Friday, July 29, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016; Week 31

Well it has been a mixed week here, but I shall still start with a smile.
During July and August, lots of folk here talk about "going home", and usually they mean returning to UK to escape the hottest months, and visit family and friends. So when I saw this on Facebook today, it did make me smile.
If only it was that easy!!

Now I am going to get my sad news out of the way first, because although this is primarily a very positive blog, and I link it to two very positive sites where we are encouraged to think about what has made us smile, and lifted our spirits, occasionally life throws us a curved ball that we can't just ignore. And this blog was originally, and still is,  a news dairy to keep my family in UK up to date with what I am doing, so this had to be included. 
You have all met our black dog Miki, who I usually describe as a bit 'dopey'. My grandchildren called her Licki-Miki because she would lick you to death just saying 'Hello'. Here she is sleeping with Tango, and looking her usual contented self.
However, last weekend something happened in her mind and she suddenly became very agressive, especially towards our smaller dog, Foxy. It took us by surprise, and in his attempt to separate them, Chris was bitten and knocked off balance. Within hours it became apparent that the two dogs could not be kept together, and poor Foxy was confined to the sitting room where she hid under the table. Miki did not attack Kim, we think because he is a male, and considerable larger than her, but she continued to watch all of us with a wild look in  her eyes. 
Some friends took Foxy to their house for a few days while we waited to see what would happen. But our vet, who is lovely, recommended that we have Miki put to sleep. She could find no physical reason for her change in temperament,  but said she had seen it before in other dogs, and it was probably a latent problem in her brain, though none of us know what triggered it. She said we would never be able to really trust her again, and after some soul searching we knew she was right, so on Tuesday evening, we took her down to the surgery and said our last 'Good-bye'.
It was very sad, and we really miss her, but for the safety of ourselves and the other dogs, we know it was the right decision.

Foxy stayed away for another day and it was really strange to take our early morning walk with just Kim in tow, but Chris took his lead and I followed just behind with my camera, because this is not something I can usually do, as I have the other two on separate leads so my hands are full. Kim was quite happy to trot along and keep an eye open for rabbits. We often see them in the mornings.

Here are a couple of other photos I took. This is a phenomena that always amazes me. As soon as the hot weather arrives, one area is swarmed with white snails. They attach themselves to anything and everything, including one another, and they seal them selves in and stay there until the first rain of the Autumn.
When it rains, they will all wake up and disappear as quickly as they came. The heat is intense on that open land. I don't know how they survive.
Another thing I wanted to take a photo of, is these pretty pinky-mauve flowers. Up at the top of the village, the road runs along, and above the rambla, (dry river bed), and there is a long stretch of iron railings which for a couple of months, is covered in these climbing plants. 
They are very similar to our common bind-weed, with slightly larger flowers, but their leaves are a tiny version of the leaves of a morning glory, which, of course, has a similar flower, only deep blue. The morning glory is cultivated in gardens around the village, and this is 'just a weed', but I think it is equally beautiful, and would happily have it growing up my garden fence.

It has been very hot this week, though there has been some breeze to relieve it. We have made good use of our little pool, and some days we don't even bother to get changed after a swim, as we know we will be in there again later. So it was that I found myself sitting out in my swim-suit, under the shade of a large parasol, drinking hot tea which is far more refreshing than any cold drink in my book, and crocheting a thick Winter blanket. How odd is that?!
Well spotted if you noticed that the blanket I am working on is my Frida's Flowers. I thought it was time I got it finished, so I spent two afternoons crocheting the border. And here it is, all finished.
The corners are a bit curled as  haven't blocked it yet, but I am very pleased with it. It is by far the most complex pattern I have followed, but it was worth it, and I learned a lot along the way. So now that one can be packed away, and I can get on with some my other projects.
Chris likes to sit out on the porch all evening, but the light isn't good enough for me to do some of the things I like to keep busy with, so I usually do something down in my room first, and go out for an hour or so before bed.
One of the things I managed to do was clear my two desks which were knee deep in paper and other bits and pieces.  I started with my computer desk which is now considerably cleaner, and the shelf at the side is mended and back in place. I found some papers I had lost, and threw away a lot I no longer needed.
Then I turned my attention to my craft desk. At the end of a project there are always a lot of paper off-cuts, plus boxes of buttons, ribbons, dies etc, and I am lazy about putting them away. So I had a really good clear-up and suddenly I have room to start again!!
And the first thing I did was to make some soon-needed cards, and then I did two more pages of my Scrapbook of our holiday in Ireland (four years ago!!). So here are two layouts of our day trip to Baltimore, and then Kinsale where we stopped off for a break on our way to Cork.

