Friday, December 18, 2015

Rocking your world 2015: Week 51

Well that has been my busiest week so far, and as you will see, it involved quite a lot of eating!
But first, here is my Friday Smile.

This is my second eldest sister and her husband, who yesterday celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary. Now isn't that something to smile about? There were eight of us (six of them girls), but there is quite an age gap as Jean and I were the post-war babies. So we were the two little bridesmaids at this wedding, and with everything in such short supply just after the war, we carried posies of red peonies, and in the photo I am surrounded by a circle of petals because I systematically dismantled mine!

And so on to my week, which was so busy that I am quite sea-sick from all the Rocking!

Saturday: I was up early for a flying visit to Vera for a couple of items I couldn't get last week. I needed a red scarf so I whizzed round the open market, and just had to take a photo of this stall which was brimming with items for the traditional Beléns, or nativity scenes. These are set up in most town squares, larger shops and many homes, and they not only include the traditional stable with the visiting shepherds and kings, but also depict all aspects of village life, such as the mother washing, the farmer slaughtering a pig, the goatherd, and fields of carrots and lettuces, to name but a few. All these pieces are purchased individually, so for a month or so there are shops and market stalls that specialise in them.

From Vera I drove back to Mojacar in time to join our 'mother church' who were singing carols in the plaza of the Parque Comerciál. It was a lovely morning so there was a good crowd seated outside all the cafés, who joined in with the singing too.

We were ably led by our vicar, Reverend Pauline, who sported her own special Christmas hat, and encouraged maximum participation from the spectators.

When that finished it was straight home to change before going to our first Christmas dinner at a local bar. We have decided to disband the village art and craft group for now, and this was a final get-together. We filled all the tables, and we sat with our friends Tina and John (who didn't want to be photographed).

The husband of one of our members was celebrating his birthday, so we all had a glass of cava to toast him while he blew out the candles on his cake.

Sunday: It again dawned bright and sunny, and I set out early for our church crib service. It was a lovely service. We sang all the old familiar carols, and listened to simple readings as the children came forward during each song to place the characters in the stable.

After the service it was warm enough for most folk to sit outside and chat over a coffee and some of my mince pies.

There were two smiling tea ladies, yours truly and my friend Chris. We always take our turn on the rota together and we make a good team, because I do the baking and she shops for milk and water, then she makes the coffee (I don't like the smell!), while I man the big tea-pot.

Monday: This was relatively quiet, in that I had no pre-arranged activities, so I did some last minute shopping and I managed to finish making my Christmas cards and get them all written. I had given a lot out on Sunday, but I still needed a load for my sewing group on Wednesday, so I was glad I got them ready in time.
The shopping was for silly little items so I went up to Mojacar Pueblo, the little white village set high on a hill above the Playa, because there are lots of little novelty shops up to poke around in. I managed to get everything I wanted, but it was a really strange morning. The Pueblo was almost deserted. There is a big, sandy car park just below the village where I usually park and walk up to the shops. The walking is good for me! Usually it is a struggle to find an empty spot, as it is a favourite tourist stop during the holiday season, but on this day there was only one other car parked there. I knew I would have got into the higher up car parks but I still needed the walk. When I got up to the shops they were similarly empty, so I took my time wandering around, and was able to chat to some of the shop keepers who were pleased to see me I think! I always like an opportunity to practice my Spanish. It was lovely to walk around without worrying about traffic in the narrow streets. The air was warm and the views beautiful, but I couldn't help comparing it with last minute shopping sprees in UK. It makes me feel blessed to have escaped from all that.

Tuesday: This evening was our proper carols by candle-light service up at our little church. This was such a lovely evening. We again sang many of the old favourite carols, and listened to the traditional readings, but we also had a solo by John who sang When a child is born, a really funny sketch by two sheep discussing why a King would choose to be born as a lamb whose most likely outcome would be to be used as a sacrifice!

As you know, a small group of us have been practising every Friday afternoon, to learn two special songs to sing, so we (grandly referred to as the choir), did our pieces too.

