Wednesday, April 29, 2009

That was fast

This is SUCH a village.

We were at the museum opening I mentioned yesterday, when a woman who lives down the street mentioned to me that my Catalan teacher is going to be marrying the man who dated one of the women I worked with and wanted to date another (who is my BF here) and is now engaged to the Catalan teacher. They have been dating for approx. five weeks. She has a teenage daughter. Let the games begin.

I promptly phoned my buddy, the one he wanted to date, I was so excited to have news she didn't.

We saw them together later in the day.

He hadn't said anything.

My BFH seemed a little put out and maybe confused.

I commented that maybe he wanted to keep another iron in the fire, just in case.

Glad she understood the idiom.

Another note. Sitting in the sun for nearly four hours, even with a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses makes your head feel yucky.

This one much to say.

Teacher Mommy tagged me for a meme, which I am right up for, but I have so much to say right it is going to wait for just a little bit.

There is a man here in the village who we have dubbed, with great originality, "The rudest man in the village" because he is so far. I don't honestly know what he is like, but on the surface, he is simply amazing.

I must see the man 3 or 4 times every single freaking day. It is the way our life works, our paths cross and re-cross. His kid goes to the same school as youngest and he must live over near where I work.

He has never, once, looked me in the eye or said hello, well, hola. He muttered something once after I was past him when he saw me coming out of the hills with a big fat fistful of asparagus. I muttered something that sounded suspiciously like f*ck you.

You have to understand just how small a town it is. We see the same people over and over and over again. You say hello to EVERYONE. You say hello every single time you go into a store, and good bye. To everyone. You say hello to the vast majority of the parents at the school when you pick up your kid, and if you catch someone's eye on the street, you had better d*mn well say hello. I spend a serious amount of time saying hello.

Not this guy. Not with me.

Oh my.

I was talking to my best friend here (BFH) about it, wondering if he just wishes these freaky foreigners would stay out of his village/province/country, if he was just an astonishing jerk or, as my friend kindly offered, he is just shy.

That is some level of shy, let me tell you.

Then we were at a local opening, for a little museum in town, and they had put up a lovely new plaque explaining all about it in Catalan, Castillian, Braille and English. I cannot attest to the Catalan and Castillian, though I imagine it was very correct. Nor can I attest to the braille, other than to say it was bumpy.
- as an aside here, how is the blind person to find the sign anyway?

The English though....was really bad.

A shame.
WHY WHY WHY didn't they ask us to look it over, you may ask?

Guess who runs that museum.

My man (to differentiate him from the rudest man) went over and diplomatically pointed out that we would be quite willing to help and please don't put up anymore signs without a native speaker looking them over. Yee gads. He even -diplomatically I thought- mentioned how difficult it is to get just the right words in just the right tone in a foreign language; though the problems with this sign runs deeper than that.

Turns out they were translated by the wife of the rudest guy's closest buddy. Seems she is an English teacher.

I dread to think.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Funeral (Sorry Hula, but it is what I did today)

I have now officially been to my first Catalan funeral.

The social pressure on the street has been mounting with each death. That sounds horribly morbid, but we live in the older part of town and there are quite a lot of seniors on our street. Indeed today's was the third funeral in a week.

Things I noticed, and a caveat.

I don't think I have ever been to a full-on Catholic funeral before, so some of these differences may be a function of religious differences.

Nobody spoke but the priest. No one. Weird. Impersonal too.

It was a full mass. People took communion. That seemed strange to me.

The casket came in on this wheel-y-bin kind of thing, like a massively overfilled shopping cart. That sounds odd and all, but that is what it looked like.

Every funeral I have been to the casket has either been there when the people arrived and stayed there till after they left, or it was carried in and out on people's shoulders. That said, I haven't been to all that many funerals.

People were WAY casually dressed. I did ask in advance, and I was not expected to wear all black, which I do in Canada....but.....but....

OK, I was told that wearing all black is old fashioned and that only the family would maybe wear black.

The adult sons of the man were not wearing ties. They had on striped shirts under their jackets. The children in the family were wearing regular, nice-ish clothes.

But, I am sorry, I know I sound horribly Victorian here, but WHO over the age of 16 wears jeans to a funeral of an old man.

Jeans and a checked shirt, a shabby jacket and whatever shoes seemed the comfiest to put on.

BIG cultural difference there, cause it seemed to be just fine. The man and I were talking about it, and some of these people did just come from work, but I have worn funeral clothes to work because I have to go to one. I was probably dressed more somberly than most, with brown linen pants, a black turtleneck, black jacket (fleecy, I would never have worn that in Canada, but the church is cold) black shoes, none too clean, plus a very small muted necklace, hair tied back.

The son I know well enough to attend the funeral has been a student of mine for several years and interestingly I warranted a double cheek-kiss, which not many folks were getting.

The man had been very ill. It is still, in many ways, sad.

I feel worst for his grandchildren. They are too young to recognise how ill he was, and they will miss him. He lived just a few doors down.


Tuesdays are long at the best of times.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Diggggggging around for creativity under the daily dross.

I went to an exhibit of photographs from some of the factories that used to fill this town. Sounds like it would be dreary, but no.

They are modern photos, well done and nicely mounted. They are photos of the insides of the buildings here in our town, and it is fun for a number of reasons. First it is simply neat to see. Then there is the element of hide and seek/sleuthing as you try to figure out which building these are. Then there is the beauty of the buildings themselves and the photos. It is also shocking how much space is simply sitting abandoned in this town, and with the cost of housing it is astonishing.

One of the factories had, as a floor, a massive mosaic of all manor of different tiles.

It is, simply, stunning.

I should try and get in there to take a photo. Wonder how I would swing that.

A photo of the photo of the floor is just not the same thing.

*note to self*

Re-remind myself to capture some of the beauty around us.

