A Taste of Honey: Sweetness for the Soul

Earlier this year, my husband and I had dinner plans with another couple in Seattle. Since we live in the suburbs, an evening in the city is a big treat for us. On the way to dinner with our friends, we all decided to stop at a wine bar for appetizers.

This spur of the moment change of plans was a big hit! We canceled our dinner reservations elsewhere and embarked on a youthful adventure of bar hopping around the city. I was eager to explore the Seattle nightlife because it reminded me of my late night tapas experiences in Spain a couple years ago.

Bastille Café & Bar, one of the hip stops on our bar hopping tour in Seattle.

Bastille Café & Bar, one of the hip stops on our bar hopping tour in Seattle.

Getting Started on our Food Adventure

At the wine bar, we started the evening with a dish of olives and a charcuterie tray (assorted cheeses and meats). To drink, I naturally ordered a glass of Spanish wine.

Before I ever stepped foot on Spanish soil in the summer of 2013, I was not a fan of olives. I would only eat them if they were buried in my food—like in nachos. And it wasn’t unusual for me to pick olives off my pizza.

My family on the other hand, were big olive eaters. I have many fond memories of my sons poking their fingers into olive holes—redefining the meaning of finger foods—and eating them like candy at the dinner table. It was a habit handed down from their father when he was young.

My sons loved their olives, January 2001.

Real finger food, my sons, January 2001.

While living in Spain for 6 weeks, I fell in love with olives. Olives in Spain are like chips and salsa are at a Mexican restaurant in America. They often come as a free dish to start the meal. In the peak of the Spanish summer heat, the salty flavor of local olives somehow quenched my thirst.

Now olives taste so wonderful to me—the strong and almost bitter explosion in my mouth is so inviting.  My new favorite—green Spanish olives stuffed with a clove of garlic.  Just talking about olives makes me hungry for one now!

A Surprising Taste Sensation

Even as much as I love olives, on this particular night with our friends in Seattle, it was the charcuterie tray that really got my attention. It wasn’t the customary cheese and meats that blew me away. It was the little dish of honey that accompanied the tray.

I am not a honey type of person. I don’t use it in my tea or use it to sweeten dishes. I don’t generally even like syrup. It is just too sweet for me—and not good for my low sugar diet.

I watched as our foodie friends dipped cheeses and almonds into the honey. I followed suit. Oh my word!! What an amazing taste sensation. I was hooked!

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Our charcuterie tray and side of olives.

It only took a dab of honey to fill my mouth with an explosion of sweetness that seemed to carry me away. It was truly satisfying.

We hopped to two other bars for small plates and drinks over the course of the evening. It was fun to be out in the crowd with good friends.

Feeding Your Sweet Spot

When we find something that is so gratifying and filling to our senses, we naturally want more of it. To some it is chocolate, or maybe coffee. They just can’t get enough and feel the need to indulge daily. (I apologize if I happen to trigger those with food issues.)

My daily dose of honey comes in the form of the Word of God. I’ve had a major renewing of my spirit this year whereby His Word speaks to me in greater ways. He speaks to me in deeper ways. Whether it’s the Word, in times of prayer, or in quiet meditation, I have been energized by this honey that nourishes my soul. It has a sweetness that makes me want to savor it.

A single Word from the Lord is enough to turn our day or our life around. Just think how much a dedicated time of prayer and Bible reading can sweeten our attitude and dissolve our bitterness.

bible-food

Along with my weekly prayer appointment with God, these are some of my daily selections for a taste of spiritual honey:

  • Experiencing God by Blackaby & Blackaby (A gift from a friend over ten years ago, I still read this on a regular basis. It is filled with color highlighting and written notes of spiritual milestones and applications of scripture in my life.)
  • Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (A great resource for learning to trust Jesus and find peace.)
  • Daily Hope by Rick Warren (Email devotionals or online site that challenges your thinking with thought provoking questions and application steps.)
  • The Daily Walk Bible (Daily reading that takes you through the Bible in a year, includes weekly commentary and reflection.)

I recommend any of the above resources to get a dose of sweetness for your soul.

