Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The week running up to the festivities and our Christmas Part One 2010.

Our Christmas Eve dinner, I'm afraid Oli's not in the photo as she took it.
 Hi again this cold and rather flat Monday 27th December, two days after Christmas and just a few days before the beginning of the new year which I hope will be at least as good as 2010. So how was your Christmas? Ours was as good as always, but then we all love celebrating it and enjoy every moment of all our traditions, both Spanish and English of course. Before I describe our Christmas, however, let me tell you about the run up to it.

Monday was spent on more Christmas shopping but I also had a visit to the dentist which I actually nearly forgot. Thanks to the calendar reminders on all three of my mobile devices I had 15 minutes to get there and I managed it just on time. I am up for two implants and this visit was just for an x-ray, so no need to suffer on my behalf this time.

Monday evening was the Yoigo employee Christmas party to be held at the Real Madrid Bernabeu stadium at the Real Café Bernabeu with amazing views of the floodlit football ground. The buffet cum dinner party was themed on the famous Spanish lottery (El Gordo) which has the biggest prizes in the world.

The girls working at the Yoigo Employee Christmas party, themed on the Spanish El Gordo Lottery

Believe it or not I won the main prize, a trip for 2 people for 2 nights (hotel and air ticket included) to London. The presenter, my friend, Sergio Sauca (the TVE news sports’ presenter) couldn’t believe it either. There were over 180 people there so my chances were slim. Normally at employee events I don’t participate but the girls from the agency persuaded me to, telling me I was also an employee and had a right to take part. Even so winning was a bit sweet and sour.

My winning lottery ticket at the Yoigo Christmas party, a weekend for 2 in London!

The big surprise of the night after the lottery and prize giving awards was the “mad hour” where serpentine and confetti erupted from a machine continuously whilst mad hats were given out to everyone and balloons were blown up by jugglers and men on stilts. What’s known as a batucada, a very noisy Brazilian type of samba, took place at the same time to add to the fun and general “madness” of the night.

Me at the Yoigo employee Christmas party last week

One of the smaller highlights of the night was the chocolate fountain.   I didn't go near it of course but Olivia enjoyed herself tremendously and indulged in the amazing mixture of melted chocolate and fruit as you can see in this picture.
The chocolate fountain at the Yoigo Christmas party for employees was a huge success.  Needless to say I didn't try it.

Very unfairly I had a terrible night as well as a pretty bad migraine and the next day I felt dead but had to go into the office for the last Management Team meeting of the year. I say “unfairly” as I hardly ate anything and only drank tonic water and so should not have felt unwell. It was probably the release of tension after working so hard on the event. But there was to be no respite for me as I had one more party to go before I could rest and enjoy my own Christmas in peace.

Wednesday the 22nd December was the day of the Spanish Christmas El Gordo lottery but I wasn’t as lucky as at the Yoigo employee party I’m afraid. Eladio had bought lottery tickets for 250 euros and actually won 240 euros back. You can see the moment he found out in this picture with Olivia. Many people were celebrating though all over Spain as this year’s “gordo” prize of 3 million euros was spread across the country.

Eladio's small win on the Spanish Christmas lottery which you can read about above.

Wednesday was also the day I had a little odyssey with Eladio in the morning. He had gone with Olivia to get the “new” (or rather second hand) Seat Córdoba we were buying for the girls and I went off Christmas food shopping with my Father. Just as we had left the first supermarket Oli rang to say we had to go and pick up Eladio at a garage in Boadilla where he had taken the new car to have the tyres changed. Ah and that he had left his mobile phone with her when she rushed back home to study. That was where the complication started! My father and I made our way to the garage but Eladio was nowhere in sight. I then received a phone call from Olga, our home help, to say Eladio had rung from a fixed phone to say that we should now pick him up at a petrol station nearer home. So off we went to the petrol station and once again Eladio wasn’t there. Feeling rather frustrated we returned to Boadilla where there was no sign of him and then back to the petrol station. At that point I gave up, left a message at the petrol station for Eladio and got back in the car to drive to the next supermarket and continue our shopping. Once I had driven a kilometre or so towards our destination, there I spied Eladio very obviously walking home. Of course I was cross and rightly so as I had been driving round in circles for the greater part of an hour, absolutely mystified as to my husband’s whereabouts. If you are a woman and are reading this I am sure you will sympathise. If you are a man, no doubt you will understand my husband’s motives but I still do not.

