Sunday, May 31, 2009

Week 22, Project 365

Technically it's Sunday, but barely (it's 1:30 a.m.). Since I'm having a hard time sleeping I thought I'd get a jump start on this week's Project 365 post. You'll notice I switched out my banner photo. It's fall here and it just seemed a good idea to use one of my colorful nature shots; this was taken by the river about a block from the house in Sta. Rosa.

Which is where we were last weekend and after the evening service at church we went to nearby Belgrano for dinner. As we walked back to our car at 11 p.m. the kiddie park was still lit up with wide awake munchkins running all over. This isn't the best photo (haven't quite figured out how to use the night time options), but this is one of those cultural differences I thought you'd be interested in...kids up and about at this time of night is very common here. In the summer when there's no school they typically stay up until 1 or 2 a.m. They also sleep in until noon the next day ☺ The hubby ran into an old friend who was having a get-together with other old friends and he invited us to stop by. This bunch of guys were from different places in Argentina, but would see each other every summer at youth camp. Can I just say crazy bunch?! It was fun meeting them and seeing them raz my hubby. Late at night the youth would gather around a big outcropping of rocks, drink máte and someone would play a guitar and they'd all sing. Very innocent and good clean fun, but the hubby wasn't allowed to be out that late. He was supposed to be in bed by a certain time. Once his mom caught him trying to sneak out and said, "Ivan, dónde crees que vas?"(which translates, "Ivan, where do you think you're going?!" She said it loudly enough that the others, waiting outside for him, heard and 35 years later every time we see someone from those long ago youth camp days we hear: "Ivan, dónde crees que vas?" followed by hysterical laughter ☺ This sign caught our attention, especially mine once the hubby explained that it's what they call a garage sale here. Garage sales are gaining in popularity but are still pretty rare. Someone was selling tools and furniture that had belonged to their abuelo. We did pick up a few things, most notably some antique woodworking tools that the hubby is carefully cleaning and polishing up, and a nice mirror with an oak frame that we put in the bedroom. Kicking ourselves for not getting a wooden storage trunk, brought to Argentina by this guy's great grandfather when he immigrated from Spain. The trunk held all their clothes. It was a beautiful piece but we didn't jump right on it and somebody beat us to the punch. Oh well. I know I posted this on Tuesday which was our 30th anniversary, but here it is again ☺ I'm just getting a kick out of seeing how young we were. LOL When I saw this incredible spiral of chocolate I immediately whipped out the camera. Now THIS is a photo op! But if you're worried about my diet, just take a gander at this little beauty. The peas are already 4" high! It just amazes me that we planted seeds two weeks ago and already everything is growing. Hopefully we'll harvest lots of peas (and other vegetables) in a couple months.
I mentioned receiving the bread book last weekend and today we finally got around to making our first batch. The process was SO EASY that I kept thinking there had to be a catch somewhere along the line. But you know what? It really is as simple and straight forward as the book says! Here's the dough when it's first mixed up. Takes like 5 minutes, hence the name of the book. What it looked like after rising for just over 2 hours on the counter. After this we put it in the fridge for 3 hours before taking it out and pulling off a hunk to make our first loaf. And finally here's the finished loaf which we've obviously already cut into. How could we resist?! I'm just beyond excited...I MADE GREAT BREAD TODAY! This is an historic moment, people. Let us pause in contemplation of the enormity of this miracle. Okay, now you may proceed. And shout a little gleeful whopdodewoop! with me. We had homemade potato soup with the bread for supper. Muy delicioso!

Now I suggest you follow me and let's go check out the others who are doing Project 365. Sara will be all ready for us with the nice Mr. Linky in place.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Favorite Vacation Spots

Susan from This Day! asked in her Friday post: "What are some of your favorite vacation spots? Do you have an annual get-a-way spot. Do you vacation with other couples or with extended family? If you could choose any place to visit today, This Day, where would it be?"

That's all it took for my mind to be off and racing! God has blessed us with opportunities to do more traveling than we ever dreamed. Since we've been to four continents, I'm including my favorite pick from each one ☺

Being Americans we've obviously spent more time in the U.S. than anywhere and our country has some truly amazing places to visit. We loved the trip out west: time in the mountains of Colorado, the Badlands of South Dakota, Yellowstone National Park... Then there are the beaches in Florida, the mountains and lakes of Kentucky and Tennessee, and the rolling farmland of the Midwest. Don't forget fabulous cities like Chicago, Washington D.C. and San Francisco (to name just a few). Honestly, how do you pick ONE?

A very difficult task!

But for us that ONE spot is Ludington, Michigan. Specifically Epworth Heights, a small enclave right on Lake Michigan. Dear friends own a cottage there and have been so generous over the years, allowing us to use it for weekends and twice for a whole week. I think it means so much because the first opportunity to go there came at an important time for our family. We were pretty stressed out in our job as houseparents, a job that paid very, very little so it wasn't like we had a lot of money to spend on vacations.

That first time we went in late September and I think we were probably the only ones on site except for those who worked there. We rambled over the wooden and cement walkways that weave up and down amongst the cottages, took chilly barefoot walks on the beach, tried out the golf course (where our son did a great imitation of Happy Gilmore), played lots of games in the kitchen (which is the only room besides the bath with a wall heater)... It was a week of total relaxation and renewing our spirits. The sound of the waves lulled us to sleep and greeted us in the morning. We could turn over in bed and look out the big window to the lake that stretches far into the horizon. One of our absolute favorite places on earth ☺ Here are a few of the MANY, MANY photos we've taken over the years. Enjoy!
Let's go to Uganda next, where we spent a year working with a ministry to orphans. New Hope Uganda is "bringing the fatherhood of God to the fatherless." A pretty intense year where God stretched us in ways that were exhilarating and at times painful. Some of our older kids were at a vocational school in Jinja and one young man was attending the 6-month training program at the YWAM Hopeland base just outside of town. We'd go visit them and see how they were doing, and also enjoy a little R&R at a wonderful B&B ☺ Gately on the Nile is the most serene, comfortable, amazing place!

Our first night in Jinja we stayed at a regular style hotel. The bed was SO uncomfortable, sinking in the middle so we kept rolling into each other, that we finally took it off the bed and put it on the floor so we could sleep. After the party stopped, that is. The hotel had a restaurant/bar that was a hopping place and the party continued well after 3 a.m. with LOUD music that reverberated throughout the hotel, so you didn't just hear it, you felt it! We were so exhausted the next morning that we packed and checked out without having anything else lined up. We figured sleeping in our borrowed Nissan Pathfinder was better than remaining in the hotel.

I can't remember if we asked around or found Gately on our own, but a chat with Merryde garnered us a really nice room at a discount for the night. I think she saw the desperation in our eyes and had pity on us ☺ I don't have any photos to share (we left all our non-digital photos in the U.S.) but you can get an idea of how nice it is by checking out their website. Aside from being clean, well kept and comfortable, the restaurant was small and private and DID NOT PLAY LOUD MUSIC. A very peaceful, tranquil place to relax. Their food was great too. I still have dreams about enjoying their eggs benedict on the veranda overlooking the Nile. Jinja is where the Nile River begins.

It fit our budget too, since Merryde converted the old servant quarters into inexpensive hostel-like accomodations. Three small simple bedrooms shared a single bath. Unlike the luxurious baths in the main house, this was wee little and had a toilet, sink and shower head. Know where this is going, right? Yep, we'd line up and get showers over with since they got the whole bathroom wet. But clean and peaceful goes a long way in making up for a little inconvenience with the communal and tiny bath. Any wonder it was our favorite place?

