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Monday, May 31, 2010

Wedding Weekend - Shankar & Fernanda

This weekend we were invited to our first Argentine wedding, a much anticipated event even before Shankar & Fernanda announced they were getting married. The story begins like this: The first time we had a couple over for dinner here in Argentina they asked to see our wedding album, which we happily pulled it out and described the wonderful day that was our wedding. We talked about the place (which was beautiful), our families (who were amazing), the officiant (she was interesting), and the weather (which was scorching). They asked what time the reception ended, we said 10:00. Then I remembered the 24-hour clock that everyone uses here - so, correction - our wedding ended at 22:00. Say what?! I'm not sure who was more surprised - Them, who couldn't believe a wedding ended so early or Us, who couldn't believe they actually thought our wedding ended at 10:00 AM.

It was then I knew we needed to attend an Argentine wedding.

Lo and behold, our close friends, Shankar and Fernanda announce they are engaged. Score! Not only are they a great couple and we're super happy that they are getting married, but we are also pretty pumped about attending a wedding here. This was our weekend.

The ceremony was held at a beautiful church in Palermo, Nuestra Sra. de Guadalupe, which was both grand and ornate. In true Argentine fashion, the wedding was scheduled to begin at 8:00pm, which is when we arrived, and the ceremony actually began around 8:50pm. Since I have the most punctual husband in the world, we were, of course, the first people to arrive. Fernanda looked even more beautiful than normal and her dress was stunning. It was quite interesting to listen to a wedding ceremony completely done in Spanish - and impressive that Shankar knew all of the responses, and his vows, in Spanish - nice work!

The reception was held at the Castelar Hotel in Recoleta, a great setting for a wedding reception. We walked into a room filled with several appetizer tables and a large bar to hold us over until dinner. A dinner that started at....wait for it....11:45pm. I have the photo to prove it. This was our salmon appetizer that was carefully plated with a cool ceramic egg to hold the sauce.
After the plates were cleared, we had a little dance break before our next course which was at 12:45am. The picture doesn't do this meal justice, it was fall-off-the-bone meat with a light vegetable "salad" on the side. Perfect for that midnight snack.
The dessert came pretty quickly, a multi-layered cake with dulce de leche (caramel) and cream. The flash blocked it out - but that little sugar pile at the top was on fire, pretty cool presentation.
So now that we've eaten, we take a group shot with our table. In a strange twist of fate, we actually sat next to a guy from France who went to Virginia Tech. I was totally serious when I said we'll be calling him to hang out.

Oh wait, we have another dessert course coming along. This was right about when Fernanda came out and surprised us all. She had spent the last few months learning a traditional dance that she spotlighted during the reception. It was so thoughtful of her to bring a part of Shankar's family's traditions to their Argentine wedding, I think she made a pretty great impression with this move. Everyone loved the dance, and I am in awe of anyone who can just jump our and perform like that. Just to mention, this was round about 3:00am. Jon and I could not believe it - at this point, no one had left the wedding. And there was a seriously pregnant woman there with her 3 year old daughter rocking out the dance floor all night. And said pregnant woman and daughter were still busting a move 5:30am, when we decided it was time to head home.

It was a great wedding, so good that it took us the rest of the weekend to recover. We slept through Sunday - and I'm pretty sure we were the first people to leave. There was also a cake cutting and coffee service before we left - Argentina knows how to put on a wedding. Here are a few more pictures for your enjoyment...
Me and Fernanda, the beautiful bride
Jon and Shankar, all smiles
Jon and I loving the wedding. Congratulations Shankar & Fernanda!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sette Bacco

