Friday, March 27, 2015

Rocking Your World 2015: Week 13

Here we are at week 13 already, that´s a quarter of the way through the year! How did that happen so fast? And although 13 may be unlucky for some, I am having a good week because my son (number 4) and his partner are out here for a week´s holiday. They are both dog-lovers, but you may remember me mentioning them back in November when their 18 year old Labrador died, leaving a big hole in their home. They have not been out here since we had Kim, who is now two years old, so I was looking forward to introducing them. Kim seemed to recognise a kindred spirit, and in no time he was cuddling up to Jonathan like he´d known him all his life.

Meanwhile, Ella was enjoying some late afternoon sun while Arwen did her best to reach her hair through the railings on my craft room window.
Their first few days here were the last few days of our very unsettled weather, but it was still warmer than UK, and between the heavy showers we had some lovely bursts of sunshine. And since then it has been warm and sunny for most of the day.
It has been a lazy week, with plenty of hours sitting outside chatting, eating and drinking. Isn´t that what holidays are all about? They have borrowed our car and gone off to explore a bit for themselves, but mostly we have just enjoyed catching up on one another´s news.
Jonathan is the son who had surgery to repair a badly broken nose just after Christmas. It looks much better now, straighter and well shaped. Unfortunately his ability to breath through it has not improved yet. They did tell him to allow about four weeks for it to settle down, but it is nearly twice that now and it is still causing him problems, so he is waiting to see what they say at his next follow appointment at the end of April.
Last night we went to the local bar to be a team in the weekly pub quiz. We are notoriously bad at this but it is a fun night, so we went along for a laugh. And guess what? We actually won! It has never happened before and probably never will again but we were pleased with ourselves anyway.

My garden is looking lovely. The cooler weather means that my daffodils are still in flower and they have been the cause of a lot of comments in person and on Facebook. The other British folk around here say they have never seen them in this region before.
But this week I have a very Spanish flower to show you. It is a succulent plant that used to be in the back yard until the dogs - puppies then - decided it tasted good, and kept eating it or uprooting it from its pot! I rescued a small piece that was still intact and planted it in a new pot and put it in the front garden, where until now, it has done absolutely nothing. But this week it has suddenly broken into flower and it is beautiful.
The flowers are a very deep, bright,  orangey-yellow, and now it has started, it should go on producing them for several weeks. So it was worth me salvaging it after all.

On Wednesday I went to my usual house group in the afternoon. This means about a thirty minute drive inland, and a bit up into the foothills, so it tends to be a little cooler. On the way back I drew in to a small rest area so I could look at the sky for a while. There is very open terrain so there is a good view across the campo to the distant mountains where some very impressive cloud formations were hovering.
On the way I noticed some new snow on the highest peak, but by my return the clouds had come low enough to obscure it.
Just across to my left the palm trees were swaying in the wind, and a new bank of storm clouds were being blown in. I reckon it was pretty wet for anyone up on the mountain side.
But then I turned through 180º and looked behind me and it was a completely different view. It is hard to image two such diverse scenes taken from the one position.
This certainly is a land of contrasts!
Other things to be grateful for this week: 
A warm fire and cosy room to sit in for the evenings and share some family time.
My visitors this week are vegetarians which takes me a bit out of my comfort zone, and it is almost impossible to find a vegetarian option on a menu around here, but I have managed to find enough different meals to feed them, with no major disasters!
A lovely long walk on the campo with the dogs - so much easier when there are two more willing pairs of hands to hold the leads - and it was great to see the dogs run and enjoy themselves.
I have been asked to be guest designer on a challenge blog in May, because I was a winner last month. It is a challenge but an honour too. No doubt you will hear more about that nearer the time.
There are still three and half more days with Jonathan and Ella before we take them to the airport next Tuesday, and the forecast is for good weather right through ´til then. So plenty more opportunities to sit in the sun and enjoy their company.
An interesting time last night when we just stood and studied the stars. They were so bright that even the street lighting didn´t detract from them.
Although the clouds were broken in the evenings, there was not enough sun for any really good sunsets, but I did take this picture one teatime because it was so striking.
Now I shall quickly link up with Annie´s Friday Smiles and Virginia at Celtic House, and get back outside to see what our plans are for the rest of today.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Rocking your world 2015: Week 12

Hello again folks. I don´t have so very much to write about this week, but first I have a real gem to share with you. I was at a friends house one afternoon this week, with a group of others, and we got to chatting about recipes (as you do!). My friend offered to lend me a little recipe book that she had bought at a second-hand stall. It was very old, and had been compiled by a group of ladies to raise funds for their cause. I copied a few nice sounding recipes from it to try sometime, but at the back there were a few "Hints and Tips", and in among them I found this.
How times have changed!!

