Living in Spain and bringing up a Spanglish family during the current 'crisis' and trying various ways to make some 'dinero'. Enjoying life in the sun, crafting and blogging as much as possible.

25 Dec 2011

Happy Christmas!

Well, just a quick time out to say 'Happy Christmas'. I hope you are all having a good day and I hope anyone who received my items as a gift are happy with them.
Lots of new exciting things planned for 2012 so keep watching on here for more information.
I am off to enjoy some homemade Bailey's!

20 Dec 2011

Busy Christmas Time!

It has been a pretty busy time with orders and carboots! Now it is too late to order anything for Christmas so I guess I can take a few days off to chill! and enjoy the festivities of Christmas.
I have just been included in another Etsy Treasury 'Winter wishes'
May I take this time to wish all my customers and friends a very Merry Christmas and thank you for your support throughout 2011.
Lets hope 2012 is a prosperous year for everyone

20 Nov 2011

Spanish Power

Another one of my shop items have been featured in a Treasury on Etsy
Click here to view
(It isn't actually me that paints these - these are done by Mum. They are painted in a design most associated with Granada)

16 Nov 2011

Traditional Spanish fans from Granada

Not made or handpainted by myself (although watch this space I might embark on a bit of painting in the spring!!).



I am currently helping a friend who is clearing out her old stock (she used to have 2 shops in Granada - one selling tourist gifts and the other selling silver jewellery).



I have tons of traditional fans for sale and working my way through photographing them all and putting them onto the internet.

Click here

As always I will ship these items worldwide - just contact me for a postage price if you are unsure.

9 Nov 2011

The Saffron Peacock

Yet again I am lucky enough to have one of my items featured in someone's Etsy Treasury

30 Oct 2011

Great idea for Christmas


A cute little wire wrapped angel complete with your name. I just love these - well I love all the wire wrapped items this seller makes.
Have a look here to see what they make..

18 Oct 2011

Just Clowning Around

My shop is in another treasury on Etsy - click here

Tough time for little man

Just a quick blog - I have been in the hospital with the little monster for the last 10 days - he has been critically ill with 'pneumonia'. It has been a very hard time and Ramon and I have been with him all the time - we are both desperate for some sleep!

Thankfully Alejandro is much much better - I don't want to go through that again in a hurry!

Thank you to everyone that helped, offer help for us during this time :-)

From this (critical with god knows how many machines and wires)

To this!!!!

It isnt easy keep a child confined to a bed for 10 days!!!!.......lots and lots of toys!!!!

29 Sep 2011

Esparto grass - a sustainable tradition

Esparto grass grows on the mountain slopes around Andalucia. It was once the main source of income for many families. The men used to harvest the grass and the women would weave it however nowadays it only seems to be local men that I ever see working with it (unless their wives are at home weaving it too!). My father in law was very skilled in the art of esparto grass weaving and many years ago, when they didnt have a lot of money, he even made shoes for the family out of the grass.

(this photo was taken outside my cave, quite a few years before I moved here. His baskets on the donkey are made from esparto grass)

Nowadays you can still find baskets, rope, mats, bottle holders and novelty shoes on our local markets and every family has something made from esparto grass that they use on a regular basis. Just walking round the village this month I have noticed that all the older generation are putting large flat baskets out in the sunshine - on closer inspection they all contain tomatoes that will dry out in the sun and will be bottled to last throughout the winter.
There is a fear that this sustainable tradition will eventually die out as it competes against more cost effective methods and newer, more exciting ways to earn money. In my village the harvesting is still a big part of income for many locals and we even have facilities for treating the grass before it is used in the weaving. I hate to think this tradition will die out and hope that the older generations will pass on their knowledge to the younger generations.
In Igualeja (in the Province of Malaga) a woman’s cooperative has been formed to keep this tradition alive. After studying basket weaving for a year, a group of women launched the cooperative, backed by the Town Hall, and now have a museum where they sell the pieces they make.


There is a good website that sell a range of esparto grass products:
Click here

21 Sep 2011

Back in a Treasury

It has been a while since one of my items was included in a treasury but this week I was included in this one: click here

18 Sep 2011

All grown up!

Oh no! what has happened???  my little man has grown up!!!! Today was his first day at nursery! - I can't believe he isnt a baby anymore!!!

