Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas at home, my films of the week, more dinner parties and finally an iPad

Sunday 30th December 2012
All of us on Christmas Eve
Hello again

I hope you have all had a great Christmas.  Ours was great and the best thing is that Christmas isn’t over yet.

Let me start this week from last Sunday.  The highlight that day was watching the Indian film My Name is Khan with Eladio in the lounge after dinner. It was a film recommended to me by Sandra when we visited her in Brussels in November and I loved it.  You would too I’m sure.  The story is about an autistic Indian boy whose mission, after the 11th September, is to meet the American President to say “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist”. To whet your appetite you can see the trailer here.

One of my films of the week

Monday was Christmas Eve, always a lovely day.  I spent most of it preparing for our family dinner and made all our usual favourites that we normally only eat on that most magical of nights: potato salad, prawn cocktail, smoked salmon, perushki (little Russian meat pies), homemade ham croquettes and of course bacon rolls.  The innovation this year was lobster salad, delicious. This was followed by Oufa’s brownies of which we still have some left over, one week later.

The photo illustrating this week’s blog is of the 6 of us just before starting.  You may wonder who took the photo. It was Juli, the girls’ Colombian friend and my sort of adopted son who would have been alone that night as his Mother and brother have gone back to their native country to live.  Thanks to Juli I now have a great collection of Christmas photos which you can see here.  Some of them are panoramic, a great gimmick on my new iPhone, like the one below of our Christmas Eve table which you can see in all its glory before we devoured nearly everything on the table.

This was what our table looked like as we sat down to eat on Christmas Eve

After dinner, the grandparents, my Father and Eladio’s Mother went to be bed and we stayed up drinking champagne in our lovely Christmassy lounge.  We played Trivial and Eladio and I actually won!

Playing Trivial after dinner on Christmas Eve

The next day was Christmas Day and we celebrated it as we always do according to the English tradition I was brought up on at home.  In Spain the main celebration is Christmas Eve and not much happens on Christmas Day but in our house we celebrate both.  The day starts with the girls opening their stockings, stockings that my Mother knitted for them when they were children and which we treasure.

The girls' Christmas stockings knitted for them by my Mother when they were small

Then we have a special breakfast all together in the dining room, after which the most looked forward to moment of the year takes place, the opening of presents around the tree in the lounge. 

Sitting down to open the presents on Christmas Day

We go more for quantity than quality but this year the presents were a little more generous than usual.  Eladio was especially happy with his present from my Father and I, an HP laptop I acquired from my friend David S.  Thanks David, Eladio is delighted and now technologically up to date.  In the album of photos one I especially like is of my Father smiling at receiving one of his favourite books, the World Almanac and Book of Facts.

My Father with one of his presents

While everyone is putting away their presents or trying something out, it is my job to make the Christmas lunch which takes a few hours.  The menu on Christmas day is traditional too: roast bird, this year a capon instead of turkey, roast potatoes, gravy, brussel sprouts, sage and onion stuffing and never to be forgotten cranberry sauce.  The dessert, of course, is Christmas pudding this year accompanied by shop bought brandy butter instead of white sauce.

Here is probably my favourite photo of my Christmas album, all of us sitting down to lunch on 25th December.  Notice too again the table is adorned with crackers as the festivities wouldn’t be the same without them.

Lunch on Christmas Day

After lunch a siesta was in order and that was when I had a little accident and fell over a ladder in our room which was there to change a light bulb.  I hit my big toe and it was so painful I had to get Eladio to give me a painkiller injection.  That certainly did the trick, except that I could hardly walk until the next day.  Even now I can feel a little pain but am walking nearly normally.  There was nothing to do but take a rest, so we decided to watch a film in the TV lounge which at Christmas has the fire lit.  Believe it or not, our choice was Holocaust, or rather part of the series we hadn’t seen, perhaps not the best choice for Christmas Day.

Tuesday was Boxing Day which is not a holiday in Spain.  Both girls worked and Oufa returned home. Lunch on Boxing Day is always leftovers of which there were plenty.  On that day, in the afternoon, as on many days at Christmas, Eladio and I read in our Chrismassy lounge which looks lovely with all the special lights and the candles on.  The abuela (my Mother in Law) asked me why I lit them if we have electricity.  I suppose candles for her bring back memories of when there was no electricity and it is hard for her to appreciate them as an atmospheric enhancer. I have been playing most of the week with the panoramic photo application on my new iPhone and love this photo I took of the whole lounge as described above.

Our Chrismassy lounge, the photo is taken with the Panoramic app on my iPhone

The highlight on Boxing Day was a trip to the cinema to see the new British musical version of Les Miserables directed by Tom Cooper.  I had no idea it was a musical and at the beginning was a little put off but as the story continued I became mesmerized.  Suzy was watching the same film with her friend Elena and boyfriend Antonio and at the end we both looked at each other and realized we were both crying.  The film is absolutely marvelous and I loved Russel Crowe who played Javert the police inspector. Hugh Jackman is equally good as Jean Valjean. But I cried most when Anne Hathaway who plays Fantine sang I dreamed a dream.

