2013: The Forgotten Year

Ahhh New Years Eve. The day when we reflect on the year gone by and look to the next with hopes of losing ten pounds, getting that promotion, buying a new car, and spending more time with friends. Sure, you hoped for those same things last year but hey, this is a NEW year and this time you are serious. But I digress…

In all honesty, I haven’t the faintest idea of what I “resolved” to achieve in 2013. Clearly, it was not blogging. This might be the worst kept blog in history considering I have not written in over a year. As you can see from the above, I’ve been forced to deem 2013 “The Forgotten Year” based on the fact that it is anything but documented. So before it slips away at the stroke of midnight, let’s reflect, shall we?

I’m most happy about…

  • Holding not one but TWO jobs throughout the entire year that have opened great doors when it comes to traveling, eating, writing, leading and learning.
  • Achieving a new PR for a half marathon in March here in Miami (1:54:53)!
  • Becoming the mother of a hedgehog named Watson. While it’s nice having a pet around, please consult me if you are thinking of owning a hedgehog and don’t trust those pictures of hedgehogs dressed in cute outfits.
  • Ending a year of long distance (the worst) with the boyfriend when he decided to return last July to get his MBA at University of Miami.
  • Seeing some great concerts including Luke Bryan, Shaggy (yes, Mr. Boombastic himself), The Henningsens (on a private yacht), and finally The Book of Mormon on tour and Avenue Q Off-Broadway.
  • Being back again in Coral Gables, affording me the ability to cheer on my Hurricanes at Sunlife Stadium throughout the season, although the best game by far was against University of Florida when all my old college amigos returned for a reunion unlike any other.

I traveled to…

  • Nashville for a best friend’s birthday
  • Bogota, Colombia once again to celebrate Valentine’s Day with mi amor
  • Jamaica three times for a TV shoot, press trip AND much needed vacation
  • Saint Lucia for a culinary press trip
  • The Bahamas to work at the aforementioned Shaggy concert
  • Turks & Caicos for a TV shoot
  • New York for both my birthday and a work event
  • Orlando to go to Disneyworld with my grandma and extended family (no drinking around the world this time!)
  • Denver for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas (my family must really love me)
  • Key West for a couples retreat with the roomie and our boyfriends
  • Chicago for the first time to celebrate Independence Day with the fam

Of course, you can bet that I enjoyed some amazing meals around Miami and beyond. Special shout outs to My Ceviche, Eating House, Swine, Khong River House, Bread + Butter, Bulla, PB Steak, Bombay Darbar and Miami Culinary Tours (in Little Havana, South Beach AND Wynwood) for appeasing my appetite time and time again. I also tried new and exciting foods throughout the Caribbean and developed a liking for ackee and saltfish, fresh coconut water, conch fritters, and patties, all of which I plan to share more about in the coming year.

I hope you will eagerly join me in my pursuit to blog more as I share my  adventures around Miami and beyond (think Jamaica, Colombia, maybe even Cuba).

Cheers!

It’s Never Really Goodbye

My last days in Spain centered about the visit of my grandparents and relatives from Germany, the EuroCopa and, of course, the always dreadful packing. In between doing the standard touristy things (checking out the Prado, eating at Mercado San Miguel, taking a daytrip to Segovia), I was also trying to jam the past nine months of my life into three suitcases and a couple handbags. It was a tad crazy to say the least.

Thanks to the cleaning expertise of my grandma, we were able to do some scrubbing on Saturday and by the afternoon closed the door to my Spanish apartment forever. I spent my last night eating tapas with my visitors and avoiding the Gay Pride festivities for the sanity of my grandpa who saw a few too many men in high heels than he could handle.

My grandparents had never been to Paris before so wanted to make a pit stop there en route to Germany. I’ll never refuse a trip to Paris (even if only for a day and a half), and they invited Gabe to come along which was the cherry on top.

