Saturday, July 31, 2010

Project 365, Week 31

I didn't participate in Project 365 last week for two reasons. One was that my daughter had just gotten engaged and I just HAD to share that news :)  But also Ivan loaned our camera to someone and I had no way of taking any photos that week anyway. We got the camera back last Saturday and I've only missed one day since.

We had a crowd here a week ago for an asado: our co-workers and all four of their kids (the two oldest were on winter break from Bible Institute) and another family in our church. We enjoyed grilled beef and pork along with a rice and vegetable dish and salad. The kids, who had learned to make brownies in English class that week, made them again for dessert. Ivan ran out for ice cream to go on top, and I made some homemade hot fudge sauce. Can we say D*E*L*I*C*I*O*U*S?!
Here's a group photo after church. Unfortunately I wasn't fast enough and some folks had already left so we're missing five or six.
Monday we went back to a used furniture store we'd visited the week before and bought six dining room chairs and a couple of nightstands. These are the chairs:
I plan to re-cover them in an indoor-outdoor fabric which pattern and color is still to be determined. I thought I'd found the perfect fabric only to discover, THERE WAS NONE LEFT. Ugh. Why don't online stores take things off the site when they're no longer available?! Get my hopes all up and then dash them to the ground. Hmmmpf!

Tuesday I had some time for sewing and whipped up these coordinating aprons. We're not keeping them though. I made them to give as a gift for a special couple. Hope they like them!
Wednesday a couple of students took the bus from Cordoba to visit us one last time before heading back to the U.S. this weekend. Both have been studying at the university here this semester.
We also got to know another girl who returned to the U.S. a few weeks ago and I'm not sure we ever got a photo of her. It's been a fun experience to get to know these students and we hope we'll be able to do that with others each semester!

The girls stuck around for part of English class that evening, when Charlie taught us how to make bread. Here he is giving Lucas a turn at kneading.
And here's a short video clip of Ale mixing the initial ingredients together. At this point not a whole lot of English was going on :)

It's been beautiful all week with sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s and 60s -- perfect for walks along the lake. The city has begun installing these little cement posts along the costanera to prevent cars from driving over the park lawn.
You can see how well that's working...several cars have pulled right down to the lake -- obviously they haven't installed the posts around the entire perimeter yet.

[BTW, I hear a cold front is moving in during the next day or two so we might actually have a week of really cold weather. LOL  I am sooooo lovin' winters in Carlos Paz!]

And finally, on my walk today I snapped this shot from the end of our block. Look at that view of the lake!
This empty lot is not for sale but even if it were we couldn't afford to buy it. I'm sure it would sell for at least $100,000 U.S. Our neighbor next door who is currently building a house said he's turned down offers of $60,000 (when his lot was still empty) and he's in the middle of the block with no view of the lake.

Much as we love our barrio and being so close to the lake, we ARE excited about buying the lot by the river. I'll try to get a photo of that for next week!

Friday, July 30, 2010

So much for regular blogging

I had really good intentions to blog more frequently but find that LIFE isn't so accommodating.

However I felt it absolutely imperative to post today because my mother-in-law, who enjoys reading all the family blogs, just received an iPad for her 89th birthday and our son set it up so everyone's blog icons are on the screen for easy access. Happy Birthday Mom! I hope you enjoy using your new iPad to keep track of what everyone is doing :)

This has been an action-packed, crazy, overwhelming week which began with our daughter's engagement and continued with the discovery that our offer on the lot has been accepted after all!

Two weeks ago the owner said he had a better offer and we resigned ourselves to continuing our own version of House Hunters International. Call me cynical, but I doubt there ever was another offer; I think the owner was just trying to see if he could get us to raise our offer. Big miscalculation on his part! We had offered what we felt we could, after praying about it and both coming to the same amount separately.

Now that he's accepted the offer, we are back to the dilemma of how to get the money into the country. We thought we'd found a less expensive way (opening an account with an international bank with offices in the U.S. and here) but discovered upon further investigation that they require that you have the account FOR A YEAR BEFORE BRINGING MONEY IN. What's the point of having -- and paying monthly fees -- on an account you cannot use?!

So we are diligently seeking options. My Spanish teacher said she read an article recently that rated the ease/difficulty of transferring money from one country to another, and Argentina ranks pretty high on both difficulty and expense. There is NOTHING easy about it. *sigh*

In other news, we had a great English class on Wednesday. Charlie taught us how to make bread which was so much fun (photos coming on Sunday!)  and Ivan worked through vocabulary relating to futbol (soccer). I made chicken tortilla soup to go along with the bread and we enjoyed a casual meal together, inviting our co-workers to join us.

During dinner Ivan would periodically hold up or point to something and the kids would say what it was in English. Until he held up a glass and two of the kids responded "Salud!" LOL  It's what they say instead of "Cheers!"

