Three Big B’s

For Babka, Baby, and Blog. First the babka. 2 mini loaves happy girl slice 2 slice

Thank goodness this unholy concoction, containing over a pound of butter and sugar, each, and nearly 2 and 1/2 pounds of chocolate (!!) can be frozen, because I could only justify making this recipe by promising that I would freeze two of the three loaves to have when my husband is here to enjoy it. The impetus for this dessert is innocent enough. My mother-in-law shared a loaf of sweet bread studded with chocolate chips, and I thought to myself, hmm, these people are onto something. So I did a quick search at my favorite food blog and came up with chocolate babka. And at first glance, it looked simple enough, a sweet bread dough swirled with chocolate filling and topped with streusel. Closely examining the ingredient list, however, gave me reason to pause. Did I really want to sink that amount of indulgent ingredients into one baking endeavor? The craving won out, however, and it’s not until you’re standing there, looking at two bowls on the counter, one containing your risen dough, and one containing your chocolate/butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture and finding, in alarm, that one is unexpectedly more full than the other, that you realize you may have, perhaps, made a slight error in judgement. Thank goodness it’s too late to turn back at that point, because this babka, oh this babka, it is just that good. With all that said, however, I don’t see myself making it again any time soon. But you should. At least once; it’s one of those things. And after living months without access to an oven, it felt good to have a really, really good excuse to turn on the oven.

Speaking of cravings and ovens, I suppose that now is as good a time as any to announce that I am having a baby. Next month! As in, approximately five weeks from now we’ll be a family of 5. Sorry I haven’t mentioned it before, it’s just that living on the island and being pregnant without having access to good medical care has made me nervous, and I didn’t need anyone else’s well-meant comments or advice making me more nervous. I know I have really wonderful, lovely readers, but the internet is a crazy big place, and I know things like that still happen. So now that I am safely back to the United States, having survived 27-hours plane travel and layovers at 7 months pregnant taking care of two little girls all by myself, I feel comfortable sharing the exciting news. We’re having another little girl, and we are completely thrilled. It is a little bittersweet, because with the baby came the decision that we couldn’t responsibly raise small children on the Galapagos. There are just too many risks involved, mostly from poor-quality water and lack of adequate medical care, that would make it hard to have a new baby there. So we decided to leave our job and home on the Galapagos and move back to the United States.babiesSee, I’m not making this up. This was taken on our last day in Galapagos, when I was 32 weeks (3 weeks ago). My husband is currently finishing up his last month of work and then will come up before (fingers crossed) the baby comes.

The third B is for blog. I realize I’ve been a terribly negligent blogger lately (as in, the last year or so) but that is the trouble with living without internet access. It makes it rather difficult to do things on the internet. Ha. Seriously though, I’ve found that over the year, I’ve kind of lost my taste for the internet. I’ve found many worthwhile things to fill in the time, and frankly, I’m a little disgusted with myself when I get into a rut of looking at pinterest or other social media things for any extended length of time. Not that those things are bad, (and I am in no way casting judgement on people who do enjoy passing the time in this way), it’s just not really my thing, anymore. So, I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in with my blog. I do like sharing, and I love getting feedback from you, especially when there is something I can help you with. And now that I do have access to the internet on a regular basis, I will try to be a more dutiful blog and e-mail correspondent (of course, after the baby comes, all bets are off). But I don’t think I’ll be picking up the pace with posting any time soon. I hope you understand, dear readers.

Have a wonderful afternoon.

One Year

One year ago we moved to San Cristóbal in the Galapagos Islands. I can’t believe it has been that long. Of course, we’ve only lived on the island for about 7 of those twelve months,  because 5 months of that were spent trying to figure out residency rules, etc., and also a month-long trip home (Oregon) for Christmas. So maybe that’s why it doesn’t quite feel like it’s been a year. Anyways, to celebrate our anniversary  I thought I’d share some pictures of one of my favorite Galapagos cohabitants. from a distancecloser

 

iguana close up

 

walking away 2

 

walking away

profileHave a great day!

