Friday, December 29, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 52

Well we've rocked to the end of another year, and I am sure you will all agree that it has flown past. So I had to do a really quick post to say Goodbye to 2017.

Here is today's smile, a group of photos I posted as usual on Facebook, Christmas morning., with the caption, "Raising a glass to family and friends, both near and far. Happy Christmas to you all. Have a wonderful day". It does, of course, show Chris and I, but also our grandson Mikey who has spent Christmas with us again this year, and Kim and Foxy who didn't want to be left out.
As you can see, we were blessed with a lovely sunny day, and blue skies that lasted all day.
As I had already cooked a full Christmas dinner for our son and his partner, a week ago, and also a roast beef dinner for us on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day we went out to dinner, and had a very nice meal, with live music and friendly folk all around us, which was great. As we left the restaurant at around 4.30, I took this photo of the Cabrera mountains, with a still blue sky behind them. I love the uneven tips of this range, which are so different from the smooth rounded mountains that are all around us.
Another little smile is this pink miniature rose, which has a sprinkling of stardust for Christmas. It is so pretty that I wanted to share it while it is still at its best

And finally just one evening sky photo. All week it has been warm and sunny for most of the day, with the exception of Thursday when it was grey and there were high winds that tipped over plants pots and scattered garden debris everywhere. So each evening the clouds were blown together to form some rather ominous banks, but the setting sun still caught them, and made them look far less menacing.
We had one spectacular sunset, but as I was deep in conversation with my son and his family on Skype, I didn't get any photos of it! But of course I'd rather be chatting to family that out with my camera!

Unfortunately, today finds me full of a head cold that is doing the rounds here, so now I am going to go back to the warmth of the sitting room for a lazy evening. Tomorrow our Grandson goes home, and I expect we will have our usual very quiet New Year's Eve at home, watching the celebrations on TV in the big cities, and an hour later, watching the ones in UK.

So I will now link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World. Thank you to Annie and Virginia for keeping us all smiling all year.

Wishing all my followers a very Happy, Healthy and Peaceful 2018. May it bring you all you are hoping for. See you again next year!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Rocking your world 2017: Week 51

Here we go, rocking again as we look at what has made us smile and be grateful for this week. So first up is good old Santa Claus. 
This is actually our second son, dressing up to be Santa on the float that goes round his village in Shropshire. He looked the part, and I gather he was very popular. His 'elf helpers' knock on doors to collect money for the Severn Hospice, where my son is a Fund-Raising Advisor. Mike was so good at it that he was able to hug his two Grandsons standing by their Uncle's house, without them knowing. But he sort of gave the game away when he called out as he moved on "See you boys" and 6 year old Isaac said "That's my Grandad's voice"!
Members of the Round Table used to send a similar float around our town (just a few miles from the village where Mike lives), and my younger sons used to love going outside to watch it pass. Even my mum who was approaching 90 in her last year, would always wrap up in layers of clothes and walk to the end of the drive to see it. Lovely traditions that keep the magic of Christmas alive.

As I wrote my post last week, we were just home from seeing our son and his partner on to their bus at the end of their visit, and the next day we drove to Murcia airport to collect our grandson who is here with us until 30th. On his first evening we all went over to the plaza for a village Christmas market. We held the first village market back in the spring, and it was deemed successful enough to try again. Any businesses operating within the village were able to have a stall. As a precaution a second big marque was set up on the car-park alongside the one that is always erected for Three Kings Fiesta, and all the stalls were arranged in there. It had been running all day, but we had been too busy to get to it. But when we went over around 6.00 there was still a good crowd there.

