Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Patio and Other Progress

So when I left off here a week ago, the men had started working on the front of the casita. They were here four days and did a fantastic job. I cannot believe what a difference a little cement can make, and I keep walking outside just to look at how lovely the frames around the windows look, and enjoy my little slice of patio.

In all honesty, the front still looks a little sad because the areas that didn't get fresh cement show signs of wear and tear -- i.e., streaky dirt on whitewash -- and it will be at least a couple months before the cement has cured enough to paint. But I'm okay with that because it's still a WHOLE LOT BETTER THAN BEFORE. And I know it's simply a matter of time before a couple fresh coats of paint will complete the transformation. I'm learning patience in this whole process.

The sidewalk in front of the kitchen is sufficient, but certainly not ample, and I've had to rethink my plans for flower boxes by each window. A window box by the kitchen would block the sidewalk, so....

Moving on to Plan B: Do nothing by the kitchen window, but get two large clay pots to place on each side of the bedroom window, framing that area nicely and still leaving space on the tiny patio for several chairs. I'd like to do a mix of plants in the pots, but can't make any decisions about what kind until we have the pots in hand, and I know how much space I'll have to work with.

Progress, people, progress!

Ivan is going to hire one of Taní's guys to come finish digging the trenches for the gray water system, and while he's at it, he'll also have him dig a curving 'sidewalk' between the casita and our future house. We decided to use brick, so we'll also have him haul sand from our pile at the front, and smooth that out so we can easily lay the bricks.

As I've mentioned before, once the gray water system is done, we can begin using that corner of the lot as a depository for all the building materials left over/collected. That will allow us to clear off the slab of our future house, accomplishing two things at once: (1) we won't have to see the messy clutter of junk material every time we look out the casita (which faces the slab), and (2) it will stop the metal bits and pieces from staining our nice smooth cement slab. Although we do plan to stain it ourselves down the line, I'd rather we have a bit more control over what and where it gets stained. We'll also finally be able to get the stuff out of our neighbor's yard (who has been beyond patient!). He let Ivan put stuff there back when we first started building, before we got our fence up, and there was a greater danger of things "disappearing". There's not a lot there, but still...it's kind of embarrassing that we've lived here five months and he's still got our junk in his yard. 

We were here while the guys did all the work on the front of the casita, and it was fun to watch the progress each day. Then Wednesday afternoon, when they were about ready to start pouring the sidewalk/patio, we loaded up the car and headed to Sta. Rosa. The timing for the trip worked out well, since it would have been a pain for them (and us) to be here when they poured the sidewalk/patio because we couldn't have easily gone in and out of the casita while it set up.

We had a few days between renters, and decided to have our monthly missionary get-together out there. And one couple did join us, but the other family couldn't make it. Not that they didn't want to! In fact, they had planned to use the house this week for vacation, and I know they're disappointed it didn't work out.

They couldn't come because they still can't use their "new" car. They bought a used vehicle from another mission in northern Argentina, and one of their missionary families brought it down a few weeks ago. But because all the government offices are closed in January, they came without the requisite transfer paperwork. The other mission hired someone to take care of the paperwork the first of February, and supposedly that person did, but the paperwork which has been "in the mail" still hasn't arrived. And without paperwork, they don't dare use the vehicle. I've mentioned the numerous traffic controls they have here, and if you get stopped without the appropriate paperwork, they will impound your car and cause you all kinds of grief until you can produce said paperwork. So meanwhile our missionary friends are sort of stuck.

It's a real bummer because Steve's mom is visiting right now, and it would have been lovely if they could have gotten away as a family while she's here. We're all still hopeful the paperwork might arrive in the next day or two, so they might still make it out for at least a few days.

We did enjoy those days with Joe and Gail, however, and then headed home on Sunday afternoon. It was so fun to get home and see the patio! It's small, but then so is the casita. We cleaned off our plastic chairs and inaugurated it, although we didn't stay out there long because the weather had suddenly cooled way down.

