Sunday, September 24, 2017

More bread making, an earthquake in Mexico, Suzy home from Bali, all together again, Eladio’s birthday and other stories of the week.

Sunday 24th September, 2017

Eladio and his "women". Yesterday lunch just before we lit the candles on the cake I had made for his birthday.
Good morning everyone,

Here I am writing early this Sunday while everyone sleeps. The house is full with 12 people under its roof. Suzy is here and the family is complete. That's 5 of us, 6 with Oli's boyfriend, Miguel, 7 with Zena our weekend carer and 5 Chinese Airbnb guests hahaha. So how do we all fit I bet you are asking? Well we have many bedrooms and yesterday added another one for Suzy in the gallery just off our bedroom as her room is occupied by the Airbnb guests. 

So while everyone sleeps, let me reflect on the week.

Last Sunday, the latest bread making craze continued and that morning I showed Olivia how to make it. Under my guidance she did every step of the process and I'm sure she felt equally satisfied as it came out of the oven looking and smelling delicious. We had no spelt flour left so she made if from wholemeal flour and this is what her loaves looked like:
The bread Oli made last Sunday. 
She didn't have it for lunch though as she was joining her friends Juli and Elena for a meal in Majadahonda. And here are the three of them together last week.
Elena, Juli and Oli last Sunday
We ate if for dinner though and it was delicious. Last Sunday we were waiting for a phantom Italian Airbnb guest to arrive. She had booked for 2 nights but never ever replied to any of my follow up messages afterwards. I finally managed to ring her the next day and she told me she had been at our house at 5 and at 9pm but that was impossible as we were all at home. When I asked her what number of the street she came to, she said she couldn't remember. Her non appearance remains a mystery. 

Monday came and I was up, believe it or not as 8pm. That was because the electric alarm clock we have had since before we were married has been playing up lately. So when it was actually 6 in the morning the clock showed 4 am. Thus I had breakfast with Eladio and Olivia. We went for a warmish if windy walk. On the way I got another Airbnb reservation which meant that after the Mexicans left on Sunday and the no show of the Italian lady, I would have 6 upcoming sets of guests. Airbnb is  blessing for us in this new shared economy. I wonder how long it will last though.  

That night we watched a wonderful epic drama on Netflix called Palm trees in the snow (Palmeras en la nieve), set in Spanish colonial Equatorial Guinea. I had seen it before but was keen to watch it again. Eladio just loved it and it was nearly 1 in the morning when we switched off the lights. 
A beautiful Spanish film we watched twice in a row this week. 
Tuesday saw Suzy enjoying her last day in Bali. She would be starting her trip home the next day with her fellow traveller Chati which would take them about 33 hours and 4 flights. to get here. Here she is in the sun by a pool in the island which, after her return, was on the alert for a possible  eruption of a volcano and many tourists had to flee. 
Suzy enjoying the sun on her last day in Bali. 
We were not enjoying the sun that morning as we had to take Norah to the vet. She has  leishmaniasis which is a disease caused by a mosquito and is very common in the south of Europe. We had interrupted her medication and she wasn't looking well. But actually, her not looking well and not wanting to eat was not caused by the disease but by an overdose of chicken bones I had fed her at the weekend. We were told in very strict terms by Maria, her vet, never to give our dogs any bones ever. ¿What no bones for a dog? I understand chicken bones are not really suitable, but no bones, poor dogs. As for the disease, the results of the blood test were very reassuring as it seems well under control although she has to continue her medication. I came home feeling both guilty and relieved. Here is dear Norah, our oldest dog who will be 9 at the end of the year. We love her so much. Sorry Norah about the bones, but I promise you will get succulent tit bits every now and then. You will later that she did, but not from me hahaha. 
No more bones for poor Norah
Again I made bread on Tuesday. I baked it with the flour I had left at home, half plain and half wholemeal and it was delicious. 
More bread on Tuesday
To make bread I use my trusted Kenwood which my Mother gave to me when we got married or just before. So it's more than 30 years old but still going. It's thanks to the hook attachment that I can knead the dough so well. I'm not sure it would turn out so well if I kneaded it by hand. My Kenwood is still going strong but time is telling on it and I have been thinking maybe I should invest in a new one and take the old one to Montrondo. That would be a great idea for a Christmas present this year. 

