Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

That sinking feeling....

Last week, I waved goodbye to FR early on Tuesday morning as he set off for a couple of days in Granada rehearsing with his group of actors. He's very pleased with their progress and soon we will be able to go to a preview.

I've adjusted to living 24/7 with my husband. It wasn't easy at first. We struggled to make space for each other and we are now much better at it. But the idea of having my own space for a few days was rather nice. And whilst we're on the subject, I should say that  I also crave time away from my children. I am assuming this is normal.  I don't resent them in any way, I still love their constant chatter and noise; I don't feel I'm a danger towards them in any way. No....I just would really like a little 'me' time occasionally and I get precious little. So on Tuesday, as I returned from the school walk and closed the door behind me, it was - hurray - just me and Darwin.

Tuesday went fine. We kept the log fire going on our own without 'Man' watching over it in his usual protective and altogether paranoid manner. We ate, drank (water) and were merry though at bedtime, Romy missed her papa and had to call him to say goodnight, of course.

The next morning, Mateo even got up early without the usual prodding, poking and yelling needed to extract him from his pit. I went to teach my Spanish class - a good turn out and a merry bunch. Home again to prepare a favourite of the children - spaghetti bolognese - and to prepare for my afternoon's teaching.

I got slightly sidetracked reading my favourite blame attached to that, but just so you know I wasn't idling my time away on YouTube or busy cleaning the bath - no, it was fellow bloggers that distracted me, so that suddenly, it was past the time to go and meet the children from school.

So I dashed out, slamming the inner door (you have to or it doesn't close properly) - and as the Yale lock clicked in.....I had that sinking feeling. The stomach dropped, the jaw fell open, the hand went out instinctively and uselessly to the door. The keys were still inside.

Running down to school - no point making a mountain out of a molehill and being late too - all I kept thinking was 'We're locked out; we're locked out; we're locked out!' in fifty shades of grey. Then I bumped into Juan Carlos, a friend and fellow parent, and subjected him to a stream of unconscious thought - in Spanish - relating to being locked out; having left the keys inside the house; including the car keys; wondering whether Mateo had a spare set or not; wondering whether Darwin had food and water; wondering whether I had turned off the gas under the bolognaise sauce..or not;...and so on.

By the time I met the children, I had decided that we would keep calm and see if Mateo had his keys. I'd asked him just the day before and he couldn't find them but I had a sneaking hope that maybe in an emergency, they'd be somewhere on his had to hope. Juan Carlos offered to take the children home with him and feed them, which was a relief at least.  However, as we walked home and I explained the situation, making it sound as 'fun' as possible, I said that in the last resort, we'd have to wait until Papa got home.....then I had another sinking feeling. FR had no keys with him. There was no last resort.

Brain into overdrive - we HAD to get in. Romy was despatched to her friend's house; Ruy and I came home planning to seek out our landlord (I was pretty sure he had no keys but maybe he could help...only Ruy knew where he lived. Good old Ruy!) but first, we thought we'd ask our neighbours if they had a ladder we could borrow. The first one didn't. The second came out with a rickety old step ladder, with a missing step halfway up. Hmmm.

Too high

The plan was to go up to the balcony and check whether we could get in through one of the windows there.

And the backup plan was to go up onto the terrace and enter through there as I knew the door was open.

But the terrace was far too high for the step ladder...
we'd need a big ladder to get up here!

High enough

So, with fingers crossed and much unnecessary advice from the neighbours, I advanced up the ladder. Despite my neighbour saying to stand on the electric cables and hoist myself up that way (or words to that effect in Spanish) - I couldn't do it. I just couldn't reach - would you?

So we sent Ruy up. He couldn't reach either but I got him to stand on my hand and I gave him a good push so he could reach the railings and bless him, he pulled himself up and over, safely onto the balcony.

Oh what joy!! Romy's window opened up and we were in!!

My angel hero. He was cool about his heroic action but secretly very pleased especially as he's not so good at heights and has an exaggerated sense of danger.
It was a win-win situation in the end. We got in; Ruy was heroic; Romy had lunch at her friend's house...and when Mateo came home, we found the spare keys in his school rucksack!!

What had started with a sinking feeling ended up leaving us all feeling absolutely as high as kites!

And we had great fun telling FR about it when he came home - seeing his face of disbelief and incredulity at the irresponsibility of his wife and the mother of his children - and being won over by the great fun we'd had in solving our little 'problem'.