I should go into my workplace with the camera and just scrungle around.

Do you think I could ask Jesus if I could take pictures when he teaches me to make truita????

Think I will have to.

Must open my eyes again.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Brag time

Youngest has topped off a winning weekend!

Not only did they win their game on Sat but she won a 3K orienteering race today.

By 12 minutes!!!!!

Don't mess with that kid,

You'll be left slurping up the mud flung off her flying heels!

GO GO GO!!!!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

You say po-tay-to and I say po-tat-o

I have continued to try and make a really good truita de patates, with little success.

The first one was not so great at all.

The second looked good, but was dry. It was made with the combined input from two friends.

The third was better, but it didn't hold together, at all. It was made with the advice from my local 7-11, which sells things like escargot, stuffed squids, pork in mushroom sauce, unearthly good canelones, sobresada, you get the idea...GOURMET ready to eat food. All of it made on site. Home made allioli for crying out loud! (The allioli is only on weekends)

Just an aside, have you ever tried typing the word allioli? It is quite the exercise for that little finger.

So I was in the local 7-11 today teaching my youngest the valuable lesson of asuaging misery with food. (SUCH good parenting) You see, she won her basketball game, which was all good. She coped just fine with the fact that the man had emptied all the money from my wallet without me noticing so we had no money for candy, but when we blew it and forgot about the literary contest she was entered in which had it's prize giving today, she was pretty upset.

I really wanted to go to, indeed we all really wanted to go and we simply forgot.

The fact that she can enter a literary contest in Catalan is pretty good, and it would have been fun to go, but we simply forgot. I also forgot to pick up a movie for movie night. Oooopps.

Youngest was not a happy camper, and improvements had to be made. Lasagne for dinner. Pasta and cheese makes everything better, along with Iberic ham flavoured potato chips. I kid you not, ham flavoured chips, and they are quite good.

ANYway as usual, I am digressing.

The lovely man in the local 7-11 (his name is Jesus, did I ever tell you that?) Anyway, Jesus and I got chatting about my failed truita attempts and he offered to let me come over and watch how it is made at his store one day. You see, I had the extreme misfortune of having been born in a family that doesn't make truita every other day, so I am handicapped in my truita making skills. Like a true foody, and a kind and generous man, he is willing to hand on his know how to this otherwise hopeless Canadian.

Sweet, no?

Truita tutorials from Jesus.

I lead an odd life sometimes.

Hope your weekend is going well,



Friday, April 24, 2009

Here comes the bride!

Here's some big news!

Seems the man and I might have to get married. Again.

In the near eternal quest for papers for the girls we went off and visited the local justice of the peace. Seems our marriage papers are not valid here and we are therefore, in the eyes of the Spanish gov't, not officially married.

Little did I know ;-)

Aside from the fact that I have just found myself single again, the implications of this probably have more to do with benefits and social security payments along with wills etc etc etc.....

Given the incredibly horrific realities of trying to get paperwork done over here, (our marriage certificate is still languishing somewhere in the Spanish Embassy in Ottawa after nearly a year) it may be simpler to go about 150 meters down the street to the city hall and get married.


This'll make it three.

Good thing I am so fond of the guy.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Books totally RULE

I had a dreary-ish post all typed up at lunch time, so I could go to bed early. I was very tired then; but in one of those oh-so-typical ways, I am not particularly tired now at all. Quite content in fact.

Probably helped that all four of my back-to-back hour and a half classes went really well.

That is cheering.

Plus the man made a splendid dinner.

Plus, although I am surrounded by death at the moment I am so not focusing on it, instead I am going to sing out the praises of some fellow bloggers who are doing some cool stuff.

First, Beth just finished a short story and sent it out to try to get it published! YEAH BETH!!!

Plus, JG has a mind-numbing 99 law journal submissions out hoping for publication.

And there is Carla who won a big fat award for some quilting she has done.

Off the top of my head those are some folks that are getting out there with their creativity!


Continuing the theme, one of my students is going to be a grandfather soon and is drooling with happiness over it, which I find incredibly sweet. You should see his smile when he talks of it.

One of my classes I divided into two groups and had them make a movie. Can I just say right here and now that cell phones may be one of the most powerful tool we have for teaching language...those suckers can do a LOT. The kids made two movies, one reasonable and one really pretty good. When I figure out how to get it off my phone, I'll post it. They bluetoothed it to me, waycool technology.

Today is Sant Jordi's, the patron saint of Catalunya. The tradition is to give a book and a flower. One of the booths set up in the placa was doing a book trader, so I took that horrific Nino Ricci down, and the other one I had by the same author, who is now on my never to be read pile, and traded them in for some Catalan classics for the man.

Happy Sant Jordi's day darling!

It was actually this tradition that started the International Book Day, which is indeed TODAY, so go read a book ladies and gents.

Let me know what else you have been accomplishing that is good/great/marvelous/creative/positive. I'd love to hear it.

Chin up all,

We simply are not allowed to be cranky on International Book Day



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tired and a little blue.


An old man on our street, one of our neighbours, who I saw yesterday outside enjoying the sunshine, died today at lunchtime. Chuck sang along with the sirens of the ambulances.

Friends in Toronto had to put down their beautiful loving old dog.

My boss has been away all week tending to a dying/very ill aunt.

One of my students has been away all week tending to a dying father.

Went to the school meeting at Youngest's school. That super school-y project I was kivetching about? The kids asked to do it and designed it themselves!!! They got the list of topics off the wiki page. That isn't so bad, and I would have been less grumpy about it had I known.

I get frustrated that my Spanish mobile keeps sending me messages in Spanish that I cannot understand.

