A highland fling

our wee adventure on the Black Isle

Total busy-ness

That’s right, you spelling and grammar pedants, I said “busy-ness” and meant it. After all, if I meant to write “business”, I would have done so, right? You betcha.

Kenton and I thought that last year was really, really busy, but in comparison to this year, it was a walk in the park! 2013 is shaping up to be our busiest year ever, and it’s only February! So what do we have to do, you wonder?

We have the farm, first and foremost. 22 acres of olive trees, forest and garden to take care of. OK, the forest takes care of itself, but we still have to strim the path and check for fallen trees, etc.

The olive trees need a haircut this year, which involves hiring specialists to properly prune the trees. We follow along after them to cut off the small branches (which we burn) and log the bigger branches for firewood for the winter. Nothing is wasted! It’s a lot of work though, and not made easier by the fact that our two 40+ kilo boxers like to play tug of war with one end of the branches when we are trying to drag them to the pile!

The chestnut trees also need a prune, which we do ourselves. This involves Kenton climbing the tree with the chain saw to cut the big branches, which we then log for firewood. Precarious, and hard work!

Then comes the veggie garden. Soon, we’ll be planting our cauli, cabbage and broccoli. And our potatoes, onions and garlic. Add to that weeding of same. Add to that planting summer veg seeds in the greenhouse, for planting out in May. Ditto on the weeding.

We also have some house projects planned. We are installing central heating (=grandchild visit), which means building a boiler house, installing piping and radiators, and so on. We also want to tidy the outside and the herb garden, and build a couple of walls to tidy the pool area. We want to put stone on the wall of the stairwell, and of course, there is the usual painting to do.

Of course, then we also have Lujos – marketing, PR, making and posting orders, developing new products. Kenton is also planning on expanding the Lujos agent network this year, which means spec-ing the role and interviewing candidates.

Add to that group visits from a chef from the Culinary Institute of America (to talk about pork, wine and olive oil), a ladies group from Trabuco (Lujos), 4 Dutch groups (olive oil and Lujos), and whoever else is interested. Each group has a tour of the land, homemade snacks, and usually a soap or cream-making demonstration. They are a lot of fun, but also hard work!

This year I am also helping the great guys at Simple Click while one of the team is on maternity leave. That means working from home, taking calls, answering emails, testing software, and managing development projects.

Kenton has his numerous photography projects, as well as a top-secret idea he is developing for a Very Important Person in the UK. Watch this space!

Last, but certainly not least, we have numerous visits to England to see our new granddaughter Matilda, and (of course) our daughter Peggy and her husband Dan. They welcome us into their home, and we repay them by cooking them loads of super meals.


Getting to know Miss Matilda

Kenton and I feel it’s so crucial during this first year of Matilda’s life for us to become fast friends, and so far this policy is working very well. Kenton and I play with her, cuddle her, smile at her, talk to her, read her books, feed her, and anything else we can think of! She’s a real little charmer.

So yes, it is looking like a busy year. I get the feeling we should have started working on some of these projects yesterday! I am already planning my nervous breakdown.


Lujos gears up for Christmas

I know, I know! Sometimes you feel that from October onward, Christmas is shoved down your throat, and here I am, comin’ at you with Christmas talk!

Well, I love Christmas, so I can’t help it. It’s a time of year to think of friends and family, not yourself. It’s a time to give gifts, ranging from that special little something to a warming gift of home-made goodies.

We do both here at Casa Tyr. Despite the fact that it’s also our olive harvest time, we take a day and make home-made sweeties for all our friends. It’s usually a combination of recipes that doesn’t take too long to make, as it’s just the two of us to make them, and we only have a day to do it! So off we go, making truffles, peanut brittle, ginger cake and fudge. Then we wrap up a jar of something made from our summer harvest, and a bottle of Yunquera Gold olive oil. Top off with a bottle of cava and it’s a special gift!

Christmas Eve arrives, and these 2 little Santas rush off to deliver the bags of goodies. Our English friends are delighted, our Spanish friends bemused. But it’s mostly for us that we do this, as it makes us feel so good!