What about you? What are you doing to satisfy your sweet spot and hunger for the Word?

How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. Psalm 119:103 (NIV)

A 6-Week Tour of Spain

I can sum up 2013 in one little word, S-P-A-I-N!  It changed me.  It’s a part of me—past, present and future.  So with that in mind, I end my year of blogging, with one final Spanish post.  It is sort of a trip in review, with videos and photos that I haven’t previously shared on my blog. So I’m inviting you to join me, and a few of my friends, on a private tour of Spain.

Tourists (guests) on a private tour of Spain.

Tourists (guests) on a private tour of Spain.

¡Bienvenido a España!  (Welcome to Spain!)

Five months to the day I left America headed for Spain, I embarked on another Spanish adventure.  This time I was joined by a small group of friends who were eager to experience Spain for themselves.  We didn’t physically travel to Spain, but we did all have a Spanish adventure.

Last summer I spent 42 days in Spain living with Pedro’s family—a reverse exchange program, so to speak.  It was a journey three years in the making, after first hosting Pedro in our home in Seattle.  Since my published story in Journeys to Mother Love included this family, my trip to Spain was avidly supported by my friends and family.  So naturally I wanted to personally share my experience with them.

A table full of Spanish souvenirs.

A table full of Spanish souvenirs.

I called this four-hour extravaganza “My Spanish Fiesta.” It was partially in celebration of my birthday, but mostly it was geared at immersing my friends and family in Spain.  Together we explored the sights, sounds, and tastes of Spain.

The Sights of Spain

After the traditional European cheek kiss at the front door, and Spanish greetings, my guests turned their attention to the big screen TV.  Thankfully I didn’t subject them to all 5,000 photos of Spain.  I consolidated it down to a mere 1,000 photos, made into seven videos that related to the various segments of my trip. (Video of the main country of Spain is below.)

We traveled to Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Granada, Cordoba, Seville and several locations on the island of Mallorca.  It was a whirlwind of cathedrals, palaces, historic monuments, and tourist attractions.  They also got to meet some of my Spanish family, see where I lived, and get a feel for what it was like to live in Spain and vacation on the Mediterranean.  (Video of the island of Mallorca is below.)

Other notable Spanish sights for the evening were the Spanish flag hanging on the wall and a table full of souvenirs from my trip.  I collected books, jewelry, clothing, hand-painted fans, ceramic pottery, religious statues and mementos, a leather purse, and much, much more.

I was good for the economy of Spain.  “The economic crisis is over,” Pedro declared after seeing everything I bought.

Demonstrating the use of castanets, a familiar sound with traditional Flamenco dancing.

Demonstrating the use of castanets, a familiar sound with traditional Flamenco dancing.

The Sounds of Spain

Most of the videos included Spanish guitar music by Narciso Yepes and Paco De Lucia, from CDs that were gifts given to me by my Spanish family a few years earlier.  Two of the videos were accompanied by Pedro’s original compositions, one of which was composed while I was in Spain.  When the videos weren’t playing, Spanish music was still filling our senses.

And what kind of music manager would I be if I didn’t also treat my guests to an exclusive video clip from Pedro’s first movie soundtrack, Sed de Amor (Thirst for Love).  When the song “The Last Tear” played, it brought a tear to my eye, just like it did the first time I saw it at my private viewing with Pedro’s family.

The Tastes of Spain

Shopping for culinary treats at The Spanish Table in Seattle.

Shopping for culinary treats at The Spanish Table in Seattle.

The biggest hit of the evening, and hardest part to pull off, was the food.  Since I’m a novice in the kitchen, I usually defer to my good friend Stacie to make the culinary delights for my events.  Using a Spanish cookbook I purchased in Madrid, we carefully chose a varied menu of tapas (small plates) to tantalize my guest’s taste buds.

We shopped at The Spanish Table and the Paris Grocery in Seattle’s Pikes Place Market area for the specialty fare the recipes required.  At the top of my list was Iberian ham—the same kind that U.S. Customs confiscated from my luggage at JFK Airport in New York.  I savored the sight and smell of each freshly cut delicate slice of paper thin Iberian ham.*

A successful shopping trip at The Spanish Table.

