Thursday, December 31, 2009

Guess who went to the beach today!

It is absolutely lovely here right now, His Chuckiness, Youngest and I went for a walk down to the beach today.  It was a glorious way to see out the year.  We found lots of sea glass, and the dog found a nice stinky poo to roll in too, so he gets to bring in the New Year sqUEEEEEky clean.

Hope you all have a Happy (and not poo-y) New Year!!!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A chocolate kind of moment.

A little bit back to real life today.  Gonna have to stop that and get into vacation mode again....

Market, then into BCN with the man.  There is an exhibit on about Cerdà, who was the engineer who designed a great portion of BCN, we went a few days ago, but the museum closed before we finished the exhibit.  Unfortunately the bit we saw today was shoddily put together, whoever did the research didn't do it well enough.  That coupled with the frankly meaningless graphs they tossed in made it little more than delusional wallpaper.

Ho hum.

Eldest is going to need braces, not a surprise but we know for sure now...

The man and I went off and met with the new and young architects, currently referred to as 'door number 2', also talked to the lawyer about potential problems re the removal of 'door number 1'.

Door 2 seem to be OK, they seem to be more straigh forward, and, well, not to put too fine a point on it, more honest.  They also appear to have our interests in mind rather more.  We'll see.

At one point they were discussing one aspect of the project and, without getting into too many details, were astounded by a large block of knowledge about which we had not been informed.  They were surprised.  I was deeply and profoundly angered.

Options after all that:  chocolate or vodka.

As I don't drink, I went for the chocolate option coupled with mac and cheese made with a truly obsc*ene amount of cheese.....

Ah...fat and cocoa for mood improvement.

Worked too.

Hope the man took his cholesterol meds this morning.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Second go around...

Well, we just met with a new set of architects.  Wish us luck.

We have not formally fired the old architects, as we have to talk to the lawyer before we tackle that baby, but we have come to the decision that it would be faster to start again than to try to continue with the way we were going.

Hope we're doing the right thing.

They are so YOUNG!  I am also getting older I think....neither of them is 40 yet I would gamble, but I think the ink has dried on their diplomas anyway.


We'll see...and I am sure you'll here.

Architects, what a headache, and we have to have one if we want to do a couple of the things we would like to do.....have to.  It's the law.

Ho hum.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Pyjama party!

Between the man feeling sick, and me sleeping in the living room today turned into one long pyjama party.

Kinda nice.

Youngest was bribed into bringing me hot tea in bed...SWEET!  The puzzle was at the end of the table, the  book was handy and so was the ipod, kinda got up around four.  Decided the man was officially well, so I packed the bed away around six and we are pottering through the last few hours of the day waiting for bedtime - early.

Wouldn't want to do this all the time, but I certainly enjoyed it today.

Hanging around, reading playing with the kids....

A good day.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Guess what!!!!

I won something!

The Catalans love nothing so much as a draw or a lottery, indeed this may be a pan-Spanish thing. The Christmas lottery is a HUGE deal....certain sellers are viewed as lucky, and if the owner of a ticket stand manages to sell a winner he is set up for life as people will come for MILES to buy tickets from that particular store.  It is considered lucky if a pregnant woman buys the ticket, and any conceivable group of people will go in together to buy a ticket.  As a result, vitually all Catalans (and I imagine Spanish) have at least three numbers.  Go figure how big the pot is and what your chance of winning is.

To even up the chance of winning, many local stores will also have a lottery of their own.  They put up a poster with 100 little squares, and for 2 Euros 50, you get your name in a square.

The man and I antied up at the local corner story and at our favourite bakery.

This is where it gets confusing.  I was in the local corner store on the day before Xmas,  all baskets are drawn on the 23rd, and ran into a friend.  We had a chat, and went our way, but then she phoned me later that day to say that I had won the basket!  WOOT!

Youngest and I went down on the pretense of buying a beer for the man, and they said nothing.  OK, maybe she made a mistake, or maybe they were waiting till after Xmas, or whatever.

Home again.

Then today, we were peacefully pottering around the house getting nothing done that we should have gotten done, when the bell rings, and downstairs are my favourite market ladies, telling me that I had won the basket at the FORN!

I am now totally confused, and I was wondering if I had won them both.

I think not.  I did win at the forn though, and LOOK what we got!

