Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Wednesday 29 February 2012

The 'P' Spot

This also works.....
A strange thing happened to me this week. I nipped onto one of my favourite blogs, Knitsofacto, where there is always so much to enjoy in the form of words, pictures and lovely ideas. On this particualar day, the post was about "wool, flax, cotton, steel" and the most beautiful little bit of embroidery I've ever seen. (Do come back again, won't you?)  And as I was looking at it, the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck began to stand on end and I felt tears pricking my eyes and a lump coming to my throat.

And thanks to Annie on Knitsofacto, I have finally been able to name the thing I've always known I had but didn't know what it was called. It is, as you may have guessed from the title of this post - my 'P' Spot. Annie - your beautiful piece of embroidery on that wonderful material and the immaculate photograph you published was......PERFECT. You hit my 'perfect' spot!

I've always had a tendency to moments of strong emotion, mainly when listening to music. So many pieces set me a tingle all over - too many to mention all of them - though I did mention a few in an earlier blog, where I called my reaction a 'frisson'.

This same rush of a sensation - a physical sensation - I remember feeling from a very early age. It can be brought on by any number of things...( and yes, I think I'm very lucky!)

At one of my primary schools, I sat next to a girl, who had the strange name of Jane Graves, who was, as I remember, rather prim and unfriendly but who had the most perfect handwriting - I would sit and watch her making letters and words with absolute fascination. It may be that she would have been friendly to me if I hadn't watched her writing so obsessively. Jane's writing made me tingle.

By happy coincidence, as I reached secondary school, my best friend was an excellent artist - indeed, she now makes the most amazing works of art in the form of cakes - check her cakes at Scattercake - and I was able to take my penmanship-worship to a higher stage. Just to see her pick up a pen, pencil or brush set me off - she held her instrument of work in a way that was just right. Touched the 'P' spot for me every time.

Other things that have, in their time, been judged as perfect according to my in-built system include the sight of Torvill and Dean skating the Paso Doble at the 1984 Olympics. As I was neither very patriotic nor into ice dancing, I can only assume they too hit my 'P' spot as I found myself in tears every time I saw them in this particular performance - and checking it out on YouTube, it still has the same effect!

Looking out across the Sierra Nevada does it to me too - you may have noticed how I love these mountains from previous posts - they are perfect. The film, 'A Room with a View' is positively stuffed with little 'P' spots ('p') for me - the images of Florence and Tuscany and Kent, the sound of Kiri Te Kanawa's beautiful singing and the immaculate timing of many of the lines - particularly Daniel Defoe's cringeworthy Cecil! I adore watching the film and it never fails to deliver the expected quota of tingles.

And of course, music. From Mozart's Requiem, which, in it's entirety probably has the most 'P' spot hits for me; to the third of Richard Strauss's 'Four Last Songs'; to the amazing chord progression that David Willcocks puts in the last verse of 'Oh, Come All Ye Faithful' (chords leading up to 'Word of the Father'...) - I have a whole catalogue of pieces, tunes, chords and moments that sum up what the word 'perfection' means to me. Most of them are, like the Willcocks piece, just a short series of chord progressions or a change of key or a particularly well-hit note.

Here are just a very few moments in no particular order any more would be pure indulgence: I hope you enjoy them too.

'Beim Schlafengeh' - from 'Four Last Songs' by Richard Strauss, sung by Gundula Janowitz

'Prelude and Fugue No.1 in C Major ' by J.S Bach, played by Friedrich Gulda

'Cello Suite No.1' by J.S. Bach, played by Yo Yo Ma (don't listen beyond the music!)

'Caruso (Te voglio bene assai)' by Lucio Dalla, sung by Pavarotti (and basically anything this man sings sets me off but this is just amazing.)

'Misereri' by Gregori Allegri, sung by the University of Nottingham Music Society with a divine solo soprano

And I think you might listen to this too 'Perfect Day' with Lou Reed and co. Listen out for Heather Small at 1'34 and 3'15, Courtney Pine at 2'40 and Tom Jones at 3'26 and think of me! (Beware, there are some awful noises at the very beginning...)

Hope there are a few 'P' spotters out there.  Do share - let's set the world wide web a-tremble.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Perfect puente

This is a holiday weekend. El día de Andalucía is 28th February and in honour of this occasion, school children have not only the Tuesday off but Monday too - described as a 'bridge' day as it bridges the gap between the weekend and the actual holiday. The day commemorates the date when Andalucia gained the status of an autonomous region over thirty years ago and is one of the rare civil holidays - as opposed to the many religious-based holidays.

