Saturday, October 31, 2009

Week 44, Project 365

My fondness for symmetry is well-known so obviously I'm happy that it's week forty-four of Project 365. To say nothing of the fact that four is my favorite number; not sure why but I've always liked the number four.

As some of you know, my Macbook had a close encounter with the hard ceramic floor in my living room on Friday evening. I managed to hang onto it (as it was slipping from my hands) until it was about a foot off the floor, so it wasn't totally destroyed but it did suffer major damage to the screen. Since the part will have to be imported it could be a while before it's fixed. *sigh* Meanwhile Ivan is graciously sharing his PC.

First up this week are flowers from our garden. The lavender plant is doing quite well and I plan to dry some and make sachets.

Work on the lot next door proceeds. At the beginning of the week they poured the footers.

By the end of the week they'd started on the walls.
The cherry tomato plant from last year came back of its own accord and already has a tomato just about ready to pick. I love fresh tomatoes!

Wednesday we went to Cordoba. Our first stop was the Palacio Ferreyra, which was originally the private home of one of the wealthiest families in the country. The government turned it into an art museum a few years ago. Every time I go I think what a wonderful place for a Cinderella-type of wedding.

Our last stop that day was Walmart. I'd never seen this sign designating for-pregnant-women-only-parking. Do they use it in the U.S. too?

Our neighbors have two dogs, both adorable. This is one of them.

Speaking of dogs, we were downtown the other night and walked through a galeria (sort of like a mini mall) and what should we see -- inside! -- but a dog. They're EVERYWHERE!

And finally, a photo of our honeysuckle bush which is loaded with intoxicating blossoms -- I wish I could share the heavenly scent with you.
Sharing the PC means less computer time; I won't be able to comment as often; it'll be more like drive-by visits, slowing down just long enough to read your posts. I hope you'll forgive my lack of blog etiquette in the meantime.

Friday, October 30, 2009

This southern girl is very very sad

Because I dropped my computer tonight and the screen is a goner. I was trying so hard to hang onto it because anything that falls on these hard ceramic floors is done for, but it slipped out of my grasp about a foot, foot and a half from the floor. I'm thankful the entire computer didn't bust into a gazillion pieces.

I feel oddly bereft. It's amazing how I've come to depend on my little Macbook for so much. Communication via e-mail, facebook, this blog... The ability to look up recipes, find out how to do things, get ideas for craft projects, shop (just before it happened I scored a great pair of sewing scissors on eBay), keep up-to-date on world affairs, watch funny videos, watch serious videos, listen to music, share our photos on flickr... The computer and internet are such a big part of our lives these days.

I'm on Ivan's PC now and he will happily share with me until we can get mine fixed. Who knows how long that will be? The closest Mac store is in Cordoba but all computers and parts are imported. It's highly probable we'll have to wait for the part we need to be shipped from the U.S. It may make more sense to just wait until our daughter comes and have her bring the part so Ivan can fix it. Just not sure yet, and we won't know until we call the store tomorrow.

Our address book is on the Mac so we won't be able to send out e-mail updates (and I'm overdue on that little task as it is). That's my biggest concern right now. I can do most everything else with this computer. And we'll have to coordinate our schedules since we typically are on our computers at the same time (early morning and/or late evening).


In other news, the power kept going off today. A good part of the afternoon (when it was at its hottest), we had no electricity and therefore no fan action. I don't need to tell you how not fun that was. Andrea and I spent part of the time sitting as still as we could at the dining table, working on art projects. Didn't like to move as that induced great big drops of perspiration. Actually just breathing did that. Anyway, by 7 p.m. it was cooler outside than in (not by much, but at least there was a slight breeze outside) so we moved out to the patio.

(BTW, at 11 p.m. it's still almost 90 degrees.)

It was supposed to rain tonight but that's not in the forecast any more., a site for those into wind-related sports, now predicts rain late tomorrow afternoon. [We like the site because it has a lot more details about the weather and they're broken down into three hour increments.] We're hoping and praying it does rain because that will cool things down. The news is reporting wild fires all over the province, including the Calamuchita Valley again. This morning we had a smokey haze hanging over Carlos Paz for a few hours but it blew over. Not sure which blaze but it could be from one of several in neighboring valleys.

Meanwhile, I am thankful the electricity came back on this evening and the fans are oscillating, providing much needed relief. And like I said, I'm thankful the computer didn't suffer total annihilation. It could be worse. Much worse. I'm thankful we still have the PC so we're not completely computer-less. Do I hear an Amen?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A little preview of summer

Land's sake but it's hot. It's 6:30 p.m. and 102°. We came back from art class and a quick stop at the health food store and I dropped into my chair with the fan as high as it will go, directed straight at me. Normally when the weather warms up we open windows at night and close them from late morning until evening. But it was hot enough by 8 a.m. that we went ahead and closed up. Honestly I'm not sure it cooled down that much last night.

Yesterday we went to Cordoba in the afternoon (English conversation group in the morning) and walking a very short distance from where we parked the car to the art museums four blocks away about did us in. On the plus side we discovered that on Wednesdays the Palacio Ferreyra is free! Unfortunately the Caraffa Fine Arts Museum was closed because they were installing a new exhibit which will open today. So after we finished at the Palacio we trudged back to the car and drove to the other side of town.

There's a mall full of stores with materials and supplies for home construction, remodeling and furnishings. ¡Me encanta! I could spend hours in there just wandering around and looking but yesterday I was on a mission (and hot and tired) so we hunted, we bagged and we left :-) [A speaker once gave this analogy about one of the differences between men and women, that men are hunters when it came to shopping: they like to hunt, bag the prize, and go home.] 

We bought material to make slipcovers for our IKEA Poang chairs. Silly us bought the chairs with natural (i.e., off white) covers and I am tired of them looking nasty two days after they've been washed. For several years we've dreamed about having a red sofa. Not sure that will ever happen, but we're going to have red chairs soon!

Isn't that just lovely? The fabric we chose is more of a brick red but you get the idea. Now I just have to find time to actually make the new slipcovers.

