Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nuts, diets, wine and olive oil.

Chuck has his nuts...and he should. Seems that here you have two options when getting your dog fixed and one of them is to simply give him a vasectomy. As my local informant put it, "He's a young dog, let him have a little fun.?." There is a Catalan gesture and tone I am trying to duplicate with the punctuation but finding it tricky. Is this where machismo hits the road? Though I really think the machismo thing is not very Catalan from what I see, or is it European easiness around sex? Could be that...although there are an awful lot of truly ENORMOUS dogs around here, so they may want the stud value, or more likely the aggression value in a dog whose purpose is to sit on your property and bark at folks.

The dog is hilarious. We take him out for a final walk at around 10pm, or later. To say that he wants to go would be the grossest sort of overstatement. Our theory though is that an empty bladder before bed is a very good thing, and a tired dog is a good dog....But when called for the walk he goes the other way, and tries to hide, and then is gently assisted out the door, although he perks up once he is underway. Last night though, I went to bed late, and he was dossed down in the living room with me with his head on my briefcase. When I get up to go to bed, he thought I was taking him for a walk....boy did he not want to go. I had to pull him by the collar to the hall, and then once the bedroom door was open, he realised what was up and willingly went into his bed. Silly dog.

Here are two things I noticed while looking through a local magazine. There is a group offering the possibility of getting a silicone filled balloon installed in your stomach to give you that full feeling and help you diet. I cannot puzzle out the Catalan well enough to determine how exactly this is done, but as it is non-surgical, there seems only one access route. After you have lost 15 to 30 kilos, they remove it. Now I am not exactly up to speed on this aspect of human creativity, but does that not strike you and completely BIZARRE?

The second was an announcement of an excursion this weekend being organised in the neighbouring town, bikes and boutifarra, which are Catalan sausages, and are heavenly good. The idea is that you go for a 20K mountain bike ride through the hills and mountains behind us, ending at either a restaurant, this is Spain, you can climb nearly any peak and get a coffee nearby, or at a barbeque and you cook up the boutifarra accompanied I am sure by wine and beans, and bread and and and...usually they are riding home afterwards, but maybe someone comes and picks some of them up. The roads in the hills here are loose dirt and gravel over hard pack dirt and so are very slidey slippery, and very very steep in spots. I cannot picture riding a mountain bike, in that crouched over position after a big feed, and a little tight on wine....these people amaze me. I think I would barf shortly before I crashed.

On a final note, the guys came around today with the we're all stocked up for Nomad's visit, though having lived in Bordeaux(sp?) for two years, I am not sure how the local plonk will stack up. My folks, who are not excessive connoseuirs, but have a palate, said that we should not be ashamed to serve it, so here it comes. This is the cool thing though. They also sell olive oil! I think from their own place, or at least the same place. Bought a couple of liters...well actually I didn't, I have a couple of liters, and when I asked them if I had a couple of minutes to run to the bank, they gave it to me and said, "Tranquilla" can you guess the meaning on that one? I can pay them next week. Well how good is that? They looked a little horrified when I said I would just run to the bank...maybe I should have said walk.

We're going to taste test it against the local grocery store oil. You know your near the Med when there is door to door wine and olive oil delivery.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Cargo pants and Nomad

I love cargo pants, do you know the ones that I mean? The ones with the pockets on the outside of your thighs, as well as in all the usual places. My very favorite pair I got when I was about 15 from an army surplus store. These were a pair of heavy green Khaki coloured ones that, given the repairs, may have actually seen service!

The ones I have now are thin nylonish material, and brown. Also the waist is a little lower than I would aim for, but given the current fashion of muffin-topped plumber-butt pants, I am doing pretty well.

Do you know why I love cargo pants? Not just because they are look good, but also so that when you are running out the door to take the kids to school, almost late again, with your hands full of wallet, keys and sweaters, school bags and dog leashes, and there on the bottom step you discover the mail that your eight year old went to bring up over lunch, but instead opened and then left on the stairs for all the neighbours to trip over, you have a pocket to put it all in!!!! You know things like your, oh, T4 form. Nothing important. Plus I got something really fun in the mail. My Mom is so cool. She read me whining on the blog about cleaning windows and that I gave up on it, but it was stupid to quit because I actually really like clean windows. Well, she found this incredibly wonderful cloth. Massively environmentally sound too because, get this, it cleans the windows with just water. It is some sort of fancy weave, and it is good for oh, only about 600 washes. Top that j-cloth and windex. She called it an e-cloth. Neat-o.

My Mother-in-law phoned last night, the Catalan one, and I impressed the pants off her because I talked to her in CATALAN! And she UNDERSTOOD ME! WEEEeeeeeee!!!!!!!!Made me feel so good.

Wildly busy day today, but here is the best news......

NOMAD'S COMING!!!!! YEEEHHHHAAAAWWWWWWWWW! She and her entire tribe are coming to Barcelona on Saturday and staying until THURSDAY! Now HOW good is that?!?

A big fat YAHOO!

Monday, February 26, 2007

A tick, a giraffe, and a soaker

We had a totally hilarious time after work for a few minutes last night. One of the women who works there as a language teacher is also the daughter of the woman who took us up to get Chuck. It is a small town here. Anyway, the Chuckster had picked up a tick. I had removed it, we don't have one of those tick flicker do-hickeys they sell at all the camping stores, and I know you have to be super careful doing this, but it wasn't well embedded, and I grabbed it very close to the top with a pair of tweezers and ping, out it came. Then a big blood, so it may have still been trying to work it's way through his coat.

I wanted to ask my co-worker, of the dog loving Mom if ticks carry disease here like they do in North America, so as we are all five of us standing outside the school, four of them speak excellent English...I asked her about it. One of the women told me, as I know, that you shouldn't just pluck them out as they can leave parts of themselves behind and cause a.....well, this left them stymied. I knew it could cause an infection, but what were thy driving at? She came up with a tumor. I wasn't sure than my rash tweezer action was going to lead to tumours, but....they went around it in Catalan and then Castillian, and then got out the dictionary....while they continued to guess. A blemish? No I didn't think so, that's a zit...a good tumour? (are there good tumours. I know they can be benign, but good?) Finally they found the word after laughing that they were ALL going to go home and look it up, a 'kist' they said...I corrected them to a cyst, and we all laughed fairly hard at the tumour idea....ticks may be a bit of a problem, but that is a bit much.

Well, maybe you had to be there.

One of my students works in banking and is mostly concerned with language around mortgages. Good thing I have one, as this isn't a topic I cover all that often. She had me scratching my head and waiting around as my internal filing system came up with the word I was looking for. The difficulty was that we were working from a document that she had brought me from her workplace which was written in quite poor English, and they didn't use some of the words correctly, for instance they were using down-payment and deposit interchangeably, and they ain't the same honey. Then she was trying to tell me about some of the unique facets of Spanish banking and money lending and I had to try and guess what she means. Her English is good, but not brilliant, and she gets confusing sometimes. Brain gymnastics, I can almost feel it straining and stretching to keep up. One of my other students is a sculptor, and that is another whole new world of words that I had never even heard before. Thank god for the internet.

A continuation of the glue-pill story from a day or two ago. One of my rotten daughters had said to the other that her grandfather was taking pills because he was old, and they were to glue him together. Well, I have heard via the wonders of e-mail that apparently revenge is being formed. He plans on haunting her for the rest of her days as a big fat payback. She doesn't seem overly concerned I must admit.

Went out walking with the dog today, and I have discovered one of the big unadvertised advantages of the dog---I can stand and gape up the driveways of the more interesting houses around rather than doing the polite glance and keep walking. "Look Chuck, doesn't that smell interesting?" Then I can just sort of stand long as I think I can politely manage, which is pretty long if ANY sort of animal has gone by recently. I found a life-size statue of a giraffe today, and a big old beautiful house that I had never seen before. Wow. This isn't that big a town, but it certainly isn't laid out on a grid, so there is plenty discover. Five months later I am still finding new little streets, and I have several longer walks on my mental to do list.

Today is registration day for the George Town cruisers regatta, hope they have good weather for it. One year we were there a front came through and it was blowing so hard that getting in involved involuntary intermittent full body immersion and considerable time and effort. And that was with a motor on your dingy. I rowed it in. Shoulda seen my pipes then. My arms are turning back to twiggy sticks again now that I am dwelling in the ease of land-life. Don't even ring out my laundry anymore. Can't say I miss doing that though.

Teaching, the kids and a day in the life...

Teach and



teach and teach.

Same student stood me up again, I am not sure I will recognise her anymore....four back to back hour and a half classes tonight. Can you say numb tongue? I won't be able to by 9:45 tonight...*pant*.

It's hot and sunny, the horizon is crisp and the sea is shining...the little old ladies and men on my street are out sunning themselves, and there is a bumble bee around the wild poppy I stole from a waste field and planted in my balcony planter.

The washing machine did a mystery load...put it in, the machine finished, but the laundry was dripping wet. Hmmmm, off balance?

Let Chuck walk along off the lead today, he did fine. He came when I called, and showed every inclination of sticking with me. It was in an area with lots of interesting new scents, but no cars, dogs or people. 'Poc a poc', which is 'slowly slowly', or little by little.

