Friday, 31 August 2007

On the Needles

I'm not a promiscuous knitter, I usually stick to one project and finish that before starting another. At present I'm busy with this baby blanket in a fanned feathered pattern from here. (Joanne please note I've learnt to do the clicky linky thing myself, doesn't mean I'll be any more IT literate at work though.) Thanks to Whiteworks for the free pattern, I'm really enjoying using it. The yarn is Patons 100% cotton 4 ply, I found 3 x 100g balls in a charity shop for about £2.50 and adjusted the needle size to give a good firm tension, the final dimensions are not that important.

However, I didn't want to drag the whole blanket out to Italy so allowed myself to start a pair of socks using Opal Crazy while I was away. I'm delighted with the way this wool knits, it really lives up to its name. It was so hot in Italy that knitting in the day time was not comfortable, quite often after lunch I'd go into the cool of the house and sit down to knit a few rows, I'd be hot and flustered before I'd finished a round. Evenings were better and I did manage to finish one sock. Haven't started the other yet, I'm now wondering whether to finish the blanket or start the second sock, see thats the trouble when you take on more than one thing.

I'm currently in discussion with British Airways about being able to take knitting needles on our transatlantic flight in October. I spoke to a very helpful woman at BA who firstly thought I couldn't and then thought I could. I downloaded some information from the Transportation Security Administration on permitted and prohibited items that lists knitting needles in the permitted category. I've decided to take some short double pointed wooden needles, plus some Opal, so hopefully I can knit socks there and back. I'll show them at check in and at security with my TSA information and hope for the best, at worst they'll take the needles away and I'll still have the wool, at best the flight will be a bit more enjoyable and productive.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Birthday Beach Boy

Saturday 25 August 2007 Mr Flip Flops was 59 and we celebrated the event with a day at the seaside. We drove out to Aberlady on the East Lothian coast, where by some strange chance there is a lovely crafting shop, Sew in Stitches. I was able to get a good look round, a lot of inspiration and a couple of purchases, the cream one is silk the purple cashmere, knitted by a lady in the village and only £3.50 each.

We walked along the coastal path from Aberlady to Gullane Point, it was a gloriously sunny day with many of the little bays completely deserted. We are big fans of the wild Northumberland beaches and sometimes forget that we have a great coastline not too far from home. We were having such a good time we decided to walk on to North Berwick and arrived just in time to catch the bus back to Aberlady.

Two fish suppers, mushy peas (we are northerners) and a bottle of pop each, eaten sitting on a bench looking out to the bay. As I've said before we do like to make an effort.

Mr F F said it was a most relaxing day and next year he can do it all again with the benefit of a bus pass. He's going to have to come up with something good for my birthday in November, which apparently will take place in the USA.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Domestic Bliss

Domestic duties in Italy are no hardship. For me some of the most mundane tasks leave the happiest memories. You hang out the washing and almost before you've finished pegging it up its dry. I don't iron the sheets just put them straight back on the bed full of sunshine and mountain air.

Even mopping and sweeping are a pleasure and offer the chance to admire my toes. I think its important that my nail varnish matches my cleaning equipment.

Towards the end of our holiday our friends came out from Rome for lunch, a proper long lunch under the trees in the garden with a doze on the sun loungers afterwards. We'd mentioned on the phone that on the way to buy parts for the central heating system, we'd stopped in the local spa town and eaten Amarena ice cream. Franco explained that this is made from wild cherries and suggested we might find the syrup in the shops, though we didn't seem to find time to look. When he and his wife came to visit they brought us Amarena Fabbri, in the beautiful blue jar, a squeezy bottle of Amarena Tops and a bottle of Strega, all perfect for pouring onto ice cream, which is exactly what we did. Franco also recommends drowning ice cream in hot strong coffee so we did that with the second helping.

