Good evening dear friends! I hope you had a lovely week.
This week, we continue with our introduction to typical Argentinian sweets, the ones we, Argentinians, love and miss when we are abroad. Today, I bring you some of my favourite bite-sized sweets. All of them, except branch chocolate and nuts confit, can be found in any kiosk, so they are great for an almost guilt-free sugar rush moment. Also, all of them, except for “bocadito maroc” include dulce de leche, because most of my fellow country-men would agree that “a desert without dulce de leche is not desert”. I have changed quite a bit in this regard since living abroad, but try baking a birthday cake with buttercream, jam or lemon curd for an Argentinian child (or adult!) and you will be met with a face of sheer disappointment!
Let’s begin with Bocaditos Maroc, which are the bi-colour squares portrayed in the pictures above. They are made with a combination of peanut cream, milk and white chocolate. They are soft and truly melt in your mouth and, best of all, they are really easy to make at home so, if you want to give them a try, here’s how: Cover a square pan with foil. Process 100 grs of peeled roasted peanuts with 1 tablespoons of corn or canola oil until it reaches a pancake batter consistency. Melt 100 grs of milk chocolate and add 1/3 of the peanut cream to it. Mix well and place it in the pan, making sure it covers the pan evenly and smoothly. Bring to the fridge for about 15 minutes, so that the chocolate hardens. Melt 80 grs white chocolate and add another 1/3 of the peanut cream, mix well and pour it on top of the milk chocolate and peanut mixture. Put it in the fridge for another 15 minutes and, in the meantime, melt the remaining 100 grs of milk chocolate. Mix with the last 1/3 of peanut cream, and add it to the pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and place it in the fridge until hard. Once ready, remove from the pan, peel off the foil and cut into squares with a sharp knife (If you wet the knife in hot water, it will be easier to get a nice, clean-cut). And that’s all it takes!
The following treat is perhaps the most common of them all: Dulce de leche cones, or “Pinitos de dulce de leche”. They are simply, as you can see from the picture below, a truly decadent treat made of cookie, lots of dulce de leche disposed in a cone shape and covered in either dark or white chocolate.
If you live outside of Argentina and you are familiar with regular dulce de leche, you may be wondering how it is possible for the cones to keep their shape. The answer is this: the cones are not made with regular dulce de leche, but with dulce de leche repostero, or “baking dulce de leche”, which is firmer and thicker than the regular one (which has a jam-like consistency).
Dulce de leche repostero, unlike regular dulce de leche, is not made solely of milk, sugar and vanilla. Now, be warned, here comes a big surprise: Dulce de leche repostero has bean pulp (pulpa de frijoles) and cornstarch to give it its consistency. Argentinian friends, if you don’t believe me, go check the ingredients listed in a can…I did it back in November and couldn’t believe my eyes!
If you want to make it at home, you should know that the proportions are different from the ones for regular dulce de leche: apart from adding the above ingredients, it takes three times more sugar. So, for every 5 litres of milk (as I did in the original recipe), you will need 3 kg of sugar, 2 1/2 cups of bean pulp (made soaking the beans overnight, then boiling them until very soft and finally passing them through a sieve), 10 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1 vanilla bean and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. The procedure is pretty much the same as for regular dulce de leche, except for the addition of the beans which has to be done after the milk and sugar mixture starts to thicken (see the first stage of browning of my earlier post on dulce de leche). Right after adding the bean pulp and mixing everything very well with a wooden spoon, you should also add the cornstarch previously diluted in half a cup of cold milk. Then let time run its course and after a few hours you should be able to enjoy wonderful baking dulce de leche!
Another special treat that I look forward to eating when I go home are nueces confitadas, or “nuts confit”:
There are many recipes and ways to make them, but most of them involve three ingredients: dulce de leche repostero (see why you should know how to make it? 😉 , walnuts and poured fondant. The most traditional way consists of surrounding a full walnut in a spoon of dulce de leche and covering it all with poured fondant. Some, however, do it in a different way (as the ones that you can see in the picture above), which consists in making a paste with dulce de leche repostero and processed walnuts, giving it a ball shape and covering each ball in either poured fondant or dark chocolate.
The following picture shows another personal favourite, called Bocadito cabsha:
They are made with host capsules (yes, like the host of catholic mass. In Argentina they can be bought at baking supplies stores), dulce de leche, glucose, rum, and chocolate. The procedure is very simple: you need to heat the glucose in a pan, together with the dulce de leche, remove the pan from heat and add the rum, and fill the capsules with this preparation being careful not to overflow them. Finally, cover the capsules in chocolate, let them cool down for it to harden and enjoy!
