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.

31 May 2012

Why I am still in Love With Spain - Chris Stewart


Article Source

Why I am still in love with Spain
By Chris Stewart


I WAS just 21 when I first arrived in Spain, hitchhiking over the Pyrenees into this strange, seemingly African land.
In the company of a washing-machine repairman, I took my first tentative steps in the language, as his little van bucketed down the narrow road to Lérida.
I had come to Spain to learn the guitar. As we crossed the river bridge into the town of Lérida, I looked down to where there were women washing clothes in the slow-moving water.
I had recently learnt a piece by Gaspar Sanz, the “Dance of the Washerwomen”, and there was a part of me that wondered if they might not stop what they were doing and dance, if I were to play that piece. Fortunately, I did not put this half-witted notion to the test.
It was autumn and the olives were hard green berries on the silvery trees. The next day, as I walked west through olive groves towards Tarragona, I picked one from the tree. It was bitter and dry and I wondered what on earth it was, and why anyone would want to cultivate such a thing. That night I stayed in a commercial hotel in Tárrega – 50 pesetas for supper and a bed in a room with three others.
Francisco Tárrega was a great composer and teacher of guitar. Among other things, he wrote Lágrimas, a pretty piece that I played in a fast and jolly fashion in the mistaken belief that lágrimas meant “happiness”. It doesn’t; it means “tears”. I searched the little town for signs of the master, but there were none, as he had never actually been there.
By the time I got to Valencia, the oranges were ripe and I found work on the harvest. It was not as easy as you’d think; it takes a particular twist of the wrist to free the orange from the tree.
At the end of a week it was made clear to me that I was not an asset in the orange fields. I remember the scent of oranges, and that the ground was carpeted, unaccountably, with spring onions, as if they were grass. I would pick handfuls to add to my lunchtime chorizo bocadillo.
Finally, I arrived in Sevilla, the self-proclaimed Queen of Andalucia, and the only place for a romantically inclined young man to learn the guitar. There, in Triana and the Barrio Santa Cruz, the spell was finally cast, and yet another Englishman was caught by the enchantment of Spain.
Twenty years later, I finally made it back, having bought a farm with its own olives and oranges, and now that my wife and I have lived here for 20 years and more, well, there’s no turning back.
Our daughter was born in the Clinica Inmaculada in Granada, and as she passed through the school system and lived and played with the families of her friends in the village, she brought us deeper into the world that surrounds us.
We were unmistakably different, though. One day she took us to task over this. “Why can’t you be like everybody else?” she asked. “Well, we do what we can…” we replied.
“But what about these clothes pegs? None of my friends’ families have clothes pegs like ours.”
It was true: whereas everybody else had colourful plastic clothes-pegs, we had wooden ones, one piece only and traditionally made by gipsies. The reason behind this was that we had a parrot, and the parrot would destroy plastic clothes-pegs in no time flat. But that was neither here nor there; the wooden pegs marked us as ineluctably different. We spoke good Spanish, though, but with funny accents, and our child, who was obviously fluent in the local dialect, felt humiliated yet more by our differentness.
Chloé has left home now, passed through the school system and on to university in Granada, where she’s studying languages. I cannot think of anywhere in the world where I would have rather seen her grow up than in this little Spanish town. It gave her, among other things, confidence, ease and social mobility.
George Borrow, the 19th-century author, wrote in The Bible in Spain: “I will say for the Spaniards, that in their social intercourse no people in the world exhibit a juster feeling of what is due to the dignity of human nature, or better understand the behaviour which it behoves a man to adopt towards his fellow human beings. It is one of the few countries in Europe where poverty is not treated with contempt, and, I may add, where the wealthy are not blindly idolised.”
Well that’s what our daughter got from the village school. It didn’t cost a lot, but we figured it was the right stuff. However, you may say, things are not what they might be in Spain at the moment… And you wouldn’t be far from the mark. “Nobody would want to be like Spain,” said Robert Boucher, the US ambassador to the EU, recently. “It’s good for nothing but flamenco and red wine.”
The king has just been caught red-handed killing elephants, and his son-in-law, the Duke of Palma, has allegedly been caught with his fingers in the public pot. He denies it. The judiciary has wrecked its credibility by imposing a witch-hunt against Baltasar Garzón, who inspired the admiration of the world by bringing to justice dictators, drug-runners and terrorists, and investigating, as well as the morass of corruption in the country, the crimes against humanity perpetrated during the Civil War and dictatorship. And the jobless figures are by far the worst in Europe, not helped by a national debt to make your eyes water. The chips in Spain are good and down.
So, is it time to get out? Not likely. It’s just too good here, and after 20 years, I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I still love my native Britain, but, as somebody remarked, it’s a nice place to get a letter from… you wouldn’t want to live there.
Here we have space, solitary wilderness to walk the dogs; we have our own oranges and olive oil; we pick lemons, almonds and apricots from our trees. To keep us warm in winter the rivers bring us driftwood, and there are prunings of olive and almond that burn hot as coal. The sunshine provides our electricity; we have spring water piped into the house.
True, we don’t have the benefits of rubbish collection, postal delivery or street-lighting… but you can’t have everything.
Admittedly, it’s country life that brings us all these delights. Other more urban expatriates might see things differently. It’s in the nature of the expat to grumble and criticise the host country, and lord knows there’s enough to moan about… as there is in whatever land you choose to make your stand. If you don’t like it, you can always leave… but I can’t imagine how bad things would have to be to get us to leave.
For even after all these years, I still have a crazy romantic illusion about Spain. As I speed home along the motorway, I cannot suppress a frisson of delight as I pass the sign that says Seville, Cordoba, Granada.
Everywhere there remain the traces of Spain’s richly textured history, the caliphate of Cordoba that, when the rest of Europe was still in the Dark Ages, was “the Ornament of the World”. The kingdom of Granada, with its incomparable palace, the Alhambra. Beautiful riverside Sevilla, where all the gold and silver stolen from the Americas was landed and swiftly squandered by Church, monarchy and nobility.
The magic of Spain is there in the language, with its copious admixture of Arabic, which for 800 years was spoken by everybody in the peninsula. It’s in the fruit and the trees – the pomegranate from Persia, the oranges from China, and almonds, saffron and aubergines.
The place is an inspiration, and had I not come to live in this Arcadian valley within this extraordinary country, I never would have found myself, nor the words to describe it.
Ay, Spain and your Spaniards… you’ve been through hard times before, but you’ve come through right side up in the end. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope that the forces of reaction and stagnation – the Church and the fascism even now creeping out of the woodwork – will be confronted and subjugated, before things reach the pretty pass they got to last time.

