October 30, 2011


Remember when Kelsi and I dressed up as pumpkins for Halloween? Well, combine that with a serious homesickness for Midwestern fall foods, flavors and colors, and you can see why I have been missing pumpkin in my life lately. No more, my friends. South America tropical climate and all I made it my mission this weekend to get some pumpkin-y goodness happening in our apartment.

The beginning inspiration...

Saturday afternoon I spent the weekend laying out at the pool (yes, fall in a tropical country is so hard, I know) and stopped at the grocery store on the way home to discover the cutest little pumpkin ever. I decided to make good on several conversations with coworkers lately and test out this making my own pumpkin puree business. I came home and declared to Kelsi and Stetson, "I'm going to roast a whole pumpkin." {directions here} Roast it I did, and in just 90 minute there was warm, soft, pumpkin-y deliciousness ready to blend into pumpkin puree. I even saved the seeds to roast later! Win.

Roasted pumpkin being cut into slices to scoop out the seeds!

Homemade pumpkin puree, no preservatives or Cub Foods necessary! 

Two containers of pumpkin puree later and we left the apartment to go to dinner. I woke up this morning with pumpkin on my mind, used the online dictionary to learn nutmeg (nuez mostada) and cloves (clavos) in Spanish, and headed back to the grocery store. A successful mission later and I had all the supplies for pumpkin baked goods of all kinds. Now what to use my precious pumpkin puree for??? I started with pumpkin muffins and I could not be happier. {recipe here

 Pumpkin muffins! They're orange!!! YAY!

 Cinnanon, nutmeg and sugar on top! Porque no?

If ever a muffin could change your life, this is that muffin. Seriously people. I woke Kelsi up from a nap to make her eat a warm one. She wasn't even a little bit angry about it.

With a bit more pumpkin to use up (don't worry, I still have one container in the freezer!) Kelsi and I made afternoon pumpkin spice lattes. Move to a foreign country for three years where pumpkin spice lattes don't exist then go through a 10 step process to make your own. You know what it will taste like?  Happiness. In your mouth. I'm still milking mine as I type this.

Pumpkin spice latte! In Colombia!! Cheers to fall flavors! 

Now....what to use the second container of pumpkin puree for??? Suggestions? 

Two Orange Dresses, A Trip to the Fabric Store, & Friday Night Craft Time

...and you too can make yourself an adorable Halloween costume!! Inspired by the legendary "Slutty Pumpkin" costume idea from one of our favorite television shows, Kelsi and I decided to go traditional with a twist for our Halloween costumes this year.  However, upon seeing the Katie Holmes version on the actual show we were in no way prepared to sport costumes with holes cut out for eyes, nose, etc. We're just not those type of girls pumpkins. So our version was more cute pumpkins with boots. I like it better :) 

{image here}

After finding the PERFECT orange tube dresses (only in Colombia...) the pumpkin idea came to life and all we needed was to pull it together. Pull it together we did with the purchase of fabric, leggings, headbands and a Friday night sewing session that lasted 5+ hours and included a bottle of wine. End result? The cutest two pumpkins you've ever seen :)

You'd pick us first out of the patch. 

 Pirates apparently scare pumpkins.

 But aliens who light up? We're cool with them.

 Halloween treats in the form of eyeballs!

 Group photo before the party really got going.

One rocker, one pumpkin and one Cheshire cat - we get along. 

Roommate love. Obvio.

Since the Colombian mayoral races are taking place this weekend, thus resulting in a weekend of Ley Seca AKA no alcohol sold from Saturday to Sunday and a discouragement to gather in large groups, we held our annual Halloween party a weekend early. The past two years our friend Tara held the party on her rooftop, but now she is teaching in Indonesia, so we headed for a different rooftop in Cali at Amanda, Jeff & Courtney's apartment complex. With their awesome rooftop, Stetson's party planning skills and Kelsi and I decorating, the whole party was a total success! 

Halloween is definitely one of my favorite holidays, because when it comes down to it, who doesn't love the idea of dressing up to be something or someone else if only for a night?? AND stay tuned for how the pumpkin theme has stayed with us throughout October...

