Here I go...

Walking and Talking Across Spain - long distance walking chelates the chemicals that trigger my Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Frugal Thanksgiving

I love when I can be frugal and make out like a bandit!

We started our Thanksgiving by shopping for food.
As always, I had a list, and on that list was a turkey.
They were awfully big and awfully expensive,
but you have to have turkey for Thanksgiving!

I had put a big old turkey in the cart
when Joe came by and said,
"Did you see those turkeys for $8?"

I said, " EIGHT DOLLARS?!"

Following him back to the frozen section
he showed me a bunch of turkeys that had a tag on them
saying if you bought over $25 worth of food,
you'd get this 14 pound turkey for $8.

SCORE!

We bought the turkey,
and on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day,
it made a wonderful meal!



On Friday, 
we ate leftovers. . .
turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes,
stuffing, and green beans!

On Saturday morning,
I picked all the meat off the carcass 
and put the skeleton in the crock pot
with an onion.
I covered it with water, and let it stew all day.

That night
I took about 2 cups of the broth off the top
and made gravy from it,
and we had hot turkey sandwiches.
YUM!

Tonight,
I've cleaned all the bones out of the broth,
put the broth into the freezer so I can skim off the fat.
I've cut up all the leftover meat,
and will pop in some celery, an onion,
and a bit of rice
and we'll have a nice hot turkey soup!
Perfect on this cold, blustery day!

That $8 turkey has fed us for 4 nights.
Not bad...

Let's Make a Deal!

I've been wanting a small table
to set inside under a living room window,
so when it is too hot or too cold in my "outdoor room"
I can sew indoors.
Yesterday, I found one at a nearby yard sale.
The lady wanted $10.
It's an old metal school typewriter stand,
perfect size,
and I can paint it white and it'll be perfect.
But I didn't want to spend $10.

Sooooo....
I bartered!

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a set of acrylic paints from Amazon.
When they arrived, one of the paints had leaked.
I chatted with Amazon, telling them I would like a replacement
for the leaked paint bottle.
Instead, they sent me an entire new set of paints.
So I had an 18-bottle set of brand new acrylic paints.

I offered the paints
to the lady in exchange and she took it!
I'm so happy!

Here is my table.
I know it looks ugly now,
but free is beautiful to me.
It's absolutely functional, just the right size,
and like me, it will clean up good!


Today I'm starting a new watercolor painting
from my Anna Mason course.
It's going to be a robin, 
for Christmas.

Here is the drawing.
Stay tuned!





Saturday, November 26, 2016

Well, I Fell Off the Wagon. . .

Well, I fell off the wagon on my 30 miniatures in 30 days chore.

My mother took a bad spell and was in the hospital 
and then Thanksgiving rolled around 
and well, it just never happened. 
But I promise to get back to it soon.

I did receive my little EFCOLOR Stove, 
which allows me to bake the clay without using electricity. 
It's a tiny stove that is powered by tea-lights 
and I can't wait to give it a try.


I have been working on some watercolor paintings.
I finished the portrait of my son's dog, Data, 
the week before I came to the desert.
I love this portrait.
It really captures this sweet doggie's nature.


I finished a portrait of a white horse yesterday.
I discovered that painting white is really as difficult as painting black.
There are so many colors in a white horse!



OLIVES
The olives we began salting a couple of weeks ago 
will be finished soon.

Tonight I dug one out of the jar and rinsed it,
then tasted it.
Still quite strong, 
but GOOD!
These are going to be awesome,
and it was so easy!

Here is a photo of the jar so you can see how much liquid
has come out of the olives.


They are really shriveling up!


But not quite shriveled enough.



It's time to make another batch of yogurt this week.

But first, I have to prepare for a watercolor class
that I've been asked to teach this week
at the 55+ park where I'm staying.
We'll just be doing simple little "blob" animals
like these I found on the internet:


I think a person could use this method to make
some really cute Christmas cards!

I guess that should catch you up on what I've been up to.

Oh.. about the Camino...
We have had to cancel the Spring walk.
We realized after this year's walk that in order to continue
in the same manner as we have been structuring the trips,
we need some sort of liability insurance.
We do NOT want to become a company.
We want to stay "pilgrims helping pilgrims"
But we also want to protect ourselves and our assets,
so we have put off the Spring trip 
while we explore options that will offer protection we need
but still allow us to help others walk the Camino Santiago.