Needless to say, if I can't feel my keys in my pocket since that moment, I start to break out in a cold sweat. You see, we have made sure that the door to Romy's balcony is now firmly locked!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

My gorgeous daughter is 9..

She was born on a Tuesday at about half past one in the afternoon. The first thing she did as she was handed to FR in a cute little bundle, was to reach up, pull off his glasses and fling them across the room. She had no name until late that evening, when I called home and said to FR, what about Romy? We had to call her something and nothing else seemed right. She could be nothing else now and I love her and her name.

It was one of the very happiest days of my life and gave me my most treasured memory - the moment when Mateo and Ruy came running into the hospital ward to see me and their new sister. It was so joyful it brought tears to everyone's eyes and still does to mine now.

So this weekend, all weekend, we're celebrating the occasion of Romy's ninth birthday.

Starting on Friday evening, she had a small party for some of her school friends at one of the local 'party' centres.

Must be so nice to have a big brother.

For once he looks pleased to have a little sister too!

Games, sandwiches, cake and supervision for two hours.

A good time was had by all.

On Saturday, we went out into town for two birthday gifts - one that was going to be a little uncomfortable, however much desired - pierced ears! So we did that one first and Marguerita at the chemist was lovely and did a quick and relatively painless puncture of each ear.

Then we met Mateo and Ruy at the pet shop. About three months ago, our little hamster, Muffin - a birthday present from 2 years ago - went missing. It may have been a door left open or it could have been the night we were visited by a stray cat. He never came back, despite us leaving food around and the door of his cage permanently open.

In the shop, there were a couple of lovely hamsters of normal size, but when we saw these dwarf ones, well, we had to have two! They don't get any bigger and were just too cute.

This morning, the actual birthday, Ruy and Ruy were preparing a racecourse for them but they kept escaping and causing no end of panic as we rushed to capture them before they disappeared under one of the sofas.

She got some lovely presents and was very happy.

And here is cake number two, resplendent with nine candles.

"Don't blow out my candles..."

Making a wish.....
My candle-lit daughter. Happy Birthday Romy!
Cake number three will be taken to school tomorrow to share with all her classmates. A lovely birthday weekend. Happy Birthday, Romy.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

More words...

Courtesy of the Plain English Campaign

Have you noticed a greater intrusion from spammers recently? More is making its way onto my blog, rather than being sidelined by Blogger's excellent 'Spam' detector.  I've got away very lightly compared to some, but it is so annoying when a spam comment gets through.
I shall have to have a dig around to check that I haven't left a crucial box unchecked...

There's a sort of fascination for me in such gobbledegook though; I like to imagine the blog-owner actually typing this stuff into my comment box...

"You actually mаke it appeаr геally easу with youг presentation but I find thiѕ matter to be actually one thing that I feel I'd by no means understand. It seems too complicated and very extensive for me. I am taking a look ahead to your subsequent submit, I'll attemρt tο get the gгasp of it! Take a look at my homepage: "

Almost worthy of a politician!!

It seems like such a lot of trouble to go to to encourage new visitors. Is anyone else vaguely tempted to visit the webpage suggested and leave an equally ridiculous/mysterious/obscure (delete as appropriate or add your own!) message?

Hmmm....just me then?

Friday, 18 January 2013

Words with special powers...

Yes, the Great Wall of China. It's a 'b' word...

Remember Maria in 'The Sound of Music'?

When the going got tough, she thought about her favourite things - seemed to cheer her up no end.

It's a common psychological technique. If you're feeling hot, think about ice-cream and penguins. And if you're cold, think about curry and lying on a beach - or lying on a beach eating curry if that helps. Words, and the images they conjure up are very powerful, are they not?

It also is said to help that if you're a bit down,  you should think about the highs of your life. I hasten to add that at this moment in time, I'm not down - no, this springs in a roundabout sort of way from some discussions with my students. We've been talking about about opposites and attraction and about happy holidays and miserable times. It's been really good fun. Not only have we shared some pretty silly stories but we've really talked, really started to use the English language - and the thing that generated the most conversation was talking about our phobias;  how we enjoyed talking about the things we DIDN'T like.

I don't intend divulging any of their secrets - we did find out some rather strange things about some people - but I was put in mind of some of the non-verbal language that came out on the know, shudders and lip-curls and a waving-of-hands-in-horror sort of thing - when I said a word to FR.

