Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Life Worth Celebrating

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, "She couldn't have actually taken a picture at her own father's memorial could she?" If you are thinking that then you haven't been hanging around here for very long. The thought that I should put the wide angle lens on Big Bertha and take a picture when I got up to speak popped up in my little cranium about a month ago. I dismissed it as just another one of my crazy thoughts....but I just couldn't get rid of it. It just kept popping into my gray matter and rattling around in there and would not be denied. And so, when I got up to speak.....I stopped to take a picture first. Dad would so have understood.

What an amazing day it was, filled with family and friends, joy and tears and more than a bit of laughter. We started the day off with a family lunch where 100+ of us were served "Deconess Casserole" in Evan Welch hall (not the actor but a former chaplain at Wheaton College and my great uncle). Every church has their own version of a deaconess casserole and these were a delicious chicken filled thing. Dad would have had a second helping I am sure. Tables were filled with families (mine takes up 8 spaces by themselves) and friends all there to celebrate and remember.

Then it was on to the service, a one hour celebration that ended up lasting.....two hours. There were hymns and organ music and......bluegrass. I wish you all could have been there to hear the memories of a man that my words cannot do justice to. I am sure that once HHBL is finished with the video editing I will show you a bit, whether you want to see it or not.

HHBL and I, Pilot Man, TMO and The Favorite Oldest Niece all spoke. That is only natural as we are all family and had happy and varied memories to share. But Mimi had also asked four other people from Dad's life to speak, to give flesh to other aspects of my father's life covering family, friend, school and colleague. There was David, a cousin who really could have been Dad's brother, they are so much alike. David echoed a theme that we heard throughout that day, that my father (and my mother as well) had taken someone under their wing and ministered to them, had mentored them, had shown them kindness and love and generosity. In Mimi and Papa's world there is always room for more family, whether it is the family you are born with or the family that you choose.

There was Dad's great and dear friend, Gilbert Bilizekian, who was a part of the Parental Unit's "Book Club" for many years. His description of my father's ability to listen to a long and wide ranging conversation with opposing views, eyes closed as if in slumber, and then when all were done speaking to condense that conversation into a precise and pithy conclusion, was wonderful to hear. I hadn't seen Gilbert in so many years although I often speak (over the blogosphere) with his daughter, Christiane, the wonderful blogger over at Taking On Magazines One Recipe at a Time. When we greeted each other before the service began he grabbed my face, as if he was still seeing the child I had been, and kissed me on both cheeks. Gilbert has always been one of my favorites.

Coming from California to speak was Dad's college roommate, Dr. Arthur Ammann. What an amazing thing to hear him flesh out a younger version of my father and their time together at Wheaton College. Dad was only 16 at the start of his college years, taking the 18 year old Art under his "wing" and teaching him about photography and how to pull pranks and not get caught, appropriating study space in an unused room in one of the college towers and filling that space with a radio, desks and mice on which they did experiments and then made their own microscopic slides in order to study the disease process and what healthy cells looked like.

My father's partner, Dr. Dwight Kett, spoke about my dad in his capacity as a doctor and surgeon. All dad's partners are amazing and capable physicians but the consensus always was that if a problem arose, they wanted Dad to be there. His knowledge and experience in his medical field was vast. He was cool and calm when "under medical fire" and always knew the right path to take. He had courage to act with calm conviction that the path chosen was the right one.

All spoke about my father's courage both in his career and in his life. He stood for his principles and what he knew was right and proper. His command of the English language was amazing. There were very few words that he couldn't define and his use of those words was impressive to say the least. Always erudite, knowledgeable about an absolutely vast array of subjects, filled with good humor and an inexhaustible supply of puns, always willing to go the extra mile for whoever needed his help or advice, he was a true Renaissance man and the family rock around which we gathered.

And finally there was Uncle Dean, speaking both as pastor and as brother-in-law. He summed up what my father would tell you if he had been there. That whatever my father was, that it was all to Christ that his knowledge and experience pointed. That Christ was all.

