Friday, October 30, 2015

Rocking Your World 2015; Week 44

Another week has flown past, and whenever I have had a spare minute, I have been busy making items for a couple of charity stalls coming up over the next few weeks. So here is my first make which I hope will make you smile. I think they are really cute.
Each one is made from the foot of an adult-sized white cotton sock, and the top and foot of a coloured sock.

My silhouette cameo cutting machine has also been put to good use to make three of these stables, which have a gold vellum backdrop with a battery-operated tea-light behind it.

Something else that features lights is this star with little cut-out angels and stars on the front half of it. It has a plain star on the back, and a small string of Led lights inside it.
I have shown these here as some of my family follow this blog but not my craft one. But if you are interested to know more about how each of these was made, you can read about them by clicking HERE.

As I have not been in my craft room much over the last month, being busy with my visitors, Arwen has got used to the peace and quiet. She really resents me getting out my silhouette because she has to move from her favourite spot in front of the window, to make space for it. With all the activity down here this week, she has taken up residence on a brick wrapped in brown paper, that I used to use to raise my computer monitor up. It now lives behind the door, and she sulked on it all evening on Monday through 'til yesterday. If looks could kill.....!

I rarely get to sit down in front of the television in the evenings, but when I do, I like to have some knitting or crochet to occupy my hands, so I have had a go at an amigurumi elephant. (This is a type of crochet done with thin wool and a fine hook, all in tightly woven double crochet stitches - single crochet if you are American!).
He is about six inches long from the tip of his trunk to his tail, which is quite big for an amigurumi animal, but he was fiddly to do and I don't think I would have the patience to do one any smaller. The yarn I used is Danish sock wool, bought from a little shop under my son's flat in Aarhus, when we visited him this summer. It is an interesting mix of colours, very randomly spaced, but because he is so small, they still came out as stripes. He is quite cute, but I don't think I'll be rushing to make another one.

We actually had our first Christmas Fair last Saturday, but we had a joint table from our church, to raise awareness of us in the community, so I only contributed jam and pickles to that one. My church is half an hour's drive away from here, so it was not really my community, and I knew nothing about it until I was asked to donate some jams, but I went over in the afternoon and found it was quite a big affair. The sun came out for us, and I had a really enjoyable time.Here are some folk setting up their stalls in the morning.
We had chosen to be inside with our table as the weather forecast was unsettled. It was in an old railway station and the big hall was lined with stalls all around, and there were many more in the space outside. This was our stall, with my friends Jasmine and Sylvia doing a stint to man it.
Also outside, there were lots of tables and chairs with some food and drink stalls, and a small stage where several musicians took turns to entertain the crowd. 
On the far side there was a large marquee with art and handcrafted items that had been entered in various competitions. There was a display from a local quilting group, and they had done some beautiful work.
One of our ladies, Sylvia, came second in the art competition with a lovely watercolour painting of elephants. This photo doesn't do it justice.
Also in the outside area they had a dog show and I sat and watched some of it. Most of the dogs out here are rescued animals, so they are a mixture of breeds, and come in all shapes and colours, but there were a few true breeds as well. There was a lovely pair of grey and black Great Danes, but I don't know how anyone copes with two such huge animals in their house. I fell for a little brown fluffy dog - I always go for the longer-haired animals -called Lily, and was so pleased when she was awarded the best dog in show. Here she is on the right. She has such a sweet face, and a nice nature to go with it.

Those who read my post last week may remember that it was my birthday, and my husband's too. I had some lovely cards but my post was too long to include them then, so here are some of them now. These are the ones that either Chris or I had, that are hand-made.
Some were made using cut and decoupaged elements.
Others were stamped, and used die-cuts etc as well. The lovely row of owls and the pretty butterfly below, were both made for us by my sister Jean. Her work is beautiful.
And these last ones involve sewing, crochet and tatting. The crocheted heart was made by another of my sisters, and she is 84 now (I think!), so she does amazingly well doesn't she?

Other things to be happy about this week;

We had a really good choir practice on Wednesday night. We are nearly ready for some sing-outs of Christmas music at the end of November, and a longer programme of Christmas music plus songs from the shows in December.

