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Friday, February 25, 2011

Baby Belly Lotions

As I am reaching the end of my pregnancy, I need to pay homage to two products that I would recommend to anyone adorned with the lovely ginorm-a-belly that pregnancy will give you. Buckle up everyone, my first true product reviews lie ahead.

First up, Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Massage Lotion for Stretch Marks. Don't let the name fool you, you don't need to have stretch marks to start using this lotion.

During our trip to the US back in October, which is subsequently the only time during my pregnancy that we were in the US, my mom had two bottles of this lotion waiting for me and strongly urged me to start using it tout suite. After using 2 pumps a day in the morning after I shower, I am now on my 3rd bottle. It's moisturizing, has a nice consistency and doesn't get thick and or oily. Each bottle is under $8.00 and it can be picked up at any CVS, Target, Walmart, or it's available for order on Amazon, in case you're ordering it for someone to smuggle to another country for you. Sorry Argentina, as far as I know, Palmer's has not made it here yet.

I've read all sorts of literature on stretch marks, and I understand that the major indicator on determining if you will get them is heredity. That being said, even if there is a small chance that moisturizing your skin will help you avoid/reduce the possibility of getting these lovely marks, I'm game to try anything. If nothing else, lotion helps the dry skin itchiness that stretching your belly to the limit will give you.

The second product that I've used is a less mainstream option. I found this adorable little container in my Christmas stocking from my mother-in-law who brought it all the way from central Virginia-based Soothing Herbals. Soothing Herbals makes all natural, preservative-free products and has a nice Mama & Baby line.

Clearly, when you go from mainstream to local business, the price goes up a bit, but I've been using my 4oz jar of belly butter at night before bed since Christmas Day and I bet it will last me to delivery. The consistency of this product is a little thicker and a bit more oily so I opt to use it before bed. This gives it more time to soak in and allows me to wear looser clothing over top (as opposed to the elastic-waisted bottoms I've been wearing for the last 7 months). The belly butter has a pleasant, but not overly flowery or medicinal smell and my skin feels nice and soft in the mornings. If you do not happen to be located in central Virginia, I believe Soothing Herbals does a mail order business and they have plenty more in their line of products versus just momma-related items.

So there you have it. I have had great luck with these two products, and throughout my pregnancy I have been dry skin and stretch mark free (knock on wood, I still have a few weeks to go...). This is an amazing feat considering how large my belly has gotten, I can't even believe it when I look at the Baby Belly pictures posted.

That, and I have got to stop wearing horizontal stripes!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Hallelujah! After over a year of waiting, the Argentine government FINALLY decided to send me a little present, in the form of my DNI (Documento National de Identidad).  This little booklet has been a thorn in my side since last January, and we were crossing our fingers that we would get it before our little peanut is born.  Hooray for me!  Now, what is it?

So far as I can tell, a DNI is similar to a social security number in the US, but it is currently utilized much more (although with the recent changes to hiring and employment requirements, the use of SS#s has started to increase).  Virtually every financial or legal transaction will bring about the need to have your "numero de documento" which, until now, has been using our passport numbers and throwing everyone off.  Funny though, I could count the number of times that I used my passport number on one hand until I started living in Argentina, and now they ask for it even though I have no reason to believe that it's not tied to my other personal information here. The DNI changes all of that. 

Every time you use a credit card, book a flight, sign a contract (cell phone, housing, employment, etc) you are asked to provide your DNI number.  There are different (lower) airfares reserved for "nationals" that can provide this number, discounts into natural parks such as Iguazu Falls and Puerto Madryn, and without it you will have a very difficult time getting a cell phone plan, buying a house or making any large purchase that is not in full in cash.  Your DNI number is connected to your bank account, passport, voting history (voting is mandatory in Argentina and the DNI booklet records each time that you have punched a ballot), it's on your marriage license, and is needed to acquire an Argentine passport. 

