little sarah Big World

Tag: festivities

Happy Birthday to Me!

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The Lessons I Never Learned

Today is my birthday, and that is a happy thing. I am one year older, one year closer to remembering that I can’t have 7 drinks on a Saturday night and feel fine the next day. Right? This is a lesson I will learn, eventually?

Because hangovers are NOT a happy thing, and yet I’ve devoted the past two Sundays almost exclusively to honoring them. Oops.

Today I am 26 years old and not even stressed about it. I’ve been working on embracing confrontation, on standing up for myself and fighting for what I want. So 26 seems promising. I had ridiculously high hopes for 25 (that being my favorite number and all…), and though it was certainly a year of growth, acceptance, and transformation, it was also kind of a lonely shit fest.

My hopes for 26 are more reasonable. It is more about steady change and movement.

I think Lindsey friend said it best when she said “I always think odd years are going to be awesome, but the even years are usually better.” TRUE.

Especially if you put a lot of value into numbers, which I DO.

Today is my birthday, I am 26 years old, and I have received many lovely, thoughtful gifts, chief among them thing homemade e-card from Kevin. All photos were taken by him, in Madrid, and…

…and the panda thing is a reference to Saturday night. Night of the 7 Drinks. Apparently, in a late night international phone call that I do not remember, I drunkenly lamented that I would “never be as cute as a panda bear.”

Aaand then I fell asleep on the phone.

*       *       *

Oh, but that was back when I was still 25, Friends. Today I am 26, which means that last night I only had six drinks, and today I am only a little hung over. Totally different. Totally mature. Totally worth it:

Parcels

My birthday is coming up soon.

I never know quite how to feel about that…

A Labor of Love

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I Bake Because I Care

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I Bake Because You Are 70-Years-Old and Deserve Something Delicious

My Granny Mary turned 70 on Thursday. 70, Friends! Isn’t that amazing? Maybe you can’t tell from my low-lighting, high-motion picture, but she is a fox. She can pull off that sweater-with-leggings-and-boots look better than anyone I know. This is a woman who grew up on a rural farm in Idaho, became a mother in her teens, a grandmother in her 30s and a great grandmother (several times over) before most people have entered retirement. A woman who loves butter, wine, travel, gossip, sewing, saving, and a good story.

A woman who deserves a loaf of sweet, cinnamon pull-apart bread, even if it does take the better part of an already busy day to make. Because baking bread is a labor of love, it is something so personal and involved and messy, requiring patience and faith and a whole lot of sugar and spice and everything nice. But Granny Mary is worth all that.

I used this recipe from Joy the Baker, whom I adore (though not as much as my grandma, just sayin). It’s not a difficult recipe, just time consuming, as there is a lot of waiting involved. I used the waiting parts to run errands and go for a run. I’m nothing if not productive.

Anyways, you start out by making some dough, with yeast and everything, which stills feels like exciting, uncharted baking territory for me. You let it rise in a warm spot for an hour, while you mix up some cinnamon sugar (with nutmeg) and go to the grocery store. You know, errands stuff.

Then you roll the dough out and admire the beautiful winter sunlight that shines through your kitchen window, for about the hundredth time. Have I mentioned that I love my apartment?

You slather the dough with melted butter (I used vegan, and I also used almond milk in the recipe, mostly just because that’s what I already have at home), sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar mix, and then cut it into little squares. Then you stack the squares together into a pan. Like this:

Joy’s recipe calls for a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, but I was using the tin-foil, give-away-style pans and those only came in 8 x 3.5 inches at the Freddy-Smith’s, which means that I miraculously had enough for two loaves! One for Granny, and one for the party.

Although, looking at Joy’s post again, I think maybe I could’ve crammed my squares in tighter. Ah, well. I’m just giving you guys options. I’m nothing if not fond of keeping my options open.

Anyways, so then you wait another 30 to 45 minutes for the dough-squares to rise in the pan(s), maybe go for a run or do some laundry, before baking. Which is another 35 minutes or so. Again, totally worth it. Because the end result goes a little something like…this!

70-year-old bad-ass grannies deserve beautiful baskets lined with brand-new kitchen towels and filled with home-made sweet bread, fancy butter, expensive honey, and gourmet chocolates, from their grandchildren. They deserve a day’s worth of baking. They deserve to be surrounded by four generations and to drink wine and laugh and eat as much cheese as they like.

They deserve to have their cake and eat it, too.

Or at least mine does. And don’t go thinking that we got her a store-bought cake with that crappy plastic frosting, because we special ordered it with WHIPPED CREAM FROSTING, which is amazing. And yes, she deserved it.

Happy birthday, Granny.

