Friday, September 26, 2014

Rocking your world 2014; Week 39

Another week has passed already, and I am starting my post with a photo of the day the clouds smiled at me, and I smiled back. I hope you do too!
It has been a week of mixed weather with everything from sun to wind and rain, but on the whole it's timing has been good!
Tuesday morning is choir practice time which I really enjoy. We have a lovely, if somewhat challenging programme for the season, and it is good to meet up with friends there too. The practice usually ends around 1.00 and just occasionally Chris and I go on to somewhere for some lunch. This week we went to one of our favourite restaurants perched right on the sea front at Pozo del Esparto, near San Juan. It is on a small strip of beach fronted by a row of bungalows which are mostly shut down over the winter, but are all busy with Spanish holiday-makers in July and August. So for those two months the restaurant is heaving with local folk enjoying a leisurely lunch, but for the rest of the year it is very popular with the English and Spanish alike.
It is approached down a narrow tarmac and then sandy road, which you think is coming to a dead end with a big drop down into the sea! In fact there is a very sharp right turn, (I always pray we won't meet anyone coming the other way at this point), and then a gentle slope down to some 'on the beach' parking.
When we arrived there were only a few cars parked there so we knew we would get a table, and we were soon seated right by the sea-wall, but by the time we had finished our lunch there was not an empty seat anywhere. It was lovely and warm but quite windy and they needed all the guy ropes to keep the sunshades steady.
All along the front of the restaurant, there are lovely shrubs planted in the sand. I am amazed at how well they grow despite the salt, the wind, and the lack of soil.
Two little friends sat on the wall beside me while I was eating, but when the man on the next table threw them some crumbs, they were suddenly joined by loads more. They seem to have a sixth sense when food is around.

On Thursday (yesterday) the forecast said there was a 90% chance of rain in this area, which was a bit worrying as we had arranged for a young man to come to do some heavy gardening for us. But he arrived at 8.00 in the morning, and was so efficient that he had finished by mid-afternoon, just as the rain started to fall! He started by cutting back the bougainvillea that runs all along the fence between us and our neighbours. It is very pretty for much of the year, but it is a ferocious grower, and quickly sends long branches out that reach right across the side path where I feed the dogs. Also it is right outside my kitchen window so it steals much of the light in there. So he has cut it back really hard and has also taken the centre out which was completely dead. So it doesn't look too pretty right now, but he has promised that it will now all grow back green, and I'm sure he is right.

Next we asked him to tackle the mimosa trees that grow just over the railings at the back of the house, where we look down into the green zone. Again, these were cut right down eighteen months ago but they just grew back bigger and stronger than ever. The main one was just outside my craft-room window, and as I am allergic to the pollen, that was no fun during the flowering season. So he has cut them down as low as possible again. There was an amazing amount of branches from them which he has laid as neatly as possible below the trees. We will try to find someone who would like to take the wood away for their fire, and hopefully the leaves etc will soon rot down. 
This time we have bought something to kill the stumps, so we are hoping they won't grow back. 
As you can see, calling the space behind us 'the green zone' is a bit of a mis-nomer right now. Our green tree cuttings stand out in sharp contrast to the very bare brown earth below them, but I am hoping this week's rain will start some greenery growing there again.
His final task was to cut down the fig tree in our tiny patch of front garden. This is the only piece of plantable land we have, and most of our plants are in big pots, so we were quite happy when the birds decided to plant a fig tree for us. We moved it to the centre and waited to see what would happen. Unfortunately, as a completely wild tree, it only had very poor fruit which was inedible, and it grew too big, too fast, and overshadowed the lovely jasmine and roses that grow there. So again, we asked him to cut it as low as possible, so we can make sure it is dead and not about to shoot again, and then we will plant something more suitable there.
It makes a big difference to my view from where I sit in the front room to knit or watch TV. So the young man got a lot of work done in the time he was here. It would have taken us several days to achieve all that, and neither of us are really up to it any more.
As he worked the clouds were gathering around us, and by mid afternoon it started to rain. It came down quite heavy for a while, in the way that rain tends to fall out here!
Soon it was spouting from each corner of the roof, and because it is so dusty everywhere, it washed a layer of red mud onto every surface. I think tomorrow I will be cleaning the windowsills etc, which are all red instead of white. By early evening the rain had stopped and the sun came out just long enough to give us a watery sunset.
Then the clouds won the battle again and we could hear thunder rumbling all around us. But there was no more rain, and at around mid-night we sat out on the porch and watched an amazing light show, as lightening flashed every second, and in every direction. I can hear it rumbling around out there again now, so I think we may be in for some more much needed rain tonight.
I am hoping there will be some more sunny days to come before winter is upon us, but I am grateful for the few degrees drop in temperature. It is still warm enough to sit outside in a sun dress but it is more comfortable, and especially at night, I appreciate that.
Last week I showed you the lovely fruit I had bought at the market, so here is what I made with it. There are forty jars of plum jam, and ten of peach and nectarine jam. I had to make some labels for the peach ones as I hadn't made that before. I also printed off some more plum ones, so now it is ready to pack away in the cupboard until I sell it. I also open-froze some peach slices to add to my fruit blends, poached more peaches and plums for the freezer, and made an apple and plum crumble for this week. So it was a very productive day!

