Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I was about to post

about how annoying it is when you have a fantastic idea for a post during the day, and then you can't remember what you wanted to post about when it comes time to write it.

And then I remembered what I wanted to write about.

Estava a punt de explicar com em molesta quan he tingut un idea fantàtsic durant el dia, però a l'hora d'escriure aquí, no el puc recordar.

Llavors, he recordar el que volia explicar-vos!

I was walking down the street today on my way to work and ahead of me was an couple, grandparents I believe, and a child between them, and they were playing the game we always fondly called 'one, two, three, weeeeeee!!!!'  This involves the child between two adults, holding a hand of each, hanging back a little till, on the count of three, they swing the child forward in a big bound and a WEEEEE and the child lands on their feet with a shout of joy and a cry of AGAIN!!!!

Estava passejant cap a on treballo quan he trobat un parell, avis crec, i un nen entremig.  Estaven jugant un joc que sempre vam anomenar, afectuosament, 'un, dos, tres, weeeeeee!!!!!'  Que heu de fer és, amb el nen o la nena entremig, cadascú agafant un mà, el nen camina una mica enrere i tots compten UN, DOS, TRES....i quan arriben a tres, el nen saltar i els adults li gronxen cap endavant a on arriba als peus, cridant WEEEEE i de seguida, UN ALTRE COP!!!!!

It made me feel so happy to see this child having such a good time, and the grandparents too.  I remember playing it as a child and ADORING it, and playing it with my kids and loving it almost as much, till my arms got tired.  The adults do always tire first with this game, no?

Me'n alegro tant veient aquest nen desfuitant tant, i tan content.  Els avis també.  Recordo jugant aquest joc quan era petita i estava ENCANTADA, i també recordo jugant aquest joc amb les meves nenes i estava quasi tant contenta com quan era jo que saltava, però no exactament perquè els braços els cansent quan és tu gronxant.  Els adultes sempre cansen primer amb aquest joc, no?

Arrived at work with a big fat smile.

Arribava al meu lloc de treball amb un somriu molt gran.

Monday, January 30, 2012

back to the real world

My sister and her family were here for the weekend, and it was wonderful.  Now we're back to real life...kids sick at home, work, blah blah blah...though I have to say that the real world ain't all that bad.  A nap, lovely food, a walk in the mountains (Youngest just accused me of bragging, maybe she's right.)

Either way, here's hoping you're having a good Monday.

.....later......much later.......

can I just say that I am sick and tired of being good and going to bed at a sensible time so that I don't get ill when all around me are failing?  Know what?  I really really want to stay up half the night and paint.

Not go to bed.

Wonder if they could pretend I don't exist tomorrow and I can just go up there and work.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Camp Nou

Went for a visit to Camp Nou today.  That was amazing.  For such an enormous stadium, it really doesn't seem very big. Skydome in TO seems MUCH bigger.  Camp Nou is much more vertical, and that may account for a lot of the sense that it isn't so big.  It just doesn't sprawl out the way that NA stadiums do?

Not so sure.

I am sure that I am ridiculously tired, which accounts for the dearth of posts...and the crappiness of this one.

More later.  My sister and her family are visiting and it is super fun, and super busy!

Hope you're having a good one,



Friday, January 27, 2012

This is funny

Sadly, I have no idea of the original source.  If you came up with it?  BRILLIANT!

click to enlarge

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Variable ability

Weird isn't it.

One day you can do something very well, and the next?  Meh.

Or vice versa.

I think anyone who has learned a language can attest to this.  Some days, you just can't seem to get it right; others, it just flows along.  Athletes too can certainly agree, there are days when you are just on.  I find the same in drawing.  Yesterday, seems I wasn't able to draw anything competently. Nothing.  Not that I was beating myself up, but really, basics such as proportion and formation were. not. happening.  Running however seems to have been.

This morning?  Drawing, smooth, effortless, easy and lovely.  Not trying running today however, so I'll have to let you know about speaking instead -

Odd though isn't it. Something good for people to recognise consciously though too, we all have our on days and off days, and it is just that way.  Kids too.

If someone could figure out why, and help us get to on days when we need them?  Wouldn't that be great.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I have discovered a great truth

This happened when I went running today.

I know, you read that correctly, I f.i.n.a.l.l.y.  went running again after MONTHS!  Nothing like being surrounded by extreme and not so extreme illness for a couple of weeks to get you focused on maintaining your health!


