Sunday, January 13, 2013

Taking stock?

Last Wednesday our sewing group restarted, and by the end of the month we will be back rehearsing with Cantante for our summer concerts, but for the past couple of weeks we have been fairly relaxed, and 'taking stock' of where we are and what we want to achieve this year.
Last weekend was fun as it was our annual Three Kings fiesta and once again we were blessed with a lovely sunny day. We had invited some friends to come over and enjoy it with us, so together we wandered into the village in time to watch the re-enactment of the Kings visit to the palace of King Herod. The kings arrived on horses again this year, and we are getting used to seeing their costumes and one well-blackened face!
Food is always a central part of any fiesta, so the usual enormous barbecue was cooking away with its racks of ribs, sausages, chicken etc. The same stall also had a big vat of what was a sort of patatas pobre, with the addition of slices of choritzo, and as we passed the man was deftly breaking eggs randomly over the top. The usual stall was there with its vats of boiling octopus, but I am quite unable to get excited over this delicacy!
In addition to all this food for sale, and the long stalls of special sweets, cakes and bread, there was also the 'comeda popular' which is a free meal provided by the town hall, for anyone who attends the fiesta, and feels inclined to join the queue to be served. This varies from migas, the least popular of these foods, to paella, probably the most popular but also the most expensive to provide so it doesn't happen very often. This year it was a giant tortilla - a deep omelette of eggs broken over layers of potato and onion. We like this and I do sometimes make it at home. How they can possibly cook such a huge one evenly, over an open fire, I do not know. It takes a long time to do. They had started it off when we arrived around 11.00 and it isn't served until 2.00. 
Here you can see two of the workers. They have just inserted rods into the big pole at the ends, and carefully rotated the whole thing to cook the other side. (I have a little double frying pan to do this). In the photo they are using the rods to lift the lid a little to check on the tortilla. You can see how heavy it is. it took all their strength to lift it high enough to get the pole across for support! It is served in big wedges, in even bigger lengths of bread, and Chris and I would struggle to eat one portion between us. We didn't wait to have any of it this year as I had prepared a lunch to have with our friends at home. It was so warm that we were able to sit around the table outside to eat.
That is probably the only thing we have done of note just lately, so I have spent a lot of time in my craft room, sorting out more drawers and folders, and deciding what work I am going to concentrate on this year.
As you know, all last year I did a project called 365 which entailed taking a photo every day. I pasted these into a page mask for each month and then printed them out and mounted them on a scrapbook page. I am pleased with myself for sticking with it and finishing the project, though I do still have a couple of pages to mount up and put in the album. I really enjoyed doing it and learned a bit about photo editing, and using my new camera along the way. But I didn't want to make it again, so I looked around for another idea, and I settled on something called Project Life. The idea of this is to make a page, or even a double page every week, as a digital scrapbook - so everything is done on the computer, no added embellishments, but it can still be printed out and stored in an album. Each page has one or many photos, and cards of journaling talking about what is going on. I still don't know a great deal about using photoshop for digital scrapbooking so I have been following an online course designed for Project Life. It was one lesson each day for a week and I am excited about what I have learned. My first page is nearly done but I needed to complete the course before I completed the page so I have a bit of catching up to do. I hope I will get quicker at doing it as the year progresses, or it may prove to be too time consuming, but at least by the end of the year, I should be using photoshop with a lot more understanding. I will show you pages now and then to give you an idea of how it works.
As well as working with photography I also want to become more efficient at card making, perhaps making small runs of cards so that I build up a stock and have one ready whenever I need it. As I have tidied my room I have found one or two things that I had forgotten about, so it is my aim to use up some of the things that have been around for a long time.
My work for Project Africa is still taking up a lot of my time but we are getting more organised. Having successfully found a home for all the little vests we were still knitting when the original project closed, we were then too efficient in writing about it, so that Brian was overwhelmed by the number sent to him and he asked us not to make any more. Instead he asked us to make larger garments and blankets which we are now doing. Unfortunately it has proved quite difficult to get the message out to all the knitting groups everywhere, that our direction has changed somewhat. As we were not the instigators of the original project it is not really our responsibility to sort everyone out, but we do have a responsibility towards Brian, and because we come rather high up on google search for 'Fish and Chip babies' I get many e-mails every week asking where people can send their knitted vests, and I feel I must answer them as fully as I can so that they can then also spread the word that the vests are no longer required. After we sent our last consignment to Brian, we said we would not be taking any more vests, but some groups had started more, and I found myself being handed around forty of them that I felt duty bound to send to someone who could use them. So this week I was very happy to find a lady working in Uganda who said she would love to have them for young, unmarried mothers on her youth work scheme. I then set about finding a way of getting them to her, and have managed to find a postal service that will take a parcel for 17€ plus 5€ per kilo, which means my parcel will be around 35€ I think. I asked for donations at church this morning and have almost enough to cover the postage so I will be getting that sent off this week. Then I can concentrate on my blankets again. 
I was pleased with the Tunisian crochet one I made. It has a good texture for a blanket and I could make it in strips so there is less sewing up than there is with knitted squares. Several of my Wednesday sewing group friends were very taken with it and they all wanted to learn how it was done. One of them managed to buy a set of Tunisian hooks online so this week I sat with three of them and taught them how to do it. Look at the concentration on their faces! They struggled at first but all had mastered it by the end of the morning. I have nearly finished my Bavarian crochet one now, but as that is made all in one piece, it is beginning to hang heavy on the hook, so I don't think I will do that again.
We have got a bit lazy about exercising the dogs, really ever since I pulled my hamstring and couldn't walk at all for weeks. More recently Chris has had a few bad bouts of his arthritis, and during the summer it is too hot for us and for the animals, so we have fallen into a routine of a short walk each morning, and just letting them run around in the yard for the rest of the day. But last week we decided we were both up to walking the campo route again now, but instead of doing it in the morning, we still give them their more local run  then, and take them over to the campo in the afternoon. It is good for us, and the dogs are loving it. 

