The One Where the Novio Carved a Pumpkin

When I made my little trip to Spain four years ago, I was determined to do what any expat does – immerse myself in the culture. Eat, breath and sleep flamenco, siestas and tapas.

Then I realized I am just too American for that. Who says you can’t live in Spain and have your hot dog-flavored cake, and eat it, too?

I don’t necessarily have to redeem myself when it comes to exhibiting my Americanism with pride with the Novio, as he is ten times more Spanish than I am guiri. He eats, breathes, sleeps cerveza, Betis and juerga. But one really beautiful part of a bilingual, bicultural relationship is being able to share another culture with someone. Had I not met Kike, there’s a lot that would remain a mystery to me, and a lot of places I would never know.

So, in my opinion, it’s only natural I’d try to do the same. since Halloween is my second favorite holiday, second only to Fourth of July (for the beer and fireworks, not the patriotism!), and this is the first time he’s actually been in Seville for Halloween since we met, it was high time I taught him about All Hallow’s Eve.

Turns out, he’s too Spanish for his own good.

My friend Kelly hosts a pumpkin carving party yearly, but I missed out this year to go to Madrid. Last Tuesday, I finished work and, feeling in the spirit of Halloween on the first cold and blustery day of the Fall, went to Lidl to buy spider webs for my classroom and a pumpkin for the Novio and I. Lidl is the German equivalent of Aldi – mega cheap, charges you for bags like most places in Spain, has carts of random crap in the aisles. But Aldi has a rotating international week, meaning I can get cranberry juice and marshmallows during American week, Croque Monsseiur during semaine francaise, and beer brats and Haribo gummis any given. In the weeks leading up to Halloween, witches hats and packaged candy fangs adorn the aisle displays next to the register. I snagged the last two pumpkins, paid for two bags and took them home.

Since the pumpkins came with stickered-on faces, The Novio perched them on the mantle above the TV, laughing in a spooky voice. “Sunday,” I announced, “¡Al ataque!”

The weekend drew to a close and I dropped Hayley off at the taxi stand and went to make chicken stock and wait for Kike to come home from having lunch with friends. Three hours later, he arrives home. I told him I wanted to do Halloween stuff, like carve our pumpkins. He walked into the kitchen, took out a knife, and I had to lunge forward and yell NOOOOOOOOOOO, because he assumed I wanted him to cut it up so we could make a crema, a type of thick soup, out of it. He asked the purpose of carving it before All Hallow’s Eve, as today is merely the 30th.

I told him I was giving up, not really willing to fight about a tradition he knows very little about. Venga, he coaxed, we’re already doing Halloween things! He made a scary face and tried to pop out at me from behind the open fridge door. I took out the carving knife and commenced slicing off the head of his pumpkin, scooping out the goopy innards and placing them in a glass bowl.

As I tried to peel off the sticker, the Novio protested, saying he didn’t know how to make a scary face. I gave up. He did, too.

Replacing the top, he snickered and put the jack o’lantern back on the mantle. Within ten minutes, the time it took for me to carve my pumpkin and place the seeds pn a baking sheet, he was out cold.

There’s always Thanksgiving, Novio. Who doesn’t like a holiday based around food and sports?

…eres mi rincón favorito de Madrid.

If I were Spain, what city would I be?

I’d need to be at least big enough for an airport since I love to pack my bags and go. Have an eclectic mix of old and new, as well as domestic and foreign. I’m deathly pale, so beaches won’t really be necessary (Bye, bye Valencia and Barcelona and Málaga). A city in which graffiti is practically patrimonio de la humanidad, but monuments are revered and protected.

I wouldn’t be stuffy Seville, my Spanish pueblo natal, so to speak. I think Madrid – its bustle, its nitty-gritty neighborhoods, its hidden gems – would be my city doppelgänger, although we haven’t always been fans of one another. In fact, I can’t even see myself living in Spain’s capital (and, let’s face it, I would die without 1€ beers).

