Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Things

1. I love being home. Florida has some nice sunsets, but to me seeing the sun set over a field of corn after a day at Sheridan is pure bliss.

2. My little brother is going to be a junior in high school - I cannot believe it!

3. Post-Europe mani/pedi was everything I hope for and more. This also may have been the best pedicure I have ever had in my life. Sorry, Lilly Nails.

4. To all my swimmer friends, Sheridan Swim Club is so amazingly different than when we basically lived there.

5. I have given up white flour for a variety of reasons. In my search for good recipes, I found this awesome site - Dashing Dish. I'm about to make their Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffins for my glutard brother.

6. Mom has been doing research on the Amish for a school thing and I read one of her books on the way home. Plain and Simple by Sue Bender was a very enlightening, easy read about an "English" woman's experience living with an Amish family. I highly recommend it.

7. Seriously missed blogging with regularity. It feels good to get back into it. I read a very apropos thought in the book I mentioned above. It said, "Writing taught me to believe in something and to continue to believe in it, even when a part of me didn't believe. 'STOP THIS,' my demons roared. 'You are wasting your time. You should be doing something useful.' A thousand hurrahs for that kind of wasting time." I 100% agree.

8. Tonight I made a massive plate of grilled vegetables, spinach salad, and a mountain of hominy. I am truly my mother's daughter. If you don't know what hominy is, you're missing out!

9. Ummm tomorrow is the first day of August?!?

10. I have a little something in the works, check back with me in about 3 months to see how it's going.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Family Ties

I do apologize for my absence. The past three days I have been traveling from Florida to Kentucky to Missouri with my mom and brothers.  Three hours into the trip we were rear-ended and spent almost two hours in the parking lot of a Gainesville McDonald's waiting for the rudest cop. We spent the night in Georgia before heading to my great aunt and uncle's house. These two are basically my grandparents and pretty much the cutest little couple. They have been married almost 65 years and I adore them so much!

My 84 year old "Ain't" Jane still plops down on the floor cross-legged to look at pictures. My 91 year Uncle Bill is by far the preppiest fisherman around. Not was, IS. His next big trip is in November. They are so kind and so generous not only to their family, but to everyone. They eat breakfast at Hardee's just about every morning and I've had the privilege of going with them a few times.  It goes a little something like this...

One slice of pepperjack cheese is wrapped up in a napkin before leaving the house. Upon arrival, a chorus of "Miss Jane's here!" rings behind the counter. They all know her and love her. She has received all kinds of trinkets from various employees' vacations. She knows their family histories and life stories. It's a family trait. My mom has it and I suppose I do as well. The order is placed - a three minute ham biscuit with the insides scooped out for her and a ham biscuit plus the aforementioned pepperjack for him and two coffees.  Uncle Bill preps the coffee while Aunt Jane gets the food. By the time Uncle Bill is finished prepping his biscuit, Aunt Jane has finished eating and caught up on all the "news." What would be a 15 minute breakfast for most is an hour and a half ritual of fellowship for them. I wish I could go every day.

Love them so much!
While being trapped in a confined space for most families would prove to difficult, we did pretty dang good in a car together for three days.  Now it's home sweet home for the first time since January. Plenty of time for: blogging, exercising, lesson planning, reading, and pooling!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's over?

After a whopping 30 hours of travel, I finally made it back to my house in Florida. There were some hiccups on the trip home, but no need to bore you with them. My family was sooo excited to see me. How excited? This excited.
I can't really believe the trip is over and I'm back in the life I left.  Since Tuesday night, I have been trying to get everything in order. I haven't yet succeeded. My house looks like a bomb went off in it. I have yet to move a single thing to my new apartment and my body still hates me. Not sure if it's from the seven pounds of bread, ice cream and wine I gained, or the fact that it has only had maybe three proper workouts in the last month. I'm sorry, Body, I really am!

Anyway, just to keep you posted, I will be in Florida until after the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Then it's off on the 2nd Annual Golden Arches Tour. Oh, you haven't heard about this epic event? It's the road trip from Florida to Missouri (or vice versa) in which my mom and I basically stop at every McDonald's for 1,200 miles to either refill our Diet Cokes or empty our bladders. Jealous?

