Friday, November 28, 2014

The Fall Roundup

September flew by in a whirl of back-to-school madness, which continued to carry me through October. The weather has been atypically great. It’s been a pretty warm fall. A warm September is called “Veranillo de San Miguel” – Saint Michael’s Little Summer, and a warm October is known as “Verano Azul” – Blue Summer. We had a week in which I was wearing my wintery clothes, but that’s it! It’s been great at school – hardly an indoor recess, and no wet feet on the way to work.
pigs one of my students painted - the one on the right is mad :)
Now November is just about over, too, and frankly, it felt a lot more like March and the lead-up to spring rather than the beginning of the crisp Christmas season. On the one hand, the mild weather is great – sometimes winter can feel too long, cold and dark! Plus, I can take the kids outside a lot at school. On the other, plants and animals have no idea what’s going on, and I myself count on changes in temperature to help mark the seasons. 

I'm linking up with Leigh to share what I've been up to since August:
Grab button for What I'm Into

Going: To school, mostly! It’s great! I am CLOSE to HOME (never before in Spain have I had such an easy, humane commute – 20 minutes walking and I'm there! Much better than an hour and a half on the bike and train, or two hours on the subway, train and walking.). I even come home for lunch some days.
early morning traffic on the way to the doc
In September, Tall Guy and I went to a benefit concert for a charity supporting alternative treatments for children with leukemia, including music and aromatherapy. The songs were all popular Spanish songs from back in the day, interpreted by the Spanish and Monacan Military orchestras. The second half was classical Spanish opera (Zarzuela) instrumentals. Such a fun evening! I didn’t know a lot of the songs, but I sure enjoyed them, and the musicians were very good.

I’ve been going to yoga regularly since the middle of September. There’s a physiotherapy centre by my house that offers yoga and Pilates. It’s very convenient and extra-safe, since I’m exercising for two. The best part is there’s only one other woman in the class, and it’s quiet! My last experience with yoga in Madrid was not the greatest – people talked throughout the class, and one student was even quite rude, which put a damper on the calming, uplifting side of things. This class, which also incorporates music (I love that!), is very personalized and I always leave feeling relaxed and stretched as well as stronger.

In October, my mom came to visit. We went to El Escorial, a place I love to visit – the monastery is so impressive! Tall Guy didn’t remember going as a child, my mom had never been, and I always enjoy a walk through the majestic space. Mom and I also went for an evening visit to the Cerralbo Museum, which I raved about after visiting for the first time in August. Well, on a dark fall evening it is even more impressive! It also happened to be free, which just sweetened the deal, but this museum is well worth the minimal entry fee (3 euros). The ballroom looked especially lovely bathed in warm electric light and it was easy to imagine the opulent soirees that were once held here.
sky ride over casa de campo, looking toward the palace
In November, we joined some friends for a day out in Madrid – always good to explore one’s own city – and took the Teleferico cable car across Madrid for lunch in the Casa de Campo park. Madrid, as seen from above, is truly beautiful. A lot of the ride is over parkland, and the number of trees in the city is certainly impressive. The views of the palace and Almudena cathedral were also stunning. We lingered over lunch, as the Spanish tend to do, and didn’t have time for a wander through the park, too bad considering the gorgeous fall colours.

Reading: I’ve been reading a lot of teaching articles and children’s books. The best book of the term is, without doubt, Pete the Cat. The kids LOVE Pete! They have only to see my hand reach up toward the shelf where Pete and the books sit and they’re on the edge of their seats, crazy with anticipation.

