Thursday 29 December 2011

Santa's been

I hope your Christmas was good and you are still relaxing and relishing all your gifts. You are probably wondering how Mr FF and I fared this year with our £5 Christmas stocking scheme. Well, I was hopeless, we were in Italy, when we came home the weather was awful and then I got listless so I really didn't find much for him. His selection included some sock yarn that I was given so that didn't eat into the £5, I just never got round to knitting the socks but Mr FF got the idea when he unwrapped that parcel, some chocolate and a jar of locally made Indian chutney. As I said I'd gone a bit listless. Mr FF on the other hand did really well, here's what I receivedFirstly this lovely little Filofax mini, which he intended to label my iPad2 knowing my feelings about that gadget and my love of tangible paper items. It's so pretty, Italian leather, with pockets and places,I've already ordered a diary and address pages to pop in.

This very pretty silver plated toast rack, I love toast racks and already have quiet a few, this one is so sweet, perfect for a lady enjoying a light breakfast.
A pair of silver (coloured) candle holders, I don't have any square candles but managed to force these in for demonstration purposes.
Finally four charity shop books, which I actually had a hand in selecting, 4 for them all, splendid value. I couldn't be happier with my gifts and since I underspent on Mr FF and get the yarn back to knit his socks I'm a winner all round.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas happy

Just a few festive things that make me happy in the midst of all the madnessMr FF decorated the outside tree without being asked
Our card from Amelia, the face is a print of her foot, the antlers her little fingers
My Christmas eco friendly washing up liquid, a gift from those lovely people at Method Mark Cavendish, my favourite Giro and Tour de France cyclist picked up the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. I'd like to think it was my vote that decided it but he won by a huge majority, hurray for cycling.
We've been down to Yorkshire to deliver presents and spent some time with family, the wrapping and writing are done, the halls are decked as much as they're going to be and now it's time to relax, I have lots of yarn and a roaring fire, what more do I need.

Have a wonderful peaceful Christmas

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Three cats tales

I adore cats, we've always had at least one and sometimes three but after we lost Cleo a couple of years ago we decided that it wouldn't be fair to keep cats and spend long periods away from them in Italy, which was our plan for retirement. There are always feral cats round our house in Lazio and when we are there we are happy to feed them. This summer word must have got round, we started off feeding one and ended up at most having 7 cats come round for dinner. They were all in good condition and friendly, obviously doing the rounds, so I bought dried food regularly and sometimes cooked extra pasta which was always well received. Before we left most of the cats had moved on and we were only seeing two kittens and their mother, but it was heartbreaking to part after we'd spent so many weeks enjoying their company. The little ones sometimes slept on a folded up padded garden chair, a comfy and safe place, but we had to put that away for the winter. So My FF constructed a bed for them in the wood store beside our outdoor pizza oven using some of the old carpet from the bedroom. He introduced them to the new place by posting them into it and actually went out late at night with a torch to make sure they were tucked in, they were. We left food in the garage to that Mario could feed them when he called to check the house and have heard that they are still around and doing well, in fact our neighbours who feed them when they are at their holiday house sent us a photograph recently which made us both happy and sad. Part of me hopes they'll still be there next year when we go back, part of me wants them to find a better home.
Then while we were at my brother's on our way back from Italy, he told us that four cats had turned up at the farm, two Siamese and two black and whites, all healthy and obviously all recently neutered as their fur hadn't grown back on the operation site. I saw them about, beautiful healthy creatures but quite timid. I know that there are organisations that round up feral cats, have them doctored and release them again but I can't understand how expensive pedigree Siamese cats could become feral. So I was delighted to receive this belated birthday gift from Pam, a knit your own cat book. It made me smile, I'd love a window cill full of kitties, at least those I wouldn't have to worry about when I was away.

