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.

30 Apr 2012

My Favourite Painting

Unfortunately I have no idea who painted this - I bought it in an art gallery in Staithes (N. Yorkshire) about 10 years ago. I love it so much because it is a painting of the sea (and I miss the sea), it is painted on a piece of driftwood (one of my favourite materials), it was from N Yorkshire (like me), I bought it in Staithes (one of my favourite coastal towns) and it says 'I long to walk along the shore and watch the waves roll in' and that is very 'me'.  I wish I knew who painted it as I would buy more items! There are items available on Etsy but nothing that 'jumps out' at me and makes me want to buy it.

Carrot and Coriander Soup

The weather is so cold and there is snow again on the mountains - all I want to do is snuggle on the sofa under a large duvet and eat! so today I decided that maybe some warm homemade soup would be comfort food (although there was also some left over Easter egg calling me too.......). I had a load of carrots left over from making carrot cake last week so I decided carrot and coriander soup would be perfect (luckily I froze a big bag of fresh coriander last year and still have a bit left)

Carrot & coriander soup

Carrot and Coriander Soup (source)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion , chopped
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 potato , chopped
  • 450g carrots , peeled and chopped
  • 1.2l vegetable or chicken stock
  • handful coriander (about ½ a supermarket packet)

    1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, then fry for 5 mins until softened. Stir in the ground coriander and potato, then cook for 1 min. Add the carrots and stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and cook for 20 mins until the carrots are tender.
    2. Tip into food processor with the coriander. then blitz until smooth (you may need to do this in two batches). Return to pan, taste, add salt if necessary, then reheat to serve.

    Brrr it's cold

    Only the other day we were all busy in the garden as it was sunny and the sun was fueling our enthusiasm but today we are back to grey, cold and miserable. Luckily on days like these I can sit inside on the computer without a feeling I am missing out on the sunshine (which i have promised myself I won't be doing this year - last year I never got a tan!).

    Anyway here is some of the progress so far....

    (The car port, through the gate is the lock up where all my market junk will be stored. I've also had a little measure up and it looks like I might be able to hang a hammock from the wall to the beam!!!)

    (a view of the lock up from the gate)

    (the roof tiles are ready to go on)

    (Ami is staining the wood on the pool)

    (a new liner has been put in this year as the other one split last year)

    (all the top edges of the pool still have to go back on - then we can fill it again!)

    Mum has been busy with all the weeding and potting to come soon.....

    29 Apr 2012

    CN22 - Customs Declaration Form


    Customs authorities around the world are cracking down on mail arriving in their country without the required customs declarations correctly completed. If you’re posting packets or parcels outside the EU and don’t complete the CN22 or CN23 correctly they may delay or return the item to you.
    When you need to make a declaration
    When sending any packets or parcels outside of the EU, you need to make sure that it is presented correctly for customs inspection. If you don’t, it’s quite likely the item will be returned to you by the destination country’s customs service.
    • Any item with contents up to the value of £270 must have a current CN22 declaration attached to the front
    • The current CN22 declaration forms are white. The green version of this form expired in 2003 and should no longer be used
    • You need to sign and date the CN22
    • Any item sent with a value in excess of £270 must have a fully completed CN23 declaration. This should be attached using the plastic wallet available from any Post Office™ branch.
    • Please add your name and address to the top left hand corner of your package. This will enable us to return your package should overseas customs authorities refuse it entry into their country.

    28 Apr 2012

    One Wish by Kim Henry

    Another one of my handmade items has made its way onto someones treasury list. This time it is entitiled 'One Wish' and it is one of my Hello Kitty wish strings that is in the treasury (it makes me really happy that out of 12,253,713 items, someone chose something of mine to feature!)

    click here to view the treasury

    Magical Fairy Wish Bracelet HELLO KITTY Charm

    27 Apr 2012

    Tomato Salad with Chorizo (Jamie Oliver)

    Part of the Jamie does Andalucia series

    Wine Glass Charms

    It seems when the sun is out I am more creative, when the weather is grey, dull, rainy, cold all I want to do is snuggle up on the settee, watch films and eat! Well thankfully it is sunny again (I might need to go on a diet too!).  It isnt only me that the sun 'wakes up' Mum has been all over spraying the weeds and doing a spot of gardening, Ramon has been helping Mark (our brother-in-law) construct my new little garage (that will eventually house all my market junk) and Ami has been staining the pool and getting it ready for the sunshine! So whilst all this has been going on around me I decided to sit outside and play with my pretty beads.