The kids went off to school this morning happily, although the younger one had a panic when she realised that she had not done her homework for the weekend. We got it done, one of those magical days when it all comes together in the morning. (Good thing I showered last night.) I am confident that we did the math right, the other sciences I guess we would call it, I really didn't understand the directions, so I guessed, and as she had to write a paragraph in Catalan, well, the teacher will be able to tell which parent helped her with it. It got done anyway.

Major delight at one point, the elder child commented that school is actually pretty fun most of the time, but she also said that by the end of the day, after trying to listen to Catalan all day, well, her brain is just about mush. I can see how it would be. You have to use the most ferocious concentration.

This time last year we were in George Town in the Bahamas. How do I describe George Town..well, obviously it is a little burg on an Island, and it has a series of islands around it, creating a big beautiful harbour. It also has free pure water, good internet hook-up, a grocery store, an airport, and a chandlery. There is even a library. In other words, heaven for a cruiser. Right about now there are probably about 400 boats anchored there as they are building up to the Cruisers Regatta. If you click on the 'buy a DVD image', there is an album of photos you could look through and get an little bit of an idea what it is like.

The Cruisers Regatta is a week of fun and silliness. The rest of the time George Town can sound kind of repulsive if you are not naturally a joiner. There are activities on every day, from Bridge, to Yoga, to walks on the beach. It is sort of a DIY club med. If you get in the right head space it is a LOT of fun. We went every year because everyone with kids anywhere nearby shows up. You also usually manage to run into any friends you have made on the way out, and you make new friends there. Overall, it is a lot of fun. Just thinking about all the folks we know that are there right now. Ah well. Life is good here too.

I may order the DVD though. We did pretty well in a bunch of the races, so we would be in it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Chocolate, a Brit and some music and a gorilla.

Thank you for the ideas around on-line recipes everyone....the good news, while we were in Barcelona I came across an 'Alimentacio Islamic" An Islamic grocery store, which to my immense excitement sold, aside from the Halal meat, Basmati rice in 10 lb bags, and curry powder - hot - and chili powder, and whole wheat pitas, and Bulgar and couscous and and and and lots of different types of dhals and beans, and chutneys....Oh I am so pathetically excited. Gonna be going grocery shoppin' in BCN this week!!!

We also trolled past the chocolate museum in town. Mmmmm that was smelling PRETTY fine, you know chocolate in bulk has an almost liquor-ish smell to it. Ohhhhh. Nomad may be coming into town next weekend and that would be so very fun to go to....the kids are already making plans about how much of their backlogged allowance they are going to spend there. Mmmmm. They had a chocolate Ronaldinho of course.

Where we actually went was to the Parc de la Ciutadella, we walked past the Arc de Triomph, and down into the park. Man, that place was FULL. We had a giggle at the rowers on the pond equipped with huge boats, and very short aluminum oars, so even if your Steven Redgrave, your still going to look like a dork...there was a giant statue of a mammoth, and the kids just like a park, any park, and especially one with lots of dragon statues. Saint Jordi, in English Saint George is the patron Saint of Catalonia, so there is a fair pile of dragon imagery, and not all the dragons are being murdered. They must speak to something in the Catalan anarchista soul. The younger one wanted to race quite a bit. You know running races, on your mark, get set..... I can beat her in the end, though I am starting to have to try, but her acceleration...ooomph.

The dog is growing increasingly comfortable, and is starting to give happy little doggy galumphs pretty often which are fairly funny. He does this weird sort of bunny hop kind of run with both front legs absolutely straight, and moving almost together....very funny.

I was walking through the town with the kids and the dog this afternoon when I suddenly realized that the group we had just passed spoke ENGLISH! They were a group of BRIT'S!!!! Well old home week in this town. We had a good laugh for a few minutes, she asked me about the schools, her kids are much younger, and they were both working in Barcelona until recently so they aren't very up to speed on the local schools...and we had a laugh about the craziness of parenting in a school where you don't speak the language, and she was saying that even after 9 years she is still doing a certain amount of smiling and nodding and saying si si si over and over. I suspect her Castillian is actually pretty good, and she says she can usually understand the Catalan, but doesn't speak it as well...Apparently there are a couple of other Brits around the town who I haven't met....We also had a bit of a laugh about one of the Catalan traditional instruments which honestly sounds a bit like a loon in's a sample if the link works...It actually can grow on you a bit, but is more than a touch nasal to my taste. Maybe that wasn't very nice of us, but well, maybe it's like Vegemite and peanut butter, you kind of have to grow up with it. We have one CD of with these instruments, although it is an alternative band that are doing a rock version, and I think I like the original better. It explains the attention to recorder music in class at school.

Barcelona zoo used to have an albino gorilla named Snowflake who was quite famous, and there are still postcards of him for sale all over the place. The husband was quite horrified when I told him that Snowflake had died several years ago after 40 years. He had heard about him for most of his life, and was rather looking forward to seeing him in the zoo one day. I am not sure that he believes me yet.

Walked a new trail/road with Chuck this was quite lovely, and we even saw a SQUIRELL! You would think that a girl who grew up in Canada wouldn't find this exciting, but it is the very first one we have ever seen here....cute and reddish. I was almost as excited as Chuck. The road was very nice quiet and it had some good views, although it is desperately steep in one section. I wouldn't run down there or you'll find yourself on an involuntary gravel lined luge run. Ouch.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

We can't live in a castle in Spain, but we can live next to one. (and we do!)

The title is a quote from the man made to a nameless child, we do protect the guilty, who was complaining about, well, everything.

Another great line from the man I heard from the kitchen long ago in Canada when a very young child was upstairs in the bathroom. The man had gone to investigate what was going on, and when the child hove into view, he said with some despair, "Stop! That's enough toilet paper to wipe an elephant!" I giggled helplessly downstairs for quite some time.

This weekend one of the daughters, again anonymous to protect the guilty, asked my Dad why he was taking so many pills in the morning...mostly vitamins. The other child, again nameless, answered, "Because he's OLD and he has to take them to glue himself together."

My Dad has been calling them his glue pills ever since.

Rotten kids.

We watched Crocodile Dundee last night, I was aiming at Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or How to Marry a Millionaire, but got overruled by the eight year old, who also noticed that the library has Dundee in LA, which I suspect will be next weeks fare. It was good, we all enjoyed it except for the 'yucky' kissing scenes....It had a couple of good lines too.

The younger one has had quite a social day, played in the street with two little girls her age, and then in one of their houses, then we went for a walk in the mountains with the girls and their older sister, and now they are both over here playing Polly Pockets...some things need little language. This could prove very lovely with two little girls on our very street, her age, and there are two girls the elder's as well. Finger's crossed.

The elder seems to have had a good time over at her friend's house last night, with the added bonus that the mom who is a professional dressmaker gave her some off-cuts of fabric as my duaghter is keen on sewing, although she prefers to make toys. They are starting to fit in more, although they are both finding it hard when the other one has a friend to play with. On the boat, and largely in Canada, they both played with any available kids, so it is a bit of an adjustment when only one is invited.

One of the things that we are finding difficult here is the lack of variety in the food. This sounds a little strange after all the rhapsodising I have done about the food we are eating, but there is feast food, and then there is every day. We don't eat much meat at all, it is expensive, and we have the ethical cushioning that I anyway think the world will be a little better if we eat a little less meat, so the two dovetail together nicely. The man has cholesterol issues, so that rules out most cheeses and gooey fatty sauces. This leaves us with a base diet of grains, beans, fruit and veg. Don't get me wrong, we are complete hypocrites, and if something sumptuous and yummy slaps down in front of us, we're all for it, but on a day to day basis that is not the norm. Unfortunately here there is white flour, white rice, superarborio style only, and white pasta. That's it. No corn meal, no masa harina, no varieties of rice, no basmati, no muesli, granola or oatmeal, no barley or kasha or quinoa or millet... not even whole wheat flour. The veg selection is pretty limited to your classic mediterranean, which is good, but I am very very fond of Asian veg, and tofu, and lots of interesting and different stuff. The spice options are also very limited. Think oregano and basil, we have found hot peppers anyway, but only one type.

The limits on our diet that we self-impose of little meat or dairy are not onerous when we have a good variety of other options and seasonings, but that is proving a mite problematic here....then there is the issue of cookbooks. All of mine are ON THE BOAT like everything else, and it is a wee bit frustrating.

I like to cook out of cookbooks, I like to plan for the week ahead on a weekend morning while I am still hungry, and then buy what I will need, and then all week, I only have to chose off the list and not have that dreaded period of "what am I going to cook for dinner?" and then you think of something, and don't have the I cannot even look up some of my favorites, or look up different and new things. GGGGRRRRRRRR. We can't go out for all our meals unfortunately.

I will admit that I am starting to find it very frustrating, we will be looking in Barcelona, even if it means hauling five pound of flour, and twenty pounds of rice home on the bus. And fish sauce, and curry powder, and chili powder, and hot sauce, and oatmeal, and corn meal, and and and.....gggggggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I miss my cookbooks. Crap.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I got stood up!!!!

Finished that book by Aron Ralston, the climber I mentioned in the last post. He has made a successful career as a public speaker, and apparently does most for charity. He is, as Jocelyn mentioned, still out there doing these activities. His actions leading up to the accident do not actually seem to have been that irresponsible, aside from the fact that he didn't leave anyone an itinerary of what he was doing. His discussion of his other climbs and skis however do describe someone who is pushing the envelope a little further than is maybe sensible. No, a lot further.

