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Monday, July 29, 2013

Baby #2 Shipment

Jon's company will pay for a one-time shipment of goods sent from the US via air, all you need to do is have a baby.  Luckily, we are on our second opportunity for a shipment - though I promise that has nothing very little to do with our decision to have another child.

This is a rare opportunity to bring heavy or oddly shaped items to Argentina, and though many of them are baby related, quite a few things are just items that are inconvenient to get on an airplane.

So, what do buy when you have ~100 square feet to fill? Here is our wish list:
  • Kirkland's Baby Wipes
  • A new rug for Gretchen's room - her rug is going to the new baby's room
  • Photos made into canvas wall art (I went bananas on CanvasOnDemand.com)
  • Large quantities of: shampoo, conditioner, face wash, bath wash, lotion, baby bath, deodorant, vitamins.  All items with which we are brand-loyal.
  • Medications Mucinex, baby/infant pain relievers, pregnancy vitamins, NyQuil. (In all honesty, we're not that infirm, it's just nice to have the stuff you know when you're feeling crappy)
  • Infant Feeding items: breast milk storage bags, nursing pads (like a zillion of them), formula containers
  • This amazing contraption by Infantino that allows you to make your own baby squeezy pouches. Gretchen lived on these for months and I have been begging them off of visitors ever since.  No more!  I'm making them on my own, baby!
  • The beautiful hummingbird painting that my in-laws gave me for my 30th birthday.  Now, at 32, it hangs proudly in our bedroom.
  • An incredible wooden table that Jon's Dad handmade for Gretchen.  It even has her name engraved on it, which she "reads" daily.  
  • A gorgeous crystal wine decanter that my parents gave us.  I'm still in shock that it didn't break, and I'm ready to decant wine like a pro in a few months....
  • Baby clothes for the first 6 months.  I wish I was joking, but clothes in Argentina are known for their high prices and poor quality so we went bonanza in Carters and Target.  
  • Accessories for our newly purchased City Versa stroller.  We're hoping to eliminate the need for a double, because honestly, they just don't fit anywhere in the city (including in our elevator).
  • The beanbag chair pictured below.  So fun!

The fact that we had space to fill meant that we also sent things like Craisins, dried mangos, Popchips, pine nuts, handsoap, razorblades, and other comforts of home.  We filled every square inch of that container and would do it again if given the chance.  As long as that chance didn't involve having another baby here, at 32 weeks pregnant, I can't even contemplate that future...

So, for anyone wondering what you miss when living abroad, here is a window into our most-wanted items. For those that have visited us, you already know this because you've probably filled your suitcases with some or many of these items already - and we thank you profusely for that!  You never know how good you have it, with Amazon 2-day delivery and a Target on every corner, until it's not available anymore!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pregnant Lady Priority

There are countless things that make living in Argentina more complicated.  The language.  The unpredictability.  The economic unrest.  The multiple stops needed to accomplish the same tasks as one trip to Target. 

One thing that seems (to me) to be easier to be pregnant here in Argentina.  Everyone here loves a pregnant lady, almost as much as they love a baby.  

Everywhere you go, you are given priority.  Start with parking.  Right behind the handicapped spaces, there are reserved expecting mother spots.  Not just at Babies-R-Us style places - malls, grocery stores, virtually everywhere that has a parking lot provides places for expecting moms.  It's fantastic.

Next there are priority lines.

Money Exchanges.
Grocery stores.

They all have a priority line for those expecting (and at times this includes families with young children).  Not the kind of line where if you use it everyone in the store glares hatefully your way.  It's the kind of line where people go out of their way to usher you to the front and clear the way when you walk through.

People stop me on the street and ask when I'm due.  They stay after class to ask if my doctor is OK with me taking spin. They give me their seat on the bus, hail taxis on my behalf, hold the door for me (with the exception of my doorman) and will mow others down to pick up something that I have dropped on the ground.

I gratefully accept all help, and walk to the front of all lines, knowing that as soon as the baby is born all of these favors go away.

I just wanted to take a moment to thank the lovely people of Argentina for making pregnancy so comfortable, even if everything else is a bit more complex.

