Friday, December 27, 2013

Rocking my world this Christmas

It seems like we've had a very short week, but that's mainly because I was so late posting last time. So far Virginia hasn't done a post this week, and I don't blame her if she is taking a week off, but I decided to do mine anyway to 'get back on track', and if she does one later, I can always link up to it then.
Well Christmas has come and gone, so I hope you all had a great time. Mine could have been spoiled as I had a really bad flu-type cold which normally might have kept me hiding in bed, but with my youngest son and his partner here to share the holiday with us, I dosed myself up and got on with things, and ended up having a lovely, lovely time with them.
Events were stacked against us, because this was not only my first proper cold since I came out here, and my first flu since I started having the jab each year back when I was working with small children, we also had our first wet Christmas day since we came to live here. Each year we have had our Christmas dinner outside, even if it has got a bit cloudy and chilly later in the day, but this year we had tremendous winds all night, and woke to heavy rain which lasted for most of the day. But we didn't let it dampen our spirits. My little dining room, (with a huge table that fills it), is usually snowed under with knitting for Africa, but fortunately a big consignment was sent off to UK last month, so all the rest, plus the spare wool was hidden under the spare beds, and I soon had the table laid and looking festive. 

It is a bit mean to take a photo of folk when they are enjoying their Christmas dinner but I did anyway!

It was all successful and well appreciated. We even managed to light the pudding properly for a change!
However, the lads didn't have rain every day and
they were able to sit around outside and read in the sunshine on several mornings. Kim was very excited to see Ben again as they had played together when Ben visited just after we had Kim. At first Kim was all over him, but he soon settled down and was happy to rest beside him.

We spent a lot of time trying to get a photo of them together, but Kim just wasn't cooperating. Here is Ben holding him firmly round the neck and saying "You will look at the camera!". Meanwhile Miki sat patiently waiting for her turn to be fussed, which of course she soon was.

Contrary dog that he is, a few minutes later I went out to take a photo of Ben and Dave in the sunshine, and Kim walked over and sat beside them without a word from us!
Ben had to have a go at picking the oranges that hang over the fence from next door. They look so lovely and they are almost ripe, but they weren't really quite ready to pick, so he left them for us to have later.

We all went for a Christmas meal and an evening of live music at the local bar on Saturday, but we had nothing else planned for their time here, so on Monday we all went down the road to a Spanish bar to meet our friends John and Eileen for some lunch time tapas and drinks. 

This was at our second stop. It was warm enough to sit outside and the boys didn't want to miss out on any sun. As you can see, we all had our jumpers on, but the two from UK are bare-armed!
We then moved on again to a little bar up in the
village run by a Spanish couple who have been close friends of John and Eileen's for many years. We often end up there, and they always make us very welcome. It happened to be José-Marie's seventy-second birthday (The man on the right), who is here with his wife Isabella who runs the bar, and her brother. 
Of course we had to raise a glass to his health, and then another, and another... you just stop counting. The wine was in a small glass jug that just got refilled every time it got low, because if it is empty it implies that they haven't given you enough, so it is quite hard to keep track of how much you have had! And the little bottles of beer seem to multiply too! Then plates of meat, cheese and raw broad-beans arrived, and somewhen during the proceedings I managed to take this group photo with all of us in it, which I think was quite an achievement!
Before we knew it, it was getting dark, and we were all pleased to know that we only had to walk a few yards down the road to get home.
Sadly we had to take Ben and Dave back to the airport on Boxing day as Ben had to work today, but we had had a great time with them, and their company certainly brightened up what would otherwise have been a very quiet Christmas.

As I fed the dogs this evening I glanced into next-door's orange grove and I was struck by how green it was. Only last week it was just bare mud between the trees. See how green it is now. Just a couple of days of real, persistent rain, had woken up all the weeds and they have just shot up. It will be a jungle in there again in a week or two. 

I read yesterday that we have only had 40% of our usual rainfall so far, but I expect we will make up for that  soon. It usually all evens out by the end of February. I am truly grateful that we are spared the kind of weather many of you have experienced this Christmas. I hope everyone is safe  and well.