We've been to Ireland twice, once with a group from our home church when we did some projects for missionary friends, and again on our way home from Uganda. Although we've visited only few places in the country (haven't even made it to Dublin yet), I'm pretty sure Tralee will always be my favorite. On our first trip we stayed in a hostel just kitty-corner from the gorgeous Rose Garden and not far from anything else since it's a small town.

I absolutely adore the Irish tradition of "morning coffee" -- taking a break mid-morning for a "cuppa" and something light and sweet to eat. My favorite, banoffee pie, is to-die-for-delicious!

Right in Tralee is Siamsa Tíre – the National Folk Theatre of Ireland – and we were highly entertained by a show that's a little like Riverdance offset by a humorous musical parady of life in Ireland of old.

A tour around the Dingle Peninsula is a must! We saw colorful gypsy trailers along the route, dolphins playing in the ocean not far from shore, enjoyed an excellent meal in a fishing village, and drove through some spectacular scenery.

County Kerry is chock full of places to visit. Some of us toured Muckross House and visited Ross Castle on another day. The hubby and I enjoyed a rainy afternoon wandering the gardens of Muckross House by ourselves. The teens in our group had a blast at the Aqua Dome.

You can't leave without a little shopping in the more tourist-oriented town of Killarney just half an hour away (I liked leaving the hordes of tourists in Killarney and heading back to the quieter Tralee at the end of the day). I still enjoy the Irish watercolor prints we bought on our first trip. We were totally broke on our second trip through and didn't buy a single thing. Except warm clothes in a charity shop (similar to Goodwill) because we were totally unprepared for the 50 degree weather in June after spending a year in sunny Africa.

I don't know if I've ever shared this here, but we came close to going to Ireland instead of Argentina. Our missionary friends there are some of the dearest people EVER and the visit on the way back from Africa was, in part, to see how we might fit into the team there. I'll be honest, I was praying hard God would call us to Ireland back then! I love, love, love the country!

But He called us here. And I love Argentina too ☺ I'm a slow learner in a lot of ways (Spanish especially ☹) but one thing God has taught me: the best place to be is where He wants you!

Again, we haven't visited much of the country yet. Taking into consideration the places we have visited, though, I like Sta. Rosa best ☺ Again, it might be because the place holds so many memories...which I won't get into again here since I've already blogged about it once. Besides this is the longest blog post I've done in a while and I've probably already lost half of you and don't want to lose the other half.

There you have it, our favorite places on four continents. And since all vacation (and missionary) slide shows must end with a sunset, here's one for your viewing enjoyment. It was taken at our favorite place in Ludington, Michigan, from the porch of the cottage looking out over the other cottages and Lake Michigan. It's also the place I'd choose to be right now, if I could be anywhere at all.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Now what am I forgetting?

It's late and I'm all ready for bed, bite splint included. I only half-jokingly told my hubby that we should have a check list to get ready for bed at night. I remembered the bite splint last night but forgot the anti-inflammatory medicine to get the swelling in my mouth down.

What happened to the days when I had multiple activities going on, and juggled them all just fine without (hardly) ever forgetting anything? Important things at least. Forgetting stuff makes me feel old. Is it already time to break out the stories, "Why, when I was your age we walked six miles to school every day in snow up to your waist."?

Only mine would be more like, "Why, I remember buying Coke and peanuts every morning at the grocery store before hopping on the school bus. Breakfast of champions I tell you!"

Hopefully it will be a few more years before we hit that stage. But the memory thing is bothering me. One benefit is extra exercise though. Can't tell you how many times I go to get something and cannot for the life of me remember what, and sometimes I make two or three trips before I DO remember.

Usually my brain makes it until Friday before giving up and taking a break. But I'm pretty sure this is still Thursday. Could make for an interesting day tomorrow. Hopefully a good night's rest will restore me to a semi-coherent state of being that will get me through Spanish class and another trip to the dentist.

How many of you can say you have a dentist appointment on Friday night? Jealous, aren't you? Doesn't everyone want to spend an exciting Friday evening under the drill? That's only possible when you live in a culture where everything shuts down every single afternoon about lunch time and opens back up around 6 p.m., including doctors and dentists. Most of my doctor appointments have been Friday evenings, too. Waiting rooms are always crowded then so apparently it's the happening thing to do here.

I am so trendy.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Utilizar placa de relajación"

That's what the dentist wrote in my indicaciones today. After developing a toothache over the weekend, we were able to get in to see the dentist this morning. While I do have a cavity, it's not where the pain is...the pain is totally due to me grinding my teeth at night. What she wrote translates "Wear your bite splint!" Several years ago I paid a lot of money to have one made specially for my mouth but I haven't been faithful in using it.

That changes today.

Aside from the pain, the dentist told me I'm literally grinding my teeth down to nubbins, including those expensive crowns in the back of my mouth.

Something that makes me feel better though, is this award from Mari at My Little Corner of the World: This award is to thank people for leaving comments. "They are beautiful people who practice blogging etiquette by visiting or visiting back, and leaving nice comments. Their observations are apt and helpful. It's a pleasure to have them as commenters on my posts...."

I am to pass this one on to 5 others. Mari passed it to her top five commenters but if I did that, it would go right back to her (which isn't such a bad idea considering she had a sad day yesterday -- but then I don't think it's supposed to keep bouncing back). Anyway besides Mari, I think my most frequent commenters, and subsequent recipients of this award, are:
Rita at Meemaw Moments
Sara at Make Music From Your Heart
Susan from This Day!
Elizabeth at Zizzie Happenings
and last, but not least,
my Jubisista from My Hands...His Glory!...

...who also goes by the name Skoots1Mom, and who gave me the sweetest anniversary gift! Muchas gracias Jubisista!

The hubby and I spent a quiet day at home on our anniversary but plan to get away to a B&B soon for a couple of days. The hubby has been in contact with a man who built a straw bale house in the valley to the west of us and he's offered to show us around and explain what he went through to build it. We enjoy learning about alternative methods of construction and dream of someday building an unconventional place of our own.

In other news, my art class tomorrow was canceled but I continue to work on my collage. Tonight I looked through a box of odds and ends to find some three-dimensional objects to adhere to the surface. I found cording, bits of fabric trim, metal letters from a scrapbooking project, teeny tiny mirrors and a paper butterfly. Photo will be forthcoming when finished.

The hubby is currently checking different settings on the oven with our new thermometer, in preparation to start making bread. The book says having an accurate oven temperature is critical to the process. Did you know most home ovens are off by up to 75°?! Since our oven knob has no markings at all (totally rubbed off in some distant past) we are starting from scratch. We're super excited about trying different breads in the book!

Our little winter garden is sprouting all over. The peas are 3-4" high already; pretty much everything is up except the green onions. The drizzly rain these past few days has been great for all the growing things. Not so good on the laundry front. I'm going to have to get a drying rack to set up in the kitchen near the heater for days like these.

I know this post is random and all over the place. So is my brain. I have a little notebook I keep by my chair with different things on different pages....quilt and craft ideas on one, thoughts about my Spanish blog on another, a growing grocery list, Spanish words and phrases I hear and need to look up, my "to do" list (must write them down when I think about them or they just won't get done). I've been flipping back and forth in that notebook like crazy tonight.

And so before I veer off in yet another direction, I'm signing off. Hasta mañana!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy Anniversary to us!

