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Everything posted by bergerka

  1. Great. So Paltrow won't eat the jamón (and really, what the hell is the point if you aren't going to eat the jamón?) and Batali will bitch about how it's not as good as prosciutto, which is a total crock. Whee. Count me out.
  2. bergerka

    Hot weather cooking

    2 jars garbanzo beans 1 large can peeled tomatoes, whole 1 can olives stuffed with red pepper (or whatever you like) 2 cucumbers 1-2 onions 1 package roasted red peppers raisins salt, olive oil, cider vinegar Put garbanzo beans in large bowl. Roughly chop tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, red peppers and add. Add raisins, as many as you like. Liberally salt (it's very hard to oversalt this dish), add olive oil and a couple of splashes of cider vinegar. Mix with wooden spoon. Put bowl in refrigerator till cold. Eat. Best with cold white wine or a good rosé. There. No cooking! Yum. Been making this all summer. Didn't get the recipe from anywhere, it was a result of "wonder if all these things I have lying around would taste good together..." K
  3. Oh Maggie, the story about your sister made me cry. I agree that you need time. The death of someone you loved so much, whether sudden or prolonged, is a terribly traumatic experience and anything that reminds you in any way of it is gonna hurt for a while. Maybe a long while. It has nothing to do with cooking, or not much, but in NYC I was the one in charge of washing the dishes. It often took a long time - we had no dishwasher and frequently had large dinner parties during most of the pots and pans in the kitchen managed to magically dirty themselves. Doing dishes after people had left and the house was quiet was a nice bit of down time for me to let my brain run in neutral and maybe think through stuff a little. Then my nephew was killed in a car accident. For a long, long time afterward, I couldn't do dishes - or even spend time in the kitchen - by myself without breaking down into uncontrollable, hysterical crying fits that are painful to talk about even today. Don't pressure yourself. You will want to cook when you want to cook. And I am so very sorry to hear about your loss. Besos, K
  4. A zarzuela is the Spanish version of operetta, or light opera - like Johann Strauss II, Gilbert and Sullivan, Offenbach, that stuff. Basically classically written music with dialogue in between numbers, somewhere in between musical theater and opera. I adore zarzuela. It has, I find a uniquely Spanish character that I like better than both german operetta and french opéra-comique. I came to check in and thought - oh crap, I forgot to take a picture AGAIN - and then realized I didn't need to! This was really fun, folks - can't thank you enough.
  5. I feel like I'm letting y'all down, but I am just too tired to mess with anything complicated tonight!!! So I foraged. I found some turkey breast, some toast, and some roasted red pepper. They went beautifully with a glass or three of El Coto 2003 Crianza Rioja wine. For dessert, two more of those butter cookies and one slice of banana bread, just to round things out! ...and that's my blog. Thank you all so much for reading and being patient with my connection issues! I'd love to hear from you here while it's open, or by pm, or by email! Buenas noches, felices sueños y gracias por leer! Besos y abrazos, K
  6. Woof. I'm home. I'm exhausted. First to some questions. My debut in LA will be...when they decide to hire me! someone get on the horn to Maestro Domingo, wouldja??? Mixed drinks as we know them in the States are fairly rare in Spain, except for specific cocktail bars, also rare. If you get a mixed drink, it's likely to be rum and coke or rum and Fanta limón, gin and tonic, something like that. A martini, in Spain, signifies...a glass of vermouth, usually Martini brand, and they will ask you if you want red or white. Bizarrely, even with all that, most bars in Spain stock about seven kinds of gin, including Hendrick's. One tapas bar we were in the other night had twelve different kinds. The concert went spectacularly well. It was slightly freaky...in a pueblo of about 1,500 people, 600 showed up to see it, making it standing room only and VERY hot in the church. Channel four in Castilla y León also showed up to film the thing, I understand it's being shown sometime today there??? The program was as follows (not food related, but yanno, forgive me): Part 1 Je suis Titania (from the opera Mignon, by Thomas) Three songs by Mozart An Chloë Als Luise die Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte Abendempfindung an Laura Four old Spanish arias, arranged for piano and voice by Joaquin Nin Las majas madrileñas Alma, sintamos El jilguerito con pico de oro Tirana Four Italian songs La promessa (Rossini) L'invito (Rossini) Almen se non poss'io (Bellini) Stornello (Verdi) Intermission La Petenera (from the zarzuela La Marchenera, by Torroba) Las carceleras (from the zarzuela Las Hijas del Zebedeo, by Chapí, and my favorite piece on the program) La courte paille (Francis Poulenc) 1. Le sommeil 2. Quelle aventure! 3. La reine du coeur 4. Ba, be, bi, bo, bu 5. Les anges musiciens 6. Le carafon 7. Lune d'avril Four songs by George Gershwin Do it again But not for me Someone to watch over me Vodka As encores I offer No corté más que una rosa (from La del manojo de rosas, by Sorozábal - just gorgeous) Quando me'n vo (Musetta's waltz, from La Bohème). We were invited out afterward by the mayor and his wife (who was a riot. I think she's in love with Eric) for jamón, queso from Zamora and vino tinto. I unfortunately did not get pictures of that as, er, it didn't seem polite to take them. Got back to Salamanca very late indeed, hence breakfast was very late indeed, and once AGAIN I forgot to take pictures, jeez, I suck. But I was tired. It was buckets of coffee and a croissant. Lunch, on the other hand, which followed very shortly on the heels of breakfast, I did get pix of. It was at C's mom's house. We had her version of an ensaladilla rusa (basically the potato salad they make here), which had potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, cooked carrots, green beans, peas, jamón york (cooked ham) and artichoke hearts. Then we had pork cutlets, salted and sprinkled with oregano, dipped in egg and fried. And of course, bread. This was just so pretty I couldn't resist. For dessert, we had evil little pastries from the bakery downstairs, which, as it turns out, is owned by César's sister. Did I know that before? These are evil, evil I tell you. Also blurry. But mostly evil. I'm now back in Madrid, and while I THOUGHT I wouldn't be hungry again...I'm starting to think about it. Hmm. Sunday night. August. Everything closed. I'm going to go look in the refrigerator to see what I can possibly come up with. If all else fails, I'll go for kebap...
