Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving's one of my favorite holidays because, up until this year (and when I'm able to attend, which isn't always), I get to see my whole family in one place at the same time. So, what was different this year? Well, because the family's increasing size, it's gotten more difficult to find a place big enough and someone crazy enough to host the party! 2013 would be the first time in my entire life that our family's Thanksgiving would happen in different places.

Regardless, Diana and I boarded the (lovely and very convenient) direct 7 1/2 hour flight from Barcelona to Philadelphia to hang with the family for Thanksgiving Week 2013:

Most of the time, when I'm writing a new story, I start by going through all the photos that I took and decide which ten-or-so are the best. I then upload the photos and basically fill in the words around the photos. It was funny this time because I noticed that about half the photos show some food and that almost all of them show us with family like this one of us a breakfast one day with my dad and sister's family:

Diana's impression of the United States is that all we do is eat. It's not completely false but it's definitely more true during the holidays. She was telling some friends last night about the trip back to the U.S. and it was "we woke up, we ate, we got in the car, we went to someone else's house, we ate, we got back in the car, we went home, we ate, then we went to sleep". Yeah, it was, in reality, something along those lines...

The famed, bigger-than-your-head, Thanksgiving turkey purchased by dad and expertly-cooked by my sister:

We spent Thanksgiving at my sister's house this year along with dad, my brother's family, and my brother-in-law's family. I don't yet know if it was a one-off or the start of a new family tradition but, either way, it was a lot of fun and, of course we ate waaaaaay too much food:

Nom, nom, nom, nom...

No separate kids' table this year. Just one big happy family:

But, Thanksgiving week wasn't just about eating, trust me, we tried. Nope, there was also copious-amounts of shopping to be had including on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S. We definitely did some damage. Diana trying on some camo at the local sporting-goods store (yes, in the U.S. you can buy a gun at the same time as some new running shoes and snowboard):

Thanksgiving weekend officially kicks off the Christmas season in the U.S. Even though stores and public places generally decorate sooner, people tend to decorate their houses and put up their Christmas trees during the weekend immediately following Thanksgiving.

I've seen some crazy Griswold-style houses over the years. One of the winners in my dad's neighborhood is this guy down the street who fills up his whole front yard with giant, inflatable Christmas statues along with lights on the house. This photo of Diana was taken the first night he decorated so it doesn't show the final results but it gives you an idea:

And, of course, Thanksgiving would never be complete without a parade. The most famous one is probably Macy's Thanksgiving Parade that takes place in New York city every year. We didn't make the trip up to NYC this year but we were lucky enough to see a smaller local version. In the area around where my dad and sister live, what seems like every fire truck, rescue vehicle, and ambulance gets dressed up with lights and form one of the coolest parades I've ever seen. It's a little boy's dream parade for sure but it seemed like everyone enjoyed it.

On our last day in town, we were invited to my cousin Bobby's tailgate party that he holds for all the home Eagles games, some Phillies games, and many other sporting events. If you've never heard of a tailgate, it's a BBQ-style party that's held in parking lots before sporting events. In this case, my cousin's is called Cav's Eagles Tailgate and he's won awards and is well-known throughout the city for one of the best. Oh, and the name Tailgate comes from the fold-down rear "door" of a pick-up truck, which is called a tailgate and is often used like a table for food and drinks during the party.

My cousin Bobby doesn't mess around. He's used to serving food in all kinds of weather to well over a few hundred people. He doesn't mess around as you can see in the photos above and below (yes, the bus above is his as is the pick-up truck and BBQ trailer below):

The reason we went wasn't for the food, though. Many of my relatives who we didn't see at Thanksgiving a couple of days before made the trip to the stadium so we could all catch up. The crowd below includes my mom's brother and sister, their spouses, and a bunch of my cousins and second cousins.

Yeah, it somewhat sucked that we couldn't all get together in one place this year but, I guess, very few of my Thanksgivings fortunately have been this way. It was still a great week and visit. We got to celebrate Thanksgiving with another part of the family for a change, and I have a feeling that the separate-settings thing isn't a permanent fixture. I predict, okay, maybe I hope that we'll all be together again next Thanksgiving. Stay tuned...

(Some past Thanksgiving stories, if you're interested: 2010, 2011, and 2012.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

48 Hour Open House Barcelona 2013 - Day 2

Day two of the 2013 48 Hour Open House Barcelona wasn't nearly as exciting as the first day but I wanted to do a quick story about it because we got to visit another Gaudi building. This one, The Colegio Teresiano (Teresa School), is not easily accessible to the public so it was on our must-tour list.

Much like his more famous work, the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi was brought in to the project part way through and was able to put his stamp on the work. Gaudi designed the building to be austere, in deference to the vow of austerity practiced by the sisters, but it's pretty damn fancy compared to most school buildings. Gotta' love the wrought iron gate:

He used his signature catenary aches and a raw (austere) brick theme throughout:

The highlight of the modernist building is probably this area, which is similar in design to the top floor of Casa Batllo where catenary arches are the design theme:

Our other stop on day two was at the Palau Baro de Quadras, which, like the Palau Guell, is another modernist building originally built as a private residence:

The palau is another work by Catalan architect, and Gaudi contemporary, Puig i Cadalfalch. The building is designed with two facades, the one on Avenida Diagonal (shown above), which was used by the family and is more showy, and the the second more plain one, which faces a smaller street and was used by people who rented apartments in the building. Cadalfalch designed it with a northern-European-castle feel and there are some similarities with other works of his such as sculptures built into the facade like you find at Casa Amatller.

Like I said, day two wasn't quite as exciting as day one but the chance to see any Gaudi building is something to be taken advantage of. We'll definitely be back next year and can't wait!