Edited to add: We brought very few photos with us to Argentina. I was able to find one from our wedding in the batch. Never thought about how much I'd miss having my pictures close at hand!

Today we celebrate 30 years of marriage ☺ Hard to believe we've been married that long, but it's also difficult to remember life-before-marriage.

Our story began when we met at church that first Sunday evening of September, 1978. We were both students at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, but while I lived on campus, Ivan lived at home with his parents who were on furlough at the time. We ended up attending the same little country church 14 miles from Winona Lake.

We saw a lot of each other at the college library; he was writing a paper and the books he needed were on reserve and I escaped there to study. For me it was love at first sight, for him it took a little longer. A couple of weeks at least. For a month we sat at the same table in the library, getting to know one another.

The day he finished the paper he'd been working on, he asked me out and we took a walk around Winona Lake. On that first date he showed me where the Foreign Missionary Society of the Brethren Church was formed on September 4, 1900. (It happened after a group committed to foreign missions walked out of a conference when the larger group refused to consider it, and met under a tree to establish the Society.) Missions was important to both of us, even then.

We dated two weeks before getting engaged.

I'm going to give you a moment to let that sink in ☺

Yes, two weeks. We were young and in love, what can I say? At that time the college didn't allow students to marry during the school year without permission. And who in their right mind is going to permit a couple of kids who have known each other such a short time to get married?

So we waited and were married the weekend after school let out: May 26, 1979 By the grace of God -- and despite all that blue polyester -- here we are 30 years later, still married. Hallelujah!

We were supposed to take the posed photos before the wedding but when Ivan went to get dressed, there were no pants on the hanger. Oops! He had picked them up at the tailor's that morning and, after racing back to Winona Lake, he learned that the pants had fallen off the hanger and onto the driveway when he was leaving. The tailor and her family planned to go to the lake that day, but finding the pants and having no way to get in touch with us, waited until he came back. Wasn't that nice? Whew, close call! ☺ It just meant we took the photos after instead.

This morning we listened to a message by Ravi Zacharias called "I Isaac take thee Rebecca" and I have to share one of the statements he made: "The home was instituted before the church." God places a very high importance on the family!

(I'd encourage everyone to listen to this excellent message -- you can listen on your computer or download to your iPod or other device.)

In the past 30 years we've lived in 14 houses on three continents, had two children of our own and cared for others, supported one another as we (finally!) finished college, worked together in ministry, and experienced the highs and lows common to any marriage. Unequivocally we can say we'd do it all again (maybe leaving out some of the worst bits ☺) and we just give thanks to the Lord today for all He has done to keep a couple of crazy kids together after all these years.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Week 21, Project 365

We are fast approaching the halfway mark for the year -- isn't that exciting?!

Being here in Sta. Rosa means slow or no internet. I really wanted to share some photos from the wedding the daughter was in last Sunday, but I've spent way too much time trying to download a few photos to share today. TIME OUT takes on a whole new meaning on the internet. Makes me want to throw a tantrum and get sent to the other time out in a corner. Grrrrrr.

Meanwhile I'm including some links. The best man is a pastor in our home church but in this photo I joke that he and the daughter look like waiters in an upscale restaurant (which the daughter is in real life!) :-) This crazy shot is the daughter's favorite because the groom and his 'people' are showing some serious 'tude! LOL And I like this one of the whole wedding party where everyone's showing off their pearly whites.

I know I've already shared a photo of a pretty yellow tree, but I can't help myself...here's another one. They're all over, creating pops of color amidst all the green... ...which I guess never really goes away in a temperate climate. These bushes are everywhere, too. Love the brilliant orange berries against the dark green foliage. God certainly created a beautiful world!
I mentioned this week the possibility of renting a place to have meetings and activities for our fledgling church plant. Here's a shot of the front of the wee little house which we haven't measured but looks to be between 3-4 meters across. Paperwork commences this coming week so soon we may be hanging a shingle on the front announcing this as the "Centro Esperanza". Because we also came up with a name! Which was necessary for other paperwork. Even though this wasn't a British colony, you can tell the Brits have had a profound influence on the society by the sheer amount of paperwork required for each and every single little aspect of life. Laundry day after a few overcast days means clothes and towels hanging on every available line, even under the patio roof.
At the start of our holiday weekend (national holiday: 25 de Mayo PLUS our 30th anniversary weekend!) we went out for lunch. Here's dessert which we shared. Lovely, isn't it? Thick chocolate cake-like crust and light-as-air cheesecake with the essence of orange. Oh my, it was delicious!
Since schools and businesses are closed on Monday, there was a public ceremony commemorating the holiday on Friday. I was in Spanish class but the hubby attended and took some photos. I put a few together in a collage. If you click on it, it should enlarge so you can see it better. In addition to the ubiquitous speeches, the kids gave recitations and performed folklore dancing in full costume. I tried, oh how I tried!, to upload a short 3 minute video of that but TIME OUT kept butting in. Once we're home I'll try to get that on the blog for your viewing enjoyment. It's really cute how these 10- and 11-year-olds have mastered the old-fashioned dance.
Saturday morning hubby picked up a free load of wood, cut and stacked as much as he could in this cabinet and the rest is cut and stacked elsewhere. Wood = Heat = Happy Southern Girl!
The initial hole to check out the septic didn't reveal much.
The hole is expanding by the hour. Might have more exciting photos to share next week :-) Because Project 365 is all about what we do as we live each day. Might not be very glamorous or exciting, but it's our life and we enjoy sharing it with one another. At least I've had fun getting to know my online friends through this project. We gather around Mr. Linky on Sara's blog every Sunday and see what others are up to, in our families, our jobs, or our communities.

Welcome to my life!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Just call us the Clampetts

Because 25 de Mayo is a big holiday (sort of equivalent to our 4th of July) we have time off and decided, last minute, to come to Sta. Rosa and get some work done. So we loaded up the truck trailer .......wouldn't a rocker on top be just the thing? Hubby plans to mow, power wash the roof (traditional red tile) and dig to find out what the problem is with the septic.

I brought my sewing machine. You're just shocked, aren't you?! LOL I'm looking forward to making those shopping bags as well as curtains for the loft area in the study. I have three fabrics I'm going to "audition" in there.

The house has been closed up since the last time we were here, so it was COLD. And we all know how I feel about the cold. So first thing hubby started a fire in the wood stove while I huddled under the fleece throw I remembered to bring. BUT I forgot blankets for the bed. Previously we had brought boxes that included twin-size blankets so we made do with those. They just barely stretched from side to side on the queen size mattress with maybe a 1" overhang. We were warm enough; actually hated to get out of bed this morning and waited until hubby had the fire going again.

Next time I need to remember the blankets AND a set of flannel sheets we brought from the U.S. Nice, thick, heavy-weight flannel by Land's End I bought on clearance at Sear's a few years ago. I love flannel sheets in the winter! Especially out here where the wood stove keeps the chill off the bedrooms but doesn't exactly keep them warm. Or maybe it does if you build a nice big roaring fire. Which we didn't since we didn't have a lot of wood.

Hubby is remedying that as I write. There's a small lumber mill at the end of the road and they told him we could take as much wood off the scrap pile as we wanted. So he took the trailer and will fill it up with nice free fire wood.

The parrots are especially raucous this morning. I suppose I'll get used to their racket eventually. Every place we've lived there has been some kind of noise (trains, heavy traffic, dogs) and after a while you just don't even notice it.

