A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I have started on the mosaic for the bar front at our Casa del Mar Tapas Bar and Grill!
The border is black, red and yellow. That was easy to do!
The hard work was to decide what design to use the mosaic... I have played around with mosaics in the past but not on such large scale.

I started and let my artistic mind wander. It is just a succession of swirls made with square bits of tile and then filled in with different colours.

The photo doesn't do the colours justice because they are much brighter in reality. What appears as cream is really bright yellow. I will take a photo when it's finished. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Turkey strikes back...

I feel FAT ! Turkey, wine, pudding, chocolates...

Goodbye, turkey...Turkey, here we come!

Karen and I have talked about a turkeyless Christmas in Turkey or Spain...

That's it!

My mind is made up! Beach barbecue, lots of fish, and yes, wine...

But I know Karen already hates the idea of being away from home and the grandkids...

So, I will just have to dream about a sunny Christmas a touch longer!

Back to the drawing board!


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Turkey special...

Warm? You mean gas mark 7!
Hope you all had a great Christmas dinner...........


Friday, December 23, 2005

Ho, ho, ho....Holiday...

To all my blogger friends
And their families
All over the world!
Whether you believe in Santa or not!
Whichever way you celebrate,
Have an amazing time!
Santa Cream.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Jacques Brel...

Jacques Brel, my favourite Francophone singer has been elected by Belgian television viewers, Most Popular Belgian, ahead of kings and patriarchs.

He sang many beautiful songs and his fans all have their own favourite.
Mine is "Ne me quitte pas!"
Shirley Bassey and others sang it as "If you go away..."
My favourite rendition after the original is Nina Simone's French version where her velvety voice sang the beautiful words in an American accent. Ner Mer Keeter Par...



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

After the turkey....

That "After turkey" feeling on Christmas Day!
I am sure I am not the only one it happens to!

I usually cook most of the dinner, Karen and family will do the washing up.
I will sit on my chair, maybe catch our Liz's royal speech (4 or 5 times in thirty years!) and then drift off into a little contented siesta... Ahhhh, that feeling!

(By the way, I am not trying to break a record with this intense blogging, it's just that within the next few weeks, I will be so busy with the Tapas Bar that I may not be able to post a letter let alone a drawing or a story! So, I am taking advantage of the calm before the storm...)


Monday, December 19, 2005

When I scream for ice cream...


I love ice cream... Many flavours... Rum and Raisin, Caramel, Lemon Sorbet, Ahhhh....
Sometimes, Karen gets low fat ice cream!
Guess how big the helping becomes? Yes, you've guessed: Twice as big! Well, it's low fat so I might as well have twice as much!

I am not usually a dessert man (although Karen has called me a "desert man" on numerous occasions when I find myself in her bad books), but I often help myself to a bowlful of ice cream while I'm watching the telly on Sunday afternoons...
I tend to add a little honey, slice a banana, rake the cupboards for a few nuts...

Sheer delight!

I posted this picture two weeks ago but I feel it is what this week's Illustration Friday is all about.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Sing your heart and soul...

"Without music, life would be a mistake!"
Nietzsche, a long time ago...

Song cleanses the soul like water cleans the body!
Cream, a couple of minutes ago...
So, in the shower, in the car or wherever you are... Just scream and shout!
If someone tells you that you cannot sing, just say:
"It sounds better with an inner ear!"

Saturday, December 17, 2005


My second submission to Illustration Friday...


Let your imagination run riot!

"So, how big was it, then?"
"It was thiiiiiiiiis big, honest!"

Friday, December 16, 2005

Surprise, surprise...

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday
Dear Gigi,
Happy Birthday
To you!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Songs of Peace...

The other day Alex (6) was being a little devil, trying to pinch something off his sister, Evie.
I pointed an angry finger at him and said:


He looked at me. His bottom lip began to flutter...

I continued the song...

"In the name of love, before you break my heart...!"

Both he and Evie burst out laughing and stopped fighting!
Soon I had them singing...
"Think it oover, think it oover...., Stop..."

The power of song and music...


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Butterflies in my belly...

Today I finally signed for the Tapas Bar... I really feel sick inside!

I had this same feeling nearly 21 years ago when I opened our first restaurant.
I was driving home to our flat above the restaurant after finishing my last paid evening shift. As I got nearer, reality struck and I knew I was out on my own!
I realised that everything I did from then on would have a profound impact on the rest of my life. That feeling of apprehension passed as soon as we started work on the building, opened up three weeks later and luckily never had to look back!

Now, our 21st Christmas well under way, two restaurants later, I am again getting butterflies in my belly!

