Sunday, January 30, 2011

Project 365, Week 5

While most of our friends in the U.S. contend with freezing cold temperatures, we're sweltering in the heat. No kidding, yesterday and today I've kept a bowl of ice water in the fridge, taking it out every 10 minutes or so to re-wet my washcloth which I then ring out and wrap around my neck. Still waiting for the storm that was supposed to hit yesterday. So far the only action we're seeing is a few gray clouds.

But on to the purpose of this post: Project 365.

Monday Ivan picked up a cheap cut of pork and then ground it (twice) for me so I could make some Italian sausage. He uses mom's old hand-cranked food processor that has fittings to grind meat, grate cheese or slice whatever. Ever seen one of these before?

Earlier this week I mentioned that Tuesday Ivan was at the lot when a storm hit. He took this photo of the street:
That wall of water careening down the road is rather scary, isn't it? We'll have to be careful how we grade our site and build so we don't end up with water in the house every time we get a rain storm.

Back at the house the frogs kept us entertained. I counted at least nine hopping around -- our backyard always turns into a swamp whenever it rains really hard and the frogs were just lovin' all that water to play in!
In case you're interested, within a couple hours the yard is usually back to normal.

Whenever we have guests I try to keep treats on hand. I had made brownies and Joe was trying really hard to get one out of the cookie jar -- but his hands are too big :)
He kept saying, "It's not fair!" LOL  After taking a photo, Gail relented and got him one.

Wednesday after merienda we went to visit friends and other friends stopped in too, so we enjoyed the cooler evening temperatures out on their patio and watched the girls play.

I may have mentioned our preoccupation with houses, and that I snap photos of ones I really, really like. Here's one under construction a block over from where my Spanish teacher lives. Love all the angles and windows!

Friday Ivan had to go to Cordoba and that gave me a few hours to sew. I'd had an idea for a book bag using a particular fabric. It took some sketching and measuring and figuring since the piece wasn't very large AND it was oddly shaped due to me cutting bits off for other projects, but I was able to make it with what I had (and there were even a few 1"x4" pieces left when I was done). Woot! 
I did, however, run up against a brick wall with the origami flowers I wanted to make. My book on fabric origami (you can see it tucked under the bag in the photo) doesn't have the greatest instructions so although I have successfully made other flowers from it, for some reason the 12-petal flower "defeated" me. I finally just went with a completely different tutorial I found online that also required some minor sewing and gluing in addition to the folding. Since I want the bag to be washable, these flowers will be pinned on for easy removal. I also had trouble figuring out which colors I preferred. The flowers that "matched" the best sort of faded into the background. I think the bright yellow pops a little better, don't you? I still have to make and insert the lining to finish off the bag. I'll be giving it to a friend whose birthday is just around the corner.

I continued working on the flowers Saturday, between baking projects in the kitchen. Even though I was using the toaster oven (which we have stashed in the garage so it doesn't heat up the kitchen), the kitchen was still HOTTER THAN BLAZES. I was only boiling water and melting butter in there, but the day itself was just flat out hot and humid. I had the ceiling fan going full blast and a floor fan we usually have in the living room turned around so it was facing into the kitchen. And then there was all the dipping-of-the-washcloth-into-the-bowl-of-icy-water-and-wrapping-around-my-neck action. Even though I spent all of Saturday cooking, I ran out of time and had to finish this morning. Here's the result of some of my labors:
The complete list of what I made (and not just what's in the photo) includes:
chocolate scones
no bake cookies
granola bars
Mexican cornbread
3 plain pizza crusts
1 pizza with homemade Italian sausage, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and olives
roasted and de-boned chicken
4 batches yogurt
homemade granola

It took all day yesterday and this morning because I was using the toaster oven and it isn't very big. I can't fit my 9"x13" Pyrex dish or cookie sheets in it, so my recipes for granola, pizza crusts, brownies and granola bars have to be split in two, effectively doubling the baking time for each.

I'm tuckered out from all the cooking. But I needed to get it done because we're heading to Sta. Rosa for a few days and hopefully taking a couple of the kids with us -- and you KNOW how teenage boys can pack it away! Not using the oven (here or there) is one of my summer survival techniques which I refuse to budge on, and it's not real practical to haul the toaster oven back and forth. So the menu will consist of things I either made ahead of time, can serve cold, or cook quickly on the stove top.

The original purpose of the trip was to paint the main living area but Ivan put his back out this morning so not sure we'll be able to accomplish much on that project -- he has to be able to do the ceiling before I can tackle the walls. But, if nothing else, we'll clean out the storeroom so I can paint and put up new shelves and then we can store things in a more accessible manner. Right now I have to dig through piles of boxes and containers stacked on the floor.

