Memories of Madrid…

When I go to Spain my time in Madrid is usually a bit whirlwind. It’s either on the way into or out of the country, and only for as much time as I can squeak out – making sure that the patient I’m traveling with has been compliant, is healing appropriately, and is ready for the big travel day from the Alicante province to Madrid.

I must confess here a bit: I love Madrid.

I mean, what’s not to love? The shopping is amazing. The food is spectacular. The place drips with history. The architecture is show stopping. There’s the Prado! The Royal Palace! Flamenco Dances! Okay – now I wanna go back.

Anyway… days in Madrid with a baby post-op in tow can be a challenge. Sometimes we all look at each other – realize we should have had a snack or a meal – oh, about an hour ago – and if we don’t get something to eat NOW, we WILL keel over!

(That’s it! The little café in the corner – with the white umbrellas over the tables!)

January 2007 was one such occasion. Linda, Meredith, and I were roaming the streets of Old Madrid, headed for Plaza Mayor when we realized that we were famished. Eating in Spain is sometimes a challenge to the American frame of meal planning mind. We eat at 7 am, noon, and 7pm – or some semblance there of, right? Well, Spanairds eat more like this:

7am – first breakfast
10am – bakery stop – second breakfast
noon – snack – tortilla de patata in a bar perhaps
2pm – lunch! This is the BIG meal of the day. Everyone comes home for this meal.
4 or 5pm – bakery stop – snack time!
7 or 8pm – drinks and tapas somewhere
9 or 10pm – dinner
midnight – drinks and tapas somewhere

It kinda rocks the American mindset.

While it seems like you should be able to find a meal anywhere at any time – I mean we do that in the United States, right? – not so much in Spain. If you hit between a culturally recognized meal time – your only hope, for the most part, is tapas at a bar somewhere.

Bar – by the way – is not like what most Americans think of when you say “bar” – it’s more like a small neighborhood café that – yes, serves alcohol – but for the vast majority of the day the focus is deep, dark, extremely rich, heavily dosed with rich cream Spanish coffee.

So – Linda, Meredith, and I – about ready to keel over because we’re STARVING. It’s cold, we’re hungry, and not much is open. But we think ourselves extremely fortunate to find ourselves at just such a little bar/café which was happy to serve tapas at pretty much any hour. We quickly scanned the menu and I was able to find a couple of options that our baby post-op could handle.

One of the dishes that Linda and I thought we’d do well with was called Patatas Aioli. I may have been to Spain a dozen times, but sadly, I don’t speak the language. I was, however, able to ascertain that this was – I thought – something akin to potato salad. We decided we were game.

Our food arrived – the day was saved – and Linda and I took our first bites simultaneously.


One could just weep, sometimes, at the perfect marriage of different ingredients into the concoction that you know you simply couldn’t continue life without on a fairly regular basis.

THIS is one of those foods.

Honestly – WOW.

I should tell you – you gotta be a garlic lover. Garlic wimps need not even go here. Seriously.

I have made a point of going back to this same little café to order said Patatas Aioli – well, pretty much every time I’ve been in Madrid since!

This past weekend Linda told me she’d found IT. She didn’t have to explain. I knew what she was talking about. She’s now – officially – my BFF for LIFE!

Here you go:

 Patatas Aioli

2 pounds Small red potatoes
2 cups Mayonnaise
1 cup Sour cream
4 tablespoons Crushed fresh garlic (not minced)
2 teaspoons Ground white pepper
2 tablespoons Fresh parsley, chopped


Makes 4 to 6 servings.

  1. Boil potatoes until tender. Peel and cut each into 4 to 6 chunks. Allow to cool.
  2. Whip together mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, white pepper, and parsley.
  3. Combine potatoes with the whipped mixture, adding small amounts until you get the consistency you like for potato salad. Chill.
  4. Garnish with parsley.

Notes: This Aioli sauce (the mayonnaise, sour cream, and seasonings) is excellent on top of fish, or as a dip, or even thinned out with a little milk to make a salad dressing.

This is definitely a recipe for garlic lovers! Weak at heart beware!

We’re in Madrid!

Okay – so I should probably preface this by saying that while I *love* my life in the burbs on our wonderful 1/2 acre with our kids and chickens and cats and dog… I love Madrid.

