Sunday, December 28, 2008

April fools

Today Spain celebrates Dia de los santos inocentes a holiday like April Fool´s Day where jokes are played on people, and when played on celebrities the results are played on TV. They take it a little farther here than in the USA, as sometimes jokes are made a part of the newscast or newspaper, beware. So, on December 28th be on guard when in Spain.

Anther curiosity I have noticed is that it wasn´t until the day after Christmas when I finally heard a Christmas carol and just this weekend all the national TV stations are playing Christmas themed movies...I was expecting them on Christmas Eve and Christmas day (like the TBS 24 A Christmas Story marathon) but when I woke up Christmas morning there was nothing Christmas related on TV. But, apparently Christmas isn´t such a big deal here, Nochebuena (Christmas eve) is a big dinner, and Santa Claus has started delivering gifts to Spain in the past 20 years, but what everyone is really waiting for is New Years and the arrival of the Three Kings on January 6th. So, now that Christmas is out of the way, its time to get in the holiday spirit with the music and movies to build up the anticipation for the parties and gifts that are yet to come. Funny.

Friday, December 26, 2008

La Nochebuena

A little taste of Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) in Galicia...
Buey del Mar


Bogavante (Lubrigante in Galician-it's like a lobster but juicier)



It was quite an interesting spread. All seafood except for bread and delcious Albarino wines of Galicia. Considering I have not eaten much seafood beyond frozen fish sticks, Red Lobsters, and Long John Silvers...I was a little scared. But, it wasnt that bad, the Rogaballo and the Bogavante were my favorites. I hope you had some delious meals shared with family and friends, and that you had a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

street lights...

just imagine them twinkling...

Monday, December 22, 2008

El gordo!

It was the biggest lottery day in Spain today, the national Christmas lottery that officially begins the holiday celebrations. I woke up to the sound of the kids singing the numbers and the amounts...and a few lucky people walked away with the premio gordo (big prize) and 3 million euros!! Here's a taste of the surreal celebration:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sugar, please.

Yesterday I was listening to a radio program comparing holiday traditions in Spain and in the United States, specifically dessert traditions. I think I have commented on this in the past, but the dessert and cookie selection in Spain is very different from the selection in the states. Where our supermarkets and restaurant menus are filled with cakes covered in sugary icing with a million flavors and fillings, cookies that come in 100´s of shapes, sizes, and flavors, pies, and cheese cakes here in Spain you can find all of the above, but with out the variety and about half the sugar. Pastry shops here tend to look yellow and brown, flakey pastries and chocolates. I can´t say one is better than the other, I´ve had moments of missing a sugary cupcake but a chocolate dipped palmera (thin, flakey but moist dough wrapped in the shape of a heart with a solid chocolate coating) is probably one of my new favorite foods. But, on the radio preogram they were talking about the specific desserts that one must have in order to have Christmas here in Spain. They are all store bought desserts and tend to revolve around almonds and flour two characteristics I found interesting when compared to our holiday desserts. Anyway, the two big mus have holiday sweets in Spain are Polvorones and Turron. Polvorones are like cookies, but unlike our cookies they come in specific flavors-lemon, almond, wine, and chocolate, and can break into a million sugary pieces if you aren´t careful with them. They are kind of like mexican wedding cookies if you have ever had those. I like the almond falvor, but stay away from the chocolate flavor it takes like pure cocoa and can be bitter. After Polvorones, and probably most well known in the world is Turron, a thick almond bark that can come either hard or soft. There is an entire aisle at the supermarket dedicated to turron, and beyond the almonds, you can also get it in chocolate, egg yolk, or coconut flavor. I like the original in both hard and soft. So, based on the radio programs, commercials, and supermarkets, these are the desserts that make christmas in Spain.Thinking of Christmas in the states homemade christmas cookies, especially decorated sugar cookies and gingerbread men mark the holidays. Every american child has memories making the cookies, decorating them with icings, sprinkles, and candy, and even attemplting to build a gingerbread house. And, cookies are a must have to leave out for Santa. But, I can´t think of any specific store-bought sweets to really make it feel like the holidays. Maybe some green and red M&M´s? I don´t know. Anyway...if you can think of any others, leave a comment, or if you celebrate other holiday sweets tradions, leave a comment, it will be fun imagine all the dessert possibilies. Enjoy the baking this weekend if you are in the states, and if you are in Spain, go get some turron before it´s too late.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Working 9-5

Good news! I will be teaching straight through to Christmas eve! A few of my students want to make up classes they missed while I was in the states! So it may not be 9-5, but it´s something!