Happy Halloween friends!

Landslide Schmanslide - Let's Go to Los Termales!

Amidst rampant reports of landslides, washed out roads, and inoperable hot springs pools, Katie, Stetson and I made the executive decision to stay in Salento for one more night and forgo our previously planned trip to los termales (hot springs) in the nearby town of Santa Rosa. I called on Saturday morning to cancel the reservation after not being able to reach anyone at the lodge for the previous 12 hours and we resolved to make the best of one more day exploring Salento!

Around 1 PM on Saturday we found ourselves sitting in one of so many cute cafes in Salento, enjoying a lazy day exploring town, when my friend Samantha called to say that someone from the termales had personally called her to ask when she was arriving. Sam also had a friend in town and we were all supposed to meet up at the termales that night. The woman on the phone assured her that all was fine and she could indeed come to the termales. After I called the termales again and received the same information, we figured why not and set off for Santa Rosa ourselves.

Two 45 minute bus rides from Salento later and I knew we made the right decision. After catching a cab in Santa Rosa we were rolling along the lush, green hills of the countryside, climbing further into the mountains near the hot springs. The scenery on the way there did show us a bit of washed out road, but nothing in comparison to the somewhat falsified news reports we had been hearing in Salento. And the gorgeous river and looming San Miguel waterfall more than made up for the road.

On the phone in a Salento cafe discussing the possibility of going to Santa Rosa.

We were greeted by an adorable old style lodge, friendly staff and the place practically to ourselves because so many people were scared off by the news reports. Stetson, Katie and I settled into our barely large enough room with a definitely not-large-enough bathroom and waited for Sam to arrive with her friend Lisa. They arrived shortly after us and we wasted no time jumping into the warm hot springs. After that bone-chilling hike in the rain the day before, the hot water felt absolutely perfect! After that we enjoyed dinner in the main dining room and an epic game of Uno in which I had half the deck and still came back to win. 

 Stetson and Katie make their way down the stairs from our room into the main dining room.

Hot springs! 

 An aerial view of the hot springs and lodge.

 Katie and I soaking up the warm water.

The next morning we enjoyed a typical breakfast of eggs with arepas and bread before heading for massages! Katie and I both got a half hour massage, which was fun and felt so good on our sore hiking muscles. We also had some time to walk up a short path to the base of the San Miguel waterfall for a photo shoot. 

At the base of the San Miguel waterfall.

 Katie jump shot!

My jump shot!

We enjoyed some more time in the termales, took showers (outdoors! overlooking the waterfall!), ate lunch and began the long journey back to Cali. I am so glad that Katie got to see this beautiful part of Colombia and that we were able to share it with good friends! I will most certainly be back in the not-so-distant-future....

October 24, 2011

Two Days in Salento with Katie

When my friend Anna visited last spring we spent a weekend in the small mountain town of Salento, and I loved it so much I just had to go back!! Initially, Katie and I wanted to go to the coast during her visit to Colombia, but prices just got too high, so we planned a trip to Salento and I am so so so glad. Salento is in the coffee region of Colombia, and while getting there requires about 5 hours of time on buses, the end is so worth it and Katie agreed :)

We left on Thursday morning, armed with backpacks, charged ipods, books, and lots of snacks. I hate being hungry while traveling and then having to eat crappy food, and Katie just hates being without snacks, so we made sure to pack a bag that just included our snacks.  After pretty uneventful bus rides, we arrived in Salento. We dumped our stuff at La Serrana hostel, where Anna and I also stayed, and set off to explore Calle Real, the six or so blocks of excellent shopping opportunities in Salento.

Not wasting any time, we made some great first day purchases, including some mugs that Katie found for her brother and sister-in-law, multiple pairs of earrings, a scarf & jewelry box for me, and even a bell for Katie's mom!! She buys her mom a bell in every place she visits and we were lucky enough to find an adorably decorated one with the name Salento on it! Around dinnertime we met up with some co-workers who were also spending time in Salento. We climbed to the top of a look-out point over the city, enjoyed a sunset photo shoot and had a round of happy hour drinks before heading back to the hostel.

