Friday, January 13, 2017

Rocking your world 2017: Week 2

Hi all. This has made me smile this week. With some very chilly evenings, I have been happy to leave my crafting den and go down to the sitting room which is warm and cosy, so I have managed to add quite a few more rounds to my 'Sophie's Universe' blanket. This is how she looked earlier this week.

She has more flowers in her garden, and now there is a band of butterflies flying round it too.
I have done another three rows since I took the photo and there are around seven more to go to complete the main pattern, and then there is a nine row, quite complex border. However I want this to cover the top of our king-sized bed, so I still don't think it will be quite big enough. The pattern designer, Dedri Ulys, also provided the pattern for two squares that are suitable to add as a row on either end for anyone who wants a rectangular blanket rather than a square one, and I am thinking I may do a row of them all the way around, (I want mine to be square), before I add the border. It is getting heavy and hangs on my shoulders, so I can only do one or two rounds at a time, but I can manage the squares just fine. I like the way it is coming along, and am pleased that I may reach my goal of finishing it this winter, before it is once again too hot to have on my lap as I work. Right now I am glad of the warmth, and it is Tango's favourite place to lay each evening, despite me keep moving him every time I want to turn a corner!

So, Yes, we have had some very chilly nights, and some cold winds during the day, but we have also had some beautiful days, and as long as you find a sheltered spot, out of the wind, there is real warmth in the sun. The thermometer on the Farmacia has shown between 16 and 20 degrees most days, so we have made the most of it, and spent a lot of time outside. One day when we wanted to go to do some special shopping, we decided to travel on down to Mojacar Playa to find some lunch, and we ended up at a nice little oriental place where we always have a good meal. It was warm enough to sit out on their patio and Chris is looking very eager as he samples his wine while we waited for our food.
We didn't have to wait long, and I think we did it justice when it came! We didn't leave much, did we?

The warm days have worked their magic in the garden. We have a succulent plant just beyond our back railings, that almost died when the mimosa trees and oleander overgrew it. But when we cut them right back, it started to perk up and two years ago it flowered for the first time since we came here. Last year I was sad to see there were no flowers again. But this year it has at least seven heads on it. I like cone shaped flowers, and this plant has lovely rosettes of glossy green leaves, and big cones of yellow daisy flowers. It is looking the best I have ever seen it this year.
After my sewing group this week, a friend said to me "Isn't it lovely to see those yellow flowers out again. It shows Spring is on the way". She was pointing at some yellow oxalis flowers. They grow like weeds along the road side out here, and the flowers are a bright acid yellow. They are usually one of the first flowers we see but I hadn't noticed any were in bloom. The first year we were in this house, the orange grove next door was carpeted with oxalis, so I wondered whether all the rain would make it the same this year. I know the seeds can lie dormant in the ground for many years if there is not enough rain to germinate them. So I went out to look, and sure enough, just around the edge I saw a few of the flowers. Whether they will cover the centre ground soon or not, I can't tell, but certainly we have a few now.
They are very delicate so we may lose them again. This weekend, we are due to get the tail end of the cold front that has hit UK this week, with the snow-line as low as 200 metres. We are lower than that, so we shouldn't be affected too much, but it could get a lot colder, and some of the plants and birds that think it is Spring, may be in for a shock!

Something that is much more in line with Winter in Spain, is the bumper crop of oranges that we see everywhere. The trees are laden down with fruit. A friend has offered me the bitter oranges from her tree to make marmalade, so I am waiting for a phone call to tell me when it is convenient for me to go and pick them. (She is the assistant at our vet, and she has seven rescued dogs that I have not met, so I don't want to go there unless I know she will be there too!). But in the meantime, a friend at church was given a bag of ten bitter oranges that she passed on to me, so today I decided to get on and use them while they are nice and fresh. I got them all prepared this morning. I like to juice them first and pressure cook the skins before I shred them. It makes it so much easier to do. So I got that done this morning and then Chris said we would go to our usual Friday haunt for fish and chips. I was happy not to have to stop what I was doing to cook dinner, and as usual the food was excellent. Again we were able to sit out in the sun to eat. Then when I came home I found all my washing had dried out on the line so that was another big 'grateful' as I have very limited space for drying clothes indoors.
Then it was time to get the marmalade boiled up and bottled. I have bought a new long-handled spoon, specially to use with my big preserving pan. It keeps my hands away from any hot splashes, but when I had added the sugar to the fruit it was really hard work to stir it and I had to use two hands. I felt I should be chanting spells like the old witch stirring her cauldron.
But it didn't take too long to get it up to temperature, and I think it will have a 'good set'. I made fourteen jars today, and they were soon cleaned, filled and labelled, ready to sell next week at church and at my sewing group. Hopefully I will soon have more oranges so I can make the rest of my supply for this year. I have a good market for it and I reckon to make between 100 and 150 jars each year. I love the smell in the kitchen when I am making marmalade. Much nicer than when I do the picallili!