30 May 2012

Cueva Pedro - Menus



6 guests booked in for an evening meal tonight, here is their menu:

A glass of Cava and a tapa on arrival

STARTERS:
Fresh tomato and basil soup
Griddled goats' cheese with sweet chilli dip
Poached salmon with lime mayonnaise

MAIN COURSE:
Steak and kidney pie
Stuffed pork fillet wrapped in Serrano ham
Fishcakes, chips and mushy peas
Vegetarian roasted vegetable lasagne

DESSERTS:
Lemon meringue pie
Peach Melba
Brioche bread and butter pudding

Coffee and chocs, choice of wine.

29 May 2012

Tripadvisor Reviews - Cueva Pedro


I have just been updating the website and came across this new review on Tripadvisor!..........


As this cave accommodation is not far from where we live , we dine there quite frequently now . It is a bed and breakfast accommodation although I have never stopped there myself up to now although I have viewed the accomodation which looks very pleasant indeed. As they offer a dine and stay package we may well do that at some time in the near future. 

We found them on the internet as they have a good site and were also on trip advisir when we found them. We have been several times for sunday lunch and for dinner. Prebooking is obligatory and we have to select from a choice of 3 or 4 starters, mains and sweet in advance . The restaurant is quite small and can hold up to about 12-16 persons so we have always received some lovely service . It is a family run business with mum doing the cooking and her two grown up daughters are helpers.We get cava and a tapas on arrival and we have a choice of wine beer and soft drink. The dining room and accommodation is part of a cave property which are common in this area where we live and make for a lovely ambience . I have taken family there and when we have future visitors they will definately be treated to a visit. Our last trip there was the monday after newyear, being sick of cooking and of turkey we arranged for 6 of us friends to have a private lunch party ( minimum of 6 for a private meal) . Glad to say there was no turkey to be seen and we made our choices from 3 options in each category including 2 selections which we requested specially. Everyone enjoyed the meal and for only 15 euros per person it was good value and even included coffee after. As a person who loves my veg and accompaniments it was good to see a hostess trolley full of lovely veg from which to serve ourselves.

Room Tip: I have not stayed in the guest rooms but both look well presented and clean

Broad Beans - Recipe Habas con Jamon

Broad beans are currently in season here. You might even be given a bunch as tapas (quite often you will walk in a local bar and find broad bean pods all over the floor!). My father in law loved them raw with a bit of salt! ew.....I personally prefer them cooked and my favourite recipe is 'Habas con jamon'.....recipe below. We were given quite a lot from the neighbours and some friends so I set the little monster to work to de-pod them all!!!.....it kept him entertained for quite some time....










