Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere

So many in the U.S. had a white Christmas -- maybe too white? Looks like some of y'all got socked with so much of the white stuff that it took down power lines and caused a lot of problems over the long holiday weekend. Hope you're managing to stay warm and dry!

With opposite seasons here in the southern hemisphere, we're contending with the other extreme: HIGH temperatures. It's been in the high 90s and low 100s for a while now, so you can imagine how thrilled we were to wake up to much cooler weather on Christmas day. It was in the 70s all Tuesday! We didn't get the promised thunder storm, but we didn't mind because even without the precipitation, the cooling winds from the south were just what we needed.

Instead of roast turkey or baked ham, here the traditional Christmas day meal is asado (grilled meat), rounded out with a salad -- or four -- and some bread. Rather than pie, we like to dig into cool, refreshing ice cream for dessert.

We did have asado for the evening meal, but for lunch I had prepared pulled pork with homemade barbeque sauce on the side (recipe included below), cole slaw, and store-bought hot dog buns (because that's all I could find). Ivan and I put all that together on Monday, and took it with us to visit our friends in Villa del Totoral.

Gail put up her artificial tree and the Diem kids decorated it, so I was able to just sit and enjoy the Christmasy feeling. It has been fun to spend the past couple days with friends who have kids, and share their joy...setting up the plastic pins so the younger boy could practice his bowling skills, helping the older one put together a Lego helicopter, and playing tea party with the little girl...it all brought back sweet memories of Christmases past with our own kids.

Speaking of our kids... We were able to talk briefly with our son and his wife via skype in the evening, and it was good to hear their voices despite the bad connection. Although we didn't talk to our daughter, we did communicate via e-mail as she helped us with our Christmas e-card. I still miss sharing our Christmas traditions of reading Luke 2 and making a birthday cake for Jesus with them, but it did our hearts good to know both of our kids were enjoying their own wonderful Christmas.

One of my (other) favorite parts of Christmas day was listening to the men sing Christmas hymns as they cooked the asado. It was just a good day all around!

Another plus to spending a couple days with our friends, is that we were able to (finally) update my computer. We've tried to do it on several occasions but it was taking so long that we kept running out of time at cyber cafés, and our attempts to do it via our neighbor's connection were also unsuccessful. [Since getting his phone/internet "fixed" the end of November, it's been down more often than not. Not a very good fix, in our opinion!]

Anyway, it was necessary to update my computer so that we could then restore my iPhone using the latest version of iTunes. Our son and his wife gifted us their iPhones when they upgraded last year but we have only just recently been able to use them.

First we had to wait until one of us got our DNI (national ID) and Ivan finally received his some months back. Then we found out that our phones were locked, meaning we had to send them back to the states so AT&T could unlock them. That took a while, since we didn't feel safe mailing them and waited until we knew someone traveling to the U.S. who could take them, and someone else traveling back to Argentina who could return them to us. Once we got them back we had to get a new cell phone plan, which also took some time (nothing, and I mean NOTHING is fast or simple here). While waiting for the plan, Ivan had gone ahead and updated his computer and restored his iPhone so he was in business as soon as the cell plan went into effect. But we hadn't done mine and by then we had moved and no longer had internet, which is why it took so long to get my computer updated.

It's exhausting just to read about the process, isn't it?!

But Monday night we updated my computer, Tuesday night we restored my iPhone and this morning Ivan cut the SIM card so I AM NOW CONNECTED! Because our plan includes 3G, I can check e-mails, play Words with Friends, and (theoretically anyway) write blog posts on my iPhone. However, I don't think that will happen often, if at all, because the iPhones aren't exactly typer-friendly, are they? At least for me it takes forever to type anything on that tiny little screen. BUT I DON'T CARE ABOUT THAT. I'm just so happy about all that I CAN do with it.

Yes, I know I'm using a lot of caps, but don't you think the news warrants them?!

Okay, I'll simmer down now and give you something to simmer yourselves: a really good recipe for homemade barbeque sauce. When we moved to Argentina in 2008, you couldn't even find barbeque sauce in the stores, except very occasionally Walmart would have a few bottles in the international food section. But since then the flavor has caught on and most groceries now carry one brand of sauce. I'm not a fan, because it tastes more like fancied up ketchup and not much like the barbeque sauce we're used to in the states. So I've been trying a variety of recipes gleaned from the internet, and we're really happy with this latest one. I'm sorry I don't remember where I found it, so I can't give credit where credit is due. It reminds me of my favorite KC Masterpiece original flavor.

Barbeque Sauce
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1-1/4 cups ketchup
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (or balsamic, which is what I used)
1/2 cup water
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2-1/2 t. ground mustard
2 t. paprika
1-1/2 t. kosher salt
1 t. freshly ground pepper

