Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's Thursday?!

So much for my plans to post every day this week. Where does the time go? Oh yeah, LIFE.

Is it really already Thursday?

The last two nights I was in bed early. Early, early, early. Have you ever noticed how some words suddenly appear strange and you wonder, is that how it's really spelled?

I think I should have stayed in bed today.

Already cross-eyed before 8:30 a.m. from studying the Spanish.

Reading about the different regions in Argentina. (In Spanish, of course.) After all, I live here now and should know SOMETHING about the place. Since it is a very loooooooong country, we have everything from the subtropical (way up north) to the ice of Antarctica. Yesterday I read about La Meseta Subtropical, Llanura Platense y Sierras Pampeanas. Today I started with El Noroeste. Next up is El Cuyo. Might be able to fit Patagonia in today as well. Maybe.

If I manage to un-cross my eyes.

Estoy agotada. Not sure that agotar applies to a person. Rita? It refers to the land in the book. My vocabulary is increasing but I'm learning that sometimes different words are used, depending on whether it is a human, animal or other object doing the action. Normally I say "Estoy cansada" but I am beyond weary so I think agotada fits the description better. IF it's okay to use with a person.

Is it really only Thursday?

With the way I'm feeling, it should be Friday.

Today I have art and I am NOT READY. I haven't done anything on my painting this week.

Neither have I had time to work on any sewing projects. I hope to carve some time out of the weekend for that.

Did I mention that we spent most of Sunday afternoon down on the costanera watching horses and gauchos and enjoying ourselves tremendously? Took a TON of photos and quite a few video clips with the camera too. Might have to do two Project 365 posts this week, one entirely devoted to that.

Have seriously missed the Vonage phone this week. Haven't talked with my daughter ALL WEEK. We've texted over skype but I miss hearing her voice. She's on vacation this week, visiting friends in Pennsylvania and reminiscing about our year in Africa because that's how we met the wife. The wife wasn't married then and was also at Kasana Children's Center while we were there. In the process of playing "remember when..." they've been posting photos to facebook and I've had SO MUCH FUN looking at those pictures and doing some remembering of my own.

I thought I'd share a few of them. In this photo we're all dressed up for a wedding. It was my first wedding in Uganda (we went to five total) and I hadn't been "in country" long so didn't realize I had to take little steps and I literally kept walking out of my dress. LOL My Ugandan friends had to "tie" me back up half a dozen times that day. Finally Margaret said, "Aunty Kim, PLEASE walk more slowly!" (I'm on the far left) Our daughter had her 15th birthday while we were there (interestingly enough, our son turned 15 on our first visit to Argentina -- we apparently have some sort of weird family tradition to celebrate 15th birthdays overseas) and she shared it with some of her girlfriends. Ivan was the construction manager (among other things) and one of his projects that year was to build a "baby house" that would address the needs of infants. Up to that point Kasana Children's Center hadn't taken in many babies because we just didn't have the facilities. The "baby house" (later named Hope House) changed all that. Sammy was our second baby and I love that little guy to pieces! Seriously wanted to bring him home with me. You can see why...isn't he a cutie?! He was left abandoned by the side of a very busy road and would have been killed in traffic had not a jjaja (grandmother) seen his predicament and rescued him. And finally I share a photo from one of our "family" nights. Each missionary couple or individual "adopted" one of the seven family groups and became honorary members of that family. We became part of "Jonathan Family" headed up by the sweetest couple, Shadrack and Sarah, who served as the parents for just over 20 children. One of our favorite things to do was have them over for a fun night of games, snacks and singing. Those boys could seriously play some drums! Seeing these photos has inspired me to get crackin' on my blog project to document our year in Uganda. If only there were more hours in a day! *sigh*

Is it still Thursday?

Monday, July 27, 2009

"If you're happy, then we know it"

Last night I came across an interesting article on research that measures our collective mood:
In 1881, the optimistic Irish economist Francis Edgeworth imagined a strange device called a "hedonimeter" that would be capable of "continually registering the height of pleasure experienced by an individual." In other words, a happiness sensor.

His was just a daydream. In practice, for decades, social scientists have had a devilish headache in trying to measure happiness. Surveys...are plagued by the unpleasant fact that people misreport and misremember their feelings when confronted by the guy with the clipboard... People get squirrely when they know they're being studied.

But what if you had a remote-sensing mechanism that could record how millions of people around the world were feeling on any particular day — without their knowing? [The] answer to Edgeworth's daydream begins with a website, that mines through some 2.3 million blogs, looking for sentences beginning with "I feel" or "I am feeling."

"We gathered nearly 10 million sentences from their site," Dodds says. Then, drawing on a standardized "psychological valence" of words established by the Affective Norms for English Words (ANEW) study, each sentence receives a happiness score. For example, "triumphant" averaged 8.87, "paradise" 8.72, "pancakes" 6.08, "vanity" 4.30, "hostage" 2.20, and "suicide" 1.25.

The temperature of the blogosphere

Since many blogs are connected to demographic data, Dodd's and Danforth's approach can let them measure the rise and fall of happiness of, say, people under 35 in California on Wednesdays, and compare to other places, age groups, and days..

"We were able to make observations of people in a fairly natural environment at several orders of magnitude higher than previous happiness studies," Danforth says. "They think they are communicating with friends," but, since blogs are public, he says, "we're just looking over their shoulders."