So it was in the 100s yesterday and today. At least it's a dry heat. We lived with heat combined with humidity in the fair state of Michigan for twenty years and I don't miss it one bit! Although some humidity in the form of rain would be more than welcomed. It's so dry and the lake so low that they're talking about shutting off water to whole neighborhoods for extended periods of time (kind of like rolling black-outs but with water). We have a tank on the roof that water is pumped into and then gravity fed to the bathroom and kitchen so as long as the tank is full when the water is turned off, we should be okay. Just won't be able to do laundry or water the garden and we'll have to be careful with what we do use on those days.

I mentioned the English conversation group met Wednesday morning. One of the activities was creating a story. I started with a sentence, then the next person had to say what I said and add a sentence. We kept going around with each person repeating the story and adding something to it. Good for practicing pronunciation, developing vocabulary...and inducing laughter :-)

A few men have indicated an interest in joining the group so we'll probably move the get-together to an evening and Ivan will join us to help me. If we get too many people coming we'll have to split into two groups. At this point we're just playing it by ear.

This is my last week of full-time Spanish instruction. For the rest of this term on the field (two more years) I'll have two classes per week. Part of me is excited to have more time to do things with Ivan ministry-wise and part of me is terrified that I'm not really ready. Being sick for a good part of the first year slowed me down considerably but, as Ivan would say, "It is what it is." And what it is, is time to move forward. Your prayers are much appreciated!!!

Our normally quiet neighborhood was anything but quiet today. First of all, because it's so hot, the construction workers next door got an early start on the day. Like BEFORE 6:30 A.M. EARLY. Ugh. And the alarm on the house across the street (whose owner works in Cordoba) was going off all day long. About once an hour it would stop for three minutes or so, just long enough for us to get false hopes that someone had finally arrived to turn it off, and then it would start again. *sigh* A cacophony blaring, men talking, hammers pounding, metal clanging, alarm bells ringing...

I have a feeling the construction guys will be back early tomorrow morning too, so this southern girl is going to bed early tonight. We normally try to keep to Argentine hours but something's gotta give in this situation and looks like it will be my bedtime. Might have to invest in some earplugs too. Hmmmm, maybe I could use those early morning hours to work on the slipcovers.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Random Dozen #9

Whew! Participating in the Random Dozen Meme can be exhausting. I am flat worn out from answering all the questions Linda came up with this week. But I sure did have fun in the process. And I know it will be a hoot to read what others have answered too -- funny, serious, hilarious, thought-provoking...always entertaining!

1. Tell me something about your favorite teacher.
I've been blessed with some truly wonderful teachers, especially in college. But I'm going with the first really good teacher I remember having. This is terrible but I can’t remember her name! (Walton? Walken?) She was my high school American history teacher and she just made history come alive. She was so knowledgeable and full of anecdotes, especially about the presidents and first ladies. It was the first time a teacher had made history fun, and she instilled in me a love for biographies that continues to this day.

2. Tell me about one pivotal moment in your life.
There are a lot of pivotal moments I could share but I’m going to tell about the one that propelled us into a year in Africa because it’s a great story of how God can and does move stuck-in-a-rut-and-happy-to-be-there people :-) [And this is going to be a rather long story so go ahead and make some tea, grab a cookie and settle back.] 

The way it all came about was so clearly of God. We had traded some vacation time at a friend’s cottage on Lake Michigan for some work and instruction on building by my oh-so-handyman husband. But it took two years for us to coordinate schedules to where Ivan could do the work AND teach our friend in the process (and in that time we used the cottage three times!).

Anyway, the day Ivan finally made it over there, they were hosting a missionary from Uganda whose daughter was a student at Hillsdale College where our friend taught. (still with me?) So midway through the morning they stopped for a coffee break and Ivan met Jay Dangers for the first time. It turns out they had a few things in common: both were MKs (missionary kids) and they had a mutual friend. Ivan had a great time talking with Jay and learning about the ministry to orphans that Jay had founded. Before he went back to work Ivan felt compelled to ask him, “So is there anything a guy with my skills could do to help over there?” to which Jay responded, “As a matter of fact, our construction manager is in dire need of a furlough and it would be great to have someone fill in for him during the time he's gone.” All afternoon as Ivan worked he thought about the possibility but he kept saying to himself, “Kim will NEVER go for it so why even think about it?” and yet he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

We had tickets to a concert at the college that night and he was running late so when he finally made it home I was waiting at the door to rush him along. “Go hop in the shower and I’ll have your supper on a plate when you get out,” I told him. He grinned and asked “How would you like to spend a year in Africa?” before handing me some papers on his way to the shower. I was dumbfounded! I’m sure I stood there with my mouth hanging open for a few minutes, looking at the papers in my hand in utter confusion. Okey-dokey then! 

I snapped back to reality, put the papers by my purse and proceeded to get his supper ready to go. I drove while he ate and between bites he told me about his time with Jay and how he couldn’t stop thinking about going to Uganda. I was amused and aggravated at the same time. What a crazy idea!

But once we were sitting in the auditorium and I had time to finally look at the brochure and newsletter from New Hope Uganda while the orchestra tuned up, God had already started working in my spirit. As I read about this place that was “bringing the fatherhood of God to the fatherless” I felt this overwhelming sense of God saying “GO!” I turned to Ivan, tears springing to my eyes, and cried, “But I never wanted to go to AFRICA!” Ivan took my hand and smiled at me and said very gently, “Neither did I.” But in that moment we both knew that’s exactly what we would be doing.

[And it was that experience in Uganda which God used to catapult us into full-time missions in Argentina. So the pivotal moment took us in a whole new direction for the rest of our lives.]

3. About favorite colors--a lot of people will ask you what it is, but I want to know why it is. What feeling or memory does it evoke?
For the first fifty years of my life I would have answered without hesitation: blue and yellow (“can’t have one without the other” - name that song for 100 points) but for some reason I have become obsessed with green. I love green in all its glorious shades and hues but especially a light Spring green. It fills me with a sense of peace and calm and happiness. But I have no idea where this passion for green comes from! It’s only been recently that I’ve even acknowledged it. Maybe it’s my midlife crisis?

4. What's a sure sign that you're getting older?
Good grief but my body has developed all kinds of old people quirks. Everything from failing eyesight to disturbing gastrointestinal issues that I certainly never had in my younger years. Even eating potato soup can give me a bad case of gas. (was that TMI?) 

