Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Sunday, 30 May 2010

David Nash at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

One of our favourite places to go on a Sunday - any day really but it often is a Sunday - and today was a special visit to see the new sculptures there by David Nash whose work includes lots of big wooden things. FR loves trees and wood and was keen to see what had come to the YSP. And we were not disappointed!  The works were massive and tactile and warm - particularly impressive was the enormous eucalyptus called 'Oculus Block' - do click and look as we were not allowed to photograph in the main gallery - and just try and imagine the size of the whole tree!
The children have never tired of going and we always go through the 'Enchanted Wood' - it might not be called that really but it's what we call it.  The path down goes past a totem pole and I took a couple of pictures as I am now officially in 'nostalgia' mode and we might not go there again...(well, we will but I might forget my camera next time!).. so here is my selection from today:

There is some little delight at every corner in this part of the park - a cobbled pathway, weird and wonderful bridges and this 'derelict' house - and then a rather spooky tree house ....

The park was full of rhododendrons in pinks and purples and the sound of Canada geese and whilst the weather was warm when the sun shone, the sky was full of enormous cumulus nimbus clouds that threatened rain at any moment.

A very Yorkshire sort of day to my mind. 

And yes, when we came home, FR made a wonderful fire in the makeshift brick-built barbecue and cooked us some fantastic lamb kebabs which we ate with tomato and mozzarella salad, homemade tzatziki and 'patatas fritas' (which is the Spanish way of saying chips, but I always think it sounds better...) followed by strawberries and cream.

And I have to show you the barbecue (even though it's from a previous day when we had chicken!)

That too tasted delicious and even the smoke smelt gorgeous and woody - so much better than the artificial smell that seems to come from neighbouring gardens, though I have to admit that there was rather a LOT of smoke from ours today!

Saturday, 29 May 2010


Been having a bit of a bake recently due to a glut of bananas that I really did need to use up. I used a very simple recipe which is half Spanish-based thus using oil rather than butter. No photo but believe me, this was a lovely yellow colour, with a crunchy outer crust and a light and soft middle.

I tried the same recipe again today only used apples instead of bananas - I cooked the apples first in just a tablespoon full of honey. It is delicious - I wouldn't say better than the banana cake but full of flavour and just a wonderful texture. It's not overly sweet - the flavour of the fruit does come through better that way and also keeps the calories down a bit! The banana cake would be perfect with a little butter or jam or even peanut butter spread on it. The apple cake when warm almost begs for a blob of vanilla ice-cream or just cream.... it begged me but I resisted.

If you fancy trying it - here is my recipe:
Preparation time - about 10 minutes max!
Cooking time - about 1 hour if using one tin; 35 minutes if using two smaller tins.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Prepare a loaf tin or 8"round cake tin. I used two loaf tins for the banana cake this time but it would have all fitted into one - you'll just need to increase the cooking time.

2 ripe bananas or two cooking apples 
( if using the apples, cook them a little first til they're soft)
250g self-raising flour
1tspn baking powder
6 tbspns brown sugar (or substitute all or part with honey)
6 tbspns sunflower oil
6 tbspns semi-skimmed milk
2 eggs
(Add a handful of raisins/sultanas/walnuts as well if you want.)

  1. Mash the bananas or cooked apples and add the raisins/walnuts if you're using them. Add any honey you might chose to use at this stage too.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the sugar and mix.
  3. Mix together the eggs, oil and milk.
  4. Add to the flour mixture and combine well.
  5. Add the banana or apple mixture and combine well.
  6. Pour mixture into cake tin and place in the oven for about 55 minutes.
  7. Check cake is cooked by inserting a skewer or knife - should come out fairly clean when cooked. 
  8. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out.
  9. The cake keeps well in an airtight tin, though I have no evidence of exactly how long....
When the sun comes out again, I will be posting FR's 'Pinchos Moruños' recipe, which is marinaded meat, skewered onto kebabs and cooked over a barbecue. It's too wet and cold today to eat them. Such a shame we can't have the smell available online!

