Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My year in Facebook status updates 2009


In my last post I published my year in photos thanks to a Facebook application. Now I have just done my year in Facebook status updates and I think it's so great I want to post it here on my blog.

Hope you like it.

Cheers midweek / Masha

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas comes but once a year, Spanish and English traditions, 2009 in pictures and Happy New Year to you all.

Some of my photos of 2009 in a picture collage. I hope 2010 is just as good.
Hello again

Today is Sunday 27th December and the most important days of Christmas are now over. Christmas comes but once a year as the title of this week’s blog says and for me it is always magical and much awaited. And every year I write about it in my blog as you can see here. As ever they were great as a lot of thought and preparations were put in to make them so. But let me tell you first about the run up to Christmas and then how we spent it here at home with the family, somewhat extended this year with the visit of Eladio’s Mother.

Last week on Monday we woke up to quite a big snowfall. It was actually big enough to make us snowbound until mid afternoon, mostly because our drive is so steep. Our plans therefore for Christmas shopping with the “abuelos” (grandparents in Spanish) had to be put off until Wednesday. Being snowbound has its advantages so I spent the morning cooking perushki which are Russian meat pies. Norah of course thoroughly enjoyed the snow which she had never experienced before. You can see a full set of pictures here.
The snow that had us housebound on Monday.

On Tuesday, with the snow mostly gone, I went into work for a meeting and also to receive a friend, Marta Acebo, from our Nokia days who wanted to pick my brains about PR. It was lovely to see her and I hope my input was useful.

Tuesday was also the Spanish Christmas lottery draw known as “El Gordo”. It is one of the biggest Christmas traditions here in Spain and unites people across the country. When I first came to live in Spain I couldn’t understand why people spent money on it and I was cross with Eladio for buying tickets when we earned so little. Now I couldn’t perceive Christmas without buying a ticket or two. However once again we didn’t win a cent.
The El Gordo Christmas lottery, a truly Spanish tradition.
I didn’t win the lottery but I did contribute to my boss winning a poll for the telecoms executive of the year in a publication called El Economista. I spent at least 10 days canvassing for votes and had people working specially on it, including Juan my nephew. We won hands down with more than 11.000 votes. It was an interesting exercise for me which I actually thoroughly enjoyed. You can see the full results of the poll here.

Not only was I canvassing last week, I was also putting the final touches to the last of the many Yoigo Christmas activities, the last being the making and sending of a Christmas gift to our external contacts and partners. This year we made chocolate in the shape of “muñecos” which are a sort of cartoon dolls that we use in advertising. To judge by the comments in emails I got, people loved them. I have one but want to keep it as a sample and just cannot bear the idea of digging my teeth into the lovely chocolate creation. And this is what it looks like:
The Yoigo gift of chocolate we made in the shape of the "muñecos" (cartoon dolls)
On Wednesday I did a good Christmas deed, together with my friend Fatima, when we visited our friend Julio who is convalescing at his parents’ house after having been in hospital because of a duodenal ulcer. I mentioned in my blog last week that today, 27th December, we would be having our annual Christmas dinner at his house. Due to his illness, that has now been postponed until January. We took him some chocolate and a poinsettia plant, so typical in Spain at Christmas. I think we must have cheered him up and hopefully he is now well on the road to recovery.

Wednesday was also the day we took the “abuelos” out for a family lunch (yes all 6 of us). We meant to go to my Father’s favourite, Vips, but it was full and instead we went to Ginos. My Father later told me that Christmas started for him on that day. I’m glad. In the afternoon we all went to El Corte Inglés (Spain’s top department store) to do more Christmas shopping and as an excursion for the abuelos. I think though in the end we tired them out but I know for one my Father enjoyed it immensely. Most of my own Christmas shopping was done with Suzy on odd afternoons in the last 2 weeks and finally our Christmas tree looked like this.
The Christmas tree with all the presents ready for Christmas Day, another truly British tradition.
And on 24th December, Christmas arrived in what is known here as “Nochebuena” (Christmas Eve)here in Spain. Everything was ready including the fillers for the girls’ stockings my Mother had knitted for them when they were children. It is a tradition from my own childhood. The girls put out the stockings and I fill them with all sorts of little wrapped up enticing objects and put them back outside their rooms. Even though they are now in their 20’s the girls insist I carry on the tradition every Christmas. Here you can see the empty stockings hanging on the tall boy outside their rooms waiting to be filled on Christmas Eve.
The girls' stockings, a truly British Christmas tradition and one we love.
Nochebuena is as important in Spain (and many other countries in Europe) as Christmas Day in England and is celebrated with a special dinner with tables groaning with the finest delicacies. In our house we have the best of both worlds and celebrate Christmas with both Spanish and English traditions. Here you can see our Christmas Eve or Nochebuena table for which I had been cooking for 2 whole days.
The family dinner on Christmas Eve, a truly Spanish tradition called Nochebuena.
The next day, Christmas day, evolved as it always has for me and the children and had as much magic as it always has. The highlights are of course the present opening ceremony after breakfast and the midday traditional English Christmas lunch with all the trimmings including crackers. I, at least, was delighted with my presents: charms for my Pandora bracelet, black leather long gloves, pretty ear warmers and wonderful perfumes. Even Norah got a present this year as you can see in this picture.
Norah opening her present - bone and dog biscuits which were very much appreciated, hahaha.
Eladio and I just before we opened the presents on Christmas Day. Eladio is wearing a bow tie which accidentally matched my blouse. He looks great with it on.
The other Christmas photos can be viewed here.