So as I was making bread, thinking of Suzy in Bali and generally enjoying a quiet life, terror struck in Mexico, a country I have been to 3 times and where my brother spent a year when he took a degree in Latin American studies. Just a few hours after many people had taken part in an earthquake  drill, exactly 32 years after a quake killed thousands in Mexico City, a 7.1 magnitude tremor hit the country in  the Puebla area not far from DF.  Mexico is prone to earthquakes and just a few weeks ago had suffered another one in the south of the country which left at least 90 dead.  The epicentre was in Atencigo, about 120km from Mexico City. Entire buildings collapsed, including the Enrique Rebasamen school where many children died. So far over 320 people have died and rescue forces and thousands of civilians are still searching for more. It's amazing how united the country is and how everyone is lending a helping hand.
A scene after the earthquake in Mexico
On Tuesday too, the warmongering Donald Trump, yes the same man who wants to build a wall with Mexico, used belligerent words in his speech at the United Nations. His words were directed at North Korea when he said that if the US was threatened he would have no option other than to destroy the whole country. That is more than 20 million people!! As I write that I wonder how much help Mexico's neighbour is giving after the terrible earthquake. 

On Wednesday the main news on the international front was of the aftermath of the Mexican earthquake. It was also about the other big natural disaster caused by Hurricane Maria, the third hurricane since Irma. Maria battered many Caribbean islands and left the whole of Puerto Rico, 3.5 million people, without electricity. 

Thankfully Suzy was on the other side of the world, travelling back from Bali. She flew to Kuala Lumpur then to Abu Dhabi and then on to Rome and wouldn't reach us until Thursday night. What a long journey. 

The main news in Spain of course was about Catalonia and the bid by the rather radical "independentistas" to hold an illegal referendum on 1st October. I wrote about that last week too but since then, things have come to a head and the atmosphere is very tense with Barcelona and Madrid governments at loggerheads. I read the international press and it's obvious that outside Spain the questions at stake are not really understood and the Catalans hoping for independence are often seen as victims being oppressed by the Spanish government. It may look like that but it isn't, in my mind at least. This week I found a great article in English that sums up the situation and which, if you want to know a bit more, you might find enlightening to read. I'm not sure who the author is. I saw it on social media, which is not the Bible and full of false news, but what is written below is quite accurate in my mind. 

    -Spain is a western democracy and its Catalan citizens vote frequently. In fact, between European, national, regional and municipal elections we have voted 6 times in the last five years. 

    -In the last regional election, pro-secession parties decided to unite around a single issue- independence- and not only failed to win a majority of the vote, but also lost votes relative to the prior election. Polls, even those paid for by separatists, show support for independence is a minority and in decline. 
    -Catalonia is not "oppressed". It is one of the most prosperous regions in Spain and its citizens enjoy a high standard of living and one the highest degrees of self-rule of any region in Europe. 
    -The party that traditionally ran the regional government of Catalonia has, for the last 30 years, used public money to promote a separatist agenda through education and local media and has illegally funded itself with a corrupt scheme where contractors had to pay bribes of at least 3% of any public work. 
    -The region of Catalonia has never existed as an independent political entity and was a part of the Kingdom of Aragon, which merged dynastically with the Kingdom of Castille in 1492 to create the Spain we know today. There is no "union", as in the UK- Catalonia is to Spain what Rousillon is to France or Cornwall to England. 
    -Spain is a parliamentary democracy, with a constitution that can be amended. A vote on territorial secession would require such amendment and the support of a qualified majority of Spaniards.
    -Not a single country or international organisation, with the exception of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, has supported this movement.

    So why the fuss? As the economy improves and support for independence wanes, the separatists are afraid of "missing the train" and, breaking Spanish and regional laws, have embarked on a campaign to present the central government as "evil", for not allowing a regional referendum which does not comply with the constitution (overwhelmingly approved throughout Spain, including Catalonia). This noise also conveniently masks regional corruption scandals and sets up the separatists as victims for the next regional election.
Frankly, as a citizen of the world I personally do not understand any radical desire for independence. I prefer unity and, like Rafa Nadal, cannot see Spain without Catalonia nor Catalonia without Spain.  Unlike Eladio, though, I am not losing any sleep over the question. 

On the topic of sleep, that afternoon I had an appointment with a pulmonologist to explain the results of the sleep test I did this summer which I had been sent to do after I explained seemingly similar symptoms to "apnea". I had read the report and was sure I had apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep) but apparently I only registered it 4 times an hour which is something all of us experience. The conclusion of the result is that I snore, as if I didn't already know that hahha. I was not impressed with the doctor who spent the whole time writing on a computer, hardly looking at me and mostly ignoring me. What I also found out though, is that my sleep is very superficial, something I could have told her anyway as I tend to wake up many times during the night. For that she has referred me to a neurologist. Well, I have made the appointment in October so let's see what that reveals.  

Thursday came and I went to the dentist for an emergency appointment as one of my teeth was feeling very sensitive and giving me the odd bit of pain. An X-ray showed I need root canal treatment and two crowns. So I shall be seeing my trusted dentist, Dr. Garralda, who we have been going to since the girls had their first dental appointment, quite a lot in the coming months. I could do without that expense and ouch it hurts that I no longer have the free dental care I used to enjoy before I lost my job. 