All the baking has helped to take my mind off the process of selling our house. We had a couple return today for a second viewing and they brought a parent with them - always a good sign - but I had decided to take Ruy and Romy to the Odeon Kid's Club this morning. It was Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang which I quite enjoyed. There were a few good jokes in there, a sort of moral message about how children should behave and a soppy, happy ending. What I liked was that when the film finished, a few people in the audience actually applauded. I was a more concerned about hiding the embarrassing fact that I had cried a bit at the ending - which was totally predictable and says more about my rather fragile state of mind than any strength of the film. I think mums are supposed to cry at the end, maybe, just a bit...anyway, by the time we got home, the dreaded visit was over and now we just have to wait to see whether an offer is forthcoming or not. Cross everything!!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A reflective pause

Not well-known for my reflective pauses, I find I have reached one naturally without trying.  It occurred to me in the bathroom this morning as I was cleaning my teeth that for the first time since I left work, just under two months ago, the need to drive forward has relaxed a little now as we begin to see we have somewhere to go. I found myself thinking about friends and work colleagues - I was going to say 'past and present' but I mean those I worked with most recently and those I worked with many years ago.  I think it has begun to sink in that I will really be leaving.

I kept saying that leaving work would not be hard because those I was closest to would always be friends and we would stay in touch because of that. I am still in touch with others who left to work elsewhere or who had to leave for health or personal reasons. And they - you - still all mean a lot to me.  I don't think it will be any harder to do the 'staying in touch' bit even if I am in Spain - but the call to say, 'fancy lunch next week' won't come any more; I won't hear the latest gossip or bits of information; I won't bump into someone as I go shopping. Ever.

In the last week, I have had lunch or a coffee - with a number of very dear friends and they all know how excited and happy I am that our plans are beginning to come together and that we will be off, most likely, within the next ten weeks or so. What has hit me today is that it will actually be a huge trauma for me to leave you all. I think if I say it here, I will perhaps be able to deal with it a little better as time goes on. It IS what I want to do - what I think our family should do - from that perspective, I have no qualms at all. But.. and maybe this is the selfish bit.. I am 'giving up' my own access to a wide circle of very close friends - many of whom have known me for a long time and who know a great deal about me and my life - so I just wanted to say this very clearly: I will be trying very hard - and will probably succeed - in making this move look easy, great fun and a fantastic adventure. Underneath, I know how much I will miss everyone and how precious the memories and the links to each one of my friends are to me. I will be metaphorically wrapping everyone up to take with me and I am already cherishing the day when I have the proper time to unwrap each one and make them real again after this rather surreal period.

So - whilst not yet gone and not yet forgotten - my little period of reflection has served me to say to everyone reading this that I will be taking all those precious little moments of memory and friendship that we have shared and in a strange way, if I didn't have them to take with me then the leaving would be even harder. I do hope that makes sense.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A defining moment

FR and I have talked and talked about our options - we both feel that La Urz would be a lovely place to move to and to bring up our children. There are only two houses for sale there - one that we have seen but don't want and one that we haven't seen but can't afford. Our only other option is to think of building from scratch if we could find some land. And I feel that will take forever and where would we live in the meantime.....

Last night, FR called Israel in La Urz; partly to thank him for his hospitality to me, Mateo and his father, but also to ask his advice on what we could do next. There is something very secure about Israel, despite his unassuming appearance and determinedly easy approach to life. And what do you know? He has spoken to someone in the village and located a large house that we can rent from August onwards, that has room for us all and a place to store our furniture. And not only that, but he has some land that we could buy if we wanted. And Israel is a builder. Usually, when something sounds too good to be true, that inner voice is saying - it can't happen - but strangely, I was so very taken with Israel, that I - well, both Cesar and I - feel that we are sorted.  We felt pretty dazed after the telephone conversation but also a huge relief.

And I woke this morning without a twinge of backache and have had no pain all day. Everyone I know has had to put up with me moaning about my back almost since Christmas - well today, I have been celebrating. Let's hope it stays thus!!

