Tuesday, September 11, 2012


mmmm dates... my favorite Barhi dates are coming into season now.  I wonder if i can find them at the Boqueria?

I digress...  that's not the type of date i'm thinking of. 

Today is Once de Septiembre here in Catalunya - an independence holiday.  For me it's September 11th.  


I love when it's the 13th of the month, or later.  I know instantly that the 13+ number is the day.  Otherwise i stare at the date and think - is it November 9th or the 11th of September.  What further throws me off is that September should be the 7th month and November should be the 9th.  

Maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What I've Learned In My 11 months 16 days in Barcelona

Interpreting Weather Forecasts - when it says 20% chance of rain, it'll rain REALLY REALLY hard if and when it does rain.

It was dry about 20 minutes before i took this picture - which was when I left the bar to start walking home.  I got home drenched to the bone.  (oh - maybe that's why i'm feverish today?)

Yet those days it says 60-80% chance of rain - I wear my (fabulous) Hunter rainboots and bright pink umbrella - there's nary a drop from the sky - and i feel silly.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer Eaten

If only I attracted men the way I attract mosquitos...

Despite all my efforts to keep the bugs at bay - they just love my blood... it's like crack to them.

 They're not so bad on the arms or shoulders... i mean, they still suck...

But when it's on the underside of the arm where it rubs against my body... i just can't help but to scratch... this one, just above was super-painful.  And this picture was taken the morning after the bite.  It was swollen to twice the size the next day.

As I said, the arms aren't so bad... not compared to the ankles.  Those are the WORST.  I have been slowly poisoning myself with a steady supply of spray repellant, slow release citronella bracelets, adhesive citronella stickers to put on clothes, and tea tree oil. 

That's enough to leave me nauseated.  No wonder the men are staying away.  (grumble grumble, kicking rocks)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer eats

Perfect after-dinner combo.  

The wine was 10,40 Euros at my local wine shop (which means you might find it cheaper elsewhere).

My first Summer in Barcelona

Summer holidays?

Totally un-American. 
Complete foreign concept to me. 

But it's the norm here in Spain.
More than half the shops are closed...
well, at least in my neighborhood (the touristy areas are packed).

And including me and the instructor, there were 7 people in spin class last night... that's in a room with 100 bikes!

I did take a long weekend up in the Costa Brava - near Santa Christina d'Aro... or was it S'agaro?  whichever... the sea looked like this:

My friend Patty invited me out to her summer rental.  She also rents a little Zodiac boat to take us out to these "swimming pools" below some rocky cliffs - where the water is still and clear and blue-green. 

It was "estupendo"

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Not That I Like Spanish Food Much Anyways... But Still.

I don't handle death too well.

Well, duh.  Who does?

But today's funeral was somewhat surreal for me.  As the foreigner, I only caught about 50% of the conversations.  Being a new (yet old) member of the Spanish family, I had very little context with most of my family here.

So I really felt like an outsider, even though my place was within the inner circle.  I couldn't quite grieve among the group.  I'd rather weep in private, maybe with a few people I'm close with... and then be among people.

Fortunately, I haven't been to many funerals.  They are always sad, and full of tears - which is to be expected.  Yet most have had a memorial type gathering after... Usually with lots warm hugs, consoling smiles, and homemade casseroles, pies, and all types of comfort foods. Maybe that's just the American way. 

Today's Jewish ceremony here in Spain was just the gathering at the mortuary, followed by the burial at the cemetery.  That was it.  Afterward, we all went our separate ways.  No flowers, no reception.  Maybe that comes later?  

I don't like cemeteries.
I don't like the ritual.
I don't like the concept.
I don't want to go to them, nor would I want anyone to ever feel obligated to go to one on my account.

First off - if I can be a donor, that's what I'd want this vessel that is housing my spirit to go to - science.  If I can't... well, I'd want to be cremated.  And maybe be buried with a sapling that will become some sort of tree.

Kinda like in that Jodie Foster movie "Little Foxes" - where that girl says she want's them to plant a pear tree, so that in future years, people can come by, have some fruit and say "she's tasting good this year".  Well, maybe that's kinda gross.  I'd prefer apricots.

Just as I don't like cemeteries - I just don't like maudlin & morose funerals.  Have some sort of informal gathering at some favorite place... with lots of yummy homemade comfort food.  Pile-on all that dairy I've been lamentably missing all these years.  (damn that lactose intolerance!).  And just share some stories, and reminisce.  Something relaxed and easygoing.  With hugs.  And tears.  And laughs. And smiles.  Pretend I'm in the room enjoying seeing all my friends and loved ones remembering me fondly.  Without the drama.

Rest in Peace, my dear tante Lisette.  I absolutely adored you.  I feel blessed that I got to know such a fabulous woman who lived an extraordinary life full of love, kindness and generosity.  I miss you tremendously.  I almost feel guilty that I didn't get that haircut you always wanted me to get.  Almost.  I still prefer my hair long.  x

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How Is Death "Done" in Spain?

