Friday, January 15, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016: Week 3

Hi folks. Here is my Smile for today. This is my second
eldest son Mike. He works as Fund-raising advisor for the Severn Hospice, in Shropshire, and this week he took part in a promotional photo shoot for their sponsored colour run, coming up on the 12th June, in Telford Town Park. (If you live in the area, do make a note of the date and go along to support them, or join in if you fancy it. It is a 5k run). This is a new event and it looks like lots of fun. The photo makes me smile because he is so obviously in his element. He may be in his forties now, but I have a feeling Mike will never grow old.

Well it has been a good week, but a fairly uneventful one, and as usual the days have flown past.
We had a good day on Sunday because it was the first birthday of our new church. Our very first service was on 11th January last year, so on Sunday, after a lovely service, we had a bring and share lunch.

These lunches always amaze me, as we are asked to bring something along, and no-one confers to see what is needed, but somehow there is always a good variety of food, and there is plenty for everyone. We set up an 'L'shaped table and everyone added their plate as they arrived. Here it is, still mostly covered up, but ready for feast.

There was even a third table of cakes and strawberries for dessert.
While some folks made cups of tea and coffee, and others uncovered the food, another group moved the chairs from the main church and set up small tables with wine, water and flowers on them. It looked so pretty.
One of my friends, Pat, is a very talented cake maker and decorator, and she made a beautiful anniversary cake.
Here she is with our vicar Pauline, getting ready to cut it up so we could all take a piece home with us, because we were too full to eat it there. We enjoyed our pieces at tea-time.

I am always pleased when we, (meaning the English) manage to bridge the gap between us and the Spanish people, and this week we had two such occasions. The building where we hold our Sunday services is actually a small Spanish church, which originally held Catholic services, and is still used by the local villagers for funerals, and fiestas. There is an elderly Spanish lady (aged 94), who with her daughter-in-law, occasionally come in to our Anglican service. It is so lovely that they enjoy coming, and although it is all in English, they recognise some parts of the liturgy and join in with us in Spanish. Well, they must have known that it was our anniversary and on Sunday they brought us a gift of altar linen, beautifully embroiderd by Rosa and her friends. Wasn't that lovely?
Then later this week we were invited to a memorial mass at the catholic church in our village. One of our English friends had died suddenly last week, and as is usual out here, there was a short service at the chapel of rest the next day. However, he had lived on the edge of the village for 21 years, and was very fond of it, so his wife wanted to put his flowers in our village church. While she was doing this, the local priest came along, and he offered to say a mass for him on Monday night. We went along to support the family and it was a lovley service. The priest apologised that he didn't speak much English, but again we managed to follow most of the service, and he did read some of the prayers in halting English. He hadn't been asked to do this, and I think it was so nice that he had volunteered his time, and made us feel welcome in his church.
So, two occasions in one week, where we have managed to find a real connection between our two very different cultures.

On Tuesday I spent a lovely afternoon at a friend's house. I was there for two meetings; the first to decide what day we would be meeting for our Home Group this year, and the second to work out the details for a fund raising event coming up at the end of the month. Despite the serious content of the meetings, it was a lovely social afternoon, and nice to catch up with everyone after the Christmas break.

Wednesday saw the return to weekly meetings of our sewing group. I was able to help a new lady get started with some crochet work, and I was given lots of knitted items for my African charity.

In the evening it was the first choir practice of the year, and we had a look at our music for the new season. We have some lovely pieces to learn, and I am looking forward to getting stuck into it. We also have a couple of provisional bookings for events to sing at, so we are getting known in the area, and people obviously liked what they heard over Christmas.

Over the week I have managed to get all the Christmas decorations put away properly, (they had only got as far as being dumped in the garage last week), and some of my ornaments etc are now back on the shelves. I was determined to have less stuff around, because everything is a dust trap, and I fully understand why the Spanish folk don't go in for lots of decoration. It just isn't practical. So I am a little less cluttered, but I love all my things, and they all remind me of special people and events, so it was really hard to decide which ones to leave in storage. I couldn't bring myself to actually throw any of them away!

I am grateful that we had another lovely week of sunshine, and a few hours of real warmth each day, so, despite being quite busy getting the house back in order, we were able to sit outside each afternoon, to relax, and we even ate our lunch outside on several days. It is hard to remember that this is January.

