Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rocking your world: Week 5

I am sorry to be posting so late this week. We have been experiencing very high winds, and our internet has been up and down like a yo-yo for the past couple of days, so I am preparing this in Word and hoping we get an ´up`time just long enough for me to cut and paste it into blogger, and add the photos. Then I´ll need another ´up`time long enough to publish it! Hey ho. The sun  is still shining!
So we will start with a little smile. I saw this on the net and could so well relate to it. 
Having two long-haired puss-cats, I know they only have to look at a chair to cover it in fur, and no amount of brushing their coats  makes any difference. They still shed, and look so innocently at me when I moan at them.

Another week has flown by, and despite the high winds we have had some lovely days. I had to smile when I tried to use the outside sink to wash out the cat litter trays this morning. It was blowing so hard I couldn´t even get the water from the tap, to fall straight into the sink.

Although I did quite well losing weight last summer, most of it has crept back on over Christmas so I am having another go, and starting a bit earlier this year. I have a small appetite so the food side is not too difficult for me, but I am hopeless at exercise. So while it is sunny, but not too hot, I am trying to take a brisk walk each day, even if it is only all round the edge of the village.
But one day this week I had to go down to Mojacar for a specialist shop, so I walked along the beach.
 The beach itself was deserted except for these three friends, huddling together. I don´t know how they manage to stay grounded, and don´t just blow away.
It was lovely to stand listening to the waves for a while. They were forming quite a way out, and coming in as a series of two or three, and crashing just before they reached the rocks. I love it when the sea is lively.

I stopped to look at the fountain on the big roundabout on Mojacar Playa. It had been turned down a bit but when it is high the wind blows too much of the spray onto the road, which is dangerous for the drivers, and wasteful, as water is quite a valuable commodity here. It made the bottom jets look more like steam. It was nice to see so many of the Christmas poinsettias were still surviving around the fountain. Often the cold night air kills them off by now, but this year the wind has been quite warm some days, despite being so fierce.

I saw quite a few other flowers in bloom already. This delicate blossom, swaying in the breeze, is on a red-pepper tree, so by the summer, each tiny flower will be a scarlet pepper-corn. I like these trees. They keep their leaves well into the summer and offer welcome shade, as well as looking so pretty with the red berries.
This acid yellow flower is oxalis, and it grows along every road, and on every area of campo. But I think of it as flowing in March, so it is a bit ahead of itself this year.

Outside the information booth, along the playa, I noticed these flowers. The plants are from the aloe vera family, but they remind me of the red-hot pokers we used to grow in the garden in UK. I have one of these in a pot on our yard here, but it is still in tight bud at the minute, so everything must like being down by the sea.

One thing that made me really happy this week, was on Wednesday when I went to Vera bus station to book some tickets for my son. The lady in the little kiosk there spoke no English at all, but she was very helpful, and patient with me while I explained what I wanted. My son Ben is coming out with his partner for their usual few days in Benidorm over half term, and then they are coming by bus to us. A few days later, his partner needs a bus to Alicante for his flight home, ready for work the next day, while Ben stays another week with us. So I needed to book two lots of tickets, making sure all the details of date and time were correct, and giving their passport numbers etc. It took quite a while, but fortunately there was only one man waiting, and he was quite entertained by my faltering Spanish, and her efforts to make sure we were on the same wavelength, and didn´t seem to mind waiting for us at all! But the main thing is, she did understand me and I understood her, which is even more of a challenge, and I came away with the correct tickets. So now I can look forward to their visit mid-February.

On my way back from Mojacar I pulled in at my
favourite viewpoint, from where you can look out over the campo, dotted with little fincas here and there, and just glimpse the sea in between the hills. I took a couple of photos and I liked this one of my shadow moving out towards the Indalo man in the railings. This little man is the icon of Andalucia, and he is taken from some cave drawings discovered to the north of here. He features everywhere, from fences and house walls, to little metal and stone figurines, and even as pendants and bracelets (a favourite gift for tourists to take home with them!). I have seen him painted on commercial lorries, and stamped onto china, in fact you can´t go anywhere around here without spotting him. I am told that if one is given to you it will bring health, wealth and happiness, but being the least superstitious person I know, I am not interested in the legend, but I like the shape of him all the same.