Well I think I've rambled on for long enough, so I'll leave you as I started with another sky photo. The clouds were still smiling as the sun set behind the mountains, and the spreading rays lit up the happy face.
Now I must hurry across to Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking your world at Virginia's blog, to link this up, and I'll see you all again next week.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rocking your World 2014; Week 38

It is not often that I start my post with a joke, but I saw this on the internet and it did make me chuckle, so I decided to share it with you.
Two old ladies meet in Heaven...

SYLVIA: Hi! Wanda.
WANDA: Hi! Sylvia. How'd you die?
SYLVIA: I froze to death.
WANDA: How horrible!
SYLVIA: It wasn't so bad. After I quit shaking from the cold, I began to get warm & sleepy, and finally died a peaceful death.
What about you?
WANDA: I died of a massive heart attack. I suspected that my husband was cheating, so I came home early to catch him in the act. But instead, I found him all by himself in the den watching TV.
SYLVIA: So, what happened?
WANDA: I was so sure there was another woman there somewhere that I started running all over the house looking.I ran up into the attic and searched, and down into the basement. Then I went through every closet and checked under all the beds. I kept this up until I had looked everywhere, and finally I became so exhausted that I just keeled over with a heart attack and died!
SYLVIA: Too bad you didn't look in the freezer -- we'd both still be alive.
Not quite my view of heaven, but it still amused me.

Now what has really made me smile this week. Well, the weather for a start. There is just a hint of Autumn in the air. On Tuesday we had a heavy shower, and most days the temperature has dropped just a little. Don't get me wrong. I love the long, hot days of Summer, but after nearly three months they do get a bit wearying, and it only takes a drop of two of three degrees, to make us feel a lot fresher. It hasn't been cooler all day, and most afternoons we have had the dreaded hot wind, which can be quite unpleasant, but fortunately for me, that usually comes from the back of the house, and our fly-free area is protected from the worst of it, so I have been able to sit out for a couple of hours each day, keeping the dogs company, and getting on with my cross-stitch. I making good progress with that, and yesterday I finished the third of the four pages of pattern, and I have done about half of the last page. So the end is in view for stage one anyway. There is then more top-stitching than I have ever done on a picture before, but I'll worry about that when I get to it.
I ordered a few craft materials last week and the parcel arrived on Wednesday. I love getting parcels (don't we all?) but unfortunately one item was incorrect. I e-mailed the company and within an hour I got a reply. They apologised for the mistake, told me I could keep the incorrect item, and by the end of the day, the correct item was dispatched. Now that's what I call good service! And I have a free set of five mica powders in lovely rich autumn colours, which I will enjoy using very soon.
Another craft item that I bought recently is a set of Brushos. Crafters who read this will know exactly what they are, but for anyone else, they are powder paints with very strong, rich pigments, many of which separate into their component shades when sprinkled on wet paper. The uses for these are very varied, but right now I am just playing with them. I bought a set of twelve colours and made some swatches by flicking the powder onto wet paper, and also by spritzing the dry powder with water, and I pinned them all up on my cabinet to dry. (I actually use coloured magnets to fix things to my cabinet, not pins!).