There is no indication of how his accident may have altered his behavior since. I suspect he is a bit more diligent about leaving a plan behind. His friends and family would murder him if he weren't.

I was supposed to teach this morning but my student stood me up, only the second lesson so I don't know what is up with that...we have had several holidays in between so maybe she simply forgot. That however is why I had time to finish the Ralston book. Another student gave me a document that a bank here somewhere hands out to English speaking clients to give them information about getting a mortgage. The thing is filled with errors. There are major glaring grammatical problems, changes in tone that are jarring, and incorrect use of vocabulary, some of which I cannot even figure out. My student's English is not good enough that this would be a problem yet, but I am surprised that the copy-editing on a document like that isn't better. May get myself some work there too. Hmmm.

Took the mutt for a long walk this morning in anticipation of a visit to the vet, the lady from the shelter came by last night to give us all his papers, and it turns out he had not had any vaccines, so we had to go off today to do them. There is some mosquito born illness that affects dogs here and they had to get the results of that before they could vaccinate him. On the premise that a tired dog is a good dog, we marched around the hills for a little more than an hour first. He is not exactly a wild and crazy guy to start with, but....

Up on the table he was calm and quiet, she didn't have to employ any of the considerable arsenal of muzzles and restraints that were on hand. He took his shot like a trooper, and we were off. The dog that followed us in however seemed to have lost his mind entirely and was doing his best to leap everywhere simultaneously while dragging over and knocking down the two women with him. What a horrific dog. Or owners. Whatever.

Here's a question. This is the first dog I've ever had, and he is neutered, but still has *ahem* his NUTS. Is this normal? I always thought they removed the entire job lot. He seems to have been snipped rather than neutered. Que passa? I clearly haven't been checking out the back end of many dogs lately, I was just a little surprised.

The eldest child has been memorizing her multiplication tables, mine are certainly all up to speed now as well. She seems to know them now as a rhyme, we need to work on getting them in isolation. It's all progress. We had homework on the Catalan political system in Catalan last night. Well that was fun. Interpreting something I know little about, in a language I barely speak while cooking dinner. There were three pages of it, and I simply had to keep going. I think we got it all right in the end though, and I definitely learned a lot. Hope my kid did too.

The elder child is also off to a friend's house tonight after school. We had a little funny confusion about when she would come back. I think they were planning on dropping her off at around 9pm, just in time for dinner. *My goodness* We got it back to 7pm, very early here and the source of some laughter...we just aren't that Spanish yet. Tonight is also movie night, so the younger one and I are going to go up to the library after school and pick out the film for the evening. She was sort of angling for an invite with the bigger one, but I said no. She's fairly content.

Sat up on the terrace this morning reading and soaking up the warmth and sunshine...mmmmmm. Chuck was less comfortable, he was too hot in the sun and too cool in the shade and had to keep shifting back and forth between the two. It was actually pretty funny.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

An armless book, teaching and art.

I've been reading "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" by Aron Ralston. He's the guy that got trapped in the mountains and sawed off his own right arm to get free. The book is very uncomfortable to read, and somewhat ghoulish.

He alternates talking about what he is going through while he is trapped with no water and no warm clothing for six days with his life and climbing/outdoor adventuring leading up to this. Now I am by no means an expert at any of these sports. Sailing, I'm pretty good, but climbing...raw beginner would be generous. That said, this guy was a disaster waiting to happen. Please please please don't let any of my kids grow up to be like this. I know I worried my Mom and Dad with some of the sports I chose to try, and some of the things I did, but this guy shows profoundly poor judgement and a near moronic faith in his immortality. Till he gets pinned.

He has at least successfully made a career out of the ordeal, and as I haven't finished the book, I am not sure what conclusions he is going to draw.


The private language lessons are proving interesting, as much because of the specialised vocabulary and material I am having to research. With a private, we can tailor the course more specifically to the client's need. I have a banker selling mortgages...bone up on banking terms, someone who works in a lab, a mechanical engineer, and a sculptor ceramicist and painter. I have been looking up the tools and processes for doing bronze work and clay. As the books he brought me so that I could see what he does are in Castillian, that is extra fun. It is educational.

The elder daughter has to do something or other about another sculptor, Giacometti. We found a cool site from the Museum of Modern Art and had a troll through that, but as all the girl knew was his last name and that he was a sculptor, I can only hope we have the right guy. Without a functioning printer, we are rather limited in what she can bring in. Ah well, she is learning something anyway.

The kids had a good time up on the terrace with Chuck, he was moderately interested in fetching the stick they were throwing for him...and doing his goofy gallop around up there to their delight. He's doing alright and settling in well.

The elder child has also picked up Pride and Prejudice, and was enjoying it, but thinks it would be better as a read aloud book, easier to grasp with some tonal clues. Maybe a good idea, and a change from Ramona which we have been reading lately. She was debating reading the armless guy. I advised her strongly against it. It is quite gross. Blah. I'll finish it, but he even had the wherewithal to take pictures of himself, and part of the process, and his hand still trapped once he had severed it. Sorry if that is altogether too much information, but OMG.

Glad it isn't me. I'm happy doing a little walking, trotting along with the dogs and the kids. Sailing a bit.....where were we this time last year...lets see....Black Cay, just North of George Town on Great Exuma. Lovely spot, no one else there, two beautiful beaches and some of the cruisers have set up a beach combed shack. We found about thirty sand-dollars while snorkeling and lots of lovely goodies on the beach.

Life sure changes fast. Now I am in a village in Spain, with a dog, kids in school, the man's working full time, and I'm teaching English, all in another language.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Normal day.

My oh my. It was a rowdy day at the market today. Goodness gracious. I don't know what sort of Catalan secret signal went out, but every stand was rows deep in determined Catalan and Spanish grannies. I stood about a foot and a half above most of the crowd, but there was no way I was going to be buying any goodies at any point. Geez. What on earth was going on?

I took the dog for a walk instead. We trolled along up and around some of our usual haunts, and while toiling up a road on the edge of town it got so warm out that I actually got down to a tank top! Yippeeee. I even found a new road up into the mountains that I hadn't seen before, so part of this weekends activities have been decided. We'll have to go exploring it is clear.

It has been quite a 'real world' sort of day. Doesn't matter where you are, they happen. My Dad had picked up my mail while he was in Canada, and as usual, it mostly contained things I had to deal with. Yuck. The kids love the mail because they get new magazines and fresh reading material. They are both passionate about books, although the younger has not yet discovered the joy of reading to herself beyond Archie comics, so fresh reading material is always greeted with great excitement.

I however had a handful of bills and other 'things to do' Bleh.

I also did laundry and went to the bank, plus a run to the baker. While polishing my halo, I responded to a backlog of unanswered e-mail, and I have to prep for my classes tonight. So for those of you who aren't out here, you can know that there are still 'chore days'. Ugh. Oh, did the dishes twice as well, and and and....

Went back to the market later, there were only two people at my favorite stand, they cleared them out and I had the whole space to myself. While I was picking out my produce one of the guys who run the stand was eyeing the strawberries that he had been debating about with one of the ladies who had just left. Finally he picked one out himself and started eating it with a look of delight on his face. It made me laugh, which made him laugh. So he gave me one too. Salut!

Struggled back up the hill with my load of fruit and veg, boy, that one is steep, and said Hi to a bunch of the old ladies on my street out enjoying the sunshine and the warmth.

Life is good, even on chore day.

Work tonight, a group lesson and a private.

I'm going to have to take the kids to the Miro museum with their sketch books, I think they will really enjoy it.

The eldest woke up this morning and told me that she was bored with school. Well that happens doesn't it.

Life is good.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Calcots and Miro

Here are a few more photos from the calcot eating fira, or festival in Catalan.

The calcots are piled on newspapers, where you also dump the charred outer layers. You have to be organised or you may miss some. The romesco sauce is in the dishes.

Peeled, dipped and ready to eat. Mmmmmmm.

This one's headed for the sauce.

The fashionable attire needed by any good calcot gourmand.
It's messy, and you certainly have to wash up afterwards.

This morning the man went to work, the kids went to school, and I went into Barcelona to play. It was my parent's last day here, and we went into the Joan Miro museum. I LOVE Miro's work. All the brilliant yellows and blues. We went to the Fundacio Joan Miro which has an amazing website. It takes a moment to load, but if you click on English first, needless to say, and then click on the yellow painting that then tells you it is 'works' you can get a gorgeous tour of his fantastic work. Just keep scrolling down. The foundation Tapestry was amazing, fully 20 feet high, and spectacular. The image doesn't do it justice at all. I've always like textiles, and I had not realized that he had done work in them in collaboration with other artist.

He also has a fountain that has mercury flowing through it. Ignoring the various issues that may go with this, it was quite spectacular to see. At first you think it is water, but it isn't flowing properly. I then wondered about the finish on the metal, and how they maintained it for so many years, and then you realize that it is mercury. It has so much more tensile strength, it flows completely differently. Quite beautiful. They had it entirely glassed off of course for health reasons.

Back to the real world now, walk the dog, move the beds back, do the laundry *IN A MACHINE!!!!!* *glee* work tonight...blah blah blah. Back to my own cooking. Ah well.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Here's a few Pics and lots of food.

We did go out for dinner again on Saturday night, to the local bar, which was great...some of the food was fine and typically Catalan, some was amazing, for instance the razor clams on a plate...very simple and very good. I had a sandwich called a is a grilled cheese, or chilled grease as I usually call it, with a slice of baloney type stuff in the middle. Hmmm.

