Friday, March 7, 2014

3 random things that have me excited for spring

Who doesn't love warmer weather, sunshine, flowers in bloom, and more time spent outside enjoying those things? Yeah, those are all great parts of spring. But yesterday's higher temps (in the 70s - sorry to all of my friends and family freezing on the East Coast!) had me thinking about a few unique things that make me excited for Spanish spring.

1. Having hot water on demand. At our house, like many in the area, the hot water is produced by solar panels. How smart, green, and progressive! Except in the winter, when sun is harder to come by. We do have a back-up system that is electric, but it has to be turned on manually and takes an hour or two to make enough hot water for a shower. It's essential to plan for showers ahead of time and morning showers are pretty much impossible, unless one of us gets up in the middle of the night to flip the switch (never happens). All that glorious sunshine that spring brings equals hot water all the time, any time. 

2. Turning off the dehumidifier. Winters here are cool and damp, the perfect recipe for mold and mildew, so it's important to make sure the inside of our casa stays dry. Regularly opening up the house helps, but we also use a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air, which is especially important in our master bathroom. It's amazing how much water it pulls from the air. Warm, dry spring means not having to constantly run or empty the dehumidifier! 

3. Laundry! I know, this one seems especially strange to be excited about. Most people dream about relaxing in the sun, perhaps with a cool beverage, once the temperature begins to rise. But doing laundry throughout the winter is even more tedious than the rest of the year, since dryers here tend to be small and ineffective and line-drying takes forever, thanks to how humid it is and the increase in rainfall. A sweater can take the better part of a week to dry. Crisp, freshly line-dried laundry beats a semi-damp sweater any day!

Sunshine on my laundry makes me happy...

So, there you go, a post about Spanish spring that has absolutely nothing to do with Carnaval, tintos de verano, or even feria. All of that is fabulous, but it's interesting the everyday details that have me excited for the change in season. Maybe I'm just getting old, but being able to hop in the shower without having to consider when I turned on the water heater is pretty amazing. Appreciate the small things in life and whatnot.

It's also no coincidence that all of these things involve using less electricity. The cost of electric in Spain is very high (and increasing steadily) and being able to ditch the hot water heater, dehumidifier, and dryer is a great way to lower our monthly costs. More money for tintos de verano! Ah, that's the true meaning of the season...

What random things about spring are you looking forward to? Does anyone else living in Spain relate to this list?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

40 days without...

After quite a hiatus, what has made me break my internet silence? Maybe a memorable trip or fantastic food or an interesting local tour? Even though I've experienced all those recently, no. I'm here to talk about what I'm giving up for Lent, because putting yourself on blast on the interwebs is a modern requirement for accountability, right?

(Important sidenote:  I'm not Catholic or even particularly religious, but I do like the idea of challenging yourself. Hence, Lenten sacrifice for this self-identifying spiritual-not-religious girl.)

In past years, I've given up meat and last year I gave up my beloved soda, which were health challenges that turned into permanent lifestyle changes. 40 days (technically 46) of living without something seems to be the perfect amount of time to for me to reduce its importance and presence. Now, a soda is a rare treat and I'll only make an exception to eat meat if it's something I truly want (jamón most often falls into this category, really can you blame me?). 

Realizing that this is another good opportunity for me to make a similar health change for the better, I'm giving up (most) store-bought, processed foods. This isn't a restrictive diet, but rather a requirement that if I eat something processed, it has to be homemade. If I want a cookie, I have to make it. Same goes for pasta, bread, sauces, dressings, soups, pizza, desserts, etc. 

Homemade pasta - yes. 

Wine - yes.

What stays? Obviously, cheese, wine, and chocolate, since there is no practical way to make those at home and they are near and dear to my heart. Another exception - going out to eat, which is an important part of my social life here in Spain. Absolutely no meat though, and no desserts that I didn't make. 

Cheese - you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers. 

Principe cookies - no. 

This isn't Whole30 or Primal or Paleo (never going to happen...see above regarding cheese, wine, and chocolate) just a conscious decision to learn how to be more proficient in the kitchen and to be mindful about what I'm eating. If anything, I guess it could be called the 40 Days of Homemade Challenge.

Cronut - sadly, no. 

So how am I doing after a day and a half? Breakfast is a bit difficult, since I normally just snag a granola bar on my way out the door to the gym, but I've survived with eggs and yogurt instead. I think the biggest key will be planning and cooking ahead, when I would normally opt for something easy and pre-packaged. Which means the first homemade challenge to be tackled will be granola bars. 

Yesterday's breakfast - garlic sautéed spinach with a hard-boiled egg and balsmic vinegar. Great, when I have enough time. 

And yes, I'm pretty sure Graham is convinced I've gone full-hippie after buying coconut oil and a giant bag of rolled oats. What's he giving up? A classic deadly sin - sloth, meaning he plans to workout every day, no exceptions.

Wish us luck! What, if anything, are you giving up or taking on?