The rest of the day and long into the night was filled with family and friends, coming together to enjoy each other's company and share memories. I cannot tell you how many times I said that I was so glad to see people but really hated the REASON why I was seeing people. Al the mailman and his lovely wife, Sandy, were there, cousins from many different states, my sisters of the heart were there, even friends from HERE were there (thank you SO MUCH Dottie and Tony!!). The party started at the church and then continued at the house where we consumed a lot of pizza and wine (Dad always did like a good glass of Cabernet) and capped off the evening with a fire in the fire pit.

Dad would have loved it.


Friday, April 11, 2014

7 Quick Takes (Vol 254)

Here we are again, gathered around the blather table, looking at the steaming heaps. You know the guide lines. When you are done here you need to click on the picture above to be whisked, at the speed of Kathleen Sibelius' departure, over to Conversion Diary.

Blather that can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

1. Tomorrow is my father's Celebration of Life. Bittersweet to be sure, as any celebration of life would be. But it will be a party as well as we have people coming from 17 different states and 2 countries.

What an amazing thing that is!

There was already a boat load of laughter last night when the first of the cousins rolled in.

Cousin Kristen and I. We haven't actually seen each other since I was in high school and she was a bit younger. I believe at that point in time I chose to go and read a book upstairs rather than play with my cousins. Pilot Man evidently picked up the sibling slack on that occasion.

He is a nicer human being than I am.

And today is the 24th anniversary of Kristen's 25th birthday. I will let you do the math on that one.

2. I am now the posessor of my father's favorite towel.

I was actually unaware that he had a favorite towel until Parental Unit Mimi handed it to me. It is not the largest towel in the world nor is it the softest towel in the world. And I can only say that it is not a color that I would call lovely. But Dad and The Towel met on a lonely stretch of road where the towel had been lost by some unlucky person. Papa stopped and rescued it and then they were together from that point onwards.

Such a love story. Sniff.

So The Towel and I are now united.

3. The warm weather has finally arrived....and then it is supposed to snow, possibly, on Tuesday.

I won't repeat to you what I actually said when someone told me that there might be snow on Tuesday.

This is a family blog after all.

4. I did my morning two miles by walking around my old neighborhood. Oh what a strange experience to walk the sidewalks of my growing up. When did some of these houses get so small? And the walk to my Jr. Hi and High School always seemed long to me but really, the Jr. Hi was about 4 blocks away, my grade school was about 5 blocks and my high school less than a mile. Of course my high school is no longer there, it was replaced last year by a VERY NICE grocery store with a fabulous wine and beer department.

You can see where my priorities are. Produce? Meat? Dairy? Oh what a nice ALCOHOL department.

I was also able to walk past my grandparents old house, which is about 4 blocks from the old homestead. When last I passed that ancestral home (well, they did live there for 10 years or so) I stopped my car and took a picture with my iphone.

Almost immediately a man's head popped out of an upper window and questioned me about I was doing. When I explained that my grandparents had lived in this house years ago he was very friendly and invited me in and showed me all around and explained about their MASSIVE renovation project. This picture was taken in November, today I walked past again and the renovations to the front door are almost done and the very large addition on the back is in process. My favorite part of the "tour" was to see this...

The absolutely tiny bathroom with the only corner toilet that I have ever encounter. Once their kitchen renovation is completed this little space will be gone. For some strange reason that makes me sad.

I will just add it to my collection of "bathrooms that I have known."

Don't ask.

5. My father was the master of the well crafted flame email. No need to shout when a pithy and dagger like turn of phrase will do the trick. He didn't have to do it often, but when he did it was masterful.

I channeled my inner "Don" this week to deal with the roofer who didn't show up for two separate appointments and didn't call to tell me that he wasn't going to show up, thereby wasting my time on not one but two separate occasions. I do not take kindly to people needlessly wasting my time and then not returning phone calls. I prefer to start this kind of process with a phone call rather than email....but after three phone calls with no reply, and having to use my quiet but angry voice (ask the progeny, they know that voice) I resorted to email. It was a masterful piece of writing if I do say so myself. There were some particulary pithy phrases.

I had a reply in less than 30 minutes.

Thanks Dad for the legacy of the pithy flame email.