Innocently. I had no idea of the effect it would have on him.

I said I would be loathe to do something. That's all. And at the word 'loathe' he started twitching and said he really didn't like that word...and then as it took hold of his brain, he started shaking his hands and feet and saying 'eurgh' and 'aargh' and 'yuk' and other such sounds of disgust. He stood up and paced back and forth in obvious distress. I was utterly amazed - I don't think I've ever seen such a violent reaction to a word in anyone before.

Other than in myself...

When I was 10, my teacher, a keen musician, had us sing songs on a Friday afternoon. One of the songs, which was written on a huge piece of card high on the classroom wall, THANKFULLY behind my back where I couldn't see it on a daily basis, had a most beautiful tune, one that could send shivers down my spine. However, it contained a word I could not bring myself to say and one that, as we approached it in the song, brought different shivers to my young body. Those of fear and (dare I say it) loathing! The song was 'God Bless the Prince of Wales' - yes, rather an odd choice, I admit but I suspect the teacher liked the tune. The word....well, I think I can tell you ...bulwarks.  There, said it. (Wrote it - easier!) Part of the problem was I didn't know what it meant - and olive branches twined round them - but I thought it was such an ugly and unpleasant word. I never, in all the times we had to sing it, managed to include that word in my own rendition and was always mightily glad when we'd got safely past it. The Great Wall of China is one. Ships have them too, apparently...

I felt equally strongly about the word 'Bletchley' - what a horrid name for any place. However, unlike the other 'b' word, which I couldn't bring myself to say then and still don't like to now, I took great delight in saying 'Bletchley' in an exaggeratedly disgusting way when younger. I don't say it too often these days but if I did, I know I would make the place sound very ugly. It may be a nice place, I don't know. I shall never, ever go anywhere near it. Sounds like a word being vomited to me.
Interesting then, that Bletchley Park, a lovely old house, was the focus for so much work on words and letters and the very special power and information contained therein - in code of course!

And a word that I used as a teenager to cheer myself up - glum! I found if I said 'glum' often enough, it would make me laugh. There's something very comic about it. Glum, glum, glum...still makes me smile!

I must also share an image that has been with me since I was about eight years old when I enjoyed reading the stories of Tove Jansson - 'The Finn Family Moomintroll'. In fact, I still love these stories and if you've never read them, do try and get hold of a copy. They're beautifully written and highly inventive, full of the most wonderful characters - my favourite was the miserable old Hemulen, who always wore his aunt's dress and collected stamps - (and I always suspected that I WAS Little My, the Mymble's daughter...her glare was the one my mother used to plead with me not to use on people.)

In one of the stories, Moomintroll has found the Hobgoblin's magic hat and discovered that anything put inside the hat is transformed. Egg shells turn into clouds that can be ridden around the house, for example. That was good enough but Tove Jansson became my hero when she allowed her characters to throw a 'Dictionary of Outlandish Words' into the hat - and the words come to life as little creatures that escape and crawl over the floor, up the walls and onto the ceiling! What a brilliant, outrageous, uninhibited idea - I absolutely love it.

I am on a quest to see if FR has any other strong reactions to specific words and have discovered one as I write that he likes - SERENDIPITY - indeed, he is muttering it to himself as he walks around the house. Sweet.

Do you have favourite words, or least favourite words?
Which ones can you say with pleasure and which leave you a jibbering wreck?

Monday, 14 January 2013

Heartbeats, life and death

No, I'm not really tackling BIG subjects but commenting on the things I see daily. But when you stop to think about it (really must stop this reflecting stuff) it sort of demonstrates that the myriad little things add up to big ones in the end.

Out for a walk - blue sky - take camera.

I've been thinking of turning the camera southwards for a while now. I've taken all the lovely things that I see as I take Darwin on his regular promenades - the views of the olive groves and the beautiful castle, La Mota, on the top of the hill looking down on Alcala la Real. La Mota is one of the things that really gives Alcala its heart. It dominates the town, giving a character to the place, creating an emotion whenever you get a glimpse of it - which is from so many corners, so many streets - it's impossible not to recognise its presence.

The heartbeat however, comes from another source. It's the large factory whose frontage runs along the main road out of the town centre towards Priego de Cordoba. It's 'backside' is along the road that Darwin and I take when the weather is too damp to enter the pine forest at the foot of La Mota. I usually only photograph the left hand side of this little road as the factory is not pretty.

