Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crafting for a Purpose

I feel like I should be writing a reflection post right now instead of the piece that I am, seeing how it is almost the end of the year and it definitely was a busy year.  But I'll leave that for late December.  Instead I'll write the post I originally intended to do.

I'd like to introduce my newest project: Crafting for a Purpose

I had recently started to look into what I'd like to do with my life and what makes me happy.  From there I started thinking about two of my favorite past times: being creative and helping people. And you know how it goes, my mind started wandering, thinking about Pinterest, all the crafts I want to do, reading blogs, and the list goes on. And then something came to my mind: Crafting with purpose, for a purpose, for good, etc.
And from there my mind started racing with ideas.  So here is what my thoughts have boiled down to: every other month (in the future it might be every month) find a different cause to help by creating/crafting. During each time period, I will blog about the organization, what craftable/creatable items they could use, the time frame and then I will post updates on the crafters' efforts.
So now I'd like to ask you to be a part of this group!
After a little research on the internet I found something easy to start out with: St Anthony's Holiday Knitting Donation Drive (Click here to see more information on St. Anthony's) which asks people to knit or crochet scarves for those less fortunate. The deadline to submit the scarves is December 21st.
I've listed the details below:

Here's how:

  • Knit or crochet on your own
  • Scarves will be given free to guests of St. Anthony's during the holidays.

Here's what:

  • Size: Our scarves should be 5-7 inches wide and 48-60 inches long.
  • Yarn: Mid-weight yarns in washable wool or wool/acrylic blends (but please no cotton yarn (its not warm and holds moisture)
  • Colors: Neutral, classic or bright (but please no white or light colored yarns which soil easily)
  • Yardage: about 200 - 250 depending on yarn weight
  • Needle size: U.S. 7-9 depending on yarn weight

Please let me know if you'd be interested in this project and if so how many scarves you'd like to commit to making. If you're not interested in this project but think that you might be interested in one down the road, please let me know and I'll be sure to include you in my updates. And/or if you know someone that might like to participate, please forward on this post or send me their contact information and I'll send them an email.
Thanks and I really appreciate your time!  Now let's craft with purpose! :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Another year come and gone...

Birthday cake made by Ilaria and candle provided by Mireia :)

Normally Tuesdays aren't very busy for me (I usually teach about 4.5 hours and since I don't have class on Fridays I don't have to really worry about lesson planning).  Today is even slower than normal because one student rescheduled for another day (which was nice because I'm not feeling so hot).  Since I'm having a quieter  day than normal I'm able to relax in bed, rest my sore throat and reflect and of course catch up on all things that I've been missing out pinterest.
As I was wondering the wonderful world of pinterest...I'm truly addicted...I came across a pin from the HuffingtonPost...Turning 30: 30 Things Every Woman Should Have And Should Know.  I know I'm not yet 30, I'm still 3 years away.  But with my recent birthday (thanks to my handful of friends here in Barcelona it was a very nice day), Faustino's 30th birthday fast approaching (which I'm sad to say I'll be missing) and getting married this fall I couldn't help but read the article and think what I should have and should know in the next three years.  So reflection here we go...

