Friday, March 28, 2014

Rocking your world 2014; Week 13

This is the day when we focus on the good things that have happened this week, but I am starting with a bitter-sweet Friday Smile. It is a Smile none-the-less, so I hope you will accept my posting it, in the spirit it was intended. I was born into a family of eight, with six of my brothers and sisters being 'pre-war' and just Jean and I being the 'post-war' ones. Despite the wide age gap of twenty years between us all, we have always been great friends, and there has never been a serious disagreement between us. I see that as a great testament to our parents and the loving home we grew up in. Sadly this week, our eldest sister passed away, just one week before her 87th birthday. She suffered a massive stroke, and although we are so sad to lose her, we are also grateful that she was able to slip peacefully away, as her life would have been very difficult had she survived. I took this photo of us six sisters, last September when I visited UK.
We managed to get together at Jean's house, for a lovely day of catch-up chat, shared memories, fun and laughter, and I am so glad we had that last opportunity to do it. This photo is on the wall in my craft-room, and every time I look up and see us all smiling, it makes me smile again. So don't be sad for me, but smile with me. What a blessing our families are! Grace is the one in blue - I have my arm lying across her lap. She read this blog faithfully every Friday, so I always felt we were in touch.
As always there is something positive coming from this. I get an extra trip to UK as I shall be over for the funeral which isn't until Easter week. Knowing our family, and our shared Christian faith, along with the sad 'Good-bye', we will be giving thanks for a long and interesting life.
As I am going over anyway, I now have a flight booked for next Thursday, so I can spend a week with our middle son Tom, who is moving to Denmark the following week. I shall be able to help him finish clearing his flat and making it ready to hand back the keys to the landlord, and I shall also be able to go to the 'Good-bye' dinner that all his brothers are holding for him on the Sunday. So that is an added blessing for me. I hadn't expected to get over for that as we have already got flights books for a trip over in May for our grand-daughter's wedding.

Another nice thing that happened this week is that I got some mail. We have very little here except the odd brochure from the bank, and of course lovely mail on birthdays and at Christmas, so an unexpected envelope is always a nice surprise. It was from my sister Jean, (That's Jean Sraw, who many of you know from her blog, and challenge entries). She sent me some difficult maths puzzles that she tears from her Puzzler book and keeps for me. She likes doing all the crosswords etc, but I am the number cruncher! And she also sent me two lovely ATCs. This one particularly made me smile. She bought the stamp because it reminded her of my photo of Arwen 'trying to read' my Spanish dictionary. Isn't it great?

While I was looking back through my Project Life album to try and find the photo of Arwen, I saw the ones of Kim as a baby, and realised that it is exactly a year since we took him in. How anyone could abandon such a beautiful pup I don't know. Of course we couldn't be sure how he would turn out, though we knew he would be quite big, but it is probably just as well that we didn't know then what we do know now! He is pretty huge, but I call him  my Gentle Giant. He is very affectionate, and we wouldn't be without him for the world. I tried to get him to pose for me today but he went into playful mode, and kept tearing around the pool with his favourite toy in his mouth - an old brush that he wrecked when he was a baby so we let him keep it. Miki pinches it sometimes, but he always manages to retrieve it.
He is just moulting out the last of his baby fluff from his haunches, and I guess he is almost fully grown now, which is probably just as well!
I don't have a lot of other news this week. My dear friend Julie drove over to have lunch with me on Monday which was lovely. We had a great couple of hours chatting.
Today I went to the town hall and got permission to hold a Cantante concert in the Tercera Edad (Third age, or pensioners club) in Los Gallardos, like we did at Christmas. This was very popular. Some of the Spanish folk said they had never had a proper concert in the village before. Sadly we had to turn quite a few away because the hall and the ante-room were filled to capacity. So for the summer, we are going to use the big outside area at the back, as well as the hall, and hopefully there will be space for everyone who wants to come.
I had a good crafting week, and made a set of ten Christmas cards. I found all the colouring of the images very therapeutic. They are a useful addition to my growing collection.

