Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Scenes from a Brunch: Get Fresh

We visited New York twice in December and, apocalyptic snowstorm notwithstanding, I could get used to frequent weekend jaunts to the Big Apple, especially for the eats. When we were there a few weeks ago, we rallied a bunch of Brooklyn friends for brunch - not really that difficult, considering all of the delicious options. On Bri's recommendation we settled on Get Fresh, which was particularly handy as a) Bri lives just a couple of blocks from the restaurant, b) I was sleeping in her spare room, and c) I was oh-so-slightly hungover. Coffee and eggs in close proximity were critical, and Get Fresh did not disappoint.

I ate huevos rancheros, which I cannot resist ordering when I see them on a menu. They were simple and delicious, and I was reminded that I should really make them more often at home. I also managed to sample the Louisiana crab cakes, steak and eggs, and french toast, and all satisfied. Get Fresh is a lovely space with covetable solid wooden farm tables, and overflowing with equally-covetable cookbooks. They graciously seated our group of 8, or maybe 10 (we lost count), including babies and toddlers and their various accoutrements, and kept the coffee flowing. An afternoon of manicures and pre-Christmas shopping in Park Slope made me extra-miss living in Brooklyn, and reminded me that it sure is handy to have a boyfriend whose family lives in a place you love.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Benjamin Eitan Farkash

I'd like you to meet Benjamin.

Benjamin's mom, D, is one of my besties, and she and Benjamin's dad asked me to be with them while he was born. They even asked me to cut his umbilical cord, which is pretty much the highest of all honours. Benjamin arrived, amid much laughter and general merriment, on Friday night, which meant I didn't even have to miss work to meet him. How considerate!

I expect we'll be seeing a lot more of him around here (and here, too). And if I may, I highly recommend holding a newborn baby as many times in your life as you can. It's breathtaking.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Amazing Race Part Deux: Roneni

Remember waaay back when, in April of 2007, when I abandoned all sense of reason and hopped on a plane from New York to Toronto, and then defied all speed limits on the 401 to arrive in Kitchener just in time for a certain very sweet boy's birth?

Well, it's time again for an Amazing Race to welcome a new baby - this one will just involve a bus (and probably some running) to get to Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, where my lovely friend Sparkly D is labouring with her first child - a boy! - as I write this.

I can't wait to meet the little guy.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The (Crab) Apple Saga, Part 2: I Think I Can, I Think I Can

Alternative titles for this post: "We Can Do It," "Yes We Can," and "I Think, Therefore I Can."

Apologies, Dear Reader, for the delay in continuing this tale of love, lust, and the quest for rare and exotic fruits. We took a day off today and went to the beach. Can you blame us? Yesterday at 4 p.m. the thermometer hit 37°C (99°F). Lake Huron beckoned, and did not disappoint.

Anyway, when we last left the story, our misidentified fruit had been cast aside and the search for Genuine! The Real Thing! Do Not Be Fooled By Cheap Imitation! crab apples continued. Our Lady Friends went back to the (obviously blind and probably also stupid, I mean, duh, who doesn't know what a crab apple looks like?!?) Mennonites to berate them for their ignorance regarding crab apple identification. After more driving around K-Dubs we hit paydirt in St. Jacob's in the form of a vendor who said she'd bring us a bushel of crab apples on the next market day. Sure enough, she did, and I toted that sack of crab apples across the parking lot so I could deliver it back to the Ladies for their jelly-making endeavours.

In the unlikely case that you should ever need to identify crab apples, here is what one of the (two, I think) varieties looks like:

[Pause for discussion. Discussion point #1: Crab apples are heavy. They're about the size of cherries, only much harder and denser, and I can only assume heavier (although, full disclosure, I've never carried a bushel of cherries anywhere). Discussion point #2: As far as I can tell, the only use for crab apples is to make crab apple jelly, which is why most of people with crab apple trees in their yards just let the fruit fall and rot, because it turns out making crab apple jelly is extremely time-consuming and, depending on who you talk to, a giant pain in the ass.]

And finally, what became of our rejected non-crab apple apples? I'm glad you asked: I made good on my promise to turn lemons into lemonade, or in this case, to turn unwanted apples into applesauce.

I mean, how could I not? The total cost to me was $7 for a new peeler (I got blisters anyway - that was a lot of apples) and $2 for a box of jars at a garage sale. That's $9 for 15 jars (some huge!) of unsweetened applesauce. Let's not talk about how much applesauce costs at the grocery store, please, because I'm pretty sure it's going to mean my time is worth about $2/hr.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The (Crab) Apple Saga, Part 1: A Drive in the Country

It all started last Thursday when I somehow got roped into driving into the country to a Mennonite farm (past Conestogo, for those of you familiar with Waterloo's surrounding areas) to pick up a bushel (or a half-bushel? I don't know, but it was a lot) of crab apples for a couple of my favourite ladies, one of whom (Lady #1) came along for the ride. The drive, it should be mentioned, involved several additional stops at other Mennonite produce stands and the like, and then a detour through St. Jacob's to Heidelberg, just to "see if they have Concord grapes." I briefly wondered whether a phone call might be more efficient than a 15-minute detour to suss out such information, but decided to let that one go.

