Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Sunday, 8 December 2013

That time of year....

It's olive season here in Alcala la Real. The olive groves are echoing to the sounds of machines, vibrating the branches so that the ripe fruit falls into the nets that wait below. Locally, and rather comically, these nets are called 'bragas', which translates as knickers...and I am stuck for anything else to say about this!
This is the time of year when you have to set off sooner than usual to reach your destination on time -because the roads are suddenly no longer traffic-free and a pleasure to drive on. This is the time when a tractor will inevitably pull out in front of you and trundle along the narrow lanes at around 30kms per hour - swaying erratically from side to side to make overtaking impossible.

It doesn't feel like a build up to Christmas such as I have been used to in the UK. I admit we've had freezing cold starts to the days but for the past month, we've had unbelievably blue skies and warm sunshine from 10 o'clock in the morning to just before 6 in the evening. And until this week, not a glimpse of pre-Christmas festivities - not tinsel, not lights, nothing.

However, on Saturday, at the local English shop, that I have mentioned before - A LITTLE bit of BRITAIN  - we had our Christmas Market and jolly good fun it was too. (Huddersfield was well represented, I'm glad to say - more of which in a mo!)

I went with my chocolates and all three of my children volunteered to come with me. I think this could have been due to the large crockpot of Belgian Hot Chocolate that I took with me. And thanks to Ruy, who balanced it on his knees all the way there - up and down the hills and round the corners, without spilling a drop, we arrived just in time to set up and be ready before the 'hoards' descended.  Actually, it was a slow start this month. Usually, the Spanish are the early birds and as most of them were out collecting olives, there was a distinct lack of genuine local footfall to start with.

In amongst the second hand goods that adorn one part of the shop, we had our stalls, stamped our feet to keep warm and found the morning passed by rather cheerfully.

A small but select offering of chocolates and cards...and a tray of samples that seemed to go down quite well!

The hot chocolate was very good indeed - as the sign says, it had milk and dark chocolate, melted in semi skimmed milk - and with only a slight dash of salt to bring out the flavour - it was absolutely delicious! 

In the end, my boxes of chocolates contained a selection of Christmas pudding truffles, lemon cheesecake truffles, white chocolate mint truffle hearts, raspberry truffles, orange and almond crunches, honey and rum truffles and milk chocolate cruffles....

Next to me was Katrina, who now runs her own successful and growing cake making business, Golosaria.

Katrina puts such incredible detail into her cakes...they're fantastic and I've watched her confidence and skills grow incredibly this year as her business has taken off and her (mainly Spanish) customers request more and more outlandish cakes! (One she recently made featured a builder in a g-string... check him out!)

Katrina said that my recent Zentangle inspired her 'bauble' cupcake design!

I was completely convinced this was a real cake but it's just a dummy! Inside, it's full of rice crispies!

This is Kyle in his grotto, but minus his beard and hat. He's Alan's son (who runs the shop) and is always on hand to help out with the local Spaniards who love to haggle over prices. Alan's Spanish is pretty basic but Kyle is absolutely fluent - and pretty good salesman to boot, so since he's been working here, it seems to have made a difference to the amount of stock that is constantly turning over! It's like 'Aladdin's Cave' and we've made several purchases for our home from here.



It's also where I have my Wednesday Spanish conversation class - which has been running for two and a half years now  - and where our Zentangle classes will continue.  The first one, which we had a couple of weeks ago went down really well and everyone agreed they'd like to continue. So this is a place I'm rather fond of, despite its 'garage sale' look. Both Alan and Kyle are unfailingly cheerful and helpful and spend a lot of time rearranging the 'furniture' to accommodate all the things that go on here.
Cheers to you both and all the family!

And here is the Huddersfield - nay let's be specific - SKELMANTHORPE contingent! Mick and Julie drew the crowds in with their cheerful hats and lovely selection of things for sale. I am delighted to have been able to get Christmas Crackers for this year from them! 

And this comical couple were two who couldn't resist calling in after they'd been to a funeral in the morning...Spanish gentlemen eating some of Katrina's delicious mince pies. A first for them and they really did enjoy them - keeping up a humorous commentary all the while in strong local dialect. They were most surprised at what the Brits get up to in their town!

And at the end of the morning, I felt we'd done pretty well. I have some chocolates left but they will go into the shop between now and Christmas. I have a couple of orders to fulfil and may well join Katrina at the Montefrio Christmas Market which is on 21st December - last year, they had a Medieval theme and a 'living' Belen, which I blogged about at the time. But I feel now that the busy time of chocolate making has passed by for a few months. I might even dig out our Christmas trimmings this week.

How are your Christmas preparations going and what is happening in your local area at this time of year?


