Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. I love the lights, the Christmas tree, gift giving and receiving, the joy that seems to fill the air...

This is the first year I have spent Christmas in Ecuador and it was very different from the Christmas I am used to back in the States. In the US we wake up early, open stockings, have breakfast, open presents, then relax in the morning and have Christmas dinner in the afternoon.

Here, we headed to dinner around 8:39 and ate at 9:30 with Aida and her family and some of our expat friends. It was a wonderful turkey dinner with potatoes, salad, avocado, and a bit of champagne. Aida made a delicious fruit cake for dessert. We talked with friends and Arturo, Kesha and I crashed around 10:30 and were home by 11:00 and in bed by 11:30. We did nothing on Christmas day, and that was the extent of our Christmas.

Very different from what I'm used to, but it was nice to be close to family and friends here in Cuenca.

Two Weeks With Family and Friends

Our two weeks in the US flew by! We had a wonderful time!

We visited friends
Aunt Lisa and Aunt Kelsey with Kesha

 Kesha meeting Caleb (my friend Carolyn's little boy)

Spent time with family
Auntie Kayla with Kesha

Nana and Kesha playing the piano

Nana and Kesha looking at Christmas lights

Kesha and Grandpa playing with Frosty

And went on adventures
On the Amtrak train to Bellingham

 The view from the train window on the way to Bellingham
Our winter walk looking at leaves
Bellevue Botanical Gardens Christmas lights

Visiting Santa

We miss our friends and family back in Seattle and had a wonderful time, but we are happy to be home. Merry Christmas everyone and wishing you the best in 2011!

Back in the USA

On December 9th Kesha and I hopped on a plane back to Seattle for a visit.

Visiting where you come from is always bittersweet. There are so many things about the States (specifically the Seattle area) that I miss... the specialty shops selling fancy olive oils, vinegars, spices, wines, pastries, amazing coffee shops around every corner, the seasons, the rain (even though I whined the entire time I was home about it), and, of COURSE my friends and family are at top the list!

But there are so many things I love about Ecuador and it is hard to be away from my family there. It was Kesha and my first time away from Arturo since she was born, and it was hard (although I had lots of help from my mom and dad which was wonderful!).

Kesh slept 8 out of the 12 hours we spent in an airplane, and zoomed through the airports with me in Miami and St. Paul like a champ! And while mom almost had a nervous breakdown because there was so much turbulence on our flight from Guayaquil to Miami (everyone, including cabin staff, was seated for 3 out of the 4 hours we were flying due to strong turbulence... darn Tungurahua and its eruptions!), she napped away... She is really quite the little traveler! I'm such a proud mama!

We arrived in Seattle late at night and my dad met us at Sea-Tac. He was waiting for us outside of the elevator in baggage claim. When he saw her he said "hi" and she smiled SO big! It was wonderful! I couldn't think of a better way for the two of them to meet.

It took us a short while to get home then it was time to surprise mom...

We arrived in the house, sat on the couch, and dad work mom up. She was beside herself to see us sitting there. It was so much fun to see her and for her to see us!

Should be a fun two weeks!

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Videos Starring Ms. Kesha Lee

Now Playing: Chatting With Daddy

Now Playing: I Can Hold on to my Butterfly, but Can't Quite Get it in my Mouth (so I Put my Hand in my Mouth Instead)

Now Playing: Christmas Decorations Excite me to the Point Where I Choke

Monday, November 29, 2010

Another Video for Nana and Grandpa

Now Showing: I can hold things, but am not sure why I'm holding them 
or how to get them out of my hand.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


It comes every 10 years, the Ecuadorian national census (censo).
It is much more involved than the US census, from the questions that are asked to the method of data collection.

Here's how it works here...
They send 700,000 high school students out to all of the neighborhoods in the country with pencils, erasers, and census booklets. If the students are sent to a "safe" neighborhood their only protection is the teacher who accompanies a group of 5 or so students. The teacher waits outside while the students enter the homes that they were assigned (Note: According to my in laws, the last time did a census here 3 students were murdered). If they are sent to the "dangerous" neighborhoods there is a police officer or military personnel stationed every block. The students are not provided food, beverages, or bathroom facilities by the government and it is obligatory that they do this (i.e. they are not paid). I think we, as residents of Ecuador, should speak out against this.