Anyway, an hour later, we arrived home with heaps of fruity goodness. I carted it all down to the basement to await its canning fate, when Lady #2 (the older and ornerier of the pair) came down to inspect the goods. She picked a crab apple out of one of the (three full) bags and looked at it. Critically.

"These are not crab apples."

"Oh, hm, OK. Do you want me to take them back or something?"

(Tossing the apple back into the bag in disgust.) "These are not crab apples."

"OK, well, all of this only cost $7, so maybe we could do something else with them, and get crab apples somewhere else?"

(Shaking head.) "These are not crab apples." (Mumbling in disgust.) "How could a Mennonite farmer not know what a crab apple is?"

At this point, Gentle Reader, the euphoric effects of my recent country drive had worn off, and not only was I faced with an abundance of rejected non-crab apple apples, I was late for my lunch date. So I did what any over-committing person in my position would have done: I vowed to take the lemons (read: non-crab apple apples) that life (read: an ignorant Mennonite farmer) had handed us, and make lemonade (read: applesauce).

Stay tuned for The (Crab) Apple Saga, Part 2, in which our protagonist visits at least two farmers' markets in search of the elusive produce, and turns rejected fruit into your Christmas present.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Little Red, Juliette Lewis, and Round Sprinkles

The big news this week is that our car, which will henceforth be known as Little Red, is road-worthy! Little Red is the most basic of basic cars: a 2005 Toyota Echo two-door hatchback, standard transmission, no AC or power anything. She's very clean and very shiny, and so far her only noteworthy problem is that the passenger window doesn't roll down all the way.

Next up: Quiz time! What do Juliette Lewis and I have in common? Answer: Our birthdays are both June 21, and we have both banged (or wanted to bang) Brad Pitt. And, we were both at the Starlight Social Club last Monday night. I'll leave determining which one of us was wearing a leopard-print catsuit as an exercise for the reader.

And finally, please let us talk about round, or ball, sprinkles. I LOVE THEM. They are just so superior to their stick-shaped cousins. A little bit of sprinkle trivia, for the curious amongst us: Round sprinkles are called non-pareils, and stick sprinkles are called Jimmies. I want to love the Jimmies just for their name, but the round ones are so satisfyingly pretty and crunchy. And they're everywhere in Canada, including on Tim Horton's vanilla-dipped rainbow-sprinkle doughnuts, and mixed into President's Choice Sprinkle Party Cake ice cream. Delish.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Probably a Huge Improvement

We arrived in Waterloo last Monday to welcoming toddlers and seniors and deliciously hot and sticky summer weather. During our first week as Canadian residents we had two job interviews, bought a car, baked a wedding cake, and drove six hours to Ottawa (and eight hours back; see also: scenic route). We've eaten Ontario's best summer produce: insanely juicy peaches, tiny, bursty wild blueberries, and the sweetest of sweet corns (from Herrles, natch). Ken has already been recruited by a frisbee team, and we've both started swimming lessons at a nearby community centre.

Of course, we're still adjusting. Even though the days are technically longer here, we'd grown quite accustomed to the long nights in Buenos Aires. Canadians are certainly friendly, but they don't gesture (or curse) nearly as frequently or enthusiastically as their Argentine counterparts. We love being back in the land of cheap and plentiful maple syrup, but dulce de leche is a little more scarce in these parts. And we're still finding and gathering our people, and missing our most-excellent friends in Argentina.

Last night we had Canadian-Chinese takeout (yes, that is a thing), and my fortune read, "Today is probably a huge improvement over yesterday." I'm not sure that's true yet, but we'll get there. Probably.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mundial 2010

When we were booking our flights back to Canada, yes, those ones, the ones where we move to Canada, to live, we had a few factors to consider in choosing our return date. Ken wanted to finish his frisbee season and I wanted to finish fixing my knee, and of course we wanted to maximize our consumption of cheap steak and wine.

And then there was the World Cup. Eight years ago I watched a World Cup game at 4 a.m. in a Korean BBQ restaurant in NYC. In 2006 I may have snuck out of work on occasion to watch a game (...sorry, Kate) at the local pub with a few other truant souls. But nothing can compare to the experience we've had here in Argentina in the past month.

During Argentina's games, the streets were empty. Every time the team scored, we muted our TV and opened the windows to hear whoops of joy (and the occasional vuvuzela) from our enthusiastic neighbours. We watched games with friends, in bars, in parks, and sometimes in our pajamas in bed. We smiled when we saw festive white and sky blue stripes decorating every window and balcony in the city. We made pancakes and toasted the selección with Bloody Marys. And we understood completely when our porteño friend described the national team as "an illness" for Argentines.

