Category: Holidays (Page 1 of 2)

Seville, Spain

We did more than drive the narrow streets while we were in Seville in December.  We stayed at an eclectic hostel, Hostal Sierpes, where the moment I walked in, I wondered if this was the place I’d regret bringing kids to. It wasn’t. In fact, I’d recommend staying there.  It was a pleasant surprise and change of pace from the more generic places we had stayed.

Entrance to Hostal Sierpes in Seville, Spain Inside our room at Hostal Sierpes in Seville, Spain Atrium on the second level of Hostal Sierpes in Seville Front lobby of the Hostal Sierpes at Christmas

Jeff and Scarlett toured the bull ring and museum in Seville; Plaza de Toros.  It looked amazing! Scarlett can tell you all about how the bull fight works, what flag they hold up if the bull is spared, how historically horses would help and often be killed, and she will happily tell you about the time a bull was spared (there aren’t many!)

Large Red Door to the Plaza de Toros in Seville Bull ring at the Plaza de Toros in Seville Spain Patron seating are in Plaza de Toros in Seville Spain Royal box at the Plaza de Toros Seville SpainTour of the Plaza de Toros in Seville SpainTour of the bull museum in Seville SpainTour of the bull musuem in Seville SpainFamily of three girls outside bull ring in Seville Spain


We visited the “Tower of Gold” – it’s proper name is the Torre del Oro.   A 13th century watch tower along the river that offloaded the riches from the conquistadors returning from Central & South America.  There was a small museum inside and then the rooftop viewing platform.

The Golden Tower in Seville Spain Torre del Oro at sunset in Seville SpainMy kids on the stairs inside the Torre del Oro in Seville SpainSmiling child at the Golden Tower in Seville SpainOn the viewing deck of the Golden Tower in Seville SpainLooking out at the city on the viewing platform of the Torre del OroClose up picture of the Torre del Oro in Seville Spain

We stumbled upon the modern architecture of Metropol Parasol (that honeycomb shaped building the background below) where the girls decided to treat each other to pony rides and Scarlett spent her Christmas money on a leather purse.  We didn’t set out to find the Metropol Parasol but it was a nice place to end up.  There were holiday craft booths to stroll through, small amusement rides for the kids and a generally festive atmosphere.

Metropol Parasol in Seville Spain IMG_2215 IMG_2219 IMG_2226

I saw shops and shops full of flamenco dresses for sale. But unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead and we did not make it to a flamenco show while in Seville.  Truthfully, I just wasn’t sure if it was a family atmosphere and by the time I found a flamenco performance (which was right around the corner from our hostel) they were all booked.  We were traveling during the Christmas holiday.


It was this trip in Seville that I realized that while we dressed in functional warm outer wear most of those around us wore, warm but fashionable outerwear. We just aren’t accustomed to the plethora of plazas that are enjoyed year round in Spain.

We stood in line for an hour to get into the Seville Cathedral. It was massive and expanse and left me wondering what all this empty, yet beautiful space was ever used for. The cathedral also holds the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Not without it controversy though. The history channel  reports that it is Christopher Columbus’  sons bones that buriedare  in Seville and his lie in the Dominican Republic.  I’m going to continue to state that I visited the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Which I thought was really cool.

Part of the cathedral was the tower of Giralda. Unlike the other towers we’ve climbed this one had ramps that led to the bell tower.  The most fascinating part of the tower was the electronic people counter letting you know exactly how many people already occupied the ramps and the bell tower. We we headed up with 417 people, when we exited there were 633 in the tower. I was glad we were done.

We rented an audio guide to share with the family as we went through. And it would have been great except for the fighting that ensued over it and the subsequent waiting  for your turn that led to children misbehaving as they waited. Then add in your backpack, camera and couple of shots with the cell phone to post immediately to fb, and the guards asking us to hold our children’s hands…our hand were more than full.  And 6 months later there isn’t much I can remember from the audio guide.

