The Rain in Spain

This is one of those “How I quit my job to travel” stories. Sorry.

After graduating college in December 2013, I dragged my feet for a year, working part time minimum wage at a library, and attempting to avoid my mother’s deluge of subtle hints, blatant questions and outright demands in her quest to get me working full-time. As I wasn’t, I was living at home, and as such, avoiding the above attacks proved challenging. On a whim, and to relieve myself of my mother’s nagging for a few months, I took a Teaching English Certification course. Which left me with a certification, 2 bachelor’s degrees and a part time job. Clearly, something would have to change.

In January, I applied for a program to teach English in Spain, which involved several months of waiting to hear if I had been accepted. I then had to wait another two months waiting for the necessary paperwork to go to Washington DC and get my visa, then another month of waiting for my visa to come back, a week long argument with an airline, turning in my notice to my part time job of six years, a packing frenzy, and a 24 hour trip. To a hotel room. That’s when the fun really started. The first week I was here, I met another girl from the US, registered for my Resident Alien card, found an apartment, opened a bank account, set up an internet provider, bought a Spanish cell plan and managed not to get too lost. Granted, it’s hard to get too lost when your city isn’t even a mile wide.

The view of part of Ribeira

Disclaimer: Ok, so quitting your job to travel/work abroad is a lot more impressive if you have a more impressive job to start with.

There are people who will make moving abroad sound like an extended vacation. Parties every weekend. Soaking in the sun on the beach. Eating Spanish delicacies. They’re not lying to you, but that’s only a fraction of the reality.

The view from our Terrace. We live on the top floor, so we get an extra wide terrace with a balcony, a view of the harbor, and extra loud windstorms. The perfect vacation paradise.

1st, if you move to Santa Ribeira de Uxia, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain, you first have to figure out what that means. Hint: The city is Santa Ribeira de Uxia. Everybody refers to it as Ribeira. A Coruna is the province, Galicia is the region. Spain is the country. Second, this city is home to fewer than 30,000 people. Who all apparently leave every opportunity they can or spend all their free time drinking coffee in a cafe. Friday nights, about 50-100 people go out and hit the bars. 3-4 of those are Americans. There are almost no cultural activities to get involved with- at least as far as I have discovered. Asking the locals results in “There’s nothing to do in Ribeira.” I’m convinced that 2/3 of the population hibernates.

2nd, There’s the homesickness. That feeling when you just really want to go to Panera or Noodles & Co or Chili’s and eat everything, but instead your options seem to be squid, octopus, and other assorted seafood/fish that you really never cared for. It’s not as powerful as the feeling that Thanksgiving is fewer than 2 weeks away and not only can you not go home for it, but you have to work. All day. And it’s the extreme annoyance that not only can you not join a theatrical group or take “intro to underwater basket weaving,” but you also cannot find any books in English in the bookstores. Netflix has become a good friend. But by far the worst homesickness is when you come down with the flu in a foreign country and you have to be an adult and take care of yourself because there’s no one else to take care of you. The past two days has been a rather pathetic debate about getting out of bed and eating.

The reality is that moving abroad is a mix between the insane vacation and the boredom/homesickness. I’m an English language assistant in a primary school, which means that I get to interact with about 180 very cute kids who are willing to share anything, including lice. and the flu. Fortunately, I think I dodged the bullet on the lice. My students vary in levels between the sixth grader whose knowledge of English apparently consists solely of the F-bomb, to a fifth grader who speaks in paragraphs, to a first grader who so adorably informed me in Spanish “Teacher, it’s that I don’t speak your language.”

Apart from my students, I live in the Celtic part of Spain, right next to a bar that keeps me awake half the night playing live music. Last night, it was a definite Celtic flare. The traditional music around here features bagpipes. There are Stone-age, Celtic, and Roman remains in the area. The local economy is built entirely on fishing and agriculture. Every Saturday, I have the option to walk across the street and buy fresh produce, cheese, meat, bread, eggs, and dried fish (ick) from the market. Unfortunately, my culinary skills are low-level, so I spend a lot of time looking at all the produce and wishing I knew what to do with it.