It all looked very festive with lots of trees and lights, and red poinsettias making a show of colour.
We went to watch a choir competition of Villancicos or carol singing, so in the photo above, the trading had almost stopped, and everyone is looking towards the stage, waiting for the singing to begin. I love to hear Spanish carols and Christmas songs. They sing with great gusto and are always accompanied by lots of hand clapping and instruments such as guitar, castanets and sound box. I don't think I have ever heard a slow or quiet villancicos! The choirs came from Vera, Bédar, Pulpi, Huercal-Overa, Turre, and our own Los Gallardos, and each dressed up for the occasion, and looked lovely. Here are the choirs from Pulpi (I think) and Huercal-Overa.

And here is our village Choir. They nearly always wear spotty print dresses, though not always in this colour.
We didn't stay right to the end as were beginning to feel cold, so we didn't learn which choir won the competition, but we went round to visit our local bar which has just opened after a two weeks closure for a complete make-over. It has all been painted white and light grey, and looks really light and welcoming.

As you drive around here, you often pass a sign warning that there might be deer crossing the road. I always thought this was a bit strange as I have never seen wild deer anywhere around, but this week, a friend, who lives in El Pinar, the first little white village up the hill behind us, posted this photo that she took from her garden.
These are Ibex, and they are a protected species. They look very cute but they do a lot of damage when there is insufficient scrub to graze on, on the campo, because they break through fences into the village gardens, and can strip them clean in one night. They ate all my friend's fruit and the leaves from her orange trees. Last year, the villagers got so fed up with them that they clubbed together to buy bales of hay that they put out on the roads for them, in the hope their gardens would be left alone. I'd love to see them in the green zone at the back of us, but I don't want my garden invaded, so maybe they are better staying where they are, up the hill a bit!

This has been a funny week, with my preparations all done almost a week early, and most of the special Christmas concerts etc, already behind us. But that does mean I have been able to spend time chatting to my grandson and catching up on his, and the family's news, also making good progress with my knitting, and reading more than I have managed for a long time. So I am feeling pretty relaxed as the big day approaches. But I haven't been altogether idle. When I was at the market last week I saw some lovely fresh root ginger and it reminded me that I have had several requests for more of my Hot chili and ginger jam. So on Monday morning I set to and made some. Quite a lot of it has already been sold.
Also, when we were sitting in the bus station with our son, waiting for their bus to arrive, I noticed there were a lot of fruit blown down from the ornamental orange trees planted along the side of the site. I know that most of the orange trees planted as street decorations, carry bitter oranges, probably to stop people picking them, so I collected up some of the best wind falls, and when I got home I cut one open, and sure enough it was bitter. So on Tuesday I made a big pan of marmalade. It is the first time I have had suitable oranges before Christmas, and I had the time to use them. I had run out of last season's marmalade (another first for me), so I am happy to have refilled my cupboard, though quite a bit of that has sold too. And there will, of course, be lots more oranges in January, so I will be making more. Here is this week's 'makes',  though this was taken after I had sold several jars at my Wednesday sewing group.

Now here we are at Friday again already. My grandson wanted to walk around Garrucha market so we went down this morning. It was another beautiful day and we got quite warm wandering around in the sun. We weren't looking to buy anything, but it was nice to be among the chattering crowd, all hunting for last little stocking fillers, and fruit and vegetables for their festive meals.
It is always hard to find a parking space in Garrucha on market day, but I headed straight for the port,  and we struck lucky and found a spot quite close to the market. As we walked to some steps leading up to the main road, we passed the row of small huts that belong to the fishermen, and I noticed this old man mending his nets.
I thought it was such a timeless photo. He has probably sat doing this for most of his life, and his father before him. I am not sure there are too many sons wanting to take on this rather precarious way of making a living though, which is sad. 

We took our few purchases back to the car and walked down onto the beach as Mikey wanted to get a closer look at the statue that stands at the edge of the sea, where the fishing boats come in to off-load their catch at the auction rooms. This auction used to be really fun to watch, as buyers bid for fish to take away and sell at the big hotels along the coast and in the cities, but it is mostly automated now, so not such fun for spectators. I think the statue is Virgen del Carmen del Mar, (the inscription had mostly washed away), and she is the Patron Saint of Garrucha and of Fishermen. It is one of the nicer statues, and she has a very tranquil face as she stands gazing out to sea.

