We visited a couple parks with friends. Parque Inclusivo has equipment handicapped children can use too. That’s a big step since Cuenca has poor access for the handicapped. The other park is Parque Paraiso.
Friday was Miss P’s first birthday. Ever since Miss E had her first birthday I have been obsessed with planning fun parties. I totally blame Pinterest for this. I have been thinking about the party for about 6 weeks now. I get so excited when I settle on a theme and start planning out everything. For Miss E’s first birthday, the theme was hippos because we called her our hungry hippo, but Miss P hasn’t really inspired any nicknames like her sister. But, she has had a very adventurous first year, traveling to 3 continents and 5 countries! So I settled on a travel/Dr. Seuss Oh, The Places You’ll go theme.
Decorations included a map bunting, hot air balloons, globe balls, map flowers and Dr. Seuss quotes. I wish I had a printer here but I had to settle on handmade signs. The gifts were left at the baggage check-in table and favors were picked up at baggage claim. I had a little art corner for the girls to design their own hot air balloon and we ended the party with a canned snow fight. The only decoration I forgot to make was mile markers of places we’d been. Oh well, Miss P didn’t notice.
For food I made hot air balloon sugar cookies with buttercream icing and chocolate ganache details. I made a globe smash cake with stars placed in the locations she visited this year. With the rest of the cake batter I made matching vanilla cupcakes with marshmallow cream icing. I put flag toothpicks in each as a simple decoration. We had vegetable crudités and chips with a sour cream and onion dip, sun dried tomato, spinach and salami pin wheel sandwiches, and fruit salad in a hollowed out watermelon hot air balloon with yogurt and homemade granola. Get the granola recipe here.
Miss P thoroughly enjoyed her cake. She took awhile to get into but in the end she demolished it and once she removed it all from the platter, she signed for more. At the end of the party the kids took home favors of travel stickers a globe beach ball, a few chocolates and a foam puzzle of South America. We had a great time with new friends and their children. It was another party success if I do say so myself!
Christmas morning Miss E woke to find Christmas gifts galore under the tree. Most of them were from their grandparents. The big hits were a stuffed bunny from my mom, a bike my dad got Miss E that he left at his apartment in Houston, and a shirt Cory’s mom embroidered a Princess Merida on. Both girls really liked an activity cube we got for Miss P. Miss P has learned how to get very vocal about her big sister stealing her stuff! I am sad to say I cannot seem to find any photos from Christmas. Luckily, Cory got some video. I guess my camera ate the photos or I was taking pictures without a card or with a full card? Who knows but it makes me sad to have lost some good photos!
We went a little stir crazy after being in the house all day on Christmas Day so we took a walk downtown one day and another day we met Miss C at the park, getting our Vitamin D. We explored some streets of el Centro we’d never seen before and enjoyed lunch at the Wunderbar. Miss P had a blast at the park, crawling all over the place and making plenty of attempts to eat the acorns, rocks and bits of trash she found. The girls enjoyed the bubbles Miss E received for Christmas.
We spent the New Year holiday in Cuenca…post to follow soon.
Edit: The lost Christmas photos were found after I decided to look one more time. They were somewhat blurry because our living room light is not working. The end of the memory card also included some photos from our walk.
My Christmas Post was so long I thought I would do this one separately. We missed the 10 month birthday because she was either snotty or had a rash from the amoxicillin when I was going to take photos. Here are a few photos of the cutie pie herself on her 11 month birthday, Christmas Eve. The age sticker didn’t last 5 seconds!
We felt a trip to the beach was necessary while we were in Ecuador. My father’s friend kindly allowed us to use his beach retreat for a week. So we packed up all our stuff, and there is a lot when you have two kids, and headed west out of the bustling city into the mountains. Instead of the expected “Are we there yet?” we got, “Mom (and to a lesser extent, Dad), what are you doing?” enough to hope I never hear that again but I am sure it will make a reappearance on the trek back.
Our favorite part of the drive was through El Cajas, a protected national park just outside of Cuenca. We wound up and down scenic, misty mountains. Every turn around a corner proved to be more breathtaking. The government has reintroduced llamas to the area to encourage breeding so we found them grazing along the side of the roads at times. We also saw some hikers in the distance and I briefly longed to be out there with them. The vision was instantly shattered thinking of hefting a whiney three year old through the wilderness. Regardless, I think it will be worth a return trip before we leave Ecuador.
Just before reaching Guayaquil, as we left the mountains behind, the flora and weather shifted. We began seeing more tropical plants like banana trees and the temperatures and humidity climbed. We also saw cocoa, mango, papaya, orange, and coconut trees. It had a very jungle-like feel and we half expected a monkey to swing out of a tree onto the truck.
