Monday, December 31, 2012

Our Christmas

from Meghann:

This was our second Christmas in España and the second year in a row that we celebrated with just the two of us and no other family (well, besides Chloe and Cora, of course). We still miss our families, the big dinners, opening gifts together, but we've gotten used to and learned to appreciate our simpler, more relaxed holidays. And we know how lucky we are to be able to spend Christmas together, when so many others cannot. Our family might be small (and 50% four-legged) but we can still be festive!

 Our Christmas was filled with food - some traditional dishes, along with some Spanish favorites. For both of us, food helps us feel closer to home, especially during the holidays. So there was plenty of cooking, baking, canning, eating, and drinking.

We canned homemade cranberry sauce on Christmas Eve.

And I used it to make cranberry coffee cake, which we ate on Christmas morning.

Another lovely thing about Christmas in Spain - the weather was gorgeous. Christmas Eve was sunny and warm.

You can see some people in the water in the background (for the record, we didn't think it was that warm, but people come down from the North over the holidays, so maybe it was warm to them...?).

There was a lovely Spanish sunset...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

¡Feliz Navidad!

¡Feliz Navidad from España! We are missing our families, but are having a lovely and relaxing Christmas together and have a potluck with friends tonight. In between food, gifts, and more food, we might even have a chance to take Chloe and Cora down to the beach to enjoy some holiday sunshine.

Wishing you happiness and joy wherever you are celebrating today! 

*The official Casa MGGM holiday card from tinyprints

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fave Christmas Flicks

from Meghann:

We don't own a lot of movies. We're more into watching an episode or two of a tv series after dinner and sometimes rent a movie on the weekend if we have a night with not much going on. Yes, we still rent movies, from the tiny movie rental place on base - there are so many things about being stationed at an overseas base that are throwbacks. Some would say "outdated" but we'll go with "quaint". Also, due to Spanish law, those new-fangled streaming media sites are not available. Pandora, Netflix, Hulu...'til we meet again, amigos...

But there are a few movies that we own just for the holiday season and they are always in the Christmas rotation. They are all comedies. I'm not sure if this says something about us, but we're just not that into re-watching dramas or anything that is too syrupy sweet or overwrought with emotion, especially during the holidays. So, here they are, our favorite flicks for the Feliz Navidad season:

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

This marks the unofficial official kick-off to our holiday season. It's the first Christmas movie we watch in December. Best enjoyed while decorating the tree, because it features the funniest Christmas tree related comedy in all of cinema. Even better if watched while consuming adult beverages, bonus points for egg nog. 

Love Actually

I don't know how Graham is going to feel about me admitting this on the interwebs, but I love this movie and he doesn't hate it. I think he actually likes it. There's a million different story lines, mostly comical though some are mushy enough to qualify for a chick flick. But there's just the right amount of Keira Knightley, boobs, (no, not Keira Knightley's boobs, pay attention) and potty humor to keep everyone in our casa amused. It's a little crass, so I wouldn't recommend it for children, but seriously, we are not the people to look to for advice on kids' activities.


Will Ferrell dressed in an elf costume and saying things like "You smell like beef and cheese! You don't smell like Santa." and "I'm sorry I ruined your lives, and crammed 11 cookies into the VCR." We're sold! And I just giggled to myself while typing those quotes. 

A Christmas Story

This is the only one of these movies that we haven't watched yet this year. We save this ultimate Christmas classic for late in the season - it's excellent Christmas Eve material or even Christmas Day, post-presents or post-crazy family dinner. Takes you right back to your childhood - how much you desperately wanted that perfect present from Santa, the school days that just wouldn't end so that Christmas would come, and the first time your parents caught you saying "fu..." Oh, hola to our Moms that read this blog. 

So, there you have it. Our short and not so sweet Christmas DVD collection. We'll probably be spending some quality time on the couch this weekend with uno or dos of these movies, the pups, and some cocktails. Maybe cran cava for me and egg nog for Graham?

What movies are your go-tos at holiday time? Have any suggestions for something we should add to our collection?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thirsty Jueves: Cran Cava Cocktail

It just takes 2 simple ingredients to bring a little extra Christmas cheer to your casa. We almost always have cranberry juice in the refrigerator and we try to keep a bottle of cava on hand. It's such a delicious and inexpensive sparkling wine, you don't have to save it for fancy occasions. There's something fun about opening a bottle to celebrate a random Thursday and adding a little cranberry juice brings some tasty holiday flavor. 

The recipe is simple:

-chilled cava (we prefer brut, but whatever you like)
-cranberry juice (or cran pom or whatever)
-cranberries (bonus points for garnish!)

This is one of those rare times when the type of glass does count. Use a champagne flute! Put a splash of cran in the bottom, along with the berries if you have them, then fill with cava. 