Good morning friends! Let’s finish the week on a sweet note, shall we?
Last year, during our stay in Córdoba, I started preparing a few posts about Argentina’s sweet food culture. I could not finish writing these posts at the time, but I did take the pictures with the aim of showing you what we, Argentinians, think about when we think about sweets, what we love, what we miss when we are abroad. So here is the first of these posts, three in total, showcasing a small selection of my favourite treats. I need to give you one warning, though: there are many more sweets that I could not find in Córdoba (because they are typical of other provinces) or didn’t have the time to photograph. I also owe you a post on the candies and cookies from my childhood, which I meant to prepare, but my children kept eating the items to be photographed 😉
So, let’s begin! Today’s post is about the most popular of Argentina’s sweet treats: alfajores. But what are alfajores? And why are they called this way?
Alfajores are basically two cookies sandwiched together by some kind of sweet filling, be it fruit jam, dulce de leche, mousse or even ice cream. Their name comes from the arabic word “alajú”, and it is, in fact, an arabic confection that entered Spain during the Moorish era (during the period of Al-Andalus) and was then adopted -and modified- by the Spanish colonies. The shape and the recipes for the cookie itself and its fillings vary greatly from one country to the other, and even from one region to the other. According to wikipedia, the original confection (which can still be found in Spain) contained flour honey, spices and nuts and had a cilinder form (like a crêpe), while in Latinamerica alfajores are round and are normally filled with jams and mousses.Also, while in Spain they constitute a treat to be enjoyed mainly on special occasions (such as Christmas), except in the Medina Sidonia (where one can buy them all year long), in countries such as Argentina they are an everyday snack and can be bought in any kiosk.
Alfajores are different from a regular sandwich cookie, such as an oreo. The texture of the cookie itself is different: alfajores are moist and soft, and lack the crispiness of a traditional sandwich cookie. The filling is different as well, and more abundant. Whoopie pies, on the other side, look like an alfajor, and that is probably what we would call them back home in Argentina.
Argentina has different kinds of traditional alfajores, which differ from province to province. There are, of course, those that are available in kiosks nation-wide, produced by big candy companies, such as Arcor, Bagley or Terrabusi (owned by Kraft foods), but what is really interesting, and what I recommend you to do if you travel to Argentina one day, is to taste the regional versions, and compare them. In the following pictures I will show you some of these alfajores for you to get a glimpse at the variety you can find, and once I have tested and tweaked the recipes I brought from home, I will share them with you here as well.
The first type of alfajores I am showing you is perhaps the most famous one: Alfajor “Marplatense”, the alfajor from Mar del Plata, a seaside city in Buenos Aires province, which is also a traditional vacation spot.
Mar del Plata has many alfajor factories and, one of them, Havanna, has opened cafés and stores in several other countries, such as Israel, Spain, Mexico and the US. Havanna alfajores can also normally be found in shops that sell Latin-american products, as well as in Argentinian restaurants.
There are several types of alfajores from Mar del Plata: vanilla cookie with dulce de leche filling, covered in chocolate, vanilla cookie with dulce de leche filling covered in sugar glaze, vanilla and coffee cookie with dulce de leche filling and dark chocolate glaze, and vanilla and walnut cookie, with dulce de leche filling and covered in white chocolate glaze. They are all delicious, and their dulce de leche filling has the characteristic subtly smoky flavour that just burst in your mouth with the first bite and leaves you wanting more.
Alfajores from Córdoba are quite different, in two main aspects: the cookie is quite simple and light, the traditional filling is fruit jam instead of dulce de leche (normally, apple, pear or quince jam) and they are covered with a very simple sugar glaze made with only icing sugar and water that does not cover the cookie completely. Due to the popular love for dulce de leche, however, alfajores cordobeses with dulce de leche also exist, but they are not the traditional ones.
The cordobese confection that traditionally carries dulce de leche are colaciones, which are characterized by the crispy, curved nature of the cookie (that contains many egg yolks and a little bit of alcohol in the dough).
Alfajores from Santa Fé are also very popular. They are made of three layers of crispy, rather dry cookie (characterized because the dough has to be rolled and turned on itself 20 times, such as in the procedure for making puff pastry) , filled with dulce de leche (lots of dulce de leche, since the cookie itself is not overly sweet!) and covered with a sugar glaze made with icing sugar, water, lemon and egg whites.