The place is great though, there were teenagers, and old guys and families with kids, some quite small although it was 9:30 at night, a bit of everyone. It is wonderful that there is a place they all go, the groups of teens were playing card games and other table games quite happily, and were being left in peace as long as they liked, rather like a club house rather than a bar.

Yesterday was very long and very very wonderful. I got up around 5:30 the take the Chuck for a walk, then we got everyone else up gradually, and were out of the house by 7am, heading for the man's cousin's place for the day. The drive was about two and a half hours, maybe three. The Chuckster is afraid of cars. I am a little astonished how long he could sustain it. He pooped in the car once on the way out despite the fourty five minute walk, and the fact that we stopped three times on the way down to let him out and to let him run around a bit. He barfed about 3 minutes away from the end as well. Darn.

Anyway, we got to their apartment to everyone's relief, especially Chuck's. We had a quick coffee and a visit, then we got into a car and headed out to their 'finca' which means property, but it also means a cottage/farm kind of thing. Finca's usually have some fruit and nut and olive trees, plus an area for growing vegetables, and a small house of varying sophistication. After a quick view of the town from a local high point, we headed out to their land with all twelve of us - my parents are still here - plus the man's cousin and his wife, and two of their daughters, and one of their friends, and my husband's uncle. *whew that was complicated*

Their finca is lovely. The house has a great kitchen, a big dining area, a bathroom and a bedroom. There are about a hundred olive trees, plus almonds in bloom, cherries, hazelnuts, and a few others. There is also a big porch with a roof over it. We let Chuck off the leash, which was quite a mistake. He took off into the distance, down the road to the finca, with me in hot pursuit. At the end of the lane, he had a left or right choice, fortunately he chose left, as right led to the highway. When I got to the corner, he was no where in sight. I called, and thankfully he came back. Goodness. I had let him go loose, but left his leash on as it slows him down so much, but one of the daughters, who is a vet, took it off.

We got him back in, and he wandered off down the finca, seems that the fence did not go all the way around. I had to run over to the neighbours to retrieve him from their dog's cage. We got a rope at this point. I wanted to stop running. Now we know that he is not yet ready to go off leash. While he will return when I call, he has no strong desire to stay with us on a moment to moment basis. More work to be done.

After a while we started to get the calcots ready. I say we broadly as there was little for us to do. Calcots are kind of halfway between leeks and green onions, and are very traditional at this time of year in Catalonia. They are cooked on huge grilles over very hot, very fast flaming fires. Bed frames are traditional, or at least recently traditional for cooking them, and that is what we used. We all gathered brush and piled it up, the calcots were laid out on the bedframe, laid over the fire and it was lit. They were turned half way through, and then when they were thoroughly charred, they were piled into newspapers, and wrapped. Then they were brought up to the house, we put on bibs that went down to our knees, and stood around the table. I had read of eating calcots years ago, and wanted very badly to have the chance to do so. This was an absolute dream come true. Very special.

To eat them, you grasp the charred root end of them with one hand, hold onto the inner layers of the green uppers, and slide the inner part of the onion out of the charred outer part. This is then dunked in a Romesco sauce made with tomatoes, red peppers, garlic and almonds. This drippy mass is then raised above your head, you tip your head back, open your mouth, lower the end in and some more and bite it off. Oh my goodness gracious. It was so so good. We also had grilled artichokes, also dipped in the romesco sauce. When we were done with this, all three hundred and fifty calcots *oink*, we all got a little cleaner and went into the house to sit down for the rest of the meal. Truita, which is a very tall omelet type Catalan dish with potatoes and onions. There were also grilled veg, cheese, nuts and more. Then sausages of several different types, and beans, plus razor clams again, these were even better. Boy those are good. Cooked so simply and they taste like all that is wonderful about the sea. Then dessert, three different types of cakes or pastries. All accompanied by wine in pourros and cava, which is Catalan champagne.

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Yummy yummy yummy.

Drove back, poor Chuck only barfed twice, and then to bed full and tired, I was so hugely full I skipped dinner altogether. Well, we sat down (rather stood around) to eat at around 1pm, and we left at 6:30 leaving the table rather early. FULL.

What a tremendous treat, and it was so fabulous. Such lovely people and a wonderful day

Here are some photos from that part of Spain.


Someone exercising a trotter on the beach. View of the mountains by the coast behind.


These are all bulls, with no real fence between us and them, we didn't stay long.

Today I taught one class this morning, and then the girls and my parents and I drove down to the beach with the dog. Well! Chuck the suck wasn't afraid of the sea at all!!!!! Who'd have thunk! I guess with only the short scary drive rather than a longer traffic and bridge filled walk, he was more open to the idea! Rolled in the sand and trotted here and there. Yipee!

Then home for a peaceful afternoon, and dinner by my folks. They bought a chicken, complete with it's head. That's how they come here. I'll let you know more as we get into it. Literally. The feathers have been plucked anyway.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Road trip!!!!!





wonderful day.




Tell 'ya'll tomorrow.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A day out for all

The parade was a hoot! Every class was dressed as a different sport, the little ones were all white water rafters, and the bigger one's class were surfers. The little ones had paper mache helmets on, giant paddles, and 'life jackets' made of red garbage bags and black tape. They were all dressed in black, and it looked great. It had a neighbourhood feel to it, all homemade costumes and the parents walking along. The elder child's class were all in Hawaiian style and with giant hand-painted cardboard surfboards. It had the goofy sort of feel of the cruisers regatta for those of you who have been there... All the parents walked along with the groups, and the only problem that my kids had were the paparazzi papa's and mama's or grand papa's or grand mama's. They were both bodily shoved aside so that another child's photo could be taken. It is not only in N. America that children's childhoods are being seriously over documented.

There was a car at the back playing music, and they all tooled around the town. A lot of fun. Everyone smiling and happy and laughing. A real neighbourhood event.

My folks arrived last night, which was wonderful, we all met them at the bus, then came home for dinner. The wine was designated as drinkable, although not brilliant. Better than Beaujolais Nouveau, for those of you that know what that is. Drinkable table wine, just not brilliant.

The man and the little one went into one town for her birthday party. No culture shock there, it was in a big indoor play space, the only difference was that the bar for the parents took up about 15% of the space, and the place was big. Well, that adds a certain something to your kid's birthday party. She seems to have had a good time, and came home with some candy.

The elder daughter, my folks and I went into Barcelona, to the National Museum of Catalonia where there was an exhibition of paintings from El Greco to Cezanne from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It was very good, especially at the end when we got to the more modern was really fun to go around with the elder child who was so engaged in it all. They're so amazing to talk to and know what they are thinking and how they are thinking about it.

After the exhibit, we walked down into the town and found a fantastic place for lunch. MMMmmmmmmmmmm. It had table cloths, but was filled with Catalans and their kids, all dressed up for Carnival, and older couples. Well, the girl had salad and Spaghetti Carbonara...the salad was quite typical, lettuce, with a half a boiled egg, tomato slices, and an asparagus shoot across the top. The carbonara was made with some kind of stock, which was fascinating. Very yummy. My Mom had clams and artichoke hearts, cooked together in a sauce, it was seriously good. My Dad had roasted eggplant and red pepper with anchovies, and I got muscles....They were SOOOO good, they tasted of the sea and all that is meaty and delicious....

My Mom had squid for seconds, very lightly breaded, thick and juicy, my Dad got bacalla, which is cod, with langostines, also delicious, and I got some sort of steak. mmmmmmm. For desert the girl got lemon sorbet, which was sour and delicious, and we ordered Crema Catalana. A traditional desert, with a custard on the bottom, which they then sprinkle with sugar, and then burn the sugar on the top with a heated iron, making a crisp delicious crust on top. MMMmmmmmm. And cafe solo, which is essentially espresso.

We staggered off and rented the car for tomorrow and drove back out. It is raining now, the younger one and my Dad just came in from walking Chuck, who is hilariously uncomfortable about being damp. He keeps rubbing himself on furniture, and looking generally disturbed. I am going to take him down to the car and let him check it out, and give him some treats there so that he can get used to it, and maybe even think it is a good place to be before we head off on our road trip tomorrow. The last time he was in the car he barfed.

The car booster seats the girls have to use are apparently uncomfortable. Should be fun.

A pleasant sort of day. What to do for dinner now? Maybe go out again?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Clean clean *puff puff* scrub sweep *puff puff*

I have spent the entire day cleaning, it is now 2:30. Well, I did take the dog out for a walk, and do an emergency sewing job or the Carnival parade costume, but I have scrubbed, swept, mopped and wiped every freaking inch of this joint. When is it that you get old enough to stop cleaning because your Mom is coming over?

My Mom is clean. She is in no way compulsive or obsessive, just simply clean. It is a running joke, we saw a cartoon once, this man comes into a room where his two daughters are watching t.v. He tells them to turn it off, the have to clean up because someone from the bank is coming over. The girls want to know the level of clean they are aiming at. "Dad clean?" No it'll have to be better than that. "Mom clean?" No, better than that. The girls, with horror stricken faces shriek out, "NO NO NO! NOT NOT......*G*R*A*N*D*M*A* CLEAN!!!!! Dad replies, "No surgical room clean ought to do it." My Mom was there and we all howled.

