of engravings by Francisco de Goya and interpretations of those engravings by Salvador Dali. Creepy cool. All of Goya's things were printed in black while some of Dali's had infusions of color. Dali also put in a lot more demonic figures, in places where Goya had none. Not my cup of tea, but interesting in a disconcerting way.

Then we went across the street to the Museo Superior de Bellas Artes Evita Palacio Ferreyra, the former town home of the Ferreyra family. The family is suing the government who appropriated the property a couple years ago in order to turn it into a museum. The family had it up for sale but the government decided they didn't want to pay the asking price. Meanwhile it houses a pretty nice collection of art year-round as well as hosting visiting exhibits. Missed the Picasso exhibition that was showing when we arrived in Argentina. Now they are featuring "Arte Cuzqueño del Siglo XVII", a collection of large religious paintings. I got a kick out of the one called "Santa Maria and the Mosquitos" (or something like that). Sure enough, amidst the flowery roses and elaborate scenery I found mosquitos buzzing around. I like an artist with a sense of humor :-)

Walking a few blocks over toward Paseo del Buen Pastor, we first happened across a really old church, Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon de la Orden de los Padres Capuchinos. Do you think the guys in the middle are getting a little tired of holding things up? Inside there are lots of chapels along each side and a ginormous marble altar that kinda reminded me of a fancy wedding cake -- just over the top elaborate. There was a nativity scene set up in one of the chapels and I was amused to see the designer had installed blacktop highways with a yellow dividing line in Bethlehem. Of course the baby Jesus is not in his manger yet. He won't come out until His birthday.

Then we did make it to Paseo del Buen Pastor. Interesting juxtaposition of old, modern, and really old blending together. At night the fountain lights up and the waters "dance". We were intrigued by the metal sculptures scattered throughout, both in the water and along the sidewalks. Especially liked the lifesize woman made out of lots and lots of metal things. She had a cheese grater sticking out of her head and big bolts here and there and looked like a car ramp on her leg...Muy interesante! I wonder if she represents the period of history when this building housed the women's prison? And while all the other old buildings have real marble and fancy schmancy furnishings, this boasted an excessive amount of faux-painting-to-look-like-marble.

The Cathedral in San Martin Plaza is mas grande and features more ceiling painting than I've seen in a good long while. Again, the sides were filled with chapels that were filled with life-size statues of saints. So I wanna know: who is Saint Trousers? Well, his name is really Santa Pantaleon, which in my book is awfully close to pantalones which means trousers. Hey, I take my humor where I can get it! The hubby noticed in front of the church in San Martin Plaza that amongst the beige tiles, there are white ones forming an outline of the church -- sort of "reflecting" the church on the plaza.

The University of Cordoba is OLD. Founded in 1613, the Rectorado (university headquarters) has worn stone tiles, classrooms with really, really old desks, nearly 12 foot tall doors and gates, and walls three feet thick. Very impressive structure! And I'm sure those old stone tiles have seen some action during their (almost) four centuries.

Lunch, and later merienda (afternoon tea), at Patio Olmos allowed us to cool off in the a.c. and enjoy some great food. They have a food court and we bought lunch at a place that had "Verde" in the name which I'm guessing is because they offer mainly salads. I had their hot crepes which were excellent. Spinach crepes filled with more spinach and other vegetables and a little bit of chicken, with a thin layer of white sauce and a dollop of red sauce on top. The hubby let me try his chicken and vegetable hot "salad" which was basically a stir fry only done very quickly so the vegies were still really crunchy. For merienda the three of us shared two desserts and that was just right. By myself I could never have eaten the tarta de frutilla I ordered. And we also tried the torta de frutilla. Which was basically a chocolate cake with strawberries in the middle, dulce de leche on top and a final spread of chocolate ganache. Wickedly rich and good!

Unfortunately we forgot my cell phone, a.k.a. our only camera at the moment. So we weren't able to take any pictures this trip (these photos are from the internet -- probably better than what I could take anyway). I do have some ninja skilz but photography isn't one of them. But I do want to go back and take pictures of some of the floors (tile mosaics and inlaid wood) because I think they'd make interesting quilt designs.

Hope you enjoyed the little tour of downtown Cordoba with me. The End.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

HAPPY 27th BIRTHDAY SON!!!

Twenty-seven years ago we were young married college students. Our lives were full with part-time jobs, full-time class schedules and working with the youth group at church. As we plugged our way toward the end of the spring semester in 1981, my energy really flagged. With a history of bouts with severe anemia we decided a doctor's appointment was in order. Yes, I was slightly anemic the doctor confirmed. I was also VERY PREGNANT. Wow! That news rocked our world!