(Just as an aside, can you imagine the uproar in the US if there were different entry costs for national parks or different airfare options for those that had a Social Security number?  Or if a Social Security number was requested when you used a credit card?  That's not to say that you are unable to enter or purchase a ticket, it just means that your fare is more.  Here it's understood, if you're not a national, your a tourist, and therefore capable of paying.  One of the many differences when living abroad...but I digress...)

This is not to say that we have been here illegally or anything, we have our temporary visas that are good for a year at a time.  Honestly, the biggest relief in obtaining our DNIs is that we're hoping it will make registering our newest little Argentine a little easier when the time comes.  That process seems to be complicated enough, with her needing both US and Argentine passports, birth certificates and other related documentation before we can take her out of the country, maybe this will now offer us a little relief/less hassle.  I'll post updates with our experiences in obtaining all of these other documents for our baby - I've heard some horror stories and some have said the process is a piece of cake.  You'll read all about how the process goes for us...that is, once we actually have a baby. 

Four more weeks!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Arkakao - Our New Obsession

I've written about local ice cream before in my post about Volta, which at the time was the best ice cream I have ever tasted. 

And then, there was Arkakao (Quintana 188, Recoleta: 4813-7585).

I have never been to Italy, but I read Eat, Pray, Love (a book that I disliked so much that it actually annoyed me, but that's another story) and I imagine that the ice cream/gelato at Arkakao is the stuff that Elizabeth Gilbert couldn't stop eating for her month in Italy.  I mean, if there is any better substance on the planet, I cannot fathom what it is.

Jon's family enjoyed our find over Christmas
Arkakao is actually a cafe/restaurant and gelato shop, although I've only had actual food there one time.  The chicken caesar salad I had was good, but I haven't been back for the food, whereas the ice cream has me on a first name basis with most of their staff. 

It's not the cheapest option in the city, a take-home kilo is $88 pesos (US$22), but it's almost better that way because it keeps you from buying it daily.  The flavors are completely true to form, for example, hazelnut tastes incredibly hazelnutty, and they have an option for everyone; fruity, nutty, sweet, chocolate, really whatever your heart desires.  They make all flavors fresh daily, so not all flavors are available everyday (they've been out of coconut and pistachio the last couple of times we've visited, much to Jon's chagrin) but they are all fresh, delicious and served with a smile.  The staff is incredibly friendly and they remember us each time we walk through the door.  The flavor labels are in Italian, to add to the effect, which then requires me to ask what each flavor is each time, and request a sample of each.  Luckily, the staff seems to enjoy giving out samples and translating the signs into Spanish, or English if they know the word. 

All in all, we are in love. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Oh, My Heart!

A phrase stolen from our friends Shannon and Hatch's blog, The Reppard Crew, about their adorable family.  Shannon uses this phrase often, and I love it, and it best described my feelings towards our nursery.

Welcome to our changing area.  Complete with my childhood clown, the rocking chair my husband sought out for my birthday this year and the wall decal flowers that I have grown to love.
Continuing on to the reading nook. Could that polka dot rug match our room any more perfectly?! Also, the dark wood hutch is another relic from my childhood, I remember being the same height as the hutch and playing with it in the kitchen (my mom wallpapered the hutch shelves to match the kitchen walls, so it felt even more real.). Now it makes the perfect bookcase for our little one. 

And here is the crib, which we purchased in Buenos Aires at a store called Quartos on Belgrano Street. The crib styles are a little different here, much lower to the ground and larger mattress area.  In this style, the crib will eventually convert to a toddler bed and the furniture pieces at the end of the bed will be removed and become nightstands.

And on the other side of the room are the closets split by a built in TV stand.  We're using it as an extra piece of furniture to hold our electronics (humidifier, sound machine, etc.) and a cutie little desk lamp. 