To take my mind off business, I've decided to give my blog a facelift!
From January, when we intend to open, it may be a long time before the blog gets any hugs!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


As it is nearly Christmas and I don't want to be a humbug I will not go on about the number of lights that adorn the house at this present moment.
Carla said something about electricity bill so here goes...

I sometimes get the feeling that Karen is keeping something away from me.

Like the fact that our house may be directly linked to the National Grid or that her great-great-grandfather was Thomas Edison and for his brilliant invention, all his descendants get free electricity for life.

She believes in switching on every light possible long before it gets dark and to a predestined pattern so that we are ready at all times to welcome an eventual visit from the Queen or the Pope.

Just before we go out, she switches on our bedroom’s three lamps, the landing light, just in case there is a stray Condorde in the area, the cooker hood light to give the kitchen a cozy feel, all the lights in the conservatory, maybe a couple of dozen candles and the fan heater just to keep the wooden animals warm.
The garden water feature is also left to whir away throughout the winter.

A conservative estimate of our electricity consumption would not be far from that of Blackpool Illuminations.
My vain protests invariably fall on deaf ears and usually lead to a long frosty spell.
“Scrooge should be your middle name, you!” she will snap.

Sometimes, on our way out, I will pretend to have forgotten something, slip back up to the bedroom and cunningly switch one of the lamps off.
On our return, Karen will not fail to notice the enormous black hole. She will check the bulb then scratch and shake her head.
I will be in the toilet hiding and sniggering like Muttley of the Wacky Races.

Most nights she goes to bed before me leaving all the downstairs lights on.

It is therefore my unwilling duty to do the rounds and switch everything off before I head for the sack.
“Cooker hood, check, dining room light, check, dining room standard lamp, check, dining room table lamp, check, conservatory, check…”

Half an hour later, I will get into bed glowing and buzzing with static.
...And she will wonder why I wake her up.

At Christmas, please feel free to add at least half an hour to the switching off duty.
The photo is a of a wind turbine situated about half a mile from our house.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Shall we call the fire brigade?

 Posted by Picasa

Lighten up at Christmas....

A few years ago, I foolishly suggested to Karen that we should leave the outside Christmas lights up all year round so that I didn't have to struggle putting them up in freezing weather.
She gave me one of those looks that translate as:
"What the f... do you know about Christmas, you camel herder, who lived in mud huts and tents, until you came to the UK?"
I could've said:
"Actually, Dahling, I have only seen camels in zoos. I have never lived in a mud hut or a tent, except when I went camping with my friends, and had to go back home the following day because of the ghosts that kept scratching the canvas! And I know about Christmas because before I came here it was called Noel! And French chocolate logs are better than yours, anyway!"

But I understandably agreed with the fact that I would have to take them down every year.

This year, today, was a nice day. Not one of those days when my fingers would freeze, my back ache and I'd be ready to commit hara-kiri with one of Karen's sharp comments.
Today was sunny!
It wasn't cold! It was even mild!

It didn't take me very long to put the lights up and they were straight for once.

I even managed to make a Paella for Sunday lunch. A bit of Chilean red-wine-tea.

Relaxing afternoon listening to Karen in the background swearing that next year she'll have less lights...
Yeah, right! I believe you!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Great Blog Story goes on...

Last night I finished the illustration for Ana's Chapter of BlogStory.
I'd started it on Thursday night but the cheap tablet I was using, (while awaiting my Christmas present: Wacom Intuos3, hint, hint...) died on me for the second time running.
Staples, the computer shop is just across the car park from the bistro. I happen to be one of their best customers.
I have a pen-fetish...Stems from when I was a kid and a pen had to last a whole school year or you were dead if you lost it and then you had to write with mud instead!

So, the first time the cheapo-crappo tablet died on me, a month ago I took it back and they handed me a new one without so much as a whimper!

Yesterday, I really panicked! The BlogStory was going to fail because of me!

"So, how long was your BlogStory, Vit?"
"Two bloody chapters... It died a death when that sour Cream curdled under the pressure and he couldn't deliver! I'll never ask him to come out and play with us ever again!"

So at 8.15 am I was at Staples with the stupid tablet and my laptop! It's handy they open 8 till 8.
My favourite shop assistant was there. He is great because he warns me about the Winter sales in September and the Summer ones in January. Better forewarned than three-warned!

I give him a lunch voucher every now and then. We exchange chips... Potato for silicon!
"What now, then?"
"It's that stupid tablet again!"
He tried it on my laptop and then on another laptop!

"This tablet, it is defunct! 'E's passed on! This
parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! "

So he gave me a new one! No probs!

Last night, I went home with a curry and a bottle of
Gigi's Red-Wine Tea after a noisy evening feeding and wining hungry Christmas partygoers.

