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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Monserrate with lots of Christmas Lights





On the 23th of December, we made a last minute call to the restaurant the Santa Clara on Monserrate to make reservations. Karina came with us too, and we got in our borrowed car and drove to the bottom of the hill it's on. It took us a while to find the parking lot, but luckily we saved a little time because we got to skip the HUGE line for tickets and go straight to the front. We also cut in line to get onto the trolley (Karina claims it's because of Mom's American face, but it's also because we had reservations). We got the best place in the trolley and got to look down at the city and Christmas lights on the way up. On the way to the restaurant, some Colombians wanted their picture with us, so we let them take one. Once we got to the top, we quickly found the restaurant and sat down. The walls were basically windows, so you could see the city through them. There was a fireplace, but we didn't get much heat from it because the waiters kept warming themselves in front of it. We all got our food, and it was pretty good–the ones that weren't too full got dessert too. When we were all done eating, we went outside and walked around to see all the lights. The city looked really big at night lit up. Monserrate also looked pretty with all the Christmas lights. We walked around and saw a few things, but we were tired so we decided to leave. We didn't get any special treatment going down, andhad to wait in a long line for the cable car. Once we finally were on the way down, we had a really good view of the city. We were tired goinghome, but Monserrate was really nice at night when you could see all the lights, and the city lit up.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pony Malta


We were out looking at Christmas lights. The day before had been Christmas and we were just beginning to recover from the excitement of the previous day. The lights were spectacular and we walked through crowded parks where street vendors tried to get you to participate in silly games that you were bound to loose.
Then Elizabeth pointed to some items in a vendor's overflowing bucket on the side of the path. "Pony Malta" read one of the bottles.
I flashed back to the night before when I was drinking all of her root beer. She asked me whether or not I had tasted the Colombian equivalent to root beer. I had not, and she told me to try it when I had the chance.
Now was that chance.
We bought the drink and before I opened it Bill warned me, it was not the most enjoyable drink in the world.
Great, I didn't want to drink it anymore. But eventually I collected enough courage, and unscrewed the lid...
and immediately gagged at the smell.
I took a sip - a small one - it tasted horrible. The name was fitting. It tasted like fermented malt, if you can imagine, then that's exactly what it looked and smelled like as well. This Colombian drink might not be for everyone.


Malta:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malta_(soft_drink)

Pony Malta (Colombia):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u2_IRmM0K0

I have a theory that after the man in this commercial drank the Pony Malta, it was so horrible tasting that he proceeded to jump off the balcony. The producers caught the whole episode on tape and labeled the man's suicide attempts as "parkour". It is a good thing I was not near a balcony when I had a drink.

Christmas Eve


From here on out, each year is going to look different during the holiday season. Each year is going to be special in its own unique way.

This year on Christmas Eve we had a relaxing day at home. I made Swedish Coffee bread for the Porteros in our building. The kids and Chad played games. We rested until 4:00 when we went to church. The service seemed like a typical Sunday service. We did not sing the traditional carols I am used to. We did not light candles. I did not pick-up on the traditions of this church because they were all new to me. But it was still a time for me to turn my thoughts towards God and the gift he gave us in the birth of his Son.

After church we came home. I put the brie in the oven and put-together a couple bags of Christmas cookies. While the brie was baking we walked over to the family we buy wood and flowers from. They were out on the corner hoping to sell some last flowers for the evening. We gave them the cookies and wished them a “Feliz Navidad”.

We took the brie over to some friends for a Christmas Eve party with many acquaintances. Being with people is nice when family isn't around, but the longing to be with those we love and are comfortable with in our sweats took over. We didn't stay long. We headed home, thankful for friends to be with and family to love, got comfy and enjoyed Christmas Eve together.


