Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The House is Sold!

Only a week after posting the ad in El Comercio, our little house has been sold to a lovely young couple. And we are out of credit card debt, just like that.

But more exciting, we get to buy a car! A car that my husband can use as a taxi! He's very excited about having an opportunity to really make some money. He loves the drywall business, but it's just not a sustainable career here in Peru. There isn't enough demand and there's far too much supply - so when he does get a job, he rarely makes more than S/.60 (60 soles) a day - that's about $20. Not good for the household budget - if he worked every day, he'd barely make enough to feed us and pay for his own transportation. And unfortunately, he doesn't work every day - we're lucky if he has work for half the month.

So - we're doing what it seems that most LimeƱos with a car do... they start driving a taxi. My nephew has been driving a taxi for about 4 months now, and is making more than double in a day what my husband was making in drywall. Even when you factor in gas and insurance, it comes out to very decent money, by Peruvian standards.

So - advice to anyone who wants to move to Peru: Yes, the cost of living in Lima, Peru is very low. But the wages in Peru are very low in comparison to the cost of living - one of the lowest rations of income to cost of living in S. America. It's important that you have money from somewhere else - for instance, I have my house rental in the US - in order to make it. Or, be ready to invest in a business and work hard! I've seen a lot of people come to Peru thinking they'll teach English and live large... well, teaching English isn't as easy in Peru as you might think it is. Although it can be enough to live on, it takes a lot of work, long hours and putting up with a lot of crap.

But don't let that throw you off of choosing Peru! It IS possible to have a decent life here on the cheap - I do! I just want to make sure that people understand it's not going to be easy if you don't have a backup income.

Next post, I promise to talk about more food!
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

No More KFC!

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)Image by via Flickr

Well, not delivery, anyway.

I know, we shouldn't be eating Kentucky Fried Chicken at all - it's bad for your health and of course there are signs that they aren't very nice to the chickens - I mean, even before they bread and deep fry them. We don't eat it all that much, I usually cook - but sometimes, we just want something a little more... fattening? Crispy? Whatever it is that its got, we want it.

But last night, I called and ordered an 8 piece chicken dinner, with cole slaw, french fries etc. When they brought it to the house,I looked in the box, and there were three legs, three wings, one breast and one piece that looked like it might have been part of the back! So we called them up and raised hell. I expect an 8 piece chicken dinner to have 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings and 2 breasts... the whole chicken, right? I don't think that's out of line! Imagine going to Roky's and ordering a whole pollo a la brasa and getting home to find a bunch of legs in the bag!

So... 20 minutes later, the delivery guy shows up with a new box of chicken. We go to exchange it, and my husband tells me to check it out before the guy leaves. SAME PARTS OF CHICKEN - except in place of one wing, there's now another one of these little pieces that looks like the chicken's back. Seriously, it was like one bite of chicken on that thing. I put them on a plate and showed the delivery guy... do you see this? What chicken has 3 legs? This is not what the order is supposed to be! So - he says... um, well, just keep it all, we'd just have to throw it out anyway.

Moral of the story - Don't order KFC delivery - to paraphrase Joe Pesci, 'they screw ya in the delivery'. Also, if you aren't happy with your order - COMPLAIN. Peruvians get nervous when gringos complain. Maybe it's my bad Spanish and they just want to shut me up? :D But seriously - don't take bad service lying down. Make your complaints known!

And for KFC... I've already quit McDonald's and Burger King... Maybe KFC will be next.
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Peru...

LimaImage via Wikipedia

But didn't know where to ask...!

the Ultimate Peru List is the place to go.

Completely written and maintained by my friend Sharon de Hinojosa, the UPL is the best place I know of to go when you need any information about Peru. She has page after page of anything you could think of needing to know - from immigration issues to settling in to what to do in your free time.

I really recommend it to anyone that is planning on living in Peru, or even if you just plan a long term visit. I bet you'll find something to help you out, and plenty of things you never would have thought to ask.

Learn Spanish! Click Here!
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Could it be??

Is the little house really going to be sold this easily? It's almost impossible to believe, but we had over 40 calls the first day the ad was in the newspaper! Today is the last day we'll be showing it, (fingers x'd) because it seems there's a gentleman who is ready to buy it and eager to give us his money.

What does this mean for the Borda family? Well, besides celebration (whoo hoo! , just like Kool and the Gang), it means we can finally buy a car, which will give us some steady income. We'll be able to pay off all our credit card debt, which will considerably lower out monthly expenditures. And we'll all be able to go to the dentist and get our eyes checked! Yay.. new glasses for me! And I know JUST the one's I want!

