Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year Recap

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I wouldn't.  2011 was a big year for me.  
Lets recap:

*I started working full time (for the first time!) in HR in Barcelona and I met lots of fun and interesting people from all around the world.

*Boyfriend left Spain in the spring and I lived with a few fun and interesting individuals..  My roommate Pokerface, for example, was a professional online poker player that would eat and sleep at all hours of the day.  The smell of marijuana and garlic wafting into my bedroom from the balcony at 4 AM was not fun, but it was quite the experience, nonetheless. 

Cagliari, Sardinia
*In the summer I quit my job early to spend some time traveling before leaving Europe.  I visited Sardinia, London, Bilbao, and San Sebastian.  I also took myself out to lots of memorable Spanish lunches while the rest of the world was out working.

Sylvia & I - my last night
*I left Spain in early August and it was hard.  I remember crying with Sylvia outside my taxi the morning I left and wondering if I was doing the right thing.  Cold feet at its finest. 

First night in Santo Domingo

*I moved to the Dominican Republic to be with boyfriend.  I improved my Spanish and changed my accent :D  

NYE 2010
In the DR our lifestyle is completely different - its been a difficult adjustment for me to say the least; the DR does not compare to Spain in any way, but although I often wonder "What if?" things had gone differently, I'm a firm believer in things happening for a reason.  I know that I'm exactly where I should be right now.

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Last year, boyfriend and I rang in the new year at a teeny tiny Italian restaurant in Barcelona that we loved so much, we went back for Valentine's Day. This year, we'll be celebrating the new year at a resort in Puerto Plata (the northern part of the island).  

I'm excited to start 2012; I just know that more big changes are coming my way.  

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Avocado Pasta

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We almost always have avocados in the house and today we used our one and only extra ripe one in a non-traditional way.  I have seen this recipe all over Pinterest and its simplicity caught my eye.  It requires very few ingredients and very little cooking intelligence - my perfect match.

Ingredients for 2: 
1 extra ripe avocado
1/2 lemon squeezed + lemon zest
1 1/2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh basil [important!]
2 tbsp EVOO 
2 servings of pasta
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1) Cook pasta.  Drain.

2) In a food processor or using your own old-fashioned hands, mix and mash all the other ingredients together (minus the lemon zest and black pepper) until its smooth and like a puree. 

3) Pour sauce over pasta and garnish with lemon zest and a touch of black pepper.  Voila!  Done in 15 minutes.  We added grated parmesan cheese.  Next time I'd love to add cherry tomatoes to the mix.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas at the Beach

This year was my first Christmas where the big party happened on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas day.  After working 10 hours on Saturday [exhausting], we headed to A's family's house for the big dinner and didn't leave until 2:30 in the morning!  Very unusual for me considering my normal Christmas celebration is over by 4:30 pm.  

That being said, Christmas day was used for sleeping in late and going out for a seafood sunset dinner on the beach in Boca Chica.  The weather was perfect for our 3 hour dinner (we didn't melt) and we {over}ate ceviche, lobster bisque, octopus, shrimp, lobster, mahi mahi, conch..  And had a rich slice of cheesecake to top it all off.  

Pictures from last night:






Now that Christmas is over, I'm so looking forward to New Years Eve.  
Bring on the weekend!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Act of Kindness

Yesterday morning a man had a seizure right in our parking lot.  It was 7:30 in the morning, he was alone, and he was face down and rolling his face back and forth, back and forth against the cement.  I don't know anything about epilepsy, but I was told that there was nothing we could do, just wait until it passed.  I was so worried that he was going to lose all his teeth, the way he was basically grinding his mouth into the ground, back and forth, back and forth, but we were told that it was better if he was face down and if we didn't move him, because he could choke on his own tongue.

After about 8 minutes he finally stopped siezing.  By that time people from the neighborhood had come over to see what was going on, and some mentioned that they had seen him do this before close by.  He simply wasn't taking his medicine, most likely because he cant afford it (its expensive and it was obvious that he wasn't a man with a lot of money).  When it finally passed, he looked scared and embarrassed as there was a group of people hovering around him talking about him as if he couldn't hear.

It saddens me so much that there is such a great divide between the rich and the poor here, and that this must happen to him all the time, simply because he can't afford his treatment.  Boyfriend would be shaking his head at me right now, saying that this happens all around the world, and not just here, but if you're not born into the right social class here, its very, very difficult to get ahead.  The man had tools with him that would hint that he works outside or in a garden, but I'm sure he's paid near to nothing.

