Christmas time, and away we go..

christmas malaga nextbiteoflife

Christmas Malaga style, photos courtesy of Inter Cambio

 

christmas in malaga, spain

Christmas time is upon us. Again!!!. I swear it seems like we just celebrated the last one like 3 months ago. In Malaga, the Christmas decorations have been up for about 2 weeks. We attempted to go the first night, but it was impossible to find a bus that was not packed to the hilt, so we skipped it. I was glad we did once l saw the pictures of that night. It reminded of Christmas time in London’s High Street with the crowd.

This time last Christmas, we were still living in lovely Malta. My mother-in-law had just flown in from Rome with a load of goodies including fresh pasta, real Parmesan cheese and Lardo di Colonnata, which is basically fat :-) , but oh my..how delightful on a warm slice of bread. She also brought some truffle which was decadent, but quite delicious on pasta. She made sure to bring plenty of my favorite one, which is called Tonnarelli. It is a thick, fat, pasta. It is messy to eat, but so, so good. I can still taste her cooking and the delicious meals she made, not to mention spoiling me silly. I have to admit, l am a lazy girl. If someone insists on cleaning and cooking and washing, then who am l to say no :-) :-) :-) . That’s another reason l enjoying going back home so much.

Some of the goodies

Some of the goodies, notice the Lardo in the front

Warm bread and Lard, it is so delicious. It took me a while to stat eating it though.. :o)

Warm bread and Lard, it is so delicious. It took me a while to stat eating it though.. :o)

Tartine a la Salmone, a staple at Christmas

Tartine a la Salmone, a staple at Christmas

Ravioli with shaved truffle

Ravioli with shaved truffle, our Christmas lunch, none of that turkey stuff :-)

washed down with a little vino..

washed down with a little vino..

This Christmas will find us in Rome for 10 days with his mom, our first one there since his father’s passing.  My posting might be sporadic. We plan on doing touristy things, like visit the Vatican, Colosseum and the other usual suspects. We are doing this, not just because we figured “what the hey, we haven’t done that in a while”, but also because when the computer crashed, we lost a great amount of photos :-( . We have backups in storage in Houston for most, but not all. This will be a chance to get new ones. Yep..we are going to be tourists again! I am praying for the health of his uncle who has been in hospital for 3 weeks, otherwise it might be a very sad Christmas. She was supposed to come back and celebrate New Year with us here in Malaga, but has decided to stay there to be close to him.

Our Christmas is going to involve some serious eating. My husband has been talking about food nonstop since we booked our flights. He loves to talk, especially about football. I know the stats of his team, as well as a bunch of other teams l don’t care about. I am so looking forward to spending time in Rome, he can go on and on with my brother-in-law, another Lazio supporter. I still don’t speak a lot of Italian, so l can just tune out when they all talk if l want. Intentional? “You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment” a la the original Francis Urquhart… :-)

How is your Christmas looking? Any grand plans? and are you going to get stuffed? :-) , pun intended..

Steak in Malaga – at “The Grill Club”

 

steak at grill club malaga

Unassuming on the outside

 

 

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The aroma is so inviting. They grill the steaks back there.

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I think they have more seating upstairs..

I think they have more seating upstairs..

the grill club menu

If you ever desire a great steak while  in Malaga, l can definitely recommend one. It’s called “The Grill Club”. This wonderful eatery is located in the Centro district of Malaga. The centro is full of little narrow streets packed with shops, tapas places, outdoor cafes and hawkers selling roasted chestnuts. It is just a stone’s throw from the Thyssen museum. We had first spotted it a couple of weeks prior to visiting. Then, we had been looking for a tiny little Mexican restaurant, which we found closed on that particular day. The picture outside had caught my eye. The look on the cow’s face made me laugh so much. It was sort of defiant, angry, and intimidating, all at the same time. I think it struck a chord with me because that is a look l used to have on my face as a kid when l was frustrated, meaning my parents had disciplined me for something or the other. It’s like it’s saying “Piss off and go get your frigging steak elsewhere”.

Check out the expression of the one on the right! I love it!!!

Check out the expression of the one on the right! I love it!!!

We chose to visit for our anniversary dinner, eight years of marriage. We were not disappointed with the food, it was fabulous. The restaurant is decorated in a shabby chic style, with distressed furniture, all in a white and silver. It was all very inviting. They have a full wine bar. We were seated by a very nice waitress who practiced her English on me, while l attempted the same with her in Spanish.

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House red wine. Delicious!

