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Friday, July 31, 2009


Much has been said about Atlantida (our "big city" to the west). Atlantida is one of the main cities on the coast, with it's own spectacular Tienda Inglesa, many restaurants and full services year around. However, little if anything gets written about the little town within walking distance of our house, Salinas. Since yesterday was such a wonderful sunny day (though cold to the bone), we took Nate back to the veterinarian's to have the stitches removed (he came through well), then walked back to town for the feria.

By North American standards, Salinas isn't much of a town. It would be a rest stop on a trip through the desert. A few blocks of "civilization" to break up the monotony of the long drive. But, on the main highway running from Montevideo to Punta del Este, Salinas is a noteworthy stop. Here are some of it's features. It has: 2 restaurants, one empanada store, several hardware stores a bakery, 2 grocery stores, several pharmacies, veterinarian, post office, several medical clinics, DVD rentals, and actually I could go on an on with many more stores and services. Driving down the street, it looks deceptively sparse, but there are actually many stores tucked in along Julietta (the main street).

In addition, Salinas has it's own traffic light across the Ruta (main highway), an entry arch to the town, paved main roads and many of the side roads are paved for many blocks. Add to that the weekly feria (farmer's market) on Thursday morning and we have almost anything we could get in Atlantida (about 5 k's away) within a kilometer's walk.

After the feria, Denise went out to the Ruta and took some pictures of the overhead walkway, next to the light (above). A sign tells you to use that walkway to cross the Ruta. I don't know that anybody does. As you can see from this picture (below left), at about 11:00 am on Thursday morning, on the main E/W highway, the two pedestrians seem to have no trouble crossing the almost empty road.

Now this picture, below on the right, shows the steep set of steps leading up the the walkway. You will notice that one side seems to be leveled off for wheelchair access. But can you imagine someone actually trying to use this? It would be a herculean feat to get up it and a roller coaster ride down the other side.

We made a decision to try and live closer to the budget, and so this means fewer trips to Tienda Inglesa. To show you just how serious is our resolve, I am heading into Atlantida, today, to cancel our Cable TV service! Yes we are going to be going cold turkey.

The feria is a great resource that we have not been taking advantage of. When you shop at TI, you tend to buy imported items that are very overpriced. For example, you can buy a package of Old El Paso brand flour tortillas for 120 pesos (about $5.25 for 10). You can get pancake syrup, Hershey's chocolate sauce and a host of other imported products for really ridiculous prices. Do we really need those things (well maybe the pancake syrup)? So we have decided to try and buy as much from the ferias as we can and use Tienda Inglesa for items that we can't buy there or at the 2 local stores. And the feria yesterday was loads and loads of fun. The picture above is interesting, because in the background, you can see a bunch of school children with their teacher. This was a field trip. The children had notebooks and the teacher took them to each vendor, and had them write down the items and prices. So we are just learning what school children know from the beginning. In addition to all the stalls selling vegetables, fish and delicatessen items, you can buy clothing, pirated DVD's (there doesn't seem to be much of a law against it), spices and at the end of the street, you even see garage sale items for sale. I bought incense at this little stand (15 sticks for 10 pesos). I love the sandalwood variety and the girl seemed to be amused that I would buy 75 sticks of one type.

After the feria, we walked home on the Rambla. On the way we stopped at a bread store and bought some empanadas, some bread and a few biscochos (like cookies or small pastries). At the end of the main street, there is some type of obelisk to mark the location and the building next to this is a Copsa bus office. Past that the parking for the beach at Salinas. The beach is very pretty there, but during the high season (Dec-Feb) it is very busy, as are most of the beaches. The Copsa office is very sparse and kind of dingy, but, it is an office and I suppose if you speak Spanish well enough, you can get schedule and fare information. There seem to be several of the lines that come up Julietta and make the turnaround at the office.

So our trip to Salinas was very refreshing. And on cold days like these (there was pretty thick ice in the fountain), it is good to get out in the sunshine and enjoy our surroundings. But let's not get carried away. Yes we are opening all the blinds and letting the bright sunlight in. But we are also keeping the fire going.... and I'm going to curl up with a good book and enjoy the day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My $2 Barber

When we lived in Seattle, I hated paying lots of money for a haircut. To me anything close to $10 is a "lot of money" for a haircut (you can see that I am way out of touch). Still, I found a local barber who had a one chair shop, and for years, Tony cut my hair for $4. That I could live with. I would give him a $1 tip, so my haircuts cost $5. I was satisfied. The last few years we lived there, he upped his price to $5, so I paid him $5 and didn't give him a tip (I am bad). Then I purchased an electric barber's razor from Costco and began cutting my hair myself (how much skill does it take to cut your hair 1/4" all over?). When asked "you mean you cut your own hair?", my reply was, "Do you think I would pay to look like this?"