Thursday 8 December 2011


The second day of our drive home from Italy was long and stressful. Mr FF, Yorkshire through and through was reluctant to pay the road tolls so we spent a lot of time travelling through villages averaging 40 mph until he agreed that we were getting no where and he was devastated at having to fork out 37 euro to use the Mont Blanc tunnel spectacular as it was. We hadn't booked accommodation for that evening as we had quite an ambitious schedule but we pressed on to Reims our intended stop and arrived around 9.30 pm. Driving round looking for a hotel, Mr FF stopped the car right in the town centre and told me to go and ask the way to the Holiday Inn Express. I panicked and in my haste to get out whilst trying to switch my brain from Italian to schoolgirl French I stood on my knitting and snapped two of my precious Knitpro needles. I only had one spare with me. In the end Mr FF had to go and get directions as I was far too emotional, the Holiday Inn Express was dire and we couldn't get anything to eat except a plate of sandwiches. Miserable at the thought of not being able to knit for the next three days and all that travelling still to do I went on line that night and found Shiela who kindly posted a new set of Knitpros to my brother's house, they arrived safely next day and I can't thank her enough for helping me out.

It wasn't all bad in Reims however, we had a decent breakfast, a walk round the Christmas market and later I found a Phildar shop, bought a pair of metal 2.5 dps and used one of them to keep me going through the tunnel and up to Yorkshire. I also found this lovely sock yarn, sometimes life is fair.

Monday 5 December 2011

Welcome home

Phew. That journey home was exhausting and our time back in Scotland has been hectic. We left Lazio on the Sunday, had an overnight near Genoa that was brilliant and included a delicious meal with our hosts, their family and friends that in true Italian style was full of conversation and laughter. After a long drive we had a night in Reims, two nights with my brother in Yorkshire and got back to Scotland on Thursday.
Saturday we were at Joanne's wedding, a gorgeous event and a long overdue get together with my old work colleagues. Yesterday I had a stall at a local craft market which was a great success though the hall was baltic as the doors were kept open to encourage the punters in.
Today I am hoping to return to some sort of normality, domestic duties, knitting and of course a bit more regular blogging. It must be a sign of old age that I don't bounce back so well but there is nothing planned for a while and looking out of the window we won't be venturing far. Lazio seems a long way off, we are missing our Italian outdoor lifestyle and wondering when we will return.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Quick update

Lets skip the usual excuses for lack of posts from Italy so that I can tell you how things are going. Slowly, exhaustingly, dustily. We hope to paint the second bedroom this week, return the fixtures and fittings to the room, clean the house and leave for Scotland early on Sunday morning. I'd rather hoped we would get to the stage of all those home make over programmes when the interesting accessories are sourced and added to dress the room, I shall be lucky if we get the wardrobe reassembled, next time maybe.
The olives are picked, 103 kilos that produced 22 litres of oil. I did most of the pickimg by hand, I'll tell you about that later.
Seems a long time since we were frazzled by the heat, eating gelato with Amelia or imagining we had so much time. We've been in Italy almost four months and it has been brilliant, we are constantly told now well we look and Mr FF is mantaining his much admired Italian haircut. Not looking forward to all the work still to do before we leave, all the packing, the goodbyes and back home the preparation for Christmas but I am lookimg forward to Joanne's wedding a few days after we return. As if to prepare us its raining today, the first cool wet day we've had but no doubt scraping the old carpet adhesive off the floor tiles will keep me warm (and filthy). La dolce vita contnues.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Buon Compleanno

Over the last few years I've had a few overseas birthdays, one in Palm Springs, my 60th in The Dordogne, but this my first birthday in Italy though my 63rd in total No presents and just a couple of cards but I am having a wonderful time, currently sitting out on the terrace under sunshine and blue skies, what could be better.
We returned to our house last Wednesday to find that as promised the second bedroom had been replastered, the electrical conduits installed and the room was very tidy if very dusty. Since them Mr FF and I have painted the room, the skirtings are being reinstalled and we should be putting the furniture back in there soon so that we can move in and start stripping put the main bedroom for the same treatment.
Despite all the work, upheaval and dust I am delighted to be back in Italy. The weather is lovely, gentle sunny days and cooler nights when we light the woodburner and cosy up. There is a real feeling of autumn, the colours are beautiful, all around us we here the chatter of people picking their olives and the little mill in the village is working constantly to produce another years supply of oil. I don't usually enjoy this change of season but there is a very positive feeling here, crops are harvested for a winter that won't last too long and its still warm enough for breakfast outside. What more could a birthday girl ask for.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