Delicious donut bread
Aguero 2157, Recoleta - Our ever reliable friends, Juan and Sole, introduced us to this Italian gem back in April before we shipped off to the US. We parked a few blocks away and almost walked past the door to Sette Bacco. The restaurant building looks to be a converted home with a number of individual small rooms with 8 - 10 tables each. On the way to our table we passed a couple rooms that had one large table, perfect location for a quiet dinner with a group. Each room was modestly decorated, with bare concrete walls and exposed brick chair rail, but the simplicity was endearing. There is an outdoor terrace that looks beautiful from the website's photos, but it was full by the time we arrived for dinner at 9:30pm, so we took a table inside. As with most places in Bs.As., the meal started off with a basket of bread, although this particular basket was one to be remembered. We had rolls and twists, both of which were sprinkled with a light sugar dusting - and though I'm not one to like sweet things at dinner - they were delicious. We had a cheeky server who was patient with our limited Spanish skills and was helpful with wine and food selections. We had to laugh because the music changed immediately after we sat down, from Italian opera to Beatles remake songs - we heard Let It Be at least 3 times before the end of the meal, I can only imagine that they were making Jon and I feel more comfortable. For dinner we all chose to go different ways:
I had the crab ravioli, and I should have listened to my inner voice that tells me not to order seafood in Bs.As. The pasta itself was homemade and delicious, but the crab filling and the sauce were a bit thin. I was hoping for some lump crab in the middle but it came up a little short. I blame this on poor ordering on my part, I've made this mistake before.
Sole had a better version of ravioli, and for the life of me, I cannot remember what exactly was in it. I know it was toasted and served in an alfredo-style sauce. I'm not going to lie, she ordered better than I did.

Juan ordered his regular dish, the lamb with corn pudding - pictured on the left. He orders it every time they go to Sette Bacco, and it was a great choice. Nice tender cut of meat surrounded by a rich and tasty sauce. The corn pudding was different than I had ever seen in a restaurant here, and they did a nice job of it, fluffy and light.
Jon, of course, ordered the steak with a side of scalloped potatoes. The steak came with a creamy peppercorn sauce and per usual, was more steak than anyone would expect to receive on one plate. The great food presentation was in the desserts, of which we ordered more than we could finish. The most lovely of the desserts was their yin-yang mousse, a chocolate mousse sphere on top of a chocolate cookie base displayed in an adorable 1960s pop culture symbol. I was mocked when I chose this dessert, considering it was the only one listed "para compartir" (to share). It was worth it though, if only I had more space to finish the dish, I'll have to use more self control while eating the bread next time.

The food was quite good, and I loved the ambiance. This restaurant has lots of character, next time we go we will make reservations to sit on their adorable terrace.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

My friend Stephanie is known for her great ideas, many of them showcased on her amazing blog, Literally Organized. Back in 2007, in one of her best ideas, she invited me to join her newly created book club. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship between me, books and some great new girlfriends. One of the benefits of being in a book club (other than the hilarity, friendships, great food, etc.) is the great suggestions for future reads that you receive from other people. This is one of the many things I've been missing since our move. Until....

The first month's read from my new BAIN book club was The Help, and I absolutely loved it. The Help is Kathryn Stockett's first novel, and as mentioned in the afterward, is loosely based on her experience with live-in help while growing up in 1950s Mississippi. The story revolves around a group of 20-something white women who have full-time cleaning and childcare help from seasoned, African-American women. Stockett explores the complicated relationships that develop between the underpaid and under-appreciated maids, the innocent children they look after and the women, who cling desperately an empowering society, that employ them. In an unusual coordination of efforts, the "imaginary" white vs. black lines are crossed when a young, white, aspiring journalist pairs with one of her best friend's maids to write a tell-all book detailing employers secrets and the treatment of the help in their deep-Mississippi town. The story comes to a head when the women of the town begin reading each other's stories and begin to identify the actual names behind the anonymity. I really liked the way that this book looked at the civil rights movement from the eyes of everyday people. The common story, the story I expected, focuses on the fearless protagonist that powers through the discrimination to create a better world. I was pleasantly surprised, the characters were frightened and unsure and many times unclear of their motives - good and bad alike. This novel felt authentic, heartfelt and honest - I was emotionally pulled in all different directions, each character earned their own separate reaction. I thought the Stockett did a great job of staying neutral and presenting the story without any obvious exaggeration. I am interested to see what my new book club compadres have to say about this one, it will be a good barometer to the group. I, for one, am happy to report that the first test of a new book club has been passed - I like the recommendations - score!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Enchilada Sauce - We're Not In Mexico Anymore

