Friday, February 26, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016: Week 9

By now I am sure that you are all aware that our sons are very important to us, and I usually feature each of them when it is their birthday. Well this week our youngest son was 29, so here he is enjoying some sun on a recent holiday. 

Ben is the musician in the family (so is his brother Jonathan), and he mainly likes to play the piano and sing songs, both those he has written and covers of others. When he plays at one of our parties, one of his most popular songs is Billy Joel's "Sing us a song; you're the piano man", so once again his birthday card featured a piano. I call it a card but it was too dimensional to pop in a envelope, but as I was going to UK in January, I knew I would be able to hand deliver it.

So I made this exploding box with musical images and quotes on each side, both inside and out.

When the lid is removed, the box opens flat and inside was a little piano, filled with flowers.
You may think that it is an unusual design for a 29 year old man, but he loved it, as I knew he would.
If you want to know any more about this design, there is a detailed post about it on my craft blog which you can find HERE.
I was able to chat to him on his birthday via Skype, and he played a trial piece to me on his new keyboard which he had only just taken out of its box. I do love the way Skype makes the miles so much shorter!

It has been a week of mixed weather, and with less time outside, I have managed to spend a few hours in my craft room making a set of six Christmas cards, as well as a couple for birthdays. I have had a willing helper, but every time she got bored, or thought I wasn't paying her enough attention, Arwen pawed at my arm, just to remind me she was there.

On Monday I went to the doctor with Chris, to translate for him, and then he took me out for an unplanned lunch, which was a nice surprise. But as we left the restaurant, I took this photo of the mountain in front of us. It was almost hidden by a cloud of dust.
And it was the same looking down the road when we got back to the house.
We have had a lot of windy days and it brings in sand from the dry ground locally and across from the desserts of Africa. When it dies down there is a layer of red sand on all the outside furniture, the car etc. Right now it is blowing a gale outside my window, so there may be another clean-up job to do in the morning.

But it hasn't been like it all the time, and even when the wind blows it still quite warm. We have had a few days when we have eaten our lunch outside in bright sunshine. One afternoon the dogs started barking and we could hear the distant jangle of bells. Then a big herd of goats came rambling into the green zone behind the house. There were some lovely animals in the herd. They almost climbed the trees to crop the new shoots from them, but were equally happy cropping the dry scrub at ground level. The old goat herd just said one word and they all followed him, though this was a new man and he had a couple of dogs with him to help keep the herd in order.

There have been some other good points this week too. We went to Vera together yesterday and managed to achieve a few little bits of business that need our attention. Our first port of call was at the main medical centre for our area, to make an appointment for Chris to have an X-ray, and they did it while we were there, so that has saved us a second visit.
My friend Phil arrived in UK safely and I heard from his wife today that our knitting for Africa has been delivered.
I had a long chat to my sister Jean on skype.
Chris and I managed to do a bit of gardening together, cutting back the bougainvillea hedge and collecting up the drifts of dead leaves and flowers.
We had two sunny mornings when I managed to get all the washing cleared including the bedding off the guest bed, though I did have to put about ten pegs in each sheet so that I didn't get back from the shops to find them in next door's garden!
This morning I met my Spanish friend Cati in a local bar for coffee. We even managed to have a fairly good conversation, and I only resorted to using Google translate once, when it was important that she understood what I was asking her.

Despite the mixture of high winds, rain, sun, and oscillating temperatures, the garden is thriving. The freesias that I bought at last week's coffee morning are flowering.
This was the first one to open, and now I have a bright pink one as well.
My deep blue Portuguese Squill is also in flower.
It took me a while to identify these the first year I had them. Their botanical name is Scilla Peruviana. They are related to the little single blue scillas that are sometimes seen in an English garden, but they also have a whole plethora of alternative names - Peruvian Squill, Peruvian Scilla, Cuban Silla, Giant Squill, Peruvian Lily, Caribbean Jewels, and Hyacinth of Peru. That's a lot of names for one little flower!
Another flower that is blooming well is this one.
A friend of mine had a very large domed shrub of this in  her garden, and when she moved out I took a couple of cuttings. The one that looked the most healthy I planted in a pot and it although it is still alive and has some flowers on it, it has grown very leggy and the leaves are yellowed. The smaller cutting I stuck in the ground almost under a small tree, and it has taken several years to grow, but now it is a healthy plant with deep green leaves and lots of flowers. But I have never been able to find out what it is. I have searched the net but nothing they come up with matches it. So I am hoping one of my readers, perhaps from a warmer area than UK, might be able to identify it for me. I do like to know the names of the plants I grow, and this is such a pretty one.
And that brings me almost to end of another week. There have been no nice sunsets this week, but I do have one more photo to show you, that is as bright and colourful as the prettiest sunset. I have finally finished my "Sunny log cabin" crocheted blanket. I have shown some of the sixteen squares as I made them, but having done them all by Christmas, I had to wait a few weeks for Lucy at Attic 24, who wrote the pattern, to post a tutorial on what order to join them up in, and how to do the edging. Then I had my holiday, and when I got back I put my efforts into finishing off a few Africa projects to go in the load that Phil has just delivered. So with all of that done, I got my blanket out again this week and finished it off. 
I am really pleased with it, and for now it is on our bed, spread on top of our duvet, and it really brightens up the room.
So now it is off to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and I'll see you all again next week.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Rocking your world 2016; Week 8

