Thursday, May 14, 2015

El Vergel

If you've ever traveled to Spain you know that you can safely say that it's all about the food. The day is planned by where you'll have your morning coffee, where you'll have the mid-day big meal, lunch, and finally, where you'll dine.
Si alguna vez has viajado a España ya sabes que con seguridad se puede decir que todo gira sobre la comida. El día está planeado por el lugar donde tendrás tu café de la mañana, dónde tendrás la comida de mediodía, el almuerzo, y por último, dónde cenar.

So, picking the finest restaurant, especially while vacationing is a great priority.
Por lo tanto, elegir el mejor restaurante, especialmente durante tus vacaciones es una gran prioridad.

Of course we knew about El Vergel, and I, being vegetarian, like to seek out new places for healthy cuisine whenever possible.
Por supuesto que sabíamos acerca de El Vergel, y yo, siendo vegetariana, me gusta buscar nuevos lugares de cocina saludable siempre que sea posible.

Once in Tarragona while asking for directions to El Vergel we were told by a young couple, who by the way weren't vegetarian, that El Vergel is the BEST restaurant in the city. They were right.
Una vez en Tarragona, mientras preguntábamos por la dirección a El Vergel una pareja joven, que por cierto no eran vegetarianos, nos dijo que El Vergel era el mejor restaurante de la ciudad. Tenían razón.

The atmosphere was calm and beautiful, shabby chic white with good taste exuding from every corner. The menu was complete, portions generous and tastes so exquisite that I wanted to make each bite of my meal last. Even the tea was extraordinary.
El ambiente era tranquilo y hermoso, blanco shabby chic con buen gusto que exuda de cada esquina. El menú era completo, porciones generosas y gusto tan exquisito que quería que cada bocado de mi comida no se acabara. Incluso el té era extraordinario.

Even Sombra had a wonderful time relaxing there before her meal.
Incluso Sombra tuvo un tiempo maravilloso relajante allí antes de su comida.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

La Catedral

La Catedral de León, is the Cathedral I'm referring to, of course. Her splendour is unsurpassed when it comes to minimal stone and maximum light.

My Mother's Day Gift This Year - When It Can't be Mimosas and Brunch

Powerscourt, County Wicklow, Ireland
You all know, I have four wonderful children. You can't know me without knowing that. They are the best of the best, my favourite people in the world. And, I have one wonderful, intelligent, eccentrically fabulous and artistic mom, who is also the best in the world.

And, if you know me, my values and heart, you know, too, that I tried, with everything that was in me to make a home that we could share as a family to last throughout the years.  That refuge, however, a no-matter-what-else-in-life-happens place, a home to come back to, and where to grow old together, didn't last.
Instead, we're dispersed; we're all across the country and globe.

Logically, then, Mother's Day looks a lot different than how I imagined it some years ago.
It certainly isn't Sunday brunch. No bouquet of roses on a lace tablecloth. No going out for the day together. No, not one single mimosa coming my direction.

My Mother's Day Gift, instead, is going to be expensive, really expensive, more than ten truckloads of flowers, more than fifty brunch experiences at our favourite restaurants, more than a whole aisle of Mother's Day cards. More than we can afford, really.
Still, there are gifts that you don't look at their price-tag.

"Somebody, how about just more time — and internal permission — to surprise with more spontaneous “Mommy-Holidays!” in the middle of the week and go for ice cream and the park and the beach and the woods... just more time slow down, smile into them, simply enjoy being... "

Yes, I'm giving myself that permission.

"What you really want, desperately, wildly, in spite of everything — is for them to remember the good…. to remember enough of the times you whispered, “I Love You” … to know how many times you broke your heart and how how hard you really tried."
Have you ever read 1000 Gifts?

It's a gift to myself,
from me to them, my kids and mom,
It's a gift that I give, that we give, I with Enrique, my beloved accomplice, companion, and sweet husband.
Flights. Four of them, maybe five. To travel, travel here to us.
Four flights to Spain, to come and hang, to cook together, surf the internet side-by-side, take picnics, pictures and bike rides, and do all the things together that the rest of the year won't permit.
And we can't wait!

Mark, HS graduate, arrives the beginning of June.
Sara leaves her vanwelling to arrive in July. Both will be gone by August, but we will have soaked up as much love and hugs and essence of one another, intensely.
Mom comes here to celebrate her September birthday. We're making it happen, wheelchairs are magical, wonderful things.
Then Risa, candy-cane girl, comes in December.
And, finally, my Army man, Ryan, will join us if military miracles happen.

We will remind each other.  every day.  how much we love and support the other.
We'll champion one another while we're together. Then we'll promise to do the same thing all theyear  long in-between-our-visits times that are now part of our family's fabric.

A Journey of Firsts

Love that transforms forever is born.