And that concludes my week. Nothing extraordinarily exciting; just the every day stuff that goes on.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Modems and Frogs and Chocolate, Oh My!

The phone company sent over a new modem with built-in wifi capabilities. When Ivan has time to install it, we'll see if that improves our service.

Meanwhile we've had company for a few days. This morning Joe's been teaching Ivan how to use a program available for PC users that is like an online notebook, keeping track of all kinds of info in various folders and sub-folders.

There have been lots of talking, lots of eating, lots of laughing... and trying to stay cool. The power outages continued for about 24 hours and then improved. Yay! It's no fun when there's no power, therefore no fan action, and the heat index reads 96º. When our friends arrived on Monday we were on the back patio under the awning, trying to catch every little tiny breeze that happened along. Yesterday and last night it stormed off and on, but the rain didn't cool things down as much as it usually does. But at least we have fan action!

Ivan and Joe were over at the lot yesterday when the storm first hit, and Ivan snapped a photo of the wall of water that came washing down our street :(  I'll be sharing the photo on Project 365 this weekend, but just let me tell you, seeing the photo was rather disconcerting! Ivan says we'll have to be careful how we level the property to build, so we don't end up with water coming up to the house whenever it rains really hard like that.

Hard, fast rains always leave a pond in the back yard here for an hour or two and last night it brought out the frogs in force. I counted at least nine hopping around our tiny back yard, swimming where it was deep enough. We'd gone outside to take advantage of the cooler temperature and the frogs kept us thoroughly entertained for a while! An oddity: one of the frogs was much lighter and greener in color than the others which were a brownish green color that blended more with the grass and plants. I tried taking some photos but not sure any of them will be good enough to share.

Isn't my life too exciting for words? Try not to be jealous. If it makes you feel any better, I just ran out of the yummy Millstone coffee beans I brought back from the U.S. and can't have my morning cup of hazelnut. Tragic, no?

What makes me feel even worse is the news that cocoa is expected to sky-rocket now that turmoil in the Ivory Coast is threatening to cut off up to 40% of the world's cocoa supply. YIKES!

Now THAT is truly tragic!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Project 365, Week 4

I am going to attempt to upload photos for Project 365. Our internet has been SOOOOO slow lately. Ivan's repeated calls to the phone company resulted in techs being sent out on two separate occasions, but their visits weren't very helpful. Basically the company oversold their product. Bottom line: customer demand FAR exceeds their band-width supply. Especially in the summer when thousands upon thousands of tourists flock to town and stress an already stressed system. [Edited: After 3 hours last night I caved and went to bed; the slow internet had "defeated" me, as my Ugandan friends would say. It was just taking toooooo long to upload photos so I'm back at it Sunday morning.]

Not only does this create a problem with posting myself, but also hinders me being able to read other blogs. It takes a sweet forever for pages to load and the snatches of computer time I get don't go very far. So I apologize if I haven't been around in a while. I'm trying!

Tonight it doesn't help that I am having a serious case of DMD* and, as a result, posting twice as many photos as normal. Hopefully the excessive lineup doesn't bore you to tears, and you still come back next week.

Last Sunday the kids got back from camp and although they were flat out exhausted, once they'd partaken of sustenance (i.e., sandwiches and cookies)...
 ...they were ready to tell their families and us all about the week.

Monday morning we had to go into town for a few things. During summer we like to get there early before most of the tourists are awake and flooding the streets :)  I snapped a quick photo of the line at one of the banks, winding out the building and around the corner.
Yes, there's still a cash flow problem and we hear it's going to continue for a few more months!

That evening we had friends over for asado. Ivan was firing up the grill and getting ready to throw on some lemon chicken and red bell peppers. YUM!
I apologize to the squeamish for the raw meat photo. Should I warn you next time?

Tuesday I spent the morning making peach freezer jam. DOUBLE YUM!

Our friends Ruben and Neris came to visit on Wednesday. They have a ministry showing Christian films in churches, camps and on the street. They were on their way home after being in the southern part of the country for two months. Before they could leave, Ruben had to make some adjustments to something under the hood so it would start -- that's a tool in one hand...
...and a newspaper in the other; they've been saving and keeping their eye out for a vehicle that doesn't require quite so much work to keep it on the road... and they'd seen an ad that sounded promising, to check out on the last leg of their trip home. See the "for sale" sign on the window? Anyone interested in an old, well used and on-it's-last-legs Renault 12?