Yesterday was market day on Turre, so I went to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables as usual. This is the season for peppers and oranges. They look so lovely piled up on all the stalls. I bought a bag of these peppers in mixed colours, for  one euro, and when I got home I found there were ten peppers in the bag! Bargain!

The man on the opposite stall was struggling a bit. It
was too windy to keep his tarpaulin roof pegged in place, so he had just hung a few items on his cross bars, and even those were blowing down every few minutes! Normally he would have several tiers of clothes hanging up and you would have to fight your way between them to see what he had.

I started with a grumpy cat photo so I´ll end with one. This was Tango today. He has finally mastered walking through the fly screen of plastic ropes and chains that hangs across the back door. I leave the door open most of the time so the cats can go in and out. So now Tango likes to go out for a little stroll each day, though he soon returns to snooze in `his´ comfy chair. He was ready to go out today, but when he peeped through the screen and saw everything swaying in the wind, he changed his mind and just sat there. Doesn´t he look cross?!
That wasn´t quite the end because I have some sky photos for you. We had an absolutely stunning sunset on Thursday and I took lots of photos. I picked out the ones I liked best and put a small album on Facebook, so I will just show some of them straight off here too.

Well, now I just hope the internet reconnects soon, so I can link up with Annie´s Friday Smiles, and Rocking your  world over at Virginia´s blog, and then I can get this edited and published. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rocking my World 2015. Week 4

Hello again my friends. Let´s start off with a smile. 

Flat Susan has been feeling the cold this week - as have we all - and she has taken refuge in Tango´s fur. I have some photos of them sleeping together, but this is the one that made me smile.

I´m not sure whether Tango is ´Keeping an eye on her´or ´Giving her the evil eye´. I hope it´s the former as she really does love to snuggle up in that silky soft fur. I´ll link this up with Annie´s Friday Smiles later.

It has been a rough week as I am still dealing with a sad situation at my church, but I am so thankful for the friends who have formed a support group, so we can all share our thoughts and talk it through together. Of course we are all thankful to the faithful Lord in whose hands we have left it all.

When driving over to a friend´s house, for a meeting of this group, I stopped along the road to take this photo. 
I am actually very glad that I live in a village. Many of my friends are much more isolated, but I love their views. While I was taking this, a little rabbit almost ran over my feet. If you zoom in on this view, you can just see the snow on La Tetica mountain.
I had been talking to my friend about my habit of spotting faces everywhere, and he said "Have you seen our hill Kate?". He took me to their boundary fence, and straight ahead was this hill.
Well I saw the face straight away, and I expect you can too. In fact I can see two faces depending which way I look at it. With the right side as the ´chin´I see a comic, jester-like face, and the other way up, which is how he sees it, it is more like a regal African face. 
Then he said "Come and meet Desmond". I followed him across the garden and there he was.
I think the name suits him. He looks rather downcast.
And before I leave the faces, here is a more usual one for me, that I saw in the sky a couple of days ago.
I see it as a rather cute little dog!
Of course the clouds are shape-shifters so he didn´t stay around for long. A few minutes later we had this lovely sky, but my little dog had gone.
I usually leave the sky photos until last but this week I have left another story to the end because I am going to post a whole set of photos. I have put these on Facebook, but as my family don´t use Facebook, I am repeating them on here.
I was very happy to have a distraction on Tuesday, so we went to a fiesta in another village. We took our friend Eileen with us because her husband is in UK and she is on her own. We went to the Bread Festival for San Sebastian, in a little place called Lubrin, which is one of the little white villages nestling in the hills behind us. This is view of Lubrin as we went down towards it, with the big brownstone church of San Sebastian easily recognisable.
It was one of those strange traditions that Spain is so good at celebrating, long after it´s meaning has been lost. I was able to discover that Saint Sebastian was a martyr who was killed for being a Christian. The first time he was tied to a tree and the king´s archers filled him with arrows. Later that night a Christian woman took his body and nursed him back to life, but later he was captured again and stoned to death. But I have not found out what the connection is between him and the bread!
On the 20th January every year, the village celebrates San Sebastian Day by making hundreds of bread rings - like bagels but more rustic bread - and hurling them down from their verandas to the waiting crowds below, while the statue of the Saint is carried through the streets. Mainly the men collect them and I believe originally the aim was to collect twelve - one for each of the disciples - but now they go out with ropes to thread them on, and compete to try and collect the most. As some of the rolls must be baked days in advance they can be very hard, but others are soft and nice to eat, and the village folk come out with bags of cheese and meat and have a picnic at one of the tables set up on the plaza.
There was all the usual things that go with a fiesta out here, a band with a motley collection of instruments, hand carts selling sweets, nuts and cheap toys, and bunches of character balloons everywhere. For this fiesta the children were selling red necker-chiefs; Everyone was wearing them so we bought one as well. They were also selling little tiny bread rings with a red ribbon that everyone wore as a brooch. I later learned that the children had made these in school the previous week. (Flat Susan thought this was just the right size for her).

