Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009

I'm guessing there will be a lot of retrospective posts today in Bloggyville.
Not here.
Not that 2009 was a particularly awful year, but I'm happy to see the back end of it.
Hoping 2010 exceeds my expectations.  
[Which, since I have none, is a good possibility.]
Looking forward isn't something I'm particularly good at any more.
I've lost the optimistic spirit that's inherent in youth.
I'd like it back please.
Because attitude is half the battle.
So an upbeat attitude would be helpful
in the year to come.
It would make slight annoyances seem like
And bigger problems would dissolve into
slight annoyances,
that irritate but don't dibilitate.
Joy could be found in smaller and smaller and smaller things.
Like what I experienced last night looking at rough cut, polished stones in brilliant greens and blues and pinks.
I want a clean house to satisfy my inner neat freak.
And not just think about how hard it is to keep it clean.
It would be nice to savor the food I eat
and not fear it will cause gastrointestinal stress that takes the joy right out of eating.
(just keeping it real here)
Maybe get beyond what I call kindergarten Spanish
and carry on conversations about meaningful things.
Adapt better to the schedule and learn to stay up late without it
completely wiping me out and making me useless the next day.
Have more energy to go beyond the basics
and do more than what's absolutely necessary.
It's been a while since that has happened.
Yes, a little optimism would be helpful.
And appreciated.
Not only by me.
I'm sure it would make my husband happy too.
2009 was a year of simply getting by.
Getting through.
I'd like 2010 to be more.
Please God.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Last Random Dozen of 2009

It's 11:30 p.m. and we're sitting in front of the oscillating fan. We just finished watching a movie and now we're all checking e-mails and blogs and facebook on the computers. Family time! lol  After a full day of cleaning house and doing laundry, I'm tired but happy with what was accomplished. Even if there is already another load of clothes in the hamper and dirty dishes in the sink.

Time for the last Random Dozen of 2009! Seeing as how it's late and I'm kinda tired, I'm just going to go with my first impulse on each question. 

1. Do you find it gross to share drinks with family? Friends? TOTALLY GROSS. I was never one of those moms who finished what her kids didn't eat. YUCK!

2. What have you learned this year? (You didn't see a question of that weight coming, did you? At least not for #2.)  That I do not have the aptitude for language that my initial testing indicated.

3. When do you dismantle the Christmas decorations? Usually around the 6th of January.

4. Something you wish to accomplish before the end of 2009 is: Not a thing.

5. How do you feel about winter (after Christmas)?  Not applicable (since Christmas is in summer here). general, I DO NOT LIKE WINTER. It is COLD in winter. I have a strong aversion to COLD. And COLD IS COLD, whether you're in the northern hemisphere or in the southern hemisphere.

6. Have you participated in after-Christmas sales? In years past, absolutely. They don't have after-Christmas sales here. How sad is that?!

7. Do you have plans for New Year's Eve? Yep. We're going to drive up one of the nearby hillsides to a spot overlooking the city and watch the fireworks at midnight. The city is planning a 20-minute fireworks demonstration; plus there are always clubs in town that have their own fireworks shows. From our vantage point on the hillside we should see most of it.

8. Is there anything special awaiting you in January? A trip to Mendoza in the Andes!

9. If your life this year was a movie, what category or genre would it be? (Romance, Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Suspense, Farcical, etc.) Dramedy.

10. How much time per day do you spend blogging? Please do not lie. I will know.  Define blogging. Is that only the time we spend writing on our own? Or does it include reading other people's? On days when I have time to blog, it generally takes an hour to write a post although I've been known to whip out a short one in 30 minutes or less. Project 365 always takes a few hours due to uploading all the photos on a.really.slow.internet.  Some days I have no time to read any blogs, other days I get to maybe half a dozen to a dozen. It's rare these days to get through my entire blogroll in one day. Can't remember the last time that happened.

11. Who runs your household? It runs me. Absolutely ragged! Living in a dry climate means there's a lot more dust to contend with than I was used to in Michigan.

12. Share one hope/dream for 2010. That I'd be able to communicate with adolescents in Spanish. Trust me, they're the hardest to talk to -- between the slang, the mumbling (teens are teens the world over) and the sheer laziness with language (dropped word endings are the norm rather than the exception), I find it IMPOSSIBLE to understand a word they're saying. I had a major meltdown not too long ago, at which point my husband admitted he has a hard time understanding them too -- and he's completely bilingual, having grown up here. That made me feel a little better but it would be great to be able to carry on a conversation with the boys who play soccer and hang out at Centro Esperanza every week.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winning may not be everything, but it sure is sweet!

As I stumbled out of bed this morning I performed my daily ritual...which is to sit down and check e-mail before doing anything else. Before combing my hair (or in this case, wetting the whole thing down since it's sticking out in all directions), before ingesting caffeine (or mate, the traditional Argentine herb tea), and even before looking outside to see if the sun is shining.

[For those who are organized and do things in proper order, please don't judge me. I'm a midlife menopausal crazy woman living 6,000 miles from her entire family except husband (and currently daughter who is visiting) and that internet link to my dear ones is a life line of epic proportions.]

Anyhoo...because I now get blog comments delivered right to my e-mail, I was bemused, confused and amused to read Skoots congratulating me on winning. Winning what?! My tired, caffeine deprived brain was moving in especially slow motion this morning and it took a good 3-4 minutes of pondering before it finally dawned on me...

Sara's Project 365 drawing!

Could it be? Oh, could it be? I wondered??????

I clicked on keys and ended up...oops, no wait, I didn't want to go there. A few keys later and I'm finally at Sara's blog -- and sure enough, I've won the $20 gift certificate to Blurb!!! WOOT!


And so ready. You will not believe it...well, maybe you will since most visitors to my blog have realized I'm a little *ahem* anal at times... but I spent a couple hours last night transferring ALL my 365 posts from 2009 over to a new "home". I created a new blog specifically for Project 365 - The 2009 Edition. I even made a cute little button to put in my sidebar so it's just a click away.

How's that for organized? lol

I honestly wasn't expecting to win the drawing (have never been good at winning things) but I'd decided a while back to create that secondary blog so that I could have all those posts together. It certainly will make it easier to create the Blurb book!