After the rapid-fire sightseeing in Paris, we bid Gabe adieu and jumped on the train to Germany. While there I got to see the town my grandpa grew up in, eat plenty of German food and talk with family. After all this though, I can say I feel a bit relieved to be on the plane and know that I am going home for good and will soon be unpacking my suitcases on American soil once and for all… Well, for now.

Things I will miss about Madrid:

1. Kissing on two cheeks You know that moment when you meet someone and don’t know whether to go in for the handshake, hug or cheek kiss? Well no need to worry about this in Spain- you always always kiss on two cheeks. You never have to worry about an awkward greeting situation again!

2. Football Or soccer for Americans. I am sure that I will fall right back into watching American football but over this past year I have come to rely on watching soccer games as a weekly activity. It’s the best way to relax with friends and get out without going too hard.

3. Wine It’s cheap and delicious. Spainiards combine it with Coke to make a calimoxo or lemon Fanta to make tinto de verano. The best.

4. Snacks with your drinks I remember coming home for winter break and longing for something to snack on while I sipped my drink. Whether it’s simply potato chips (ok, even those are better in Spain), or olives, it’s the smart and delicious.

5. Visitors Since I have mainly wrote on this blog about my trips, I rarely talked in depth about those that have made trips to me. Luckily, many of my friends decided to use me living in Spain as an excuse to travel to Europe and I do not blame them. First was Taylor. We ran a half-marathon together and toured Cadiz.

Then came Dylan. We got to go to a Real Madrid soccer game and check out Toledo.

Since there were a couple of us from UM in Madrid, we had a couple come together for a little Miami reunion.

Finally was Dani. We checked out a flamenco show, watched soccer games and walked a lot!

6. The metro Sure I kind of miss my car but never having to worry about filling up on gas, traffic or getting a speeding ticket while going anywhere is pretty great.

7. Mealtimes Something I once dreaded, I have come to appreciate. I understand the purpose of a big lunch (although I often don’t abide by it) and I love having a late dinner. It gives me time to do everything else I need to do and truly enjoy my last meal of the day before going to bed.

8. Picnics in the park Between Parque del Oeste to Parque Retiro, there are places to picnic close to wherever you might be. Pick up some cheese, bread, meat, wine and fruit from the grocery store (Simply is my favorite supermercado), and you have he perfect afternoon.

9. Malasaña This is a neighborhood in Madrid that is my absolute favorite. With kitschy restaurants, cute boutiques, sunny plazas, and fun bars, it stole my heart and was my go-to area when I had some free time on hand.

10. The people From my Spanish work colleagues to new friends both Spanish and American, I feel so lucky to have gotten close with so many different people in only nine months. This might be what I will miss the most.

After I left Madrid the first time in 2009, I did not think I would ever return. I thought the same thing when I left Miami last August but turns out, I will be moving back there again tomorrow! Long story short, if I have learned anything over this past year it is that it is never really goodbye.

Feliz Navidad!

I promise this is my last post exuding holiday cheer (maybe). As I sit on a plane bound for Colorado with eight and a half hours to go, it only seems appropriate to take a few minutes to reflect on some Spanish Christmas traditions that I’ve come to take part in the past few weeks.

Now that I’m a working girl, one could only hope to partake in a “holiday office party” that always seemed so wild and crazy as a young kid listening to parents gossip about. Thankfully, teachers like to have fun too (who knew?) and we have been nonstop celebrating. To begin, last Friday night we had a staff dinner in a town right outside of the city center. Long story short, the dinner began at 9 and did not end until 2:30. Welcome to Spain.

The past few days at school have consisted not of grading homework and repeating questions like “What is your name?” but rather, drilling the lyrics of “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” into my student’s little non-English understanding brains. All our work lead up to the Christmas concert yesterday morning at Estremera’s Cultural Center for all their parents to see and hear. Remember those teachers who would always have to stand at the corner of the stage waving their hands and dancing for the kids to follow? This girl. I figured you would be sad about missing out on the festivities so compiled the hour-long concert into this two minute video:

Jealous much? Probably not… But on another note, I must admit it’s a good thing I am starting to even enjoy being with these little rugrats. I sure hope it lasts the next six months.