We met the goats again in the mountains today. One mama had a still-wet baby trailing after her and meeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhing for all he was worth. Another pair were hanging out in the long grass waiting for little 'un's legs to pick up speed. Sadly no pictures, I didn't bring the camera. Even if I had though, Chuckalicious was hauling me h*ll for leather in the other direction in mortal fear of all the shepherd's dogs.

Youngest's bedroom still stinks and the girls are still rooming together. Semi-happily.

Youngest's teacher described the class as being "very". They do everything very much. It they are happy they are very happy; if they are working, they work very hard; if they are angry, they are very angry. It certainly seems to describe Youngest well.

I find it hard to describe how embarrased Eldest is by my mere existence.

At least I am giving her something to complain about in therapy when she is older.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

So school-y. ugh.

Heavens above, you know what I hate?

Meaningless school projects.

Youngest had to do one on one of the provinces of Spain.

That's OK, but the topics she had to cover...BORING.

What are the major economic elements of this province? What is the climate? What is the topography? Include a copy of the flag, and shield along with a map.


Do you think she is learning anything here?

It is just a lesson in how to copy/paste and crib off Wiki.

There were some bits that were more interesting, festas, food and curiosities, but really. It could have been SO much more interesting, and maybe she would have been able to do more of it herself. How many primary kids do you know that can look up economic statistics, interpret them and come up with a phrase or two to describe them. You can guess who did that part.

What would you like to know about the Comunidad de Madrid?

I do now know that there is one of the oldest restaurants in the world there, or so they claim. That the Museum of the Americas has some shrunken heads in it, and that Franco was buried there. We didn't discuss that much, Franco is a bit like Voldemort, he who shall not be named....though the kids have some pretty irreverent songs they trot out.

I have a bunch of ideas of things I would do, but here's what I am wanting to know.

If you were to design a project on a state/province/geographic region for primary students to research, what would you like them to try and find out??? What would turn your crank????

Where would you steer them???

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bannock recipe

Here we go!

I don't often give recipes here, but you asked, and I don't want to disappoint.

Oreneta's Bannock.

I'll take credit where it is do; and give it. I found this recipe originally in Naomi Duguid and Geoffrey Alford's fabulous cookbook, "Flatbreads and Flavours" If you don't know their book, run, don't walk out and get them. Their website doesn't BEGIN to do them justice. And I desperately crave their latest two books, the ones about India and China respectively. Something for the list. HOWEVER, I haven't read the recipe in years - indeed the recipe has been languishing on the boat in a cow field in rural Florida for years and is now vacationing in beautiful near Northern Ontario. I have been making this bread for ages, I have no idea if I have changed it around or not. So credit is maybe mine and maybe theirs depending on the state of my memory.

I made this all the time on the boat, and we LOVED it, I also got a lot of time and practice with it. Hunger is the best spice if it doesn't turn out so well sometimes.

3 cups flour
1 biggish teaspoon of salt
1 smallish teaspoon of baking powder
1 half teaspoon of baking soda.
whatever seasonings make you happy and excited, like garlic and rosemary, cinnamon and apples, olives and oregano...whatever.

You will also need some kind of heavy 10" pan with a tight lid. I use a wide and shallow pot. The sides go up about 4 inches and it is pretty much perfect for it. If your lid doesn't seal tightly, lay a teatowel over the top of the pan, put the best lid you have on and tie the corners up over the lid so they don't catch on fire.

You will need between one and a quarter and one and a half cups of water, depending on how humid it is and how damp your flour is. This is very noticeable on a boat as the frontal systems come through. you can see the moisture on the floors, feel it in you sheets, and taste it in your bread. I loved that about the boat. Well, not the damp sheets, but the sense of being part of the world around you more directly.

ANYWAY....I digress,


Put the pan on a medium heat while you mix the dough up. This doesn't take long and you want the pan nice and hot when you are ready.

If you want you can add some (or a lot) of oil to the pan at this point to make a nicely browned very crispy (very yummy) crust. I use sunflower oil if I am making generic bannock for any use. If I were seasoning it with say garlic, I would use olive oil. It is just fine with no oil or anything at all too.

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients. You could sift it, I never have, I just give the dry ingredients a good stir. Sifting gets messy when 20 knots of wind are blowing through the kitchen and it is at an angle. Toss in any dry seasonings at this point, and if you have to add wet seasonings, adjust the quantity of water as needed for the desired texture. OK, now you can add the water, if you suspect at all that the flour is damp, only add a cup and quarter. Mix only until it is just mixed together and not a moment more. It should make a sticky ball in the bowl. If it is a bit liquidier that is OK, but it cannot be runny.

Put it into the hot pan right away and with your fingers mush it down into a flattish circlish mass. It will probably be about 3/4 of an inch to an inch thick. Don't press it right out to the sides of the pan as it will make it very difficult to flip it in a bit. (If I were the Pioneer Woman I would have taken a thousand photos when I made this at lunch today, but at least I thought of you all.)

Put the lid on.

Turn it down to med-low. You will have to experiment with this a bit to find a crust/temp combo that makes you sing with joy....

It will need, maybe, 6 min. Don't go too far away, it is easy to burn it. You should start to smell some cooking, and hear some drips falling from the lid and sizzling into the pan when you are about there.

With luck, the top should look moist, but if you touch it, it doesn't stick to you, and when you scoop it up it should have a firm enough crust on the bottom that it is easy to do.

With some fingertips on top of the bread, lift it out and flip it, then (obviously) put it back in the pan.

Lower the heat to very low, put the lid on very loosely, I usually stick a wooden stick across the top and balance the lid on that. You want to keep some of the heat in, but let the moisture all escape or the lovely crust will get mushy. Mushy crusts are not yummy.

After a few short minutes, say 3 or 4, have a look to see if it is browning up, take it off and eat. You may need more time depending on how hot your pan was when you started and how hot your stove runs. I use gas, so it will be different on an electric stove that is slower to change temps. If you cannot get the center to cook properly, you could try turning another burner on very low part way through the first side and moving the pan over when you switch so the temp really drops well.