I have indeed discovered a great truth.  There is a trick to enjoying running and it is this:

Keep your expectations very very very low.  If you go out convinced that you are going to be utterly hopeless and pathetic, you are utterly delighted by anything at all that you do achieve, and you come home with a thrilling sense of your own ability, even if your efforts were kinda sad.

Just keep assuming you're far worse than you could possibly be, and everything else comes as a pleasant surprise.

Neat, eh?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

constraint and creativity

A while ago, I was taking this course on Material and Techniques of Post-war Abstract Expressionist Painting from Moma. The instructor for the course spent quite a bit of time talking about studio rules. Yesterday I was listening to this video from Vi Hart.  She talks about 'loose sort of rules' when drawing/doodling.  This morning I was listening to this podcast from 99% Invisible.  Here he was talking about constraints.

By studio rules, the instructor was discussing how art is often made within a self-imposed set of rules. Some of them you can see for yourself, such as in this Rothko painting at Moma; or indeed, any of these.  You could say that his studio rule was for largely rectangular forms created by painting and over paintings with thin translucent layers of paint.  The edges of the forms should be loose, and I am sure that there were also rules about colour choice and order.  For instance I assume that brighter whiter colours formed more of the bottom layers in order to achieve the glow.

A set of rules.

Vi Hart talks about how a set of rules, that are very simple, such as lines from a central point every 100º or every 122º or every 180º.  Or a simple rule that creates the fibonacci series.
The first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two (from Wiki)

So for example the sequence goes 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21....

What it creates though is spirals, like in the cauliflower below, which is a wildly exaggerated spiral that is normally there, or pine cones, flowers etc etc etc

So this simple rule is a constraint.

In 99% invisible, the question is more of a time and physical space restraint.

99% Invisible-45- Immersive Ideal by Roman Mars

Why, you might ask yourself am I rattling on and on and on about restraint?  I think it is an interesting route to access creativity, to funnel it and to get it to flow.  As I posted a while ago, I feel like my painting this year has not really been moving, it is here and there but unco-ordinated.  I don't have a studio rule.  I have imposed these on myself before, the canvas a day project, the Immigration series...but nothing so far this year, and I think this is what I am missing, although I have temporarily restarted the canvas a day to get ANY sort of rule going.  I have a rule to spend a half hour each day drawing from the Artwork of the day blog/post from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

Still searching for that rule it would seem, though I think this year it is going to have to do with straight lines.

It does make me ponder about the relationship between constraint and creativity, no?

Monday, January 23, 2012


The week has indeed begun on a rough note, and looks to continue that way.  Soooooo I bring you a saved post from a few weeks ago.  Hope you're having a good one.

For Xmas, my Dad got a book called Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  I nabbed it and read the first 6 chapters, but it was a bit of a slog with everything that was going on, and I will have to have another go at it later.  He knows how to flog a dead horse.

Kahneman's basic premise in the book is that we have two basic ways of thinking, the first is a fairly automatic rapid response thought process, what you engage if you look at a piece of art and decide if you like it or not; what you engage when you answer 2+2=4

The second type of thinking actually forces us to engage consciously, for instance when you have to solve 27 x 32 = ???  for example, or when you are analyzing a book.  When you engage with a piece of work fully.

As a teacher, one of the hardest things to do is to get students into system 2.  Work sheets appear to do this.  The students are silent and processing work.  The problem is that this is only one type of system 2 work.  If you think about it, we all know that this is not the highest type of system 2 thought.  Sure, we've all filled out worksheets that test whether we have read the text, that ask stupid questions that require you to look back and reread.  You need some quiet and concentration for this, but it is not truly engaging.  Higher system 2 thought, which I am not sure that Kahneman approaches or differentiates, is that level of concentration that makes time disappear.  When you are engaged in a piece of work and erupt again unaware that hours have passed.  This is difficult to achieve in a class, to set up an atmosphere that allows the students to truly engage 'system 2'.

In the first chapters I read, Kahneman did not distinguish between these different types of system 2 thought, mental business and mental engagement.  When I get my hands on a copy, I am hoping to find that he does.