I have spent some time in my craft-room this week because I am busy making invitations for our son's wedding in July. The front is cut from gold vinyl and transferred onto black card - their choice, not mine. Unfortunately I ran out of gold vinyl and when I went on the site where I bought it last time (back in Feb. 2014), I had no idea which one to buy. I had to guess, and when it arrived it was completely different so I wrote to the company. They couldn't have been more helpful. They traced my order from three years ago, and sent me details within a day, along with a personal letter. So this afternoon I re-ordered, hopefully the right one this time, and within an hour they had dispatched it. Brilliant. It will be here by the middle of next week. I wish more companies had customer service of that standard. Meanwhile I can get on with printing out the inserts for the invitations, as I need to get them made as soon as possible. Of course I can't show one here until they have sent them out, but one day I will.

Now I just have some pretty skies to end with. Mostly they have either been very bland and golden, or else a mass of grey clouds, but on a couple of days we had a good mixture that gave us these skies. I love the contrasting light and dark patches.

As you can see, this was taken on a windy day and you can see how the wind was whipping the tops of all the clouds. You can just see the vapour trail of a plane on the left. I couldn't help but think that they may be having a rather bumpy ride.

And finally this one. I just thought it was so pretty.

So now I will link with Annie's Friday Smiles and Rocking Your World, and I'll see you all again next week.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Rocking Your World 2017: Week 1

Hello and welcome to 2017. First I must apologise for failing to visit anyone except the host bloggers for these posts, last week. I didn't stop to do it on Friday as it was the last night for our Grandson before he flew home the next day. After that, I confess I just didn't get around to it, but I promise to do better this week!

I wonder how many of you are already sad about New Year's Resolutions that you made but know you won't keep to. I stopped making them long ago, as I will have forgotten them even before the will to try to keep them has faded. I put it down to 'old age' so when I saw this on Facebook I had to copy it to share with you. I am sure many of you understand why it amused me.

And what abut all those Christmas decorations? I expect for many of you, they have been down and packed away for a week or more, but I love them, and have always left them up until twelfth night. And, of course, here in Spain, twelfth night, known here as Tres Reyes, or Three Kings Day, is the most important day in the Christmas celebrations, so my decorations stay in place until tonight. I haven't shown a picture of any of mine this year, so here is a quick glimpse of my tree, before I start dismantling it later this evening.

No doubt you gather from that, that today is Three Kings day. It really kicked off last night when the Kings travelled around the village on a float. This is done much more elaborately in other towns but it is fairly low key in our village as we are the only place around here that has a proper fiesta today.

Nevertheless, there is always a good turn out to watch their arrival. You may notice that one of them (Baltazar) has a 'blacked' face. This has always been the tradition, but I read that in a few places this year, the Town Halls have invited someone with a darker skin to play the part. I hope political correctness doesn't ruin the customs out here. 
When the kings reach the plaza at the lower end of the village they dismount and go into the big marquee set up on the car park, and here they hand out gifts to the children. (The gifts are bought by the parents and taken to the Town Hall the day before). For some of them, this will be their first present of the season, while others will have already had small gifts from 'Papa Noel' on Christmas Day. Others will also find three gifts waiting for them the next morning, one from each of the kings. So it is a slightly jumbled story these days, but the Kings still remain as the bringers of good gifts. 
When the children receive their gifts in the marquee, they also get a handful of sweets, and have their photo taken with one of the kings.
We always have a little wander around and watch some of the children running around excitedly with their new toys. Then we look around the stalls in the medieval market and if I am lucky I get a little gift bought for me too! Often I chose a piece of jewelry as they have some lovely handmade pieces on sale. But this year, most of it was a bit chunky for me, but instead, Chris bought me a lovely red woollen wrap. I have a brown one that I have worn a lot this year. It is warm but less restrictive than a coat. I am not really a coat person. I think this red one is little warmer than the brown one, and it will be nice to have a different colour one some days. It also saves me wearing gloves to church because I can wrap my hands up inside it during the sermon!

