Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cholesterol




Today is a special day here in Catalonia...we all take a step closer to the grave, or at least to the Dr's office. It has something to do with Carnival, i am not sure what honestly, but to day everyone eats boutifarra d'ou. You can see that sausage job up there. It is just that, a sausage, with all the usual pork fat issues, but this time, as an extra special carnival treat it is cooked with egg; just to top up your cholesterol levels.

Youngest and I ate it. The man, who already has a bit of a cholesterol problem, bowed out, and Eldest is a vegetarian...My veins should be humming along nicely right about now.

We topped it off with a coca...that thing in the photo that actually looks a bit like an uncooked hamburger is actually a delightful kind of sweet flaky flat bread, crispy with sugar and pine nuts. It is very tasty, and also traditional today, it is called coca amb -oh heck, I cannot remember the Catalan name - anyway, it means lard, as in pork fat. That's right...we topped off our cholesterol ladened boutifarra with pork lard cake.

Mmmm mmmmm good.

It was too.

Say a prayer for my veins m'kay?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Painting a boat

As I was inexplicably awake for several hours last night (don't ya just hate that?) today has been a mite trying in spots.

Best not to go there.

I did get a bunch of work done on the painting of the punt....

It looks even better now that it is dry, the colours in the water have evened out and darkened, which I prefer....



Hope you all had a good day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Good news, bad news.

Bad news first.

In the grand scheme of things, it is not really bad at all, but with some embarrassment I feel obliged to report that I did not pass my Catalan exam.

*pout*

That said, the women at work were gratifyingly shocked because my Catalan has improved so much. Clearly not enough.

Anywhoooo.

I went into the course to improve my Catalan, and I did that; significantly.

The good news?

I talked to the folks at work and I should be able to improve my hours so I not working quite so many evenings. This will, of course, impact our income slightly, but that is just AOK.

On another note, I had a delightful walk in the mountains this afternoon. It is lovely and warm, I took a book and sat on a rock in the sun, overlooking at the hills and the town and the sea and read while the dog whined cause he wanted to keep going.

It was one of those precious moments in life when you are really glad you are alive.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mohawks and paint....

Mixed bag kind of day...and, for your edification, I also have photos of the eyeball that Eldest has to dissect today. I put it in a seperate post, below this, so anyone a little queasy out there is not obliged to look at them to get to the comment button. No nasty surprises.

Youngest decided that she was tired of her long hair. It went down all the way to the bottom of her back. She couldn't sit on it, but that's about it. Over the course of five haircuts, she now has quite short hair...and is having fun with it...check out what she sported to school today....



For all of you where it is cold, here is a little reminder of spring...

I don't know what this is, but it sure has a lot of flowers.



Cherry trees, or apples or oranges...I am not sure honestly....



Finally, a little progress on the painting, I am actually working on it this morning as well, so it doesn't even look like that anymore...



Whew, now I'm off to walk the dog. A busy morning and it is only 11:01

Cheers!

Warning: eyeballs!

OK, you cannot say that you weren't warned.

Here's the eyeball for today's dissection.

This first photo is a back view....



Here's looking at you kid...



I walked through town with it is a little clear plastic bag. I was afraid to put it in with my shopping in case it popped.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Amazing Grace

Susan Aglukark singing Amazing Grace in Inuktituk.

The first time I heard this, Peter Gzowski played it on Morningside one morning while I was driving. I had to pull over to listen.

The images on the video make it even more amazing...and give it even more grace.



Sometimes I really miss Canada.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Flowers and paint and chile rellanos



I have got to get back to the schedule of posting earlier in the day....I am soooo sleepy.

What a lovely day....I am sorry to do this to all of you still in the depths of winter, enjoying it or not.....but today was GORGEOUS. We had all the windows open, the man and I bought some plants to put in the apartment, we had a hilarious time mailing a paella dish to my brother-in-law in Poland. Man those suckers are enormous.




I worked on Catalan.



I walked in the hills with the dog for two and a half hours, and I painted.

Nothing I am quite prepared to show yet...I think I finished two pieces, I need to look at them a little longer, and I am much further ahead with a third, the one inspired in the gallery with Eldest which I wrote about here, and I have done some sketching and draft painting work for the drawing I posted yesterday...I need to work out technique for painting the inside of that boat.

