Pumpkin Carving Party 2013

November 05, 2013 By: erik Category: Offspring, Partying, Photos, Spain, USA

Halloween Pumpkin Party 2013As in previous years, I was given two little pumpkins by daily grocer, and we invited a kid or two over to participate in the annual ritual. The first year, we invited our neighbor, Oscar. He seemed more interested in Nora’s toys than with the pumpkin carving, so the next two years, 2011 and 2012, we invited a friend from three floors down, Carmen. Oscar has a three-year-old sister, Gabriela, now, and Nora has a best friend from school, Claudia, so we decided to invite all of them this year, including Claudia’s infant sister, Mara. Seven children!

July 4th Party – Hamburgerfest 2013

July 10, 2013 By: erik Category: Food, Partying, Photos, Spain, USA

July Fourth Party InviteIt’s July again, and time for my annual party I’ve dubbed Hamburgerfest, because it’s mostly just be cooking hamburgers for some friends. This year was a little more relaxed than previous years, with a considerable drop in alcohol consumption and general rowdiness that makes parties good, but it was still very nice company and also very nice to have someone to take our children’s laser focus off of us for a few hours. Nora had fun playing with our friend Elena, who was very patient with her, and was immediately accepted into the Grandmother role (a playmate for Nora to boss around). And there were plenty of women queueing up for a chance to hold baby Ian, which is all he needs to be happy.

Ian’s Baptism

June 10, 2013 By: erik Category: Family, Offspring, Partying, Photos, Religion

Mother and ChildWe baptized Ian this past Sunday, June 9, 2013. Personally, I don’t believe that splashing some water on a baby means anything at all, but some people I care about do, so I was happy to participate, especially since it meant having a big party to celebrate the birth of my son, something I do feel very happy and celebratory about. It was the very first mass I’ve attended in the town church that has been ringing its bells next to my house for the past eight years.

Ian is One Month Old

May 25, 2013 By: erik Category: Offspring, Partying, Photos

Ian's First Month Birthday Party (cropped)Today Ian turns one month old. It’s been both a long and a quick month. He’s grown quite a bit. While he weighed less than his sister at birth, she was only 3.6 kg at the one month mark, and he’s already up to 4 kg. His size difference is already noticeable, as he’s much larger, especially his head, than he was at birth. Probably because he never stops eating. All the parenting pamphlets say that newborns need to eat roughly every three hours, but apparently Ian can’t read the pamphlets, because he’s hungry pretty much every hour.

Rainy Sunday Make-Up Party

January 28, 2013 By: erik Category: Offspring, Parenting, Photos

Rainy Sunday Make-Up PartyI don’t think I’ve ever had lipstick on my lips that I didn’t acquire through a kiss… until yesterday. I think it was also the first time I’ve had my fingernails painted. Twenty-four hours later, they still look fabulous. The weather was cold and rainy, as it has been for pretty much all of 2013 so far, and it occurred to my testosteronally-challenged housemates that getting all dolled up before bedtime might be a fun thing to do. Something tells me that my son is going to experience lipstick, eyeshadow, rouge and fingernail polish long before his first birthday, courtesy of his extremely feminine big sister.

July 4th Party – Hamburgerfest 2012

July 11, 2012 By: erik Category: Partying, Photos, USA

Hamburgerfest 2012Last year we couldn’t have our annual Fourth of July party because we were in the States for the holiday, but this year we returned to tradition, throwing a party for some friends with hamburgers using my special “American” recipe. We didn’t give much notice, and it coincided with San Fermín, the enormous Booze & Bull festival in Pamplona, which some of our invitees were attending, so we ended up with a nice dinner party of seven adults and our little Nora.

Aitziber’s Wedding

May 06, 2012 By: erik Category: Partying, Photos, Spain

Bride and GroomIt was December 15, 2001, when I first got on a plane with my suitcase and guitar and the plan of no longer being a resident of my native land. I flew into Birmingham, England, and my future wife picked me up and drove – amazingly, to me – effortlessly on the wrong side of the road to the flat she was renting with a friend and coworker, a tall Basque girl by the name of Aitziber (pronounced eye-CHEE-bear). The three of us would be flatmates for nine or ten months. Aitziber moved back to Spain a couple years before we did, and we fell out of contact as happens in life. Aitziber, however, is one of those thoughtful people that, without fail, calls on my wife’s birthday to chat and describe what happened since they talked the previous year. We were pleased to be invited to her wedding this past weekend, especially since it was so close, in Getxo, a suburb of Bilbao.