Also, since coming back from the states I´ve rediscovered the joy of hot Cola-Cao, Spain´s version of Nestle Quik hot cocoa without marshmallows. It´s the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, warmth that hits the spot on the cool mornings and afternoons in my apartment. Speaking of cold apartments, I brought back a clock that has a thermometer on it, and was quite impressed to see that the average temperture day or night in my apartment is between 53-58F(on a good day with all the heaters running)!! So, as you can guess hot Cola-Cao is very comforting. And about marshmellows, living in Mexico it was not easy to find them and when I did find them they were colored like the mexican flag at Waldos 11 pesos shop. But, they are easy to find here in Spain, candy stores love gummy candy and the marshmallows and provide marshmallows in various shapes, colors, and flavors...rice krispies are a little bit more difficult to find, but I dont think strawberry marshmallow rice krispie treats would really be that great.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy homemaking

There is something about the holidays that always makes me want to be a little happy know making cookies, cooking delicious foods, trimming the tree, wrapping presents with beautiful paper and bows. With only a few days of classes left before the long holiday break (which here in Spain begins on Friday and lasts until the Monday after Jan 6), I´m taking full advantage the homemaker in me, the tree is done, the nativity scene is up, and as for presents, seeing as I missed 3 weeks of classes being in the states, I´m going to have to be creative. At least the beautiful paper and bows will be taken care of-when you buy something and say it is a gift the stores wrap it for you (like the Mr. Bean scene in Love Actually) or provide the paper and bows at the exit. Cookies will be a little more of a challenge since my oven has no temperature gage...and I´ll probably eat them all myself.

( other living in Galicia news- before leaving for the states I was having a terrible time with laundry not drying. I don´t have a dryer here, just a lovely terrace with clothes lines to hang dry my clothes. The environmentalist in me loves that, but the I need clean clothes now part of me was getting super frustrated with the fact that the week before I left temperatures were dropping, and rain was coming, meaning the air was humid and clothes wouldn´t dry. One load was wet for about a week even after I brought them in and hung them all over the apartment trying to dry them in the house. One week of wet clothes equals mildew city. Totally gross. Well, in good news, this week has been cold but sunny, meaning that yesterday I was able to wash and dry the laundry all in one day, without a single threat of mildew! From now on I will make the effort to plan my laundry around the sunshine.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boas festas

I dont think I heard the song Silver Bells in the three weeks I was home, and since arriving back in Spain (I haven´t heard a Christmas song except for Mariah Carey), but it´s been nice to see the way that it is Christmastime in the city...haha vaya intro. But anyway, i was a little worried about how being away from home for Christmas for the first time in my life was going to go, but Santiago is looking very cute. Although the houses are more like apartments, and only a few have lights in the windows and balconies, the streets are filled with hanging lights in sparkling stars, snowflakes, christmas trees, etc, and most of the shops and restaurants have little christmas trees in their windows and on the sidewalks, or huge nativity scenes depicting the christmas story set up. It definanly makes the city feel like the holidays have arrived, and even if there will be no snow and no midnight christmas eve drive through the subdivision by my house, I´m excited to have Christmas here for the first time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Home sweet home

I've been absent from jamonlandia for a few weeks in a quick trip back to the states with the excuse of tourist visa expirations and the truth of wanting some delicious thanksgiving dinners and early american chirstmas time with my family and friends. Time is flying and my three weeks in the states are over in just three days. I'm excited to get back to Spain, but there is a bittersweet feeling of leaving home again, especially with christmas music on the radio, the tree glowing in the living room, and snow on the ground. If only the distances weren't so far.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Las Ramblas

The end of the Ramblas with Columbus pointing at the Americas

Prefered choice of transportation after foot, moto

One of the cutest advent calendars I've seen
At an adorable chocolate shop on the corner
In the market with tons of mushrooms
in the market
Cutest flowers
from the cute flower stands...
Of course, there are always the street performers and pet shop stands with birds and bunnies and hampsters and artists...and even though its always full of tourists...the ramblas are still great everytime.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gothic Quarters

Giant churches in tiny plazas...
painted tiles telling a story as you walk down the street...

finding a playground...

and some collage grafitti

in Barcelona...

looking at hats...

