Saturday, March 30, 2013

Boo...It's Luka's 6th Birthday

We had a monster of a time at Luka's 6th Birthday Party. We converted our house in Santiago into a mini version of Monster's Inc. Luka and Sam recently saw the 3D version of the movie and they fell in love with it. The movie was released in 2001, but our family just saw it this year. I think both of my boys want to be Mike Wazowski. I know they love saying his name over and over again and giggle every time....so cute. What a wonderful film! For the last month it has been a regular on our Netflix play list. If you haven't seen this movie, where you have kids or not, you should watch it. 

Now for the party...above you can see our family taking our photos for the "visitor log." Everyone had the opportunity to dress up and get their monster on as they walked in. I have all those photos and might share some later...they were really cute. I am still waiting on the full CD of photos from the photographer. Yes, we hired one so that I wouldn't have to run around with the camera the entire time and I could run the games and have fun with my boys.
Here are some table decoration signs for the food table.
Another fun sign and some gooey green jello. What is it with kids and jello? They love the stuff and it fit in perfect with our theme.
Our first activity was the Monster Masterpiece Studio. All the kids were invited to create their own work of art and hang it on the tree. It was a great way to decorate and all the kids took home their art on their way home.
Luka was very concentrated when painting his "masterpiece."
Sam also got in on the fun.
Is the tree beautiful? I kept staring at it...the creations were outstanding!
Then it was time for the Monster Egg Hunt. It was the day before Easter and I wanted to somehow fit in an egg hunt and don't monsters hatch from eggs anyway...at least I think some do.
Here is the official birthday banner on our terrace.
My favorite part of the banner were the green paper lantern and Mike W. plates.  I made those from green paper plates, simple circles of card stock and a sharpie...viola perfect match.
Time for the birthday cupcakes. Luka was waiting patiently to blow out his candles.
I think Sam had at least 3 cupcakes. That boy loves his sweets.
We fit in lots of time for play. We are lucky and have a massive backyard for everyone to run around. 
This photo was totally forced. Luka was not really keen on posing. What 6 year old would be at his own party, where he clearly wants to have fun! What was i thinking? Sam is also trying to run away...


Luka and some of his buds...

They are so cute...here is another photo of them.
Our last activity was on "The Laugh Floor."
The kids (with the help of parents) were asked to come up with some jokes to share with everyone. It was funny to see the ones the kids came up with and the ones the parents remembered and shared. Very fun! Here Tim is sharing his joke with us.
On their way out everyone received an Employee Gift Pack and were thanked for spending the day at Monsters, Inc.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Touring the Town with Oma

Yes...finally after almost three years we had a visitor at Casa van Herksen. Oma Joke (JJ's Mom) came to visit us in Santiago. It was two weeks full of new experiences and getting to know our new home. We have lived in Santiago since July (wow, that is nine months...where does the time go) but with the freezing weather, trying to find a home, enrolling in new schools and getting our bearings we have not had much time to explore our new city and see all it has to offer.

But Oma was in town and we were excited to get this tour started. On her first weekend here we went to Algarrobo. We stayed at the San Alfonso del Mar Resort, best known for having the world's largest pool. Here you can see the pool. Yes, that is a pool. It was freezing, no seriously it was C-O-L-D. There was no way I was going to go in the water, but my boys managed to sneak in while I wasn't looking. They loved the sand. The mornings were cloudy and chilly, but when the afternoon rolled around the SUN warmed everything up. Apparently it is like this all year round.
Close by you will find Isla Negra...Pablo Neruda's favorite and most beautiful home. Here we are walking to the house. We were not sure what to expect...let's see.
Wow, the view is amazing. Pablo really knew how to pick some prime real estate.
Here we are outside after touring the unique estate. Mr. Neruda was a bit of a hoarder...sort of a collector of many things. He actually didn't like to be called a collector. He referred to himself as a "cosista" (thingist). He said he liked to collect "things" all sorts of things, but nothing of real value. Some of the collections we saw at Isla Negra were: insects, statues, globes, glass bottles, tea sets, shells and so much more.
Sam is taking a moment and soaking it all in by Neruda's tomb.
On our way back to Santiago we stopped at Casa del Bosque for lunch and some wine of course. We were unpleasantly surprised with the service (but they made up for it by offering a complimentary lunch after I filled out the comment card).

Papa and Sammy getting silly after a glass of wine...just kidding Sam didn't touch the stuff.
The four of us in the vineyard.
Back in town I took Joke to Los Dominicos - a local artisan center - with tons of shops and small galleries to browse.
Also lots of Chilean sweets to choose from...
Another day I took Oma to Santiago's Mercado Central to buy fresh fish for the night's recipe. The Mercado Central is the perfect place to sample some of the fine Chilean cuisine. We found a small corner restaurant that caters to locals and had a fantastic lunch with Sammy.
Center of the market...
Yes, that is the biggest piece of fish I have ever seen. It was ginormous!

Next stop...Bellavista...to visit La Chascona, one of Pablo Neruda's other houses. Sam behaved so well that day. I took him out of school a couple of days so that he could see the town with us and also I wouldn't have to run back to our neck of the woods for his 1 pm pick-up time.
In Bellavista you can also catch a ride on the funicular at the Cerro San Cristobal. As you can see the smog was over powering that day...unfortunately the norm in Santiago. On a clear day the mountains are right there and so spectacular. We need it to rain...after a rainy day to smog disappears.
It's Oma's last full day in town and called the big sight seeing guns. It was time to see the rest of Santiago before Oma left so there was only one way to do it. Hop-On, Hop-Off tour it is. As you can see Luka was worried by the amount of stops. Don't worry Lukkie it is going to be fun!