Right; let's kick off with my smile for the week which is this.
I know it isn't very exciting, just a single daffodil in a pot, but for me it is special. We don't have daffodils in our part of Spain. A friend who lives higher up the mountain, has managed to keep a couple going, but down here, by the coast, they are not even recognised by the local folk. I bought some bulbs last year in Lidls, and although they were slow to take off, I did eventually get a few flowers. I left them in the pot in the hope that a few might flower again but they didn't even appear above ground until after Christmas. I thought those that had come up, were blind, so I was delighted to see one had a bud in its centre, and now it has a flower. And one of the others now has a bud as well, so I am really happy with this little bit of 'home' in my garden. And of course, the left-over pansy that I planted in their pot, is also giving me a fine show of flowers. I just love their cute little faces.
And while we are in the garden, just look at this amazing show of flowers on my pink jasmine. Every year we have this delightful sight along our stone wall. The flowers are so close, and the smell when I open my window each morning, is heavenly.
The week got off to a very windy start with gale force gusts, which made my drive to church on Sunday, somewhat scary. I travelled the motorway behind a high-sided lorry that couldn't hold its position and kept wavering into the next lane, so I was afraid to try overtaking it. There was lots of tumbleweed, fallen rubbish bins, and foliage debris on the road, so I was glad to arrive in one piece. Fortunately the journey home was not quite so bad. It has been windy all week, but nothing like as bad as at the weekend.
We had arranged to go out on Saturday, but although it was somewhat overcast and blustery, the wind hadn't yet reached its full force and the journey was better than we had expected. We were driving up to Saliente, a village high in the mountain above the town of Albox, for a lunch with my choir, to celebrate our first birthday. Nearly all the choir were able to attend, and we all took our partner or a friend with us, so we were quite a gang. The restaurant brought out a wide range of tapas for our lunch, and I think you can see  from the empty plates, that we did justice to them.
When we had finished eating, our musical director Dave, handed round glasses of cava and raised a toast to many more years of happy singing together.
Then we had an impromptu sing of a couple of songs from our repertoire. We had no words or backing tracks, so we were limited to a few of our favourites. But it was good fun all the same.
It is the first time we have been up to Saliente, so we followed one of our friends who knew the way. The scenery was lovely with patches of almond trees in full blossom, all along the road.
One day I hope to drive right to the top, to a place called Saliente Alto (High), where there is a sanctuary that is supposed to be beautiful. I was told that it was about another ten kilometers above where we were for the meal, and the road is not for the faint-hearted, so we will have to pick our day for that one! On the way down I took this photo to try and capture the sense of space and height. It was taken through a rather grubby car windscreen, but I love the silhouettes of the agave cactus flowers, and the distant range of mountains.
So, as the weather has taken a downhill turn, the rest of the week has been quieter than some  and I found myself spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

