We’ve been gone. Oh, you noticed? That makes us happy. Our site has been down and having some technical difficulties for a couple of weeks. But we’re back and with a vengeance! You might notice some bumps and scrapes as we swing back into full gear, but our hearts and best intentions will still be there behind the glitches. In the meantime we leave you with these beautiful chuletas de cordero. Mmmm…
Archives by date
You are browsing the site archives by date.
We were headquartered at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but that was the “side trip” part of the voyage as far as we were concerned. (Ah the Bellagio. That warrants its own post which I will write another time.) The reason for our trip was one of my life’s dreams – a visit to the Grand Canyon. That was why we made the trip. I’d had a difficult time with some minor but draining health issues which were finally resolved at the beginning of this year. I had made myself and the family a promise that if all went well we would visit the canyon, and so mid-February we did just that.
There are many ways to visit the Grand Canyon. I learned this as we did our research prior to making the trip. In truth, the only limitations – considerable limitations – are how much money you are willing to spend and how much time you have. You can take a tour bus, a helicopter, a private tour guide with a tricked out vehicle… the sky is, well, not even the sky is a limit. But we wanted to do it our way. Taking a tour bus or even being with a private tour guide seemed a little stifling. I like to stop every three seconds to take photos and this can annoy even the best chauffeur. Plus, having three girls, two under the age of 10 still with somewhat small bladders, we need to make the occasional stop or two, if you get my drift. Bearing all this in mind we decided to drive ourselves in our own rental car to the western rim of the Grand Canyon. We decided to visit the Grand Canyon West at the Skywalk managed by the Hualapai nation. In essence, we were leaving the United States of America and traveling to a surreal series of viewing platforms, built by interestingly enough a Chinese company, and managed by this famous Native American tribe. Yes, it was surreal and very worth the trip.
It took a while to get to the turnoff for the final road to the Grand Canyon West (GCW). We’d read that from this point on it was approximately a 20 mile off road drive. Easy peasy. “Nice flat roads with no pavement”, I thought. <Insert hysterical laughter here.> About the only true part of that statement is “roads” and “no pavement”.
It wasn’t a bad drive by any means, but it was a tiring drive. The road was composed of dirt, small rocks, and dirt, with many, many turns and dirt - uphill all the way. The GCW is at an elevation of about 4,800 feet so by the time you travel from Las Vegas to the rim you will have gone up approximately 2,600 feet in elevation. It is a 3.5 hour drive approximately from LV to GCW, but about the last 45 minutes of it you are traveling at 15 mph on a winding, uphill, dirt road. 15 MPH! And heaven forbid you get stuck behind a truck, a slow moving vehicle or a line of cars. The road is barely one way in each direction, dirt (did I mention that?) and full of blind turns. By far the most tiring part of the drive are those last 20 miles. But once you are there…
Tears literally came to my eyes as we turned out of the last ravine where the canyon started to unfold before us. I can’t explain what it looks like. It is impossible in its enormity. It was foreign to my East Coast, European and Caribbean trained eyes. I couldn’t fit it into any corner of my brain. It couldn’t even join the place where all the mountains I had seen where filed away. I’d crossed the Alps in a plane and summited Pike’s Peak, but this was breathtaking. It was also very dry. By the time we had been directed where to park the car (the Hualapai run the GCW viewing areas diligently and you are not able to just wander around) our car was literally covered in red dirt and our skin was so dry that we could feel our hands stretching when we bent our fingers. I could feel my skin! We had brought water with us, quite a number of bottles, but were still feeling dry.
The way the GCW “works” is like this. First you pull up to the main compound. This is where you park and decide how you will see the Canyon. Will you take a helicopter? Not for us, no thanks. Will you go to the Skywalk at the second set of buildings? Yes, please. And if you would like lunch you will need to pay extra to go to the third stop where the cafe is located. Yes, the Hualapai are wise because once you are up there you want to stay… and to stay you will pay. (Heh.) But is it worth it? YES!
So if you have decided to visit the viewing areas and cafe, including the Skywalk, you board a bus.
