1. Trying to make fall come faster.
2. Started a new job. (!) I’m in love with it and excited for the future it might bring.
3. I’d never made mac and cheese before. It was time.
4. A pink sky made for a beautiful start to the day.
5. Getting our Halloween on.
6. I like this view outside our house.
7. Beautiful blue sky.
8. And then a day full of rain and coldness.
9. Toasted pumpkin seeds with cinnamon, brown sugar and coconut oil.
10. A good place for a beer in the neighborhood.
11. Some of the best snails I’ve ever had. Also in the neighborhood, which makes them just a bit better.
12. Sometimes the best Saturdays are the ones you start without a shower and with no expectations for the day.
I made chili about a month ago, and I told myself it was fall. It was the beginning of October — of course it was fall. I whipped up some cornbread, I pulled my heavy sweaters out from under the bed, and I’ve been making myself a warm tea after dinner most nights. Despite all of my attempts to enjoy my favorite season, the weather has refused to actually change. I walk outside in my sweater and end up rolling up the sleeves and plopping sunglasses on my face.
And while it’s seriously starting to get chilly, it still doesn’t feel like a fall back in Nebraska. I’ll embrace the fleeting chilly moments as they come and go, speckled with sunshine and beautiful weather. It’s a different kind of fall than I’m used to, but still lovely in its own way. And even though the sun is shining outside, my apartment always seems to be a few degrees colder, so I think I’ll still keep making those hearty soups that warm the body. In a few hours, Pablo and I are going to make a potaje like the one his mom makes — creamy white beans swimming in red peppers, onions and garlics and studded with chorizo and morcilla. If it turns out well, I’ll post it here. It’s about time I start writing about one of the things I’m most passionate about — food. (!)
But in the meantime, in honor of this weird limbo right before we plunge into fall in Sevilla, I thought I’d post some photos I took a few months ago, during the height of summer. I took them with a Diana Mini, and to be honest they turned out weird, funky, bad and awesome all at the same time. It’s not my favorite camera to shoot with, but it is fun to use once in a while. Hope you enjoy.
Oh, September, what a lovely month you were. I went home for the first time in two years, and lots of American things took place — mainly big breakfasts, fast food, driving everywhere, big beers, big everything and spending lots of time with the family.
1. Brunch with my sister made my dreams come true.
2. People can pronounce/write my name correctly in the States. It caught me off guard after two years of being called “Kitty.”
3. Awkward sister photo. Love you!
4. Delicious lunch at my dad’s house after a trip to the Italian market.
5. Having beers in Pittsburgh.
6. This just had to happen. It felt so right and even more so when we stole handfuls of honey BBQ sauce because Pablo loved it so much.
7. Sometimes when you’re on a five-hour road trip, you need to stop in a dinky town and get an amazing lunch in a dive bar.
8. My Spanish boyfriend fitting in with the Americans.
9. Just one of my favorite people ever, Grandpa Fulton, after he took us for a ride around the farm in his truck.
10. Drinking beers in the country. Sometimes I love being from the Midwest.
11. Our family calls this my grandma’s “Breakfast of Champions.” I was ready for a nap after eating it, but it was so worth it.
12. After lots of family time, Pablo and I escaped to Chicago for the last three days of our trip.
13. The views were stunning!
14. And all of the sudden I was back in Spain with so many new THINGS. It was a great trip home, and I can’t wait to eat pumpkin pie in Spain.
15. Back to wandering around my neighborhood. It feels weird to say it, but this is where I feel at home now, and a part of me was really happy to be back.
16. And then jet leg ruled my life for five days and we had a wedding to be at the following Saturday. I was proud to last until 1 a.m., although the rest of the party lasted close to 7 in the morning.
17. So. Much. Beer.
18. My handsome date.
19. And my handsome date is this beautiful woman’s son.
20. And after all the beer, there was a gin tonic bar. Rosemary-basil gin and tonic? Well, okay!
21. And finally, a big batch of homemade granola to kick of my first week back at work.
To my family,
It was so weird and wonderful to be back with you again. Three years is a long time to go without seeing someone, and my heart felt so happy to be back with you again. And I was even happier to see the way you welcomed Pablo to the family. It warmed my heart to see the way you pulled him into your lives and loved him the way I do.
It was wonderful being home because in many ways, nothing had changed. I was still your sister, your daughter, your granddaughter. Grandpa, you still tease Grandma until she rolls her eyes and walks away. I love that. Grandma, your sugar cookies are still my favorite thing in the world. Sister, you’re still snarky and fiery and well-spoken. I love that. Brother, you always were the quiet type. You also still like to tease your sisters. I can’t say I love that too much, but it felt good to be back with you again. It felt wonderful, the way we all fit back together, like no time had passed.
But it also felt weird, because time had passed. We were all a bit older and changed. We had different loves, different lives. Since the last time I was home, two of you have gone. I visited your graves and cried. I cried because I miss you. I cried because I wasn’t there when you left. I cried because you were wonderful grandparents, and it’s not fair you’re not here anymore. I hope you know how much I wish you were.
