25.11.08

Happy Thanksgiving

Hi Everyone!!

We can't be there to celebrate this Thanksgiving with all of you. I hope you know how grateful we are to have such loving supportive family and friends in our lives. You give us the strength to go on fabulous adventures because we know that you'll love us know matter where we go. That is a blessing.

The kids have school on Thanksgiving this year. They have a half day on Friday but Nick and I are letting them stay home. We're not sure if we'll be celebrating with dinner on Thursday evening or another day on the weekend. I'm going to record the parade on our Slingbox so we can be authentic. There are no turkeys here so we're substituting for chicken which, the Sopers know, is not a huge stretch for me. Mom always made a Capon for Thanksgiving never a turkey. But, I'm going to have to make gravy from scratch. There are no canned sweet potatoes here. They have something that is in the sweet potato family. Everyone assures me it's close enough. I've got a recipe. I'm not too worried. There is no canned pumpkin here, and unless you were smart enough to find one and buy one around Halloween no fresh ones either. We're having apple pie. I've got the mashed potatoes covered, no problem there. And I was able to hunt down a can of cranberry sauce...the jelly, not our favorite but every little bit of home helps.

Of all the years of crazy Thankgsiving mishaps this year it seems we face the most challenges...unknown produce, unfamiliar cooking utensils...and an oven that is in celcius. Despite the daunting task of creating the feast in foreign lands I am confident that we'll be successful. We have each other...and that is blessing enough.

Many of you have seen the following in email form. I send out this little essay every year because it reminds me of the Thanksgivings we have at our house. I have no idea who wrote it but I suspect they may know me...or at least have heard about some of our misadventures in cooking. Maureen can share all the drama with you. Most importantly, it reminds me that even though it may not be picture perfect presentation it's your attitude that makes the memory. So, without further ado, I give you, Martha Stewart will not be joining us this Thanksgiving.
Martha Stewart will not be dining with us this Thanksgiving. I'm telling you in advance, so don't act surprised. Since Ms. Stewart won't be coming, I've made a few small changes: Our sidewalk will not be lined with homemade, paper bag luminaries. After a trial run, it was decided that no matter how cleverly done, rows of flaming lunch sacks do not have the desired welcoming effect.

Once inside, our guests will note that the entry hall is not decorated with the swags of Indian corn and fall foliage I had planned to make. Instead, I've gotten the kids involved in the decorating by having them track in colorful autumn leaves from the front yard. The mud was their idea.

The dining table will not be covered with expensive linens, fancy china, or crystal goblets. If possible, we will use dishes that match and everyone will get a fork. Since this IS Thanksgiving, we will refrain from using the plastic Peter Rabbit plate and the Santa napkins from last Christmas.

Our centerpiece will not be the tower of fresh fruit and flowers that I promised. Instead we will be displaying a hedgehog-like decoration hand-crafted from the finest construction paper. The artist assures me it is a turkey.

We will be dining fashionably late. The children will entertain you while you wait. I'm sure they will be happy to share every choice comment I have made regarding Thanksgiving, pilgrims and the turkey hotline. Please remember that most of these comments were made at 5:00 a.m. upon discovering that the turkey was still hard enough to cut diamonds. As accompaniment to the children's recital, I will play a recording of tribal drumming. If the children should mention that I don't own a recording of tribal drumming, or that tribal drumming sounds suspiciously like a frozen turkey in a clothes dryer, ignore them, They are lying.

We toyed with the idea of ringing a dainty silver bell to announce the start of our feast. In the end, we chose to keep our traditional method. We've also decided against a formal seating arrangement. When the smoke alarm sounds, please gather around the table and sit where you like.

In the spirit of harmony, we will ask the children to sit at a separate table. In a separate room next door.

Now, I know you have all seen pictures of one persons carving a turkey in front of a crowd of appreciative onlookers. This will not be happening at our dinner. For safety reasons, the turkey will be carved in a private ceremony. I stress private meaning: Do not, under any circumstances, enter the kitchen to laugh at me. Do not send small, unsuspecting children to check on my progress. I have an electric knife. The turkey is unarmed. It stands to reason that I will eventually win. When I do, we will eat.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind my young diners that passing the rolls is not a football play. Nor is it a request to bean your sister in the head with warm tasty bread.

Oh, and one reminder for the adults: For the duration of the meal, and especially while in the presence of young diners, we will refer to the giblet gravy by its lesser-known name: Cheese Sauce. If a young diner questions you regarding the origins or type of Cheese Sauce, plead ignorance.

Before I forget, there is one last change. Instead of offering a choice between 12 different scrumptious desserts, we will be serving the traditional pumpkin pie, garnished with whipped cream and small fingerprints. You will still have a choice; Take It or Leave It. Martha Stewart will not be dining with us this Thanksgiving. She probably won't come next year either. I am thankful.

There are so many things we are thankful for that it's impossible to list them. But, I think on days like Thanksgiving, it's important to say, I'm thankful for you. Each one of you, whether you've known us forever or just a few months. You are a precious gift to us and we love you all.
Have a happy Thanksgiving. And remember we're thinking of you all with love today!