Initially I was rather creeped out, knowing someone is "looking over my shoulder". But after checking out "We Feel Fine" I'm beyond fascinated and plan to spend more time on this very cool site! The creators, Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, sound like very down-to-earth guys who had a great idea and knew how to run with it. On their mission page they write:

"At its core, We Feel Fine is an artwork authored by everyone. It will grow and change as we grow and change, reflecting what's on our blogs, what's in our hearts, what's in our minds. We hope it makes the world seem a little smaller, and we hope it helps people see beauty in the everyday ups and downs of life."

...but back to the study by Dodds and Danforth (an unfortunate pairing of names, as it brings to mind Christopher Dodd and Jack Danforth in Congress): What's up with PANCAKES being worth 6.08 points?! While I do love me some pancakes, I'm just not understanding the correlation on a happy meter.

Although there is that guy who is spreading some french toast love with his FTX posse.

I wonder whether Dodds & Danforth have assigned a value to CHOCOLATE? I feel it should definitely be on the happy meter. No research into happiness is complete without adequately studying the effect of chocolate on society. I feel certain that's some research I could sink my teeth into! How do you feel?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Week 30, Project 365

Not sure if it's because the seasons are opposite to what I'm used to, but it's really hard wrapping my head around the fact that it's the end of July. I had trouble when we lived in Uganda too; year-round summer messed with my mind, and left me feeling like I was suspended in time. This is worse though. Winter in July is just all wrong! I wonder if I'll ever get used to it?!

It really hits home each Sunday when I'm posting another Project 365 entry...this week was no different -- we are THIRTY WEEKS INTO THE YEAR. Can you believe it? I'm so thankful for this project; it's been a good discipline and even though I don't have a photo for, I do have a lot more photos than I would otherwise! I worried about whether I could stick with it but actually, as the year has progressed, I've become BETTER at remembering to take photos :-) Thank you Sara for starting, and continuing to host, Project 365!

Monday I actually forgot to take a photo because I was having too much fun :-) We celebrated Dia del Amigo with friends Monday night and had so much fun talking, eating, enjoying music... One of the guests is an accomplished musician and while I don't have any photos from Monday, I remembered that we took some short videos of him at a previous party last fall. So for your viewing pleasure, I present 30 seconds of our friend playing traditional Argentine music (he invented the contraption he's using to play the guitar and harmonica simultaneously; make sure you notice the foot pedal he operates to really belt out the music)...

I made this cake (dark chocolate orange layer cake from Tasty Kitchen) for the party, but everyone was so full by the time it was served, only half the folks took very thin slices. Leaving me with plenty to share with other friends on Tuesday :-) Wednesday it snowed!!! You have to understand, It.Hardly.Ever.Snows.Here. Seriously, they sometimes go YEARS without snow. Do you think it followed me here? Because it snowed last September too, just before the official start of Spring. Do I sense a conspiracy? Forget global warming, are we in for another ice age? You can see there's a lot more snow up in the Sierras; we just got a dusting here in Carlos Paz and it was gone in a matter of hours. Folks who live higher up in the mountains like to show off. It's a tradition to build a little snowman on the hood of your car. I kept trying to snap a photo of one but we were always in a moving vehicle which made it a rather difficult. This is the best shot I managed to get. I realized I haven't shared any of my art projects in a while. Okay, maybe never. So here's what I'm working on now, and you'll understand why I've been so reticent to show you. Not exactly great art. But I'm having fun :-) For this project the teacher had me take two photos, enlarge them and then cut them up and reassemble bits from both to create a new "picture" in cubist style (that's what you see underneath my painting). Before class I applied gesso to create texture and provide "tooth" for the paint to adhere. I spent all of class time concentrating on the flower portion; next week I'll work on the architectural part. But don't you think my flower center looks more like a slice of pizza? Friday while I was at the dentist's, Ivan went under the knife at a nearby clinic. He had out-patient surgery on his knee to remove a cyst that was trying to pass itself off as another knee. He was finished before I was, so HE WALKED TO THE DENTIST'S. Said he felt great. When the anesthetic wore off about 11 p.m. it was a different story. Today he's still in a world of hurt, but he peeked under the bandage and it looks fine. No excessive redness or swelling. Not only does the knee hurt but he's having pain up and down his sciatic nerve too. Poor guy! Today we had asado with our co-workers and some young men who came into town to help with a youth activity. We enjoyed grilled beef, pork and vegetables (have you ever had grilled butternut squash? DELICIOUS!). Ivan made fresh chimichurri with parsley from our garden. Excelente! Our co-worker's youngest daughter (age 11) made not one, but TWO, fabulous desserts! As we've gotten to know one another through our blogs and photos, I wonder if the other Project 365 participants feel as I do? That we've become friends. Real friends, not just cyber friends. I think if we ever meet, we'll know each other immediately because we're not strangers at all. And then there's the people I knew before (my SIL and a niece are participants) that I've gotten to know better through the Project. A win-win situation, all around!

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Bien grande!"

That's what my dentist kept saying this afternoon but I couldn't open any wider. LOL Despite what some say about the size of my mouth, for dental purposes it could apparently stand to be a little bigger. Each Friday for the next three weeks this is what I have to look forward to -- my sweet dentist saying "Bien grande, Kim, bien grande!"