5. Please don't sermonize, but Halloween--is it a yes or no for you?
Yes but no. Growing up I loved the holiday. We had lots of kids on our block and I don’t remember a single house that didn’t give out candy. All the kids (and a few adults as well) dressed up and we had so much fun visiting everyone in the neighborhood. A favorite was the confirmed bachelor next-door who gave away the BIG candy bars -- what a treat! I honestly never knew it was a controversial issue until I began attending a Christian college. It became a mute question once I was married since my husband had definite ideas and opinions (and none of them good) about Halloween.

6. What's your favorite musical?
Poor Lid, I'm afraid we’re all going to torture you with our answers to this one. It’s actually a really hard question for me...Man of La Mancha, Oklahoma, West Side Story, Evita, Fiddler on the Roof, Grease...there are so many great ones that I can’t possibly pick only one! Here for your listening and viewing pleasure, I present the Ambassadors of Harmony singing "Man of La Mancha"!

7. Are you more of a city mouse or country mouse?
Country mouse.

8. Did you know that it is possible, for a small fee, to name a real star after someone? (It's true! Google it!) If someone were to name a star for you, would you appreciate it for its whimsy and romance, or would you say, "Are you kidding me? For $19.95 we could have gone to the movie and actually bought popcorn."
While I’d think it was a nice gesture, I honestly think there are much better uses to which you can put your money that would make me feel way more warm and squishy inside: supporting a child through an organization like New Hope Uganda, buying supplies to put together a box or two for Operation Christmas Child, giving to missions...  

This question comes from Paula at His Ways Are Not Our Ways.
9. What's the craziest thing you've ever been doing and texted during it? I only thought of this b/c I was about to try to text during my walking video but I didn't.
I am a texting ignormous of the highest degree. Just last night I tried sending a text message that never did go through. And I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. None.

10. "It's not a party unless there’s food!"

11. When you're stuck in traffic or a waiting room, what do you do to pass the time? PS: There are no magazines available.
Think about what I’ll write about for my next blog post.

12. If you weren't yourself, would you be friends with you?
Depends on the day. When I’m all PMSy and grouchy, no. Otherwise, yeah, I think so.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall Into Flavor: Maple Glazed Pork Loin (with a little Monday Meandering thrown in)

I should have known I couldn't avoid a little meandering on Mondays. Sorry folks, but live with it.

Because so many provinces (i.e., states) were going to opt out of the time change thing this year, the whole country decided not to bother. So we won't be springing ahead an hour while y'all fall back in the U.S. Yeah! I was not looking forward to that one hour time difference going to three hours on the east coast (which is what happens when we spring and you fall). But since y'all are still falling, there will be a two hour difference for half the year. 

I had several comment on the pretty photo of the Capuchin Church. Turns out it's sideways. When Ivan told me last evening, I decided not to bother changing it at that point.

Received two overdue notices this week. Which is very weird since as soon as we get a bill, Ivan goes right out and pays it. I mean the same day or the next day if the place is already closed. You can't mail payments here; you have to go to the office or to one of the "rapi-pago" places.

Anyway, first one was for the cell phones. It was due the 9th and when they didn't have their money by the 19th they were on the phone threatening to cut us off. The thing is, we never got the bill in the first place. No matter. So Ivan goes in and pays it.

Then we get a little notice in the mail about the water bill for Sept/Oct being overdue. Now we knew we'd paid that one! Got the receipt and Ivan went in to show them we'd paid. But it wasn't for THIS Sept/Oct; it was for LAST Sept/Oct. We didn't move in until October of last year. Since the bill was sent late August/early September, of course we didn't pay since we weren't here yet. Apparently neither did the lady who owns this property. No matter. So Ivan goes in and pays it. Here's the thing, after waiting in line a LOOOOOONG time it's finally his turn and the lady looks at the notice we'd received and said, "Oh this isn't a bill, you have to go over there and get that lady to make out a bill for you." Are you kidding me? No sense getting bent out of shape though; that's just how it works.

It is the way to keep the masses under control. Keep them standing in line and paperwork them to death.

We're a little paranoid about paying the bills. Aside from it being the right thing to do, not paying can get you into a boatload of trouble. You think waiting in a few lines is bad? Try getting your gas turned back on after it's been terminated for lack of payment. You could be waiting days, weeks, MONTHS! It seems the city has sort of grown bigger than the gas line to support it. There are whole sections of city that have never even been hooked up. But even the part that is hooked up, is seriously under supplied. So it should come as no surprise that when someone doesn't pay their gas bill in a timely manner, the company cuts 'em off and then they go to the end of A VERY LONG WAITING LIST to get hooked back up. Wouldn't you be a little paranoid too?

For most bills you have like a week to pony up before you're late. That's why Ivan pays the same day we receive a bill, or the next day if the place is already closed.  [Not sure why the water company waited so long on the overdue bill from a year ago. Since they drove through downtown blaring over the loud speaker and handing out leaflets when the city hadn't paid their water bill in a long time, I guess we should be thankful they didn't drive through our neighborhood blaring over the loud speaker that we were delinquent.]

Okay, you've endured enough meandering. On to the recipes! For those of you with access to maple syrup, this recipe is a keeper. It's really, really good! I like to serve it with the creamy polenta but it would go well with a variety of sides -- just pick your favorite fall dish...potatoes, squash, whatever.

Maple Glazed Pork Loin
1/2 c. syrup
1/8 t. cinnamon
pinch cloves
pinch cayenne
2-1/2 lb. pork loin
salt and pepper
2 t. oil
Sear roast in oil, remove from heat. Mix syrup and spices and roll loin in mixture. Roast at 325 degrees until thermometer reads 135 degrees (about 35-45 minutes), turning twice. Transfer to carving board. Allow syrup to sit 5 minutes to thicken up and pour over roast. Let sit 15 minutes. Slice and serve.

Creamy Polenta
5-1/2 c. water
1 c. milk
1-1/2 c. polenta
4 T butter
1 garlic clove, minced
2 oz. parmesan grated
Boil water and milk, add 1/2 t. salt and slowly pour in polenta, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often until liquid is absorbed (20-25 minutes). Remove from heat, add butter and garlic. Top with parmesan and broil briefly.

