Friday, January 31, 2014

Rocking Your World 2014; Week 5

Hello again. Friday is here already, so I am thinking about what has made me smile this week.
Well this certainly has. Our outside thermometer is
showing 20 degrees, which is a lovely comfortable warmth  for sitting outside. We have had strong winds this week, but yesterday was calm, so I sat out in the afternoon and did some of my cross-stitching. It has been on hold over Christmas, but I really want to make some progress on it now. The pattern was very small, so I scanned and enlarged it on to four A4 sheets of paper. Yesterday I finished the first sheet, so I guess that is progress!
Our dog Miki was enjoying the sun too. She took her nap 'belly-up' like she does in the summer. Can you sort her out from this jumble of fur?
She heard the camera click and sat up. She looks better upright, but she will always be a soppy, shaggy dog. She is not the brightest in the bunch, but she is docile and loveable, so I wouldn't have her any other way.
Yesterday morning we finally got around to hanging the painted roof tile that we bought at the Three Kings market. We moved around the plates that were already hanging on the porch wall and added two more hooks. One for the tile, and one for the clock we bought back in the autumn. Initially we hung it on the window grill but it looks better against the plain wall.
And I have not been idle on the colder days when I have stayed indoors. I have made around sixty jars of Seville orange marmalade so far, and sold most of it! I have been given more oranges though, so I shall be at it again this week. It is a bit intensive, but the oranges are only around for a month or two,and once picked they don't keep very long, and I don't want to waste them. I must make sure I get a year's supply put away in our store cupboard from the next lot!
What else has cheered me this week?
Our choir Cantante started rehearsals again this week, and we have some lovely songs on our summer programme.
On Monday I drove over to Albox to go to the little craft store there, and to the lady who has a 'wool shop' in her garden. Two of my favourite places to go.
This week I will leave you with a card I made ready
for the arrival of a new great-nephew due this week. As my niece knows she is having a boy, I thought I would get it ready to post for once, but I will be doing a proper post about how I made it, on my other blog, once the card has been posted.
Have you had some happy moments this week that you would like to share? Why not pop over to Annie's Friday Smiles, and Virginia's blog Celtic House, and join in. I am sure you can find something positive from this week, and it's a great way to approach the weekend, and another new week.
Post Script:-
Since I wrote this, (I did not have time to publish it or link it up), I have been to Almeria city. It's not somewhere we go very often, but every six months, hubby has to go to the hospital there to see his rheumatoid arthritis specialist. As he is not supposed to drive for a few weeks after his cataract operation, I was the driver today. It was a rather dull day when we set off but it gradually improved. This hospital has always been very efficient for us, and we are never kept waiting long, so we were out again by lunchtime, and as it was a new 'house-keeping' day for me, I persuaded Chris to come to the big city supermarket with me, to do my monthly shop. I like going somewhere different for a change, and this shop carries a much wider range of stock than my local. While we were in there we treated ourselves to these.
Don't they look luscious? It is early in the season for them, but they were today's special offer, and this 2 kg box cost the same as half that quantity in the market last week. Most of the strawberries we buy come from an area called Huelva, which is only a few kilometres from here. I shall be trying out the ice-cream making technique with my new blender, and other things as well, but these beauties will not be ending up in jam!
It was getting late by the time the shopping was stowed in the boot, so we drove down to the sea front for a coffee before we came home. (Almeria is a fascinating city, because the shops run straight down to the beach. It really took us by surprise the first time we went there.). Sadly our usual chiringuita, beach café, was closed. As Chris pointed out - it is January, and not even the weekend. As you can see, there were not a lot of folk around. In fact I just had a pigeon for company. We sat on the seawall in the sun for a while, and then just drove home, and had a nice mug of tea when we got in.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rocking your world 2014; Week 4

Hi everyone. I wonder what sort of week you have had. It can't always be a week of highs, but I believe there is always something positive to focus on, and that is what we try to do with our Friday posts. If you want to find out more, follow the links to Celtic House, and Annie's Friday Smiles, and read all about it.

