"We have more reasons to love each other based on our common humanity than to victimize one another because of any difference."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In Search of Frugal

If there was one skill I seemed to really hone in Barcelona it was being frugal. There are several factors that compounded the situation. One of which was I am a broke college kid. This was in part my own fault but I’m also willing to share the blame with my mother who insisted that unpaid summer internships are more important than Mc Donalds cash. So instead of flipping burgers or crunching ice at Jamba Juice I was busy running around the Institute of Americas booking flights from El Salvador and translating tourist information about the Scripps Aquarium. I reffed weekends here and there and that helped but not quite enough.

So my quest for frugality started out of necessity but grew into a game that most times I enjoyed and a few times found frustrating. I started to get good at realizing what things I really needed in life and what purchases were well...unnecessary. And that got me thinking even further about things I had bought in my lifetime. What were my all time best purchases in life? I started to make a list in my head of the things that I had bought or my parents had bought that meant the most to me or that I especially valued.

1. My antique silver spoon ring.
This is my favorite piece of jewelry and I wore in nearly every day for three years until it started to give my right hand a rash. Eventually I discovered the allergic reactions seem only to effect my right hand and so I’ve started to wear it again but this time on the left hand. My mom bought this ring for me while I was in San Francisco with my grammy. I spotted it at the farmers market.

2. My under armor pants
Dad and I were at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I said Dad I really think I need these. We debated it back and forth. He said they were sixty dollars. I said I was going to freeze. In the end he caved and I walked away with possibly the single most piece of crucial clothing in my wardrobe. I wear those things all the time.

3. My Book
Mom and I were at Aaron Brothers looking at art supplies. (I love looking at art supplies. The blank pages and canvases just scream with opportunity and possibility) I found this tan and black bound sketch book slash journal. I immediately grabbed it and showed mom. She told she didn’t think I would ever use it. I bought the journal myself and have loved it ever since. If there was a fire in the house and I had to chose one thing to save (apart from loved ones) I would chose this journal. It has old newspaper clippings, photographs, letters, doodles, drawings, hopes, dreams…ok lets not get too carried away.

4. My red crochet hat
I spotted this red crocheted hat sticking out of a pile of other knitted things. I’m assuming all of it was straight off a boat from China. I wasn’t sure that it was my style or would even look good on me but I thought I’ll take a risk. It was two euros. Not exactly breaking the bank. I love the hat. I wear it all the time, especially in my cold drafty little old La Mesa house.

5. My Girona ceramic coffee mug
I bought this mug when visiting the beautiful town in Girona and I used it just about every day after. I like having my own little mug that is all mine. I also like the deep blue color inside it. I’ve drunk hundreds of cups of tea out of it.

As far as Christmas goes, there are some gifts I received that I have high hopes for. I’ve already started to create a bond with my Micron Pens, my William Sonoma apron, and the hand thrown ceramic incense holder Ben made me. All of which have already been put to good use. I made five loafs of yummy homemade bread last night.

So maybe frugal isn't such a bad thing. Maybe frugal just means you really cherish the things you buy and appreciate them all the more.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I've been home for two full days now. It's nice to see that some things don't change. Like, for example, Minerva still wants to be the center of attention ALL THE TIME. I am sitting out in the front yard throwing tennis balls for her as we speak... Mom still freaks out about the food not being good for the Christmas party (even though we rave about it every year...), the house is still chaotic, and San Diego still has the most amazing weather in the world. (I didn't mention I am sitting in the front yard barefoot and in shorts and a tee shirt).

Mom and I have been bonding in the kitchen the last two days. Well...maybe it's more of a love hate relationship. I turn up the music she turns down the music. She puts her groceries on my counter. I take her burner on the stove and so forth. I'm happy to announce that no major casualties have been sustained.