I also brought along a book that arrived in the mail yesterday. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was featured on The Splendid Table about a year ago. Having attempted -- and failed -- to make bread on numerous occasions, I figure this is my last hope: no-knead, store in the fridge, almost-no-work-involved bread making.

Looking at the book makes me hungry but also motivates me to cook. Not just bread -- anything! Because I want to get back into the habit of posting recipes on Saturdays and since it's also a holiday weekend in the U.S., today I'm sharing recipes for a simple but special breakfast for Monday morning. How about luxury scrambled eggs (from The Splendid Table) and quick orange muffins (because it's a holiday and you don't want to spend all morning in the kitchen):

LUXURY SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH CREAM CHEESE & SPRING HERBS
* 1 large whole scallion, thin sliced
* 1/2 tight-packed tablespoon curly parsley leaves, chopped
* 1/2 tight-packed tablespoon fresh basil or tarragon leaves, chopped
* 6 large eggs
* 2 tablespoons heavy cream
* 3 ounces cream cheese, cut into about 3/4-inch pieces
* Salt and fresh-ground black pepper as needed
* 2 tablespoons butter
1. Combine the chopped herbs. In a medium bowl, use a fork to loosely combine the eggs and cream. Stir in cream cheese, the herbs, and a little salt and pepper. Eggs do not have to be completely blended.
2. In a 10-inch heavy nonstick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the eggs and stir with a spatula for a few seconds.
3. Lower heat to medium low and keep stirring, scraping up any egg sticking to the pan, for 3 minutes, or until large curds form. Eggs can be served almost wet, moist yet approaching firm (my preference), or quite firm. Serve hot.

QUICK ORANGE MUFFINS
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
* 2/3 cup orange juice
* 1/2 cup melted butter
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 cup ground walnuts (optional)
* 1 tablespoon melted butter
* 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, white sugar and grated orange peel. Stir in orange juice, 1/2 cup melted butter, eggs and chopped nuts.
2. Pour into 12 muffin cups.
3. Blend 1 tablespoon melted margarine, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle on top of each muffin. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot.

********

P.S. In the package along with the book was a bath pillow! Love me a hot bubble bath but we don't have a tub, only a shower, at our house in Carlos Paz. BUT the house in Sta. Rosa does have a tub. So that package arrived just in time. Woohoo!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Naming names is serious business

Another marathon Thursday behind me. After six hours of intense Spanish conversation (Spanish class, art class, coffee with a friend) I drag home just mentally exhausted. Thankfully yesterday was better than the day before and I could remember a few more words and conjugations.

I've decided to go ahead with the Spanish blog. Although I'd planned on waiting until I was better with the Spanish, I realized that kind of thinking could delay it indefinitely. It will be good discipline and practice for me. Initially my goal is to post once or twice a week.

Over lunch yesterday we brainstormed ideas for a blog name and the hubby came up with a great one. It's a secret for now but I'll tell you all about it once the blog is launched. I'm just so happy we came up with a name so quickly! Usually a lot more angst goes into a decision like that.

Instead I'm saving my angst for WHICH BLOG HOST SHOULD I USE? (I'm not even sure that's what they're called.) Anyway I looked at typepad, wordpress, tumblr and moveable type. Ugh. I think most of them are for people who actually know something about computers. Any suggestions? I've been frustrated with blogger's limitations and thought it would be nice/fun/exciting to try something different.

I'm really serious about wanting suggestions! Can't you see the not-so-quiet desperation?!

Yesterday must have been the day for naming things quickly because we also named our "church" (which is just in the fledgling stage), for paperwork that the government requires. Centro Esperanza. Centro conveys the idea it's open to all, that everyone is welcome and esperanza (hope) is what we offer. We carefully tried to avoid using words that have negative connotations in this culture, or would identify us with those we'd rather not be identified with.

This morning I have Spanish and then hope to get some sewing done. I have material cut out for two shopping bags and fabric chosen for another couple. Waiting to see how the first two turn out before cutting up any more tela (fabric).

I forgot again to take photos in art class. I think I need to clip the camera to the outside of my bag so I'll see it and remember to use it. My chatty friend wasn't there yesterday but I had fun trying to communicate with some of the other ladies. I was sort of tucked back in a spot, unable to get out easily because of all the painting easels, so I attempted to follow and join the conversations flowing around me. These ladies are already very accomplished artists, painting amazing portraits and landscapes with oils. While I glue bits of fabric and paper to a thin piece of wood and call it art. If someone took a photo of our class they could use it in one of those exercises: "What doesn't belong in this picture?"

I'd be interested to know, what was the last thing you created? Doesn't have to be a crafty item at all...maybe a great new dish in the kitchen, or you created storage out of chaos in a closet. It can be anything -- just share where you're creativity led you recently. 'Kay?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

He's all checked out with nowhere to go

My hubby fulfilled a dream some years ago, taking flight lessons and getting his private pilot's license. For a short time we even had money for him to fly on occasion. And take the rest of us up for rides. I'm sad for his sake that it was a very short time. Glad for me, as I am a white-knuckle flier who pretends she's on a bus whenever she's really on a plane. Which you cannot do in a little four-seat Cessna.

You know, opposites attract.

He's been trying to figure out how to get his license validated here. In a land where even the simplest of transactions (paying bills) can be made complicated and time consuming. But my husband is perseverance personified.

While in Cordoba the other day he stopped to ask what it would take. No one was around except for the receptionist and she suggested he come back early on a weekday morning before he'd eaten anything, to do the necessary lab work. So that's what he did yesterday since he had to go back to Cordoba anyway to have two new tires put on the car.

The receptionist remembered him and went to talk to the head guy who, in turn, examined my hubby's paperwork and then declared it possible for him to proceed with the tests.

My hubby first thought he was referring to a flight test and thought, "Oh no, I'm not ready for that! I need some time up with an instructor first." Because as I mentioned, it's been a few years since he had either time or money to fly. And while flying may be like riding a bike, you still wanna get a little practice in before you hit the road, or sky in this case.

But the receptionist took him back to the front desk and said, "That will be $90 pesos" at which point the hubby knew it was not a flight test because the figure would have been considerably higher. [$90 pesos is just over $24 US]

First she gave him mounds of forms to fill out and then sent him back for the lab work. He didn't have a pen but no problema, they had pens for sale. Hubby figured it would be a regular physical, as is required in the U.S. every two years to maintain your private pilot's license.

Um, not so much.

He saw ten doctors and technicians in the next four hours.

After the lab work he had his ears, nose and throat checked by an ears, nose and throat specialist. While she was looking in one ear he held up his hand by his other ear and asked, "How many fingers do you see?" She was amused.

He had a chest x-ray.

And a cardiologist gave him an EKG.

The dentist checked his teeth and made little red circles on a chart indicating which teeth had fillings or work done on them. That was good the dentist said, because blue circles would have indicated poor quality work. Do you suppose people with poor dental work are not allowed to fly?

An audiologist then measured his hearing. She asked if he'd noticed any problems and he replied that his wife said he didn't hear very well at times. She said that was a problem indicative of all males, having nothing to do with the hearing at all. But he does have some minimal hearing loss.

A clinician had him disrobe and gave him a once over. All parts in good general working order.

We're not sure what kind of doctor (neurologist?) put dabs of mud all over his head and then hooked him up to a bunch of electrodes from a thing on the wall sprouting lots of wires. He checked his brain waves (there were some) and had him breathe deeply for a long time, first with his eyes closed and then with them open. After that he was allowed to breathe normally, first with his eyes closed and then with them open. The hubby was a little distracted by the scratching pen (pencil?) and the whirring motor of the machine charting his brain waves on long streams of paper.

