Friday, January 25, 2019

Rocking Your World 2019; Week 4

Here we are, almost a month into the new year, and how time is flying by. I have had a relatively easy week, even though I was out and about each morning. We have had a week of blue skies, and warm days, and we made the most of this on Sunday afternoon with a walk along the sea front at Garrucha, the next beach along from Mojacar. It was fairly quiet along the promenade though there were a good few Spanish families in the bars and restaurants enjoying a late lunch. Although it was warm, the sun was quite low so we cast long shadows on the sand.
Half way along the promenade you have to leave the beach at the entrance to the fishing harbour. Garrucha is still very much a fishing town, and the fish is brought in each morning and auctioned in a shed at the end of the harbour, much of it going to local restaurants, but also to the big hotels etc in the cities, of Madrid, Almeria and Granada. Their most famous catch is the Garrucha red prawns. As this was Sunday afternoon most of the boats were docked, and we picked our way between huge mountains of nets, laid out to dry or be repaired.
At the end of the harbour, a short walk through the car park and round a couple of bars, brings you to the new marina, where many fancy yachts and cruisers were bobbing around in their berths. Beyond them is the industrial dock, where all week there is a steady flow of large lorries bringing gypsum from the mines at Sorbas, to be loaded onto long barges for distributions to far away places.
We also saw this very old 'pirate ship' in dry dock. It looked strange sitting among all the modern vessels. It would have been fun to watch it being lifted out of the water.
I took this picture walking back to the car. It looks like a beautiful tropical island doesn't it?
This commercial photo from the internet, explains our walk much better than I can.
You can clearly see the industrial dock front left, with a barge waiting to be loaded. To the right of it are the neat rows of berths in the marina. Beyond that, the small rectangle of water is the fishing port with the long auction shed at the far end. Then comes the lovely stretch of golden beach, which has a sharp turn inland and then continues for several kilometers of Mojacar Playa. We are so lucky to live in this beautiful place.

On Tuesday we had a very interesting House group discussion about the life of Jesus between the age of twelve when he got 'lost' in the temple, and the age of thirty when his real ministry began. It is not a time that we often give much thought to, but it brought up some good questions and lively discussions.

On Wednesday I went to my sewing group, and easily sold my lemon curd and two more batches I had made. I was given a big bag of grapefruit on Sunday, so I will be making marmalade with some of them next. Now I no longer take statins, I can eat grapefruit again, and I love them, so they won't all be going into marmalade!

On Thursday Chris and I were down at the sea-front again, in Mojacar this time, as Chris had an appointment for an eye-test. They were very thorough so we were in the opticians for quite a while and as it was lunch time when we came out, we decided to stop for a drink and snack. We were not at our usual end of the beach, but it is nice to try out a new place sometimes, instead of always going to the ones we know are good. The place we chose was called Reina mora, which translates as Blackberry queen, but here perhaps Black Queen is more likely. It was a cut above our usual coffee stop, with a patio covered in artifical grass, smart furniture and very well dressed waiters. But they brought us very good tostadas as ordered, plus a freebie slice of tortilla and bread, Chris had coffee and I asked for té ingles - English tea. It actually came in a china pot with a jug of cold milk and a decent size cup. It used to be a risky thing to order in a Spanish café and I have had all sorts of awful brews. I think the worst one was in Lorca when they gave me a cup full of hot milk with a tea bag floating it. In fairness to our Spanish friends, they usually drink camomile or mint tea, but they are gradually learning what the British like, and I was impressed with my drink this week.
It looks a bit empty in this photo but there were actually quite a lot of folks on the tables behind me, and we chose to go there as was busy, usually a sign that the food etc is good.
Today I went to Turre market. I haven't been there for quite a while, as the parking in Turre is dreadful, especially on market day. But I managed to squeeze into a space in one of the back streets today. It was lovely to walk around the market without needing a coat or even a jumper. As usual the fruit and vegetables were fresh and colourful. It always gives me lift to take in the sights and smells of the local markets.
I put a load of washing on the line before I went out and it was all dry by lunch time - another thing to be grateful for.
Then we went for our usual Friday Fish and Chips at the local camp site. It was such a perfect day we opted to sit out on the patio to eat. We usually go inside for the air-con when it is too hot outside in the summer, and then to escape the flies and wasps as the seasons change. But today the temperature was just right, there was no wind to cool our food too fast, and just cool enough for the bugs to stay away. We were so comfortable there, we even stayed long enough for me treat myself to a slice of White chocolate and ginger cheesecake, with butterscotch sauce. Very naughty but very nice! Normally we just have our main meal, and then have ice-cream out the freezer and a cup of tea when we get home, so it was nice to have a change.
As there is no choir practice tonight so I knew I could write this post later, I spent an hour or more sitting out on the porch this aftyernoon, doing some crochet. I wanted to try the second test piece in the new technique I shared last week. It was a challenge, but with much undoing and redoing, I managed the first nine rows. Hopefully I will have succeeded in making it by next week so I will show it then.

