Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas came, good news for Oli, Christmas parties, Christmas shopping and welcome Charlie.

Christmas came to our house last Sunday when we put up all the decorations.  

Hi everyone,

Well this week went past very quickly and was packed with activity and some very good news.  Last Sunday, Christmas finally came to our house with all its magic and which we all so love in this house.   Eladio and I got out all the decorations we have collected over the years, whilst the girls and their friend Juli were still asleep after a late night out.  By the time they were up, we had put up all the decorations and there was only the tree left to do.  That’s the bit Suzy likes best, so to the sound of King’s College Christmas carols, Juli, Suzy and I dressed our little tree. Oli never helps, although she says she loves to hear and see us bringing Christmas into the house.  

Juli and Susana putting the finishing touches on the tree
The photo illustrating this week’s blog post is of me by the tree with Norah looking on.  You can see the rest of the photos here on Facebook.

Monday came and brought with it so much to do, which turned out to be the tonic of the week. I have spent most of the week on Yoigo Christmas activities and in between time I have rushed to prepare our own family Christmas.  

I went into the office early on Monday to meet with the sales and marketing team.  Later I went to Madrid to our PR agency Ketchum and together with the team we posted information on the Yoigo Christmas campaign offer on our social networks.  I stayed in the Ketchum office for their annual seasonal lunch. This time it was to be served by the Peruvian restaurant Astrid and Gastón.  The lunch was sponsored by an NGO that builds schools and helps find jobs for its students in a poor area outside Lima.  The food, lots of “ceviche” type cuisine, was outstanding.

Before going home, I made a dash to an English shop in a nearby street called Príncipe de Vergara, I had been wanting to go to for a long time.  It’s called Living in London and is actually not English owned.  It’s also a tea room but of course there was no time for the luxury of an English afternoon tea.  The shop was full of English memorabilia that Spaniards so love but that I had not much need of with lots of expensive Crabtree cosmetics and delicate china.

The English shop in Madrid called Living in London

I did however find a superb box of crackers which I bought in case my own didn’t arrive on time from the Cracker Shop Online.  I could also have got Christmas pudding and cranberry sauce but they are also on their way to our house from The British Corner Shop.  So what else did I get you might want to know?  A delicious chocolate selection box, Thornton’s chocolates and a small Christmas cake from the edible section.  I also spotted an old fashioned rain scarf, just like my Mother used to have and women wore in the 60’s.  Maybe they still wear them today but it seemed very practical and reminded me of my childhood. My best find was a wonderful singing and dancing hat.  It had us all in stitches when I got home and we immediately put it on Grandpa’s head.  I’m not sure Grandpa realised why we were laughing so much but I know you will laugh when you see the video which I later posted here on You Tube.

Coincidentally when I got home, my huge parcel of crackers, party poppers and sparklers had arrived.  They all look magnificent with more interesting gifts inside than usual, especially this box of 6 giant luxury crackers.  They will be for our Christmas Eve Dinner next week.

The crackers I ordered online came on time and look fantastic.

The highlight of the week and maybe of this year for us, is the good news Olivia gave us on Wednesday.  Her short term contract as a reporter for the TVE morning programme, La Mañana de la 1, was to terminate at the beginning of January and she didn’t have much hope of staying on, mainly because TVE, the state television broadcaster is over staffed.  So she was very surprised and pleased when they rang her to ask her to sign what is known as a “contrato de obra”, which means she has a job with the programme as long as the programme lasts, or for three years after which it can be renewed again.  The programme is bound to last as it has been on the television for years and is the most viewed TV morning programme in Spain.  It was a huge relief for her and for us.  I sincerely think she deserved to stay on as she has proved to be a very good budding TV journalist and has worked very hard to get where she is now.   In my opinion she excels when she reports live partly because of her “gift of the gab” which I suspect she inherited from her very talented and outgoing Grandmother.

That same day, I had an evening do to go to.  It was the Telefónica annual Christmas party and it was the first time I had been invited.  So off I went dressed in an elegant new black dress but on my own.  The party was at a discotheque in town called Gabana 1800.  You probably know I hate discotheques so I didn’t stay very long.  I can’t stand the dark with too many people and music so loud you can’t talk.  I hate them even more when I don’t know many people.  Luckily I quickly found sector friends such as Víctor, Emiliano, Fernando and others but even so, home lured with Eladio on his own waiting for me.  Thus I was back, with an empty stomach, at about 11. In any case I had to be fresh for the next day as Thursday night was the big Yoigo staff Christmas party and I was the facilitator as always.

Thursday was the busiest day of the week.  I was up really early after the Telefónica party and was at the hairdresser by 8.30. By 9 I was on my way to the office for a meeting and a thousand little things to attend to before the evening party.  One of them was the sending of the Yoigo seasonal gift and I was very pleased to see the final product after working so hard on it with the agency and the cake maker, Elena. 

The Yoigo Christmas cup cakes are unique

But before the party I was meeting the balloon artist I had hired for our event, Michal Kahn.  She makes the most amazing balloons, like you’ve never seen before.  Olivia discovered Michal when she was an MC at the Brussels event and came back telling me that I just had to hire her for a Yoigo event.  Well I’m not really into balloons and imagined something similar to the poodle shaped balloon makers you see at parties and in the street.  However Michal is nothing like that.  She is so special you have to see her to believe what I am saying.  In this website they refer to her and to her ex group as “undisputedly the UK's most extravagant balloon artists”.  I decided I wanted to meet her before the party to explain her role and get to know her a little.  We had lunch together in town at Julián de Tolosa.  Later I took her to the nearby Plaza Mayor and Puerta de Sol, the main sites in Madrid, as she had never been before and would have no time to see the city.  Michal is a young Oxford graduate from London who out of fate got into the balloon modeling world where she has made an amazing career for herself.  But of course I wasn’t to see any of this until the evening.