The coastline.

Reconstructed Celtic homes

Actual Celtic home, what’s left of it.


Moving abroad can be a rewarding experience. So many places to see, so little time. Just don’t go into it thinking you’re going to party for eight months and then go home.

Anniversary Dinner Tasting Menu

Usually for our anniversary we go on a weekend trip, but this year we just went out to dinner. CRAZY FANCY PERSON DINNER! An, an “Asian fusion” restaurant near our house, offers a ridic 8 course tasting menu, including TWO desserts. You know I was all over that. It’s designed to walk you through the different sections of the restaurant, which was also cool, because I tried stuff I liked but would probably have never ordered on my own.


They offered us champagne because it was our anniversary, and I even had a sip even though I normally don’t drink. The menu started with tea service!! The tea was a white jasmine, so mostly tasted like flowers. Steven was not really a fan, and it’s not my favorite tea either, but it was also so pretty!

Cute tea pot!!!

Cute tea pot!!!

1st Course: Amuse-bouche

This one was the most visually arresting, and Steven’s favorite. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what each of the little things are (on the menu they gave us it just says “Zensai”)

You're eating off a tree!!

You’re eating off a tree!!

2nd Course: Sushi

Moriawase: Nigiri Selection, Fresh Wasabi, Ginger

Moriawase: Nigiri Selection, Fresh Wasabi, Ginger

3rd Course: Soup

Apple Parsnip Soup

Apple Parsnip Soup

This included poached apples, shrimp sausage, and hazelnut granola. I was wary of the shrimp sausage, but it turned out to be delicious. Granola in soup seems weird, but it wasn’t too sweet, and definitely added a nice texture that complimented the apple well. This might have been my favorite course. But you know how much I love soup.

4th Course: Scallops

Steven's least favorite course (he still ate it)

Steven’s least favorite course (he still ate it)

Bamboo scallops with nori tapioca, pearl onion, brioche, and uni cream. The uni cream was really good!

5th Course: Seabass

Steven actually liked this one even though it was fish!

Steven actually liked this one even though it was fish!

Roasted seabass with Thai butternut squash, pineapple, and smoked ham dashi. I was tilting the plate to get all of the smoked ham dashi. No regrets, it was super delicious.

6th Course: Beef strip

Steven and I had lost count so we hardly had room for this guy

Steven and I had lost count so we hardly had room for this guy

Beef strip with miso, pickled mustard seeds, maitake, sweet garlic, and jus. Steven had made us steak the day before, but this one definitely put even his skillz to shame.

7th Course: Dessert 1



Napoleon with mascarpone, pears, pistachio tuiles, and ginger sorbet. This one was the best dessert, maybe because I’m so into pears.

8th Course: Dessert 2



Gingerbread with cherry, pumpkin seeds, and kobocha squash ice cream. And fancy chocolate writing!!!!

This dinner was so fun!!! The service was excellent and very fancy–they always came out with two people so that they could set it in front of us at the same time. Afterwards, one of the chefs came out to talk to us, which was so great, because we got to thank her in person for how pretty and delicious everything was. This was definitely one of those meals I’ll remember for a long time

Happy 4th Anniversary!!

Happy 4th Anniversary!!

Adventures in Leather Costumery (or, a comedy of construction errors)

Let’s start with the obligatory finished-product shot:

The finished product

The finished product

So this all started when I’d been thinking about picking up a new hobby (ostensibly to make some leather bits for my own costume this year) and Patricia mentioned an idea she had for a monstrumologist costume. What she came up with was something that could do bandolier duty, but go with the awesome khaki safari jacket and pith helmet at the same time. After a little digging, I came up with an old fashioned Sam Browne belt, onto which we could always strap other accouterments.

Sam Browne belt

Old school Czech military uniform, looking super dapper.