Odd question.  I know.

But a beloved member of the family,  my aunt Lisette just passed away this morning.  It wasn't unexpected, nor did it take any of us by surprise.  Yet it still hurts, and it's sad.

A kind friend of mine, another ex-pat from America living in Spain offered to bring a casserole or be of any service or assistance.

That's what got me thinking... How is death "done" here?  I was asking my mother... somehow it had a calming effect on her to get her thinking about the differences within cultures and between different countries.

Yes, there will be the mourning period.  But what about the celebration of a life well-lived?   Remembering someone for the joy and love he/she brought to our lives?  I'm not sure if there is a "wake" here in Spain.  Seems so much more mournful & morose.

Note to my friends and family:  don't cry... instead -  Throw a dinner party or gathering I'd just die to attend (pun intended).  The only tears should be those from laughter.  From reminiscing the good times - the stupid times - even the bad times. 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

They were just running around yesterday...

Shopping for food has been a huge adjustment for me.  Case in point:  chickens.  I've found some nice poultry vendors at the Mercat Galvany (Monica Avirum or something like that)... developing a rapport with the vendors is very important to me.  That's also the key to getting better service, or just learning more about what you're getting or what you can special order...

Here at Monica's, they carry lots of interesting poultry and prepared foods.  They also sell rabbit, which i'm still curious about.  I tried the "Cordoniz" which i'm not sure if it's a cornish hen or a poussin.  Actually, I'm not sure anymore if it was the Cordoniz that I got or the really tiny little guys at the bottom left of this picture here.

But their whole chicken is what I usually get... though i've been getting the "conventionally" raised birds rather than the organic or cage free birds that I prefer (on principle).  It's strange - in LA, when I'd get my chicken from Lily's Eggs (at the Hollywood or Santa Monica Farmers markets), they'd be 3-4 pounds each - small birds.  But here - the pasture raised hens are huge - like 6 pounds or so. 
But those pasture raised hens are like 18 Euros each - way too expensive.  That's like $25!  These birds pictured above are the conventional ones.  And they are very fresh - they were just alive and running around the day before!  They still have the heads attached and they have their innards.  So when you get a chicken from these market vendors - the people behind the counter provide full-service. 

 I wanted my chicken butterflied for this one recipe I was trying out.  So without hesitation, Jessica grabbed a chicken, lopped off the head, trimmed the feet, butterflied and gutted it... saving the gizzards and liver for me.  Even the cheap chicken is expensive and I'm not letting any of it go to waste. 

They also usually have carcasses available if you're looking to make stock or broth... but if there aren't any available, they'll just grab a chicken, remove the parts, clean out the interior, and in about a minute, you have a carcass with a good amount of meat to add extra flavor to your stock/soup.  I made lots of stock this year.  I wish I had a bigger stock pan - my biggest pot is pretty small... I could hardly get enough stock for one soup recipe.  The carcasses are pretty cheap - like a euro or 2... and they will toss in a handful of Italian parsley sprigs if you ask. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Trying to embrace the food... key word: trying.

For those of you who know me, you know that I love good food. And here in Barcelona, I've been having a couple of hits, but plenty of misses. 

So I thought - maybe if I shift my perspective a bit, and start eating like a local, I might actually stumble upon something good.  Rather than getting frustrated that I can't find what I'm used to finding in that agricultural wonderland that is California... I should start playing with what's at hand. 

See these guys:
EUR 55,00 per Kilo!! most of which is shell and rock.
Percebes (aka Goose Barnacle).  I had never heard of them before, but I see them all the time at the Mercat Galvany.  They are these little tubular shellfish-y things that latch onto the undersides of rocks along some coastal parts of Spain & Portugal - where the waves come crashing in.  Very dangerous to harvest - hence the expensive price tag.  Some governing offices also want to ban this practice of harvesting due to the danger of the task.

Now I would never buy anything so expensive while clueless as to what to do with them.  Especially since I don't like shellfish all that much to begin with.  But my friend Patty (who's an incredibly good cook) served them up last week for her birthday dinner. 

You eat them cold, like crab legs (which she also served).  hold the little "goose barnacle" at one end and then you pinch just below the grey claw-like part and then pull the sleeve off.  what you're left with is the edible part - which is at most one inch long by a quarter inch in diameter - it's TINY.  And very SALTY. 

Worth the price tag?  I'll pass.  Give me lamb, foie, anything dreamed up by this man... I'll skip the percebes.  and the crab legs. 

My recent attempt at cooking with local flavor was a recipe given to me by one of my English students:  "Sepia estilo Vinaroz"- a Fisherman stew using Sepia (squid - larger than calamari - 1 kilo each), potatoes, toasted bread, and chocolate!!!???!!!  I'd learned how to clean calamari while working at Ludobites - but this sepia was too much to deal with.  I didn't enjoy preparing it.  The finished product was kinda odd - but I don't know if it's because I made it wrong, or that's just how it's supposed to taste. 