6.This is my mother's old address book. Folks, this is how we did phone numbers and addresses in the "old days". You should see this beauty. It is held together with duct tape and a rubber band and the pages are loose and filled to capacity. It was the thing from which all knowledge flowed when I was growing up.

7. And as is my usual custom, here are Instagram photos from my wierdly chaotic and roofer filled week.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Will Not Let It Die!

I know that Spring has finally arrived when I plant pansies.

I am in such a different gardening "place" than I have ever been before, other than our first apartment which had north facing windows and consequently wasn't good for growing anything other than moss on trees. In that first place my gardening gene was still dormant.

Here at Chez Knit the landscaping isn't my job anymore, it is the job of the landscapers who are hired by the association. That is good and it is what we were looking for when we bought this house as it frees HHBL and I up from all the yard work that we had been saddled with for so many years. I don't have to dread Spring any longer and all the beds that needed to be cleaned out and the never ending battle with the weeds and the 20 yards of mulch that needs to be spread before it starts to cook down to China.

All of those facts may be true but it doesn't mean that I can stop this urge. It doesn't mean that my once dormant but now very active gardening gene can just go back to being dormant. I may not be in charge of those bushes, especially the very sad and woebegone hydrangea, but I don't think that the landscapers care either. Believe me, if they did care then that hydrangea bush wouldn't look like it does and it wouldn't be all eaten and decimated by those rats with hooves deer.

About those deer (as I rabbit trail for a minute). There seems to be three of them that are regular visitors. And they are bold as brass. My neighbors all shake their heads at me and say, "Oh I don't think you should plant any flowers. Those deer are terrible." I scoff at them! I shake my fist at them (the deer not the neighbors). I have opposable thumbs and they (the deer) do not and I will win.

Now back to the gardening

It isn't that I won't be gardening any longer, it is just that I will be gardening in a different way than I am used to. I cannot add anything new to any of the landscape beds as they are not technically mine to rearrange. I can stick some flowers here and there but I must maintain them and they cannot be perennials. I believe that most of what I will be doing will be confined to pots and containers both in the front and on the back patio, which isn't the sunniest place in the universe. There will not be any hostas (which is most likely a good thing knowing my addiction love for them) but there will be clematis. And I don't even have to go out and buy them. When we moved in I noticed that there were two very sad, mis-planted and deer ravaged clematis in one of the front beds. I am not sure who planted them and what they were thinking when they planted them but it was a strange place to put a clematis. So yesterday I carefully transplanted the first one over to an area where it will get a lot more sun. And that made me happy.

After digging a bit in the dirt I filled up a pot with dirt and planted some pansies. And that made me even more happy.

Then I trimmed back the hydrangea bushes. I have absolutely no idea about hydrangea care at the moment, I will have to do some research on that. But all I can say is that looking at the state that they were in I didn't think I could do them any more harm. To be honest, I can actually ask the homeowners association to replace the bushes, they are their property after all and not mine. But I just have this urge to try and save them. To not give up the hydrangea ship as it were. Call me a cockeyed hydrangea optimist if you will. Just another one of my Scarlet O'Hara moments....

As God is my witness, I will not let that hydrangea die!

After trimming the hydrangeas and cleaning up my garden mess....I pulled out my jug of deer retardent spray and gave the bushes and the clematis and the pansies a good dousing, all the while hoping that my neighbors don't wonder why the 'hood suddenly smells like the day after a giant frat party. Vomit, how lovely.

Garden waste is another adjustment that I am having to make. At OCK I could just lug all of it to the edge of the ravine and chuck it down the hill or stash it in the woods or something of that nature. But here I actually have to bag the stuff up, small amount that it is, and put it in the garbage can. I don't even own a wheelbarrow any more! And I only have one shovel which actually proved to be a problem yesterday as the only shovel that I do currently own was a bit big for the digging job. I managed.

I am not always one to embrace change (stop laughing HHBL) but my brain is just a whirl with the different gardening possibilities.

Now if my little town would only get their community garden up and functioning.........

Monday, April 7, 2014

An Anniversary That Should Have Been Remembered

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the start of the Rwandan Genocide. I only saw one small article appear and that was in a UK paper. I looked yesterday, here and there, to see if anyone remembered. And I saw nothing. Nothing in my local paper. Nothing in the national papers that I read online. 60 Minutes didn’t cover it. CNN, MSNBC and FOX, all were silent on it. We have no problem remembering the anniversary every year of the death of Princess Diana.

