Friday, August 29, 2014

Rocking Your World 2014; Week 35

It has been a lovely week here. We have enjoyed having our son Tom here, and we still have him for a few more days; he leaves at 'silly o'clock' on Wednesday morning.
Although Annie's Friday Smiles is not up and running again yet, since her house move, I do have a little smile for you. In fact it was a big smile for me. One of my dear blog-friends, Di, posted today an old card featuring Benjamin bunny, that she had made for her grand-daughter's first birthday, along with a jumper she knitted for her with the same image. I thought 'I
know that jumper'. I knitted the very same one when my son Benjamin was one, and he just loved it, and wore it for ages. I rooted through some old photos and this was the best I could find in a hurry. He was just taking his first steps. Ben is twenty--seven now, so Di, it is a very old pattern, but your blog post brought happy memories flooding back. Do visit Di's blog which you can find here, and see her jumper with its lovely matching card.

Now for a little happy story that I should have included last week, but I didn't have time. The Friday had been a bank holiday here, so there was no market in Turre, so on Saturday I decided to go to the big one in Vera instead. This is spread over a maze of small streets and I always lose my sense of direction when I go there. Because the streets are narrow and very busy, I did not take my wheely-shopper, but instead had a big supermarket 'bag for life'. I did not intend to buy much, but as usual I got carried away by all the lovely fresh fruit and vegetables, and ended up with a much too heavy bag. Heading back to where I thought I had left the car, I felt the first handle of my bag start to tear. Soon it had broken so I tied it round the other one and continued on my way. Then the second handle gave way so I had no choice but to hoist this huge bag up into my arms and stagger the rest of the way. It was then I realised I had taken the wrong road away from the market, and emerged from the village quite a way from where the car was parked. I sank down onto a bench to consider my options. Hide the bag behind a wall and fetch the car was the best one, but I doubted whether it would still be there when I returned. Then I was approached by a small, stocky man, (S. American/Spanish I think). I was a bit apprehensive, and I didn't understand the torrent of words he came out with, but then it dawned on me that he was offering to carry my bag. I realised that he was one of the many unemployed men around who are just looking to earn the price of the next meal, but to me he was an answer to prayer. I warned him it was very heavy but he hoisted it up on his shoulders and off we went. It took us about ten minutes to reach the car and all the way we kept up a conversation in my limited Spanish and a few hand signals, but he refused to stop and rest, and soon my bag was safely stowed in the back of the car. I did give him what I hope was a generous tip, and he was as obviously grateful as I was! Angels in disguise etc....

Our week with Tom has been a hot one. We were little under forty degrees some days, and it doesn't really cool down all evening or even in the night. So Tom has been in and out of the pool all day, and we have had lots of midnight dips. 

One day we went up to the big pool at the top of the village. We are lucky to have such a big municipal pool and it is always warm and spotlessly clean. I like to go there as it is around 35metres long so I can do some serious swimming rather than bobbing around in ours. Sadly it is only open for July and August, so Sunday will be the last day. It was the first time Tom has been here when it is open, so afterwards we took him to the level above to see the football pitch and the picnic area. I took the photo of the pool, looking down on it from there.
From the end of the picnic area there is a lovely view across the motorway to our village...
...and beyond that you can just see the white village of Mojacar Pueblo, up on its hill.
As well as swimming we have been out and about enjoying tapas (anchovies on this day) and tinto verano....
Enjoying seeing Tom singing on karaoke night...
And today we took him to one of our favourite restaurants for lunch - la Fontera at Esparto beach.
I had tenera (somewhere between veal and beef - officially one year old!) and it was a huge slice of meat. More than I would usually eat in a week, but I think I did it justice.
The dogs have enjoyed having some different company, and Kim in particular pesters Tom when he sits outside, but he eventually gives in and falls asleep at his feet. This week we were amused to see him sleeping with his paw behind his ear. I don't know why he did it, but he stayed that way for ages.
A couple more things to be happy about this week; On Sunday a friend from church gave me a bag of cooking apples from her tree, so I set about preparing them while they were nice and fresh.