Closer view of the hospital
At the end of this road, just round to the right, you can see the new hospital. This was meant to open as a fully functional accident and emergency hospital at the end of 2011 but due to 'la crisis' it remains closed to those who are injured, though some specialties do operate from this base - such a shame as 'Urgencias' or 'Urgencies' in the old hospital is such a miserable place that one could lose the necessary will...

The factory makes plastic - bags and wrapping for packaging; laminates and film for graphic arts - which is distributed throughout the world. In a world full of shrinking and closing, this factory made a whopping 25% increase in its production in the last financial year. It is the town's heartbeat. It provide jobs for a high proportion of workers in the town - somewhere between 2 and 5 thousand - and it closes down just twice in the year - on Christmas Day and on New Year's Day. This means there is a constant 'hum' from the works and large trucks entering and leaving more or less on the hour every hour.

This is what I don't look at too much as I walk down my little road - preferring to turn my sights northwards to look at La Mota.

This is how it looked this morning....

The factory is situated in one of the best sites in the town, with views behind it of La Mota and views in front reaching to the Sierra Nevada.
It was very sunny this morning so I had the idea that my sunglasses over the lens would help...not sure it has quite the effect I wanted but it is a bit different and you can see the Sierra in the distance.

To the far right of the new hospital is the cemetery. I have never been in as I'm always with Darwin when I walk there and I feel it's not appropriate to go in when I have him with me. It's a 'busy' cemetery in that there are lots of old people who live - and die - in Alcala la Real. Also, there's a constant stream of people taking flowers to their loved ones at most times of the day. Often when I'm taking Darwin for his 'second' walk of the day, we hear the bizarre sound of a 'DING DONG' (very loud) and an announcement that the cemetery will be closing in fifteen minutes - a bit like in Sainsbury's only less reverential and respectful in tone.

FR's father popped in for a look when they were here and he was most impressed. In fact, he said if there was a swimming pool, he'd move in straight away! I found this photo on the blog of someone local though it has not been update recently - but thanks and acknowledgement for this lovely photo.

As I wandered back thinking about these small but big things, a lady passed me on her way to the cemetery - it looked as though there was a funeral there today as many cars were arriving and I saw a few black coated people on my way. We greeted each other and as I walked where she had walked, I was totally enveloped in a delicious cloud of Chanel No.5.

It's so nice to know the little things in life still matter - don't you think.

Standing in a wonderful smell despite appearances.

The factory gives off very little smell at all - more a sense of heat. I have also read that there are plans to relocate it further out of the town and for the site to be developed for residential buildings. Hmmmm.... now there's a thought

Friday, 11 January 2013


I love footprints.

I love them on a deserted beach

On newly-fallen snow

I love prints of babies' feet - little chunky smudges.

And of course, the image of dinosaur footprints - herds of them - lumbering across the Jurassic Coast of northern Spain...with some rather younger models from the modern era...

And I was enchanted to find this lovely word cloud maker that has allowed me to make a word footprint from my blog.

Love it!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Over one shoulder

I've said many times that I'm not the reflective sort. Yet blogging encourages one to reflect. Sitting down in front of the computer, reading what others have written, noticing with absolute amazement that I have had more than 50,000 visits since I started out and looking forward to a new year, another new year here in Spain and, at the moment, in glorious sunshine and under exquisite blue skies, I feel a quick glance back might not be a bad thing to do.

The first thing that I feel compelled to acknowledge is that for the past few months, we've been in negotiations for a property. Nothing is settled yet. I've resisted writing about it partly because I'm trying very hard to keep it from being a blot on the landscape if we don't get it. If I only see it vaguely from the corner of my eye, then I can cope with it disappearing. And it's always so important to see what is right in front of you.

The other reason for not writing about it has been that the house is not in Alcala la Real. It's on the other side of Granada.
I had not wanted to see it and viewed it very critically when FR insisted it was worth having a look. And despite my negative approach, it worked its way into my heart. We took the children to see it and they were surprisingly very enthusiastic even though we explained it would necessitate a change of schools if we were able to get it. They didn't seem to mind at all, which surprised me; I know that if they'd said 'no way', then we'd have gone no further.
As it is, our offer is going backwards and forwards; we know our limit and cannot go beyond that. So I continue to hold it as a shadowy idea in the corner of my mind's eye. (But I know just what will go in that little nook next to the kitchen door, of course....)
You may, if you will, cross a couple of fingers! It has wisteria too.

