Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bad Little Boys And Girls

San Geraldo, Judyshannonstreetwhat, and I were in Málaga for New Year's Eve Eve (that's December 30). We stopped at the department store El Corte Inglés to pick up a few things. What were we thinking? Traditionally in Spain, the big day for exchanging gifts is Día de Los Reyes (Three Kings Day), which is Epiphany and doesn't come until 6 January. So, shopping is even more frenzied and there are after-Christmas Day sales adding to the excitement. We escaped the store and the crowds sledding and ice skating in technologically frozen wonders.

LA ALAMEDA PRINCIPAL (THE MAIN BOULEVARD). MAGICAL.

Within 10 minutes (that seemed like 10 hours) we had made it to the center of the old city and Judy was able to take in the lights for the first time. We had dinner at a restaurant called Gorki. So-so service, uncomfortable seating, and not much atmosphere. At least the food was good, but we won't be going back. We then headed to La Tetería, the tea shop we discovered with Kristina on Calle San Agustín. San Geraldo and I had coffee and "muerte por chocolate" (death by chocolate) cake. Judy had a delicious chocolate tart topped with little cookies. It's my new favorite place (even if no baked good can ever compare to what San Geraldo bakes).

NOT THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM... WE WERE BEING MOONED.
NANOOK OF THE NORTH (AKA SAN GERALDO)
TEMPERATURE WAS 11C/51F.  WE WERE FREEZING.
JOSEPH'S BACK.
STREET PERFORMERS OR SANTA'S COAL DELIVERY GUYS.
WHAT DID YOU HAVE IN YOUR STOCKING?

A 20-second clip of what happened after San Geraldo dropped some coins in the coal skuttle.



And what has been playing in my head ever since...



San Geraldo is cooking dinner and we'll then head over to Plaza de la Constitución to ring in the new year and eat our twelve grapes for good luck.

¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different

We're still on the subject of Christmas. It does go on and on, doesn't it? The holiday itself feels like it lasts for days — maybe even 12 days. At least that's how it feels to me.

This time, I've shared images of our apartment decorated for the season... without a Christmas tree (thanks to the curious cats, Dudo and Moose).

After the photos, I've ended this post with a very special music video. It's the band performance of our friends' Tynan and Elena's 12-year-old daughter, Paula. She's a gifted musician and this year, at the age of 12, she began a professional music program — playing the oboe. Tynan and Elena attended the orchestra's Christmas concert and shared video. I'm sure the music I've included will be recognizable to most of you. I knew it very well.










Behind Glass...



MADE BY SAN GERALDO IN SUNDAY SCHOOL (IN THE 1950s).
ATOP THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK.
THIS MAY BECOME THE CHERUB'S PERMANENT RESTING PLACE.

Many of you will remember — or will have heard of — the British comedy troop Monty Python and their television show, "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

The show ran from 1969 to 1974 and in its final year it was simply known, like the group, as "Monty Python." (The title of this post is a line used often in the show.)

One of the pieces Paula's orchestra performed was "The Liberty Bell," an American military march composed in 1893 by John Philip Sousa.

I, however, always knew the music as "The Theme from Monty Python's Flying Circus."

I'm so incredibly refined.


The Liberty Bell? Really?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mister Sandman: Paul Blane

The last time I visited sand sculptor Paul Blane (click here for his website), he had just started creating his Christmas scene amid the rubble of The Simpson's living room.

IN THE BEGINNING...
PAUL CREATED THE SIMPSONS.
22 DECEMBER:  MY PREVIOUS VISIT WITH PAUL.

I hadn't managed to get back to that end of the beach until Sunday afternoon. My timing was perfect. Paul had just that morning completed his masterpiece.

As Paul wrote on his Facebook page:

"...8 days it took me, 15,000 litres of water fetched from the sea, by me, and about 1/2 tonne of blood, sweat, and tears..."

My American friends, that's about 4,000 gallons of water! I wonder how much sand was used. I wasn't there at the right time of day for the best pictures, but I managed. (Click any image to be wowed.)