The goodness doesn't end there.

Yesterday when Ivan got back from running errands he handed me a package. A package which I saw in a glance was from Dana! Dana from Bug's Eye View! Dana who was sending me pecans! I was worse than any kid at Christmas, ripping open that package in about three seconds :-) Inside were TWO bags of pecans, fresh from her daddy's trees. WOOT! Thanks so much Dana!

My SIL sent a bag with my daughter and now with these two bags, I am going to be in Pecan Pie Heaven! I don't know whether to start with a regular pecan pie or a chocolate pecan pie.  Hmmmm, such a problem to have :-)

Over the past week I've also been enjoying the goodies my sister sent with our daughter. She packed Christmas stockings full of fun things. The bath pillow is a favorite since taking bubble baths is my preferred way of relaxing (along with a good book and a chunk of chocolate). Of course I can't use it at home, having no bathtub, but I can use it (and did!) in Sta. Rosa. I'm also taking it anywhere else we might travel, with the optimistic hope that someone, somewhere might have a tub. IT COULD HAPPEN. I've poured over the quilt magazine more than once -- I think I'm on round three right now. Each time through I find something new. And the gel eye-mask is wonderful; I can pop it in the fridge for a bit and enjoy a cooling treatment, or soak in warm water and allow the heat to sooth tired eyes.

Plus my daughter is here. Don't need to say much about that, do I? :-)  Even when we're on our computers and not saying much, it's just so good to be in the same room!

As I sit here this morning, Christmas lights atwinkle, I'm so thankful for God's blessings. The blessing of family. The blessing of friends, both old and new. About my new friends -- whodathunk the internet would take us in this direction of community? It, too, has been a life line of epic proportions.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New blog look even though our Christmas decorations are still up

I enjoy Christmas decorations! First thing I did when we got home yesterday was turn on the tree lights. It had been kinda weird having Christmas without a Christmas tree but even I'm not anal enough to take down the tree, haul it to Sta. Rosa, set it up for a couple days, take it down and haul it home. I figured it was enough to enjoy it the week before Sta. Rosa and the week after. We typically leave the tree up until January 6th.

But a lot of you in Bloggyland must be take-down-the-tree-the-day-after-Christmas people. After seeing how folks are already moving from Christmas to "winter" themed backgrounds on their blogs, thought I'd look for something "summery" for my own. Tina cleaned up my desktop (computer, not actual desk) the other day and made one of our photos from last Wednesday my background. I really, really like this picture so decided to use it in my banner too. And I found this very complementary background over at Simply Blog It Backgrounds; it reminds me of the river near the house in Sta. Rosa.

I also started laundry IMMEDIATELY upon arriving home yesterday afternoon. Three loads by nightfall. First load of the day is in the washer this morning, with five more piles waiting. A couple of those are rather large and will probably have to be split. Good thing I enjoy doing laundry!

Brainstormed menu ideas for the week and will head to the store shortly to stock up. I do so much better when I have a plan and a list. With herbs and spices on hand that my SIL sent, I'm ready to fix some things we haven't had in a very long time.

[By the way, if you've never seen a luxury port-a-potty, stop by Sharon's blog. What a hoot!]

I'm looking forward to getting caught up on paperwork this week. NOT.

But it has to be done. Have to get that final expense report turned in ASAP so they can do our taxes. Why do taxes have to come on the heels of Christmas? Who thought up that brilliant idea?

As we come to the end of our first full year in Argentina, I'm wondering how to evaluate our time so far. Did we accomplish anything? What do we need to do more of? less of? differently? Is our focus where it should be? What is needful and what is expedient?

The dreaded and despised paperwork is part and parcel of this life we've chosen. Maybe my New Year's resolution should be to have a better attitude about it?

Not likely.

Do you make New Year's resolutions? Have you ever actually resolved anything? Does FAILING have to be part and parcel of any commitment we make on the first day of each year? I'm not trying to be sarcastic or funny; I really want to know. Has anyone ever kept/succeeded with a New Year's resolution?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Week 52, Project 365 -- THE FINAL WEEK

We MADE it! To the VERY end! We ROCK.

I don't think anyone is more surprised than we are that we stuck with it the whole year; I've seen that sentiment over and over in recent Project 365 posts. But we DID. Big shout out to US!

I'm doing something a little different this week since we're in Sta. Rosa where internet service is always an iffy proposition. Instead of waiting until Saturday to upload photos, I'm starting Wednesday, and will upload daily the rest of the week, with an auto post of Sunday morning. So if you show up on Sunday and there are only 4-5 photos, you'll know I had an internet FAIL at the end. But at least I'll have gotten some photos up :-)

I've shared our water woes over the months and thought I'd leave one final photo of the field-formerly-known-as-a-lake. As you can see, the rain we've received has nourished the weeds growing in the lake bed but no water has made its appearance in this section yet. Farther down the lake is slowly creeping back up. But slowly is the key word. Doesn't look like it will get back to "normal" this year.

When we got to the Centro Sunday afternoon we found this.

Some kids put a large firecracker in the mailbox. End of mailbox.

No clue what all the police were doing on Monday in town. We asked around and one shop keeper thought it was an introductory parade of all the new recruits. We hope this was for the whole Punilla Valley and not just Carlos Paz because this seems excessive! There were police lined up as far as we could see in both directions.

Tuesday on our way to Sta. Rosa we suddenly encountered this horse in the middle of the road before it veered off to the side!

Ivan turned around and tried to corral it into a side dirt road and off the main highway since we certainly didn't want to see the poor animal hit by a car (and cars zoom along that stretch) but it eluded us. Our Fiat Uno is never too awfully fast, but especially not when we're hauling the trailer as we were that day.

So we turned back around again, thinking we'd surely find somebody to tell about the runaway horse, although that stretch is very sparsely populated. We did come across a man sitting by the road but he responded that it ran past him too. Obviously the horse had been making tracks for some distance! A few more kilometers and we came across some workmen who gave us the number to call the police, so that's what we did. Hopefully someone rescued it, or it jumped back over the fence before any kind of close encounter with an auto.