Another very famous alfajor, which I couldn’t find in Córdoba to photograph, is the Alfajor Norteño (from Argentina’s North-West region), which is filled either with layers of dulce de leche and turrón, or only with turrón paste made with honey, egg-whites, sugar and walnuts.
I hope you liked this small introduction to our sweets and, worry not!, recipes will come soon!
And in case you are wondering who ate all those sweets that were photographed, it was a little blonde elf that helps me style food whenever he can…
I thought I should let you know how partial I am about the city before even beginning to write about it, so that you would be warned. Because I am (impartial) and because I do love it very much. True, I have never lived there and I have only visited it as a tourist, but I have always had such a great time and I find it so incredibly beautiful, stimulating and full of life that I can’t imagine NOT liking it for any reason.
The first time I visited I was 7 years old and, when I went back to Córdoba, I asked my mum on the plane back home, full of guilt, why Córdoba was not as beautiful. Since then, I have gone back several times, mostly on short trips, and every time I go I am amazed at how beautiful the city is-at least, for me.
As I mentioned before, I have been to Buenos Aires mostly on short trips, so I explored the city little by little. Back in 2002 to 2004, I used to travel every 15 to 30 days, for 24 hs. I would take the bus at night, and arrive to Buenos Aires at dawn, when shops were opening, cafés were getting their delivery orders of medialunas from bakeries, apartment concierges were washing the sidewalks and streets were beginning to get crowded with cars full of people going to work or taking their children to school. I like watching cities wake up, I find the early hours of the morning very magical so it was a special treat to see a city I love get ready for the day.
In those trips, I would generally have a meeting in the morning and then I would take the rest of the day to explore the city by foot, before taking the bus back to Córdoba. My meetings would generally take place downtown, and from there I would walk wherever I wanted to go that day. This is how I visited museums such as the wonderful Museum of Latinamerican Art-MALBA, or the National Fine Arts Museum , as well as landmarks such as the Recoleta Cementery, the Botanical Garden, the Japanese Garden,and the Floralis Generica.Sometimes I attended free lectures at Universities, or literary gatherings at local cafés, but most of the time, I just took pleasure in strolling the city streets. I never bought anything because I didn’t have any money, nor did I take pictures, because I didn’t have a digital camera (and buying and developing films was expensive) but, to be honest, I didn’t miss either. Being there, surrounded by all that beauty was enough to feed my soul.
Buenos Aires is big, huge even, but I find it very walkable and it is easy to move around using buses or the subway, for longer distances. It is a very green city, with plenty of trees lining its streets, and big parks where people sunbathe in the summer (yes, they do!), run in the afternoons, grab a bite at lunch time or have a picnic during weekends. The city’s rhythm is hectic and everyone seems to be always in a hurry, yet I have always been greeted with a smile (some say I was lucky, but I can only speak from my own experience, which was always positive). Taxi drivers love to discuss politics, to talk and to make recommendations, to ask where one is from and to give their opinion. I find this very funny and always enjoy my taxi rides because of this reason- but I must confess my husband doesn’t find it that amusing (insert smile)
Buenos Aires has plenty of cafés, some of which are important landmarks and are not to be missed, such as Café Tortoni (which is 150 years old) Café de los Angelitos or La Biela (which was my father’s favourite)- so please, avoid the local Starbucks if you are ever there, and get a real “café con medialunas” in a place that feels like Buenos Aires and not like any other café from the same chain in any other city of the World. The local magazine Planeta Joy made a selection of the 10 best traditional cafés of Buenos Aires, if you are ever in the city, which you can find here.
Buenos Aires is also a very cultural city, full of libraries (like the incredibly beautiful El Ateneo Grand Splendid) where it is a pleasure to browse for new and old books alike. The city also has one of LatinAmerica’s most important Opera Houses, the Teatro Colón (which was recently refurbished and restored) and there is always a large offer of theatre plays, concerts, talks, seminars, art expositions and other interesting activities such as philosophical cafés (or café-filo). Musicians and artisans populate the streets and the city is famous for its interesting finds in design and vintage objects.