We arrived in good time, thankful for our thick coats as we were higher up in the mountains than we are used to, and it was several degrees colder up there.We found seats outside a bar and kept ourselves warm with cups of hot coffee/chocolate and brandy, while we watched the preparations. The flags on the balconies alternate, one Spanish and one the flag of Andalucia.
I walked down to the church to see the statue there, and have a look around. Then the bell started to ring to call the people to mass. 
By the end of the mass the bread throwing had begun. The more proficient throwers skimmed them like frisbees, and they travelled quite a distance. It could be dangerous if a stale one hit you! 
There was great excitement when the procession started from the church, up through the village. The men got really competitive and were jumping up to catch the bread, regardless of who was around them, but it was great fun.
Now I have given you the bare bones of what happened, I´ll just show all the photos. It really was an extraordinary occasion!
We bought our red neck-scarves, and bread brooches.
The band came to entertain us.           
I went to the church to see the statue of San Sebastian.
The base of the statue was covered in rustic bread.

Some of the bread had whole eggs, in their shells, baked into them!

Then the church bells rang, calling the people to mass.

Waiting with his sacks of rolls for the procession to begin.

Throwing the bread.

He´s done that before. Not a drop was spilled!

From the balcony above where we were sitting.

Chris catches our first one! Doesn´t he look pleased with himself!

Here they come. Catch!

That one´s mine!!

The statue was carried past our plaza.

A casualty. The bread caught his glasses which cut his nose!

Showing off their collection.

Over loaded!

Well I hope you have enjoyed sharing our odd little outing. I will now link up with Virginia, and I´ll see you again next week.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rocking my world 2015; Week 3

As promised this will be a shorter post than usual. It has been a quiet, uneventful week, but there is still plenty to be grateful for.
So I´ll start with my Friday Smile which I will link up over on Annie´s blog when I have finished this post.
It is one minute to midnight here, so 11.00 in UK, and this photo is my five sons having a family get-together, along with two of their partners and five of the grand-children. Thanks to the wonders of Skype I was able to be there with them for a little while, and as we were chatting, someone took this photo of them all and e-mailed it to me. What a super way to end the day!

With few commitments, I have had some spare time this week, and made good use of it by spring-cleaning the kitchen. It was in dire need of some attention, and as I was cleaning I also rearranged some of my equipment so I have a space for a new stand-mixer that will hopefully arrive early next week. My hands are not very strong these days and I was struggling with my hand-held mixer, so as a post-Christmas treat, I have ordered a Kenwood Chef. I can´t wait for it to arrive so I can have a good baking session.

Today we did some more rearranging. We have moved our big dining table into the end of the sitting room. It was too big for the dining room and we never used it in there, with the result that it got all my Africa knitting dumped on it. So this afternoon I sorted everything out, putting finished baby clothes and blankets into black bags, and sorting out the wool into plastic crates and drawers, so it is all tidy and organised now. Then we took the table into the other room where it looks much smaller! To make a space for it we have moved a small settee into what was the dining room and made it into a ´quiet´room, where we can sit if we don´t want the TV. There is still some sorting out to do in both rooms, but I am grateful that we got it done as we have been talking about it for a while.

