This year for Thanksgiving I couldn't make it home to the states. So, I brought Thanksgiving to Spain in more ways than one.
Thanksgiving in the classroom
My students all brought a tear to my eye as we discussed one by one what we were thankful for. Even more than that, they made me laugh with their Thanksgiving questions and astonished faces when I told them about some of our traditions in the US. 

Some of the things my Spanish students were astonished with:
-It is the only day a year that a siesta is not frowned upon.
-We have to eat turkey. ("But why not chicken? It's basically the same...")
-Why anyone would want to cook something in a trash can. (For those who don't know...trash can turkey is becoming the new thing.)
-Black Friday. (¿Por que? Only for sales?)

Thanksgiving at home
I was lucky enough to be sitting at the table with my family while they teased me with delicious food, ahem... I mean... ate their dinner. The live Skype feed on the laptop let me be passed around the room, catch up with relatives from out of town, and at one point sit on the couch to watch a bit of the parade on TV. 
Thanksgiving in my piso
With about 20 Americans living in Valladolid, we got to share in a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner together. No, we didn't have turkey. But, I swear the chicken tasted the SAME!! (Oh my, I'm becoming Spaniard.) We had wonderful company and a fantastic meal together, giving thanks for our opportunities in Spain.

Black Friday from afar
In my family, we do black friday and we do it hard. Things my mom says: Why pay full price when you don't have to? This year I got to search the ads online, and have my family pick up the deals I needed. (8G memory card for 8 bucks!) The time difference worked out perfectly, and I was right there in the action waiting in line at Best Buy on Skype. I also made my most expensive purchase yet, a ticket home for Christmas!
 
 
Even though I have been slacking on blogging about it, I have been quite the traveler lately. Afterall, the world is my oyster!

And the great thing about living in Europe is that other countries are just a hop, skip, and jump away. The closest to where I am in Spain is our neighbor, Portugal.

Overall, the city of Porto was spectacular. The old rusted buildings made the city appear poor, yet antique and beautiful at the same time.

The hills are stacked with sights to see. The ups and downs of the city's hills made the panoramic view of every photo worth a thousand words.
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Beautiful city views
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Street views
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The San Ildefonso Church from the Baroque period
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Different eras of architecture in Avenida dos Aliados
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The Cathedral of the city
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The River Duoro with the Ponte de Luis I bridge (with the same designers as the Eiffel Tower).
But if there is one thing Porto is famous for...drumroll please...it's its port. 

Lining the river there is the Ribiera do Porto, a waterfront of shops and markets selling hand-made goodies and famous olives. On the other side you'll find there are bodegas and world renowned wineries where you can tour and sample the famous port wine. Port wine is sweet and strong. 
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Touring a bodega
The famous food of Porto is the Franceshina (pronounced Fran-ses-seen-a). Meaning little french person, it's a mix of three to five different meats stuffed into a sandwich topped with cheese and a beer tomato sauce, and served with potatoes.  
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Not for vegetarians.
You can walk off the greasy food and strong wine up and down the hills of the city and shop in the Mercado do Bolhão for fresh goods and a pretty atmosphere of colors.
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This, vegetarians can handle.
As I said, the great thing about living in Europe is being close to other cities, countries, and cultures.  It makes me feel so wonderful to have other countries and cultures so close to me. 

Trips like this and cities like Porto remind me that vegetarian or not, the world IS my oyster!
 
 
Dorothy said it best. "There's no place like home."

Living across the world from the home I have always known, I've created a new home for myself.
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Not my house, exactly. But the Plaza Mayor.
Valladolid, Spain has been my casa nueva for about 3 months now. I knew and fell in love with the city last year after spending several weekends fiesta-ing (and siesta-ing) in the city. 

When I was given the opportunity to choose where to spend the next year, there was no hesitation. But that doesn't mean everything has been peachy-keen here. Every city has it's advantages and disadvantages. Inspired by a friend's post, I have decided to come up with the Pros and Cons of my new city life.

The word Valladolid in Spanish has no meaning, but is said to be derived from the words 'Valley of Sun'. A popular nickname for the city is Pucela (pooh-thell-uh).
Pros
-True Castellano (Castilian Spanish) is spoken here.
-We have a fútbol team. And they aren't terrible!

-Campo Grande. There's nothing like reading a book in the park and enjoying the view on a gorgeous afternoon.

-We have an airport.

-With the city's new AVE high-speed train you can get to Madrid in only 50 minutes. Choo choo!

-Valladolid has history. Christopher Columbus died here.
-Living in the capital city of your region means everyone has visited, knows someone who lives here, or passes by on their trip to whatever sitio. Easy access.

-3 wine-making regions surround us. Riberia del Duero, Rueda, and Cigales. Bottoms up!

-The clock in the city center above Caja Rural is what I like to think of as a Mini-Times-Square. It always lets me know how late I am as I run to catch the bus.

-The University of Valladolid evens out the ratio of elderly people to jovenes in the city.

-IKEA is opening in December. Take that, other capital cities of Spain! We have furniture and meatballs.