Now, I know I shouldn't be counting the chickies before the eggs have hatched... but really, I think I hear them peeping and pecking in there.. it's just a matter of time before they fight their way out!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Scalloped Potatoes ROCK the House

scalloped potatoesImage by tofutti break via Flickr

I roasted a chicken today, which always gets rave reviews. Unfortunately, I used my last envelope of onion soup mix, so next time I'm going to have to find a new way to season it. But the real jewel of the meal today was the scalloped potatoes. I made them once, a LONG time ago... back when we still lived in the casita, so at least 4 years past. I'm not sure why I waited so long to make them again. The Peruvian papas rosada (pink potato) are perfect - they cook well, and have a soft, creamy texture that goes well with the sauce. Here's how I made it.

5-6 large potatoes - enough to fill a 2 liter (2 quart) casserole
1 small onion
50 grams (about 3 tbsp) butter
30 grams (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
350 ml (about 1-1/2 cups) chicken broth
30 ml (about 2 tbsp) mayonnaise
Salt and pepper

Peel and slice the potatoes in very thin slices - helps if you have a mandolin slicer. Cut the onion in half, peel and also cut in very thin slices - as thin as you can get them.

Grease your casserole dish and layer the potato and onion slices with salt and pepper. Don't be shy with the salt and pepper.

In a saucepan, melt the butter.

Add the flour, and stir until it's a smooth paste.

Add the broth, and whisk, whisk, whisk!!! You want it smooth with no lumps.

Add the mayonnaise, and keep whisking until it gets thick and just starts to bubble.

Pour the mixture over the potatoes. Cover, and put it all in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. (175 Celsius) Let it cook for about 1-1/2 hours.

This is SO good. I'm a dolt for not taking a picture, to show you how delicious this looked. I sprinkled some paprika on top. You might try adding some chives, or maybe some chopped ham layered in with the potatoes and onions. Or sprinkle some cheddar in there.

I bet it wouldn't be hard to make this vegan, either.

This is easy and really filling. Give it a try, your family will love you.
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Selling the Little House, Take 2

I figured, hey! I've got this blog, why not post pics of the house here? Sometimes I'm just a little slow on the uptake, folks. ;)

The house is just a smidge under 30m2, with unfinished concrete flooring. It has a living/dining area, a bedroom, and a kitchen with a very small bathroom. The bathroom has a shower, no tub - but it does have a decent electric on-demand therma - not a widow-maker.

This first shot is standing in the kitchen, looking towards the bathroom. The shelving and cabinet will stay in the house. The pipe up by the roof is something I put in for hanging clothes to dry - up nice and high, out of the way, in the warmest part of the house.

This is in the bedroom, looking towards the door from the living room.

Second shot in bedroom, looking towards the door into the kitchen.

A better look at the ceiling in the bedroom - it's made of finished drywall, and that is a window in the top. It is hinged for opening and closing to let in fresh air or keep out dampness.

In the living room, looking towards the door into the bedroom. Bicycle not included. ;)

This is in the living room, looking towards the front of the house, with window and entrance. Ceiling here, as in the rest of the house is finished drywall.

View Larger Map

Here's a map of the area - In the middle of the map, you'll see the Parque Paul Harris - the street running down the west side of the park is San Pedro. The casita is located right about where the 'P' is in Pedro.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting some work done

Black mold growing on an inorganic surface pro...Image via Wikipedia

It was a busy day around the house here. We've been having some problems with black mold in the bathrooms. Our upstairs neighbor (not the good neighbor, the other one!) left a pipe leaking while she was out of town a few months back, and it flooded her place. And soaked through the floor. Which is the ceiling of both our bathrooms and the boy's room. Just another reason why I don't think I'll ever buy this house. (Sorry, good neighbor - you rock and I like having you upstairs!)

So, we spent most of this afternoon scraping the paint off, bleaching the mold, and then re-painting with a fungicide paint. I didn't even know such a thing existed, but it's on my bathroom ceilings now. Looks much better than it did before, I'll tell you that much.

We also got the drying room (that's the room where I hang clothes to dry) painted and the outside wall of the garden room painted with fungicide paint too.

It's always nice to get work done. And bills paid! I paid all the credit card and telephone bills. So (she said, wiping the dust off her hands), nothing left to do but wash the dishes and do some writing.

Sorry I don't have anything to tell y'all about cooking today - We got take out from the criollo restaurant down the street. Grilled chicken, fried potatoes, rice, salad, and soup. Yum.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Bye-bye, Bougainvillea

Paloma de alas blancas (Zenaida meloda)Image by pablo_caceres_c via Flickr

Sorry for the lack of posts this week, it's been a stressful one.

My mom Betty and my nephew Nick left after a 3 month visit. The house is very quiet without them, and we all miss them a lot. My mom has been a huge help around the house, and it's taken me a bit to get back on a schedule where I'm having to do all the housecleaning myself again.