It's perfect for a holiday fiesta (and easy for guests to mix for themselves) and just as good while curled up on the couch watching Christmas movies.

¡Salud and Felices Fiestas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Surf, Soirée, Snacks!

from Meghann:

Our weekend turned out a little differently than we had planned. The weather ended up being a downer. The living nativity in Arcos de la Frontera that we had wanted to go to on Saturday was cancelled due to rain, and my horseback riding lesson was, too.

We did go to a Christmas party on base Friday night and got to get spiffed up for that. It's not every day that Graham wears a suit and tie (or hardly any day, since he works in a flight suit) or that I wear lipstick (heels on the other hand, are a short girl's best amigos).

It's always a good time to hang out with friends and coworkers (even better when the coworkers are friends) and have some hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. There was even a venenciadora - a professional sherry pourer! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Flashback Friday: Cora's Story

 from Meghann:

Not as much of a distant flashback as when we finally posted about our trip to Cordoba or Barcelona, which took forevverrr because we are procrastinatttoorrrss. But we adopted Cora in October and we still get lots of questions about her (of course, because she's so popular), so we thought we would give some details on our newest perrita.

Where did Cora come from: 

Cora first came to our casa as a foster dog, which we posted about in August. But we had met Cora when she was first brought to RAWL (Rota Animal Welfare League, the animal shelter on base where we volunteer). She was found by a member of the Spanish Navy who couldn't keep her because his housing didn't allow it. The way she looked when she was dropped off was heartbreaking - she was so skinny, had obviously been loose for a while, and one of her back legs had been badly broken, then healed incorrectly, so she couldn't even put it on the ground. Despite all of this, she was so sweet and just wanted to be held, which really left an impression on us.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hola Holidays!

from Meghann:

It's beginning to look a lot little like Christmas around our casa. Each year we wait until December to do any decorating or Christmas activities, so that Thanksgiving has its own time and we get a chance to relax between holidays. Also, the Christmas season in España seems to start a little later, probably because they continue to celebrate until Three Kings Day on January 6.

The holiday festivities on base are officially kicked off by the Tree Lighting Ceremony, which includes Santa flying in by helicopter. We missed this last year, but figured we should go this year since it's a Rota tradition and there are elves fast-roping out of a helicopter. 

The next day we visited our local viveros (what we would call a "nursery" in the States, which when you think of it, is a weird word for a place to buy plants) to get our tree. Our favorite way to get a tree is to cut our own, but we were just excited to get a real tree and the viveros had a decent selection.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Go Navy!

Bite Army!

Hope you had a good weekend! Two of Navy's biggest smallest (and furriest) fans got to watch their team beat Army for the 11th year in a row.

We watched the game at our casa with friends and plenty of beer, fatty snacks, and even some Hanukkah latkes. It was a perfect night of futbol Americano!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chupitos (little drinks)

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in all of the excitement of living overseas and traveling to different places that we forget to share the details, the little things, that make living in España so unique.  

One of those little things is literally a little drink, what Americanos would call a shot, but the Spanish have a much better word:  chupito. 

Now, you can take a shot whenever (breakfast, if that's your thing). But here it's common to have chupitos after dinner. The waiter brings one for each person and they are normally something sweet, like limoncello, caramel vodka, or acorn liqueur. Everyone raises their little glass and says "¡Salud!" or "chin chin". It's a fun tradition and a great way to end a dinner with friends.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Internet = phone calls and zombies

 from Meghann:

When we moved from our first Spanish casa to the nuevo one, we figured getting our internet switched over would be easy. Ha! We must have forgotten that we are living in southern España (no offense, we love you Andalucia, but you are the land of mañana). So, to make a very long story (filled with lots of crappy Spanglish speaking and Google translating, yes, that's a verb when you live overseas) short, after 2 months without it, we finally have high-speed internet access again. And it is glorious!

Since we use Magic Jack (phone connected by internet) to call the States, this means we can catch up with our familias and amigos. 

Our crazy collection of phones, including our Euro-stylish orange one for the Magic Jack.

More importantly (just kidding!) we can catch up with current shows on bootleg television. Which led to this recent conversation:

Me: I think Spanish houses are better for the zombiepocalypse. 
Graham: Yeah, with the security bars.
Me: And the high walls. I think we would be better off here than in the States.
Graham: Definitely.

Not that we're saying it's actually going to happen, but if it did...

Can you tell which show we've become obsessed with? Any other fans of The Walking Dead? Are you also wondering how impossible it's going to be without another episode until February?! At least we still have Homeland.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Geneva, Switzerland

from Meghann:

It took a little while to blog about our Veterans Day weekend trip to Geneva - maybe because we are procrastinators, maybe because it wasn't our favorite city ever. There I said it. And it's okay. We're not sad that we went, neither of us had ever been to Switzerland and now we have (and we have heard that other places in the country are fantastic.) We would never know which places are our favorites unless we traveled and experienced as many as possible. Just because it wasn't a Paris or a DC or a Marrakech, doesn't mean that we didn't have a good time.

