A couple funny anecdotes from our trip to Argentina:

Bingo bus trip:

We took a fancy overnight bus to Mendoza which included fold down seats and dinner. As we rolled out of the bus station a man came upstairs, plugged in a microphone and announced (in Spanish) that we were going to play Bingo. (I gathered this purely based on the word “bingo” in his announcement). We all received our 4×4 cards and the man started rattling off numbers. I played although I have terrible luck at these kinds of things. I never win anything. Even when there are twice as many prizes as there are entries in a raffle- I still walk away with nothing.

The man probably called off about 40 numbers, and as surprised as I was that no one else had Bingo, I was more surprised to have 3 in a row… When he finally called “sesenta uno” I cried out “Bingo!” I won! I really won! Or did I…? He grabbed my card… said something like “we have a winner” and then rattled off about 16 numbers. Uhhh I thought we just needed 4 in a row? Maybe they play Bingo differently in South America? Either way, I guess he was tired of this game, decided to claim to the rest of the bus that I had won, and gave me a bottle of wine. I’ll take it!

Conversation that happened at the Mendoza bus station (all in Spanish):
Random woman in the bench next to us: She looks like she has an Arab face.
Me: Huh?
Mike: Oh, well her parents were born in India.
Random woman: Where are you guys going?
Mike: Buenos Aires, how about you?
Random woman: Oh I am just getting back home after having surgery. I was stabbed 8 times in the stomach. (At this point she raises her shirt to show us her scars)
Mike: Ohhhh, was it an accident?
Random woman: No.

What I thought I was ordering vs. What I actually ordered

Breaded chicken breast with French fries

VS

Breaded veal with two fried eggs on top

Mussels with French fries

VS

Fried sweetbreads with potato crisps

Pomegranate gelato

VS

Pink grapefruit gelato

Breaded and fried steak

VS

Mystery meat wrapped around hardboiled egg

There are two kinds of vacationers in this world. Those who consider six hours of tanning followed by a nap to be strenuous, and those who consider snorkeling, a five-mile detour on foot to an old church and a meal of something you can’t translate to be a warm-up for more adventurous outings later in the week.

I’m sure the first type of vacationers enjoy themselves. We’re not like them. Do we choose extremely relaxing hotels tucked into the Mendoza countryside? Yes. Do we spend our days taking wine tours and eating good food? Yes. All this sounds pretty relaxing. But do we also hire bikes and take them on unexpectedly long and dangerous tours through pot-holed streets on a quest for more wines? Yes.

We were in a town near Mendoza, Argentina recently called Chacras de Coria, trying to break some Malbec-consumption records. Our guide company set us up with Andres (like every guide I’ve had across the world, a humble twenty-something college student with a humbling multi-lingual fluency). We got some creaky-geared mountain bikes (because Mendocinian roads would have chewed a road bike to cud) and set out on what was to be an 18 km tour.

IMG_0593

Mendoza is a desert, and the original Spanish settlers set out to make it tolerable by planting trees along all the main thoroughfares to produce shade. Their descendants have kept this tradition going, and our first leg was through quiet, leafy boulevards to Alta Vista, a medium-sized winery founded over a hundred years ago.

Alta Vista, with the Andes hiding in the background.

Alta Vista, with the Andes hiding in the background.

As part of the fermentation process, wine needs to be circulated from the top of the fermentation tanks to the bottom. Here they're just pumping out some pre-wine, probably to show off for the tourists.

As part of the fermentation process, wine needs to be circulated from the bottom of the fermentation tanks to the top. Here they’re just pumping out some pre-wine, probably to show off for the tourists.

At 300 bottles of wine per barrel, this cellar holds... lots.

At 300 bottles of wine per barrel, this cellar holds… lots.

Next, Carinae winery, founded less than ten years ago by a French electrical engineer who did what every other midlife-crisis guy thinks about doing. He quit his job and bought a winery.