My second hope is that he will clarify that it is not always such a clear separation.  We can all feel the mental difference as we gear up to solve 27 x 32, as opposed to the snap ease of 2+2.  There is however a sliding scale of engagement.  He uses the example that chess masters will, with System 1, the 2+2 system, play the first several moves of a game in a way that would require the rest of us to fully engage in system 2 if we could even do that.  A reasonable example, but not a wildly accessible one.  Driving a car comes to mind, when you first get behind the wheel, for most of us I would think, it is a full on System 2 highly concentrated, possibly white knuckled (for the passenger as well) engagement.  As your skills improve, more and more of the tasks get handed over to system 1, you no longer have to think about where the brake pedal is, or how to use a steering wheel.  Gradually a sense of time opening up appears as more of the requirements can be completed in an rapid automatic way by system 1.  Eventually, driving becomes so automatic that we barely think about it at all - with System 2 - and therein lies danger, particularly for newer drivers who have shifted the skill to System 1, but do not have a depth of experience there to provide good decision making.

It becomes clearer how much this has happened when you go to drive in another country where the street signs are unfamiliar and the road layout and driving styles are not your own, suddenly you need to engage system 2 to manage what is normally an auto-pilot activity.

Another example is learning a foreign language.  Trying to speak and understand it is, at first, a full on System 2 process, laborious, slow and engaging. As time passes, things speed up, more and more structures and phrases become automatic and things shift down to system 1.  But even when a certain degree of fluency is acheived, like my Catalan at this point, it still requires a higher engagement of system 2.  Even listening to a simple text requires a higher level of engagement than listening to a language either acquired in childhood, or one fully acquired.  But full engagement?  No.  More like system 2 focussing a bit.

These are two examples of thought processes that blur the lines between Kahneman's clear cut system 1 and 2.  I am itching to get my hands on the book and look at whether he explores these regions or not, because I think that these aspects provide more depth and interest than a simple two system concept and also more closely mirror the reality of our thought processes.

Looking forward to reading it.

Hoping he goes rich with this rather than plays it easy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh frabjulous day!

Up at 6am!!!  and it was a maaaaarvelous day!

We walked for 5 hours, Catalan timing......started walking a little before 8 am, had esmorza at about 10, and went on till 2:30.....we couldn't figure out why they were all going so fast at the end, and then came to the (accurate) conclusion that we were the only ones who had packed any lunch, and they all hoped to be back in time to eat at home!  Normally at around 3pm, and they were HUNGRY!!!!

We did about 20K

and it was wonderful.  Exactly what I needed.  Good climbing, good descending and quite a bit of flat at the end.  Liked the climbing best.

Here's a few random picks.  The camera seems to be over-exposing these days, can no longer manage the Spanish sun, I may have to look into this a bit.....

Here you go though...

Like the graffiti?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A tough week

You know it's been a rough one when you find yourself on Friday night with absolutely NOTHING going on in your head.  Comedians joke that men do this a lot, I don't know about that, but I don't.  Friday night though?  Like someone flicked off a switch.

We had, this last week, a ridiculous amount of serious illness where I work.  I don't talk about my work on here, but let me just say that out of the four administrators/owners/heads all four were out at the local hospital with an immediate family member at one point this week, all that the same time.  Indeed, for a while, all together.

One of those has recovered and the issue is dealt with, all but the pills.  The others?  Still in hospital, still very very ill.

There has been, as a direct result of this, a great deal of absenteeism amongst the directing/teaching staff.  I have largely been taking over these roles with the admin lady whose family member was a quick turnaround.  She hasn't been with us that long, but she's a dream.

On top of that, both girls have been sick all week, Youngest went down Monday night, Eldest, Tue night.  I didn't have an option of getting sick, and so far haven't.  They had/have a bug, lay around a lot, ate little and had no overt symptoms other than nausea (unproductive thankfully) and exhaustion.  Youngest is on the road up, but still runs out of puff at the top of the stairs.  Eldest is still staggering.  The lack of food hasn't helped of course, and I have been cooking up a storm, when not at work filling in classes and finding substitutes.  Thank goodness for applesauce, chicken noodle soup and crackers.  Keeps the world rolling around.  Strangely corn nuts have been going down well too, weird eh?

Next week doesn't look to be fixing to be a whole lot better, and it is scaring me into getting a physical booked for all of us.

The up side?  Kids are getting better, we all have free health care here - not like that poor skier's family - and the man and I are going walking tomorrow.   Better than that, the girls are well enough for us to go.

