Granola Recipe, by Patty Ryan

Our family loves granola. I’ve been buying it for years. Last year, I tried some Veronica had made for a coffee. It was fantastic! She told me how easy it was, and passed along her recipe. I´ve been making at least one batch a week since then. The recipe that follows is our family’s version of Veronica’s recipe. The great thing about it, you can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. No more store-bought granola for us, only homemade will do. Thanks Veronica!!

3 Cups rolled oats. Don´t use the fino or ones for muesli.
1/2 Cup coconut oil
1/4 Cup honey
1/4 Cup maple syrup (yes, really, and it´s perfect for this)
Available at Carrefour & Costco once it arrives.
1/2 Cup dried coconut (unsweetened)
1/2 Cup each of raw nuts, or seeds of your choice
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon of cinnamon, more if you prefer
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

I get most of the ingredients, oats especially, from my local health food store.

Preheat oven to 170(EU) or 350 (US). You may need to play with the temperature and timing of your oven. In cooler months you´ll need to melt the coconut oil. I usually microwave it for just over a minute with the syrup and honey.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together with a wooden spoon. I spread the mixture on two, cookie sheets covered with baking paper. Two sheets allows more of the mixture to dry out. Check in at 15 minutes and stir the mix around allowing it to dry out as much as possible. You want the mixture golden brown. When you´ve reached the desired colour, remove and cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Break apart and let cool completely. Then place in a air tight container. Store in a cool, dry spot. ENJOY!

London Calling and Boris’s Buses, by Trevor Leeden

LondonBusThe adventures continue for Trevor and his family, in London!!
Please enjoy the first instalment of our Member at Large, Trevor Leeden. Click here:

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, (Earning a Spanish Driver’s License), by Trevor Leeden

As you may know, there are only a few countries outside the E.U. that have license reciprocity with Spain. Those of us arriving to Spain from outside the E.U. must have a Spanish driver’s license within the first six months after receiving our residence card. This process is exceedingly frustrating & time consuming. As usual, Trevor manages to add a humor to this very Spanish experience.

Painted London Buses, by Trevor Leeden – Part 1

LondonBus London’s iconic buses take on some new looks. join Trevor as he travels around London for a two part journey of these wonderful painted buses.

Cheesecake, A Labor of Love

At our Area 4 & 5 Coffee last week, our hostess Tricia, served a delicious cheesecake. I’ve always enjoyed cheesecake and never knew how much time it takes to make. It’s truly a labor of love. Everyone wanted her to share the recipe. I thought others might enjoy it as well. I’m including here from the Simply Recipes website,

Tuuu Libreria: My Favorite Madrid Bookstore, by Valerie Kramer

Tuuu Librería Foto !Conveniently located on Calle Covarrubias 38, right near the Alonso Martínez metro stop, this very original bookstore was founded in September 2012 as “Librería Libre.” The idea was that all the books would be totally “libre” or free! Yup, you could take away as many as you could carry, no strings attached, and I did! I read an article about it that very month and, as I am an old-fashioned book lover (no e-books for me), I ran right on over there to check it out! They explained that the books were indeed free but that they needed around 350 members (the membership cost 12 Euros for the whole year or no more than the price of a book or two) to cover expenses, so I joined right then and there. They have a small but rapidly rotating section in English (reading in Spanish is still “work” for me). I never leave empty handed, although my new rule (really it was imposed by my husband due to space limits) is that I must donate at least as many books as I take. Well, what happened?

They, unfortunately, did not get enough members that first trial year. Was it the crisis? Is this indicative of Spanish culture? I am no sociologist, so I can only speculate on the reasons… Indeed, the bookstore was modelled after a free bookstore in Baltimore, USA (check it out at which seems to get by with the original “totally free” formula. At any rate, luckily for me, and maybe for you too, they did not shut down but rather they decided to change the name and tweak the strategy: now it is called “Tu Librería” and you may still join for 12 euros per annum or leave whatever donation you’d like each time you visit (this is required but you decide how much to donate each time to take a book, or as many books as you can carry). When you check out, the volunteer will stamp each book in order to identify it as a book from Tu Librería that cannot be bought or sold.

As for other practical stuff, the bookstore is open every day, including Sundays and holidays,from 12 to 8pm and takes donations of all types of books (except textbooks) in all languages until 6pm daily. You can also donate your time as a volunteer. Only one worker is on staff (you can see on the web that she earns €1,575 per month including her Social Security payments and, I assure you, she is worth every Euro Penny!). All of the other workers helping out there are volunteers. I am happy to say, and I was a financial analyst for 20 years, that the accounts of every month are now posted on the web for example, in September 2014, total revenues were €3,512 and total expenses were €2,457, so it’s working!