It’s a belt, two-tongued buckle, over-the-shoulder strap, and a little hardware. Can’t be that hard, right? (Famous
last words)

Here’s how it all came together…

Read the rest of this entry »

Hate Book Club: The Art of the Deal


Brian chose this edition of Hate Book Club, but I don’t blame him because we both thought it would end up being better than it was. First published in 1987, this book is a portrait of a past version of Donald Trump. Less bombastic, more optimistic, far more boring.

That hair

Still got ridic hair, though

As always, I have to begin Hate Book Club by finding three nice things to say about the book:
1. This life advice:

“If it can’t be fun, what’s the point?” (2)

2. It made me falsely nostalgic for a simpler time when you had to call people on landlines to get anything done. Oh, romantic inconvenience
3. It reminded me SO MUCH of the Futurama episode “Future Stock,” about a 1980s business guy who gets frozen and reawakened in the year 3001 to try to use 80s tactics to succeed in future business. So I ended up rewatching that episode, and it’s a great one.

This book is shelved in the biography section of my library because it is a monotonous chronicling of Trump’s every business move from high school forward. It basically reads like a grocery list. But there were some glimmerings of the ridiculous troll-beast that would emerge in decades to come, like his condescending attitude towards women:

One of the first things I did was join Le Club, which at the time was the hottest club in the city and perhaps the most exclusive… Its membership included some of the most successful men and the most beautiful women in the world. (95)

Because success:men::beauty:women. Obviously. You can also clearly see the casual condescension and privilege that will become such a pillar of his public persona:

My father had done very well for himself, but he didn’t believe in giving his children huge trust funds. When I graduated from college, I had a net worth of perhaps $200,000 (93)

HAULING MYSELF UP BY MY BOOTSTRAPS with only $200,000, in 1960s money. Don’t worry, this judgment also extends to his own family:

Maryanne [his sister, a federal judge] is really something. My younger sister, Elizabeth, is kind and bright but less ambitious, and she works at Chase Manhattan Bank in Manhattan. (70)

Working at a bank is a perfectly normal career, but in the Trump family you have to preface it with “but she has a great personality.”

I also learned some of Trump’s baffling personal habits:

I ask Norma Foerderer, my executive assistant… to bring me lunch: a can of tomato juice” (7)

The best part was definitely when he punched a teacher in the face:

Even in elementary school I was a very assertive, aggressive kid. In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye–I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music (71)

Honestly, I skimmed a lot of this book, so I don’t have a ton of notes, but to give you a general feel for it, here are some quotes from Futurama:

Steve Castle: Let’s cut to the chase. There are two kinds of people: Sheep and sharks. Anyone who’s a sheep is fired. Who’s a sheep?
Zoidberg: Uh, excuse me? Which is the one people like to hug?
Steve Castle: Gutsy question. You’re a shark. Sharks are winners and they don’t look back ’cause they don’t have necks. Necks are for sheep. [Everyone sinks down and covers their necks.] I am proud to be the shepherd of this herd of sharks

Steve Castle: Fry, I’m an 80’s guy. Friendship to me means that for two bucks I’d beat you with a pool cue till you got detached retinas.


Here’s the graph I made of my experience reading this book:


And here’s a gif that sums up my reaction to this book:


Don’t forget to read Brian’s review here!

Servery Challenge: Fall Edition

Exciting news! At a recent THE 434 reunion, we had a servery challenge!! And for the first time ever, the presentations were filmed!!

Rules: Participants had 15 minutes to cook their “fall” themed dish and think of a name. Voting is done by secret ballot to try to keep Rob from gaming the system, although even this is not fool-proof.


Dish Name: Fall Surprise
Ingredients: Pastry shell, chocolate raspberry cranberry mousse, pumpkin granola.