Let em do the homework when we're not there.  Much more peaceful.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fractal broccoflower

Check this out!  I got it in the market.

This babies got it all, fractals and Fibonacci spirals!

And vitamines.  Mmmmm.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The cake I'm glad we made for ourselves only.

Youngest and I decided to make a cake the other day, and it was a little more involved than we had planned.  It was a cake we had made before, from Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford's Homebaking cook book.  Delicious and simple and wonderful.

Except, we took it out of the oven too soon.  Youngest checked it for doneness at the allotted time, but I didn't double check her and she isn't tooooo experienced at it yet.  Later, once they'd cooled and the other things we had to make were out of the oven, we discovered the problem and put them back in.  Sadly, we remembered to put the temp back to what we needed, but cakes don't cook well if you try and grill them, whatever the temp.  I tested them for doneness this time, and they seemed fine.  Out again, cooled again, and raw at the bottom.


Solution?  Put them back in the pans, upside down and bake them again.


Ugly, and kinda cookie crispy in places, but done.


Still glad we didn't have to serve it to any of our foody friends.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Slack and floppy

That's how things have been rolling around here, not back into the routine since the break, indeed not really this year at all.

We've been rolling with some stuff and that snow in the little snow-scene ball is still kinda floating around, so....

running, gotta get happening again.  We've had a really vicious dog on my route in the fall, who seems to have gone away, and then a dead goat on the path.....and while I'm not happy about washing the dog when he's rolled in poop, I just don't want to go to dead goat, but now it seems that someone has FINALLY hauled it away, so my running route is back!!!  Running on the road is like death for me SO BORING, and this is by far the flattest mountain route we can find.  If you're reading this Kate, we walked the first part of it together the other day.  Did I mention that?  I met Kate and her man and her three dogs!  SEPARATE POST ALERT!

So...the door is open again to getting my running mojo mojoing...my shoes keep looking at me accusingly, but I didn't know how to solve it.  Oh...I just got another good idea too.....an all downhill run, though maybe that's not such a good idea, that's how I hurt my butt last year.

ANYWAY, drawing and painting is coming in sporadic bursts.  I get a big idea and great things happen.  I feel this year like I'm not painting at all, but I look at what I've produced and it's pretty cool but steady it ain't and that makes me sad.  I've got this cool studio space that makes me happy simply being in it, and I'm not getting here like I want to.

Discipline Organisation is needed.

So, the drawing a day is being reinstated.  Half hour of drawing in the morning before I get out of bed.....and canvas a day is back.  Temporarily, it isn't what I really ultimately want to be doing, but I've got to get the system ticking again, and this might be the push start I need.

I don't know about you other creatives out there, but the act of creating spawns ideas and further work, and a lag in movement, and I do think I mean movement, leads to mental atrophy as well.  I come back and don't know where to start.

So!  here's to disappearing dead goats and drawing in bed and making something every single frickin day.



Monday, January 16, 2012

How to avoid Alzheimer's

We can all be sure that my memory will be with me for at least a week longer after this evening's efforts.  The music group I go to to keep my Catalan in trim decided this was the week for a movie.  Lovely.  It was in French.  I have not thought in, spoken or meaningfully heard French in a very very long time, but I still can generally follow it.  Sorta kinda.

The subtitles were in Spanish, which as you heard, I can speak better than I thought I could.

The two languages, both of which I am not accomplished at at the moment, offered up simultaneously, and me trying to listen to one and read the other at the same time?

I could actually feel my brain creaking like a ship groaning in a seaway.

Eee gads.

It actually wasn't too bad after the first 20 minutes or so, as long as I didn't think about it. Then I was dead.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Theft in Spain

OK, everyone goes on about how bad pickpocketing in Spain is.  Most Catalans I know have had their wallet lifted once, in BCN, and my Dad got nailed while we were away.  In a bathroom on a highway service center.  The guy came up to him and told him that there were bird droppings on his coat (putting dirt there with a kleenex) and then proceeded to help him clean it up; and cleaned him out.

Major drag, but they didn't get the car keys or the  rented car (with all the presents in it) which would have been a bigger drag.

When the Mossos (OPP equivelent - Catalan level cops) showed up, they told us that with the recessions/crisis theft is increasing insanely.  People going into farmyards and stealing hand tools, like a shovel.  This was further corroborated by a man that the man knows.  He works in a lab in one of the universities and he told us that someone is breaking in there, almost weekly and stealing, get this, coffee percolators.  Really.  How desperate do you have to be to break into university offices and steal those nasty coffee percolators.