3 Sep 2011

What ANOTHER trip to the beach!!!

YES!!!

Well as my Dad is over here at the moment we thought it would be nice to take him over to Aguilas for a picnic. Aguilas is where we would like to move to - eventually! It is very much a Spanish costal resort (not so 'Britville') and still a lovely, pretty area. We still have lots more areas to explore before we finally decide where we want to settle but Aguilas is high on the list right now.

So we packed up a lovely picnic and went to Aguilas for the day. I got to have a lovely swim too - but not beachcombing finds again! - I need to find a good beach soon!!!

Nanna and Grandad



Me and the little monster having a swim

29 Aug 2011

Already thinking of Christmas

At this time of the year I am already thinking about designs for Christmas. I would love to make all my own decorations but never seem to find the time to do so as I am always busy with Christmas orders.

I love looking at other peoples designs and this one just caught my eye today. I think it is such a simple idea yet very effective.



These are little peanuts!
They start as roasted, unsalted peanuts and are transformed into charming cuteness with acrylic paint, sharpie marker, bent wire, chenille stems, boiled wool, cotton fluff, bakers twine, map pins, acorns and fusion glue. I feel like a little elf working in my little workshop with my little tools making them come to life. Santa would be proud!

Click here to view/buy

28 Aug 2011

An unexpected trip to Alicante

Well we werent planning anymore beach holidays this year but as I had to drive to Alicante airport to pick my Dad up (which is a 5 hour round trip) we decided to book a hotel for the day before.  I thought I had managed to find a hotel really close to the airport, really close to the beach and it would be perfect!
Hmmm not the case! It took us nearly 3.5 hours to get from home to the hotel! by then we were really hot, really grumpy and really not in the mood to go and find the beach. However when you have a small child with you and they want entertaining then you have to do what you have to do!

I thought he might be happy just playing around the hotel pool - but it was soooooo quiet around the pool, everyone was either reading or enjoying the sun........and then along came Ali!......I could feel the glares from everyone as I interupted their peace and quiet!.......we didnt stay round the pool long!

Ramon decided he was having a siesta so it was up to me to keep the monster happy! An ice-cream didnt chill him out for long so off we went in search of the beach
Ali didnt want to be pushed - he wanted to push! GREAT! one way to tire him out! but as you can see there wasnt any beach!.......we walked for ages until we finally came along a bit of beach.......and a kiddies play area........so finally the little man was happy!

We wouldn't recommend the hotel to anyone with small children. They knew we had a small child when we booked but still we were put on the highest level, with stairs! and the balcony was definitely not child friendly! we ended up pushing the bed up to the balcony window and shutting the curtains so that Ali didnt realise he could get onto it! Plus we couldn't lock the main door so Ali could have just wandered out (to the stairs and another dodgy balcony!). Oh well it was cheap and we only needed it for the night
The Hotel - El Mio Cid, Alicante

23 Aug 2011

August holiday on the coast

After a busy couple of weeks preparing and taking part in some of the local medieval craft markets we decided it was time to get away and let Alejandro have a play on the beach.

We decided to use Ramon's brothers flat as a base (cheaper than hotel!) and then try and get over to the beaches as much as possible.

I like it when we go to visit as Javi always drives and as I am the designated driver back home all the time it is nice to get some time off and relax, have a drinkie and take in the scenery that I miss when driving.


Our first trip to have a little paddle! - had a little beachcomb too but didnt find much. We have decided to take a decent size pebble back with us from every beach we visit and collect them! There were plenty of pretty stones to choose from but no seaglass! huff!

Of course I had to have a nice gin and tonic (mind you it was expensive compared to what we pay back home!)

Alejandro enjoyed it in the children's park playing with Tita


And considering it was August the beach wasnt very busy - this was another beach we went to during our stay (and I managed to get a swim here - the other beach we went to was too windy)

It has been a nice break - nice that we had some spending money after the busy medieval markets!
Now I have got to start planning Christmas designs (which seems so worng at this time of year) but if I dont start now I will miss out on the Christmas rush on the internet!........is that summer over then??



7 Aug 2011

Our first medieval market in Castillejar

A couple of weeks ago I had a phonecall from the Town Hall asking me if I would like to take part in the first medieval market in Castillejar. As I have always been involved with the medieval market in Orce (which is just fantastic) I jumped at the chance to be involved.