In fact, looks like we're in for a spell of cooler weather, and I must say I'm enjoying it! It was in the low 60s yesterday, which meant we wore jackets all day (even inside, since we didn't want to turn the heat on, it was in the low 60s in there too). We turned the air conditioner off before we left last Wednesday, and I don't think we'll have to turn it back on for at least 10 days, if the weather forecast is right. It's supposed to gradually get warmer, but even next week the highs will only be in the high 70s or low 80s. My kind of weather!

Lots of rain in the forecast, though, which is why it's probably going to be a couple months before we can paint the casita. From everything I've read, we'll need several weeks of rain-free weather in order for the cement to properly and completely cure. Oh, and I was happy to see that y'all approve of the proposed yellow-with-white-trim that we're planning. Go Team Yellow! 

This is the rainiest summer anyone can remember. Which has been good for our lawn, but not so good for other outside projects. Although even the rain isn't enough to really help portions of our lawn. Those parts up front where the previous lawn came back are doing great, but the portion Ivan planted is not doing so well. In fact, the first area he cleared and seeded, and initially grew so nicely, has completely disappeared! We aren't sure what the problem is, but our theory is that the seed we used isn't good. Because the second area he cleared and seeded, and initially did well, has also started to die. Major bummer! But hopefully getting some good seed will fix the problem. If it's an issue with the soil, well, that's fixable too, but not as quick or easy.

This is going to be a busy week, as we have lots of get-togethers on the schedule. I'm looking forward to cooking a couple meals, along with putting together picada for a few meriendas with friends. For one of the meals I'm making the roasted asparagus and caramelized mushroom quesadillas that we liked so much recently. One of our friends absolutely adores asparagus, and he sounded excited about trying a new dish that features it. Maybe we'll enjoy some of our get-togethers on the new patio!

I'm also looking ahead to next week, when I hope to get started on the bathroom. As with the hallway, I expect it to take three days: one day for sanding and prepping, a second day for sealing and a third day for painting. The ceiling in the bathroom is really tall, and I'm not looking forward to painting it while perched on a ladder (considering my fear of heights) but as I used to tell my kids: "It doesn't have to be fun, it just has to be done." And I DO look forward to having that done!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Meanderings

~ I really need to finish a book before I start recommending it. There were parts of "Come Rain or Come Shine" that were rather disappointing. In the words of a friend, "There's a whole lotta whining going on" in one section that deals with problem relationships. While I want friends who are honest, loyal and steadfast, I think it's ridiculous to expect a friend to turn down work because it involves someone you have a personal problem with, but has nothing to do with them. There were other essays I took issue with as well, but I won't bother going into those. Just know that while I still think "Come Rain or Come Shine" is a good book and worth reading, I felt I needed to temper my unbridled enthusiasm of the other day.

~ While cleaning recently I came across my make-up bag. I don't think I've ever talked about make-up on the blog before. It's not something I spend a lot of time thinking about, so why would I talk about it? The fact is that I have über sensitive skin and am allergic to 99% of the make-up I've ever tried. In fact, I've only found two brands I can wear and both of those for only a few hours at a time (and not on a regular basis) and they're rather pricey. Since make-up can go bad, and you're supposed to buy new every so often, I always end up throwing away almost full containers. Being of a fiscally conservative nature, that's painful! But I also don't want to get an eye infection due to icky, out-of-date mascara or a skin rash due to fermented foundation. Okay, so I doubt foundation ferments, but you know what I mean. Make-up can and does go bad with time, and I don't want to be applying anything toxic to my already senstive skin. Anyway, I realized everything in my make-up bag is at least two years old, and some of it much older. Pretty sure it would be a good idea to splurge on new make-up when we go on furlough in May and I have to start getting gussied up on Sundays again. Does anyone have any suggestions? It would be especially great to hear from others with sensitive skin. I really wish I could find a brand that (1) wouldn't cause me to break out within minutes, and (2) sells small containers, rather than the typical size. Is that too much to hope for?

~ After months of waiting to get the front of the casita repaired, Taní and his crew started work on it this morning! They're also plastering the side of the house that borders our neighbor's yard; it's the last portion of wall to get plastered since Ivan did the other side and the back before we moved in (with help from our friends). While they're here, Ivan has asked them to dig the remainder of the trenches for the gray water system since his shoulder is keeping him from finishing the work himself. And they'll be pouring a patio/sidewalk in front of the casita as well. Hurray for progress!