I made some aprons on Tuesday. It had been way too long since I'd had time to sew/create so it felt great to be back at the sewing machine... once Ivan figured out what was causing it to act up, that is. I spent an hour playing with the tension, to no avail. He determined it was as simple as switching out the needles for a new one. After that it worked like a dream. In my defense, I've had so little opportunity to sew that I didn't even think about it being time to change needles.

Today I ordered a Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Steel 12" omelette pan.
Isn't it lovely?! This is what I used my CSN $50 gift certificate toward. I'm SOOOOO excited because this is something I've wanted for a really long time. I already have a lid for a different Calphalon 12" pan and hope it will fit this one as well.

I'm trying not to think too much about the fact that we now have two big things happening this coming year: our daughter's wedding and building a house! Well, maybe starting to build a house. We're not sure we'll have enough to do that yet. But even if we don't start building, we will be working on the casita already on the property (new roof, installing flooring, finishing the bath, painting...) and installing fencing around the entire perimeter.

Actually, make that three things because at some point we'll also be going on furlough. Still not sure if we'll be doing that right after the wedding or returning to Argentina after the wedding and waiting until the fall to go on furlough. Either way, furlough is on the horizon.

That means scheduling meetings with churches, planning visits with friends and family, figuring out what we'll drive while we're in the U.S., where we'll live... Details, details, details...

[Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.]

Meanwhile there's the day-to-day STUFF. I'm still taking Spanish lessons, cleaning house, teaching English, spending time with people in our growing church, doing laundry, working with the youth...

I look back twenty years on all that I had on my plate as a young wife and mother and am amazed at my ability to get it all done. It's not that I'm doing more or less now (I think), but it's all so very different and can sometimes feel more overwhelming at this point in my life. Which we euphemistically call MIDLIFE but I think we should call it WHEN-LIFE-TAKES-ON-TOO-MUCH-OF-THE-CRAZY. Or maybe it's just me and my particular situation of moving overseas and trying to adjust to a new culture and learn a foreign language at the ripe old young age of fifty while dealing with chronic insomnia, hot flashes and hormonal mood swings?

So is it just me or do I have plenty of company out there in Bloggyville?

Betty had a really cute post the other day about how to know when you've reached "midlife".  Aside from my chronological age verifying that I'm there, this list would definitely confirm it :) ALONG WITH THE CRAZY.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Some questions answered, more raised

There were a few questions in response to my last post which Tina answered in one of the comments but since I'm not sure how many go back to read those, I thought I'd re-post her answer here:

We took that photo on my MacBook so it reversed everything which makes it look like the ring is on my right hand :)

He proposed nice and quietly, a day earlier than he'd planned because he was worried that too many people knew and that I'd catch wind of it! He thought I had an idea, but I actually had no clue it was coming at all!!!

He proposed by driving out to Winona Lake (where mom and dad got engaged!) and asking me to read the email he had sent my parents (8 pages long!). Then he asked, and I said yes (all in the car because it was raining) and then I quizzed him to make sure he'd really gotten mom and dad's approval!

It was sweet and unexpected and wonderful and sooo exciting!
Another commenter mentioned the possibility of me turning into a MOBzilla, and I told Dana she definitely has my permission to call me on it if I start exhibiting symptoms :)  Tina and Kyle have pretty definite ideas of what they want -- or don't want -- so if there's a problem, it will be because I'm trying so hard to make it perfect for them. I can be a little *ahem* anal-retentive when it comes to details.

[The howling you hear in the background is my family laughing at that understatement.]

I wanted to share a couple more photos of the happy couple. First up from Tina's graduation from college in May...
I'm pretty sure the next one was taken in Jonesville, Michigan, where we lived for eleven years before moving to Argentina. It's the place Tina calls "home" since she lived there longer than anywhere else while growing up (before Jonesville we lived in the next town over for 9 years).
Anyway, Tina goes back frequently to see friends and "family" (church family) and I think this was at the annual Concert in the Park that Countryside Bible Church hosts every year around the 4th of July. Free food (this year it was pulled pork and all the fixings) and homemade ice cream plus plenty of good music.

Don't they make a cute couple? They met in March when a mutual friend introduced them. For their first date, Kyle took her on a picnic lunch. According to an e-mail she sent us at the time: "He set up his grill down at a pavilion at Center Lake Park and made beef fillets with garlic bread and roasted potatoes, then we got coffee and dessert at Cerulean and walked around the Village and checked out the shops, it was very adorable."

That was her first mention of Kyle, and I remember thinking he sounded like a very thoughtful young man. That has been borne out in subsequent months. Before proposing he wrote and asked for our blessing, and shared his thoughts about what marriage means. Since we haven't had a chance to meet him in person yet, that and letters that followed helped set our minds at ease. As other parents know, it's not easy letting go of our kids unless we're confident they'll be in good hands.

