Sunday, January 07, 2018

New Year’s Eve at home, first walk of the year, more Christmas dinners, the celebration of the 3 Kings in Spain and other stories.

Sunday 6th January 2018

Having a bit of fun on New Year's Eve
Hello everyone and Happy New Year to you all. Also Happy Kings' Day which is being celebrated all over Spain today. 

A week ago today was the last day of the year, New Year's Eve and we were to celebrate it at home for the first time ever. We always go to León or Montrondo for NYE but, owing to my bronchitis, we had to stay at home this year. Thankfully Olivia, very loyally, joined us. 

We were not alone as our Home Away guests, all 6 of them, were in the house to celebrate the New Year too. We had planned to be away but now we were to coincide with the guests whose whole intention on coming to our house was to hold a great big dinner that night. This meant we couldn't use our own dining room. That didn't really matter as we opted to have dinner in the TV lounge or "the cat's lounge" which is what we call it as that is where Phoebe our cat spends most of her day and out of the way of the dogs.  

It was a cold day but not wet, so we got our walk in. I spent part of my siesta re-watching "Dirty Dancing" which I still love because of the music and the dancing.

When Oli came home to join us, Eladio lit the fire in the TV lounge and we watched the TV although there was nothing of quality to enjoy. TV shows at Christmas and NYE in Spain are generally abominable and one big bore but of course you have to have the TV on at midnight to follow the chimes of the clock from the Puerta del Sol where thousands of people go to see the New Year in as they do in Trafalgar Square in London or Times Square in New York. With lots of time on our hands, I got out some Christmas props that had come with some of the crackers and Oli took pictures like the one illustrating this week's post. They made us laugh a lot.

But what made us laugh even more was a photo published on Facebook by my Yorkshire friend Jacky who also lives in Spain. This was it:
NYE in one caption
The photo summed up my attitude to NYE and Oli's too, not to mention Eladio's. We enjoyed the dinner of course but waiting from 9pm until midnight to see the New Year in was a strain for all of us. We are not really party people and as I wrote last week, New Year's Eve is not my favourite celebration of the year. The Spanish TV programmes did nothing to entertain us either. 

Dinner was to be simple but delicious. I made chicken noodle soup which we had in small bowls accompanied by little Russian pies, "perushki". They are from my mother's recipe and we always have them around Christmas. Zena was supposed to have made the pastry for them on Christmas Eve but it turned out to be a disaster so I made a big batch of them myself last week. Thanks to "Mercadona's" ready made puff pastry they turned out a treat. The main dish was to be prawn and lobster cocktail salad which looked like this. It tasted even better I can tell you.
My prawn and lobster salad that I made for dinner on NYE
Most Spaniards would have considered our whole meal as just starters and would probably have made more. They, of course, would also have a big second course, probably roast lamb, or something just as heavy, all followed by different types of Spanish nougat, called "turrón".  

When we had finished our dinner, our Home Away guests, had only just started on theirs and my goodness you should have seen how much they ate. They had lots of first courses - the table was heaving - and huge fillet steaks for seconds. They also drank tons of alcohol and I know because I counted the empty bottles the next day. Between the 6 of them they finished off 3 whole bottles of champagne. We didn't even remember to open the one bottle I had cooling in the fridge hahahaha.

With time on our hands between dinner and midnight, Oli and I persuaded Eladio to play ludo with us which is rather an achievement. He was quite competitive and wouldn't put up with Oli being a bad loser. They competed so much against each other, neither noticed I had nearly all my counters home and then I surprised them when I won. 

At midnight, on the strike of each of the 12 chimes, Spaniards eat a grape at every chime which is supposed to bring luck. Eladio had brushed his teeth and had to be persuaded to keep up with tradition hahahahah. As soon as we had eaten our grapes and kissed and hugged and wished each other Happy New Year, the 3 of us scampered off to bed. Meanwhile, Suzy, alone in London, saw the New Year in even more quietly than us. We whatsapped up with her all through the evening. She had been out the night before and even though she had various options for celebrating on NYE, preferred to stay in. Thus Jacky's picture perfectly summed up her attitude to that night too.  Needless to say, our 6 Home Away guests partied on until much later but we never heard a word thankfully as our walls must be quite thick. 