Of course, now it is night time it is much colder again, though I haven't felt the need to put my little electric fire on down here yet. Chris is watching the football in the main room, so I expect the fire will be on in there when I join him later. The dogs have been coming in for a while in the evenings. They don't stay for long, but they like to climb onto the sofa and have a bit of fuss sometimes. Usually it is Kim up there, but Foxy has decided there is room for her too if she doesn't make a fuss. They even made a space for Chris to sit between them.

The warm weather is bringing lots of flowers out ahead of their usual time. This week it is the bright, acid yellow oxalis. The oxalis in England are usually pale pink to white, and they are grown as garden plants, but out here they are all yellow and they grow like weeds everywhere. I saw a field this week that was as yellow as the fields of rapeseed I have seen in UK in the summer. They are quite delicate little flowers, but very pretty, so I was happy to see this patch pushing up through the fence from next-door.

Although the sun is out in the day, each afternoon the clouds begin to gather which means there is often a nice sunset. We had a stunning one on Wednesday which I sat and watched for twenty minutes at the most, and in that time if changed from a bright line of gold, through orange to fiery red, and then almost purple before it disappeared. Apologies to those who have already seen these on my Facebook post, but they are too beautiful not to show them again here. In the order they were taken...

So now I will link up with Rocking Your World, and Annie's Friday Smiles, and then have another go at my crochet trial piece.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Rocking Your World 2019; Week 3

First of all I am so sorry that I didn't manage to visit everyone last week, and a big Thank you to those who still visited me and left comments. I am trying to post earlier today so I have time to visit others before I go out this afternoon. 

So here is my Smile this week. This is our youngest son Ben, (on the right), all dressed up for his part in the Pantomime at Perton, Wolverhampton, this week. These two are Snatcher and Scarper, the 'annoying tax collectors'. The Harlequin Pantomime Company put on a show each January, and after three shows they are getting great reviews. There is still tonight's performance, plus the matinee tomorrow afternoon and the Grand Finale in the evening. I would love to be there to watch him, and my daughter-in-law who is in the chorus, but it isn't possible so soon after my November visit. I did manage to get there a few years ago, and I was really impressed at the standard of their show.

And now for my week. We had a bitter sweet service at church on Sunday. The music, message and fellowship were wonderful as ever, but we had to bid a very sad 'Good-bye' to special people. Keith is struggling with some health issues so they decided it was time to return to UK, to live near family and friends. Sue is a wonderful pianist and she has played for all our services ever since the church opened four years ago. (She played at our previous church too). They were active members of our house group, attending regularly and often hosting or leading a session. Sue is also the one who has gathered together a small group of us, and trained us to sing  a song or two at special services, such as our Spanish lullaby at the carol service in December. So they will be sorely missed. 
On a more  personal level, they were our friends. Until I had Ben's 'spare' piano out here, Sue lent us hers for my music evenings at home whenever Ben was over, and always played for us as well. As yet we do not have a permanent replacement pianist for the church, but we have one or two who will help out when they can.

