Friday, January 31, 2014

January Roundup

February, I'm ready to welcome you with open arms! January's been a long roller coaster of a month, but (thanks Leigh!) I'm glad to have an outlet to reflect on the good and enjoyable parts which, as they tend to do, outweigh the lows. The lows weren't cool, but they reminded me of how loved I am, and for that I am thankful. Moving forward for better, and let's skip the worse, here's January:
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Listening to: a super-playlist of 2013 Grammy Winners and 2014 nominees to pump me up for last week’s awards. Glad to see Michael Buble take a win for best traditional album (go Canada!), and SO happy to see Royals by Lorde take the win for best song. Yay too for Macklemore - I can “do” Thrift Shop – why do the catchiest songs have the least appropriate lyrics?

I’m surprisingly into a song by James Blundt at the mo. In general, I’m just not that into him (probably because of American Idol), but I love Bonfire Heart. What’s with the video though? It really doesn’t look like he is singing – the way his mouth opens and closes reminds me of a muppet. Sorry, James. I do love the song though – great guitar and vocals, and really, really lovely lyrics.

Right now Avicci’s Hey Brother is just blaring away. The neighbours probably know all the lyrics by now as well... Yes, the instrumental breaks in all Avicci songs sound the same, but since I like the sound, I don’t mind!

Doing: A lot of crashing on the couch after work. I seem to have lost my exercise groove – it’s dark, damp, and chilly, and the couch is just so inviting! While I enjoy yoga on my own, I’m a gym person at heart. The limited hours means that’s out for the mo (they think a 7am opening time is early – wake up, people. Literally!), and running alone in a giant, unpopulated park is as unappealing as it is stupid, so that leaves... classes. At home. Via the internet. Woohoo! My own timetable, no time wasted "getting there", and I can mix it up.

Soap-making. The other day I helped my mother-in-law whip up a batch of lovely olive-oil rosemary scented hand soaps. Now that I’ve seen the caustic soda live in action, I’m confident more soaps will be born soon. I’m thinking lavender or rose hearts for Valentine’s Day would be cute. I’ve also got a giant crate of plain, serviceable soap she made for washing clothes and other household chores. It smells so clean! Used olive oil went into that batch – you filter it, and the caustic soda takes out any leftovers. A Spanish tradition (anyone use castile soap?) that involves reusing something – I love it! You can also use lard, but I think I’ll stick to the olive oil...

Picture-organizing. I got started on scrapbooking over the summer, and went on a wee supply-buying craze whilst home over Christmas. I’m working on the “sequel” to our wedding – the honeymoon. Lots of great pictures, but definitely lots of repeats (894 pictures of temple ruins in Cambodia. Really.), so I’m hoping a scrapbook will help preserve our memories in a meaningful way. Plus, it’s a craft I’m really getting into. I love how I can work on it for five minutes or five hours – defo works with my schedule.

Buying clothes online. I’ve decided that when I need something “tall”, I’m just going to get it online and save myself the frustration and wasted time looking around Madrid. A skirt, dress, top, and fascinator, all in the sales, are on their way to me now! And Long Tall Sally now ships from its European website, which means prices (and shipping and returns) in euro. Easy-peasy.

Studying for a language test. My Spanish is good excellent. If you want to hablar conmigo, I can demonstrate. If you don’t, I’ll soon be able to show you a paper to prove it. Wish me luck! This certificate will come in handy in the next part (jobs).

Thinking about: Career vs Job. I have a job. Can I turn it into a career? Do I want to? Is there something else I’d like to pursue instead? Many people in Spain are happy with career-jobs (jobs with little or no progression ever), and value instead the stability and schedule. Is there are kind of career-job out there for me? Can hobbies fill the place of professional development? What kind of job or career suits my personal values and professional goals?  Will I be happy teaching in 5 years? 10? My mind is loaded – maybe I should think of retirement at 30?!

Laughing at: Hilarious New Year's resolutions from kids at school:

Myself, after a 4 year old gave me a makeover, complete with finger nail polish. Unfortunately, no pictures, but use your imagination - there was a Hello Kitty makeup kit involved!

This cat picture, which brings back memories of George the witch-cat. I want this cat!
I want this cat!

Reading: It’s been a great month for books, thanks to my family for so many presents while I was home! I do have an e-reader, but there’s nothing like holding an actual book in your hands, and my language of choice is still (and will always be?) English. I’ve got a stack of new novels as well as a suitcase of old friends that I brought back with me, not to mention the stack of magazines I picked up in the airport (thank you, business lounge!). I’m also upping the ante on my daily news intake online. In Canada, I had two newspapers to read every morning, delivered to the door before the crack of dawn. In Madrid, I have to wrestle a free one from the newsboy at the train station – they don’t start handing them out until EXACTLY 7:30 and I go by at 7:28 – and there is no such thing as newspaper delivery. Hey, anyone want a job?