Geneva is a city known for international business, luxury brands, and wealth. Yes, it is expensive. But it did have some Swiss charm - sidewalk cafes, buildings covered in shutters and flower boxes, fountains, old stone architecture.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My little sister's big dia!

from Meghann:

 Today is my little sister and her husband's 1 month anniversary! I can't believe a month has passed since we were in Maryland to celebrate Catherine and Doug's wedding day. Like our other trips back to the States, we had a lot going on - spending time in DC, another friend's fabulous wedding, holing up for Superstorm Sandy with Dark and Stormies, getting stuck in the States because flights were delayed and cancelled. But this was the main event!

I took some photos while it was just us girls getting ready, before the photographer* arrived. This is such a special part of any wedding day and I think something that every soon-to-be-married lady looks forward to. The private girl time, hiding out from the boys, the mimosas, playing fun music, getting beautified, the moments before the dresses go on and the momentum of the day takes off. 

A little taste of España in Chestertown, Maryland. Cava - yum!

My pretty sister!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Playa + Italian-Style Veggie Soup

from Meghann:

Hope you all had a wonderful, family, friend, and food-filled Thanksgiving! And that your football (Americano) team won - both of ours did!

We were invited to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner (plus plenty of Spanish cava) at our friends' casa on Thursday. We were so grateful to spend the holiday with friends - and no dishes! Our families were definitely missed, but we were able to call and talk to them. One thing that wasn't missed - Black Friday. Neither of us were into it when we lived in the States and it seems even sillier now. There's really nothing similar in España and it seems difficult to explain that we follow a beautiful holiday dedicated to giving thanks by immediately going out, fighting crowds, and spending money. 

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing and enjoying the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We don't deck the halls until December, so this time is perfect for catching up on things at the casa and enjoying our little familia. 

On Saturday, we took the dogs down to the beach. This time of year, it's pretty empty at the playa, besides a handful of surfers and a few other people walking. That meant we were able to let Chloe and Cora off their leashes so they could run around. After a busy few weeks traveling and the start of the holiday season, we all needed some exercise. And the beach is so peaceful during the fall.

The hillside was so green! No rain in the summer makes for great weather, but everything turns brown. After a few days of rain in the fall, all that brown comes back to life. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Friendsgiving + Sweet Potato Casserole

from Meghann:

We hosted Friendsgiving at our casa on Friday night. A bit early, but we knew many of our amigos would be traveling during the holiday and for some of us, this would be the only opportunity to stuff our faces full of turkey and all the sides for a traditional meal.

No fancy tablescape (Does anyone else think that is one of the weirdest words? Makes your table sound like the surface of the moon.) just some apples, candles, and the lace runner from our trip to Bruges last winter, over a textured tan tablecloth. Textured = it wasn't ironed. Also, no elaborate place settings, because dinner was buffet style. Settle down over there, Martha. 

Kept the mantle simple with some votives, dried corn, and a glass pumpkin that I found on sale a million years ago that is now my go-to decoration from October to December. 

We picked up some real pumpkins at the commissary (grocery store on base) a while ago, but never carved them since Halloween got lost somewhere between our time in DC, my sister's wedding, and getting stranded by Superstorm Sandy. So, we turned them into non-Halloween themed pumpkin luminaries instead. 

To me, Thanksgiving is a Fall celebration and is about being thankful for bounty - from the fields and in our lives. So, no tree trimming here and certainly no Christmas decorations yet. Thanksgiving is special in its own way - there's no gift giving, just giving thanks for food, friendship, and family. And no matter where you are (I've celebrated in Italy, England, and Spain) it's an American holiday. 

And nothing says America like deep-frying a 12-pound turkey fresh from the Spanish butcher shop. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chloe is Ocho!

On Thursday our eldest child dog child celebrated her birthday. Can't believe that our crazy and sweet little Chloe is 8 years old! She is still so feisty and full of energy.

She's also trying her best to be a good big sister to Cora. 

Last year, we took Chloe to the beach for her birthday, since it's her favorite place. This year the weather was not so great, so we stayed home and gave her some extra love and snuggles. 

We also always do a birthday "treat". Normally, it's something like a small piece of steak or a mini-turkey-burger patty (we may have ventured into crazy dog parent territory here). This year, we just combined some ingredients that we had on hand that are Chloe's favorites.

The result:  Rawhide with peanut butter and then dipped in frozen peas. Seriously, Chloe loves frozen peas, or any frozen vegetable really, so they were like the sprinkles to her cupcake.

We made one for each dog and they were a hit. Birthday girl approved!

¡Feliz cumple, Chloe!