The neighbor in back of us has a nifty little system that makes it easy for us to share fruits and vegetables with him. He has this long hook hanging over the wall and when we have something to give him, we put a bag on the hook, and he can easily pull it up and over the wall :)
Let's see what we had for him this day...

I'd planned on finishing the quilt this week but that was not to be -- there was no batting to be found in the entire city! We hit several fabric stores on Monday, to no avail. So I decided to work on an idea I'd had... sort of a cross between a shopping bag and a diaper bag. I modified this pattern for a fabric shopping bag, making it wider to accommodate the 10" pinwheel blocks I wanted to use in the center, front and back.
I thought the new size made it look more diaper bag-ish :)  I didn't want to mess with a zipper or a flap closure so decided to use a couple of snaps instead. On the ends I made padded pockets with elastic at the top to hold bottles, using the same fabrics as the pinwheel blocks (blue on one, orange on the other).
I also made one pocket for the inside plus the pinwheel blocks are pockets, making a total of five. I figured that was enough and called it good. I had to use two layers of fusible interfacing to stiffen the bag sufficiently so it didn't flop all over the place.  I worked on it a little each day until it was finally finished on Thursday. I have to share one more photo with you; I re-purposed an old curtain panel with some fabric I ADORE (because it reminds me of Monet's garden paintings) for the inside of the bag (see the inside pocket on the far left?).

Friday we had to make a quick trip to Sta. Rosa to fix a couple of things. We could not get over the abundant crop of grapes this year!!!
Ivan severely cut back the vines in June 2009 and we didn't have any fruit last year. But boy, did it go crazy this year! I'm pretty excited to make grape jelly plus grape juice concentrate to use for communion.

A walk down to the river showed it to be a happening place this month. We normally don't go out there during January because the house is always rented. Pretty sure this is the busiest we've ever seen the river -- and the photo shows only a portion of the many people enjoying the water; they're spread out up and down the river (which is pretty shallow in most places).
Ivan had to replace a light fixture in one of the bedrooms and make an adjustment to the water system because of some overflow problems. We also discovered the cold water faucet wasn't working in the kitchen. Plus he'd decided to go ahead and change from a fuse to a breaker system on the electric. Needless to say, he had a VERY busy 24 hours! That's how long we had between renters to get 'er done. While he was doing the important stuff, I took care of some cleaning projects. And I used this...any idea what it is?
Here's a full view of the object in question:
Yep, I mowed. An interesting experience, mowing with an electric mower! We had not wanted to haul the gas mower in the trailer this trip and I figured one time using the 30-some-year-old electric mower wouldn't kill me. Have to say, for such a tiny little thing (the deck is only about 15" x 15") it does a pretty good job. The only annoying part was trying to keep from running over the cord!

Some of you know all about the house in Sta. Rosa. For those new to my blog, Ivan's family built a house there 40-some years ago. It's two hours from where we live now so it's our "go to" place for getaways. It's also a constant and on-going work-in-progress as we chip away at much needed repairs and maintenance issues. For the past two years it's been plumbing, plumbing and MORE plumbing. We think (HOPE) that we're ready to move onto other things now. Anyway, you'll be reading more about it in upcoming P365 posts, so thought I'd clue you in to what I'm talking about when I mention Sta. Rosa. Here's a photo I took before we left to come home:
It's a cute little cottage in the Calamuchita Valley :)

*DMD: decision-making disorder

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pretty Peach Jam Jars, All In A Row

Yesterday Robin mentioned "Steel Magnolias" on facebook. That's such a great movie... you just have to love the dynamic between the female characters and the oh-so-funny, very southern and extremely memorable lines. Robin included a few of them, including my favorite:
I realized that while I've watched the movie multiple times, it has been several years. So this morning while I worked on peach jam, I enjoyed it all over again. The timing was perfect. I finished the jam right when Jackson finds Shelby unconscious on the patio, at which point I was able to sit down with my box of tissues and cry through the sad part.

It shouldn't have taken a whole hour and a half to make one batch of freezer jam, but I used peaches from our tree which are buggy in the extreme...despite Ivan spraying three times over the season, as recommended by the local nursery. The other day Ivan had a long talk with our neighbor in back who also has a peach tree, and who has tried every remedy known to get rid of the bugs, to no avail.

Anyway, all the peaches had bad spots, and cutting those away was time consuming. But eventually I managed to accumulate the three cups needed for the recipe. I'd planned on making a double batch but it took so long just to get enough for one that I called it good and quit. It was getting altogether too warm in the kitchen with the bottles boiling for sterilization and me dealing with the peaches at the sink which is right next to the stove. Even with a fan 2 feet away, I was sweating. And the excessive wormage going on in the peaches was getting to me. (Blogger doesn't like "wormage" but if it isn't a word, it should be so I'm leaving it in.)

