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Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of those emerging holidays here in Argentina.  They are starting to celebrate, but haven't quite gotten the concept at this point.  Most of the costumes that we've seen on locals involve either an outfit covered in blood or the outfit they wore during the day coupled with a mask.  It's a work in progress.

It is nice to have the weather on the upswing as Halloween approaches. On Sunday, when all of the Halloween festivities took place, we had a beautiful, sunny 73 degree day.  It makes me wish that I had been in Buenos Aires all those years that I had to wear a jacket over my costume while trick-or-treating.  In order to take full advantage of the day, some of my mom's group friends and I ran in the AmCham 10K in Puerto Madero.  It was a perfect day for a race, and we got to keep these highly fashionable bright orange shirts!

We were excited to get Gretchen dressed up for her first Halloween, obviously, since dressing up babies in adorable costumes may be the cutest thing ever.  We are lucky enough to have some great friends that threw a fantastic Halloween party through BAIN, which was a great substitute for our traditional Halloween festivities.  We all got dressed up and had a great time, and though we didn't have the benefit of a whole bunch of American candy, we did have this little lovebug:

Thank you Gran for getting this precious vaquita de San Antonio/Ladybug costume.

The adults were requested to dress up, so we threw together a chef and teacher outfit, though it didn't matter since Gretchen stole the show.

And as with every childhood Halloween I can remember, tiredness took over toward the end of the party and we ended up with a very sleepy, sad ladybug.  It was time for a nap.  Let me just say that a baby crying in an adorable costume might be the funniest thing ever.  I hope to catch future Halloween meltdowns on camera, because it is comic genius.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out with our little bug while she made us laugh, practiced standing, and enjoyed the simple joy of a baby in a costume.

As an additional bonus, little miss got her second tooth on Halloween!  She has a completed pair of bottom teeth now.  Congratulations to our little ladybug, and Happy Halloween to all of our friends and family back home!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I Do It Myself

Along with this new world of mothering comes a plethora of books and information on what your child is doing, what they should be doing, what they are no longer doing and, finally, what they will do.  One of the phases in our near future is the inevitable "I do it myself!" phase, in which your child wants to take control, assert leadership, and do simple tasks like eating and getting dressed for themselves.  Thankfully, in babies this phase is not in our immediate future, but the "I do it myself" phase seems to resurface in adults. 
Specifically in adults that are around 30 and living abroad. 
More specifically, in me. 

Exhibit 1:
Over the weekend my in-laws sent us an email request that seemed to be a bit of a last resort.  A family friend owns a coffee/espresso maker that is only sold in South America and one of their house guests inadvertently threw away the metal filter attachment needed to brew a cup of coffee.  For a coffee maker, this seems to be a pretty important part, considering that you cannot brew a cup without it.  After numerous attempts to contact the company, contact different suppliers in the US, etc, they were unable to find a place to buy this part.  Considering that we live in South America, they thought we may be able to help in locating the part. 

Let me pause to say that a year ago, I would have literally laughed at this request.  I cannot find 90% of the things I am looking for here, much less find such a specific piece of equipment.  If you would like a specific example of how maddening my searches can be, please refer to my attempt to purchase a food processor.  But that was a year ago.  This year, I'm empowered.  And I need to redeem myself after the food processor incident. 

So, after I contacted Oster Argentina, in a request sent in Spanish I might add, they responded with a local shop where I could purchase the filter.  I went there on Tuesday, and to my incredible surprise, the little ancient-looking shop at 870 Esmeralda Street had a huge inventory of Oster products, they understood what I needed, and actually had the part I was looking for.  In a matter of 48 hours I had saved the coffee maker from a lonely life of not brewing coffee. I am unabashedly proud.  I do it myself.

Exhibit 2:
You may remember from my Need For Change post that it is a bear to obtain change here in the city.  This is also the only form of payment that the buses accepted... until now.  Recently they have started a card system called SUBE, where you can add value to a card and use it to ride any bus or subway line. Jon uses the bus every day to commute to work, so I decided to look into getting him a card. It is easier than you might think, but more difficult than it should be.  Just bring an identification document (or photocopy) to any of the locations listed on the Retira tu Tarjeta site, complete a short form and leave with an empty SUBE card.  The first card is free, so is the second, but if you loose your card again there is some sort of charge. 
Unfortunately, it is currently not possible to obtain and put value on your SUBE card in the same location, so you then need to bring the card to any of the Carga tu Tarjeta site locations.  You can pay with cash or credit card, there is no service charge, and then use that value to pay for your trips.  Rumor has it that these cards will eventually be accepted in taxis as well. 
I took on this challenge.  I got each of us a card.  I waited at a Correo Argentina location only to be told that this location doesn't add value to SUBE cards.  I traveled to another location.  I charged the cards.  I do it myself. 

That's all, just two exhibits, but two tasks that gave me an enormous sense of accomplishment.  So thank you, house guest that threw away the coffee filter.  Thank you, new card system for making me figure it out.  It's things like this that make me realize how far I've come since we first moved here and we called on our Spanish speaking friends when things were complicated.  It's a week like this that makes so many of the other, more frustrating weeks worth it. 

It's a week like this that makes me proud to say, yeah, I do it myself. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Astrid & Gaston

Did the loveable yet geeky supporting actress from Fringe and the pompous loverboy from Beauty & the Beast get together and create a Peruvian restaurant?  I wish.  But this combination works out even better, and it makes a much nicer love story.  According to their website, this pair was in school, him to study law and her to study medicine, when their passion for food and Paris took over and they both quit school to become chefs.  Eventually, he convinced her (a blond German) to follow him to Peru where they opened their first restaurant, and the rest is history.  The website leaves out who is Astrid and who is Gaston, but I am still envisioning the girl from Fringe and the cartoon Gaston, so I'll just leave it at that. 