I started on the illustration at around 11.30. I woke up in my chair at around 2 am.
The curry was gone. The wine was dry. The laptop was still switched on. The finished illustration was on its way to Portugal.

"I haven't dreamt! Yes! I DID IT!"

I looked at the picture and went up to bed!

This morning I received an email from Vit, "darling! wonderful, thank you!"

Back in the good books...and the BlogStory goes on...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Illustration coming up... I hope!

No post today, sorry! I have to work on my illustration for the 2nd Chapter of Blog Story .
Ana, who usually write in Portuguese, has turned the heat up and Alma, the Blog Story heroin, addicted to Mr Pike, has shipped herself over to Portugalandia!


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Red Riding Rooster...

I was 8 when Messaoud died. I cried.

My mother said: “Don’t worry, son. We’ll just have to get another one!”
Messaoud was a rooster!
He had been part of the family ever since I could remember.

He strutted his stuff round the farm like a security guard in all his regalia.
Just before dawn, he walked up to the wooden fence and leapt onto its highest post just by the side of the missing gate.
As the sun began to cast its first rays, his magnificent plumage sparkled in the rising sunlight. He tuned his throat, filled his chest with morning wind and began his chant.
It burst out as a reveille bugle, melodious and smooth yet powerful and commanding.
He then bowed his crested head to an invisible audience, acknowledged the encore and burst into song one more time.
Cockadoodledoo! Cockadoodledoo!
His wake-up duty over, he did the rounds of the farm.

He marched slowly past the feeding chicks and hens like a sergeant inspecting his soldiers, mumbling orders and kicking stones.
He never mingled with the rest of the flock, preferring to remain still on a raised monticule of earth and straw to keep a discreet eye on the tiny balls of yellow feathers that were his pride and joy.

He stretched his neck at the slightest unfamiliar sound. He investigated the immediate surroundings without leaving his watch-tower.
Papa’s arrival in his shiny black car, our tired feet returning from school, the water bucket clinking as my mother lowered it into the well... These familiar sounds never managed to get him to stray from his sentry duty.
The only thing that did was the arrival of an old lady we all called Aunty Mabrouka.

She stood at the entrance to the farm and shouted for my mother to help her gain safe passage to the farmhouse.
My mother, in her apron, hands covered in dough always shouted:
“Just come along, Aunty. You'll be ok!” as she returned to kneading the daily bread.

The old, frail woman began making her way along the dusty path, her back arched by the years, covered in her usual red woollen shawl.

Messaoud’s eagle eyes followed the moving red target from the main road, past the well and the fig trees, the radish patch and the feeding hens. Aunty Mabrouka edged her way in a wide semi-circle in an attempt to avoid him but as she came round, a few yards from the door, Messaoud pounced.

The terrified woman screamed for my mother to help her. Messaoud swiftly climbed on her hunched back and began pecking the back of her neck as she ran towards the wooden door, screaming and swaying from side to side, trying to unseat him.

My mother came out brandishing her rolling pin. Messaoud calculated his escape just as Aunty Mabrouka dived through the doorway. He jumped off and turned round. He fluffed up his feathers and slowly strutted past his adoring flock back to his pedestal.

This hilarious episode was replayed many times till he died of old age.

Papa buried him behind the farmhouse. I stood by his side as he lowered the remains of our dear rooster into a makeshift grave. After he covered it with soil I placed a red rag attached to a twig to mark the spot.

Messaoud’s replacement had none of his pageantry or ferocity and Aunty Mabrouka was very relieved as her visits became more regular.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Reality Politics...

This afternoon, the new Conservative leader was chosen. I predicted that the winner would be David and the loser, David!
No Goliaths here!

David Cameron and David Davis...

The statistics predicted that David Cameron, the younger, more eloquent of the two would get the votes. He delivered a good Conference speech, without notes!

I could speak for an hour without notes and I am sure I would be able to deliver the same rubbish that has been repeated over the years by politicians desperate for office.

And now politics and hilarity have mingled in the popular (!) reality (!) show, "I am a Celebrity, get me out of here!"
Carol Thatcher, the ex-Iron Lady's daughter won the latest edition.

Even BBC Radio Five, one of the only remaining "sane" stations, joined the bandwaggon and broadcast Maggie's favourite punchlines...
"This lady is not for turning!"

Reality Show, Politics...GET REAL!
This may make you forget about it all... Kindly borrowed from Losts's World

Monday, December 05, 2005

Watercolour Mondays...

Posted by Picasa

Monday mornings have been dedicated to watercolour classes for the last fourteen months.
I do not like to paint at home but in class, I really let my (short) hair down.