BTW, my dentist back in the U.S. had a small army working for him. There were dental hygienists, lab techs, dental assistants, a receptionist, bookkeeper... He always had an assistant right by his side, handing him tools and mixing up concoctions. My dentist here is a one-woman show. She answers the phones, handles the paperwork, does all the dental work BY HERSELF. Her entire office would fit into one room in my old dentist's facility. There are 4 chairs in a "waiting area", a not-very-big desk with two chairs in the "office", and one dental chair with accoutrements in the room where she actually practices dentistry. Maybe it's because she's young and just starting out. But if she chooses not to expand, I don't think that's a bad thing. What she's doing, and how she's doing it, works for her.


While I was at the dentist, Ivan was at a clinic having out-patient surgery on his knee. He's had problems since a bad fall while doing construction work in November of 2007, and it was getting worse. Sorta looked like he had two knees on one leg. LOL Sorry, hon, but you gotta admit, it did look a little funny.

Anyway, he went to the doctor two months ago and they aspirated the cyst that had developed but it immediately filled back up again. So today they removed the cyst. Which, contrary to the sonogram, was not just on the surface but had burrowed into a tendon, requiring much cutting and scraping today. Not an image I like to think about.

Nor is Ivan's description of the operating room. Dangling wires obviously repaired with electrical tape, old --and RUSTY -- equipment, and although we're assuming the room was clean, it had a rather dingy appearance. Welcome to nationalized healthcare.

The room is no reflection on the doctor though; Ivan's very pleased with his work.

It's been interesting to note some differences in medical care since we arrived. I want to preface this by saying: it's not necessarily BAD, just DIFFERENT.

Even though there is nationalized health care, many people have an auxiliary insurance so they can go to "private" clinics -- where the doctors might actually have tongue depressors and cotton swabs.

The process goes like this: you have to physically go and pay your monthly health insurance premium -- no sending in a payment by mail -- and then each time you have anything done, you have to take the doctor's order to the same office where you pay the premiums and get it approved and pay your percentage of it, then take that slip with you to the doctor or hospital. If it's just a regular doctor visit, you don't have to have a doctor's order; you just go to the office and tell them you need to see the doctor and pay your part (approximately $4 for a regular visit).

Yes, prices are much, much lower. What we paid for Ivan's out-patient surgery is less than we'd pay for an office visit to the specialist in the U.S. (And remember, for that price we get the dangling wires and old, rusty equipment.)

While facilities and supplies might be lacking, doctors and nurses here are well trained and very professional. We've been extremely happy with the quality of care. Not that I want to spend any more time than necessary with them.

And what we have is so much more than a lot of others have in less developed parts of the world. I was reminded of that this week when the daughter forwarded a link about the ministry that "Uncle" Francis has in Uganda. [This brought to mind the hospital in Uganda that was, by Ugandan standards, quite nice but lacked certain amenities that Americans were used windows (or even screens) in the window openings, running water and indoor bathrooms...]

Francis was interviewed last year by Daryn Kagan for the work he's doing: helping others acquire wheelchairs. We know Francis; he was also on staff at Kasana Children's Center the year we were there. He's got a big, tender heart and I just know you'll enjoy "meeting" him!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It really IS winter!

As evidence I provide the following... Yes, honest to goodness snow. We don't typically see much of that here (for which I'm very grateful) and it will all probably be gone within a few hours.

In this next photo look closely just to the right of center...see that little bit of red? That's one lone brave rose trying to bloom. And notice how huge the snowflakes are...GIGANTIC! Since yesterday I've added longjohns to the mix AND the fleece blanket :-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happy Belated Dia del Amigo!

We had a great time celebrating Dia del Amigo yesterday! Numerous e-mails, texts and phone calls were received wishing us "Feliz Dia!" -- Argentines take their Day of the Friend seriously! And last night we were invited to a fiesta. Good food, music (one of the other guests is an accomplished musician) and everyone took a small gift to the party and then chose a different one to take home -- I have a nice little salt and pepper shaker set now :-)

I made the Dark Chocolate Orange Layer Cake for the party. And brought 3/4 of it home! Apparently everyone was so full by the time they ate the empanadas, salads, vegetable pies, sushi, and assorted other goodies PLUS the crepes stuffed with either chocolate and dulce de leche or apples and raisins...they had no room for torta. But I'm not too sad. Today I'll be sharing it with my tutor and her family, our co-workers and their family, and Graciela when she comes over tomorrow :-)

I didn't make it exactly to specifications because I ran out of time, plus didn't have three 8" cake pans so had to use two 9" pans plus a small square pan... A little hard to create a nice tall layer cake with those. Anyway, I used the chocolate ganache-like "filling" to put between the two 9" layers and all over the top and sides. There was so much of it, I have enough to completely cover the little square of cake, too. So I never even made the chocolate buttercream frosting. Which may be just as well. I didn't realize until I started making this cake that it USES A LOT OF BUTTER. Seriously, look at all that butter...THREE CUPS altogether!

Yeah, I saved us from consuming 1/2 cup of butter. LOL

Also took a small vegetable tray and Ranch dip. Someone asked me for the recipe for the dip but, of course, I had to tell them there is none, because we can't get the dry Ranch packets here. My sister sent them in a recent package from the U.S.