Okay, enough of the mushy stuff :)


We've lived here almost two years and we're still using a folding table and plastic chairs in the dining room. Lame, I know. But we just hadn't been able to find chairs we liked at a price we were willing to pay. Actually, we haven't found many chairs we liked at all. But recently we made a more concerted effort and finally succeeded!

Last week we got around to visiting a used furniture store here in town. Ivan had stopped there once and thought the prices were rather high, but I'd never been. When we went last Thursday we found a wide assortment of chairs on the second floor. Everything from ornate antiques to newer metal stacking chairs. These caught our eye because they have the clean lines we like; sort of mid-century modern, don't you think? But more importantly, they are surprisingly comfortable.
Right now they need a good cleaning after sitting in that big dusty building for who knows how long. I want to recover them but they're usable in their current condition. I like the detail of the nail heads that match the color of the fabric but with some missing and probably impossible to replace, I'll use new metal nail heads when I recover the chairs. 
Now I have a question for you: After looking at fabric, I'm leaning toward using two, a print on the seat and a coordinating solid on the back. Do you think that would look weird? Something like these two: 

This fabric would look great if we build a house where the living area is open, and our couch is near the dining table. The same chocolate brown and cream, even if the design is different:
Which would go with either a light or dark...
Or we could even go with something a little wild and crazy like these:
Give your honest opinion, do you think I should stick to one fabric for both seat and back or can I get away with coordinating fabrics? If I just use a single fabric, it will be something like this:
...or this:
Obviously I really like that pattern :)  I'm looking to go with either brown and/or light aqua, no matter what fabric I end up choosing.

We also bought a couple of nightstands. This one I'm going to try sanding first because the lighter wood color would work well where I plan to use it (between the IKEA chairs in the living room) but it may be necessary to paint it.
I actually didn't mind the missing door; I like the idea of a basket -- or two tucked in. I saw some smaller baskets at Wal-mart last week and two would fit perfectly side-by-side in the space. We'll keep various cords in one basket (phone chargers, camera-to-computer cord, etc.) and my stuff in the other one. I'm a little high maintenance in some ways, and I like to have cough drops, a nail file, pencils, my eye mask, and a notebook right by where I sit. Do you notice the $48 price sticker? That translates to about $12 U.S.

The other night stand is currently blue but I'll probably paint it an off white and distress the edges a little.
It will be going into the guest room. It cost the equivalent of $18 U.S. I'm quite proud of my savvy, bargain hunting hubby for being willing to negotiate the price of everything. I am TERRIBLE at that! But he's a pro from way back. He will ask for a lower price anywhere, even big retail stores. He saved us 25% on already decent prices :) 

Now we just have to find a dining table.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My baby girl is engaged!

Kyle proposed to Tina
...and she said yes!

And I've had this silly song stuck in my head all day...

We knew this was coming since Kyle's been corresponding with us via e-mail... and I have to admit, I've visited a wedding blog or eleven :)  I am SO shifting into Mother-of-the-Bride gear! lol  I'm pretty excited to be able to help my daughter in whatever way I can (considering the distance) prepare for her big day. And looking forward to heading north some weeks ahead (not sure how many) for more hands-on helping prior to the wedding.

So be prepared for a few some a shocking number wedding posts :) 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I had a GREAT day!

My day started off by finding out I had won a $50 gift certificate to CNS stores from Mari's recipe blog! WOOT!!! I immediately went to the CSN website to see how I could spend it...and then the power went off. I was so disappointed to be left hanging like that. The power was off a couple of hours, but that just gave me time to do some necessary cleaning and class preparation.

I'm having a bit of DMD (decision making disorder) with what to get from CSN but have narrowed it down to either a stainless steel skillet (which I've been wanting forever) and a nice set of steak knives. We have a friend coming next month who I hope will be able to bring whatever I decide to get. Pretty great timing, right? God is good!

Mid-afternoon we took a walk along the costanera. It was another beautiful NORMAL winter day with temperatures in the high 50s. I had to take my jacket off halfway during the walk, and later took my sweater off for a while too. There's one stretch where the wind is always stronger and we need our jackets, but most of the walk we don't.

Had a GREAT English class tonight. The kids were in fine form, and thoroughly enjoyed both learning how to make brownies and then eating them :)  It took about an hour to mix and bake the brownies; less than 10 minutes to make them disappear. Hopefully their new cooking vocabulary won't disappear that quickly. Some of the other things they want to learn how to make include banana bread, apple torte, and granola bars. See a trend? Yep, these kids love their sweets. But they also want to learn how to make bread and soup which is on the schedule for next week. Along with vocabulary for soccer. Quite the combo!

Remember Charlie?
He's going to teach us how to make bread. So glad that task doesn't fall to me! I'm not a very good bread maker. I do okay with the 5-minute artisan bread but if it requires kneading, faggeddaboudit. I even once had a Mennonite friend show me how to make bread but despite her careful instructions and demonstration, mine still came out like a brick. *sigh* I have the same problem with pie dough.