You don’t drive yourself. This was a little disappointing to me since I like to make my own decisions. But when you get up there and you see how close you are to the rim, you don’t really want to drive yourself. At least I would not. And you hope and pray that your bus driver is safe and careful.
The Skywalk itself defies explanation. If you look at the image above you will see a building with a large terrace protruding from it. This is a horse shoe shaped terrace which extends over the Grand Canyon. The floor is see through. When you walk out on it and look down, you see the Canyon floor. It is frightening and amazing all at once. And before you walk out on it you must place cloth booties over your shoes (like in an operating room) to preserve and keep the surface from scratching. You are not allowed to take photos out on the Skywalk… but you can purchase photos taken by their photographers. Did I mention the Hualapai are very intelligent?
If you would like to spend some time at the GCW there is a lot to see and learn. There are demonstrations and Hualapai tour guides who will teach you all about their culture and the land.
But seeing the canyon is what it is all about and makes all the driving and time spent getting there and back well worth it. While I was there all I could hear in my head was the music of Aaron Copland. Something about the music he composed captures the landscape so vividly. But it was not his “Rodeo”, “Billy the Kid”, “Salón México¨ or ¨Tender Land¨ that resounded in my ears as I looked out on it. Oddly it was his “Fanfare for the Common Man”. The Grand Canyon is so majestic and so humbling that only the grandest and most melancholy of orchestral compositions can do it justice. Visit it, if you can. Make it happen. You will realize how beautiful this country is and how blessed we all are. And listen…
This is how almost every conversation I have ever had with anyone from the USA about sobrasada has gone…
Friend: “Sure. I’ve had sopressata before.”
Me: “No. Not sopressata. Sobrasada! So-bra-sa-da.”
Many Americans have eaten sopressata. It is a lovely Italian sausage of what to me seems to be the salami family. In fact, I like it more than salami. But it’s no sobrasada. Sobrasada is a Spanish sausage typical of Mallorca, made in the Balearic Islands (Islas Baleares). It has a similar red hue to chorizo, but chorizo it’s not. It’s soft – a soft, spreadable sausage. Yes, that’s right. And it is delicious.
So where do you find sobrasada in the USA? There are a number of Spanish food importers and purveyors that sell it. I don’t know it can be imported into the US from Spain, or at least I haven’t found the “real deal” here. (It took what seemed like centuries before we were able to buy imported Spanish chorizo and jamón serrano here due to our strict FDA regulations.) But there are some great companies here in the States that make some decent imitations. I buy mine from Despaña in New York City.
There are many uses for sobrasada, and many ways to eat it. But to quote one of my favorite movies, Nacho Libre, let’s get down to the “nitty gritty”. (Pronounced ¨neety greety¨.) The best way in my opinion to eat it, and one which happens to be traditional,is with bread and honey. Don’t believe me? Try it. It is an incredible combination of flavors that will leave you wanting more. Here’s how it works.
Pick a good, crusty bread – not too doughy and soft.
Drizzle some honey on it. I used regular honey here, but the better the honey the better the taste. And if it’s from Spain… even better!
Spread the sobrasada on the bread.
Oh go ahead. Go wild and add a touch more honey. (I couldn’t help myself.)
Then take a bite and let nature’s finest and Mallorca’s best work its magic. You’ll be back for more. ¡Que aproveche!
I was not compensated by anyone to write this post.
I recently had the opportunity to screen the movie “People Like Us.” I brought my oldest daughter with me. I’d seen it advertised as a summer “feel good” movie, but to me it was more than that. It was a tough, thought provoking and well acted movie. Not once did I see “Kirk” in (the very handsome) Chris Pine. He became Sam, a sleazy fast talking salesman with questionable ethics at first, and then Sam the grown boy who still reeled from the lack of a real relationship with his father. (I have to say that the “mom” in me kept wishing he would shave…) Similarly Elizabeth Banks was credible in her role of Frankie, a recovering alcoholic and single mother, and her anger and her pain were palpable throughout the movie. Every member of the cast from Michelle Pfeiffer to Jon Favreau was great, but it was Michael Hall D’Addario who stole the scenes in which he was present. D’Addario played Josh the tough acting, street savvy and yet vulnerable son of Frankie. My daughter instantly took to him, and identified with the routine experiences which make middle school so difficult even without the extreme conditions of his life. He was excellent.