Mix well and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

~~~~~~~~~~

When I posted photos on my P365 blog the other day, I forgot to share a picture of our Christmas decorations in Sta. Rosa. Someone left a miniature tree out there so I set that up on a table and put my Christmas tree quilt on the wall behind it. It just so happened I had a craft bag along with ornaments I was working on, with three completed cathedral windows, so put those on and then bought a couple small packages of ornaments at a dollar-type store. Too bad we didn't think about taking more of our Christmas decorations from home, but I'd forgotten about the little tree. I wouldn't have remembered it at all, but came across it while giving the house a good annual cleaning. Next year I'll be better prepared!
The tiles in front of the tree were gifts from our niece-in-law (thanks, Joy!), and I thought they added just the perfect final touch.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Our First Wedding

As I mentioned on my P365 blog, we attended two weddings on Saturday: a church service in the morning and a civil ceremony in the evening. I wanted to share more photos, so decided to do a more comprehensive post on this blog.

Ivan attended weddings when he lived here as a kid, but we hadn't been to any since moving here four years ago. I was really looking forward to seeing how they might be the same or different.

Not surprisingly, the church wedding was very similar to what I was used to in the U.S. The groom arrived in an antique truck:
Isn't that a beauty?!

One of the differences is that they don't have groomsmen or bridesmaids. The groom's mother stands up with him at the very beginning, and the bride's father walks her down the aisle, but then they both sit down during the service. Here's Cristian and his mom waiting at the front:

I loved the bride's ride:
Totally my color! And how fun is the fact that it's all wrapped up like a gift?

Although there were no attendants, there was an adorable ring bearer:
And then finally Melissa, the bride!
At the end of the ceremony, the happy couple turned to be introduced to the congregation:

Then we were off to the Salón de Usos Múltiples (multipurpose building) just outside Sta. Rosa:
[I mainly included this photo for family, who I thought would be interested in seeing the new facility.]

Inside it was decorated in white and pink, with enough seating for the 200+ guests:

And here's a picture of the cake:

The catering staff served small glasses of Coke, Sprite or water, along with miniature empanadas as we waited for the bridal party, who arrived a short time later:
At many weddings here, the guests are asked to pay for their own dinner. It really wasn't that much; about what you'd pay for a meal at a restaurant like Olive Garden. I'd say we got our money's worth! The meal was an asado that included a whole beef!
There was also several salads, chorizo and morzilla (sausages), bread and a variety of beverages. The meat just kept coming until we were all stuffed. It was so good! Very tender, very flavorful. One of the best asados I've ever been to in Argentina.

Sad to say, we could not stick around for the cake. We had to hightail it back to Carlos Paz for the second wedding of the day. But we did take time to have a photo taken with Cris and Meli:
They are such a sweet couple! We are so happy for them, and grateful for the invitation to be a part of their special day.

In case you're wondering what our connection is: Cris is our auto mechanic. He's so dependable and trustworthy that, whenever possible, we wait and take the car to him for repairs. We feel it's worth the two hour drive to go to someone we know we can trust. And Meli was quite helpful when the group from Spring Arbor University was here in May and visited La Cumbrecita, where she works for the tourism board.

Monday, December 3, 2012

McDonald's -- but no Internet

So the big news in Carlos Paz is that we're getting a McDonald's! Usually McDonald's can only be found in the big cities here in Argentina. I think we qualify because, as a tourist town, the population swells from around 80,000 to a quarter million or more in the summer. And this past year we've had a steady stream of tourists, right through fall, winter and spring (although not in those numbers).

While I'm not a big fan of their sandwiches, I do love me some McDonald's fries once in a while.

But mainly I'm hoping they'll have frappes on the menu. Right now there is not a single place in our fair town that offers frappes. How sad is that?! Yes, for those with a hankering for a frappe, it is necessary to trek into the big city of Cordoba to one of the two Starbucks. And no, the McDonald's there do not have frappes, so the chances that our McDonald's will offer them is slim. But a girl can hope!

Even if the chances are about the same as us getting internet any time soon.

I mentioned in my last post that our neighbor's phone/internet wasn't working. It was down almost a month before Telecom finally sent someone out to fix it! As you can see, lack of competition means the phone company has no incentive to jump right in and fix broken lines.

Or to transfer existing ones, apparently.

When Ivan saw the Telecom truck, he got pretty excited! He went over and asked the guy if he could go ahead and connect us since we're right next door. We've even already run the cable from the front of the property to the casita. But the guy said, "Not a chance!" He went on to explain that there simply isn't the necessary infrastructure on our street. Our neighbor's line comes from two blocks away! He said it would probably be months before we get connected.

Of course, Telecom was more than happy to keep stringing us along and having us pay the regular monthly bills without providing service in kind. It would have been cheaper to get the line transferred IF (and this is a big IF) they could actually do it right away. But since that's not the case, we are going to cancel the transfer order and just get on the list for a new connection. That way we won't have to pay until we're actually connected.

To say I'm frustrated and discouraged would be an understatement.

But...
¡ES LO QUE HAY!

At least the neighbor's phone/internet is back up and running, so we're back in business. It means having to come out to the garage, but it still beats trekking downtown to an internet café.

All this means I finally got caught up with my P365 blog yesterday.

I also plan to come back here in the next day or two and share all about our first wedding experiences in Argentina (prepare for lots of photos!). We attended two weddings on Saturday, one a formal church celebration and the other a civil ceremony.

I'm really hoping to get my blogging mojo back, and do a better job of chronicling our Argentine adventures. I've missed writing! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Still No Internet

Once we realized the internet por aire option wasn't going to work for us, Ivan called to have Telecom switch our landline and internet service from the rental house to the casita. (So glad we had the forethought to hold off on canceling until we were sure! Getting a new hook-up is an ordeal, and quite expensive.) The person Ivan spoke with assured him it would be done within 30 days.

Fast forward 40 days.
Still no internet.

After the initial 30 days, Ivan called to ask why they hadn't taken care of it and was told all our paperwork was in order and the only thing he could do was call and lodge a complaint. When he filed the reclamo, they said we were on the schedule for installation this week. Well, today is Thursday and we haven't heard from Telecom yet.

