Monday, June 16, 2008

cake results

So I tasted the cake today. It was good, but a pain in the butt to serve. It was far too crumbly, not dry, but it pretty much fell apart. And unfortunately I had no camera to document the sliced version... It was a nice try, but I'll be trying a different recipe next time. And I'm totally excited about it. Being able to make a sweet cake would be amazing!
Other than that, I have no noticias...I'm tired and cold and on the verge of illness so I best go cuddle with my pillows ...
Sweet dreams everyone!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Is there a good side to Transantiago?

Believe it or not, this post is not about a complaint I have. Odd, you might say, considering the title. Does anyone have anything good to say these days about the micro? Transantiago has just about ruined everything here transportation wise, but I still try to find some good in it all. And you know what? Just the other day a little bit of my faith was restored.
I got on the micro as I do every day. I was in okay spirits, this day I didn't have to take the bus 8 times like I often do, no exaggeration (yet another nuance of the English teaching life). I found a seat and settled down, adjusting the volume on my ipod - it was surprisingly quiet on the bus in comparison to the roaring traffic on the street. Lost in my plugged-in, music listening bubble, I barely noticed a young man get on the bus and begin to play guitar. For those of you who live in Santiago, you know all about this, and for those of you who don't, I'll give you a wee bit of an introduction to the musicians who play the public transportation circuit.
Back in bF, before Transantiago, Santiago was filled with old mustard-yellow buses that spewed black smoke and polluted the city with the roar of their struggling engines. There was no bip!, only the exchange of "monedas" (coins) to the chofer who multi-tasked as bus driver and change/ticket giver. In these days, one could ask the driver, "Me lleva por 200?", or, if you were with another person, "Nos lleva por 400?", meaning "will you let me on the bus for less than the standard fare?". Sometimes the driver would wink at you, slightly move his head or just give a twitch of an eyebrow - his code for "sure, get on, but be quick about it". These buses were also the working grounds for many Santiaguinos selling goods (alfajores, candy, cough drops, gloves, CDs, bandaids, stickers, umbrellas, ice cream, socks, back scratchers, I've seen it all!) and for musicians of all kinds (recorder, flute, saxophone, drums, singing of all genres, rap, violin, entire bands, guitar and that wee little guitar the name of which I can never remember and even karaoke). The musicians played a few songs, talked to the audience a bit and asked for a coin in recognition of their performance. Some were god awful, some were really great and of course there was everything in between. My greatest fear (and theirs too, I'm sure) about the switch to Transantiago was that Santiago might lose this specifically developed culture they had on their buses (or an important if not only income for many people).
So now we have what were at one point shiny new buses, a fancy swipe card, and a system that barely works. I should never have feared, though. The ever adjusting Chilean street workers have managed to integrate into this new system and continue their daily work. The buses may be new, but I still see people I saw two years ago working the same routes. The musicians, in spite of a few classics who I see at least once a week, however, keep changing, and every time one boards I cross my fingers and hope they'll play something I truly enjoy. I have a system for coin giving: if a performer makes me smile or laugh or makes me feel some sort of positive emotion, I give them money. Unfortunately, when it comes to music, I usually stick with my ipod. Maybe I'm picky, or maybe there isn't a wealth of great musicians playing the buses. Who knows.
But this particular day, when this young man got on and started strumming away, I perked up and pressed pause on my ipod. He was so unassuming and his voice was unlike any I'd ever heard before, particularly unedited and singing on the micro. I took out my earphones and started to listen to him. The songs were slightly sad, but incredibly beautiful and it was just the style of music I really love. He sang at least four songs (I find musicians typically play two and then move on) and his last song was "Redemption Song" a lo castellano. That made me smile. Suddenly the Santiago smog blanket didn't bother me so much and I didn't miss anything too terribly. While he played I just enjoyed the music and wondered at his voice and how it came that he was singing right in front me in the micro.
So, for those of you who steer clear of the micro and stick to the metro, you are missing something. Whether it's worth it or not to come out from underground and try taking the bus instead, I can't say. All I know is, in spite of Transantiago being a constant headache, some of these musicians make it bearable for me and I truly appreciate them.

