Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Is that Dog Years?

The phone rang bright and early  Saturday morning.  It was some friends begging off the outing for the housewarming due to gastric distress and asking us to pay their share of the chartered bus trip.  Brian was happy to oblige.  He cooked a hearty breakfast, as he figured the food part of the party would probably be delayed later than his usual lunch and he shared it with Shelley.  She doesn't usually eat eggs (the cholesterol you know), but his scrambled eggs & bacon on a bun looked so good she couldn't resist.  We caught a bus together and Shelley & Fredi got out a couple of blocks before Brian with the intention of wandering home on foot.  (Incidentally:  Shelley found some marshmallows ($3.59) in a stationery store on the way home.  Yet another great Ecuadorian find!)  Brian continued on to the designated waiting point where a chartered bus had been arranged by a fearless leader type to take him and a couple of dozen other people out to Yungilla.  We'd been duly warned that the ride out to Yungilla was a "heart in your throat" adventure with whirling roads and drivers.  However, Brian said that the driver drove at "gringo speeds" so the trip was very pleasant.  Our friends' home turned out to be truly spectacular, with several acres of lawn & fruit trees & flowers & a breathtaking view down the valley.  There was a lot of food, a lot of socializing and Brian arrived home tired (because he had missed his nap) but said all in all it was a wonderfully entertaining adventure.



Our Sunday walk down to the park has been going on now for well over 2 years.  Sometimes we meet a couple or two in the park by design, sometimes there are hoards of people (20 or more, standing room only) and the park seems overwhelmed by gringos.  Sometimes it's just us, just Brian & Shelley, sitting on our bench, watching the people, letting children and old ones and in-betweens pet Fredi; the only gringos in the park but well accepted as we're regulars.  This Sunday it was like that until we were just about to go, and then an acquaintance stopped by our bench and we chattered for awhile.  The day was glorious and there was a pretty impressive singer/guitar player in the gazebo.   We stopped on the way home and, of course, picked up roast pig, 5 carrots, 7 tomatoes, a large purple sweet potato, 3 onions and a fillet of fried fish ($6).


We went shopping on Monday and Shelley made cheese cake & a cream cheese appetizer as we were having company on Tuesday.  Tuesday, Brian set up the slow cooker to make his beef stew and we took a walk down Doce de Abril past the University, back to the Vega store to look at our potential cabinet again and then turned around and walked home.  That evening we had 3 people over for dinner, enjoyed Brian's good stew, Shelley's dessert & everybody's pleasant company. 

During our working life, which at this point took up most of our lives, our friends were mostly either from work, our neighbourhood or through our spouses.  Shelley was surrounded by straight-laced "office" workers most of her life during the day and laid-back musicians & artists during the evening.  Brian worked with high-powered sales people & high ego radio personalities, learning to manage both but never feeling at ease with either.  At home he was surrounded by educators & chaotic children.  Our neighbourhood on the boat consisted of salt of the earth fishermen or characters out of some not very good novel (Russian spies & Green Peace minions, wacked out artists & demolition experts).  In Ecuador (where everybody initially wants to be your friend), most of the people we seem to be meeting are educated (either self taught or formally), fairly liberal & mostly better off than we are.  (Being married more than several times between the two of us, didn't make for a conducive atmosphere to pile up assets.)  That's not to say there aren't left/right-wing, wing-nuts & stuffoholic justifiers just down the street; there are, but they seem to steer clear from us and that seems fair.  We have no particular agenda & don't wish to jump on a band wagon.  With all these new characters in our lives, in the natural scheme of things we tend to gravitate to some and not to others.  Some that we've been drawn to have proven to be disappointing.  Oh well.  It's really about developing history with folks; it's the history that gives a friendship roots.  Our lives have been colourful with ups & downs, tragedy & subliminal glee.  We came to Ecuador not because we had to, but because Ecuador (or some similar place) had always been "the plan" for Shelley at least, and Brian came because he saw the merit in it.  Will we stay?  Who knows:  forever is a long time.  Shelley talks to Brian about India & no stuff at all and Brian digs in his heels and points to Fredi...whereupon the discussion peters out.  Maybe we'll leave when Fredi hits 18?  Is that dog years?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

