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Monday, January 31, 2011


We have been wanting to try Osaka for the longest time and either couldn't get a reservation or felt like we needed to wait for an event to go there for dinner. So, when we found out that our good friends Paul and Anso were moving away from Argentina, we had reason, motive and reservations to go. It was well worth the wait.

Osaka (Solar 5608, Palermo, 4775-6964) is an Asian/Peruvian fusion restaurant with a sushi bar to boot. They highly recommend reservations, and you can only make said reservation between 10am & 6pm Mon - Fri. This is far more structured than the Buenos Aires restaurant community that I'm used to, but something is working for them because they are constantly full. (Note: We have two sets of friends that said they walked in without a reservation and both were able to get dinner. Each only had 2 people in their group and were seated at the sushi bar as opposed to a table, but both had an amazing time, so there is hope for the walk-in customer.)

They have a large menu that is divided by style of food, Peruvian, Asian dishes and sushi. I can't tell you much more about the menu because we didn't even use it, we took our friend's advice and asked the waitress to bring us an assortment of ceviches and sushi dishes, and requested that at least some of them contain cooked food for the pregnant lady. This was definitely the way to go, everything we ate was delicious.

There is no getting around the Buenos Aires-style sushi rolls that inevitably contain salmon, cream cheese and avocado, and though some find that boring, we really like the flavor so, who's complaining? Osaka was no different, as you can see, our first round of sushi contained just that. They added some cellophane noodles to the top just for kicks, but underneath it was the same old sushi roll.

They gave us a few dishes of thinly sliced fish, salmon and a type of white fish, adored with different sauces. The salmon had a citric flare and was topped with chives, which was good but a little sweet. The white fish had a soy and hoisin sauce base and was to die for. It was so good that I failed to get a photo of it, even though we were given 2 dishes of the same style fish - we ate it that quickly. You can see some of the remaining sauce in the foreground.

The next round was a cooked salmon dish, the salmon was rolled in sesame seeds and served with a potato salad. It was good, but not incredibly memorable. The ceviche was a mixture of traditional ceviche, avocado style and wasabi, all of which were delicious. And they were served on these adorable little amuse bouche spoons for the perfect little bite sized tastes. At this point, we told the waitress that we didn't need any additional items, and she was happy to comply. I'm certainly that they would have continued to present delicious dish after dish, and we probably would have continued to eat, but there was dessert to be had - and it was a good decision to save room.

The recommended dessert (as far as I'm concerned) was the warm chocolate cake. I can't remember if it's called chocolate volcano or whatever on the menu, but it is a chocolate cake with an oozing chocolate middle served with cinnamon ice cream. To die for. I was super jealous that I did not order one for myself - I will certainly do so when we return.
Instead, I ordered the sorbet sampler, which was my attempt to be a healthy dessert-eater. They were good, interesting flavors of basil and ginger in there, but really didn't hold a candle to the chocolate cake. As I write this I'm wishing I could have one of those chocolate cakes right now...

I actually don't remember what dessert Paul ordered, but I love his face in this photo. It's like "Seriously, I have to wait to eat my dessert for a picture?!". He's right, I'm pretty annoying to go out to dinner with these days, I can't drink, no raw food and I insist on taking pictures of your food. They are good friends for dealing with my antics.

So there you have it, Osaka lives up to the year-long hype. I recommend going when you are not pregnant so that you can indulge fully, which we plan to do again in a couple of months. I am no expert on Peruvian food, but from what others tell me, this is more authentic than some of the other fusion restaurants in the city.  If there is any negative to this place it was that the service was good, not great, and it took an eternity to get our bill.

It was a great farewell dinner for some wonderful friends. Au revoir, Anso and Paul! We look forward to our paths crossing when we visit you in beautiful Paris!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wall Decals - Tacky or Amazing?

I'm no expert, but I would put my money on the US being the world capital of variety. When we go back to the US I spend at least a few days skipping and singing down the multiple aisles of cereal choices in Giant or marveling at the cheese selection at Wegmans. There is certainly something to be said for overindulgence and how people certainly don't need 100 different types of chips to choose from - but then again, it's a choice that I took for granted until we moved to a place that didn't offer the variety that we were accustomed to in America. When we found out we were expecting a baby, I started looking for nursery decor in Buenos Aires and I realized that the variety (and convenience) that I had come to expect from the US was not extended to our current city. So, instead of praying for a Target or Toys R Us, I decided to go minimalist on our nursery decor, if nothing else this would save me the stress of searching for things that cannot be found.

