Leaving the fast lane for a slow life in Spain

From IT to olive farmers. We make Lujos skincare products from our own Yunquera Gold olive oil.


What does it mean to be ‘raised Christian’ ??

I admit, my mind works in mysterious ways! I have no idea why I am thinking of such a controversial subject today – just am! I guess after reading about the varied fights between Christians/Muslims/Jews in various combinations, in various parts of the world, it made me think about the big R – Religion.

Shortly after I’d been to my mother’s funeral, I was sitting having a meal with an extended member of the family. We were chatting away, when all of a sudden s/he said

I just don’t know how someone can live with themselves if they don’t raise their child in a Christian household

Well, gee – as I was the only one there, who was s/he referring to with that comment? I was gob-smacked. Not only did his/her timing suck (Right after my mother died? Really?), what right does anyone have to say that to me?

You’d be proud of me. I didn’t explode. I didn’t rant and rage. I was cool and calm.

Well, I said, I agree. But what does ‘Christian’ mean? Can it not mean raising a child with proper values and love, setting a good example, trying to do the right thing?

As for the other part, the God part, no, I didn’t do that. Personally, I think serious decisions like that should be made by adults, when you can decide for  yourself. If it’s a true story, then you shouldn’t have to promise to indoctrinate your children. But that’s just me. No hate mail, please.

Religion is something (I believe) that we have to decide for ourselves. If someone does not believe, who are we to criticise? Doesn’t it say something in the Bible about not casting the first stone?

Intolerance, and the ‘one true story’ idea fits with the modern trend of ‘if you’re not like me, you’re wrong’.

If there is a God, I don’t think he’d like that very much.


Busy bees

Summer in Spain is supposed to consist of peaceful days lounging around the pool, drinking the proverbial Gin & Tonic, right? That is certainly the idyllic summertime if you are an English expat, anyway!

Well, I don’t like G&T’s, and it’s our busy time of year, so you won’t find this lady lounging around the pool!

What are we up to? Gardening, for one thing. Our big ‘below’ summer veggie garden has to be weeded, neemed and fed once a week, to keep the plants healthy and disease/pest free. We don’t use pesticides on our lovely plants, oh no – we use neem oil, which works wonders and doesn’t spoil the plants with hideous chemicals. The vegetables also need watering twice a week, to keep them optimally refreshed.


Fresh-picked plums

Then there is the ‘above’ garden, which has our squash, herbs, and a few delicate veggies, such as lettuce. They don’t need the neem, but they do need watering and feeding. So do the flowers, or everything will die in our hot, dry summer temperatures!

Growing vegetables (and fruit) means that summer also brings preserving. This week, it was the plum harvest, so I made several jars of Chinese plum sauce. Next up are the pears, then the apples – cider, anyone? The ironic thing is that you have to keep the burners going constantly to preserve the produce – not a welcome thing when temperatures are getting up to 90+ every day!

Summer is also a busy time for Lujos. This week, I was making orders for our Australian agent, and next week, for private customers. Add to that my product research and development, and it keeps me pretty busy.

You can never stop to catch a breath!


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Cooking boredom

Here at Casa Tyr, we love to cook.

We don’t eat out very often, we never eat at fast food places, and we never buy convenience food. It’s not just being virtuous, we feel it takes no more time to whip up something delicious than it does to microwave a couple of packaged meals. And homemade certainly tastes better!

We also grow most of our own produce, so things naturally taste better, especially when cooked in our very own, delicious Yunquera Gold olive oil!

This time of year, however, we are struggling a bit. We really don’t like to buy vegetables, so the period between the end of our own asparagus, cauli and broccoli, and the beginning of the summer veg is a bit of a dry spell.

Cheat's sun-dried tomatoes

Last years sun-dried tomatoes (photo by Kenton@imagenary.co.uk)

Right now, for example, we have our own wonderful potatoes, garlic and onions, just picked and waiting for us. So there are loads of things to do with those!  But other vegetables? No, not ready yet.

Salads made without your own lettuce, peppers and tomatoes have no flavour. Vegetables bought from the supermarket are limp and flavourless, or at least we think so!

