The other day the boys and I had some time to kill so we headed to Ikea. I love going to Ikea! All over the world they are exactly the same from the big boxy beflagged building to the meatballs in the cafeteria. The only regional difference I have EVER found is that the Ikea in Switzerland has over-the-door hanging coat racks that have been especially adapted for the abnormally thin tops of Swiss doors. Other than that they are all just the same and this is exactly how I like it.
It may seem odd that I am saying this since for many years now. I have purposely chosen to live a very multicultural life. I love seeing how varying cultures experience the world differently and in general, I lament the process of globalization. The one glaring blue and yellow exception is Ikea and this is for purely personal and selfish reasons.
Basically it is just really nice to have one place to go where I know exactly what to expect. Nobody will come up and ask me questions I don’t understand (because an Ikea salesperson would be more likely to duck inside the nearest modular particle board closet than to come up and ask if you need anything), nobody will offer me food I don’t recognize, and the only surprises I get will be of the small pleasant variety rather than the large exciting but disconcerting kind. Perhaps a new line of vegetable peelers or an innovative way to store scarves. I’m not saying I’d want to hang out there every day but every so often (excluding Saturdays because that is truly a Swedish nightmare), I find it a relaxing escape from daily life in Spain.
One problem I do have with a trip to Ikea is that because we don’t have a car, it is a pain in the ass to get there. To top it off, invariably when I go, immediately afterwards I find out that someone I know with a car had just gone the day before or is planning to go the following day. This last trip was the worst though. As we headed out the door of our building, a mother from Luca’s nursery gave me a jaunty wave as she drove by in her car. Two trains, a funicular ride and a bus later (approximately 1.5 hrs), we walked into Ikea and guess who the first person we saw was? Just guess? I am thinking of getting myself a series of t-shirts printed to wear for pre, during and post-Ikea trips. One will say “I want to go to Ikea!”, The next will say “On my way to Ikea!” and the last will say “If you just went to Ikea, don’t tell me about it.”
Despite the transportational challenges, we managed to have a fun day although I was horrified to see that in about five more minutes, Nico is going to be too tall to enter the free childcare play center. This hardly seems fair since Luca is going to be old enough to enter in just a few more months. Why did no one mention this to me when I was planning the age spacing of my children? Nico enjoyed his lunch and declared that he was used to the food since he had once lived in Sweden. I’m sure the Swiss will be happy to hear that their country left such an impression.
The only thing I am not at all pleased with about the day was that Luca found an attachment object which he now insists on taking everywhere with him. Up until now, his two main sources of comfort have been his fingers (for sucking) and his hair (for patting and stroking while sucking). This meant that unless I shaved his head or signed him up for a toddler’s carpentry course, there would be no chance of any tragic losses. Now, however, we have “Daton” (Luca’s version of raton which means mouse in Spanish), a tiny brown mouse that has already been lost (over the course of about 72 hours) no less than 36 times. It’s gotten to the point where I think that hopping back on that funicular, two trains and a bus might just be worth it, if only to buy some more datones for insurance. So if ANYONE IS PLANNING A TRIP TO IKEA IN THE NEAR FUTURE, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!
Yesterday was President’s Day and today is Pancake Day!! It’s a great combination so I think today deserves its very own illustrated recipe! By the way, I have decided to specify the materials I use to produce my illustrations from now on. All of my drawings are done by hand and then post-tweaked in Photoshop.
“Patriotic Pancakes” Graphite pencils (hand drawn)© Johanna Bailey 2012. This image may not be downloaded, copied, scanned, published or reproduced in any way without the explicit written consent of Johanna Bailey.
Speaking of Nico’s Spanish, I forgot to mention that despite the fact that he is fluent, he still has trouble rolling his Rs.
Nico- I can speak perfect Spanish except I can’t make the Rrrrr sound.
Me- Well, a lot of Americans have a problem making that sound.
Nico- Ohhhh, so it’s because I grew up in YOUR American stomach. That’s why I can’t do it.
As usual, it’s all my fault. By the way, I saw this morning that someone arrived at my blog by searching for “Dark-eyed rebel Johanna Bailey”. I am intrigued.
So in yesterday’s post I forgot to mention the state of affairs when it comes to my own foreign language acquisition. Sadly I am not a child with a sponge-like brain that effortlessly picks up and absorbs every new word. On the plus side, I am potty-trained and I can usually correctly count change. My Catalan is almost non-existent aside from a few useful words such as frog and bellybutton. As for my Spanish, I’d say it’s pretty good at this point but definitely still not fluent. I can get by fairly well, the only drawback being that I am much more stupid, boring and humorless when speaking Spanish. In other words, I have a ways to go and I’ve decided to start taking lessons again. Luckily I met a mother at Nico’s school who has offered to give me classes for free! When I told her that I had to give her something in return, she asked me to draw her a cashew. In Spanish, cashew is anacardo and since her name is Ana and her husband’s name is Ricardo, the anacardo is a symbol of sorts for them.
So here it is- I loved how just coincidentally, the shadow that these snuggling cashews cast was shaped like a heart. They don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day much here in Spain but I thought I’d post it as a nice shout-out to all you love nuts out there!