Then we went visited home in October and our friends threw us a beautiful baby shower and the decorating bug hit me again. All these questions had no answer - What color are you painting the nursery? What's your theme? Are you doing stencils or wallpaper? Uh, no, we're not doing any of that, and the theme is whatever currently exists in the room. My desire for variety and mega stores was stronger than ever. So, in a fit of feeling inadequate, I searched Amazon for wall decals and bought the cutest ones I saw.

They arrived and I opened the package expecting to be amazed. They were beyond disappointing. I don't really know what I was expecting, I knew they weren't going to look real. I mean, trees and flowers don't grow out of walls so this wasn't really a surprise. What I did know was that they were, in a word, tacky.

Cut to a few months later, I am much more pregnant and our 15-foot-tall nursery walls are looking even more bare than before. So I broke out the wall decals and thought I would give it a go.
The cherry tree decals
Long stem pink flowers
I'm kind of in love. I think they look adorable. And, if you are renting your apartment, or if your child grows out of the pink flowers, you just peel them off the walls.

Or, if you hate them after a few days, you can peel them off the walls and pretend it never happened.

You be the judge; tacky, or adorably convenient?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pregnancy Abroad

Back in my first post about pregnancy (Dawn + Jon = Baby Girl) I mentioned that there would be more posts about medical care and pregnancy abroad. If you are interested in that sort of information, this post is for you!  I will preface the entire post by saying that all of this information is specific to my experience, I don't presume to know anything about healthcare or pregnancy abroad that is outside of my personal experience. 

I am now over 7 months pregnant, and things seem to be progressing quite normally.  I wish it was a bit cooler outside, but aside from that, I really can't complain.  For those of you who are interested in hearing some of the differences in pregnancy care here in Argentina, or those that are in Argentina and need advice on prenatal care, here is my best attempt to capture the differences. 

I see Dr. Juan Procaccini who is located in Palermo and I think the world of him.  He speaks fluent English and is extremely patient with our questions/concerns/confusions.  If you would like his contact information, please email me, I am happy to recommend. 

  • I have never waited more than a day for an appointment, including my first "new patient" appointment in which he saw me 2 hours after I called.  
  • He gave me his cell number the first time I saw him and I am able to call at any time with questions.
  • He is the only doctor in the practice, so I know who will be delivering our baby.  
  • All lab work is done in other locations, so each time I have blood drawn or need an additional test I need to go elsewhere.
  • The nurses/other professionals that he works with do not speak English.
  • He is the only doctor in the practice, so if he has an emergency to tend to or is running late, the whole office/all appointments are dependent on his schedule.  
  • All office visits are paid in cash.  It's a little strange.
Prenatal Care
The prenatal care the I have received is similar to that of many other pregnant mothers that I know, surprisingly, I know quite a few pregnant ladies here.  It is, however, different than that of friends of mine in the US.

  • More frequent appointments.  I started with appointments every 2 weeks in my first trimester, graduated to every 4 weeks in my second & went to every 3 weeks starting my third.  At 35 weeks I'll go on a weekly basis until delivery.  
  • More frequent ultrasounds. I have have an ultrasound at every appointment, and by the end of my pregnancy I will have had four 3D ultrasounds.  
  • Cost.  We are considered "out of network" for all of our medical care so we pay everything in full and then submit it for reimbursement.  Considering that we pay in full, before insurance, the cost of medical care is incredibly low compared to what we are accustomed to in the US.
  • There is a huge emphasis on low weight gain during pregnancy.  The recommendation is to gain 15 - 20 pounds total versus 25 - 35 pounds recommended in the US. As if I wasn't already feeling fat, I get to go to a zillion appointments that tell me how much weight I've gained.
  • Confusion. There are so many recommendations in the US that are not necessarily followed here that I find myself a bit confused at times.  Food and drinks to stay away from, exercise requirements, travel limitations and other recommendations are completely different.  This is why it is extremely important to have a doctor you trust, they can help you sort out all of this conflicting information. 
  • The childbirth classes with our midwife are in Spanish.  We are doing pretty well with them, but it still makes life a little more difficult.  
I have visited our hospital (Sanitario de la Trinidad) and am very pleased with the facility and the level of care available. If you are delivering in Buenos Aires, contact your hospital about taking a tour, there are not always organized tours available but I have found that they will show you around if you ask.  There are some differences, not necessarily pros/cons, that I thought would be fun to mention. 
  • Some of the hospital services include; delivered meals, daily paper and wi-fi (things that I would expect) ear piercing for girls, baby haircuts and baby cologne (things that surprised me).  
  • You need a reservation.  Considering I have no idea when baby girl is going to be joining us this might a bit difficult.  
  • There are strict visiting hours (for our hospital 8 - 12p & 4 - 8p) where only 1 person will be allowed in the room outside of those hours.  Bummer for close family/grandparents/etc that would like to help out in the other hours of the day.  
There is a whole other world of childcare that we will discover after the baby is born.  Things like car seats (not required here), grocery shopping (no child seats in the front of the carts), breastfeeding (totally acceptable in public, with or without cover) and all sorts of other adventures lie ahead.  I have found resources in BAExpats.org, BAIN and other bloggers in Argentina, but if you are in Buenos Aires and are interested in talking pregnancy shop - let me know!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mystery Squash Squares

