Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Week 7: Project 365, the 2015 Edition

This past week was a tough one, and my heart just wasn't in taking photos, hence the scarcity in this post. Es lo que hay.

Tuesday, February 10

Florencia has been cutting our hair ever since we moved to Argentina, first in her home on days off from the salon where she worked in Cordoba, and for the past few years in her own shop right here in Carlos Paz.
We always enjoy catching up; we met her parents way back when we visited Argentina in 2007. We've been included in their family get-togethers ever since we moved here, from parties on Friends Day to birthday celebrations to Christmas Eve dinners, and have gotten to know all the kids, their spouses and children as well as in-laws. 

Saturday, February 14

Ivan bought peaches yesterday, then peeled and chopped them so they were all ready to top the pancakes I made for breakfast this morning.
I use the same recipe as before, substituting rice flour and a pinch of xanthan gum in place of the regular flour. We really like these pancakes because they're very fluffy. And the recipe couldn't be simpler: Mix 3/4 cup plain yogurt with an egg, add scant 1/2 cup flour and 1 teaspoon baking soda. It makes just enough for the two of us.

Tuesday, February 17

Our new area director and his wife were with us today and we had a good time getting to know them. Dave and Joy are very gracious and encouraging people.
Ivan spent some time making a few phones calls and looking up bus schedules on the computer.
He was able to get everything lined up for them to travel by bus from Cordoba to Buenos Aires later in the week, then take the ferry across to Uruguay next week (for our annual missionary conference).

(Notice those books on the table in the foreground? Those are photo books of my grandbabies! So excited to get them, and in the past day have looked at them a time or fourteen ;)


Speaking of conference, we'll be in Uruguay all next week and I may not have a chance to post the weekly P365 photos. We are supposed to have internet at the hotel; I'm just not sure I'll be able to carve out a block of time to do the post. If not, I'll be back the following week.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What I've Been Reading Lately

To keep track of what I'm reading, I'm going to start doing a post each month and link up with Modern Mrs. Darcy. This first batch is books I've read over the past few months. They're in no particular order.  I've decided to give each book a rating (understanding that this is very subjective because we all have different tastes, and these ratings will reflect my own):
  • 1/5 = didn't like it at all
  • 2/5 = had some redeeming quality that raised it from a 1/5
  • 3/5 = okay. not great, but okay.
  • 4/5 = really liked it
  • 5/5 = loved it
Norwegian By Night by Derek Miller
(4/5)  It's a mystery. It's a story about families and how they deal with loss and grief and one another. It's a story about how our memories loom large when we grow old and they're all that's left. I was sad when I finished the book, because I'd developed a great affection for grumpy old Sheldon who does the right thing even though he knows he's all kinds of crazy for doing so.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet By Sophie Hudson
(4/5)  I've followed Sophie's blog, Boomama, for years and have been wanting to read this since it first came out. When the digital version was offered for free recently, you know I was all over it, like beans on white rice. Pretty much read this in one sitting. I love Sophie's humor; she has a gift for writing honestly and lovingly about life in the south. From football games, to teaching her mother-in-law how to use a Kindle, to going on an extended family vacation with an uncle who's slowly losing his mind, Sophie shares a rich and beautiful description of what family can -- and should -- be.

[I'm pretty excited that I won a copy of her newest book "Home is Where My People Are" and hope I can find someone traveling down here soon who can bring it to me. I don't trust the postal system so I have to wait until someone is coming to visit.]

Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman
(3/5)  I liked the idea of a female protagonist about my age (50s). Brigid Quinn is a retired FBI agent who's making a new life after a late-in-life marriage to a professor. She's learning to cook, takes long walks to collect rocks for their garden, and reads in the evenings. Then she gets sucked into a murder mystery and her idyllic new life starts unraveling. While some of the scenes seem a little contrived, for the most part I thought the characters were well developed and real. A nice little mystery, but not on the cozy side.