Anne Hathaway singing I dreamed a dream in Les Miserables

Afterwards Eladio and I had dinner at nearby Gino’s and couldn’t stop raving about the film over our pasta and risotto.  If you haven’t seen it yet, please go, you won’t be disappointed.

On Thursday Eladio and I went shopping, mainly for me to get presents to take to Julio’s annual dinner which was taking place that evening at his bachelor flat in Madrid.  This year was the first year the girls would not be attending and I was a little sad but could not do much to change things.  We picked up Fátima from her house down the road and by 9 were approaching Julio’s block of flats.  As usual it felt like getting inside a fortress with so many gates to go through and numbers to press. He had everything ready, the table laid, the music on and soft lighting too.  He served us a glass of Arzuaga red wine from the Ribera de Duero region.  Arzuaga is a place I organized a Nokia team building event some years ago when both Julio and Fátima attended and Eladio knew too because I took him there on the site inspection trip.  We all agreed it is one of our favourite wines. Here are my friends sitting down just before dinner.

The dinner party at Julio's on Thursday

The best part of dinner at Julio’s is the cream filled “roscón” he always serves at this traditional dinner.  We took a piece home for my Father for breakfast.  I had brought along some crackers and sparklers.  I must say my favourite joke this year is this: “Why did the donut maker give up his job?  He was fed up with the “hole” business”.  Then it was time for opening the presents; most of which were quite predictable as, being the close friends we are, we had told each other beforehand what we wanted.  For the record I got one of my favourite perfumes: Flower bomb by Victor Rolf. Julio being Julio soon got tired and was yawning so ushered us out of his home before midnight which I actually appreciated.

Friday 28th December was the day of the innocents, the equivalent in Spain to April Fools’ Day and there were jokes and fun pieces of news all over the internet and on TV.  My favourite was one I found that said Yoigo had been bought by Google allowing the American company to enter the operator business in Europe.  Whoever the artist was he or she had even designed the logo.  I don’t suppose anyone believed the story of course, but I did find it funny.

Friday 28th was the day of the innocents and I found this misleading piece of news that Google had bought Yoigo!

That evening we were having guests again for dinner  -  yes, yet another dinner party.  We had invited our friends Roberto and Mari Carmen, who, although recently divorced have a very civilized relationship.  They loved our lounge too and commented that Christmas was really here in our house. I hope they liked the dinner too.  Here is a picture of me at the table with everything ready, just before they arrived.

All ready for the dinner party at home on Friday for Roberto and Mari Carmen

I had made lobster salad with mango and avocado for starters and baked salmon and fresh asparagus for the second course – a really easy dinner to make actually.  Roberto and Mari Carmen brought the wine and a delicious apple pie from my favourite gourmet store, Mallorca.  It was good to host our friends as we haven’t seen much of them since they separated.  

And yesterday was Friday and I had an appointment at the Apple Store at the Grand Plaza 2 shopping centre.  I went to check my new iPhone was ok as the battery doesn’t seem to last.  I got some good advice from the Apple Store trainer, Leticia, who told me to “calibrate” the battery at least once a month.  That means letting the battery run out completely, then leaving it another hour until charging it completely again and then when the battery is full, leaving it to charge for another hour.  

Before going to the Apple Store I had already made up my mind I would be buying myself an iPad as my Christmas present to myself.  Of course I could live without one and I don’t really need it but I know that it will be very useful when travelling or using around the house.  And so I bought one, a white 16gb iPad 2 with wifi and 3G.  Here it is, together with the wireless keyboard and cover, just before my own personal unboxing.

My iPad and accessories just before unboxing yesterday

I am so pleased to say that I finally have an iPad, a device I always thought I didn’t really need.  But now that it is set up, I am already in love with it.  One of my favourite applications is the BBC iPlayer where for just over 7 pounds a month you can see lots of series, films and documentaries, many of which I enjoyed in my childhood such as Steptoe and Son, Fawlty Towers, Oliver Twist, etc.  I will also enjoy my Amazon Kindle account on the iPad, something I was not using on my black and white Kindle.  

And today is Sunday and the abuelos (grandparents in Spanish = my Father and Eladio’s mother) are looking forward to visiting Suzy’s flat this afternoon where we are all invited to tea and some Christmas cake. Maybe I should add that I sent Oufa there to clean it yesterday especially for their visit.

Tomorrow, of course, will be New Year’s Eve and Eladio and I will be leaving mid morning for León where we look forward to seeing the New Year in with his family, but more about that next week.

Meanwhile I wish you all a great New Year.  All I wish is for 2013 to be just as good as 2012.  Have a blast my friends,

All the best/Masha

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Finally a new iPhone, a happy week, some good news, parties, a day trip to León, foreign food for the “abuela”, last minute preparations for Christmas and more.