IMG_1849 IMG_1848 IMG_1847 IMG_1845 IMG_1843 IMG_1837 IMG_1835 IMG_1832 IMG_1823 IMG_1810 IMG_1807 IMG_1797 IMG_1796 IMG_1790 IMG_1787 IMG_1784

We had an enjoyable walk to Plaza Espana in Seville and a fun, quirky row boat ride through the canal on the plaza. The plaza was a pleasant surprise from the crowded, restaurant filled plazas I had come accustomed to. It was a nice, calm, relaxing plaza with beautiful tile work and a wonderful fountain set within a large park.  We didn’t make it to the plaza until near 8pm, it would have been nice to make it earlier but our days were full in Seville.

IMG_1877 IMG_1878 IMG_1881 IMG_1885IMG_2308IMG_2312

We ran across a carnival on our way back towards the main street from Plaza Espana. It made me smile to see an ice skating rink set amid palm trees.

The girls watched street performs ranging from a puppet/marionette show, mimes, painted people to other performers hiding under tables trying to scare passing pedestrians. The girls were fascinated by the street performers and would have lingered until the wee hours.

At a restaurant, we had two very traditional meals. [look these up and explain what they are]. Both dishes were wonderfully moist and yummy.

IMG_2335 IMG_2337 IMG_2344 IMG_2349 IMG_2354 IMG_2355 IMG_2358 IMG_2360 IMG_2361

The hostel was located close to nearly everything. Which also meant it was located on small, winding streets. Driving was a crazy experience! And even on foot we would frequently loose our way. I have learned that I have no aptitude for reading maps; I’d have it backwards and end up walking in the opposite direction I intended.

We quite literally stumbled upon our hostel after our day of exploring the cathedral, main street, plaza espana and eating out.

It was an enjoyable and memorable trip!





For years I watched my Grandma crochet.  She would sit for hours with yarn and projects on her lap while we played around her or watched tv together.  Several times over the years she had tried to teach me how to crochet and thinking back it wasn’t hard.  I think I just had other things to do.  I didn’t have the patience or stamina to complete a project or to even practice so I could feel proud of what I did accomplish.  She was, in fact, a very crafty person and I have many fond memories of working on new crafts with her.  My dining room table still has the stains from some of her last projects.  It’s the reason I put up with the uneven table legs, mismatched leaf and the need to replace the random screw that falls out periodically.

I completed hook and loop rug projects.  Ok, I think I completed at least one but now that I really think about it I can’t actually picture a finished project.  We painted ceramics together.  I tried cross-stitch.  I made a pink, punch & loop pig craft that I was proud of.  I excitedly wore it to school, sewn on a pink sweatshirt with matching pink pants and was devastated when black ink was spilled on it in art class.  We made pine cone crafts, clothes pin crafts, baby bottle crafts, good-luck bingo crafts (you know, so that one has an advantage at bingo).  She would visit craft shows and would buy an item so that she would have the pattern to make it herself. I fondly remembering going to one craft show with her and getting Cabbage Patch Kid stickers to stick on my pencil box.  Her basement rivaled the likes of Michael’s craft stores.

Over the last month, I have been learning how to crochet.  And in fact I have not only been learning but completing projects.  It’s relaxing.  It’s a great activity while sitting with the kids as they do their homework.  It’s a nice activity when I’m feeling restless with nothing much else to do.  It’s been a great winter activity. October and Scarlett learned right along with me.  I was really quite impressed with their ability to handle the crocheting needle and follow along with their pattern.   The entire family would gather in bed under blankets, away from the cold, watching Netflix and myself, October & Scarlett crocheting together.  It may be my fondest memory of this winter yet.  Yet, the speed at which their projects were coming along discouraged them and their projects slowed to a crawl and then a stand-still.  I offered to help pick up the pace for them while they were at school.  They of course agreed and they also maintained their ownership of the completion of their project when sharing with others.  And that’s just a-o.k.