But before we get to the pictures of Carinae, let’s discuss getting there.

Carinae was in Maipu, the next town over. In Argentina they often use roundabouts as rural highway interchanges, so you’ll have cars, vans, bikes and trucks merging and mixing at high speed. Wait… Mike, did you say bikes? So kind of you to notice. Yes, I do want to talk about how we flirted with death on the way to Carinae.

It wasn’t just the roundabouts-o-chance, there was also a highway overpass. We got to share a two lane highway bridge with trucks whose rear-view mirrors whizzed by our heads like bullets in a war zone. (There are no pictures of this process, because we strive for a family-friendly rating on our blog and don’t want to introduce undue distress.) It was a long trip to Carinae. But despite the length and the hazards: Andres, our biking prowess, and a little luck got us through. Though the fumes we ingested may get us in the end.

Now, the pictures:

More barrels of delicious wine. Did you know French oak barrels cost 1000 euro each?

More barrels of delicious wine. Did you know French oak barrels cost 1000 euro each?

Our excellent lunch at Carinae. Oh wait, there's nothing there because we ate it all. We've had empanadas every day we've been here, but these were possibly the best.

Our excellent lunch at Carinae. Oh wait, there’s nothing there because we ate it all. We’ve had empanadas every day we’ve been here, but these were possibly the best.

After Carinae we visited an olive oil factory, which was really interesting. A few pictures now, but more detail to come in another post, perhaps.

Olives, waiting to be hand picked.

Olives, waiting to be hand picked.

A centrifuge used to separate olive oil from water and bits of olive. Powered by hand crank.

A centrifuge used to separate olive oil from water and bits of olive. Powered by hand crank.

The olive in all its edible forms. We ate a lot of this, even though we'd just had lunch.

The olive in all its edible forms. We ate a lot of this, even though we’d just had lunch.

At the end of our tour Andres said we could have a car come pick us up, if we wanted. We had done two wineries, an olive oil factory, 15 kms of deadly biking, a table-full of empanadas, cheese and salami (and did I mention wine?), plus learned tons about Mendoza. We could consider ourselves to have done enough for one day.

But did we take him up on his offer? Nope. We did the whole ride over again. Uphill this time.

I’m sure most of you have already seen this on Angy’s Facebook, but in case you haven’t:

http://www.unitedwithlove.com/2013/04/01/indian-catholic-wedding-in-baltimore-maryland
http://www.unitedwithlove.com/2013/04/01/book-themed-wedding-in-baltimore-maryland/

Our wedding has been blogged by United with Love. Are you in any of the pictures? Probably not, because they’re mostly pictures of table settings and shoes and my lovely wife, but that’s OK! Check them out anyway.

I also wanted to post this so I could tell aforementioned lovely wife I posted on the blog, even though she’s already said this is not going to count and that I need to start posting, even though I work a job in which all I do is write all day long. Still she demands!

I’ve got a hard life. Votes continue to come in for the back splash project. Anyone who wants to write in “why don’t you just leave it, because it looks pretty OK if you ask me” as their vote, be my guest!

 

Yikes, we have not been very good at updating this blog, have we? Well to make up for it, this brand new post includes a very exciting poll.

I’m going to pretend that part of the reason we haven’t posted lately is because we have been super busy working on the house. In reality, the pictures below are from last summer and we’ve really just been hibernating this winter. Nonetheless, I am ready to continue my renovation of the kitchen, and I need your help!

Here is the kitchen before:

kitchen kitchen2

Here it is in its current state:

IMG_0513[1] IMG_0514[1]

Much better right? I didn’t necessarily hate any one component of the kitchen before. Mostly, I just hated the way everything looked together. I’m still working on adding glass fronts to what I’m calling “open air” cabinets right now. Buuuut, I need another project to distract me in the meantime. Namely, a sweet backsplash. Here’s where I need help. Perusing the Home Depot online, I’ve come up with way too many options. So I’d love your opinion on what you think would work best.