This however is the first time that I have felt compelled to really clean for my Mom, usually just a look over for anything really gross, like life forms developing on the back splash in the kitchen, and that'll do. This time though.... I have had quite a while to ponder why I am cleaning so thoroughly. My Mom is really cool, she would never say anything if it was dirty, and certainly wouldn't love me any less. I think it is because of the Chuckster. My Mom is probably somewhat allergic to him, and she is a very long way from being a dog person, so I really wanted to get all the tumbleweed up that he has been creating. I am hoping she will at least like him a bit, and if it isn't too filthy in here it will help. *Is it just me or do I sound like I am bringing a boyfriend home for the first time?* Then for the last week or so I have been letting things slide because I knew I was going to be doing a big clean before she came, so it was getting a bit squalid in here. I did draw the line at soaking the calcium drop marks off the shower door. The windows aren't perfect either, which is a bit silly as I actually really like clean windows.

Anyway, it's done. Or at least as done as it is ever going to be. My fingers are peeling prunes and my nails are all soft...

I briefed the man and the kids before they left this morning that I would be cleaning all day, and when they came home at lunch, whether they could see a difference or not, their role was to express joy, amazement and astonishment at the sheer beauty of what I had managed. They performed marvelously, and I think they actually could see a difference.

House work is one of the worst chores. I hate it. I get no sense of accomplishment from it. No one acknowledges it, (Sorry Mom, I'm guilty there.) and before you know it, it's just as grubby again. Beurk.

Trish over at Coffee House Chatter left a comment when I mentioned the lemon and orange tree that were growing next to each other a while ago. She felt that it was a miracle of grafting, and I wasn't sure. Well, she was absolutely right. I found another bi-fruited tree, again lemon and orange, and the graft is visible a good foot above the ground, branching off the single trunk of the tree. Well, knock me down with a feather. That is amazing. Urban Chicky here obviously, but that is amazing. I didn't know you could do a graft like that. Wow. The tree is astonishing to look at. It looks photoshopped.

My elder daughter did go up into the hills yesterday to eat omelets, only the pathetic immigrant kid's parents had not figured out that we were supposed to PROVIDE the food, along with pop. So they're all up in the hills, lounging around, and all the kids pull something out but my kid. Damn. Why don't they write these things down like we asked them to? If any of you are ever teaching ESL kids....WRITE DOWN WHAT THE KIDS HAVE TO BRING FROM HOME!!!! The other kids offered to share spontaneously, but she said no. Poor kid.

So when the younger child informed me that all of the other kids in the class had a paddle for the costume, and she didn't, I knew I had to do something. The parade is themed by room, the elder's class are all surfers and the younger white water rafters and I wasn't going to let her be the only kid in the parade without a paddle. It is one of the difficulties of not speaking the language, or knowing the culture. Her teacher actually wrote down what she would need, on Wednesday. A broom handle and cinta negra...well, what is that and where do you buy it? I finally found the English speaking Mom, and asked her what it is, and then what sort of store sells that, because it ain't the same here folks, and then I got it Thursday morning.

Oh, it's black ribbon.

I saw the lovely special help lady that the kids have. She is an absolute dream, and she is a good part of the reason my children are happy at school. So when I saw her this morning, I mentioned that the little one thought that she was the only one without a paddle for the parade. I was very polite, and said that I was sure that she simply didn't understand, but after the elder one was the only one without food, the little one was not going to suffer the same fate. She said she would talk to my daughter's teacher this morning. Yeah!

Oh, and the new washing machine? Tried it out, the clothes were practically dry when they came out the spin cycle is so vigorous...and the wine? The man said it was drinkable and he didn't get a headache, and that was without the soda that they traditionally drink wine with here. Everyday wine anyway. We'll see what the 'rent's say.

Parade starts in 45 minutes. I'm going to drink that mocha espresso I made, walk his Chuckiness, and go watch the fun.

It was lovely taking the kids to school, everyone, tothom in Catalan, was smiling and happy...and I found the English speaking Mom so I know what the route is!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

O my o my o my!

The things that go on here. Well, yesterday the elder daughter had a presentation by two women who had lived in refugee camps in North Africa about what their lives were like. A good idea on the whole given that there are so many North African refugees arriving in Spain all the time. Unfortunately, she didn't understand much of what was said... Today in counterpoint, she thinks that this afternoon she is walking up in the hills to eat omelets. She isn't sure, like most things here with us.

Here are two examples of fun with my sparkling linguistic skills. The administrator of the language school I work at does not speak any English at all, so we are 100% in Catalan. She was talking about one of my new students who is a sculptor and anxious to learn English as he is going to have some exhibitions in, well somewhere they speak English. The only thing is that the word for anxious sounds something like ganes. So she said that he has moltes ganes, much anxiousness. However much and many are the same word, and the word for legs, something like canes sounds very similar, so we had to go around it for a while as I was pretty sure she wasn't trying to tell me that he had many legs.

A few minutes later on my way home from work this morning, I went into the pet food store to buy more kibble for the Chuckster...I managed to ask the lovely lady there for salad for the dog. Hmmm. The lady speaks English quite fluently and we had a pretty good laugh about that. I was going to buy a moderate sized bag, but the killer bag weighing in at 15 kilos works out to cheaper in the end. I didn't have that much with me, no problem, I can bring it in later....and they insisted on delivering it, though the store is only a block from my house. Very nice.

I had to run out for bread in the middle of lunch, and on my way back, there was a van in front of my door, filled with big jugs of wine. I watched this for a moment or two, they were delivering wine! Hmm. Called the husband to talk to the guys, reticent fellow that he is, he didn't want to bother. I however, was intrigued by the idea of door to door wine delivery. We had always figured there was a system to get into the good wineries, or at least the small local ones that don't export, but are for purely local domestic consumption. Well, lo and behold, there they were on the doorstep, and my man won't chat. *ahem ahem* Drag out my crappy Catalan, how much? 5 Euros for four litres. Not a bad deal I manage to ask when they come around. Every Thursday at around 1pm. They will ring my bell to ask next week. Well I go up and report all this to the man. I don't drink alcohol of any form, but the man has red wine usually. We figure with him drinking a glass or two a night, this won't keep. Back down to ask about this. No problem, it should be OK for a week or two. Now this is starting to sound a bit more like plonk, but still intriguing. I have little money left after the dog food purchase, so we have to borrow off the youngest kid to buy it, so she figures she gets to hand over the cash, and heave the hooch up the stairs. Big jug in a really ugly plastic hamper. I suspect you are supposed to pour it into the pourro...that drinking jug the Catalans use.

Then the washing machine is problem basically, though they whine about having to take it up to the third floor to hook it up in the shack on the terrace. I hate mechanical noises, and I'll be damned if that thing is going to roar away in my kitchen if I can put it up on the terrace. Once they realized how little Spanish I spoke, and neither of them spoke Catalan, they figured out why the floor number was incorrect, and they were very nice, and found it all fairly funny. Tick that off the list.

The girls and I now headed out with the increasingly desperate Chuckmeister, only to realize that we still have to wait for the dog food delivery. Knew I should have hauled it myself. Ah well, the big child gets deputised to stay at home while the little one and I run out. Return home, of course nothing has happened. So the little one and I gather up some laundry and head upstairs to try the new machine out. No English instructions of course. I got it half way ready when the door bell goes, I run down three flights for the dog food, and the giant plastic jug to store it in. I have bought almost as much dog food as the dog weighs, and as we pour it out into the container, you can see that Chuck thinks he has died and gone to heaven. Then we put the lid on. Poor pup. Got the machine spinning, got the kids to school. Did the dishes, and now I am sitting in the sun on the balcony catching up on it all.

It's a different world in some ways. No milk or bread delivery like some folks used to have, though few still do, but you can get wine delivered to your door on a regular basis, nicely timed for the weekend.

The folks are here this weekend, and they have a reasonable palate, unlike the husband, so we will find out if it is rot-gut or drinkable. Interesting system one way or the other.

Oh and one last thing, for those of you in the UK and the US, Canada is only about the middle of the list for good places to grow up, but Spain is number FIVE, and the US and the UK are last and second last. See the link here for more info. I would like to know more about the criteria they used, and where they got their information.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Local news

We met with the teacher last night, and it seemed to go reasonably well. We talked about all manner of techniques for helping out the eldest with math, but I rather bluntly stated at the end that I thought it would be simplest if the extra help lady spoke more slowly so my kid might understand her, smiled, was patient and was basically nice. That mostly is the problem. My kid's teacher said she would speak to her. Let's hope it works.

The other thing that kind of amazed us was what the extra-help lady was trying to get her to learn. My kid can do long division if it is single digit divisors no problem. For instance 5678 *hey, I don't have a division sign!* OK, 5678 divided by 3. No problem; but 5678 divided by 45. OK, she could do it, but she'd have problems. Here though, what they want them to do, and what is apparently VERY IMPORTANT is that they do this division without writing down some of the numbers. *you may need paper and a pencil to follow what is coming up* So say you are dividing 565 by 9. You would look at it, figure out that 9 goes into 56 6 times, write the 6 in the answer space, and instead of writing down the 54, subtracting it, and then getting the remainder, you have to do that part in your head, just writing down the remainder under the 56. Then bring down the next number and repeat. The man and I both looked at each other goggle-eyed, and told the teacher we had never done it this way, and we would try to explain it to the girl, who definitely cannot do it.