Nora Is Three!

March 26, 2012 By: erik Category: News, Offspring, Partying, Photos, Spain

Taking pictures with new digital cameraNora turned three years old this weekend. We drove to her Spanish grandparents’ house in Mondragón and had a party at their Centro Extremeño, a cultural center and social club for emigrants from the Extremadura province of southern Spain. Nora was quite wowed by all the presents and attention. She gets a lot of presents and attention throughout the year, but this was definitely a more special day. She got many dresses, and a doll, a wooden bowling set, and a Hello Kitty™ digital camera, which is iPhone-shaped, so she calls it her “mobile”. The digital camera was her favorite gift, which I’m proud to say came from her loving parents (it was marked down from 70€ to 20€!!), but her second favorite gift, the bowling kit, was more fun to play with in the wide open space of the cultural center.

Abuelo's 90th Birthday Bash

June 17, 2010 By: erik Category: Family, Partying, Photos

Abuelo with SparklerOn June 12, 2010, shortly before the United States faced off against England in their first World Cup match of the second decade of the third millennium, we had a party to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of my third grandfather. It was a lovely meal with good friends and family followed by a balloon-popping event, some gifts, and cake. A good time was had by all, even if Nora did manage to receive more gifts than the birthday boy.

Johann Strauss, the Pope, and a dachshund walk into a bar…

January 02, 2008 By: erik Category: Family, Food, Mondragon, Photos, Spain

For the past four or five years, I’ve enjoyed one particular New Years ritual immensely. If you live in Europe, or ever spend New Years in Europe, you must try this:

Every year, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra gives a New Years concert in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna, consisting almost entirely of music composed by Vienna’s own Strauss family of composers: Johann Sr, Johann Jr. and Josef. You could say it’s very “Straussful“. Mostly marches, polkas, and waltzes.

The music is fantastic, but the production of the televised event is truly amazing, with cameras sweeping through the Golden Hall and live performances by ballet dancers elsewhere in the huge luxurious ballrooms in the Musikverein. This year things got a little silly as they injected a Euro 2008 soccer theme to the choreography, since Austria is the co-host of the tournament.

I enjoy watching this concert so much that, this year, I got up two hours early! I went to bed at 6:00 and got up at 9:30, not realizing that the concert, which always seemed to be on when I got up on New Years morning starts at 11:30 CET! Doh! At that time my only options on television were loud cartoons, some tired-looking pseudo-celebs, the same ones that had been on 12 hours earlier, still trying to get me to send an SMS vote for my favorite debut album of 2007 (anyone who watched all 12 hours of that doesn’t deserve to live), and Pope Benny, looking equally as tired, reading from a two-ton tome in a voice that makes Ben Stein seem like Richard Simmons. With the selection available, I chose the pontiff, mainly because the sweeping/slow-zoom camera work of the Basilica was very similar to that of the Vienna Philharmonic concert. I think I understood more of the Italian than the overdubbed Spanish that was also being read over the coverage. It was kind of funny how sometimes the Spanish, which had clearly been translated beforehand, would get ahead of the Italian and the speaker would have to stop and wait for ol’ Benny to catch up.

This led to the later amusing conversation with Marga, who, in her defense, wasn’t yet running on all cylinders:

Marga: What did you do when you got up so early this morning?
Erik: Watch TV.
Marga: Anything interesting?
Erik: El Papa.
Marga: Which papa?
Erik: How many are there?

I’ll always remember something that I learned in my high school Spanish class. In Latin America, the word for “the potato” is la papa (here it’s “la patata“), and the word for “the Pope” is “el Papa”. When my teacher taught us the word for potato, she warned us that it was very important to get the gender of the article correct so as not to insult the Catholics talking about “fried popes” or “pealing a pope”. Good stuff.

Right, so anyway, if you’re ever in Europe on January 1, be sure to check out the Vienna Philharmonic New Years concert on television. It’s worth it.

Now, on to the pictures… (more…)