On Wednesday I went to the hospital with my friend, so I could translate for her at an out-patient appointment, only to be told that there was no consultant there, and to come back the next day! The fact that it is a half- hour drive each way, and a waste of our time as well as petrol didn´t seem to occur to them, but there was nothing we could do, so we went home and returned again on Thursday morning. Everything went well the second time and I was glad that I had been able to help her. I keep trying to improve my Spanish but I sometimes wonder why, as I rarely get the chance to use it, so it was nice to have an opportunity to put some of it into practice.

I also used some of my spare time to make a ´New
Home´card for one of my sons who moved house two weeks ago. There was no time to make a card straight away, but as I had planned it, I made it anyway and posted it, and amazingly he got it two days later! I´ve never known mail travel so fast. And I know he was really pleased with it, because he put a picture of it on facebook, with a lovely comment. I had used a design that a lady on the silhouette facebook page had posted a tutorial for, but I used my own colour scheme and papers, and added a little verse on the back to make it personal.

We have both been grateful for warm, sunny days (most days anyway), which we have made the most of, sitting out for an hour or two each afternoon, and just relaxing. But we have also both been really grateful for the newly repaired fire that has made the sitting room so cosy in the evenings. The dogs have been coming in after tea and they are enjoying it too, though they do ask to go out again at bedtime. They sleep on the porch and seem to prefer it out there to a nice warm room, but I guess it is what they are used to.

Another project that I finished this week, is another blanket for Africa. Usually this means that I have sewn together some of the squares that friends at my sewing group have made and given to me. In fact when I had tidied up today I found I have a black bin bag full of squares so I must get some more sewn together soon, and edged. But this week I finished a blanket that was all my own work. Over the summer, when it was too hot to hold more than a very small piece of work, I made a set of squares with all the small balls of wool left over from knitted jumpers and cardigans. I wanted to try some of the many crocheted stitches that are available on the internet these days, so every square is a different colour and a different stitch. All are crocheted. Then I used some dark grey wool to crochet around each square and crochet them together. This makes  nice decorative seams which are much stronger than sewn ones. And finally I worked all round the edge. I love all the colours and textures in it. It will be going off to Africa in the next consignment that I send, so I hope a new little baby will like being wrapped in it too.

My last grateful for this week is for my husband and a group of friends who have listened and helped me to work through some situations that have been bothering me, without telling me what to do. I needed to make my own decisions which I have done now, but I was so glad of their support.

And now for my two sky photos for this this week. I particularly like photos of natural vegetation sihouetted in black against an interesting sky, so I have chosen two of these to show you this week. One was taken several days ago, and one was taken at tea-time tonight.

On that lovely note I will leave you to go over to Virginia´s blog to link up there, and I´ll see you all again next week.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Rocking your World 2015: Week 2

Hi folks. Today´s post is going to be very photo heavy so I will keep the chat to a minimum - or try to anyway. It always looks more than it is because I use an enlarged font for the benefit of some of my family who aren´t getting any younger!
So my Smile for today is a bit different from usual because it is a 30 second video of some inflated ´Sky Dancers´. Click here to watch it. This is the first time I have uploaded a video, let alone linking it to my blog, so I hope it works for you.
These amazing creatures are part of the Three Kings Parade in Almeria City that we went to on Monday
night. It was a fantastic evening, and I just loved the way these waltzed around up in the night sky, with their changing colours, and long tails. I hope they made you smile too. I will link them up to Annie´s Friday Smiles later.
I´ve mentioned before that Epiphany is a more important celebration than Christmas in our part of Spain. Many children will recieve a small stocking from `Papa Noel´at Christmas, but their main present will come from the Kings on twelfth night. In most villages and towns the Kings will arrive on the evening of 5th January, and then the children have their gifts the next day. It is a fairly quiet affair in our village because we have a fiesta the next day, so this year we decided to meet up with some friends in Almeria City where the Kings arrive as part of a huge parade. It takes us about forty minutes to drive there and it was a tiresome journey because we had the setting sun in our eyes the whole way. I managed to get one photo which I will show at the end of this post.
We found our friends in time for the start of the
parade, and the first entry was two live elephants! They were followed by three camels, and then some people inside big inflated balls who rolled down the road. None of my photos are very good because there was a huge crowd, and although we were on a slightly raised verandah outside a bar, it was still difficult to get a good view.
There were several film themed floats like Snow White, Peter Pan and of course, Frozen. The costumes, models and lights were very elaborate.
One of my favourites were two huge white horses made from a fine fabric and inflated. Lots of fine net
was gathered up into frills for their manes.They were lit from inside, and somehow they were manipulated so that they danced and pranced down the road. They were a very clever concept.
One effect that was very
impressive was when it started to snow! Not literally of course, but somehow the Christmas lights, strung at regular intervals across the road, started to puff out white stuff that fell just like snow. It was so unexpected and very pretty.