This morning, (before the lovely beach front lunch) we drove to IKEA. This is in Murcia so it is a couple of hours away, but I wanted a new bookcase for my craft room - part of the big reorganisation I am trying to do. Tom helped me make an accurate floor plan on the computer so I could see what I might be able to squeeze in. We came away with a slightly smaller bookcase than I had intended, and a super new computer desk, and even better, my lovely husband paid for them! (Hence me treating them both to lunch!). The goods will be delivered on Monday, so hopefully Tom will be able to help with the assembly. I am not very good with the big things, and Chris can't do them on his own.
And to end with here are a couple of sky photos. After a very hot week, today was just a couple of degrees cooler, mainly because there was a light covering of clouds. This meant we might get a nice sunset, so as I was out the back feeding the dogs their tea, I took this photo.
Then Tom came out and we sat we watched as the sky darkened and the clouds began to turn pink. There was just a tiny sliver of a new moon visible above this cloud bar.
And before the sun disappeared altogether we were treated to this glorious show.
So on that beautiful note I will go and link up with Virginia at her blog Celtic House, and I'll see you all, same place, same time, next week. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Rocking your world 2014; Week 34

There's a little verse my mum used to say to us, that goes like this:   "You Smile, and others Smile, And soon there's miles and miles of Smiles, and life's worthwhile because you Smile!" And we would automatically smile back at her as she gave us her lovely gentle smile. And it still works. So here is my son, smiling when he saw me creeping up on him with camera in hand, and a big smile on my face!

Tom flew out from his new home in Denmark, arriving in the early hours of this morning. So today he had a well earned lie-in, and has then been in and out of the pool, and sitting in the sun enjoying the warmth. We have ten days to catch up on chat. Dad is happy as Tom can talk technical with him, in a what might as well be a foreign language to me, and I enjoy hearing about his new life which seems to be suiting him very well.
We have had a fairly quiet week again. August is the main month for Spanish holidays, and for just a few weeks there is actually some traffic on our roads, so we only go out when we need to.
However, it was not so quiet last Saturday when we could hear music nearby, all through the afternoon. Later it got rather louder and it sounded like a live band which is unusual in the village. When the bars have 'live music' it is normally one or two singers with taped music to sing to. In the end curiosity got the better of me and I wandered out to investigate. I met Chris, who had been down at the bar watching football, also following the sound, and just in the street behind ours, we came to a new house. It has been built a little at a time over the five years we have been here, and apparently it is now almost complete, so the owners were holding a party in the porch for friends and family. This included the usual abundance of food and drink, and a quartet of muscians playing guitars, saxaphone and drums, and boy was it loud up close! We were welcomed and could have stayed, but we are not really into gatecrashing other folks celebrations so after a little while, we wandered on up the road to a Spanish bar that has karaoke on Saturday nights. Some of our friends were there and we spent a couple of hours in good company with them.
For the rest of the week I have been continuing to sort out my room, ready for the big rearranging of it. Last week I showed you my collection of beads; well here is my collection of pens! And these are just the water based brush pens. The wooden box at the right, back, contains permanent markers in every colour, and the clear plastic box is gell pens. Just out of the photo, are my metallic markers, and of course, my beloved alcohol ink pens - mostly copic markers.
I have always loved colouring, though I am no artist. I was an academic student, and would happily spend hours wrestling with a mathematical problem, or writing an essay. I eventually went on to train as a secondary school teacher of mathematics before changing direction to run a nursery school, which may be why I like balance, order and regular patterns. But as I attended a girls' grammar school where the emphasis was on the academic subjects, and I was given high praise for my acheivements, I became unable to enjoy anything that I was not fairly good at, and that included art. My art teacher made it clear I was not worth wasting her time on, and for years I would not attempt anything 'artistic'. Fortunately, many years on I discovered that I may not be an artist but I could do craft, and so my current hobby was begun. But even in my non-art days I still loved a new set of pens.
One of the Christmas presents that delighted me as a child was a new pencil case. I can still see it now. It was bright blue with a metallic shine, and when I unzipped it, I found a whole set of coloured pens. It left a lasting impression on me far greater than that of many more extravagant gifts I received. And I still get the same thrill when faced  with a new set of pens, paints etc. The first thing I do is make a small mark with each one so I can see the colours properly. The pens I have now are old. Many are Marvy Le Plume water markers that I  bought maybe fifteen years ago, so I thought that they would probably be a bit dried up by now. So in the photo I am testing them, and I was surprised to find I only had to throw about four away. They don't get used as much now I have discovered copics, but I do still get them out now and again. The only pens that have not survived the test of time, are in fact some of the newer ones, and they are the Sakura starburst pens. Only about four of that set still write. But I have other glitter pens, bought out here from Lidls I think.
My room will take a long time to sort out if I am so easily distracted, won't it? But it is good to look through old stash, and find things that haven't had an airing for a while. It is like a fresh lot of inspiration, making me want to use everything again.
What else has made me smile this week:
A donation of wool for my knit for Africa project.
The reading on my bathroom scales in the morning that show I have now lost around ten pounds, and am slowly approaching my first target.
Discovering how to make a really tasty vegetable soup in my blender, that used up a lot of things I might otherwise have thrown away - e.g. the stem of the broccoli and the outer leaves of a cauliflower!
Spending relaxing afternoons out on the porch, with the dogs for company, and getting on with my cross stitch picture.
Being invited to join in the Creative Blog Hop. More about that next week.
A relatively short post for me this time, and I will probably be busy catching up with Tom this week, but I will try to get back next Friday. But first I will link up with Virginia at Celtic House. There is no Annie's Smiles this week, as I guess she is busy settling into her new home, and probably does not have internet connected yet.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rocking Your World 2014; Week 33