Full Force and Effect by Mark Greaney (continuing the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy)
(3/5)  I've been a fan of Tom Clancy for decades and especially enjoy the action-packed Ryan series. I wondered if anyone other than Tom could carry on, and Mark's doing an okay job. Frankly, you could tell someone other than Clancy had a hand in several of the last few books Tom authored. Some scenes and dialogue are so bare-bones; Clancy would always layer on just enough information to flesh out a person or a situation, and that's often missing in the newer books. Well, this was never meant to be great literature, just great stories, and his books do a wonderful job of entertaining for several hours. My son, another Clancy fan, has gifted me several books in the series when they've been published in December near my birthday (thanks Jon!)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
(5/5)  Loved this book! As someone who was in her 40s by the time I figured out I was an introvert, this book was illuminating, in the sense that it clarified some things that had always puzzled me. I also found it inspirational, and made note of things that really stood out. I plan to read it again, more slowly this next time. Definitely a worthwhile read for any introvert, but anyone would benefit -- because who doesn't have at least one introvert in their life, whether that's a friend, spouse, child or colleague? 

Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman
(4/5)  While it's not absolutely necessary to read the Decker/Lazarus novels in order, it does help, as characters come and go and some stay, and it's just easier to start at the beginning. Murder 101 is a transitional book, as the Deckers move from California to New England and Peter tries to switch gears from running a busy homicide division in L.A. to being a regular detective in the very quiet, not-much-ever-happens small town of Greenbury. Rina is along for the ride, and as always proves helpful to the first murder case the town has seen in decades. After all these years and all these books (22), the characters seem like family friends and I'm always happy to see them again.

Mad About Us: Moving from Anger to Intimacy with your Spouse by Gary J and Carrie Oliver
(5/5)  One of my favorite books on marriage. I read it last August, and kept stopping to read portions out loud to Ivan. Now we're going through the book together, chapter-by-chapter. Seriously, one of the most practical guides to dealing with anger in your marriage -- and let's face it, anger is inevitable in any relationship, and especially in marriage. Highly recommend!

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon
(5/5)  Ivan and I have very different reading tastes -- I really like fiction and he rarely reads it --  but we both love the Mitford books with Father Tim. This one did not disappoint, and like always, I was sad when I came to the last page. Now I'm going to start at the beginning and re-read the whole series again. I usually have multiple books going, and the Karon books are the ones I pick up when I need to calm down, and be soothed and coddled just a bit.

Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging by Marilyn Gardner
(5/5)  One of my favorites because Marilyn does such a fantastic job addressing the emotional aspects of moving back and forth between your passport country and your country of residence. I devoured the book in one big gulp and plan to go back and re-read it more slowly.

Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson
(5/5)  After discovering D. E. Stevenson in a library three decades ago, I started picking up her books whenever I'd see them at yard sales or library sales. With the advent of eBay and Amazon, I was able to track down even more. My collection is not complete but I'm not missing too many. I'm thrilled to see that they're being republished again. I love all her books, but Miss Buncle's Book is my hands-down favorite. What you need to understand is that these books are more about character development than plot. Yes, there is a plot, but it's almost always subservient to the characters themselves. In this charming story, impoverished Barbara Buncle decides to write a book in the hopes she'll make enough money to pay the coal man and the butcher. But since she doesn't have any imagination, she has to write what she knows -- and that would be the people who populate the tiny village where she lives. The reaction when the book is published reaches epic proportions of hilarity and misunderstanding, as the townspeople find themselves acting very out of character -- but very much in character with their alter egos in the book.

Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo
(4/5)  Police Chief Kate Burkholder grew up Amish and once again she's drawn back into the community when an Amish man and two of his three children are killed in a buggy accident. The deceased man's wife was Katie's closest childhood friend, but their shared history doesn't prepare Kate for the twists and turns in the case. This series can be a little dark and disturbing at times, but I'm enjoying the progression of the characters in each successive book.

Still Reading...

I'm re-reading Winston Churchill's six-volume series on World War 2, starting with The Gathering Storm. Being a history buff, particularly of the 30s and 40s, I found these books really interesting the first time I read them about 20 years ago. But the truth is, I flew through them -- like I did most of my reading back then -- because I was homeschooling my kids and personal reading time was at a premium, so my tendency was to inhale books and move on. With this second go-round I'm taking my time, because, believe me, these are so chock full of information it would make your head implode if you didn't take it slowly. I honestly don't know how I managed to blow through them so quickly the first time. 