I was so sure I was going to have a boy that I spent that summer hitting garage and store sales and buying only boy clothes. Your dad hit the trail to full-time employment, frustrated that his lack of a degree kept him from some jobs while others considered him "overly educated" for their jobs. Grrrrrr. A friend suggested he look into sales. Your dad was a quiet guy back then and gotta admit my first thought was, "We'll starve." But let me tell you, having a child is a powerful motivator. And he not only landed a job in sales, he made Salesman of the Month a few times!

You were due at Thanksgiving. November came and went. We were well into December and still no imminent sign of arrival. Your dad borrowed an old truck with stiff suspension and we went for long drives over country roads. All that bouncing over potholes and railroad tracks didn't help.

In desperation, because he was really looking forward to seeing a tax deduction you, he took me Christmas shopping. We drove to the mall in Ft. Wayne (back then there was only one) and he kept me on my feet and walking THE ENTIRE DAY. And it worked. About 10 p.m. that night my water broke and we joyfully went off to the hospital.

Where we waited and waited and waited...you were proving quite stubborn! The doctor decided to use a little pitocin as incentive. Uh-oh. That only succeeded in causing you some serious distress (to say nothing of the distress I was feeling at the 25 minute long contraction!!!)

After 16 hours our doctor approached us about a c-section. The problem wasn't only on your end. Apparently my body wasn't responding the way it was supposed to either. The doctor felt that even allowing us another 12-24 hours would get us no closer to delivery. At this point I really wanted to grab him by the throat and shout, "Just get this baby out of me!" But I was too tired from SIXTEEN HOURS OF LABOR.

Our doctor had to turn things over to a board-certified surgeon. I opted for the complete knock-out package because you know I get squeamish at the sight of a skinned knee. But an eager beaver nurse assigned to your dad brought him in earlier than she was supposed to so he did get to see the whole thing from start to finish. Which almost finished him. The fact that he didn't faint is evidence of his very strong stomach.

So our beautiful baby boy was born on December 17, 1981, at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. You weighed in at a whopping 9 lbs., sorta dry and scaly from having been in utero a few weeks longer than planned, and with a funny dent around your head from being in the birth canal for so long before the nice surgeon rescued you. The first thing my sister said upon seeing you: "Oh my goodness, you've had a conehead baby!" [For those too young to remember, the Coneheads were a popular feature on SNL back then.] And indeed your conehead remained for months before finally smoothing out into the nice round shape you see here. As other moms will attest, there's something about that first view of your child when they place him in your arms. You are overwhelmed with such an intense feeling of love and fierce desire to protect him.

Son, you were such a chubby little thing for the first three years! I'm sad because I don't have any of those cute fat pictures to share with the world :-) Those all had to be left in the U.S. when we moved. Nor do I have any pictures of the tall skinny you that emerged afterward. You wore a size 4 for two years, your weight remaining the same as you kept growing taller and taller.

You've always had a tender heart which sometimes worked to your detriment. I could always tell when you'd done something you shouldn't have because you'd come to me and in a certain voice tell me "Mommy I love you SO much!" Always affectionate, but those guilt-laden declarations of love were dead give-aways.

Friendly to a fault, I had to be so careful when we were out running errands because of your never-ending quest to Make Another Friend! I even bought a child leash when they first came out. Those weren't very effective since they went around your wrist and mine. One time at Penney's you dived under one of the round clothes racks, unhooked the leash from your wrist and put it around the center pole and then scurried out the other side. I'm pulling you (I thought) but the whole rack is moving. Other ladies who could see what had happened (you were rolling on the floor on the other side) had to laugh. I was pretty upset for a bit but soon saw the humor in the situation.

Choosing to homeschool was a big decision for us. I felt woefully inadequate and your rough start didn't help. Until I realized that in the area of math, you were just BORED TO TEARS. I was trying to teach you basic 1+1=2 without realizing the new computer game we bought you had helped you progress to double digit addition with carry over already. Now the reading was another story. It helped when we had you tested which indicated you were a kinesthetic learner, so we began writing our letters in the sand instead of on paper and using other manipulatives in the learning process.

Even so, you were 8 before you really became functionally literate. Being more of a hands-on kinda kid, getting you to sit still to do school was always a challenge! Plus, it's my theory that you resisted learning to read for a while because you loved having us read to you, and you realized we wouldn't do it as often once you knew how to read yourself. I remember assigning you a book to read while I was going to be gone for a few weeks to take a class (having returned to college). First day you cried on the phone, "Why are you making me read this book? It's so sad!" But by the time you finished that book by Patricia St. John, you were hooked on reading. And this love of books we share brings great joy to me.

Many things you do bring great joy to me. I love to see how helpful you are to your wife, how you love, honor and cherish her. I love how you bring integrity to your work and do your best for all your customers. I love how you enjoy playing with your dogs, smoking meat in your new cooker, mowing your lawn, and enjoying the simple things in life. But most of all, I love how you love the Lord. And I pray that you will allow God to continue working in you.