I also made the chile rellanos, boy those were good, not quite like I remembered, but YUMMY.

OK, roast green narrow peppers, preferably hot ones. Failing that, dry fry them in the pan like I did (no oven) and stick them in a bag. Let them sit a bit, if you successfully roasted them, take the skins off. If not, don't sweat it.

Cut cheese (literally here, not figuratively please), ideally some delicious Mexican cheese, but a strong cheddar, or Monterey Jack would be good. Slice it about half an inch thick.

Separate the yolks and whites of two eggs,(I made seven peppers, and probably should have had seven eggs) beat the eggs till they are frothy, fold the yolks in, or don't (I didn't, I forgot that part and them up in the hot pan...I ate them with a little salt and roasted sesame oil. Yum); add some flour (I put three tsp for two eggs).

Slit the peppers lengthwise, and a little T cross at the top and remove some of the seeds and pith, put in the cheese, and roll it in flour (I don't know why, I didn't and it was just fine thankyouverymuch). Now. Hold on here, first lay newspaper on the floor in front of the stove, then put a quarter inch of oil in a heavy skillet, cast iron if you've got one, and heat it up good and hot. I have no idea what the approved temperature for this sort of near deep frying is, but I figured good and hot, and it seemed to work. Pour in some of the egg mix into the pan, to batter the peppers, bang the peppers in on top of it, and pour the rest of the mix over it all. I put a lid on because it was spitting, and I really wanted the cheese to melt.

When it is getting brown on the bottom, turn it over, I did that plate-on-top-thing-and-flip cause it was all one mass. You may want to move the dog and kids out of the way before you start, cause there is a heck of a lot of hot oil dancing around while you do it. Another good reason for a cast iron skillet, no little plate-and-flip action is going to disturb it's presence...

Cook it a little longer,

Take it out drizzle on some hot sauce and feed it to the salivating children, but probably not the dog. Follow up with water and oranges.

Yummy.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I haven't touched paints since before December 20th!

...but I started again today.

I was in BCN this morning, slightly against the odds, the man twisted an ankle last night, and eldest turned her head quickly and had one of those twang-grab moments and now cannot move her neck properly and in quite uncomfortable. Nothing serious for either of them, they went off to work and school respectively. They are uncomfortable though.

However, I made it.

I got a few things, like a brand new paella dish...I am by no means a brilliant cook, and the man is doing most of the cooking right now, but I got a paella cookbook for myself just before Christmas, and the pan was required too. I also got one for my brother-in-law, now I have to mail it!

I don't seem to be able to stick to the topic this evening...

SO

I was in BCN shopping today, and I went by my FAVORITE art store here...it is almost as good as one of the ones I know in Toronto, but doesn't quite have the same dusty scent that summons up the possibility of unforeseen treasure.

I had decided that I would cough up and buy one sheet of large water colour paper. That stuff is some expensive, let me tell you...well...I got in there and fancy me, it was on sale! January is sale month in Catalonia....I got TWENTY sheets, a Euro twenty EACH!!!

I felt like a Charlie from the Chocolate factory, surprise money and sudden goodies!!!

Should have seen the smile on my face.

Wish I could have seen it to, but what the heck.

I hurried home and started on this.....



I hope you can see that...it is the drawing for the beginning of a new painting....it is a little faint because I don't want the pencil work to show through, and I beefed up the shadows as much as I could with my freebie download photo program...

Since a full half of the family is under the weather...tomorrow I'll...walk the dog in the mountains, cook, paint and study, maybe Sunday too!

*glee*

Oh, I just went and checked out the photo, that brown smear isn't there in real life...it is a crisp beautiful stretch of clean paper....

The anticipation.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Frankness

I'm starting off with two pictures, because it has been tooooooo long....first, well, I love this photo, if is from our trip to Andalusia...



I picked this up, and paid for it, in Seville...it is glass and amazing to me...



Today the munchkins were making and writing thank you cards. Well, for the last couple of days, but today was a bit of a deadline...I looked over one that youngest had made.

On the front she had drawn a five Euro bill.

Inside she had written:

MONEY

Thanks for the books!!!

Then she signed her name.

While this had a certain charming frankness, indeed I find it rather hilariously forthright while still entering into the spirit of the whole event, she was made to create a different card.