I also joined Pixel Scrappers digital scrapbooking group so I am hoping to get some inspiration for the hybrid album of our holiday in Ireland, that has been on my 'to do' list for some time!
Here are this week's skies to leave you with. It was quite a menacing one on Monday. I can see a face in it; can you?
Half an hour later it had turned into glowing embers which I love.
I shall probably be missing for the next few weeks. Next Friday I shall be with Tom, camping in his almost empty flat. His company are collecting all his belongings to ship to Denmark on that day! So we may not have internet available. And the following week I will be down near Bournemouth with my sisters. I am bringing Jean back with me, for, hopefully, a week of Spanish sunshine, so I don't know how much blogging I will do then either. But I will be back eventually, armed with lots of photos - so you have been warned.
Now I will just link this to Annie's Friday Smiles and the Rocking Your World Challenge over at Celtic House. See you all soon.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rocking my World 2014; Week 12

Here we are again, with another week of positive things in our lives. My Friday smile this week is this:

You are probably saying, O.K. it's a few ladies and a pile wool, what's so special about that? But it is making me smile because this week, the Lions club in Vera, gave me another donation of 200€ to buy wool for my Knit for Africa Project. Pam, the lady who organised the donation, and I, went up to our 'wool shop' on Monday, and we had such fun choosing the colours, and how much to buy of each one. At our Wednesday craft group, we tipped it all onto the table and let the ladies help themselves. I took in a few simple patterns to share, so in another week or two, there will be some little garments, and more blanket squares to sew together, ready for the next consignment to UK. So yes, it makes me smile.
On Tuesday I made a quick visit to our market. I usually give it a miss these days, because Tuesday is choir practice in the morning so there is not enough time for shopping as well, but I wanted to check on the price of the strawberries. They have gone up again slightly so I thought it must have been a short season this year, and maybe I should get one more lot for jam before they disappear. I asked at several stalls and they all seemed to be around 5€ a box (2kg), which is a euro more than I expect to pay for jam. 
Then I found one stall where the fruit was not quite so good but he only wanted 2.50€ a box. I figured they were some he had left over after a market else-where the previous day, but even if I had to discard a few, it would still work out as quite a saving. So I said I would have three boxes and told him I was making jam. He then made me an offer I couldn't really refuse - five boxes for 10€. I staggered home loaded up with these, very glad that it was only a couple of streets away! I got a few funny looks from the people I passed.

After choir practice I sorted through them all, and was pleased to find that they were actually very good. Yes, there were a few that were bruised, and they were a touch smaller than usual, but I often thinks the smaller ones have a better flavour, but over all there was very little wastage. I picked out some of the very best for us to eat, and froze a bag of them to add to my blended drinks. (We have had pink drinks this week. They look more appetizing than green ones, but they all taste good). And then, over the next couple of days I turned the rest into jam. I now have no jars left at all, and my jam cupboard is bursting at the seams.

It has been a relatively quiet week, so in between the jam making sessions, I have managed to play in my craft-room. I did a fun project that has been on my 'To try' list for a while. Now I know that my silhouette cameo machine will cut my vinyl really well, I wanted to try a larger, more intricate design like some I have seen on the internet. So I downloaded a design used for henna tattoos, and cut it out to decorate a large mirror in our sitting room. It took a long time to cut, and even longer to weed out the unwanted areas, but for a first attempt, I am very pleased with the result.
This was my first design, though in the end it is not the one I used. The lines were dark and it wasn't quite what I wanted. So I then cut a more open design, in fact I cut it twice, and I transferred it to opposite corners of my mirror. Here it is, but it was impossible to actually take a very good photo of it.

if you would like to find out more about how this was made, all the details are on my craft blog which you can find by clicking HERE.
This morning the Vera Lions Club had their spring fair at the campsite on the edge of the village, so we went along for a quick look. I bought a few useful bits and pieces, and some not so useful coffee cake slices which are delicious! Then on the way home, we stopped at a bar for drinks and tapas. It was warm and sunny, and we were happy to sit outside and enjoy it. You can see the mimosa trees, dripping with yellow, fluffy balls, behind Chris.

This afternoon I was watering the garden and I thought how lovely the flowers are now. Some are quite insignificant until you look more closely and see the veins and patterns on them. So I took close-up photos of them and played around in photo-shop. With each photo, I changed the background to black and white, so the coloured flowers really pop out at you. Then I cut them down randomly and made a collage of them. You probably won't see it very well on here, but you can click on the photo to get a larger view.
As I anticipated last week, we have not had many nice sunsets this week, but I did catch this one today, just before it got dark, while there was still some blue in the sky. It looks pretty windy up there, but down here it wasn't at all.
Well that's just about it for the plus-side of my week. I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Celtic House, and hopefully I'll see you all again next week.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rocking your world 2014; Week 11

Hi folks. I have had a mixed week of sad news and glad news, but I will start as usual with a Friday Smile, and here it is.