I am sure this will not make most of you smile, but it did me.

Yes it's rain, falling on our flagged path this morning. We have had so little rain this year, everywhere is parched and brown, and we certainly don't expect it in August. Our local forecaster was predicting it, but we all shrugged it off, expecting any that did fall, to land on the surrounding hills before it got to us. But at around 10.00 this morning, it started. And what did we do? Well we went and stood in it of course! 

It actually turned into quite a downpour for a while. The water was bouncing off the pool, as I quickly moved some garden cushions to more sheltered places, and made sure my flower pots were far enough away from the walls to benefit from the shower. 
It was, however, fairly localised. I could see the blue
sky just beyond the black clouds. It rained for longer than I expected it too, so maybe it was enough to give the plants a boost, though I doubt whether it will have much impact on the low level of water in the reservoirs. But it 'laid the dust', and the temperature has dropped a few degrees which is a great relief to everyone. Even the Spanish folk have been moved to comment on the heat this week, and they are not as prone to commenting on the weather as we British are!
So how have I occupied my time while it has been so hot this week? Well I have been very grateful for the pool to dip in when I need to cool off. We were in it around midnight most nights, and it is such a relaxing way to end the day.
I am also grateful for our shady porch, and the fly screen which takes the edge off the heat of the sun. By around 4.00 most afternoons, there is enough shade for me to sit out there and do some more of my cross-stitch picture. I feel I have made real progress with it lately, though there is still a way to go.
I have also made some progress with the re-organisation of my craft room. The shed I mentioned last week is constructed and duly filled, giving me more space in my utility and garage. So now I am able to move some of my 'stuff' out there. But first it has to be sorted through. It is amazing what you find when you sort out. Things you knew you had, but had forgotten about. It makes progress slow but I am getting there!
I spent one day sorting out my beads. Have I ever mentioned I am a hoarder?! I can't bear to throw away anything that I might be able to use one day, which means I have very large collections of some things. I love my patterned papers and my beads. I don't even feel the need to use them - just to get them out and sort through them now and then. I think it is part of being  born a Libran, that I like order, and often get more pleasure from sorting and organising things, than I do from actually using them. So here is my  collection of beads.
Sorting them is always difficult because you are sure to come across something that doesn't fit into any of your categories, so you have rethink. Here they are almost done to my satisfaction. You can just glimpse Arwen's tail in the top, right-hand corner. I had to get all the beads sorted and the lids firmly closed before she took it upon herself to move, and knock them all over the floor! It took me all day, so I have a few more weeks of sorting to do before everything is ready to be moved.
This is  my attempt to photograph the super-moon on Sunday night! There were too many surrounding lights to focus on it. I have to admit that the blue on the floor is not moonlight. It comes from a very powerful spotlight, mounted on a car.
And what was the spotlight for? Well it was part of a very bizarre piece of street drama that marked the end of 'theatre week' in the village. Basically it was three people travelling in a car, and they were lost, so they kept stopping to ask the way. The man and woman got out each time they stopped, and interacted with the crowd. Then the mother of the woman, (actually a young man in costume) had to get out. 
There were loads of folk lining the streets to witness this, especially families with young children although it was by this time well after 11.00 at night. At one stopping place they were joined by a young  man riding a miniature motor bike, which, of course, the elderly mother wanted to try.
He showed her how to use it and she took off up the road at quite a speed,deliberately swerving from side to side across the road, then doing a sharp U-turn and driving back to the car! The people were surging all over the road and they sort of parted like a tidal wave to let the motorbike through and then surged together again. Health and Safety as we know it just doesn't exist out here!