    As my wine glass charms as one of my most popular items (see the album of all wine charms I make here) I decided to make a set of 'evil eye' wine glass charms.

    For those of you who are not familiar with wine glass charms, they are designed to be clipped around the stem of your wine glass (each on slightly different) so that people can distinguish their glass from everyone elses.

    Click here to purchase

    more items with these beads coming soon........

    Original Paintings By Jax

    Another talented local person. Jackie paints fabulous paintings. These are 2 of my favourites (although they are already sold)

    About the artist

    My name is Jacquie Goulding and I have lived in rural Andalucia for almost 7 years. I am originally from England. I find the scenery here in Spain stunning. There are amazing sunsets and the colours of wild flowers, almond blossom and poppy fields in the Spring and trees in the area are an inspiration.

    My style is abstract realism and the subjects of my paintings come from a range of places. Andalucia has a long history of Moorish influence, and being close to the North African border this can be seen in some of my work.

    I love bright, bold colours that seem to reflect the way of life in this part of Spain. I hope you enjoy my paintings.

    I can ship to most parts of the world.

    I take commissions, perhaps to match your colour scheme or home-style.

    Click here to see more of her work

    Click here to see her blog

    26 Apr 2012

    How Not To Live Abroad - Shaun Briley

    The Book
    The almond farm in Almeria, Spain, is exactly what twentysomething slackers Shaun Briley and his girlfriend. Helen, have been looking for: A rustic retreat from the pressures of adulthood back in London. Complete ignorance of agriculture, local culture, and the language? Not a problem. The key to success lies in mastering a few simple lessons about the simple life.... 1) Indoor toilets are for wusses. As are running water, heat, and electricity, apparently. But does the absence of creature comforts really matter when you're young and in love? Or in lust and reasonably fond of one another? 2) Love means maintaining the mutual delusion that everything is perfectly fine. The fact that The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was filmed near your little corner of paradise is cool--not weirdly prophetic. As long you both understand that acclimating to hovel (er, "farm") life and its necessary privations (no mixed drinks, no hot showers, no clean underwear) may take a while, everything will be just dandy. No really... 3) Foreigners are weird. This means you. One of the richest rewards of life in a rural community is getting to know your neighbors: The salt of the earth who will give you the shirts off their backs, or a funny, farting puppy; who will feed you pork sausages until you're sick, and will laugh at just about every stupid thing you do. Over the course of one (long) year, Shaun and Helen will learn what it's like to take a relationship for a test drive on the wrong side of the road, as they get a crash course in the sublime and ridiculous intricacies of.... How Not to Live Abroad.
    The Author
    Shaun Briley started his career as a journalist, writing reviews for a regional magazine, Due South, while studying History at Southampton University in England. From there he went on to write for a variety of national trade magazines and regional newspapers in England. As an employee of Southern Newspapers he went to Kuwait to report on the climax and aftermath of the first Gulf War.

    Moors & Christians Festivals

    With one of my favourite events coming up this weekend I thought it would be appropriate to write a little about the Moors and Christians fiesta.

    If you happen to be in the area this weekend then don't miss the Moors and Christians fiesta in is one not to be missed.

    Click here for the program

    Fiesta Moros y Cristianos (source)

    This festival is more popular in the East of Spain, in Andalucia in the provinces of Granada and Almeria, It takes place on different many days through out the year depending on the locality.

    The origins are obviously the battles following the re-conquest on the XVI and XVII century. The usual format for the fiesta is first a procession of the Moors and the Christians, then a theatrical enactment of verbal attacks and rejections by both groups, a battle enactment with skirmishes and dances, the conversion or the death of the moors, and finally homage to the patron saint.

    Nowadays with greater affluence the uniforms are more spectacular. The Christians wear the uniforms of the soldiers of the re-conquest. The moors wear basic short sleeved cotton jackets.
    See below for a list of many towns in the Granada Province that support the festival with the name of the patron Saint and the date.

