Friday, May 20, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016; Week 21

Hello my friends. Here I am smiling at you along with a bunch of my friends who are also smiling, so I hope you are smiling back.

This was taken at one of our 'Intercambio' sessions. There are four English people in this photo and five Spanish, but there were a few more of both at the other end of the table, and as you can see, we really enjoy our evenings together. The idea is that we speak in Spanish and our Spanish friends speak in English, but we are all on a learning curve so we help one another out. It is an excellent way to improve language skills and one I would highly recommend. Living in a mainly retired community, it is nice to have some younger people to chat with, and they bring in a youthful enthusiasm and fresh ideas.
(N:B: Several of the photos I have used this week, the one above, and some of the fiesta, are not mine. They were taken by friends and the Town Hall photographer).

The above group meet on a Tuesday evening, but we had an event in the village before that, because Saturday was San Isidro day. San Isidro is the patron Saint of agricultural workers, and is the second most important Saint for our village. The day starts with a mass in the church, and then everyone comes out to watch the statue of the saint being placed on a cart. He is surrounded by sheaves of grasses and baskets of fruit and other produce. 
Everyone then starts out on a Romeria - literally a country walk - usually ending with a picnic. For this fiesta it is simply a walk out of the village and across the rambla, to the sports centre and designated picnic area along side it. It is  not far, but can seem quite a way for little legs on a hot morning, so some of the children hitch a ride on the back of the cart.

Some of them dress up in traditional peasant/field workers clothes, of flowery skirts, embroidered blouses, pinafores and headscarves. Isn't this one a little cutie? When we first lived here, the cart was pulled by an old, very stubborn mule, and in later years a small tractor was used. This year it was a more modern white 4X4, but it got it up hill alright so that was all that mattered. 

We went ahead and waited at the picnic site, and soon the little procession came along the road below us - the cart followed by the village band, and then a long line of villagers.       The cart was parked in its usual spot, and everyone joined up with other family members who had also gone ahead to grab a table, or get a barbecue going.

Many of the children went to the football pitch for some 'children's olympic' style races, and they all looked to be having a whale of a time.
We took some chairs up, my days of perching on a brick wall are over! Soon we spotted some friends who came to join us, and our photo was taken by the official Town hall photographer for their Facebook page.
Apart from the seven of us we did not see any other non-Spanish people. It is very much a Spanish fiesta, but I think it is a shame that those who have chosen to live in this country, do not make more effort to join in with the local customs. (Our party is four English, two Welsh and one S.African!).
While everyone was busy chatting, catching up with family and friends, up beyond the sports centre, a small group of workers were preparing a Grand Paella. When I first went to look, it was simply a huge vat of rice, water and yellow spices, bubbling away over a fire.
But the next time I saw it, it had become this most traditional of all Spanish foods, a Paella, and it was so beautifully decorated to represent the flowers and produce of the land.
It was due to be served at 2.00, and they were ready almost on time, so at about that time a long line of people formed a queue. I joined the end of it, and it went down quite fast.

This is a free meal provided by the Town Hall, and is the best one of all the fiestas. There seemed to be a huge crowd waiting for some, but there was more than enough for everyone to have a generous portion. This lady had probably got one for herself and one for her husband, like I did. Men aren't so keen to do the queuing! I had to include her photo because she was wearing such a fabulous dress.

Here is my portion. Just look at that lucious gamba! It was huge.
By tea time we all drifted home for a late siesta before venturing out again at night. A stage is built at the top of our road, and from around midnight until the next morning, there is music, singing and dancing. We wandered up to see who was around, and then went home to bed.

With the warmer weather I am not very interested in food, and would happily not bother with meals some days, but I need to cook for Chris, and I know it is better for my diabetes to eat regularly, so when I have a day like yesterday, when cooking is just too much effort, I raid the freezer and find a complete meal for Chris, and I had a bowl of home-made pumpkin soup. Then we both tucked into this bowl of fruit salad. It was made from ten fruits all bought fresh from the market. Now that's my idea of a good meal! The remains (yes there were some, because I do have to limit my intake of fruit, even when I haven't had anything else sweet that day!), made a delicious smoothie for our tea tonight.

