All posts by Erin

Life in the States Seems to be Agreeing with US

I have started to write this blog a couple of times.  The ‘we are home,’ or ‘end of the adventure,’ ‘wisdom from afar,’ blog but it just hasn’t been working.  Too much pressure to be prophetic.  Yet, the blog has been such a part of my life for the last two years.  I am not ready to let it go.  We are now in Idaho.  I started this little bit almost three weeks ago when I was trying to figure it all out.

I am sitting here in my folks kitchen the rain has been coming down for about two days now and I am home.  The dogs are wandering around not quite sure what to do with themselves.  I can actually relate a little.  We left Mendoza almost two weeks ago. This blog is a bit odd to write because it is not only a return to the states but also the end of our two years abroad.  So how do you put all that into words when you can’t even figure out what emotions are playing through your head.  Here is my go at that.

Aerobics in the ParkOur last week in Mendoza was great, minus Todd being under the weather, not full blown sick, but he was not doing well.  He used all his energy to enjoy the last days of our trip.  By keeping ourselves busy the two weeks prior we were actually able to enjoy that time without the anxious excitement and nerves that kept creeping upon each of us.

That’s as far as I got.  I don’t know how to put into words those first couple days of being back in the states.  Odd is the first one.  It’s always the little things you notice; the amount of stuff at the grocery store, the size of the cars, pedestrians having the right of way, green grass, fewer buses, bikers, and walkers.  While other things seem to fall right back into place and feel just right.  For instance, being back at my folks house.  Things are still in the same place and that is comforting. Maura Graduates Although, the knife drawer swapped with the hot pads still throws me off three years later.  So, I guess I am trying to say that Todd and I are good.  We didn’t burst into flames from over stimulation or shock from being stateside.  Basically, we fell into old comforting patterns.

Thursday Night at Cafe al DenteOur time in KC went by so quickly.  I feel like I didn’t even sleep, but it was worth it.  We partied with the clan, Maura graduated from highschool, I jumped out of an airplane with the my momma and sisters, Todd ventured to Vegas and Beloit, we hit Al Dente for the Thursday night tradition, I passed my, motorcycle class, and then we were off. From there we packed up the minivan and headed west.  First stop, Edwards, CO, where Dale and Jeanne  literally just moved into their new house the day we arrived.  It was perfect timing.  We put our hands to work and helped them get things organized.  Even though there was a lot of work, we managed to play.  Teva Game Bouldering MadnessThe highlight being the Teva Games in Vail.  These were outdoor events like kayaking, bouldering, mountain biking, etc.  I have never been to a bouldering competition before.  Even though I am into bouldering I always had the impression that they would be pretty dry and anticlimatic.  Well, I was totally wrong.  After watching the pre-lims and the finals I was hoarse from all the yelling.  Who knew you could almost lose your voice watching people boulder.  It was incredible!

Teva Game After our quick visit with the Mosiers, we headed north to Victor, ID, our summer home.  Derek and Lisa were nice enough to invite these two homeless nomads into their home for the summer.  We gladly obliged this request.  You can’t pass up a summer in the mountains.  We just passed our first week here and if it is a prediction of what the rest of the summer holds, I think we are set for a great time.

Homemade pizza night, live music at the Knotty, an awesome showing by all of us at the Teton Dam 10k, and too many hours of futbol and snacks wrapped up the first week.  And the highlight, morel hunting.  I had always heard of mushroom hunters, read about them, been frightened of the false mushroom that can lead to death. etc.  So when Lisa started talking about the hunt I was a bit skeptical.  Luckily, an ice cream bar later and I was ready to go.  After browsing the internet to figure out exactly what morels looked like, and their evil twins the false morels, we were on our way.Teton Dam 10k

We started out not knowing what to expect.  So, I wondered off the path looking around dead logs, at the base of trees, basically scanning the ground for I wasn’t really sure.  It felt like I hadn’t blinked in ages when Lisa screeched with excitement at our first morel.  Wow, we actually found one.  In total, we found 8 beautifully weird looking morels.  I can now count myself as one of the thousands of people who go out each year to hunt these prized wonders of the culinary world.