One evening this week I had a phone call from a man from the camera club I have just joined, inviting us to join him at the local bar, so he could show me more things about my camera. I think they are going to be a very supportive group. Here is Chris enjoying the Spanish way of life, while Arthur and I talked cameras!
A couple of days ago I spotted this rather handsome beetle in our garden. Of course I ran in for my camera, and when I had taken a few shots I sent him on his way. Looking him up later in Google, I learned that he is the dreaded red palm weevil that is causing such devastation among the lovely palm trees in this area. If I had known that sooner, he might not have survived his camera shoot!
I am so happy for my internet friend Annie (of Annie's Friday Smiles). Today she is moving into her new home after a year or so of frustrating broken contracts, and other problems. She's been packed and ready for months, so I really hope that everything is going smoothly for her today.
And now I'll leave you with a new sunset photo. It's
been a while since we had one, but as a run up to today's downpour, there have been a few clouds just lately, and one evening I noticed some nice colour in the sky. You have to be quick out here or you miss it, but by the time I had collected my camera and got outside, I was rewarded with this lovely sight.
A minute or two later and it had gone completely!
So now I must be gone, and see what else I can get sorted today. But first I'll pop over and link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World over on Virginia's blog. See you next week.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Rocking your world 2014; Week 32

I bet at some time you have all asked the question; Why did the chicken cross the road? Well.....

Now you are all smiling I hope, let's see what has made me smile this week.
Well, last Sunday I went to my first meeting of the Vera Photo Club. I met a lovely bunch of friendly folk, learned how to do something on my camera that I couldn't do before, and had a tutorial on the basics of using Lightroom, so it was fun and informative, and I am looking forward to next month's meeting.
Just outside the bar where the club meet, there was a row of date palms. There were fallen fruit everywhere that were like green acorns under our feet. Looking up I was amazed to see this. I have never seen palms with so many boughs of fruit on before.

I think it is going to be a good year for fruit again. When there was a bumper crop of citrus fruit last winter, people put it down to the flood the year before, so with such a dry winter this year, we thought the fruit might suffer. But judging by this tree in my neighbour's garden, there will be no shortage of pomegranates next month.

A friend who lives on the urbanisation just across the road from our village, asked Chris if he could help her set up a new tablet so she could send e-mails etc, so this morning we popped over to see her. She has a lovely arched porch on the front of her house, and up in one corner she had what she called her 'summer visitors'. 

There was a house martin nest, and every few minutes a little head popped out squawking for food. Then another and another appeared. She thinks there are six babies altogether. We stood there watching for ages hoping to catch the mother feeding them, but her visits were so fleeting that I kept missing her. But eventually our patience was rewarded and I did get this shot, just as she was about to take off again.
We left her house and drove on down to Mojacar Playa, as we wanted to visit the big ferreteria down there to buy a second garden storage cupboard, like the one we bought a couple of years ago. This one will store all the bags and crates of dog and cat food, and all my plastic containers, which will hopefully ease the congestion in my utility area. I am constantly trying to make more space, but Spanish houses are always very low on storage space, so it usually means buying another cupboard! This one is all in pieces in a box right now, but hopefully by next week I'll be able to show you it all put together and full!
In another bid for space, I have drawn a plan for reorganising my craft room. Again there is limited space to do anything, and I will have to remove a small bookcase that is bolted to the wall. Then I will need to reshuffle the contents of all my drawers and cupboards to accommodate what was on the shelves. So I won't be showing the end result of that next week, nor anytime very soon, but one day...
On the drive down the hill to the sea this morning, I took another photo of my favourite tree. Yes it is a dead tree, a very dead tree! But I love the interwoven branches
silhouetted against a blue sky. Usually I am driving when I pass it, but today I was the passenger so I took the opportunity to photograph it again. A few years ago I took some pictures of it and eventually managed to turn it into a digi stamp which I used on some ATC's. I think this is a better photo so I will see what I can do with it.