  7. This morning, we slept in, then had breakfast at C's mother's house. I had coffee and pan con aceite, basically toasted baguette with olive oil and a little salt. Yum. Breakfast Breakfast closeup Then it was off to Zamora to meet up with Eric and eat at the hotel! You have to love Dani, when I called to make the reservation (MUST RESERVE saturdays and sundays or you WILL NOT get a table), he said "...is this Kathleen???" He remembered me from MAY. We had a Toro wine. Well, Eric and César had wine. I tasted a little, but I have to sing. We started with pulpo a la gallega, octopus boiled and served with paprika, olive oil and potatoes. I never liked octopus till I tried it in Spain, now I LOVE it...and this hotel does one of the best I've had. We also had mollejas (sweetbreads), cooked in a highly spiced sauce with tomatoes, cumin, olive oil, onion, and other stuff. ...I really like sweetbreads. Second courses were as follows: I had entrecote of beef with pepper sauce (and the omnipresent french fries!) César had entrecote with Roquefort. His was a bit overcooked. Mine was perfect, really rare. And Eric had lubina (sea bass), grilled with lots of garlic! Desserts at the Puente de Piedra are all homemade and all incredible. I had the pineapple mousse, which tastes sexy enough to give C ideas. He had the flan, which did the same for me. And Eric had the cuajada with honey, which was more solid than some versions and incredibly tasty. Dani was kind enough to take a photo with the boys in front of the hotel/restaurant! If you ever go there, tell him the American soprano sent you. We are now off to Fermoselle, almost an hour away, near the border of Portugal. I'll sing a concert, then we'll go back to Salamanca for the night. I may or may not be able to post until tomorrow...till then, enjoy!!! K
  8. For lunch we headed back to C's mom's house. She had made gazpacho (hers is more strongly flavored than the traditional one, as she uses more garlic. It's delicious), plus we had MORE of the jamón. The gazpacho is in the glasses. We then had spaghetti with egg and bacon, sort of like a carbonara, only, you know, not. Delicious César gave me enough for three or four people, which was interesting...as it wasn't the final course! The final course was a pisto, made with tomatoes, onion, pepper, zucchini and bonito (tuna). I was, unfortunately, only able to eat a little, but it was delish. I then headed off for a two hour siesta, as my brain had stopped functioning and gone into a food coma. Last night, we went to eat tapas with my friend Erin, who lives in Salamanca. First, we took a couple of pictures. Here's the frog. Can you find it??? There is also an astronaut on the side of the cathedral. Yes, really. Here I am in front of the cathedral. The light at this moment was amazing, it looked like gold because of the piedra de Villamayor (the stone out of which the cathedral is made, as well as half of the buildings in Salamanca). And I just had to get this pic of the dome, because there was one bird on each of the towers. Enough pretty stuff. On to the food! First we stopped at Bar La Viga, to eat jeta (basically deep fried pork cheek). The jeta. Funny story, the waitress told us to sit at a table that was already full of people who had paid. She smacked our jeta order down on the table, and said to the people there "don't touch that!" We didn't know whether to laugh or be horrified! Jeta, with a nice glass of Rioja. We then headed off to Casa Paca. Erin and César, in front My favorite waiter there, who is ALWAYS there, First tapas, with Rioja. Huevos rotos, sort of a scrambled eggs, but better, and revuelto de morcilla, a delicious blood sausage omelet. Second tapas, patatas meneadas (potatoes with a ton of paprika and, I think, onion), revuelto de farinato (a sausage that is a specialty of the region) and OOOOOOF. After all that, we went to bar El Reloj, in the Plaza Mayor, under the famous clock (El reloj). Erin and me, in the Plaza Mayor The bar Tapas, with more rioja - huevos rotos con jamón, a salad of tomato, lettuce and queso fresco, and a crepe filled with crab, merluza (hake) and mayonnaise. We then met up with C's friends Ivan and Giuliana and went to a terrace bar to have some lovely mojitos, accompanied by a Brazilian band. César and his harem, Erin, Giuliana and me. Mojitos I then staggered off to bed.
  9. FINALLY! I am sitting out in front of the Hotel Puente de Piedra in Zamora, discovered by Eric when we came up here for the vocal competition in May (I didn't make the finals, but was awarded a concert in Alicante. Ah, Spain.). This hotel is a TERRIFIC bargain, when we were here it was €25 a night for a double room for single person use (I think in high season it's more like €40, but still a great deal), big rooms, your own (big) bathroom, quiet, free wifi, a wonderful restaurant and one of the most welcoming atmospheres I've ever found, largely due to Dani, the proprietor, who must have a portrait aging in the attic, because he looks about 25. He's also so gorgeous that the first time Eric,Re'ut (a mezzosoprano friend) and I saw him, there were three simultaneous "thuds" as our jaws hit he floor. First, a couple of answers. C's mother's lentejas are cooked in water, with everything else, all ingredients together. I don't know what the EXACT amounts are of everything...and when I asked, she just smiled and wagged her finger at me. The chocolate mousse at Asturianos is, as far as I know, just a regular chocolate mousse, although slightly more dense than others I've had, but I think that's because Julia uses a lot of cream. on top, you float really, really good olive oil, a little sea salt, a little fresh ground pepper, and mix it all up JUST before you eat it (in other words, they serve it to you floated on top, you mix it yourself). Unfortunately, I don't yet know enough about paella to give the definitive answer, but I loved the arroz con conejo y caracolas (a paella with snails and rabbit) that Eric and I recently had in El Campello, just outside Alicante. Spanish food and Mexican food are different animals entirely - it's like comparing, say, Spanish and Italian food, or Spanish and American food. Just start with the tortilla - in Spain, it's a potato, egg and onion omelet. In Mexico, it's a flatbread. So we'll start from our ham-buying excursion, yesterday (yes, ewindels, some of it is for you), to this store in Salamanca: Some of the house-made embutidos more, packaged Jamón and various cured sausages hanging on the wall. Naturally, we had to sample the jamón to make sure it was ok, so we headed to C's brother Jesus's house for a pre-lunch snack That's olives, queso de oveja (sheep) from Zamora, fuet (sausage) and the jamón, which was indeed delicious, and we drank white vermouth. Next up...lunch!