On our Belgrano run later in the day we saw this adorable CHOCOLATE NATIVITY in one store. This would NOT be a good idea for my house! Animals would mysteriously disappear, Joseph would slip away in the night leaving Mary alone, and soon Baby Jesus wouldn't have even a manger to lay his head upon.

Just sayin'.

A trip to La Cumbrecita on Wednesday took us literally into the clouds. What a weird experience! We arrived, pulling off the main road and descending down a long and winding cobblestone road until we reached the parking area below the town. Walking into town we passed quaint little Swiss Alpine type buildings and picked one of the first restaurants for lunch. While sitting there, the misty and foggy-like cloud descended so we couldn't see very far in the distance. It was as if moisture was just suspended in the air. It wasn't raining but you could feel a mist on your face and arms.  Here's a photo we took as we left, looking back on the town after we'd driven out to the main road.

It was so scenic we pulled over and Ivan and Tina had fun taking photos on the edge of a large rock. The dizzy feeling that heights induce left me in the car, happy to view things from a distance.

One of the odder things we came across in town (besides the excessive appearance of dwarfs and mushrooms, that is) was this huge boulder that seriously looked like a face. 

What a difference temperature-wise between the top of the mountain where we were enveloped by the cool, misty cloud and the valley where it was so hot it shimmered. Very glad for the cooling rain in the evening and overnight, although it was still a LOT hotter than the mountain top.

Santa Rosa hasn't changed a lot over the years. That's part of its charm. But there are a few new businesses, including this café that will be part of a larger complex. The rest of it is still under construction. This is located right on the main street which has always been crowded with little shops but, for the life of me, I cannot remember what used to be there.

Christmas Day we decided to take a walk about noon and Tina took this shot of Ivan holding up a long piece of bark from a eucalyptus tree. Did you know they shed their bark like this?

Saturday, in the course of working on the house and in the garage Ivan noticed worm excrement on the sidewalk at the back of the house. Yes, seriously! The evidence clearly indicated the grape vines were suffering an infestation of nasty worms. It's really hard to find them because they blend in so well with the leaves. They're about 3 or so inches long.

Fat little buggers, aren't they?

So concludes my final installment of Project 365 for the year 2009!!! Yay me :-)  And Yay for all the others who stuck with it!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The best stuffing ever...

That's what we had yesterday. I tried Pioneer Woman's stuffing and IT WAS FABULOUS! I halved the recipe since there are only three of us and because we didn't have a turkey in which to stuff it, I used a cast iron skillet. I really think the cast iron skillet is key to making this the best out-of-bird stuffing EVER.

I sauteed the onions and celery in the skillet first, then after mixing all the ingredients in a big bowl, I put it into the skillet which was still a bit buttery and baked it in a hot oven for 1/2 hour.  (Yes, I turned the oven on because it wasn't that hot yesterday; only in the 80s.)

It was a late night supper rather than mid-day meal since right about noon we received the message that our dear friend, Juan Colle, had passed away on Thursday. They do not embalm here (and Juan was being cremated anyway) so they have the funeral the very next day. Even if it's Christmas.

Since we're in Sta. Rosa, and it takes a good two hours to get back to Cordoba where the funeral was being held, Ivan had just enough time to change clothes and go. He was actually too late for the funeral, but managed (with the help of a friend) to catch up with the automobile procession to the "graveside" service [what DO you call that when there's no burial?].

We imagine Juan having a wonderful Christmas with Christ! But do remember his family in prayer, please. Even though this has been coming for some time, that doesn't make it any easier.


We've discovered that sitting on the front porch affords better internet connection. Now if we could only get the bugs to "bug off". But it means -- hopefully -- that I shouldn't have too much trouble adding the last of the photos for tomorrow's final, end-of-the-year Project 365 post. See you back here then.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Week 51, Project 365

Some of the photos I'm sharing this week were taken by MY DAUGHTER [insert gleeful smile] whose flight arrived right on time -- 3:25 a.m. Thursday morning. No sleep for the weary that night but totally worth it! We've enjoyed showing her bits of our city and introducing her to friends. This coming week we're looking forward to some R&R in Sta. Rosa.

The last time Tina was in Argentina she was ten years old and we spent most of that month-long visit at the house in Sta. Rosa with Ivan's folks. The town was smaller then (population of 7,000 then and it's almost twice that now). We didn't do a lot of sight-seeing at the time; our focus was on seeing people, not places. This time we plan to visit Cumbrecita (a little German village way up in the mountains) and hang out in Belgrano (of course, since we have to take her to Tio Rico's!). So for the final Project 365 next Sunday I'll probably have lots of "touristy" photos.

But this week the photos are closer to home. Starting with this one of the neighbor's garbage. The garbage isn't why I took it; look closer and you'll see the wild parrots tearing into it. Those pesky varmints love to strew garbage everywhere.

Tuesday I shared a whole boat load of photos for Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes so this is a repeat. It shows a bit of the tree, the quiltie I received in the Four Seasons Holiday Quilt Swap and one of the doo-jobbies I made to hang on either side of the arched doorway.

Our co-workers bought a "new" used dryer and gave us their old one which had quit working. Ivan discovered why when he took it all apart: there had been a fire at some point and wires had melted together.

That pile of debris in front represents the fuzz and gunk he cleaned out. Happy to say that within a couple days he had fabricated missing parts, re-wired the whole thing and now it works! I still like hanging things on the line to dry, but we'll do some clothes in the dryer to avoid having to iron them (I'd rather clean toilets than iron clothes).

Thursday after lunch we took Tina to our favorite ice cream shop. We enjoyed the refreshing fruit sherberts -- grapefruit, lemon and green apple. SOOOOO good!

On the way home we noticed this hydrangea -- have you ever seen the different colors mixed like that?

I thought the flower color was dependent on the mineral content of the soil, but how can the same soil produce such a variety of color? Any gardeners care to share the answer? Inquiring minds want to know!

Tina brought the part Ivan needed to fix my computer. The company that sold us the part has a very nice 23-page how-to manual with over 60 steps (photos included) on exactly how to do the repair.

I'm very, Very, VERY happy to have my Mac back!!!

I've enjoyed feeding my daughter :-) For one meal I used tomatoes and basil from our garden, along with mozzarella for a yummy Caprese salad.