However, I am also grateful that there is a 'winter-weight' duvet tucked away in the cupboard, and it is coming out this weekend, as the nights are getting decidedly chilly!

This week I saw my first tree full of almond blossom, which makes me happy as it is a sign that Spring is already on the way.

Today took a downhill turn as we woke up to grey skies, and soon there was a prolonged shower of rain. But we didn't mind too much as the water is greatly needed in what is a very agricultural area, and for many families, their crops are their livelihood. It cleared for a while but by tea-time there was another storm rolling in down through the village.
As you can see, the sun was shining on us, but the clouds were gathering and moving our way. But in the end it just rolled over us, and by the time I went out to feed the dogs, there was a rather half-hearted sunset.
This eventually turned into a really pretty sky, though some of the clouds were still around us, and I am expecting some more rain in the night.
Although the sky was quite dark, because of the clouds, over to my left it was still clear and light, and the Cabreras were reflecting the setting sun and looking so lovely.
We are indeed a country of contrasts!
And now I will close with a couple of sky photos that I took a few days ago. Is it a long pink fish gliding across the sky (sorry I cut his nose off!), or is it a flying saucer coming in to land? I'll leave it for you to decide.

For now, I am off to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking your World at Virginia's blog.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016: Week 2

First of all I am smiling because our friend Annie is feeling a lot better and was able to post her Friday Smile this morning. So here is my smile for this week. I saw it on Facebook and it immediately made me smile. I am sure all the crafters among you will smile too.

