Playing baseball without a bat.

MicroblogMondays: Thankful

At our Thanksgiving celebration on Saturday with my expat moms’ group, we all went around the table and said what we’re thankful for. I was feeling thankful to be among friends with whom I didn’t feel embarrassed about how terribly my kids were behaving. A true gift, indeed.


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Knee Woes

I’m feeling frustrated today, really frustrated. With my body, again. Although this time at least it’s not my reproductive organs that are pissing me off. Nope, it’s my knee.

I’ve been working out regularly for a while now, and have been doing a fairly intense 8-week bootcamp-type program since getting back from vacation, so I’m 3.5 weeks in. The workouts are typically around 40-45 minutes long, 6 days/week, and each week includes 2-3 days of HIIT, complimented by other cardio and free weight strength training. There is a lot of jumping, squats and lunges (plus jumping squats and jumping lunges – fun times!), so obviously the plan is not particularly easy on my knees. However, I’ve been relatively active for the better part of the past year and a half or so, including a good bit of running, etc., and haven’t noticed any issues in my knees (even in my “bad” one, and, BTW, the current pain is on my “good” side).

Suddenly yesterday evening I got up from the couch and my knee hurt. A lot. I iced it last night and hoped by morning it would be better. No dice. I skipped my morning workout today, and I’m icing. I think I’m doing what I need to, but I’m just so bummed out. Exercise has been going so well for me and I’ve really gotten into the groove (no weight loss to speak of which sucks, but I see some body shape differences). I HATE to stop now, even if it’s temporary. But I also know that I really need to be aware of resting now so as not to be worse off down the road.

Anyway, I have an appointment with an orthopedist tomorrow, so hopefully I will get some answers then. In the meantime, I know that a lot of you out there are on top of this whole fitness game and I could really use some suggestions (I know you’re not doctors and I will of course run everything by my doctor anyway):

  • Should I stop all activity until the pain disappears completely?
  • Can I continue dedicated core and upper body work that doesn’t involve moving my legs?
  • Can I do lower-body stuff that does use my legs but doesn’t involve stressors like squats and lunges?
  • Would a knee support strap maybe help?

MicroblogMondays: Gardening

Our garden is growing!


The fresh lettuce, chard and cilantro from this weekend’s harvest will be enjoyed all week.


And somebody can barely contain the pride she felt when picking stalks off “her” plants.


This urban garden thing is amazing.


Finally a MicroblogMonday post that’s actually micro!

Reno Tales: The Big Picture

We’ve had a busy and exciting week over here in Madrid. Tuesday we finally closed on the purchase of our new home and it’s exhilarating, surreal, stressful, scary and wonderful! There were a few moments over the course of the past couple months (we went under contract mid-September) and even, in fact, the day of closing, when we weren’t sure it was going to happen. But in the end it did! And now the fun, and hard work, begins!

As I mentioned before, the home needs quite a bit of work and our plan is to get everything done prior to moving in. It won’t be easy, as we’ll be paying rent plus our mortgage, but it’s hopefully (fingers and toes crossed!!) just two months of double payments.

Tuesday afternoon we had a marathon session of contractor visits, 4 in all, in an effort to find the best person for the work. We expect bids back early next week and, if all goes well, work can begin the following week! The contractors run the gamut from big companies with architects and structural engineers on staff down to smaller builders with a single crew, so we hope to cover all our bases.

A good friend and old coworker of mine told me not to tell the contractors that I’m a civil engineer, as they then tend to hike their prices up, expecting a difficult client! Ha! I’m not sure how difficult I’ll end up being, but it’s perhaps true that I’ve got a closer idea of scope and schedule than a non-engineer might have. I’ve already got the plans drawn up in AutoCAD and my excel spreadsheet with the unit prices I’ve managed to pull. We’ll see how close I come to the real deal when we get the bids back!

In the meantime, since this is pretty much all I think about these days (and because I love looking at plans in my spare time), I figured I’d let you guys in on our plans as well. So, here it is: the big reno plan!whole house plan

House-wide projects

  • Remove stippling/artex from walls and ceilings; remove cork panels from 3 bedrooms, remove mirrors.
    • There’s a very typical Spanish stucco treatment called gotelé, which is basically a stippling of plaster on the walls/ceilings. It’s not unlike popcorn ceiling, except it’s a stronger, more cement-like material (and thus really labor-intensive to remove) and it’s not just the ceilings. It supposedly hides flaws, so it’s possible we’ll find some unevenness when we remove it, but OH how I HATE it. And I cannot WAIT to get it off. Also, for some reason the previous owners (who’d had the home for at least 40 years) put up cork panels all over the walls in three of the rooms. It’s like extra heavy-duty, crumbly, ugly wallpaper. So, yeah, that’s got to go as well. And there are floor-ceiling mirrors in the entrance, the old living room, and on Andy’s closet – again, they’ll go.

