Sunday, January 31, 2010

Project 365, Week 5

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Enough about the heat already. No more posts about how hot it is. Unless it's still like this in March. Then you might hear about it again.

Anyhoo... despite the soaring temperatures this week we enjoyed a number of get-togethers with friends and that's reflected in this week's Project 365 photos. For a change there are more people photos than inanimate ones (although several also feature food).

Last Sunday we finally got our act together and Tina took a number of photos of us since we needed a new one to send to our home church. She had to take a lot in an attempt to get a decent shot. I cannot stress how much I hate having my picture taken. It's a genetic thing I inherited from my mom, along with the nervous tic that causes me to close my eyes right along with the shutter on the camera which results in me looking demented, drunk or just plain dumb. I think Sunday the count was 15 to 1.
Monday we changed the guys perception of sushi forever, adding two more converts to the cause. We just had so much fun creating our own sushi rolls!
Little by little the lake is rising. All that lush green next to the water extended completely across the lake bed just a couple months ago, creating a swampy field rather than the serene body of water you see now.
We stopped to see our friends in Cordoba this week. This was the first time since Ivan went to Juan's funeral on Christmas day. Although his wife Mirta and adult children, Lorena and Guillermo, miss him very much, they are thankful he is free of pain and with Jesus now. They and the rest of the family are going out to the house in Sta. Rosa this coming week. The first time without Juan; I'm sure it will be a time of rest but also remembering all the wonderful times they've gone there in the past with him.
When we stopped at their house, they didn't have power so not even a fan to help cool off in that awful 100+ temperature and there's not enough photo magic in the world to get rid of all the red in this picture without rendering them unrecognizable. 

Thursday night we had Nestor and Graciela over for asado. We joked that Ivan is Nestor's "asado disciple". Those two really enjoy preparing asado. And the rest of us enjoying eating it!
They brought the postre (dessert) which happened to be a kilo of ice cream from Venezia's. An interesting flavor combination of strawberry (real, whole strawberries included!), chocolate, fig with nuts, and kumquat with whiskey. Yes, a very interesting combination. Here's Ivan filling cones to order.
Friday I visited my optometrist since I couldn't see very well with my new glasses. NO, these are not the new glasses! Ivan snapped this photo of me while the optometrist was double checking his original measurements to make sure everything was right -- and it was.
Looks like the lab who made the lenses messed up so we took them back to the shop where we bought them and the woman there is sending them back to the lab. We'll find out Wednesday what they say. This pair is multi-focal and I could see fine out the very tippy top but when I looked through the middle or lower part it felt like I was in one of those mirrored fun houses at the fair, and I could not see clearly AT ALL to read. It's been a rather frustrating quest to get a pair of functional glasses. I'm ready to go back to regular old bi-focals and am hoping that's an option when we talk to them on Wednesday.

Cooler weather on Saturday meant we could actually enjoy sitting outdoors with friends for (yes, another!) asado. Our friend Abram invited us to join him and his kids, his neighbors, other relatives and friends...16 in all. We made new friends and had a great time.
As I sit here I can hear the pitter-patter of rain on the sidewalk outside. Not the huge torrential storm we expected but a nice soft, looks-like-it-might-keep-it-up-all-day kind of rain. I sure hope it does! We need the moisture along with the cooling effects.

While we contend with the summer heat, it'll be fun to read the winter adventures of other Project 365 participants. Maybe that will make me feel cooler too.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tubs full of ice, frozen grapes and sleeping with a wet towel

...just a few of the ideas y'all passed on to help me cool down. Inventive and interesting bunch of suggestions, some of which made me laugh hard enough to cause an internal rise in temperature and red face.

Hmmmm, you need to work on your responses or I need to work on mine.

About 1:30 this morning as we headed home from a folklore program and the temperature was still in the high 70s, I wondered whether sneaking a midnight dip in our neighbor's pool would get us into trouble.

We had thought Los Creadores was air conditioned. Big mistake! So we spent three hours sweltering in a large room packed with people and only puny ceiling fans that barely stirred the air. I used a little paper fan almost continuously. And since I'd worn my multi-ruffled, below-the-knees, totally synthetic skirt [read: HOT] I pulled my chair fully under the table and sort of hiked my skirt up well above the knees (don't worry, they had the all the lights turned down except for those on the stage).  

When we headed home it was still rather warm, prompting those fantasies about the neighbor's pool. Since most Argentines are pretty security conscious and have not only alarms but flood lights and such to scare off potential robbers, I decided following through on the fantasy was probably not a good idea.

Thankfully we had a break in the weather. Hallelujah!!! About 8 o'clock this morning the wind picked up and it looked like we were going to get a cooling storm. That silly storm blew over just like all the others have for the past month but the wind did push the temperature down to the 80s.

This afternoon we had asado with friends and it felt so nice under the trees in their yard with the cool breeze; the first time in a month we could sit in the shade and not sweat buckets.

Back at the ponderosa, however, our block and stucco house which has been soaking up all the intense heat for weeks is not about to cool down on such short notice. After returning home I hauled my stuff out to the patio and, liberally coated in bug spray, worked out there until it got too dark. Now it's back in front of the two fans in the living room.

Hopefully the weather forecasters are right and it will stay in the 80s for the coming week.

I'm sure come July when I'm shivering in my Cuddleduds and multiple layers of clothing that I will long for these long hot days of summer.

I'll also be trying to score an air conditioner while the prices are lower.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I want your best cooling off tips

One of our tricks is to keep lots of ice on hand, not only for beverages but also to make a nice basin of icy cold water which we use for rinsing out large washcloths that we wrap around our necks (or place on our foreheads when we're lying down).

[Okay, that was a poorly written sentence but I'm too hot and tired to change it.]

Do y'all have other ideas?