Astrid & Gaston (Lafinur 3222, Palermo: 4802-2991) was a recommendation from one of our friends that has very high standards for restaurants, so when it was where she spent her birthday, we knew we needed to try it.  The setting is beautiful, an old converted mansion that offers intimate rooms complete with only 10-12 tables per room, making you feel that you are in a much smaller place.  As we entered the restaurant we passed by the expo line and were able to see into the kitchen which told me two things; 1) I was going to like almost anything they served, the food all looked amazing, and 2) This was the most organized expo line I had ever seen.  Quiet. Clean. Civil.  Quite different from my restaurant days where this area was a free-for-all of yelling and mildly organized chaos.  So far, this place was batting a thousand. 

We followed the hostess up a very steep and windy set of stairs and were seated in a room with heavy red velvet curtains where there were only a handful of other people seated (this was a Saturday night at 9:30pm).  Our server was pleasant, helpful and patient as we asked him about dishes on the menu and asked that he define Spanish words that we had never encountered.  After all was said and done, we should have closed our menus and let him order for us, we followed (almost) all of his recommendations. 

We started with a ceviche appetizer, actually we got the sampler so it was more like 3 ceviche appetizers.  The flavors were great, crisp, fresh and flavorful - though this was not our favorite course.  There was nothing wrong with the dish, it just so happened to bring out some food weirdnesses in both Jon and I.  The fish was presented in large cubes, which kind of weirds me out, I'm used to a smaller dice (crazy, I know) and Jon has some sort of biological dislike for cilantro, which is obviously in almost every ceviche dish out there. 

 I ordered Salmón Blanco con Arroz Arvejado (I think, again, I just took the waiter's word for it), pictured below, and it was outstanding.  It was a piece of white salmon served on a bed of risotto-style rice and surrounded by all sorts of goodies; shittake mushrooms, scallions, shrimp, caramelized onions, and delicious sauce. 

 Jon went the meat route, he ordered the lamb served two ways (Cordero Dos Cocciones), each way supplemented with a different style side.  The more tender lomo had a creamy mashed potato-style side and the other cut (piled high in the photo) was served over a potato lasagna.  Both were delicious. 

I should mention that my friend's recommendation came with the advice that we needed to order the cabrito, baby goat.  We couldn't do it.  It's the kind of thing that I want someone else to order and then I take a bite so that I can say I tried it.  Maybe I'll like it, but we only get out every once in a while these days, so I can't risk it. 

I'm conflicted about the dessert.  There were a number of good-looking options, including a sampler, but we decided to go with our gut and order the chocolate option.  It was good, the raspberry compote was really tasty and the chocolate was really good quality, but the heart of the dessert was a chocolate ball filled with "creme brulee foam" which basically disintegrated when the waiter poured the warm chocolate sauce on top.  I think this would have worked better with a high quality vanilla ice cream in the center.  Or gelato.  Or partner with Arkakao and add one of their flavors to the middle. It was good, it just wasn't as impressive as the rest of the meal. 

This was a great date night out.  It is a date night though, the prices at Astrid & Gaston warrant a special occasion meal, and though they are worth it - they're probably not worth it every week. 

Additionally, this was the first time we were able to use Restorando.com to make our reservation and it worked like a charm.  We were able to make the reservation, and immediately after the confirmation stage we received an email AND a text message confirming the reservation.  Perfect.  And perfect for the non-native Spanish speaker that fears the telephone.  Fear no more - Restorando.com is here for you. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy Tooth Day!

If you that thought that Thursday, October 20th was just going to be an ordinary day, I admit, I was once like you.  Then, somewhere between waking up (bright and early at 6:30am) and going down for a nap at 10:30am, we discovered something extraordinary.

A tooth!  A little pointy white nub poking through the lower front right space, where just yesterday only gums existed.  Our little girl is growing up so quickly, I can hardly wrap my mind around it.

I will so that this is a bit of a long time coming.  You may have noticed that there are very few photos of Gretchen in which she is not wearing a bib.  She has been drooling for many moons, and if I were a betting girl, I would have put my money on her getting teeth at least a month or so ago.  I can actually see them under the surface, little toothy outlines just waiting to be seen by the outside world. 

So what do we do on First Tooth Day?  Here's a little recap:

First we drink some juice using our newest skill of drinking from a sippy cup.  As of a week ago, Gretchen couldn't make heads or tails out of what to do with this crazy new cup, and now she's an expert.  By the way, thank you to our friends the Elys for having the foresight to gift us a sippy cup at our baby shower last year.  Amazing how an item that seems so advanced comes in handy before you know it.  

After juice, we spend some time gnawing on Sophie the hard teething giraffe.  I believe we're working on more teeth to come in the very near future.

We pause and do our best Ed Asner impression.

 We spend some time with Daddy as he admires our new tooth.

 We have fun practicing our steps.

 We love on our favorite penguin pillow (thank you Uncle Chris!),

 Then we try to eat our favorite penguin pillow,

 Then we try to eat a blanket,

And then we settle on chewing up Sophie again. It sure was a fun filled day of working out that tooth, today is truly the first day of a whole new phase of life!  So many things to chew! 

 Congratulations baby girl!  Happy First Tooth Day!