Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dilemma of the Week:

Packing winter clothes for a 17 day trip (wait whatttt I'm gonna be gone that long?!) in this little carryon backpack. Yes, this is the same backpack I've been using for weekend trips. And yet I'm still worried that RyanAir is going to screw me and charge me 40 euros to check it.

Rei Urban Traveller... please don't fail me!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. First world problems, I know.

Here's what I'm doing to pack light for the trip:
-Black peacoat, black boots. I have doubts that they'll be warm enough, but I'll live.
-Packing lots of solid basics and neutral tones. My goal is to be able to mix and match everything in my suitcase. Europeans tend to follow the rule that all neutrals go together. Yes, I've seen people pull off browns, blacks, and navy in the same outfit, and I'm gonna do it too.
-Lots of thin layers. I'm planning to layer tank tops, long sleeves, light sweaters, and leggings under my coat, jeans, and boots. Thin layers means I can pack more and have to options.
-Mixing it up with scarves. I'm bringing as many scarves as I can squeeze in to add variety, and I'm playing around with different ways of wearing them.
-Wearing as many layers as I can stand on that damn plane, and hopefully stuffing things in my pockets to save space. Did I mention the budget airlines only allow ONE item as a carryon... meaning my purse has to fit in that backpack, too.

I am also determined to not forget anything important on this trip. I always seem to forget something.... maybe because I always pack about 20 minutes before leaving my house?!?! So yeah, I'm a bit stressed about preparing for this trip and staying healthy with all of the other obligations I have this week, but I'm also getting very excited! I still need to catch up on recent trips and such... I'll try to get it done before I leave!

Does anyone have tips on packing light that I'm missing? Besides printing my boarding pass in advance and keeping my bag within the size/weight limitations, is there anything else I should be doing to avoid RyanAir fees? I'd love your feedback.

Un besito! xx

Monday, December 12, 2011

Ponle Freno 5k

A month or so ago, I heard about a 5k run in Madrid through another blogger. The carrera Ponle Freno is a 5k and 10k race in Madrid to raise money for a campaign for traffic safety. Ponle Freno literally means to "hit the breaks" in Spanish. My friend Christina and I decided to sign up, thinking that having something to train for would motivate us to start working out. Of course this plan backfired, considering we only worked out once, if that, in preparation for the race. But hey, 3.1 miles isn´t so bad, so we decided to follow through with it.

The day before the race, we figured it might be a good idea to find out where the race actually was and how to check in. Go figure, we need to check in at an El Corte Ingles store that´s 40 minutes from my house within 2 hours, and luckily we got there just in time to pick up our size XL shirts and our race chips.

We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning and headed to Parque del Retiro for the race. Holy crap, it was COLD. The race started a few minutes late and due to poor organization there wasn´t a staggered start, so it took a while to get over the start line and the first half mile was pretty crowded. Once we got going, I had a lot of fun during the run. I didn´t push myself TOO hard because I´m so out of shape, but I kept a pace that felt somewhat challenging. My official race time was 29:10 (9:39 min/mile pace).

I miss running. It´s been a few years since I have run regularly and competed in events... I can´t really call myself a runner anymore. I started training for a half marathon last winter and I didn´t follow through because I increased my mileage too soon and was getting shin splints. Looking at my race time from a couple weeks ago, I can´t believe I was able to run a 20:30 5k at one point. Since the Ponle Freno, I have gone for a run or two, but I haven´t been able to make much time for running. There´s no way I´m waking up for cold, dark 6 am morning runs before work, and I usually don´t get home until dark and running at night here makes me a bit nervous. But hey, excuses don´t get ya anywhere, so I´ll be making an effort to fit running into my schedule. We´re planning to run in the Rock n Roll 10k this Spring, and I´d like to do some solid training for this one and improve my time. I´ll let you all know how it goes! If any of you fellow Madrid folks want to join me for a run sometime, let me know! :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thanksgiving in Madrid // el Día de Acción de Gracias en Madrid

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I wrote a little post on Thanksgiving about Thanksgiving in Spain and some things I´m thankful for (yes, I know... realll cheesy)... and of course I forgot to hit publish. Go figure. So here it is, over a week late, an update on my first Thanksgiving away from home.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for two reasons: one, I love my family, and two, I love food, especially when my grandma and mom make it for me. Seeing as I´m 9 hours and thousands of miles away from home and my family, my Thanksgiving was a little different this year. Since we couldn´t be with our families, some friends and I hosted a little Thanksgiving feast to celebrate.