24 comments:

  1. MICK & JULIE9 December 2013 00:29

    Nice article Annie,agree with all your comments on the day.....cold to begin but lovely warm sunshine about 10 am.......we even had to strip off our fleeces it got that hot!!!Imagine the weather in Huddersfield/Skelmanthorpe at this moment in time,grey and dull and dark at 4pm!!What a fantastic experience to be able to meet new friends and converse in a new language.To be able to meet people from your own country who have the same visions and expectations of living in Spain.We really have enjoyed our 7 years in the Granada/Jaen region and long may it continue to do so as missionaries from the white rose county of Yorkshire.

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    1. Thank you Mick and thanks for the photo - it really summed up the day! I am hearing your voice clearly through this comment - rich Yorkshire tones.
      We are looking forward to pulling your crackers on Christmas Day - hope you and Julie have a lovely one wherever you spent it. See you soon. Axxx

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    2. Phew!!! I'm glad you said "pulling your crackers" We shall probably be pulling our own crackers on Christmas Day. We shall be thinking of and later skyping family and friends in Wakefield and Skelmanthorpe regaling them of the beautiful sunshine and the snow on the Sierras (like your article and photos of your day up the mountains).
      Have a very merry festive season and all your resolutions for the new year come to fruition.See you next year M&J xx

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    3. Yes, it does sound a tad painful - pulling the crackers I bought from you...better? Have a great time. Axxx

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  2. That looks a lot of fun...and the thought of those varieties of chocolates you had for sale is somewhat overwhelming as here - where they grow the blasted beans - the chocolate on sale is pretty pedestrian unless you take out a mortgage and go to self christened artisan chocolatiers.

    Here all government offices, banks, big firms, have a nativity scene - portal -set up either outside or just inside the entrance - and pretty good some of them are too. Older people tend to meet for prayers in their homes through Advent, and set up a portal at home, with figures added day by day by excited children.
    The shops selling bondieuserie are crowded...angels flying off the shelves...and in the midst of all this the Nicaraguan community are making a big thing of the immaculate conception of Mary with altars set up outside their houses.

    The consumer watchdogs are out in force publishing their findings of exploitative overcharging; the police in San Jose have sort of goon towers set up in busy areas to watch out for bag snatchers and the council has declared war on street vendors.

    Shortly there will be a big parade through the city - floats, beer, half naked girls, beer...and the fiestas have started everywhere with what sounds like two land mines going up to signal the start and fireworks - strictly forbidden in Costa Rica - signalling the end in the early hours of the morning.

    Beer prices are up....as are the prices of tomatoes and potatoes used for making the traditional Christmas tamales...and houses are highly decorated with santas and fairy lights.

    A huge shop selling Chinese Christmas junk (yes, I know) has opened in San Jose to further depress any good taste still existing - and, crowning glory, the Presidential candidates are obliged by law to shut up for the period of Christmas and New Year.

    We're lying low....

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    1. What a wonderful vibrant reply, Helen - thank you so much. I have managed to read your latest post but didn't have time to reply; that's what I shall be doing this week (along with catching up on cleaning and organising a bit - who would have thought a new home could get so 'well worn' so quickly...)
      I love your exciting and realistic description of San Jose. Do you have the ridiculous Santa Clauses hanging from ladders outside houses and pisos? They're not out yet here but....they will be soon.
      Hope you have some of the lovely sunshine we're getting here...it makes all the difference when the world around seems to have gone a little crazy!
      Axxx

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    2. The sunshine reference wasn't meant to imply I thought it would be cold - especially for those half-naked girls - just that I personally am not fond of the damp and miserable weather that always seemed to accompany my Christmases before we moved! Ax

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    3. We're into the dry season now....so it's sunshine all the way...and, yes, the santas are with us.
      When I was first in France the Christmas period used to be mild - we could often have lunch outside in a sheltered corner - but in the later years it was inevitably miserably dank and cold.

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  3. This is the time when a tractor will inevitably pull out in front of you and trundle along the narrow lanes at around 30kms per hour - swaying erratically from side to side to make overtaking impossible.
    This sounds like Devon, but without the rain!
    Sx

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    1. It's certainly very rural...and I was always very fond of Devon. The sunshine certainly helps and I've grown rather fond of tractors. In fact, I want one of my own one day - I just can't decide which colour I like best!
      Axxx

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  4. It all sounds like fun. I miss this kind of build-up to Christmas...the craft and home=produced goods fair. I don't miss all the commercialised stuff.