If you have any good ideas,
give us a shout!
We hate to toss in the towel,
but we can't afford to lose our drawers
because someone gets hurt.

Ok.. that's all folks!

Love,
Annie


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

30 Miniatures in 30 Days - PEACHES!

Today I worked on peaches, and I'll tell  you, it was a frustrating experience, but with a positive outcome.

First, I made a couple of dozen peaches from what I thought was the right color, but after baking they looked like this:


So I did a second batch, and they turned out dark as well.

I got online and did a little research and someone suggested baking the clay covered in baking soda.  I tried a sample and the difference was amazing!


So I sat down, did another batch of peaches, 
and voila!

I did it!




Monday, November 14, 2016

30 Miniatures in 30 Days - CARROTS!

Today I finished the veggie basket for my new doll.
I made teensy carrots!

Next, I'm working on bottled peaches!



Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Miracle of the Apples



The day I left Santa Celia on the Aragones Route, I was very hungry. I had not found the tiny tienda in the bar in town, and had eaten nothing for breakfast. There was a definite chill in the early morning air and I pulled the sleeves of my jacket down over my hands to keep them warm.

As I walked, my stomach growled and I began to daydream about food.

" Oh man, I sure would love to have something to eat... some FRUIT would be awesome!"

I thought about figs, and grapes, and apples, and nectarines and my mouth began to water. But there was no town in sight and I knew it was going to be a long day. I should have planned more wisely...

I walked on, and on, one step in front of the other, a kilometer, then two... dreaming about food...

Then, I rounded a corner, and there on the dew-drenched grass, in the middle of nowhere, sat two perfect apples.

I laughed out loud!
It was Camino magic working again!

I picked one up and bit into it.
It was ice-cold, crunchy, and sweeter than any apple I have ever eaten before!
What a treat!

I ate that apple right down to the seeds, then devoured the other.
Smiling and full, I continued to walk as I thought, "Thank you Santiago! Thank you Camino!" 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Corn and Potatoes - 30 Miniatures in 30 Days

I tried making miniature potatoes and corn today.

My corn is still a bit rough, but the potatoes turned out fantastic!

I've ordered some tools which should help with making the corn kernals more lifelike. But this was a fun experiment and I learned a lot!

Tomorrow I'll make some type of basket for the veggies to go into.







Thursday, November 10, 2016

30 Miniatures in 30 Days

I've promised myself to do more art this year. I'm having fun taking watercolor classes. Here is a bunny I finished today. He's not perfect. His nose and mouth are a bit wonky, but he's mine and was my first attempt at a rabbit.


The other thing I'm working on are miniatures for my dolls.
I wanted to add a little something with each doll
and when I priced miniatures I was shocked 
at the prices!
As usual, I said to myself, 
"Self!  You can do that!"
So I did.

Last month I made a miniature apple for Allie,
one of my Bratz repaints.
Allie is going to give the apple to her teacher!


I also made a miniature basket of eggs for another doll, Debbie.
She's a little farm girl who is most comfortable
in boots and overalls.


Yesterday I made a miniature Diary and pencil for Sandy,
my latest doll.  Here she is holding her Diary and pencil.


I also made Sandy's Mary Jane shoes, her skirt, and her knit top.

My goal this month is to learn more about working with polymer clay
and other materials to make dollhouse miniatures.

Soooo.... tomorrow I'll start my
"30 Miniatures in 30 Days" challenge.

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 07, 2016

DIY Greek Styled Dried Olives


I'm finally settled into the desert house. I brought my mother here for a week and we had a good old time. She won about $700 at the Casino and we had a nice buffet seafood dinner. Spending some quality time with her was fun.  I took her home on Thursday and headed back to the desert with the rest of my stuff on Friday. Joe had been house-sitting for mom while we were here, so I brought him back also.

We've spent the past few days getting settled in. Since I'll be here a year and a half, I have a lot more "stuff" than usual to find a place for. I've had to re-order some of my doll-making supplies since I didn't want to drag them all the way to California.