Afterwards, us teachers gathered for another huge meal at school to commemorate our last time together until we come back January 9. It consisted of way too much food that left me unable to eat for the rest of the day, along with singing and happiness. While I can’t help but complain about my long commute and tiring days, I feel truly lucky to work with such a great group of people who make going to work not too daunting.

Away from school, me and friends had some gatherings of our own including a festive holiday shindig, Ugly Sweater Party, and boozy holiday brunch. I even managed to get all my Christmas shopping done along the way.

In Spain, kids do not ask for presents from Santa, but the Reyes Magos. These three kings bring the kiddos presents on January 6 but our American Papa Noel is starting to creep his way into households all over, forcing parents to buy their children presents not only on January 6, but December 25. Sneaky, sneaky children. One other Spanish Christmas phenomenon is the lottery. La Loteria de Navidad is gigantic and announced every December 23. I forked over 20 Euros for a ticket but alas, did not win.

Besides that, I can say that I have consumed more sweets over the past four weeks than I did on every Halloween combined. From turon to polvorones to churros con chocolate and bizcocho… I can say for once I am all sweeted out for the time being. (and I didn’t even get to try the traditional roscon de reyes). These treats have infiltrated my school and let me tell you, nothing offends a Spaniard more than refusing their offer for food. One day, I added to the mix by baking pumpkin muffins with cream cheese frosting that I made with overpriced ingredients bought from Taste of America. Seeing as it such an atypical pastry to the Spanish tongue, they were a huge hit. I’ll definitely be bringing cake mix and baking supplies back to Madrid with me because it’s nearly impossible to find and when you do, it’s marked up a ridiculous amount.

I cannot believe Christmas Eve is tomorrow and while I’m definitely ready, I don’t know if I’m excited to return to Madrid in January knowing that all the bright lights, markets and bustling crowds will be gone. Even so, I’ve already begun to draft a bucket list for everything I want to accomplish for my next six months in the city and if all pans out, it’s going to be a pretty great year.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays!

 

Christmas Gets Serious

There’s no denying ’tis the season. Thank goodness Christmas is celebrated worldwide (unlike Thanksgiving) so I am able to carry out all my normal holiday traditions thousands of miles away from my family and best friends. I have been in the Christmas spirit since the day after Thanksgiving with holiday tunes blasting every chance I get, watching movies like Love Actually and Elf, and using the holiday as an excuse to eat treats in Spain like turron. A friend of mine remarked the other day that I may take Christmas too seriously. But is it my fault I’m just excited it’s that time of year? I think not. His remark came after realizing all the traditions I try to keep up that I’ve carried around with me since I was very young. I started reflecting on all of them and sure, there’s a lot but they are anything but serious and I will keep continue and pass them on to my family in the future. Thought I would list some of them out here and let you decide for yourself. In the meantime, I hope everyone is in the holiday spirit too!

Christmas music begins the day after Thanksgiving (and continues everyday until December 26). We spend almost every Thanksgiving in Red River, New Mexico where my grandparents live. Driving home the day after, our first music selection was more often than not Garth Brooks Christmas. This year, one of my favorite albums is MIchale Buble’s new one which I would highly suggest if you haven’t heard it yet.

Advent Calendar. The German tradition of Advent Calendars is something I can thank my grandparents for imparting onto me. Every Christmas since I can remember, I recall my grandma bringing me and my brother a calendar for the month of December that doles out a piece of German chocolate everyday. There’s no better way to start off a day than with a tiny piece of chocolate!

Christmas trees must be real. I’ve always protested any time my mom might have hinted at the idea of getting a fake Christmas tree. What’s the point of having one if you don’t get the smell of fresh pine wafting through the house? That’s just not Christmas. Not to mention, our arguments in the Christmas tree farm as me and my brother push for the biggest one we can find is just priceless.

Dad’s Christmas letter. Those who are lucky enough to get the Glenn family Christmas card know that Dave Glenn knows how to make someone laugh. While our 2-page update on the fam is usually half fabricated, it’s something I even look forward to reading each and every year.

