05 April 2012

La Papelera

Is a trashcan.... (literal translation is "wastebasket") you know...like this:

Nothing really exciting.  Nothing like, say, this one:

This was Sunday morning, after Murcia's roughest night of the week.  On Sunday at about 5am the city is A WRECK.  But this has to be exceptionally bad.  It was pretty funny to be walking by and stop and go, "Wait, what was that??"

My theory: cigarette.  Someone wasn't thinking and probably put a lit cigarette in the trash.  That is actually illegal here.  They prefer you to throw them on the ground.  Welcome to Spain. :D

04 April 2012


Well ladies and gentleman, it has been a little over 6 months now and I think I feel comfortable saying that I have advanced past intermediate and into Advanced with my level of Spanish.

I have spent the last 3 days with a friend of mine, named Elise.

She's a French auxiliar that works in the Canary Islands.  We met in Madrid at the orientation 5 to 6 months ago.  For Semana Santa (which I'll talk more about later) we traveled to Málaga and Sevilla to check out all the action.  But what's truly awesome about this friendship, is that I don't know any French and she doesn't know much English.  We have to speak Spanish to communicate.

Noooo problem. :)  This American has got Spanish in the bag!  Okay, okay, not quite.  I do not know every word but I can communicate without a problem.  I'm no longer scared to talk to just anyone, I don't stumble and get nervous over my words and when I don't know the word, I use circumlocution.

Now all I need to do is get Couchsurfing to add the level "Advanced" in between Intermediate and Expert.

29 March 2012

Pan tostado con tomate

I don't know about other Americans, but when I think of toast, I think of putting jelly or garlic and butter on top.  It's not to say that Spaniards don't put jelly on their toast too sometimes, they just prefer tomato.  I would never think to put tomato.  But, when in Spain, do what the Spanish do.  So I tried it.

Definitely was not impressed.  Of course, I'm pretty difficult to impress when it comes to bread anyways.  I pretty much won't touch Bimbo style bread.  Over processed, bleached white bread.  No way man.

But, I also don't like my good bread too toasted, or too dry or too soggy.  Haha!!  How do you please someone like me in a place like Spain where all of those (in my humble opinion) nasty bread conditions are all too easy to encounter?

The trick:  Watch someone else.  I was sitting in my favorite cafe, sipping on my coffee and thinking about what risky bread selection I was going to make when I saw a lady out of the corner of my eye preparing her toast.

"Whoa," I thought, "that was much more complicated than I was expecting."  So I gave pan tostado con tomate another chance.  Her way.

So here it is ladies and gentlemen.  My new favorite breakfast if you can believe it.  
My order is: Cafe con leche y pan tostado, integral, entera con tomate.  An espresso with milk and an entire toasted wheat bread with tomato.

Everyone does this a little differently, but here is everything I've learned about this breakfast.

First, the proper order is very important.  If the tomato doesn't come on the side, ask for it on the side.  "con el tomate al lado."  Because the first thing on your bread should be olive oil.  A lot of it.  I think I put more olive oil every time.  I even learned from a friend to poke holes in the bread with the spoon so that  the oil could really get down in the bread.  

Then comes the tomato.  It's just grated tomato.  Maybe some oil and salt mixed in, but not much and at this cafe, I don't think they add any.  If you're like me and eat a lot, make sure you wait to put tomato on the other slice, don't want it getting soggy. :P  Then just a sprinkle of salt.  (Through trial and error I learned that salt is best last, before I was putting it with the oil like the lady.)

So simple, so delicious.  The flavor of the bread soaked in oil is unbelievably delicious.  The salt is essential.  Don't put too much, but I at least must have it.  Did I mention that this is almost always less than 2 euros.  <3 Spain.

21 March 2012


Coffee is a big part of Spanish life.   Almost all adults have a coffee at least once per day and usually more.  But what happens when you're stuck at work and you need your mid-morning pick up?

Why, this, claro....

