Projects and politics – Progetti e politica

Thursday morning was just lovely. A little humid, but warm, so we made the most of it and worked on another project. This time in the garden. We created a pretty area to put a table and chairs, for personal use, and for B&B guests. It is positioned so it has a little privacy, but has a great view of the valley. It will be a lovely place to sit and enjoy a warm summer evening. What makes this area more beautiful is…it cost us absolutely nothing except time, and a little hard work. We used marble that was dumped on the side of the road, and the shale we’re using as a filler is stone that crumbles from the mountains. It will look lovely with a table and four chairs on it. I’m even thinking a vine arbor may add a nice finishing touch. Very pleased with our mornings work.

Our work gave us an appetite, so we drove up the mountain a little way to our favourite restaurant, Cubinato Bailon, for lunch. I may have had a couple of glasses of wine too many, but it had been a busy morning. It felt good to relax. The food, as usual, was delicious. On the way home we saw hail accumulated at the side of the road, quite deep in some places. There were also little waterfalls cascading down the mountainside and splashing across the road. We’d missed a pretty bad rain/hail storm. What a very strange spring this is.

Friday, and market day in Villa Lempa. Beautiful morning, but the clouds started creeping down the mountainside in the afternoon. The market was packed up pretty quickly in anticipation of another storm…I hope not, I’m ready for a full day of sunshine. Hubby and I were looking forward to porchetta for lunch, but alas, the porchetta van had sold out. We had pizza instead, which as just as good, with black olives, mushrooms, truffles and sausage. Now lets see what the rest of the day brings.

And finally, this afternoon I went for a walk, but didn’t get past the bar. We have a local election happening this weekend, and some one grabbed me to campaign for their chosen candidate. The candidate they wanted me to vote for funded, and sanctioned our local bar, which was built after the previous bar was made unsafe in an earthquake. Anyway…I had to call hubby, because the candidate made arrangements to come and talk to us. Made for an interesting afternoon. Met some fun people too.

I hope you noticed the bar had motorcycles parked outside…not quite the Stagecoach in Franktown, but there are similarities.

A Misty Farewell to April – Un nebbioso addio ad aprile

When I set off on my Sunday morning walk, it was misty, but dry. I wore a sweater, and in true Italian style, had a scarf around my neck. This was to prevent a blast of cold air hitting my neck (un colpo d’aria), which the Italians believe causes all sorts of ailments. I hadn’t gone far before the the sun appeared and warmed the earth. My scarf became a belt. I love morning walks.
When I got back, hubby was clearing out the garage, not his favourite job. We had already thrown away a great deal of rubbish we’d inherited from the previous occupants. The house was built sixteen years ago, and I don’t think the the garage had been cleaned since. Our home was used for vacations, and only occupied for a couple of weeks each year, so I’m not sure how they accumulated so much junk. On Sunday hubby came across tubs of woodworm treatment…unopened and unused. Expensive stuff to buy, and something you’d certainly NOT waste money on unless you knew you had a problem. Unfortunately, although they bought this treatment, they didn’t bother using it. On our first morning in our new home, we discovered we had woodworm, a problem we’d never dealt with before. Of course we confronted the previous owners with the issue, and they vehemently denied it, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.
Karma is a b&%%$!
We got the experts in and they will be coming to take care of it next week. They told us our “unwanted guests” had not moved in overnight. It takes a couple of years at least for these creatures to establish themselves.

Monday May 1st is a holiday in Italy…yes another one. Tuesday April 25th (last week) was Liberation Day, and Monday May 1st is Labour Day. The good folks of Italy enjoy their holidays and always celebrate them with food.

Speaking of food…this afternoon I baked ginger biscuits (ginger cookies to my American friends). The afternoon turned a little cold and damp, so I needed something to do.

Enjoy my terrible selfie (above). I hope it doesn’t scare you, I wasn’t wearing any make-up…yikes!

Finally, I found a Man (to cut my hair) – Finalmente ho trovato un uomo (per tagliarmi i capelli)

On Monday we made the long trip to Leroy Merlin in Pescara to pick up the roofing materials for the shed. Hubby had planned to go on his own.
“Do you want me to come with you?” I asked him.
“Yes please!” he replied very quickly.
He’s not the loner he used to be. The roofing materials were in a separate yard, across the road from the main store. It was an interesting set up. You helped yourself to what you wanted, loaded up your car, and paid on the way out. They really do trust people here.