So long story short we have been cooking non stop for the Christmas party. We are expecting 70 guests tomorrow. Yesterday I made sesame wonton chips, white chocolate dipped pretzels, a goat cheese appetizer, cut carrots and celery, chopped a million and one onions exct. Today mom and I finished off a double batch of double chocolate mint brownies, peanut butter kiss cookies, corn red pepper leak soup, George's of the Cove soup, key lime cheesecake, and Shannon is helping make a roasted red pepper and caramelized onion foccacia bread. YUM!

The Christmas party should be amazing. The house looks adorable. It's all Christmased out and lit up. I've been looking forward to this day since Thanksgiving!

ahhh home is nice...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Can ANYONE guess why I am excited??!?!!?!?!


Monday, December 14, 2009

American Breakfast

Today is my last real day in Barcelona I leave my house on the first metro tomorrow at 5:30am for the airport.

Hannah and I wanted to do something special for our last day together so we made a big American breakfast. We had scrambled eggs with cheese, french toast, and oatmeal. We licked our plates clean, wiped down the counters, and tidied up the mess so that Pilar would be none the wiser. The only oversight? Pilar asked me at lunch what I had done with a dozen eggs that were in the fridge...opps.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

There is a growing colony of spiders in my mom's drafty little office. She refuses to get rid of them stating, "They aren't hurting anyone". My mom is an amazing person and today is her birthday. I wish I was home to give her a big hug and make our classic chocolate birthday cake but I'll see her very soon! (4 days!)

I learned a lot of my best qualities from her. Things like standing up for myself, being a strong well grounded person, and my resiliency and determination.

My mom had and still continues to have such a huge impact on my life. When I was little she developed my passion for arts and crafts by bringing home bits of cardboard, ribbon, clothes pins, nick knacks, fabric and anything else she thought I would like. I can't count the number of trips to Michaels she has made to buy colored duck tape and popcicle sticks.

I like spending time with my mom and talking to her. I remember specifically one summer day when Ben and I dragged her out to the front yard to play soccer with us. I don't know if I have ever laughed so hard. Watching her awkwardly trying to dribble or kick a soccer ball had me leaning up against the white picket fence with tears in my eyes. I also love going thrift store shopping with her. We have a great time laughing at all the ridiculous things we find. One time we were in El Cajon at a thrift store and mom sat down in this old ugly green leather recliner and fell asleep in the middle of the store on the display chair. We laughed pretty hard about that one.

So, Happy Birthday mom. I love you so much.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What do you mean DONE?!

Well ladies and gentlemen I've finally done it. I've officially, completely, and unceremoniously finished the end of my first ever semester in Spain. This morning was hectic and frazzling and left me with sweaty pits and a bit of a headache, but it doesn't matter now because for the rest of my time here my only obligation is breathing. What a nice feeling...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I am a good student

Well, nearly exactly 12 hours from now I will be sitting down at my last final of the semester. Then I will be free as a bird in Barcelona for the next five days. Which means, I'll be crocheting a lot, spending my last happy days with Hannah, climbing mountains, and taking my last pictures of the year. We have plans on my last day to make a big American breakfast. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...I still have a paper due tomorrow and a final both for my Spanish Civil War class.

My paper is eleven awesome pages filled with progressive political reforms, civil unrest, and chock full of Franco oppression! I'm actually pretty proud of myself. I'm finishing up my studying for the night, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I found a FANTASTIC blog site that has hundreds of entries about Spanish history. I've spent the last two hours reading about the years leading up to the war and the years after. I discovered that the right wing leader in charge of the military quo that led to the Spanish civil war died in a plane crash coming back to Spain to take over the government after being in exile. He was warned that his plane was too heavy but didn't head the advice of the pilot. Opps! I also read that the reason Bilbao (a crucial Republican strong hold) was taken so easily was because the destruction of Guernica had happened a couple days earlier, afraid, they basically just surrendered.

Maybe Cribbs is right, I am a dork...but I can think of worse things.
ALSO I found pictures I took during studying for finals last year. It seems I wasn't quite as diligent last year...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ten Reasons why TODAY is such a great day!