and etched buildings with little bridges...

and bronze dragon carved doors protecting the archives of the Kingdom of Aragon

wishing the christmas lights were turned on...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fins aviat

I'm in Barcelona for a mini weekend (long layover) before my flight to the states...and, surprise... it's still beautiful here. I've never been here in the fall, or spent an entire day on my own wandering the's been nice. I'm lucky enough to have a place to stay with a friend of mine who's living here teaching English, and with that my goal has been keep the trip cheap. So for free I discovered more of the Gothic quarters, palaces and plazas and stone streets with ornate windows and graffitied doors, and the Raval neighborhood where i wandered into the public library that is housed in an old hospital and has amazing arched stone ceilings and a courtyard, enjoyed a one euro tray of prepared fruits from the boqueron market while looking at the mediterranean, and made sure the Casa Batllo was still in place. Now, i'm going to get a little cafe con leche to hold me over until a late dinner with friends. Pictures to come soon...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's Christmas time in the city

Well, it's Christmas time in the city for me. I've been spending my few free hours in the zona nueva of Santiago looking for Christmas presents for friends and family as we will be celebrating Christmas at Thanksgiving while D and I visit the USA. And, even though I know that shoes aren't the best present for someone (unless you know them very well), I love looking at the shoe displays in the store windows here in Spain. The displays are filled with at least 20 shoes, set out in all available colors with the price. Spain is pretty famous for its shoes, and one brand that seems to be the typical shoe of Spain is Camper. When I studied in Sevilla the style was bright, printed, and mismatched shoes, and I still remember the joy in one of my friend's eyes when after months of eyeing a pair of Campers she finally bought them. The window displays this fall are much more demure than they were 5 years ago, there lots of greys, blacks, and browns, but the Camper shoes are still cute and mismatched, and there are more than a few styles that I wouldn't mind buying to give as gifts, or to receive as a gift.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fall fiestas

The weekend is only hours away and it has been a very busy week. I've been teaching more than usual making up classes that my students will miss in the three weeks that I am gone, and with teaching more comes planning more, and making more games up, and teaching at the academia, which was a nice experience, even though on the last day with 5 year olds a made a little girl cry...opps (she was ok after about a minute, i took a vocabulary card from here, and she was a little upset about that). In the busyness of this week I just realized that I never posted anything about the Halloween weekend and the little excursion D and I took to the cemetaries in the pueblos on Dia de los Difuntos. Halloween was spent with our little pumpkin gourds and a little dinner with friends, gummy body parts were served as desert to make the dinner a little more halloween inspired.
And on November 1, as celebrated in most Western cultures, we went to the family cemetaries to place flowers on the tombs of loved ones. Dia de los difuntos is like a mix of memorial day without the military, and day of the dead mexico style but with out the alters and sugar skulls. Cemetaries here consist of family structures, and the traditional flowers to use are white and yellow and round. And just to clarify, this is not really a holiday celebrated by everyone in the family, you mostly see parents and older folks at the cemetaries.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GANOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

this is the song...badabadaaaadadaaaaa

This song is everywhere here in Spain right now...i hear it a few times a day, and it gets stuck in my head everytime...and i have to admit i like it. It's upbeat, bubble gum, fun and I love me anything that looks like figure watch the video on youtube...and you'll be humming it all day too...

ps: if you havent noticed by now, im quite blog illiterate an dont know how to get the actual video onto the blog...sorry, maybe next time!


It's finally the day...and here in Spain everyone is eager for an Obama win. I have my fingers crossed too. The newspapers have Obama on the cover, the news channels are covering the voting process, and D and I watched a live feed of Obama and Michelle at the polls while we ate lunch. I'm not sure if there will be any election parties in the city tonight, more likely tomorrow with the time change we won't really know the outcome until late morning tomorrow...but while we are waiting, we'll toast some vino in hopes for change...