Michal Kahn and Olivia at the Yoigo Christmas party
The Yoigo party was to take place later in the evening at the Hotel Puerta de América on the top floor terrace which is a spectacular location.  Here we showed the premiere of the Yoigo TV campaign, the night before it was going live.  We posted it on our social media pages and if you are interested, you can see it here too. The party was as great as always but different from other years as I decided it was time to make some changes.  

The pretty Mother Christmases at the Yoigo party
The number of people didn’t change though, with some 200 guests, made up of the staff and their partners.  Here Michal came into her own making the amazing balloons.  She even made my caricature, believe it or not.

This balloon was made by Michal Kahn. Spectacular eh?

The balloon caricature Michal Kahn made of me!
The highlight of the night though was The Alphabet Game (Pasapalabra) competition between our 5 departments with tough questions about Yoigo.  The department that won would get to go to out to dinner all together to celebrate.  Silvia Jato, the presenter who is most associated with this TV programme was our surprise guest and presenter. She did a great job.  I, in fact, had never seen or even heard of her but was very impressed with her charisma, her comic side, her beauty and professionalism and found her charming.  

Wtih Silvia Jato at the Yoigo Christmas party
You can see more photos of the party here.
Finally Friday came and I could concentrate on family affairs and on our own Christmas.  In the morning I went with Eladio to Carrefour for the weekly shopping which is an enormous job.  Afterwards we always reward ourselves with a cup of  coffee before taking everything home for unloading and putting away with Olga's help.

Eladio having a well deserved cup of coffee after the food shopping on Friday
Later we went Christmas shopping to El Corte Inglés, after our walk of course (haven’t missed one this week).  Here we got presents for me, I shall have to try and forget about until Christmas day, hahaha.  I was very much looking forward to Friday evening as I had booked a table at La Pérfida Albión , the English restaurant I mentioned last week.  So what did I think? I loved it but Eladio says that’s because I am biased.  Maybe I am.  The décor is simple and semi pub like.  Their website refers to the restaurant as a “gastro pub” and I suppose it is in a way.  The food is good with some very English items on the menu but I was disappointed to see they offer “Eton Mess” with bananas!!  What would Etonians say I wonder?  The fish and chips were not the Harry Ramsden’s type but more “gourmet”.  That doesn’t mean to say they weren’t delicious because they were.  We also tried the apple crumble. It was lovely but covered in nuts rather than crumble made the traditional way.  All in all I loved it and I think it will now be my most popular local restaurant, beating La Alpargatería.  I must remember to book for next Friday when I hope my brother and sister-in-law, José Antonio and Dolores will join us.

Gourmet fish and chips at La Pérfida Albión in Pozuelo
On Saturday they were coming for lunch and to spend the day with us, along with Nuba, their mongrel dog, of course. So whilst Olga was preparing fish and chips for lunch, Eladio and I went off to the Centro Oeste shopping Centre in Majadahonda for what will probably not be my last Christmas shopping session.  Here, apart from buying presents, I bought myself a lovely dress from Trucco.  That was not on the agenda but there you are, I couldn’t resist it.  After our copious lunch and short siesta, we took the dogs out for a long walk, longer than usual.  It was cold but crispy and the sun was shining when we set off, but it was dusk when we returned as the days are so short.  I much prefer walks when it is light until late.  José Antonio and Dolores were persuaded to stay for dinner as we were enjoying each other’s company so much and a good day was had by all, the dogs included.

Whilst we were either eating or out walking, Charlie was born.  Charlie has made my school friend Kathryn, who lives in Keighley in Yorkshire, a grandmother for the first time and she must be so happy.  More than happy, in Facebook she posted “ today I fell in love”. Kathy is my second friend to become a grandmother, after Adele.  So hearty congratulations Kathy and Phil and dying to meet Charlie.  And, welcome Charlie to this world.

Congratulations Kathy on the birth of your first grandson Charlie

Now it’s Sunday and I’ve come to the end of this week’s blog.  Today has been quiet and I spent the whole morning cooking.  I made Fabada for lunch, an Asturian thick bean soup which is ideal for cold winter days.

Fabada in the cooking today

I was feeling very productive, as I often do on Sunday mornings. So whilst the men were reading the papers and the girls had gone to the cinema and then out to lunch with their friends, I started making batches of perushki, little Russian meat pies, which we always eat in this house on Christmas Eve, to the music, once again of Kings College Cambridge and courtesy of Spotify on my computer. However I  couldn’t resist putting some in the oven for lunch today to have with the Fabada.  You can see them being made here; quite a sophisticated process which I learned from my Mother who used to make them for us at Christmas with the girls when they were little.  I can be congratulated as I made 60 which are now in the deep freeze, none to be taken out till Christmas Eve. 

Making perushki for Christmas
I am now nearly all prepared for our own Christmas after all the shopping and cooking this weekend.  However I am not going to have much of a respite this week either, as on Wednesday I am the facilitator of the Yoigo children’s party.  That is the most important item in my diary next week but I can assure you it is as full of activities and meetings, probably just as many as this week’s.  

When I write next it will be Christmas.  However if the 25th is Christmas day, I may take a day off and write my next blog post on Boxing day or later.  So let me wish you all a great Christmas, happiness and fun and thank you all for following me on my blog.  I have now been writing it for over 6 years and have received over 70.000 visits since I started counting just 2 or 3 years ago.   My visitors are from all over the world and it astonishes me to see the lists of countries my readers are from even though I don’t know them.  So thank you again and I wish you all a Happy Christmas.


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