When we started planning this trip, we had originally envisioned spending a week in Buenos Aires. I had already been there with my husband after we got married, and we were looking forward to showing it to our children. We wanted to rent an apartment, to be able to move freely and to explore the city by bits, so as not to end up with cranky toddlers. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible. Finding a rental apartment was so hard, and prices so exorbitant that, 3 months before the trip, we gave in and decided to change our tickets to spend a mere weekend there, and we booked a hotel.
In the end, this was the best decision because, 5 weeks already into our trip, Luka and Zoe had become exhausted, wanted to come back home and were in an almost permanent state of crankiness. So we kept our outings really simple, leaving all the explorations for another time and focusing on keeping them happy and meeting a handful of friends only.
We stayed in Recoleta, because of easy access, safety, close friends who live in the area and proximity to parks and museums, and we limited our outings to it (on Saturday) and Palermo (on Sunday). There are many other neighbourhoods we could have visited, and I do know the ones we chose are the two most touristy there are but, when travelling with small children, options are not as large as when one travels alone.
It was early December when we were there and the Spring weather was absolutely delicious, which was great for walking. Luka and Zoe travelled in the double stroller while we walked around, sleeping on occasions, lullabied by the breeze.
One of the places we visited was the Recoleta Cemetery which dates from 1822 and where all Presidents and other important persons such as writers, artists and sportsmen are buried. It was the first and, for many decades, the only cemetery the city had (until the creation of the Chacarita). Its most visited tomb is probably the one of Eva Perón but, to be honest we didn’t visit for the famous names. We visited, instead, because the whole place is a work of art and I find it particularly fascinating to see how a person’s character and taste has been portrayed by its survivors. There are heroes carried by crying angels, militars handing over their swords, journalists being shown their way to heaven by angels, and even couples giving their back to each other because the wife had stopped talking to her husband after a discussion and had requested to be portrayed in this way since “she would still be angry at him after death” (It’s true! Look for the tombs of Salvador Maria del Carril and Tiburcia Dominguez!). In order not to miss the funny anecdotes, it is better to take the official guided tours, but if you don’t have time or money to do so, a simple walk around the place will prove interesting nonetheless.
On our second day in Buenos Aires, we chose to visit Palermo, mainly because my husband had never been there, and I had been so long ago that I could hardly remember anything.
Palermo is a neighbourhood that has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Different parts of it have been popularly renamed according to their new vibe, and we can now find places known as “Villa Freud” (where there’s the highest number of psychologists and psychiatrists)”Palermo Soho” (the more bohemian side of the city) or “Palermo Hollywood” (where local TV stars live), for example. Unlike Recoleta (which is more conservative), Palermo has an artsy, laid-back feeling. There are artists selling their handicrafts on the streets, independent designer shops, as well as vintage and antique products, some cobblestone streets, and a myriad of cafés with tables on the sidewalks. Palermo is also the neighbourhood where the Japanese Gardens (which has a restaurant where you can order Tea served with the traditional Tea Ceremony), the Zoo and the Botanical Gardens are, as well as the Planetarium and the MALBA.
We kept our day very simple: we strolled around Recoleta in the early morning and then joined a dear friend for lunch at a Lebanese restaurant in Palermo, followed by a quiet walk, and some mandatory ice cream in Un’Altra Volta (seriously, ice cream in Argentina is so delicious it’s a crime not to have as much as one can. I’m not kidding!). By middle afternoon, we joined a big group of friends who had organized a meet up in the Japanese Gardens (travelling even from other provinces). We were around 10 families, with our children, talking,laughing and hugging each other in what was a real goodbye treat and a perfect way to bring our trip to a close.
The following day, we took the plane back to Paris-Belgrade, and two days after that, we arrived back home, to Cyprus. Exhausted but happy for what we lived and happy to be back home as well. Our time in Buenos Aires was short and quiet, but we left knowing that there will be future trips where we will be able to explore other places (like La Boca, San Telmo, Tigre) and to do other fun activities. This trip to Argentina was not about exploring, it was about family and friends and, like that, it was perfect.
Have a beautiful weekend and get ready for some serious sugar rush, because in my next post I will start showing you Argentina’s traditional sweets!
Good morning dear friends! As I promised, here’s my first post about our trip to Argentina.
It was a difficult post to write because, how to describe one’s own city, how to accurately portray it for those who have never been there, how to show what the place means to us in a few words, in a few pictures? There was also the issue of time and distance: the time that has lapsed since I stopped living there, the huge physical distance that separates me from it.
