Sunday, November 11, 2012

Looking for a new home help, Obama did it again, Oli working in Valencia with Miguel, chocolate caramel shortcake, a family reunion and other things.

Sunday 11th November 2012

Looking for a new home help, Obama did it again, Oli working in Valencia with Miguel, chocolate caramel shortcake, a family reunion and other things.
Olivia working with her boyfriend Miguel this week in Valencia
 Hello again my friends,

It is Sunday and Remembrance Day and I imagine those of you in England will be wearing your poppy.  No poppies here I’m afraid but Thursday was a holiday in Madrid to celebrate La Almudena, its patron saint and many of us have had a long bank holiday weekend which finishes today.

The week has been very busy, a lot of our time taken up with interviewing candidates to replace Ivanka our Bulgarian home help and it has rained nearly every day. Monday felt like the world was preparing for a Noah’s Arc type flood and on many days of the week it rained so much we couldn’t go for our walk.  So I was not surprised to hear that this morning it was snowing in Montrondo, our beloved family village.  Juan, my nephew is there this weekend and here is a photo he took of the view from his house this morning.  Doesn’t it look lovely? 

It snowed in Montrondo this morning.  I would have loved to be there.

Our search for a new living in home help has not been easy.  Ivanka finally let us know last Sunday that she wouldn’t be coming back.  We scoured the internet and didn’t find much, so decided to place an advert.  I immediately started receiving calls from women from countless countries, mostly South American, also Rumanian, Ukranian and Moroccan.  Some Spanish women rang too which is rare but a sign of the times.  My ex daily cleaner Zena came to clean on Monday and spent 10 hours doing so and confessed the house was filthy and showed me the evidence: Ivanka had been sweeping the floors and putting the dust and crumbs under the carpets!  Apart from interviewing some of the candidates from the advert, Zena brought us a friend, Lubya as did Iskrena – Ivanka’s Bulgarian friend.  The problem with these candidates was that they hardly knew Spanish, although a lot of them could speak Russian to my Father.  In the end we decided on a delightful Moroccan girl, Bashra.  She was going to start yesterday but rang me on Friday night to say she had thought it over and wasn’t coming in the end.  The reason: the house was just too big.  She’s right it’s 600m2 and a huge job to keep clean.  Maybe that’s why Ivanka swept the dirt under the carpets.  So I rang our second best candidate, Oufa, another Moroccan girl (aged 30) and she has agreed to start tomorrow.  I hope she doesn’t go back on her word and that she turns out to be the right choice.

Meanwhile, I have been doing Ivanka’s job plus my own: washing, ironing, cooking but not much cleaning, thanks to Zena’s wonderful effort on Monday but also because I absolutely hate it.  Eladio of course has taken over Ivanka’s part of looking after my Father, taking him up and down to his room on the wheel chair and today he even cut his hair!  I never knew Eladio could be a barber but then I think he can put his hand to nearly everything! What an amazing husband I have.

The week has been dominated by the US presidential elections and it was touch and go until the last minute.  Remember I wrote about Hurricane Sandy last week and how maybe Obama’s management of that crisis would earn him more votes.  It might well have or so I thought when I woke up on Wednesday morning to the news that he had beaten the Mormon Bishop, Mitt Romney by more than 100 seats.  So yes he won and he did it again and I am glad.  He tweeted “four more years” at 8.16pm European time on Tuesday 6th November and posted a lovely photo embracing his wife Michelle.  That tweet has now become the all time number one retweet on Twitter and I was one of the 675.000 people who retweeted it by late Wednesday morning.

I was very happy that Obama won.  This his tweet, the all time number one retweet on Twitter

You can see his victory or acceptance speech here where with great emotion he thanks all the volunteers for helping him during the campaign.  But what I loved most was when he said “I love you Michelle” and remarked too that he was happy to see that so many Americans had fallen in love with her, America’s first lady, too.  I really think that his emotional intelligence is one of his biggest assets, as  is his family. 