Yesterday the temperature wasn't so bad, but today the heat index is climbing again...
It's a bit overcast and I'm hoping a storm comes through at some point to cool things off.

Ivan would probably appreciate the storm (if we get one) holding off for a bit. He's gone over to the lot to start picking up debris and mowing. Besides the tools for the job, he took a lawn chair and big bottle of water so he can take periodic breaks and not overdo it in this heat. But it's the first chance he's had to get over there and get some work done in the past two weeks, and it might be his only chance for a while.

Then tonight he's meeting with a guy who does surveying. Ivan wants to know exactly where our property lines are before we start putting up fence posts. One of our friends seems to have relatives and/or contacts in almost every area of construction, and he's going to take Ivan to meet his nephew, the surveyor.

Last night we had a fun evening with my Spanish teacher and her daughters. We feasted on grilled chicken, some of Ivan's to-die-for chimichurri, mashed potatoes, steamed green beans and fresh bread from the corner market plus brownies for dessert. Marce is much more than my teacher, she's become a good friend and we always enjoy spending time with her. Her girls are so fun and interesting to talk with, too. Her oldest spent her senior year of high school on an exchange program in the U.S. and then she went to Germany for half a year as an au pair. Now she's ready to pick back up with her university program where she's studying law -- she'll make a great international lawyer, don't you think?! And daughter #2 is getting ready to head to Paris, also as an au pair. Her future plans include a degree in geology. With all the globe trotting by the older two, I wonder where the youngest (still in high school) will choose to go?

On a completely unrelated note, my daughter and her hubby celebrated their one month anniversary yesterday :) 

And I feel like I need to make a disclaimer -- or maybe it's a clarification? Anyway, I have to admit my "brilliant" idea yesterday was the result of many, MANY, MANY LESS-than-brilliant moments in the past when I'd have computer problems and call the I.T. guy (a.k.a. our son) and first thing he'd ALWAYS ask, "Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?" After a few times... okay, maybe more like forty-eleven times... I started doing that BEFORE I called him... and quite frequently it took care of the problem. So yesterday that turn-it-off-and-back-on conditioning prompted me to wonder if the same principle would work with other electronics? Why yes, yes it does!  

Monday, January 17, 2011

What do you do?

When we first moved into this house we had a security system installed by a reputable, well known company. Other than having guests who locked us out so that we tripped the alarm trying to get back in, we've not had any problems.

Until today.

Today for no reason the alarm box began dinging every minute or so.

Which we found mildly annoying.

So we did the only sensible thing and tried calling the company to find out what to do.

We used the number conveniently printed on the front of the alarm box.

It's the wrong number.

That was more than mildly annoying.
Who prints the wrong number on their own product?
Maybe a company who'd prefer you don't call them?

Now you're probably thinking, "Just look up the number. Or call information."

And I would say, "Ha! Both are easier said than done."

The phone book is organized in a way that we have not yet figured out (nor has anyone we've talked to, including friends and neighbors). If I were a conspiracy theorist, I'd have a field day with this...

But back to the problem at hand. There is also no such thing as 'information' to call.

So I ask again, "What do you do?"

I had the brilliant idea of setting the alarm as if we were going somewhere, and then punching in the code to turn it off.

What do you know, it worked!

So that's what you do when your alarm starts dinging and the number on the alarm box is for another business altogether.

The End

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Project 365, Week 3

It's another scorcher here in the southern hemisphere. Not sure how hot it got today, but at 8 p.m. it's still 95º. Believe it or not, that's cool enough that we've opened our windows and pushed the curtains back to let in whatever slight breezes there might be (after having closed them at 9 a.m. to keep the worst of the day's heat out). I've pretty much carried a small fan from room to room with me all day. Some rooms have ceiling fans but that's not enough in this kind of heat. And since a couple of our fans are over at the Centro, it leaves us short-handed here at home... hence the carrying from room to room.

Anyway, despite the heat I've had a productive day...laundry caught up, the fridge cleaned out, all the floors swept and those needing it were also mopped, bathroom cleaned, cookies baked, and quilt top finished! Excuse me while I pat myself on the back... on second thought, it's too hot for skin-to-skin contact so forget that.

This week has had its ups and downs, like most weeks. We started out on a high note with eight young people heading off to camp...
Come on guys, turn around!
That's better!
We've been hearing good things and look forward to the group's return tomorrow night, just in time to share during our Sunday meeting.