Thankfully, we made it without any issues (other than a toddler meltdown when she was told we were leaving the rest stop playground). We went through one police stop just before a toll booth. They were checking everyone’s driver’s lice as the nice officer said while attempting his English. He asked us if we rented the truck and I told him it was my father’s. He then said with a big smile, “My wife” and pointed to me.We were a bit puzzled at this and then Cory answered, “No, my wife.” And, we all laughed as he corrected himself, “Your wife.”
Near Guayaquil there were many gated housing communities that turned into small cement block, adobe or bamboo homes as we neared the coast. There were horses, pigs, and donkeys grazing on the side of the road and the cows became more the beef variety than the milk cows we are accustomed to in the mountains. Taxi cabs became rickshaws made from motorcycles and each roadside fruit stand and restaurant had at least one hammock. It seemed that we were entering an area of beach time.
This man was pumping gas into two barrels in the back of his pickup truck. Seems safe to me. Notice the fantastic gas prices! Yes, that’s in the US dollar.
Hay ride Ecuadorian style.
The buses love to cut you off.
When you can’t take a bus, pile into a pickup truck.
Rickshaw Ecuadorian style.
Just before reaching the coast we climbed another set of verdant mountains going around many curvas peligrosas (dangerous curves). Thankfully, we made it before sunset so we could see the small town of Puerto Cayo as we crossed the last mountain, an amazing and surreal view of the ocean. It was difficult to tell where the water ended and the sky began. The trip was a long eight hours and we wondered whether it was worth it at times but once we saw ocean we knew we wouldn’t regret it.
We headed back to the farm for a good old American Thanksgiving. Our friends, Rich and Jenn, with their daughter, Miss C, joined us as well. We met them at the school when we picked up Miss E on Wednesday so we could load up their luggage since they were taking the bus to Oña. We had a great time showing them around when we arrived at the farm.
On Wednesday night poor Miss P seemed feverish and by Thursday morning she was tugging at her left ear. It looked like Thanksgiving dinner would be postponed. We met Tulio and Luzbia in Saraguro and they took us to the pediatrician. Dr. Julio was a very nice indigenous man and he diagnosed Miss P with an ear infection and el gripe (the flu) for a mere $6! And all 4 medications from the pharmacy cost me $20. We returned home and after her medicines she passed out and I commenced to cooking dinner. Rich and Jenn are vegetarians so we opted for a chicken rather than a larger turkey. Cory caught some trout for them. Besides chicken and trout, we had macaroni and cheese, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yeast rolls and green beans almandine. We enjoyed pecan pie for dessert. All was delicious but it was difficult getting everything done at the same time with the small oven and stove.
This week we took another trip to Parque La Madre after Miss E got out of school. It was a gorgeous day. She LOVED the zip line swing. Daddy chased her to the end the first time but, I think just to give me a heart attack, he let her go on her own. She did an excellent job of holding on tight. It is quite a sudden stop at the end.
Miss E got her new school uniform dress. It’s so cute, isn’t it? While sissy was at school, Miss P tortured the neighbor dog across the street while chewing on her big sister’s Hello Kitty slippers. Daddy encourages her because the neighbor’s dog keeps him up at night, barking. He figures she should be woken anytime she is sleeping during the day to make up for her nocturnal misbehavior. That’s some papaya on Miss P’s face, one of her favorites.
We also headed to the farm for the weekend. Cory finished the window staining on one of our last visits and had to put the protective lacquer coating on. He got maybe a third to half of what he needed to complete. The road to the farm had recently been ‘smoothed’ (it was much better) and the dahlias were in full bloom. We visited all the animals, the bunnies, the trout, the pigs, the cows, the dogs and the sheep. Miss P is quite fond of Matthias, the Golden Retriever. He’s such a gentle guy, enjoying the attention. He got up and left to check on something he heard and Miss P was looking for him to return.
A trip to the Saraguro market was our final destination before heading back to Cuenca. We ate at our favorite restaurant and got a few things from the market. On the way back Miss E wanted to stop for a potty break so daddy set up her toilet in the back of the truck. I must say it’s not uncommon to see people (mostly men) urinating on the side of the road (or in the parks, driveways, etc.) here so she fit right in.
This week was Halloween. It seemed strange to be in a country that does not ‘celebrate’ the holiday, especially with two young children. The larger holiday this weekend is Cuenca’s Independence Day. The weekend here is full of concerts (Mark Anthony, being the main attraction), fireworks, traditional dancers and artisan markets. I did dress the girls up on Halloween night in themed PJs though.