In Praise of the Common Nap

Nothing special planned for Tuesday, we set out across to, and then up Remigio Crespo to check the spice store and get some pecans.  Our plan was to also wander down the street to the Comisariato and check it out for products we couldn't find in SuperMaxi.  We picked up pecans, candied cherries & (glory be) chocolate chips at the spice store.  Shelley's been using the chips from the chocolate fondu packages as a substitute lately.  They're larger and flatter and have more oil in them, but are just about the only thing in town.  Finding actual real chips was a red letter day thing.  As we we were close, we also stopped at the Fybeca on Remigio Crespo and Shelley bought some slippers she'd been eyeing there.  Can you believe it!  The first pair she tried on were too big!  Next, we wandered down the street to the Comisariato and Shelley went in while Brian & Fredi took a walk around the block.  She bought some whole wheat flour, more candied fruit, Argentina Chorizo sausage (we'll see how it is) and something called Dristan caliente for the next time we have cold (reminiscent of NeoCitron which we liked in Canada).   Next, Shelley & Fredi sat under a shade tree on the boulevard while Brian went in to check the store.  He came out empty handed.  "I almost bought a bottle of wine that looked good and that they don't have at SuperMaxi" he told Shelley "...but I didn't".  We caught a cab home, and Brian just managed to catch his friend Jan (back in Holland on a holiday) on Skype.  Shelley cleaned and re-arranged cupboards and suggested to Brian they needed to get made a small side board for extras.  Brian wants a small freezer (which we haven't seen yet) and Shelley wanted to know why not get both?  It became a tentative plan.  And the day whirled and spun as it will. 





It seems we're on a minor quest to maybe get a sideboard and a small freezer.  We walked on Wednesday to a store, sort of in our neighbourhood, to look at side boards.  Shelley found something she absolutely loved for $1,195.  It was antique and was hand painted with delicate flowers.  We didn't get it.  That evening we all went out to enjoy a supper at a friend's place.  We had a regional U.S. (North Carolina) specialty; hotdogs with mustard, chili & cold slaw and a side of baked beans.  The food was great and the company was enjoyable!

It was a chore day on Thursday and we went downtown to check the Post Office for mail, fill up our phone for a month ($10) and price freezers & sideboards.  All of the freezers we saw were too large for our needs.  Prices were between $500 - $700 for the smallest ones, which was OK but even the smallest were too big.  We saw a sideboard in a store that Shelley liked but it was too big as well.  To get one  custom made in the same style but slightly smaller would be about $400.  We went home to chew on that information. 



Shelley made a cracker/chocolate confection on Friday for Brian to take to a large house warming that he was going to on Saturday.  Later on we took a walk down Doce de Abril and dropped into a stationery store to price oil paints & a canvas.  To buy all the supplies, including paint, canvas, brushes, cleaners, etc. it worked out to be about $50.  We then headed past the University and visited the Vega shop semi looking for a sideboard.  We found a cabinet, in our fish motif no less, for about $200.  We didn't pick it up as Shelley wanted to "eye" the apartment with this unusually shaped piece of furniture in mind first.  Then we walked down to Tamariz street, stopped at a nursery there and picked up a new mini-tree for our balcony garden to replace a vine that had tried valiantly but just didn't succeed.  The mini-tree cost $4.50 and we caught a cab home rather than carry it the many blocks back to our apartment.  After eyeing the space next to our dining table, we decided we'd go back to the Vega shop next week and pick up the the unit.  Shelley's going to think awhile about a project before investing any money in paint supplies. 