  10. Hi guys, I am checking in to apologize for the delay! I have a lovely afternoon and evening to tell you about, including lots of tapas, but I CANNOT get the connection here to stay open long enough to get the pictures uploaded, and the one wifi place in town kept giving me an error (probably has to do with my having a Mac. %$·%"!@ macs. So I will have to wait to post till tomorrow - I know we are eating lunch in a place that has free wifi and VERY good and fast! I'm offline till then, thank you for the patience and please forgive the interruption in the foodblog! Besos, K
  11. Good morning! I'm still dealing with connection issues here - have not had a chance to get to the cafe with free wifi, but wanted to post last night and this morning. We were invited to eat dinner at C's brother Pablo's house. He lives in a suburb of Salamanca, has a lovely house and yard. We ate outdoors, una cena romántica, as it were. Olives, cornichons, tomatoes (this plate was so pretty I just had to get a shot of it solo) A GORGEOUS salad of lettuce, tomatoes, beets, queso fresco, turkey, hearts of palm and walnuts Still life of bread, salchicha and jalapeño-stuffed olives Empanadas (of bonito, I think) with dried favas and greens Cangrejo del rio (river crabs) in a sauce of tomatoes and paprika. YUM. Ice cream! Chocolate, rum raisin and walnut, with a little apple liqueur over the top and a couple of cookies. And, of course, red wine. One bottle of Marques de Arienzo Crianza Rioja, one bottle of Toro (from near Zamora). Because it was morning, I forgot to take a picture of breakfast. I promise to do it tomorrow. It was coffee (yay!), baguettes with butter and jam, danish, and lovely cool watermelon. I am still catching up on questions, etc., will get to them all today, I promise. Right now I'm off to buy some ham, camera in tow! K
  12. Hola from Salamanca! It's about a 2 hour drive from Madrid, we listened to a best of the 80's cd that C had made, all the way. I have a very weak signal in the apartment, let's see if I can get the pictures of lunch to post. As usual, I got going late, so we arrived late...right at the END of the lunch time. Fortunately, there was something to eat, as we were both hungry! (we had potato chips and diet coke on the road, but that doesn't count and the camera was all the way in the back of the car anyway. A word about César's mother. In addition to being a very nice and interesting person (and EXTREMELY patient with my relative lack of Spanish, hence relative lack of anything interesting to say), she is one of the best cooks I have ever met in my life. She's one of those people who just KNOWS what flavors go together, and I always end up eating as much as I CAN eat when I visit, and being way too full. I'm sure she thinks her son is dating an utter glutton. She had made lentejas (lentils), one of my favorite dishes ANYWAY. Most people will tell you that they have to be made with pork products of some kind, chorizo or something, in order to give them more flavor. C's mother, on the other hand, puts nothing like that in her lentejas. They are just lentils, onion, garlic, carrot, scallion, a little salt and (HUGE surprise to me) a little cinnamon. They are so delicious that I could eat them six times a day, incredibly rich and MUST be eaten with bread to sop up the sauce at the end. Seriously, the thought almost makes me hungry again. Lentejas Lentejas, side view! And a Magnum essence ice cream bar for dessert. dark chocolate over vanilla ice cream, with a chocolate cookie right in the middle. Just evil. Back to thinking in Spanish. Ufff. K
  13. Having now been to both countries and eaten charcuterie in both, I'd reverse the two. I much prefer Spain's cured meats...but it could be just me. Um I don't know the difference. Pedro? Rogelio? Re the gazpacho, it is supposed to come with guarnicion, the chunks of tomatoes, onions, peppers, bread crumbs that you spoon into the soup. One of the less charming aspects of the waiter we had that day at El Gran Jamonal is his tendency to forget the little extra items...and then forget that you have asked for them. Oops. K
  14. Pedro, thank you very much. It was great to see you and Mar and get to spend some time with you last night! You and Julia obviously have a very special relationship... Breakfast is coffee, coffee, coffee and a li'l piece of banana bread, which if I do say so myself, turned out rather well. aaaand we're back to my crap pix as well. Sorry about that. Ok, I need to get moving - have to get stuff done to get on the road to Salamanca and, as usual, I am already running late! K
  15. Good morning! Yes, it's 8 am here. No, it's not normal for me to be up. In fact I am only up for a few minutes - my phone rang (don't ask) and I realized I forgot to post dinner before falling into bed last night. Pictures are coming later. I, as usual, forgot the $%&@ camera. Fortunately, Rogelio from this here eGullet did not. Therefore, all pix are by him and are hence significantly better quality than anything I might take. We went to Asturianos, which Rogelio and Eric introduced me to more than a year ago. Asturianos is a great, quirky place run by a great, quirky family. It has been my default first date place for some time (yes, including C), because the food is terrific and if a guy doesn't like the atmosphere there, he most likely eventually won't like me. This is Asturianos, and this is Alberto, one of the sons of the family that owns it. I love Alberto. He's completely insane. I would probably marry him if his girlfriend wouldn't kill me. Tonight's group was Rogelio, Eric, Pedro (also from this very site), his lovely wife Mar, C and me. We put ourselves in the hands of Julia, chef extraordinaire, and she gave us (pix coming shortly): lovely fresh tomatoes from Rogelio's parents' garden, sweet and full of flavor. gambas al ajillo - shrimp cooked in olive oil and garlic, always extraordinary. berberechos - cockles, cooked with garlic, parsley, possibly white wine? This is one of my favorite dishes here, and I order it every time they make it. cecina - cured beef, like jamón ibérico, but beef (or horse, sometimes), a specialty of León. Like bresaola, but, you know, better. Here's some very good olive oil that we used on the tomatoes and the cecina. A note: I knew NOTHING about Spanish olive oil before I got here, because I never saw much of it in the US. It's absolutely fantastic. patatas con cabrales - french fries covered with melted cabrales cheese, which has a very strong, very individual taste. I find it absolutely addictive. Some people hate it. Be aware: never in the US have I had a cabrales that tasted like the real thing. When I finally ate it here, it was a revelation. favas con morcilla de matachana - fava beans with morcilla (blood sausage) that has been broken apart, cooked in butter and white wine and served (it's another of my favorite things. I love morcilla, and I like this style even better than the style commonly served in Burgos, which is cooked with rice and cumin). estofado de pollo - free-range chicken stewed in, I think (I don't dare ask Julia for her recipes!), broth, wine, onion, green pepper and carrots. This was fantastic, for me, with the tomatoes and the favas, easily the best of the evening (although patatas con cabrales always win, as far as I'm concerned). beef cheeks, braised, with french fries. Deliciously beefy, strong and hearty. For dessert we had three of their best: natillas (crème anglaise) with cinnamon flan de queso - I have no idea how they make this, but it is like crack. It's far less sweet than a regular flan, with a strong cheesecake flavor, but is the silky texture of flan. and for me, the most outstanding dessert on the planet - chocolate mousse with olive oil, salt and pepper. The first time I ever tried this, I was with my friend Re'ut who was visiting from the States and we had stopped in for a light dinner. Honestly, we sat there and MOANED. We told Alberto that he could make commercials for this dessert as follows: "no date Friday night? No problem! Just come to Asturianos and try the chocolate mousse!!!" It's so unbelievably delicious that Willow once talked them into making her an order to go. Everyone at the house could tell when she was eating it by the sounds of "oh my GOD" coming from her room. we drank a white burgundy from Maison Leroy to start, then a red made by Alberto`s brother Belarmino that was called Fresh, then a red dedicated after Clint Eastwood's "Pale Rider," only in Spanish, "Predicador," made by the famous Contador. Here's the Predicador bottle Here we all are! From left, front to back then back to front, César, Mar, Pedro, Eric, Rogelio and me. Breakfast pix coming...whenever I wake up!
