Sunday, November 16, 2014

Street Art in Barcelona 2014

Barcelona, Spain
2014 - in the Old City

The power of the word

For the last few months this poster has been popping up around the old city.
Barcelona, Spain


Thursday, May 22, 2014


This celiac's dream: home fries, grilled burgers and a gluten free bun
Gracia, Barcelona, Spain

I have good news for the gluten free crowd of Barcelona. Hamburgers are back on the menu! Not soyburgers, or bunless beef patties, but bonafide high-grade, 200 gram beef burgers with your choice of creative accompaniments and a fresh, gluten free bun.

Ever since I was diagnosed with Celiac disease some 6 years ago, I have steered clear of guilty pleasures such as hamburgers and french fries. Why? As many of my fellow celiacs already know, most frozen french fries carry gluten in the form of wheat fillers. As far as burgers go, it's difficult to marry creative additions such as portobello mushrooms and gouda cheese to a burger without a bun.

Not any more. Thanks to La Vespa Burger, where they make celiacs feel civilized again by offering an artisan style, wheat-free bun with all of their burger choices, the decadent among us can give our tastebuds full range of the menu. Gourmet options such as the MACA burger, which offers a juicy 250 gram  Angus beef pattie topped with foie gras, arugula, and a chardonnay salsa can be had for about 9 euros, while typical fare, which means a 200 gram char-grilled, high grade beef burger with the fixings, will run around 7. The menu del dia, which includes a burger of your choice, crunchy homemade fries (truly light and wonderful going down!) and a drink is a good deal at 9.50 euros.

I have never seen this before!
Coverted motorcycle helmet light fixture 

Creative, Vespa inspired decor adds personality and Italian flair to La Vespa Burger Bar

The restaurant's theme, as you may have guessed, is built around the Vespa. Run by two Italian transplants, La Vespa Burger is decorated in a casual, irreverant style that pays homage to the iconic scooter and it's role in European city life. There are black and white photos on the walls, pendant lamps fashioned out of old motorcycle helmets and bookcases made out of halved chairs and even halved Vespas.

After savoring my first homemade hamburger in many years, I left the restaurant full and with a smile on my face. The Clasica burger hit the spot and the lightly salted, perfectly crispy home-cut fries were to die for.

There's more. Although the place is small and sometimes very crowded, the service was quick and attentive. For what more can you ask, here in BCN? Check it out celiacs. If you are craving a taste of the "free for all" past, you won't be disappointed.

La Vespa Burger Bar
Homemade hamburgers from the grill
Torrent de l'Olla 99
Lower Gracia
Barcelona, Spain
€ 11

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dragon Doorknocker: Make an Impression

A friend of mine took this pic while wandering around the streets of Barcelona the other day. Fans of door knockers and other exquisite hardware for homes, this one´s for you!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Winter in Barcelona: How to Keep the Cold at Bay

Though I live in sunny Barcelona, I still suffer from the cold during wintertime. For all of you Chicagoans out there shaking your heads in disbelief and poo-pooing the idea of ¨winter¨ in Spain, may I remind you that it is the most mountainous country in Europe? In addition, most of the homes here are old and built of STONE. Luxuries, such as central air and forced heat, are virtually nonexistent.

Putting Cold in Perspective
Still think I´m being soft? Let me ask you this. Have you ever set your bare foot on the ceramic floor of an unheated bathroom during the dead of a Chicago winter?

If so, you know how shocking and unpleasant that experience can be, not just because of the layer of skin you left behind as you hightailed it out of the bathroom, but also because your mom, or your kid, heard you curse like a truckdriver for the first time.

Now imagine that ceramic floor also covers your walls, your ceilings and your roof and you´ll begin to understand the kind of cold I have in mind. Houses here are like iceboxes which is great during June but hardly ideal during December. Trust me when I say, its the cold inside, not the cold outside, that is the problem during wintertime in Barcelona .

Coping Mechanisms
Now that we are all on  the same page - one that reads ¨LISA IS NOT A WIMP¨ - you may be wondering how we without central air manage from mid-November thru the end of February. Some of us modify our indoor movements. Small steps and gestures are less likely to dislodge a blanket when sported in the style of a toasty but constrictive mummy wrap. Others run-up astronomical electricity bills with space heaters. But the smart people, the really really smart people, eat a LOT of hot soup. Cradling a hot bowl of soup in one´s hands on a cold day is one of life´s little pleasures.  Actually eating the soup raises body temperature.

Right now, my soup of choice is butternut squash.  This squash tastes great, is in season and is healthful to boot. Foodies be advised, I am both gluten and lactose intolerant, so you won´t find any cream or butter in my recipe. 

I must confess, I use the word ¨my¨ loosely as this recipe is a combination of ingredients that I liked from a slew of recipes found on .That said, IT ROCKS!!! Full of flavor, it balances the sweetness of squash and the tartness of green apple perfectly. Hope you enjoy it and stay warm everyone!!

