Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The written word

Over the past few months Luis and I have both been busy with projects close to our hearts. Luis was invited by Andreas Kunert to write a prologue for his new book: A legacy in stone. Andreas works on huge stone and pebble installations in his native Canada. The book covers his artistry in stone and is full of wonderful pictures of his work. Here is an excerpt:

Needless to say Luis loved writing this prologue and is really pleased with the finished piece. More information and photographs can be found on Andreas' website here: Andreas Kunert

About a year ago I had the privilege of been asked by Mary Turner to read through and comment on early drafts of a book detailing a forty year history of an Arts organisation I worked with back in the UK: Action Space Mobile. Mary has worked tirelessly in community arts since the 1960s and together with many other artists shaped and informed community arts provision both in the UK and further afield.

After a great deal of hard work by Mary, the book is now available to purchase on Amazon. It really is a feast on the eye with many captivating photographs and informative narrative. You can preview and purchase a copy here: Action Space Extended

I have also just re-launched my writing blog after a make-over and name change. I am busy transferring short stories but will be adding new material in the near future. Small tales and tittle-tattle - follow my progress by subscribing by email.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Building work - laying a stone drive with mosaic.

We've been busy this past week or so. Levelling part of the driveway, laying hardcore and a concrete base then topping with stone. The area measures 27 square meters and provides access to the garage/studio. We had this built after moving into La Pasera as a multi-function space for storage, a studio and garage if need be - 10 meters by 5 meters. It has a mezzanine floor (5mx5m) which is really useful and has a water supply, a log burner and electricity.

It is never used as a garage and it's main function has become a studio and workshop for Luis and I, storage space and Wentworth and Gawber's residence. It is built on a slope and is some 7 meters or so at the rear hence its name: The Towers.

We have had some damp issues with the build but we have since resolved them and are now happier to finish off the hard landscaping, painting and drive work. The building is yet to get a stone skirt before being painted white to match the house.We are thinking about building an arch to connect the house to The Towers.

We are only paving part of the driveway and the remainder will be finished with a layer of small pebbles, in time, when the rest of the building work is complete. We have laid the first of three mosaic that will feature on the driveway, the first being a compass aligned to magnetic north.

It was a few good days of hard work but worth it. Never having tackled this sort of work before we were a bit cautious but I think it has turned out well. Now to get on with the rest of the work but it does feel good to be able to tick this one off the list.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Walking in Asturias 13: Dragon's breath and caves by the sea

Today is Luis' Birthday. On our Birthdays we usually choose to do a favourite walk, take a packed lunch and set off early. Luis chose to walk from home in Toriello to Cuevas del Mar and back. A walk we have done many times but one which we never tire of.

The weather was forecast as being overcast but reasonably warm, ideal walking weather along the coast. The cooler sea breeze is always welcomed as it blows up and over the limestone cliffs.

We decided to walk the country lanes and villages on the way there and return by the coastal path.

Passing through the villages of Llames de Pria and Garana it is always interesting to see what has been newly built, to admire new plots being used for vegetables, to chat with passing pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostello, pass the time of day with locals and to take in the sights and sounds of country life in the sleepy back waters of Asturias.

The beach at Cuevas del Mar was deserted with only one or two camper vans cooking bacon and sausage and re-packing their vans prior to the next leg of their journey.

The wild flowers were amazing with the lanes and footpaths lined with carpets of pink, blue, purple,  white yellow and orange flowers. The sea was choppy, the breeze was gentle and the sky remained, on the whole, blue with fast moving Columbus clouds.

We made our way home via the footpaths and tracks near to the coast, stopping for lunch in a quiet hollow. Tortilla, black olives, celery, bread, fruit and water was the order of the day, perfect picnic food which we shared with some local ducks that occupied a nearby pond.

The cliffs approaching home are spectacular. With high tides, the blow holes were spraying sea water high into the air and forcing air through the many fissures in the limestone bedrock. According to local folk lore, from a distance it sounds like the roar of dragon's breath. Some of the fissures have become mini inland oceans and caves that are several hundred meters from the coast, just the place for dragons to hide.

The walk took about 6 hours in total but we stopped regularly to observe the landscapes and take in the natural beauty that surrounded us. Happy 46th Birthday to Luis.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rhubarb and home-made breakfast muesli


The last time I looked the rhubarb was nothing but an emerging crown with one or two bright green leaves beginning to unfurl. With the rains and warm weather it has had a growth spurt and is now ready for harvesting over the next couple of weeks. This particular variety is Victoria. We also have a later one which is only just beginning to emerge and show its first leaves of the season.

The rhubarb is cut, washed and chopped, put into a pan with a small amount of brown cane sugar or honey, gently simmered until the pieces begin to soften and break down. No water is necessary as it produces enough from its own juices.

The leaves have been put under the gooseberry bushes, an idea we heard about which is supposed to deter gooseberry saw fly. It makes sense as we sometimes use rhubarb leaves as an insecticide (see here for previous post).

In a conscious effort to eat less wheat and dairy I am trying to find alternatives to toast and butter for breakfast. I heard about home-made breakfast muesli from our friends Cal and Rob and I must say it is delicious. This is my take on it:

Crushed oats (I really like the quality of Flahavans Irish Organic Oats)
Almond or rice milk
Fruit (in season)
dried fruits, nuts and seeds to taste.

This mix had dried apricots and cranberry, pumpkin seed and linseed, hazelnuts, oats, and rice milk. Add all the ingredients into a bowl and stir until you get a loose mixture - pop it into the fridge overnight and stir once or twice during that period. The milk will be absorbed by the oats so you may have to add a touch more for the right consistency.