We usually have a congregation of between thirty and forty folk, but there were 120 people at the carol service, including our immediate English and Spanish neighbours, and councillors from the town hall who allow us to use the building each week. There was a lovely moment at the end when the lights were turned out and we all lit our candles for the singing of Silent Night, and for the final blessing.

Here is Rev. Pauline about to snuff the candles on our advent wreath. She is one lovely lady, and is so happy at the way we have grown together since our first ever service there, exactly one year ago.

Of course there were more mince pies and coffee after the service, so I took along another few dozen for that. And then we all trooped down to a nearby bar/ restaurant for a family meal together. I can't honestly say it was the best meal of the week but the company was lovely. This was our table, but we just about filled every other table in the place as well.

So we come to Wednesday which was - yes you've guessed it - another Christmas dinner, this time for my Wednesday sewing group. We met at the usual time and some of us even managed to do some sewing or knitting, while others gave out their cards and looked at the ones they had received. There was lots of happy chatter and laughter.

Then the laughter moved up a notch with the arrival of Father Christmas and his helper in the form of a tree! Inside the tree was Selina, who runs our group together with her sister Gloria. She is such a good sport, and always makes us laugh. They distributed gifts of pretty embroidered purses to each of us, and then it was time to tidy away and head for the restaurant.
We went to another favourite eating place of ours, where we will also be going for our dinner on Christmas day. They had set up a long table for all of us, and this provided a perfect corridor for a competition between the model planes that were in some of the crackers!

We had a lovely three course meal, as we always do there, and wine and other beverages were flowing freely. This is the one day when I don't go 'sin alcohol' because I am driving, so at around 4.00 I rang Chris to come and collect me. He was just one in a long line of obliging husbands who rolled up to collect their other halves. I went home and promptly fell asleep! I bet the others did too!

Now what did I do on Thursday? Oh yes - I had another Christmas dinner! This time it was the dinner for all the pensionistas in the village, put on by the town hall. We pay a little towards it, but it is heavily subsidised and well worth going to. Five coaches line up along the front of the village and we all climb aboard, though this year we opted to drive in our own car as we needed to be home early. It is always held in a function suite, just off the motorway, on the way to Carbonaras. The room is beautifully arranged, with loads of tables that each seat twelve people, and we all just find spaces where we can. This year we sat at a table with all Spanish people, which gave me another chance to practice speaking, and they were very friendly and made us feel welcome.

There was wine, water and beer on all the tables, and we could ask for any thing else that we wanted. We were served with an excellent five course meal with a delicious sorbet to clean the palate between the fish and meat. Later there was a singer and time for some dancing. We had to leave before the end, but as we drove out, the coaches were just turning in to pick everyone up, so I don't think we missed much.

We got home with just a quarter of an hour to spare before we went out again, so I quickly fed the dogs, and then we went to collect our Spanish friend Cati, as we had been invited to take her to a carols and candles event at the nearby campsite. It was organised by an Irish lady who does a lot of work fundraising for charities, and she had a donation to give Cati for her work with the disabled children in our village and surrounding area. (I am on the right with Cati on the left, and Siobhan who organised the event is between us).

It was a very nice little event with some carols and other songs to sing, a couple of solos and comic recitations, and then we all lit a candle, and while one lady sang Silent night, we all processed out to a Garden of Remembrance to place our candles around the Tree of Light.

We took a moment to remember absent friends and family. Cati lost her mother around this time last year, and she was very moved by the experience and has asked to go again next year.

So now it is Friday, and Chris and I were happy to have a light lunch today! Tonight I am singing with my choir at our last engagement - a charity fayre outside the Spanish/English school on Vera.

Tomorrow I have a bit of baking to do but then I am a free agent until the New Year! Our grandson, who celebrated his twenty-first birthday this week, is arriving on Monday to spend Christmas week with us. I am so glad that I can sit back and enjoy his company. 
I will leave you with this photo of my dear little winter pansies that have settled in so well and are flowering. They have such pretty little faces.