I had long chats with some of my boys on Skype this week. I always love hearing about what they are doing.

We have had some lovely sunny days, so we have been able to eat our lunch out on the porch again most days. I don't mind the cooler evenings when we have nice days.

We have also had some rain this week, but it is doing the ground good, and suddenly everywhere is looking quite green. We are so used to the brown, bare earth that the green really strikes us, and everyone mentions it when we are chatting. There is even some real grass growing on the campo and not just weeds. We don't see much of that around here usually.

The clouds in the early evening have given us a few nice sunsets too. I had my eye on one as I drove to choir on Wednesday. I thought it might have gone right down by the time I got there, but when I arrived there was still some colour in the sky and I took this photo of it.

Such a lovely end to a lovely day. and with that I will go over and link up to Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World at Celtic House, and I'll see you all again next week.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Rocking Your World 2015; Week 43 and a Friday Smile

So here we are at week 43. This year is sure racing by! Last week I had to miss our little rendezvous, and I think that was the first miss this year, but I am back today with more chat and photos to share.
First I am sure you will join me in smiling at our Tango. I am trying to convince folk that this is his happy face! He is happy because his house is almost back to normal after lots of visitors, plus he has discovered some extra cushions and a warm, cosy blanket to nap on.
He was really poorly while our first visitor was here, and I was very worried about him, but a course of anti-biotics and a special diet for a couple of weeks, have got him back to his normal, relaxed and contented self.
I shall be linking this to Annie's Friday Smiles later, but before I do, join me in wishing a very Happy Birthday to Annie, who faithfully hosts our smiles week by week. 
We are both Librans Annie, as it was my birthday last Saturday, and husband Chris' on the Thursday, and the reason I didn't post a blog, was because on Friday we had a joint party here.

A week last Monday, we set off at tea-time to collect our son Ben from Murcia train station. He hates flying, and as he works for the railway, he can get subsidised tickets, so he often comes all the way from Birmingham by train. We picked him up at 7.00 and then had just enough time to drive to Murcia airport, (which isn't in Murcia at all, and is an hour's drive from the city), to collect our grandson Marcus, and his girlfriend, El. It was getting dark as we left Murcia city, and all through our drive we were blessed with a stunning sunset. I only had my phone with me, and I was taking photos through a rather grubby car window, but here are just two of the many pictures I took.

Marcus and El arrived on time so we were home by 10.00, just in time for a quick snack and a night-cap, and then we settled down for a good night's sleep. 
They were lucky on Tuesday. It was much sunnier than was forecast, so they went outside and did what most English holiday makers do, and who can blame them!
On Wednesday I called into my sewing group as usual because they were having a coffee morning for Macs, but then I left to do some shopping for the party. So I left the youngsters on the beach where they had a lovely time. My choir practice was cancelled that evening as the musical director was ill, but we decided to drive over to the Asian restaurant anyway, as we had planned to go there after the practice.
It was absolutely heaving in there. I haven't seen so many customers in one eating place for a long time, but they still found us a table and as usual, we had an excellent meal.
On Thursday I needed to have a serious baking session, so I let Ben have our car, and he took the other two off for the day. I had a good day. I used to love having a baking day when the family were all at home, but now there are just the two of us, it rarely happens. So I enjoyed myself in my own little world, and got everything I needed to done, before the others came home.
There is no such thing as an entirely free supper in this house, so on Friday I made them work for it, and kept everyone busy moving furniture, sorting glasses and plates etc. etc. 
I had borrowed a digital piano for Ben to play, so that was set up in one corner, and our friend Tony, an electrician and sound man, came over with mics, leads and an amplifier and sorted that out for us. The double doors to the sitting room were removed so we could arrange chairs all around the room and the hall, and the spare bed returned to being a settee for the evening. A few more chairs were placed outside around the porch and the drinks table was also out there, and we were lucky, the forecast rain didn't come, and it was warm enough for some folk to sit out there all evening. There were around thirty of us, so we were bursting at the seams, but it was a great evening all the same. 
The food table was well laden and everyone tucked in. There was very little left by the end of the evening.
We are not great cake-eaters but some sort of birthday cake seemed appropriate for when Ben opened the cava and everyone sang Happy Birthday, so I made a big, plain madeira cake, and El did great job of icing it, and made it look really pretty.
My friend Sue and her musical partner Andy, started the entertainment with several pieces played on the piano and clarinet. I was distracted and didn't manage to get a photo of them.
Then Ben did a set of some songs he has written himself, and some Billy Joel numbers.
My friends all think he is wonderful, and love listening to him. (So do I, but I am biased!).
Next Ben accompanied Marcus while he sang Stars from Les Mis. I knew he sings a bit, but he has improved massively since I heard him last. I was really impressed.
His girlfriend El also sings, so I asked her to do a song, and she sang Ella Henderson's version of Yours. She was amazingly good, putting all the dramatic emphasis into it.