I am sure for most of you, Christmas is well and truly over now, but out here in Spain we are only just 'packing it away' because our main celebration took place this week at what we in UK know as Epiphany, but here it is simply called Los Tres Reyes, or Three Kings day. It really starts on the evening of 5th January when the Three Kings arrive in towns and villages, much as Santa does in other countries. In some of the larger towns it is a very grand affair, but in our little village it is a more modest occasion, with a single float, decorated differently each year, which travels around the streets to very loud music.
The kings' helpers throw copious amounts of hard boiled sweets to the folk lining the roads, and it is a mad scramble for the children to see who can collect the most. At the plaza, the kings sit on their thrones while the young children go one at a time to read their letters to them.
For many of these children, this is a request for a special gift. They will have received a stocking of small items from Santa on Christmas Day, but their main present will come from the kings on this night. Others, whose families are less traditional, will have received their special present at Christmas, but they will still have three small gifts, one from each of the Kings. I have no idea how they deal with these differences amongst themselves, but we see children who are all excited, and who are equally happy with their gifts, what ever they are.
After the letter reading, the kings again get into their float, and travel around the streets, delivering parcels at specific houses. (The parcels are left at the town-hall by the parents on the previous day). 
Being a relatively small village, the Kings will know most of the families, so delivering the parcels poses no problems. The kings are then taken back to the plaza where they sit in a big marquee and give out more presents to the children waiting there. Again I do not know why some are given one way and some another, but some of the families in the marquee will have been from the outlying areas, and other small villages that come under the umbrella of Los Gallardos, which are too far away for the kings to visit. But there were some local children there as well.
Also on this night, it is the start of the medieval market, but only on a small scale, because the real fun begins the next morning.
At around 11.00 on Wednesday 6th January, we had the usual volley of very loud rocket bangers, that are always used to open a fiesta. They went on for ages and are dogs, especially Miki, are terrified by them. They signal that the market is open, so once they had finished banging, and we had settled the poor dogs down, we wandered over to the plaza. It was another absolutely beautiful day, with warm sun shine meaning most of us were in tea-shirts with no coats. This was our seventh Three Kings fiesta and every one has been sunny. Various people from the village dressed in elaborate costumes and re-enacted the scenes at King Herod's Palace. The Kings arrived to ask where the new baby who is born to be king, might be found.
King Herod sent them away to search and then commanded his soldiers to also search for the baby.
After the play there was an open air mass on the plaza.
All through the mass the music was provided by the village choir, all in appropriate costumes, and they sounded wonderful.
At the end of the mass, anyone who wanted to, went forward to kiss the baby Jesus, held by the priest.
We were then entertained by a small band who played happy music, for a happy occasion. There is always a wonderful atmosphere at this fiesta and many folk say it is their favourite fiesta of the year.
As with all our fiestas, food plays an important role in the day. This man is making a large paella, which I noticed was all sold a few hours later.
His friend was in charge of the barbeque. It does look good doesn't it? We had some of the chicken and it tasted as good as it looks.
The rest of the bar was lined with jugs of sangria and bottles of wine, and plate after plate of potatoes, hot, green peppers, ham and other delights.
Meanwhile, over on the small plaza next to the marquee, a giant pan of migas was being prepared. This is not the most popular dish, especially with the non-Spanish folk, but it is very traditional, and is always made at this fiesta. It is basically a pan of water and oil brought to the boil and then bags of flour are added which immediately forms lumps. These are chopped up as they cook, and then handfuls of salt are thrown over it, followed by whole cloves of garlic and little sausages. It is served with bundles of broad beans - which are eaten raw - and cherry tomatoes. It is dished up free, to anyone who joins the queue, and there are plenty of folk around here who are grateful for a warm and filling meal.
And of course, to go with the food there was plenty of choices of drink. We started with little cups of strong, sweet, aniseed liqueur, which is offered to anyone who buys raffle tickets for the ASADIS food hamper. It is a local brew which I love.
Next we stopped at a Portuguese booth where Chris had a glass of reserve port. I had hot white wine with pineapple, walnuts, ginger and herbs. I like mulled wine but I have never had white wine heated up before, and it was delicious.
Later we stopped at the Moroccan tent, and here Chris is waiting for two glasses of hot, mint tea. Although it is really sweet, it makes a lovely, refreshing drink.
There were lots of artisanal stalls selling everything from leather wrist bands, to aloe vera cosmetics, lots of styles of jewelry, loose herbal teas, and various cakes and sweets. I bought a pretty necklace, Chris bought me a red leather cat purse that took my fancy, another crystal to tie in my window to make rainbows, and together we chose another painted tile to hang in the porch, by the one we bought last year.
At one point, I felt someone was watching me! Isn't he beautiful.
I made a new friend called Milo.
I fell in love with all that white fur, and he was so gentle, and was happy to pose with me for a photo. He is a Pyrenees mountain dog, and he scored big points over a St Bernard for me because he didn't slobber!
Filled up with good food and drink, and tired from walking and standing all morning, we found a place to sit and listen to some beautiful pan pipes, played by one of the local Ecuadorians. This man had a wide variety of pipes, from these huge ones down to a tiny one, and he got lovely music out of them all.
Then it was time to wander back. The sun was still shining on us, and this is the view we had of the lovely Cabrera mountains, as we made our way home after a really enjoyable day.
I hope you enjoyed sharing our fiesta with me. According to our town hall, this fiesta is almost unique in Andalucia, which is why we get a lot of visitors to it from other villages, where it is just a bank holiday with no shops and few bars open for them.

I have probably rambled on enough for this week. But there have been a few other occasions that have made me happy and grateful. My  car broke down on the way home from church last Sunday. I thought it was the same problem as I had last time, so rather than call the recovery vehicle again, I phoned Chris, and a kind friend lent him her car to come and rescue me. We knew how to do a temporary repair to get us home, and today our mechanic friend has fixed it, so we have it back for this weekend. Many thanks to Ali and to Andy. We do have some lovely friends out here.
I am a warmer-blooded person than Chris and my craft room is on the warm side of the house, while his office faces the other way, so he has already used his fire a lot this year. But up until now I haven't needed mine. However, it can get very cold once the sun goes down and one evening this week I decided to turn mine on for a while and found it was completely dead. Chris tried to get it going but he couldn't either, so yesterday he bought me a new one. Isn't he kind! It is a little halogen heater and they are very efficient for warming a small room. Today I haven't  turned it on again, but I am sure I will need it before the winter is over.
One other thing that made me happy this week is that my church decided to give a large donation to Cati for ASADIS, and I was asked to act as courier, so yesterday she came to my house to collect it.
She is so very grateful for the way the English people support her work with the disabled children in the village, and it is nice for me to see the children benefiting from the money we give.