~ We'd planned to install simple wood baseboards throughout the casita, but realized while painting that the walls are so wonky, baseboards aren't really a viable option. We briefly flirted with the idea of using narrow tiles but although the tiles would be shorter and work better than long lengths of wood baseboard, we're concerned that the walls are SO wonky, we'd STILL have problems getting them to fit around all the bulges and curves. So after much discussion we've decided Ivan will go along all the edges, filling in cracks and spaces with the same red grout to create a more seamless, finished look, and I will paint the walls right down to the floor. Hopefully our solution won't leave it looking unfinished. Vamos a ver.

~ I've got a "bee in my bonnet" about painting the doors to the bedroom and bathroom a color other than white. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we've gone predominantly white in the casita; it helps the small space appear larger and brightens rooms that only have one window each. BUT... that said, I do miss injecting a little color into my space and I thought the doors would be a fun -- and unusual -- place to do it. I'm leaning toward yellow for the bathroom door (since that room is mostly yellow) and blue for the bedroom door. Not just any blue, but either Tiffany blue or a pretty aqua. It will be a while before I need to make a decision, but just wanted to throw it out there and see what kind of feedback I get. Which camp do you fall in? Camp Color that says, "Go for it!" or Camp Caution that warns, "You'll regret that!"

~ On another color front, we've been talking about what color to paint the exterior of the casita, now that it's finally getting a facelift. White is a common choice in this mostly hot climate, since it reflects the heat of the sun rather than absorbing it. But I'm not a fan of a white exterior for two reasons: (1) it gets dirty quickly, so unless you want to be constantly doing touch-ups, you have to learn to live with a certain level of messiness; and (2) bright white can be blinding on really sunny days, and we have a lot of really sunny days. We've agreed on a lighter shade of greige for our future house, and frankly greige goes with almost every other color so that leaves us wide open for choices for the casita. Those of you who know me, know I have a thing for yellow. I was especially drawn to the many yellow houses in Ireland, and even bought a watercolor print of a little yellow cottage to take home with me. So naturally I'm leaning toward yellow; a lovely shade of butter yellow. Which would go well with greige AND do a sufficient job of reflecting the heat of the sun as well. But we aren't 100% decided on yellow yet, so there's time to add your two cents worth, if you're so inclined. What color would you choose, and why?

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Come Rain or Come Shine"

This week I started reading one of the free Kindle books I downloaded recently, and I am enjoying it so much! "Come Rain or Come Shine: Friendships Between Women" is one of those books that inspire, inform, and entertain all at once. Would highly, HIGHLY recommend it to all my female friends!
It's a compilation of short essays by women all over the U.S., and their stories will make you smile, laugh, nod your head and possibly even tear up on occasion.

I've had reason to think about this topic a lot over the past year and ponder how grateful I am to have so many good, dear friends. Where would we be without our girlfriends?!

It's not only us girls who are discussing the concept, either. I think I first saw this link about male friendships on facebook, and the article was so good I forwarded it to Ivan, who then forwarded it to some of his friends.

God talks a lot about friendship in Scripture so it must be important. If you want to be encouraged to not only seek the right kind of friends, but to be the right kind of friend, you might want to mosey on over to amazon.com and take advantage of this free book. You don't need to have a Kindle in order to read it; you can download it to your computer too.

It has made me think about what kind of friend I am, and how I want/need to change to be a better friend. Since I'm human, there's quite a few areas that could use improvement! One of the first things I'm going to work on is being a better listener... but I won't stop there.

Out of curiosity, what quality do you most admire in a friend?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What is your clutter level?

Since moving into the casita I've learned I have a lower clutter level than I thought. I've never been a fan of clutter, but I figured it was just a necessary byproduct of living.

But I'm changing my mind. 