Once home, we laid them out on the counter, keenly looking over the brain like bodies.  After we finely examined our bounty it was time to indulge.  We didn’t go wondering about in the woods to give our mushrooms an anatomy test, we went for their scrumptious flavor.  A quick sauté with some butter and salt and pepper and we were licking our lips and patting ourselves on the backs.

Morels, beautiful MorelsAnd that was only week one.  Today, back to reality as I continue my job hunt.  Todd is working hard in his new office and we are already planning our first dinner party. Life back in the states seems to be agreeing with us.

A little more detail…

Todd covered the basics and a tad beyond, but last trip means last comments and as usual I am not at a loss for words.  Wine, isn’t that one of the major reasons we decided Mendoza should be home base.  So a trip to the second largest wine region in the country seemed appropriate.  I am glad we both failed to remember exactly how far north Cafayate really is because I am not sure we would have maintained proper motivation for that type of journey.  Luckily, ignorance is bliss.

The fancy bus was awesome.  After a year and a half on all ranges of buses we splurged for the fancy premium bus we had only heard rumors of. Cafayate It was awesome!  Full  on with a steward who kindly kept my plastic glass of wine filled and delivered warm food for my belly. 180 degree fold down chairs are amazing.  I actually slept well.  The same cannot be said for the 180 difference in the bus we took on the return trip and my sleep quality, but that trip just brought us back to reality.

To Cafayate.  I was in charge of planning the trip and I had some focus issues.  Mainly, I didn’t want to plan the trip or use my power of concentration to navigate spanish websites or make phone calls in a foreign tongue.  I am apparently suffering from language laziness in these last few weeks.  But I did manage to make two lunch reservations that both turned out to be highlights of the trip.  So, two thumbs up for the little planning I eeked out.

First off, Todd and biking don’t mix.  He eluded to this but really, it is hysterical.  I love tootling around on bikes especially if the promise of wine lays at the end of the road.  My bikes make it up the road and back down but Todd’s get flat tires, busted chains, sad, sore thighs because Cafayatehe is too tall and everyone here is not, meaning short bikes, and on and on.  But four out of four bikes busted, that is just comical.  As Todd pouted up the hills to the vineyards I believe the phrase, “biking is my kryptonite!” vehemiently left his lips.  Need I say more?

Lunch at Finca Las Nubes was wonderful.  Sitting on the terrace looking out over the vineyards as the cactus laced hills created the perfect shade from the hot sun we enjoyed some wining and dining. Cafayate The wine wasn’t that great, but the food was.  Different types of cow cheese, goat cheese, homemade bread followed by grilled veggies and beautiful meat.  Finished with a grape tort (somethings aren’t meant to include grapes) and espresso.  You really can feel like royalty in this country.  Always nice to be in a place where the dollar stretches, if even just a little.  After lunch we played in the vineyard.  It was spectacular!

Day two, already a bit wined out, but we decided to keep our reservation at San Pedro de Yacochuya.  I had no idea what to expect. My conversation with Cecilia over the phone was rough; kids in the background, broken spanish, but we managed the reservation.  It reminded me of calling the old lady in Pauillac for a place to stay.  A total accomplishment but I needed a glass of wine after both conversations.  Anyway, so glad we didn’t cancel. As we walked our bikes up the road it was beautiful.  The left side of the vines were wonderful shades of fall, the right hadn’t decided to change yet, and the contrast was striking.

Cecilia greeted us with open arms.  Actually, she made me feel fantastic.  Compliments for everything.  It was great!  We walked into the house and it was incredible. Cafayate The walls covered in old paintings, a huge fireplace staked to the brim with logs, and smoke stains eeking up chimney, rustic furniture, and big windows with barn doors.  It was a combination of Argentine decorating and a warm country cabin exuding wealth.