As the actual day is a holiday from school, most Andalucian school children are treated to a special celebration on the Friday before - a delicious concoction of bread, olive oil and chocolate - yes...chocolate and olive oil is a wonderful combination and I will be working on some special chocolatey ideas as soon as I get back into production!

Romy has come home full of information about the specialities of each province in Andalucia, which I repeat here without checking her facts - Jaén is known for it´s olives; Almería for ceramics and pottery; Granada for it´s mountains, Málaga for it´s seafood; Sevilla for it´s oranges; Cadíz for it´s grapes, Huelva for copper...and she couldn´t remember what Córdoba´s speciality was but let´s say historical sites are a bit of speciality - as, according to UNESCO, Cordoba has the most historical heritages in the world (OK, that was in 1984 but surely nowhere can gain historical sites..?)

And, as it's a holiday from school, we thought we'd go to the beach for the day. Although the weather has been bright and sunny here in Alcala la Real, it's been chilly out of the sun, so we weren't sure quite how it would be on the coast and went with many layers of clothing on.

We needn't have worried - it was lovely, reaching 23 degrees C in the afternoon on the promenade. There was quite a breeze on the beach though and sea itself was far too cold to do more than test it with one toe but we really enjoyed our first picnic on the beach of the year.
This is the beach at La Herradura - a perfect place to visit at this time of year - small and friendly with excellent ice cream. Horribly busy in the summer months though.

With the spirit of holiday upon us, when we got home last night, FR prepared some pork ribs in a rich, paprika adobado which this afternoon, we took, together with a few bits and pieces up to a nearby hill to eat cooked over the brasas of a real fire. The place we went is a piece of land just 2kms away from home where the views are spectacular and which is owned by the friend of a friend who gave us free rein to go there and have a barbecue whenever we wanted. It has to be one of the most perfect places on earth - or at least this part of Jaen!

Wild iris out in flower
One of the many atalayas - or watch towers - in the area

Not clearly visible today due to heat haze but through that gap is the wonderful Sierra Nevada
Almond trees just coming into blossom
Filling the air with honeyed scent - gorgeous

FR put his boyscout skills to the test by building a barbecue - none of this portable stuff for us! The children and I went foraging for wood to fuel the fire.

And within an hour or so, we were munching on the most delicious spare ribs ever cooked, delicately flavoured with rosemary and thyme.

A glorious sight!

Now we're back home, watching a Superman film in a kind of relaxed and tired torpor - a good kind - but I think we might stay at home tomorrow...

Monday 20 February 2012

Building castles in the Sierra

On Saturday, we got up too late, were too disorganised and too lazy to go to the beach.

So we went to Sierra Elvira instead. It's only half an hour's drive away, in the direction Granada.

As you turn off the main road to the sierra, you pass an intriguing sign to the Thermal Baths or 'Aguas Termales'.

They're currently closed, but we peered through the gates and saw quantities of steam rising from where the pool must be.

(I do wonder why the baths don't open until 18th June. The waters have medicinal qualities (allegedly and I believe it) and stay at a constant 30 degrees.
I'm sure there must be more like me who really fancy the idea of being submerged in warm water in the the sun - in February!)

Anyway, they were closed....another day we will go but I was very tempted to climb the gates!

We continued up the hill and left the road and most of the civilised world behind us, entering a pine forest between the trees of which were strewn lots of small stones and boulders - and grass! The children were delighted and Darwin was so excited that he jumped out of the car window. (We were going very slowly and I knew he wanted to go, so I let him - all under control, don't worry!)

And we found a clearing where we parked up and had our picnic and then, whilst FR read his book, I wandered off and Mateo and Ruy set to and built fortresses, trading with an ambulant stick vendor, whilst Darwin ran in more circles than you would imagine possible.

Beginnings of a wall

Another bit of wall
In the end, the boys joined forces and built up a single wall between two trees. Then they found a skull which was manoevered onto a stick and set atop the castle walls.

Skull castle 

Darwin chewed pinecones to his heart's content

 Everyone thought it would be a good idea to make a fire.

So two sticks were prepared
And much friction was applied
Lots and lots
But in the end, there wasn't even any smoke and we all admitted defeat. The sun was so warm we didn't need a fire anyway.