RECIPE - Habas con jamon (source)


This is a delicious dish best made with fresh broad beans and mountain-cured Serrano ham. It works best with large spring onions or scallions, which have a gentler flavour than normal onions. It is definitely one of my favourites.

INGREDIENTS:

2 kg broad beans, podded

100g mountain-cured Serrano ham, chopped

2 small onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

olive oil

salt

RECIPE:

First, heat the oil in a frying pan and then add the chopped onion and garlic. Fry gently until soft and then add the ham and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the broad beans and stir-fry for another couple of minutes. Cover the frying pan and turn the heat down very low. Cook on a low heat until the beans are soft (add a little water if necessary). Season with salt.

28 May 2012

New WOODROT YouTube Videos



WOODROT 2012 T-Shirts Now Available

There seems to be a lot of interest in the T-shirt I handpainted for my little monster for the WOODROT festival and a few people have asked if I will make them one.



I am willing to make them for 15 euros adults (lady fit, lady loose fit and gents) and 10 euros children (up to 15 years).

CONVO me if you want one! (dengradesigns@hotmail.com)

If I know by 2nd June so then I can order all the t-shirts and paints in one go to cut down on the postage charges! to get them here!

Mens: Small, Meduim, Large, XL and XXL
Lady Fit: XS (26/28") 6/8
S (28/30") 8/10
M (30/32) 10/12
L (32/34) 12/14
XL (36/38) 16/18
Lady Loose Fit: Same as Mens
Children: Age 2/3, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/11, 12/13, 14/15

26 May 2012

WOODROT Music Festival

What a fabulous day we have had today at the first WoodRot Festival in Cuevas de Negro. The location was fantastic and I can't think of a better backdrop any other festival has! We didnt stay into the evening although I bet it was fab (people took tents and campervans and the music played on until the early hours!). Everyone loved the t-shirt I had made for the little monster!

(The backdrop)

(The scrummy food from Matilda)

(The Howlers)

(Ali and Nana Dos)

(Seeking the shade)



(Some of the tents)

(Found the shade under the tree)

(Little monster playing his harmonica)



25 May 2012

Fish Pool - Orce

I had a busy week with orders for 'The Baking Co-operative' - the last delivery was on Friday afternoon in Orce so at the same time we decided to visit the fish pool there. It was the first time the little monster had been there to see the fish! (only 2 days previous my sister had been there and the pool was empty and no fish in! - being cleaned I guess!)

This is a natural spring......and believe it or not you can swim in it!

(checking out the pool with Papa)

(don't throw me in Papa)

(Some of the fish)


(Playing pooh sticks with Papa)


(what happened to my 'pooh stick'?)


(This is a picture taken in the pool back in 2004 - trying to catch the fish.......unsuccessfully!!!!)

Guest Comments - Cueva Pedro B&B


"Had a fantastic week away (here) with my 2 bezzie mates and will defo be coming back. Have met some wonderful people who have made us feel more than welcome. Big thanks to Kate and Sally for our Sunday lunch (Kate youre a better waitress than Ami haha!!) Love you all lots be back soon, don't miss us too much" 

20 May 2012

Cueva Pedro Menu

Another full house for lunch. Here is the menu:

A glass of Cava and a tapa on arrival

STARTERS:
Butternut squash and coconut soup
Garlic mushrooms
Grilled grapefruit

MAINS:
Roast belly pork
Roast chicken, both served with home made stuffing
Steak and ale pie
Vegetarian leek and cheese tartlet

PUDS:
Chocolate sponge and chocolate sauce
Lemon meringue pie
Peach Melba

Coffee and mints, choice of wine, etc., etc.

18 May 2012

Fancy a Walk?

My sister has got the car today so I have to walk to the Post Office........fancy coming along for a stroll?......here we go then.........

(out my gate)

(down the road just below my cave - note little dog to left....there happens to be another hiding behind the post!...my dog!......he came along with me for the stroll!)

(past the partridge)

(the view)

(a nice garden I have to walk past)

(the cat wasnt really bothered about me and Hobo)

(a little road on my journey)

(a cut through to the road below to get to the bank!)

(The Post Office! - actually located inside the Town Hall)

17 May 2012

Guest Comments - Cueva Pedro

Our guests have just gone today - they took advantage of our OFFER: 30 euros per person per night HALF BOARD (which includes tapas and drink on arrival, bottle of cava in your room, 3 course home cooked evening meal with wine, accommodation in twin or double en-suite room, continental breakfast in the morning)

"Thank you for a very realxing and enjoyable stay. Fantastic area -  amazing scenery. 
Thank you for my birthday card and pressie x"


16 May 2012

Herbs - Garden and Preserving

I have been away from blogging for a couple of days because my usb cable for my camera broke so I couldn't upload any pics!.