Monday, July 15, 2013

One Table with Hernan Gipponi

 As I alluded to in my previous post, last week we tried a different, semi-closed restaurant while Ted and Kyra were in town.  We first heard the name Hernan Gipponi when he partnered with our friend Chef Mun last month to host a joint dinner in Buenos Aires.  After that, Pick Up The Fork wrote a thorough post regarding the entire experience, which was enough to make me pick up the phone and make a reservation.  The restaurant is in the hotel Fierro in Palermo (Soler 5862, Palermo, 3220-6820), reservations are required, and the One Table concept is only available on Monday nights.  If you are able to jump through those hoops, clear your calendar for Mondays and jump on in.

As expected, there is one, joined table in the restaurant with 14 seats, so you'll be sitting with anyone else who has a reservation that night. We were hoping for a local experience with a local chef for our visitors, hilariously, there was only one Argentine at the table.  And he is married to an American.  Chef Hernan seemed slightly uneasy by the 100% English speaking dinner, and he cut some of his food descriptions a bit short - I think for fear that we weren't all keeping up.

The restaurant is small, but perfectly decorated. One wall has a large window to see right into the kitchen action.  The opposite wall has one of the coolest photography collages I have ever seen. Black and white, close-up and long distance, they are all food related photos - a mix of ingredients, cooking utensils, and food preparation methods that set the mood for the rest of the evening.  This brilliant idea may make it's way into my home someday...

We were met at the restaurant door by an English speaking hostess that offered us a bloody mary while we waited for the rest of the guests - and after seeing my super-baby-belly, immediately asked if I wanted a virgin version.  Strangely enough, I received a virgin bloody mary while everyone else received some sort of refreshing grapefruit-lime-vodka-spritzer garnished with either a sage leaf or bay leaf that I was told was very good.

We were served a panko-breaded shrimp in tzatziki sauce as we waited to sit down, and then again once we were seated. The shrimp was crispy and hot, the sauce was tangy and citric but it was one of the less memorable dishes of the night - not the one I would choose to offer twice.

The set table has some great touches. Handwritten menus (written by the chef) both in English and Spanish, pristine kitchen towels that matched the menu colors which served as napkins, bread served in small burlap sacks and condiments like olive oil, Patagonian sea salt, pickled turnips and cucumbers available for all to share.  

The second tapa course was a smoked salmon dish served with a sour-cream-based-creme-fraise-style sauce and a thinly shaved fennel salad. There was one dish for every two diners, and ours was gone in a matter of minutes. I forget how good fennel is when someone knows what they're doing, for me it always tastes like licorice.

The next tapa was steak tartar with crispy onion rings served with a side of guacamole.  The combination itself is interesting, but everything went together with a great mix of textures, flavors and temperatures.

Another nice service note, the staff brought me a plate of tiny empanadas during these courses, again due to the pregnancy.  I enjoyed the garnishes and sides on both of these dishes, but only taste-tested the proteins themselves.  Por las dudas...

So, here's where it got a little more interesting for me.  Something I have never seen on a menu, veal heart.  It looks and tastes just like beef, not surprising I guess - since it is beef, but the concept just messed with my mind for this course.  It was served with oversized lima beans and a salad of pickled items, both of which added to the texture of the dish but remained neutral with regard to flavor.
I really enjoyed the fact that the chef was visible throughout our meal, and personally served a few of the courses.  The first appearance he made for the presentation of a dish was the final tapa, a soft-boiled egg served over a bed of hummus with veal broth poured by Hernan himself.  Cool presentation and I loved the serving dishes - though submerging hummus in broth was a mix of items that I would have done without. The dish was flavorful and interesting - and especially for those that love a yolk-y egg.

On to the main dishes.  That's right - we were still at appetizers until now.  This was a huge plus in the evening, there were so many dishes to try, each one more interesting and creative than the other and there was enough food to leave everyone satisfied.

The catch of the day was linguado (sole, for all of us English speakers...) and it was cooked perfectly.  Flaky, moist and served over fresh veggies - delicious.