They enter the home and ask many questions of the head of the household, including conditions of the home, where we get the water from our home, to do we have a phone and internet.. Then they continue on to ask each individual family member a series of questions that ranged from "do you work, and if so how many hours?" to "where were you born?" to "do you have insurance?", etc. Being that we are a 6 person household this took our poor interviewer 45 minutes. They have to hand write all of the answers on a form that has to be manually reviewed and compiled.

We can leave the house at 5 if we'd like to, so until then we're relaxing and watching movies.

Cangrejo (Caan-grey-hoe)

Cangrejo. Pronounced caan-grey-hoe.
Also known as crab, or my husband's favorite food.
Cooked correctly, it is his Kryptonite.

No one makes your favorite food like mom, and today Chela was in full cangrejo cooking mode.
We headed out to the feria libre around 9 and bought 24 brightly colored, Ecuadorian blue crabs.
We went in search of the perfect platanos verdes (green plantains), albaca (basil), and limes to add to the dish. Then we were headed home to clean and prepare the creaturas for cooking.

Chela and Arturo scrubbed the live crabs with toothbrushes until all of the dirt was off (I think Arturo only got pinched twice. Chela didn't get pinched at all. She's a pro. But don't worry, Arturo got his revenge.), while Kesha and I watched intently discussing the colors found on the crabs' bodies (thrilling conversation topic, I know).

Once washed, the crabs were stashed in a laundry hamper until the chefess was ready for the next phase. I missed this phase due to a much needed diaper change for Kesh, but I returned to find the crabs in the sink. When I asked if they were dead Arturo said no. When I said, "oh, so they're alive", he also said no. So, I have no idea if the crabs in this photo are dead or alive...

Randy and Karen arrived to partake in the crab luncheon.

The caldo was prepared, crabs tossed in, salad distributed, table set, juice made...

Then the crabs were devoured...

Great lunch!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving, far away from home, yet full of friends and family

I loved this year's Thanksgiving experience!
I have been in many countries for Thanksgiving (England, Argentina, Australia, and Ecuador), however, my 2010 Ecuador experience takes the cake.

Normally, my mom cooks our TDay dinner, or we do it potluck style with the extended family. This year, we did potluck style, but I had to pull out my cooking magic, making "pumpkin" pie (really squash pie, but you could hardly tell the difference), sweet potato casserole, gravy, whipped cream, and biscuits from SCRATCH (plus I made coffee, cooked green bean, and helped clean and decorate... and with a three month old to take care of... go momma go!)

Karen and Rand made the turkey, which was AMAZING! They insist that there is no recipe, but we'll get it out of them! Tresa and Edd brought apple pie, pecan pie, and ice cream (the pecan pie was heavenly! I didn't try the apple pie, I was too full, but I'm assuming it was incredible as well! The rest of the guests brought whiskey and wine.

It was a very fun evening with a wonderful mix of extranjeros and Ecuadorians. I missed my family back home, but am thankful to have had such wonderful people by my side here in Cuenca.

Here are some photos from the evening's festivities (although most of them are blurry because I took tem with my phone's camera), and links to the recipes I used.

Hoping everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Making the "pumpkin" pie

Miss grumpy pants helping set up.

The dessert table set-up

The buffet table set-up

The turkey

Part of the Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, sweet potato casserole, and green beans)

Ricardo carving the turkey

Karen, Lorena, and Tresa

Johana, Cristobal, Arturo, Randy, and Ricardo chowing down

 Gladys and Karen

The boys... Arturo, Ricardo, Juanacho, and Cristobal

Graciela and Gladys

 People serving themselves (look at that great salad made by Alex and Johanna!)

Karen and Kesha

 Julie, Alex and Ricardo's daughter


 Edd and Jannie (Karen and Randy's friend who lives in Loja and came to celebrate with us!)

Cristobal, Kesha, and Johanna

 Graciela, Kesha, and Johanna