Also, heads up all you Transantiago-goers for a charismatic Cuban man who plays the drum and sings Cuban songs. It's sure to put a smile on your face.

Chocolate Cake!!!

Today I made a chocolate cake. It is for father's day, but I have no real plans to celebrate, but I think this cake will be consumed tomorrow with host family etc...
It took forever and I have no idea what it will taste like, but it looks pretty!

Now that I look at these pics again, I think the cake looks like a giant alfajor. Mmmmm. Deliciousness.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The simple pleasures in life - El Mani

Although Santiago winter might be getting the better of me - the smog is causing serious suffering in my lungs and the cold has made me lose all feeling in my feet - I still take pleasure in a few things that I easily take for granted. Today I will give one example.

I encourage everyone to check out this place. Simply put, it is a dried fruit and nuts store. So if you are tired of walking into an overcrowded, stinky and soulless supermarket and are on the lookout for some tasty goods, check out El Mani - the peanut. Upon walking in, this place smells like heaven. There are always a few people milling about and some staff to help you. It's a small place with large, though attractive, bins filled with different kinds of dried fruits and nuts. They have peaches, plums, pears, mango, kiwi, cherry, ginger, at least three different kinds of raisins and all are excellent quality. The great thing is that they not only have candied versions but they also have just the fruit dried, no added sugar. They sell by the kilo and price all things by the quarter kilo. This is a much cheaper and more delicious way to buy the stuff! Then there are the nuts. They have walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, and at least three different kinds of peanuts. They even have unsalted peanuts if you need them for a particular kind of recipe or just prefer them that way! I'm sure they have more, which I can't remember at the moment...
I used to go by El Mani all the time when I was here studying at University. For some reason, I never went in. When I moved just around the corner in January I decided it was time. And what a good decision that was! Going in there puts a smile on my face, mostly because everything I see I want! They also have several imported goods, many different kinds of flour (even ground almond and hazelnut flour!), oats, and even cereals, which are way cheaper than at the supermarket. They sell honey, different kinds of brown sugar, sesame, poppy and sunflower seeds, and have a large selection of teas. I love going here especially because I can walk in and 5 minutes later walk out and have every ingredient I need to make granola that I cook up about once a month to last for my morning munch. If you are ever in the area, check out El Mani on Irarrazaval right in front of the Lider supermarket on the corner of Suecia. And then come hang out with me and we can snack on yummy roasted peanuts from a cute brown paper bag.
And next time I make my granola I'll post with some pictures and the recipe. It's easy and oh so delicious!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Surprise of the Century

Tonight D watched Pride and Prejudice with me. I could hardly believe it. We were bickering all evening and then took some time apart and when I went into the living room to sit down he was finishing watching Back to the Future, one of his (and mine too) all time faves. As it ended the TV announced that Pride and Prejudice was up next. Here it is of the utmost importance that I state that I am, always have been and will always be a die-hard Jane Austen fan. I went through a fairly obsessed phase in high school, read all her books, saw all the movies, read biographies etc... and decided that she was basically a pretty sweet woman for her time period. I love her satire of high English society and I love the impossible love stories with impossibly happy endings. Suffice to say, however, this is not D's kind of film. At all. His reaction is usually, you watch your movie honey and I'll be over here doing something else. But tonight he sat down and said, ok, 10 minutes and stayed the WHOLE 2 HOURS! It's a miracle, I tell you folks. And you know what, he was genuinely interested! He even asked what he missed when he came back from going to the bathroom.
I have a feeling this was a momentary blip and I will soon be back to begging my way out of watching zombie films or crying for some comic relief, but for now I am content.

Also, it must be stated for the record that the all time best Pride and Prejudice interpretation was done by A&E and is 6 hours long. It is beautiful amazing awesome incredibly I love it. And oh so much better than the Keira Knightley version, although it is tolerable enough.

Come to think of it, perhaps D continued watching because Keira Knightley has such a "pretty smile" (which he mentioned only 5 times). I always thought her mouth was weird and in a permanent pout that is irritating as hell, but hey, if it helps D sit through a movie I want to see, so be it.