Foxy is now back home with us. She was very pleased to see us again, and she and Kim have settled down together, and don't appear to be missing their big sister as much as we are.

And finally here are two lovely sky pictures that I took on my way home from choir practice on Wednesday evening. It was like a very bright yellow light in my mirrors as I drove home, and I was glad it was behind me and not shining in my face. There is a lay-by for decanso(rest) on the road down from Albox, and I pulled in there to take these pictures because I knew it would be gone by the time I got home. I only had the camera on my phone, but they came out really well.

And now I must link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World on Virginia's blog, and then I shall go and join Chris on the porch, and listen to my water feature splashing down, and maybe have a late night dip.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016: Week 30

This week I am smiling at my cat Tango! I showed a couple of weeks ago how he loved to curl up among my knitting projects that had rather taken over the dining table. Well I had to clear them away to take photos of all the knitted items for Africa that I was sending back to UK, but gradually the most relevant one crept back on the table, and Tango immediately made it his own. That look; he is daring me to take it away again. As if I would!

It has been a noisy but good-natured week in the village, with the annual fiesta continuing on until the early hours of Monday morning.
We went over to the plaza on Friday night because the local dancing school was putting on its usual display. I love to see all the little ones in their traditional costumes, learning to master the complicated steps and already using their hands so expressively
When the younger group had done their bit, the older class did some even more complicated routines. (I liked this shot of them taken by the town hall official photographer from behind the stage).
When they had finished dancing I had my usual fiesta treat of churros and thick sweet chocolate sauce to dip them in. Chris teases me for always having some, but he ate his share all the same.
For those who don't know, churros is a plain batter, piped through a nozzle into a coil, in a vat of very hot oil. It is then cut with scissors into shorter lengths and shaken generously with sugar. It needs to be eaten warm as it goes a bit tough as it cools down, but to make it special, you also need the cup of chocolate sauce!
We then both had our other fiesta treat of a large mojito, before wandering home to bed.

Saturday is the main day as it is the actual Saint's Day for Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of our village. This is celebrated by a huge open air mass on the plaza, which we always go over to take part in. There is always a good turnout from the actual villagers as well as folk from the surrounding area. The current parish priest is a lovely man, and I like to listen to his talk and see how much of it I can understand. Most of the mass is sung by the priest and the village choir who were looking rather fine in their flamenco dresses.
They stand up on the stage, and an altar is set up in front of them. In this picture, Fran, who works as a liaison officer between the mayoress and the people of the village, is reading one of the lessons.
At the beginning of the mass, the people are invited to bring offerings of flowers to the Virgen del Carmen, whose statue is carried down from to the plaza from the church. Hundreds of flowers, from huge bouquets to single blooms, are brought by the people, even the tiny tots have a flower clutched in their hands, as do the elderly who need an arm to lean on as they wait in the line for their turn to reach the statue. When there is no more room for the flowers around the statue, the rest are arranged on a trestle next to her, and at the end of the mass, all the flowers are collected again and taken up to the church.

On Sunday we had a different sort of celebration because our dear friend Jean had her 89th birthday.
She was asked what she would like to do on her birthday and she said "Go to church, and then have dinner with all my friends, at my favourite restaurant on Mojacar Playa", so that is what she did.
She is wonderful for her age and still lives a full life. So after church we all drove down to the beach and as we had expected it was very busy down there as the holiday season is now in full swing. But eventually we all managed to get parked, and walked up to the restaurant. It was one we hadn't been to before, and I like trying out new places. This one did not disappoint. It was a very large space with lots of windows, so it was light and airy and there were lovely views out over the sea. The decor was modern and attractive, and most importantly, the food was excellent. They set up three tables in one area for us as we were a party of twenty-two and they could not manage one long table to take us all. But we all moved around and chatted to one another, and I think Jean really enjoyed being the centre of attention.