Sunday 23rd December 2012

Lunch in León on Friday
Hello everyone

This week running up to Christmas has been great.  It may sound corny but I am so blessed and have such a happy life, I just couldn’t ask for more.  And just in case it’s tempting fate, I will not.  All I wish for is for is for everything to stay just as it is.  

Monday was a happy day as were most days of the week.  On Monday all the Yoigo employees were given a fabulous Christmas hamper from Sánchez Romero (my favourite and most up market food store in Spain) including a “5 jotas” ham which we haven’t opened yet.  The joy didn’t end there as on Monday too we were all given a brand new iPhone 5, Apple’s latest flagship mobile phone.  So yes I finally have an iPhone, or rather finally I have a new iPhone because do own the old iPhone 3 which now sees very outdated compared.

We are very lucky at Yoigo as in these times of crisis it is unusual for companies to be so generous.  I guess that the secret is how well the company is doing.  Proof of this was when we were mentioned on the TVE1 news programme, on Monday too actually, when they did a report on the sector and included the fact that while the other big operators were losing customers, Yoigo was actually gaining them.

It was great to see this picture on TVE on Monday

I couldn’t wait to set up the new iPhone up, including the nano sim  and that took some time but now it is has everything I need including the great new corporate mail application. I am in love with it as I imagine my colleagues are too.  I have always raved about my Samsung Galaxy S3 so you might be interested to know how they compare.  The verdict is that they are both great phones.  The Galaxy has a better camera and bigger and brighter screen and the battery lasts longer, but oh the iPhone is just so cool.  I actually haven’t given up my Galaxy as I love it too much to do that so right now it has another sim card in it and I use it mostly for taking photos.

Unboxing my new iPhone 5

On Tuesday Olivia was sent to Ciudad Real to report on an extreme case of bullying at a school where the Ecuadorian teenager Mónica had committed suicide.  Olivia interviewed the parents before the live report and said she was nearly in tears when she spoke to them and had to control her voice during the TV piece.  You can see her here if you fast forward to both 12.04h and 13.45h.  Later that week Olivia and I spoke about the case and I confessed to her that I sympathized a lot with the teenager as I myself had been bullied at school; something I think that leaves a mark on you for life.  But I was able to get over it and get on with life and become a happy wife and mother unlike poor Mónica.

Olivia reporting from Ciudad Real on Tuesday

As Olivia was being driven back to Madrid she got some good news which she shared immediately with us; she had passed the exam she took last week for the permanent position with TVE in Melilla.  I should correct myself and add that she passed the first part.  Now she has to take the second and final exam which will be on camera this time.  So please keep your fingers crossed.  It is still a shot in the dark as there are lots of other candidates but now we see some light at the end of the tunnel and can begin to imagine her living in Melilla.  For those of you who don’t know, Melilla is Spanish territory in Morocco.

That afternoon, over a cup of coffee with my ex colleague from Nokia, D. Shalab, we both commented how lucky we have been since leaving the Finnish company.  D.  It was great seeing you and thanks for the help.

Wednesday brought with it the first party of the week and as the Communications Manager its preparation was my responsibility again.  It was for the children of the Yoigo employees. Some 180 came, together with their proud parents and there were children of all ages from months old to about 14.  

As at most events of mine, the girls came to lend a hand and this year were accompanied by “Ele” and Juli.  I love this photo of them below.

The girls and their friends giving a helping hand at the Yoigo children's party on Wednesday

We put on a show of what’s called “canta juegos” here (kids’ songs performed by a jolly group of young singers in blue dungarees) and which are hugely popular with children.  Afterwards, the more traditional Three Kings came, and believe it or not they were accompanied by a live camel.  That was the bit I liked best.  As you probably already know I love animals and am fonder of them than children.

With the Three Kings at the Yoigo Children's party on Wednesday
The real camel was the star of the show at the Yoigo children's party on Wednesday

You can see all the photos of the party here on Flickr.

Wednesday’s event was yet more proof of how Yoigo looks after its employees.  Take note other companies. 

The very next night was my last event or big project of the year; the employees Christmas party.  This year it was held at an indoor gourmet market called Mercado Isabella in the centre of Madrid.  I had about 200 guests (the employees and their partners/spouses) to cater for and I heard later that they were most impressed with the food as I was myself. After the buffet dinner, they went through to the discotheque where 400 balloons were released with prizes inside.  The idea was to win as many prizes as possible whilst bursting them. The “balloon moment” was great fun.  Later there were drinks and dancing but at midnight I surreptitiously left to go home as I had to be up early the next day.  You can see what a good time was had by all in the photos we posted later on Flickr.