I was knitting honest

Despite taking enough yarn to open a shop with me to Italy I did very little knitting, even during the three days of travelling I hardly picked up the double pins. So it is embarrassing to admit that during the 10 weeks we were away I produced only these, three pairs of socks, the top two in patterns I have used before the lower is new to me Hedgerow by Jane Cochran. This pattern was very pleasing, easy to memorise and I particularly like the way the rib continues down the heel. I'm putting the variation of colour in the photographs down to the fact one was taken in Italy one in Scotland.Since being home I've made another little wrap cardigan, this one to take back to Lazio for Giulia, new daughter of Angelo and Francesca. It's knitted in an Opal sock yarn white with flecks of colour.
Since I left the massive stock of yarn in our house in Italy along with my favourite KnitPro needles and as I'm only taking out one pair of socks when we fly back tomorrow there is a big incentive to make more for the drive home which may not be till the end of November. Who knows what the weather will be like then.

Friday 21 October 2011

Happy Birthday Amelia

Amelia is two today, Happy Birthday darling girl. We loved having you with us in Italy, as much as you loved pasta, helping to keep the place tidy, more pasta with your great uncle, chilling out with Daddy, the media attention at our local bar, staying up late to eat pizza in the restaurant, cafe society, beach life, getting into the freezer to cool down and thank you so much for wearing your little flip flop dress for me.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Love those cupcakes

Liz of the above named blog had a giveaway recently that I read whilst in Italy and it really made me miss proper cakes. We have a well used teapot in the house with a regular supply of Yorkshire teabags and while we enjoy various pastries, croissants, little choux buns or panettone with our coffee a good cup of tea calls for a decent sponge with butter icing. I was fortunate enough to be selected in the draw and yesterday this lovely book and card arrived. Lots of deliciousness, I intend setting myself up with the right equipment, which is listed for each recipe, to take out to Italy with the book so that I never again have cupcake withdrawal.
Thank you Liz, this could be a life saver, we can probably stay even longer next time.

Friday 14 October 2011

At last a few snaps

Obviously I have lots of photographs to show you but I wont bombard you with them all at once, for now here are three that I call the good the bad and the ugly, in that orderLiving the dream with varnish from Nails Inc. I don't remember the colour and I left the bottle in Italy
A wild fire that raged for a week on the hillside behind our house. Helicopters with water buckets and planes that scoop from the sea were a constant presence and did a brilliant job in a very tricky location
Our second bedroom, carpet up, several layers of wallpaper and one of paint being stripped, we didn't leave it like this honest.

We did have a set back when we returned to Scotland, found our wood burner was smoking badly when we tried to light it. I am already the colour of a kipper, for a day or so I smelt like one too. Yesterday we managed to clear a blockage in the flue accessed through the inside of the stove, getting filthy in the process but it fixed the problem. Home three days now, Mr FF almost has the boiler installed and I've done a little tidying in the garden, which has been overtaken by weeds over the last 10 weeks. I suppose its not possible to have a transient lifestyle and a beautiful garden but please don't make me choose just yet.

Monday 10 October 2011

Its not over

Remember me, I'm the one who used to blog quite regularly and often about my dream of long trips to Italy. Well the dream came true, we've been here for almost 10 weeks, it has been wonderful but I have totally neglected my blog, probably because it is such a pain typing on the iPad and far to complex for me to load photographs.
Well I should be able to put that right soon as we fly home on Wednesday, we are leaving our car in Lazio and will return in a couple of weeks to do some decorating and drive it back. The weather is still exceptionally lovely, we both had a post lunch snooze on the terrace earlier. Mr FF is now upstairs knocking hell out of the soon to to be replastered -allegedly while we are in Scotland but I wont hold my breath-bedroom walls. He is cutting out channels for the conduit so the room can be rewired when we return, again allegedly.
Lots things have happened, our lovely week in Puglia, a completely unexpected tax bill that was supposed to be sorted today, we have heard nothing, an equally unexpected storm that destroyed our tv and our neighbour's computer before any plugs could be pulled, only 3 days that have had rain, maybe a but much pasta, a Judith Chalmers shade of tan, I won't go on.
So I'm trying to find warm clothes for the journey home, we left early August and didn't expect to stay so long. Of course as far as the locals are concerned the temperatures may still be in the 20s but summer is over, the beach bars and rows of sunbeds disappeared weeks ago, ice cream stocks are being run down and in some places gone completely and the dress code is fleeces, winter coats and scarves except for us because we still find it warm and we dont have any of those items here. These people need to go to Scotland with me, then they'd know what cold is I am not going to like it.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Still living the flip flop dream