THE MASTERPIECE (A COMPOSITE SHOT PROVIDED BY PAUL).
WE THREE KINGS...
BAA... BAA... BAA...
PLAYING CAT AND MOUSE...
STACKED PIGLETS...



HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM PAUL BLANE IN FUENGIROLA.
(AND FROM SAN GERALDO AND ME, TOO.)

Thanks, Mr. Sandman, for bringing us a dream...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Spanish Christmas Eve With The Village People

In addition to the fantastic Christmas Day dinner in brilliant company, we also had already had a fantastic Christmas Eve dinner in brilliant company.

Our friends Tynan and Elena invited us to their home for a traditional Spanish Christmas dinner. Like San Geraldo, Elena is a gifted chef. But she has an entirely different repertoire.

Christmas Eve dinner at their house begins with Elena's fish soup. Now, although I didn't tell Elena before-hand, I have never met a fish soup I could tolerate. I can't stand fish soup. But, this was their tradition and I figured I would be polite and eat what I was served.

I'm so glad I behaved. Elena's fish soup is unlike any I've ever tasted (and I've tasted many). Absolutely delicious and nothing fishy about it — except for 'good' fishy. I could have made an entire meal of the soup. But there was more to come. Delicious pork tenderloin in a perfect sauce with a side of sliced potatoes and a splash of white wine. Exceptional.

THE BEST FISH SOUP IN THE WORLD!
(TRUST ME.)
LOMO IBÉRICO AND POTATOES.

San Geraldo provided the dessert — I provided the good lucks, charming company, and incomparable humility (although I'm sure Tynan thinks that's what HE provided). 

But back to dessert: "Beacon Hill Brownies" (from the Silver Palette Cookbook), a specialty of San Geraldo's.

BEACON HILL BROWNIES
(A CROSS BETWEEN A BROWNIE AND FUDGE).

In addition to his brownies, San Geraldo had planned to bake a lemon meringue pie. He prepared his perfect pastry dough Tuesday morning and let it chill overnight. He took it out Wednesday morning intending to complete the pie. But our friends Anne (Slushee) and Darren texted us to meet them for coffee. Of course, we jumped at the chance.

San Geraldo forgot about the pastry, so it sat on the kitchen counter for two hours (not a good idea). When we got home, he put it in the oven and watched it melt. So he picked up a tray of pastries at the bakery. They were OK but unnecessary. The brownies were amazing. Tynan, who doesn't even like brownies, ate three.

THE BLOB... AFTER A BRIEF BAKING.
I THINK IT LOOKED LIKE INTESTINES.

After dinner, San Geraldo and I had our first opportunity to try Wii video games. Yes, I know they've been around for eight years. We didn't want to rush things.

We tried bowling (bolo) with Alexander (14) and Paula (12). They didn't explain to us exactly how to work the controls until half-way through the game. Not knowing how to release the "bowling ball," my first ball flew behind me and sent the spectators bouncing in the air. Still, I came in second. Alexander won.

EVERYONE JUMPING TO AVOID MY FIRST BALL.
ALEXANDER, ME (THE BALD ONE), PAULA, AND SAN GERALDO.

After bowling, Paula and San Geraldo had a dance competition to The Village People's YMCA. Paula was so surprised that San Geraldo knew the song and the moves. He did really well... once he sat down. Paula won.

And then, Tynan had a dance competition with his daughter. As payback for his turkey jokes (in defense, for once, of San Geraldo), I've included a 20-second video clip of Tynan shaking his booty to Abba's "Gimme Gimme Gimme A Man After Midnight." Paula won. But Tynan was so entertaining.



NOT San Geraldo and Paula...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Turkey That Broke The Camel's Back

NO ROOM AT THE INN...
OR IN THE CART.
For San Geraldo's benefit, I will start off by explaining that the title of this post is a twisting of the song title "Turkey in the Straw" with the idiom "That's the straw that broke the camel's back."