Anyway, that was then and this is now. I have been going to a local barber in Salinas. He actually worked in New York for many years. "Roberto's" of Salinas. He charges 100 pesos (about $4.25) and I have been satisfied-until today, that is.

While on the way to the feria, Denise pointed out a little shop she always passes by. She had noticed the barber standing outside. She got me to ask, since I needed a haircut and Roberto is in the States until October (I would look pretty bad by then) and I was told that he charges 50 pesos for a haircut (a little over $2). He had my interest. Turns out that he did a great job. He told me he had 2 customers from the US, and I told him he now has 3! Being the big spender that I am, I gave him a 10 peso tip (40¢).

By the way- for any who were concerned for my health and welfare, due to the failed anniversary, I am doing much better. The headaches have almost stopped and the ringing in my ears has diminished significantly.

(Photos courtesy of Denise's of Marindia)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How Could Someone So Smart......

Be So Stupid? And of course I am talking about myself.

This past Tuesday was our 36th anniversary. Coincidentally it was also the 1st anniversary of our house purchase (we closed on our 35th wedding anniversary). We had planned a little trip to Piriapolis, but the weather and other events conspired against us.

So, when Tuesday morning rolled around and I told Denise that I would do anything that she wanted to, today. She simply asked me what would be a romantic thing to have done. Unfortunately I knew the answer to that question and even worse for me, I answered, "Flowers" was my fatal response. Of course, I had not gotten flowers, and so I sealed my fate.

Now, a day later and rueing my lack of any preparation on the previous day- it occurs to me that I should have reviewed my own "3 Steps to A Harmonious Marriage" booklet. The only good thing I can say is that it was not a "multiple of 5 anniversary" (20th, 25th, etc). A failure to properly celebrate a 5'er could have taken years to live down. I can personally attest to from my 20th anniversary fiasco (it wouldn't be until our 23rd anniversary that I recovered). On that fateful 20th, my wife told me that we really didn't need to do anything special to celebrate. And I, being the innocent that I was, believed her. I've learned better, since.

We have talked this through (mainly her talking and me dutifully listening) and I think we may be through the worst. Who came up with the idea of celebrating wedding anniversaries, anyway?

Well, I post this as a warning to those approaching an anniversary. These are dangerous times we live in. It is not wise to anger the person you spend most of your time with. If you don't see any new posts then it has been fun....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Almost A Millionaire

Some years ago a young friend of ours got married. Since I couldn't attend his bachelor party, I thought I would add to the atmosphere. So I wrote and printed out on my inkjet, a little brochure entitled "3 Steps to a Harmonious Marriage". I managed to condense 0ver 30 years of practical wisdom into a little 8 page brochure. Actually, I had intended to write a book, but my terse style of commentary only got me 8 small pages of text. My wife read, proof read and approved the text. From that you may gather that the advice contained is feminine friendly and men do well to read, but not share the information.

Anyway, it was a hit at the party and I printed up several more a gag gifts. Everyone who read it thought it was great (obviously my circle of friends does not include any editors for major publishing houses). I sent one to my father in California and he thought it was great. Hence, I began to formulate and plan that would earn me one million dollars.

Here is how it went. I had 1,000 of the booklets professionally printed (just to get the ball rolling) on nice slick paper, with a 2 color cover (nothing fancy or overly expensive). I priced the booklet at $2.95, figuring this in keeping with some offerings in the greeting card section of most supermarkets. I planned to market online, as one option and obtained the appropriate website and set up a store offering the book, postage paid for $2.95 each and additional copies at a discount. I contacted several wedding planner trade shows, thinking this would be a great hand out for some booth. I also sent several hundred to my Dad who was sure he could sell them easily. I figured that taking out printing costs, shipping and handling costs, that I would clear about $1.00 per booklet. Hence, all I had to do was sell a million of the booklets and voila! I am a millionaire.