The view from the 1st annual tour.
So on that note, I'm going to get to work on those seven pounds starting with P90x. Tony Horton, don't kill me.


p.s. Yes, I have started on those more elaborate posts about the rest of my travels. They will start appearing shortly!

Monday, July 23, 2012


I know I know, I still haven't written more about Barcelona or Granada or Sevilla for that matter and now here I am moving on to Malaga! I'll get there I promise. I'm just trying to keep you on your toes. Anyway, if we are Facebook friends (and if we aren't and you are reading my blog,  who are you?!?) you saw my status about unplanned days.  Let me tell you yesterday was a great unplanned day.

I slept until noon. Check on the Spanish bingo!
Just a little proof that this is the time I got out of my bed.
I didn't really have any plans for the day so I wandered around and found the Cathedral.
Got a shot of the busy shopping street before people were out in full force. And before the cruise ships arrived.
Found a massive hill to hike (in loafers). Then stumbled upon a castle and the best views in the city.  As luck would have it, after 2pm on Sundays it's free!
I thought this view was pretty good, but I was only halfway there!
Part of the Castle
From the top!
Malaga Harbour
Since I was a hot, sweaty mess, walking along the beach sounded like a great idea.  As luck would have it, I ran into the two Guatemalan girls I met the day before.  I will explain more on that later. They had just bought tickets for a boat ride. It was a special one that would be following a procession so I ran and bought my ticket, changed out of my sweaty impromptu hiking clothes and met them for one of the coolest experiences. Again, I'll elaborate more in another post, but here are a few pics to wet your whistle. Or do you used "whet" here?

P.S. I'm in the Barcelona airport waiting six hours for my next flight. Pray for me!


Sunday, July 22, 2012


It's been a few days, but as I near the end of my trip, it has been harder and harder to write blog posts.  I'm hoping once I get back and into my routine again that it will come a little easier. I am in Malaga now and it's such a great coastal area.  Not a lot to go see, but a lot of people watching and relaxing to do.

Yesterday, I went to Morocco and all I can say is I have never been so thankful to set foot on Spanish soil. A very long, very entertaining blog post is coming soon. Until then, I am going to sit in my air conditioned hotel room and rest until I get the motivation to go wander some more this afternoon. 


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Taize 2

My first full day at Taize was a Sunday and it was pretty neat to see all the buses full of people arriving.  Unfortunately, it was still raining and I wouldn't get my new room assignment for a few hours yet.  We first had Mass (in French!) and then I spent some time in the church and later chatting with the friends I had made so far.  After getting a room, I followed the normal schedule to start my week.

The church's design is unlike anything I have seen before. There are all these rooms with essentially garage doors so that the church can expand as necessary. There are no chairs and the floor is built on an incline, like stadium seating, so that people in the back can still see.  You see some people with prayer stools to alleviate the sitting on concrete thing.  I started bringing my travel pillow for the times I couldn't snag a prayer stool. I only took a picture of the altar because in all honesty, I really did not care for the church.  The colors were a little garish and overall it was too modern and ugly for my taste.
At least the candles are pretty.
I then explored the rest of the "compound."  Taize has a church, the dining pavilions, workshop/meeting rooms, a building for the brothers, a building for the sisters, dorms, and the welcome casa.
Lining up for meals at the dining pavilion.  Even though we were in France, this place ran with German efficiency.

Workshop room. Brother Paulo in the white shirt.
Oyak at night. Sorry for the crappy picture.
Oyak prices - yeah, you are reading that correctly.
As my Czech friend kept joking, "These are not Christian prices!"
Here was the daily schedule:
Monday - Saturday
8.15 am Morning prayer, then breakfast
10 am Introduction to the day with a brother of the community followed by quiet reflection or small group discussion
12.20 pm Midday prayer, then lunch
5.15 pm Tea
5.45 pm Theme workshops given by different brothers
7 pm Supper
8.30 pm Evening prayer, then vigil with songs in the church, followed by night silence
Friday - evening prayer is followed by prayer around the Cross.
Saturday - evening prayer with candles to celebrate the paschal mystery

8.45 am Breakfast
10 am Morning Eucharist
1 pm Lunch
7 pm Supper
8.30 pm Evening prayer

 You can read more here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Eight Years Later

Eight years ago, I left the country for the first time as an "adult." After four years of Spanish at QND, I was on my way to Spain during Semana Santa.  We did a typical, guided tour through a few cities over 10 days.  If memory serves correctly we visited: Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, Sevilla, and Malaga.  It was on this trip that my love of all things Spanish, and Sevilla in particular, was solidified.