Charlie, although only 14, is quite the cook. Probably because he loves to eat so much. Not sure how he stays so thin, considering how he puts it away. His prodigious appetite is legend and tonight when Ivan asked the English word for "comer" (to eat) several of the kids piped up and said, "Charlie!" lol

While Ivan took the kids home after class, I put together a quick chicken and vegetable soup which we ate with [store bought] bread and butter. YUM! I am a huge fan of soup and could eat it every day in the winter. 

Yep, I had a GREAT day!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside!

Headlines read: "Cold temperatures cause death, damage in South America". Hovering around 32° may sound like a pleasant day in winter to my hardy northern U.S. friends, but for here that's VERY cold. Central heating is nonexistent and some homes don't have any type of heat source because they generally don't need it. I'm not even kidding when I say some places can count winter days on their fingers.

We arrived home last Friday to a pretty chilly house. Both wall heaters were set on low, which we immediately cranked up to high. But honestly, they don't quite cut it. The heater back by the bedrooms works best if we keep one of the three bedroom doors shut so it only has to heat two rooms. Not a problem since we don't use the guest room unless we...duh...have guests. Much better to just keep our room and the study/sewing room warm.

The other heater is in the kitchen because that's where the gas line was located and where we had space to put the large corner unit we bought from our co-workers. I would have preferred having it in the living room, but it would have meant running the gas line...yadda, yadda, yadda...which we weren't willing to do since this is a rental home. What this means is that the kitchen is warm. REALLY WARM, especially when I'm cooking. And the front rooms are chilly to say the least. While in the living room, I ALWAYS have my fleece blanket thrown over my legs.

I'm also sporting my cuddle duds and two pair of socks AT ALL TIMES. Plus a sweater over my turtleneck. I'm not a fan of the cold and do what I have to do to stay warm.

Another adjustment is using only hot water when I shower. Because we have one of those instant water heaters (which I normally LOVE because we never, ever run out of hot water with it) which works by bringing the water up a certain number of degrees, but when it's really cold like this and the water in the tank on the roof is really cold, that number of degrees means we get hot water that's not really very hot. So a shower with just hot water in this weather is an adequate-but-not-really-hot shower.

Very thankful that (1) this super cold weather is an aberration and we should snap out of it within the week and go back to normal winter temperatures in the 40s and 50s, (2) winter here does not mean many-dreary-weeks-on-end-of-gray-days because the skies are CLEAR AND SUNNY with only an occasional -- very occasional -- overcast day, and (3) winter only lasts a month or so. Which is such a short time, it makes me think of when Tom Hanks character in Apollo 13 says:
"Catch you on the flip side".

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Project 365, Week 29

Contrary to previous weeks, I have MORE than my allotted seven photos for this week's Project 365. Sorry, but a few days there were just too many and I was unable to choose only one.

We were in Sta. Rosa this week, for a belated anniversary getaway (the anniversary was in May). The day we arrived it was in the 70s and absolutely beautiful. We enjoyed a couple of days like that and then it turned COLD. Brrrrrr! Dropped about 30-40 degrees and stayed there. Winter had finally arrived!

But back to the beginning. Last Sunday we took a long walk around Belgrano and saw these flowers. I thought it was interesting that there were no leaves on this bush but scads of lovely pink blossoms.
And then to see irises in full bloom in winter! C.R.A.Z.Y. but fun.
By the time we visited our favorite tea shop on Tuesday, the colder weather had prompted the owner to start a fire in the fireplace.
Our favorite spot is right next to that, on the comfy couch and chairs. We always settle in for a good long stay, sipping tea or coffee, splurging on a decadent dessert (my favorite is the brown sugar apple torte) and enjoying some fairly fast internet speeds while we catch up on e-mails. And blogs, of course :)

Despite the frigid temperatures, we still took long walks every day, paying particular attention to the architecture of the homes we passed. We were struck by how out-of-place this home looked -- not at all what you'd expect to find here.
It's more suited to the neighboring German community of Belgrano. But I guess it's to be expected that we'll experience a spill-over into Sta. Rosa since the towns are so close, but property prices are significantly lower in Sta. Rosa.

We snapped this photo because we really like the variegated roof tiles...always on the lookout for ideas we can incorporate should we end up building our own house.
What do you think? Like the look?

Our last full day of vacation was spent hunkered down inside due to the constant precipitation outside. We woke to snow mixed with rain, then rain, back to snow...all day it was back and forth with some sleet thrown in on occasion. I actually didn't take a photo that day. We played with the embroidery function on my sewing machine, as Ivan figured out how to operate the system. I read a very funny kid's book I'd downloaded for free from amazon (Milrose Munce and the Den of Professional Help). But on the way home Friday we stopped to snap photos of the snow on the sierras.
I'm pretty sure I had a photo last year of the traditional snowman-on-the-hood-of-the-car but I'm including another one this year.
I just think it's a fun tradition, as long as the snowman isn't so large it obscures the sightline for the driver (which I've witnessed a few times). We saw a couple of cars pulled over with the occupants busy creating their own snowman-on-the-hood.

