Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Feliz Cumpleaños

Mia’s grandmother is having her 29th Birthday today (same age as her daughter – they are a miracle family) and Mia wanted to send her un beso.

So, here it is grandma – she says to tell you that she loves you and misses you.

See you soon and happy birthday!

Mia's First Day of School in Mendoza

This marks Mia’s first week of school in Mendoza. Despite the fact that she doesn’t speak Spanish, and the first four hours of class are all in Spanish, she seems to really like school. Her teacher (maestro for those of you keeping score on my Spanish) is Miss Natcha and seems to have a real gift (but, working as the lone teacher with twenty-five 4 years you had better have a gift or good mental health care). The school is quite nice and has 300 students in its K-8 classes. It is quite an adjustment to go from Mia’s school of 35 students in Arlington to a K-8 setting, but Mia is one fearless kid and seems to be really enjoying herself. The best part is she gets to play with other 4 year-olds on the playground – far better than trying to get her father to jump on the swing.

Perhaps the strangest part for us is the uniform. We love the idea and Mia looks mighty cute in hers, but having our daughter wearing the St. Andrews cross on her chest everyday is going to take some getting used to. I don’t think her mom shares my obsession with the uniform – but she worries about different things than I do.

If you want to see some photos of Mia’s first day they are here.

Dad - Where is Mom?

Mia and I have this conversation twice a day everyday – so I thought I would share it:

“Dad, where is mom?”

“At Work”




“That is where the office is”

“Why does she work”

“Guilt” (Actually I say because she enjoys making a contribution to society – really, I do)


Ok, so you get a sense of how this goes. The story behind all of this is that Janalee has been working quite a bit at Vines of Mendoza, our friend Michael’s blossoming business. With the first major element of the business (a downtown tasting room) opening this Friday, Janalee and her team of Hormigas have been working night and day to ensure that the staff is ready to pour wine.

And, it has been quite a month of work. After renting a home three weeks ago the place has been transformed into a full-fledged wine tasting room that will be ready to open. Quite a transformation – congrats to everyone on the Vines team. You can see photos of the entire thing here.

Now, I just need to find a way for Jan to work all of these hours and do the laundry and cook – I have more work to do on that front. Stay tuned……

Monday, February 20, 2006

Boutique de la Carne

How can you go wrong with a name like that? Just one of the many wonders of our neighborhood. We can walk down the street 3 blocks to the butcher shop and a great panaderia (La Parra, Su Panaderia). On almost every corner there is a locutorio (a shop where you can make phone calls, use the internet, etc.), drugstore (typically like a locally-owned 7-11), farmacia (I think you can figure that one out), or an almacen (a small grocery store).

It’s great fun getting to know our neighborhood shops and shopping locally. One or all of us walk to La Parra every day, (Vince and Mia go twice a day to purchase gallititas) and to Boutique de la Carne at least three times per week. La Parra is known as the best bakery in town. Every time we meet a new friend from Mendoza they say, “do you know that you live just down the street from the best bakery in town?” – we do know and we have the chocolate spots on Mia’s clothes to prove it.

While it is great to visit the shops, our conversations with a shopkeeper are always a little stilted. Usually, the conversation goes something like this:



“Como estas?”

“Bien, y vos?” (This is Argentina after all… people say vos instead of tu)

“Bien, muy bien…”

And, then everything pretty much breaks down after that. On occasion we are able to pronounce breads and meats properly… or to say, “quiero un kilo de pechugas, por favor,” (I want a kilogram of chicken breasts, please)… but often the conversation goes more like…”quiero catorze gallitas” literally, “I want 14 crackers,” when I was trying to say, “quiero cuarenta gallitas,” I want 40 crackers. By the time we leave the shop, we inevitably say “estoy apprendiendo Espanol!” (I am learning Spanish) about five times, and have a good laugh with the merchant, who inevitably says, “I only speak a little English” (perfectly, of course).

As you might imagine, we are very popular residents of the neighbor. Everyone knows that when we come in, they are going to have a good laugh!

Now, off to buy some bread!

Vince 1 - Hormigas 0

We won the first round in our battle with the hormigas – I was able to successfully negotiate a relationship with the exterminador (like a matador for bugs) and our yard has been sprayed. One challenge is that within 24 hours we have found a new hormiga hill. They were quickly dispatched with some foul smelling (and probably incredibly toxic) liquid. Even with their last ditch attempt to reestablish their infestation I am claiming victory.

Now that I have proven my dominance over small bugs, I am on to bigger things: language. Just kidding, there is no chance whatsoever that I am going to claim a victory in the language category. At best I am like the US in cross-country skiing – I try really hard, but everyone knows that others are destined to win. Have I mentioned how strange it is to be talking about skiing in the middle of the summer?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


As a part of our continuing saga we have discovered ants in our house (and in our yard, and pretty much everywhere else right now). The first clue as to our situation was when Janalee’s foot started to swell up from fire ant bites. I think she will live through the experience, but not without some serious counseling – I think we will need to go to the Freud Institute of Mendoza to ensure that all of the issues are resolved. Anyway, the real story here is the ant infestation. After a few sightings around the house we have now found them in la concina, el living and la bano. I think we can safely say we have ants. Now, the question is what to do with them.

At home we would call an exterminator and have them come out and take a look. In Mendoza we will do the same. The big difference will be my mastery of the Spanish language. Given my current abilities with the language I am not sure what will happen – the only guarantee is that I will call what I think is an exterminator in the phone book and ask them to spray for hormiga. Assuming all goes well we will be rid of the ants. If it doesn’t go well, I will have a year’s supply of Hormel products.

