Monday, March 31, 2008

This preachy moment...

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I'm obsessed with this book. I go to bed saying "I freaking love this book. Oh, man. I'm already too late in planting peas for the season. I wonder where I can get organic tomato seeds" And then..."Oh, yeah, I have a 75% shade yard. MAN!"

It's the most well written, food loving, life enhancing book I've read. I already really loved Barbara Kingsolver--I practically wanted to crawl into the Poisonwood Bible--but this book is a REAL book about living your life in a REAL way.

Not in a non-sustainable way. It's pretty simple really: do you know where your food comes from? Do you know how many gallons of gas it takes to bring you a tomato that has been bred to be square so it packs better in it's boxes from Chile? Anyone will tell you that I am NOT an organic food snob. I really thought most of that was really ridiculous. Shona is probably laughing out loud while reading this post.

I'm a midwestern girl from a land of corn and soybeans. The culture of farming runs deep in my family, which is why this book hits home. Why do we not support our local grower? Family farms are folding left and right, and here we sit buying el cheapo strawberries out of season from halfway around the world.

And I should stress again: It is a true joy to read. Barbara Kingsolver talks about food in the most delicious way. It makes me, the biggest veggie hater imaginable, want to go out and plant an acre of heirloom tomatoes.

Posted by Beth Howard @ 5:16 PM :: (12) comments

Sunday, March 23, 2008

This is why I travel

I love to go and see. You can't make up stuff like this Flamenco performance. I spent a little time last weekend working on a small watercolor.

I always take my little watercolor kit and pad of Arches paper with me when I travel, just like I did when I spent a summer in Florence, Italy 8 (wow I'm old) years ago. On that trip, we spent the mornings in museums and churches, the hot part of the day in our cool apartment eating cherries and bread and cheese, and the afternoons sitting on the edge of a bridge painting. I had 15 watercolors completed at the end of that trip. They're scattered now, given as gifts. I probably should have kept them. I still do have the Venice painting hanging in my bedroom. I'll have to try to get some pics of them up soon.

I saw such a change in my painting from the beginning of that trip in the summer of 2000. I sat with a wonderful quirky artist--Frank Stack on a few occasions. He was a professor of painting at the University of Missouri where I went, and he gave me some really great pointers. For one thing, he was ALWAYS sketching. People, people, people. In the train station, at Pisa in the courtyard. For every sketch of my pixie-like roommate, whom he loved, there was a drawing of me in the manner of Michelangelo's Sybils. I guess that's not a bad way to be depicted.

I would really benefit from constant drawing/sketching. I would benefit from having 30 hours in a day, too.

Posted by Beth Howard @ 8:44 PM :: (4) comments

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Seville III: day trip to the Alhambra

The most exotic and mysterious location to date in my world travels is hands down the Alhambra in Granada.

It was a three hour bus ride on the second day of our trip at 7am. Yikes.

I pondered whether the bus driver would believe I was carsick and let me out to take photos of the rolling hills and olive groves of the Southern Spain country side.

I love a good road trip, although it was killing me not to be able to capture the experience of watching the sunrise and the steam billowing around the silvery green leaves of the millions of rows of olive trees.

Once we arrived in Granada, we hiked it up the enormous hill to the Alhambra--originally a 9th century fortress, reincarnated over the ages by the Moors, Ferdinand and Isabella, bands of wild gypsies, and even Washington Irving.

As you can see from the images here and here, the Northern African influence was evident everywhere. I felt like we were in Morocco instead of Spain. I didn't know which way to turn my head or camera. Occasionally I had the nagging feeling that perhaps I should just EXPERIENCE the place, not spend so much time trying to capture it digitally. I tried to do a little of both.

Needless to say, at the end of the day we were completely wrecked. I think it was the Jamon sandwich in the bus station after our bus got delayed by an hour that put me over the edge. It was midnight Spain time when we got to the bus station back in Seville, then walked a little over a mile through the streets back to the apartment.

Good thing we had some ice cream to sustain us! Lauren rates all the Helado or Gelato places by several criteria: presentation and value being of utmost importance.


Posted by Beth Howard @ 8:49 PM :: (2) comments

Monday, March 17, 2008

Part II: Shopping! in Sevilla

Despite the fact that for every Euro we spent, we spend $1.50, we still managed to do a little shopping. My favorites were what Lauren calls the Gypsy Market--across the river and a good 3 mile walk from our neck of the woods. But well worth the walk. There were real live gypsies selling cloves of garlic. I bought a pair of sunglasses for 5 Euro, Lauren bought her standard bi-weekly flowers from her favorite vendor (you must get there before the good ones are gone.

I thought of you guys when going through the fabric stalls. I didn't go in because for the most part, things were pretty expensive after the dollar to Euro change. I can report that I did see Liberty of London cotton lawn for 22 Euro per yard, which normally sells for $22 per yard here. Proof that the dollar was super expensive.

I was drawn to take photos of all the flamenco gear. Hair combs, dresses with glorious flouncing, plastic necklaces and dinner plate sized earrings. And the best thing is that they were always arranged by rainbow order.

I have a strange penchant for rainbowy things. I also have a weird memory for useless points in my personal history. I vividly remember in 2nd grade (Mom, we lived in Bolckow then) riding my mom's exercise bike---why was a 7 year old riding the exercise bike? who knows--and reading a book and asking my mom to tell me again what the proper rainbow order was. I was obsessed with putting my crayons in rainbow order and disturbed about where to put the burnt siennas, umber and magenta crayons.