Monday Ivan finished painting and putting together the butter yellow cement mixer.
[Notice how it matches the cabinets?] Now we need to find the time to go work on the casita. Just did not happen this week. *sigh*

Tuesday found us making a day trip to Sta. Rosa, mainly to meet with the older couple who has been handling the house for Ivan's folks for many years, but also to see a few other folks. Toward the beginning of the trip we pulled over to take this photo...
That's a LOT of kilometers!

And along the way I snapped a picture of this guy on a homemade three-wheeler. Isn't that a hoot?
 This is on a state highway :)

Shortly after that we heard a funny noise under the hood and pulled over to discover the alternator belt had broken. Ivan cut it off so it wouldn't sling around and mess up anything else, and we drove the rest of the way to Sta. Rosa with the air off and the windows down. Hot trip! Thankfully we were able to leave the car with our favorite mechanic who not only fixed it but delivered it to our door when he was finished. Now that's service! Meanwhile another friend loaned us his car so we could get around to everyone we needed to see.

I was COMPLETELY grossed out to wake up Thursday and find that marauding ants had done this to the banana I had planned to eat with my yogurt and granola:
I have NEVER seen ants do that before! Has anyone else? What kind of mutant ants are they?! DOUBLE ICK.

Even though we won't be able to build for a year or three, I'm having a great time drawing floor plans, looking through home building magazines and snapping photos of houses I really like...
Speaking of building a house, I haven't shared any photos lately of the construction next door. Looks like they're getting mighty close to being able to move in!

I mentioned finishing the quilt top today. I am so pleased with how it turned out!
I found this pattern incorporating pinwheel blocks and prairie points on the Moda Bakeshop site and since I didn't have the requisite charm packs, I used what I had. Our friends don't know if they're having a boy or girl so I decided to go with bright, happy colors (close to 20 different fabrics!) that would work for either. Here's a close-up:
I haven't decided for sure but I think I'm going to use red for the binding.

If you're not familiar with Project 365, visit Sara who is hosting this fun meme once again. Basically we [try to] take a photo each day and then post once a week, linking up to Sara's so we can all visit one another. It's a great way to document the year AND make new bloggy friends :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

¿Dónde está el dinero?

Ever since we got back to Argentina we've noticed there's a shortage of available cash. Abnormally long lines at the banks and ATM machines... and quite often the ATMs are empty. So where has all the money gone?

Everyone is asking the question and nobody seems to have an answer.

From what we've been told, the problem became acute right before Christmas when the banks closed early for the holiday WITHOUT restocking ATMs -- all over the country! People who wanted to travel found themselves unable to access cash in order to buy bus tickets or put gas in their car. Those who had waited to buy Christmas presents couldn't get their money in time.

We were in transit Christmas day and had decided to send two pieces of luggage via bus rather than risk having to pay excessively high baggage fees at the airport. But when we got to the bus terminal, none of the four ATMs on site had cash and the one and only shipping company open on Christmas day did not accept credit cards. What to do?! Ivan finally found a bus line open that would change some of our U.S. dollars into pesos and we were able to do what we needed.

Since then we've been able to use the remainder of the money we'd had transferred down to buy the lot, as Ivan took care of back taxes and other expenses related to that. But this week we needed to start taking care of some regular expenses (like rent, bills, etc). Ever since moving here we've been using ATMs to access money from our account in the U.S.

Not the best system since they charge us at that end, at this end, plus an international exchange fee... totaling a whopping $17 or so for every $250 we take out. Ivan's trying to set it up at our bank here so we can simply transfer money down in one shot every month or two, but it is a long, involved process. As we found out when were trying to get the money here in order to buy the lot! And that was finally done on a different system than what we'd do on a more regular basis.

Anyhoo... since we haven't gotten that lined up yet, we are still using ATMs. Or trying to.

Yesterday Ivan ran errands first thing in the morning and getting money was one of the things on the list. An hour and a half later he called, obviously frustrated, to tell me he'd been to three ATMs and none of them had money. He'd gone downtown to go to an ATM there but couldn't find a parking space -- he'd driven around town three times already!

Since we were already planning a trip to Cordoba, I suggested we just get money there. Since Carlos Paz is a tourist town, it's not that unusual to have the ATMs empty on Monday morning during January.

But in Cordoba we ran into the same problem! Nothing at the first ATM, nothing at the second... Ivan asked someone if they knew where there might be a stocked ATM and the man shrugged and asked with a smile, "You mean in this country?"

