21.12.08

The fourth grade has been studying Medieval history this semester. To celebrate the end of the semester Mr Hupp arranged for a Medieval feast. Jessica and I decided to contribute our version of apple tarts...which were basically mini apple pies in cupcake papers. Here she is showing off our creations. I got to the school early to help them set up and make wassail with some other Moms. This is the cafeteria. Which is also the place I have my Spanish lessons once a week. The other day we're in the teachers conference room, but I digress.
More pics from before the kids came in.

The kids came down and the principal read a proclamation inviting the children to the feast. True to the time, Lords and ladies were allowed to enter first, then Masters and mistressess, lastly the serfs were allowed to enter.
Mr Hupp was a serff.lol

Jess,waiting with her friends.

The Principal read some more things to the kids, welcoming them and such.

The festive table....note the candles burning. That never would happen in the states.lol




Jess getting her food, all the kids were dressed as their characters. Each kid was assigned a character to research and create a house in which they would have lived. Some of the houses were amazing. Obviously, the parents were helping them out. Jess...poor thing, didn't have the help. But, it came out cute anyway. I don't have a picture of that though.









One of the other teachers read a story about a plow. Then one of the fifth grade teachers came in and they acted out a short poem in which the farmers son askes for the fair lady's hand in marraige.

They introduced the Mummers next. Apparently they were groups of medieval entertainers, which makes me wonder if they are not in some way related to our Philadelphia mummers...um, no feathers or string bands today though.



I taped the little play...ok..technical difficulties.I think it's too big I'm going to see if Nick can help upload it. We've been trying for several hours now...
and on to the next thing...

Mr Hupp taught the kids a dance to do as well.


video


They invited a high school student who fences to show the kids a few moves. He was very funny. He started out by saying that the kingdom must really be in dire straights to be recruiting 4th graders. LOL


He picked out some volunteers to demonstrate some moves. First there was a boy who the fencer quickly disarmed. Then he picked Jess. Silly, silly man.lol Jess put the moves on him. I didn't tape it but she kept jumping around and jabbing like a crazy person and wouldn't you know it, she knocked his sword away. lol That's my girl. You can't see the sword in this pic because I had a bad angle and she's left handed.

Then a toast with the wassail to a happy new year.

Mr Hupp opening his gift from the class. The woman to the right is the other 4th grade teacher. I don't know her name. The kids really like their teachers. There were hugs all around.


It was a festive way to celebrate the holidays.

Now we're packing for our flight tomorrow. We'll be in the states by the afternoon.
We can't see everyone this trip but I'm excited about the plans we have and the friends we will see. I hope everyone has safe travels, happy family gatherings and continued blessings in the new year.

Love you all and Merry Christmas!!
~Bren

19.12.08

UN Human Rights Celebration

This year is the 60th anniversary of the UN Resolution on Human Rights. For a look at exactly what the UN Resolution says look here: http://www.un.org/events/humanrights/2007/hrphotos/declaration%20_eng.pdf

The school presented a very nice program commemorating this event. Each grade was involved in some way. It was originally scheduled to be on Dec 10, but there was rain and it was postponed...and then the musical accompianist was unavailable so it was rescheduled for this week. And of course, it rained again. So, it was split into different rooms and areas. The middle schoolers gave their presentations in their own rooms. Alexa's grade presented their own greek Gods. Alexa's god was Scholas..God of School. I'm not really sure the connection with the UNHR thing but maybe freedom of religion/culture?? Anyway, it was a cute poster. Andrea and her grade recreated a Picasso painting created to commemorate the revolution in Spain. Here is a website on the original and the anti-war statement it represents:
http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/a_nav/guernica_nav/main_guerfrm.html

Joe worked on a project through his Movie makers after school program. Their group created a short film that read parts of the resolution in Spanish, Catalan, English, Slovak and Thai. It was a very creative film. I'm trying to get the teacher to upload it so we can share it with family. I'll let you know if it's possible.

Jess's class participated in the musical entertainment that was held in the music room. They sang John Lennon's Imagine and What a Wonderful World, I don't know who owns that song.lol It was very moving. Here are some pics of that.







More to come on the Medieval Feast from yesterday.
~Bren

17.12.08

Christmas in Barcelona

Christmas lights in our town...




Yesterday in between my Spanish class and the UN Human Rights celebration at the school I took a train into the city in search of a Christmas Market. The one I found was in front of the Barcelona Cathedral, near the Roman Ruins. Actually there is a picture of the plaza in the pictures of La Merce. It's the one with the big tv screens...that's the plaza. It's the Feria de Santa Lucia. It's the main market here in Barcelona. I didn't take pictures because it was raining, gray and wet. Most of the tables set up had green and/or clear plastic tarps on it. Not photogenic.


