Thursday, 20 January 2022

Banking progress

Last week after a long exchange we had an email from our Italian bank to say they had resolved the problems we encountered trying to reopen our account after they blocked it because of possible fraudulent activity.    We first raised this issue a month ago, it is possible our account had been blocked longer than that as we encountered problems with our Italian card as we travelled home in November.

However the email simply said the issues had been resolved, we did not know if that meant the account was again operative or if the online unlocking process would finally work for us. We wrote back again complaining about the awful service and asking for clarification.   Yesterday we received a note to say our account was open, no explanation, no thanks for bringing the broken system to their attention, no apology and certainly no offer of refunding the 14 euro per month we have paid not to have a working bank account.  

We are actively engaged in finding a new euro account.

Speaking of finds, I bagged this beautiful blue pressed glass jug in a charity shop this week, £2.  I love pressed glass, the colour is perfect, I imagine it filled with water and slices of lemon for an alfresco summer lunch but even on a Thursday January morning it’s beautiful. If only everything in life was that simple and pleasing.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Earring update

Back here I posted about my earring collection built up over the last 55 years and I showed you the silver Georg Jensen pair I bought in Ilkley.  After Christmas the jewellers had another pair of smaller chunkier silver hoops in the sale, with a very good reduction.  I have been back regularly to stand at the window and stare   I rather wish someone will buy them so I can stop torturing myself, yes I can afford them but I don’t need them is my mantra.

I thought I preferred hoops, I have a lot, but now I am liking simple studs.  I acquired 12 more pairs from the advent calendar MrFF bought me for Christmas. They were a pain to store, tiny and always mixed up, so I went online for a storage solution.  Here it is

The perspex stand cost less than £2, it took some time to pair and fix them all but my goodness I can at a glance make my choice for the day, it will be easy to transport to Italy and best of all it’s a visible reminder that I do not need any more earrings even if there is space for a few more pairs.  Won’t stop me looking in the jewellers window though, I may be there tomorrow.  

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Lots of New Year Making

I was keen for Seville oranges to arrive in the shops and as soon as they did at the end of last week I bought some.  Last January in Italy I wasn’t able to make marmalade, they make jam with their sweet oranges but there is no marmalade per se so I wouldn’t have found any bitter oranges even if I’d been allowed out of deepest lockdown.

I used 1.5 kilos of fruit and just over 2 kilos of sugar, less than the recipe recommends, I am delighted to have 10 jars of dark bitter conserve.  

I have been knitting too.  I received this sparkly West Yorkshire Spinners yarn as part of an exchange for a few knitted items, enough for socks and mitts, thank you Pat I would never had chosen this yarn but I do like the twinkle on a chilly dull day and surprisingly the yarn is very soft and not at all scratchy despite the silvery thread which is hard to capture on camera.

Now I’m knitting a scarf in Stylecraft You and Me dk.  If I hadn’t found a bag containing 1000g of this yarn in a charity shop for a few pounds I wouldn’t have considered anything that consists of 80% acrylic and 20% cashmere effect Polyamide, whatever that is.  Generally I don’t like man made fibres I support the sheep but this is knitting up well and feels pleasingly soft.

Best of all using the ZickZack pattern, a clever single row repeat that gives a great effect, my scarf looks amazingly like something from Missoni, the luxury Italian fashion house.  The examples below cost almost £200 each, mine should work out at less than £2.00. 

Finally I haven’t forgotten that I said I would start early making the little Christmas stocking decorations for next year.  11 days into the new year I have two, I am on target, for now.

Monday, 3 January 2022


So here we are in 2022 wondering what day it is and how to shed those extra pounds while the shops keep reducing mince pies and I keep buying them.  

Our lovely presents have been packed away.  I can hardly remember what I put in MrFF’s £5 stocking but apparently there was a pair of socks knitted from gifted yarn £0, a lovely pure alpaca scarf that I found for £2 and might ask him to share, some reduced garden twine 99p, an organic cotton t shirt that was part of a bundle I bought as gifts so I am counting as almost free and a garden sign in the form of rusty metal map of the UK which was £3.  I did slightly overspend but if we share the scarf it’s about right.  

New year was our usual night in with beautiful fireworks which we viewed from the balcony at midnight.  It was so mild we stood outside for almost half an hour, in fact we haven’t had our central heating on for a week now as our penthouse is a constant 20 degrees.   We benefit from heating on the lower floors, our double glazing and extra loft insulation.  Smug, yes I am.

From Italy we’ve had good and bad news, don’t worry the cats are fine.  On New Year’s Day we had this photo from Mario, there they are both together, Enrico patiently waiting for his turn to eat which Grigio tucks in.