I'm writing this from Vitto's, a café with wifi and really good coffee (although it's afternoon so I'm sticking to caffeine-free water). As much as I enjoy coming here, I'm longing for the day when we finally get our own internet connection!

[Our neighbor had been letting us use his internet, but his phone/internet has been down for over a week, hence the cafés with wifi.]

I really miss being able to talk with my kids on occasion, read blogs, keep up with the news, and indulge in the occasional Pinterest fest.

So that's why you haven't heard much from me, and we have no idea how much longer Telecom will take. Meanwhile we're doing our best to keep up with e-mails. Not really sure how well we're doing there, either, since sometimes we have time to check e-mails, but not respond. Shocking how dependent we've become on technology, isn't it? I feel rather like I'm missing a body part.

What would you miss most if you had to do without internet? E-mail? Blogs? Pinterest? Something else?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why is it so hard to come up with a title for this post?

I've spent the past five minutes trying to come up with a title.
I got nothin'.

So let's just move on...

We've had some crazy weather this week. Sunday night a huge thunder and lightning storm woke us up from a sound sleep, and the torrents of rain kept us up. Discovered a few more leaks in the roof. *sigh*  Three small ones in the bedroom (where the roof had been fixed -- we thought) and a big one in the kitchen (that roof is still waiting to be fixed). We realized that the leakage issue has more to do with wind velocity and direction than the actual rain.

Then Monday night we were awakened by a huge wind storm. A few loud booms were kinda scary but, since the power went off and the flash light was in the garage rather than the house, we had to wait until morning to investigate and find out what caused them.

One was simply a few metal shelving units falling over like dominoes on the patio. Ivan bought them at a compre-venta (used furniture/odds 'n ends place) on Saturday and we have to do some organizing in the garage to make room for them. So we'd put them next to the garage, on the slab that will someday serve as the floor to our home. We're calling it the "patio".

The other big boom was a tree falling on the roof of the casita. Thankfully it was a small tree that did no significant damage. We are grateful for the Lord's protection!

The tree that fell on the casita was in the green space behind our property. We saw four other trees that went down back there, too. But our only concern was cutting off the one that landed on our place.

It was nice to have a more restful night last night, somewhat making up for all the sleep we missed the previous couple of nights. But I'm still kind of dragging today.

Our field leader is here for a few days, and he and Ivan are checking out hotels, looking for a possible venue for our missionary conference next year. We're also gearing up for tomorrow, when Ivan and a couple missionary friends will be going into an area high school. They'll be leading some team-building games and giving a short talk. The school has experienced some serious problems with violence and intolerance so the principal asked Ivan if he could help. He'll also be going in next month to talk to the students, and then the parents. But tomorrow is more about utilizing some fun activities to get the kids to think about communication, cooperation and team work.

Meanwhile we don't have a lot of time to devote to projects on the casita, so those have been put on hold. We did get the shelf up over the bed, but the ones I painted over the weekend are still out in the garage. Poco a poco.

We discovered that garbage is only picked up three times a week in our neighborhood: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If there's a holiday -- and most holidays fall on Mondays or Fridays, to take advantage of a long weekend -- there's no make-up day. So since we moved here and have had several holidays, the garbage has only been picked up 7 times in 4 weeks. I wonder why the difference in service between here and where we used to live? Garbage was picked up five times a week there, and if there was a holiday, the garbage was picked up the next day even if it was one of the days it typically didn't run. Sound a little inequitable to you? Hmmmmmm.

Before we moved over here, we learned that drug dealers lived across the street, so we began praying that God would move them out. He did! A couple weeks after we moved in, they had a really LOUD party that lasted overnight, and then they were gone. Our next-door neighbor told us that the woman who owned the property had somehow managed to get them evicted (they had usurped her land, and here usurpers have more rights than land owners most of the time). That last big party was their final parting "gift" to the neighborhood. Amazing how much quieter it is now that we don't have a constant stream of people going in and out over there.

I so enjoyed seeing lots of autumn foliage in the Project 365 posts this week! It's the one season I really miss, since this is a more temperate climate and we just don't get a very extensive color change in the fall. Here we're experiencing a lovely spring, with everything green and lush, and quite a few trees already flowering. I'm looking forward to (Ivan) working some magic our yard. WHEN the bobcat guy finally makes it over here to level out the lot, he will be able to get started. Although, seeing how many other things Ivan has on his plate, I'll have to help out or we won't get anything done.

But can't do anything until the bobcat guy makes his appearance. We were rained out last week, so rescheduled for this Monday. Which is when we got the big torrential downpour -- so now he's supposed to come the end of this week. We shall see...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Feeling very shelf-ish

I'm once again painting shelves. With a small space you can either use lots of enclosed storage or go the opposite direction with open shelving. Since I think too many cabinets would just make our space seem smaller, we're opting for open shelves in every room.

In the kitchen we already have one shelf above the sink. Today I'm painting another we'll use in there, to house the large toaster oven and all our coffee-making paraphernalia. We used this same shelf at the house on Canning, for the toaster oven and bottled water-with-spigot contraption. Since we have a brand new water tank here, we're just using tap water rather than buying bottled, so we took off the bottled water thing and now I'll have room for coffee-related items. There's a small shelf underneath the larger one which will be perfect for all my mugs, too.

We're re-using the bathroom shelf too. It's MDF covered in a wood-look melamine veneer, which was fine for the house on Canning but I'm painting it white for this bathroom.

White just works best in small spaces, since it recedes. That's why I'm using so much in the casita... on the walls, ceilings, shelves, and as much of the furniture as I can get away with :)

The shelf for the bedroom is ready but we haven't installed it yet. Maybe this weekend. Along with the ones I'm painting today (and tomorrow, since they'll require multiple coats).