And of course there are some lovely skies too. The first two were taken earlier in the week. There were some lovely colours in the sky as the sun was setting, but the clouds were coming in too and soon there was just a line of light silhouetting the distant trees.

These two were taken last night. The first was from our garden as I was quickly feeding the dogs, and then, as we went to collect Cati for the carols, the whole sky looked as though it was on fire.

Thank you to those who have stayed with me through this long post. I am sorry it took so long to get to some of you last week, but I think I managed to visit everyone in the end. I will be late starting my rounds again this week, but I will get to you all. 

Thank you for your continuing support. I love to read all your comments each week.

Now all that is left is to wish you all a Very Happy Christmas, and a Peaceful and Blessed New Year.

I will be off to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World at Virginia's blog, and then I must get into the black and purple and head off for the choir event.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Rocking Your World 2015; Week 50

Hey, it is week 50 already, and I have just realised that week 52 will be Christmas Day! What are we going to do about that Virginia?

Well I am starting off with a very happy smile this week, because on Wednesday I met up with fellow-blogger Lisca Meijer.

Lisca and her husband brought their camper van to be serviced at Vera which is just ten minutes drive from here, so we arranged to meet up. Of course, my husband came along to even up the numbers. We spent a lovely day together, first getting acquainted over coffee, and then driving down to see the sea. It stayed dry and fairly sunny for us, so the sea was blue edged with 'white horses', but we did not have time to linger there, and went on to one of our favourite venues for a menu del día. The one we had intended to take them to was closed from 9th December to 7th January "por vacaciones". Only in Spain does a large, popular bar/restaurant take a months vacation at potentially their busiest time of the year. I expect they have gone to spend time with their family, so actually I think they have got their priorities right! Anyway, we soon reached a good alternative and had an excellent meal together. Rather than doing the journey twice, we drove back to our house, and I just had time to show Lisca some of my decorations, and the room where I craft, and take this photo  by my Christmas tree. The tree has many hand-made decorations on it, including two little cloth people made by our Annie (of Friday Smiles), a few years ago now.

I then did a quick change into my black and purple choir clothes, and we headed back along the motor way, leaving Lisca and Graham at their van service station, and then driving on to our Friends and Family night with the choir.

This was a lovely evening. There was a really good turnout of around a hundred friends and family members, and we sang our full programme for them. I always think we sing better with an audience, and we sang our hearts out, with the singers enjoying it as much as the audience I think. We had wonderful, positive feedback afterwards, and it was a good way to end the term. We do have a couple more singing spots at charity markets, but we have officially finished until the new year, and there will be not be a full choir at either of the last  two events.

I am happy to have found time to get all our Christmas decorations up this week. I get quite excited unwrapping the decorations, and reminiscing about where many of them came from. Each one has its own story to tell, and I love reliving them year by year. 

Visitors to our house could be forgiven for thinking that I like candles. I wonder why? 
Most of the ones on this little shelf are older than I care to remember, but their happy faces brighten up the room every year, and I can't bear to light them.
These ones are scented, and they will get lit at some time over the holiday. The little robin candle holder reminds me of my sister Jean as she gave it to me years ago. The other robin used to sit on a glass bell which sadly came to a splintery end, but the robin still comes out to sit with his friend. And the big gold candle is sitting in an amber brandy glass which was a present on my twenty-first birthday, and amazingly it has survived all these years.

I love arch ways, and I have had several of these over the years, but this one has lasted so well. It does of course, hold electric candles, but I still like them, and I have two of my favourite candle holders on either side of it. The little tin angel on the far left, is something we bought when Chris took me to Arizona (and on to the Grand Canyon), for our silver wedding anniversary. We visited the tin mining community near Sedona, and I had to have a little keepsake. Hence the tin angel, holding a tea light.