Well, after a year on the web with no orders, my Dad's booklets sitting in his closet and me having moved on to other things, my dream of being a millionaire has faded into the distant past. I suppose I will have to resign myself to living here on the beach in Uruguay, LIKE A MILLIONAIRE, but without the money. Anyway, for your viewing pleasure I am giving you a copy of the million dollar book, as thanks for following my blog.

Friday, July 24, 2009

As If the Cake Wasn't Enough

Well, since I posted the recipe for the heart stopping microwave cake, I thought I would take a moment and post the perfect topping to bring the cholesterol level of the cake up to FDA standards. Here is a delicious Hot Fudge Sauce.

Hot Fudge Sauce

1 Cup Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Cup boiling water
1 tsp vanilla
4 TB butter

In a heavy saucepan mix cocoa, sugar and salt. Gradually stir in water; stir over medium heat about 8 minutes or until smooth, shiny and slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Next, add butter and stir over low heat until smooth (about 4 minutes). Serve warm (when it is cooled it is a very thick and rich topping, as well).

I hope this adds just the touch that was missing from the microwave cake. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wet and Windy

Today was a wet and windy day in Uruguay. Had to make sure the wood was covered and in a dry part of the day, went onto the roof and cleaned out the fireplace chimney. It made it much easier to build a fire to keep the cold away.

Denise made a delicious soup (sausage, white beans, tomatoes, garlic and elbow macaroni). It was fantastic food for a cold day. I went out to buy bread, only to discover that the new panederia and also the local bakery were closed for 1 1/2 hours at lunch time. I returned without bread, with a few choice words about essential businesses that close for lunch time.

When it came time to think about a little warm dessert, we decided to make the dreaded and much renowned chocolate mug cake. I am sure that many of you have seen this on blogs, gotten emails about it or seen UTube videos. It is a 3 minute, microwave cake in a cup and it works.

Here is how it goes:
4 Tb flour
4 Tb sugar
2 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
Mix those dry ingredients in a normal size microwave safe mug
1 egg
Mix that into the dry ingredients. Then add:
3 Tb milk
3 Tb oil
splash of vanilla
Mix those all together in the cup.
The mixture will look like the picture above, very runny.

You may add 2 Tb chocolate chips if you wish.
Microwave for 3 minutes (Recipe calls for 1000W microwave, but I have a 900W microwave and it works just fine).

The cake will rise just above the lip and it will look like the photo above on the right.

We made up some fresh whipped cream, brewed up a double tall latté and sat down for a feast. We split the single serving in half, but if you are a big eater- go for a whole one.

This is not a gourmet cake, but is very passable and can be ready in minutes. Use this recipe at your own discretion. We have settled down for the evening. The wind is still raging, but the fire is warm, we are satisfied and all is right with the world. Amazing what a warm soup and a chocolate treat can do to brighten the day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Trip to the Doctor

Well, I am feeling fine, but last week Nathaniel (the cat) had a little mishap on one of his outings. He spent all day in the wild outdoors, and when he returned late at night, he was curled up in a ball at the front door and wouldn't open his eyes until the next day. He lay in what I can only describe (and please excuse this) a catatonic state.

He recovered in a few days and was back to his old self, but there was a slight pouch at his stomach. At first we thought it might just be weight loss, brought on by the stress. But as the appointment for his 2nd rabies shot came due, this week, it became apparent that he might have a cyst or some such thing.

The vet, a very gently and nice man, made a brief examination and let us know that Nate had suffered a hernia. Apparently that runs in the family, having had a hernia operation, myself, just before we arrived in Uruguay. Now, I know that Nate has not been doing any heavy lifting, but when he was shaved for the little operation, the doctor showed us the place where he was obviously held and shaken by his stomach (probably one of the many neighborhood dogs). The skin had not been broken, but it did result in the hernia.

Within an hour, a massive vitamin B shot had been administered, anesthetic given and the operation performed. The patient is currently resting comfortably with a good prognosis for a full recovery.

The vet's bill for the shots, and operation was a whopping 450 pesos (just under $20). I don't think you can beat that and next week he comes back to have the stitches removed. The vet's shop is well stocked and you can buy Hill's Science Diet (though my wife says that is highly overrated) and many other brands of food and accessories. I think you can say that the vet saved us from a near catastrophe (once again I must apologize- I can't help myself).