We also rooted for the United States, and even England, and donned orange shirts for the Spain-Holland final. But we stayed in Buenos Aires to cheer for Argentina, and we caught the fever, too, the one that makes your heart beat a little faster when you see Maradona kissing his rosary on the sidelines and feel a little bit bursty when you watch Messi deftly handle the ball through half a dozen defenders. It's the fever that makes you root extra hard for Carlitos Tevez when he's barreling down the field 85 minutes into the game, with just as much energy as he'd had only 5 mintues in, and cheer a little bit louder when Palermo scores his usual goal when he's subbed in with only 15 minutes left in the game.

And no matter where we're watching in 2014, our hearts will be with the selección. Vamos Argentina!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The First Day

After celebrating 34 June 21sts in the Northern Hemisphere and one drinking coconut water on a beach in Brazil, a girl gets kind of used to summery weather on her birthday. I'm quite sure this is the first time I've worn mittens to the party. It's also the first time I've had mate on my birthday, not to mention choripán, medialunas, and a conversation in Spanish, and if the tradeoff is that I have to bundle up a little, I'll take it.

Happy Solstice everyone, whether you're celebrating the first day of summer or the first day of winter. I'll be celebrating the first day of being 36. So far, so good.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Scenes From A Brunch: bBlue

One of the first things I did when I arrived back in Buenos Aires was email Norma to arrange brunch. In fact, our Sunday brunch tradition is one of my new Favourite Buenos Aires Activities (tm). This morning we met at bBlue, one of about a zillion new organic-slash-brunch joints located in - you guessed it! - Palermo.

Confusingly, bBlue's weekend menu doesn't include the same breakfast fare they offer on weekdays, however, you can order toast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (yes, please), and a regular lunch menu of sandwiches and salads. Happily, the aforementioned scrambled eggs bruschetta and our grilled veggie salad (with goat cheese! hooray for goat cheese!) were both delicious, and bBlue's prices are quite reasonable. As an added bonus, the coffee is strong, and I do like to kick off Sunday afternoon with a strong cup of coffee.

For the record, I won't turn down a glass of Malbec, either.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where in the World is Gillian?

I know, I can't keep up, either.

Monday morning I arrived back in Buenos Aires. Despite only an hour time-difference, I blame jetlag for my tiredness since I've arrived. Strangely, it's fall here. Strangely, I lost five whole hours of daylight. FIVE HOURS. Per day! Canada may be cold, but its northernness has some benefits. Strangely, I have already shifted from waking up to the sound of toddlers (or, as I like to call them, Nature's alarm clocks) at 7 a.m., to dining at 10 p.m. and sleeping until 10 a.m.

I've been all hedgy about writing our plans and things regarding our whereabouts here, because the Internet has stalkers and predators! And also, what if someone thinks that my plans might have any validity at all? We've already discussed that. Finally, I've started to think about ways I might convince someone to give me money in exchange for goods and/or services, and I certainly don't want to deter any potential offers by mentioning that I might be moving to India next Tuesday.

My recent sojourn to Canada wasn't all babies and bacon and cakes and kitties. I also did some investigation into housing in the Waterloo region. Because, yes, we're planning* to move to Canada, and it appears that starting in September, we'll be renting an entire house. With a driveway and an upstairs and a downstairs and a backyard and even a front yard. And laundry. And, get this, a deep freeze, which means that we can play Communist Russia and stock up on meat every time it goes on sale at Zehrs.

To further aid in our transition to suburbia, I signed up to collect points at Shopper's Drug Mart and Petro-Canada. Apparently suburbanites love to collect points, and stores love to reward loyal shoppers with points. City people always say that life in the suburbs is boring, but that sounds just like a video game to me!

All this is to say, if I missed you while I was in Southern Ontario, I'll make it up to you with a backyard barbeque in September. You guys in NY are invited, too. If everything goes according to plan, we'll have plenty of room for guests.

*The usual caveats apply.

P.S. I'm not moving to India next Tuesday. Probably.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

7 Days to Domesticity

I arrived in Waterloo last week and took up residence in my BFF's basement. I wake up daily at 7 a.m. to the sound of kids having breakfast (unfortunately, toddlers don't come with snooze buttons). I drive around the 'burbs in a station wagon with child safety seats in the back, and at lunchtime I let the dog out in the yard. I unload the dishwasher. I know who Fireman Sam is.

To think, a few months ago I thought Bolivia was surreal.

I also thought that climbing mountains was exhausting, but even hiking to 4600m is nothing compared to preparing for (and attending) a 1- and 3-year-olds' birthday party.