I will leave you with photos of two members of the Perry Zoo. Firstly the lovely Arwen, who has taken to curling up on a box under one of my desks. Ben came down to my craft room to see her and caught her on camera having a little roll around and play. She was so embarrassed to have been caught that she hid her face, and for once we had the camera ready for her.
And now here is Kim again, who celebrated his first birthday on or around Christmas Day. As he is a rescue dog, we have no idea when he was born really, but the vet uses their teeth development to estimate their age, and from her calculations we decided that Christmas Day was near enough to his birth date to register it. So here he is when we took him in at around three months old. Wasn't he gorgeous?! At six months he was still growing into his ears and feet, but we could see that he is at least half German shepherd. The vet suggested that the other half is mastiff, and he does have the colouring for it. But he is not as huge as we thought he might be, though he still has six months or so to grow in. He is bigger than both Miki and Foxy, and his face is on a level with mine when he sits down beside me, but he is a very gentle giant when he is not too excited! And he now has a beautiful full brush tail!

Happy Birthday Kim!
Have a good week everyone and I'll see you back here next Friday.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Rocking my World Sunday?

Yes, I am a couple of days late with my weekly post, but I am going to write it anyway. Apologies to my family, some of whom will be wondering where I was on Friday!
It has been a mega-busy, but very happy week, with plenty to be grateful for, so here goes. 

We'll start with last Saturday when my Life Group (my church based home group), met up for a lunch time meal. We went o a new place for us, on the edge of Vera, and the food was excellent, as was the company. So we had a very enjoyable time together.

The next day was our church's carol service and our choir was leading the singing. I do love the traditional carols, so it was a great service.

Tuesday was a big day for me as it was Cantante's last major concert. It was special for me because it was in my village and I was involved with the organising of it. We used the village Tercera Edad building, (Third age or pensioner's club), as it is really the only place with a large enough hall. Chris and I, and  our friend Tony, went up in the afternoon to clear away all the tables, stacking them outside, and putting out rows of chairs. We managed to squeeze 94 seats in the hall, with another thirty or so stacked ready to go in the entrance hall if needed. 
I was worried in case there were not enough people there, but every chair was filled, and sadly we had to turn a few folk away. I was pleased to see that our Alcadesa came, (The Spanish mayoress of the village), and there was a good mix of Spanish and English families too.

Here I am with my friend Cati, who runs the charity ASADIS that we raise funds for. Together with our choir leader Julie, I had helped her to teach a group of the village children to sing 'Away in a manger in Spanish'. We were starting from scratch as it is not a carol they were familiar with at all, but they sang it really well. They then sang three more of their own traditional Christmas songs, accompanied by an Andlucian guitarist.

Here are two more photos of the choir. One of us 'in action' and a lovely smiling one at the end of the concert, knowing it had all gone really well.

The feed back from both English and Spanish was very positive. Many were moved to tears, and some of the Spanish folk just couldn't get over it. One said "Thank you so much. We don't get concerts in Los Gallardos". It is nice to be appreciated.
While everyone was arriving, I couldn't resist taking a quick photo of this big yellow moon just rising out of a low cloud bank. It looked so lovely. At the end of the evening we had to quickly get the chairs cleared away, and tables brought back in, as the next day I was too busy to do it.

This time I was off to my Wednesday sewing group's Christmas party. We met in our usual room to give out cards to one another, and enjoy some snacks and mince-pies (guess who made them!), with a glass of wine - or even champagne. Here we are trying to sing, with the actions, the Twelve Days of Christmas. It looks as though we are all concentrating on getting the words in the right order, but there was much merriment as well!

We even had a visit from Santa, seen here with out group organiser, Selina. We were all given a gift and when everyone had theirs' we opened them together. They were very useful little shoulder bags, just right for an evening out, or on a flight.

Then we all walked down the street to a local bar/restaurant for a beautiful Christmas dinner.
The next morning I had a nice surprise when I went
out, as the gardeners had been round planting poinsettias under each of the trees on the pavements. Ours are looking lovely, and you can see the splashes of red all the way up the road. I hope they survive for a while. It is a bit chilly here and they don't like a cold wind, but so far, so good.