The main plaza of Salento.

Katie and I at the entrance to La Serrana hostel.

My new jewelry box!

The main reason I chose La Serrana hostel again was because of their awesome family style meals with vegetarian options every night! Thursday was burger night and I enjoyed a veggie burger while Katie had the real thing and we both loved the homemade french fries.  After that it was early to bed as we were setting our to hike in the Valle de Cocora the next morning.

 We wasted no time getting right into things with iced  coffees a this cafe in Salento. The man there was nice enough to make Katie and I our very own batch of iced coffees with lactose free milk for Katie! 

Enjoying night one in Salento as we overlook the town at dusk. 

The next morning we met my friends back in the main plaza of Salento and set out for the hike around 9:30 am, once again armed with lots of water and many snacks. The hike takes about five hours to complete, but the scenery is so gorgeous and diverse the whole time that you really don't notice all five hours. We started out in the open valley where the wax palms loom tall overhead and the green mountains surround your view. After about an hour and a half we entered the forest part of the hike, which is filled with muddy paths and many bridge crossings. Katie had an interesting time observing some of the Colombian "bridge" building tactics since she is an engineer back home in Wisconsin.

After another hour and a half or so we reached the Acaime Lodge, where for about $1.50 USD you get a hot drink and a place to sit and enjoy your snacks! We rested our weary legs, chatted with some fellow hikers and psyched ourselves up for the next 30 minutes of the hike. The next 30 minutes were pretty much entirely uphill at a steep slope, with very little relief for the calves. One switchback after another as you climb higher and higher until you arrive at a mountaintop farm, high above the forest and even the clouds! 

From here we began our descent downhill and back through the valley. The descent only takes about an hour, but I felt uneasy when my friend Stetson called to say he had arrived in Salento and the rain had been falling steadily there for over an hour. Assuming we needed to hurry up so as not to be caught in a downpour, Katie and I started moving even faster, deviating from the path a bit so as to traverse the valley faster. Deviations or not, we still did not make it, and the raindrops starting pouring down on us. The last twenty minutes of our hike were completed in the pouring rain with no covering and lots of yelling back and forth between ourselves bemoaning the situation. We finally arrived back at the starting point, drenched from head to toe and in desperate need of a hot shower.

Little did we know, but our hostel was out of hot water. We managed to wash off the mud from our legs and arms, but neither one of us wanted to brave a cold shower, so we spent the night bundled up in as many of our warm clothes as possible and playing card games with Stetson.

Hiking in the Valle de Cocora with Courtney, Megan and Scott.

 One of many bridge crossings! Hi Katie!

At the top! Rough 30 minutes behind us and here we are above the clouds! 

Even while running through the valley in a (failed) effort to miss the rain I snapped a few photos of the wax palms.

So chilly. 

The next morning we set off for Salento in search of more shopping and to figure out a plan for the rest of our trip. The current plan was to head for the hot springs of Santa Rosa de Cabal, but we had been receiving reports of landslides in the region and along the highway, making it impossible to travel there. We had pretty much resigned ourselves to just spending an extra night in Salento when my friend Samantha called to say she was on her way there and the people at the hot springs claimed everything was fun. Not knowing what to believe, but really wanting to see the hot springs (and make good on my pre-deposit), we packed our bags and headed to Santa Rosa!

Katie and Stetson relaxing along Calle Real.

October 23, 2011

Katie Visits Colombia!

When I hugged Katie goodbye and sent her on the way to the airport last Tuesday night I thought to myself how hard it will be to wait another 7-8 months to see her. While her and I became close friends during junior year of college, it has only really been since Katie left La Crosse to transfer to Milwaukee that we have become closest.    Our friendship began in a unique way that found us both crushing on the same boy. However, lucky for us it took all of 24 hours after our initial meeting to figure out that he wasn't worth anyone's time and we should just be friends instead. Three years later and she was visiting me in Colombia!