On Tuesday, this was the photo in the English papers, and local media network.
It was the opening of the long awaited airport at Corvera. This is quite close to Murcia airport which is now closed to public flights. People who have already booked flights to Murcia, will be automatically transferred to Corvera. It was opened by King Philipe, and the first flight in was  a Ryanair plane from East Midlands, which managed to land a few minutes before the Royal jet landed! For us the journey will be very much the same as before, so we won't notice a huge difference, except there will hopefully be better facilities, as everything is new.
We have always travelled to Murcia airport using the toll road, which opened ten years ago, just as we arrived here. It is expensive, but the road is so straightforward, with hardly any traffic, so it is worth it for us. We can still use it for part of the way to Corvera and we may decide to do so, as this week the toll fee was reduced by 30%, and made free between midnight and 6.00am, so that is all good news for us.
On Tuesday afternoon I went to the local campsite for a Brexit meeting. It was ill-timed as nothing was certain, and a lot rested on the vote later that night, but they didn't know that when the meeting was arranged. I was very surprised at the turnout for it. Luckily it was a sunny afternoon so they were able to use the outside patio.
The main part of the new bar, just inside the glass enclosure was also full, and by the time I arrived it was standing room only.
It was an interesting meeting, opened by our Lady Mayor, with short presentations from the British Consulate, the health department, the tax office, the legal adviser for the voluntary group called Ex-pats in Spain, and their leader. Then they each sat at a table and we were invited to queue up at any, or all, of them to ask questions. They promised they would not leave until everyone's questions had been answered. Obviously they couldn't give us any definitive answers, but they were able to dispel a few worries and kill some rumours, and they gave us information on special web-sites we can sign up to to get updates on everything as they happen. So I was glad I went. Now we just have to wait and see what happens!

We have had some beautiful sunny days this week, and although our usual sitting area in the porch is shady quite early in the afternoon, the back of the house is a sun-trap, so we have been sitting out there most days for a while, and have even eaten our lunch out there one day. As I sat in the corner I noticed a small butterfly on the wall that had just emerged from the cocoon below it. It sat in the sun for a long time, while its wings dried and pumped up. Unfortunately I couldn't stay there long enough to see it open them to fly away. I am sure it is not really the season for new butterflies to be emerging.
Also while we were out there, I leaned over the railings and spotted the first blossom on the old almond trees in the green zone. The trees are very old, and not cared for at all, so they are well passed their best, but they still mange to produce some blossom each year, and occasionally a traveller will come through and collect some nuts.

Although the afternoons are sunny, and quite warm, as soon as the sun sets it is chilly. Our fire has been playing up so some evenings we have been making good use of my crocheted blankets. I am still working on my Havana blanket , but I don't want to show the progress until it is done. But this week I saw a new pattern which I loved, and it intrigued me as it uses a technique I have never tried. I have been crocheting almost since I could walk, so I didn't think there was too much more to learn, but there are some very talented folk around, and wonderful designers. This particular blanket is made using Interlocking filet crochet, where you work with two contrasting colours, doing one row of the main colour, then going back to the start and doing a row of the alternate colour, then turning round and working one row back in each colour, working through one with the other, so the two pieces are interlocked. Depending whether you work through from the front or back, you see one or other colour, so it is possible to form a picture. Sounds complicated doesn't it, and I wasn't sure whether it was for me. But thank goodness for Youtube and clear tutorials. Before starting on her blanket, the designer suggested we work two small test pieces so I decided to have a go. I had to unpick bits a few times, but then it suddenly clicked, and I managed to do the first swatch, so I was quite proud of myself. apparently you are never too old to learn new tricks. 
I shall have a go at the second test piece soon, which I understand is a bit more complicated. Whether or not I go on to make the blanket remains to be seen. I have four projects on the go at the minute so I will not start anything new until some of them are finished, but it is definitely earmarked as a possibility for the next one!
I had an exciting day yesterday, when Chris helped me to finance the order of some new furniture for my craft room. Ever since I had my new computer desk, wall space has been at a premium, and all my card, and many embellishments are stored in a tall filing cabinet which only fits in at a right-angle to the wall, effectively making a dark alcove in the corner so it is hard to see what I want from in the cupboard. Also there is a stack of boxes in front of it that has to be moved whenever I want to open the doors. On the other side I have some purpose built shelves that hold the "Really Useful Boxes", and I find them wonderful. It is so easy to get to anything I want. So the cabinet is to go, and the tall tower of plastic drawers next to my desk, which is old and shakey and has too many ledges to gather dust, and in their place will be a tall double set of boxes on one side, and a narrow tower of deep boxes on the other. It should make the room a lot lighter, my materials more accessible, and be a good incentive for me to sort through everything and get rid of what has not seen the light of day for some years! I don't know how long it will take to arrive, but I know from the ones I have already got, that it will be very easy to assemble, and I can't wait to see it all in place.
In the meantime I have been busy in the kitchen again. I was given a bag of bitter oranges on Wednesday so yesterday was another marmalade day. There were enough oranges to do two batches so I now have 36 jars on my table, just waiting for their labels before I store them on the shelves in the garage.
For each batch of marmalade I make I use 2kg of oranges and 5-6 lemons, so I am working through the ones on our tree, only picking them as I need them. There is still plenty on there at the minute which is great, as I usually have to buy the lemons. You can now clearly see the next generation of fruit forming, so it is looking hopeful for next year's crop too.
And I think that is just about it for this week, so i will just link up with Rocking Your World and Annie's Friday Smiles, and I promise I will visit everyone else this week as well.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Rocking Your World 2019: Week 2