24.11.08

Walk to Parc Guell

From the very first visit to Barcelona the kids have been enamored with a Gaudi scultpure of a lizard from Parc Guell. They named him Jeff. And Jeff, is everywhere. He is a staple for Barcelona souveniers. We even picked up a couple of Jeffs for our own collection. But, we'd never made it to Parc Guell. Yesterday, we finally got to see the statue in person.

The parc was designed by Antonio Gaudi and was built between 1900 and 1914. It was originally designed as a housing development offering a garden atmosphere with a beautiful view of the city. But only two houses were ever built and none of them sold. I believe Gaudi himself bought one for his family. It is a bit of a walk from the train station but we're used to that by now. This is the main stairs at the entrance of the parc.



Below are the houses that sit on either side of the entrance. They are both rather fantastical. I think one is the Gaudi house which is currently a museum. It contains some furniture that Gaudi designed himself.


I think the houses look rather like a gingerbread house. It's inspired us for our own gingerbread design. We'll be working on it shortly after Thanksgiving.



The kids by the wall on the steps. I love the tile work here. Each square is different and they are all stunning.



The kids finally getting a close up look at the real Jeff. Somehow they thought he was bigger. This Jeff is actually a repaired Jeff. The original was destroyed by vandals in 2007.









Some of the ceiling tiles underneath the porch.


Gaudi designed this wavy section of the porch as seating. This is actually the outside view of the seats. The tiled wave covers the entire exterior of the porch.


The view from the seats...looking out over Barcelona. It was actually a cloudy day. I think those two spires off to the left in the distance are the Sagrada Familia. I'm told you can see it on a clear day and it's really not that far from the parc.


The kids on the bench that waves around the porch.




Andrea's idea for a Christmas card photo was to stand on either side of these giant pillars. I'm not sure it works for the cards but it did come out cute.



There is a tunneled walk way through the parc. The interior has an unusual arc to it, like it's leaning. We didn't get a good picture of that because there was a lot of tourist groups waiting to do that. The outside columns are interesting though each a little different, some more polished than others.





I thought several of the iron gates looked like butterfly wings. One pair was a bit too high for my kids but these seemed perfect. A bunch of butterflies...







A view from the cafe...


There was so much of the parc we haven't seen. I think the focal points of the parc are mostly at the entrance but there is a lot of walking trails and other things to see throughout the parc. We had arrived at the parc around 4 pm though and it was darker because of the weather. So we started heading back to the train stopping to admire more Jeffs and other tiled souveniers along the way. We're looking forward to going back with our friends and family when they visit.
Love you all!

21.11.08

Walk around Born

Today was another field trip with my Spanish class. We walked around the neighborhood called Born. It was an area of shops and commerce. Many of the streets still have the names of the merchandise sold there in days gone by. There was much more Spanish speaking today. It was a combination of both beginner and intermediate Spanish classes.



A famous 13th century cathedral. St Marie de Mar. I believe this is one of the cathedrals built to honor Mary and her assistance in getting rid of a variety of plagues and bad things.
Below is a bar where you can get champagne or rather cava. But you can get beer there too, note the sign. We have fresh beer from the barrel.lol




A street in Born. There is a Mercado at the end of the street that I thought would come out better. It's really a beautiful building.


Below is a couple of buildings that I thought were pretty. The facades of buildings here are very artistic. It's hard to see the detail in this picture. You're just going to have to come to see it in person.



The next two pictures are of signs. The first street sign is for Carrer dels Sombrerers. This is the street they made and sold hats en la passada...in the past.lol


Back before the masses had the ability to read they had signs too. This head is a sign that signifies that ladies of the night could be found on this street. Also, en la passada...ahora, no.



I love my Spanish class. We have a great group of women. Our two instructors are very personable. They both have different teaching styles. We learn the foundations from Laura and Jorge helps us to use it. They made the walk very interesting and made us use our Spanish when we asked questions. I'm actually getting pretty good at this Spanish. Yo soy donde esta....I know where that is... at least I think that is what it says.
On the way home we passed the Happy Pills store. It was open. They sell Jelly beans.lol I also stopped at the one and only bagel shop. Yay for bagels in the morning.
Life is good.

19.11.08

Happy Birthday Omi

Omi,

I'm hoping this works. When I tried to play it on my computer before uploading it there was no sound. But, I think it just might be my computer. If you can't hear anything...imagine me saying, "Hey Omi!" and the kids singing Happy Birthday.

video

We love you and miss you!! Sending lots of hugs to you today!!
Love,

Brenda, Nick, Andrea, Alexa, Joseph and Jessica

18.11.08

News and updates

Hola!!

Great news. The dryer is fixed. In case you've been counting that is 4 weeks without a dryer. I am certain I'll be nominated for sainthood any day now.lol But, it's fixed and running!! Yay we have soft towels again.

