Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Challah, Torrijas, And Paisley Brocade

Our so-called "holiday rental" on the 8th floor of our building is a dump. Broken windows taped over, splintering door frames, awful smells from the kitchen, "sliding" windows and doors that don't slide, showers that only dribble. The beds are so unbelievably old and awful that there's no hope of getting any sleep. Besides, god only knows what lurks inside the mattresses. But, after hearing our tale of woe-is-us, Santi has made a point of getting our master bedroom back in order every afternoon, so we have been able to sleep at home — with the cats.

SUNRISE FROM THE EIGHTH FLOOR.

Anyway, the view from higher up is fun for a change. The neighbors kindly let us connect to their WiFi. The work downstairs is nearly done. Dudo knows where to hide and when to emerge. Moose hasn't completely figured out the routine, but he's still adorable. And The Goddess Elena made another batch of Torrijas before Semana Santa ended (see previous post).

MY SECOND ROUND OF TORRIJAS FROM THE GODDESS ELENA.
(SAN GERALDO HAD ALREADY EATEN HIS AT SIX A.M.)

A bit more detail on the recipe:
Elena adds a lemon rind, a cinnamon stick, and a lot of sugar to the milk she slowly simmers on the stove. She uses special bread for torrijas, but I haven't been able to find a description of that specific bread, as most recipes simply call for "stale" bread. I would guess Jewish challah (egg bread) would make for great torrijas.

AT MY BAR MITZVAH RECEPTION, JUNE 1967. MY FATHER AND I WATCH AS MY
MATERNAL GRANDFATHER CUTS THE CHALLAH AND BLESSES THE MEAL.
(DON'T YOU WISH YOU HAD A BLUE PAISLEY BROCADE TUXEDO?!?)


Friday, March 25, 2016

The Goddess Elena And The Arrival Of The Easter Moose

The Goddess Elena (click here if you still don't know who she is) made torrija this morning. It's a traditional Spanish dessert served especially during Semana Santa.

Elena's version consists of a thick slice of bread soaked in warm milk for an hour, and then dipped in egg batter and fried with olive oil before being sprinkled with cinnamon. The bread gets crusty on the outside and custard-like on the inside. Elena's torrijas are out of this world.

The bread is often soaked overnight and wine can be used instead of milk. Traditional recipes call for the addition of honey, which The Goddess Elena doesn't like. But we're not complaining. (She doesn't like raisins either, and calls them flies.)

IT LOOKS AT FIRST LIKE GOURMET AMERICAN FRENCH TOAST.
AND IT TASTES LIKE HEAVEN.
ELENA, OUR PLATE IS EMPTY...
THE EASTER 'MOOSE.' AS SWEET AS IF HE WERE MADE OF SOLID CHOCOLATE.
ALMOST DIRECTLY OVERHEAD TO SHOW HE'S NOT
AS HEFTY AS HE LOOKS IN THE PREVIOUS SHOT.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

To Keep Me From Gettin' To You

We're still sleeping in our own apartment, although we can't do much else there. The cats refused to move upstairs with us (yes, we know who's in charge), so they hide out wherever they can during the day and take over the house again every afternoon (Santi starts early and leaves by 2:30 every day). I created a temporary barrier on the terrace (using bendable artificial Christmas tree branches and bamboo sticks) to keep the boys from visiting our next door neighbors.

I was quite proud of my work, which took little time to assemble. Dudo was not impressed. He attempted to pull it down Tuesday morning. I repaired the damage.

San Geraldo opens the terrace door early, so the cats can hang out and not bother our beauty rest. When we got out of bed at 7:00 today, both boys were asleep in the living room.

THIS IS WHAT WE SAW OUTSIDE.
(AND A NEW TERRACE TILE TEASER.)
DUDO PRETENDING TO BE ASLEEP.

Dudo's brow lifted when we said, "What did you do?" but his eyes barely opened. Moose quietly left the room.

FINALLY... "WELL, GOSH, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?"

I repaired my pretend barrier while Dudo watched. As I walked away, I could swear I heard the cats laughing.


Ain't no mountain high enough...

Monday, March 21, 2016

No Power In Your Area

It rained overnight and Monday morning. I awoke to thunder. Our friend Heather, who is here in Spain for her annual visit, received a text message informing her of possible power outages in her area.


The moment Heather received the message, there was a huge clap of thunder and the entire city was without power.

Oddly, the message was from Heather's utility company in Kent, England.

Talk about power!

Meanwhile, our apartment is a mess. Santi and Co. finished the terrace and removed all the old door framing inside. Tuesday, new floors will be installed in my office and it will be painted. Tuesday morning, we'll move (with the cats) to a vacation apartment in our building for the next 10 days. Following are images of how we're all coping with the exciting upheaval.