As it was last week, the beach was almost deserted, though there were plenty of folk walking along the promenade. It is a long, flat, well paved walkway, secured by local white marble balustrades which the town is very proud of, and it is ideal for anyone wanting a sunny stroll.

I have just one pretty sky picture to end with. It is no different from many I have shown, but it is beautiful enough to be included.

Now I will just linkup with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking your World, and all that leaves me to do is to wish all my loyal followers, a Very Happy Christmas, and a Healthy, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 50

I am starting today with a big smile. As you know, I celebrated my 70th birthday in October, and at my family party, the boys told me that they were organising a special present but it wasn't quite ready in time, so to be patient for a while. Well our son came to visit us this week, and he brought it with him. I had no idea what was in the parcel, and it was such a surprise. Here it is.

A set of 'Russian dolls' each painted with a caricature of myself and my five sons. The artist has caught most of us pretty well. I am even wearing my favourite sunflower dress. It was a unique and well thought out present that will continue to make me smile for many years to come. 

We have had a lovely week, that started when we collected Ben and his partner Dave, from their flight to Alicante airport on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately I had to rush off to my last choir practice of the year soon after, but we had a short one and I was home again in plenty of time for us to go to a local karaoke session, where, as usual, Ben kept the crowd happy with his singing.
We took it a bit easier on Saturday and then on Sunday we had our Christmas dinner together - roast turkey and all the trimmings. After a doze, we then went to another karaoke session, but came home early to sleep!
Monday was special because we had one of our 'At home' music nights, that has become a tradition whenever Ben is over. We had twenty guests so the house was full, and the whole evening was a great success. Ben started us off with some of his own songs and piano music, and then did a few covers of popular songs, and then several of the guests took turns with him, singing any song of their choice which Ben cast to our TV so we could all follow the words and join in with the choruses.
This is Ben helping Robin with a song...
And this one shows the room with his piano set up. Ben took it, so the room looks empty as the only chance he got to take any, was when everyone went off to find the food!
After a refreshment break we did it all again, and some of us were still singing into the 'wee small hours'.
Tuesday saw us going out again, this time to the carol concert at our church. It is always a very special time, and this year we had a beautiful solo sung for us by Shaz, which has had a heap of likes when the video was shared on facebook. We all have lit candles for the singing of Silent night at the end, and one of the readers took a quick picture from behind a pillar at the front of the church.
Wednesday was our last night out, and it was for my choir's Friends and Family concert. As usual we sang to a full hall who were a very appreciative audience.
This time we had the same scarves as for the last concert, but they were worn around our shoulders and fixed with a sparkly silver star, which looked very nice for Christmas. We usually have a couple of songs sung by small groups from the choir, so here I am with my group, getting ready to sing "When a Child is Born".
We went straight from the concert to our favourite Chinese restaurant, which just happens to be the next building along the road! We took Ben and Dave there on their last visit and they wanted to go again, and as usual we had an enormous, very tasty meal. Half the choir with their guests were in there too.

Thursday we had a day off, but I had to go out at tea-time because on Tuesday I had a phone call to say my MRI scan was on Thursday at 4.40. Not a very pleasant experience, but I am glad it is done, in plenty of time for the results to be with my consultant when I see him again at the end of January.

Today was the last day for our visitors so this morning we all went down to Garrucha to the big market that is held there every Friday. I haven't been to that one for ages, and I enjoyed wandering through all the stalls. Ben and I bought dried liquorice and mint to make our favourite tea, I bought lovely fresh vegetables, and we all bought jumpers, slippers etc, so it was a good trip. We then wandered down to the sea front to walk along to where the car was parked. It was the warmest day of the week, though probably not beach weather, and the sun was shining down from a blue sky, onto a long stretch of empty sand. That's the Spain I like.