While I really like most clutter to be kept behind closed doors, I'm embracing the concept of open shelves -- as long as I can keep them neat and orderly. For example, in the bedroom I plan to use some large, fabric-lined baskets to keep things accessible but hidden. In the bathroom I'll be using some collapsible fabric boxes. And over the kitchen sink I'm only putting items that are white, clear or stainless steel. For the most part. I have also added in some turquoise glasses for a pop of color. But overall, my goal is for an orderly, low-impact look.

My motley mug collection will be semi-hidden because that shelf is inset under the larger one AND will be going on a wall that's not so visible except from certain angles in the kitchen.

I'm thankful for the many baskets collected over the years, because I'm finding places for them all over the casita. Big, small, doesn't matter. Keeping the clutter collected is my goal, and baskets serve that purpose well.

I'm also re-thinking storage in the kitchen. We borrowed a hutch from the house in Sta. Rosa but it isn't working out as well as I'd hoped. At first I thought the best thing to do would be to keep an eye out for a tall, long but narrow cabinet with doors. But after perusing my inspiration photos on Pinterest, I've decided I'd rather have Ivan build me an open cabinet that we can put a countertop on, and I can sew a skirt to hide the shelves below. Very cottagey and very practical, since countertop space is practically non-existent in my kitchen. I have about 30 cm (12 inches) on one side of the sink and 45 cm (18 inches) on the other. Mostly I use the small folding table (that we're using for a dining table) as a work station for mixing, chopping, etc.

The only thing is: Ivan already has a TO DO list that's waaaaaaay too long. But I'm okay with waiting a while, because I'm in no big hurry. As with everything else, I know we'll get things done eventually. Poco a poco.

What's your preferred method for corralling the clutter?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rain, rain, go away...

We've had a lot of rain lately.
A LOT.
Right now we're sitting in an YPF station waiting for the rain to let up enough to make a run for the car. All morning it's been raining off and on, mostly a light sprinkle, but a few minutes ago the skies opened and the drizzle became a downpour.

It's not just a matter of making it to the car without getting too wet, but Ivan also has to hook the battery back up before we can leave. For a while the car's been having issues with the turn signals coming on and staying on, at odd moments, and if we don't catch it, it drains the battery. Ivan's gone to the electrical guy a couple times but it never acts up for him.
Of course not.
It hadn't been a problem for almost a week, when suddenly last night they came on again when we stopped for gas.

If something actually worked we'd probably fall over in shock.

Every.single.thing has been complicated and/or difficult. From the actual move to getting water to getting gas to hooking up lights to trying to get internet to...

You get the idea.

The purpose for our trip to YPF was so Ivan could use one of their phone booths to call Telecom to have our account switched from our old address to our new one. He couldn't just use our cell phone, the call had to be made from a landline.

Thankfully we had not cancelled our account outright, but waited to see whether we could find a different internet provider. After trying two different internet por aire companies and finding out that wasn't a viable option for us, we realized we'd have to stick with Telecom/Arnet after all. Switching our account to the casita is cheaper than starting anew with them, so I'm glad we had the forethought to hold off on canceling the account.

Another good thing that came of our trip to YPF is that we got to skype for a bit with our daughter. First time since we moved!

My favorite phrase: "Es lo que hay" has received a heavy workout this past month.

Like last week when our septic backed up. Trying to look on the positive side, we decided we were glad it happened before the guy with the bobcat comes and levels out our lot -- and in the process buries our septic tank cover. While we'll be able to dig it out easily, it was nice not to have to do it last week, making the job a little bit easier.
As easy as dealing with backed-up septic can be, anyway.

The rain has revealed some leaks in both roofs (garage and casita). The positive spin: we'd been debating whether to use a rather expensive Sherwin Williams product on the garage, and this tipped us in that direction. It's a specialized rubberized paint that requires several applications but is supposed to be great for flat roofs. We'll have to buy three 20-kilo buckets, which will leave a little bit left over that we can then use on the casita.

In the process of installing light fixtures in the kitchen, something happened and now none of the outlets work in there. One of the outlets in the hall also quit working. I'm still looking for a positive aspect to that. I'm sure there has to be one, but I'm clean out of ideas. Care to suggest any?

Despite the rain, we've made slow but steady progress on projects around the house. The kitchen cabinet sports a new base, the countertop was cut to fit and the sink installed, and now the whole shebang sits proudly in our kitchen, hooked up to the water and fully functional. It's been SOOO nice to be able to do dishes there rather than in the little bin on our folding table. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you can check out photos and commentary on my latest Project 365 blog.)

I started cleaning the stove on Saturday but ran out of time and energy before the job was done. It's looking to be a two-can job at minimum (meaning it will require at least two full cans of oven cleaner). I've never seen so much caked-on gunk in my life! I'm not only using the most heavy duty oven cleaner I could find, I'm also using a heavy duty coarse steel thing (cannot think what to call it...it's not steel wool, but something Ivan had in his shop that's made out of steel shavings) because nothing else worked. This is a used stove we bought after looking at it at night, in poor light. Pretty sure it ranks up there among our top ten worst purchases. Live and learn. At least pouring pure bleach on the stovetop reduced the discoloration there significantly. Now if I can just work up the motivation to complete the job, we'll be in business. Meanwhile I'm continuing to use our large toaster oven.

I'm really happy with the shelf we put above the cabinet in the kitchen. Ivan cut it, I painted it, and he installed it. Then I loaded it with various dishes and bowls that were either white, clear or stainless steel, plus the turquoise glasses my mother-in-law brought to Argentina many, many years ago. It's a spot of pretty in a still chaotic space.

But we are getting there! Like I said, slow but steady progress...

We also have a shelf ready to put above the bed, where I'll use some large, fabric-lined baskets to store a variety of things (everything from personal care products to vitamins to craft supplies). Ivan will also be building an open wardrobe in the next week or two, so we can finally unpack the suitcases.

Each item checked off our To Do list is cause for celebration, and makes us all the more grateful for what's getting accomplishing. We realize how each one is a gift and a blessing.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Taking A Coffee Break