Here are a few more that also come out for Christmas. Because I have not yet got out all the ornaments that I packed away while the room was decorated, this year I have space to arrange the candles properly.
I have others as well in the hall and sitting room, but I think that is enough for this time!

As well as the Christmas decorations, I have also managed to re-cut and position on the wall, the words for my Family clock. I did a trial run of it which I showed you here, but I knew it would have to come down again for the walls to be painted. This time it is on the opposite wall where we can see it better, and the writing is straight now. There was a lot of struggling with long rulers and spirit levels to make sure of this! And then there was more levelling to get the photos straight around it.

I have also spent some time in the kitchen this week, making another seven dozen mince pies on Tuesday. Then today I made seven dozen more, so I have plenty ready for my turn at making church teas on Sunday, and for after our carol service on Tuesday.

I made a big batch of my piccalilli and also my hot chili-ginger jam, to sell at the Christmas market a couple of week ago. I really thought that was it for this year, but the piccalilli sold out at the market, and last week end I took orders from three people who wanted more before Christmas. So yesterday I spent the evening chopping vegetables, and first thing this morning I cooked that up. 

For the first time ever, I have completely sold out of last January's massive marmalade stash. Of course, it will be a few week yet before the new season's bitter oranges are ready to make some more. So to fill the gap, this week I made one big batch of grapefruit marmalade. I like the taste of it, but it hasn't set quite as well as I would have liked, probably because the fruit was rather ripe. But I expect it will sell before the next marmalade is ready.

Every year we have really nice Christmas lights up through the village. They are later going up, and being turned on, than some of the villages around here, but because we have a fiesta for Three Kings Day, ours stay on for longer after Christmas. Our road has big groups of candles strung across it at regular intervals, right up to the Town Hall at the top. The parallel road and festival plaza has snowflakes. 
But from the main road up as far as our house, we also have a light on most of the lamp posts, including the one right outside our house. Until they are up it is hard to see what they are, and some have to be lit up before I can recognise them, but yesterday they fixed up what is definitely a Santa on our post. I'm looking forward to having him lit up now. It always seems a bit odd to me, to see Christmas images against a bright blue sky, but it gets dark by 5.30 these days, and the modern lights are so bright and sparkly, so they aren't out of place at all come night time.

Also to add to the festive look, we like to buy at least one poinsettia plant to go in the front porch. I bought a lovely big red one a couple of week back, but I also wanted some in the two smaller pots on our planter, so this week I popped into the little garden centre in Turre and bought a lovely orangey-gold one, and one that is piebald, in a mixture of yellow and red. Don't they make the doorway look nice and cheerful?

As if we aren't up to our eyes with things to do, places to go etc right now, we decided to call the workmen in to repair our outside wall this week. Just inside the wall, in our garden,  there is a channel that carries the agricultural water to nearby orange groves. Although it is not often used now, the continual passage of water had made the plaster very soft and crumbly, and the paint we put on a couple of years ago, had already blistered and fallen off. So we have talked about possible solutions and decided to have the lower part of the wall, where the problem is, covered with 'crazy paving' stones to match the rest of the front wall, leaving the top half still painted green. We asked the young man who has just painted our rooms, to do it, as we were very pleased with his work. He was happy to have a few days of extra work as next week he is taking his family to Morocco to visit his elderly parents there. A friend came to help him, and by the end of the day, the stone work was finished. It looks really good, and tomorrow he will be back to paint the top half of the wall. As I say, we chose a rather odd time for the work, but I am glad it is done.

As you can see, the sky is not so blue today. We are having a few cloudy, and wet days now with the promise of better temperatures and more sun for next week. But at least it stayed dry while they got the work done. We have had some heavy showers in the evenings, and even on the nice days this week, the clouds have rolled back in by tea-time. So we haven't had a single bright sunset to show you. I just have this one shot taken as the last little patch of blue sky was hidden by the gathering storm clouds.

