You must have gathered from my recent posts that this is the season for citrus fruits. In fact, apart from the oranges I picked from our tree, and a net full of late mandarins, both of which are in the larder so we remember to eat them, my garage is littered with boxes and bags full of lemons, bitter oranges and sweet but sour 'eating' oranges. There is also a shopping bag full to the brim with bags of sugar, and boxes and drawers of bottles and lids. My next job is to match the last two up. Last year I had to stop making marmalade because I ran out of jars, so throughout this past year, disappointed customers have been giving me their jars so the same thing won't happen this year. Each supermarket jam out here comes in a different shaped jar, and I also get given olive jars, and ones from pickles and sauces. It doesn't work to store them with lids on, as they smell musty and flavour-tainted after a while, so now it is time to use them, I need to sort them all out.
A friend of our who lives just across the campo from our village, lives in a house with a row of fruit trees along one side. For a while he has urged us to come and pick some of his grapefruit, and this week he begged us to, as he says he has eaten one a day for the last two months and can't face any more! So today we went round there and had a picking session. Andy had picked the outer layer of fruit for his own use, but when I ducked under the low branches and looked up, there was still loads of fruit inside the tree. Chris climbed into the central fork and picked them and handed them down to me below. We brought home a big bag full and they smell gorgeous. Last year when Andy gave us some, Chris had told him that I liked them, but neither of them realised that I couldn't eat them as I was taking simvastain daily for a high cholesterol problem, and grapefruit is the one thing you shouldn't mix with statins. So I made those into grapefruit marmalade and it was quite popular. Now my cholesterol level is so much lower that the doctor has told me to just take one tablet a week, so I feel I can enjoy eating some of these grapefruit this year. But I will also make some into marmalade, and perhaps do a batch with ginger in it too. I know now that I will eventually sell as much marmalade as I can make; of all the home preserves, it seems to be the best for keeping; so at least this year I won't run out quite as early as I did last year.
Our church has recently started holding life/house groups each Wednesday afternoon, and our group has decided that we would like to share a meal together before we have a time of Bible study and praise, and to make it fair, we are going to a different member's house each week. This week it was my turn to host it. We have agreed to keep it simple so it doesn't become a competition to see who can put on the best spread. While it is a bit chilly we settled on soup, followed by cheese, meat etc. So I needed to make a pot of soup that was sufficient for a dozen people. The only soup I make from a recipe is a very nice fresh tomato soup. Other than that it is a case of 'see what's in the cupboard, chop it up small and cook it all together'! I did dig a tray of stewing beef out of the freezer, and as it was the day after market day, I had a good selection of fresh vegetables in. I diced all of these up and put them in the slow cooker over night. I recently bought myself a bigger slow cooker as I like to cook enough for several meals at one time, and my little one wasn't very adequate. The new one was perfect for my soup, and the next morning I tipped it all into my preserving pan and added a tin of baked beans and a jar of chick peas. And I am glad to say there was enough for everyone, and some left over to make a meal for Chris and I one day. I wasn't sure whether I could manage to seat twelve people round a table. Our dining room is quite small so we pushed all the arm chairs back to the walls in the sitting room, and brought in our garden table and the one from the kitchen, and it was fine. Amazingly I still have enough crockery and glasses as well, so it was quite easy. We had a lovely time of fellowship together, and now I can enjoy several weeks of lunches at friends houses, before it is my turn to do it again.
After our grapefruit picking sessions we went home and sat out on the porch for a while, and we had a rather unwelcome visitor. This spider was on the inside of our fly-free area, so the warm sun must have brought him out of the brickwork somewhere. Chris put it outside where it continued to sit on the mesh of the door. It is very unusual to see a spider this big in our garden. We get quite a lot of little grey 'jumping spiders'. They are tiny and they do literally jump rather than run. They can give you a bite that is far more irritating than any mosquito bite, and it can often turn into a very nasty sore. When I had a bad one the man at the farmacia gave me cortisone cream and that soon cleared it up. But I hadn't seen one like this before. Maybe the cats and dogs chase them away for us. On closer inspection I have to say he is quite a handsome creature with some pretty cool markings on his body, but I'll never be able to really say I like spiders. However I didn't want to hurt it, but I didn't want it near me either so I found a soft brush and persuaded it to go down to ground level, where, eventually, it scuttled away, so I hope it has found a new home far away from mine!