In between the other floats were the ones carrying the Three Kings. These were quite spectacular and they were covered in bright lights, red for one, blue for the next and then yellow for the third one.

Huge quantities of boiled sweets were thrown from all the floats, and although there was a vast crowd, every child seem to collect a carrier bag full of sweets by home time! Some even use upturned umbrellas to catch them in!
The parade ended with the ´caterpillars´from my video. They were huge on ground level. The front sections were at least a meter in diameter. Again they were made from fabric and were lit with colour -changing bulbs from within. They were controlled by men with long strings or wires. At first they travelled down the street behind the floats, but at the end there was a plaza, and when they got there they were allowed to float up to the top of the palm trees, where they could swoop and drift in a charming way.
We then, of course, had to track down the car and escape from all the revellers, and we were home by 10.00. 

The next morning we went over to the little plaza in our village to watch the Kings come down from the Town Hall. (There is no political correctness here, and one king always has a ´blacked´face, and everyone expects it.). They were proceeded by a group of men dressed up as soldiers - the men here love to dress up - and they reinact the scene at King Herod´s Palace. It is exactly the same every year, but they practice well for it, and have a huge script to learn. But they all love to be a part of it.

After the play there is a mass up at the church, but there is also a medieval market down at the plaza which is one of my favourites. We were blessed with another glorious day for the fiesta, and it was really hot standing in the sun to watch the play. In a mad moment I decided to go to the ´scary`tent where I held a huge, and very heavy long-eared owl, and then a snake.
Isn´t it beautiful? 
You  probably are not sure how beautiful this one is,
but I think it is. I have to admit I don´t really like the colour of it, but its skin was smooth, and soft but firm at the same time. It was quite strong. I was a little put out because I wanted to hold the boa constrictor but the handler was adamant that it was too strong for me. I think I could have handled it. I have held one twice before, but he wasn´t going to let me, so I settled for this one. You can just see Flat Susan pinned to my jacket. She wasn´t too sure about being cuddled by a snake!
There was of course, plenty of food at the fiesta. This
pan had some chicken wings frying in it the first time I passed it. The next time it looked like a stew, but when I took this photo, the man had just emptied several packets of rice into it, and before long it was a lovely paella.

                                              Right next to it was this
amazing barbecue. With everything from sausages to ribs, chicken, black puddings and lomo slices. The smell was very tempting.
Every fiesta in this village also has a meal of some sort provided free for everyone who wants some. Sometimes at Christmas it is migas - made from flour, oil and water and flavoured with garlic and spicy sausages, but this year it was a giant tortilla. For anyone who is not familiar with a Spanish tortilla, it is like an omlette but about an inch or more thick, and solid with sliced potato and onion. It is usually about the size of a pie plate and is cut into segments for tapas. But this one was the size of a dining table and was double thickness. 
I don´t know how they manage to cook it so perfectly with just a log fire underneath which is hard to adjust at the best of times. But cook it they do, and when it is ready they cut huge slabs and wedge them into even more huge baguettes. They hand these out to all comers. Even toddlers wander around munching on one. Chris and I share one, and even then we struggle to finish it, but it is very good.