Next up, a dish called Bomba Rice Abanda whose description had me lost in translation. Basically, it is a rice and seafood dish, plated at the table and served with aioli sauce on the side.  I have to say, this dish could have been skipped.  In contrast to the other courses, this one lacked flavor and took up lots of valuable real estate with the amount of rice.  Considering how much food was served, I left space for the other dishes that had more wow factor for me.

Then came the rabbit.  Yep, we had Peter Cottontail and his baby cow friend in the same night. 

The chef, again, came out to wow the table - this time he cooked the meal right in front of us. He took rabbit tenderloins (or the equivalent of, I'm not up to speed on my rabbit meat cuts) and placed them on a fire-hot griddle in the middle of the table.  He then plated the meat on a spiced carrot puree with a handful of steamed vegetables.

This dish was outstanding.  The meat was cooked perfectly, the vegetables were light and al dente. A great course all around.

One of the smartest moves of the evening was to end with a light and fresh dessert.  After all of this food, something like a chocolate volcano or a dulce de leche stuffed crepe is far too heavy (though don't misunderstand, I would scarf down almost any dessert in its entirety).  The mixture of tangerine sherbert, fresh strawberries and what the chef refers to as a vanilla cloud was perfect.

Of the other guests around the table, there were at least three people referring to the blog posts they were going to write on their experience at One Table, so there are sure to be lots of opinions available soon.  In my opinion, this was a great place to take guests, a unique dining experience - even in a city full of surprises - and you should absolutely jump at the opportunity to spend a Monday night at One Table.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fun With Uncle Ted & Aunt Kyra

We are now in our post-visitor lull after Jon's brother Ted and his girlfriend Kyra spent a wintery, rainy week with us.  As a side note, they were the last planned visitors we had before Baby Brother arrives, so it's not a total lull, just withdrawal from having so much activity packed into the last few months.

We had such a wonderful time with them!  As usual, Gretchen was the big winner as both Ted and Kyra spent lots of time playing pretend, indulging her obsession with Dora the Explorer and (by far the favorite...) taking her to Arkakao to get ice cream.  The entire 4 block walk there, Gretchen chanted "I looooove ice cream, do you love ice cream?  I just looooove ice cream!"

Instead of traveling outside of Buenos Aires, we decided to bring our visitors to some of our favorite (kid friendly) places around the city.  Lucky for me, Aunt Kyra is a photos-on-social-media-guru so I actually make some appearances in these pictures!

Giving the camera our best "cheeeeeese" faces
On Saturday, we reserved a "Dia del Campo" at estancia La Candelaria, a place we've been before for a weekend, but we opted to just stay for the day on this trip.  This is a nice option if you are looking to leave the city for a day, about 1.5 hours away from Capital, and for a set price per person (under 3 are free, 3-10 year olds are half price, full adults are AR$350 as of our visit) you have the use of the grounds for the day (10:30am - 6:00pm), a full asado lunch, a 1 hour dance show, gaucho horse games and afternoon tea.  The asado was a bit long for a 2 year old, but the show at the end was perfect to keep her attention.  The food was really good, though limited to your traditional Argentine lunch: meat, salad and bread.  Just like on the campo.  This is a great activity all year long, though rain will certainly inhibit the amount of activities available.

Strolling through the zoo
We also visited Temaiken Bioparque, and though a zoo is usually not the first activity we think of for two adults traveling without children, this one is nice enough that everyone can enjoy.  We went on the early side, which meant we were leaving the zoo right as Buenos Aires was getting going in their day.  Avoiding the crowds is crucial for this place, there is a lot of space to share, but when it's crowded, it can be pretty miserable.  

The vast majority of the zoo is fantastic, the only exception, which we learned on this visit, is the 360 degree theater and the movie that goes along with it.  We went to the 1:30 English showing of the movie and left 5 minutes into the show.  The sound is extremely loud, the video is at least 10 years old and the strange, electronic animals surrounding the theater are comparable to a Chuck E. Cheese performance.  Gretchen was not digging the loud video and dark theater, and for the rest of the week referred to it as the "bad, bad movie".  The hilarity of hearing her talk about the bad movie was worth us spending 5 minutes in the theater - but if you're visiting, be sure to skip this attraction.  
The playground at the back of the park was a new discovery for us this trip, Gretchen loved it!  It was difficult to get her back into animal-viewing mode after all of the fun she was having on the giraffe slides, tunnels through the rock, and these spider web climbing courses.  

