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February 2003

The Apartment remodel begins
and our trip to California and Mexico!

Saturday February 1st, 2003 – I was on the computer chatting with a friend when I heard of the Columbia space shuttle disaster and rushed to watch CNN.

We salute the heroes of the shuttle “Columbia”!

Went to see second “Lord of the Rings” movie and I liked it more then the first one.  On the way home after the movie we stopped at a favorite neighborhood corner restaurant for dinner.  I noticed they had several trout dishes on the menu.  Fish is not commonly found on the menus of regular neighborhood restaurants and I wondered if it would be any good.  Ron was thinking the same thing and we both ordered trout, mine just simply grilled and Ron ordered his with a sauce.  We were both pleasantly surprised how good it was.

Monday February 3rd, 2003 – My 41st birthday!  Don’t speak to me, I don’t do birthdays well!  At least Ron made me my favorite German Chocolate cake for my birthday.  Ron had to bring flaked coconut back from the USA to make it for me, we have never found flaked coconut here.

Tuesday February 4th, 2003 – My sister Cindy sent me a hilarious picture of Ron from a few years back.  It was taken at Ron’s birthday party and mom had bought him a leather bow tie and my sister Cindy had bought him a loud “vacation” outfit.  It’s common during our family birthdays to say, “Model, model!” when you get a new outfit and then you go try it on.  This was the result!  I wonder whatever happened to that outfit?

Ron returned from China town and was ecstatic.  He goes there to buy hard to find spices and groceries and also sake wine for when we order sushi delivered.  The sake is $75 pesos for a 1.8 liter container (about $25 USA) and the girl had misread the price tag and only charged Ron $7.50.  WHOO HOO!  Time to order sushi delivered!

Wednesday February 5th, 2003 – Almost daily we are visiting stores to make decisions for the apartment.  Today we met the architects at the home improvement superstore to help us pick some materials.  Having to make so many decisions is overwhelming, but Ron and I got to the store about 1.5 hours early to make some initial picks before the architects arrived.  We walked around looking at all the displays, deciding what we liked or what we didn’t like.  We found a few choices by the time the architects arrived and pointed them out to them.  One of the choices was for the kitchen floor tile, we had seen a display for a pattern on the wall but then we saw the same tile in a different part of the store and it looked totally different, we guessed because of the natural light vs fluorescent light.  Alberto and Ricardo talked to the salesperson and they gave us some sample pieces to take outside into the natural light.  I thought this was a very nice customer service and it helped us make the decision to purchase it.

We then visited a store to look at smoke alarms and speakers.  I don’t think smoke alarms are very common here but I wanted them installed since we’ll be on the 19th floor, that’s a long ways to walk down stairs in case of an emergency and I wanted all the advance notice I could get if something happened.  I also wanted a stereo speaker system installed in the house so that I could listen to music in every room.  Right now I have a little CD player that I tote from room to room as I make dinner, then into the dining room to eat dinner, then back into the kitchen to wash the dishes, etc.  I wanted to have speakers installed in the main living areas and then just turn them on and off as needed.  The architects suggested a stereo store and off we headed.  When we arrived at the store it appeared to be a home that had been converted into a business, we had just assumed it was a regular walk in business so we didn’t call for an appointment.  We rang the bell and waited for a few minutes till a cute girl opened the barred door.  We showed her the quote that had been sent previously to us and she let us in and went to fetch someone to talk to us.  The owner was a young guy who spoke very good English and we explained what we were looking for, he explained that his business was basically to do the installation of the smoke detectors and stereo system but that we pick the components at a different audio electronics store.  He gave us the address for a store that he likes to do business with and said that we could listen to the different speakers there.

Thursday February 6th, 2003 – We received some 3D graphic pictures of a kitchen design from “Reno”, one of the stores we were getting quotes on for designing the kitchen.  At this stage of the remodel the apartment looks like a total wreck, so artist conception pictures of a finished kitchen were wonderful to see as we ooohed and aaahhhed over our future kitchen.

