Archive for December, 2009

A Basque Chrismas with Olentzero

December 30, 2009 By: erik Category: Family, Mondragon, Offspring, Partying, Photos

Opening presents is the best!On Christmas Eve night in the Basque Country, the homes of little children are visited by an enormous, soot-stained, Basque gentleman in a beret who drops off presents. His name is Olentzero. The history of this tradition and its variations is quite fascinating. In fact, when people give gifts on Christmas, there is much less emphasis (than in my culture) on who the gift is from. It’s just, “Here’s your Olentzero”, where the name also is slang for the gift itself. Surprising no one, Nora was the biggest recipient of gifts from the big burly Basque this year.

Abandonment Issues

December 28, 2009 By: erik Category: Family, Offspring, Parenting, Photos, Spain

Cutie BasqueFor pretty much all of December my wife’s family has been pressuring us to leave Nora with them for Santo Tomás (December 22), a huge festival in their town of Mondragon involving special seasonal foods, getting dressed up in traditional Basque clothing, traditional Basque music and dancing, and a crafts and livestock market. The main reason they wanted her was to dress her up in some traditional Basque clothes. Some part of our human brain finds it incredibly adorable to dress up a small child (or chimpanzee) in clothes we associate more with adult humans.

Visiting Colindres in December

December 23, 2009 By: erik Category: Colindres, Family, Partying, Photos, Spain, Travel

The following is a document written by my father, Paul Rasmussen, about his recent trip to visit us in December 2009.

Nora with American GrandparentsBetsy and I had been looking forward to meeting our granddaughter in August. We would visit southern Spain, where Erik\’s Spanish family vacations every summer, and meet our granddaughter then. As her birth approached, however, it seemed like too much would be missed if we didn’t see Nora before then, so in May we traveled to Colindres and stayed a week with Erik, Marga, and Nora. We had a great time, and another great time when we visited in August. In September, however, I felt uncomfortable not knowing when we would visit them again, so we made plans for a visit in May of 2010. In November, May seemed too far away, so we bought tickets for a trip to Colindres in December, returning to Morganton a week before Christmas. This time we flew from Charlotte to Atlanta to Paris, and from Paris to Bilbao. A week after arriving we would return through Paris, flying to Detroit and then Charlotte. Erik said that most if not all of his winter coats would fit me, and I might consider saving space by not bringing a coat, and that is what I did. We packed just two suit cases, one full of presents, and the other with clothes.

Christmas Came Early This Year

December 23, 2009 By: erik Category: Family, Partying, Photos, USA

Big box for NoraAt our house this year, we had Christmas morning on the evening of December 16th. This was mainly because it was the last night my parents were visiting and giving gifts is much better when you can see the look on the recipient’s face as they open their presents. Plus, the more the merrier. To begin the ceremony, my father announced the system our family has used for as long as I can remember to inform the three first-time participants, Marga, Belén, and Nora.

The youngest family member able to do so shall pull gifts from the tree one by one, announcing who each one is from and to, and deliver it to its recipient. The recipient shall thereby open the gift while everyone watches and thank the giver. Repeat until there are no more presents under the tree, whilst trying to alternate recipients as much as possible.

This year, the youngest able present distributor was Belén. It just so happened that we had a perfect hat for her to wear throughout the ceremony.

Semana del Pincho 2 – Laredo

December 22, 2009 By: erik Category: Food, Partying, Photos, Spain

II Semana Del Pincho Brochure (cover)Just when I had almost forgotten about the First Annual Tapa Week from last December, it rolled around again and we celebrated the Second Annual Tapa Week this past week in nearby Laredo, Spain. I must say that this is quickly becoming my favorite festival of the year. There is little better in this world than going from bar to bar with friends and enjoying a fine wine and an elaborately constructed snack with each wine.

And it’s not just that I’m a glutton for…er…gluttony. As I mentioned last year, there are several reasons why I am in favor of this festival as a general local citizen. It gets people out into local establishments, spending money and applying social lubricant, it provides a stage for local restaurateurs to showcase their craft, and it generally makes for a more contented populous. Triple win!

Nora's First Christmas

December 18, 2009 By: erik Category: Family, Offspring, Partying, Photos, Spain, USA

Christmas Tree 2009When my parents came to visit last week, they brought two suitcases, one for clothes and one for Christmas presents. So for the first time our little plastic Christmas tree looked like it should, rising up from a sea of wrapped toys and books and other goodies. In Spain (in my family at least), there is no tradition of putting presents under the tree to incite anticipatory speculation torture like we have in the United States. Here you just give the gift on Christmas or Epiphany and the wrapping paper only serves to conceal the item for about seven seconds before it is ripped open. They don’t know what they are missing.

The Feeding Mirror

December 17, 2009 By: erik Category: Family, Funny, Offspring, Parenting, Photos

Grandpa feeding Nora (crop)During their visit, my parents very much enjoyed feeding their granddaughter her lunchtime vegetable puree and her afternoon fruit. Feeding Nora is one of the best times (both frustrating and adorable) I usually get to spend with her, and I delighted in the opportunity to share the experience with my folks. In my couple months of feeding her from a spoon, have found that it is pretty much impossible to feed her without opening your mouth big when you want her to do the same. It’s a natural human reflex. The fact that she has not yet reached the point where she can mimic the body movements of someone else does not stop us (me, my wife, my parents, and everyone I’ve seen feed her) from trying to will her mouth open with our own gaping jaw. It’s quite a funny phenomenon.

Rasmussen Blanket

December 16, 2009 By: erik Category: Family, House, Offspring, Photos

Nora face cropSome years ago, Thelma, a friend of my mother’s, was traveling somewhere in the Midwestern United States and spotted this blanket. It was clearly made to celebrate or advertise a company specializing in bulldozers, backhoes, and other heavy machinery. A quick Google search would lead me to believe that it is probably for Rasmussen Equipment Company. Anyway, Thelma bought it for my mother because it had her last name on it. At some point the blanket was given to me, and I have had it in my possession for many years now. Since we moved into our house, it has been on our sofa, often pulled down on top of the sofa’s occupant(s) on chilly evenings.

NCSSM, Class of 1996

December 14, 2009 By: erik Category: Geeky, Nostalgia, Photos, Weird

North Carolina School of Science and MathematicsMy parents are visiting, and they brought a set of photos that I haven’t seen for a very long time. They are photos that I took just before and during my high school graduation from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics on June 1, 1996. Needless to say, it was quite a blast from the past. There’s nothing like a photo of the dorm room you lived in fourteen years ago to bring back a flood of memories. My time at NCSSM was definitely the peak of my academic career. Everything (i.e. a four-year bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from NC State) after that was a slow glide downhill.

Well Informed

December 09, 2009 By: erik Category: Funny, Offspring, Parenting, Photos

Nora with the remotesThis morning when Nora got up, I fed her breakfast and set her on the couch while I went about organizing a few things around the house. I left the room for about two minutes, and when I returned, there she was, in the same place I’d left her, with both the television and cable box remotes in her lap, watching some Spanish political pundit on the news. The television had been off when I left.