The black and the dark brown had the best reaction. As you can see below, the black has elements of blue, orange and brown in it, which all dissolved at different rates so they can be seen individually.
i had a trip to Turre market this morning because I suddenly realised that the plum season will soon be over and I haven't made any plum jam yet. So I set off looking for some bargains and it was my lucky day. Most of the dark plums (I think these make the best jam), were 1.50€ a kilo, which is quite good, but I was hoping for even better. Then I spotted a small stall that had a separate box for 1€ per kilo because some of the plums had marked skins.  These were fine for jam so I bought all they had, around four kilos. Then as I was leaving the market, I passed an old lady who doesn't have a stall, but she sometimes sits with boxes of fruit from her own trees. She had a box that were mostly red plums, plus a few yellow ones and the odd peach as well, so I bought another two kilos from her. So I think I know what I'll be doing tomorrow!
I like to have some variety on my jam stall, and right now I only have marmalade in the store cupboard, so today I also bought a few mixed peaches and nectarines to do a small batch of jam. I don't think the peaches have enough flavour on their own, but the nectarines add some sharpness, so they should work well together.
I also bought plums and peaches to cook for us, and to put a few boxes away in the freezer for later on, so I shall have a busy day tomorrow.
The other buy I was rather pleased with was some peppers. Another lady who doesn't have an official stall, is often there with loads of varieties of peppers and tomatoes, that I think are home grown, and she bags them all up for 1€ a bag. So today I bought some mixed red, orange and yellow, small, sweet peppers, mainly because they looked so good! I was poaching some fish at lunch time and I halved a few of these and added them to the pan, and they were delicious.
Quite a few folk now know about my Knit for Africa project and I get given all sorts of bits and pieces, from complete garments, to unfinished ones, to oddments of wool etc, and I do my best to use all of them. 
I have a friend who is active with the Lions Club, and recently she was given a bag of knitted 'bits'. She passed them on to me but said probably the best idea would be to undo them and use the wool. When I got home I found there was a random mix of knitted 'pieces' in all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes! But it seemed a shame to waste all of someone's hard work, so I spent two afternoons patchworking them, and managed to make two complete blankets. There is no system to their arrangement, but they have colour and texture, and will certainly keep someone warm. When the evenings start to draw in and I can cope with the warmth of a blanket on my knees, I will crochet an edging on each one, and they can go in my next consignment to UK.

Now, of course I have some sky photos for you. With the slightly overcast days, we have had some lovely evening skies. There wasn't as much colour in it on Tuesday, after the rain, but the sun did come out late afternoon, and it set in a blaze of glory.
Last night was more colourful. The remaining clouds turned a lovely pearly pink...
...and about half an hour later there were bright streaks of orange and yellow, as the sun sank behind the mountains.
Now I want to get a post written for my craft blog, so I will link these up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking your World on Virginia's blog, and bid you all 'Goodbye' until next week. Hasta luego!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Rocking your world 2014: Week 37

Here we go again. It is Friday and another week has flown passed. I hope it has been a good one for you. Here it has been a hot one, too hot in fact for me to sit outside early afternoons, so instead I have been resting in the sitting room with my chair set between the open door and the open window, in the hope of catching a breath of wind, but most days, needing the fan on full blast to move the air. Here I am doing a bit more of my cross stitch picture, and little Tango decided he needed to sit on my lap so he could feel the fan too! Not only is he like having a wool rug on your legs, but he also found my moving thread a source of great entertainment, and he did his best to catch it between every stitch, so I could have done without him that afternoon. But he has been with us for three months now, and is only just beginning to come out of hiding and approach us, rather than us finding him, so I wasn't going to turn him off. Chris caught him on his phone camera, with such a look of innocence on his face. You have to love him really!
We were looking forward to seeing the last of the three super moons early in the week. Chris said I should try to photograph it before dark so there was something else in the picture as a point of reference, so I took this one at sundown.
Later in the evening I took this one. It is not so good of the moon, but it's a more interesting photo.
Later again I took this one which I am also showing you, because to me it looks like an animal having fun playing with a ball of light. OK. So that's just me being fanciful, but I like it anyway.
And while we are on sky photos, here is one I just managed to catch on camera. It had been a very hot day but a bit overcast, and towards tea-time, the storm clouds were gathering over the Cabrera mountains. I just happened to catch it as the clouds parted a little and there was a small patch of rainbow colours. I got my camera just in time, because a few minutes later the clouds had covered it over again. It is not a good quality photo. I had to point and shoot quickly, but worth a try, I thought.
While it has been so hot, I haven't been able to do any knitting but I did have a small crochet project on the go, and on Tuesday I finished it off. So here is Patchwork Puppy - the latest member of the Perry zoo? As one of my friends pointed out, at least I won't have to feed this one!
I wonder if you know what these are. You may remember a photo from a few weeks ago showing a palm tree overladen with stems of dates. Well these are some of those dates. They are now sold in our markets like this, but I will keep them for a week or two, and gradually they will turn brown and squishy, and then they taste wonderful!
Chris and I are both continuing to lose a little weight. I am wary of losing too much too quickly, because then it tends not to stay off, but we are being careful what we eat, and it seems to be working. I am just waiting for it to cool down a bit now, so I can try to do a little exercise as well. Part of our healthy diet is to have one of my fruit or vegetable blends three or four times a week. Last night's smoothy was made from an orange, a banana, a whole raw carrot, about an inch of root ginger, and a little of my home-made yoghurt. This time it did taste as good as it looks. That picture makes it look as though my old coca-cola glass has a face on it. It hasn't really, but I have a reputation for seeing faces everywhere!

