Saturday, January 23, 2016

Week 3: Project 365, the 2016 Edition

Tuesday, January 19

We've started harvesting tomatoes from the container garden. We have a lot of cherry tomatoes coming on, plus a few of the larger variety. Have to stay on top, as you know, or they quickly rot on the vine (as some have started to do).

Thursday, January 21

Not a lot of photos this week, and that's primarily due to me not feeling up to par. I started having a sharp pain in my upper back last week, sometimes accompanied by a tightness in my chest and the feeling I can't get enough oxygen. We went to my doctor who referred us to a cardiologist, who we saw this evening. He only had a stethoscope, but he didn't hear any irregularities with it so he thinks I've simply pulled a muscle in the thoracic region. To be on the safe side he'd like me to have some tests done, but we're holding off until February for those. I'm hopeful that if it's a pulled muscle like he thinks, the pain will go away on its own and we won't need to spend money on unnecessary tests. Meanwhile I just stop and take it easy when the pain gets really bad.

All that by way of explanation for this next photo. Earlier in the day we had to park at one end of town and walk down to the clinic where the cardiologist keeps office hours, to set up the appointment.  [During January our town is overrun by tourists and finding a parking space is challenging, to say the least.] On the way back Ivan stopped to take care of some errands but I continued my slow meandering to the car, taking a side street I'd never been on before. At the end of the block was this lovely Spanish style home with the most inviting porch. You can't really tell in this photo, but it wraps around to the front, too. It was a scorcher of a day, and it looked so cool and pleasant on that well-shaded porch!

Friday, January 22

I've been meaning to take a photo of the morning glories growing on the dilapidated fence for the longest time. This is the lot next to ours, right on the corner of the new costanera.
The fence was never in the best condition, but it's falling down completely on one side because the owner uses the lot as a spot for storing broken concrete. Periodically he drives a big dump truck onto the lot and drops off a load and periodically he comes back and picks it up and hauls it off. I'm quite curious as to what he's doing with broken concrete. Any ideas?

I wasn't kidding when I said yesterday was a scorcher. It's been really hot all week, as evidenced by a check of the weather this evening:
I can't handle the heat like I used to, and even with the air conditioner going full blast, by mid-day it's 80 degrees inside the casita. Ugh! Which means if anything is going to get done, it has to be in the morning because by afternoon I am completely wilted. I'm hoping the forecast is right, and we'll see some cooler weather early next week. Meanwhile, those of you in the U.S. who are suffering severe winter conditions, stay warm and stay safe! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday Meanderings

Haven't done one of these posts in a sweet forever, but decided to resurrect it. The meandering part matches perfectly with my mind -- which resembles the little silver ball in a pinball machine more than anything else. I can't remember the last time I had a linear thought.

So here we go, in no particular order...

I'm having a terrible time finding Nescafé decaf instant coffee. I've known for a few weeks that I'd soon be running out of the decaf beans that friends brought from the states last September, and have been on the look-out for my favorite decaf instant. But for some unknown reason, all the stores that used to carry it, no longer do. They have other Nescafé products, but not the decaf instant.

Before you ask, there is one coffee store here that sells a single variety of decaf beans. And it's horrible! Seriously, it's so bad I'd rather drink the Nescafé instant. If I could find it. 

The good news is, friends coming in March are going to bring me a fresh supply of decaf beans. Yeah!

Meanwhile I'm drinking tea. We bought a small tin of some lovely red rooibus from our favorite tea shop in Belgrano our last time out there, and we also have some excellent chai from Starbucks. We have to go into Cordoba later this week to deal with some paperwork, and I hope to find some Nescafé decaf while we're there. We shall see.

In other news, I've picked up some unwanted friends. The kind that take advantage of you, and definitely do not have your best interests at heart. So I am doing my best to get rid of them! I'm doing a three-day regimen to get rid of the pesky little parasites, and once I'm through this round, I'll wait two weeks and do it all over again. That's what our trusted pharmacist recommended, to be on the safe side.

Ever since I was so sick with them our first year in Argentina, I've been paranoid about drinking tap water and stick strictly to bottled. But now we are being more careful with foods. We're starting to wash our fruits and vegetables with a bit of clorox added to the water. I've learned celiacs are more prone to picking up parasites. Aren't we special?

It tickles us that Ivan and I are a unit in Simon's mind. We are NinaPapa, NinaPapa! We love that he asks to call us sometimes, and gets so excited when he sees us.

We are definitely prejudiced, but rightly so (in my humble opinion), and think our grandkids are the best! Cute, smart, funny... What's the phrase from The Prairie Home Companion? "...all the children are above average". Yep, that's our grands! Although we can't understand everything he says, Simon is speaking more and more clearly, and we get such a kick out of our conversations with him! We can tell from Betsy's videos that she's also going to be a very verbal young lady! And Adalyn definitely has some sort of future in music; the girl's got rhythm and she stops and listens whenever music is played -- and then starts dancing most of the time too.

