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Friday, April 30, 2010

Internet Speeds

I have used Antel's DSL service for almost 2 years, now. I signed up for 2048 Kpbs service, with 100 minutes of free international calling credited to my phone bill (cost: 1463 pesos or $77). I never actually used the 100 minutes, entirely (which cost me 195 pesos/month) and frankly have never been impressed with the 2048 service, either. Now in Seattle, we enjoyed cable internet speeds (dramatically better than any DSL service we could get in Uruguay) for about $40 per month- so we have been spoiled.

So, Wednesday I decided to change my plan. I eliminated the international long distance (I will use Skype minutes, instead) and reduced my service to 1024 Kpbs (883 pesos or $46), just to see how much difference it would make. I will save $30/month, which is a significant amount, especially if you don't need something. Yesterday, I had to actually sign in to my new account, and after a few minutes of fiddling around, got internet back online.

Today was the first full day of service at the reduced speed. The result. Pages load faster and my download rate is as fast or faster than before. The conclusion- paying $20 more per month doesn't get you better service. Save the money and get 1024 Kpbs service.

It Lives!

This is day 3 of the great sourdough experiment. And lo and behold, when I peeked under the moist towel that had been covering my future sourdough starter, there were many bubbles on the surface and a somewhat sour smell- all to be expected.

Apparently I have a live culture underway. The bubbles are the result of the live yeast and are the byproduct of the yeast "eating" the flour I have provided. Apparently these would be yeast farts- though I will not point that out to potential consumers of my sourdough bread.

From now on, each day I will take out half of the mixture and add back 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour to keep feeding the starter. In a week or so, I will have a viable "mother" starter that I can use in place of commercial yeast to produce bread. Then the fun begins.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Today I made my first loaf of bread. This is day 2 of the sourdough starter and nothing needed to be done, so I thought I would try my hand at a standard loaf of white bread. Normally recipes make 2 loaves at a time, but since this was my first, I thought I would halve it and see what happened.
Besides making bread, today- I also had to unblock the drain line from the kitchen to the septic system. I worked on it all day long, with a combination of hot water and a garden hose. Eventually I purchased a length of plastic tubing that I used to push out the grease and that turned the trick and cleared the way. I have learned what I need to do, now. The pozo negro (septic) does not need to be emptied, so we are doing quite well.

Now, back to the bread. I probably made it a little too dry (too much flour). It did rise, but not as much as I expected. I think that kneading the dough is going to be quite an upper body workout. Now if I could just figure out how to need with my feet, I would be quite a balanced routine. I think kneading with the feet however, would impart a special flavor to the bread that I can do without.

It did bake up nicely, and looked pretty good- but you can tell that I am just a beginner. Once I get my mind working on the problem, I think I can do better.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sourdough Day 1

Well, I am embarking on a new career- Master Baker (no jokes, please, that is a "k"). Anyway, I have decided to try and bake bread. All types. My first effort is going to be sourdough bread. I am not doing this because you can't get good bread, here. In fact there is a little bakery in Salinas that makes a great loaf of french bread for about $.70, that you just can't beat. And they make it fresh every day. I don't think you can get sourdough bread here, but the bread they do make is great. So this is not about saving money or improving quality. It is just a little hobby, that I am going to try. Plus, I understand that it is good exercise.

For those of you who do not know about sourdough bread, it is a bread that uses a natural leavening process, rather than commercial yeast. In fact the bacteria that produces a sourdough "starter" is different from store bought yeast. And it is not that hard to make (at least not with the directions I am working from). Now, I am going to be posting this as the process wears on, rather than waiting until I am finished. If I waited until I was finished and made a successful sourdough loaf, that would be one thing. But if I was unsuccessful, I probably wouldn't post that, and where would the fun be. So, I am going to document the process, and if I am successful, great- if not, it will be a good story. A friend of ours tried this last year and failed. We shall see how my experiment works out.

Sourdough starter is made from water and flour. End of story. Basically, you mix a cup of warm water and a cup of flour and let it sit and ferment, naturally. The bacteria in the air and in the flour, itself, start a colony and you "feed" it with more flour and water every day or so, taking out the excess each time. At the end of 7-14 days, you will have a little colony of natural sourdough leaving agent. You can then refrigerate the starter (feeding it every week) and use it whenever you need to make bread. Because the bacteria result from the air and flour, sourdough will be different depending on where you live. That is why the famous "San Francisco Sourdough" may be different from the sourdough bread you make. If my bread is successful, it will be called "Marindia Sourdough Bread". The story is that some starters are cultivated for years and years, handed down from generation to generation.