It felt weird because there were new things to talk about and future trips to plan. It was weird because we don’t get to see each other very often anymore, and I didn’t like how fast the time escaped from us. I loved those summer nights outside, sitting around and chatting until well after the sun went down. I feel so happy and homesick thinking about it now.
It was weird and wonderful at the same time. Wonderful to spend time with each of you, and so weird to know I was about to leave you again. I have no regrets in moving to Spain and starting my life here, but a part of me aches for my family. I wish I were in your timezone, or that I could just give you a call on my way to work instead of coordinating the best time for a Skype date. I wish I could be there for your birthday and be there to eat Grandma’s sugar cookies on Christmas Day. I hate knowing I miss the little moments, the ups and the downs, and all else that comes with the proximity.
Here’s to you, my crazy, loving, in-your-face family. I love you each in very different ways, and I couldn’t have asked for a better three weeks back home with you.
So much love,
(all photos from Fairfield, Iowa, and taken on a Pentax K1000)
Finally back into the swing of things after a three-week trip back to the States. Before leaving, this is what life looked like. Oh, summer.
1. Grilled prawns at home. Thank you, Emeril!
2. Not my favorite camera, but I like to switch it up once in a while. I’ll post more from my latest roll of film from it soon.
3. Fried fish makes this girl happy!
4. No but seriously.
5. Chiclana mornings are my favorite. Pablo sleeps in, and I sneak outside with a book and coffee.
6. It feels like I took this photo yesterday. I’m not sure I’m ready to say bye to summer.
7. Or those adorable little shrimpies.
8. Love this wall/plant in Chiclana.
Four years ago, I remember the nerves and excitement I had brewing in my bones. I was all set to fly to Spain, carve out a living for myself in that little country for nine months and then come home, all the more enriched and cultured from a fleeting stint in Europe. But if I hit flash forward on that little movie that was my life, I didn’t go back to the States. I stayed, teaching in Spain, lived illegally for one year and now associate the word “home” with Andalucía.
When I opened the envelope four summers ago that was holding the name of the city I would be working in, I remember feeling so disappointed. Córdoba. Cordóba? Córdoba. It was unfamiliar to me. I didn’t know how to pronounce it. It wasn’t a big, well-known city. It was far from the ocean. I didn’t know anybody. Was I sure I wanted to do this? Maybe it wasn’t too late to back out. What the hell was I getting myself into? After a few moments of internal freak out, I embraced it. Now I have trouble imagining my life if I hadn’t done so.
It couldn’t have turned out any better. Córdoba (accent at the beginning of the word, as it turns out) was lovely. More importantly, I met some of the greatest people there — people like me, who didn’t think it was all that crazy to move abroad for a year after college. (I’m looking at you, you, you and you.) I realized how much my Spanish sucked and how much I had to learn. I embraced the art of the siesta, my mealtimes moved around, and when I went out at night, I found out the hard way that nobody goes to a club before 2 a.m.
There was also extreme loneliness and isolation at times. I felt frustrated when I couldn’t express myself exactly the way I could in English. I cursed myself when I got lost in the city or got on the wrong bus or walked in the wrong direction for 20 minutes. But I was learning. I was growing. I was changing every single day.
I was having the time of my life after the first year of my program ended, and there was no way I was going to pass up a second year. And after that year was up, there were no opportunities for a third year with the program. But there was a boy — a Spanish boy — who had begun to give me a big reason to stay. It all started one night when everyone was out. And it slowly shifted to grabbing toasted baguettes with fresh olive oil and tomato for breakfast in the morning to little dates filled with fried fish and new restaurants I’d never been to, to love and our own little home together.
And now here I am, heading into my fourth year abroad in what was foreseen to be only nine months. Here I am, in love with a Spanish man, teaching English to pay the bills and figuring out my next step. I say next step because it’s time to move forward. Teaching pays the bills for me, but it’s not what I’m meant to do. Because for me, for as long as I can remember and from the moment I figured out how to, it’s writing. It’s writing, the thing I always come back to.
Four years later, I’m feeling some of those same nerves I felt back then. I’m not moving to a new country nor giving up proximity to family and friends, but I am embarking on a new adventure — on writing — and I’m not sure where I’m going to end up.
So if you don’t mind, I’m going to give that more of a go this year. I’ve been hiding behind photos for a while now, and it’s a good time to knock that off. While I’ll still post photos and continue finding inspiration in everyday life, I’ll also be posting more things like this. More words and more stories. Afterall, it is the thing I always come back to.
Working in Bellver de la Cerdanya for a month had its ups and its downs. It was a tiny little town, kind of nestled into the middle of nowhere. There were times it was lonely, too isolated and too small. But those moments in themselves were also very small, and for the most part, I soaked up every second of that hilly, cobbly place with mountains just in the distance.
Every afternoon it wasn’t raining, I ventured out to explore with Mary. We were always under the pretense of exercise, but it almost always ended up as a destinationless adventure, delving into the mountains and trails laid out behind the town or climbing up the aged stairs of the city to get a view of the whole place.
After growing up in the good old flat Midwest, I find myself in awe of places like this. The mountains, for me, are a breath of fresh air, a stunning thing to simply take in with your eyes and an unforgettable experience to wind through them.