So I will now leave you with some lovely sky photos. the sunsets have been gorgeous this week, and I couldn't decide which I liked best. So I am going to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World at Celtic House, and then I shall just add all the photos and you can choose for yourselves which you like best.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016: Week 1

Wow. Here we go again. It sounds daft with all the Christmas festivities to keep me busy, but I missed our little get-together last Friday. And, of course, that means I have two weeks worth of news to share today.
But first let me wish you, all my lovely followers, a really Happy New Year. Do try to join in sometimes by writing a post about what has rocked your world that week. It is very therapeutic, to actively search for the positives in even the hardest week. There is always something to be grateful for.
My smile this week is this photo of me with my grandson Mikey, who came out to spend his Christmas with us in Spain. He was twenty-one just the week before, so hopefully he has stopped growing now. This visit he was head and shoulders above me!

It was lovely to have some young company in the house. He came for a break, to rest, as he works as a landscape gardener, digging and building rather than dealing with plants, so he was happy to relax in the sun. And the sun was good to him, and came out to say 'hello' every day. I am sure we have never had such a sunny December and as there was no sign of the fierce, cold winds that we usually get around now, it was warm enough to sit outside at some time every day. Of course, the minute the sun dropped down behind the hills, it was quite cold, and we happily sat around the fire, warm and cosy, but you don't mind that when you have been outside all day.
We did manage a few little outings, like the day we walked along the new promenade at Mojacar beach. We went right to the end, sat on the wall to rest a bit, and then walked back, stopping for a drink and snacks on the way.
Despite the nice weather it was very quiet down there. I think a lot of the English folk had gone back to UK for the holiday, and many others go to Benidorm for a few days. A whole fleet of coaches leave from Mojacar, bound for Benidorm, each Christmas, but even if we didn't have the dogs, it wouldn't appeal to us at all. We like our quiet beaches, with the palm trees waving and the sun reflecting off the white buildings.
On Christmas Eve we thought a bit of exercise would be a good idea so Mikey and I went up the hill at Vera to the Jesus statue again. It was a clear morning and the view was amazing. I spent a long time pointing out landmarks to Mikey and then he managed this rather clever selfie. I like the way Jesus is looking over his shoulder.

That evening we went to midnight mass at our mother church in Mojacar. There wasn't one at our own church, but the Mojacar one was an easier drive on a dark night anyway. It is a service I always loved going to in UK, but this was the first time I have been since coming to Spain. The church is tiny with little extra facilities so they set up a trestle table out in the courtyard, and after the service we went there for mulled wine and mince-pies before driving home. It was still relatively warm and dry, so we were able to stand around chatting for a while even though it was by then, Christmas morning.
The next morning we got up to bright sunshine and took our cups of tea outside for the obligatory Christmas morning photo to post on facebook for our family and friends.
Then Mikey joined us for a self-take one to make all his friends jealous.
They looked so un-Christmassy that we went inside and took another one next to our tree!
I believe you are never to old to enjoy a Christmas stocking, so I had done one each for Mikey and Chris. So there were lots of smiles as they unwrapped the little parcels.

Then it was time to give the dogs their special treat. I had bought a huge pigs ear for each of them. Sounds revolting doesn't it, but the ears are baked crispy, and the dogs absolutely love them. 
Just look at that eager expectation in their eyes.
Foxy took hers straight behind the big plant pots, where she knew she was safe and could defend hers if anyone tried to steal it.
As usual, Kim carried his round and round the garden before finally settling for a corner of the patio to eat it.
By the time I had finished following him around, Mikey's was long gone. She has the strongest jaws and it never takes her long to munch through a treat of any kind.
Soon it was time to drive to the nearby restaurant where were having our dinner. We met up with our friends in the bar, and soon we were all sitting round a square made up of four tables. There were sixteen of us altogether and we wanted to sit so we could all talk to anyone else, and they had done their best to arrange it for us.
It was good to see Mikey and his Grandad chatting and sharing a few jokes together.
We stayed there until gone 5.00 and as we went out to the car it seemed strange to still find the sun shining. The view from the restaurant of the distant mountains was beautiful.
On Boxing Day (a normal day out here),  we wanted to walk off some of the previous day's overindulgence, so in the afternoon we took the dogs over the campo for a run. We use the car for the first bit as it is just too far to them to walk all the way there and back, and have a good run when we get there, and I love to see them enjoying their run. So Kim and Mikey go in the back section of the car, and Foxy on the back seat, all strapped in with car harnesses so they are quite safe. Mikey thought they looked so funny and he took this photo of them.
Do they look excited, or what?!
On Sunday we went to the morning church service and went home to a roast beef dinner. I have never been very good at making Yorkshire puddings but I had seen a Jamie Oliver recipe on the internet that I wanted to try. It was amazing. Impressive eh?