Those of you who read the blog on a regular basis understand that an afternoon nap is something fairly important to Brian.  We cut social obligations short, plan our days around it, have trained Fredi to nap at the same time and also be a watch dog for the nap, alerting Brian with droopy ears & eyelids that the time has come.  Although Shelley doesn't nap, she uses nap time creatively working on the computer, trying out new recipes, reading, doing art projects, all those things that require alone time, sometimes hard to get.  Brian's nap time has been a lifelong characteristic, getting a stronger hold when he worked the morning shift on radio for several years and had to get up at 3 a.m.  Napping took on a whole new dimension when he worked 12 hour shifts, 4 days on 4 days off, rotating between the day & night shift.  During this period in our lives we also developed a strong tie to a calendar, having no idea what day of the week it was without one.  It also provides fodder for conversation in that Brian often remembers his dreams from nap time.  Into retirement now, nap time has become a reward only reluctantly traded for a few very special obligations.   We have to go now...because you guessed it, it's nap time. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not Too Much Wrong with this Retirement Picture


Shelley grew up in the highest city in Canada; Kimberley, British Columbia at 1,120 meters.  Cuenca is 2,500 meters.  A tad higher.  Nonetheless, despite all the discussion and talk about high altitude cooking, Brian & Shelley seem to find few problems.  You may not cook a cake as long as the recipe calls for, you instead cook it until it's done.  The same holds true with rice.  According to the web at altitudes above 1,000 meters, preparation of food may require changes in time, temperature or recipe. The reason is the lower atmospheric pressure due to a thinner blanket of air above. This decreased pressure affects food preparation in two ways: (1) Water and other liquids evaporate faster and boil at lower temperatures and (2) Leavening gases in breads and cakes expand more.  Whatever the reason, we cooked on an old diesel stove on the boat and got used to adjusting times for it's crankiness.  High altitude cooking for us seems to work pretty much the same way. 


Well, the big day was upon us, and we set off downtown on Thursday to pick up Brian's new jacket & pants.  The whole experience was a bit of a disappointment.  While nothing was so wrong that we stormed out of the store refusing to make payment, the pants had to be re-hemmed as they were too long and Brian feels the jacket is just a tiny bit tight.  Thus, we don't particularly recommend the shop where Brian had it made.  We caught a cab home and Brian again tried on the outfit, pointing out in great detail to Shelley exactly everything that was wrong with it.  What's the old saying:  try, try, again?  That evening, Brian had a dinner date at the home of a friend with another couple in attendance.   They had Caesar salad with chicken & baked tree tomato with banana bread.   There was good conversation, good food and it was generally a warm visit.  Meanwhile, Shelley made cinnamon buns to keep herself busy & tried fruitlessly to get to talk to her daughter in Canada who was home after having surgery.  Everything is OK.  You know, she just wanted to talk to her baby.

Guitar Playing on City Bus
Our trip to Parque Paraiso took place on Friday.  We've mentioned this before, but it could be the most funnest place as far as Fredi is concerned, in the whole wide world.  We walked around the park, stopped and watched some sort of memorial service or ceremony, listened to a traditional Andes flute group play their instruments and watched Fredi have the time of her life tearing round the park, playing with other dogs and looking at absolutely everything.  When we first came to Cuenca there were always vendors and one man bands on the buses plying their trade.  About the same time they brought in the new pay system, they seemed to have banned most of the vendors.  You can still see them on long-haul bus trips, but rarely on the buses around town.  In any case, on our trip home there were not one but two guys (not at the same time) playing guitar.  One accompanied himself with Andes flute and the other with pretty poor harmonica.  All in all, it was a good outing. 

Brian at 10 de Agosto Market getting Roast Pig

Coolish out and semi-threatening rain, we wandered downtown on Saturday and Shelley window-shopped for shoes (as usual) and we ended up buying 3 DVDs ($4.50) but nothing else.  We walked home and it still hadn't started to rain, but Shelley was glad she was wearing her jean jacket.  We'd passed an obviously tourist couple while we were downtown and the woman had on quite a warm looking quilted jacket zipped up to her chin and still looked chilly, hunching her shoulders.  "She must be from Florida" Brian commented after they'd gone past us. 