I love you very much, son, and wish you a very happy and blessed 27th birthday!

Monday, December 15, 2008

I can't believe I actually made it to the party!

BooMamaChristmasTour Because I had my doubts this past week. For those visiting for the first time, I'm a southern girl who kept going south, all the way to sunny Argentina. We moved into this little house in October. We've been cleaning and painting although there's still more of both before we can totally unpack and get settled. But I was bound and determined to at least get the living room ready for BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes! Before we get started though, would you like to grab a little party parfait to enjoy during your visit? If you like chocolate at all, you will enjoy this since there's a double dose of chocolate in the brownie and the pudding :-)

I finished sewing the last curtain at 5 p.m. on Sunday but then we discovered we didn't have enough hooks to hang the last panel :-( But 8 of the 9 are up and our two walls of windows are looking mighty fine, we think. Also on Sunday we visited a friend who has several pine trees in her yard and she was happy to let us trim enough to create a lush Christmas swag. Inspired by The Nesting Place, the hubby did a phenomenal job of forming the swag and then I went to town with a few ornaments and some ribbon. I have BIG plans for a much grander swag next year, after we've had time to dry some hydrangea blossoms and gather pine cones, eucalyptus, and other goodies.

Not all of it was last minute, though. After picking up these green and blue ornaments during our shopping marathon last Tuesday, I filled a bowl for the table (and the rest we used in the swag). And prior to that we put up the tree and the Christmas quilt. I made the quilt a few years ago, before I learned about how to square things up. But we like the wonkiness of it :-) The tree skirt was also quilted, by a dear friend and supporter in Michigan. My cell phone camera isn't quite up to the job (no rude remarks about the photographer, please!) and a lot of the photos are too blurry to use. So let me just tell you about the handmade silk poinsetta blossom that I received many years ago from a lovely lady who has since died. Every year when I unpack that blossom and put it on a basket or around a candle stick, I think of her talent and generosity.

Now before I go, I just want to share a couple of favorite ornaments. Back in our Florida days I participated in an annual homemade ornament exchange and accumulated quite a stash. But not all of them survived their sojourn in mini-storage. I'm so happy a few of my Wise Men did! Here's one of them; isn't he just the cutest thing?! And this ornament never fails to elicit a surge of love and joy. It's just a cheap plastic frame that was part of a portrait package from Kmart but it's value to me is priceless. In 1982 my firstborn had just turned a year old and was wide-eyed with wonder at Christmas. I'll be sharing more about him on his birthday this Wednesday.

Finally, here are our ornaments for this year. For the first time in 27 years it's just the two of us again. So we picked a pair of pears :-) Can you guess who's green and who's blue? By necessity we've gone for a more minimalist look this year. As I've mentioned before, we didn't bring a lot of Christmas decorations with us, and it hasn't been easy finding things down here. The few stores that carry anything have limited stock. But I'm thinkin' we kinda like this new pared down look.

hehehehehe (Sorry, couldn't help myself.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Day of Catching Up

After another week of feelin' somewhat puny [adjective, 1. of less than normal strength; weak], today is a day of catching up. While I sew, sew, sew, the hubby is copying all those receipts for the reports. If it clears up (still raining) we may go hunting for some garland-making materials later.

And it bein' Saturday and all, a.k.a. "date night", we might just sit down and watch Get Smart together in Spanish with English subtitles, thus providing both entertainment and education for moi. I LOVED the sitcom when I was a kid and would wiggle with contentment in front of the television when the theme song came on...

Some of you have already seen the movie. Will I like it?

You can't possibly watch a movie without snacks, and I've had a hankering for chocolate rice krispie treats ever since finding some natural rice cereal at the health food store the other day. I'll make it even healthier by mixing it with butter and marshmallows and chocolate chips! :-) These are perfect since I'll need to make something fast and easy, what with all the sewing going on around here.

This coming Friday we're hosting the Christmas dinner for our little group. When you think of Christmas dinner, you probably envision turkey or ham with all the trimmings. Not here! Since Christmas comes in the summer, Argentines are more apt to have asados and picnics. Not sure what the men will be fixin' on the grill, but we ladies will merely have to set the tables, make some salad and sit back while the men do all the hard work.

Don't you think it would be fun to have a craft or two for the ladies to work on during all that relaxing time? I bookmarked instructions for this paper wreath a while back. Now I just have to find my stash of craft paper somewhere in the first bedroom where all craft boxes currently reside. Along with the boxes containing office supplies, Christmas things, and books. We're goin' for the "Early American Box" look so beloved by missionaries everywhere.