What would you think if you received this card?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A wee bit tired

You know, sometimes being a grown up isn't for pansies.

I am waiting to find out when this is all going to slow down a bit, and it just doesn't look like it's happening.

My schedule for work, now that the second woman is off for Mat leave is fairly dreadful, I have a million report cards to write, several school type events that are obligatory, the eyeball purchase, an influx of work from Canada, I am supposed to be trying to continue to study Catalan, and start Spanish, plus book tickets for March, get the girls Spanish passports - a process so bound with bureaucracy it makes my head spin - plus get both the man's and my Spanish drivers licence, another process fraught with international complication, then the twin nation tax issue is arising, and I have to get the pan-European health cards organised. Plus a raft of other nitty gritty activities, like buying new shoes for growing children, cork boards, tweezers blah blah blah...


Today alone we had plumbers in - three of them - to deal with a problem, plus the gas company to do a mandatory inspection, I taught for six hours, cut Youngest's hair for the fourth time in two days, and then made an emergency appointment at a hairdresser for her, the last style just wasn't working out, and we aren't cruisers in the Bahamas anymore...I have been to the market, the baker's (twice), a gestor - someone who specialises in dealing with bureaucracy, talk about a job residing on the edges of hell - researched the tax situation here, helped both girls with homework for both school and English, done dishes, cooked meals...though not dinner, that is the man's venue these days bless him....and done a load of laundry, which, now that I am writing, I remember is still in the machine getting stinky. Too darned bad.

I am plowing through it all, but sometimes....

Anyway, enough whinging...for the moment.

Can I just say that bureaucracy makes me crazy and every single simple little task requires hours of my time, and days to weeks of waiting?

Ok, 'nuff said.

No it's not, I need to say it again,

I hate bureaucracy.

On another note, while I was teaching the other day there was a reference in one of the books to Chile Rellanos, now if you have never had these, they are close on the heels to heaven.

OMGoodnessGraciousMe...

I got a craving on me that is fierce...deeply concerned, I did a google search and I think I came up with a recipe, and guess what, I don't need the oven!!! My only challenge will be to find the right type of cheese, Monterey Jack isn't a big seller around here, nor is a good cheddar, let alone a mediocre one.

Oh oh oh oh oh...

Now I just need to find a Mexican/South American grocery in BCN. There must be tons..

Then there is that Mexican frying cheese...have you ever tried that? Oh my oh my oh my oh my oh my oh my ,

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Report Cards

Well, I ordered my eyeball today, the lovely lady behind the counter was prepping a pig's ear for sale as we chatted, so I guess I shouldn't be too worried about all this. Oh, I can hardly wait for Monday. I think she also told me that they don't have cow eyeballs this week, but she should be able to get me a sheep's eye...that should do, don't you think?

On another note, and a less gory but more boring one,

I thought I would have a little breathing room after the exam, but no...report cards are due for all of my students on Friday; that would be in three days; in Catalan. Lordy lordy....

Back to the drawing board.

Actually, to bandy about another cliché or two, I have to go and put my nose to the grind stone and start churning these out, or I'll be a dead duck.

Bona Nit....


I just looked at the post, I have to slow down enough I can start tossing some photos back up there again...no time no time no time no time.....

Monday, January 21, 2008

You will not believe this...not at all.........

I am going to have the most exciting Catalan practice. You will never ever top this, not one of you. Not in a million years, and if you can, I have to hear it.

Eldest is doing a dissection next week.

A cow's eye.

I must provide the eye ball.

I have to go and order a cow's eyeball for Monday morning. Then I will have to go and pick it up, and deliver it to school.

WTF???

I also have to provide a gown to wear for the process, a tiny cork board, a cloth of unknown style and substance, ten thumbtacks, tweezers and a craft knife.

I am sorry, but can't the school supply this? Aren't we trying to be environmentally friendly here? Reduce our impact on the planet? Yet I have to go out and buy all of this stuff, as does every parent every year?????

OMG.

Thank god it's not a fetal pig.

The image of finding one of those boggles the mind.



PS. Did the final oral today, it went reasonably well I think. Results on the 30th. Cross your fingers and toes for me please.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I feel like such a loser.

Ok, I don't know how many of you this has ever happened to, but it is the second time for me.