I've also started another history book, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914, by David McCullough. It's fascinating but I set it down a while back and haven't picked it back up again. But I will, because this is an event and a period of time I know little about. And this is a loooooong book so it will take a while to get through the whole thing.

Frozen Assets by Quentin Bates is the first in a series featuring Officer Gunnhilder. It was initially hard going to get all the names straight because they're so different from what I'm used to, and I have no idea how to pronounce the vast majority of them. So far it's following a familiar police procedural format. The characters seem a little flat, and I'm not connecting to any of them, even the main character who's an older female leading a small police post in a rural Icelandic fishing village. Usually I have the "who", although maybe not the "how" or "why",  figured out by this time; with this one I'm still guessing as to all three. which is why I'm still reading.   

On my waiting list...

All the Light We Cannot See -- hearing lots of good things about it.
Romey's Place -- recommended by a cousin who has very good taste in books.
Lizzy & Jane -- another one that's generating a lot of buzz.
The Leaving of Things -- I'm intrigued by the concept of a child who has been raised in the U.S., being taken by his immigrant parents to live the land of his ancestry.

What have you been reading? Please share in the comments!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Celiac -- The Learning Curve

Initially I thought I'd talk about the first week or so after diagnosis, but a month into this I have to admit the adjustments are on-going. I told Ivan it feels a bit like the first time I opened "501 Spanish Verbs" and saw just how many different conjugations there are for each verb -- I was completely overwhelmed.

It's not like I can say "Oh, I can't eat bread or pasta or cookies...[or whatever wheat product]" because we're learning that gluten is just about everywhere. It's in a lot of the condiments I had in my fridge, from soy sauce to some brands of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. It's used as filler in a lot of medicines. It's in most candy. It's in a lot of cheese and most lunch meats. 

And even if something doesn't have it as an ingredient, that doesn't mean it's gluten free. Products that are processed in the same place as things that have wheat and barley are often cross contaminated. Which covers everything from sugar to dried beans to canned beans to oatmeal to...

Are you getting the picture? It's really hard to avoid gluten.

Remember that first batch of figs I turned into jam and whole figs in syrup? Turns out the sugar I used is not on the approved list with the national celiac organization. Which means we have a whole lot of jam to give away. Between the first and second batch of figs, we found out I have celiac and bought a brand of sugar that's safe.

We sort of have a handle on what's okay and what's not, and eating at home really isn't a problem. It's eating elsewhere that we run into complications. With friends I simply find it too awkward to ask "Ummm, do you happen to know what brand of sugar you used when you canned those pears?" so I just say "I'm sorry, that's not something I can eat now." And of course that merits an odd look because can't I see it doesn't have wheat? 

As for restaurants, that's a huge challenge here in Argentina. In the U.S. there are many restaurants offering gluten free options or even entire menus. Not so here. We did an online search in Cordoba and there is one restaurant in the entire city with a gluten free menu. One! This is the second largest city in Argentina.

Most restaurants here have a typical menu of beef, maybe pork or chicken, empanadas, pastas and milanesas. Variety, not so much. I'll need to order plain grilled meat without any sauce and hope they also have some kind of side that's okay. Most places serve salad and either fries or mashed potatoes and there are rarely any other options. I can't eat the fries in most places, because they fry empanadas in the same oil. I can't eat the mashed potatoes because they're usually instant and might have ingredients with gluten. So that leaves me with the salad -- unless they only have vinegar and vegetable oil (of an unknown variety) for the dressing, in which case I'll have to pass on the salad too.

Are you beginning to see how tricky it is to navigate the social setting with celiac?

Thankfully I've always preferred to make almost everything from scratch. There are a few things we used to buy ready-made that I'll have to learn how to make (empanada dough and tortillas come to mind) and I'm just starting to experiment with baked products using gluten free flour. I've found several gluten free baking mixes but didn't buy them because I've read that those are high in starches. Sadly, there aren't a lot of flours available. Mostly it's white rice or brown rice flours, although one health food store in town also carries a corn flour and another made from peas.