The bitter oranges that my sister and I picked in Turre, were not keeping well, so on Monday I made the last of them into some more marmalade. Then I also made a load of picalilli. 
On Tuesday it was my turn to host the Home Group here, so I had to do some quick cleaning up and then I baked cookies to have with our tea/coffee. The group meets from 11.00 until around 1.00 so we had a late lunch and another day had disappeared. Everyone had enjoyed my cookies and several folk asked for one of the recipes, so in the afternoon I put together a little book of my top ten cookie recipes.
Wednesdays are always busy as I go to my usual sewing group in the mornings. They have talked me into doing a crochet class for beginners in March. The night before, I had left a bowl of dried fruits to soak in strong tea, so when I got back from sewing, I started our lunch off, and then got the fruit made into four tea-breads, my contribution for the cake stall at a church coffee morning the next day. I just got them out of the oven in time to go my choir practice.
Thursday dawned disappointingly cold and grey, with the threat of rain. And it was still fairly windy. We had hoped to hold our coffee morning out on the patio at the side of the church, to encourage some of the local people, both English and Spanish, to join us. But instead we put up most of the stalls in the rooms at the back, though one couple wrapped up warm and kindly manned the plant stall outside.
I bought one of the pots of fresias that you can see in the photo. I had heard that they do well outdoors here, but I have never seen them in the garden centres, so when someone donated these, I had to make sure I bought some. Today the first flower is out on one of them. I hope they don't mind the cold.
Inside, I was in charge of the craft stall. I had not had time to make much for it, but fortunately others had, and there were some lovely knitted and sewn items for sale, and I did sell one of my pictures with a vinyl saying on the glass. Here I am making a sale with my friend Sue. Even though the sun didn't really show its face, the light from the window was too bright to get a good photo.
Another friend, Chris, was looking after the cake stall and the jams etc. She sold most of my cookie recipe books, as well as plenty of marmalade and picalilli, and, of course, all the cakes were sold, as they always are.
The most important part of a coffee morning, is somewhere nice to have a drink and a chat with friends, and as the weather was against us, we set up tables and chairs in the main church, with a table for the urn and cups etc. It looked pleasant and inviting and was well used throughout the morning. 
We raised almost 400€ which was quite good considering that the weather had deterred some of the visitors.
Today I had a well earned lie-in, and when I got up I found it had been raining. But it didn't last for long. I had a brief trip out this afternoon for a church choir practice. We are learning two lovely pieces to sing at the Easter Sunday service. Now, as soon as I have linked this up, I shall go down to the sitting room where Chris will have lit the fire, and cosy down to watch the next episode of Shetland.
But of course, I do have a couple of sky photos taken earlier in the week, to show you first. Tonight there was no sunset at all, as we did not see the sun all day, and even in these, you can see the clouds were never far away. But this is the first spell of real winter weather we have had, so we really can't complain.

Do follow me over to A Stitch in Time, to share some more of Annie's Friday Smiles, or add your positive post to Rocking my World, at Virginia's blog.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016; Week 7

Hello everyone. Here is my smile for this week. This is my friend Kris in full Carnival regalia. Kris sings in the same choir as me, and he is  such a friendly, fun person. He lives in the urbanisation at the bottom of our village, and he rallied all his friends from there, to have an entry in the village carnival. It is the first time they have entered. The urbanisation is called Huerta Nueva which means "New orchard", so it was fitting that they chose to dress up as fruit, flowers and vegetables. Kris was the star of the show and he really dressed up for the part. Already quite tall, he added to his height with a fruit laden turban and these incredibly high heels, which, fair play to him, he wore to walk around the village all evening.
He was surprised to find he could buy these online in a size 9, but when they came he couldn't even stand in them, so he had to get advice from some of his female friends, and then practice every night!
This photo shows his full costume,
....and here is the rest of his gang.
What a lovely colourful bunch.
The carnival was last Saturday evening, and as usual it was a great fun time, with a real party atmosphere. As I have described this to you on previous years I will leave it there for this time, but at the end of the post, I will add some more photos for those who just enjoy seeing other folk having fun.

Saturday started off for us with a visit to the big open market near Albox. Chris had some business with a man who runs one of the stalls, so my sister Jean and I went along to browse through the other stalls, and buy some fresh vegetables. It is very cheap compared with our markets nearer home, and everything is so fresh. I stopped to buy some cherry tomatoes that a man was piling into plastic boxes from a big sack. They were only one euro a box so I bought them and also a bag containing four big cucumbers which too were  one euro. But as I was leaving the man added a second box of tomatoes as a gift! 
I wanted to buy vegetables ready to make some more picalilli so we did that, and we were on our way back to the car when I spotted some big plum tomatoes. I love these for cooking so thought I would buy a few. They were 2€ so I said I would have a kilo. Turned out my two euros bought the whole crateful, which were tipped into a carrier bag and handed to me. It's a good thing we like tomatoes! 
So we have had tomato soup and pasta bake, and I have made several small pots of pisto which is what we use to add to all our mince recipes, spread on tostadas before adding cheese or tuna, and line empanadas or pies before adding other fillings. Basically it is chopped up fried tomatoes, peppers, corgettes, onions etc. I used to buy little tins of it, but now I make it with any left-over vegetables I have, before I go shopping for more fresh ones, so there is always some in the freezer when I want it. Now I'm looking on the net for a recipe for red tomato chutney!