It is a solid bread, and I like it cause it is so little work. A single loaf with very little work, and no endless flipping of different little bready bits.

It isn't the prettiest, but it is yummy and easy.

Most loaves of bread are made with three cups of flour, as is this one. We finish it in one sitting. Hot.


Enjoy! Bon Profiti!!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mucky doggie...unhappy doggie.

Meet Chuck

This is Chuck in the bath.

You see, Chuck hates water unless he's drinking it. This is an unlucky thing if you live with a family of sailors that just moved their boat to Ontario.

It is also an unlucky thing if you (accidentally???) rolled in a big fat gooey fresh steamy loaf of dog sh*t.

Because even if you do roll in moss and long grass to try and get it off,

You are still getting a bath when you get home.

Cause you stink.

I have to say he is all soft and fluffy now. We also found still more bite marks on him, the poor thing.

Even the leash had to be washed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ahhh, that's better...and painting youngest's room.

I will have to admit, that as of yet, I am still pretty bad at making a truita de patates; something I am determined to master.

That said, I make a kick *ss bannok.


Breakfast yum!

That with the homemade cream cheese from the not so successful yogurt attempt....


Fuel for painting Youngest's room!

There were a few glitches. Seems when you buy a can of paint here in Spain it always comes only 2/3 full. Sounds like a bit of a marketing scam to me; whatever.

It also comes in a viscosity approaching jello pudding.

The gallon can I thought would do the entire room was shaping up to covering one wall.

A quick trip to the local paint store, two cups of water and a lot of elbow grease later, and it covered it all, with not a drop to spare. (3 liters + 2 cups = Youngest's bedroom) Now maybe I will find that note when I want to paint it again!

Some things are kind of suck-y living somewhere else, like stupid glitches like these. I also have a kind of love-hate relationship with a very large big box home reno store, but let me tell you, there is something to be said for everything in one place, open 24/7. If we didn't have it by 1pm on Saturday morning, we were waiting till Monday at 10 to get it, or maybe Tuesday.

Good thing that paint stretched.

Youngest designed and cut out the clouds from newspaper and we painted away. Some touch up with my painting paints, but I don't think it will need a second coat.

Plus Eldest and I seem to have found common ground on a potential paint colour for her room, I vetoed the proposed black then the grey and now she has come to a muted light blue. Still have to scrabble over the actual paint chips, but we have a name we can both live with anyway.

Sleep in, some decent food, job accomplished, a walk in the hills with the entire family, didn't meet the nasty dog and tonight is movie night.

Much better day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Deeply frustrating day.

Glad it's done.

I was supposed to meet up with Mmichele who is travelling around with her family, and they are Canadian's from Winnepeg. I got totally way-laid at work, and couldn't make it in, and couldn't call them. I had to sit at work, knowing I was standing them up, knowing they were sitting there, wondering where the heck I was, and she was with her kids and husband too. I feel like such a terrible heel, and they probably think I am some weird psycho blogger.


Then there were some/a lot of interpersonal issues at work I just didn't want to deal with, but had to. Sometimes I get tired of people. Don't you?

Ruined dinner, and it rained during Youngest's basketball practice, the only time it rained all day was when they were supposed to be outside playing. We had to wait around for an hour to get a court, and then we only had it for fourty-five minutes.

Mostly, I didn't get to see Mmichele, and I feel so terrible that they had to wait around for me rather than doing something they would have wanted to do. I feel like such a total jerk.

I am so sorry Mmichele, and Rob and Joey and Micah. I so wanted to meet you all.


Maybe tomorrow will be better a better day. I don't get to meet up with them though, they are off. If we had a car I could cruise out to Girona and see them tonight, but I don't, so I can't. Crapola.

Hope your day went better.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

All over the map.

Can I just say that I am FREAKING FREEZING, and I have been for hours???

It is supposed to be warm here thankyouverymuch.

My back and neck and jaw and shoulders start to ache when I have been cold too long. Am I alone in this?

Got an hour of painting in today which was SWEET SWEET SWEET! But I was so busy painting I didn't get any photos, and anything I took now in the dim light of 11:19 pm, would look like CRAPOLA.

I've been thinking about food (when I am not thinking about painting, and well, teaching and language and and and and)...Youngest and I tried to make yoghurt last night (you know, there are more ways to spell that word than are reasonable). It didn't turn out perfectly, shall we say. Kinda curd-y and bitter so it is hanging over the sink on the conveniently located handles for the cupboard above, hopefully becoming fresh cheese. Not good enough to go the Greek yogurt route, so we will see what it is like tomorrow....

I have also been trying to make a perfect truita de patates. This is a TOTALLY Catalan thing, though who knows, maybe they make it all over Spain and I just have no idea. There are as many variations on the recipe as there are people who make it, and as the population of Catalonia is about seven and a half million and at least half of them can make this, we are talking a lot of variations.

My first try was edible, but not a roaring success, my second, last night...sorry no photo, they all turned out terribly fuzzy. I was very hungry, it must affect the steadiness, or unsteadiness of my hands....

anywhoo, the second one was better. Still not good by local standards, but closer. I have more advice now (contradicting some of the earlier advice - no surprise) I am going to try again on the weekend. Let's hope the man is taking his cholesterol pills.

The man by the way, is suffering from what we think is plantar fasciitis. Yuck. Means he can't run. Any Spanish readers out there who know where we could get an ergometer cheap.....

I taught a new student today, she is the younger sister of one of the teachers at Youngest's school, can you tell this is a village? Oh, and my dentist and her mother came into work today looking for English lessons. My dentist and her mother are respectively the niece and the sister of the man I mentioned before who is dating one of the teachers where I work, once dated a different teacher and wanted to date another. (Maybe he has a bit of a thing for teachers, no?) Village!