We had big plans to get some serious shopping done today, heading to Cordoba mid-morning with a long list. Two things happened to derail our plans. One is that this is a holiday. Apparently a big one, because most businesses and all official offices are closed. Big box stores are open, of course. AND FULL OF PEOPLE. So full of people that the lines snake up and down and around the store, and you can tell it's going to be at least an hour and probably longer just to check out.

No thank you.

Especially because the second thing to derail our plans is a simple little thing called fatigue.

Which hit with a vengeance while trying to brave the crowds at our first stop.

So we ended up at Starbucks, enjoying a shared frappuccino and free wifi.

Part of me feels guilty that we made the trip and won't actually accomplish anything, but I think it's been good to get away from all that remains to be done at the casita and enjoy a change of scenery. We've been pushing hard for a long time, especially the past month. A day off is not out of line.

So rather than shop, we're taking a little coffee break and then we'll head home early. I foresee an early dinner and bedtime, and hopefully a good, long night's sleep.

I'll be back soon with an update on what we've gotten done, and what's still on the To Do list. It's a toss-up as to which is longer.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rainy Days and Mondays...

It's not Monday but it IS rainy. However, I'm not feeling very down today. Despite some setbacks we know we'll be moving in a week. "Si o si" as they say here (roughly translated: "For sure and for certain!"). I told Ivan this morning we may be glamping in the casita for a while. Another adventure!

Quick update on progress: The bedroom ceiling is primed. The bedroom walls have been sanded, small holes filled and sanded again, swept and washed to remove any remaining grit or dust, and two coats of sealer applied. The remainder of the casita walls have been patched, the tile backsplash in the kitchen is done, the bathroom window installed, work continues on the wall tiles in the bathroom, and the drywall ceiling has been taped, mudded, sanded and painted. Oh, and of a more critical nature, Ivan's been making slow but steady progress on the garage door. 

[The garage is really the main priority because we HAVE to have it secure so we can store the bulk of our belongings in it when we move next week.]

What remains:
~ Bedroom ceiling and walls need to be painted (more on that in a bit).
~ Once the cement patches in the kitchen have set up well, those walls can be sanded and cleaned, then sealed and painted. Pretty sure the rainy, humid weather might delay this but not sure how much.
~ The bathroom wall tile needs to be finished and grouted. 
~ Light fixtures need to be installed (after first being removed from where we're living now).
~ The garage door must be finished and fully installed. Also the two garage windows and security bars.
~ U-shaped wall has to be built on top of casita to store the new water tank we still have to buy.
~ Still waiting on the final gas line inspection (more on that in a bit, too).
~ I need another 12-15 boxes so I can finish packing.

Now, for those promised bits....

On the way home Tuesday evening I asked Ivan what he was going to do about the considerable gaps between the ceiling and wall on two sides of the bedroom that provide a perfect haven for all manner of spiders. He said he'd talked to a few people about the problem and had decided to have Guillermo go ahead and plaster over them. Well, I have no desire to spend time painting the walls a nice bright white only to have them later boogered up with cement splatters so I asked if he couldn't go ahead and have Guillermo do that right away and I'd hold off on painting.

So yesterday Guillermo made it a lot harder for those spiders to inhabit the space I'll be inhabiting in a few days.
I'm very glad to have that handled.
VERY GLAD. 
You have no idea how glad!
But it does mean my painting schedule has been blown to smithereens.
Because now we have to wait a day (at least) for the cement to set up.
And with the rainy, humid weather? Might take a couple days.
We shall see.

I'm making good use of the time back at the rental house to start some deep cleaning. Yesterday I tackled the dining room windows. Only managed to get 5 of the 9 windows done, but considering how big they are (they start about 18" off the floor and go up to the ceiling, and range from 2' to over 3' wide) and the difficulty posed by the exterior security bars, I'm okay with my progress. The remaining four windows will be easier since they're sliders and can be removed from their tracks. But they're also too heavy for me to lift in and out by myself, so they'll wait until Ivan is around to help.

I can, however, easily lift the much smaller bedroom windows out, so the plan for today is to clean all of those. And maybe the kitchen and living room windows as well.

As far as the final gas line inspection... You just never know what will happen, do you? In this case, it's very sad. Last Thursday the woman we've been working with, a liaison with the gas company who does the necessary drawings and files the paperwork, came by in the morning and told Ivan she'd be filing the paperwork on Monday so we'd have the inspection by Wednesday or Thursday this week. But then she stopped by again this Tuesday to let Ivan know that last Thursday afternoon her husband had suddenly passed away! She told Ivan things are "starting" to get back to normal, but she didn't indicate when she'd get around to filing our paperwork. We feel sad for her. And now I feel sad for us too. I'd really hoped we'd have the gas hooked up before we moved, since I'm rather partial to hot showers and such. But what can you do? The poor woman just lost her husband, so it's not like we can expect her to worry about our final gas line inspection.

Es lo que hay.

Between the rain and this, I'm not sure how ready our little casita will be, but this time next week we'll be moving into it, si o si! And even though I've never been a fan of camping, I'm hoping that glamping might be a bit more fun.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Whacked on Wednesday

Keeping up the alliteration, since I used it on my last post.
Which was a whopping 11 days ago.
Really burning up the blogosphere, aren't I?

And I probably wouldn't be posting now except Ivan had to make a run into Cordoba, leaving me at loose ends this evening. What's left of the evening, that is. We didn't get home until almost 8 p.m.

Besides writing this, I'm planning a thrilling half hour of Pinterest surfing before calling it an early night.  My eyeballs need to see some pretties after looking at splotchy stained wood and smeared white primer all afternoon.

Might have to get the ice pack (actually a frozen bag of corn) for my sore neck first, though -- the result of priming the bedroom ceiling at the casita
My neck's going to have to get used to it, because it's going to take longer than I anticipated to get the job done. Ivan told me I needed to be sure and really dig the paint brush into the grooves (it's a tongue-and-groove wood ceiling) for full coverage. Talk about time-consuming! I only managed to get 1/3 of the ceiling done this afternoon. Meaning it will take me the rest of the week to finish priming it.

Thankfully the second (and third, if necessary) coat will be much easier -- and quicker -- to apply, since I'll just be able to roll those on. Ivan said as long as I get those grooves good the first time, I won't need to work so hard on 'em next time.

