Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Friday 30 March 2012

Bump, bump, bump

“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it”

I used to have this picture and these words on my wall at work.  It was helpful to explain why people always seemed to do what they had always done.  I used to try to stop the bumping long enough for them to find better ways of doing things. It often worked a treat!

However, I am unable to take my own advice and just wanted to apologise to my favourite bloggers for not commenting on any of their recent posts. I am unable to do so - I get an error message, which is even more irritating as it's in Spanish - and I don't have a moment to work out what the problem is. 

So for now, I shall just carry on bumping along and hope I find time to stop sometime soon!

Thursday 29 March 2012

In brief...

Been a bit busy this last week.

My wise, comical and lovely sister came to stay at the weekend - an event much anticipated and greatly enjoyed but which went far too quickly. She and her husband came on Saturday morning and stayed with us just till Sunday evening. It was cruel luck that we were robbed of a whole hour too as the clocks went forward that weekend. Saturday, after meeting at the airport, was spent on the beach at La Herradura with a picnic, the children and the dog before coming back to give them a whistlestop tour of our lovely town. On Sunday, FR cooked some amazing ribs in the fireplace of an old house to which we have the keys whilst we went up to La Mota and walked some more. And we walked again in the evening up to the other side of town - all heartily approved of - then they whizzed off to Granada to spend Monday visiting the Alhambra and having a rub down in some Arabic Baths before setting off back to Malaga on Tuesday, stopping at Antequera and the old stones in El Torqal - phew!

Yesterday was my father's birthday - last year, I went to visit him for his 80th - and it struck me just how quickly the year has gone by. I don't think the year has done my dad any favours, but he's still here. It gets harder for my mum too but they continue to enjoy things as much as they can. They had been out for lunch with their good friends when we phoned to sing to him and were then going to settle down to a strenuous game of dominoes.

I've also been working just over twelve months as the Academia here, teaching English. That hasn't got much easier either though I really enjoy some of the classes and am extremely fond of quite a number of my students.

I do enjoy my Wednesday Spanish class. I can't say I teach - what I do is hold a 'chatty class', where we swap comical stories about our experiences with the people of Andalucia and compare local accents. There are several people in the group who are learning to speak by listening and being involved with the local communities and it is really comical to hear them speak with a perfect 'Andaluz' dialect! I am reminded of an Italian friend of my sister's who came to visit us in Yorkshire. We taught her to say 'Well, ah'll go t' t' foot of ar stairs' and she managed it in a brilliant imitation but which always reduced us to tears of laughter at the incongruity.

Today there has been a general strike in Spain. Not that there was much evidence here in Alcala. The news showed scenes of a different nature in other parts of the country - some vocal and well-attended, others violent.  Here, the striking civil servants seemed to be taking pleasure in shopping at those places not striking. Ironic.

And tomorrow, a dear friend and her son are coming to visit. FR is escaping to his parents for a few days to give us space to talk, be disorganised and indulgent with the children and ourselves. He has a lot of work to finish and no place to hide here to do it. It's a good arrangement!
The processions for Semana Santa begin on Sunday and go on all week - it is quite a culture shock to the uninitiated so I'm looking forward to showing this to our guests.

And despite being so busy, I am SO missing making my chocolates. I must think of a way to address this...when I have a moment.

Monday 26 March 2012

Creative - moi?

Thank you, Perpetua, for passing on such a lovely award recently. And even better, it came without strings or requirements other than to pass it on to four other bloggers whose creativity I admire. I have decided to nominate bloggers who take creativity to the level of art and whose blogs inspire me, rather than listing some of my favourite blogging friends. Some are professional and leaders in their art. You may know some of them, but nevertheless,  for me, it is a pleasure to nominate the following who, with their words, their photos or their hands, leave me in awe.

I have nominated The Hermitage before but I can't think of any other site more worthy of an award for creativity than this one. Rima's work is fascinating and she weaves beautiful images with her words and her photography. She moves in circles of creative people too and her recent post about the death of one of her friends is deeply moving.

Even if knitting isn't your thing, I defy you not to be amazed by Kate Davies. Not only a huge creative talent in designing  knitwear, Kate's story is incredible and I admire her intensely.