For me, I don't think there have been any amazing highs, but no real lows either; so how have I spent my time? Well it started off with a good day on Saturday. Our little art group in the village, usually go out for a Christmas meal together after our expo in December, but this year we were all so busy with other things, so we decided to wait until January and have a 'Bring and Share' lunch at our friends John and Eileen's house, (founder members of the Gallarte group). 

As usual on these occasions, there was more than enough food, and we spent a good few hours sitting around chatting, and catching up on everyone's holiday news. I wonder whether there is any significance to the fact that having collected our food, the men sat around the bar area, and the women around the table!

Chris and I have managed to get a few little jobs around the house done this week. It is nice when we find time to do things together. I told you about the fiesta in our village on Three Kings Day, and one of the things we bought there was a large painting for our sitting room wall. We decided to keep it somewhere safe until the Christmas decorations were all down, and then we needed to rearrange other things on the wall to make a big enough space. But this week we finally managed to hang it. It fits well, (we weren't sure when we bought it), and by directing one branch of our three-arm central light onto it, the colours really shine out. You know how I love skies, and rough seas, so I am sure you can see why this painting caught my eye.
We also spent some time together in the garden yesterday. We have very little plantable land, and everything is in pots, but it still soon gets untidy, with drifts of fallen leaves in every corner, and weeds that grow while you watch them! So we had a real good tidy up, clearing all the leaves and dead-heading the flowers, Pansies always make me smile. I love their little faces. I planted a pot of them to go on our front step, back in the Autumn. I actually bought a tray of tiny plants in Lidls and then didn't get around to planting them for a couple of weeks, by which time they had dried out, and some had died. But I nearly drowned the rest, and sorted out the ones that might have a chance of survival. Some went in the pot, and others round the base of our ornamental trees, and although they took a while to get started, they have done themselves proud. Look at these two and tell me you didn't smile.
I am also fascinated by our hibiscus plant which blooms all summer with big yellow flowers with red centres. It is stunning. But at this time or year, it always looks as though the rain has made the colours run together and it has plain orange flowers. Isn't that strange. But it continues to bloom and add a patch of colour to our little front yard.
Last winter we planted some new trees to replace others that had died and they are doing really well. We chose one for its pretty pink leaves, which later fell and fresh little green ones replaced them. It was an added bonus when it had white blossom and later red, edible cherry-like fruit on it. I did some internet research and learned that its leaves change colour as it gets cold. This year they are dark red, showing the cold evenings and nights we have had over the past few weeks.

The kumquat shrub is dripping with fruit which look lovely now they have changed colour. I don't know what I will do with them. I could make jam but it is not a very popular variety, so I may just leave most of them there as they look so nice.

Lastly we weeded our tiny square of soil where the
roses are. A specific weed grows in this patch which our dogs just love to eat! It doesn't appear to do them any harm so I let them come through and graze a bit before I took them all away. The oddly shaped tree in the centre is a self-seeded fig tree. The branches seem to grow in every direction possible. It is only a about three years old and has not had any fruit on it so far, but we are hoping for a few this year.

I put the dogs back through the gate while I took the photos and they are sitting there wondering why! They are not usually allowed in the front, initially because Foxy could get through the railings and escape, but now she is too big for that, but Kim can be a bit scary to passer-by who don't know her. He just wants to be friends and have a bit of fuss, but when he jumps up, he is almost above the railings now which is a bit intimidating. I don't know where Miki had gone when I took this. Back to bed I expect. She is more lazy than nosey!

One other positive this week is that Chris had his cataract operation on Tuesday and it seems to have gone very well. He can now see better with that eye without his glasses on, but he needs them for the other eye! Still, when it has settled down, in about six weeks time, he can be tested for new ones.
Instead of a sky photo this week, I will leave you with another double page from my Project Life. I am still trying to get it completed for last year, and these are the pages for the beginning of December. I didn't have a lot of photos for this week so I used a smaller photo template, and a Christmas scrapbook kit to add extra embellishments around it to herald the approach of Christmas.
Now I will just go and link this up, and then I am off to the kitchen to make some more marmalade.
My lovely husband has just brought me a fresh cup of tea while I am editing this, so another positive to end this on!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Rocking my World 2014; Week 3

Well I sat down to write this post after lunch, and instead, I chatted with my sister on Skype for over an hour. So the internet is my first blessing as it makes keeping in touch so much easier.

