Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Friday 27 January 2012

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember.  :: Idea from :SouleMama:   If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Extra Virgin or...........?

Pure or not quite so pure.  You can't tell just by looking. Looks can be deceptive and you may already have preconceived ideas that could lead you into erroneous judgement.

You've got to get close and sniff. A good deep inhalation. Do you get green? Do you get grassy? Maybe even something a little fruity? That's a good sign.

Take a sip...yes, a sip...can't face that, eh? I understand, though to really do it properly, you do have to swig, swill and swallow. No? OK, then, take a chunk of plain white bread - no tasty, wholewheat stuff - just plain white bread. Dip it, really soak it. And taste it.

What do you get? If it's anything between a tickle and a coughing fit, we could be onto a winner. Peppery, spicy, something with a bit of a kick like a chilli? Oh, yes - this is good, this is good.

Olive oil tasting is as much of an art as wine tasting. And flavours can differ almost as widely. A key difference, that I hadn't realised until I came to live in an olive-growing area, is that unlike grapes, olives don't come in different colours - black olives are green olives that have ripened. I had always assumed that, like grapes, the colour of the olive was a difference of type, not age. There are different types of olive - grown in different parts of the world but all will start off a greeny colour and will ripen to a blacky colour.

And the greener the oil, if it's a good quality extra-virgin olive oil, then the stronger the likelihood that the olives were picked early in the harvesting season - sometime between October and November - definitely before Christmas. It is this oil that produces a greeny, grassy/fruity-scented, peppery oil that is unlike much of what is for sale in supermarkets.

OK, I'm no expert.

However, I am learning! And this is thanks to the wonderful Antonio - who knows everything and everybody around here (and loves to learn English) - a local olive oil producer was recently introduced to us. He has an olive oil conference coming up and needs an interpreter as delegates are coming from as far away as Australia, Japan and South Africa. He came to see us at the weekend, bringing with him three large bottles of his oil, and FR is most happy to take the on the job. He loves anything to do with olives - from the beautiful wood to the stones that are burned in latest heating devices - and is at this moment having a tour of the olive oil factory with the producer, very happy about this turn of events.

We did a proper tasting of the three oils and were amazed at just how very different each of them was - so much so that we went on to try, in a similar way, all the oils we had in our house. Like wine, they all have a their own distinct taste and flavour.

The olive picking season this year has been early as the weather has been good all over the Christmas season - there has hardly been a day when the tractors, land rovers and trucks haven't been out in the fields along with a majority of the inhabitants of the town. Let's hope this means a good year for olive oil.

We have had many different tractors parked around out house in recent months but I was really rather taken with this one...I've become a tractor-fancier! I'm just so sorry I didn't get a photo of one I saw a couple of weeks ago - it was a Lamborghini and it was gorgeous.

So - watch out for more olive oil tips on this blog - how to tell virgin from extra-virgin (it's the acidity level that decides it), how to store it, use and of course, a bit of a plug for 'our' olive oil region and maybe a bit of competition bashing. The Spanish are rather green on the marketing front, unlike the Italians, who think they invented olive oil - ha!. As you may guess, the Italian stuff is mostly adulterated and violated and impure! Probably....

Friday 20 January 2012

Dangerous free radical?

I have had a request from my husband. He wants me to remove his name and all pictures of him from my blog. This is going to be a big task and I'm equally sure that once I start, he'll have a rethink and decide it really isn't a problem after all. However, he has asked me to do it and I will respect his wishes. I will therefore refer to him as FR from now on. All will be clear.

These past few months have been very important for my FR as he has been working in Granada at the wonderful theatre space at the foot of the Alhambra that has been made available to him by the Junta (or local goverment) of Andalucia. He's been running a course designed for actors, based on the theory, philosophy and writings of Edward Bond, arguably Britain's greatest living playwright. It was surprisingly well-attended (considering FR is an unknown teacher and his subject was a somewhat controversial British author) and it has been extremely well-received, with some wonderful feedback that must have really warmed FR's cockles and other parts. They warmed mine.

FR can say his wife does not understand him. It's not entirely true, of course, but at times it's a close description of our relationship. We have overcome the language barrier to a greater or lesser extent - though now the boot is on the other foot and it's me that at times appears to be a bit deaf; who forgets an instruction; who can't seem to grasp a vital bit of information; who can't write a telephone number down accurately. All of which was FR when we lived in England. It's a language thing. There are times when no matter how good a command of a language a 'foreigner' might have, there are some things that just don't go in. I have accused FR of not listening to me on many an occasion in the past as he would fail to do something I'd specifically asked, or he'd ask me a question about something I'd just finished providing an answer for - as if he was trying to be funny or something. Which he wasn't. The children laughed from time to time as he did this so often.