The new student I taught today is an interesting case study in language acquisition. She has taken some lessons, but is living in the States and is to some extent an autodidact. There are interesting gaps in her language knowledge. If you speak to her, she speaks quite well, she makes few grammatical errors on a moment to moment basis and sounds quite fluid; but once we got started I discovered that she doesn't know the present perfect, which is...have gone, as in "I have gone to bed". Nor had she ever used the 'be going to' form of the future, as in, "I am going to Canada this summer." Rather glaring absences. She also asked me, "What is it with 'do'? What is that for anyway?" This is something we teach in one of the very first classes. You need it to make a question or a negative statement. She can use it correctly, but has no idea why it is there and how it functions. The other teachers rolled their eyes when I mentioned this, but honestly, how many of you could give me the reasons we use do in English. I can, I teach it, but anyone else who is NOT an English teacher???? I bet almost no one. We don't need to know why, we just use it.

Fascinating how the mind works. There were things she understood and had used, but couldn't do.

Seems contradictory, but it is probably a really good lesson on the obstacles we face with the quirkiness of the human brain.

Try that Artificial Intelligence!!!

Night night..


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The cheese starts here

Can you tell who we met in the hills today?

Can you tell I remembered my camera???

This is where the cheese starts out! They smelled nice too. Comes from eating rosemary, thyme and pine needles all day.

This little guy ended up separated from the it a flock of goats? I know it is a flock of sheep...let me see, hold on a minute will! LOVE's a trip of goats!

The little sweety must have thought the grass would be sweeter/greener/whatever....then he discovered he didn't like being alone.


He managed to get back. Took him ages. He had to run along the wall he'd jumped off and couldn't get back up, and had to go WAAAAY down the mountain before coming back up inside the wall, only to discover that everyone else was now outside the wall.

Jumped down again.

Chuck discovered that for now (fingers crossed) he is really really afraid of dogs. Panic stricken. "Can we just go home now" scared.

Poor thing.

Hope he gets over it soon.

He is such a little mama's boy right now.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I had forgotten about all this, in a way.

Back to work.

Back to school.

Back to the routine.

Back to errands.


Tomorrow's Wednesday isn't it?

oooooooohhhhhhhhhh, I almost forgot!

The nasty neighbour? He moved that antenna, I think I wrote that, and guess what he did tonight? He got rid of a whole bunch of extraneous antennas as well!!!!! WOOT!!! Not the one smack dab in the middle of everything, think I may move that myself...that bottle of wine was WELL worth it!

Faith in humanity, at least that one, fully restored.

Now if I could get him to chat with the owner of that dog...............or if I managed to have as much impact...........

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Painting. Hope the topic isn't driving you MAD. Plus an adventure.

I managed a little work on the red painting today, I straightened her face up a bit, and I am happier with it, though not satisfied...did a little more work on two other pieces, then got really frustrated by all the interruptions and quit. Then I yelled. Then I sulked.

Later I did some water colours with the girls which was lovely fun, and I worked some things out. The water colours work much better with the kids, and I am happier doing that with doesn't dry so fast, I don't have the pressure to keep going quickly, so the interruptions don't frustrate me so much. Also I feel a little more like I am doodling and a little less like I am trying to accomplish something. I don't know why, but they are more relaxed.


It is the speed. The brushes don't get damaged if you put them down for a minute, the paint doesn't seal up hard on the palette, and on the painting.

It is a more relaxing medium. Demanding in it's irreversability, but more relaxing. I can do it while I am chatting. Not with the acrylics.

It would be so so so terribly nice to have a space and some time I could dedicate.



poor old Chuckilicious had a rough day today....he got attacked by another dog fairly badly. He's OK, he's got a cut on one leg, and a shallow cut on his side, and he is missing a WHOLE bunch of fur from that spot.

This happens here sometimes, they like big dogs, and don't like fixing them. This one though....get this.

He's half pit bull, and half lab. That makes him a bi-polar really freaking big pit bull.

Sometimes, meh, he's OK, sometimes though. so not OK. We've met him loose fairly often. He is always intimidating, I have always had to hit him or kick him to control him, but in the past, I have always been able to control him. Not this time.

The other big problem is (can you hear this coming?) the owner (surprise!!!) who lets him wander the village from time to time, who lets him escape and who cannot/will not control him.

Yet again I found myself in the middle of a dog fight. He had Chuck on his back on the ground and was all over him...I was whipping the other dog's head, literally whipping him, with the heavy duty metal fitting we fitted onto Chuck's leash for this reason, and kicking him repeatedly in the head/face, and he was not going away. You should have heard the girls screaming and crying. OMG.

The owner appeared and eventually took the leash off me to beat him herself, and a bunch of gypsies who are squatting in a house nearby came out. I think it was the large number of shouting men that got him to back off more than anything else. With the noise the kids were making, they probably figured he was attacking a kid.

Son of a b*tch.

I was, honestly, scared.

Chuck has been in dog fights before, but never like this. I have broken up dog fights before, but never like this. That dog totally was not listening.

I went back and spoke to the owner about it.

For what that was worth. *phhhhh*

That dog needs to be controlled.

all. the. time.

She assured me he would never be left loose again (believe that when I see it)

A little too much excitement for a weekend, no?

If it happens again, I am going to formally report her.

Too much.

Practical anyway

From Eldest, on being accused that she wants to be a Princess so that nothing icky ever happens to her,

No, I want to be a diva. You can do that on a low budget.

It's a state of mind.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

NOT finished.

OK, please don't be hatin', m'kay?

This one isn't finished, but it is getting to where I have an idea of what I am aiming at....

Now, please, I know she looks a little funny, please remember that this was, above all, a colour see if or how I could handle a painting with such a BOLD underpainting/midcolour. So...I was really looking at colour values and playing with colour warmth and saturation rather than geographical structure.

