Sunday, December 21, 2008

Final preparations for India, more Christmas parties and shopping, news from André, Bush in trouble, Russian cuisine and what's cooking next week

The girls with Father Christmas at the employee children's Christmas party
Hi again

This will be one of my last posts before our trip to India next Friday. I can hardly imagine that this time next week we will be somewhere between Delhi and Mandawa in Rajasthan. I have a bit of a cold and was worried it might turn into flu as there is an epidemic on and the last thing I want is to be ill when we embark on our journey.

Nearly everything is ready for the trip. We got our Indian visa on Friday and on Tuesday we shall be going to get the visa for Nepal. We have taken the oral vaccination for typhoid and are working on the first aid kit. I have made a list of everything to take and a lot of thought went into it to make sure we have everything we need for 18 days, including the pc and camera with all their accessories, socks for entering the temples, an overnight bag just in case our luggage gets lost somewhere, a universal plug, my feather pillow (goes with me everywhere) and believe it or not tea. Who would take tea to India? Just me, because it’s decaf and I’m not sure it will be in abundance. Finally I will be checking in on-line and printing our boarding passes 30 hours before "take off".

But before Friday there is Christmas to celebrate. This last week I had my last 2 work parties to get through. One was for Bloggers on Tuesday and the other was for the employees’ children’s on Thursday. A lot of effort went into organising them and I’m rather glad they are behind me now so that I can get on with the family Christmas. They went well and were quite fun to judge by comments and feedback I received as well as smiling faces on the photos. The girls helped me at both events as did Juan my nephew. Juan was in charge of measuring the alcohol intake of the guests for which there was a competition!
The Yoigo Blogger Christmas Party
In between the parties, the girls from my events agency, Quinta Esencia (Cris, Bea, Gloria and Nuria) invited my boss and me for lunch to celebrate Christmas. They took us to Enriich a great little place in La Moraleja. The lunch was good, although a little long and here we exchanged gifts. We bought them all a huge set of their favourite perfumes and we, in turn, got given a Wii by Nintendo. Can you imagine me playing that? The atmosphere or the alcohol or the mix of that and the fact that we are all quite creative, gave birth, somehow, to a great idea for a huge public party to take place in the second week of February. I thought work had finished for this year, but not so, because I already have a project for the early New Year.

The week was also spent doing more Christmas shopping. I went with Oli on Thursday morning to a local shopping centre called Tres Aguas and with my two men (Eladio and my Father) to the proverbial El Corté Inglés on Friday. I’m almost done for this year except for a few small gifts for the stocking. In our house we have all the traditions but how we do the presents comes from my experience as a child at my Grandmother’s house in Ickenham on the outskirts of London.

In the morning my brother George and I would find a stocking next to our bed full of little gifts and sweets. We could hardly sleep with the anticipation. And I have carried on with this tradition with my children too, even now when they are 23 and 24. They wouldn’t hear of my giving it up either. Then after a lovely family breakfast with the best crockery, we would gather round the tree where the main presents were piled. And this too is how we give out our presents at home today. Each one is given out individually and we all wait whilst the recipient opens it and oohs and aahs. Only then do we give out the next present. All this is accompanied by Kings College choir Christmas carols and a box of chocolates. This is the one day of the year when you can eat as many as you want in our house! Oh how we all love Christmas day.

The week brought with it news too, of course, the most eventful being the Iraki journalist who threw a slipper at George Bush during his farewell speech in that country.

The news at home, at least at the beginning of the week, was about the huge snow falls all over Spain. Eladio’s family live in León and that was where the biggest snowfalls were seen. In fact on Monday morning Isidro, Eladio’s youngest brother, and his wife Yoli and daughters Laura and Alicia, were trapped in their home and could not get out as the automatic gate had frozen. Oli was covering the news for and used the family as witnesses.

Talking about news, Oli, Suzy and my nephew, Miguel, were actually on the “telly” on Monday. They had taken part in street research on text messaging at Christmas and here is the result.

But the biggest piece of news for me came from André my long lost cousin from Canada. You will remember from my last post that I had found him on the internet. Well this last Tuesday I got a long newsy email from him. I now know that he is married, to Debby who is from Florida, that they live in Ottawa, that he is still crazy about Science Fiction and that his Mother, my Aunt Lena, is still alive although she has Alzhiemer’s, that dreaded disease for old people. I was so pleased to receive the email I must have read it at least 3 times. You see, I have so little family left that finding one cousin means so much to me now.
André, my long lost cousin and his wife Debby on their wedding day in 2006
The weekend proved just as busy and full of social events as the week itself. On Friday we went out for dinner with Roberto and Mari Carmen to La Leyenda for our own private Christmas dinner. The place was packed as I’ve never seen it before, full of company dinners. Roberto bought us a superb magnum bottle of Rioja (Cune Reserva) which was much appreciated.

And on Saturday, despite the cold coming on, we went out with José Antonio and Dolores to Al Mounia. The idea was to see each other now as we would not be together for the annual family New Year’s Eve get together in León. In fact we will be in Jodhpur that night! We hardly had a Christmas dinner at Al Mounia, as the restaurant is Moroccan and boasts to be the best one in town. The decoration was certainly excellent as was the food, although we were fed far too much. The price though was over the top and I think both brothers were not too happy with me for that although not a word was said. If you ever go there, the very best dish to ask for is the Farci Pastella, a sort of semi sweet minced meat pie.
Al Mounia restaurant
Farci Pastella
Today, Sunday, is a quiet day before Christmas. I made Russian stuffed cabbage (golubtzi) with Smetana (sour cream) and was very popular with the family. I shall be doing more cooking later and plan to make our famous “perushki”, or Russian little meat pies and freeze them for our Christmas Eve family dinner. Both recipes are my Mother’s.

My Mother was never an ordinary housewife and frankly when I was a kid you never knew where the next meal was coming from. My Father used to make our “tea” (name for the evening meal in England) which was usually burnt sausages with cabbage followed by some awful sweet called “Angel Delight” which came out of a packet and to which you added milk. However when my Mother did cook, she did so superbly. Unfortunately she only ever cooked when she felt like it or when she was preparing for guests.

The things she used to make were: kasha (“buckwheat” in English) which I actually hated but George adored, borsch (beetroot, vegetable and meat soup), pelmeni (sort of ravioli but better), and her own rice recipe (a sort of Chinese fried rice) which Amanda adored and which she often used to make for my friends at the end of my parties. Also in her repertoire was perushki and golubtzi and her Father’s recipe for potato salad which I still make. She also made “blini”, the famous Russian pancakes which were served with fish (often caviar) and the most common Russian Easter dishes such as a heavy fruit filled cheese based sweet called Paskha, coloured (dyed) boiled eggs and Russian Easter bread, called Koolitch which is also sweet.

Well next week food will be a big topic too as it will be Christmas. But Monday brings with it different activities. Tomorrow morning I will be doing the last tests of the series the doctor prescribed and that is a barium meal and a scan of my vital organs. I shall also be picking up the results of the colonoscopy. I’m not looking forward to that. But I am looking forward to lunch tomorrow with an old friend, Cristina, from the agency Moliner with whom I worked when I was at Motorola.

I’m also looking forward to Julio’s annual dinner on Tuesday. The four of us will be there, plus Fátima and Julio. Apart from the dinner, the crackers and the exchanging of gifts, this year we all have to prepare some sort of activity. Eladio is looking for new jokes on the web and I am googling “party games”. No doubt there will be a report on this dinner in my next post.

Cheers till then

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