Saturday, August 18, 2012

International Education

I've been thinking a lot about education this week. Pooh starts PreK this coming week, and my own classes start on Thursday. As we think about making a run for the border one day, what we'll do about school is an important factor.

In Pana, there are, from what I can tell, two international schools, the Life School, which is Pre-K to 9, and PCI (Panajachel Colegio Internacional), for grades 7-12.

There are also a ton of "private" local schools, but we want to make sure that Pooh is able to return to the US for college, or in case we were to return for unforeseen reasons before then. So education in English is going to be important. If he goes to a local school, we'll probably also need to homeschool him at night to keep up with what would be expected in US curriculum. While that would be possible (actually homeschool overall would be a decent option), Pooh is a very social being and really needs regular interaction with other kids his age. So we've been looking at the two international schools.

Besides, with my experience and education, either one of these *might* be a good choice for me to work, so I'm keeping my eye on my own options as well!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Sunset at The Sunset

I'm participating in Spanish Friday today, so this post is in Spanish, with English translation following. For more Spanish, head on over to over at Latinaish and join in the fun!

Alla en Panajachel, al final de la calle Santander, es un cafe bien popular con los gringos. Por el dia, no es muy obvio por que es tan popular. La comida no es muy buena. Los meseros no son muy atentos. A veces la cerveza no esta bien fria. Pero pocos minutos antes del atardecer, ese lugar se llena rapidamente, y los que lleguen tarde no encuentren ni un lugar para sentarse. Por que? Por eso:

Este cafe se queda en un lugar enfrente de la playa, sin otros edificios que bloquean la vista. Y la vista del atardecer por el lago es increible. Por eso tiene el nombre "Sunset Cafe". Es hermoso, es vivo, y es el lugar perfecto para conocer 'expats' y turistas si quieren. Espero verles alla un dia cuando visiten a Pana!

Down at the end of Santander in Pana is one of the most popular gringo bars in town. At first glance, it might not be obvious why. The food's not great. The wait staff is not attentive. Sometimes the beer is not even cold. But as afternoon moves into evening, the place fills up rapidly, and late arrivals may find that it's standing room only. What's the attraction, you say? It's this:

See, the Sunset Cafe sits right on the beach, and has a great view of sunset (hence the name Sunset Cafe) on the lake. It's gorgeous, it's happening, and (if that's what you are looking for) it's a great place to meet tourists and expats. I hope to see you there one day when you make it to Pana!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Offer...

Yesterday, after much thought and wiggling of numbers, P-Daddy and I sent off an offer on The Property! We idealized it, based on what would work best for us, and we realize we'll have to do some negotiating, but the offer is in. To celebrate, here's a picture of the main house (the property itself extends quite a bit behind and to the side):

The current renters of the house call it The Treehouse - a name that you can see is quite fitting and which I'll likely be adopting!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Making my mornings work better

On our vacation in Guatemala, it was easy to get up early, especially at our lovely hotel in Panajachel.

Awakening to the sound of birds chirping and a view like that, what's not to love about mornings. Of course, it didn't hurt that we were an hour earlier than our home time zone either. Still, we were regularly waking up before 6am, feeling rested and relaxed and ready to start the day.

Now that we are home, mornings are much much harder! I'm not ready for the school year to begin, and I really just want to burrow down into my blankets and sleep a few more hours. Lucky for me, Crystal over at Money Saving Mom is starting a new challenge this week that fits my current situation to a T. It's called Make the Most of your Mornings: a 3-Week Challenge from

It promises to be a great challenge, and I'm determined to successfully complete it and end up with a more effective morning routine. Today's challenge is to determine a realistic bedtime, which then allows for a non-exhausted morning. I've decided that mine will be 10pm. This realistically allows me to get up between 5 and 6 am, and still get 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

Our second task for the day is to determine 5 tasks that we need to complete the night before in order to relieve some of the morning stress. Here are mine:
1) Prepare clothes for the next day
2) Make the next day’s to-do list
3) Prep the next day’s lunch
4) Ready my school bag
5) Leave my computer and phone charging
We'll see how it goes, but for now, I've at least got a good start on this first real day of the challenge!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Reducing our waste

Last Saturday P-Daddy got up early to take out the trash and made the comment that we've only been sending out trash once a week lately. The trash runs twice, but for the last couple months, we rarely have a full bag by the second pick-up. Being the skeptic that I am, I wondered if it was just that he was not emptying all the trash cans. But no, all are in good shape. Huh. We have apparently been slowly working our way further into a lifestyle of reduce~reuse~recycle, and we finally have some evidence of it!