All week the weather has been kind except for Monday when we were stroked by the very edge of storm Ana, the first storm in Spain to have been given a name. They were hit hard further north, but we just got a night of very high wind when everything rattled and banged, plants were over-turned and the pool was covered with garden debris. Then we had some much needed rain, but it didn't last. All the other days have been quite warm enough for us all to sit outside in the sun, reading and playing games on our lap-tops. By evening we have been glad to come in, close all the shutters and light the fire. I have been watching my home town in UK as it struggles with very cold weather and an unusually heavy fall of snow. I hope everyone is keeping safe and warm.
After our trip to the market we came home and had a cuppa while the menfolk packed their bags, and then we all went to the near-by campsite for our regular  Friday Fish and Chip dinner. Then we drove into Vera to see them onto their bus. They were going on to Benidorm for another week before returning to UK. It was windy in the bus station. Here are Chris and I, with Ben,  huddling up together while we waited for the bus. Dave took the picture. I look a bit wind-swept!

In the odd moments of this busy week I have been trying to finish off my last Christmas craft project, and last night it was finally done. I made a tree from thin card. It was a very clever cutting file that I bought from svgcuts, and cut on my silhouette cameo machine. It is lit from inside and looks really pretty. It was a fiddle to put the final pieces together, but I was determined to do it, and I am quite pleased with it now it is done.
And finally some sky photos all taken today. While we were in Vera bus station I noticed an interesting cloud formation. (I know there is a special name for it, but I can't remember what it is!).
A few more of these circles started to form, but then they slowly 'unformed' again, and drifted away.
An hour or so later as the sky darkened, there was a ferocious looking sun set. I can see him. Can you?
As usual, nothing stays the same for long and soon it changed into another, slightly less intimidating face, ...
... and eventually settled into a beautiful red sky  (I can still see a face in it, but that may just be me!), which soon faded to dark blue, and disappeared.

Hopefully this will be a quieter week, but not too quiet as tomorrow afternoon we are collecting our Grandson from his flight. He will be with us all over Christmas, and goes home on 30th December. So I am hoping we will get a few more days of sunshine for him.
Now I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World, and then go and find us some tea.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 49

Hi folks. I am trying to write a very quick post tonight (Thursday) as our son arrives tomorrow lunch-time, and I have choir practice in the evening, so it is not likely to get written then. 
So here is a little smile. Meet 'Santa's little helper'.
This lovely lady is Selina, who, with her sister, runs our Wednesday sewing group. This week she dressed up to deliver our Christmas presents to us. We were each given a lovely padded sewing box, and her sister Gloria had hand stitched and appliquéd a felt needle case to go with it.

It has been a lovely week which started with our crib service on Sunday morning. We rarely have children at our church as we are mainly a community of retirees, but for this service, some friends bring their children along, and as we listened to the readings and sang familiar carols, the children brought the corresponding characters to place in the stable. 

This little group are two English children with their two Spanish friends. It was lovely to have them there with us. So we now have a well-dressed crib.

On Monday evening we had one of my favourite celebrations of the season, the joint Spanish/English carol service at the old catholic church in Mojacar Pueblo. It is the traditional nine readings and carols, but the readings are alternately read in Spanish and English, and then both priest read the last one from St John's gospel. Similarly the carols are an English one and then a Spanish one, and at the end we all sing Silent Night in our own language, and surprisingly it works really well. (The Spanish carols are much 'jollier' than ours!)
Here are the Catholic priest in the purple cloak (he is a lovely man who is also priest in charge at the little church in our village), and next to him is our current Locum priest, who apparently spent several years here when he was much younger so he spoke fluent Spanish! The other people are from Mojacar council.
It is quite an unusual building for such an old historic church. As you can see it is light and airy, and behind the altar there is a really attractive fresco painted in pastel colours.
When the English people sing their carols they all sing together, but the Spanish ones are sung alternately by two choirs. The second one is referred to as a gypsy choir, and they sing with such gusto, They have amazing voices.
The man in red is playing his guitar, but there is also a more unorthodox percussion instrument which always makes me smile.

