03 September 2014

Toolani - Cheaper Foreign Phone Calls From Spain

When approached and asked if I wanted to try out Toolani, an app for making cheaper calls to foreign numbers while in Spain with 10 euro credit to try it I said yes. Why not? When visitors come to our holiday home or family come they all have their mobiles with them and bills run up or credit runs out pretty quickly.

Not really being into apps, more from lack of time to play than not wanting to, I was a little apprehensive but it was easy. I downloaded the Toolani app fom Google Play, registered and there was my 10 euro credit ready to go. So now as soon as I go to phone a number outside Spain I get a pop up asking if I want to use Toolani, click on yes and my phone call is dialled. I pay 0,229 € to English mobiles and 0,029 € to English fixed phones per minute, each country has a different fee.

Toolani Logo

Not that I have used all the cridit I was given but I've also topped it up quickly and easily with a 50% offer, pay 5€ and get 10€ of calls. An easy way to make and save on phone calls, I will continue using Toolani when the occasions arise.

What I like about Toolani is that you buy credit so I can see how much credit I have and no nasty surprise bills at the end of the month. The downside is that an SMS can only be sent via their website and they cost 10 centimos, not everybody has WhatsApp yet and I find a lot of my older visitors don't have it. Which when they get lost or need help it means that my phone bill used to shoot up.

Why not take a look and see if Toolani is for you.

01 September 2014

Monday Morning Photo - White Mountain Village of Istan

Lovely small white mountain village of Istan high up in the Sierra de las Nieves about 30 minutes from Marbella yet worlds away.

23 August 2014

Cooking in the Countryside of Malaga

If you ever thought Malaga was just an airport or beach location then think again. If you want a taste of real local home cooking not over-priced tourist grub or all-day breakfasts then a cooking-session-with-a-local in a lovely restored farmhouse surrounded by olive, almond, fig, pomegranate and nispero trees is needed to set the record straight.

Approach to Cortijo between Eucalyptus Trees

Having been invited by Mayte for a cooking session Malaga-style at her family's farmhouse I arrived with hubby, Nick, on a balmy August evening to a welcoming smile. Passing through fabulous ancient wooden doors (a weakness of mine) we entered the family home and out onto a pretty flowered-filled, sail-shaded, white-walled patio and a table laid with welcome drinks.

Central Patio, adorned for Malaga's fiesta

Cured Goat's Cheese tapa with two jams, Mulberry & Red Pepper

After a brief chat, Mayte speaks fluent English, and refreshing chilled beer the three of us headed out doors as hunter gatherers before our meal preparation. A variety of fruit trees, a vegetable bed and chicken pen provides inspiration for the kitchen.

Scalded Tomatoes ready for peeling & aubergines for Aubergine Chips

On our menu was Salmorejo, a personal favourite, with Aubergine Chips, Carne a la Malagueña - Malaga-style Pork in an onion, pepper and almond sauce with Rosemary Potato Wedges and for dessert Flan Inglesa with a Quince pastry dip.

Salmorejo on the Go

Having peeled and chopped the tomatoes they along with garlic, green pepper and soaked bread were whizzed together then extra virgin olive oil (from their own trees of course) a local wine vinegar and some salt were added and blended until a lovely creamy texture is obtained then chlled ready for sampling.

Ingredients for the Almond Sauce

Once the salmorejo was chilling we started on the almond sauce, frying the garlic, bread and almonds in the olive oil until brown, then removing them and frying the meat in the same oil until brown and removing it, then we fried the onions, when transparent added the peppers then the tomatoes and parsley.

Almond Sauce veg going into blender

Then all but the meat plus peppercorns and two different wines are blended together for a fabulous smelling sauce before being put back into the pan with the meat to gently simmer away.

Preparing Potato Wedges

Once the potatoes wedges were prepared, dressed and popped in the oven it was waiting time and what can you do while things are cooking away except enjoy a nice glass of white wine on the cute kitchen terrace looking over the quiet land dotted with trees. Mayte's friendly mum kept popping in, stirring a pot and proudly keeping an eye on things!

Serving Salmorejo with chopped hard-boiled egg to garnish

Mayte prepared the aubergine chips, a lovely crunchy change from rounds. It was all ready to sample. Our own work too! As usual once food arrives the camera is forgotten. A lovely evening and great food in charming company and a historic location.

Not a professional chef, Mayte has been cooking with her mother and grandmother since she was a child and loves to share her home, roots, traditions and food with all - a fun and informative cultural cooking experience.

Mayte can be contacted via her website A cooking Day

18 August 2014

Monday Morning Photo - Vall de Laguar

The stunning mountains and valley Vall de Laguar in Alicante, Valencia. Wind upwards away from the coast to the highest town of Campbell. If you like the winding roads and views of The Alpujarras if will love the rugged, snaking roads and fabulous walking and biking country here.