First stop was Santiago's Sculpture Park to play and take some photos with the works of art.
On to the the National Art Museum - Museo de Bellas Artes. What a gorgeous building and interesting collection. The entrance was only $1 USD...great bargain if you ask me.
Display with hundreds of shirts, blouses and t-shirts. The colors were beautiful.
Walking to the next stop. I love these newsstands that are wallpapered with the day's news, latest fashions, etc.
The boys happy to "hop on" again and chill a little on the bus with a snack.
As you can see from the photo Luka is very happy to arrive at our last stop. From here we will head to where we parked. When he found out we would now be riding and not hopping off he was ecstatic.
Sam was happy too. We are just waiting for the bus and suddenly they are both in a great mood.
For Joke's last meal in town we decided to take her to La Mar. We had heard nothing but great things about this place, and boy did it live up to the expectations. The ceviches were the best I have ever had and the food was DELICIOUS! I can't wait to go back again soon...
One of the ceviches from our sampler platter.
JJ's dinner...
My dish...doesn't that mash potato look divine?
We had a wonderful time with Oma. If you want to see all of the photos from her visit click here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Getting All Cajun in the Kitchen

Okay, so this is the first time I post anything about recipes...I think...I have to go back and check but I don't think I ever have. Most people that know me know that I am not that "handy" in the kitchen. Cooking generally scares me and I get so anxious that I don't enjoy it. There are two exceptions to this rule. I love to make Thanksgiving and Noche Buena dinner every year. This is something I sort of had to learn since I moved away from my family and friends in 2006. We had to create our own traditions and that meant learning how to make our favorite holiday dishes. Other than that I never...okay never ever cook meals at home.

So fast forward to this week. My mother -in-law is visiting from Holland and this time she is visiting us in a country where we don't have someone that cooks. Last time she visited us in Mozambique we had Elizabeth...oh sweet Elizabeth...she was an amazing cook, so there was no need to get experimental in the kitchen. JJ's side of the family is extremely talented in the culinary arts (my family not so much) and this time my mother-in-law is enrolling me in her Kitchen Boot Camp. This past weekend we made Goulash (Hungarian) and a Mexican Stew (can't remember the name...it was in Dutch). Everyone loved the recipes, and by all I mean that my boys ATE that stuff up. I will be making those recipes again soon. I should have taken photo, but this week I decided to document our culinary escapades...I thought it would be fun to share.

Tonight's menu was...

Cajun Chicken with Tomato & Feta

Ingredients
- Chicken Breast sliced in strips (500 g)
- Cajun Spice (3 tsp.) I couldn't find any, so I made my own with this recipe.
- Olive Oil (3 tbsp.)
- Red Onion (1 large, diced)
- Garlic Cloves (3, finely chopped)
- Chicken stock (200 ml)
- Balsamic Vinegar (3 tbsp.)
- Cherry Tomatoes (250 g)
- Feta (150 g, cubed)

Directions
1. Marinate chicken strips in Cajun spice.
2. Heat oil in wok (high) & brown chicken for about 6 minutes (medium heat).
3. Take chicken out of wok & put aside.
4. Drizzle some olive oil in the wok to cook the onions until soft for approximately 4 minutes (low heat) then add garlic and cook for two minutes (low heat).
5. Add chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes (low heat).
6. Add balsamic vinegar and simmer for 2 minutes (low heat).
7. Add feta & chicken and simmer for 4 minutes (low heat),
8. Add cherry tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes (low heat).

Viola...you are done!

We served it over brown rice, but I think it will also go nicely over some tri-color pasta. I also served with a small salad (arugula, raw almonds & feta...i just happened to have that in the refrigerator) with a dressing I just whipped up on the spot. We don't have any yummy dressings to buy here in Santiago, most are your typical heavy creamy ones. I usually create something on the spot...here is tonight's dressing recipe. I will call it "Oh, so Good Orange Vinaigrette."

- Juice from one orange
- about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
- 2 generous drizzles of honey
- salt & pepper to taste

I really should have taken a photo. I promise to take photos of the rest of the recipes this week. My mother-in-law Joke has me working hard (by working hard I mean helping her in the kitchen) in her Dutch version of Kitchen Boot Camp. Thanks Joke..I would have never ventured into the kitchen on my own.

PS Sorry if I wrote the directions in "Cooking for Dummies" language...the recipe is in Dutch so I was taking notes. For example now that I look at it I think simmer means low heat...so my directions are repetitive...sorry. But you get the idea....enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

First Day of School...in March?

Sam goes to a Chilean "jardin" (Pre-School) and he loves it! Mommy and Daddy love it too. We were all very sad the NINE weeks he didn't have class. But finally on March 8th the skies opened, angels sang and Sam went back to school.

They had a professional photographer snapping photos as the kids walked in on their first day of the year. Yes, the school year starts in March in Chile. Really confuses me...but when in Chile...(you know the rest). As you can see from the photo Sam could not contain his excitement. If he would have taken a photo of me you could have also caught me doing the happy dance.

He is now in Level 3 (BIG BOY). He is responsible for putting his backpack on the hook and putting on his apron in the morning. These are big changes for Sam. It has been a couple of days and he still stresses over putting the lunchbox and snack in their separate bins. This is hard work  people!

Sam, good luck this year. We love you!