Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rocking your World; Week 22, and a Saturday Smile

Well here I am, a day late this week, but I made it!
I am starting with a little Saturday Smile – some pretty pansies that I bought a while back and almost lost because I didn’t get around to planting them up, or watering them. But they made a good recovery and now sit on my front step. Yesterday they were all holding up their faces to the sun, and smiling at me, so I just had to smile back. I hope you do too.

Which leads me into a fairly garden orientated post today. This time of year prompts us, and many others I am sure, to think about tidying up the yard, so we decided to tackle a tatty bit of fencing at the back of us. 

It used to be covered with a roll of bamboo but this has a limited life, and when the dogs were pups, they enjoyed chewing all the broken poles, and then putting their heads through the railings to look down into the green zone below. They are mostly too big to do this now anyway. 
The fence has an elderly stephanotis plant climbing up it, so between us we cut out a panel of the old fence and gently moved it to prop against the house while we were working. While Chris put up the new fencing, I trimmed the plant to within an inch of its life, and it is now back in place. It looks a bit sparse but I expect it will grow again. It smells heavenly when it is in full bloom.

I am really happy to see this rather strange flower blooming again this year. It is a strelizia nicolai, and I have to admit, it is not one of my favourites. I much prefer its cousin, the purple and orange 'bird of paradise' plant. But it is quite exotic. It has multiple flowers on each stem, and as the buds open they drip sticky goo. But then the big white flower appears with a pale blue tongue. 

Last year, when Kim was a pup, he stirpped it to the ground (or pot, as we have very little plantable land, so most of our plants are in large pots). It has big leaves with string fibres in, and he just couldn't resist pulling these and shredding them. So I repotted it, and tucked it behind another plant for the winter, and this year it is back, looking stronger than ever.
While out there with my camera, I spotted this beautiful carpenter bee, dipping deep within the flowers for his breakfast. I have shown these bees on here before, but I rarely manage to capture their beautiful blue sheen like I have this time. They are non agressive, and I like to see them enjoying my flowers as much as I do.
Yesterday I went to the garden centre and bought some lovely geraniums and kalanchoes, and replaced our red hibiscus which is straggly and has few flowers on it. I was surprised at the price of some of the cacti they had there. Makes me think I had better tidy mine up a bit. I need a strong pair of leather gloves for that job!
Little Tango is settling in well. The other cats are not keen to have him in the house, and are tending to stay out in the garden for most of the day, but I call them all in at night, as they do not have a lot sense on the road. At first I shut Tango in a separate room but now I leave all the doors open. When I got up one morning, I found Paco, Luna and Tango all in one room. They were each on their own chair, and were keeping a wary eye on each other, but they did all go to kitchen and eat breakfast together before Paco and Luna shot out through the back door. But that's progress. I think they are getting used to the idea of having a 'new brother'.

The reason I couldn't write this post last night as I usually do, was that it was our first Cantante choir concert. It was on 'home ground' the room where we practice, so it was a good one to start with. It went really well and the audience were very appreciative. We have another one next Thursday and then four more before the end of June!

When we lived in England we always had a lot of mail, most of it 'junk-mail' or bills, but there always seemed to be something coming though the door each day. Out here we hardly get any. Most of the bills are dealt with on-line anyway, and advertising leaflets are more likely to be left under the car window washers than put though the door. So 'real mail' is always a treat. So I was doubly blessed yesterday when I got back from my monthly food-shop, to find not one, but two envelopes waiting for me. They were both cards and gifts from friends I have made though my craft blog. People are so kind, and I am really touched they they took the time to send to me. Thank you both so much.
An anticipated blessing is that this week we have accepted an estimate to replace the netting on our 'fly-free room' that covers the back porch and part of the patio. We are having a slightly stronger net on the top half and a, hopefully animal proof one on the lower sections. We are also having a dog-flap put in on the panel beside the door, so the dogs can get onto the porch when we are out, without tearing their way though. (The man doing the work called it a 'horse-flap' because it has to be big enough for Miki and Kim to get though easily!). So in a week or two's time, we will be able to eat out there without the flies and wasps for company, and I will be able to resume my afternoons sewing there, when the house makes it a welcome area of shade.
I will leave you with a sky photo as we haven't had one of those for a while. I have been hoping for a nice sunset so I could try out the settings on my new camera, but the season for those has passed. But one evening this week, there was just enough cloud to make a lovely golden glow and this is how I recorded it.
Isn't that grand?!
Have a Blessed week everyone. I will just link this up to Celtic House and Annie's Friday Smiles, and then I must get up the road to meet my Spanish friend Isa for our hour of conversation.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Rocking Your World 2014; Week 21

Hello again. It is Friday so today we are celebrating all the good things in our lives. Why not join in. Visit Virginia at her blog Celtic House, and find out more.
This will be a shorter post than usual (I can hear you all sighing with relief!), as it has been a week of unwinding after our hectic time in UK. we are regaining our equilibrium and settling into our usual routines.