Old living room, complete with mirrored walls.

  • Sand and refinish hardwood floors throughout.
    • The floors are solid oak parquet and still have a lot of life left in them, but there are a number of stains as well as some loose boards that need to be replaced. In conjunction with this we’ll replace all the baseboards.
  • Refinish interior doors and frames as well as closet doors and fronts.
    • Right now the interior cabinetry is all a mid-tone wood finish. Stan would really like to have it all refinished in white. I’m split on the matter. I’d love for the closets to be white for sure, but I don’t dislike the wood doors and frames. This would be one of the first things to go when we have to cut back on scope due to the budget, I’m certain.

Master Bedroom – Cork panels!! And dark closet.

Living Room

  • To create a living room that looks onto the front terrace we’ll combine the two front bedrooms, knocking down the dividing wall between then as well as one of the walls out to the hallway. I’m adamant that I want to maintain some time of entrance way – personally I dislike entering immediately into a living room – so we’ll close up the one doorway and create a little hall with storage.
  • These two bedrooms have slightly dropped ceilings, probably to cover structural beams as almost none of the interior walls in the home are structural. So we’ll punch a hole in the ceiling to take a look around, then likely remove the drop ceilings and frame out just the beams as needed. The hallway has a higher ceiling so we’ll make sure it’s all level. The home has some beautiful ceiling moldings that we’ll replace once the ceiling work is done.
  • Together with the living room redo we’ll relocate the radiators and replace them with low-profile units along the exterior wall. This room is also the only one in the home without A/C so we’ll add a unit.


  • Raise the drop ceiling in the same fashion as the future living room area. Here we’re also going to add LED pot lights along the length. The hallway is seriously dark and depressing as it is, so I’m particularly excited for a new, bright, warm hallway. It’s the little things, right?

Main bathroom

  • Both bathrooms were actually redone within the past couple of years so they’re in good shape. They’re not really my style, but that’s hardly a reason to redo them at this juncture considering they’re quite nice. We will, however, add a bathtub to the main bathroom. I’m a bath-girl myself, so it’s a non-issue, but it’s also much better for the kiddos.

Sofia’s closet

  • The room that will most likely be Sofia’s has a massive built-in wardrobe/closet/shelving unit. It’s great for storage but I honestly think it’s way too big for the room (which isn’t large at all). Also, the home itself has plenty of storage (including a small room-sized basement storage unit) so I don’t mind losing some of the storage in here so that she can have a more functional space. We’re looking at removing the closet entirely and doing either a standing wardrobe or a smaller built-in (my preference). Again, this isn’t a must-do immediately item, so it may get dropped from the list.

Sofia’s super slick and shiny closet.


Complete gut job, as I’ve mentioned previously. Can. Not. Wait.

That’s about all we have planned. There are more things I’d like to do down the road, like upgrade all of the windows and replace the doors to the terrace with something more inviting, maybe even add a second door out… And maybe someday Stan and I could add an en-suite to the old living room and move in there for a much larger and nicer master suite. But for now, we’ve got enough on our plate (and not enough in our wallet)!!

MicroblogMondays: Sweet

As an update to last week’s post, Andy has weaned off the boob. Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions for my nursing woes. I was using lanolin and an amazing home-made lotion, but neither was much help. In the end I cut down on some of the nursing sessions to allow time to heal; he responded by losing all interest. All things considered it was a peaceful and easy weaning. And it happened before I really knew it, which is good I guess.

But it’s bittersweet.

Unlike these incredible white chocolate-cranberry cookies we made over the weekend, which are, indeed, all sweet. Or rather, sweet with some tart, in just the right ratio (almost like the guy eating them!).

You gotta EAT to get a figure like this!

You gotta EAT to get a figure like this!

We’re trying out some recipes in advance of my expat moms’ Christmas cookie swap, but given the fact that I’m off all added sugar, my coworkers and the kids have hit the jackpot (not really on the kid front, but I did certainly let them have a taste or two)! Anybody have any amazing cookie recipes we should try? Next on my list are cherry snowballs and then Christmas pinwheels.


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MicroblogMondays: Nipple Woes 

Ugh, seriously. 

The title says it all (and if it wasn’t obvious, TMI warning). I’ve been incredibly blessed when it comes to breastfeeding both of my children. My biggest complaints were early engorgement and over supply, neither of which was particularly bothersome. Sofia weaned on her own around 18 months. I was hoping Andy would do the same (although it seemed unlikely), but regardless I was committed to following his lead. Until now.

