PaR Cooked

we need a catchy title….

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It seems fitting that Rachel’s last post would be about leaves unfurling from their winter hideouts and flowers showing off to world as I write my first post in what feels like forever.  In many ways I too feel like I am “springing.”  The air is not jasmine scented and there are no beautiful petals tucked behind my ear.  Still, I am here.  In this space.  Both on the blog and in life.  This fall has been more intense than I ever planned, but, perhaps foolishly, I feel like I have turned a corner.  My spring is coming.  A new birth.

Since late summer every spare moment I have had has been spent following online classes towards getting my real estate license.  Online test, after online quiz followed by driving back and forth to the mainline for in-person testing.  Followed by some of the most boring and depressing proctored testing sights in Harrisburg and Allentown, I am done!  While it doesn’t seem like it should be such a big deal, people do it all the time…doing it while still having one child home half days, after school programs out the wazoo, Otto in full allergy shot mode (ie: 2 plus hours a week sitting in waiting rooms with both kids!) and still trying to maintain a clean house and feed all of us three meals a day, it has been a bit much.  Not to mention I volunteer on a few boards which this year have upped the weekly meeting time I attend.  Did I mention in all of this I also was painting my neighbors never ending grand entrance and hallway?  Yeah, kind of insane.  But, as of yesterday, all of that is done!!!  Now I just need to sell some houses.  My license officially will arrive later the month at which point I can actually start.  But I am still in training mode with the broker.  I am hoping to start slow and only work when Mette is in school so for now, just getting all the school work and test out of the way is a huge deal.

This afternoon is the first time since Mette started school in September that I have had a chance to sit and do my own activity while she is at school.  I have dinner prepped, meals laid out for the next few days and a shopping list for what I need.  I feel more prepared than I have in months.  It’s kind of amazing.  That’s not to say that the backlog of stuff that I have pushed to the back burner isn’t chanting in the background of every thought, but now at least I feel like I might actually get to some of those things.  Next week.  Mette and I have a playdate tomorrow morning and I don’t actually have plans for friday.


While Rachel is basking in warm sun, longer days and SPRING!  I am taking this time to slow down.  I have been baking bread again now that it is cold enough to make me want to run the oven all afternoon.  I pulled a roast from the freezer and am planning the first pot roast of the season.  There are many nights of roasted root vegetables in various forms on our menu.  After a summer of not being able to knit much because my arms and hands hurt too much (don’t say the CT word, I am not prepared for that) I have slowly picked up the needles again and am making my way through a sweater for Mette.  I will admit a big motivator to ramping up my knitting again is I need a good reason to buy yarn while in Montevideo because I have been dreaming about it since the first time Rachel went and brought me home goodies.


On that note, we are headed to the land of sunny Rachel and clan in 41 days.  That seems entirely too awesome.  I can’t wait.  Along with shoving as much yarn in my suitcase as possible, I am hoping to soak up enough sun to make it through the cold of February.  It’s a good goal.


For the next post I promise yummy treats and less complaining.  Cold weather is for cooking and I am hoping to share.


The Long Wait for Spring

I’ve been waiting for spring.  At least that’s what I’ve been doing I wasn’t confused about the seasons and waiting for fall. I know I’m supposed to be worldly, and I totally understand hemispheres and stuff, but it seems my brain simply cannot simultaneously accept snowmen on the bulletin board at school and July or discussions of Halloween parties and spring. Sometimes I get so confused that I end up thinking it’s June, a month that makes no sense in either hemisphere.

At home we’ve now lived in our town on our block in our house for long enough that I don’t have to wait for spring with blind hope and frantic uncertainty. There will be some week in February when, hunched against the wind, I’ll look down to see the bare earth pushed up by the points of snowdrops and I’ll feel my back start to unfurl with anticipation. Soon there will be beams of sunlight foiling the blackout curtains in our bedroom, poking my eyes awake at unrealistically early hours. The irises in Phoebe’s alley, which always bloom weeks before the ones in my backyard, will remind me to clear away the winter mulch from our flower bed.

In Montevideo I’m clueless, so I’ve been waiting for spring ever since we arrived in the middle of July when it was grey, damp, and unpleasant; but never cold enough for everything to die. Some trees held their leaves all winter and a few plants continued to grow and even flower. The kids were singing songs about snow at school and talking about what they did over winter vacation, which somehow only added to my general seasonal confusion.

Many streets and parks in Montevideo are lined with large trunked trees whose branches spread wide over sidewalk and street. It was thrilling to imagine how lush the city would look when more than just a few were fully alive. A month ago buds finally appeared on bare branches. On cold days the wind off the water, while still bitter, felt less vengeful. Two weeks later the buds were still there, still tightly wrapped in a brown outer layer with only a hint of green showing. The kids had spring vacation, celebrated spring with parties at school, and brought home bean germinators. Asparagus, lettuce, and flowers started showing up at the markets. All sure signs of the coming spring.