But first, here is my Friday smile, which shows the highlight of my week, when little Tango came to join the family. He doesn't look very pleased about it does he?

When I took this I had just collected him from the vet. He was found abandoned in a drainage pipe, on some waste land, and he was dirty and smelly, with matted hair. So he was sedated, bathed, and most of his body was shaved, and in this photo he is still a bit groggy from the sedation.
He makes me very happy, because, although I have had many, many cats, I have never had a long haired ginger, and it was right at the top of my 'I want one' list! So when the vet phoned to tell me about him, I knew I would be giving him a home.
Amazingly he has not fought with any of our other animals. The two cats, Paco and Luna just give him a wide berth, and only come in the room with him when they want their food, but they haven't growled at him, or been aggressive in any way. And even Arwen, who isn't friendly with anyone, has allowed him in 'her room' without any fuss. She drew herself up and glared when he dared to eat her food, but made no move to stop him. He doesn't like the dogs, but they live outside, so he doesn't need to go anywhere near them.
He looks like a little lion with his shaved body and furry face and legs. He is already much more settled and looks quite content lying on a chair in the kitchen.
He will always look a bit grumpy because he has a Persian cats' flattish face, and dark lines in the markings of his face fur. I am sure he is a Persian cross, as he has the same soft, silky fur  that my other Persians had. I am hoping he will let me brush it as it grows, so he doesn't have to be shaved annually like Arwen does. No doubt he will be featuring on here again from time to time!.

Last Saturday was a fiesta in our village. This time it was San Isidro Day. But for the first time since we came out here, the weather let us down for a fiesta. After some lovely hot days, Saturday dawned grey, chilly, and very windy. Of course this did not stop the fiesta going ahead, so we joined in as usual.
San Isidro is the second saint for our village,  and  he
is the patron saint of the agricultural workers. So he has a more modest statue which is carried on a cart decorated with dried grasses, and platters of local produce. He used to be pulled by a lovely old donkey, but for the last couple of years a tractor has been used instead.
The day starts with a mass at the village church and then everyone follows the cart along the street, accompanied by loud music of course, on a Romeria, or country walk, that takes us out of the village to the main road, and up the hill to the sports centre. Here it is parked and the people either watch the local lads playing football, or find a pitch on the pic-nic area and set up tables in family groups. We had a pic-nic, and sat for a while with our friends, but although we found a sheltered spot, it was too cold to sit for long. At least we had taken our jumpers with us, so we weren't too cold.

As with all our fiestas, there was a free meal provided by the town hall, for anyone who wanted to have a share, and this fiesta is the best one, because they make a grand paella. When we arrived the cooking had begun. I guess they knew there would be plenty of takers, despite the weather.

There are companies who specialise in this cooking on a grand scale, and they make it a real work of art. It starts off as a huge vat of boiling water, and sacks of rice are stirred in with huge paddles like rakes and shovels! They are free with the saffron and turmeric so it is a rich, bright yellow. Then the red peppers and garlic are added, and this year it was lots of big pink prawns and dark mussels. Just before it is served, a design is made with halved lemons cut to look like flowers, and smaller flowers made from red peppers. Sometimes it has a small flower arrangement in the centre, but this year it was a basket cut from a hollowed out melon, and filled with lemon wedges to serve with the paella. Doesn't it look good?

There is a stage built across the top of our road, and at night there is music and dancing. Sadly it started to rain this year, and we opted to stay at home, but the music was still playing at 7.00 the next morning, so some more hardy folk must have stayed out.
I guess the positive from that is, that when local traditions are the nearest you get to a holiday, then you go out and enjoy them, and folk around here really do know how to get the best out of life, and it is privilege to be able to share these times with them.