We visited the speaker store that was recommended to us the previous day.  We talked to the young clerk and told him what we wanted, he then setup some of the speakers for us to hear and test.  I was talking to him about prices and that the other guy would be doing the installation.  He said they would negotiate the price together to present to us as one package, he made some kind of comment about how they work with the other guy, he gives them business, and they give him business and they all earn a little profit.  It was a nice comment on doing business together.

Saturday February 8th, 2003 – Showed our friend Dee the progress on the apartment, like us, she was interested in the different types of construction compared to the USA.  Dee told us a story of how Fernando, her Argentine boyfriend, visited her in Texas and she showed him a subdivision that was being built.  The houses were all 2 x 4 framed skeletons at that point and Fernando had never seen a house built only of wood and to him it looked like a matchstick framework that could be blown over in the wind.  Here all the walls are made with bricks and concrete.

From my new bathroom (old maid's quarters) towards the master bedroom

More Remodeling Pics

We then went out for lunch, then went back to the apartment for a piece of Ron’s German chocolate cake he made me for my birthday.

Sunday February 9th, 2003 – Ricardo called and asked if we wanted to go out for brunch, FOOD??  Of course we’ll go!  We went to a restaurant called “Siga la Vaca” with Ricardo, Ari and Felipe.  “Siga la Vaca” translates to “Follow the Cow”, which I thought was a hilarious name for a parrilla steakhouse.  We had a nice lunch next to the coast and ate all sorts of wonderful grilled meats.

Wednesday February 12th 2003 – We started packing for California, the cats always get depressed when they see us getting the luggage out as they know we’re about to leave on a trip.  I got out the suitcase and Scarlett jumped right in.  Awwww, I wish I could take her on our trips!

Thursday February 13th, 2003 – We arrive in California and mom and Al picked us up at the airport.  It’s a beautiful winter day and of course it’s good to see mom and Al again.  Mom made us dinner that evening and my sister Cindy and Viktor came over.

Friday February 14th, 2003 – Went to visit our tax guy to have our 2002 taxes done.  That’s always an experience but now it’s getting a little easier as our tax guy gets familiar with dealing with out of country residents.  We next visited our financial consultant and went over our finances and got caught up on each other’s lives.  David recently had his first daughter and was the proud parent showing us pictures.

Saturday February 15th 2003 - My niece’s birthday, Nina, was yesterday so we took her out for lunch. 

                      Ryan, my niece's son,                                            Viktor, Ron, Paul and Cindy
              does that make him my nephew?

                               Cindy and Mom                                                                  Mom and Al

                               Pete, Nina and Ryan

Ron with Nina's cat.

Saturday February 15th, 2003 – We headed off for our storage unit in Hollister.  I was dreading this.  Originally we didn’t know how long we’d be in Argentina so we stored most of our household effects, not knowing if we would be back in a year.  Now that we have bought an apartment here we know we’ll be here at least a few more years and it seemed crazy to continue storing things at the cost of $1,100 a year.  We had a 10x10x20 foot storage unit packed to the rafters and we had 6 days to get rid of it all.  When we first moved to Argentina we tried donating some things to different charities and discovered that a lot of charities are getting very picky in what they will take.  I envisioned us having to rent a large truck, filling it up with the stored items and then taking it from charity to charity trying to donate it and then taking the rest to the dump that we couldn’t get rid of.  We drove to Hollister with feelings of impending doom. 

We got to the unit and opened up the metal corrugated door, looked at the packed storage unit and I almost sat down and cried.  It just seemed like too much to be done in the time we had to do it in.


Besides trying to get rid of most of it, we also had to go through the things and determine what we wanted shipped to the new apartment.  Ron had called his son in law, Scott, to see if he wanted any of the things we wanted to donate.  His daughter Cindy told us that she’s active in her church and they’d take anything we had to offer them to donate to needy families.  This seemed just too good to be true.  We told Scott to bring a truck and meet us at the storage unit.  We were there for several hours and had separated quite a bit of things into a “give away” pile when Scott showed up in a mini-van.  My heart sank knowing we’d quickly fill up his van.  Scott said, “I clearly underestimated how much stuff you had to donate!”  We filled every nook and cranny of the mini van and even tied a bunch of stuff to the roof.  Scott said he would rent a truck and return the following day with a couple of his teenage sons to help load up the truck.  This was just too much to hope for and I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.