Obviously our bright idea of seeking out air conditioned places is not practical in an area with daily rolling black-outs. Most of Cordoba was without power for six hours yesterday, during the hottest part of the day. But we've heard of other areas that have been without power for even longer. Living in a town dependent on tourism has turned into a plus because they don't cut the power as often or as much in Carlos Paz -- bad for business -- as in other towns in the province. Which means we at least have our fans!

Today I moved the kitchen fan into the living room so we have two fans while we work on our computers. When I get done with this I have to continue with a project for our upcoming missionary conference. Do you realize how hot a computer gets just sitting on your lap?! I have a padded mailing envelope and a thick notebook of paper between the computer and my lap and I can still feel some serious heat radiating through.

It is supposed to be a teeny TINY, itty BITTY smidgen cooler today... only in the high 90s (yesterday it reached 104° but felt even hotter).

I'm counting on my internet buddies to pass on their best cooling off tips!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Company's coming so I have to keep this short

...but had to share my HUGE FAIL at trying to cool off today. The heat has just been intense with no let up, even at night. This morning Ivan suggested we go into Cordoba because we had a few things that needed to get done there, and then we could hang out for a while in one of the air conditioned malls. Sounded great to me!

What wasn't so great was the rolling black-out that followed us everywhere we went. EVERYWHERE. I am not even kidding. I actually wondered if the whole city lost power because first we stopped in the southern edge of town and the power went out while we were dropping keys off at our friend's, then we went downtown and voila! no power. Finally we gave up on errands and just headed to the mall, one we had not been to before and, wouldn't you know it, they didn't have power either. *sigh*

[One shop owner told Ivan the city has been having rolling black-outs every single day, so they're without power for hours at a time. Sort of hard to run a business that way, I would think. Felt a little like we were back in a third world country. Bet those selling generators are doing brisk business!]

Anyway, at the mall we grabbed something cold to drink and sat down, hoping that just sitting still would help. Not really. Our options were to get back in the car and drive home right away; not really appealing because mid afternoon is when it's hottest and the a.c. in the Fiat can't keep up. Plus the thought of spending another afternoon in our inferno of a house was more than we could handle. So we took option #2: we stayed at the dark, un-air-conditioned mall where most of the stores were closed. Because hey, it was DARK and the sun couldn't hit us with its deathly hot rays when we were inside.

We did find one clothing store that was open even though they didn't have lights, and they were having a 50% off sale so we went in. Tina found some really cute blouses, a pair of jeans and a dress but since the only mirrors were in the back WHERE IT WAS VERY DARK, she opted not to buy anything at that point. We kept walking around and at 5 p.m. the lights finally came back on! Yay!

By the time Tina tried everything (plus some) back on and checked out -- which is when I FINALLY started cooling down -- it was time to head home as we have company coming. Thankfully the sun was hiding behind the clouds, providing us some relief from its intense heat rays AND the air conditioner in the Fiat Uno functioned moderately sufficiently on the drive home so that we arrived feeling moderately sufficiently refreshed.

I think next time we'll just drive around in the car.

Anyway, home is still hotter than all get out so we'll probably finish off the bottle of bug spray so we can sit out back on the [somewhat] cooler patio. ¡Hasta luego!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Random Dozen, The Marshmallow Edition

Time for another edition of Random Dozen and you really have to watch the video on Lid's blog to fully appreciate this week's questions. I know EXACTLY how that little boy feels! Which segues nicely into the first question...

1. How good are you at delaying gratification? Getting better. I appreciate the anticipation more now than I did as a child or even as a young adult. I think it has to do with the [perceived] faster passage of time as we get older; I know I won't have to wait THAT long.

2. Maybe a marshmallow wouldn't be too difficult a temptation for you. What food (or anything else) would be most tempting? As much as I go on and on about food, I actually find other things even harder to wait a good book I want to read or a certain fabric for a quilt project. Maybe that has more to do with the fact that those are MUCH harder to find here though.

3. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being saintly) how patient are you? Can you be in the negative?  Just kidding. Sort of. Again, this is something I'm getting better at...with age. Or because being impatient takes more energy than I have at this stage of my life.

4. Have you ever waited for something in life only to be disappointed upon realization of the goal/object/etc.? Lots of things. I remember seeing a greeting card once that said "There is joy in the Journey" and I'm convinced that's a cliché because it's TRUE.

5. Are you a person who takes shortcuts? No, but I do like to be efficient and try to find the quickest way to get a job done. 

6. Which line is hardest to wait in? Here there are so many, where do I even start?! Probably the one at the post office is most annoying, because they're not only inefficient but purposefully slow and COMPLETELY arbitrary when assigning an amount to the import "tax" on your packages. They can charge $20 on something that only cost $5 in the first place or let a $200 item through for $3. COMPLETELY ARBITRARY. Makes me nuts.

7. Did you wait to discover the gender of your unborn child until its birth? Yes, both times.

8. Are you more patient with children or the elderly? Neither.

9. Did you ever sneak a peek at a present? Sure, whenever I could get away with it.

10. What is the longest you've ever waited for anything? Probably those two plus years we were praying and asking God to make it clear where He wanted us to go as full-time missionaries.  But while we're on the subject, there are STILL some things I'm waiting for...

11. Who has more patience, you or your significant other? Definitely Ivan.

12. Which of the following songs about waiting is your pick for the best? (OK, you may substitute another, if you like.)
A) Anticipation by Carly Simon
B) The Waiting by Tom Petty
C) Right Here Waiting for You by Richard Marx
D) Wait for Me by Rebecca St. James
I'd say Carly Simon's Anticipation. Love that song! 

Now excuse me while I go stuff my face with marshmallows.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just a little list

Today you get a list because it's late and I'm beyond tired.