Now get on over to Lid's and check out the other Fall Into Flavor recipes!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Week 43, Project 365

When you mistype the first word, you know you're still half asleep. Excuse me while I drink a cup of coffee or three.

Actually I have gotten into the very Argentine habit of having máte in the morning rather than coffee. Trying to cut down on the caffeine and all. But our bombilla (the metal straw you use to drink máte) has been giving me mouthfuls of tea leaves lately and this morning I decided I wanted a leaf-free beverage so I've made myself a delicious cup of French-pressed coffee. When you only have something on rare occasions, it's a special treat. Yum!

Ivan used the camera more than I did this week so half the pictures are courtesy of his fine photography skills, including this first one. Monday while he was in Cordoba he took this photo at the Capuchin Church.

Another day he took this one of a cool looking bird with really long tail feathers. Not the greatest shot because it was pretty far away but an interesting bird. Any idea what it is?

These flowers actually grow wild here but this particular specimen is in someone's yard near our house. Unusual, isn't it? It's called lagaña de perro.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned the speed bumps that are EVERYWHERE. Well, maybe not everywhere. Sometimes instead of speed bumps they have SPEED DIPS! I am so not even kidding. Here's the street sign they place RIGHT NEXT TO the dips; usually no warning ahead of time, just BAM here's a dip.

Some dips aren't too bad, others will take out your car if you hit 'em going too fast.

Okay, normally you can see pretty long distances from most elevations around the city. Like this...

But the weird dust cloud that blew over on Friday obliterated everything from sight.

The high winds that day blew the cloud in and out in a matter of about an hour. Freaky kind of experience!

I have several photos from Saturday. One of mine and two from Ivan. Mine first. Here's my work-in-progress Christmas quilt. Still lots to be done on the bird and border but I'm pleased with how it's turning out so far.

Ivan attended the annual Séptimo Encuentro de Constructores de Aeronaves Experimentales in Alta Gracia. This group is similar to the EAA in the U.S. (Experimental Aircraft Association). He'd planned on going with his local aviation buddy but that's the one who had a close encounter with a plane propeller and is still laid up, recovering from those injuries (he remains in a lot of pain and has trouble sleeping at night). Anyway, Ivan ended up going on his own and had a great time and met some interesting people. Including this man, who wrote a book about the various woods used in airplane construction.

Don't you just love his face? It's full of character! I hope my laugh lines look half as good on me as his do on him when I'm his age :-)

Unlike the big annual EAA event in Oshkosh that turns their tiny airport into the busiest in the world for a week, only one plane actually flew in for the weekend event in Alta Gracia. And this is it. Being the only one, it drew a lot of attention from attenders!

That's all for this week. I look forward to seeing what the other Project 365 participants have been up to this week -- join me over at Sara's to check them out.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Freedom of the Press

One of those rights we think are inherent. Not so in most of the world.

A fight between Fox and the Obama administration has been brewing for a while, producing no small amount of entertainment value. But as a communications major (a.k.a. journalism major) it did my heart good to see this tag line directly under the headline this morning:

The Obama administration on Thursday tried to make "pay czar" Kenneth Feinberg available for interviews to every member of the White House pool except Fox News. But the Washington bureau chiefs of the five TV networks decided that none of their reporters would interview Feinberg unless Fox News was included.  

After seeing the way many leaders around the world ride rough-shod over the press -- and get away with it -- it was encouraging to see how things are handled differently in the U.S. An excellent example of true democracy at work!

Earlier this month a new law was pushed through that will likely lead to tighter government control of the media here. The law will allow the executive branch to appoint five of seven members to a new broadcast regulatory body (two directly and three through the ruling party in Congress). This new regulatory body will have the power to approve or terminate media licenses.

So it's been interesting to follow the news here too. During an extremely heated debate over the bill in Congress those opposed were so upset they walked out and refused to vote, ceding a victory of 147-4 in the House. Then one of the Senatorial opponents of the bill ultimately voted FOR it, raising a firestorm of protest within her own party. So why did she change her mind? A lot of conspiracy theories are being thrown about but since my Spanish is still pretty limited I haven't understood most of it.

But it does reinforce my glee when I read the news of what's happening in my home country. Go Free Press!

Yesterday Ivan was running an errand and called home to tell me to go outside and check out the skyline. A great orange cloud hovered over the mountains above us. A fire? No, it was a dust storm! Things have been so dry for so long and the small amount of rain we've gotten hasn't been sufficient. Ivan was driving but watched the cloud in his rearview mirror as it rolled over the city. When he was finally able to stop and take a photo, this is what he saw.

Not much! The dust cloud had completely covered the city. But because it was really windy, it was soon past the city and we once again had clear blue skies. Very odd experience!

I was able to spend a little time catching up on blog reading last evening. The truth is, once I finally sat down it was really hard to get up again! I'm always mentally fried by Friday evening but last night that was accompanied by physical exhaustion too. An afternoon spent cleaning house in stifling heat will do that to you. But the floors are clean, the bathroom scrubbed and the Revolt of the Dust Bunnies has been repelled.

I've been trying to share recipes on Saturdays and I see that Dee has a Saturday Stirrings post up today. Hmmm, which recipe should I include?

How about just pointing you to a recipe for Sesame Noodles on Pioneer Woman's blog that was ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE? It took a while to try it, because sesame oil is not carried locally. But during a recent trip to Walmart in Cordoba I scored a bottle. And tried this recipe. Then swooned a little with the first bite. But not enough of a swoon to actually stop myself from gobbling down a plateful in about two minutes flat. I practically INHALED the stuff it was so good! And PW, well she knows how to write a recipe. AND take really good photos along the way. Without having to move everything to her back patio or use a blue bath towel for the background.

[Did you notice I linked you to the recipe not once, but THREE times in that paragraph? I'd hate for you to stress out and spend unnecessary time looking for it -- instead just pick one of the three possible links and then GO MAKE YOU SOME FANTASTIC SESAME NOODLES! Oops, there I linked again.]