Foxy runs like the wind but she is learning not to go so far away from us, and usually comes back when she is called. You can just see her beyond Chris in this photo. Doesn't the clear, blue sky look lovely? We go around 4.30 so the sun is going down and you can see how long my shadow is, but it has still been quite warm then this week.
Miki has a good run for the first bit too, but then she comes back and runs along near us. But if Foxy goes too far, Miki won't walk on until she can see her again. We are going to keep doing it on all the dry days, but we won't go over there when it is wet, because it would be very muddy and quite treacherous.
Of course I am also busy in the kitchen. Josefina, the market stall owner who has supplied me with my bitter oranges each year, retired this summer so I wasn't sure whether I would be able to make much marmalade this year. 
However, the lady who taught me lace making, brought me four big carrier bags full of bitter oranges this week. A farmer had given them to her as he knew she also makes marmalade for another charity, but there were far more than she could use. So this weekend I have been chopping and stirring. First I made a batch of 'normal' marmalade, which is still the favourite with me, and with most of my customers. The first batch that I showed in my previous blog post, sold within a couple of days. Then yesterday I did another batch, cutting the peel a bit thicker, and adding brown sugar to make a stronger, darker marmalade. My preserving pan can just hold 2kilos of oranges, plus lemons and sugar, and that makes around twenty jars of marmalade. So that is sixty jars made so far and I have enough oranges for about eight more batches. Then our friend Andy will be beseeching me to strip his grapefruit tree, and I'll be starting all over again. 
Usually I arrange all the finished jars nicely to photograph them for you, but this time I will show you my kitchen table as it really is after a preserving session; jars everywhere, mostly still waiting for labels, and this time, in a very motley selection of jars. I try to keep to one type of jar for each batch but sometimes it is a good idea to use up all the oddments as well, and this lot had just come out of the dishwasher, so instead of sorting them, I just used them.
This morning I woke up to a rosy glow on the bedroom walls so I grabbed my camera and got outside to take  a photo of this beautiful sunrise. It was around 8.00. By the time I had given the dogs their run, the red and gold had faded and been replaced by grey, and it had started to rain! It was only a little shower, but it is much colder today and very windy. 

But we have been so lucky this month, and it has to get colder sometimes. But all the plants may get a shock. They are all in bud and the almond blossom is out at the back of us. It is so pretty. I hope the wind hasn't blown it all away already.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Kate, what a generous soul you are. How lovely to spend your well earned retirement making such wonderful things - and teaching others too. Hugs, Di xx


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