Splashback Glass Tile Crema Marfil Squares

Splashback Glass Tile Crema Marfil Squares 12 in. x 12 in. Marble Floor and Wall Tile

Penny Round Light Green Porcelain

 Penny Round 12-1/4 in. x 12 in. Light Green Porcelain Mesh-Mounted Mosaic Tile

EPOCH Brushstrokes Chiarro

EPOCH Brushstrokes Chiarro-1502-S Strips Mosaic Glass Mesh Mounted - 4 in. x 4 in. Tile Sample

Jeffrey Court Egyptian Forest Mini Pencil

Jeffrey Court Egyptian Forest Mini Pencil 12 in. x 12 in. Marble Mosaic Wall Tile

Merola Tile Tessera Wave Mercury

Merola Tile Tessera Wave Mercury 12-1/4 in. x 11-3/4 in. Mesh-Mounted Mosaic Tile

Ready, set, vote!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for spring. Last year we lucked out with a very mild winter here in Utah. We only had 2 or 3 storms and each amassed less than 6 inches of snow. At least that’s how I remember it. This year we beat last year’s snow total before the calendar turned to December. And I’ll be honest, at first it was fun. Everything looked so pristine covered in a blanket of white. We laughed when our car got stuck on slippery roads on the way to church and we had to hike uphill 4 blocks. We liked it as an excuse to bundle up under blankets and drink hot chocolate.

Welp, we’re over it. Shoveling twice a day- not fun. Slipping on ice and hitting your knee on the pavement- not fun. Weekend plans ruined by unplowed roads- not fun.

And really the snow is not the worst part. The snow storms provide a reprieve from The Inversion. The Salt Lake City valley has always dealt with an inversion. It’s just a matter of geography. Lying between two mountain ranges means that cold air gets trapped in the city underneath a layer of pollution and warm air. So it means that we have extra cold temperatures as well as a thick layer of smog that settles into our air until a strong storm comes by. If this is confusing to you, I’ve provided an artist rendition of what is happening:

inversion

Orrrrrr you can read about it here.

I hate to be a complainer, but this is apparently one of the worst inversion years that Utah has experienced. And with the population on the rise, the pollution issues will probably only get worse. That is depressing. It’s especially depressing because spring, summer and fall are just so darn wonderful here. So I’ll just have to keep that in mind and think warm thoughts for the next two months and hope that we thaw out sooner rather than later.

Well… I guess it’s been a little while…

I am posting mainly because I like the US Postal Service. I know that sounds strange, but I like it. I believe we too quickly ignore the physical world these days, and I think an organization like the Postal Service gets a bad rap ‘cuz it’s all delivering paper and stuff. But if half the stats on this page are true, paper isn’t so bad?

I also really appreciate any decent long-form journalism, and this Esquire piece on the Postal Service is pretty great.

Okay, so 2012 technically was a leap year in that February had 29 days. But what I’m talking about here is something different. A year that was crazy enough that I think I’ll wait more than 4 years to do it again.
For me, and really for us, 2012 was a year of taking big jumps into an unknown world.

Our trusty shipping crate arrived just in time for the holidays.

Our trusty shipping crate arrived just in time for the holidays.

#1- We moved to Utah! Okay, I guess we actually moved in late 2011, but I felt like I was mid-air for a good chunk of 2012 as well. Neither Mike nor I had ever lived outside of Maryland. So when I started interview for jobs in 2011 we figured it would be a good opportunity to try something different. And man is Utah different. It’s not like we decided to move to Boston (which was our other option) where we’d be within a day’s car ride of seeing our family, where the houses and streets are stacked together similarly to Baltimore, where booze flows freely and the tallest thing in the sky is a bank building. No, we moved to Utah, which sometimes feels like a different country altogether. But now that I feel like I’ve gotten my feet planted firmly on the ground, I’m happy we took the leap. While we both miss Maryland quite a bit, Utah has really grown on us.

