A highland fling

our wee adventure on the Black Isle

As the world turns…

I just noticed my last post was February, naughty me!

To be honest, I just haven’t had the heart for it. It seems to have been another one of those difficult times at Casa Tyr — is it just a getting older thing, and we can expect shitty circumstances from here on in? Or is it just another one of those things, a run of bad luck? My optimistic head says it’s the latter.

imageWe’ve had a bit of a bad run lately, for sure. Cancer still seems to be everywhere. A good friend has had his cancer return, and that felt like a punch to the gut. I feel strongly that we need to be there to help them through he difficult treatment times ahead, but here we are in Spain. A friend’s 39 year old wife recently died, leaving a husband and small daughter behind.

Our oldest dog, Milo, had a brain tumour which took him very quickly, after a couple weeks of mysterious symptoms. Our dogs are so much a part of the family that this is always hard, but Milo was something else. Smart as a whip, he joined us the year my mother and Kenton’s dad died — it truly felt like the only bright spot in a very black year. So he was special.

And yet. We have beautiful granddaughters to cherish and love. A friend’s son has a new baby. We have a new puppy for Freddie to play with. Our beloved nephew is coming to visit. Our summer garden is looking very well (gardening always makes me feel better). So bright spots that show, as Manuel always says, that everything, good and bad, is part of life.

The title of this blog? A reminder of my childhood days, when my mother would listen to her “soapies” as she cleaned. I particularly remember “As the world turns”, for its constant round of horrible events in its characters’ lives. I found it funny then, less funny when it happens to me and mine!



1 Comment

It’s tater time!

They’re here, sitting in my greenhouse, gently sprouting. But they know something up, because I go in there every day, to check on progress!

Their big day is coming up soon, the day they (along with lettuces, onions, garlic and most brassicas) are planted in the garden. But not yet, little fellows, first the ground must be prepared for you, so you will have a nice home for a few months.

potatoes 2014

last June’s harvest

Then, come June, it will be time for me to get really excited, as it will be time to dig the harvest, ready for winter!

Friends, if you like to grow vegetables, but think growing prosaic items such as potatoes just isn’t worth it, think again. Once you’ve tasted the depth of flavour in home-grown, you’ll never go back.


Another year, another Christmas

Isn’t it scary how fast time passes? I remember my mother saying

the older you get, the faster time goes

which, of course, I thought was absolutely mad!

It turns out (unsurprisingly) that she was right. Don’t you remember those childhood days, laying on the floor and staring up at your family Christmas tree, just aching to have those days until the Big Day pass more quickly? How slowly the days of school went, yet how quickly the summer holidays passed?

And now, time seems to go so quickly. The days, weeks and months whiz by. All of a sudden, I’m a year older, and it’s almost the end of 2015. Last year this time, I was pretty miserable, as I had 2 chemo sessions during the holidays – and wasn’t sure what state I’d be in come the next Christmas.

xmas 2015

Way-hey, it’s Christmas!

But here I am, ticking along, doing well. We have our friends’ goodie bags all ready to delivery this evening, and all the gifts are under the tree.

I feel so thankful to be here, to be healthy, and to have my darling husband and funny boxer dogs here to hug and cuddle me. I have a great daughter, a fantastic son-in-law and 2 perfect granddaughters to give me purpose. Hopefully in the future we’ll be spending every Christmas together, which is about as good as it gets.

Merry Christmas!

Changing times

It’s harvest time in Yunquera! The sound of tree shakers reverberates throughout the campo, and you see men setting the nets, or preparing a campo lunch, everywhere. As you drive by the cooperative, you see canastas full of olives, ready to be pressed. It’s a comforting sight – money in the pocket in time for Christmas (if you sell your olives), and your family’s olive oil barrel full of delicious golden oil for the coming year.

When we first moved here in 2003, the mills wouldn’t even be open yet. Why? Well, it was customary here to pick olives when they were all black, which sometimes would be as late as February. This made for olive oil that was golden yellow, and very smooth and soft tasting – the taste that was preferred in Yunquera.


Harvest 2015

We were thought odd, as we would pick the first half of our crop in mid-December, then the second half after the New Year. We preferred an oil that was fresher and slightly greener in taste, so picked when our olives were half green/half black.

This year we have noticed a huge change. Our olives are picked and pressed already – the entire crop picked in November, the earliest ever! I’ve seen loads of farmers doing the same, and the canastas at the mill are full of (mostly green) olives.

Why the change, we wonder? Is the price for olives better this year, so farmers are picking early to get the best price? Is it that farmers here have finally recognised that those buying their oil now prefer a ‘grassier’, greener oil? Is it that local tastes have changed in line with this global preference?