Sevilla - the first time around. Can you find me?
So what have I been doing here? Well I took the train with an Australian girl I met in Granada on Monday (July 16th).  I arrived to my hostel around 3pm and just took it easy until the two of us met up with another girl we met.  We went to the oldest tapas restaurant, El Rinconcillo.  It was unbelievably delicious and cheap! However, this was not to be the high of the evening...
El Rinconcillo - seriously, the best tapas ever.
No the best part is not next.  Keep waiting. However, running into a procession (practice?) definitely ranks up there.  Remember I said I was here for Semana Santa.  Well if you aren't familiar, go Google it. Or come to my class right before Easter.  I nerd out and teach it for at least a week or two.
A typical "paso." Mary is up there.
No, I didn't zoom in. I could have touched it if I wanted.
I teared up at this sight.  The woman of this parish were following
behind the paso praying as they touched it. Such faith.
After the procession and the tapas, we mozied (go away red squiggle, that is too a word!) on over to La Carbonería. We heard there was free flamenco there. And there was, but that's not the point. I HAD BEEN HERE BEFORE! Yes, Corey, I am shouting and need all capital letters. I cannot believe it still. Out of all the bars in Sevilla, I end up in one we went to on our high school trip.  Un. Freaking. Real.
Hasn't changed a bit.
The view.
The flamenco.
It's one of my most vivid memories from the trip.  I was wearing a yellow shirt and jeans and I was the only one who didn't drink. We sat at the middle table and took pictures and a classmate who has since passed away kept shoving cigarettes into pictures of me because he knew I would freak out. Ahhh high school.  Too bad I don't have those photos on my computer, but that was back when we printed pictures!

Who knew returning to a bar could give a person a lump in her throat. Has it really been eight years? Here are the stats out of 15 - 6 are married, 4 are engaged, and one has passed away.

If only I had known then what I know now!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Friends at Last

A double meaning sort of title.

1. I really did make some friends and have enjoyed having company.

2. Granada and I made amends.  The last time I was there I thoroughly disliked the city. Now I quite enjoy her.

A few of the highlights...

Almost all of the above.


Alhambra at night.
I promise I will start writing more detailed descriptions soon!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Barcelona Recap

I just arrived in Granada so it's probably a good idea to give you the run down of Barcelona. Here is the brief overview of my week. (Sorry if this is repeat information!)

Monday - returned from Taize sick so I just wandered a little and slept.
Tuesday - Parc Guell, Casa Batlló, late lunch at Petra, more wandering.
Wednesday - cava tour, El Xampenet
Thursday - Sagrada Familia, Santa Caterina market (love!), long hike up to include Olympic Stadium, La Boqueria, Magic Fountain and tapas.
Friday - Cathedral, Camp Nou (FC Barcelona stadium), amazing menú lunch, beach, trenhotel to Granada.

Here are some highlight pictures from the end of the week:
Sagrada Familia
Main doors of Sagrada Familia
Santa Caterina Market - coolest roof over the building, but I forgot to take a picture!

Olympic Park - the Junior World Championships were going on at the same time.

I swear I'm wearing a shirt, but I just hiked up that hill

Magic Fountain - went with my host Miriam.
Found a store that sells Toms and the whole alley was decorated
Inside the Cathedral.  I walked by it everyday on my way to and from "my" house. Took until the last day to go see it!
This one is for the brothers. I went to the stadium for you. Love you :)
El Setial in Barrio Gótico - best menú by far! It included this salad...
this amazing salmon and another salad?

Plus this delicious lemon tart and a Diet Coke! Seriously for 9€ = $10.80!!!

Then I decided it was a good idea to change in their bathroom and go to the beach.  I tried going on this boat cruise, but it kept getting postponed due to big boats in the harbor :( I went back to shower and pack and lug my broken suitcase to the train station.  Thank goodness I was greeted by this room.

