Feliz Cumpleanos, Elena

"Feliz

Welcome to the year of discombobulated birthdays! I spent my birthday in the car, driving home in hopes of beating an epic snowstorm that left us stranded in the house for three days straight. Mike spent his birthday on a plane, with a stopover in Philadelphia for a cheesesteak. He capped off the evening sharing a cramped hotel room with an exhausted wife and two children that refused to go to sleep. Elena spent her birthday in Spain, with her dad and her friends six hours worth of time zones away from her.

Of the three of us, Elena got the best end of the deal. I mean, come on … Spain?! But it was a very different birthday from what she’s accustomed to. We (okay, I) make a big deal about birthdays, and we don’t hesitate to celebrate all day long. You get to pick your favorite foods for each meal, there’s always a cake, ¬†presents, and friends. I didn’t have so much as a card for Elena to open, let alone a present. Although in a moment of brilliance, I realized that the Spanish pastry shops like to wrap their baked goods up like the tasty little presents they are. I think she was pleased with my choice.

Spanish pastry

My cousin and our hostess in Sevilla, Elena, stepped up big time for me. She sent her husband, David, for churros in the morning. She arranged a cookout for the afternoon, inviting a few friends and family. Her daughter, Huga, secretly wrapped a few small gifts for Elena and hid them around the house, scavenger hunt-style. My cousin, Julio, took me to the bakery so I could buy a cake. And later in the evening, Julio and his wife, Hara, took us down to Sevilla so that I could fulfill a long-held request of Elena to take one of those horse-drawn carriage rides around the city.

Carriage ride Sevilla

I must admit, for someone who has always looked at those things through jaded eyes, it was a magical way to end an evening. We counted six brides getting their photos taken in the Plaza de Espana. It wasn’t lost on me that in another 12 years (of which the first 12 have flown by in the blink of an eye), Elena could be a bride herself.

Plaza de Espana wedding photo

For Elena, Mike and I, it is also the year of almost-milestone birthdays. Next year we’ll turn 40, and Elena will enter her teenage years. Oof.

Looking back, I realize I have seven years of birthday posts for Elena recorded in Google’s vaults for eternity from this very corner of the internet. When you’re seven, this is adorable.

Take more pictures of me, Mom! Is this going to be on the blog, Mom? Please put it on the blog!

Elena Montessori

At twelve, this is no longer the case.

Stop taking so many pictures of me, Mother. You’re not going to post this on your blog, are you? DO NOT put it on the blog/Facebook/Instagram, Mother.

Sigh … from both of us. Only hers is an annoyed sigh, and mine is a tired, battle-worn sigh. Sadly, these differences in sighs cannot be communicated through italics or emojis. You just have to take my word for it (unless you’ve already been there, and then you know).

Elena tree selfie

It’s hard to write about Elena these days. More and more, I’m feeling that her story is not mine alone to tell. The occasional brag is fun to share, but the sweet and reflective moments feel too intimate to share. They don’t come every day now, and as a result I hold them as fiercely as she held her favorite toys as a toddler. As for those not-so-sweet and exasperating moments, I can’t bear to share them either. I’ve never aimed to use this space as therapy. That’s what girlfriends and big bottles of wine are for.

Instead I’ll do what I’ve always done when I can’t find the right words. I’ll see and share her through my lens. She might not love it now, but I know the day will come when she’ll look back at herself, teetering between child and adulthood, and realize what a treasure she was, is, and always will be to us.

Elena Sanlucar Spain

Happy (belated) birthday, Elena.

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Earth Fare Greenwood {Grand Opening & Gift Card Giveaway}

Disclosure: I was provided a gift card for personal use as well as a gift card to give away by Earth Fare. All thoughts regarding Earth Fare and photos of the store are mine. Any prices shown in photographs are specific to the Greenwood, Indiana location and may not be available in your local Earth Fare.

I have a thing for grocery stores. I can’t help myself. While some people search out museums, points of interest, or can’t-miss restaurants while traveling, I make a bee line for new-to-me grocery stores. I love looking for unusual products, local foods, and items I can’t find in my own stores at home. I stopped in a grocery store or market nearly every day we were in Spain, and if you give me a town in the US that I’ve been too, I can probably name my favorite grocery store there. I know, it’s strange.

I get just as excited when we get a new grocery store closer to home. So when Earth Fare invited me to take a tour of their brand new store opening in Greenwood, I couldn’t say no! I’m already familiar with the Earth Fare stores, as we have two branches that have opened recently in my neck of the woods (one is located in Noblesville, the other in Carmel).

Unlike traditional grocery stores, Earth Fare’s Food Philosophy sets them apart. They do not carry any items that contain high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial colors or sweeteners, or synthetic growth hormones. Have you ever spent ten minutes in the cracker aisle, reading teeny-tiny labels, trying to figure out which brand doesn’t have all that junk in it? That won’t happen at Earth Fare. Often when you choose to focus on healthy food items, you have to sacrifice savings. Again, not at Earth Fare. They offer lots of opportunities to save, via coupons, sales, and texts.

Each store has a commitment to buy local when possible. Handy signage lets you know when an item is local. Check out all these tasty treats that originate within 100 miles of the store:

Earth Fare Greenwood local foods

The Greenwood store has an impressive health and wellness department, where you can find everything from vitamins and supplements to beauty products. Not sure what you need, or which product to buy? Extensively trained employees are there to help you out.