1. Billy finished the logo for Something Sunny. I sent it to the Director of JCEL who emailed me saying he was "impressed with your continued passion & initiative. Keep the faith." Whooo!

2. It was 12:30 and I was hungry. Pilar wasn't around so I wandered into the kitchen to miraculously find ALL the ingridients to make chicken salad! There was shredded chicken in a tubberware on the counter. I found parsley, chopped some onion and added a little salt, pepper, and mayo and waaaala! YUM.

3. I finished part one of my secret santa present. I can't post it here because she may or may not read my blog!! (I'm not giving any clues!!) But let me assure you, it's SUPER CUTE.
4. I walked out on the balcony and it's beautiful and sunny. The two pigeons that were born on our balcony are just about old enough to fly away.

5. Caleb may be able to come to San Diego over winter break. I hope it works out it would be great to see him! He wants to see the UTAH CAL game...go golden bears!

6. I showered this morning, breaking my three day showering stint. I consider lack of showering during finals time completely acceptable if not the norm.
7. I FINISHED (more or less) MY TWO SPANISH RESEARCH PAPERS! I feel relieved and in very high spirits! I had a little note taped to my window that kept me going.

8. I'm having chicken, carrot, and garbanzo bean soup for lunch. It's a homemade broth, which is always super yummy.
9. I'll be home in SEVEN DAYS!!!!!!

10. I am going to the yarn store tomorrow to reward myself for working so hard on my finals.

Tuesday Morning

I woke up to a windy Barcelona morning. I've got a lot of studying and paper editing to do today but before I do I want to share a little inspiration with the world. I am starting to get excited and think about my plane ride home...like what I will do in the twenty hours I am in transit.
Happy Puente! Today's a Spanish Holiday.

Monday, December 7, 2009


This entry is almost word for word out of a recent diary entry.

Exciting news: I'll be home in eight days. But perhaps more important is the fact that I don’t need to go home. Yes, I want to go home. I can’t wait to tackle Minerva on the rug in the living room, wake up to fresh farmers market orange juice made fresh by the best mom in the world. I can’t wait to share music with my dad and just talk on car drives places. We have some of our best conversations in cars. I’m looking forward to hanging out with Ben and seeing my friends, going and smoking hookah and having fondue parties. I’ll be able to cook again and I’ve got a whole line up of recipes I’m ready to attempt. But I don’t need home. Not right now at least. I’m happy in Barcelona right now. I’m living here. I’ve been making Christmas cards, I bought a poinsettia, I put up paper snowflakes on my window, and colored paper chains are strung up. I’m doing things here that I would be doing at home or at Juniata. And like home and Juniata I am surrounded by people that I enjoy spending time with and that I love. I’ve made a new little home here. And maybe it’s not as good as San Diego, but I’ve still made it mine. And that, beyond all else, makes me happy.

Other kids have been having a really hard time this last month. (Finals stress and 15 page Spanish papers in size 10 fonts don't help) But, I think it makes it harder when kids focus on what they don't have. The Christmas lights here aren’t as good here as at my house, it isn’t a white Christmas, my friends are having fun and meeting up without me... But the sad thing is what they miss when they focus on home. They miss the fact that the lights here are beautiful and special, that no, we don’t have a white Christmas but it’s sunny and beautiful out and we don’t have to shovel snow, and maybe their friends are hanging out without them but we've all made new and important friends here and had our own very fun adventures. So yeah, I missed Madrigal and Caleb and Rio's big soccer Thanksgiving dinner but I've met one of my best friends in Spain and I'll treasure that relationship for the rest of my life.

I think that to be able to thrive in another place you have to accept that things will be different. Vastly different from anything you are used to. But that's the whole point isn't it? Being different doesn’t make it bad. It doesn’t make it good it just makes it different. And different is ok. Different is what makes life special, new, and fun. Difference is the spice of life.