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Yes, foreigners is what we are. And this Saturday, one of the local expats in Atlantida (Katherine, a former attorney from the US) arranged for some of us foreigners to get together at Don Vitos Restaurant. It was truly a dreary day, so our friends from La Floresta (Steve and Dianne) braved the weather in their trusty white steed and came to pick us up.

Interestingly, the VW Bug is a very well known and often seen car on the road in Uruguay. Since we have been looking at cars for a future purchase, we have earmarked several VW's to consider. We would prefer a 4 door, but the economy and ease of repair of the Bug keep it in our considerations.

We made it to Don Vitos at about 12 noon and we were among the first to arrive. We knew a number of the people there, but most were people we had never met before. Some were from Georgia, New Mexico, New York, California and numerous places throughout the US. There were also a number of returning Uruguayans who have lived in the US for many years and have recently returned here in retirement. It was kind of a cultural shock to be conversing so freely in English with all in attendance.

This picture was taken very early on and only shows about half of the people who eventually came in. Naturally, I forgot to take another picture, but I was quite surprised at the number and variety of attendees. A few were scoping out Uruguay as a possible home, but most have already made their decision and backed it up with home purchases and settling into the community.

Plans were made to hold this lunch several times each month. With the turnout we had, it wouldn't be surprising to see 20 or more each time it was held. Since you rarely run into an expat in your day to day activities, it was a pleasant surprise to find so many gathered in one place and get a chance to find out how they all came to be here. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Denise's Special Day

Today was Denise's birthday. OK- we don't celebrate birthdays, but we do take note of them. Denise therefore didn't expect anything special. From the moment she got up, however, the day started going wrong.

The cat was being a brat and had to be put outside (probably never to be seen again). I had forgotten entirely that my wife was turning over another year (typical of me), so I didn't even comment on how young she was looking. The milk curdled in her coffee and she had to throw it out. Finally, she thought she would just open the verticals and enjoy the beautiful sunny day- but I complained that my favorite show (NCIS) wasn't finished and the glare would ruin my morning show. So she went back to bed. When I went in to check on her- she unloaded. While she didn't expect anything special- something less than a disaster would have been nice. So we set off to have "Denise's Special Day". Now I thought we might visit an expat who just moved into a new house, but Denise informed me that a "special day" did not include things that you do on an ordinary day, so we set out to have a nice experience we could enjoy between us.

We had heard about a little restaurant in Pinamar near the ramp where the fishermen unloaded their boats. So we got the motorcycle out and headed in that direction. After a beautiful sunny ride (though a little chilly), we finally came upon a very charming little restaurant- "Grace's". Grace actually runs a little restaurant out of her house. She lives there and cooks and serves the meals. It looked the proper restaurant with nice tables and chairs.

This is Denise seated in a little private room with Graciela, our host. She speaks beautiful English, having lived in the US for some years and practices regularly with many of her customers.

We were served a lovely baked fish, with vegetables and Grace gave us a welcoming dessert on the house. While we ate, we could look out over the fishermen cleaning the fish out of their nets and occasionally a large truck would pull up and they would load it with some of the fish.

We finished off the day with a visit to a local nursery and Denise made some final purchases for our front entry planters. At home now, with a nice fire going- a day that started out to be a disaster ended up being Denise's Special Day.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

No News is Not Always Good News

Well, we have finally hit the "wall" in Uruguay. After hearing about workers who never finish jobs and businesses that never return calls, we have finally experienced that. To date, we have lost 2 herreros (iron workers), 1 plumber and a cabinetmaker to the "black hole" of Uruguay. Either they have all decided to take vacations in countries that do not have cell service, some freak tragedy has coincidentally struck all of their families at the same time or (more likely) they are following the general course of business in Uruguay.

I am sure that eventually they will contact us again and eventually all of our projects will get done. The funny thing is that everybody complains about being such a poor country, no jobs and no money. However, workers show up after 9 in the morning, take off 1 or more hours for lunch and leave at 4-5 in the afternoon. They also do not return phone calls for possible work or finish work on a regular basis. Could this have something to do with the "supposed" poverty in the country?

Of course, we have a very comfortable house to live in, sufficient food and a wonderful neighborhood, so we are not greatly worried about some loose details. I mainly wanted to let everyone know why progress has not been posted.

This month is our 36th wedding anniversary. We are planning a very short day trip and should have some nice reports on that. Until then.... signing off.