  16. I forgot to mention that the reason today is so quiet is...it's a holiday. Yes, in the middle of the week. It's the festival of basically every Virgin of Spain. So nothing's open (except the restaurant I'm going to later, I checked), and most of Madrid has fled (which happens in August anyway) to the beaches or mountains. A bit of housekeeping: I'll be posting dinner very late tonight, my time. Tomorrow is a travel day - I'll post breakfast before we go, but the rest will probably be posted fairly late. Thereafter, until Sunday afternoon, I will only have access online once or twice a day!!! I will try my best to get to any questions or pm's, but if there's a bit of a delay in answering, forgive me. K
  17. no no. There is no airport in Riaño. We've been driving all these places, as most of 'em don't even have BUS service, they're so out of the way. The mayor showed up at the concert and took us out to dinner afterward, then gave each of us a bag of local products, one of which was the cookies. Lunch! C and I realized we were both sporting pretty good-sized hangovers (since losing the weight and dropping hard alcohol, my tolerance has gone down the tubes. Plus, I find white wine hangover to be the WORST). According to me, the best solution for that is doner kebap, but I just had it last night. According to him, the best solution is paella. However, we had neither paella nor time to make it. So this was a quickie faux-paella ish rice dish he made up out of his head! First, he heated caldo de pescado (fish broth) to a boil, with a bay leaf. Then he added rice, calamares (squid) and langostinos (big, big shrimp) Then we ate it! With, of course, bread, and water. Lots of water. Very cold water. It was quite delicious. We followed it with more of that lovely watermelon, but by the time I remembered about a photo, we'd eaten it. He's off to fly to Barcelona and back, and I'm now home for the afternoon. Just had a coffee. I think I'm going to drink a lovely cold 1.5 liter bottle of more...water. K
  18. Good morning! Afternoon! It's 1:30. I'm not going to tell you how late we were up. We had to finish the bottle of wine. Time for coffee and a few more of the butter cookies from Riaño, accompanied by the soundtrack of Cars! on today's agenda are lunch at C's house and dinner at probably my favorite restaurant in Madrid, which has a LARGE number of really good associations for me, including one big one that some of you who have pm'd me already know about. Funny Spanish faux pas, that I was just reminded about today. Brussels sprouts, which I love, are "coles de Bruselas" in Spanish. I was sitting around eating dinner with my friends Paco and Cristina one night, and we were, in fact, having Brussels sprouts. Paco mentioned that he liked them, but that if eaten at night, they should be considered a chemical weapon (Paco is hilarious, especially when it comes to bodily function jokes). I said, I thought, in Spanish, "Not for me, I like eating Brussesls sprouts at night," which is basically "para mi no, a mi me gusta comer coles de Bruselas por la noche." Except I didn't say "coles de Bruselas." I said "colas de Bruselas," at which point Paco fell off his chair onto the floor and laughed like a madman (seriously, he did, I'd kill to have a picture). j You see, "colas" are something else entirely. Actually, the word is slang for the male sexual organ. I had in fact said that I liked eating penises from Brussels at night.
  19. Hey Genny - 7-up will work fine, says C. Depends on what you prefer. If you like the taste of beer, you can put half and half or 1/3 lemon, 2/3 beer (that latter is the norm). If not, add more lemon till you do like it. Haven't yet been to a Real Madrid match yet...but I'll get there (sadly, I haven't been to the Teatro Real for an opera yet either, because, well, it's expensive and I am never home). Kent, I'm so sorry, I didn't even LOOK at the jamón prices!!! Normally, for the good stuff, it will run you in the area of €50 a kilogram, for a whole piece. Sliced costs much more. Hey Abra, yeah, apparently that didn't happen in the church...it was the teeny recorder that was used. I may get my brother to edit the sound. Neither C nor I have ever tasted membrillo sin azúcar, but you should have seen the face he made when I mentioned it. C has asked me also to mention that the guy in the Mercado de Maravillas SHOULD NOT have been cutting that jamón by machine. Really great jamón should only be cut by hand, and the use of a machine is a sin. Dinner! I wandered back over to the Moncloa neighborhood, to Eric's apartment, to have dinner with him. His roommate Ruben (a very nice physics doctoral student from León) was there, with two GORGEOUS girls, friends of his from Poland. They were cooking pasta and invited us to try it. How could we say no??? It was made with bowtie pasta (tricolor), garlic, cream, zucchini, chicken and parmeggiano. It was delicious. Here it is. Blurry. Now, I still had to forge ahead with my original dinner plan, which was to eat something commonly found in Spain...but not Spanish (no, not McDonald's). The answer is: Döner Kebap! Eric just happens to live upstairs from the best. döner. ever. His neighborhood is right down the street from my first one, and after we discovered this place, my old roomie Angela and I would wake up about 2pm on Sundays, with enormous hangovers, and look at each other and say "ok...who makes the coffee and who goes for döner???" this is it. Near wheel is lamb, far wheel is chicken The condiments Artistically plated, with fries (and sauce. Have to have the sauce, as the fries kind of suck and are really only convenient vehicles for sauce, much as snails are convenient little sponges for garlic butter) Yummmm After the kebap orgy, we shared a bottle of Bach wine with Ruben and the lovely Polish girls. C picked me up after he was done with work and I'm now at his house, drinking white wine and about to go to bed. See you all tomorrow! K