Peace and love.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas is a Production

I woke up early this morning. I havent been sleeping well. I looked to see if my parents had emailed me (they hadn't) I made myself a cup of loose leaf cinnamon tea (it's my favorite!) and I sat down at my desk. I got out my scissors (that are really kitchen shears), my construction paper (which is really recycled barcelona pamphlets and flyers), and my glue stick (which really is a glue stick) and I sat down to make Christmas cards.

I tore and snipped, stuck, cut, and glued for three hours. I made three cards. I now have a total of 14 cards, although to my extreme dismay two are missing. Each card takes me roughly one hour to complete. Nearly all my cards this year are made from recycled paper. I keep my eyes open all the time looking for interesting fonts on posters, which I tear off walls, business cards, pamphlets, brochures exct. Other kids in my program have started coming to school with scraps of paper to give me.

Some of my favorite pieces of paper have been: an informative pamphlet released by the local government describing the fall of a political party in 1989. It's made on a thick olive card stock (I may have grabbed ten or so :). I also took full advantage of a parchment like envelope I found in my cupboard that is a light brown. The fold out I took from the gym was a pretty dark blue color and is currently in the form of paper snowflakes hanging in my window. But perhaps my best find was a half destroyed felt poinsettia flower I saw sitting on the street curb. I cut little red felt hearts out of the petals and they look fantastic.

Here's the production scene:

Happy December!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Delicious Winter Dish

I've known Pilar was a great cook for a long time now. Some of my favorites are her amazing stuffed eggplant. Her rich and creamy zucchini soup with toasted homemade cruttons is so good on cold days. And her alfredo lasgana is so yummy! But today she may have outdone herself.

I went out walking early this morning. I walked down the main street to the big open air market two neighborhoods down. When I came back I crawled into my bed to warm up and fell asleep. I woke up hungry and wandered into the kitchen to see what Pilar was making. I entered the warmth of the kitchen to find the oven on and hummin. I peaked in to see two whole fish bathed in lemon juice, tangy and perfect, crispy and juicy potatoes, and toasted tomatoes all simmering away in olive oil. YUM.

And living up to all expectations the dish was fantastic. It was the cooked to perfection and totally delicious. I gave Pilar two kisses after lunch and thanked her for, as of yet, my favorite meal in Spain.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Light Tour

When I was younger we used to go to Saint Louis for Christmas to visit my mother's family. I remember those times fondly, especially now that I don't have the opportunity to spend more time with my grandparents. I remember one night in particular. We all piled in the car and we were going to ride around the neighborhood to see the streets lit up with thousands of little multi colored lights. It was that same night that I found out Santa Claus wasn't real.

Well tonight I updated my version of the classic Christmas light tour. I walked around the old Gothic District of Barcelona in the city center. It was every bit as precious as when I was a child.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

12 Days till I'm home!

I thought I was in the Christmas spirit a week ago. I was making Christmas cards out of recycled paper and brochures I found on the streets and crocheting with Hannah and life was swell and things were cute.

But, today I took Christmas to another level. I LOVE THIS TIME OF THE YEAR! On the way back from the gym I bought a little poinsettia flower for 2 euros. It's sitting on my desk next to my cinnamon Christmas tea.

I cut out paper snowflakes in dark and light blue and creamy white. Then I strung pieces of red, green, white, and blue paper together in a paper chain.

The background on my laptop is a wintery cute town lit up with lights. I've been listening to Charlie Brown's Christmas Soundtrack on repeat for the past four days. The hot chocolate here is thick like pudding. The best part? The Christmas light all over the city are finally on! I'm doing a walking light tour tonight as a reward for working on my paper all day long. Do worry, pictures will come tonight!
Love you all! Happy December!
Because itsss theee mostttt wonderful timmme of the yeeeaaaarrrr!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do you know what a sandwich is?

Ok. I really do love Pilar but lately she has been getting on my nerves a bit. So bare with me while I vent a bit.