P.M.: Last evening we had supper with my language tutor and her houseful of girls. Besides her three daughters, she's hosting a foreign exchange student. Since I used to see Marcela every day, it felt kind of funny to see her after a month hiatus from Spanish. And it felt weird to speak in English (for Tina's sake) rather than in Spanish. My watch broke this week so I have no idea the passage of time and was surprised to see it was 12:30 pm when we returned home. It's been a while since we stayed out that late.

A.M.: This morning involved starting the laundry, fixing breakfast, going to the dentist and getting my hair cut.

A few weeks ago I noticed one of my eye teeth was quite loose; this tooth had a root canal done many, many years ago. Sabrina reached in, jiggled it a little and pulled it right out. For now I had her cement it back into place but later in the year when there's more time and money I'll have a proper crown done.

P.M. was spent finishing the laundry, making lunch, trying to take a nap, reading a book and picking up on a little wall quilt project that I'd started a long time ago. It's oppressively hot so I continue to do only what is absolutely necessary. Hmmmm, maybe not even that.

A.M.: Tomorrow we're heading downtown to pick up my new glasses (finally in!), and buy fabric to make bedroom curtains along with the hardware to hang them. We want to be able to open the shutters at night and let more fresh air in but our bedroom window faces the rising sun and as Ivan put it this morning, you have to get up pretty early unless you want to sunbathe. So I have to get those curtains made ASAP.

P.M. Thursday we'll be having a variety of folks over for asado. Hoping I can find some mosquito repellent candles to burn. Anyone have strategies for keeping mosquitos at bay?

A.M. & P.M.: Unless the heat breaks (nothing in the forecast) we'll probably go back into Cordoba on Friday for more window shopping in nice air conditioned shopping malls. There's one big one I've never been to (not unusual when you consider my propensity to avoid shopping 99% of the time).

That's as far as this list goes because I notice I have very little time to post before the end of the day.

Hasta mañana.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Meanderings and a Sushi Party

Lunch today was a mini sushi party with the young men who are helping out this summer. We had a lot of fun making our own rolls, choosing from tempura fried shrimp, fake crab, smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese, carrot slivers, thin red pepper slices, spicy mayonnaise and onion. Very little cooking (only the rice and tempura shrimp) which is a big plus since it's another hot, HOT day. Then it was off in the air conditioned car (yes it's working again!) to the air conditioned Venezia's for a little fruity sorbet goodness.

Tonight we're going to my tutor's house for dinner and I'm taking pecan pie. I made the dough for the crust this morning and it's chilling in the fridge. I have NEVER had any success with homemade crusts so y'all might just say a little prayer that we won't need a chainsaw to cut it (not out of the realm of possibility since there was that time we could not cut one of my crusts with even my sharpest knife).

If the crust is inedible, I'm planning to scoop out the pecan filling and eat it with a spoon.

I'm not even kidding.

I was trying to remember the last time I had pecan pie but my mind cannot reach that far back. If I'd known pecans would be impossible to find here I'd have eaten more pecan pie and butter pecan ice cream before we moved overseas.

But thanks to Dana and Sharon, I have enough pecans to make several pies which makes me want to do the happy dance. If I had an ice cream maker I'd try my hand at butter pecan ice cream too but, alas, we did not bring ours from the states and we've only seen one here and that was months ago in some little store in Cordoba we can't find again. *sigh* Probably a good thing for my hips that we can't find it though.

Because we all know that ice cream is WAY more fattening than pie.

While we're on the topic of food, let me say I should have just guzzled that basil infused olive oil when I had the chance. Because within an hour of posting yesterday the oil was no more. After accidentally knocking it off the counter, Ivan was able to salvage a scant 1/4 cup from the intact bottom of the broken bottle by straining it through a paper towel. The top half of the bottle shattered into dozens of shards and the poor guy spent over half an hour cleaning up the mess. My kitchen did smell pretty good for a while though.

Yesterday I made potato salad and bar-b-que ribs, American style. I slow roasted the ribs in the toaster oven (which is banished to the garage for the foreseeable future because of the heat) and then smothered them with some honest-to-goodness bar-b-que sauce we found at Walmart in the foreign foods section. Since bar-b-que is an integral part of my southern heritage, I can only go so long without a saucy fix. I made traditional potato salad and was amused when, for a snack last night, Ivan had a bowl but added sliced olives to it.

Why do all my Monday meanderings tend to be about food?

For that matter, most of my posts in general.

I have never listed food as one of my hobbies, but probably should -- or maybe "obsession" would be a better description.

Shall we talk about something else?

Tina is VERY excited that the Colts are going to the Superbowl! Also a little sad she'll miss a great party or eleven because you know that pretty much everyone in Indiana is going to be having one. I imagine there are QUITE A FEW EXCITED FANS in Colts country.

I came across a movie based on the book, Tara Road, by Maeve Binchy. Although this wasn't one of my favorites by Binchy, I was pleasantly surprised to see the movie did stay pretty true to the book. It came out three years ago but I never heard about it; was it even in American theaters?

Tina and I went to the store mid-morning to get a few last minute things for the sushi party; it was ridiculously crowded and we weren't even able to get into the parking lot. I've never seen it that busy on a weekday morning so can only postulate that it's due to the high number of tourists in town this January. Last year was a bad year for the tourism industry but looks like things are back to normal this year. Crazy traffic all over town, plus all the stores and restaurants are crowded even on the outskirts.  Ivan said the official website for Carlos Paz listed the occupancy rate at 95% weekend before last. That, my friends, is a LOT of people!

It's also much hotter this year than last. We're having longer stretches of days in the high 90s/low 100s followed by nights that drop no lower than the high 60s. Last year we'd have a few really hot days, then a storm would blow in from the south and cool things down and we did just fine with a few fans. This year we bought more fans but there are days when even having a fan in every room just doesn't cut it.

