Friday, March 25, 2016

Rocking Your world 2016; Week 13

I hate to tell you peeps, but this is week 13, which means we are a quarter of the way through the year - and I'm only just getting the hang of remembering to write 2016!

But we can smile all the same and here is a smile from one of my little cats. I use this old St Michael's bag to take my current craft project to my Wednesday sewing group, and when I had put everything away, I left the empty bag on the telephone seat. Paco decided that it was just the right size for his bed, so this is how I found him when I got up the next morning.

And here are a couple of his friends - well he is friends with Tango sometimes.
Now that's what I call a laid back cat!.
And finally here is another one of Arwen. She always has big green eyes, that are quite different from the other cat's yellow ones, but last night, something disturbed her, and when I looked at her, her eyes were like saucers, and the pupils were so dilated that they were nearly black. She soon got over her scare and went back to normal, but I managed to get a quick picture of her first.
The week got off to a good start with a lovely Palm Sunday service at church. Tall fronds of palms had been collected to decorate the pillars, and at a workshop last week palm crosses had been made for everyone.
It was a lovely sunny morning so we were able to go outside for the Blessing of the Crosses, and then we all went back in singing 'Ride on, ride on in Majesty'.

I had a lovely surprise on Wednesday, when I arrived at the sewing group, to find that the group I had been teaching basic crochet to, had bought me an amaryllis plant. It is a white one, and has two buds on it, so I am looking forward to having some flowers soon. It was all wrapped up in some very pretty cellophane, and tied with a green bow. I wasn't looking for any thanks, but it was a lovely gesture. They all did so well too. One has already made a 'granny square' big enough to cover a cushion, and most of them mastered ripple stitch and reading a simple pattern too. This week I stared three more off. It is good to be able to share our skills. It was at this group that I learned to do bobbin lace, because someone was willing to sit with me and teach me the basic techniques.

It really feels as though Spring has arrived here. The temperature is slowly rising, and the flowers are waking up after the showers we have enjoyed. It is still really windy in the afternoons, but we half expect that right through to the end of April, and the flowers that look so fragile, seem able to withstand the harshest wind. But before I show you what is waking up in the garden, I must share this with you.
It is our Christmas poinsettia, still looking beautiful on the front porch. When my friend called this week she said "You must have green fingers. Look at this still flowering". But as I told her, I think it thrives on neglect, because apart from being told how beautiful it is whenever I pass it, it only gets a little drop of water now and then. It has been there for so long that it is beginning to look dusty!
The two smaller ones that were on the stand just underneath it, have died, and rather than having empty holders, I put back the two geraniums that were there last Autumn. I thought they had died, but they have found a second wind and now have several lovely heads of flowers on them.
My Easter lily has flowered right on time, and it didn't take long for a little bee to notice it. This is the first time it has had a flower for a few years, but when I went to the flower festival at Cordoba, a man told me that he kept his with its feet in water all year round. I haven't quite done that, but I have watered it more regularly than I used to and it seems to have paid off. It has a second bud ready to open very soon too.
Another success story is my bottle-brush plant. I bought it as a tiny plant in a pot and almost lost it the first year - again probably through inadequate water. But i moved it into a large tub and cut off all the dead branches, and it is now a really nice shrub with several 'brushes' on it.
I think they are fascinating flowers. I wonder how many fibres there are in each flower head.

Even the plants out in the street are doing well. When the road was completely dug up and repaved some years ago, the council removed the orange trees that used to grow all up it, and replaced them with small ornamental trees in planters. The planters seemed too shallow to support a tree, but they are on an automatic watering system, and the council workers come round about twice a year to cut and shape them, and they seem to be doing fine. Every now and then, they also plant a few flowers under each one. Last autumn they planted small chrysanthemum plants, which died back in the winter and poinsettias were planted instead. But now those have gone and the chrysanthemums have sprung to life again, and are now a mass of flowers. Our planter happens to have two that are red and one white one, but there are also yellow and pink ones in some of the pots. This Spring we each got a lavender plant too which is good as they are known to repel flies and other unwanted bugs.