It was off to the park on Sunday and we met and chatted with several people and then stopped in at the 10 de Agosto market and picked up 7 small tomatoes, enough roast pig for 5 sandwiches & a fillet of deep fried corvina for $4.50.  (Shelley figured she wanted a treat on Sundays too, and decided on deep fried corvina.  Will this affect her cholesterol level?)  We thought summer was here but it seems to have reverted to the coolish weather again.  One needs a sweater inside & out.  Monday we went shopping and Shelley made chili in the slow cooker, tossing in fried hamburger, chili seasoning (brought from Canada) hot pepper flakes and several cans of beans, vegetables, mushrooms & tomatoes.   Note:  anyone that wants to bring us something, can bring chili powder and/or currants; we'll reimburse you upon arrival. 

Shelley's taken a peek out of her bi-sexual purdah (Brian doesn't like this sentence, but Shelley dug in her heels) and found it same old, same old.  Coming up, we have a "dinner out" and a "social occasion".  Shelley will by-pass the crowd (the "social occasion") but will enjoy some time with puppies and people who appreciate puppies (the "dinner out").  Meanwhile, Brian naps & takes Fredi for walks and is solid and true & generally happy.  Not too much wrong with this retirement picture. 

Mounted Police at Parque Paraiso

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Then You're Left with Yourself Once Again

Petra Taxi
There was some puff pastry left over from our last company, so on Sunday morning, Brian rolled it out and Shelley sprinkled apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins & pecans all over it.  Rolling the whole mess up, we cut it into rounds, similar to cinnamon buns and cooked them in the oven for breakfast.  They were absolutely wonderful!  After the chores were done, we both got dressed and Shelley walked part way to town before splitting off and headed out on her own.  Fredi was thoroughly confused, dragging on the leash as she & Brian headed to town, wondering what Shelley was up to.  Shelley wandered through the neighbourhood, being quiet and contemplative and ended up back at home to read her book until Brian & Fredi showed up. 



Brian reported that he hooked up with our new friends and some folks they were helping to adjust to Cuenca as they were also planning on eventually moving here.  The park was vibrant & colourful and everything good that we enjoy about it.  The young Ecuadorian man that we had introduced as a "helper" has now been recommended to several other people, so we're glad to see that he appears to be building himself a new business.  The sun was shining and Brian & Fredi really enjoyed their outing.  Fredi collapsed and slept right after the long walk, first of course, greeting Shelley effusively. 


2nd Century Roman Amphitheater in Amman
There was hardly anything written on our list for shopping on Monday (2 pkgs hamburger ($4), laundry detergent ($9)) but we still managed to spend $110.  We bought frozen shrimp (just because) ($7) and and a box of wine ($5) as Brian was going out to dinner on Thursday, so that bumped the cost up a bit.  We ran into a relatively new friend and chatted in the grocery store for awhile and then as per usual, came home where Shelley put away the groceries and Brian took a very thankful and very happy to see us Fredi for a walk.  That evening Brian went to La Terrace Bar & Grill for dinner to celebrate a birthday and Shelley & Fredi lay on the couch reading & watching TV.  (Ok...Shelley played on the computer as well.) 

Brian got home and naturally Fredi went nuts and as it was quite late she needed to go outside immediately.  Brian said the party was great!  At least 20 people attended and the birthday boy was overwhelmed!  It is gratifying that when one of the expat community has a special occasional you realize how many acquaintances you make in a short time.  All together a satisfying evening! 

Bedouin Sheep & Goat Herd


The morning dawned dark and overcast on Tuesday.  We had planned on taking Fredi to Parque Paraiso but decided against it, thinking it would probably rain.  It never did.  We spent the day mostly inside puttering and that was OK too!  Up bright and early on Wednesday, Brian set off to Gualaceo & Chordaleg on the bus with another couple to see the sights and have a bit of a road trip.  Shelley & Fredi stayed home, went for walks, played on the computer, read & watched TV. 