First off she was going to teach me how to make a tortilla de patatas (which means potato tortilla) its not actually like a tortilla at all it's more like a quiche and omelet combo. And for the life of me I couldn't figure out how she has been making them. Do you bake it in an oven? How do you get the top cooked like that??? So I finally asked her to teach me.

Problem one. She thinks I'm incompetent. We sit down and she says, "First you have to peel the potatoes and the onions. Do you know how to peel?"....of course I do. So I sit down to peel the potato (we don't have a peeler so I'm stuck old schoolin it with a knife) I'm doing fine but I'm not doing it the way she usually does it.

Problem two. Her way or the highway. She takes the knife from me and shows me that I need to cut toward myself instead of away. Little does she know this goes against every american fiber I have. How many times did they tell you growing up, "Cut AWAY from your body." I could just envision the knife slipping and me squirting blood all over our tortilla. opps.

So we finally get to the tricky stage of this omelet/quiche thing. The eggs and potatoes are frying and you have to place a lid on the hot frying pan and flip the "tortilla" hot oil and all onto the lid and then slide it other side up back into the pan. So I watch her do it, spilling hot oil on the counter and probably on herself and I think to myself this is going to be tricky. So then she goes your turn. (you have to flip this baby multiple times) So I successfully flip it but while trying to slip it back into the pan part of this semi cooked mostly raw egg omelet falls onto the counter. We put it right back in the pan and keep on going. Right? Wrong. For the rest of the night all I hear about is how I messed up. How she knew I wouldn't be able to flip it. Ok so I got my does of humility for the night. Let's move on already.

And while I'm just generally ranting I'll throw in two more things. She asked me if I knew what a sandwich was yesterday. I eat them everyday for lunch. Yes, I know the word for Sandwich. It's the MOST commonly used word in Spain. I gave directions on the metro yesterday to a couple from Madrid. They complimented me on how great my Spanish skills are and then in the same day my host mother (who still doesn't know my name) asked me if I knew the word for sandwich....ay ay ayaaaaaa. Oh, and she also taught me the word for fork tonight...yup knew that one too.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Spirit of Winter

Barcelona is a beautiful city and perhaps even more beautiful in the winter. The floral street stalls have begun to sell Poinsettias and miniature Christmas trees. The city spends hundreds, actually probably at least a million, dollars beautifying the city with thousands and thousands of beautiful, christmas bulbs, life size nativity scenes, acapella singing groups, and fun Christmas festivals. And seeing as I don't pay the taxes that provide this wonderful ambiance I'm ready to completely enjoy it!

The strands of Christmas lights are stung out across the narrow streets. A lot of them form designs like Christmas trees inside metal frames that are hoisted above the bustle of the city. I've been waiting for two weeks to actually see the lights on but it still hasn't been my lucky day. I'm hoping this week.

Meanwhile, I've been busy crocheting, studying for my two finals tomorrow, writing papers, and just generally wondering where the time has gone. I'll be home in 16 days???? I still have so many Christmas cards to make, sights to see, pictures to take, dinner parties to attend, and friends to hang out with! This weekend Monste, Hannah and I are headed to Monserrat a famous mountain an hour or two drive from Barcelona where an old church is located at the summit. I always love the adventures Monste takes me on so I'm looking forward to it. But, I'm also really looking forward to coming home!

I'm really looking forward to spending time with my family, cooking again, crafting, and being back in my drafty cold house (there's no place like home!) Plus, Christmas time is just one of my favorite times of the year!

Hey family, see you soon!!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving is a day for families

I have to admit that I am a little sad to spend this Thanksgiving in Barcelona away from my family and friends. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It comes with no expectations except good food and family.