And Coco & Me is a blog I have enjoyed reading for many years. I found this lovely blogger as I searched for chocolate recipe inspiration and found this and more. A talented cook, baker and chocolatier, Tamami writes really well about all sorts of things - including her busy life - and takes incredible time and effort to explain how to make her recipes.

And although this isn't a blog and is someone I know, I can't even hear the word 'creative', never mind write about it, without thinking immediately of my best friend, Annie. Do please take a look at her website - Scattercake - for some jaw-dropping skills in sugarcraft. She and I go back to Junior School and in all honesty, she deserves a whole blog dedicated to her skills, abilities and her incredible roller-coaster of a life. She is an artist, musician, nurse, midwife, cancer survivor, adoptive mother and now cake maker extraordinaire.

It was lovely to be picked to receive the award. I think bloggers are generally a creative bunch - what are our blogs if not little creations? My blogroll is probably the best place to go to find evidence of creativity. Reading what you have all written is always a great source of inspiration and so this award is for all of you.

And then I stopped to think about my many friends, all of whom I consider to be incredibly creative. Most have made beautiful homes, some are wonderful cooks, some can sew, some can make cards or draw or paint or sculpt. Some make jokes. Many have made fantastic children. All of them make me happy.

P.S. I have been thinking about my chocolates and how much I miss making them: I need to think of a way to start up a little business as I intended at the outset.

Monday 19 March 2012

My neighbour is a saint.

Actually, I should say, my neighbour HAS a saint - or rather a picture depicting a saint - one whose name I am unable to tell you but who may, or may not be connected to the saint of the day. Living in a very Catholic part of a Catholic country, we are treated to the celebration of a great number of Saint's Days. Today it is the day of San José - St. Joseph - the husband of Mary and, a little ironically, also the day that Spain (and Portugal and Italy) celebrates Father's Day.

Here in Alcala la Real, a Saint's Day is a good one to get the bands out on the streets - it is the purpose that practice is done every week, after all! We had intended going out this evening to listen and see the bands marching around the town. 

But we didn't need to. 

Unbeknown to us, the couple who live just across the street from us have been harbouring a saint in their front room for the past 11 months. Chosen by lottery from over 600 people in the town, the couple took responsibility for maintaining a picture surrounded by a huge, heavy and ornate silver frame. 

This takes up the greater part of their living room and they have kept it polished and decorated with fresh flowers since last April. Any member of the public who wants access to pray can have it and are welcomed into the house for the purpose. And because this saint is here, so all the bands of the town come around to play to it.

Which is why we didn't have to go anywhere to hear them. 

So far, five different bands have marched either up the road or down the road and stopped outside our kitchen. 

It's been both beautiful and bizarre. And quite loud.

At one point, I pan upwards - and was surprised not to find La Mota all lit up as usual. Caught out!

Wednesday 14 March 2012

I spy

With my little eye, two planets beginning with 'V' and 'J'.

Yes, just to the left of our (note the possessive) wonderful castle, La Mota, amazingly clear in the night sky are the planets Venus and Jupiter. I read today that the skies are cloudy over the UK but I wanted to share this fantastic sight with you. I don't know if other folk across the world (who pass by my blog) have as good a view or can take a better photo - I just pointed and clicked - but I have been in awe these past few evenings to think we can see these two celestial orbs in our skies.

Off back to gaze again.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Room without a View

This is a very silly post. But what the heck.

I've just been reading my favourite blogs, this being Saturday morning and a day when we have no plans to go whizzing off to the coast or the sierra or to view houses anywhere. Just over half the family are up and so there are still some in bed - blog-reading is my indulgence and I do it with one of my wonderful cups of freshly-made coffee that I really can't manage without.

One of my favourite blogger is Perpetua, who writes Perpetually in Transit, and who this morning has written about the view she has from one of her windows. It's a lovely view of a very handsome tree and is taken from her bathroom window.

It made me think about the views from the bathroom windows I had in my life and I can honestly say that none of them have been particularly good. It is not usually the view that is important in a bathroom. Having looked at rather a lot of houses this year, I can honestly say the view from the bathroom has not been a key concern - though it might be in future!

