Monday, March 3, 2014

What did we bring?

updated May 15 2014

One of the most common questions from new expats is what to bring or conversely, what to buy in Ecuador. This is a very personal question and everyone's answer will be different. Since we lived in an RV in the US, we didn't have the furniture, appliances, antiques, paintings, collections, etc. that are important to many folks. We did our downsizing before we started our RV lifestyle.

So for us, the decision was more about what to bring that we COULDN'T or SHOULDN'T buy in Ecuador. There are many things available here but we had to judge the quality as well as the price for various items.

In our post "How did we move all our stuff?" we told you HOW we brought the things we chose. Now I'll try to outline WHAT we chose to bring and why.

We wanted things that would last the five years, be as lightweight but serviceable as possible and not cost an arm and a log. Since we have an Amazon Prime membership, most of our purchases have been from there, giving us the free two day shipping. [Click the blue names to see what we bought and the features.]

French Coffee Press
We got a small, single cup coffee press while in Cuenca. It was overpriced but we wanted to try it out AND we missed our morning coffee. It worked so we ordered a larger version, one that is also thermal. It makes 3 large (8 oz) or 4 small (6 oz) cups. So far we really like it.

UPDATE: we were gifted a glass large French Press from friends who were moving back to the US so we now have 3 of them. I would definitely bring one with you if you want to save a few dollars. That said, there are a decent variety of drip coffee makers here at reasonable prices.

SECOND UPDATE: We are using the stainless steel one in the mornings and the one cup in the evenings. The gifted one is put back for emergencies due to the screening material becoming sharp and thus harder to clean. Got me to thinking about the same material in the big one, contacted Thermos and we can order replacements for very little cost!

Coffee Grinder
Hard to make good coffee without a grinder for the fresh beans. We had a couple of requirements: removable cup for washing, choice of number of cups and coarseness, compact size and easy to use. We ordered this one and it's working great for us.

UPDATE: We were gifted a PROFESSIONAL grinder by Nesco from the same friends and this is the one we use. On our first visit we didn't see any electric grinders. Now that we've been here a while they do show up once in a while. If you can't wait, bring one. PS. This will come back to the US with us. We love it!

SECOND UPDATE: The big coffee grinder died. Stu took it apart, cleaned it and checked all the wires. Dead....not sure why but it was bought here and we have found small electrical appliances seem to be more cheaply made unless they are imported from the US and then they cost dearly!

Wok Set
Okay, this wasn't specifically for our move but it will go with us (as our biggest single kitchen item). Hubby loves to stir fry but missed having a wok. The price on this set was too good to resist. So we didn't...LOL!

UPDATE: We use this extensively, rice and fresh veggies are a staple here along with chicken. Perfect for stir frying. Only downside, good soy sauce is pricey. $6 for a small bottle of Kikkoman. We initially tried several cheaper brands but didn't like them.

Pots and Pans
You can get good stainless steel pans in Ecuador but they are very expensive. The alternative is cheap aluminum pans, not an option for us. We knew we needed a compromise between weight, price and quality. We ruled out anything with Teflon, opting for the newer (and hopefully safer/healthier) choice of ceramic. When we opened the box we were both impressed with these pans. I think they'll be a real favorite with both of us.

UPDATE: We both love these pans, they are working out quite well, cook evenly and clean up very easily. Since we don't plan to bring these back to the US, we might have to order a set for home.

Tableware
Another item where we wanted a slight upgrade from what was available in Ecuador but needed to compromise on weight and quality while watching cost. Oneida has always been a favorite brand and this set is going to work out well for us.

UPDATE: Another great buy. These feel good in your hands and we really like them. Yup, definitely may order a set for back in the US.

Knives
We aren't gourmet cooks and a simple but good brand knife set will suffice. Due to weight, we opted out of a larger set with a knife block. Stu likes J.A. Henckels brand so we got this nice three piece set.

UPDATE: Another gift from our friends, a couple more knives but not the quality of these. But they did also include a sharpener that get used frequently. The one thing we did add was a cleaver that was almost $30 for a decent one, not as good as this one by Henckels

Kitchen Utensils
The utensils here are either aluminum or way too flexible to realistically use. We bought this set and they have been perfect! The couple of things that came with our pots and pans (above) are "okay", these are much better.