The weather here has been beautiful in the earlier day, while Miss E is at school, with rain nearly every afternoon foiling any plans to visit the many beautiful parks in the area. But this Friday the weather was perfect ALL day. So I asked a few friends if they wanted to meet at a newly redone park, Parque La Madre. We had a nice walk there and the kids enjoyed the dinosaur exhibit and playing on the playgrounds. Miss P had an admirer, a sweet young girl that loved her ivory skin and blonde hair. We also were treated to some traditional music and dancing. We had a little pizza for lunch and then strolled through some of the artisan’s booths across from the park. They had some lovely jewelry, toys, ceramic ware, leather goods, etc. I really need to head back with a Christmas shopping list in hand! We couldn’t have asked for a better day!
I made some Andean Horchata this week. I wish the photos did it justice. It looks as pretty before you brew it as it does after. It is a tea made from many different flowers that becomes a lovely shade of fuchsia when brewed. It can be enjoyed hot or cold. It is not to be confused with the Mexican (and Spanish, I think) Horchata that is a rice milk. Funny that they both have the same name.
We’ve spent the week preparing for my father’s arrival. He comes to Ecuador about every two to three months to take a little break on his farm. We asked him to bring several things we decided we needed or wanted from the states. I was so excited to get my goodies! It was like Christmas morning when I opened the suitcase! He brought Miss E some birthday gifts from her grandmas, more books (because you can only read Curious George so many times before you want to go crazy), and some clothes; for Cory, some gum, ear plugs and slippers; for the growing Miss P some 12 month clothes; and for me some chili powder, a dust buster, some pants that fit since my waist has shrunk (yay), some new slippers and a few other clothing items. I’m getting excited all over again thinking about all my new (and old) stuff.
On Friday we ran some errands while Miss P was in school. We got some groceries, nearly filled the truck bed with trout food (which smells awful) and stopped at one of the markets for some delicious fruit and veggies. We picked up E and loaded the truck to head to the farm for the weekend. We took a different route to the farm, heading up Turi mountain, stopping to eat at a Brazilian restaurant with a beautiful view of the city. We stopped again atop the mountain and enjoyed the vista.
We were happy to be back at our rural home. Of course we had to visit the rabbits and we collected some fresh eggs from the chickens. Miss E went with her Papa to check out the cows. There was one that was quite tame that she seemed to enjoy.
On Saturday I spent a great deal of my time in the kitchen. I find the garden inspires me culinarily. I love dreaming up recipes while strolling through the verdant patch. For breakfast we had a Spanish tortilla using the eggs we’d collected when we arrived and some of the potatoes from the recent harvest, some onions and my favorite, Swiss Chard (red and white varieties). It was delicious with some fresh sliced tomatoes! For lunch we had angel hair pasta with vegetables primavera (more Swiss Chard, carrots, zucchini, squash, red onion and garlic). I served a simple Red Russian kale and lettuce salad with carrots and red onion alongside the pasta. For dinner we had roast chicken, colcannon (Irish mashed potatoes with kale), and fresh green beans. I even whipped up some applesauce for Miss P, her first taste of apple. It was a hit with her and her daddy! So basically I lived in the kitchen on Saturday, but I do love it there. Plus, we have plenty of leftovers so I won’t need to cook again for awhile.
We took advantage of the beautiful scenery to take Miss P’s nine month (the 24th) photos. My father’s Dahlias were blooming and they made a lovely background and prop for the photos. I put her in the same antique dresses Miss E wore for our family portraits when she was nine months old. Aren’t the Dahlias stunning?
Miss P turned 8 months the same day Miss E turned 3 years old, but I wanted the 24th to be E’s special day so I barely made mention of the occasion. So four days later I finally got around to taking some 8 month photos while “we” went fishing. And when I say “we,” I mean Cory and Luzbia. E is quite dangerous with a fishing rod (caña de pescar). She likes to swing the hook around so I was glad when she quickly lost interest. She much prefers throwing rocks, leaves and twigs into the water.
Cory caught a BIG one. See the eggs she had?
Luzbia let Miss E pull a fish she caught out of the water
Photo taken by a six year old 🙂
The six year old himself
So back to having an 8 month old. Having a 3 year old, I know how quickly time flies, but I think it goes by even faster the more children you have. Even my pregnancy and her birth went by quicker. I was content having Miss P stay in the warmth of my womb at least a week longer, until her due date, partly because I wanted to enjoy what will be my last pregnancy and partly because I had a hair appointment scheduled the day before her due date. But she decided she was ready to come out a week before she was ‘expected’. My water broke at 7 am with contractions following immediately after and three hours later (two of which were in a car on the way to the birth center) we welcomed 7 lb 7 oz Miss P into the family. She’s such a sweet, happy baby. Tranquila, Luzbia says. Happy 8 months, Miss P! Stop growing so fast! Love, Mommy.