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Bravely Baking A Birthday Cake

25 Sep

Despite the small kitchen, uneven oven, lack of measuring cups and scale, and 2 pans of completely different sizes, I went against my better judgement and made it anyway. I mean, no birthday is complete without a good birthday cake and Cadiz isn’t exactly famous for its baked goods. Birthdays here are funny… Ale’s mom just wished him a feliz cumpleaños now, although we’ve been up for an hour already. She must have forgotten since we actually celebrated yesterday, which was more convenient for the rest of the family. Birthdays at Ale’s house aren’t really about the “birthday person”. No one asked him what he wanted to eat, there were no cards or gifts, and the general reaction to my baking was, why? Isn’t it easier to buy something from La Mercadona?

I don’t know if this birthday attitude is typical in other Spanish families, but here it makes me a little sad. I love how my family always makes my birthday a special day; I choose what to do, where to go, what to eat and there are always a few gifts to open. I feel special on my birthday and I want my husband to feel the same. That’s why I make him his cake. Actually, I’m lying. The more I think about it,, I’m pretty sure I make him his cake to make myself feel better. It makes me feel  more “at home” seeing a homemade cake on the table. Ale, honestly, doesn’t care. He’s so laid back and good natured that, although he loved the cake I made him, he’d have been just as happy with something store bought.

So, out of pure selfishness, disguised as wanting to please my husband, I set out to bake a cake in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. (Does this qualify as self-inflicted torture?) The cake, which is amazing btw, is something I found here. It’s easy to make and really moist and delicious. Here’s how to bake it (more or less):

Ingredients:

-Patience

-Good humor

-Patience

1. Have in-laws take you to various supermarkets looking for exotic ingredients like powdered sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder.

2. Nod politely when they insist that vanilla extract is easy to find in any big supermarket (absolutely not true).

3. Set up shop in the kitchen and start mixing ingredients.

4. Don’t worry if the things you thoughtfully set out suddenly disappear; they thought you were done with them.

5.  Stretch your arm before starting– it’s your only option for beating eggs and creaming sugar.

6. Turn on the oven but be careful– people who never bake don’t know their oven the same way as those who do.

7. Check the cake often due to the strange oven situation.

8. Take out and let cool on anything available (such as the barbeque or toaster).

9. When completely cool, decorate. Don’t argue when when people insist that frosting is the same as nata (whipped cream) or pasta de azucar (fondant).

10. Enjoy the fruits of your labor– with something alcoholic, if possible.

The final result may not be pretty, but it tastes great (trust me)! And Ale’s niece and nephew loved decorating their first cake.

My Assistant

As I previously mentioned, the recipe can be found on Erin’s Food Files. The only thing I changed was adding finely crushed oreos to the frosting.

Not pretty but definitely delicious!

Has anyone else braved baking a cake in Spain? How about baking or cooking in your MIL’s kitchen? I really shouldn’t complain because I know it could be MUCH worse! Leave a comment if you have a funny story!

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Why I Spent My Holidays In Spain

2 Jan
This year was the first year that I’ve spent Christmas away from home. Although as a public school employee I get almost 3 weeks off (December 22 – January 9) I decided not to go home to Massachusetts because of the nightmare it was last year.

For those of you who don’t know, flying anywhere around Christmas time is HORRIBLE. Last year, after my 6 hour overnight bus to Madrid, I was delayed at the Madrid airport because of snow. They told me right away that I would be missing my connecting flight in Philadelphia and put me on the next one…7 hours later. The rest of that trip went okay, but instead of arriving in Boston at 4:00 pm, I arrived at 2:00 am and my parents had to make two trips to and from Boston!

That ordeal, however, I don’t consider bad at all. I suffered far worse in the past. But coming back to Spain was TERRIBLE. To begin with, I had an awful flight in general… Boston-Washington Dulles-Newark-Madrid (and then the 6 hour bus ride of course!) It was stupid to buy a flight like that to begin with. I even called to see if they could change my ticket to leave from Newark (I would drive there) and I was even prepared to pay the change fee… but they couldn’t do it! The would have been able to sell my seat on the Boston-Dulles flight and on the Dulles-Newark flight, but the stupid ticket restrictions made it impossible.

So, I left Boston more or less on time that afternoon, dreading the rest of the trip. I arrived to Dulles where I saw that my next flight was delayed indefinitely. There were strong winds. I waited hour after hour, hoping that we could leave… it seemed like I was going to miss my connecting flight to Madrid. Finally we boarded and I arrived to Newark late. My flight should have left a few hours prior, but there had also been delays there. Maybe I’d be lucky, I thought…

But no! I arrived just as my flight was leaving the ground. Luckily the staff were able to rebook me on another flight leaving that night that would go to London, and from there I could go to Madrid. The problem was that the London flight was also leaving… basically at that moment. So, I caught a ride with some Dominican airport employees who luckily were still working as it was 11:00 pm and the end of their shift. Then, I ran to the gate.

I was the last one on the plane, which was late taking off, and everyone looked angry. I was just happy to be on a flight. My parents had no idea what had happened to me.

I arrived in London, only to realize that my next flight to Madrid left in 30 minutes and was located miles away in another part of Heathrow. I jumped on the trolly (a 15 minute ride) and then literally RAN as fast as I could to my gate. I made it, sweating and exhausted.

In Madrid I had to deal with the problem that I had arrived, but of course my luggage was still in the US. Keep in mind that the following day was New Year’s Eve and I would be meeting Alejandro’s family and friends for the first time. I had painstakingly chosen the perfect “meet the parents” dress, another “going out for Spanish New Years” ensemble, and I’d bought small gifts for his family.

Instead, I had nothing. I took a shuttle across the Madrid airport to file my luggage claim with American Airlines (my original flight plan) but only there was informed I actually had to go back where I’d started and file it with Iberia (the airline I flew on in the end). I was so exhausted!

That being done, I took 2 metros to get to the bus station, where I waited for the next bus. 6 hours later I arrived in Seville, where it was 1:00 am and pouring rain. A short taxi ride and I arrived at my freezing and empty apartment where I raided my roommate’s closet for something to wear for New Year’s Eve. I still couldn’t contact my family because I had no phone or internet!

The next day I managed to arrive to Ale’s house, without my outfit and my gifts, but at least I was there. I called my parents, who were worried sick, and tried to sleep. I thought “never again”! As of now, I wouldn’t say NEVER again… but I don’t regret staying here this year. The news the past week has been about people stranded first throughout Europe, then in New England… surely something would have gone wrong!

Just writing about this ordeal makes me tired. In the end Christmas here was nice… not the same, not GREAT, but comfortable. It also helps that it’s been about 60 degrees everyday and sunny… and we live next to the beach. Next year I hope to spend Christmas in the US (there’s nothing like it) but if I don’t… don’t ask me why not!

A Walk on the Beach on Christmas Day
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