Saturday was so cold and parents were concerned about the kids being outside all day at the soccer tournament so plans were changed -- and they went bowling instead!
Here's Ivan and Lucas taking their turns. Most of the kids had never been bowling before and they had a blast. Definitely a good winter activity.
And that's our week. We arrived in Sta. Rosa in summer and left in winter -- or at least that's how it felt -- from the 70s to the 30s. I'm really glad I had the forethought to take my long johns! :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010


We woke up to snow mixed with rain this morning. That turned to rain for a while. Then more snow mixed with rain. All morning it's gone back and forth but there's been constant precipitation. A good day to stay indoors by the fire. I'm going to make a puff pancake for lunch, and bacon. Yum!

I bought my used Pfaff 2124 over two years ago but had never taken the time to figure out the embroidery functions. Decided to bring the whole kit-and-kaboodle with us this week and have had fun figuring out how to do designs and fonts. Ivan, with WAY more patience than me, has taken the lead on this and figured out how to do not just individual letters but whole words. Had some issues with tension and crazy tangled bobbins but overall it's worked quite well. Looking forward to personalizing some items in the future.

Today is our last day of vacation. Tomorrow morning we pack up, clean house and head home. It's been a good week and I'm thankful we had the opportunity to get away. 

Saturday is a big, all-day soccer tournament in Cordoba sponsored by some evangelical churches. Last year over 1000 kids participated and our boys are quite excited about going this year. No idea how many we'll be taking but pretty sure we'll need some extra parents to go along and help with transportation. Nothing like jumping back into work with an all-day event :)  Tomorrow once we get home I'll be busy assembling scads of sandwiches and mixing bottles and bottles of Tang for Saturday. We don't have Kool-Aid here but Tang products are virtually the same, with a wide variety of flavors. My favorite is mango, which tastes more like passion fruit but I'm not going to quibble over the flavor names. 

What's your favorite Kool-Aid flavor?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cold but cozy

Winter has definitely arrived, but clear sunny skies make it seem much warmer than it is. Plus we're snuggled up inside with the wood stove keeping things cozy warm on our little anniversary vacation. Games of Hand-And-Foot and downloaded episodes of BBC Stephen Fry in America have kept us entertained. Long walks around town with an eye out for interesting architectural details or exceptionally lovely fences. Comfort food like creamed chicken over cornbread or smoked pork chops with cooked cabbage and garlic mashed potatoes.

Oh, and the inevitable plumbing problem.

Yep, this vacation -- for Ivan anyway -- has meant a few trips to the hardware store and hours of fiddling with leaky pipes. *sigh*  The latest leak he traced back to the connection at the tub in the main bath. Traced by knocking out the wall from the kitchen to the bath. It stems from a lead pipe that was buried in the cement which I guess is a no-no because of the chemical interaction of the lime with the lead. He was able to do a temporary fix (so we could still have hot water) while he contemplates the best way to handle it permanently. And then, of course, we'll have the patching and re-tiling to do. He also spent all afternoon yesterday on the roof working on the tank, with more yet to come. Poor guy just can't get away from it.

I, however, am in total vacation mode. Other than fixing and cleaning up after meals, I'm not doing much at all. I downloaded some free Kindle books before we came but have skipped around. There's a LOT of drivel out there, I'm sorry to say, and life is too short to waste on drivel. I might have to break down and actually buy a good book. Just thought it was worth a try with the free stuff. I've found a couple of good ones that way, but sadly they seem to be few and far between. I guess there's a reason they're free.

Looking forward to a couple more days like this before heading back home. Sunny skies, good food, beautiful country, wonderful companion...but sketchy internet, so I won't be online much. We're doing well to check e-mail and some days we can't keep a connection long enough to even do that. Did receive e-mails from dear friends in Kampala letting us know they were okay, which was great news (even though we had not heard about the bombings since we don't have a t.v. or radio out here). One of our friends knew several who had been killed, including the one American. So sad! I hate to think about lovely Uganda being a target like this. Praying for those families touched by this tragedy.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Project 365, Week 28

Alrighty then. Still not keeping up with the photo-a-day goal, but giving myself a pass this week since I spent a good part of it flat on my back. I still have six photos to share, so not too shabby considering the week I've had :)

Last Sunday we were sitting on our back patio when we saw a white bird in the avocado tree. This isn't the best picture, since I had to zoom in rather than actually get close. Maybe a canary?
Ivan took a couple of the guys to see their sister in a nearby town this week, and they stopped at this monument to Indio Bamba, supposedly the last native Indian left alive in the area back in the late 1800s (but we're not sure of the date).
In my affection for all things aqua, I had to snap a photo of this cute little house with the aqua shutters...
...and this Fiat 600 we saw during the same walk.
On another day we passed this fence and I pointed it out as one I particularly liked. It is nice and tall, seems substantial yet doesn't block the views.
As you know, we hope to buy a lot and start building soon and the very first thing we'll do is put up a fence around the entire perimeter of the property. The sides and back will be simple (and inexpensive) chain-link that we'll upgrade down the road but we want to put up a nice front fence right at the beginning.