There was the quintessential psychiatrist (reminiscent of Monk's shrink) who questioned the hubby extensively on what he believed spiritually. Then he wanted to know why the U.S. was the birth place of so many cults.

The psychologist, a stern, no-nonsense, rather intimidating kind of woman, asked, "Why are you here?" and "What do you mean by religioso?" (that's what we write in the 'occupation' slot whenever we have to fill out forms) She asked lots and lots of questions. Some made sense, others didn't. She gave him a big pile of pictures to look through and find similarities or patterns. Later she gave him laminated cards with line drawings, and a piece of paper so he could attempt to duplicate the drawings. On the back of the paper he had to draw a person. Then she asked him what the man's name was, and how old was he? Hubby named his drawing Nestor. More questions.

Pretty intense morning.

In 20 days he can call and see if all the test results are back. We have no idea what happens after that since we don't really have the funds to actually fly. He just wants to get his license validated so that in some fuzzy, distant future, it might could be a possibility.

Meanwhile, the process is quite entertaining.

**********

On the cooking front, we waited patiently a whole 'nother day for the corned beef! It is now in the crockpot with carrots. Potatoes and cabbage to follow later in the day. We are quite looking forward to a boiled dinner.

I spent most of yesterday doing homework for Spanish. It was one of my slow days when everything is just really hard. I can't remember words that I knew the day before. Conjugations get mixed up in my mind. Correct Spanish sentence order makes no sense at all. *sigh*

We went to look at the little house that might become our meeting place. "Little" is the key word but it would be sufficient for our purposes at this point. The lovely thing is its very close proximity to the large public playing fields along the lake which would be a huge plus for youth activities. We had merienda with the woman who owns the property, giving us the chance to get to know her. She and her hubby have been in ministry their whole married life, serving all over Argentina. Literally. From Tierra del Fuego down near Antarctica up to Misiones in the far north.

She said they have a heater they can put in the house, but last night there was no heat at all and it was COLD. Seems like most places I go these days are rather cold since central heat is not common and these block and brick buildings do an amazing job at retaining the cold. It was warmer outside than inside. I think it's time to dig out the silk long underwear and go prepared for arctic conditions when we visit people. I have a strong aversion to being cold. STRONG.

Isn't it amazing I survived twenty winters in Michigan?!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How to peel a potato

So simple and yet so profound it will change your life. In the kitchen that is. (What?, you want existential philosophy, look elsewhere.) It came to my attention via e-mail from a good friend. Since this youtube video has had over four million hits, I'm guessing many of you have already seen it but just in case you haven't...


To think of all the potatoes I've peeled the hard way over the years. Never again!

It only seems right and proper to include my favorite potato salad recipe just so you have an excuse to go try this technique right now.

All-American Potato Salad
1-1/2 lbs. potatoes
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
salt and pepper
sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped oniion
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon coarse-grain mustard

Put unpeeled, scrubbed potatoes in a pot AFTER SCORING WITH KNIFE AS PER DIRECTIONS FROM VIDEO. Bring to boil and cook just until tender, 15-20 minutes depending on size of potatoes.
FOLLOW VIDEO DIRECTIONS TO PEEL POTATOES. Cut them in chunks, place in bowl and sprinkle with vinegar, salt, pepper and a few pinches of sugar. Toss gently and allow to cool.
Add onions, eggs and celery.
Combine mayo, sour cream (or yogurt) and mustard and add to potatoes. Toss gently and refridgerate until chilled and ready to serve.

NOTE: I almost always double, and sometimes quadruple, this recipe based on the size of the crowd we're feeding.

Didn't get any shopping bags made yesterday. One afternoon of sewing = two valances. How hard can it be to make a valance, right? A lot harder than I thought. After making a mistake on the first one and while attempting to correct the mistake, making it infinitely worse, I ended up starting over. Thankfully attempt #2 was successful.

Anyone want a wonky, uneven chocolate brown valance that will fit a window approximately 36" wide?

At least now my sewing room is clean and it won't be difficult to work on the shopping bags as I have time this week. Which isn't now, because I have loads of Spanish homework. Hasta luega!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Meanderings

It's a cool fall morning but the sun is intense so the clothes should dry quickly. Yay! Last week's overcast and rainy weather meant it took three days for one load to dry. I keep taking my sweater off inside, then putting it back on to go outside to work on laundry or shake out my broom. The study/sewing room got a lick and a promise this morning. I moved stuff around, dusted and swept. We had a dust bunny army ready to spill over enemy lines into the rest of the house so something had to be done.

Now I can see the table and actually work on some sewing projects. Not even going to set goals though. Today is my day "off" (hubby is going into Cordoba so I have some free time) and nothing makes me happier than puttering around in the sewing room. The need to create has found an outlet (of sorts) in my art class but I'm still such a beginner there that nothing I've "created" is very satisfying.

We started to open the shutters in the sewing room because some sunlight would be welcomed. Unfortunately my sewing machine is on a table directly in front of said window and the light would have blinded me, rendering me unable to actually sew which is the whole point of cleaning the room.

We learned last night that starting in August the stores will no longer have plastic bags for you to use. So one of my projects is to try making a couple of large quilted shopping bags. I made a fat sack back in December (it's holding two big 6 liter water bottles in this photo) and I like it but want to try something different, maybe one of these totes from Mama's Pocketbook, or this nice big grocery tote I found on Valeri Wells blog. Don't you think it would be a good idea to have a few large, some medium size and a small bag or two?

I love how you can find so many free patterns and ideas online. The blogging community is very generous about sharing.

I made American style pizza yesterday and will be heating up a slice or two for lunch today. It included a green/red pepper from our garden, some homemade Italian sausage (I mix ground pork with seasonings, form into patties and freeze), onions, olives, mushrooms and two kinds of cheese (mostly "skinny" cheese but a little freshly grated parmesan to kick it up a notch).

This morning I put a beef brisket in to marinate and (hopefully) transform into corned beef. The recipe I found online calls for the meat to soak in the marinade for 10 days to two weeks. Sorry, but we're not that patient. We're going to leave it until tomorrow evening and see if that's sufficient. Cravings for a boiled dinner and cabbage-already-a-week-old wait for no man marinade.

We may have found a small house to rent for our meetings and activities for this fledgling church plant. Had not planned on doing that, for both philosophical and financial reasons, but we have run into a cultural roadblock. We've been sharing hostessing duties, different ones in the group opening up their homes. But people won't come unless they know the owner of the home...so any friends we invite to a meeting at our co-worker's home won't come. Unless they know him too. You can see the problem, only whoever is hosting the meeting can invite friends and expect them to show up.

This little house is about five blocks away, just across the street from some large playing fields on the costanera -- which would be great for youth activities. Our co-workers checked it out last Thursday and we hope to be able to see it this week.

The daughter was in her friend's wedding this past weekend. From what we've heard, a good time was had by all. We've seen a few photos on facebook and look forward to seeing more. For those who are interested, she wore the pants but changed into a dress after the dinner and before the dancing. My SIL posted a photo of her in the dress yesterday for Project 365.

Enough meandering this fine Monday morning. I'm off to sew!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Week 20, Project 365

I really meant to take more pictures of people this week. But when you're in the middle of doing, it's hard to remember. I hauled my camera to art class and back without ever taking it out of its case. *sigh* Hopefully this coming week I'll actually take some photos during class.