I've documented on this blog, and on my P365 blog last year, my love for baskets and how they corral some of the clutter. Here are a couple photos of how I'm using baskets right now. On top the wardrobe in the bedroom I have six large square, fabric-lined baskets that hold everything from extra vitamins and supplements to DVDs and make-up:

In the kitchen I use baskets to hold small packets that don't stack neatly on the pantry shelves (not shown), and on the hutch to hold storage containers on one shelf (square in one, round in the other) and opened bags of bread, chips or snacks on the lower shelf:
I've also become a fan of open shelving in our small space, as evidenced by the shelf over the kitchen sink that holds our most used dishes, glasses, cups and mixing bowls:
The trick to open shelving for me is keeping colors to a minimum and sorting by like items.

(We also have open shelving in the bedroom and bath -- where I use baskets to keep things tidy).

But quite honestly, having an open pantry (we're just using a bookshelf) and all the stuff displayed on the hutch, really bothers me. I have exceeded my maximum clutter level! 

So last week Ivan and I began brainstorming ideas for a piece of furniture that could replace the mix of pieces we're currently using in the kitchen, and make the space more functional -- and less cluttered! Here's a rough drawing of our final plan for a long, shallow cabinet:
It will be 2.4 meters long, but only about 55 cm deep. The five separate cabinets will be tied together by one long countertop (ahhhh, I can hardly wait!) that will give me not only space to work but also room to keep my crockpot, stand mixer, blender and toaster oven on top. Neatly, of course, since everything except the toaster oven will have coordinating fabric covers.   

Two of the cabinets will each be 60 cm wide, and be primarily for pots and pans, plus a drawer for spices, and room to tuck our 3-tier vegetable stand out of sight. I'm planning to put a fabric skirt on the front of this portion, for easy access to the shallow drawers.

The other three cabinets will each be 40 cm wide and have the same number of drawers (4) in the same configuration, which will allow the drawer fronts to be uniform and symmetrical. And you know my love for all things symmetrical!

Pretty sure we'll just tile the countertop, since we have plenty of tile left over from other projects and I think that will tie in well with the rustic nature of our casita. We've already priced materials and I'm anxious for Ivan to get started on it, but we have a few other projects to complete first. Just knowing it's on the horizon is enough to keep my spirits up though.

As I've been thinking about how to make better use of our small space, I find myself drawn to articles on the topic and have found a lot of inspiration on both Pinterest and Houzz. In fact, one of the articles on Houzz was so fun and helpful, I decided to share it with you. You can find it over on my sidebar, just above the "about me" info. Click on that, and it will take you to the full article "Clutter vs. Keepers: A Guide to New Year's Purging". And then, if you wouldn't mind, come back and tell me which one you are!

Although I have what many might consider a low clutter threshold, I am an artist at heart and could not stand to live in a completely minimalist, sterile environment. I must have the things I love and enjoy around me. Especially books! And art, and fabric, and baskets...

What I'm learning is that it isn't just about the quantity, it's also "what the what". It would make me crazy to live in a place with a lot of knick-knacks or doo-dads, but a few special items are not only okay, but necessary. The African baskets we brought back from Uganda, the watercolors we've begun collecting whenever we go someplace new, the beautiful blue/green vase that my SIL's husband made, the blue glass paperweight I picked up in Ireland... For me it's about the meaning attached to the item that determines whether it's something I want to keep.

But the fact is I have a lot of things I really love, and the casita simply isn't big enough to hold all the pieces I've brought in. So I am starting to go through my home again, with an eye to not only form and function, but also how it all fits together. I'm fairly good at editing words; we'll see how good I am at editing things.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Life Changes Here in the Summer

Because Carlos Paz is a tourist town, our summers look radically different from the rest of the year. Not only do we suddenly have to contend with a flood of visitors, this is also the busiest time of year for a lot of the people who live here.

For instance, Julio and Cookie. They own a lot with a house in front, and a two-story building in back with an apartment on each floor. They rent out the upstairs apartment to a young couple year-round, and one of their sons lives in the downstairs apartment. But every summer, they move in with that son and rent out their house by the week to tourists. As a retired couple on a very limited income (you'd cringe at how little they receive in retirement benefits), the rent from a summer season makes up probably 80% of their total annual income. Between fielding phone calls from prospective renters and keeping the place clean and tidy, they stay quite busy.