My ear is completely plugged with a big yucky mess of ear wax. I can't hear a darned thing, I keep shouting 'what' at the kids, and it feels like some vindictive insect spent the night jamming himself firmly and disgustingly in my ear canal along with several of his closest friends.

That's how I woke up this morning, God only know what happened last night, and YES, I stuck my finger in my ear this morning to try and find out what is going on, indeed I have about a thousand times today because it is driving me NUTS!

And YES, I know. Nothing in your ear smaller than your elbow. So don't tell me I should have left well enough alone.

I know.

You walk around with Winnie-ther-Poo wedged half inside your head, and don't touch, go on, I challenge you.

Now back in Canada, my lovely Doctor hosed out my ear with warm water and out came a really gross soupy mess, and low and behold I could hear, and hear well. If felt a little chilly afterwards, but bless me, I felt better.

The doctor here says he cannot do that, we need to use some fancy vacuum thingy (god forbid, a Hoover attached to my head), and of course it is only available in the next town and not until Monday.

That would be the day of my oral Catalan exam. The one I won't be able to hear.

Ho hum.

The Doc told me (I think he told me, the man only spoke Spanish, which I still find a struggle) that I should drip water into my ear three times a day and in a week or so I'll be good as new. Now let me tell you I want to get pee-wee plug-my-head out of there a great deal sooner than that Thankyouverymuch.

SO

Like everyone else out there, I did a little internet search about my problemo....seems I have some options, indeed that hosing out the ears with water thing that the Canadian Doc did is quite the approved home remedy...as is softening the goopy, well not goopy, rather hard and lumpy mess with a little oil, preferably olive oil. I swear, they are going to discover that olive oil fixes EVERYTHING.

Are you enjoying this post yet or are you all off gagging somewhere in the background never to return?

Anywhoooo,

I went in and used a handy-dandy give-the-kids-the-correct-dose syringe thingy to spray some water around, with extremely limited results..except that eldest swore she is never ever taking pain killer from THAT syringe again...

Now I am perched deafly on the couch, with my head tilted to one side waiting for the newly applied olive oil to work it's magic. Then maybe I will be free to hear again, and I may understand the instructions at the exam on Monday.

I am such a loser,

it is a wonder I can type at all.

I did however manage to post a new slide show with a geometric kind of theme from the trip south. It is on that side bar, and maybe, if you click on it, it will get large enough to see it without a microscope...all three of you left at the end of this disgusting post.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tech troubles, a saint and some horses

I'm having trouble logging in and posting....I will try for another post that I wanted to load...sorry for the absence.

Oh my goodness, so far so good...I got the pictures loaded....

It was St. Antoni Abat's day yesterday, the patron saint of animals and farmers.

There was a bit of a festa as there are enough farming families here still that this remains important. Horses were ridden through the village, we retrieved our kids early from school to see....

The photos aren't the best, I had forgotten to give youngest snack so she decided that she would rather eat that see horses. She must have been hungry.

From the Spanish style....


A rather rougher horse...

well pony.... actually, city girl here, I think that would be some kind of colt/filly/foal kinda thing, no?

I thought she or he (honestly, I have no idea) was kind of pretty...


How does she get a dark mane with white roots on a white horse....Maybe there is a hores hair dresser here as well?


Are we in Colorado?


Anyway, it was kind of fun, and decidedly neat. You could also take all of your pets down to the plaça and get them generally blessed, Chuck didn't make it what with the crowds and the timing, we'll have to hope that their proximity to the house will do.

Lets see if this will publish.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

*sigh*

Sheesh.

Two more down. I have no idea how they went, the writing section is always a toss up...I hope I passed that, and the oral comprehensions...the two obnoxious old Spanish ladies (oosl's) managed to talk through part of it.

I was very good and did not get up and slap them silly. Mostly because I would have missed part of the video, but oh how richly they deserved it.

I was also quite distracted by the fact that the interviewee spoke Spanish, which I do not understand. I can only presume that they designed the questions so that I didn't need to know what he said. It was an inherent problem with the exam though, and definitely gave an advantage to the Spanish speakers in the room.

I was also a little peeved that the teacher didn't show till 10:10 for a 10:00 exam, and then went away for another five minutes, then told us we had to move to another room, then then then, we didn't start writing till 10:26. I looked.

I hate lateness.