I started the year off with Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda. A thrilling read – historical fiction alert! – of encounters between a Jesuit priest, an Iroquois captive and a Huron chief. FAB. U. LOUS. Boyden’s language is so rich and yet so perfectly portrays the starkness of the landscape in winter, and the three completely different mindsets and cultures of the protagonists. Warning, there are some gruesome torture passages – we’re talking the removal of fingernails as a start – but it’s a beautiful read. Check out Sailor Girl’s review of it here!

I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Margaret Craven. A re-read, and a good followup from The Orenda. An Anglican vicar spends his dying days in a remote Native village on the BC coast, this book was first read to me when I was in grade 5 or 6. It was moving then, and to reread the words now with a deeper understanding of death and history was a pleasure.

Blood and Beauty. Sarah Dunant does it again, this time researching the infamous Borgias in 15th century Italy, who I hadn’t connected to Spain until now. Rodrigo Borgia, a semi-evil political genius, becomes Pope, children are married and unmarried for alliances, foreign dignitaries are courted and manipulated, Valencia is visited, and there are Renaissance artists and art everywhere. Yes, please!

Currently reading A Draught for a Deadman, a mystery by Caroline Roe, who I’ve raved about over here.

Watching: Person of Interest. Yes, it’s the same thing over and over. No, I don’t care! This is our “dinner” watching this month. It’s fast! It’s tense! You know it will end well for the good guys! AND... it looks super-cool on our new giant TV (It was on sale, and it was tax free, so according to Tall Guy, it was a must-buy. And, he says, it’s not “that” big. I don’t quite get it – pretty sure he would classify a TV the size of the entire living room wall as “not that big”. Must be a man-thing).

We saw Lone Survivor earlier this month. Wow. We were both stunned – what a tale of courage and survival, and also of compassion! Tall Guy hadn’t realized such young people could enlist in the American military: “22? That can’t be right!” But it is.  And it’s fine with me if you don’t support war – for me it should be a last resort - but please don’t say you don’t support the military. Those people work hard for you.

Photo: Gf English muffins.  :)Tasting:  Problem – I love toast, but I avoid wheat, and even if I didn’t, toast is just not filling unless there’s a nice poached egg on top, and there’s not always time for that! Enter gluten-free English muffins. Well, that’s what I’m calling them. I changed up this wheat belly bread recipe a bit – less baking soda, only three eggs, and more liquid – and cooked it in my English muffin rings. A toasty breakfast that packs in a lot of protein. Even more when I slap on a pile of peanut butter or homemade Nutella...

BEEF! I’d had a rough week, and Tall Guy came home with something to cheer me up every evening – chocolate, a rose, isn't he great? – but the best was last Friday’s steak. It’s from a company called La Finca, and bills itself as “The Meat of Happiness”. I don’t know about the cows, but I sure was happy eating them! I’m also happy to see more Spanish companies getting interested in farming alternatives –“happy” animals have been hard to find.


  1. Hee hee -- Love Grumpy Cat! And I totally want to make some more soap, soon, too. I made shampoo bars last year and they were a big hit -- I gave them out as Christmas gifts, and a few people have been asking for more. I'm interested in trying olive oil next time, too!

    It's nice to meet another tall girl and commiserate over tall girl problems. This Christmas a friend gave me some flannel pajama pants from Long Tall Sally. Holy smokes! It has changed my life! I didn't know what it was like to be warm at night. (I'd long given up on flannel pants, because they ALWAYS shrink until they're way too short. So I wore yoga pants, which were fine, but never totally warm. OH. THESE LONG FLANNEL PANTS. I'm a convert.

    1. Hi Kathleen!

      Thanks for reading. How nice is it to put on a pair of pants that fit you on the waist AND cover your ankles? I just got a package from LTS in the mail today... did some summer shopping in the winter sale. (PS The blog All The Tall Things is pretty great for fashion ideas, have you read it?)

      I'd love to see your shampoo recipe. I'm hoping to post our (very easy) soap process and pictures soon, and my next "to make" is a massage/moisture bar.

  2. I love Bonfire Heart too!

    Sympathy on the career-vs-job question. I struggle with this a lot.

    1. It's hard - on the one hand, I am so grateful and feel very blessed to have a job in this economy, and a job I enjoy. On the other, it isn't what I thought I would be doing, and I am definitely ready to grow. Grown-up problems. Sigh.

  3. Hey Brother has been getting a ton of radio play here. Crazy catchy. I so relate to your whole career vs. job section. No easy answers there.

    1. I'm glad Hey Brother at least has child-appropriate lyrics. Lots of songs the kids sing at school are SO BAD, but since neither they nor their parents realize, there are a lot of 6 year olds singing Gangnam Style and Scream and Shout and the like. At least they like music and are listening to English, right? ....

  4. Yes yes yes to the Tall clothes online. I can't even imagine trying to shop for tall clothes in Spain... I'm only 5'8" and I felt like a giant there!

  5. I'm not in Spain, but I am six foot and coming to the conclusion to buy tall clothes online and not even look in stores. And the career/job conundrum, yes. I've never wanted a career, so I thought, but I like the idea of learning and growing in a position or field, but don't want to be stuck in one thing. Sigh, Leigh's right: no easy answers. Hope you can find some for yourself soon.