Archive for April, 2009

Lame Laundry Lollygaggers


Tom and I used to believe that we were horrendous at putting away our laundry because the washer and dryer were located all the way down in the basement, which was dark, dank, and dust-filled and also lacked a suitable spot for folding.

That theory got shot down when we remodeled the basement and still, our laundry languished.

We next sold our house and rented a condo where the washer and dryer were situated on the same floor as our bedrooms. What could be easier? Surely it would be impossible for us to avoid actually folding and shelving our clean clothes in such a cush laundry environment?

I am embarrassed to report that it didn’t help at all — we still had piles of clean laundry laying about in baskets for days.

Now, we live in Buenos Aires, and we send the vast majority of our washing across the street to a lavandería, and it is returned to us, usually the same day, completely folded. How could we procrastinate now…all we have to do is put it away?

Well, as you can see in the above picture, we still can’t get our clean clothes in the closet! What is it about putting away the laundry? It takes 4 minutes, but we hate doing it.

These Pork Chops Are Googilicious!


I have developed a mental image of our typical reader: a foul-mouthed, dirty-haired camper who drinks bad wine and keeps their pork chops in the fridge past the “use by” date. (In my head, he looks something like this gentleman here.) This reader profile, by the way, is courtesy of a Google Analytics report of search terms that lead poor unsuspecting Web surfers to micheleandtomdotcom like lambs, or perhaps pigs, to slaughter.

We are proud to announce that we are a front page Google search result for those worried about rancid pork! Search terms used are:

pork chop smell, pork smell, do pork chops smell, pork chops smell, pork chops smell bad, smelly pork chops, does pork smell, my fresh pork smells, pork chops naturally smell strong, pork chop smells, smell for pork chops, smell of pork chops, smell pork chop, smelly pork chop, what does bad pork chops smell like, when not to eat pork smell

The Web is not a medium where you can scratch & sniff & taste. But, that doesn’t stop our readers from trying:

wine tastes like dirt, dirt tasting wine, smells like dirt wine, this wine smells like?, what is another for dirt in wine, what kind of wine taste like dirt, when wine has a dirt smell, why wine smells like, wine that tastes like dirt, wines that taste like dirt

Are these nice Midwestern farm boys playing around on the computer? (I secretly find these searches kind of cute.)

swear like a sailor, sailors curse words, 6 sailor curse words, do you swear? like a sailor, how do you swear like a sailor, sailor curse words, sailor cuss words, sailor swear words, sailor’s curse words, sailors swear words, swear sailor, swear words sailor, what are the sailor cuss words

Dear “beauty industry,” appearance while camping is important. Maybe there is room for some product ideas here?

camping greasy hair, camping hair washing, hairwashing how to camping, how to look good camping hair, how to wash hair while camping, how to wash hair when camping, how to tame hair when camping, washing hair camping, washing hair while camping

Aside from the above searches that helped us reconstruct our average reader, there are many more one-off queries that left us stumped and/or entertained.

How did these Web surfers end up at our blog after entering these search terms?

  • hunks in sweatpants (Not that Tom isn’t totally smokin’ in his sweats!)
  • bowling jokes
  • how much babies cost
  • guy not there in the morning (Tell me about it sister!)
  • interesting facts about marco polo
  • camping walmart parking lots

What were these Google users really trying to find?

  • Official mexican restaurant review. (Think about it…)
  • compare and contrast three items
  • lookout
  • slow motion thief
  • learned the hard way
  • door slamming

Making Me Live in the Moment

As I have mentioned before, the Zs’ capacity for embracing the process of living without caring so much about the end results is a lesson Tom and I need to relearn every so often.

The theme of living in the moment has been on my mind since I’ve met a lot of people recently who have asked me whether it is difficult to post on a blog 4 to 5 times a week.

As I thought about it, I realized that blogging frequently isn’t so much difficult as it requires a phase shift in how you view your life. Now, my whole family likes to joke about my posting frequency and that there is no event too trivial for me to consider it blog fodder. But the truth is, if you sit and reflect on your day, there is nearly always something interesting, whether it be bad or good, about which you can write.

And while there are many things that I have appreciated about this blog — it provides a nice repository for memories of our travels and keeps my writing skills honed — most of all, it makes me contemplate recent events, allowing me the time to reflect on the moments that comprise my life and appreciate them for the special times that they are.