My friend Stacie joined me for a successful shopping trip at The Spanish Table.

Since my husband truly is ‘el rey de la cocina’ (the king of the kitchen), especially after the recent remodel, he had a major role in the cooking as well.  He made spicy gazpacho and paella to eat, and Sangria, to whet our appetites.  Other tapas included Pan Amb Oli (ham, tomato, olive oil and bread), Mediterranean grilled vegetables, eggs stuffed with tuna, goat’s cheese and onion, and skewers of olives, sundried tomatoes and Spanish cheese.

Goat Cheese Tapa

Goat’s cheese with onion served on bread.

Paella

Seafood paella

Dessert ended with an assortment of Spanish cheeses, quince spread (similar to jelly), fruit and nut breads, grapes, and chocolate turrón.  It was just the light touch we needed to cleanse our palettes for the evening.  Magnifico!

Turron & breads

Fruit & nut breads with chocolate turrón.

Cheese & grapes

Spanish cheeses, grapes & quince spread.

A Final Note

That was my fiesta in a nutshell.  Imagine how it was to savor each morsel and be immersed in the sights and sounds of Spain—without the language barrier, of course.  It was a lot to take in, as was my 6-week journey.  There are many times that I still can’t believe I was in Spain this past summer, or that I was there for so long.  It is like a dream.

Dedicating the evening with an opening prayer.

Dedicating the evening with an opening prayer.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my husband for manning the fort while I was gone, and also to him and my sons who suffered through the remodel of our kitchen and two bathrooms at the same time.  Of course, I am deeply indebted to my Spanish family, to whom my fiesta was dedicated.

What happened in Spain in 2013 is behind me, but that trip laid the groundwork for what lies ahead.  God is aligning me with new Spanish connections and planting new visions and dreams for future trips.  In the meantime, I am preparing myself internally for what God wants to do through me here or abroad, and taking one day at a time.

Thanks for joining my little tour of Spain.  I hope you get the opportunity to travel there yourself someday.  If you do, by all means, let me know.  I’d love to compare notes.

Adiós, mi amigos.  See you in 2014!

Pan Amb Oli, served with Iberian ham, a Spanish delicacy.

Pan Amb Oli, served with Iberian ham, a Spanish delicacy.

*Jamón Ibérico is made with an ancient breed of pig found on the Iberian Peninsula.  These pigs, known as “Pata Negra,” are believed to descend from the prehistoric Mediterranean wild boar.  These unique pigs are capable of storing more fat, which enables Jamón Ibérico to be cured much longer than traditional ham, resulting in an intense and complex flavor with an unparalleled note of sweetness.  The nuttiness of this ‘meat butter’ comes from the pigs’ exclusive diet of acorns.

España Update 4 ~ The Food

For the most part, eating is an experience in Spain.  The way they approach meals is very cultural.  In America, our meals are often a rushed experience.  In Spain, lunch and dinner are a sit-down family experience, or one reserved for gathering with friends—especially dinner.

The Spanish Cuisine

Americans consume vast amounts of fast food.  We also use a lot of pre-packaged or prepared foods in our cooking.  In Spain, the ingredients are fresh from the market.  For instance with so much bread in their diet, they buy a fresh loaf almost daily.  (Bread is to the Spaniard like rice is to the Chinese.)  The bread comes from a bakery—no Wonder Bread, or other similar sliced and mass produced bread.

Fresh food in the local neighborhood market, Madrid.

Fresh food in the local neighborhood market, Madrid.

Since olive groves are plentiful throughout the country, it is only natural that they use olive oil in so much of their cooking.  The main use of olive oil in my American home is in the summer when we douse our vegetables in olive oil before grilling them on the barbeque.  It is a taste sensation.  In Spain, I use olive oil to fry my very American egg breakfast, to drizzle on my bread at dinner or for a vinegar and oil salad dressing.

Olive groves in the mountainous region of Andalucía, southern Spain.

Olive groves in the mountainous region of Andalucía, southern Spain.