After that we needed a drink so we went to the Morroccan tent and had some delicious sweet mint tea. It was good to sit down for a while, and just chat to friends, and relax in the sun. I chose some of their cakes to take home. They are very sweet, with lots of honey and peanut butter, but very tasty. 

When I also bought a packet of his tea-leaves, the man serving looked around and then slipped two of the gilt-painted tea glasses into my bag as well.

And while still with the Kings, and on the subject of food, this is their version of a ´Christmas cake`. (A google image. Not my photo).It is called a roscón, and represents a crown. It is essentially bread and the jewels are glacé fruits. Hidden inside is a silver coin and the finder is promised a year of good luck. 

The fruits are only in the shop around this time of year so I bought a pot of them. Here are mine. There is a whole pear, a plum and a peach, and some cherries. The green ones are probably melon but may be corgette, and the large one off the plate is a whole orange. I won´t cut this yet as there was a big slice in my mixed pot, but it is delicious and so much tastier than any candied peel I have ever bought in UK. I don´t make a roscón, but these will keep me going for fruit cakes etc all year.

Other happy moments: Well we went out for lunch last Saturday. It was Gallarte - my art and craft group in the village - enjoying a late Christmas/New Year meal together. We took our friends Tony and Eileen with us. We were quite a crowd and they put on a lovely meal for us. Here I am with friends Eileen and Cati. I promise we weren´t responsible for all those empty wine bottles ourselves! 

The men were having a good time further up the table too. I think they had had rather more wine than us but they dumped their empties up our end.!

We took Flat Susan with us and she had a nibble at my entremeses.

She passed on the main course, but when it came to the rice pudding, she was very hands-on!
I think she´d been sipping the wine too so I kept an eye on her when she started building up the corks. But she was alright, and we didn´t have to resort to her first aid kit.

Of course, after Three Kings, it is time to take down the decorations. Flat Susan had one last cuddle up with Santa, and then my angel bear said she would look after her while I was busy. I think she was just making sure that she would be the last one to go into the box!

I had another little helper too. I always take the decorations off the tree and sort them onto some chairs before I wrap them up and Tango decided to make sure they didn´t roll off. How can he manage to look quite so cross when he is purring his head off!
I am grateful for the lovely sunshine we have had this week. It may be cold at night, but in the day time it has been lovely. I am a real traditionalist and I still do a Sunday roast every week, whatever the weather, and this Sunday we were able to sit in the garden to eat it. That is very good for early January.
A few weeks ago I shared a photo of a plant that has never flowered for me until this year. Well slowly it has been opening its buds, and it now has a beautiful cone of yellow flowers. The early bees love it too.
I was very relieved and happy when I got two little parcels in the post this week. They were small bits of craft materials that I had ordered, but I had had notice of their dispatch well before Christmas and was worried they had got lost on the way.
And my final ´grateful`for this week is that we have
now got a working fire in the sitting room. There is a nice looking gas fire set into the wall but this hasn´t worked since we moved in six years ago! So far we have managed with a mobile gas fire, or the reverse air-con, both of which are OK but they don´t warm the whole room properly. But this week we had a man in to look at the fire and after dismantling it, cleaning it thoroughly and moving a few bits around, he got it working, and it has worked ever since. It is still calor gas as there is no mains gas in the village, but any fumes go up the chimney, while a small fan blows the warmth into the room. It looks nice to see real flames again, and the room is so nice and cosy. We only light it for the evenings because we sit outside in the day time, or else we are busy in our respective office and craft room, but I shall go and get comfortable in there now, and I won´t be moving  until bedtime.
Now I will finish with that one sunset photo that I took en route for Almeria. It is a bit blurred because I took it from inside the car while we were driving along the motorway. But I loved the way the sun reappeared from layers of clouds, just before it disappeared for ever.
Thank you for staying with me. I will be back to shorter posts after this week, as nothing much happens now until Easter. I will also try to visit more of you. Blogger decided I wasn´t following any blogs, so I missed some of you, though I did manage a bit of a catch-up last night. I hope you are all back on my list now! So I will just link up with Annie and with Virginia at Celtic House. Keep thinking positively, and feel free to share some of your happy moments with us.