In less than a week it will be 7 years since I left Córdoba never to go back and, even though I have visited a few times, every time I go I feel that so much has changed that I find it almost hard to recognize the city. Sure, the basic landmarks are still there, but just as I have changed myself, the city’s soul and rythm seems to have mutated as well. In this last trip, in particular, I experienced the interesting paradox of knowing that, while probably Córdoba is the place I will always think about when I hear the word “home”, a great part of me has stopped belonging there. Perhaps this is because I have lived abroad the equivalent of 1/4 of the time I spent there, or perhaps it is because the memories I treasure are not shared by my husband or my children, so in a way they die within me. For my children, hearing about the places I visited when I was a child will not bring any memories of their own, it will probably be just another story of a foreign land where mum has spent some time, no matter how long or how important that time was.
As I write these lines I can’t help but think about my grandmother, Antonia, who arrived to Argentina from Italy at the age of 7, in 1929. She was a great story teller and, growing up, she would put us to bed telling us the tale of how she had travelled with her mother from her tiny town of Martirano, in Catanzaro, Calabria, to get the SS Giulio Cesare that took them to meet her father in Buenos Aires. It was a fascinating story because she would recount very vividly all the details of that journey, including the plants and flowers she had found when crossing a forest, the sound of the small streams of water they had crossed, and even the wonderful taste of the warm milk and bread she was served by her aunt the night before boarding for Argentina.
I have always wanted to visit Martirano since then, to walk those paths she walked just before her life changed so radically, to see those streams of water if they are still there, to touch the walls of the house that was her first home. Yet Martirano is not home and all my memories of it are from my grandmother’s long gone past. If I visited, I would probably not recognize anything she told me about the place, nor would I know anyone in town with similar recollections. As Córdoba continues to change and to evolve, I wonder if my children, no matter how many times we visit, will always see my own home city as I see my grandmother’s: a place that holds memories other than their own, a foreign land they recognize no more than any other city they may have seen in movies, or read about in books.
I wonder, also, how many of the landmarks from my past will still be there in a few years? And even, how much of what I think I remember was in fact as I recall it, and how many of my memories have in fact been affected by distance, by time, by nostalgia?
We arrived to Cordoba on the 1st of November after a long, exhausting journey from Belgrade through Paris and Santiago de Chile. As anyone travelling with small children knows, having a good trip requires a lot of preparation and a great deal of good luck. Prepare we did, but we lacked luck because Air France’s crew was on strike and, while our flight was only briefly delayed, the quality of the service was very much affected. Our food was served cold, there were no children’s menus or entertainment, our stroller was misplaced and delayed at every layover and the mood of the flight attendants was…disrespectful, to say the least. If you add to this the fact that the duration of the long-haul flight from Paris to Santiago was 14 hours, you may understand that by the time we reached Córdoba we were completely exhausted and feeling as if we had spent 1 week flying.
But that all changed as soon as we set foot at my mother’s home. It was Spring, the sky was deep blue, the air was fresh, the weather was starting to get warmer, and we were home- or at least I was. Luka and Zoe recognized my mum and started playing, happily in the dirt of the front garden. There was family, there were friends, there was lots of chatting, mate, criollitos and plenty of laughter. People were coming and going all the time, to the point that Luka and Zoe got so used to hugging everyone that crossed the door that they even tried to hug the postman !
The five weeks we spent in Córdoba were quiet and filled with events at the same time. We didn’t travel much (the pictures from cities in the surrounding hills are from a previous trip we did in Autumn 2006), or organize too many events, but we held an open house for friends and dear ones and this made those days always active, always busy. We took pleasure in strolling the streets of downtown with our children and, as we walked, I would find myself saying out loud things like “Here’s where I studied Law” “Here’s where I used to have coffee every morning after getting down from the bus that was bringing me from Anisacate” “This is the book store where I used to buy all my books and whose sellers know everything there is to know about Latin-american literature” “This is the building where I lived before leaving the country” “This is the café where my parents had their first date”. And in recounting those stories to my husband and my children, I began noticing the changes, the places that were no longer there, the buildings that looked different, how the city felt more crowded than before. And I began photographing everything, as a way of keeping my memories intact for the future.
I photographed the things that remained unchanged, the things I had missed and, also, the things that surprised me. I wanted to have a visual memory book so that, in future trips, I could compare and put together the pieces of the changing puzzle that is an evolving city.