Her visit lasted a week and we had a chance to explore my city, Cali, at the front and back end of her time here. In between we traveled to the cities of Salento and Santa Rosa, but let's save that for another blog post.

Here is what went down in Cali...

Katie arrived on a Wednesday morning after flying all night, so she went straight to my apartment for a shower, nap and food. Luckily, Kelsi was coming home from a conference in Medellin and was there to let Katie in and take her on a lunch date!

I arrived home from school in the afternoon and we set out to explore the neighborhood of San Antonio. As one of Cali's oldest and prettiest neighborhoods, San Antonio is one of my favorite places to show people. The church is adorable, the houses are unique, the view from the church is stunning....aaaaand you know, my favorite coffee shop is there ;)

 Her first Colombian coffee at Macondo in San Antonio! So delicious.

After coffee we met up with my friends Cassie and David, who also had friends visiting, for dinner at Bourbon Street pub. Yes, we did go to a hamburger sports bar and watch baseball on Katie's first night in Colombia. So much for a cultural introduction. Oops? We ended the night with some other friends on their San Antonio rooftop before heading home early for our travels the next day! 

San Antonio rooftop get together :)

After our travels we arrived home with one day of vacation to spare, giving us some time to rest up and also spend time with Kelsi. Sunday night we got a chance to stop by the Festival Mundial de Salsa, a world salsa competition held every year in Cali. Salsa is such a pervasive part of Colombian culture and I love that Katie got to see some of the very best while she was here! 

Monday we explored the mall scene of Colombia while Katie found some souvenirs for friends & family and I introduced her to my two favorite Colombian chains, Juan Valdez Coffee and Crepes & Waffles. Coffee all around! We finished the day with a movie with friends. Katie was nice enough to go along with the whole movie idea even before I told her that no, the movie is not in Spanish, but rather English with Spanish subtitles. What a trooper! :)

 Juan Valdez lovin'.

On to Crepes & Waffles for more coffee...and crepes...and waffles, naturally.

Katie's time in Colombia finished with a day at my school. While going to work with anyone can get boring at times (spoiler alert: the life of a teacher isn't exactly fascinating), I absolutely love taking visitors to my school. I think it helps people see why I am here and why I like it enough to have stayed for three years so far. And it doesn't hurt that our school campus is absolutely gorgeous. And for how much of our lives we spend working, how much we really ever know about our friends' jobs? I think it's pretty cool when we can share something that in such a part of our lives with each other.

Katie and I outside my classroom!

Tuesday night I sent Katie back to the airport for another overnight flight to Chicago and each day since has been a bit of an adjustment to her not being here. Life is funny sometimes, how you meet these amazing people, connect with them over relationships, travel, interests, and yet you see them only a few times a year. I look back on the year Katie and I spent as friends in the same city and realize now that we were only beginning to scratch the surface of our friendship. I can't help but dream that life finds us living much closer to each other someday in the future...

Until then, thank goodness Katie likes travel and adventures as much as I do. Let's start planning a summer 2012 reunion....

October 20, 2011

The Time I Ran Down the Quinta at 6:50 AM

Puh puh puh. {break}Puh puh puh. {break} Puh puh puh. {break}

Puh puh puh. {break}Puh puh puh. {break} Puh puh puh. {break}

"Well, what do you want to do?", Kelsi asked me.

"I guess we have no choice", I responded.

And we didn't really. The sound of an engine trying unsuccessfully to catch and turn over still ringing in our ears, we exited to cab to a flurry of honking, yelling and the general chaos that is morning rush hour traffic on Cali's busiest north-south throughfare, the Quinta. The taxi cab that Kelsi, my friend Katie (who was visiting from Wisconsin) and I had gotten into 20 minutes earlier to take us to school was sitting there, holding up traffic amidst a slew of unhappy cars behind it.