DUDO...
AND MOOSE.
(THIS WAS FRIDAY... TODAY, MOOSE HID UNDER THE BED AND DUDO HID IN THE SHOWER.)
VINO MÁLAGA FOR ME SUNDAY NIGHT.
(WITH JESSICA, IN BACKGROUND. SHE MAKES ANY DAY BETTER.)
A FRED FLINTSTONE–SIZED PORTION OF RIBS FOR SAN GERALDO. WHAT DIET?

San Geraldo Flintsone...

Friday, March 18, 2016

Just Between Us

I have something to share, but you have to promise to not tell San Geraldo.

I met Jessica for coffee and English conversation today.

But that's not the secret.

In addition to my coffee, I had a bocadillo (sandwich).

That's not the secret either.

Jessica had one of San Geraldo's favorite things that he loves to order at El Jazzy Cafe. It's called a Palmera, which means palm tree but looks like an elephant ear pastry smothered in chocolate.

It's OK if you tell San Geraldo about the Palmera.

What San Geraldo doesn't know is that Abuela Manuela (Jessica's grandmother who is visiting from Argentina)... we call her Manuela but I love the fact that "grandma" in Spanish rhymes with her name ... even though her grandchildren of course simply call her "Abuela" as opposed to "Abuela Manuela"...

A casuela is a casserole. I would love to say I had an Abuela Manuela Casuela. It's probably a good thing Abuela Manuela isn't from Venezuela or I could get carried away. (San Geraldo hates when I do this... Click here if you don't remember the Doody Family of North Brandford.)

Anyway...

San Geraldo doesn't know that Abuela Manuela brought Alfajores Rellenos.


These Argentine alfajores are a sandwich of two round, sweet biscuits, with dulce de leche filling — all dipped in chocolate.

I ate three today.

And I didn't share.

SO, LET'S JUST KEEP THIS OUR LITTLE SECRET.
(SAN GERALDO PROBABLY STOPPED READING WHEN HE GOT TO VENEZUELA.)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Narcist, Narcisisist, Narcisisomething

San Geraldo shared with me a conversation he had the other day. He had been explaining why he was having such a hard time committing to his Spanish language studies. As he told it, he loves to talk. He enjoys in-depth, substantive conversation. Since his Spanish skills are so limited, he continued, he can't possibly carry on an intelligent conversation filled with the grammar and nuance he's so used to. I understood but didn't tell him I thought it was all a bunch of hooey.

Then, on another subject, San Geraldo said he thought the mother of a friend of ours was a complete narcist.

"A what?" I asked (imagine my grin).

ROUGHING IT WHILE WE ESCAPE THE HOME RENOVATIONS.
SPANISH COFFEE AND HIGH-BROW CONVERSATION.

"A narcist... narcist... narcisisi...." San Geraldo tried again.

"Narcisist," I said. "And you don't think your Spanish will ever be as good?"

"That's it!" he exclaimed. "I can't study Spanish because I still haven't perfected English!"

HEADING HOME FOR SOME MORE DEEPLY SATISFYING CONVERSATION.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

We're Getting Fixed

It seems just about everything is getting fixed around here. The Paseo (the boulevard that runs between our apartment and the beach has been under renovation for months. Fortunately, the paving in our neighborhood was completed before we moved in three years ago. Work is continuing west of us to the end and it will clearly be completed in time for summer season. The invasive ficus trees (the roots swallow up everything) are being removed all along the Paseo (an ongoing project) and replaced with delicately flowered trees. Note: I was told by a gardener on the Paseo that these are Tamarindos (Tamarind trees). If anyone knows what this really is, please let me know.

NOT-A-TAMARIND TREE BEGINNING TO BLOOM.
(CLICK TO MAKE IT BLOOMIN' LARGE.)

Our train station, Los Boliches, has been closed for five months and it looks close to completion, right on schedule. All new and shiny with the important addition of an elevator.

The tile has been laid (but not grouted) on most of our side terrace. Painting is almost done in our laundry/utility room.

We've eaten all the Jamaican Black Cake and all the Banana Bread. San Geraldo is back to eating healthy.

And I'm out of chocolate.