And that my friends was how we spent New Year's Eve at home. How was yours? Probably more exciting than ours, unless you were in bed too like the little dog in Jacky's picture hahahaha. 

What was exciting though was seeing and hearing lots of firework displays put on by neighbours all around just after midnight.  Both Oli and I could see them from our rooms. That was a first and rather a nice sight.  

Monday 1st January 2018 dawned, the first day of a new year. I was up later than usual at 07.30. It was a beautiful sunny day which is unusual for 1st January. Olivia wanted the traditional Spanish "chocolate con churros" (donut like fritters dunked in thick chocolate) for breakfast so Eladio and I obliged and went to the local "churrería" to buy them. As our guests were occupying the dining room, we had them in the kitchen and they were delicious. So naughty but so nice. Here is Eladio savouring his first churro.
Eladio at breakfast on 1st January
I say they are a tradition on New Year's Day and they are but usually they are eaten by people who have been reveling  all night before they go to bed at around 6, 7 or 8 in the morning which was not our case of course.

Our guests left quite early and I have to say although they filled the house, they were very good guests, tidy and polite and nice people. Luckily most of our guests are. But it was nice to have the house to ourselves again finally. Being a lovely sunny day and with no cooking to do - Oli would be having lunch at Miguel's parents house - as we had lots of leftovers, I suggested we go for our first walk of the year with the dogs to the parkland in nearby Boadilla known as "el monte de Boadilla" except that there really is no mountain (monte means mountain in Spanish). It's beautiful park land which starts by the palace and covers all the outskirts of the village. If you don't keep to the main paths it's easy to get lost. Taking the dogs in the car is always a nightmare and as it had been my suggestion, I had to sit in the back with them on the way there and on the way back. It meant I would be covered in Elsa's molting hair. Thank goodness her molting season is now finally over. It happens with labradors and retrievers twice a year and each time they shed a whole coat which takes anything up to 3 months. I think if we had known that, we would never have got a labrador. Of course it's not her fault and we love her. The dogs hated the car drive but they loved the walk just as we did. Miguel joined us and as he is our semi-official photographer, being a professional cameraman, I got him to take a picture of us on our first walk of the year, the first of about 360 or so as we hardly ever miss one unless the weather is awful.
Eladio, Oli and I with our dogs, Elsa the lab, Norah the beagle and little Pippa our miniature sausage dog on our first walk of the year on Monday. 
We walked for at least 1.5h, enough to work off the churros I hoped hahahaha. It was a great walk but didn't help my bronchitis which, although better, is still there, especially the cough. I spent most of the afternoon and night coughing on the first day of the year, despite the cough mixture, the codeine tablets and my final remedy which usually helps; boiling water with honey and lemon juice.  

On Tuesday I was up again at 07.30. My body clock may well be changing or at least I hope so. The shops were open and I wanted to change some of Eladio's presents at Primark and get him more skinny trousers. I have only just discovered they exist for men and since them I have made a younger man of him. Each pair just costs 13 euros and they look fine. He now has 6 pairs,  2 of which wiould be for his 3 Kings' presents today.  I also changed the food hand mixer Oli had bought me as it was faulty. I got a Kenwood model instead which is great. My old one will go to Santa Pola. As soon as I got home I used it to chop onions and carrots to make spaghetti bolognese which we call "spag bol" in this house hahaha and is  one of my Father's favourite meals. 

Pippa joined us for our siesta and here she is in between the sheets in Eladio's arms just where she loves to be.
Pippa getting ready for her siesta with us one afternoon this week
Our second walk of the year was that afternoon and it was on our usual route. We noticed the days are getting slightly longer as it now gets dark at 18.30 rather than at 18h. I couldn't resist baking some of the frozen perushki for our dinner that night. The batch I made is now coming to an end.
Perushki for dinner on Tuesday night (Russian meat pies)
On Wednesday I was awake at 07.15, an improvement on 6 am I can tell you. The first thing I read was a google alert on my appointment as the new Adamo Comms Director in PR Noticias (PR News). The article about my "leaving" Yoigo last year had apparently been one of their most read articles of the year. So I hope that this new article about my appointment with Adamo will also be one of the most read. As a colleague commented on Facebook very kindly, "poetic justice" has been made. That's a nice way to describe it. You can read the article here

