Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday #5


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday #4...


Monday, March 22, 2010

The Trail at the End of the Street...

We are lucky enough to have a Regional Park Trail right on the end of our neighborhood. I discovered it by accident. I had seen people walking on a trail, and when I went to check it out, I found out it was actually a part of the Parque Regional del Curso Medio del Rio Guadarrama (see map below from wikipedia)They trail is marked with granite posts, and even though it's a regional park, there are farms and flocks of sheep located right next to the trail. I had seen a couple of the farms, but I hadn't seen the flock of sheep until I went on a walk last weekend with my husband. We could hear them before we could see them...Baaaa...baaaa...their calls preceded them over the hill.
For the most part, these sleep were pretty much what you would expect...except for a shock of hot pink hair. Someone had spray painted a few of the sheep's heads with fuschia paint. At first, I thought it was a clever way to "brand" the sheep so to speak, without hurting them. There was no shepherd or sheep dog with them, so it made sense that this might be an easy way to identify them, but then I saw that some of the sheep had tags on their ears. I have no idea if this is a joke, a protest, or a couple of flocks mixed together, and then it might really be a "branding" technique. I can say one thing for sure...I was tickled "pink!" Sorry, I couldn't resist!It was the first sunny weekend we'd had in months, and we were loving it! Husband and I both love the snow-covered mountains... We're not alone...besides horse shoe prints, we also saw deer tracks, dirt bike tracks as well...This is as far as I've gone on the trail...I look forward to seeing what's on the other side of the hill sometime soon...Hasta luego...

Friday, March 19, 2010

...You Might Be A Redneck!

Earlier this week, Husband and I took the high speed train from Madrid to Puerto de Santa Maria, just north of Cadiz. We've driven our van down and back there twice, and it is a long hard drive...around six and a half hours. We needed to go down one day to do some paperwork and come right back the next day. Since we aren't long haul truckers, and our eight year-old van already has over 145,000 miles on it, we decided to give the train a try this time. The total trip time was probably about the same as driving...fifteen minute drive to the light rail station, an hour on the metro to get to Atocha Train station, four hours on the high speed train and a 20 minute taxi ride from the train station to Rota, but it was so much better than driving it all yourself.

I'm so glad we got to take the train down during the day. It was a beautiful ride! I thought I'd read and maybe catch some zzz's, but I was too busy looking out the window to do much of either one. When you drive down to Rota, the terrain is mostly flat. There are some highlights...a castle or two and expansive stretches of vinyards with their spanish style villas. The train, however, takes you through rolling hills and gentle mountains. It's been raining throughout most of Spain for the last three months resulting in the entire landscape looking like it was carpeted in the luscious green velvet. The hillsides and mountain tops were covered with olive groves and little haciendas, seeming to defy gravity, were perched precariously on the mountainsides. We also were treated to picturesque scenes of modern shepherds tending their flocks of sheep, as well as cows, horses and black spanish pigs, all roaming freely in the countryside.

Once the train had wound it's way through the mountains, we entered "orange country." Rows and rows of orange groves, as far as the eyes could see. Juicy oranges are another one of the things I LOVE about Spain! So here I was enjoying the scenery, when I see a pick up truck parked on a dirt road next to one of the orange groves. There was a mom and two older kids standing next to the truck watching the train. It reminded me of going out to the airport as a kid with my granddaddy, to watch the planes take off and land. I smiled out the window, touched by the fact that people are pretty much the same all over the world, enjoying the simple pleasures of life. The next thing I know, the mom and her two kids begin hurling oranges at the train!! I was immediately reminded of the comedy of Jeff Foxworthy and his "redneck" jokes...

If you think driving your children out to an orange grove to chuck oranges at passing trains makes for a pretty good time...you might be a redneck!

I knew there were "rednecks" all over the USA, but all over the world??? I guess people really ARE pretty much the same all over the world. Hasta luego...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Know One of the Best Places to Buy Fresh Bread in Spain????

At the gas station, of course!!! File this under the "Things I Love About Spain" heading...Before we moved to Spain, many of my visions of Europe revolved around all the wonderful food...wine, pastries, cheese, and, of course, fresh bread. I couldn't wait to walk into a bakery and buy my first loaf of fresh bread. Three things surprised me about buying bread in Spain. The first was that they sell baguettes, which I thought were French, but whatever...and the second was that you could buy these fresh baguettes at gas stations, and third was that it was quite tasty! I had heard several of my friends talking about this gas station bread and thought it was so funny that you could actually buy a fresh baguette after you gassed up. How can you tell that this is Spain and NOT the United States??? In the States, they'd offer you a FREE baguette with a fill up. Frankly, I'd prefer a fresh bread to a free carwash. How about you?

Friday, March 12, 2010

From Turkey for Tapas...