On Thursday we had another meal to go to, this time we were both going. It was the "Town Hall Pensionista Christmas Lunch". There were four coach loads of us left the village around 1.00 to go to a function room about twenty minutes drive away. It was a huge room, beautifully decorated, and filled with tables for ten people each. So we all filed in and found a seat, and we were given an excellent five-course meal. There was a free bar all the time we were there, and although I don't drink very much, it was nice to be able to chose whatever we wanted instead of being restricted to wine. Wine and I don't get on very well together!
After the meal we were entertained by a young girl who sang and danced in Flamenco style, and then there was disco music so anyone who wanted to could get up and dance.
It got quite hot with so many people in there, so just before we got back on the coaches, I slipped outside for some air, just in time to catch this beautiful sunset.
Friday morning was my last chance to get to Turre Friday market, so Chris and I went down early to get fresh fruit and vegetables, and then on to the supermarkets in Vera for our meat. Every thing in the market looked so fresh and inviting. I had to buy this bag of chilies for just 1€. Don't they look lovely? Goodness knows what I will do with them all, but I will try to get some dried for storing.
Another stall had about seven different types of sweet peppers all for 2€ a kilo, so I had one of each just because I think they are so beautiful! The little prickly cucumbers were thrown in for free!
By the time I had put everything away, I had just enough time left to make my last batch of mince-pies (I made 50 dozen this year and there are just enough left for us!). Then we were off on the drive to Murcia airport to pick up our son Ben and his partner. What happened after that you will have to wait until next Friday to find out.
I am just going to link this up to Celtic House, even if it is rather late, and then I shall switch off and go and enjoy their company. They have to fly home again on Boxing day as Ben has to work. So I should be back again next Friday. 
A Very Happy Christmas to you all!! Hasta Luego!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Rocking My World Friday

Well here we are at Friday again. Only one more of these posts before the big day. I have had a great week, though there haven't been many chances to draw breath. And apart from one piece of rather sad news, which I won't dwell on here, it has been a very positive week.

It started with our first Cantante concert at the beautiful Convento in Vera. We sang to a full house. In fact I learned afterwards that quite a few people were turned away, which is a shame, but I guess even out here, health and safety rules do kick in eventually. Although Julie is our leader, she now shares the work of the technical side of coaching us, and some of the conducting with one of our musicians, Dave Sharp. Here we are singing one that he leads us for.