1 butternut squash, medium size
32 oz chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
1 onion
2 stalks celery
1 granny smith apple
1 carrot
1 potato
Half a tablespoon of honey
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bake butternut squash in oven at 350 until partially cooked (just until it becomes easy to remove the skin). You can bake it whole and just partially, as I do. If you prefer a roasted flavor, you can split the squash in half and roast it, cut side down on a cookie sheet, until tender.  
  2. Chop onion, celery, and apple. Saute onion and celery in oil for 2 minutes, then add apple and saute for 3 or 4 more minutes (until onions start to become translucent) and apples are a bit tender. Set aside. 
  3. Peel and cut squash into bite size pieces. Chop carrot and potato. Add these ingredients, along with the chicken broth and the apple mixture to a stockpot and bring just to a boil. Add honey and stir. Add pepper and salt to taste and then lower the heat and simmer until vegetables are tender. Stir regularly.
  4. Remove from heat and puree in batches until smooth. 
  5. Return entire mixture to stove and warm just enough to heat through. 
  6. Serve immediately. As you can see by the photo, I garnished each bowl of soup with sprig of parsley. In hindsight, I wouldn´t advise this as the flavors weren´t right. Garnish with a slice of apple, or some crushed walnuts instead.  
The humble but tasty butternut squash

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

20 Quotes By Cool Women

I was looking for some inspiration today and I came across these quotes online. OK.Wait a minute. THAT is a big, fat lie!

Actually, I was thinking about ways in which to increase traffic on this blog. Let me qualify that statement. I was thinking about REALLY EASY ways to increase traffic on this blog, you know, ways that wouldn´t require much reading, research, IT knowledge, or time.

Yes all. I am trying to circumvent the system, find a shortcut, get all the glory without doing any of the work and that is just unfair, which is probably why this little gambit won´t work - at least as far as increasing blog traffic is concerned. Ironically, it will make me feel as though I´ve done something productive. I mean, who is to say that pinning all of these quotes, via my newly discovered pinterest button, won´t open the floodgates to traffic that neither you or I can control?

Motives aside, the long and the short of it is that I did spend well over an hour collecting content, so I´m going to share it with all of you imaginary, but very lucky readers out there.

The subject? Women. The topic? Puns and words of wisdom for women ... and any man worth their time. Enjoy!!!

And now, here are four originals by yours truly, courtesy of cool website!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sagrada Familia, Vladamir Kush and Discovery

Measure of Greatness
Vladimir Kush
So, as I was looking into prices and times for the tours of Sagrada Familia, this image of the church popped up online. Called Measure of Greatness, it is by Russian oil painter and sculptor, Vladamir Kush. I liked it immediately and took note of his name, intending to look into his work later.

Having done that, here is what I learned. Mr. Kush was born in 1965 in Moscow. He emigrated to the United States and set up home in Hawaii, (lucky S.O.B). He refers to himself as a metaphorical realist and counts, Dali, Bosch and Caspar David Froedrich among his primary influences. 

I feel lucky to have discovered him. I like his style, even though the composition of some of his works puzzles me in ways I can´t quite nail down (see ship picture below, for instance). Other works blow me away. For instance, the last painting shown here is just perfect in every way. Check him out and let me know what you think. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Sagrada Familia: First Impressions

Sagrada Familia, Interior Ceiling

Barcelona, Spain

My little, or rather, younger brother was in town from the 6th to the 11th of March and like a good sister, I tried to show him the sights. I had been to Sagrada Familia before, but it was on an overcast, rainy day on which I remember thinking, ¨What a shame. This place must be truly mind-blowing when the sun is shining.¨

Don´t get me wrong. Sun or no sun, the interior of the building was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was fantastical and revolutionary, but also just a wee bit gray.

So when my brother told me he wanted to see it, but that he had heard from some the interior wasn´t worth the money, I piped in to disagree. ¨That´s probably because those people saw it on an overcast day,¨ I said. ¨Or because the interior was under major construction at the time,¨ my roommate added.

With the pressure to impress on, I was determined to plan the timing of our visit correctly and it was worth the extra effort. The day was bright, the sun bright and overhead and as we entered the lobby of the church it was impossible to miss the difference it made to have the full force of that sun in play. Riotous shafts of color streamed through the windows and bounced off pillars, arches and walls,  giving the basilica an otherworldly air of sacrosanct warmth. The entire interior worked as one in celebration of the mysterious, the weird and the organic.

The vertical thrust of the building was, quite literally, palpable. A body alive, it strained upwards, like a huge, sun-thirsty plant, to unfurl leaves and blossoms across the ceiling of the nave. My brother, who stood next to me, was in a state of quiet awe. His silence lasted for more than a minute as he took it all in.

¨Wow,¨ he said eventually, ¨so THIS is what happens when you let someone talented run with their imagination. The Spanish should be proud of themselves.¨

I smiled and nodded in agreement.

Wow, indeed.

Tips for tourists to Barcelona: See Sagrada Familia on a SUNNY day, book your tower tickets in advance as they sell out, and don't forget to check for free entry for mass on some Sundays.  

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The Sagrada Familia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is slated for completion around 2026