We drove to yet another location and Ivan saw a cash delivery truck nearby and he was fairly confident the ATM would be stocked so he got in the looooooooooong line and waited over half an hour but in the end: SUCCESS! We ended up clocking a lot more miles than typical for a Cordoba trip because of having to search high and low for money.

Life here is different than the U.S., in that many places only operate with cash. No checks, no credit cards, no debit cards... only cash. This goes for rent, for utility bills, for most small stores. Really, the only places where we've been able to regularly use a credit or debit card are the bigger chain grocery stores and the gas stations.

Like I mentioned earlier, we're really hoping to be able to start transferring money down in one shot every month or two. If we can do that we'll avoid some (but not all) the fees we're currently having to pay; but even better, we'll be able to take care of some bills with online banking. Wouldn't that be great?!

Meanwhile we'll just pray that the cash flow problem is short-lived and we don't have to spend half a day again tracking down money to pay those bills!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Project 365, Week 2

It's wonderful that so many are participating in Project 365 this year!

Can you believe we've been home two whole weeks already?! This week started to feel a bit more "normal" -- as normal as any week ever feels here, since it's nigh unto impossible to accurately plan anything or count on your schedule remaining the same :)

Ivan spent three mornings trying (and finally succeeding!) in paying the back taxes on the property we bought; they hadn't been paid in seven years. The system for paying taxes is rather...(ahem) involved, shall we say. For just the provincial (state) taxes Ivan had to:
1) Go to the tax office first and have them calculate what was owed. For some reason they had to do it in three separate statements, rather than one.
2) Go to the police station to get a form he had to sign. BUT before he could sign the form, he was given another form to pay the fee in order to sign the first form. Confused yet? Oh, but there's more!
3) Then he had to go to the bank to pay the fee (apparently the police were too often pocketing the fees so in order to prevent that they went to this system of paying at the bank...and this wasn't a localized problem, this is a nationwide system)
4) NOW go back to the police station and have them witness him signing that first form. Which, by the way, merely certifies his signature!
5) But that is necessary before he's allowed to actually pay the taxes. Which requires another trip to the bank. Of course :)

[And the reason it took three mornings is because the banks are only open in the mornings and there were loooooong lines everywhere he office, police station and bank.]

So let's get on to the photos of the week!

Monday afternoon the rain cleared and we went to the property to fix the hole in the wall of the casita (that I talked about last week). Ivan just mixed the mud (cement mixture) in a bucket, by hand, since it was a fairly small project.
After talking with several builder friends this week, we've decided to add another, thick layer of plaster (cement) to the exterior of this wall. The problem is that whoever built this used half blocks instead of whole ones, so they're only 15 cm thick, making the wall easy to breach. But more about that later...

The lake, we are happy to report, did not dry up this summer!
In fact, we've had rain almost every day; sometimes a storm just blows in and dumps a lot of rain in a short amount of time, and other days it rains on and off all day.

The rain hasn't kept away the tourists though! Our town is besieged with thousands of them right now, making life a little more challenging. Everything takes more time because of the sheer number of people and increased volume of traffic. The noise factor increased substantially too. Our neighbors must all have family and friends visiting because our barrio is suddenly very LOUD...with music and laughter (and the occasional leftover holiday fireworks) until the wee hours of the morning.

The reason I mention this is to introduce this next photo, which is actually the cover of a local health insurance magazine featuring a picture of tourists flocking to Rio San Antonio. Our property is next to that river in the picture!
So when we eventually build and move over there, we'll go from living by the lake to living by the river :)

Wednesday we went to visit different folks. One couple had their grandson for the evening and I snapped some photos. He's such a cutey!

Ivan picked peaches off the ground on Thursday. Our tree is loaded again, and they started to drop even though they weren't quite ripe.
He left them to ripen in a bowl -- until last night when he made some uber-delicious slushies with them (just peaches, ice and a little sugar).

Late Friday evening I decided to make one quilt block to make sure my calculations were right (because I'm using half square triangle units).
Then off and on Saturday, as I had time, I began cutting out the rest of the fabric. Not the ideal way to do it! I can't tell you how many times I'd go back to do a little cutting, forget where I was at, and end up cutting the wrong piece -- or the wrong size :(  But at least I made a little progress.

I bought a couple yards of this monkey print years ago and LOVE it! I've used it in I don't know how many baby quilts :)  I'd love to find more of it, and while several internet searches have yielded lots of other monkey prints, I haven't been able to find this one. The other pinwheel blocks will incorporate these same colors. It should be a very happy, vibrant baby quilt when it's done!

