Spain, Valencia, Las Fallas 2018

Las Fallas is a festival, held each year on (and before) Saint Joseph’s day.

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The term Fallas refers both to the festival and the figures which are placed on the streets of Valencia by the 15th of Match and burned during on the 19th. Las Fallas is part of the UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity list.

 

There are a few stories about the origin of the festival. The most common one is that already in the Middle Ages, carpenters would take their unnecessary stuff to the streets in order to burn them and free up space for the coming spring season (thus, welcoming the spring). Afterwards, people kept adding stuff to the piles of “garbage” and playing around with old clothes to make figures. If you’ve got more stories – please add them to this post, I’d love to hear them!

Nowadays, there are even professional Falla Artists.

The city prepares for this festival throughout the whole year. Each neighborhood or street of the city has an organised group of people who make 1 falla figure (well, 2, if you count the infantil fallas, the little ones). There are around 700 fallas around the city, worth millions. Besides the falla in front of the Town Hall, all other figures are paid for by the people.

The celebrations begin a week before the 19th. Every day there is a “wake-up-call” at 8:00 (La Despertà), where brass bands play loud music and throw firecrackers in order to wake up the people.

The streets have food and souvenirs, there are tents where beverages and food are offered.

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Every day at 14:00, in front of the town hall there is a “La Mascletà” happening –  a massive explosive barrage of coordinated firecracker and fireworks “display” which can be heard in almost each part of the city. I put “display” in quotation marks, since there’s not much to see but loooots to hear.

La Plantà – 15th of March when all falla figures must be installed on the streets.

L’Ofrena de flors  – there is a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary which throughout the celebrations is covered in flowers. In the streets, there are women and men wearing traditional clothing who walk up to the Virgin Mary in order to bring their flowers. They walk pretty much from dusk till down during the fallas.

 

 

Els Castells and La Nit del Foc – there are fireworks every night with the culmination being the 18th – La Nit del Foc.

 

Calles iluminadas – In the Ruzafa neighbouthood a few streets are lit and present a beautiful show I the night.

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La cremà – On the final night of the festival, around midnight on the 19th of March, all these beautiful figures are burned. Fireworks and firecrackers are connected to the figures and they put them on fire. They don’t take long to burn since the figures are made of paper, wood, papier-mâché and similar materials. Each burning is scheduled since precautions need to be taken. There should always be a fire-truck nearby in order to control the fires.

 

 

And now… if you happen to be in Valencia at another time, when there are no Fallas, don’t be blue – there’s plenty of museums, beautiful streets and views, as well as an amazing aquarium (Oceanografic) and a really cool zoo (Bioparc).

Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias

 

View from Saint Mary’s Cathedral

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Oceanografic

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Bioparc

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And of course, finally, if you’re not into cute animals or historic architecture, there’s the food and wine!

 

 

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Crossing the ocean for the first time.

SO! Hello, hello! I had my first business trip to Las Vegas and I managed to stay for two more days and see one of the greatest natural wonders -Grand Canyon, and one of the greatest human projects of its time – Hoover Dam. First I got on a plane from Las Vegas to get to the Grand Canyon Maverick Airport – then got on a helicopter. Then got back and went back to the Canyon by bus. The next day I went to the Hoover Dam. 🙂

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Norway

Hello. It’s me.

Iana, not Adele.

So! I just came back from my crazy-great-felt-too-short-felt-too-long trip to Norway. Yes, Norway in March could be a bad idea. So if you’re interested in hiking, do it in the summer, when it’s the warmest. No, I didn’t see the Northern Lights, but I also didn’t put that on my agenda since I was in the south part in a low season. If you decide to visit in a not-so-smart moment like me, make sure you have waterproof boots (seriously – waterproof) and a waterproof jacket. I lived in The Netherlands for 4 years but nothing compared to my Norway experience of fog, wetness, cold and some more rain.

HOWEVER!

It was an insanely great experience and as my friend who lives there said “very authentic” because of the weather haha.

Well, here come the photos and the explanations as usual 🙂

I woke up at 3am, got on a plane from Sofia to Munich, then Oslo, then I was supposed to land in Haugesund, however the weather was bad so I ended up in Stavanger instead. Luckily, I met a super massively cool marine biology master student (I shall name him Kiba, he’ll know why haha).

I got to Haugesund around 7pm, ate, fell asleep, woke up at 5am, left for Stavanger again.

 

Pine trees, water, bridges, rocks, ferryboats, tunels and fish – Norway explained. JK

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Following was Gamle Stavanger old wooden town 🙂

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The next day we set off to conquer Preikestolen “Preikestolen is a steep cliff which rises 604 metres (1,982 ft) above the Lysefjorden. Atop the cliff, there is an almost flat top of approximately 25 by 25 metres (82 ft × 82 ft). It sits on the north side of the fjord, opposite the Kjerag plateau, located on the south side.” (Wikipedia)

Climbing trees because it was easier than the icy road, crawling, going through rivers of melted snow and holding hands to keep from falling to your death. Literally.

