We’ve moved (again)!

I decided to move my blog again. Though I love WordPress, I thought it was time to create a blog that was easier to personalize, and that would be less friends-and-family and more for the general public. So I’ve moved my blog, given it a new name and a new look, and have been painstakingly reviewing my entries, adding pictures (because when I started blogging that wasn’t even an option yet), and getting ready to present my adventures to the world.

You can find me from now on at galiciamerican.blogspot.com. See you there!

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the locutorio

The other day I was at the copy place. My copy place. The place I go to copy and print and scan everything, since we don’t have a printer at home. I was hanging out there for a while since I was printing a ton of wedding stuff, and I started to think about how the place is really kind of a relic. I mean, I know we have Kinko’s in the States, and there were plenty of people buzzing in and out of the shop while I waited, since here it’s common for students to copy entire textbooks instead of buying them. But copy places, they’re a dying breed. More and more people have printer/scanner/fax combos at home and as more people become proficient in programs like Photoshop, they don’t need the assitance of the copy guy to create the documents they desire. And sure, we could go to the store any day of the week and buy ourselves a printer, and find a place to put it, and never have to deal with (god forbid) wanting to print something on a Sunday.

But it was comfortable there, watching the guy laminate a bunch of menus for a new bar down the street, and chatting amiably with him about how it was closed for a long time and now there’s a new owner that’s renovated the place. We talked about how business has been good for copy places this month, but last year was just terrible. We talked about how it’s a job that tires easily and doesn’t leave much time for sitting down. And it was comfortable, standing there waiting, watching people come and go from this tiny shop in this tiny corner of the world.
And it reminded me of another relic, the locutorio, the shop where I used to have to go to make international phone calls, back before cell phones and back before Skype and back before international calling plans that were actually afforable. I mean, it wasn’t really that long ago (I used the locutorio up until about 2009) that when I wanted to call my mom from overseas, I had to go down to the corner shop and tell them where I wanted to call, take a place at one of their little phone booths, and make my call there. If I wanted to use the internet, I had to use the public computers at the ciber. Sometimes I had a calling card I could use at the corner payphone, but I remember so many cold, rainy nights, huddling against the meager walls of the cabina, trying to make out what people were saying over all the static on the line.

And I remember how inconvenient it was, not to just be able to pick up the phone and make a call. But I also remember that little bit of community, when the guy at the counter knew me and exactly where I wanted to call, and when I knew the other people that would be hanging out on the computers or phones at the same time as I was. And as I was sitting in the copy shop thinking about all this, I started to get nostalgic. Not for locutorios, really, or for the age where I had to stand outside in driving rain just to reach my family, but for the little corner shops that will soon become nonexistent, and the sense of community that will disappear with them. For now, the copy places exist, but I know they’re an endangered species. So I do my part by making my copies there, and when I go in, it feels a little bit like home.

Summer, the whole thing

It’s a rainy late summer day here. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea, listening to Balmorhea, and thinking about…well, the whole summer.
What have we been doing with our time since, oh, May? Well, lots of things, but mostly, planning our wedding. I had no idea what a Universal Time Suck planning a wedding was until I started doing it. And let me tell you, it sucks time.
But we’ve done other things, too:

We jumped over bonfires and ate sardines on the night of San Juan. Do you see the mysterious witch?

Then we spent a very rainy weekend in Asturias, my second favorite place on earth, where we had a terrible meal at the world’s worst restaurant (seriously) followed by several extremely delicious meals that almost made up for it. Oh, and we visited the sanctuary of Covadonga, where there was neither sanctuary, nor peace, nor silence, nor any kind of respect for quiet reflection and spiritual contemplation. At least it was pretty.

Then we watched Spain win the Eurocopa, which only happens every four years and is almost as big a deal as winning the World Cup. And since Spain became the first team ever to consecutively win a Eurocopa, a World Cup, and another Eurocopa, it was REALLY BIG DEAL.

 

We pulled up the onions that we’d planted way back in spring with Isaac’s parents.

