Author Archives: sandradan1

About sandradan1

Writer and journalist. I blog about our life in a secret Andalucían valley at and about writing, reading and everything to do with books at Come and visit me!

Fifty Shades of Gold #38

Autumn seedhead with ploughed fields in the background. October 12, 2013

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Autumn seedhead & ploughed fields #countryside in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

A walk on the Thyme Track

Walking along the Thyme Track into the wildest part of the valley, where the slopes are a dense mat of shrubs and thorns, away from the cultivation of olives, we encountered a reminder of the durability of nature. The stumps of olive trees: one old and gnarled; another twisted and dried; a third burned, presumably by the farmer. The fourth gave us the answer: new growth sprouting from an old tree stump, hacked, felled, burned, but still alive.

Elsewhere along the Thyme Track, signs of spring are everywhere. Green grass covers Horse Corner. The view to the other side of the river is not so clear, partly-hidden by new leaves. And the viburnum [aptly called durillo, ‘tough one’ in Spanish] is flowering.

5 to remember
denso – dense
nudoso – gnarled
quemado – burned
en otra parte – elsewhere
parcialmente oculto por – partly-hidden by

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Gnarled, burned and felled olive #trees: a walk on the Thyme Track #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Not only for Easter

Torrijas. This eggy bread is another Spanish recipe which makes great use of leftovers. Although it is traditionally eaten at Easter, we eat it often for lunch or brunch. milk & cinnamon sticks in the pan 18-4-14plateful 18-4-14Serves 6

2 litres milk
300g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 load of day-old white bread
Vegetable oil for frying [something flavourless like sunflower oil or peanut oil]
2 eggs, beaten
For the cinnamon coating:-
100g sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Place the milk, sugar and cinnamon stick in a pan and bring almost to boiling point, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and leave for about 15 minutes so the milk is infused with the cinnamon aroma. milk - boiled & standing 18-4-14Cut the bread into slices about 2-3cm thick. Place the bread slices in a large shallow dish and pour the milk over. bread - slice 18-4-14bread - soaking 18-4-14Chill for at least 2 hours, turning the slices over halfway through.

bread - two slices in frying pan 18-4-14Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, you need to be able to fry at least two slices of bread at a time. You could use butter instead of vegetable oil but beware, it burns more quickly. bread - dipped in egg 18-4-14When the oil is hot, quickly dip each slice of bread in the beaten egg [above] so that it is fully-coated and the place in the hot oil. Be careful not to burn your fingers!

After a couple of minutes, flip them over and fry for another minute or two until golden. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. cinnamon sugar - spoonful 18-4-14Mix together the sugar and ground cinnamon and sprinkle on both sides of the torrijas. Do this while they are still hot, as the sugary coating will stick more easily.

5 to remember
la Pascua – Easter
las sobras – the leftovers
a menudo – more often
desabrido/a – flavourless
el cacahuete – peanut

Looking for other breakfast options? Try these:-
A seedy berry thing for breakfast
A peach and brioche breakfast
Aubergines for breakfast
Tapas Revolution - book cover 2-9-13


Recipe from Tapas Revolution by Omar Allibhoy [UK: Ebury Press]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Torrijas: not only for Easter #recipe by @tapasrevolution via @Spanish_Valley

Bird song: Skylark

How do you spot a Skylark? Well, it’s a bit bigger than a Sparrow but not as big as a Starling. And it’s brown. The best bit… when it sings, or in alarm, it raises its small crest. Its song really is the sound of the countryside in spring, look for it in open farmland and heath. Exactly what we are surrounded by here. It is the song of the male that is most famous. Hovering at heights of 50-100m, seeming like a dot high above, he sings an unbroken melody while he rises, circles and hovers. Normally he warbles for two to three minutes, except in mating season when he may sing constantly for 20 minutes at a time.

Listen to the Skylark sing at the RSPB website.

5 to remember
un poco más grande que – a bit bigger than
pero no como – but not as
el sonido de – the sound of
más famoso – most famous
una melodía ininterrumpida – an unbroken melody

Listen to the song of these other birds we see in our Spanish valley:-


Our most used bird book?
Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe [UK: Collins]

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
How does the Skylark sing? #Birds in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley



Male and Female

We are surrounded here by large holm oak trees, quercus ilex. A large evergreen oak native to the Mediterranean, growing up to 21-28m, it takes its name ‘holm’ from an ancient name for ‘holly’ thanks to its spiky leaves. The wood is hard and tough and is used for construction, as well as for firewood and charcoal production. In Andalucía, the trees are tightly protected. A licence to fell or prune a holm oak is required from the local council and only after inspection. The acorns are edible [toasted or ground into flour] and the trees are also used in truffle orchards.

Curiously, the holm oak is a monecious plant; having both male and female flowers. A single tree has both the male and female reproductive systems and so possess some flowers that are female and others that are male. Male flowers are greenish-white cylindrical aments or catkins, pendulous and short-stalked with six stamens. Female flowers are borne on erect spikes, with a white hairy stem bearing six to seven flowers.


‘Guide to Trees of Britain and Europe’ [UK: Hamlyn]

5 to remember
la encina – the holm oak
estamos rodeados de – we are surrounded by
el sistema reproductivo – the reproductive system
un amento – a catkin
un tallo peludo blanco – a white hairy stem

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Holm oak: male and female on one tree in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Spring shadows

The shadows cast by trees now are not as short or as black as the shadows in summertime. The spring sun is lower in the sky making long shadows, and near sunrise and sunset shadows are at their longest. During the daytime, a shadow cast by an opaque object illuminated by sunlight has a bluish tinge. This is because of ‘Rayleigh scattering’ which also makes the sky to appear blue. The opaque object is able to block the light of the sun, but not the ambient light of the sky which is blue, as the atmosphere molecules scatter blue light more effectively. And so, the shadow appears bluish. Apparently. Although the springtime shadows below definitely look greyish-black.

5 to remember
no tan corto – not as short
un objeto opaco – an opaque object
la luz del sol – the sunlight
un tinte azulado – a bluish tinge
la atmósfera – the atmosphere

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Shadows in springtime #Nature #Spain via @Spanish_Valley

Fifty Shades of Blue #25

Blue sky, wispy mackerel clouds. April 19, 2015

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Blue sky, wispy mackerel clouds #Weather in #Spain via @Spanish_Valley