I seem to have been busy all week without achieving a great deal, but all the groups I attend are back in force, so I have been to my house group, sewing group and tonight my choir, and they keep me busy. 
Of course, this is a very special week here in Spain, as Epiphany or Three Kings Day, on January 6th, is a huge celebration which far exceeds Christmas. And in my village, that means that Sunday was a fiesta, starting with the arrival of the three Kings down the main street, riding three handsome horses.
They had already "arrived" the previous nights, driving round the streets on a float, and ending at the marquee on the car park to hand out gifts to the local children (provided by their parents!). But Sunday is the real fiesta.
The Kings arrive at the palace of King Herod to inquire where the newborn king was.
An angry Herod dispatches his soldiers to hunt for the baby, and demands the death of all male babies under the age of two.
The pattern of this little play is very much the same each year though they did introduce a few small changes this year, including having one soldier who was English!
After the play our lovely local priest, Father Miguel, held an open air mass on the plaza.
Then the medieval market was officially open.
This included lovely, old-fashioned rides for the children...
..... plenty of food of course, which this time included a huge vat of migas, a mixture of flour added to oil and water and chopped up, with sweet peppers, choritzo, garlic and other sausages added at the end.
This is dolled out free of charge to anyone who is willing to queue up for it.
Migas is not one of our favourites, so we chose, instead, to sit in the peaceful setting of the Moroccan tent, to eat delicious wraps, so well filled we had trouble handling them!
One area I love to visit is the display of owls and other birds of prey. This year he didn't bring the snakes that are usually there too, but he had some beautiful birds. I chose to get up close and comfortable with this gorgeous Siberian owl. She was the size of the Eagle owl but white instead of brown, though she doesn't look very white in this photo.
She was very used to being handled and let me stroke her breast feathers that were so soft and downy. (I had my compression gloves on because my arthritis was bad that day, but I wished I had thought to remove them before holding the owl.).
At various times throughout the day, the handler took his falcon around the market and let it fly freely through the crowds. It often chose to sit up on the wires above us, but then it swooped down, giving some folk a bit of a scare!
In the evening, many stalls were packing up, ready to move on to a new venue the next day, but a street entertainer stood in the road juggling with fire.
He only had a small audience as it was getting chilly, and most people had had a long day and were ready for their warm houses or a local bar. But he was quite skilled and showed good composure and balance when he managed to keep a glass sphere on his head while juggling.

In other news, the starlings came back on Monday, this time flying below me in the green zone, and all coming in to land in the trees.
They were so noisy, and Arwen sat at my craft room window trying to follow them, looking utterly bemused. They kept taking off, forming a 'cloud' and settling again throughout the day, which is quite unusual. I have normally only seen them at dusk, and occasionally early in the morning. We had some workmen in that afternoon, and they couldn't get over them flying around us. I think we need to get the power washer out for the patio now. They disappeared that evening and we haven't seen them since. But the temperature at night has dropped really low this week, so they have probably set off for their winter home somewhere a bit warmer.