Which is a fancy way of saying that I know it looks really freaking weird, but I am happy with how I am managing the colours, and NO it isn't finished yet, I can fix the structure up a whole lot with just a couple of brush strokes...time time time time time:

Done, I think, I may add some washes...sorry the photo is fuzzy...

This was the idea from the Murakami book, and it is getting to what I am thinking of, I will have to think a little more though.....

This one I kind of like. It is odd for me, I usually want to paint in supersaturated colours so this one, even more than the one above, is something of a departure, and an experiement...but

It's always fun slinging the paint around. There is more, another three or four pieces all underway, but that's enough I think for now.

Hope the long weekend is treating you well.



Thursday, April 9, 2009

Link-y links

I had a whole big far bunch of fun suuuurrrrfffin' the net....and here's some of what I found that was particularly good, and that I thought might be of interest to you as well....

Here goes:

These folks are amazing and funny and make people happy! Is it performance art? Theater? I don't know. Fabulous? Yes. Most of it. Improve Everywhere

A huge amount of free fabulous culture. If you learn all of this, you will be brilliant! Open Culture

An amazing tour of the Rothko exhibit in London...virtual tour, podcasts, interviews....

A virtual tour of ancient Rome, brought to us by Google Earth!

A HUGE source for art on line and art info! It's Artbabble! is streaming those old Spiderman cartoons from Saturday morning TV, one a week!

A web site of the world's most interesting bookstores! Another life list for you J.G.

I have no idea about the political leanings of this newspaper, but this article is BRILLIANT. Seems some of our oh so brilliant economists and political leaders want to cut the arts programs and mention that they need to defend their reasons for existing. I let the article respond, and voice my anger. is a short short taste...What authority, really, should the standpoint of finance any longer have for American (any) society? Who gives a damn what Kenneth D. Lewis thinks about anything? The president is right: we must work with plutocrats whom we despise; but surely not with their values.

We went and saw this exibit from the Brazilian artist Cilbo Meireles today at MACBA, it has been at the Tate as well, and I am giving that link, it being in better written English. The write ups at MACBA are so ponderous. Like the writing of a fourth year brown-noser. Showing off all the big fancy words they know, but written so opaquely that no one else could possibly scent out meaning from the bullsh*t. My favourite part was walking on the broken glass.

Then there is this Brazillian artist, Hélio Oiticica, who I just found, and just love. Too bad he's dead.

Tomorrow, maybe I will post some photos of the some of the paintings I have been blasting away on...there are enough of them, and I think I'll be writing some post cards, I have enough cards anyway.



The kids are out of town, the man finished work for the long weekend, so the two of us have nearly infinite possibilities for what we wanted to do today.

Know what we did?

We visited a cemetery.

Totally weird, but that was the point. This cemetery is totally weird.

It has got to be one of the best cases for keeping up with the Joneses since the Pyramids. Indeed there was one too.

At some point, all the well to do families just couldn't hold their heads up in good company if they didn't have a family crypt on Montjuic designed by a known architect and built by a sculptor.


Now this cemetery is mind-blowingly huge. Square footage is pretty good, but they are all apartment style niches, each holding entire families, so the population in here has got to be pretty good.

When you get down towards the bottom though, then it gets a really amazing.

Some of these are in poor taste, some are horrific, some are kind of nice in a really weird and frankly freaky way.

There were two that were astonishingly ghastly. We are talking the living embodiment of bad taste. There were photos of the people inside. They died youngish. They looked like they had probably been gunned down for their involvement with the underworld. I am not going to say any more than that, and I have no photos.

Some things though were strikingly different.

First, there is some serious cult of the dead kind business going on here. Nothing stiff upper lip about it. Goodness gracious.

I do not like the ones labeled with the man's name only. Everyone else falls under, "and family".

If the man does that, I will haunt him horrifically for all eternity.

There were several that had notices on them saying that they would be given away, presumably the generations that followed hadn't kept up with the payments.

What I want to know is, what do they do with the remains when the family stops paying?

Something else interesting, the vast majority of the stones only had the death dates, so you have no way of knowing how old they were, and there was normally only the family name, and nothing else. You are, I guess, not truly an individual, but part of a family. Interesting.

These are some of the crypts....They are huge, three stories at least.

I don't even know what to call this style - poor taste high Gothic?


The pyramid....


This one had mosaic tile work where all the colour is, sadly it is falling off the walls.

It's OPEN!!!! I pulled the door open and peered down, but didn't go in, seemed just a little too irreverent....

See, this one is Joaquim Roig and family, but you may notice that it too is open and I can attest to the fact that it is empty. Seems his wife and family weren't too happy with the billing either.


Early observatory?

I did like these a whole lot. Very very Catalan.

An empty niche.

Catalan painter, only famous person we found.

I love this one, he's an anatomy professor and look at the sculpture!

We also saw a utility truck driven by one of the staff go by with used aged open coffins in the back!!! Empty. But but but, where were they? Is this what happens if they don't pay up?

For the record, the man and I decided; cremate us and scattered us water I think. This was too much.

Amazing, but too much.

We went for a burger after that. Lunch at 4:30. I was about ready to gnaw off someone's arm.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ummm, what are they thinking???

Faith in humanity only semi-restored. A good thing I hadn't gone upstairs in person to see what had been done before I gave them the bottle of wine to say thank you for moving the blasted antenna.

Numb n*ts decided the easiest thing to do with my clothes line was to simply cut it down, and leave it there. It was wire and simply wound around like a giant twist tie. Not exactly tricky to undo and redo. Simpler though to just cut it.

Can you imagine going into a communal space and simply cutting down someone else's clothes line cause you were too lazy to undo it and do it up again?