Two bottles of cava (champagne) one of vermouth (no idea what we'll do with that) one of Paul Gautier water (who'da thunk) and some sherry which the man loves.  An entire leg (or shoulder, not sure) of pernil...oh my goodness! plus olives jarred mushrooms, paté etc... plus nueles which are like those circular filo cookies, and three artisnal tourons and the obligatory maria cookies.


Sweet sweet sweet!

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Stealing from Bodhi cause I agree with her, it is great and very funny.....

Why do I have to tell my kids not to toilet paper the dog.  Honestly.  Why?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Xmas 09

The man and I over dinner got thinking about going to Oslo for a couple of days with the kids to visit the museums there...the Fram, the Viking, the KonTiki....the organisation is proving difficult and expensive...maybe another day.

We'll see.

Christmas went of wonderfully.  I even slept till about 7:30.  We won't talk about over-excited me not being able to go to sleep until about 2:30, that's another issue.

Gifts were given and received, jigsaw puzzles were started, we always used to have one on the go at Christmas, and so did some of my Mom's family.  Don't know why I don't have one set up all the time.  Maybe in the new house.....hmmm, that corner in the living room I didn't know quite what to do with......better than tetris!  Though I can get awfully caught up in this too....You might just be able to see the new camera stand the man gave me, one of these!

Youngest, with some help from Eldest, made me this hat:

Cool, no?!?!  Oh, and GM?  Thank you so much....I ADORE the scarf!!!!!

Dinner...oooo, the man and I picked it up from the corner store...well, pre-ordered it....turkey thighs roasted and simmered in prunes, apricots and pine nuts.  VERY traditional Catalan meal...they have quite an old cuisine...marked partially by the use of fruits with meats.  Medieval that is.  Neat, eh?

On the note of ancient things in daily life...did you know that we are all reading and speaking the ancestry of the viking language?  Really.  Of the top 100 words in English, almost all of them, and the top 88 are all from the language of the original conquerers of the Celts....neat-o, no?

We SO have got to get the kids to be d*mned.

  An aside, the podcasts in my new iPod are synching up.  I LOVE this little machine!  Last night when I couldn't sleep, I turned the iPod on to try and lull myself to sleep.  Turns out the podcast I thought I had downloaded, in Catalan, was a TV show.  The show is called Polonia.  The Spanish call the Catalans Pollacks, as in Polish cause they think the Catalans talk so funny.  The Catalans have, in turn, created a political satire show poking fun at themselves, but mostly at Madrid and they call it Polonia, complete with the cyrilic N.  Wow.  Am I ever rambling.  Hold on, I'll grab the story line again.  Picture this.  Canadian on Christmas Eve, unable to sleep tucked under the covers watching a Catalan bilingual television show called Polonia.

It was a weird moment.

Well, onto the main blogish story of the day.  Chuck got right into the holiday spirit after he figured out that some of these parcels had goodies in them.  It was a bit like having a very fuzzy and toothy one-year-old at the event...getting into all the unwrapping and if thwarted heading for whatever he could grab under the tree.  He makes a very fast one-year-old.  All those feet he's got I guess.

Here's the proof. In the first picture here, he has scored his first doggie treat, and is hiding behind the Man's chair to scarf it back.

Then he emerges, a present monster is born.  Here is his Chuckiness moving in for the kill on one of my presents.....

We had to stop him, she was worried my hat would get damaged, and once I found out what it was, I agreed that it might have.

Then there was this box.  It was a very very tempting box.

It was also a little difficult

to get a good angle on it.

*whew*  That was exhausting!

Then there were the turkey thighbones he stole from the kitchen.  Already finished thankfully, not like another Christmas I could mention....

A good day all in all for everyone.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas folks!

Kids are all excited.

Tree is all packed with gifts.

Carols on the stereo.

An excellent meal planned.  Canelones, rice with squid, salad, tourons and local cheese.

White Christmas ready for the DVD.

Dog well walked and calm.

Life is SWEET!!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Went Christmas shopping in the village the other day and did alright.  Not the whole list, but quite a bit got done.  Quite enjoyed myself too.  Cool enough that it felt a bit like it might just be wintertime, but with a beautiful bright sunshine.  Peace, quiet and some success.  Part way there.

The fact that we are going to be on our own this year at Xmas has rather lightened the load as it shrinks the shopping list quite substantially.  Focused is good.

Yesterday I went into BCN to shop in the morning, and then again today.  I think it is D. O. N. E.  DONE!!!!

I still have to wrap and organise.

Rain does not put me into the Christmas spirit however.

Wrapping, relaxing and reading does.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

First day of vacations

If it keeps up like this, I'm going to need to go back to work, but soon, to make it through.