I’m sure Olivia, as a journalist would have loved to report on the US Elections, but she she was more than happy to be reporting for her TV programme from Valencia this week because it meant working with her boyfriend, Miguel, who was her own personal cameraman.  It was the first time they would be working together although they had met at TVE Valencia where he is stationed.  The photo illustrating this week’s blog post is of the two of them in the TV satellite van which he is in charge of as part of his job.

Tuesday saw her reporting live on an up and coming mega party to be hosted in Valencia for young people.  It was news because of the tragic mega party in Madrid on Halloween when four young girls died.  You can see her report here if you go to 11.38h.

Oli reporting from Valencia on Tuesday

Wednesday saw her reporting on a primary school in an appalling state.  You can see that piece here if you go to 12.08h
Olivia reporting on Wednesday from Valencia
On Thursday I missed her report on a jewelry shop robbery with violence where the owner, a friendly elderly man called Viçent told the awful story of how his shop was robbed and how the robbers attacked him whilst doing so.  We had seen the story on the evening news and were appalled by the violence but happy that he came away nearly unscathed.

Olivia on Thursday with Viçent the man whose jewelry shop was robbed

And on Friday she reported again on the mega party for 8.000 young people to be held soon in Valencia.  You can’t see the video because the report was before 11 and the programme only publishes the video from 11h onwards or a bit later. However I took a photo of her whilst we watched her live and I think she looks great.  Red suits her as it does me:-)

Olivia reporting from Valencia on Friday

Whilst Olivia was away, at least we had the wonderful company of Suzy most days for lunch this week.  She always brightens up our day.  On Tuesday I came to her rescue when her car broke down and went to pick her up from the garage in Boadilla just as she arrived with the tow lorry.

Suzy's car broke down this week.  Thankfully it was nothing serious.

 On the work front, I was in the office on Tuesday for the management team meeting and it was on Tuesday when I bumped into César, an ex colleague from my Nokia days who now heads up the Mobile division of Samsung Spain.  As we always do when we meet, we spoke about other ex Nokia colleagues, all doing well and scattered in different companies in the sector.  I commented that it would be great to have a reunion Christmas dinner and there and then we set a date, the 4th December and I agreed to organize it.  No sooner said than done, I created the event on Facebook, inviting old Nokia Mobile Phones colleagues and to do date nearly 40 colleagues have confirmed, including some favourite colleagues from the Networks Division.  I still have to book a venue and am planning in my head some surprises to jazz up the occasion.

But meanwhile I have to organize the Yoigo Christmas events.  So, on Wednesday I took my new boss to visit the location I had chosen for the employee party.  Thankfully he really liked the Mercado Gourmet Isabela and so did Cristina his assistant.  In fact we ended up having an impromptu lunch there with the team from my events agency QuintaEsencia.  It’s a really original place for a party and I hope the staff will like it as much as I do, not least because the grub is superb.

Thursday was a holiday in Madrid and I spent most of it driving to the bus stop at local shopping centre to pick up all the candidates and ferry them back after their interviews.  It didn’t just rain when I did so, it poured, as I mentioned above that it did most of the week.

On Friday my M+S online parcel arrived with more Christmas goodies.  That got me thinking how nice it would be to visit an English food store outside Madrid called The Food Hall.  I suggested to Suzy we go in the afternoon and she jumped at the chance.  I had ordered some things online from The Food Hall which is in far away San Sebastián de los Reyes tucked away in an industrial estate and had always thought of visiting it personally.  And that we did on Friday afternoon. 

The Food Hall, the English shop Suzy and I went to on Friday afternoon
Here we stocked up with lots of Christmas produce – mainly the chocolate type but I also spied packets of meringue nests.  I took the 8 I found on the shelf and the young Bermudan girl who runs the shop (and their FB page and very well too) commented I had taken her whole order of meringue nests.  They are great for desserts as you can see here.  I asked her if she had any sugar free jelly and she took me to the jam section.  I always forget that people who speak American English (like in Bermuda) call jam jelly.  We laughed at the story.  And, no they don’t have sugar free jelly.  But they had lots of other things included Turkish delight ad walnut whips, my Father’s favourite confectionary.