We were a bit worried about the fiesta today, because our local forecast, which is normally quite accurate, was giving rain for today. But it started off quite bright and sunny and at 11.00 we walked over to the plaza where there was the usual re-enactment of the Kings visit to the palace of King Herod. Mostly the same men take part each year, and the play starts with the arrival of the kings who ride horses down from the top of the village.
Then the soldiers are dispatched to hunt for the new baby and kill him.
This year there was a new man playing the part of King Herod, and he was very good.
He spoke out very loudly and with emotion and the folk in the crowd were loving it. He got quite fierce when he walked out to the crowd and started brandishing his sword!
When the kings first process down through the village they are preceded by a group of children from the village, dressed up for the occasion, who hand out sweets to children in the crowd, from little baskets. 
Also there are some women from the village choir, who sing very exuberant songs throughout the play. I love to hear them, and they so obviously enjoy doing it.
While I was watching all this, I couldn't help but notice the lovely splash of colour in the planter next to me. I am sure these succulents are flowering out of season, but they looked good.
I felt I had stood still for long enough so I had a little wander around while the scene was changed. One of my favourite stands in the medieval market is the birds of prey. They all just sit on their perches but the beautiful eagle owl was camera shy and turned away whenever he saw a lens pointing at him. But I went around to the back of the stall and waited until he looked away from someone else, and I managed to catch him!
When I went back to the stage area they had set up an altar in front of King Herod's palace (I'm not sure what he would have thought of that), ready for an open air mass. We have a lovely parish priest, and although the mass is all in Spanish, it is surprisingly easy to follow. 
I was standing in full sun at the start of the mass, but ominous clouds were gathering behind the stage and just at the end, the rain started.
However, this didn't deter the people who all lined up in front of the priest. He was holding a model of the Baby Jesus, and each person from tiny children to the old and frail, took their turn to kiss the baby's knee, as is their custom on this day.
We decided to take shelter and we headed for the Moroccan tent where we knew we would be able to buy little glasses of hot, sweet, mint tea. We pay 2€ for a glass of it, but then we can take the glass home as a 'gift'. We have four of these now, so one more year and we will have a set!
At the end of the stall, the same men were serving doner-kebabs. We bought one large 'durum' which was a big tortilla wrap which they piled up with salad and meat and three salsas. It was huge and we took it home and shared it for our lunch. It was delicious too.
This afternoon, as I sat uploading these photos ready to write this post, I saw the sun trying to break through again. I was glad to see that, as the stalls in the little market rely on people walking around and buying their goods, including a lot of food that was cooked ready to serve after the mass. By the time I went out to feed the dogs at tea-time, there was a watery sun shiny through and lighting up our little lemon tree with its half a dozen fruit, the orange trees next door, and our ever resilient bougainvillea which is flowering once more. See how green the land is between the trees now. Sadly the men will be in with a rotivator to turn it all over again soon.
The marquee in the car park is at the back of our house, just across the green zone, and I could hear the band starting up ready for the dancing that will continue until the early hours of tomorrow morning. The folk out here love to dance, and they don't let a little bad weather spoil their enjoyment. The day ended with a rather lovely sunset, so I hope we have another nice day tomorrow.

There hasn't been a lot of other exciting things going on this week, but I did make the most of the lull in my usual activities to give our bedroom a really good clear out, and also the fridge, plus I managed a bit more tidying up in my craft room. The only bit of actual crafting I managed was to make and print a one-page calendar using a photo of us with our five sons, taken during our holiday in Ireland last October. Chris has a copy in his office, and I have one on the wall behind my computer. I find I refer to it all the time and it is really useful to have it there. Plus every time I look up, I see my boys smiling at me, so of course, I smile back.

I did manage to speak with all of them, on or around New Year's Eve. We had a quiet evening at home. Having been up early to take our grandson to the airport, I am surprised we managed to stay awake until mid-night, but we did, and then waited for 1.00 to see Big Ben chiming in the New Year in UK and enjoyed the firework display in London.
I had some happy news yesterday when our youngest son Ben rang to say they were booking flights to come and visit us just before Easter. Also another grandson (Mikey's cousin who is just six weeks younger than him), has asked to come out, overlapping with Ben for a few days, so that is something to look forward to.
Now I am going to link up with Annie's Friday Smiles, and Rocking Your World 2017, and I promise I will visit you all this week. So I will just leave you with this little list of things I wish for you all this year. (Not my words, but I echo the sentiment).