    Granada Province
    San Luis Rey de Francia, 25 August

    Aldeire, Virgin del Rosario, 31 Mayo

    Benamaurel, Virgin de la Cabeza, last Sunday in April

    Beznar, Virgin de la Dolores, 8-9 September

    Bubion, San Sebastian, 21 January

    Caniles, San Sebastian, 20 January

    Capiliera, Virgin de la Cabeza, Last Sunday in April

    Cogollos Guadix, Virgin de Cabeza, 25 April

    Mecina Tedel, san Fermin, 2 May

    Montejicar,Virgin de la Cabezo, 24-26 Agust

    Molvizar, Santa Ana, 25-28 July

    Orce, San Anton y San Sebastian, 17-19 Jan

    Pampaneira, Santa Cruz, 3-4 May

    Virgin Rocio, 8-9 September

    Pozo Iglesias
    San Torcauto, 13 May

    San Sebastian, First week October

    San Torcauto
    San Torcauto, 15 May

    San Antonio Padua, 12-14 June

    San Marcos, 24-26 April

    San Antonio, 13 June

    Segundo Corazon de Jesus, 3 May

    Santo de la Yedra, 15 Sep

    Velez Benaudalla
    S Antonio Padua, 13 June

    V de la Cabeza, last Sun in April

    Belmez de la Moraleda
    Señor de la Vida o Cristo de la Moraleds, 19-22 August

    Campilla de Arenas
    Virgin de la Cabeza, 9-10 August

    The Baking Co-operative - Banoffee Pie

    It has been a busy 2 days for me with orders for The Baking Co-operative. I have been making banoffee pies today.


    1/2 packet digestive biscuits
    melted butter butter
    1 can condensed milk
    2 bananas
    whipping cream
    chocolate shavings


    To start with I use a brilliant tip from Jamie Oliver for making the toffee sauce. Simply place the whole can (unopened) in a pot of boiling water for 4 hours......make sure you keep and eye on the water level and keep topping up as if the pan boils dry the can will explode! After 4 hours you will have a can of toffee sauce!

    Crush the biscuits and coat in the melted butter, line your dish/tin and keep refridgerated until needed.

    Chop up the bananas and place on top of the biscuit base. Top with the toffee sauce. Whip up some cream and place on the top of the toffee sauce and decorate with chocolate shavings.


    BANOFFEE PIE (from Wikipedia)

    Banoffee pie (also spelled banoffi, or banoffy) is an English pastry-based dessert made from bananas, cream, toffee from boiled condensed milk (or dulce de leche), either on a pastry base or one made from crumbled biscuits and butter. Some versions of the recipe also include chocolate and/or coffee.
    Its name is a portmanteau constructed from the words "banana" and "toffee".


    Credit for the cake's invention is claimed by Val Hargreaves at The Hungry Monk restaurant in Jevington, East Sussex. They developed the dessert in 1972, having been inspired by an American dish known as "Blum's Coffee Toffee Pie", which consisted of smooth toffee topped with coffee-flavoured whipped cream. Dowding adapted the recipe to instead use the type of soft caramel toffee created by boiling a can of condensed milk, and worked with Mackenzie to add a layer of bananas. They called the dish "Banoffi" and it was an immediate success, proving so popular with their customers that they "couldn't take it off" the menu.
    The recipe was adopted by other restaurants, and was reported on menus in Australia and America. In 1994, a number of supermarkets began selling it as an American pie, leading Nigel Mackenzie to offer a £10,000 prize to anyone who could disprove their claim by finding any published pre 1972 recipe for the Pie. Mackenzie erected a blue plaque on the front of The Hungry Monk confirming it as the birthplace of the world's favourite pudding.
    The recipe was published in The Deeper Secrets of the Hungry Monk in 1974 (now out of print), and reprinted in the Hungry Monk's later cookbook In Heaven with the Hungry Monk (1997). Ian Dowding has since put his original recipe online because he is "pedantic about the correct version", and stated that his "pet hates are biscuit crumb bases and that horrible cream in aerosols". The recipe for the dish is often printed on the tins of Nestle's condensed milk without acknowledgement of the source.
    The word "Banoffee" has entered the English language and is used to describe any food or product that tastes or smells of banana and toffee ".


    Colegiata de Santa Maria - Huescar

    Last night I had to go to Huescar to the main church there for a memorial service for my father-in-law (as it is a year since he sadly lost his fight against lung cancer).


    Whilst standing there as part of the congregation I was just amazed at the size of the church, the people all there listing to every word the preist said, the whole ritual of the evening and the taking communion at the was pretty impressive. (although not being religious and not being used to this kind of service I did feel I was in a scene from the 'DaVinci Code' or something similar from the movies!.......was kind of expecting something drastic to happen! (of course it didn't!)

    Last year I attended a few services in this church. My niece and nephews were all confirmed there last year so I was there for that and also because I was asked to be the 'godmother' to my niece I had to attend a couple of pre-confirmation evenings. Then in May last year my nephew took his first communion there (that was a very busy and extravegant day). But the one thing that amazes me is about 8 years ago (well before I moved here) I actually visited this church with my German friend, when we were in Spain taking part in an archaeological dig (volunteers with Earthwatch).  If anyone had told me then that I would return to the church, married to a Spanish man, taking part in the confirmation services etc I would never have believed them! (what a very bizarre coincidence).