We are still here in Lazio although on Saturday we will drive down to Puglia for a week, I'm looking forward to renting someone else's house while ours is occupied by paying guests. We've had great times with our various visitors, nice to be out and about doing touristy things, but now we have settled down to domestic duties, Mr FF is cracking on with his log store and i have so much work to do to restore this house from our personal domain back to a holiday let.
We hope to visit our trullo next week and make some sort of decision about its future, I rather hope we don't fall in love with the ruin and Puglia all over again.
We had a terrific storm here that woke us about 4 on Monday morning, sheet lighting that illuminated most of southern Lazio, scary fork lightning, thunder that rattled the windows and then heavy rain. Usually I enjoy a good storm but being halfway up the mountain made me quite worried. The next couple of days were cooler and fresher but the blue sky and sun are back now and i think I've worn my flip flops for almost 7 weeks none stop, how will I ever fit into proper shoes again. Not something I plan to worry about for a while, when we return from Puglia we will stay here for another 10 days or so because we want to strip the 2 main bedrooms of wallpaper, take up the carpets and get the walls replastered. Then we might leave our car here, fly home for a couple of weeks hopefully to finish off the boiler installation (which I'd almost forgotten about), then fly back here to decorate the bedrooms and drive the car home. I have to say Mr FF has taken very well to retirement, he seems to be keeping us both occupied.

Thursday 8 September 2011


I havent posted for ages, been far too busy being lazy.
We had a fantastic time with Amelia and her parents, they were all delightful company and we did lots of happy things together like spending a day on the beach, being invited to friends for lunch, going out in the evening for pizza and eating lots of ice cream on a daily basis. Amelia was totally accommodating, as long as she got a good breakfast nice and early she fitted in with our plans and charmed every italian man she met, both with her gorgeous eyes and her huge appetite for pasta. You will have to wait to wait for the photos.
The house seemed very empty when they left last Friday, we expected our friends Roger and Christine to arrive the following Tuesday and got all prepared only for them to have their flight cancelled with 12 hours notice when Italy called a general strike. No airport workers, no public transport, no refuse collection, the country fell silent for a day. Fortunately R and C have rebooked for next week so fingers crossed.
So we havent done much since a garden visit to Ninfa last Sunday. I usually doris the house in the mornings, take it easy during th heat of the day and then potter in the garden early evening. Ive weeded a whole border that was very overgrown and done some pruning. Mr FF has made progress with his log store and this afternoon got out his beloved concrete mixer to lay the foundations, this is no slap dash construction I can tell you.
The weather is still wonderful though not the fierce heat we experienced when we arrived so sleeping is easier. Its hard to believe we have been here almost a month, still havent had enough of Lazio but I might admit to the odd craving for fish and chips. We went down to the local pescheria this morning and bought 2 unknown creatures for dinmer, lets hope they do the trick.

Friday 26 August 2011

Amelia is on her way

In a couple of hours we will leave for the airport to collect Amelia and her family. Everything is ready for them and we are so excited if a little concerned about how they will all cope with the heat. Every day seems just a little bit hotter and it's difficult to keep the house cool, 29 degrees in the hall when we went to bed last night. I'm not complaining through, loving the sweltering days with heat that almost knocks you over when you step out of the air conditioned car, loving the morning freshness when I get up around 6.30 and wander outside still in my nightie, loving the balmy evenings sitting out under millions of stars.
Mr FF has purchased some blogging app that he says will enable me to load photos, plus some device that will enable me to get them off my camera. Whether I will have the patience to learn how to use them is another matter altogether. I have finished my first pair of socks, never realised before now much yarn and nedles could raise your temperature, a few rows had me in a complete lather.
Must shower and dress, busy day ahead and be nice to wear something other than my usual shorts and a camisole.