Fifteen Minutes

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Now I Know Why I’ve Never Been to Sundance

I’ve been busy, Friends, trading in my traditional 3-day weekend of baking, reading, running and writing for a new adventure: Sundance. The Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT, to be specific.

I should clarify, though: no, I am not seeing movies, and celebrity gawking has been minimal (though I did see three different members of Modern Family, separately! That was cool). What I am doing is busking, Friends. I am making money and having my photo taken about a bajillion times per hour. So are my friends:

They even got inteviewed! Check it out here. I didn’t get interviewed, though. At least not in any way that’s shown up on the internet, as far as I can tell. What I did was play viola in the freezing cold, fingers numb, with my friend Eric and Corbin, in shifts. When Eric and I weren’t playing his compositions or Bach or “Mad World,” our friend Corbin was laying down a mean Rachmaninoff. Like this:

The thing is, even though I’ve lived in Utah my whole life, I’ve never been to Sundance. I’ve only seen one Sundance movie AT the festival itself, and that was at the Tower Theater on 9th and 9th. Not Park City. I’ve never experienced the celebrities-meet-quaint-mountain-town madness, and I’ve always wanted to, to be a part of it all. This was one reason for coming home from Spain–to be able to play with Eric at Sundance and claim my fifteen minutes of fame. Haven’t you wondered what that would be like, Friends?

Well, wonder no more–it’s not that great. Park City is not even close to the quaint mountain mining town it once was and currently pretends to be. It is a land where the women wear fur boots and vests with black leggings, and the men wear tech gear, and all the locals are trying to see and be seen by celebrities, thinking they have some special insider status, and all the celebrities are trying to see and be seen by other celebrities and could give a shit about the locals. Also there are a lot of restaurants and art galleries and Sundance volunteers running around in puffy orange vests.

And then there’s us–a scraggly bunch of kids from “The big city” (Salt Lake, Friends), just trying to stay warm and make a few bucks. At the end of longer songs I can’t feel if my fingers are touching the strings or not. To stay warm we walk around, pop into galleries to “admire the art” (read: “sample the free punch and snacks”), and watch greatest hits of the 2002 Winter Olympics on a cow couch (a cowch) at Java Cow, where I ate a Rico burrito that somebody left on the table, having only taken one bite. It was delicious.

Sundance…not so much. Definitely not worth giving up a happy life in Madrid. Ah, well…this is how we learn.

Cross that off my to-do list, and on to the next adventure!

Sidetracked

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What We Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Busking

Yesterday it was too rainy, and then too snowy, to head up to Park City. Instead, we had tea and cookies, followed by vegan burritos while clusters of soft flakes plummeted to the ground outside shrink-wrapped windows.

Then we walked through the park, discussing gender roles and stereotypes and slurs. There were ducks, also, but no chicks. No chicks, no queers, no gyps, no jews. (You know, slurs).

And then…a wintry car ride up a steep hill, drinks with my moms and their friends, and on to a hardcore show/bake sale/benefit.

I didn’t stay the whole time, didn’t even stay until my friend’s band played. I was supremely uncomfortable–needed to pee, but there was not toilet; desperately thirsty, but didn’t want to add to the bladder situation; etc. And it’s just not my type of music. Not at all. I might not even be correct in referring to it as “hardcore,” I don’t know.

I used to date a guy who made me feel like I was closed-minded, because I didn’t like some of his favorite music. (311, Phish, etc.–if you must know). And I believed him, thought it was just a question of opening myself up to different things. I suppose I can’t lay it all on the boyfriend, that’s what I get for dating too young, before I knew myself. But I do know myself now. I know that I don’t like screaming, or loud noises in general, or needing to pee, or the cold, or standing alone in a room full of strangers. Hell, I don’t even like crowds. And I still don’t like Phish.

So I left. I drove home and indulged in vegan chicken wings and a salad. Yes, that is how I indulge these days.

Because I am more of a walk-through-the-park-on-a-snowy-day type of girl. And I know that now.

A Night on the Town

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One Thing Leads to Another

It begins with roscón

…roscón to celebrate Día de los Reyes Magos…

…to celebrate Día de los Reyes Magos as a way to say “thank you” to our new Swedish friends. Because they they lent us money on New Year’s Eve, and we want to pay them back. Because we want more than a one-night-friendship-stand. Because we’d been treated to a wonderful Christmas and then a wonderful New Years, courtesy of our international friends, and now it was our turn to treat, damnit.

But we were still nervous when we met up with Fredrik and Sigrid on Thursday to eat roscón and go see the cabalgata; it felt a little like meeting up for a first-second date after a one-night stand. Turns out they felt the same! We shared a good laugh and then got on with our friendship, starting with coffee and roscón.

