Friday, November 30, 2012

Grateful and Thoughtful

This last month has been a diffiult one! Its been great at the same time!

cockroach infestation, locking the keys out, losing 100 Euro worth of transportation tickets, having my wallet stolen...TWICE.....Sigh

One of the most difficult things of this fall has been being far from home. Christmas is difficult to be away from home but maybe Thanksgiving is worse. I think with the focus on Christ at  Christmastime and roughly the same amount of "time off" makes the Christmas holiday somewhat more bearable. But Thanksgiving doesn't exist here! Not one reference! Of course I don't expect it-- but I missed it. I feel like Thanksgiving is about celebrating family more than anything. We meet together and serve each other food, share memories, enjoy games together.  And I missed all of that! On Thanksgiving day I worked a 10 hour day and missed talking with my family on Skype because I was caught in an unexpected English lesson. I kind of became emotionally unstable..... So Ulises and I called my family after they had eaten and I was able to recover composure. My dear Ulises was so sweet. When he saw how sad I was and how much I was missing my family he went and bought a turkey ($$$$$$) and we held our very own thanksgiving here in Spain! This is how it went down:

The night before our "Thanksgiving" Ulises studied his engineering for 5 hours as I made 2 pumpkin pies and 6 mini apple pies. I know that seems like a lot of time but I used my Grandmother Rose's secret pumpkin chiffon pie recipe that not only uses EVERY dish in the house, but also requires a lot of mixing and waiting and icing and fluffing and whipping. I also had to do a lot of clean up. But the pies turned out GREAT!

We held our celebration the Sunday after Thanksgiving and it was also held at 9:30 at night--typical Spanish dinner time. That left little time to 'relax' before having to get up for work the following morning at 6:00. not fun. But better than not having Thanksgiving at all!

Also, although my mother in law is more than completely capable of making savory, delicious meals-- I suppose I didn't leave a strong enough impression on either her or my sister- in-law that Thanksgiving is a time to PULL OUT all the stops! So for their respective assignments of Mashed Potatoes and Vegetables (what I deem pretty simple versatile options) they arrived with a box of patato flakes and a bag of frozen veggie bits.... and then proceeded to cook them on my stove. That was a little disheartening since I spent 5 hours the previous day on pie crusts and filling, and more time the next day on the turkey itself.... But it all turned out well! I was just happy they came. And that they enjoyed it!

I also was really happy that I could finally impress them with some culinary skills. The few times I have made things for the entire family I haven't really "shined." -- Not that I pride myself on being a good cook, but I would like them to think I'm not completely inept at everything... which is what it seems like most of the time!

So here, Enjoy some pictures of THANKSGIVING! Be jealous-- the pie is DELICIOUS!

We also took time to make lists of what we were grateful for. Ulises list was sweet, It included me, his motorbike, his family... and the one item that brought him to tears (note that it was not me....) was his childhood dogs.... which is actually really sweet!

IOh-- and I wont forget-- Ulises made rolls with a scripture rolled up and baked inside. When each person opened their roll they read a scripture about gratitude.

I thought it was a great thanksgiving!

But this thanksgiving also brought many tears...

My 'Uncle' Richard died the day after Thanksgiving. He was at his home in Utah when he collapsed when brushing his teeth. I'm not sure I understand the details, but because they were unable to resuscitate him quickly, his brain did not receive enough oxygen and it died. After the prognosis was given to my aunt-- that her husband was brain-dead, she chose to let nature take his course and about 2 days later he died. The family is of course grief stricken. He was only 59. He was a great advocate of family values and worked in various governmental positions supporting and advocating family values. He spoke at international conferences and at UN counsels. He was a dedicated law professor and political writer. Aside from being the smartest man I have known personally, he was jolly! He was a talented actor! He had a laugh that you could recognize across a crowded room. he had light  in his eyes. he will be sorely missed. I feel bad that I can't attend the funeral on Saturday but I know there will be hundreds there to support his family.

here is an article about him:

and photo gallery:

But arent we grateful that the last day he spent on earth was surrounded by family and that he spent the day giving thanks to God? Is there a better time to go than after living a day entirely in Thanksgiving, surrounded by those who you love? Now of course the real mourning should be for his Family whom he left behind. They will be in my prayers continually. I hope they cling to the hope of the glorious resurrection and faith in God's plan of salvation. We are so blessed to be children of God!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.... and please, turn on some Christmas Music!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Free Vacation!

A picture from our Free vacation- you can read about it in a paragraph further down.
First lets get some other things out of the way....Halloween was a lot of fun this year. Ulises and I held a Scary Dinner party just like we usually do at my home in the USA. Here is a link to a facebook album where the last few years of Scary Dinner are documented. I also included pictures from this year

Its' a costume and potluck extravaganza. This year the friends that I invited were so happy to learn some strange American traditions. So it was great! everyone was too scared to wear a costume though. Oh well.... Maybe next year!

Claudia and her pumpkins
The pumpkin Ulises bought
Ulises and I haven't carved a pumpkin yet. We were so busy with our free vacation ( I'll get to it in a moment) that we had even pushed the Scary dinner to Nov 3. So we bought our pumpkin last night. Ulises got an eating pumpkin which is really thick and dense ( because its for eating!) and when I told him it would crack if we tried to carve it he got so sad. But he was so thoughtful to try to get a pumpkin knowing it was a tradition from home I really wanted to do! So we will probably try and carve it this weekend. isn't he so sweet?  But I did get to carve some real pumpkins with the kids I work with. So I wasn't totally lacking. But I wanted to introduce the activity to Ulises!

But what about the title of this post? Free vacation? The vacation that made us change halloween to November 3rd?

Yes! We got a free vacation at a 4 star hotel in Tarragona, Spain! It was a gift from a member of our Stake. You see... There was a "Marriage Conference" being sponsored by the Stake (church). It was a chance for couples to get away and meet other couples in the Stake. The price was too much for Ulises and I to even consider. But then one afternoon Ulises got a phone call from this man saying he paid our ticket and would love for us to go! So we went! We spent 3 nights and 4 days at a wonderful conference. We had plenty of time for ourselves and enjoyed time at the indoor pool ( Outdoors was too cold to dip in the ocean or the outdoor pools) and enjoyed unlimited food ( I gained a couple kilo's those days!) The weather was lovely. We strolled through the beach town, went to the harbor, relaxed in our hotel room, and also got to enjoy meeting new people! There were mostly really ( really) old couples there. But there were a few others. Ulises and I were the youngest couple there ( aside from another couple on the committee) but we had a great time. Ulises is really great at making friends. He has a gift that I lack. He is never intimmidated by age or station. He just loves and makes friends so easily!

Now we have come back to real life, work for me and School for him. I have already started listening to Christmas music (cheers me up from the election results, too!) and looking forward to a Thanksgiving dinner that Ulises and I will try and have. Time seems to go quickly and slowly at the same time. I hope I can make the Christmas spirit last a long time.....It will make being far from home more bearable.

My dad and niece at our wedding
Me and my dad dancing!
Oh yeah... at home... My dad has been called as bishop of our congregation. Its a position that any priesthood bearing member of our congregation can be called upon to fill. Its temporary and unpaid. Its a huge time commitment and usually lasts 5 years. We are happy for him and feel so blessed that he can serve our neighbors and friends there in Utah. I think he will be a great Bishop.

well, thats it for now!