Yes, it is a group of men from the village, dressed up as milkmaids! Why, do I hear you ask? Well last Saturday was Carnival in Los Gallardos. It is the most fun day of the whole year, and folk of all ages love to dress up. Some wear exotic costumes they have made or bought, some are quite outlandish, and others fairly grotesque, and some just wrap up in anything they can find around the house.
I like this group of mums dressed up as a flower garden, while their little ones are the bees flitting between them. And when they have walked passed, you see the sting in the tail! Isn't he just so cute? There was even a baby in a pram wearing a bee costume!

These lasses decided to dress up at the last minute
and one told me that there weren't many costumes left to choose from. But I think they look great. The one on the right is Isa, and she meets up with me every Saturday morning at a bar in the village, for conversation. I am helping her with her English. She works in a bank, where there are a lot of British clients, so it is essential for her to be able to explain things to them with no misunderstandings. And with all employment being very insecure out here right now, she knows she needs to improve her language skills very quickly. I won't let her pay me for this, so in return we do speak a bit of Spanish too, so it is helping us both.
The carnival parade didn't start to travel around the village until nearly 6.00 so the light was starting to fade, which made it difficult to take good photos. But I will put a few more at the end of this post. It is very loud and very colourful, and great fun! Bearing in mind we are a very small village, I think they all do really well. We are very good in this village at keeping up the old traditions, which seem to have disappeared in many other places around here. 
There is a quite a large town just along the coast called Aguillas, and they are famous for their carnival which lasts for several days. You need to book tickets for their main parade, but I would love to go to it one year. It is a proper Mardi Gras.
I am thankful that my back problem has greatly improved this week, so I am nearly back to normal.
I am also so very grateful that a very dear friend had fantastic news when she went to hospital for the results of tests on Wednesday.
I had a lovely ride out with Chris on Monday. I knew that on Wednesday my Life Group was being hosted by lady I had not visited before, and I am always a bit nervous about driving to places I don't know, so I asked Chris to drive it with me first, so I would know where I was going. I am glad he did, because I would have spent so long looking for it that I would probably have missed my group by the time I had found it. The house was on a golf complex called Valle d'Este, and it was quite a surprise when we drove in. It is a huge community, with greens dotted randomly around, lots of housing, a shopping plaza, and a big hotel. 

We knew we had taken a wrong turn, so we stopped to climb a hill to this little look-out, to get our bearings. That is when we realised just what a huge area it covered. 

In front of us was
the hotel, with solar panels all over its roof. And way beyond that you can just glimpse the sea.

To our right was another valley with more greens, and then a small urbanisation which turned out to be where the flat we were looking for is located.

Behind us was the motorway we had driven along to get to it, and beyond that, there were layers and layers of misty mountains. Can you see the little white house on top of the first hill? I often wonder why they built it right up there, so difficult to get too, and it must be without electricity or main drainage. I don't suppose anyone lives there now, but I am sure they did, long before the motorway passed below them. We have had very little rain this winter and the land is quite dry and brown, but the first wild flowers are pushing up through it, and I think it is beautiful.

What do you think of my drink this week? It looks a bit green doesn't it?! it was made from half an apple, a carrot, a couple of inches of cucumber, a celery stick, a dash of lemon juice and a generous sprig of fresh mint, and tasted a lot nicer than it looks! Chris was a bit more skeptical about this one, but give him his due - he drank it, but he said it was 'a bit strange'! What I want to know is, if these blended fruit and veggie drinks are so healthy, why haven't I lost any weight, and why am I not bouncing around like a spring chicken by now?!
Of course I have one sky photo to leave you with. We will get less and less cloud cover now, so I won't be seeing too many more sunsets like these, so I catch them while I can. This one is not as dramatic as some I have taken, but beautiful all the same.
Now I will link up with Virginia at Celtic House, and Annie with her Friday Smiles, and below I will add a few more photos from the carnival, for anyone who wants to flip through them. 
Have a blessed week, and hopefully I'll see you all again next Friday.
I'm not too sure about these ones!
The Latino dance club:
It takes all sorts...!
Our friend Sarah made a sassy pirate.
Just having fun:
Let's make some noise:
A cage full of doves, (or pigeons depending who you are talking to. Palomas can mean either).
And of course there were clowns:
Thanks for joining me. You comments really are appreciated.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Rocking Your World 2014; Week 10

Today I was reading my friend's blog and in with a longish, humorous post about 'The facts of life at various ages', I spotted this quote, and I thought it summed up the ethos of this challenge so well. 