And now it's time to resume the curtain panel assembly line. Hasta luego!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I offer up the Darn Good Chocolate Cake for Way More Homemade Holidays Christmas Baking Edition

Donna at Way More Homemade is hosting a baking carnival today. I don't do a lot of baking at the holidays, to be honest. The daughter, who is a much better baker, took over those responsibilities many years ago. But one family tradition is to bake a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas day. It is usually a chocolate cake, because we all know Jesus probably likes chocolate best.

Back in the early days of our marriage when I wanted to impress my hubby with my mad cooking skilz (which were nonexistent by the way), I made everything from scratch. Then one time we were invited to dinner by another college couple. The hubby raved about her cake and said I HAD to get the recipe! It turned out to be a box mix. The cheap store brand box mix. Alrighty then.

So I used boxed mixes for many years. Then Ann Byrn came out with The Cake Doctor and revolutionized my life. Now I know Donna's whole blog is about life not being from a box. But this is BEYOND a box and so very, very good. And there are just times in life when you want something special but you don't have all afternoon to make it.

Or you want to bake a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas day but you don't want to spend half the day in the kitchen. You'd rather be hangin' with the family. That's when you can use this recipe guilt-free :-)

DARN GOOD CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 pkg. plain devil's food or dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1 pkg. (3.9 oz.) chocolate instant pudding mix
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° Lightly mist a 9"x12" pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour. Set aside.

In large bowl combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, sour cream, warm water and oil and blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl and increase speed to medium for another 2-3 minutes. Batter should be thick. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes (until toothpick in center comes out clean). Allow cake to cool completely.
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I'm a fan of the simple, so some years our cake would get just a dusting of powdered sugar to make it look a little prettier. Other years the chocolate urge would overwhelm me and I would make a little chocolate ganache and pour over the cooled cake. Either way, it makes a great birthday cake for Jesus!

CHOCOLATE GANACHE

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, watching very carefully because if it boils for a few seconds, it will boil out of the pot. When the cream has come to a boil, pour over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Allow the ganache to cool slightly before pouring over a cake.
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In other news, we've ordered a mirror for the bathroom! We found a little place that sells glass for anything and everything and they also had a few mirrors in their display window. We're having them cut a mirror to the size we need and then add some lovely colored glass tiles around the edge to sort of "frame" it out. We can pick it up Friday. Woohoo! I'm planning to put my contacts in first thing. That's a task I have not been able to accomplish with my 6" mirror. One of those areas where I'm high maintenance -- I need a really BIG mirror so I can see as I hook one arm over my head to hold the other eye open while inserting that little piece of plastic into my optical organ.

We also found a stationary/art supply store selling Christmas things. We bought our ornaments for the year and they are so cute! You'll have to wait until Monday to see them though. Unless we get out into el campo this weekend, those ornaments may be able the only blog-worthy thing to photograph for BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes. I will tell you that the colors perfectly match my living room curtains!

[Which by the way, I'm getting back to today. Hope to have the final three curtain panels sewn by tomorrow afternoon.]

And we received our first ticket. The bumper of the car did indeed look as if it was invading part of the curb painted yellow (not the car, just the bumper) once the nice pair of policemen pointed it out. Ugh. No idea how much it will cost, the hubby has to go before a judge. We parked there, excited to find an open spot, after moving from another block because -- although there were six cars parked there -- the sign said it was a no parking zone. I'd betcha that if we'd stayed in that no parking zone we wouldn't have had a problem. But being the law-abiding citizens we are, we moved to a legitimate parking space. And now we'll pay. For those few inches of bumper invasion. *sigh*

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reporting from the southern hemisphere where Summer officially arrives in ten days

I know everyone else is posting pictures of their holiday decorations. Well, I may have mentioned how pitiful my house looks this year since I brought very little in the way of Christmas things with us. AND I'm having a hard time finding stuff here. So instead I thought I'd share yet more pictures of my yard. Doesn't it look like these roses are talking to each other? :-) I love, love, LOVE my hydrangeas! We saw a house in Santa Rosa that had dozens of them all over the yard and I thought to myself, "I want a lot of hydrangeas like this!" So we're going to see if we can't start some more with clippings from this plant. But I'd also like to get my hands on some of the blue ones and white ones and... We have trumpet vines on either side of the house, but this side is much grander so it's the side I'm showing (not that the other side is shabby but it only covers about 5' of wall). Underneath is a variety of things but mostly spider plants.

Speaking of spiders...when we had Thanksgiving dinner with a group of missionaries, it was at a camp on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. A camp where big hairy spiders suddenly appear out of nowhere, causing some southern girls to move rather quickly. Well, wouldn't you if confronted with THIS?! Not being a fan of ginormous spiders, I'm glad we don't have bigguns like that where I live.