It looks like I'll be able to find more options in Uruguay when we go to conference at the end of this month. I even found one place in Montevideo that looks like it sells Bob's Red Mill products! We are going to be several hours from Montevideo, but one of the other missionary wives there is going to look for me and if she finds anything on my list, she'll buy it and bring it to conference. I gave her a list of four types of flour I'd really like to have, after finding a number of gluten free recipes I want to try.

I've had to change my anti-vertigo medication, buy a brand of aspirin that's processed in a "safe" lab, and stop taking my multivitamins and iron supplement.

At the very beginning I also tried a very restrictive diet, because I'd read several articles about how healing the gut required more than going gluten free. But after a week I felt way worse and was constantly hungry, so I stopped. Although one of the benefits is that  I discovered I really like homemade grape jello.

About ten days into being gluten free, the migraines disappeared. Hallelujah! I've had a few low-grade headaches since then (mostly due to the heat, I think) but I cannot tell you what a relief it is to be migraine free. Migraines have plagued me for years, but it had gotten really bad in the past year or so, to the point I was having them almost daily.

Another cause for celebration: I've not had any fresh outbreaks of psoriasis on my feet. I've suffered with psoriasis for two decades, and rarely went a month without blisters popping up on the soles of my feet (not the official name, but they resemble blisters so that's what I call them). Sometimes it would just be one, other times I'd get clusters of them. Made walking a little difficult, let me tell you.

My energy level is also gradually improving. I won't be running any marathons soon (or ever!) but it just feels good to get through a day without being completely exhausted.

I've been told it will take at least three months to get rid of all the gluten in my body. I've also been told I'll feel like a new woman. I'm really looking forward to that. Can the new me have long, thick hair and not have to wear glasses any more?

[You think I kid?]

I'm excited about the progress we've already seen, and look forward to feeling better and better as I embrace the new 'normal' of being gluten free.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Week 6: Project 365, the 2015 edition

I'm behind with a couple of promised posts. At least here's the weekly P365 (only one day late... compared to the post I said I'd write last week about life after the celiac diagnosis [which is coming, pinky swear]). We ended up being gone a good portion of last week, with no internet access. Es lo que hay.

Tuesday, February 3

Went to the doctor this morning, and there was this little stove in the waiting room, which is obviously not needed during the summer, so someone decided it made a nice helmet rack. Ivan thought it looked rather Darth Vader-ish and I thought the stove with its legs looked like a cast iron duck. Duck Vader?
And what's up with the orange walls? Orange is an invigorating, stimulating color which you'd think is the opposite of what you'd want in a waiting room. If you were a doctor, wouldn't you prefer calm patients?

I was catching up on laundry and just a few things remained on the line when it started raining, so I draped things over the kitchen chairs to finish drying.
There are canning jars on the table because Ivan brought home more figs from Totoral, so I was busy making jam. And starting more whole figs in heavy syrup.

Wednesday, February 4

Headed to Sta. Rosa for a few days. I wanted to include a photo of the brick wall around the water tank; I know mom will be interested in seeing it. We had it build last year -- looks a lot better than before when it was just a big black tank on top of a concrete pad.


Thursday, February 5

Busy all day with visits and while in neighboring Belgrano we stopped for gas. Normally we use GNC (compressed natural gas), because it's significantly cheaper than regular gasoline. When we bought the car, it had already been converted to use GNC, with a big tank in the trunk. But we're getting ready to go to our annual missionary conference in Uruguay in a couple of weeks, where they don't have GNC at all, so we decided to finish filling the regular tank with gasoline for that trip.
It already had more than a quarter tank of gas, so this is for about 3/5 of a tank. It's 13.10 pesos per liter. Once you do the math, it converts to about $6 per gallon.

Friday, February 6

I stayed at the house to finish canning some whole figs in heavy syrup while Ivan headed to the campgrounds where he went to camp every year while growing up. It was family camp week and he was able to see a lot of people he knew. These photos will be of most interest to his mom and siblings.
Doctor Alcantára, who knew mom and dad from their time in Río Cuarto.
Mrs. Tissera, also from Río Cuarto, who remembers dad and mom visiting her on a regular basis.
Mr. and Mrs. Juan Romero. Juan remembers dad and mom taking him to Sunday School when he was just a boy in Don Bosco (a suburb of Buenos Aires), although it wasn't until he was 33 that he returned to church and accepted Christ as Savior. They had laid the foundation so that when he was searching for some glimmer of hope, he knew where to look.