My sister was flying back to UK on Wednesday so on Monday we decided to have a nice day out. We drove to Cabo de Gata and first we took her up to the Arricife de Sirenas - Reef of the Sirens - where the waves continually crash over rocky peaks. I love it there.
I then persuaded her to stand by this large tile depicting the marine life in the area. I saw this in many tourist guide books when we first moved to Spain, but it was a couple of years before I discovered where it actually is.
It is quite a dangerous piece of coastline, so ships are warned off by the lighthouse on the cliff that rises above  the reef.
As we drove back along the windswept coastline, we stopped at Las Salinas, the salt lakes renowned for all the water birds that gather there. We sat in the hide but it is quite a distance from the lake edge so we were glad that Chris had remembered to bring his binoculars. These were the first birds we found.
But these were the ones we were really looking for. There were far more flamingos there than when I last visited, and with the zoom lens on my camera, I was able to get some nice photos of them. It is lovely to see them in their natural habitat.
We next moved on to the village of Cabo de Gata and sat in a sea-front restaurant to have some lunch. We sat outside to make the most of the sunshine, but it was a bit windy and we had to eat fast before the food got cold.
Driving back to the motorway we spotted another hide on the other side of the lake, so we stopped to have another look. Again there were lots of birds including flamingos, but I just took this photo to show how far we had come. The ones above were taken over by the little church that you can see in the distance beyond the lake.
We drove halfway home along the motorway and then turned down towards Carboneras and took the coastal road the rest of the way. This is long winding road that climbs up the side of the cliff and then down the other, and it is almost obligatory to stop at the viewpoint at the top and look down on the road you have just travelled.

Tuesday was Jean's last day so we left Chris at home and drove up to Mojacar Pueblo to browse the shops and enjoy the views. We found a lovely patio in the centre of the village, with stone arches all around it, and we sat at a sunny table to enjoy a cup of coffee.
The high wall behind us was the back of a very old church, which has its entrance on the next layer up. The village is a maze of narrow streets that dip down and then rise up again, often with a flight of steps as the only way to reach the next level. I am glad I don't have to carry my shopping through there every week! You can see Jean still sitting at our table but she is dwarfed by the huge wall of rock that towered above us.
Her flight home left Alicante airport at 7.00 on Wednesday morning which meant she needed to be there around 5.00, and Alicante is a good two hours drive from here, so we didn't bother going to bed on Tuesday night. Chris was doing all the driving so he wisely went off for a sleep, but we sat knitting and chatting and listening to music, until it was time to leave. We saw her through to the departure lounge before we left, so she was somewhere up in the 'way blue yonder' by the time we got home. We got back to our village at 8.00, just in time to enjoy a lovely sunrise. I only had my phone with me so this is a not very good photo taken through a rather dusty windscreen.
After an hour's rest I decided to go to my sewing group as usual, and I am glad I did because my friend brought her new puppy in to see us. There was a litter of them on the land next to her daughter's house, and the land-owner was going to destroy them, so she decided to keep one. Her name is Sasha, and she is so cute. I had a cuddle of course, and when she had been passed around like a little parcel, she fell asleep on her owner's lap and was placed in a little bed Joan had made for her in the shopper under the seat of her mobility frame. She slept there as good as gold until it was time to go home. 
When I got home I made us a quick meal and then finally managed a couple of hours sleep before going to my choir practice. I didn't want to miss it because it was our first birthday as a choir. We are going to have a bit of a party together tomorrow, but on Wednesday we stayed behind after the practice to have a glass of cava and a slice of cake, that had been made specially for us. Very nice it was too.
I seem to have caught up with myself now, despite the lack of sleep, and I have managed to make forty jars of marmalade and twenty jars of picalilli, ready for a church coffee morning next week. 
But I will end for this time with four lovely sky photos that I have taken during the week. All very different but all equally beautiful.

I hope you will now understand why I only managed to get around to visiting you all yesterday, but hopefully I will do better this week.
I will now link up to Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking your World at Virginia's blog, and then I will add the rest of my carnival photos, which really need very little explanation.
First some little people.

A couple that will either make you laugh or cringe!

 And a few more, imaginative and fun groups.

The carnival band.
 I loved these jellyfish.

 See you all next week.