Madrid lies just two hours southwest of Valladolid, the city I learned castellano and how to sleep a siesta in. During the five-week program, our quirky director Denise (más bien, Denissshhh with her ceceo) took us first to Segovia to take in the devil’s aqueduct, to Salamanca to betake the oldest university in Spain which still retains its college town vibe, to Donostia for snacking on pintxos. I had to wait four weekends before day-trippin’ to Madrid, capital city and hub of Spanish life. Like Shakira’s hit song that summer, una tortura.

Madrid lived humbly in its early days as a shepherd’s village in the geographic belly button of Spain. Since then, a power struggle between two royal families, the Bourbons and the Haspburgs (yes, like in Austria) built the city into a thriving metropolis, home to the Spanish parliament, the largest population in Iberia and plenty of foreigners.

My trip to Madrid was supposed to be full of art at the Prado and Reina Sofía, strolls in the Parque del Retiro and cochinillo. Instead, I got a hurried tour through two important art collections, creepy Teletubbies in the park and a fried squid sandwich. Madrid was not for me.

In the 15 or so subsequent trips I’ve taken to Madrid, the most recent being this last weekend, I’ve come to appreciate its beauty in uniform buildings, wide avenues and attention to every walk of life.

Certainly, I could sit for hours at the Estanque in Retiro and watch couples aimlessly row heavy boats back and forth in their alloted 45-minutes. Reina Sofía would be like window shopping for me, dando un capricho as I pay the steep admission to take in quirky and important pieces of artwork. Sol, the starting point to all major, national highways in Spain would become my ground zero for exploring the central neighborhoods full of immigrants. If I lived in Madrid, I would botellón at Templo del Debod and have churros at San Gines in the early morning hours. I light up when seeing Cibeles atop her lion-driven chariot and can trace the metro stops on the light blue and light green lines.

Mis rincones favoritos de Madrid…Cibeles, Retiro and the Metro

I love stumbling upon cupcake shops and Indian places along the funky Calle Huertas. Adore the wrought iron balconies facing centuries-old facades of governmental palaces. The strange mix of bus, taxi and pedestrian traffic. The noise. That Gran Via is as close as I’ve been to NYC. I love that boutiques abound around Fuencarral, and that the bartender at Kike’s childhood hangout in Malaseña gives me free anchovies with each beer, even if I don’t eat them. And nobody judges me when I dip into a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts for coffee, nor when I stare at the “lady friends” on C/Montera.

Madrid isn’t a place I see myself living in anytime soon, but, like a moth to a flame, I love visiting. Case in point: Last Thursday, eager for some restaurant recommendations, I asked friends to suggest a good ethnic food place. Not only was the food amazing, but ten of my madriles came to enjoy it with me. Madrid, for as big and boisterous, gritty and glamorous as it is, always welcomes me with open arms, overpriced drinks and an endless agenda of things to do.

Have you visited Madrid? What impressed you – or didn’t – about the city? Any must sees (I’ve done most) or must-try restaurants? Do you feel this way about a place you’ve never lived in, but have traveled to frequently?

Show me some CARA.

It’s time for another edition of “Those crazy Spaniards and their crazy language!” We’ve already learned the many usages of cojones (and that Spaniards hold them, the actual things, in high favor), so why not continue the anatomy lesson and its uses in modern castellano with the face.

O sea, what are the uses of the word cara, other than it’s the adjective for expensive if the noun it describes is feminine, like casa or falda.

The word cara, like cojones in my house a few weeks ago, is all over the place. In this day and age, Spaniards are using the global economic meltdown as their scapegoat for everything, and calling all of the politicians a group of caraduras. “Crap, we’re out of milk. That stupid crisis! ME CAGO EN LA LECHE Y EN LA MADRE QUE LE PARIO A [Presidente] ZAPATERO.” Or, “My son is bad at school because of the crisis.” No he’s not, that’s a lie, and what you have is mucha cara, señora. So there.