Not sure if it's the heat or possibly all the extra vegetation in the swampy-field-formerly-known-as-a-lake, but the mosquitos are terrible this year. No matter what time of day we go outside we get eaten alive. You've never seen anyone hang clothes on the line as fast as I've gotten this year -- doing laundry qualifies as aerobic exercise since now it really gets my heart rate up!

Time to go make that pecan pie. With the hopefully edible homemade crust.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Project 365, Week 4

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Have you ever gotten to Friday and realized you haven't gone anywhere all week, or done anything, or taken any pictures for Project 365? This was that kind of week. So in the interest of full disclosure, my midweek photos are actually Sunday morning photos but they represent my week (I did think long and hard -- at least five minutes -- about what to shoot this morning that was indicative of the week).

Sunday was the all-day trip back from Mendoza. When we stopped for gas in San Luis, I was fascinated by this beautiful mural.

Especially in cities, the vast majority of homes are surrounded by fences and while most have the decorative metal kind, some folks are a little more security conscious and erect these huge block walls. But I had never seen one where the owner painted it in such a lovely manner. (Did you notice the razor wire on top, too?)

We broke up the trip with one stop besides lunch (and the necessary potty breaks) by visiting a small olive oil factory. I use the word factory loosely. It's an orchard in Villa de Las Rosas, an area famous for their olives and olive oil. [Side note: this is where we tried to take our anniversary trip last year which was cut short when the hotel didn't have sufficient heat.] Doesn't look like much from the outside, does it? Sort of like a regular house almost.

Can you see the machinery at the far end of the porch? The olives are picked and immediately cleaned in that contraption before being sent inside for processing. Quite fascinating (for a foodie, anyway) to hear how they extract the oil. The young lady who showed us around and explained the process was very patient and obviously excited about what they do.

They use the cold press (centrifugal extraction) method which, according to Lynne Rossetto Kasper from The Splendid Table, is the best. Bigger processors take the pulp waste and run it through an additional heat treatment to extract even more, but inferior, oil. This place just collects the pulp and uses it for fertilizer. These smaller places are referred to as being artesanal (in the U.S. they're called artisanal). We bought several bottles to try and I have to say it is the best olive oil I've ever had. So delicious! My favorite is the basil infused oil.

Oh my word, I could just drink it from the bottle. But since it's not a very big bottle and I want it to last as long as possible, I use it sparingly on salads. I really wish I could share this with you because it's the kind of thing you try and then want everyone else to try too.

As wonderful as our time in Mendoza was, we were all happy to get home (especially after that killer drive). Here's what you see from my front gate. My geraniums are going crazy now that the rains have returned, and the oleander is blooming like crazy too. Not sure what happened to the little patch of grass beneath the tree though; looks like the rain came too late to save it.

Most of the week you could find Tina in this very same spot.

(My couch looks very comfy, doesn't it?)

Our garden is flourishing. We've begun harvesting lettuce, swiss chard and green onions. The beans are going great guns but it'll be a while before they're ready. Same with the squash and peppers.

Friday Tina and I spent the day shopping in Cordoba. Well, she shopped and I had fun going along. My girl is a bargain-hunting, deal-finding, super shopper and I love to watch her in action :-)  We also enjoyed afternoon merienda at a restaurant in the mall. It was too late in the day for me to indulge in coffee but Tina thoroughly enjoyed her cappuccino. The chocolate cake was quite yummy too!

We stayed there a looooooong time because it was quiet, cool and peaceful. The perfect ending to a busy day spent mostly on hot, noisy city streets crowded with thousands of pedestrians.

A photographical update on the project next door:

Is there any wonder I can't keep my house clean with all the dust flying around?!

That wraps up the week for me. Head over to Sara's for more Project 365!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The water heater keeps cutting out and we think it's a supply problem

Most of the time it works just fine. But then for a block of time (a few hours or a few days) it refuses to stay lit. After taking the heater partially apart, cleaning out any dirt and making sure there were no loose connections, we're pretty sure it's an issue with the supply.

We've heard from different ones about problems with the natural gas supply. One young friend who bought a condo in a new building NEVER had gas heat all last winter, even though he was supposed to be hooked up. There's a whole section of town that has never had gas lines put in because the municipality knows it cannot expand with the current system.

But why the fluctuation in supply?

We have a theory. More and more people are running GNC powered cars in Argentina (only Pakistan has more according to the IANGV). We ourselves would love to convert our car to GNC since fuel costs are about 1/4 of regular gasoline. But the price of conversion is steeper than we want to deal with at this point.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, Carlos Paz is a popular tourist destination and in the summer we are inundated with visitors. A good many of whom drive GNC powered cars and need refills while in town. Because natural gas has to be compressed before injecting it into the small tanks of vehicles, the GNC gas stations have to suck enormous amounts of gas from the system to fill all those cars lined up on weekends, creating a vacuum in the system and lowering pressure to the residential areas.

Not every gas station has GNC, which isn't a problem except when we have an influx of tourists.

Since Carlos Paz has a fairly small supply of natural gas allotted to it, when the demand by GNC powered vehicles run high, our supply runs low.

At least that's our theory.

If anyone has a better one, we'd love to hear it.

I guess we'll have to be like pioneers of old who only took baths once a week. Of course, they usually bathed on Saturday night so they wouldn't stink up church the next day. We'll have to make sure we shower before the hordes hit on Fridays. 

I was intrigued by the concept of filling up at home, a fairly new innovation and not one that has reached Argentina yet. In the U.S. , NGV (natural gas vehicles) are selling for big bucks. The higher price tag up front is offset by the huge savings in operational costs.

But while I find the concept interesting and would relish the savings involved, all of that is immaterial when I just want a hot shower.