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To reach…

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…Magnificence!

And moving on to another great adventure with a starting point in Bergen, a city rich in history and sights. Second largest in Norway, founded around the 1020s, capital of Norway in the early 13th century, and from the end of the 13th century became a bureau city of the Hanseatic League. The League was  founded in Lübeck, Germany, (you can check out my roadtrip to Lübeck by clicking here) created to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges in the cities and countries and along the trade routes the merchants visited. The Hanseatic cities had their own legal system and furnished their own armies for mutual protection and aid.

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Bergen

Fun fact: The legacy of the Hansa is remembered today in several names like the German airline Lufthansa or the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, in the Netherlands, and more.

It’s a pretty cool part of history to learn more about 🙂

Here I visited that quay known as Bryggen in Norwegian where some 300-year-old houses remain.

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Following was a 3.5-hour fjord cruise that included some wild goats, going under an icy-cold waterfall with some waterproof-suit-thing on and amazing views.

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The captain’s dog
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Old way of fishing by throwing stones in the water, forbidden now except in one place in order to preserve the tradition.

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Absolute happiness.

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And a little bit of Haugesund.

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Harald*, who apparently brought the country together because a pretty girl told him to if he wanted to marry her. Or so they say. Nothing to do with politics.

Harald Hårfagre * 🙂

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The end.

 

Fish + Veggies (2 recipes) (Salmon & Cod)

I’ve been experimenting altering a couple of recipes I found online some time ago. They’re both healthy and both easy to make but the first one takes less time. One involves cod fish (although you can use pangasius too) and the other salmon. 🙂

PS You will need an oven for this. It’s a funny thing to share, I know, but I didn’t have one for 2 out of 4 years living abroad so you begin to appreciate the little things. Like a proper shower, where more than 5 drops of water come out at a time. Brilliant this thing called “pressure”.

Without further ado:

Cod (or Pangasius) with squash and peppers

For 4 people I take around a kilo of the chosen fish (like, cod or pangasius, not like a Harry Potter fish, you actually want to make sure it’s intact, doesn’t have scars and all)

You will also need:

Salt

White pepper

Bread crumbs

1 squash

2 white-green peppers

A little bit of oil, if you have a spray thing – great

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the cucumber and the pepper into circles, spray or use just enough oil on the pan so the fish doesn’t stick. Cut the fish if needed and put salt and white pepper on both sides of the fish. Put it in the pan and put the vegetables on top of it. Spread some bread crumbs and put it in the oven for around 15 minutes. That’s it.


Salmon with asparagus and potatoes (takes about an hour)

You’ll need:

(For 4 people) 4 salmon fillets

Asparagus – depends how much you want – 3-4 pieces per person is ok

Small potatoes – 25-30 of them or a kilo bag

4 tablespoons oil

8 tablespoons lemon juice

1 lemon aside from the one you’ll need for the juice

10-15 cloves minced garlic – depends how much you like garlic really – I almost put the whole thing in

4 tablespoons (fresh) thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

4 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut the potatoes into halves if they are really small, otherwise cut the halves into halves too. You want to have two oven trays because of the quantity of the food. Put some oil on the pan and mix the potatoes in it, add salt, black pepper, a little bit of the garlic and thyme and put them in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. You can mix them around for a bit somewhere in the middle of those 25-30 minutes.

Make a glaze: combine 4 Tbsp. lemon juice, 4 Tbsp. honey, the rest of the garlic, and the thyme.

Cut the whole lemon in thin circles.

Depending on the size of your pans put the asparagus either with the salmon if you have space or with the potatoes since they’re almost cooked and you can move them on one side of the pan.

Put salt and pepper and the glaze on both sides of the salmon fillets and spread some of the glaze on the asparagus. Put the lemon circles on the fish. Put everything back in the oven for another 10-15minutes.

Eet smakelijk as the Dutch say 🙂

Red Velvet Cake or Arm Day at the gym?

I knew the cake would take quite some time to make but didn’t expect it to last 2 hours. And that’s because I didn’t wait for the layers to cool which you MUST NOT DO unless you’re fast as lightning, because the warm layers heat up and melt the cream. So I was just being fast and then put the cake outside where it’s well below 0°C temperatures.

Really, just leave yourself the whole day in a way because making the cream for the cake even with a good mixer (doesn’t matter if it has a stand with a bowl or not) takes about 30min. I didn’t have a stand with a bowl, so I just bravely used my nature-given arms.

In case I’ve made you rethink your idea to make a Red Velvet cake, look how nice it is!

Make sure you read the recipe well before you begin so you’re aware what you’re getting yourself into. Also, I know it’s supposed to be Red Velvet cake but next time I’m making a rainbow cake or a green one – just to creep people out even more. So you can make your Green or Blue Velvet cake and be your own master! Take a risk! Live on the edge!