Walk the dog
Leave early
Drop Youngest at school
Catch the bus to BCN
SHOP till I dropped
Rtn home
Lunch out with a friend
Walk dog, get soaked
Go to work for a brief bit of work
Manage kids having generalised meltdowns because the stress is off.
Go out to dinner in wet shoes
Meeting, 10-12pm, again wet shoes and cold feet.
Create new blog for the group I am on the board of
Post to my own blog - 1am.
Brush teeth, pee, read a bit

Repeat with variations meeting thankfully!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Smell, regional dictionaries and Housekeeping.

Smell is the weirdest sense I think.  It is so deeply rooted in us and so animalistic, and we have such poor language for it, yet smells are so tremendously evocative.

I woke up this morning out of a solid sleep because there was a strong smell in the house I couldn't place.  The man checked the burners were off on the gas stove, but couldn't smell anything.  It was REALLY strong.  Chuck seemed to agree with me, and came out of the bedroom sneezing.

Weird how it woke me up.

Another personal oddity with me is that my smell sensors in my brain seem to be completely dislocated from my language centers.  I can recognise a smell, discuss a smell but invariably I cannot name it.


Oh, and check this out, it is a dictionary of regional American English and better still it provides a map of WHERE a phrase or saying is used.  This is the COOLEST thing!  Sadly they only look at the US but it is still pretty fascinating.

I am two thirds of the way through Marilyn Robinson's Housekeeping.  I am so LOVING this book.  Loving it.  It seems like a book about landscape, and the characters are a thin translucent vehicle for the narrative of the landscape.  She writes incredibly richly and wanders, no rambles through the landscape, exactly in the manner I would in life and how I think.  It works perfectly.  The storyline moves forward within a richly depicted natural world almost devoid of people, and those there are seem mightily inconsequential and small.  The characters remain ephemeral, transient, indifferent and self-contained like barely visible hints of past lives which sounds negative when put boldly, but it makes for a delicately nuanced text that moves like a smooth deep quiet tannin stained river.  Stunning, reflective and refractive providing glimpses of passing stories as you slip along with it.

Loving this book.

A fascinating book, and astonishing as a first novel.

And the ending is perfect.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Am I the only one who gets a hangover of sorts after they finish a good book?  Spent the day reading and finishing Carolyn Jourdain's Heart in the Right Place.  Enjoyed it too.  Laughed out loud in spots, read parts aloud and related to a lot of it in a lot of ways.

It is interesting reading the Morrison book alongside Jourain's.  They are quite different in many many ways.  There is the obvious element that Morrison is writing fiction while Jourain's is a memoir, or creative non-fiction as they call it sometimes, in that it uses techniques of creative writing to build and maintain narrative interest while still working with non-fictional material.

Elements of the Jourain book rang particularly clearly for me.  She writes about the changes wrought in individuals when they change their lifestyles significantly.  Their place of living, their style and manner of living, their employment and income.  The people they spend time with.

I can relate to this.  Am I the same person here as I am in Canada, or as I was on the boat?  The short and  obvious answer is yes....I haven't been issued a new passport with a new photo or anything, but at the same time I am changed by experiences and languages and cultures, and there are elements of myself that I prefer about myself that emerge when I am in other places; and which I am happy when they have a chance to appear here as well.  And there.  Wherever there happens to be.

The Morrison book's theme is much broader and while both books speak to universal rather than individual realities there is a significant difference.  I cannot relate as directly to the characters in Morrison's book, as a white resonably priviledged Canadian living in Europe who was lucky enough to have a pretty ideal upbringing, I share little but my gender with the protagonists.  Superficially.  The Jourain book?  I have spent enough time in enough parts of the world to be able to relate to folks on both sides of the cultural divide she describes, the power-hungry and ambitious world of Washington and the world of upland Tenessee.

The Morrison book talks about the cultural and systemic destruction of individuals on every level of their being.  Individuals who are not perceived as worthy.  There is a lot to be learned and understood here.  This is the section that does relate to everyone, that is universal about the book.  We can all of us, in some manner or other, relate to the sensation that we are insufficient, for whatever reason. Our circumstances and background and personality drive us to solve it, or like the central character in Morrison's book, give way and believe.

What is it that makes some people believe that they are unworthy and give up, some to believe they are unworthy and fight on and some to not believe it at all either because they are correct or they are self-deceptively maintaining a skim coat of belief in their own competency and worth.