On the way home we stopped at a bar on the edge of our village for tostadas and a drink. That's life in Spain, and I love it!!

As the temperature continues to rise, poor Arwen has been getting very uncomfortable, and most days she lays out on our bathroom floor as it is on the cooler side of the house. So on Monday I took her down to the dog groomer to have her hair cut. Because it was not so matted this time, they didn't shave her quite down to the skin, and they left her with furry boots and tail, and this time she still has quite a 'mane' around her face, so instead of the usual poodle-cat, this time she is a little lion-cat.

As part of my making space campaign, I have been sorting out my kitchen. It is very small anyway, and with a big window on wall one, a larder door central on wall two, the main door and fitted cooker on wall three, and the sink and the door to the outside on wall four, there is very little scope for moving it around. But at least until the end of the summer, I have turned the table around, and completely removed the windows (they are on rising hinges). They have integral shutters that open inwards, so it
was always a hazard to sit at the end of the table! Now I can get to the window and reach to raise and lower the blinds. There is, of course, also a fly screen over them, and metal rejas (bars), so we are quite secure. It makes it a lot lighter in there, and first thing in the morning it is the coolest room, so it is a pleasant place to sit for breakfast. It gets very hot after lunch time, but I have the blinds down by then, and I only do essential cooking in July and August.
Yesterday I popped into Lidl's and bought myself a home yoghurt maker. I did have one years ago, when the boys were small, and I used it all the time, but it fell out of use as they got older, and I believe one of my sons had it when we moved. But now I am making a lot of fruit blends, a plain yoghurt can turn these into a lovely fruit yoghurt drink for breakfast, so I thought this would be useful. It has seven little bottles with lovely bright coloured lids. I tried it out last night, and the yoghurts are now resting in the fridge. I can make all seven pots for the price of buying one, and if I use skimmed milk, the yoghurts are very low fat.

I had another very pleasant lunchtime on Wednesday, when the sewing group cleared away and some of them went down to another bar in Turre for tapas. They do this most weeks, but ususally I have my Life Group in the afternoon so I don't stay with them. However, that stops for the summer months, so for a few weeks I can join them for lunch. We always have a good natter and lots of laughs together.
And finally I have another nature photo to show you, that I am quite pleased with. While it is hot we are deafened all day by the continuous noise of the cicadas. They are hard to spot as they fall silent whenever you approach the tree etc where they are. But today I went outside to sort out some cats that were starting a fight in the green zone, and I spotted these two cicadas mating on a grass stem. I rushed back in for my camera and they were still there when I got back. I took several shots, most of which were rubbish, but I kept this one and I think it turned out really well.
Thanks for stopping by. I love reading your comments.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rocking your world 2014; Week 31

Well not only has another week flown by, but another month has too, and here we are in August already.
My smile for this week is a group of our friends whom we spent last Saturday evening with. 
We were at the home of our friends John and Eileen and we were celebrating John's 80th birthday (not that we need an excuse to get together!). His actual birthday was a few weeks ago but they were in UK at the time. 

John and Eileen are probably the longest standing British residents in our village so they had to learn to communicate with the Spanish when they first came, and are now fluent. Their parties always have a good cross-section of Spanish and English guests and I really enjoy chatting to them. We have a few misunderstandings along the way, but we manage.