Friday, January 22, 2010

After a day shopping in Cordoba, my footsies are tired

Tina and I spent THE WHOLE DAY in Cordoba; we left at 9:30 a.m. and pulled back into the driveway at 8:30 p.m.

I now have my poor tired feet propped up. But it was so fun to go shopping with my favorite shopper!

We started downtown in the pedestrian only district. The heat kept away most of the street performers I think since we only saw two musical duos (both playing Andean instruments) and one clown. It was fun popping in and out of stores, some of them air conditioned (where we'd linger a little longer), as the hunt was on for 'man' shoes and whatever else caught our eye.

Tina ended up buying a pair of men's leather loafers at the second store where she tried on shoes. Mainly because she felt so bad after she asked about a specific pair of shoes and the young salesman asked if we could wait five minutes and then HE RAN TO ANOTHER STORE TO GET THEM. She really likes them, but after that display of sales commitment she didn't have the heart to bargain over the price.

We ate lunch at Il Gatto's Trattoria, based on the recommendation of a very nice sales lady when we asked where we could go that had air conditioning (you'd be surprised at how few restaurants have it). [She also gave us a free map of the downtown area which helped us find our way to one of the malls after we'd finally grown too hot from strolling the sidewalks.] Tina and I both wanted grapefruit soda and after I requested "pomelo" the server asked if we wanted "Quatro" which is a brand. But Tina thought he was asking if we wanted four of them -- in the end, though, we did end up drinking a total of four cans because we were so hot and thirsty.

She had raviolo. Of course. And I had a personal size caprese pizza with mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil. Yum.

At the mall we had fun wandering around in wonderful, amazing, fantastic AIR CONDITIONING. Ahhhhhhh. Sorta hated to leave in the end because we'd parked on the roof so you know the car was a tad hot.

And then the a.c. in the car quit.

Now first of all, the a.c. is mediocre at best in our little 1992 Fiat Uno but at least it does SOMETHING. The problem was electrical in nature and also prevented us from rolling down the front windows.


Same problem we had in Mendoza last week.

The back windows are manual but only roll half-way down. Still, better than nothing so that's what we did.

Made arriving home to a hot, stuffy, closed-up house not so bad.

We opened all the windows, turned on all the fans, each of us powered up our computers, put our feet up and here we sit. Tired but happy.

Wondering what I bought? (Besides a lot of cold beverages) A necklace. It was on sale for less than $5 U.S. and I've been looking for something to go with my skirt. (As in singular; I only own one skirt) I feel it was a very productive day, not in terms of what I bought but how I spent it...hanging with my favorite shopper.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's 85° at 9:15 p.m. and you don't even want to know what it was at 3 p.m.

Ugh. I've done very little housework today because IT IS HARD TO MOVE THROUGH THE HEAT. Clothes dried on the line in literally minutes; in less than half an hour one load was bone dry.

I spent the late afternoon/early evening re-reading an old favorite, "Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire" by Jim Cymbala.

And drinking copious amounts of water in an effort to stay hydrated.

I hand sewed a couple of fabric coasters too.

Real productive, huh?

Days like this I want to hop in the car, drive to Walmart and wile away a few hours wandering up and down the air conditioned aisles. The fact that it's 30 miles to the closest Walmart is all that's stopping me.

Tonight I boiled pasta and made a quick alfredo sauce for supper. Threw in the leftover roasted garlic chicken from last night...when I had Ivan set up the toaster oven in the garage so I wouldn't have to heat up the kitchen while fixing the chicken. 

Normally it cools down more at night but it's only been dropping into the high 60s the last few nights. The ten-day forecast is more of the same. At this rate I foresee a trip or two to the Walmart regardless of how far away it is. And indulging in an ice cream sundae from the McDonald's.

So what's your strategy for combating the heat of summer? Or is that concept too difficult to contemplate in the dead of your winter?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Random Dozen Hits Again

You know the Random Dozen drill. Lid asks the questions and we answer them to the best of our ability. Sorta like the SAT or ACT only you don't have to wait weeks for the results; people comment right away and let you know what they think of your answers. Also there's no scoring involved. Except some of us do count how many answer the same question the same way. But you don't get extra points for that, so don't go trying to figure out what the rest of us are thinking. No points taken off either, because we are a fun-loving bunch that doesn't hold it against anyone if you are too young to know who certain people are and make the rest of us feel like old fuddy duddies. No, we don't hold that against you AT ALL. Really.
1. So I was thinking about how Jon Bon Jovi never seems to age much. His hair is smaller nowadays, but he still manages to look like a boy somehow. And then that made me think of the story of Dorian Gray. Question: If you physically lock in one age for yourself, which would you choose and why? Early 30s after I finally joined Weight Watchers and lost all the baby fat accumulated from two pregnancies. I looked and felt the best I had in my whole life. By the late 30s gravity kicked in and...yeah, we won't go there. So, yes, definitely my early 30s; let's say 33 because I do like a symmetrical number. That was also the year I (finally) graduated from college.

2. What is the best dish that you cook or bake (your piece de resistance?) I asked my husband to help me out here and I swear this man could have been a diplomat. When he just looked at me blankly I said, "Yeah, nothing comes to mind, does it? I'm not that great of a cook." To which he quickly replied, "No, no, the problem is that you're so good!"  Bless his heart. Spoken like a man who has been married for 30 years (and has the battle scars to prove it). So anyway, the only thing that comes to mind is an oft requested dish by my kids: biscuits and gravy. Aside from that time I tried to multiply the biscuit recipe by a gazillion in order to serve over 100 people and they turned out like hockey pucks, my biscuits normally come out nice and fluffy. Being a southern girl, I was born with a spoon in my hands, ready to make gravy.

3. When you feel blue, what is one strategy you use to help yourself back to normal? Nowadays it's either read a really good book or spend some time quilting/creating in the sewing room. When we lived in the U.S. I would take a hot bubble bath, go to the library, or get together with friends.