Bad news was that before Christmas we wanted to transfer some money but found our Italian bank account had been blocked because of fraudulent activity.  It isn’t the first time this has happened, they simply stop the account without letting us know and because we are back in the UK it’s been difficult to resolve.  We tried the automated telephone push button procedure which eventually and regularly said our access code was correct, then said it was wrong and cut us off.  We contacted our branch several times, they ignored us, we contacted customer services, they said go through button pushing exercise which we said didn’t work, they said contact the branch, we said they weren’t responding.  We made several attempts with customer services but always got the same answer, do the things that don’t work.  

Finally MrFF made an official complaint, someone phoned from Milan and said he’d have to transfer the call to someone else, so why did he bother to ring.  After an hour and a quarter waiting to be transferred the call disconnected.   It’s infuriating, not only have they blocked our account and refused to sort it, they continue to charge us 14 euro a month not to be able to access our money.  We have been with Unicredit for 20 years and they have always been hopeless, it’s time to find another euro bank.

Normality is returning though I have yet to take down the decorations which this year I want to keep as long as possible.  Despite all the problems, our own little niggles, the pandemic etc I have loved this Christmas time, I continue to be delighted and grateful to be here, to hope for better times and look forward to seeing the kitties again.

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Boxing Day

Our Christmas was calm and cosy, exactly what I wanted.  MrFF’s insistence that he would forage for our Christmas meal late on Christmas Eve was a success, he came home with a duck crown with stuffing and plum sauce reduced to half price.  My culinary skills decline in proportion to the amount of Prosecco I drink so I need something foolproof, this was easy and delicious.

Beautiful gifts from family, my brother and sister in law must have remembered me telling them that when we returned to the penthouse after 13 months I spent an hour looking for my George Forman grill before realising I don’t have one here.  They gave us just the right one to replace that which never existed.   Candles and smellies, food and drink treats and pretty scarves all made me happy.

MrFF managed the £5 stocking challenge.  Despite many forays to the charity shops with much moaning that he couldn’t find anything and was sick of looking, I received a very nice water bottle so I can hydrate on my power walks, books and a sort of advent calendar of pretty stud earrings, 12 pairs in total.

It was just the Christmas I wanted, no over consumption, no extravagant gifts, plenty of recycling, much peace, messages from Italy.  What more could I ever need.

It’s Boxing Day, we have a white world outside and it’s very quiet in the building, we shall have a lazy day and be thankful for what we have and where we are.   I hope your dreams came true this Christmas.

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Happy Christmas

When I called in at the local craft shop at the weekend I was gifted these two comes of yarn.  They are acrylic which I don’t like but for my purpose they were fine.

The wreath is models own, made by my sister in law

I have knitted 7 of these tiny sock decorations, a pattern from Little Cotton Rabbits, which I returned to the shop to be sold for charity or gifted to good customers.  Of course I should have thought about doing this months ago not a few days before Christmas, remind me in June to start again as I still have a lot of yarn.  I might even make a few more now and do a secret Santa round our building.

This week we visited my brother briefly and safely after negative covid tests to exchanged our gifts.  We also saw two of our grand nieces which was lovely even if they got over excited about their parcels and did a lot of squishing.  I asked the 11 year old is she was pleased that Emma Raducanu the young teenage tennis player had won the tv sports personality of the year award.  No she replied I wanted Tyson Fury to win, if you don’t know he is a heavy weight boxer from the travelling community.

So we are set for Christmas apart from buying food which isn’t a major concern, it will be the two of us as usual so we shall have a piece of beef or I might bake a ham. And it may be time to stop the mince pies.  I got on the scales this morning and seem to have added a few pounds, maybe making up for last year’s deficit wasn’t such a good idea

Have a happy and peaceful Christmas, keep safe and well

Thursday, 16 December 2021

The LORE of gifting

I am definitely not one of those sanctimonious people so keen to tell you how to live, they irritate the life out of me, but would like you to know that I have made a special effort this year with my Christmas shopping.  All the gifts I have bought have had to meet at least one of the following criteria

L local  I have tried to support local independent businesses of which we have many around us

O organic clothes of organic and sustainable materials 

R recycled new items made from recycled products or used items from charity shops

E ethical items from companies that respect the environment and treat their workers fairly

It’s taken much more effort than an online order to Amazon, which I wouldn’t consider given the hideous warehouse they built not so far from us in Italy that contributes nothing to the street scene and forces workers to travel out of town to their low pay jobs. There has been a lot of useful information with links on other blogs and in the press that helped me take this route.

I’ve also used recycled wrapping paper and ribbon and made all my gift tags from old Christmas cards. 

Now all the shopping is over, phew, I am pleased with the effort I made.  After the disappointing non Christmas we had last year I have managed to resist the temptation for over consumption, except for mince pies that is. I’ve already eaten enough of those for 2 Christmases and I’m not finished yet.   And in case you are wondering, despite rising prices MrFF and I have kept to our £5 budget for gifts to each other.