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
It is hard to believe that we’ve been living in Spain for almost four years now- two years in Madrid and now two years in Barcelona. For me, the very best part of it all is giving Nico and Luca the chance to acquire new languages. Of course, since their father is a native Spanish speaker, they would most likely grow up at least understanding the language fairly well. However, up until the time we moved to Spain, Nico had always responded to everything in English and I think that probably would have continued if we hadn’t come to live here. Now he is completely fluent in both Spanish and Catalan. It’s incredible to me how he can just switch from one to another, depending on which parent or friend he’s talking to and he very rarely confused the languages. What he does do is take expressions from one and then translate them into another which can often be quite funny, especially when he had the original expression wrong in the first place. For example, apparently his teacher often tells them to grabar (tape record) something in their heads when she doesn’t want them to forget. As luck would have it, the word in Spanish for staple (grapar) sounds quite similar to grabar which means that Nico is convinced that she is telling them to not to tape something in their heads, but to staple it in their heads. This means that when he really doesn’t want me to forget something he is likely to exclaim in English, “Mommy, this is very important! STAPLE it in your head please!” I actually quite like the expression. Other translations don’t work as well. “Oh Mommy what a good paint those strawberries have!” for example, is something that sounds much better in Spanish than it does in English. I never correct him though since the older he gets, the less often it happens and it makes me realize he’s growing up. Only last month he finally figured out that “riving room” is actually pronounced “living room” and that the things at the top of our arms are “shoulders” rather than “soldiers.”
With Luca, the language thing can be a bit more complicated. He isn’t nearly as verbal as Nico was at the same age and although he is talking more and more, his pronunciation is usually pretty off. Also, when Nico was two, his primary language was definitely English while with Luca, his words are much more evenly distributed between English, Spanish and Catalan. This means that not only do we have to decipher what word he is saying, but also what language he is speaking in the first place. Plate is dato (plato in Spanish), apple is poma (Catalan), bib is pitet (also Catalan), shoes are patos (zapatos in Spanish), look is gook, socks are gocks and so on. When saying words in English, he definitely favors a hard G which means he calls himself “Guca” and his brother is “Geeko.” A sentence might be something like “No dato Geeko! No Gookie! Mio! Geeko! GEEKO! Gookie mio! Mama EP ME!” One who is in the know would translate this to mean “Nico, stop touching my plate Nico! That cookie is mine! Mama help me!” You can see how it would get confusing at times but hopefully he’ll get it all straightened out eventually.
One of my very favorite things about having a blog is getting to look at all the search terms that people enter before arriving here. Holed up in my house for much of the day, I feel that this gives me a chance to really connect with the people. You see, I live in a small mountaintop village overlooking Barcelona and if not absolutely forced, days can go by without me stepping foot outside my front door. What do I do? Well, I draw a lot and listen to NPR. At Christmas when the kids were in New York with Alex, a friend even went so far as to compare me to the Grinch, sitting up in his mountaintop cave, muttering to himself as the faint cheerful voices of the Whos drifted up from Whoeville below. This means that I have a tendency to lose touch with local life. For example, a new prime minister was elected recently in Spain and I only found out after the fact which was embarrassing to say the least. Can you even imagine meeting a foreigner living in the US next November who had somehow managed to remain unaware that the presidential elections had just taken place?
So when I really want to hook into global collective consciousness, I look at what people are searching for on the Internet. Or at least, what the people who read my blog are searching for. Of course there are always the random surprise queries. Some examples of these outliers might include “drawings of boxing gloves,”mold on Pocky,”creaky teeth,” or “Nell Carter hair.” But even these searchers give me some glimpse into the concerns of the people. Now I know that someone out there suffers from mold on their Pocky while another person has creaky teeth or an interest in Nell Carter’s hairdo. In general however, the search terms that lead to my blog tend to be quite predictable. The majority fall into three categories: First, there are the people who are searching for a Russian dominatrix. Everyday several people arrive at “Johanna Writes” via their Google search for “Russian Misters.” Curious as to what was going on, I googled the term myself and realized that these people are most likely meaning to search for “Russian Mistress,” an apparently wildly popular femdom site. Sadly for them, instead of seeing a fierce woman in a fur hat holding a whip, they are instead treated to an illustration for Russian Potato Salad featuring Mr. Potato Head.
The second group of people are those searching for recipes and this makes more sense considering that I used to post stuff about food a lot more than I do now. Finally, the third group of people are those with a burning desire to know exactly what Mormons eat. I first noticed this phenomenon a few months ago and I’ve chalked it up to the recent prominence of Mitt Romney in the news. Basically it appears that people have started thinking along the lines of “Okay we know that he’s conservative and that he doesn’t drink, smoke or believe in abortion (at least not anymore). Also he’s rich and has a full luxurious head of hair but what does the man eat?” A couple years ago I wrote a few posts about Mormon cuisine and I also did an illustration for Mormon Funeral Potatoes. Because of this, “Johanna Writes” has become a go-to place for people who are curious about Mormon cuisine. And let me tell you, these people really really want to know and they want DETAILS. “Do Mormons eat candy?”, “Can Mormons eat on Sundays?”, “Do Mormons really like green jello?”, “Why do Mormons eat jello?”, “What do Mormons eat for breakfast?”, “Do Mormons eat corn?”, “Can Mormons eat honey?”, “Do Mormons eat cake?” These are just a few things that people have wondered about lately. For future reference, here are the answers: Yes, Yes, Yes, Not sure, It depends but definitely no coffee, Yes, Yes and Definitely yes. A few weeks ago, even The New York Times decided it was time to publish an article about Mormon cuisine. I’m not sure it brings anything new to the table (ha ha), there are a few interesting tidbits that you might want to check out if you’re feeling curious.
As for me, I’m going to get back to my drawing of a cashew nut. I’ve thought enough about current events for the day.
Last week Nico and I had a long talk about what happens when you die. I told him that when I die, I want to be cremated and we talked about how people often want their ashes to be scattered someplace that means something special to them. Yesterday morning we had the following exchange:
Me: Oh there’s nothing I love more than waking up, getting a cup of coffee and then snuggling on the couch under a blanket with a good book!!
Nico: So when you die would you like us to put your ashes under the couch?