So all the thread at El Corte Ingles made me really happy. I think the Spaniards share my love.

Truly, truly the best time in Seville was the open air art show on Sunday right outside the art museum. I met some really lovely girls. How do you say "Silk-screen" in Spanish? I finally figured out that the bike, car, and scooter were huge woodcuts. Then I got the artist to explain intaglio. She said "copper" and then did a dipping motion and said "acid". Aha!

I wished upon wish I could have purchased a small acrylic on board from the most beautiful Irish girl. She looked like the picture of Ireland--red curly hair and blue blue eyes. But alas, $50 euro is $75 dollars, and I just couldn't pull the trigger. Instead, I evangelized about Etsy and made her write down the address, but didn't have the nerrve to give her my e-mail address. I guess I was too shy. I told my sister to take her one of my business cards if she goes back some other sunday.

Here is the link to my other "Shopping" photos. It's pretty much our main entertainment. Sadly, I came home with very little actually belongings. Jason my FIANCE got a shot glass on a string with a leather holster that reads "Sevilla" and a slingshot. I got a couple of pieces of handmade paper and a little carved wooden box that cost 4 Euro ($6) probably it was stolen or used to hold Gypsy tears.

Posted by Beth Howard @ 8:01 PM :: (1) comments

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sevilla I: the Food

Hi everyone! I'm back, well rested and recharged. Well, recharged anyway. I'm still on Spain time, which is actually convenient since I'm still working the 3am shift at work. I've never been so awake at 2am!

I'm going to show you my trip in segments. Today: food. My next post will probably be shopping. I've arranged all the photos by topic--but still don't have every single one on there. I hope to finish sometime today. I've posted a Flickr photo set specifically of the food in Sevilla HERE.

It's always strange to eat in a foreign country. I mean...shockingly, the food in Mexico does NOT taste like Taco Bell. Or even your local "authentic" Mexican margarita joint.

The weirdness of things is even more pronounced in Europe. I haven't been to Asia or Africa yet, but I imagine it's the next step beyond that even. It's the difference in how things are stored, flavored and prepared. Milk comes in a box on a shelf in the grocery store, not refrigerated (Although, my mom says it's packaged at a safe high heat, I'm still skeptical.) In Sevilla, Spain, massive quantities of pork--specifically Jamon--is cured in salt and served with everything. I didn't see a Jamon flavored ice cream, but I'm pretty sure it's not out of the question.

Then there's the curious lack of flavor in some dishes. We had Tortilla Espanol (over to the left, here--supposed to be a Spanish omelette. Not so much. It was more like potatoes, eggs, and pastry sliced in pie shapes with out much flavor and with a sandy sort of texture. I like all of those ingredients separately, but without any spices or flavoring, well, it's something my boyfriend might really love.

Overall, we ate pretty cheaply. Which I think translates to greasy. The dollar is so high ($1.50 to 1 Euro) that a 15 Euro meal is actually a $22.50 meal. And I think we all agreed that we would rather do more things or buy more souveniers than spend buck on food. Think about it: if people were visiting the U.S. and eating cheaply, it would probably be greasy also.

The best food we had were the tapas at night. Spinach with olive oil, bacon and pine nuts; croquettes with spinach and jamon; slices of cheese with crusty bread; chicken skewers and who knows what else. Always with the Jamon (like Spanish proccuitto) As my sister Lauren said: "I was pretty much over the jamon on the first day." And it's EVERYWHERE and extremely fatty. I guess it's a bacon lover's paradise.

According to Lauren's direct orders, we tried to stay with the typical Spanish eating schedule: midday meal at 3pm (during siesta) evening snacks or tapas at 8pm, and full meal at 10pm. We never made it to the full meal. We ordered lots of tapas, then had ice cream or churros later in the evening.

My favorite food, besides the helado (ice cream) and churros (long loopy donuts dipped in creamy dark melted chocolate), was the lunch we had the last day. We had walked across the Isabel bridge and through the Triana neighborhood, when crossing the next bridge to the south, we spied the Rio Grande restaurant and decided to give it a whirl. We sat in the shade overlooking the river, and I took a chance and ordered fish. I love fish, but I had a bad experience with it in Barcelona last year that ended with me not eating but instead drinking too much wine and being hammered at noon.

This seabass was excellent. Not what I had imagined, it was broken into nuggets, soaked in a lemony herby sauce and fried. Everything fried, always. Served with shoe string red and green peppers on the side. Pretty darn good.

Please go to the flickr group to see the other pics. We had a couple of lovely picnics and the pastries were really amazing!!

Posted by Beth Howard @ 8:23 AM :: (2) comments

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Viva Vacations!

I've got spring fever like you wouldn't believe. And to alleviate it, the doctor has prescribed a trip to Seville, Spain! My sister is there on a semester abroad, and my mom, my aunt and I are going to see her for a week.

I whipped up this little eye cover for my flight. I don't exactly fit comfortably in those short little airline seats, so I need all the help I can get. What better use for the Liberty of London prints that I've been hoarding, right?

I can't wait to come back and share all my pics with you!

Posted by Beth Howard @ 7:18 PM :: (3) comments