They're not the only people we know who do this. In fact, most of our friends rent either their homes or apartments on their property during the summer.

Others work in the many stores, restaurants and theatres. Our next-door neighbor, Felipe, cooks and serves as a waiter in a restaurant that runs live folk lore programs year round. Off season the restaurant is only open Thursday through Sunday for dinner; during the summer they are open every day for both lunch and dinner. We rarely see Felipe these days, because he's always at work!

With everyone else so occupied with seasonal responsibilities, it means our summer is very different too. In order to spend time with anyone, we have to work around their schedules. Sometimes that means waiting until late at night to get together; people rarely eat dinner until 10 or 11 p.m. in the summer. Or we might get together with them late afternoon, during what we call merienda (a light snack) that falls right after siesta and before everyone goes back to work. Most work from early morning until 1 or 2 p.m., take a siesta and then work from 5 until 9 or 10 p.m. Sometimes we connect on a rare day off.

There's definitely a different rhythm to summers in Carlos Paz.

Traffic compounds the problem. The infrastructure really wasn't built to handle the flood of tourists we're now getting, so traveling across town becomes a challenge. Thankfully we've learned how to use the side and back streets to get around, but gridlock is still an issue whenever you have to cross a main road. You quickly learn to avoid main roads whenever possible during January and February!

I've given directions often enough to people looking for a certain street, that I now have it almost memorized. I've mentioned before that the city put in a new costanera that runs right along the river and ends at our street. Out-of-towners come tooling along and suddenly the road ends, so they stop and ask how to get to Gigantes Street (where there's a bridge to the other side of the river, and a popular beach area). There are quite a few twists and turns to get there, and I'm never sure if my directions are fully understood, but no one has ended up back here, so either they found Gigantes -- or someone else to ask for better directions.

January is the worst month, since government offices close to give their employees a vacation, and a lot of factories and businesses shut down as well. On our way to church Sunday, February 3, we noticed a significant decrease in the amount of people out and about, compared to Sunday mornings all through January. February is still a busy tourist month here, but not nearly as bad as January. And honestly, the season doesn't end when school starts the end of February. Lots of young singles and retired folks wait until then to take their vacation, so we see plenty of action around town in March too.

I'm just glad this is a seasonal issue, and not one we have to deal with year-round. We always breathe a sigh of relief when summer is over and things get back to 'normal'. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Just So You Know, It's National Homemade Soup Day

Did you know it's National Homemade Soup Day? I'm sure with the freezing temperatures many of you are experiencing, soup sounds pretty good! It just doesn't get any better on cold days than a nice hot bowl of soup and chunk of homemade bread.
I love soup! I could eat it for days on end (and have) but since Ivan's not such a big fan, I don't make it very often. And, of course, we're in the middle of summer down here so hot soup is out of the question. But in honor of the day, I just might make cold cucumber soup and basil garlic bread for supper.

For lunch I finally got around to trying a recipe I pinned quite some time ago: roasted asparagus and caramelized mushroom quesadillas. They were soooo good that I just switched the link from "recipes to try" to "favorite recipes". I did make some alterations though. Since I didn't particularly want an overtly Mexican flavor, I omitted the cumin and chili powder. In fact, the only seasonings were salt and freshly cracked pepper, along with the basil-infused olive oil that I used for both roasting the asparagus and sautéing the onions and mushrooms. Not having easy access to either goat or Monterey Jack cheese I substituted a mixture of grated reggianito and thin slices of queso cremoso (not sure what the equivalent is in the states, but Ivan says it's the same as quartirolo cheese in Italy). And since I didn't have the ingredients on hand to make any kind of salsa to go with, we simply ate the quesadillas with dollops of homemade plain yogurt.

Hungry yet?

