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 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.


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!