Grandma’s Christmas cookies. Every year I can count on a tin of cookies from Grandma that are always the same- biscochitos and thumbprint cookies with raspberry jam.

Christmas Eve runs on a schedule. I don’t know when this all began but in the past few years, Christmas Eve has become even a greater day than Christmas. Our evening begins with a new movie to be agreed on by the fam (in the past it’s been Slumdog Millionaire, Night Before Christmas, Juno, etc.), then we head to a nice dinner at a place like Vesta Dipping Grill or the Brown Palace. Then, it’s off to Midnight Mass at Montview where I get to see my friend Becca for a present exchange and then we return back home to sleep soundly until it’s time for presents. There have been times in years past where my mom and Dylan didn’t quite make it to church, but thankfully, my dad always sticks by my side until the bitter end. What’s Christmas without belting Hark the Herald Angel Sings? (Or Hark the Hairy Angel Sings according to Dave)

Sharing the love with my Jewish friends. Christmas is undoubtedly a time to spend with family but that can be a hard pill to swallow for a pair of preteen best friends to grasp. Hence the reason many years ago, my best friend Dani started coming over every Christmas morning after we finished opening presents to play with all my presents with me. From Karaoke Revolution to many versions of Scene It, she’s our adopted Jewish daughter and I count on her knock on the door every Christmas morning.

Of course, we still get presents from Santa and he still deserves milk and cookies while the reindeers get carrots. Sure someday my traditions will have to be tweaked but for now, I’m content with them all and think that they’re anything but serious.

The Not-So-Mundane Post

I cannot believe how much time has passed since I last blogged. With aims of not boring you with every mundane detail of my life, I sometimes forget to say anything at all. Since I last wrote of Halloween festivities, a few members of Anna’s family came in which made for a full apartment but very enjoyable weekend. On one of the nights they were here we made our return to the Prado for the first (and certainly not last) time. Afterwards, I had the most authentic Madrid dinner to date consisting of oxtail stew, rabbit with escargot, lamb and fish with prawns. It was delicious.

Rabbits and snails anyone?

Once they jetted off to Valencia, I experienced my first full week of school in awhile, ripe with two private classes, meetings, and rambunctious children that left me pretty exhausted by the end of it all. Overall, the week actually went by pretty fast and soon enough it was the weekend again and we (or should I say Anna) had another visitor. She’s making me feel rather unpopular so if any of you have even the tiniest inkling to visit Spain, I’m telling you there is no better time than now. Just sayin’…

Ahead of me is another full week of school, a Yelp event tomorrow night, and whatever else presents itself along the way. At the beginning of this post I did say that I wanted to avoid boring you with mundane details about my life and since I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I just did, I will leave you with five more or less interesting recent observations:

  1. I heard that recently in the U.S. a petition to put graphic pictures on cigarette boxes was struck down. Here, they do that and on one side is this message while the other has a picture of a tumor, cancerous cells, or something of the like. The one on this box was a little too graphic to post but this sentence basically lets the smoker know smoking endangers your health and the health of those around you. Can’t say it dissuades many people from smoking still.
  2. Walking to work the other day I came across these poles outfitted in yarn. I think it’s cool someone took the time to do something like that for no real reason:
  3. While studying abroad my coffee-hating self fell in love with café con leche but these days I’m all about the cortado, it’s tinier, less-milky cousin.
  4. You always hear about how young adults in Spain live with their parents until they are 30 and now that I actually have friends in their mid-twenties doing this, you realize just how prevalent it is. On the plus side you don’t have to worry about paying for rent and plenty of food is included but you can imagine some grievances. This trend is even more pervasive these days seeing as unemployment is at an all time high- a whopping 21.5 percent. Have I mentioned Spain is in the midst of a severe economic crisis?
  5. Finally, Podcasts are wonderful. They’ve become my saving grace as far as entertainment goes on my long bus ride. Every day I download the most recent Today Show (first hour) and NBC Nightly News to watch, while NPR’s weekly “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” current events quiz show is so funny. I also have an instructional German Podcast  to help me brush up on my German but I’m not going to lie, that one can sometimes put me to sleep. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