The first thing Brian commented on upon arriving home, was the cost.  "We spent $3.45 each on today's entertainment, which included all bus fares plus a hot lunch".  Chordaleg is famous all over Ecuador for it's multitude of shops that sell gold filagree jewelry.  Nobody bought anything but our friends were all agaga on their first visit to this village.  The bus trip was colourful and entertaining with all kinds of village people & students & music & chatter both there and back. 

Petra


The last few years of both Brian & Shelley's working careers, we diverged from our main path and worked at things that were different.  In both our cases, it was an attempt to bring back a joy of work.  The process seemed to succeed better for Brian than for Shelley.  After 35 years in the radio business and a couple of years of retirement, Brian went back and became a security guard for 8 years.  He quickly worked himself up from a concierge type security guard doing night shift, to a roving supervisor to an account manager.   The company he worked for was open and concerned about their employees and he managed to make a couple of good friends & was on excellent terms with most of the people he ended up supervising.  Shelley roved from job to job, working for the Federal government, the Post Office, a sales office and doing temp (scut) work in numerous other offices.  This was after spending 20 years working for labour unions and before that as a paralegal.  She was seeking "job satisfaction" and instead found the same-old, same-old.  

Both of us enjoy our retirement.  We never find ourselves bored with the life we've set up for ourselves and don't miss the stress & pressure of work.  This isn't always the case for retirees.  Some people fade away, unable to adjust to all that time on their hands.  Others find controversy & intrigue in the newspaper & their private lives that isn't necessarily healthy.  Some settle in front of the TV or behind a bottle and cease making the effort to live.  In Canada, at least, a lot more legislation has been put in place so that people are not forced to retire, so it becomes an option rather than a requirement.  As we continue to insist on being individuals, this seems a good thing. 

Dead Sea   

So, the thing is, does moving to Ecuador or some other exotic location alleviate any of the above negative symptoms?  The answer is no.  Ecuador had become our home after only 2 years.  One adjusts to the strange and different and then you're left with yourself once again.  Keep it in mind!

Our friend Jan, late of Canada, late of Holland and now living in Saudi Arabia (working on a high speed rail project) just took a holiday to Jordan.  The pictures on this blog showcase only a few that he forwarded to us so we could get just a taste of another exotic locale. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dealing

The day dawned bright and sunny on Wednesday; we were somewhat thrilled!  It was gorgeous outside and we decided we needed to do something.  With nothing in particular planned, we leashed up Fredi and took a walk to the Feria Libre market, Wednesday being it's "largest" day.  All was organized chaos as usual.  We wandered around for 45 minutes or so, looking at the clothes & the fruit & the fish & seafood & the puppies & the rabbits & shoes & cooking utensils & rugs & hats & roast pig & chicken until the energy of the place thoroughly exhausted us, and then we walked home again, all the while reveling in the sunshine. 

Brian had his fitting for his new outfit on Thursday, so we got up in the morning, did our chores & set off downtown.  The tailor at "Gentleman" (Sucre 10-74) and Brian had a few discussions about cuffs on the pants (Shelley said no) and the fit of the jacket.  In the end everybody was happy.  He's to pick up the new jacket and pants in just a little over a week.  Then we headed off to get Brian a haircut.  Shelley & Fredi & the owner's husband sat and discussed Fredi's statistics in pigeon English & Spanish while Brian got his unruly mop taken care of.  After that we stopped at an artisans' mall to wander about a bit.  It didn't take much to find exactly what we were looking for.   That evening we'd arranged to meet 2 couples at Mangiere's for dinner.  We've now been to Mangiere's 3 times and all 3 times the pasta has been just wonderful.  It was a nice evening with a diverse group of people, good stories & a couple of decent laughs. 