No more Italian blogs for a while but I will finish this one with the view from our bedroom window - stupendo

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Il Pranzo

Lunch is so important to the Italians, work stops, shops and businesses close for approximately three hours. I can understand that its a good idea for everything to cease during the heat of the day and start again in the cooler hours and I do appreciate the shops being open until at least 8 pm. I've never been against a long lunch followed by a little snooze, friends visiting us have often asked if they might lie down on the spare bed for a while and we have been known to take up the option when its been offered to us. However, we had a really bad experience when visiting our Italian bank to carry out some complicated bureaucracy that involved us visiting our regional council office, the bank, the council office, the bank again and finally back to the council office. We had got to the fourth stage (bank again) having driven for half a day from a holiday in Abruzzo. The transaction was fairly difficult as forms had to be completed, my husband had gone out to move the car and I was left to make progress. The manager of the bank then came over and told me they were closed, I explained that I had not quite finished at which point he explained that it was lunch time. I replied that I appreciated how urgent it was that they take lunch but it was also urgent that I complete my business as we had to go back to the council offices, they would be closed the next day and also were leaving Italy the that evening. He then explained that I was taking up their free time and took me firmly by the arm directing me to the door. Mr Flip Flops was standing outside, they had locked the doors and despite his pleas he wasn't being re-admitted. In the end after much arm waving and shouting, from me, they told me I would definitely have to come back later. I then asked for my paperwork back so I could re-present it again in the afternoon but I was told it had been cancelled because the transaction was not complete. I really lost my temper then and said I was not filling the forms in again. They eventually gave me back from the bin the then crumpled and crossed out pages and led me out of the door. We had to sit and wait until the bank opened again at 3.30 pm, arrived at the council offices too late to complete the work and had to give the papers to a friend to deliver for us the next day, he spent two hours waiting to be served and was eventually told the offices were closing. He too lost his temper but did eventually get dealt with.

However, we have taken up the lunch culture and despite working really hard we did take a proper Italian lunch break with good food and a snooze. Some days Mr Flip Flops even took a shower and changed into clean working clothes, we do like to make an effort. All our food was locally sourced, salami and prosciutto produced by the village butcher, regional cheeses, figs and olive oil from our garden. No wine though, not with all that work to do, just lemon tea and lashings of tap water.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Mission Accomplished

We had two weeks to source materials and complete the reconstruction of the irrigation house in our Italian garden, and made it - just, thanks mainly to Mr Flip Flops starting work at 6 am, continuing until the early afternoon heat, generally around 30 deg C, got the better of him then starting again around 4 pm and working until dark. During the two weeks he lost more than 14 lbs in weight and set fire to the garden fence whilst melting the roof tar with his blow torch, but the watering can was close at hand and no harm done. To the left hand side, where the door leads into the building, we put down new steps and hardstanding. We arranged for our neighbour and a local builder who are much more experienced in the art of stucco to complete the rendering, this will be a rough finish that will be painted the same dusky pink as the main house. The first building we've completed in Italy :

When I wasn't acting as builder's labourer, cook, cleaner or gardener I did manage to repaint two of the bedroom windows and shutters, they all dismantle easily so I was able to work in the shady part of the garden and not at great height.

and if it all sounds like a lot of hard work that's because it was. But it was also very rewarding, we had fun times with friends in the village, good lunches and a few trips out, more of that another day.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Labouring in Lazio

We are going to Italy today for two weeks but I think we are more likely to be wearing these than flipflops as we have a project to finish. Last time we were at the house we demolished the walls of the building that houses our garden irrigation system. The roof is still in tact and safely propped, Mr Flip Flops is a structural engineer, and new concrete foundations have been laid so this time we need to rebuild the walls using these :

which I was supposed to transport down two levels of garden to the structure but failed because three in the wheelbarrow made it tip over so I carried each one individually, moving only 15 to here before I gave up

Its going to be hard work but there will be sunshine, good food, plenty of local wine and hopefully time to use these

Back soon

Wednesday, 1 August 2007


The sock posting is actually todays but because I started it at the weekend, when I had more time, its posted as Sunday. But I've now worked out how to correct this (and missed Coronation Street) so it won't happen again.