    If anyone visits Huescar you must take the time to enter this church it is simply breathtaking inside.

    Colegiata de Santa Maria

    Santa Maria Teaching Church

    This teaching church of cathedral dimensions and in Gothic/Renaissance style from the beginning of the 16th century, is emblematic of Huescar and its historic past. The building is an interesting mix of elements brought in from Toledo as well as Andalusia.

    Different architects from the Renaissance period have left their mark on this magnificent building, constructed to the highest specifications. Enrique Egas from Toledo and Jacobo Florentin are attributed as having overseen the creation of the magnificent door to the old Sacristy, amongst other things. Inside there are many contrasting elements of interest, including the gothic vault and the baroque chancel. Some parts of the church had to be rebuilt after destruction during the Civil War.

    23 Apr 2012

    The Search for Seaglass, Pottery and Driftwood

    I have lived on the coast nearly all my life (well that was until I moved to Spain and then I moved inland! huff!). Beachcombing has always been something I liked doing ever since I was a small child. I just love the randomness of what you are going to find. Some days you find loads of exciting pieces and then other days you find absolutely nothing. Always after a big storm I get excited to get down to the beach and have a 'comb'!

    I firstly was drawn to shells and driftwood and used to make small pieces like photo frames and mirrors decorated with these. It wasnt until a few years back I was drawn to the magical colours of the seaglass these just make the most amazing jewellery (especially when mixed with sterling silver). There are so many variations of jewellery now available with seaglass - some people are so clever with their creations.

    Not long ago I also started to collect the pottery - as I am now making mosaics I thought these would work perfectly in my mosaic creations.

    Now I drill my own seaglass, pottery and surf tumbled shells and sell them in my supplies for other enthusiatic artists. Daily I try and put items on (follow my facebook page for a 'heads up' when the next items will be listed). You can also find my seaglass supplies in my Etsy store.

    Part of our 3 year plan is to move back to the coast - I will probably be at the beach every day looking then! but until then I can only find these beauties when we have a family trip to the coast! I was lucky this weekend as Ramon and I went to the coast for our wedding anniversary.....I was probably there less than one hour before I had kicked off my shoes and walking along the beach and I found quite a few nice pieces.

    SEAGLASS (from Wikipedia)

    Sea glass or beach glass is physically and chemically weathered anthropogenic glass found on beaches along bodies of fresh and salt water. These weathering processes produce natural frosted glass. Many beachcombers collect sea glass as a hobby and for use in jewelry.


    Sea glass can be found all over the world, but the beaches of the northeast United States, California, northwest England, Mexico, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Nova Scotia, Australia, Italy and southern Spain are famous for their bounty of sea glass, bottles, bottle lips and stoppers, art glass, marbles, and pottery shards. The best times to look are during spring tides especially perigean and proxigean tides, and during the first low tide after a storm.
    Glass from inland waterways such as Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes is known as beach glass. It is similar to sea glass, but in the absence of wave rigor and oceanic saline, content is typically less weathered. Beach glass from inland regions often has prominently embossed designs or letters on it, which can make tracing its origin less challenging. The outer surface of beach glass shards may also be texturally varied, with one side frosty and the other shiny. This is most likely because they are pieces broken off from larger glass objects which are themselves still embedded in mud, silt or clay, slowly being exposed by wave action and erosion.