Speaking of packages, the next one from our daughter will contain a new battery for our Vonage phone because the old one hasn't been holding a charge very we have to keep it plugged in almost all the time. This would be the Vonage phone that quit working altogether -- well, it won't connect to our AP anyway. Sad days in our house. Our son spent a couple hours on skype with Ivan this morning, and he also had a service tech from Vonage on the phone, but their combined efforts came to naught [why did we stop using that word? It's such a great word!]. A last ditch effort is underway: keeping the battery out of the phone for several days to see if it re-sets itself.

Meanwhile skype is our only means of voice communication. Not that that's a bad thing. I'm happy we at least have skype! BUT it means we can't call anyone who doesn't have skype. Well, technically I guess we could but that would cost money we don't want to spend.

So for a while we'll be depending a lot more on e-mails, facebook and skype.

And my blog :-)

I do love the interactive communication on the blog! Receiving comments, leaving comments...

I'm warming up to facebook, too. It is a nice way to keep in touch as if you were in a room full of people. Nice for carrying on a conversation with more than one person simultaneously.

So our daughter uploaded to youtube the video project she's been working on for the local United Way, and then facebooked the link. Which I'm now embedding on my blog to share with all my bloggy friends. Because a mom likes to brag on her kids to her friends, you know :-)

She's also doing some shorter clips for a running loop to be shown prior to meetings or events.

I didn't realize until I saw this clip on that swine flu has hit Argentina harder than any country other than the U.S. Now I understand a little better why some provinces are taking such extreme precautions to stop the spread. Which I would have understood sooner had I been more fluent in the language so I could have understood the news here. Oh well.

I think I enjoyed the news too much over the weekend, that we had the same temperature here (in winter) that our friends had in the Midwest (in summer). Because the rain arrived yesterday and settled in, bringing bone-chilling damp cold with it. Not winter bone-chilling damp cold, more like what we would get in April in Michigan. So still not as bad as what we endured in the U.S. but without the central heat, felt a little more here.

I'm wearing my jeans, turtleneck, sweater, and two pair of socks right now and am considering the use of a fleece blanket. That'll teach me to to take so much glee from others' misery. Or at least from expressing the glee publicly :-)

So ends another profound post from your shivering correspondent in Argentina.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Week 29, Project 365

I am feeling pretty tired today so I'll be keeping this week's Project 365 post short (yes, I really CAN make it short).

I posted about this photo already but I'm including it again... because it is the one and only Monday photo! Besides, I'm pretty sure I have some traffic on Sundays I don't get the rest of the week. Anyway, for those who haven't seen it yet, those aren't clouds, that's smoke. We've had a problem with wild fires in the area because it's been so dry. Has made breathing a bit of a challenge at times. I've mentioned my husband's new friend who has designed and built a few planes over the years. This week Ivan had the opportunity to help him work on the current project. When Ivan and Abraham went to install a new gas line at Sta. Rosa, they took time to make an asado. After all, a man's gotta eat! The next few photos feature the baby quilts I finished this week. All the photos were taken on the same day but, believe me, they filled several of my days this week! I was working until late at night for three days running but I FINISHED 'EM! Here's the front of the quilts... ...and here's the backs. I backed the "envelope" quilt with fleece in a fun teddy bear print and the other in pink flannel with gold stars with a pieced panel featuring appliqued flowers. I just felt it needed a little extra pizzazz. Close-up of the envelope quilt so you can see how easy it is to slide small items into the envelopes. Close-up of the appliqued flower panel. Our co-workers had a garage sale this weekend. I think we were their first customers :-) I picked up a few things, including this big bag of buttons. I have a thing for buttons; you have no idea how happy these make me :-) After having a couple of weeks "off", I have a feeling it's going to be hard to buckle down and get back to work (i.e., Spanish). *sigh* But I sure have enjoyed it and feel pretty good about how much we were able to get done too.

Hope y'all have a great week and Sara, hope you start feeling better!

The Forecast: Sunny and 67°

Hoping to deliver a couple of baby quilts today, take a walk along the lake, try a new recipe and maybe later watch an episode of Kingdom (a very funny show from the BBC in England). Don't you just love Saturdays?!

Last night I tried Lemon Barbeque Meatloaf from the Tasty Kitchen and it was delicious. The recipe was a lot like how I normally make meatloaf, with the addition of lemon juice in the meat mixture and some new spices in the barbeque sauce (cloves and allspice). Definitely a keeper!

The dark chocolate orange layer cake is calling out to me to make it and I just might for our Sunday night meeting. Chocolate plus orange is a flavor combination that I adore.

It's supposed to be sunny today and get up into the mid 60s. I just checked and the forecast (67°) is the same here -- in WINTER -- as it is where our daughter lives -- in SUMMER. Except we'll be having lots of sunshine and it's supposed to rain there. I find that vastly amusing (sorry, sweetie, can't help myself - but if helps, we're supposed to get rain on Monday).

Whatever the weather where you live, hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sharing Good Stuff

This week has gone by so fast! I did finish baby quilt #2 yesterday. Barely. It was 11:30 p.m. when I tied off the last thread of the binding. Whew! I'll be posting photos of them both on Sunday with Project 365.

Meanwhile I wanted to share some online goodies we've found lately. It's a hodge podge to be sure, but I think there's bound to be something for everyone :-)

First up, there may be a few who are not yet aware of Pioneer Woman's new food site. Oh.My.Word! Good food from all over... hop on over to the Tasty Kitchen, meet some new friends and try some new recipes.