When Jon came home and told me that we were moving to Buenos Aires, my first question showcased my complete ignorance in the geography of South America when I asked, "Is it sort of near Mexico?". The answer, of course, is no, it's not. Argentina is actually extremely not close to Mexico - in more than just location. I'm pleased to report that I'm not the only person fuzzy on their south-of-the-border geography. (No one really learns about South America in school, right? I know I didn't.) Many times we're asked how the food in Argentina is, and generally people then expect to hear all about the wonderful Mexican fare. Nope. It's virtually impossible to find anything spicy, and an even greater feat to find good Mexican food. So, I had to expand my culinary comfort zone to encompass making my own enchilada sauce. This recipe come from my new favorite cookbook, The Low Fat Way to Cook, (and it's available from Amazon for under $2.00, total bargain of the year) and definitely beats the last recipe I used from Emeril Lagassi which cause both Jon and I to profusely sweat during the meal (insert Along Came Polly quote). I love to cook ahead and freeze extras, so I made a double batch of sauce, mas facil para mas tarde. Note: I cannot find chili powder at the stores in Argentina, this is one of my smuggle efforts from the US. If anyone knows where to find chili powder in Capital Federal, I'm all ears.

Enchilada Sauce
Nonstick cooking spray
1 1/2 T. light margarine
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 T. all-purpose flour
2 c. water
1/2 tomato sauce or puree
1 T. chili powder
1 T. hot chili powder (I used "Hot Mexican Style" chili powder by McCormicks)
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. dried oregano
1/8 t. ground cumin

Vampires beware
  1. Coat a medium saucepan with cooking spray, then melt margarine over medium heat. Once melted, add minced garlic (the finer mince, the better) and sauté until tender.
  2. Add flour, stirring until smooth, cook 1 minute. Note: I can never seem to get my flour to go smooth. I remedy this by using a whisk to stir the mixture later on, helping break up the inevitable lumps.
  3. Combine water and remaining ingredients, then add to flour mixture, stirring constantly. Bring pan to a boil, then reduce heat and allow mixture to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep that weird film from forming over the liquid. We are thick-sauce kind of people so I left the sauce to simmer a bit longer than 15 minutes - longer the simmer=thicker the sauce.
  4. Here is where you would normally go on to make enchiladas. I wasn't in an enchilada mood, so I portioned the sauce into 3 containers to freeze for later use. Eazy peazy.

    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    200 Years of Porteños

    I'm a few days behind on writing this post, and in life in general since getting back from the US, but it deserves a mention that Argentina celebrated it's bicentennial birthday on Tuesday, May 25 - also known as the day I flew in. A little piece of history, May 25 is not the day that Argentina won it's independence like we celebrate in the States, it is the day that they started the revolution against Spain that eventually (a little over 6 years later...) lead to the full independence from Spain on July 9, 1816. Thus the main streets in Buenos Aires named 9 de Julio and 25 de Mayo which were the places to celebrate on Tuesday.

    Happy Birthday Argentina
    When we got home from the airport, and after I cleaned the 20 hour old funk off of me, there was a crazy loud noise coming from Ave del Libertador. So we head to the front windows of our apartment to see some sort of race car parade. Because, of course, nothing says Happy Birthday to your country like a race car parade. People were lined up on both sides of the street - scaring the daylights out of me. This was a huge parade, at least 40 cars long. Each of the cars stopped, were surrounded by crowds of people, then shooed everyone out of the way as they peeled out (out of control as well, I might add). Lucky for everyone, no cars went totally out of control and all of the bystanders went home in one piece. From what we hear, the parade was not the highlight of the celebration, even though it was pretty cool. The big, anxiously awaited event was the grand re-opening of the Teatro Colon, which has been closed for a few years now undergoing renovations. I had all but given up hope for the theater to open while we live here, considering that two different tour books I have announcing the theater's opening in 2008 and 2009, respectively, so it's good (albeit surprising) news that we'll be able to see the inside of that theater. So, Happy Birthday Argentina, I hope it was a good one.