    The color of sea glass is determined by its original source. Most sea glass comes from bottles, but it can also come from jars, plates, windows, windshields, ceramics or sea pottery.
    The most common colors of sea glass are kelly green, brown, blue and purple(clear). These colors come from bottles used by companies that sell beer, juices, and soft drinks. The clear or white glass comes from clear plates and glasses, windshields, windows, and assorted other sources.
    Less common colors include jade, amber (from bottles for whiskey, medicine, spirits, and early bleach bottles), golden amber or amberina (mostly used for spirit bottles), lime green (from soda bottles during the 1960s), forest green, and ice- or soft blue (from soda bottles, medicine bottles, ink bottles, and fruit jars from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, windows, and windshields). These colors are found about once for every 25 to 100 pieces of sea glass found.
    Uncommon colors of sea glass include a type of green, which comes primarily from early to mid-1900s Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, and RC Cola bottles as well as beer bottles. Soft green colors could come from bottles that were used for ink, fruit, and baking soda. These colors are found once in every 50 to 100 pieces.
    Purple sea glass is very uncommon, as is citron, opaque white (from milk glass), cobalt and cornflower blue (from early Milk of Magnesia bottles, poison bottles, artwork, and Bromo-Seltzer and Vicks VapoRub containers), and aqua (from Ball Mason jars and 19th century glass bottles). These colors are found once for every 200 to 1,000 pieces found.
    Extremely rare colors include gray, pink (often from Great Depression era plates), teal (often from Mateus wine bottles), black (older, very dark olive green glass), yellow (often from 1930s Vaseline containers), turquoise (from tableware and art glass), red (often from old Schlitz bottles, car tail lights, dinnerware or from nautical lights, it is found once in about every 5,000 pieces), and orange (the least common type of sea glass, found once in about 10,000 pieces). These colors are found once for every 1,000 to 10,000 pieces collected. Some shards of black glass are quite old, originating from thick eighteenth-century gin, beer and wine bottles


    Like collecting shells, fossils, or stones, combing shorelines for sea glass is a hobby many beach-goers and beachcombers enjoy. Hobbyists often fill decorative jars with their collections and take great pleasure in tracing a shard's provenance while artisans craft beautiful pieces of jewelry, stained glass and other decorative pieces from sea glass. Some collectors even use their collections in creating beautiful works of art by putting them in cement or other adhesive to create a mosaic.
    In North America, the hobby has the North American Sea Glass Association, which organizes a yearly conference and issues a newsletter.

    A Suprise 60th at Cueva Pedro and Paella

    What a wonderful afternoon we had here today. We provided the venue, and catered, for a surprise 60th birthday party. It was a glorious, warm, sunny day and there were about 40 guests sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and the home cooked hot buffet which we had prepared.

    There was a huge paella cooked by myself, moussaka, chilli con carne, potato dauphinoise and stuffed jacket potatoes cooked by Mum and vegetarian chilli and salads donated by our good friend Gill. Our guests all brought along other scrummy goodies, too.

    The bar was stocked, full to the brim, by friends and the alcohol flowed freely! Shirley, the birthday girl, was well and truly surprised, especially when she was presented with her cake in the form of a Scrabble board, made by Mum!

    Paella is currently an internationally-known rice dish from Spain. It originated in the fields of a region called Valencia in eastern Spain. Today paella is made in every region of Spain, using just about any kind of ingredient that goes well with rice. There are as many versions of paella as there are cooks. It may contain chicken, pork, shellfish, fish, eel, squid, beans, peas, artichokes or peppers. Saffron, the spice that also turns the rice a wonderful golden color is an essential part of the dish. 

    Origins of paella 

    There is an old story of how the Moorish kings’ servants created rice dishes by mixing the left-overs from royal banquets in large pots to take home. It is said by some that that word paella originates from the Arab word “baqiyah” meaning left-overs. However, linguists believe that the word paella comes from the name of the pan it is made in - the Latin term patella, a flat plate on which offerings were made to the Gods.
    The stories of servants creating dishes from the King’s left-overs are romantic, but we know for certain that it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that modern paella was created in an area around Albufera (a bay south of Valencia). At lunch time, workers in the fields would make the rice dish in a flat pan over a fire. They mixed in whatever they could find - such as snails and vegetables. For special occasions, rabbit and later chicken were added.

    The Basics of Paella

    To prepare paella, there are three basic rules to follow.
    1. Cook Over a Fire - Paella is best prepared over an open fire, charcoal BBQ or gas paella burner. Use a round kettle-style BBQ, such as a Weber brand. The reason for this is so that the heat is evenly distributed and because the heat should gradually decrease as you are cooking it. First, the fire must be very hot to brown the meat, then it should be lower to simmer the rice.
      If you prepare paella often, you may want to invest in a Paella Burner & Adjustable Tripod Stand, designed specifically for cooking paella outside. They usually come with two ring burners and allow adjusting each ring separately. These burners connect to a propane tank via a hose and regulator.
    2. Use a Paella Pan - A traditional paella pan is a necessity. The pan is sometimes called a paellera, although there is some disagreement among Spaniards about the use of this word. It is a large, flat, open round steel pan with handles.
    3. Use Medium-Grain Rice – For best results, use a medium-grain rice rather than a long grain rice. The medium-grain rice absorbs a lot of liquid, which makes it particularly suitable for paella.