This book isn't done with me yet.

They do also talk about the dance of belonging and not belonging.  Something I have been thinking about here a lot, and working my way through here.  There are aspects of my life here, when I feel that I do fit in very very well, and areas where I simply don't, and may never.  Ho hum.


The cure? Hair of the dog.

Got out Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson, House of Daughters by Sarah Kate Lynch, which frankly looks like a beach read and a book in Catalan, Amb Ulls Americans (With American Eyes) by Carme Riere.

Let's see if that helps...along with a good cup of tea!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Toilets, kids and mushrooms. One of these things is not like the other.....

Here's something freaky I found while looking at toilets is so exCITing around here.....look-y here.  It's worth watching the video if you scroll down a bit.

I was hanging with a bunch of six year olds the other day, and they got talking about mushrooms.  Now this was a relatively random sampling of local kids, and these were some seriously knowledgeable little gourmands.  They were debating the relative merits of different types of wild mushrooms and where you could find they looked and what other mushrooms they look to clean them and cook them best.  Can I remind you all again that these kids are six.

We're not in Canada anymore, Toto.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Comedy and discoveries and Old Bay.

You have GOT to see this... from a graduate level computer science class.

Things I'd like to find.....candy canes and egg nog.  Not where I live...this is a BCN purchase.

The stupid dog just finished licking all the polysporine off his heels, an antibiotic ointment for those who may not know it, but has turned up his nose at Old Bay on my popcorn!  Goodness, no taste this beast.

The Canadians in the crowd may well have heard of Canada Reads.  It is, in it's own way,  kind of like a nationwide book club.  For one of the courses I am designing I have to come up with two I have said in previous posts.  The first is and will be Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye.  I am in the middle of this slim novel now.  It is astonishingly well written with great depth and I, somewhat fearfully suspect it is going to haunt me and change me in small and subtle ways...or maybe not so subtle.  It is however something that I don't leap into with unmitigated joy.  Slide into with held breath would be more like it.

The second novel, Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson, which I have also mentioned, is not getting uniformly rave reviews.  While it is undoubtedly an important book, the word boring has cropped up in the same sentence with the title.

There are a series of things I have to take into consideration here.  I don't want to study a European or British book thankyouverymuch.  Time for some culture from somewhere in  North America.  Plus, I need books with a lot of free on-line video and audio associations.  The Morrison and Housekeeping I chose because they are part of Amy Hungerford's American Novel since 1945 class offered free online by Yale University.  Good enough I guess.

Still somehow...... well, I wanted something a little fatter...the book that is, though chocolate is always good and fatty too, on top of that I wanted a Canadian author.

Then I was listening to Shelagh Rogers on the handy dandy new iPod (thanks Mom!!!) and she happened to mention....Canada Reads!  And I thought...perfect, absolutely stinking PERFECT!!!!

Well.  All those books looked simply marvelous, and I am so wildly happy to have good reading material, and I have only one. more. day. of work and I will very soon have lots of time for

I bought all five.  In the special group pack with the book bag.  (shhhhhh)

Well, actually, there is no-one to hide it from.  I think already that I am going to use Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner.  The name of the book and the authors name sort of ring together, don't you think?
Anyway, it is translated from French and is about three Quebecois living in Alaska. Sounds like a good cross-section of North American themes, and I know the Catalans will be interested in the Quebec angle.....

Great books, set in Canada and the States, lots of audio and video with a variety of accents and a faster speed.  And I should be able to find one that makes me want to dive gleefully into the story rather than tiptoe around the edges, fascinated but nervous.

Now to wait for the books to come.

Oooooohhhhh, and I am going to pick out another book to read.  I can't read the Morrison before bed.  The dreams.......

Nothing like a Friday night with the family, watching the Marx brothers, buying books and reading to put a girl in a good mood.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More to and fro with the architect.

We are getting a bit of movement.

What I hate about it is that I have to be such a beotch to get anything at all to happen.

I honestly have a mental image of myself having to hold their feet to the flames to get them to work.  Honestly.  It is so medieval feeling.


That said, the vacations are almost here!

I've got some dinners and lunches lined up with friends, we've got some day trips planned, and we are looking at a couple of days out of here as well.....

Super sweet!

After today's round with the architects I am going to have to use that alphabet game again I bet.  In English this time.

I can, with all honestly, strongly advise anyone against buying property in Spain and attempting to renovate it.


It has been, overall, such an unpleasant experience.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time to send the brain for a Masters in Library Sciences.