In fact, now's a good time to share some of the cuteness, don't you think?
Simon playing in the snow for the first time!

Adalyn feeding her baby doll. So sweet!

Betsy expressing how she feels about photo shoots :) 

One of those sweet (but rare) sibling moments. 

I finally put away our nativity set, the one and only holiday decoration we used this time. Unlike a Christmas tree, it was so small and unobtrusive that we sort of forgot it was even there. But periodically I do dust that shelf over the bed, and decided that was a good time to put the nativity away.

Currently Ivan and I are reading "The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction" by Adam McHugh. It's very good so far, but we haven't had much time to read together lately. It's one of those things we have to be very intentional about, and some weeks are just too crowded with other things. But we are enjoying it.

In our last prayer update we asked for recommendations for books to read, and received quite a few suggestions. I have a growing list on my amazon wish list. Which I finally took the time to divide into categories covering fiction, non-fiction, creative pursuits (sewing, quilting, creating), and gift ideas. So many books, so little time!

Last year I made the decision that we'd get books for the grandkids' birthdays. I'm so happy that Simon and Adalyn already show such an interest in books! And my hope is Betsy will follow suit. Anyway, when I see or hear about a particularly good book, I throw that in the gifts for grandkids category, which makes it easier when it's time to actually place an order. Grandparenting from overseas carries a few challenges.

That brings up something I've been thinking about for a while: our family history but in a kid's story format, that we could give each of the grandkids. For now I'm letting the idea percolate, and it probably won't happen this year, but maybe by 2017 I'll be organized enough to actually put it together. I'd like to combine photos with graphics and other fun stuff. We scanned a ton of things a few years ago, and have more to scan, so it would include those images of awards, artwork, playbills... Who knows what all will end up in the final book?!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Week 2: Project 365, the 2016 Edition

Saturday, January 9

We got long overdue haircuts today and I tried taking a selfie with my phone.

Monday, January 11

Made some new pillowcases by repurposing cotton sheets, since it's hard to find 100% cotton in the stores here.
I made two king size with a blue sheet and one regular size with a white one. Not the most exciting sewing project, but a useful one.

Tuesday, January 12

There's a kiosko on the corner opposite our dentist's office. A kiosko is what we would have called a corner store back in the day. The kind of place your parents could pick up a gallon of milk rather than run all the way to a big grocery store, or where you could blow your entire allowance on candy and comic books. They went the way of 7-11s which went the way of... what, exactly? What's the new equivalent? We've been gone from the states too long. I know 7-11s died out, but what replaced them? Anyway, most kioskos here get paid to advertise some of the products they sell, so it's not unusual to see ginormous signs like these on buildings.

Wednesday, January 13

Told you I'd make more of those fun little box pouches. Also tried my hand at a cosmetic bag using the free pattern at Sew So Easy. She offers a ton of free patterns, so if you like to sew, you should check it out.

Thursday, January 14

Getting ready to have our trusted builder do some more work for us. He's going to extend the sidewalk to go in front of the cement pad Ivan poured last year right next to the casita. The idea is to turn that into a carport, and right now there's a big gap between the pad and the lawn. Extending the sidewalk will make the transition easier for a car to pull into the space when it is a carport. He'll also do a short cement ramp right in front of the garage, for the same reason. Finally we're going to have him tile along the lower exterior of the casita, about a half meter up from the bottom. When it rains, the water splashes up along with dirt, and tile is easier to keep clean than paint so we decided to go that route. Not a big fan of the look, in general, but we found some tile we think will look okay, and coordinate well with the light gray paint. It's the lighter sample in the middle.

Friday, January 15

Had a bunch of errands to run downtown so we had breakfast at Vitto's and then took care of our walking and the errands in one shot, and we were home by 10:30 before the crowds of tourists woke up and flooded the streets. Vitto's recently switched from table umbrellas to this more stream-lined shade (which can be rolled up to the center when it's hailing or extremely windy).
Can you see the big truck in the background? It's delivering beverages to several restaurants right in that area. We've always been amazed at how the crates of bottles stay in place, stacked like that, without any straps. But not too long ago when we were walking along the costanera we came across the carnage at a corner where one of those trucks must have taken the turn too fast or something -- broken bottles everywhere! It looked like they were empties, at least.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Holidays Overseas

Another set of holidays have come and gone. That makes eight so far. I'll be honest, I struggle this time of year. Yes, we are surrounded by dear friends who include us in holiday dinners and get-togethers. But we still miss our family and friends back in the U.S. I miss caroling with our church. I miss going to The Nutcracker Ballet with my daughter. I miss Saint Nicolas parties at the Metts'. I miss making Christmas cookies (no way am I turning on the oven in 90 degree weather!). I miss Christmas programs with cute kids singing off key and forgetting their lines. I miss sitting in the historic Baptist church in Hillsdale and listening to the Hillsdale College Choir and Orchestra perform Handel's Messiah. I miss watching our grandkids open their presents.