  20. Ok, here we go! I'm posting these now because, well, I need to iron clothes, and I don't want to iron clothes. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I went to lunch with Eric and my friend José Antonio, a bass from Las Canarias who is one of the few people in Spain significantly taller than am I (he's got to be 6'7", seriously). He's also one of the nicest people on the whole planet. We went to El Gran Jamonal, in the first neighborhood I lived in here, Arguelles. Gran Jamonal has good associations for me - Eric brought me to lunch here with an American bass who was working at the Teatro Real right after the first tour was over and I had decided to change my life and was scared out of my mind. The food is just plain Spanish, very traditional, very good. They have a €10,50 menu for lunch from Mon-Fri that includes first course, second course, wine or other drink and dessert. And bread. And their bread is actually good. Good bread is kind of hard to find in Madrid, bizarrely. The board in front of the restaurant (sorry about the shadow on the right side. It's an actual shadow from the canopy of the building and not associated with my lame photography skills). Today's menu of the day. As you can see, lots of choices, and yes, one of them was guisantes con jamón. Unfortunately I wasn't hungry enough. Another time. First courses. I had the gazpacho (I LURVE gazpacho in summer), J-A had the paella (which is very good), and Eric the judías blancas (white beans) con chorizo (also very good, just very, very heavy for about a 90-degree day): Second courses. I had the ragout de ternera (basically a pot roast!), J-A had the tortilla de queso (cheese omelet. This one was a tortilla francesa, which is what we know as a regular omelet, rather than being the egg-and-potato tortilla española), and Eric the caballa (mackerel). Dessert. Eric and I both had cuajada (link to description is in one of the above posts) with honey, J-A had the crema catalana (which is supposed to be burnt on top like crème caramel, but this one was not): We also had coffee, not pictured. J-A had a café solo (basically an espresso), Eric and I both had cortados (caffe macchiato, for those more familiar with Italian coffee. An espresso with a little sploosh of milk). I walked home (4.8 kilometers or almost 3 miles, according to google maps. Oh. That's why I can't gain weight), because I wanted to stop at one of my favorite shopping places and show you. This is the Mercado de Maravillas (the market of marvels). Although I'm not buying anything today, it's one of my favorite places to buy groceries. More stalls are open and they have more products in the morning (and when it's not August), but ech, mornings...ew. jamón ibérico, anyone? My favorite meat guy (all these guys know me and they all wanted their picture taken). Beautiful fruits and vegetables Same stand, other side My second-favorite meat guys, aren't they cute? I absolutely defy you to find better chicken and eggs in Madrid. Seriously. These guys are a bit pricier than some, but ohhhhh so worth it. this guy has great cured meats...but I shop him for something else. And here's what it is This picture is dedicated to ewindels. pretty fish Pretty fish guy Randomly adorable fruit and veggie guy who wanted his picture taken. and for a touch of the incongruous, the Chinese products booth. Now I'll hang around to see if anyone has questions so that I can put off ironing just a little bit longer! K
  21. Hi, Kent. Yes. Definitely. I find cost of living here to be SIGNIFICANTLY lower than it was in NYC - especially groceries. I needed twice as much money just to barely get by in NYC. Granted, I'm also getting paid in euros, which go much farther than dollars. When I am working, my travel and housing expenses are covered, although usually not food, so that's not a problem. I wanted to edit this post to add a couple of examples. I have no idea what prices are like in NYC right now, maybe someone there could do a comparison? Today at the grocery store - this is a regular chain, Sabeco, not a discount store, all name brand stuff - I bought Pantene hairspray, a bar of Lindt dark chocolate, a small bag of regular white flour, nutmeg, a 1.5 liter bottle of Bezoya water (I like it, I needed a big bottle to walk around with, and also to refill with Madrid's very good water and carry around with me). The only items that cost me MORE than €1 were the chocolate (€1,33) and the hairspray (big bottle, but expensive at €3,55). Every other item was less than €1, for example, the water was €0,45. I used to get my hair cut and colored in a salon in NYC. Total for both ran me around $150-160. Here I get it cut by Raúl at a Marco Aldany (chain) for €18-20, and I color it myself with Garnier (colorist in NYC whispered in my ear that it was the same formula they used) for €4,50. so those are just a couple of examples. I also spend less, just as a general rule. If I'm home in Madrid, I will maybe go out to eat once a week, and I never order in. I do not go to expensive restaurants (then again, I don't need to, the inexpensive ones are really terrific here). For example, there is an awesome tapería about a fifteen-minute walk from my house where for two euros you get a glass of wine and a tapa that is a pretty significant portion of food. Six euros in, you've eaten dinner. My idea of an expensive evening is €20-25 per person, and for that I can eat very large amounts of food, drink a lot of wine and have dessert. I walk or take the metro everywhere - and the metro is much less expensive than the subway in NYC. One large expense that has all but disappeared from my life: back in NYC, I was drinking a hell of a lot of cocktails. Guess what? Hard alcohol is expensive, in more than one way. Cocktails will run you $10-12 each if you go out, which can add up pretty quickly. In addition, it messes with my voice in a big way - if I am working, hard alcohol is a no-no. It's also chock full of sugar and calories. Alcoholically speaking, I pretty much only drink beer and wine now, with the VERY occasional gin and tonic if I'm out somewhere at 4 am. My big expenditures are my trips to NYC to work with my teacher, and those are what I reserve my money for. Fortunately, since they're working trips, they're also tax write-offs (yes, I have an accountant for that. No way do I try to do that on my own). and OMG, Ouray!!! I LOVED that town! big post with lunch and walk home pix coming as soon as the damn pix finish uploading. K
  22. You can, in fact, hear me (and see me, in a little black dress) sing on the web - the sound quality isn't great, but it's a food - or at least booze - related song, so it fits here. The date was July 14, 2007, in Cervera de Pisuerga, the second of the series of concerts I'm doing this summer. This was before Eric arrived, so the pianist was a Colombian named David Barón. The song is "Vodka," by Gershwin (I end the recital with a set of four Gershwin songs). The lyrics are as follows (and if you listen to both verses, you get a couple of high notes!): Of all concoctions alcoholical, I know but one that's diabolical. I simply thrive on old champagne, and sparkling burgundy. Whisky, Cointreau, Moselle and Eau de Vie are just like tea, but... Vodka. Don't give me Vodka. For when I take a little drink, I forget to think, what a little drink can do to me! Vodka. DON'T give me Vodka! For when I take a little sip, I begin to slip, and I start romancing with the man that I am dancing with, for Vodka makes me feel...oddka. I go and grab a six foot two, anyone will do, if he's only wise enough to see I'll not scream should he kiss me! Vodka, you ruin me! The link is here Vodka If you think it sucks...just don't tell me.