This week though our local bakery was robbed.  It was about 9:30 in the morning, which is pretty quiet, and a man came in asking for directions, but he couldn't understand what she meant, and had a map and had her come out to point to him which street he had to take.  His buddy went in the other door, right behind the counter and grabbed her purse, which sadly also had quite a lot of money in it to pay a wholesaler that day.  He couldn't get into the cash register as it has a code, but he dashed out the door as she turned seeing him and down one street, the map holder ran down another street and was picked up by a car with a third man in it who then zipped over and picked up the man with the bag and they were off.

Huge hassle, new locks on everything, cancel the phone, new cards for everything, blah blah blah.....

The nastiest feel of it though was that it was kind of personal.  The guy in the bathroom who got my dad's wallet had planned to do this, but it wasn't my dad specifically he was looking for.  These guys though, they had scoped the place out and come up with a plan to do it.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Note to self

Do not take photos while chatting with the man.  All but one came out blurred.

Ah well.  Menu 6, modified today:

Crisp omelette, pork loins with roasted peppers and a parsley garlic sauce and coconut macaroons.

Made this sauce of parsley, garlic and olive oil, that I kind of messed up, you have to pound the garlic and parsley and then very very slowly trickle in the oil as you stir.  I forgot and dumped.  Ah well, still good.  More garlic though.

Salad, not officially on the menu, but it needed eating and today's menu didn't feature a lot of veggies.

There's the pork and roasted peppers.  You're supposed to 'finish the peppers in the pan, which was also a good place to keep the pork warm after cooking it.

That doesn't look much like a coconut macaroon, does it.  That's cause the shops didn't carry the dried unsweetened coconut I needed.  I could probably have trekked further afield and found it, but I had the chocolate left over from the other day (miracles do happen!) and they were easy.  I substituted olive oil for the butter in these and it was super delicious, changed the texture and better for us.

Oh, there's the crisp omelette.  That was the first course, but I wanted the only non-blurred photo to be at the end so that you can remember this one.  The omelette was called a crisp omelette because it has crisps in it, as in chips.  Sounds pretty weird, and it was.  It's sort of a fast and easy lazy-cook's version of truita de patates.  Kind of dry though, so we put some of the sauce for the pork on it, and that was better. I also made it in four smaller batches which were much easier to flip and not so messy at all.  Though that may also be why it was drier as well.  Good though, and I probably will do it again as it was so much easier than making a proper one.

No peeling, no dicing, no par-boiling, just cut them open and pour them in.

Watched Mamma Mia tonight.  Such fun.  Nothing like singing ABBA for a whole lot longer.  It is hooky too.  They were doing a version of it once in town and Eldest mentioned that half her school was wandering the halls humming the tune and the other day in class one of the kids sang a bit of Mariah Carey's I'll be home for Christmas (which I find fairly loathsome) and it got hooked in my head, I look pleadingly at the class and begged them for another song to unhook the shuddery one.  A few bars of Mamma Mia and all was right in the world.

Hope you're having a good one,


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Made menu number 2

Ferran Adria's Menu number 2 for lunch yesterday!

Pasta with bolognaise sauce, never made it before, and I don't think it is spectacular enough to make again...though it was VERY good, the fuss vs. added taste ratio was a little off.  Then I made a fish soup with potatoes, now that was GOOD.....definitely a do again.  I even made the soup stock, which was dead easy.


Then there were the chocolate cookies, very gooey and very yummy and very rich and chocolatey.

I may have to do it again, as we were all so keen and hungry I didn't take any photos at all!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the wonder of independent book stores

Go watch this,

If you really want to, watch this, it's an interview with the creator of the video.

They're in Toronto, Type bookstore.

Go buy books from them.

If you can't buy from them, go buy a book from any independent bricks and mortar book store, OK?  These places are treasures, and if we don't buy there, they won't exist.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Know something I would love to know?

How is it that we stop listening in our sleep?  Hearing is, as you all know, something that we cannot shut off, like we can sight.  We can't close our ears and stop.  Obviously we can drown out other noise - fingers in ears "I'm not listening...LALALALALALALALA"

Here's the reason.  I listen to podcasts sometimes when I can't sleep, and on vacation I was somewhat book deprived (didn't bring enough) and I was sometimes listening at night instead of reading.  Sort of like having a story read to you before bed.