My real home - Mom, look what I found *grins*
My treasures and my hopes are all beyond the blue
Where many many friends and kindred have gone on before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Over in Glory land, there is no dying there
The saints are shouting victory and singing everywhere
I hear the voice of them that I have heard before
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Oh, lord, you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home, oh, lord, what would I do
Angels beckon me to heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Heaven's expecting me, that's one thing I know
I fixed it up with Jesus a long time ago
He will take me through though I am weak and poor
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Oh, I have a loving mother over in Glory land
I don't expect to stop until I shake her hand
She's gone on before, just waiting at heaven's door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Oh, lord, you know I have no friend like you
If heaven's not my home, oh, lord, what would I do
Angels beckon me to heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home in this world anymore

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

International Chocolate Show

Today was my father's birthday and one of those hard mornings when you battle your demons, mine hard feelings of abandonment, betrayal, injustice of former family and friends, fighting with all the heroic thoughts I could muster. But, neither my thoughts, nor the excited voices in the street below our balconies, could rescue me. Happily, something else did! With no time for sad, I had to hurry through breakfast, dress, and meet Enrique at the door to leave and arrive in time for our special date: with Astorga's Third Annual Chocolate Festival, SICA.

With sixteen local exhibitors and over  a hundred activities for all ages, all themed in chocolate, this festival is gaining overwhelming popularity and extending throughout the nation. Our city, Astorga, was the first European city to industrialise chocolate after its discovery by the Spanish in the New World. That's something to celebrate!

Photographer Sabela Fuentes Fernández

Fortunately, Enrique prompted yesterday that we rush to sign up to gain privileged seats at SICA's Cata Fusion (Fusion of Tastes). There, Bodega Cuatro Pasos, two winery representatives from the region of El Bierzo, near Cacabelos educated us in the rare combination of fine chocolate and excellent wine. A fusion of two of the best tastes in the world, black and orange chocolates made with the best cacao together with just the right wine combinations. I felt all the earlier stress melt away like that sweet chocolate on my tongue, dissolving into relaxed peace with its perfect wine companion.

Yesterday we also participated in a Mini Curso, short class open to the public, on chocolate desserts, specifically *mille-feuille chocolate with ground pine, a type of chocolate presentation that is painted onto wax paper and rolled with added color to be cut into whimsical chocolate swirls. It is quite improbably any of the students will ever try this elaborate dessert at home, but we all enjoyed the intricacy of design and marvelled that such artistry was really edible, delicious chocolate.

Astorga Sabe a Chocolate - Astorga Tastes like Chocolate

*SICA- Salón Internacional del Chocolate - International Chocolate Show

*Mille feuille - Traditionally, a mille-feuille is made up of three layers of  puff pastry (pâte feuilletée), alternating with two layers of pastry cream (crème pâtissière), but sometimes whipped cream or jam are substituted. The top pastry layer is dusted with confectioner's sugar and sometimes cocoa, pastry crumbs, or pulverized seeds (e.g. roasted almonds). Alternatively the top is glazed with icing or fondant in alternating white (icing) andbrown chocolate stripes, and combed.

*Mini Curso taught by Nacho González, Jefe de Pastelería de la EIC de Valladolid (Dessert Head Chef of the International Culinary School of Valladolid)

More here: Fabulous photos and Spanish text, by Atana

The Chocolate Museum, El Museo del Chocolate de Astorga that just reopened its doors, appropriately inaugurated Valentine's Day, February 14th, in a beautifully renovated building just fitting the topic.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Destruction, A Simple Difference Between Love and Hate

I read the news today, Oh Boy! As if massive beheadings, victimisation of women, church burnings, kidnappings and more were not enough! the ISIS invasion into Mosul and massive destruction of art and historical monuments and artefacts has even the most liberal and atheistic individuals talking. On El Pais' front page we (teachers) couldn't avoid the subject. These priceless pieces of history are now gone forever and for the most part haven't been stolen, but simply ruthlessly destroyed.

There is a simple difference between love and hate. Love builds up and is constructive. Hate tears down and destroys.

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies. (from "Loving Your Enemies")”
Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Extremists used sledgehammers and power drills to smash ancient artifacts at a museum in the northern city of Mosul 
Militant uses a power tool to destroy a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity at the Ninevah Museum in Mosul, Iraq. The statue dates back to the 9th century B.C.

Isaiah 59:7
"Their feet run to evil, And they hasten to shed innocent blood; 
Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, Devastation and destruction are in their highways."

Oh, where, Obama, are our Monuments' Men?! 

Today, in the teachers' lounge at my Spanish high school, liberals and conservatives alike have called you a coward, a turn-coat. It's the first time I've heard such negative sentimentality in traditionally Obama-loving Europe. Yet, there it is. Who can respect a president who sits by and lets such atrocities occur, offering only lip-service to the American people and the world? Even Roosevelt and Eisenhower, from opposing ideologies had the huevos to come together to create a strategic plan to act out against the unethical acts of the Nazis. 

*Monuments Men (see the film): "In a race against time, and under mandate from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, this group of unlikely heroes—museum directors, curators, art scholars, educators, artists, architects, and archivists—risked their lives on the front lines and worked tirelessly to protect Europe's monuments and greatest cultural treasures from both the destruction of the war and seizure by Hitler and the Nazis. Without vehicles, typewriters, or full authority, they managed to track, locate, and return more than five million looted cultural items. Their role in preserving these treasures stands without precedent."