This morning I have a date with my computer and an expense report or three. The hard part is done: actually crunching the numbers. No easy feat. It means going through the pile of receipts, figuring out what they're for [if my sweet husband didn't keep a running log of what's going on, I'd really be in trouble], whether they need to be included in the report or not, which category...then comes the MATH, the dreaded and hateful math. The addition isn't so bad but then you get into multiplication on the mileage chart and division when converting pesos to dollars...and pretty soon my head hurts. A lot. Which is why I tend to put off doing the reports until I can't wait any longer. And of course it's much worse because what IS this receipt for anyway and is that a 6 or an 8 or a 3 because the ink has faded and isn't really legible anymore... *sigh* But now I'm ready for the easy (but also time-consuming) part of putting all that fun data into the computer.

Hope you have a great, math-free weekend!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Candle In The Corner

Heidi, over at Moms, Ministry and More is hosting a different kind of event. A bunch of us missionaries have donated items and Heidi is going to spotlight the countries and missionaries who are participating. She was thinking how "even a candle can brighten the darkness" and came up this intriguing idea to promote and support missions efforts around the world.

Here is the schedule showing which country and ministry will be featured each day (notice Just A Southern Girl is on the schedule for November 7th):
October 28 - SPAIN - Dani Joy
October 29 - PORTUGAL - Nina
October 30 - INDONESIA - Sarah
November 2 - SOUTH AFRICA - Jen
November 3 - RUSSIA - Ashley
November 4 - PARAGUAY - Julie
November 5 - UGANDA - Kelly
November 6 - BRAZIL - Ana
November 7 - ARGENTINA - me!
November 9 - BOTSWANA -Sarah
November 10 - CAMPUS MINISTRY - Jessie
I don't have the link to Ashley in Russia yet, but as soon as I do I'll share it.

A wonderful opportunity to learn more about missions and see what God is doing in those places we refer to as "the uttermost part of the earth".

Moi is donating a nice leather wallet...  

...with two kinds of leather: the regular kind and leather from the carpincho, a South American, semi-aquatic mammal that lives only in north of Argentina (and some parts of Brazil and Paraguay) in the marshy swamp grounds and rivers of the Corrientes Province. That's the lighter brown you see on the bottom half of the wallet. Wouldn't this make a great gift for your hubby?!

Please note that I'm not hosting nor giving anything away. I'm donating the wallet and other missionaries are donating items from their countries but all the action takes place over at  Moms, Ministry and More, so make sure you go there to enter.

Winners will be announced on November 11th.

See, I told you it was a different kind of event :-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Where have all the hours gone?"

[to be sung to the tune of "Where have all the flowers gone?] If I hadn't had yesterday's post done two days ago and set to auto-post, it never would have gotten done. Yesterday was one busy day!

Only one showed up for this week's ladies English conversation group [STILL NO NAME FOR THE GROUP]. Of the others, one was sick and one is homebound while her elderly mom is visiting. Not sure what happened to #4 who actually hasn't made it to any of the get-togethers yet but says she wants to be involved. She's the mother of triplets (8-year-old boys) so I can't imagine what else she has to do with her time.

As usual I had over prepared but that's the way I like it; my greatest fear is that we'll run out of things to do. Have I mentioned my spontaneity level is rather low?

The only 'problem' with having just one lady show up is that we had a lot of goodies left over. Shucks.

Most of Tuesday was spent preparing for the ladies thing (which also consumed my Wednesday morning) so I didn't have time to get to the garden center like I was supposed to for Spanish so I cheated and looked up the names for flowers in Spanish on the internet. I'm happy to report that many flowers are spelled the same or very similar. Pronunciation is another matter but I can handle that. Marcela said flower names are also very popular girls names here in Argentina, especially these:
Amapola (poppy)
Hortensia (hydrangea)
Margarita (daisy)

Anyway, back to yesterday: late afternoon we visited the family of a couple boys who have been playing soccer with us on weekends. Like many families here they are under a lot of stress. The mom especially is experiencing some health problems no doubt related to stress which includes being the primary care-giver of her infant grandson in addition to raising three teenagers. Yikes! Just thinking about her responsibilities makes me want to crawl under the table and curl up in a fetal position.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a family here (or the U.S.!) without pressures of some kind. But what we have to share is HOPE and it's our prayer that these families will experience just that -- hope that can only be found in God. Watching one of the teenage boys as he helped care for his nephew warmed my heart. We want these young men to know the love of their heavenly Father.

We're starting to work on the future tense in Spanish. It's not used that much. If you want to say "I am going to" or "she is going to" you don't use the future except in formal situations; rather you use the present tense of "ir" plus the infamous and elusive "a". For example, to say "I am going to the store" you would say "Voy a ir al super" or for "she is going to come in December" you say "va a venir en diciembre".

[Mini-Spanish lesson: Ir is an irregular verb that is conjugated in this manner: I - voy; you - vas; he/she/it - va; we - vamos; and they - van]

So anyway, looks like you usually use the future when you are making a conjecture or indicating the probability of something happening. For example, "Where do you think Mary is?" would use the future: "¿Dónde estará Maria?"

I kinda like the future tense. It's the easiest we've worked on so far. No matter if it's an -ar, -er, or -ir verb, the endings are uniform and tacked onto the infinitive, plus there's merely a dozen or so irregular verbs. Woot!

Only two more weeks of full-time Spanish study and then I'll go to two classes per week for the remainder of this term (two more years). I'm nervous but excited. While I still have SO FAR to go, I feel pretty good about my ability to understand about half of what is being said (unless the person talks really fast, too softly, or with a heavy accent). While my own communication remains pretty basic, I can usually get my ideas across. Most of the time. Not always. Like yesterday when I thought I was using the correct conjugation of "pedir" which means "to ask for" but what I was saying wasn't any form of that verb, rather it was the word for "passing gas". Oh yes I did.

Now that I've gotten that embarrassing tidbit out of the way, let me tell you about this morning. There's an apple breakfast cake recipe I've been wanting to try. I started putting it together at 7:30 a.m. and had most of the ingredients mixed when I realized there were only two eggs in the carton and it called for four. I was going to run to the little market a few blocks away but Ivan offered to go for me. 35 minutes later he called. Poor guy. The little store had not been open so he went to the closest chain store; it was open but they didn't have a single egg. Then he went the other direction to the next closest chain store where he was finally successful. So he was calling to see if I needed anything else while he was there.