The husband has an engineering degree so is a bit of a math wiz. He worked out celestial navigation from the tables, without much instruction. This involves long and complicated bits of math, I think involving calculus and more. He even figured out that there were errors in some of the tables we had. I am not in his league, but I have always basically like math and been good at it, well, until grade thirteen, but that's another post. We both, even the math wiz husband, looked rather stunned. We could both do it, but, well, why?

Anyway, anticipating complete conniptions from the eldest when shown this, I got her all psyched up: this is hard, they don't expect you to be able to do it now, they are building to this slowly....yadda yadda yadda....then I showed her. "Oh, that's easy, no problem!"

Well great!

While I was walking the kids to school after lunch yesterday, we noticed someone putting a bed frame out by the garbage in front of our house. They don't do yard sales here, if you don't want something, you just put it out, and someone usually takes it. There is no stigma associated with dumpster diving here...well this looked pretty cool, bed frame with drawers. I think I mentioned it yesterday. Well it is insanely heavy. The man and I were struggling with it in the stairwell last night around 8:30 when one of the guys downstairs came home. The fittest looking one. Well, he was all over this, aside from the fact he couldn't get to his apartment door, he just rolled up his sleeves and dug in. Even he said it was heavy. Oooof. They got up three flights, and then it jammed. The ceiling is lower, and this sucker wasn't going up. Back down it went. I've written it off at this point, but no. Mountain boy downstairs trots off to the Casal and comes back with a mountaineering rope. Out onto our balcony, dropping ends over and tying them off to the rail. Seems we'll be hauling it up on the outside. I will meanly say that he didn't flake the rope down properly so it tangled, but he was otherwise very capable. Then he and the man are out in the street tying it on. Pretty competently, then up on the balcony hauling away. We have windows in the front that are fully eight feet wide and open all the way out, so in it comes, he helps us haul it into the room, and coils his rope and goes. We gave him one of the bottles of champagne that the man got for Christmas.

I could actually understand him tonight too, he is one of the people I have the most trouble with Catalan. I cannot even pick out individual words with him, it sounds like machine gun fire, but tonight...I was getting a fair amount. The man also has trouble understanding him sometimes, and he said that he was more comprehensible last night too.

He was hilariously stunned that our 8 year old was in bed at 9pm, and was surprised that the 11 year old was in her pyjamas. He even asked twice when they get up in the morning. We are so unSpanish. Local kids wouldn't have had dinner yet.

Dog crap update. It must have to do with market day, I went out to buy my goodies, and two new fresh turds appeared while I was gone. This time though, they were just in front of the building, not in the doorway, so I am not taking it personally. Someone must come by here on Wednesday mornings, and the wafting aroma of his Chuckiness must give him the urge. Oh, and our Catalan assistant from downstairs was amused by Chuck's name. The only word in Catalan it is close to is xoc. Pronounced shock. It means crash. He thought we had named the dog 'crash' which isn't actually all that bad a name for a dog in fact.

Here's a weird or funny thing at the husband's work. Every day someone goes around at about 10 and takes orders, as none of them have had breakfast, one of the local places does sandwiches and they can order them. So someone comes around; coffee? Sandwich? Well this time they came around asking if anyone wanted to have a physical. They must have some sort of plan at the man's work. Coffee? Tea? Salami and tomato? Would you like a physical with that?

Very strange.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I taught last night, and I got off early, the last student of the evening was away ill. Fine by me, I got to tuck my kids into bed that way. It is surprisingly difficult to teach English sometimes. As a native speaker, you have learned the language, but not studied it. OK, here's an example. What is the difference between much and many? Any ideas? It took me a while, but I figured it out. Much is for uncountable nouns, and many is for countables. Don't know what those are? You cannot put an s on the end of uncountables. Like, flour, luggage, rice, etc. So we use many for pieces of luggage, cups of rice, shoes, etc. Yeah, that took me a while to figure out, though I am pleased that I got there.

This morning was a run around day, I hate doing errands, and I find that if I am not careful I end up doing one or two a day every day, and become convinced that I do nothing else in my life, so I prefer to pack them into a day here and there. Does make it a little tiring though.

Up extra early to walk his Chuckiness as he would be left for hours later. Then got the girls up. (IWILLNOTGOTOSCHOOL! IWILLNOTGOTOSCHOOL I. WILL. NOT. GO. TO. SCHOOL.) I ran out for salami for their snack, which is substantial here traditionally because a lot of the kids have barely had breakfast if they have any at all. Managed to get the eldest to her gym class in one direction, and the youngest to school in the other on time. The little one choking back tears as I dropped her off. Tear my heart out now please. Anyway, she went in under her own steam.

Then to the grocery store, home, pat the dog, walk the dog, run back in and lock the poor dog in the front hall as we cannot entirely trust him yet, and it is too long for the porch where he might get chilly. RUN to the bus to Barcelona and made it *puff puff* N.B. Mules are NOT made for running. Is that what shoes without heel cups are called? You know, you just slide your feet in...

Anyway, march over to the Carrefour in BCN and buy a new WASHING MACHINE!!!!!! Yes you read that right, after Thursday, in theory, we will no longer have to time our showers around the laundry, and the man will not have to shower with the laundry ever again. Hopefully. Despite my linguistic handicaps, it went fairly smoothly. Point at the machine and wave a visa card around. Worked just fine.

Bus home, arrived first of the family to a hysterically happy dog, then the man, then the kids arrived. Lunch and play. We are all still in recovery mode so I am not working too hard on the English homework with the kids. Indeed barely at all.

We have these multi-coloured geometric wooden tiles that the youngest and I spent a fair chunk of time making into a town, and driving toy cars around. Dogzilla only visited twice, once to try to eat a house. He was shall we say, strongly discouraged, and then we had a slightly seismic event involving a long and furry tale. All very funny.

The youngest has jazz tonight, and the man and I are visiting with the eldest's teacher about the screaming math extra-help lady. That should be fun. Actually, it should be OK, as her regular teacher who we are meeting with is a dream, and very reasonable so it should all work out in the end.

Exciting plans for the weekend shaping up. I had my dates wrong, disappointingly my folks aren't coming until Friday, but then a day in BCN on Saturday, while the little one goes to a birthday party for her very best friend in the class. Why do these things have to overlap? Ah well. Then it looks like we will be taking a road trip down to the husband's cousin on Sunday. YAHOO!

This week is Carnival, or Setmana Sants. Saint's week leading up to Lent I think. The kids are supposed to be dressing up at school. The eldest has some idea of what is going on, but is not very interested. The younger is game, but hasn't a clue. Yesterday they were all supposed to wear medallions to school it turns out. Geeky us didn't manage it. They were supposed to wear numbers today, which we also didn't manage, but they made one for the little one at school. Tomorrow is baseball caps. We have one. The husbands, and it is a wee bit sweaty. The eldest has refused. Lets see if the little one wears it. There is a parade on Friday in full costume. I think Thursday is shorts. We'll see. The local kids are clearly excited. Mine don't seem to be, I guess it doesn't stack up against Halloween.

Gonna go walk the mutt again before beginning the next round of activities.

Oh, and we may have found a bed frame for the elder child, someone was binning one, with drawers built in underneath and everything. It weighs about a million pounds, I had to drag it into the stairwell, and I am strong. I think we'll measure it BEFORE we haul it up. On a charming note, the girlfriend who lives downstairs, who says Hi, but is not all that friendly offered to help me haul it all up. I declined, she had on these sweet little kitten heels, and I don't think she could have managed the weight. It is a beast. Hopefully it fits though. With those drawers too, there is now NO EXCUSE for all the crap on the ground. Not that that will change anything.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The almond trees are flowering.

OK, life here is lovely today, the almond trees are in bloom, and let me tell you, somewhat cruelly for those of you in the throws of deepest winter, I like February here a whole lot more than February in Canada. Aside from my youngest daughter's birthday, which has brightened the month for me, it has always been my most loathed time of year. Dark, snowsuit hell has no end, cold, slushy and blah. Reading week helped, and it is short anyway, but oh my oh my it is nicer here; and in the Bahamas.

Where were we this time last year? Warderick Wells south anchorage visiting with other boaters, we watched the March of the Penguins, and X got a cold beer...a red letter day on a boat in the tropics with no fridge. Warderick Wells is a national park in the Exuma chain of islands in the Bahamas.

credit to Britt Bassett, s/v Windom for the aerial photo

One of the lovely things to do there is to hand feed the birds...

This is an edited version of one of our photos.

But now in Spanish land, one of my private lessons this morning baled because his Aunt died, and the other was shortened because they were hammering in the next room so loudly we could barely think.

I had to go into the school today to talk to the teacher about a child in the younger ones class who is kicking and punching the girls, also looking up their skirts and pulling down their pants. He seems to be the kids in the class who everyone knows because he is a pain. However, the younger one is getting rather worked up about it. I also had to set up a meeting with the elder child's teacher because she seems to have gotten a special help lady for my daughter for math. We aren't sure. Anyway, aside from her apparently disgusting cigarette breath, her teaching technique seems to involve yelling at my kid and making her feel stupid. Now math has never been her favorite thing, but as I have spent an entire year trying to teach her to at least not loathe it, and to maybe even think that she has some skills, this is not a step forward. She doesn't like it, and the problem we got into was that every time she was faced with a math program and sound track started in her head, "I hate math. I cannot do math." This was looped so that it filled her brain so completely that she never really engaged with the problem. Then she didn't learn, then she felt that she hated math and couldn't do math...on and on. Anyway, in no school is yelling at a child, making them feel stupid and then using the internet while they work viewed as a good teaching technique, so we are going in for a meeting tomorrow to find out what the plan is and what is going on.