Anyway a replacement arrived today. So whilst I have been away I have been having a spring clean and a general tidy up.

There is the new summer herb garden planted in a large metal container I found on the tip


I have already used some of the rosemary on my bbq coals to give the meat a lovely flavour and some of the chives I put with some butter and drizzle over some boiled new potatoes- delicious!



HERB GARDEN

Find a sunny spot with well-drained soil and your herbs will thrive outdoors.
Mint and parsley will tolerate the most moisture, but no variety likes to be waterlogged, so think Mediterranean - the home of so many culinary herbs - and you'll get and idea of the growing conditions most prefer. Choose a planting spot that's not overshadowed by a high fence or trees.

The perfect place
Once you've found the ideal conditions, here are the planting options:
Make a mini garden by placing your herbs all together in one bed for easy collection
Add to a border - plant perennial herbs (except mint, which would take over the whole bed) among other herbaceous plants to add fragrance to the bed, or blend annual herbs withh summer bedding plants, such as petunias and busy Lizzies. To make planting easier, you can simply sink the plastic pots into the ground. Alternatively, use herbs to edge a path or border - chives are especially pretty in this setting.
Alternate with paving stones by removing every other stone and replacing with herbs such as mint, thyme and lavendar
Dig out a circle in a gravelled area and create and eye catching herb wheel by dividing into equal sections
Create a fragrant seat by sitting herbs around a garden bench where you can enjoy the relaxing aroma.

Planting up
To get all plants or seedlings off to a good start in the open, dig over the ground, remove large stones and mix in some compost or peat moss (available from garden centres) - this is especially important on clay soil. Water the site thoroughly the day before planting then, the following day, dig holes ready for the larger plants and water the soil lightly again. Plant out your herbs on a cloudy day or in the morning or evening so they won't have to cope with the full force of the sun straight away.
Tip plants out of their pots into your hand, keeping as much soil as possible around the roots just below ground level, and press the soil around the roots.  Fill the hole with more soil to level it, then give the plants their first on-site watering. Water every couple of days until new leaves appear - a sign that they've taken root.
Feed herbs with liquid fertiliser once every one or two weeks, depending on your soil type, the site and the growing instructions.

PRESERVING YOUR HERBS

It's easy to make your herbs last, by drying, freezing or microwaving them. 
When to harvest During summer - before the flowers form - pick herbaceous perrenials, including marjoram, mint and fennel. In late spring and summer, harvest annual herbs like dill, coriander and basil. Evergreen herbs such as bay, rosemary, sage and thyme can be picked any time. Cut stems with sharp scissors, taking only as many as you need as the soon wilt, or preseve them in the following ways:
Drying Tie herbs in bunches and hang upside-down in a cool, airy place away from strong light, for example on a herb dryer. When leaves feel crsip, after four to seven days, crumble lightly and store in airtight containers.
Freezing This can be done in two ways:
Place small sprigs of herbs such as basil, dill, parsley and thyme in freezer bags, push out the air, seal and freeze. They will keep for up to six months.
Pack small sprigs or whole or chopped leaves, and some flowers like chives and marjoram, in ice-cube trays, cover with water and freeze. Add frozen cubes to soups and stevws, and those with whole sprigs or flowers to cold drinks. To use the herbs in creamy sauces, thaw the cubes in a sieve.
Microwaving Place sprigs of herbs such as basil, parsley and dill in a circle, stems to the centre, on kitchen paper. Microwave on low power for 30 seconds, but check every few seconds as timings will vary between herbs. Remove the dried herbs to a wire rack and leave in a warm room for a few hours before crumbling and storing in airtight containters.

15 May 2012

Cueva Pedro Menu

A big group in for a meal tonight and tonight's menu is:

A glass of Cava and tapa on arrival

STARTERS:
Poached salmon with lime mayonnaise
Home made chicken liver pate
Melon with Serrano ham

MAIN COURSE:
Pan fried calves' liver with caramelised onion
Pork, apple and cider casserole
Chicken and leek pie
Battered fish fillet, chips and mushy peas

PUDS:
Sticky chilli baked pineapple
Individual mango and ginger Pavlova
Banoffee pie

Wine and coffee and mints

12 May 2012

Tophatter - Little Guide

For the last couple of months I have been selling my items on Tophatter. Tophatter is an online auction for handmade crafts, jewelry, accessories, home decor, supplies, vintage and kids’ stuff (plus every now an then you will find an auction for themes such as Hello Kitty and Harry Potter).


