one step at a time…

spain: nativity scenes

Since early days of Christianity, representations of the birth of Jesus appeared all around the Mediterranean. But on Christmas Eve of 1223 a new trend began which has endured to the present: St. Francis of Assisi placed an empty manger with a donkey & an ox —combining imagery from the Gospel of Luke & the Book of Isaiah— inside a cave in central Italy. After Mass, St. Francis told of the coming of Christ to an awestruck crowd. They could finally see & experience what had only been words before! Soon people began to portray Biblical figures as actors, & a more practical version with figurines carved of wood or sculpted from terracotta developed in time. From these medieval Italian origins, the Nativity scene would become popular centuries later in Spain…

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recipe: bacalhau espiritual

recipe, Portugal, cod, bacalhau espiritual

Surprisingly versatile, bacalhau deserves its spotlight in Portuguese cuisine… although I’ve grown tired of the cliché that there are 365 salt cod recipes, one for each day of the year. Why be so trite about such an amazing & versatile ingredient? This cod recipe has a more dignified beginning than most: a royal crowdpleaser based on the French brandade de morue spread. A rich, creamy bechamel combined with the sweetness of onions & carrots tastes divine, so the dish lives up to its heavenly name.

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recipe: sopa de ajo

recipe, sopa de ajo

One of the joys of traditional Spanish cooking is that nothing goes to waste. Soups, in particular, take basic leftovers & spruce them up with fresh ingredients. Gazpacho is the perfect summer example while sopa de ajo (garlic soup) adds warmth to the first cool days of autumn. Tasty & hearty, this filling soup is a perfect way to use extra bread & jamón we often have on hand at home.

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personal: places lived 12

places lived, Spain, Sevilla, 2016 to present

As I wondered if Seattle would be financially feasible in the long run, I met Rafael between work assignments in Spain. We shared similar interests & even the same profession… not to mention Rafa is one of the kindest people I know. Visiting me in Seattle in 2016, Rafa learned that his father wanted to sell the family apartment in Sevilla. Suddenly he was looking for a place to live & so was I. Although I’d never considered living in Sevilla before meeting Rafa, the universe steered me to Andalucía once again.

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personal: places lived 11

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places lived, Seattle, 2015-2016

A return to the US made the most sense after a quick departure from Argentina. Sure, I could have gone back to Memphis… or even tried my luck in a new city. But the majority my friends lived in Seattle, & that’s what I needed most. Familiar faces, familiar territory, a sense of comfort. Several burning questions begged to be answered though: How do I afford Seattle? After not owning one for 20 years, do I break down & get a car? How do I navigate the health insurance system? How long do I stay? I knew I’d figure things out, but first I had to decide where to live.

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places lived, Argentina, 2013-2014, Esquel

Moving to Patagonia had been in the air for a long time but became reality in 2013. With one of few airports in the south, I could make it to Europe for work without too much fuss. Plus I’d already spent a lot of time in Esquel, so I knew what to expect. Although I had doubts about living in such a small city —population around 46,000 people— I dreamt of summers that weren’t insanely hot & humid, seeing the occasional snowfall each winter & having a view of the foothills of the Andes. A lower cost of living proved to be another benefit, as did a break from all the politics of Buenos Aires. Let’s head down to -43º latitude!

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places lived, 2009-2013, Argentina, Buenos Aires

Back in BA, some big decisions had to be made. What neighborhood to live in? Would I have much work in Europe? How do I pick an apartment when my income was anything but certain? The global tourism decline of 2009 had everyone in the industry second-guessing, including me. I toyed with the idea of producing my Buenos Aires guides as quickly as possible then moving to Lisbon, but that would be expensive. Luckily with the help of friends, I weathered the storm.

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places lived, 2008-2009, Australia

Remember Susan from Seattle? She made an international move too, not long after I left for Buenos Aires. Sooz also fell in love & went south, but on the other side of the Pacific to Sydney. I’d visited once before although never saw myself living in Australia until a mini-personal crisis had me searching for inspiration. Buenos Aires had become increasingly politicized, things I’d grown to love about the city were disappearing fast, planning for the future seemed unstable, good friends moved away, & I couldn’t get past a creative block to design my own guidebooks. Susan steps in with an offer I couldn’t refuse: live with her & Sybil in Sydney to get back on track.

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places lived, 2000-2008, Argentina

What’s new, Buenos Aires? That would be me! I’d spent a month earlier in the year getting to know the city & other places in the region as well. I’m still not sure what went through my head: selling most of my possessions, storing a few boxes in Laura & Dan’s garage, getting a new job with Rick Steves in Europe & flying half-way across the world with only four suitcases. But my experience in Cádiz gave me confidence that an international move is possible, even though sacrifices have to be made. After a fitful start, I not only fell in love with Buenos Aires but became obsessed about exploring the city.

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places lived, 1999-2000, USA

As the end of the millennium approached, I found myself in a tricky situation: temporarily homeless & without a job. No worries. I had plenty of options but needed time to figure things out. I returned to my mother’s apartment in Memphis, slept on the couch & occasionally borrowed her car when I needed a bit of breathing room. Mom also got me a temp job… at the same company where she worked & reporting directly to her. A crazy situation, for sure, but she really helped me out. When I could return to Seattle, I had a lot of decisions to make…

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