Today, Joe came in with some beautiful olives he picked off the tree in the back yard while pruning it. This gave us the idea to pick the olives on the REST of the trees in the park and to dry them. I love Greek-style olives. They're strong and full of flavor and best of all, they're free!

So we jumped in the car and went hunting.  Most of the trees had dropped their fruit already, but we managed to find enough for a gallon jar.


Here they are. Beautiful. Black. Full of flavor!
Some have already begun dehydrating in the sun,
but that's ok.

Once the olives were picked and washed
we pricked each one with a fork.
We layered them with salt in a one gallon glass jar.
Any glass container will work, however.
Some people use plastic; I'm just not fond of plastic
for long term storage.

We used Pink Himalayan Salt,
but you can use any clean kosher salt.
I get mine on Amazon.com.


This works best if the olive skin is broken.
Some people hit them with a hammer.
Some slit them with a knife.
I simply laid them out on a cloth
and picked them up with a fork,
breaking the skin as I stabbed them.

We didn't really measure.
We just put a layer of salt in the bottom,
then a layer of olives,
then a handful of salt, 
then olives,
then salt.

We had just enough to fill the jar.
Then we rolled the jar until all of the olives were covered.

Here is what they look like:


Now, we will keep the jar in a dark cupboard,
and we will roll the jar each day.
Oily black water will begin accumulating
in the jar.
We will watch carefully,
and once the water has stopped coming out of the olives,
we will pour it off and replace it with 
clean spring water to wash the salt off.

Then we will store our dried olives in olive oil,
garlic,
and maybe some thyme.

They will keep up to two years.

I can't wait!
Stay tuned!




Monday, October 10, 2016

Hola Santiago y Adios

At the sumptuous breakfast offered at the seminary of San Martin Pinario I joined another pilgrim for the buffet. Empanada, tortilla, tomatoes, tostada, bread, cheeses, meat, cereal, yogurt, fruit salad, milk, tea, coffee and juice are all there for the taking. 

It is easy to linger there and sample as many of the delights as hunger demands. Later in the day outside in the plazas surrounding the Cathedral the queues are just beginning to form for entry into the much photographed house of worship.

Because of the numbers of visitors the free access of years past has been discontinued and there is entry thru the door facing the Plaza Platerias, exit thru the door of the Plaza Immaculada and a third entry from the Plaza Quintana to visit the crypt and embrace the sculpture of the Saint. All are guarded by friendly security personnel, yet the feeling of being herded into and out the Cathedral cannot be denied. Fortunately, one is still allowed to graze at will once inside.

At breakfast I asked the pilgrim if they had made their visit to the Cathedral and if it had been everything they had hoped to experience after so many walking miles of trial and joy. Here is the reply in the pilgrim's own words.

"I arrived the day before and was to tired to stand in the long lines I found there. Others in the group I had walked with were stronger and first made their way to the pilgrim office where the lines for compostellas were even longer. Later they would also queue with the many others at the Cathedral.

I was only able to afford the journey after saving credit card miles for 5 years to buy airfare, and my budget for food and lodging was very tight. I found a pilgrimage website that provided reserved lodging and some local transportation which I could afford. There was also assistance on the trail from a volunteer leader.

Others in the group were experienced travelers and much of the discussion was about comparing the Camino with the places all over the world they had toured. This was my first trip abroad and I had nothing to offer to these conversations but I enjoyed listening to a point.

Because of my inexperience I was, perhaps naively, overwhelmed by the simplest of things along the Way. I spent nearly half an hour once just admiring the deep red soil of a freshly ploughed field. I watched hawks circling the royal blue sky and so I often arrived last at our lodgings and missed group meals because I had laundry to do which I did by hand since I could not afford the cost of the machines.

My second morning in Santiago I decided to make my visit to the Cathedral at dawn before coffee or breakfast when there were no people to queue with and you could enter thru any of the many doors. I wanted to go there with the heightened awareness that an empty stomach brings. When one begins the journey to Santiago one never knows for certain if they will make it there, nor if they will ever return again.

First I wanted to embrace the likeness of St. James perched above the high altar since I had been told it was traditional. It was a fine feeling to hold the cool shoulders of the sculpture and rest my head for a moment at the nape of his neck. Since there was no one behind me, I could linger as long as I wanted without causing any inconvenience to another.