I was pretty sure that Salvador de Bahía, Brazil, was the happiest place in the world, but that was before I attended a toddler music class. Pure joy, people. Pure joy.

And I didn't know anything could compare to the natural beauty of glaciers and penguins at the end of the world, but Springtime in Southwestern Ontario might just be in the running.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Scenes From A Brunch: Oui Oui

I think I could get used to summer in January, and even winter in July.

But I can't quite wrap my head around fall in April. While all of you in the Northern Hemisphere are breaking out your skipping ropes and sandals, down here we're putting away our summer dresses and digging out sweaters and jackets. While you're finding early-season berries at the farmer's market, we're thinking about root vegetables and hearty stews.

And while you're watching the whole world blossom, we're watching the leaves fall.

Last week it rained steadily for three days, and I don't think the temperature went much above 15°C. But on the weekend there was plenty of sunshine, and at one point on Sunday the thermometer read 27°C. Maybe I could get used to this kind of fall weather, especially when there's Sunday brunch involved - this week at Oui Oui in Palermo Hollywood.

Are you sensing a trend here? On Sunday afternoons, Palermo Hollywood is the neighbourhood in Buenos Aires to find a Sunday brunch worthy of New York's Upper West Side. And in the case of Oui Oui, by 2 p.m. there's also a queue of hungry locals and visitors - just like you'd find Sunday mornings at any brunch spot on Amsterdam Ave.

While I'm not sure that I'd stand in line for Oui Oui's eggs or bread, their Bloody Mary is worth waiting for. And the potatoes are more delicious than I'd imagined breakfast potatoes could be.

After brunch there were cupcakes, across the tracks at Muma's Cupcakes in Palermo Soho. We sampled La Muma, a yellow cupcake piled high with too-sweet-to-finish passion fruit frosting but charmingly decorated with red fondant stars. At a spendy AR$9 (around $2.35) per cupcake I won't be picking up a dozen anytime soon, but that won't stop me from window shopping--I suspect these beauties would cheer up even the dreariest of fall days.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

DJ G-Money

Our recent spate of visitors means I have come into possession of something more valuable and rare in Buenos Aires than maple syrup, almond butter, and flared jeans: English magazines. (Aside: Skinny jeans were not designed to flatter my body, and harem pants were not designed to flatter anyone's body. At least throw me a boot cut, Buenos Aires! First stop when I get to Canada: the Gap--via Tim Horton's, natch.)

Having English magazines has given me the chance to stop reading celebrity gossip online and instead read a slightly outdated version on paper! What can I say, I like kickin' it old school sometimes. All of this is a very long and convoluted way of telling you that I was reading something about Gwyneth Paltrow and was reminded of her lifestyle (?) website, Goop. I perused, as I'm apt to do, and found lists of party jams, each a playlist of 10 songs recommended by some celebrity or DJ or celebrity DJ.

It should be noted that every time we have a party, Ken is tasked with creating the playlist. The only way I learn about new music is at the gym, which worked in NY where my gym actually had a DJ on Tuesday nights. In Buenos Aires, however, you're most likely to be leave your workout humming "Tarzan Boy" or some phat reggaeton beats. At right: Even I'm not sure that was ever cool, Baltimora.

Much to the surprise of the love of my life, I took an interest in these playlists, and have been downloading them in bits and pieces. (When I described to Ken what I was doing, he said it was akin to me looking up the best clubs in Buenos Aires, which, I can assure you, is not going to happen, unless I'm on the losing end of a very expensive wager). I have now compiled the playlists suggested by Samantha Ronson and DJ AM, I'm halfway into Guy Oseary's 80s playlist, and guys, they all make me want to get down, earnestly and enthusiastically.

In the process of finding these songs I have learned the names of songs I previously liked but couldn't pick out of a lineup, not to mention the value of a good remix. I even feel like my iTunes is slightly less embarrassing.

All of this isn't to say there isn't still a lot of White Girl Music in my repertoire, but after this little exercise, at our next party I may be to thank for more than just the cupcakes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scenes From A Brunch: Tartine

Yesterday, Norma and I resumed our weekly brunching with a visit to Tartine Crêpes & Bakery.

Do you like Sunday brunch as much as I do? Do you like to rub the sleep out of your eyes around noon and tie your hair into a ponytail before venturing out to find a steamy cafe con leche and a plate of eggs, maybe scrambled, with bacon? How about a basket of toasted homemade bread and a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice? Still hungry? Try this pain au chocolate, you won't be disappointed. And oh yes, I'd love a glass of rosé, thank you so much.

Oh, I couldn't eat another bite. But that fruit salad does look delicious. Yogurt with homemade granola? OK, I'll try some. And maybe just a small plate of greens with flax seeds and sun-dried tomatoes, and did you see the cheese plate?