  23. This may well be one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me. Thank you. Good morning, all! Ok, yeah, it's not precisely morning my time. I got up at noon. I have an excuse, though (not that I need one...I don't have a day job anymore!!!)...was up till 4:30 am translating the interview in that magazine for friends, family and some professional contacts who wanted it (so it had to be a GOOD translation) and arranging to go to the US for the first week of September to work with my teacher. So far this morning I've been doing exciting diva things like laundry. I now have had a coffee and have Café Quijano's La Taberna del Buda playing on iTunes and am ready to show you what ELSE I've been doing! I needed a couple of things at the store, like milk, flour and hairspray ( ), so thought I'd show you my neighborhood. This is my building. This is my street! If you walk to the end of my street, you'll be on Avenida General Perón. If you turn left and look all the way down, you can see the Real Madrid stadium, Santiago Bernabeu. When I got back from the store, it was time for coffee, made in the Bialetti Mukka. I love my mukka. My voice teacher's fiancé introduced me to it, I immediately asked for one for my birthday that year, and I've never gone back. It's painted LIKE A COW!!! Currently, I'm drinking this coffee, from the Canary Islands. It has a ton of flavor, I love it, very smooth and tasting of pure coffee. First, the water goes in the bottom. Then the coffee goes in the filter basket. Then you screw the top on and milk goes in the top. The whole thing goes on the stove, and after much experimentation and ruined coffee (too hot, too cold, the works - the Mukka really works much better with a gas stove), I heat it to level 8 of 12. After a short time, there's a POP and the sound of steaming milk. I pour it into my beautiful coffee mug, into which I've put a teaspoon or so of raw sugar, and voilà! Coffee! I decided to make a banana bread for the blog. I love banana bread. Last week, in anticipation of blogging, I set these bananas to aging, and now they're just right. Hint: the older, more alcoholic-smelling and soft and icky and brown your bananas are, the better your banana bread. The recipe I use is a combination of my mother's and my friend Rebecca's in NY, with an addition of my own. It's as follows: 1.5 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon baking soda 0.5 teaspoon baking powder 0.5 teaspoon salt 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (1/3 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature 2/3 cup sugar 2 large eggs Mashed banana from 4-5 large bananas 1 tablespoon vanilla extract excellent quality dark chocolate, as much as you like, broken into small chunks Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (about 177 degrees C). Lightly oil a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan Sift the flour, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together on a sheet of waxed paper, and set aside. Cream the butter in a medium-sized bowl until light. Add the sugar and beat until thoroughly mixed and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the mashed banana and vanilla. Mix well. Fold in the dry ingredients until thoroughly incorporated. Fold in the chunks of dark chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, run the blade of a knife lengthwise through the batter (to prevent the bread from cracking on top as it rises during baking), and bake until the bread is golden and springs back when lightly touched, 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, unmold the bread onto a wire rack, and let it cool before serving. Here are the bananas, mashed in the bowl: I still use the stupid US measuring system for baking. My mother saved my life by finding these baking cups and spoons on sale and sending 'em to me. I mix the wet ingredients with our household immersion blender, known by all and sundry as...the Butt Butter. Why, you ask, is it called the Butt Butter? Well you might ask. One night, I was sitting around with Willow and my friend Julia, sipping wine. We were all exhausted. Willow'd been teaching for ten hours. Julia and I had been moving my stuff from apartment to apartment all day. We were somewhat punchy. Willow asked me if I had an immersion blender, making the up and down gesture (you have to imagine this part) of putting an immersion blender into a bowl. I, having been at one point in my past an Emeril devotee, said, making the same gesture, "oh, you mean a Boat Motor???" A minute later I noticed that Julia and Willow were both staring at me incredulously. I said "...what?" I said "Boat Motor." They both - not one, but BOTH - heard "Butt Butter." Apparently, combined with the gesture, it made quite an impression. I'm using two kinds of dark chocolate today, one Lindt 70%, the other this INCREDIBLE 91% chocolate from Ecuador that Willow gave me. It's not bitter, but it's not really sweet, either - my friend L says it's just amazingly CHOCOLATE tasting, you try a small amount and your entire mouth is immediately filled with the sensation of chocolate. For purposes of the banana bread, though, it has to be mixed with a slightly sweeter one. Batter mixed, in the bowl: Batter in my cheapo loaf pan from the €1 store (you can buy ANYTHING there, I swear. I could probably buy a small child there if I were so inclined). ...and here it is, cooling! I'm now going to go hang one more load of laundry and then scramble out of the house - I am supposed to be meeting Eric and my friend José Antonio for lunch at 2:30, and, as usual, I'm going to be late! Today's schedule is: lunch at 2:30, then I'm supposedly having coffee with another friend at 6 if he ever gets back to me, then at 10 or so Eric and I will get together to have dinner (and it's going to be something often seen in Spain, although not Spanish) and talk about the program for our upcoming set of recitals. Around midnight, if there isn't a delay, C will arrive from Barcelona and pick me up and I'll go to his place again! That should be fun. He likes banana bread. K
  24. Nope. Gotta go to Salamanca and find it your own self, for luck. Besides, I can't remember where it is. I'll show you the astronaut, though (yes, really). And Abra, um, YES, I will be definitely coming to see you there, I'd love to meet you! Ok, so, my evening. Since C is off working late and I'm home, I figured I'd show you some pix of my kitchen. Obligatory background: when I first jumped ship and came here, I rented a very, very small room (really very tiny. Seriously tiny. Also ungodly cheap) in an apartment in the Arguelles neighborhood, which is on the west side of Madrid very close to the Plaza de España and the Palacio Real. It was a great place to live for a year, central, cool roommates, apartment absolutely flooded with light, because it was on the top floor, two terraces, that kind of thing. I later moved into a bigger room when a roomie moved out. I moved here with almost nothing - clothes, some of my stuff from the States, and have been gradually bringing stuff over, so bought all my furniture, bedding, towels, accessories at IKEA, of which there are now three surrounding