Jumping from the camp where big spiders live to el campo which simply means "countryside", I'm thinking I may have to take our pruning shears and sneak off in the dead of night to el campo where pine trees dot the landscape. I've been checking out some of the beautiful garlands at the Holiday Garland Show & Tell hosted by Nesting Place. Nester and the others have given me some great ideas. The arched doorway between our living and dining rooms just begs for a big showy garland. And the stealthy night scavenging appears necessary since I can't find even skimpy garlands in the stores. Not that I want to appear to be whining (even though I am) but I'd really like to have something worthy of photographing for BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes on Monday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I wasn't kidding when I called it a Shopping Marathon

We left the house about 1 p.m. yesterday and returned about 1 a.m. today.

Fan. Check
Bathroom mirror. No
Ironing board. Check
Kitchen cannisters. No
Cocoa powder. No
Clock. No
Labels for file folders. No
Plates. No
Christmas swag. No

Waiting in line: well over three hours total

Wanna do that again. No thanks

No idea why all the stores were so busy on a Tuesday! The longest wait was at a Sam's Club style warehouse store that specializes in cleaning and paper products. An hour and twenty minutes in that line. Ugh. It was hot and smelly and I gave up after the first 20 minutes and went out to the car while the hubby waited patiently in line.

Another hour in line at a different warehouse-style store specializing in food and appliances (but they have just about everything else too). And half an hour at Walmart's and maybe 20 minutes at Easy (like Home Depot).

Backtracking a little...first thing the hubby did was drop me at NuevoCentro Shopping while he went to a nearby Apple store regarding repairs for our Macbook. It was a little weird to see how minimally the stores decorate and how little seasonal merchandise is available. I'd hoped to find some needed kitchen items at Falabella, the anchor store for the mall, but I was outta luck. I remembered it being much bigger when we were here in '07 and sure enough, Marcela told me they'd had a bigger store at the other end of the mall. Guess the slow economy forced 'em to downsize.

Anyway, the only thing I ended up buying there was moisturizer. And I sure wish I'd asked the price first! Yikes! It was more than twice what I paid in the U.S. Definitely going to have to figure out a different way of getting this particular item.

I have only been able to find two moisturizers I can use on my very sensitive and dry skin. I may be low maintenance on the appearance aspect of grooming, but necessity requires I be picky about the products I use. I've wasted a lot of money over the years trying different ones, but in the end always come back to the Shaklee Enfuselle® Hydrating Moisturizer or Clinique Drastically Different Moisturizer. With anything else I break out in hives. Even the lowest maintenance of us draw the line at hives.

There are no Shaklee distributors in the country that I can find. And with these prices, I won't be buying more Clinique here either.

This evening, weather permitting (it's been storming off and on all day) we're going downtown in our quest for a bathroom mirror. At this point we're thinking just a plain mirror which the hubby can frame in due time.

All the kitchen cannisters we've seen are either glass or stainless steel. Since I'm a messy cook and don't want to constantly be wiping down my cannisters, those are not viable options. I guess we'll be sticking with the classy ziplock bags meanwhile.

We brought what was left of our old Corelle dish set. I think there were six big plates, 7 small plates and 11 bowls. So we knew we'd have to buy more anyway. And recently we've broken three more pieces. Ceramic tile is death to glassware, even Corelle. But good grief, dishes are expensive here! So for now, if we have company we'll be using paper plates. While I keep my eye out for reasonably priced sets.

And so it goes...finding what I need for a price I'm willing to pay is proving more challenging than I expected.

But all was not lost! I did score a decent supply of Kleenex brand SOFT toilet paper :-)

And we agreed trying to do that much shopping in one day is just not realistic. Not with lines like that. So we'll temper our expectations and eliminate the "marathon" from our shopping.

To say we were tired is an understatement. And by the time we unloaded the car and put things away, it was around 2 a.m. as we hit the bed. Around 6:30 this morning I woke up to use the restroom. On my way I stepped on what I initially thought was one of those twisty-ties that come on bread bags. Only we don't buy bread that way here. In my sleepy haze (and not wearing my glasses so I was blind as a bat) I looked down in time to see something furry scurry away. Yikes! That was no twisty-tie, that was a mouse tail!

But people, I was so tired I didn't even scream. I just went to the bathroom, went back to bed and WENT BACK TO SLEEP without even telling the hubby what had happened. You know you're tired when you step on a mouse and can go right back to sleep.

The strange thing is, we have seen absolutely no evidence of a mouse before now. So we're sorta wondering if we didn't bring it home from our shopping expedition. We shopped at several warehouse type places that pack your things in boxes...However it arrived, we'll definitely be putting out some traps. I have no desire to repeat this morning's episode again!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Late In The Day Posts Are Better Than No Posts At All, Right?

