May 31, 2010

Weekly(ish) Photo Essay: Treasures of Rastro

Yesterday I finally made it to Rastro, a big outdoor market at La Latina in downtown Madrid.I've tired to go for a number of Sundays, but I either wake up too late or the weather is inconvenient. But Saturday night I wasn't out late, so Sunday I woke up bright and early at eleven, called up my friend Lauren, and went down to see the market.

We were a little rushed because we got there after two and it starts to shut down around three, but I still managed to get a good number of photos of all the lovely, and so so colorful things for sale.

{your name here}
{personalized corrida posters? awesome!}

{a giant pile of used clothes}

{whimsical decorations}

{nearby mural}

{foam toys - so cute!}

{a close-up - I love the orange elephant on the far right!}

{pretty dresses for pretty little girls!}

{endless sunglasses}

{these felt pom-pom necklaces looked like strings of gumballs!}

{blurry felt flowers}

{decorative fans}

{this is only about a tenth of the wall of earrings}

{same for the wall of necklaces}

 {so many colorful Indian sandals!}

{a rainbow of cotton summer dresses and pants}


I was mostly just there to finally see it all and browse a little, but I was also half looking for something for myself, and a birthday present for my bestie Molly, whose twenty-fifth birthday is tomorrow. I didn't find anything for Molly, but I did find the elusive moonstone necklace - exactly like I wanted it - that I've been looking for for almost two years!

It all started in San Benedetto, Italy, in August of 2009, when I was on vacation with my friend Maria. I was in a little jewelry shop and I found this moonstone ring, which I instantly fell in love with.

{I wear it every day}

I especially love the way that it's set so simply, in a way that really lets the beauty of the stone shine through, rather than embellish it with a decorative filigree silver setting, the ways so many semi-precious stones are set.  I wanted to get some matching jewelry, like earrings and a necklace, but I could never find exactly what I was looking for.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, at another little market near my house, I found these earrings.

 They aren't round like the ring, but again, I love the simple setting, and the oval shape is a little more elegant.

Now all that was left was the necklace. All I found for so long were either huge stones, or small stones set in enormous twirly, loopy silver settings, neither of which I really liked.

Finally yesterday, at Rastro, we came across a funny little old  hippie man with a stand of lovely silver and semi-precious stone jewelry, and I finally found what I was looking for. A beautiful, round, simpley set moonstone pendant.

Now I finally had the ring, earrings, and necklace!

And then on my way home from the metro I stopped into this little bead shop I'd always noticed but never been in to see if they had simple silver chains to wear with the pendant. They didn't have chains, but they did have a string of round moonstone beads. So I decided to go for the quadfecta (I love inventing words!) - ring, earrings, necklace, and bracelet! So I bought half a strand of beads, and strung them up to make this bracelet.

Although apparently twenty-five beads was just too many for my wrist, so I made the bracelet with twenty-two beads and kept three to make this floating moonstone pearls necklace.

I went from having one lonely piece of moonstone jewelry to having every piece I could possibly imagine, in exactly the styles I wanted, and for incredibly reasonable prices! I obviously won't wear it all together, because I'll look like a crazy person, but it's nice to know that I have the pieces for when I want them. And just in time for summer, when moonstone looks so lovely against light-colored summer clothes!

What was your luckiest market find?

Don't forget to enter my  
 for the chance to win one of three lovely handmade prizes!
 {giveaway ends Saturday, June 5th at Midnight, EST}

May 29, 2010

Six Senses Saturday & Other Mish Mash

Ladies and gentlemen (gentleman? I'm not sure any dudes read this beside Valerio and occasionally my brother) today is a rough Saturday for me. All of my senses are currently tied up in trying very very hard not to feel this bitch of a hangover that I have.

I didn't even drink that much last night! I blame Kapital. Kapital gave me a hangover. Bring me to Kapital once, shame on you. Bring me to Kapital twice, shame on me. Bring me to Kapital a third time? Well, I must be a masochistic idiot, because I don't understand why I keep going back.