    How to Season a Paella Pan

    Before cooking in a paella pan, be sure to season the pan. Although there are different ways to do this, the simplest method is to first wash the pan with warm water and soap and dry with a soft cloth immediately. While the pan is still warm, using a soft cloth or paper towel, rub olive oil over the entire inside of the pan. If the pan is not warm after washing, place it in the oven on warm for a few minutes, then rub the oil on it.
    It is very important to thoroughly clean the pan immediately after each use. Then, before storing it, rub it with olive oil to prevent it from rusting.
    If you ever pull out your pan and it has begun to rust, don’t panic and run out to buy a new one! Simple use a soapy steel wool pad to gently wash it and rub off the rust. Then, rub with olive oil to season it again.

    Click on the banner to purchase all your paella ingredients and untensil (Europe and USA)

    Recipe (source) 

    NB this is just one variation! I don't use lobster or crab (I use chicken and mixed fish)

    Paella a la Valenciana
    The world famous rice dish! Perfect for any gathering.
    Servings: 6-8

    6 cups of very strong chicken broth (bouillon)
    1/2 tsp of saffron
    1/4 tsp of smoked Spanish paprika (Pimentón de la Vera)
    1 small onion, peeled
    2 small chickens, about 2-1/2 lbs each
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1/4 lb of cooking chorizo, in 1/4 inch slices
    1/4 lb piece jamón serrano ham, diced
    1 medium onion, chopped
    4 scallions, chopped
    4 tbsp chopped garlic
    2 roasted piquillo peppers

    1 lb small or medium shrimp, shelled
    2 (Optional) Live lobsters, boiled, split and divided into tail sections and claws(discard or keep the head and small claws); or
    4 (Optional) Lobster tails, split lengthwise;
    8 (Optional) King crab claws; or
    8 jumbo shrimp, in their shells, preferably heads on
    3 cups Bomba or Calasparra rice or other short grain Spanish rice
    5 tbsp chopped parsley
    2 bay leaves, crumbled
    1/2 cup dry white wine
    1/4 lb fresh or frozen peas
    18 clams and/or mussels, scrubbed
    Lemon wedges for garnish
    Parsley for garnish


    Heat the broth with the saffron, pimentón and the whole onion. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove the onion and measure the broth -- you need exactly 5-1/2 cups.
    Cut the chickens into small serving pieces -- the whole breast in 4 parts, each thigh into 2 parts, the bony tip of the leg chopped off, the wing tip discarded, and the rest of the wing separated into 2 parts. Dry the pieces well and sprinkle with salt.
    In a metal Paella pan, with about a 15 inch base, heat the oil. Add the chicken pieces and fry over high heat until golden. Remove to a warm platter. Add the chorizo, and jamón to the pan and stir fry about 10 minutes. Add the chopped onion, scallions, garlic, and pimentos and saute until the onion is wilted. Add the shrimp and the lobster and saute about 3 minutes more, or until the shrimp and lobster barely turn pink (the lobster will cook more in the oven.) Remove the shrimp and lobster to the platter with the chicken. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat it well with the oil. Sprinkle in the 5 tablespoons of chopped parsley and the crumbled bay leaves. (You can make in advance up to this point.)
    Stir in the chicken broth, boiling hot, the wine, rice, and peas. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat about 10 minutes. Bury the shrimp and the chicken in the rice. Add the clams and the mussels, pushing them into the rice, with the edge that will open facing up. Decorate the paella with the lobster pieces, then bake at 325 F, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
    Remove from the oven and let sit on top of the stove, lightly covered with foil, for about 10 minutes. To serve, decorate with lemon wedges and chopped parsley.
    Lobster can be a little expensive, so replace it with a comparable amount of shrimp if you wish!


    22 Apr 2012

    Romantic Break in Mojacar

    For a little suprise for our wedding anniversary my Mum booked for us to go away to Mojacar (one of my favourite places on the coast). It was just for one night and our first night without the little monster.....bliss.

    When we arrived at Mojacar we checked into the Hotel El Puntazo that Mum had chosen for us and then we had to have a walk on the beach and a search for seaglass and other goodies that have been surf tumbled. (this is one of my favourite activities!!!).

    I really miss the sea and really want to move back to the coast. As much as I love Mojacar it is a bit too much 'Britville' for me and Ramon can't stand the fact he can't order anything in Spanish in most places because they don't understand him. I think it would be a great place for my arts and crafts (although a lot of brilliant competition) but personally I would like to live away from the place!  We love 'San Juan de los Terreros and it isnt too far away from Mojacar. I think there would be more work potential for both of us in Mojacar as I am sure there are businesses in Mojacar that need an English girl who speaks Spanish or a Spanish man that speak English! day we will be there and I can walk along the beach EVERY day!