Madrid (it's an invasion). Then in May a room became available in my friend Willow's place, in the neighborhood right by the football stadium (no, that's not NY Jets. That's Real Madrid. REAL football). It's a huge room, like seriously huge, like I didn't have enough furniture to fill the thing. It was exactly the same price I was paying for the bigger room in Arguelles, a much bigger apartment, a much better kitchen, in a much quieter area, very well connected (right between two metro lines). I took it. I now live with Willow, an American who has been traveling in Europe teaching English (most expats here in Madrid teach English; offhand, I only know two who don't including myself) for the last six years or so. She's lived in the Maldives, she got typhoid in Peru...that kind of thing. Interesting and cool person, Juan, who is from Valencia and works for some big American company doing accounting for midsized businesses (and who once told me my accent in Spanish was "una barbaridad," which I know not to be true. When I told C, he said "A Valenciano told you YOUR accent was barbaric??? Has he heard himself talk???" but then again, C comes from Salamanca originally. As in, the center of Castellano, aka Spanish), and Maria, who is a consultant of some sort from Galicia. Currently, Willow is in the US visiting friends and family (her room is being sublet by Rafa, who is from Las Canarias and is delightful. Rafa brought me coffee from Las Canarias. We love Rafa and would like to keep him), Juan is...well, Juan is either on vacation in Valencia or sleeping at his girlfriend's, and Maria is visiting family in Galicia. Even when they're home, they're hardly home - they all work at jobs at which they have to be by 8:30 am and don't get home till well after 6pm most days. It's almost like living alone, only with occasional friendly greetings. The one time I had to wake up early, I discovered that at 7 am, my apartment becomes Grand Central Station (or, this being Madrid, Chamartín) for about one hour at that time and then everyone disappears. So anyway. The kitchen. Bear in mind that I am basically never home. I use the kitchen, on average, once a week, or twice, maybe. This is what you see as you face the kitchen from the hall door. ...sorry about the crap quality of some of my photos. This is what you see standing in the door that leads to the utility room and guest room, facing the kitchen. That top cabinet to the right of the fridge is mine. The glass front ones are where dishes and glasses are kept. And here's what you see if you are standing next to the fridge. We have, as you can see, a vitroceramic stovetop, which I am just getting used to. They're the hot thing here - C's kitchen, which is brand new (one year old, or a little more) has it too. My first apartment here had a gas stovetop. During one memorable hangover, I managed to light a vodka-soaked (DON'T ask) dishtowel on fire just as I lit the burner. Bwahahahaahaha. Here's what's in my cabinet. Bottom shelf is dry goods - pasta, canned stuff, plus olive oil, vinegar, various non-refrigerated condiments. Middle shelf is spices of various kinds, as I am the household baker (you'll see more of that tomorrow). Top shelf holds beans, other legumes, a biiiiiiig bag of good quality cocoa powder Willow gave me, flour, random stuff I haven't looked at in a while. I have to remember to go through the cabinet and fridge on a regular basis...because I am home so little, I tend to forget what I have. Rafa was teasing me earlier about the bread I bought, forgot about, and allowed to turn into a blunt instrument. Here's my shelf in the refrigerator. Not much in there right now, as I just got back from concertizing AGAIN. Some cherry tomatoes that I have to remember to either eat or take to C's, some jamón iberico (cured ham) and some jamón york (cooked ham, I was planning to make a pasta salad last week, oops), ditto, some actimels (drinkable yogurt!), some cuajada, currently one of my favorite desserts with honey, an apple, looks like some lettuce in a bag, oops, better check that tomorrow, and, of course, a bottle of caffeine-free Coke Light. A couple of my favorite kitchen items: An extremely blurry - oops, sorry - pic of my Henckels knives and kitchen shears. I love these. I still have not forgiven the person who broke the tip off my big chef's knife, promised to replace it and never did. My spatula with chickens on it. In addition to being very useful, this is the most adorable kitchen item I have ever bought. God, it's cute. My handmade cream pitcher and sugar bowl. I have one coffee mug that matches these, you'll see it tomorrow. My parents bought me these in Ouray, Colorado, when we were all on vacation there. I was about eleven, I think. I adore them. I had another coffee mug, too, but a roommate past broke it. *sigh* I hate it when people break my stuff...I know it happens, but I still hate it. My other favorite item is the Mukka. You'll see it tomorrow. So Eric_Malson and I were totally not hungry tonight (which is so unusual for him I asked if he was feeling ok!). We have just come off a weekend of unbridled eating - it's sort of a shame I wasn't foodblogging slightly earlier, as you'd have experienced a serious selection of embutidos (cured meats), these red peppers stuffed with rape (monkfish) that were beyond delicious, and then a sopa de pescado (fish soup) and roasted cabrito (kid goat) served at this restaurant in this teeny weeny town called Pendones, way the hell up in the mountains (two expressions to describe where it is, one polite, one not so: "al quinto pino" - "at the fifth pine" - and "a tomar por culo a la mano derecha" - oh, figure that one out yourself. They both mean "way the hell out there"). So we got Rafa and headed to an outdoor bar near my house at which my friend Katia from Brazil works. The bar (that's Katia behind it, with the long hair): the seating area (that guy with his back to you, in the brown shirt, is Rafa): Eric had a vino tinto (red wine), Rafa and I had claras (those beers mixed with something sparkling), him with Casera (sparkling water), me with limón (lemon soda). The drinks: We sat around and chatted a bit, then headed for home about 1 am. I'm going to eat one more chip ahoy while I translate an article and then go to bed, I think - have some fun places to eat tomorrow. Hope to hell I'm hungry. One more piece of what could, I suppose, be called culture shock. In the first three weeks of my being here, I lost 15 pounds (granted, I was on tour. I have to eat like a horse on tour if I want to even maintain weight). In the ensuing year, I lost ten more. Without trying, and no, I am neither anorexic nor bulimic (singing and barfing: not compatible). This means that I am currently holding steady at 59 kilos, or just under 130 pounds, down from my high of 155 pounds when I left NYC (I was NOT happy about that higher number). I am 5'11", or, if you prefer, 1m80. Now, as you will see this week, I eat. I eat a lot. I'm in excellent health. So...what the hell??? Granted, I get a fair amount of exercise and singing burns calories like crazy. Ok, I'm off for the night. See you all tomorrow, although not TOO early my time! K