Finally, here's a yummy dish of strawberry shortcake we enjoyed Saturday. Ivan made the white cake on Friday, thinking we were having visitors (who never showed up, but that just means MORE CAKE FOR US! ;). Later that day we found the first strawberries in months at our grocery store so snatched up a small package. I luuuuurve me some fruity desserts.
We're in Sta. Rosa for a belated anniversary getaway. Enjoyed a beautiful walk around Belgrano this morning; we started out wearing sweaters but had to take them off before the first block. However, the temperature dropped drastically by the time we came back out late this afternoon. Brrrrr! I think winter may have finally arrived.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Band-aid, band-aid, who's got the band-aid?

Amazing how a few chiropractic adjustments and some localized injections -- plus your prayers! -- have made such a HUGE difference. My back still aches but the shooting pains are history and I am once again able to stand and sit in [relative] comfort. Hallelujah!

Thought I'd share another little difference in how medicine is practiced here. We had to first buy the vials of medicine and syringes at the pharmacy (with a prescription, of course) and then take them each time we went to get the injections. While this country has socialized medicine, anyone who possibly can pays for auxiliary insurance with a secondary health care provider. We are members of a local company that offers a 24 hour emergency room. And I mean "room". It's nothing like a hospital ER, but rather a small-house-turned-into-a-clinic. I admit to being a little put off by the shabbiness and rather unkempt appearance so just prayed for an infection-free experience :) On the plus side, we never had to wait and were always ushered right in.

Also learned on our first visit that we should have come prepared with more than the medicine and syringe. When we got home I had to change clothes and wash the blood out of the ones I'd been wearing since no band-aid was provided. Made sure we threw in some band-aids after that! Overall it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be...although my hips do feel a bit like a pincushion :) 

Now we'll work on strengthening my back so this doesn't happen again. Took a nice walk this afternoon and will continue with those until I'm well enough to add other exercises. I'm SOOOO thankful to live by the costanera, where we have lovely walks all around us.

Speaking of costaneras, there's progress with the lot near the currently-under-construction-river-side-costanera across town. Facing some complications like the title still being in a previous owner's name, unpaid property taxes and the need to get the plans approved for the casita already on site (which should have been done before it was built). Ivan has been meeting with different people involved and talking to an escribano who would handle the paperwork. But it actually looks like it might go through! Not holding our breath, as we are well aware anything could happen to upset the apple cart.

Meanwhile I can't help but daydream just a little :)  I've sketched floorplans, downloaded inspiration photos from the internet, and jotted down pages of ideas for a future house. Budgetary concerns being paramount, I'm trying to figure out how we can do things well but inexpensively. On our walk today we were particularly noticing fences since that will be the number one priority if we get the lot. For sure the sides and back will be a cheaper, temporary fix that simply addresses the security issue but we want to do a really nice, permanent front fence and gate right away. Down the road when we have more time and money we'd change out the back and sides to something more aesthetically pleasing.

Sarah (from Dream in Domestic) mentioned her photobucket "album" of inspiration photos and I totally copied the idea and am having a great time organizing all the pretty pictures I've found on blogs from around the world. In the process I've found some new sites I need to add to my blogroll. It's been a fun pasttime while being incapacitated.

Looking forward to getting away for a few days to Sta. Rosa -- this time just to REST. No projects, can you believe it?! At least for me. I think Ivan wants to do some more work on the new tank but he said it's a minor thing. This trip will actually be a belated getaway for our anniversary which was two months ago, back when we had the retreat in Sta. Rosa -- followed by the Nasty-Head-Cold-of-2010 which was certainly not conducive to celebrating anything.

The kids are on winter holiday this week and next so the schedule is a little different. That's worked out well for our co-workers to get away this week and us next week. Instead of having English yesterday, Ivan spent time with a group of the guys, watching them play soccer and then providing refreshments. This afternoon he's helping one of the boys repair the water tank on their house -- he's had a little experience with those of late :)  I'm having a quiet afternoon catching up with laundry and starting on some paperwork. Regarding both: WILL THEY NEVER END?!?!

Mmmm, felt good to get that off my chest.

I had two major fails in the kitchen recently. One was trying a new recipe for cold sesame noodles with chicken. Too peanutty for our tastes. I think I want to try again, but alter the amounts of the sauce to minimize the peanuts and kick up the sesame and soy. The other OOPS! involved leaving roasting red peppers in the oven too long so they collapsed and leaked all over. Guess what I'll be doing once my back is in better shape?

