Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Fondue to You

Kenny turned the ripe old age of 31 this week and we joined/dragged some friends along for a celebration in his honor. Our time in Peru is waning - 2 years goes by much faster than one might think - so we are currently in the midst of "Operation: It is almost certain we will never return to Peru again so let's do, see, eat everything we want to before we depart so said departure can be made with no regrets."

Thus, we opted to try a new restaurant for this birthday dinner, a fondue place creatively called La Fondue at the uncharacteristically for Lima opulent Swissotel. For those familiar with it, La Fondue is not exactly the Melting Pot. However there was a certain charm to its kitschy alpine decor, Heidiesque clad waitresses and traditional Swiss fare.

the birthday boy before the feast

a little Swiss Chalet in the middle of Lima

In addition to several fondue options, they also served Raclette, something I have not eaten since visiting Switzerland almost 15 years ago. Raclette is both a type of cheese and a way in which the cheese is served. If you like fondue parties and/or fun appliances, you might want to invest in a Raclette Grill - it is a delicious and fun twist on cheese consumption. We did not order Raclette - too much cheese and chocolate fondue to inhale - but will be going back at least once more in order to do so.

this too can be yours...after all, Christmas is coming...

with our friends and our fondue pot

Friday, November 23, 2007

Today We're Thankful For...

Today as we have cooked and baked, visited and shared, eaten and eaten some more, we have also reflected on the many things we are grateful for. The important things, health, family, faith, financial stability, employment, friends - those are things we're always grateful for and recognize the value of on a continuous basis.

Below are a list of some things we are especially thankful for this holiday season...

1) canned pumpkin - do you have any idea how many holiday recipes call for this and how many countries don't sell it? Thank goodness for our little embassy commissary!

2) double ply paper products (toilet paper, kleenex, paper plates - who knew such things were luxury items that we have foolishly taken for granted for so long?)

3) toy recalls that happen - after Mattel and Fisher Price recalled all those toys, it was disheartening to discover the stores in Lima flooded with some of the same products - products obviously not sent back to the factories, just stuffed on the shelves at semi-reduced prices

4) bi-lingual children's books - unless of course the second language you are looking for is anything other than French or Spanish

5) public transportation - I never thought I'd say it, but I miss the DC metro

6) traffic cops - again something we never expected to be grateful for and miss nearly every day

7) Skype - our quality of life is dramatically improved by this invention

8) airplanes - Caleb's new favorite word and the catalyst to exciting global adventures and trips home - wherever that happens to be (in all honesty we are not actually grateful for American Airlines' airplanes - at least the ones that fly to South America, they are the oldest planes flying the friendly skies these days and their interiors do no inspire happiness or confidence in the whole flying experience - a word of advice for those headed South - take Delta or Continental instead)

9) US Mail - even in the middle of nowhere, well almost, we still get mail from anywhere in the US and that is something we are more grateful for than we can begin to express

10) Peruvian hats - because come on, how could we not be?

Happy Thanksgiving to all our family and friends!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

22 Days And Counting

With the arrival of our second son drawing nigh, Caleb and I are headed to Utah about 12 days before Christmas. So, this year we are having our own little nuclear family Christmas celebration on the 9th instead of the 25th. Of course, Caleb and I will celebrate again with Grandeur and Grandest and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends, but Kenny won't be with us, and will in fact be celebrating with strangers (okay, they are good friends, and the closest thing we have to family on this continent - except for Adrianne and family) so this is our compromise.

The Christmas bazaar at the American High School where we finished our Christmas shopping on Saturday.

Yesterday we put up all our Christmas decorations, which isn't much since most were acquired when we lived in a 1 bedroom basement apartment with a very low ceiling and wall to wall book shelves. Our paltry collection of ornaments and Christmas decor is dwarfed by our 12 foot ceilings and endless empty rooms in our current, courtesy of the American tax-payers, home. But, since Peru doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving all the stores have had decorations up for ages and windows all over town are decked with lights and trees in anticipation of Jolly Old Saint Nick so we are really just doing as the "Romans" do by decorating early.

Our very sad Peruvian artificial tree - high on our list of things to acquire when next in the States is a tree that doesn't lean to the left.

If you're like me, you have a favorite item(s) you can't wait to put out when Christmas rolls around each year. For me, may favorites are our advent calendar and nativity scene. We searched high and low for an advent calendar we both loved and finally found one we are over the moon for. It was pricey, but worth it and I LOVE IT!

This is not my photo, but ours only has 4 ornaments as of today and this
image gives you the full effect!