As Sunday was the last night of the fiesta, we went over to the plaza for a little while. There was a recital by the Los Gallardos and Bédar brass band, and a lady singer. They were very good and we enjoyed it.
We thought at first that they may have to cancel it. It had been a hot and humid day and in the evening there was a stormy feel to the air. Clouds were gathering and swooping down us like an avenging angel, and as a few drops of rain fell, there was a hasty rush to throw tarpaulins over all the electrical equipment.
But in the end it was a false alarm, and everything was uncovered again and the concert went ahead. There was a rather more low key fair ground that night, and the youngsters midnight discos did not open, but there was the usual band and singers on the main stage and for one more night they played through to the next morning. Monday saw fork lift trucks and industrial cleaners moving in, the lights were down, the fairground rides dismantled and stowed away on the lorries, and by nightfall they had trundled off to their next destination, and you would hardly know that anything had taken place.

Since then we have enjoyed some quieter days, and one of our "things to do" was to work in the garden, so on Tuesday we went off to a garden centre. We bought something that I have wanted for ages, a water feature. A few years ago we went to Cordoba for a few days, to see their patio fiesta, when every house has flowers dripping from the window ledges, verandas, and in pots up the walls. We were impressed how they made lovely gardens in even the tiniest courtyards, and nearly all of them had some sort of water feature in them, We decided then that we wanted something like that, but the dogs were still very young and tended to destroy all our efforts to grow anything. But now they are older, so we thought it was time to give it a go. We don't have a lot of space in the garden, just a small walkway all around the pool, so we don't sit out there very often, but we do spend most of our days out in the fly-free porch, so we decided to set up our little garden in there. And here is is!
We chose a feature that has several sections of moving water as well as some flat areas to take plants. I chose a big green fern to sit at the top. It gives a cool and restful feel to it. Then I added a potted ivy near the base, and another one that I sat on some bricks behind the waterfall so I could encourage it to grow through the gaps, and trail down the front. The plants on either side were taken from the garden, and so far the dogs have not touched them. I love the sound of the tumbling water when I sit out there, and I am really pleased with how it had worked out. There is actually a very bright light in the lowest basin, we we have on in the evening.
While we were at the garden centre, we also chose a very big stone pot. We asked if they would deliver both items and while we waited the man called up one of his workers to load them onto a small truck, and he followed us home and unloaded them for us. The service can be really excellent here.

We wanted the pot for a big fern in our front garden. We inherited it with the house, and it was in a fairly small, heavy-duty plastic pot. We hadn't realised how much it has grown, but for the last two years it has constantly fallen over during times of high winds, and it is now too heavy for us to keep righting it. It was also getting spoiled because it was crushed against the fence each time it fell. We would have liked to plant it in the ground, but we have no-where suitable, so we thought the best idea would be to re-pot it into a square, stone pot that hopefully won't blow over. It was difficult to do, as the big palms have vicious thorns on the underside of their fronds, but we tied it up and wrapped a cloth around it, and eventually managed to get it into its new home. It already looks much better, and when it has settled down and its leaves have dropped it will be fine, at least for the next few years. 
Our Spanish neighbours are in residence on both sides of us this week, which has never happened before, and they both hung over the veranda to watch us and nod approvingly at what we were doing. The man from the Farmacia also walked up the road and stopped to talk about it. He said all the plants were lovely, but the palm is special. We looked at them in the garden centre a few years ago, and even then to buy one like it would have cost 100€, so we really should take good care of it. Hopefully it will now thrive.

The round pot to the right of the picture is the home of the other palm that I showed several times, earlier this year , when it suddenly produced a flower. I was excited to see it and read on the internet that it can take forty years to have its first flower. But it turned out to be a disappointingly insignificant flower, and I had no idea what would happen next. I was worried that it might just die, but so far it has just sat there doing nothing more, just looking a bit droopy and sad. So while I was out there working I decided to cut the tall, dead flower stem off, and when I did I was so surprised to find a new shoot coming from just below it. It must have been growing for a while and I had not seen it, hidden among the leaves. So it is not dying, and I now have something else to watch
It is sticking out at an odd angle right now, but I expect it will straighten up as it grows.

