Interactive Tapas

Last evening was all about Tapas! I”m not an expert on Spanish food and since we’re surrounded by tapas everywhere, it was time to get educated. Our friends, Nick and Tatiana, organized the evening for us all.  The chef at Ahuevos, Jose’ Simon, and his lovely wife hosted a night of ‘Interactive Tapas’. It was basically like a Tapas Nursery School for those that are Spanishly challenged and yet love yummy food.


My friend, Pete and Ryan joined the group. They just moved here from Seattle a month ago, and they are also in the infancy stages of learning about everything Valencia has to offer and widening their circle of friends. This was a great opportunity to do both and we had alot of fun.

We started out learning to make Sangria. It’s a pretty simple recipe and was actually the signature drink at our wedding all those years ago. We made it in buckets for all our guests (but we served it in lovely glass wine jars). And I screwed up and instead of putting sugar in them, I grabbed a salt container and our first batches were so bad they’re legendary amongst our friends. My friend Curt laughs every time he tells that story.

Well, if I had used the recipe I learned last evening, I wouldn’t have had that problem because you make a simple syrup in advance and pour that into the mixture. It dissolves faster and helps to masurate the fruit quicker. And we were very pleased with our results. Ryan did all the chopping, Pete did all the selecting of ingredients. And Me? Well, I supervised from afar – or not at all and took some notes.

We also learned how to make seasoned olives of our own creation, and the different types of olives for eating. Jose’ is from Leon and likes a different type of spice than his wife, who is from Valencia. At our table, we liked a lot of the pink pepper, juniper berries, garlic, red pepper, bay leaf and cloves. Jose’ thoroughly approved of our choices. They were so good and like any good cooking class, we got to take some home so in two weeks I’ll let you know how they turned out.

Then it was on to the Aioli. I’ve made it before with just garlic, salt and olive oil. But I learned some new things last night. Jose’ uses an egg yoke in his (I couldn’t eat it) and he doesn’t use olive oil, but sunflower oil. He says that the olive oil in Aioli causes it to break. I did the mixing and the pounding of the garlic and then the egg separation. Even though I can’t eat them, I still know how to separate egg yokes and work a mortar and pestle, for goodness stake.


Finally, we finished off the night with some horchata ice cream. I’ve been clear on my thoughts about horchata in the past, but this was different. It was wonderful! and with a little dark chocolate sauce it was heavenly. Everyone else got a slice of bread under theirs. It was made from day old bread that they soaked in booze and did some other stuff to, but I didn’t pay that much attention because I can’t eat the bread and I was took enamored of my new found love of horchata ice cream.

It was a fun night and we ended it with drinking from a ‘botijo’. It’s a jug that usually contains wine or water. Last night, the one they offered contained water. Pete braved drinking from it and was rewarded, like me, with water down the front. Ryan drank from it like a Spanish fisherman who has never drank from another vessel other than a botijo, in his entire life. He spilled not a drop.

After our tapas night we are looking forward to learning more Spanish cooking. Jose’ is organizing something out on the farm in Alboraya where they grow the food for their restaurant. I’m really looking forward to cooking food in the field where it’s grown. And Tati is looking to organize a trip back out to Manisis – think Fiesta de la Ceramica – where we can learn how to make a Botijo of our own and perhaps I can sign up for a ceramics course.

A great evening with good friend, old and new, good food and the promise of more to come. It doesn’t get better than that!




Fuel for the Fire

We have COFFEE at home!!  Yes, I found a grinder – which promptly stopped working so I’ll be returning it to The Worten for a working version – but not before it ground me enough coffee for 4 days worth of the addicting brew. My new El Chino coffee cups and little stainless steel pot are working as designed.

In the US, I made my coffee in a Turkish coffee pot, but I left it out of my luggage on the last day because we were already at the brink of going over weight. I had no idea how to use the stove top coffee pots here, but the one I bought seems to work fine, and the Torrafacto coffee I used to spend $20 a pound for in the US, is less than 2 euros here and it’s yummy!

Fortified with two cups of coffee, Jeff and I set out to get his hair cut. He already needed one before we left the US, but time ran short. And now we’re at critical mass – or a mass of mangy hair. He has ‘Teddy Bear Head’ and it’s driving him crazy. He’d gone to a couple of barber shops around our apartment but had no success in actually getting a cut. Both barbers spoke English but they kept sending him to the back of the line behind other walk in customers. He even asked if he could make an appointment but was told ‘No, we don’t have appointments’. Just wait.’ Well ‘Just wait’ meant ‘You’ll wait forever.’

He’d come home defeated and confused. So today I took him back to where I get my haircut. They have a women’s side and a men’s side that is filled with darker furniture and more manly style chairs. Seriously, it’s like a cigar bar but without the dark paneling. At first, when I suggested he go to the salon I go to, he was resistant. But looking in the mirror told him it was past time.

