Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas social events and shopping, a taste of England, Spanish (Ibérico) hams, another new toy, oh so cold, Norah's new coat and other things.

Norah in her new coat to protect her from the cold.  Isn't she cute?

Hello again

Well it’s less than a week to Christmas now and you know what? I’m nearly ready. The whole week seems to have been dedicated to this year’s Yuletide. On Tuesday I went to my second Christmas event, the Dircom (Spanish association of Communications Directors) annual dinner held at the Museo del Traje (Costume Museum). It was very well patronised and we had the honour of the company of distinguished guests such as the Minister of the Presidency, Ramón Jauregui. His speech was a little disappointing as it was all about the crisis, something I wasn’t too keen to hear about at a Christmas dinner. There were lots of things raffled but I only won a box of water in fancy bottles and believe it or not a device to measure electricity consumption. It is sitting under the tree as one of Eladio’s presents. He’ll be delighted as he’s always telling us to switch off lights, hahaha. The food was great and once again I did not break my diet. You will be happy to hear I intend to do so only on the 24th, the 25th, perhaps Boxing Day and of course on New Year’s Eve. I’m doing very well on that score with just 2 kilos to go.

The invitation to the Dircom Christmas Dinner.

Thursday was my PR Agency, Ketchum’s Christmas lunch which was held at a very fancy restaurant called Ramón Freixa at the Hotel Selenza, a 5 star boutique hotel in the centre of Madrid. The lunch was for Ketchum’s clients and I sat next to my counterparts from Nokia (yes the girl who succeeded me), Ikea and ING. We had lots in common as you can imagine, as we all do the same sort of job. But can you believe that neither the Communications Director of Ikea or ING are into Facebook or Twitter? I suppose I find that strange as I'm such an addict.  But then you know that. The food was even better than at the Dircom event but once again I did not give in to temptation. I took a photo of the tantalising chocolate concoction served as a dessert but did not even touch it.

The wonderful chocolate dessert I didn't eat at the Ketchum Christmas lunch this week

We were about 25 people round a very long table and the lunch went on till past 5 which is rather typical in Spain. You can see a photo here. I am sitting in a red suit on the side, but I actually presided the table but moved places for the picture. The red suit is a story in itself. I bought it at least 10 years ago and have been waiting to fit into it. It is made of thick red felt and has a chic black velvet collar and I love it. I felt a million dollars wearing it to the Ketchum lunch this week as you can imagine.

The Ketchum Christmas lunch this week.  I am in the red suit which you can read about above.

I’ve done a lot of my Christmas shopping online via, Marks and Spencers Online, as well as great little website that sells mobile phone accessories, called Octilus. On Thursday I finally got down to going and buying a Christmas pudding a very essential ingredient for any English Christmas. I went to Pozuelo nearby to an American shop called Taste of America which actually belongs to some friends of mine. That’s where I usually buy it but they had run out. There was a very helpful English lady in the shop who suggested I make my own. When I told her I really didn’t want to she suggested some English shops in Madrid but then suddenly remembered there was one nearby in Pozuelo called just “The Shop”. So I charged off to find it. Remarkably it was there in the middle of the main street, Avda. De Europa. I couldn’t believe my eyes, an English shop in Pozuelo, how convenient. It used to be very difficult to get English products in Spain but not now. When I first came in the late 70’s you couldn’t even find Kellogg’s cereals. I was very lucky to be able to buy the very last pudding they had. Ah and I also got some Mr. Kipling minced pies for my Father who since then has been enjoying one every day. It’s good to know now that not only do I have a “Taste of America” nearby but also a “Taste of England”.

The English shop in Pozuelo where I bought our Christmas pudding, a great little find.

Christmas pudding and minced pies are a staple part of seasonal fare in England but certainly not here. The most favoured corporate gift to receive here is actually a leg of cured ham and there are hams and hams, some good and some bad called Jamón Ibérico. They can cost anything from 80 euros a piece to literally thousands of euros.  Many companies give their employees a hamper or a ham and on Monday I was happy to pick up the Yoigo ham together with 3 bottles of lovely Muga wine. That was the first ham of the week. Susana very proudly brought the second one. She was amazed to be given one at work as she is only a trainee. And blow me when we opened the box we saw it was “pata negra”, the very finest kind to be had. I was lucky enough to receive yet another one from one of our suppliers, so now we have 3 hams at home which will certainly tide us through and past the season. Thank goodness ham is one of the allowed foods on the Dukan Diet.

One of the 3 hams we have received for Christmas so far.

On the subject of corporate gifts I must tell you about the gift I have made from Yoigo this year.  I got the idea from Belén who brought me back from London a box of biscuits in the shape of the typical London monuments, buses and taxis.  There and then I vowed to do the same with the Yoigo dolls for this year's gift.  So with a lot of help from my wonderful events agency QuintaEsencia, this is the end product.  Deliveries started last week and so far I have had nothing but glowing comments.  They look delicious but of course I haven't even tried one.