13 August 2014

Wild Swimming in Lakes and Rivers of Andalucia

The scorching summer heat of Andalucia is here and with it the need to cool off. Forget the noisy municipal pools, there's a better way to bring your temperature down, go wild swimming in the numerous lakes, rivers and reservoirs. Here are just five places to take a picnic and spend the day in the heart of the fabulous Andalucian countryside.

Cueva del Gato – Ronda

Cueva del Gato or Cat's Cave is a fabulous natural rock formation that is like the face of a cat.

Junta de los Rios – Almunecar

A favourite spot for thrill seekers and those into adventure sports. A bit of a trek is needed to get there but it's worth it when you do.

Embalse de Negratin

Embalse de Negratin - Guadix

Follow the campsite signs down to the lake and a beach-like area for paddling and swimming in an unusual lunar-like landscape.

Embalse de los Bermejales — Granada

Another huge reservoir around Granada, busier but more child-friendly than the rivers.

Rio Borosa - Cazorla

The tumbling river has many beautiful spots for jumping off and bathing in.

wild swimming, Rio Borosa, Cazorla
Rio Borosa, Cazorla

31 July 2014

The World’s Smallest Chocolate Factory - Mijas

“Chocolate Factory” we both read the sign at the same time and looked at each other. Eyebrows raised, eyes alight and a nod of agreement and off we trotted in the direction of Mayan Monkey Mijas Chocolate Factory - MMM, the smallest chocolate factory in the world and within our reach in the delightful town of Mijas just inland from the Costa del Sol, Andalucia.

Cocoa butter, cocoa beans
Cocoa butter, Cocoa beans, Cocoa flakes

The queue of people waiting to enter and others leaving the shop doorway with delicious looking choccy ice creams told us we’d found the spot and we weren't the only ones. What interested us more than the ice-creams were the home-made chocolate bars on display and the option of making your own.

Another almost imperceptible nod and we found ourselves donning hair protective caps and heading towards taps running with chocolate. Chocolate on tap!

Chocolate on Tap

In our element we patiently listened to the history of chocolate, eager to get our fingers under the stream of chocolate. Ice creams came and were waved under the stream of plain and milk running chocolate and off they went into the stop and into eager hands.

Out came molds and tough decisions were made whether to make milk or plain chocolate bars which of course necessitated a fingers-under-the-tap-tasting session and how they should be decorated.

MMM's Display of Homemade Choccys

Constantly running chocolate, chocolate on tap what a joy – I asked hubby if we could have our own (he is a plumber!). First we drizzled some milk chocolate over the base of the mold then filled it with plain chocolate, vibrating it to settle it and get rid of any air bubbles and then popped it into the fridge for the longest 20 minutes of my holiday.

And the results were mouth-wateringly divine, melt-in-the-mouth, home-made best ever chocolate bars. Sadly it didn’t last long.

21 July 2014

Monday Morning Photo - My Favourite Cordoba Flower Patio

Detail stone mosaic from my favourite patio from this year's Cordoba Flower Patio Competition. There were of course many fabulous patios open during the competition and I only get around a fraction of them, 19 I think, a post will be happening shortly.

This year hubby (who is no fan of pots or flowers) came with me and admitted that on the whole he enjoyed the experience and it had made him aware of space and the importance of architectural features. Since then he has made me a long-wanted arch and I'm more likely to get my fountain now as well.

08 July 2014

Monday Morning Photo - Cordoba, Patio and Pots

Typical Andalusian courtyard with pots. Last courtyard visited during the Cordoba Patio Flower competition this year at dusk.

Cordoba Patio Competition

See the complete list of Monday Morning Photos

19 June 2014

Spain's Top Landmarks

Spain tops the list, along with Italy, for the having the most monuments on the TripAdvisor Top 25 Landmarks of the World List.

Both countries have three landmarks on the list.

Spain's Landmarks

No. 5 - The Mezquita in Cordoba

No. 16 - The Alhambra in Granada

No. 20 - Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

12 May 2014

Monday Morning Photo - Perfect Pose in Cordoba

I couldn't miss the opportunity for this shot when in Cordoba recently to see the Patio competition. A horse rider wearing typical a typical Cordoba hat and outfit posed briefly in front of the Alcazar.

07 May 2014

CBBH Monthly Photo Challenge - Full Circle

It's been a while since I took part in Marianne from East of Malaga's CBBH Photo Challenge. The title 'Full Circle' took my fancy, having just been looking through some photos I instantly thought of these.

Every olive tree as far as the eye can see and beyond has a circle of land underneath prepared for the olive harvest to start in December. These pics were taken from a walk along the Via Verde de Aceite between Martos and Alcaudete which we walked in early December to see the Roman Bridge.

Then on completing the post I realised I'm a month behind! I thought I'd publish the post anyway. Enjoy the ocean of olive trees in Jaen province and if you'd like to visit the area check out my holiday rental home Casa El Reguelo.