 

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Pork rolls with mango chutney

We ordered the house red wine. It was absolutely fantastic. I should have asked the name. I have no doubt the same generous glass of wine would have cost at least $9 in an American restaurant. They brought out a basket of bread, salt and extra virgin olive oil. It was really good. I would have eaten more, but l did not want to ruin my appetite. We ordered pork rolls with mango chutney as a starter. Wow! Just wow! It was absolutely delicious. Had l known how big the main plate would be, l probably wouldn’t have ordered it. Nonetheless, we finished every last crumb.

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For the meal, we both had the Argentinean Steak, his medium rare, mine medium. It came with fries, a piece of garlic bread that was to die for..really! and a salad, all  on a huge wooden plate. It was a very rustic meal. A really big portion. I was pretty full at this point, so l did not finish my steak. I liked mine, but l did not love it. I usually have my steak medium rare as well, but my tummy was a bit distressed from traveling, and thought it safer. It was a little too “done” for me. He loved his, and finished the whole thing.

Lit candles lend a romantic flair..

Lit candles lend a romantic flair..

The music and the atmosphere is really nice and romantic. I highly recommend this place for a special meal. They also offer other things on the menu, not just steak. Our bill came to €60 for the 2 glasses of wine €3 each, starter (€9) and 2 steaks at €21 each. A bit pricy, but l think at lunch time, the same steak, only smaller of course is €13. All in all, it was worth it for us. A special day, a special dinner! We plan on visiting soon to sample other stuff… :-)

Grocery prices in Spain and the eBook

 

 

moving to malta cover by kemkem

The eBook cover

A little self promotion first! :o) . My new eBook called “Moving to Malta – the essential guide” is now available on Amazon. Yeah!!! It is a small, concise, chock full of information guide about settling down quickly in Malta. Information that would have saved me tons of hours of research online, not to mention loads of money on international phone calls when trying to find out about bringing our pets with us. Up to date info, website linkage too! Okay then, enough of that!

 

Our local grocery store, Mercadona

Our local grocery store, Mercadona

 

grocery malaga spain

Strawberry marmalade

 

fresh ravioli grocery spain

Fresh!

If you’ve read my previous post about our cost of living, you know that l promised to write a second one with the prices of the most commonly purchased products, as l did in the apples to apples post, and l always keep my promises :-) . We use a combination of 2 grocery stores (Mercadona and Dia), vegetable store and the local butcher. It is not uncommon for these parts, and like most, we grocery shop daily. Some of the things we buy often, like rosemary and parsley, we have to order from the veggie guy, who gets it from one of the farms for the next day. Does it get fresher than that? I think not! We have yet to be charged for the parsley, he just gives us a big bunch free of charge each time, so l have no clue how much it is :-)

The prices are in € ( currently €1 = $1.23)

1 kg = 2.2 lbs                                    In $

Tomatoes:   0.99/kilo –                 0.50c/lb

Potatoes:   0.33/kilo                       0.20/lb

Apples: 1.15/kilo                             0.71c/lb

Oranges:  0.99/kilo                         0.50/lb

Tangerines:   1.15/kilo (so delicious, and seedless!)           0.71c/lb

Eggs :  €2/dozen                              $2.45/dozen

Chicken breast:   €5.50/kilo            $3.25/lb

Chicken wings: €3.25/kilo               $2.85/lb

Buffalo mozzarella: €1.70/125gm     $2.08     (We used to pay $5.99 each at Kroger)

Regular mozzarella: €0.85/125gm     $1.04

Orange juice: €0.60/liter (have not seen fresh OJ)   0.18c/pint

Calamari: €6/kilo, often on sale for €4.50        $3.60/lb

Mussels:  €1.88/kilo                            $1.15/lb

Marmalade: €1.10/jar                          $1.35

Baguette:  0.39-.0.50 cents each         $0.47-0.65

Milk (fresh):   0.83c/liter                        $0.50/pint

Tinto de Verano (The natives DO NOT drink Sangria) ):   0.85-0.99 cents/1.5 liter      $1.50/2 liters!!!! for great sangria like wine!!

Spanish wine:     €2-3                         $2.50/bottle

Nice Italian wine:   €4                         $5/bottle

Better Italian wine:   €6                       $7.30/bottle (think like a $30 wine at the grocery store!)

Sparkling Water:   0.39c/1.5 liter (tap water is drinkable)          Spanish Evian for like $0.47/2 liters??? yep!