Anywhoooo,

That is over.

Till Monday, when I have the oral expression exam, as in they get me to talk and see if I make any sense.

I am not studying tonight. Much.

Blech.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Short post...

Exam day one of three is down...that includes the first two of the five sections.

The grammar went better than I had hoped, but I still think I might have only gotten a 40%, which for me with straight up pure grammar, isn't too bad.

Reading comprehension, I might have gotten an 80. The text was a piece of cake; the questions, however, were tougher.

60 is a pass.

Tomorrow.... oral comprehension - a probable solid pass - and written expression - a hopefully marginal pass. We'll see.

The exam is worth either 60 or 40 percent of the final grade. I should have reasonable marks in the class work...big mouth, good attendance, and a facility at individual exercises...it's the synthesis that gets me.

Gak.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pig pics!!!

Here they are! It is a shoulder and leg, as in the front part of a pig. You can see that it came vacuum packed in heavy plastic, with that white cloth bag over top. The side you can see is the side that was attached to the rest of the pig. I am told that you have to put a cloth over any section that you have cut, hence the white bag.


Here is the other side, complete with some armpit hair, or is that forearm hair?


And the foot.


I put that little blue paper shoe jobby back on it when I was carving away at it, I'm not squeamish, just a little tiny bit, well, yes I am, a little tiny bit squeamish. Not so's much as I won't eat it though. As far as I can tell, you don't normally eat the fat an skin. I am not sure I want to anyway.



Look at that nose in action. Chuck is well aware that something has opened up on the counter, something really good...his sniffer was working overtime.

I could not seem to slice it thinly enough, so it was a mite, um, toothsome. If any of you with more experience of these jambons could send a few hints our way, we'd be grateful. We don't have a leg holder, and I have no idea where to put it so the dog couldn't get at it, ditto with hanging it, so we currently have it resting in that dish drying rack thingy over the sink....lots of air circulation anyway.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A pig leg!!! Psych.

I managed to brave the pig leg today.

We went for a gorgeous lunch at a friend's house and we ate an entire hake...and vichyssoise...it was sooooo good. The man made an apple pie. Boy it's been a long time since I had one of those. He can make pie.

So, after the man and youngest had a little nap, youngest with her head on the enormous Webster's dictionary that she had taken to bed to read (!?!) we were a mite peckish. Since vegetarian eldest had gone off today for a six day ski trip, we decided this was the day to attack the pig.

Here's what it looked like...

or not.

Seems blogger won't upload the photos so we will all have to wait for another day. D*mn it.

What to do? What to do?

I could post about Catalan grammar - can you say Booooorrrrrriiiiiing??

I could....write a poem? I think not.

I could post a rant about blogger. Been there, done that, I'm still waiting for the t-shirt.

I could just call it a day and go to bed.

I tried to load them one more time. It loads it all the way up on that little green bar, and then they just don't show up and I never get the little 'done' button.

Ah well, maybe I'll show you my pig leg tomorrow.

Now isn't that something to look forward to.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I hate grammar (today)

tired....

estic cansada (ibid)

I studied far to little, but had a lively day. That was a typo, I meant to write lovely, but once it appeared? It's more accurate.

I spoke and listened to Catalan for about five hours today.

My brain hurts.

I studied too little.

Conditionals suck hard rocks.

Subjunctives are worse.

Don't get me started on masculine and feminine, plural and singular, nouns, adjectives and articles, all agreeing.

Day one of the exam is in three days.

Blech.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I hate multi-tasking

There is something about the culture here that leaves me feeling very conflicted. I find it weird, interesting, frustrating and good all at once. Here's what happens. I find myself waiting to talk to someone. They will not so much as acknowledge that I exist until they are finished with what they are doing, or talking to whomever they are talking.

Now you see on one had, this just seems strange and rude. For instance some of the women at work do it, and I, or anyone else up to and including potential clients, am left standing there, obviously waiting to talk to them, and they just don't even seem to notice. They finish up with what they are doing and then look up. Sometimes after quite a while, I am counting in minutes here.

I have to admit, I find it rude, but at the same time, I have to admire their determination to finish what the heck they are doing before someone else dumps something in their lap.