The most common meat in Spain is ham.  But don’t picture the traditional American Thanksgiving or Easter ham.  This is a totally different type of ham (jamón).  This ham has been cured in special seasonings and is then thinly sliced—like paper.

I can only remotely explain it as a sort of cross between bacon in flavor (but not cooked like bacon), and salami in consistency.  It is everywhere and visible in restaurants or markets with the leg of the pig hanging upside down from the ceiling.  I ate this delicacy before ever realizing how it was prepared, etc.  The ham and bread (jamón y pan) are a staple of the Spanish diet.

Ham, Spanish style, a frequent site in restaurants and markets

Ham, Spanish style, a frequent site in restaurants and markets

Other popular Spanish foods are paella—a Spanish rice dish usually prepared with seafood or chicken and gazpacho—a delightful chilled tomato based soup (my personal favorite), and one that Pedro introduced to our family on his first trip to America.  I occasionally add this to our American summer menus.  I was delighted to find gazpacho available in refrigerated cartons in the market so I can still enjoy it while living on my own these last few days in Spain.

My first authentic Spanish paella, Madrid

My first authentic Spanish paella, Madrid

The Food Experience

I’ve done a lot of traveling during my five weeks in Spain.  It has given me a feel for the food in different parts of the country and lots of opportunities to have tapas.  Tapas are similar to what Americans would consider appetizers.  Most restaurants have a full tapa menu as people order multiple tapa dishes and share them amongst the table.  It is a feast of tasting different flavors, and different types of food.

San Miguel Market, Madrid, a popular tourist location for tasting Spanish food.

San Miguel Market, Madrid, a popular tourist location for tasting Spanish food.

I bravely decided to try everything I was offered—even if I didn’t know what it was.  It made for some interesting food experiences.  I’ve truly enjoyed some foods I never would’ve considered trying if I knew what they were—like black pudding.   On another outing, I ordered bull’s tail for lunch.  I’ve also had octopus (not sushi like in Seattle), Vichyssoise, a French soup served cold, made from potatoes and leeks and foie pate, a meat paste made from duck liver.

Sangria, a refreshing wine drink with fruit.

Sangria, a refreshing wine drink with fruit.

The Drinks

The Spanish also like their alcoholic drinks.  I’ve sampled and routinely drank many of these.  One of the main surprises to me is the way Spaniards consume their wines.  I had heard wonderful things about Spanish wine.  Living in the wine country of the Pacific Northwest I expected to taste many wines—as a compliment to my food, like I do in Seattle.

In the circles I traveled and parts of the country I visited, that was not the case.  In other words, wine was not ordered based on what food we were eating.  The alchoholic beverage most served with a meal was either cerveca (beer) or tinto de verano (summer wine).  Summer wine is basically a red wine with a 7-Up type of cola added.  It was very refreshing.

Other alcoholic beverages included Sangria, Mojitos and Valencian Water.  But beware, the latter two carry quite a punch.  One of my favorite drinking experiences was witnessing family members drink summer wine (tinto de verano) from a flask type of bottle called a porron.  It almost reminded me of something one might witness at a fraternity party, but was demonstrated by Pedro’s grandfather.  Pedro demonstrated it as well and I obliged to their initial urging to try this too.  (Like I said, I embraced this lifestyle and tried to fit in.)

Drinking summer wine from a porron bottle.

Drinking summer wine from a porron bottle.

A Virtual Eating Tour

Everywhere I travelled and every time I tried something new or unusual I took a photo of the food or the setting.  So I’m including some of my food adventures for your virtual eating pleasure.

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Eating On My Own

My last week in Spain is already here and I’m living on my own in an apartment with views of the Mediterranean.  It is amazing.  I am writing this at a Chinese restaurant (for a change of pace and taste) along the beach overlooking the Port of Soller and my apartment home across the water.

I’ve enjoyed the Mediterranean and its food, but after five weeks away from home, I am ready for American food.  Bon appetite!  (Oops, that’s French, but you get the idea!)

The food is Chinese, but the view is Mediterranean.

The food is Chinese, but the view is Mediterranean.

~ If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can start reading about my Spanish travels here.