Last week I told you about a rather strange fiesta in our village which took place this year on a truly scorching day. We were so lucky as it was a day for picnics and sitting outside with friends. Well, the next day the weather turned and it has been getting progressively colder and wetter ever since! I can´t remember when we last had a full week of rain, and it isn´t due to stop until the middle of next week! My son is coming out on holiday with his partner on Monday, so I am really hoping it picks up soon so they get to see some sunshine while they are here.
One good thing about the cold weather is that my daffodils are still blooming. In fact there are several more flowers now, and a second type with smaller flowers and more yellow trumpets, are now appearing among the others.

We thought we had finished with the fire now, and I had moved on from my winter clothes to my "between seasons" wardrobe, but I am back in trousers and long sleeves this week. I went into the sitting room just now where Chris was watching rugby on the television, and there were three dogs laid down in front of the fire,...
...Paco and Luna on one chair...
...and Tango over on the other one!
They all looked very comfortable, and not inclined to move for a while. They are probably in the best place too, because I can here thunder rolling around the hills. We have had to throw covers everywhere so they don´t make the furniture dirty. Last night we had what the locals refer to as "the red rain", which is when it bring with it the red sand from the dessert, so today everywhere has a thick layer of wet red mud on it, and the animals tread it all over the room.
Arwen doesn´t come down to that room. She doesn´t like company and still stays in my craft room most of the time. But just occasionally she adopts a different place. This week she was cross with me because I kept moving her to use my silhouette machine, so she decided to take root on the mat in our bathroom. She still has her full winter coat and she looks like a big furry caterpillar when she lays like this. Her hair is matting underneath now and she needs her twice-yearly shave, but I am waiting for it to get a little bit warmer for her. She gets uncomfortable and will be a much happier girly when it has all been shaved off.
Yesterday I went down to Mojacar Playa for a specialist shop down there, and I stopped to walk along the edge of the beach for a while. It was damp and grey but I find it quite exciting, and I like walking into the wind. I only had my phone with me but I stopped to take a picture of the sea.
It all looked a bit bleak, but I love it when the sea is lively, and I could stand and watch the waves breaking for ages.
Looking behind me the view was not so good. The low cloud hid all the lovely mountains which have houses dotted all the way up. I bet there wasn´t much of a view from them that morning.
Although I enjoyed my little walk, knowing I could soon be home when I had had enough, I felt very sorry for the holiday-makers, trying to pull light-weight jackets around them as they marched along the sea front, probably looking for a warm bar where they could sit for yet another cup of coffee. I am sure they hadn´t bargained on a whole week of rain when they saved up for their week away in sunny Spain!

Today was not much better. We certainly didn´t get even a tiny glimpse of the eclipse this morning. But it was the day of my coffee morning at my friends house, so I was up early. That was lucky as I had to hose all the sand off the car before I could drive away, or I wouldn´t have been able to see where I was going. Despite the weather we had a really good turn out. I was too busy to take photos, but I did get one of a few folk who sat down just long enough to enjoy their coffee before they went around the stalls again. It is not a very good photo but I like it because they all look happy.
I did well on my stall taking 65€ which was excellent for a function like that. Most of it was from selling marmalade, jam and pickles, but I did sell some craft items too. Most of my little ducks and chickens sold. They are all cosies holding a cream egg. I shall make a few more of those for my Gallarte sale over the Easter weekend.
I also sold this owl basket that I made this week. It was a pattern from the internet that I really wanted to try. It was crocheted with three strands of chunky wool which made it a very sturdy basket, but it was tough to hold and work, especially as the damp weather has made all my knuckles swell up and ache. But I think he is lovely, and I shall try to make another one in a different colour this week.

