Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Month: April 2013

Rosebud said 2.0

Today I was doing some php coding and Dad came over to help me because I had a problem. Rosebud was sitting at the opposite side of the table doing math.

She looked up and said “Daddy, I am getting really good at plus! Ask me on 35 + 5.”

Dad: “Okay, what’s 35 + 5?”

She immediately said “Forty!!”

Dad: “Good job! Do you want another problem?”

Rosebud: “Sure.”

Dad: “17 + 12”

Rosebud (searching her math page for that problem): “hm, I’m not sure…”

She is improving rapidly with her math, but she hasn’t mastered the two digit addition yet. She just turned 6, and she had a party with some of her friends from our condominium at a nearby park.

My Adventures on Two Wheels

I’m a fan of stuff on 2 wheels. Bicycles and motorcycles. Of course, with the driver’s age being 18 here, I do not own a motorcycle, but we do have 2 terribly cheap mountain bikes that have been a real pain, falling apart when you least expect it (I don’t call $200 each cheap, but in Chile, that gets you a bike that’s well below Walmart quality).

Even so, I have ridden many places on these. Usually early on a Saturday morning or on a Sunday afternoon I will go on a large bike ride. Riding to the eastern mountains of Santiago takes around 45 minutes when I’m riding hard. Most of it is flat, and the distance is only around 7 miles, but the last mile gets steep. I saw one hill so steep a descending bus’ brakes were smoking, and an ascending car spun it’s wheels for loss of traction. Going up, I had to ride in first gear standing up. I ended that ride having gained approximately 900 feet in altitude.

The largest ride I have done here was 25 miles total, to the far northern end of La Dehesa.

Back in the United States, during the last 2 months we were in Chattanooga, I would get up every morning (including Sunday) at 5:30 and ride up a ~1,200 foot mountain a couple of miles behind our house. I would always come back down super fast (40+mph). Often I would catch up to a car and have to slow down. That bike was bought for $100, and it perfectly went through 4 years of hard riding.

Now, before coming back down the hills I climb, I very carefully check that both wheels and both pedals are solidly attached.

I have explored most of the north-east end of Santiago. Out of the city, there are almost no roads. It goes from metropolis to unoccupied mountain very quickly. As far as I know, there is only one public road leaving Santiago out of the city’s north-east quarter.

A common place to ride bikes is on the Cerro San Cristobal. It is around 1000 feet tall, has roads going up it, and would be a big pile of dirt just like all the other cerros if the city government wasn’t watering the whole thing. The lame thing about riding there is that you can’t ride on it until 8am!

Fire and Soccer

Yesterday around 2:00pm we noticed smoke coming from something less than 2 blocks away. After a bit, fire trucks started showing up. I was going to soccer practice at Five, and I took a detour to see what was going on.

It was a 2-story house, with concrete outside walls and a shingle roof. The firemen were spraying the roof, which was emitting tons of smoke. There were a significant amount of spectators on the sidewalk opposite the house. There were four big fire trucks, as well as an ambulance and several other official vehicles. This seemed like a lot for the size of the house, and the fact that he only visible flame was on a windowsill, and it didn’t look like much. The firemen didn’t seem at all stressed.

I then went to soccer practice, at a field about 4 blocks away. I had a very rough game– I had 2 or 3 epic falls (not counting all my non-epic falls), I got the ball full force in the stomach and on each of my calves, which temporarily debilitated me from running, and the ball also hit me in the thumb (It was NOT a handball) and left a blue bruise that hurts when I press on it to this very day 🙂

Later, while we were eating supper, large amounts of smoke continued to be seen from the burning house, and more trucks kept showing up. Around 8:00 a German fire truck (which makes U.S. fire trucks seem meek by comparison) came to the scene. There are some German-run fire stations here.

Next morning, I went there again and took this picture.

What made it burn for the 8+ hours that it did, and why so many fire trucks were needed we don’t know.

Gastos Comunes

Most of the apartments complexes here in Chile charge a monthly “gastos comunes” (common expenses) fee. The fee is generally in the $100-200/mo range. Ours, being a large complex, is on the lower end, since the expenses are divided among so many units.