Let’s have a look at how Spaniards inject more of their hilarious phrases with the word for face, shall we?

Por la cara

I always laugh at poorly done Spanish to English translations, such as this one:

But one I do love is to say, “by the face,” which means to do something and unexpectedly do it free. Take note: I went to Fulanito’s bar and got drunk por la cara. In other words, My bro hooked me up with as many whiskeys as I could drink, and I didn’t pay for a single one of them. Nowadays, it’s common to see the phrase in English used in advertisements geared towards young people.

Tener cara, Ser un/a caradura

Let’s say this one with a British accent: this means, for lack of better words, to be cheeky. Someone who can get away with having a little sass or, likewise, no shame. I have plenty of students who fit the bill, so it’s not uncommon for people to say that kids have caradura, or someone who makes excessive demands, too.

A similar expression, also using face!, would be to tener más cara que espalda – to have more cheek than back, literally. Or, tener morro works just fine, too.

Best just to say it as it is: to be a total desvergüenza like this guy.

Tener cara de sueño / malo / trasnochar…etc.

The most comment way I am greeted every morning is, “Seño, tienes cara de sueño!” which means I’m carrying a tired, mopey face. Tener cara de is merely a way for someone to comment on your current state of being (tired, party puss), or even something that is normally true (liar, good person). Like many uses of cojones, the adjective can be substituted for just about anything.

At the moment, I have a cara de tó – of sleepiness, of disgust (I made a bunch of small boats out of flan molds today, blah), de buena porque la soy, de todo!

Costar un ojo de la cara

Let’s play a game! What’s the phrase we use in Engrish that employs anatomical parts and means that something is worth a lot of money and you paid all that money for it? Why, yes, I was thinking of “it cost me an arm and a leg!” Spain’s version is translated as, costing an eye of the face, and it’s more fun because of it.

Going home at Christmas this year? Yep, I may as well be rocking an eyepatch these days. But as they say, a mal tiempo, buena cara.

Got any more to add? There are plenty more I haven’t included! Do me the favor of writing them in the comments – I’ve got more DELE and idioms studying to get done!

…y de postre? A Guide to Spanish Desserts

Authors Note. The masses have spoken: on Sunshine and Siestas, you’d like to see more about food, more about interesting places in Seville, more about dealing with culture shock and being an American woman living abroad, and more about studying for the DELE exam (only I’m kinda not…). I can only assume that my readers are like-minded people, and I appreciate all of your feedback and ideas. So, dear readers, here are some of your requests.

As a European wannabe, I’ve learned to relish in the art of a long lunch. And, believe me, no one does it like the Spanish.

I mean, come on, there are stages! A few olives and a beer to whet the appetite, followed by a first course. This could be a salad, salmorejo, chicken breast – anything light. The segundo, or second plate, is the hefty one: meat flanks, a guiso stew, anything to make your pants nearly pop. As the main meal of the day is eaten between 1 and 4 p.m., the meals tend to be protein rich and anything but for dieters. A meal is never complete without the cafelito, then, but next comes the big question. “Señores, ¿y qué de postre?” What would you like for dessert?

I will be the first to scream for ice cream, or cake or cupcakes or pudding or candy, for that matter. My disappointment, then, at a Spaniard’s insistence that I eat yoghurt or fruit for dessert was only normal. Thankfully, they kind of make up for it at merienda, that in-between-why-the-hell-do-we-have-dinner-at-midnight snack. Along with a coffee, Spaniards indulge in something that even the most reluctant sweet tooth can enjoy (I, clearly, am not one of them. My mother wakes up and eats licorice, leave me alone!).

While I fully admit to not love Spanish sweets, I get to the point where anything will do to stop the nagging voices in my head from not eating them. So I enjoy and feel lucky that I can walk everything away!

What do them Spaniards eat for dessert, anyway? We certainly know that their tacos are nothing like the Mexican ones, nor is their tortilla. But how do their desserts measure up?