Today I had another bonus when Chris said we would go down to the Playa for lunch. Anything that means I don't have to cook in the heat is a bonus. We went to the commercial centre in Mojacar and just ordered drinks to start with, and when she came out with them, she also gave us a plate of crisps, some sweet dough balls, a dish of corn nuts, and some potatoes in garlic mayonnaise with bread! That's before we ordered dinner. 
I then had a huge bagette with Serrano ham, brie, mushrooms, lettuce and tomato in it, and a pile of chips on the side, and Chris had fish cooked on the plancha and chips of course. I didn't manage all of mine but I had a good try!

And that is about it for this week. We have had quite a few cloudy days, which make it more humid than I care for, so the afternoons have been spent indoors, often dozing, though I have read a good book as well. But we sit out in the evenings and when I got in the pool one night at half passed midnight, the thermometer on the wall still showed 30º, and the water was 27º - lovely!!
It has been stormy in the evenings so there are no bright sunsets to show you, but one evening the sky was filled with little fluffy clouds, and they were so pretty, so I will leave you with a picture of them. And then I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World, and I'll see you all next week.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Rocking Your World 2016: Week 29

Hello one and all. My Smile this week is a picture of my friend Di and I, having some fun together! There will be more about this in a minute.

This was supposed to be the first week of my 'slow down' time, when most things come to a halt, and we can all relax and unwind before the routine kicks in again in September. But as you will see, it was still quite a busy time for me, and certainly not very relaxing.
So, to start at the beginning of the week, we had a party at church on Sunday. This was a sad occasion as we were saying 'Good-bye' to our lovely vicar, Rev. Pauline, who had ended her contract after three years due mainly to ill health. But we were determined that she shouldn't leave on a sad note, so we made sure it was a fun time for her, and for everyone else who was there.
Part of this was to be a 'Bring and Share' lunch so we were all asked to take a plate of finger-food, so Saturday saw me once again making pastry in a ridiculously hot kitchen, and then making it into empanadillas. These are the Spanish equivalent of our sausage rolls etc, that we take when we go on a picnic. They either come in the form of an empañada, a shallow pie made in a large tray/tin and cut into slices, or as empanadillas which are little individual pies. I have a mould for making these so that's what I did. The filling is always on a tomato type salsa with either meat or fish. Mine had my tuna fish paté in them.
My recipe makes around forty of these, so there was plenty to go around.
When we arrived at church on Sunday morning, these were placed on the table amid the quiches, sausage rolls, scotch eggs etc. This was just one of the tables.
And here is another. Anyone would think we were feeding the five thousand instead of around fifty! I can safely say no-one went home hungry.
Sadly Rev.Pauline had to return to UK early because of her health, and although she had promised to return for our party, we were not sure she would be well enough, so when she decided she could fly, it was agreed that she would arrive at the end of the service, just in time for the party. So there was a huge cheer and round of applause when she walked in at the start of the service instead, with her family. She is very much loved, and we are really going to miss her.
We had our usual morning service, and then the congregation was asked to stay seated while the choir sang two songs they had prepared especially for Pauline. As you know, I am a part of this little group of singers, (we are very loosely described as a choir), and we have been meeting every Friday afternoon to practice. We were given about three minutes to pull black trousers or long black skirts on over whatever we were wearing, and a black top, and then we tied a small white bib around our neck, topped with a silver cross we had made from cardboard and tin foil. Lastly we donned a nun's wimple, and holding our hands as if in prayer, we solemnly entered the church, trying hard to suppress our giggles! 
We sang "I will follow Him" from Sister Act 2, and it went down very well. The bib and headress sets were bought for 5€ each online, and they were really very effective.
At the end of the song, we took off the wimples, and sang a lovely Blessing for Pauline, to an arrangement by John Rutter.

She was a bit 'weepy' by the end so we hastily moved on to lunch. We had a quick cuppa outside while the men set up tables all down the church. They looked so pretty with pale green tablecloths and an arrangement of pink and green flowers on each one. We found a seat and each table took their turn to file out to the food tables and fill their plates. There was more than enough for everyone, and there was a lively buzz of chatter as we sat and ate.
Our dear friend Pat had worked her usual magic in the cake making department. Aren't her sugar flowers just beautiful? There are even some on the handle of the knife.
After lunch there were of course some speeches and then we all had some cava to raise a toast to Pauline and her future.
We gave her some personalised gifts to take back to UK as a reminder of her time with us.