On that note, he also left all his garbage up there for me to clean up: bolts, washers, bits of plastic, cut off electrical ties, old bits of wire, the ends of my clothes line.

Not exactly a good neighbourly approach, no?

Fortunately I am a handy-dandy sailor girl and with a bit of line and three minutes I had the line functional again.


The landlords did the same thing. (The garbage, not the clothes line).

Remember that leak? They finally came back and painted something or other on the roof, and left behind:

1 dustpan
2 paintbrushes
1 pot for I know not what
1 half used gallon can of paint with the lid ajar
1 stir stick, used.

I have waited a month for them to come and cleaned it all up but they haven't, so today I threw it all does boggle the mind though. Can you imagine being a landlord and leaving your crap behind for the tenants to clean up?

Sometimes I do not understand the people here.



Numb n*ts was up there again, tinkering, at lunch time. I went up to make sure that he hadn't cut the line again and left all my clean laundry on the grubby terrace floor...pleased to say that he hadn't, and that he had retied it to a place he preferred for working on his antenna. I did not mention the garbage, nor the cut line, and he did not apologize for cutting it!

Mind boggling.

I have started another portrait, not of anyone in particular, on a daring, blinding underpainting of bright searing red.

I am finding that I am not fond of the opaqueness of the paint and I have to re-learn how to handle it; or just go all Rothko-esque and work in glazes...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Split, or 2 for the price of 1

This could go two ways, indeed it will.

I am sitting around obsessing about colour, as I am basically painting all day and have about a million ideas buzzing around in my head....I want to paint a quote from a Haruki Muakami book that I love, that produced a marvelous image in my mind, I have a portrait I am working on....and I am thinking of Matisse and Miro....

Simultaneously, I am trying not to think at all about what is going on over-head. Last night our new neighbour went up to the terrace and put up a tv antenna, right at eye-level, right in the middle of the view of the sea/church/mountains. I was not impressed and, in his household, am undoubtedly known as the b*tch who lives up there. Ho hum. I was *nice* I am starting to hate being nice when others aren't. My grandmother gave up on that; maybe she had a point.

So...I have been working on a whole bunch of projects, between walking the dog and hanging out with the man....I have been working on a series of postcards, kind of a painter's version of Carla's selvedge projects, I am taking paintings that didn't work, cutting them up, painting over them so they make sense in the size they are, and using them as postcards.

So, after speaking to the guy last night, we went to our long suffering and delightful property manager, mentioned our concerns and asked about the legalities. Seems there is only supposed to be one antenna on each building. We now have three. We asked him to not do anything as the guy assured us he would change things around.

I have also been working on a larger abstract, which is completed that was inspired by the flight home, there is another from the flight that I have started, the underpainting is on, and I am waiting around for it to dry....

During lunch today, amidst Chuck's barking, we could tell that someone was upstairs, sawing screwing things, unscrewing things....I know not what.......We didn't go up. Did you know that the Catalan word for anger is "rabia" and in fact you use the verb 'to have' to make it work in a in 'tinc rabia' = I am very angry. The direct translation of course would be that I have rabies. Not far off.

I have been looking at the work of Matisse and Miró and Rothko....the two M's are my favourite painters in the world I think. I love the colour and the flattened simplified planes, though some of Matisse's work is busy busy busy, he keeps the planes, well, plain. I adore it. Mmmmmmm

The man phoned me after he left for work to tell me that the neighbour was taking down one of the larger antennas. I still daren't look. Hope we still have a clothes line as it was tied off to biggie there, I never liked where it was placed anyway...the definition of ugly!

I am working away, thinking of colours and ideas and and of the things that I don't adore in the work of Matisse and Miró is the flatness of the painting. I love paint and sculpting it on...there is a frank sensuality to the paint and to working with it that the flat contained styles subsume, a Victorian hyper-control that I don't like. This may also be why I love Van Gogh, he has both vibrant singing colour and in-your-face paintwork. Rembrandt could do some kick-*ss paintwork too...

ohhhhhh, he just went downstairs, I am honestly afraid to go up and look. I will wait a while longer and make sure he is actually done.

Photos to follow

No wait!!!! He's upstairs again.....aaauuuuuugggggghhhhhh....

I think I just have to go and paint now.

'Scuse me for a bit, m'kay? Gotta do something so my head doesn't explode.

OMG....he fixed it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Gonna have to go buy the man a bottle of cava. Sometimes maybe it is worth it to be nice even when you want to pitch the guy off the terrace.

Restored my faith in humanity. or in the power of complaint...whatever.

Stupidly wore my painting clothes out to walk the dog and now they are all wet. Looking at the work and I don't quite know what to do.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Enough about painting already, no?

Though that is basically all I did today, it is time to broaden the perspective just a little bit...

Can I just add that I officially live in a small town? OMG, never done that before, but a friend of a friend, who is also a friend of mine is now dating my Catalan teacher, and they all had dinner together at my friend's house, he used to want to go out with my friend and also went out with another co-worker, and now the ex-girlfriend and the current girlfriend and the girl he wanted to date all work together, with me....and one of the other students in the class knows the friend of a friend and is also a student of is all so convoluted. No wonder people think that small towns are like this. They are. Did you understand all that? I only barely did.

Can I add that Catalan is more difficult again after a week away. *sob*


Moving right along.....Beth-no-longer-from-Burkina, now from France invited me to join in "Mom's around the World" She wrote:

« A few months ago David asked me if I thought that it would be possible to travel around the world via blog. "Like Around The World In 80 Days," he said, "but on the Internet. Around the world in 80 clicks. 80 mom-blogger clicks!"

So begins a post over at the blog called « Her Bad Mother ».

Here’s a bit more from the original post:
« Here's how it works: share 5 things that you love (or maybe what they don't so much love) about being a mom, and then tag a few more bloggers from your own country and from other countries, and so on.