    We pre-booked our meal at an Argentian steak house that we had been told about. We needed to prebook because it was 'Flamenco Friday' and tends to get busy.  It was a fabulous meal - one of the best steaks that both of us have had. The steak was cooked perfectly (rare of course! just how I like it).  We had a free bottle of champagne too  and then after the meal we were given a large glass of limoncello each! We booked to be in the Flamenco room however it was a little too loud so we moved inside but still were able to see the Flamenco. 

    It was a so nice to have 24 hours away (it felt like ages). The little monster had been good at Nana's for the night and the Abuelas for the day.....infact when we got back to pick him up he was fast asleep (from playing and playing and playing!......with his Spanish cousins all day).

    MOJACAR (from Wikipedia)

    Mojácar is a municipality situated in the south east of the Province of Almería (Andalucia) in southern Spain, bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is 90 km from the capital of the province, Almería. It is an elevated mountain village displaying the traditional white colour from its earlier days. There is also a tourist resort to the south of the town on the coast called Mojacar Playa.


    Mojácar has been inhabited by many and varied peoples since antiquity. Populated since the Bronze Age around 2000 BC, traders such as Phoenicians and Carthaginians arrived to serve the growing communities. Under Greek dominion, the settlement was called Murgis-Akra, whence came the Latinized Moxacar, the Moorish Muxacra and finally the current name of Mojácar. The North African Islamic Moors established themselves in Spain in the early 8th century and the province of Almería came under the authority of the Caliphate of Damascus and was later ruled by the Umayyads of Córdoba.
    Under this second enlightened rule, Mojácar quickly grew in size and importance. With the coronation of Muhammad I of Córdoba in Granada, Mojácar and its lands became incorporated into the Nasrid sultanate, and the town found itself on the frontier with the Christian forces to the east. Watchtowers and fortresses were built or reinforced during the 14th century, which nevertheless did little to discourage Christian incursions and fierce battles like the bloody event of 1435 where much of the population of Mojácar was put to the sword.
    On June 10, 1488, the leaders of the region agreed to submit to the Christian forces, although Mojácar's alcaide refused to attend, considering his town to be already Spanish. At that time occurred the meeting at Mojácar's Moorish fountain, where a pact of free association between the local Moors, Jews and Christians was agreed to. Mojácar once again began to expand until the early 18th century, when the census of the time recorded 10,000 people. Around the middle of the 19th century, Mojácar began another period of decline.
    Several severe droughts brought about this drop in the town's fortunes, with a consequent emigration to northern Spain, Europe and South America. The depopulation of Mojácar was reaching worrying proportions by the 1960s when tourism began to reverse the trend.



    Mojácar has more than 3000 hours of sun per year. The medium yearly temperature is around 20 °C. Winter is normally mild, although in the past few years there has been more some freezing temperatures especially when the sun had gone down, with the marine temperature higher than the air temperature.


    The Indalo, or Mojácar man, is a magical totem is said to bring protection and good luck, and from times past was always painted onto the fronts of houses once the whitewash was dry: keeping away the evil eye and protecting those within from storms. The figure might be interpreted to be a man holding a rainbow between his outstretched arms. The original totem is thought to be around 4,500 years old, and the earliest known one appears among other prehistoric paintings in a cave in Vélez-Blanco. The name, Indalo was coined by a group of artists and intellectuals who settled in Mojácar in the early 1960s, attracted by the magic and bewitchment of the town, and who commercialised the totem which today signifies the whole province of Almería. Indalo Man has, probably due to the increase in tourism, spread in popularity and has been seen on houses as far apart in Europe as Brittany in France and Cornwall in England for the benefit of its protection from storms and the evil eye.

    19 Apr 2012

    Granada, Spain: Going underground beneath the Alhambra

    Annie Bennett explores a secret world of tunnels and dungeons beneath the Spanish city’s Alhambra palace.