I should explain. Kapital is the biggest nightclub in Madrid. It has seven floors, which include, but are not limited to, the karaoke floor, the Bacardi lounge, the casino/hookah bar, the hip hop mezzanine, and the latin floor. Plus the enormous main dance floor which features a stage occupied by scantily clad theme-costumed dancers, both male and female - last night there was a "nurse" and a "policeman," last time there were "geishas" and "breakdancers." I use quotes because, well, the "costumes" were sort of a stretch. Going to Kapital is no ordinary nightclub experience. It is seriously taxing. Aside from all the dancing you do, to so many different kinds of music that your rhythm is seriously impaired for a couple of says after, you spend so much of the night going up and down seven flights of stairs, trying to find your friends in one of the seemingly endless rooms, that the next morning you feel like you spend the whole night on a stairmaster.

Two weeks ago I point blank refused to go back (I had gone for the second time just the weekend before), and when there was talk of going last night, my friend Emilie and I started digging our heels in. But by the end of dinner our resistance had been worn thin, and it seemed that everyone was going whether we came or not - there were people visiting Madrid and they wanted to see Kapital before the left - so we eventually agreed to go.

It wasn't not fun, but I am definitely never going back there. Kapital three times in as many months is enough for a lifetime.

Right Now I'm...

Vitamin C water. It's pretty much all I can handle at the moment.

The lingering, not to mention revolting, smell of cigarette smoke 
that permeates everyone's clothes after a night in Kapital. Ew.

Remarkably clearly, considering the intensity of my hangover headache.

Amazing free music - in this case calm, relaxing music with the volume turned down - using spotify
It's like having the wold's biggest itunes collection, 
in a program you download. Awesome!
(download it and try it - you can thank me later!)

My amazing, comfortable (thrifted YSL!) dressing gown - the best lounge wear.

Like some very loud, stompy children are playing a game of dodgeball inside my brain, 
and simultaneously kicking me in the stomach.

What are your senses doing today?


In other news, I have been tagged by beh-LEHN to do a fun photo game. I have to go to the eight folder of photos I have on my computer, and pick the eighth photo, post it, and tell the story behind it.

This is Rima, Barbara and Me (from left to right) at Saint Sulpice, a bar in Montreal, in the early fall of 2003. We had just started at McGill, and we were getting to know the city that would be our wonderful home for four glorious years.  I have no idea why our facial expressions are so different. Rima seems so happy, Barbara seems pretty annoyed, and I look kind of uncomfortable. I wonder what was going on there. It's also weird to see how we all look so different yet the same as we did seven years ago. We were only eighteen - wee little lasses!

Here, compare to the end of university:

Here we are at graduation, four years later, looking decidedly older and more mature (and in my case, about fifteen pounds pudgier! Thank god I lost all that fourth year exam stress weight as soon as I came to Europe!). Isn't is weird to see how you change as you get older and how you stay the same?

Apparently I'm supposed to tag eight people to do this photo thing as well, but writing this post alone was a monumental effort for me today, considering my pitiful condition, so I'm going to skip that part.

Don't blame me, blame Kapital!

Don't forget to enter my  
 for the chance to win one of three lovely handmade prizes!
 {giveaway ends Saturday, June 5th at Midnight, EST}

May 28, 2010

99 Memorable Experiences

Don't forget to enter my  
 for the chance to win one of three lovely handmade prizes!
 {giveaway ends Saturday, June 5th at Midnight, EST}

Apparently, today there won't be any Fill-In The Blank Friday.

At first I was like, "oh maaan, does that mean I have to come up with a Friday post on my own? I'm feeling so uncreative today!"

But then I remembered my trusty "Post Ideas" document, where I file away blog post ideas for a rainy day. Which is where I happened to rediscover this fun, yet long forgotten idea, which I got from Star's Pink World a while back. It's a practically effort-free post - great for the end of a long work week when your brain feels like mush - and everyone can play along, so we're preserving the essence of Fill-In The Blank Friday. It's a list of 99 Memorable Experiences, and you highlight the things you've done. Surprisingly, I've actually done most of them, which means it can't be a very comprehensive list, since there are so many things I've never done! (If you decide to join in, leave a link in the comments so I can come see your answers!)