So right now, we’re bored. Come on, tomatoes, do your lovely stuff and ripen….soon!


Yes, indeedy – I’m back!

Dear diary, it’s been a month or more since I last wrote to you.

Well, it’s certainly been a month, and I’m so sorry! I’ve definitely been thinking about you, lovely readers, but between getting ready for a family visit and actually having that visit, there has been no time for anything web!

One brief, hectic week of having our lives turned upside down, and they are gone.

Peggy and Matilda with Freddy

I know we all have to get our lives back, but oh man, is this house quiet! I have to say, though, it was usually noisy due to our daughter rather than the delicious Matilda! :-) We are well used to spoiling our daughter Peggy rotten on her visits to us, and nothing has changed – we delight in preparing her favourite meals, or finding new recipes for her to try!

And Matilda? Well, she also loves our cooking. Grandma’s baby meatballs and Grandpa’s special crispy pork were real favourites. Another generation to spoil!

This week, it’s been back to work with a vengeance. We were way behind on our usual summer work, so the weeds were quite…amazing. This week, it was weeding, watering and harvesting! Although the weeding isn’t so fun, the harvesting of our great potato crop and our very own garlic was extremely gratifying.

All this garden work was accomplished in sweltering hot weather, too! After a mostly cool June, summer hit with a vengeance. Gee, thanks, Andalucia, for striking hot right when we needed to garden!

So tonight, a hot day. It’s World Cup night again, and we don’t want to swelter over a hot stove. What to have for dinner? Huevos rancheros!


Great hot night dinner!

Great hot night dinner!

Huevos Ranchero

free range eggs, fried
tomato salsa (homemade puree cooked with garlic, cumin, coriander, hot chillies, salt and pepper)
wheat tortillas
batch of refried beans (cooked pinto beans mashed and fried in olive oil with onion, garlic and chillies)
grated cheddar cheese

In half the tortilla, put a layer of hot refried beans, and fold over. Fry briefly in an ungreased frying pan, then top with the desired amount of salsa. Top with 1 or 2 fried eggs, then top with grated cheddar cheese.


Sir Frederick (bear) Theodore Smith of Casa Tyr wins our hearts

My regular readers will know how heartbroken we 3 at Casa Tyr have been, ever since our wonderful dog Fitz died just before Christmas. He had such a huge  heart and wonderful character; the strength and patience he showed when dealing with cancer and chemo was truly humbling.

We haven’t been the same since. Add to that the operation that Kenton had in March, from which recovery is slow. Then add to the mix my spider bite and subsequent infection – it’s not been a great 2014 so far, but it certainly has been memorable.

We had always planned on getting another puppy – we think that it’s better to have 2, to have like-minded company for them to run with, and to keep each other company when left in kennels.

It was such a hard decision to actually take, to get a puppy. Every time I looked online for one, it just made me sad. People with pets probably understand how we felt, but those who have never had pets probably won’t. It’s just the way it is.

Anyway, we finally did it. We found a family in a nearby town who had a litter of boxers, and of course, once we saw them, we had no choice. We really like home-bred dogs, they are much better socialised, and used to relating to people. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So home with us Freddie (aka Freddie Bear, Freddy Teddy) came. It’s taken us awhile to totally warm to him, but that didn’t surprise us. But finally, with his funny ways and big personality, he won our hearts.

Even Milo cuddles and plays with him now, and that was always going to be the hardest audience of them all! I think Fitz would approve.

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Totally fabulous pasta with garlic and prawns

One of few delightful things in our lives this year is that we have rediscovered pasta. When we were both busy IT people, we cooked pasta a couple of times a week – it’s quick to prepare, there are endlessly varied ways to serve it, and it’s delicious.

In the past months, we have also decided our favourite pasta of the ‘mo is tagliatelle. Easier to eat than spaghetti, it has body and is still pretty fun to eat.

My herbs are also finally coming good, and most of them are grown just outside the kitchen door, for convenience. In my kitchen herb garden, I have sage (2 kinds), chives, rosemary, bay, parsley and coriander. In the greenhouse, I have the more tender herbs – lemongrass, Thai basil, sweet basil. What a luxury it is to cook with fresh herbs!