Why can I never capture all three of my children at once? Oh well, here's a nice one of two of them.
And we eventually returned home, feeling like we'd spent a day in the sun having a great adventure.
Later that evening, I called in to one of our neighbours and told them where we'd been. They asked if we'd noticed whether the rocks were warm underfoot - apparently, the whole area is supposed to be a dormant volcano and the local myth is that you can feel earth tremors most days. I can't say I noticed either hot rocks or unexpected movements but the steaming baths indicate that the subterranea is pretty close. There are underground caverns as well as the baths and many people come to investigate them but so far, the volcano remains a myth.

At least I hope that's how it remains.

Sunday 19 February 2012

A little warmth...

A most welcome feeling has crept in over the past few days - a little warmth in the air. Instead of single figures of degrees (centigrade) we've moved into double. And we've really noticed the difference.

And the weather improved in time for Carnaval. This time last year, it snowed on the day the children were supposed to parade and in the end, only the adults braved the cold the following day - captured by me a whole year ago!

Proud Roman

As Romy and her classmates were to be togged out in togas, I was pleased that the sun felt warm and the icy conditions of past weeks seemed behind us - there would have been some frozen, real-life Roman statues otherwise.

Conquering Crusader

But with several underlayers,both Ruy and Romy set off to school as members of some of the many civilisations that have invaded and influenced Andalucia. Each school in the town picks different themes and I was pleased Alonso de Alcala chose one that had some historical relevance - and practical and economical too - the children can wear the same costumes on Andalucia Day later on in the year. The effects of 'el crisis' - or a little sense prevailing at last?

And on the parade through the town later in the morning, in the same school, we saw many other visitors to the area - welcomed and otherwise!

Friends, Romans and Countrymen..

Los Moros

More Moros, followed by the Christians ..and a stray trogolodyte!

Some beautiful Christian maidens in stunning costumes

Protected by handsome knights

Marauding Visigoths

The Romans - posing for a quick sculture

And these are Greeks, not Romans...

The Band got to wear whatever they wanted!

Well done Alcala la Real - well done Alonso de Alcala!

Friday 17 February 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 14 February 2012

The lyfe so short, the craft so long to lerne..

From The Parlement of Fowlys by Geoffrey Chaucer - image via Plantagenet

 A familiar line, penned by Geoffrey Chaucer as the opening lines of The Parliament of Fowls, written in 1382. Life is short - so much to learn, especially about love. Although Saint Valentine, the Christian martyr dates back to the fifth century, it is generally believed that Chaucer's work was the first to link St. Valentine with love, lovers and all things smoochy.

The poem states:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day (For this was on Saint Valentine's Day)
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make. (When every bird came there to choose his mate).

Unlikely, then that this was originally celebrated on 14th February - not usually the bird-mating season - but the poem clearly links the saint with love. And it stuck. Whilst to many now, it may seem like nothing more than commercial hype, specifically designed to get us to buy some over-priced card, box of chocolates, piece of jewellery or more to demonstrate our love to our chosen one, it would seem that this tradition - and our desire to learn the craft of love -  has seen excesses of sentimental expressions for many centuries.

From the Middle Ages on, through Shakespeare's drama, the poetry of John Donne (love him!) to the overwhelmingly sugary Victorian Age - St. Valentine's Day has been the day to think of our loved ones with more than usual attention. My own FR - resistant to advertising - swears he loves me with passion every day and I believe him.We rarely do more than apologise for not capitulating to marketing pressures, have a big hug and continue as normal.

This year, looking for themes on which to base my English teaching classes, I have combined two things - one being St. Valentine's Day - it's a good one for learning new vocabulary about emotions and feelings.
Last week, in my most difficult challenging class, we had a modicum of success in acting out 'The Little Gingerbread Man' - attention spans were less deficit for at least half our time together and some good work on pronunciation was made. So, building on this, I decided to make some gingerbread men to take with me this week.

 And yesterday, Romy and I set to and made both men and hearts (plus a butterfly and a couple of unidentified things.) So today, as a token of how very special everyone is, the children have set off to school with a gingerbread heart in their 'tuckbox'. And for FR, some of my gingerbread men have little hearts - just for today. He knows he has mine always.

Happy Valentine's Day - how do you spent it?  With lots of love, I hope.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Frozen waves

I had just posted birthday wishes to my friend and fellow blogger, Janice, on her Facebook page and she told me how joli cold it is in France too at the moment - and her next comment really made me think,.... and then google, as we do these days.

She said there were frozen waves in Narbonne.

Did you get that... frozen waves! And so that's what I googled.

And I found these amazing photographs which I just had to share.

And whilst these next two pictures aren't strickly the waves that you get on the sea they are truly wonderful images.

