Ode to Perfumería Gal

perfumeria-gal-madrid-1Okay, time for a confession.

I’m addicted to chapstick. Lip gloss, vaseline, lip smoother – call it what you will, I am addicted. It’s been this way since I was a young girl and my mom, for example during a windy day on the ski slopes, would whip out her Chapstick brand lip gloss and encourage me to use it, too. It’s been downhill from there (no pun intended)…sometimes I feel like the girl in this funny video. Except you really don’t want to be around me if the chapstick goes missing.

So imagine my elation when I stopped by one of my local boutiques and saw that they are carrying my favorite lip treat of all time: Lip gloss from Perfumería Gal, Madrid. Just a glance at the small round tin filled with “vaselina perfumada” brings me back to living in Spain. I invariably had a different flavor of Gal lip gloss in every purse at the time. Today I bought the Violet scented gloss, which is my favorite.

Here are two historical pictures of Perfumería Gal I found:


Perfumería Gal began in 1870, and in the early 1900s owner Salvador Echeandía Gal introduced his perfumed lip balm. The company has been a mainstay of Spanish beauty products for generations. Many of their products feature beautiful Art Nouveau packaging. To see more historical photos of the Gal factories and employees, visit the blog Urban Idades.

Photos courtesy of Le rose aux joues and Urban Idades.

Currently Reading: La tregua


Well, it’s been awhile since my last post! Part of my time lately has been spent finishing books in my “to read” pile, and this one – “La tregua” by Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti was up next. I am about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it. A brief synopsis (don’t worry, no spoilers!):

“La tregua” is written in journal style, from the point of view of Martín Santomé. A widower on the brink of retirement, Martín has decided to keep a written account of his everyday experiences. He is unsure what his future holds; while he appears at ease in his office environment, he sees the ridiculousness in the nine-to-five. Although he lives with his children and at first appears close to them, we learn of the emotional distance and frustration he feels with his two sons. He has a sense of unease and feels jaded with life. Enter Laura Avellaneda, a new employee at his work. This individual will change his outlook and we follow Martín’s emotional ride as he moves from a fairly predictable existence to one full of questions and self-reflection.

I just found out that there are two movie adaptations of the novel. One was released in 1974 and was the first Argentine film to be nominated for an Academy Award. The second movie came out in 2003. I look forward to seeing how these two films live up to the writing.

Photo courtesy of the “Biblioblog” from Ajuntament de Vilanova i la Geltrú, Spain: http://www.vilanova.cat/blog/joanoliva/?p=642

New and Noteworthy Films

Tonight I’m off to celebrate Opening Night of the San Francisco International Film Festival.  I’m super excited to start the evening off with the a screening of What Maisie Knew.  There are, as usual, some intriguing films from Spain and Latin America that I want to check out in the coming weeks:

Mexico: After Lucia (Después de Lucía) is about a man and his teenage daughter who move to Mexico City after the death of his wife. When the daughter faces bullying, their relationship is tested.

Spain: The Artist and the Model (El artista y la modelo) is about a Spanish artist and his muse.

Colombia: La Sirga (The Tow-line) takes place in the high Andes, where a girl must leave her home due to a fire. She tries to establish roots alongside other shelter-seekers in a hostal at the edge of a mist-shrouded lagoon.

Happy movie watching, and if you have any movie suggestions please let me know!


…is the first word that came to mind when I opened a package that arrived from Ecuador yesterday. I found out that women from the Kichwa community of Sani Isla were making this beautiful jewelry to help support their families and their community, and decided to reach out in the hopes of purchasing some of their work. I’m sure glad I did.

Read this story about my time in Sani Isla and what is happening in Ecuador’s Amazon region to learn more. If you would like to purchase jewelry or other crafts such as purses, please contact me.

sani jewelry 2

All photos: Copyright Alison Trujillo.

Gastronomía: Iberia in the Kitchen


These days many of us who live in cities around the world have seen a plethora of Spanish-inspired restaurants pop up. Tapas bars, manchego cheese plates, and tempranillo have been gracing our neighborhoods and local menus for quite some time now. Here in San Francisco,  several fresh and new additions to our Spanish food options have arrived, such as Nosa Ría. So, I felt inspired to share some ideas that may coerce you to stock up on your own Spanish gastronomical goodies! Here I’ll focus on a few mainstays of Spanish cuisine. In many cases you can easily find these items in a grocery store or order them online.

Queso/Cheese: There are many wonderful Spanish cheeses. Perhaps the most well-known is manchego cheese, which is made from sheep’s milk. Manchego cheese can range from fairly soft with a  mellow flavor to sharper, drier, harder varieties that I feel go great with young, rough red wines. Trader Joe’s now carries quite a few manchego cheeses. Many larger markets such as Whole Foods will have it as well. And be sure to visit that small local cheese shop in your neighborhood if you have one – they are bound to have a great selection. You can purchase it online at latienda.com. It is popular to eat manchego with a bit of membrillo, or quince paste.

Vino/Wine: Ah, Spanish wine. Where to begin??! There are so many wines from Spain that I love. For our purposes here I will focus on two that keep coming back to my dinner table: Tempranillo and Albariño. Tempranillo is traditionally grown in Rioja and Ribera del Duero. It is a medium to full-bodied wine with less tannins than some other varietals.  Right now I like Radio Boca, which is bold and very wallet-friendly. Albariño is a white wine grown in the coastal area of Rias Baixas. It is light and fruity: think pear and citrus. Food and Wine Magazine has a nice article about Albariño. Spanish wines are easy to find in markets. Cost Plus World Market tends to carry quite a few of these varieties, as does BevMo. Want to dive deeper into the abyss? Check out the 2013 “Vinos Finalistas” from La Nariz de Oro’s tasting and this map of the country’s wine regions.