I got the cake in the oven a little before 9 a.m. I just took it out at 10:30; I kept checking and it wasn't done, wasn't done... This oven makes me a little crazy at how long it takes to cook or bake anything. Now the cake is cooling and we sure hope it tastes good 'cause we're starving!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Randomly Speaking

If you'd like to participate, jump on over to Lid's and join the fun! Or go see how others responded to her questions of the week :-)

1. Candy corn: Your thoughts?

I’d rather get my calories through other venues. Preferably chocolate in nature.

2. Briefly, what was the first conversation you ever had with your spouse? (or best friend, if you're not married.) (Or someone significant, like your librarian.)

For me it was love at first sight but I also felt God was calling me to missions so my first question after meeting Ivan was “What are you planning to do?” (we were in college so it was a perfectly acceptable question). When he said “I want to go back to Argentina as a missionary” -- although he didn’t know it -- he was a goner. lol

Could you ever become a vegetarian?
If I had to for health reasons. Otherwise, not a chance. 

4. Have you ever dressed up your pet in a costume? 


5. Name something about childhood that you miss (like Clark Bars, Teaberry Gum, Malibu Barbie, cracking fake eggs on people's heads with your fist and "It's the Great Pumpkin" airing only once a year).

Long lazy summers, playing outside with all the kids in the neighborhood, getting new clothes for school, the smell of a classroom on the first day, playing fort with the dining room chairs and a blanket, Girl Scouts, riding my bike to the library, eating Butter Pecan ice cream and not worrying about the calories, the wonder of seeing the Christmas tree lit up with lots of presents underneath and savoring the anticipation of opening them, reading through all the Nancy Drew books...

6. Have you ever won a trophy? If not, what do you deserve a trophy for?

Not a trophy. But I did win a contest once for my incomparable speed on the calculator (or adding machine as we called it back in the day). Can’t think of anything trophy-worthy at the moment. 

7. When do you think is the appropriate time to begin playing Christmas music each year?

You mean we’re supposed to stop?

8. What's your favorite board game?


How do you feel about surprises (receiving, not giving)?

I have control issues so for things to do, no. I'm a planner with a very low spontaneous threshold. 
But for receiving gifts, yes.

10. Is it easy for you to say, "I'm sorry?"

No but I’m working on it.

11. What is your favorite candle scent?

Fresh Linens

12. October is traditionally "open house" time in public schools. If you had a literal open house in your home (like a reception) what light snacks would you serve visitors and what would you show them (as in art projects, graded papers) that would uniquely represent you?

I’d serve a variety of masas finas (pastries) and tea or coffee if it was winter, iced tea during warm weather. For Show & Tell I’d have to go with my quilts, our multitude of books, and the washing machine (with which I have a close and enduring relationship on a daily basis). I’d also have the computer set up to show my blog :-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall Into Flavor: German Onion Cake

Linda at 2nd Cup is hosting a five week Fall Into Flavor meme! She shared an amazing recipe for Baked Potato Soup today and others are linked up with a bunch of other great recipes to try.

My offering today is from an Amish cookbook and features onions. We LOVE onions but, alas, as we get older the onions don't love us so much. Raw at least. So we turn to recipes using cooked onions. Like this one. Which I think would be fabulous with Linda's soup!

3 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
5 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3/4 - 1 cup milk
1 egg, well beaten
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
14/ teaspoon paprika (optional)

In medium skillet sauté the onions in butter over low heat until they just begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Season with dried marjoram, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Preheat oven to 450°.
In a bowl mix flour, cornstarch, baking powder and remaining salt. Add shortening and cut in until mixture resembles soft crumbs. Add milk and mix quickly to form a soft dough.
Oil 10" round cake pan and lightly use fingers to spread dough out evenly. Spread cooked onion over top.
Beat egg and sour cream together and spread over the onion, right to the edge of the pan. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and paprika.
Bake for 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then cut into wedges.

Not a difficult recipe at all, and full of flavor. A good side to any hearty soup or stew. Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Meanderings

This is my last Monday Meanderings for a while because I'm going to participate in Linda's Fall Into Flavor meme.

Instead of a mish mash of my thoughts (kinda scary how I let you see the way my brain works) you'll get a bonafide autumnish recipe. Since Linda just announced the meme today, we're actually starting tomorrow.

So you're stuck with one more Monday of the meandering...

I heated up leftover potato pancakes this morning after getting up at 8 a.m. I could have used another hour or two (catching up on insufficient sleep recently) but making it past 7 a.m. (no matter what time I get to sleep the night before) is a huge victory for me. I'll take what I can get.

Anyway, the point I started to make...I ate all but one of the pancakes before Ivan made it to the kitchen and of course that's not enough so he also grabbed a chocolate scone. Interesting combination, no? Potato pancake with ketchup on one side of his plate, chocolate scone on the other. I think that covers all the food groups: grains (pancakes are a kind of bread), fruits and vegetables (ketchup and potatoes -- and don't try to tell me a potato isn't a vegetable), dairy (there's a bit of cheese in the pancakes), oils (duh! I fried those pancakes in a little olive oil -- one of the healthiest oils on the planet), and of course we cannot forget the most important food group of all: CHOCOLATE.

If you're famous here you just might get a roundabout named after you.

Such is the case for a famous race car driver from Alta Gracia whose roundabout is on one of the major roads leading into the city. [Disclaimer: this isn't the roundabout I'm referring to; I don't have a photo of that one. This is just some random photo off the internet.]

Or you might have a toll station named in your honor. Which actually, if you think about it, might be more of an honor than the roundabout, because you have to actually STOP at toll stations and there's a greater likelihood of passersby seeing your name. Those who whiz onto roundabouts are often going too fast to catch the name on the sign.

I have a love/hate relationship with roundabouts. Being from the U.S. I am more accustomed to stop lights and we do have plenty of those here. But because of the strong British influence, there's also a number of roundabouts. Which do have their uses. If you're not sure which road to take, you can get on the roundabout and go round and round until you figure it out. With a light you have to make a decision and if it's the wrong one, then you must get turned around. Roundabouts also help keep the flow of traffic going, unlike lights that cause one to STOP (sometimes suddenly), except when too many of us who have no idea where we're going get going round and round and round and cause a bit of a traffic jam. My biggest beef with them though is that the signs are on the roads BEFORE the roundabouts so unless you got a good look before getting on, you could be going in circles for hours minutes a while before determining which direction you want to go.