By 30, you should have ...
1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come...Half check - I don't think I can imagine one worth going back to but I can imagine a few that do remind me of how far I've come in life and how happy/lucky I am to have Faustino. 
2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family...Check - I would have to say the couch that we bought a few years ago.
3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour...Hmmm...I think I need to find that perfect outfit for work and also one for the perfect date night.  
4. A purse, a suitcase, and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying...Definitely need to work on this one.
5. A youth you’re content to move beyond...Checked over and over, I'm happy to move on from my childhood and teenage years.
6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age...Double check...enough said.
7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age -- and some money set aside to help fund it...Not quite there yet.
8. An email address, a voice mailbox, and a bank account -- all of which nobody has access to but you...Check.
9. A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded...Check and proud of this one!
10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry...Check and Check.  The friends that I've acquired in the past years and that have stuck around are there for a reason.  They are all near and dear to my heart.  I feel I'm too old to be acquiring unhealthy friendships.
11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra...Halfway there.  I do have a toolbox, a staple gun, screwdrivers, hammer, etc.
12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it...Check...These 4 months in Spain could be that and also the DSLR I bought a few years back.
13. The belief that you deserve it...Check...they were both great purchases (so were all my other trips).
14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine, and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30...Still need to work on this one.
15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better...I think for the most part I can say check on this one.  Before my stay in Barcelona I had worked for a great employer for almost 4 years who taught me a great many things.  And then of course I have not only a satisfying relationship but someone that I'm ready to spend the rest of my life with.
By 30, you should know ...
1. How to fall in love without losing yourself...I think I was lucky enough to have learned this one at a young age...Or maybe it was just stubborn enough not to ever want to lose who I was...either way...Check.
2. How you feel about having kids...Still undecided...but I still have 3 years.
3. How to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship...I think I have this one down.  We'll go with check.
4. When to try harder and when to walk away...Lost friendships have taught me this one, though I still have some more learning to do...not quite there.
5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next...We'll go with check.
6. The names of the secretary of state, your great-grandmothers, and the best tailor in town...Check, half check and uncheck...need to find that best tailor in town still.
7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to...I think the only time I ever truly lived alone without roommates was when I was 19 living at my grandma's house during the summer...otherwise I've lived with roommates and/or Faustino...I'm going to say check anyway.
8. Where to go -- be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat -- when your soul needs soothing...Check.
9. That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents...Still working on remembering this one.
10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over...I think I can say check for this one.  I was ready to move past it the moment I left home for college even though it took a few years to completely understand it.
11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love...Hmm...I guess I still need to think about this one since I've never thought about it.
12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long...Slowly but surely learning this one.
13. Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally...I think this one is always changing but I still need to work on the taking it personally part.
14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault...Far from knowing this one...still learning.
15. Why they say life begins at 30...because you stop worrying?  Bring on the next 3 years until I turn 30, I'm ready to do a lot of living between now and then.
A lot to think about.  Though I feel I have a good handle on the list above I realize there is still a lot of learning and growing that I need to do before I turn 30, lucky thing is I'm aware of it and ready for it.  I was originally dreading my birthday, not so much because I was turning 27 but because I missed home but I have some really great friends here in BCN who made it a great day.  And now that the day is gone I'm looking to what the next 6 months has in store for me and I'm so excited.  Even more so, I'm excited to see what I can accomplish in the next 3 years.
I came to Spain for the first time as a nervous 17 year old, traveling across the Atlantic for the first time without my parents.  I returned to Spain an open minded 20 year old ready for the best year of my life to begin.  And finally I came back to Spain as 26 year old (now 27) wanting closure (though I don't think I realized that is what I wanted at first), needing to realize and know that it was okay to love this great country but also know that I could move on and remember it as a crazy fun time that I will enjoy retelling in my old age (#6 of should have).
So here's to the next 3 years, to always remaining reflective, and to continuously growing

Monday, February 13, 2012

Turning the page on the chapter titled Salamanca

Plaza Mayor is still the center of town
 It was weird being back in Salamanca.  6 years after I left most things were still the same - it looks the same, it feels the same, it probably still smells the same too.  Students are still roaming the streets, babies are still being pushed in the hearse looking strollers, fashion is still unique (shorts in winter with tights under them), and they are still serving Mixto con Huevo in the Cafe Tormes (read last post).

There are a few notable differences, the biggest change is they built a Corte Ingles on the outskirts of town.  Other than the Corte Ingles, shops have closed while others have opened up which is the normal life of a town.
People still enjoy a beer in the Plaza
on a sunny day despite the cold

Maybe the biggest change isn't Salamanca, maybe its me.  Salamanca feels smaller but I know its not, its still the same size, maybe its even grown (they do have a Corte Ingles now).  I'm older and the only thing that still links me to this town is the family I lived with.

My friends, like I, have moved on with their lives.  Salamanca was a time in our lives that we will forever remember, that will forever connect us to one another and for that I'm thankful.  And it will always remain a fond memory.  Its a bittersweet feeling but truth be told its a blessing.  Now instead of yearning for the past I left behind in Salamanca I can know that my time there was an amazing experience that I can now finally move on from.

Though I plan on keeping in touch with Sheila and Candy - and doing it a little better this time - I can finally turn the page on this chapter of my life.

Along the Gran Via

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My trip to Salamanca

New Cathedral in Salamanca
I came to Salamanca with few items on my list to do (not in any specific order):
  1. See Candy and/or Sheila but preferrably both
  2. Eat a Mixto con Huevo
  3. Eat mousse (chocolate or lemon) at Delicatessen
  4. Eat a Paloma
Seeing Candy proved to be the most difficult task of them all.  She was busy almost the whole time I was there which makes sense because I basically just showed up on her doorstep...well kind of.  When I arrived in Salamanca I called the phone number I had for her.  Still no answer (I'd been calling for more than a week now).  So I decided to head to the address I had and buzz her.  Again to no effect - a man answered the bell and said I had the wrong address.  Finally, I decided I would go to the ISA office and to my delight Rodrigo (my Spanish heartthrob - don't worry Faustino is aware of my crush) was still working there.  After shooting the shit with him for the next  10 minutes, he gave me two phone numbers for Candy - one I'd already had and the other her cell phone number.  At last, she answered her cell phone.  She was surprised that I called and I think happy to hear from me.  I spoke with her briefly as she told me she was going to be very busy that day.  Then I asked about Sheila and to my delight she was there.  I spoke with Sheila briefly and we laughed about her singing Michael Buble's Quando Quando Quando and Mariah Carey's All I want for Christmas is you in English throughout the entire 10 months I lived with them.  The memories.  The next two and a half days I meandered around Salamanca looking for things to do and waiting for her to call.  On Friday she said she would try to call me after her dinner so we could have a coffee but she stayed out too late with friends.  On Saturday she texted me saying that she had been out of town all day with the kids but that on Sunday afternoon she'd be available.  I figured this might happen and this is why I didn't make any plans to get back to Madrid early Sunday.  So here I am in a cafe escaping from the cold and wind waiting until its time to go see my host family.  And I can't wait!

