Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What does this Expat Writer do all day?

Curious about how I fill my hours?

Keep in mind that I've only been here just about two weeks, so I'm not quite settled. I am still living in the house of my sister-in-law, but some semblance of normalcy is beginning to assert itself - to my relief. After being a gypsy for four months - living in my mom's house, camping outdoors, and now living with my sister-in-law, I'm eager for some sort of daily rhythm to assert itself.

So, here's what I do: During the traditional work week, Monday through Friday, I follow a simple routine. During the mornings, I homeschool Oli - right now we are only doing one subject because our shipping container has not arrived yet and I only have reading materials with me. After a late lunch, she plays for a bit before we out the door to walk to her school which is about 5 blocks away. In the afternoon, she attends a Waldorf kindergarten for four hours, 2-6 pm. During that time, I work in the cafe below (same building).

My afternoons usually look like this.

My work includes updating my blog, social media, researching the publishing markets, writing our cookbook sections and recipes, writing my fiction (both short and long forms), and writing freelance articles. Some days I focus on just one or two things and other days I'm all over the place. But I always set goals for myself of what I want to accomplish each day. As a self-employed writer, it is important to be aware of time and how I spend it.

After Oli's school gets out, we usually walk back to the house and have dinner together. There is some play time afterwards and before bedtime. And of course, stories to be read before tucking ourselves into bed. I am currently reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to Oli. After Oli is asleep, Mark and I usually hang out with Luz and Cristian, drinking the occasional beer or wine and munching on ceviche, empanadas, and other tasty Chilean snacks. Bedtime is late in Chile - around midnight - and you bet I always make time to read before I drift off to sleep.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ode to the Choripan

Ode to the Choripan
Oh! Good God!
Your crisp skin, blackened to a crunch
Holding inside, juices and heat and 
flavor too great for so small a shape.
Entire universes wish they burst 
so like a bite into your flesh.

This delicious little sausage tucked lovingly into a crispy bun is the Chilean prerequisite to a bar-b-q. In fact, no asado - or "Chilean cookout" - is really complete without them. Typically, you put all the meat on the grill at the same time and naturally, these little guys cook faster than a rack of lamb or a large cut of meat. When they're ready, charred black and blood red, you pop a couple of marraqueta buns onto the grill until they are warm. Then, slipping the greasy little sausage into the bun, sans condiments, you consume them while they are hot, often burning the inside of your mouth in the process. But it's worth it.

Marraqueta bread - break them in half along the seam and you can chow down on two!

 Crackling skin means they are ready.
Fresh off the grill, these flavorful sausages are waiting for their buns.

Chilean chorizo is completely unlike the Mexican and Spanish varieties. It is not very spicy and it isn't at all dry. Unfortunately, we've been unable to find them in the U.S. which means that at some point later on, we'll need to experiment with making them ourselves. We had great success making our own sausages this past New Years. We just need to hit upon the right combo of meats and spices.

Choripan, an excellent accompaniment to a good beer or glass of bubbly.

You'll find different varieties of choripan in other South American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay, to name a few.

Fun Fact: Beloved Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, loved a stew so much that he wrote a poem about it, entitled "Oda al Caldillo de Congrio," or "Ode to the Congrio (eel) Stew." You can read this famous poem here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Picture Perfect, Part 5

Here are some photos taken with our Macro lens. This lens is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It allows a view into a world not often seen by the naked eye.

Tokina AT-X M100 AF Pro D
When researching this lens, I came across this great article, The First Nikon Lenses You Should Buy, on Not only does this article explain some basic principles behind the different lenses, but it also provides a range of prices to choose from. Because this type of lens was heartily recommended for food photography, I went with the top choice for the Macro lens.

See the other posts in this series:
Part 1 – Camera Research
Part 2 – Camera Purchase
Part 3 – Zoom Lens
Part 4 – Fast Prime Lens

Monday, September 19, 2016

El 18 de Chile - Day Three

And so we celebrate on...