The Yoigo Christmas biscuits, this year's corporate gift.  
Not only did I shop online and at the English shops, I also went on a serious Christmas shopping expedition yesterday with the girls. First we went to Xanadu and then to Tres Aguas. We had a great morning together, including a coffee break at Starbucks who I think serve rather disappointing coffee. That’s because they gave me a “latte” when I ordered the stronger Spanish version “café con leche”. At Xanadu I finally got to visit the newly opened Apple Store in Spain. Unfortunately I had already bought most of my iPhone accessories online which were not original and I could have kicked myself for not waiting. The store is great but looks like a little corner shop compared to the flagship store we saw near Central Park in New York. After yesterday’s serious Christmas shopping I am now nearly ready with this year’s purchases and have only some minor things left to acquire. Our tree is now groaning with presents as you can see in this lovely picture.

Our Christmas tree groaning with presents and still more to come.  Oh how we love Christmas!

Not only do we have an indoor tree but also one in the garden. Eladio finally put the lights on it this week, so now both the house and garden are festively decorated. Here is a picture Eladio took the other night which should give you an idea of how it looks.

Thanks to Eladio we now have a tree in the garden with Christmas lights

It’s not Christmas yet but I got a new toy this week and I feel so lucky. Last week I told you about the wonderful Samsung Galaxy Tab I was given. Well this week I ordered the mobile phone version, the Samsung Galaxy S and I am loving it. I have always been a Nokia fan and more recently a devotee of the iPhone and I was worried I wouldn’t like the Android (Google) operating system but it’s heavenly. It is better than any Nokia phone I have ever used and certainly on a par with the iPhone. It took me a while to set up as new phones always do. I had to synchronise my Outlook contacts and calendar and download all my favourite applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Spotify and many more and voila it’s up and working. Here you can see both of my new toys, the Samsung Galaxy Senior and its junior counterpart, the Samsung Galaxy S.

My new toy, the Samsung Galaxy S next to the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  I am more than equipped now.

The week has been full of Christmas preparations and activities but other things have happened too, so let me tell you about them. One piece of good news is that Julian Assange has been freed on bail, albeit in rather strict conditions. He is now worried he will be extradited to the United States. Let’s hope pressure from the rest of the world will stop that from happening.

Meanwhile here and in most parts of Europe it has been very cold. We haven’t had snow like in England but the temperatures have plummeted. I left the house very early on Wednesday morning and the thermometer on the car marked -4ºc. A bit further away on the road between Boadilla and Pozuelo it was even colder and registered -8ºc as you can see in the photo I took as I was sitting in thick traffic.

It's really cold here this week.  The thermometer on my car registered -8ºc on Wednesday, quite a record.

I have been meaning to buy a coat for darling Norah who sleeps in her kennel just outside the kitchen door. I finally found one for her size (45 cm from neck to tail) on Friday and she took to it immediately. In fact she loves it. And I love her in it. Doesn’t she look cute in this picture that illustrates this week's blog post?

The weekend has been busy with all the shopping of course. Yesterday Eladio and I went out to dinner to La Vaca Argentina, an Argentinian restaurant in Las Rozas and one of our favourites. It was full which is not that usual. I had rung De María in the morning and they were fully booked. So where’s the crisis I ask myself?

La Vaca Argentina where we went for dinner last night, one of our favourite places.

We have our own little car crisis at the moment as the old Alfa Romeo died on us. Since then Eladio has been on the lookout for a second hand car for the girls. It may seem a luxury, 4 cars for 4 people but where we live it is a necessity. He nearly bought a Seat Ibiza this week but the seller suddenly disappeared off the map. This morning he rushed out to go and see a red Seat Córdoba. Very soon he was back with the owner and the car for us all to see. Suzy’s boyfriend, Gaby, who knows lots about cars, was at home and certified the vehicle was in great shape. Eladio made an offer which the man, called Urban, accepted, so, hopefully, the car will be ours sometime next week. Here is a picture of Eladio with the Sea Córdoba outside our house this morning.

The Seat Córdoba Eladio will be buying for the girls this week to replace my old Alfa Romeo.

Whilst Eladio was out, Suzy and Gaby had another little crisis in the kitchen. I don’t how it happened but when I walked in, I found wine and broken glass all over the kitchen floor which took me at least half an hour to clean up as it had got everywhere. In Spain when wine spills, people have a habit of saying “alegría” which means happiness. So let’s hope this spill brings us some more happiness.

A wine and glass crisis in the kitchen this morning.

I should hardly ask for more happiness really as we are fortunate to be a very happy family. That was what I was thinking as we had a lovely family Sunday lunch afterwards where we were joined by the girls’ friend, Juli. Juli is a little sad as he was not really brought up to celebrate Christmas and always finds this period of the year rather difficult.

Next week when I write Christmas day will be over, so in the meanwhile let me wish you all a wonderful Christmas.

Cheers till next week


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