4. When was the last time you danced in public? That would have probably been at a wedding. Or maybe it was when we took that dancing class at the senior center (open to the public, NOT just for seniors so stop your snickering) in a misguided attempt at know, proficient. At least with that class the teacher didn't make us go to another section of the room away from everyone else (which is what happened the first time we took a dancing class). Probably because there were only a handful of students in that 2nd class and we had a really, really large dining room at the senior center to spread out in. 

What was the question? Honestly, it's been so long since I started answering it I don't remember. Oh yeah, dancing...well, with two left feet, dancing in public is best avoided so it's definitely been a while.

5. Do you consider yourself a realist or dreamer? Realist. Married to a dreamer. Just call me Debbie Downer.

6. As a parent, what is one thing that you have done well? They survived to adulthood, didn't they?

7. Which is your favorite character on the Andy Griffith show? Barney Fife. Gotta love a bumbling, affable, looney character. He makes us feel so much better about ourselves.

8. On a scale of 1-10, how much do you know about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Maybe a five? I was a child of the 60s but rather sheltered and didn't get to watch the news so what I learned was filtered through the classroom.

9. Have you never been mellow? Have you never tried … to find a comfort from in side you? (Sorry, Jorge was singing that song just now, and it just seemed to be perfect timing as I was creating this week’s questions.) REAL question: What is your #1 driving pet peeve? Mellow I'm not when driving! My answer is totally different here than it would have been in the U.S. Here the thing that annoys me most are the people who DRIVE DOWN THE MIDDLE OF TWO LANES and won't move over so you can get past them. That is SO common here. I don't know why they bother painting lines on the road since so few stay within their boundaries.

10. Which color best represents your mood today? Care to elaborate? Guacamole Green. Not really, but I'm sitting in the only room in the house that is a color other than white and we have dubbed the color guacamole green. I'm not awake enough to know what color I feel like today.

11. If your spouse were an animal, which would he/she be? A family friendly dog, like a collie. Friendly, playful, faithful, cuddly, brave, protective, courageous, beautiful.

12. What activity takes up the bulk of your time on an average day? Define "average". Is there such a thing? Oh, alright. Probably evenly split between studying Spanish and doing housewiferly stuff (is that a word? because if it isn't, it totally should be).


A few people had asked to see the daughter's boots and purse (since I only shared a photo of her new leather coat in Sunday's post). Here they are in all their loveliness:

You can't tell by the photos but they're almost identical in color. The purse shows the truer color in the photo.

Is there anything better than the smell of leather? I used to walk into a Wilson's store at the mall just to inhale that lovely scent.

Oh, oh! I know what color I'm feeling today! I'm feeling that rich leather brown. Soft, supple but tough as toenails. Nobody better mess with me today. Grrrrr!

(I'm getting psyched up to tackle the storage loft area. It takes a tough woman to do that job!)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Behind Door #3...

...or #7 or #13...

I had no idea I'd taken so many door photos on this trip until I started getting them ready to post. FIFTEEN DOORS. What can I say, I love pretty/interesting/unique doors. However fifteen is WAY too many to post on the blog so I've uploaded them to my flickr account and you look at all of them there.

But here's a sampling...



Okay, that's enough for now. To see ALL the doors, check out my flickr.


A while back I disabled word verification in the comment section of my blog. Word verification is time consuming and annoying and I like it when I don't have to deal with it on other people's blogs. BUT I have been having a terrible time with spam comments, deleting several a day for weeks now so I've (reluctantly) re-enabled the word verification feature. I apologize for this added step and know I might lose some commenters in the process but, people, I don't have that much time to write and read blogs and I don't want to waste precious time every day dealing with all the spammers.

If anyone knows of a way to keep out the spammers without word verification, please let me know. I'm technologically challenged and have not been able to find another way to block them.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Meanderings - Mostly About Food

I decided to break my vacation pictures down into categories and today It's All About Food. Mostly.

But first I'd like to tell you that Argentina has a serious problem with adequate road signage. We took a different way home from Mendoza, thinking surely in the more populated areas there would be sufficient signage. NOT! Only one road (the first one) indicated what route it was -- and then only at the beginning, as we were leaving the city. The rest of the time we had to guess and/or stop to ask if we were on the right road.

It was also the longer way home so it should have taken about the same amount of time as Monday (when we added a couple hours onto the trip due to missing a turn) BUT the final 15 km into Carlos Paz took TWO HOURS because traffic was at a virtual standstill that last little stretch. We still don't know what was going on, although we overheard some people talking about the big folklore festival in Cosquin. But Cosquin is on the other side of the lake; we were miles and miles from there when traffic ground to a halt. Very curious.

Anyway, this story is way too long already so suffice it to say that I began to feel like Gilligan on his three-hour tour and wondered if we'd ever get home. We did. Thirteen hours after we started. *sigh* We did find some things to be thankful for the fact that the really bad traffic was at the end of the trip, after it was dark and the air was cooler and the sun was not beating mercilessly down on us...and that even though the air conditioning quit for part of the trip, it worked most of the time...and we did NOT run out of gas on a stretch of road that didn't have any gas stations for kilometers in either direction...

But it will be a while before I want to take any road trips.

Back to the fun part: the FOOD.

On the way to Mendoza on Monday we stopped at a little roadside restaurant in a town called Nono (the Italian word for grandpa) and I had an amazing eggplant sandwich.

Tuesday we ate lunch at a sidewalk cafe in downtown Mendoza and part-way through the meal a couple of musicians dressed in traditional Andes mountain garb and playing traditional Andes mountain instruments came along the street, periodically stopping to entertain diners. I tried to take a video so you could hear the music but we were sitting too far away to capture the sound, so you just get a photo.