I smile to myself every time I see the girls wearing their scarfs.  I did something I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time.  And not only did I try it, I succeeded in making what I set out to make – Infinity scarfs.  I love feeling cozily wrapped in the afghan blankets my grandma crocheted and I picture my children wrapped in the same love and coziness as they wear the scarfs we created together.

IMG_3209 IMG_3211

Carnival in the Streets

Carnival turned out to be a big deal.  Students and teachers were dressed in costumes they had been working on in school for weeks.  Each grade cycle (a two-year span) was a different ancient civilization. The parade though the village was much bigger than I had envisioned.  I pictured something similar to my grade-school experience of the Halloween costume parade that snaked through the school and while a big deal, not all that exciting.   But this school parade had a crowd of parents and people following them through the village snapping pictures and cheering.  The student body, teachers and the crowd of parents ended the parade at the school and each cycle presented a song to the crowd.

Our day, however, began with Scarlett vomiting and October complaining her socks were wet because she had stepped in it.  *Sigh*  And of course, I had volunteered to help in her classroom that afternoon.  She rested an hour, felt as good as new and began counting down the minutes until her sisters returned home for lunch.  The carnival celebration was in the afternoon.  After experiencing the carnival, I would have been really sad for her to have missed it although I’m not sure the girls would have been as sad.  The major feedback I heard about being in the parade was that “It was really squishy!”

Lavender was Greek.  Scarlett was an Aztec.  October was an Egyptian.??????????????????????????????? IMG_3132 IMG_3130 IMG_3111 IMG_3121 IMG_3122 IMG_4538 IMG_4530 IMG_4567 IMG_4580

IMG_4758 IMG_4624 IMG_4745 IMG_4639 IMG_4709 IMG_4722 IMG_3160 IMG_3094 IMG_4813



I attended a party with high schoolers tending the bar and got locked in a bathroom stall while at the city sponsored Carnival Fiesta last weekend.  Like so many other of our experiences it was tinged with both the familiar and the novel.

Carnival is not something our family usually celebrates.  I know its celebrated around the world and in the U.S. the most famous carnival is Mardi Gras celebrated in New Orleans.  The girls were familiar with New Orleans thanks to Tiana and Disney.  But more familiar to us is making and exchanging Valentines Day cards, a nonreligious holiday and therefore still acceptable in American schools.  While Carnival itself is not a religious holiday, it’s roots are in Roman Catholic countries and is most decidedly celebrating the religious season of Lent.  Carnival occurs in the week (or so) leading up to the beginning of Lent.  The festivities include dressing in costume, eating, drinking, dancing, parades and celebrating before Lent.

Here in Buitrago there was a city sponsored Fiesta for children and another for adults last Saturday.  On Thursday, the kids school held a parade through the village which each grade level dressed as different Ancient Civilizations.  They have been working on their costumes at school for quite some time.  October is Ancient Egypt.  Scarlett’s class are Aztecs and Lavender’s class are Greeks.

An hour before the city sponsored Carnaval Fiesta last Saturday, I read the flyer the kids had brought home from school.  Come dressed up!  So the girls dug out their Angel and Cowgirl costumes from Halloween, put on their wings and cowgirl hat and off we went.  There was face painting, crafts and a magician for the kids.   For the adults there was a cash bar that was supporting the city soccer team.  The high school athlete’s themselves were tending bar.  It was quite out of place for us to see a bar in the school gym, cans of beer alongside crafts being made and even more odd for the high school sophomore and juniors to be tending the bar.  Jeff wanted to order a mixed drink just to say he was served by high schoolers.  And the bathroom stall I was locked in?  I should have known better, October warned me of the pitfall of this particular locker room toilet, but modesty got the best of me and I wanted the door shut.  I went in, I shoved the door shut only to then realize the handle didn’t actually work and I was no unable to open the door.  There was an eight inch clearance at the bottom so up and over I climbed!