Ho hum.

Teaching tonight again, three classes.

The man is still well *thank god*.

I love sunshine.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Missing friends, beautiful day.

Well, our guests have gone, and we are all sad, particularly the eldest daughter. She and the daughter of our guest have been the closest of friends since the day they met, and between them living in Senegal and then Holland, and us being on the boat and now here, they haven't seen nearly as much of each other as they would like. It is one of the crappy aspects of this lifestyle.

We had a lovely morning before they had to go, a walk in the mountains with Chuck the dog and everyone else. It is beautiful and warm and sunny, we've got the doors open and the pooch is out on the porch sunbathing, while the laundry does the same upstairs.

Back to the grind to school, I have 3 hours of classes in the morning and then another 4 and a half at night. X off to work, and it all goes back to normal. I really wish they had stayed longer. Maybe with all the lovely lolly I'll be making we can go up and visit them in Holland. In the spring when it is warmer. I do love all the warmth and sunshine here....I would find it very hard to give it up.

We are having movie afternoon today, in light of late nights and school days, we'll be start much earlier than usual. We'll be watching "Quien creo a Roger Rabbit?" which I have seen, and cannot remember, and which I cannot remember the name of in English. Hope it's good. Plans for popcorn, hot chocolate, and a cuddle. What we all need, even if it is a beautiful sunny day. *The husband remembered the film's name as usual. "Who killed Roger Rabbit?" Lets hope the kids like it.

The dog has taken a real liking to being out on the porch, which is good for him, I may try leaving him out there when I go out.

Hope your weekend was good, ours was fantastic. We just miss our friends.

My folks come on Thursday for a couple of days. Something to look forward to.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Barcelona...lots of it....phew!

OH my god, super busy day...we have done a ton. The girls and I with the guests went into Barcelona for the day, 9:40 bus....first to Park Guell, which we have been to before and I LOVE. Click here for a photo tour. However some waste of oxygen decided to wack off the nose of the dragon a few days ago, so he was tented over. They figure it will take a month at least to repair. Hereis a photo of it before from some one's blog and here it is after. Idiots.

Bused down to the city center and saw this house by Gaudi and it's neighbour. The Gaudi house costs a fortune to go into, but the neighbour is free. Well, the ground floor is, and it is amazing. Tilework, stain-glass skylights, dragon light fixtures....

Then we wandered down into the old town for lunch and totally lucked into a little place serving very typical food to locals. It was definitely not the best version of these dishes, but very traditional and typical. I had soup - cabbage, white bean and potato, followed by bacalla (cod) in a sofregit. The guest had another very traditional meal, green beans, and these are different than any I have seen outside of here with potatoes, boiled with olive oil, salt and pepper. One of those heavenly combinations...although here slightly over-cooked. Anyway, it was very cool. *whisper* My Catalan held up too!

Then on to the Picasso Museum....which has a completely disappointing website...the art was amazing. He was, as should be no surprise, phenomenally talented even at an incredibly young age...and the building itself is several ancient houses knocked together and is absolutely stunning. We saw some mind-bending visions even outside his art. The disposable had run out of film however....gotta getta digital One mild mutiny from the little one, but all good. He is amazing.

Then wandered through the back streets heading towards La Rambla, and we stumbled upon the Church of Santa Maria del Mar which I had wanted to get into so many times, but which was never open. Well it was, and boy it was amazing. Built in the 14th century in only 56 years, it is austere and soaringly stunning. The ceiling is so high it is hard to understand....
and the sun was shining through the rose window...words fail me.

Wandered up along La Rambla, which I am starting to dislike (future guests, please note I would be truly delighted to walk it with you...I mean it, I'm just not doing it on my own anymore.) The crowds are intense which make me a little squirrely around keeping track of the kids and the wallet. I am always glad to get off it with everyone and everything still intact. Plus the kids tend to start to bicker in crowds which does not add to it. All was well. Found a toy store for the guest to buy gifts for the kids she left behind, and then there was a bus in 6 minutes (at 6ish) when we got good is that, as they are about every hour and a half on the weekends....or more I can't remember. All home, good dinner, kids giggled and bickered in bed till too late.

Life is good.

Friday, February 9, 2007


Busy busy day, into Barcelona to pick up the friends, but first get the little one ready for school. This initially began with a giant fit..."I won't go to school! I won't!! I WON'T!!!!" She did get ready, then part way through we realised that every single pair of pants that she owned were in the wash, wet. It has rained here for a couple of days, and as everything line dries....well, who would have thought that a child who had been sick for four days could have every stitch of clothing in the wash. Skipped school. As the elder was going to be staying home anyway....well they were here together. Stopped by the language school, two new classes, I think that's another 6 hours...lots more lovely lolly and it is in the day time too. YIPEE!

Anyway, once we all got back here and ate, the guests wanted to hit the beach. Fortunately the elder child was in good enough form for this, and it is downhill the entire way there, so off we went. Took Chuck the Suck with us too. Nice long walk, should be fun. Forgot about the car thing. To get from our town in the hills to the town down at the beach, there is only 1 road, and it goes under a highway, and there is not really a sidewalk, and it is four lanes of fast moving traffic. Not the most lovely of countrysides, and one designed to instill utter terror in the heart of every car-fearing canine. We got through that with only minor breakdowns. Then we had to walk around the round-about, and then a second. These are NOT pedestrian friendly, especially the second which was undergoing some construction and so also had no sidewalk. But we made it, the dog only trembling slightly. We got down to the beach, which has a four lane highway and a two lanes of train track, therefore an underpass. Like all good European underpasses, it smells like urine (men are disgusting) (sorry guys, but sometimes it's true). As we get up to the stairs for the underpass, a giant truck smokes by at the same moment that Chuck sees the stairs. Abrupt about face and retreat. I had forgotten about the stair thing, and that combined with the truck thing...well, lets say I wasn't sure that Chuck and I were going to be hitting the beach.

But we talked him into it. He was all happy on the other side....big beach, few people, occasional dogs, lots of space, no cars. Then he saw the sea. VERY SCARY! Sat down and looked at it, entire body trembling. Hmmm. We have a landlubber dog. Tremble tremble tremble. Turns his back and looks away still trembling. Stands up, tail clamped between his legs, and then lays down back to the sea leaning on the guest. Tremble tremble tremble. After about 45 minutes he was willing to look and not tremble, but was happy to go. Got a little sea glass, found a few shells, swung on some climbers, one child waded and discovered how cold it is, lovely if your not a dog.

Leaving the beach was fine, except a little complicated. We are not sure if the dog is allowed on the bus, and the last time he was in a vehicle he barfed from fear, so the dog on the bus is not a good option, but it is a long uphill climb home, and the eldest child has just emerged from her sick bed, so the guest and her child, and my two kids are going to take the bus back, and I'll walk the Chuckster. But the bus stop is about 20 minutes down a four lane highway - with sidewalks. Chuck is near heart-failure by the time we get to the stop, and I leave them there.

FINE and DANDY through town. No problemo. Then we get to the bridge. He remembers the bridge. He does not like the bridge. He keeps lying down and refusing to get up. Gradually we work our way, with many breaks for lying in the undergrowth, and encouraging patting until we are nearly at the bridge. Ladies and gentlemen, there is no way in heaven and earth that dog was going to walk under that bridge in the lane, while watching the traffic come towards him. Chuck of no pride had to be carried. Yup, wore him like a big old stole, head hanging down one shoulder and tail down the other, legs hanging down like a scarf. He seemed pretty content. I do have to say though that they must take the bones out of those stoles before those little old ladies drape them on 'cause that was a little heavy.

He was very cheery at the other side, tail up and waving, ears perked. Kept sitting down and looking at me helplessly as we climbed though. He was getting a little tired. Finally though we got into known territory and he perked up and we trotted home to a long doggy nap and a drink. The girls and guests ended up in a cab, and had passed us while I was bending in the long grass trying to convince his doggyness to keep on going and be a good brave doggie. Tonight the rest of us had dinner and chatted and made up beds and giggled and drew and generally enjoyed ourselves. A lovely time was had by all. Even Chuck the suck.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Nice old guy, and geez I am OUT of it. Such a nerd.

To balance out the crap incident yesterday, I also had a conversation, well that would be generous, but hung out with this local old guy for a bit. I have seen him before going slowly around town with his cane. He's lean, and wears a black beret and the biggest thickest glasses I have seen in a long time. He also has one eye turned in which is a good indicator of the level of health care people had during the civil war and under Franco. He seems like a really friendly old guy. I don't honestly know tif he is or not as I don't know him at all, and if I understand one word in 20 I am doing well, but that doesn't stop him from chatting away for a minute or two before we continue on our way.