Well, Fredi's gotten us into trouble again!  Shelley noticed that a fellow Ecuadorian blog writer had taken us off their blog list.  After pointing it out to Brian, Brian suggested she write and ask why.  "It may just be a mistake" he told her.  As the blog writer did not have an e-mail address displayed on their blog, Shelley had to go through some convolutions in order to contact them.  Eventually she managed to do so through FaceBook.  In any case, the bottom line was apparently we're too devoted and spend too much time writing about Fredi and taking her to events.  They said that they were aware we'd take their comments personally, so there wasn't much room for misunderstanding.  Best to know these things rather than to hide behind a patina of politeness and we actually appreciated the blunt honesty.  We have consolation:  Fredi likes & accepts us for what we are! 


It was time once again to make an outing to the CB Carolina Bookstore.  Lee was manning the desk as Carol was at home trying to get well and their staff was out at the bank trying to get some of that illusive Ecuadorian change.  As usual, the door was opening every 4 minutes as new people came in to browse and old-timers came in to see what was happening, chat with Lee & pick up a few books as well.  A group showed up for their Spanish classes & poor beleaguered Lee explained they would have to wait until the staff returned.  Shelley perused the shelves and picked out our usual 10 books and Lee & Brian caught up on gossip and chattered with the folks going in and out.  Before we left in the morning, we'd phoned a friend and suggested we'd drop over after leaving the book store.  This we eventually did and had a good gab session & a nice glass of iced tea before we all set out for a local almuerzo (lunch).  For $1.50 we had a lovely flavourful soup, a nothing special but wet juice, rice, boiled potatoes, gravy and sliced tongue.  We learned that the term "seco" means "stew" on an almuerzo menu.  Also "plancha" means the meat is grilled. 


Coming on for awhile, the black dog finally descended and Shelley withdrew to deal with it for the time being.  Brian is assuming our social obligations in the interim. 

We'd made arrangements to meet a woman relatively new to Ecuador at the Good Affinity restaurant for lunch.  She'd sent us an e-mail asking about Veterinarians & Dentists in Cuenca that spoke English and we'd provided what information we could.  In the early morning on Saturday we did our chores & took Fredi for a walk and around noon Brian headed off to Good Affinity to have lunch.  When he got home Brian said "I don't know why we haven't eaten there before!"  We had heard good reviews about Good Affinity numerous times over the last couple of years, but for one reason and another had never actually gone there.  Brian had a delicious vegetable soup and a spaghetti dish with tofu & egg in a red sauce which he declared to be excellent.  All the ingredients tasted very very fresh and cost, including lemonade, was $3.  We'll definitely be back.  The woman seemed happy to share her experiences thus far in Ecuador and Brian was able to pass along some local tidbits. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Honest! We do More than Just Eat

It's Wednesday evening. Brian is out at his vegetable cooking class. Shelley & Fredi cozy on the couch watching a Keanu Reeves movie Shelley's never seen before. Fredi hasn't seen it either but in this instance she doesn't much count for anything. It's raining outside. For the last 2 days it's rained from about 4:30 to 6:00 pm and then stopped but it's not cold. The cold has virtually gone. Shelley no longer wraps herself in a blanket while watching TV in the evening and Brian no longer wears his sweater. Ecuador winter is ending and the long long summer is about to begin.

Several months before we left Vancouver Canada, they changed the telephone system to include the area code. Thus numbers were 604-555-5555 instead of just 555-5555. Dialing long distance within Canada one would add a 1 before the number and then all was well: 1-604-555-5555. Ecuador doesn't seem to have a grouping system. Numbers are sometimes listed as 075 555 555 and sometimes 085555555 and sometimes 09 5555 555. Land line to land line numbers are 5555555 but if you're calling cell phone to land line it's 07 5555555 and they don't always list the 07. Dialing into Ecuador with the country code adds even more mystery. The first number (zero) is dropped, the country code is added and then numbers become 593 95 555 555 or several other permutations. Dialing to the United States or Canada from Ecuador adds even more mystery where suddenly zeros become important again 001 604 555 5555. Get it?