Always remember to forget the troubles that pass your way; 
forget the blessings that come each day.

If you are unsure of what I am referring to, pop over to Virginia's blog, Celtic House, and read about the positive approach we have to our weekly ramblings. (Well they are ramblings from me anyway, because that's just the way I am).

But first I will start with my Smile of the week which will be linked up to Annie's Friday Smiles. This week it is some colourful knitting donated to my Knit for Africa Project. The first, a colourful blanket and lovely little jumper and hat set, was left for me at our local bar, by a lady I don't even know. She had heard about what I am doing and wanted to help. Isn't that kind?!
I started this project about two years ago, and originally I just intended to send one small parcel of knitted vests and hats to a blog friend who was collecting them for an African charity, but somehow it just grew, and now occupies a lot of my time. My entire dining room is taken up with knitted donations and wool, and I field enquiries from all around the world. And my friends at church and at my Wednesday sewing group, are so generous with their time and efforts, as well as the materials that they buy. I am overwhelmed by them all.
Some folk are happy to knit but are daunted by the
prospect of sewing things up, so they make blanket squares for me. This week I decided to sort them out and found I have 284 of them! And there will be more when I go to my group next Wednesday.
They look so lovely and colourful all together.
I have already stitched together one blanket and I learned a new crochet stitch for edging it which I like. I am sure I'll be using it again as all the blankets need some sort of edge to finish them off properly. Now I have stitched the next blanket together but this one needs a wider edging to bring it up to the required size. So that's my next job.
So a big thumbs up to all my knitting/crochet friends, and to the local Lions club who have given me some generous donations to buy more wool.
I am grateful to my kind husband who this week has helped me with tasks around the house such as washing the floors and changing the bed linen, and also came with me for my monthly shop, (He is not normally very domesticated), while my back has been playing up. It is slowly getting better but still feels very weak, so his help has been appreciated.
I was very grateful for another gift this week. The men who look after the orange grove around our neighbour's house, because she now lives away and only visits occasionally, came over this week to tidy up the trees and dig the ground over. One man cut back the 'other side' of our bougainvillea, which we cannot reach, which is good for the plant. 
Another was picking some oranges when I went out
to hang out the washing, and he asked me if I'd like some. A few minutes later he handed a big bucketful over the fence. I got Chris to take them and tip them into a box so we could give the bucket back. They are really nice ones so we'll be juicing most of them over the next few weeks.
I have been stirring my brew again today but this time the mixture is a different colour. I took a break from making marmalade to do a batch of strawberry jam. Several folk have asked me when I will have some, and I had run out myself, so, as the strawberries had dropped in price a bit this week, I decided to make it. There are twenty or so jars lined up in the kitchen now, awaiting their labels. I think it has set well, and if it tastes as good as it smelled while I was making it, then it will be fine.
A couple of photos from the garden now. I did warn
you that you'd be seeing more of the pink jasmine, so here it is. Just look at the flowers on it now. I have never known a jasmine that flowers so freely, and they will last for several weeks. Everyone who walks passed the house, stops to talk to us about it. (I took this photo just at dusk, so the colour doesn't look as pretty as it does with the sun on it).
This is the other flower that can now be seen
wherever you look around here. It is one species of acacia, but I know it as mimosa. I believe my Australian friends call it wattle. There are other types out here, but this is the most common one. When I was growing up in UK,  I remember it as something quite exotic, that you might get a spray of in a wedding bouquet or expensive flower arrangement, but I never imagined I  would have it growing in my own garden. The tree in this photo is the one my son cut down almost to the ground just a year ago. I love to see it, but it gives me hayfever, and one tree is right outside my craft-room window! In a few weeks, the pollen will turn our swimming pool to custard, and the yard will be yellow, even staining the dogs feet! Then the tiny black seeds will be everywhere, and when the late summer winds blow, the leaves will all come down. So all-in-all, it make a lot of work for us, but I still like it!

And of course, we are ending with some sky photos. One evening this week I was playing around with the settings on my camera, and the angles used for each shot and I got some pretty cool photos. I like this one.