It turns out chocolate-raspberry-cranberry isn't a popular combo for a reason

It turns out chocolate-raspberry-cranberry isn’t a popular combo for a reason


Dish Name: Falliage Soup
Ingredients: Pumpkin spice latte, Harris Teeter-brand maple cookies, decorative pumpkin and leaves

Points for presentation

Points for presentation


Dish Name: Fall Appetizer
Ingredients: Indian corn, pimento cheese, crackers

This one would be good IF you like pimento cheese (I do not)

This one would be good IF you like pimento cheese (I do not)


Dish Name: Leaves on a Log
Ingredients: Honey crisp apple, peanut butter, Reese’s Pieces




Dish Name: Pumpking of Heaven
Ingredients: Pumpkin beer, chocolate almonds, “holy” water

Most interactive!

Most interactive!

Here is the exciting results video!!!!!

Previously: North Carolina Edition
Art museum scavenger hunt

Selfie Scavenger Hunt: Art Museum

At a recent THE 434 reunion, we did a selfie scavenger hunt at the NC Museum of Art!! Everyone did a really good job, especially Cynthia who was hindered by not actually having a smartphone to take selfies with. She had to awkwardly turn her point-and-shoot around, which makes it way harder. Here are my entries:

Something purple!

Something purple!

Something you want to steal!

Something you want to steal!

A museum employee!

A museum employee!

Something shiny!

Something shiny!

An animal!

An animal!

Read the rest of this entry »

2015 Goal Update: 75% Awesome

The end of September marks the point where I should be 75% on all my goals for the year, something I know because I scribbled it on my work calendar next to “monster chef hat”. Being a children’s librarian is weird.

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that I’m headed for success!!! Which proves that I’m either doing a lot better than last year, health-wise, or that I’m just better at choosing reasonable goals for myself. Probably both. Here are the deets:

1. Read one book a month I think I’ll disagree with: 75%

July: Here’s the Situation: A Guide to Creeping on Chicks, Avoiding Grenades, and getting in your GTL on the Jersey Shore “by” Mike Sorrentino

I downloaded a library ebook to avoid immense shame at work

I downloaded a library ebook to avoid immense shame at work

You can read my more detailed thoughts on this here.

August: The O’Reilly Factor for Kids: A Survival Guide for America’s Families by Bill O’Reilly

I feel like he's trying to channel Mr. Rogers on the cover and I don't like it

I feel like he’s trying to channel Mr. Rogers on the cover and I don’t like it

I guess I didn’t disagree with this book as much as I thought I would. Some of his advice is fairly standard. Deal with bullies by talking to your parents and teachers instead of trying to fight them yourself. Be honest. Be respectful to adults. Don’t do drugs.

Of course, there was plenty to laugh at. Chapters were prefaced with quotes from “real teens”, which always sounded as legit to me as ELJames’ “American” dialog. On the other hand, any kids writing to Bill O’Reilly are probably sheltered and home-schooled beyond recognition so maybe their weird 1950s phrasings are 100% real. Also, the end of each chapter included “a few brief O’Reilly i-messages for you,” which were just bullet points that used weird abbreviation “Internet slang” that he made up, like “jja” for “just joking again.”

September: Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump

I read this for Hate Book Club, so you’ll hear more about it later. All I’ll say is that it was suuuuuuuuuper boring, and that afterwards I was compelled to watch the “That 80s Guy” episode of Futurama.


2. Finish I Detonate Around Him: 100%

Okay, so technically I finished this one, even though I then decided to do an addendum of ELJames’ incredibly stupid “50 Shades of Grey from a different perspective” novel.

3. Visit Every Restaurant on my Restaurants To Visit List: 84%

Yay!!!!!!! This goal is the most fun goal. The best restaurant I’ve been to for it recently has to be Chuck’s Burgers in Raleigh. I’m a sucker for a place that gives you multiple dipping choices for your fries, and the veggie burger was insane. Plus, creative milkshake flavors!!!

I only have 5 restaurnts left, actually! A fancy steak place, a fancy French place, Ethiopian, cheap Vietnamese that’s the farthest away from my apartment on the list, and a tapas place where parking’s probably going to be annoying. I feel like I can solidly conquer this by the end of the year!