This, friends, is my ideal Sunday brunch, and Tartine delivers, better than anywhere else I've tried in Buenos Aires. It's a friendly, airy space on a quiet corner in Palermo Hollywood, and if you're anything like us, you might not even notice that more than two hours have passed before you think about ordering la cuenta.

The best part? Tartine's Sunday Brunch costs a mere 55 pesos per person (that's less than $15), including that glass of rosé.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

As my very wise yoga teacher used to say, planning is priceless, but plans are useless.

Last March, we planned to live in Buenos Aires for a year.

Then in September we whittled our possessions down to fit (snugly) in two backpacks, and set off for six months of buses and bunk beds.

In January, Fate had other plans for us, and a certain knee injury and its subsequent rehabilitation suggested that we make Buenos Aires our home for a few more months. Ken joined an Ultimate Frisbee team, and was invited to play on another one that might go to Prague in July. And he found work, or rather, work found him, and he's spending around 25 hours per week writing iPhone software. (I spend about that many hours per week playing Scrabble on my iPhone, which unfortunately doesn't pay nearly as well.)

We've talked about extending our stay here indefinitely, but it turns out I can't wait quite that long to see my family (when did I turn into such a softie? Stupid 30s), so on April 27 I'm flying to Canada to bake birthday cakes and wedding cakes and to smother a certain feline with very large amounts of affection.

I booked my (one-way!) ticket last week, and when I clicked the final Purchase button, I teared up: It hit me that this is the first time in what seems like forever that I'll be traveling alone, and I have to tell you, after a year of mostly being within arms' length of someone, you kind of get used to him being around, especially when you like him oh-so-much.

So that's what's going on around here. Ken will stay in BA while I'm gone, and we'll reunite in some hemisphere or other in late May. At this point it seems pointless to make plans that far in advance.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

North America Visits, Volume 2: Leslie & John

Last night we bid farewell to our New York visitors. Leslie and John were our neighbours in Brooklyn, and I was over at their apartment so much that one day my mom asked me if I'd moved in. They arrived in Buenos Aires on Easter Sunday and we kicked six days of carnivorism to be reckoned with. There were four, count 'em, four, visits to Desnivel, during which we consumed approximately eight bifes de lomo, two provoletas, half a dozen empanadas, a chorizo, a panqueque con dulce de leche, and several litres of both Quilmes and Malbec.

Having guests gave us the impetus to do touristy things that even after a year of living here we hadn't done, like walk around the famous and very colourful Caminito in La Boca.

We did other stuff, too, like visit Evita's grave in the Recoleta Cemetary and cheer for River Plate in their home game against Newell's Old Boys (Best. Team name. Ever.). We ate at a new (to us) puerta cerrada restaurant. We shopped for leather goods: Leslie scored in the purse department, and all week I have been enjoying erotic dreams involving these shoes, which are probably meant to be purchased by people who are gainfully employed but I might have to make an exception, because seriously, look at them.

But I digress. Even with all the action and delicious, delicious meat, the best parts of the week were the times when we sat around debating hot topics like Facebook and Lady Gaga and babies and life. We're lucky to know these guys. And yes, maybe we're a little bit glad they're not vegetarian.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

One Year and Sixteen Days

On March 19, 2009, we moved to Buenos Aires. I've already told you about all my favourite Buenos Aires activities, and the list is mostly the same, really. Ken might add playing Ultimate Frisbee to the list (he's now on two different teams and parties practices with them half a dozen times a week) and I might sing the praises of physical therapy (but that's maybe just because it's my current hobby). Leaving is still not among our favourite things to do here, which is probably why we've drawn our stay out beyond the planned year, and still aren't exactly sure when we're returning to North America.

Fortunately, North America is coming to us! Our first guest was my cousin, Katherine, who came from Ottawa for two weeks. She brought a few treats from the Great White North.

For a girl with no sisters, I have a lot of sisters in the world, and Kath is one of them. She's funny, smart, and pretty! Maybe the best thing about Katherine? She always wants to order dessert.

And tomorrow morning when we wake up, the Easter Bunny will bring us even more treats: Our friends and Brooklyn-neighbours Leslie and John will be here.

Too bad I didn't save them any of those Mini Eggs.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Afternoon at the Post Office

If you're in Buenos Aires for any length of time, you might have to pick up a package at the international post office. You'll hand over your claim form and your passport and pay the post office's fee for housing your package, then be sent to wait in a big room for your particular six-digit number to be called, in Spanish, of course, over a loudspeaker that is not unlike the PA system in most NYC-subway cars. In other words, unintelligible.

And when you do find yourself in this particular predicament, here's a tip: Wait for a few rounds of numbers to be called, then go to the counter and explain in your bestest Spanish that you couldn't understand the numbers (note: this will not be a lie). The very nice post office employee will probably ask you where you're from, tell you that you speak Spanish well, and say something else that you might not understand. Then he'll call specially for your package.