If we can move to La Urz this summer and have a place to live for the short to medium term whilst we get all our thoughts and plans together - plus get the children into school for September - yahoo!!! And La Urz is definitely a Yurty place for all of you who really fancy that idea - we will get there!

Keep all fingers crossed for next Saturday when we have a couple returning for a second viewing on our house here......

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Ash cloud! What ash cloud?

What has happened over the past few days? Well, we weren't disrupted in our travels by the ash cloud - not on the way and not on the way back. I hardly got chance to show off my ability to say its name!

However, I think I expected something quite important - not explosive or erupting - but some defining understanding about how our move to Spain might start to pan out and make sense. I think I may have mentioned in an early posting that I am the eternal optimist! Like the ash cloud that never materialised, we have returned not really knowing too much more than before we set off....

On Saturday, Mateo and I were up at 2am and had a trouble-free journey to Valladolid from London Stansted airport on Saturday morning. We then had a lovely chilled day with 'los abuelos' (Mateo's grandparents/FR's parents) and early to bed.
On Sunday, we got up in good time to travel to La Urz, via Leon, where we left Amelia (abuela) to go to her great-niece's first communion. FR's father came with Mateo and I to La Urz and the journey up to this village was wonderful - partly because of the fantastic, clear blue-skied weather and partly because of the empty roads and glorious views. We turned off a main road at Riello and headed up into the mountains along a fairly narrow and wiggly single track road to see what it was about La Urz that FR liked so much.
The village of La Urz spreads up the hillside with the houses there connected fairly erratically by little winding streets. Some houses open directly onto these streets, others had gardens and outbuildings in front of them. We were greeted outside the big white house by several friendly neighbours and some children, who were charming - clearly, they had been expecting us although the person who knew we were coming had been summoned to her brother's birthday lunch at a village elsewhere.
The house itself is big and needs much work - as I'd expected - but I am not taken by it. If location is everything, this house is not in the right one. I feel that however much work was put in to make it beautiful, (which it could be) it would never quite work.
Undeterred, Mateo, Cesar Snr and I spent the next 6 hours there, during which time, we were invited to lunch (which we declined, having brought a picnic) though we accepted the invitation for coffee afterwards. We were also taken to see another house that is for sale in the village at the very top of the hill - whose location is absolutely perfect but which is somewhat out of our price range as things stand. The view from there was fantastic - not that you could guess from my mediocre photography!
We couldn't see inside the house because no one was expecting us and the owner - well, the four sons of the original owner - live far away. From the outside, it was difficult to see what it might be like inside, though Israel - who was giving us the guided tour of La Urz - said that it had four bedrooms and a new kitchen on the first floor, with an undeveloped ground floor and some outbuildings. The surrounding land is full of apple and cherry trees and there are some pines and oaks also part of the property..... perfect really, maybe, possibly....?

We met the man who keeps bees and makes honey - and we bought a big golden pot from him; we went for a long walk to a look out point where we could see snow on the mountains; we looked in several other houses (inhabited) and saw others that were uninhabited, but not for sale. Mateo disappeared with the other children and had a wonderful day, finding fossils and salamanders and playing in surrounding fields and countryside.

 Here are the children 'hunting' a salamander and one of the fossils Mateo found.

The village has an incredible aura of peace and tranquility and I did not want to leave. It is without shop, bar or convenience of any kind but there is a community spirit amongst the fairly small number of people who are there all year round. There are many lovely houses that are empty for about half the year because the owners are older and go to live with their sons or daughters during the hard winter months......I really didn't want to leave, but I'm not sure there will be somewhere there we can go and live!