Sunday 21 August 2011

So hot

A week has flown by, it's now 2 weeks since we left home. The weather is amazing, we wake up early to see the sun come up and it shines all day long. Yesterday the temperature reached 38 deg and it is apparently much hotter in Rome, no wonder half the population has moved out for the summer. According to our neighbours down the road who just arrived from the city this morning the forecast is for even warmer weather tomorrow which will continue throughout August. Phew.
Our friend Franco came out from Ostia briefly on Friday, we also invited his English neighbour who has been in Italy for 40 years but she refuses to leave the house until the temperature drops.
Mr FF and I have however found a bit of respite from the heat, we inflated the paddling pool we brought out for Amelia's visit and find that we can both fit in and lie down quite comfortably, though whether there is room for Amelia too is debatable.
The iPad is now almost fully functioning, I don't like it any more that I did when it wasn't working properly but I do like it better than nothing.
Finally, and you must have been wondering when this was going to happen, Mr FF has started a little project to coincide with the reopening of the builders yard tomorrow after the August holiday. He is building a log store for our winter fuel. This has involved moving some blocks left over from a previous project, taking out an old tree stump and putting the pick axe through an irrigation pipe before he starts the build. He is only working early morning and I'm not complaining as he brings me a mug of tea and I lay in bed reading for a while. Be nice to find out what all those lovely boys down at the builders yard did during the holiday, I'm sure we will be there very soon.
OK I hear the sound of hosepipe in paddling pool, must dash

Saturday 13 August 2011

IT and me in Italy

Not liking the iPad one little bit. We had big problems once we got to Lazio, purchased a mini sim which we were told would be operational at midnight but once we inserted it most things stopped working, in fact we still can't send email tho we can receive. Eventually yesterday we went back to the shop, found some one who pressed several buttons and at least we are getting some kind of action. No idea how to load photos to my blog, hate the fact I, a proficient touch typist am forced to hover and peck at the letters, hate this business of tapping at the screen which seems quite hit and miss. Surprisingly the machine didn't come with any instructions at all and since we couldn't get on line for help we have been very much working on trial and error Rant over.
We are now relaxing into the holiday, fully recovered from the journey and loving the sunny outdoor life. Apart from chasing round sorting out our IT problems which does make a change from chasing round the builders yards, or sitting in the local outlet village using their free wifi, we've not been far. However tonight there is an event in the village Nettare Divino where we will be able to follow a route through the old streets stopping off at various points to sample local products with a strong emphasis on the wine. There will also be music in the square and many visitors from Rome who have holiday houses in the area will mix with the locals to create a magical atmosphere.
I found the 3 day journey down here a bit stressful so I didn't do much knitting, now its far too hot which is a pity as I've brought enough yarn to open a shop, almost a week since we left home and only 50g consumed.
Mr FF seems to be relaxing at last, he did wash the car today but probably as a way of cooling down. He went to the local barber and had a very brutal haircut, which looks great and will certainly last him the 6 weeks or so we are here.
I am saddened to hear about all the problems in the UK, it is big news over here and does our reputation no good at all. Certainly in this little part of Lazio there is wonderful community spirit, great respect for others and I know that tonight all generations will be out in the streets, no one will be drunk and everyone will be courteous and welcoming. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, I hope to be back blogging soon iPad permitting

Monday 8 August 2011


How lovely to wake up at our beautiful b and b in France.
The drive to the tunnel was good, the tunnel itself fast, efficient and not at all scary.
Today we drive to Austria.
The man gave up on the boiler at 7.30 Saturday evening, it was not finished, nothing like despite all that work - there is a lesson there let's hope it has been learnt because the build up to this trip has been terrible.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Do you hear the jangle of my nerves

