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.