Arroz con Leche

Let’s play a game of Imagination. Imagine you’ve just gotten off of a plane from the US and have ended up in the land of sunshine and siestas. Imagine taking a bus an additional two hours, only to be met by a smallish Spanish woman in a black dress and an almost grimace on her face. Said lady walks you to her house, where the phrase “everything but the kitchen sink” takes on a new meaning: before you sits a rice dish with whatever that smallish, grimacing lady could find in her fridge. Oh, you imagine to yourself, but this is Spain, and surely there’s dessert!

There is. Oh, but there is. It’s just MORE rice served cold with milk and cinnamon. Can you imagine it? Strangely enough, I love my host mom’s arroz con leche, a simple dish she serves often in the scorching summer months on the central plateau. We’d spend hours sipping brandy and caramel vodka after the ACL on the terrace overlooking the Pisuerga River. I have yet to taste the same home cooking Aurora treated us with (and still does!)


Ask my boyfriend what my favorite foods are, and he will jokingly tell you mayonnaise and eggs. Guess what? This oh-so-typical-espaneesh treat is made of eggs, caramel and the grossest texture ever. I, for one, don’t like it. Thankfully, the Latin Americans make it with everything from almonds to condensed milk, so those of us grossed out by anything made by a chicken can get our fix. And by those of us, I mean not me – I’m the food-loving texture freak whose 7th grade Home Ec teacher had to spoon-feed her almost everything we made in that kitchen.


If you remember from my ABCs of Travel, my first international trip led to mega disappointment when my four-year-old self cried at some spicy Mexican something. Ugh, I thankfully got over that and fell in love with battered churros, a doughy coil of battered goodness. While I prefer Mexican churros with their sugar on top, Kike’s Sunday routine often involves me running to the churrería down the street for a dozen of them for the two of us (and after consumption, we quickly fall back asleep, also per Sunday routine).

Eaten mostly for breakfast or merienda, churros are popular with all crowds. There are people who dedicate their lives to pouring the batter into a large funnel into a vat of hot oil, coiling them around, flipping them when one size is fried, and clipping them into foot-long manjares to cool and serve with kitchen scissors. They’re most often gobbled up by dipping the still-hot fritters into molten chocolate or sweet café con leche.

My tops picks in Central Sevilla go to Valor, a Catalonia chocolate company, and a nondescript stand staffed by a frail-looking old lady who specializes in nothing but churros. Valor is located on Calle Reyes Católicos, just steps from the river, and has a full menu of chocolates, ice cream and cakes. The second local is right under the Arco del Postigo, but you’ll have to go next door for coffee or chocolate.

Chuces and Processed Grossness

If Spanish kids ruled the world, chucerías, or gummy candy, would be served in the school lunchroom. I often find it’s the easiest way to tempt good behavior out of even the worst behaved, and I reward myself with making it through the work week with a few nickel-priced sweets. Kat of the now-defunct (you’re KILLING me!) Kata Goes Basque did a good job categorizing the seemingly endless parade of Spanish candies, so I won’t have to tell any of you twice that Spanish gummies could be better than what they ate on Mount Olympus. Ladrillos, besos de fresa, Coca Colas, you name it! I love it allllllll.

As for the other Spanish cookies and cakes that come wrapped with love from Aguilar del Campóo (I SWEAR that is the name, and I SWEAR that I have been there!)….they all suck. Palmeras are crumby, gooey puff pastry dried and covered in something brown (I think it’s chocolate, but refer to the name above) and make me cringe. Principe cookies are good to a point, but like Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop. The things my students bring for breakfast continue to gross me out.

So if you want chuche goodness, Spanish chains like Belros and Sweet Facory are good go-tos, but my absolute favorite is Wonkandy. Simply grab a bag, fill it with as many gummies or chocolates as you care to, and pay by the tenth-kilo. I adore the shapes they have (skull and crossbones and ponies?!) and they have upteen choices of my most favorite capricho – sour gummies. You can find Wonkandy in the center just behind Plaza del Salvador on Calle Cuna.