I've mentioned the most amazing chocolate cake ever several times this past week. Here's a photo of one slice after I mangled it while trying to get it onto the plate (we bought it to take back to the hosteria).

I could go for another piece of that right now. Yummy!

Tina could eat pasta every single day I think. The girl has always been a huge fan of any kind of noodle, but especially ravioli. She had it several times this week with various kinds of sauces. Here's what she had Wednesday: ravioli stuffed with Gruyère and pine nuts and a Roquefort sauce.

On Sunday I shared a photo of the restaurant with the grapevine canopy covered veranda. Here's a shot of Ivan and Tina after we'd eaten. Ivan was enjoying a cup of coffee before we left.

BTW, the bottled water you see on the table is sold all over Argentina but it's bottled there really close to where we had lunch. There are several large water bottling facilities in that area; Eco de los Andes is what they serve at La Posada del Jamón.

Tina luuuuuuurves sushi! So of course we had to try out one of the new sushi places (someone told us the first sushi restaurant in Mendoza opened just six months ago; now there are two) and besides a sampler platter that we shared (and scarfed before remembering to take a photo) we had dessert: this dense and very rich chocolatey roll with caramel sauce and a passion fruit puree. ¡Muy delicioso!

Finally, my favorite meal of the entire week: vegetables baked in a clay oven. Oh my, but I could eat this every day like Tina does pasta. So incredibly good I cannot even find the words.

Different kinds of squash, eggplant, carrot and onion were slow roasted in the clay oven, then topped with bean sprouts, homemade potato chips and deep-fried carrot curls. In all seriousness, I asked Ivan if he would build me a clay oven in our back yard so I could try to make this myself. Because the thought of only getting to eat it when we visit Mendoza once every couple or three years is just too sad to contemplate!

It's going to take a while to catch up on blog reading. Today I'm focusing on those involved in Project 365. It may take a while, but I'll eventually get to everyone...between loads of laundry and other chores. I don't know about you, but traveling just saps my energy and I'm always moving in slow motion after a big trip. There's so much to do (the laundry alone is like a full-time job the first day home) and trying to get back into the suddenly realize it's lunchtime and no one else is making it for you today. Vacation is truly over. *sigh*

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Project 365, Week 3

Way too many photos to choose from this week! More will probably pop up throughout the coming week although I did manage to edit down to eight for Project 365. But boy, that was hard work.

We enjoyed an asado last Sunday with the young men from Bible Institute who are helping this summer. Actually Oscar did most of the grilling. It was delicious!

Monday we traveled. And traveled and traveled. As I mentioned on Monday's post, we added a couple hours to our trip because of insufficient information and lack of road signage. But along the way we found time to stop and take some photos.

We seem to have followed the Dakar race. During our first walkabout downtown we came across this HUGE screen on the side of a building where they were showing clips from the portion of the race between Chile and Mendoza.

Wednesday we headed to Cerro de la Gloria where we could look out over the city. And take cheesy photos next to altitude signs.

Never managed to take any really good photos of the snow-capped Andes due to poor visibility. This is my best shot.

On one of our drives into the countryside we stopped at a place famous for its pork. We ate on the veranda beneath the beautiful grapevine canopy.

Mendoza is known for its fruit (there's a huge harvest festival in March) and for the vineyards. The restaurant where Tina works sells several wines from Argentina and this is one of the wineries. A breathtakingly beautiful setting with mountains in the background and row upon row of neatly tended grapevines.

Just down the road were hectares upon hectares of pear trees. I mentioned how strict the province is about not letting ANY fruit in that could possibly infect the crops...vehicles are not only searched and any fruit disposed of, but your car also has to go through a spraying station that apparently kills anything that might be on the exterior of the auto.

One of the people we talked to said the farms hire lots of additional pickers during harvest and it is traditional to pay the workers with coins. A coin for each container of fruit picked (not sure if it's a bushel or some other form of measurement). Since coins are VERY hard to come by in this country I'm wondering how they manage this. We often get candy instead of coins back in "change" or else the store owner knocks off the cents from the bill. But maybe it's BECAUSE of this tradition that coins are so difficult to find -- they're all here in Mendoza! Hmmmm, will have to study that further.

Argentina is most famous for its beef and with all that beef comes leather. Tina saved her pennies (and everything else she earned recently) in order to get some boots but she also managed to score a purse as well as this adorable jacket.

We found leather prices to be lower here than in Cordoba. No idea why, but Tina was just happy to be able to get everything for about what she would have paid just for boots in the U.S. My bargain-hunting girl is a happy camper!

I haven't been a lot of places in Argentina but so far Mendoza is my absolute favorite. The city is clean, streets are tree-lined, the food is great, there's a lot to see and do (we didn't even begin to scratch the surface) and people are friendly. We'll definitely be coming back!

Basically it's the last day of vacation

...since we head home tomorrow.

*sigh* I really like vacations. Mainly because of the food; we hardly ever eat out except on vacation.

So here's a round-up of some of the food we've eaten...
~ meat-filled ravioli with tomato sauce
~ ravioli stuffed with fresh tomato and basil  and smothered in four cheese sauce
~ pork loin with mushrooms and orange sauce
~ a sampler plate of sushi
~ the most amazing Black Forest cake ever
~ chocolate passion fruit roll ('sushi' dessert)

We've also cooked a few meals "in house" since the suite came with a kitchenette. But we didn't cook as many as planned -- one night we did pizza instead of cooking and another night we grabbed Subway.

Right now I'm munching on a new Dorito flavor which I came across at Carrefour today. Y'all tried the corn-on-a-cob-with-butter flavor yet?

Yes, I'm all about the food even (or maybe especially) on vacation.