We are now trying to think how best to progress our plans - any ideas anyone!?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Mateo and I are unsure as to whether we will manage to fly to Spain on Saturday. Flights earlier in the week were cancelled between Stansted and Valladolid - as well as between many other areas - because of the ash cloud. I decided that I would learn how to say the name of this infamous ash-cloud producing volcano, having already mentioned my literary links with Iceland and I am very proud to say that I think I have now got it - if not mastered exactly, a darn sight better than most newscasters around the world! I found a great deal of help on YouTube and a couple of good laughs too!  If you are interested, try this help from the two Icelandic girls or a rather more formal version from here (which doesn't sound the same at all!) or a good laugh version from this guy.
If this smacks of someone who has too much time on her hands, due to having taken early retirement.. you might be right!  Since FR got back and we talked and talked about all our different options, we are a bit stuck now until I have been to see La Urz, because there is no doubt that if we like it and Julian, the owner will sell it to us at a reasonable price, then this is where we'll be heading before too long. (In actual fact, as I am trying to blog here, FR is talking about the enormous bread oven that is in one of the stables and about all the amazing things he could cook in it.. he's now saying he could bake bread for eveyone in the village and cook whole lambs, chickens - in a terracotta dish with vegetables all around it. And then tells me I must go and be 'objective'!)   However, we are treading water a bit just now.  Hence my concern about Eyjafallajokell (sorry, can't find an 'umlaut' anywhere - just imagine it's there) and whether its ash is going to be dispersed enough for us to get to look at this place.

So excuse me if I don't blog until I get back.. promise I will tell you as soon as I can whether the bread oven is big enough!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Spoons and Bars

I haven't made any chocolates for a little while - I've been too busy trying to keep the house tidy in the hope that someone will come and want to buy it. Mateo suggested I make chocolates and bribe people with them - when I get really desperate, I will try it!

However, could resist the temptation to make no longer and today made some dark chocolate 'spoons' which can be stirred into a hot drink such as milk or coffee - delicious.

 I also made some bars of chocolate with a mixture of raisins, mango, pistachios, almonds and cashews. Tastes wonderful and has a rustic, rough sort of appearance which I really like. I saw some bars of chocolate at a Farm Shop today that looked as if they were made out of plastic - I think that's why I wanted these to look 'real'.

I'll be making some more next week - there has to be some good reason for the change in the weather! It was far too warm last week, no way would my chocolate set when it was 22 degrees in the conservatory.
This chilly weather is just perfect for a quick set - but no rain please, that's nearly as bad as sun. Dry and cool will do fine.

Thanks for looking - do post me a comment!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Northern Spain - April 2010

The beach at Colunga - Asturias.

Unexpected church - somewhere in Galicia
La Ribeira Sacra - Lugo - Galicia. Near the vineyard...

View from an old house - abandoned village - Galicia
Abandoned village - offered for sale to Cesar - the whole village. 
Anyone want to buy a village in Galicia?
Mountain view - northern Leon - from La Urz

Back to Normal....?

Well, FR is well and truly home. He called us from the ferry on Tuesday afternoon as the children and I were coming back from school. Actually, at the moment he called, we were driving through our village, Almondbury - a normally peaceful little place just outside Huddersfield - just as all hell was breaking loose! We had a helicopter hovering just above us, three police cars and lots of police around, plus another three cars sirening their way up the hill; plumes of smoke rising from behind the bank; groups of kids just leaving school - then more police cars arriving.  Turns out that just as schools came out, there had been an armed robbery on the local bank - thus far, the robbers have not been caught. It's enough to make you want to leave the country! 

At around 9.30pm, a whole hour before we expected him, FR arrived home - and we had a lovely family reunion, with lots of noise and hugs and presents and more hugs and noise, before we eventually got the children off to bed. It's the first time FR has been away from the children for such a long time and he was just so glad to be back and to see them - and me - again. It feels now like we've been over the first hurdle on our big journey and we can move on towards the next one.

Yesterday, we talked and talked about all the things he had seen and all the places he'd looked at; about La Urz and the big house there and about renting options. I was quite right that he had really liked the vineyard in Chantada. We talked through all the issues about living on such an isolate hilltop spot - and it really is on a hilltop - imagine this every morning!
Spectacular, yes, but gives me vertigo to be, no to vineyard.

I am not sure that FR investigated Asturias as thoroughly as I had hoped. He spent a lot of time in Galicia because he found it so very beautiful - it was a gorgeous time of year to visit a place full of blossom trees and he enjoyed the food. He has taken some lovely photographs and I shall have to find a way of putting a link here so you can see them. He also took some good ones around Taramundi, in Asturias, which is place that had appealed to me from the start. He feels that although it also is very beautiful, it is mainly a lovely tourist spot to visit but not somewhere that he could imagine us living our daily lives in.