España Update 3 ~ The Lifestyle

Like other Mediterranean countries, the Spanish lifestyle is steeped in tradition—from the pace of the day, to the food they eat, and more.  It is so very different from America.  Living with my Spanish family has given me a bird’s eye view into the typical Spanish home.

Thanks to hours of Skype calls and dozens of emails with Pedro and his family over the past three years, I knew a lot about the Spanish lifestyle and culture prior to my arrival.  I was ready to blend right in—or so I thought.

For all of the prep I did, language, exercising, dieting, etc., the one thing I didn’t consider was my hair color.  With my red hair, it is like I am wearing a sign that says “Soy Americana.” Other than that, I am doing everything in my control to live like a Spaniard.  Here’s an idea of what that is like.

Standing out with my red hair and enjoying the laid back lifestyle Spanish style (with Sangria).

Standing out with my red hair and enjoying the laid back lifestyle Spanish style (with Sangria).

Pace of Life

The Spanish lifestyle is much slower paced than in the U.S.  However, my personal pace of life has been very hectic as we tour parts of the country and sightsee almost daily.  The Spanish are hard workers, putting in a full day’s work, from 9AM to 7PM, but also fitting in a long lunch for the traditional summer siesta.  In the summer, families usually take a month long holiday (vacation), like I am now.

The Spanish pace of life revolves around their scheduled meal times.  With no set time to wake up in the morning in my family, breakfast (desayuno) for each of us has been on our own.  The mid-day meal, lunch or almuerzo, is generally at 2:00 in the afternoon.  Unlike America, lunch is the main meal of the day.  It is served in courses, with all family members finishing each course before moving on to the next.

Rosa wheels a cart with the family dinner to the dining area.

Rosa wheels a cart with the family dinner to the dining area.

The Siesta

With a big mid-day meal and an uncomfortably hot summer climate, the traditional siesta is definitely in order after lunch.  In America, I usually get a bit drowsy after lunch, but I fight the urge because I always have so much to do.

Before I arrived in Spain, Pedro asked me if I was going to participate in the Spanish tradition of siesta.  I laughed and told him I was planning on writing during the daily siesta time.  He jokingly told me the siesta is the best invention since electricity.  And now, four weeks later, I have to agree; I love the siesta.  Sadly that means my writing has suffered.

30 minute siesta to rest and rejuvenate.

30 minute siesta to rest and rejuvenate.

When I awake from my siesta, I feel refreshed and ready to continue on with my day.  The siesta splits my day in two and makes me feel like I fit more into the day.  The next several hours of the day are always very productive.  While in Madrid I tried to spend this time of the day with Pedro working on music projects or we would go out exploring.

When was the last time you answered your body’s call for an afternoon nap?  The equivalent in America would be the power nap—a rare luxury—something I am seriously considering instituting when I return home.

End of the Day

In America, the late afternoon hours are a sign of the end of the day. In Spain, there are still many more hours of productivity left in the day.

Between 9 and 10 PM when Americans are settling down for the evening and getting ready to call it a day, the Spanish are coming alive.  This is the normal time for dinner.  In my family home, dinner is followed by a late night movie, ending the day at midnight or later. (My tired body would normally fall asleep shortly after the start of the movie.)

Outdoor seating is common at restaurants in Spain.

Outdoor seating is common at restaurants in Spain.

For the young, or young at heart, the night is still early.  Many nights Pedro would go out late with his friends. I have experienced a few late night evenings while traveling in Spain with Pedro’s family.

I haven’t experienced the disco or bar scene per se, but I have been privy to the familial connections that transpires at these outings.  They aren’t necessarily drunken parties that the American news channels love to exploit.  They are times to relax with friends and family over a light and long leisurely dinner, usually tapas (appetizers), and drinks.

Two More Weeks

Today’s post marks the end of four weeks in Spain.  My time on the mainland is now complete, leaving Madrid and Pedro’s piano behind a few days ago.  I have captured nearly 3,000 photos on my adventure.

Blogging on the Wifi in Puerta de Soller, Mallorca, Spain

Blogging on the Wifi in Puerta de Soller, Mallorca, Spain

I am currently on Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain, on holiday with my family.  I will return home directly from here two weeks from today.  ¡Hasta la vista!