The "balloon moment" at the Yoigo employee party on Thursday

The next day, Friday, Eladio and I were driving to León to pick up his Mother and bring her home to spend Christmas with us.  If you are an avid reader of this blog, you will know that every time we go to León we nearly always stop at the Palacio de Bornos winery in Rueda, the white wine capital of Spain or of the world in my opinion.  Here we always enjoy a plate of ham and wine and then stock up on some of their lovely produce which on Friday included 36 bottles of wine!

Enjoying a glass of wine and ham at the Palacio de Bornos in Rueda on Friday

We arrived in time for lunch with Pili and Andrés (Eladio’s youngest sister and her husband), the “abuela” (means Grandmother in Spanish) and were joined for coffee later by Adela, Eladio’s other sister.  The photo illustrating this week's post is of lunch on Friday with Eladio's family.  You can see more photos of our visit here.

We were eager to set off home as the day was short and the drive long, but I thought Eladio should get a rest before driving again and so we headed back to Pili and Andres’ flat.  Just as we were about to leave Marta, Adela’s daughter made an entrance and I got a good 10 minute natter with one of my favourite nieces. 

The abuela found the 3.5h drive home very long but for us it was even longer as we had driven out in the morning.  We were home by 8pm and actually very soon in bed.  

You can see the rest of the photos of our trip to León to fetch my mother-in-law, “the abuela” whose name is actually Ernestina, here.  I must say she is in very good shape for a nonagerian and although seemingly a little frail probably much stronger than she looks. 

Eladio and his Mother on Friday in León

I must add that on Friday night when we got home, there was a wonderful surprise waiting for me: a gourmet basket of tropical fruit.  This is what it looked like, as now it has been dismantled and much of it eaten. Thanks Gloria, we loved it.

The beautiful basket of tropical fruit Gloria sent to me on Friday.

Saturday morning was taken up with last minute preparations for Christmas.  I have been preparing on and off since November and now everything is almost ready.  The tree is heaving with presents as you can see below.

Our Christmas tree today, heaving with presents

I took Eladio with me for some last minute present shopping and we had some quality time together at Grand Plaza 2. As we came home the girls passed in their car on their way to another shopping centre and they were given strict instructions to be home for a family lunch with the abuela not later than 15h (yeah we eat late in Spain).

I’m not sure whether the abuela liked the lunch that day.  I made Mexican fajitas and I am sure she was trying them for the first time.  Today we had left over “pastela” (Moroccan chicken pie with almonds) which she said she liked.  So you see, we continue to eat  food from afar in this house which you will know about if you read my post from last week.

That evening my friends Julio and Fátima were coming for the annual Christmas dinner party at our place and everything had to be perfect.  Oufa helped me throughout and thanks to her I was able to get a walk in my tight schedule as well as a bath before dinner.  The menu was bacon rolls with fresh asparagus, followed by Pastela (made by Oufa’s sister Fatima) and Waldorf Salad.  The dessert was very English: Eton Mess. 

The amazing Moroccan pastela - filo pastry chicken pie with almonds made by Oufa's sister Fatima

I have to mention that Norah ate the hors d’oeuvres we had prepared for when our guests arrived: a plate of ham and seafood vol au vents.  Eladio went to open the door to let Julio and Fátima in and Norah somehow got into the lounge where she managed to devour the hors d’oeuvres in seconds.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked into the lounge and saw the two empty plates.  Luckily we were able to rustle up another plate of ham and laugh at the antic.

The annual Christmas dinner here at home on Saturday with Julio and Fátima

Dinner was followed by a game of my new Trivial Genius Edition.  I played with Julio against Eladio and Fátima.  Truth to tell, they won but they had been in the lead for most of the game, thanks to what Julio and I thought were far easier questions.  I now look forward to playing with Eladio and the girls on Christmas Eve.  

And today is Sunday 23rd, the day before Christmas Eve. It has been quiet, the highlight being another family lunch all together.  As I write, my Father is watching the BBC, the girls have gone out and Eladio is with his Mother upstairs who is knitting more socks for us all.  It is time for our walk and time to close and wish you all a great Christmas.

Next time I write it will all be over, but don’t worry there is another good time to look forward to after that; New Year’s Eve.  Right now we can look forward to both festivities. I sometimes think the best part about festivities is the preparations and looking forward to them.  Do you agree?
Love and best wishes to you all till next time


Sunday, December 16, 2012

A flea market at home, food glorious food, Oli reporting on Christmas prices, a special date, the Connecticut tragedy and the magic of Christmas at home.

Sunday 16th December 2012
The magic of Christmas at home
Hi everyone,

How was your week?  Ours was dominated by food in many ways as you will read throughout this week’s entry. I have titled this part of the blog as “food glorious food” because it was and because of course, we are huge foodies in this house, enjoying dishes from all over the world.  At home we usually eat a mixture of dishes from Russia, England and Spain but from other places too as you will learn. 

However, let me start with last Sunday when we held a flea market at home to sell lots of the girls cast offs, some of which still had the shop labels on, as was the case of a few of Olivia’s items.