We finished up for the night because it was getting dark and Scott drove off to his home with his mini van full.  Ron and I rented a room in a local hotel because Hollister is over 2 hours drive from my mom’s house and we wanted to save time not driving back and forth and by being close by.  We went to the “Cinderella” hotel and were given the “President’s” room, every room had a theme and ours was USA presidents, it was quite a hoot!  I noticed the room next to us was “DisneyLand” with a big Mickey Mouse on the door.  Somebody had a sense of humor.

Presidential memorabilia was all around the room.

Ron and I went to a restaurant that we had gone to the previous year, when we visited our storage unit the last time.  We ordered gin martinis, as these are impossible to get in Argentina.  I was still dreading the amount of work we had ahead of us.  We enjoyed our meal and then returned to the hotel as rain started to fall.  The storage unit is all outside and there are no overhangs, we have to pull everything out of the storage unit in order to go through it and I was wondering how we would do this in the rain.  Ron laid awake most of the night worrying about this.

Sunday February 16t , 2003 – We awoke to blue skies, unbelievable how lucky we were to have good weather.  We stopped to get a coffee and headed off for the storage unit.  We started pulling things out, stuff to keep off the left, stuff to donate off to the right.  Scott said he would try and get there about 5pm.  This being Sunday the storage place locks the gate at 7pm so I hoped that 2 hours would be enough to fill up his truck.

Someone please, just throw a match on it all! 

We worked all day and it started getting close to 5pm and Scott hadn’t arrived, but this time almost everything was out of the storage unit and I was worrying that if Scott didn’t make it for some reason, we’d have to pack it all back into the storage unit.  We had just finished going through everything and making our different piles when Scott showed up with a 24 foot truck.  “I LOVE YOU MAN!” I cried out.  Scott’s 2 teenage boys jumped out of the truck and I just can’t tell you the relief I felt.  We said our hellos to Zach and Josh and started loading up the truck.  Unbelievably we were able to get everything in his truck and out the front gate by 7pm.

I again called out, “I LOVE YOU MAN!” as they all drove off.  I just felt so good I couldn’t believe it.

Our previous neighbors organized a small potluck dinner party for us.  We were filthy and exhausted after working all day on the storage unit, but they had this dinner already planned so we couldn’t change the date.  We stopped in a “Jack in the Box” fast food restaurant to wash our hands and face and then out in the parking lot we took off our shirts and put on clean ones.  Felt a little funny dressing in the brisk outdoors in a fast food parking lot, but desperate times cause for desperate measures!  We got to Peggy and Bobby’s house and greeted them enthusiastically, our old home complex only had 10 houses and we had become good friends in our little community.

                        Nick, Suanne and their baby                                          Stuart

                             Peggy, Bobby and Pete                                               David

Nick and baby Max

Peggy was saying how she now takes on the roll I used to have as timekeeper at the home owner’s association meetings.  She said whenever the meeting starts wondering from topic she puts on her “Pete” hat and says to everyone, “Focus, let’s get back on track people!”  I cracked up when she put on the hat to show us, I had no idea I left such a legacy as a timekeeper!

               Peggy's hard hat is for her duties on                    Peggy in her "Pete" hat, this cracked me up!
                      the gardening committee

Peggy presented us with this picture before we left on our new life to Argentina.  I don’t think I ever told her how much it means to me.  It is proudly displayed in our home.  Every year we would have a “white elephant” party in January where we could get rid of our worst XMas gifts and it was ALWAYS a wonderful party and my face always hurt from laughing so hard.


Monday February 17th, 2003 – We wanted to visit our friends Paul, Donna and their son, Tyler, aka “Spike”, who live in Ben Lomond.  As luck would have it our previous neighbor and friend Elis was also staying in Ben Lomond.  Elis had moved back to her native Norway and just happened to be visiting her son the same time we were in town.  This was truly a cosmic coincidence and we made plans to visit with Elis for lunch and then go to see Paul and Donna for dinner.  Once we arrived in Ben Lomond, we called Elis and waited for her as she walked to meet us.  She showed up and we all hugged, kissed and were grinning like Cheshire cats.  Elis said, “Look at us, from Argentina and Norway, and here we stand in the middle of Ben Lomond!”  We drove off for a nice lunch and catch up on stories.

