Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Birthdays and Russian food, Puppies and a weekend in Montrondo

Oli blowing out the candles at one of her multiple birthday parties.
 Hi again.

I’m two days late with my blog and so must apologise. That always happens when we go away for weekends I’m afraid and we have been away yet again, to Montrondo this time but more about that later.

Just after I wrote my last post it was my dear friend Julio’s birthday. He won’t be reading this though as he’s not a one for blogging or facebooking and is certainly missing out on the social media revolution. I came across this link the other day and was fascinated to see the statistics.

1. Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30-years-old

2. 96% of them have joined a social network

3. Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.

4. Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web

5. 1 out of 8 couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media

6. Years to Reach 50 million Users: Radio (38 Years), TV (13 Years), Internet (4 Years), iPod (3 Years)…

7. Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year

8. iPhone applications hit 1 billion in 9 months.

These are just some. The rest you can read here. As a colleague commented when she read them; “unbelievable and fantastic, it makes me feel lucky to be taking part in it”. I feel just the same but I know Julio doesn’t. I hope however he had a great birthday. We were supposed to have lunch to celebrate but it didn’t work out. Fátima cancelled at the last minute which rather annoyed me as I am such a stickler with my diary. The reason was a last minute conference call. To tell you the truth there is nothing I hate more than conference calls. I find them absolutely useless and avoid them as much as possible. What bugs me about them is so many people talking at the same time and not knowing when to interrupt or who is there. But they are the norm these days with so many virtual teams in the corporate world.

The week actually began with a bang and here I am writing something pretty personal but then again not to include it would make our family history rather incomplete. So here goes. On Monday evening Suzy announced she had broken up with her boyfriend Gaby with whom she has been going out for 5 years. She broke up with him 2 years ago but within a fortnight they were back together. But this time it seems it’s for real. I am not going to write my opinion here as this is her story and not mine. I am, though,  very sorry for him as he loved her to bits and is a very good guy. Now a new chapter starts in Suzy’s life and I hope, of course, that all goes well for her. But wow that was big news in our house. I spoke to her yesterday and reflected that maybe Oli and her see us as role models in their relationships as we are so united and they maybe want to imitate us. Possibly, possibly ....

After the bang, the rest of the week, at least for me, was pretty quiet. The highlights were lunch with a journalist from El Mundo and my boss at a great little place called El Chaflán and a meeting with the people behind Facebook Spain. That was revealing and fascinating for someone like me who is so addicted to Facebook. They have more than 400 million users in the world (about half in the US and the most of the other half in Europe) and some 10 million users in Spain. 48% are men and 52% are women. For so many “customers” they are a very lean organisation, just some 1.500 people with small offices opening all around the world. I wanted to know how to grow our Yoigo fan page (now called “like”) and hear about successful case studies.

A few years ago my dream job would have been with Google, today my ambition would probably be with Facebook. However there is no company where I would get such good work conditions as in Yoigo so I am definitely staying put and enjoying it too. It continually surprises me to see how well Yoigo is doing and growing. Every month we are the leaders in portability (people who change operators) and in the first 3 months of this year we have garnered some 47% of all new subscriptions in Spain. The other day I got a very motivating private message on Facebook from someone who works for the competition which I took as a real compliment:: “Vi los resultados de Yoigo. Quería darte la enhorabuena porque soy de los que piensa que la competencia es sana para todo el mundo. En el fondo, es lo mejor que puede pasarle a España. Un abrazo”
The Yoigo "muñecos" or cartoon dolls that are part of our image
Another highlight of the week had to do with food. It’s no secret that I adore it but then I wonder who does not. So, nothing to be ashamed about as it’s one of life’s biggest pleasures as I’m sure you will all agree. The food in question was Russian. There are some Russian dishes which I associate with my childhood and which my Mother made and bring back lovely memories, and one of these is Borsch. It is a soup made of fresh beetroot, cabbage, potatoes and meat and you eat it with smetana (sour cream) and dill. We had some recently in New York at the Russian Tea Room and so I decided to ask our Ukranian home help, Zena, if she knew how to make it. The question was rather silly as of course she does as borsch is just as popular there as in Russia. So I asked her to make some for us and along she came last Wednesday with a big Tupperware full of it plus some real smetana. I had my doubts it would be as good as my Mother’s but it turned out to be nearly as good. My father, Eladio and I ate it for 3 days running but unfortunately the girls, who have not been brought up on it, didn’t want to try what they called “the red soup” which Suzy said tasted a bit “earthy”. I loved it and will be asking Zena to make us some more another time.

Borsch.  Russian soup made of beetroot, cabbage, potatoes and meat and served with smetana and dill.  Delicious
Zena also makes pelmeni for us (sort of Russian ravioli) and so I got some out of the deep freeze to have after the borsch. Needless to say we polished that off too within a couple of days but this time just between my Father and I, as Eladio is not too keen. Pasta is not his thing.
Pelmeni, perhaps my favourite Russian dish.  A sort of ravioli cooked in butter and served with smetana and dill
The end of the week brought a nasty summer cold with it, not at all welcome and highly unusual for me. That was on Thursday so on Friday I thought I ought to see the doctor before heading off to Montrondo for the weekend, just in case it was something more. I went to a local clinic and was attended by an Argentinian equivalent of a GP who took no notice of my cold but started doing a complete check up which took me by surprise. My only conclusion is that the clinic was after my “business”, i.e. sending me off for tests in return for payment from my medical insurance company. I was furious and will not be going back and of course will not be doing the tests. I wonder how widespread this is. Luckily the cold is better now and one of the remedies came from my sister-in-law, Dolores, who gave me hot water with lemon and honey which was much better than anything the doctor prescribed me! Thanks Dolores.