My son came across the link to this quilting resource and forwarded it to me. If you're into making traditional quilts, this looks to be a very helpful site.

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned before that my FIL is in the advanced stages of alzheimers. Not sure who sent this link to my husband, but we both found it a very moving and helpful video. It's 30 minutes long but well worth the time. Absolutely the best I've seen to help children understand the disease.

I laughed myself silly over Debbie's latest post. Usually a little irreverent and always hysterical. What will that woman think of next?!

On a more serious note, Mari's reminder about how God loves us deserves a hearty AMEN! Loved the analogy in this story.

I've also been blessed and encouraged by what Steve and Bonnie have been sharing. My friend Christy talked about them in a post so I went over to check out the blog that Steve began as a way of keeping friends and family updated after Bonnie was diagnosed with leukemia on May 12. She'd gone to the doctor on May 11 to see why she couldn't shake a lingering cold. Steve stayed at the hospital with her, helping care for her, and not going home to spend the night until June 22 when he himself was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins diffused large B-cell lymphoma. And even then, he was home for a night and then back to the hospital, and able to joke about the two of them going bald together as they both went through chemo.

I spent two hours that first night, reading through the entire blog. Their story that began just over two months ago is inspiring on so many levels. Let's pray for them, 'kay?

Almost forgot, Good Bite "brings together the web's most popular food bloggers to discuss food, share recipes, and present step-by-step 'how-to' videos." [It ALWAYS comes back to the food, doesn't it?] Love this site and I think you will too!

No special plans for the weekend -- except with all the foody inspiration I may have to try some new recipes. What about you?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thankful for the rain

It's been sprinkling since this morning which is a good thing. Those aren't clouds; that's smoke. This photo is from Monday. We've had a number of fires break out around the province and because it's been pretty dry, they quickly spread. Coming home on Sunday we had to roll our windows up and turn the air on because we were having so much trouble breathing because of the smoke. And we weren't anywhere near the fire. The smoke was just that thick for miles and miles. Ugh

Sunday night I woke up coughing and couldn't stop. Smoke was penetrating our closed windows (not the tightest house ever). Smoke is the biggest trigger for my asthma and Ivan was worried that we'd need to get dressed and drive out of town in the opposite direction of the smoke. But a half a glass of water later, the coughing subsided and we were able to get back to sleep.

Not sure how many acres have been scorched but it's a lot. Wild fires are a problem every year, some more than others. Winter (a.k.a. the dry season) is only half over so we'll see how it goes.

You can see why we're happy to see the drizzle. Wouldn't mind a good dousing rain but that doesn't appear likely.

Ivan and our friend who helped with the plumbing have gone back out to Sta. Rosa today to work on running new gas lines. Right now whenever someone uses the house they have to haul a big gas tank from the garage to an outdoor cabinet by the kitchen where they hook it up to provide gas for the stove and hot water heater.

We have to do this because we cannot leave the gas tank in the cabinet by the kitchen all the time or it would be stolen when no one was there. As it has been in the past (multiple times I believe). That's a problem with a house that's only used part-time.

Anyway, in an attempt to make the house a little more "turn key" Ivan had the idea to make it so we can leave the big gas tank in the garage all the time. Hence, they're running a new line from the garage to the house. We took measurements while we were there last week and they left prepared with what they hope will be sufficient piping and fittings. It's really nice to have a friend who knows how to do this and can guide the process.

Meanwhile I'm working on baby quilt #2. That's because I FINALLY, AT LONG LAST FINISHED BABY QUILT #1!!! At 8:45 p.m. yesterday to be exact. At which point I did a happy dance :-) While putting ointment and a bandaid on my poor little left index finger that felt like a pin cushion. Maybe because I'd sort of used it as one during the hand quilting. I think I have a total of about 20 hours of hand quilting on that quilt, with six of them from yesterday.


I just finished pinning it really, really well so hopefully it will not shift during the quilting process. I found the most darling fleece to use for the back with little white teddy bears against a blue and orange background. But fleece is a slithery, slippery fabric so I used more than twice as many pins as I normally would.

But before I start sewing I felt the need to take a deep breath... or forty eleven. I've never actually machine quilted anything except a cushion cover so I'm a wee bit nervous. My fall back plan, if the machine quilting goes awry and turns into a disaster, is to not quilt it at all but simply tie it off. Which is fine for a baby quilt but I really want to give machine quilting a try first.

Do we detect a defeatist attitude?

And I'm trying so hard to be positive.

You see I have TRIED machine quilting in the past. It wasn't pretty. But that was with my old, inferior sewing machine and I even have a special quilting foot for my "new" machine (bought used on ebay) so I have high hopes that things will be different this time.

Quite honestly, sewing on this machine is totally unlike sewing on my old Brother. It's like comparing apples and oranges. And my Pfaff is a mango!

Yes, I have very high hopes indeed.

And writing this post has been very helpful. I feel FORTIFIED, MOTIVATED and PREPARED to CONQUER machine quilting!

I hope.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Week 28, Project 365

It's taken the better part of the day to get photos and videos uploaded (downloaded?) to the blog for Project 365. Whew! I had three videos, but after it took HOURS to just get the two shorter ones posted, I'm throwing in the towel.

Anyway, lots of photos to share so let's not waste any more time...