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

    To round out the end of my visit to the US, my family took the opportunity to celebrate all of the June family birthdays; me, my brother Robbie and my Dad, by going into the city for a Washington Nationals baseball game. The Nationals beautiful new field just opened in 2007 and is located at the Navy Yard Metro stop off of the Green line. We went on Sunday afternoon for the "Battle of the Beltways", the Nationals vs. the Orioles. We looked into buying tickets ahead of time through the Nationals Website, but we get to the checkout and had over $25.00 worth of "convenience fees" for five tickets - so we tried our luck and bought seats at the stadium. We ended up saving some money this way, but next time we'll make sure that someone has a stadium seating chart handy before we purchase. We ended up with tickets in center field, directly below the enormous jumbo-tron that this stadium is famous for. Lucky for us, the newly engaged Sarah and Josh had much better seats and the stadium was only 50% full, so they invited us to join them in their section. The good news about our tickets was that each of them came with a $20 food, drink and merchandise voucher - and we drained our vouchers quickly. At $7.00 per brat and $8.00 per beer, it was pretty easy to rack up a $20 per person. Not only did the weather cooperate and it turned into a perfect baseball-game watching day, but the Nats pulled off a win in the 10th inning with a walk off home run. Mom and I even had the rare opportunity to catch George Washington for a quick photo shoot before the game.

    After the game, we stopped for a bite at Guapos, a new restaurant that took the place of Don Paublos in the Fair Lakes Shopping area in Fairfax. Don Paublos has a special place in the hearts of my family because my mom worked there for a few months 15 years ago. The place went totally downhill after she left, we don't think it was a coincidence. Guapos was a great new addition too - the service was pleasant, accurate and prompt and the food was really good. If you're headed to Guapos without children, you may want to arrive at dinner after the 7 o'clock hour, it was pretty kid-packed when we first arrived but calmed down quickly.

    Back home, we had our cake and presents part of the day, complete with a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake (it was highly debated whether Baskin Robbins or Dairy Queen was better). A great day was had by all.

    So I'm headed back to the Southern Hemisphere after a pretty long hiatus from home. I'm still thankful for United's overnight direct flight from DC, and their checked bag policy of two 50 pound bags per person. I am also thankful for the flight agent that let me get away with two 51 pound bags and for my brothers that covertly snuck my heavy items back into my already overweight bag when no one was looking. I really needed that body wash and hot sauce :) It was a wonderful trip home - I had a jam packed 3 weeks. As I head back to Argentina, I want to take note of another long distance trip that happened this weekend. My brave cousin Mark just safely returned from a tour in Afghanistan. We are all so thankful for his safe return home! WELCOME HOME MARK!!!!!

    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Clifton Town

    This is the last weekend of my USA hiatus so I am dedicating this post to some of my favorite things about Clifton, Virginia. My parents moved to Clifton while I was in college so it has never officially been my hometown, but when you move a lot as a child, your hometown kind of becomes whatever starts feeling like home. So, Clifton is now my adopted hometown and it does a pretty good job of fulfilling a hometown's duties. Familiar, check. Quaint, check. Comforting, double check. I have spent many of my days during the last few weeks here in town enjoying what Clifton has to offer. Here are some of the highlights:
    Orchids and Hydrangeas - gorgeous