I couldn't really say it was very 'medieval' there was no entertainment like in Orce but there were lots of stalls and we were very busy. It also wasnt very well organised but as this was the first one I am sure they will learn from their mistakes for next year!!!

I set up at 12pm and finished at 1am! it was a very long, hot day!

The fact it was in the village and I wouldnt have to drive a long journey home made it even better and as soon as my sister turned up with a jug full of ice cold mojito I knew I would be loading my car up at the end of the night and walking home!!!

I really enjoyed it and it was nice to be invited by the Town hall!!
My stall





The little black dog in this picture is my dog!
 he managed to sniff me out and came and joined me for most of the night

1 Aug 2011

Medieval market Orce

There are various medieval markets throughout the summer but the one 'not to be missed' is the one in Orce.
I remember visiting it a few years back and saying to a friend 'one day I am going to be on here selling my crafts!'......he replied 'yes I am sure one day you will' - the following year I had plucked up the courage and tested my limited Spanish (at the time) and popped into to speak to the event organiser.
Before I knew it, I was paying my deposit to secure my spot and that was that!.

And I have taken part it in every year since! I absolutely love the whole day. There is such a fantastic vibe, the fellow sellers are all really nice and there are so many talented people that sell there from all over Spain - it is very inspiring. The day is accompanied by really good street entertainment, jugglers, stilt walkers, music, everything you can imagine.

Here are some of my pictures. I got a fabulous spot this year that went straight into the shade so it wasnt too hot and right outside the bank so many people were coming past the go to the cash point!

My Stall








18 Jul 2011

The art of chorizo making by Linda Plummer

Chorizo is that wonderfully tasty sausage to be found and enjoyed all over Spain. There are many different ones, each Spanish family having its own particular favorite but, basically, they fall into two different types... fresh chorizo, which will need cooking before you eat it, and cured chorizo, which you can slice and consume just as it is.

Chorizo sausages are normally a strong, orangey-red color. This is because of the paprika or pimentón they contain - a main ingredient of chorizo sausages.

Paprika comes in two different types - "picante" or spicy, and "dulce" or sweet. Depending on the type of paprika used to make the sausage, the resulting chorizo will be either a spicy or sweet variety.

But, how is chorizo made, and what are its origins?...


Going back, more Spanish families lived in the country. More-often-than-not, they'd have a little plot of land, where they'd grow their own vegetables, keep some chickens... and fatten a pig.

The beauty of keeping a pig was that it could be cheaply fed from kitchen leftovers and, once killed, nearly every part could be used, with practically no waste. When November arrived, and the pig was nice and fat, the family would gather together - each having their own particular role to play - and kill the pig.

In Spanish, this slaughtering of the pig is known as the "matanza", and is still very much celebrated in Spanish villages to-day, with fun-loving fiestas, free-flowing wine, and much rejoicing.

Why did the "matanza" traditionally take place in November? Well, the weather was cooler then, with less chance of the meat going off. Also, it meant that village people were well-stocked up for the winter. This was particularly important as - even to-day - more-isolated villages in mountainous areas are completely cut off for a spell during winter when heavy snows have fallen.

Going back, each family would kill its own pig. This was no easy task, as getting a big, fat pig settled, ready for the knife, is quite hard work!

The pig was killed by stabbing it in the neck. This also released the blood, which the ladies of the family would catch in a bowl. Care had to be taken to ensure the blood didn't clot, for this was needed for mixing with rice and spices to make "morcilla" or black pudding.

It was also the task of the females to make the chorizo sausages. For this, they would take the pig's intestine, empty it, clean it, and then leave it to soak in salt water, to remove any unpleasant odors.

Once ready, the intestine would be filled with a mixture of finely-chopped pork, paprika, garlic and salt, and the end tied in a knot. Originally, the chopping of the meat and the procedure of squeezing it into the intestine was all done manually. Nowadays, however, there's a machine to help with this.

Once filled and securely tied, the chorizo sausage was ready for hanging. It would be left to cure in a well-ventilated place, probably for at least 3 months.

Nowadays, the pig is killed in the local abattoir, under strict, hygienic conditions. A vet will test the meat and, once it's been approved, the owner of the pig will collect it, take it home, and carry on with preparing it.

