Thursday, December 30, 2010

You name this post...

Well, our too-good-to-be-true renters....were just that. Unfortunately, yesterday they backed out the day before they were to sign the lease for reasons that are their own to understand. What can we say? Another step in our journey that makes us want to cry but hopefully we will laugh about later. Dan said that this wouldn't be nearly as interesting if everything were easy and effortless. I think I could go for less interesting...

So onward. Here's a picture of our attic - you can see our storage feats! After adding quite a few more items this weekend, we will still be moving out to Dan's mom's house. So the house will be ready whenever some renters are. Here's a photo of the kids with their Christmas presents...Kindles for both of them. They are avid readers these days and electronic books seemed the best solution as we leave behind three bookshelves of treasures. Grace and Theo are also enjoying new journals from their auntie, from which I'm hoping they might share some of their thoughts here on the blog later.

Well, that's all for now. In an effort to recover from our disappointment, we are trying to joke about a title for this entry. Here's our suggestions this morning. We invite you to suggest others.

Grace, "Too good to be true" or "blue baboon."
Theo, "Doom, gloom and misery" or "Sad but true".
Laura, "No pain, no gain"or "the Renter Rollercoaster"

Our love and smiles to you all,
Laura, Grace and Theo (Dan's at work this morning- but he'd probably suggest something along the lines of "No use in worrying about things beyond our control").

Happy New Year!
(now back to packing)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's happened!

In the last six months, we’ve visited with several families who have done some type of similar year abroad.
Each time, when asked about renting their homes they said that it all worked out great – usually some connection by word of mouth, often fairly last minute.

Since we are leaving in less than three weeks, surely things couldn’t get much more last minute for us, but…it has happened too. Not through Craig’s list, or, or the University housing, or, or the seminary housing services, or any of the other official housing sites where we posted! Our serendipitous meeting occurred via a family connection…a phone call as we were preparing to head out the door - the kids getting ready for a program in which they were performing, costumes, breakfast, showers – “No we hadn’t rented the house yet and yes, this was a bad time to show it (certainly no 8 hours of cleaning prep!!!)”. But the family was leaving town for 10 days that same morning and as we spoke driving by our house on their way. “Yikes, yes, of course, please have them stop in.” In a half an hour, we all realized it was a great fit! This lovely family had just arrived in town after three years of living abroad and wished to be close to family in town, also hoping to get their three kids into the school nearby. The house, the park across the street, our neighborhood, all our furnishing would work well for them, while they take a year to decide about their long-term plans. And while they had no particular hurry to rent, having a great deal of family in the area and many offers of lodging, they were happy at the thought of having a new place to settle into by January 1st.

It would be an understatement to say this comes as a great relief to us. I won’t dwell on the weight that has been lifted. Mostly, I want to thank everyone who mentioned our house to friends, to their networks, at their places of worship, posted it on their Facebook page, sent folks our way, gave us suggestions of other places to post it and supported us as we navigated a big hurdle in our journey.

I’m not much of one to speak of holiday blessings, but that is what comes to mind – not when I think of finding a family to rent our house, but of how I am again reminded of the incredible community of friends and family we have. Thanks to everyone so much for your help and support. What a gift you are to us. Happy holidays.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

FAQ's continued...Where will you live in Chile?

Less than a month to our departure date! A quick update...we're still packing up the house (kind of in waves - not everyday), still looking for a renter (thanks so much to everyone who has sent folks our way - you rock!), and getting ready for the holidays as well! We are hoping to move to Jackie's house, Dan's mom, which is about 3 miles away in Edina by the end of December, so our house is ready if need be. Excitement and near panic fill me (can't wait to travel and how will it all get done).

Now, another FAQ. Folks have been asking where we will live once we get to Chile. Our plan is to arrive and spend some time in several different cities and then decide. We are planning on visiting Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, and la Serena. We've been in e-mail contact with friends of friends in all these cities and have done just preliminary research on schools primarily. They are all coastal cities with interesting aspects to them all. For instance Valparaíso is built straight up the hills away for a harbor and has a series of outdoor elevators that help residents with the daily climb (pictured here)! Viña is known as the garden city and has lots of great beaches where many Chilenos head for the summer break (Jan/Feb). The mountains not far from La Serena are host to several international observatories and it's clear skies are one of the best places in the world to view the heavens.