Tophatter, is an exclusive invite-only live auction site. Tophatter is a bit like eBay, but has some unique twists that we think you'll like.
Each day, starting at 9am PT, Tophatter runs LIVE auctions packed full of remarkable items. The auctions are very fast, so if you come late, you'll miss out on the fun.


You can design your own avatar (this is how the auction room looks)


Once you have successfully got into a schedule and made a sale then Tophatter will take a 10% fee (at least $1.00) - this payment is only taken when the buyer has paid you.

As your sales and feedback increase then so does your reputation. At first you are only able to list one item at a time and a few days in advance......eventually this progresses (at the moment I am allowed to list 10 items, 4 days in advance and 2 items per lot). The more you use Tophatter the more you will understand this.......nb: In order to protect buyers against fraudulent sellers, new sellers can only schedule a single lot at a time until they sell 3 lots. After that, priority scheduling is granted to sellers who have sold at least 80% of their last 5 lots. With priority scheduling, sellers can schedule 15 lots at a time, and up to 3 in the same auction

Scheduling is pretty simple: you choose available dates and times from a drop down menu however due to the increase in popularity lately I have found that every time I try to schedule they have been full. They have now introduced 'standby' the idea is 1 hour before the auction begins you will be able to add your items to a standby list, during this hour people can view your item and make the preliminary bid - if you are successful and someone makes this bid then you are automatically added to the auction (NB.... be quick on the computer to get your item into standby as I have seen the auction fill up from standby and them shut the standby option within 5 minutes!...........if, during the auction, there seems to be plenty of time left then more allocated slots open up in standby and the above rule applies until all available slots are filled and then standby shuts again).

TIP: also at 8am PT 11am ET more slots are added to the schedules - a tip is to be ready at this time on the computer and try and schedule some of your items - I have found this the best way to get into scheduled slots.

Always use a low start bid to attract bidders (especially when in standby) - be prepared to take the risk that your item sells low.......more often than not it sells for a good price.

Take a good picture - there is one thumbnail picture that is then one that has to draw peoples' attention.

Offer international postage - there are so many items I personally would like to bid on and can't as there isnt an option for international buyers (yes I appreciate with the time difference that alot of us in Europe wont be watching the later auctions!!)

Tophatter doesn’t mention this, but you can write simple HTML to include <a href> links to make your product more interesting

Try and be in the chat - a great way to talk direct to your potential buyers and offer incentives (i.e. if bidding reaches a certain amount you will add matching earrings)

For those of you in standby there is a chat room etiquette that you will not promote your standby item in chat - however there is a great group on facebook where you can feel free to announce your standby items  click here!

Link up to your shop - say for example you have a shop on Etsy then one of the best things about Tophatter is that you can have your Etsy shop name next to your username. That way, when you are chatting or your item is up for auction, people know you are a credible seller and its free advertising for your Etsy shop. I have found that since using Tophatter my sales on Etsy have also gone up.

Behave on chat! - they will mute you if you don't behave!

Remember to leave feedback and notify of shipping (and request return feedback) - these help increase your reputation and therefore the amount of items you can list.

Some more interesting advice on the internet about Tophatter - click here

Help and info on Tophatter - click here

I hope these are a few tips that will make your selling more successful.

Happy Selling

P.S Tophatter is now 'invite only' so if you want to be added then pm (dengradesigns@hotmail.com) me your email address and I will send you an invite (I am only able to invite 50 people).


So here is a little about me on Tophatter

Kate★dengradesigns.com

What buyers are saying about Kate★dengradesigns.com:

very nice charms
Great purchase, thanks
Very Fast Shipping! Thank you!
Received the items very quickly from Spain. These charms are very cute and will be used to make other jewelry.
Incredibly fast shipping! Adorable pieces! Thank you so much!!!!

Upcoming:

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20 pcs Photo Frame Pendants Mixed Sizes Silvertone Goldtone Kate★dengradesigns.com
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20 pcs Mixed Shape Solid Cast Photo Frames (silvertone, goldtone) Kate★dengradesigns.com
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5 Pcs SEAGLASS Pale Sea Glass From Mediterranean Coast Drilled Toggles Beads MERMAIDS TearsKate★dengradesigns.com
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SILVER PENDANT MIX 5 x Pendants Sterling Silver with Glass Crystal codeSS9Kate★dengradesigns.com
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10 x HAMSA Hand of FATIMA Silvertone charm for your craft projects Tibetan SilverKate★dengradesigns.com
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DESTASH 20 x Miniature Glass Vials With Cork DIY Seaglass Message in BottleKate★dengradesigns.com