With the help of Juli, we set up everything in the lounge as the girls’ friends were arriving at about 16h.  The bazaar went quite well.  There were bags and belts and jewelry, boots and shoes for sale as well as coats, dresses, trousers, t-shirts, blouses, jumpers and jackets, most coming from Zara. However we will be setting up another market after Christmas to sell even more stuff, as well as some of the items which didn’t get sold on Sunday.  In a way a great time was had by all, although it was a big task to set up and even bigger to take down.  Guess who did the latter?  Me, of course.

With Suzy - the flea market we created last Sunday - what fun!

My story of food actually begins on Sunday, just before the flea market.  Oufa, our lovely Moroccan living in home help, made us a Moroccan meal for the first time.  I’m sure you are not surprised to know that she made couscous with vegetables and chicken.  We loved it, or rather the girls and I loved it, the men being not so fond of the Maghrebian dish of semolina.  This is what my plate looked like.  Delicious don’t you think?
Oufa's couscous
If we ate food from the Maghreb on Sunday, we had Swedish fare on Tuesday. I made my favourite Nordic dish for dinner that day, the dish I always eat when in Stockholm, “räksmörgås”.  In English I’m sure it would be called prawns on toast which doesn’t sound half as nice.  The recipe, if you are interested is cold cooked and shelled prawns (I cheated as mine were from Ikea) with salad and mayonnaise and sliced boiled egg, all placed on a piece of rye bread or toast.  This is what my “räksmörgås” looked like.

The Swedish platter I made for dinner on Tuesday: räksmörgås

On Tuesday, fittingly for this week’s theme of food, Olivia reported on food prices on her morning programme, La Mañana de la 1.  The story was about the difference in the prices of fish and seafood in Madrid and Barcelona.  Olivia was at a market in Madrid (Ventas) and her colleague, Laura, was at a market in Barcelona (Santa Catalina).  Here Oli really got into the spirit of the story and took the place of the fishmonger and stood by the stall in a fishmonger’s apron.  At one stage she lifted a huge fish in her hands and placed it on the scales.  She turned the story into the rivalry with Barcelona alluding to football and the 8 points that Barça have against Madrid.  I missed the live report but later saw it here on this clip (fast forward to 12.10h).  Olivia admitted afterwards she hadn’t a clue about the names of fish or seafood and had to learn them on the spot.  I suppose this is my fault as I have not brought her up to be a housewife or have any interest in the names of fish.  Later she appeared again at 13.50 doing a similar story, this time about meat and again she had to learn the parts before her appearance. 

Oli having fun after her report on food prices in Madrid vs Barcelona on Monday
On Tuesday I had another Christmas engagement.  Ketchum, my PR agency had their annual bash which this year took place at Teresa and Tony’s house and wow was that lovely.  They live bang in the centre of Madrid and on the top floor of their block of flats – sounds normal right? What wasn’t normal was their roof top terrace which includes a private swimming pool.  Inside the house was beautiful and Teresa, unlike me, already had all the decorations out.  If I thought I had a lot their `place looked like the Christmas department of the Corte Inglés (Spanish department store).  

Tuesday was the 11th December and as I drove home after the party, I suddenly realised that the next day would be a very special date: 12.12.12 – the 12th of the 12th of 2012.  I posted that on Facebook and my cousin André who lives in Canada replied that his father, my Uncle Sasha (my Mother’s oldest brother), would have been 100 that day.  That is something, so yes Wednesday was a very special date.

On Wednesday there was good news for Spain and it was great to read that Inditex, the company behind Zara, the world’s largest clothes retailer and my favourite shop, reported a 27% increase in earnings. It’s not often good news come out of Spain, so I, for one, was very pleased to read this.  I do think I have contributed to their success hahahaha.
It was good news for Zara on Wednesday as the company reported increased sales

And on Wednesday as we were digesting the news at lunch, Norah made her way surreptitiously to the table and I caught her on camera in the sweetest pose possible.  Isn’t she irresistible?
Norah hoping for a little something from Eladio at lunch on Wednesday
Thursday was a full day. I had a meeting with the girls from my events agency, QuintaEsencia, and as always, we met at Zielo, a luxury shopping centre in Pozuelo.  We were to go over the preparations for the two up and coming Yoigo Christmas parties.  I went early so as to get in some more Christmas shopping, visiting Sánchez Romero, the most up market Spanish supermarket, and then H+M where I bought this dress.
The new dress I bought at H+M on Thursday - please note size S!