Then it was time for our finale. One of our group, (my friend Di in the photo at the top of this post), had written a parody of the song "How do you solve a problem like Maria", from The Sound of Music. We performed it as though we were a group of cleaning ladies chatting amongst ourselves about how we would manage without a vicar. So we came on wearing aprons, headscarves and rubber gloves, and carrying dusters and mops.
Di and I said the first few lines between us - hence the first photo above - and then everyone joined in. Everyone loved it, including Pauline, so we sang it again and she came up and stood with us, shaking her tambourine at the appropriate moment.
She really enjoyed it. I had typed out the words on a scroll to give to her, and we certainly gave her something to smile about as she went home.

Well, we were hot and tired by the time we got home, but after a short siesta we went out again, because a local bar had some live music that we wanted to hear. Out here these things often don't begin until at least 10.00 so we had time to rest and freshen up.
The musicians were a guitarist and a lady singer. She was very good, singing blues and jazz numbers, mainly in English, but the guitarist was superb. He did a solo of a Jimmy Hendrix number and it was mesmerizing to watch.

It was at the bar where we meet for our intercambio group on Tuesday evenings. A month or so ago, the owners took over a piece of campo land opposite the bar and converted it into a patio, and it was good to see it so full for the music. We were sitting over on the far right, half hidden by the little tree.

Monday was a nice quiet day, but on Tuesday we were off out again in the afternoon. We were a bit unsure about the wisdom of going as it is really better to stay at home between 2.00 and 5.00. However, a friend from my proper choir, and two other ladies, were doing a drama presentation for charity, on Joyce Grenfell. They each portrayed her in a series of monologues from her better known works, and they were all very good. I really enjoyed it and was so glad we had we gone.

The rest of the week has passed in a blur. We get up early to walk the dogs, and generally sleep for most of the afternoon. It has been very hot most days, and for several days it has threatened to rain. We have had the thunder and lightening around tea-time, but no significant rain.

And now it is fiesta time. Starting from yesterday, there have been volleys of loud rockets going off at random times during the day, supposedly signifying the start of some activity somewhere in the village. The animals all hate the rockets, and we have had all three dogs and three cats joining us in the sitting room for the afternoons. Miki and Foxy hide under the dining table.
We went over on Wednesday evening because there was a concert by a very prestigious Flamenco singer.
It is ultra loud and dramatic, and not everyone's cup of tea. I must admit I would not rush out to buy a CD of Flamenco singing, but I love watching it performed live. The singer had such expressive hands and arms, and they were never still however complex her singing became.

We watched for an hour or so and then had a little wander around the plazas before going home. So I have now seen the lights I posted last week, lit up, and very pretty they are too.
The main plaza is festooned with the usual lights and lanterns, with tables and chairs set out below them, and three street bars around the edge, who do a roaring trade right through the night.
Across the road from the plaza there is another bar where we sat for a while, enjoying a drink and watching the families milling around us.
And beyond this is the fairground, with its bumper cars, one large, 'scary' ride, and several kiddies attractions.
The music from the disco behind the bumper cars, and the from the main stage on the plaza, continue throughout the night, so when we have had enough, we go home, close the windows and turn the aircon on, and try to sleep through it. We haven't got the stamina to stay out all night any more, but quite a lot of the youngsters do.

During the siesta time, on days when I haven't fallen asleep straight after lunch, I have managed to get some cards made. I have a lot of family cards to post in July, so I needed to get them made. There is still a couple to send, so I will be posting about them on my craft blog after they have all reached their destinations.

I have now got the pattern to work the border around my Frida blanket, but right now it is too hot to do it. But I hope to have it finished some time soon. 

I am posting this earlier than usual as I shall wander over to the fiesta for a while again tonight. "If you can't beat them, join them..." ! So I will link this up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking your World on Virginia's blog and tomorrow I will come round and visit you while it is quiet enough to hear myself think!