Andy and I almost 21 months into our breastfeeding experience (now just twice a day) and I’m dealing with cracked and sore nipples (cracks are on both sides, around the base of the nipples). It started a week or so ago, only on the left side, which is where we always start nursing. So I switched and started starting (ha!) on the right. Now righty has the same problem. I think the root issue might be a majorly slow let down (it’s slowed major in the last couple weeks) as he lets his latch get lazier until the milk starts coming… but I’m not certain. I don’t really want to wean (I’ve skipped nursing him a few times to let things rest/heal and it’s a major cry-fest for him) but the pain is bad and I’m worried about an infection for me… Thoughts??


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Reno Tales: The Kitchen

I might make these “Reno Tales” a regular part of my blog for the time being, since it’s foremost among my worries/concerns/thoughts right now. Would that be interesting?


As I’ve mentioned, Stan and I are working on the purchase of our first home here in Spain. It’s exciting and scary and wonderful and stressful. It’s not been a smooth road, to say the least, but it looks like everything is getting cleared (there was a lien put on the property after we made our offer, among other issues that have popped up) and we hope to close the purchase within the next 2 weeks (currently the closing is scheduled for November 17).

The flat we found checks all of our major boxes, particularly in terms of size (~1,600SF), location (10 minute walk from school, 5 minutes from the park), bathrooms (2), outdoor space (170SF terrace) and of course price. It needs some TLC, but we’re okay with that as well, and are actually excited to create the home that we really want and will love.

Primary among the things we’re doing is a complete gut of the kitchen.


Yeah, it’s ugly.

I am SO excited about that, as I detest the kitchen we have in our rental, I really enjoy cooking and baking, and I can’t wait to have a kitchen made just for ME. So we’re working with a contractor who will do all of the reno (not just the kitchen) and he’ll do a full kitchen design (though I don’t think he specializes in kitchens). I’ve already done a preliminary design of what I think I want in the kitchen (because I work in construction, have drafting software on my computer, and am crazy like that and think it’s fun), and am excited to be able to incorporate some of the many things on my wish list:

  • Wall-mounted oven and microwave
  • Big, wide drawers for pots and pans instead of cabinets with shelves
  • A dryer!! (So rare in Spain, but I want one for sheets, towels, etc. and for the rainy and colder months!)
  • A garbage disposal (probably – again, really rare in Spain, but once you have one it’s annoying not to!)
  • Pantry (not a separate room, but a big closet)

There are, however, a few things that I’m not totally decided on. And I figured why not ask you guys your thoughts on the matter (plus I know that at least a few of you know lots about construction!) Now, mind you, these are random and small-potatoes in some cases, but I enjoy a good crowd-sourcing as much as the next person, so… here’s my (current) list of kitchen questions.

  • How big is your sink? Divided or just one “bowl?” I’m pretty sure I want one, good-sized sink with no divider. Width is probably in the 55cm (22”) range which I think is really standard (my current sink is TINY). Anybody have enamel sinks? Is the upkeep a pain?
  • Similarly, anyone have butcher block counters? How’s the upkeep on that?
  • Talk to me about trash. I’m looking at pull-out trash cans and wondering if they’re worth it. Will I find the extra step of pulling out the can annoying when I’m cooking? The one I like doesn’t have the lid so that’s one less step to worry about (as if you actually worry about how complicated your trash disposal process is, right?).
  • In the line of the previous question, I’m looking at some cabinets that have inner drawers, specifically for silverware and knives. I very much like the idea of the knives being an extra step away from grabby hands, but will I find it annoying that I need to open two drawers (or a door and a drawer) when I need a knife?

Can you see the two smaller drawers inside the big top one?

  • I was going to ask about French door fridges, because that’s what I thought I wanted, but I’ve since decided that our kitchen (although a good size for an apartment in Madrid) isn’t really big enough to warrant such a huge appliance. So instead I’ve chosen this one (in my head, not yet purchased). I really do think I want a drawer freezer (like this one) but I haven’t ever had one, so is there anything I’m not considering?


  • I also think I want to do under-cabinet lighting. Without an island or anything, all of my prep work is done with my back to the lights, so I constantly work/chop/etc. in shadow. Anyone have this?
  • Any other thoughts on kitchens and kitchen renos?

This weekend Stan and I are leaving the kids with my in-laws for a few hours while we go scope out some kitchen and bath details at a couple of the big stores (IKEA, of course, and a Home Depot type place). These are big decisions to make, so picture me lounging in bath tubs and opening countless cabinets and drawers. With great power comes great responsibility! ;)


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