Sunday, December 22, 2013

'Tis the season

Just a couple more days until Christmas and there are two wiggly, excited little bodies living in our house who can't wait.

Friday was the last day of school before the break, and they wont go back until January 8th. A nice, long rest from the daily commute to and from school.
Josh also has the same long break, and he's already been chipping away at the thesis he has to write for his class.

That's due in May.


Today we went carolling in Retiro Park with a group from our church, which was a fun experience. The city is so festive it's hard not to get into the holiday spirit, despite temperatures in the 50's.
We've walked around our neighborhood a couple of times to see the lights, or just enjoyed them while running errands.

Goya has gift boxes.

Serrano has circles, and I think it's my favorite. Pictures don't do justice to the lights.

Juan Ortega y Gasset has chandeliers.

And Velázquez has branches. This is our street. We live here.

Our neighborhood also has lots of stores that I'm too intimidated to set foot in. All of these are walking-distance from our piso.


Other randomness:

My boys on da bus.

I love not driving.
I went shopping with a friend this week at an outlet mall outside of the city center, and it was just strange. Driving to different stores, parking lots, very American. The weird thing is that it felt strange to me-- I guess a year of metro and bus rides will do that to you.

This is how we keep in touch with our family. The hard part is that the kids are usually in bed before anyone in the States is off work. Usually around 11am on a weekday, when the kids are in school and I've run any morning errands, I'll get the urge to call up a friend and chat. Of course, they wouldn't be my friends anymore if I acted on it. Dang time zones.

Last Saturday Derek had an open house at school. He sang a song with his class and gave his letter to the Reyes Magos. After the open house, we had a family from the school over to hang out and let the kids play together. We walked home through the park and it was so pretty we stopped and took pictures. Can't believe the leaves are still falling!

Here are the kiddos lined up for the Three Kings.
Derek has a sheep on his head; it was part of the song. That he sang in Spanish. Because my baby knows Spanish.

But does not seem to embrace the Three Kings. Nor did the sheep hat do anything for his hairdo.

This is my milk in a box.
Another thing that used to strike me as odd that just feels normal now-- the fact that you buy milk in a box, and an unrefrigerated box at that. The eggs are also not refrigerated here.

In the next episode I will tell you guys where we're headed next...
Here's a hint. It starts with an M and it's not nearly as cool as Monterey or Madrid.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Things that have happened since I last blogged:

1) I went on a field trip with Josh's class to a Spanish military parade. It was only for the foreigners in the class. These folks are part of the Spanish Royal Guard.

Highlights: The horses pooped in the middle of the parade route and fancy-pants military folks had to retain their military bearing while trying to avoid the steaming piles.

You can see the poop here. You're welcome.

 And now check out the guy on the far left. Score one for the horse.

Also. Wine, jamón, and queso at the reception.
This is my smile that says, "Well done Guardia Royal. Now where is the jamón?"

For some reason the picture also makes me want to sing "The Wheels on the Bus."

2) We went on our overnight getaway to Segovia.

Funny story. We'd been watching the weather; since the city is so close it makes sense that we would wait and plan to go when it would be nice out. Weather.com predicted highs in the low 50's with sun, so we booked a hotel and headed off.
As we drove through the mountains, we noticed the car's temperature gauge was reading in the 30's. This confused us. Was Segovia at a lower altitude, and the temp would warm up as we approached? Did we look at the forecast for the wrong city? Is the Carrola showing her age and the gauge is faulty?
We drove through a long tunnel. When we popped out on the other side, snow greeted us.
As did a sign saying Segovia was not too many kilometers down the road.
So we enjoyed a cold, snowy, yet scenic getaway while we wondered who checked the forecast for the wrong city.

Warming up inside the cathedral.

It was a good excuse for lots of hot chocolate.

Maybe too much chocolate. (Inside the Alcazar)

Derek was tongue-tied when he was born, so we had his frenulum clipped.
Just look at that range of motion he has.
I'm so...proud.

The Roman aquaduct was certainly the most impressive view in the city for us.

View from the top. See the red roof across the street? To the left of that is a white garage, and to the left of that is the hotel we stayed in.

After we got home, I looked on Weather.com again to see if I'd just made a mistake. Nope. It must be a bad link or something, because the site assured me that the weather that Saturday had been 50 degrees with sun. While my frostbitten fingers assured me that it indeed had not been 50 degrees with sun.
But it was a nice little city, and we're glad we went.

3) Josh and I had a date night with the Frenchies to see Flamenco.
Oye! Guapa!

It was fun, and muy español.

4) Thanksgiving happened.
It did not feel much like Thanksgiving, as the kids had school that day. Josh was given the day off from his class (only the two Americans, everyone else still had class) and so we used the day without the kids to see some of the places we hadn't yet visited in Madrid.

Here you find me. In front of the Templo de Debod, which if you can believe it is an ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in Madrid.

For dinner, I made some of the traditional side dishes and we ordered a bucket of KFC.

Yes, yes, have your laugh. My oven is small, okay? It would only fit the side dishes, not a turkey and side dishes. And Josh has no faith in my bird-cooking abilities.
And let's face it-- what tastes better, healthy turkey or unhealthy fried chicken?
Yeah, that's what I thought.

5) Christmas season arrived.

(With the tree in Plaza Sol)

We hadn't brought our tree with us, since we weren't sure how much storage space we would have here. But we have some American friends who are going back to the states for Christmas, and so they let us borrow their tree. Perfect! If not, we were going to buy a real one here, but they're quite pricey so this worked out better.
We decorated on Thanksgiving night with the limited things we brought along, and since then we've had lots of Christmas music playing in the background, the daily Advent calendar opening, and lots and lots of online shopping. This equates to lots and lots of trips for me to the Embassy mailbox, but since my work schedule is light (ha.) it's not a problem for me to swing by often.
Besides it gives me a chance to practice my Spanish with José the friendly mail guy.

6) The kids are excited about the Christmas season of course, and now the lights are on in the city which makes it super festive. We haven't gone walking with the camera yet, but we will soon. The weather's still really nice with highs in the 50's, except if you want to visit Segovia of course.
Alex has been wanting a guitar for the past 6 months or so, and I can't wait to see her face on Christmas morning! She's counted her money numerous times over the past months, not wanting to wait to see if she'd get one for Christmas but naturally not having nearly enough to buy one.
Her wish list includes: "A guitar, or 33 euro" which is the amount she would need to make up the difference between what she has and how much she needs to buy one.
Derek brought home his stationery for the Reyes Magos from school (Spanish kids get gifts on January 6th from the Three Kings) and promptly sat down and wrote his list, in Spanish of course as the Reyes Magos don't speak English.

He put down 1) A package of shiny gogos 2) A collection of gogos and 3) Legos.
Gogos are little plastic figures the kids collect and play with here and cost 1 euro at the kiosks. So, it will be a cheap Christmas for the little guy. Ha ;)

Josh normally takes charge of Derek's gifts, mostly because he likes to look at the action figures. Young at heart maybe?
Anyway, he made sure that Derek was getting not one, but two light sabers so that they can fight each other with real ones, instead of the pretend ones they use now when they wrestle.
Every night.
Right before bedtime.
It's quite conducive to a quiet, peaceful bedtime routine.

7) Other than that, it's been life as usual. Which is a very good thing.