As you walk out of the post office, package in hand, you'll be filled with pride that you have accomplished this daunting task, and you might feel a bit like a kid on Christmas morning. You may even be tempted to open that package while you're walking to the bus stop. (It's OK. I did.) If you're lucky, it will contain some food item or other that's hard to find here in Argentina. (Last year I retrieved from the post office more chocolate chips than should ever be in my possession at the same time.)

And if you're really, super lucky, that package will be full of surprises that will make you smile for the rest of the day.

Thanks, Mersal!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Scenes From A Brunch: Ølsen (And Other Miscellany)

On Sunday, Norma and I went to Ølsen in Palermo Hollywood. The grilled veggies were especially tasty, but sadly, the Bloody Mary wasn't quite as good as its counterpart at Home Hotel--I like my breakfast-vodka nice and spicy. The company was excellent, as always.

The brunch soundtrack at Ølsen was Lady Gaga. It may come as a surprise to some of you that until very recently I hadn't listened to any Lady Gaga. I'm not sure why, exactly, considering my musical tastes.*

After all, this: isn't exactly a far cry from these:

Anyway, I'm now planning a Lady Gaga dance party with LFar, natch, in our underwear. And I'm going to teach this boy all the words to "Boys Boys Boys".

In other news, last week we had dinner with some friends and mentioned to them that we'd never tried chocotorta, a kind of ice-box cake that's practically the national dessert of Argentina. A week later one of them made us our very own chocotorta and I have not been able to keep my face out of it since it arrived. It kind of tastes like a McCain chocolate cake (the dessert of my childhood), only better, because it's made with dulce de leche.

Also, there WILL be Deep 'n Delicious at the Lady Gaga Underwear Dance Party.

* At one point not long after Ken and I started dating, I started to apologize for subjecting him to so much white-girl music, then stopped myself, because, hey, I AM a white girl. "It's true," he replied, "it's not false advertising."

P.S. HI LEE AND JEN! If you're not Lee and Jen, allow me to explain: Lee(roy) was my roommate for five gloriously formative months, back when I was oh-so-young and impressionable. He's the coolest, for reals, with the only possible exception being his grrlfriend, Jen. I'd been thinking about these guys a lot lately, and then they leave a comment right here on Ultra Fine Flair! Strange, only not really, because this is how the Universe gets things done.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Scenes From A Brunch: Mercado Amenabar

Breakfast in Argentina is traditionally coffee and a pastry - café con leche y medialunas, anyone? - and after living and traveling abroad for almost a year (!), a pile of bacon and eggs and various baked goods slathered in maple syrup is among the things I miss the most, not to mention the rejeuvenating effect of a bottomless cup of coffee.

A recent article in Oh La Lá! magazine highlighted a few of the brunch options in Buenos Aires, and I started making dates to satisfy my Sunday-morning cravings. We started at Home Hotel, a boutique hotel in Palermo Hollywood where the huevos rancheros left us wanting more. I could easily have whiled away the afternoon sipping their very satisfying Bloody Marys poolside.

This past weekend marked a trip with a good friend to Mercado Amenabar, also in Palermo Hollywood. We shared scrambled eggs with toast and bacon, a proscuitto and Brie sandwich, and enough ideas and inspiration to last us at least until next Sunday's brunch date.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sprink Pinkles, originally uploaded by Kitty LaRoux.

I don't care if Hallmark did invent this holiday to sell more cards. I hope Valentine's Day is just one of many this year that are filled with chocolate, kisses, and pink sprinkles.

I love you guys.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Is That An Exclamation Point In Your Pocket?

Preface: Upon our departure from Waterloo last Fall, I left my trusty MacBook in the capable hands of my best friend's husband, Gregoire. Since the recent series of unfortunate events dictated that we would no longer be roaming the wilds of South America for the next three months and would instead be safely ensconced in some apartment or other in Buenos Aires, I decided I would be able to use my computer after all, and asked my mom to bring it with her to Argentina. I emailed Gregoire to tell him the news, and the following is his response.

To: Gillian
From: Gregoire
Subject: Confession

Gillian, how are you? How are things? Good. Good. Say, I've got something for you to consider. Take a moment and ask yourself, honestly, how attached are you to the numbers 1 and 2 (and while considering this, throw in the ! and @ signs also for consideration)?

When you take the time to really think about it, aren't these some of the most overrated numerals and symbols at our disposal. Wouldn't you agree that we'd be better off without them. That difficult choices would be made easy, that life would be simpler if you no longer had to rely on these alpha-numeric crutches? Why start way back at 1 or 2 when there's the option of starting at 3. 1 and 2 are static and slow. With 3 you're warmed up and already on your way. Is there ever a need for the exclamation point? Must we raise our voices, be it in anger or joy? Are we not adults? Can we not discuss things calmly and rationally? Can we not celebrate with a certain amount of restraint? (And let's be honest, doesn't the @ symbol remind you of an asshole?)