Two things made me very happy this week. 
I have been collecting donations from friends at church, towards the shipping costs of my Knitting for Africa project, (My courier friend takes the knitting to UK for free, but we try to include a donation with each consignment towards the shipping cost to Africa). My friends collect their small copper coins in jam jars for me, and it had all been sitting in my cupboard over the summer, just waiting for me to sort it out. In UK you can put coins of the same denomination, into plastic bags which the bank then weighs, but here they have to be carefully counted and fitted into fiddly little plastic sleeves supplied by the bank, which then fasten with popper-like studs. They are an absolute pain to do, but the bank won't accept them any other way, so I made myself get on with the job. Nineteen rolls of one cent coins later, eighteen of two cent coins, another eighteen of five cents, and so on, in the end added up to a wonderful 100€ which I have passed on to the charity. They weighed an absolute ton but fortunately I managed to get a rare parking space right outside the bank, so I didn't have to carry them far. I am always overwhelmed by the kindness people show, and the support they give for my project.
Another nice surprise came with the postman. We rarely get personal mail here except on our birthdays and at Christmas, so to come home from the shops and find two envelopes addressed to me was big happy surprise. In one there were a set of number puzzles. My sister Jean buys a puzzle magazine each month because she likes doing all the crossword, etc, but she doesn't usually attempt the number ones. I, on the other hand, soon get bored of crosswords, but I am fascinated by numbers, so each month she tears the number puzzles out of her magazine and stores them up for me, and when she has enough to make it worth while, she sends them to me. So this week I have something new to keep the old grey cells ticking over. They make a nice change from the Killer Sudoku that I usually do.
The second envelope came from my grand-daughter, and she sent two ATCs she had made especially for me. This was a lovely surprise as it is a long time since we last exchanged these little pieces of art work. She used to come to my house a lot in UK, and liked to look through my folders of ATCs, and she did make a few, so of course I also made a few for her. But I thought she had left that behind as she moved into her teenage years, so I was really pleased to get these.

And now, before I leave you to link this up with Virginia's blog for Rocking your World, and Annie's Friday Smiles, week 84,  I'll just give you this week sunset. It's not as colourful as some, but still bursting with light and beauty. 
Have a beautiful week everyone, and I'll see you next time.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Rocking your world 2014;Week 36

Despite sitting at my computer to write this early this morning, it is now tea-time and I am just getting started. There are just so many interesting things to look at when you switch on in the morning, and I'm very easily distracted!
That said, I have very little to write about this week. It has been a good week. 
I managed to have a long video chat with son number two this morning, using Skype. He is off work with a prolapsed disc, and is very bored with lying flat on his back. Unfortunately he has had similar problems before which resulted in him needing surgery, and that is the case again this time. They don't have a free slot until early October, but I was pleased to see that he is keeping cheerful, and making the best of the situation.
We still had our son Tom with us until late Tuesday night, so I am very grateful for lots of time to sit and chat with him, and catch up on how life is treating him. It was good to see him relaxing, enjoying the sun and the water, and just chilling out - if you can chill in the hot Spanish sun!
He had a final dip in the pool at midnight, before heading off for the airport at around 2.00am.

The other thing that has made this such a good week is the compete revamping of my craft room, so this week you will have a guided tour of how it was done.
Tom was a huge help to me, as my new furniture arrived from IKEA at 9.00 on Monday morning. (They rang me on Sunday afternoon to say they would be here at 8.00 so I was up in good time). It was only a desk and a book shelf but they were big, solid pieces, and Chris and I would have struggled to handle them without Tom.