Just curious as to how many actually make homemade soups? I grew up on Campbell's canned soups; not sure I had homemade until I was well into my 20s. My mom, who worked most of her life as a waitress, really didn't like to cook so we ate a lot of canned, boxed and frozen foods. When the saying "Dinner is ready when the smoke alarm goes off" first came out, we had a good laugh because that described a lot of the meals mom made. She didn't have a sense of smell, and would get sidetracked doing something else and forget about whatever was on (or in) the stove until the smoke alerted her. I'm not sure how many pans she ruined over the years!

But after getting married and having a very small grocery budget, I soon learned not only the economical benefits of homemade soup, but also the flavor benefits. Once you've had homemade tomato soup, can you ever go back to the canned stuff?! There is simply no comparison. Although I still nostalgically like to have Campbell's tomato soup and grilled cheese made with Velveeta every few years :)

My hands-down favorite soup of all time, though, is a simple chicken tortilla soup topped with whatever I might have on hand: chopped avocado, fresh cilantro, grated parmesan... and, of course, lots of crunchy tortilla chips. Which I prefer to add a few at a time, so they don't get too soggy. And this is one hot soup I could eat even in hot weather; I'm that fond of it.

I'm curious: What's your favorite? Are you making any soup today? What kind? And one final question: are you a crackers- or bread-with-soup kinda person?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Another week, another post

My plans to blog more frequently were stymied this week. Monday the neighbor's internet worked, but so slowly it was painful (seven minutes to load an e-mail). Tuesday it didn't work at all. Wednesday and Thursday it was up for maybe two hours each day.

Today we came into Cordoba, partly because we had a meeting via skype and thought it might be wise to come to a place where the internet is a little more consistent than the places we usually frequent in Carlos Paz. (And partly to get some necessary shopping done.)

So while we're here, I thought I'd throw up what seems to be my weekly post.

Haven't accomplished a whole lot this week. A head cold and persistent cough have lowered my energy level. Es lo que hay. But there has been some progress on the old "to do" list.

We finally gathered enough boxes for me to finish transferring all our seasonal/too big/too small clothes from suitcases. As you might remember, I had the 'bright' idea of storing all our clothes in the multitude of suitcases we have, making it easy to know where to find them. HOWEVER, as we discovered, suitcases do not stack/store well.

While I'm at it, I'm going through our whole pile -- or should I say pallets? -- of boxes, looking for items we need, and pulling out things I don't think we'll use/wear/need to be sold at a feria americana (garage sale). Our next-door neighbor's daughter likes to hold them, so we're going to see if she'd be willing to take care of the sale for us, in return for half the proceeds. Believe me, it would be worth it!

I'm also organizing the boxes better, putting like things together; for example, all the boxes with kitchen stuff now reside in one stack, another stack contains all the boxes of purged files and office supplies. A master diagram will show what's in each stack, and in what order (bottom, middle, top). Hopefully this will make finding things easier in the future.

It will probably take another day or two to finish the job, but I feel pretty good about what I've gotten done so far. Considering I haven't been able to work on it every day, since we have a lot of other stuff going on.

Meanwhile, Ivan has continued working on the gray water system: digging trenches, laying pipe, connecting the pipes... Like me, he isn't done yet, but he's made good progress too. He's had even less time than me, since he's responsible for handling all the paperwork and bills. No small task!

He also gets out and does more visiting than I do.  I go when he's visiting couples or families, but am happy to let him go alone when he's visiting the guys.

One thing we've learned is that he's one of those people who gets his battery re-charged by being with people, while I need some alone time. I think most couples are like that, since opposites definitely do attract!

Anyway, all that to say I've had more time to work on the "to do" list.

Yesterday our friends Julio and Magdalena came over. Since she's a vegetarian, I adapted a recipe for Mexican lasagna to be meatless. They really liked it so I sent the leftovers home with them. I wasn't a big fan. I think with different vegetables, or a bigger variety of vegetables, it would be better. To make up for the lack of meat, I doubled the quantity of beans, but I really think a variety of vegetables would have been tastier. I also sent her home with the requested recipes for the cucumber salad and a creamy garlic dressing I made for the other salad. She really like that dressing, pouring it over her bread as well as the salad.