Saturday evening Tina and I went with Nestor and Graciela to another friend's house for what we thought would be just basic sushi instruction, but turned out to be an international potluck.

The friend, Regina, teaches German at a local language school where you can also learn French, English, Portuguese, Italian or Spanish (for foreigners). This was a get-together for the teachers, students and their families and we were fortunate to be invited as well. Besides the sushi instruction there was French ratatouille, Italian bagna cauda, and I'm not even sure what else. There was so much food and so many people I couldn't try everything.

Obviously it was A VERY GOOD WEEK. Trusting that the next one will be just as good, as we enjoy a quiet Christmas in Sta. Rosa. May your Christmas be a joyful time filled with worshiping the One whose birth started it all!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Have yourself a merry little Christmas...cold

I'm a little late to the Christmas party, but finally got around to looking for a new holiday background for the blog this morning. Since it's not cold or snowing here, that eliminated some options. I like this one because I think it says Christmas without screaming 'COLD', don't you? Because cold is not in our vocabulary right now when it comes to the weather. It is HOT, HOT, HOT and -- unusual for here -- MUGGY. Normally this is a very dry area so the humidity is flat wearing me out.

To say nothing of what it's doing to my hair. Which I had cut the other day. Cut very, very short. So now I'm sporting that old stick-your-finger-in-a-socket look which the humidity only exacerbates.

I'm also sporting my first head cold of the summer, courtesy of the husband who went down with it last weekend. And the daughter isn't faring any better since her arrival. We're a hacking, coughing, sneezing, sniffling mess of humanity here at the Hoyt house. [And yes, I mean mess, not mass, because being sick is MESSY!]

If we can't have cold weather, we'll just have cold symptoms. 

Merry Christmas and pass the Puffs, please.

My dear, sweet husband fixed my Macbook yesterday!!! Aided by his able-bodied assistant, the daughter. (Who also transported the necessary part in her luggage.) It took a 23-page instruction manual with over 60 steps and about two hours of their labor. BEST Christmas present ever!

The computer wasn't the only thing getting fixed this week. The car has been in the shop THREE TIMES. First it was to repair the body damage from when a young guy in an SUV backed/slammed into our parked Fiat Uno. Next time was to have the carburetor rebuilt -- yay! no more sicky gas smell. And finally, last night as we drove toward downtown the brakes started failing. Ivan dropped us off to walk the rest of the way and drove directly to the shop. Thankfully the guy was able to rebuild the brake master cylinder right on the spot and get us back on the road lickity-split. Hopefully that's it for auto repairs for a while.

Now if we can just "fix" these head colds, we'll be in fine shape.

*hack, hack*   *cough, cough*    *sneeze, sneeze*   *sniffle, sniffle*

Friday, December 18, 2009

A great beginning to her visit...

Thanks so much to all who prayed for my daughter as she traveled down. God was definitely in the details for that trip! No delay leaving Chicago so she easily made the connecting flight in Orlando, and she stepped off one flight in Panama City just in time to catch last call for the next plane to Cordoba. Whew! Her final flight landed on time but we "cooled our heels" for an hour before we saw her coming through the doors. She'd been standing in her first looooooong line in Argentina :-) Having been in the next to last row of the plane, she was near the end of the line to go through customs, too.

Once home, she started unpacking while I made breakfast. Poor kid has been living on cereal and t.v. dinners for weeks so it was a joy yesterday to feed her some of her favorite foods :-) Bacon, scrambled cheesy eggs and croissants for breakfast. Fresh meat-filled ravioli with a homemade sauce and salad that included tomatoes from our garden for lunch. And a late night supper of homemade chicken noodle soup using the leftover ravioli.

She piled all the stuff she brought for us onto the couch -- it was like Christmas! :-)  Seriously, I haven't even had time to go through everything yet. Fun, fun, fun! Thanks to my SIL Sharon who shopped for things I needed/wanted -- like fabric and beads for quilting, spices for cooking. To friend Katie for supplying all our Shaklee needs (the Immunity 1, Defend & Resist came just in time -- we both have colds). And to my sister who sent three filled Christmas stockings -- we won't peek before Christmas, promise! Our son sent the doohickey we need to turn a computer monitor into a t.v., and the daughter also brought things we'd ordered online and had sent to her. Yes, she still had room for her own stuff. Good thing she came in summer though! If it had been winter and she'd had to bring heavier clothes, not sure there would have been space for our stuff.

I'm still dragging a little this morning after a solid 6-1/2 hours sleep but that's after going 40+ hours without any before that. Am hoping an afternoon siesta later will not be interrupted by neighborhood kids who enjoy playing ring-the-gate-buzzer-and-run, which is what happened yesterday. Ugh.

Have a few activities planned over the weekend but still allowing time to rest and relax. Then either Monday evening or Tuesday morning we'll head to Sta. Rosa for the remainder of Christmas week. I'll probably just go ahead and take a bloggy break during that time, except for the final Project 365 post. Our internet connection there is so spotty and it's more aggravation than it's worth to try and use most of the time. I doubt I'll be the only one taking a break over the holidays.

I can't begin to put into words how wonderful it is to have our daughter here! [The only thing that could make it better would be to have our son and DIL here too. Hopefully they'll be able to visit next year.] Last night it was so much fun to pile onto the couch and watch a movie together, tired but happy to be together. Looking forward to showing her our town -- and a few other parts of Argentina too -- as well as more snuggly couch time. And lots more of her favorite foods.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My "Bubs" turns 28 today

In the south we have a tradition of assigning nicknames to children. Maybe because we're trying to make up for giving our kids such long names. Names that are often said together like one word instead of the two that they really BarbaraJean or BillyKeith. And some southern families carry traditions a little far and ascribe multiple "family" names to the poor tykes. Then we just call 'em Sissy or Bobo or, in the case of my son, Bubs. I'm the only one who calls him this; he goes by Jon with everyone else. But then we lived in the north for most of his growing up years, so what do you expect? Bubs is 28 today. TWENTY-EIGHT! Where have the years gone? I swear it was just yesterday we drove to the hospital in the first blizzard of the season to deliver our little bundle of joy. I love telling the story but included it here last year so I won't repeat myself. Suffice it to say, the big moments in your life are marked indelibly on your mind and in your heart and I'll never forgot the experience.