There you have it!  Our room is set, all we need now is the baby - and with only 6 weeks to go, we cannot wait!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Nail Salons: Part 2

As I continue my quest for the perfect nail salon, I have a few more contenders to add to the mix. As you may remember from my original Nail Salon post, I am searching for a good, clean, affordable pedicure place in Buenos Aires, and though there are a zillion salons to choose from I have found this to be tricky criteria to fulfill. Here are my most recently visited spots:

Fancy Fingers & Ladygardens
Located in a private residence in Barrio Norte on Parana. House visits also available, with the additional cost of transportation.
15-1300-8565, but email contact is preferred.
A friend originally recommended Sarah, the creator of Fancy Fingers & Ladygardens, as a good waxing person in the city. I visited her website and realized that she had much more to offer than just an eyebrow wax. Sarah and company offer nail services waxing and massages all for incredibly reasonable prices. She operates out of her apartment, which would be strange if she wasn't so incredibly nice and easy to talk to. I highly recommend her for waxing services as well, she has the cleanest room and supplies that I've seen in the city. With regard to her nail services, she gave a seriously thorough pedicure. She used a portable soaking tub (She used water! Hooray!) and unlike every other place I've gone that has used water, she used hot water and actually plugged the tub in for some foot-sauna action (every other place has used a similar tub, but cut the power cord off, thus, never plugging it in). The absolute best part of the whole experience was that she gave a great massage both during the pedicure and manicure. The massage is included in the cost of the service too, so you don't have to specifically request it or anything - music to my ears. Sarah had a pretty large variety of colors to choose from, although she readily admits that she wishes she had more O.P.I. brand, but they are ridiculously expensive here. This enjoyable morning of pampering was augmented by her pet turtle that wandered around the apartment while I was there - I thought this was adorable. Sarah is my new favorite, you feel like you've known her for years after 10 minutes or so, and I've already recommended her to my friends.
Products: B+ for color selection, A+ for cleanliness
Services: A
Facility: B+, it's just a tiny bit strange to be in someone's home for spa services.
Price: $100 pesos for a manicure/pedicure combo - excellent!

Estila Recoleta
Av. Pueyrredon 2436
This small hair salon actually offers a nice manicure/pedicure combination. I walked in without an appointment and was helped immediately. I sat on a 1960s-style white pleather couch for both services and it was one of the more comfortable seating arrangements that I have come across. They used a water foot bath, clipped and scrubbed and the whole nine yards. They had a pretty limited selection of colors, but the colors I choose lasted for a really long time without chipping. There was no massage, which is pretty normal here but now that I've had one included in the service I feel like I was shorted. I like Estila Recoleta, they were clean and prompt and friendly. My only complaint was that it was really hot in the salon to the point where I requested that the AC be turned on. Why the AC wasn't on already on a hot summer day is beyond me. Also, there are two types of pedicures to choose from, if you want more than just a paint-job, you need to specify at the door that you want a "pedicuria".
Products: C
Services: B
Facility: B+
Price: $98 pesos for a manicure/pedicure combo

Av. del Libertador 902
I won't spend too much time on this review because this was by far the worst pedicure I've ever had. Disappointing too because this is the closest salon to my house, but it was really dismal. I walked in without an appointment, and although they were not busy and took me back right away, the woman mentioned multiple times that I really should have called first. I sat in a standard haircut chair while the technician sat across from me in a cafeteria-style plastic seat. She used a foot bath tub, but then had me prop my feet up on her knees which immediately soaked through with water. Not to mention that I've got a huge baby belly and have a hard time lifting my feet up to her knee level. It was incredibly uncomfortable, and then she cut me to the point of bleeding in at least 3 spots. Gross. I will not be back, with or without an appointment.
Products: C
Services: F
Facility: C
Price: $120 pesos for a pedicure. Most expensive pedicure I've had in BsAs.

I stand by my previous recommendation of The Nail Company and will add Estila Recoleta to the recommendation list. If you have time to make an appointment, definitely call Sarah at Fancy Fingers, she is really worth the forethought.