I'm also very busy this week with extra classes from an academia that called me to sub for an hour three days this week. I've had to rearrange my schedule a little, but all my classes are working out. Another good thing is that the families want to make up the lost classes for the time that I am in the states, so nothing will be lost there! After going to the academia, I can only say that I really really enjoy teaching my clases particulares. Having 6 5-6 yr olds in a room together is quite different that having one or two in their house. Tonight I'm teaching 11-12 year olds, so hopefully they aren't as squirmy. But, one good thing about teaching at an academia is meeting people to hang out with. It's never easy meeting people in a new city, and D has been great in introducing me to all his friends, and they have all been great at making me feel like part of the group, but it's always nice to meet new people. I've tried to sign up for gallego classes (they were full) and thought about taking art classes (still might when i get back from the little trip to the states) to open up the possibilities of meeting people, but neither of those options has worked out. But yesterday, the regular teacher at the school, a guy from England, was very nice and was saying how D and I will have to go out with he and his novia maybe we'll be meeting more people soon. Everything works out with time, I've always known that, but these months in Spain are teaching me more and more. This is the first time I've really had to start from scratch in a city (compared to everyother time i've lived abroad being with study abroad programs), and although I've had my moments of thinking I'd never find a job, get papers, make friends, everything works out, it just takes time.

So ending on an optimistic note...lets hope things work out in the election today!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

hace calor...hace calor...

Well, actually, it's frrreeeezzzzing here. Last night on the news the first 10 minutes were all about the dramatic weather shift between yesterday morning and night, and they showed an image of spain with a giant white mass of polar air over it! It was snowing in Madrid and in the north (Cantabria, Asturias, Pais Vasco) and here in Santiago it was cold and misting. Amidst the cold, I have my radiador on high, and the door to the living room shut to try to create a warm space. But one of the joys of this old apartment is that when the radiador is on, pretty much nothing else works without the lights going out. If you want toast, better turn off the heater first or power will go out. Want to blow dry your hair, same story, turn off the heater. Watch tv and use the computer at the same time, turn off the heater. I think there is something wrong with the electrical connections, because a 2500 watt heater can't really be using all the electricity in a small apartment, could it? Last night in a span of less than 5 minutes the power went out twice...

But, in the end I'm keeping warm with big socks, blankets, tea, warm pj''s really all quite glamourous.

In other good news...I bought a ticket to visit a friend of mine who just moved to Barcelona last night, and it only cost one centimo!!! Yes, 1 cent!! I'm flying to visit her mid-november for a few days, then catching a plane to Dublin (which was also a steal), and then I'll be back in the USA for about 3 weeks to eat some delicious turkey, introduce the familia and friends to D and celebrate an early Christmas! That means, I have to start Chirstmas shopping here now! Time to put on the christmas music...

Ohhh...and to make the shopping a little less difficult on my wallet, I was happy to see yesterday that the euro dollar conversion has dropped about $.25 since I arrived! Instead of $1.50= 1 euro it's down to $1.25=1 euro!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Places in the city...

It's a rainy Monday. More like a misty Monday. Here in Santiago it mists more than it rains, which makes it easy to be able to still be out and about despite the precipitation. I had a pretty busy morning, and luckily today all went well. For the past 3 weeks or so every errand I had to run turned out to be some headache with bureacracy, being sent to another office, being told my situation was beyond their control, etc, etc. But, it looks like the tide is turning a little (maybe being here now just over 2 months helps). I started the morning going to the bank, last time I went to deposit money I was charged without being told, 20.88 euros for something about being a non-resident. Since they didn't tell me I didn't realize I had been charged until the next day when I looked in my bank book. I went to the bank to ask about the charge and they couldnt tell me exactly what it was so supposedly they were going to get back to me. So today I decided to figure things out on my own by depositing some money in my account to see if they were going to charge me again, and then perhaps someone could explain the past charge to me. And today, I was told the charge was due to a request they have to make to verify my info in the US (it seems like the passport would verify my residency there, right?) and in fact 12 euros had been returned to my account from the 20 they had taken out (I would still prefer to have all 20 back, but this is a little bit of progress) and I was able to deposit money today with no hidden charges! So at least i got an answer and found out I won't be ridiculously charged every time I go to the bank because I am a non-resident.

After the bank it was on to the post office. You have to take a number to be helped in the post office, and it was quite a small non-elaborate place filled with people, so I admit walking in i was a little overwhelmed. But the guard helped me get a number, and I started waiting to see my number A202 on the screen. Person A201 never showed up, so the clerk thought, and put up my number, when suddenly person 201, who was at the wrong window, stepped in front of me. It's pretty common to be cut in front of in the Latin world, the idea of waiting in lines isn't looked highly upon, so with my prior experiences and due to the fact that she had the number 201 and was just a little lost, I decided not to lose my patience. But, when she left guy 200, who hadn't addressed his envelope and thus couldnt get his order done as number 200, stepped up to the window, and I started to get a little annoyed. But, in the end it all he had to do was send a letter and it took about a minute. Finally it was my turn, and the lady was really nice to me, seeing as I had waited extra time with 2 people going before me in my turn, and she helped me figure out the best way to send my letter, and in the end what I thought was going to cost at least 5 euros to send only cost 1.66!

After the post office I stopped at the supermarket to pick up some bread, and they had the barra rustica that I like and there was no line to wait in. I was pretty excited because usually getting bread aroung lunch time can be difficult as everyone has bought up the bread for lunch (ps...dont forget lunch time here is somewhere between 1:30-3:30, I usually eat at 2:30).

Then it was on to clases particulares with my two girls ages 7 and 9, and although my plans had to redone this morning when I realized my othe plans had not been printed (I don't have a printer so D prints things off for me at work), a little game I made at breakfast of go fish with clothing and colors was a hit.

So, even if it is raining, and even though it is a Monday, and even though I've been struggling with the craziness of Spanish government and bureacracy, today has been a really good day. Hope the week is starting off well for you too.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mi novio es un zombie...

Less than a week until Halloween and the cultural invasion in in full force. This week all around the city Halloween window displays and pumkins with glued on faces are popping up. I've decided it would be fun to have a little party, so D and I are getting things prepared and decided to start yesterday with the music. It is going to a little bit Americana and a little bit Spanish. To start with the Spanish jams is Mi novio es un zombie, by Alaska (translation, My boyfriend is a zombie), circa 19eightysomthing and representing the post Franco era freedom in the 80's. Beyond just singing and making music, Alaska was also responisble for a kids show called La bola de cristal (The Crystal Ball), if you have time, and speak Spanish it is worth checking out on Youtube. Also, if you know anything about Latin Pop music you've probably heard a few of their songs as covered by an endless of the bands and singers, including Thalia. Today Alaska is called Fangoria still hit the stage dressed in vinyl and, as I discovered in Mexico, they recently made a duet with the Argentinian band Miranda. But with that, here are the lyrics in Spanish and in English, and a link to watch Alaska singing Mi novio es un zombie on YouTube. You'll want to add this to your Halloween playlist too...

Mi novio es un zombie My Boyfriend is a Zombie

Sus dientes no son blancos, sólo tiene tres, His teeth aren't white, he only has three
su piel es transparente y verde a la vez His skin is transparent and green at the same time
sus ojos amarillos me hacen enloquecer, His yellow eyes drive me crazy
tiene algo ese chico y yo no sé que es, He's got something, but I don't know what it is
somos inseparables We are inseparable
y veo muy probable And I think it's very probable
llevarle al altar. I'll take him to the alter.
Siempre viste de blanco He always wears white
y le sienta muy bien And it looks really good on him
nunca lleva zapatos He never wears shoes
él sabrá porqué Only he would know why
somos inseparables We are inseperable
ya conoce a mis padres He has even met my parents
él es feliz y yo soy feliz. He is happy and I am happy.
Mi novio es un zombi My boyfriend is a zombie
es un muerto viviente He is a living corpse
que volvió del otro mundo He came back from the other side
para estar conmigo to be with me
mi vida ya tiene sentido My life now has meaning
recuperé el amor perdido I'll revive my lost love
intacto pero podrido. Intact but rotten.
Sus ojos amarillos me hacen enloquecer His yellow eyes drive me crazy
tiene algo ese chico y yo no sé que es. He's got something, and I don't know what it is
A veces pienso que no puede ser Sometimes i think this can't be
pero yo sé que nadie me separará de él, But i know no one will seperate me from him
está muerto, aunque lo niegue, He's dead, and he can't deny it
él es un zombi pero me quiere. He's a zombie but he loves me.
Somos inseparables We are inseperable
ya conoce a mis padres He has met my parents
él es feliz y yo soy feliz. He's happy and I'm happy.
Mi novio es un zombi My boyfriend is a zombie...
es un muerto viviente
que volvió del otro mundo
para estar conmigo
mi vida ya tiene sentido
recuperé el amor perdido
intacto pero podrido.
Mi novio es un zombi
es un muerto viviente
que volvió del otro mundo
para estar conmigo
mi vida ya tiene sentido
recuperé el amor perdido
intacto pero podrido.
Mi novio es un zombie
Mi novio es un zombie
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
uh ou uh ou
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
uh ou uh ou
Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
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