Last night, we cooked an old favourite, pasta with olive oil and garlic. The prawns in Spain are superb (inexpensive, huge, and tasty), so we added those, too. Served with a salad prepared with makings fresh picked from the garden, it was truly a meal fit for a king.

This one is for you, Mom.

Pasta with garlic, olive oil and prawns pasta with prawns, garlic and olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 oz butter
2 oz Yunquera Gold olive oil
12 oz unshelled raw prawns
chilli flakes
chopped fresh coriander or parsley (I used coriander)

Shell the prawns, and rinse thoroughly.

Heat the olive oil, then add the garlic and cook until golden. Add the prawns and cook until pink. Add the butter and stir fry until it makes a light sauce (only a few minutes).

Top your pasta of choice with the mix; shake chilli flakes over the top, then sprinkle with coriander or parsley, and serve hot.

Delicious, and only took 15 minutes to cook!


Antibiotics – life savers that we can’t afford to lose

I meant to write this post about a week ago, but I was unable to type. Why you ask? Well, while weeding the asparagus bed, I had been (unbeknownst to me) been bitten by one of the tiny, dangerous spiders that I’d heard so much about.

It was a shocking occurrence, really. I had felt a little sharp pinch, but put it down to the spiky weeds we have in such great numbers, and quite frankly, though I’d heard of these spiders, in 11 years of working in our vegetable gardens, I’d never had a single problem.

Oh man, did I have a big problem now. One day, I was fine. The next morning, when I wake up, my finger was swollen and throbbing. I immediately suspected our new puppy Freddie and his little sharp puppy teeth – perhaps one of the small punctures from a bite had become infected.

Over the course of the day, my finger continued to swell. And turn red, then purple/black. My hand swelled up, as did the adjoining fingers. By evening, I had a high fever. Oh my, did I feel awful.

spider bite 2 spider bite 1









The following day, we went to the doctor. She was shocked by how bad my hand looked, and immediately prescribed 2000 mg of a special antibiotic especially for skin infections per day.

Is this dangerous, I asked her?

Well, if you hadn’t come in right, yes, it would be, she said. The infection would slowly travel up your arm, and you would be in the hospital with IV antibiotics.

Later, I found out from a friend that this exact same thing happened to her neighbour. He didn’t go in right away, and ended up in hospital. So this tiny spider is not to be taken lightly. Five days later, and the infection still isn’t all gone — but it is slowly improving.

I’ve thought since then how lucky I was that antibiotics were available to tackle this. It enrages me that we are at risk of cavalierly throwing away this precious discovery of Alexander Fleming’s. What if we no longer have effective antibiotics to tackle infections? What if surgery and childbirth become dangerous? What if we return to the ‘old days’ when hospitals were a place of last resort? What if you had a spider bite that became infected, and risked losing your hand, arm or life?

Why is this happening? We are quick to blame doctors who are too likely to prescribe antibiotics when they are not needed. We like to pick on patients who don’t complete the course, who flush the remainder down the toilet, who continually badger their doctor for prescriptions for (e.g.) a simple cold.

But the real (and often overlooked) problem lies in agribusiness. They use antibiotics in animal water and feed, to ensure the animals put on weight and stay healthy even in overcrowded, poor living conditions.  I’ve seen many articles commenting on this, but no government takes action.

According to the FDA, 80% of antibiotics used in the US are given to farm animals – that’s right, 80%. Since they were first used in animal feed/water in the late ’40s, the amount given to animals has risen by 50%, to compensate for often unsanitary, crowded living conditions. We are to blame – every year we eat more and more meat, and demand lower prices.

Aware of the growing problem, some countries (e.g. Denmark, Sweden, and so on) are reducing or eliminating this practice – but we need the ‘big guys’ like the US and China to follow suit. Less intensive farming of animals, and better nutrition would mean that antibiotics are no longer necessary.

Please educate yourself on this problem, and petition your government to change agricultural practices. And don’t badger your doctor for an antibiotic – let him/her decide.

Don’t think this crisis won’t affect you or your family – like me, you could easily find yourself on the wrong side of a very serious infection. And let me tell you, that is a scary feeling.




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