Señora Etchart was excellent.  She sat down very matter of factly and said she was going to tell us about Torrontes. Cafayate And that is what she did.  Her nature was warm yet you could tell she was in charge.  Meeting Sr. Etchart, even if it was a brief Argentine greeting, was fantastic. He is Argentine wine that we know now as a legend.  Not the world of bulk wine that they produced pre-90’s.  Yacuchuya is not at all like Bodega Etchart.  It is small and very well produced from 97 year old vines.  The man knows what he is doing and I saw him deliver the mail. So glad we didn’t cancel this reservation.

The rest of the lunch was wonderful.  Todd and I, one 12 person table, and a lot more paintings, oh, don’t forget all the taxidermy.  We obviously weren’t their normal clientel, but we played the roles well.  Kind of like a certain lunch at Moet & Chandon in Napoleon’s dining room.  Surroundings can just make you feel special.  And Yacochuya nailed everything.

Our last trip left me nostalgic.  But then I remember this is just one adventure, there will be so many more down the road.  That’s a good thought.

Living Up the Last Weeks

We’ve been a little busy these last couple weeks.  So busy that this little blog has been completely neglected.  Update time.

Mendoza is funny sometimes.  Example: Todd and I saw an ad in the paper for a polo tournament.  Since, we are now experts on horse sports and have attended one other polo match, we figured it was a must show.  In BA we saw the best of the best of Argentina.  Here in Mendoza, not so much.  We took a taxi out to Guaymallen or what felt like the middle of nowhere.  We arrive at a massive field.  Actually 3 massive polo fields. Polo There are at least 100 horses, lots of men, a couple of cars, and empty bleachers.  Basically, anyone there was family, coaches, or horse trainers, so our presence was very obvious.  As we stood behind the goal post, a tad shocked at the circumstances,  and oblivious that we were technically on the field, we were quickly brought back to reality by the 8 horses and riders barrelling down in our direction.  It was a tad scary.  Don’t worry, we survived but quickly decided to take a seat on the sidelines.   We pulled out our sandwiches and enjoyed the tranquillity of the moment; the wind through the willows, the sun shining above us, and the quiet of being out of the city.  That is minus the sound of pounding horse hooves.   Even though the polo was subpar to say the least, the day was wonderful.  Always nice to leave the city, only to return with a new appreciation.

With time winding down here in Mendoza, we are trying to pack it all in.  So after a great day out at the polo field it was time to take a tour of the vineyards via bike.  Bike tours through Maipu is probably the number one backpacker experience when they visit Maipu.   Four months in Mendoza and we still hadn’t had this experience, so we were off.

Bikes and WineWe rented the bikes through Bikes and Wine.  You walk to the bus stop and take a 20 minute bus out to Maipu.  There an employee greets you and takes you to the shop where you pick up a bottle of water, get a quick run down of the map, and of course a bike.  It was pretty simple.  First stop, the museum.  I am a sucker for cheesy museums and this was no exception.  No explanations, little organization, and a lot of old steel machines for plowing, de-stemming, pressing, etc. And of course a glass of wine.  It was going to be a good day.

Now, one minor detail.  Todd may have been the catalyst for this idea, but the reality is he doesn’t like bike riding.  The bikes are too small making his hamstrings hurt, his hands get sore from gripping the handlebars, and then there is the bum pain that slowly creeps up on you.  And it goes on and on.  Bikes and WineSo, as I was tootling under the tree canopy, vines and olive trees lining the road, Todd was struggling.  A quick bike change and things got a little better.  He is a trooper though  and endured the ride with a smile.

We finally made it to Bodega Carinae, the furthest vineyard 11km up the road.  It was better then expected.  A small boutique winery with the Rolland consultant team managing the production of the wine.  We did a side by side tasting of the different levels of Malbec.   Amazing how one grape can take on so many different forms.  We were off from there heading back down the road.  Already 2:30 and one vineyard down.  Where had the time gone?  Next stop, Finca Cerno. Bikes and Wine We arrived and were greeted by the wonderful smell of grilling meat.  Always a good start.  But we couldn’t find anyone to help us.  They only had the grill guy and one wine guy working and the wine guy was preoccupied with a tasting for three business men.  Apparently, the bike tour folks were not as important.  He even asked us to change seats so that we weren’t so close to the business guys.  Not impressed we decided to head to Tempus Alba.