Spoke too soon: woke up Thursday morning and it was raining and chilly out. We had planned on going downtown and getting Brian all measured up for his new clothes, but just couldn't bring ourselves to splash through the weather. One couldn't live in Vancouver Canada if one didn't go out in the rain. All coats had hoods and most people routinely carried an umbrella with them. Here we have the luxury of deferring an outing for another day if the weather's bad. In any case, we took Fredi for quick walks outside, read & napped and generally had a nice locked-in day. We'd previously been invited out for dinner that evening so had something to look forward to as well. Our evening out was fun. Fredi had a friend to play with and we had interesting folks to discover. Dinner was bean soup, toasted cheese sandwiches & banana pudding for dessert and it was all quite delicious.

Well, once we got down to the nitty gritty on Friday, measuring and picking out material, it turns out Brian's sport coat & dress pants are now going to cost $190. He goes back for a fitting in 5 days and picks up the outfit a week after that. They'd originally told us it took 3 days to have the suit ready. It's not that we're in any kind of a hurry. In fact, we prefer the longer time line, in that things are more likely be ready on time. We'll of course, let you know how it turns out.

Speaking of suits, friends of ours brought a couple of outfits for Fredi and we'd previously bought her jammies & a rain coat. Shelley realized Fredi now had 5 outfits. For a dog that hardly wears clothes this seems like a lot. Brian is mildly appalled at being the owner of a designer lap dog with a closet full of clothes. He drew the line at booties, however. In any case, we're showcasing pictures of Fredi's outfits on this blog. Fredi doesn't mind getting into her sweater or jammies when it's cold in the apartment, but she got kind of cranky when Shelley changed her outfit 5 times in a row. By the way, these same friends brought us a copy of the Time-Life Christmas CDs. Our daughter mailed 2 CD's of various Christmas music and Shelley made up a CD from the web. Thus, we now have plenty of North American style Christmas music and thank everyone who contributed to our Christmas well being!

Saturday we walked around the neighbourhood, dropped into Jo.Mar and picked up some frozen white fish and generally had a quiet day. Sunday we went down to the 10th of August market and picked up roast pig, a rib roast, 6 tomatoes & a bunch of green onions ($8). Later we went to the park, met several people, gabbed for 2 hours and then caught a cab home in time for Brian's nap. Monday we went shopping and Shelley made Peanut butter squares Alternative # 1. Next a team effort was required to try a pesto recipe Brian picked up at one of his cooking classes. (In a food processor crush 3/4 cup walnuts, mix in 1 - 2 cup Basil &/or Parsley, add olive oil until mixture thickens, add & mix 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, add & mix garlic to taste (6 cloves) and pepper.) We'll use the pesto on Tuesday to make appetizers for the people we've invited over for dinner. (Rolled puffed pastry cut into squares with a dab of crab pate, pesto, sun dried tomato, emmental cheese & a fresh shrimp, then wrapped in a bundle and cooked for 20 - 30 minutes.) Brian also made a pot of rice as he was planning on making shrimp fried rice the next day as well.

Although we didn't spend the whole day on Tuesday cooking, great portions of it were taken up making our menu for the evening: appetizers, fried rice, sauteed vegetables (mushrooms, zucchini & asparagus) & fried white fish with Hollandaise sauce on the fish & vegetables. We were also planning on having a bowl of vanilla ice cream & a peanut butter bar for dessert. Our guests arrived at 5:30ish in the evening and we gabbled and ate and drank wine and ate some more and gabbled some more and a good time was had by all.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Demented School Master is Back!