Saturday brought with it another birthday, but not just any birthday. It was Oli’s 25th. Yeah, a quarter of a century! Every time the girls have a birthday I think back to the day they were born and wonder at how many years have passed by. It should make me feel “old” and it does at times. However the other day I bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for many years: Pablo Antón, the ex Manager of the Once, a top Spanish cycling team. He looked at me and asked whether I had made a pact with the devil as I was looking so good. I hope he was sincere. I feel good so maybe I look good. That’s how it usually works. Who did look superb though on Saturday was my beautiful daughter Olivia whom you can’t beat for looks.
Oli at breakfast on her birthday on Saturday.  A radiant 25 year old.
She had many celebrations to mark the quarter of a century, the first being a party with her friends from work last weekend when we were in Valencia. As you can see in the photo it was a fancy dress event. I gather Norah also had a great time.

Oli with her friends from work at the first birthday celebration last week.
Her birthday was actually last Saturday and it started off with a family breakfast: churros, croissants, Nutella; all the naughty but nice things. This was when we gave her her pressies and cards.
The family birthday breakfast on Saturday.
That day she had two more celebrations. The first was a lunchtime party for her old school friends. I grabbed this photo from Facebook of the group of them, some I hadn’t seen since they left school.

Oli with her school friends who came for a birthday lunch party on Saturday. 
The last party was on Saturday night and was mainly for Oli and Suzy’s mutual friends. Here is a great photo of Suzy with Erika, her lovely half Swedish friend from school. They have both grown into stunning young women and it makes me happy to see their friendship just as strong as ever.
Erika and Suzy at one of Oli's birthday parties.
As you can imagine a lot of cooking went on. Suzy being the cake expert must have made at least 5 cakes for the 3 occasions. I also grabbed this photo from Facebook of Suzy putting the finishing touches to one of the dishes.

Suzy preparing tons of food for Oli's birthday parties.
So obviously a good time was had by all. Hopefully there won’t be any more parties for a while. Or is that wishful thinking in this house I wonder.

Meanwhile Eladio and I went off to Montrondo to attend the anniversary mass for his father Antonio. Dolores, my sister-in-law came with us which made the journey there quite jolly (what an old fashioned word!). We stopped, of course, en route at Rueda for a bite of wonderful ham and white wine at Palacio de Bornos where we always stop, come rain or shine so to speak.

On Saturday we spent the day with Dolores, José Antonio and Sara and their delightful new puppies who are an acquisition of Miguel’s. Miguel is planning on going to live in Montrondo and work from there and also try his hand as a farmer. There are plans for sheep, goats, a horse, a donkey and chickens. I fell in love equally with little Nesca, a very lively three month old mongrel and dear Nuba also a mongrel. Nuba spent two days on my lap sleeping peacefully whilst Nesca caused a riot wherever she went.

Nesca in Montrondo, one of Miguel's delightful new puppies.

Me  darling little Nuba, the other puppy Miguel got  for his new life in Montrondo.
We were joined on Sunday by the rest of the family; all the “grown-ups” and some of the “children”: Marta and Ministro, Mario, Roberto and Ana and their new baby Diana who is a darling and the centre of the family’s attention.
4 month old Diana, the newest member of the family.
The funeral mass was at midday in the church in Montrondo and all the usual people were there. Of course we all visited the cemetery and the scene below of the family placing flowers on my father-in-law’s grave looks like something straight out of an Almodóvar film.

Placing flowers on my father-in-law's grave just before the memorial mass for him this Sunday in Montrondo. 
On top of the puppies we had Trébol, Pili’s family’s latest acquisition, a wonderful six month old dalmation who along with Diana is also the centre of attention.
Some of the women in the family with Diana the new baby, Trébol the dalmation and Nuba the little puppy.
After a family lunch the afternoon was spent leisurely for some and less so for others. Some of us slept a siesta, some of us read, the dogs played and others cut the grass and even felled a tree.

We left in the evening and stopped again at Rueda to buy some nice white wine to stock up our ever growing wine collection.

Eladio loading the car with wine in Rueda on our way back from Montrondo this weekend.
You can see the full selection of photos of this weekend here.

When we got home, it was nice to greet Suzy and Oli’s friend Julia or Jules as they call her, their Austrian friend who lives in Barcelona and who they met on the Nokia N-Gage tour some 8 years ago.  Great to see you again Jules.

Oli with Julia, the girls' Austrian friend who was here this weekend for the birthday celebrations too.
We also came home to a burst pipe so had to switch off the water but of course I secretly switched it on again to deal with the washing up and have a long needed shower until our plumber fixed it yesterday.

This week has begun on a new footing. Eladio is away everyday this week as he is invigilating exams at the Uned (equivalent of the Open University). He is always here so it’s strange to face each day without him. He goes very early and comes back late. However he’s back on time for our evening walk which is now getting later and later as it so hot and of course light until nearly 10. I’ll leave you with this great picture I took on one of our walks recently with Norah and where you can appreciate the colour in the fields from the wild flowers which make them a sight to see. You can see more pictures of our walk here on Facebook.

Eladio and Norah on one of our walks recently.  The fields are filled with wild flowers which make them a sight for sore eyes.
And that my friends, is the end of this week’s blog post which I hope you enjoy. Cheers till next week.


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