Wednesday was also the day of my last party, the Yoigo children’s Christmas event at the office premises in the late afternoon. 120 children of all ages were coming so chaos was guaranteed. We had many activities prepared for them but the biggest surprise was the live nativity crib we had in store for them. Last year we had brought a real reindeer and this year we had to do something different. And different and original this certainly was.

The live Nativity crib at the Yoigo children's party last week.

You probably know that I adore animals (at least the four legged type) so I enjoyed the scene probably more than anyone. In the mid afternoon 4 lorries arrived with 2 donkeys, a mule, 4 goats, a piglet and a duck but sadly no lamb as they had all been slaughtered for Christmas! The people in charge of maintenance nearly had kittens (excuse the pun) as I hadn’t told them much, fearing my project may be endangered. Setting up the whole scene was very exciting and people from the office and offices around crowded around the animals in sheer disbelief. Whilst the Nativity was being set up, it was pouring with rain and someone exclaimed that it felt like Noah’s Ark!

I enjoyed the animals as much or more as the kids at the Yoigo children's Christmas party
The children, and I must add their parents, adored the live Nativity scene and the children also got to ride one of the donkeys. I couldn’t resist the temptation and remembering with nostalgia the times when I used to ride donkeys as a child at the seaside in England, I decided there and then to get up on one..

You can see  photos of me on the donkey and all the others I took of this great party here on Facebook.

So on Thursday all my parties were over but I had a heavy day ahead of me as we had to go to León in the north west of Spain to pick up my Mother-in-law who was coming to stay for Christmas. It is 350km away and about a 3 hour drive. We drove in snow, sleet and rain with freezing temperatures. The sun was shining though when we arrived which is unusual because León is famous for being one of Spain’s coldest cities. As we parked outside Eladio’s sister, Adela’s house, we were greeted by his smiling younger sister Pili and her daughter Paula. We were to have lunch at Adela’s after what we were to be joined by Pili and her husband Andrés for coffee before leaving again for Madrid.

A happy lunch at Adela and Primo's when we went to León to pick up my Mother-in-law for Christmas.
Before leaving however we went to see Andres and Pili’s new “baby”, the nearly brand new BMW X3 they had bought the week before. Eladio remarked that Andrés loved it so much that he would have liked to take it to his bed if it weren’t quite so big. I’m looking forward to their coming to visit us in January on its first long drive.

Andrés and Pili's new "baby", a BMW X3

We had a long drive back to Madrid once again in nasty weather conditions and just as we were nearing Madrid we got a phone call from Olivia. It was to tell us that the results had been published for the RTVE exams. It was sad to hear that after all her efforts she didn’t get one of the 5 prized places. We heard the next day that she had come 9th out of 85 which is an excellent position, something she should be proud of. We also learned that the 5 places went to the candidates with more initial credits or points than the others. Oh well, it was not to be. On the other hand I am sure she will still have a brilliant future as she is a star at what she does. I know I am biased because I am her Mother but then I have had evidence over and over again of her excellent journalistic skills. Good luck Oli for the future.

On Friday, Christmas was finally here. It was Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve dinner in Spain is more important than the Christmas Day lunch in England but being an Anglo – Spanish family we celebrate them both. On Friday morning I went to do some last minute food shopping for the meals I was finally going to be able to eat without dieting after 3 months of complete sacrifice. I woke up that morning and weighed myself and was delighted to find I weighed just 65.7 kilos, 12 less since I started in September this year and an amazing 21 less since September last year. I had decided to break my diet from Christmas Eve in the evening till Boxing Day night and I felt a little nervous about the prospect.

The girls with their Grandfather on Christmas Eve.

We had dinner early at about 8.30 and shall I tell you what we had prepared? We always have just one course but a spread of things to choose from and some of them are always the same. The food we always make for Christmas Eve is perushki (small Russian pies filled with minced meat, chopped onion and rice), bacon rolls (stuffed with mushrooms, onion, egg and bread crumbs – an English recipe), potato salad (my Russian Grandfather’s recipe: potato, egg, onions, carrots, peas, tuna fish and home-made mayonnaise). We also had a prawn and smoked salmon salad with avocado pear and lastly vol au vent with tuna spread. The dessert was a cream and jam filled sponge cake made Suzy who is turning out to be a little cake expert.

After dinner we had Spanish champagne “cava” and too many chocolates in the lounge. When the oldies (my Father and my Mother-in-law) went to bed, we ourselves fell asleep over the film “The Doubt” with Meryl Streep which was rather disappointing. To be fair, I don’t think we gave it a chance.