Coolest experience! I experienced a bit of loneliness on the last day, but it's much better now.

I'll do a little more of a reflective post later.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Taize 1

The journey was long and included a panic attack, going far too long without food, a very comforting sandwich fromage, and two 3€ Diet Cokes. The panic attack was caused by almost missing my train to Macon from Lyon because none of the machines were working.  I got on the train sans ticket per the barely English-speaking helper and proceeded to spend the next 30 minutes freaking out about how I would explain in a language I don't speak. Luckily, they never asked.

After a flight, tram ride, and train ride, I still had a short bus ride to get to Taizé. This was the highlight of the journey for its amazingly picturesque views.

Upon arrival, I was "welcomed" before dropping off my stuff in the room I would staying in for Saturday night only. We then proceeded to the special Saturday evening prayer.  [Thursday through Sunday of every week are meant to represent the Triduum.] It included a candle light ritual that was extremely touching. I forgot to mention that it started pouring and hailing as soon as I left my room for church. HAIL! I'm 97% sure my trip is cursed.

After the service, I went back to the book I shared with 2 Slovenians, 1 Hungarian, 2 Germans, and a Russian. The Slovenians were only 16 & 17 years old and thought my life was the coolest. HA!

Stay tuned for the next installment!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


My stomach is soo full right now. Not like the "I had a big dinner and need to lay down" kind of full, but rather the "If I even look at food right now, I might pass out" kind of full. I blame the cava. Or possibly the fact that we started drinking it at 11am.

So I did the tour I mentioned yesterday and it was hands down the best use of my money so far. The morning started by finding the office which just happened to be across from the Palau de la Musica.  I also came across Santa Caterina Market which I will be checking out tomorrow. According to a local, it's better than La Boqueria. Anyway, I met up with my "group" which turned out to be one other guy and our guide. The three of us piled into a van and started out for Sant Saudmí d'Anoia to begin the tours. 

The first tour was Freixenet. It's an internationally known company and the production facility was massive. Even the tour portion was strictly business.  They had a video screening room, large boards with timed-lights, and even a little tram.  Sorta kinda like an adult Disney World. This brand you can try anywhere therefore I didn't purchase any.
The products.

All the sizes.
They spend a lot on Marketing. Freixenet scooter!
The second stop, in the same town, was a family run business called Gramona. It's very old and they still do half of their Reserve and Grand Reserve production by hand.
3/5 of the productions staff cleaning the bottles.
The man in the video is one of the two remaining members of the production staff.  Here he is opening a six year old cava bottle to remove the sediments.  They have to do it by hand and he can do about 1,000 in a day. After he opened this bottle, he let us taste it! Our guide said that rarely happens and was a complete contrast between this small, family run company and the one before. It tasted delicious!
After all of these tours, I'm an expert in cava making.  And for those of you who are wondering, cava is really just champagne, but since it is not made in the Champagne region of France it has to have a different name. Cava = cave in Spanish.
Hey, I know her! She knows so much about cava.
The best part.
 At Gramona, they opened bottle after bottle for us.  Since you cannot buy this anywhere outside of a few places near Barcelona, I purchased one for myself of a dessert cava and a mini for my hosts.

After another menú del día of salad, salmon, roasted red peppers, coconut ice cream, and yes, more wine we were on to the last stop, Parés Balta.  This winery is 100% certified organic and again family run. The two sons are the business men and their wives are the winemakers. At this stop we actually went out into the vineyards to see the grapes. You can buy some of these wines in Whole Foods and I high recommend them!

The most homey tasting room, by far.
The goods - cava (x2), red wine, white wine (x2), the best olive oil I've ever tasted.
Afterwards, I went to Xampenyet for tapas and more bubbly drinks. Hence, the food coma. I completely adore this place and that old man.  It was crazy busy, but since I stood at the bar like a good Spanny, I was able to have conversations with the employees. Definitely the best part. 

To conclude this incredibly long post, I'm usually not a fan of pre-planned tours, but for something like a wine tour, it was awesome.  I highly highly recommend touring the wine country in Spain!