Summer has finally arrived here, with less wind, hardly any rain and higher temperatures. It has almost got up to 30ยบ now, and I have removed the duvet from the bed, and started to wear summer dresses again. The flowers are all opening to the sunshine and yesterday I went down into the green zone behind our house to get a better view of some of them. So here is a picture of the back of our house, rarely seen or photographed, and if you ignore the rather tired, dried out almond and olive trees in the foreground, you can see the lovely oleander that grows behind our fence. I would love to encourage more of it to hang over our side, but every part of the plant is very poisonous, so we have to keep it out of the reach of our animals.
The window on the left is my craft room, where I am sitting now, and where I spend most of my time. It gets full sun in the afternoons, so sometimes it is too hot to be here in the summer. But for the rest of the year it is best possible place to work in. I zoomed in on the oleander and got this picture.
As you can see, it is covered in flowers. It is a particularly pretty one with double flowers that are almost like a camellia or a rose. But this still didn't do it justice, so when I got back I took a close-up of a bunch of flowers that is dangling over the top of our fence.
Isn't that just beautiful?

While I was in the green zone I also noticed that the pomegranate trees are full of flowers. They are such a surprising bright orange-red. The trees have been stripped by visiting herds of goats, dried out by the lack of water, and broken by the children who play down there, but still they bloom, and I am sure there will be a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn. You may remember I took my friend down to pick some when she was over in October.

But this is what I had really come round to see. It is a huge patch of Chumba or prickly pear. In this area, most of these plants have been wiped out by a tiny white fly that invaded in droves two summers ago. But for some reason, this one patch seems oblivious to their attack. It is growing down the bank behind our neighbours house, and I cannot get near enough to see it properly from my garden.
The little knot of plant at the top of the bank to the left, is all that remains of a second patch of chumba once the white flies had done their work, so it is amazing that this lot survives. And now it is coming into flower, it is beautiful,
The flowers only last for a day, but as you can see, there are masses of buds, so it will keep flowering for a while yet. Each flower opens from a red bud into a deep pink flower which gradually fades out to a peachy yellow. It is hard to see in my photos, but almost every flower has a bee in it.

Life continues to be busy but I have had time for a little craft work this week so I returned to the scrapbook layout I started a few weeks ago. It was inspired by one I saw on pinterest, so I set about drawing my own, using the graphics program Libre office. 
It took me a while to turn the empty spaces into photomasks, but I got there in the end using a mixture of Corel and Adobe Photoshops. Then I tried it out with a collection of photos from Fitzgerald Park in Cork, from our holiday in Ireland four years ago! And here is my completed layout.

I have also managed a little more crochet. The next motif for my crochet-along was released on Tuesday. This time it is Frida's Rose.
It is very similar to the previous one, with an added dimensional flower in the centre. I need four of these, so I made one, just to see how it will look. I have joined the motifs I have made so far and it looks like this.
Now I am making the other three motifs in a production line. I find that easier when the colours change every round. The three little flowers in the centre are the start of my other motifs.

I had an interesting day today. I have been persuaded, mainly by the intercambio group, to get Whatsapp on my phone, so I let several family members who are on it, know. So today I had a couple of messages from them to say it was a 'good tool' to have. Then one of my sons rang me on Whatsapp. It was a lovely clear line and we had a good chat. Later another son rang me using his home phone and our landline. We had another good chat. Then a third son rang me using the wifi phone on messenger! Another good chat!! All this technology. There really isn't any excuse for not staying in touch is there?!

I think it is time to wind up with this week's sunset photo. Again I took this using my phone as I came out of choir practice on Wednesday. It was beautiful, and I would have loved to stay and watch it sinking away, but I knew I would be happier making it to the motorway before dark, so I set off for home, and watched the remnants of it in my car mirror.