Still in the garden, but something quite different; just beyond our back railings there is an old agave or century cactus. Its leaves are splitting and it is passed its best, but I am hoping it will flower in the next few years. (It takes thirty to forty years to flower, and then dies, and we have no idea how old our one is). However, every year it is suddenly covered by a mass of spider web. One little spider, and she really is little, works diligently all through the night, and every morning the network of webs is bigger. She makes several little balls of eggs, dotted around her web so I guess she thinks if one gets eaten or blown away, she will still have several more. 
The webs catch all sorts of dead leaves and other rubbish that gets blown around in the high winds, but sometimes I see her wrapping up a little fly that has got entangled too. She puts so much work into building it that I haven't the heart to take it away even though it does make the plant look even more of a mess than it usually does, but this morning I was standing at the rail and looking at it, wondering whether I might spot the little spider, when the early sunlight caught it, and I realised that strategically placed among the untidy webs, there were carefully constructed flat layers of perfectly formed round webs, much like a normal garden spider weaves, but with the rings very close together. I just marvelled at her handiwork. I think nature is wonderful.

One of the highlights of this week was when I joined a new group in the village on Tuesday evening. It is an 'intercambio' group which means 'interchange' and the idea is that English and Spanish people meet together to chat about anything, and the Spanish have to speak in English, and we have to speak in Spanish. It was great fun and will be great for me to practise listening and to learn more vocabulary. I think there were seven of us there who were British - non-Spanish anyway, and then four Spanish people. We sat around one table to begin with, but because we were talking across one another, and we were in a bar so there was quite a lot of background noise, we split up into little groups and after a while we moved on to the next one. I enjoyed it. We were all around the same level so hopefully we can all help one another to improve our language skills and make some new friends.
This just shows some of us. The man in the cap is my friend Chris who is S. African and his native tongue is Africaan so he is good at making some of the more guttural sounds that I find so difficult. The lady he is speaking to is Spanish and so is the man next to her in the green jacket. The ones sitting opposite them are English. I was talking to the young girl who is just off the left side of the picture. They all knew I was the lady who makes marmalade and has a big dog, which surprised me, as I only recognised one of them! I will definitely go back for another session this week.
With the weather improving through the week I have been able to find a spot sheltered from the wind, to sit in the sun and do a little of my crochet most afternoons. Sophie hasn't made much progress this week as I wanted to, and did, finish off a blanket for Africa before I did any more of her, but she does now have a pretty row of 'tulips' all around her garden, and she is no longer square!.

I have also done a little bit in my craft room. I made a couple of Christmas cards for a blog challenge today, and also a birthday card for a friend next week. I did it as a bit of a last minute rush as the challenge I was entering was almost due to close, so I was pleasantly surprised to look a few days later and find I had been drawn to receive a prize. So I will have some pretty butterfly stamps arriving in the post some time soon.
Now I will be off to link with Rocking Your World at Celtic House. I can't seem to find a Friday Smiles post from Annie this week, but I expect she is having some lovely family time this Easter weekend. Hopefully next week there will be some nice sunsets to show you again.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016; Week 12

I spotted this picture on Facebook this week and just fell in love with it. I hope it makes you smile too.
Isn't it amazing, and all done by one lady. This smart car was driven around the streets of Montreal last summer as part of their residential speed limit campaign. I bet it got noticed at least!

Nearer to home is these pictures of my little (or perhaps not so little), cat Arwen. This is her moulting season, and as well as shedding hairs every time she moves, the loose hairs also mat together very close to her skin forming a really hard layer around her, that is too close for me to try cutting it away, even if she would let me - which she won't. She had  a very rough few years before I took her in as a rescue animal, and although she is now much friendlier than she was, she is still very wary of close contact with any people. She sits right beside me on my computer desk and paws at me for attention if I ignore her for too long, but if I attempt to pick her up for a cuddle, she instantly stiffens and starts fighting to get away. So we live side by side in mutual harmony, but when her fly-away hairs cause me to cough and sneeze too much, then she goes to the vet, where she has a light sedative and the groomers shave her while she is asleep. Here she is before...
and after....
That always makes me smile.
There is a different groomer at the vet's from when she last went, and this one decided she needed to lose her boots as well, which is a shame. She usually comes home still wearing fluffy boots. But they left her lovely tail and her face. They actually left really long hair on either side of her face, but I have trimmed it off a bit because I think it looks better.
The main thing is that she is a quite contented cat again, and hopefully I won't sneeze every time I come in my room now.