{sunset in calabria, summer 2009}

99 Memorable Experiences

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii

5. Watched a meteor shower

6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disney

8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis

10. Sung a solo

11. Bungee jumped

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched a thunder and lightning storm

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child

16. Had food poisoning

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty

18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitch hiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb

26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a marathon

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight

46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had your portrait painted

48. Gone deep sea fishing

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain

53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies

62. Gone whale watching

63. Got flowers for no reason

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Been sky diving

66. Visited a Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten caviar

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London

77. Broken a bone

78. Been a passenger on a motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year’s Eve

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

88. Had chickenpox

89. Saved someone’s life

90. Sat on a jury

91. Met someone famous

92. Joined a book club

93. Gotten a tattoo

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a law suit

Owned a cell phone

99. Been stung by a bee


57 out of 99? Not too shabby!
What are your most memorable experiences?
What have you done on this list?

May 27, 2010

The Value of Time


I unexpectedly have an hour off today, aside from my regular breaks and lunch. All but one of my second grade students are on a field trip to La Granja (the farm), and that one student is with another teacher who has more kids. So my one hour lunch turned into a nice, long two hour break - during which I decided to blog at school.

And let me say, I don't think I've valued a single hour so much in a long time.

I - like everyone else - have twenty-four hours in my day. I sleep for about six of them, spend one in the morning to get from being asleep to being human (I´m not a morning person), I'm at work for seven, and I commute for two; a total of sixteen hours. Which means I have eight hours left to myself during the day.

Which is a lot. Not a lot of people with full-time jobs or long commutes or families can enjoy having a full third of the day to themselves. Granted, I that's the time I have left over to go to the gym, go running, get groceries, buy other things I need, clean the house, and generally take care of myself. But it also leaves me a decent amount of time for hobbies and entertainment.

Even after the gym and running and grocery shopping and cooking dinner I still have time to play around with my sewing machine and watch a movie or a few episodes of one of the many shows I'm following. So I'm usually at home relaxing and enjoying myself for a good four or five hours in the evening/night. Four or five hours that I pretty much take for granted and don't even notice are flying by.

So why is this one extra, unexpected hour off today so special to me?

Is it because I have class before and after, so a nice break inbetween is appreciated? Is it because I can think about what I would otherwise be doing right now - screaming at twelve second graders for a good half hour - and I'd much rather be doing this?

I think it's because it's just that - unexpected. I wasn't expecting to get it, and when I did, it was a wonderful surprise. Those four or five hours in the evening I spend doing nothing but exactly what I want to be doing in that moment? They're due to me, they're expected. And in being so, in a way they lose their value. Not that I don't appreciate the fact that I get out of work earlier than most, and I have time to do both what I need and want to do in the afternoons. But those free me-time hours in the evening are a given.

If I worked twelve or fourteen hour days (which I did the first year I lived in Rome), an afternoon off - spent at home, eating an ice cream sandwich in front of back-to-back episodes of How I Met Your Mother - would be such a glorious treat! But because that (minus the ice cream sandwich) is a possible variation of many of my weekday evenings, it's not a treat anymore. It's routine. When did I stop appreciating just how amazing my day-to-day schedule is?

How long do we have to keep getting something good for it to stop being special and start being expected?

p.s. Don't forget to enter my 200th post GIVEAWAY for the chance to win one of three different prizes for three different winners! Go check it out! And good luck!

May 26, 2010

Napping in Three Acts

Act I

Time: 11:30 am
Location: Teacher's Room
Cast:  Julia
           James' Chocolate Birthday Cake

Scene I

Yesterday was my coworker James' birthday, so this morning he brought in a birthday cake to share with the other teachers. Lauren, our other coworker, wasn't coming in 'til after lunch, so she asked me to save her a piece. So I went into the teacher's room - which I rarely ever use - and after cutting Lauren's slice of cake, and eating a little bit myself, I realize how hauntingly quiet the room is. I say hauntingly, because if you've ever worked in a school, you'll know that almost nowhere within one hundred feet of campus is quiet. So finding a cool, silent, undisturbed spot just as I was starting my break was nothing short of a miracle. I sat down in a folding chair, propped up my feet, and started reading. Soon enough, my eyes were fluttering shut, my head started bobbing, and I eventually leaned my head onto the back of the chair and fell asleep. For twenty glorious undisturbed minutes! In the middle of a school day! I woke up refreshed and ready for my rowdy three-year-olds.