I wore the dress that night for the Christmas Management Team dinner. Our new boss had invited us out to celebrate together, something new for us.  It was a very special place he took us to; El Club Allard, possibly the most popular restaurant in Madrid at the moment with 2 Michelin stars.  Here food becomes an art and was certainly glorious I can tell you.  The best bit possibly, because all was wonderful, was the dessert called “la pecera” or fish bowl.  It resembled a fish bowl and each element was made of something sweet.  If you ever get the chance to try Diego Guerrero’s creations you will be just as surprised and awed as me. 
La Pecera (fish bowl) dessert at El Clulb Allard, amazing!
Friday was a great day at least for us.  I went shopping in the morning with Oufa to do the weekly food shopping and as always we went for a cup of coffee and a long chat, a bit like Mother and daughter.  Both girls were home for lunch and I made a tex mex meal of fajitas and all the trimmings – you see food again!  However the pièce de résistance was the dessert, a wonderful pear and almond tart made by Oufa.  The recipe, by the way is French.
The French pear and almond tart Oufa made this week, superb.
In the afternoon Suzy and I went Christmas shopping to Gran Plaza Norte 2 where we shopped or rather walked till we dropped as I only found one present there.  I commented to Suzy that even though I had missed our daily walk I had probably made up for it with all the walking around this rather macro mega centre which I find far too big.

As we walked in the door at home, my Father was watching the BBC news and it was then that I heard about the Newtown tragedy.  It later became known as the Connecticut school killing where 26 people were killed by a 20 year old boy and former pupil at the now world famous Sandy Hook Elementary school.  I ask myself just how many tragedies like this have to happen before the US government bans hand guns?

This picture sums up the story of how privately owned hand guns kill so many people in the good old US of A. and so few compared in other countries where their use is banned. Come on Obama wake up!

On Friday too I have another food story.  Eladio and I went out to dinner as we do most Fridays.  I fancied pasta, as I often do, and my husband suggested a restaurant we used to frequent and haven’t been to for many, many years, Capitolina in Majadahonda.  It was great to be back and I was amazed to see that the waiters were still the same.  My husband being my husband, ordered fish at a pasta restaurant but I, of course, had my favourite Italian dish, paglia y fieno (straw and hay called paja y heno here) so called because of the mixture of white and green pasta I suppose.

Food was again the note of the day yesterday, Saturday when I spent most of the morning cooking.  I made meat loaf, a staple item in our diet and also stuffed mini peppers and as I ran out of peppers but had lots of stuffing left over, I experimented and made stuffed potatoes.  I got lots of compliments at lunch.  I also did some Christmas baking and made more “perushki” (Russian pies) using the good quality pastry I had bought from Sánchez Romero.  These have now been frozen and will be baked on Christmas Eve.  

Whilst I baked, Eladio bathed the dogs and Olivia was doing last minute revising for her exam that afternoon.  The exam was for a permanent post with RTVE at their Melilla unit on Moroccan soil.  It’s a shot in the dark as many other people were taking the exam but I was proud of her making the effort.  The exam was very difficult multiple choice questions on current affairs.  Even if she doesn’t pass, the revision will make her even more informed on today’s world of politics.  Her prize afterwards was being picked up by her boyfriend Miguel who came yesterday from Valencia to see her.  

As they came home, they caught me putting up the Christmas decorations around the house.  This year I did it completely alone, although Eladio did the tricky bits of course.  I remembered with nostalgia how the girls used to help me, but now they no longer do.  I was pleased with the result and happy to see how the magic of Christmas was once more with us. 
Christmas came and brought its magic to our home on Saturday
You can see more photos of the decorations here.

Just as I was finishing, Olivia and Miguel left for a reunion dinner with her friends from school.  Being a good photographer, Miguel took this great photo which I was pleased to see this morning on Facebook.  I know all the girls in the photo since about the age of 3 and some of them I haven’t seen for many years: Sonia, Elena, Tamara, Cristina, Begoña and stunning looking Paula.  They must have had a great night.
Olivia's school Christmas dinner reunion on Saturday night.
And today is Sunday and I look forward to a family lunch, a walk in the afternoon and some reading by the tree with the candles lit and Christmas music playing.  There is only one more week and a few days until Christmas and we are nearly ready.  Are you?

Hoping you are, I leave you here until next week.  Be good, be happy.

All the best/Masha

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Olivia reporting for TVE in Valencia, a royal baby, finally the iPhone, the ex Nokia Christmas dinner reunion and other stories.

Sunday 9th December 2012
Some of my wonderful ex Nokia Networks colleagues at the Nokia reunion dinner on Tuesday

Hi everyone,

The week has been busy and good in many ways.  I hope yours was good too.

This week Olivia was working again from Valencia; something she tries to do as much as possible so as to be with her boyfriend Miguel who lives there and works as a cameraman for Spanish TV.  Monday saw her reporting on a lovely story about practically free housing for evicted people in La Alcudia in Valencia.  She appeared twice that morning and you can see her here if you fast forward to 13.49h.