Originally uploaded onto the internet falsely claiming to be waves frozen in midair at Lake Huron, there are many websites showing a full selection of these fantastic formations, together with more details explanation. I got mine from here.

Thank you Janice - and thanks to the internet for instant gratification of my curiosity. I feel I've learned a little more about this world we live in.

Saturday 4 February 2012

Noche de lumbre

The turning of the calendar wheel; the passing of time; celebrations - pagan, Celtic, Christian and secular.
Many of these share common dates and the beginning of February is one such time.

Here in Spain, the 1st February is traditionally a night to light fires - lumbres - and here in Alcalá la Real, on a bitterly cold evening, the glow and warmth from many fires was both welcome and uplifting. We were invited to join the fire at the iglesia La Consolación, the biggest in our town, by our neighbour, Manuel. So at around 8pm, we wrapped up warm and made the short walk to the church, where the fire was already burning brightly.
In addition to lots of lovely olive wood, the fire was regularly stoked with piles of rosemary, which as well as crackling dramatically, gave off the most wonderful smelly smoke!

There were piles of 'patatas fritas' - which are fried potatoes and can be either what we call 'chips' (and hot) or 'crisps' (and cold) - I say this because in Spain, 'chips' are crisps, but I reckon this is because Spanish people struggle so hard to say 'crisps'. It's something I get my students to say and it creases me up to see them struggling with the 'sps' sounds - it's alien to them and their mouths contort amazingly in the attempt to bring unfamiliar consonants together. That and 'wasps'... I guess I am easily amused.

Where was I? Ah yes, crisps and other crunchy snacks were laid out on a table along with many bottles of wine, each with special 'pouring' top on - which we had to lift high above our heads and pour the wine into our mouths - saves on providing glasses or cups and no need to share germs! Made the wine taste even better, too, in my opinion.

As we stood, as close to the fire as we dared, we were offered slices of chorizo and salsichon made from the recently deceased pigs - killed during late Autumn at numerous local 'matanzas'. Very welcome and of excellent quality.

Then we heard a familiar sound - Manuel's piano accordian. And I have to say, in a crowded place, with only snatches of the tune wafting through lively conversation, one could almost imagine that Manuel could actually play his instrument - it added a certain something to the evening's enjoyment. A good thing, that is.

And after about an hour, mellow from wine and the glow of the fire, we poddled back in good spirits to our home and agreed that life was good and February was definitely a month for celebrating this fact.

A PS. The next day, I was teaching a couple of English people who live in the next town south from here - Montefrio - and they had not known of the tradition of lighting fires. They live out in the country and heard a loud explosion - so loud, they went out to investigate and were horrified to see what seemed like their neighbour's house on fire! They were so relieved a couple of moments later when two big fireworks went shooting up into the sky and some more, firework-related explosions.

PPS - I wrote about this celebration on my blog last year, together with the one of 2 February, - it has a little more information if you're interested.

Friday 3 February 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.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Go Faster Stripes

One of my favourite bloggers was doing some important musing and wondering recently. She was particularly intrigued by how Alice's chocolate had achieved its stripe. I was almost overcome with excitement - because I KNEW.

Yes, I know how the stripe was placed so elegantly in Alice's chocolate. And this post is to demonstrate to MPM (and anyone else who may be preoccupied by the problem) how it's done. Albeit in a rather rough and ready version...

First off - prepare your chocolate making equipment - including here, white and milk chocolate (all I had in) and some chocolate moulds. (Yes, they are dinosaurs!)

Without going into the details (because this isn't a chocolate tempering workshop) melt the chocolate in preparation for putting into the moulds.

And then here is the clever bit - unfortunately I was unable to capture the actual moment as I was without a photographer and my hands were occupied. To get a perfect stripe, one should use a piping bag but I couldn't be bothered. I just dribbled a thin stream of chocolate directly from the spoon into the mould; allowing the chocolate to make a line in each individual mould. (Apologies for the photography.)

Allow this chocolate to set in the mould before filling with the white chocolate. And then wait til this sets too.

Et voila! One 'inset' stripe. And I confess, it's not elegantly placed - it would have looked better offset to the left as you look at it and with a little bit of pink or red chocolate in the indentation and if time had been on my side, I would probably have made these with a truffle centre, rather than solid. But you get the idea...?

Random dribbling! And a fair bit of blobbing.
Hope this unprofessional guide explains it for you, MPM. And anyone else struggling with the same anxieties.

And I hope she doesn't mind if I pinch one of her comments I read on her blog - 'Pass me another atom, this one's split!' Love it!