A big positive was when I went to my Wednesday sewing group and was greeted like a long-lost friend. They clustered around to admire the wedding photos, and then they gave me another huge pile of knitting for my Africa Project. There were about ten blankets, as well as gorgeous little baby jackets, hats and booties.
The bluey-green jacket was knitted by a Spanish lady who never uses a pattern, and she makes some lovely things. But I think my favourite this time was the beige and red jacket with matching red 'tamo'shanta'. Isn't it great?! As you can see, there was also a big pile of squares from several knitters, so I have more blankets to get sewing up and edging.
People are so kind and generous, and always willing to help.
Other positives: I found time to write a blog post about the wedding card I made for last week. You can see it by clicking here.
I have finally finished unpacking our suitcases, and found all the 'treasures' that I brought back from my shopping spree.
I had a long chat with my sister on Skype and we exchanged wedding news, and shared some craft ideas.
A friend of mine went back to UK to live about a year ago, and she has been back over for a short holiday. She came to church on Sunday and then I brought her back here to have dinner with us. We sat out in the sun and reminisced together, and passed a very pleasant afternoon.
We had an all day choir practice on Tuesday, so I was able to catch up after missing rather a lot of rehearsals. I feel more confident about the concerts now. The first one is next Friday!
I had a lovely afternoon with my friend Julie (the leader of our choir). She came over for lunch on Monday, and we chatted all afternoon. Then we went to the town hall and listened to a small group of children from the village who will be singing a few songs at the start of our choir concert here in June.
Now I will just link this up with Celtic House, and Annie's Friday Smiles and see what has cheered everyone else up this week.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rocking Your World 2014; Week 20

Hi everyone. I did have to miss last week as I was in UK with limited internet, but I'm back today to share some of the great fun I had while visiting there. The main reason for this visit was the wedding of my Gran-daughter, so here is my Friday smile. This is my two-and-a-half year old great-grandson, 'taking a picture' of his pretty mummy on her wedding day.
And she wasn't just pretty; she was beautiful.

Emma was my first grandchild, and I remember so clearly the day she was born, making all the parents at nursery wait at the end of the morning session, while I took the phone call! I went on to mind her until she went to full-time school, and her brother too, and even then they came to me until their mum finished work, so she has always had a special place in my heart, and I was a very proud Grandma, and so happy to be able to share her special day. (It had rained earlier in the day, and I had not realised that it was bright enough outside the reception hall, to darken my glasses so much!).
We had spent the first couple of days at our son Ben's house in Birmingham, so he was driving us over to the wedding. Here we are in our 'best bib and tucker' as my mum used to say, ready to set off.
The wedding went smoothly, the rain stayed away for the photos, and the reception hall looked so pretty, in shades of purple and white which was her theme throughout the day.
I loved the topper on the cake which included a mini-man with orange hair. I wonder who that could be?
I have not seen the official photos yet, of course, and I am sure they will be much better than mine, but I had to just include a few.

But there were lots of other good things to be grateful for in the week.
We had some prime time with each of the boys. On the morning after the wedding we all met up in town for a family breakfast.
We spent a long weekend with our eldest son and his family. He is a vicar in Pendeford, Wolverhampton, and I enjoyed being able to attend a service at his church. It was also good to sit and chat to their three children. We don't see them very often and they are growing up so fast. They have a lovely black cat called Severus who made himself at home on the arm of Chris' chair. It is so homely to have a cat around.
We then spent a couple of days with son number four in Manchester. I think it is a lovely city, with a rich mixture of ancient and modern. We went to see Jonathan's recently acquired studio where he can practice his drums, and hopefully start recording his and other bands, to boost his income. He then took us to see the newly opened library.
There is still a lot of work to do outside, but inside it is more or less complete. There is lots of interesting technology on the ground floor, and a busy buzz of conversation, but upstairs we crept into the study room to take a photo and you could have heard a pin drop in there. It was a huge room and they had retained the beautiful domed ceiling and stone pillars.
We went on to the Town Hall to admire the lovely arches and spiral stairways...
 ... the magnificent painted ceilings....
... and the many mosaic floors. Most were covered in intricate patterns but I liked the one with bees all over it.
In Spain we have had so very little rain this winter that, already the ground is parched and brown, and many trees are thin and stunted, so we were delighted by the vivid greens of the trees and meadows, and the colourful wayside flowers. We drove down to Southampton on our last full day and although we were on the motorway for most of the journey, there were long stretches of tree-lined roads...
... and even when the sun was getting low in the sky, the fields of rape made patches of bright gold. It was lovely to see.
 Other blessings:- we were so grateful to our lovely son Ben whom lent us his car for three days, and made our travelling so much easier.
We were very glad that Chris's sister, who has been fighting cancer for so long, was well enough for us to be able to visit her, and spend a lovely few hours catching up with her.
I am grateful to my husband who enabled me to replace my ailing camera while we were in UK,  so I was able to feel it and talk to the man about it first. That is so much more satisfying than buying it online.
I was happy to have a day all on my own to browse the shops in Birmingham, while Ben was at work and Chris was visiting friends. I am not a shopaholic, and it is not how I would often choose to spend my time, but as we have no shopping centres anything like that around us here, it made a nice change, and gave me the opportunity to update my wardrobe 'a little'!
We were able to arrange for two of our grand-sons, cousins who were born just seven weeks apart, and who are both nine-teen now (!), to come over on holiday together in July, so that is something to look forward to.
We were delighted to find that our new animal/house sitter had been so efficient. The house was in good order, and more importantly, the dogs and cats were happy and healthy, and had obviously had a great time in our absence.
We enjoyed the exuberant greeting they gave us on our return though, and have been happy to spend time today relaxing with them.
I am also rather pleased with an extra little purchase that I made today. We have a rather poor electricity supply so that, if I use too many kitchen appliances at one time, the whole house fuses! In UK I found that my daughter-in-law was using a hob kettle instead of an electric one, and I thought that might help me a bit too, so today I went looking for one. And I found a rather splendid purple one! I am not sure it really fits very well in my little Spanish kitchen, but I love it.
And on that happy note I will quickly publish this and link it up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking your World over at Celtic House, and then I'm off to bed. Good-night all.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rocking Your World 2014; Week 18