Homeschool Report Card


Tom and I are taking a very parent-centric approach to homeschool, as in we like the Zs to study subjects that interest us! We do have occasional twinges of worry that we are screwing up the girls’ education, but then we figure, hey, they do a lot of old school readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic in the a.m., so hopefully the Argentine education system will make up for the crazy curriculum we’re throwing at them. In case you were wondering, here’s what we’re working on now…


I chose this country because it really touches on everything. We have covered: the rise of Christianity and how it helped leaders solidify power in Europe in 1000 AD, the incredible strength of the Catholic Church during colonial times, colonialism in general, the Jesuits, the Indian slave trade in South America, the Guaraní Indians, the missions for the Guaraní developed by the Jesuits, the expulsion of the Jesuits from all Spanish colonies, the decline of the missions… . The girls are also creating a scaled timeline of the period we study (1500 to 2009).

Now we are taking a break and watching the movie, The Mission. They are a somewhat concerned because they know it’s not exactly a happy movie.


Tom has been working on arithmetic, fractions, measuring, and some basic geometry with the girls. (Remember planes and lines and points?) Tom was using some of the tests from Indian Math Online, but has since moved away from their coursework because it was boring and didn’t really adjust well to the girls acquiring skills.


As I’ve blogged about before, the girls attend classes twice a week with a private tutor from Beijing utilizing video over Skype. How cool is that? The school is called E Chinese Learning and we love it!

We also use an online tool called Skritter, which is currently in beta and free to try, for the girls to practice their characters every day. The software comes complete with an alogrithm that notes which characters you know and keeps track of how often you need to review them for maximum retention. Really fab.


We are using video for the girls to learn poise and confidence with their communications, especially interactions with adults when they are embarrassed or shy. Some early tasks involved a mock interview for a babysitting gig, and telling stories about themselves or family members as prompted. I don’t give them any idea of what we’re going to do before we are on camera. The girls have developed a newfound respect for Barak Obama, “Wow, he’s really good at answering all of those questions on TV, Mommy,” they have observed.


I have posted about this here, so I won’t repeat myself, suffice to say that we do this as a family to restore a love of art in children who are getting frustrated by their inability to draw perspective.


The girls and I are working on writing a chapter book. (So far we have an outline for our story and are now working on the first chapter…it’s about a magical world that features a planet that is half in light and half in the dark. The two protagonists are children, of course, who live in the dark part of the world and who also happen to possess strong magical talents, which makes them a target for kidnapping by the monsters who live in the light…) It has been funny to hash out a story between the two of them. Zoe wants something with fighting, dragons, blood and glory; meanwhile, Zelda insists that there must be a royal family involved. *laugh*


We are currently implementing our landed gentry exercise program, complete with horseback riding and tennis lessons.

Quaint Captivating Colonia


Being the incredibly together and organized people that we are, this last weekend we realized that our 90 day visa allowing us to chill in Buenos Aires was expiring, well, as of today!

We had two options: renew or extend said visa. To extend the visa, we would have had to dance attendance upon the Argentine immigration office, and after a few hours in a few lines, we would have had our visa extended without actually setting foot outside of the country. Ultimately though, we ruled out this option because of long line rumors, the possibility we might need a birth certificate for the girls, and, mostly, because the thought of standing in various lines at a government agency with two squirrelly and highly irritating children was more than we could bear.

Cue lovely, crisp fall day perfect for a ferry ride to Colonia, Uruguay on a rocking family HOMESCHOOL FIELD TRIP! Funnily enough, it turned out to have some educational value, as the heyday of Barrio Histórico in Colonia is the same period of South American history we are currently studying at home.



Boffo Banana Bread

beforebananabreadafterbananabreadSome cool bloggers in Argentina post about the emotional highs and lows encountered while coming to the aid of a friend; me, I blog about banana bread…enough said.

This last weekend, we dipped our toe back into baking by taking a stab at our always forgiving banana bread recipe (actually obtained from my sainted mother). We thought, “we can do this…I mean, it’s not like baking is a science that requires exact measuring, right?” So, while Zoe was cavorting in Pilar with friends, Zelda, Tom and I went to work, refusing to let the the facts stop us: we had no dry measuring cups, no measuring spoons, baking powder instead of baking soda, and no wheat flour! With a wee bit of research on the Web about conversions accompanied by some dubious “eyeballing” as we added ingredients, we had ourselves some batter.

Actually, it was rather liberating baking with only a cursory concern about measurements. And, I’m happy to report that the results were fabulous, if a little blonder than we are used to due to the lack of wheat flour.