After a few minutes, a woman from next store came outside and said to him, "Whats your name?  When you're ready to go I'm going to take you to the pharmacy and I'm going to buy you whatever medicine you need."  She waited for him and then held his hand and walked him all the way to the pharmacy.  It was the nicest act of kindness I've seen in a long time.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Merry Christmas Quiz

Christmas is in 5 days and I still haven't bought anything for my 76-year-old-whom-I've-never-met-Secret-Santa.  Eeeek.  Christmas quizzes have been all over the place so I thought I might as well take part!

{My grandma's pirate nutcracker}
Egg nog or hot chocolate?  Hot chocolate with extra whip cream.  Add hazelnut or peppermint and its even better!  I have never tried egg nog, it scares me. 

Does Santa wrap presents or sit them under the tree?  Both. 

Colored lights on tree/house or all white?  Colorful and obnoxious.

Do you hang mistletoe?  I have never actually seen mistletoe in real life, but have always wanted to hang it!

Favorite holiday dessert?  Pumpkin pie and my Aunt Costi's fruitcake.

Ho, Ho, Ho
Favorite holiday memory as a child?  Opening up my stocking on Christmas morning and finding all my favorite candy (or accessories as I got older) stuffed inside.  It was the only thing my brother and I could open before waiting for our parents to come downstairs.

Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?  Growing up we always opened one gift on Christmas Eve and the rest in our pajamas on Christmas morning.

Snow!  Love it or dread it?  Only love it for Christmas morning.  Loathe it the other 364 days of the year. 

What tops your tree?  Currently, nothing.  Usually, a big star.

Favorite holiday song?  All I Want for Christmas is You and Baby, its Cold Outside

Favorite holiday movie?  The Holiday and The Santa Clause.

Drew, Yaya, and I - age 5
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

iPhone Love

I've only had my iPhone up and running for a few days and boyfriend already feels like I'm replacing him.  Oops.  After years as a Blackberry user, I've finally made the switch.  I never thought a phone could be so much fun! 

As I'm feeling generous this holiday season I thought I would share some of my first favorite apps with you, lucky readers, you.  

1.  Instagram.  It makes photo editing fun again and pretty much does all the work for you.  Plus it makes sharing pictures super easy.  My Instagram pictures are coming soon for those that don't follow me on Twitter.


2.  WhatsApp.  I couldn't believe that many of my US friends had no idea what this was!  Its compatible across smart phones and allows you to text message with anyone around the world for free {requires Internet}.  The best 99 cent investment ever.  


3.  SilverWiz.  Similar to Mint.com but less intense, its used for tracking your finances and budgeting, and its only a buck.  You can see reports of your money and has loads of categories; shoes, accessories, jewelry..  You'll find which is your weakness.

If you have an iPhone, please share with me some of your favorite apps!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Traffic

It really put a damper on my not-so-great day.  
Two hours of lost time spent within 2 square miles - unbelievable!

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So I'm treating myself with packaged sugar and homemade sweets brought back from the States.  Not pictured below:  a huge white cake made by my dad and chocolates from Greece and Columbia.

The Good Stuff: Baklava, Carrot Cake, Assorted Cookies..
I know its not recommended to reward oneself with food, 
but what the heck; its holiday season!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Feels like Christmas Morning

Chicago was freeezing!  I forgot what that burning sensation feels like when you're so cold it hurts.  A few days ago I spent the night at my grandparents cozy house and woke up to a Christmas museum - you couldn't look anywhere without seeing holiday decor!  


Among my favorites was the singing Christmas tree man that sang, "Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how beautiful my branches..".  Also, the pirate nutcracker and the Santa wearing Osh Begosh overalls (I'm guessing she bought the clothes separately and dressed Santa herself).  

Nice Idea for a Staircase 
Loving the Bows
After walking around and looking at all the tiny details (like the Christmas tree tea light plug-in and festive kitchen hand towels), yaya pulls out this:

Homemade Baklava
She had been "up since 5 am" [the usual] cooking and baking up a storm.  I brought back about 15 pounds of baklava, cupcakes, carrot cake, pumpkin cake, carrot cookies, and honey cookies.  I don't know who is going to eat all this!

Thank you, Yaya. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Temperature Drop

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I'm heading home for the weekend.  I'll be going from a balmy 86 [30 Celsius] to a frigid 27 [-3].  A friend asked me yesterday if I have experienced the cold when coming from the tropics. 

Do you have a winter coat with you?  
What shoes are you going to wear?  
Do you need to borrow my ski jacket?  

And I realized that the only sock-wearing shoes I own here are my gym shoes!  Scared.  I've asked my parents to bring winter boots and a winter coat to the airport tonight; I'm ready to embrace the cold.  I'll be the one at baggage claim with a straw carry-on bag and sockless flats changing into hefty winter gear - awkward. 

I've always loathed the Chicago cold, but this time I can't hardly wait to put a pair of Uggs on my feet!  Funny how things change.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Time in the Caribbean

Its December and its Summer.  