Tuuu Librería Foto 2

Other than the book store on Calle Covarrubias 38, the has a lot of other interesting projects (all related to reading and/or education) which you can find out about (in Spanish) on their website(s) including: setting up libraries and stocking them with books (overflow from Tu Librería) in Spain and Latam, running tutoring programs, awarding 25 scholarships to deserving students from low-income backgrounds in Bolivia every year, and more! Donating my old books never felt so wonderful and my tidy hubby is really happy about that (actually he “forced me” to donate four boxes of books this summer; It was difficult, but I didn’t really mind giving them to Tu Librería since I know others will enjoy them and now I have loads of room to pick up new ones! I hope to see you at Tu Librería! There really is something for every book lover: besides the art book section and English section, there are sections on all different topics in Spanish, loads of children’s books (some in English and other languages), and also DVDs (at a cost of €1 each).

Every time I am in the area I stop in. I have gone there with several INC pals and, I assure you, they left with a pile of books each time. I even took my Artist mom from Chicago there during her recent visit and she ended up having to rearrange her packing to fit in a huge heavy hardback book on Spanish ceramics that she was thrilled with! Anyway, so much for my first contribution to the INC blog! I hope you enjoyed it and I look forward to hearing what you think of Tu Libreria! Valerie Kramer: Telephone for Tuuu Libreria:+34 91 282 1001

Salvation in Santiago, by Trevor Leeden

SantSalvTrevor’s final log in northern Spain brings he, and his family, to Santiago. Thank you Trevor for sharing your Spanish adventures with us. Read along by clicking here:

Wild and Wooly Country, by Trevor Leeeden

Wild&Wooly Trevor’s mountain adventures continue in northern Spain. Won’t you follow along? Click here:

Spanish Wine is a Big, Colorful, and Confusing Kaleidoscope, by Melissa Gardner

Perhaps you’ve had this experience? When you enter the wine section of your local grocery store, or wine shop, with all those bottles, and you’re not sure which one to choose. You sigh, and roll your eyes and go with the same bottle you always select. Because sometimes wines are intimidating! When I am planning and searching for wines for a tasting, I get dizzy with all the choices of Spanish wine! There are soooo many bottles to choose from, you wish you knew more about them, before you put down your money. You certainly wouldn’t want to be disappointed with your purchase.

Some Spanish wine is made with grapes I know: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and of course, the famous grape of la Rioja – Tempranillo. There are many Spanish grapes that most people haven’t heard of: Godello, Tinto País, Graciano, Viura, Juan García, Garnacha, Verdejo, Bastardo Chico (yes, really!), along with many others.

Getting to know Spanish wine regions is another challenge. There are approximately 70 D.O.s in Spain with many new D.O.s coming into the marketplace. D.O., or Denominación de Origen simply means the wines produced in that region (the D.O.) are recognized as distinctive and of a high quality. Here’s a little map to guide you:

Maybe you’ve grown adventurous and bought a bottle of Verdejo, Spain’s zippy answer to Sauvignon Blanc. You’ve probably enjoyed some wonderful Albariños, to the envy of your friends back home. My friends in the U.S. are soooo jealous that I can browse high-quality Rioja Grand Reservas at the supermarket. Back home, they are usually sold in a wine shop at a significantly higher price. In addition to the premium brands, I can’t leave out all the delicious Spanish wines you can find for under 6€ or 7€.

But what is the difference between a bottle from Rioja and Ribera del Duero? What should I know about La Mancha, and why is Priorat a big deal, anyway? Is Albariño a grape or a region like la Rioja? If you too want answers to questions like these, here’s some tips.

Visiting the bodegas is a wonderful way to learn about Spanish wines. In my career as a wine professional I’ve toured & tasted at wineries in France, Italy, Spain, and the US. The wineries welcome the chance to talk to visitors about their wines and food pairings. With these visits I understand a little more of the mystery of the unopened bottle in front of me.

Many residents of Madrid, (including Madrileños), aren’t aware there is a thriving wine region right here in the state of Madrid, called the Madrid D.O.. There are at least 45 bodegas in the Madrid D.O. With a little advance notice, some of them will happily receive you for a tasting. I recently sampled several delicious Madrid D.O. wines made with Garnacha at the Guía Penin’s tasting of wines they scored 95 points or better.

Getting back to the tasting I had planned for October—I used to run educational tastings all the time in New York and Dubai. For my tasting here in Madrid, held at a local wine shop, I chose 3 white wines and 3 red wines, made from indigenous Spanish grapes from all over the country. Although I’ve led many consumer & corporate tastings over the years, I’m always nervous until it happens…that after a few tastes of wine, everyone relaxes, chats with their neighbor, and lets the tensions of the day fade. The tasting was a success! Maybe next I’ll organize a “Wines of Madrid” tasting.

Resources: If you want to learn more about wine, you can come to one of my wine tastings
Or check out or take a course at The Wine Studio (if enough people are interested, classes will be held in English).

Amazing Basque Country, by Trevor Leeden

AmazBasqCntryIf you’re a foody, then traveling to Spain’s Basque country is a must visit. The scenery and the cuisine are amazing. Click here to read more about it from our very own Trevor Leeden.