The weather has been very pleasant this week and Eladio and I have spent every afternoon reading by the pool. My book this week is the autobiography by Felix Yusupov, my Mother's distant cousin who famously killed Rasputin. Lost Splendour and the death of Rasputin is a 
a marvelous book: what tales of the riches before the Russian Revolution, what an incredible life. Oh how I am enjoying every page. It is not particularly well written but what are amazing are all the events he describes of pre-revolutionary Russia. Prince Felix Yusupov was the richest man in Russia, even richer than the Tsar. I still marvel when I remember my Mother telling me how her family would visit the Yusupovs, at  the Moika palace  in St. Petersburg which was their main home in Russia.  I think I wrote about that recently here, so sorry if I am repeating myself. Eladio is waiting to read it and Oli too but they will have to wait. It's the book I bought for my Father recently and which he urged me to read. 

I was still reading it when Eladio left at 9pm that night to pick up Suzy and her friend Chati from the airport. I was still awake when she came and we melted into a hug as soon as she got out of the car. The dogs surrounded her too as it was such a joy to have her back. 

Friday 22nd September was the start of autumn but it didn't feel like it as the maximum temperature that day was about 26 or 27ºc. I was up early and soon joined by slightly jet-lagged Suzy.  We had breakfast together after which, at 7 in the morning I began a long spree of cooking for the family weekend and Eladio's birthday the next day. I was going to make a raspberry sponge cake with two layers. One of the sponges would have fresh raspberries inside and would be topped with crushed raspberry sauce and whipped cream. The top layer would be covered with icing and fresh raspberries as you can see in the photo.
Eladio's birthday cake in the making. 
The last time I had made this cake was in France at my cousin Zuka's house where, unfortunately, the sponge cracked, the icing melted and the raspberries all slid off. This time everything went perfectly and it tasted delicious.

After Eladio had his breakfast, the 3 of us set off on our morning walk with our 3 dogs of course. Suzy joined me for the last hour. Once home, Suzy wanted to learn how to make bread, so I showed her. She made spelt bread with walnuts but with just water, no yoghurt or honey I'm afraid. But I must say it was still delicious.

Suzy learned to make bread with me on Friday morning. 
Her friend Juli came for lunch. He was late and we left his food on the table while my Father was finishing his lunch. I made the big mistake of leaving my chair away from the table and suddenly we heard a noise. We dashed into the dining room to find Norah had used my chair to jump on the table and had polished off 2 of the 3 filet steaks on the table that were for Juli. I'm sure she had a great feast. At least they weren't bones hahaha. 

Another Airbnb guest checked in that afternoon, a young physiotherapy student from Badajoz who had come to do a weekend course at the local university. She adored her room but of course she would as it was Suzy's.  My poor elder daughter had to sleep in one of the spare rooms and when the Chinese guests came, in our gallery as I recounted at the beginning of this post. I felt sorry for Suzy but of course, business is business hahaha. 

Just as Nuria was settling in, Suzy and Juli went off to the local station to pick Oli up from work. Oli had great news that day. Her next destination with the TV programme she works for on Telemadrid ("Madrileños por el mundo") is to be St. Petersburg in Russia. She finds that very exciting and so do my Father and I. Since she was told the destination, she is avid for information about Russia, St. Petersburg and the Russian language and my Father and I are delighted to help her. Thus I shall be lending her the book by her ancestor Felix Yusupov which I hope she enjoys as much as we did. 

Finally the family was reunited. We were to have a lovely family dinner on the terrace outside the kitchen and were joined by Oli's boyfriend Miguel who arrived just as dinner was ready.  At Suzy's request I made my tuna fish salad with which we ate Suzy's delicious bread. 

My tuna fish salad for the family dinner on Friday night. 
It was wonderful to be together again. We would have more family quality time at the weekend too. Yesterday, Saturday 23rd September, was Eladio's birthday. I seem to have spent the whole of the family time cooking but I didnt' cook that morning. Suzy and I went out to buy ingredients for a deliciously calorific breakfast food; "porras" and "churros" with the typical thick chocolate drink as well as croissants and pastries. I took a photo of the boy with the porras as he took them out of the boiling hot oil. Look here:
Porras (thick churros) in the making
I had lovingly laid the dining room table using a bone china tea set which had been a wedding present to my parents. As we got home my Father was sitting at the table and eagerly looking forward to breakfast all together.
My Father ready for breakfast on Eladio's birthday on Saturday
The best thing about birthdays in this house is that I get to eat what I like for breakfast and I get to eat cake too. It's such a delightful change after oat bran porridge every day hahaha. 

Before we tucked in, I asked Miguel, who is our semi official photographer, to immortalise the moment. And he obliged as you can see in the photo below:
The 5 of us before we attacked the delicious birthday breakfast yesterday morning. 
Eladio, who turned 73 yesterday, was given his presents and a family card which we all write on lovingly, after we had finished off most of what was on the table. He got pyjamas from Oli, a bookmark from Bali from Suzy and a badly needed new bedroom digital clock from my Father and I. 