Yesterday we took Kim to the vet, to visit the groomer who has a room at the surgery. Knowing how difficult this was last time, the vet started off by giving him a sedative to calm him, but I sat with him for half an hour and it didn't seem to have a lot of effect. We only wanted him stripped out a bit, not too much while it is cold, the knots behind his legs removed, his tail combed through, and a closer shave up to his tail. He is such a gentle giant who loves people, including children, and is good with other animals. He demands attention, and pesters all the time to have his head and shoulders rubbed, but go more than halfway down his back, and that's a 'no-no'.  So fair play to the two girls grooming him, who managed to do all I asked. They kept him for four and a half hours, as every time he got too agitated, they stopped and dealt with a different dog, and then came back and did a bit more. He sulked for the rest of the day. He tends to chose to stay outside, but we did coax him in to lay on the settee in the evening, but he hadn't forgiven us by then.
The face says it all really!
Between driving to and from the vets, and getting the last of my Christmas decorations stowed away in the proper place in the garage, I did manage to make my first seventeen jars of marmalade. The kitchen smelled wonderful. A big improvement on the smell when I am making pickles! These will soon sell at church and my sewing group, so I hope I get given some more bitter oranges before the end of their season.
I had a good day yesterday, managing to get two loads of washing done and dried outside, and completed most things on my 'to do' list, but at the last minute I remembered I needed to empty my recycling bins. I have three big bins outside the kitchen door, for plastic and cans, paper and cardboard, and glass. They fill up alarmingly fast, so when they are starting to overflow, I take them to the big recycling bins at the edge of the village. I decided I just had time to get them done before it got dark, and on the way I stopped to take a photo of this sky. The pale pink mass was streaming out from some low dark clouds, and it looked so pretty.
And now it is time to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and then get ready for choir practice.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Rocking Your World 2019; Week 1

Well, here we go again. The start of a New Year, and in many ways I am grateful that I don't know what it has in store for me.  But whatever it is, I feel I am up to the challenge, and I shall do my best to face it all with a smile. I saw this little post on Facebook this week, and I thought I would share it as it is the perfect challenge for each one of us, and fits exactly the idea behind "Rocking Your World".
So I encourage everyone to see the good in each situation, and to be grateful for all they have, and then to share their happy moments with us in this challenge.
As is usual for us, we had a very quiet New Year's Eve. Here it is known as Noche viejo, which means Old night, and it is usually spent with family and close friends, at home. So most bars are closed, and the streets are quiet, though in some places it is a custom to go out at midnight banging pans etc together, and making as much noise as possible to keep the bad spirits away from the new year. Also at midnight, in most homes and on the town plazas, people come out with glasses of cava, and twelve grapes which they eat on the twelve dongs of the Town Hall clock. I challenge you to try it. It is no easy feat, to eat them all without choking! 
However, we stayed in front of a warm fire to eat our grapes and raise a glass together. 
This year we did not tune into the Spanish channel to watch the celebrations in Madrid, though we did hear a few firecrackers out on the street. But we watched the live video of fireworks that our son sent from his roof terrace in Denmark. They are in the same time zone as Spain. And then we managed to stay awake for another hour and enjoyed watching the fireworks in London at 1 o'clock our time. I took this photo of our television, and I was quite pleased with it.

The excellent weather our grandson enjoyed over Christmas with us, ended the day he went home, and we had a rather wet and cold weekend. But then, although we woke up to grey skies, they soon cleared and there has been some lovely sunshine during daylight hours. One morning, we needed to be up a bit earlier than usual, so I saw the 'sunrise'. In fact what I saw was a small crack appearing in the cloud-cover so long rays of sunshine escaped and shone down on the edge of our village.
We were also up quite early on Thursday as the gas man comes round the street to replace our empty gas bottles with full ones, and we use them more quickly while the fire is lit each evening. If we want him to stop we put an empty orange gas bottle by the gate and when he sees it he sounds his horn to tell us he is there. I don't know what it is about his horn, but it must be just the right frequency for the dogs, and Kim starts up a wonderful wolf howl, and usually Foxy then joins in. They rarely do it anywhen else, but I like to hear them, though we do quieten them down again for the sake of the neighbours.
Anyway, while Chris dealt with the gas man, I went out the back, attracted by the noise of birds, and I was lucky enough to see a murmuration of starlings, swooping around above the green zone. They were not as close knit as I have seen in UK, but they were still wonderful to watch as they all flew together, and changed direction with no collisions, and then  swept passed again. The sky was just full of little birds.
After a while they stopped to rest, some on the telegraph wires..... Could they squeeze any more on that top wire?
Some covered the roofs of the villas, enjoying the early sunshine...
Some even sat on a tree just behind our house so I was able to get a close-up photo. They look like juveniles to me.
Then they all took off again and slowly went their separate ways.
Such a treat to start the day with this show.