UPDATE: What we didn't bring was any wooden spoons. Again, we were gifted a couple and they are readily available here in either pine or bamboo.

Electric Tea Kettle
The price on this was too good to pass up. We might have been able to get this in Ecuador but we never saw one in our store searches.

UPDATE: This ended up staying in the US, not because we didn't think we'd use it but because we simply ran out of room. Once again our friends saved us and the electric kettle from Hamilton Beach they gave us is MUCH better than the one shown above. Yup, will come back to the US - we wonder how we lived without one!

Plastic Containers
There is a TON of plastic ware to choose from here and it's very inexpensive. But it's flimsy and often the lids don't fit. We bought this set and use it extensively for fruits and veggie storage.

UPDATE: We use the local, cheaper ones for leftovers and non-food use.We have also bought several flip-top glass jars for storage and did find some hard-plastic, good quality canisters for cereal, rice, etc.

Cordless Phone Set
We already had this set for our RV when we are parked on our property in TN. It works wonderfully and the price was definitely right. So we ordered another set to bring to Ecuador with us. Initially we used it on the landline our landlord had installed. Now that we have our Ooma Telo box installed, we are using it on that and a basic corded phone on the other line. NOTE: a good Internet connection is required for good service with Ooma, MagicJack or other VoIP phone services.

We packed a few other kitchen items: measuring cups and spoons (since I wanted to be sure they were in the same measurements as my recipes), an oven thermometer, 2 silicone trivets/hotpads, lemon/lime squeezer, plastic mat cutting boards, oven mitts/potholders, table mats/napkins, a bedside size fan (for me), and probably a few other things I've forgotten. I brought my writing reference books, a couple copies of my first mystery and our books about Ecuador.

I also brought a floor steam mop and a small handheld vacuum (similar to a Dustbuster but corded) and both have been used a lot.

On a more personal note, I brought my small knitted teddy bear to sit on my nightstand. I brought a lot of costume jewelry, NO GOLD or gemstones of any value. We also brought two little, but high quality, speakers for music from our phones, iPods or computers.

Oh yeah. three laptops, two cameras, two iPods (and earbuds and headphones), several phones, two Kindle readers, one Kindle Fire, and two iPads (one air and one mini). Plus a variety of chargers and extra cords as well as one good surge protector for our TV and routers. We brought a Roku 3 streaming media player and an expensive router that was pre-configured to use with Strong VPN (allows us to see all US programming).

We brought clothes, LOTS of clothes, for all seasons. We packed light on the short-sleeved shirts and shorts but brought enough to enjoy the coast when we visit or when we take a cruise (and bathing suits). Most of our clothes were dressier than we normally wear daily in the US but we also brought our comfy clothes - sweats, old tees. Slippers are a must with cool tile floors and I brought some non-slip slipper socks and we both brought leather slippers with soles so we can use them outdoors if needed.. We brought extra underwear and socks as well as shoes, GOOD walking shoes are a must! Light rain jackets, an umbrella, hats (lots of hats) and a good backpack.

The one thing to remember with clothes is LAYERS...sleeveless is fine for the coast but not here in Cuenca unless you plan to use it for an under layer. We both brought fleece jackets, a couple of sweatshirts and a light jacket (okay, I brought two - one is leather with a hood) as well as fleece vests (which we use ALL the time).

I packed a plastic shoe box with my favorite pens, some small notebooks, stapler, scissors, tape dispenser, a few sticky-note pads, a couple of binder clips, rubber bands and paperclips. All are available here but I wanted to hit the ground running.

The other big thing we brought were sheets (queen since we knew that was the size bed we'd be getting) and towels (bath and kitchen). We also packed an alternative down comforter and an electric blanket. VERY glad we did! You can get good quality linens here but they are much more expensive than in the US!