This monthly fee covers many things, including security (there are probably 5-8 “conserjes” or “guardias” on the premises at all times), maintenance and cleaning of the common areas, the upkeep of the gardens, the fountains, common electricity and water usage, office & managerial expenses, etc….

Each month a statement details the price of each item from staff pension contributions, to the secretary’s salary, to the uniforms for the personnel (Chileans love uniforms), to the maintenance of the elevators and fountains, any repairs, common water/gas/electric services, to photocopies. We get all the details.

Also in our monthly statement, they list the apartment numbers of those delinquent in paying their gastos – and by how much. An attempt at public shaming, I guess.

Finally, on the same monthly statement, we’re also charged for the use of the workout room. Carman is the only one of us who uses the machines. The charge is $2/month/person for unlimited usage. An excellent deal, if you’re into that sort of exercise – exercise bikes, stair-stepper, free weights, etc.

The gastos comunes system works fairly well, I suppose. But it’s far from perfect. Sometimes kids break things, and instead of their families being charged, the cost of the repair is divided among everyone. And unfortunately, the kids know this. When they break things, they shrug it off. There is not a sense of responsibility/ownership being cultivated.

Just a couple of days ago, one of Carman’s chums belted a soccer ball, even though playing soccer is against the rules for kids over 12 years of age. A guardia saw him and reminded him that he cannot do that on the premises. He did it again anyway within site of one of the many security cameras. The ball hit a pipe that was hidden in some bushes, broke it, and water came gushing out. It took 30 minutes for maintenance to get the water turned off. Then there will be repairs to be made, etc. But there were no consequences to the boy and/or his family. Instead, we’ll all be paying for it. And the carelessness, disobedience, and shrugging continues.

To be fair, not all kids are “bad” in this way. But there do seem to be some repeat offenders who just don’t care, and the current system just reinforces that attitude.

Sugar Free Flourless Chocolate (Cocoa Powder) Cake

We don’t often eat dessert here but look forward to having something sweet for special occasions and/or when we have company. But with having one that eats gluten free and one that’s eating sugar free, coming up with a company-worthy dessert is a bit of a challenge.

A flourless chocolate cake has been been one of my go-to dessert choices for when we’re having company. It’s so yummy that I don’t feel the need to explain our dietary restrictions when I serve it.

Last week I had planned to make one, and when the time came I realized that I had no unsweetened baking chocolate, just cocoa powder. (The recipe I generally use calls for both.) Since I had a hard time finding a sugar free flourless chocolate cake recipe that only called for using cocoa powder, I’m posting this recipe here for future use. It turned out great and I won’t hesitate to use it again.

This is a super rich, chocolately fudgey, brownie-like dessert. So, I serve small portions, generally with some whipped cream and/or some fresh fruit. It’s also awfully good with ice cream. Another bonus: it’s quick and easy to make. This recipe makes 12 small portions. Eat it slowly and enjoy.


1 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup butter

4 eggs

3/4 cup honey


Grease 8×8 or 9×9″ pan (or a spring form pan will work). Melt butter. Add cocoa powder, honey and eggs. Whisk well into smooth batter. Bake at 375-400F for 20-25 minutes until center looks firm. Let cool in pan. (I have a gas stove here, and it doesn’t have a temperature control other than a dial to make the flame larger or smaller. There’s no internal thermometer, so I don’t know what temp I’m using, but I think it’s on the high side.)

Futbol Night

A soccer game was scheduled for that night: Chile vs. Uruguay at the nearby National Stadium. We had planned on watching it online with the kids, but Marathon and I decided to take a walk in the park first. We were walking and talking, and the time got away from us. We both became dimly aware that, though it was a lovely evening, there was almost no one in the usually bustling park.

A few minutes later, yells of “Gooooooooalllllll!!!!” erupted all around us. The park is large and is surrounded by apartment buildings. Cheers were pouring from open windows. Of course! That’s why no one was in the park tonight! The game had begun. And no doubt about it, Chile had just scored. They went on to win the game, and Chile celebrated with lots of noise at both gooooooallllls.

There is no escaping soccer here. This was an “important” game – Chile’s last chance to make it to the World Cup. But even regular games do not go unnoticed. Bursts of hollers will suddenly pour from windows all around when goals are made. But this game was unique because Chileans were united in cheering for the same team.

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