I was a bit of a dead end on this as I was in London being a bad Mom having abandoned my kids with their Dad for a week....hold on, is that being a bad mom? Not sure. goes,

Five things I love about being a Mom. Let's go....


it's not going, I've got to think about it, cause it has changed a whole lot as the kids got older and I so don't want to be clichéd here.

wait with me a moment here....

OK, think I've got my head on straight.

1. I love the brain jams. You know, those moments when you think that your child is indeed going to go down the aisle with their thumb in their mouths, a diaper on and doing that weird, disturbing hair twirling/plucking/eating habit that you CANNOT make them quit;

and knowing they won't.

2. Laughing my *ss off with them. Hands down, that rules.

3. The regular astonishment I feel at how much they can do and how much they know, and the simultaneous disconnect because I am not surprised that they are so capable and knowledgeable.

4. I am not going to go into the sweet smell of babies heads (omg) or their incredibly soft skin or any of that jazz that we all know about and that is so it survival of the species, the ones who weren't that charming didn't make it this far....I love how strong their personalities are, and how they are so much their own people....they are completely them...that sounds stupid, but they. aren't. mine. or me. and I love that.

5. I love watching them figure things out. It isn't always easy for them, when they were little it was obvious stuff like how to walk and all that, but it is amazing watching them figure out how to make friends, how to be a friend, how to handle crappy friends, yadda yadda yadda, watching them become ever more themselves. It's pretty cool.

Ok, and I gotta admit, the hugs and kisses and love are pretty darned great too. Payback for the days when they are frankly nuts.

Yes girls, I know you're reading. Love ya!

OK...tagging Mom's around the world, let's see who we get....OMG, aside from Beth, I only read one expat Mom...well, there is Nomad, but she has slipped way out of the blogging world...OK, in that case, I guess I will tag Kate and she's still in Spain! Whew...I am a dead end here...however, if you look at the right hand column of my blog WAAAYYYY down at the bottom, you'll see a link to expat blogger, indeed I'll give you one right here where you are sure to find lots of Moms that fit the bill!

If you want to play along, just go right ahead!

back home.

Back in BCN, the trip was mostly sweaty! Hot in the plane, hot in the airport, hot on the buses and hot hauling the goodies home, especially as the suitcase was dying, one wheel was wonky and the handle was coming's a cheap suitcase, and you get...a cheap suitcase.

Lovely walk in the hills this tomorrow, I knew it would be beautiful, but didn't want to haul the camera today....the wisteria is out everywhere and the smell is ethereal and stunning.



More later.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Free day in London with the kids!!!

Sweet sweet lovely day.

Except that youngest decided to wake up at 5:30 am...ugh...but I got a nap in so life can't be anything but good!

We went and walked around Regent's park, what a whole lot of flowers! It was just lovely hanging out with my folks and my kids for the day...we even rowed a boat!

Now I have to figure out how to ship an uncured painting back to BCN with me...

That is the (so far) final image, as you can see, I am still struggling with the hand which I appear to have made worse. Some advice should be ignored.

Maybe I'll look at some more paintings tomorrow...or not....we'll see.....went to the Gerhard Richter exhibit while we were was pretty good, though some of the stuff I really didn't like at all....the man can certainly paint anyway.

OH! The painting teacher talked about a scotch egg as something I had to try while I was here, having never heard of one, so we went into Waitrose and picked a pair up...along with some cornish pasties. If you are ever buying them, the ones with cheese in are much better.

Eldest took the photos of the flower and the where credit is due!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Day 5 and a finish, and a beginning.

Well, the course is done. :-(

The family arrived :-)))

The painting...well, I learned a improved a lot today, the needs work, which I may or may not give it...we'll see.

Photos tomorrow.

Nice to see the man and the kids again, nothing quite like that. Good stuff.

Plus a little more time in London.

Super sweet!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 4

OK, just a leeeeettllllllllleee bit of frustration today painting, but what the heck, all we are doing is applying pigment to cloth...not the end of the world.... ho spectacular changes as you can see above, though I am happy with how the face is coming out. I think the teacher and I have TOTALLY different visions of what constitutes a finished and attractive painting, but that is OK.

Nomad and I went off the the National Portrait gallery where I saw a portrait that is much MORE what I am looking at trying to do, Duncan Grant's portrait of Vanessa Bell, now there is a story...Vanessa Bell, who was Virginia Wolf's sister married some guy named Bell, then fell in love with and lived with Duncan Grant, with whom she had a daughter (who took her Mother's legal husband's name). Duncan Grant was gay though, and it turns out that his long time lover ended up marrying their daughter, 30 years his junior. Eeeeewwwwww.


I like the painting a lot better than the paintings by Lucien Freud (yes, the grandson of that Freud) who my teacher could see some here and here. It gets uglier, go ahead, google image him...I'll wait around for you.

You back? You with me? Those are some ugly paintings, no? Now, I am not one to say that ART needs to be pretty, but if it's hanging in my house.....

Know what I mean?


The portraits were amazing, I am definitely NOT into hyper-realism, and we had a lovely dinner together and a whole lot of laughs.

Good day...pretty frustrating in spots, but good.

Hope yours was too, and a happy Friday to you all!



OH! and look, I forgot I loaded these pictures on too!

Here's me on a bench outside the ladies loo feeling like I am two years old cause the bench is so big it only catches me just behind the ankles!

And look at the lovely napkin we had at the table!

Ok, now for real..



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Painting day 3

OMG what a busy day and it is 7:06 in TO...I don't want to know what time it is here in London.....painted massively, went out for sushi and we went and saw The Reader.

Great movie.

Here's what I was up to:

This is a three day painting, this is after the first little while... around 11 o'clock.

A little later,

later still.....


Tomorrow I have to paint hands and faces......wish me luck!