While we were there, Cati's husband Pepe asked me if I would meet with his niece, on holiday from Barcelona, who needed some help with English, so on Monday I went to her grandmother's house. I couldn't have been given a warmer welcome. I spent a pleasant hour or so chatting with the niece, who is already a kindergarten teacher, but she is learning English just using some very formal Cambridge study books. Folk from Barcelona mostly speak Catalan at home, but use standard Spanish in schools and business, and they are much easier to understand than the folk from the village who speak with a deep Andalucian accent. We do have a number of Spanish acquaintances in the village now, but I always consider it a privilege to be welcomed into their home.
The weather is consistently 'HOT' now, to the extent that it is not even pleasant sitting out in the shade, because the breeze is so warm, so most afternoons we have sat indoors with the fan on, watching some of the Commonwealth games, (and the racing from Goodwood for Chris), and usually nodding off for a siesta along the way. But I am thankful for this time to rest, and not feel obliged to be rushing around, doing things all the time.
I have been equally grateful for early evenings when I can sit outside, and I have managed to have a significant impact on my cross-stitch picture. There is still a long way to go, but I think I am passed the half-way mark.
I am thankful for the chance to catch up with some reading. Mostly I only do this in bed, and I tend to read the same page three times because I haven't taken it in, and then drop the book as I fall asleep! So during the afternoons this week I have read two whole books and have really enjoyed doing so.
I am extremely grateful for our newly repaired fly screen around the porch. This year there have been relatively few flies and wasps, but now the fields have been stripped of melons which are at the height of their season, and any that were damaged, too small etc, were left lying on the ground. These ripen and burst open and the flies feed on the sugar and breed, so there will likely be more around now. 
We have also had a plague of tiny white flies, or possibly moths. We have not had these before and they are a great nuisance. They are attracted to lights so I have my window closed this evening while I work here, as they are small enough to come through the fly-nets, and my computer screen get dotted with them. The good thing about them is that they don't bite, but they are irritating all the same. They  may be tiny but you can still feel them when they land on you. I thought at first they did bite because if you squash one with your finger they leave a red stain, (blood?!), but after a  bit of investigation via google, I now know they contain a die much like cochineal. Hence the pink lines all over my computer screen! They are the moth that decimated the chumba (prickly pears) all over this region last autumn, so I guess they will be doing the same again this year. 
They are impervious to all the main fly sprays, but although some are small enough to get in through the nets, many others are not, and in the morning our screens are covered with them, until they die in the heat and fall off. It's like a snow storm. So without the nets we would be going barmy with them by now. It wasn't easy to photograph them, but you can see some.
I love the way our garden continues to grow in this
heat. The oleander at the back of our fence is still hanging bunches of pink blossom over our side. It is a double flower and reminds me of small pink camellias.

We inherited some lovely plants with the house, including a beautiful palm out the front. I have seen some of a similar size in the garden centres, selling for upward of 100€. It is only in a smallish pot but it seems to like it there. All through the winter and spring it got regulalrly blown over by the high winds, and apart from being heavy, it has some wicked spines under its leaves, and it takes both of us to right it again. So it is a wonder it is still alive. But every year or so it produces a new crown of leaves, and these grow so fast that you can almost miss them. When the lads were visiting us just two weeks ago, I pointed out to them a circle of little bumps around the centre of the palm, that I knew would be a new set of leaves. Now just a fortnight later, they are more or less fully grown. They shoot out almost while you watch them, and then they uncurl and look like someone who has has a too tight perm! This time it was almost a double circle of new growth, and in a few weeks we will have to get down under it and trim off the outer circle of dying leaves. That is how the stem is formed. If we live long enough we will have a palm tree!

A few other 'Thankfuls' - 
A long chat with my sister on skype. We make video calls, and if the connection is good, it is almost like sitting in the same room and chatting together.
The vast choice of beautiful ripe fruit in the market. I just love the black cherries, melons and peaches.
The fact that this morning I did the whole month's supermarket shopping in one trip, so I will only have to go for bread and milk, and to the market for fruit and veg, until September! I am not a fan of food shopping, and while it is so hot, the last thing I want to do is keep driving to the supermarket. It was a bit of a marathon, and I hate unpacking it and persuading my fridge and freezer to have elastic sides for a week or two, but at least it is done and dusted for this month.
Messages from our Grandsons, thanking me for a lovely holiday, and for letting them bring their girlfriends with them this time. We loved having them here anyway.
The pool, which Chris keeps sparkling clean so it is always inviting. It is only small but it is so refreshing to have a dip after our siesta, or to cool down before we go to bed.
Well that's about it for this week. So I'm off to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Virginia's Rocking your World blog. See you next week.