I hope everyone had some lovely presents for Christmas. I was lucky to get a new craft machine that enables me to put gold foil images and greetings on my cards. I haven't had time to play with it much yet, but the possibilities are endless. Chris also bought me this necklace that he knew I liked when we saw it at a Christmas market a little while ago. It is a Swarovski Crystal and has flashes of deep pink. purple, gold and blue in it. It looks lovely over the plain green top I bought in UK, and on sunny days it send little sparks of rainbows everywhere. A photo can't do it justice, but this was my best attempt. As you can see, it has a rope of tiny, pretty, beads instead of a chain.

Yesterday I decided I needed to cut back some branches of my little lemon tree, as they had dropped under the weight of the fruit. While I was picking a few of them, I noticed half a dozen of next years crop on there. They are an unusual tree in that they can hold, ripe fruit, new fruit and even blossom all at the same time. So I started by making some lemon curd, something I haven't done for years. I really like it, and it turned out well, but it is not something we will use a lot of. I know it has a relatively short shelf-life so I made just four small pots of it, one of which we are using and the others I will try to sell at church or my sewing group next week. If there is enough demand, I will then make some more. Hopefully this weekend I will get a lemon meringue pie made. We both really like that. I also like to keep a box of frozen lemon slices in the freezer to go in drinks. But quite what I will do with the rest of them I don't know. I will try to pass a few on, but many people have their own tree and don't need more.

When I did the shopping yesterday, I went to Lidl's and one of their special offers was chrome baskets with linen linings. I bought a smaller one for when I want to put bread rolls or cut bread sicks on the table, and a larger one for fruit. Chris says it looks more at home storing things in a garage! I told him it was modern kitchen-ware, and when I filled it up with fresh fruit from my shopping trip, I was very pleased with it!

Another unexpected purchase this week came yesterday. My microwave works quite hard, and I have had it for many years, but just lately the electricity in the house keeps 'tripping', which is very annoying when you are in the middle of cooking, and it kills my computer too. But we finally realised it only happened when the microwave was in use, so Chris said it was time to replace it. We managed to get one the same which means I don't have to learn a load of new settings. It is shiny stainless steel inside and out, and goes well in my new kitchen. (I cannot understand how a machine that can't have any metal pans or utensils used in it, can still be made from metal inside and out! But I like the look of it.) It is housed opposite the window so I couldn't take a photos without lots of reflections in its door.

I have managed to start deep-cleaning the house this week, starting with our bedroom. It is surprising how many things I found that I have been looking for!
But now I am tackling my craft room and that is a major undertaking. I am a messy crafter, and I am very bad at putting everything away when a project is finished. On top of that I am trying to rearrange things a bit, though there is not scope to move much. However I do have two printers - a small black ink lazer one used mainly to print the church newsletter each week, and a big colour inkjet one that can print my 12"x12" scrapbook pages. They both sit on my desk top and take up a lot of space, so Chris is going to make me a big shelf over my computer desk so I can stack them. My first task then, is to clear the computer desk of a huge heap of oddments. I'll give you an update when I emerge on the other side!!
Despite the mess, I did manage a little craft task yesterday, making a one page calendar for the wall above my computer. This is so important for me, and I often refer to it when I am chatting to our boys online. It doesn't need to be decorated by I like it to have a photo with it. This year I played around with masks and overlays in Photoshop, and came up with  a composite that included the two of us, and each of our boys with their partners. It will be nice to have them smiling at me whenever I look up. I printed one off for Chris as well, for his office.
So now I will link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World, and I encourage you to join us there, and smile along with us, and share what you are grateful for as the New year rolls out before us.