Lujos Top to Toe sampler

“Top to Toe” sampler for ladies (photo by kenton@imagenary.co.uk)

Lujos is busy at Christmas, too. Many people like to give something a little bit different at Christmas, and with our handmade, fresh and natural products, it’s easy to find something to please everyone. We always include a little pot of something in our friends’ bags, too – a nice-smelling body cream for the ladies, and something manly for the guys.

Why not take a look at the Lujos site, and pick out something for your own loved ones? They’ll love you for it.


American visitors

It’s our privilege at Lujos to be in regular contact with almost all our customers. This is one of the reasons we will try to keep Lujos personal, and approachable – it’s the way we like to do business!

Through Lujos, we have made many new friends. And some of our friends and customers even come to see us! For example, we have a few groups of Dutch enthusiasts who come to see us a couple of times a year. They love to tour the land, look for wild flowers, and enjoy a bit of conversation with us. They are wonderful supporters of Lujos and natural products in general – the Dutch really “get it” when it comes to natural products!

Yesterday, we had visitors from my corner of the world. (one even attended university in North Dakota!) One of our customers lives in a town near the coast, and asked if she could come visit the farm one day. “Of course,” we said, “we love visitors!”

Our customer’s husband works in Kurdistan, and was here for his regular leave, so he came with the group. And incredibly, two of their friends from the US were also keen to visit! They had taken a cruise across the Atlantic, then flown to Spain for a few days. And one of those days, they visited our very own Casa Tyr.

We took them on our usual tour of the land. They were interested in absolutely everything– the olive trees, the garden, the forest, the wild flowers and herbs, the house. They wanted to talk about the Spanish economy, what we thought of living here, making soap, how we decided to start Lujos. The time flew by!

It’s great for us to occasionally see Casa Tyr through others’ eyes – it gives us a new appreciation for the beauty around us. Our visitors’ unbridled enthusiasm also renewed our own passion for what we are trying to do here. And they confirmed for us that we are spot on in our efforts to convert people to a more natural life.


Wildflower at Casa Tyr (photo by Kenton@imagenary.co.uk)

And you know what? They were very much like us, and thought like us. Americans are sometimes ridiculed for their often insular attitude towards the rest of the world. But these new friends confirmed what I had long thought. Every country in the world has those who are insular in their attitudes, that care nothing of the rest of the world. But those who travel, and see how others live, and who engage with those around them, soon come to realize that we are all pretty much the same, with the same hopes and desires. It helps to make the world a less scary place.


Too busy for words!

I mean it. Literally!

I have felt really guilty for not blogging for 3 weeks. That’s just not like me, but I have been sooooo busy that to take an extra hour to think about ‘stuff’ and then write (properly) about it took too much effort. Even for me, a committed blogger!

So what have we retired folk been up to, you might ask? Good question, and it makes me think.

First, loadsa Lujos! Since my last posting, I have tested and launched our new Lujos website, and added loads more content, including writing requirements for, and adding data to, a new skin assessment service. But the site does look pretty spectacular now!

I have written a newsletter and launched a social media campaign. Then, of course, there is the weekly Lujos order to put together, which includes ‘cooking’, packaging, labeling, boxing, invoicing and posting.

I have written articles for a client, researched ingredients in commercial products for another client, held meetings for product development.

Then there’s work on construction, cutting firewood, watering the garden, taking the dogs for vaccinations, trips to the coast.

Add to that filming and editing footage for a local fiesta, and doing the chores here while Kenton is busy with a town project.

Oh, and another thing – my computer went seriously haywire, and I spent almost a week trying to sort that out. And the story continues.

So yes. Too busy. No words, and even less energy! Let’s hope the blogging lady is back now….

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Excitement warning!

I was talking to a friend of mine this week, and we agreed that we believe 2012 will be a fantastic year. I know, I know – world economic crisis, wars, terrorist alerts, high prices. And locally, no rain, high unemployment, abandoned houses.

But hey. You gotta look on the bright side of life, right? Otherwise what’s the point?!

So I’m excited. Right now, I’m very excited about our soon-to-be-released new Lujos website. Designed by a great little company called SimpleClick in the UK, it should hopefully be released to the waiting world next week.