Coke: €1/2liters                  $1.22/2 liter

Beer: €1.31/ 1.1 liter             $1.60/liter

Beer: €2.15- 2.40/6 pack (anything from Spanish to German to French), usually lots on offer for €1.98/6 pack        $2.60-3/6 pack

Smoked Salmon: €7.75/385gm           $9.51/pkg (the same cost us $13.99 in Houston)

Fresh meat/Spinach/4 cheese/Prosciutto Ravioli: €1.35/250gm           $1.65/pkg

Hummus: €1.49/240gm              $1.82/pkg

Rib eye Steak:  €11.50/kilo            $6.50/lb

Spaghetti:  0.50c/500gm                 $0.61/box

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: €3.50/750ml              $4.29/bottle

Toilet Paper: €1.40 (9 in pkg)                            $1.70/9 rolls

Dog food: €15/20 kilo                                           $18.40/40 lbs!

Shower Gel: €1.45/750ml                                      $1.80

Liquid facial cleanser: €2.50/250ml                     $3.06

Nivea roll on: €1.85/50ml                                         $2.27

Colgate toothpaste: €1.25/100ml                             $1.53

Johnson’s baby oil: €2.50/500ml                             $3.06

If you choose to have foreign name brands, you would of course find them to be more expensive, like the Barilla spaghetti is €1.26 compared to the Spanish brand. We find the Spanish brands found in the grocery stores to be of great quality, so no problems there..even on the pasta!

grocery cost in spain post

Fresh ravioli with spicy smoked salmon

Medications are also cheaper. My blood pressure medication is €20 cheaper than in Malta, and €180 (if cash price, but only €40 less than my copay) cheaper than in Houston. Loving that as l pay cash now. I even tried to purchase it when l was back home in Nigeria thinking it might be cheaper. Alas, it wasn’t so. My sister’s pharmacy purchase price was €5 more than my purchase price here. The one category that is for sure more expensive here are the over the counter medications. A 20 count package of Acetaminophen (Tylenol) costs about €12, my 30 count Vitamin D costs €9 as opposed to $3 :-) , but you can’t have it all.  So, when you visit Spain, bring your own Tylenol, Advil, cough syrup etc..

These 2 things cost €22 ($27!)...

These 2 things cost €22 ($27!)… Have had the flu this past week, so not a happy camper!

 

How does this compare to your neck of the woods? Similar…or way out of the ballpark?

 

Cost of Living – Spain vs Malta

cost of living bring it on pic

Cost of living comparison??? It’s on!!!!

Our cost of living difference between Malta and Malaga has definitely surprised me. Previously, l had done a smack down difference between Malta and our Houston expenses. There was of course a huge difference, which was to be expected. I had done my research after all. I also did an apples to apples comparison based on C’s post over at the Romania experience website. I compared prices of everyday items and veggies.

Our costs here in Malaga have been quite the eye opener. I assumed our cost of living would be more than in Malta, but l find that we barely break €1000 per month for the both of us, all in. The main reason is that l am spoiled ..absolutely frigging spoiled. I am married to an Italian guy who can cook :-) . His mom does that for a living, and she taught all three of her kids well. The dad was also a great cook, and l miss him dearly, he was just the sweetest guy who was always feeding me..lol! We tend to stay home for our meals. Once in a while, we go out for tapas or go eat a fancy restaurant. His food is so much better than what we get out there, and fresh as he makes things at the moment. For meat, we go to the local butcher, get the best cut and splurge on some great wine, which can be had for like €6. We get our vegetables from the little store that is over at the next building. Andalucia is big on organic farming, so there are fresh veggies and fruit to be had at really low prices. There are a bunch of grocery stores around us. We frequent one called Mercadona, which is the largest chain in Spain. Their prices are really good. We also go to one called Dia, which is even cheaper as they just sell their own branded things.

Here is the cost of living breakdown of the monthly expenses:

Cost of Living Table

Cost of Living Table

Granted, our flat in Malta was better than this one, thanks to the view, which l miss a lot, and hope to rectify in our next apartment. I am willing to pay a bit more for a nice view. Hopefully, we will find everything on my wish list. It’s easy enough to find the view, what’s not to easy is a dog friendly place with a big enough terrace for the dogs. One thing that is much higher here is the electricity costs. Water in included in our rent here so that amount is strictly for electricity. Of course, it includes a whopping 21% tax!!! Considering that our cost of living is even lower here in Spain, we should be able to take more holidays! Hurray!!!