It’s beautiful…

It’s historic…

It’s exciting…

It’s pretty much the heartbeat of Spain.

I usually spend just a few days in Madrid on the way out of Spain – but it’s possible to do quite a bit in even just a couple of days.

One of the things that I recommend whole-heartedly is taking in a Flamenco show. If you’re gonna do it, then choose the best – Corral de la Moreria. Most hotel concierge services (aka front desk clerk) can call and get you a reservation. Shows are at 9:30 pm and midnight. I’ve been to both – both are fabulous.

So fabulous, in fact, I just gotta share:

Obviously, we went last night – just a few hours after having arrived in Madrid. This is just a snippet – but you cannot sit through a flamenco show and not be moved.


It was amazing. I will also interject here that we three post-op girls managed to find stuff to nibble on – while the guys ate like kings. It was all I could do to keep from hitting John over the head and stealing his leg of lamb! LOL!

Today we’re going to take the Madrid Vision tour bus today with a plan to take in the Prado – the world’s largest art museum. That should be awesome.

More to report later!

We’re in Alcoy!

It was – as usual – a LONG trip! Funny how routine it’s become – of course, this is my 12th trip to Alcoy, so I guess it should!

We met Ann on Wednesday evening – she drove from out of state to join us for travel. We had to be at the airport at 4:00 am. Our a little *ahem* over-eager airport transport dude showed up about 30 minutes earlier than scheduled so there was some mad scrambling to get out the door. MJ met us at the airport to join us for travel.

Honestly – everything went exceedingly smoothly. Flights arrived on time, taxi cabs were appropriated with ease, transfer to the Charmatin Train station went flawlessly. Quick plug for buying Renfe tickets from Paul the wonder travel agent BEFORE heading to Spain!. It goes so smoothly just walking into the train station and finding a seat and watching for your train’s gate to be announced. No lines to wait in for purchasing tickets – and with that, no wondering if they’ve sold out due to some holiday the rest of us were unaware of!

As we were waiting for the train I got a call from Dr. Baltasar on my cell phone wanting to know if MJ would like to move her surgery up to – THAT DAY! After a moment’s contemplation she decided that yes, she would. (She’d originally been scheduled for Saturday.) So the plan was made for John and MJ to get off of the train at Villena and be met by one of Dr. B’s taxi driver friends where they would be whisked off to the Sanatorio. Ann and I would then proceed on to Alicante where we’d pick up our rental car.

The plan went completely smoothly. By the time Ann and I made it to Alcoy MJ was indeed in surgery. We stayed at the Clinica until Dr. B came out of surgery to report on MJ – he said, “PERFECT surgery! Excellent!”

After doing rounds checking on other patients, Dr. B came back and talked with John and I about surgical options for me. He and I have been going through a flurry of emails over the past few weeks over what to do – if anything. John and I came to Spain fully prepared to not know for sure what the plan would be until we got here.

“I will walk by faith, even when I cannot see… Because this broken road prepares your will for me… I’m broken, yet I still see your face… You’ve been so faithful for all of these years… Your grace covers all I do.” Words from the song “Walk by Faith” by Jeremy Camp. Just came on as I was typing. Funny how timely God is, huh?

Anyway – couldn’t ignore that! 🙂

So – Dr. B felt that doing a quick Upper GI was the best course of action – so off we went to do just that. It’s amazing how quickly things can happen with private health care in Spain. The doctor says – “hey, let’s do an Upper GI” and down you go and do just that. No red tape, no weeks of waiting for scheduled appointments or results. We had results in about 15 minutes and had a little conference about the finding.

Bottom line: my stomach has “dilated” (that’s the official term) considerably since the time of my original DS. Back then – 6 years 4 months ago – stomachs were not made as small as they are nowadays if you’re a Baltasar patient. At the time of my surgery my sleeve (that’s the shortcut term for sleeve gastrectomy – a procedure that removes the excess portion of the stomach, leaving a tube shaped remaining stomach) was probably at the 2 to 3 oz capacity. Today patients are given a 50 cc capacity sleeve (that’s 1.69 oz to you and me!) The thing is, the excess material (along the greater curvature) that is removed is very stretchy stuff. So the more narrow the sleeve, the less stretch later on.