But we can’t seem to be bothered with this.

Just like we were all silent before and after April 6, 1994. I include myself in that group, by the way. If asked, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you where Rwanda was on the map let alone be able to distinguish who was killing who. It didn’t really hold any meaning for me in my small and child filled life at that time. We do not want to remember.  We do not want to be reminded because if we do remember April 6, 1994 and what happened that day and in the following 100 days, when between 500,00 and 1 million people were killed, then we will be reminded that genocide does not happen in a vacuum. President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane wasn’t just shot down over the Kigali International Airport and then people said, “We have to blame someone! Let’s blame the Tutsis!” The road signs for the genocide were all there for people to see if they chose to look. People did see, they just chose not to act. The increase in importation of machetes and guns and grenades and knives. The rise of the Hutu Power movement. The arming and training of the interahamwe.  Previous genocides in 1959, 1964 and 1990 were all smaller in scale, just a precursor if you will, to the 100 days of 1994. But no one did anything about them. And if no one does anything about smaller genocides then bigger ones will occur because the perpetrators think they can get away with it.

I can date my Rwandan awakening to a small used book store in Lahaina on the island of Maui. I don’t even remember the name of the store, it is somewhere on the main street I think, or it was in 2005. We were on vacation and were spending some hours wandering around downtown on our first day there. A used bookstore! Sweet! I went downstairs to check out the books in the History section and there, on the bottom shelf was a book with the longest and most arresting title that I have ever seen.  We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch. That is a mouthful of a title and I was intrigued. Rwanda? Genocide? I sort of remember something about that but not much. The book was a whopping $2. I bought it and was forever changed. Since that first book HHBL and I have read many if not most of the books that cover the Rwandan Genocide. We have visited Rwanda and would go back in a heart beat.

But we must never forget what happened there and our responsibility as a nation for the genocide. And yes, the United States holds responsibility. I am currently reading Leave None to Tell The Story by Alison Des Forges. Written in 1999 for Human Rights Watch it is considered the most unbiased and detailed account of the genocide. This is what Ms. Des Forges writes about international responsibility:

The Rwandans who organized and executed the genocide must bear full responsibility for it. But genocide anywhere implicates everyone. To the extent that governments and peoples elsewhere failed to prevent and halt this killing campaign, they all share in the shame of the crime. In addition, the U.N. staff as well as the three foreign governments principally involved in Rwanda bear added responsibility: The U. N. staff for having failed to provide adequate information and guidance to members of the Security Council; Belgium for having withdrawn its troops precipitately and for having championed total withdrawal of the U.N. force; the U.S. for having put saving money ahead of saving lives and for slowing the sending of a relief force; and France, for having continued its support of a government engaged in genocide. In contrast to the inaction of the major actors, some non-permanent members of the Security Council with no traditional ties with Rwanda undertook to push for a U.N. force to protect Tutsi from extermination. But all members of the Security Council brought discredit on the U.N. by permitting the representative of a genocidal government to continue sitting in the Security Council, a council supposedly committed to peace.

April 6, 1994 is an anniversary that we should remember. Not to celebrate but to be reminded that even friends and neighbors can kill other friends and neighbors simply because their identity card says one thing and not another. If genocide continues to rear it’s head in other parts of the world (Darfur, Christians in Iraq and Iran and Egypt, North Korea) then we continue to bear responsibility for it.

Below are other blog posts on the topic of Rwanda.

We must remember.

Genocide Made Real

Rwanda (this post contains a small reading list of books that I would recommend on the subject)

Friday, April 4, 2014

7 Quick Takes (Vol 253)


Let it hear be said, “Winter is DEAD!”…or at least I hope it is. When you are done basking in the blather radiance you need to click on the picture above to be whisked, at the speed of the rain falling on this, the Cleveland Indians Home Opener, over to Conversion Diary.

Blather that can overcome all obstacles.

I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to the person who discovered Cipro.