Unless (or until?) I go senile.

Although our son is the spitting image of his father -- the face recognition program for archiving photos gets them mixed up -- he's probably more like me in temperament. We also enjoy the same kind of books, t.v. shows and movies but he's definitely got his dad's bent toward engineering and fixing things. A nice jumble of the two of us.

However, he is most certainly his own person! And it has been a joy to see him become the man he is today... the husband, brother, son, friend, co-worker...and child of God.

Twenty-eight years have gone by in a flash. I pray the next 28 will be filled with as much fun, joy and passion for life that have marked the first 28.

There's a boatload of love coming your way, Bubs, on this 17th of December.
  ¡Feliz Cumpleaños! 

Thanks for everyone who prayed as my daughter traveled! She arrived safe and sound and the plane was even on schedule :-)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Christmasy Random Dozen

1. Gingerbread: For or against? Discuss. Most definitely FOR. Only a Scrooge could be against gingerbread. Especially in the form of houses or other buildings with lots of frosting and candy included.

2. Is it important to you to always stay (live) close to family? Obviously not. I miss my family a LOT but it's more important to live where God wants us. (That sounded all self-righteousy and I didn't mean it that way at all.)

3. Which holiday pretend character do you wish really existed? Rudolf. Or maybe Frostie. No, Charlie Brown. Jeesh, this question is harder than I thought.

4. Which holiday movie best represents how you feel about Christmas or life? The Homecoming. It portrayed how circumstances do not need to dictate attitude, especially at Christmas. Besides, that movie made me want to be a Walton. Or marry one -- I'm sure I'm not the only middle-aged woman who used to have a crush on John Boy.

5. Is there a particular Christmas song that you're enjoying now? Any that you're tired of? I cannot believe I'm writing this, but I actually miss not hearing "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer". Way overplayed in the U.S. but haven't heard it a single time this year. Am currently enjoying the CD by Kim Robertson, Celtic Christmas II. Fits my mellow mood today.

6. What is your favorite way to remember those less fortunate at Christmastime? Always enjoyed participating in both the Christmas Shoebox project run by Samaritan's Purse as well as Angel Tree. Haven't heard of any type of program we might get involved with here yet, and not sure what is acceptable culturally.

7. Does it upset you to see "Xmas" instead of Christmas? How about "Happy Holidays" etc., instead of "Merry Christmas?" It seems the brouhaha over what we call Christmas sometimes overshadows what we should be communicating about the day. Same goes with the debate over nativity displays on public property. Getting all angry and defensive does not serve the cause of Christ in my opinion. I think our hearts are in the right place, I'm just not sure about the rhetoric.

8. How many Christmas programs are you attending this month? None. Had hoped to see The Nutcracker Ballet but it's not happening in our province this year. Maybe next!

9. Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Any chance of that dream becoming a reality? Would love a white Christmas -- although that's the ONLY day I'd like it to snow :-) Definitely NOT happening here in the southern hemisphere where the average daily temperature hovers in the high 80s, low 90s.

10. Tell me about a Christmas present you received as a child. Pics are always nice. The Imagination doll house with each transparent room a different color, and outfitted with modern style furniture.

My sister and I enjoyed hours of entertainment with this doll house!

11. How many Christmas parties are you attending this month? They don't have Christmas parties like we're used to in the U.S. -- with lots of decorations and festive foods -- but there are informal get-togethers with friends for choripan or pizza. 

12. How do you keep yourself centered on the significance of Christmas? In years past we rarely opened gifts on Christmas but instead waited until January 6th, Dia de Los Reyes Magos (although we'd let the kids open one gift on Christmas Eve). On Christmas day we'd bake a birthday cake for Jesus and read the Christmas story in Luke 2. Probably won't bake a birthday cake since I have no desire to turn the oven on in this weather, but we'll definitely be reading the Christmas story in Luke 2.


On a totally separate daughter is traveling today and tomorrow so would appreciate your prayers for no delays, smooth connections and safe travel. Thanks! I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO SEE HER! If all goes as planned, we'll be picking her up at the airport at 3:25 tomorrow morning. Woot!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Tour of Homes - December 14, 2009

...and I'm only a day late! Considering there are almost 1,000 linked up to The Nester's Christmas Tour, not sure I'll get any visitors from that but I still wanted to share with my faithful friends and family who visit :-)

I spent all day Monday cleaning and then two friends helped me decorate the tree that Ivan set up around 6 p.m. Maybe a new holiday tradition has been born?

Late last night I cruised a few of the blogs on Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes, picking up ideas. This morning I gathered my supplies and went to work. I'll need to do a little shopping (more Christmas ball ornaments and some Christmas candy) but we're going for the clean, spare look this year.  Also known as the we're-cheap-and-don't-want-to-spend-very-much-money look.

From the front gate you can see the little doo-jobby I made to hang in the front window. Saw these on several blogs and loved their simplicity.

After I unlock the front door and the gate to let you in (folks are more security-minded here than where we lived in the U.S., when we seldom locked any doors at all) you'll step into the room we use mostly as a dining room:

To the right you'll see our co-worker's keyboard that we're babysitting while they're on vacation.

And to the left is my Christmas tree wall quilt. Yes, it is rather wonky. That's an early project before I knew about squaring up a quilt. I like to think it's an endearing quality rather than a fault :-)

On the long narrow bench underneath I have two hand crafted baskets and banana leaf bowl from Uganda (where we spent a year working with orphans). Here's a close-up of one of the baskets (imagine that it's filled with Christmas candy since that's what I plan to put in it):

Oh my goodness, where are my manners? I forgot to offer refreshments! How about what we had last night while decorating the tree? Tiny ham and cheese rolls, deviled eggs, fruit pizza, chocolate no bake cookies and a beverage our family always called "the mixed drink" because we're all original like that...anyway, it's a mixture of orange juice and grapefruit soda -- quite refreshing on a hot summer night!
Under the tree are two cherished Christmas decorations: a tree skirt made by Joyce and the lighted Christmas "gift" crafted by Pat, both dear friends from Michigan.