It's 10 p.m. and I'm finally finding a few minutes to post. It's been a busy Monday of laundry, Spanish class, more laundry, a little cooking and cleaning, studying Spanish, even more laundry, and catching up on e-mails. I couldn't believe it when I looked at my watch and saw how late it was.

Oh, and for those in the frozen north, wish I could send a little heat your way. We have more than enough to share. It's 95° right now and I have no idea how hot it was earlier. Needless to say, laundry dried in a hurry today.

We still don't have a fan, so the heat's sorta getting to us. We are FINALLY going to Cordoba for the big shopping trip tomorrow and you know a fan is #1 on the list!

A mirror for the bathroom runs a close second. Can any of you ladies imagine going for MONTHS without a bathroom mirror? I have a tiny hand mirror, 6" across, that I've been using for all my grooming needs.

Seriously.

I realized at the end of one day that I had little chunks of hair sticking out beside both ears, and it had been that way all day I'm guessing. The hubby didn't say anything. Neither did my language tutor. I'm wondering if it's such a regular occurrence that it didn't even phase them.

I'm high maintenance in a lot of areas, but apparently grooming isn't one of them.

Of equal importance in the area of grooming, I may finally get around to buying an ironing board. Drying clothes on the line instead of in a dryer means they're not as fluffy and ready-to-wear as before. A little pressing would go a long way in improving my appearance. But for now I think the slightly rumpled look goes well with the wispy-sticky-out-hairdo.

Pictures will not be forthcoming. If I can't know what I look like, neither can you.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Worship Time - "Silent Night" Instrumental by Andre Rieu

December means Christmas music! We're doing something a little different this week. I've so enjoyed listening to instrumental CDs this week -- soothing and inspiring. So here's just the music with the lyrics following in case you want to sing along to one of my favorite Christmas hymns.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday Stirrings: Coca-Cola Marshmallow Cake

It's been a while since I was able to participate in the Saturday Stirrings recipe exchange hosted by Carol at I Throw Like a Girl. I'm pretty excited to see what everyone's sharing this week! I print the recipes that sound particularly good to put in my binder. Well, one of my binders; I have collected so many recipes over the years that I have several.

My Spanish tutor was in Cordoba Thursday and came across a store selling marshmallows and bought some for my birthday! We'd just been talking about marshmallows because one of our ornaments is a little marshmallow person. Have you seen the s'mores ornaments I'm talking about? Isn't that just the cutest thing? It's in honor of my hubby's mad handyman skilz.

Anyway, although Marcela has lived and taught in the U.S., she has never had a s'more so we were telling her about them. But said we didn't think we could buy marshmallows (or graham crackers) here. So when she saw the marshmallows, she picked some up for us! Isn't she sweet?!

Instead of the typical white fluffy cubes these marshmallows are pale pastel colored rope braids of marshmallowy goodness, about 1/2" in diameter and cut into three inch lengths. She found them in a candy store I believe.

I've actually been thinking about this cake for weeks so you have no idea how happy it makes me to have this almost-impossible-to-find ingredient!

This is a popular cake in the south but I'm not sure it's well known anywhere else. But it should be! Because Coca-Cola marshmallow cake is a national treasure, people. Which you will learn for yourself if you take the time to make this decadent dessert. This particular recipe is from a favorite little cookbook called Miss Mary's Down-Home Cooking.

COCA-COLA MARSHMALLOW CAKE
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (or place 1-1/2 teaspoons white vinegar in measuring cup and fill to 1/2 cup mark with milk, stir)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Coca-Cola, measured without foam
1-1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Icing:
1/4 cup butter
1-1/2 tablespoons Coca-Cola
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

First make the cake. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Gradually beat in the sugar. When done the mixture should be thick and pale yellow. Beat in the oil, buttermilk (or sour milk) and vanilla.

In another bowl stir together the flour and baking soda. Beat this into the liquid ingredients alternately with the cola. Stir in the marshmallows.

Turn batter into greased and floured 9"x13" baking pan. Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes until tootghpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool.

When the cake is completely cool, make the icing: Heat the butter and cola in a saucepan until butter has melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. Beat well. If too stiff, thin with a few drops of cola. Stir in the nuts. Spread the icing over the cake in the pan. Let icing set at least 10 minutes before cutting the cake.

* * * * * * * *

Before you rush off to the kitchen to make this cake, take a few minutes to check out the other Saturday Stirrings recipes!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Story of the Never Ending Paperwork

Yes, I am STILL working on it. We put off our marathon shopping trip until next week so I can just keep at it until IT IS OVER (three of four reports finished so far).

I hit a milestone birthday yesterday but it doesn't feel any different to be a whole half century old :-) Both my kids called, as did my sister, and friends from Michigan. Love that Vonage phone! We enjoyed fresh pasta with some amazing mushroom sauce for lunch and finished off the day with some really yummy tiramisu.