The film made me feel uncomfortable at points, but I suspect this was by design. To be honest, I might not have brought my 13 year old with me if I had known the circumstances around the existence of Frankie, “Sam’s” newly discovered sister. I thought, perhaps, that the material might be too complex for her to handle. Curiously however, the parallels drawn between the mistakes that “Josh” (Frankie’s son) makes in the film became the medium through which she came to understand the main themes of the film – that people make mistakes, and are sometimes the victims of other people’s mistakes, but that no matter how bad those mistakes might be, it is possible to rise above them and find peace. I recognized a subtler theme. People make mistakes, sometimes even in wanting to protect others.
I expected to do a lot of “splaining” as we left the theater. But she didn’t ask any questions, relating stories instead of other kids she knew with difficult lives. In fact, she actually told me that she realized how fortunate she was to have such a wonderful family, and I thought the same as we drove home. I expect to see more wonderful work from these actors, as well as from director Alex Kurtzman.
I was not paid or asked to write about the movie People Like Us. I am writing this post because I enjoyed the movie, and because I am grateful for having been provided with a chance to see it in preview by the fine folks at Disney.
The house is quiet today. There is no “music” streaming – no, blasting – from some electronic device in my oldest’s room. There is no complaining about how “the twins ate all my cereal” Even her room is neat. Normally this would make me happy except… except…
We dropped her off at camp yesterday. It is her third time away. She doesn’t stay all summer, just a few, short weeks which seem interminable to me. My buddy is not here with me, my sidekick who is my size. The first baby. She looked so pretty when I walked into the cabin. And as I looked around at her new cabin mates for the first time I expected to see little faces of little girls, but there was something different about them this year. They were nameless to me, but these weren’t the faces of “little girls” anymore. These girls looked different. Young and pretty but in a “big girl” kind of way. It surprised me, but I don’t know why. My “baby” doesn’t look that much like a baby anymore, either, but I see the toddler in her still. I know what a “Mommy I’m a little nervous” feeling looks like on her, but other people don’t. They see a beautiful, petite girl with olive skin and dark hair and eyes. I still see her at 20 inches and 8 pounds.
So “Daddy” and I hugged and kissed her goodbye and stepped back. And then I went to give her a second big hug and she said “Mommy, don’t. I will start to feel homesick and cry.” Her eyes teared up a little bit, and she put on her glasses. And instead of going in for the second hug, which I realized at that moment was really for ME, I smiled and stopped. I realized that the first big hug and kiss was enough for her, and that she was OK. I realized that I was the one that needed a second hug, and to give it to her and to unbalance her would be unfair. And I remembered when she started pre-school and the teachers all said, if she turns around to play with her friends and isn’t crying or running to you, just walk away. She will be OK.
So Daddy and I turned to leave, and as I looked back she and her friend walked into the cabin.
The first Disney animated movie I ever saw in a theater was Sleeping Beauty (or La Bella Durmiente). I remember it through a haze, but I remember it nonetheless. I was so young, probably about 8 years old. And here is the interesting thing. I saw the movie in Spanish, because I saw it at one of the beautiful teatros on La Gran Vía in Madrid.
Three things stood out for me and captured my imagination about this movie. The first two, in reverse order, were the three fairies (Flora, Fauna and Merriweather – Flora, Fauna y Primavera in España), and the music. The score, of course, was a variation Tchaikovsky’s ballet, yet having heard it in the movie first I will always love it in a special way. A good score is an uber important component of a movie. Is it possible to beat Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky? It would certainly be difficult. After seeing this movie, my Tía Mar bought me a 45 (that’s a vinyl record for those of you who don’t know) with a book incorporated into the cover, which only had Sleeping Beauty’s theme music and the lyrics to it in Spanish. I listened to it a MILLION times and still remember the words by heart…
¨Eres tú mi príncipe azul que yo soñé, Eres tú tus ojos me vieron con ternuras de amor, y al mirarme así el fuego encendió mi corazón, y mi ensoñación se hará realidad, y te adoraré como aconteció en mi sueño ideal.¨
I learned two big words in these lyrics, “ensoñación” and “aconteció”. I even looked them up in my father’s Spanish-English dictionary. If anyone could ever claim that watching movies is fruitless is wrong. From this Disney classic I learned a greater appreciation of classical music and improved my vocabulary. And this does not even include the lessons learned from the story itself.