Next I walked the worn stone stairs down to the crypt of the Saint. There were two other pilgrims standing again the stone wall that faces the silver tomb holding the remains. A sparkling silver star floats above the small reliquary.

I was surprised to see three priests in red chasubles offering a mass in English there in the tight quarters of the inner crypt. They were making the offertory and I decided to stay for at least the consecration. Three of us pilgrims hugged the stone wall so the occasional others could come and go as they pleased. After the consecration we three joined the priests in exchanging the sign of peace. Then we were happy when the celebrant came to the iron gate separating us from the inner crypt, and offered us the Body of Christ.

After this Mass, I walked around the many chapels where 3 other Masses in Spanish, French and German were being offered. There were only small groups of pilgrims in each chapel and no botofumeiro, but I would not trade my quiet and lonely experience with the two other early risers for the crowded grandeur of the Noon High Mass.

If someone would ask me now, when is the best time of day to visit the Cathedral of Santiago, I would say early in the morning when you are hungry and have the compulsion to lay aside one appetite for another more profound. But my opinion should not influence another since wonder and spirit can be found everywhere at any time. A person should go, when they feel the desire to do so. As they say, there are as many Caminos as there are people who travel it."

Well, Annie and I have heard many marvelous tales of the things to find along the Way, that the "Camino provides". And yes the Camino provides both opportunity and challenge, but we remember mainly the opportunities and give short shrift to the sore feet and shared bathrooms that sometimes constitute the challenges. After this one pilgrim's story of the Mass with The Saint, I wondered what challenges they must have met over the many miles walking. But their tale of the spell of simple glory prevented me from asking. I had no more questions to ask or answer.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Joe's Blog on his way to Molinaseca and then Villafranca

Along the way from Camponaraya, after you cross the overpass of the autovia, a truck full of blue-black grapes passes.  The truck stops and the smiling face with a five day stubble directs you to help yourself to a taste of the fruit of the Campos.  The truck stops for every pilgrim it passes. It is harvest time and later in the Rip van Winkle pueblo of Valtuille de Arriba a crummy of field hands rumbles by all smiles and waves.

The day before at Casa Del Reloj in Molinaseca, we thought the day had been long enough so that nothing more exciting would happen.  Wrong again.

In burst 5 tall and handsome caballeros, one in full length tin duster.  "Somos los amigos de Antonio Rojo." We are the friends of Antonio Rojo.  Antonio is the owner of the family estate which includes the Pension as well as a shaded field across the street where the horses can be quartered.  We hear them whinnying and neighing as the sun drops from the sky.  Early in the morning we will hear them rustling in the field as they forage for breakfast.

These are hombres one must rise to greet, if for nothing else than to feed a bit on their exuberance and energy.  They hardly wait for our pilgrims to turn around.  Introductions are in Spanish and English.  They speak excellent English and must know first the names and homelands of the girls in the room.  Cowboys are similar everywhere I suppose.  These men possess a rough elegance with style that charms immediately.

They must be the same caballeros we saw riding atop the pile of rocks that support the Cruz de Ferro.  They ride to Santiago and we find their mounts have left some evidence of their passing in the middle of the Calle Real, the gut of the town.

Well, back to VillaFranca and our charming hosts at Albergue La Piedra a young and very capable couple named Livia and Unai.  As usual Conan the golden retriever is there at the door to greet us.  But it is not possible to walk him down to the river for a swim because it is too cold out for his hair to dry before the next morning.  But you know he would accompany you there given half a chance.

 Unai and Livia first ask all if they would like something to drink or eat before anything else.  Then Unai offers to carry your pack upstairs to your room.  Now we can relax for we are in very good hands. Our hosts will even wash and dry our laundry for a mere 5 euro, delivered to you door.

Mas tarde, Livia's delightful mother Paula arrives to work the reception so Unai and Livia can have a little rest in the evening. In the morning she will prepare the desayuno and make the stamps for our credentials.

Then it is time to don our packs and see what can be found up ahead.

(NOTE FROM ANNIE)  I'm sorry if these photos are not in order. Joe can sort them out when he arrives home.