So, after seeing the films, Dr. B asked if we couldn’t have Ann have surgery on Saturday (the next morning, that was my original day) so that he could have time to confer with his surgical team and look at my films, etc. I said sure thing, no problem. John and I wanted time to talk through the options as well.

With Ann at dinner the night before her surgery.

So the next morning Ann and I got to the Clinica about an hour before her surgery so she could go through surgical prep. I got to check in on MJ – who was doing FABULOUSLY! Seriously, Dr B keeps saying, “Perfect!” and she is! Once Ann was safely off to surgery I returned to the hotel and met John for lovely breakfast at the Hotel AC’s breakfast buffet. We talked through a lot of stuff – to do surgery or not, if yes, then what the pros and cons of the different surgical options were. We left there without saying for sure one way or the other what the decision would be. John – as always – offering his incredibly caring support!

At the conclusion of Ann’s surgery Dr. Baltasar came to report. Everything went beautifully. Excellent surgery, excellent outcomes anticipated. Then we sat and talked about what my plan would be. During the course of the morning – well, the the many weeks previous to this point in time – I’d been praying, asking God for His wisdom on this, whether I should go forward or not, asking that He’d give me clear direction. And at that moment, I knew great peace with what my decision would be.

Speedy Update

I’m leaving for Spain in less than 2 weeks.
We’re fortunate to have a willing and kindhearted chicken-watcher all lined up.
However, as you can see from the progression of these photos – Speedy just hasn’t been well – well, since mid-June.

In fact, in the past week she seems to have weakened considerably.

She tends to stay in the coop – granted, it is warmer in there – and shows little interest in much of anything.

The middle girls will huddle around her – almost like they’re trying to keep her warm and protected.

The little girls – the Welsumer’s – are not so nice. In fact, they pick on Speedy quite a bit.

Interestingly enough, the big girls have taken on more of an attitude of watching out for her, as well – especially Henrietta. (Maybe that’s because Henrietta seems to have been bumped out of her spot as queen of the hill and now is just a lowly follower!)

Whatever the case, it occurred to me that it would be a sad – and maybe unkind – thing if – for the caretaker, as well as Speedy – if she were to give up and die while we’re away.

The kids had voiced their concerns about Speedy and wondered if there wasn’t something we could do for it.

That’s when it occurred to John and I that we might know of someone who might “Speedy-sit” while we’re gone.

So on Saturday morning Speedy went to visit at Rancho de Kao – really, pretty much, chicken nirvana. Kao and Tonya are very experienced chicken-keepers who sometimes agree to help out in time of need. They have been so kind as to offer to help our Speedy out.

I should have taken pictures – it was a wonderful experience – and amazing to get to see up close and personal so many different breeds of chicken. They’ve really got a great set-up out there!

I feel so much better knowing that Speedy will get the very best care possible. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if we got word that she’d not made it. But we won’t give up hope yet – here’s hoping that Speedy is hearty and hale and ready to come home when we get home from Spain!

Photos from Spain

One of my favorite things to do while I’m in Spain is visit the open air markets. Most towns have one twice each week. Every town I’ve visited in Spain (and I’ve been to quite a few) has what they call a “Central Market” – it’s kind of like an indoors farmer’s market. The majority of shoppers rely on the Central Market for their day to day shopping needs. Yes, there are supermarkets and yes folks do shop there. But when you talk to the Spanish people, they prefer the freshness and quality available at the open air markets. I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly!

This picture is from the open air market at Castalla – a wonderful little town with – appropriately – a castle at the top of the hill.

I gotta admit – I’ve never in my life come across a crate of living, moving snails at the market! This was a bit of a surprise! I really wanted to take the picture of the little old man who had gathered these to sell, but he was not willing to have his photo taken. He was proud to have me take a photo of his snails, however!

This is the open air market at Altea – a beautiful little town on the Mediterranean – in fact, this market is just two blocks from the beach!

The flowers were locally grown for the most part – and the fragrance as you entered the row of stalls past these flowers was heavenly!


