Here we are at week 48, so there are not many left for this year.
Two things that have made me smile this week were both delivered by the postman.
Those of you who sometimes visit my other blog, where I write about my crafts, will know that I love colouring images. It is very therapeutic, and I remember even as a small child, I loved to have a new set of pens or pencils. In fact one of the Christmas presents I remember most vividly was a shiny, deep blue, zip up pencil case (the sort that opens like a book), and it had twenty-four coloured pencils in it as well as the usual writing pencils, rubber, ruler etc. I loved that case and I can see it in my mind as clearly today as on the day I got it. Well I have moved on from pencils now, and my colouring tools of choice are my copic alcohol ink markers. I love their soft brush tips, and the wide range of colours available. I have a very understanding husband, who over two years of birthday and Christmas presents, bought me the complete range of copic ciao markers - 180 colours in all. I have also aquired a few other alcohol markers but none of them have brush tips, so I don't use them as often. But there is another range of copic markers called copic sketch markers which has a further 178 colours, so last week I decided to treat myself to some of these to fill the gaps in my range of blues and earth tones. The company I found the best deal from was one I had not used before, so I was not sure what to expect, but I needn't have worried. Their service was excellent, the parcel was dispatched the next day, they e-mailed me at every stage and within a week the pens had arrived. Of course, just as I always do with new colours, I had to try each one out.
I have a similar, though more organised chart of all my colours which helps me find the pen I want for a given project, so when the Christmas rush is over, I will make a new chart incorporating these colours, and rearrange my storage so they are all in order still.
My second parcel contained these beautiful Christmas tree decorations. They were made by my very talented nephew who is an air-traffic controller by day, but who in his spare time, loves to work with wood. He has made some amazing things for his house, and for his children. A couple of years ago he started making little tree decorations to sell at local craft fairs, and he has been so successful that this year, he has had to say "No more orders" as he has enough to keep him busy now, right up until Christmas.
As you can see, he uses off-cuts of a variety of woods, but the two in the middle column are cut from slices of tree trunks from last year's Christmas trees. How clever is that?!
Well, beside those 'Smileys' it has been a good week starting straight in last Saturday when I went to a wedding at our church. It was a wedding blessing really. When couples out here want to marry, and to have it recognised in UK, they have to go to Gibraltar for the ceremony, so they usually go off together for a couple of days and it is a very low-key affair. So we wanted to give them a very special day for their Blessing. One lady from the church arranged some flowers to go on the altar.
Most of us contributed food for a buffet afterwards and we upped our game from the usual 'finger food' to 'posh finger food', and what a spread we had. This is just one of the tables that was groaning under the weight of whole salmon, prawn rings, deviled eggs, cold meats, pastries and salads and more.
We also had a table of sweet offerings, plus wine on the tables and cava for a toast.
Father Alan lead the service and they said their vows again with him.
After the service we went outside to take some photos. The sun shone for us despite the forecast suggesting rain.
We surprised Tony and Janice when we all threw confetti at them.
A friend had made a lovely cake for them, and after that was cut, we sat around chatting for a while, and then some of us, who had to travel further, went home, while some of the local folk stayed for a disco.
I left just as the sun was setting behind the mountains. I think we gave Janice and Tony a day to remember.
The rest of the week has been rather cold and wet. On Monday night it was very windy and we woke up to hear it howling round the house. In the morning the plastic chairs were blown around the yard, and the pool was full of leaves and debris. But since then it has been dull and there has been some prolonged rain fall. But we are not complaining about that. It is really good to see the parched land getting some water at last. But we don't like the cold so we have had our fires on a few times, especially in the evenings. I am so grateful for the built-in fire in the sitting room. It runs on bottled gas, but it has flames and looks very realistic, and it really warms that room so we can be cosy when we sit in there for the evenings.
On Wednesday we had a very good choir practice. We only have one more before our concert on 2nd December, so we ran through the whole programme. Our musical director was in an exceptionally good mood, and made lots of jokes to keep us smiling, and then he let us go home a quarter of an hour early - something that has never happened before!
Yesterday we had a really good day out. It was coach trip arranged by a 'friend of a friend'. We have been on a couple of her other outings, so we were pleased when we were invited to join this one too. We went to Lubrin, a little white village a few kilometers up the mountain behind our village. It is a fairly short distance but we did a long route round to pick people up from various places first.
Our first stop was at a goat farm. There are very few sheep around here, probably because there is virtually no grass, but there are a lot of small goat farms, and the old goatherds can be seen taking their goats from one patch of campo to another, always with a dog to help keep the herd together, but we do not see goat meat in our butchers shops, nor goat's milk very often, so I have often wondered what they do with them. So I was happy to go to a farm to find out. Of course it was a much bigger farm and was run on commercial lines. The first thing that happened when we got there, was that we were given blue plastic overshoes to put on. At first we thought it was so we didn't contaminate their floor in the milking parlour, but then we realised they were actually to keep our shoes clean for the rest of the day!
Then we all went into the milking parlour to see the goats file in and each one went to an empty stall and stood patiently waiting for their turn to be milked.
We learned that each goat on average yields two litres of milk, twice a day. From this farm, all the milk was taken to a factory in Lubrin village to be made into President cheese. From other farms it goes to other outlets to be bottled for sale, or made into yoghurt and other cheeses. We also learned that some of the goats are taken to the local slaughter house and anyone can buy the meat direct from there. I may try that one day. If it is cooked well, goat meat is delicious.
This one was a real poser!