Phew, glad that's done with!

Phew, glad that’s done with! (c) Lindsay Hite

#2- We got married! While some consider this the biggest leap they will take in their life, it wasn’t such a scary thing for me. That’s probably a good sign. 

Our very own front porch.

Our very own front porch.

#3- We bought a house! Now this was scary! And it will probably continue to be scary until one day we sell this house. Just witnessing what has happened with the housing market in the last 10 years made this decision a difficult one. But we decided to put our faith in the US economy and our own ability to choose a good house. As of now I have no regrets. It’s the perfect sized house for us in the perfect location with the perfect amount of sprucing up that needs to be done. Hopefully when we are ready to leave Utah, someone else will view it the same way.

Still working on my form...

Still working on my form…

So, those were the big three. But honestly, in the past year I’ve felt like I’ve been taking a risk or trying something new on a regular basis. Whether it’s sampling the supermarket sushi, re-learning to ride a bike, or taking rock climbing lessons, life continues to be exciting and keeps me feeling like I could flop any second. Luckily I have an awesome partner in crime with me ,who has basically forced me out of my comfort zone but holds my hand as we jump head first into all sorts of adventures. Who knows what 2013 will bring? So far: tango lessons, an upcoming trip to Buenos Aires and a first attempt at skiing. I think I have a lot to look forward to.

Happy New Year! Here’s an entertaining review of our year of blogging from WordPress.com.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

The first real snow of the season. No meals on the back porch for a while...

The first real snow of the season. No meals on the back porch for a while…

It was a snowy walk up to campus that weekend.

It was a snowy walk up to campus that weekend.

Mike was obviously very excited about running a 6k on Thanksgiving morning.

Mike was obviously very excited about running a 6k on Thanksgiving morning.

Carving up the Thanksgiving spatchcocked chicken.

Carving up the Thanksgiving spatchcocked chicken.

An icy hike up Millcreek canyon.

An icy hike up Millcreek canyon.

Our first Christmas tree. Still in need of a topper.

The Cook boys relaxing after a very successful bridge run in Savannah.

The Cook boys relaxing after a very successful bridge run in Savannah.

Deep dish pizza perfection.

Deep dish pizza perfection.

The mantel is an ongoing work in progress.

The mantel is an ongoing work in progress.

A bar fit for making delicious holiday cocktails.

Amongst the charity tasks we’ve tackled this month is the Little Drummer Boy program in Salt Lake, which is an adopt-a-child program for Christmas. Not a real adopt-a-child program, where you keep him or her forever. The kind where you buy kids from struggling families clothes for Christmas.

Angy and I quickly learned that we attend a ravenously generous parish, because by the time we got out of mass and to the folding table where they were giving away children, the children were all gone. A dozen kids in less than a minute. Luckily they did it again the week after and we got Jesus, who is five and needed some awesome clothes.

Actually it didn’t say “awesome” on the instructions, but I’ve been five and I know how important this kind of stuff is. I know, for instance, that probably the most important sartorial issues for the five year old boy is how many superheroes he can fit on his body at any one time.

Even if you’re going for an understated look, you have to at least have some superhero underwear. This is very much like having an actual super power, in fact, because you you are wearing something cool even though nobody knows it. Your outer clothes are like your secret identity.

Now, a note on buying children’s clothing. It is intimidating and confusing. Neither inches nor the metric system are involved in the sizing, and apparently at one point we skip from one sizing system to another. Which is just a long way of saying that my kids are gonna be on their own.

Anyway, I was originally thinking Spiderman, but after careful debate Angy and I decided on a four pack of Justice League underwear for little Jesus. I feel that this is a good choice. Sometimes you feel like the Flash. Sometimes you feel like Batman. Your wardrobe has to adjust.

I guess we bought the kid some other things too.