I was a woman on a mission though. These markets sell something that is a uniquely Catalan tradition. Here is the thing, Catalan's have some different Christmas traditions. And brace yourselves, it's out there.


First there is a Caganer, which translates to the pooper. I think. Anyway, it's a little figure that the Catalan's put in their nativity scene who is squatting and as one blog put it rather politely, is "doing his business." The figure has been banned in the cities nativity scene but he graces many private ones.


And instead of a Christmas tree they have a Caga Tio. This is a log that is hollowed out and has a face on it. Each night before bed starting on Dec 8th, the Immaculate Conception,the kids feed it and cover it with a blanket to keep it warm. Then on Christmas Eve or Day depending on the family they knock it with a stick and sing a song, that yes involves pooping, to get their treats. "Caga tió, hazelnuts and turrones, don't caca herring, which are too salty, caca turrones which are are more tasty. "It doesn't bring large presents. Those are brought by the Three Kings on January 6th.


I was looking for some pictures to post since I don't have any. This site has 8 pictures of Christmas in Barcelona and bonuses...they were taken by Chris Hupp...Jessica's teacher. :D


:D All of a sudden, coal in your stocking doesn't seem so bad.

Countdown to Vacation...

Hola Amigos y mis familia.

This post is going to be a mix of this and that.

Here is a picture of the mountains in the distance with snow on top that I mentioned the other day. Well, technically it's new snow in the distance since it melted and I had to wait for it to appear again. But, it's cool.

If you remember from the walk to the bus stop pictures the sculpture in the middle of the cirle is at the bottom of the picture.
Below is a pic from Hopnews.com of the moon on the night it was close to the earth a few nights ago. Isn't it beautiful? Makes me want to start to sing...."Somewhere out there...." *grin* Aren't you glad there is no sound on this post?


I had grand plans for a gingerbread house this year. I was very inspired by Gaudi's tile work and was hoping to recreate one of his houses at the entrance of Parc Guell. Dream big, I always say. However, we hit several road blocks. First, there is no molasses here in Spain. None. So, there is no making of my own dough. I heard Ikea has some. So I went there to find they only had the pre-made kits. OK. I bought a couple of kits. I figured we could work with it. One thing leads to another, sickness invades the house, time moves on and the candies available here are not meltable. Really they are mostly gummies. I found a few rolls of what looks like lifesavers. Then, we had a day when we found ourselves with a few friends over. I ditched my grand plans in favor of immediate fun. Each of the kids got a side of the house to decorate and eat on their own.
Joe stayed at school to work on his Movie Makers club. His friend Oscar's Mom offered to bring him home so I brought Karina, Oscar's sister and Jess's friend to our house from the bus stop. And we had Jackie and Josie, two girls who arrived at the same time we did. Their mom was off touring a local school.







Alexa and Andrea had their own roof tiles.

I did manage to melt down the lifesaver wannabees. But I didn't have much of a form to draw inspiration from so I went with this...


Not exactly what I was going for but now I know a whole lot more than I did going in. I think I'm going to search out some candies and molasses while we're home in the US. Then, we'll try again during the long winter months.

I've got some more pics from the UN Human Rights assembly the kids had yesterday but I uploaded them out of order so...tune in later...same bat time, same bat channel.





11.12.08

Conversations with Jessie

We're all still suffering the affects of the cold that we had. All but Alexa and Nick who seemed to have escaped it. *knock wood* Jess has been back at school but her cough is still bad. I checked her for fever this morning and she was ok. She wanted to go to school so off she went.
I got a call from the office of the school around 1 pm. Jess was there and complaining of an upset stomach and bad cough. Nick had the car so I had to walk to the train station, take the train and walk up to the school. It wasn't a bad walk. The weather was at least sunny. On the way there, in the distance I could see the mountaintops are now covered in snow. It's a pretty cool sight. I'll try to get a picture of it to post.
I got to the school rather quickly and picked up Jess who insisted she was fine for walking to the station. On the way home from the train she starts talking about Santa. She wrote a letter to him in her head...

Dear Santa,
You are the best Santa ever. I hope you never die because I want to work for you when I get older. I want to stay little forever...and my Dad wants me to stay little too. He's always telling me to stop growing up. I think I'd make the perfect elf. Please don't forget me at Christmas time. I know you won't cause I'm not on the naughty list.