Some of my favorite home cooked meals:

Oxtail risotto

Oxtail risotto

Pasta fagioli

Pasta fagioli – fresh!

Risotto with mussels

Risotto with mussels

Oxtail - simmered for hours.

Oxtail – simmered for hours.

Pasta patate

Pasta patate

Zuppa di fagioli - I like mine without pasta :-)

Zuppa di fagioli – I like mine without pasta :-)

Linguini Alfredo with shrimp and chicken

Linguini Alfredo with shrimp and chicken

Fusilli boscaiola (Lumberjack styles with peas, mushroom and prosciutto).

Fusilli boscaiola (Lumberjack style with peas, mushroom and prosciutto).

My ipad pictures do not do these justice as l am usually in a rush to eat :-) . You get an idea why we don’t really care much for eating out.

We have found everything to be cheaper, especially food. We spend roughly €50-60 weekly for groceries, sometimes less. We eat a lot of seafood which is way cheaper in Malaga. A kilo of mussels for instance is just €1.88 compared to €6 in Malta! In my next post, l will have prices of common items at the grocery stores so as not to bore you with a looonnggg post. When l was researching where our next move was going to be, that wasn’t really a huge determining factor :-) . Language was. We had to learn one of these three languages, Spanish, German or Hungarian…since we considered Berlin (you won’t believe the craziness to find an apartment!) and Budapest (might revisit that someday). We even toyed with Marseilles! The good thing is that when the mood strikes, we can go, our dogs won’t mind too much!

 

 

Thanksgiving Day – Random photos!

thanksgiving day turkey and us

Friends for life! Thanksgiving day…1995 thereabouts..

This will be our second thanksgiving away from my friends in the States. I feel a bit nostalgic for it. Every year, my best friend would fly in from Bermuda. I met her in college many many moons ago :-) . She was one year ahead of me, and after graduation, she moved back home. Since Bermuda is a British colony, they do not celebrate Thanksgiving. We then decided that would be a perfect time to celebrate together. I remember we would have friends over, people who either didn’t celebrate it (foreigners) or friends who couldn’t go back home for whatever reason. Each year the number grew. Our first one was about 5 of us. I remember the biggest number of people we had was 30, l think that was in 1998!. My friend was always a trooper though, she would cook for all of us, and loved it. My job was to drive her to the grocery store and complain. I hate shopping with a passion, while she loved to compare the yams, pie ingredients etc. It was always so much fun. A day to hang out, drink, and eat entirely too much. My housemates always loved to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade. I hated that too! What a surprise. New Year’s parade l liked, but not that one.

Thanksgiving photo with turkey

My best friend – She visited yearly for thanksgiving! 24 years straight..this has to be like 1993 because that was the old floors

This year, l am thankful for a lot of things. The big one being that l am alive and well. Since losing my sister, life seems so much more precious to me. It gave me a whole new perspective on everything. I read this yesterday:

“It’s a wise man who lives with money in the bank; it’s a fool who dies that way” – French proverb

I’m not saying one should go out and blow all their money of course. I am just saying sometimes we focus so much on saving, that we forget to enjoy the fruits of our labor. As a childless by choice couple, we have chosen to stop and smell the roses. I am thankful that we are able to do so, thanks to frugal living. Sure, we got derailed with my sister’s medical bills and ended up losing one of our properties, as she had no coverage to speak of..but c’est la vie !!! I have told all nieces and nephews to expect zip..nada..zilch..lol! :-)

My 2 house mates - my very first house. Owned 50% with the fellow on the left! Our new checker floors!

My 2 house mates – my very first house, owned 50% with the fellow on the left! Our new checker floors! Next year, we are planning to meet up at his place in Palm Springs for thanksgiving.

I am guessing 2005..

I am guessing 2005..

My favorite was her stuffing. I have no clue what made it so delicious. Turkey, l can do without!

My favorite was her stuffing. I have no clue what made it so delicious. Turkey, l can do without!

This for sure was 2006, our last thanksgiving in L.A. There is my dearly departed and very much missed pooch, Lucky..

This for sure was 2006, our last thanksgiving in L.A. There is my dearly departed and very much missed pooch, Lucky..

They are trying to start that Black Friday crap over here! :-( :-( :-( . I hope it doesn't catch on!

They are trying to start that Black Friday crap over here! :-( :-( :-( . I hope it doesn’t catch on!

 

So, today, on thanksgiving day, l give thanks for all the good things l have in my life..family,friends, and you. Have a happy and wonderful thanksgiving!!! What are you thankful for?