I am late posting again today because I have been on a fabulous outing, which I will tell you more about later. I wanted to share it today because I am off to UK again on Monday, this time for the happy event of our grand-daughter's wedding, so I won't be posting again until Friday 16th.

But first, here are some of the positives that I have to be thankful for this week, and my Friday Smile which is one of the photos I took today. It is a smile for me, because whenever I see it I will remember what a good time I had. Basically it is me saying 'Hello' to a well-dressed horse. You will have to read on, further down if you want to know more. And here I will just say how grateful I am to all the friends and family who read my posts each week, and to those who leave me lovely comments. I do apologise for not replying to many of them last week. This was down to a recovering eye that meant that my computer time was limited, and the fact that I had to concentrate on a few other tasks before my trip to UK. I will do better this week.

1. The laser treatment for my eye was successful and not too stressful. I was told to 'sit still and not move a muscle', and folk who know me, will know that I can't do that for five minutes, let the alone the twenty that the treatment lasted for, but somehow I managed. And I can now see a lot a better. A Big Thank You to all who sent me good wishes for this.

2. Despite needing to rest my eyes regularly, and use drops that sting and make my eyes water, I have managed to complete the four main projects that I wanted to finish to take to UK with me. Two are for the wedding so I will be posting about them on my craft blog after the event.
3. The young man who is house/animal sitting for us while we are away, has visited twice this week and the dogs seem to adore him, so we are very happy with arrangement, and won't need to worry about them or the cats.
4. I am hoping to have another cat when I return home! I had told my vet that I didn't want to know about any more abandoned animals needing homes unless she ever got a long-haired ginger cat. I have always wanted one, but so far one hasn't crossed my path. Well you can guess the rest - Yes. I had a phone calk this week; "Kate, guess what has just arrived at the surgery". It is a beautiful long-haired ginger tom, or he will be beautiful soon. He was found in a drainage pipe, and right now he is smelly, his hair is matted, and he probably has a few unwanted visitors attached. But while I am away, the lady who found him is fostering him, and she will have him sedated, bathed and shaved, and treated for any parasites etc, and when I get back he is moving in with us. My other cats won't be impressed and Kim will think he has a new toy, so there are some fun days ahead, but I can't wait to get him here.

So now to our day out. I warn you that this is going to be quite long and photo heavy, but I hope you will find it interesting.

Today we went on a coach trip to the town of Caravaca de la Cruz, which is about an hour and a half's drive from here, inland from Lorca. It is the fifth 'Holy City' in the world, so named because of a famous cross in the sanctuary there, which has a double cross bar, and is said to contain a fragment of the actual cross carried by Jesus. You can read the legend surrounding this on the internet.
But today we went to see the Running of the Wine horses. This legend is worth repeating so here it is, (a direct copy from the net).
The town passed to the Knights Templar who, in the 15th century, built the castle that still dominates the town today. At one time, the Knights Templar and townsfolk were under siege by the Muslim army and took refuge in the castle. It wasn't long before the water stored in the castle became unpotable and several of the refugees became ill. Scouts crept out of the castle at night to look for water but found the neighboring wells had been poisoned. In desperation, the scouts raced out of the castle on horses to find a safe source of water. They found some wine, loaded the wineskins on their horses and raced back to the castle. The wine was blessed in the presence the Caravaca Cross and served to those who had been debilitated by the bad water. They recovered immediately and the blessed wine was mixed with the toxic water in the storage tanks. The water became fresh and as a result, the Christians were able to resist the enemy.