Ivan and I got up early this morning and headed due west to the mountains. Discovered that these are not the really tall, snow covered ones we'd seen just a little farther south the other day, and I didn't get many good photos since the only ones I took were while going 120 km down the road. Guess the snow-capped mountain photos will have to wait until our next visit.

Tina's quest for leather was successfully accomplished this morning and she ended up getting not only boots but also a jacket and purse. Definitely her father's daughter! After spending the whole week looking and comparing every possible option, she negotiated better deals each time.

[I'm terrible at haggling over prices; I hate to do it even at garage sales.]

Now we're chilling in the air conditioned suite during siesta before we venture out for our final evening of fun and food.

I haven't had time to do much more than post this week. Next week I'll get back to visiting and commenting. ¡Hasta luego!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The vacation continues

Sara and Kathy knew exactly what the energy saving device was: put the door key into a slot to turn on power to the suite...lights, air conditioning, the whole shebang. Interesting concept that I'm not wholly in favor of, since it means we always return to a hot, stuffy suite. I made sure we found a place with air conditioning (not necessarily a given here) only to find out we can only run it when we're in the room. Live and learn.

We've enjoyed an even more laid-back vacation, due to car troubles keeping us in the northwest quadrant of the city. Thought we were going to have to have the alternator rebuilt but after a day in the shop, they discovered it was merely a faulty relay/switch (an expensive relay/switch, or maybe it was just the labor that was expensive). While the car was in the shop we walked or took public transportation; fortunately we're really close to downtown so we enjoyed window shopping and people watching.

Tina is on a quest to find boots but this is the wrong time of year for that so we've learned to go in and ask if they have boots stored in the back. Selections are limited and she hasn't found a pair she 'loves' yet so the quest continues.

The car was done by noon today and we took a drive south of the city. Once again people lined the streets to wave and shout at us

...along with the vehicles participating in the Dakar race. When we stopped for lunch there were some trucks there, including this support vehicle ready with extra tires.

We tried to take photos of the Andes but it's so dry that swirling dust obscures views of the higher, snow-capped mountains in the distance. Did get some good photos of the farming area just south of here though. 

I have to admit, though, that mostly I've been taking photos of doors. I have a thing for doors and they have some really beautiful and unusual ones here. I've also been on the lookout for ugly dresses but haven't had much success with that. Most clothing stores have casual summer clothes on display. Good thing Tina grabs the camera occasionally or I'd have a very boring Project 365 post come Sunday!

We've discovered I have a very special talent -- for sniffing out the best desserts in town! We learned today that our favorite bakery is considered the best in Mendoza. It's a gift, I tell you, a gift. Ivan says the cake is the best he's ever had in Argentina. It was pretty amazing: dense chocolate cake on the bottom, a fluffy and fruity filling, a thin layer of chocolate mousse and chocolate shavings on top.

I rate vacations by the quality of desserts. Mendoza is my favorite vacation so far.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Random Dozen, Live From Mendoza!

You know you're dedicated to a meme when you do it even while on vacation. But what better time to do something like this, than when you're doing nothing at all?

Well, not nothing. But not much. Tuesday has been a day for catching our breath and just relaxing. If you're following our vacation adventures, you'll know we're doing it in typical Hoyt style... which is to say, nothing is really going as planned.

Well, not that we actually planned anything...

Oh, let's just get on with the meme.

(But keep in mind I'm in vacation mode.)

1. When was the last time you craved a food--what was it, and did you cave? Didn't even realize I WAS craving it until I saw it in Carrefour... sitting there, alone, amidst the potato chips where someone had abandoned it: Pepperidge Farm MILANO COOKIES. Be still my heart! Honestly, my heart really did skip a couple beats. I totally ♡ these cookies and had not seen any in eighteen months. [That's around 550 days without Pepperidge Farm MILANO COOKIES, in case you're counting.] I am savoring each and every cookie and am sharing grudgingly with Ivan and Tina. 

2. M & M's or Skittles? Duh. M & M's, hands down. 'Cause they're CHOCOLATE. Skittles can't hold a candle to that kind of goodness (but I wouldn't turn Skittles down unless it was an either/or situation). 

3. Have you ever read the Bible completely through? Yes. Going through it again now with the hubby, although our one-year plan has morphed into two years plus.

4. How long does it take you to really wake up in the morning? Depends on how well I've slept. After a good night with 6 or so hours of sleep it doesn't take too long, maybe 10-15 minutes. After one of my hormonal insomniac nights, I'm not sure I ever really wake up but rather float through the day in a sleep-deprived stupor. Have had a lot of those these past few years, and from what I've read on other blogs I'm not alone.

5. Have you ever been on a cruise? If not, would you like to? One mini cruise, just three days long. We're not cruise kind of people. But one of these years I'd love to fly to Alaska, take the train across, and then finish with a cruise. Everyone we've talked to who has done it absolutely raves about how wonderful it is. 

6. Who is your favorite actress? Julia Roberts with Meryl Streep a close second.

7. ______ is something that I will just never understand. The way men communicate...

8. How much of a technology junkie are you? Not much, which is why I depend on my techie son when I run into problems.

9. Do you enjoy selecting greeting cards for people, or is it more of a cultural "have to" for you? I could -- and did -- spend excessive amounts of time picking out cards in the U.S. Since there is not much of a greeting card culture here and the selection is a tiny fraction of what I was used to, I haven't bought a single card in 18 months. 

10. When was the last time you got a new style/haircut? New style in August, latest cut in mid-December. Yep, about time for a trim; gotta keep this short and spikey style short and spikey.

11. What do you enjoy shopping for most? Normally stuff for the house and books would run neck-and-neck in this race. But since I can't find books in English here, I'll go with stuff for the house. 

12. What's the last thing you think of before you leave the house? Should I go to the bathroom one more time?

On this vacation we've encountered a new twist on conserving energy. Here's a clue. Can you figure out what it is?