Sunday, 26 January 2014

Breakfast Menu

Yesterday being such a nice day (today isn't bad either), I decided to postpone the usual weekend chores (changing sheets, laundry, ironing) and go for a walk round the neighbourhood. I especially wanted to walk past a building I'd seen on the news on Friday, one which had been taken over by squatters, of which many are Romanians who don't always have a good reputation here. I thought perhaps it was the building where I'd looked at a flat for sale years ago.

I didn't take the flat for several reasons. One it was a basement flat with winding stairs leading to it; two, the light switches in the hall were deteriorated, and I didn't like the darkness either; three, there was a bar next door and smells of fried food wafted in through the open windows, and this was the most decisive factor for not wishing to live here. I could also imagine neighbours throwing down things onto the two small patios that were part of the deal, and this is exactly what's happened in the occupied building.

Not only are the patios filled with rubbish and rotting food, but every corner in the interior. The 'normal' people, who still have to live there I suppose, can't open their windows or hang their clothes out because of the smells and insects. The outside of the building doesn't look bad if you ignore the graffiti and things hanging out the windows. As I walked by with several Romanians sitting on the benches in the street, I realized the bar in question was part of the block next door to the squatters. Even if squatters don't live in the same building, they're both a health and safety concern. As a friend said the other night that's one of the problems of living in the centre. Where he lives he doesn't think is attractive to squatters. He thinks.  

While I was out, I walked past this other bar. Of course, I like the 'chef' in the window and laughed when I saw the abbreviations on the breakfast menu: merme = mermelada or jam (most likely peach jam); chori = chorizo or spicy sausage (maybe some of you have had chorizo) and salchi = salchichón (similar to salami). People here, especially workmen, do have such a bread roll and some kind of meat round 11a.m. It's one of the times of the day that find many bars full. Yesterday, and today too I'm sure, there were lots of people (especially smokers) sitting outside at the cafes and bars.

I've got some over ripe bananas and haven't made banana nut bread for quite a while, so that's what I'm doing when I get off here. Thanks for reading my post and have a good week.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Time to Clean the Bibelots

I know this isn't the first time, nor will it be the last, that I've said how much I detest dusting and cleaning dust collectors. Give me windows to clean any day. On seconds thoughts, don't give me windows, because we've had rain and are likely to get some more. This is one of my favourite bibelots that I've had for many years: a birthday present from a friend. One of the things I loved about Spain when I first came here was their beautiful pottery. My decorative plate comes from Seville and is hand painted and accented with 24-karat gold. Possibly some will have seen letter openers that look like swords from Toledo with similar gold work on them that have beautiful carvings. Plates like this, though usually less ornate than mine, are used on the walls of balconies and patios as decoration. I have another smaller plate, also with 24-karat gold, both of which hang on the walls of my flat.

This week we gave our Thursday night out a miss as two of my friends were not feeling well. One of them who's allergic to some pollen from olive trees (she's living in the wrong country) was uncomfortable with her allergy while the other had the flu. However, we did go out yesterday for our monthly lunch together. When the one with the bout of flu called me yesterday morning, I didn't recognize her voice and even asked who was calling as it was a mobile number (I don't usually recognize those numbers unless I have them programmed into my landline ). Since we have lunch so late for me on these occasions, I wasn't hungry at dinner.

Another weekend almost over. That's about it for me today except to say I've got my picture that I received for Christmas framed, and I think the sun is trying to make a showing.

Hope everyone has a good week.


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Cultural Differences

Doesn't this photo look like a doll that a little girl might get for Christmas? I assure you it's a real little angel - one of my great-nieces - who celebrated her second birthday on Friday. I haven't seen any photos of her birthday party yet, but my sister sent out photos of them taken at Christmas.