At the end of the celebration, all the kids were called up on stage in groups of 1 or 2 to model their costumes.  October & Scarlett went up on stage.  The MC was so confused by English speakers in Buitrago.  A couple of the moms I know, yelled up on stage “They don’t understand!” in Spanish.  To which the MC laughed and said “Ingles en Buitrago??”  I felt a like maybe I was the butt of a joke.  I probably am more often as well…I just don’t know about it!  We do stick out and we do live in a small town and I was climbing over the walls in the locker room bathroom.  We ended the evening with the task of carrying home wet, glitter glue craft projects several blocks in the cold.   At home, we all clamored in bed together to watch yet more Netflix.  There was also an adult party hosted by the city at the school gym that started at 11:30pm featuring disco and dancing.  Jeff & I stayed hibernating in bed with our three little girls.

IMG_3080 IMG_3082IMG_3086 IMG_3085 IMG_3089

IMG_3078 IMG_3087


October is preparing in school for a Carnival.  We had a small list of items to purchase and the name of the store in Buitrago to purchase them at.  She really had no idea what kind of Carnival they were preparing for.  I blew off until I got an ad in the mail that had halloween-type costumes in it and they were labeled “Carnaval”.  Made me think, maybe this Carnival is bigger than a random school project.  Turns out it’s a Mardi Gras type festival in the days leading up to lent.  Parades, people dressed up, drinking, celebrating all night.  There are many cities in Spain that have large celebrations and a Mardi Gras type celebration didn’t even come to mind when October mentioned a Carnival.  I was thinking games and face painting.  She is making Egyptian Head-dresses.  Madrid does have a celebration, but from what I’ve read it’s not as extravagant as others in Southern Spain.  I guess we’ll have to go to Madrid to find out if carnival is more a Paczki eating day or a flash your boobs kind of day.

Ad with Carnaval costumes.

Ad with Carnaval costumes.

We celebrated Three Kings Day back on January 5th here in Buitrago.  It was an interesting festival to experience.  It was also a difficult night all around. Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) is representing the three wise men bringing gifts to Baby Jesus.  Children in Spain expect a visit from Reyes Magos on the night of January 5th where they bring the children presents and leave them in their shoes.  It is also traditional to eat a Roscon which is a doughnut shaped bread/pastry with jelly-gummy candies with a plastic toy buried inside.  They were sold at all the grocery stores.  We did not end up having one.  So onto the festival….

We gathered in Buitrago preparing for a parade.  The girls were excited.  I saw other kids with bags; which tipped me off that this may be a “candy-excessive” parade.  While they were waiting in their place on the street, I stopped into the bank ATM to get rent money out.  And the ATM ate my card.  AHH!!!  Jeff had stayed at home to get some stuff done, the girls were out on the street by themselves, the crowds were accumulating, an old man who knew me as the “American with three girls” was trying to help me by calling the bank (which was closed for the holiday) and I was freaking out that now I could not get access to my money.  I call Jeff, he comes to stand with the girls and by the time I rejoin them there is a Smurf (??) themed parade and teenagers from Jeff’s school are not tossing but whipping hard candies at him and his family.  There were approximately four floats in the parade (it’s a small town) with the last one having the Three Kings.  After the parade went by, it made it loop and headed back into the main plaza of town which was set up with three King’s chairs and a red carpet to receive the kings.  We gathered along side the red carpet while hoards of children gathered near the beginning of the red carpet.  They clearly were in the know.  The parade stopped and those on floats paraded up the red carpet to the thrones of the Three Kings.  This procession included angels, soldiers, Smurfs, SpongeBob and the Three Kings along with their court.  The court included a teenager painted with brown skin to match the King he was with.  Strange and also, not acceptable in the U.S.  The children that were lined up at the end of the red carpet were waiting to sit on the Three Kings laps.  Afterwards, the kids got hot chocolate and churros.  We ran home for a bit – the line was long!  Basically, the line was all the children in the village.  We went back just as the line was dying down.  As was my camera – so no photo’s of my own children sitting on the laps of the Three Kings.