Last week I mentioned going to the street fair in Cordoba but forgot to show why. When we visited the big XXVII Feria International de Artesanians back in April we ordered a little sign for the front of our house. The artesan sets up at the street fair in Cordoba every weekend so when the sign was finished, we needed to stop by and pick it up. We'll use it while we live here and then take it with us when we go as a piece of memorabilia ☺ Our trip to the zoo garnered several share-worthy photos. I don't know if you can tell, but there's another bird on the other side of the cage. These two would chatter at each other and then suddenly peck at one another. Muy divertido! I've never been this up-close and personal with an anteater before. They're actually very bizarre looking animals. At first I couldn't tell which end was the head and which was the tail. There are no limits to the lengths I'll go to embarrass myself on the world wide web and here's proof. But honestly we were simply carrying on a family tradition. The hubby remembers standing in front of this same mirror with two of his brothers while his parents took a photo on a trip to this zoo many, many years ago. So let's think of it less as an embarrassing photo and more as a historical reenactment, shall we? Mid-May here is equivalent to mid-November in the U.S. Can you believe I still have flowers blooming in my yard?! The moussaka recipe I posted yesterday results in yummy goodness like this...layers of vegetable, meat and cheese in perfect harmony. The hubby worked hard this week to prepare a garden area at the back of our yard and then we we planted some winter vegetables. I can hardly wait to harvest fresh peas, radishes, green onions, cabbage and lettuce. All seeds were free, provided by the municipality to those who attended the talk on organic gardening recently. I bought my first book in Spanish; I found this novel by Fannie Flagg on sale at Walmart for $3.75 US. I'm thinking it will take a LONG time to read this at the rate I go! This week we took more time to explore the section of town where all the antique stores are located. Besides the bigger stores along the main road, there were all these little rabbit warrens of shops tucked back off the street. There would be a door or maybe a little larger opening like this, and we'd walk back to find a bunch of wee tiny stores selling everything from clothing to handcrafted items to antiques. Frequently there'd also be a little cafe. How fun is that?! Now go visit the others who are involved in Project 365 -- lots of fun photos this week!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Moussaka so good you won't mind eating it three nights in a row

MOUSSAKA
3-4 large eggplants
2-3 large potatoes (enough for one layer in 9x13 pan)
1-1/2 lb. ground meat (lamb, hamburger, your choice)
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tomatoes chopped
[or I suppose you could use 1 can diced tomatoes to replace sauce and chopped tomatoes]
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk, warmed slightly
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
1-1/2 cups parmesan, shredded

Peel and slice eggplants 1/3" thick, lay on paper towels (10 minutes each side) to eliminate bitterness. [This is an important step, don't skip it!]
Peel and slice potatoes 1/4" thick, place in one layer on lightly greased cookie sheet and bake in 350° oven for 20 minutes, turning slices halfway through. For those who are mathematically challenged, that is 10 minutes each side. The potatoes provide a firm foundation for the dish so that when you're serving it, it doesn't fall apart -- a good thing with any casserole.
Then bake eggplant slices in the same manner (10 minutes each side on greased cookie sheet at 350°).
Meanwhile fry ground meat and onion until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic and stir for a minute, then add sauce, tomatoes, cloves, cinnamon and salt. Cook on medium heat until liquid has evaporated.
To make the bechamel sauce, melt butter in saucepan, add flour and stir to form a roux. Stir over low heat for 3-5 minutes (you don't want this to start turning brown). Add warmed milk, increase heat to medium and stir until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool 15 minutes or so (this cooling time is necessary because you don't want the eggs to start cooking when you add them). Add beaten eggs to cream sauce along with salt...voila! you have bechemal sauce.

To assemble moussaka in 9"x13" pan:
spray with oil
one layer of potatoes on bottom
one layer of eggplant, lightly salt and pepper
1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup parmesan sprinkled over all
meat mixture, spread evenly
final layer of eggplant, lightly salt and pepper
1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup parmesan sprinkled over all
bechemal sauce spread evenly so it completely covers everything
sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup parmesan on top

Bake at 350° for one hour. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Slice and serve to a grateful group of diners, be it family or friends.

Yes it is a lot of work. Yes it is worth it!

Friday, May 15, 2009

TGIF

I wanted to post but am basically brain dead by the end of the week. Hence you get a short post full of choppy thoughts and ideas. I hope to do better after a day of mental relaxation.

The sun came out and the clothes I washed on Tuesday finally finished drying. So I started washing what has piled up in the meantime.

We also unpacked the rest of the winter clothes and I was so happy to be reunited with my turtlenecks ☺

Discovered that whenever someone takes a shower, the heater in the kitchen turns itself off. Apparently the on-demand water heater draws too much of the gas, cutting off the heater's supply? Not sure, but it's not good. Glad the hubby is a handyman.

That same hubby is also a gardener extraordinaire and he dug and turned a lot of dirt today, creating a nice area along the back of the yard to plant the free seeds we received after attending that talk at the municipality last week.

He also hung a wood pallet on the wall so the peas will have something to climb. Those pallets have been quite useful.

The daughter is in her friend's wedding this weekend. After much indecision, I think she's decided to wear trousers. All the guys (and one girl ☺) standing up with the groom are wearing black hightop Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars and the daughter says when she wears a black skirt with the white shirt and black vest she looks like a flight attendant in tennis shoes. Or a business woman who walked to work. She found a nice pair of black dress pants at Elder Beerman yesterday.

I told her to make sure her camera is fully charged and to take lots of photos before and after the wedding. Especially of the parents of the groom who are some of our most favorite people in the world.

And of course, the bride and the groom. Who will no doubt be absolutely stunning in their wedding finery.

I think May weddings are much nicer than June weddings.

I was married in May.

We will be celebrating 30 years in a little over a week.

Wait, I am not old enough to have been married thirty years. *gulp*

We cannot get corned beef here. I am sad. But we will attempt to make our own. The hubby is even now off to buy a beef brisket. Because we are craving a boiled dinner.

When you are old and have been married a long time you begin to think alike. And have simultaneous food cravings.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Today is Thursday which means ART CLASS!

Can you flunk art? I must be the most inept student my teacher has ever had. In class I had black paint smeared all over me, the rag I took, numerous paper towels and my project. *sigh* I couldn't even manage to "stay between the lines" on my sketch.

I was supposed to have a piece of fibro fácil prepared ahead of time with a sketch and some areas built up with scraps of newspaper and glue for texture. I didn't have time until last evening to work on it, but no big deal I thought. We'd done the texture thing in class last week so I felt comfortable leaving it until Wednesday night.

Mistake #1.

Who knew that making paste would be so hard?! My teacher had inadvertently transposed the recipe so my first attempt was a gloppy mess that I threw away. Realizing she must have gotten the ratio reversed, I switched it but my second attempt still wasn't right. Finally we looked it up online. At which point I realized it is not a simple matter of mixing flour and water. You have to COOK it.

The recipe we found called for boiling the mixture 10-30 minutes. Well, within three minutes it appeared thickened to the right consistency but I'm thinking I had to boil it at least 10 minutes, the minimum called for in the recipe. However at 5 minutes into the process the hubby said he thought I should go ahead and take it off the stove.

Then it cooled off and set up into the consistency of jello; you could practically cut it with a knife. Definitely not gonna work. Back to the kitchen we went.

Mistakes #2, 3, 4.

