Sunday, April 25, 2010

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina

Husband #1 and I jetted off to Buenos Aires last week sans kids. My MIL was gracious enough to come up and stay with our kids while we were gone. Husband #1 had a conference to attend and I just tagged along for the almost free vacation!

The flight was overnight. We flew to Dallas at 3pm and from there it was 10.5 hours direct to Buenos Aires. Thank goodness for Tylenol PM! Still, we were exhausted from poor sleep on the flight when we arrived at 8am the next morning. There is only a two hour time difference from Central time basically like the west coast.

The language barrier was challenging (Spanish) but now that we are home I am still trying to address waiters and such in Spanish! Plus, Lowe's would not take payment in our leftover pesos! The weather was perfect and I think it was warmer than usual for this time of year (fall for them). Husband #1 and I even did the water drain experiment since we were south of the equator...yep, drains counter clockwise!

We had steak every day. I have a strong feeling it will be quite a while before I have another steak. I actually had to beg a waiter for some lettuce one day. We also had (seemingly) gallons of red wine every day. Argentinean Malbec is yummy! We really liked Trumpeter and Luigi Bosca. Now we just need to figure out if they export those here.

We attended a Tango dinner one evening. It seemed obligatory since we were in Argentina. It was a wonderful show and the dancers were fabulous in an historic theater. This is just one photo of a really cool scene set from the show.

Husband #1 and I in an outdoor brew pub drinking 8.5% alcohol beer. Yum. First time we did not have wine at a meal.

Me in front of Eva Peron/Evita's tomb (and her family). The cemetery was amazing and one of my favorite parts of the entire city. More photos follow!!

Each one of these that look like small houses were individual family tombs. Most are very elaborate and have granite and marble and stained glass and such. They go three stories below ground and hold about 11 coffins plus urns of cremations. Each tomb costs roughly $60,000 American dollars just to have and then you have to pay upkeep. Some did and some obviously did not as you will see below.

I'll spare you the photo but one of the tombs (not the one pictured above) was open with corrugated metal half covering it and the coffin inside was smashed open on one end. I actually have photos of the person's leg bone and knee joint...very old and just bones. I can only imagine what the health issues were. Husband #1 was teasing me I had dead people dust in my nose and on my hands, etc.

Can you guess what we ate at dinner this night?

This was a very cool statue. It opens during the day and closes at night. It is made out of some kind of metal, much like the arch in St. Louis

You thought roads in the US were bad? Now that is a SERIOUS pothole...right in the middle of the lane.

This was an area in Boca in Buenos Aires... La Caminita where all the houses are painted different colors like this. Story is that the people who used to live there mostly worked at the shipyard and docks. Their employers did not always have money to pay them so paid them with paint from the various ships, hence the varied colors.
This is the soccer stadium in Boca. Same story about the colors. They could not decide on colors for the team so decided the next ship that came in would be the was a Swedish ship.

Me inside a cathedral. 80% of Buenos Aires is catholic. This place was beautiful and well maintained for being so old.
This is the office of the president, basically the Argentinean equivalent of the White House but the president does not live there. Their current president is a woman.
I was pretty sure I was going to die on a daily basis whenever I got inside a cab. Those guys are nuts! The government could save a bundle of pesos if they just forgot painting stripes on the road. No one pays attention to them anyway. Three cars per every two lanes was standard. As was making a right turn from a left hand lane across four lanes of traffic.
One day I think I may have almost been mugged. Not too positive but it was concerning. The tour guide the day before had warned of a tactic where they throw mustard or ketchup on you and then approach and help you clean it off meanwhile stealing your stuff. I was in a park by myself under a tree when something splattered all over the left side of me from behind. I wasn't sure if it was bird poop or what. I turned quickly and this guy walks up. I start to back away and he fumbles through some Spanish words and busts out with "water" and motions cleaning and points the other way. I say okay and he walks off the way he came. I head towards this pond thing he pointed at but as I go that way I notice he has begun to circle around the long way over to where I am heading. I immediately turn around and head the opposite direction. I found a cafe with a bathroom to disrobe and wash off most of the goop. It was white and smelled like a permanent (hair) solution or something. It was gross and stunk to high heaven. I am still not sure what happened, maybe he was innocent and it was bird poop but I am just glad nothing bad happened.
We had fun and relaxed and saw some sights. It was my first time below the equator! Husband #1 was unexpectedly asked to give a talk at the conference at the last minute (think asked/told at 3pm Sunday for an 8am Monday talk). Many people were unable to attend due to the volcano so many speakers were not there. We spent some wonderful meals with some friends and colleagues from Wash U. We are glad to be home, though. And for once, the kids actually missed us!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

One a Penny, Two a Penny! Hot Cross Buns!

Half for you and half for me,

Between us two shall goodwill be

Many might know the old nursery rhyme that goes:

Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!

One a penny, two a penny - Hot cross buns

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons

One a penny, two a penny - Hot cross buns

English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become moldy during the subsequent year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.