Our life here is good. I don't want you to get the idea that this is one long whine. But occasionally I feel the need to be honest about how hard it is at times to be far away from your loved ones. This is, without a doubt, the hardest time of year for me. And it's been a struggle to find what works and what doesn't for us.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I always loved getting together with the extended Hoyt family and doing a huge potluck meal. We didn't celebrate Thanksgiving at all this year. Too hot to roast a turkey, and there aren't any other Americans around to celebrate with. Here it's just another day. We did get to Skype with the Hoyt/Koch clan who had assembled at Rita's.

We got together with friends for Christmas Eve dinner, which is the big thing here (rather than Christmas day). Dinner is typically late so that you're finishing just about midnight when the fireworks start. For some the party continues for hours. We can't handle that kind of schedule, so we head home once the fireworks are (mostly) over. With the problems I've had with insomnia the last few years, we've learned it's not a good idea to mess with my internal clock too much. It takes me anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks to recover from a late night.

Which is why we opted not to accept any of the invitations we received for New Year's Eve. That night it's really hard to get away from the festivities before 2-3 a.m. Those kind of hours just kill me. I am officially old; just call me Granny :)

We continued our tradition of making something to give to our friends. A couple years ago we made pancake kits that included small jars of maple syrup I made using maple flavoring. This is not something readily available in Argentina. In fact, in all the years we've lived here, I've seen syrup on sale one time (a special deal at Walmart). Quite a few really liked the syrup, so this year we made it again and used pretty bottles with corks and tied a fancy bow around the neck.

I also made a few other gifts: fold-up totes, an artist's roll-up brush case, a camera strap cover, zippered box pouches... My first thought when thinking about gifts is: What can I make? That goes for birthdays and anniversaries, as well as Christmas.

I didn't decorate this year, except to set out the nativity set we bought as our gift for each other. I used to love to "deck the halls" but seem to have lost my decorating mojo over the past few years. It's just the two of us, our casita is tiny, and somehow it just seems like more work than it's worth.

We did get to skype with both kids Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, and see those adorable grandkids, if only on the computer screen. We watched Simon helping Tina decorate Christmas cookies, and Adalyn dancing to the music of her favorite musical Christmas tree ornaments.

We also received more Christmas cards this year than ever before. Usually we get one or two, but this year there were 8 (or was it 9?), along with a few birthday cards for both of us. That was something I really missed in the beginning; we always looked forward to the Christmas cards and letters that kept us abreast of what far-flung friends and family were up to, and suddenly nada, and we felt this huge disconnect. We get it: It's not easy (or cheap) to send cards to Argentina and usually requires a special trip to the post office to make sure you have the right amount of postage on the envelope. So to get so many cards this year was extra special.

Care packages would be nice, but aren't feasible. Because the postal system is so abysmal here, we can't get packages. Well, we could, but it would be a major ordeal. Every package gets stopped in customs, which requires a trip to Cordoba to the main post office, a long (several hour) wait in line, and then a huge import tax slapped on whatever was sent. The tax rarely bears any relation to the actual value of the package, and we'd spend at least as much as what the item(s) cost, if not more. We quit having people send packages after the second year; too much hassle. And it's worse now, because you have to have a special number in order to get packages out of customs, and getting that number requires multiple trips to various offices and lots of paperwork in the process.

It has taken some getting used to, having Christmas in the summer. Instead of roast turkey with all the trimmings, we grill a chicken and some vegetables, and toss a salad. Instead of cakes and pies and cookies, we feast on fresh fruit salad or ice cream for dessert. There are no Christmas programs at church, which puzzled me at first, until I realized out how impractical it would be since school just let out for the year and everyone has shifted into summer vacation mode.

What seemed so strange the first few years seems normal now, but it doesn't make me miss the familiarity of past Christmases any less. But I also realize that, even if we'd stayed in the states, things would have changed. Our kids grew up, got married, and other family traditions and obligations were added to the mix. My diagnosis of celiac disease puts a whole new spin on holiday meals, too. Changes are inevitable, whether you stay put or move overseas.

One of these years, I'd love to be able to take my granddaughters to see The Nutcracker Ballet. I wonder if they'll be as enthralled by the music and dancing as Tina was the first time she saw it, at age four? It was a magical experience, and I hope to replicate it again one day with those precious granddaughters.