I have many special ornaments, most of them homemade. Like this adorable Wise Man that my friend Betty gave me many years ago.

The little bell was hand-painted by SIL Sharon and Aunt Gladys made the beaded ornament. Sorry to say I cannot remember who made the other ones in this photo. From 1984-1988 we lived in Florida and our church had a homemade ornament exchange every year. I should have recorded who-made-what but I didn't. [Let that be a lesson to you, ladies! Keep track of these things because you WILL forget!]

Tucked on the wall behind the tree is the cute little quiltie I received in the Four Seasons Holiday Quilt Swap. I SOOOOO adore this little snowman!  You can also see one of the other doo-jobbies I made to hang on each side of the arched doorway.

They were a great use of Christmas balls and ribbon, which is almost all that I have. One thing you need to understand is that when we moved overseas, I SERIOUSLY downsized, going from 7-8 large Rubbermaid bins of Christmas stuff down to two. TWO, people. Basically just the ornaments, a tree skirt, wall quilt, lots of clearance ribbon and a couple table runners.

Okay, now stepping back a bit, you can see another use of ribbon in the doorway to the kitchen.

Moving into the living room, first up is the wicker chest that currently serves as a coffee table, and on top there's another basket from Uganda, this one filled with the remaining red Christmas balls (I'll add more after a trip to the store). The angel table runner was a gift from my friend Jennie. [Are you getting the idea that pretty much all of my Christmas things have a special person or memory attached to them?]

Our bookshelves are crammed with books but the red ribbon dresses it up a bit. All the items displayed on top are from Uganda except the tree (note that the tree "top" is basically a map of the world), which we bought here in Argentina.

And that's it. Without even trying, I did a pretty good job keeping the ever present fans out of the pictures. Here in the southern hemisphere it's summer and we have fans in every room. Although today the sky is overcast, feels like rain's on the way so it's much cooler than normal: a balmy 72 degrees. (We still have the fans on though.) Our one outside activity was re-scheduled and I'm feeling all holiday-ish so I think I'll pop some corn, pour a glass of apple juice and kick back to enjoy the lights, decorations and music (hmmmm, maybe Kim Robertson's Celtic Christmas II).

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Week 50, Project 365

Does everyone else feel like December is just flying by? The only reason I'm convinced it's not still November is because MY DAUGHTER ARRIVES IN FOUR DAYS -- so it must be December :-)  Plus there's the fact that we are on Week #50 of Project 365.

Last Sunday we attended a fiesta for a quinceañera. First up is the "grand entrance" -- as she arrived, we lined up to create a path with men on one side and women on the other, quite a few holding flowers to form an arched entry.

At one point in the fiesta there was a little ceremony when she lit these candles, mentioning different people who have played a part in her life.

It was a fun and meaningful evening and we enjoyed experiencing this important part of Latin American culture.

My art class had an exhibit this past week and we stopped by Monday to take photos. I'm standing next to my flower painting. Had not planned on putting anything in but my teacher insisted and now I'm glad she did; pretty sure it will be my one and only exhibit :-)

Our front yard is full of blooms. I'd love to share the smell from this small patch of ground. As we arrived home from a get-together tonight (or rather, this morning) the honeysuckle, oleander and roses were sweetly scenting the night air. There's no way I can get all the flowers in a single photo, but quite a few are included in this one I snapped the other day: red roses, geraniums, agapanthus, and a few blossoms on the oleander tree. Not quite so noticeable is the honeysuckle in the upper right corner.

Missing in this picture are my hydrangeas, yellow roses, a climbing vine of some sort with white flowers, and some little purple flowers whose name I cannot remember. Hoping the morning glories come back too but they got trimmed way, way back so we'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday we had to go into Cordoba and ended up eating lunch here!

Yes, there's a Subway in Cordoba! Actually we've heard rumors that there are several but this is the only one we've seen. Thoroughly enjoyed a Vegetarian Delight on parmesan with Caesar dressing. Yum!

You know how some weeks you just seem to be perpetually behind? That describes this past week perfectly. So I didn't make it to the big peña this year since I had some cooking and cleaning to do Thursday night in preparation for our traditional annual brunch with co-workers. But Ivan went and shot a number of video clips. This isn't the greatest quality (he was some distance away and we don't have a tripod) but it's short and these little guys are just TOO CUTE so I had to share it.

Friday I took (and posted) a photo of the adorable quiltie received in the Four Seasons Holiday Swap, but I thought I'd post it again because it was one of the highlights of my week!

Our neighbor asked Ivan if he could build her a rustic wall shelf and this is what he created.

It's about three feet tall and all the limbs are from trees in our yard; the back of the shelf is from an avocado tree in the back yard and the branches in front are from a tree that used to border the sidewalk. It was dead before we moved in and when Ivan was looking around for another source of  "rustic" he decided it was a good time to cut it down and put it to good use. I think he totally succeeded!

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Quiltie Arrived!

Wednesday my quilt in the Four Seasons quilt swap arrived! Amazingly enough, the box came through customs without any problems and actually took less time to get here than regular letters normally do. Just in time to decorate for the holidays :-)

Without further ado, here it is:

ISN'T IT ADORABLE?! I love how the "O" in JOY forms the bottom of the snowman, and the sparkly snowflakes add just the right touch. ¡Me encanta! Also in the package were two fat quarters and some handy dandy quilting tools. I've already used the pins. Thanks so much, Sherry!

I meant to post about it yesterday but Thursday blew past without any computer time except to check e-mails. A lot going on yesterday. One of the things was a trip downtown and I think I've FINALLY found new eyeglass frames. But don't hold your breath because I haven't actually ordered them yet and might change my mind again. I thought briefly about posting a photo but decided to wait until it's a done deal.

Also did some cursory house cleaning and prep work for today's brunch with our co-workers. It's becoming a tradition -- since we've done a holiday brunch both years we've been here :-)  This year I tried a new recipe found on Pioneer Woman's blog, but changed it slightly since I didn't think the kids were overly fond of spinach (I used green and red peppers instead to add a festive touch to the dish).

I guess I can't really call it Eggs Florentine since I omitted the spinach. How about Eggs Extraordinaire Casserole? The recipe is definitely a keeper. I didn't think to get a photo before we scarfed all the food. I made two casseroles: one 9x13 with mushrooms and an 8x8 without. This is all that's left...