Great decision.  Seeing as the day was freezing and we were completely unprepared for the weather, the warmth of the winery was great.  So great in fact we tasted some wines and dined on some awesome cheese with grilled toast.  I have seen grilled provolone on many menus here, so today was the day to give it a go.  And wow!  Hot, bubbling, melted cheese, with crispy top and bottom.  I love you, Brie, but you have been replaced.  It was incredible.

Bikes and WineWe enjoyed a couple more wines, some terrible absinthe and great conversation back at the bike shop.  They just kept pouring the wine, terrible, terrible wine, but we were cold and caught in the moment so at the time, it was just perfect.  We bussed it back to the city and grabbed some drinks with our new friends.  Good wine and good times!

I don’t recover from drinking the way I used to, so Wednesday morning was a bit rough.  But there was more to be done, like winemaker night with Altamisque.  The wine was good, not great, but the winemaker was not the most entertaining.  Luckily, our new friends Chris and Marydale showed up.  After winemaker night we enjoyed some wine at the Winery.  But more then the wines we enjoyed some great conversation.  When you are travelling, you meet a lot of people. Wine Maker Night Some you will hang around for weeks, yet not feel connected.  While others, like these two, it seems so natural.  And that’s a good feeling.

So, after a busy week we took Thursday and Friday off.  But not the weekend.  Today we are off to somewhere, only Todd knows.  He has planned a surprise weekend get away.  So exciting!  I love surprises.  I do know that we are going to Jerome’s brewery in El Salto, he bought food provisions, a damajuana (think jug o’wine times 3),  we need sleeping bags, it may snow :(, and I think he may be renting a car.  I will let you know on Monday.

One more thing… Todd went to buy said provisions last night and returned from the grocery store speaking of a massive run on water.  Ok, weird.  Not just a couple of bottles, he said grocery carts full and grandmas throwing elbows.  As we are looking up the reason on the internet we hear a knock, knock, knock at the door.  It was our landlord.  She came to explain that the city was turning off the water for the night, so she asked us not to take a shower, flush the toilet, basically use the water because it would dry out the tank and cause problems.  The problem, mercury.  Yes, they found mercury in the water here 28 times the normal level.  Good thing we are leaving town for the weekend.  And as we predicted, the water was not turned back on last night, it will be off until tonight but most likely till Sunday.

Passing the Days

Good morning world.  My eyes are heavy this morning even though I slept well.  I wasn’t so sure that I would, because it was the first night apart for Todd and I in a VERY long time.  I think maybe since we left the states two years ago.   When we were living in Kansas City I grew accustomed to his heavy travel schedule for work.  I don’t think I ever fully got used to it though.  This night apart was nice but weird and definitely healthy.

Todd wasn’t here last night because he went camping.  Well, more specifically he is taking a two day intense rock climbing course.  I like rock climbing a lot but Todd wants to learn the more intense aspects i.e. multi-pitch, rescues, etc.  He would have slept in a tent on the rock if the instructor would have had one. I am thankful he did not.  So off in the mountains he went yesterday morning.  Hoping it wouldn’t be too fridged, winter is on the prawl down here.  I hope he had a great time.  I will find out late tonight when he returns.

I had a great day by myself; cooking, running, reading, and just doing things that were all about me.  That always makes for a good day.  And it was a beautiful fall day with sunny skies and a crisp breeze that kept moving through the air.  I watched the basketball final by myself in the apartment.  But since I was torn on which team to root for, it almost felt like I had a companion with me rooting for the other team.  What a great game!