Well done to anyone who is still with me! I am sorry this is a bit of a marathon, but make the most of it as I shall not be posting next week.
I will be UK for my brother's funeral, and I know I will not be in the right place to write a blog. However, even in this sad occasion there is a gentle smile, as I shall be spending a few days with my sister Jean, and will also see many family members who I have not seen for many years, and I am looking forward to that.
I leave on Wednesday and return on Monday, so I will visit as many of you as I can before I go.
Now I'm off to link with Rocking Your World, and Friday Smiles at A Stitch in Time. I'll see you all in a fortnight. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Rocking my World 2016; Week 20

It's week 20 already folks. Six more weeks and we'll be half-way through the year. I don't know whether that makes you feel happy or sad, or even a bit scared, but either way there is not much we can do about it!
I've no particular smile today. It has a been a bit of a mixed week, with lots to keep me busy and smiling, tinged with a little sadness too, but this is the day to focus on the happy things so here goes.

I told you last week that we spent Thursday evening at a concert in the Mojacar church with a Welsh choir, which incidentally raised 700€ for church funds. Well on Saturday the same choir did a second concert, this time in a very different setting - a very typically Spanish bar/restaurant. We knew the programme was quite different too so we decided to go and see them again, and it was a very relaxed and happy evening. The organiser had told me that this time they were raising money for ASADIS, the charity for special needs children in our village and surrounding area, and she invited me to take Cati along as she is the founder and organiser of ASADIS. So Chris and I picked her up in plenty of time, and we when we got to the venue we also joined up with my friend Ann.

Despite the songs being in English or Welsh, Cati really enjoyed it all. The choir were excellent again and the programme was broken up by some comedy items from these three.
After the concert there was a buffet meal. We all queued up and the Spanish waitress served the hot dishes while we helped ourselves from the cold plates. There was such a choice and loads of it. I am sure no-one went away hungry. 
After our meal there was a keyboard player who soon had folk up and dancing, but we were tired and Cati doesn't like to leave her daughter for too long, so we didn't stay late. Cati likes to take photos and she actually got quite a good one of Chris and I, so I am adding it here, as it is a rare occurrence. I am usually the one holding the camera!

You must be thinking that we never celebrate anything without there being food involved, and you are probably right! On Monday night we were eating out again, this time at the Asian restaurant near Albox. We were celebrating a dear friend's birthday, and they had kindly set up a long table so that all twenty of us could sit together.
The food was, as ever, excellent, but they kept us waiting a long time for it, so it was a long evening, but there was lots of lively chatter around the table, and it was good to spend some time with our friends.

Over the passed few weeks I have been liaising between Cati and a group of ladies who wanted to buy a gift for the special needs class on our village school - the same children that Cati helps through ASADIS by employing physio and speech therapists for them, as there is no money in the 'system' for things like that. Bowling clubs are very popular out here - I guess partly because the weather rarely interferes with their matches, and this donation was from the ladies section of four bowling clubs in this area. They have raised money for a variety of good causes, but they don't like to donate money, preferring to buy something that is needed. This is a new concept for the Spanish people and it took a fair bit of coaxing on my part to persuade them to suggest something we could buy. In the end they settled on a small lightbox to help the visually impaired children, and to make talking about colours etc more exciting. I knew how much the bowlers were prepared to spend, so I was able to upgrade this choice to a larger one, along with some clear, coloured plastic shapes to use with it.
Once these were bought, I arranged a day when representives from the clubs involved, could visit the school, and meet with the headmaster and staff and children from the class. So on Wednesday I met up with them and walked them up to the school where we were joined by Cati who introduced us to the headmaster and took us along to the special needs classroom. As well as giving them the board, we were able to spend time interacting with the children. There is a new classroom assistant who speaks very good English, so my Spanish was not tested as much as I was expecting. It made such a difference to the people giving the gift, to be able to meet with the children and see them in their own environment, and it was a privilege to be a part of it all.