Because I come from a large family, having 7 brothers and sisters and lots and lots of cousins, there is quite often a new member born into the family. At the beginning of December, one of my nieces gave birth to her 4th child, and here is where one of the cultural differences comes in. My sister wrote that the baby's oldest brother had to be kept away from the baby, because he had the flu and had had a flu injection. I've never heard of a young child getting a flu injection, but apparently it's quite normal in the US. Is that right? The other cultural difference is that Spain is one of the countries with the lowest birth rates in the world. One of the families that I give classes to has 4 children - all boys. However, in general, most families have maximum of two and many only have one. As a matter of fact, there are many only-child families here. Of my married friends (I mean the British or Americans ones), only one has a child, who is 20-something and who works and still lives at home. So that's another cultural difference: kids continue living at home even after they've started working since their salary doesn't usually allow them to strike out on their own. It's also comfortable for them to let their mothers continue doing for them. Most of us of my generation couldn't wait to get out on our own.

The week that has finished was my first week back to work after Christmas. I don't know about you, but I hate January, and then February isn't far behind. Instead of our usual Thursday evening Chinese, we celebrated one of our friends' birthday in an Italian. I can't believe I ate a big pizza, and it was because the crust was as thin as paper. I only wish more people had been there as only 3 of us went. One good thing about the week was the mild weather. It's cloudy today and we've been promised more rain. I know though that we'll be getting some cold weather like parts of the States before long.

These have been my thoughts and doings for the week. Hope everybody has a good week.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Good-bye Old Year, Hello New Year

These candles were lit and graced my table on New Year's Eve. It's one of the many traditions some people follow, lighting candles of different colours which represent different things. The blue candle there, for example, represents work. Needless to say, I think lit candles are pretty and add to the atmosphere. The only dish that everyone has in common is twelve grapes eaten at midnight and a toast to the new year with cava (champagne) or, as in my case, cider (sidra). Oh, and don't forget to drop a gold ring in your glass before you drink from it for extra luck and start the new year off on your right foot. If you should have any left over champagne or cider, please don't throw it out. Place a teaspoon (the handle part logically) in the bottle and put it in the fridge. The drink won't go flat and you can enjoy some the next day. I don't know if this works with soft drinks or beer, because I've never tried it with them. I only enjoy beer in the summer and I never have soft drinks - water is a better drink.
I finally ran out of the laundry detergent that my sister Jackie and I made in September. My friend Loretta from Scotland commented that she used to buy borax, one of the ingredients in the detergent we made, until the government decided she was too dangerous with it is how she put it I think. Borax isn't easily found in Spain, so I used another similar recipe which uses citric acid. You may well remember me mentioning that I'd made my own washing soda by baking baking soda. This recipe contains baking soda too - a bit fizzy wouldn't you imagine? I'm not sure where you can find citric acid in other parts of the world, but I ordered mine from my local chemist's (drugstore). The instructions for this homemade borax-free laundry detergent can be found on She also has an interesting bath detox recipe too. The best thing about using homemade laundry detergent is the price - much cheaper than commercial laundry soap. Both my sister and I are happy with the results too. She got some dried-on stains off her granddaughter's underpants. Like most 3-year olds, my great-niece can't always get to the bathroom in time. She said they came out looking new.

Monday is one of my newer friends' birthday. She likes necklaces like me. My other Welsh friend, Chris, who happened to be selling off her stock of jewellery cheaply, picked out one she thought she might like, and during these holidays I found a  bracelet I thought would go with the necklace. Since I had quite a few apples, I decided to make her some delicious apple butter (I think this is the one recipe I have posted to my recipe tab). After the apples are peeled and cut up, there's nothing to do except wait for the slow cooker to do its thing.

Yesterday there was a lull in the rain and I decided to go for a walk and see one of the many Nativity scenes that there are in Madrid. We were under a strong wind alert, but I don't think it was too bad - only cold. I don't know if I got rid of any unwanted calories. I commented to a friend that my jeans felt tighter in the new year, and she said I must have washed them in hot water. LOL  I was just glad to be able to walk and avoid deep puddles of water. I still haven't got those rain boots I talked about last winter. Luckily there weren't too many leaves to fall on the pavement. I avoided the ones I saw though. The little ornamental tree outside my windows is completely bare of leaves.

Hope everyone had an enjoyable and safe New Year's celebration. One good piece of news is there were no deaths (so far) from car accidents anywhere in Spain. This hasn't happened since 1960! Tomorrow is the last official day of the Christmas holidays. As soon as I post this, I'm off to start putting my decorations away. Have a good week all.