Found this if you want to have a little fun.

One of my aunts left me a note on facebook recommending the 'alphabet game' for when I couldn't sleep.

Woke up around 5am today, and thought I would put it into action.  Stupid me.  I tried it in Catalan.

What was amazing was that I couldn't do it.  My vocabulary in Catalan is, at this point, pretty reasonable.  Nothing like my vocab in English, but still, I have a pretty good range.  I can handle most conversations and write letters to the architect, report cards etc.

What was really fascinating for me, and really bad for the rest of the night's sleep, was the realisation that I simply could not access the information in that way.  Kind of like a red delicious apple.  Looks like a normal enough apple till you slice it laterally and discover the lovely star hidden inside.  Well.  I didn't find any stars, but I then spent the next while pondering why it is that I simply could not access Catalan coming at it sideways like that.  I could come up with one or maybe two words for each letter, the best I did was three.  Let me tell you, I know a lot more than 52 words in Catalan, so that just doesn't add up.

Something to ponder.  Why is it that my brain has stored and sorted all that Catalan without providing a cross-referencing index, for lack of a better word.  Very poor librarian working up there I must say.

Not good for my sleep either.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Talk about messing with the doggies head!


Quite unintentionally I gave Chuck quite the head psyche.

I put on my coat to take youngest to school, at the usual time that we go out for a walk.  Got some dog treats, checked I had a plastic bag, all good signs that a walk is imminent, put on my shoes and the dog's leash.......and then took the dog with me to the door of the bathroom to tell youngest to hurry up.

Took me a moment to understand why Chuck was panicing, refusing to go into the room ahead of me, and generally trying to dig his way into the flat below in an attempt to get away from me.

Though he was headed for a bath!

Now wouldn't THAT be a nasty trick to play on a dog!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Goodness it is a rich and beautiful mass of opportunities!

More of those 'I love the internet' moments.

Here I can, for free, take courses at Yale University.  Did I mention that they are free.  Not for credit, but heck, I'm a little old for that game in many ways.

Here I can see a beautiful Christmas moment from NYC.

Here I can listen about what makes people so vital and how to reach out to that.

I can hear a classic christmas song and read the background story to how it came about.

I can think about taking one of these courses, and even though that isn't going to happen right now, I can note some of the books they mention that I would like to get, and post it on my blog so I don't lose the d*mn list.  If I chose to I can ever go to the omni-present A*a*on and order it to be delivered to my house in the next few days....

I can also go here to get ideas for wacky stories or get my mind blown by this astonishingly intelligent woman - though she doesn't sound it - all while I keep in touch with my friends, family and blog buddies.

It's a pretty cool world out here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Are we who we say we are? Are we a different person in a different language?

One of the fascinating things that I am discovering about Catalan, and I suppose that this is true of every langauge, is that it has different definitions of character.  I don't just mean the same words for certain people's character, but the language, and therefore the people (or vice versa, and interesting chicken and egg debate there) look at people's characters differently and haul different aspects of their personality out as important and worth naming.

There is no word for an intense person, nor carefree that I have found.  You can describe it, but you need  at least a full sentence with several adjectives.

They do have nervios(a), which denotes someone who is a combination of uptight and slightly hyper, but not necessarily nervous at all, which, by the way doesn't seem to exist as a temporary state like in English.  I am not sure how people feel before an exam in Catalan.  The translate it to sound like something that requires therapy at least, but that isn't what they mean.

Then there is 'cap quadrat' - which literally means 'square head' but it doesn't have the same meaning as in English at all, it is only somewhat insulting in Catalan.  For me anyway in English, a square head is someone who is always sucking up to the teacher.  Here it is someone who thinks in an extremely orderly way, possibly with some lack of imagination.  A more, ah, Germanic mindset and a less Mediterranean one.

We don't have ANY sort of word for this, nor for the more, ahhhhh, mañana mind set that pervades as one moves further south.

English has also gone through many changes, we rarely describe someone as choleric or bilious, though phlegmatic seems to have hung on longer.

Then there is 'hippy' and 'pijo/pija'.  Hippy obviously has common roots in both languages but the definition of who would be hippy is far wider here than in English, and pija/pijo is also used more broadly as well.  I would translate it roughly as rich, spoiled and self-centered.  It is an insult.  Hippy not so much.

Intense just isn't.  Though there are people here I would call intense, there is no single word for it.