My word, the rain is really coming down now! We don´t have gutters on our houses, so when it rains hard it just falls off the roof and spouts at all the corners and it sounds like a waterfall. Normally we would just be grateful to see some rain filling all the reservoirs, and watering the gardens, before the long hot summer that we should be getting quite soon. We are lucky enough to have a warm(ish), dry house where we can all get cosy, and the rain is important in an agricultural community. I just want our son to see the sun next week.
But there is still plenty to be grateful for. 
Today I was very grateful to our friend Tony who came out with his jump leads and got my car going when the battery died! He even followed me home to make sure I didn´t stall on the way.
I was also grateful to our mechanic friend Andy who came out this afternoon and brought a new battery for us. In a village with no public transport at all, we really miss the car when it is off the road for any reason. But now I can drive into Turre tomorrow and buy some wool to tackle another owl basket over the weekend.
The storm is getting closer and I need to shut down the computer so I will quickly link up with Annie´s Friday Smiles, and Virginia at Celtic House, and hopefully I will be able to get to visit you all tomorrow.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rocking your world 2015: Week 11

My smile this week is a simple one - a pot of daffodils.
I know there have been many finer daffodils shown as smiles already, but to me these are special. In UK I lived in Shropshire, just four miles from the border with Wales, and in March/April, the roads were lined with nodding yellow daffodils, and I loved them. They were a sure sign that Spring was on the way. In general, where I live, more or less at sea level, it is too hot to grow them, and they are one of the few things I miss, so this year I again bought a few bulbs from Lidls and I planted them very late, at the end of November when it had really cooled down a lot. I have kept them damp, and in a shady spot where they rarely get full sunshine, and Hooray! I have some flowers for the first time! You can see some little tulips that I planted between them too, but at the minute they show no sign of flowering. Soon it will again be too hot for them, but I keep looking for some buds all the same. So these will be linked up at Annie´s Friday Smiles later.
The garden is looking lovely right now, and this morning I was happy to see that the first flowers on my squill were opening.

This is another plant that one might not expect to see out here, but a friend gave them to me a few years back, and for the last two years they have carried several heads of flowers. They are a really intense shade of blue, which also makes them quite unusual.

Another thing that made me really happy this week was that our pink jasmine burst into flower. As usual you can´t put a pin between the blooms, and their strong, heady perfume fills the house and wafts down the street. 

It is an amazing plant which thrives on neglect! I rarely water it, and about every two to three years we cut it almost down to the ground, and the rest just happens!
The jasmine is a great conversation piece, and everyone who passes the house comments on it, because of its scent, and we have chatted to lots of folk about it, and given away countless cuttings. This week a very pleasant English couple stopped to talk, and it turns out they are moving into a house in this road on 1st May. We talked about houses, fiestas, flowers and jam making, so they will feel they have some people they know already when they move in.

I had some fun sorting through some strawberries this week. My jam last week was very successful, staying a nice bright red, and setting well, which can be a problem with strawberries. So this week I decided to make one more batch. The strawberries only have quite a short season here, and I have visitors coming out later this month so I wanted to get it made sooner rather than later. So I went to the market on Tuesday to see whether they had dropped in price yet, and although they were still the same as last week on most stalls, I did find one where they were considerable less, so I bought two boxes (2kg each). I thought perhaps they were a day or two old, so I used them quickly, but actually they were very fresh, and the only reason I could see for a lower price was that they were a bit misshapen.
Strawberries here are called fraises, but the very big ones grown near here are fresons. Thy all grow in the province of Huelva. A few are the true strawberry shape - almost a heart when cut through, but fresons tend to be wider. However, when I sorted through mine this week I found that many were divided at the base and I had to smile. This one looks like it is dancing:

While this one is like a small hand giving us a ´thumbs up´!

These two were the champions weighing in at a whopping 78 grams each! That means you only get around fourteen of them in a kilo.
They made me another twenty jars of jam anyway, so my store cupboard is now overflowing into boxes and crates in the garage.
This afternoon I cut up lots of vegetables and left them to salt over night, ready to make piccalili tomorrow, and I also bought all the ingredients to make some hot ginger and chili jam, so I will have a very pungent kitchen over the weekend.