4. Review at least 1 thing a month online: 75%

This goal is turning out to be the hardest, weirdly? I guess I find myself not feeling comfortable sharing my opinions in such a public way, especially if they’re negative. I keep wanting to preface them with “I mean, this was just my experience” or “Maybe it was just an off day” or whatever. Clearly I do not have the fortitude to be an Internet troll.

5. Plaid Pladd blog: one guest post per month: 75%

This might be my favorite goal!!! In July Cynthia wrote a hilarious write-up of the REAL story of her whirlwind trip through Europe, including a lot of amazing pictures, of the sort that I always take and then never share with anyone. Keep telling your truth, Bova! In August, my dad wrote a guest post about being my dad that serves as a great counterpoint to the one my mom wrote earlier about being my mom. Being my mom seems to involve a lot of cute pictures, while being my dad involves a constant barrage of insulting birthday cards. NOW YOU KNOW THE TRUTH. Most recently, Brian wrote a great write-up of things he missed in college that made me nostalgic and happy to not live in H-town anymore at the same time. But Brian is already an accomplished writer, so you knew he would rock it.

I have some exciting guest authors lined up for the last part of the year, but December is still wide open, if anyone wants to try their hand at it!

6. Knit a sweater: 80%

I am so close to being done with this, but the closer I get, the more nervous I become about the Moment of Truth when it’s finally revealed how lumpy and strange the sweater looks. I’ve done the sleeves and the neckband. All that’s left is blocking and sewing it together.

7. Get hella into a different Dewey Decimal class each month: 75%
Last month was my favorite! The 800s are literature, so I got to read some interesting books about the history of 1910s literary life in London and a famed 1700s children’s book author kidnapping an orphan and trying to raise her in secret as his perfect child bride. You know, the usual.

Total: 81%!!!

Previously: Halfway point

All the Stuff I Forgot to Do in College

Graduating Rice in three years is hard. It’s hard, specifically, to fit in all the cool/dumb stuff college students in Houston are supposed to do. I only got 75% of the shenaniganery, 75% of the bad ideas for Fourth Meals, 75% of the totally unnecessary personal drama. Also, I graduated before turning 21.

This past weekend, my old roommate Rory and I created a Houston Bucket List of Stuff We Really Should Have Done By Now, and then we did them all. Here’s that list, plus a few other Essential Rice Experiences I finally got around to in the years after graduating. They’re mixed together randomly. Also, they’re graded.

Going to Beer Bike. Freshman Year: old friend from elementary school arrived in Houston during Beer Bike. Missed it. Sophomore Year: lived off-campus, slept until 11 a.m. Final Year: it rained.

Two years after graduation, my chance finally came. The Rice alumni tent was the best part, anyway, because it had free St. Arnold beer. It doesn’t anymore. You have to pay for it.

The bike race was kinda fun, and some of the old alumni were fun to catch up with. Some of the other ones were more of the “ugh, I was hoping not to see you” category. Probably not worth it now that the drinks aren’t free. Grade: B-

The sculpture in front of Rothko Chapel is dedicated to Martin Luther King. Let's ask Patricia's dad what it means!

The sculpture in front of Rothko Chapel is dedicated to Martin Luther King. Let’s ask Patricia’s dad what it means!

The Rothko Chapel. Houston’s modern architecture sanctuary for meditation, with all-black paintings by Mark Rothko. This is one of the few times where Rothko paintings have worked for me, because they’re explicitly placed in a setting meant for quiet contemplation. Also, the chapel has copies of all the sacred books, including Baha’i, which is cool.

“This would be a good place to think about a major life decision,” I told Rory.

“This is a great place to dress like a Goth and stare disapprovingly at everybody,” two girls told us inside. Only they didn’t tell us. They just dressed like Goths and stared disapprovingly at us. Grade: A- Read the rest of this entry »

Site and contents are © 2009-2015 Patricia Ladd, all rights reserved. | Admin Login | Design by Steven Wiggins.