Thursday 31 October 2013

Oil activity

Mr FF with some help from a party of Danes has harvested our olives.  He emailed me last night to report the total collected was 266.5 kilos, 50 kilos more than last year but this weight produced almost the same amount of oil 40 litres, the resa (yield) this year is not so high.  He went to the mill and waited, as you do, but he was a bit impatient as he was invited out to dinner last night and needed to get away.   He was told the oil would be ready in an hour, an hour later he was told the oil would be ready in an hour.   He had to leave and go back to collect the oil this morning, not something a real Italian would do as its customary to follow the process of fruit to oil like a hawk just in case you don't get your own produce back or your precious olives get mixed with someones obviously inferior crop.  
Fantastic result, it gives us enough oil to use in Italy and Scotland plus plenty to give away.  This is my glamorous oil bottle, a gift last year from the helpful Danes, by Rosendahl of Copenhagen, its a beautiful design with a very efficient function that shows off our delicious pure oil to perfection. The engineer will be stuffing himself on bruschetta tonight, savouring the fresh taste of the new oil which almost fizzy when it comes from the mill.
On the olive theme I had to buy myself this little jug from Emma Bridgewater, you know I'm such a fan of her sponge ware, no oil baroness should be without one.  

Monday 28 October 2013

Autumn appreciation

So the engineer continues to slave away in Lazio.  The last I heard he had bent down to pick something up and smacked his mouth on the handle of the cement mixer.  He told me his teeth were OK and his lips only bleeding a little bit now.   
Meanwhile I have been a bit more relaxed.  I've spent happy days gardening, decluttering, dorissing, reading, knitting and generally pampering myself, or as Mr FF would collectively describe such activities wasting time.
As a working girl I dreaded the onset of winter weather and my dark drive to and from town.  Now its all different and this autumn has been spectacular. 
The first week I was home was wonderfully dry and I caught up with a lot of weeding, since then it has been damp but with sunny days, bracing winds and still no frost. My summer pots remain outside so far and I am still harvesting broad beans.
I am really appreciating the season, glorious colours, plenty of pretty leaves underfoot,  
that I'm busy collecting for the compost bins.  This is just how autumn should be and I'm liking it even though it means my feet are ensconced in hand knitted socks for the foreseeable . 

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Parking in Progress

I heard from friends that Mr FF has been working like a mad man back in Lazio, no change there then as he really hasn't grasped the principles of retirement.  Before I came away he got the parking area levelled ready to lay the concrete.  
We managed with our limited language to hire a whacker, a vibrator to tamp down the hardcore, and Mr FF spent a noisy dusty day with this boys toy.

This is how the area looked when I left.  
Since then he has laid the concrete slab to take the finishes, its looking good but unfortunately he managed to badly burn his fingers on the wet cement.  When water is added to cement it becomes caustic, he tells me he forgot he had holes in his gloves when he tried to make a last minute adjustment.  His fingers were swollen and painful so he went to the chemist for some cream and on the way home called in at Mario's. Fortunately Mario's daughter is a nurse, she took a look, cleaned the burns and dressed them, that was over a week ago and Mr FF is still having dressings applied daily.  Poor boy, I bet there would be a lot of moaning if I was there as it is there's only the stray cat to listen.
He has tidied up the area round the hatch to the electrics, known as the wishing well.  A big improvement and I like the way he's decked it out with my pot plants.
So this week our local builder is laying the finishes, a crazy paving of Trentino stone which is used a lot in the area and already by us outside the back door. I had expected we'd have to wait till next year to get this work done so I'm really pleased, its looking brilliant.
In case you didn't notice my large tubs of annuals have done well, two packets of seeds and a lot of sun, amazing results all round.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

The Sitooterie

Outside space is vital in Italy, even the smallest city apartment will have a balcony with pot plants, a chair and probably a stand or line for drying washing.
We spend much of our time outside, its so easy to step onto the terrace with its lovely views but we desperately need shade and perhaps some shelter as it does get breezy in the afternoons.  We need a proper sitooterie*.
As a temporary solution we bought a couple of shade sails that give a patch of cover, we shift ourselves and the furniture round as the sun moves across the sky.  Its difficult to work out how we can provide something more permanent, the roof of our house comes down low onto the terrace, not enough headroom to fit anything from the eaves.  The engineer has come up with various ambitious ideas, some that involve extensions to the house, moving the existing spiral staircase, all major projects.  As usual I want a quiet life, we can't agree.
We have a friend who lives in a very old house in a very old Lazio mountain village.  She's right at the top, her terrace looks down onto all the other roof tops, its decked with plants and she's installed a whirlpool bath right outside so she can relax with complete privacy.   Our Danish friends also in Lazio sensibly bought a house with an existing sitooterie, its lovely and I like the idea of having furniture permanently outside for the season, wall lanterns, climbing roses and lovely old pots.
Our seaside hotel in Giulianova was well equipped for outside sitting.  The garden between the hotel and the beach was a delight 
and there was also a fantastic rooftop terrace with views of sea and mountains 
plus three large jacuzzis.
Sitooterie is one of my favourite words, when I have my own it might be one of my favourite places.   Let's hope Mr FF doesn't get started on one of his schemes while I'm back home unless of course it involves something like the above.  

*from sit plus oot (a Scots pronunciation of out to rhyme with hoot) plus the noun ending–erie of French origin that’s familiar from words like menagerie androtisserie. 

Thursday 10 October 2013

Home Alone

I am back in a cold but sunny Scotland, Mr FF is still in Lazio. No not a trial separation, he still has work to do, the olives have to be picked but we needed to get back to Scotland to turn the water on, start up the heating, move plants back into the greenhouse and deal with two months worth of mail. We originally planned to fly home together for a couple of weeks then return to Lazio and eventually drive the car back but I detest that winter drive. Last year there was quite a lot of snow, the Alps weren't too bad and lets face it they know what to do about snow but into France it was miserable and I vowed never again. So when I said that I wouldn't do it we agreed I would stay in Scotland and that really I could cope with everything that has to be done on my own. So Monday we had an emotional goodbye at the airport, I felt quite lost waiting for my flight and a real feeling of panic when the plane took off. On the bright side, I've always been in favour of us having time on our own now and then, usually Mr FF has gone off somewhere home or abroad on with his bicycle so a period of time with the concrete mixer will be a novelty for him. He's sending me progress photos of the work he's doing to finally complete the new parking area. I'm so looking forward to seeing it finished, hoping there won't be any more major projects for a while, and of course to him coming home. Meanwhile I'm pining a little bit which has curbed my appetite, not a bad thing with Christmas coming on, taking back control of the garden and catching up with friends. We had a wonderful two months in Lazio, here's a glimpse of our best moments.  The dates on the photos are all wrong, its my new camera a Canon Powershot SX240 HS, I should read the manual next time I'm feeling lonely.
Borgo di Ostia, a favourite lunch venue
A beautiful cat named Lulu
Drinks and snacks in Giulianova, our Adriatic seaside break
Mr and Mrs FF on the beach