All three of them are in a pantomime company that do a week of performances every January, in Wolverhampton, and their stage training has really paid off. This is the company's tenth anniversary and they are doing Cinderella. Marcus is playing Buttons and El is Prince Charming. It is only Ben's second season with them so he was in the chorus last year, but this year he is cast as Cinderella's father, Baron Hardup, and has a couple of solo songs  to learn too.

Andy and Sue did another short set and then my friend Eileen sang. She is Tony's wife, so he had backing tracks ready for her. She sings jazz and blues, and regularly sings at open-mike nights. What a lot of talent in such a small group of people!
I had invited my Spanish friend Cati to come with her daughter Maria who has Down's syndrome, and was the reason for Cati starting her local charity ASADIS. Maria loves music, especially karaoke, so  Tony managed to find a couple of her favourite Spanish songs and she was happy to have her turn with the microphone. Her diction is not good but she knows all the words, and has a good sense of the rhythm.
Ben did his last set of songs and then he managed to cast some karaoke numbers onto our TV, and others onto Tony's laptop, and between them we had a good old sing song that continued after most of our guests had gone home.
Tony and Eileen stayed until late, and also some other friends Yvonne and Robin because Robin loves to sing, but eventually there was just the five of us left singing until around 2.30 in the morning! It's a good thing we haven't got any immediate neighbours.

Boys and their toys! This is my menfolk trying to get to grips with some new technology that will enable us to pick up more TV channels. It is a good idea, but it is so complicated that I will only be able to watch it when Chris is around to set it up for me!
Saturday was, of course, recovery day. I was up bright and early and I got most of the clearing up done, and then the boys got up and put all the furniture back where it belongs. They decided to stay around the house that afternoon but as the sun was out they thought they should try out the pool. I warned them that it would be colder than the sea, but they insisted. Here they are trying to convince one another that it will be OK. It isn't cold really.
Oh yes it is !!
But soon they were all in and they had a lot of fun until they started to shiver.
This is as far as I go in October!
The dogs thought we were mad, and all hid safe behind bars.
They all decided that they didn't want to go out at night so we spent the evening playing board games. It was fun. I always used to play games with Ben. Back when we used to have eurocamp holidays, and his brothers were just old enough to go to the disco, Ben and I would sit outside our tent and play board games. Marcus' family still have family games evenings and it is a great tradition to keep up.
The weekend passed all to quickly, and unfortunately they were unable to get a train for Ben that coincided with a plane for the other two, so Monday morning saw us heading off to Murcia train station, leaving Marcus and El to pack. As he left, Ben took this photo of the front of our house, to put on his 'going-home' post on Facebook.
I had promised Marcus and El that I would take them up to Mojacar pueblo when I got back, so they could buy little gifts to take home to their families. So we did that, and came home for a meal before we set out once again for Murcia airport. This was their parting shot, taken at the airport just before they went down to the departure lounge.
We had enjoyed their young company all week, and the house seems quiet since they left. But we are getting back into our winter routine now. 
I spent yesterday making lots of piccalilli, (the last batch has sold out already), and also some of my hot chilli and ginger jam. I have several charity sales coming up in the approach to Christmas, so I needed to have something to sell on my table.
There is a distinctive feel of autumn in the air now, with the nights getting a bit colder, and we have had some wet days this week, though enough sunny ones for me to get most of the extra washing dry outside. Something I am always thankful for.
The afternoon sun is lower in the sky and my kitchen is full of dancing rainbows from the crystals that I hang in my window. There are hundreds of them, but they move so fast and it is hard to catch any of them on camera.  I love them! They make me feel happy!
I got a group of friends from my church interested in singing a special song at our carol service in December. There were enough of us to give it a go, so we persuaded our pianist friend Sue to rehearse it with us. Bless her, she has done a new arrangement of the music, in four part harmony, and this afternoon we had our first practice. Seeing as most of the group had not seen the music before, we did really well. We have a few more weeks to practice in, so it should be fun. We are also singing a carol in Spanish, also with harmonies, called Luz de Dios, (Light of God), sung to the tune of Oh Christmas tree.
We also have at least four events where we are singing with our new choir Incognito Singers, during the next couple of months, so it is all go. Fortunately I like to keep busy. My main aim now is to get a few craft items made for the sales that are coming up, but hopefully I will be back with my usual ramblings next week.
I am linking up now with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World, over at Celtic House.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Rocking your world 2015; Week 41