Now it's me that has cloth ears and sometimes just can't quite get what is being asked of me or what I am being told. It's me who is slow on the uptake when we're out with a crowd or family group.  And I'll have to accept that it might always be a bit like this. It's frustrating and explains a lot about some of FR's reactions in the past.

Why FR? Well, one thing about my husband is that he is not exactly the predictable type - apart from knowing that you will never quite know what he will do in any given situation. This definitely makes life fun/exhausting/maddening/exciting (depending on the time of the month, I find) and certainly never boring.  He's a revolutionary at heart and almost always has a radical solution to propose for any problem - and I love the definitions available in the The Free Dictionary for the word 'radical':
1. Arising from or going to a root or source; basic: proposed a radical solution to the problem.
2. Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme: radical opinions on education.
3. Favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions: radical political views.
4. Linguistics Of or being a root: a radical form.
5. Botany Arising from the root or its crown: radical leaves.
6. Slang Excellent; wonderful.
He's radical. And definitely free as in a free thinker
And free radicals are crucial, combustible atoms or molecules that are vitally important to our chemical makeup but which equally can be dangerous or harmful - and whilst FR is not usually either of these things, I do like to think of him as a 'dangerous free radical' - a term which caught my attention many years ago (in connection with some night cream, I think) as a particularly good one for the somewhat fierce, charged, attractive man  I have married. Of whom I am inordinately proud despite - and in spite of - our occasional verbal misunderstandings. And as we are told, between two people, around 60% of communication is non-verbal anyway. Which is nice to know. 
So goodbye to photos containing my lovely FR husband, I shall be removing them slowly but surely over the coming days. And when I've managed to establish why this is necessary - through verbal or other means - I'll let you know. Though I probably know why already.

Monday 16 January 2012

Acceptance Speech

I've just been listening to the the radio via the internet - Radio 4, one of the few English things we really do miss, especially lying in bed either late at night or early in the morning. We were talking about this the other day and Cesar had the excellent idea of setting the laptop up on the bedside table next to him just for this purpose - still to be put into practice - I'll remind him when he's finished vacuuming. (Wish he'd hurry up, I can't hear the radio!)

The Golden Globes. I am going to state here how much I dislike Ricky Gervais - not even going to give him a link - always did  and always will. That he hosted the Golden Globes again bothers me not in the least because I couldn't give a hoot for the Golden Globes either! Ha!

This post is nothing whatsoever to do with either the Golden Globes (despite having mentioned it four times now..) but is about making my own 'acceptance speech' for an award that I have been given by the lovely Ayak, over on Ayak's Turkish Delight. Thank you Ayak!

Unlike some awards, this one doesn't require me to tell you anything; no little fetishes, no quirks or strange habits I might consider I have - nothing (- so I shall have to find another excuse of my own to do that!) I have only to accept it, which I do most graciously, and to pass on the award to five of my favourite blogs that you might not know about yet. There is only one requirement which has required a little research on my part.
I am delighted to have 35 followers, some I know personally, some I have come to know as fellow bloggers and some I have no real knowledge of at all - thank you all! For this award, only blogs with less than 200 followers are eligible. A lot of the blogs I read regularly fall into this category and I have, in the past, nominated them for one of the two other awards that I have been given. I would love to renominate them all again this time round but I think it would be more in the spirit of the award to nominate another five blogs.

So, I would love you to pop over sometime and enjoy the words and pictures to be found on the following blogs:
Janice in Caunes - a personal favourite as I know Janice from a previous existence. I was delighted that she was bitten by the blogging bug at an exciting time in her life as she and her husband, Mark, begin a balancing act between their two homes - one in southern France, the other in northern England.

The House - I found this blog early on in my blogging period, whilst we were still looking for a house in the north of Spain. This is a 'warts and all' account of what it has been like for one blogger - really honest, often comical, often quite scary, very personal - and I just love how she writes, which is very much for herself, I think and very unsentimental.

A Life More Ordinary - I may have mentioned that I like knitting. I read quite a lot of knitting and crochet blogs - it's amazing how many people who knit and crochet also blog - in fact, I think there could be a significant correlation between the two and I may well investigate this one day. When I first read her blog, I could have sworn that Allyson was based in England, probably just round the corner from my sister - but no - I think she's in Australia. The world feels very small sometimes and Allyson feel very near. One of the reasons I love blogging!