Since I view such a step as crucial to making an international move, especially to a developing country, I've been thinking about this a lot. While I may amend my reasoning in the future, I currently think there are 5 things we are doing that are helping us along this path.
1) First, we try not to waste food. P-Daddy is especially diligent in this area, much more so than I am. He is adamant about ensuring that leftovers get eaten rather than getting tossed. No worries, this doesn't mean that we are eating things slightly on the edge of questionability - we just are making great efforts to consume what we have before we buy or prepare more. Eating down the pantry in July really helped with this.

2) We compost when we can. I keep a bag in the freezer for vegetables pieces that can be used for veggie stock, but the rest goes into our compost bin rather than into our trash can. At some point in the future I will make my own composter, but for now, we have one that we bought from Woot, and we really like it. See that mutant spider-looking thing behind the incredibly cute kid? That's our composter (and our kiddo). I love that it's round and we can easily mix up the contents when we need to.

3) We strive for natural foods over processed ones. Not only does this reduce waste, it also reduces cost. We can buy many of our staples from the bulk bins, and fruits and veggies, especially the ones we get in our veggie co-op, have very little packaging. Because we seldom buy individually packaged processed treats, that type of waste is not a big contributor to our waste bin.

4) We rarely use disposables like foil and sandwich bags. Instead, we tend to pack into reusable plastic containers that we can bring home and wash. This does mean that we do more dishes - any suggestions on reducing waste while also reducing water usage would be greatly appreciated ;-)

5) We reuse and recycle whenever we can. Our trash can rarely has anything plastic, cardboard, or glass in it. When we get rid of those things, they go directly into our recycling bin. However, we are trying more and more to reuse those items when possible. Lately, I've been on a hunt for craft projects for Pooh or the house that reuse common household items. Hopefully I'll have some later posts about some of those, but for now, I'm collecting ideas on pinterest.

As we plan more and more for our move, not only do we want to be good stewards of the earth, but we want to reduce our costs, and we want to have a sustainable lifestyle. By learning now to reduce~reuse~recycle, we are well on our way to all of those things!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Organization Shmorganization

I admit it, I'm an organization junkie. I love baskets and bins and shelves and all kinds of things that provide a specific place to put certain things. The problem is that I don't always have time to get to the original organization, so things pile up and pile up and the bins, baskets, and shelves are more of a problem than a help. That's what has been happening with my linen closet.

Before I go further, I'll note that we have linens in many places around the house, but mostly that's because I couldn't find room in the already overflowing - and pretty small - linen closet. Recently, I found a great deal on a bathroom shelf, and that allowed me to move many of our towels out of the hall linen closet and into the bathroom itself.

Notice that that shelf goes over the toilet tank, and uses virtually no floor space. P-Daddy and I both love building UP and filling wall space rather than trying to find available floor space when there's really none to be found. So this shelf was a great find, an excellent price (Ross, $15), and was super easy to assemble. It's not hugely sturdy, but unless our three-year-old decides to try out his monkey climbing skills, I think it will hold up just fine. It's really only there to hold towels and washcloths, clearing out a good part of my overflowing linen closet.

Having moved the towels, I had a big empty shelf in the linen closet and several totally crowded and disorganized shelves. I emptied everything out and refilled the cabinet methodically. It feels so good to know what's actually in there! Cleaning rags, curtains, and wipes are all on the top shelf, with tablecloths just below them.

When I got to the sheets, I made some tough decisions. First, I decided that only one extra set of sheets per bed was going back in the cabinet. One set for our bed, one for the twin bed, and one for the toddler bed (Pooh alternates between the last 2). Second, I decided to try the pillowcase method. Typically when I change the sheets, I waste a lot of time sorting through and finding matching pieces. In order to make that easier, I folded each set, and then put the set into one of the matching pillowcases. Beautiful! And no more digging through the whole pile for matching pieces. We still have a few extra pillowcases that have no sheets, but all of us love extra pillows, so we need those anyway. They fit nicely, along with an extra mattress pad, right alongside the sheets.

After doing all that, I was feeling like Super Organized Mom, so I continued on to the kitchen and another set of shelves that were getting out of hand. After removal, cleaning, and re-organization, we are left with this:

Both of the bottom two shelves have been conveniently divided into two separate shelves through the use of breakfast trays. The bottom one holds a smorgasbord of teas, with a variety of tea and coffee cups underneath. You may have noticed the fire extinguisher and first aid kit as well - helpful in every kitchen, but an absolute requirement for foster parents, so there they stay. The tray on the second shelf up holds baking supplies, with water bottles to the side and plastic and glass containers underneath. It's not perfect, but it's so much better than what it looked like before!