Then we planned a 4th of July party for some friends, complete with homemade hamburgers (and buns), corn on the cob, onion rings (made with those onions we planted!), and homemade hot fudge sundaes.

 

And then we took a week-long road trip across northern Spain to Bilbao, to see one of our favorite bands, Mumford & Sons, in concert. It was awesome. And the Basque ice cream was to die for (not to mention the incredible pintxos!).

We went kayaking (um, let’s just say the Danish family with two young daughters whipped our butts, but don’t we look just fantastic in our wetsuits?).

We discovered hidden beaches and trespassed on abandoned properties (the abandoned properties of Asturias are another story for another time. The sense of faded glory and the fall of the mighty is overwhelming in the ruins of once-great mansions).

We stayed in Portugalete, north of Bilbao, and home of the famous Hanging Bridge, with its cable car that crosses the ría a million times a day (and was fun to ride).

We crossed the bridge to the town of Getxo on the other side, and wandered its famous boardwalk of historic homes. Then we came back over to our side and wandered around Portugalete, going from bar to bar in search of pintxos.

And of course, we visited the obligatory Guggenheim museum, but mostly to make fun of contemporary art, because really, what’s the point of contemporary art if not to poke fun? Also, the building made us dizzy, but it is truly a feat of modern architecture.

Whew! Then we came home and continued the Wedding Planning Time Suck, which is scheduled to end at approximately 1:30pm on October 6th, and not a moment before. But we are so excited that everyone is coming to visit our little faraway corner of the world, and we can’t wait to see them all and celebrate being together and being in love.
…and then we’re going on vacation!

Festa da Primavera

So, you might wonder where I’ve been for the past few months. Turns out I simultaneously got involved in two of the greatest Time Sucks known to man: Planning an International Wedding and Starting a Business.

About the wedding, I don’t want to give away any details so I will only say that I’ve learned one lesson about wedding planning: It’s hard.

The business part came about really last summer, when Isaac and I were wandering the market one Saturday morning and just happened upon a huge street festival in the hippie neighborhood of San Pedro.

It’s your typical street art festival, with artisans selling leather goods, handmade jewelry, journals, soaps, candles, instruments, and everything else you can imagine. Except, unlike most street art fairs, it turns into a raging party at night. People show up with their accordions and tambourines and there’s a huge foliada in the main plaza. As we were waiting in line for our chouripan (the best sausage in a bun you’ll ever have), I said to Isaac that it would be so cool if, next year, I could participate in a fair like this.

And then, a couple months ago, I just happened upon the neighborhood Facebook page and saw that they were accepting applications for their spring festival. And I was accepted. It was one of those totally random coincidences that makes you sure that there are really no coincidences at all.

So I started planning, thinking of ideas for American pastries that would be palatable to Galicians and yet different enough to be interesting. And then last Monday I started baking, and that led to this:

and this:

I took over the entire kitchen and most of the living room with pans and racks and plates EVERYWHERE. I baked and baked, and then ran to the store for butter and sugar and flour, and then I baked some more. Then we packed it all up (with a lot of hand-wringing and nervousness on my part), and early on Saturday morning we drove five minutes down the road to the other end of town, and we set it all up again, where it all eventually turned into this:

There were chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, blueberry muffins, lemon poppyseed muffins, vegan muffins (it is a hippie neighborhood, after all), ginger cookies, decorated sugar cookies in the shape of flowers, butterflies, hearts for Mother’s Day…

…cookies in the shape of the Galician flag and Galician nationalist flag (big seller!), the cross of Santiago, and shells (another symbol of Santiago), lemon bars, and brownies. Whew!

And ALL of it came out of this:

This is my sad little oven. Apart from being so tiny that I can only bake four large sugar cookies at a time, it doesn’t have any kind of temperature control whatsoever, just two controls ambiguously labeled Big Flame and Small Flame. Needless to say, the poor oven was on for about four days straight in order to bake all of that. It might need counseling to recover.