Well, not exactly, but I'm an alliteration nut! It's the songwriter in me, I suppose...Anyway, this Wednesday, Husband, one of our Madrid friends, Pat, and I met an old "college buddy," Eli, in Madrid for tapas. Getting us out for tapas in Madrid "on a school night" was big, so Eli, if you are reading this...you rate! I would say the reason we don't go out much during the week is because we are old, but that doesn't stop the Spaniards from staying out late ANY night of the week. So I guess I'd have to say it's because we are Americans, okay..."old" Americans. Hahaha...Regardless of our habits, quirks, or whatever you want to call it...when an old friend is in town, you put on your "big girl panties," go out with your friend and show him a good time!

And of course, we had a blast! We wanted to make sure Eli had a good tapas experience, so we steered clear of anything new. We went straight from our meeting place, the Puerta Del Sol, to one of our favorite Madrid bars, Naturbier. One the menu...tortilla espanola, ham and chesse croquettes, chorizo, fried calamari, pimientos de padron, olives, fresh bread, and of course, sangria. We hadn't seen Eli for years, so we had plenty to talk about, and probably could have stayed out longer, but duty called...Eli had a plane to catch back to Turkey the next morning, Marc and Pat had to go to work, and somebody was going to have to pry the kids from their warm little beds in the morning...and that somebody would be me...This was the first time Twelve had babysat Eight on a school night, and though they did go to bed on time, it took them an extra 30 minutes to fall asleep...thus, the necessary prying...sigh...

To finish off the night, Husband suggested our favorite place for churros dipped in melted chocolate, Maestro Churrero. Como se dice "YUM" in espanol??? Hasta luego...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

You Know You're In Trouble When...

...You are trimming your cupcakes with kitchen shears. For Eight's 8th birthday, he wanted me to make cupcakes for him to bring in to his class at school. Sounded simple enough. I'd done this before...many times, no big deal. I had done it earlier that night, in fact. I made cupcakes to take over to Tiff's for dessert, kind of a trial run for Eight's cupcakes I would make later that night. They tasted great, but they looked kind of funny. Later, when I was making the cupcakes for school, I went over the boxes directions again. This box said to beat the batter for four minutes rather than two, as I had done earlier that day. Not realizing they were two different brands, I thought this must be the reason they didn't turn out perfectly earlier. So after mixing the batter for the full four minutes and filling up the tins, I stuck them in the oven. I waited the prescribed amount of time, then opened the oven to the ugliest cupcakes I had ever seen. The tops were cracked and they had spread out completely flat. I was very upset, as my mother-in-law, Dee, can attest. Then upset turned into hysterical. What was I going to do??? It was already 11 o'clock at night! I didn't have time for this! I didn't even know for sure what went wrong. I called Husband into the kitchen, and being the supportive person that he is, he asked why I didn't just make them the same way I had earlier. Sometimes he is such a "man." Obviously, I was going for "perfect!" Oh well, that was a mistake...what I ended up with were cupcakes whose tops looked like the dry, parched dirt of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl. Dee assured me that the kids would not care. Frost the dang cupcakes and call it a night! Was she insane??? Eight, aka Picky McPickerson, was bound to notice and be totally embarrassed that his mom was a terrible baker! We had a couple extras, so Husband tested one and said it tasted fine. It had the consistency of angel food cake almost. He agreed with Dee, frost them and call it a night! There was just one problem...because the cupcakes had risen and then spread out flat, they wouldn't fit in the cupcake carrier. What were we going to do about that??? Then Dee had the brilliant plan to trim the edges of the cupcakes with kitchen shears. I was skeptical, but desperate, so I figured it was worth a try. Dee started trimming as I looked on.
It took every ounce of restraint I had to NOT make another batch of cupcakes after everyone had gone to bed. They didn't look THAT bad, and apparently, they tasted good, so...good enough would have to do. As it turned out, Eight said they were a big hit! So there you go...I worried for nothing, but what else is new?? Recently, I was over at another mom's house. She was making cookies, and complaining that they were coming out flat. She said she thought it was the Spanish butter. Something about the way it's churned. A-ha!!! That was it! These cake mixes called for a stick of butter rather than oil! As cakes, they come out great, but for cupcakes, without any sides of the pan to support them while they baked, they spread out flat and fell...Lesson learned...not the first and most assuredly, not the last! Hasta luego...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Kids Got Smacked At School Today...

...But it's not what you think. Apparently, in Spain, when you get your haircut, you also receive a playful smack in the back of the head from your friends. I took the boys to my friend's house yesterday. She is a hairdresser and cuts hair for a lot of the Americans in her basement "shop." Twelve was very nervous. He hadn't had a haircut since August 30th and though his hair looks good long, it was now WAY too long. Eight needed one as well. He likes to have a "military" haircut like his Dad. Twelve had been asking for a haircut, but when the time came, he was having second thoughts. I told him Madam T would do a good job and that she was a professional, but still, he was nervous about the impending "smackdown." Eight said he wasn't as worried, as he was only in elementary school and he didn't think the kids would hit him that hard. He had a haircut back in November and only a couple kids smacked him around. ;-)

So when the kids came home from school today, I asked if they'd gotten smacked. They both said they did...Eight by two people and Twelvle by TOO many to count. They both were laughing about it though. In my experience, it is way worse when no one notices you've gotten your hair cut at all!