To add to the feeling that Christmas is coming, we came home from walking the dogs yesterday to find this propped up against our wall. It was upside down, and I was standing up close to it, and I couldn't for the life of me see what it was, though strangely it is perfectly clear in my photo.
An hour or so later the man was there with his lifting lorry, fixing it to the telegraph pole outside our house. It is a corner of our roof in the photo. So next week you will probably see a shining Santa outside our gate.

There was another 'super moon' this week. Did you see it? It really was huge and so bright here. Of course I tried to get photos of it again and ended up with one that is very much the same as the last time we had one, and also one with some nice light aberration around it.

I have been busy in the kitchen today. I had to do some quick shopping first as it was a bank holiday yesterday, and there is another one tomorrow,which means most of the shops are shut, so it had to be today. But after that I made another twelve dozen or so mince pies, so that is them all done and dusted for this year. I also made three cakes ready for my visitors, the last of which has just come out of the oven. Talk about multi-tasking, while writing this I have also been setting my Cameo machine to cut out a lot of files ready for one more craft project I am hoping to get done. I think it is the last set cutting now, but I have no idea when I will get it put together.

On my desk beside me I am burning my advent candle. I am already several days behind with it, so I am doing a catch-up. My sister Jean and I both bought them when we were shopping in UK. I wonder if she has been more efficient than me at burning it each day?!

One more happy is a cute little piece of crochet that I did this week. It is a special surprise so I can't show it until next week.

Now I will close with something that I found very interesting and exciting, though I know not everyone will. I was in the garden yesterday teatime to let the dogs round to the kitchen door for their tea, and I found the bright pink bougainvillea had grown even more and was dropping quite low over the gate. When I went to lift it up I saw quite a big, green, praying mantis on it. They fascinate me, (I was one of those strange people who kept, and bred, stick insects as a child. My brother said watching them was like watching paint drying, but I loved them). 
Anyway, as I looked closer at the mantis I suddenly realised she was laying her eggs. She lays them in a creamy white froth which hardens into a protective case and they will stay there for 3-6 months, depending on the temperature, and then anywhere between 30 and 300 babies will hatch out! They are welcome in the garden as they are one of the best predators for eating aphids and mosquitoes, but apparently they are also cannibalistic, and when they hatch, if there is no food immediately available, they will eat one another! So it recommends watching for them to hatch, and spreading them around the garden as soon as possible. The mother left them this morning, and I understand she will now die, though she may lay more eggs somewhere else first. As you can tell, I did some research on it after I found her.

Now I am going to schedule this to post tomorrow morning, and if I have time before we leave for the airport, I will link it with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World. I have a very, very busy week coming up, so hopefully I will get back to share it with you next Friday.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 48

Well my choir practice had to come first this week. It was a good evening and we are just about ready for our big Friends and Family concert in ten days time. Now I am shattered, but I am sure I can find a few things that have made me smile this week.
We have been see-sawing between bright blue skies and sunny days, and very cold evenings when it is great to sit in front of the fire with my knitting etc, and usually an animal or two to keep me company. 
Well yesterday the blue skies disappeared and for a day and a night we had the heavy rain that had been forecast. I am sure it did the ground a lot of good, and it means I don't have to stand around with a hose pipe for another week. It also meant that I had an extra long time to cosy up in the sitting room. I finished a book I have been reading and then got stuck into some crochet. In this photo, Tango is laying across my lap (he's far warmer than a lap blanket!), having an occasional swipe at my wool, and generally getting in the way of my work, Foxy is falling off her bed down below us, and Luna and Kim are sharing a settee. Paco was in there too, over on another chair. Chris was busy in his office, so I had music playing through my bluetooth speaker, and just felt very relaxed, peaceful and lucky. 