And now, for those of you with a pig roaming around in your garden, which you plan to slaughter in November, here's a basic recipe for making your very own, tasty, chorizo sausage!...

Chorizo Recipe

Ingredients:

- 1 kilo pork
- 40 gr paprika - sweet or spicy, according to taste
- 2 cloves garlic - peeled and crushed
- 20 gr salt
- 50 cm pig's intestine
- A little water

Method:

1. Chop up the pork fairly finely.
2. Mix in the paprika, garlic, and salt.
3. If necessary, use a little water to facilitate mixing.
4. Cover with cling film.
5. Leave in fridge 24-48 hours.
6. Fill intestine with the mixture, leaving a few centimetres of intestine free at one end.
7. Tie a knot in the end of the intestine.
8. Leave to hang in a well-ventilated place, normally for 3 months plus.

Well, I do hope all this talk of killing pigs and filling intestines won't put you off enjoying all those delicious chorizo sausages you'll find in Spain!

Article Source
Buy Chorizo Online - US/Canada
Buy Chorizo Online - Europe

Finding the ingredients?

If you want to source Spanish sweet paprika there is a fabulous online Spanish shop that sells everything you need. They deliver to USA and Canada as well as all over Europe.

Click here and it will take you direct to their website

10 May 2011

Almería, Spain: family holiday to the home of cowboys and spaghetti westerns

(source)

Clover Stroud reports from Almería, Spain, the spitting image of Texas and the location for dozens of spaghetti westerns.

5:58PM BST 10 May 2011


I love Texas with a passion, having spent two years working on a ranch in west Texas as a cowgirl. A decade later, and with half-term approaching, I had a strong urge for my children, Jimmy Joe and Dolly (no guessing what inspired their names), to feel the wide open spaces and huge skies of that haunting Texan landscape.
But I could only dream of a Texan road-trip because I knew those thieves of fun – time and money, or rather a lack of both – meant that it wouldn't be happening any time soon.
Instead, I turned my gaze to another big, empty landscape, one much closer to home and kinder on the pocket, where I could construct a good imitation of Wild West romance. Long before southern Spain evolved into the tower-block hell of the Costa del Sol, film-makers stumbled on the Tabernas Desert in Almería province, the arid coastal region between Granada and Murcia, which is the spitting image of west Texas.
Having spent the best part of two years riding through Texas, I know the landscape well, but if you'd blindfolded me in the Palo Duro Canyon, near Amarillo, and magically transported me to Almería, and removed the blindfold, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.

Huge and empty, snaked by winding dirt roads cutting through red rock dotted with classic silhouettes of spiky cactus, both landscapes hold a sense that a thundering band of banditos might appear on the horizon any minute. If Almería could pass as the Wild West for me, then I was certain I could convince the children this was cowboy and Indian land, too.
The Tabernas Desert borders Cabo de Gata Níjar Natural Park, and the mountains of the Sierra de Cabo de Gata and the Sierra de Los Filabres. Arriving in Almería in the early morning, we drove east along the coast, winding past dramatic cliffs of whipped sandstone which Jimmy Joe said looked like space-age meringue.
As both children pressed their faces to the car windows, looking for cowboys, we navigated the twisting roads of the coastline that rose and fell like a Wurlitzer ride. Then we drove over a blind summit above Rodalquilar, holding a collective breath as the landscape suddenly spread before us, as exciting as the Wild West.
We spent five nights in the fishing village of Las Negras, long enough to explore the necklace of coves and beaches studding the coastline. The emptiness of the landscape is partly what makes it so compelling, while a dense sense of the history of this strange, forgotten pocket of Spain hangs in the air, too.
At San José we ate gambas al ajilo – fat prawns fried in a garlicky, buttery sauce, then drove south along the coast to Genoveses Beach, once a port on the trade route to Africa, where the silk industry flourished, as silk was traded across the Mediterranean for saffron and ivory.
We'd come looking for cowboys, but hadn't expected to find the sense of piratical history associated with this stretch of coast. It was fortified with massive watchtowers and forts, a physical reminder of the Moorish grip that held the coast until the Moors were expelled at the end of the 15th century.
With the open countryside and rugged coastline, this is wonderful country for walking, as long as you don't visit during high summer. We walked from Las Negras to swim in a glittering blue cove at El Playazo beneath the shadow of the Castillo de San Ramón. Later, we discovered another pirate tower above a tiny cove, which we could only access on foot, at Cala de San Pedro.
We might have stumbled on pirates, but we'd actually come for cowboys, so drove inland, where the landscape is even emptier, to the film sets at Fort Bravo, known as Texas Hollywood. A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly were both shot here but Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood weren't the only ones to spot the potential for imitation. Numerous westerns were shot in the mountains and desert.
If we really had been in America, the film sets would have been Disnified beyond recognition, but here it was as if we'd stumbled upon a deserted town, complete with saloon bar, a gallows and wedding chapel. On a distant plain we could see a circle of tepees, and there was an empty coral and fort, as well as a corner of the set made up like Mexico. Jimmy Joe re-enacted a shoot-out as Dolly and I wandered through saloons. The set was almost deserted, apart from a good-looking caballero from Madrid, who took us for a ride in his mule cart.
Because the sensation of existing in our own movie had made us feel adventurous, we turned off the road near Sorbas.
The dusty track led through olive and almond groves dotted with goats to deserted villages, abandoned during the Fifties following economic and political migration under Franco. Stranger than anything I'd ever seen, it was a fascinating, if slightly spooky sight, with tumbledown houses spilling onto long-forgotten tracks that led nowhere.
But by now the last of the evening sun had dropped below the horizon, so we left the villages, returning to the coast, whistling Ennio Morricone tunes to ourselves as we went.