My smile this week is another garden one. I am smiling because my Stepelia Gigantica decided to open up for our visitor to see this week.
It really is an extraordinary plant, with short, red-green, succulent leaves, but the flowers are at least six inches across. They are a greeny yellow in colour with a mass of fine red veins, and a dark red centre. The petals are edged with fine white hairs.
They grow very low to the ground and always remind me of films I've seen of starfish moving over the sand. I've never got down low enough to smell one, but I believe their scent is like rotting meat, and their main aim is to attract the flies, which they are very good at!
In just a few days, their buds grow from being almost too small to see, to a large bulbous shape. We noticed this one was splitting and it almost opened up while we watched it.
But when it did open right up, it was an anomaly as it only had four petals instead of the normal five!

But apart from that it has been a busy week. Our friend Jenny arrived while I was finishing my post last week. Although we haven't had perfect weather, it was warmer than UK, with enough sunshine for us to get out and enjoy ourselves.
She was tired on Saturday so we did a quick supermarket shop, as she wanted to see what we can buy, and then sat around in the garden, chatting.
On Sunday morning I went to church as usual, but after lunch we drove down to Mojacar Playa. It was heaving as usual!...
Holiday season for the Spanish is well and truly over, and the few folk who were around, were mostly having a late lunch in one of the beach restaurants. We went for a long walk along the water's edge, and of course we had to have a paddle too. The water was really warm still. Until Jenny took this photo of us, we hadn't realised that Chris and I were colour co-ordinated.
We went up to the road to find a drink, and as we walked back to the car, we had to stop to look at the date palms which are dripping with fruit this year.
Monday was overcast and we were happy to sit around relaxing, but in the afternoon we decided to walk the dogs over the campo. Jenny had not met Kim before but he was soon very attached to her. But on the campo they all ran off to look for rabbits and tortoise, and Chris went ahead to keep an eye on them. Jenny I strolled along behind, enjoying the plants and flowers that we saw. 
On Tuesday I was committed to attending a meeting at a friend's house, so the others dropped me off and went off to look around, and they came and collected me again at 1.30. Then we drove down to our favourite restaurant, La frontera, at Esparto del Pozo, near San Juan. That is the little place right on the seafront that I have showed many times before. We always get a good meal and excellent service there, and this was no exception. It was quite blowy along the beach and the palms were bending, and the empty bottles on the table across from us were having trouble staying upright. Fortunately the umbrellas are well anchored, but they were still getting tossed about.
But after lunch we drove a bit further to the proper San Juan beach and it was much calmer there. We sat on the beach, and had a lovely swim in the sea. It wasn't at all cold either. Then we drove home and Chris and Jenny decided to get in the pool and cool down after the afternoon in the sun. I busied myself preparing our tea, but then I did sit for a while with my feet in the pool. It wasn't cold enough to be uncomfortable, but it was a good deal colder than the sea.
On Wednesday I woke up earlier than usual, and was just in time to catch a beautiful sunrise.