What are your holiday traditions? Have you added new ones in recent years because of the changes in your family dynamics? Are there things you no longer do that you miss? What do you most look forward to each year?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Week 1: Project 365, the 2016 Edition

Saturday, January 2

Our rose bush occasionally bursts forth with a bloom, and I was happy to see this one standing tall today.

Sunday, January 3

It poured this afternoon! Rain came down "in buckets" as they used to say back home.

Monay, January 4

Ivan's growing papyrus in his container garden.

Thursday, January 7

Over the past few days it's been fun to see photos popping up on facebook of some of my kin folk. A cousin alerted me to a closed group in which she found a distant cousin who has photos of a great aunt (who was her great grandma), as well as our great grandparents. I've been saving them to my computer and decided to do a little collage.
My Grandpa Shepherd is the only one of the bunch I ever met. He lived with us for a while when I was little. When he became bed-ridden, my mom couldn't handle his care by herself so he went to live with another daughter and her husband. My Grandma Shepherd died the year before I was born. And her folks, of course, many years before that. I had not been aware that her dad was a pastor.

Friday, January 8

Had a lot of errands to run this morning so we decided to do our walking downtown instead of by the river. We parked at one end of town and walked in a big circle to the different places we had to stop. First up was the bus station.
No, we aren't taking a trip. Ivan was picking up a package. Here it's quicker and safer to send packages on a bus than through the postal system. Ivan finally found some little parts he needed to fix the seats in the car (they're all wobbly) but they were in Buenos Aires so he had them send the package on the overnight bus.

It was a beautiful morning for our walk/errands, and one of the places we passed is the store where we often buy pork. I love it's name!
It means "It's not the pig's fault"! Cracks me up every time. Yes, I'm easily amused.

We also picked up mail at the post office, I got zippers at a mercería, we tried several places in our hunt for gluten free tortilla chips (without success, I'm sad to say), stopped for coffee, and picked up sunflower seeds and GF pasta. I'd taken my adorable bag from Shutterfly (with Adalyn's photo on it) and at each stop, we'd throw in whatever we picked up. Pretty full by the end!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Week 52: Project 365, the 2015 Edition

Saturday, December 26

Some of you may have seen this picture on facebook already. I shared how it's not a good idea to try and refill your pepper mill right after you've chopped an onion that made you cry. You may inadvertently grab the mini chocolate chips instead -- and then spend five minutes separating them.

Sunday, December 27

A very hot day! It was the hottest day of the summer so far, hitting 100 degrees by mid-afternoon.

In place of our regular morning service, we moved it to the evening, and to a different venue to accomodate a bigger crowd. Why? Because we had a baby dedication for the little guy who was born in July (and had so many health problems initially). It's only been in the last six weeks or so that they've been able to take him out and about; prior to that they had to be very careful he didn't catch an infection.

Thankfully the community center where we had the service was air conditioned. It was still warmish with so many people, but it was a whole lot nicer than if we'd had it at the much smaller, un-air conditioned church. Quite a few friends and family of the young couple dedicating their baby attended, along with the congregation of Monte de Luz. Pastor Molina asked Ivan to take charge...

...but he was part of the service as well, sharing Scripture in both word and song (this is Psalm 148 set to music) (Not the best video; I was using our little point-and-shoot camera and sitting behind the great grandparents; best I could do):

Thiago Presentación from Kimberly Hoyt on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 29

Ivan had a colonoscopy in the morning. We were very impressed with the large clinic, really more like a hospital. They were very efficient, sort of rushing us out of there while Ivan was still feeling woozy, so the next patient could be put into the recovery room. We made our way to one of the cafés on the ground level where he could have a fruit smoothie and a pastry. There was only one wait staff for the whole café, so service was quite slow but that gave Ivan time to fully recover from the anesthesia. We got a kick out of the different sayings on the wall. I snapped this one:
Translation: "Women with a past and men with a future are the most interesting people." by Chavela Vargas.

It wouldn't have been polite to take pictures where others were sitting but another saying that caught our eye translated: "Experience is what we call our past mistakes." by Oscar Wilde.

The colonoscopy was just a routine procedure; one of those things that has to be done periodically.

Wednesday, December 30

There is the most beautiful algarrobo tree that we pass every day on our walk; it has such a lovely shape to it.

This was the first time we'd ever seen flowers on it, though; they're like small fuzzy yellow pompoms.

Thursday, December 31

The last couple of days I've had such fun stitching up a few zippered box pouches. Super easy, requires very little fabric, and they're just adorable. I'll be making a few more!


I plan to continue Project 365 this year. It's just such a great way to document the year; to be able to look back and say, "Oh yeah! I remember that!" Although I'm journaling more faithfully, I find the photo journal aspect of P365 to be a nice addition.