UPDATE: We found a great buy on a used king bed that came with bedding. Well, the comforter works but not our colors and will be replaced by one brought back from the US. The sheets? Two sets - given away to a local. I told hubby it was a quality of life issue and went to Sukasa the next day to buy a good set of sheets. $180 but worth every penny! Our electric blanket just covers the top of the mattress, size wise, so it still works. We've picked up a nice set of used bedding for one of the guest rooms and our old bedding is in the other.

Hubby brought a 22" TV in his carry-on, it's now in our bedroom but not hooked up to anything. LOL!

So what have we bought since we've been here? Remember, we hadn't planned on an unfurnished place so I'll list the furniture first.
  • 6 burner stove (new)
  • Refrigerator (used)
  • 40" TV (used)
  • Living room furniture (two sets both used, sold the first set)
  • Dining room table chairs (used, like new) 
  • Living room rug
  • Single+ guest bed (used but like new)
  • Sheets to fit the used single+ guest bed (used but like new)
  • Two queen mattresses (one still in plastic - both like new)
  • Queen bed frames (one new - metal, one used but like new-wood)
  • Two nightstands with drawers (new from Rotary market)
  • Three side tables for nightstands (new from Rotary market)
  • King bed including two nightstands with drawers (used but like new)
  • Several queen blankets (used)
  • Queen comforter and shams (used but like new)
  • King size sheets (new)
  • Four straight-back chairs, 2 in the kitchen and 2 in the office
  • Two small desks with two drawers (new)
  • Printer stand to match the desks (new)
  • Printer stand for beside second desk (new from Rotary market)
  • Assorted side tables for living room (new from Rotary market)
  • Sofa slide-under table (new, custom made for us)
  • Four wooden benches (new from Rotary market)
KITCHEN & MISC
  • Blender
  • Electric Frying Pan
  • Crockpot (removable ceramic crock)
  • Toaster
  • Whisks (three different ones thus far)
  • Chopper/Food scraper
  • Heavier cutting boards
  • Glass canister set
  • Glass jars similar to canning jars with the metal-latch fasteners
  • Misc dinnerware to match our used set we bought here
  • Hard plastic canisters for storage
  • Meat thermometer in Farenheit
  • Tablecloth
  • Fruit bowl
  • Lamps
  • Canister vacuum (used)
  • Microwave (used)
  • Brooms, mops, dust pan
  • Alarm clock (battery backup)
  • Extension cords
  • Surge protectors for computers & other electronics
  • Wicker laundry basket (we brought several large mesh laundry bags with us)
  • Wall hangings and various decorations
  • 2 stand fans, one space heater (used)
What have we had muled in to us that we found we needed or wanted/missed?
  • A good blood pressure cuff
  • A good backpack (choice here is low quality, high price) for daily use - Duluth Trading Post
  • Cafe Vienna
  • Mrs. Dash
  • Decaf Earl Grey tea (decaf is NOT an option in teas here)
  • Decaf dark roast coffee beans (decaf is here but not in beans or dark roast)
  • Pillow protectors
  • Flat sink stoppers for kitchen and utility room
  • Sink strainers (mesh drop-in style)
  • Small pocket planner (they all seem to be HUGE here)
What do we plan to bring back on our first visit home?
  • Coffee scoops
  • Pineapple cutter
  • Apple corer
  • Cherry pitter
  • Fleece vests!!!!
  • Lightweight backpack for me
  • More long sleeve shirts for Stu
  • A few more short sleeve shirts for me (layering)
  • Vacuum seal containers
  • More pillow protectors
  • Small vacuum sealer
  • Small label maker
  • Small UPS for our routers (for those little 'blips' of power outage)
  • Laser printer and spare toner cartridge (for printing my book draft copies)
  • Knife block for a drawer
  • Goo-gone (oh how I miss this, we never throw away glass jar here)
  • My favorite Hawaiian Tropic lip balm
  • Chico Sling bags - great for attaching to purse or belt to use for carrying loads home
  • Motion sensor night lights - we brought a set of four but two died
  • More decaf tea and dark roast coffee beans and Cafe Vienna, too!
Well, that pretty much covers it...please feel free to contact us with questions and we'll do our best to help!

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