For my bridal shower my fabulous bridesmaids included blank recipe cards in the invitations to have everyone that attended provide their favorite recipe.  This was a wonderful idea for several reasons, specifically because I had a great start to our newlywed recipe collection, and I can now make these recipes with some of the most important people in my life in mind.  The recipe that my mom provided was actually from one of her closest friends, Barb, a recipe that my mom used to make when I was younger.  In the spirit of Christmas, I thought I would try my hand at Barb's Pumpkin Squares. 

As with most things, this recipe was a little more complicated in Argentina because I have yet to find canned pumpkin (or fresh pumpkin for that matter...), thus, I bring you Mystery Squares.  I have never used fresh pumpkin for baking so I'll start at the beginning, in case there are any of you out there that are starting from square one like me. 

I started with a full butternut squash (I would have used pumpkin, but this worked too):

Cleaned it, cut it, and scooped out all of the seeds and stringy parts

Steamed it for 30 minutes or so

Then food processed it until smooth
That was easy.  Now proceed with the recipe as written:

Barb's Pumpkin Squares
Combine the following 4 ingredients:
1 16 oz. can pumpkin or 2 cups fresh pumpkin
4 eggs
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil

In a separate bowl, combine the following 5 ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Add dry mixture to wet mixture and pour into a jelly roll pan (aka - cookie sheet, I also didn't know what this was).  Bake at 350F (175C) for 25 - 30 minutes. 

After the cake has cooled - add delicious frosting:
4 oz. softened cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
(optional) sprinkle with crushed nuts of choice, I used pecans. 

These were a huge hit at Christmas, super moist and just as good with the butternut squash. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Husband of the Year

This year Jon gave me a gift that I didn't think was possible - my own book, that I wrote, without even knowing I was writing it.

He had this very blog made into a beautiful, hardcover book complete with table of contents, photos, and reader comments and it's one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen.  I remember when I was really little, 4 or 5 years old, my mom opened a diamond necklace from my dad on Christmas Day and it made her cry.  I remember thinking that it looked like a really nice necklace, why would she cry about it?  This was my version of that diamond necklace.
The book was made through a site called SharedBook, who offer lots of create-a-book services including a Blog2Print option.  Jon was able to choose the front and back cover photos, the book color (which is adorned with my favorite color, green) and he even wrote a touching dedication on page 1 (which we'll keep private but know that it was very nice). 

I guess I never really thought of my personal reasons for keeping up with the blog.  It started as something to do, then it developed into a way to keep family and friends connected with us while we live abroad, but the book makes me realize that I've really been keeping a journal of sorts for us to look back at to remember this very memorable part of our lives.  A very public, shared, journal.  I also like to think that it can serve as a reference guide to living in Buenos Aires, and I place it in the Argentina reference book section of our bookshelves.  I love Lonely Planet as much as the next guy, but when you're moving in vs. just stopping by for a visit/vacation, there are certainly topics these other books don't cover. 
 You know how people say that they would not be able to write a book because they don't have enough to write about?  I was one of those people and can say that I respectfully disagree, and now I have an over-200-page-book to prove it.  Now, if anyone is interested in reading that book is another story, but considering you're reading this right now I'm guessing that at least someone wants to read what I write :).  Either way, it was a highlight of Christmas to open this thoughtful, unique gift that certainly warrants the Husband of the Year prize in my eyes.  Kudos, Jon - I absolutely love it!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tea Time

Big-bellied Dawn, Kyra and my Mom
One of the specific excursions that I alluded to in the Christmas in Buenos Aires post was, for me, one of the highlights of the trip.  We had a girls-only tea time at the Alvear Palace Hotel (Recoleta - Ave. Alvear 1891, 4808-2949), and it was divine.  This is one of those outings where you really want to know your audience though, I was a little nervous that the tea was going to seem pretentious and conceited, but everyone enjoyed it and we all had a really nice time.

