Friday, July 30, 2010

sometimes I am befuddled by my own cooking

I just created a dish consisting of:

-- onions
-- ham
-- olive oil
-- green beans
-- rosemary
-- thyme
-- black pepper
-- "meat broth" (probably pork and vegetables)
-- basil
-- "tomate frito" (tomato sauce with garlic and sugar)
-- tortellini (with cheese filling.)

It's tasty. . .just. . . weird.

spain is going to kill me

There are $1.50 packs of a dozen palmiers (puff pastry with carmelized sugar on the bottom) or croissants EVERYWHERE.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

sometimes it just works

The neuter gender in Spanish, from After three.5 years of high school Spanish and a semester of college Spanish, I had *never* seen this in a textbook, but I have read it/heard it multiple times.

Yay for learning!

Monday, July 26, 2010

this dog is awesome.

Doggy on "amazing feats of balance."

Sunday, July 25, 2010


MY NEW SHORTS. (Replacement for the ones that got stolen.)

The picture was unintentional.

Friday, July 23, 2010

travelly doo

Thought I had on the flight to Madrid, which was in the notebook that got stolen:

As you should be able to tell, red represents states I have visited. Orange are states which are dubious -- while I have technically set foot in them, does a layover on a long flight count? Does accidentally wandering across a bridge on the Mississippi count?

Moral of story: I also would like to travel more in the U.S. at some point (though at this moment I am still more attracted to international locales.) Mainly the stuff I would really like to see is in the west -- Rockies, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, and so on. Of course I'd like to go to Alaska and Hawaii, but those are not within reach of a driving trip (Grandma Dyer might disagree on the former, but I stand by my statement). And there's the usual host of cities I'd like to visit at the very least to say that I had (Philadelphia, Seattle, New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, etc.)

Monday, July 19, 2010

the weekend: the worst and then the best

Okay, so this weekend was an experience.

I am going to write about it in reverse, because that way it ends on the really good note instead of just the okay good note.

So first: Sunday.

I hung out in my room for a while. I was kind of tired from the day before, so I made a big bowl of mashed potatoes and ate them. At about 3:00, I decided I needed some exercise and went out for a walk with my bag. I thought I might do some sketching. I went toward Plaza Mayor again; it's very pretty and the walk there is nice. I stopped in an H&M (thinking to myself: you know, sometimes globalization is not all bad) and bought a striped shirt and new pair of shorts (one pair of mine is getting some holes.) (Side note: Am now a size smaller in some H&M clothes than I was in May. Yay! Unfortunately, the sizes aren't real consistent in that store -- the same size is 34 on the first floor and a 40 on the basement floor.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

mashed potatoes

for breakfast.

I am so full of win I scare myself.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

random notes

One: Realized something terrible today, i.e. that for some portions of Madrid's male population mullets are acceptable. NOT OKAY. I even saw one mullet that was shaved all around and then had lots of little skinny dreadlocks in the back. GROSS.

Two: Purchased bus tickets to Granada and back for the weekend of August 14-15. They were 30 euros (as compared to 37 euros online.) WHOOOO.

Three: For another personal treat, I bought myself an ice tray.

Four: I now have a tumblr, contemplating chicken. Taking a cue from a fellow design student/friend, I plan to use it to make note of images I find interesting/inspiring.

Five: One of my fellow Fenbeings, who happens to be Puerto Rican, commented once, "I don't know why they teach coche and carro as words for car in American Spanish classes. No one says coche! Maybe they say it in Spain." YES THEY DO. I HEARD THEM.

organizing my desktop/brain for some serious sketching

One lesson I forgot from yesterday: Do not believe you will be able to fry onions and a breaded fish fillet in the same pan and have both be tasty. It's awkward; the onions end up burnt and the fish fillet ends up soggy.