We did the same search for a nativity that was beautiful and unique and truly representative of the Savior and just couldn't settle on anything. And then on a trip to Portugal and Spain with the aforementioned Adrianne, there it was, shoved into a corner of a store window in Granada, Spain. Adrianne saw it first, of course, and we were both so taken with it that we each bought one, the only ones they had. The figurines are stunning in their design and the faces are so lifelike they take my breath away. Of course with Caleb approaching two, having both of these items out for display means a month long battle of "Mommy said don't touch", but I get such joy from our calendar and our creche that the suffering pales in comparison.

The picture doesn't do it justice.

A nativity in an Amazon Jungle theme we have acquired while in Peru.

Another nativity acquisition in Peru - notice the alpaca and llama flanking
the Christ child.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pie Yes, Pumpkin NO!

With Thanksgiving just around the corner my thoughts have turned to dinner, well dessert really. Okay, so I'm always thinking about dessert, but this is Thanksgiving dinner dessert, this is SPECIAL! This will be my 5th Thanksgiving since marrying Kenny and thus my 5th since hearing those fateful words, "I don't like Pumpkin Pie, I never eat it". I was aghast, appalled, astonished. What, no pumpkin pie, on Thanksgiving???!!! Heresy!!!

Now, I'm not going to lie, pumpkin pie is not my favorite pie of choice, but it is traditional and necessary and Thanksgiving just doesn't feel the same without it. Sure you can have peach and apple and cherry and mincemeat and rhubarb and anything else, but in ADDITION to the pumpkin. Despite my shock, my husband is practically perfect in every other way, so I caved, I did not and have not made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving since. I have tried various substitutes to satisfy my probably irrational need, Paula Dean's Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes, Martha Stewart's Pumpkin Cupcakes, even Sweet Potato Pie which looks like pumpkin pie and I think actually tastes better, but nothing doing, I am a creature of habit and tradition and I know all of these are just wolves in pumpkin clothing.

To be fair, I could just make the pumpkin pie, I could have all along, but then we are just 3 people, really 2 and 1/2 and that would mean eating an entire pie myself (not impossible, just not wise) or throwing pie away - something my DNA will not allow. I could go another year without, something I just don't want to do. Or I could follow my chosen path which is to whine about my dilemma and beg for sympathy and brilliant responses from my cyber community. So dear friends my blatantly selfish request is this, as you sit down with your loved ones to Thanksgiving dinner this year with mountains of food spread before you, sure you can think about the poor and destitute and your many blessings and the things you are grateful for, but also think of me and my long-suffering sacrifice and have an extra serving of pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream in my honor (even if, horror of horrors, you too "don't like pumpkin pie")!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Can't Relate

22 months old and Caleb has finally tipped the scales at 25 pounds. And though his pediatrician assures me he is healthy (since good nutrition is measured in height and not weight) the fact that I can see his ribs through his stomach and his back sometimes makes me feel like a bad mother.

More weight than I should or would like to be carrying and I are old friends. I have never been the skinny kid, I did not get those genes. I like to think of myself as a normal size, could stand to lose a few pounds but not in danger of being secretly filmed and shown from the waist down on an NBC nightly news special about obesity in America. And, especially now, at nearly 7 months pregnant I try not think of myself in any sort of spacial sense at all, just suspended in time until after the baby comes and my "skinny" jeans beckon.

But, Caleb is another story, a story for which I have no frame of reference. He eats a lot and all the time. He loves avocados, tomatoes, chicken, beef, rice, beans, noodles, potatoes (does not like french fries - just licks off the ketchup and discards the fry), anything sweet and all things chocolate. But, he operates at a fever pitch when he is awake and that coupled with an extremely fast metabolism he must have inherited from my Dad, means he never manages to gain weight - wouldn't that be nice? When we introduced him to solid foods, I was a total food nazi only giving him vegetables for months so he would develop a taste for them over fruit. I didn't let him eat fries until he was at least 15 months old and rarely gave him refined sugar. I've relaxed a bit in light of his desire to eat mostly healthy stuff anyway and generally let him eat whatever he wants as long as he eats. As evidence, see him below eating packets of butter. Check with me in 10 years to see if I've created a monster who subsists solely on lard and condiments. Let's hope his apparent good genes win out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Lake Effect

This is a long overdue entry, but in my apparent efforts to bolster tourism to and around Peru (or at least to provide incentive for more visitors to us), I thought posting it now was definitely better than never.

Shortly after our adventures on the chocolate ribbon that is the Amazon, we took a weekend jaunt to the city of Puno on the banks of Lake Titicaca. As my readers should expect by now, the following are some facts about the lake for those interested. At more than 12,500 ft elevation, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. And, if you are measuring by volume, it is also the largest lake in South America (though, as you might have learned from previous posts, Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela is traditionally considered the largest lake on the continent). It is located on the borders of Peru and Bolivia and at its deepest point is more than 930 feet deep.

