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

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