OK, 24 hours to

finish packing



drive 450 miles to the tunnel

and relax
Oh yes and just that bloomin boiler to fix, this is where we are now and the engineer just isn't giving up.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Three days and counting

I suppose we are getting there, I had foolishly imagined that since Mr FF and I are both retired we might prepare for our trip to Italy in a slightly more relaxed way. Mr FF is still networking the house and has explained to me that being able to plug in a computer in the spare bedroom will add to the value of the house, pity the stress of all the mess and inaccessibility of bedrooms has greatly reduced my life expectancy. The boiler is still sitting in the garage when it should be in the cupboard off the hall, I'm assured it's just (a very over-used word in our house) a little job. On the bright side, I've had fun trying on my holiday clothes, cropped trousers, little t shirts, what fun, I have my wardrobe now sorted with a case for the car and a holdall for our two overnight stops. I've also got my knitting bag packed, another great pleasure, I'll need plenty of sock knitting for the journey with the emphasis on cotton blends. I've photocopied a few patterns that won't be too difficult to cope as we tootle along. I also finished another swing cardigan for Amelia this one in Sirdar Snuggly baby bamboo, 80% bamboo and 20% wool. The colour is Jellybaby, discontinued and a great bargain from Knitwell Online. I've posted it off to Yorkshire though she shouldn't need it when she comes to visit us in Lazio.And finally this has arrived, an iPad2 complete with red leather cover, my early birthday present to Mr FF and hopefully a way of us keeping in touch.
The relatives arrive later today, Mr FF is out tomorrow and just that boiler to fix.

Sunday 31 July 2011

One week

This time next week we will be driving down to the south coast to take the Eurotunnel to Calais. Hopefully the 16.30 that will allow us time to drive beyond Lille for our first overnight stop on our way to Italy. We haven't booked our channel crossing back, we can in theory stay out there for 7 weeks, whether we will is a different matter.
Things are tense in the pre holiday build up, Mr FF is trying to get the boiler back into position and fully working herewhile I fret about my garden and greenhouse. Our house will be occupied by our cleaning cousins while we are away but their watering skills are not the best. The weather this last week has been so glorious that there has been much muttering on my part along the lines of 'I don't see why we have to drive for 3 days when its so lovely here', 'this garden is so much nicer that the one in Italy', 'all my orchids might be dead when we come back'. Call me ungrateful I probably am but I really would like a few things to happen in the next 7 days.I want my miniature sunflowers to open I want my marmande tomatoes to ripenI want to eat some of my beautiful borlotti beans, grown from Italian seed in the greenhouse and I'd like someone to tell me what exactly I need for 7 weeks and pack everything neatly for me. We've already unearthed far too many household items to take out to our holiday house, plus Amelia and her parents are coming to Lazio for a week and we are taking a car seat and various other items to save them weight on the flight. It's going to be an interesting week but in 7 days time we shall be past caring and possibly even in the queue for the tunnel.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Knitting now

I have been knitting but had to wait until these socks, in Regia cotton/wool arrived on the Isle of Wight, the island where time stands still, a birthday present for Rose. The very effective pattern is Waving Lace by Evelyn A Clark from Favourite Socks, which is turning out to be my favourite sock book.I've also made these Retro Rib socks again by Evelyn A Clark from the same book and I've already used several other patterns, it is a great book. This is some cheap yarn I bought in Lidl, not good enough to knit socks for sale I'll keep these myself for everyday wear.I also made this blanket which is a pale lemon shade intending to enter it into the village show next month. The pattern is from the website of the Linus project and all entries will be passed on to the charity after the show. Unfortunately there was a fault with the yarn that I didn't notice until I was blocking the blanket, it goes thin in the middle and whilst it is a perfectly acceptable item that will get passed onto the charity I don't want it to be my show entry, I have a reputation to maintain. So I wrote to the manufacturers, Coates Crafts in Holmfirth, and they kindly sent me two replacement balls plus a £10 gift voucher, can't get better service than that and the charity will benefit as I have already made another blanket which will be put into the show. Bit of a hurried post today, I haven't had time to block this second blanket, the battle for control of the only computer in the house continues and I have the upper hand only briefly.