THE PASEO LOOKING WEST.
THE PASEO LOOKING EAST IN OUR DIRECTION.
THE TRAIN STATION (LOOKING EAST)...
... AND WEST.
NOT EVERYTHING IN TOWN HAS GOTTEN A NEW FACE.
THIS WAS, I THINK, A BAR CALLED "FAG ASH LIL'S" (A FAG, IN THIS CASE, IS A CIGARETTE).
SO THE FIRE SHOULD HAVE BEEN NO SURPRISE.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Panic Priorities

Sunday morning, I walked into the den and realized that Santi had had the delivery guys stack the new doors against the bookcase. Actually, that wasn't really the realization; I had been there. The realization was that my three bags of chocolate were on a shelf behind those doors.

Panic attack! How would I get to my chocolates?!?

I moved a roll of insulation and discovered that I could fit my hand in the angle behind the doors and reach my chocolates. No more panic attack.

San Geraldo, who has been hiding in his office ever since everything was delivered, found it ironic that I was completely calm about the mess and the renovations until I thought I had lost access to my chocolate.

I don't know why that's so difficult to comprehend.

SNIFFING OUT MY TRUFFLES (LIKE THE TRUFFLE-SNIFFING PIG THAT I AM).




WHAT REALLY MATTERS.

Friday, March 11, 2016

I'm Fixing The Cracks

The stucco repair and painting of our building exterior is finally complete. The two-month project was accomplished beautifully. And it only took five months.

MY FIRST HOUSE AND SECOND HOME.
NORTH MASSAPEQUA, NEW YORK, 1956.

Much of the damage done to the building was caused by water leaking through cracks in the grout and old ceramic tile on the terraces. So now begins our own home-improvement projects — new ceramic tile on the terrace, new wood floors inside. New doors. And more.

MY SISTER DALE IN PINK AND THE DOWAGER DUCHESS IN RED,
NOT GETTING THEIR HANDS DIRTY.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours at Bricomart with Santi, our contractor extraordinario. Bricomart is Spain's version of the USA's Home Depot or Lowe's. I believe B&Q is the British equivalent. We spent more than two hours at Bricomart placing the complete order. I told Santi I could live there. Santi told me he could not. I suppose if I did this for a living, I'd feel the same.

DALE, STILL IN PINK (AND GETTING HER HANDS DIRTY), ME IN RED, WITH COUSINS.
ANOTHER FAMILY CONSTRUCTION SITE. SHEEPSHEAD BAY, BROOKLYN, 1956.

Everything was delivered this morning and, Santi, while managing and organizing the delivery, removed all the old skirting tile on the terrace. He doesn't waste any time. Monday morning, the work begins in earnest. I'm 'just a little excited' while San Geraldo and the cats are 'just a little stressed.'  That's if you call bouncing off the walls "just a little excited'; or if you call hiding in a bedroom closet (the cats) or the aforementioned bedroom (San Geraldo) 'just a little stressed.'


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

There's Room Enough For Two

Yesterday, 7 March, was the 35th anniversary of my sister Dale's death. I decided years ago to not dwell on that date. It was just one day in 29 years of life, after all. But this year I couldn't seem to avoid it. So here we are the morning after. The day before the 35th anniversary of Dale's rainy funeral in Sheffield, England.

I didn't mention it yesterday. I didn't feel like saying it out loud and making it real.

I kept thinking about how many lifetimes had been lived since then. But, for some, a lifetime is even less than 29 years; for others less than 10 years; and for still others not even one entire day. So, no reason to dwell on that either. It's been a long time. The world, and we, have changed since Dale's been gone. She wouldn't recognize it nor, probably, some of us (although I look exactly the same, of course).


When we moved to Brooklyn in 1964, the doors to the roofs of the five buildings in our co-op were left unlocked. In summer, Dale and I would sometimes go up, 25 stories off the ground, to watch the weekly fireworks in Coney Island.

One year, when I was 11 and Dale was not yet 13, the family was all set to head off for a driving vacation to Quebec, Canada. At 7:30 in the morning, we hauled the suitcases to the elevator and pressed the button. Nothing. My father sent us down to the next floor (there was one elevator for odd-numbered floors and one for even). Nothing. Both elevators were out.

The building had three sections with two elevators in each section. After learning that the other four elevators were working, my parents (probably to get us out of their hair) sent Dale and me down 16 flights of stairs with suitcases. To return, we took the elevator in the center section to the 23rd floor, walked up one flight of stairs to the roof, walked across the roof, and then down to the 16th floor for more luggage. We made that trip three times.

UP IN THE CENTER, ACROSS TO THE RIGHT, AND BACK DOWN AGAIN.

Once we had loaded the car, my parents figured we'd all walk down the 16 flights and hit the road. But, as The Dowager Duchess locked the apartment door, the elevator arrived.

Our parents were elated.

The Kid Brother wouldn't start the trip tired and cranky.