  25. ok, I'm home and plugged in and ready to answer these! I am NOT the only Jets fan in Madrid! There is an Irish pub (another fun Spain fact: inexplicably, the country is chock-full of Irish pubs. Some of which are actually run by Irish people) very close to my old apartment that shows the American football games on Sunday nights, and I have met a few other expat Gang Green fans! Oh yes, there will be tapas. Salamanca, where I'll be from Thursday on, is one of only a few towns left in Spain where they give you a free tapa, as in a big serving of something, with your drink order, no matter what it is (water, wine, beer, whatever). We will be out & enjoying at LEAST once. You'll also get to experience the cooking of C's mother, you lucky people. She's one of the best cooks I've ever had the fortune to meet. I do use the metro on a very regular basis and it's excellent. To be honest, though, when the weather is warm and sunny (I adore warmth and sun!), I walk almost everywhere. There will not be much food of the "experimental" type this week, though, for two reasons. One, those restaurants tend to be very pricey. I am a freelance singer currently living on approximately half of what I made at my day job in NYC...I honestly don't eat out all that much, and when I do, I rarely, if ever spend more than €25. Second, I am significantly more interested in learning about traditional Spanish dishes at this point than I am about the new stuff - it's a whole new world for me, as it is. Hmmm. Culture shock. To tell the truth, other than realizing once the tour was over that, uh, while my conversational Italian had gotten pretty damn good (it was all we spoke on tour, as we had two singers who spoke nothing but), my Spanish was lousy, and Spanish was going to be absolutely necessary, coming to Spain really felt like coming home to me. The lifestyle is more relaxed, the people are, at least in my experience, open, friendly, incredibly willing to help, welcoming and delightful. The food is amazing. I'm not a morning person, so stores not open till 10 am works for me. I like late, long lunches, so lunch/siesta from 2-5pm...works for me. I grew up eating at or after 9 pm, so dinner late...yeah. It DID, after ten years of NYC's gotta-have-it-yesterday attitude, take a while to get used to the fact that when someone says they'll call you "mañana," they mean next week sometime, and when they say "mañana por la mañana," (tomorrow morning), they mean in about three days, but then I went to Italy and discovered they just don't call you back at all there (motto of Italy should be "Italy: we make Spain look organized!"), so that made it a little easier. I still sometimes have problems inside my head dealing with days when I really, truly have nothing that I HAVE to do, like it's somehow not ok to just go to the park or go to the pool or, you know, go catch a train or a bus somewhere and see something for a day or two (or, in August, for a week or two, although thus far I have two Augusts full of work in a row). Those are few and far between these days, though, and I'm starting to have to really get myself on my own schedule, as I'm hardly ever home. Either I'm traveling for work/working, or I'm at C's (or he and I are traveling for fun - he took me to Paris a couple of weeks back, we're probably going up to Galicia next week for a few days, and we're talking about visiting a friend in Nice in September) with just him or with him and the kids, or I'm online and frantically trying to catch up to work (I do a lot by email, scheduling, communicating with producers/agents, the works), my normal blog (here: Go crazy, kill a tenor and die: just a normal Tuesday.), talking to family and friends, etc. Plus I found a used bookstore - English books! - that has a great selection and holds language exchange nights, as well. Is there anything I can't get here that I miss? *pause for a Chip Ahoy cookie* Not much. Pecans for the pecan pie I made at Xmas were difficult to find - I eventually had to go to The American Store for them, which I try not to do too often as it's REALLY expensive. Peanut butter is hard to find inside Madrid center, but the Caprabo grocery store in C's neighborhood has it. Hell, a couple of weeks ago he and I got a craving for bad American bar food, and I swear to you, went to Foster's Hollywood and there it was, fried mozzarella and all. Ah yes. There is one thing that is extremely difficult to find here, that I do miss very much. Spicy food. Now, by "spicy," I mean "hot," as in Thai, Indian, that kind of hot. The Spanish do not, as a general rule, eat spicy food, although they eat food that is well seasoned. In fact, as a general rule, they CAN'T eat spicy food. Foods in which I, Sripraphai fan that I am, don't even notice a hint of pepper, they say "wow, that's spicy" (or perhaps "¡ufff, que picante!"). I've found one quite good Thai place in Madrid, although not on a level with Sripraphai, Siam Thai on c. San Bernardino, on which you'll also find several other good and cheap ethnic places. Last week, my friend Raúl (tenor I met in a bar in Malasaña at 3 am one night. Long story. Great friend!) took Eric and me to an Indian restaurant near the Tirso de Molina metro stop. It was a revelation. Truly, really, hot hot hot vindaloo, but still so flavorful I had to keep eating it. and yes, guisantes con jamón are among my favorite dishes as well - if I ever get hungry again, I'll be sure to have some! My schedule is completely freelance. When I'm busy, as now, I'm very, very busy. When I'm not, I'm totally not. For example, I am booked solid July/August (had one week where all I did, literally, was travel and sing. Every day), then completely free except for two auditions in September - I am hoping to get a week in NYC in there to work with my teacher and prepare some new stuff. In October and November I'm booked solid again. Then I have the first two weeks of December free, and then start Xmas concerts from mid-December to mid-January. Thus far, February is free in 2008, but March-May are booked, as are July and August. On an hourly basis, it's rare for rehearsals to start before 12pm here. Usually we have 12-2 or 3, then again 6-9 or 10pm, or possibly 7-11pm. When we have rehearsals, that is. I had four days of rehearsal for my first La traviata, ONE rehearsal for Lucia di Lammermoor, and two for La Bohème. For concerts and recitals I set my own rehearsal schedule with the pianist or conductor. Ok, it's 9pm here. The teaser photo is of the inside of the Salamanca cathedral, one of my favorite structures in Spain. I'm now gonna answer the pm's that await, take some pix of my place (had to get the rental car back on time and hence took none of C's place. I'll be back there tomorrow night and Wednesday day, I hope to go to the pool, and will get some then!), then go for a beer with Eric and maybe a couple of other friends. See you later tonight! I am almost always up late, as I almost never have to get up early. Just so you know, later in the week my online access will be pretty spotty, probably no more than 1-2 times a day. I'll try to post pix and answer stuff as much as I can.
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