I ended up adding another cup of water (the original recipe was 1/4 cup flour, 1-1/4 cups water) but eventually we had a workable product. Whew! And it only took 45 minutes and a whole lot of flour ☺

Our teacher had suggested bringing pieces of fabric and paper as well as the paint, and I had the brilliant idea to use bits of fabric with the glue (like I would the newspaper) to add texture. It isn't terrible, and it's kind of interesting and definitely provides texture, but fabric frays and there are tiny bits of thread imbedded all over my collage.

Mistake #5.

Although after my attempts at painting today, I think I prefer the fabric. Definitely easier to work with, and I like the fact that fabric comes in a variety of prints as well as colors. My project is a cubist landscape, ala Juan Gris style, and for one of my "fields" I used a subdued green fabric with white flowers. It's one of my favorite bits of the collage ☺ Although I really like the sky fabric I used too.

Oh, and a hint for anyone who wants to make their own glue. Add a couple tablespoons of vinegar once it's cooled a little. That, along with keeping it in the fridge, will prevent bacteria from growing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The moussaka was so good we're having it again tonight

Or maybe it's just because it's been a really busy day and I don't feel like starting something at 8 p.m. So into the oven went some leftovers ☺ Actually though, it is really good -- totally worth all the work yesterday.

This morning Graciela and I ended up talking about native American Indians and their idea of sharing the land as opposed to the European immigrants who had a totally different concept of property ownership. In most of South America it was the Spaniards, in the U.S. it was primarily the English. But no matter, the end result was the same.

It all stemmed from me explaining a picture we have of the Alamo; it's a pen and ink drawing that a friend gave us. So that led to a discussion of the conflict between Mexico and the U.S. and from there to the indigenous inhabitants of Texas.

Just never know where our conversations will go ☺

Then during Spanish class the conversation veered to children's birthday parties and toys that are educational. Mostly because one of the articles I read in the paper yesterday had to do with a new mall opening in Buenos Aires. The article happened to mention that toy stores are not doing so well now.

I have a couple pages of new words I need to make into vocabulary cards.

I don't know if others learning a language have this problem, but I cannot seem to retain a word until I've used it a LOT.

The cold rainy weather continues but it's nice and comfy inside. The hubby did get up in the loft today and haul down our coats. Thick sweaters just aren't cutting it outside now. I asked Graciela how long the weather would be like this and she said the rain should last no more than four or five days, tops. These kind of days are actually pretty unusual for this area. Glad to hear it!

On the way to Nestor and Graciela's this evening we passed a couple of trees that are turning red. We didn't think there were any trees here like that, so it was a surprise (and treat) to see them. Red trees in autumn make me muy alegre!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's cold and rainy and my clothes are going to take forever to dry

But at least laundry is caught up. In this kind of weather I HAVE to make something that goes in the oven. Moussaka has been niggling at my mind for a while. It's been years since I made it and now I remember why....it takes FOREVER. I spent most of the afternoon putting this casserole together. It's currently in the oven and I sure hope it's edible after all this work.

I have a recipe, but decided to google for a lighter version. Seeing as how we don't need the extra calories AND we're trying to lower the hubby's cholesterol. I came across a great how-to video by Eva at a fun food blog, Thursday for Dinner. I foresee many happy hours in the kitchen trying out some of the recipes ☺ Quite a few of the posts have videos and others have photos.

One of my homework assignments is to read a couple of articles from the newspaper. My vocabulary is limited enough that before I even start reading, I first scan the article and write down any words I don't know or am unsure about. Then I look them up and write down one-to-two-word definitions (thank goodness for wordreference.com!). After all that I'm ready to begin "reading" with the page (or three) of definitions close at hand.

We get together with our co-workers on Tuesday evenings to pray. There's always plenty to pray about! First we sit and have tea, maybe a little treat, and share what's been happening. It's hard to describe how I feel about these times (I've started and erased multiple efforts because they sound so whiney) but they're absolutely essential. I simply don't know how other missionaries do it without co-workers!

Have y'all heard about the blue diamond that sold for $9.5 million at auction? I know diamonds are supposed to be a girl's best friend, and blue is my favorite color, but still... just give me $9.5 million in dark chocolate please.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A trip to the zoo

I've loved going to the zoo since I was a wee little girl. Back then we lived in Detroit and the Detroit Zoo was a wondrous place! Except for the snake building. No me gusta nada!

Before my kids hit the teen years we'd go to the zoo at least once a year, and usually more. Living where we did in south central Michigan, we had four or five zoos within an hour and a half drive in any direction. Our favorite was Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, small enough to be do-able with little ones and big enough to have plenty to see.

We have some great zoo memories, and funny ones too. Like the first time we took our son, who was two-years-old, to the Ft. Wayne Zoo. Midway through, the hubby left us on a bench while he went to get/do something (memory is hazy on the exact reason). Anyway, our son spied a man wearing pants like his dad, thought it WAS his dad and ran over to the man, grabbing him around one leg yelling "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" The young man who was there with his girl friend had the most horror stricken look on his face as I pried our son off his leg ☺

Or the time at the Toledo Zoo when we were in the hippoquarium and a group of little first and second graders had their noses pressed right up against the glass and a playful hippo swam over, turned around so its bottom was pressed against the other side of the glass and then pooped. Oh my word, that was funny! All the little kids screamed and jumped back.

All this to say, we went to the zoo yesterday. It was a fun little outing but un poco triste (a little sad) because they obviously don't have the wherewithal to keep it up. Aside from the general unkempt appearance and pungent smells, some of the pens and cages are just too small. It broke my heart to see an eagle in a cage that was barely big enough for him to spread his wings, to say nothing of ever actually flying. His cage was near the front of the zoo and when we came back by a couple hours later on our way out, he had not moved at all.

Hubby also took me out to lunch. We went to a favorite place in Cordoba (which was conveniently near the zoo) and I actually ate something other than pasta ☺ They have the most amazing fresh ravioli stuffed with squash and mushrooms with a mushroom cream sauce. Delicioso! But yesterday I opted for the white fish baked in lemon with mushroom sauce and a vegetable side dish.

The vegetable side dish was really interesting. They cooked and pureed vegetables, then pressed them into a loaf pan, chilled until firm (I'm guessing this process but it's what makes sense considering the end product) and then sliced and heated it back up. My plate appeared with this gorgeous brilliant fuschia pink and orange slab of savory goodness. I'm pretty sure the pink was beets, the orange I'm not so sure about...could be carrots, could be squash, could be a combination. But the colors weren't mixed in a muddy mess, the bottom and sides of the loaf pan had been filled with the orange vegetable and the bright pink stuffed into the middle. It looked more like dessert than a vegetable.

And I didn't take a photo! I know. But it's a nicer restaurant and there were people right next to us, so it just seemed to awkward to whip out the camera and start snapping away.

We tried to run some errands while we were in Cordoba yesterday but the places we needed to go were closed so we're heading back this morning. The hubby needs drawer slides and some other things for various building projects that are in the works -- including a desk for the study! Woo hoo!

I really do think that by the time we've been here a year, we'll have most of the big stuff in place. Poco a poco we are getting settled. I sure never expected it to take this long! But then again, I didn't expect to get so sick either. Having it take longer makes us appreciate each and every bit of progress ☺ With as much of a kick I get every time I look at the shelf in the kitchen with the toaster oven and water dispenser, and the crockpot sitting on the cabinet underneath, can you imagine what I'll be like when he gets the pantry cabinet built?!