This respect for what they are doing and the intention to finish it before they move on I have to admire. I think many cultures take multi-tasking WAY too far and in recent years I have been on a campaign to reduce my multi-tasking load, both on a moment to moment basis and on a week by week basis. I will now go so far as to tell people up front that I cannot get to something for even as much as days if something large is looming. I hate it when my focus gets too scattered. You know those days when you have a list of weird and disconnected activities and by the time you get to bed you aren't even sure of your name anymore, let alone what you did that day?

This behaviour does however also frustrate me, as sometimes I only need their attention for a millisecond, for instance to show them that I am borrowing their scissors, and I have to stand there ENDLESSLY waiting.

Not everyone does it by a long shot, and let me tell you, these folks multi-task, but I haven't decided yet whether it is rude or admirable.

I am kind of leaning towards rude. While it is good to respect your need to finish a task at hand, there should be some sort of signal to the person waiting. That classic, "just please wait a moment" signal, the upheld finger/one second sign would do nicely.

Helllooooooooo???? Am I invisible????

ps. One of these days I want to get a couple more albums of photos together from the trip to Andalusia...that will have to wait a little while till, you know, after the Catalan exam and also some sleep.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Time time time

I may have blogged about this before, at this point I have no idea. If I did it was so long ago that I don't remember.

Time, in my humble Einstein-free world, is NOT linear. No indeed. There are days, mornings particularily, when it stretches out in the most comfortable and relaxing way, and then there are days when it makes sudden weird and distressing jumps forward.

Today was one of them.

At five after eight I was sitting at the table with the girls, eating breakfast and talking when...I swear to you...no more than five minutes later, I looked at my watch, as I removed it for a shower and it was quarter to nine.

Now how in the name of all that is sweet and wonderful did that happen. Were we all simply in suspended animation for a mere 35 minutes???

This is not a single happening either.

It was bad. I had not been to the bakery that morning so no bread for the snacks at school. Eldest hadn't eaten at all, youngest bizarrely escaped the warp and was completely ready, I was half way ready for the shower.

T minus 10 minutes.

The worlds fastest wash. I don't remember if I did my teeth, but running my tongue around in here, I might have. We RAN out the door, to the bakery, where the kids completely scored with chocolate croissants for snack. ("Mom, can we be this late every day?")

Got them to school only four minutes late, which here is in fact very nearly on time, and we would have only been about one minute if I hadn't had to write eldest a note in Catalan explaining my entire theory of the non-linearity of time so she didn't get in trouble for being late.

Then I could breathe, and hurry over to work. No wait, I couldn't. Eldest had woken up with an eye glued closed, so I had to run to the medical center to make an appointment, but I didn't have her health card with me and I had stupidly forgotten it in the flap, so I ran home, got it, made the appointment and THEN ran to work. I got there at nine minutes after nine. Here you see, time was mercifully stretching out for me a bit...kids were at school at four minutes after, a freaking miracle in my books, and in the next five minutes I went home, went to the medical center, waited in line, made the appointment in Catalan (always dicey) and ran to work.

Utterly impossible even in a town as small as this.

My oh my.

Then there are those sayings like, "I spent a month at my ex-boyfriend's parent's house one afternoon."

See there is anecdotal evidence to back up my theory.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Complex household maintenance.

I love my family.

Every single last one of them.

Completely.

However, we have in our house a mechanical contraption that completely stymies them all. None of them can maintain it, though they can all operate it. There are models that are infinitely more complex, and we are lucky that ours is so simple to maintain. Simplicity is something I ADORE.

I am the only one who services this thing. The man will deny this. I have my doubts.

Just call me handy! Capable! Knowledgable! A citizen of the world.


Do you want to know what it is? Are you itching to know???

Here it is:






I should count my blessings, at least they all operate the thing, but really...am I alone out here in always finding the TP sitting on the back of the john when there is a perfectly serviceable holder????

Geez.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sometimes I astonish myself.

Now I had one of those moments today when you suddenly realise how little you understand yourself and how much you actually run on auto-pilot.

Well, maybe it would be better to say 'how little I understand myself' rather than you. Maybe I am just particularly un-mindful of these things, but somehow I think I am not alone when suffering auto- surprise. I mean really, there are some god-awful multiple billion of us Homo Sapien Sapiens crashing around down here, I can't be that unique.