Between phone calls I worked on reports.all.day.long.

As a treat for getting caught up on the paperwork I'm planning to indulge in a little sewing for fun this weekend. Can't remember which blog had the link for this great tote but I've been wanting to make one ever since I saw it.

Then next week it's back to the assembly line. Three more curtain panels to make before taking pictures for BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes. Call me anal but I'd like to have at least one room all done and decked out before then. These online carnivals act as great motivators to get things done! Those of you who host them should consider it an act of public service.

Because my life this week revolves around receipts, reports and a calculator, I don't have much to write about...although I could spend some time ranting about what how easy it is to hit the wrong key on a calculator with really small buttons and totally screw up the numbers and then you have to start all over and when you keep making mistakes and having to do it over and over you begin to feel righteously indignant and wonder why you didn't buy a regular office calculator to begin with before you remember that you didn't want a big ole piece of machinery taking up precious desk space and if you only kept up-to-date on the reports you wouldn't have to use the calculator so much at one time and then you wouldn't be frustrated at how small the keys are...But I won't get into that right now.

Because I have one more report to do.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Day At Home

After reviewing the long list of things that needed to be done in Cordoba, we realized there was no way we'd manage it all in one day. So lucky me was able to stay home! We'll go later in the week for the marathon shopping but today the hubby took care of the downtown things. And because he couldn't look at the map and navigate the streets simultaneously he was able to see a lot more of the city than planned, and "happened" on some pretty cool places :-) Serendipitous!

I was able to slog through (most of) four months worth of receipts and get them semi-organized. You have no idea how much I hate this part but it just couldn't be put off any longer. Ugh. I kept hoping we'd be able to unpack and set up our office (including the files) but that isn't happening any time soon so it was necessary to do the best I can with what I have. There's still more to be done and I think I'll cry if it takes more than another full day.

Needing to do something other than paperwork by the end of the day, I gave the kitchen a good cleaning while waiting for the hubby to get home. And since it was a beautiful sunny day, of course I had to do laundry :-) I managed to squeeze out two loads even though I was all caught up on Monday.

The best part of the day was talking several times with the daughter. It's just so much fun to be able to chat for long stretches about anything and everything...the paper due in one class and the debate she's preparing for in another, all the things she's making in pottery and her plans for winter break...

One thing I haven't had time for is catching up on blogs. So guess I'd better get busy :-)

A Day of Shopping

Most women swoon at the thought of a day of shopping. Not me. I'm not a fan of the shopping unless I'm in the mood. Which occurs 2.3 times per year, usually around the time of the white sales. Not sure if those exist here so that statistic may decrease.

But just 'cause I don't enjoy it much doesn't mean I don't have to do it. The hubby is great and does a lot of the day-to-day grocery runs but we both have to tackle the once-on-month trips to Cordoba.

Today the list is especially long since we also have to (1) go to the main post office downtown (someone sent a package which automatically requires us visiting the provincial post office to deal with the customs issue), (2) visit a store that handles Apples because my Macbook has some problems we want to address before the one-year warranty is up, (3) stop at the Regístro Civil to check on our D.N.I.s, (4) check out the one and only Christian bookstore in the province and (5) go to the bus station to drop off a package [this is apparently the mode of sending packages here, rather than through the postal service]. These are all in addition to the actual stock-up-for-the-month shopping extravaganza at several stores.

And we can't leave until almost noon since my regularly scheduled Spanish class is a PRIORITY people.

Should be an interesting day.

Our map is old. We are easily confused. The places we need to go are all over the city. I do know that every time we've ever tried to go to the bus station on our own it has been a nightmare because of the one-way streets.

In Uganda we used to drive into the capital, park in a secure parking lot, then hire a taxi to drive us around town to all the places we needed to go. That sounds very appealing but taxis were much cheaper there. So we'll be doing all the driving and navigating ourselves.

You may not hear from me for a few days if we get lost.

I'm packing extra chocolate in my purse.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Un Piropo Anyone?

So I learned that here in Argentina they have a specific word for the things men to say to women they pass in the street. I'm not talking just catcalls here, but much nicer kinds of things. Like "How advanced technology has become when flowers can walk!" or "What has happened in heaven that such angels have fallen to earth?" While not many welcome wolf whistles and rude comments, what woman doesn't appreciate compliments?

One man was famous in Cordoba for standing on a busy street corner and complimenting every woman who walked by. Dressed in a top hat and tails, flowers tucked into his lapel, he was quite elegant. His real name was Fernando Albiero Bertapelle but everyone called him Jardín Florido. Although he died in 1963, his name lives on in folklore (and on Wikipedia).