When we arrived at the house in Sta. Rosa on Monday, our friends had prepared a wonderful lunch. I had a fun week sewing. First up: piecing the top of another baby quilt. The envelopes were pretty "busy" with all the bright colors and patterns so I used tone-on-tone fabrics in the sashing and borders. Here's a close-up so you can see the fabric envelopes. As the baby becomes a toddler, they can use the pockets to play games like Memory by tucking cards into each envelope. Possibilities are endless! Sink and vanity installed, baseboard too. Lookin' good! A trip to the saw mill netted a nice load of free fire wood. Kept Ivan busy chopping and... ...stacking. Should last a while! Thursday we went to Tio Rico's with friends. The food is sold by the kilo and they keep a running tab at the desk. Ivan kept forgetting to get his plate weighed and then getting called back up for that. I guess he was having too much fun visiting with our friends :-) This tree must have been struck by lightening. I can imagine kids using this as a club house although it looks like it could fall over any time so I don't think it would be a very safe place to play. Yesterday I told the story of how we used a fallen parrot's nest... ...made with lots of thorny branches and twigs... ... to block an area along the back fence where the neighbor's sheep were getting in and munching on our baby citrus trees. Like most little towns, Belgrano has its share of cheese and salami shops. It would be easy to drop some serious money in a store like this one, with all the leather and silver goods. With the Chocolate Festival this last weekend, Belgrano was a happening place! The weather was perfect. Sunny and warm enough for folks to sit at outside cafes and sip coffee and eat chocolate tortas or pastries. So they'd have the energy to go spend their money on goodies to take home with them :-) I was sewing right up until it was time to clean and pack to come home. I finished the chair cushion covers just after lunch on Sunday. Impossible to tell but the fabric is a tiny green and cream checked print. I think it looks nice against the yellow walls and am happy with the results.
And I'll close with a couple videos for your viewing enjoyment. First up the Tyrolean dancers (Belgrano was founded by German immigrants and it's still predominantly German).

And here's some footage of the young Argentine folk dancers. Loved 'em! (Pay attention to the little guy -- he's SO serious! LOL)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Next to last day in Sta. Rosa

I know, my titles are so creative.

So yesterday on our walk we decided to make use of a parrot's nest we'd come across earlier in the week. Several large limbs from a tree had come down during the last storm, bringing along this nest. "Just the thing," my husband declared, "to put along the lower fence where the neighbor's sheep are getting in."

Getting into the yard and dining on the tiny citrus trees we planted last spring.

We don't have time this trip to properly repair the fence and had been debating all week what to do... String some barbed wire along that spot? Not worry about it until next time?

You're probably wondering, what good is a nest going to do?

Ah, but you've never seen a wild parrot's nest, have you? These things are HUGE, a couple feet around. But more importantly, parrots build their nests with branches and twigs from THORNY trees and bushes. No kidding, some of the thorns in this nest are more than an inch long. Ouch! I want to know, how do the parrots keep from impaling themselves?

Anyway, we're pretty sure the mass of thorns will deter the sheep and other would-be-citrus-tree-eating-animals. We took the wheelbarrow and a shovel (no way were we getting near those thorns ourselves) and gently carted the nest home. Ivan used the shovel to spread the thorny nest around the back fence where it's obvious the sheep are coming in (tufts of wool cling to the wire that is there).

Just call us the Clampetts of home maintenance and repair.

[For those of you too young to recognize the reference, go google Beverly Hillbillies.]

Photos to follow tomorrow on Project 365 IF (and it's a big if) I can get the photos to upload from here. I may end up doing Project 365 on Monday.

Meanwhile we are thoroughly enjoying our week in the country. Yesterday we picked up smoked pork chops at one little shop, saurkraut in another (this is a hard-to-find item except in German communities like Belgrano), and fresh apple strudel in another. Had a fabulous supper last night with all of that plus some mashed potatoes. Found out from a young friend in Germany we should have heated the strudel (next time!) and served it with fresh vanilla sauce (may or may not; kinda hate to cover up any of that apple delicousness).

Today while Ivan cleans and organizes the garage, I'm working on chair cushion covers, and later today we'll head into Belgrano to catch a few of the Chocolate Festival activities (fondue, anyone?).

Since I've been telling you our menu all week, here's what we're having today: lunch will be homemade pizza using some Italian sausage I made and froze a while back, plus lots of fresh vegetables. Supper will likely be hamburgers and oven fries because we'll want something quick and easy when we get back from Belgrano. If we even want supper after indulging in all that chocolate goodness :-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Day 4 in Sta Rosa

Brrrrrr!!!! It's VERY cold this morning. Frost last night and a crisp, clear sky today. Ivan's out chopping and stacking wood. He's my hero! I just took another hot bubble bath. They're addictive you know.

I'm thinking meatloaf and mashed potatoes for lunch. Comfort food...cold weather food.

The second baby quilt top is pieced and next week I'll layer it with batting and a fleece backing and THIS one I'm going to machine quilt. Also playing around with an idea for a small wall quilt featuring one of the four food groups: coffee. Don't have all the fabrics I need with me, but can at least get started.

No, I haven't done anything on the new cushion covers yet. There's still time though. We're staying through Saturday since the missionary mini conference was canceled and there's no need to rush home, catch up on laundry and start driving across the country. This is our winter break and we're going to enjoy the week.