The rest of the time, including Boxing Day was spent lazing around, eating too much plus an enormous amount of chocolate and also watching films we had hired. As I had chosen them I ended up watching them more or less on my own. So what did I hire? Well, Good, Amazing Grace and Miss Austen Regrets, all rather historical and academic but just up my street. Last night though we changed the genre and decided to watch one of the Indian “Elements Trilogy” by the Indian director Deepa Metah called Earth which is about the religious strife associated with the formation of Pakistan when the English finally granted India their home rule and independence. We had previously watched Water, an amazing story of the mistreatment of widows in rural India and may well watch Fire tonight, the last of the trilogy, all very recommendable, especially if you are fascinated by India like we are.

Christmas comes but once a year as I wrote above, but it hasn’t gone yet. For me it doesn’t go until 6th January, Epiphany and also the very much celebrated “Reyes” or Kings’ day when most Spaniards give their presents. My nephew Mario, the son of Pili and Andrés who were with us last weekend, got his Kings’ present early this year, in the shape of a wonderful little Dalmation puppy called Trebol. It’s absolutely adorable as I’m sure you agree when you see this photo.
Trebol, the dalmation puppy Mario got for Christmas.
And it is with Pili and Andrés and the rest of Eladio’s family with whom we will be celebrating New Year’s Eve next week in León. We will in fact be staying at Pili’s (Eladio’s sister) and will be meeting Trebol of course.

And talking about next year, I did 2 great collages of my year in photos thanks to an application in Facebook as you can see here and in the photo illustrating this post.
Another collage of my photos in 2009. Great little application from Facebook.
And on that note I leave you and hope you will all enjoy the rest of Christmas and of course New Year’s Eve. I also wish you all a great 2010. 2009 has been fantastic for us and so I hope 2010 will be another good year. We already have nice trips to look forward to: Brussels for a reunion with Adele and Sandie in February and a week in New York in March. Isn’t life great?

Happy New Year to you all


Sunday, December 20, 2009

So cold, more parties, a real reindeer, back to El-Aaiún, Pili, Andrés and the “abuela came” sad news and a Happy Christmas from Yoigo and from me.

Suzy and I posing with the real reindeer at the Yoigo children's Christmas party last week.
Hi again,

Here I am at my desk again writing this week’s blog entry and it’s Sunday 20th December, just 4 days to Christmas. If you are English you would say there were 5 days, but the Spaniards (and most of Europe) celebrate Christmas Eve, the 24th, so there are only 4 days to go. You can tell too that Christmas is on its merry way (to quote Becky Leonard) by all the snow that has fallen recently (well just a sprinkling in Madrid) and by the extreme cold. I do not remember it being so cold in a long time. Believe it or not we saw -8ºc on our way home last night. And there is talk of temperatures below 20ºc in some parts of Spain. Today in fact it is colder in Madrid than in Helsinki (-5ºc). It makes you wonder what the world is coming to; quite bizarre. Funnily this coincides with the celebration this week of the world climate summit in Copenhagen. I have only read the headlines but it seems it has been a disappointment in many ways.

This week has been another week of parties and pre Christmas celebrations. Right now as I write, thankfully, all my professional Christmas commitments are over and I can finally concentrate on our own. But let me tell you about them first.

On Wednesday I went to the Ketchum (my PR Agency) 20th anniversary cum Christmas party held at Moma (a well known discotheque in Madrid where I for one have organised quite a few events). There were many people there and the night seemed promising. However the 2 most common blunders took place, rather strange coming from a PR agency, which were a severe lack of food and far too long speeches from people I at least did not know very well. Also, nothing else of any great interest happened except for an eternal video of people known to the agency (including me) sending their congratulations. So when it was a decent time to leave I made my exit and rushed home in time to be with Eladio before going to bed.