-The architecture is easy on the eyes.
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View from Plaza Zorilla up Calle Santiago.
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Plaza España
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My apartment is on the other side of this building.
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The bridge I walk across a few times a week.
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Out with the skyscrapers, in with the old Cathedrals.
Cons
-The weather.

-The weather.

-Did I mention the weather? Valladolid gets what is said to be "Nine months of winter and three months of hell." And added to that, there is the famous fog and frost.

-Your own two feet are your main form of transportation. Not always a bad thing, except in that frio weather.

-The prettiest Cathedral and biggest/most beautiful Plaza Mayor are not here in Valladolid.

-Valladolid does not have cobblestone streets, so we miss out on the romantic Spanish night-time glow.

-With 300,000 people it is hard to make friends. ¿Como se dice "lost in a crowd"?
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Not always a bad thing! Getting lost in a crowd of handsome Spaniards is nothing to complain about!
But, if the weather and the population are my only two issues, I've got nothing to complain about! Valladolid's pros outweigh any cons the city may have.

As much respect as I have for Dorothy, I prefer to side with Anonymous. "Home is where your heart is."

Who knows what the next year will bring, but this year, my heart is here with you...Valladolid!
 
 
I have always loved Halloween. My favorite costume when I was a little girl was Cleopatra, and I still remember getting to wear the black eyeliner for the first time. I loved bobbing for apples, walking around the neighborhood with friends, and oh yeah, I guess I liked getting free candy, too.

For the Halloween puente (literal translation: bridge, but it's the name for a break from school here in Spain) I headed to another country, Portugal to be exact. More on that later. But Halloween was still going on here in Spain. 

Halloween is said to have started in Ireland. But I have always thought of it as an All-American holiday. Celebrating outside of the traditions I know made me a bit nervous.
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A bakery decorated for Halloween with lots of treats.
But in recent years, the Spanish have caught on to how much fun we Americans are having around this time of year, and Halloween has hit Spain with a BOO!

Here it is a holiday for children, unless you are in a big city where there will be plenty of nightlife and costume parties at local bars. The children dress up in costumes and trick-or-treat a.k.a. Truco Trato around the small neighborhoods and apartment buildings. Teenagers (as my students informed me) throw eggs at houses that don't give them candy. ¿Que educada, verdad? 

The grand event of the weekend and the true holiday behind the puente is El Día de Todos los Santos, All Saint's Day. Families visit their deceased loved ones and place exquisite flower arrangements on their graves for this special day of rememberance. 

Forget pumpkin pie, the typical foods here during this holiday are Huesos de los Santos and Buñuelos. Deserts that you can find in any local Pastelaria. 
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Huesos de los Santos, Saint's Bones. I wasn't a huge fan of the marzipan texture with chocolate coating, but they are very popular with the Spanish!
All over the world, Halloween is celebrated differently. In Portugal, there were no decorations in the streets, no special foods, and few shops that sold costumes. Maybe next year I will find out how it is celebrated in another country!

In my home in Florida on Halloween, we had a steady stream of trick-or-treaters this year. Creating a new tradition with my family from across the ocean, I Skyped live as the door bell was being rung in my house. My mom held my floating-head-of-a-computer-screen in her hands as she handed the kids their candy, and we all laughed so hard. Somehow each time it got funnier.

With the new customs I've learned about, new foods I've tasted, and new traditions I've made with family...I have to say, I still love Halloween!
 
 
Recently, I have been channeling my inner española in la cocina

My most recent dish is the ever-so-Spanish Paella. Say it with me now: pie-ay-yuh.

The origin of the dish comes from Valencia, Spain (on the East coast) and it is said to be the most delicioso when eaten in that city.

Paella is a Catalan word (a language they speak in Valencia) and comes from the word pan, specific to the pan that you cook paella in. In Valencia, they call all pans paellas. A bit confusing, right? They also call the pan a paellera

The corazon and key ingredient of the dish is Saffron. A spice that is very expensive in Spain, but turns the paella the right color, and gives it a distinct taste.
You'll need:
-Saffron

-Oil. And if you happen to be in Spain while cooking it, no problem. I'm living in the olive oil capital of the world. Rico and cheap, too!

-Chicken Stock (or vegetable stock, or beef stock, or seafood stock)

-Chicken or seafood, or rabbit, or whatever you prefer in your paella. We used chicken and seafood.
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Frozen seafood mixture. Drain and boil for 10 minutes before adding into the paella.
-A lemon. Half to be squeezed in while cooking, and half to garnish the dish.

-A mix of veggies. We used frozen peas and fresh tomatoes. 
-Rice. Small, white rice is the best to use. 

-Water. 2 cups for each cup of rice.
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Tomatoes and chicken with the chicken stock cube cooking in oil on high heat.
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Add in all ingredients and stir.
Cook and stir all the ingredients together for about 8 minutes on high heat.

Like all true Spanish things, the paella likes to siesta too! 

Cover the pan and turn to medium heat to let it sit for about 10 minutes.
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Can you smell those flavors?
When you are finished, the paella should look something like this:
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A delicious mixture of flavors and textures.
Add a side of pan and a glass of vino and you've cooked your way into a true Spanish meal.


As they say in Spain before every meal, ¡Que aproveche!
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Mmmm. ¡Que rico!