These tomatoes look at first glance as if they’re underripe. In fact, they aren’t. They are used to make what my friends and I dubbed, “tomato mush” – a wonderful relish with finely diced tomatoes, minced garlic, and olive oil. I suspect there’s a splash of vinegar of some sort in there, too. It’s *fabulous* on freshly baked bread!

Oh to bring some of these back for my own garden!

As you can see – lots of variety, and seemingly everything coming into season at the same time!

I can hadly wait for my green onions to be ready for harvesting!

I live in strawberry country, here in beautiful Washinton County, Oregon – and I’m partial that ours are phenomenally good. I was shocked – even with the Euro so strong against the US Dollar, the strawberries were cheap compared to ours!

I love getting to meet the farmer who grows the produce at the stands!


In Spain, they pickle pretty much everything they can get their hands on. This is actually a pretty small offering compared to some of the stands that you can find in the Central Markets of some towns. I love the teeny tiny little pickles – they’re hot! And I love the pickled baby corn.

I’m so glad to be home, but so looking forward to my garden kicking into high gear!

It’s been a year now…

It’s amazing how time flies!

A year ago I made a life-altering decision. Well, I had made the decision prior to May 29, 2007 – but this date a year ago was THE day that I took the big plunge.

I decided to eliminate high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from my diet.

Might not seem like such a monumental decision – except that I have always readily admitted to the fact that I’ve been a lifelong Coke (as in the soft drink!) addict. Seriously – Coke is the great Southern cure for colic – and I must have been a colicky baby, cause that’s when I started getting Coke – in a baby bottle.

One friend quipped to me at one juncture in my adult life that she wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that if I went to have labs drawn they’d get Coke – not blood!

And yeah, you guessed it – high up there on the list of ingredients on the label of Coke is HFCS.


So, why all of the fuss about HFCS? There are lots of reasons why – it actually may be harder to prove a case FOR consuming it! However, in my own personal case, here are my motivators:

Before my DS I was diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Since my DS I’ve improved to have my diagnosis changed to osteopenia. (Yay!)
I take a boatload of calcium, Vitamin D, and magnesium to keep things going in the right direction.
HFCS *and* carbonation are both known to block calcium absorption.

Double stink.

Last August 23rd, at the ripe old age of 43, I had to have my right hip replaced. Years of having an extra couple of hundred pounds on my frame, my family’s health history (my Dad had degenerative joint disease – so do I; my Mom had osteopenia; my Grandmother had osteoporosis), the fact that I was in a wheelchair for a couple of years, the fact that I didn’t consume many dairy products growing up since I’m lactose intolerant and allergic to some other components of diary products, and that I didn’t ever supplement calcium until AFTER my DS – *ALL* big factors that led me to make the decision.

All it really took was some serious reading – a willingness to get a little technical and wade through some fairly boring papers on the subject for the horror of it all to hit home and decide that I had to decide which was more important: my addiction to Coke, or my skeleton?

Yep – the skeleton won out!

So, on May 29, 2007 – without any fanfare at all, other than a quick notation on my calendar – I had my last Coke.

Simultaneously, I decided to aggressively avoid HFCS in any/all forms, as well as carbonation. I figured, heck, if I’m gonna take it seriously, I may as well do it well.

I have some lifelong friends who are still in shock that I made it past the first week. Well, I was, too, for a while. You know, after the initial breaking the first so iced cold it actually hurt going down Coke of the morning (my mouth is watering at the memory of it – even still!) habit, it was easier than I thought it would be. I went through a brief panic around the first of the year when I mentioned that I was celebrating 6 months of being Coke-free to my daughter – who laughingly asked, “So you gonna have a celebratory Coke?!” She was joking – I was seriously trying to decide if I was gonna or not! But after some wise counsel and lots of consideration, I decided to make a goal of being able to say, “I’ve gone a whole year without Coke!” as my New Years’ Resolution.

I gotta be honest. Two days ago when I was on the flight from Madrid to Atlanta on the trip home from Spain every time that beverage cart stopped in close proximity and started pouring drinks – it seemed that every one of the folks seated nearby was asking for an iced cold Coke! Aaagggghhhh! It still smells good! The memory of the taste of it can make my mouth water! Yes, I still want one! But I’ve decided – tentatively at least – that I’m better off without it.