It will be summer when we arrive (sigh of relief) and after spending about a month visiting the friends of friends and these cities, we will join the throngs and take a two-week trip to southern Chile and visit the Lake District and perhaps northern Patagonia. After two weeks, we'll head back to central Chile and settle in to one of these communities (or perhaps one we don't know about yet) and hopefully have the kids enrolled in school and have a place to live by March 1st.

That's the plan for right now. Vamos a ver!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

making empanadas del pino

Last week my sister and I made Chilean empanadas. My mom’s friend from work came and helped us make them. I thought they tasted great! Here’s how we made the filling-

- lb of ground beef

- 3 medium-sized yellow onions, diced

- 2 cloves of garlic, minced

- 2 tsps sweet paprika

- 2 tsps ground cumen

- 1\2 tsp dried oregano

- 1\2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

- 1 cup of beef broth

- 1 tbsp of all-purpose flour

- 11\2 tsp of kosher salt

- 1 tbsp of vegetable oil

Cook the above in a frying pan…

and add the following when putting together:

- 3 hard boiled eggs, sliced

- 15 olives, sliced

- seedless raisins (optional)

The dough

- 4 cups of all-purpose flour

- 1tbsp of baking powder

- 1 tsp of salt

- 1 cup of vegetable shortening

- 1 cup of warm milk

Let dough sit in warm place for half an hour, then roll out log sized pieces flat. Put filling in and close and then bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

See what you think. Post a comment below.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Geeky Stuff: managing passwords

Well, Caitlin has had a lot of sleepless nights since my last Geeky Stuff post, in which I terrified her with the prospect of losing control of all of those passwords.  Here are some typical ways of managing the dozens of online accounts that we've accumulated since we started moving our lives online.

  1. Use the same password everywhere.  The advantages of this one are  obvious, but so are the pitfalls.  If your password gets compromised, your whole life is an open book.  And that can happen remarkably easily, via a fake website, or in your local coffee shop.
  2. Use a different password every time, and store them all in a Word document on your laptop.  This has obvious flaws (your whole life is gone if your laptop gets lost or stolen) but I know people who actually do this, believe it or not.
  3. Use Password Safe, (thanks Rupert) or another of the many programs like it. This is handy, and the passwords are stored encrypted on your computer, so if someone steals your laptop they can't access the passwords.  But they're only on that computer, a password you store on your laptop at home isn't available on your PC at work.
  4. Use your browser's 'remember passwords' feature.  This is handy, and as long as you set a 'master password', the passwords are stored encrypted.  But again they're only available in that browser, on that computer.  If only there was some way of sending those encrypted passwords to a central server somewhere, so you could access them from anywhere...
  5. Use LastPass.  I love this thing.  When I create a login on some site, I use it to generate a totally random password that no one could ever guess, like f3OgPkJo.  I could never remember it, but I don't care.  LastPass remembers it.  When I come back to the site, LastPass fills in the login form and logs me in automagically.  And my passwords are stored encrypted on the LastPass servers, so I can get at them from any computer I want to use.  They even have an app for my Android phone, so I've always got my whole keychain with me.  Even Lojo likes it!
There you have it - some unsolicited advice only tangentially related to living in Chile.

Geeks only:  yes, I know LastPass is not open source, so it can't be publicly audited for security.  Bruce Schneier would not approve.  For now I'm taking the risk...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I won’t dignify this entry with a photo...

I won’t dignify this entry with a photo. I know we’ll have lots of ups and downs this year – hopefully, we’ll savor the ups and forget about, if not laugh at the downs. I hit some downs yesterday and today, but I think I can laugh about them already.