This has been a good week for me because I have actually had some 'me' time, which I have mostly spent making a few cards, and doing some digital scrapbooking. I had fallen behind with my Project Life. After our holiday in UK, back in September, I never quite got back into it. I have been collecting the photos in weekly folders, so now I need to get the pages made, as I am determined to make the album for the complete year. I decided to work from the end of the year backwards, so this week I have done two double spreads. (I do a double spread for each week, running from Sunday through to Saturday). Here are the pages for week 50. You will probably recognise most of the photos from this blog, but they are displayed somewhat differently for my Project.

On Wednesday I went to my usual sewing group in the morning and then to my Life Group in the afternoon. We were at a friend's house in Turre, and they have a few chickens in their yard. We were a fairly small group this week, so they were able to give each of us six lovely fresh eggs. 

I also had a second gift that day. Our group leader had been to visit his mother who lives down in Marbella, and he had stripped her tree of it's bitter oranges. He gave them to me and ordered my first jars of Seville orange marmalade when it is made! A friend at the sewing group had also brought me a bag of bitter oranges, so you know what I will be doing next week.

This must be my week for nice surprises. I ordered a stamp from a blog friend who sometimes sells off some "used but forsaken" craft items. I knew she had posted it on Tuesday, so I was really surprised when it arrived today. Considering I received several Christmas cards this week, all clearly showing from the post-mark that they were posted around 13th December, for something to arrive in just a few days is surprising! And not only did it arrive really quickly, but it was accompanied by this lovely card. Isn't that enough to give you a lift?
I spent all day yesterday 'Spring-cleaning' my larder. You might not think that is much to be happy about, but now it is all clean, I know everything in there is in date, and I have replaced some sets of very old metal containers with plastic ones and renewed all the labels, and it makes me very happy to see it like that! It also meant that I ended the day feeling I had accomplished what I had set out to do, which was very satisfying.
Also during this quiet week, I took a day to learn a new technique in Photoshop. I had bought some page templates from a digi-store, which had a photo mask and several layers of paint, textured overlays etc. I soon managed to add a backing paper and the photo behind the mask, but I couldn't for the life of me work out how to colour the other layers. In the end I found several online tutorials and by the end of the day I had cracked it. I used a photo of one of my sons, taken on a day when we went up to Granada together on his last visit. I managed to colour the layers in tones that mirrored the backing paper and the colours in the photo and then I added the script, and here is the end result.
I may at some stage add some extra embellishments but I think it works very well as it is, and I am so happy to have mastered how to use templates like this one.
And to end with I have three more sky photos for you. This first one made me smile. I am known for 'seeing faces' in everything, and to me, this little section of cloud looks just like the head of a big soppy dog with a long nose and ears like Grommet, (of Wallace and Grommet fame). I am sure you won't all see it how I do, but maybe it will make you smile too.
These other two were both sunsets this week. I love the big blue hole in the first one. It was taken as the sun went down below the clouds, but just before it was really dark so the sky behind the clouds still had colour.
And in the final one, the whole sky was on fire again. These beautiful scenes only last for a few minutes, so it is easy to miss them, but as they usually occur just at the time I go out to give our dogs their tea, I see them, and just have to catch them on camera. It is next years calendar in preparation!
Now I am off to link this to Virginia's blog at Celtic House, and to Annie's Friday Smiles. And I'll see you all again next week.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rocking my World 2014; Week 2.