    • The Clifton General Store - This is a three-in-one bonus stop. 1) The General Store is a full functioning store with limited inventory. It's a good stop for the one or two things you may have forgotten during your full on grocery run. 2) In the back of the store and on the side of the building is The Main Street Pub (also referred to as The Pub). They have sandwiches and salads, burgers, appetizers and a steak option. Full beer and wine list, maybe liquor too, but I wouldn't know because I've never ordered it. Nice outdoor seating in the spring/summer. It's a super casual place to grab a bite or pick up some quick to-go food. Also, if you cannot find my parents at home, this is the logical second guess, they are super regulars at The Pub. 3) Tucked on the side of The Pub and The Store is a small florist shop, A Flower Grows in Clifton. Judy, who owns these three gems with her husband, is a no-nonsense flower genius. She'll tell it like it is, but she did our wedding flowers (bride bouquet shown on the right) and they were remarkable.
    • The Clifton Café - The Clifton Café has undergone some management issues in the past, but it has been owned by the same adorable owner now since March 2009 and she's doing a great job with it. They have amazing coffee drinks, traditional and fru-fru alike, and will discuss your preferences for as long as you want so that they can create something perfect for your pallet. They also have an extensive crepe menu that is growing each day and includes sweet and savory varieties. This is a perfect spot to meet up with a friend you haven't seen in awhile and just sit and chat without being bothered. Needless to say, I've been here many times.
    • Clifton Wine Cellars - This is a new favorite of mine and happens to be under new ownership as of eight weeks ago. We stopped in for a quick tasting the other day and the owner was friendly, knowledgeable and unassuming - just my style. The wine selection was unique and the prices were reasonable. We sat and had a 4-wine tasting for $5.00 (not the cheapest I've seen, but certainly not a bank-breaker either) and the shop had meat, cheese and chocolate pallet cleansers available. If you purchase a case of wine (12 bottles) you receive a $10 discount and 1/2 case (6 bottles) gets a $5 discount. My favorite part of the shop is that they have their wines in sections like; crisp, clean, bold, dry, etc. etc. and then a main board that describes the qualities of each section.
    • Cottage Art - This adorable gift shop is my go-to for Mother's Day, female birthdays and non-registry baby gifts. Their website displays only a fraction of the unique gifts available at this shop and the people working there are quite possibly the nicest people on Earth. It's almost guaranteed that anything you buy from Cottage Art will not be duplicated and people will say "Where did you find that ______??"
    When I'm not patronizing the businesses in downtown Clifton, I may be participating in the other past times that the town has to offer. Last Thursday I joined my mom and her friends on the Clifton Homes Tour put on by the Clifton Community Women's Club. This in an annual tour in May, tickets are sold for $20 ahead of time or $25 the day of the tour. The CCWC arranges for 4 or 5 homeowners to open their homes to ticket holders and you go from house to house admiring the home, the decorating and the gardens. In other words, it's a very sophisticated way of spying on other's ideas and designs. I was skeptical at first, but the homes on the tour were amazing and absolutely worth the ticket price. The downside is that you will want to go home and redecorate every room in your house at the end of the day. I'm sad to miss the Clifton Wine Festival that takes place on Saturday, May 29, although it sounds like a really good time. There are also great events like Clifton Days, Halloween Hayride, and Christmas Caroling at other times of the year.
    All in all, Clifton is a great stop for a bite to eat, a coffee or just a walk around the town on a nice day. It's a great place to call your adopted hometown.

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Life Sentences - Laura Lippman

    Life Sentences is my first Laura Lippman book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The core of Lippman's novel is inspired by the true story of a Baltimore woman who spent seven years in jail after she refused to speak about her infant son's mysterious disappearance. In the book, the main character, Cassandra, is an accomplished author who made a name for herself by writing two tell-all books about her life growing up in the 1960s and the rise and fall of her first marriage. In search of her next topic, Cassandra decides to take a closer look at the life of a former classmate, Calliope Jenkins, the mother who stayed silent regarding the whereabouts of her son. Cassandra and Calliope were not particularly close in school so Cassandra looks to other former schoolmates for help, and encounters a number of complications along the way. I really enjoyed the way this book unfolds, the present day story is told through the eyes of a few of the main characters and Lippman fills in the back stories by using excerpts from Cassandra's novels. The novel explores the complicated relationships that children have with their parents, the strained ties of friendship from childhood friends that grow apart and finds time to weave in the impact of the civil rights movement of the 1960s that tie all of the characters together. Life Sentences is an ode to a little girl's blind belief in her father, a brilliant college professor that expects nothing but perfection from his child, and the effect those beliefs have on her as an adult. I feel like Lippman cleverly inserts a double meaning into the title by having a running dialogue in Cassandra's head describing how her father would correct her writing and also having each character trapped in a situation that results from a decision they made at some point in their lives, their own personal life sentence. I thought the book was interesting, compelling and clever. I will be reading more of Laura Lippman in the future.