An 8-kilo (18-pound) turkey is not huge by American standards. But, by Spanish standards, it's a monster. Our friends Tynan and Elena (especially Tynan, king of the one-liners) have had a wonderful time joking about San Geraldo's gigantic turkey.

San Geraldo had planned to make Norwegian kransekake (click here and here) for Christmas Day. Tuesday night, however, while out with Tynan and Elena, it was suggested that maybe that was a bit much to take on at the same time as trying to shove an 8-kilo turkey into a 3-kilo-capacity oven.

Elena suggested San Geraldo wait until after Three Kings Day (January 6) to make the kransekake (which, coincidentally, is when she and the kids will be back in town after visiting her family in Bilbao).

Tynan agreed. "By that time, the turkey should be cooked all the way through," he noted.

Christmas Eve Day, Tynan texted a video to me. It was Godzilla attacking Tokyo. Tynan's comment: "Someone is looking for her baby."

Neither Jerry nor Elena "got it." After Tynan and I explained to each of them, they said they "got it," but just didn't find it funny. "But Godzilla wasn't a turkey," was what they both said.  Never mind...

The turkey just barely fit in our oven. But it DID fit. San Geraldo cooked it perfectly and served it along with stuffing (dressing), a baked dish of layers of sweet potatoes and apples, Brussels sprouts, and mixed rice with raisins and almonds. Our dear friend Kristina (Swedish-Finnish) made blinis and brought all the fixings. Delicious! I was tempted to fill up on those before dinner was even served. Kristina's son Matti (Swedish and living in Madrid until recently) brought "glogg," Swedish mulled wine. Judyshannonstreetwhat (our oldest friend) arrived from Seattle in the afternoon. What a perfect day.

And, surprisingly, we even have left-overs.

"GODZILITA"... NOT A MILIMETER TO SPARE.
BLINI FIXINGS.
MATTI HOLDS A SERVING: BLINIS TOPPED WITH SALMON, ONIONS,
MELTED BUTTER, SOUR CREAM AND TWO TYPES OF FISH ROE.
"THERE'S NEVER ANYTHING TO EAT IN THIS HOUSE!"


The original "Turkey in the Straw" performed by the Original Schnickelfritz Band.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Gifted Gastronome

I hope those of you that celebrate Christmas have been enjoying the holiday, feasting on your favorite dishes, and not over-indulging. I've got lots of stories and photos to share. Tales of the Turkey will come tomorrow. Today is all about my culinary contribution.

San Geraldo's mother, Alice, had a cranberry salad recipe, the origin of which is unknown. She served it as a side dish, which is the norm for cranberry salad. However, once it was introduced to my family, they were stunned to see it on the table with the main course and thought it would be much more appropriate as a dessert.

I know I always say I don't cook. It should be understood that it's not because I'm incapable but instead because, mostly, I hate it. I can, however, take responsibility for one dish if required. And, for some unremembered reason, Alice's cranberry salad has become my signature dish.

When you follow my photo-illustrated "cooking" instructions below, you will be shocked to learn I have so mastered the complex recipe that I can now create this dish completely from memory. For real! (Click any image to magnify my gastronomy.)

WASH THE CRANBERRIES, DISCARD THE SOFT ONES.
GRIND CRANBERRIES (IN SAN GERALDO'S GRANDMOTHER'S MEAT GRINDER).
ALLOW THE JUICE TO DRAIN AWAY.
THE GROUND CRANBERRIES.
ONE SMALL CAN (DRAINED) GROUND PINEAPPLE.
ONE CUP MINI MARSHMALLOWS.
("JETTED" ALL THE WAY FROM SEATTLE BY JUDYSHANNONSTREETWHAT.)
BEFORE ADDING THE MARSHMALLOWS, ADD ONE CUP OF SUGAR.
GENTLY BLEND IN ONE CUP OF WHIPPED CREAM AND...
¡VOILÀ!

This year's cranberry salad was a brilliant success. I'm thinking of opening a cooking school.

The Cranberries (of course)