The weather was warm enough I didn't even need a jacket. Not sure if it made it all the way to 70 as forecast, but it was quite pleasant. According to weather.com we're scheduled for temps up in the 70s for the next week or so. Good painting weather!

My plan is to spend the mornings taking care of things at the house, and then have Ivan pick me up after lunch to paint at the casita. That way I won't fall behind at home, and can still get the painting done. Having the extra two weeks is a HUGE blessing!

I've gotten some sewing done this week, too. We decided it would be a good idea for me to whip up some covers for the crock pot and the Kitchenaid stand mixer, since we'll need to leave those out on the counter in the kitchen. Because until last week we thought we'd be moving pronto, I'd already packed all my fabric -- and really didn't feel like digging through that pile of boxes in Packing Central to find it. But there was one bin that hadn't made it out there yet, because it was too heavy for me to carry alone. It's full of upholstery fabric and I picked through and found some I thought would work.
Recognize that fabric? Those were remnants left from the cushion projects in Sta. Rosa.

Let me tell you, I have never ripped out so many seams in one project! The one for the stand mixer, especially, about drove me to distraction. It looks simple, right?! I'm not sure if it was because I was tired, or if I'm really that inept, but I basically sewed that thing three and a half times! The one for the crock pot only required ripping out and sewing about half of it one time. (But then again, I didn't line it, like I did the other.) *sigh* At least they're done now.

Even with the extra two weeks, we are going to be cutting it close. Everything is taking so long to get done! Still haven't heard when, or even if, this week we'll have our final gas line inspection. But we're ready, whenever it happens.

Ivan's been working on a variety of projects, including the garage door installation. His older aviation buddy Julio has been helping him figure out how it goes (we bought it used, without the paperwork). Ivan's done part of the welding and installation already, and today they figured out what was left. Not sure how long it will take Ivan to do it, but at least he knows what he needs to do now. That's progress!

Paint is going to make things look a lot better, but I realized today just how completely wonky the casita really is. The walls undulate! Seriously, they have some very interesting bulging going on. But I'm going to embrace the imperfections, and pretend it's like some quaint Greek villa on an island in the Mediterranean! As long as it's bright white and clean, it'll all be good.

I know the trick to making it be both functional and beautiful is to keep clutter to a minimum. I've got the furniture layout all figured out on graph paper, but I'm also ready to "edit" out some of the pieces if it starts feeling claustrophobic. Having spent a year in Africa using mostly borrowed furniture (and a minimal amount at that), I know we can live a lot more simply than we tend to do. But I'm also one of those who really likes MY THINGS -- and foresee the necessity of giving myself pep talks about "letting go" and "purging".

It all boils down to: What do we really need, as opposed to what is merely nice to have around?

That is one difficult question, my friends!

If you were downsizing to a two-room space, what are those things that you absolutely MUST have with you? your non-negotiable items? Come on, do tell! Inquiring minds want to know.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Sunny Saturday

After a good, hard rain yesterday we're enjoying sunshine today. I've got a few windows open to let the warm (low 60s) air in, and I'm wearing a sleeveless shirt. It's actually a little cooler today than it's been most of the week, probably due to the rain, but it feels wonderful. Gotta love the winters in Carlos Paz!

Knowing we couldn't possibly do everything ourselves by the end of the month, we've looked for outside help. Yesterday missionary friends came to help Ivan install a drywall ceiling in the kitchen/living room of the casita. What a job! They had to attach the framework for the drywall to the round, wood beams that are all wonky and not even close to being level. But by the end of a looooong day, it was done.

This weekend we've hired a couple guys to lay the tile floors in the casita. They're brothers who were part of the crew that poured the finished cement floor for the house/garage. Initially we thought it would be just one guy, and it would probably take this weekend and next, but the brothers showed up this morning and they're pretty confident they can knock out the job this weekend.

The rain yesterday uncovered a problem in the garage. Ivan realized he's going to need to fully finish plastering the exterior walls so rain water can't seep in. He's only been able to finish one of the three walls, and that one isn't completely done because now that the roof is on, he needs to finish the seam between the two. The other two sides are partially plastered (as in they have a couple centimeters of cement plaster and will need at least that much again). I asked if we could put our things on pallets and away from the walls, in order to meet our end-of-the-month deadline, and then he can finish plastering after we get moved. He's not sure if that's feasible. He's going to study the problem, and ask his friend Julio for advice.

Julio, his 80-year-old aviation buddy, has offered to help him install the garage door this week. Since we bought the door used, without the paperwork, it's going to take some figuring. Besides designing and building a number of small airplanes, Julio has also built a number of houses over the years. Although he never finished his degree in engineering, he has the knowledge and plenty of experience so he's one of Ivan's "go to" guys for advice on things like this.

If they decide the plastering has to be done before we move, we'll probably see if we can't hire some guys to help. Doing that would still be cheaper than having to put off moving and pay another month of rent -- especially since our landlady told Ivan she's raising the rent by almost 50%! The rent went up 50% over four years and we thought that was ridiculous. To go up 50% in one year is insane.

Costs are rising weekly on everything from food to building materials to gas and just about everything else. Actually I shouldn't say "just about" because we don't know the cost of anything that isn't rising sharply. People are starting to fear that we're headed for hyper-inflation, a not uncommon occurrence in Argentine history.

Which makes us even more thankful that, despite it's tiny size, we can move into the casita and have a set monthly payment (on the construction loan) and not have to worry about out-of-control rent payments.

Middle of the week we'll be taking a little break from work on the garage and casita, in order to pick up friends at the airport and take them home. They live in Sta. Rosa and we'll also be using the trip to haul a trailer load of things we plan to use or store at our house there. Each bedroom has a ledge above the closets with space to store boxes, plus I can probably squeeze a few more into the storeroom. And we're taking some furniture too; things like nightstands, our IKEA Poang chairs, a wicker chest... Anything that could be useful out there means less that we have to store in our new garage. Because it would be helpful if Ivan still has some space to work in it!