Sans photo, you’ll have to just picture me, crying…yes, crying as I pathetically lay on my stomach on the floor of our bathroom closet, reaching my arm as far as possible in our laundry chute - ineffectively poking our bathroom rugs with a hockey stick – they had become lodged in the chute somewhere exactly between the 2nd floor and the basement – completely out of my reach. I was crying from frustration, but probably more so because I’d much rather be changing lives than doing housework and I was going to be spending all day cleaning the house yet again for another potential renter. Nearly two months of cleaning, packing up stuff, de-cluttering, throwing out, donating, working on house projects…all good things, but its December 1st today and we still don’t have a renter – despite lots of e-mails, phone conversations, and showings. Trying not to stress about that. And quite frankly, I’d much rather be just packing everything up and not worrying about the house staying pristine. I have an inkling of what it must be like for all of you who have tried to sell your house while still living in it. Dan was working from home today with a cold and I actually evoked the Boundary Waters mantra as a warning to him…leave no trace!!! :-) Now I do have to laugh.

Dan seems much more zen about securing a renter, but perhaps that’s partly because he continues to focus on work and I’m focusing on our transition (I know – all of you who know us are saying it’s because of our personalities). It’s hard for me to jump into what’s next, continue making plans in Chile, relax, while the renter question still feels unsettled. But like Dan reminded me today (as he helpfully replaced the hockey stick with a cross country ski and dislodged the rugs) there will be a lot of things that are beyond our control this next year and we’ll just have to be okay with going with the flow. Hmm, wish me luck.

Well, lying on the floor this morning, I thought things could only get better. I spent the whole day cleaning the house, but I also got a bunch of things packed up, set up more storage shelves in the freezing attic, filled more garbage bags, filled more bags for donation and then I got a call an hour before the showing – the potential renter was having to cancel and their move is getting postponed so it wouldn’t work out! Oh well. I took a long shower and then enjoyed the rest of the evening with Dan and the kids. And tonight we got another e-mail…another showing tomorrow! Cross your fingers everyone.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

Crítica Gastronómica

My family has asked me to be the food critique for our trip. As we mentioned already- meat empanadas from El Meson are our favorite. Time for another review. Last night we went to a restaurant called La Brasa it was really good food, and here is my opinion of the food;

  1. yucca ( delicious )
  2. black beans(really good )
  3. red beans(not as good as the black beans)
  4. platanos( okay)
  5. rotisserie chicken(delicious)
  6. yellow rice(very good)
  7. yucca dipping sauce(very good with the yucca)

here is some tips about the food: if you blend the yellow rice with the black beans it tastes really good and I would also recommend with the yucca dipping it in the dipping sauce even if it does not look so good it tastes very good with the yucca

buen provecho, Grace

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Road Less Travelled...

photo from here
I've just finished a half-hour conversation with our insurance agent, the 3rd such call in the last week.  He was very helpful, but I felt sorry for the poor guy.  What we are doing seems to be quite unusual.  Diplomats, military folks, academics, retirees -- they all do stuff sort of like what we're doing, yet when we try to explain our plan to folks like poor Edward at the insurance company, we get blank stares and confusion.

What we ended up with for insurance, by the way, is a cobbled-together policy that actually costs a bit more than our usual home insurance, and offers far less coverage.   It's due to the fact that we're renting out our house to strangers, yet leaving all of our stuff in it.

This is a good place to mention the one book we've found that has been super helpful:  The Family Sabbatical Handbook, by Elisa Burnick.  It's full of practical advice about how to prepare, what to expect, and so on.  It's the bible of the take-your-family-abroad community.

The internet is full of good stuff too, of course.  Over the next few weeks we'll try to build our 'blogroll' of cool sites we've found, by folks that are doing similar things.


I have been wondering what to do with all of my Halloween candy.

My mom says that I cannot take it with us to Chile and I cannot eat all of that

candy before we go. I need suggestions! Post a comment below.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

It's official!

Well, I purchased our plane tickets today. So, it's official. We head to Chile on January 11, 2011. It feels like another milestone in the process of our dream turning into reality (although the price of 4 tickets to Chile was maybe a little too much reality).