3 May 2011

Good Luck

Well my items are proving to be a hit on Etsy - he we go with another Treasury with one of my items in
click here

1 May 2011

Back on the Carboot



After 2 Sundays of not being able to get over to the carboot to sell my items, I should be able to be there from now on (weather permitting!). I have been busy making items for communions and personalised bracelets so I am hoping to have all these available on my stall. I will be taking orders and making bracelets during the morning too. Yesterday was our monthly 'Pure Indulgence Day' and I sold 5 of my bracelets there so they are quite popular.
I am aiming to be there about 7.30am until 1.30pm every Sunday if you want to pop along and say hello

29 Apr 2011

Congratulations William and Kate

Well today is the big day for Wills and Kate - and how excited I was to be included in a 'wedding special' Etsy Gallery on the same day with one of my lucky sixpence bride gifts
Click here to view

13 Apr 2011

Big thank you to everyone



It has been a hard and difficult time over the last few weeks with my father-in-law extremely ill with cancer. Unfortunately he passed away yesterday at 10am - peacefully in the hospital in my husbands arms with his wife Carmen by his side. It has been such an emotional rollercoaster and thankfully he can now rest in peace and no longer be in pain.
It was his funeral today and the whole village must have been there - it just goes to show what a wonderful man he was.

He was always happy in spring when the poppies came out and the wild asparagus and wild mushrooms were ready to pick. In his memory we are going to go mushroom hunting and put the first one of the season on his grave (it was always the first one he loved the most!). I will always think of him when I see the poppies - it will be my memorial flower for him

Rest in Peace Juan Antonio Dengra Martinez you will be missed by so many people
Thank you to everyone for your support and wishes through this time (and patience if I haven't always got the order done in time!)

9 Apr 2011

What a week

It has been a very up and down week this week. I have a deadline for Monday 11th April to get 81 wedding invites made and dispatched (and each one has got a handpainted vase on the front) and I had 4 big 'hen night' orders to make and dispatch before today! so it, as you can imagine, has been a hectic week!

On top of all that I am now going to be stocking a local shop with handmade greetings cards (as from Monday 11th) and I no longer have any made so I have to get cracking with a full range of greetings cards to fill a spinner floor standing display!!!!
As well as all the above, my father-in-law was admitted into hospital in Granada (1.5 hours away) and I have had to take my husband there twice this week so he can stay over night and look after him (he is taking it in turns with his brothers and sister). Unfortunately we had a call last night to say he might not make the weekend so it is a terribly sad time. Thank goodness I am busy with orders to give me something to concentrate on!

I am typing this whilst waiting for my wedding invitation inserts to print, then it is the rest of the day cutting and sticking. Thanks Mum for taking Alejandro to the market with you so I can get on!!!!.......