The main thing I noticed, as soon as I arrived, is how alive Córdoba seemed to me, how vibrant. Perhaps this is because I find Nicosia to be very quiet, in general, but in any case, Córdoba was full of street performers, musicians, people walking, talking, laughing, getting in and out of buses, playing with dogs on the streets, having a drink outdoors.
The streets were full of colours and sounds and the flowers, oh, there were flowers everywhere. I had forgotten how easy it is to buy flowers in Córdoba and how I used to get a small bouquet of jasmines every week, when coming back from work.
Córdoba is Argentina’s second biggest city but it is by no means a megalopolis such as Buenos Aires. It was founded as “Cordoba de la Nueva Andalucía” (Cordoba of the New Andalucía) in 1573 by the man in the picture below, Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera (who was probably not reading the local newspaper at that time-;) ), who was originally from Sevilla and who is said to have named the city after the one in Spain because of the similar landscape, with its surrounding hills and rivers that traverse it.
Back in those times, Córdoba was inhabited by Comechingones, from whose native language people from Cordoba are supposed to have gotten the speach trait that characterizes us and causes those from other provinces to make fun of us: the extension of the first or second syllable of a word.
The city was apparently rather small at first, until the arrival of the Jesuits, in 1599. They set up self supporting “Estancias” in other cities of the province and converted Córdoba in the heart of their evangelical mission. In 1613 Bishop Fray Fernando Trejo y Sanabria founded the University (the 2nd oldest in South America), and the Higher Schools . This lead to Córdoba being known as “La Docta” (the studious, the city of Doctors).
After the Jesuits’ expulsion by Charles III in 1767, the Franciscans took over the University and during that period was created what is today the School of Law (formerly, “Facultad de Jurisprudencia” , teaching the “Catedra de Instituta”) which signalled the introduction of non-religious studies in the curricula. The Franciscans were replaced in the direction of the University in 1808 and, after the declaration of Independence and the proclamation of the National Constitution, the University was finally nationalized in 1856.
In 1918, a revolution was initiated in the University of Córdoba, that extended to many other Universities in Latinamerica, in what is known as the “University Reform” or “University Revolution” (And let me tell you that initiating revolutions is one of the things that has always characterized my home city). This reform lead to a democratization of the curricula and, later, to the Universities autonomy and autarchy.
In the 30’s 40’s and 50’s, several companies such as FIAT and others set up factories in the city and this brought greater expansion. People (including newly arrived European immigrants) started migrating from other provinces. Unions were formed and became stronger and it was their forces, together with those of the mass of students that populated the city that lead, in 1969, to the popular revolution against the military government known as “El Cordobazo”.
Therein lies the paradox: Córdoba has historically been conservative, both politically (The Vice-king Liniers organized from it the counterevolution against the first national government, and the city and province have traditionally voted differently than the rest of the country in national elections) and religiously (There are 7 Catholic churches alone in an area of 400 m2 in the city’s downtown), yet is also a city of revolution and of change.
Geographically speaking, the city is a square with very distinct areas, surrounded by hills and traversed by the Suquía river. The dam that surrounds the Suquía and that was built to prevent floods constitutes the city’s most beloved landmark, La Cañada: a stonework canal, surrounded by trees that are always green and which you can see in the picture that opens this post. As for the city itself, it is mostly one of houses, not buildings, because the inner dream of all “cordobeses” (people from Cordoba) is a piece of land where to have a garden and a swimming pool to enjoy the warm months of summer.
The city’s cultural life is plentiful: there are many museums (my best friends work at the University Museum (Museo de la Manzana Jesuitica) and at the Anthropology Museum so I am a bit partial towards those two, but all of them are nice visiting), including a Children’s museum called “Museo Barrilete” which is a true delight for children of all ages. In it, children can learn about physics, play with bubbles, make their own masks, learn origami, build their own toys and even learn carpentry so, if you visit Córdoba with children, I highly encourage you to bring them to Barrilete (which means “kite”) for a wonderful afternoon. The city also has a zoo, many parks, movie theaters and frequently holds free (or very affordable) open concerts, open markets and different fairs.
In addition to this, Córdoba’s added beauty lies in the proximity of beautiful mountain villages, which are really close to the city and which are perfect for a short getaway. The province of Cordoba is divided into 5 Valleys, with beautiful landscapes, cities full of history and different traditions such as Alta Gracia, Villa General Belgrano, La Cumbre, Jesus Maria, Mina Clavero, and many others as well as fun-packed activities such as trekking, orienteering, paragliding and others. In the hills are also the old Jesuit Estancias, which are now beautiful museums where you can learn about our past, and which have been declared World Heritage by UNESCO. During the summer (January and February), there are plenty of folkloric festivals in almost every little town, as well as during Easter.