The banana bread was our BuqueBus snack food during our trip to Colonia, Uruguay this week to renew our visas.

Vocab Test: What is a Telo?

A “telo” is sex hotel…but more on that later!

First, I wanted to talk about “lunfardo,” which is a type of slang here in Argentina that arose from Tango culture. From what I can tell, lunfardo vocabulary is usually a clever play on words (for instance, the Spanish word for “veal” is “ternera,” which is also the lunfardo word for “young woman”). Additionally, the simple transposition of sounds (“hotel” to “telo“) can create a word.

Now onto the telo. Sex hotels, which offer rooms for rent by the hour through to overnight accommodations, are quite above board here in Buenos Aires. Frankly, they are a necessity when children live with their parents well into their late twenties and you have a lot of horny young backpackers visiting and living in communal hostels!

These inns of iniquity are also needed to facilitate the business of conducting extramarital affairs, as illustrated by one of my favorite telo services, hidden car parking (all for an extra charge, of course).

I’ve heard the pillows suck though, so if you’re going to use a telo, bring your own pillow!

Reflections on Autumn and Poo

Fall is a dangerous season here in Baires. The peril comes in two forms:

1) Leaf Colored Poo. While this may be self explanatory, I’m going to elaborate further! As we head into the fall season here in the capital city of Argentina, the streets are beginning to be strewn with light tan colored leaves. Unfortunately, said leaves blend in perfectly with light tan colored dog caca, making the streets a veritable mine field. We can no longer stroll with the occassional sidewalk pan of the eyes scanning for crap. Now, we have to walk with our heads down, eyes peeled trying to dodge all colored objects on the sidewalk. Trying to walk home with the girls pulling their wheeled school bags is an exercise in stress management.

2) Leaf Over Poo. Aside from the obvious doggy-doodoo-on-the-bottom-of-the-shoe issue, this gem of a situation also creates the possibility for extreme physical comedy at your expense. Upon stepping on said leaf over poo, picture a banana peel on the floor sort of foot skid that results in arms flailing and woop yelling that is witnessed by your fellow pedestrians.

‘Mericans at Dinner

There are many things that make one feel “so American” when one is living in Buenos Aires, such as, inadvertently slamming taxi doors, failing to execute the hello or goodbye cheek buss, failing to effusively greet or depart from acquaintances, using tu instead of vos, shopping at the Jumbo… .

Then there is the grand daddy of them all: showing up at a restaurant ten minutes before it opens, lurking outside, peering in the window like a starved big cat pacing its cage. Or my next favorite, going to a restaurant at between 5:00 pm and 6:30 pm (during tea time) and asking them if the kitchen is open enough to actually cook something. That was our modus operandi tonight.

This evening’s meal involved us going to our local corner cafe and pleading our case for some hamburgers, even though the rest of the citizenry was taking their tea time meal: coffee with a cookie or a tostado. To top it off, we were playing pickup sticks in the middle of the table, which really had the waitress rolling her eyes.

To recap: hungry family with young children begging for food at 6:30 pm and playing pickup sticks while they waited — it doesn’t get much more ‘Merican than that!!

Life of the Landed Gentry

ridinghelmetsWe had our first horseback riding lesson this week! (Okay, I know that it seems like we are trying to create some sort of throwback to a colonial lifestyle between our tennis club and equestrian outings, but I assure you that we will not be hiring a governess for the kids anytime soon.)

Our goal is to achieve some basic competency with horsemanship so we don’t look like idiots when we are trotting or cantering on the rare occasions that we find ourselves on horseback . (I don’t believe there will be any jumping in our near future, although it does look like fun!)

Anyway, it was the beginner ring for us — the girls with their own instructor and Tom and I with ours (turns out, no one wanted to give us a class as a family because apparently kids and adults learn too differently).

We worked on our posting (also known as, “how to avoid bouncing like a goof while trotting”), our walking, our horse kicking, our smacking horse rumps with the riding crop, our stopping (feet move slightly back, squeeze with the legs, hunch in the seat, and pull back on the reins), our rein holding, and our dismounting (take both feet out of stirrups).

Take Aways: I need to wear a sports bra. Tom thinks he’s found the ultimate sport for him since there is no arched back posture required, and to stop properly, you must hunch a bit. Larger horses can’t be made to trot by little inexperienced riders, instead they eat and mosey. We have learned a new Spanish and English word — polainas, which, in English, are short chaps or half-chaps.