IMG_2794 IMG_2795 IMG_2796 IMG_2797 IMG_2803 IMG_2804 IMG_2807 IMG_2811 IMG_2812


I was in the mood for staying out among the crowd and excitement and to enjoy the night.  The girls and I went for a walk further down into town towards the castle walls.  Unfortunately, Lavender and October were fooling around running on the sidewalk and it ended badly.  Lavender got her foot wrapped up in yellow caution tape, fell off the curb onto her back, the metal barricade the caution tape was tied to then fell off the curb and onto Lavender’s body and forehead.  A stranger jumped out of their car to grab up Lavender before I got a chance to get there.  I thought for sure Lavender was going to open her mouth to scream and it’d be void of teeth.  Luckily it was not.  But it wasn’t great either – her lip was bleeding, her forehead and nose were already bruising.  I scooped Lavender up, still sobbing uncontrollably.  And had she not been concerned where her candy bag from the Three Kings had gone I’m pretty sure the strangers in the car would have called a for ambulance (although it was literally a block away).  I went home after this.  I was spent.


Her forehead and bridge of the was quite bruised.

Christmas Program

All the last week at school the girls have different activities going on in celebration of Christmas.  I received a Circular Navidad outlining the week.  Lavender had a Christmas program on Monday.  They sang songs to the parents that they had been practicing.  It was really cute.  It’s interesting in that I thought Lavender would just absorb the Spanish language and come home speaking it effortlessly.  I thought she would be the first in the family to learn.  Her teacher and nearly all the teachers of the 3,4 & 5 year olds speak Spanish exclusively.  It really hasn’t been the case.   I think she knows the least amount of Spanish of any of us.

October had her program for the parents on Wednesday and Scarlett on Thursday.  Both were very brief but fun to see.  I nearly broke out in tears before October’s performance.  “I’ll be Home for Christmas” was playing as an interlude between classes.

On Wednesday, there was a storyteller coming to all the lower grades.  On Thursday, the kids went to sing Christmas Carols at the nursing home in town.  And then on Friday, each grade performed their Christmas song to the rest of the school and they had a visit from…well, I’m not really sure…it’s not Santa…the translator app says it’s a visit from “The Royal Pages”.  I think maybe it was the three wise men.

IMG_2021 IMG_2023 IMG_2026

IMG_2033 IMG_2034

IMG_2055 IMG_2058

Living Nativity

Our town of Buitrago hosts a living nativity for four days in December.  It’s a big deal and has going on for quite some time.  And I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile.  I believe around 2,000 – 2,500 people show up for it each night it’s put on.  We watched the streets get blocked off and swarms of people head into the city center all day.  I followed the directions on when to show up and where we would be going.  What I failed to remember is that things happen here…..when they happen.  So, nearly two hours after we arrived the program finally began.  These two hours mostly consisted of us standing in line, eating loaves of bread hastily purchased, pleading with the kids to not crawl in the street and then waiting some more in a crowded mass until the program began.  Jeff, October & Lavender left before it even started.  Scarlett and I stuck it out.  We had left at 6:15pm and returned home at 9:45pm (it’s a 5 minute walk away).  Although at one point, I wondered if I had been standing with my knee’s locked and what exactly would happen should I pass out in a crowd of 2,000.  I know what to expect now and we’ll try again tomorrow night but skip the early arrival and the welcoming portion of the program.  That part was in Spanish anyways and it was so crowded there was nothing we could actually see.   But the living nativity scenes were pretty amazing.  There are 39 scenes winding through the castle and castle walls ending with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus and the three wise men.  I imagined it more of a “working” farm sort of thing where the actors, acted out the scenes they were in.  Instead they sat silent and completely still while this crowd of 2,000 walked past and took pictures.  The actors are people from our village and surrounding villages.  The girls recognized several of their classmates and one of Scarlett’s sat silent and unflinching as Scarlett loudly whispered her name and waved to her.  Check out the complete set of pictures here.