In this close up you can see the altos and basses. I am the third in from the right on the middle row, (with a flower in my hair!) and my husband Chris is just behind the friend next to me, singing his little heart out! It is nice that we can share this interest. 
Julie is the lady on the end of my row with a green scarf on. She is an excellent soprano, but it was easier for her to move to our side while Dave was conducting. We always wear black with either pink or green scarves, and this year it was suggested that we also wore a flower, so I did. Not many joined in for the first concert, but gradually more have appeared at the later concerts. We had some lovely feed-back from the audience which was very encouraging.
When we came out from the Convento, the streets of Vera all had their Christmas lights on. The shops are not normally decorated, except sometimes for a tree inside, but the street lights are very bright and pretty. Each road had a different design. I just took these ones.
We have done two further concerts this week which have both gone very well. On Sunday we are singing at my church carol service, and then we have the concert in this village on Tuesday.
On Monday evening  I went with a couple of friends, to a dramatic reading of A Christmas Carol. It was a man who spends half the year paraphrasing a well known story, and then he, and his wife dress in costume and read it to a small audience invited to their home.
There were between forty and fifty of us squeezed into his sitting room, from where a couple of shallow steps led up to a small dining area and the stairs. They read from two platforms at the bottom of the stairs and the top of the first flight. It was very good, and a bit different from the usual.
Then on Thursday morning we had more entertainment at a concert put on by two friends of ours, again in their own home, to raise money for their grand-daughter who hopes to spend her gap year with Tear Fund, working with AIDs victims in Malawi. There was a wide variety of acts including some bad jokes, the bad telling of which was often funnier than the punch lines! Three folk singers gave us a good mix of songs, and then there was this...
... Yes. Bagpipes! Not what you expect in Spain, but why not!? He played us some rousing jigs, and we all sang along to The Skye Boat Song.
The final act was a spoof pianist who was very funny.
It was a bit strange going to a concert in the morning, but everyone is very busy at this time of year, so they fitted it in when they could. There was a good turn-out so I think they must have raised quite a bit for their fund. (Look at that blue sky behind him. We have had some lovely days this week).
Whenever I had an afternoon at home I made some more mince-pies. This afternoon's batch took my total to 35 dozen, so I think one more lot, (42 dozen) should be the end of it. They are all sold, or ordered except for 2 dozen for the carol service on Sunday, and hopefully a few left over for us. I may still need to make one more lot, as I have promised my son he can take some back for a get together with his four brothers as soon as he gets home.
I even found enough time to put my decorations up. It is not a Spanish custom to decorate the house much, and a lot of the English folk don't bother either, but I love it, and I still get most of ours out. 
The tree is my favourite bit. I don't have a colour
theme. It gets anything and everything hung on it, and most of the decorations hold special significance for me. There is the ballerina from when my grand-daughter was a little dancer, a red treble clef for my musical son Ben, a wooden millennium bear chosen by son Tom, snowmen that I made with the boys when they were small, a little silver wreath brought back from our holiday in Ireland etc. etc. So as I hang each one, it is an evening of reminiscing for me. 
I love it all lit too. I stand it by the window so passers by can see it. They are probably thinking "Strange English people" but I don't mind.
I have a couple of other favourite bits too. This little nativity set is something I made about thirty-five years ago. It is decidedly sad now and I should probably throw it away, but I can't bring myself to do it. I know I made it when my first son was very small from a pattern in the Woman's Weekly magazine, but neither my hands nor eyes would let me do it again, so until it has completely fallen apart, it stays!
Out in the hall I have this display. The white Mary and Joseph are formed around wine bottles with cotton fabric dipped in poly-filler. It was a messy job at the time but it has stayed fairly white, and it stores away very well. Again it must be fifteen years at least since I made it, after I saw a lady making very elaborate elegant ladies by the same method, at a the craft show at the NEC. It was always my intention to make the rest of the nativity, a bit each year, but it didn't happen.
Beside them is my native American crib scene that we bought from a gift shop in the tiniest church I have ever been in, set into a hill side at Sedona in Arizona. Memories of another wonderful holiday.
We don't decorate the front of the house but I do usually have a poinsettia in the porch. They don't like it if the wind is too cold, but tucked in there it is fairly sheltered. They looked so good in the market this week that we bought two of them this year, so there is one on each side of the door. They make such a lovely splash of colour.
Last year we tried hanging a string of multi-coloured lights around our new fly-free porch, but they weren't very satisfactory. Lots of them failed very quickly, and then some were blown down and broken so we threw them away. So this year we bought some LED icicles which do look rather nice, but they are very bright! They cast an eerie blue glow all down the street. I haven't seen any other house lit on the outside in the village, so at least we have given the neighbours something to talk about. I like the way they are reflected in the pool, giving a double effect for our money!
The dogs mainly live in the porch during the winter, though they are free to go in and out to the yard whenever they want to. They don't seem fazed by their new lights, which is just as well as they will be lit every evening until twelfth night.
Yesterday morning I heard a lorry outside and the
dogs all started barking like mad, so I went out to see what was going on, and there was a man in a lift-up truck, fitting a Christmas light to the pole outside our house. We have an angel with a star this year. We always have one, I guess the electricity contact is on that pole, but it is different every year. We assume they are rented so they do the rounds of all the villages. We are later lighting ours than most places, because we are the only village in this area that has a fiesta for Three Kings Day, so they will stay on until then. I am hoping they will come on at the weekend, so they are lit for our concert next week. It was a grey day but it cheered me to see the lights going up, and the sky soon cleared to give us another sunny, if somewhat chilly, day.
This has been a long, rather photo-heavy post this week, but I will end with one more photo taken over the fence to next door's garden. Although our own little orange tree is very poor this year, with just four fruit on it, most places seem to have an abundant harvest of citrus fruits. Our tree is in a big pot, so we will have to feed it more, and try to build it up next year. We do have a baby lemon tree out by the back door which has fruit for the first time, and it has six big lemons on it, so I am pleased about that. 
The house next door stands empty for most of the year, but the owner does have some men to come in and tend her land occasionally. Her trees are looking a bit leafless, and some have been cut down this year and replaced with new little ones, but they are still dripping with fruit, and now they have turned in colour it looks lovely. 
She always tells us to go in and pick them, but the main gate is locked so we would need to go to the helpers to ask for a key, and usually we can reach all we can use, over the fence.
Well I think that just about wraps it up for this week. I will just link this up with Virginia's blog at Celtic House. And I think the bagpipes and pianist are funny enough to link them over at Annie's Friday Smiles too. They certainly gave us a laugh. (Sorry I didn't put them at the top of the post this time Annie). As I said at the beginning, it has been a busy, happy week, and we have another similar one to come I think. So I'll see you all again next Friday.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Rocking Your World Friday