Went to a meeting thing for the organization which is funding my internship in Madrid, PromoMadrid. The meeting was entirely in Spanish; I would say I understood about half of it, and could have understood more had people spoken a bit more slowly. We were supposed to talk about our opinions and experiences in the PromoMadrid program. Most people said they were happy to work with MIT (please, shiny diploma, please help me convince people that I am good to work with) and that three months maybe wasn't long enough. (Hear, hear!)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

lessons of the last two days

1. Older is not (always) better.

The 1954 version of Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart is charming, but the 1995 version (with Harrison Ford) is overall funnier, more touching, and has more sympathetic characters, in my humble opinion. Everyone is less disagreeable overall, there is stuff shot on-site in Paris, etc. (Watched this last night.)

2. It pays to keep wandering in slightly different directions.

During lunch today I stumbled upon the Temple de Debod, a portion of an Egyptian temple that was donated to Spain in the 60s after they helped (provided monetary support?) save some temples from the Aswan dam project. Tomorrow maybe I shall have time to actually go in the little museum, and take pictures. It's very pretty how they have it set up on the edge of the park.

3. Things that are familiar with a slight twist can make you laugh.

Today while standing in line in the grocery store I happened to note some little Disney board books in the display next to the checkout, La Dama y el Vagabundo and La Sirenita among them. Both of those made me chuckle; my mind shortcuts to "the Dame and the Vagabond" even though I know they mean "the Lady and the Tramp."

4. Don't make your (my) list too long, or you (I) will just ignore most of it and fall asleep.

I accomplished #2 on my list: Buy toilet paper.

5. Caramel flavor is not always good.

I bought some pudding cups labeled "flan," which is vanilla pudding with caramel sauce in the bottom. I took one to lunch today. It was gross, for reasons I can't fully articulate. Perhaps the flavoring was fake? Perhaps the lukewarm-ness turned me off? I don't know. Luckily I spent less than a euro on the pudding cups.

6. Corn flakes are always good.

7. People are not necessarily waiting to test you on your language skills.

We had a 20 minute coffee break at the end of work today. I actually held on to the conversation for 10 minutes or so before it got too fast and I got too lost. No one seemed to object. I also said a few simple things in Spanish, which is a start at the very least.

Well it is late and I must be up early. Good night.

yup, this pretty well sums it up.

Brilliant post about. . . well. . . attempting to be an adult. The "guilt spiral" is particularly characteristic of me.

On a separate note, after I walk to work every morning, my legs then throb for the next twenty minutes after I sit down at my desk. What's up with that? Combination of heat and concrete stress?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

by train! by plane! by bus! probably not by boat.

I am queen of plan/list-making and now is not an exception.

I have spent a noteworthy amount of time contemplating upon my Lonely Planet Discover Spain guide. I have flipped through (I think) every section and made notes and dog-eared the pages.

A brief summary of my plans:

Monday, July 12, 2010

now that my supply of underwear has been secured

i.e. I did laundry (successfully!) for the first time in the tiny washing machine in the kitchen. After examining the settings, I used "cashmere," because it had the lowest temperature and lowest spin rate. I need to buy some clothespins, though. . . I have the drying rack in my room, but I suspect them would dry more quickly on the line outside my window. (This actually happened last Thursday, but whatever.)

Last night I went on a small adventure to. . . ahem. . . McDonald's. I rationalized it to myself by saying that I was celebrating July 4 a few days late. I was distracted by a large grocery store next door to the golden arches -- Carrefour's. I think I am starting to map my neighborhood in supermarkets. This one had chicken (yay!) and tuna canned in water (yay!) but still no vanilla yogurt (boo!). (Caprabo's, the small grocery store closest to me, basically just stocks ten different kinds of ham and tuna canned in three kinds of oil -- olivia (olive), girasol (sunflower), and unspecified.) (Nowhere yet have I found vanilla yogurt. A multitude of fruit flavors, yes. Plantain flavor, yes. Coconut flavor, yes. Vanilla? No. I bought plain yogurt "con azucar" (with sugar). It is mediocre but filling.)