Back to the casita issue... knowing that we wanted to add extra cement -- and having no desire to mix THAT much cement by hand! -- Ivan tracked down and bought a used cement mixer. It was a mess! He spent several days soaking it with some kind of acid mixture and then scraping off as much of the gunk as he could, inside and out. He painted the frame once it was as clean as he could get it. Here he is doing some patch welding on the drum portion (which will also receive a coat of paint)...
He's rather particular about his tools :)  He likes to keep them well maintained and in proper working order. The purpose of the paint is more of a pro-active theft-deterrent though. He's using a creamy yellow (leftover from another project), and not one of the factory colors you typically see (bright orange, green or blue). So a thief might think twice about stealing an easy-to-spot butter-colored mixer :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Nemesis

Learning, for the most part, has always come easy to me and it's something I truly enjoy. I like digging into a subject and finding out as much as I can about it. It's fun to discover new facts, especially if they're unusual ones. In a different life I might be a researcher (something I did occasionally on a freelance basis some years ago for a kids' magazine).

I said for the most part because there are exceptions to the rule.

Math is one of them. I can do basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, but anything beyond that makes my head hurt. I just find it so hard to wrap my mind around advanced number problems. But the basics I can do with no problem, fairly fast in my head, and so far that's been sufficient for balancing the checkbook, figuring out how much fabric to buy for a quilt project, and calculating out how much something costs when it's 35% off.

This may not be the place to admit it, but I never went beyond high school algebra. Our high school either didn't ask for more or else the business math I took in the adjoining vocational school met the requirement.

[Oh, and as a side note, I once won a competition for adding the fastest with a calculator!]

Anyway, back to my point. About the math. By the time I was finishing college as an adult, I managed to avoid the dreaded math when they allowed me to substitute a computer class instead. Woot! Good thing, too, or I might have gotten my first "C" (or worse) in college. As bad as I am with numbers, I may never have graduated at all!

But even worse than math? Foreign languages. During the year we spent in Uganda both my husband and daughter did quite well at picking up the local tribal language. Me? Not so much. In fact, I never did get the proper greeting down right. I always -- and I do mean ALWAYS -- said it wrong. Only I couldn't hear what I was saying wrong, so it was impossible to do any better. To me it sounded just fine, but according to everyone else, it was WRONG. *sigh*

And then God brought me to Argentina.
Where, in case you didn't know it, they speak SPANISH.

I should have known from the beginning, when I was allowed to sit in on first year Spanish at a college near our home in Michigan. Right from the get-go I found it necessary to spend anywhere from an hour-and-a-half to three hours preparing for each class. We met four times a week, so you do the math.

My head hurts just thinking about it. Not the math, but the sheer difficulty of learning a language.

It didn't help my confidence any when I discovered that the girls I sat near were spending twenty minutes (at most) getting ready for class and they were running circles around me.

I still have a vivid memory from that first semester. Our professor suggested we all purchase the book 501 Spanish Verbs and so I did. The day it came I sat down to look at it. The subtitle is "Fully conjugated in all the tenses in a new EASY-TO-LEARN format alphabetically arranged" (emphasis mine). That's when I realized there's a bazillion different conjugations for EVERY SINGLE VERB. Okay, maybe not a bazillion, but there are a LOT. Here's a page from the book; see for yourself:
There are seven simple tenses, seven compound tenses (but the pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo  has 12, not just 6 possible conjugations so it counts for an extra tense) plus the imperative.... (drum roll, please) adding up to an impressive 16 tenses. Each tense has six ways to conjugate it: first, second and third person singular as well as first, second and third person plural.

Like I said, I can do basic math, and the math MADE ME CRY.
16 x 6 = 96
And that's just one verb!
In that one book alone, with only the most common verbs, there's a mind-numbing...
501 x 96 = 48,096
conjugations to learn!
I cried and I cried and I cried. I kept crying for two hours. My poor husband didn't know what to do, so he did the smart thing and did nothing :)

Finally I just went to bed, still sobbing and hiccuping as I brushed my teeth, washed my face and crawled under the covers.

Where I would have gladly stayed for a long, long time.

Nor did it help my confidence the next year when I took the second semester of second year TWICE and STILL DIDN'T GET IT.  It was a literature-based class and, while I did enjoy the stories, it took me a SWEET FOREVER to read them. That three-hours-per-class preparation began to look pretty good in retrospect!

But all along I kept thinking I'd do better once I got here -- after all, immersion is the way to go, right? RIGHT?!

I'm here to tell you that while it's better than any other method of learning a language, it's still not the golden pill.