So I mark a milestone today. There were days when it seemed impossible. Today, it just makes me smile that I could do it.




Open BPD/DS July 2, 2002
Dr. Aniceto Baltasar in Alcoy, Spain
Read my story at:
See my photos in the Photo Gallery at
See my ObesityHelp profile at:

Hours until take-off!

The garden at the Royal Palace (above).

The side view of the Royal Palace (below). The Palace has 2800 rooms. If you’re ever in Madrid – DO THE TOUR! It’s impossible to do it justice with mere words. Breathtaking can only be used so many times as a descriptor!

It’s after midnight here in Madrid… in the past two days I’ve walked miles through old Madrid and environs, taken a bus tour of Madrid, been to the Prado, been to an *amazing* flamenco show, been to the Royal Palace (no tour of which would ever be complete without a turn through the royal armory – wow!). But you know what? None of it compares to: HOME.

The Prado (above) – the largest art mueseum in the world. They have more in storage than some of the larger museums in the world have in their entire collections! There is something truly, beyond description – to stand within arms’ length of a painting that was painted in the year 1420 and be able to clearly discern the artist’s brush strokes on the canvas.

But I can’t wait until I’m home! I miss my husband! I miss my children! I miss my animals! I miss my garden!

What a blessed woman I am to have such a wonderful family and home to return to. God is so faithful and kind.

Posting fom Spain…

I’ve got a few minutes of relative quiet (if you’ve ever been in a Madrid hotel room, you know what that means! LOL!) and thought I’d post some reflections about the book that I’ve been reading during this two weeks in Spain. I’m in Spain usually 2 or 3 times each year for a couple of week each trip. This is my eleventh trip since 2002. I don’t typically have time to read while I’m gone – I work while I’m gone. But this time, while on a layover in the Atlanta airport I saw the cover of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver. I bought it on whim – in the back of my mind I had an impression that I’d heard favorable things about it and hoped I might have a few minutes to sneak reading to at least get a start.

Well, here I sit two weeks later and I’m nearly done with the 370 page book. I hope to finish reading it before I leave Madrid Tuesday morning for home. (There, undoubtedly, will be a few more very late nights sneaking in more reading than is prudent when one is walking as many miles a day as I am at present!)

I am a woman of deep faith and convictions. I don’t necessarily agree with Kingsolver’s faith world view – but there are a heck of a lot of other world views that she articulates so much similarly to my own convictions that it’s sometimes a little spooky!

I know one read will not be sufficient. I hope my husband will want to read it when I get home. I secretly (well, maybe not so much now, huh?! LOL) hope my 15-year old daughter will as well. Would the boys (ages 14 and 11) sit through reading it together aloud? Nah! Pipe dream!

I’m inspired to try some things that I’ve known in my heart that I could do, but was – well, I guess – afraid to try. My husband will likely groan aloud when he learns that I *really* wanna try making cheese. I’ve been talking about it for years. Well, darn it, I wanna try it finally!

I love the ideal of trying to eat food that is local, sustainable, and season appropriate for so many reasons. We do this to a certan extent – can we do more? We’ll see…

Anyway, it’s about time to head out and do a tour of the Prado – I’ve wanted to do this very thing for years now, and today’s the day, or so it would seem. The thundershower of earlier today has passed, the sun is peeking through, and Madrid calls…


Today John got the roosts built. He’s so smart, that husband of mine!

The big girls looked at it, but didn’t seem to know what to do with it. LOL! Knowing Henrietta as well as we do, though, we weren’t at all surprised to find that she was the first one to try it out! 🙂

The baby chicks continue to grow like crazy. I’m still amazed at the fact that they seem so much more active now that they are out in the coop. Is it more light? Or just that they’re getting a little bit older? Not sure – but they continue to be great fun.

We’re looking forward to *hopefully* some warmer weather soon so that the chicken yard can get built and then the older girls at least to start with will be able to go in and out at will during the daytime hours.

I’m trying to figure out how I’ll adjust to not having chickens to check on while I’m in Spain! I leave early morning Sunday and will be gone for slightly more than 2 weeks. I’m hoping I can talk John and/or Jessica to take photos and blog here so I can check up from Spain!