After flying into Puno (the airport is actually in a town called Juliaca) several things are immediately evident. 1) 12,500 ft above sea-level is VERY, VERY, VERY high and the change in altitude is more than noticeable. You can take altitude sickness pills to counteract the effects, but the shortness of breath, sleeplessness and dull headache usually persist in spite of the medication. 2) Puno is ugly and apart from its proximity to the lake, forgettable. 3) Lake Titicaca is an indescribably beautiful shade of blue and overwhelmingly vast.

Various islands dot the surface of the lake including Taquile, which we visited. Roughly 2000 people live and work on the island. We reached it by speedboat and then climbed, really slowly, to the top of the island and the main square where the residents congregate each day awaiting the arrival of tourists and supplies.

The most interesting part of our visit was the Uros islands, a series of literally floating islands constructed of reeds. The reeds are tamped down to form a solid base that must be replenished every 3 weeks. These same reeds are also used in the construction of all houses, communal structures and boats. These islands and the people who continue to live on them were fascinating. There are over 20 unique islands in the group and because they are floating can be moved throughout the lake if a change of location is desired or required.

Finally, we crossed the border into the town of Copacabana in Bolivia which feels a lot like Tijuana. While in Copacabana we did some shopping, sampled the local "popcorn" and visited a few historical sites.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

One Final Halloween Hurrah

These are my parents Lou Ann and Jesse dressed for work on Halloween. They did not go to any parties or host any parties or participate in a costume contest or anything requiring a costume. They are just really fun folks who felt inspired to celebrate in style by dressing up for work. My parents have always had lots of great ideas for celebrating, among other things we got green milk in our cereal on St. Patrick's day, pink heart-shaped pancakes for Valentine's Day and my Mom was the scariest witch in town on Halloween. And my Dad, who is a college professor, often takes themed treats to school for his class (homemade by my Mom). Of course, he didn't have to extend himself very far outside his normal attire to pull off this costume, but he did wear the hat and carry the club with him most of the day - even to class, I can only imagine what his students must have thought.

Lines In The Sand

This weekend we visited the regions of Ica and Nazca in Southern Peru. You might have heard of Nazca as it is famous for the mysterious lines drawn on the desert floor. The Nazca culture existed between 200 BC and 700 AD during which time they "drew" hundreds of figures throughout their region. Some of the figures are fairly complex and only really visible from the air thus prompting scientists to wonder why and how the lines were constructed with such accuracy. Because of the weather conditions in this region, the lines do not suffer from erosion and continue to be highly visible today. To view the lines we, with our friends who were in town and Caleb, took a 6-seater airplane up and over the lines. The plane dips to nearly a 45 degree angle as it crosses the larger and more prominent figures causing most passengers to vomit, something some of our party experienced as well, so we have few pictures of this particular adventure. Despite this, the general consensus was that the trip was completely worth it and that the lines really are amazing - considering that they are only at most 30 cm deep and have existed for at least 1500 years. And, like many of the places we have been in Peru, the Nazca lines are also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Caleb pointing to an airplane taking off, a word he learned while waiting for our flight

On the plane just before take-off

Not our photo, but we did see this figure called "the hands"

the monkey

the spider

Back on the ground

In addition, we visited the city of Ica, which was very near the epicenter of the 8.0 earthquake Peru had in July of this year. On our trip down we passed through small towns still in the throes of cleaning up the remnants of houses, shops, schools and churches. There were Coleman tents all over the region where residents live while their houses are reconstructed. Unfortunately, this region of Peru is so poor it is/was hard to tell what was earthquake damage and what was just the result of no resources and poverty.

In Ica we stayed at the Las Dunas Resort which backs into the most enormous sand dunes we have ever seen. The resort was very nice and we took full advantage of the pool, grounds and dining facilities.

Playing in the Pool at the hotel

Playing in the fountains outside our hotel room

Las Dunas by day...
and at sunset

We also went for a dune buggy ride through the dunes. Because I am "very" pregnant, our ride was apparently not as death-defying as it could have been, which worries me a little since it was pretty exciting and precarious. Caleb wasn't quite sure if he was having a good time or not, but there was no actual crying so we decided he was more happy than not. Kenny and one of our friends also went sandboarding on the dunes - our other friend, who is also pregnant, and I were not able to participate, but I'm not sure I would have anyway. Much like snowboarding, sandboarding looked like a lot of fun with a lot of potential for real pain if something went awry.

An oasis amidst the dunes

Raring to go on our dune buggy adventure

Sand boards at the ready

Kenny sand boarding

Another successful and fun family outing

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