At this point, bad mom that I am, I interupt and say that I think there is a good chance that all the Ruotolo's are on the naughty list. She wasn't phased by that. She just looked at me and said, "yeah, but he's a good ol' fellow. He'll forgive us anyway." Then she launched into her reasons for believing not the least of which was the amount Santa spends this year. "I mean, you have four kids...and think about John and Kate plus 8. Nobody could buy that many presents."

She wants to work for Santa when she gets older. She says it'll be cool to know she is near such a great person. She says maybe she could be Santa when she gets older. I smile...cause it's good to have goals.

Love you all
Bren

9.12.08

Montjuic

This weekend was a three day weekend for us. December 6th is Consitution Day here and Monday December 8th was the Immaculate Conception. So, the kids and Nick had off yesterday.
We've had a head cold/fever/cough thing floating through the house. Never the less we were determined to go see something this weekend. We found ourselves heading to Montjuic. It's a large area of Barcelona on a Mont that has many attractions, ie, gardens, fountains, museums and the Olympic Stadium. Saturday we went to the Castill.
Wikipedia has this to say about Montjuic.
Barcelona's Montjuïc is a broad shallow hill with a relatively flat top overlooking the harbour, to the southeast of the city centre. The eastern side of the hill is almost a sheer cliff, giving it a commanding view over the city's harbour immediately below. The top of the hill (a height of 173 metres) was the site of several fortifications, the latest of which (the Castell de Montjuïc) remains today. The fortress largely dates from the 17th century, with 18th century additions. In 1842 the garrison (loyal to the Madrid government) shelled parts of the city following disturbances. It served as a prison, often holding political prisoners, until the time of General Franco. The castle was the site of numerous executions. In 1897 an incident popularly known as Els processos de Montjuïc prompted the execution of anarchist supporters, which in turn lead to a severe repression of the workers' struggle for their rights. On different occasions during the Spanish Civil War, both Nationalists and Republicans were executed there, each at the time when the site was held by their opponents. The Catalan nationalist leader Lluís Companys i Jover was also executed there in 1940, having been extradited to the Franco government by the Nazis.

I just liked the idea that it was a castle. Jessica was just there this past week when her class went to the MNAC museum. Apparently they stopped and had a quick walk around the castle first. She really enjoyed the cannons and wanted me to get a picture of her with one of them.

The entrance way.
The view from the wall toward the port.

Another view of the front of the castle.
A better view of the garden which used to be some sort of moat.


The entrance and walkway. I wasn't loving walking over the bridge. I'm pretty proud of myself my fear of heights was severely tested at several points on Saturday. I'm still alive...so that's good.lol
The kids looking over the side wall.



Joe being grumpy. We never did figure out why.




The view out toward Barcelona. I think the city looks like crushed seashells from up there. It's really an amazing view.




The Sagrada Familia is off to the far right in the picture.
Right at the base of the mountain...somewhere is the neighborhood that the kids school is in. When you look up from the school you see the large antenae thing that is ontop the mountain.
One of the wells on the property.

More of the city toward the port. This is the section that Nick works in.

The family walking... Andrea was behind me. She was coming down with the sickness as the day progressed.

There is an aerial cableway...cable cars.lol that can take you up and down the mountain. There is another set that can take you from the port but it seems to me that those take you much higher. I was not getting on those but the kids wanted to take the cars down the mountain. Nick took the puppies with him and I jumped in with the kids...and held on tight.



View from the cable car.

In the middle of the picture is a very long slide that we found on our way up the mountain. The kids had a lot of fun sliding down it.

After we stopped at a mall in the city to get McDonalds for lunch. We park by the beach here because it's free and easy to get there. Plus, there is usually a nice view to end the day.
I'm not sure what it is here but most nights the sunsets have a milky glow to them. It's very soft and very pretty. Almost like an impressionistic painting of a sunset over the water...of course the sun is setting behind us but still...the colors are pretty.


Sunday we went to see Twilight because dispite Andrea not feeling well she wasn't going to make it through another day without seeing it. The movie opened on Friday and she had called me from school to see if she could take the metro with her friends to the theater. This isn't unusual here. Kids around the age of 12, 13 are given a lot of freedom. I'm not there yet. So, I said no. But we took the train, and metro to the movie so that we could see how she would do it in the future. It's not terribly hard. We'll see.
We spent yesterday watching Christmas movies and relaxing. I came down with the bug and spent most of the day in bed. The kids all seem to have a residual cough but they were well enough to go to school.
We've got 2 more weeks until we get to see everyone again. We're super excited about it.
Love you all
~Bren