It's not really surprising if you think about it, but nonetheless it is interesting to me that different cultural groups divy up the complex reality of character into culturally unique slots and categories.   The real interest lies, it seems to me, in why those categories and aspects of character were picked out as nameworthy.  Why those aspects were deemed to stand out enough to warrant naming.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bits and pieces....

I just want to say that

- I love the new Mac

- I love that my kids find spelling and verb conjugating fun.  We sit around sometimes with the Catalan conjugation book and the biggest fattest Webster's we have and spell and recite conjugations.  It is fun too!

I am aware that sounds terribly nerdy, but it is fun.

- I love that I can read with the new electric toothbrush!  Feels like the Jetsons, I just stand there and hold it in place with one hand and the book with the other.  Now if they could just figure out how we could read in the shower.

- I just discovered that the Kindle is available outside the US now.  Uh oh.  Maybe you still need a US bank's hoping.

Watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the original '92 movie with Eldest.  First watched it with the man in a hotel in Grand Junction, Colorado. We'd spent the day driving through the surreal countryside there, played mini-putt, I think we ate a wicked steak for dinner, and then watched Buffy.  A memorable day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hi there!

New course that I designed starts tomorrow, it weirdly is going to include several of my colleagues...that will give it an odd atmosphere in a way, but it should be OK too....the introduction section will shorten right up...though I have a provisional plan if that happens.

Cross your fingers for me that we get a crowd!  I'd like to run it again, if not in a couple of sessions....wait and see.

Along with all the reading I've been doing I was watching a movie today.  A Perfect World with Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood.  I didn't get to see the end of it, but it was good.  Not art great, but a good movie....fingers tapping as I wait.

I don't know if any of you noticed, but a(nother) real life genuine author commented!  Carolyn Jourdan of Heart in the Right Place stumbled upon my site (presumably after a google search) and left a message!

Well that was altogether rather thrilling!

I was reading through the lovely comments you have left and there was a new, and strangely familiar name!  WOW!

Carolyn, if your up in the Toronto area this summer, or you make it to Barcelona...let me know! Sadly the boat isn't in the Bahamas is in Ontario though!

Did any of you ever notice that blogging can be very very cool indeed?

Now I'm off to bed to read madly!  (At least three or four pages before I fall asleep!)

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I have been doing a certain amount of Amazon work of late.  I have a double excuse, Xmas is approaching and so purchases MUST be made, also I have this course I am working on and the students will have to be reading books, plus I am teaching some writing skills.  (EEEKKKK I am ENTIRELY unqualified!)  SO, some purchasing has happened.

I have also gotten tired of not having books around that I am dying to read.

Darling Books Beth kicked it all off with a fantastic gift of a BAG of books that I took without even reviewing them.  I SO needed to read!

Then I've been doing some shopping, in BCN I have found a couple of books, on the trip to Wales...I went back on the plane with books stuffed into my back pockets, down my sleeves, tucked into my belt and down my pant legs.  I kid you not.  They said we could only bring one bag on as carry on!  I had a knapsack with a meager change or two of clothing.  Even I cannot fit approximately 40 paperbacks into one knapsack with all that, but I'd be D*MNED if I left even one behind.  It was a relief to get past the luggage police and put some of it back into a plastic bag, let me tell you!

I am such a weirdo.

Anyway, I have been contentedly reading up a storm of late.  You see I am a fast and voracious reader, so if I only have a few books on hand I self-strangle on the reading, but now!!  The only good thing about sitting up all night was that I finished a novel each way.

Let me just tell you what I've been up to because I am SO excited!

I am currently reading:

Mort by Terry Pratchett, and to my fantastic fabulous and brilliant Aunt...thank you endlessly for introducing me to these!

Writing for Story by Jon Franklin, a good read, as it should be.  This one is for the course, but I am enjoying it whatever the reason.

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye.  I have chosen this for the course and I am kind of fearful of reading it.  I know it's good, but I also know it's going to be hard.

Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson, ditto for the course, I have to read it fast as it has gotten mixed reviews and if it is terrible I have to know soon so I can axe it from the course and substitute something else.  I have two contenders,

Black Boy by Richard Wright
The Warrior Woman by Maxine Hong Kingston

I am also looking forward to:
The Art of the Personal Essay: an anthology from the Classical Era to the Present
Roald Dahl, Tales of the Unexpected
Charlie Connely, Attention All Shipping:  A journey round the Shipping Forecast
Salman Rushdie: Midnght's Children and Enchantress Florence
Paul Thereaux, Dark Star Safari: overland from Cairo to Cape Town
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus
Olver Sacks, Musicophilia - I am seriously excited about this one.  One of those books you gasp when you see and snatch from the bookstore shelves in case someone else grabs it!
Anthony Woodward and Robert Penn, The Wrong Kind of Snow
Camilla Gibbs, The Petty Details of So and So's Life
Haley Shogren and White, Environmental Economics in Theory and Practice, as heavy and dull as it sounds, but I am fascinated.
Carolyn Jourdan, Heart in the Right Place
Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything. Seems like it would make a great audio book for my summer commutes.
Driving Sideways by Fess Riley
Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, I did see the movie first, now I'd like to read the book
Red Plaid Shirt by Diane Schoemperlen
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
All that is Solid Melts into Air, but Marshall Berman
Haruki Murikami in Catalan
Kevin Crossley-Holland, Short!  A book of VERY short stories. (for teaching story writing to students)

that'll do for now.

There are a few more, but I am not quite as excited about them...and there are so many more!

Ooooohhh it is so nice to have good books, I even took one with me to walk the dog.....he led me today, that's for sure, till we got to the mountains and the views were their usual beautiful selves and a certain fuzzy someone needed to have pine cones pitched for him.

I am developing quite the arm I have to say, and I haven't murdered or fired the architect, yet, so all is well I suppose!  Could they move any slower?????

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I S.W.O.R.E. I was going to go to bed early tonight because despite 12 hours sleep last night and a two hour nap this morning, I am still tired.


Then the architect sent his latest feeble effort.


I was also going to post a photo of the tree we've managed to decorate...but I am not sure I can get that together at this moment.

Aw,  what the heck....

The lights have stopped flashing, for which I am grateful....and the kid's pesebre (?) nativity scene, a tradition we have picked-up here is now complete.  Made with polly pockets and stuff we had on hand...

Photos later.

Cheers, and sleep well,


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We went off to Madrid for the long weekend...this has been a four day weekend here....YippEEeeee!!!!

The only glitch was that the overnight sleeper train tickets, which we were all looking forward to, turned out to be seats, not beds.  Both ways.


Sitting up all night in a train is not rated very high in anyone's books, but let me tell you, it is still wildly overrated.  UGH.

Still, all else was fabulous....and I have tons to say and tons of pics.

We ate some fabulous meals, I bought myself a lovely necklace, we saw a LOT of people...can I just say that Madrillaños LOVE a crowd.  They eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and tapas in an enormous press of people, all standing up, and stagger from event to event in a huge pack.  Even the restaurants have twice as many tables in them as I would put....

We were so amazed we even asked if it is normal or if this was a particularly festive time.  Nope.  Normal.


Now these were totally weird:

These, as you may have noticed, are bulls.  A symbol of Spain.  The broken tile work is from Gaudi.  A rigid Catalan nationalist who was arrested for refusing to speak Spanish upon occasion.  We found these kind of weird....though the pierced one was particularly charming.  Anything for a tourist.

I took this photo of a lovely door in Madrid after our recovery nap on the first day, and after we had eaten a truly amazing lunch.  The place was a small restaurant, filled with bull fighting memorabilia, and the food was out of this world.  Eggs scrambled with potatoes and topped with iberic ham...oh so good, plus croquettes, I can't quite get my head around these yet, and then a stunning steak!!!! I didn't think it was possible in Spain, but it is!  Then a flan that was the creamiest yummiest version of flan I have ever eaten, think of Cornish clotted cream mixed with flan.  OMG

Then I bought myself a beautiful necklace, and all was good with the world...and I was ready to notice this beautiful door.

What do you think, should we get one for the new house?  It may just be taller than the entire house though, which could prove difficult to manage.

A little drafty too when someone went out.

Barcelona is filled with lights too, but I haven't had a chance to take photos....

The center of Madrid was filled with these stalls, some selling jewelry and such, but most selling wigs and silly hats.  I am not the least bit sure what this has to do with Christmas, but it was pretty festive.  I have to say that the folks from Madrid are certainly willing to be kind of goofy and play it up!

These ladies were easily in their 60s and quite conservative looking, aside from the wigs.

To give you an idea of the crowd....this was a sea of people all going into and out of this plaça...I am not sure why.  Maybe just cause you're supposed to go out before dinner...

I kid you not, look. at. the. crowds!

Everywhere was like this!  Where did they all come from?????  There were no stores open....

This was cool, the Xmas tree you see two photos up?!?  This is from the center of it, you can walk through.  Very cool.

