Saturday, January 31, 2015

January Roundup

an amazing flower box. in january!
January. It’s the month that always fills me with senses of possibility and potential. A new year seems like great timing for new beginnings. Lately I've been finding a word to guide my intentions for the year. This year, it's delight. Delighting in pregnancy, the coming baby, my job, my city, friends and family - it's a good word that I hope will help me stay positive through the life changes ahead.

Despite round two of laryngitis and a cold (part and parcel of teaching and living in dry, dry Madrid), this was a go-get-‘em January, a jam-packed month filled with friends and family, excursions and events, work, books, mail (two packages and four letters!), writing (for money!), and, yes, rest.

I now schedule in rest time, and have started considering rest in a new way. I like doing, and have to adjust that I can't do things at the same pace as my non-pregnant self. Rest is important for Baby and me right now, and I’ve been reframing the idea so I don’t think of it as time-wasting (which it never is, anyway). I listen to relaxing music or a guided meditation, turn on the oil diffuser (my favourites are lavender to relax, eucalyptus to breathe, and mandarin to energize), and put my feet up for some good old fashioned R&R. Sometimes I nap, sometimes I read, sometimes I just lounge on the couch.

I'm linking up again with Leigh, and here's what I've been up to when not resting:

What I'm Into

Reading: Caught, by Lisa Moore. It's a crime novel from the intertwined perspective of the detective and the soon-to-be repeat offender. It's Moore (Newfoundland, multiple, frank voices), but with the added dimension of crime. I like it.

The Hundred Foot Journey, by Richard C. Morais. A book for foodies and travellers alike, this is a story about breaking barriers, making enemies into friends, and following dreams. It left me hungry for a fancy French dinner, and I'm hoping to catch the film version this month.

I'm reading The Complete Works of Beatrix Potter to Baby, who likes the Tailor of Gloucester best (me too). Baby also likes Just Me and My Mom, by Mercer Mayer, and Babies by Gyo Fujikawa.
great views of madrid (and proof of air pollution)
Going: We went out for dinner and a movie (La Barriguita for Mexican, and Taken 3), and for dinner with friends (Muki, Japanese), taking advantage of our last few months of not needing a babysitter.

On New Year’s Day, we checked out El Cerro de Tio Pio, commonly known as "Seven tit park" which offers great views of the city, from, you guessed it, seven hilltops. If you’re living here, or have visited before and seen the main sights, this park is for you. 

the walled city of avila from the cuatro postes lookout
We took a road trip to Avila, stopping at the Toros de Guisando, where I nearly had a heart attack at the sight of parents actively encouraging their children to climb on these ancient sculptures for photo-ops! Sure, get up nice and close to have a really good look, but climb on them? Let’s try to keep them in shape for posterity, please! Anyway, it was fun to see something I’d studied in university and that has played a role in Spanish history

standing very close to, but not touching (!!!) the bulls
It was a beautiful day in Avila – I’d been hoping for snow, but the sunshine and mild temperatures melted away my disappointment. I didn’t even need a coat – just a sweater and a vest! The main thing to do in Avila is to take a self-guided tour along the top of the city's medieval walls, which are the best-preserved in Europe. An audioguide pointed out many places of historical significance; I was mainly interested in those that related to Saint Teresa of Avila, a mystic and author who I also read about in university. She's the patron saint of headache sufferers, as well as the originator of the Carmelite reform, re-focusing the order on austerity and contemplation. I personally didn't feel the need to check out any of her preserved body parts on display at churches around the city, but if you're into relics, there's that, too!
The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything. 
- Saint Teresa of Avila
saint teresa cookies - couldn't bring myself to eat one...
There are tons of churches and monasteries to visit, but after the walls we only had time for one. We chose the main cathedral, and I'm so glad we did. While we were there, four nuns came in (the city is filled with nuns, both residents and visiting), and started singing their vespers. Their voices filled the enormous space and you could feel people become more peaceful. A truly beautiful moment. 
looking at the cathedral from along the walls

Eating: One-pot dishes from Healing Cuisine By Elise. I make a couple of these up on the weekend, and they last us through the week. Tall Guy loves the salmon casserole (in which I used Greek yogurt instead of cashews), and I'm partial to the white bean chili. I made it with turkey and served it on a bed of spinach, but it would be equally good with more vegetables and no meat.

Last night we hosted Community Tapas, a monthly event at the Community Church of Madrid, where everyone brings a dish and a drink to share to someone's house. The event is a mix of the Spanish tradition of tapas and raciones (little dishes to try things and share), and anglophone pot-lucks. I made artichoke dip to go with a plate of vegetables. Yummy! There were delicious chocolate chip cookies, dainty tea biscuits, cake, and stroppwafels on the sweet side, and a really great chicken dish, guacamole, and stuffed garlic bread on the savoury.  Good food and good company, and a great way to entertain - all I did to prepare was to get out napkins, glasses and plates!
just your average saturday protest in sol (massive shopping fail!)

Praying: For a friend’s baby to arrive safely, which she did last Sunday! I’m so excited for her during this time of change.

so cold i cry frozen tears.
my eyes, my eyes!
check out the footprint penguins my students made!

Watching: We watched two great films this month - The Grand Budapest Hotel and About Time. The Grand Budapest Hotel has been on my watch-list for a while, because a guy from my home church worked on the sound mixing! Very cool to watch a movie and see a name you know in the credits. And what a great story! 

About Time, yet another gem from Richard Curtis, had me bawling at the end (hormones? I think I would have teared up under normal circumstances). It's emotive, but not sad, and not your typical rom-com, either (here's the proof - Tall Guy liked it, and had it been a typical rom-com, he wouldn't have watched to the end, or at least not without a lot of eyebrow raising!). It's a story about relationships, focusing mainly on a strong bond between a father and a son, and leading a rich life.


  1. I didn't realize The Hundred Foot Journey was based on a book. I think I would've liked it better in book format. As a movie, I found it overly long and extremely slow. I love the idea of scheduling rest time. Sounds smart and healthy!

    1. The book was great - lots of rich food detail. :)

  2. I kind of love the St. Teresa cookies. So cute!