Kate’s birthday

What a good day we had yesterday! Kate has been sick for the past week, but we were so glad to see that she was feeling a lot better for her first birthday yesterday. We started the day by singing Happy Birthday to her a few times, and then we gave her the first present of the day, a doll I’d found at the grocery store. (I had been amazed that the toy stores here had very tacky, poorly made toys and that some of the ones at the grocery store were better made and less expensive!) She enjoyed playing with the doll, and then she took her morning nap while Bryan and I tried to get the oven to work.

The saga of the birthday cupcakes had begun the night before when I went to the store to buy ingredients. I hadn’t ever seen baking powder in the store, although I already had baking soda at home, and so I ended up buying cornstarch to mix with the baking soda to take the place of baking powder. I also couldn’t find any vanilla extract, so I bought a packet of vanilla flavored powder. I got some flour and more sugar since we had used most of our sugar for tea. I was very excited to find what I thought was a can of evaporated milk, and I bought some butter.

When I got home and began working on the cupcakes, I discovered that the “evaporated milk” was actually sweetened condensed milk, and the butter was margerine. (So goes shopping in a country where you don’t read or understand the language!) The flour was full of worms and moths, and so I couldn’t make the cake until the next morning after going back to the store for more flour. I decided to at least make the icing that night, and I learned that you can make evaporated milk very easily by simply boiling milk on the stove for a while. The rest of the icing went together beautifully, and we began the cake on the birthday morning after Kate went down for her nap.

This was the first time I had attempted to use our oven. We only have one pot in the apartment, and it can’t be put in the oven since it has plastic handles. One of my friends here loaned me her cupcake pans, and so I made the cake batter and buttered and floured the pans as Bryan lit the oven. The first thing we discovered was that there were no temperature controls on the oven, and the second was that there was no oven thermometer inside the oven. Next, once the oven had been on for a few minutes, we felt it and decided it must have been at least 450-500 degrees, or in other words NOT the right temperature for cupcakes. We turned the flame down as low as it could go. As Bryan said, the oven has two settings: huge flame or tiny flame. Bryan Googled something like “judging oven temperature with hand,” and I believe he did a fabulous job helping me decide that “tiny flame” was the right setting. I put the cupcakes in to bake, and we went to work again on the icing. The traditional birthday cake that Mama made when we were growing up has delicious chocolate frosting. The frosting is made on the stove, is cooled, and then is whipped with a blender until it is the right consistency and a lighter color. Of course I wasn’t thinking of this when I decided that this would be Kate’s cake for her first birthday since we have no blender. After leaving the icing in the refrigerator all night, it was about as hard as fudge and only a tiny bit easier to stir. My arms tired out very quickly, and so Bryan did the bulk of the stirring in my makeshift mixing bowl, a rectangular plastic ice cream container. His arms got pretty tired, too, but I don’t think he minded so much since he got to sample the chocolate as he stirred and enjoy the leftovers on the fork when he was finished. I took the cupcakes out of the oven, and they were delicious! We ate a few while they were still hot without any icing, and since Kate was up from her nap by this time, she ate a little bit, too.

We had a normal lunch and a quiet afternoon together playing, and we started supper early since we had many skype calls planned with family. Kate ate a good supper and then REALLY enjoyed her cupcake. Actually, I should say that she really enjoyed the icing since she probably only ate a bite or two of the cake itself! We had a great time watching her, taking video, and taking pictures. After dessert, I hosed her down in the bathtub, and we talked to family on skype so everyone could say happy birthday. It was a fun birthday, and Bryan and I enjoyed celebrating and remembering the day Kate was born. Happy birthday, sweet Kate!

Published in: on August 16, 2009 at 7:40 am  Leave a Comment  

busy morning!

What a morning we had! Kate did not sleep well last night, which of course meant that neither did we since we share a room. She awoke very early this morning needing to use the bathroom, and none of us could go back to sleep afterwards. We had a slow start to the morning, and we started preparing for our language helper to arrive. During this time, we got a skype call from some of our closest friends, and we were SO glad to be able to talk to them! Just as we finished talking, our language helper arrived to teach us Russian. We had the fullest language session so far and learned a plethora of new words, including body parts, items around the house, prepositions (on, under, behind, etc), and others. While the lesson was going on, a lady from the office arrived and wanted to clean the apartment. She used to clean every Thursday when this apartment was the second office, and she showed up last Thursday unexpected. We thought she would be coming tomorrow and were planning to talk to our boss this afternoon to tell him she didn’t need to come. We think that she doesn’t realize that we are renting separately from the office and that this is no longer part of her job. However, she came a day early! She only speaks Russian, and so she enjoyed listening to the lesson as she was cleaning, but she was quite distracting. We did learn one interesting cultural difference this time since she came when our language helper was here. Just before she left, she called our language helper out and they talked in Russian for a minute. When our language helper was about to leave, she called me into the bathroom and explained in broken English that they don’t flush toilet paper here! They put it in a small trash can that we had been using for, you guessed it, trash. πŸ™‚ There isn’t another trash can in the bathroom, and you’re not supposed to put trash in the little one for toilet paper. Interesting, isn’t it? There is also a small chrome hose attached to the wall by the toilet with a chrome sprayer on the end that looks like it could be a large one from a kitchen sink or a small one from a garden hose. We know what it’s for, but we have NO idea how they are able to use it easily without splashing water everywhere. Obviously, she did not mention that or tell me how it works, and she was embarrassed to talk about the small trashcan, too. The only other thing she communicated today was that she was worried about Kate because the a/c was blowing on her a little bit while she was sitting in her high chair. πŸ™‚ I wonder what other “strange” things we are doing that the cleaning lady wonders about! I mean, who puts trash in a trashcan in the bathroom?? πŸ˜‰

Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 6:18 am  Comments (1)  

Uploaded pictures

I haven’t been able to get on facebook yet, but I uploaded a lot of pictures on flickr today! Enjoy!

Published in: on July 21, 2009 at 7:19 am  Leave a Comment  

We’ve been here for a week!

It’s hard to believe we left Dallas a week ago today! It seems like a lot more time has passed since then. The first day of the week was full of traveling, and we arrived here late Wednesday night. One of the local men picked us up from the airport and commented on the large number of bags we had with us. He seemed very surprised that we had 4 suitcases and said he had never seen anyone with so many bags. I was very confused until we discovered that he thought we were only staying for a few weeks. He took us to our apartment and explained a few things to us, like how to use the water heater and how to open the door to the building and the door to the apartment. Doors here are very different from what we’re used to. Lots of the doors into a building have a latch that opens when you push the correct numbers on the front of the door and push/pull the door just right. The numbers aren’t electronic, though. They’re mechanical, and they have to be pushed in just the right way. For instance, for one of the doors, you have to hold down two numbers at the same time, and for another door, you push three numbers in a specific order. The office door is opened automatically by the receptionist when she pushes a button. There are so many new things in a new culture that you’re expecting, but I can’t say that I was expecting to have to learn a new way to open doors. πŸ™‚

The rest of this week has been full of “getting settled.” I know in reality it will take a while before we are truly settled, especially since we’ll be moving to a new apartment sometime. I am learning where the different grocery stores and shops are, and we have ridden in taxis, buses, and on the metro. I think the buses are my favorite because you can see so much of the city. Of course we haven’t ridden any of these by ourselves yet since we don’t know where anything is! All the stores I’ve shopped at are within walking distance. We are getting lots of good exercise from all the walking and from the three flights of stairs to get to our apartment.

One thing I’ll be happy to be finished with is having to go to meetings. We haven’t had a very regular schedule so far since the meetings have been at different times each day. This afternoon, for instance, we have a meeting, or an orientation class of sorts, to introduce us to the local culture. We’ve done some reading of a few articles they gave us, and this afternoon they are going to discuss the readings and go over some other useful things that we haven’t learned yet. While I’m a bit tired of meetings in general, I am excited about this one. In order to be more comfortable in a new culture, it really helps to know the local customs, attitudes, and expectations.

As far as I know, I don’t have anything that I’m supposed to be doing tomorrow, although I think Bryan has a meeting with his boss. I’m looking forward to a full day at home to finish the laundry I’m working on today and to take care of other household duties. Language learning officially begins on Friday!

Published in: on July 14, 2009 at 11:36 am  Leave a Comment  

We’ve moved!

Well once again, it’s been forever since I’ve written, and a lot has happened! We moved overseas this week, and we are getting settled in our temporary apartment. We are staying in the apartment that used to be our company’s second office, and after they moved out they negotiated with the landlord to give it to us for a month at a lower price instead of leaving it vacant. It does not have everything that a fully furnished apartment around here usually has, like sheets & towels, but it is very clean, and the location can’t be beat. We’re just across the courtyard from our office. We have a few small sheets and one towel that we’re using until we can find others, and over all we are very pleased with our apartment. Believe it or not, it even has a/c in one room, a microwave, a tv, and a piano!! We haven’t used the tv or played the piano yet, but we have enjoyed the a/c during the hot afternoon and evening.

The weather here is nice, although a bit hotter than I was expecting. This is mostly due to the extremely high humidity. Our apartment is located on the third floor, so I’m sure that makes it a bit hotter, too. The ceilings in most buildings around here, including our apartment, are about 12 feet high. All the buildings we’ve been in so far except for the market also have beautiful crown molding. We’ve been told they have high ceilings here to make it cooler inside. I love the way it looks, and when you add in the crown moldings it gives the rooms a fancier atmosphere.