Does it sometimes feel like my mind is on a roundabout?

Yesterday was Mother's Day in Argentina and we spent a few hours taking a leisurely drive around the lake, exploring a few spots along the way. I made potato salad and we bought the fixings for ham sandwiches so we could take a picnic with us on our drive. Right about lunch time we found ourselves up the side of a hill overlooking this valley...

We'd driven up to check out this church.

And it was so pretty up there we decided it would make a good picnic spot. So we hauled out our lawn chairs, cool bag and picnic basket and set up on the small veranda of a nearby building (no idea what it is used for; all the windows were shuttered so we couldn't tell). That view, a slight breeze and good food hit the spot. Hard to leave but we'd only made it half way around the lake.

In Bialet Masse we stopped to look at the first lime kiln ever built in Argentina, and when we looked up what should we see in the distance but the church where we'd just eaten lunch. It's visible from just about anywhere you go in the valley.

Across the street from the kiln was a little touristy type shop. Looks like it couldn't make up its mind whether to go with a Spanish adobe style or Victorian gingerbread. And that color! Whew, talk about being visible. Good marketing tool because it definitely draws the eye.

We also traversed up a mini mountain but I don't want to talk about that. The winding dirt roads and sheer cliffs made me close my eyes, apply the imaginary brake pedal on my side of the car, and PRAY. I do not do well with heights and felt sick to my stomach by the time we made it to the top. Coming down only compounded the problem and at that point I just wanted TO GO HOME AND LIE DOWN. I'm such a wimp.

Our winter garden did really well. We're still getting lettuce, peas and green onions out of it. But for some reason our cabbage never formed heads, and only a few of our beets grew big enough to warrant digging out. Not sure if it's a soil or sunshine issue. Haven't done much with our summer garden yet except plant tomatoes. Our cherry tomato plants from last year resurrected on their own and already have blossoms! We also put in another cilantro plant; one can never have too much cilantro. It's one of our favorite herbs.

The glasses I had sent from the U.S. are too big. So now we're thinking about using my old frames and having new lenses put in. Something we'll check into this week.

While I was getting dressed this morning I realized I have a LOT of green shirts. Close to the green I painted on the walls in this one room of our house (all the other rooms are white). For a girl who has always preferred blue and yellow, I'm confused by my current obsession with green. Particularly THIS shade of green (odd, but the photo shows a greater disparity in shades of green than I see in "person" -- they "are closer than they appear" in the photo) you think if I combined my favorite shade of blue with my favorite shade of yellow, I'd come up with this green?

It's a thought.

As far as thoughts go, this is all I have for now. So concludes our final Monday Meanderings for a while. 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is Mother's Day in Argentina. It would have also been my mom's 78th birthday had she not died at the way-too-young age of 56. I've been thinking about her a lot lately, which is the norm for me each fall. She was born October 18, 1931 and she died September 11, 1988. So of course this time of year makes me think of her.

My mom was one of eight children born to a coal miner in southeastern Kentucky during the Depression. When she was 12 her mother suffered a stroke and was bedridden for the next 14 years until her death. Mom had to drop out of school (she was in the 6th grade) to take care of her mom, dad, three brothers still at home and a couple of nephews who were living with them. As a tomboy mom had spent as little time as possible in the house, preferring to play with her brothers and nephews. Now she was suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver, housekeeper, cook. It was not an easy transition but she did the best she could. What else was there to do?

This during a time when southeastern Kentucky was still pretty rustic...outhouses, heating with coal, living on dirt roads, washing clothes by hand or with a wringer washer (which is almost by hand!), walking to and from the country store for anything and everything she needed, preparing all their meals on an ancient cookstove. I cannot even imagine the hardships.

Not to say that everything was doom and gloom. It was what she knew. Life was hard. There were also times when the family sat and played music together, mom no doubt contributing her off-key rendition of whatever song they were singing (she couldn't carry a tune in the proverbial bucket). Stories were told, practical jokes played, love shared.

By the time her mom died when my mom was in her mid 20s, all the boys had left home. Mom headed north where the jobs were, staying with cousins and waitressing. Not much a girl can do with only a 6th grade education. Mom waitressed for much of the next 15 or so years in burger joints, throughout several marriages and the births of two daughters. Right up until poor health stopped her in her tracks.

I remember that year with a clarity that surprises me. No other year stands out like that one. Mom got sick, then sicker. She'd sit up all night coughing, trying to breathe. I later learned that her doctor wanted her to go to the hospital but she wouldn't. Who would take care of her girls if she was in the hospital? She had double-pneumonia which triggered asthma that had apparently been dormant all her life. She also developed some serious allergies that caused her head to swell up, so she looked like the victim of spousal abuse -- although there was no husband in the picture by that time.

I know now that she really thought she was going to die. She got somewhat better but would push herself and have relapses. It became impossible to work; she had neither the stamina nor the ability to work without suffering asthma and allergy attacks. This was in the midst of her final, messy divorce and as soon as the decree was final she loaded us up and headed back to Kentucky. Her thinking was to be near family who would care for my sister and me.

But the asthma and allergies didn't kill her. Cancer did. About the time she quit school at age 12 to take care of her family she also began smoking. Even when she was in the hospital on oxygen -- right after the first biopsy -- she begged us to wheel her outside so she could have a cigarette. I know of nothing more heart breaking than to see someone you love killing themselves.

Because that's what it is. Smoking is a form of suicide through addiction.

The nicotine addiction was so strong that mom smoked right up until going into a coma two days before her death.

My mom lived to see both of my kids. She never had the chance to meet my nieces. She didn't get to see any of the grandkids grow up. She missed out on so much. And so did we.

Today's post is in memory of my mom, Georgia Loretta Shepherd.
I miss her.