Of course the first task was to prepare the room by emptying most of my stuff into our bedroom. There is a bed under there somewhere! On an earlier visit to IKEA we had bought a two-wheeler sack
trolley, which proved invaluable with my heavy boxes of paper etc. This left me with an almost empty room though I did leave the old computer desk with the laptop still connected until the very last minute.

So first we rotated my big L-shaped work desk through 90 degrees and fitted it into the right hand corner under the window. Then we built the new computer desk, also sort of L-shaped, and fitted it into the left hand corner under the window. We moved the computer and printer across on to it, and demolished the old desk.
Next we built the new bookshelf, which has the old one on top of it, and put them in place. In my original plan I had turned my tall filing cabinet around so it protruded into the room, in order to get the book case in, but it turned out that this did not leave me enough space to get access to the built-in cupboard, so Tom suggested swapping it with the book case and pulling it out even further, so the case could slot just behind it, and this worked well.
Finally he helped me bring back my two storage units for the Really Useful boxes, and stack them one above the other. 
He had done all he could, so off he went to sit in the sun and share a few beers with his dad, and I set about returning all the boxes and files, and arranging them where I wanted them. I am very pleased with the end result, especially as I have achieved my main objective of de-cluttering and greatly enlarging my work area, which up to now has had one of the storage units on it. So here we go with a quick walk around the room.

Firstly, on the right as you enter is a built in wardrobe. The end section had four shelves filled with 'things that don't go any where else'. Then the double section has a hanging rail with a set of full-width drawers below it. The rail does house some of my clothes, but the drawers are filled with craft items!

Beside this, and directly in front of you as you come in, is the new and old book shelves which now house all my folders of stamps, ATCs, tutorial notes etc, and also some boxes of patterned paper snippets, WIP, and finished cards. This is flanked by the rotated filing cupboard where all my plain paper and card live, as well as embellishments, peel-offs, etc. (You can just see some of my favourite photos behind a set of magnetic frames, which have moved from the cabinet doors to the end panel).

Around the other side of this is my working area, with my desk, now cleared except for a few essential items that I like to keep close at hand.
I have quite a large mirror to go on the wall above the desk, but I want to do something with its frame, and add some vinyl before I hang it. The back of the cabinet is to my right and this is a handy place to store my magnets which I use to peg up items to dry, or bits I don't want to lose. And behind that is a table holding one of my mini sets of drawers, which makes good use of the 'dead space' created when I pulled the cabinet away from the wall.

To my left, the working area extends under the window. Arwen is happy to find she still has a place to lie in the sun. I had shut her in the bathroom while we were working and she was not too impressed when I first let her back in. But now she has found her spot, she is quite happy again. Of course the space under the desk is filled with more drawers and boxes housing glitter, spray paints, embossing powders, envelopes and much more.

And so on round to my lovely new computer desk. The coloured cloth covers my big wide-format printer, hopefully protecting it from cat hairs! The space on the right is perfect for when I am using my silhouette cutter. The shelf at the back is new, but this area will change a bit as I have been promised a new PC with a big, wide monitor, to replace my dying laptop, but I have to wait until my birthday and Christmas for that.

And finally, beyond the desk is a tall tower of wobbly plastic drawers, and then the double unit of boxes where my scrapbook papers, Christmas 'stuff', colour-sorted snippets, pens and ink pads etc live.

The drawers came with me from UK and they are not idea, but they serve to house, things I only use occasionally, like clay, templates, old wooden stamps, water pencils etc. Maybe one day I will buy one more narrow storage unit to match the rest, but it won't be just yet.
And then we are back to the door. 
So I really appreciate what a lucky lady I am, and I am filled with admiration for those of you who work from a dining room table etc. This is my craft haven, and I spend several hours in here most days. So really I have no excuse for not making lots of lovely things have I? And I am sure you can understand why I am so grateful and smiling this week. I like to work in an orderly way, and it gives me immense pleasure to have everything sorted like this. I just need to make a few more labels so I can find everything in its new home, and then it will be done.

Now before I go to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles - yes it is lovely to have her back, now settled into her new home - and Virginia's blog, Celtic House, I will just leave you with another beautiful sunset.
And as I got up earlier than usual to meet the IKEA men on Monday, I can also share a lovely sunrise. The sun is just peeping through the grape vines on the framework in the house across the road from us. Lovely eh?!