On the plus side, I rescued enough of the red peppers to add to some yummy dishes. Last night I made a risotto with mushrooms and roasted red peppers and this morning I threw red peppers into the potato and cheese omelet we had for breakfast. Both = DELICIOUSNESS. Roasting red peppers really brings out their sweetness and adds a hint of smokey that's just irresistible.

I think that's enough randomness for one afternoon. While writing this post I've had the TV on, tuned into the channel. The first program I watched was in Spanish but it just dawned on me that the show that just came on is in English! I can suddenly understand EVERYTHING rather than just random words and phrases :)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Una Poesia en Spanglish

An Ode to Dolores
(una poesia en Spanglish)

I bent over. I said ouch.
Ever since I’m on the couch.
Dolor intenso,
Incómodo inmenso,
Turning me into a grouch.

Over a week. WAY too long,
For this pain to be so strong.
Espero sanar,
Salud ganar
“Back” to where I belong.

[Warning: This is what happens when creativity collides with pain-induced sleep deprivation]

In the process I'm gathering quite a collection of band-aids from localized injections of anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medication. SOOOOOO thankful we found a really great chiropractor in town (chiropractors are very unusual here). Praying for a much lower level of pain so sleep is possible (none last night).

I think maybe trying to keep up with the regular schedule this past week wasn't the best idea. Too many two-or-more-hours-sitting-in-very-uncomfortable-chairs for different classes and church activities plus a 5-hour-sit-down-session yesterday with our co-workers and a couple in the church = EXTREME PAIN. I'm trying to be good and remain prone; not too hard since sitting in any position isn't really an option, and standing is only comfortable for about, oh, maybe five seconds.

A lifetime of back problems due to scoliosis didn't really prepare me for such intense and prolonged pain. Definitely going to find out how to strengthen my back (after it's better, of course) because I NEVER, EVER, EVER want to go through anything like this again. I sure appreciate all those who have been praying for me! Keep it up, por favor!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Project 365, Week 27 -- HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!

I'm afraid my 365 mojo is gone -- sooooo far behind with daily photos. I can't seem to get back into the groove of remembering to get the camera out and use it. Of course it helps if you go somewhere or do something, and I haven't been doing much of either lately.

However, I'm going to try and hang in there and this week we bring you Two Weeks In Only Six Pictures!

[If we pretend there's cool background music, will it seem like there's more?]

So, up first is a photo from Santa Rosa. The neighbor's horses kept coming over and leaning over to eat the bark off the limbs of fallen trees they could reach.
Monday, June 21st our co-workers brought out a group to help us stack wood and clean up the yard. What a fantastic job they did! "Charley" is one of my English students too. Don't you just love his smile?!
The guy who keeps an eye on the place for us called this morning to say the horses had gotten into the yard and knocked over all the wood the group had painstakingly stacked along the back of the house and eaten most of the bark from it. Is bark especially tasty?

Here's a final photo of the house from the corner of the lot, so you can see the nice new tank on top. Ivan will be building a wall around it, but that's a project for the future. We were just happy to get it installed this last time -- what a job!
No photos until the end of the week when we took a group to a concert in Cordoba.
A large church in Tampa has a youth orchestra, choir and drama team that travels and we got to see one of their performances in Cordoba.

Another group photo, this time from when Argentina played Greece and won! Wearing the colors proudly -- how do you like that fun hat one of the guys is wearing? Those were everywhere!
Obviously I don't have any similar photos from this weekend's game with Germany and subsequent exit from the World Cup. ¡Qué triste!

Friday we were in Cordoba and I snapped this shot of a pizza place.
I've been up and down this street numerous times and had never noticed the tall man on the side of the building. Not sure if that says more about the poor execution of advertising on their part (since he's the same color as the building, he just blends in) or my lack of observation skills.

You know we have opposite seasons, but I have to tell you that today feels like summer. It's been in the 70s for several days running. We're sitting on the patio without even a sweater! Lovin' it! And yes, we are grilling :D  Not hamburgers or hotdogs, or even steaks, but we are grilling. Our lunch menu includes:
grilled bondiola (a cut of pork)
grilled Basque morzilla (blood sausage flavored with nuts and raisins)
grilled red peppers
gourmet potatoes 

Gourmet potatoes are a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. I simply add some chopped onion, shredded sharp cheese, sour cream, melted butter (quantities depend on amount of potatoes -- I'm going for a seasoned but not overpowering side dish) and bake until hot, bubbly and brown. A very yummy potato dish!


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Rambling thoughts on everything from telephone calls to accent tiles

I have been a bad blogger lately! If only we could pack a few more hours onto each day.

Because it's been so long since I've posted anything of substance, I figure why start now so you'll get even more insubstantial information today. Just the thoughts rambling around in my brain, rather like the silver marble in a pin ball machine.

In other words, read at your own risk for blogging whiplash.