Much more fun was the Yoigo children’s party on Thursday which was a blast. There were 90 children plus their parents and they all had to fit in the office reception area and cafeteria. The star of the show was a real reindeer with a false Father Christmas in a false sleigh where the kids and their parents could have their photo taken. It caused an absolute sensation. Everyone asked me where we had found it. The answer is quite simple, from a company that has animals for adverts and television. All sorts of other activities and games took place such as pass the parcel, t-shirt and biscuit workshops, a soap bubble show etc and all the kids got given a passport with the activities to be stamped. Suzy was with me helping as was her friend Copi who we hired to paint the kids faces. They had a great time and of course when they left there were presents and a bag of sweets to take home too. You can see more photos here.
Suzy helping at the Yoigo Children's Christmas party. Great picture.
No sooner had the Yoigo children’s party finished I was off to yet another party, this time to the ex Motorola Christmas dinner at Clérico (an Argentinian joint) in Las Rozas. If you are not familiar with my time with Motorola (the company I worked for from 1990 to 1999) you can read about it here. Suffice it to say my time there forged great friendships with a unique set of people who get together every now and again to catch up on our news but mainly to reminisce about the good old Motorola days and Thursday evening was no exception. Thanks Vicky and Nuria for organising it.
Me at the Motorola dinner flanked on my left by Nuria Caballero and Carlos Grima and by Ruben Tabarnero on my right.
The same night of the Motorola party, the Saharawi activist, Aminatou Haidar, was flying back to her home town, El-Aaiún, a city in the western Sahara, founded by the Spanish in 1928 but managed by Morocco since 1976. The Polisario group seek the independence of the area which the Moroccan government simply consider another province. Aminatou Haidar, as I wrote last week had caused a huge political problem to the Spanish government. She was entering Morocco from Spain 2 or 3 weeks ago and apparently changed her nationality from Moroccan to Saharawi in her passport. Thus she was not allowed entry and was returned to Spain. Since then she set up siege and went on a hunger strike in the airport of Lanzerote in the Canary Islands. She was offered Spanish nationality but refused and the situation fast became stale mate. And very suddenly last week, after intervention from the European Union, she was finally allowed by the Moroccan government to return to El-Aaiún.
Aminatou returned home last week and I'm sure the Spanish government is very happy it's all over. I am too.
And soon the weekend was here and brought with it the visit of Eladio’s mother who has come to stay for Christmas. Pili (Eladio’s sister) and her husband Andrés (a great fan of this blog, thank you Andrew) brought her which made for a great weekend all together.
Pili and Andrés at breakfast this morning.
The highlight was a visit to Madrid on Saturday night to the Plaza Mayor, via a very busy Puerta del Sol, and the Mercado San Miguel. Eladio and I got some more tree lights at the former and some much needed and hard to find cranberry sauce from the market. It was cold but we enjoyed walking the very populated streets. Of course there was time for some tapas in the old town, as you can see in this photo of the four of us in “el Mesón del Boquerón” which unfortunately does not have a website.

From there we dared to walk all the way to Génova, to the Bice restaurant, right next door to the Partido Popular’s headquarters (Spain’s right wing party) and one of my favourites in Madrid.
The entrance to the very stylish Bice restaurant (Italian) in Madrid.
There we were to be joined for dinner by José Antonio and Dolores who unfortunately couldn’t make as they were meeting Miguel at the airport and his plane was late. You can see all the photos of the weekend here on Facebook.

And this brings me to the sad part of this week’s entry. This blog is usually full of positive content but of course life has its ups and downs and sometimes, whether I like it or not, I have to record them too.

On Monday I heard that my dearest friend Julio had been taken into hospital with a duodenal hemorrhage. He was, of course, later diagnosed with a duodenal ulcer which may well have been caused by stress. Thankfully he is now out of hospital and on the 27th December we will be going to what is now a traditional Christmas dinner at his house and one of the highlights of the season.

The next negative piece of news is that Dolores will be operated on tomorrow. She has some cysts which are not dangerous but growing. Hopefully she will be out the next day and ok in time for Christmas with her family. I wish her the very best from these pages.

The sad news, though, refers to our friends Roberto and MariCarmen. Last night we got a message to say that Roberto’s nephew, the only son of his sister had died suddenly playing basket ball in Vitoria where they live in the north of Spain. He was only 27 and the other went to the doctor to complain about a pain in this chest. It was dismissed as a muscular pain and he was told to continue life as normal which he did. Then the other day at the end of a basket ball match he began to feel faint, collapsed and died just as the ambulance arrived. My heart goes out to his family but especially to his Mother and Father. This is a terrible story which we cannot imagine every happening to us.