Mixto con Huevo with fries
(picture taken after I took my first bite and broke the yolk) 
As soon as I arrived and settled into Pension Los Angeles, right in the middle of the Plaza Mayor, I went to Cafe Tormes to eat a Mixto con Huevo.  It was every bit as good as I remembered it to be.  Ham, cheese and a fried egg in between two slices of toast.  The top piece of toast has a small circle cut out that way the yolk doesn't break.  Pure genius.  I savored every last bite of this sandwich that I so fondly remember.

Eating chocolate or lemon or whichever kind of mousse at Delicatessen proved to be impossible seeing as they no longer had it on their menu.  To say the least I was truly deeply disappointed.  Instead I had a crepe with chocolate sauce and whipped cream and a glass of red wine.  "Eh" describes my satisfaction with the crepe.  It was less than mediocre.  The wine was the only saving grace at that food outing.  I left Delicatessen disappointed wishing that this wouldn't be how I ended my last food memory of the restaurant.  I guess we've all had our better days.

Paloma - Purely heaven on earth.  Thats the easiest way to describe my love affair with this food.  Paloma is a regional food consisting of the Spanish Ensaladilla Rusa, similar to potato salad but with mayonnaise, in a shell made out of corn but looks more like a chicharon.  I ordered a vino tinto with my Paloma and I was in ecstasy.  My love of mayonnaise, potatoes, tuna, alongside other items such as carrots, fake crab is combined to make a food so mouth watering its hard to describe.  Luckily I took a picture.  Even though that doesn't do it justice.  After I ate the paloma I had another pincho - potatoes, eggs and bacon.  In Spain eggs are not merely a breakfast item - yes they are indeed an every day dinner and lunch item.  This second pincho, which I don't know the name of, was very delicious.

2nd Tapa/Pincho
I'm glad that I went to this tapas bar along the Plaza Mayor which is not your typical tourist restaurant because let's face it, not that many tourists come to Salamanca.  Salamanca is a town where you live, where you study, where you visit friends, and its notable becuase it has the oldest University in Europe, a beautiful square Plaza Mayor that lights up at night (only other square Plaza Mayor in Spain is in Madrid), during the civil war it was the stronghold town for Franco's regime but in reality it isn't a tourist destination.

Plaza Mayor at night
So for now I'll sit and enjoy a tea, people watch and wait to go see Candy after she gets off work.

Friday, February 10, 2012

This wanderer is on the move again

Bathroom art

Starting in Madrid was the right thing to do.  Monday and Tuesday I participated in the hostel hosted events - which made me realize I could do a better tapas tour than the owner of the company but that's a separate subject.  The reason I say that Madrid was the perfect starting point is because of the people I met while there.  I'm slowly starting to come to the realization that you really do meet people for a reason...On Tuesday morning, during an unofficial tour of Madrid, Amanda, Laurel, Kelsey (New York) and Lauren (Los Angeles) entered my world.  That same night Lauren and I went on the tapas tour before meeting up with Amanda, Laurel and Kelsey for the pub crawl.

Kelsey, Amanda and I
After spending most of Wednesday recuperating from getting back to the hostel at 6:00A from the pub crawl., Lauren and I were invited to join the New Yorkers for their big dinner out - every city they go to they have one nice dinner at a nice restaurant to celebrate their vacation.  A concept so simple yet completely amazing, and being the penny pincher I typically am I would never have thought of it.  It was nice to be able to share that with them.  Now, it's something I'd love to incorporate in my travels.

Dinner at La Gabinoteca, which I'm told was featured on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, was fantastic.  The restaurant has an eclectic atmosphere with one seat in particular looking like a chair lift, a rooster as their symbol, and teddy bears as their restroom signage.  We arrived around 9:30P and were seated in less than 5 minutes even though it appeared busy.  Kelsey had looked into the restaurant so we steered clear of the items she said had bad reviews and ordered the wine that she suggested - we were not disappointed.  We ordered 4 starters, 4 first plates, 4 heavier plates, 2 bottles of wine, 1 bottle of champagne and two desserts to split between the 5 of us.  Everything was absolutely amazing - all the local tapas with a sofisticated twist.