There was also honeydew melon, strawberries, homemade banana bread and sliced fresh tomatoes (from our garden!) and several pots of fresh coffee and hot milk to make café con leche, the beverage of choice in our crowd.

Planning to do some sewing this weekend, making a few Christmas gifts. Also some baking ahead of the Christmas party for our English conversation group on Monday evening. I tried to think/plan/organize and do the necessary grocery shopping last night since our car is in the body shop for a few days to repair the damage when the SUV backed into us. Meanwhile we'll be walking or taking taxis.

Once the party is behind me, I'll have time to concentrate on cleaning house and preparing for THE ARRIVAL OF OUR DAUGHTER ON THURSDAY. Her flight lands in Cordoba at 3:45 a.m. (yes, A.M.) and we expect her to be plenty tired after a crazy semester -- and especially an insanely busy last week (final papers, projects, exams, addition to work). So we'll just be chillin' out for a week or so, letting her rest up.

Would appreciate your prayers as she travels Wednesday and Thursday. Especially for smooth connections, considering her layovers are very short. I'm most concerned that her flight out of Chicago leave on time, or she'll miss the connecting flight in Orlando. I guess they'd just put her on a later flight but that would mean she'd be sitting in airports a loooooooong time. I know on our last trip down we had 8 hour layovers in both Miami and Buenos Aires, and our total travel time was something like 34 hours. UGH. I'm praying she doesn't have to go through anything like that.

I plan to decorate this weekend too. Not that we have much to do. I downsized when we moved and we have a tree and some ornaments and that's about it. Had planned on doing a big Christmas garland this year with dried hydrangeas, eucalyptus and such but didn't get my act together and dry the hydrangeas or collect enough eucalyptus (or anything else) so...maybe next year. The Christmas quilt I've been working on won't be finished either. Such is life.

As my husband is fond of saying, "It is what it is."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Random Dozen Week #15

Lid was a little concerned she might be repeating questions but they all sure look new to me. Then again, my memory isn't so great any more. Ivan and I just spent 20 minutes trying to remember what we did yesterday. UGH. It's like somebody flipped a switch when we turned 50 and turned off half our brains. Pretty soon I'll be answering these Random Dozen questions like Ollie North during the Iran-Contra hearings, "I have no recollection."

[Hey, do I get extra points for remembering who Ollie North is?]

Anyway... it's late, I'm tired and my brain is fried from doing paperwork all day (with only half a brain), so this post will be short and sweet. 

1. Which physical trait do you now accept--maybe not love, but accept--and no longer feel extremely self-conscious about? Large ears. Not sure if I finally grew into them or it's just that I simply don't care any more, but the "new" (meaning within the past quarter) haircut is super short and exposes my ears in all their elephantine glory.

2. This week Meredith Baxter Birney, best known as the mom on the favorite 80s sitcom "Family Ties" came out of the closet, which led me to formulate this question: Who do you think is/was the best TV mom? Ann Romano on One Day at a Time, which mirrored my own household with a divorced mom and two daughters; although unlike real life I wanted to be the younger sister played by Valerie Bertinelli who was too cute for words. I thought Bonnie Franklin did a great job portraying a single mom juggling work, home and parenting teens.

3. Do you speak any foreign languages? Are there any you'd like to learn? I'd really like to learn Spanish.Oh, wait... I AM learning Spanish. Just so very, very slowly it almost seems like I'm not.

4. Who is your personal hero? My husband. Sometime I'll have to write a post explaining why. This just isn't the place or time to go into all the whys and wherefores of the answer to this question. This question which appears simple on the surface BUT TOTALLY IS NOT. Sneaky Lid, very sneaky.

5. What is one holiday food that you find extremely difficult to resist over- indulging in? Dessert in all its wondrous forms: cookies, cake, pie, cheesecake... Whatever is for dessert, I'm sure to over-indulge.

6. Tell me about a Christmas decoration that has special meaning or sentimental value. Can I cite my entire collection of ornaments? Both homemade and store-bought have such special memories attached to them. Like the little cross-stitch goose wearing a big Christmas bow and the year 1986 embroidered along the bottom made by a sweet lady named Jan, or the crystal snowman my son and his wife gave me, or the three wise men hand sewn with such care and detail sent by my friend Betty one year... When we moved overseas I got rid of 90% of our Christmas "stuff" but I kept my most prized ornaments. And have since added two pear ornaments we bought last year since it's the first time in 28 years that it's been just the two of us -- we're simply a pair again. . 

7. How do you feel about snow? It's pretty in pictures. Not missing the snow AT ALL, or the cold or the ice or the bitterly cold wind. Nope, not one single bit. After 20 years in the frozen north (a.k.a. Michigan) I'm enjoying life in a temperate climate!

8. On average, how many hours of sleep do you get each night? Not that I'm jealous of any number over three or anything. Six to seven on a really good night. Which unfortunately isn't that often. Menopausal insomnia means many, many nights I have trouble getting to sleep and/or staying asleep. Hanging on to the truth that "this too shall pass" and one day I may once again sleep the night through. I seriously got more sleep than this when my kids were babies. UGH.

9. Tell me about your first crush. His name was Larry and he had red hair. I think it was 6th grade and the crush ended abruptly when he embarrassed me to death by serenading me during music class. At that time in my life, I was SUPER shy, blushing when anyone spoke to me -- man, woman, girl, boy...didn't matter, I blushed. So you can imagine my mortification when the entire class looked at me as Larry sang some silly ballad while on one knee. I think I remained beet red for three days.

10. You're stuck in a room for 2 hours with only a chalkboard and chalk. What will you write/draw? Sketch an idea for a new art quilt, also making notes about what kind and color of fabrics I'd like to use, any three-dimensional objects that could be added for special effect, and different quilting designs that might best enhance it. OR maybe just a comprehensive monthly to-do list. Depends on which side of my brain is turned on at the time: creative right side or analytical left.

11. Do you dress for the current temp or for the day's forecast? Forecast. I've learned the hard way that how the day starts out isn't necessarily how it will be all day.