Knitsofacto - this is not only a fellow blogger and fellow knitter (though in a league way, way beyond me) but also a fellow Annie. I love Annie's words and pictures and I love how she has set her blog out - with the Coffeehouse a place to visit to read her own favourite blogs. It's a lovely idea from a very creative and talented lady. And she actually does live just round the corner (well, comparatively!) from my sister and would have waved to me had she known I was recently visiting Chester Zoo. I like that too!

And finally, my wildcard - Cojones del dia - which I guess will translate as 'Balls of the day'. This is not someone who blogs regularly, more the shame, but whose blog has made me laugh out loud, appealing as it does to my northern sense of humour. It is three months since the last entry, so perhaps if you visit and enjoy, perhaps this comic will write a bit more often - he has a way with words that really does remind me of people at home in Yorkshire!

And there we have it. Thank you Ayak; thank you readers; that is all my acceptance speech needs to include.

I hope you enjoy my choices and that they in turn will help to keep that world wide web spinning so beautifully.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Return to the old obsession

I haven't been able to blog recently. I've been too busy - eyes peeled to the computer screen every available moment of the day. Damn it all.

Before Christmas, we thought we'd found 'the' house. FR went to look at it one Sunday after we'd spent all day Saturday looking at other houses - which drives the children mad - so he went alone. He liked it very much and we decided to go immediately together the next day. When I first entered it, I thought 'wow' - the right response if you're going to buy a house, in my opinion - I really did like it. We came back and FR made a preliminary offer over the phone, stressing that we needed to get the opinion of an expert as the house is in need of reform and he would be speaking with a surveyor before making any firm offer. The owners - an old man and his wife - are aware that they have a big old house that needs a lot of reform and, as none of their sons are interested in keeping the property and doing the work for themselves, selling is the only real option for them. The man is also realistic enough to know that his potential buyers will be few and far between and so he made all the right, helpful noises about negotiating and making the house available to whoever needed to see it. So we went again later in the week with the children - this time taking tape measures and poking around a bit more.

My second reaction was less 'wow' and more 'omg' as the extent of the work that needed doing on the property began to filter into the more realistic part of my brain (it's just a little part, but it is there.) I could feel my feet going cold where I stood, which was nothing to do with FR saying that all, not part of the roof, would need replacing. FR had been speaking with various people all during the week, only to realise that the sort of survey we wanted is not routinely done in Spain - especially if the sale isn't connected to a mortgage application. Getting a survey was not a straightforward little job! I have decided to leave all that to FR to sort out and he has done. (I'll try that approach more often!)

The children quite liked the house but their enthusiasm has definitely waned about individual places - they just want to know if we are going to buy or not. If not, they switch off immediately. This house is not in Alcala la Real - a change of schools would be necessary if we were to buy it. To give them credit, the children appeared to give this house a good going over and investigated the immediate surroundings - which includes a rather lovely park and the town's Cultural Centre. But...both FR and I felt filled with the fear that it would be a total drain on our limited resources. It could be made lovely - but could we afford to do it?

I decided to resist the temptation to rush ahead ( something I usually do), telling FR I simply wasn't convinced and didn't want to make any further commitment to the place. On top of being financially un-doable, it wasn't in Alcala so the children would have to move school and it didn't have a garden (though the internal patio was really rather nice) and we said that was something we wanted. And then it was Christmas.

And then we came to England, the children and I, and I spent some time describing the house to my sister and I started to like it all over again. And then we came back to Alcala la Real and I fell in love with this place all over again. And now I've started searching the internet for properties as if I had never done it before. Obsessively typing searches into Google in both English and Spanish to try and find a new site, a never-before visited page. No time to blog, no time to think.

And today, I decided to do something else and read some blogs for the first time in a while. I had the lovely discovery that I've been given another award - than you Ayak! I shall get on with that very shortly. And in reading other people's blogs, I began thinking about writing my own again. And now I think I might have just managed to break my obsessive househunting cycle by writing about it. One of the first rules, isn't it - admit your problem and desire to stop. I admit, I am addicted to looking at houses on the internet. And I want to stop. I am going to stop and my blog and the world of blogging is going to help me.

I hadn't wanted to blog about the house we'd seen - it felt like tempting fate. I looked the other way and didn't talk about it as I was not sure what I really thought. I've come back from England feeling that this house is a good option for us despite the negatives already mentioned. It's big; it has a lot of potential to make into a beautiful family home with the potential for more options; it is very accessible to Granada where there will be more possibilities for FR; it's in another family-friendly town with lots of amenities for growing children. It is a good place to live if you have three with varied and different interests; it has schools and shops and public transport and the house is central with a garage and good access.