Yesterday I hauled my breathless self up to the top of the town while walking the dog, knowing that there was a bench up there in the sunshine with a lovely view. This old man was there, so we sat together in the sun...I figured out some of what he was asking me and answered him with our abbreviated life story about how we ended up here. He seemed to understand my wildly ungrammatical Catalan. Then he decided to walk me home. Now this was very friendly, but he is a really old guy and walks very slowly, and I didn't have a ton of extra time...but I couldn't really put him off, so off we went. He was still talking away to me like I might even have a brain. The difficulty is that I don't know much Catalan, the Catalans will almost always speak to a foreigner in Castillian even if they are speaking Catalan and I don't know much Castillian, and he's an old guy missing a bunch of teeth, so he was sort of slurrying the words around a bit. I wish I wish I WISH I could speak more of the language.

Anyway, he fortunately bid me Adios part way down so I made it home in time to do the dishes and kiss the kids before work.

The eleven year olds I am teaching are good Catalan nationalists. When asked to list things about Spain the listed Barca (the soccer club) Barcelona, Catalonia, the Catalan flag, when I put up Madrid they got up and erased it and showed me the garbage can to describe where Madrid goes.

The other thing that has been fairly hilarious is my discovery of just how out of it I am. They were supposed to come up with famous people. The only one they came up with that I had ever heard of was Brittney Spears. It was good for their English though, they had to keep explaining to me who these people are. The same thing happened in the text for the other student. It had a picture of 5 musicians who had stopped their career for one reason or another, I only recognized two, Bono and Madonna, and I got the reasons wrong. I had at least heard of the third, but the other two were a mystery to me.

There are all these lovely spots in the town that I really want to take photos of, I need a day of sunshine and decent health. Although I am not sure that the disposable is going to do them justice. Better than nothing though. There are doorways covered with the most ornate and gorgeous ironwork, or painted a beautiful blue with tile work, or hidden corners and alleys that are enticing, but private.

It is raining gently out, just in time for friends who are visiting this weekend. They lived in Senegal for four years and are now in Holland, and our eldest daughters were the best of friends when they were four before they left. The girls saw each other for an evening last summer and got on as they always had, and we are finally going to get some time together. Lets hope the weather returns to it's usual state of beauty. Though after the storm they had a few weeks ago, and the snow they are apparently having today, even if it is damp, it should be nice for them.

Just checked that weather gizmo on the blog, rain tomorrow but beautiful after that. Good. Except I told them not to bring raincoats. Hmmm. May have to email her about that one.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Who would do this?

Well, I was saying to the man just last night how much I was enjoying living here. When I take the dog out for a walk I usually meet someone I know. Like last night, I met two families. I had a completely confusing one-sided conversation with one of them, and a real conversation with the other. Their daughter was there and teaches English with me at the language school, and the mother was the one who took us to meet Chuck the Suck...who was incidentally frightened by a PUPPY yesterday. What is that? By the same token, some of the mad slavering dogs in the yards we go by he wants to buddy up with, so go figure.

This morning I was doing better and better. Managed a dog paced walk, and he walks fast, for an hour which left me tired, but not dead, and went to the market and the language school. Starting to feel like I have a place in this community. Mom at the school, teacher at the language school, neighbour, dog owner......

I was rather distressed when I came home from the market however to discover that someone had left an old dog shit on my front door step during the 45 minutes I was away. Some one, I know not who, had gone to the trouble of finding, transporting and depositing an old clump of dump on my door. Now there are the guys downstairs, but they don't have a dog, and as they've lived in this town their entire lives, I assumed that the dump is aimed at us, the extranejeros -yeah it sounds like extra-strangers to me too.

Well this doesn't feel very friendly somehow.

It is not that we don't clean up after the dog...and let me tell you there is dog crap all over this town, you'd have to leave a dump on nearly every door if that was your point of fact, I not only pick up after Chuck, but if he does it near another dump I will pick that up while I am at it. So much for civic virtue. Anyway, when the man came home for lunch I asked him to talk to two of the very friendly ladies on our street if they had seen anything. Of course they had not, but maybe the old-lady brigade will start a chattin' about this. Let's hope this doesn't happen again, although I imagine it might. *sigh*

Then again, one shouldn't make assumptions...just because we seem the most likely target, it may have been aimed at the guys, or maybe someone was just walkin' along and realized they were carrying old dog shit and happened to be right at our door, and threw it down on the threshold, not the sidewalk or the road, a mere 12 inches further out. Who knows.

My eldest says to me when I am lacking faith in humanity that there could be a good reason for this, and she is usually right. This time though, her comment was, "That's not very nice." She's right.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Emerging joys

Well, I certainly opened up a Pandora's box about that TV show, I think I will let it die down at this point. I don't have the time or energy, or really the interest to pursue more information about the show and who is writing and producing it, although I heard rumours that one of the writers and producers is a Muslim woman comedic writer who grew up in small town Canada. That is however entirely unverified.

Having emerged from the worst of my illness I have discovered a couple of miraculous things that may have been noticed by those around me, but that slipped past me unawares. First of all, the sun is shining. I know doesn't sound very profound, but there it is, and I am delighted. Took Chuck the dog out for his walk so he would stop chewing up all the toilet paper in the house and wow, it was WARM. Nothing like a three day fever for you to enjoy a normal body temperature.

Here's another little miracle I noticed, in the neighbourhood of our village there are three trees that look like they are growing both oranges and lemons. As a Canadian, I am still delighted by the fact that oranges are growing around me, but the sight of both oranges and lemons on the same tree did slow me down for a minute. *...oranges and lemons sang the bells of St Clements..* Turns out they have planted the two trees essentially in the same hole so that they grow up together and wind in with each other and present this beautiful multi-hued fruit crop. I've taken a picture, and I'll post when the film is finished, yaddah yaddah yaddah.

Taught last night under the influence of the local version of Sinutab with no ill effects I didn't seem noticeably hopped up to myself anyway, and the students didn't seem particularly alarmed by my behaviour, so it must have been OK. Four and a half hours back to back to back, I thought my poor throat would be numb by the end, but it was OK, back tomorrow night as well. I am glad the dope did not drive me to sleep or to hyperactivity. I had to try to explain the uses of 'some' and 'any' in English which are as far as I can tell nearly random, except that there is just enough order to it to make the rules around it confusing and difficult. Urgh. I'll review it at the next lesson again.

We have officially told the animal adoption place that we would take the dog, and the lady from the animal refuge is going to come around and rewrite his micro-chip. We also have to buy a collar TODAY, as we are still using his old one that belongs to them. The leash is not finished yet either, although I can always just tie it on, I've spliced the loop in anyway. I'll confess, I was hoping to not have any more chores today but there you go. The store isn't far anyway so it isn't too big a deal, and I can bring the dog so he won't complain about it anyway.

The kids story of choice lately has been Dick King-Smith's Sophie books. They are just great. There are six books, all about Sophie, a "small, but very determined" little girl who is absolutely mad about animals. It is so nice to find good books. We all miss the Public Library System, which had English language books by the truckload, literally.

The man has Castillian class tonight, and so I am resuming more of my duties as I heave up off the sick bed, I am in fact doing much better today, and feeling almost human. Thank goodness. I sincerely hope he doesn't get this, he will be SO miserable.

An important blog

A kind of serious note. This blog is written by a Palestinian woman and mother who is a journalist and is living with her child in Gaza. Whatever your beliefs, this is an interesting take on a complicated situation. Heartrending too on a personal level. The photos of her child all dressed for school, and then her description of their lives.

I spent a day in the Gaza in the mid-80's, and it was a very scary and nasty place then, for all sorts of reasons that are too complicated for here. I want it to be clear that it was not the Palestinian people who were scary or nasty to us in any way. The place sounds worse now.

Wish I had my photos from the visit I took, I'd post them, but they're in Canada.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Getting better slowly....

Slept well and long last night, and as far as I know the dog did not even try to get on the bed. YIPEEEEEE lets see if that lasts. I am weak as a kitten and hilariously breathless, and napping like mad, so am finding it a little limiting around blog inspiration. How much do you REALLY want to hear about me sleeping?

Went into the farmacia to buy sinus meds as my head is doing it's own rumba...I am not a big one to take medication, and I took this with some trepidation as I have to teach two classes tonight, and being hopped up hyper will not help, nor will irresistible sleepiness, but sometimes we are desperate over here...I really don't usually use meds, I don't take seasick medication because it makes me dozy, and I am good at seasickness...but I need my wits about me. Wish me luck tonight. Brought in the name of the active ingredients, my little Catalan-English dictionary is not so hot on medical terms.

This reminds me of a guy I know, he was home with his two kids and sick as a dog with something or other, the kids were 18 months and 3 or so and very active. He took some sort of cold medication, and it knocked him out cold...literally he could not stay awake. This is a problem when you are home alone with two active toddlers. I think he solved it brilliantly. He took the portable phone and both kids into the elder child's bedroom, then he lay down on the floor in front of the door. Now this man is very big, not fat at all, but his shoulders must be at least as wide as two of me, so he lay his bulk down in front of the closed inward opening door, phoned his wife at work and told her what had happened and what he was doing, and went to sleep. I don't remember if she left work, or called every half hour or so, but what a dilemma and what a solution.

On another note, I have heard rumours about a new show on CBC called Little Mosque on the Prairie, and I have even seen some clips on the website. It looks very funny, has anyone out there seen it? Is it as hilarious as it looks? here's a link to the CBC website with some clips for those of you who cannot get it. The show is, as you would imagine, about a small Muslim community living in small town Saskatchewan. Ripe for humour it seems to me.

Oh, and the guy from that book....not dead yet d*mn it.