Learning Spanish at the Nail Salon

Yesterday I had my biweekly manicure/pedicure. While getting my toe nails painted I found myself seated next to an Hispanic woman. Her friend wandered by, and in passing she asked her something in Spanish. Now that I am feeling much more confident to ask for mini lessons in Spanish from strangers, I turned to this woman sitting next to me and I asked her if her friend had asked her about getting a manicure. She said that yes, her friend had asked her that! She was very friendly, and she went on to explain exactly what her friend said, and then described the infinitive that she used. She also spelled it for me.

Her friend has said, “?Tambien, te vas hacer una manicura?”

Translated into: “Are you going to get a manicure, also?”

So I learned to use the infinitive “hacer”, which means “to do” and I learned the infinitive “ir”, which means “to go”. So, to say “…te vas hacer” is to ask, “are you going to do (to get)..”


Shopping at Los Altos Ranch Market

6 When we first moved to Laveen almost three years ago, we discovered Los Altos Ranch Market (formerly Pro’s Ranch Market). It was a complete turnaround from the Wegmans store where I had shopped for thirteen years in Webster, NY, which catered to predominantly east coast, white, middle class, Italian and Irish Catholics & Episcopalians (otherwise known as “Catholic Light”). The first thing to encounter there is the smell of grilled chickens in the parking lot, because right at the entrance to the store is a covered area with large grills where they prepare the BBQ foods for the kitchen outside. Next to that, along the sidewalk (also at the entrance) is a wide selection of Spanish and Mexican music cds and DVDs for sale, and there is festive music playing while you browse. (The last time I had ever seen such a thing was when I was a young newlywed living in the Spanish district of downtown Dallas. We had a Supermercado on the corner, and in the front of the store was a fold-out table covered in cassette tapes for sale. In the back corner of that store, one could find the most delicious tacos for sale. I always got shredded beef tongue with verde sauce, cilantro, white onion and radishes, which is my favorite!) Obviously I was thrilled to discover the restaurant at Los Altos, because they have a full menu that includes those beef tongue tacos,along with al pastor and carnitas. Los Altos also has a kiosk that sells fruit juices and horchata, which is just unheard of in my old hometown in New York. To get to the juice kiosk one must pass the bakery, which displays some of the most beautiful and colorful cakes and pastries I’ve ever seen. The grocery itself does not offer many choices; it is primarily Mexican foods, but the butcher is extensive and the prices can’t be beat. It can be a fun experience to see what the store has to offer, especially if one is making a special Spanish meal. Many of the workers at Los Altos either speak very little English, or none at all. I’d have to say that shopping there is what fueled the desire in me to learn their language. My daughter went there to buy fresh, jumbo shrimp once, and she asked the man behind the counter for eight pieces of shrimp. She was shocked when he handed her a huge bag! He didn’t speak any English and he had given her eight pounds! 

Wow, I Can Make Sentences!

A few, anyway. Last night I had trouble sleeping, so I reviewed Spanish in my head. I realized I can ask questions and make some general statements in Spanish now. Of course, I considered if I do that, the Spanish-speaking person to whom I’m speaking may respond quickly, with a thick accent, and use more words in their response than I can handle right now, but that is how I must learn.  French words are sill jumping into my head because many of the infinitives we are learning are practically the same in Spanish as they are in French. I love that I can ask things in three different languages. It is so cool! This is exactly what I wanted from taking this class. Having a great professor who feeds me weekly information that I must be tested on keeps the process going. It holds me accountable. I have a goal to speak a decent amount of Spanish in the next year or two, so that I can get by in South America if I need to use it there–my sister and I have a pact to go to the jungle together some day.  I’m going to keep it a secret. She often underestimates me, so I think she’ll freak out when I start speaking in Spanish! Ha ha ha!


Funny Story About Trash!

Okay, so my husband told me this funny story about trash this morning, and I think it’s worth a blog post because it is a perfect example about how we remember things that come from odd/interesting places. In this case, it is the story of how my husband’s only knowledge of Spanish –other than “cerveza”, “hola!” and “gracias”– is the word for trash: “basura”.

He was telling us this morning over breakfast how he knew the word for trash. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “What? How do you not know any Spanish, but you DO know the word for “trash” of all things?!”

He told me that he was watching the 1998 sci-fi movie, “Sphere,” with Sharon Stone in it. There is a scene while they are all in the spaceship that is deep under the ocean—the one they think is an alien spaceship, but turns out to be an American spaceship from the far future that has traveled back in time–and while the characters are talking to each other and exploring the space ship, my husband isn’t paying any attention to the actors–he is distracted by a wastebasket on the ship with a sign attached to it that says “trash-basura”. Well, that’s my husband for you! Cute. The next time we go to Mexico he’ll know where to put our trash.







