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2015/12
Saturday 26th December, 2015
Category: 2015/12
Tags: Christmas

I slept in till 10am today, how delicious! Well it is Boxing Day after all, and the third of three very well celebrated days.  I often find major holidays a bit awkward as they're heavily family orientated and there's always the fear that you might end up celebrating alone and feeling like you're the only one doing so. I imagine in a village like this with such a large elderly population that there will be a significant number of people on their own, but it doesn't make it any easier to imagine yourself in similar circumstances. Luckily though I've had two days of company with friends and neighbours, hence the big lie in today.

Christmas Eve began with a surprise visit by Mitko who delivers my fresh milk each Monday. He'd brought me a beautiful gift of a homemade cheese which was so lovely of him:

I had a couple of chunks of it with fresh bread for lunch, and warmed up slightly it was really very tasty. It would make a great fried cheese!

I'd planned to have my neighbour round for the traditional Christmas Eve meal which consists of an odd number of vegetarian dishes, including bread with a coin hidden in it. In the morning I went up to the shop to buy a loaf of bread to hide some coins in, and whilst at the shop I met Dobrina who invited me to sit and have a coffee with her there. I love little gestures like that; sitting with locals, saying hello to others who've popped in to buy some last minute bits and pieces, and just watching life happen.

 
Back home and Baba Ivanka called me down to her garden to tell me that her family had asked if I'd mind very much if we both joined them for Christmas Eve instead, and of course I agreed. Armed with some cheese stuffed peppers and a chunk of Christmas cake, we headed off to Dryanovo to join the other relatives. There were 10 of us altogether, including Ivanka's grandson and his wife who both live in America. The grandson's been there for 14 years and speaks perfect English so it was lovely to have that bit of pressure taken off, knowing you could talk to someone in English now and then.
 
The meal began with all the food being brought to the table and then a little jug of some kind of oil being lit. It was quite funny because, as the eldest there, Ivanka was supposed to say the blessing but she confessed she didn't know the words. There was a bit of Googling and a quick discussion about what to say and then she began. The flame was wafted over the table and the words were said (a general good luck, health and happiness to all present). This little clip shows a bit of the ceremony:
 
 
Food was brought out to replenish the table during the evening but it included pickled vegetables, bread, olives, stuffed vine leaves, stuffed peppers, bean soup, my cheese peppers, nuts, popcorn, 'tikvenik' (a sweet filo pastry dish made from squash), salamis, grapefruit and biscuits. There was the obligatory rakia for toasting the event and homemade wine which I like to drink as the Bulgarians do, sweetened with yellow lemonade. It was a definite meeting of old and new with the old being the traditional meal and blessing, and the new being the little 10 year old who sat with her new Christmas gift - a smart phone - practising all manner of selfies during the evening!
 
Christmas day I was invited to spend the day with a couple of friends who were staying in the village for the holidays. We enjoyed an incredibly filling meal beginning with mixed mushroom soup (there's currently a big pot of it in my fridge which I will enjoy this evening), followed by the traditional dinner with all the trimmings - turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, honeyed parsnips, sprouts, carrots, roast spuds, leeks in cheese sauce, mmmm amazing and very tummy expanding!
 
We had presents for each other (I got a great book with instructions for knitting and crocheting all sorts of little leaves, flowers and insects which will provide the perfect extension to my french knitting. The challenge is that the book is Bulgarian, so I can only hope that my tutor understands the Bulgarian equivalent of knit one purl one!). The stray dogs all got gifts too which went down a treat with them:
 
We then spent the rest of the day doing quizzes, playing Trivial Pursuit (with the aid of an awful lot of clue giving!) and charades, accompanied by a steady stream of drinks and nibbles. I got home well after midnight feeling that Christmas had been well and truly celebrated.
 
But it doesn't end there. This morning I happened to be on the internet at the same time as my youngest niece and so we connected through Skype and I got to see my gorgeous little great-niece for the first time (other than just in photos). Oh, she is adorable!
 
Family, friends, neighbours, and not forgetting my loving four-footed companions... my Christmas has indeed been full and perfect!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

Monday 21st December, 2015
Category: 2015/12
Tags: Christmas weather glasses

​It's the shortest day of the year today but you'd think we were in mid-spring already, with clear blue skies and sunshine that's so warm in the afternoon you can comfortably sit out in a t-shirt. Of course there are signs of Christmas everywhere, not least in the village square where we now have fairy lights encircling two lamp posts. Apparently they got the electricity board to come out and fix them so that when the street lamps come on, the fairy lights do too automatically. What with the tree and decorations on the shop windows it all looks very festive here.

 

On Friday I went into Sevlievo to see the Christmas decorations and to watch some of the local children performing, including these two little cuties (click for video). After that it was off to the bar in Slaveykovo for a great Christmas singalong with tons of traditional and modern songs (all words thankfully printed out of song sheets for us by Jan and Ken) and a fish 'n chip supper as well. Brilliant evening.

 
A big bonus for me, as if the evening wasn't lovely enough already, was being able to buy this gorgeous Christmas cake from Debbie, thus saving me a repeat of the chaos last year when I tried to ice my little effort:
 
 
Good cake...
 
 
Bad cake...
 
And last but not least, my latest DIY project - mending my spare pair of glasses. Actually I have two spare pairs, both old ones from years ago, but unfortunately I sat on the better of the two during the summer and snapped an arm off. I suppose if I'd been wearing the glasses I'd have seen what I was about to sit on, sort of a catch 22 situation. Anyway, I tried and failed to repair them with tape so resorted to just using the other spares. Sadly they aren't really strong enough for my eyes now so it was back to the inventive drawing board for the better ones. A bit of garden wire and duct tape later and voila! Useable glasses again:
 
You won't find these at SpecSavers!
 
 
 
 
 

 

Friday 18th December, 2015
Category: 2015/12
Tags: meal in Gabrovo Finlay

Never one to pass up the chance of a meal I headed into Gabrovo on Wednesday for a pre-Christmas lunch with friends. It was a restaurant I'd never been to called Renaissance, just along from the Balkan hotel, and I must say the food, setting and service were all excellent. I had duck in a plum and apricot sauce and for pudding I chose this from the well-stocked temptalicious dessert cabinet:

Cheers everyone!

The weather has definitely become more seasonal now and in fact there was the first miniscule flurry of snow as we came home from the meal. It was more sleet I suppose and by morning was completely gone again. The cooler temperatures mean the fire is lit every day (though sometimes not till evening) and Finlay especially likes to cosy up next to it. The cats take turns to stay in the house overnight (mostly for my benefit - it's nice to have a little warm body curled up next to you at night) and Finlay has taken to trying to camouflage himself to avoid being turfed out:

Sorry, Finlay, I can still see you! Out of the three cats he actually has the warmest outdoor bed as he tends to go in and share Alfie's kennel. He pinches Alfie's biscuits as well, but I don't think Alfie minds too much.

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