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Jalapeño Poppers - Update!

    My trip to Hoboken was an enormous success - a great weekend spent with some great friends. To update the Jalapeño Poppers post, they were a huge hit and were gone in minutes. We cooked them for about 20 minutes and there was a nice crispy "char" on the outside of most of the peppers by the time we pulled them off the grill. They were the perfect amount of spice, a good kick, but I could eat them comfortably without a jug of water.

    My favorite part of the weekend was when Kristen, Jon and I successfully pulled off the surprise of the year; Jon coming up for the weekend and surprising Chip! We were super co-conspirators and managed to keep the visit a secret and get Jon into the apartment for the highest shock value possible. Since we were so sneaky, I didn't have my camera for the real surprise face that Chip had - which was priceless - but I was able to stage this dramatic reenactment so you can catch the general idea.
    Jon vigorously waving from the elevator

    Chip - in shock

    Co-Conspirator High Five

    No doubt, a good time was had by all. Jon and I now part ways until we both are back in Buenos Aires, where we will finally see a little of the cooler temperatures and winter months. Considering that we have been avoiding winter for the last year (inadvertently, we moved in the fall which is the beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere) it shouldn't be too bad. It was a great weekend though, we are so lucky that we were able to attend. Thank you Humkeys for an amazing weekend!!!

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Jalapeño Poppers

    This weekend I'm headed up to Hoboken, New Jersey to stay with some of our closest friends, Chip and Kristen for the weekend. They moved to Hoboken a few years ago, which allowed Jon and I to visit them for such events as Fake St. Patrick's Day 2007, Blue Jays vs. Yankees in the old stadium and Labor Day 2008. Basically, we don't need any real occasion to visit the Humkeys, we tend to create reasons since we have so much fun together. For this weekend, the big event is that they have recently become homeowners and are having a housewarming party - and I am lucky enough to be in the US during the party weekend (though this may not have been a complete coincidence…). I cannot wait to see their new place in person, although I've already seen some pictures and the place is beautiful. I am taking my favorite form of transportation, the Amtrak train, from Washington, DC to Newark and will be there in no time. For the occasion, I'm trying my hand at a new recipe that my mom swears by. Although I try to stick to the healthier menu items, this delicious dish is not on the calorie-counting list - but I promise that this is not my norm. So, introducing my first (the plan is that it's the first of many) recipe post!

    Jalapeño Poppers

    20 - 25 whole jalapeño peppers
    12 oz. cream cheese, softened
    1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 lb. bacon
    toothpicks (for securing the bacon around the peppers)

    1. Wash the jalapeño peppers, cut off stem end and remove seeds and ribs.
      Washed peppers
      Note: My mom has an amazing tool called a jalapeño corer. This is ideal, but any paring knife will do the trick. The seeds and ribs contain a lot of the pepper's heat, so the more thorough, the less spicy they will be. You also can slit the peppers down the long end to make this easier, but we decided to leave them whole this time around.
    2. Mix cream cheese and spices, adjust spice level to taste.
    3. Stuff peppers with cream cheese mixture. Note: We filled them by hand, which can be quite messy. Next time we will use a pastry piping bag which will certainly make this process much easier.

      Me filling peppers the hard way

    4. Cook bacon for 2-3 minutes.
      Waiting for bacon
      Ideally the bacon will be slightly cooked, but still soft enough to wrap around the stuffed peppers. Note: If making ahead of time, you can skip this step, it just increases the cook time on the final product.