    10:52AM BST 29 Mar 2010

    (The Alhambra)

    Granada at dusk, when the Alhambra is bathed in hues of pink and gold, is one of the most breathtaking sights in the world. With a small group of other visitors, I walked up the steep hill towards the great Moorish palace. We were on a walking tour, but not one that points out the usual sights. Leading our group was Lia Guerrero, who was no ordinary guide either. An artist and writer, she is part of Pura Vida, an association of creative types who teach and take classes at the Casa de Porras cultural centre in Granada's Albaicín, the old Moorish quarter on the hill opposite the Alhambra.
    Pura Vida was founded by the journalist and writer, César Requesens, who is passionate about the hidden history of his city. "Granada is a city of secrets," he says. "The Granadiños like to keep things close to their chests, but everyone knows that there are secret passages linking some of the most famous buildings."
    Lia suddenly stopped and pointed at the trees covering the hillside below the Alhambra. "There is a big private house in there. It is a carmen, the typical Granada style, with an inner garden, which belongs to an elderly aristocratic lady from Seville. And there's a long tunnel under the Alhambra, which comes out at the bottom of the hill. There's a secret door in the Ambassador's Hall. Remember that the Alhambra was a fortress as well as a palace. The tunnels meant they could get food in when it was under siege, and people could get in and out without being seen by their enemies."
    We asked Lia if she had ever been down there. "No, very few people have, though there are rumours that it might be opened up to the public soon."

    (There is a long tunnel under the Alhambra, which comes out at the bottom of the hill, and a secret door in the Ambassador's Hall)

    I remembered a story I had read in a magazine years ago, about how Walter Chrysler had wanted to build a secret replica of the Chrysler Building, back in the Twenties, before embarking on the real thing. The article said he had a lover from Granada, who was very well connected and had arranged for the structure to be built in a huge cave under the Alhambra. Sounds preposterous? Maybe, but Granada casts a hypnotic spell, and sometimes even the most outlandish ideas seem perfectly reasonable as you wander around the city.
    We veered away from the Alhambra and onto the neighbouring hill, the Colina del Mauror, where the cellars of some of the highest houses apparently conceal a few surprises. Lia showed us a large house, mostly hidden behind a high wall. Although now dilapidated, it was clearly once very grand. "That is the Carmen de los Catalanes, which is now part of the Alhambra estate and is being restored. There are tunnels underneath it, and pits in the gardens that were used to store grain, and may also have been used to keep prisoners in," Lia says.
    "There are tunnels and dungeons everywhere underfoot here," César says. "They were dug out by the Moors or by Christian prisoners, no one is really sure. After the Moors left in 1492, they were used by the new Christian residents, and that went on for centuries, maybe until relatively recently, as the passages linked the various residences and enabled the great and the good to lead secret lives."
    We were heading for the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta, a stylish white carmen built into the side of the hill by the artist José Maria Rodríguez-Acosta at the beginning of the 20th century. Now it is a cultural centre and exhibition venue, but we were not there to admire the paintings; the building contains a remarkable secret, and we were about to discover it.
    We walked through an inner patio with a tinkling marble fountain, then out into the gardens, arranged on different levels on the hillside. The city sprawled below us in the fading light, while swallows flew in undulating formations. We went down to an elegant courtyard with a rectangular pool presided over by a figure of Venus. A smiling man appeared with a large key, opened an iron gate, and beckoned us into the shadowy space beyond. We entered a passage framed by columns and horseshoe arches. By torchlight, we gingerly made our way down a rough flight of steps into an eerie underground world.
    We must have descended 60 or 70 feet before coming to a circular, grotto-like room, incongruously decorated with urns and sculptures. "The artist found the tunnels when the house was being built and set about restoring them to make them more accessible," Lia says. "He built the steps, and arches and columns to support the walls and ceilings, and put in friezes and all these other decorative bits and pieces."
    Narrow passageways led off the tunnel, some blocked up, some with a narrow slit at the end, giving a tantalising glimpse of the gardens or the Granada sky. The temperature was perfect, neither hot nor cold.
    "It is likely that originally there were ramps, as given the height of the tunnels, people probably went down on horses, mules or donkeys. If they had been walking, the ceilings would be lower," Lia says. "The tunnels link with the houses nearby and lead down into the Realejo neighbourhood on the hill below. This was the Jewish area, and we think they used the tunnels for rituals and meetings," César added. It all sounded very mysterious. "The thing is, there is hardly any documentation about all these underground passages; they don't even figure on most official records, and aren't mentioned in most history books," he says.
    Some time later, we climbed back up the uneven steps and emerged in the garden, where the cypresses had turned from dark green to velvety black and the magical city of Granada glittered below us in the light of a full moon.

    Further information
    The Granada Underground Passages and Dungeons route is one of several tours run by the Pura Vida Association (201939; and costs £27 (€30). Information also available at the Pura Vida booth in Plaza Trinidad in Granada, or from the Granada Tourist Board (536973;