This fairly routine week started off with a bit of excitement on Sunday when the "I Vuelta Cicloturista de Almería" passed through our village. This is a long cycling challenge that seems to cover most of Andalucía. On Sunday they were due to leave Turre and travel to Garrucha, Cuevas and then Antas before coming through Los Gallardos, and on up into the mountains behind us. Their day's route was 150km long, and covered four mountain passes. (Amazing what some people do for fun!). We had fore-warning that some of the roads - including ours - would be closed between 8.00 and 10.00 in the morning and I was worried that I might not be able to get out for church as I usually leave at 10.00. But sure enough, at exactly 9.00 the first support vehicles came through.
(Deportiva simply means Sport). These were followed by several men on motorbikes, making sure the route was clear for the cyclists. 
Eventually they came as well, and because it was still quite early in the day, they were all fairly close together with no stragglers.
They were all still feeling good and many exchanged a few friendly words with us as they went passed. This makes it look as though we were the only ones out to cheer them on, but all those big houses around us are empty for most of the year, so we have no immediate neighbours. Just up the road from us, there were plenty of onlookers, on the street and on their verandas and roof terraces.
Finally two ambulances brought up the rear, and as soon as they had passed, the police removed the tapes from across the roads, and everything went back to normal, so I got away at my usual time after all.

We have had some nice sunshine this week, even if there has been a rather chilly wind, and when it was in the right direction for the porch to be sheltered, it was warm enough to sit out in the afternoon. Chris was checking the pool to see it wasn't too clogged with the dry leaves that are blowing about, and he spotted a moth on the water. He thought it had drowned, but I fished it out and put it in the sun and it soon started to move. 
I think moths are very under appreciated. They may be mostly  brown, but they have some beautiful marking on their wings and bodies. This one had flashes of red on its wings. In this close-up photo you can also see its furry coat. I think it is lovely, and I am glad I managed to save it, and put it high up on a sunny branch, well away from the dogs and cats, while it recovered enough to fly away.

On Tuesday Chris and I went over to Vera where some friends of our were opening a new charity shop for the Paws/Patas association, who rescue abandoned dogs and cats, and re-home them. While I actually prefer to support charities for people in need, I can see that the number of ill-treated, neglected and abandoned animals out here would be out of control, if there were not groups like this willing to go to their aid, and it costs a lot to get them to good health, and house them until a new home can be found. So these shops are very necessary and we want our friends to do well in their's.
Here they are, 2nd and 3rd from the right, with their daughter and her partner. The man on the far left is the Mayor of Vera, who came along to officially open it.
There was a good crowd of friends there, and other supporters of Paws, who enjoyed a glass of cava while they chatted together, and more importantly, browsed the shop and made some purchases.
They have a nice space to display their goods, and a big store room behind where they can sort through incoming donations. At 3.00, Paola and Gus stood with the mayor as he cut the blue ribbon, and declared the shop open for business.

Look what I bought at the market this week.
They really look much too good to make into jam, but that is what I bought them for. These boxes hold two kiligrams so I bought two of them. My preserving pan can hold jam made from three kilos of fruit, so I was able to take some of the very best ones for us to eat, and they were very good! But this morning I made the rest into jam and now have seventeen jars of it in my cupboard. No doubt some of it will be sold at church next Sunday, and more at my Wednesday sewing group, so I will have to make at least one more lot before the strawberries go out of season.

With not too much else happening this week, I have had time to do some crafting as well. I managed to make the fourth scrapbook page for Clonakilty (finishing off the quartet from last week). It is another busy page and as it was a fun subject, I went for lots of colour too. It may be a bit too bright, but I quite like it.