Next week I am ridiculously busy, with two or three things happening every day. I hope I manage to get a few photos of them to show you.
In the meantime, I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking your World on Virginia's blog.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Rocking Your World 2015: Week 49

Here we are again, at another Friday, and taking the opportunity to look back at last week and consider all the positive things that happened during it.
But first here is my Friday Smile. I am sure those of you who use social media will have already seen this, but I have some followers who don't, and I think it will make them smile. Of all the Christmas posts that keep popping up, this is the one I like. Some dogs know exactly what they have done wrong, and have a very guilty expression, but this one is bluffing his way out of trouble .... or is he?
And here are our three pooches. For once they are not looking guilty! At food time, I call them to this gate, open it, and make them sit and wait until I have walked along the back of the house and round the corner, and then I call them round. This was originally to stop an over exuberant, very large puppy, from bowling me over every meal time! But on this day I kept them waiting for much longer, because there was a beautiful sky and I wanted to catch it on camera before it died away. So these faces are saying, 'Are we getting any tea tonight?' The large puppy is now the large dog, and as pack leader he always sits at the front.
Last week I did a fairly brief post (for me anyway) because I was pretty busy all day, and I knew I would be out in the evening. I was attending a charity Christmas market in the town of Arboleas, some half hour drive from here. The choir I now sing with, Incognito Singers, were invited to go along to sing some Christmas music, and it was our first public performance. I think we looked rather good in our purple scarves and fleeces, don't you?
We were singing in a large marquee, with a high roof, so the acoustics weren't that good. The space was busy with fifty or so stalls set out around it.

Earlier there had been a good crowd browsing them, but then they came to the front to listen to us sing, and we had some very positive comments afterwards. We went back again on Sunday at 1.00 to sing our Christmas songs again at their party. It was a bit of a dash after church, but fortunately we were in the right area, and we made it in time. I have four friends at church who also sing in the choir.
Between our two choir events we had the Chaplaincy Christmas Fayre down on Mojacar Playa, on Saturday morning. This is the most important fund-raising date on the calendar. Our church group has to be self-financing, so we are continually fund-raising throughout the year, but the Christmas fayre is best event. Once again we were very blessed with a beautiful day. There was no chill wind and the sun shone all morning. In fact it was a nicer day than we had for our Spring fayre in May, and here we were at the end of November, putting up umbrellas to shield the cake stall from the sun!
It oficially opened at 10.00 but we were there at 9.00 to set up the stalls. All the stall holders wore red and white, to help identify us as much as anything, and Janet, one of the organisers, wore her usual Santa outfit. She was much too hot by mid-morning.
I wasn't manning a specific stall, but I was a floating assistant, standing in when anyone wanted a break, or the chance to look around at the other stalls. This was the jam stall and of course there are several jars of my piccalilli and marmalade there, as well as my other jams, and lots donated by other folk as well. It all sold very well and most of this was gone by the end of the fayre.
Many English folk have already returned to UK to spend Christmas with their families, and we felt there were fewer visitors to the fayre than usual, but sales were good, and we raised 3750€ which was a wonderful result.
Despite it being a busy weekend, Chris and I had booked tickets for a Flamenco night at a local bar on Saturday night. Being Spanish, it didn't start until nearly 10.00pm, and we weren't sure we were really up for it, but I am so glad we went. It was an excellent night. There was one young man playing Spanish guitar and he was very accomplished. He played all evening, on his own at first, and then for the two ladies who were singing, and for the dancer. Flamenco singing is very dramatic and emotional, and the two girls were some of the best we have heard.

They also sang almost non-stop all evening while the girl danced to their stories. She was certainly the best we have seen. At only twenty-two years old, she had danced all over Europe, and was so expressive with her movements. It is the first time we have seen castinets used properly in Flamenco dancing, and she was an expert at all the stamping and tapping. Most of the time she moved too fast for me to get a good photo, as you can see in this one.

We spent Monday working together in the garden. It has been on our 'to do' list for a while. We only have a little bit of planted land, but a lot in pots, and we needed to do a lot of weeding. I also planted out some winter flowering pansies that I bought at the Fayre on Saturday. It all looks a lot better now.