12. Favorite Christmas movie is? Die Hard. Hey, they had Santa hats, Christmas trees, a rip-roaring Christmas office party AND guns and mayhem to make the season bright. 
Okay, get serious, right? 

The truth is, I seriously adore Miracle on 34th Street, the 1947 version

It will be very interesting to see what others have to say with this week's Random Dozen. Especially regarding questions #4 and #10. Those at-first-glance innocuous questions which are really deep, probing investigations into your philosophy of life, into your very psyche.

Or maybe it's just late, I'm tired and my brain is fried from doing paperwork all day (with half a brain) so what might seem really profound at this moment could totally be an innocent and innocuous question meant to elicit nothing more than a simple answer requiring little to no thought.

Either way, should make for some interesting answers.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Meanderings

My "Jubisister" Skoots1mom "buttoned" me the other day with this Circle of Friends Award:

So the way this meme works: I share five things I love and then pass the button on to five friends in Bloggyville.

Five things I love:
1. Opening a new book to the first page and savoring the smell of its pages, enjoying the sight of ALL THOSE WORDS, knowing it will elicit real emotions as I read it.
2. Sitting around the table with my family, enjoying good food and conversation and laughter -- doesn't get any better than that.
3. The thrill of looking out the window of an airplane as we take off -- absolutely adore traveling!
4. Hearing someone's salvation story because each one is unique and special, and knowing that what God has done in that person's life is for all eternity.
5. Seeing my ideas come to fruition with each quilt; I actually love the entire process...thinking through what I want, sketching out ideas, choosing fabrics, cutting the pieces and sewing them together or appliquing them down, putting the three layers together and then doing the actual quilting and FINALLY putting on the binding...each step has its own special joy.

It's too hard to choose just five to pass this on to because there are so many wonderful folks in my Bloggyville Circle of Friends I'm drawing names from a hat...

So ladies, grab the button and continue the Circle of Friends :-)

Attended my first 15th birthday party last night -- it's a very big deal for girls! They get a new formal dress, have their hair done in a salon, and have professional photos done before (sort of like high school senior photos) and during the parties (there are usually two parties -- one for the young people, another for everyone else). 

The guests started arriving at 9 p.m. and some were given long-stemmed flowers so that when the quinceañera arrived close to 10 p.m., it was to people on either side holding the flowers in an arched formation for her grand entrance. A video of photos and music was shown and there was a candle-lighting ceremony where she thanked different people for their part in her life. Lots of food, of course. We had started off with empanadas, sandwiches, and antipasta plates, then about 11:30 p.m. the pizza was delivered piping hot, and around 12:30 p.m. we cut into the multitude of tortas and tartas. There were so many people that we were stuffed like sardines throughout the house and spilling out into the yard. Some of her professional photos had been combined into collages and printed onto A4 size photo paper for guests to sign and leave a note of encouragement. Every room in the house was decorated (and emptied of most furniture to accommodate the crowds).

The amount of thought, time and work that went into throwing the party had to have been MASSIVE. Makes me glad my kids happened to have their 15th birthdays overseas while we were traveling. Jon turned 15 on our first visit to Argentina back in 1996 and Tina had her 15th during our year in Uganda. Not that we would have had big parties even if we'd been home :-)  This wasn't part of our tradition.

But it was fun to experience the party last night and get a glimpse into a bit of culture that we knew about but had not seen first-hand yet.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the new couch. It is perfect for stretching out on for naps or to read a book.

 Just one final thought...

10 days
until my daughter arrives!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Week 49, Project 365

I suddenly realized it's Saturday night and time to get another Project 365 post ready. It's been such a busy week that it went by even faster than usual. I did too well taking photos this week and had SO MANY that it was hard to choose. So once again I have more than the requisite seven.

The first photo is mostly for my mother-in-law because I know she enjoys seeing photos of the house in Sta. Rosa. This was after I finally finished cleaning the kitchen on Monday. Talk about dirty! Unbelievable how much dirt I swept, dusted and cleaned up throughout the house on Monday and Tuesday. We realized we just have to plan on going out every few months specifically to give it a good cleaning.

When we quit (not because we were done but because we were tired!) on Tuesday, we went into Belgrano to pick up some things and grab a bite at our favorite little restaurant (Tio Rico's) but it was closed that evening. Instead we grabbed some things from the deli at the grocery store and went home, put our feet up and enjoyed empanadas and stuffed summer squash. But while in Belgrano we walked past this cute shoe store that caught my eye. Who wouldn't want to try on shoes in a place smart enough to install a comfy couch?!

Wednesday our friends arrived and we took a walk down to the river which, thanks to thunderstorms the night before and that morning, was churning with debris. You may remember the fires a few months ago. Some of those were up river and massive amounts of soot washed down with the rains. Not a pleasant sight.

Happy to report that by Friday the river was once again running clear.

Also seen during our walk: this humongous mushroom. Those are Ivan's size 11s standing next to it.

Magdalena is a vegetarian and showed me how to make several dishes during our time together. One of them was bombas de papas (mashed potatoes wrapped around some cheese and other yummies, breaded and then deep fried). Here she is demonstrating how to make the bombas.

She came prepared with all the ingredients as well as this rather large tin cup she uses specifically for frying the bombas, two at a time.

¡Muy rico!

Ivan and Julio enjoyed looking at photos and plans of airplanes online while they waited for dinner.

Another thing Magdalena introduced me to is a product that tastes like really good coffee -- only it's not coffee at all; it's made from barley and contains no caffeine whatsoever. This made me SO HAPPY because I've missed having the occasional cup of coffee in the evening. The concept of decaf is almost nonexistent here; there are two brands of instant decaf available and they're both DISGUSTING. This stuff tastes amazing! (I'm having some even as I type this.)

It was good to get home and today while we dead-headed the rose bushes I snapped a few photos to share. First up: our trumpet vines. Ivan cut them so far back this year that I was afraid they weren't going to do anything. But lo and behold, just look at them!

Progress continues next door. They've framed up the front porch/car port area.

Only three weeks left for Project 365. Part of me feels a little sad because it's been such a fun project. But it also takes a sweet forever to upload photos and generally requires a couple hours to get a post ready. That I won't miss.