Saturday, February 7

With all the rain we've had this year, these bushes in Sta. Rosa have gone CrAZy!  In some places they are at least three feet deep, creating an impenetrable wall of green.
The folks who used to take care of the house planted these all around the property in an effort to keep out the horses which kept breaking through the post-and-barbed wire fence to graze on the lawn. Well, a horse certainly couldn't get through there now! Except maybe in that one corner... lower right corner of the collage, you can see there's a small spot where the bushes haven't spread. This fall Ivan's going to have to do some serious pruning!


Sunday, February 8

On the drive home Saturday Ivan noticed the car had a "hitch in its get-along" so this afternoon he pulled it into the garage to check things out. Afterward he came in to tell me he had "good news, bad news". The good news was he'd found the problem:
One of the tires was split all the way around, as you can see. We just replaced the two front tires a few weeks ago and we aren't really excited that the rear tires also need to be replaced. Es lo que hay.


Monday, February 9

I spent some time today sewing. Every year I make something to give away during the ladies tea at conference. Some years it's the prize for a game, other years I might mark a paper plate on the bottom so whoever gets it, gets the gift too. I can't remember all the things I've made (probably should have kept track, eh?) but I'm fairly certain I haven't made an apron before.
I could not get a good photo. It was raining and kind of dark inside even with the light on. It has a 50s vibe to it, and you can't tell but there's a pocket on the front.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Week 5: Project 365, the 2015 Edition

Tuesday, January 27

A very restrictive diet started yesterday (will talk more about that in a post later in the week) means no coffee for a while. Instead I tried this specialty tea (Sirocco) a friend gave me.
Didn't really care for it, but I think that's because it steeped it too long and became bitter. Thankfully we still have some lovely tea a friend brought when she visited a few years ago. She actually left quite a bit of tea but all that remains is a small amount of the Strawberry Cream. It's a blend of seasonal black tea, and the description on the bag is great: "Sweet strawberries underscore the subtle symphony of berry creaminess." This is really good tea, and goes so well with a touch of cream, no sugar needed.

Wednesday, January 28

Not being allowed sugar is the hardest part of the diet for me. I have a big sweet tooth. However, this is acceptable:
What is that, you ask? It's grape jello made with homemade grape juice (because I can't buy it here), water and plain gelatin. It's surprisingly good.

Thursday, January 29

Two weeks ago we scored some free dirt and last week the grass was starting to sprout. Check out how it looks now:
There are a few bald spots, but we've re-seeded those and hopefully they'll fill in. It's amazing how much pleasure this patch of green gives me.

Friday, January 30

I had a high energy (for me) day and spent most of it working in the garage. Finally finished all the boxes.
Over the past few months I've been going through and repacking, using boxes that are the same size (with a few exceptions), so they'd fit neatly on the shelves Ivan installed. We painted one end of each box white and I taped on a piece of paper with the contents. Eventually I'd like to get some chalkboard labels but that will have to wait until we go to the states because they don't sell them here.

Saturday, January 31

Didn't feel well; no photos.

Sunday, February 1

Snapped this with my iPhone at church:
The guys were talking about the Tuesday night Bible study.

Monday, February 2

As Ivan was leaving for Totoral at 7 a.m., he noticed this rainbow in the sky. I was still in my pajamas, so I asked him to take a photo with his phone. Then I realized I wouldn't be able to access it until he gets home (which usually isn't until the wee hours of Tuesday morning) so I threw on some clothes and took a photo myself.
The photo doesn't capture it, but the sky had a weird ominous cast to it, a sort of yellowish light, the kind that precedes a storm. It was almost four hours before it hit; one of those short, intense storms. The forecast calls for more storms tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday. I'm not complaining, because that means we don't have to water our new lawn for a few days -- or use the air conditioner. We are really enjoying this cooler than normal summer.