 

Taking it Slow

fia at sunset fia smile isa goggles isa playing pepe stroller

It’s been a little over a week since we got back to the island, and the time has flown by. Each day feels very full of life, but I don’t have very many significant activities to report. Most of my accomplishments fall into a list like “cut husbands hair, organized two drawers in studio desk, went through kids clothes and removed all the clothes that don’t fit.” Silly little things, but it feels good to get them done. Each afternoon we’ve gone to the beach or the park. Sometimes we buy some fresh-baked bread from the panadería (bread store) to snack on. I really enjoy the slow pace of things here. Besides Joel’s work, we really have no other time commitments besides the ones we make for ourselves. We walk everywhere. We can get up early and go to the beach at sunrise or stop by the giant tortoise in residence at the visitor’s center down the street from Joel’s work. We can let the girls go swimming at sunset.

I’m most excited about starting up my reading program again with my four-year-old. She’s learned a bunch of individual words, and is moving to sentences and soon books! So excited about this for her. I’m also really excited to get deep into some projects I’ve been wanting to work on for a while, and I can’t wait to share those with you. Plus, did I mention that I recently took a couture dress making class online over our Christmas vacation (thank you, high-speed internet)? It’s got me all revved up and ready to try some clothing construction. Maybe, if I can clear off my desk enough to get to my sewing machine.

Anyways, the bottom line is, life is good here, and I have good things in store for the blog. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!

A Typical Saturday

This post could have also been titled “what I look like before 7 AM,” but you get the idea.

First things first, we head to the market.  On the way there, we pass by a beautiful house, with a fun garden that includes poinsettia trees (did you know those little plants you buy at Christmas grow up to be trees?) and pineapples.

Here’s the market. It’s a quaint little crumbling, dilapidated spot in the center of town, and it’s where we buy 80% of our food each week.

I buy most of my food from this lady. She’s like the “no soup for you” guy (I’m not really into Seinfeld, but I do know that reference), but she’s straightforward, and I don’t feel like I’m being gutted. The prices are the same for everyone, even a gringa like me.

I love my little girl’s face in these next three pictures. She’s so good at posing for pictures.

This man was chopping up some freshly slaughtered goats. His friends were making fun of him while I was taking the pictures, saying that he never knew how to do anything, but now he has a woman so he had to learn to butcher goats.

He works outside of the butcher place though. Here’s what the legit butcher shop looks like (it’s really just a corner of the market, too.

This was the first women I bought anything from at the market. She seemed the most approachable, and since my Spanish isn’t great, I was a little nervous about the whole thing. She is sweet and always has a handful of grapes for my girls when we come.

That’s it for the market. Now we’re headed for a real store.

This is one of the bigger “grocery” stores on the island. It’s a little smaller than your standard 7-Eleven.

It’s one of those magical places where you can find nutella, canned beans, maraschino cherries, and baby food all in one place.

After grabbing a few nonperishable, include several liters of milk in a box (that you don’t have to refrigerate until it is opened, is that pasteurized) it’s time to head for home. All of this happens before 8 am, every Saturday. It’s a fun little ritual that we’ve gotten used to.

Have a great weekend!

Sea Lions

 

I thought maybe it was time to do another little feature on this crazy beautiful island that I live on. One of the most conspicuous elements of our island are the sea lions. They are everywhere. Sleeping, fighting, barking and belching. They overrun the playground, occupy most of the benches, block pedestrian bridges and lounge in the streets. As you can imagine, they create quite a bit of trouble for the residents here, but they also add to the magic of the place, in their own way. Here’s a quick look at them. 

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

Some things

Some things are going on around here. First, I should say that I’m writing this from the continent. We’re taking a vacation from the Galapagos. Ha! Actually, part of the residency hoops we have to jump through is that once you are ready to apply for temporary residency on the island, you must leave the island and then come back. Don’t get me started on all the ridiculous rules they have in place to deter anyone who has the audacity to try to move there. Our 90 days in Galapagos were going to be up next Saturday, but due to some last-minute scrambling to get my husband’s residency application done, we found out Wednesday afternoon that we would all be leaving the country the following morning. Prepping a house for and extended absence, in addition to packing for that absence, in less than 24 hours is not something that I would wish on anyone, but we managed somehow. (Since we still don’t have a washing machine, and there was not enough time to get it done at the laundromat, we had to bring two suitcases full of dirty clothes as part of our managing somehow.)

So we will be on the continent at least until the first of July. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we can get all the paperwork taken care of so that we can go back to the island together, but if not, I may be staying with my girls here while my husband goes back. If you are familiar with Ecuadorian geography, we are currently in the peninsula, but we will be heading up to Quito, the capital, next week for some work training.