Earth Fare Greenwood health and wellness

We are fortunate that food allergies are a non-factor for our family when we shop, but I know many of you have to be vigilant about the products you buy. I love that not only does Earth Fare stock many allergy-friendly products, but they make it easy for shoppers to locate them. For example, throughout the store, any products that were gluten-free were stocked on shelves designated with a wooden shelf marker, distinguishing them from the other products.

Earth Fare Greenwood gluten free shelving

Sadly, the closest store to me doesn’t sell alcohol. But I was happy to see that this Earth Fare carries its own line of wine, bottled exclusively for them! I’ll be back to try a few varieties of Big Tomato wine.

Earth Fare Greenwood Big Tomato Wine

Of course, I’ll need some cheese to go with that wine. Nothing like a few weeks in Europe to get you craving delicious cheeses. Again, Earth Fare has you covered.

Earth Fare Greenwood cheese department

Another service that sets Earth Fare apart is their prepared foods department. Every Thursday is Family Dinner Night, where kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal. The Food Philosophy carries over into the items served here as well, so not only can you save money while eating out, you can feel good about the food you’re eating. The pizza is especially delicious. Bonus: you can eat it in the store or take home a pie to bake!

Earth Fare Greenwood pizza

The kind people at Earth Fare would like to make it even easier for you to give them a try. They’ve provided me with a $50 gift card, good at any Earth Fare location, to give away. Just use the handy Rafflecopter giveaway widget to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In the meantime, be sure to check out an Earth Fare store near you! If you’re near Greenwood, your Earth Fare store is open and ready for you to visit! Earth Fare Greenwood is located at 2110 East County Line Road. Visit the Earth Fare website for other locations.

 

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Home Sweet Home

It’s come to the time when we must retire the #SixesInSpain hashtag. No more Instagram pictures of old things and fried sea creatures. Nope, it’s back to your regularly scheduled programming. In this case that means laundry, a case of jet lag I just can’t shake, and a stack of People magazines that missed me¬†very much while I was gone.

Pastry-filled suitcase

We had an absolutely wonderful trip. We didn’t lose anybody, we didn’t fall trap to pickpockets, our accommodations always met or exceeded our expectations, and we saw amazing things we’ll never forget. We reconnected with family that could host the Queen of England and not disappoint her, and met fascinating people from all walks of life. I teeter between being totally satisfied with the length of our trip and everything we did, to being crushed that we didn’t have more time to do more, see more, and (frankly) eat more. As I go through my photos I feel the same thing. So many amazing pictures! And yet, how did I manage to not take more pictures of family, or the delicious things I ate that are just distant memories already? I guess that’s how the travel bug gets you … there’s always more to see and do, yet the call of your own bed and the comforts of home trump another week of adventure.

As if the travel gods wanted to drive home the point that vacation was OVER, we had a grueling trip home. Our flight from Madrid to DC went very smoothly, and we glided through Customs in less than 30 minutes. We had a 3 1/2 hour layover scheduled in DC before next flight was to leave for Philadelphia. That was to be followed by a short layover in Philadelphia before our last leg home. I was worried about the layover in Philly. If all went according to plan, we’d be ok. But if we faced any kind of delay, we were looking at either running like hell through the terminal or missing our flight altogether.

As the time for our next flight approached, it became clear that all wasn’t going to go as planned. Flights out of DC were being delayed right and left. Our flight time got pushed back over and over again, until it became painfully clear that we would not be making that last flight to Indy. By this point the kids and I have been up for close to 20 hours. There is a time to decry the horrible things that screens and technology do to our children … this was not that time. God bless Steve Jobs, for his Apple products kept my children quiet and happy, even while their mother was weeping and rocking in the corner of Gate C22.

The glitch in this travel plan was that my last leg from Philly to Indy was a completely different airline and reservation. So when we missed that connecting flight, neither airline knew quite what to do with us. Mike was on the phone from Indy, and I was working both the phone and the United customer service desk in DC. We talked to at least 6 different people, and got 6 completely different answers. There was a flight from DC to Indy leaving later in the evening. United told me there was room, and I could certainly take that flight instead … for $1200. US Airways could only help us once we got to Philly.

As the kids and I sat buckled in our flight from DC to Philly, 3 hours after it was initially supposed to take off and 7 hours after we’d landed in DC, Mike texted me that they could get us on that direct flight to Indy. But I was DONE. Eli was already passed out on my lap. I said a little prayer it would all work out, thought some very bad things about the jerkwads at United that couldn’t have figured that out in the 4 hours they had to do so, and we were on our way to Philly.

Thankfully, the United rep in Philly was the first kind and helpful person I’d dealt with. I think she could see the exhaustion and crazy in my eyes. Eli passed out on the nasty airport carpeting was a nice visual reminder for her, too. She got us a hotel room in Philly near the airport, food vouchers for the morning, and a flight to Indy at 10 am the next morning. I’ve never been so happy to touch down amid a sea of corn in my entire life.

Almost home

I have so many thoughts, photos and stories to share with you about this trip. I’ll do it gradually over the summer so as not to overwhelm you with all things Spain and London. In the meantime, it will take me awhile to get back to a normal routine again. Bear with me if posting is erratic for the next couple of weeks. Thanks so much for continuing to read, and for going along on this wonderful adventure with us!

 

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