In Spain, traditionally speaking, January 6th is the big gift-giving day. It’s when the Reyes Magos (the three wise men) come to town, bringing presents for all the good little children. They arrive by way of a big (brand-name-toy-sponsored) parade on Thursday night, and even though its a family-friendly (read: for kids) event, we happily marched our four grown selves over to see what the fuss was about.

Mostly it was about flashy colored lights and twinkles and sparkles and oohs and aahs.

And tons of people. People everywhere, climbing on ladders they’d brought or whatever else, to better see the parade.

I think we enjoyed the crowd-watching more than the actual parade. It was just nuts to see so many people come out, packed like sardines, toting ladders, to see the three kings arrive in town. I think it makes for a way more convincing scenario than the old “Santa will come tonight and sneak down the chimney while you’re sleeping” line. I’ve said it before, Spaniards take their Navidades seriously. I continue to be impressed.

Not wanting the night to end so soon, and eager for a warming drink and a place to sit, we followed Fredrik and Sigrid back to their neighborhood, Chueca.

Chueca is the gay neighborhood of Madrid, but it’s adjoined to the Hipster-type neighborhood. So it’s got the best of both worlds, with lots of cutesy boutiques and modern-looking shops and fancy places to nibble or sip.

…like the San Antón market, which is similar to it’s more famous cousin–the San Miguel market in the center of town–but, you know, trendier. More chic.

…and with a roof-top lounge, where the drinks are nevertheless cheap and the fires are toasty and the conversation turns to books and travel, to favorite films and living abroad. And I was grateful, for new friends, and new old traditions, and a sense of adventure, and wherever the night may lead us. Which in this case was to pizza, in some teeny late-night joint. Then a long walk home for Kevin and I, happy and full and excited about all the possibilities.

And to think–it all started with a simple, sweet, pink parcel. A bit of roscón and three kings, come to town.

A Very International New Year

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Puerta del Sol again? YES!

We started the night out at home with a frozen pizza and some whiskey and cokes. Very American, but then Kevin’s roommate Elena invited us to join her, her husband, and their friend in a Romanian-style celebration: a big dinner, followed by little pastries and cookies from a Romanian bakery, and then an apple-caramel-chocolate-whipped cream cake, made by Elena, all while calling non-stop to as many relatives as they could get a hold of back home. Delicious!

“Happy New Year” in Romanian: An Nou Fericit!

Then we had a brief period of sitting in Kevin’s room and drinking while I played on the internet and he drew pictures of me playing on the internet. Weird. Then we headed towards Sol, metro-style.

And then…Sol! We made it! We even sneaked in a bottle of sidra huzzah!

In Spain what you do is you eat twelve grapes at midnight–one for each toll of the bell–and each grape represents a month for the year to come, and also you wish for things like “friendship” or “money.” There wasn’t an easily heard bell or clock or anything, though, so everyone just kind, you know, ate some grapes at midnight. And then we drank our bottle of sidra.

“Happy New Year” in Spanish: Feliz Año Nuevo!

Also in Sol we met some Swedes, and what started out as small talk turned into an invitation to join them for a night on the town! New friends excitement yesss! Pictured (L to R): Kevin, Sofia, Frederick, Sigrid, and Alex in a bar near plaza Santa Ana. We stopped there for drinks because we all wanted to keep hanging out and enjoying each others’ company, but Kevin and I couldn’t afford the entry fee for a nearby club, having foolishly left all but 20€ back at home. We thought that we’d just go to Sol by ourselves, get a drink by ourselves, and then catch the metro home. We were wrong!

And then guess what else?! Our new friends lent us money to get into the club, which is so kind. Like, embarrassingly kind. And we were so glad they did, because inside the club was like a party wonderland, and we got little gift bags with paper face masks and noise-makers and what-have-you, and then we danced to songs from Grease, and they knew all the words and we all laughed and drank and danced until 4 am and made plans to meet up to celebrate Reyes on Friday. Success.

“Happy New Year” in Swedish: Gott Nytt År!

In the end, Kevin and I walked home together, turning in somewhere around 5 am? Then today we slept in, hung around, ate crap at McDonald’s (best hangover cure), went to a movie, had chocolate and churros, walked around the center, and then came home. A very Happy New Year.

Ya Regreso

That means “be right back” in Spanish. Because sometimes you get invited to spend a family-style Christmas in a small town with friends that you came to know through a string of random events and connections, and it happens so fast that you don’t even have time to post a goodbye to your (dwindling, but) beloved internet Friends.

And then you take an even more surprise, last-minute mini-vacation to Valencia, because Kevin has a spur-of-the-moment desire after realizing how close Valencia is to Tarazona, and Kevin NEVER has spur-of-the-moment…anything. So you go to Valencia for two three days (as easy as changing the bus tickets), and take more pictures than you think you will ever have time to blog, but you promise yourself that you WILL blog them, damnit, because your Friends need you. And you need a sense of purpose.