We always enjoy our time with them. While the ladies cleaned up the kitchen afterward, the men talked airplanes. Ivan dug out the plans for a kit he had, that Julio thought would be helpful as a reference as he designs his next plane. Well, he's undecided whether to design and build an entirely new plane or find an existing plane that needs some TLC and an engine (which he already has). His last plane took five years to build, and he's wondering if tackling another big project like that might be more than he should take on at this point in his life (he's 81).

I mentioned our skype meeting today. We're starting to think about our upcoming furlough and all that it entails. One of the things we'll need is a short video to share in churches. So today we chatted with the video guru at our mission, about what we need to be thinking about/doing ahead of time. He's going to send us a template and links to instructional videos, which should help us get on the right track. We'll get the preliminary video footage and photos handled ahead of time, along with as much as we can do on the video using iMovie. Our first stop in the U.S. will be the mission headquarters, where he'll shoot some high quality video of us talking that can then be added to the video to finish it up.

Now we need to start looking into air fares. Hard to believe that in three and a half months, we'll be winging our way north!

We're looking forward to seeing many of you. That said, be forewarned that we plan to do less traveling this time. We're hoping those who don't live in the Michigan/Indiana area might be willing to come see us this summer instead :) The excessive amount of miles we put on during the last furlough about did us in. I think it was over 16,000 miles in the car, plus flights out to Phoenix and Denver. I get tired just remembering all that travel.

We're blocking out some time to spend with our kids, as well as a few fun things for ourselves. It will come as no surprise that for Ivan this includes the big EAA Fly-In in Oshgosh, considering his love of all things aviation. As for me, I am pretty excited about the AQS Quilt Show in Grand Rapids this August! I've already plugged the dates into my calendar, and set up an alert on my iPhone for mid-May when registration opens. Not sure if I can swing a class or not, but if nothing else, I'll enjoy visiting the show.

We're being a lot more thoughtful and deliberate about our scheduling this time, so we don't feel like we're running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Last furlough was so chaotic and overbooked and exhausting. We'd really like to have more time to just enjoy with friends and family this time around. Whether that goal is realistic or not remains to be seen. You can't get around a certain amount of traveling on furlough, but we just know we cannot do as much as last time. Hopefully everyone will be understanding, and not get upset if we can't come visit.

Totally changing gears now...

I am SOOOO thankful to have an air conditioner! It has been so hot and humid this week. Hot we're used to, but humidity is a whole 'nother ballgame -- and unusual for our area, but we're enjoying the wettest summer in a long time. Rain=humidity. After spending a few hours working out in the hot, stuffy, dusty garage, it is wonderful to retreat inside the air conditioned casita! It makes sleeping a lot easier too.

Well, when I'm not coughing my head off all night. It didn't take much for Ivan to talk me into going to the clinic yesterday, after Julio and Magdalena left. Since it was a holiday and most things were closed, there was little activity except downtown and the touristy spots, plus we went during siesta so I was the only patient during the time we were there. In and out in less than half an hour! Although I still coughed some last night, it wasn't constant like previous nights. A few more days and I should be just fine.

Summer colds are the worst, in my opinion. You expect to get sick in the winter, but summers are supposed to be different. I told Ivan I do not mind him NOT sharing his colds in the future :) It wouldn't have been so bad, but over the weekend he came down with a virulent stomach bug so for 24 hours we were both miserable. Isn't there a rule about married couples not getting sick at the same time?!

I know it's funny to be talking about how hot it is here, when most of you are experiencing really cold weather. It's 95 degrees here right now. Wouldn't it be nice if we could exchange some of our hot for your cold?

Looks like another storm is brewing. We're sitting in a Starbucks with big plate glass windows at one end. The skies have been getting darker and darker, and we just heard thunder. I'm content to sit here, sipping on a delicious frappaccino, and enjoying some internet time. A lot more comfortable than our garage :)

Since it doesn't look like we'll be getting our own internet connection any time soon, I think it makes sense to just create a little seating area out in the garage since that's where we have to go to access our neighbor's connection. But that will have to wait until I finish organizing the boxes! Poco a poco.

So what are your plans for the weekend? Any projects to work on? Places to go? Things to do? Or do you plan to just kick back and relax?