There are no sky photos this week so I will finish with something else colourful instead - my crochet. I think I have a new obsession! Every time I sit down I think 'I could just do one more round of Sophie before I ....', so Sophie has grown well this week. By Monday night I had finished stage one; Sophie's mandala. The tutorial for this came in three parts, for the small mandala, the medium one, and then the large one. So here is the large mandala, finished.
Then I went on to Part four; Squaring the mandala to make Sophie's garden. last night I finished that too. It now has 36 rounds and measures approximately 42 cms (just over 16 inches), so it would make a cushion cover. 
I love the extra details like the zig-zag paths at the edges, and the dimensional flowers growing in her garden.
I thought this was the end, but when I followed a link from her pattern to Dedri's blog, I discovered she had continued to grow Sophie outwards to make Sophie's Universe. There are, in fact, twenty parts to the tutorial, and 113 rounds altogether, with an optional further eight for an added border! So I am going to keep going too. The rounds are getting longer, and the work is heavier to hold, so my progress will be slower. The time will come when it is too hot to have a blanket on my knees while I work around it, but for now, I will just take one round at a time. It does have to go on hold for a week or two while I finish off a couple of items for my Africa project, but it will always be there, when I want something to brighten my day. So no doubt you will be meeting Sophie again one day.
For now I will take her over to introduce her at Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and I'll see you all again next week.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016; Week 11

I've said it before and no doubt I'll say it again, but "Don't these weeks just fly by?" I can't believe it is Friday again, but Friday means one thing - time to look back at all the positives of the week, and share them with you.

My big smile for this week was delivered by the post-lady yesterday morning. I came home from my sewing group to find what looked like two fat, plastic cushions waiting for me. And inside them were two organza bags filled with big balls of wool, in lots of yummy colours. Yes it was my latest order from Wool Warehouse. I have to say they are a super company to deal with. I love the way they pack their wool, and their service is excellent. I ordered on Tuesday 3rd at bedtime, and woke up to find a message to say my order had been dispatched. And one week later, it has arrived here in Spain, which is pretty good going by anyone's standards.
You probably think I am making quite a fuss about some fairly ordinary wool, but out here wool is not so good. It is mainly very thick, or very thin, and there is nothing that is equivalent to the Double Knitting yarn I am used to. Also the colours are very limited. And as I love colour, and enjoy  making my bright crocheted blankets etc, this little lot has set me up nicely for the next few months.
When I get a delivery of this type, I start by making myself a colour chart, because the colour names are written on the paper band around each ball, so once you have started using it, you have lost its name.
Some of these are more balls of the colours used in my sunny log cabin blanket that I finished last month, but I have added several new ones as well.
I have started on a new project which is to make a square called Sophie's Universe. Some of you may have seen it on the internet. A few years ago the designer, Dedri Ulys, released the pattern for a small circular motif called Sophie's mandala. Later she expanded it to make a large mandala called Sophie's Garden, and then she turned it into a square called Sophie's Universe, and that is what I am attempting to make. Her pattern gives good, clear instructions, supported by lots of photos, and I am managing to follow it so far. The wool in the box above is the colour selection for this project.
Here I have just started round 14, and now I have finished round 15, (which is somewhere between the mandala and the garden!), but looking on through the pattern, the later rounds are much more complicated. I am just hoping they will make sense when I come to do them. There are 36 rounds in the completed square, so it is hard to tell what size it will be, which means I have no idea how many I will have to make to form a blanket, but I am excited to be trying it, as the pattern has sat in my files for ages, waiting for me to be inspired to give it a go.
The week started with lots of smiles as I had long messages and skype chats with all our boys for Mother's Day. As one of them said, "It is not the same as being able to pop in to see you" but it is the next best thing.

We have had some very positive moments and the good feeling that comes from finally getting something done. This week, that included us both passing medicals so we can change our British driving licenses to Spanish ones. We also sent off the applications for new passports as ours expire in June. Today Chris had his visit to the hospital to see the anesthetist who confirmed he will get his long awaited hernia operation within the next couple of months. And at my Wednesday sewing group, three of the ladies I have been teaching to crochet, each made a granny square. They were so pleased with themselves, and next week they want to try ripple stitch and learn to read a pattern. There's no stopping them now!