We have had a lovely week so this is going to be a photo heavy post, and I will try to keep the chat to a minimum.
We were straight into the action on Saturday when our choir Cantante had it's last performance of the season. We joined up with La  Coral Maria Auxiliadora, which is based at the parish church in the village of Zurgena, where our choir leader Julie lives. 
First the Spanish choir sang some carols and Christmas songs, and then a group of the village children did some. Don't they look lovely in their long burgundy dresses?
When the children sat down, we joined with the choir and we all sang together. The song was 'Joy to the world'. First the Spanish choir did a verse in their language, and then we did a verse in English, and then we all sang the last verse together (in Spanish)- Gloria el Señor - and everybody loved it.
Then it was our turn to do some songs before the finale.
It was a lovely night of music, and a great way to forge links between the Spanish and British communities.
The church is very old, and is perched on top of a hill, and all through the concerts we could hear the wind whistling around it. We had a horrid drive home with tumble-weeds and other debris blowing across the road, and the car was buffeted as we drove along the exposed stretches of the motorway, but thankfully we arrived home safely.
The next night was the Eve of Epiphany or Los Reyes, (The Kings). This is a more important celebration than Christmas out here, and is the time when the children receive their main gifts, from the three kings, not Santa! These days they mostly seem to get something from Santa as well, but Christmas is mainly a time for families to meet up and enjoy a relaxing time together. But on Sunday night, in most villages, there is some sort of a procession to celebrate the arrival of the kings. This is fairly low key in our village, so our kings arrived together in a truck, decorated with polystyrene lollipops I think! Of course they had very loud music blaring, and they threw bucket loads of sweets out as they went. All the children follow the truck with carrier bags, and often collect a kilo or more of sweets each! (It can be quite painful if one hits you!)

They end up at a big marquee down near the plaza, where they dismount with their attendants and go up on the stage to hand out gifts to the children (previously taken to the town hall by their parents). Not all the families participate in this, and I have no idea how it is all explained to the children, but it is fun to watch, There is a huge discrepancy between the gifts, but they look equally delighted whether they receive a new bike, a rag doll or a matchbox car. 
I am still learning about these traditions, but as I understand it, the next morning (twelfth night to us), most Spanish children wake up to three gifts, one from each of the kings. Some houses have a rope ladder with three kings climbing up it, attached to their windows, in the same way some UK houses have a Santa. Some even have both!
Then that morning, 6th January, our village is unique around here because we have a Three Kings Fiesta. This starts with the arrival of the kings on horses, and the re-enactment at King Herod's palace, of the events there. i.e. the arrival of the Kings to enquire where the new king might be found, King Herod's demanding of his soldiers to find more information, and eventually his ordering that all baby boys in the area must be killed. Men love dressing up here, and they all turn out each year in their armour, and play out the same scenes, and we just love it all. Especially the fact that no-one is concerned about political correctness. They think nothing of blacking their faces for the event.
Here are a few photos of this part of the fiesta.

The rest of the day is taken up with a medieval market with rides such as this one. I love it that quite big children are still happy to don pirate hats and have a ride in a wooden ship, rocked by a man pulling on a piece of rope. One of the best things about living in rural Spain, is that they are a decade or two behind the rat-race and commercialism of UK and elsewhere these days. And I hope I'm not still around when they catch up!
At the shooting range, even tiny lads are encouraged by their dads to try their hand with rifles. (They will use them to hunt rabbits or even wild boar to feed their families when they grow up). And they could win anything from a cigarette lighter to a gold-fish or even a baby white rat! Now you won't see that in UK any more.
Outside the marquee a charcoal fire was lit early in the morning, and used to cook an enormous pan of migas. This is my least favourite Spanish dish and it is basically lots of flour tipped into a vat of boiling water and oil, so it clogs together into lumps of dough. This is seasoned and chopped as it cooks until you have a pan of lumpy bits. 
Later whole cloves of garlic, sausage and other meats are added. This is served around 2.00, free of charge to anyone who chooses to queue for it. I don't usually bother, but we did share a dish this year, and enjoyed the sauages, even if we did waste rather a lot of the migas. It is served with raw broad beans. I didn't fancy these at all when I first saw them, but at this time of year they are young and small, and actually taste really good. The locals have a clever trick with their fingers where they can break the pod and push out a bean in one deft movement. I haven't mastered it yet!
In their own homes, migas is often used to top a stew or soup, much as we might use dumplings, and with some good strong gravy I think it could taste a lot better.
If you are not into migas, and have some money in your pocket, there are plenty of other food stalls to tempt you. From cheeses, to cakes, tapas to grilled meats, there is something for everyone. This barbecue had strings of sausages, racks of ribs, and a huge joint of pork all cooking away, when some fat fell onto the coals and he nearly needed a fire extinguisher. He rescued all his meat before he tackled the flames, so I don't think he was selling too many burnt offerings.
Throughout the proceedings, a small troupe of medieval street entertainers, walked around the village. I admired their stamina because they kept going for hours, and smiled all day!
Each year my friend Cati organises a cart of local produce which is raffled to raise money for her charity, ASADIS. 