Please consider becoming a "Follower" of my blog. I'm trying to reach 100 Followers by the summer. Hasta luego...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hit Me...Casino Gran Madrid...

I first noticed the Casino Gran Madrid on the drive up to Segovia with Tiff and Tab. Tucked behind some trees, up off the highway, where you could just barely make out the sign, was the Casino Grand Madrid. I couldn't believe it...a casino right outside of Madrid??? I pointed it out to Tiff and Tab and asked them what they knew about it. Was it open? Was it still in business? The sign wasn't lit up. It looked pretty dead, like it might even be out of business. They had no clue. We decided that we should find out and maybe go check it out some day while the kids were at school. Then we got to Segovia, saw the 2,000 year old Roman Acqueduct and forgot all about it. When my in-laws were here in October, I took them up to Segovia and noticed the casino again. This time I remembered to tell Husband when I got home. We love to go to the casino! We decided to do some research and go check it out sometime. Well, that "sometime" was Friday night...

Apparently, the Casino looked dead because it doesn't open until 4pm. It's not a 24/7 casino like we have in the States, but it is open until 5am Monday through Friday and until 6am on Saturdays and Sundays. Spaniards like to stay up AND out late, late, late! The casino's restaurants don't even open for dinner until 9pm. Since we wanted to sample their food, we didn't plan to arrive at the casino until around 9pm. We figured we'd have a little dinner, then hit the tables. We were pretty impressed with the place. It is a full fledged casino. They had Black Jack, Caribbean Stud Poker, Baccarat, Texas Hold 'em, American AND French Roulette (no, I don't know the difference), and of course, slot machines. The only thing missing was Craps. Is that just an American thing? I don't know. The table minimums were very resonable as well, and there were quite a few 5 Euro tables with seats available. We spent a little while walking around the casino and getting the lay of the land. The casino has two main areas off the center lobby, one side is for smokers and the other for the non-smokers...Nice...Here's a nice pic of the front of the Casino from http://www.dmdima.com/ who did an article about it on their website...
We ate at the 25 Euro per person buffet at the Las Vegas, which boasts s full wall mural of the Las Vegas Strip lit up at night. The buffet offered a great variety of foods, complete with skewered fruit ready for dipping in a chocolate fountain. If you were a Spaniard, this buffet would have been a steal...tons of seafood selections, elaborately plated appetizers, creme soups in shot glasses, and lots of other really neat items. I didn't sample everything, but what I did taste, I loved and I went back for more. My favorite thing hands down had to been the fresh fruit doused in chocolate...oh, and the mini creme puffs ready for a chocolate bath as well! One word...YUM! Here is someone's totally illegal picture from the internet (you're never allowed to take photos inside a casino, especially when the buffet is right on the casino floor)...Don't worry, your secret is safe with me...No credits. ;-)
So after shelling out 3 Euros each for the entry fee, and 70 Euros for our dinner (we'll eat at home next time), we found a 5 Euro Black Jack table, and took a seat. Now, Black Jack is Black Jack, for the most part, but there were a few noticeable differences. For one thing, the dealer only takes one card in the beginning, instead of two. It probably doesn't really matter, but it was different that there wasn't another card under his top card. He just starts taking his other cards after all of us are done playing ours. The other thing that was strange to me at the Black Jack table, was anyone could bet on your hand. All they had to do was place some chips behind yours and cast their fate with you. Some guy passing by put his chips behind some lady's hand, and just like that, he lost when she lost. Mostly, this extra betting took place between friends. Two ladies were sitting next to each other at our table, and each would bet 5 Euros on their own hand and 5 Euros on their friend's hand. Very supportive lot, the Spanish...

We played at that same table, sometimes just me, and sometimes Husband too, for about two hours. As the night progressed, we noticed more and more young people, extremely young by US standards, as you only have to be 18 years old to gamble here, filing in and taking places at the tables. Although, I was impressed that most players seemed to be playing well, knowing when to hit and when not to, the teenagers were a little more erratic. Towards the end of the night, one such teenager took our dealer's bust card on more than one occasion. Seeing as we had won back our entrance fee as well as our dinner, we decided to call it a night. As Husband said, just walking through the doors that night was a victory, seeing as it has taken us five months to do so, I had to agree.
As we walked through the parking lot to our our car, more and more young couples were making their way in...I knew we were definitely getting old because we were beat. All we could think about was sleeping in the next morning. I couldn't take any pictures inside the casino, of course. So if you'd like more information about the Casino Gran Madrid, visit their website at http://www.casinogranmadrid.es/

I hope you are enjoying reading all about our little Spanish adventures. If so, please let me know by becoming a follower. All you have to do is click on the "Follow" icon near the top of this page and to the left of this post and follow the directions. Please tell your friends to do the same. I'm shooting for 100 Followers by summer...Thanks for your support. Hasta luego...

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