All 3 of us woke up Saturday morning a bit logy from our evening before. Shelley had woken up at 5 o'clock in the morning and Brian was reading. It was one of those nights. Poor Fredi played hard with her new friend Nick all the previous evening so she too could hardly bring herself to move from the bed to the couch for another nap. We spent the day resting up because we were going to a Birthday Party/Dance Show/Dinner at the California Kitchen that evening. There were lots of people there that we knew and we all ended up singing happy birthday to the lady who had invited us. A dance school put on a demonstration at the end of the evening and the young people in the troupe really gave it their all. We ended up walking a friend home in the cool night air and twice in a row went to bed way after bed time.

It was hard to tell if we needed a sweater or not for our walk downtown Sunday morning. Ultimately we went without the sweater and all was well. First off, we picked up Brian's roast pig because we were expecting to meet someone in the park and Brian was concerned if we had to double back to the market it would cut into his nap time. At the park we met the couple, plus another couple, plus another couple plus six other people, so it turned out to be a bit of a crowd. We caught a cab home because the #7 bus wasn't running as they were having yet another protest parade down Doce de Abril. Once again however, we managed to have a nice Sunday outing.

Monday we went shopping. Tuesday we did the rounds, paid the bills & picked up 5 pounds of coffee. The other day when we'd gone to the California Kitchen, Brian had tried on the suit he had brought with him from Canada. It didn't fit anymore. Apparently, although he's actually lost weight since leaving Canada, the weight left behind had re-distributed itself. In any case, while dropping in at the various places to pay our bills, we also stopped to see how much it would cost to have a blazer and a pair of dress pants custom made for him. The tailor sized Brian up and advised it would be around $160 for both items. We didn't order anything yet, but the price sure seems right. When we got home Shelley made Seafood Chowder using a seafood medley package we'd purchased at Jo.Mar's.

The other day we were talking to a couple fairly new to Ecuador and they commented that they might get a puppy because they missed their children so much. Shelley cautioned the woman about realities such as a dog would restrict their travelling and also require several walks a day. The woman turned to Shelley and quipped, "What? You want me to think more about getting a dog than I did when I got pregnant?" She was joking of course and we all laughed. Shelley explained to the woman that she really missed her children too for the first year and then that particular homesickness began to fade. She went on to explain the home sickness started to abate when she realized she was missing her "perfect" children. Don't misunderstand. We love our kids more than life itself but they get mad at us & ignore us & are less than complimentary from time to time. Our "perfect" children are always sweet, loving & gentle with our feelings and these are the kids we keep precious in our minds. We'll have to see if these people ultimately get a dog. We know we sure enjoy Fredi in our lives and compromise & dote for the sake of that furry little beast without hardly a thought. Come to think of it, we did exactly the same when our children were little and compliant also. Two other mothers we met recently had their adult children visiting. "She looks radiant!" Brian said, commenting on one of them, and she did; happy to be the centre of her kids' lives if only for a few days. One doesn't forget their "perfect" children and we revel & live for the moments when they come.

SuperMaxi couldn't supply Sherry for our Christmas fruit cake so on Wednesday we went on a bit of search for it. We ultimately got a bottle at the Taxi liquor store not too far away from where we live. We now have all the ingredients to make our Christmas cake and only have to wait until mid-October to make it. Wednesday afternoon while Brian was having his nap, Shelley sat down at the computer and she realized the demented school master was back practicing his rant for the first day of school. She hadn't even noticed he was away for 2 months. That afternoon/evening Brian went to yet another cooking class; this time vegetables. Shelley & Fredi saw him off and Shelley went to the computer to fuss with this and that and Fredi went to the couch top to lay her little chin on the sofa and mourn for the return of Brian. At the class it was all about vegetables with terrific recipes involving portobello mushrooms, asparagus salad, spinach with raisins & pine nuts and believe it or not a garlic custard. As unlikely as it sounds the garlic custard would go well with steak or sea food or lamb or a variety of other dishes. The favourite was potatoe latkes which seemed to touch a responsive cord in everyone. As usual a little too much wine led to a healthy camaraderie and fun was had by all.