When you buy a ticket you are offered a drink - Chris 
and I chose the local aniseed brew which we loved, but there was wine as well -  and a dried fig with an almond pushed into it. They tasted great.

The streets were lined with stalls selling hand crafted ornaments and jewelry. We stood and watched this man painting roof tiles. He made it look so easy.

We decided to buy one and we both liked the one he had just done which was mainly mono-chrome, with just a few dashes of bright colour. We carried it home carefully because the paint was still wet, and after four days it is still not completely dry. But it is almost now, so it is hanging in the kitchen where the air is probably the warmest, and soon we will find a hook for it out on the porch.
After all the excitement, Tuesday was relatively quiet and I used the day to take down and pack away, all my Christmas decorations. The house always looks very bare after this, but at least it meant there was a socket free so I could plug in the new lamp that was one of my presents.
It is so pretty, like a big egg covered in little mosaic tiles of green glass and mirrors. It throws a lovely pattern of light onto the wall behind it.
I collected together a big pile of all our cards and Arwen helped me to sort them into ones I might salvage items from to make new cards, ones that I kept for ideas and inspiration, and ones that I shall give to my friend who recycles them to make cards to sell next Christmas, to raise funds for our church.
Then came Wednesday and we had to set our alarms as I had an appointment at the eye hospital for 8.30, and it is a good half hour's drive from here. The positive to come from that, is that I was up in time to see the sunrise. It started off with lovely streaks of pink to my right, which were reflected in the bank of clouds behind the mountains on the other side of the motorway.
By the time we had reached the hospital the sun was up, but because it was a bit cloudy we could just see it trying to break through.
The appointment itself was very positive. I managed to converse with the doctor in Spanish until the last little bit, which she then explained to me in broken English. I have been increasingly concerned because I have almost no vision in my left eye, the one I had a cataract removed from just two years ago. She explained that the membrane behind the new lens has clouded over, and they will make a hole in this with a laser so I can see again. This is going to be done on 24th April, so I still have a little while to wait, but at least I know something is going to be done.
Guess how I spent Thursday? Well it is now time to start a month or two of marmalade making. I have not been given any bitter oranges yet, so I decided to use some grapefruit that I bought before Christmas and didn't use, together with some lemons a friend gave me, and some oranges I scrumped from the house next door, (well they were hanging into my garden!), and I made Three Fruits marmalade. I still prefer the bitter orange marmalade but lots of my customers ask me for three fruits. The fruit in the first photo is what the recipe says to use, and I can get twice that much in my preserving pan, so that's what I made, and as I still had one grapefruit left, I then did the single batch, and altogether I have made twenty three jars of marmalade. They look very uniform this time, because the first lot I make after Christmas gets my mincemeat jars so they are all the same!
And finally - are you still with me?! This morning when I went round the back to call the dogs for their breakfast, I was delighted to see almond blossom out on a little, ancient tree in the green zone. It is another month before we see this everywhere, and the air is filled with it's scent as you drive passed, but this little tree always has the first blossom I see, and nearly always it comes out in the first week of January. It is thin and weedy looking, but nonetheless, it is the promise that spring is on the way!
And with that happy thought I will leave you for this week. Thank you for staying the course. I don't think there is much planned for next week so it won't be another long post then, but I thought you would enjoy sharing our little fiesta this week. Now I just need to link this up with Virginia at Celtic House, and Annie at her Friday Smiles. See you all next week.