Fideuà: So you love paella. And it seems every Spanish restaurant has a big steaming platter of this saffron deliciousness for you to enjoy. But have you tried fideuà? A cousin of paella, fideuà is very similar in that it uses saffron and either vegetables, seafood, or chicken.  However, fideuà contains pasta instead of rice. Legend has it that this dish originated on board a ship. The Spanish sailors did not have rice and decided to substitute it with pasta. Deliciousness was born. No matter the real story, I absolutely love it and see it as a total comfort food. It is fairly easy to make. Bodega: Adventures in Spanish Food and Wine has a good recipe. If you can, buy the traditional fideos, or noodles.

Aceite de oliva/Olive oil: Spain continues to be the world’s largest producer of olive oil. Not all olive oils are created equal, and once a few different kinds are sampled, differences become apparent. Some are green and robust, others golden, smooth and earthy. Here in SF you can partake in olive oil tastings…yep, it’s a foodie city. Extra virgin olive oil is best (Rachael Ray got everyone to start saying “EVOO.”). The Olive Oil Emporium defines extra virgin olive oil as “(t)he oil that comes from the first ‘pressing’ of the olive solely by mechanical or other physical means, and is extracted without using heat (a cold press) or chemicals. The oil must not be altered in any way. It can only be treated by washing, decanting, centrifuging and filtering. Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains no more than 0.8% acidity (0.8 grams per 100 grams, expressed as oleic acid), and is judged to have a superior taste. The less the Olive Oil is handled, and the closer it is to its natural state, the better the oil. If the Olive Oil meets all the criteria, it can be designated as ‘extra virgin’. It must have no flavor or aroma faults.”

Jamón/Ham: I’m afraid I can’t help out too much with this one. While not a strict vegetarian or vegan, I really don’t eat very much meat as a personal choice. That being said, there is so much to learn about the process behind a good quality piece of jamón. Diet and environment are big factors in choosing between Jamón Serrano and Jamón Ibérico.

I hope this helps to inspire you on the path to Spanish gastronomy. While we can’t all whisk away to Spain at a moment’s notice like Gwenyth Paltrow and chill out in the vineyards with a glass of cava and some olives (besides, she sure spent a lot of time in the car), we can munch away, close our eyes, and come pretty close.

photo credit: nyoin via photopin cc

What’s happening in the Amazon?

Back in 2005, I worked as a volunteer English teacher in Sani Isla, an indigenous Kichwa community in Ecuador’s Amazon region. Located along the banks of the Río Napo, a tributary of the Amazon River, Sani Isla is comprised of a community center for meetings and parties, a small medical clinic that hosts the occasional visiting doctor, a school comprised of about 5 classrooms, and a soccer field with stands. Wooden homes on stilts dot the banks of the river; to visit each other, residents walk along the river bank and through their plots of cassava plants, or they glide by dugout canoe, using long, heavy wooden paddles. Residents of Sani Isla are physically strong, at one with their rainforest environment, and concerned for their community. They also love to play volleyball, which was something we definitely had in common.

Photo copyright Alison Trujillo
Photo copyright Alison Trujillo

As the days strung together in a mix of English lessons, tramping through mud to visit various families, and cooking black beans on my little stove, I gradually became aware of customs, expectations, and worries left unsaid. Located in primary rainforest and sharing land with Yasuni National Park, Sani Isla is one of the few indigenous communities in Ecuador’s Amazon that has been successful in their resistance to oil exploration. The community owns and runs its own eco lodge, Sani Lodge, located at the edge of a deep lake that is visited by macaws in the morning and patrolled by caimans at night. Money earned from the lodge, along with staunch resistance by the community, has helped Sani to stay independent and relatively untainted by oil companies.

Unfortunately this all may change very soon. Petroecuador, Ecuador’s state-run oil company, is hoping to explore the region. President Rafael Correa has traditionally campaigned on indigenous rights and environmental protection, and this would definitely change his reputation in the eyes of those concerned for their environment. For anyone who has traveled along the expanse of the rivers in this general area, it is clear that the oil companies have tried to gain the upper hand. Docks along the riverbanks house large barges with oil company names emblazoned on their sides. Coca, the gritty commercial hub in the area and the only place to go for staples such as rice – or beer – runs on money spent by oil company employees. Miles upon miles of oil pipelines snake through the forest and along roads leading out of the area. There is a palpable choque, or clash, of traditional knowledge and customs with political and economic gain.

My hope is that Sani Isla will continue to fight for their land and their rights to live in peace. The situation can feel overwhelming, and educating yourself and others is the first step. If you want to learn more about what is happening in Ecuador’s Amazon, watch Crude, a documentary film that follows the legal battle between residents of the area and Chevron. Another documentary is coming out this year: Yasuni.  Check out my friend Ryan Killackey’s current work with the Waorani community. In addition, this recent article from The Guardian came out in mid-January. Sign the petition to help Sani Isla in their fight, or even better yet plan a trip to their lodge and see for yourself the great work they do to educate outsiders about the rainforest. You will never forget their birdwatch tower!

Here’s to standing up for what is right and for many more years of Sani Isla – and the communities like it around the world – who deserve to live in the way they themselves choose.

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