The girls and I on Christmas Eve
I love Christmas Eve but I love Christmas Day even more because it was the celebration I was brought up on. Christmas Day at our house is identical to how I have celebrated it always, at my Grandmother’s house and my parents’ house when I was a child and a teenager. We wake up early and the girls have a stocking full of small presents to open. I got most of them at the “stocking filler” section on Marks and Spencers online store. Then we make a special Christmas breakfast. The table is laid with English china, our wedding present, and the fare we eat is a variety of croissants, Danish pastries and other pastries. You can see Olivia here at waiting for us to come to the table.

Oli at the Christmas breakfast table
Once everything has been cleared away, the highlight of the day takes place, the opening of the presents which have been placed under the tree by all of us during the past 2 weeks. The tree was groaning with attractive looking packages because we go more for quantity than quality and the ceremony lasts a long time. Whilst we open the presents, we eat delicious chocolates, preferably Cadburys, of course but we also like Lindt.

My Father on Christmas morning
I was very happy with my presents this year which I am going to record for posterity. I got a pair of brown leather flat boots with laces and elegant long brown leather gloves from Eladio, some short suede fur boots from the girls, from Zara, the type which Grannies used to wear but which are in fashion now, a colourful Desigual thick cardigan/coat from my Father and a long pink woollen dress from H+M (to note size S/XS!!) from Ernestina my Mother-in-law. I also got the wonderful Spanish cookery book called “1080 recetas” (1080 recipes) to replace the one I gave Phil in the summer. I should add here that the person who chose and actually bought most of my presents was Susana who did the work for all the others who would not have had a clue what to get me. I am very fortunate as Susana knows exactly what I like or need or want. Thanks Suzy.

I think everyone else was happy with their presents too. My Father always enjoys the session and gets lots of chocolates which are what he likes best of all.

Eladio and my Father during the present opening session on Christmas Day, one of the happiest moments of the year.
Once the present ceremony is over and everyone is enjoying them, I have to start making our typical English Christmas lunch. Instead of turkey we had capon this year. The trimmings are always the same: brussel sprouts, peas, sage and onion stuffing (thank you Paxo), roast potatoes and gravy, garnished with cranberry sauce (thank you Ocean Spray). Eladio always stuffs the bird and sews it to stop the stuffing coming out when it’s roasting. Dessert is always Christmas pudding with sweet white sauce but this year I burned the pudding because I left it too long in the microwave! I must not forget to mention the importance of crackers at both meals. They can now be found in Spain but I actually ordered them from Marks and Spencers. They contain silly little gadgets but we always love the jokes and read them out at the table.

The rest of the day was spent going for a long walk to work off some of the calories, enjoying the open fire in the TV lounge and watching second-world war films. After so much food and drink, I was worried I would have bad nights and headaches, but very luckily for once it didn’t affect me. This goes to show that I don’t have to rule wine out of my life completely and that is good news.
Our wonderful open fire which always adds cheer at Christmas.
Yesterday was Boxing Day, only celebrated in the UK and Commonwealth countries, I think. So of course we celebrate it here. Nothing much happens apart from continuing to eat the same food that was left over from Christmas but of course you can carry on eating more chocolate and watching films. I went shopping in the morning with the excuse that I needed a petticoat for the pink woollen dress. I got it of course at the El Corte Inglés deparment store but I also indulged in a pair of Armani Jeans, size 42 for the record! I had heard that they were a good fit and I can confirm that. I think I have never had such a good pair before. Suzy joined me there for even more last minute Christmas shopping for Julio and Fátima and we had a nice cup of coffee together at the Hagen Daz café. I should admit we also bought our favourite flavoured ice cream for lunch, strawberry cheesecake and chocolate to have at lunch.

What made Boxing Day special this year was that it coincided with Julio’s annual dinner for our family, and our friend Fátima. Grandpa used to go too but not anymore because he prefers to stay at home in the evenings. Oli, however, chickened out this year and neither Suzy nor I were happy with her for not coming with us. Despite this, we had a great time as always. So once again we were eating and drinking, pulling crackers and opening presents, a bit like a mini Christmas Day.

Eladio and I at Julio's on Boxing Day

Julio and Fátima at Julio's dinner on Boxing Day
And now Christmas is practically over after so much effort and weeks of preparations. But then it is always like that. Of course today is flat compared but at least we have the New Year celebrations to look forward to.   I am back to my Dukan diet of oats, yoghurt, fish, meat and eggs which certainly adds to the flatness I am feeling today.

Meanwhile I wish you all a good week. I also wish you a great 2011 as my next post will be after New Year in January which again I always find flat and difficult to get used to. Don’t you?

Cheers for now, Masha
PS, here is the album of all my Christmas photos

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