I have another somewhat strange local tradition to tell you about this week. Yesterday was El Día de los Viejas. (The day of the old women!). I have searched the internet to find out more about this and this was what I discovered. "It was born as a day of brotherhood with religious connotations, as it was promoted by a community of Franciscans. The Church in those years was hard during Lent, as it wanted it to be as similar to the forty days and forty nights that Jesus was in the desert and to the hardness of those days. So the Franciscans proposed holding a day where there was not any fasting, but quite the opposite. A day of abundant food".(That is just as it was translated on google, so the grammar is a bit odd!)
So it is held on a Thursday in the middle of Lent and is celebrated by big family pic-nics and lots of traditional food such as tortillas, meats, beans and cakes.
In the days before the event families make their ´Old woman`which is based on a cross of wood or cane to which bags of sweets are tied. Then it is all covered with paper and coloured tissue to resemble an old woman in a scarf and apron. These are taken to the pic-nic and after the food is finished, the children throw stones at the women to break them open and get their sweets!!
We walked up to the big pic-nic area by our sports centre and there were lots of families there, using the barbecue stands, and tucking into a vast array of food that was spread on the tables. Others had spread blankets on the floor, and many other groups were sitting under the trees on the surrounding hillsides.
Here are some of the viejas that we saw. You will see that the odd old man has crept in too. There is no sexism here!
These ones were awaiting their fate,  resting in the shade of a tree while the food was eaten.
This poor old lady already has a dent on her head. The stoning has begun!
The connection between the Viejas, and the breaking of the fast with a pic-nic remains a mystery to me. The only other thing I gleaned from the net is that ´sometimes the celebration is on the day of the waning moon of Spring`.
It was a lovely day yesterday. The sun was really hot, and people were glad of the shade provided by the pepper trees. I am sure half of the village at least were somewhere in the area enjoying their picnic, and there were probably a lot of hyper children that night, after all the candy that they had eaten! They do have some very strange traditions out here, but they are always such joyful occasions, and I love the way that we, as ´foreigners,´are made to feel so welcome at their celebrations.
Before we went home we walked around the sports centre to our friends house. The town hall have done a lot of landscaping work around the centre, and on the new mud slopes around the far side, there were lots of wild rosemary plants, and they even had a watering system in place, so hopefully they will thrive.
They seemed to be a type that will grow out and cover the ground, rather than the usual tree type. The bees were having a lovely time flitting from flower to flower. There are two bees in this photo. I wonder whether you can spot them.
We spent a pleasant hour sitting in their garden and chatting to our friends, and then we made our way back home.
I did manage to fit in a little bit of crafting during the week as well. I have the local art group exhibition coming up for Easter weekend, and I usually have a craft table at it with some of my jams and pickles, plus a bit of knitting etc. So this week I downloaded some cutting files from the Silhouette Cameo store, and made some cute little boxes to hold some Easter eggs etc. I was really pleased with how they turned out.

I was happy to find that I had won a craft challenge this week, with a butterfly card. My prize was my choice of digi stamps from a site I had not visited before, so I had a happy hour browsing their pages and making my choices. Now I have several new images to work with which will be fun over the coming weeks.

The skies have been mostly clear this week which means few lovely sunsets, but we did have one night when I spotted a pink sky outside my window and rushed out to take these.
Such pretty colours in this one, and soon it became pink all over and in the blink of an eye it was gone.
So now I will go and see what has made other folk smile over at Annie´s blog, A Stitch in Time, and also link up with Virginia at Celtic House. She is an amazing lady who has had a really tough week, but has still managed to find a long list of things to be grateful for. So if you have a minute or two to spare, pop over to visit her and leave some love. We all need that sometimes.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Rocking your world 2015. Week 10

Sometimes, when our visitors return to UK, we feel a bit down for a week or two, but despite having to say ´Goodbye´to Ben last week, I have had a good week this week, and I will start with my smile.

This little smiler is, of course, my new great-grandson, born just nine weeks ago. My, they don´t stay newborn for long do they?! According to his mum, Alfie is a contented baby who smiles all the time, and I defy any of you not to smile back.
And just for good measure, here he is again. His mum posted this one today of Alfie with his big brother Isaac. They are great friends already.
I will link these up to Annie´s Friday Smiles later.