It was after breakfast that Eladio and Miguel set up Suzy's new bedroom in our gallery,  a sort of glass wing next to our bedroom which  we never use. We had bought an Ikea fouton a while ago which would be used for the first time yesterday. Pippa was the first to jump on it hahaha. 
Pippa trying out Suzy's new temporary bed. 
Then it was time for a walk and we all went. In fact I got that moment immortalised too, this time by a selfie of the 5 of us. It was a glorious sunny morning and I was feeling so happy.
The family walk after breakfast on Eladio's birthday yesterday
I did one hour more than the others, determined not to put on any weight because of breakfast and the cake to come. 

I was pretty exhausted when I got home and had to make everyone's lunch; the birthday lunch. For the occasion I made baked salmon in "papillote" which is actually baking it in the oven in plain silver foil. This was to be served with pumpkin and potato puré. I nearly forgot to add that the first course was home made gazpacho which I had made the day before. You see, it has been a real cooking spree this weekend.

Finally the cake moment came, the lighting of the candles (in our case the candles are like fireworks hahahah), the singing of happy birthday, the making of a wish and the cutting of the cake. Miguel took the lovely photo of what Eladio  called "me and my women". It's the best photo of this weekend and the one I have chosen to illustrate this  post. No doubt it will also be used for the Christmas calendar I always make in December. 

Of course, after so much walking, cooking and eating, I, at least, was in need of a siesta. It was cut short by the arrival of my 5 Airbnb Chinese guests who arrived just after 4pm. They were already being shown round their rooms when I woke up. Suzy was caught out too as she was using her bathroom and came out telling them she had just been cleaning it for them hahaha. As if she ever does that!!  Only one of them spoke English but they all seemed pleased with the house and their rooms as  Lin, the girl who made the booking, told me. They were taking photos and videos as I showed them round the house so I hope that is true. 

While they settled in, we spent time by the pool when the girls and Juli introduced me to a new (Spanish) card game called "culo" (bottoms). We played for quite a while before getting ready to go out to dinner to celebrate Eladio's birthday for one more time. I should mention Suzy won nearly every game. 

I had booked a table at the Boadilla Palace garden summer restaurant, "La Terraza de Boadilla", where we had been with Oli and Miguel in August and which we had loved so much. The setting is to die for and Suzy loved it. Before finding our table, we took photos and here is one of the 4 of us, courtesy of Miguel. You see it's not often the 4 of us are together and it's great to get photos of us when we are.
The 4 of us at the Terraza de Boadilla where we went for dinner last night. 
However, the service this time was very slow with only 2 or maybe 3 waiters for a full restaurant and soon it got cold. Of course it is the end of September and though the temperatures are in their high 20's during the day, it gets cold at night. So we ended up freezing and hungry. It was too cold to order a dessert and we asked for the bill, paid it and left as soon as we could. The whole dinner was rather a waste of money and I do wish I had booked somewhere else. It didn't help that Oli and Eladio came to loggerheads about the Catalonian issue too. It is dividing Catalonia and dividing the nation but I won't have it dividing our family so have forbidden the topic at meals hahaha. It won't be haha next Sunday, though, the 1st October when the illegal referendum is supposed to be held. It remains to be seen what happens in the end. What I am dreading is the 2nd October if the majority vote for independence and it looks like that could happen as I think only those who want independence will vote. We will see what happens then and meanwhile I hope the tension does not increase. 

And today is Sunday, another day all together. After the Chinese had had their breakfast of noodles and fried eggs and left to visit the centre of Madrid, we gathered in the kitchen for our own breakfast. Suzy made more bread, hahaha, this time half spelt and half oat bran. It turned out fine, a bit coarse but healthy and quite tasty. 

Suzy and I went for a walk with the dogs. Oli wasn't feeling well. I think she has caught a cold and Eladio was giving his weekly philosophy lesson to his Brazilian pupil, Luciano. 

I came back to make lunch - yes more cooking - and while doing so, taught Oli more phrases in Russian. My Father taught her more and she wrote them down diligently. I do wish I knew more. I have even forgotten most of the alphabet, something Oli wants to learn before she goes to the city also known as The window to the west, from Peter the Great's reign. 

Lunch was another family meal together. Tomorrow Oli will go back to work and will be living at her flat and Suzy and Juli will be going to our apartment in Santa Pola near Alicante on Tuesday. We shall be going too, so my next blog post may well be written from there. 

When I finish publishing this post, I shall join the "children" by the pool and I think we shall be playing the "culo" card game again.  I don't care if I win or lose, I just want to be with my girls.

It has been a great week and next week promises to be another good one. I hope yours is too.

So my friends, it's time to say goodbye until next time,

Cheers Masha

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