This is easily our 5th time to Temaiken and this is the first time we realized that this playground existed. If you want a tired chico - this is a great place to wear them out!

The white tiger was another cool attraction, he was pacing in the water while we watched, then jumped in all the way and swam for a bit.  It was really neat to watch such a beautiful, enormous cat swim - not something you see every day.

We, of course, did lots of eating great food with our San Francisco-foodie visitors, showing them what we know of great food around the city.  We visited Puratierra, a favorite in Belgrano that continues to deliver high quality, unique food each and every time we're there.  There was a new restaurant on this visit, which also was fantastic, though I will discuss that one at length another time.

Thank you so much to Ted and Kyra for coming across the globe to spend time with us.  It's not often that people pay to visit you and then do things like set up your new dryer, help unpack a baby shipment filled with heavy items and cook multiple dinners.  It was pure joy to have you here, and Gretchen (along with Jon and I) miss our playmates!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Gretchen on the Farm

Our recent trip to the US marked our longest stretch between trips back since we moved to Buenos Aires in 2009.  This also was our first trip where we felt the need to entertain Gretchen - beyond just  tagging along with our visits and activities.  Luckily, we have parents that live in toddler-theme-park houses and there are plenty of child-friendly options close to each of the grandparents' houses.

What we quickly found out is that our little city-girl is quite comfortable on the farm. Grammy has a horse named Casey, who lives 5 minutes from Grammy and Papa Mas's house.  The man who runs the barn, Jose, is known for taking in stray animals and making them feel at home on the farm.  This mean's that Casey's barn has a million things to do for a little girl, there are bunnies to feed, roosters to pet, eggs to gather from the hens, and of course, the horses.  While Mommy and Daddy were sneezing their brains out, Gretchen was busy feeding treats to Casey and his friend Moe.

We also saved up lots of leftovers to bring and feed to the chickens in the pen.  Gretchen had a great time throwing the food, especially the rice, and she loved bossing the chickens around.  "Don't go out the door, chicken!" or "Stay in there, chicken!".

Not to leave all of the farming fun in one place, we also visited the farm of a friend of Gran & Poppa's while we were in Lexington.  These friends are pretty remarkable, they raise baby goats, milk the mamas and use that milk to make their own goat cheese.  They grow fruits, vegetables and herbs year round with their homemade greenhouse.  They grow their own wheat, harvest it, then use it to make flour that they bake into pizza in their homemade pizza oven.   So, it was a privilege to be shown around their place - and to be given carte blanche with Gretchen.

She fed the goats.
She sat on a donkey.
She pet a 500 pound pig.

It was a little girl's dream.

She followed these ducks around hoping to pet them.  They were not so keen.

The highlight of the visit was definitely the strawberry picking.  Gretchen loved locating the ruby red ripe ones, picking them and then handing them out to everyone else to eat.  She wasn't shy about trying some for herself, too.

It was a wonderful, sunny day on the farm, and we hope to return during future visits to Lexington - it was an amazing place to visit along with really nice new people to meet.

If that isn't enough, Gran and Poppa's house has a tractor!  Gretchen went on a few rides with Poppa and though it may have given her a little shock at first, this was a clearly memorable experience for her because she still talks about it whenever someone mentions a tractor.  

She looks quite comfortable in the driver's seat, no?  She also enjoyed picking asparagus from Gran & Poppa's garden, walking the dogs and getting the mail.  This little one makes herself right at home pretty much anywhere, be it the downtown streets of Buenos Aires or the country roads of Lexington.

It is pretty great for us as parents to watch Gretchen have these experiences during her limited time with family.  The even better part is that she has a memory like a steel trap and says things like "There's a horse like Casey!" or "I ride the tractor with Poppa!", which warms our hearts.  These pictures and the stories that accompany them have burned their way into her memory because she had a wonderful time surrounded by people who love her.  Trip home = Success!