I feel I have developed as a language teacher this year, particularly from October when I took on some extra hours and more responsibility at the Academy. I knew I loved language and words but that love is now something I so enjoy transmitting to my students. I enjoy the Spanish/English connections and finding the differences and similarities. Many of my students also like to have 'hooks' to hang their understanding on and it's great fun finding out what works for whom. I'm very grateful to Kirklees Council for the emphasis they always placed on training for employees - much of which helped to develop my own skills and knowledge but which also instilled an understanding of how training works. Helped having a really good friend who is a really good trainer too!

My children have grown tremendously this year - not just in height and age, but beginning to turn into rounded young people.
It hasn't been easy for Mateo and he knows he has to buckle down and address those areas of academic work that he has held at arm's length in his new school. In addition to growing and changing radically in the past twelve months, he's gained in confidence and shows many glimpses of the mature person he is becoming.
Ruy is most anxious to follow in his footsteps and is filling out in preparation for a growing spurt. He really hopes this will come soon as his sister is only a hair's breadth or so less than him in height. Ruy can put so much effort in and at the Christmas performances, he absolutely shone with pleasure and enjoyment as his class sang. Quick to anger and very stubborn at times, he's also the most delightful son to have - cheerful, responsive, responsible and fun - and he flourishing in the Spanish sunshine.
My delightful, clever and funny delightful, clever and funny! She loves to entertain, works hard at school, is thoughtful, independent and original. Her drawings are quite amazing - she creates cartoon sequences that tell her stories brilliantly and I am constantly fascinated by and proud of her.

And in reflective mood, I'm so happy to say that FR and I are still very much in love. We are quite a volatile and argumentative couple and our ups are as high as our downs are deep. We haven't reached a stage where we are comfortable companions - maybe we won't - but we are not bored with each other, can still make each other laugh - and cry - and are looking forward to another exciting year together.

Looking back I am amazed, as we so often are, as to how quickly the year has passed. For many in the UK it seems to have been a year of celebration as well as downpour. I saw little of the Golden Jubilee here and not that much more of the Olympics - partly because we were away on holiday and partly because the coverage in Spain concentrated on favourite Spanish sports such as basketball, football and synchronised the summer months focused on seeing family for us. It was great to catch up with my sister again albeit briefly. And we were all grateful to be able to be with FR's grandfather for the last time too and, if an old man has to die, then his timing was perfect, allowing us all to get together to celebrate his life with the least possible undue fuss and the greatest affection.

A moment that stands out for me is when, in April, we painted our toes in rainbow colours to offer support across the world when a fellow blogger was diagnosed with cancer. She is doing well and her blog is an absolute delight - she's Annie at Artistica Domestica. Good on you, Annie - you're doing great!

Then, more recently, a diagnosis was made on a friend closer to home - someone I have known for more than 20 years but with whom I have only recently come to view as a real friend. It is always shocking news to hear.

Janice in Caunes and I worked together for the same council and I always appreciated her intelligence and knowledge of the Education Service; her strong views, commitment and level-headed approach were things I really admired. I admit to being rather in awe of her. She left the council a couple of years before I did and went to work at her local hospital and I rather lost touch. However, I remember bumping into her in the carpark at Kingsgate in Huddersfield just before we upped and offed to Spain and thinking again how easy it was to talk to her and how genuine, friendly and approachable she was. It was that chance meeting that kept us in touch via Facebook and then my blog. Janice took to blogging like a duck to water once she decided to do it and those of us who follow her know that she is full of wonderful stories and anecdotes about her family, past and present, and her insights into life in France. She has a tough few months ahead of her as she faces chemotherapy but when I saw her at Christmas, she looked wonderful and I don't think cancer has a chance in the face of her strength and optimism. And we are going to spend some time together as soon as she feels up to it. Janice, you are one of the most precious things of 2012 - here's to enjoying more of 2013 together!

And as my brain kicks in and I really start to think back about 2012 and think more broadly, I realise that there are things that have happened in the world this year that are almost too tragic to bear. The untimely death of children is obviously uppermost in my mind, but also the attacks on and murder of young girls and  women who are doing nothing more than going to school, travelling together or working in humanitarian roles, as teachers and health workers - I find I'm so angry at this that it is painful; it's overwhelmingly frustrating that all efforts so far in the world to counteract this attitude should be as nought at the end of 2012. Outrageous. I am outraged. And will continue to be so and so must we all.