Anyway, normally I finish my e-mails with 'cheers' thinking that it sounds cheery, is easier to spell than sincerely, less formal than yours truly (also kind of a pain to spell) and just all-round friendly sounding.

Then today, while writing, the penny finally dropped. We use this phrase as a toast, you know like a polite form of "down the hatch".

Now that's all find and dandy, except that I don't drink alcohol; for all sorts of reasons that would be boring to elucidate here. Most basically because I never wanted to. There's more, but that'll do.

Anyway, it struck me as odd that a teetotaller is signing off on e-mails with a toast, and I found it odd that I had never put the two together. I guess I read it somewhere and thought it had a nice tone....

Now I am not sure what to do....

Those of you who I e-mail can wait, watch and see....

Or you could offer suggestions.....

Maybe I should come up with something all my own, a unique sign off

or something Catalan,

or

Martian.

I wonder what they said in Star Treck.

Maybe I'll close with 'Beam me up Scotty!'

It doesn't make much sense though.

Then again, neither does this post.



Night-o

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mish mash.

Stepped back into real life today, complete with errands, chores, and tasks that couldn't be completed because of opening hours, or rather non-opening hours. The biggest problem was the Canadian consulate who seemed to be taking the Spanish working hours rather further to heart than the Spanish do. Only the schools were out today, and the consulate. Most stores here are open from 10 - 1, so is the consulate, but the stores are also open in the evening, not so the consulate. Hmmmm.

I have also come to the calming conclusion that it doesn't matter if I pass or fail this d*mn Catalan exam, it matters most that I am learning the language, I was getting kind of stressed about it all.

The husband and I also kind of chickened out tonight, as part of the man's enormous Christmas hamper was an entire pig's leg and shoulder cured into a prosciutto like foodstuff. We are slightly intimidated about how to tackle the thing...most folks here have a special holder for these, the other alternative is to simply hang it by the ankle. This of course will lead Chuckster into ever greater feats of daring to try to eat it....

Oh, I failed to mention Chuck's fall from grace over Xmas...you see, the day after Xmas the turkey, complete with lots of meat, was left on the counter to warm before we eat it. Can you see where this is heading? You're right. There was a crash of breaking platter, we ran in thinking one of the children might be hurt and there was fuzzball noshing as fast as he could....BAD DOG! No turkey leftovers for us.

He also made off with a large block of stinky cheese, his personal favorite...this though, unlike the one he stole at our friend's house in Toronto, was wrapped so he was caught before he could so much as puncture the plastic. I think stinky cheese is his favorite thing in the world.

I met a man in the hills today who was walking his dog. I have met him before and he is a friend of a friend. Every day he traipses up and down all of these hills on the rough and rocky paths, at the age of 90. Let's hope I can do the same at his age. He even brings a saw and removes any branches or trees that have the temerity to grow or fall in the path. He was lovely.

Well, that was a stunningly random post, I think it is time for bed. The man and I haven't been sleeping too well the last couple of nights...all of a sudden in the middle of the night it gets hot...and no it isn't that, it happens to us both, also we have a small mosquito problem, actually kind of a big one, there are a bunch of them flying around and tormenting us at night. Could someone please mention to them that it is JANUARY! Maybe they are turning up the heat at night to hatch their eggs then flying around sucking blood in the torrid temperatures, before re-adjusting the thermostat and going dormant somewhere for the day.

Grrrr.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Piggies and Pics

The man went walking in the hills with Chuck today and they saw a mere six wild boar! The largest, and first, was about twice Chuck's size, and they got smaller as they went down the line. There was a jogger in the area and he saw seven, one crossed lower down....

Chuck quite sensibly backed down the road...he knows when he can't win. Good thing too, they can be quite vicious...the man didn't have a camera so no pics, I was snoozing at the time....

Now snow is not a novelty for most of you, but we haven't seen any in five years, until a couple of days ago in the Sierra Nevadas behind Granada...Chuck had fun too....

So here are a few of the pics....well, kind of a lot, but what the heck, you don't have to look.... one of the nice thing about a blog is that I don't know if you skimmed, unlike when Great Uncle Welber gives his slide show of his trip to Sudbury, you can just skip to the end.....

These bulls are enormous, and were originally billboard advertising for some brand or other of liquor....they started to take them down, but people liked them so much they stopped. One of the interesting things for us is that the bull is also a symbol for Spain, you don't see any of these signs in Catalonia, or at least I haven't...I think maybe they would be taken down for them.