For this Chicago girl at least.  Its hard for me to believe that its Christmas time when I'm currently sporting a summer dress and Havaianas, when last week I received a 14 pound package from my grandmother - of which 7 pounds was insect repellent - and when yesterday I spent the afternoon sipping a piƱa colada and  reading an Us Weekly in this pool:

Balcony View
But it seems that I'm not the only one to associate Christmas with Cold, because I continue to spot Dominicans wearing turtlenecks {turtlenecks!} and winter boots.  I must say I'm adapting though, because when it dropped to a chilly 23 degrees (73 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday night I was actually cold!  

So today, after rolling my eyes at the knee high suede boots on sale at the mall, I found Christmas decorations at 50% off and I bought us a baby tree!  Its beginning to feel a bit like Christmas in our home.

Our First Tree
Happy Monday and Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Almost Haiti for Sunset

After visiting here last Sunday, we made our way to Bahia de Las Aguilas.  Our phones said "Welcome to Haiti" and being so close to the border meant that there were about 10 military control stops along the way {where fully decked out army men with huge guns stop your car, probably to see if you're smuggling drugs or persons across the border}.  Fortunately for us boyfriend is in the air force, so all he had to do was whip out his ID and they would wish us a good day.  So VIP.  Us 3 passengers all want one of our own.

We made it just in time for sunset.  The golden sand was silky soft, the colors of the landscape were so rich, and the mosquitos stayed away until our last 15 minutes there.  We ate dinner on the beach - fish marinated in coconut sauce and french fries for me - and headed back to the city right after the sun disappeared over the water. 





Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lago Enriquillo

Hotel Entrance
Lago Enriquillo is the largest lake and lowest point in the Caribbean.  Its a heck of a drive from Santo Domingo, so on Saturday night Ana, Carlos, boyfriend, and I spent the night in a closer town to get an early start on Sunday morning.  We stayed at Loro Tuerto (One-Eyed Parrot) which seemed to be half barn house/half bar.
Smooch

Lago Enriquillo is growing too fast and will soon flood the nearby roads - its one of those places that you have to see before its too late. 

Never got the picture right!
We drove all the way around the lake, and lucky for us passengers my iPod lasted until the very end.  The landscape was beautiful.

Sinking Palm Trees
The place is famous for having alligators, flamingos, and iguanas.  The iguanas we saw were enormous, and when we stepped out of the car they ran toward us!  

Posing for his Close Up

I screamed in fear while the others wanted to pet the things.  They were very photogenic creatures - I think they were posing for our pictures (if not planning an attack).

*To visitors of Lago Enriquillo:  
There are no gas stations!  Fill your tank. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Road Tripping in the DR


This weekend we drove 700 kilometers [435 miles] in 32 hours.  In true form, most of the time was spent passing through small villages and on gravel dirt roads.  In the Dominican Republic,

You Know You're In el campo When: 

There are zero street signs and you're praying for a cell signal so that you can use your trusty smartphone GPS.

You drive through villages whose names have no relation whatsoever, like Little New York and Come to See.


Children are riding donkeys that have 100 plantains hanging off of them.

You spot 6 people riding 1 moped {3 adults and 3 children - a new personal record for me}.




Women are getting their hair put up in rollers outside right on the main boulevard.

Bare bottomed boys roam the streets.

You can see all the stars and planets in the sky. 


A bat flies straight at your windshield.

And lastly, you know that you've been away for too long when arriving in the capital feels like you've just landed in NYC.  Street lights?!  Buildings?!  And you realize why you live in the city. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Drew Turns 21

Drew & Yaya
Today is my brother's 21st birthday.  

I can't believe he's 21 and that we are both now in our 20's.  Weird.  I just realized that with college, graduate school, Barcelona, and Santo Domingo, its been a whole 7 years that we haven't lived in the same house together.  It makes me sad that I've missed so much of his young adult life; we've been oceans apart for so long, but I know that it won't always be like this.  And that one day we'll make up for lost time.


Happy Birthday, Drew.  May all your wishes come true.

Summer 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grateful

I'm going to be honest.  

Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year, I'm not very happy today considering its the 2nd Thanksgiving in a row that I'm not in Chicago eating turkey, sweet potatoes, corn bread, and pumpkin pie at yaya's dining room table.  And instead of today being the start of a 5 day weekend, it was the long day of my 6 day work week.  Tonight we have a dinner with boyfriend's family but I'm just not in the spirit -  I'd rather lay in bed and sulk.  

This year I am grateful for the following: 

My health and the health of my family.  

Mangos, avocados, and coconut - new diet staples. 

And lastly, that moving to the disastrous DR has only strengthened my relationship with boyfriend.  I love him more than ever. 

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Happy Thanksgiving, friends.