Why is it so exciting? Well, for one thing, it has a terrific new look and feel. Although our current website is pretty and functional, its look is now rather dated. But the new site will reflect our company ideals in all ways – a fresh look, loads of information and advice, and transparency in what’s in our products. In short, all the things our customers have been asking us for!

Why else is it exciting? Using the wonders of Google Translate, you can read the information in any language you please! OK, so the translations aren’t perfect, but even our Spanish tester was only able to come up with a few idiosyncrasies in the grammar. I’ve been very impressed with Google Translate – it allows small companies such as ours, with rapidly changing content, to offer translated pages without the huge expensive of hiring translators. Wow.

And another thing. We gave the great SimpleClick developers a spec for an online assessment, so that customers could answer a few simple questions, then be given recommendations for suitable Lujos products. Sort of like a “skin prescription”, in fact. And voila, they came up with a great looking form – all I had to do is figure out what to recommend, to whom! (ok, that part wasn’t as easy as it sounds!)

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been busy creating articles and finding great research on some of the bad ingredients to watch out for. Hopefully, this will help our customers decide what is (and is not) safe to use on their skin and in their homes.

So yes, I’m excited, and now maybe you are too! Watch this space for the Big Launch of Lujos!


Olive picking, part 2

Well, we’ve had a lovely week’s rest, and the sore muscles have almost returned to their normal (?!) state of slack, so obviously it’s time to get back to work!

We eased into work gently yesterday by cleaning house and making Lujos. For some reason, most of the orders involved products for the hands, so I guess there are some people with very dry hands out there! Our hand balm and hand cream will restore those claws back to dewy softness in no time, I’m sure.

And today? Another of our typically varied days! This morning, Kenton took a trip into town to post our orders, buy bread and do the shopping. He is also talking to our very nice tourist information lady about ‘stuff’ for the town’s tourism plans. The lady has boundless enthusiasm, so hopefully her plans will pay off in a busy summer for the town. She enjoys talking to us as ‘outsiders’, to get our perspective on her ideas for increasing tourism in the area.

While Kenton is wheeling and dealing (and shopping), I’m home blogging, doing laundry and cooking. We’re continuing with this week’s theme of “spicy food detox”! The last 2 nights, we’ve cooked from our new cookbook by Rick Stein, which is full of gorgeous recipes from the far east. (a gift from good friends in the village) Tonight, we are switching to Indian food. So all in all, a good week to be working hard outdoors! 🙂

This afternoon we will re-commence with the olive picking. The olives are so good this year that we just can’t let them go to waste. And selling them is pretty pointless, as the price is only 25 cents/kilo. (I don’t think many people are selling olives this year, they are either pressing the oil for sale, or are letting the olives go to waste)

So by tonight, once again our muscles will be sore, and we will have the ‘good tired’ of an honest day’s work harvesting the fruit of our labor.

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Christmas comes early here at Casa Tyr

I know how tired everyone gets of Christmas by the time December 25th rolls around. We’re constantly bombarded by images of gifts, and blackmailed into gift-buying, under the guise of showing family and friends how much we love them.

That’s one nice thing about living in a small village in Spain – decorations and posters don’t go up until early December, by which time you are really ready to get into the Christmas spirit! I didn’t find this to be the case in the US or UK – where from 1 October (or earlier) the shops are stocking Christmas gifts. I truly hated that.

So you might wonder why I’m talking about Christmas already!

There is a good reason, actually. Although all our Lujos skincare products are made fresh, and to order, our soap has to be made ahead. It takes time to cure and mature, rather like a good wine!

So for the past few weeks, Kenton and I have been busy little elves, making Christmas soap for pre-orders, and also for those who want to order the odd bar or two. Our Lujos lab has been a hive of activity, and now the curing shelves are full of gorgeous smelling Christmas soap!

So now we can relax and stop thinking about Christmas for a month – and get back to the usual farming chores of planting veg, pruning olive trees and picking the olive harvest!

“A change is as good as a rest”, as Kenton’s gran used to say…