I don’t know, but to me, it shows that even in a remote village like Yunquera tastes and customs regularly change !


Ah…Italy…food of the gods!

We love the food in Spain. Not only are Spaniards passionate about their ingredients, they aren’t afraid to eat, and they eat well, even the women. (It really bothers me that many women these days seem to exist on a lettuce leaf a day!!)

But Italy…oh Italy, I do love your food. The pasta, the bread, the antipasti. I’d happily weigh a ton if I lived within your stellar borders!

We used to travel to Italy quite frequently, when we were ‘in the life’, to re-charge our batteries and generally relax and unwind. Now we’re not ‘in the life’, we actually live, so the re-charging, relaxing and unwinding isn’t so necessary anymore.

After a year of cancer treatment, and very little to celebrate, we decided to take this opportunity to go for a long, ‘foodie’ -weekend. Not to Tuscany, our usual hangout. Not to Rome, which we had visited before. But to Emilia-Romagna, specifically, a town outside Bologna, called San Giovanni in Persiceto.

We chose this area for two reasons. The first, and most important, we could fly there directly from Malaga airport. OK, it was via Ryanair, but hey, a cheap flight is a cheap flight, right?! The second reason? Ah, it was the food. In a country where food is so important, where we have never had a bad meal, ever, Emilia-Romagna is known even by Italians as having the best food. tortellini

So off we toddled, for a long weekend. We walked. We people-watched. Kenton bought me an outfit to show off my much-lighter figure. We wandered Bologna and did a bit of light sight-seeing.

But most of all, we ate. We had the most divine salumi, the best prosciutto, fabulous cheese, fantastic local specialities. We bought food to bring home. We bought biscuits to give to friends. We had accidentally picked a town that is well known for its food, with over 60 restaurants that were always packed – and without a single foreigner in any of them other than us!

Folks, this was true heaven. We are already planning our trip back!

steak with rucola cotoletta


Summer garden time!

It’s the time of year when our little minds turn into vegetables. No, that’s not right! Our minds don’t turn into vegetables, they turn to vegetables! Argh! What am I trying to say?

That’s right. What I actually mean is, it’s planting time! We planted our potatoes, onions, garlic and lettuce about a month ago. They are going great guns, as are the weeds that threaten to take over the world! A day of weeding is in our very near future, not my favourite thing!


Looking forward to summer harvests!

Last week, we planted our squash (three varieties), tomatoes (four varieties), cucumbers, peppers (three varieties), aubergines and melons (two varieties). Soon to come is the planting of sweet corn and okra – should have been done already, but between trips to the hospital (chemo, other tests) and the dentist, I feel we are doing very well to get as much done as we have.

It’s very hard this year to motivate myself to do the work (Kenton feels the same, I’m sure), but it’s such a key part of our life here that I can’t imagine not having a big garden, no matter how exhausted I feel all the time! Come July, when we are picking our first tomatoes, I know it will have been worth the effort.

I think it’s going to be a hard growing year. We have had loads of misty evenings, which wreak havoc on the potatoes and tomatoes, as well as anything other vegetable or fruit that suffers from mildew or blight. It is sometimes hard to stick to our ‘no toxic sprays’ mantra, but at least that means we are always able to pick a tomato straight from the vine and eat it! Not all our neighbours can say that!


Cancer doesn’t define me

It occurred to me that perhaps I’ve been paying too much attention to my ‘cancer blog’, and not enough to our everyday life blog. It’s easy to do, as treatment seems to subsume our lives until there seems to be little left for REAL life!

Treatment, worrying about treatment, worrying about infections and other side effects, staying indoors and away from society – no wonder it feels like our world has compressed.

But cancer doesn’t define my life. I had decided on diagnosis that it wouldn’t, and I try to keep to that decision. True, I think about it too much, and I certainly worry about it too much. But now that I am halfway through chemo, I am trying to think beyond cancer to…well, life!

For example, I weeded the asparagus bed the other day. That is a really trivial task, but it’s the first time I felt able to use my right arm for something physical since I had surgery. I’m now looking ahead to planting seeds in the greenhouse, and getting our summer garden ready to go.

Matilda and Ella

Matilda and Ella

We have started to tidy around the outside of the house. Everything grows so fast here, that it feels like the weeds have taken over the Lujos and herb gardens! So getting that under control again will be great.

We are having friends to brunch tomorrow – the first time we’ve had company since last summer. It’s a normal thing to do, and I want….no, I need…to feel normal.

I’m thinking ahead already to visits from family this summer. We have a brand-new granddaughter that we haven’t met yet, and I’m definitely starting to get excited about seeing her. We haven’t seen our Matilda, either, or Peggy and Dan, since last June, and we are getting excited about that, too.

It’s nice to be thinking about something else for a change.