We started to walk. There would be no cabs to be found until we walked at least four more blocks to the south, for no cab would be sitting in this traffic if it did not already have passengers. Looking at our watches our walk turned into more of a run. Backpack on my back, coffee cup in one hand, lunch bag in the other and there I am running down the Quinta at 6:50 AM on a Tuesday. At the end of those four blocks we came to a cross street which I foolishly thought held empty-cab potential. It didn't. No cabs to be found and it's starting to look like we should just stand on the side of the street until we beg our way onto a passing school bus in about 15 minutes time. Great. Cannot wait for the stories of "The time my bus picked up Ms. R and her friends on the side of the road on the way to school."

Welcome to Cali, Colombia, Katie. I promise getting to school is not always this much of a struggle.

I looked over to Kelsi with a look of what now? Then I saw it. Rushing past on the Quinta was an unmistakable beige Renault car with our coworker and friend Daniel at the wheel.

"Daniel!" "Daniel!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" "Where is my phone?!?!?!?!?!?"

Running down the sidewalk in the direction of his car and he picks up his phone after three rings.

"STOP. STOP. STOP. We're {deep breath due to all the running} on the Quinta. We saw you. We need a ride."

I could tell he was immediately confused about why I was calling him at close to 7:00 AM screaming about needing a ride and panting out of breath, but thank goodness he understood he needed to stop. Stop he did and we ran the next block laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. Five minutes later we were back in a moving vehicle on the way to school. Taking off the sweatshirts we foolishly put on that morning to keep out the morning chill in the air. Laughing at how ridiculous I must have sounded screaming into my phone for Daniel to stop for us. Discussing the fact that we have never once in 1.5 years of taking a cab to school in the morning had this happen. And then it happens on the one day Katie comes to school with me.

But hey, we still made it to school by 7:15 AM, with 15 minutes to spare until the start of the first class. I would call that a win. And an excellent story (blog post?).  

October 10, 2011

I don't really know if I can continue to claim I have a full-time job.

Between now and Christmas I will teach exactly one (count it!) full week of school. WHAT???

No really...one week. Needless to say things will be busy. Hashtag understatement. Here's what I have to look forward to outside of the classroom:

  • Week of October 10 - Three days of curriculum development then no class Thursday or Friday as I spend time with Katie (who arrives here on Wednesday morning!!! YAY VISITORS!!!) in the coffee region of Colombia
  • Week of October 17 - No school on Monday to celebrate Dia de La Raza aka Columbus Day except in South America we call it "Day of the Race" as we commemorate all the people who died when Columbus "found" America, then Katie comes to school on Tuesday
  • Week of October 24 - Two days of parent-student-teacher conferences (hello two days of speaking almost exclusively in Spanish!)
  • Week of October 31 - Three days of the annual 8th Grade Field Trip to the hot springs of San Vicente. Attempt to balance my love of adventure and getting to know my students outside the classroom with my extreme dislike of feeling like the mother of 105 adolescents for three days straight. 
  • Week of November 7 - No school on Monday (hooray for one extra day to recover from working 24-7 on the field trip!), then the boy gets here Thursday night, just in time to check out school on Friday and then celebrate Kelsi's 29th birthday on 11-11-11 with an 80s themed party 
  • Week of November 14 - No school on Monday 
  • Week of Novemebr 21 - The mother gets here on Monday night, just in time for the annual faculty Thanksgiving dinner at school on Tuesday night, and then we are off to the Caribbean island of San Andres for four days of sun, sand and surf with Kelsi
  • Week of November 28 - Teach. For five days in a row. THE HORROR.
  • Week of December 5 - Teach. For three days. Have a random Thursday off for the Immaculate Conception. Go to school on Friday. 
  • Week of December 13 - FINALS. Then one day of returning finals. Then one half day of school. 

Winter break 2010 - 2011 in Argentina! The tickets are booked! We have a loose itinerary! Hello Patagonian hiking to awesome glaciers, hello biking tours of wineries with Mr. Hugo (Merry Christmas to us!), hello exciting Sunday markets in artsy Buenos Aires neighborhoods!

It's a crazy, beautiful, wonderful, busy, full life, no? Hooray for upcoming adventures, visitors and vacations. Happy fall :) 

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