Great. Then you'll be happy to hear that I spilt beer on your laptop and the bastardly 1 and 2 keys no longer work! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. :-(, :-(, :-(. (I've resorted to emoticons--I'm seriously sorry.)

I had planned on replacing the keyboard before your return (the rest of it is working fine) but now that your Mom is taking the computer with her there won't be time. (I called the shop here, but they don't stock replacement parts and have to order them in.) If you want to order a new keyboard from Apple, I'll send you my card #. If your macbook is like my ibook, they're easy to replace. Again, I'm sorry.

In other unrelated news, I saw the doc on Friday and everything is going to plan. I can walk (although with minimal flexion in my knee -- imagine Frankenstein had a baby with a zombie) and I've already started physiotherapy. I swear on my mother's birthday (which is Tuesday) that my next post will not be related to my orthopaedic challenges.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Like Riding A Bike

Everyone's fine. My family and friends are all, to the best of my knowledge, safe and healthy. I wake up every morning beside the most gentle and kind human being I've ever met. My mom flew all the way to Buenos Aires (Richie!) to help me wash my hair and get dressed and ultimately help me preserve a tiny bit of dignity in front of the aforementioned gentle and kind human being (to whom I would still like to appear even remotely attractive). We're staying in a beautiful apartment that belongs to another kind and generous human being, and for the most part, I'm comfortable and pain-free and grateful that this is a known, temporary setback and in six months, give or take, everything will be back to normal.

And still, over the past two weeks, I have felt an overwhelming sense of loss.

At first it was just the loss of the rest of our planned travels. We were on our way to Brazil, to sit on the beach and work on a farm and travel down the Amazon River and, of course, taste myriad new and exotic fruits. But let's face it: After the experiences we've had in the past 10 months, it's hard to feel deprived of these things for very long.

There is, however, a more personal loss. Six years ago I went into surgery with a partially-torn ACL and a bucket-handle tear in the meniscus. I came out of surgery with a reconstructed ACL and a repaired meniscus, which meant that eventually, after a lot of blood, sweat, and yes, tears, in rehab, my knee was even better than it had been before the operation. Apparently so was my ambition, as within a year of surgery I completed an Olympic-distance triathlon and have since run three marathons.

Last week I went into the OR with a ruptured ACL and a bucket-handle tear in the meniscus. I was wheeled out with a reconstructed ACL, but this time the meniscus couldn't be repaired, and part of it was removed. I'm not sure how much, exactly - a third? A half? And really, people walk around all the time with no meniscus at all, so why the fuss?

I'll never run another marathon. In fact, I probably won't do much running at all. There are all sorts of medical reasons why it isn't a great idea to run, especially on pavement, after a partial meniscectomy, and I'm kind of hoping these knees will be around for a while. So there's short-term loss, like right now I can't walk or even get out of bed by myself, which sucks. But then there's the running thing, an activity with which I fell in love just a few years ago, after hating on sports for 30 years. For me, that's the real loss. As I look at the pictures taken during the 2007 NYC Marathon, one of my most favourite days of all time, I am filled with gratitude to have had that amazing experience, and at the same time, so very sad to have lost that potential.

I start physiotherapy on Friday, the exciting and sometimes gruelling rehabilitation period during which I will relearn to walk, run (slowly, and on a treadmill), balance, and climb stairs. Before I know it I'll be riding a bike (as a friend of mine says, cycling is like running with even tighter clothes and cooler gear), and of course I'm already planning my first century ride in 2011, because you know, that's how I roll.

In the meantime I'm reminding myself, as one of my best friends reminded me just the other day, that just as she had to after her ACL reconstruction, I need to "let myself grieve for the things I lost (including the potential things I lost in the future)." And OK, I'm also daydreaming about the shapeliness of my future cycling legs.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Surgery Recap

Final Score

New ACL: 1
Meniscus: -1/3*


Dr. Metallica Bourdain has great beside manner. He also smells good, which is probably more than can be said for either James Hetfield or Mr. Bourdain.

There was no dulce de leche to be had! What a travesty.

All that kissing that goes on here in Argentina? Even happens in the OR! Like, all the assistants and the anaesthesiologist greeted me with a kiss before they knocked me out.

Epidurals are where it's at.

I had surgery in a hospital run by monks! Yesterday before the operation a very adorable (and small) priest came into my room and said a little prayer. Today we saw many small and adorable nuns roaming the halls, wearing all-white habits with a big red cross on the front. Of course I was not-so-secretly hoping that they would break into song (I've only seen "The Sound of Music" about 200 times). It didn't happen, so I thought I'd get them started with a few lyrics.