We rang the bell and they let us in. I’m always surprised by this ‘door bell’ business model. They look you over and determine if you are worthy of entering their establishment. We made the grade and went in. I explained in my broken Spanish that he needed a haircut – I’m sure they could see for themselves – and they took him to the men’s side and allowed me to go with him to explain what he wanted. Honestly, my Spanish is getting better. And my ‘Yoga Spanish’ is starting to ROCK!!

So they cut his hair and then they took him back and washed it so he doesn’t have all those little hairs that usually mean he comes right home and takes a shower. They trimmed his eyebrows and shaved him with a straight razor. Then the woman took him back to the chair and did a little style with some product. It was the best haircut he’s ever had and he looked amazing.

‘Wow! You look great!’

He smiled and I turned to the stylist.

‘Muey Bien. Muchas Gracias’

She smiled.

‘You need to come here from now on. Maybe don’t wait so long between haircuts and keep it up a little more often.’

Jeff isn’t one for the personal services but he agreed.

‘You have an appointment in a few weeks. Maybe I’ll come back with you then and have her touch it up.’

I smiled but I didn’t say what I was thinking ‘Seeee. I told you so’ didn’t come out of my mouth. One point for me. And his whole experience cost 19 euros. Practically nothing.

Slowly but surely, we are settling in and learning how to get things done. I’ve joined a writers group and made a few friends. I went to the Fallas fireworks with them on Friday night. On Saturday, we’ll meet more people at our Valencian ‘March for our Lives’ rally that a bunch of expats organized. And yesterday I met a newcomer from Northern Ireland for coffee and we had a great time laughing and chatting like old friends. 3 hours went by in a flash and we’re meeting again next week.

Next week, I’m taking a tour of a castle two hours south via bus. It’s my first foray into experiencing the history of the area outside Valencia proper. I’m so excited! So between these activities and my yoga class, I’m doing pretty well on meeting people and making friends. I won’t say it’s not difficult at times but then I remember, it’s only been three weeks.

I tend to be hard on myself. Setting expectations that I do something in a certain time frame, or in a certain way, isn’t a recipe for personal happiness. But I’m working on it. It’s funny, because I rarely have these types of expectations for others so I’m not sure why I’m so strict with myself. But it’s all good. Moving here is a growth experience. And opportunity to do things differently, both internally and externally. If I remember that over my morning coffee each day I do just fine.



Celebrating Fallas

We’re embracing the festival of Fallas and we’ve made some new friends who offered to show us what Fallas is all about. We met in the Plaza de Ayuntament, where the mascleta is blown off every day at 2pm and at midnight on weekends.  The large fallas in the plaza is the falla for everyone who visits the city. It’s so they can feel a part of the celebration, even though they don’t have a fallas of their own from their home neighborhood.

There are over 700 fallas (monuments or effigies) erected at intersections around the city. Each area has a group of Fallero or Fallera who plan, coordinate, raise money for and build the fallas for their area. It’s some people’s full time job. And in the photos below you can see why.

They are truly works of art and the tradition goes back a thousand years. It’s evolved over time and morphed during Franco’s time. He loved Fallas and had a balcony built just so he could overlook the mascleta and enjoy the parade from the town hall.

Each Fallas group selects a Fallara who will represent their fallas. Each fallas must have one of these girls to represent them in parades, etc. Each girl selected must have 4 dresses and all the combs, etc. which are very expensive. A dress is about 7-10 thousand euros – EACH! So you can not be poor and be a Fallera. Some families take out loans to pay for it – it’s an honor.

The fallas are both whimsical and play to local politics, the politics of Spain (think Catalonya) and international politics. In our pictures you will see ALOT of mocking of Donald Trump. I took some photos of those. My favorite is the one titled ‘Air Force Juan’ because I love puns. One Especial Fallas was titled ‘Egos’ and outlined all the events of the year where BIG Egos were front and center. You’ll see a photo I called ‘The Three Amigos’ from that Fallas.

Each of these fallas below, will be burned on the 19th between 10pm and 1am. It’s symbolizes the coming of Spring. Burning the old and welcoming the new. A very Buddhist concept in a very Catholic country.

After our 6 mile walk today, we sat down with our new friends and had breakfast and learned all about the area. Tomorrow, we’ll go to the lighting on Cuba street and I’ll post photos of those. It looks like it will be spectacular!


Rusafa – Fallas 2018
Rusafa 3
Rusafa – Fallas 2018
Rusafa 4
Rusafa – Fallas 2018
Train station
Nord train station – Fallas 2018
Colon – Fallas 2018
DT and PUTIN and UN
The Three Amigos – Fallas 2018
DT and UN missles
DT and RocketMan Fallas 2018
DT on Air Force Juan
Riding AirForce Juan – DT Fallas 2018
DT puppet
DT – Fallas 2018
Especiale 2
Fallas 2018
Fallas Especiale
Fallayera – Fallas 2018
girls on parade
Fallayera – Fallas 2018
Fallas 2018
New Friends
New Friends
Plaza de Ayundamente
Plaza de Ayuntament – Valencia Fallas 2018