Wednesday evening was choir practice time. There are only a few more rehearsals before our first big concert. Tickets are selling well and we are really looking forward to it. We had a good practice and feel we are really getting to grips with the songs now. We usually finish between 8.30 and 9.00 and it is so nice to come outside and find it is still daylight now. It means I can at least drive down as far as the motorway before the darkness comes down, and that is a real blessings as I don't like driving at night on my own.
This week I was just getting into the car to drive home when I noticed this quite benign face in the clouds, looking down on me, so I whipped out my phone and took this photos before it faded.
Then I got in the car and looked in the mirror, and the sky behind me looked like this.
So, of course, I had to get out again and take another picture before I finally got on my way. I still made it to the motorway before dark though.

As you can see, some of the clouds are looking rather stormy. It always seems as though our weather is the opposite of what is happening in UK, so while you have been enjoying a few days of 'summer' we have had clouds, high winds and thunder storms. But we are so glad to see the rain coming before the really hot weather sets in, that no-one is really complaining.

Here are a few quick photos of the garden before I leave you. The hanging baskets we filled a couple of weeks ago are doing well. I am hoping the petunias will trail a bit soon and cover some of the basket liner, but they look lovely anyway. This one is on the side of the garage, near the front door.
There is a lovely new pelargonium grandiflorum behind it that I bought at the market this week to go in the window box. This second basket hangs on the front wall on the other side of the front door. It is also very pretty but I struggled to get a good picture as it hangs against a very bright, white wall.
Before we leave the garden, I thought I would conclude the tale of the forty year old cactus tree that suddenly decided to bloom this year. We watched the buds open and send each section up on its own little branch, but after that it was rather disappointing. The flowers were white but so small and insignificant we hardly noticed they has opened!
Then one day I realised they were dying again without giving us much of a show at all. But now it is covered with something else. It started to look a bit pink, and when I got up close I saw that each tiny flower had become a much bigger pink seed pod. So here it is now, looking really quite pretty.
We still don't know what will happen to the plant when the seeds all drop. Maybe it will just die like the agarve cactus that takes decades to flower and then dies, and little plants grow up all around it, or maybe it will send out a new shoot. We can only wait and see.
And finally, here is a photo I took of my 'grumpy cat' waiting for his tea. All our other cats have mealtimes - a small breakfast and tea, and a big meal at night which has always disappeared by the morning. But Tango is a grazer. I don't leave his bowl down as he is on a special diet that is too expensive to leave out for the others to help themselves too, including the stray white tom who comes in whenever Paco isn't around to assert his territorial rights! But whenever I go in the kitchen, Tango goes and sits silently by his bowl (or the space where he thinks it should be) and he waits patiently for me to put a little food down for him. He doesn't make any noise, just sits and looks hopeful, or grumpy as that is the only face he can make really! 
He is gorgeous - so laid back and gentle. Every evening he comes and sits on me, getting in the way of my crochet or whatever else I am doing, and he is warmer than any blanket, so soon he will have to find another resting place.
Well that's all from me this week. I shall now link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking your World, and I'll see you all next week.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Rocking my World 2016: Week 19

Right. So hopefully you are all smiling now! Just a little gem I spotted on Facebook this week, and it made me smile, partly because I knew who had posted it.
And now for one, also from facebook, that will at least make you all say Aaa..hh! Isn't it just so cute?

And now for those happy moments from my week which got off to a really good start on Sunday with a special service at church. A very good friend of ours, William, was licensed as a new worship leader, and our lovely vicar Rev. Pauline took the service.
And what better reason, (if we needed one) to go out for a celebratory lunch with William and his wife Sylvia. We were a party of twenty and they had laid up a long table for us so we could all sit together. We were lucky to get a booking as it was Mother's Day in Spain, so lots of families were eating out together, but despite being busy, the service was good and the food excellent.
We went to a place called La Castilla, up on a hill at the back of Arboleas. I was uncertain about going because I have only been there once before and I was not impressed with the food. But I didn't want to miss out on William's special day, so we went along anyway, and I need not have worried because this time the food was among the best meals we have had out here.  We sat and chatted while we waited for our starters to arrive, but once the food had arrived, everyone was too busy eating to stop and smile for the camera!