Meringue nest with fruit and ice cream.  I bought all the packs The Food Hall had

On our way home in the pouring rain, we went to Ikea to buy some Swedish Christmas and non Christmas produce but it was so crowded, Suzy had to wait outside in the car.  Here I stocked up on smoked salmon, various jams, frozen cakes, peeled cooked prawns but unfortunately no Daim chocolate.  I was upset to hear they no longer stock it as it was a great favourite with my Father and Suzy.  Later I regretted not buying the typical gingerbread house which comes in a flat pack, just like their furniture, but I think we had done enough gourmet shopping for one day.

It was too dark and wet for a walk when we came home, so inspired by our visit to the English shop, I decided to make chocolate caramel shortbread to take to the family dinner on Saturday in Madrid at José Antonio and Dolores’ house.  I used this recipe but warn you if you use it, either to double the shortcake ingredients and use the stated quantities for the caramel or for a smaller quantity to use the stated quantities for the shortbread and only half the quantity for the caramel.

And here is a photo of the finished product which I have to add tasted delicious and was very popular, not only at the dinner last night but on my FB page too.

The wonderful chocolate caramel shortcake I made on Friday afternoon

On Friday, true to tradition, Eladio and I went out to dinner. Once again we chose La Vaca Argentina, in Las Rozas where we always feel welcomed by the staff.  When we came home we were delighted to see that the second part of the film about the life of John Paul II was on the television.  We had seen the first part of “Karol: a man who became pope” last week and had thought the film ended when Karol Wojtyla becomes Pope.  So we were in for a happy surprise and watched it fascinated until the end.  The second part focuses a lot on his relationship with Mother Teresa of Calcutta and of course on the attack on his life but also on his illness, Parkinson’s disease which made this universally loved and charismatic Polish pope suffer so much until his very last breath. I must say I shed quite a few tears and the film still haunts me now. And as I write, I have ordered the DVD on as at both sittings we had missed the first half.

We watched part of the second half of this marvelous film on Friday night

Yesterday, Saturday was really the highlight of the week, the only down side being having to cook, clean, wash and iron endlessly.  I can’t wait for Oufa to come tomorrow!  Olivia returned from Valencia and Suzy came for lunch and to spend the afternoon.  My Father remarked at lunch when we ate some of the chocolate caramel shortcake as well as turrón that it felt like Christmas.  I think he was right; it certainly was a lovely family lunch.

We were robbed of our walk in the afternoon because of the rain, so with some time on my hands and feeling a bit sweaty after hoovering the stairs and floors, I decided it was the right moment to have a luxurious Jacuzzi in our bathroom. I rarely use the Jacuzzi but when I do I appreciate it enormously.  To add to the atmosphere, I added some M+S bath scent, played some music from Spotify on my adored Samsung Galaxy S3 and lit the candles.  And this is what my bath looked like.

Preparing for my jacuzzi on Saturday afternoon
Later I got ready to go out to dinner with Eladio and the girls to José Antonio and Dolores house in Madrid where we were to join Pili and Andrés, Isidro and Yoli as well as my nieces Sara, Alicia, Paula and her boyfriend Pedro for a wonderful family reunion.

The younger generation at the family reunion dinner last night

 I took with me some of the caramel shortcake which we call “the bomb” in the family, some of my home made croquettes, a chicken waldorf salad and some great 2004 vintage Rioja wine.  Dolores had gone all out and made loads of food, the best of which was her baked salted cod with red peppers.  She gave me some to take home and that is what we are having for lunch today.

Pili, Andrés, Yoli and Isidro had come from León on Friday night to help their daughters Paula and Alicia to move flats in the same building they are living in and which belongs to my friends Pedro Delgado and his wife Ludi.  The dinner was great although we had to separate the generations as we were 14 for dinner.  In the photo below you can see the men, the three brothers (Eladio, José Antonio and Isidro) and my brother in law Andrés sitting at the lovingly laid table.

The men at the reunion dinner last night
And today, Sunday, I look forward as I write to another cozy family lunch with all the family members present.  Hopefully this afternoon it won’t rain and we will be able to go on our walk.  I also look forward to a little retail therapy with the girls after lunch whilst the men sleep their siesta.

And on that note, I will leave you until next week.  

Cheers till then my friends

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