I've been thinking about all the Thanksgivings we have spent with the Reedys (my mom's family in San Francisco). We usually wake up to find mom already making a mess in the kitchen and Uncle Ted already freaking out about it. We all spend most of the morning darting in and out of the kitchen to see what goodies my mom is working on. We make fun of Aunt Jane for not being able to cook. We have an annual soccer game Reddys V. O'Bigelows in which the Reedys always cheat and someone always storms off crying. When Papa was alive we'd all go around complaining about how hot it was in the house because he cranked the thermostat and we'd see if we could get away with cracking the windows. Mom always wants to play a board game and has to drag all of us to the table. Dinner was always fantastic, there was always some amazing homemade pie for dessert.

I love Thanksgiving.
Since I don't have the opportunity to say what I am thankful for at the table I'm going to say it here instead.

First and foremost I am thankful for my wonderful and amazing family. They are always supportive, always loving, and I miss them very much. I am thankful for my beautiful friends who always make me smile and laugh. I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given and for being able to study in Barcelona. And I am thankful for my plane ticket home for Christmas. I can't wait to hug everyone....

Well, I've succeeded in making myself cry.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dear Santa, I want a raclette for Christmas

Last weekend I went to my first ever raclette party. More common in Europe, a raclette is basically a grill top and below is a second layer where each guest cooks their own mini ´frying pan´. I loved the raclette party for the same reason I love fondue parties and hookah nights. It brings people together for long periods of time around a table to simply talk (well, and eat! Double bonus)

Each guest brought different goodies to the raclette party. Hannah and I brought spicy sauteed zuccini, steamed asparagus, spinach, and eggs. Other people brought bell peppers, chicken, tuna, cheese, potatoes, pineapple & chocolate. It was basically just a fun mix of things, add in bottles of red wine and good dinner conversation and you have a fantastic Saturday evening.

After we had finished off most of the food Ingamr brought out four pints of delicious ice cream and we sampled strawberry, cheesecake, carmel banana, and mint chocolate chip. I was in heaven...and also very full.

The next morning I sent my mom an email saying I want a raclette for Christmas! I can already imagine all the fun dinner parties in my future...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Things of the day...

I learned how to crochet and successfully completed my first pot holder! (almost entirely without Hannah's guidance).

I dropped my already fritzy ipod in the gym toilet today. It isn't working...I haven't started crying yet because I'm still going through the shock phase.

I had my LAST grammar class today, my how time flies! (Now I need to start finishing/starting my final papers)

I am going to the ANDREW BIRD CONCERT tonight and I am so so so excited! He is one of my favorite artists!

I organized a crochet/knitting party this Friday! Some BCA girls and I are meeting at a little cafe to drink tea, chat, and knit. How cute!

I waited a good chunk of the morning for a meeting that isn't till tomorrow...opps.

I register for my classes tomorrow.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

View from the balcony

This is the view from our balcony at night.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mushroom Hunting!

Today was possibly one of the most FANTASTIC days!

Hannah and I climbed into Montse's car early this morning and began our hour plus drive to the mountains. I was wondering why Hannah was so quiet and when we finally got there she said she had been busy trying to resist the urge to puke because she was car sick. The fresh air will do us good.

We got out of the car and walked around to the back. Montse pulled out three wicker baskets and our faces lit up. I was so excited! Spain has had an unusually dry winter which means that the mushrooms are scarce. There is actually a mushroom crisis. I see updates on the news about it. So we weren't expecting much, which is good because we didn't find much. But, god, it was fun! We were just hanging out and walking through the trees.

Being out in nature has always been therapeutic and relaxing for me. And although I don't believe in God I always feel most spiritual in nature. The day was beautiful. The air was clean and fresh and the leaves were turning beautiful yellows. We were surrounded by cute little streams and breath taking waterfalls. Hannah especially loved it because it reminded her a little of home and the nature that she is so accustomed to in Maine.

But we didn't come away completely empty handed. We returned with a bag full of wild chestnuts and four precious mushrooms.

Here's a few to wet the palette. You can find the rest by pasting this link into your browser:


Where would we be without our handy guide book?

Monste, you're the best!