In a lot of the Andalusian towns we went through they used these straw mats over the windows, I thought they were fascinating and unusual, and in their own way beautiful...


Andalusia was incredibly varied geographically, and the man and I were particularily enchanted by a plain near where we were staying, here we are coming out of a higher hill town looking down into a very large plain (no sh*t?) I loved how the light was different every single time we came through it, and all the birds, and there were almost no people. Most of the houses are derilect, and uninhabited, I assume that the farm families have moved to the town and the farmer commutes out to the land to work.


This is in Seville in part of the lovely maze of streets and alleys that make up part of the old town...many of the houses are painted white in defense of the awesome heat, it sits well over 40 for a good part of the summer....and spring and into the fall.....

That's why we visited in the winter.

A dome in Granada....


Part of the Alhambra...


More of the Alhambra, under the Moors the women lived in seperate apartments on the upper floor, and these wooden screens were put in the window to let in air while still shielding them from view.....

This is part of the Real Alcazar in Seville, the Royal Palace, the Moorish influence remains strong....


The bath for one of the monarch's mistresses...quite a tub, and since it is below ground, would have been lovely and cool all year round....


This is in Cadiz, there is a small island off the end of the peninsula on which Cadiz rests, initially used to keep Venetian sailors with the plague seperated, they built the first chapel....


Streams of mountains running off into the distance, there are plenty of big plains in Andalusia, but a whole lot of mountains too....it was well designed, big enough to expand beyond your horizon, giving the impression of infinite space, but compactly placed so you can drive from mountains to seemingly endless plains in an hour or two...


Are we in Canada here????


This one looks like the UK, but is also part of Andalusia...

Mooo.

I didn't get a shot of the free range acorn fed pigs that go into the prosciutto style ham that is revered in Spain, you can buy some for a couple of hundred Euros a kilo if you try...

This guy was out hunting on the plains....the crops are off the fields so all the mice and birds are squashed into the culverts and waterways, it must make good hunting, there were lots of hawks...


Acores, was stunning, and very precipitous....


The Barbary Apes in Gibraltar, they will sit on your head or hands, but are still wild and can do quite a bit of damage, we had no problems...


Now there were freighters anchored outside the port waiting to refuel with duty free fuel, but it was blowing STINK, and this guy, along with several others was anchored stern on to the land only one of his own boat lengths off....if his anchor drags.....they must have the engines running and full crew on duty at all times....

Not a comfy berth....in front of him is basically the Atlantic.

The cliffs of Gibraltar...


The Mosque in Cordoba, what I found most fascinating here was how the Christians, after they expelled the Muslims, walked right in, built a cathedral in the middle of this enormous and beautiful mosque, slapped a few Jesus and Mary statues down and called the job done.

Cordoba was one of the few places that enjoyed long and peaceful relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims at that time.

Here is what had been the niche facing Mecca, a vital ingredient in every mosque, and I just read was adapted from the Zoroastrian tradition of having a fire at the front of the temple in front of which prayers are altered. Forgive me if I have my facts wrong here, I read it in Catalan. There is no fire now of course, and the niche, among many purposes of which I am sure I do not know, serves to direct everyone's gaze towards Mecca the direction in which prayers are offered.


More of the Mosque in Cordoba...


The plains again, on a sunnier day,


A hawk in flight....


Chuck, was it his first encounter with snow? We don't know, he was pretty calm, then again he was doped on Dramamine and miserable in the car...he was pretty happy here though...except when the kids through snow in his face, but who can blame him.


View from the Sierra Nevadas...and of them too I guess....we went up almost 2000 meters, which is about 6000 feet by my crude mental math, I suspect it might be slightly more, but what the hey....


More mountains in Andalusia...this part is very dry, you can see the snow blowing off the top of that mountain/mesa there...a lot of westerns were actually filmed in Spain, in Andalusia, and as we drove through them you could certainly see why...those spaghetti westerns? They were actually paella westerns....


More mountains, you know what? I like mountains, a lot.


Here was our local three kings festival...the local kids give their letters asking for what they want, and the kings bring it overnight....


*Whew*

You made it, or not.

There ya have it....I may post more, or not....