    5. Wrap peppers with bacon. The bacon adds flavor and helps keep the cream cheese filling inside the pepper while they cook. Wrap the bacon most securely around any openings in the pepper and then secure with toothpick(s).
    6. Cook stuffed peppers on the grill until the bacon is cooked throughout and the pepper is slightly soft.
    Finished product, ready to grill!
    The longer the peppers cook, the less spicy they will be. The peppers are good for up to 3 days after stuffing, but they must be kept refrigerated constantly. They are a great dish for tailgates, summer and winter grilling. The last time I had them was when my mom brought them down to Jon's parent's house for Christmas dinner. They were gone in minutes. We'll see how they fare at the housewarming party.

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Amazon Kindle

    My husband, along with virtually his entire family, loves and - more importantly - understands electronics. This is perfect for me because I enjoy having things that make life easier but I have no idea what is out there, much less where to buy it or how to set it up. This is also great for me because it means that I tend to receive amazing, technologically advanced gifts that I never even knew existed. I am quite spoiled in this regard. Although there are quite a few things that I could put in that category (my iPod, laptop and cell phone to name a few...) I need to shed light on one item in particular because I think that expats are really missing out on this delightful piece of technology. The Amazon Kindle.

    My 1st generation Kindle
    My Kindle was a Christmas gift from my in-laws in 2008 when I was still commuting to work on the train everyday. The Kindle is a product of Amazon (there are others out there by Sony and other companies) that wirelessly downloads books, magazines and newpapers from anywhere in the US in under 60 seconds. The newer versions of the Kindle offer 3G global coverage, making it even more appealing to expats the coverage is good in over 100 countries, and holds a longer charge (up to 1 week of reading on one full charge) than the previous models. This is especially good for those multi-day flights or for the backpacker who won't be near a power source for days on end. There are literally hundreds of thousands of titles to choose from with more titles being added every day. The Kindle also has the ability to connect to your computer using a USB cable for people like me who have the older version and live outside of the country. The device itself is lightweight and easy to use - especially easy on the eyes. The screen reminds me of an Etch-a-Sketch, that matte finish screen that makes the text really easy to read. Oh Kindle, here are the reasons I love thee:
    1. For my former commute, I didn't have to carry an enormous book with me on the train.
    2. It is small enough to keep in my purse all the time for things like waiting at the doctor's office, taking a lunch break or sitting at a cafe.
    3. Before we moved to Buenos Aires, we lived in a relatively small apartment where we barely had enough space for our own things, much less the space to store all of the book that I read.
    4. Now that we live in Bs. As. it is hard to find English bookstores that carry the titles I want. Not an issue when you have a Kindle.
    5. When I'm out of the loop with regard to current good books, I can go onto the New York Times bestseller list straight from the Kindle. Not only that - but you can download a "sample" of a book before you buy it for no cost!
    The downside of the Kindle is that it's not cheap. You pay one price for the device (unless you get it as a gift - thank you Thom and Lornie!) and then pay separately for each book that you download. The book prices vary, but the most expensive I've seen is $9.99 for a new release hardback NYTimes bestseller. Not too bad if you consider that most of those books on the shelf are < $20.00 when they first come out. I have been stopped on the street, on the train and by people in stores to ask if I like the Kindle and my answer is always an overwhelming YES. If you are thinking about getting one for yourself or as a gift for someone else don't think twice. They will love it.

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    Mother's Day Extravaganza

    Happy American Mother's Day! I never really thought about it, but Mother's Day is not the same day in all countries. In Argentina, Mother's Day is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday in October, which makes sense if you want to keep the whole springtime feel of Mother's Day in May. Yes, October is Argentina's spring - since it's located in the lower hemisphere the seasons are opposite. This is a fact that messes with my head - I had no idea the impact that weather has on my sense of time.
    So, this Mother's Day weekend was spent with some of my favorite people, doing all sorts of fun, springtime things. (The picture to the left is me and my mom in 2008 at our wedding rehearsal.)