Next we went to the holding pen where more goats were waiting to be milked. They were very friendly though if you stood too close, they would eat your clothes. I was wearing a wool wrap-around shawl and the fringes of that proved very tempting!
But I managed to get close enough to this one to stroke her without getting chomped.
After they had been milked they moved onto another pen in a big barn, where they were fed by a 'robot' machine that ran along rails around their pens, dropping food as it went, so the goats had to put their heads through the railings to eat it. They soon all jostled themselves into a space and tucked in to their feed.
At some time each day they were all taken out onto the campo to graze as well. They had well over a thousand goats on the farm, and around twenty goatherds who each had a set of animals to care for. I asked our guide about the little local goat farms we see everywhere and she said that they keep their goats for milk and meat which they use themselves and sell to their neighbours and friends.
Then came the bit I liked best when we were taken to the nursery pen to see the babies.
I got to cuddle one of them because I rescued her as she tried to make a bid for freedom!
I made another friend on my way back. This pale mule and I had quite a conversation together.
They I gave him a quick pat Goodbye, and went back to the bus.
Our next stop was at a honey factory as they called it, though I guess processing plant would be a better name. Here we were given breakfast (at about 12.00!) which we were all ready for by then. They toasted bread rolls for us and encouraged us to try drizzling olive oil on it and then honey, and although it sounds an odd mixture, it was really tasty. They also offered big flat, sweet loaves with a honey and nut topping that are a local specialty, and they were lovely. They showed us a frame taken from one of their hives, with all the bees moving around inside it.
and explained how the honey is extracted from these, and what the different types of honey are. They had some flavoured with herbs, and some from bees that live in the orange and lemon groves, others that live among the almond trees and others that collect pollen from a mixture of wild flowers. We got to taste some honey with the honeycomb still in it, and then if we wanted to, we could buy some of their products. We bought a squeezy bottle of 'mils flores' honey which is made from a the pollen of a particular wild flower that is abundant in that area around this time of year, and it contains something which prevents the honey from crystallising when it gets cold. The label on the back of it says "honey from the mountains and plains of Almeria". I also bought some honey and lemon handcream that a friend recommended to me. It smells lovely and is non-greasy which I like.
Then we decided to buy a little treat for Christmas, a jar of honey with walnuts in it, and a bar of honey chocolate. (The honey boiled sweets are just for my sore throat of course!).
Our last stop was the building right next door which was an olive press. This was the most interesting of the three places and I learned a lot from our excellent guide.
We started at the big hopper where anyone can come with their olives. It doesn't matter whether they are from a big farm with huge lorries full of olives, or an individual householder who only had a couple of trees in their garden.
The olives go into this hopper which sends them up a conveyor belt where air streams blow away any twigs and leaves, and stones fall through, and then it weighs them and tests them to see what type they are and what quality. According to the readout from this analysis, the olive grower is given a chitty saying how much oil they can have.
The olives went trough various machines where they were washed and then crushed.
Eventually the oil trickles out into a vat and from there it is bottled.
If a grower brings in more than 500kg of olives, they are able to process them themselves, and bottle the oil under their own label to sell. This family were working together on their own harvest and they had a good yield of oil. They were very friendly and happy to have their photo taken. Their oil is newly pressed so it is a disgusting muddly green colour, but gradually the sediment will settle and the oil will clarify.
The rest of the olives that come in to the press are all processed together so the oil you get is not actually from your own olives. It passes through the press and into one of these huge metal vats.
There are scales up the side of them like the viewing window on the side of an electric kettle, so they can see how full they are. In these vats the oil rests while the sediment settles and then it is syphoned off from above the sediment, and bottled on this machine which is set to inject 5lts into each bottle.
It then passes along a belt where it is capped and labelled and ready to sell or exchange for the chitties that the olive growers are given.
And of course I bought some. We chose a 2 litre bottle as I already have a small bottle at home and a little goes a long way. It is Extra Virgin oil and you won't get it much fresher than that. He told us that it had to be less than 0.2% acidity to be classed as Extra Virgin.
He also told us that it keeps good for up to four or five years, but the press is only open from late October until the end of February and by then they will have sold out of their oil and everything will be cleaned and ready for the next season. They only make Virgin oil there so the sediment from the bottom of the tanks is sold on to another factory where it is heat treated to extract more oil which is used for canned fish etc. The pips which are separated in the pressing process are used as a fuel for heating, so nothing is wasted. It was a really interesting day.
When we left the press, we still had half an hour before the meal we had booked at a restaurant in the village, so our coach driver took us up to a miridor above the village so we could see the view and take pictures of the village below us.
As with most villages out here, the church is the dominant feature and Lubrin has a very impressive one.
Once back down on lower ground, we were taken to this restaurant.
It nestled in a hollow below this big hill which is in fact a marble quarry. This area is known for its fine white marble which is highly prized for buildings, and statues. All along the promenade at Garrucha, the next resort along the coast from Mojacar, there is a balustrade of white marble from the local quarries.
Our bus drivers family were from Lubrin, and they had worked in the quarry going back at least four generations, and it is still a working quarry now. I wouldn't want to live that close to it when they are blasting!
We then had a lovely meal in lovely company, followed by a sleepy drive back home.
We got home around 6.00 just as the sun was setting, so I have one nice sky photo to close with, taken through the car window as we reached our village.
Sorry that was rather a long story, but I hope you found at least some of it interesting. Now I will link up with Rocking Your World and Annie's Friday Smiles and then I am ready for my bed.