It has been another grey and very windy week, and it is colder too because the wind has changed direction and is now coming from the north. So, it was good weather to stay indoors and crochet, but I have been out and about too, and some days the sun came out with me. On Sunday I went to church in the morning as usual, and it was a nice service as we celebrated Mothering Sunday. While we were enjoying a cup of tea/coffee afterwards, I slipped away to take a photo of a special plant that a friend had spotted growing by the wayside, just down the road from the church. It is a strange plant that I read about when I first came here, and have seen occasionally but always in a place where I can't just stop the car to take a picture. So I couldn't miss the opportunity to walk to some on Sunday.

I think they are really pretty. They grow in the most barren looking places, shooting up in bud rather like a long thin pine cone. Then these lovely yellow flowers open. The ground can't be as barren as it looks though, because these plants are parasitic, and draw their nutrients by draining them from the roots of other plants that run along under the ground. It's family name is Orobanchaceae but it goes by the common name of Broom rape.
I looked around the campo where I saw these, and there were several other flowers managing to thrive on what looks like really poor soil. I love these flowers that grow as weeds all along the roadside here. They are so delicate and they blow around on long thin stems, seemingly much stronger than they look. They remind me of a plant that I used to pay quite a lot of money for in UK as a garden plant. I have forgotten its name though.
But in fact, most of the wild flowers in bloom at the moment are yellow. One of my first blog posts after we moved to this house, was titled "March is yellow", and that seems to be the case every year. I love these hardy yellow daisies with their dark brown centres.
And there are fields and fields that are covered with the wild yellow chrysanthemums. I often pick a few of these to brighten up a corner of the house, and they last in water for ages if you pick them fresh enough.
It was another blowy and chilly day on Sunday, but the sun was shining and there were some pretty cloud formations breaking up the blue of the sky, and I stood a while to enjoy the view, and think how very lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place.

A week or two ago we received an invitation to our friends' Golden wedding anniversary. The party was on Tuesday afternoon, so I arranged for our home group to meet at my house in the morning, so that as soon as we had finished, I just had to change into a "posh frock" and walk up the road. Fortunately I am not one of those ladies who needs hours to get ready for an outing, and by 1.00 we were enjoying some fun time with a lovely bunch of people. Someone had made a cake for John and Eileen.
And here they are cutting it and looking very much as though they were enjoying their special day.
Of course I made them a card which was this one, but I haven't written a blog post about it as it is very similar to a birthday card I made sometime last year.
I cut the sentiment from gold vinyl, using my Silhouette Cameo machine, and I was very pleased at how well it cut.
I have only made one other card this week; a birthday card needed for a family member, but I have managed a few more scrapbook layouts. I am still trying to make a scrapbook of the holiday we had in Ireland in 2012! We had such a lovely time there, and I took so many photos that have to be sifted through. It is hard to know which ones to use. But I really must crack on with it as we are intending to go back to one town - Clonakilty - where Chris' mother was born, in October to celebrate Chris' 70th birthday. All five of our boys and their partners are hoping to join us there, so there will be lots more photos and more layouts to make then. So here are three I have made this week about our visit to Clonakilty in 2012. I also did two about the local beach there - Inchydoney - which I posted on here back in September.

As you can see, my layouts tend to be 'busy', but hopefully you can click on them to get a larger view, so you can make some sense of them. I have one more to do before I move on to our next stop - Cork city, so I hope I can get that one done tonight. (It's better than watching football on TV all night anyway!).

So that just leaves me with two lovely sky photos. As you can see, the storm clouds were never far away, but they have their own beauty, and silver linings if you look for them.

So do a bit of positive thinking and join us over at Celtic House, to tell us what positives have Rocked Your World this week.
I am also linking with Annie's Friday Smiles, and there are lots happy people there who would love you to visit them.