50 euro cents and it's not bad.  To me, it's sort of incredible that they have it.  But let me tell you what, it's awesome too. :)  You should read Kaley's great post on Spanish coffee

14 March 2012

Que estaba haciendo en vez de escribir

What I was doing instead of writing.....Bordar.

buy these fantastic patterns at Sublime Stitching.  I know she's a bit risque, but that's what makes it fun, right?  Her hair is like cotton candy after all.

07 March 2012

El Mercado

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit of a foodie.  No, I'm lying, I'm a serious foodie.  When I think about going to a new place, I think A LOT about food.  Mm mmm.

I'm not really a snob about food, I'll eat almost anything.  Every Tuesday I eat lunch at a teacher's house and they always ask me if there's anything I don't like, or is bacalao ok?  My response is always "Me encanta comida, no hay mucho que no me gusta comer.  No preocupes." (I love food, there's not much that I don't like to eat.  Don't worry) Always with a huge grin.  Because it's true, I love to try new food, I love to eat and I'm lucky enough to have a body that goes through it quickly and without a problem.

But let me step onto my soapbox for a minute.  I do what I call "eating consciously".  I keep track of what I'm eating and I don't sweat it when I eat an ice cream or drink a soda, but I make sure not to do it a lot.  I try to load my body with good, clean healthy fuel from fresh fruits, vegetables, juices and water.  How this works out in Spain is that I eat extremely healthy when I'm at home and I don't really sweat it when I go to someone else's house and load up on carbs and protein.   (Did you know that meat takes at least 3 days to break down in your stomach?  Eww. nAnd when I was in the states I ate meat probably twice a day.  That's way too much.)

But it's easy to be healthier in Spain, despite the huge quantity of bread, meat, cheese, potatoes and salt.  The vegetables here are outstanding.  The flavor bursts from them like the finale at a fireworks show.  And they're CHEAP.  Really cheap.  I bought this entire load of verduras (vegetables), un pañuelo (a scarf), zapatillas (house shoes), una camisa (a shirt) and medias (tights) for 21 euros.  *Bows enthusiastically*  Now that is shopping. :D

Those are cherries people.  1/2 kilo for 2 euros!  That monstrous cauliflower you see cost me 1 euro.  The celery and parsley was given to me.   I also bought an orange and 2 plums in that budget, but they were my breakfast.  And every single one of them tastes better than anything I've ever eaten in the states.  The reason that the produce tastes so good is because it's local.  They didn't have to pick it while it was green just for it to arrive without rotting.  They pick them fresh, you buy them quickly, and not only do you get a great tasting veggie but so many more vitamins. 

During Christmas I talked to a New Yorker that was working here in Spain (for 18 years now) as a nutrition researcher.  He said that people are suffering from mal-nutrition and they don't even know it.  Let's think about a potato.  A potato doesn't have very many vitamins and something like 90% of them are in the skin.  The vitamins first start to leave the potato when we pick it, and we pick them early, so they haven't even reached  their peak.  This is why they don't have as much flavor.  We buy them 4 days later and they've been losing vitamins the entire time.  Then they sit in our pantry for a while.  Then we finally decide to cook it and we first peel it, then fry it.  What's left?  A bunch of fat and carbs that didn't do anything for your health.  Vitamins, people!!  You have to get your vitamins!  

Spanish people are the worst too.  I've only very rarely seen an american peel their apple but I see it all the time in Spain.  Their pears, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, even squash they'll peel.  The vitamins are where the color is.  The more intense the color, the more vitamins.  That's almost always the peel.

And they can't imagine eating most vegetables crudas.  My favorite snack here is vegetables with hummus.  It's quick, easy, delicious, healthy.  When Spanish people come over here and see me eating that they think I'm really strange.  But don't worry, I've got Lucía hooked, she loves it. :)

I will say that they almost religiously eat a piece of fruit after lunch (la comida) which I actually struggle to do.  I just never feel like fruit after a heavy meal.  