24 Mar 2011

Tooth Fairy Gift Bag

My tooth fairy gift bag and poem was added to a treasury - a gift guide for under 20's
Click here to view

18 Mar 2011

17 Mar 2011

Another Treasury

This is a great little collection of arts and crafts with baby feet on (how cute!). They very kindly added my baby feet Pandora charm.
Click here to view

16 Mar 2011

Touched

As some of you may know, I try and help charities and foundations when possible to raise awareness and funds. I don't have any funds to donate so I help by donating some of my crafts. I was touched yesterday to receive this email:
Thank you so much, I think of all the support I've been given for my walk yours is the most touching, to be able to give a small handmade gift to the special people who help me on the way is really wonderful, and the sentiment behind making a wish is fantastic. Especially since I hope the foundation we are creating will be called Fabrica de Sueño.
Lovely to be your friend, and if I can help you promote your business, please believe, I will.
Thank you again, Andy


www.romaronda.info

11 Mar 2011

Yeah I've Made It!!!

There are 6.5millions crafts on Etsy so the chances of someone including your crafts in their treasury are slim! But never the less I wondered how long it would be before I was included! I would feel like I was definitely doing something right if someone thought my crafts were worthy! Anyway today I was included - it has made my day!!!!!
Click here to view

28 Feb 2011

Happy Andalucia Day

Feliz día de Andalucía!!!
Yes today is Andalucia day - yet another excuse for a fiesta! plus this week is another holiday week. This isn't a national holiday week - just purely for Andalucia.....the reason being that Andalucia holds it's main fiesta in August so because August is already a national holiday, and they don't want to feel cheated out of a holiday, Andalucia made this week the 'semana blanca' and all the children are off school for the week. Well I am sure it is this whole laid back approach to life that is the reason most people move to Spain! I know for sure it was one of the reasons I came here.

Any with this in mind I have made the treasury for Etsy a tribute to the sun and blue sky of Andalucia.
Oh and I also purchased some more items yesterday - ready to embark on my new line of crafts (watch this space.....)

27 Feb 2011

My First Purchase

After a few weeks of scouring Etsy, I have just made my first purchase. It was very easy - maybe easier than purchasing from eBay. I think I might be getting addicted!
They have a fabulous 'Treasury' An ever-changing, member-curated shopping gallery where members (of Etsy) can choose 16 listings. The rules are simple
  • Be diverse! No more than one item per shop.
  • Don't include your own items. Spread the love!
  • Make it beautiful.
So I have been having a go. If Etsy like your gallery it is featured on the home page, which in turn will help bring people into your own shop. If other Etsy members like/dislike your selection they can comment on it.
Have a look at my galleries - click here

3 Feb 2011

Why blog?

Well I have been blogging since 2004, when I moved over to Spain and wanted to keep UK family and friends up to date with all our adventures. Initially the blog was about the cave we bought. As it was a part re-form cave I blogged the progress of all the work. Still 7 years on we are still working on the cave, however it is mainly maintenance (and the odd new project that we come up with!).

We opened as a B&B in 2005 http://www.cuevapedro.co.uk

As the area is still 'undiscovered' by tourism, and with the current economic 'crisis' it is a lot harder to get bookings in the B&B.  We now offer a fabulous bargain price of €30 per person per night for half board stay. That includes a 3 course evening meal and a beautiful continental breakfast in the morning.

That offer will remain throughout 2011/2012!

After the building work was finished I spent a lot of time working on the internet - building websites for myself, for other people.......infact spending far too much time indoors (where is my tan?!)

In November 2009 everything changed.......I had Alejandro......now time is all consumed by him! where does the days go??? time go? months go?..........he is going to be 2 next month! Although in September my prayers were answered and he started nursery 9am - 1.30pm Monday to Friday......so I now have precious 'me time'!!!.......this time is just fantastic, I can sit outside in the sun and make the crafts and projects I have been wanting to get my teeth into for so long! So now there will be a turnaround! more time crafting, making, getting some sun, and then possibly time to pop the pics and blurb on the blog!

So here it is!.......thank you for joining me........I hope you find some of the blog useful, interesting, funny, worth reading.......if you do......please pass my url on to others!!!!