Today the warm sunshine was back and I got a big load of washing done, which dried outside and is now folded and put away. Another blessing!

On Tuesday I needed to do some shopping so I drove in to the nearby town of Vera. I know it was mid-week, and I was on the edge of the town, but everywhere was so quiet. There was none of the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle that is usually found in an English town by now. The big church on the town square had a few decorations on it, but where are the people?
The Town Hall had done their best. They even have their Christmas lights stretched across each street, which is quite early for Spain, but every other shop I passed was closed or boarded up.
I enjoy the build up to the festivities. This is the first week of Advent, which means some lovely ladies from our church spent a day this week getting our tree in place and building the crib, ready for the children to place the characters in during our service on Sunday.
Doesn't it all look lovely?
Of course their husbands helped too, doing the bits up a ladder, suspending stars from the archway, wiring lights etc, and I think they have all done a really good job. 
You can't see it in this photo, but there is a small table to the right where we have a small palm tree with lights and decorations. Many are wooden like this Baby Jesus in the manger, and they were brought over from Bethlehem, so they are very special to us.
One bit of Christmas preparation that hasn't happened here for a few years, is making the pudding. I love that warm, treacle and spice smell, but as I am the only one who eats it, it seems like a rather unnecessary amount of effort. But this year our son and his partner are coming over, and then my grandson the next week, so there will be some extra mouths to help me eat it up. Of course it should have been done back in October but I hadn't got my act together by then, so this week I finally got it done. Of course I had to take it in to Chris to have a stir and make a wish - traditions must be upheld!
Now two lovely puddings have been steamed and are wrapped up in the larder to mature a little before the first one is needed in a couple of weeks time.
I have also made a start on the 'mince-pie marathon'. I had promised some for the cake stall at the Chaplaincy Christmas fair on Saturday, so yesterday I got stuck in and made the first eleven dozen. I will need to do a few more, but that was a good start. I think I earned my afternoon with the animals.

It is almost time to harvest the new season's oranges, and it looks to be quite a good year, at least for some folk. This tree is in next door's garden, and sadly she only visits a couple of times a year, so much of this fruit will fall and rot, though her gardener and cleaner will eventually pick some of it. On the other side of our house we have another mostly absent neighbour, who has orange trees all down the side of her garden. They also have plenty of fruit on them. They do come to pick them around Christmas week, but lots of them hang over our fence, and we feel we can pick these, so I must go out there soon as they are beginning to drop and spoil.
Unfortunately we have no ground to plant fruit trees so we have one orange tree in a giant pot. Last year it yielded about two dozen beautiful oranges, but this year it only has four! I think we probably let it get too dry when the fruit was setting. Hopefully we will do better next year. 
We also have a new tree, that we bought last year. It is only a 'baby' yet and it only has one fruit on it. It is a mandarin tree and we have always wanted one. As only one fruit set this year I have been guarding it, and this week we are going to pick it, and eat half each! Then I shall cut back some of the thin trailing branches and hope it grows stronger for next year. It will need a bigger pot soon, but for now I am not going to disturb the roots.
I am happy to say that this week I have managed to post all of my Christmas cards, ahead of the two bank holidays that occur next week - a secular one, Día de la Constitucíon on Wednesday, and a religious one, Imaculada, on Friday. Hopefully all my cards will be away from Spain before these holidays. Now I just have to write the ones for my local friends that will be delivered by hand.
And finally here is one lovely sky photo that I took one night during this week. It was probably on Wednesday evening just as the rain clouds were gathering. I love all the layers of light.
Lovely isn't it?
And on that note I will say 'Bye' for this week, and link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and I will do my best to post next week. It will be our final choir practice on Friday and it is also the day our son arrives so I expect we will be going out in the evening to find some karaoke for him, but I will try to write it early - famous last words!