~ If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can start reading about my Spanish travels here.

España Update 2 ~ Adjusting to Life in Spain

Writing doesn’t come easy in Spain.  In fact, it seems that not much of anything comes easy for me here.  That isn’t at all an indictment of the family I am staying with or the Spanish life.  It is just an indication of how different everything has been for me to adjust too.

Grateful to be reading chapter upon chapter of this part of the world.

Grateful to be reading chapter upon chapter of this part of the world.

Sure I am having the time of my life.  I am seeing amazing historical and religious sites.  I am living with a family that I adore.  But with a mid-life body, an American way of life that is entrenched in me, and having a 5,300-mile and a nine-hour time difference between friends and family, it has been hard to adapt.

I have come to realize that there are so many things that we take for granted in the US.  We don’t think about how different everyday life is in other parts of the world.

Most Americans don’t get an opportunity to experience living in a foreign country.  Those that do are generally doing it through a work requirement, a missionary trip or as part of an educational exchange program.

In light of that, I thought it would be of interest to share some of the adjustments I had to make to live in Spain and a few differences between our two countries.

Mediterranean Food

One of the biggest adjustments for me has been the food.  A few months prior to my trip, I made radical changes in my diet to get healthier—doing a cleanse and eliminating allergens like wheat and milk.  I was amazed at how much better I felt.  I knew it would be difficult to maintain this new diet, especially since bread (pan) is such an integral part of the Spanish diet.  The first few days I declined the bread, but that didn’t last.

Drinking gazpacho, a chilled tomato based soup.

Drinking gazpacho, a chilled tomato based soup.

Now I am embracing and experiencing all of the Mediterranean food I can, eating things I’d never dream of trying in America.  I have many favorites including some that Pedro prepared for us in his previous stays in our home, like gazpacho.  My food adventures will be fodder for another full blog post though.  İEs muy delicioso!

It’s Hot in Spain!

Another radical adjustment for me has been adapting to the heat.  Thankfully I leave for the Balearic Islands and cooler temperatures in two days.

The first week of my trip, the temperatures were in the 90s.  Pedro’s family kept telling me how lucky I was to be here with the cooler temperatures.  Last week, the mercury in the thermometer rose past 100 degrees and has remained there most days.  (I’ve also had to adjust to Celsius versus Fahrenheit temperature readings.)

Hace calor! 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hace calor! 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

For me, it hasn’t been just a matter of adjusting to the heat, it has also been staying hydrated.  We have been out sightseeing almost every day.  I finally wised up to carrying a bottle of water (aqua) with me whenever I leave the flat.  By the time lunch rolls around at 2PM—another adjustment—a chilled beer (cerveza) or glass of summer wine (tinto de verano) is in order to quench my thirst.

Unlike America, air conditioning isn’t as available–including the cathedrals and monuments I’ve visited.  At night I sleep with the windows open and a ceiling fan running—the same as I would at home in Seattle.  A shower doesn’t seem to help during the day either as I’m sweating as soon as I dry off.

Avoiding the Heat

One way women keep refreshed in the heat is by carrying a fan (abanico).  I carry my fan with me everywhere I go, a gift from Rosa a few years ago.  I’d probably stand out like a sore thumb in the States if I used it, but here, it is a common site.

The best way to avoid the heat though is by taking a traditional siesta (afternoon nap).  The siesta doesn’t necessary require sleeping, but is used to relax in other ways as well, to read the paper, watch a movie, etc.  It is a way of slowing down and not doing activity during the heat of the day.

Abanicos in a Spanish shop window

Abanicos in a Spanish shop window

Most shops even close a few hours in the afternoon due to siesta.  Only tourists and those unfamiliar with Spanish custom would dare be out in the streets at that time of the day.  I love siesta and how recharged I feel when I awake.

Hopefully that gives you a feel for some of the differences.  Stay tuned for more information about the Spanish lifestyle and sights of this amazing country–my home away from home for three more weeks.

~ If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can start reading about my Spanish travels here.

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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