Day Three
To me, these continual parties feel like every time we come in town - Mark's family and friends throwing cookouts left and right. So thankfully, a cookout at home on day three.

Today we enjoyed...drumroll...more meat! Lots of cuts of meat and yummy salads. Oh and did I mention the drinks? This no longer surprises me, but there was a point in time - probably when Mark and I were first dating - when I could never imagine the amount of casual drinks a Chilean could put back (and yes, without becoming ass-to-the-ceiling drunk).

Let me give you a theoretical example. An asado begins with a beer or a pisco sour (a deceptively delicious lemony cocktail). While the meat is on the grill, I am typically offered another beer or pisco sour at least three times. At the start of a meal, we may toast with another drink entirely - let's say champagne. Then with the meal, more beers and now wine as well. Afterwards, I am offered more wine or perhaps I'd like a whiskey? Needless to say, at this point, I'm usually all about the coffee.

 Toasting with Cristian C
 A tasty honey beer
Guess who's at the grill again today? That's right...Mark.

We were joined by our neighbors, Rodrigo and Daniela and their three boys. 

FUN FACT: Rodrigo shared with me that September 18th wasn't actually the day that Chile won its independence from Spain. That happened back on February 12th. So what was so important about the 18th? Well, that was the day (in 1810) that the whole war for Independence thing started and on February 12th (of 1818), the declaration was issued. Those stubborn conquistadors, however, refused to recognize Chile's independence officially until 1844. The government selected the day of the 18th to celebrate the country's independence, and the 19th to celebrate the military.
My full plate. Can we say satisfecho!

To see what transpired on the other days of celebrating Independence in Chile, go here:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

El 18 de Chile - Day Two

As mentioned before, Chileans celebrate their independence like no other nation I know. Although one day is listed as the specific holiday, they close up shop and throw parties for at least three days straight.

Day Two
Today we took it easy and headed over to Cristian C's house for family asado.

 The festivities commence when the barbeque is lit! As the grill heats up, Chileans clean and season the grill by rubbing an onion vigorously across the cooking grid.

Oh yes, those adorable little sausages on the right - chorizo for choripan! 
 This is what I'm talking about!
Fiestas are time for old friends to reconnect over some tasty grilled meats... (Cristian C and Mark)

 ...and of course, time to make new friends. (Oli and Cristian's beautiful daughters)

 No matter the country, Mark always finds himself at the grill.

 Oli is in full fiesta mode, sporting the traditional dress of the Chilean Cueca.

Shredded carrot and lettuce salad with lemon vinaigrette.

 Ensalada Chilena, the "official" salad of Chile. Offered up at nearly every fiesta as a popular side dish. We ate this a lot in the U.S. and it's pretty simple to make.  

Here's how: Slice up a yellow onion fairly thinly and blanch in boiled water for a few minutes. This takes the pungent bite out of the onions without loosing the savory flavor. Shock the onions with cold water after they become slightly floppy but haven't lost all their crunch. Slice a tomato or two and toss with the onions. For dressing, simply drizzle over a tablespoon of olive oil and add a pinch or two of salt. Minced cilantro or oregano make nice additions if you want a little more punch.

Diced carrot and potato salad dressed with mayonnaise (Disclaimer: Chileans LOVE mayo and you will see it a lot in this blog.)

To see what transpired on the other days of celebrating Independence in Chile, go here:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

El 18 de Chile - Day One

In Chile, Independence Day is a big deal. Although the 18th is the official holiday, most businesses are closed and families celebrate for several days. Our celebrations began on the 17th and continued until the 19th.

Day One
We kicked off our celebrations by attending a feria (or fair) at a local park. There was food aplenty, music, dancing, farm animals, and artesanias (or crafts).