In the morning, no need to cook just add a tablespoon of rhubarb or other seasonal fruit and if you are feeling indulgent add a dollop of Greek yogurt and stir. I generally make a large bowl full which keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days (if it lasts that long).

It really tastes rich especially with the almond or rice milk which has a natural sweetness but none of the lactose. With the dried fruits and rhubarb, there is no need to add additional sugar. Delicious and satisfying as a start to a busy day.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The perfect twiggy pea stick

With a welcome break in the weather and the promise of bright and warm sunshine Luis suggested that we went in search for some perfect twiggy pea-sticks, well 30 or so to be precise.  Knowing that the caminos (paths) of the Camino de Santiago would be muddy in parts and that we probably be making our way back through the waterlogged fields, we opted for Wellington Boots. A wise decision.

Twiggy pea sticks are usually thin twigs of hazel (for us) that are used to support pea plants, perfect twiggy pea-sticks only exist in Luis' mind but I thought it might be fun to go along and made wiser about these things. There are many village and cliff tracks that veer off the Camino de Santiago that are heavily populated with coppiced hazel and sure enough, Wellington boots were required.

Walking along the caminos is wonderful at any time of year but early Spring with its gigantic puddles, flowing field streams, fresh and crisp new growth and neatly tended orchards is truly magical.

We found what Luis considered to be the perfect hedge in which to harvest our perfect twiggy pea sticks and we began to cut perfect specimens...

The way home across the fields was interesting with one or two instances where water was nearly compromising the tops of our boots. I had a rather enlightening experience when my head made contact with an electric fence charged up to keep randy bulls at bay. I do feel strangely brighter today.

With La Pasera in the distance, we head past the horses, through a field of bulls, cows and calves then across our neighbours newly ploughed field to be greeted by Gawber and Wentworth in their local hunting ground.

The peas are now staked and will benefit from the support as they produce a good crop of sugar snaps, mange tout and small sweet garden peas.

We managed to get our pea sticks and remembered a much cherished quote from a dear friend of ours, "the important thing about reaching your destination is to savour and enjoy the journey, it is usually much more precious". Today's journey for the perfect twiggy pea stick turned out to be precious or as Luis speculated .. perfect.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Stepping into spring - two tales

After being in the UK for a while it is always good to return to Asturias. The weather in the UK has been cold, damp, wet and snowy whereas Asturias has been cool, damp, wet and...snowy, but in a different way.


In the UK the weather persists for weeks, in Asturias it can change on a daily basis. I enjoy my time in the UK and witnessing the worst snow falls for over 40 years was certainly a treat if not inconvenient and prohibitive to my plans. Dad missed his 90th Birthday dinner as the roads were impassable and the hotel and restaurant was inaccessible.


On my return to La Pasera it is cooler than usual with intermittent rain and infrequent glimpses of blue sky. Daily walks are between showers and short cut but we have had the chance to catch up with friends from England and friends living here in Asturias. We have been to the Donkey Sanctuary for the open day and it was great to see a few familiar and a few new faces up there.


The landscapes are vibrant at the moment with vivid greens and yellows as the grass in the meadows becomes peppered with wild flowers. A lovely time of year out here despite the wetter than usual weather.


I love Spring as it brings longer days, rapid plant growth, and explosion of colour as well a chorus of birds singing  and warm showers during which to go for a walk and enjoy the changes the new season brings. Spring in Asturias usually arrives several weeks before the equinox takes place. This year, it has being particularly wet and cold and the new season is advancing slowly.

This slower pace is more noticeable by the subdued blossoming of the many wild cherries both within La Pasera and the surrounding countrywide. Another indicator of the later and slower Spring is noticeable by how late the Asturias wild daffodils and alpine flowers are making a full display as the snow persists at relatively low altitudes.

Within the coastal planes, some of the wild flowers are slowly coming into blossom and it would be a while longer before the apple orchards come into full bloom. I guess we will wait for the cuckoo to return bringing the new season as the ancients used to think. In the mean time, we will continue enjoying the new season as it slowly advances while dreaming of the joy of apple scent as we walk past the numerous apple orchards as we walk along the country lanes.


Friday, April 05, 2013

Do you want to visit Asturias? Photography competition.

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When we started Tales from Toriello it was mainly to keep friends and family informed about what we get up to whilst we are in Spain. Somewhat surprisingly the numbers of people reading our blog has grown beyond expectations and we are constantly amazed that we have regular visitors from all over the world some of whom have also visited us here in real life. With over 3000 online visitors a month, we thought some of you might be interested in the opportunity to visit Asturias, well here is how...

This blog post is unusual for us in so much that it is a slight deviation from our normal content. A photographic competition with a prize of three nights accommodation, dinner and breakfast for two at an award winning ecological hotel and organic farm in Collia about 20 minutes from La Pasera. Details at the end of this post.

There is no doubt that Asturias is truly a natural paradise. With extensive unspoilt beaches, underdeveloped coastlines, woodlands, valleys and mountains rich in fauna and flora, a rich cultural history and a range of traditional and typical Spanish villages, towns and cities, Asturias has a great deal to offer on a short break or longer vacation.

We visited Asturias back in 2004 and ended up buying a house out here.

On our first visit to Asturias we stayed at the Hotel Posada del Valle and it proved to be an ideal base for exploring all that Asturias has to offer. We have since become friends with Nigel and Joanne who own and run the hotel and farm, hence helping to promote this free to enter competition.

You might have already taken the winning photograph so have a look through the competition guidelines, revisit your photography archives and submit your winning photo soon. Who knows, you could be here sooner than you think.

Click here for details of how to enter and also take a look at the Hotel website.