He developed piropos into an art form, and others have followed in his footsteps. My co-worker remembers just a few years ago after she learned to drive and was slowly making her way through heavy traffic in the center of downtown Carlos Paz. Her window was rolled down and as she waited at a corner for the light to change, she was startled when an elderly, dapper gentleman in a suit stepped to the side of her van and said, "I knew that God sent angels to earth, but I did not know that they drove!" Made her day! :-)

It was such a kick to do my homework yesterday -- translating the Wikipedia entry on Fernando Bertapelle -- and then talk with my Spanish teacher this morning about well-known characters from places I've lived. I'm not sure if he's still alive, but there was a mentally impaired man in Jonesville who absolutely LOVED going to all the ballgames at the high school and cheering for "his" team. And he sometimes traveled with them to away games, serving as an unofficial mascot. Didn't matter to him whether they won or not, he just enjoyed the excitement of the game and was convinced that "his" team was the best no matter what. His unbridled enthusiasm endeared him to all.

Totally switching subjects...we set up our Christmas tree last evening. I used to have five plastic bins of Christmas decorations but gave away most of it before we came. So it didn't take long to unpack my one lonely bin and take a few more things from another box. It's looking a little sparse at this point but I'm trying to think of things I can get locally to make it more festive. I plan to post pictures on December 15th as part of BooMama's Christmas Tour of Homes.

The month-long Christmas music extravaganza has also begun. Currently I'm listening to Manheim Steamroller's Fresh Aire Christmas.

While decorating last night we listened to The Nutcracker Ballet. I finished the tree, sat down and just cried. I do pretty well most of the time but sometimes I miss my kids so much it's overwhelming. So I stop and cry, and then get back up and get busy again. I know there are many families -- and I think particularly of those in the military -- who are missing their loved ones this year, too. You do what you gotta do. And thank the Lord for internet and the ability to stay in touch despite the distance.

Monday, December 1, 2008

We're Home Sweet Home

...and after all the traveling we've done this past week, I'm thankful to be sitting on something other than a car seat! We literally spent over 30 hours in the Fiat altogether. Ugh.

I'm not going into long rambling details about our week. Okay, get up off the floor and quit laughing. I can write succinctly you know! I just choose not to most of the time.

We had limited internet access and I sometimes went WHOLE DAYS without being able to check my e-mail or blog. That is my new definition of suffering.

A can of cranberry sauce somehow made its way into someone's suitcase from the U.S. and onto the table at the Thanksgiving dinner we enjoyed with a large group of missionaries. Don't know who or how, but I was just praising Jesus for that little bit of home. I was more excited about it than the chocolate pecan pie (which almost made me weep for joy).

The hubby slept through ten minutes of fireworks that were set off practically under our window on Saturday night but suddenly woke up a short time later when the slight rustling of plastic occurred in the bathroom. He was up and in there like a shot, discovering a toad had invaded our space. How that toad ever got in is a mystery I may not want to figure out. Just glad the hubby DID wake up and was able to escort Mr. Toad back outside to his natural habitat.

Our favorite little restaurant in Belgrano (the next town over from Santa Rosa de Calamuchita) has doubled its prices which made us very very sad. We've enjoyed this spot since 2003 when a friend introduced us to the joys of paying by the kilo for a buffet style banquet. Tio Rico's is a small place, room for maybe 20 inside and more outside, with one small hot bar and one small cold one. Not a huge selection, but everything is always delicious and fresh and they change things up frequently so you don't get bored. One of the sisters told the hubby they were hit hard during the farmer's strike that lasted months and months. So maybe they're just trying to recoup some of their losses.

The couple who have been caring for the property in Santa Rosa chose a beautiful yellow for the interior this time. Since yellow is my favorite color, you know I'm happy :-) About half the rooms have been painted and the rest will be done within a few weeks. It's looking very clean and fresh!

I was careful not to drink the water but still managed to get Montezuma's Revenge.

This has become a regular occurrence and we're not sure what's causing it. I've lost over 20 lbs. since we arrived in mid August. Is it the water (drinking only bottled now), the food (not eating any take out at all), adjusting to the diet here (trying to eat more fruits and vegetable to counteract all the beef and cooking more chicken when we're home)... It's a mystery but I'm hoping we figure it out soon. As much as I need to lose weight, this way is no fun.

The hubby reminded me that we didn't get stopped a single time on our trip. This was an answer to prayer because we hadn't received our final paperwork on the car before we left. So although we do have a paper saying it's in process, it could have been a problem had we been stopped. Police routinely set up road blocks and pull people over randomly to see what they might be able to find that you do not have in order. Even if you have everything exactly how it's supposed to be, they'll sometimes just make up something. I think they do it when they're bored and the coffers are low. Anyway, we're just thankful we didn't have to deal with it on this trip.

Guess I ended up rambling after all. Oh stop your snickering! This is the first chance I've had to leisurely blog in days. Let me just enjoy the experience.