I was looking forward to Tuesday because it was the day for the third part of my Crochet-along to be published. It goes online around 9.30 but I am out at my house group on Tuesday mornings so I have to wait until later to download mine. But once I was home and we had eaten a late lunch, I printed out the pattern, gathered my bag of wool and some hooks, and took myself out to sit on the porch and work on it. It look complicated, but it was not as difficult as I had expected to follow the pattern, and an hour or so later my first "Bird of paradise" motif was made.
I really like it. I have made another one and I need just two more before part 4 is released a week next Tuesday. We don't really need a fortnight to make these in, but the pattern parts are getting progressively harder, so we may need the time for the later ones. And of course, many of the participants are running a busy home and family, or are at work all day, and it must be difficult for them to get it done. The little pins in mine are marking the six corners which makes the joining up easier, and it will look tidier when I have blocked it, but I am waiting until the end to do that, or they may all curl up again.
It was lovely this week to see the jacaranda trees coming into bloom. They are such a lovely colour. We have a long row of them in the slip road that runs along the front of our village.

They hold on to the big brown seed pods from last year, and flower first. As the flowers die, they sprout green fern-like leaves, and continue to look pretty through the summer.

As I was walking to my 'intercambio' group on Tuesday evening, I stopped to watch some little house martins, busily catching the bugs that swarm around late afternoon, to feed their very demanding babies. We get a lot of house martins in the village and they make their neat little nests in the eaves of all the houses, where they are sheltered from the wind and direct sun. They were diving in and out of the row of nests and every now and then I glimpsed a little head and open beak popping out of the entrance holes. I lost count of how many there were, but it was fun to watch them for a while, and I had to admire their industry.

We have had a rather unsettled week weather-wise. Not at all what we expect by the beginning of May, but there has been plenty of sunshine between the showers. Most evenings the sky has been too empty of clouds for a good sunset, or else it has been too cloudy for any sun to break through, but one evening the wind was breaking up the clouds and they were continually changing shape. Every time I looked they were different, but every time I could see another face in them - and not always a pleasant one either. I wonder whether you can see them too.

We ended the week on a good note too when we went to a concert last night, to listen to a visiting Welsh choir. They are from the same village in Wales as a man who has lived out here for some years now, and every couple of years or so they come over to help Robert at one of his charity fund raisers. Sadly Robert passed away early this year, but they kept to their commitment to come, and supported his wife and family at a memorial concert in the Mojacar church. The church was full and the singing was lovely. It was mostly in English but they did sing a couple in Welsh too, and the highlight was a solo performance of Oh Danny Boy, which I love. They were asked to sing Canon Lan a second time as an encore, and our vicar, who is also from that part of S. Wales, got up and joined in.

The church is quite small and is just the one room with a small vestry at the side, but they had said there would be a buffet supper, so they set up a long table outside and various church members had contributed with plates of food, and the table was laden down. A second smaller table housed an urn and a cool box, so there was a choice of drinks available too. The choir mingled with the crowd and we had a good chat with them, and even though it was getting late by then, it was warm enough, (and dry enough) for us to stand around for quite  while.
When I saw the table I never thought we could eat everything, but I have to say, we did our best. There seems to be quite a big Welsh contingent at the Mojacar church, and there were plates of Welsh cakes, and Bara Brith, as well as lots of other lovely things. We didn't quite 'clear the decks' but there wasn't much left, and for sure, no one went home feeling hungry!
Having eaten well, and talked my head off, I rested by the wall and watched the sun slowly sinking behind the hills and into the sea. What a calm and beautiful way to end a lovely evening.
Now it is time to pop over to Annie's blog - A Stitch in Time, and Virginia's blog - Celtic House , and find out what has lifted you this week.