I had lots of work to do that day for Adamo and most of this week too as I have an upcoming press conference in the middle of January. I spent all morning working, totally immersed in my new project, I nearly forgot it was lunch time and I had to make the lunch hahahaha. In the afternoon I had a conference call with some of my team members in Barcelona. They use Google Hangouts but unfortunately the fiber connection here is not good enough for a satisfactory signal. It worked on the mobile but not on the pc and in the end they had to ring me on the fixed line! So much for new technology and what a pity Adamo doesn't have coverage where we live as theirs is the fastest fiber internet in Spain. It was late when we went on our walk but still not dark. While on the walk I got new reservation enquiries on Airbnb and on Home Away earlier in the day. Things seem to be speeding up after a quiet period. As I write now I have 6 reservations from now until the beginning of March and a  booking from a Dutch family for a week in July. Every time I get a new booking I get a high. It's rather addictive. 

That night we started watching a new series on Netflix. It's French and called Glacé and I'm not sure we are into it yet or whether we shall finish it. We have seen 2 episodes and are not hooked. It's a bit slow like most French films and series in my opinion. We still miss "La Embajada" (The Embassy).  

On Thursday I did my "Reyes" (Kings' Day) shopping for presents. In Spain people traditionally give their presents on Kings' Day. These days they also give presents on the 24th or 25th. However "Reyes" is still very big in Spain. We do it the other way round in our house, giving more presents at Christmas and just a few symbolic ones for Reyes. 

That day, our 19 year old student guest, Enya, was arriving all the way from Guadaloupe, a small island in the Caribbean belonging to France. Just as she was arriving we had the plumbers here to mend some radiators, 2 of them being in both the room she had booked and "Suzy's" room which was a little awkward. In the end she's staying in Suzy's room where the leak is not so bad. Tomorrow, Monday, the plumbers will be back to change 4 radiators and mend something that has gone wrong with the pressure in the central heating. In this house there is always some sort of breakdown and Eladio, "head of maintenance" is on the alert all the time hahahahaha.  

That night we had a dinner date at Oli and Miguel's, a lovely Christmas dinner at their place which we find so cozy and welcoming. We love going to dinner there.  Miguel, her boyfriend, is the main cook and he made a delicious cod dish with vegetables for the meal that night.
Miguel's delicious cod dish
I had taken along crackers as well as some chocolate and after dinner we had fun taking pictures with the cracker crowns on. Suzy thought we were celebrating "Reyes" and I suppose it looked like that. 
Christmas dinner at Oli and Miguel's. Getting into the spirit of "Kings' Day"
The dinner was great but the combination of wine and chocolate of course gave me a headache. We were home by midnight and soon in bed. Luckily that night my cough was a bit better.  

On Friday I was up at 7. As soon as I had finished breakfast I made more bread. By 10 it was ready and the kitchen smelled delicious.
The bread I made on Friday morning
While the dough was proving, I made chicken casserole for lunch. I had a very busy morning as I had to do the weekly shopping and do it alone as Eladio had to wait at home for the plumbers. I took Enya, my Airbnb guest with me as she needed to buy provisions. Before coming home, I had one more errand to do and that was to buy 2 "roscones" (Kings' cakes) for breakfast the next day. 
Roscón de Reyes - Kings' Day cake
It is very traditional to eat this crown shaped brioche type of cake on 6th January. Many people make their own but I had no time this year and besides the ones I buy at the "Alveran" local bakery are home made. What I didn't expect to find was a huge queue and I had to wait for an hour until I left clutching one small roscón with whipped cream and one without. I was home just on time for lunch and felt as though I had been on an errand marathon the whole morning. 

I had a very restoring siesta. It was dark, cold and drizzling so we skipped on our walk. That afternoon I got another Airbnb booking, this time from 3 French students who had been before. The bookings were for 3 days at the beginning of February and 3 days at the beginning of March. Whoopee I thought!

This week there has been much news about a controversial book called Fire and Fury about Trump, his presidential campaign and life inside the White House by a New York journalist called Michael Wolff. I heard about it on the news that day and there and then downloaded a sample on my kindle which I can't wait to read. 
The book which is causing so much fury from Donald Trump and which I can't wait to read
It apparently depicts ignorance, incompetence and chaos in Trump's White House. His lawyers unsuccessfully tried to ban it but now people are queueing up to buy it.  Trump himself is furious at the book's publication which he calls a pack of lies. But even if only half of it is true it's going to make amazing reading. It certainly is causing a fury as perhaps the name of the book suggests. 