This amazing beach is 'La Playa de Catedrales' which is on the coastal border area between Galicia and Asturias - absolutely stunning, even in rather moody weather. There was a piece of land for sale just set back from this view and I know he was slightly tempted to build us a house there - he contacted the owner of the land, who said it would cost 200,000euros. FR had said, by means of saying it was out of our price range, that we couldn't pay more than 100,000 for it (still out of our price range!) and thought no more about it. Three days later, the same man phoned him to say he'd accept 120,000.  Both houses and land are very over-priced in Spain as people selling prefer to drop the price radically if someone is interested, rather than offer it for sale at a sensible starting price. It's what was happening here for a while but I think we've adjusted now.
On that note, (overpriced?) we return to La Urz. I seriously think that when Mateo and I go to look at it next week (volcanic activity permitting) that if we like it, we'll be making our offer to the owner pretty quickly. It is a huge house and not immediately habitable but with such potential that we could do all we wanted and more there. All the villagers are apparently very keen for a family to move in and FR seems to have forged a bond with many of them already - they are ready to meet us next Sunday.
And if I don't like it... square one is to find a place to rent and perhaps investigate Asturias a bit more...and to be absolutely honest, I don't mind this option. Normal will never be quite the same again, I suspect!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Expectant wife and kids

Well, I have just had a text from FR to say he is on the ferry - he must be very keen to get home as he's there almost 2 hours before it is due to leave. Considering we usually leave just the regulation 45 minutes before we approach the port, this is very telling! I am so relieved and so glad to know he is coming back now. We have so much to talk about and need to do it face to face, probably with bits of paper and a calculator as well.

There will be more to tell in a few days time! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

By Demand

I was very touched today when I received an email from a friend asking why I hadn't blogged since Sunday. So here I am again.
I have been a little unwell this week, with a painful throat infection, for which I am now taking antibiotics and beginning to feel much better.  This has coincided with Mateo feeling ill too - the doctor suspects anaemia and he has to have some blood tests, though these can't be done until a week on Wednesday. Anaemia is possible, I suppose, as he has radically changed his diet recently and for a good week, he ate practically nothing. I began to worry he was showing signs of anorexia but no, he was worried about how to tell us he didn't want to eat meat any more.  He is eating well enough now and I have no problem with him following a vegetarian diet - if he is anaemic, then we'll have to make sure he's getting enough of the right stuff from other sources. The symptoms he's shown are absolutely in line with anaemia - very lethargic, irritable, sleepy and pale-looking. We've started making sure he's getting more iron in his diet straight away so will look for improvement - hopefully by the time he has the tests, he will be fine.

FR has just about come to the end of his time in Spain - he catches the ferry back on Monday morning and knows already that there is no point trying to do 'business' over the weekend. We decided that when I've been to see the house in La Urz, if I like it, we'll make an offer to the owner and see what happens. I found another picture of the house in La Urz and hope it's not tempting fate by putting it here...and yes, it IS the one with the arrow pointing at it. It is interesting to note that FR has gone back to see the village again today and is very happy with everything there. He is worried that quite possibly the economic situation in Spain is so unsteady that things could go the way they have in Greece. This won't stop us from going though - and I wonder what might be about to happen here.

Anyway, if the owner doesn't want to accept our offer then we go back to plan A, which was to rent somewhere to start with. FR has already discovered that we can't pre-book a rented property for August - no one is remotely interested in committing themselves to something that seems so far ahead. There are plenty reasonable places and when FR goes back again in July - to collect a removal van to take all our stuff across to Spain - he will sort something out then. 

So for now, there is nothing to do but hope that someone will come and buy this house very soon.  We've had three people round now - two have said a definite no and one has said they don't know if they can afford it.  I continue to be confident .... OK, hopeful... that we will find a buyer in the next few months but even if we don't, then the plan is to move out at the end of July and settle ourselves in Spain.