The kitchen cabinetry for the casita is all painted and ready to install. We realized that once we get both cabinets and the stove in, there's not going to be space for the fridge on that back wall. Ivan said we'll keep an eye out for a smaller used fridge that we can slide into the 50 cm space remaining (that's just under 19.5 inches). Do they make fridges that skinny? 

I've got almost everything in the guest room, study and living room packed, and I've gone through a good number of boxes already in the garage, sorting according to where they'll go: casita, garage or Sta. Rosa. It's good that the packing is about done because I'll be spending most of this coming week at the casita, priming and painting the ceilings and walls.

Meeting our end-of-the-month deadline is going to be a challenge! But we plan to do our level best to meet it. Prayers are appreciated.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

4th Anniversary

We arrived in Argentina four years ago today.

While we've had some wonderful experiences during that time, I have to admit that overall it's been really, really hard. I don't want this to sound like a whiney post, but I want to be honest about our experience. We select what we do or do not share on our blogs, and for the most part I've chosen to focus on the positive, fun parts. But you and I both know life isn't all fun and games. Today I just want to share, from my heart, some of the struggles.

It all started off on the wrong foot that first year when I was so sick, and it took forever to figure out what was wrong... I don't remember which came first, the doctor who said it was all in my mind or the one who said it was all due to stress. I finally figured out it was parasites from doing some research. But by that time my body was so depleted of nutrients I was severely anemic AND because the whole parasite problem went undiagnosed for so long, it instigated a bout of postinfectious IBS.

And let's just take a minute to consider how being that sick really, REALLY wasn't conducive to learning a language, meaning progress was painfully slow.

Anyway, the second year was spent in recovery mode, trying to get the nourishment and rest my body needed to get back to health. Honestly, it affected not just my physical well-being but my emotional and mental outlook as well.

The third and fourth years presented challenges as well, including an almost 7 month furlough back to the U.S. in the middle of that period. We LOVED being able to connect with so many friends and family! Please don't misunderstand me, but you know, traveling almost constantly is exhausting. By the time we made it back to Argentina we were about done in.

One of those wonderful experiences I mentioned at the beginning of this post happened shortly after we got back, when we were able to get away for a week of true rest and relaxation thanks to the generosity of friends back in the states who gave us a week at a timeshare. Boy, did we need that!

And I don't have to tell anyone who's ever built a home how stressful that can be. While we are only half-way through the project, I can tell you it's already proven every cliché true: it is taking longer... costing more... 

And then there are the things I can't share publicly but which weigh heavy on our hearts. We all have them because no one is free from difficulties or problems. I'm just very thankful we have a God who is all sufficient, and who knows what we're dealing with, and loves us enough to give us what we need each day.

Having said that, I also have to admit I'm hoping (and praying) that in the next four years, some things will change to make it easier. Not that I expect all roses and sunshine. But there are some things that could/should/need to change.

And I'm one of them.

As in, needing-to-become-more-like-Christ kind of change.

Already I'm seeing one experience God will use in the next year or two. We are getting ready to move from a three bedroom/one bath home into a tiny casita with two rooms (not two bedrooms, two rooms) and a bath. Where we will live INDEFINITELY. Because we're not sure how long it will be before we can start and then finish the house.

I've lived in small spaces before, but that was when I was a kid. I think I'm going to find it a bit more challenging as an adult. Just a guess there :) 

So what is God using in your life right now?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Primed

I had no idea how many things the word "prime" could refer to, but here's what the dictionary had to say about it:

prime

[prahym] adjective, noun, verb, primed, prim·ing.
adjective
1. of the first importance; demanding the fullest consideration: a prime requisite.
2. of the greatest relevance or significance: a prime example.
3. of the highest eminence or rank: the prime authority on Chaucer.
4. of the greatest commercial value: prime building lots.
5. first-rate: This ale is prime!
6. (of meat, especially of beef) noting or pertaining to the first grade or best quality: prime ribs of beef.
7. first in order of time, existence, or development; earliest; primitive.
8. basic; fundamental: the prime axioms of his philosophy.
9. Mathematics . (of any two or more numbers) having no common divisor except unity: The number 2 is prime to 9.
noun
10. the most flourishing stage or state.
11. the time of early manhood or womanhood: the prime of youth.
12. the period or state of greatest perfection or vigor of human life: a man in his prime.
13. the choicest or best part of anything.
14. (especially in the grading of U.S. beef) a grade, classification, or designation indicating the highest or most desirable quality.
15. the beginning or earliest stage of any period.
16. the spring of the year.
17. the first hour or period of the day, after sunrise.
18. Banking . prime rate.
19. Ecclesiastical . the second of the seven canonical hours or the service for it, originally fixed for the first hour of the day.
20. Mathematics .
      a. prime number.
      b. one of the equal parts into which a unit is primarily divided.
      c. the mark (′) indicating such a division: a, a′.
21. Fencing . the first of eight defensive positions.
22. Music .
      a. unison ( def. 2 ) .
      b. (in a scale) the tonic or keynote.
23. Linguistics . any basic, indivisible unit used in linguistic analysis.
24. Metallurgy . a piece of tin plate free from visible defects.
verb (used with object)
25. to prepare or make ready for a particular purpose or operation.
26. to supply (a firearm) with powder for communicating fire to a charge.
27. to lay a train of powder to (a charge, mine, etc.).
28. to pour or admit liquid into (a pump) to expel air and prepare for action.
29. to put fuel into (a carburetor) before starting an engine, in order to insure a sufficiently rich mixture at the start.
verb (used without object)
33. (of a boiler) to deliver or discharge steam containing an excessive amount of water.
34. to harvest the bottom leaves from a tobacco plant.
Today I accomplished #25 (verb used with an object): to prepare or make ready (kitchen cabinets) for a particular purpose or operation (painting).

I find the English language fascinating. I always have, but learning another language has made me appreciate my "mother tongue" even more. And I find it especially intriguing that we learn all the complexities of language as we are growing up, without putting a lot of thought into it. Yes, we "learn" English in school, but when you really think about it, most of what we know is instinctively learned from interacting with those around us and from reading. So that when we are "taught" some fact about our language, we are able to place it in our memory bank with real life examples and experiences. 
 