The wind was chilly and I soon went inside, but half an hour later I rushed out again when I looked through the window and saw this.
The next evening I took this one, with the same conical cloud formation. It must be the high winds we have been experiencing most afternoons.
And that's about it. I sure have rambled on for a week when I have done very little!
Thank you to the kind folk who wade through my waffle each week, and take time to leave a comment. I do appreciate you all.
Now I must pop over and link these up, as it will soon be Saturday. It will here anyway.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rocking your World 2014; Week 9

I am starting off this week with my Friday Smile, and it is a photo that I can take no credit for whatsoever. It was taken on a rather stormy day, from the mountains between Murcia and Almeria, looking towards Lorca. It was featured on the Facebook page of our local radio station - Spectrum radio. With almond blossom in the foreground and a rainbow falling from the storm clouds, I think you will agree that it is absolutely beautiful, and I just had to share it with you.

So, what else has made me smile this week. well mainly it is the way Spring is waving its wand over our little bit of garden. We have a scruffy little window box that I have never managed to keep plants alive and healthy in for long, so in desperation I stuck in some pieces that I broke off a succulent and see what has happened. Bright yellow flowers now greet me every time I come out the front door.
I think I'll have to put some cuttings up the other end of the box now as well.
There is a small length of wall that divides the front garden from the back/side yard, and this is covered by a jasmine plant. But it is like no other jasmine I have seen, and at this time of year, it is smothered with pink flowers, and gives off a very heady perfume that you can smell all through the house, and down the street. It is a little later than usual this year, but yesterday we noticed that the first flowers have opened.
As you can see, in a week or two this will be a sea of pink blossom, and no doubt I will be showing it to you again.
My third garden delight is this plant. When we visited some friends up near Arboleas, a few years ago, they gave me this pot of bulbs, because it had not flourished on their yard. The first Spring it gave me one flower, but for the last couple of years it has had no flowers at all. Then this year I saw that three of the bulbs had a flower head forming and now we have these beauties. It is an alpine plant and it's common name is Madeira squill. The flowers are a deep blue, almost purple, much darker than they look here, and it is so pretty.

I have been having fun making fruit drinks in my big blender. Just lately I have had fresh strawberries in the fridge which have a very strong flavour that usually wins over the other fruit I use. And I find a banana really smoothes out the drinks. But yesterday I decided we needed something less acidic, and as I was not cooking many vegetables with our dinner I juiced them instead. So for this I used two raw carrots, a small stick of celery (another strong flavour that dominates if you use too much of it), one large whole apple with just the pips removed, and about an inch of fresh root ginger. It made  us a glass each and it was delicious. My husband isn't always convinced when he sees me coming with a glass of coloured liquid, so I like to keep the ingredients a secret to see whether he can guess what is in them. He picked out the celery, but I was surprised he couldn't identify the ginger. But then, I knew it was there!

Today was an important day on the calendar for this area as it was Día de Andalucia. In our village this is celebrated with a concert in the morning, of the children from the two local dance schools. Their dresses are so pretty and I love to see them dance. Also the ladies, and a few men, from the village choir, sang some rousing songs. This is followed by a free meal of cold meats and cheeses with olives and bread (known as entremesas), which is set up on long trestle tables down the length of the marque, at the start of the morning. It is covered with sheets of paper, and it always amazes me that no-one touches it until after the concert has finished. Then the people pick up the chairs they have been sitting on to watch the dancing, and move them around the tables. We went to the concert but we didn't stay for the 'bun fight'. Instead Chris took me to the local bar for some lunch.
The day continues with live music and dancing that goes on until midnight.
At the back of the stage there is a row of banners which come out each year and I really like them. There is one for each of the provinces in Andalucia. They are: Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Malaga and Sevilla.
I will now post various photos of the day. I have left them until the end, as folk who have followed me for more than a year will have seen them all before. As will all the fiestas here, they are part of the local tradition and they don't tend to change much from year to year. But I know I have some newer followers who won't have seen them, so I wanted to include them. The lovely green and white flower displays are the colours of the Andalucian flag. Most of the village turn out to watch, and the marque was packed.

And finally, for my sky photo this week, here is one I took on the same stormy night as the one at the top was taken. It had rained all day, but there was just enough sun at the end of the day, to break through the dark clouds.
Well, as I spent most of this evening chatting to my sister on Skype, I am very late posting this, but I have five minutes left to link this up to Annie's Friday Smiles, and Celtic House, before the clock strikes midnight and I might just turn into a pumpkin! Though of course, for my friends and family over in UK it is still only 11.00pm, so I still have plenty of time!