You Live and You Learn

72 hours, many miles and some tears later, I can happily say I finally retrieved my bags. I went to the airport for the third time yesterday to get my luggage that was arriving on a flight from Miami that morning. For whatever reason Iberia decided that my belongings were better off sitting on a cart in Miami than actually getting on a plane to Madrid for three entire days. To say that I’m a bit peeved is a grand understatement but I am relieved I could spend all of yesterday unpacking and settling in just a little bit more. To say that I am unbelievably grateful for having such wonderful parents who helped me through the ordeal would also be an understatement (and I’m not even trying to suck up). This just proved once again, you’re never too old to need a little parental support every now and then.

I find myself continually relying on the phrase “You live and you learn.” So far I’ve learned how to handle a lost luggage situation, if you go to a restaurant at 9 p.m. there will still not be anyone ready to eat dinner (that doesn’t happen until about 10) and Chino shops are the best for buying just about everything and I should never have spent so much money at Corte Ingles when I studied abroad. This is just a very short list but you get the point.

Highlights of the past few days involve returning to the things that I love including: running through Parque del Oeste, una napolitana de chocolate and cafe con leche at Mallorquina and very cheap wine. Today we even made it to Parque del Retiro to munch on some bocadillos (sandwiches) and bask in the beautiful weather. Tonight I put our kitchen to the test to cook my very first dinner! We’ve been having some great meals trying out restaurants in our neighborhood but I was eager to see how it worked out. I started slow with some tortellini just to be on the safe side. I was a bit nervous seeing as this is what I was dealing with:The end product was not too shabby so we’ll see what more I can cook up in these upcoming months!

One Final Hurrah: UM vs. OSU Weekend

I left Colorado early Thursday morning wearing a t-shirt, jeans and sandals despite the fact it was rainy and barely fifty degrees outside. While some at the Denver airport may have thought I looked crazy, I knew I’d be just fine because I was heading to sunny MIA. After a seemingly quick flight I ended up at an all-too-familiar glider at the Rat surrounded by some of my best friends. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if I tried.

The weekend only went up from there. After an exhilarating (albeit overwhelming) night at my favorite Grove haunts, I woke up Friday morning ready to soak up some sun. After getting burnt at the beach it was time for happy hour at none other than Monty’s. There I was surprised by people I didn’t even know were coming into town, saw many familiar faces and loved catching up with everyone. While my night could have happily ended there, some of us journeyed into Brickell and, while it was fun, I only had one thing on my mind: Gameday.

Saturday morning meant the arrival of two of my best friends and we grabbed breakfast as quick as we could in the morning to catch up. The football game was scheduled for 7:30 but of course, we had to power hour by 12:30. By 2 in the afternoon we were on a packed and sweaty bus heading to Sun Life Stadium. Looking around at my fellow passengers ranging from current sophomores at UM to UM alum from 2009, I felt right at home. The tailgate was just like any other, full of dancing, eating, drinking and, in short, pretending to be an undergrad. Eventually game time rolled around and we made it to the stadium and we watched our team take down OSU. It was easily one of the best Hurricane games I have ever been to.

Sunday was bittersweet to say the least. While we were still high off our big win, most people had to head back to their new homes and we knew this marked the last time we would see each other for awhile. Despite some tears, I’d say we were very thankful to have such an amazing weekend together and I really could not have asked for anything better.

For me the reality of change came when I got my flight confirmation email Sunday night for my flight to Madrid set for next Sunday. Since the LA Consulate promised my Visa would arrive by then, we felt secure to book it and while I’m very relieved, I’m anxious just thinking about all the preparations I have ahead of me these next few days. My dad booked the flight that has me laying over in Miami so I’ll have a chance to grab a cortadito from Cafe Versailles one last time. Either that or I’ll call one of my friends to come grab me from the airport if I get cold feet… We’ll hope for the former.