Although I have had a lot on recently, I have tried to take a couple of hours out each day, usually after lunch, to sit outside in the last of the sun when possible, and just read, listen to music or do some of my knitting, (usually that means listening to music while I knit/crochet). As a result I am back on track with my blanket, and both of this week's squares are done. I have made half the blanket now, with eight large squares made, and eight more to go. Then, of course, I will have to do a border but that won't take long.  I have to wait for Sunday for Lucy to post the colour combination for the next two squares now.

The sun has been out every day this week. It is hard to believe it is now December. But as soon as the sun dips behind the hills it gets quite chilly. We have managed to get our gas fire burning properly again this week, so the front room is nice and cosy, though I am more likely to spend my evenings down here in my craft room. When I was sorting out the garage I found the old cat bed that Kim liked to curl up in when he was a puppy! He only fitted in it for about a week, but he still liked to sleep on it. Then I put it away and forgot about it. So now it has been washed and is on the floor under the kitchen table, with a piece of sheepskin to line it, and Tango has adopted it. Paco and Luna get in it sometimes, but he soon gets rid of them and snuggles down again.

I am pleased that I managed to finish off all my Christmas cards for UK and the rest of the world, and they have been posted before the two bank holidays at the start of next week, mess up the postal system! Now I must write my ones for Spain as I have a feeling I may need to make a few more.

We also received our first three Christmas cards on December 1st this year, and every one featured a robin. I wonder whether that is going to be a trend this year.

I had a long chat to my sister Jean this week, on Skype, and another with my son Mike. I do love skype!

The postman has brought me some little parcels this week, mainly items if craft that I have bought in the November sales, so a few new dies, and some stamps. Sadly there hasn't been time to play with them yet, but there will be in a week or two. I knew I had one more order to come, so when the door bell rang this evening I did wonder whether it was that, though I was expecting a package in a small envelope, delivered by the post lady in the morning. However, it was a courier with this box, addressed to me.
It didn't weigh much, and when I opened it, it didn't contain much either - just a few airbags!
But no -there was something hiding under them. It was these.
Four packets that would easily have fitted into an A4 envelope, and travelled safely by ordinary mail. Does such a small order really justify a huge empty box, and the high cost of a courier service?!!

And so another week goes by. We had another choir practice on Wednesday night because we sang again today at a private event, and we have another event tomorrow when we have been given more time and will be singing a fuller program. Then we have our friends and family night on Wednesday and I think there will be quite a crowd there this time, so we need to keep practising.

One thing that I had no time to write about last week, though it actually took place on Wednesday 25th November, was a rally for the 'Day against violence and abusive behaviour towards women'. I don´t know whether this was an international event, a national one, or just a local one, but certainly there were events to mark the day all over Andalucia. I would have gone up to the town hall for it, but I was not free on that day, but there were some lovely photos posted online so I thought I'd share a couple.

The lady in the centre, reading from a piece of paper is our Alcadesa, or the Lady Mayor of Los Gallardos. She is very well loved in the village. She is reading from a list of names of women in Spain who were victims of violence this year, and there is a purple balloon for each one. Later the balloons were all released and they looked lovely sailing up into the  'way blue yonder'. You'll need to click on this photo to see a larger version.
So I am tired after a fairly busy week, and I have an equally busy one to look forward to this week. Then the one after that is ridiculous, with one or two events every day, but I love all the Christmas things, and there will be plenty of time to draw breath after that.
So I'll end with the series of photos I took of a beautiful sunset, the day I made the dogs sit at the gate and wait for me!
I'll post them together , in the order that I took them. I am always amazed at how quickly the sky changes, and even when it seems dull and you don't expect a decent sunset at all, the colours gradually come, so it is worth waiting for.

Another masterpiece from the greatest artist of all time!
Don't forget to follow me to Annie's blog for more Friday Smiles, and then on to Celtic House, to see how other folk have found positive things to Rock their World this week.