I will be discussing these issues with my students when I return to my teaching and with my own children too. Changing the world is rather too much for me to take on but damn it all, I will make sure that these things don't go unnoticed by those near by me. And maybe we should all look over one shoulder to see what is going on behind our backs or in places we don't feel we belong to - because whilst we don't feel the threat directly, it's much better to be aware of what is happening than burying our heads in the sand or somewhere cosy and comfortable.

We really should be aware.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

And so went 2012

This is a little glimpse of the end of 2012 for us. It was a jolly good ending, I have to say, if just a tad exhausting.

First, the arrival of my in-laws, who bring such joy and enthusiasm with them - and usually a little bit of chaos and unpredictability. Like their bed breaking in the middle of the night causing guffaws of laughter.

Then a gathering and eating with friends;

The chocolate game in full flow.

Mario tucking in whilst we await the next six.

Then a visit to a craft fair in Montefrio where I would have gone to sell chocolates if I hadn't sold out. There was a 'living' Belen - with exception of the camels, of course!

Not 100% convincing but rather sweet!

The goats and the chickens were quite authentic but I think the girl is on her mobile...
Comical camels watching on.
Noche Buena en familia - Christmas Eve is the main family meal in Spain, so when in Spain do as the Spanish!

Followed - at a very respectable hour - by a lovely relaxed Christmas Day ..

with everyone more than happy with their various and much appreciated gifts.

Then the children and I headed off for a brief spell in the UK on Boxing Day.
Flying out in beautiful sunshine and landing in Manchester to chilly damp and rather windy weather. But never mind - as Romy said, we didn't go for the weather.

Whilst we were away, FR and his parents took advantage of the weather we left behind.

And caught the first signs of the spring that will come.

I didn't take my camera to England...why? We were packed to the hilt and had not a spare place for it - however, I happened to have heard that Ruy was going to get a camera for Christmas, so all was not lost. Though I couldn't control his subject matter...

Mateo with his nose where it usually is.

Much tucking in - I am sure we spent more than half our time eating this Christmas
Oh, and watching 'The Hobbit' at the Printworks in Manchester - that took quite a while too but we did enjoy it.

We found time to go to Huddersfield to meet up with friends there and I was delighted - nay, emotional - to see Janice (not in Caunes today) looking absolutely stunning, notwithstanding her recent health problems. I hope 2013 brings her much good health and a return to all the things she loves doing. It was such a joy to spend a few hours with her, and my other friends who were able to join me and making my busy little trip so enjoyable. It was as if I'd never been away and just as I'd hoped. Thank you all!

Janice with Romy and I

Ruy took absolutely loads of photos and quite a number of videos, particularly on the evening we spent with Marion and Ali, after careful consideration, I decided none of them were what my blog needs. Unless of course you wanted to see screaming children sliding down the stairs or the stalking of cats or Romy playing on her new Nintendo... but I've decided probably not!

We had a very early start to get back to Spain and quite a few 'problems' before we successfully caught the plane but less said, soonest forgotten...

And last night, we enjoyed yet another delicious meal. I think I shall not eat much in 2013 to make up for the excesses of the end of 2012! I have really indulged this year - I foresee much dog walking in the weeks to come. But hey; I've missed the variety of food that's available and eaten in England. Spanish food is excellent but very.....Spanish. The miso soup was out of this world; and to eat Kalamata olives again was a joy; and turkey with stuffing and cranberry lightly cooked spring cabbage and my sister's roast potatoes..heaven; Mum's mince pies and Christmas cake - perfection. And what did we bring back? Marmite - huge jars of it! A jar of crystallised ginger. Ryvitas! Sun-dried tomatoes and Maldon Sea Salt. What is it you can't live without?

Dig in! Not sure what Ruy's expression is saying!

After our long day, I was a bit concerned I might fall asleep before we saw the New Year in, but our dinner lasted until almost midnight and by the time we'd prepared 7 plates with 12 grapes on each there was only a little while to wait for the bells to strike midnight in Madrid. One grape to be eaten for each strike of the bells. Small panic when FR's father dropped his on the floor - we managed to find them all in time!

We popped open a bottle of bubbly and after the children and their father and grandfather had been out throwing a few 'petardos' - or bangers - in the streets along with others doing pretty much the same, we felt we should get our heads down for a good long sleep.

And so begins 2013. Happy New Year. I hope all is going well with you and yours.