Oli had a lovely story to tell on Monday on TVE1

She seemed happy to be making the report and I’m sure as a journalist she would also loved to have reported on the great British news of the week.  For on Monday Buckingham Palace confirmed that Kate Middleton, also known as the Duchess of Cambridge, was 2 months pregnant, the most anticipated royal birth since Prince William himself.  The news was great, what was not so great was what transpired later. An Australian radio programme rang the King Edward VII hospital where the Duchess had been admitted for acute morning sickness, and pretending to be the Queen of England and the Prince of Wales the programe DJs actually managed to talk to the 46 year old India nurse Jacintha Saldanha looking after her.  The conversation went live and the poor nurse had no idea this was a hoax.  Later this week she committed suicide.  This deeply saddened the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as it did the whole world.

The royal baby will be third in line to the throne and as Salic Law has been revoked in England, unlike Spain, it won’t matter if the baby is a girl or a boy.  There has been talk that the birth could be twins and as we spoke about the news at lunch the other day, Eladio wondered who would one day become King or Queen of England if the birth was a cesarean.  That is a very good question and I wonder if there if is a law in this case or whether it is the surgeon who decides by taking out one of the twins first rather than the other.  If there is no law, he would have a very big decision to make.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

On Monday I was very busy with confidential work.  Yoigo was to announce the inclusion of the iPhone in its portfolio, something our customers have been clamouring for a long time.  We knew that but until we had the go ahead from Apple’s HQ in Cupertino in Silicon Valley, we could not let anyone know.  For those of you who have never worked with Apple as a corporation, you cannot begin to imagine just how strict they are and how many conditions and procedures must be fulfilled before you can go to market.  They dictate the exact wording of your press release – where you have to say that their operating system is the best in the world – and it is the company’s top two executives who give you the final go ahead to announce the go to market.  Our problem was we were in a rush to include this iconic product in our Christmas campaign and all that that entails and any delay in the launch would have put the campaign at risk.  We didn’t actually get the go ahead until Wednesday afternoon at a very late hour for Spanish media and bad timing too as the next day was a bank holiday.  I was so relieved when we finally hit the push button and sent the laconic press release out.  It meant we could finally confirm all the rumours.  It also meant that the market was to learn that Yoigo will be selling the iPhone 5 and the other models at the best price in the market.  You can read the press release here (in Spanish).  I am now waiting avidly for my own device and wonder whether I will like it as much as the Samsung Galaxy S3.  

It was great to announce that Yoigo will have the iPhone

Tuesday was a very full day.  I went to the hairdresser early in the morning and of course worked hard from home most of the morning.  Oli was on the television again and this time the story was about toys for deprived children at Christmas which is funded by a biro sold by TVE.  The news was that this year, for the first time, Spanish children would be included – another sign of our times and thanks to the crisis.  Olivia reported from the factory in Valencia where the biros are made and you can see her here if you fast forward to 13.45.

Oli on TVE on Tuesday

The crisis affects us all and not only in Spain.  I was deeply saddened to read later that day that Nokia will actually be selling their flagship HQ, called Nokia House in Espoo just outside Helsinki.  I love that building and used to love going there, feeling proud to work for Nokia.  Things have changed since I worked for that wonderful Finnish company and it is sad.  Here is a photo I took on one of my trips there in the “good old days”. It is of the inside which is spectacular; made of wood and glass and steel and a marvel of Nordic architecture.  Nokia House sits by the sea and is made of glass so all light penetrates this marvelous building where workers sit in open plan offices with views of the sea on one side and of the lake or river on the other.  If I found this news sad, I wonder how the people who still work there feel – devastated I’m sure.

The inside of Nokia house sadly to be sold soon

On Tuesday too I had lunch with Suzy, what we call girly lunches.  I haven’t seen much of her lately, so it was good to get some quality time together.  She is at a crossroads in her life at the moment as she plans to leave Spain and actually has a ticket to London for 8th May.  It is in London, like Dick Turpin, that she plans to find her fortune.  Again this is thanks to the crisis as, although she has always wanted to work in London, what has pushed her to make the decision is the appalling pay she gets with her otherwise very satisfying job as a dietitian with Armark Spain.  I wish her all the luck in the world and look forward to visiting her in London, the city of my dreams and where I never actually got the chance to live or work.

And finally Tuesday evening came and brought with it the ex Nokia Spain first reunion Christmas dinner.  I got together some 60 people from both the network and mobile phones division, mostly through Facebook but also thanks to many whatsapp messages, emails and other means of contact.  It was to be held at Gobolem, a delightful cozy restaurant in Las Rozas where Martin, the owner, put on a splendid buffet dinner with the whole place to our selves.  My thanks go to Beatriz from QE for her help in decorating the restaurant with poinsettias, photos from the past and a wonderful photo call.  

The evening was amazing and everyone was so happy to see everyone that it was difficult to get them to eat.  I really think that if we had just had bread and water in a garage we would have been just as happy.  I got so many compliments and thanks from people for making the night possible that it was quite embarrassing.  But I felt the whole effort was really worthwhile. 

