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Friday, March 8, 2013

Chile: Valparaiso

Should I go ahead and finish posting about Chile now?  About time, right?

Our final full day in Chile was spent at the other activity that my father-in-law booked for us, and after the successful wine tasting trip, we were on board for another activity!

We had instructions to meet our guide at the top of one of the funiculars, one of the many vertical people movers in the city.  It was a great view from the top, overlooking a shipyard and the rest of the city, and we arrived early enough to enjoy the scenery.

It was a bright, sunny morning, and it was nice to walk along the pier with Gran.

 When our guide, Boris, showed up, he was smiles and fun from the start.  We booked through Chilean Cuisine, a class found through its high TripAdvisor ratings.  The cooking class had a few parts; we started at the house where we would eventually cook the meal, we rode together to a large fruit and vegetable market then rode to the fresh seafood market, then we took our goods back to the house, cooked and at our multi-course meal.  It was a perfect way to see how to cook an authentic Chilean meal from start to finish.

The first stop was the fruit market, which was in a sketchy area of town, so I didn't bring out my camera to capture the moment.  It was a sight to be seen, though, fruits and vegetables larger than I thought possible (again, everything grows wonderfully here).  They also had an unusual amount of cats in the market, which meant that we washed the produce really well before eating it.

The second stop was to the seafood market, which is where the fishermen come in from their daily catch and sell their finds to the public.  People can purchase the fish and take it to one of the many folks willing to filet it for a tip.  This man was the fastest fish filet-er I have ever witnessed.

 With all of these folks filleting and cleaning fish, there were also plenty of animals waiting to inherit the scraps.

The fish market was a surprise highlight for me, it was great to see the incredible variety of seafood, though the real bonus was seeing all of these great sea lions.

I don't even know what some of these items are, but they make a nice photo.

 The cooking class itself was a huge success, everything we made was delicious.  The downside of the class was that it was absolutely overcrowded.  We were all bumping into each other as we were cooking, and we were sitting shoulder to shoulder as we ate the meal.  In fairness, Boris, our guide, was great at directing and redirecting each moving piece in the class.

The food was delicious, and we have all been promised the recipes - though they have not yet been send out.  It was nice to see the food from purchase to plate, and each dish that we prepared was unique to anything I have cooked before.

It was a nice way to end a really great trip to Chile.  We would return to this area in a heartbeat - it was a great place to visit!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gretchen Turns Two!

Wow.  That happened!  I cannot believe that our beautiful little girl is actually TWO YEARS OLD! An amazing milestone for so many reasons, most notably due to the fact that she is has officially crossed into little-girlhood.

I cannot believe the changes that one year brings.  From our precious baby that I feared would fall off of this chair during the photo:

To this delightful, independent, fun, heart-capturing little girl.  She wore this crown with such pride, and she posed for so many beautiful photos on her birthday that I had a bard time choosing just one to include.

Nothing stopped Gretchen in her tracks like a lit candle. She practiced for weeks with everything from toys to sticks, so when she was presented with a lit candle on the tray in front of her, she was still as a statue. This may have been her longest silent streak all week long.

We celebrated Gretchen's birthday over the course of numerous days.  This was her actual birthday, where just mom, dad, Grammy who came in to visit for just this occasion, and Gretchen enjoyed pizza dinner and a cupcake.  This also may be a picture of Gretchen's last pre-bed cupcake ever, since after she devoured it, it took her over 2.5 hours to fall asleep.  Mom and Dad were not too keen.

A few days later, we held Gretchen's birthday party, where we had lots of friends big and small help us celebrate.  There was even a surprise guest - Minnie Mouse!  The room was unsure of how to handle Minnie's appearance, with 50% of the kids thrilled to see her and the other 50% terrified.  Gretchen was thrilled to see her until Minnie got close, then she was scared.  Minnie is quite large in person, so we got close enough to enjoy blowing out the candles and honking her nose and then we were ready for Minnie to say farewell.

By the end, she was a master of birthdays; blowing out candles, singing happy birthday and being "very careful, it's really hot!".  Good thing too, check out these extremely safe-looking candles of fire that are so popular here in Argentina.  Everyone that visits from the US wants them, but they are a fire-waiting-to-happen for sure.

Thank you to everyone who came to wish Gretchen a happy birthday, especially my mom (Grammy) who made the whole week special by being Gretchen's playmate from morning until night.

Warming up to Minnie
I was glad to have a great recommendation for an animadores company, DivertiCumple, who came an brought games, face painting, a puppet show, music and Minnie Mouse.  We also were able to find helium balloons and get them delivered to the house by DDivino.  It's funny what small accomplishments bring such pride when you're working in a different language.

Gretchen just doesn't trust her this close up...
Even though each mile marker, especially those as significant as a birthday, tug at my heartstrings, each day with our little girl is full of fun and surprises.  She is incredibly verbal and says exactly what is on her mind; "Daddy, I watch a couple of videos?", "Cuidado los dedos! (careful for your fingers!)", "No stroller today momma, I walk" and her personal favorite "I help!".  We are constantly impressed by her Spanish proficiency, being able to tell us words in both languages and already knowing which language is which. She is friendly, social, funny and easy going with a love for routines (big surprise with Jon and I as parents) and an incredible memory.  She loves Sapo Pepe, her play kitchen, brushing her teeth, reading books, watching videos, socks and her dad.  She dislikes pigtails, dirty hands, the majority of her shoes,  and eating food without some sort of dipping sauce.

Turning two is a big step, and though I fear she is growing up too fast, each day is better than the last.  Happy Birthday Gretchen, we hope this coming year is as amazing as the last!