In other words, we "get it" because we've experienced it. It's one thing to be taught that "I do" something while "he does" it, but we instinctively understand the truth of this because we have been hearing people say "I do" or "he does" our whole lives. 
 
And it's a prime (adjective) reason for teaching children a second language when they are very young. Or at least when they're in the prime (noun) of youth, and their brains are still little sponges. Being on the other end -- learning a language as an adult, when it's REALLY HARD -- makes me see more and more the wisdom of this. If I had it to do over, I would push for Ivan to teach the kids Spanish from the cradle. Sadly, there are no do-overs. Es lo que hay. A prime (adjective) example of a wasted opportunity.

Okay, enough with the vocabulary lesson...
 
In order to have room to paint inside (where the wind couldn't blow leaves and debris onto my freshly painted cabinets) we did some furniture shuffling, spread a tarp down in the dining room, and voila! Paint Central was created. 

It will take me a few days to finish the cabinets. I plan to do at least two coats, and preferably three, to ensure a nice, durable finish. Years ago when I painted the kitchen cupboards at the parsonage I ended up doing three coats and it held up really well, only needing touch ups every couple of years. 

We bought the primer and paint last night, and I have to tell you, it was not easy choosing a color when all we had to go on were tiny little 1"x1" samples. In the end I chose Marshmallow, a.k.a. Sherwin Williams #7001. Which I just looked up online and what I'm seeing on my screen (again a small sample) looks nothing like what I saw in the store. I thought I was picking a grayish white, because I don't want the cabinets looking yellowish after a while. On the screen it looks creamier. I guess we'll see once the cabinets are done!

Looking at all the shades of white last night made me think back to when we were painting the interior of the parsonage before we moved in. Ivan told me I could paint it any color I wanted, as long as it was some shade of white :) He pointed out there are many, MANY shades of white. But for this lover of color, that was a hard pill to swallow. I did manage to sneak in some very pale pink (called seashell) when I painted 8" stripes in the bedroom, along with the white. Which was called "organdy", by the way.

A couple years later we were visiting friends who had just painted their main living area a lovely shade of butter yellow. Ivan commented how much he liked it, and faster than you could blink an eye, I'd gone and bought several gallons of it to paint our main living areas :) In the end, by default and not by design, there wasn't a white wall left in the parsonage. In fact, most of the rooms were some shade of yellow (my favorite color). 

Which is why it might surprise you to learn I'm planning on painting the interior of the casita white! Yes, WHITE! Not just the cabinets are getting a makeover in blanco. My reasoning is simple: it's a small space with only one window per room, so to avoid it feeling like a cave I'm going for bright white and plenty of it! On the walls, on the ceiling, on the cabinetry... It should also really suit the rustic style of the structure, along with the reddish and perfectly imperfect ceramic tile we'll be installing on the floor. 

There's also the distinct possibility I'll choose white for the house. But that's a year or so down the road and I could change my mind. And probably will, about forty-eleven times, before making a final decision. Because at this point I am having a serious case of DMD (decision-making disorder). I love me a little color, but I'm wondering if color on the walls, color on the furniture, color in the accessories might not be too much? So should I paint the walls white, like a blank canvas, and let the furnishings sing?

What's your advice? Are most of your walls white or another color? Do you have a favorite shade of white? If so, what is it? I could use some help!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Doesn't seem like Saturday

But quite honestly, ever since we moved to Argentina it's been hard to keep track of what day it is because we've never quite managed to settle into a good routine. You know, the kind where you do wash on Mondays or go to the library on Thursdays. We've learned that no matter what you plan, you can almost count on something happening to upset those well-laid plans.

That's especially true now, in the midst of a construction project. Ivan will get a call and have to go take care of some necessary bit of paperwork, or order and pay for materials that the crew needs to finish the fence, or meet with the woman who is drawing up the plans for the gas line...

But weekends should feel like weekends, right?

Not so much. There's that little matter of needing to move in ONE MONTH.

And Aldo is here to help with the electrical component, which means we need to take advantage of his presence and expertise. So this morning they loaded all the tools and materials they need for the job, and headed to the lot. Charlie will join them today, and continue tiling the bathroom walls.

Meanwhile, back at the ponderosa, I'm hoping for warmer, less windy weather this afternoon so I can start sanding the used kitchen cabinets we bought last month. That's definitely an outside job, but this week it's been cold and windy so I've been waiting for the weather to improve. According to the forecast we're supposed to get up in the high 60s today -- maybe even hit 70 degrees! -- and there's not supposed to be much wind.

And I don't even have to worry about cooking since we've been invited to a friend's house for dinner. It would be lovely if I could get the sanding completely done today, so that this coming week I can tackle the priming and painting.

Have you ever noticed that the news seems to stagnate on weekends, unless something really big happens? I guess even journalists like to take the weekend off. But you'd think they would have some stories ready to plug in, so those who stop by to see what's happening don't see the same stories all weekend long. If I didn't read it on Friday, I'm not going to be any more inclined to read it Saturday or Sunday. Maybe there just aren't enough of us who tune in on the weekends to make it worth their while.

I'm a bit of a news junky, which will come as no surprise to those who know me well. But my appetite for what passes for most news today has diminished as the public discourse continues to disintegrate. What catches my eye these days are the quirky stories that may not really be classified as news, but I find intriguing. Like the five buddies who started a tradition back in 1982 to take a photo, with each of the five in the same spot, every five years. Or the couple who started on what was supposed to be an 18 month road trip through Africa, but turned into a decades long trip around the world -- in the same vehicle! I really enjoyed the 5-minute video montage of photos taken during their travels.

They don't call them "human interest" stories for nothing -- they truly are interesting!

Our weekends are often busier than weekdays since that's when people are free to get together. Sometimes there are multiple activities going on, and we have to choose because you can't do everything.

What are weekends like for you? Do you have a routine? Do you pack your weekend full, or do you try and relax? What's your favorite thing to do on Saturday?