Here we go.

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For the layers:

2 eggs

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup oil

1/2 cup coffee (better not use instant coffee)

1/2 pack baking powder оr 5grams

2-3 tablespoons cocoa

2 vanillas – 1 dry/powder and one in a capsule or 2 dry ones

1 teasp baking soda

1 teasp vinegar

1 cup buttermilk * / milk with lemon some squeezed lemon juice

Red paint for food

A pinch of salt

 

Baking paper to put in the pans

Butter to butter the pans

 

For the cream:

400 ml whipping cream

1 cup powdered sugar

350g of cream cheese

 

Preparation:

  1. Put in a large bowl sifted flour, baking powder, 1 dry vanilla, cocoa, salt and red paint.
  2. In another bowl beat eggs with sugar until fluffy.
  3. Then in the same bowl add the oil, buttermilk, 1 capsule vanilla and the coffee.
  4. In a tiny cup or in whatever you want put the soda into the vinegar and then add to the egg and sugar mix too.
  5. When you’ve mixed them a little bit start adding them to the dry mix until a nice uniform and red mixture is formed.
  6. Preheat oven on 170°C
  7. Butter the pans then put baking paper on them so you can easily remove the layers and so you can let them dry.
  8. If your oven is also not too big like mine, find a way to separate the mixture into 3 even parts and pour the first one into a cake pan around 25cm.
  9. Bake on 170°C for about 20 to 35 minutes – just keep checking with a toothpick whether the batter is ready. If you take it out and nothing is sticking to it, the batter is ready.
  10. Do the same for the next two layers. Maybe you can bake them all and then split them into 3 but I haven’t tried it yet.
  11. When you take them out wait for 5 minutes and then with the paper move them onto a grid of sorts so that they can dry and not touch anything but the paper.
  12. When you’re sure they have all cooled down you can start preparing the cream.
  13. Mix the cream by itself with the mixer just a bit then add the powdered sugar. Mix again better. Then add the cream cheese. Mix again.
  14. Put a layer of the cake, then cream, then later, then cream, then layer. Decorate with the cream.
  15. Voila! – Cool for an hour and EAT!

Soon coming a personal recipe for a non-bake fast and easy to make cake to recover the damage from this one and for some chicken with veggies and cheese 🙂

PS if you make a Blue or Green cake, please share the awesome photos with me!

Ultra Easy Tilt-Shift lens effect using Photoshop Elements

Halo, everyone! I’m sick and not at work which makes today the best time for my next tutorial blog. Finding time seems like the hardest thing right now – it keeps beating me in Hide & Seek! Or maybe it’s the fact I took up Swing dances, Dutch language and yoga. “Always exercising that brain!”

A sketch from a Canadian comedian just popped up in my head so, here’s that before the tutorial to make you laugh:

And now back to my tutorial of sorts. I haven’t used a Tilt-Shift lens and I don’t know if the success rate is 100% but I’ve noticed some photos aren’t good for that trick. I usually play with the photos of things I’ve taken from REALLY far away or from the highest place I could find. I’ve also noticed that higher is better than further. Check out those pics:

The first one is The castle that inspired Disney – Neuschwanstein from afar and the second one the gorgeous city of Nördlingen from the tower in the center.

I’ve usued a Tilt-Shift on both (for fun) and the second one looks so much better.

Using the effect is actually a piece of cake – I mean, except you don’t feel guilty you ate 3 pieces instead of one and then wonder about the gym and then end up with a glass of dark beer and a book by the fireplace instead…

So, there’s 4 steps to making that effect and the first one is to open the file in Photoshop Elements (I bought the 11th version a few years back and I’m in love with it) and from the top menu choose GUIDED and then scroll down on the right and find the TILF-SHIFT effect:

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As an example I’m using a photo I took this summer from the top of a hill in Brasov – Romania. And if anyone, especially US citizens, want to have a laugh – I was standing next to the V on this sign when taking the photo:

So, after you click on TILT-SHIFT, the following menu appears and you want to click on Add 1. Tilt-Shift and then 2. Modify Focus Area since it adds it by default.

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Just click anywhere at first and move the mouse/your finger like 1-2cm in any direction to get a feel for what the effect does. Play around with the lines and get a feel for them and you’ll figure it out in no time – Photoshop Elements has taken care of that. Adobe’s user-friedly game is spot on.

At any rate, you should get something like this:

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It’s simply fun 🙂 And if you didn’t like the tutorial, I hope you liked the video and my jokes – they’re always on point. No messing with my jokes. I don’t take jokes about my jokes.

I haven’t shared my photos from Spain with you just yet – I hope to do it soon, because they’re pretty awesome and in less than 2 months I’m off to Norway and I can’t wait to share that adventure with you! I was told I’m not okay for going to Norway by myself in the winter but Mr Gulf Stream will keep me warm  if not safe.

See you soon!

~Iana