After lunch I thought it would be nice to drive to the coastal town of Santa Cruz and have an Irish coffee on the boardwalk that goes out into the water.  This was kind of a tradition for Ron and I on Christmas day when we lived in California, we would go hiking on the beach, then head to Santa Cruz to have lunch on the boardwalk.  Elis thought this a great idea and asked if she could join us, “Of course you can join us!”  Winter is a great time to visit the northern Californian coast as it’s crisp and wonderful and there’s never any fog.  We walked out on the pier and drooled at all the fresh fish that they had available.  Elis couldn’t resist and bought some cracked crab to take home for dinner with her son and his family.  I love crab but we were going to Paul and Donna’s that night and I didn’t want to buy any and stink up my mom’s car by leaving it in there for 8 hours.

We walked to the end of the pier and looked at the barking sea lines, then after getting chilled, we headed to a restaurant for a couple delicious, hot, Irish coffees.

We said our goodbyes to Elis and headed off for dinner at Paul and Donna’s.  The last time we had seen their son was the previous year at this time and of course Spike had grown considerably.  We had a wonderful meal as we caught up on each other’s lives (this sound a little repetitious?) except for when Spike did some projectile vomiting!  Kids!  You gotta love em!

       They have a headset phone for hands free talking

             Donna whipping up a fantastic meal!

                                                                                                        This is the smaller unit we downsized to!

OMG!!!!!  It's really empty!

After a few hours the workers were done and the storage unit was empty!  More feelings of intense relief swept over me.

We drove back to my mother’s apartment and when we entered she was standing in the middle of her apartment and said, “I have something to tell you!  I’m going to Cabo with you!”  Originally I had asked my mother if she would join us on our yearly trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  My sister Mary had recently been through some very serious surgery and my mom had flown back to Michigan to help her through her recuperation, on top of this she came down with a case of very painful shingles.  She had only returned a few days before we arrived from attending to my sister Mary and was still in a lot of pain.  Because of all this, she told us she didn’t want to go to Cabo this time.  I told her I wanted her to join us, but I certainly didn’t want her going just for me.  Well……. she had a change of mind and decided she was crazy to pass up a trip to Mexico.  So there she stood in the middle of her apartment, saying “I’m going to Cabo with you!” with a big grin on her face, her packed suitcase already next to her.  We were both very happy she was going to join us.

Friday February 21st , 2003 – The long week had come to an end and we were again so happy to have the storage unit all taken care of.  To top off our elation, our friends Dana and Manuel were giving us a dinner to send us off on our trip to Mexico the following day.  More hugs, kisses, good wine, good friends and good food.

                                    Pete and Manuel                                                 Mom, Al, Dana, Pete and Manuel

Ron invited Scott and Cindy to the dinner and we got to the tell the story of our storage unit once again.

Saturday February 22nd, 2003 – We flew off to Cabo with mom in tow!  After my mom originally decided not to join us in Mexico, we asked my sister Phyllis and her boyfriend Bill to be our guests, after mom changed her mind she thought it would be fun to surprise Phyllis in Mexico.

Still in San Francisco, with coffee!

We arrived about 45 minutes before Phyllis and Bill so we decided to wait for them and take a taxi together to the hotel.  When Phyllis arrived I went up and gave her a big hug and kiss and then she squawked, “MOM!!!!!!!”, when she saw her. 

                      Now in Mexico with beer!   

The ritual upon arriving at the hotel is to take off all your clothes and go get a drink by the pool!  Everyone enjoys this ritual!

More Cabo San Lucas Pics

Saturday March 1st , 2003 – The week quickly comes to an end and we say good bye to Phyllis, Bill and mom as we switch to our 2nd week at the Westin hotel.

More Westin Hotel Pics

What a beautiful place!