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

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