The day of the festival itself was gray and drizzly, as it has been for about a month. We had an umbrella but couldn’t afford the large tents most of the other stands had.

Then it started to rain.

It was a monsoon, really. It was a fairly short storm but it took only seconds for EVERYTHING to get drenched. Everyone was frantically covering their goods and tents with plastic, taping or clipping tarps to each other as best they could.

We salvaged what we could, but a few brownies and muffins were casualties of the storm. A moment of silence, please. This is our little stand in the aftermath of the storm, like a little shanty bakery:

…And then the sun came out, and so did all the people. There was a one-man band:

…and os maios, which are traditional sculptures made out of natural materials to commemmorate spring:

This one has a garland of blown-out eggshells:

And in true Galician fashion, once there was food, drink, and somebody with an accordion, it became a party. This is what it looked like once it really got going (photo courtesy of our local newspaper, El Correo Gallego):

The festival finally ended around midnight, and we packed up what little remained of our pastries – a few cupcakes damaged in the storm and a couple of blueberry muffins – and headed home. It was a long day, and an even longer week, but the real party is the even bigger San Pedro festival in July. Will we be willing to do this all again in a couple months? You bet.

Cleo update!

It’s been a while since you last saw Cleo. Have you wondered what she’s been up to?

Well, she’s been sleeping…

…and getting into trouble…

…and sleeping…

…and getting into trouble…

Yes, she actually does sleep with her tongue hanging out. It’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.

Yes, that’s my cell phone charger, in about five pieces.

Yes, that’s her innocent “What? What could I possibly be doing wrong? I just can’t imagine!” face. She uses that face a lot, usually while getting caught red-pawed doing something very naughty, like eating par-cooked meatballs off the counter, or sticking her face in the bowl of frosting I was whipping, or leaving mysterious paw prints on the television screen. Boy, it’s a good thing she’s so cute!

 

I believe in signs.

I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I don’t believe in coincidences.

I truly believe that when you are doing what you’re meant to be doing, things will just fall into place. Not that it won’t take time, or it won’t be hard, or that things won’t go wrong – they will, but then things will somehow, impossibly, go right again.

For a while now, I’ve harbored the dream of eventually owning my own coffeeshop and bakery in Spain. I don’t talk about it much on here, mostly because it’s a slow process. I’m not looking to get rich quick (or maybe ever), and I know that things worth doing take time. Owning one’s own bakery is not exactly an action-packed adventure, and the journey is marked not by large milestones, but by tiny crumbs, dropped in your path like Hansel and Gretel, to show you you’re still on the right track.

This week, I got two such crumbs. Two friends who I haven’t talked to in years both contacted me out of the blue, and both just happened to casually ask how my coffeeshop idea was coming along. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but I was completely surprised that they even remembered it at all. There isn’t anything very special about a desire to own a bakery – I mean, it’s not as if I’d told them my goal in life was to be President or be the next Warren Buffett or marry Brad Pitt or anything. But I guess something in the way I told them struck them and they’ve both remembered ever since. It makes me think that maybe this isn’t such a crazy idea, and it might just be possible. Maybe it’s not a pipe dream, and maybe I’m not alone – maybe people are rooting for me, and maybe destiny is, too.

It’s happened…

After two years of dating, one long-distance over thousands of miles and one together in our tiny Santiago apartment…

After six years of knowing each other…

After meeting the families, and Sunday afternoons on Isaac’s family farm, and trips to my home in Chicago…

After countless car rides on the endless winding roads of Galicia, with Arcade Fire and MGMT blasting on the radio (okay, and sometimes Pitbull, too)…

After thousands of meals of “try this, you’ll like it!” and introducing each other to hamburgers, cinnamon toast, cupcakes, cocido, and pollo con fideos…

After adopting our kitten Cleo and making a little family of 3…

After hikes in the mountains and afternoons on beaches and nights out on the town…

After long late-night discussions about hopes, dreams, the perfect little country cottage, a bakery, and a house full of animals…

And after a million “I love yous”…

…we’re engaged!