- Kris

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's Christmas Time in the City


“Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright read and green”

I have never been in a city that does Christmas lights like Bogota does. Maybe it's because there is no snow so the feeling of Christmas, as portrayed in the West, is lacking. Maybe it's because it's a Catholic country so they pull-out all stops to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Zona T 
A few blocks from our house in Zona T, plastic lit trees lined the sidewalks. I know, it sounds a bit tacky, but actually the plastic trees added a lot of ambiance. Large angles with tiny white lights lined the street. Little machines mounted above spit-out foam that the city claimed was snow. I saw little kids on their hands and knees scooping the foam up in their hands. When the foam fell on the plastic trees it truly did look like an enchanted forest. And just like home we had to be careful not to slip on the pavement.
We headed over to Usaquan one evening for dinner and found the square full of plastic trees, street artists, music and food. With lights strung overhead and more foam on the sidewalk we enjoyed the festive atmosphere.
Just before Christmas we took the tram up the mountain to see the lights on Monserrate. Looking down on the city we could see large Christmas trees in parks and the city buildings covered in light. On Monserrate 3 wise men with their camels were lit up as well as many other light displays.
Elena, Karina & Maddie on Monserrate


The evening after Christmas we joined some friends 
to explore farther some of the city lights. Our first stop was Parque Bolivar. Again the festive atmosphere of lights, food, street performers, hawkers and musicians boosted the holiday feelings.

We then headed over to the Simon Bolivar Plaza where the government buildings were covered in lights. The square was alive with people. We wandered down the light covered Septima to the church across from the Gold museum. People were selling Christmas wrapping paper, corn on the cob and herbal teas.

Simon Bolivar Square
Some friends Chad picked up along the way
Herbal tea for sale on the street corner
An evening with friends enjoying the lights was a good way to wrap up the Christmas season before putting my own tree back in the box.


- Kris



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

CGB Christmas Concert



Every year CGB (our school) has a Christmas Concert. Which consists of the students show casing their talents (or lack there of). Maddie played in a small band with her flute. Elena played in a group of guitars. When it comes to musical talents, I fall into the category I described above as “lack there of”. Thus, I joined drama.

The concert was a good opportunity for the school to assure the parents that their kids were becoming more artistic, as promised in the school’s philosophy. They didn't want the parents to think these classes were a waste of the older kid’s time, because year 12 and 13 don’t have better things to do (like IB work).

Maddie and Elena’s performances went as expected, and nothing out of the ordinary happened. I was less fortunate. We only started practicing our performance a couple weeks before the concert (remember we only get one class a week). Our drama teacher decided that we were not good enough at The Grinch, which we had already been practicing, so we resorted to preform Los Tres Cerditos (The Three Little Pigs) instead.

Apparently she thought, we would be much better preforming something new, instead of something we had already been practicing for weeks.

If we had preformed the play exactly how we had rehearsed, then we would have been lucky to receive a chuckle from the crowd, let alone a laugh. So we improvised. We inserted jokes when they came to us, and as a result, Los Tres Cerditos was NOT a complete fail. Once again improvisation had saved the day.


Just so you know...

This is the IB. You might see me referencing to it in later posts. This just a little clarification, because here at Inertia we don’t leave anyone in the dark. ;)

IB website:
http://www.ibo.org/

IB Diploma Program:
http://www.ibo.org/diploma/

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cupcakes





For Christmas season, Elena and I decided to make some Christmas cupcakes from a recipe in a cupcake magazine. We started out just making the vanilla bottoms, and luckily we didn't have to change the recipe at all for high altitude. They were perfect except for a small dip in the middle. While they cooled, we ate dinner and then Elena's friend came over, so I made the frosting alone. I stood there for forever frosting the cupcakes–I had only made a third of a recipe, so I didn't know why there was so much. Elena and her friend came in when I was still frosting, so I told them to start the fondant, and that they needed three cups of marshmallows. They looked and looked for about five minutes, and couldn't find any except a bag of long marshmallows in the pantry with gummies in the middle. We didn't want gummies, so they kept looking. I gave them suggestions on where to look while I frosted the cupcakes, and they still couldn't find them. Finally I finished with the frosting and was able to join them in looking. Of course, the second cupboard (which they looked in–or had at least opened) held a bag with about seven normal marshmallows in them. So they started with those while I looked some more. In another cupboard (which they had looked in) I found a bag of long, skinny, colorful marshmallows on the top shelf. Buried a bit behind those was another bag of a few normal marshmallows for them to use. In a few minutes I had found two bags of normal marshmallows and one bag of colorful marshmallows, and all they had found was a bag of colorful marshmallows with gummies in them. Even with the three bags I had found, we didn't have enough and had to get the gummy marshmallows out. We didn't want gummies in our fondant, so Elena started dissecting the marshmallows and pulling long strings of gummy out. We then thought of what we could do with the gummies: since the cupcakes were supposed to look like Christmas ornaments, we could use them as the hooks; so we set them aside and proceeded to follow the rest of the directions. Eventually we got to the part that told us to dump the melted marshmallow mixture onto the counter with lots of powdered sugar and knead it until it was smooth. All that we managed to do was get our hands really sticky. So we washed our hands and Elena and her friend went off while I waited for Mom to get home. When I got Mom up there, I told her what we were supposed to do, and what was supposed to happen. Somehow Mom managed to barely get any extra stickiness on her hands, and kneaded it out very nicely. We colored half of it red and the rest of it green. While Mom rolled it out, I cut out circles and covered the cupcakes and we both made little circles to go decorate with. Near the end, to get the extra powdered sugar off, we wet some paper towel and rubbed the fondant. All went well, except the fondant wouldn't really stick to other fondant, and I discovered that's why there was extra icing–to stick the fondant together with. I tried a piece of the fondant and it was really sweet and good. When we were finished, we all ate one, and they were probably the best tasting cupcakes I've ever had (but some of them looked kind of funny–we ate those first). We learned with those cupcakes to 1. save a little frosting for the fondant, 2. cut the circles bigger to cover the edges of the cupcakes, and 3. leave some of the fondant white to have more color.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Making Cookies


