Signs it’s not you. It’s THEM!

santa sign

family sign

organization sign (I love this one)

crazy sign Kinda says it all, huh?

Merry last week of school before the kids have winter break!


So, Anyway… Yo Hablo Espanol

Spanish sign

I haven’t been keeping secrets, but the fact that I’m bilingual just has never come up yet.  Although I’m from Minnesota, you may have noticed that the “Calva” part of “Calva-Despard” is not exactly Norwegian bred…

It’s Mexican.  My dad’s name is Jose Ruben Calva Pellicer.  See?  Mexican.  He doesn’t look like he’s going to rest up against a saguaro cactus draped in a sarape, but my dad is the eighth child of his Roman-Catholic Mexican family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico two years before he was born.

I won’t go into the long, loooong, story of how we didn’t exactly speak Spanish in my home growing up (as my mother doesn’t speak it) but I heard it a lot, studied it in school and then finally attended a year of college at the Universidad de Costa Rica where I sink-or-swim perfected my espanol.  (Sign up for a few courses where you have to write college term papers/make oral presentations in Spanish–it’s very motivating!)

Besides learning to dance Salsa, and make banana leaf tamales, Costa Rica was where I fell deeply, deeply in love with beautiful fresh what-is-the-name-of-that-gorgeous-thing produce.

I’ve traveled throughout the entire country of Mexico, visiting family and just generally checking things out.  Once I spent three months zig-zagging from the west to east Mexico.  I visited relatives I hadn’t seen in years and even met up with third cousins of my dad’s sister-in-law-kinda-type-relatives which sounds like a stretch by American standards, but in Mexico we were familia.

I also lived and worked in Madrid, Spain for five months.  In Madrid I learned that there’s no such thing as too much red wine or guests at the dinner table, and that fried calamari sandwiches are the perfect hangover remedy.  I acquired the most eloquent vocabulary of curse words and realized that I like the tropics a lot :), and that big city life is not my thing.  (I also discovered that the word for “mushrooms” in Latin America only refers to unwanted fungus in Spain, but that’s a whole other story… )

English sign

Like most homes, my mother’s culture is the one that defined most of my upbringing, but I’m equally proud of all my heritage.  It was my Mexican heart that pushed me on these rewarding adventures, spurred my interest in becoming a bilingual teacher, and opened my palette to a world of culinary delights.

Today I appreciate living in a place where I hear Spanish, English and a boatload of other languages on a regular basis.  And get out’a here with your multicultural food scene, Los Angeles County!  Baby, I’m home.

My kitchen decor (so that’s why she has blue cabinets…) is a reflection of my language influences, a celebration of melding many cultural practices and love of kickin’ it in the kitchen.  Round here we speak English and Spanish, enjoy a table full of friends and family and eat foods from as many places as I can get my hands on (and are always on the prowl for more.)  Our tongues want to taste it all!

Kids' art

Si quiere, manda me una nota en espanol un dia y podemos charlar!

New Year’s Eve–Family Style!

ny eve

Since having my first child almost nine years ago, I haven’t had much desire to stay up till midnight.  I’ve been awake at midnight, of course, many times–but rarely for, uh, “partying” purposes.

It took Mike and me a few years to realize that with a little creativity, the fun of welcoming the new year could still be enjoyed by people who like to collapse into bed long before the Cinderella lost her slipper…

Five years ago we hosted a New Year’s Eve countdown party–and counted down with Brazil.  Why?  Because when it’s midnight in Brazil it’s 7:00 pm in California!  We invited some other friends and family–many with young children and babies like us–to a pot-luck soup and sandwich party.   None of us was in a stage of life where we wanted to throw a big party single-handedly, but together we could combine efforts and put on quite a spread.

That year we decorated our house with Brazilian flags and colors. Then, at 7:00 pm local time we all gathered together and counted down to “midnight” (thanks to the help of our computer) when we cheered, kissed and blew our blowers and yelled “Feliz Ano Novo!” in Portuguese of course!  And then, thanks to our Brazilian time-line, everyone got to bed before the kids (and adults!) turned into pumpkins.

By the third year we’d moved to Puerto Rico, which celebrates at 8:00 local time.  Puerto Rican flags and colors adorned our home as we all cheered “Feliz Ano Nuevo” in Spanish together.

I had thought that by this year we’d be celebrating with New York, which is 9:00 pm locally.  Only problem is that our list of guests has grown so darn much that we actually had to move the celebrating further east–with England at 4:00 pm local time!–so we can be outside and enjoy the December Pasadena-day-time weather which should be in the low sixties  (please, please, please!) this afternoon.  The nights turn chilly and unfortunately I cannot fit 60+ people (including roughly 40 kids) inside my house for very long!

It is Monday, December 31st, 2012 and soon my stove top and counter will be a gorgeous pot-luck buffet of fabuloso homemade soups which we will sample and sip until our hearts and bellies are full.  I sincerely hope our afternoon indoor/outdoor gig works out so we can invite even more friends next time.

By the time many Californian’s will be ringing in the new year, my family and many friends will already be dreaming of confetti, blow horns and hangovers, and the very-awesome-and-just-a-bit-ahead-of schedule New Year’s Eve party we all celebrated together!

The Art of Soup

“A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.” –Abraham Maslow

I love soup!  I look forward to cooler weather (my Minnesota friends are laughing right now) so that I can make soup, soup, soup!  I actually make soup year round, although my husband does start to complain when the ambient temperature gets above 85 degrees or so.

What’s so great about soup?  Well, it’s delicious of course.  It’s also full of possibilities.  I can’t think of another food item that can be as versatile or played around with more than soup.  I have some great soup recipes, but quite honestly my favorite way to make it is something I call “Refrigerator Soup.”  I love (read: LOVE) to poke around my fridge (or yours if you invite me over…) and chop up whatever I find, simmer it, add a broth and a bunch of other stuff and call it soup.

Click on my recipe page and check out my family’s recipe for lentil soup, which is already pictured there.  This soup is easy and quick to make, and it’s possible to have all the ingredients on hand so you can whip it up whenever. 

One suggestion: the recipe portions are small.  Tiny.  Miniscule.  I never, ever, ever make small portions of anything I cook, especially soup.  Soups more than anything else only get better after they’ve been cooked, frozen and then reheated.  I recommend at least doubling this recipe or, if you’re a nut-job like me, quadruple it or even more.

Oh!  And I almost forgot: if you’d like to make a comment to my posts (please, please, please) just click on the word bubble.  And if you want to get email updates every time I reach out and try to touch the world, please click on the new widget Noeleen set up for me.  We’re hoping it will work!