In other news, we’ve had a few small milestones that have gone by almost imperceptibly. The biggest one for me is that for the first time in over four years I am not nursing or pregnant. For those of you (ahem, my parents) who may be tempted to gloss over that line and only catch the buzzword, let me emphasize the NOT. I love my babies, and I loved nursing them and was so grateful that I was able to do so, but after four years straight of my body being in charge of nourishing another being in addition to myself, it does feel a little freeing to be back to just me again.

The other little milestone we slid past last week was our six-month mark in Ecuador. That’s big! Over the last 6 months we have slowly but surely been adjusting to life in Ecuador, and now, it truly feels like we are at home here. I’m glad, too. Of course, I still have a long way, mainly in the speaking-Spanish aspect, to go before the other people here accept me as part of the community.

So for the next three weeks I’ll be busy keeping the girls entertained while my husband has to run all over the place getting documents processed and filing out applications. I brought along a little stitching to keep myself entertained, and I think I’m going to hunker down and play around with some new stitches, which I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.

So, it just occurred to me that it’s summertime for all my friends north of the Equator.  (Technically, we just entered “winter” down here. With the length of the day remaining constant, and the temperature fluctuating only a few degrees up and down, my perception of seasons is all out of whack.) Does anyone have any fun summer plans? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about that.

Have a great Monday!

A Longer Explore

As I may have mentioned more than once, we are living on the island of San Cristóbal in the Galapagos Islands. It is one of four populated islands in the archipelago, and it is not the most populated. That honor goes to Santa Cruz, which I had heard had a bustling port city of no small size. Joel and I visited Santa Cruz four years ago, but most of the memories I had about the size and situation of the island were effaced by my recent experiences in San Cristobal. Well, this last weekend, we returned to that island, and I was surprised by how much I actually remembered, and how much had changed. It is a very busy city compared to our sleepy San Cristóbal. I was positively homesick for our island after passing a sleepless night in listening to trucks and scooters passing noisily by our hostel window, to the congregating of dozens of dogs holding a midnight meeting in the street, and to a few boistrous tourist and townspeople staggering in the dark back to their dwellings.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I should say that our primary purpose for traveling to Santa Cruz was to attend our church. Unfortunately, there is not a congregation located on our island, so we have been on our own for the last few months. We finally got up the courage to try the two-hour boat ride to Santa Cruz, where the local congregation meets.

Early Saturday morning, we set out on the Osprey, a fairly spacious vessel, with the group of British kids from the Hacienda Tranquila, who had booked passage on the same boat. Everything started out great. Isabella and Sofia were riveted to the windows for the first 45 minutes of the voyage. But their enthusiasms soon began to wane, and was then altogether replaced by a general malaise. Then all at once, sea sickness set in, and the poor little girls took turns, in close succession, of necessitating the application of a plastic bag and gobs of toilet paper to their aid.

Anyways, we were very glad to be back on dry land. We had not arranged lodgings for the night in advance, but that is no major problem on the island since there is always someone eager to fill up their rooms. We hadn’t even left the dock before finding a person to conduct us to a nice little apartment that they rented out to tourists. We changed into our swimsuits, slathered on the sunscreen, and took off in the direction of the Darwin Research center, home of Lonesome George.

Along the way, we there were plenty of fun things to see. Like a bridge through the mangroves.


And a fresh fish market with all the usual fish stalkers.

A friendly sea lion.

Pelicans young

and old.



And a surly booby. It’s not the blue-footed variety, and when I went to google it so I could perhaps look up the name of the correct variety, I got half way through typing the word before I realized that might not be the best thing to carelessly look up on the internet.

As we got closer to the center, we ran into some more iguanas and some fun little lizards. They must be cousins of the ones who live on our islands, because they have red patches in the same place, but it’s a different shade of red.

This was my favorite iguana. He just had a unique personality.

Almost as soon as we walked inside the center, we saw these big guys waiting for us.

Unlike our visit to the galapaguera on San Cristóbal, there are giant tortoises to spare at the Darwin Center in Santa Cruz.

And no less exciting were the giant land iguanas with flaming orange skin.

Lonesome George was napping in a cave, so we didn’t get to see him. We’ll just have to try for our next trip.

And there is also a small beach conveniently located there, for a cool dip after all that walking in the sun. The best part were the baby iguanas.

=

For dinner, we went to the same restaurant that Joel and I went to four years ago, and we ordered the pizza again. It was much better than I expected, probably because I didn’t make the mistake this time of ordering salchicha, which I mistakenly thought was sausage. Hot dogs cut up and sprinkled on a pizza is a thing that should never be.  I also got a plate of fish, and I just wanted to show you this lime, which was green on the outside and orange on the inside.