When we arrived we saw lots of horses in the street, all dressed in beautiful mantles and ornaments. Each horse is owned by a collection of friends known as a peña. 

The ladies of the peña work all year to raise money and to make the mantles. Some are sewn with real gold thread, and many are covered in jewels and hand-painted portraits of the patrons. All the horses had their tails bound and decorated, mostly with coloured woollen pompoms, but I was amused to see that some had bath 'scrunchies' instead.

Everywhere we looked the people were wearing red
neckerchiefs, many just bearing the name of the fiesta, but others were embroidered with the name of the peña they belonged to. Even tiny children were wearing them. They are born into a peña, so grow up with it as part of their heritage. Not wanting to be left out, we bought a neckerchief too and wore it all day. It was very useful to keep the hot sun off the back of my neck!

We walked up the main street and then on up a steep hill as the local folk told us it was too dangerous to go any higher on the main road as the horses might charge! At the top we stopped to take a photo of the crowded street we had left behind. You could say there were a fair few folk there! There was a continuous noise from many bands all playing different music at the same time, lots of shouting and cheering etc. The music was used to excite the horses which were called by name and they then ran up the road to the top while the crowds parted - sort of -  to let them through. Each horse was followed by a crowd of its peña members, and its own band. There were sixty horses all taking part. It is quite a dangerous affair and there was a fleet of ambulances on stand-by. We saw one incident when a charging horse knocked some-one over and the ambulance came to take them away. 
We melted into the crowd and went with the flow,
and along with hundreds of other people, horses and musicians, we eventually ended up in a big plaza that was blocked at one end, except for an archway through, buy  an imposing building which was the town hall. There was a balcony along the width of it where the town dignitaries stood to watch.

We found a good vantage point and watched as the horses cantered up and down, each one had its own few moments to 'show-off' and then it was judged. I understand that prizes were awarded for the best dressed horses. Each one was again followed by a band, and then there was a parade of followers in the costumes of the Moors and Christians whose battles were being celebrated. Each had its own 'King and Queen' who wore fabulous costumes that draped right down over the horses back. The materials and embroidery were stunning. Here are a few photos from the parade.
The 'King and Queen' of the Christians.
The 'King and Queen' of the Moors.
This was so beautiful!
Just one of the many bands.
Fun costumes. The lime green sun-glasses didn't quite 'go' with the rest of his outfit!
I bet you've always wanted a pair of boots like this?
By the end of the parade we had had enough sun, noise and excitement for one day so we did not continue up any further, but chose to walk back down to the plaza where we found some seats in the shade and enjoyed a long, cold drink while we sat and watched the people and horses who were still milling around down there.
Had we gone on upwards we would have come to the place where the running of the horses goes up a notch. Each horse has four runners holding onto its head and sides, and in turn they run up the hill as fast as they can. The spectators fill the areas and it has become almost a dare to see how  long they can stand there before they part to let the runners through. The run is timed and it is a great honour to be the fasted team. A horse is disqualified if it does not cross the finishing line with all four runners still holding on. They often get knocked over by the spectators, or they just can't keep up with the horse, but a runner has been know to break down in tears because he has fallen, and 'let down' his team. This is a very dangerous event and there are a lot of casualties. We decided to watch it on the big television screen at the bottom, but I am sure we will go again one year, and maybe next time we will venture up to the top. We watched one horse on the television that was so over-excited, the men just could not control it, It was rearing up into the crowd, and knocked down part of the barrier. A few of the people from our coach did go right up but they only stayed for the first few runs, not all sixty of them! This photo is taken from the internet to show one of horse-runs. That time the crowd did part enough to let them through, but they are still very close if the horse decided to bolt.
Healthy and Safety rules mean an event like this would never be allowed in UK, but it was exciting and fun to be there, and we had a great day out. I hope you enjoyed sharing it with me.
Now I just need to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Celtic House, and then I am off to bed for some well-needed sleep.