HHBL and I finally gave in to the Peruvian Intestinal gods and started on antibiotics on Wednesday. We just couldn’t take it any longer.

And I don’t think I have to give any more explanation than that.

As is usually the case, I really need to have a vacation to get over my vacation. And as is also usually the case, that was not an option. Life just starts right back up and I had work this week and the house needed to be cleaned and there was laundry to be done.


I am such a post-vacation whiner.

It is only April here in the Frozen Northeast Ohio and that means that we are still not out of the winter woods yet….but all the snow is gone and there are actually Spring flowers peeking their heads up.

And I am actually getting excited about the flower possibilities here at Chez Knit. My gardening options are so totally different here than anyplace else that HHBL and I have lived in our married life, other than our first apartment. We have no yard work to do, that is done by the landscapers that the association hires. I don’t have to trim the bushes, we don’t have to blow the leaves in the Fall. I don’t have to spread mulch.

Can I get an AMEN! for no 20 yards of mulch to spread.

Even though I do not have to do yard work it doesn’t mean that I am not going to have flowers in pots and perhaps some herbs in flower boxes on the back patio. I haven’t lived here through an entire summer and I am a bit concerned that the patio area may not be sunny enough for herbs.

And there are always the four footed hateful marauders from the woods deer to contend with.

But what is gardening if not experimentation. And I look forward to a new challenge.

Now if I can just “un-learn” the deer herd (all three of them) from eating my Hydrangea bushes. It really isn’t my job to take care of those bushes but I sense that the landscapers could care less if the hydrangea blossoms are consumed by the deer. So as soon as it stops raining I will start spraying that area with my deer away, smells like a vomitorium stuff.

It is me or them and I have the opposable thumbs.

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I call these things “Olive Pillows of Heaven”. Just little pockets of bread filled with chopped cured olives. Not the olives that come out of a can but brine cured, salty and tangy and altogether fabulous.

I would eat them every day.

If I lived along the Pan American highway that is. And since I don’t know if I will ever again stop at the roadside stand that sells these, as we have decided not to drive down to the beach again when in Peru because, well, we have done that a bunch of times and it is time to do something else.

I am going to have to figure out how to make them myself.


I wonder if the homeowner’s association will let me build one of these in the back yard?

I am feeling another possessions purge coming on. I think it can be tagged to the un-acted upon concept of Spring Cleaning.

I think it is a very good idea to re-evaluate what is contained in your house on a yearly basis. For the most part, if you have not used something at least once over the course of a years time then I am not sure that it has any place in your life. Now obviously this does not apply to the boxes of family flotsam and jetsam that hang around. But the day to day, week to week, month to month things that make up a life should be re-evaluated regularly.

We still have too much stuff in the basement.

And in the garage, which is a major source of un-organized heebee jeebeeies for me.

Soon, on a nice and sunny day, I am pulling everything out of the garage and re-organizing.

And then I am purging stuff in the basement.

A week from tomorrow is my father’s Celebration of Life memorial.

I still don’t know what I am going to say

And as usual, here are some Instagram photos from the past week.
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Grocery Shopping–Peruvian Style

I love a good grocery store. I love grocery shopping. No need to point out that I am odd. It has all been brought up before. And when we are in Peru the MiL knows that I like to go to the grocery store. Grocery stories in other countries are a source of endless fascination for me. Peru is no exception to that. The in-laws actually split the shopping between the established grocery store, either Metro or Wong’s (both owned by the same company by the way) and the Mercado Surquillo. One store is pretty much what you might encounter here in the states….

And one is not…….

Let’s start with Metro shall we. Metro looks fairly similar to my local grocery store, other than the fact that at my grocery store we don’t have money changers standing on the corner with an armed guard behind them. And we don’t have the shelf stable square containers of milk that don’t need to be refrigerated. And the vast quantities of Inca Cola. I cannot adequately describe the taste of the national soda of Peru other than to say think of sickeningly sweet liquid Good and Plenty candy and you might be on the right track. Gag.

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In all my shopping life I have never seen so many varieties of potatoes. An entire aisle in the produce section devoted just to the humble spud. I had a sudden hankering for sour cream and butter.