Knee Surgery Songs for the Sisters of Clínica San Camila in Buenos Aires

How Do Fix a Tear in the Meniscus?
(to the tune of "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?")

How do you fix a tear in the meniscus?
How do you reconstruct an ACL?
How do you get a girl who's very active
to relax for a while
so that she can heal
and walk?

(to the tune of "Edelweiss")

You were torn so we fixed you

Made anew
With a screw
And a graft from patella

New ligament won't you stabilize

You were torn so we fixed you

* I am actually in possession of the removed meniscus. I know, gross! But the good doctor seemed excited to give it to us, in its little vial of fluid (grosser!). Do you think I could sell it on etsy? I mean, technically I made it, right?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh, Hello, Doctor

I admit it: On the weekend I was having a hard time seeing anything resembling a bright side. I sort of intellectually knew one was there, but after a week and a half of not walking, not to mention the dignity one loses every time she utters the words, "Can you please help me put on my underwear?" - well, you get the idea. Anyway, on Saturday night I pulled myself together enough to go to one of the two bars in Buenos Aires showing NFL football, hoisted my leg up on an extra chair, and drank a few half-pints of beer (pacing!). At some point I started talking to an American guy sitting at the table next to us. I learned that his Argentine friend, also at the table, had had ACL reconstruction six months before, and had a surgeon he really liked. Score!

The next day I Googled said surgeon and found an email address for him. I wrote him a note explaining my situation and asking how I could best schedule an appointment with him. Amazingly, he replied that evening to tell me he could meet me at 5 p.m. on Monday. I wrote back to ask him if he speaks English, because while our mad Spanish skillz enable us to telephone-order pizza, we're not quite at the level of discussing soft tissue repair. Happily, he does.

We went to meet the good doctor this afternoon. He looks like Anthony Bourdain, and on Friday night he's going to see Metallica! I think I have a crush. He showed us some informative-yet-slightly-nauseating diagrams of how the surgery will go, and on Thursday he's going to fix my knee. I'll spend the night in the hospital (fingers crossed for dulce de leche-flavoured Jell-O), and on Friday my mom's coming! Hooray!

I don't think we'll make it to the Metallica show, though. Next time.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I'm Not Fluent in Spanish, But...

According to Google Translate, ruptura en asa de balde means "bucket-handle tear," which also means "bad news knee surgery times." Of course that's just from the letter that was helpfully included with the MRI images; maybe the doctor will have a different interpretation?

A girl can hope. Futilely, maybe, but still.

P.S. I just told a new Irish friend the news over chat, and she says she's going to get me "locked" tonight. I don't know what that means in regular English, but I suspect I'll be even less able to walk tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tengo dos tornillos de titanio en la rodilla derecha.

Trip updates are much more boring when they're about busted knees.

When we arrived at the hospital for the MRI on Saturday morning, we were informed that the machine was broken, and that it had been for 10 days. Clever readers will note that this means the machine was also broken two days previously, when I made the appointment in the first place.

Anyway. We went to another hospital and made another appointment and I successfully had the test on Monday morning. The results will be available Thursday evening and I hope to see a doctor or three on Friday to figure out my options. In the meantime my diet consists of things I can carry in a bag while using crutches (yogurt, apples, granola bars), and hobbies include checking Facebook status updates, learning Spanish words for knee anatomy (menisco! ligamento cruzado anterior!), and thanking Ken for bringing me the ice pack.

* "I have two titanium screws in my right knee," a potentially important Spanish phrase when you're about to be put into a giant magnetic tube.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Back to the Future

Welcome to 2010! I was initially disappointed that this year started off sans jet packs or The Chip, you know, the one implanted in our brains that will grant us instant access to the interwebs using only cerebral prowess, but then I went to see Avatar in 3D and holy-effing-crap am I ever on that bandwagon. I hope the future involves a lot more theatres full of Buddy Holly clones, because wow, 3D movie technology has come a long way since House of Wax.

And it seems that in 2010 I am fated to experience a bit of déjà vu as well. Back in 2003 I stepped on a branch - a harmless little branch! - and wretched my right knee, tearing the meniscus. Within two weeks of the injury I had surgery and started a rather gruelling regimen of physical therapy that lasted around four months. Have you figured out where this is going, yet?

On Wednesday afternoon I twisted my left knee. I'm in a brace and walking with crutches and the MRI is scheduled for Saturday. Of course this time isn't exactly the same as last time: There were no branches involved. Oh, and this time I get to do it all in Spanish.

On the bright side:

1. We're not on a mountain in Bolivia.
2. We have amazing friends here in Buenos Aires who have already been beyond helpful ("crutches" in Spanish is muletas, in case you were wondering).
3. Three words: Ice cream delivery.

I'm trying to make this not suck, but when three more months of travel, not to mention marathon #4, were on my list for 2010, let's face it: this is the pits.