Anyways, besides Todd camping and me enjoying me we also managed to have a great Easter.   Surprisingly, Good Friday is the major holiday here.  There was a 30,000 person 7 church march, the hotels were at full capacity, and the city was closed.  We decided to go to mass on Easter Sunday so our groggy bodies rose Sunday morning after a fun night of basketball hooliganism and went to church.  We arrived at 11am thinking we were late but the church was practically empty.  Apparently, Argentines don’t even get to mass on time.  Eventually the church filled up and we were on our way.  Three interesting points here: 1. Easter is supposed to be a joyess event of life.  The priest made sure we were all aware of this and announced it in the most ho-um monotone voice ever.  It was depressing and the rest of the mass followed in monotone pursuit.  2. No music.  Just one older ladies cracky voice leading the singing which ended up sounding more like chanting.  Not joyess.  3. Confession was being held in the vesibules by two priests.  One cloaked in his vestments, the other simply wearing jeans and his purple stole.  People participated in mass while waiting in line.  Oh yeah, there is a 4th…no order to communion.  People just piled out of pews or came from where they were standing and assembled lines, no order.  Even with the quirks, it was a nice morning.  Something familiar even if it was actually a bit foreign.

A Day at the TracksAfter our non joyess celebration we went out for coffee.  While sipping our coffee and reading the paper Todd came across the horse racing brackets.  And we were in luck, because it was data for the Easter day race.  There you go, we had something to do for the day.  So, we finished up our jo, wondered home, and then walked over to the Hipodrome.  I apparently know nothing about any sport that involves horses.  Yes, the horses ran around the track, but the half moon or circles on yellow signs that accompanied the winners board, no idea.  And the betting auctions, again clueless.  Besides watching the races, we wondered around, checking out the horses, watching them strut their stuff before the race and of course people watching.  Lots of good people watching!  We had a great time, even if our horses never won.A Day at the Tracks

So, that is that.  A holiday past, a night spent alone, and less then a month left in Argentina.  Crazy!

Random Unconnected Morning Thoughts Pre-coffee

Yesterday walking home from the grocery store, not the close one, the super big Carrefour that is also super far away.  Anyway, walking and talking and lugging our goods home when we see little red droplets on the sidewalk.  Splattered in a curvy manner creating a little trail for us to follow.  Todd with his infinite wisdom said he thought someone was bleeding.  While, I chose to think that someone’s box o’wine had sprung a leak.  Didn’t take long before we realized Todd was the winner.  All of a sudden we see this older lady, pushing the call buttons to get into an apartment, apparently hers, as blood pores from her leg.  It was like when your lawn hose gets a leak and shoots water in one straight shot with high pressure.  Now, add that the spurts were in time with her heart beat and you get super gross.   So much blood.  We offered up some of the tp we just bought, but all in all she didn’t really even seem bothered.  Finally, a lady came out, prepped with massive pieces of gauze.  This must not have been the first time.  Anyway, it was weird and uber icky to say the least.

Also, last night after an amazing 50% of wine happy hour at the Vines we saw a huge group of people on a 7 church tour.  Some holding candles, some participating in a walking confession with the priest, while others just enjoyed the moment.   It was solemn.  A lot of the participants were younger kids, which I found to be surprising.  I may not be an active participant in the Catholic Church right now, but it was refreshing to see such a powerful showing from a community.  An unabashed sense of belief.  It made me smile.

As for wine, our friend Julia or should I say wine insight insider, steered us toward two wines that were not on the list, but recently opened.  I enjoyed a the wonderful Gran Estirpe Malbec 2004 from Chacras de Coria.  It was simply a beautiful expression of a Malbec; sweet black fruit start, well balanced, good tannin structure with a long spicy finish.  And at $75p or $24US it was rightfully delicious.  Todd enjoyed a brilliant Bordeaux blend from Bressia.  The Conjuro 2006, 50%Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot.  My mouth almost didn’t realize what a true expression of a Bordeaux blend tasted like, but now I remember.  Yum! It will open up in a couple of years but the silk texture was just right for this moment.  It was delightful.

Other quick unrelated notes: I am going to miss the crustless white bread.  Pair that with a slice of cheese, butter, then bread, ham, more butter and another piece of bread.  A quick delicious empty carb meal.

But for now, we are prepping for the Final Four games.  Snack list ready for prep, beer purchased, internet activated.  Good day Saturday!