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My poor iPhone photo cannot convey the enormous size of these carrots. I wasn’t sure if people were going to cook them or use them as instruments of self defense.

Murder by Beta Carotene, Your Honor.

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Ah, this is corn you are thinking. And you would be right… is Peruvian corn, also known as Choclo. It does not, in any way whatsoever, resemble sweet corn except for the fact that it is corn. HUGE kernels of corn. It is chewier (an understatement) and not sweet (another understatement). My favorite way to have it is this way………

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Little nuggets of baked and fried corny goodness. Accompanied by a Cusquena beer. Perfection!

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Did you forget something in another part of the store? You don’t want to push your cart back there? No problem! Just leave it out of the way and it will be there when you return. Here in the USA I wouldn’t even dream of leaving my cart somewhere in the store. It wouldn’t be there when I got back. But in Peru your cart will be happy and unmolested until you return.

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Oh the floors! At home, you are not going to see someone mopping the grocery store floor unless there is a clean up on Aisle 5. All that cleaning gets done at night but the invisible store minions. In Metro, there is a constant cleaning and mopping and tidying of the floors. It is amazing to me.

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You do know that as long as the eggs have never been refrigerated they will last for quite a while. That is good to know because eggs in Peru are not refrigerated, and are often found in the area right before you check out. The first time I encountered this it totally freaked me out, especially as the MiL was actually buying eggs. Now I am more fascinated by the colors. What you can’t see in the picture is all the packages of what I think were tiny quail eggs.

You get in the check out lane, you hand them your loyalty card and your coupons, you check out. Easy!

See, I told you that grocery shopping in Peru can be just about the same as grocery shopping in America. That is if you are at Metro or Wongs

But if you are at Mercado Surquillo it is a different matter. Surquillo is all sight and sound and smell. And nothing that would be allowed by the USDA and the other lesser known but still every present government agencies that monitor this kind of thing.

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This is the first stall that we always stop at. In Surquillo you buy from the person that you have established a relationship with. They know you, you know them. There are most likely several merchants selling the same sort of thing but you stop and give your business to the same person. And she lets you eat olives right out of her displays.

Not that I would know anything about that……..

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No bright metal carts here. Only people with their own “canasta” shopping baskets.

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We needed nuts in various forms and raisins and chia seeds and cheese and olive oil.

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And as the pile of purchases grew she jotted them all down in her book and added them up by hand.

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Need some dried peppers. Lovely and colorful…and deadly hot.

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I have absolutely no idea what this thing is. I would guess that it is some sort of fruit or vegetable, it was lovingly displayed in the fruit vendor’s stall. To me it looks like a giant slug of some sort. I passed it by.

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Need some pollo? Honestly, I would most likely buy poultry or meat here. I have been in some third world markets where you wouldn’t want to eat the meat that is being sold judging by the smell alone. At Surquillo, no off smells, no strange small rivers of unidentified liquid (no really, ask me about the market in Kumasi, Ghana), no flies. Just clean, plump poultry.

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Not sure what animal this came from but I am betting it was bovine in nature as that was the area that we were in when I snapped this lovely. It just makes you want to fire up the stock pot doesn’t it.

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Where else but Surquillo would no one bat an eye as the little girl sits on the counter in the lamb section of the market and pets the lamb tenderloin.

Purell anyone?

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Need a nice piece of lamb? She whips out her hack saw and gives you exactly what you want. And then spends several minutes talking to me in rapid Spanish telling me welcome to Peru.

Have I told you how much I love Peru and Mercado Surquillo?

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Need a well aged and more “substantial” piece of cow? You can certainly walk out with that.

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Oh the fresh fish!! No fishy off smell. Just clean whiff of the ocean. Point to what you want, pick it up and examine it if you need to. The fish monger is happy to help. I can eat fish every day in Peru and be happy happy joy joy.

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That last statement does not apply to the large sacks of fish roe. I might be a slightly adventuresome eater but I am not Andrew Zimmern. I passed the fish roe by…quickly.

But I am still hoping to one of these days sample some Cuy. For those who do not know, Cuy is……………Guinea pig.

Lock up your pets!

And that my friends is grocery shopping Peruvian style.

Because Bonny wanted to know.