The Reina Sofia Museum allows photos.  I figured this was a good painting for us, I like blue, and the man likes beer!

OK, blogger is going all freaky on me and putting photos in weird places and I am way way way too sleep deprived to do anything about it....

That photo that looks like a cloud?

WAY cool installation piece.  It's made of thousand and thousands of strands of monofilament fishing line.  Anyone who has ever dealt with that stuff can join me in wondering how in the name of little green bullfrogs they ever move this piece without spending the next year untangling it.

It was quite magical I have to say.

One final public Xmas tree from Madrid...quite liked this one too.

More later.....

Promise me something though.  Please never ever ever sit up in a train all night if you don't have to, and NEVER buy tickets from renfe (the Spanish National Rail Service (???)) if you can help it, and then only in person.  The website S.U.C.K.S.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cool stuff!

This is the coolest thing I've seen in a while...and this is wicked too...weird watching Chuck's ears while I plugged mine.

Neat neat neat.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sweet mother...professional h*ll

This evening after work I designed a line-up fit to destroy anyone.

We visited:

  1. The dentist.  Eldest has braces in her (near) future.
  2. The lawyer.  A new Spanish will, and more paperwork for the kids citizenship. (fun wow!)
  3. a brief stop - 15 min - at the local bar to eat anything for supper
  4. A long meeting with the architectural assistant. I was not very nice.  Indeed I was kind of unpleasant in a nice kind of way. Aside from obliquely accusing them of asking for kick-backs and stating that we wanted to send out the requests for prices ourselves....ho hum.  I was also pretty clear that I am really pretty frustrated with the pace of the project....ho hum
  5. Got home at 10:30 pm.
  6. Bagged.
Now the dog is barking at me, and I don't know why.

Good lord, bring on the weekend.

On that note, we are going away for the weekend - thank god.

More anon.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You know your life is REALLY exciting when....

You get an electric toothbrush for the first time, and it is TOTALLY cool!

Sad but true.

It's a braun...I got the toothbrush head with the little yellow ring!  *joy*

I wonder if it has a fitting so we can purée the soup too?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Anger vs. music

I was talking to my Mom last night, which was lovely and useful and helpful on all sorts of levels, but one thing she said to me is that I seem angry lately on the blog. 

I have to agree.  I have been angry lately in real life too.

Combo of things I think, though the architect is the chief focus of my...ahhh....ire.

She did have a solid point though that one of the realities of living expat is a certain level of frustration and anger.

The same could be said of people embarking on a home renovation.

Despondency is guaranteed.

SO today after a, shall we say, grim beginning...imagine me weeping gently in the kitchen as I am making my tea and the man looking at me somewhat confused and miserable as he is just trying to go off in the morning....assuring me that this is all doable and I have not engaged us all in the worst mistake of our lives and to stop apologizing.  

Got the picture?

Well, first I found this video which was cool, and also had pretty cheery music, and some fun dancing....and that got me going on music.  

It is absolutely magically how it can completely alter your mood, and thank all the good little fairies in the forest for that, no?  So we had a bit of a youtube morning, finding anything that was upbeat.

I continued working on this theme....sugar at snack...yes, I went out and bought candy...I needed all the sweetening I could get.....

Went and bought some Xmas decorations before lunch.  Gotta get me excited about that...doable, manageable and cheery...clear goals are good in life....had a micro-nap.  I kid you not, the sucker was utterly pathetic....between youngest tossing advent calendars on my head, and card games and playing the harmonica in my ear, the dog managed to lick my eye as well; maybe it smelled of chocolate.

Helped though.  Played cards with youngest, freaked out trying to figure out her homework about the human excretory systems...utterly INCOMPREHENSIBLE question...holy mother of small toadstools (I'm having fun making these suckers up).

Made a conscious effort to laugh, to notice the sunshine, to see what I love about being here....heck I was even glad to go to the dentist!  Truly...three of us through, and the man got his teeth wait, delightful lady) who weirdly saw me last year in LONDON at the Tate Modern.  Life is very strange.  ANYWHOOO, it all cost, get this.....45 Euros!!!

What's not to love.

Off to Amazon to do some Xmas shopping, and you tube to listen to some music.

Think I'm gonna be getting myself an is a miracle.  Too bad the man likes stuff like John Pryne so much.  My favourite *snort*  song by him is the one that sings about the hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes.  Just stick your head in the oven now!

Nope...loading the sucker up with some HAPPY music.

Suggestions anyone?