The fancy shmancy ipod though, doesn't recognise when I've gone to sleep the way that my folks did when I was little, and so it goes on and on and on through all the podcasts I've downloaded for that show till it comes to an end.  A real battery killer that can be.

As I result, I normally chose the last podcast in a list, so that if I doze off, as I so often do, it doesn't go on infinitely.  Last night though, I really wanted to listen to this new - to me - podcast, 99% Invisible, which is supremely cool. All about design and how design impacts on our lives, and the fact that good design is indeed, 99% invisible.

Anyway, I had downloaded all the shows, and was about 2/3 through, they're short....and I really wanted  to listen. So I did.

Then this morning, I had to figure out where I went to sleep (near the end) and I relistened to the last 4 or 5.

And I was amazed.

How is it, when these stories were being poured directly into my brain from ear buds, that I have no recollection of them.  None.  The ear was still functioning, but something neurological inside was simply switched right off.  The difference between hearing and listening....but how is it that we can hear and so completely not listen.  I get it when we're awake, you simple aren't paying attention, so maybe it is an extreme form of this inattention, but still......

I would love to know if we respond to stories in our sleep, but simply have absolutely no recall.  None.

We do respond to extreme sounds in our sleep, and we are roused....a noise in the house and you wake up, not sure why......

I still whisper to my kids that I love them, even though they're sleeping.  Maybe somewhere deep inside they hear it and know.

I don't understand how they can't.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Designers will head slap themselves when they read this.

No, really.  For a designer, this post is a big fat DUH!!!!

I am marking papers, and I have to say that it makes an astonishing difference how something is formatted. A text moves from being an indigestible lumpen mass to something that you can move through, something that has space for the reader.  

For the record, I prefer Georgian font, size 11 with a 1.15 spacing.  There also need to be indents at the beginnings of the paragraphs or, on a computer, a space between paragraphs.  Though, interestingly, I am not overly disturbed by the default font on the blog.  Probably that nasty ariel that microsoft loves so much.  

Here it is in Ariel:

No, really.  For a designer, this post is a big fat DUH!!!!

I am marking papers, and I have to say that it makes an astonishing difference how something is formatted. A text moves from being an indigestible lumpen mass to something that you can move through, something that has space for the reader.  

For the record, I prefer Georgian font, size 11 with a 1.15 spacing.  There also need to be indents at the beginnings of the paragraphs or, on a computer, a space between paragraphs.  Though, interestingly, I am not overly disturbed by the default font on the blog.  Probably that nasty ariel that microsoft loves so much.  

It makes such a difference, honestly.  Such a difference to the reading experience.  

Don't you love books that tell you at the back what font they were printed in and some of the history of the font too?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vultures, lots and lots of vultures

Remember that post from a couple of days ago with the big big big vulture?  Here?

Well one evening we went up near the base of the cliffs for a last walk with the dogs, and look what we saw:

You may need to click on these, and these are only fragments of the sky, the camera, great though it is, cannot even approach getting the whole sky in a picture

There must have been a hundred of those big big birds flying and circling around the thermal there, flapping in and landing on the cliffs, soaring out from their landing spots.  Truly an amazing view.  I've never seen anything like it before.  Never.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Cooking with Ferran Adria

One of my gifts from the Ho Ho Ho season was a copy of Ferran Adria's The Family Meal, Homecooking cookbook.

There are 31 set menus, as in the Spanish menu, well the French too, two courses and a dessert plus wine, water and bread.  Sometimes coffee.

LOTS of photos, and he lays out a timeline for you so that you can have it all ready at the right time.  As we got back yesterday to a fairly empty and chilly house (about 12 degrees inside), we had to go shopping today, so we checked out the ingredients for menu #1.  Cesar salad, hamburger with potato chips and a coca de Santiago.  We've got an ABBA sound track going, and the cake in the oven.

Once the food was ready we were too excited to wait for pictures, so this is all there is:

Our caesar dressing, comes thick it does....stir sloooowwly in one direction only, while trickling in the oil......also, when the local egg yolks are orange, the dressing comes out rather less white.