I purchased a hamburger Happy Meal with fries and a minisundae (? that's a new one. I don't think they include dessert in the U.S.) It came with two toys (intentional? maybe not.) The minisundae was okay, except for the MASHED BANANAS at the bottom. FOUL. I think the full-on joy of McDonald's I experienced last summer was seriously mitigated by the fact that I have been cooking food very similar to what I would eat in the U.S. for the last week. The main difference is a ready supply of mini-croissants at the grocery store. . . and the ham problem.

Two things I have not really addressed yet in my blog are a) work and b) language issues.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Today I discovered some "galletas de mantequilla" at the grocery store.

In English? BUTTER COOKIES. This is not good.

I don't know why I could resist the Walker's Shortbread (yes, they have that too) and not this cute little tin with multiple shapes of shortbread.

Now, out for a walk.

Friday, July 9, 2010

um erk

Not sure precisely what's going to get a really positive reaction yet, but it's not any of this*.

Still in the deep and awkward throes of chair design.

* In case it's not clear, these are the four sorta interchangeable chairs I spent the last two days coming up with. :P

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

a bit more

I have decided that, after six and a half days without it, to get out the iPod for my jaunt to work and the lunch hour. No, it's not the safest thing ever to have my ears plugged up, but mine is nice neighborhood, I won't be using the iPod whilst walking after dark, and I desperately need the energy jolt music can provide while I am coming up off of caffeine.

I found this list of warning signs that you are seriously addicted to caffeine:

Do you frequently feel fatigued throughout the day? Do you rely on caffeine to maintain your energy level? (Holy crap yes.)

Do you find it difficult to concentrate without a cup of coffee or your favorite soft drink? (See: My entire college career.)

Do you suffer from severe mood swings or PMS? (Um maybe.)

Do you have frequent headaches, severe heartburn, or high blood pressure? (Yes to the heartburn.)

Do you often feel dizzy? (Usually I know when this is because of caffeine or interactions with other stuff, but I guess you could say that.)

Is it difficult for you to fall asleep at night? Do you often wake up feeling exhausted? (No, and yes.)

That's. . . ~5.5 out of 6. Also found another site that claims you can suffer "mild depression" during the withdrawal phase, which would potentially explain my slightly glum atmosphere the last couple of days (coupled with moving stress, of course.)

Un suspiro largo. . .

pictures (not of Spain, alas)

Last night I bought detergent and watched The Triplets of Belleville. It was adorable, while making fun of France, the U.S. -- basically everything it touched on, it simultaneously made fun of and smiled at. (Fred Astaire, the Tour de France, the position of maitre d'hotel, people who love appliances, Boy Scouts. . .) It was technically in French, but the main characters didn't speak, so it didn't particularly matter.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

a wish. . .

I wish sometimes that I could send my personality in for a tune-up. I would fill out things on a little yellow sheet -- "God, fix these things here, okay? Clean out the junk here. Tighten this up." I would send away my personality express in a padded envelope, maybe sleep for a couple days while it was being worked on, then get it back with a receipt of repairs performed.

I was thinking about that this morning, when I decided that it a definitely a personality defect that I usually dread rather than look forward to meeting new people. What's up with that? I worry about looking like an idiot -- but man, it's not like I can really avoid it.

(I'm not in deep trouble yet, but I see myself beginning to repeat some social patterns of last summer that didn't do me much good.)

I worry also because I'm not super-excited yet about planning trips to Barcelona, Granada, and wherever I'm going at the end of the summer. I mean, holy crap -- great opportunity! Opportunity of a lifetime, even! Why am I not bubbling over with excitement?

But mainly right now I just feel tired. I think "jet lag" is the only real, physical thing I could blame this on, but my personal opinion is that moving, even temporarily, knocks the crap out of you. Getting on a bus or a plane, even one pointed at Venice or Rome, does not fill me with enthusiasm.

I am optimistic, however -- reading about the museums in Madrid makes me feel a mild but pleasant anticipation. I can handle walking around town. Presumably I will feel more bouncy as time goes on.