So what else has made this week a good time for me?
Well, Saturday was 28th February and this is an important date around here, as it is Día de Andalucia. I always like this day, even though the format for celebrating it is the same every year. The big marquee that is set up for Three Kings in January, is left in place until the end of February, and on Saturday it was filled with chairs in the front half, and long trestle tables behind them. There is a stage at the front (It was a very high one this year, but that made it easier for us all to see what was happening on it). The village band were standing near the back, and kept us entertained until the dancers were ready.
There are two schools of traditional dancing in the village and they each do a display of half an hour or so, and it is interesting to see the same children each year, as they progress through the ability groups, and there are always some very cute little newbies in the youngest group. They are all amazingly good, and I love to watch them. The first school are mainly older girls, there are no boys in either group, and they put on an excellent display. (The flowers at the front of the stage are the colours of the Andalucian flag).
Next it was the turn of the village choir to sing and play. I love their red dresses. They seem to have more members each year, and now have a lady guitarist as well as the usual male musicians, and two or three ladies confident enough to sing solos.
After the choir, the other school of dancers had their turn. I prefer these ones. My friend´s grand-daughter is in this group.
This year, for the first time, they did quite a lot of foot work with the studded shoes, that make such a great noise on a hollow wooden stage. These girls were in the ´babies´group when we first moved here.
For their next dance they used white fans as props.
They are so elegant and graceful, and I am sure they love wearing the pretty dresses.
Next the little ones came on, and even they managed to handle props as well as remember their steps. They had black hats. Don´t they look lovely? They had a few of the intermediate group with them, so they could follow them if they got lost.
Finally, the oldest girls came on. Their dance involved a lot of stamping too, and it was very dramatic. I wish I could understand the songs better because this one was obviously telling a story. The lead girl was so involved in the piece that she was in tears at the end, as were half the audience too. They use their hands so expressively when they are dancing, and facial expressions are important too.
These are the trestle tables I mentioned higher up.
At every fiesta in the village, there is free food of some kind for anyone who turns up, and on this day it is entremeses, which are plates of cold meat, cheese and fish etc, and salad and bread to go with them. They are put out first thing in the morning and then the tables are covered with sheets of paper. It always amazes me that during the couple of hours of the display, no-one ever touches any of it. Not even a child will peep under the paper or sneak out a crisp or two. But once the show is over, everyone grabs their chair and fits it by a table, the papers are whipped away, bottles of wine are distributed along each table, and everyone tucks in. There is then music and dancing well into the night.

On Tuesday Chris surprised me by taking me out for an unplanned lunch. We had gone down to the garden centre on Mojacar Playa, to but a big pot for the baby bottle brush plant that I bought last week. It was such a nice day that Chris had dug out a pair of shorts and gave his legs an airing!
Once we had done the shopping, we walked along the sea-front for a while and spotted an Asian restaurant that we didn´t know existed, so we stopped for lunch there. And very nice it was too, especially as we were able to eat it sitting on a lovely sunny patio.

The next day we woke up to quite a surprise. It wasn´t quite fog, but it was a very heavy mist. We live just a short drive away from Taberno, the only designated dessert area in Europe, so mostly our air is just too dry for mist, but Monday night there must have been a very heavy dew. My lovely mountains had quite disappeared!
It did lift mid-morning and was quite a nice day, but I was driving home from my house-group at tea-time, when it suddenly came down again, and I was glad to get home.
Fortunately it was only a blip in the weather, and the next day dawned clear and bright again. Although it can still feel chilly in the shade, if you can find a sheltered spot, the sun is beginning to feel quite warm. Yesterday I had to drive back down to Mojacar to order a sheet of glass to be cut, and as I was driving back along the playa it was so beautiful, with a deep blue sky, blue sea, and little white waves breaking on the rocks, that I just had to pull over and take a quick photo.
You can just spot my bunch of cormorant friends on their rock as usual, though they are partly hidden by the cactus.

I have made good progress with my marmalade and have just finished for this year. I made just over 100 jars, plus one batch of 20 jars of the darker one which is made with half white and half dark brown sugar, and has the peel cut much thicker. I have a couple of customers who prefer it like that. It is all stored in the tall cupboard in the garage and it is looking very full right now. Which is just as well as I have two charity table-sales later this month, as well as my regular customers at my sewing group.

But I need some variety to sell, so today I went to the market and bought these. They are huge this year, and really look too good to make into jam, but jam is what I need right now, so most of these are going into my big pan when I have finished this. There are 2kg in each box, so I will keep 1kg back for us to eat and make jam with the other five. I hope I sell some soon because there is not much storage space left!
So now for a few sky photos to end with. They are just some random shots taken this week that I rather liked, so I hope you do too.

Well that´s it for this week. I will link up with Annie at A stitch in time, and Virginia at Celtic House, and then I had better go get hulling and crushing some strawberries.