Elena rolling out Pepparkakor

Each country presents its own problems when making Christmas cookies. They are truly an American thing. Each country has it's own challenge. In New Zealand it was too warm. Storage became a problem and my cookies just melted.
Here in Bogota it's the elevation. A few types of cookies just turned to puddles on the cookie sheet. I hadn't adjusted the flour, sugar or baking powder correctly. It's always a stab in the dark figuring out the adjustments.
But we did have fabulous success with our cut-out cookies. And beyond the success was the fun of making them. On a day the girls had off school our friend came over and we had a cookie decorating and baking fest. We spent hours in the kitchen cutting, decorating, baking and frosting. I supplied the dough for the traditional Swedish Pepparkakor and our friend brought sugar cookie dough. We laughed, created and even danced a bit!
Hundreds – or what felt like it – of cookies later we flopped down exhausted and full of sugar. It's so much better sharing tasks like cookies with friends!


Maddie filling the  ping-pong table with baked cookies

- Kris

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Party at the Ambassador's





Each year the Ambassador hosts a Christmas party for the embassy children. This year the Ambassador's wife wanted to invite some children from some local orphanages so that we could give to the community. This is the type of thing that makes me excited, so I joined the committee. We tracked down the groups she had mentioned and coordinated with the orphanages for 60 kids who are parentless or have sever burns to come to the party. Embassy staff donated money for gifts for Santa to give the kids. The teens wrapped presents. We decorated tables. Then the big day arrived. Kids from the embassy mingled with the guests doing crafts and decorating cookies. The teens oversaw the crafts. The girl scouts sang carols. Maddie and I played our flutes. A kids dance team performed. And Santa passed out gifts. I didn't make a huge difference in anyones life that day, but I hope my effort brought some happiness and joy to both those who have everything in the world and those who don't.

- Kris

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Donut Time!



Last night Dad decided he wanted to make some homemade donuts. So, on Saturday morning we got up, and watched the Alton Brown donut making episode, and started. Dad, Damon, Maddie and I helped make them. It was a project that was mainly about learning and took a lot longer than expected. We got everything together, and made the dough first. We let the dough rise for 1 hour and then rolled it out and cut the donut shapes. We didn’t have any donut hole cutters so instead we used a yeast bottle and a cup. After we cut out the donuts we let them rise again for another hour. When they came out again we started heating up the oil to fry them. That was a mistake! The oil didn’t get hot fast enough, so the donuts that we had ready started to fall so they did not turn out very good. The first two that came out were burned but as we went along we got better and better. We had some spare dough so we started making donut holes. We used the cut outs from the inner hole on a donut and we fried those. Dad started making the icing for the donuts from the Alton Brown video and then we covered them after they cooled. A couple of Mom and Dad’s friends came over and ate homemade donuts together! They ended up turning out very good, but we also learned a couple things for when we make them in the future to speed it up a bit.

-Elena

Here are the videos we followed to make them if you would like to make them for yourself.


http://youtu.be/ZLACCFjhyBE

http://youtu.be/AP8L9FXVNq4