The cross is said to represent the crucifix and was originally baked and given to the poor on Good Friday by a monk.

Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.

Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be" is said at the time.

So for those of you who live far, consider this post my Good Friday gift to you...Hot Cross Buns.

The dough had just woken up from its nap in a warm place covered by a towel. It had doubled in size. This was very exciting for me as yeast is not always my friend and does not always behave as it should. (much like my children)

Here they are lined up and ready to bake. I sprinkled them with cinnamon sugar and raisins then made these little balls.

Oooohh, look how pretty right out of the oven. What's that? You say there is one missing? I caaaan't heeaaarrr yooouuu. lalalalalalalalala (fingers in my ears). Maybe the dogs ran through and grabbed one when I wasn't looking. Yeah, that must be it. Or maybe Poison Control stopped by? No one wants me to gift you food over the internet that could kill you.

The final product. Pretty and yummy and meaningful. What more can you ask from your food?

Look Ma! No Training Wheels!

Double A has always been the kind of kid who will not do something unless she is certain she can do it well. (nothing like her mother. ahem.) She is also the kind of kid who will not do something with pushing and prodding from her parents. This is hard for us parents to let her reach these things in her own time when we know she can do it. So, I think we did pretty well with the bike riding.

My kids are a little behind in learning to ride bikes. Our yard is tiny and we live on a city street. We let them practice in the alley behind the house or we have to load the bikes into the car and drive to the park...this doesn't happen much. So we were surprised when Double A announced to us she wanted her training wheels off. No prodding from us, not even any real suggestions. She just decided.

And she did GREAT!! I have tons of photos from the event but will spare you all the minutia of each rotation of the wheels. Here are a couple of the good ones :)

Husband #1 gives her a push off and there she goes! He is behind her clapping :)

I just love this can see her little mouth concentration and everything is out of focus but her.

A couple of things to note:

1 - we DO NOT make our children wear all of that safety gear. We require the helmet but the elbow and knee pads are their choice, not ours!

2- Upon viewing these photos the need for a larger bike has become glaringly obvious!

Here is one of Bumblebee:

I am not sure if you can see but he has on gardening gloves, cowboy boots with one pant leg tucked in, elbow pads and just one knee pad. He just got his bike for Christmas but decided since his sister was taking off her training wheels, he should, too. He obviously did not do as well so we immediately put them back on. We also think he just wanted to use the tools to take them off.

Now, the problem is she cannot get started without our help. (or so she thinks) So she cannot just get out there and play in the yard with her bike unless we are there. We'll get there!

Lame cupcake post

Okay, so I have been blog neglectful recently. I have tons of pictures and stories...maybe too many...and that has paralyzed me. That and being busy. I was going to post yesterday but I could not sign in and then had to delve into cookies and java script and request help and all kinds of crap. For reasons unknown to just worked today!! I hope to get caught up soon. Keep checking back!


So here is the "ease back into blogging, don't want to shock anyone" post. CUPCAKES!!
Let me set the scene: I find an awesome website with fantastic recipes. I am going to a function (shout out to my MC friends!!) and decide to bring these Life By Chocolate Cupcakes. Kids are in school and thankfully I have all day...because that is what it took me.

The recipe is supposed to make 18 cupcakes. I ended up with 42.

Here's how it went: I mix up the first batch of batter and pour it into the muffin tins. It comes out like this - all twelve of them:

The chocolate kiss was supposed to sink in and be enveloped by the cupcake. The cupcakes were not supposed to be doughy and cracking on top and heavy as rocks. This is when I alarmingly realize I FORGOT THE BAKING SODA!! Crap. I have 1/3 of the batter left so I measure out 1/3 of the original amount of soda and throw it in and bake the next set of cupcakes (only 6) and they turn out like this:Oooops!! Too much baking soda!!

At this point I realize the six are edible but ugly and the first 12 are only edible by the young children in my house so I whip up a whole other batch, WITH baking soda. When I bake the first 12 I completely FORGOT the chocolate kiss and while this is not the end of the world...still annoying. So FINALLY I make the last 12 (for some reason batch two made 6 more than batch 1, maybe it was the baking soda that stretched it!). I remembered all ingredients and they turned out great!

Then came time for the icing. This recipe called for ganache...something I have never made before but despite cupcake failure I thought I would try it. That and I pretty much suck at regular icing, too so what was there to lose? They were beautiful!!! And oh so yummy and I was soooo proud of them!!

Look how shiny and they have those cute little folded over drips and everything!!! YAHOO!!

I also made sea salt truffles the same day. Those turned out fantastic as well. SOOOO yummy and easy!! And much a much smoother experience than these cupcakes.

I have since made the cupcakes again and the ganache was now as lovely. I think it may have something to do with my kitchen helpers. I also did the ganache on top and bottom so it was like a ding dong!! YUM!

To further perpetuate my insanity I am making something with YEAST today. Yeast is not always my friend in the kitchen so we will see how it goes. If it works (or maybe even if it doesn't) I might post it tomorrow in honor of Good Friday!