The funny thing about purchasing tickets for a year's stay is that airlines only post flights around 330 days ahead. So we are having to purchase round trip tickets with a return in October and knowing that we'll have to change the dates to a return next December. Changing ticket dates can cost up to $250 per ticket (for 4 tickets that adds up), so the travel agent who helped me today specifically directed me to two foreign airlines which only charges $50 per ticket to change dates. Who knew?

So despite the protestations of my 95 year old grandma Verna that we must be crazy... come January we're heading out!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

3 Cheers for Dad!

Do you have home improvement projects that you’ve been wanting to tackle forever? We have 11 years of those projects in this 100-year-old house. It’s not that bad, but it’s been tough for these two working parents to keep ahead of the house project list.

Now that I’m done with my work at Joyce Preschool, I’ve turned my attention to getting our family and our house ready for next year. There’s lot to do in preparation and we continue researching living and study options in Chile. As for the house, we are getting it ready to rent in January. I’m happy that my dad, Chuck, is available and is great with home projects. So every week, Chuck and I are doing some of those little projects that have been on the list for awhile- some plaster repair, some paint touch-up, etc.

It’s great. Such satisfying and immediate results! Fixing a couple things up, in addition to decluttering, throwing out, and in general cleaning up the whole house, means that the house will look like we’ve always wanted it to... right before we move out! Thanks for the all the help Dad!

- Laura

Monday, November 1, 2010

Top 3 things you (and I) didn't know about Chile

image from Wikipedia
The kids and I were curious about the globe image below, and the portion of Antarctica depicted as part of Chile.  According to Wikipedia, Chile claims the shaded portion of Antarctica, between 53°W and 90°W longitude, but they are signatory to the Antarctic Treaty, by which they and other countries have agreed not to fight about it.

Three of the eleven children born in Antarctica are Chilean (the rest are Argentine).

Chile is rated a 0.58 on the Digital Access Index, the best in Latin America.

Friday, October 29, 2010

our destination

image from wikipedia
I'm sure all of you guys are wondering where were we are going. Well we have decided where we are going! we are going to... CHILE! also known as CHI...CHI...CHI...LE...LE...LE. We are very excited and hope you are too!
love Grace and Theo.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Giving up something...

One of the first lessons of this family journey that we've talked about with the kids is the idea that you can't gain an amazing, new adventure without also giving up some of the things you most love. For the kids that means they will leave classrooms they are thoroughly enjoying, they will say goodbye to family and friends for a year, and won't do some the activities that are traditions in our family; cross country ski league, the 4th of July Parade at Ottertail Lake, our summer trip to the Boundary Waters. For me, it means giving up a job I love.

Tomorrow, Joyce Preschool is hosting a goodbye celebration in my honor. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have worked with such a dedicated group of staff, board members, parents, and community supporters. Together we've made a huge impact in the lives of hundreds of children. There is nothing as important as helping children realize their full educational potential and early education is the key to it all.

Thanks to all the amazing people who comprise the Joyce community. (hoping not to cry throughout the WHOLE evening tomorrow. :-)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Geeky Stuff: Snail Mail

I know what all of you in reader-land are thinking:  Yes, yes, meat empanadas and penguins and exotic animal habitats are interesting, but what about all the cool geeky stuff you get to do to prepare for living abroad?

Well, I'm glad you asked.  Here is the first entry in my certain-to-be-a-classic Geeky Stuff series.

A couple years ago all of the bills we get (water, gas, electric, phone, medical, etc., etc.) started arriving each month with a big banner on the back of the envelope that said something to the tune of: 

Be Green!  Save the Earth!  Save us (your friendly gas company) a bunch of money!  Sign up for e-Statements!

This seemed intriguing to me (I'm always looking for ways to save my gas company money) but I had my tried-and-true methods of record-keeping, and it seemed like a pain.  Then we started hatching this hair-brained scheme to spend a year on the other side of the planet, and I thought, this might be a good idea.

