As 2013 is quickly coming to a close, here is what we’ve been up to as of late… The second week of December was more or less another normal workweek in terms of fulfilling personal assistant duties, English lessons, intercambio, and babysitting.  It is nice to find a routine even with a super polyvalent job description.  On Friday the 13th, Fino went back to the states so that was a sad parting.  We have definitely missed her since then!  That night Cass and I went to Cantina Machito in Gracía and met Marta, Adrian, Bree, and Shri for dinner.  Trying to be frugal, I opted for a cañita (small beer) and queso fundido (chips & cheese).  The food, drinks, and atmosphere were great – it is now in the running to beat Rosa Negra for our preferred Mexican food spot. Other highlights from that weekend included making hot chocolate, playing Mario cart, and watching Christmas movies (Cass had never seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation so that was a must).  That Sunday I went to watch Damian’s soccer match in Sant Cugat and got to see him score a goal for the first time! 

The last week before the holidays rolled around went by fast, as one would expect; work commitments continued on with great haste and my care-package from my mom finally arrived after being stuck in customs in Madrid for a month!  It was great to finally be able to give the Barbie dolls to April, not to mention feast on pretzel M&Ms, instant grits, and brown gravy (not all together of course).  Cass and I prepared for our Christmas party –think cleaning, shopping, and treat making. Saturday, December 21st was the big day and thankfully we were ready to rock & roll – we were decked out in ugly sweaters, made the apartment as festive as possible, and managed to make quite a spread of party food for the gathering. Our friends from Sant Cugat came, as well as Damian, Rodrigo, Ignasi, and Gabi. We did a gift exchange, where sadly I got robbed of a set of shot glasses but I think everyone had a good time at the party! 

The next day I went to mass with Cass for the first time at Sagrada. The service was in Spanish and I am not catholic so needless to say, I was more of an observer than a participant but it was a good experience.  The priest there knows portions of the mass in seven different languages! On the morning of the 23rd, I got up early and went to the Encants flea market; there was more stuff there than I could have even imagined.  Cass and I did some last minute Christmas shopping and the next thing we knew it was already Christmas Eve! On the evening of Christmas Eve, we went to Marta’s for a big celebratory dinner with her family and about a dozen friends. Marta made a beautiful spread and the food was delicious! We were even spoiled with éclairs brought from France that day! After everyone did a table push-up, we went for a walk and “looked for Santa Claus.” A fun tradition at Marta’s, this just means that once we got back to her place, the tree was surrounded by presents for everyone. It was a great evening. 

That brings us to Christmas Day- Cass and I slept in and then went to Damian’s family’s apartment for lunch and presents there. Again quality food, drink, and company there. In the evening, Cass, Damian, and I went to mass at the Cathedral in the gothic quarter.  It was a festive service, but didn’t even hold a candle to Southwood.  The day after Christmas is a national holiday here – San Esteban, meaning that everything is closed, so we just had a lazy day at home.  On the 27th Cass and I took the bus up to the Bunkers to meet Gabi, her mom, and Ross at the top for a sunset picnic.  The sky was amazing and the weather was nice enough to comfortably hang out outside in late December – gotta love this city. Later Friday night, we met up with them again to hit up some Cuban / salsa bars in the gothic area. The 28th marked three months with Damian… sometimes I still can’t believe I’m even dating someone, but so far so good so I just roll with it. Yesterday also was the first time Cass and I ventured to Ikea and got some things we needed to be better hosts for our upcoming guests! Armed with additional blankets, coffee cups, shot glasses, and candles, we are now ready for Garrett and Saras’ arrivals! 

Last night, Cass and I wanted to check out Raval nightlife a bit so we went to Chelas & Burros, a Mexican restaurant and bar near Drassanes.  It was a chill bar and we got discounted Cosmopolitans so no complaints there. We stopped in at Betty Ford’s and ended up on the Rambla de Raval where we admittedly treated ourselves to durums.  I am very excited to see Garrett tomorrow and take him around all week!  We are still trying to put together a plan for NYE… Then Sara is here for a week, Cass’ birthday, Brenden comes back, and Adi gets here on the 28th! Look out 2014.

Post-holiday reflection: all in all, celebrating the holidays here in Barcelona, away from most of our families and friends in the states was not as sad or homesick provoking as I had imagined. Thankfully, we were nearly constantly surrounded by friends and people who care about us here so that was a big blessing. But I can’t lie, I definitely missed my mom’s dressing, Scott’s turkey, Southwood Christmas services, drinking with my mom and Lori, and getting to hug my best friends. I called my Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Bill via Skype on Christmas afternoon (their time) and that was the best decision I’ve made this winter. When I skyped with my family at my mom’s house on Christmas, Damian got to meet all of them and see a tour of my house. We may not have had a tree or any sugar cookies, or received as many presents as usual, but the holidays were a great success and now it’s onto the New Year! 

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