29 Jan 2011

Silence of Spain's Tabernas Desert

2011-01-24-DSC_0425_01web.jpg

Lisa and I pulled off Highway A 92 at the foothills of Spain's snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains and headed east on a rural route into a sparse and unforgiving landscape. Within just a few kilometers, we saw signs emblazoned with "Mini Hollywood." We had arrived in the land of the spaghetti Western; we later learned that movies such as the early Clint Eastwood vehicles For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly were filmed in this vast dusty plain.
As we traversed the winding road deeper into the Tabernas desert, our heads moved in unison from left to right and back again, as we scanned the landscape. We took in scenery that included a dilapidated building branded "The Roadhouse," the hard scrabble remains of old gravel pits, a circle of empty open-air jeeps painted in camouflage colors, and a string of steel electric towers that stretched out to the horizon. Lisa and I exchanged glances and an unspoken "Uh-oh, what have we gotten ourselves into?"

2011-01-24-DSC_0380_02web.jpg

Just as we began to wonder if we had perhaps embarked down a seemingly endless road to nowhere, we saw the promised sign for Lucainena de la Torres. Making the turn, the surroundings seemed to change. The industrial edginess softened and groves of silvery green olive trees replaced abandoned cinderblock structures. Ahead, a pueblo blanco faced us from its perch high on the mountainside, appearing almost to glow in the waning late afternoon light. The bell tower of the village church rose protectively above the white cubist houses sprawled out on either side of it across the hillside.
We followed our directions to the outskirts of town and began our ascent. The road leveled out and I looked out across the valley, cross-hatched in shades of sienna, sage and straw, and admired the undulating contours of mauve mountains beyond, swathed in violet clouds. After six kilometers, we saw the stone we had been told to look for on the roadside, hand-painted with the name "Cortijo El Saltidor." We turned down a one-lane byway, driving farther out into the fiercely beautiful land in silence as dusk began to descend. We were both relieved to see the guest house's name marked on an expansive, white-washed Andalucian farmhouse nestled at the foot of a steep hill. It occurred to me that I had never arrived at an unknown destination so remote in darkness.
As Lisa and I emerged from the car, we were met by Claudia, the property's owner, a woman in her early fifties with rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes. She held back a thick blanket covering an arched entrance, and we entered a large, tiled country kitchen, delighted to breathe in the homey, spicy aroma that wafted toward us.
I asked about cell phone and internet connectivity and Claudia told me that Cortijo El Saltidor was off the grid and without such services but that she could arrange for us to have access later at an inn in town. I have come a long way from my days of getting jiggy for my "crackberry" as a colleague used to refer to hand-held electronic devices; nonetheless, I feel a vague uneasiness when far from the ability to reach out and touch civilization.
Over a delicious meal of an earthy eggplant dish in a Mediterranean tomato sauce, I asked Claudia what she most wished her guests would take away from their experience. She responded that she hoped they would cherish the deep silence of the area, as she did. She spoke of how she often saw clients arrive frantic and then see the fright in their eyes when told there was no telecommunications available.
She witnessed seeing people shrink at the prospect of being left alone with their own thoughts, or the company of their spouse, without the convenient escape of an important phone call or the need to watch the news. Claudia told us of one advertising executive who "ran away," and simply could not stay in the same room with himself.

She also said she enjoyed watching those individuals who seemed to blossom like a desert flower when given the freedom to become untethered from the chains of being a cog in the machine of life. She laughed and then said that it takes all kinds -- her oldest and dearest friend, a city girl through and through, still sleeps with the light on when she comes to stay at Cortijo El Saltidor.
Claudia told us about buying the farmhouse, and how it had been in ruins and needed to be completely re-built, an undertaking that took two years. Having had a mini nervous breakdown myself when dealing with a mere kitchen renovation, I asked whether she had any bad moments. She said seriously that there were two occasions when dealing with the contractors and all the endless decisions and delays had prompted her to grab her sleeping bag, climb into the mountains, build a fire and sleep up in the hills. I was astonished; I may have been tempted to head for the hills but Claudia had walked the walk.

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After dinner, Claudia said, "Come with me," and Lisa and I followed her outside and up a set of stairs to the roof. I tilted my head back, looked up and grinned with all my heart. In a velvet black sky of the Spanish desert, the moon shone and millions and millions of stars dazzled. The immensity of my surroundings was exhilarating, and I felt tiny and yet part of something huge.
Later, I tried to imagine having no fear, and sleeping in the mountains by myself... from the safety of being snuggled under the covers, with the light on.