    No Christmas here I'm afraid, just a normal day. Although in the areas where most expats live they normally get together and celebrate. I'm not really into all that, with the exception of Christmases I spent in Cappodocia, where the expats are somehow different..don't ask me why..I think they just integrate more than other tourist areas. So we did have good Christmases there, with foreigners and locals all joining together, each bringing food and a lucky dip present. The fact that there is always snow there at this time of the year helps the atmosphere.

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    1. Hi Ayak - of course, I can't imagine your village making an effort to recognise Christmas just for you! With all the hype in so many places though, I'm not surprised you don't miss it. Here Christmas is quite low-key - certainly compared to Easter, which is full on! There are enough expats with whom I'm happy to celebrate the festivities (especially those who make fantastic mince pies!) but not too many to change the feel of where we live. It's just right, I feel.
      We haven't had snow yet but I'm sure we'll get it before long - for now, I'm just loving the sun, which is warm and tolerable.
      Axxx

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  5. I feel we are living in a kind of parallel universe except that we don't have the chocolate. I must insist that Ayak comes to the Christmas fare on Sunday and I'll introduce here to all the "nice" expats.

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    1. I shall time travel over with the chocolate once I've worked out how these parallel universes work. In the meantime, I think it would be lovely for Ayak to join you and the nice expats on Sunday. Hope she does. Let us know! Axxx

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  6. What a lovely way to 'kick off' Christmas. I know you'll have been busy preparing for this for a while but I always feel the beginning of December is early enough.

    The craft fair looks interesting and it's good to be introduced to some of the other people in your life.

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    1. It did start to feel more like Christmas on Saturday - and as with everything, I left a lot of my preparation til the last minute, so it wasn't until Friday that the first Christmas pudding truffle rolled off the production line!
      I feel it's time to dig out the decorations this week - finding a place to put them will prove a challenge! Hope you're having a nice few festive weeks at school. Axxx

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  7. How fascinating to read about your little bit of Britain in Spain! Please keep us updated - I love to hear about what the locals make of our funny ways!
    Christmas? I try not to think about it until the last minute, being old enough to have a very complicated family full of happiness & sadness - I just welcome everyone and anyone who turns up, cook lots of food and have a lot of fun buying presents.

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    1. It's a very 'tongue in cheek' name for the shop! There are some lovely expats around this area but I don't see many of them that much. What is nice though is that the shop is now drawing more and more local people. They recognise a place for a good bargain but in general, the Spanish are hopeless at secondhand. Spanish Ebay is truly appalling! Such a shame for a country still in crisis and needing to change their ways.
      Hope there is more happiness than sadness this Christmas, Nilly. I shall miss being with our wider family but it will be nice to be in our own home for the first time in quite a while.
      Axxx

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  8. First of all, I enjoy reading about the olive harvest. Thank you for sharing that. It has a rather romantic feel to me, but, of course, I'm sitting here, not working my tail off to bring in the harvest, nor tied up in traffic.

    As to your chocolates - yum. The Belgian hot chocolate sounds sublime, and something I would have loved to sip on today, where the temperatures have dipped below 10 degrees F. Brrrr.

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    1. Living here does tend to diminish the romantic view of olive groves....firstly, there are just TOO MANY of them and they can become very boring. Secondly, the harvest is noisy and full of machinery noises - but it's what keeps the community alive so it's vital. Sorry to disillusion you!
      The chocolate is definitely delicious - I have had cravings and I don't usually. It tasted particularly good in the Sierra and I suspect would be most welcome at -10 degrees too!
      Axxx

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  9. Your description of the tractors slowing down the traffic sounds luike August and September in rural Normandy with the harvests underway. :-) Your Christmas market looked like great fun and your chocolates absolutely divine. I'm drooling at the names of the fillings.....

    So far I haven't been to anything at all Christmassy this year except for our Mothers' Union annual Christmas lunch last week. But lots of things are happening with out me - carol services, Christmas fairs, etc - though the streets seemed rather bare of shoppers when we were in town yesterday. Perhaps it will all happen in a rush.

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    1. I was almost run off the road this evening by not just one, but two tractors coming towards me - they don't even slow down!
      Glad you like the sound of the chocolates...I have made some more of the Christmas puddings and the lemon cheesecake ones as they went down rather well.

      I'm sure you'll be catching up on the Christmas cheer pretty soon - and if not, then enjoy the slower pace and keep looking after yourself. I shall be happy once I've opened my mum's Christmas cake that I brought back from England in October...I have shown incredible restraint so far!
      Axxx

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  10. I can't get past the thought of that hot chocolate ... the only comment I can come up with is ... would you share with us exactly how you make it please :)

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    1. I will send you the simplest recipe in the world...just don't try it!! I have also dug out the spicy savoury mince pies too - an email to follow. Axxx

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