Well, let´s just say I have a whole new level of respect for my grandma and mom, who know how to host one hell of a Thanksgiving dinner. A few days before Thanskgiving, a couple friends decided to host a dinner at their house. What we thought was going to be a small dinner with 4 or 5 people turned into a 12 person gathering with both Spaniards and Americans. What follows is the story of how I singlehandedly almost ruined Thanksgiving....

I stupidly offered to buy the turkey... and go figure, that was a FAIL. I´m going to assume you are all aware that Thanksgiving is an American holiday and isn´t celebrated in other countries, so it shouldn´t come as a suprise that whole turkeys are a bit harder to come by. In Spain, you have to order a turkey a few days in advance from a polleria, aka a poultry store. A couple days before Thanksgiving I tried going to a couple places and none of them were able to get turkeys for me. I didn´t have the energy to go all over Madrid searching for a turkey last minute, so we settled on roasting a chicken. On Thursday I realized that we didn´t really have enough oven space to spend hours roasting the chickens and I heard that Mercadona had roasted chickens for 5 euros, so I waited until 8pm Thursday night to buy them. Of course, when I get to Mercadona I find that what I thought were going to be warm, rotisserie style chickens are actually cold, shrink-wrapped pre-cooked chickens. So I kinda started freaking out, and I called my friends to warn them that our main dish was going to be a little sketchy. Lucky for me, they were understanding... it is Spain, after all... you´ve gotta go with the flow!

So if you think that eating pre-cooked, packaged chicken for Thanksgiving is bad, you haven´t heard anything yet. Wednesday night, I realized that nobody was signed up to bring gravy. You can´t have Thanksgiving without gravy, that´s just wrong... Of course, I have no clue where to find gravy and I didn´t have time to go to an American store, so I decided I would buy it at the KFC in Sol and then put it in a bowl so nobody would know. So I go to KFC, order a thing of overpriced gravy, get a realllly strange look from the cashier, and then hurry along to my friends´place. As if showing up with KFC gravy isn´t bad enough, I open the already small container to see that it was literally only a quarter full. Hahahhaha, I die.

As you can imagine, I am a little frazzled at this point and I still need to deal with these stupid little chickens. Without thinking, I just sort of threw them from the package to the oven rack without draining the juices or lining the drip pan. What resulted was a burning smell, a kitchen full of steam, and poor Christina freaking out that I was burning the place down. We eventually got it sorted out and finished the chickens.

The good news: the kitchen didn´t burn down, we got the food on the table before midnight, and those stupid little chickens are actually really, really good. So good that nobody seemed to care that we weren´t eating turkey. In fact, all of the food was really, really good. We also had tortilla and olives (thanks to our Spanish guests!), mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, sweet potatoes with pinapple and marshmellows, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and of course plenty of wine. Okay, so maybe we were missing stuffing, cranberry sauce, and legit gravy... but it still felt like a proper Thanksgiving meal!

Our "turkey"... nom nom nom.

I feel so lucky to have shared my Thanksgiving with a great group of people. It was so cool that there were two languages being spoken at the table and we were getting to share some of our culture with Spaniards. During the meal we went around the table and shared what we are thankful for. I am thankful for so much this year: family, old friends, new friends, living in Madrid, new experiences, challenges. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of it! Here are a couple pictures from our meal:

Meal time... por fin!

Happy Friendsgiving, y'all!

Un besito!