The first photo shows the whole class's finished "Cottage" project and below it is my own version.
As usual, our teacher tells us that we have done a fantastic job! It encourages us to try even harder.
I can't wait to get back to class in January, now that we have broken up for Christmas.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


In Algeria, my first language at school was French. I started Arabic when I was 9 and English at 14.
Our first English teacher was a French Père Blanc, called Monsieur Ferry. Prior to me, he'd taught two of my three sisters. His French accent did more than just seep through when he spoke English, and now when I come to think of it, he sounded exactly like Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther!
"Ze breakfirst is Rrrready, sed Meesssseeez Smissss!"
Over the years, prior to coming to the UK, people of various nationalities taught me English. Passing American tourists, a French-English couple who, halfway through the year disappeared to film an Algerian comedy, a Pakistani who made us believe countries were ruled by Go'rments...

So, when I got to Edinburgh, my English was pretty mixed up! And to top it all, I had to try and understand the Scots! Actually, it wasn't that bad because within about three months, I began Rrrrrroling my Rrrrrrs and trying to copy Sean Connery's cool style in my Afro hairstyle.
“Shaken not stirrrrrrred, Mish Moneypenny!”

At breakfast one morning, while staying at Mrs. McDonald's guesthouse, an English couple smiled at my Scottish accent.

After that, I ended up in NE England where, Kingston Girl can vouch, English sounds like a foreign dialect.

Working with Greeks sailors and Italians chefs meant that my accent got even more flowery.

The end result is that, although a Welshman can pinpoint that I live in the North East, he will never be able to dig deep enough to fathom out my origins!

Nowadays, I do believe I sound local, that’s until someone bursts out laughing:
"My goodness! You sounded exactly like a local when you said….!"

Photo: Algerian Spring Landscape.


Saturday, December 03, 2005

Lamb Tagine Recipe

Due to popular demand and extreme salivation, here is the recipe!
Tagines are the terracotta dishes in which the meat was usually cooked over a charcoal fire. Nowadays, they are only used for service.
There may be other versions of Lamb Tagines, this one is my favourite.

1 lb diced leg of lamb
1 lb lamb mince
1 small chopped onion
1 tbsp tomato puree
1tsp chilli
1 tsp paprika
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
4 tbsp chopped coriander
2 tbsp cumin powder
2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tin drained chickpeas
Lightly fry half the onion and 1 clove garlic add the diced lamb and brown on a medium heat.
Add 1tbsp cumin, the chilli and paprika, 2 pints of water, season and cook on a low heat for an hour or until tender.
In the meantime place the mince in a large bowl and add ½ onion, egg, 1tsp cumin, 2 tbsp coriander and shape into small cocktail sausages. Shallow fry them until they are nice and firm.
When the lamb is cooked turn to simmer and add the sausages and chickpeas.
Cook for 10 minutes, sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with lemon- flavoured couscous.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Feast or Famine...

In his latest post, DCver commented on the spending pattern of the Portuguese at the end the month. I believe it is the same way worldwide. I am sure I can remember my mother taking us kids to our regular clothes shop to pay the outstanding debts and get us new garments at the end of each month.

When I was a student, the pattern was pretty much the same. My grant, which at the time was quite decent, filled my depleted bank account at the end of each month.
I always invited four or five friends for a sumptious meal.
I spent the afternoon at the supermarket filling my trolley with various delicacies and lots of wine.
Once home, I began preparing the feast which was invariably my favourite Algerian dishes of soup with lamb or chicken, chickpeas, coriander and mint, followed by my all-time number one tagine of lamb and meatballs in a cumin and coriander sauce, baked potatoes with garlic, tomato and rosemary. No room for dessert, just more wine!

This was the first meal after the grant arrived. The following day, I ate the remaining leftovers of the feast.

In week two, pasta came with all sorts of meaty and fishy sauces, such as Bolognese, Lasagne, Marinara, etc...

Week three, neither meat nor fish featured. The sauces were simply and cheaply flavoured with herbs or cheese. More pasta served to bulk up the dishes.

Week four, starvation set in! My diet then consisted of pasta with garlic butter or a scrambled egg if I could afford it, a risotto with a couple of olives and half a tin of tuna or just simply some mash.

This pattern was repeated month in, month out during my student years.

I completely forgot about it, until it began occurring at the restaurants.

We know now to make sure that extra staff are drafted in for the last Saturday of each month.
The arrival of the monthly pay packet just in time to replenish peoples' bank accounts gives rise to the welcome monthly feast!

I usually ask customers whether they were celebrating anything special and on a few occasions, the bold ones have unashamedly replied:
"It's the end of the month!"
Thanks, DC for inspiring this post!

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