As I don’t want to end on a sad note, I thought you might like to see and do the Happy Christmas quiz from Yoigo, the company I work for, which I have worked on with my events agency. It is also, of course an e-card to wish our customers and friends a very Happy Christmas. You can enjoy it and try it out here.

I also wish you all a great Christmas. We are nearly all ready here at home, as you can see from the photo of this year’s tree (look out for dear Phoebe too in the photo, hahaha).

And that’s it for this week. When I write next week Christmas day will already be over, but this time next week will also be Sunday 27th which is the date for the much awaited dinner at Julio’s, something to look forward to. Until then,


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Well into December, happy with myself, Aminatou Haidar, a political problem, a good deed, new toys before Christmas and more.

Aminatou haidar, the human rights defender and political activist on a hunger strike in a Spanish airport in the Canary Islands, a big headache for Spanish international politics and the main news in Spain these days.
Hi again

Today is Sunday again and we are now well into December. While I’m writing Eladio and my Father are practising that wonderful Spanish sport, the siesta and the girls are away in Navacerrada, a small town in the mountains outside Madrid, for a girly weekend.
Navacerrada in the mountains outside Madrid.
It’s cold outside but sunny and soon we will be going on our walk and then our friends, Roberto and Mari Carmen will be coming for a cup of tea. The lounge is nearly ready for Christmas but I am leaving the lights and decorations for when the girls come back to do it together and maintain the tradition. Of course when we do we will have the King’s College Choir singing carols in the background. I mean, what is Christmas without carols?

Today is my down day. If you read my blog last week you will know I am doing the Up and Down diet where you fast one day on 500 calories and eat up to 2.500 the next day. It may seem like the latest fad diet but for me, for the moment, it is working and I have now done it for nearly 2 weeks. All in all I have now lost 10 kilos since I started in September. I feel so much happier with myself and this time I am very motivated.

The diet doesn’t stop me going out for meals, but only on the “up days”. So last Sunday we went out with Roberto and Mari Carmen to Las tres nueces in Boadilla and yesterday Eladio and I enjoyed dinner out at La Vaca Argentina in Las Rozas, one of our favourites. We hadn’t been for a while and it was nice to see the staff recognise us and welcome us back.

Who certainly won’t be going out for meals is a lady, who, at least in Spain and in Morocco, is now even more famous than she was before. I refer to Aminatou Haidar, human rights defender and political activitist also known as the “Sahrawi Gandhi”. She is on a hunger strike at a Spanish airport in the Canary Islands after being expelled over her refusal to accept Moroccan nationality. Right now she is one of the Spanish Foreign Ministry’s main problems and the hottest topic in Spanish and, of course, Moroccan politics. She is now into the 26th day of her hunger strike.

If I am reporting on the week, I should really start from where I left off, last Sunday. Last week was a bank holiday and we were together quite a lot as a family with a nice family lunch on Tuesday. That day too I did a good deed and accepted being interviewed by two unknown students studying journalism who contacted me via Facebook. They were doing a project on communication in Yoigo so were very eager to contact me. As they didn’t have much time, I agreed to meet them on Tuesday which was a holiday. Eva and Alvaro, very sweet kids, were obviously very nervous but asked all the right questions. Later I sent them more information and am now looking forward to seeing their finished work for which they will hopefully get a good mark.

The week went pretty fast after the bank holiday. Of note this week I went to the hairdresser and accentuated the new cut (short at the back and longer at the front) a bit more. On Thursday I attended the second round of a pretty mundane and very uninspiring coaching course for too many people. We are about 23 people and get shut in a room without windows for 5 hours which for me is impossible. The course leaders, nice people but lacking in charisma want to make a team out of us but the group is too big and the idea doesn’t seem to grab any of us, especially because we do not work together on a regular basis. I am not looking forward to the next sessions. Thankfully they are on a monthly basis.

This week was also the week we held our employee Christmas party organised by “the one and only” of course. Thankfully everything went well, no hitches, no complaints and a lot of fun. Big thanks go to my friend Pedro Delgado, the famous Spanish sportsman and ex cyclist, who was my MC and did a brilliant job. He is so special and I love him dearly as do most people in Spain.
Pedro Delgado when he won the Tour of France in 1988. He is a legend in Spain and a much loved personality even today.
Friday was difficult as the office party left me with a small migraine. I hardly drank but being up late was enough to start it off. I had a date with Juana, a friend, for a coffee and some advice on marketing communications as she has an interview tomorrow. Hope she gets the job. She certainly deserves it.