Ice Cream

More often than not, the major ice cream consumers of this world class dessert is Seville are guiris like you and me. That’s right, those ice cream shops set up right outside the cathedral steps aren’t for naught – tourists can’t help but treat themselves to heladitos when the temps here reach 35º. The central neighborhood of Sevilla is replete with tastes, though I’m more of a sorbet and tropical flavors. Since ice cream needs no more explanations, here’s a breakdown of the best places for the cold stuff.

All Spaniards rave about Rayas (C/ Reyes Católicos and Plaza San Pedro), and it’s the closest you can get to a yuppie ice cream parlor in yuppy enough Seville. All of the typical flavor culprits – pistachio, dulce de leche, stratichella – are found here, though they lack the sorbets I always crave on a hot day. The place is pricey and always packed on the weekends, but that pistachio is pretty darn yummy. When I feel like a gelato, I hop to El Florentino on Calle Zaragoza. The owner has won several awards for his homemade gelato, and he’s constantly coming up with new flavors like Rebujito for April and a rumored Duquesa de Alba batch to commemorate that other royal wedding. What’s more, the genius is always greeting customers and handing out samples. The downside? Too little parking for your toosh. Finally, the Yogurtlandia (Plaza Alfalfa and C/Jimios) chain is a more healthy approach to ice cream, taking frozen yoghurt and blending it with toppings of your choice, like chocolate syrup, fresh fruit, cookies or sprinkles. It’s cheaper in Alfalfa, but always perfect after a long meal.

Now, I thought about making the novio a nice dinner (dessert included!) for our anniversary next month, but given the choice, he’d take a ham sandwich over a dessert item any day.

Fine, more for me!

What’s the dessert like in your region? Have you had Spanish delicacies? If so, what’s your favorite? I loveeeee me some Tarta de Santiago!

Show Me Some Love (and get some back, too)

Readers, we need to have a serious talk.

Things just aren’t, gosh how do I say this, sitting well with me.

Here I am, with a million things to say and no ears (or computer screens) to preach to.

Remember when I had that little blogger blog? With its boring template and crap spellcheck? Well, apparently people were reading that one since I had over 50 followers. This blog, with its own domain name and way cooler, um, everything, has just 11 (OMG THANKS). Seriously where are you guys?

Maybe I’m wrong as to think that just 11 of your read my blog, but I’m getting desperate. I want my own version of a Facebook news feed to show up in your mailbox once or twice a week. I want you to sit next to a good friend of mine on the ORD-MAD route and casually mention you know me (this is a true story courtesy of the Doles). I want you to know what it’s like to be me.

So I’m going to bribe you. After all, it works with my babies (along the lines of, “Be quiet for three minutes and color and I’ll give you each a piece of candy”).  I’m holding a subscription drive. See that little banana-yellow box up there? It says EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION. You put your email in there, and then you write me in the comments. On October 18th, I will pick one winner to receive a gift basket of tapas favorites from, a Spanish food import company if you’re USA or Canada-bound. If you’re here in Spain, I will send you a Christmas lote of about the same price from El Corte Inglés. And if you’re elsewhere, lucky you. I will send you some goodies from Sevilla (maybe even the Duquesa de Alba).

Let’s recap:

Sign up with your email.

Write me in the comments (as WordPress sometimes tells me he “thinks” he knows where someone is from and is often wrong) to tell me you’re in the Cool Kids Club and tell me one thing you’d like to see featured on Sunshine and Siestas. Want to learn more about obnoxious Spanish grammar? Or see more pictures of my pretty face? Or should I not talk about babies at all since they’re germy? I want to know!

Do it before October 18th. Do it now or forever not get your tapas and polverones.

Sign up for my blog? Or are you still as confused as I am over the title of this stand-up show?

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