Córdoba is, for me, my first home, a place where there is always time for friends and chatter and, since this past trip it is also so much more. It is also the place where Luka and Zoe discovered the night, the moon,the stars, the joy of playing with dirt and running after dogs.
It is the place where they tried to use their first tricycle, where they enjoyed the company of little ones their own age, where they learnt to use a swing by themselves and where gardens have fairies that protect the trees.
I hope that, if one day you go to Argentina, you’ll take a few days to visit Córdoba. And if you do, please drop me a line and let me know how it went. It will make me very happy.
How are you today? I hope you had a wonderful start of the week. Is the weather getting nice, warmer where you live or is winter still looming? Or are you in the southern hemisphere, anxiously awaiting the first yellow leaves of automn, and the relief of rain after a hot summer?
Here in Cyprus the weather has started to get warmer, but one last cold wave (with snow in the Troodos Mountains) has been announced before we can definitely say hello to Spring, so we are not putting our sweaters away yet. The streets, however, are already lined with yellow flowers, the orange and lemon trees are full of fruits, and the grass has turned a beautiful shade of green. The sun is starting to shine brighter, but the wind still blows colder than it will next month, once Spring will be in full bloom. This is such a nice time of the year to be here, and it is definitely the best time to come visit, in my opinion.
Even though we are not yet in Spring, I have already started getting into a Springy mood…hence these cookies! My husband had to travel to London for a few days, where he was planning to visit a dear friend who has two adorable girls aged 8 and 2 1/2, so I thought that I could add to the presents he was taking them a small box of decorated cookies. I looked into my cookie-cutter box and found a couple of sets I hadn’t used before and set myself to work. I made tulips, daisies and butterflies in different sizes and color combinations, and I played with sanding sugar and sugar pearls in some of them. Decorating is a form of meditation to me, because it allows me to focus completely in what I’m doing, and I love that.
I also made a few other cookies, from a princess set: a crown (which my daughter tried to put on her head on several occasions) a high-heeled shoe, and a pink and white castle:
And to top it all off, I added a few cupcake cookies, with red M&Ms as cherries.
My husband took some of these cookies to his friend’s daughters and the rest were enjoyed by our own children, who were very happy with them! If you have never decorated sugar cookies before, I highly encourage you to do so, it is such a fun activity!
Now about the news I announced: This blog is going to undergo a makeover! 😀
When I started blogging, almost a year ago, I didn’t have the money nor the necessary skills to make it look as pretty as I wanted to, so I simply designed a basic header using a tutorial from Makin’ cute Blogs and a background using a free background generator that I found online. It was ok for a start but it was not what I wanted and, ever since then, I have been looking for ways to beautify my little corner on the internet.
A few weeks ago, I read about a design makeover giveaway being offered by Jessica Sims Design, so I entered it…and I won! I had never won anything in my life before this, so you can imagine how happy I was! I have now sent Jessica my ideas and she will soon get to work on them. I am also working on a few pages I want to add, in order to make this place a little bit more practical and user friendly, and once it is all ready, it will come live. I am very excited about this and I hope you will like the end-result!
I will be back later this week with a few travel related posts about our family trip to Argentina.
Today Nicosia has blue skies again after a few weeks of clouds and rain and I feel invigorated! I don’t mind cold weather (I love it actually), and I like rain too, but I need the light of the sun and blue skies to be truly happy. Maybe that’s because skies in Cordoba, my home city, are always deep blue and, looking at blue skies makes me feel a sense of connection with my own home.
These past weeks have been really hectic. As I mentioned before, my children, Luka and Zoe, started nursery school one month ago…and as it very often occurs, two weeks into their new schooling experience, they got a ear infection! There seems to be a really strong bug going around, because all children and even the teachers got it. The first round of antibiotics didn’t do the trick, so we had to try with a second one, and it took them 10 days to be ready to go back to school. What was even worse was that my husband and I also got a really bad cold (we are guessing the same bug), so there was a concert of coughs going on in our house all night long. But now we are all recovered and very appreciative of our good health! We are also giving the children vitamins and probiotics to reinforce their immune system, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that they won’t get anything new (in the short run, at least).