That man knows the way to my heart is with organizational items. Forget the flowers, bring on the containers and shelves and cabinets ☺

And chocolate of course.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Week 19, Project 365

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! Especially to my sweet mother-in-law Kathryn, who is shouldering a heavy load caring for dad and doing it with grace and courage. We love you Mom!

Looking at the week's worth of photos last night I saw that old habits die hard. 99% are from walks we've taken around here or in Cordoba. *sigh* I'm going to make a list of possible photo topics and try to be more thoughtful about this process. Otherwise I'll have a bunch of street shots and not much else at the end of the year.

Anyway, here we go...First up is a colorful row of houses in Cordoba. We went in last Sunday for a street fair, and made the happy discovery it's also the area where the antique stores are located ☺ On the same block was some graffiti. We don't see much graffiti here so I had to take a photo of it. The street fair runs every weekend from 5 p.m.-11:30 p.m. May is like November in the U.S. but while it gets cold at night, it usually warms up considerably during the day, so not surprising to see folks in short sleeves or sleeveless shirts. We live just a block from the costanera and there are a number of houses for seasonal rental up and down the road, and also a few hotels. This is, by far, the nicest one. It's also HUGE. This covered walkway connects two large buildings on either side of the road. We haven't been inside yet, but I want to check it out some day. Looks like a pretty fancy walk-way, doesn't it? Even though some trees are turning yellow, even more are staying green. These caught our eyes because the ivy completely covers the trunks. We went to a talk about gardening at the municipality this week and arrived a little early. I snapped this photo from the steps of the municipality building, looking out over a portion of the downtown area. Town spreads far and wide in every direction and it's really quite a good sized city. The population is about the same as Kalamazoo, Michigan. We had to make a trip into town last evening for some art supplies and something called chia at the health food store that's supposed to help lower cholesterol. On each block they have these lovely little brick islands with benches and trees so I made hubby stop and sit on the bench so I could get his picture.
Remembering My Mom
My mom has been gone for over twenty years, dying of cancer at the too-young-age of 56. I’m sorry to say that while growing up I had a pretty adversarial relationship with her and it wasn’t until I had kids of my own that we started getting along better. Because then I finally “got” it. She did the best she could as a single mom with a 6th grade education and no training. She didn’t have a lot of energy left by the time her shift as a waitress/short order cook ended and she had to be really careful to make ends meet. I can’t imagine the kind of stress she was under. It’s hard enough to raise kids when there are two parents!

Time dulls some memories and sharpens others. I prefer to think about the good times, the happier moments with her. I’m not into denial (not much anyway) but I just don’t see the point of dwelling on the negative. Mom may have been impatient, critical and inconsistent but she loved us fiercely and fully.

My mom had a big heart. I honestly can’t remember a single holiday that we didn’t have someone over, someone who didn’t have anyone else. She and the other waitresses at White Way made sure all their regulars without family received invitations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter...

One area where she had no patience at all was ignorance. I’m not talking lack of education, I’m talking down-to-the-bone ignorance. Bigotry of any kind was simply not tolerated.

My sister and I appreciated that she didn’t compare us or expect us to be the same. She was good at accepting everyone just as they were.

We may not have had much but we shared what we had. Off and on we had various ones living with us “while they got on their feet”...young women from the south and almost always related (don’t even start with the hillbilly family tree jokes).

Mom wasn’t what you’d call domesticated. Despite (or maybe because of) being a short order cook, she didn’t like cooking. The saying “Dinner’s ready when the smoke alarm goes off” was made with her in mind. I used to joke that I learned to cook in self defense.

She couldn’t sew a button on straight and had no desire to learn. Mom would let the house go for weeks and weeks and then decide it had to be cleaned in one day. She’d cook a big hillbilly breakfast at 2 a.m., wake us up and make us eat it and then start cleaning. It would take 12-14 hours but, by golly, she wouldn’t let us stop until it was clean again!

She couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and had no appreciation for any kind of music besides country. I’m pretty sure I can still sing all the words to any Loretta Lynn song. But she wanted us to be different and insisted on piano lessons and being in band at school.

Mom also put her foot down about vocational school. Our high school and vocational school were side-by-side and offered a dual program for juniors and seniors. I had no desire to be a secretary but she enrolled me anyway, saying no way was one of her kids going to have to stand on their feet all day like she’d had to do. Didn’t matter that I planned on going to college. Having a skill was always good “just in case”.

As an adult I can look back and see that our conflicts were mainly the result of us being so much alike (characteristics like stubborn and bull-headed come to mind). I think that if she’d lived, we’d have become good friends. I hope so anyway. The last few years she was alive we lived several states away and didn’t see each other as often as we would have liked, but I’m thankful for the times we did have.

Mom was a typical doting grandmother who was sure her grandkids were smarter, cuter, more whatever than any others. She liked nothing better than taking my son around town to show him off to her friends whenever we’d visit. When my daughter was born she took three weeks off work to come and help. I know my mom loved being a grandma and I’m sad she didn’t live to see my sister’s kids.

She started smoking when she was 11 or 12. The addiction was so powerful that after her first lung biopsy, while still on oxygen, she made her way outside the hospital for a cigarette. She smoked right up until she went into a coma three days before her death.

I don’t remember the last Mother’s Day while she was alive. I hope I conveyed my love and how thankful I was for all the sacrifices she’d made over the years. I hope.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Doesn't everyone carry machetes in their suitcase?

Found a group blog post at Bearshapedsphere where folks are sharing their best customs story and since we've had our share of chuckles with customs officials I decided to jump in.

After spending a year in Uganda, we were heading home. 9/11 had happened during our stay overseas so we knew to expect some heightened security. Ha! We were clueless...

The easiest part was leaving Uganda. Although the customs official who x-rayed our bags (those we checked through) was considerably puzzled by the several large panga knives. "Are you going camping?" he asked us. "No." "Oh, you are going to garden!" he guessed. "No." "You are clearing land for a house?" he tried one last time. "No. They're to give as gifts, souvenirs," we explained. He looked confused but let us through.

We'd grown accustomed to men carrying big guns while living in Uganda (almost every store had a security guard with a big gun) but it was a shock to see men in uniforms with big guns all over every airport during our trip back to the U.S.

In Brussels my daughter's purse was emptied because they noticed something that looked suspiciously like scissors while scanning her carry-on. It was her eyelash curler which we know is wicked dangerous in the wrong hands.

Our luggage was all bulging with an excess of items and also a little the worse for wear so the hubby had literally goat-roped it all shut. It's called goat rope because its primary use is to tether the goats but it is simply a strong handmade sisal rope, usually in lengths of two or more yards. He'd basically used enough to weave a netting around the suitcases so they wouldn't bust or fall open. I'm not sure what customs at Heathrow thought, but they cut the ropes off one of the suitcases whereupon it immediately fell apart and I lost one of my favorite sandals. Not sure if anything else was missing because I hadn't made a comprehensive packing list. I think once they saw the condition of that suitcase and its pitiful contents, they determined the remainder of our bags posed no threat.

In the end we made it home with almost everything. One suitcase even arrived before we did after being lost in the bowels of Heathrow for the two weeks we visited friends in Ireland. But that's a story in and of itself.

We have other stories, especially the big one about getting our container through customs when we moved here last year. But the memories are still too fresh and painful and we just can't talk about it yet without getting emotional. The side stitches hurt too much to re-visit that experience. Another time.

Meanwhile if you'd like to read other, much funnier, stories about dealing with the customs officials of the world, stop by Bearshapedsphere.