Random note of the day: A hot dog (in a bun) is called a “Pancho” the best hot dog place in the section of town where we live is called Pancho Villa – essentially a nice house for hot dogs. So, here is the random part – when I mentioned that Pancho Villa was the rebel general of the Mexican Revolution the response I got from the person who pointed it out was: “You must be mistaken”. It wouldn’t be the first time that my memory of history was wrong, but I really feel like I have this one right. Off I go to buy a book on Mexican history, in Spanish of course.

Buenos Tardes

Friday, February 10, 2006

Mia is fearless

Mia is having her first swimming lesson even as I write -- again technology is amazing me. Anyway, after about two minutes on the kicking board Abel, her teacher, went deeper in the pool to get something -- next thing you know Amelia has grabbed the kicking board and jumped off the side - solo!

Being the proud father that I am -- I had to add photos and a blog to the event. Enjoy the photos!

The Randomness of My Life

It has been one of those weeks when I am really left wondering about why things happen like they do. Earlier this week Janalee and I were walking to our friend Michael’s casa when I started taking a closer look at the church that is on our route. That is when it hit me that the church we have been walking past for a week is a Mormon church. Perhaps not that significant to everyone who reads this post, but to someone who grew up in Utah it is pretty surprising to move half way across the world to live down the street from a Mormon church.

If that wasn’t enough the next morning (morning being a relative time period that happens before afternoon) I was having a muffin at Deli City (the only place in town that sells muffins), and I was talking to the manager, a great guy named Guillermo. I asked him about his Klein t-shirt (Klein makes bicycles and I want to buy one). With my Spanish being what it is, he thought I asked him if he ever lived in the U.S. (t-shirt/U.S. – my Spanish is obviously coming right along). Anyway, Guillermo ended up telling me that he had lived in Provo, Utah for six years – not more than 10 miles from where I grew up. Seems kind of strange to have so many ties to my youth when I am so far away from Utah (in so many ways).

In a similar vein, this week I ended up at the only Mendoza bookstore (called a librería) that sells books in English. The place was full of people from the States – the funniest part was watching all of us trying to ignore each other. None of us wanted to have our Mendoza experience tainted by others from the States. With the peak of tourist season upon us, we all are going to have to get used to running into each other quite a bit. A note to potential visitors – if you want to avoid folks from the states you are going to have to come during the winter (our winter, not yours) – otherwise this place is crazy with gringos.

To cap it off, we have hired a Spanish teacher (professor de Espanol) whose English is impeccable. In fact, if you heard him speak you would guess he was from Missouri -- which is to say that his English is better than mine (needless to say his Spanish is better than mine as well). No randomness here -- but I did want to say that Janalee is the teacher's pet. So much so that we had to split up our lessons (we were learning together) because I couldn't stand being the slow student in a class of two. I have included Dario's (the Spanish teacher) photograph to the left (izquerda). He is a great guy -- it's Jan that is bugging me -- she gave him an apple today. How far will she go?

Like so many of my posts this one has no point – or perhaps the point is that it is a small world – very small.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

We Host An Asado

We have been in our house for a week and we have already had our first Asado, not to be confused with Asadha the fourth month of the year on the Hindu calendar. An Asado is essentially a barbeque with three substantial differences:

1. The meat is cooked over a wood fire and it is cooked for between an hour and ninety minutes. I didn’t actually cook – my first time and all – but the cooking took place on my parilla (grill).
2. No one in their right mind starts to cook an Asado before 9:00 PM. While men in the U.S. are slaving away over a hot grill in the hottest part of the day, our Argentine counterparts have it all figured out and cook during the coolest part of the day. The hottest part of the day is reserved for the pool. And, I have to tell you that drinking wine with the fine cuts of meat you have at an Asado was far better than standing over a hot grill in the middle of the day.
3. As far as I can tell there are no vegetables at an Asado – just lomo de carne, lomo de cerdo and chorizo (basically beef, pork and sausage).

But, I digress – this post is about our Asado. We had a great time hosting our first Asado. The great friends we have made in Mendoza together with amazing meat (all varieties) made for a memorable day. I forgot to mention that they deliver helado here (imagine, ice cream delivered to your home at 11:00 PM). Now, that is what I call a great finish to the day!

That is it for me today -- I am off to explore the wonders of siesta.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

January's Food and Wine Recommendations

Since a big part of our reason for coming to Mendoza was to enjoy the local wine-making culture and experience the fine food in the region, we have decided to add a monthly update on eating and drinking in Mendoza. Sort of our recommendations of the best of Mendoza. Besides, needing to write in the blog about the best food and wine, is a good excuse to taste the best wines and eat at the best restaurants.

Our favorite wine this month is Gimenez Rilli Perpetuum Merlot. We drank some of the 2003 vintage last night, and it was just amazing. It has an incredibly fruity flavor with notes of cherries and raspberries and a smooth finish (yes, Janalee wrote that part). We wouldn't normally pick up a Merlot (we have seen Sideways seven times after all), but this one was muy rico. It is available in the states, but on a limited basis -- if you see it, buy it. Or, you can buy it through VinoTourism -- the link is to right.

Our favorite restaurant of the month is 1884 Frances Mallman. Probably one of the best meals we have ever had. Between the Suckling Pig, the Sirloin and Amelia's favorite, the Chocolate Addiction, this meal was amazing. They don't start seating until 10:00 PM (the traditional dinner hour here in Mendoza) but it is worth staying out late to eat at this place. And, the price can't be beat (thanks to the exchange rate). Our total bill came to about $40 (US) per person for seven including appetizers, meals and desserts as well as plenty of really good wine.

So far our eating experience is far outstripping my desire to get in shape – my excuse is that I am still on vacation. The only question remaining is how long I can continue to use the excuse.

That is it for January’s Gastronomic update – next month best bar food (not that we go to bar’s regularly) and perhaps a white wine.