We have now put in an offer that we could afford. We don't know if it will be accepted or not. We should know in a few more days. There is nothing else I can do now apart from wait for the owner's answer. Looking at more houses won't improve our chances of buying this one. I am now familiar with just about every property for sale within a 50km radius and know that there is nothing else I want to look at just now.

And so I'm off to knit a cowl/scarf for Romy from some lovely alpaca wool I have and I promise that next time I blog, I will show it to you as prove of having my obsession back under control. And if our offer is accepted - I'll tell you that too!

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Well, well, well

This is a most strange sensation. As far as blogging is concerned, I appear to have - like the proverbial well - dried up!

I so missed writing my blog whilst away in England. All the usual blogger things were happening to me during our stay there - such as thinking up titles, putting into words what I was seeing and doing, turning a single little event into a storyline, mentally adding little comments to the photos that we did (or didn't!) take...but now I'm back...nothing!

It's all gone - evaporated, perhaps, in the warm sunshine in which we are currently basking here in my adopted home - but gone nevertheless. I'm sure it will return. I'm sure it will.

For now, I leave you with this little treasure which is how it feels to be back in Spain - Andalucia. And all I want to do is listen to it over and over. Over and out.

Saturday 7 January 2012

First post

Of 2012 that is. It's just about a year since I wrote 'The Last Post' from the house of los abuelos in Valladolid with little real knowledge of where we were going or what we were going to do. The year that has passed has brought about such a difference.

The children and I spent the first week of 2012 in England with my family and friends and we had a wonderful time...more of which in a moment...but what struck me was the mounting sense of excitement on the journey back from the airport as we approached Alcala la Real and our first view of La Mota again. For me, it was intense and as we arrived back at our (still rented) house and walked in the door, I definitely had that 'we're home' feeling. And it was good.

Our visit to England was for a week and I think we packed a whole month's worth of things in; including a visit to a perennial favourite, Chester Zoo, where the real highlight - as well as going as a group of nine people, which was fantastic - was the baby tapir, born just four days previously. And still  in her pyjamas and slippers!

 Another Christmas Day dinner and family gathering around the Christmas tree, in anticipation of presents and games - and we were not disappointed.

Solo performance by my one-handed non-musical father who has recently claimed to be enjoying dancing Zumba-style at his stroke club...

A post-prandial game of Beetle threw up some interesting interpretations! William's tiny VW version is probably my favourite though Dad was deemed winner for finishing first.

Although it was technically the same day as our (second) Christmas Day, later on, we enjoyed a New Year's Eve Concert - not the Messiah this year! We saw the New Year in with Cesar and los abuelos an hour earlier thanks to SKYPE!

The next day, we went on a long, long walk along a wild and windy ridge with Judy, Rob and their two dogs (no photos, forgot camera). And then on the following day, we had a great (unphotographed, grrr) day out in Huddersfield which appeared to begin badly as I couldn't hire a car but turned out to be a rather fun adventure on a series of trains, (including us getting on the wrong one and nearly going to Sheffield - but no panic, I would have called you, Andy! If I'd had your number, that is...) Once safely in Huddersfield, we had lunch out whilst Mateo met his friends, and then, by relying on a series of well-timed and well-executed and very gratefully received lifts from one place to another, we had nowhere near enough time (but absolutely better than no time) with several of our friends and eventually arrived safely back at the railway station, pretty well laden-down with gifts of giant space hoppers, (actually, just the one), DVDs and books. I was so chilled and cheerful by then that the fact that the train to Knutsford was cancelled didn't phase me at all! Strange, that!
We hopped on one to Stockport and my lovely sister came to fetch us. Better than a bus that wouldn't arrive until after can have too much adventure in one day if you're not careful.

On Tuesday, we went to Liverpool, where my clever niece, Emily, is studying to be a vet. I've grown very fond of Liverpool in recent years and still have a lot of it to explore. We really enjoyed our noisy, chilly look around the streets and the docks on the Yellow Duckmarine with a comical tour guide - surrounded, rather surreally, by Spanish tourists as fellow passengers.

It was chilly - no Andalucian blue sky here. And look, the evidence that Mateo has ggrroowwwnnnn - he's just about as tall as I am now!


And of course, in between and as well as all the gadding about enjoying ourselves, I got to spend time with my favourite sister.

OK, she's my only sister, but if you can only have one, then this is the one to have - and she's mine!