Tonight we'll be hanging out with old friends, probably going to our favorite restaurant in Belgrano. (Tio Rico's for those new to the blog; it's a pay-by-the-kilo buffet with really good, fresh food.) Since today is a national holiday...

(Independence Day, but not like our 4th of July -- they celebrate their equivalent to the 4th on May 25th, the day they declared independence; today is the day they won their independence -- clear?)

...I'm hoping there won't be hordes wanting to eat there also. Definitely too cold to eat at one of their outdoor tables, and there's only 8 tables/booths inside.

During winter holidays Belgrano is home to the Chocolate Festival which starts this weekend. Another good excellent reason for staying through Saturday :-) Music, chocolate, children's theatre, chocolate, folk music, chocolate fondue, dancing, chocolate. You gotta love a town that celebrates chocolate.

Actually Belgrano is good at celebrating anything that will bring the tourists to town. Beer in October, chocolate in July, cake in April, children's folklore in September, and Christmas in December. Oh, and let's not forget they celebrate the tourists too. That would be the third Sunday in August. So I guess all the tourists come out and celebrate themselves?

Belgrano really is a quaint little pueblo and the town leaders have done a great job keeping the junkier kind of businesses out. You'll see the typical postcard and cheap souvenir shops but they're tastefully appointed and not terribly tacky. But more than that you'll find true artisan shops selling everything from food (cheese, salami, condiments) to furniture to woolen items to leather goods. Sidewalks are kept clean, business signs are not overly large or outlandish, and people who work in the stores seem to have a better grasp of the concept of customer service than you typically find here.

And of course there's Tio Rico's. 'Nuf said.

I'm wondering if the cold front that moved in is here to stay. It IS winter after all although to someone who spent the last 20 years in Michigan, so far this has felt more like a mild spring or fall than anything approximating winter.

When he picked up free wood at the saw mill yesterday, Ivan grabbed some eucalyptus to see how that burned. So far we think it's a cleaner, better burning wood than pine. I was hoping it would smell nice, but there's no discernable difference that I can tell. Burning wood smells like burning with a smokey essence.

I've been hopping up and down to work on lunch, getting the meatloaf in the oven and the potatoes on to boil, and now it's time to make a salad so let's see if the internet is working and I can actually get this posted.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Day 3 in Sta Rosa

The sun's streaming in the windows, there's a nice fire crackling in the wood heater and a load of work clothes and towels agitates away in the used washer. My first load in it! We did a trial run of shop rags before we bought it, just to make sure it ran. Now we'll see how well it works.

AND THE INTERNET IS WORKING! At least for a few minutes. All I managed to do yesterday was respond to one.single.e-mail. I might be going through internet withdrawal. My symptoms include severe twitching whenever I approach the computer, frequent trips outside to look into the sky as if a change in atmospheric conditions might magically make it work again, and deep depression when the download speed consistently shows ZERO.

On the other hand, no internet meant I did other things. Like take a hot bubble bath (oh the bliss that is a hot bubble bath, with my bath pillow and a good book), worked on a baby quilt, cleaned and cooked... Nothing fancy. For lunch I heated up the leftover sauce our friends made the other day, which paired nicely with some bowtie pasta, and I made a salad by throwing together all the bits of raw vegetables on hand (carrots, red pepper, onion, cucumber) with fresh chunks of mozzarella doused with liberal amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Supper was a simple meal of hobo dinners (hamburger patties, carrots, potatoes and onions baked together in foil packets). By supper time I was on a roll with the baby quilt and did not want to be bothered with spending any more time than necessary in the kitchen.

Mealwhile the hubby (aka Ivan -- I've decided to just call him by his proper name on the blog) was busy on the bathroom. He installed the tile baseboard and the sink. Ran into a snag last night when one piece of the pipe (needed for hooking it all back up) got messed up in the process so this morning he's off to buy a replacement for that. Once that's done, though, we'll have a functioning -- and beautiful -- sink. He did such a great job cleaning up the old faucet, it looks practically brand new. That makes us very happy since new faucets cost as much or more than the sink!

Today he'll be going after more free fire wood and cutting that up. Looks like our neighbors have been staying warm by using a good portion of the wood he cut up last time. *sigh* If it's not nailed down, they'll take it. Even it it's nailed down, they'll come over with a crow bar and pry it up and then take it. And the nails too. Anyone else have neighbors like that? So we're going to try and make room in the garage for the fire wood he gets today.

I know I should be working on the new cushion covers but I'm having so much fun with the baby quilt... I think I can finish piecing the top today. THEN I'll get busy on the cushion covers.

Another hot bubble bath is definitely on the agenda. After all, it's absolutely essential that I take advantage of having a bathtub here :-)

I won't be commenting anywhere this week. If I actually manage to even read any blogs. Which is highly doubtful at the rate this internet is NOT working. When it does work, it is SOOOOOOO SLOOOOOOW. I'm just hoping I actually manage to post this. Let's see if it works...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Great beginning to our time in Sta. Rosa

We arrived in Sta. Rosa in time for lunch with friends who stayed at the house over the weekend. Their oldest son is training to become a chef and he made a fabulous sauce for the fresh ravioli. So good! I hadn't met our friends' children before (the daughter is a lawyer). Anyway, while it was wonderful to see Juan & Mirta again, it was hard to see how crippled Juan's hands have become. He has developed a disorder that causes his hands to curl shut to the point that he has to use one hand to pry open the other. There is no treatment for it. Very sad when you consider he's an artist who can no longer draw or paint. But his attitude is to simply be grateful for what he can do, and to do it for the glory of God.