But today’s post is not about me, or my immediate family. It is about a very special little girl, whom I love very, very much and whom I consider my “niece of the heart”. Olivia Valentina (Oli, as we call her), is the daugther of one of my oldest and dearest friends, Mariana. No, scratch that, Mariana is not really my friend, she is more like the sister I never had, a “sister of the soul”. Mariana is the person I shared dreams and hopes with since we were 16 years old, the one person that was as passionate about books and history and literature as I was, the one with whom I buried a time capsule in the backyard of our country-side home when we were 17 , the one with whom I wrote a little book that maybe one day our children will read, the person that had a penpal and liked studying, just like me. Mariana is the magical being that showed me the meaning of true friendship and someone I have missed deeply during these 7 years that I have lived abroad. The thing with being an expat is that we are bound to miss those we love, and we carry the burden of knowing that, many times, we are not present during our loved ones special and important moments. Argentinian author Hernan Casciari uses a metaphor from football (soccer) to explain it and says that ” pain and party, tragedy, triumph are the same when you’re away. Not being able to cry with your loved ones when something horrible happens, not being able to celebrate with your people when something wonderful happens puts you immediately in offside“. He is right.
Fortunately, last year it was different. Last year, our trip to Argentina coincided with Mariana’s pregnancy and that made us both so very happy. I could not stay until Oli was born and I have only seen her cute, adorable face through pictures, but having had the chance to hug my friend during such a life-changing time, and to talk to Oli through the belly is something that I am deeply thankful for.
The original idea was to take advantage of this trip to organize Oli’s baby shower, so I started planning it pretty much as soon as the pregnancy was announced. But once we arrived in Argentina, we learnt that Mariana’s pregnancy was experiencing some complications and, during our second week in the country she was put on full bed rest. The baby shower no longer being a possibility, I decided to prepare Oli and her mummies a special present to celebrate her life: a “party in a box” which they could use either for a “sip and see” after Oli’s birth, or maybe even for Oli’s 1st birthday.
When I listened to this song, I also remembered the myth of Yggdrasil, and how the idea of a Tree of life is shared by different mythologies and the baby shower’s theme was born. I contacted my dear Laura ( from Delicious Tea) and commissioned her to design the party printables, and she did the most beautiful work I could have imagined. Laura designed a lovely, blooming tree, with leaves in different colours to represent the diverse ways in which Oli is loved, and this tree was included in all items. She also designed a banner with the baby’s name, which instead of the traditional triangular shape uses leaves in the same colour palette as Oli’s tree of life.
The tree above was made from a branch of a tree from my mother’s garden, so that it would grow together with Oli, accompanying her. The little tag cards are for guests to leave good wishes for Oli’s life and to hang them on Oli’s wishing tree, so that she would be able to know, when growing up, that she is, and has always been, deeply loved.
The box also included some decorations, such as two little wooden trees and a rose paper pompom, as well as some of the items necessary for a dessert table, with food labels that played with the party’s theme.
The sweets and sugar decorations included “Flowers of Joy” (sugar flowers to decorate cupcakes with), with their corresponding cupcake cases…
…”Enchanted dew” (little meringue cookies)…
…”Prosperity leaves” (bamboo skewers, to insert chopped fruits in)
… “Love seeds” (chocolate coated almonds)…
“Branches of Life” (Branch chocolate)
…as well as all of my favourite recipes in a little hand-written notebook, that could serve as Oli’s first.
It also included drink tags for different kinds of Lemonade, with coordinating twine, as well as personalized paper cups with matching paper straws, paper plates and bamboo spoons…
The box also had the tags for souvenirs, but not the souvenirs themselves (mixed flower seeds, to celebrate life by giving back life to the Earth) because I didn’t know when the party was going to take place.
I also punched lots and lots of flowers in different shades of green and pink , which could be used to craft garlands, piñatas or other decorations.
As a special present, we created a series of postcards for guests to write love notes for Oli. These postcards, when put together, formed a A3 sized poster (which could be hanged in the baby’s bedroom) with the inscription: ” Your existence makes us very happy”.
Finally, I added three bibs, just because one can never have enough of them with a young baby!
I placed all items in a box, and travelled with it, the tree and the pompom to my friend’s house, to deliver the party and have a quiet afternoon of mate and long talks, like in the old times.
Queridas Mariana, Pao y Oli: las quiero con el alma! Que esta nueva vida juntas, que recien empieza, las llene de felicidad hoy y todos los días de su vida.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.