 Oli looking at the lambs.
 Literally, "Farm Education"
Los caballeros, cowboys
 Traditional food on display. Of note, the clay pot in the center is Pastel de Choclo, a savory casserole-type dish made with beef, chicken, and veggie filling and topped with corn puree. 
 If you haven't figured this out yet, Chileans are all about meat.
 This terrific poster translates to "The Fountain of Meat."
 Artesanias, or hand crafts, are very popular in Chile and not too expensive. You can buy a quality sweater for only 5 bucks!
This adorable Chilean family watches the dances up on stage (in the very far distance - so far that I could not get a good photo.)
 Mountains of sweets to enjoy
 More from the fountain of meats

 My sister-in-law, Luz, and my nephew.

 Central to everyone's attending was the arena where there was showcased the dances and "cowboy feats" representative of the different regions of Chile, complete with elaborate costumes and music.
 This dude was literally climbing all over his horses and swinging beneath them at full gallop.
A badly taken photo of La Cueca, the traditional dance of Chile. This dance is so integral to Chile that every child learns this in school and there are even dancing schools specifically devoted to its mastery.

 Mark and Oli dancing.
A happy group of teens dancing La Cueca.
Flashback: My other sister-in-law and my nephew dancing La Cueca at my wedding.
 The night ended with fireworks, which I found out is not typical of Independence Day festivities. Instead, fireworks are mostly associated with New Year's Eve.
The Chilean Caballero

To see what transpired on the other days of celebrating Independence in Chile, go here:

Friday, September 16, 2016

And So We Begin...Living in Chile

Early Wednesday morning, September 15th, we arrived in Chile. We took a comfortable flight direct from LA to Santiago via LATAM airlines (Formerly LAN), the official airbus of Chile. Having flown with LAN in the past on two occasions, I was excited to fly with them again. In comparison to most other airlines I've flown - always coach, alas - LAN is one of the best. The seats are roomier, their tech always works, and they are liberal with libations and chow. In fact, we were given three meals on the flight! In my opinion, there is nothing worse than being hungry on a plane.

After passing through customs and being questioned about the maple syrup in our luggage, we were greeted by my sister-in-law, Luz, and Mark's childhood friend, Cristian C. (You'll notice the "C" I put after his name. That is to distinguish him from another Cristian, Cristian U, Luz's partner. It wouldn't do to get the two mixed up in the telling of these stories - that would be plain awkward).

Thankfully, because I hadn't slept a wink on the 13-hour overnight flight, they took us directly to Luz and Cristian U's house. They live in a cozy ten-room house with three enclosed patios. They have one son, just a year older than our daughter, and a excitable dog named Rudolph who likes to hump his bed. Like many houses in Chile, this one was located behind 10-foot ivy-covered walls. A staffed gatehouse admitted residents and visitors alike to the sprawling complex of twenty or so houses and apartments. Think of them like duplexes, or more appropriately, multiplexes.

The entrance

Picture this...

The houses are made of brick and red stucco and are almost entirely engulfed by greenery. The roof-line of the complex is staggered and unexpected. Some of the rooms of the houses appear to have been added onto the main structure at a later time. Nooks and pathways are tucked at random into the face of the complex. The drive is a combination of rounded paving stones and gravel. Trees overhang and lean into buildings - pathways for the gangs of wild cats that I'm told roam around the premises.

The great room. Oli is looking at the pictures of Spanish children's books and her cousin is braiding rope on the floor - no doubt devising a toy for the dog.

Inside, most bedrooms are small because the great room, or family rooms are the center of the home. Kitchens are usually tucked out of sight behind a closed door with the utilities - or if not the entire kitchen, then parts of it like the refrigerator, microwave ovens or toasters are kept unseen. Bathrooms are either tub-less (a crime!) or contain a short deep tub that works best if your legs are less than 2 feet long. The patios of Luz and Cristian's house are interesting features, two being open to the sky and home to several flowering trees, and one enclosed like a conservatory in an old English manor-house. Overall, the housing complex, and especially my sister-in-law's house, feel quite cozy.

Upon arriving and stuffing my suitcase in a corner, I promptly fell into a 6-hour coma.