So tonight, I mixed up the first batch and now I will let it sit for 2 days. After that it will get a daily "feeding". I also bought some regular yeast and will be trying other types of bread as well. Stay tuned.....

Monday, April 19, 2010

From Atlanta to Atlántida

We were treated to a visit from one of our Northern neighbors, one Patrick Kelly from Atlanta, Georgia (or just outside). Of course, Patrick (known to many as "Neddie" on a local forum) is quite the traveler, hailing originally from Zimbabwi, Africa, by way of most of Europe and many parts of the rest of the world. This is Patrick with Denise, as we had him over for a meal and a little wine.

Patrick had decided to look into Uruguay as a possible retirement spot. We had a chance to drive up the Costa de Oro with him, as well as a short trip to Piriapolis. While discussing the pros and cons of Uruguay, I stumbled upon a very basic difference of opinion on retirement plans.

Neddie is full of ideas of projects and possible businesses that might enhance a retirement in this country. While I, on the other hand, eschew to the idea of retirement being the cessation of work. I am perfectly happy to sit all day, reading a book and sipping on coffee. It is fortunate for me that I am endowed with a vigorous metabolism, or else I would weigh hundreds of pounds by now. If I ever did edge over 200 (I am far from it), I would switch back to the metric system, where I would only weigh 90 kilos (at least that is my plan, should I need it).

While having basically opposite ideas on what to do during retirement, both of us agreed that Uruguay seemed like a nice place to do it.

Since this was my second trip to Piriapolis, I made sure to visit the marina, this time, rather than just view it from a distance. There were lots of beautiful sailboats and others, both in the water and up on dry dock. There were boats from Vancouver, Washington to parts of Canada. And there was a fully operational crane to lift them in and out of the water. This would be a nice place to have a boat (if you prefer throwing your money away in that fashion).

This past Sunday, Patrick made his way back up north, there to share with his wife what he had found out on his trip here, and try and convince her to come with him next time. Only time will tell whether this will be a success.

Our best to your efforts Patrick!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Point System

I just came back from paying bills for this month. And I got to thinking about the points cards that I carry and use, every time I shop. I never really cared much for things like that in the States, but, trying to reap every benefit we can on a limited budget means using all means. Several of the larger grocery stores and also some others, issue cards and you receive points with every purchase. You can use these points to redeem gifts.

The first one I got was the Tienda Inglesa card for "Puntos". They offer double points on Tuesdays and Fridays (that's when I shop there). Over the past years, I have purchased large items (refrigerators and some other appliances) for which I received Puntos (purchased on a Tuesday or Friday, naturally). These points added up. Using my Puntos I have gotten, mixers, breadmakers, blenders, scales and numerous other items, and I still have quite a few left.

Géant, another larges store, issues a "Mas" card, good at their store and also Disco markets. They are not as generous with their points and I have never really used them, much, but I have the points and will find out what I can get sometime.

The last card I got was a card from Abitab. They are an service that changes money, issues international money orders and you can buy minutes for your phone or pay your utility and tax bill, there. I used to go to the individual utilites to pay my bills (I thought this was better), but Abitab takes the money, issues a receipt and they charge nothing extra, plus you get "Abis" for using them. I only got that card a couple of months ago, when my wife saw a display case with all kinds of cool gifts which could be purchased with "Abis". I didn't think much of it, but I got a card and in no time, I have enough Abis now to get quite a few of the items. If I had paid my property tax there (as I will next year), I would be rolling in Abis.

So don't sneer at life's little gifts. They might just surprise you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pets, Naps & Readers

One of the reasons I (Denise) started to contribute to this blog is because of Wally's intense Napping schedule(see previous days post) and his newest pursuit, "Intense Reading". I use the word intense meaning: very strong, great, deep etc... I mean hours! are spent on both new "sports" So this means less blogging time on Wally's part.

Why now, after almost 2 years here in Uruguay, has he started a "readathon"?  He should be out enjoying Uruguay! It's a beautiful "Autumn" day- note:"Fall" I learned is a mostly North American title. The reason he's indoors, reading is that we have an eReader, a Sony eReader. What am I talking about? Well, one of the many questions an Expat is often asked is "What do YOU suggest a foreigner should bring to a new country that they plan to live in?" One answer is BOOKS! in your native tongue in this case ours is English.  Surprisingly they generally sell books in SPANISH here, go figure and only a few English books find their way to book stores. We brought Books! 