So how shall we conclude this conversation?  How about this:

Have I lost weight?  Hell yes.  Bring on the Bikini, Spain, I'm ready. :D

02 March 2012

Buscando comida americana

I'm always looking for American food that I really like.  My roommate asked me one time if I just couldn't live without it and the truth is that I can most definitely live without almost everything that I'm looking for.    The difference is that it's fun.  It's interesting to see what I have to do to get something that in the states would have been really simple to find.  I would probably have walked into the grocery store and bought it without even thinking about it.

So let's talk food:

Olive Oil - Is SOOOO much cheaper here!  I've seen 6 liter bottles for less than 3 euros.  Incredible.  I think I buy the cheapest one in the states and it's still $7!

Cereal - In Texas we have an entire aisle filled top to bottom with a ton of different cereals, but here you get to choose between 10 boxes if you're lucky.  I just found an off brand of what looks like Cinnamon Toast Crunch (My favorite!).  I haven't tried it yet. :)

Soda - Their selection of soda consists of 5 flavors and then they have those flavors in diet and that's it.  Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta Orange, Fanta Limon, and Schwepps.  But.....if you go to Carrefour, a big international supermarket, you can find some things that are slightly more adventurous.  Like....

...the best soda ever!!!  I knew that this little Texan delicacy could be found because one time I saw someone walking with a can in his hand.  I almost went and asked him where he got it, but now I know.  

I think that picture is awesome by the way.  My very Texan Dr. Pepper with my very Spanish Empanadilla. You eat it cold.  It has tomato and boiled egg and who knows what else in it.  It's...it's....different.  lol.  I don't really like it, but I can eat it and the truth is, it was about the size of a pizza and I ate half.  Maybe it's not that bad.  Maybe there's coke in it.  

But by far the most challenging and exciting thing I've looked for were jalapeños.  


Come to Mama my sweet little babies!!  There are a lot of people that are under the mistaken impression that food in Spain is spicy.  But the spicy part of Mexican food doesn't come from the Spanish.  Spanish people like thyme, tomatoes, tuna, olives, fish, potatoes, etc.  For 5 months I casually made inquiries in grocery stores, the open street markets, mexican restaurants, etc.  You can buy them jarred but fresh is the only way to eat them.  But when it comes to fresh food, this is Spain not the United States.  The US imports a huge percent of their produce.  Spanish people do not.  They eat what's in season and they grow, buy and eat locally (for the most part).  And especially here in Murcia, which is apparently la huerta de España.  Jalapeños are relatively simple to grow and the climate is perfect for them here, but Spanish people don't like spicy, so what's the point?

I had just about given up hope when someone told me to look in Corte Inglés.  Corte Inglés is like the Wal-mart of Spain but for the upper class.  It's where you go when you can't find it anywhere else or you don't want to bother with searching.  It's expensive.  Spanish people love Corte Inglés because it has what every other store in Spain lacks: variety.  You can buy almost anything in Corte Inglés: electronics, clothes, sheets, food, speciality food, make-up, bags, etc.  It's normally arranged by brand just to give you an idea.

So I went to Corte Inglés and they didn't have them, but I went ahead and asked the guy working in produce and he said they have them de vez en cuando, once in a while.  So I gave him my number and name and asked him if he would call me if they ever had them.  Only a week later I got the call.  They are the most beautiful things I have seen in a while.  :)  So perfectly plump and green. :)  By the way - they were 12 euros a kilo.  In the states they're 50¢ per pound.  Almost 12 times the price and that's without doing the conversion.  Geez.  I paid 4 euros for 6 jalapeños, it's a good thing that it only takes 1 jalapeño for each dish...

In Texas my spice tolerance runs at about a 3, 10 being the hottest.  I'm a wimp by pretty much anyone's standards, except Spaniards.  Spaniards will call it spicy if there's a sprinkle of black pepper. In Spain my spice tolerance is an 8 at least.  But what's a girl with a spice level of 3 want with Jalapeños?  Veggie Chili, Enchiladas, homemade salsa.  I'm so excited!!