Yes. We dance! My husband and I love to dance to the bands at Vee Quiva Casino resort & hotel. Last Saturday we were hanging around the house, finishing up outdoor chores and enjoying the weather so much that we decided to grill our dinner outside, too. It was so nice that after dinner we didn’t want to end our evening early. So, we took a power nap, and then I put on a dress and off we went to enjoy a Mexican band at the bar over at VQ. We love that it is so convenient for us; it is only three miles from our house. When we got there we parked in the garage and took the elevator to the casino. While in the elevator a woman looked at me and smiled, and then she asked me, “mucho dinero?” I laughed and replied, “No! No mucho dinero!” The lady laughed. As we got off the elevator together I looked at her group and said, “buenas suerte!” and they all smiled and nodded. My husband was so impressed with me! He loved that I talked to them in Spanish. The outdoor seating area is huge in the bar area near where the band plays, and there is a beautiful water feature, fire features and desert views. There were many couples around us speaking Spanish, but I couldn’t understand any of them. We had a drink and we danced, and although the band played some popular rock and roll songs, the dance floor filled up entirely when they played Spanish music. I couldn’t take my eyes off of one couple who was dancing more traditionally. The man led his partner so expertly! I want to learn how to dance like that. My husband and I did, however, get a compliment from a man in a cowboy hat, so we must have done okay. It was so much fun! I am looking forward to going back another night with our friends who claim they don’t dance. Maybe we can persuade them to try.

Testing Myself on Vocabulary Today

I’m a little bit lazy today, so I’m not trying too hard to come up with a more fascinating blog post idea than posting my most recent vocabulary words. I like to feature my dogs for these exercises, but then again….I’m lazy today! So, I’ll bring out the dogs in a later post, and I promise that it will be cute. I already have some ideas for that! I quiz myself regularly on vocabulary, so for today, I am going to look at my flashcards in English, and then write them here to see how well I do. Therefore, I will leave whatever I write without fixing them so that you can see how I did. I will then re-write whatever I got wrong after that! By the way, these are not in any particular order.


School of Medicine                                          Facultad de Medicina

School of Humanities                                     Facultad de Humanidades

Plaza                                                                     Plaza

Computer Science                                            Informatica

I have                                                                   Yo tengo

Do you have?/he has…                                   Tiene(s)

Nothing                                                               Nada

Dedicated                                                            Dedicado

To get                                                                   Sacar

I get                                                                      Yo saco

To get bad grades                                             Sacar malas notas

Excellent                                                             Excelentes

How many classes do you have?                 Cuantos clases tienes?

How much?                                                        Cuanto es?  o  Cuanto cuesta?

I write                                                                  Yo escribo

Library                                                                 Biblioteca

Cafeteria                                                              Cafeteria

To listen                                                               Escuchar

To look                                                                  Mirar

School of Computer Science                         Facultad de Informatica

School of Science                                              Facultad de Ciencias

To get good grades                                            Sacar buenas notas

Wow!                                                                      !Vaya!

School of law                                                        Facultad de Derecho

Book store                                                             Libreria

Gymnasium                                                           Gimnasio

To write                                                                  Escribir

To have                                                                   Tener

Do you write?/He writes…                                Escribe(s)?…

Boring                                                                     Aburrida


Well…..It looks like I got them all right! 🙂 !Vaya!



Spanish Tapas


Let me just start by saying I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain. I recently watched an episode of “Parts Unknown” that focused on Granada, Spain, which focused heavily, of course, on the tapas! I was more interested in staring at the screen to see what was on the little plates that were brought to Mr. Bourdain’s table, delighting in the diversity of the dishes, and daydreaming about taking my own trip to Spain one day than I was learning about the actual tradition, or rituals of tapas, which are small plates of food, and how they differ from region to region …and that they spark passionate debates amongst those who regularly partake in them.


Now that we are discussing Spanish culture in class, I’m thinking once again about these tiny feats of gastronomy. I love the beauty of them–just looking at them! But then, I love all food, so that’s nothing new with me. But this time I’ve done a little research and can actually say a little bit about what tapas are.

Naturally, each region of Spain has it’s own way of doing things. I learned that tapas are part of the every day culture all over Spain, but the ways in which the ritual is carried out are different, and the featured dishes are specific to each region. The main reason tapas culture exists in Spain is because people don’t particularly do much entertaining within their homes. Therefore, people typically will go to a bar for shots of wine, or small glasses of beer, and they will nibble on the tapas that are brought to them gratis (as long as one is drinking). Patrons will meet each other out much like they do here in the States for happy hour. Friends will meet each other, family, and co-workers. Strangers will greet one another and pick up on conversations, perhaps discuss sporting events. And then one will wander on to the next bar, repeating the pattern until one goes home for dinner. So in some regions the tapas ritual is carried out as a bar hopping experience, or, to put it more eloquently, the tapas are integrated into an evening stroll, which is followed by a fuller meal at home, and in other regions patrons will simply stay put in one bar and continue to drink and eat until they are full. With such diversity of flavorful dishes it is easy to see how one could debate which dishes are superior, but then, taste is subjective, isn’t it? I’m going to have to try it out, in person, for myself!



Billboards in Spanish all around Phoenix? I dig it!


My husband was so kind as to take a photo of this billboard outside of the driver’s side window while driving us to dinner downtown last Friday night. I’ve been wanting to get a photo of the billboard that says something to the effect of “Choose any two, mix and match for $2”, but of course that is my interpretation because it was all in Spanish. But alas I haven’t seen that billboard lately, so this one will have to do! I just translated it on Google and it tells me that it means, “breakfast, lunch and dinner”. Sounds good to me!


I really like seeing billboards in other languages. My family still occasionally talks about the one we saw in Montreal several years ago for the movie, “Snakes on a Plane” –“Serpents D’abord!”.  We think it sounds scarier in French! Then, there was the one we saw in Italy for the Nicholas Sparks movie, “The Longest Ride” — “La Cavalcata Piu Lunga”. It is so much fun to find these billboards and do the research to interpret them. It gives me a fun little challenge and I learn something  new every time.