Yes I am learning. But you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who has taken longer to get to where I am today. I still have trouble understanding what others say. A LOT OF TROUBLE. Like maybe I get 25-30%. ON A GOOD DAY.

This doesn't mean I'm giving up.
Not at all.
But it does mean this has been a truly humbling experience.
I've come to realize this will be a LIFE-LONG learning process.
It has made me more compassionate about how others learn and retain, whether it's a language or some other subject.
And it has made me wish, on more than one occasion,
for the GIFT OF TONGUES :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Is it really Friday already?

This week has gone by so fast, maybe because it's been one of those weeks that seemed "off" -- by that I mean Tuesday didn't feel like Tuesday (and so on). You know, THAT kind of week. 

Readjusting to the schedule... trying to remember to cook :)  I was really spoiled during our time in the U.S. when I didn't have to very often.

Back to enjoying the laundry. It's just so satisfying to hang clean clothes, towels, sheets on the line. Plus the smell of line-dried clothes is like perfume to me.

Happy to be in my own living room, looking at my own books on the shelves, the clutter of quilting magazines and graph paper covering the coffee table... I am truly a homebody at heart.

Which makes the idea of building our own place such an adventure! I've drawn so many floor plans... as we've considered and changed our ideas yet again. Now we're thinking that the apartment over the garage will be our permanent home, not merely a stop-gap measure. Why not just make the apartment a "real" home?! So back to the drawing board, making the footprint of the garage/apartment larger to accommodate long-term living.

Last night we spent a happy hour looking through house-related magazines, jotting down things we really liked in a notebook. Makes me so thankful we decided to bring Ivan's collection of Fine Homebuilding magazines -- the kind of periodical where we read EVERYTHING, including the ads :)  We also brought a few issues of Inspired House, and then we've picked up a few Spanish home-style magazines here in the last couple of years.

We won't start building until next year (at least) but we want to get the ball rolling with our architect so that we have plans in hand before we go on furlough this Spring. That way we can get started as soon as we get back, preparing the site, and so on. Our hope is that a team (or two) of men from some of our supporting churches might be willing to come down and help us put the basic structure up the following Spring. It would be great if we could be ready to move into the apartment by the time the lease on this house is up in September 2012.

Just dreaming at this point and putting it in the Lord's hands. His plan may be different than ours, as we've so often discovered :)

One step at a time!

Ivan talked with a couple of builder friends and we've decided the best thing to do to make the casita more secure is add another layer of plaster (cement) so with that in mind, he found a used cement mixer for sale. He's been cleaning it up and, even though it ran, he saw that it needed a new something-or-other so he changed that last night.

He's debating on whether he wants to try and run electrical from the road to the house first or just see if our neighbor will let us plug in the mixer at his place and do the plastering first. We have decided to bury the wiring in a conduit, along with cable lines, to make it a little harder to steal (because the first thieves also took all the wiring from the house as well as the line out to the street).

¡Poco a poco!

On a more immediate note, I made Ben's No Bakes this morning, using a mixture of the cocoas. ¡Que rico!  It's looking like I'll be (mostly) caught up with the have-to-dos soon and will have time to get started on a quilt (or three). Friends are expecting next month so I really need to get busy on a baby quilt. I've settled on a pattern and fabrics, and made a sketch with colored pencils last night. Now I just need time to sew!

But for now I need to get back to the business of cleaning. I sure will be glad when they finish the construction next door. The layer-of-dust-on-every-surface-every-single-morning is getting old. Reminds me of living in Kentucky and the constant battle with coal dust.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Today is my sweet husband's birthday!

While we were in the U.S. he digitized a bunch of old slides so I'm going to combine some of those with more recent photos for a little pictorial walk through his life :)
Don't you just want to pinch those chubby cheeks?!
What's that kid doing in the photo? He's not part of the show!
It might be Alan's birthday, but Ivan looks pretty happy too. 
I think he's looking forward to getting some of that cake!
He's got that teenage slouch down pat, doesn't he? 
This is a two-fer photo -- thought y'all might like to see the house in Sta. Rosa when it was being built.
Right after he gave me my engagement ring. 
He looks pretty proud of himself, doesn't he?
He should! He MADE my ring!!!
Fast forward 32 years to the family man he is today, 
proudly wearing the Hillsdale sweatshirt the kids gave him.
And I'm wearing the Grace fleece jacket they gave me.
Jon graduated from Hillsdale, Tina from Grace.
We've been through a lot
and anticipate going through plenty more...
From patching holes in walls to who knows what's next?
He's my hero, my best friend, 
and the man I'm so happy to share my life with!

Feliz Cumpleaños!