On Monday it was time for Mikey to go home so we drove him to the airport. He is a good lad, and always pays the slightly higher airfare in order to fly to Almeria airport. It is only a half hour's drive from there to home, compared with nearly an hour and a half to Murcia and over two hours to Alicante. (There are not many flights to this part of Spain, especially during the winter, so sometimes the family have no choice which one they fly to, but fortunately there was a Manchester to Almeria flight that suited Mikey well).
Almeria mostly handles internal flights, and many of the larger UK companies no longer use it. We have been told that the landing fees there are too high. So we knew it wouldn't be too busy on a Monday morning, but the whole place was almost deserted.
You almost felt like you were trespassing! But their security was high, and we saw police with sniffer dogs, and Mikey was thoroughly searched before we could wave him goodbye as he went through the barriers.
The rest of this week has passed quietly. I have done a little clearing and cleaning, but I will do it more thoroughly when the Christmas decorations come down after Three Kings Day. 
We have continued to enjoy some lovely weather and each afternoon I have sat outside with my crochet and some music or audio files. Chris has downloaded the whole set of Harry Potter books as audio books for me, and I am enjoying listening to Steven Fry reading to me as I crochet. My boys have read all the books and seen the films, so I thought I would catch up with them, and I must say, it is quite a good yarn! And while listening I have caught up with my blanket making, and am on the final square.
I have had long chats on Skype with each of our boys, even Jonathan who is currently having a wonderful holiday in Canada with his partner and her family. While they were there, they announced their engagement so we are really happy for them, and I am looking forward to another family wedding eventually, (probably summer 2017!).
One day we had a couple of parcels and several late cards all delivered together. We are used to this now as our post office often closes several days before Christmas, and the last mail accumulates until they decide to open up again! Two parcels were craft items I had bought in the sales, so I have some more new stash to play with now.
I saw a lovely scrapbook layout on Pinterest this week, but I was not able to trace it back to it source, to ask whether the template was available to buy, so I decided to try and design something similar myself. I was getting there slowly but then Chris, who knows a lot more about the computer than I do, even though he doesn't use the same sort of programs as me, suggested that I try again in a new graphics program, called libreoffice_draw. I wasn't keen to try to learn yet another new system, but he helped me with getting started and it proved fairly straight forward to draw the template. Then I had to use a combination of Adobe photoshop, Corel and Gimp to get it into a format I could use for digital scrapbooking. I also made a Studio file so I can cut it on my Silhouette cameo for a manual layout. So I was really happy that I had acheived that. There is still a lot for me learn, but it is very satisfying to be able to do it.

We had a quiet New Year's Eve at home, with the TV on, the fire to keep us warm, and the dogs all laid out around our feet. I have to admit I was dozing when it reached midnight in Spain and Chris had to wake me up! but I was awake an hour later to toast the incoming year in UK, and to hear Big Ben chiming midnight. Then we watched the fireworks in London, and went to bed.
Now it is New Year's Day, and 2016 arrived with another beautiful dawn. I sat outside with my morning cup of tea and soaked up the peacefulness of our little village, shining in the sun.
When the dogs had finished their breakfast they obligingly posed for a group photo.
I turned around and saw Tango hiding behind the flower pots. He is not a fan of the camera! This shot reminded me of one I took of my grey persian Baggins, just before he died.
I am sorry I have rambled on for so long today. January and February are usually quite quiet months, so I don't suppose I will be writing another long post for a while.
Of course I have a couple of sky photos to leave you with. I missed the very best sunset which was last night, as I was having a marathon Skype session with three of my boys, and that is more important than taking photos, but I watched it through my window as I talked with them and it was rather special. But here are a couple taken on different evenings this week.

Right then. I'm off to link up with Virginia at Celtic House. I don't think Annie has done a Friday Smiles today, but I hope I have still made a few of you smile. 
Here's wishing you all a Positive, Peaceful and Healthy 2016.