The inside of the Alvear Palace looks like what I imagine the inside of the Titanic looked like, and it has the added benefit of not being able to sink.  It is a beautiful hotel, complete with men in top hats and white gloves helping guests out of their cars, and it's conveniently just a few blocks from our apartment.  You know it's got to be good when fancy-pants like Ted Turner, Shaq and Sofia Loren have chosen the Alvear over places like the Ritz or Four Seasons.  And, it is on the list of "1,000 Places to See Before You Die", so that one is now covered.  My thought was that it would be a good way for the girls to get away, get a little dressed up and have some time away from the dude-fest at our apartment.  So, we got all gussied up, and away we went.  

Having tea at the Alvear is a pretty popular thing to do, so if you plan on going, be sure to make reservations first.  In typical Buenos Aires style, tea time is a bit later than you might think, opening at 4:30pm Mon - Sat and 5:00pm Sunday.  We arrived a bit early and were able to take some pictures in front of the beautiful Christmas tree that was in the lobby.  There are also some very high-end shop displays inside the hotel, so we all drooled over the jewelry and watches on display. 

The super friendly staff took us to a table that was adorned with (as my Mom put it) presidential china.  The table setting was nothing short of beautiful.  There are really only 3 ordering options on the menu, full tea, full tea with champagne and just tea.  The full tea is deceiving because everything is mini, but it's a whole lot of food.  We ordered 2 full teas with champagne, and we left stuffed.  Each full tea ($160 pesos/ US$40.00) included a tiered platter, fresh scones with a selections of marmalades, 4 tea sandwiches, a choice of dessert, champagne and (of course) your choice of tea.  Since there were four of us, we paid for an additional 2 tea choices making it about a US$100 afternoon for four people.  There are a zillion teas to choose from, we were all happy with our choices, but the real novelty of the afternoon was feeling like royalty.  The waiters are all dressed very formally and they serve everything with white gloves.  Don't let this deceive you, when the time came we still were unable to find someone to give us our check, which is a problem we have in almost every restaurant we visit.  Chalk it up to being an impatient American, but when I'm done eating I really just want to pay and be able to leave at my leisure.

Anyways, it was a lovely afternoon and it was nice to have more intimate conversations with just the girls.  I highly recommend heading to the Alvear if you have guests in town or a group that likes to step out of city life and take a ride on the Titanic for a little while.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Christmas in Buenos Aires

After an entire year of planning and anticipation for our families to join us in Buenos Aires for the holidays, it came and went in a flash.  We had an amazing time and I think (and hope...) that all of our guests did too.  I felt like it was the perfect balance of site-seeing and relaxing, and although we had an incredible heat wave over the week of Christmas (up to 100 degrees on Christmas Day), everyone really rolled with the punches and made the most out of their South American vacation.  I have to mention that we missed my brother Chris, who is currently working at the South Pole station, and our future sister-in-law Lian, who spent valuable holiday time with her family, but other than having the two of them here, I really don't think things could have gone any better. 

I will elaborate more on some of the specific excursions during the visit, but for now, pictures will probably do the best job of summarizing our December. 

We got a good taste of fireworks, starting off with this incredible show that we watched from our front balcony.  The show also caused some significant traffic issues on the main street in front of our house, especially when the finale caused all of the car alarms to go off at once.  Fireworks were a theme throughout the holidays, with all sorts of amateurs setting off serious explosives all through the night. New Year's Eve people let off fireworks so close to us that the wrappers fell onto our heads.  

 We did a little touring - took my family to the Pink House to see where the president lives.  It just so happened to be the hottest day of my life. 

We had a great group dinners.  This one was at La Cabrera, the perfect introduction to Argentine beef.
We had babies, (our friends triplets were the stars of Christmas Eve,)
 And big boys, and babies to come...
And presents,
 Lots and lots of presents,

We enjoyed expensive martinis, 
 and delicious gelato,
 and games,
 And lots of hanging out time.

The biggest thank you possible to our families for coming all the way to Buenos Aires and making our holidays so unforgettable.  It was a sad transition after everyone left, and to add insult to injury, our little chicks decided to flee at the same time.  The good news: The next visits to look forward to are after our little girl is born and our parents come back to meet their new little granddaughter. 

We hope everyone had as wonderful a Christmas and New Year as we had!  Happy 2011!