But what was the first thing that stuck me so intensely about this movie? Maleficent! ¡Maléfica! She was so bad, so evil, so cold… and the moment you saw her you knew it. She was shapely yet shapeless in her evil – long, lean and horned! She was green* and yet possessed what should have been the classic features of beauty personified, and yet her ugly nature shone through. She was complex, angry. paranoid and insecure. And her name was, no is, the best name for a witch of all time. “Maleficent” – desirous of or causing evil. None of Disney’s other witches can touch her. She is aloof, poised and composed. And her demise, at the hands of the Prince in her form of a dragon… well that just says it all, doesn’t it.
I am excited to see the new Disney adaptation of this old witch.
Recently Walt Disney Studios announced that March 14, 2014 will be the US release date for Maleficent. This new adaptation of the story will star Angelina Jolie as the witch! The film will be live-action and is said to explore:
“…the origins of the evil fairy Maleficent and what led her to curse Princess Aurora in Disney’s animated classic Sleeping Beauty. Leading a team of visionary filmmakers known for creating and transporting audiences to new and exciting worlds, Academy Award®-winning production designer Robert Stromberg (Avatar, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Oz The Great and Powerful) will direct with a script by Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Alice in Wonderland) Maleficent is produced by Joe Roth (Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Oz The Great and Powerful).”
This sounds like an all star team direction and production team for certain. I am looking forward to seeing it, although March 2014 seems so far away. It will be fun, though, to watch and listen for the trailers, interviews and sound bytes as time passes. (I’ll do my best to bring them to you along the way.)
And so, I wait to see if Angelina Jolie as Maleficent will spark my daughters’ imaginations in the future, as much as the animated Maléfica did to mine in the past.
*It’s not easy being green!
I was not compensated in any way for writing this post. It is just a happy childhood memory shared, as sparked by an announcement.
The house is back in order. Our “lucky” flag (the one we also flew when España won the World Cup in 2010) has been folded and put away. The garbage has been discarded or duly recycled, and the only evidence left of yesterday’s big party at home are the extra chorizo and jamón serrano in the refrigerator. ¡España ganó! Spain won, and we were happy. All of our friends who were there with us celebrated the occasion and became temporarily Spanish, too. Our home is not usually festooned in red and yellow from the chandelier in the dining room and the railings inside and out, to the table cloths and even plates, cups and utensils. Our friends brought red and yellow flowers and even red and yellow cupcakes. It was a wonderful afternoon and one my girls will likely always remember. And it is not always that they get to run up and down our street yelling and blasting an air horn. It will be a good memory.
Today, as my girls and I drove home from a routine shopping trip, my oldest played traditional pasodobles taurinos on the car stereo via a download onto my iPhone. ¨This one is my favorite¨ said my oldest as we listened to España Cañi. ¨Do you girls actually like this music?¨ I asked them. I hadn’t asked them to play it. ¨Oh yes Mommy!¨ they replied. ¨Why does Spanish music always sound so happy?¨ one of them asked. ¨It’s not always so happy.¨ I replied. ¨But it makes you feel happy because you love it. You identify with it.¨ The truth is, it makes me feel happy and sad. Happy to feel ¨Spanish¨ and happy to really feel this music like a Spaniard, but sad to not be there with my family. But that is the plight of those of us who are “lucky” to be bi-cultural isn’t it? It’s a gift because we can love and appreciate so many things so deeply, but we also feel the pain of separation from it.
So, Spain won. And as I watch the madrileños spilling out into the streets of Madrid shouting and dancing and reveling in the fact that their team won… that for one day they can forget about the economic crisis that has gripped their country… that for one day their country be won’t ridiculed by other countries… As I watch them I am sad for not being among them. But my heart flies across the Atlantic and joins them there, at the foot of La Cibeles, dancing along with them. And today, the American flag flies outside our door, but for one more day…