Then, Thursday, we had a gardening crew come to 'trim' the bougainvillea in our back yard. A little background - we have a 2-story wall around our yard, and the bougainvillea grows up the very back wall. This plant had been growing untethered for several years, and was gorgeous, but out of control at a good 30 feet high (10 meters). It was also growing well forward of the wall, and was in danger of falling forward onto the house. The only recourse was to have it cut way back.

The bad news is that the plant was just full of bird nests, mostly doves. It really broke my heart to drive all these birds out of their home, but it just couldn't be helped. And I can't stand to think of how many little eggs may have been destroyed. Fortunately, it's early enough in the spring that I don't think there were too many actual fledglings, although I'm sure there were a few. There were doves flying all over my back yard yesterday, cooing and crying, in a panic, looking for their nests and offspring. I shed quite a few tears.

The good news is that these birds are resilient. I'm amazed to see them out here today, searching the yard for sticks and twigs, looking for materials to start all over again. I can already see one completed nest, down in the lower branches of the bougainvillea. I've also seen quite a few of them up on the upper branches, doing what it is that birds do to make baby birds. It's a good lesson for us humans. To see these birds that have lost everything - their home, their families, everything - bounce back; to get up the next day and just do what needs to be done to succeed, to thrive. They aren't quitters, they don't give up. They aren't looking for revenge, they aren't looking for someone to blame, and they didn't sit around waiting for a handout. They just got a good night's sleep and got up and started over.

And I think that's a good lesson for all of us, especially on this day.
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

Wishing a Happy Labor Day to all my American readers. If you're looking for a yummy, fun beverage for your cookout, you can't go wrong with sparkling sangria, click here for the recipe!

I miss being in the US for some holidays, especially the long weekends and the cook-outs. But we did get a little unexpected holiday spirit last night. A lot of Lima's July Independence Day festivities had been postponed because of the swine flu. Yesterday, they had the rescheduled parade and party in Miraflores, and when it got dark, we were treated to fireworks. They were easy to see at the end of my street, and almost took my mind off the cold, damp weather of late. It was a real unexpected treat.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Selling the Little House

When I first came to Peru five years ago, my husband was the proud owner of a tiny little house. How tiny? Just under 30 square meters tiny. It had bare concrete floors, woven rattan roofing, and sheets of cardboard stapled to the beams for a ceiling. No hot water. One bunk bed, that we shared with our two sons.

Since we moved out, we've been renting it, but the renters aren't really dependable - sometimes they pay late, other times they don't pay at all. And we were renting it for $90/month. The income just wasn't worth the hassle.

So, we've got it up for sale. It's the only house my husband ever lived in before he met me, and it's breaking his heart just a little to let it go. We put quite a bit of work into it - a pretty ceiling made of drywall, hot water, fixed up the walls and painted, and it's a cute little place now... but it's still little. But there are so many memories there! It's hard to let it go, but we're going to use the money to buy a car. We've been spending about $300 a month on transportation, so in the long run, it works out for us to trade the money pit in for something that can save us a little cash.

Chau, mi casita!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Spring is in the Air

stir fryImage by ginnerobot via Flickr

This week has been lovely - the first signs of spring in the air. The sun has been out for a few hours every midday, which is a welcome change from the constant grey skies that are typical of Lima winters. The birds have been going crazy out in the huge bougainvillea behind my house - it's full of all kinds of little flying things. Lots of flowers blooming, too - my hibiscus has the prettiest triple yellow blooms.

Still cool in the evenings, though, so I'm still cooking food that's comforting and warming. Last night, I made a pork/broccoli/cauliflower stir fry. I started with the biggest stock pot I have, and the water on to boil because I was going to be cooking a pound and a half of spaghetti. I put about 2 tbsps of salt in the water, and a glug of oil. I'm not going to get into the discussion of whether salt or oil is necessary when boiling pasta... but I use both. ;)

While I waited for the water to boil, I took my pork tenderloin out and started cutting it up into very small cubes - no bigger than 1". Then, same thing for a half a head of broccoli and a half a head of cauliflower - small, bite-sized florets.

By the time I got all that good stuff chopped up, my water was boiling and I added my spaghetti. I took out my big old saute pan, added some oil, and started searing the pork. I sprinkled some Aji-no-Moto on - that's MSG - and a little bit of salt. Once the pork was seared, I dropped in the cauliflower. About 2 minutes later, I added the broccoli. I sprinkled on some powdered ginger - about a teaspoon. Then I added about a cup of soy sauce and a tablespoon of white vinegar, stirred it all up, turned off the heat and covered.

Now, the spaghetti was done, so I drained it in the colander. Then, last step! I dumped all that pasta on top of the meat and veggies and stirred it all together with a bamboo spoon. Taste it and adjust what you think needs adjusting - a little more soy sauce? salt? ginger? Maybe a little chinese five-spice, or some red pepper if you like it spicier. It's all up to you.
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