Days of rain came, which I thought would cause everything to burst open into a mass of green, but only managed to produce a light green haze around some of the trees. Around then I started thinking about Halloween and the girl’s birthday, got confused and stopped looking for signs of spring in every plant I passed.

Then one day last week, when rushing down the block on a sunny day, late as usual to pick up the girl, I stopped short.  Where there was usually sun a patch of gently swaying shade had formed. I looked up into a canopy of bright green fully formed leaves. All up and down the street it was the same. The air plants tucked into cracks and crevices of trees had shot out purple and pink flowers. There were more people outside, as if they too had finally pushed out of their late-winter coverings to run free. From our kitchen window the tops of trees looked like the round, green puffs of children’s illustrations. Here was spring at last.

Here and there were pockets of air heavy with the scent of Jasmine flowers, a smell that no matter how many times I smell it remains unfamiliar and thrilling.  And there was one scent that was familiar, though entirely unexpected: Lilacs.  I thought I smelled them on the walk to school, but seeing no bushes decided I must be imagining it. Then the next day, overpowering the ever-present smell of the guard dogs’ feces from across the street, there it was again, strong and persistent. I looked left and right and then, with nowhere else to look, up into the branches of a huge tree. Among the green leaves and pale brown berries were purple lilac-like blooms hanging down.  Apparently these trees, Melia azedarachs, grow in parts of the United States, but I had never seen or smelled them before. They are a popular tree here and entire blocks are sometimes lined with them, but I pass the standalone one on the way to school most regularly. As I go by I give it a little nod of recognition and take a moment to look up and see the familiar and the unfamiliar growing from the same roots.

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There is no long-standing cultural tradition of Halloween in Uruguay. According to our neighbor, it started gaining popularity here about ten years ago, mostly through American movies. More than one person told us that people still don’t know what to do with Halloween here, which seemed to be true. The best answer we could get about when trick or treating started or where kids went to trick or treat or how Halloween worked at all, was that it depended.  Depended on the school, on the neighborhood, on the apartment building, on the family.

Halloween is not a large enough holiday here to be sanctioned by the commercial powers at the upscale shopping mall down the street from us. Stores had small sections of decorations and costumes that appeared in the week or two before Halloween and then disappeared immediately after to make room for Christmas.  The mall itself devoted no energy to the holiday, unless you count the giant white sheets hung three stories high in the main entrance to hide construction on the intricate and highly anticipated Christmas display.

Sparse decorations and little recognition were not the case at the kids’ school.  There it appeared that they had been hoarding the country’s meager supply of Halloween decorations and trying to make up for all the Halloweenless years previous Uruguayan children had endured. Every wall was festooned with cobwebs, spiders, paper jack-o-lanterns, and happy halloween banners. The doorways were draped in orange plastic streamers that had be pushed aside like beaded curtains. The boy’s class celebrated Halloween by spending the English portion of the day in a costume party where kids came dressed as characters from Monsters High, ghosts, witches, devils, and zombies. They played elaborate Halloween-themed games, including one where the teachers, dressed as ghosts, changed colors depending on what they ate.  The children walked around the neighborhood singing songs and trick-or-treating at prearranged locations. The boy came home with a belly full of Halloween-themed cookies (he remembered eating at least eight) and a bag of candy almost as large as he earns during an entire night of trick-or-treating at home, though with fewer (if any) choice candies for parental sampling.

Since the school party was ghost, witch and zombie themed, the girl’s class skipped the festivities. Instead, a couple of weeks ago, they had a spring-themed costume party where they performed a song and dance for the rest of the school. Spring-themed costume parties may not be a cultural tradition in the United States, but count me as an early adopter. Take a moment to imagine the utter cuteness of 18 two- and three-year-olds milling around dressed as ladybugs, gardeners, bees, kites, and bunnies, and I think you’ll find yourself quickly climbing aboard this bandwagon.

In the evening, we saw a few kids out in costumes, but where they stopped to trick or treat was haphazard. We all longed for the orderly system of outside lights in the Burg, which let trick-or-treaters know, without a doubt, where they are welcome. Taking our children to the streets to ring doorbells at random seemed ill-advised and exhausting. However, our morning portero had very kindly gotten the boy and the girl each a generous bag of candy.  We walked over to the nearby building where he works the evening shift to show off costumes, collect candy, give him some Halloween themed drawings, and get a trick-or-treating fix. As we walked, passersby reacted with surprise to see a small ghost and a mummy charging down the sidewalk before they remembered what day it was.

Of course, the kids didn’t want Halloween to end and they definitely wanted more trick-or-treating, but they were also hungry and tired and we had nowhere else to go. We tried pointing out that between the bag from school and the bag from our portero there was enough candy to last Nathan and I the children several weeks, but it was a message from Phoebe, that it was rainy and cold back home, that finally gave us all license to call it a day. The kids ate dinner, recalled the highs and lows of this Halloween, argued unsuccessfully for just one more piece of candy, and, at the last moment before bed, finally relinquished their costumes.