That made me hopeful for another nice day, and it did get quite sunny in the end. I popped into my Wednesday sewing group for a little while to support their Macmillan 'coffee and cake' morning, but I didn't stay as long as usual. It was sunny enough for us to eat some lunch outside, but I had to go out again late afternoon for Choir practice. Chris and Jenny came with me, and said they really enjoyed hearing our Christmas songs that we are learning. After the practice we went to the Chinese restaurant next door, and had a really lovely meal.
So then it was Thursday and Jenny's last full day, so although it was cloudy with the threat of rain, we wanted to do something, and I am delighted to say we fulfilled one of my ambitions to climb the hill in Vera and take a selfie with Jesus! This is the hill... Ever since we first came here, I have wanted to climb up to this statue, but on previous attempts I could not find the way, and kept getting so far, only to be stopped by a fence, or pile of rocks. 

But someone had told me where the entrance was, so this time we were successful. The hill marks the centre of a big earthquake over 500 years ago, which completely destroyed the town of Vera. It has now be rebuilt some distance away, and the statue watches over it

It was quite a climb, but most of the way was roughly hewn steps - around 200 of them with stretches of sloping gravel every now and then.
It is one of those places where it is actually easier going up than it was coming down!
On the way up we stopped to read about the ruined hermitage, dating from 1428.
This arch marks the entrance to the original town.
The views were magnificent, so here are just a few that I took.
I love this one!

Light and shadow on the hills with a small part of Vera town in the foreground.
Lovely neat rows of orange trees in one of the commercial fruit centres.
Up at the top, the air was filled with little birds that swooped right past us. I spent ages trying to get several of them in one picture. This was the best I managed.

That just leaves the little question of my selfie! I had not appreciated how difficult is to take one when you also want something else in the picture, and that something is several feet above your head! So here is my feeble effort. As you can see, Jenny managed to photo-bomb me, but as she is also struggling to take one, I decided to leave it at that. At least I got up there. I was beginning to think I never would.

One thing that was encouraging to see as we went up, was the chumba, or prickly pear. Last summer we had a plague of white flies. They were so tiny that they could get though the mosquito nets on the windows, and they covered everything. If you swatted them, they left a bright pink stain, as apparently they are related to the cochineal beetle. They settled on the chumba leaves and sucked them dry and it was almost wiped out around here. This year the flies came again but nothing like so many of them, and after the few days of rain we have had, it was good to see new growth on all the dead looking chumba plants. Nature is pretty amazing really isn't it?
From our back fence we look out over the green zone, a valley of rough ground with some untended fruit trees on it. Because it is a green zone, it will never be built on. Jenny spotted some bright red on a tree down there and was very excited when I told her it was pomegranets, so on Wednesday afternoon we went 'scrumping', and came home with a dozen ripe fruit. Caught in the act! There were already lots of over-ripe fruit on the ground, so I am sure no-one minded us picking some.
Chris stayed at home, but when the dogs spotted us through the railings they set up an awful racket, so he came out to quieten them down.
We had intended to go to a local bar that evening, but we were tired, and then there was a big thunder storm, that settled down into steady rain, so we stayed at home and made a big jug of sangria instead.

Jenny was leaving this evening, but she wanted to do a little bit of shopping this morning, so we drove to Mojacar Pueblo, the little white village on the hill above Mojacar Playa. With her shopping done we then went down to the playa to find some lunch. We ate too much and decided to walk along the sea-front to walk it down a bit. It was cooler than it has been but there was still plenty of sun shining on the water, and a stiff on-shore breeze to make some waves.
It is beautiful down there on a day like this.
Soon it was time to heads for home and I made a cup of tea while Jenny popped the last few bits into her case. Now she is safely on her way home, and Chris is back here, so it is time to start preparing for three more visitors who arrive on Monday. It will be a lovely week of family fun and I am really looking forward to it.
I can say with certainty that I will not be posting next Friday so I will either do an early one on Thursday or catch-up on Saturday. But if I don't make it at all, I'll be back the following week for sure.
So I'll link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World , and leave you with this week's sunset photo, that I took earlier in the week. It's a bit dark and stormy looking because that's how it has been by tea-time most days. But I don't mind that, if the sun has been out all day.