On the Visa front. My trip to the US was shelved when an employee at Vistaprint Lexington offered to take the Passports for us. We had to go into Barcelona and get a letter notorized that gave her permission. Notories in Spain are not the same as notories in the States. I've got to say, we do it better...or more efficiently. Here, we had to go to a company that performs this service and waited 45 minutes for them to prepare a document that said we had come to them to witness my signature...this for some reason required my profession among other extraneous information. Then we all sat in a room and signed both my paper and the paper saying I had come in. 20 minutes later we had the papers in hand. Very odd. It's so much easier in the States where almost anyone can be a notary and you say who you are, show some ID, sign the papers get a stamp and move on with your life in about 10 minutes.

Needless to say I was a little disappointed that I wasn't going to be going to the States. I had a list of items I wanted to shop for not to mention friends to see. But, the whole Visa process requires dropping off the Passports one day and returning in about a week for the Passports with Visas to be given back to you. That is a long time to be away from the kids. So, this is for the best.

Plus, it increased my leverage in the discussions of what to do with our three week Christmas vacation. Well, that and the fact that Nick has meetings in Lexington on January 8 and 9th. *grin* We're working on getting flights into NJ for the 20th of December. We think we'll be in NJ visiting family and friends for that week then returning to Massachusetts for the remainder of the stay. Please shoot me an email if you want to try to coordinate a visit while we're in town.

Miss you and love you all!!

16.11.08

What a difference a decade makes...


Ten years ago today Jessica Lucia came into this world...around 1:24 pm in the afternoon. I can't believe it's been 10 years. Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday the kids all gathered around the little plastic bassinett in the hospital to check out their little sister. It's hard to believe but Andrea was about a month and a half shy of her 4th birthday. Alexa was 2 1/2 and Joe was 17 months. (please excuse the pictures of pictures. We don't have a scanner and it's the best I could do.)







Here she was all 6 pounds 1 ounce of little girl.



And now... not quite so innocent, with her newest fashion statement the hankerchief tied around her head.



We had her party last night. She wanted a sleep over. She had 5 girls over, only two stayed the night. Alexa helped her plan a High School Musical 3 party.



They had dress up in Sharpay's locker, Truth or Dare in Troy's Hideout. They played the Totally Gross Science game for Science and some charades for Drama class. They of course ate in the cafeteria.lol





They watched HM1 until around 1 am when I finally pulled the plug and said they had to go to sleep. They awoke to the chocolate chip pancakes with a side of bacon. We spent the rest of the day trying to catch up on our sleep.


Happy Birthday my lil bit, my sunshine, my Jessica. We love you!






12.11.08

The more things change, the more they stay the same

In which tween angst hits the 6th grade.

Walking home from the bus stop today Joseph had his annoyance written all over his face. Thankfully, Alexa and Jess were staying after school so he wasn't further agravated by family interference. We trudge up the hill and he looks at me and says, "Sophie has a book called "The Book." I thought perhaps it was a newly released must read book for the tween set. I'm out of the literary loop so he has my attention. "It's a book she made herself full of the secrets of the 6th grade." I'm not seeing the problem but he continues. "It only contains the secrets of the boys. She won't let us see it...just the girls. It's not fair that all the girls get to see it and we don't." I agree with him it's not fair. "I think you should talk to her mom." he says.
I said perhaps we should wait this out and see. If you don't play into making it a big deal it'll go away. Plus, I can't think of any secrets Joe has that he would be worried about. "Mom, she told me if I don't do what she says she'll tell everyone Ben's secrets." Well, that's a problem.lol
So I said if it is affecting everyone in the class then maybe he should talk to the teacher. Seriously, there are 30 kids in the whole 6th grade. "No," he says decisively."I don't want to be a tattletale. Do we have notebooks at home?" I told him I thought so." I'm going to make a Boy's Book." He continues ahead, problem solved, with a smile on his face.
And so it begins...

10.11.08

A photo walk through the house...

A few of you have seen pictures of the house from before we moved in. Here is the house with our furniture and personal touches.lol

I ran out of camera battery before we got to the guest room. I'll try to post that later. It's just the bottom floor of the house.


Here is the inside of the front door.





This is behind the first picture to the one side, our new dining room table that was delivered today.


This is to the left of the previous picture. It's a great room that is open up to the outside. There are pocket doors all around this room to close off sections of the house.


This is a nook to the front of the house. There is a small fireplace between the nook and the sitting area.


This is the kitchen. Behind the small green walll is the eat in kitchen area that is really my laundry area. This is a high foul language zone. The dryer is still broken.



Joe's room



The other half of Joe's room...


Jess's room


The other side of Jessie's room...
The Master bedroom, I have Jess's sleeping bag on it because I haven't found a comforter that I like. They apparently don't get cold at night here. The stores have a very limited supply.


The recreation room on the second floor.




Alexa's room...


The other half of Alexa's room



The study on the second floor



The two beds in the study on the second floor that is perfect for little cousins and friends to sleep in...



Andrea's room...



Once the camera battery is finished charging I'll post pictures of the guest room to entice you all to visit...
Love you and miss you all!!!