Because…even though all this makes it sound like and oh-so romantic and whimsical and spontaneous time, what it feels like is a series of snapshots, disconnected moments, good and bad and foolish and simple and new and memories and tired and drinking, confused as ever, all of it thrown together, one piece passing by at a time, and you are trying to live in the moment, but the moment keeps changing to something else, and it is not surreal, it is as real and natural as everyday life, except that you are supposed to go back to your everyday life in Salt Lake City, and you really, really don’t want to, but it makes even less sense to stay, and you have your doubts, and no matter what somebody is going to get hurt, and you still haven’t learned your lessons and you are coping by reading Memoirs of a Geisha all the time, for hours and hours at a time, but you are still not done because it is 499 pages and you are a slow reader.

So…yeah, I need to figure out that next step, is what I’m saying.

More posts to come, naturally.

Navidades

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The Spanish Christmas Spirit

I’ve never felt the Christmas spirit more than I do here in Spain. I don’t mean the spirit of giving and good will–although those are completely excellent pursuits–I mean that inexplicable magic, that sort of sparkle in the air. That warmth and cheer and light in a season that might otherwise be dark and harsh and cold.

I was first struck by this two years ago, while living her in Madrid. Here’s the post about that, and it’s one of my all-time favorite posts, when I feel like I first started to develop my style of casual photos and prose on this here blog. So please check it out.

Now, the second time around, I think I get it, that I can explain what makes the holiday season in Spain so special. First, it’s about how everywhere gets decorated. Not people’s houses, so much (although you do see quite a few deep red “Christ Was Born – Merry Christmas” flags with the baby Jesus in his nest hanging from apartment windows, as well as those dangly ladders with a stuffed santa–or the three wise men!–trying to climb up and through the window), but pretty much everywhere else.

I am talking about public spaces–bars, restaurants, cafés, intersections, plazas, etc. Los españoles are, after all, muy de la calle. They live the bulk of their lives outside the house, and with Christmas being a huge social event, it’s only natural that all of these communal gathering places should be strung with tinsel and garland. Of course, we do this in the US, too, but not in the same way, and not to the same extent. I mean, when was the last time you went into a dusty dive bar at Christmastime to find that it was not only be-decorated, but decorated thoroughly and tastefully? Exactly.

The second secret ingredient in the Spanish Holiday Cheer recipe is longevity. So, yes, they’ve got Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but it doesn’t stop there! After New Year’s, Spaniards celebrate Three Kings Day (Día de los Reyes Magos–the three wise men) on January 6th. If Christmas is more about family and big meals and staying up late drinking and talking, then Reyes is the day more similar to our American Christmas, the day where little kids wake up early and tear through presents. In the end, we’re talking two full weeks of non-stop Christmas-y action, and it’s all considered Christmastime (Navidades). Not to mention the build-up to all this–lights, carols, shopping–which starts in earnest around late November/early December (as opposed to, say, October 31st, and I’m looking and YOU, USA).

And I like it. I mean, I think that in the US we build up SO MUCH for just one day, and then it’s over, and there’s always this huge let-down. When I found out that my friend Eric’s birthday is December 26th, I apologized to him, because that’s pretty much the shittiest day of the year (whereas February is the shittiest month, happy birthday to me). I appreciate that in Spain the Christmas Season is truly a season, a span of time, and although it’s certainly immersed in consumer culture, at least it’s not that awful shopping/decorating/propaganda landslide of Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas one right after the other boom boom boom.

But of course I could never leave all of my American Christmas traditions behind.

Because our gingerbread cookies are pretty kick-ass. And our carols are way better.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

This post is dedicated to my father, who loves Christmas more than any other Jew I know.

Cheers

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“My Bags Are Packed, I’m Ready to Go”

Except that my bags aren’t packed. But my presents are wrapped! And packaged, stamped, and shipped, in some cases.

I’ve got to say that fleeing the country has done wonders for my productivity. I can’t “put off until tomorrow what can be done today,” because tomorrow I’ll be in Spain, or at least on my way. So I made a list, and I’ve just been plowing through, even tackling things I’ve been putting off for years, like attaching the basket to my bike and mailing copies of photos from high school to old friends.

I even had time for a ladies night at my place last night, which inspired me to clean like I’ve never cleaned before. Honestly, this is the tidiest and most organized my little studio has been since I moved in.

Then tonight I have a concert with Eric and the ensemble, and tomorrow I’m on my way. But I haven’t packed, no. I’ll find the time. Right now, I feel it’s important to enjoy the season and the company of my friends. To make time for cheer.