I have mentioned that we've been looking at houses and property. In the U.S. I liked nothing better than house hunting, attending the annual Parade of Homes, and checking out the realty magazines that you can pick up at newstands. But here... the process is just different and I was tired of being trotted around to properties I had no desire to see when we'd ask to see something we were interested in. No blowing in and out of a house to check it out quickly; the realtor always had a few more to show us and we never finished a session in under two hours. Never.

So this southern girl bailed on her husband. Yes, yes I did. I'm not proud of it, but it was just more than I could handle. I told Ivan he could screen places and if he saw something he really liked, then show it to me. Otherwise, I was overwhelmed at home and needed to stay focused on catching up.

Overwhelmed because lately I've been feeling like a CLUNKER, always breaking down, spending more time "in the shop" than "on the road". In the past five weeks I've had a nasty cold, arguably the worst migraine in my life, and managed to put my back out by doing nothing more than bending over.

Just call me Granny.

With so much time "in the shop", when I did feel good I've wanted to catch up on laundry, sweep floors, pick up clutter... I'm not good about handling dirt and clutter. A few days, no big deal. More than that and I get antsy. After two weeks down with the head cold, this place was a WRECK. Did a quick, superficial clean-up before Sta. Rosa but haven't really been able to do a good housecleaning since. 

Which makes me slightly crazy.

It has been necessary to cancel a few Spanish classes and a couple English get-togethers along the way but overall I've done a pretty good job of keeping up with the regular schedule. 

Back to houses and property...

We found a house we liked (the one with the bathtub in the yard ;) which is basically move-in ready but we would have to build a garage/shop first because all our stuff (i.e., Ivan's tools) wouldn't fit into the house. We also came across an almost empty lot with a small casita. The casita isn't finished and would not be sufficient for us to live in even when it is (two small rooms and a bath) but we loved the location (just 50 yards from the river that feeds into the lake that we live by now) and think that if we can get it for a decent price, then we'd like to build.

We honestly have no idea what this will involve. We know the process is different here. You have to have a licensed architect do the preliminary paperwork and get the plans approved, but that's about all we know. We have no idea the cost of materials or the regulations for residential construction... So Ivan stopped by the municipality and they told him if he brought in a pendrive they'd copy the regulations for him, so he did and they did and now we just need to print it off. Not sure if we should get a ream of paper first; there seems to be rather a lot of them. *sigh*

Have had an interesting time trying to figure out how to get the cash into the country if the seller accepts our offer. We don't have an account at a local bank since those are not easy to open. So in the past week Ivan's been checking out the options -- which range from using ATM machines (most expensive) to using a monetary conversion business (next to highest) to opening an account with an international bank (cheapest). Huge differences in cost! From less than a couple hundred to over sixteen hundred dollars, depending on who charges which fees and at what percentage rate.

Obviously we'd prefer to go with the cheapest option BUT they'd only give us the money in pesos and we think the buyer really wants U.S. dollars. The absolute easiest method would have been to wire transfer the money directly to the seller's bank but apparently banks here don't really like to deal with those.

I'm still trying to figure out what banks do. They're open only in the mornings. They don't do home mortgages or loans for cars. I think they must make most of their money charging fees on the checking and savings accounts they do have. Most Argentines we know who have some money keep a little in an account here for living purposes but put most of their money elsewhere, either Europe or the U.S. because (1) they get more interest on deposits and (2) it's safer. I'm not sure how often this has happened over the years, but in 2001 a financial crisis caused people with money in banks here to lose all or most of their money. If they got any of it back, it was just a fraction.

I'm also trying to figure out why it costs more for people to call locally than overseas.

Yes, you read that right. It's more expensive to call our co-workers here than our kids in the U.S.This is not to say it's cheap to call the U.S., it's just REALLY expensive to make local calls.

I'd say there's a wee problem with the system here, wouldn't you?

We don't use the house phone to call our kids though. Our son set us up with a Vonage phone before we came so we can make unlimited calls to the U.S. at no charge to us (he takes care of the monthly fee). Or we skype when the Vonage phone isn't working well. At around two cents a minute, skype is a very cheap alternative!

Back once again to houses and property...

Between the work we're doing on the house in Sta. Rosa and dreaming about building our own place some day, I've been looking into construction and finish materials. I've got a notebook that's rapidly filling up with prices, ideas, and sketches. One of the things I came across is an accent tile that I love, love, love! We're going to use it in the kitchen in Sta. Rosa, just above the white wall ceramicos. This thin rope tile is PERFECT for that country cottage look I'm going for!
I've been putting some thought into what look I'd like for that future dream house of ours and have decided I'm drawn to a combination: modern industrial meets country cottage. Don't think it can be done?! Just wait...I think this is going to be a very interesting project! Which I will document right here on the blog, of course. With photos. Lots and lots of photos.

The pin ball is coming to a stop. I have to clean the kitchen and then go commiserate Argentina's loss at the hands of Germany :-(