To travel, friends met, strong women
and finding yourself
To end the dinner, mind you it was almost midnight, we ordered a bottle of cava and two desserts.  Amanda (I think) suggested that we each say one item to cheers to and they all needed to be different.  I don't remember each one but they included:
  • to meeting great people in the hostels
  • to eating great food
  • to being strong, confident, educated women who love to travel
  • to finding one's self through travel and adventure
Laurel and the check in a box
These sentiments described that dinner and evening perfectly.  We received the check in a cute box and realized our dinner was much cheaper than we all thought it would be.  Around 12:15, after paying 26 euros each we finally left the restaurant to head back the area where we were staying.

We arrived back in our side of town to have a drink at a jazz club but unfortunately we came in as the last song was playing.  Laurel and Lauren decided to head back to the hostel while Kelsey, Amanda and I decided to go for a night cap at an Irish pub a few blocks away.  Finally after being pushed out of the bar because it was closing we went back to the hostel.  We said our goodbyes and hugged for this was the last time I'd see these amazing ladies this trip.  They were off to Toledo and me, I was off to my old stomping grounds...Salamanca to look for my old host mom and host sister.

So here I am in Salamanca.  I spoke with Candy (my host mom) yesterday and we're going to meet for coffee (tea in my case) and catch up.  I can't wait.

Yes, Madrid was indeed the right place to start.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The reason I'll come home

I've been here before.  It's the same but it's completely different.

Last time I was 20 and going to live in a country I'd only briefly explored.  Now I'm almost 27 and am revisiting a country I fell in love with 10 years ago.

Last time I was a child trying to be an adult.  This time I'm an adult - full fledged, the kind that pays their bills, has had a full time job, all that fun stuff that is hard but so fulfilling all the same.

Last time I met a guy right before I left that I couldn't get enough of and this time I'm leaving that same guy who I've been living with for 5 years...last time we just started seeing each other and this time we're engaged...last time I was sad, this time I'm a complete mess.

Last time I was naive and I had a parachute to fall back on.  This time, I've quit my job and am living on my savings.

I could go on and on.  I'm nervous, I'm sad, I'm emotional.  But in the end I know this is the right thing for me.  I know I need to do this, I need to try to live on my own in this country I've loved so much for the past 10 years.  And I know only good things will come out of it.  I will miss Faustino, my family and my friends like crazy but I'm lucky to know that they support me.  They have my back.  And besides, this time I'll only be gone for 4 months, a third of a year.  It will fly by and before you or I know it, I will be boarding my flight back home.

In the end, I just hope he knows he's the reason I'll come home.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dancing in the Sun Room...

Dancing in the sun room.  That's what we did.

For the past 8 months, my parents, Faustino and I have been diligently working on fixing up my grandma's ranch which includes her house that's been vacant for years.  My grandma was a pack rat and after she passed her children sorted through a lot of her possessions but there was still a lot of stuff (I'd like to think of a better word to explain what it all is but stuff just seems to encompass it - there are treasures, junk, and family memories all rolled together).  So month after month, the four of us (and sometimes my brother or a family friend) would work at the ranch - my dad outside working/playing on his tractor and my mom, Faustino and I inside the house.  We would go from room to room to room sorting, cleaning, painting.  And what do you know, because of all the hard work we put in we were able to have our first family Christmas at that ranch in almost 10 years.

The first weekend of January we were at it again and this time we had little helpers - my niece and nephew.  While my nephew was helping the property's "caretaker" my parents, my niece, Faustino and I were working in the house.  Now mind you, we would have liked to have been outside, but it was not possible - 20 mph winds made it unbearable.  This gave us the opportunity to finally do some decorating throughout the house and to finally get around to cleaning the quaint sun room which my grandmother had added on to her bedroom during my early childhood.

With music blasting, we were busy cleaning and rearranging the sun room.  I'm not sure what inspired me - maybe it was my grandmother's spirit that my mom said she could feel, maybe it was my loopiness that I felt after working so many hours getting the house back to the way I remembered it, or maybe it was just because I was so happy.  One thing is for sure - I was feeling the music and just had to dance.  It started off with me doing the dance from the Breakfast Club when Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez and the other guy are dancing on the railing and it quickly turned into 3 generations dancing to Donna Summers.  My niece was the first to join me, while my mother watched from the ladder.  But soon enough my mom climbed down and joined us.  We danced a mixture of moves for the next five minutes, laughing, singing and just enjoying the moment.

I can't remember the last time I had that much fun dancing - I just felt so alive and seeing my mom look so happy (and my niece having such a good time) brought a warmth to my heart.  I have to agree with my mom, my grandma's spirit was definitely alive in the room that day and it felt great to have her there.