So I started signing up for all of those e-statements.  And I kept doing it, for about the past year, and now I can say truthfully that all of our snail mail is now junk.  Other than the occasional real letter from you, our family and friends, the signal-to-noise ratio in the Bud Ice box into which our mail slot empties is very near zero.  And e-statements really do live up to they hype - they're convenient, they're green, they don't break your back if you have to carry them from the basement to the attic.

I know, you alert readers are thinking,
  • How on earth do you remember all those passwords for all those e-statement accounts?  Isn't it insecure?
  • What if you do get some real mail while you're abroad?
Stay tuned...

Theo's Criteria...somewhere where...

1. it does not go above 80 degrees F.
2. there is meat empanadas
3. there are different habitats and animals


Friday, October 22, 2010

grace's criteria.

hi,my name is grace and, here is my criteria,

1. I would like to see penguins on our trip
2. somewhere where they grow beets
3. somewhere where there are not to many people from the u.s.a.
4. somewhere where they have good desserts

thank you for reading my blog
from, grace h.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

FAQs part III…

“What are the criteria for selecting your destination?” is another great question. It’s really interesting how different our criteria are now that we have kids as opposed to when we were young and single and traveling around Latin America. All of a sudden, access to good health care and political stability are much higher on the list.

It’s also a mixed blessing that we have so few constraints on selecting a place or the fact that one of us isn’t being transferred. There are countless wonderful communities all over Latin America, and any number of them would be a great destination for us! So where to begin? We knew we had to narrow it down, so here are our criteria (so far):

1) Latin America; same time zone for Dan’s work and Spanish for the kids

2) Reliable high speed internet for Dan’s work (that eliminates a lot of regions and countries where rolling blackouts are quite common)

3) A second, third, or fourth city in a country. A manageable size, less pollution, and more of a chance to get to know a community than in a capital city. At the same time, probably not a rural town which might have limited resources in terms of schools and healthcare.

4) Politically stable

5) Not touristy. Not too many gringos.

6) Coastal. I’ve finally decided if I’m to leave land-locked Minnesota for a year, I’d like to be able to view the ocean on a regular basis (sorry Bolivia).

That’s our short criteria list – which of course is ever-evolving.

FAQs continued...

Another big questions is “What will you be doing?”. Dan will continue to design and write software remotely with his current company Integral 7. We hope to enroll the kids in a local (Spanish-speaking) school. And I hope to do some volunteer work in our community in addition to helping the kids negotiate another school, language and culture, and in general manage our transition. We hope to travel some but mostly we want to be part of another community for the year. We want to make friends, understand what it is like to live in that country. We want to learn about the people and the cultural traditions. And in the process of learning about others, we hope to learn more about ourselves and what’s important in our lives.



Most common question….”Where are you going?”

My friend Annie and I joked today that everyone’s interest in our destination is reminiscent of when Dan and I were waiting for our kids to be born and both were 2 plus weeks past their due dates. Friends and family tried not to harangue us with, “Is the baby here yet?”, but really that’s all anyone wanted to know. Similarly, folks would love to know where we’re heading in 3 months – as would we. We’re working on it... stay tuned.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A perfect day in Minneapolis

This morning was absolutely gorgeous as I ran by Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet. Fall colors, balmy weather, sun shining off the lakes. I stopped by the rose garden to literally smell the roses and slowed to walk through the Peace Garden. I wound my way to the soccer fields to meet up with Dan and the kids. There I greeted all sorts of friends from our communities of Lyndale Neighborhood, Barton School and Joyce Preschool. Later we met up with our neighborhood camping crew at Minnehaha Falls for some bbq and frisbee and finally ended with dinner with our brother-in-law and a sleepover with the nephews.

A perfect day and one that makes me realize how fortunate we are to live where we live and share in some incredible communities. Even as the excitement is starting to build about our upcoming journey and even as I'm secure in the knowledge of all the opportunities in front of us, its still hard to not feel some sadness in regards to relinquishing all this - even if just for a year. Lojo