After dinner, we went to the park, which was packed with children, doing all sorts of crazy fun activities that are banned from US playgrounds. I wish I had taken a picture of the rope basket swing that had a swing-span of 15 feet and was reaching almost the level of the swing’s pole at its peak height. There was also a little slide shaped like an elephant, and Isabella and Sofia were going nuts sliding down the trunk of that thing. It made me feel a little sad about the dilapidated state of the parks we have here on San Cristóbal.

We woke up early Sunday morning (earlier than I would have liked, but my girlies just don’t know how to savor a good sleepy Sunday morning) and got ready for church.

The church building is nice, and air conditioned, and the people were very welcoming. All in all it was an excellent experience. If it wasn’t for the girls throwing up the whole way there, I think we would try to come at least monthly. But I just don’t know if we can do that to them every month.

After church we had a little time to wander around and then we made our way back to the dock. I just snapped a few more pictures before it was time to go.

The boat ride home was super crowded and hot, but the girls slept most of the way and there wasn’t any throwing up, so we’ll call it a success. I was certainly glad to be back home. Santa Cruz is a lovely island with many charming spots, but I’m so glad we’re living on San Cristóbal.

Inspiration: Spiders

Okay, I have to start by saying that I am  major arachnophobe. I’m getting a little more comfortable with them here, since they are EVERYWHERE, but only if they are at a distance. There are some monster big ones that make me shudder. The web-spinning spiders here are quite fascinating, though. I think their delicate patterns are quite lovely, actually.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

 

A Long Explore

(If you recognize where the title came from, double parents-of-toddlers points to you.)

The long explore. We did a taxi tour this last weekend as a fun little send-off for my brother-in-law, David, who has been staying with us since we moved here and helped tons with cleaning, moving, and toddler wrangling. The boat tours in Galapagos can get pretty expensive, but this taxi tour was a reasonable price, and it was per-trip, not per-person, so it worked out great. Also, we could schedule the tour for as long or as short as we wanted, at any time we wanted, so it meant we could do it after naps.

The island is a longish oval shape, nothing exciting like Isabela, which is shaped, seriously, just like a sea horse (look it up). You can drive from one side to the other, short-wise. You can stop any taxi on the street, and say, I want to go to the Galapaguera (tortoise breeding center) and they will take you on a tour. It’s actually a three-part tour, starting at a caldera lake, then the breeding center, finished up with a swim at a lovely (though a bit rough) beach. The tour lasted 5 hours, so I’m breaking it up a bit here. The majority of my pictures were from El Junco, the caldera lake. It was amazing to see the island from those views. I loved it.

We took a taxi to the base of the Junco caldera, then walked up to the top.

These windmills were on an adjacent hill, part of the green efforts of the islands.

Here you can see the other end of the island and the ocean just faintly visible.

Panorama of El Junco (be sure to click on the image to see it larger). I’m a little addicted to the Panorama generating feature in Photoshop. So cool.

That’s a Frigate Bird. There were a bunch circling El Junco.

Okay, does this image give anyone else and Anne of Green Gables (or of Avon Lee, don’t remember which) vibe? The whole time we were looking over the opposite coast, I kept thinking of that.

We stood and gazed at the view for a good little bit. Groups of people came and went while we were standing there. Lovely. Breathtaking. You know, the standard descriptions for the sublime.

Isabella kept saying she wanted to go down to where the horses where on the other side of El Junco. She kept calling to them, too, and neighing.

Then we turned around and headed back up.

And then back down.

The view looking down from El Junco.

Both of the girls were tired by the time we headed back. But this was only the first third of our tour.

The next stop on our tour was the Galapaguera, which is a turtle breeding center (quick fact: galapagos is the Spanish word for the giant tortoises with saddle-back shells, so that’s how the islands got their name).

We saw only three of the really big tortoises for the whole walk. This fact was made up for by the interesting scenery and of course the dozens of little baby giant tortoises that we got to see.

Our third and final stop was Puerto Chino. It was a beautiful white beach bordered on both sides with black volcanic rock and lush greenery.

And beautiful white sand.

Teeny tiny crab. Even crustaceans are cute when they’re super small.

It ended up being a very full, fun day. What an adventure! Hopefully there will be many more to come.