Monday, July 5, 2010

new word for the day

Secuestrar, "to kidnap."

In other news, I haven't quite gotten used to the Spanish air-kiss-on-both-cheeks thing -- I don't think I can quite do it naturally yet. . .

Saturday, July 3, 2010

when there are so many things

that I could do, many of which would even be useful or pleasant -- such as a reading a book, studying Spanish, writing a real blog entry, working on a submission for Threadless, writing, researching various things, writing emails to various people -- all I ever end up doing is sitting on my bed. Or sleeping.

In other news, I visited the Prado today (after getting pretty lost and walking through a park* of 17th and 18th century portraits (except for the amusing one of two toddlers in tiny white wigs), but I did enjoy the dramatic 19th century "history" paintings. Also went through several galleries of Velazquez's work. I've obviously never visited another gallery in the home country of a famous European painter, so I don't know if it's normal for one museum to contain what surely must be the majority of a painter's works, or if that is unique to Spain/Madrid. I mean, I'm not sure any other painters are as closely identified with the national identities of any other countries as Velazquez (and Goya, and El Greco) is with Spain.

Also, something excellent about the Prado: It's open until 8 every day, and free from 6-8 every day. Yeah! 8 euros isn't a huge amount, but still.

Off to be a bum now.

* So whenever I say I walked through a park, my parents are generally convinced that I am nine-tenths of the way down the road to being murdered and dismembered, possibly for my Birkenstocks. I actually did have one (but ONLY ONE) creepy guy approach and speak to me in English (?!!), then when I pretended he wasn't there and kept walking, accused me of not speaking to black people (I think, I couldn't really understand his accent.) I kept ignoring him and walking so I could enjoy my park-ly experience (the rest of the park was lovely, thanks), but I was really pissed for at least ten minutes. I think you have to be a complete moron (or a crook) if you approach a woman you don't know who is walking by herself in a big city and then are surprised when she refuses to talk to you. Ugh.


Just cooked my first meal in Spain (up until now, I was surviving primarily on corn flakes). . .carrots, onions, and chicken, all liberally sprinkled with thyme and rosemary, with a side of buttered pasta. Nom.

Things I learned in the process of cooking:

In order to use the gas stove, I had to turn on the valve for the gas, then turn on the burner, then light the burner myself (no little convenient clicky thing is included in the burner). While there are several lighters in the kitchen, none of them seem to work, so I use a long rolled-up piece of paper instead. (There is a box on one side of the kitchen with a little opening through which you can see a little gas flame. . . I think it might be the water heater. . .)

Rosemary = Romero. Thyme = Tomillo.

Olive oil is (surprise!) cheaper in Spain (About $3 for a liter.) Veggies are normal-ish prices; meat is somewhat more expensive.

There doesn't seem to be a fire alarm in the kitchen, and I haven't found the switch for turning on the exhaust fan over the stove. I am mainly happy about this, as I had developed quite a grudge against the psycho alarm at Fenway.

I have quite a bit I'd like to talk about later. So far, my main observation about Madrid is that compared to Tokyo, everything seems. . . a little looser, a little less . . . tense? (I can't really compare it to home. That comparison just doesn't go when I try to run it through my head.) My room is a little bigger, with higher ceilings and a very small balcony. The washer is free; there are clotheslines installed either outside the windows or on the balcony, in my case. The bathroom is bigger; there is a tub with a shower instead of a rectangular box. There are trees growing in more places. My office is a little bigger, with a few less people working in it (five total, including me, instead of ten total, including me). People seem to work normal-ish hours -- 9 to 6 with an hour for lunch (although the 30-minute smoke breaks don't seem to be such a big thing here.) My two Italian coworkers worked nine hours a day this week, but they didn't come in on Friday because they were going home to Sardinia for the weekend.

I don't know if these little things are actually indicative of a more relaxed attitude toward life, or if they are just indicators of Western culture that I missed while in Japan, and so I feel more relaxed when they are present.