Burgers before cooking:

Coca de Santiago, that came out rather thinner than intended, but still very good:

The coca de Sanitago is a recipe that dates from the 16th century and uses ground almonds in lieu of flour - can you say arabic influence on the cuisine?  At the store we couldn't find ground almonds, only chopped, so we pounded them in the mortar and pestle, and pounded and pounded and pounded.  True renaissance style cooking.  Then we had to beat the eggs and sugar together (with an electric mixer) for five min. till thick and foamy.  The two of us with a fork and super powerful arms beat it for about 15 and decided that was done, risen or not.  Again renaissance style cooking......without the serfs.

We are making our own croutons too.......baked rather than deep fried.

When I went to the butcher's for the ground meat, I was given a lengthy dissertation on why I could not buy beef, only veal....had to do with Mad Cow disease.....an either Spain wide, EU wide, or Catalan regulation/advisory is that you don't eat any cow that is more than 2 months old.

I personally have never heard of this before, and didn't want to mention the amount of beef I have eaten since that LONG ago break out......

Anyway, it was all good, though we only need 1 burger per person and we forgot to put the chips out on the plates.  That's OK, we can enjoy them another time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Horses, ponies and donkeys

It didn't cost a lot to make Youngest really happy on this vacation. Indeed for less than a Euro you can get a big bag of happiness. In the shape of a big bag of carrots, you see, there were some horses, ponies and a donkey nearby and nothing made Youngest happier than going over to give them some carrots.....

I wasn't sure if we would do them any harm by giving them carrots when they aren't used to eating them, so, one day, as we were going over we saw some men in the garden next to their field, we asked, well, I did with some assistance from Youngest, and they said, though they aren't their horses, that there would be NO problem at all.  


Then the animals wouldn't come.  D stood at the fence calling and whistling, and nothing happened....

Finally she thought of calling to them in Spanish, specifically, calling to them to 'come here'.  Worked a charm.  She called once, the heads all turned and in a body they headed over.  Rather more than she'd hoped for.

The donkey is proving the brightest (or greediest) of the lot, arriving first every day and getting the most too.

Happiness all around.

Seven in all.....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Another hike in the hill, well, mountains.

We went for a lovely walk today again, through a beech forest, a faigada....it was sunny and cool and MUDDY.  Chuck is dying to get off leash, he'll be happy to get back home.  What with all the livestock and sheepdogs, I'm reluctant to let him off here.  Two and a half hour walks aren't that bad, even if he was on leash.

A waterfall... the highest in Spain.

It is a very deep gorge, no?

They smelled like, well, like goats.

The faigada again, my camera seems to be overexposing these days, not sure why.

There were lots and lots of caves too.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Where we went today:

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on the north coast of Spain.  

If you look closely at the photo, you can see a pedestrian causeway out to the hermitage on the island.

There was lots of noise and waves and rocks...

Looking back.

Fun walk indeed.

Monday, January 2, 2012


I don't know about you, but I can no longer handle caffeinated coffee.  In fact I am not sure I ever could.  In Bilbao the other day, we stopped to have a coffee.  I found mine rather harsh, but drank it back.  About half an hour later I was having chills and sweats, my hands were shaking like I had Parkinson's and let's not even talk about the internal trembling.  I think my heart was beating irregularly I felt so weird.

That decaf, wasn't.


Had to go and eat to try to reduce the trembles...felt weird for several hours.

Am I alone out there with this?  I assume not.  How does caffeine miss-hit you?  Curious about this one, I have to admit.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

of cliffs and eagles

We went walking in the mountains again today, and look what we found.  A turnstile in a barbed wire fence!  

That's seems a little weird, but if you think about it, it isn't too unreasonable, it's to keep the cows out.

Then again, if you look at what's on the other side....

Not a typical walk. No?

If you look carefully at this picture, there is a very intrepid, individualistic, possibly rock climbing cow.

"I vant to be aloooone."

View from the top....

ENORMOUS birds kept popping up over the edges of the cliffs, they were too fast in the strong wind for me to get the telephoto going, so these photos aren't so great, but they had a HUGE wingspan.  When one appeared over our heads, Chuck gave a half-hearted sort of woof, the bird was bigger than he was easily, and better armed.  (a Eurasian Griffin Vulture  wiki here.  The bird is HUGE!  240 to 280 cm wingspan!!!  That is up to a 10 foot wingspan!!!)

It was, truly amazing, one flew by us, no more than 50 yards away.  Amazing.