    On Friday, my mom and I joined my friend Julie, her mom and her beautiful baby Caden on a trip to the Waterfront in Alexandria. I have to say that I really miss living close to Washington, DC - there are so many beautiful and historic places to visit. Old town Alexandria is also home to the restaurant I took Jon to for Valentine's Day 1996, Chart House. A girlfriend and I decided we would treat our guys to dinner Sadie-Hawkins-style. This was way before credit cards and I had no idea the price range of the restaurant, so I was sweating the fact that I didn't have a whole lot of cash with me. This is the first time I've been back to the restaurant since, and I have to say, it's a great location. We had a lovely time, we'll have to go back there one of these days.

    On this day, we all met Julie's husband Dan for lunch and then walked down to the water to enjoy the view and the day, both of which were pretty great. I was lucky get to spend some quality time with baby Caden, who has changed pretty dramatically since I last saw him. (Picture on the left: Caden David before I moved to Argentina. Picture on the right: Baby-blue-eyes himself 6-months later.) It is an amazing reminder as to how fast time flies to look at how much a baby changes in 6 months. I just love his fair hair and blue eyes, not to mention that they make him a total head-turner. Julie has complete strangers come up to her to compliment her on a beautiful baby. He was such a good boy the whole day we were in Alexandria, and I even got to be in a few photos with the little chick-magnet.
    Happy Mother's Day to beautiful new mom Julie, who is doing an amazing job.
    On Saturday, my newly-engaged friend Sarah (Congratulations!) came to visit and we got to look at some gorgeous wedding dresses. I won't give away any of the details, but I have no doubt Sarah will look amazing in whatever she chooses.
    We are all so happy for Sarah and Josh!

    Saturday night I had the rare treat of actually having family AND friends together in one place on Saturday night, my parents and I met up with Sarah, Julie, Julie's mom and her younger sister for dinner. I went to school out of state, so it is extremely rare for our families to be able to mingle, I am so glad that the night worked out. Now that Sarah, Julie and I all live in different cities (and countries...) it is also becoming more rare for us to all be together - so this was truly a treat for me to have two of my best friends together, and to have my parents there too was a great added bonus! Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate, it was 50 degrees outside, but we made good use of the blankets the restaurant provided us and we braved it out on the patio of The Clifton Store.

    As for Mother's Day itself, we had a nice dinner and dessert at home, just the way we like it. My years of restaurant experience have trained me to loath going out to dinner on Mother's Day and Valentine's Day - dinner at home is much more relaxing. It was a great day, weekend and reunion of many people that I haven't seen in a while. I can't wait for more reunions to take place later this week when my youngest brother Robbie comes home from college and I head up to New Jersey to visit first-time-homeowners Kristen and Chip.

    Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful Mom!

    Friday, May 7, 2010

    Argentine Import Ban

    Tonight I received an email from my friend Heather (thanks Heather!) with the big news that my familiar Bs.As. grocery stores are going to look a little less familiar come June 1st. Argentina is officially banning the importation of products that have a "Made in Argentina" alternative. Say What?! Any product that is has a similar cousin that is made in Argentina will no longer be offered in our local grocery stores. Some of the items that this article pinpoints are Pringles, Tabasco sauce, Jif peanut butter and Philadelphia cream cheese. The only item on that list that I'm really worried about is the cream cheese because I have yet to identify an alternative and it goes into a number of my go-to appetizers.

    The original article in the Argentine Post refers to a ban on such things as Italian imported pastas and Spanish prosciutto. This is wild, considering that in the US the international food aisle is the recent popular hot spot of shopping - even if there are items in that aisle that are also produced by local distribution plants. It doesn't say much about these equivalent products, if the government has to mandate that there cannot be any competition. What would we do without authentic Italian/Asian/Mexican cuisine? I guess I'll find out. My suitcases may be a little more full now when I return from the US...