That night we had another Christmas dinner to go to. It was the annual post Christmas dinner at Julio's house where we have been going with our mutual friend Fátima ever since Fátima and I met Julio when we started working at Nokia in 2000. The dinners at his house started in about 2002 and have been held every year since then. We got slightly lost on the way as it was dark and raining and Fátima and I were talking twenty to the dozen. He had dinner laid on the table, all the usual food he serves every year: ham, lomo, asparagus, salad and potato and onion omelets made by Fátima's mother. 
Dinner at Julio's on Friday night
The dessert would be "roscón", the first I was to try this Christmas  until breakfast the next day.  We soon ate most of it and then it was time to pull the crackers. Once again we wore the cracker hats and looked like Kings hahahaha which was quite fitting as Friday 5th January was the "noche de reyes" (Kings' night). And here we are, the 3 of us in our hats.
With my best friends, Julio and Fátima, on Kings' Night at dinner at his house on Friday
After the crackers it was time for giving out the presents we had all bought. We nearly always tell each other what we want so there were few surprises that night hahahaha. By 11.30 we were all yawning - none of us are party revelers - and it was time to go. We were home just after midnight and went straight to bed. It had been another lovely Christmas dinner at Julio's, keeping up with  tradition.  

Saturday came and it was Kings' Day in Spain. Here the three Kings, called Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar bring presents to children and parades are held all over Spain. Our Kings' Day started with breakfast which would consist of our 2 roscones, some of us preferring it with cream and some without. I personally prefer to toast the one without. My Father was not very well that morning and only had a bit. We were worried about him all day. It was obvious he had a cold and we debated whether to call the doctor or not. 

He joined us for the present opening around the tree and I gave him a new shirt and some chocolate which he didn't eat and was a sure sign something was wrong. Eladio and I put on some Christmas hats for the fun of it and this was what we looked like hahahaha.
Fun on Kings' Day morning. 
I made a special lunch yesterday to celebrate, roast suckling lamb with all the trimmings except for mint sauce as I had no mint in the house. My Father only ate a bit and didn't join us in the pulling of the last crackers of the day. I felt sorry for him. They would be the last crackers we pulled this Christmas until next year. And here are Oli, Eladio and I with the crowns on in a typical selfie. 
A selfie on Kings' Day
We didn't go for a walk yesterday either as it rained non stop all day. There was much snow in many parts of Spain and it is still raining today. Oli and I decided to make more perushki both for dinner, for freezing and for her to take some home. They were a complete success once again thanks to Mercadona's ready made puff pastry. We had our last Christmas dinner in the dining room that night.  Miguel and Oli even had more roscón but I couldn't face it hahaha. 

Last night we started watching a film with Robert de Niro we had been recommended on Neftlix called "The Intern". Eladio didn't like it and soon fell asleep but I love it and will finish watching it today.

Today is Sunday 7th January and Russian Christmas. Most Orthodox Christians follow the Julian Calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar and thus Christmas for them comes 13 days later than for other Christians. My Mother used to organise Russian Christmas for us at home where we would have a few presents. 

The day didn't start well as my Father was worse. He had a temperature and felt sick so we immediately called the emergency services by ringing 112, the national number for all sorts of emergencies. The ambulance came very shortly and I was dreading him being admitted to hospital with all that that would mean, waiting around in the emergency ward for hours on end and my Father on a gurney. Thankfully that didn't happen. He has bronchitis and has been prescribed antibiotics, paracetamol as well as eye drops. Right now he is sleeping and I do hope he gets better soon and gets to read my blog today. I feel sorry for him and a bit guilty that I must have passed my bronchitis on to him. There is a lot of of going round but it's no joke when you are nearly 100 like him. He will be 99 on 1st May. 

I never like 7th January as it means it's time to take down all the Christmas decorations, one of the most depressing tasks of the year which Eladio and I will do together as we always do. As to the rest of the day, let's see how it pans out and hopefully, despite the rain, we shall be able to go for our walk with the dogs.

And now my friends I have come to the end of this week's blog post, my first for 2018. 

Wishing you all a good week ahead, it's time to sign off and publish this and get on with the day.

Cheers to you all until next week,

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