At home I reread Anne of Ingleside, perused my cookbook collection, focusing on It’s All Good, and flipping through back issues of fall Chatelaine. I sped through The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion, laughing out loud throughout both stories. On the heavier side, I’m in the midst of C.S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy, an autobiographical account of Lewis’s faith.
lago, the lake in casa de campo and our lunchtime view
While I don’t remember if I enjoyed Crow Lake or not (it was a long time ago), I loved The Other Side of the Bridge, Mary Lawson’s second novel, also set in Northern Ontario. Apart from loving reading Canadian literature and connecting instantly with the landscape and people, it’s an intriguing tale connecting two generations, two brothers, urban and rural, family and independence. I couldn't put it down - that's saying a lot these days, since I can fall asleep anywhere, on anything remotely comfortable. 
Watching: I saw the film version of Water for Elephants. I enjoyed the book, and the movie was a good follow-up. Now I want to see the 100 Year Old Man to compare (good companion reads, hopefully good companion views as well).

We saw King of Devil’s Island, a bleak film based on true events at a boys’ reform center, Bast√ły, in Norway. Sad but beautiful, and it makes me glad I live in a time when children are not shipped off to remote islands in hopes of correcting their poor behaviour.

We also enjoyed Tracks, which tells the amazing story of the very determined Robyn Davidson, and was completely blown away by the desert landscape in Australia. I knew there was a desert, but had never considered just how vast it is!
In the theatre, Interstellar was neither here nor there for me. I was entertained but not blown away. I was too hot, and kind of just wanted to go to bed. So maybe if I'd seen it at another time, I would have liked it more...
the palace and Almunda Cathedral
My favourite move during these past few months was The Railway Man, based on the true story of reconciliation between British soldier Eric Lomax and Japanese soldier Takashi Nagase. A beautiful and moving story, proving forgiveness after tragedy is possible.

Eating: Buckwheat pancakes topped with maple and pear. I love the flavour of buckwheat, not to mention it’s gluten-free and packed with more protein and nutrients than conventional white flour. I love pancakes, and pretty much anything is game for toppings. Sweet, savoury, I go both ways. For a Saturday breakfast in the fall, I love using maple yogurt (homemade!), pear, toasted coconut and walnuts (toasting is so worth the extra five minutes it takes – such a lovely aroma and rich flavour), topped with a dash of cinnamon.

If breakfast isn’t pancakes topped with yogurt, it’s yogurt topped with homemade cereal. This week’s batch has almonds, coconut and cranberries. Yummy.

I rediscovered a recipe for chocolate avocado pudding (WHY haven’t I made you for so long?!), the perfect creamy dessert or recess snack.

My best salad these months was a recipe from October’s Chatelaine, summer-roll salad. It is much less fussy than making actual rolls, and filling as a meal on its own. It brought back memories of our lovely honeymoon, during which we visited Vietnam.
templo de debod at night - amazing reflections!
Clementines are just coming into season and nothing smells Christmas-on-the-way to me more than the fresh, bright smell of clemetines.  Also, I think the baby likes them...

Drinking: Water, sparkling water, ice cold water, hot water with a squeeze of lemon. Can you say Par-tay!?

I did treat myself to some fancy loose leaf vanilla rooibos from a posh tea store, and a caffeine-free Earl Grey. I can’t say I’m a fan of decaf flavour (it really does taste different!), but when I really want a good cuppa, it’s nice to have on hand.

I’ve also gone through quite a lot of ginger ale – thank you, Tall Guy, for tracking down and buying me bottles and bottles of it.
library in the cerralbo museum - jealous, anyone? I am!
Doing: Fighting colds. A major downside to teaching younger grades, it’s germ-city.

Journaling:  As in, pen to the paper. I’m back at it, and it feels good.

Nesting: It’s not the most interesting, but I have hemmed some curtains and done some mending. I’ve reorganized the kitchen cupboards and bedroom closets several times, and you could lick even the bathroom floor and not get sick – this place is clean!


  1. I was very happy to finally make it to El Escorial and how did we walk past Cerralbo Museum so many times over the years and not even know it was there! My eyes need a second visit to that one!
    It was good to walk on to Templo de Debod for my first time of seeing it at night. Spectacular.
    I'm adding the cable car to my "to do" list for a future visit to Madrid. Also happy you are enjoying the books that I brought

  2. What a lovely few months you've had! I'm impressed with all of it.

    1. Hi Leigh, Thanks for checking in. It's great to be linking up again!