Where we are currently living, we don't have a 'view' at all. The house was extended from it's original size at some point and an extra bedroom put where there used to be a roof terrace - the new roof terrace has a stunning view, which is greatly appreciated! This has meant that the bathroom is an internal room and whilst it would once have opened onto a small terrace it now it opens onto a storage place from where some iron steps lead up to the roof terrace. We have filled this storage area with all the empty cardboard boxes that we know we will need again once we find 'our' house and buy it.

It is, to put it mildly, a bit of an eyesore - not a view at all.

However, following on from Perpetua's post and the comments she has received about bathrooms with views, I think it would be fun to post photos from our bathroom windows.  What's your's like? Is it better than this?

The window

The 'view'...

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Getting my nose in

Living in Jaen, the olive producing capital of Spain, we were delighted recently to make the acquaintance of an real life olive oil producer. Delighted, not just to increase our knowledge of the process, but because he is a really lovely man, with an equally lovely wife and two extremely lovely children! All of these things really add to the quality of life in Alcala la Real - increasing, as it does, our involvement with the families and community here.

So it was with pleasure and anticipation that we welcomed Paco and his daughter, Paloma, to our house on Monday evening. Whilst Romy and Paloma went off to play together, Paco went into our kitchen to prepare an evening of olive oil tasting for FR and I.

This is Paco unloading his wares - by the time we started, everything was beautifully lined up in neat rows, with a plate of apple slices ready to help clean our palates in between tastings.

15 little blue glasses, blue so that as a taster, we couldn't form a judgment on the colour of the oil we were trying; and six identical, dark green bottles of olive oil. What we had to establish was - was it Extra Virgin Olive Oil... or not.

As a little indicator of how important the nose is in the process of tasting, Paco asked us to pinch ours whilst we tried a little powder he presented us. With noses well and truly closed, the best we could do was to describe the texture of what we had in our mouths - grains of sugar - but once we let our noses free, the flavour of cinnamon was intense. It certainly proved the point - try it!

Then we moved on to the testing.
Paco explained that for an oil to pass the taste test as Extra Virgin, it primarily had to be free of a range of negative aspects rather than full of positive ones. The negatives included the smell or taste of earth or humidity; a vinegar smell, or any taint of decay or rancidity, however faint. 

And for the smell to come through, the oil had to be warmed - which, with my notoriously cold hands, took quite a while!

Then take a good sniff of the warmed vapours and form an immediate impression - an absence of the negative scents indicate an extra virgin olive oil.

Simple as that! Extra Virgin has no negative smell - though it may have positive qualities that hit you such as a fruitiness or even a grassiness, though it would seem that only the fruitiness counts as a positive scent.

There are three positive qualities - in addition to fruitness, there is also amarga or bitterness, indicating young fruit or an early pressing of the olives - and picante or spiciness of the oil. Again, the more mature, the less 'aggressive' is the spiciness.  After smelling the oil, next comes the tasting - done very much as with wine - rolling the oil over the various parts of the tongue to establish what flavours are contained in it.

I found that I could sense the flavours on these specific areas of the tongue - the fruitiness hitting the front of my tongue first and the bitterness at the back. The picancy was more of an aftereffect - with some of the oils leaving a real spicy taste in the mouth - even making FR cough

Ruy captured my tester moments here.

Note the serious expression as I let the flavour flood my senses!

I didn't think I would like 'drinking' oil - it's not a concept that appeals to many people, but it was actually very pleasant.

I detected three non-extra virgin olive oils out of the six we were presented and found it quite easy to do. FR was less convinced and found it more difficult to identify the negative aspects - but then he does smoke, which obviously impairs his palate - and his sense of smell is less keen as a man.

I recorded my opinions on one of the 'official' score sheets that Paco gave me - and whilst I was apparently a little over generous on the qualities of the first one we tasted, which should have come out fairly neutral - I think I did reasonably well in my judgements.
My favourite one actually left the palate feeling really clean - again, not a quality you might expect from drinking oil!

Read more about Paco's business here and do let me know if you would like to buy some of this delicious greeny-golden liquid that I am beginning to get a real taste for.
I might just earn a little commission.