Mom with Jon, her first grandchild, in 1984 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Week 42, Project 365

Now that we're in the home stretch it feels like the weeks are just flying by. In exactly two months my daughter will step off the plane! We didn't have a chance to talk much this week until yesterday. I've been worried about her because she has a bad head cold and Thursday was her presentation before ten professors and a class of communication students; this was a trial run for experience before the actual presentation at a conference in Chicago next month. I was happy to hear things went well but she was more excited to show me her find at Goodwill -- a complete set of like-new luggage for $13! She's looking forward to the trip south too :-) I know mostly it's because she'll get to see us, but there's the added bonus that by the time she comes, she will be FINISHED with college. At least until she decides to go on for her masters :-)

Of course I'm counting down the days, and one of the fun ways to count down is with photos. I'm lovin' the Project 365 and am trying to decide if I want to do a blurb book of just these posts? Or my whole bloggy year? Or even just the photos and edit the commentary way, way down. Hmmmm, something to think about.

I have a few more photos than usual this week, due to the 100th anniversary I wrote about on Tuesday (more photos on that post, including "high pumpkin fashion" as one commenter put it). Ivan's parents came to Argentina in 1946 when they were 25 years old. Aren't they a handsome couple? (This is a photo of the projection screen from way back of the auditorium so not the sharpest quality.)

Their approach to ministry was that it involved all of life, and so the family lived ministry together. I think that's the right, healthy approach, don't you? With that focus, it's easy to see why all the kids are in ministry today. Not necessarily what we'd call "full time" but every one of them views their work and life as ministry. Can I hear an AMEN?!

Anyway, when Ivan was in high school he and two amigas went up into the Sierras on horseback to visit some of the people living way back in isolated areas. During the trip one of the young ladies fell off her horse and broke her arm. Badly. It was a rough trip back out to 'civilization'. I've heard that story several times; I was able to meet Nilda this weekend and she and Ivan had a wonderful time catching up.

By the time things wound down el Domingo we were tired but happy, and VERY hungry! Near our hotel we found a great little place where I had a wonderful dish of fresh raviolis with a drizzle of cream, a dollop of homemade sauce and freshly grated cheese. Yum! Ivan had milanesa and salad.

In my post on Tuesday I talked about the meaningful ceremony of "passing the baton". This isn't the greatest photo, but here we see four generations from the GBC church: a retired pastor, a current pastor, a pastor-in-training, and a young man who might be a pastor down the road. How cool is that?!

We see a lot of old vehicles on the road here. Cars are very expensive and people keep them going a lot longer than we would in the U.S. We're seeing more and more restored autos as well. Isn't this Model A a beauty?

I mentioned our glorious roses on Thursday and just wanted to share a photo of the bushes by our front gate. Look at all those blooms!

I finally remembered to take photos in art class. I know! Shocking, isn't it? I am so impressed by the talent of these ladies. Their work just blows me away.

When our teacher, Marcela, stops to explain a technique or make a point to one of the students, the others at that table stop and listen too. We all want to learn as much as we can!

My current project is a flower; I played with a photo in the photo editing program and am trying to simulate the different effects with paint now. Slowly. I've been working on this for several weeks and figure I have a few more weeks before I'm done.

I've mentioned this cultural tidbit before, but here it is again: when someone is selling their car they put an empty bottle on top whenever they're parked to signify it's for sale. Here the enterprising seller wrapped his phone number around the bottle so a person can quickly see (1) the car is for sale and (2) what number to call.

The internet has been EXCESSIVELY slow lately. Ivan was trying to upload photos from last weekend to our flickr account to share with the family and it just wasn't working. So he took the computer to our favorite YPF with free wifi while I was in art class. Success! Photos are all up.

Our 78-year-old friend who was hit by an airplane propeller last Monday was sent home on Thursday, a day after surgery on one arm. He's doing okay but in a lot of pain. Apparently the first hospital he was taken to simply bandaged him up so when they did the surgery two days later at a different hospital, they had to clean out all the wounds properly. OUCH! Appreciate your continued prayers for him.

Cornbread is what we'll eat in heaven

I'm sure of it.

Cornbread made from scratch (no Jiffy mixes please!) and baked in a cast iron skillet for that perfect golden crust and tender crumb, lightly kissed with butter and served piping hot. Or at room temperature. Or even cold (have you ever enjoyed a dish of crumbled cornbread with buttermilk?).

What I'd call cornmeal is sold here as polenta. Which is also a tasty dish but not the object of our focus today.

Recently while making cornbread I was inspired to take photos, thinking it would be fun to post a pictorial along with the recipe. Only problem is, my kitchen is like a cave. There is a window but since it looks out onto the covered patio, little sunlight actually penetrates the room so every photo I've taken in there looks sickly. No problemo! I moved my production out to the patio where I set up shop on one of Ivan's little wooden work tables (an unfinished wooden work table that I covered with a blue towel because I'm fancy like that). But at least the cornbread isn't a sickly shade of gray, which is how it photographed in the kitchen.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know all the trouble I went to just to bring you this if-you-squint-you-might-think-this-was-a-professional-tutorial.

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, melted (I've been known to use more of this particular ingredient)
more butter to brush on cornbread after it's done

(in whatever amounts you care to add)
chopped onion
chopped bell pepper (any color)
chopped jalapeño pepper
grated sharp cheese
fresh chopped herbs of your choice
cooked, crumbled bacon (and use the bacon grease in place of the butter!)

Set oven to 400°, put butter in cast iron skillet and set skillet in oven to preheat.

In one bowl whisk together the egg and milk.

In a second bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add any of the optional ingredients you've chosen to use (I've been throwing in some red bell pepper, onion and cheese lately).

Mix wet and dry ingredients together lightly with a fork just until combined.

Add melted butter (or bacon grease) and incorporate into batter. Pour batter into hot cast iron skillet. Enjoy the sizzle it makes!

Spread batter evenly. Bake at 400° for 18-20 minutes until golden. When you take it out of the oven, spread another tablespoon or so of butter over the top. Cool slightly and cut into wedges.

Cornbread is great with so many things! White chicken chili and cornbread make a wonderful supper in the fall or winter. Last night we had creamed chicken over cornbread -- muy delicioso! [Note: I prefer this recipe for cornbread over the one I posted last April but both are tasty.] And of course what southern girl doesn't love soup beans and cornbread? But it's equally great with baked beans or green beans or...

Really, there's not much that cornbread doesn't go with. It's just a nice side to just about anything. So go ahead, make yourself some pan de maiz.