Have I had some good meals here?  yes.
And if you love seafood, cured pork products and potatoes, you'll love Spanish food.

As for veggie lovers like myself, well, I just need to get more inventive with what I see.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Barcelona got right

There are lots of things that Barcelona does right as a city...

Great public transportation
Awesome Christmas lights
Preserving their great architectural landmarks
Cheap and good Spanish wine
Not making a big deal about Valentine's day. 

Thank goodness for that last one!  talk about an over-hyped manufactured "holiday" that drives me nuts!

But some of the window displays were pretty.

on Carrer de Carme in El Raval

Somewhere in Barri Gothic

Another cute shop in Barri Gothic
My friends & I were trying to find this great little wine bar we'd gone to on Friday night... and ended up walking some chocolate-lover's paradise of a shopping route.  I mean, we couldn't have found all these great chocolate shops if we'd been looking for them... but just because we weren't intending on finding cupcakes, cookies, pastries and chocolates - we couldn't turn a corner without finding another great shop.  Open on Sunday. 

What wasn't open on Sunday?
 That wine bar.

That first Rioja - Gavanza at EUR 3,50 - a winner!

This is the place.  They're smart to put a map on the back of the card... it's so hard to find places again.

not quite done with xmas yet...

    Barcelonetta (it's near the beach)

Paseo de Gracia - it's the main ritzy shopping street
this little street near parc Turo - on the western end

Barri Gothic on what I like to call "Baker Street"

the little street where Els 4 Gats is located
not sure if this is Born or Barri Gothic
Barri Gothic

FNAC building
The FNAC building near Plaza Catalunya
Pelai near Plaza Catalunya/Ramblas - looking at one of the Corte Ingles stores... too bad you can't see how it twinkled

What can I say... at least it's not July...

More Xmas lights

Pictures... I haven't been taking many lately.  The dreadfully cold weather (it's all relative, right?) has been forcing me to keep my hands covered with gloves, and thus my iphone hasn't been getting much use as a camera. 

Better late than never. 

Carrer Pelai - near Plaza Catalunya

The top of Las Ramblas - from near Plaza Catalunya
Somewhere in El Raval

Barri Gothic - from the Ramblas

El Born

El Born
El Born

Carrer de Princessa (near the picasso museum)

somewhere in Barri Gothic

A Caganer!  in the city sponsored giant nativity scene

Barri Gothic - Carrer Ferran - from Jaume I
Somewhere in the Barri Gothic

Now that the cold spell is almost over...

Time to catch up on posting all the pix of the Christmas lights I saw around the city!

I had originally intended on visiting each neighborhood, taking a picture, printing out all the pictures, then creating some fabulous map-based artwork highlighting the different patterns all over town.  Sounds cool, right?  But when I returned to Barcelona from Cali, I had the worst cold ever and was bedridden and missed out on taking the rest of the pictures I'd intended on taking.

The Lights in the Barrio of Gracia

Gran de Gracia - looking down toward the sea
Gran de Gracia looking up toward the mountain

Traverserra de Gracia - western end
Traverserra de gracia - eastern end
some street parallel to Trav. de Gracia
Add caption

Traverserra de Gracia

Oh - why am I now uploading these pictures?  yeah - I've got another cold. and a fever.  This winter has been rough.  I miss that pleasant LA weather.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

12 Grapes!

There are many curious customs that are celebrated here in Spain.  And guess who's gonna embrace them?  That's right, yours truly! 

Starting with the tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight to ring in the New Year. 

No one I asked actually knew the origin of this curious tradition. They just all do it - for good luck.  At the stroke of midnight, you have to start popping those grapes, one at a time into your mouth - at 3-second intervals until they are all gone.  If you can finish the dozen before the end of the chimes, you will have good luck all year long. 

My aunt Lisette sent us a couple of little tin cans - each containing 13 peeled seedless grapes (a fruiter's dozen, perhaps?).  How is that not cheating???

For a first timer, this was a cinch - total piece of cake.  This was my first New Year's celebration in Spain, and while I was invited to a couple of celebrations - I kept it mellow and celebrated with my mum. Well, I had have a miserable cold which is still with me 3 days later.  Argh!

But imagine having to down 12 large tough-skinned grapes.  with seeds.  not so easy sounding.  One of the parties I was invited to had a minor choking incident... i'm not so sure it wasn't a girl trying to make it with the waiter. 

Mum & I toasted at midnight with a split and some strawberries
 So here's looking to a bright new year.  2011 was a tough year for many people.  Let's hope 2012 will be better. 
maybe 18 should read - "be kissed by a wonderful man, often."
Rather than make a list of lofty goals that may or may not be achieved, I spent about 10 minutes thinking of things that I'd hope to do this year.  No, I'm not going to change the world... just work within my space within the world - trying to make a few things better.