This is where anyone can join in and share their positive thoughts from the week we have just had.
Mine will have to be a quickie today as it is getting late and we have promised ourselves an early night tonight - which really means we might make it to bed on the right side of midnight for once.
I have had a good though busy week. This photo tells the main story.
Yes, the mince pie marathon has begun. So far I have made twenty one dozen, and sold over half of them, so I will be baking a few more batches next week. I use my marble work surface to roll out on as it is nice and cold for pastry, and a better height to work at than my kitchen table which is much too low. Even so, by the time I have used up two batches of dough - seven dozen pies, my back is saying "OK That's enough for today!" Then I wash up and make the next two batches of pastry so it can rest in the fridge overnight.
On Tuesday we had our choir practice in the venue of our first proper concert tomorrow night. It used to be the chapel of a convent and has high decorated ceiling arches, and a lovely painted backdrop. Acoustically it is good, but because of the height and space, we really have to sing out to be heard. I am looking forward to the concert now.
From This Thursday until Sunday morning, it is the Gallarte expo in our village, where artists and crafters can display their work, and hopefully sell some. It is a low key affair as we are a fairly small, self-contained village.  Last night we had a good few visitors for the opening, but it will be fairly quiet from now on. I have put my two crocheted animals on my table, along with some Christmas decorations and sweet novelties for the children, plus some jam and pickles, and mince-pies. The Spanish folk are not familar with mince-pies. I have seen them take the lids off and eat them first, and once I saw a lady put cheese inside hers! But I put a plate of them on the refreshment table so they can try before they buy, and I do sell quite a few. 
There are some good items on display...
My friend Cati with her sewn bread bags and hand made jewelry....
 Eileen's lovely knitting...
Some excellent art work...
And, of course, my stall.

Today I got to try out my new toy. It is actually my Christmas present, but as we could not order it direct, it was delivered to my courier friend's lock up in Exeter, and he brought it back for us. So it had already been a few weeks since delivery when we got it, and we felt it should be opened and checked. There was actually a small piece missing so it is a good thing we looked. I telephoned them on Monday, and they have already sent the missing item to my son's house, so he can bring it out when he comes on 20th. So having opened it, it seemed silly not to have a go! It is a high powered blender, that is capable of doing some very clever things. The friction creates enough heat to make hot soup from a few whole raw vegetables. It can also turn frozen fruit and yohurt or milk into ice-cream, and much more besides. 
Today I just made a fruit juice.

There is little preparation needed. I did peel two oranges, to remove the pith, but then I just halved them and put them in the jug with one apple cut in half with the pips removed, but there was no need to peel it, and I added a handful of grapes. Within seconds we each had a lovely thick and very tasty glass of juice. (I could have added water for a thinner drink, but we like the fruit pulp in ours). I can't wait to have another go. You can put whole carrots, cucumbers, spinach, in fact almost any fruit and vegetables in it and make a juice, or run it longer to turn it into soup. You don't lose any of the nutrients that mostly lie just under the skin, because you don't peel anything except citrus fruit and bananas, and you also retain all the fibre that is lost with a conventional juicer. Won't we be a healthy pair?!

Well that just about rounds this week up. I have just started decorating the Christmas tree and putting up some other bits and pieces, and I love the house when it is all Christmassy. This year it is reminding me that there are only a couple of weeks before our son Ben and his partner are here. Happy days!
So I'll just go and link this up with Virginia at Celtic House, and see what needs to be tidied away before bed. See you all next week. Hasta luego.