People dress quite nicely here. Men are never in shorts, and women either wear skirts below the knee or long pants. I’ve only seen t-shirts on a few people, but never one with writing on it, and these people seem out of place. Men’s shirts are all collared and either polo or button-up. Women wear blouses that can be sleeveless or short-sleeved, and the material is usually somewhat dressy. Babies also dress nicely, so Kate’s little dresses are just perfect. I’m glad I brought a few shoes for her since I haven’t seen any babies with bare feet. I’ll try to upload some pictures of our apartment soon!

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Getting ready to go

Wow! It’s been a long time since I last posted! Life has been busy with family visiting, packing, and making plans for our trip overseas. We leave in less than two weeks for a country in Eurasia. Bryan will be doing a language survey internship and surveys of some languages that our organization is interested in, and I will be a stay-at-home mom overseas. I’ll be doing some language learning while we’re there, and I’m somewhat nervous about that. I’ve studied a tiny bit of the language so far, but nowhere near enough to let me get around by myself yet. I’m sure that will come. One of the first things I want to learn in my language learning sessions is how to get around in the market, how to talk about money, and how to barter.

I don’t really have much to say, but I’ve been meaning to post a picture for a while. I decided to leave some of the artichokes on the plant to see what they would do. I was very happy with the results. πŸ™‚

artichoke flower

artichoke flower

artichoke flower 2

artichoke flower 2

I wish I had taken pictures a few days earlier when all the purple parts of the flower were sticking up straight like those in the center are in these pictures. It reminds me so much of a thistle! Who knew the “choke” part of the artichoke could be so beautiful!

Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 2:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ask a question, get an answer!

Today was an exciting day! I’ve been sick, so Bryan took care of Kate this morning so that I could sleep in. When I got up, he told me about something she had done when he fed her breakfast. He asked if she wanted more food, and she nodded her head! He did it a few more times, and she nodded each time.

We tried again at lunch, and it seems she definitely means to be nodding for yes and shaking her head for no. She nodded many times for us to give herΒ  more food, and then she started shaking her head when she didn’t want anymore. We asked if she was all done, and she nodded and held out her hands like she does when she wants to be picked up. A little while later, I asked her if she needed to go potty. She nodded, and when we went into the bathroom, she went potty!

Tonight at dinner, she was so happy to be communicating what she wanted that she was nodding after every bite of food, sometimes even when she hadn’t finished with the previous bite. It is so fun to see her start communicating with us!

Published in: on May 2, 2009 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shopping trip

Kate and I got back from a trip to Target a little while ago. We found some great deals, and we used the trip to try something new. I got training pants for her the other day, and I decided to take her to the store wearing the (NOT waterproof) training pants. She stayed dry! I tried to take her to the bathroom when we first got to the store, but she didn’t need to go. I got all of our items and got ready to check out, and as I was picking up the last few items, she started to squirm a lot in her carrier. I was really hoping she could hold it since I didn’t want to get wet, but I knew I needed those last few things before we could go home. I got to the checkout, left our items there, and took her to the bathroom. She went right away, and I was so excited! This is one of the first times she has been able to “hold it” for longer than a few minutes and has waited for me to take her to the bathroom. Yay for more progress!

Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 11:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Leftover garden

You might remember last year in March and April when I was working on a garden while Bryan was in Africa. Sometime during the summer, the garden was abandoned after I discovered a tarantula lurking beneath some weeds. I’m very afraid of spiders, and almost picking up a tarantula while pulling weeds was a bit too much for me. Since we saw a few more tarantulas around the yard after that, I decided it wasn’t worth it to work in the garden anymore and left the plants to the hot summer sun.

Believe it or not, one of the plants survived! There was an artichoke plant in the corner of the garden, and it didn’t seem to mind the Texas heat. It even lived through the winter, and as soon as the weather started getting warm, it started growing rapidly.

artichoke plant

artichoke plant

Now it’s gotten even bigger, and the other night we ate our first artichokes from the garden! They were a little bit smaller than the ones you buy in the grocery store, but they were delicious! Thanks for the help with the garden, Mama! Who knew we’d still be enjoying it a year later?! πŸ™‚

artichokes

artichokes

Published in: on April 24, 2009 at 2:46 pm  Comments (1)  

Potty progress

Kate has surprised us in the past few days by being more vocal about her needΒ  to use the bathroom. This is something I’d read about babies doing, but she had never shown obvious signs that she was trying to communicate with us about it until now. Before this week, I mostly had to rely on timing to know when to take her to the bathroom, and occasionally she would fuss a bit and I’d know she needed to go. This week, though, she has started looking directly at us, reaching to be picked up, and fussing pretty insistently when she needs to go. She is also getting good at waiting until she’s at the potty. We still have a few wet diapers a day, but the number has dramatically decreased. Who knew a 7-month-old could do that?!

Published in: on April 10, 2009 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment