Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year, undies pics, a moose and a few more bits.

Check out this underwear... I hope the picture is good enough, but I thought this stuff was amazing. They were for sale at the local discount mall in Warsaw! Almost tempted to buy it since they were so... so .... so.

My sister has sent on a couple of the photos that I stole her camera to take, and this was in one of them. He is very nearly full size! If you recall, back here I talked about this fantastic artist and sculptor, this is one of the pieces he did. It was an amazing show.

This place is amazing. I particularily liked this for the guys(if you read it carefully, it even has a "mounting member"), and this for all the parents. Worth a look around here.

On a more sober note go here for a look at world wide stats on the impact that gender inequality has on the lives of women and children all over the world. It needs address. Here's a taste from the article linked to it: "A study by the International Food Policy Research Institute suggested that if men and women had equal influence in decision-making, there would be 13.4 million fewer undernourished children in South Asia."

Brightening, it is New Years Eve, and as usual I intend to ignore it completely, although my need to make a new calander has reached critical. May do that next. The Catalans don't do anything out of the ordinary that I know of, except that at midnight, you are supposed to stuff one grape in your mouth for every toll of the bell, and then at the end of the twelve you make a wish for the new year. Sounds a little dangerous, not in the I'm-really-cool,-what-a-way-to-go kind of dangerous but more in the she-died-doing-what????? kind of pathetic dangerous that leaves everyone snickering at your funeral.

The guys downstairs are going to have 9 or 10 people over for dinner, and then they are going to go out. The guests are just starting to arrive now at 9:30. The people do seem pretty sensible about the drinking here, at least they eat something first. Even the young bucks are having a dinner party before they head out dancing. Wonder what time they'll get home?

Bon Any Nou a tothom.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The husband got a tree, chicken theft and profound idiocy in Warsaw airport

Warsaw was AMAZING. We ate fantastically, (thank god we don't have a scale), we saw our family and I got to hang out with my fantastic wonderful sister that I see far too little of, and it was just great. Now we are back home in Spain, and it is MAHHHVELOUS. 13 degrees out today and sunny, and better still, THE HUSBAND IS HERE!!

Oh, and now we have a Christmas tree.

The man went to the main Barcelona market and wandered about while we were away, and I will quote from his tale of getting the tree

" One of the stalls had artificial Christmas trees. As I was leaving the market I went back to the stall and asked about the prices. The guy must of had a whole load of them leading up to Christmas and he was going to be stuck with half a dozen of the things.

"He said five Euros and me thinking of the walk back to the bus carrying the damn thing I said no and walked away. Then he said three trees for ten Euros. What are we to do with three of them? I laughed and said no. Then he ordered me to buy one for three Euros. Sold!

"How could I refuse? Like my bargaining technique?

"Anyway, its a five-foot artificial green tree, nothing fancy. Its the same size as the one the ferraterria (hardware store) here which was asking 58 Euros.

"Now you guys have to come up with decorations.

So, as you can see, tomorrow while all of you are gearing up for New Years, I am back to two weeks ago, and we are going to start making decorations for the tree and wrapping presents again! There are even a few under the tree right now!

I will confess that I am actually quite delighted, and though some of you will want to throw things at me, I AM looking forward to doing it all again.

On another note, the husband told me this story about his cousin when we got back. The husband's cousin lives well south of Barcelona. He and his wife have purchased a small property there to grow things; like olives, so that they can prepare them on their own. They did that this year, and my husband said that they did it EXTREMELY well, and they were absolutely delicious. I personally can attest to the delicious almonds. However, we never got to try the eggs....

The husband wrote:
Finca (Property) Mourns Missing Hens

Six hens were hennapped from a small finca in the days immediately before Christmas. The hens were removed by persons unkown from the chicken coop on the property which is normally left unguarded. The owner had recently purchased the property and had been looking forward to a steady supply of fresh eggs. "It's shame to lose the chickens," he said, "and frankly it pisses me off. Its a small thing to lose the hens but it just pisses you off."

The hennappers damaged the coop during the commitment of this insidious crime. The owner intends to rebuild the coop in the spring and aquire some more hens. "For now we'll have to buy eggs," said the father of the owner, who had been enjoying their produce up until this time. The are no clues as to the whereabouts of the hens but it is speculated that the birds graced several Christmas dinner tables.

Does that not strike you as weird. I mean, I am a town girl I will admit, but you know.. chickens just aren't that expensive at the Higgly Piggly - or local Catalonian equivelant. Too bizarre.

Oh, and on bizarre, or more acurately FREAKING STUPID you should have seen the people getting onto European flights from Warsaw today. Now I do not want to slam all people exiting Warsaw this Christmas season, but the ones we saw would have make your eye's bug out.

Now security regulations have been tightened recently, no water in your carry on, nor creams nor gels nor pastes of any form in containers larger than 100 ml. That is VERY SMALL. Some people don't know this, and have to drink or throw out their water. Fair enough.

However, I don't know what sort of rock you have to have been living under for about the last oh, say 5 YEARS to have not figured out that oh say folding knives were not allowed. Saw three thrown out....giant containers of hair spray... when were they EVER allowed. OPEN 2 litre bottles of hard liquor...gee, did they ever allow that...and since they are no longer letting anyone bring a half litre of WATER for god's sake, why do you think you will be just Jim Dandy with a freaking open liter and a half of VODKA....

The crowning glory of this parade of absolute escapees from evolution was a woman who decided to fly the skies wearing a belt made up of bullets. I could not make this up. You know the ones, the casings are about 3 inches long, polished, but still designed to feed smoothly into extremely large machine guns designed to kill many people quickly....

This, ladies and gentlemen, gets my award for the stupidest freaking person to ever attempt to fly the friendly skies. What god damned gene did she miss.

*head shaking* god d%#@^&m fashion victimsgre*#$^(%@#*!@$)#(((%%%&$

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Theme song for xmas 2006 and snow and shoes, no toilet humour, or at least not much.

The two year old nephew is obsessed by one particular cartoon. Like many children, he wants it over and over and over and over again. His parents just want peace in their house while all these visitors are here. The Pat and Mat music has become the theme song of my Christmas 2006. I am frequently seen escaping the room as it comes on the tube, although I am now developing a certain nostalgia for it. Just thought I'd share.

On another note, the toilets here have this neat feature. Two flushers, all put together attractively, like overlapping elipses. (Oh for a digital, I could give you all an image.) The two buttons are different sizes, the large button for a large flush...etc etc etc. I described it to my kids is for a big job, and the other for a little job. This adds a certain stress to flushing though. Instead of the usual mindless routine, you now have to contemplate things. Yes, you could just mindlessly flush the big job every time, but in the interest of water conservation which is the point I assume, I find myself pondering. Was that a really big job, a medium big job or a not so big job. Which flush to use? If I decide it is a little job and then it doesn't all go away like the nightmare at the boss's christmas party when the damn thing just WILL NOT disappear. (Why don't they fix their fucking toilet...?) you then need to use the large flush, thereby wasting more water than you would have if you had used the big flush in the first place. Or, you could try the little flush again, thereby not wasting quite as much water..... I know, pathetic, but I do find myself debating this with myself in the wee small hours of the early morning...


IT SNOWED!!!! The faintest gilding of snow, but it had my kids jumping on me very early this morning and we were out having snowball fights - very slow and very small balls since the only available snow was on the cars. We also made snow mice. Really there was very little snow, but they were thrilled. I borrowed the sister's shoes for this event. Sandals would have left a few toes behind in the cold. We had cocoa when we came in, even though the snow was less that amazing.

Later still......

Had one of those rare and miraculously good shopping trips with the sister. Found TWO pairs of shoes, for about 5 Euros each, birthday gifts for the girls sssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, and a little something for myself too...two hair chopsticks, one with a carved bird on the end, and one with a lizard, both jet black, and a raw unpolished amber is unusual and interesting and I love it. Weeeeeee. Warm toes. Ohhh, I also saw the most amazing underwear...took a pic with the sister's camera, when she sends me the photo I'll post it and tell ya more.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Toothbrushes and Jozef Wilkon and another turd

OK, for the first time in I don't know how long, I remembered to bring my toothbrush with me on a trip. Really, this is a problem. You should see me going out the door. Kids? Check, Underwear? Check. Other relatively useless items? Check. Do I ever think of toothbrush? NO. I frequently don't have my wallet as well, but I remembered both this time. Now some weird gremlin has lifted my toothbrush. I mean REALLY. What does anyone or anything want with my old used toothbrush. WHERE IS IT?

My sister gave me a cast off. (yeah, no fuzzy oral fur coats ) You should see this thing though... it is light blue. OK that's normal enough, it is the figure of a man of sorts. OK. The face is the bristles. Now this is getting weird. I am supposed to stick this head in my mouth and brush my teeth with his face. What is the opposite of mysoginist anyway? But get this. He's got both hands folded over his nads, like soccer players, pardon me, football players, at a free kick. So now I have the head of a man in my mouth, I am brushing my teeth with his face, and he is protecting his balls from my hand as I am doing this (who can blame him)

Here's my question.

Who designs these things anyway?

Went to a gallery in Warsaw today and saw the MOST amazing exhibit. This guy Jozef Wilkon did the most amazing sculptures and paintings out of wood and metal. The pictures in the link don't do him justice. Huge and stunning, playful, and folk art/fine art at it's best. Looked in vain for any kind of catalogue or even a flyer. They don't seem to be up to speed on the commercial opportunities here. The artist is an immensly talented multi-media worker. He has illustrated many children's books as well. What a find, and what an inspiration.

One more thing...the husband called me, and the incredibly fancy patisserie down the street from us had taken down their Christmas display of georgeous candies and chocolates that they had made there in the store, and instead in the window there is a candy potty, you know the little pink jobs that kiddlets learn to go to the toilet on, and in it guessed it...a chocolate turd. WHAT IS THAT????????? Quaralt's brother, if your out there...or any other Catalan readers....

Too much damn clothing and shoes

Late at night, lovely day - again. Spent the day with my folks, as they are going home tomorrow. Checked out a beautiful palace on a lake in Warsaw. Had to wear these funky slippers over our feet to protect the floors. It is chilly here, although there is no snow which the kids have been PRAYING for..and the younger child SO hates wearing all this clothing. After wandering around in summer clothing for the last three years, she is seriously annoyed and whiney about it.

I will grant, I am hating it too, the weight and bulkiness and restriction of layer upon layer upon itchy binding layer. I miss my skin, and my kid's skin. Her hair gets caught in the velcro on the coat, and it itches if it is tucked in, but itches if it is out, the hat feels miserable and so does the hood... it is a battle. Then her hair slides forward and she cannot see, but she has giant mittens on...... I can empathise totally, but she is so miserable. Just not used to it at all. She also is taking a little while to realize that wearing nothing but a t-shirt under the parka is both chilly and impractical. Lots of places aren't heated anything like warm enough to just wear a t-shirt. I am with her though.

Take me where I don't have to wear all these damn layers of clothes. I hate socks. Bleahbleahbleah. I have faint memories of enjoying bundling up, but these have eroded away with time. Thank god I am not anywhere really cold. Although I will admit that the sandals I am STILL wearing are becoming entirely inadequate. The ladies handing out the funny slipper overshoes were all commenting amongst themselves when they noticed my completely inappropriate footwear. Can't say I blame them.

Checked out shoes in Spain and here in Poland, most I saw were either little girl flats with pretty stuff, or slut heels. Neither of which are me. You would think the fashion industry had outgrown this Madonna/Magdalen vision of women. You know wholesome or whore... I may have to buy men's shoes, they have a far cooler selection. Piss me off.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

hats and 2n and a joke

Well Christmas is over, and I have to, once again, swim against the grain and say that I loved it, and I am NOT glad it is over. Sorry folks, but there it is. I was always profoundly delighted by the event, every aspect of it, and I am still childishly gleeful about the whole thing, although I do manage a greater level of restraint than I did as a kid. I am not even a Christian, and it is still amazing fun. I am Baha'i, but was brought up by atheists who did the pagan style christmas, you know trees, lights, presents, food, but no mention of any sort of god or religion. My husband was brought up Catholic, and I cannot imagine abolishing the whole Christmas thing despite the change in my beliefs, especially as it was never in any way a religious event for us.

The kids and I all had post christmas blues in fact, and we all had moments of weepy unreasonableness. Fortunately not at the same time.

Went skating again....the men at the skate rental seemed to have lost all skill at judging sizes, and it took 4, count them 4 tries to get the right size for the younger daughter and three for the elder. GRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr The elder hurt her wrist falling on the ice, and so we left early. It was suspiciously more expensive than when I went with my Polish speaking sister, although it is boxing day and the priced may simply be different.

The Polish winter outfits are fairly somber, lots of greys and blacks, but there were two kids there with the coolest hats. They looked like those wide fleecy headbands that come down over your ears like the boarders wear, but instead of being open at the top, they had wild pink or blue fluffy hair/chia pet stuff out the top, like a weird field was growing up there, hilarious. Two kids had ears on their hats, and we're not talking toddlers here, one had them pinned on a helmet, and the other on her hat itself, you know those furry puppy dog ears. It was lovely to see people here smiling spontaniously too, although going skating is such a local kind of family thing to do, that probably makes a difference.

There was a buisness on the drive to the rink that gave me pause for thought , it was called 2N, now that was slightly reminiscent of a vast multi-national speciallizing in adhesives, sticky notes, blue tack, duct tape...3m, remember them....? I have to ask my sister what 2n does, and is there a 1o, or a 4L? odd. There was a town named Nowa wona too. Just have to say that one over and over and over again.....

My Dad was telling us tales of life as a shopping mall santa back when he was 17. He found it tricky to go into restaurants dressed as santa, and the bathroom was particularily difficult, kids following him in wondering what he was doing. it remineded me of a joke....

John Wayne goes into a bar and goes up the the bar tender, "Do your bathrooms have stalls?" The bartender replies in a puzzled way that they do not. John shakes his head and leaves. He finds another bar, goes in and again asks about stalls in the bathroom. No , no stalls. This goes on and on, until John is so desperate that he gives in and goes to the stalless bathroom. He walks up to a space at a urinal in the crowded row, unzips and gets to work. The guy next to him glances over and does a massive double take, then, mid-stream, turns, full body towards Wayne (imagine him still holding and aiming straight), calling out.... "Your John Wayne!!!"

This may be too visual a joke to carry here, lets see if you get it...(here's a hint, John gets wet.)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas day and a debt to MFK Fisher

Lovely day, lots of gifts, lots of happiness, lots of walks and I even had a nap! My younger daughter went out and dug three huge holes, one for the tree, one to try to trap me, and one to trap dinosaurs. Elder daughter a bit under the weather. Spoke to the husband...doing fine, into the fifth hour of lunch at his Catalan cousins when we talked.

My sister and I cooked dinner, turkey and all. It was good. Tried to cook brussel sprouts a new way, from memory. I have a few of MFK Fisher's books, (on the boat) and my memory was that she fried them in butter, with a little salt and pepper. Try it, you'll like it. Use a LOT of butter. Mmmmmm. That may not be what she said to do, but it's what I remember and what I did. The family was great, the sun shone - for the first time since we got here...and it was all Christmas should be.,

Nice day, hope yours was as lovely.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

santas and christmas traditions

Oh, I have so much to talk about tonight... where to begin.

We have unfortunately met three bad santa's when out with the kids. The first was when the kids were quite young, I think nearly two and nearly five, and we were peacefully painting some mugs with glaze for the grandparents when in walks the santa - I cannot put him in upper case here, I just can't - who has been hired by the local buisnesses. He's hammered. At that kind of loose and loud stage. HO HO HO ! MEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYCHRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS My kids immediately tried to become an integral part of my legs, and I staggered from the store like a penguin, comforting them that all is well. Then I have to explain that that wasn't really SANTA just someone dressed up as santa, and that he was drunk.

What's drunk Mommy?

It was not a short conversation.

The next nasty Santa... we're in Miami and a homeless guy has been hired as santa. Nice idea, he has bathed recently, but when we saw him he was dressed in the Santa hat and jacket, but had not finished yet, and was still wearing army fatigues, you know those two or three toned jobs for camoflauge....? That was a bit of a swallow, but he is also having an altercation with a number of his buddies that displayed a rich command of some of the pithier elements of the english language.....his buddies were trying to point out these two small children trotting by to him, but it took a while to sink in. The kids looked up at us questioningly, "It is not the real santa..."

"just a guy dressed up for christmas." They finished.

The last and scariest, we were riding the subway in Toronto and on gets a very buff guy, wearing nothing but boxers and a santa hat, talking to everyone in a kind of in your face way. Then well he gets down on the floor and starts doing push-ups while growling at all the women in the car. I am not sure what he had shot into his veins, but we got off. Psychotic half-nakes santas growling at folks.... No thanks.

The kids looked up at me.... "We know."

By the same token we also had Santa come and visit us unexpectedly in a Kayak! Christmas day around 9 am, we hear a knock on the hull and there is Santa with gifts for the girls. Also in Miami. That was amazing. The kids didn't say anything at all.

My eldest daughter lost her eleventh tooth yesterday. Hasn't been put out for the tooth fairy yet. I think she is worried she will get Polish Zloty instead of a Euro, and she knows the relative usefulness of each, and I am pretty sure she is aware that the exchange rate is not favourable. Like any good trader, I believe that she is planning to trade when the market is more favorable. Budding little economist.

Went skating today, to the immense excitement of everyone but the two year old who was completely horrified by the idea, so that my sister never even approached the ice, and when she tried to put on her skates, silent tears would start to roll down his cheeks. The older nephew though was a complete trooper.... he fell down billions of times and got up cheerfully over and over and over. That said, he was really good. It was his very first time on skates, and they were single blades, and he barely wobbled. He needed one hand held all the time but did amazingly well. We did a lap of this IMMENSE speed skating rink though and by the time we were half way home he wasn't focussing, and was falling about every 4 steps. He weighs a solid 50+ pounds. I got my exercise. He did so well.

The girls had last skated 4 years ago and the elder girl, now 10, had been able to move across the ice, so she got on first, and I showed her a tiny bit, she got her legs and started moving around. Fell 5 times, and did well. She also got ENORMOUS blisters on her feet that she toughed out because she wanted to skate so badly, and she was building up some reputable speed by the end. She said herself it wasn't beautiful, but she was doing it.

The littler girl had managed to stand on skates and take a few halting steps before we left, and so need a little more help, but she also did amazingly. We did half a lap holding hands....Man those rinks are VAST. Larger than a track. There was a hockey rink in the middle and it only took up 1/3 of the space. Anyway, after the first half, she let go of my hand and continued, then she just kept going on her own for another entire lap and a half. Good gracious. One of the older guys who worked there tried to show her some tricks, but her Polish is, shall we say, extremely limited. Caught up with her at the second half of her third lap and she was solid. Not much one footed glide, but definately making her way around. This was with almost no help from me, because I had to help my four year old nephew so much. She did amazingly well.

We did do the caga tio, (see previous post), but decided to make it more PC/humane/ peaceful. So instead of beating the living shit out of a log with a face on it and demanding gifts, we decided instead to make it a bed, sing jingle bells, rather than the rather rude, threatening and demanding song that is the original, and tap it gently with magic wands. The eldest made the bed, gathered and decorated the sticks, and generally organized things. My younger daughter showed it off and explained, the four year old nephew gleefully joined in with the song and tapping, knowing there was a gift at the end, and the two year old was simply baffled. It was nice, if a little strange. The Catalan aspect.

Dinner was Polish style... baby jesus and a cross on the table, a prayer before we start, then they have a lovely tradition, which I think I will adopt permanently. Everyone is given a largish piece of host, the stuff you get at communion. Every person goes up to every other person and makes a wish for them, and they respond in kind, then you each break off a tiny piece of the others host and eat it before moving on to the next person you are wishing well of. It was quite lovely.

Then the dinner. No meat on Christmas Eve Day at all here, although meat can be used in soup stock... fish is fine though. Traditionally 12 courses. We opened with borst...don't think of any you've ever had, I had died and gone to heaven. Not thick, a broth, with little, I don't know the polish name, but they were mushroom raviolis in them. Then, salad tartar...eggs, very finely chopped pickles and pickled mushrooms. There was also either cream or mayo in there. Sounds weird, but it was sooo good. Eat it with bread. Always. Then we had, again I don't know the name, but it was a pickled herring wrapped around a pickle and topped with raw onion and a cream type sauce. Again sounds a little strange but it was very very good. At this point my eldest daughter realised that we didn't have the plate out for the visitor that might show up that we had 4 years ago when we last used Polish traditions !?! How does she DO that? So we put it out, and then after the herring dish, we look up and there is a strange cat in the window. My sister's family regularily feed a stray cat, but this was a new one. He got a serving of the herring dish which he shared with the regular cat. This was very good luck.

Then came the Pierogies. hand made, stuffed with potatoe and onion with white cheese, which is a Polish cheese particular to this dish and then fried in GOBS of butter. I LOVE pierogies. Ate WAY too many.

Next was a dish of cabbage, cut minutely fine and cooked with mushrooms and split yellow peas. Thick, not quite like mashed potatoes. Everyone kept going back with a spoon to the kitchen to mouth a little more in once a tiny space cleared. Heavenly. Again sounds a little weird, but Oh so good.

Then we had a drink make up of plums and prunes and apples stewed with cloves. Tasted like interesting cider and is to aid in the digestion of all this.

Finally we had a poppy seed cake, a rolled job a bit like a jelly roll in layout, but infinately better in execution. That wasn't 12 courses, but my brother in law was doing it all single handed and it was a ton of delicious food. Breakfast is going to be some yummy tomorrow. Traditionally the Polish would open presents after all this, and then go to midnight mass. We skipped those two steps and will do the pressies tomorrow morning. The Poles also normally do not drink any alcohol at this meal, indeed all day, although there was wine at the table. To make up for it, Vodka shots are expected at breakfast tomorrow, and will continue all day. Though I think we wimpy Canadians will not be up the Poles. Not a good day to be on the road I imagine.

My brother in law put it beautifully though when we were sitting around after putting the kids to bed. We were talking about all the different traditions that different cultures have.. he said, " Isn't it wonderful how all these different people have their own ways of being together."

Hit it right on the head.

Had chocolate in bed at 1 am tonight.

It is now 2:18, Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Perspective and homesickness

Went for a walk with the folks this morning, and came upon a monument in the woods near here. On that spot, on May 24, 1942, the Nazis brought 248 people out and murdered them all. They are now buried in the local cemetary, most as unknown.

This just brought into perspective how important and wonderful it is that we CAN get together with family, and we CAN buy whatever we want to make for dinner, and that we do live in a basically peaceful part of the world. Life is good.

Simultaneously I've been hearing a lot from fellow cruisers at this time of year, and between the husband being elsewhere and the fact that I am writing at 1:30 in the morning, and hearing about where we were last time we met/last year at Christmas/now I am also missing my boat and boat life pretty badly. It was so straight forward, and simple. I lived with the people I love most, and blessedly surrounded by an ever varying group of friendly like-minded people in beautiful places, doing a sport I love...It was great. I miss it hugely.

That said, life is good. Sure there are crappy days and petty irritants, but I can tell you, it happens when you are living your dream too.

Sitting here convincing myself that I am one of the luckiest people on the planet. Indeed, if you have a pot for change at home you are in the wealthiest 5% of the global population.

I am lucky. A wonderful family, an interesting life, the health, drive and wherewithall to live my life how I like, two wonderful healthy children and a fantastic husband. And we get to live in a society that is essentially safe and peaceful. So peace, love and happiness to you all. Blessings counted.

Caganers, caga tio, birthdays and trees

Here are pics of a few of the costumes from the exhibit at the ballet.

From the Magic Flute. Most of these costumes are for the opera rather than for dance.

Searching the net for some of the Catalan traditions, and found this site. Well, read the tradition and it is strange, it is supposed to be done on Christmas eve, and the song in Catalan is: Caga Tio/ Caga turro/d'avellana, de pinyo/ si no vols cagar/et donarem un cop de basto. There, and I even understand it all. Shit log, shit presents/honey and pinyons/ if you don't want to shit/ we'll give you a hit that'll do. My my my, such peaceful and refined Christmas traditions.

This site is a more peaceful tradition, although strangely scatalogical. I like the Pope myself. They have many many stands in Barcelona selling these, you can get EVERYONE, Ronaldino, Breznev, The king, Bush..... They go in the nativity scene, something for everyone on my list, eh?

I haven't bought one yet.

The foody update is simpler today, although we did have smoked salmon with capers and onions, followed by pasta in a cream sauce with parmesan melted in with bacon and red peppers....mmmmm My brother in law can SO cook, I am going to have to visit more often, then cake, that the two year old helped to cut, if I can talk my sister into sending the pictures, she thinks she can do it wirelessly I will post some shots...and then 5 or six different smelly french cheeses.... enough..

This was the cake after the little one finished carving.

My far too large piece, I'll confess, I didn't finish it.

Went and got the tree. They get live trees, in a big pot, so the sister and I with the four kids and two cars steamed off to hunt the wild christmas tree at a garden center, a little different, but run with the changes. We had some appropriate bickering about the tree choices, and settled on one with a cute wiggle at the top, only to discover that we have chosen THE MOST EXPENSIVE TREE IN THE LOT. Typical. Back to square one, a new round of debate. The kids firmly chose different trees, so I chose a different one as well. Down to presentations, why is your tree best..... I admit in mine that I am only being difficult, and am willing to withdraw, the four year old and the two year old had inadequate presentations and were kicked out. As they didn't really have a clue about what was going on, this was not a problem. Down to the two major competitors, my kids. The eldest caves, when asked why, she said that it was to avoid a fight. to reward her willingness to compromise, I volunteer to get some branches so that she can make a wreath and decorate it, and that while others can join in the fun, it is her project. She has died and gone to Heaven, she is a craft demon with a completely craft averse mother, but has gotten old enough that she can do most anything without me (thank god) and being able to make things, for Christmas, out of natural can't get much better....

Well the tree is placed, upright in my sisters car with the hatchback open. Polish tree wrapping involves a large roll of Saran Wrap, and a bit of time, but it worked, then they made a rope out of a length of Saran, twisted and pulled out and tied that baby in, and off we go. The two year old is not impressed by the intense windyness INSIDE the car however, and the entire convoy pulls over to rethink things. And to tie the Saran wrap on more firmly Cling wrap is good, but doing 100 klicks with the back open is defeating it. Move him to the other car, no switch back, debate....and we have lift off.

Got home, found some of the decorations in the basement, babcia (phonetically babtcha) (grandmother in Polish) tidied everything and no one is sure where it is, and as there are no lights in the basement and it is full dark at 3:30, we are doing well, kids are desperately happy, and mature enough to recognise that they tree might look better with a few of the decorations higher that the bottom third of the tree and enlist adult help. They make paper chains, and paper snowflakes, the little one at two spent all his time picking up all of the little tiny pieces of paper and putting them into a dump truck.. there is nothing to clean up at all, and with 3 children doing cutting and glueing crafts there was plenty.

Sumptuous meal to celebrate the sister's birthday....then the kids to bed, blessed quiet. The littlest one didn't want the party to end and managed, with typical toddler skill as in, give me what I want or I will scream continuously until I get what I want and every other child is awake and crying, managed to be allowed to crash on the couch... he did go to sleep though, and now has an eye infection as well as an ear infection.

Life is still good. Oh the husband got a gift pack at work, two bottles of cava, two of wine, one of vermouth, tourrons, a dessert candy thing, and canned goods, plus another office lunch party for only people who work there, and Pedro, one of the guys, demonstrated his skill at opening a bottle of champagne with a sword. No, he does not slice off the top of the cork, instead he knocks off the top of the bottle at the lip with one fast hard swing of the sword... the husband is fairly sure he didn't ingest glass. Lets hope not.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Food, ballet and seaglass

Way back on Nov 25th, I posted about sea glass, and I metioned that a friend of mine makes jewelery from the glass I send her. The good news is, and the reason for this oh so obvious plug, is that her web site is up and running, and she has some glorious stuff. Ok, yah yah yah, pluggin stuff on the blog, probably against some obscure blogger code of ethics, but the stuff is lovely, and she's a good friend and I even find some of the glass for her...

On another note, I may have to rename this blog to something like "Oreneta the blimp feasts in....", or "Oreneta's aground because today she ate..." Today's menu included pierogies fried in GOBS of butter, and get this, well, I have to describe it not just name it. Take a round of camembert cheese, then bread it lightly and deep fry it till it is warm/hot and gooey on the inside and crispy outside. Serve with a tart jam.................oh oh oh oh oh. This was before the ballet (more later). After it we had pizza, 5 types, including one with capers! YUMMY, and lasagna. I have eaten enough calories tonight to keep a fair size village going for a week. burp

Having mentioned the ballet, I might as well continue on the topic. The parents, my sister and brother-in-law, the two girls and I went to see The Nutcracker performed by the Polish National Ballet. It was absolutely spectacular. The costumes were bright and beautiful and alive and lively, brilliant colours and sparkles and sequins everywhere. The choreography was very funny. There were two characters, mice, a male and female that were the peanut gallery come to life. With slight differences in costume they mischeviously joined in the dances, stole from the characters and generally made gleeful fun. The female mouse particularily seemed delighted by the whole thing. Most of the dancers had that "I am dancing BALLET on stage" smile, but the female mouse had the most gleeful and spontaneously delighted grin on through the entire show, like she had died and gone to heaven and things were much better than she had expected.

They had lovely little jokes throughout, and side plays with the "children" in some of the scenes being as typically childlike and irreverent as you would expect. There was a scene with a doll that Clara gets, they lift her leg up and down and all around like a Barbie doll does, and it looked so funny because only highly trained freaks of nature like professional ballerinas can do those sorts of moves, and it looked amazing.

They also had an exhibit on of a bunch of costumes, primarily from the opera, and they were amazing. Some of them were suprisingly doable for a near neo-phite sewer like me. Some were not. My sister was there with her phone-that-takes-pictures, so when I get her to download some to me, I will post them... amazing.

Otherwise I went to the mall, not a smily people here in my short experience, and the produce in the stores was stunningly bad. You see better in the discard bin in North America, and in Spain, you wouldn't see it at all. Like they never pick it over, and just leave it there getting older and older. I saw fruit with actual mold growing on it. Visible from several feet. Bleach.
That said, there was a little stall outside with a wood oven next to it where they were baking the bread, right there beside the parking lot. Bought some and it was AWESOME. A bit different than the hot dog stands outside Home Despot. Though those dogs can be good if you don't think about what's in them...

When oh when will I post without talking about food. Probably when I get back home and I am eating my own cooking again all the time. *sigh*

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Warsaw old town and good food again

Once again I am staying up WAY too late at night... must sleep or I will be an evil Mommy. Drove into Warsaw with my Mom and the kids from my sisters house. TRAFFIC from HELL! The kids were horrific. They have got to be the worst people on the planet to do road trips with.

That said we had a lovely time. Lots of lovely Polish food for lunch, latka type jobs, and guwomkis (phonetic english spelling...) commonly known as cabbage roles and borsht....heavenly borsht! LOVE borsht.

Went to the palace, that is one wildy decorated joint I must say. What impresses the hell out of me though is that by the time the Germans and the Russians were done with Warsaw only about two buildings were left standing. These people who were literally starving, desperately impoverished and totally destroyed by their losses, both in people killed and maimed and crops and, well , every damn thing.

Nontheless, the citizens of Warsaw reconstructed the old town, literally brick by brick and painting by painting, so that you would never know. They recobbled the streets, repainted the walls, they built it from scratch, living in God only knows what kind of conditions. My hat's off to this display of human courage and perseverence...The place is AMAZING. The inlay work on the wood floors alone must have taken tremendous amounts of money and work and labour and love.

We went off to the cartoon museum as well, it was rather more satyrical, more like caricature and satire. The kids are drawing like crazy, and if their adoring mother does say so herself, they are VERY good. So it was neat for them to see what can be done with pen and paper. Of course many of the comments/jokes went over the girl's heads, hell a lot of them went over mine. I am not up to speed on Polish political commentary, but it was very cool. A fair amount was rather sexual, but they coped.

Drive back, also from hell......

Dinner however. My brother-in-law is an AMAZING cook. And he is working hard to show us how beautiful Polish food can be. I am here to tell the world that it is spectacular outstanding gorge yourself till you burst because you just cannot stop eating it. It tastes so damn goooooooooooood

He made two types of, well I don't know what to call them, and I cannot remember the name in Polish. One was a pancake type job, rolled around green stuff, I think broccoli, with a sauce then cheese is melted over it. So good. The other was a thicker pancake, rolled and folded like a bliny around a mushroom stuffing which was simply to DIE for and then fried in butter till the outside was browned and crispy. Lots of butter. MMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
He also had a side of mushrooms sauted that were amazing. The Catalans and the Polish share a passion for mushrooms which I am more than happy to support.

Only sad news, the little one from the previous post was miserable all day today and appears to have come down with an ear infection. You know that hair tugging ear pulling moaning whining I am so miserable kind. Please-dope me-up-with-painkiller-baby-tylenol-so-I-can-sleep. Poor Darling.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

An amazing two and a joke

Spent the morning hanging out with my kids and my two nephews in the backyard. My girls are 10 and 7, and my nephews are 4 and 2. They had a fantastic time, although the two year old had a different view of the events from everyone else.

He is fairly verbal, but primarily in Polish and the games are going on in English At the beginning of this incident he was playing in the sandbox on his own quite peacefully. The others were all playing a rather involved game of Pirate which eventually led them to the sandbox to bury treasure.

The older kids arrive at the sandbox in a galloping herd, scream to a halt, leap in and begin digging frantically.

The little one (TLO) looks up as they arrive, kind of suprised, but happy to see them, and suspends what he was doing to watch.

- Stares stunned - blink - as they leap into the sand box with him and start to dig.
- Pause.
- Blink.
- Open mouth stare, then a small shake and he looks about for a shovel.
- The head bubble ......uuuuuhhh Okay.
- He starts to dig his own hole in front of him.

The other kids shove their bucket in their hole and start to fill it up again.

TLO looks up
- stares,
- blinks,
- watches,
Then turns to his hole and starts to fill it in again

-Oh, OK.

The others suddenly leap up and run off. Treasure successfully buried.

-Looks up AGAIN, watches them disappear into the distance.
-TLO looks down at his own hole and over at theirs and gets up, goes over to theirs and continues to cover it.
-OK, I guess that is the plan......

The others, suspecting that he is digging UP their treasure, rush back in a body.

TLO looks up at them, and they stare down at him.

-Uhhhh so now what.

Rapid conversation between the older ones and me.

No I will not remove him, no he is not harming your treasure and he is not ruining the game. He is a really a giant land crab working nearby. (Read Treasure Island lately?) They buy this and run off.

Meanwhile, TLO has watched this interchange in suspended animation, only moving his head like a spectator at Wimbledon.

-What now?

Watches them run off and continues to happily fill in the hole.

Shortly, they return to retrieve their treasure. Leap into the box, push TLO aside, gently, and pull it out.
TLO stares and watches them (-blink) until it appears, then with a shriek, leaps in and grabs the bucket

-Hey wait, I'm supposed to be burying that
-delivering confused stares at all the others.

They get it away from him, commenting that the land crabs are particularily troublesome this time of year and run off with the bucket.

TLO stands,
watches them go
- blink
- blink
- blink
- pause.
Looks down at the hole.
Looks at his shovel, drops it.
Walks off after the others.

By now I had the heel of my hand jammed in my mouth to desperately stop myself from rolling around on the ground with laughter and disrupting the sequence.

It is a wonder they don't throw more tantrums than they do. The line between what they want and what they understand and what they have to do is so blurred, they must actually have the patience of saints to put up with it all.

On a completely different note, here is a slighty dirty joke (you've been warned) sent to me by a friend, who got it from her mother.

God Bless !

Miss Beatrice, the church organist, was in her eighties and had never been married. She was admired for her sweetness and kindness to all. One afternoon the pastor came to call on her and she showed him into her quaint sitting room. She invited him to have a seat while she prepared tea.

As he sat facing her old Hammond organ, the young minister noticed a cut-glass bowl sitting on top of it. The bowl was filled with water, and in the water floated, of all things, a condom! When she returned with tea and scones, they began to chat.

The pastor tried to stifle his curiosity about the bowl of water and its strange floater, but soon it got the better of him and He could no longer resist.

"Miss Beatrice", he said, "I wonder if you would tell me about this?" pointing to the bowl.

"Oh, yes," she replied, "Isn't it wonderful? I was walking through the Park a few months ago and I found this little package on the ground. The directions said to place it on the organ, keep it wet, and that it would prevent the spread of disease. Do you know I haven't had the flu all winter."

Monday, December 18, 2006

claustrophobia, hats and secret cameras

Looking through the Economist this morning as I was awake far too early. Had a little sneezing fit, probably from sleeping on the floor on a wool carpet in the kids room, and the thought of waking the girls up was too dreadful for words, so I was up at six thirty..... Dreamt about Lady Di too. NOTE TO SELF: stop reading trashy tabloids over people's shoulders while in aiports, there is a payback.

Little tired here, I'll try to focus. The Economist said there was another blogging crowd called VOX I think, run by a husband and wife team, and others I imagine, who are bloggers themselves as opposed to a corporation. Sounded interesting, and there are different sections to the blog so you can have a private journal section, or sections that have to be signed into by friends, or sisters or whatever....hope I have the name right, I will try and look it up tomorrow, but it is 1 am, and I got up at six....

In Warsaw now, I will not whine about the constant waiting, crowds, and being generally treated shabbily that is part and parcel with the current air travel experience. Consider the topic closed.

Scored a room of my own here at my sister's house, and it even has the computer and the internet hook-up. Yipee!

I had forgotten how claustrophobic I find London, loud and the sidewalks are way too small, and way too crowded and way to busy. The people all uninhibitedly jostle you as well. I was worried I would feel this way in Spain as well, but it is OK, the sidewalks in Barcelona are generally wider, and in our town, you can basically walk on the street..... My sister agrees, she still gets driven mad by being constantly pushed and bumped into in line. Europeans just seem to have a smaller circle of what is personal space, and we end up feeling invaded.

Saw an amazing hat on a guy in Barcelona airport....should have had a camera. It was made of a white fabric which I will guess was velour, and cushy stuff at that. The brim was white, and the crown came straight up at the sides and was flat on top. A boater, but a fuzzy cushy one. Then on top of this there were seven cushy velour candles with flames. I just LOVED it, a birthday cake hat! You've got to have time for a guy who will sport a hat like that in an airport, especially with all the security these days. Cocking your snoot....

Also saw a guy with a tatoo that swirled over half his face. Literally the whole right side of his face was covered. Now I don't know if he is planing on living to old age, but it seems to me he hasn't thought this through.

Would have needed a James Bond tie clip camera to get that picture, either that or a ton of nerve to just ask him. Actually, I could see me doing that, and my kids DYING of humiliation. My husband too. I am going to be such a cross for them to bear as teenagers.


Yes, they fought all day today too.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ding bat de jour lands in London

I remembered my wallet. Unbelievable. I even remembered my toothbrush. Amazing. On the bus to the airport however, The Man and I start a conversation about when I will get to my parent's flat in London. I realize that I don't have the map and address that my folks had given me. Now London is a little large to just wander around in and hope for the best so we started to scramble for plan B. I didn't know their phone number (SKYPE, who phones anymore?) I didn't know their address (e-mail, see above) Hmmmmm.

Well, there must be an internet job in the airport. There is always an internet job in the airport. I will e-mail every member of my family to get them to send the phone number and then pick up my mail in London, also e-mail my folks. Tell them what their stupid daughter had done. Get to the airport, get through security. No small task these days, and there is no internet access inside security. Go figure. It is Spain though, you aren't supposed to work all the time.
Well, head down to the gate, and there is a guy at the WiFi desk! Unheard of in Barcelona, this is the land of vacations, not work.....I've never seen anyone there before so I race over. 'Scuse me, do you speak English? Turns out he is a professor in Pittsburg and the head of the oldest on-line chess club. I'll give him a link if I get a chance (Can't find it yet). 5 Euro's later (you have to pay in the airport) I'm on-line! Send out my SOS and get off. Then go to a corner and empty my bag. GUESS WHAT! I had the map. Can you say blonde?

At least I had it.

Then in London, I find my way to the apartment building and realize that there is no apartment number, and I don't have the phone number yadda yadda yadda. Try the corner store, the corner restaurant and the nearest hotel. No luck, no phone book, no internet. I am now in the lobby, and cannot find the apartment. So near and yet so far.

Finally, finally finally someone comes in and I explain my predicament hoping they will look up the phone number for me. They look at my map and tell me that what I was assuming was the street number since it was writen as 5 Main Street.... was actually the APARTMENT NUMBER.

Sure enough, it was. Nice to be here and great to see the kids again. It was so opaque, I don't even feel guilty or dumb.

Well, not about the apartment anyway.

The kids squabbled all evening to punish/greet me. Such is life

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The scoop on the Christmas party

It started even later than I posted. When the man came home he had an update...don't even show up until 9:45!!! We did, all dressed up, and not everyone had arrived yet. It was in, what is in the day time, a really fairly scuzzy bar, and as we went over, we realized this. I will confess I whined. I had my gastric juices aimed at something higher than bar food, however well the Spanish do it.

When we got there it turned out that the bar had two halves, a daytime half that was quite scuzzy, and a night time half that was we go. The husband recognizes no one but we ask at the bar...sure, come behind the bar, you know where the wait staff work...
- pardon?
Well, we file behind the bar, through the first kitchen, primarily a fridge and food storage, through a second kitchen and down a flight of stairs to what had been a cellar. It is beautiful. The ceiling is arched and there is brick work walls and old tools and swords on the walls, and about half the people are there.

There are spectacular tapas type starters on the table which no one has touched yet...and wine and water. Finally everyone starts to dig in. Mmmmmmmm. There are a couple of people who speak some English and talk to me a bit, but the Catalan is flying fast and I couldn't get much of it. They are also a profoundly multilingual group. The least capable speak only two languages. The guy next to me spoke four fluently, the woman on my right five, and the woman to my left five or six. Unbelievable. I was nonetheless a bit of a conversational black hole. The man wasn't far behind me, because when they dropped into Castilian (which is what the Catalans call Spanish) he was lost.

They brought out plates of mussels. OMG, I like mussels, but these were to die for. They were steamed open in a lightly flavoured broth, a few drops of gorgeous olive oil. They were small but incredibly outrageously spectacularly good. Unbelievable. Then came the main course. These had been pre-ordered from a choice of about five. The man and I had bacalla, which is cod. MMMmmmmmm. Say no more. mmmmmmmmm. OK, so I said more. Not enough bread to sop up all the juices was the only problem. Then dessert, fancy ice cream.

Now the timing. Most people were there by about 10:15, maybe a little later, and the starters started. A couple of people sipped some wine before this, but that is all. People dug into the tapas at about 10:30 or so, maybe a little later, and the main course arrived at about 11:30. pm. After the dessert they came around to take coffee orders, at 12:30. This was not decaf. This was jet fuel. The husband had some, but I think he has coffee in his veins. Cut him and he'd bleed espresso. Almost all of them had coffee!!!!

That said, most of them were probably going on, and came home about when we got up. We left at around 1:30ish I think, walking in a long line through the kitchens, out from behind the bar and out through the restaurant/bar that was I might add doing a booming trade, full of people who did not look like it was time to call it a night. We retired in exhaustion, though I had a shower before bed. Hate the smell of smoke in my hair and on my skin when I get into bed. Bleaurg.

It was extremely civilized. Really, it was more like a really fun family dinner there was a little bit of rowdiness, throwing corks down the very long table, but no one got hammered, and there was lots of laughter. They seem like a very comfortable group of people, and it was great. Wish we did office Christmas parties as well. Except maybe for the timing. Can't quite get used to it.
Kind of sleepy today. The man and I went into Barcelona for the day. Lovely day. Lots of artist and artisans have stalls up selling their beautiful and unique wares, had some jet fuel myself this afternoon. Hate coffee, but I love this.

Flying to London tomorrow morning to meet up with the kids and then on to Warsaw the next day for the festivities, so I will try to post regularly but it may get trickier as I won't have my own computer etc etc etc.

Friday, December 15, 2006

S*nta's na*ghty h*lp*r

Bin shoppin' lately, haven't we all... but I have been a very b*d S*nta's h*lper, and along with buying for everyone else, I have been shopping for MYSELF! Caramba! (Catalan expletive used by older women, on par with 'my god') To date I have gotten, 4 pairs of tights, two pairs of pants, the thong I mentioned earlier, two turtlenecks, including the one that my eldest daughter said made me look like a cricket. I waited till she was gone then went back and got it. I thought once we were mothers we would be able to stop this sort of subterfuge.

Hmm lets see, got another shirt, very cool one, a broach, and today a scarf. It is a thing of beauty. Nothing dull or grey about it. Loose knit, large, 6 ft by 3ft, intricate diffent stitches and yarns. Loving it. I did heroically resist the incredibly spectacular lapis lazuli (sp?) bracelet for only 125 Euros, and the giant amber pendant and necklace for 150. That took some doing though. Walk away slowly...don't make any sudden moves and you won't have a problem....don't look back....don't start to run..... They were lovely and are going to haunt me for a while.

What I am dying for is some shoes. Found ones I liked. Mean looking pointy toed and had a 2 inch heel, pushing me over 6 feet. Mmmm MMMm GOOD. Didn't have my size damn it. Turns out I am some sort of giantess here. Having a hard time finding anything large enough, which I find amazing. Granted the general population of women is not huge, indeed a lot of them are downright short, but I am not freakish, and I have seen people taller than me....

Funny thing is I usually HATE shopping, but they have some very cool stores and it isn't a mall (bleach ptew ptew.) Indeed it is generally outrageously lovely old streets and cobbles, no cars.

Topped it all off with a tasse de xocolate amb dos croissantes. Yup, a cup of hot chocolate and two mini-croissants. The hot chocolate here is actually just called chocolate. You order a glass of chocolate, and it is. None of that quick shit, this is thick and rich and creamy and the machine has to stir it all the time. If you ever make it here you have to try it.... If it is well made, it has actual chocolate melted into it. This was well made and very very good......

The husbands Chrismas dinner for work is tonight. I am all psyched up. Got back from my shopping today, and found his note. Dinner STARTS at 9 or 9:30. What these people must pay in babysitting fees. Fortunately the rug rats are with my folks..... I think I will have a nap. Gotta keep up with the Garcia's you know, and I don't have the stamina. If I get in before four, I'll update this and let you know how it went. Yee gads.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Trees, fruitcake and logs

Well, inspired by a post from Beth over at BooksEtc. I've been thinking about christmas trees. Once upon a time in a place far far away, before we started travelling, we would go out every year and hunt the wild christmas tree. On a farm, preferably with wagon rides and warm apple cider, and a binder to tie the tree up tight so it didn't lift off on the highway, or alternately fill with slush while you are behind some giant semi. It was good fun. We'd debate endlessly as we wandered aimlessly through the fields and inevitably get the first tree we had seen. Bring it home, put it in the stand, that always tipped over at least once a year, etc etc etc. We made our own decorations and added to them every year. We had the ultimate Christmas before we left. Perfect snow, lots of family, and no one got samonella from the undercooked turkey!

Then we got on the boat and went travelling. The first christmas, we were waiting in a remote creek in south Florida to cross the gulf stream. This crossing can be dangerous and requires some care, especially in a boat as small as ours.
So no tree hunting that year. We did go out in the dingy and cut some mangrove branches though and put them in a naglene to keep green, and started making decorations. We had brought some stuff along too. Then we got our weather window to hopefully safely cross, Christmas eve day. We went. We had sat in this beautiful creek for THREE WEEKS waiting to go. We went. We left at 2 am christmas eve day..that was an adventure in itself for another post, and arrived around 3pm on Christmas eve day. VERY tired. Details of this are also for another post if we are to keep the christmas theme here, and not write a tome. Santa found us despite our radical last minute shift of nations, and on Christmas itself we went to the beach, better still we ran into friends. Unless you have cruised, it is hard to imagine how great this is, but it was the ultimate Christmas present for both of us, and they are still dear friends now. There was even a pot-luck party with other boaters. We had our christmas that morning and then the big dinner on our boat that night, having made sandcastles and gone shelling and swimming that day, on what remains one of our favorite beaches in the world. Kids had a good time, but later admitted the tree was pathetic. Completely inadequate.

Next year, had to do better. Got gingerbread house kits. No oven. Then further down we met up with friends who had access to a car and were going shopping. Asked them to pick us up a tree. Well, bless them, they came back with a live tree. All 8 inches of it. Not what we had in mind. Aside from the size, we were now going to shift countries with the thing, and had to water it. May seem like a small thing, but when you have 30 gallons to last 4 people a month, this starts to matter. That is 6 flushes folks. One month. To boot, we hump all that water to the boat ourselves. Carry it and row it out. Well the tree lasted for months, and then DIED. To the great distress of the kids. To top it all, the husband didn't want to bury the thing at sea. It was an illegal import of potentially live material into a foreign country. So the corpse of the Christmas tree travelled with us for a month or two till we returned to the US, and had an extremely emotional burial at sea for it, in the same bay we got it.

Third year, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Went shopping for a tree with a friend from Alaska in rural inland Florida. If you haven't been there, think heat, Mexican cowboys and big guns. We looked through many fiber optic trees, I kid you not, plug them in and go. Finally we found one for us. Two feet tall, should fit well, etc etc etc. Then I saw the four footer. Gotta get it. Now, you need to know how small the boat is. I cannot stand up straight down below. There are two bunks running fore and aft, and there is about a foot and a half between. The kids sleep together up forward. The four foot tree is set up on the table top, laid across the two bunks, spanning the boat and preventing all forward motion. We make lots of new decorations, hang them up everywhere etc etc etc. Then take the tree down till Christmas eve. The husband makes the great Christmas march in search of cow for dinner (another post..) and then on Christmas eve day, we finally set up the tree. Everyone has to go to the toilet before bed, because once we move it so the husband and I can sleep on the bunks, no one is getting to the toilet again, and the kids have to do amazing acrobatics to get past the prickly monster and into bed. BUT THEY ARE SOOOOOO HAPPY!!!!

Santa does his thing again, and in the morning the tree is set up again in the main cabin, presents laid out and the whole deal. Great. Look out, and low and behold, different friends have arrived, and they have KIDS!!!! The same gender and age as ours! How good does it get! Christmas dinner is huge and it was fantastic.

This year, well the tree from last year and all the decorations are in Florida on the boat. The girls and I are going to Warsaw for Christmas with my sister and her family. She lives there, and my parents are coming. They usually get a large live tree. We'll see what happens. The husband is going to his cousins for Christmas. We misjudged his vacations and assumed they would be at Christmas, instead they are the first week in Jan, so he won't even be with us for Christmas. A big disappointment frankly.

Question is, do we do the three kings thing that they do here, I don't know what is involved exactly, I think the kids come in and whale away on a big log with a stick, then go out and when they come back the kings have left presents. I am sure there is more to it, we'll have to look into it. Do we get a tree here? Another artificial? Make decorations and all for a second Christmas as a family? I suppose it's up to the kids. For me, that's what it's all about. The kids being delighted. When I find out more about the three kings, I'll post.

By the way, I LOVE FRUITCAKE It is the best. But only good fruitcake. Not that dry stuff with the mystery white topping. Frankly, although the British aren't noted for their cuisine, they do it best. And no booze. Has to be big, weigh at least three pounds, and be squidgy....MMMMMMMMMMM I will confess to eating an entire three to four pounder in ONE DAY when I was pregnant with my first....

So good.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More notes from Spain. OK, really, undies and garbage.

One of the things (sorry Nomad) about out apartment that is LESS thrilling is the garbage outside our place. Now I am not talking litter, but a garbage center for lack of a word in English. You see, back in Canada, we each had our own garbage cans and every house brought it out on garbage day. Not here. There are larger boxes, plastic, all colour coded so you know which is for bottles etc etc etc. They are pretty big too, good 5 feet high, 6 feet wide and 5 feet deep. You bring your garbage out anytime and the guys come around and pick it up whenever. No more running out in barefeet, shorts and a t-shirt in January when it is 20 below and there is 4 feet of snow because your going to miss the f*&%#ing truck and then have a domestic with your spouse that night because the garbage didn't go out.... VERY civilized. On the whole. The flies in the summer are a bit of a drag because we are near by. Also the bar/restaurant gets free garbage disposal, but they overwhelm the boxes here sometimes making it look pretty squalid now and then. The bottles are another funny issue. The box for the bottles is the same size as the others, but the lid is hard to move. Instead they have two holes in the top, lined with rubber flaps so you have to shove the bottles through resulting in the most exquisitely satisfying smashing sounds as they land. The waiters at the restaurant delight in this at 4 in the morning....

The other amazing thing about Spanish garbage cans (never thought you'd know so much, eh?) is that when they come by to pick them up, they hose out the insides of them. The machine holds them up and power washes the insides before they are replaced. (Too bad they don't do that in Canada, that was always me with a hose and a look of disgust when I realized that maggots were growing in there). Here's the kicker though....amazing and SO Spanish. The water they hose it out with is PERFUMED!!! I can smell it, all floral and lovely from the second floor! The garbage men must go home smelling like tarts at the end of the day from the by-spray.

Finally, I'm back on undies again. In the spirit of investigative journalism/ cultural integration/ noseyness/ am-I-really-as-frumpy-as-my-kids-think questioning I bought A THONG today! A boring one I will grant, northern european skin coloured cotton. No lace. In the interst of scientific robustness, I isolated the experiment there. I bought it in the market no less, where people who know me saw me, but then again they were looking too. I've been wearing it today and the verdict is.....I do not need to work this hard. Ya know, thongs are for people in outfits to be SEEN if you follow me, and they wear this crap to attract the, well, we all know what. I am too stuffy/boring/frumpy/just-plain-married to wear them. Only problem is that now I own them and I know I am too cheap to just chuck 'em, so I will tow them around with me for the next decade till they wear out.....a perfectly good, albeit uncomfortable pair of undies...

Note, there will be no visuals of me in the new undies. Ever. The stall I may manage some time....this really does want some sort of visual.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ladies who lunch in London and a half-spa

Lunch in London indeed. It sounds more exotic and exciting than it was, but I really did fly to London today, had lunch and flew home! The real reason was that the kidlets are off visiting my folks without any parents! No restrictions on the spoiling!!!! The younger one cried though, and I hope I won't have to go up early. My husband keeps reassuring me that she will be fine......and she will. I do agree with nomad about flying though.....I didn't get a pedicure as she wished however, instead the younger daughter gave me a spa the day before she left. That's right, got my hair brushed, and it felt HEAVENLY, and my back scratched, and my face washed. Declined the mud mask they were planning to create from the planter on the terrace though, even if they did tender the offer so gleefully.... Finally the finishing touch was nailpolish. Now I am not a nailpolish kind of girl, and I keep my nails quite short, but undaunted we went for it. Bright flaming red. She lost interest after 4 fingers, and we have no nailpolish remover. Went to London for lunch with my folks -ploughman's lunch with brie and mince tarts....- with four red fingernails. Bizarrely no one said anything all day! Didn't even catch anyone staring! I know there are enough Diva's out there who would notice..... Flying is ultimately boring though.
Met a woman briefly flying to Ireland with a two week old baby and leaving a small, MAYBE two year old toddler behind. She was rather tearful. I didn't ask, but it looked like a family crisis, you know grandma not doing well kind of thing....felt bad for her, and the security was INSANELY tight. Haven't seen anything like it outside of the middle east. The worst of it is that you can't bring water. I am SOOOOO DRY. Bleah. I cannot imagine flying away two weeks after having my second child and leaving the first behind, your such a hormonal mess, and so sleep deprived and just so.....* sigh * I felt bad for her...

What was lovely was discovering how nice it felt to come home. I was all excited to hear the Spanish and Catalan spoken again. A Brazilian guy on the bus asked me directions in Spanish and I managed to answer them, then we realized we were trying to communicate in a language that neither of us spoke well, and we switched to English which he was very good at. It was lovely walking down the streets of the town and coming home..... I miss the kids already. Gonna have a few days with the husband for the first time since the kids were born.........that will be lovely. Wonderful in fact.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Oh, I don't and clothes, no undies though

OK, getting a feel for the readership here, the underwear story was clearly the most interesting, or at least the most comment worthy. What does that say about ALL of us????????????????HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

Well, the first bit of good news, the money came through, only the 11th!!!! The bad news? We ended up paying the rent.....twice. The husband is going to try to fix that one tomorrow. The joys of banking in two foreign languages.....

Went into Barcelona for a job interview, teaching english as a second language, landed the job no problem, I am a teacher and have taught now for about 15 years so that was a no-brainer, the problem is the job sucks. 14.50/hr, and it's an hour trip each way. I'll only get an hour here and an hour there, so after I pay for see, with the 2 - 3 hour lunch here, people think of taking class then, problem is the kids have a 2 hour lunch, the husband an hour and a half....can you see how this plays out? If I also have to pay for the kids to have lunch at school, and they have to wait there for half an hour after school for my husband to show up if I get an hours work in the evening and sit around for 6 hours waiting for it, and then I don't get home till 10, all for a crappy 40Euros.......Why would I do that? I'd be losing cash along with my mind and my life.

Start again. Have to confess my heart isn't in it. I am kind of looking forward to having a few hours a day all by myself to do whatever I want. Commuting for three hours a day is NOT on. Rethink the plan entirely.

That said, went shopping with the girls. They've gotten old enough that it is no longer a refined form of torture, you know, trying to change with one climbing out of the room under the door, you just get undressed and someone needs to pee... or nap, or fight with their sister.......Got the older girl a winter coat she just loves. Very teenage cool as well, I've noticed the exact model on a lot of the local teenagers, not on many of the kids here age though so we'll see what happens at school.... she may be a fashionista in fact....those of you who know me well enough can stop laughing NOW.

She was picking out all sorts of cool clothes, and true to form for a teenager (though she ain't there numerically) informing me that she could SO not see me in this or that outfit -usually something stylish- and at one point while I was trying on quite a nice shirt she informed me that I look like a cricket! CHARMING! It was actually very very funny, although I am going to go and buy pants without her.

Did manage to get a new turtle neck and some tights.....I was excited. I wear clothing till it is COMPLETELY dead... so I needed it. Shoes here though, man there are some nice ones.

The darling children were starving at lunch time though, there are a million restaurants and such. We didn't exactly cover all the food groups, but it was good. The Catalans have a dish called pa amb tomaquet...bread and tomatoes, but here's the hook. Take georgeous fresh crusty white bread, preferably warm from the baker....cut open a tomato that actually tastes like something not that shit that usually comes out of the supermarket. You cut it horizontally if the stem is at the top. This is important and I have been corrected for improper cutting, and I am now reformed. Seize your half a tomato, and with authority, invert it on the bread, squeeze it while smearing all those yummy innards around on the bread. Repeat with the other half (sounds like the shampoo bottles, that repeat is one of the greatest marketing/sales doubling tool isn't it). The Catalans now throw out the tomato halves, but you are going to get the Canadianized version of this. Set the tomato aside. Get the very best olive oil you can. None of that mild flavour crap. This stuff should be green and only just translucent. We've been using stuff my husband's cousin brought us, pressed from their own olives.... Drizzle that over the bread. And over the mushed tomato halves on your plate. Salt lightly. That's my breakfast, and the basis of all sandwiches here.

So....after that diversion, that was the sandwich beginning then we had ham on it-do not think Oscar Meyer here-more like proscuitto but better. The Catalans LOVE ham, there are hams you can by for over 200 Euros per OUNCE!!!!! They eat more shellfish and more ham.......nothing like a couple of hundred years of spanish inquisition, eh? That sandwich was nearly enough, but we were feeling lavish so went back for croissants amb xocolate. Can you guess? The X is an sh sound. Very very good. LOTS and LOTS of xocolate. MMMMmmmmmmmmmmm. Happy tummys. Good lunch.

A very good day overall.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Moving here to Spain has been educational in any number of ways. Experiencing new foods, and cultures and languages..yaddah yaddah yaddah.....the old grey cells are getting a work out. One aspect of my life I had not anticipated an education in though is underwear. Yeah you know, bras and panties the works.
The apartment we're in is the top floor of a two story set up, you might call it a duplex. The houses here are crammed in tightly and like the most intricate sort of puzzle. We have a terrace on the top -with a georgeous view of the sea and the mountains I might add, and our clothes line. Mighty fine hanging out the laundry. Out our kitchen window at the back, we have a view of.... well.... a courtyard if we look down, but a laundry room if we look straight out. It could be a nice space, an open terrace, iron railings and planters, partly roofed, but the three 25ish year old guys who live downstairs with a variety of girlfriends use it for laundry. You can see where my education is coming from. Well the guys are pretty clean, and there is a fairly regular supply of sheets and clothes going through, but one of the girlfriends is quite the laundry freak. ALWAYS something out. This is not a bad thing, but she has the most amazing assortment of underwear. Things I had never known anything about before.
Now, without embarassing myself or anyone else, I am a pretty straight-forward underwear kind of gal, cotton, comfy-but-not-granny undies do me fine. This girls loves a thong. Indeed she doesn't seem to have anything else. Now before you all think we are some kind of perverts eyeing this womans undies, the clothes line is 20 feet away directly across from the end of the galley kitchen we have. The stuff is unavoidable, and she is not shy about it. They guys either don't wear underwear, or discreetly hang it on the back lines behind the sheets as I confess I would do. The thongs are always front and center. She also has these bras..... Now she is a fairly regular looking girl on the street, but these bras are, I think, push-ups, lots of padding anyway and impressive bits of armouring. Lots of different colours. They have become a topic of conversation amongst the four of us.
The reason for me bothering to post about this aspect of my never-ending education is the latest undergarment. It is black, it looks like a tiny pair of cotton hot pants, but has that seam that undies do, and has a well, we aren't sure... it is either sequins or glitter glue type stuff with this elaborate blue decoration on either the front or the back. We've all gone to have a gander (we were too shy to use the binoculars) and we aren't even sure if they are for men or women....though the guys are usually pretty discreet. We are, I will confess, confused. Though it lead to some hilarious dinnertime conversation about the most uncomfortable underwear imaginable. Our vote went to sequined thongs.....oooohhhhhhhhhh you'd never sit still.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

lost at sea

I am sorry to say, but this cannot be a cheery post. At 9:30 on Friday night, a 25 year old woman was swept off a sailing ship in the Atlantic and has not yet been recovered.(See link here) I doubt she will be. For those of you who don't know, we are sailors. I have sailed all my life and I have sailed tall ships. We have spent the last three years, with breaks for hurricane season, living on a sailboat in the US and the Bahamas. This story hits too close to home. We know people who have lost their boats, I know people who have been rescued from boats by freighters,(we call them frighters) and getting swept overboard is the ultimate nightmare. Especially with children aboard.

We know a couple, he was on deck during a night watch, alone, and he fell over. This was a catamaran doing about 7 knots, which is really bloody fast for a sailboat. When his wife came on deck several hours later, she couldn't find him. That must have been an absolutely harrowing few moments. He was OK though, he had managed to get into the dingy and was towed in it for several hours until she came on deck. They were both very lucky.

We know another couple, he was reasonably experienced, but a bit of a cowboy, you know, took risks 'cause they were fun. One night, they were sailing near us at the time though we didn't know it, he went on deck for a task, and got knocked overboard unconscious by the boom. His girlfriend was a virtual non-sailor. He was lucky, and smart. He had a harness on, so he was attached to the boat and came to as he hit the water and was able to pull himself aboard. There is a dent in the boom, a large heavy metal job, and he was concussed, although managed to sail to a harbour.

The vast majority of cruisers are prudent and careful and nothing of this scale happens to them, it hasn't to us so far. It never swings out of the realm of possibility for anyone though, and care must always be taken. These things can and do happen. I hope for a rescue for this girl,and her family. She is someone's daughter fresh out of university probably, off on the first few days of a big adventure.

So for all our friends that are still out there doing it.....tie on and take care.
Don't want to read about you in the papers OK.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Barcelona, bouncers and boogers

Well here are my choices today, I could whine about my kids who are getting to be adolescent FAR TOO YOUNG. Expand on hilarious contributions made to the world by enthusiasts, or talk about my day. Hmmmmmmmmmm.........since it is my blog, I vote for all three.

My eldest daughter was given a book of CHINDOGU by my Mom, and what a hilarious hit it was. It is unfortunately stored with everything else on the boat in a steaming cow field in rural inland florida, but that is another story. Chindogu is the fine Japonese art of inventing unuseless things. Truely these are amazing and hilarious. They have a babies onesy with dust mop sweepers all over the tummy so your crawler can clean up as they go. They have signs you hang off a special hat so that when you sleep in the subway people can wake you up at your stop. They have a special gulf club that you can attach laundry to, so you can dry your laundry while working on your line drive (is that the right sport?) There is another laundry line for the car. There is a roll up pedestrian cross walk. Road too busy? Just roll it out and they all stop. I could go on, but it is hilarious, and totally put together by those fringe type enthusiasts. I am sure they must have a newsletter. I should subscribe.

OK... went into Barcelona today, the husband has one of his countless days off. Indeed he only has to go to work two days this week! So in the spirit of really getting to know our new country........we went to the Egyptian Museum. I know, go figure. The elder child is mad about any myth/story from ancient times and was very enthusiastic, and since it was also near our bus stop and it was rainy......... Unfortunatly, my numerically not yet a teenager child is giving every sign of being a teenager in attitude. I thought I had a couple more years before this started....*whine* OMG will I make it? How long will this last. I have one friend whose child is almost exactly the same age, and we keep e-mailing each other stunned by the sudden change in our children. Urgh. She is wonderful, my daughter that is, don't get me wrong, but now and then.........I'm certain she would say exactly the same about me.

After the museum, we are sitting our poverty stricken selves on a bench in downtown Barcelona... don't get me started on the money right now. (OH well, here I go) We've finally gotten ourselves sorted out, you know numbers, accounts the works, when the husband's workplace pays him one day late, on the first not the thirty first. With a cheque. That's a friday. The bank is closed. (See previous post) It is closed all weekend. I go in on Monday and deposit the cheque. No problem. The money hasn't appeared by Wednesday (a holiday) so I go into the bank on Thursday, in the morning while it is still open. Seems they hold the cheque for three business days. Well. Got the cheque on Friday. Deposit it Monday, count Tuesday, Wednesday is a holiday, count Thursday, Friday is a holiday, Saturday and Sunday don't count, we may see it on Monday. I may add that the rent DOES come out on Sunday, holiday or no. So the pay we got on the first, (should have been the 31st), we won't see until maybe the 12th. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Anyway, back to the story, we are sitting our cash-flow supressed selves down on a stunningly beautiful bench, all curves and tile work with this amazing 100 year old iron lamp standard attatched watching the beautiful people go by while eating tuna-on-bread and oranges. Such is life. There was within spitting distance a gucci store, an armani store and a chanel store. Also a VERY ritzy hotel where the other people go. You know the ones who live in fear of their credit card accounts, but put up a good face in public. The girls noticed that EVERY ONE of the women who went into the hotel or stores had dyed hair. The hotel also had a doorman all dressed up in tails and a top hat with gold braid and the works. The only problem is that he looked like and carried himself like a football hooligan, or one of those less intelligent security guards you see that you wonder how on earth they managed to hide their criminal record long enough to land this gig. Very bizarre. He is doing a credible job of scraping and bowing to the dyed, nipped, tucked and well dressed crowd and their less polished......shall we say hubands, I'm sure some of them were. And then up came a mini-bus. Well captain doorman just disappeared. Apparently he doesn't do his thing if you don't come in your own cab. This crowd (Russians we believe, and what stunts did they pull to get the money to stay in that joint?) were definately not going to get the red carpet. We weren't sure why.....just the mini-bus? We'll never know.

Oh Oh Oh, some guy is outside my place having the ugliest hacking coughing and spitting event. I will mention that I am TWO floors up. This is unbeleivable. he must be leaving a small green slimy pool out there, wait, I have to look. He's still standing. Blowing his nose, I am glad to say in a handkercheif, hope he does his own laundry. Wow. Prefer the church bells.

Sorry if that grossed you out.

Thursday, December 7, 2006


Good lord, you've got to love a keener. This is the sentiment that my aunt and I agreed on regarding some of the folks out there. I feel strange calling her my aunt, she isn't much older than me, my Dad is the eldest of a w i d e l y spaced family, and his youngest sister is CONSIDERABLY closer to me in age than him. ANYWAY, we've decided that enthusiastic people rule, however outlandish their fascination, indeed the more obscure the better. The guys who can recite every baseball stat to the year dot are...well....*yawn*...a bit....well.....not exactly...unusual. However, someone who goes to, say, Star Trek conventions and has all the goodies and costumes... (my aunt will confess to having gone to some. She said the people were lovely, not all of them functioned on the same level as everyone else....)
My husband is an enthusiast of sorts (though not a trekkie, although if there were a canadian history convention...). One of the more popular anchorages in the Bahamas is called Norman's cay. It was once the hangout of Columbian drug lords and any self-respecting yachtee would have been shot if they poked their bow in. -I kid you not- there are bullet holes everywhere, and the FDA had men photographing the place from a high point you can visit on another island. Well the Bahamas in general, and drug smugglers in particular do not appear to be too picky about FAA regulations, and you can see some really hair raising flying, and there are TONS of wrecked planes to dive on. This one is a big one in very shallow water a very short dingy ride from the anchorage, indeed if your boat isn't too deep, it is in the anchorage. Most people, including the guide books call it a DC3. You may have heard of these. BUT NO! My husband informed me it is not. I was polite but faintly skeptical until months later we are at a friends place and the friend asks the husband what type of plane it is. The husband replied, "It's a Curtis C46 Commando built in Buffalo New York during the second world war." (He is now telling me, at some length, about the aviation industry in Buffalo. More extensive than you might imagine.) The reply was off the top of his head. There were four of us living on a 27 foot boat, a small 27 footer, there were no aviation texts. The friend was floored. NO ONE has come up with this gem before and he thought he was sure to stump us, not the champ though. The enthusiasts were off. The rest of us listened politely for a while, but we all lived with our respective enthusiasts and knew what was up. We went swimming. Oh, the friend had an excuse though, he was a professional pilot all his life.

My point is though, I suppose, that anyone with a passion is a fascinating a person. I once went around the local zoo with a sound engineer and a foley artist. You know the guys who put the footsteps, punches and screams on films. (By the way, my scream is in that Cronenburg flick with the giant bug ....something lunch. Never saw it.) This trip through the zoo though. Fascinating. I'll never look at, well I suppose listen to it the same way again.

There is a guy out there who is the enthusiast for the type of boat we have. Give him your hull number and he can tell you EVERYTHING about it. Things YOU didn't know. What's more he has hunted people up to make obscure bits of marine hardware to fit the boats, your boat, properly. Gotta love him.

So bless the enthusiasts, just may not want to stick around in the conversation too long.

Oh, and the husband found this site, and if you have kids and love a good old story...

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Cold, confusion and payback.

Well, I got my own back today. I sent a couple of make-you-jealous e-mails to two of my aunts who were just here and went back to the wonderful UK weather a few days ago because it was so hot here and beautiful, and so not there. Of course the weather gods do not like this sort of behaviour, so I was made to pay.

Groceries here are a little complicated. The first issue is the opening hours, it's a little like offsides in hockey, I think it takes at least a decade to figure out what the hell is going on though eveyone else seems to know. The banks open from 7:30 - 2 except on Thursdays, when they either stay later or open again post siesta (the hours are also different in the summer), the grocery store, open every day. But is it all day? Or 9 - 1, then 5 - 9? I can't remember. Some stores open only in the evening, some only in the morning, some in two halves, some open at 7, some don't open till 10. The bar we can see from the balcony opens, as far as I can tell, at 5:30 am for the breakfast crowd, and doesn't close till 4am.

So our option for fruit and veg are: the grocery store, poor selection, poor produce, but cheap. Hours fairly long. The municipal market, great produce, only mornings, I think, but a bit pricey, and then there is the market. It appears to have no distinguishing name. We would call it the weekly farmers market, but I am not sure any of them are actually farmers. Lots of stalls, GEORGEOUS produce, egg yolks an orangey lemon and stand proud and tall when you crack them.....I could go on. Prices are good, produce is awsome, but only once a week in the morning.

This grocery confusion is added to today by the fact that it is a national holiday. But it is a Spanish holiday, and we are in Catalonia. For those of you unclear of the politics, allow the one eyed king ***hem*** to clarify. Catalonia is a province of Spain, but a different language, culture and with some strong seperatist tendencies, so this Spanish holiday is met with rolling eyes. All I need to know though is whether the market will be open. We have no fridge, and must shop often, which is fine normally.

Ask around, met by shrugs and rolled eyes, so I gamble and don't buy much at the grocery store yesterday. Wake up this morning and the weather is......well, lets say it's payback time. Those of you with a foot of snow will not sympathise, but bear in mind that my wardrobe is still better suited to the Bahamas than elsewhere. Debate skipping the event, but we aren't sure if ANYTHING will open between now and Saturday. You see, Thursday is not a holiday, but Friday is another Spanish holiday. No one we know is going to work till Monday. Who will take it off? So off we go to the market, the husband gallantly accompanies me.

It is cold, very very windy and raining. Hard. This town is violently hilly and first we must glissade down to the bank (closed, although the ATM works). Battle over to the bakers for fresh crusty bread (open, and eat your heart out the bread is awesome). Then another brief glissade down to the beleaguered market. Only four stands out, and while we are at one of them, they are grimly holding onto their stall. Literally, they are clinging to it to weigh it down. I feel bad asking to buy stuff, they must receive everything and weigh and measure it all forcing them to let go briefly. After we go, they lose control of the entire shin-dig and parts sail off. The husband goes over to help (no one else is, the market is full of old ladies and other folks holding onto their tarps) This leaves me with all the bags. Why do I buy the squash first? Oh yeah, had the pack horse. It isn't easy to pick over parsnips, elbow my way through a crowd of dripping and determined seniors, and negotiate in---was that Catalan or Spanish????

Finally arrive home, soaked. Unlike the sensible husband, I hadn't taken my raincoat. It looked fine when we left, and it is one of those extreme ocean explorer jobs that leave you feeling you are atlas with the weight of the world on your shoulders. My only shoes are sandals. (He had on hiking boots. Incidentally he has FOUR pairs of shoes here!) Hands were red and swollen, etc etc etc whine, moan whinge.........

I deserved it though, I'll admit.