And although it is not Christmas yet I have already received some gifts including some lovely new toys. Yoigo gave all the employees a fantastic ham but also an LG notebook pc which is such fun. It’s white, extremely light and comes fully equipped. I also got a new Nokia phone, the N97 as mine was on its last legs. So this weekend I have been busy playing with both devices, synchronising contacts, installing programmes such as Spotify (how I love that) and generally getting them ready for use. I am not techy but do love new IT equipment.
My lovely new notebook PC which will be great for travelling
And now my husband has woken up from his siesta and it’s time for our walk. So on that note I will leave you until next week.

Goodbye till then

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Parties, getting into the Christmas spirit, the up and down diet, and Spain won the Davis Cup.

The 5 of us, Grandpa, Suzy, Oli, Eladio and I wish you a Happy Christmas.
Hi again

This time last week we were in La Rioja for the family weekend which was great. We are now, of course, drinking lots of the Márques de Riscal wine we brought back. It was a nice family trip and we even had snow on the way back as you can see in this picture Suzy took from the car somewhere between Logroño and Burgos.
We hit serious snow on our way back from La Rioja last week.
And now it’s the Constitution and Immaculate Conception bank holiday but this weekend we will not be going away. Before I continue, just a few words of congratulations to my Finnish friends as today is their Independence Day.

The week was short as we came back on Monday but as busy as most of December is always for me with all the Christmas events I have to organise for work and of course for home. On 1st December we also celebrated Yoigo’s 3rd anniversary with a staff party with cake and champagne to boost people’s morale and get them into the party mood. You can see some of the photos here.
The cake we had for Yoigo's 3rd birthday, it was wonderful.
This week too I went to a party not actually organised by me (!!!!!!!). Huawei (the very much up and coming Chinese telecommunications company and not “hu aa thei?” as someone from Nokia commented on my Facebook the other day) invited all of Yoigo to an evening out on Thursday at Lolita’s Lounge in Madrid. More and more I am realising that I prefer to stay at home in the evenings and don’t really enjoy places with lots of people. I far prefer small dinner parties with people I care about.

And next week will be the Yoigo employee party which I am, of course organising. It’ll take place at Ouimad and will be for about 180 people as it’s with partners. So on Friday I went with the girls from my events agency down to Madrid to the Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor to scout for fun stuff for the party. We also visited the newly restored Mercado de San Miguel which is the latest and most in place in Madrid to buy gourmet food and have tapas. It lives up to its reputation certainly and is a very recommendable place to visit. There I actually found an English Christmas pudding and of course bought one as well as some lovely goodies for my Father such as “rolos” (chocolates).
The Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.
At the Plaza Mayor I began to get into the spirit of Christmas and decided to buy a new crib (called “belén or nacimiento in Spain) as ours is years old and falling apart. When I brought it home we immediately put it in the lounge which is very early for us. Usually we don’t put up the tree and decorations until the middle of December. However the Christmas spirit was already in me and yesterday I got permission from the rest of the family to put up some of the decorations. I was not allowed, though, to put up the tree or the lights until later.
The small crib or "misterio" as it is known here which I bought on Friday at the Christmas market in the Plaza Mayor, now gracing our lounge.
Then yesterday Suzy and I went shopping and I ended up doing some of my own Christmas shopping (and paying for some of theirs, hahaha) and in the afternoon Eladio and I wrapped them up. After lunch Suzy, Oli and Juli sent me a Christmas e-card with elves which was just so much fun I immediately started playing with the tool. You can see the 5 of us here, including Grandpa, all dressed as elves and dancing our hearts out. This elf tool is so good. Try it out yourself here if you want. I also did a Christmas photo which is the one illustrating this post.
Happy that I have done some Christmas shopping. Here you can see the parcels all wrapped up in the lounge.
Most important of all, this week Suzy and I began a variation to our diet. I read about the up and down diet in the Daily Mail recently. Basically you eat well on one day and semi-starve on the other. The days you eat well are called the “up days” and the fasting days are called the “down days”. We started after La Rioja last Tuesday and it seems to work. But oh, how I love the up days. Today is an up day and we will be going out to dinner with Roberto and Mari Carmen. Whoopeee!!!

And an up day must have been had by the Spanish national tennis team when they beat the Czech Republic yesterday and went on to win their 4th Davis Cup. Congratulations Rafa Nadal, David Ferrer, Verdasco and Feliciano López. This has been a great year for sport for Spain. Hopefully Spain will perform as well in next year's World Cup in South Africa. We will see.
The Spanish Davis Cup team celebrating their 4th win yesterday.
And on that note this blog post ends.

Cheers to you all till next week.