Act II

Time: 1:30 pm
Location: Library
Cast: Julia
         Lauren's Slice of Cake
         Two other Spanish teachers

Scene I

After lunch, I usually go sit in the park and try to soak up some rays and relax a little beyond the reach of the children's lunch-time shrieking. But today it was a little windy, and neither of my regular park buddies were around, so I decided to head to the library to read a bit before class started at 2:00. James is also reading at a table, and Lauren is sitting next to me, looking longingly at the delicious-smelling cake which she decided to save for later. The two Spanish teachers are at the computer, typing something into a spreadsheet, and reciting an endless list of digits. Again, it's a cool, relatively quiet room, and the chanting of numbers is having a sort of hypnotic effect on me. Again, I try to read my book, but my lids start feeling heavy and my head in nodding forward. I eventually give in, and rest my head on my arms on the table. This time I only managed to get about ten minutes of shut eye - the constant stream of out loud numbers eventually got annoying. But still, a little after lunch nap? Not too shabby!


Time: 4:15 pm
Location: 512 Bus
Cast: Julia
        An extremely loud woman on a cellphone, sitting right behind me
        Various other bus riders

Scene I

Wednesdays are usually my afternoon from hell, because I end with a class of five-year-old little monsters followed by a class of two-year-old anarchists. Needless to say, it's usually a rough ride home and I often find myself wishing I could teleport back to by bedroom. But today I had a remarkable amount of energy. The
five-year-olds I bribed with some clips of old Disney movies, and the two-year-olds were in the playground. I had all these grand plans to go to the gym and then go to the track by my house and run 5k. The minute I sit down on the bus, I start to get sleepy. I think it rocks in a way that mimics the effects of Valium, because it is virtually impossible for me to get on that bus home and not fall asleep - even with music and a book. I'm reading, when for the third time today I feel my eyes closing, and at this point I know better not to fight it - I just let my chin sink into my chest, and I sleep for fifteen wonderful minutes. I eventually get woken up by the bus lurching into the station, and all the other impatient passengers elbowing me to get by.


I know I talk a lot about being tired - occupational hazard - but I cannot for the life of me remember that last day that I accidentally napped three times in one day! And you know what? I'm still exhausted! I think my bedtime is shaping up to be right around sundown today.

Have any great naps recently?

p.s. Don't forget to sign up for my GIVEAWAY for the chance to win one of three different prizes (for three different winners!). GO check it out!

May 25, 2010

200th Post Party & Giveaway!

I am ten posts away from my 200th post! I feel like my 100th was just yesterday! I guess blog time is just as relative as real time. Since I sort of sauntered by my 100th with very little official celebration, I thought I would take advantage of my 200th post to really party it up, blog style.




And guess who's invited to the party?

I would totally have a real party here in Madrid and invite all of you, but my apartment is kind of small and my roommates aren't that friendly, so you'll have to make do with a more virtual celebration.

I could never have made it to 200 posts without all the support and kind words of my wonderful, wonderful followers, so I thought to celebrate I would give a little something back to you guys for sticking by me through the first 200. I've never done a real giveaway (unless you count my downloadable Rome 2010 Calender - which is still available, btw), so I thought that this time I would go all out.

In honor of my 200th post, I'll be doing a 

Not one, not two, but three lucky readers can win! 

And to honor the pseudo-crafty direction that The World Is My Oyster has taken since it's 100th post, I thought I'd give away some of my recent creations. Here are the prizes, in no particular order:

  • A floating solitary pearl necklace:

{necklace is approx. 15 inches long, and the pearl sits right above the collar bone}

  • A pair of lace and ribbon bow earrings:

{earrings are approx. 2.5 inches long}

  • And lastly, this fabric flower brooch:

{brooch approx. 7 inches long and 3 inches wide - it's a biggie!}

I've pinned it to a plain black three-quarter sleeves shirt, 
to show you one possible option for styling it,
but you could really pin it on anything - a t-shirt, a tote, a purse, a big belt - the possibilities are endless!

If I'd had more time, I would have paired up with someone with a cute etsy shop, but this whole 200 posts thing sort of snuck up on me and I didn't have time to organize anything professional, so you'll have to settle for my home-made goods :)

Giveaway Rules:
  • Be a follower of The World Is My Oyster
  • Leave me a comment telling me which prize you like best
(but make sure to tell me your second and third choices as well, 
in case all three winners happen to have the same first choices)

That's it! Easy as pie!

The giveaway will be open until midnight of the day I publish my 200th post - in ten days or so - when we get closer to the day I'll let you know. And since I'll be shipping from Madrid, it is obviously open to international readers.