IMG_1498 IMG_1517 IMG_1524 IMG_1536 IMG_1542 IMG_1549 IMG_1550 IMG_1570 IMG_1571 IMG_1577 IMG_1579


We took a day trip to a city north of us, Burgos last weekend.   I wanted to go visit the Castle ruins that are there as they have siege tunnels underground you can walk through and large winding stone staircases.  It wasn’t a must-see attraction online or even by reviewers.  Many reviewers had said it would have been way cooler and the siege tunnels even better had the damn French and Napoleon not blow the place up.  Unfortunately, by the time we found our way to castle it was closed.  We missed it by a few minutes! Argh!  There was a complete lack of signage to the castle.  It was clear the the castle ruins was not a major tourist attraction but nonetheless, I was disappointed.  We did find a rather impressive playground (at least for those we have seen in Spain – they are all pretty plain and generic with few pieces) that we promised we’d take the kids back to.  And after leaving the closed castle, being shuttled into one-way narrow streets and out to the main road we eventually found our way back to the playground.  I’m sure this will be the highlight that the kids remember.

We left the house late, we got lost, we had few snacks, we had no extra clothes.  It really wasn’t a well planned out trip but it did end up being a great one.  At the playground, Lavender had an accident (remember no spare clothes??) but luckily October had pants on under her dress so her pants got sacrificed to Lavender.  And while Lavender now had dry pants, she had pee soaked tennis shoes.   We leave the playground to go find the cathedral.  This is on the must-see lists so we were off to find it.  And we could see it.  But we just…couldn’t….get….there.  The snacks have all been consumed.  October’s hungry and letting us know every….three…seconds.  I continue driving in hopes of finding the cathedral, taking some pictures, finding some food and heading home.  I don’t have lofty goals at this point.  I do however find the castle, the closed castle, again in searching for the cathedral.  We find a dirt lot by the castle wall, park and head off to find food.  I’m really not hopeful.  It seems like the place is shutting down for the night.  It is a Sunday on a holiday weekend.  I see the top of the cathedral poking over some buildings and hastily snap some pictures.  I assume this is as close as I’ll get.  Lavender is holding up her pants as we hurriedly look for food, to which we stumble into a major plaza of Burgos right off the Cathedral entrance filled with holiday lights, holiday vendors and restaurants.  Burgos is known for it’s Morcilla or blood sausage.   Unfortunately, we were too hungry to try anything local.  Pizza it was!  I inadvertently ordered morcilla last time we were in Madrid (I thought it was hamburger) and it was good.  It was even October’s favorite tapa that day.  Jeff told me what it really was and I just couldn’t order a second after that.

Having our bellies full.  We were able to explore and enjoy the plaza.  It was cold.  October had a dress on and no one had their hats with them but I was the only one who seemed to mind the cold.  The girls rode the Carousal, we went for a tourist train ride around the city, the girls had a gigantic doughnut, Jeff had mulled wine, we took pictures and enjoyed seeing all the holiday vendors.  I was really glad we didn’t quit and leave after we, also, couldn’t find our way to the cathedral.  I was really glad we stuck around for the holiday lights to come on.  The town was just coming awake after dinner and we would have missed it.  And I’m really glad that October’s internal thermostat is set high!  I never could have wandered around for hours with bare legs!

See all of our photo’s here!


Well she looks a little cold here. But we’re on our way back to the car!

IMG_1613 IMG_1615 IMG_1619 IMG_1635 IMG_1652

IMG_1648 IMG_1658 IMG_1663 IMG_1666 IMG_1677 IMG_1679 IMG_1686 IMG_1692 IMG_1699


« Older posts

© 2023

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