They not only served lunch but had also swept and straightened up the whole house -- the first time we've ever come out that I haven't had to start cleaning as soon as we arrived. That was very, Very nice!

We really enjoyed our time with them and, for me, the chance to meet and get to know two of their adult children.

They left after lunch and we quickly unloaded the car and trailer, put food away and made up the bed. Then I sat down to check e-mail and see if I could post. Two hours later... My hopes that we'd have better internet service during the week have been dashed. While the 3G thingy is showing two (out of five) bars of service, the actual download speed (or whatever it is called) has been zero until now.

Today is incredibly beautiful. I think the temperature rose into the 70s! We opened all the windows to let some of that wonderful warm air inside since it was probably 10-15 degrees warmer outside than in. I think we actually had nicer weather here over the weekend (and today) than some of y'all did.

I am totally excited to start sewing tomorrow! I brought three projects along, including one for here. Hopefully I can manage to make decent new cushion covers for the living room chairs. Not being the most competent seamstress, my goals are low. LOL If I can manage to make them so their wonkiness isn't too obvious, I'll be happy. The thing I love about quilting is that precision isn't absolutely critical (with my kind of quilting, anyway). Unfortunately with clothing and most home decor projects, accuracy is more important. So we will see. If they turn out I'll take photos; if not, I won't.

I also brought along a new book received in the mail this week. It's the newest Jane Whitefield book by Thomas Perry. It was in the third package our daughter sent. We have received packages #1 and #3 but #2 is still MIA. We're afraid we'll never see it. It had a book or two also. Oh well. Such is life. I was afraid package #2 included a book I won in a giveaway on Sue's blog a while back but was relieved to learn the daughter is reading it so she hasn't sent it yet.

The daughter doesn't remember what exactly was in package #2. We know of two things and while I am sad that I may never see them, I can deal with it. I would be much sadder if it had contained any of the cute fabric I have bought of late on ebay. But it didn't so I am not as sad. Package #3 was the first package to contain bits of the fabric and I am quite happy with it. A pack of 40-4" squares in bright primary colors and cute tractor and car prints will make an adorable baby quilt if ever a friend has a baby boy. I won that ebay auction for 99 cents. I love me a bargain! Also appropriate for a boy's quilt is the way-too-cute-for-words fabric of little boys playing soccer. Soccer (or futbol) is THE national sport in Argentina so what could be more perfect?!

In looking through my fabric stash this week I came across fabric envelopes I created several years ago while making another baby quilt. Got a wee bit carried away in the making of those fabric envelopes -- which is to my benefit now. The extras will make a very nice quilt for the little girl born last month. One of my goals for this week is to sew the top together. With the envelopes ready to use, that simply means sewing them together with sashing (also already cut to size) and then adding borders.

I think Project 365 might have a preponderance of sewing photos this week.

And country shots. If the weather holds, we'll be taking lots of walks. I hear it is supposed to get colder but as long as it doesn't rain, we will be out and about. Looking forward to a wonderful -- and productive -- week!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Week 27, Project 365

I have a lot of photos for Project 365 this week so I'll keep my commentary to a minimum.

I've already written about our adventure last weekend and included some photos with that post, but here are a few more from our trip to Villa de Las Rosas. Upon arrival at the B&B we were impressed with the spacious casas, not small cabaƱas that we had expected. Seriously, this place was almost as big as our house here in Carlos Paz. This is taken from just inside the front door and doesn't really show it all, just the dining area and kitchen. It's a HUGE room. Each house also has two large bedrooms and a really big bath. They did not skimp on space! Our bedroom had a king size bed although a double bed would have sufficed. We were so cold even with every.single.blanket we could find that we huddled as close as possible all night! Y'all know I'm a fan of the dessert and who could resist?! I didn't see this table until we'd finished breakfast the next morning so I was already full but I indulged in one bite of my hubby's piece of chocolate cake. Absolutely decadent! Before heading home we drove around a few of the little towns in the area. San Javier had the cutest little shopping plaza. It was a really old sprawling house they'd converted into tiny shops. Get a look at that old roof. And behind the plaza was this view. Breathtaking! Since we had to wait for the pass over the mountain to re-open after an accident, we went into the town of Mina Clavero. Last Sunday was the mid-term elections here and just about every store in town was closed. We're guessing it's usually a pretty busy place on weekends, but it was like a ghost town that day. Here are a couple of photos as we traveled back over the mountain. It was VERY windy and pretty barren on top.
My fondness for home improvement stores is no secret. Thought y'all might like to see the Argentine equivalent to Lowe's or Home Depot. Just like them, Easy has a garden center too. In my quest for Most Elaborate Fence Ever, I'm always on the lookout for beauties like this one. Love those curves! Our seasons are opposite. It is the dead of winter here. Somebody maybe should tell the flowers that. I thought the porch looked mighty inviting, too :-)

This coming week we'll be in Sta. Rosa to finish the bathroom. I'll have limited internet access as always. But we'll be home by next Sunday so I'll see you here then, if not sooner.

Espero que tengas una buena semana! (I hope that you have a great week!)