With some of my great Nokia Mobile Phones ex colleagues at the dinner on Tuesday

The only damper on the evening was the presence of someone (IM for this purpose), someone I hadn’t invited and someone who used to make my life a misery in the last period of my time at Nokia.  I was amazed when Martin approached me during the dinner to say that someone had asked for the bill for the whole dinner.  We had all paid 50 euros each mostly by bank transfer so there was to be no overall bill.  It was obvious to me that whoever had asked for it had no good intentions. I asked Martin who the person was and he pointed to I.M.M.  I just told Martin to say no.  I was appalled at this person’s behavior but soon forgot about it, until a few days later when he sent me a private message on FB asking me for the bill.  The reason he said was to use it as an expense to claim for his small consulting firm.  I replied that I knew he had asked for it at the restaurant and that I had said no and that I thought his behavior was not elegant.  Believe it or not he wrote again yesterday to insist adding that it could do no harm to anyone.  I replied curtly that what he was asking me to do was to become involved in a crime called fraud and that such activity would harm the country.  This incident brought back all the bad memories of this person who, even after leaving the company, has come back to haunt me.  So yes, the reunion was great but left me with a bittersweet memory because of this incident.  I still feel shocked at his behavior.  If he writes again, this time I shall not answer.  What would you have done?  I was very tempted to publish the story openly but in the end decided not to.  I suppose it is best to forget and just to carry on. 

On Wednesday I published the photos of that wonderful reunion dinner which you can see here.
Wednesday’s highlight was a little trip to Gran Plaza 2 shopping centre to do some more Christmas shopping.  I indulged a little myself and bought a dark green jumper dress from H+M.  

Thursday 6th December was a holiday in Spain to celebrate the Constitution.  It was also Independence Day in Finland and both my Father and I remembered going to the Parador in Gredos in 2007 with my dearest Finnish friend Anne.  We actually stayed there on the same bank holiday and you might be interested to know that it was here that the new Spanish Constitution we are celebrating today was begun. We must do that again one day.  However, the Spanish Paradors (state run hotels in monumental buildings) are in the news this week and the news is not good thanks to the crisis again.  Some are being shut down completely, like the lovely one in Verín where we have stayed twice and some will be shut down in the winter months and many jobs will be cut.  The Parador workers have been on strike this week.   I do hope that the Parador in Gredos is not one of those being shut down.

Outside the Parador in Gredos with Anne and my Father in December 2007

Thursday was really quiet at home and only livened up when Susana joined us for lunch.  I must add that afterwards she went off to be with her friends at Rocio’s new flat in Majadahonda, another of their friends to fly the nest.

Friday was the in between day; the day after the holiday and the day before another holiday 8th December which celebrates the Immaculate Conception.  Some people have all three days off which is called a “Puente” (bridge).  I didn’t take the day off but worked quietly from home.  

Olivia was working from Valencia on Friday and her report that day was actually from far away Murcia.  The news was sad: a married couple in their 80’s were found dead in their house in San Javier, from suspected robbery.  You can see the story here if you fast forward to 11.28 and 13.45

Oli telling a sad story on Friday on TVE1

She came back from Valencia with Miguel that night but we weren’t to see them until the next day. Friday’s highlight was dinner with Eladio and this week we went to La Alpargatería, not the one we used to go to which shut down in Majadahonda, but to the one in Herón City in Las Rozas.  We liked it but didn’t feel at home as we did at the one that shut down.  

Saturday of course was a holiday again and another day off for Oufa.  I spent the morning cooking for a big family lunch. The menu was perushki (small Russian pies filled with minced meat, onions and rice), homemade ham croquettes, chicken waldorf salad and fruit salad. Suzy said over lunch that it felt like a mini Christmas Eve dinner and it did in a way as we usually include these ingredients on the 24th December.  The rest of the day went past like most Saturday afternoons: our siesta, our walk with the dogs, a bit of reading in the lounge with candle light and music, then a quick dinner in the kitchen, then the news on the TV in bed followed by Informe Semanal during which I always fall asleep.  So much for Saturday night on the tiles; that is how our Saturday nights nearly always ocurr.

And today is Sunday and I am writing from my desk in our study.  Eladio is preparing lessons at his desk next to me.  Oufa is in the kitchen making us our first Moroccan meal: chicken and vegetable couscous and Olivia is revising for an exam next week – an exam for a permanent position with TVE based in Melilla (Spanish occupied Morocco!).  She is very unlikely to pass as there are at least 50 other people taking the exam and many with more initial points than her.  Even so, I think she still has a chance, albeit very slim. And I am in a hurry to finish this week’s blog post as this afternoon we have organized an event at home. I am doing a sort of car boot sale of the girls’ cast off clothes, many of them still in fashion and some still with shop labels.  Olivia is the clothes hoarder, buying new clothes all the time and her wardrobes are bursting with clothes she no longer wears.  Lots of their friends will be coming and we plan to do the “mercadillo” in the lounge.  I will tell you how it went in next week’s blogpost.

Meanwhile I wish you all a great week ahead.

All the best Masha