And Dale and I had had another amazing adventure.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Make Your Own Kind Of Music

It's time again for a sampling of the collected colors and patterns of Fuengirola (and beyond).

I RECEIVED THE UPPER LEFT IMAGE FROM JUDYSHANNONSTREETWHAT (CLICK HERE)
FROM AMERICAN BASEBALL TRAINING CAMP IN PEORIA, ARIZONA.
I GUESS YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE BRITISH OR FINNISH IN SPAIN TO HAVE A FLAIR FOR FASHION.

Even if nobody else sings along...

Friday, March 4, 2016

I Can Jump Over The Moon Up Above

I didn't feel a thing. The colonoscopia is done and gone and I don't know how many years will pass before I have to do it again. Everything was perfect. Better than it's ever been. It must be this Spanish living.

The preparation this time was the easiest I've had and although I didn't get much sleep Thursday night, that was more a result of my busy brain than anything else.

San Geraldo didn't touch my truffles and he even managed to save me some (a lot more than some) Jamaican Black Cake.

Thanks for all the moral support — and comic relief. I'm fit as a fiddle (but I still can't play one).


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Drinking Alone

It's Thursday. Liquid diet day.

I tried 'cooking' chicken broth Wednesday. I eventually succeeded.

Ditto nuclear rice.

San Geraldo insisted on helping with the chicken broth today.

I am so looking forward to Jamaican black cake Friday afternoon.

And some wine!

WEDNESDAY: ABREFÁCIL (EASY OPEN) CHICKEN BROTH.
THEY OBVIOUSLY DON'T UNDERSTAND MY PROBLEM.
MAYBE IT WOULD HAVE BEEN EASY-POUR, AND NOT EASY-SPILL,
IF IT HAD BEEN MORE EASILY OPENED.
RICE: ONLY 90 SECONDS IN THE MICROWAVE.
BUT NOT 60 SECONDS... AS I DID.
YES, DUDO, I KNOW I DON'T BELONG IN HERE.
SAN GERALDO TO THE RESCUE THURSDAY AFTERNOON.
APPARENTLY, YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO SNIP ONE END WITH SCISSORS.
DO YOU SEE A PICTURE OF SCISSORS ANYWHERE ON THE BOX?!?

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Colon Is Better Than A Semi-Colon

Due to my family history with cancer, specifically my father's experience with colon cancer, I have a colonoscopy every five years. As many of you well know, the procedure itself can pass with hardly a blink.

The at-home preparation, unfortunately, is not much fun.

So, I'm having my first colonoscopia (Spanish colonoscopy) Friday morning. I've been stressing about it for days. The preparation this time is different from my past experiences. It actually sounds like it will be less unpleasant and I therefore haven't really understood why I've been so nervous.

"NO PUEDE TOMAR," AT RIGHT, IS WHAT I CAN'T HAVE.
FIFTH LINE DOWN... CHOCOLATE!!!

I've been provided with preparation instructions. There's a limited diet for today, Wednesday, two days before the procedure; a liquid diet Thursday; and then a prescription called CitraFleet (yeah, guess what that's for) to be taken Thursday night and again Friday morning five hours before the procedure.

CHEESE, BREAD, LOW-FAT YOGURT.
CHICKEN BREAST,  BREAD, AND GOOD COFFEE AT EL JAZZY.

Today I can have low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, a little butter, fresh or hard cheese, white bread or toast, cookies (but not whole-grain), chicken or fish broths, rice and pasta (not whole grain), grilled white meat, grilled or boiled white fish, strained juices, infusions, teas, coffee, and non-carbonated beverages.

As I read the instructions for the sixth time, it dawned on me why I've been so stressed.

For me, this is like [fricking] cooking. And we all know how much I love [fricking] cooking.

Worst of all, I can't have chocolate until Friday afternoon. Can you imagine? More than two entire days without chocolate! Our friends Ray and Jean just arrived with four bags of truffles for us. Thank god I consumed one entire bag of Rum Truffles yesterday before all this "cooking" started.

SAN GERALDO HAD ONE. I HAD THE REST.
I MIGHT HIDE THESE UNTIL FRIDAY AFTERNOON. MINE. MINE. MINE.

But, wait! I lied. The chocolate isn't even the worst of it. San Geraldo is baking another several loaves of Jamaican Black Cake (click here) and I can't have any of that until Friday afternoon either. Meanwhile, he just finished pureeing all the ingredients and has a contact high from the alcohol fumes.

All joking and whining aside, I'm grateful this procedure is available. It's considered one of the most effective cancer screening and prevention exams. It may even already have saved my life.

So, I can live without Jamaican black cake — and even chocolate — for a couple of days.