So you're wondering (or not), Why the great reading program now? Well, THE DOG ATE MY BOOK! I had been reading a Sue Grafton book "S" IS FOR SILENCE and was down to my last 50 pages when it got knock to the floor and was found eaten the next day.  Knowing that I wanted to FINISH IT myself (not eat it) and also knowing "T" was out, we decided to buy an eReader. An eReader allows one to go online to a web store and select a book, just like a book store. Some people have heard of a Kindle but here you can't use it's  wireless capabilities to download books. 

We got a Sony eReader instead because Pdf's are better (Portable Document Format) and you can go online to get books from many sources. Someone, on a forum we read, said that Amazon deletes books from time to time like Orwell's "1984" and Sony doesn't.

It's easy to use!   1) go to an online site, select a book. 2) Download the book files to your computer (don't try and open them)  3) Transfer the files to your reader using a USB cable.  4) Enjoy!

 Here's a warning though: You can NOT find either eReaders here in Uruguay and they would cost $$$ many times more here than in the States if available. So we had to ask a visiting friend to bring us a GIFT of 2! I bought,er requested (wink, wink) a pink one and Wally got a dark blue one. So with his new"Toy" in hand and hubby rediscovering the joys of reading, I'll help to keep the blog afloat till Wally resurfaces. Bye the way I've finished "S" and "T". So in summary an Expat needs  a Computer/laptop and an eReader. Buy them BEFORE you come down and Happy moving!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Denise Says "Hello!"

Hello! My name is Denise and I'm Wallys' Wife.
Hola! Me llamo Denise y soy la esposa de Wally. That is the extent of my Spanish speaking abilities! Yeah that's it! I'm pretty sure I didn't even need to add the "y" or the "soy" seems to be just understood in Spanish as my Spanish for Dummies book says somewhere in it. 

I am writing to introduce myself as the "other half" of the retired in Uruguay experience. One reason I don't know Spanish is that unlike you planners out there, this experience was sprung on me one day with a "Guess what Honey? I'd like to retire early and move to some foreign place to live." So like stoic, loyal wives everywhere I came along for the ride. Wally is napping so I thought I'd seize this opportunity to let you get to know me and in the future some of my feminine insights on this place(Uruguay) & retirement (our style).  This poem, my favorite, is a good place to start to get to know me then on to Uruguay!

by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and a pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple. 

 An interesting tidbit is that there is a "Red Hat Society"! You have to be 50 years of age or older to join and must be given your red hat as a gift! The members meet together for outings & teas; wearing Purple outfits and donning their Red hats. It's that combination of dress that identifies them. There is a movement for younger members to be able to join that Society( it's that popular) but the under 50's wear Pink hats. To meet together and celebrate the fun of being a bit unconventional & wearing your outfits the only bylaws of the Society. I don't know if Uruguay has a 'Red Hat Society" I'll try & find out as I am uh, hum 50.

 My first order of business is to thank Uruguay Now, a new web based Guide site in English for including our blog on it's Best of the Web page List! There are 6 sites/blogs & 1 reference listed and I must admit ours is the most laid back of the bunch. We're just into "Hey! Here we are, here in Uruguay, cool! This is us just hanging out being retired and coping with foreign stuff(to us) as it comes along. Feel free to have a peek or a lurk or whatever."  Oh yeah! THANK YOU! Uruguay Now.

Thank you Wally blog readers of Retired in Uruguay for allowing me to add my 2 cents worth.

Denise in Uruguay

A Welcome Addition

Denise is always bugging me to post "this item" or "that item". "Take a picture of this" and "make a post about that". So, since she is not my editor-in-chief, I have decided to add her as a contributor to the blog. That way, she can post articles that will be of interest to her and not force me to.

In actuality, I am getting very, very lazy. The dogs and I find it very relaxing to take a mid-afternoon nap (and sometimes a mid-morning nap and occasionally an early evening nap). So- I hope you enjoy her posts. She has taken many of the photos that I have used, the past few years, anyway and those that I did take were usually at her urging. Between the two of us, we may keep up the blog for another couple of years.......

Monday, April 5, 2010

No Horses

Unfortunately, Sunday did not happen. Last week, I came down with a common cold and I have spent the last few days in bed. So no horses, no cowboy boots- just lots of orange juice, aspirin and tissues........