After a late lunch, I popped into Villa Lempa. First stop was the ATM…which was acting up, luckily I was able to get some cash, but not as much as I wanted, and I swear the machine spit it out grudgingly. Next stop was the petrol station…which had run out of petrol, and finally the dry cleaners, which is closed on Monday afternoons. Yes, it was one of those days. The redeeming factor was the bakery. It was open and full of Easter delights. I resisted the temptation to splurge, and only got bread, maybe later in the week I’ll indulge. There are three bakers/pastry shops (pasticceria) in the small town of Villa Lempa, but Panifico De Giorgis is my favorite. Lovely friendly staff and the best bread I’ve tasted in the whole of Italy.

Happy to say that Tuesday did not bring snow!!! They moved it to Wednesday…I hope they keep moving it so it doesn’t arrive until December!!!

Tuesday was another one of those days…maybe its going to be one of those weeks. I had a hair appointment in the afternoon. When I arrived at 3pm for my appointment, the salon was still closed for lunch. This was my second appointment at this establishment, and both times I was kept waiting outside. After ten minutes, I decided not to wait any longer, she wasn’t that great anyway. I popped back to the ATM in Villa Lempa to see if it was a little friendlier today. It refused to even take my card. OK, this needed sorting. The nice gentleman in the bank told me to try a different ATM, so I drove to a neighbouring village, Villa Pigna, and tried there. Hallelujah, it worked. I guess I’ll just skip the Villa Lempa ATM in future.

While I was in Villa Pigna, I remembered a hair salon I’d often passed. It was open…yeaahh. The interior was quirky and fun. I’d picked a quiet time, just after lunch, so there were no clients. The stylist told me he could fit me in immediately. I was so happy. I’ve always had a man cut my hair. For over twenty years, in Denver, I had Rocco. He was the best. As well as being a great stylist, he made trips to the hair salon fun. I miss XOXO Salon.

Francesco, in Cardio’s Hair Boutique wasn’t Rocco, but I liked him very much. He didn’t speak much English, but my Italian is coming along and we made decent conversation. Finally I found a man to cut my hair in Italy. He did a great job, and I’ll definitely be back. Settling in a little at a time. I think I’m finally home.

My Wednesday smile!

Beautiful Ristorante Cubanito Bailòn-Bellissimo Ristorante Cubanito Bailòn,

On Wednesday I decided to redeem the week, which had been less than exceptional. Hubby and I discussed how he needed to finish the storage module he was building to house our firewood. We didn’t agree at first, but finally came to a compromise. A wood storage shed can’t be beautiful, but if it is built right, it can look pretty good. We drove to a couple of different hardware stores in Ascoli Piceno and chose the materials he needed to finish it. There wasn’t room for me, and the materials in the car, so he decided to return and pick up what he needed the following day.
“Lets try a new restaurant for lunch.” I suggested.
His face lit up. Ristorante Cubanito Bailòn was on our way home. It is one of those places that has no written menu. The waitress came to our table to let us know what was available for lunch. She picked up on our British accents and apologised “Mi scusi, no English.”
“Va bene, piano piano in italiano.” I asked her to speak slowly in Italian, and she did. We understood every word.
We both started with spaghetti and porcini mushrooms, which was absolutely delicious. Hubby then had pork, and I had breaded veal cutlet with Ascoli Olives (olives stuffed with meat, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried). The main course was served with fries and a green vegetable (verdure) similar to spinach. Wonderful. We were going to skip dessert, until she said the magic words…panna cotta. How could we say no? Totally delicious, new local favourite, we’ll certainly be back. All of this delicious food (did I forget to mention the prosciutto and fresh bread to start with?), plus beer and sparkling water, cost €38. Well worth it for the ambiance, the service, and the quality of the food. I love these local restaurants. Homely, comfortable and delicious.

Lunch in Norcia, Umbria – Pranzo a Norcia, Umbria

For the past few days we’ve been devoting our time to our house and garden. As you all know, hubby and I both enjoy a project. On Saturday I decided we needed to enjoy Italy, and remember why we moved here, so my project was deciding where to go for lunch…Umbria sounded good!

Doesn’t that sound decadent, “Lets go to Umbria for Lunch”. It made me chuckle a bit. We fell in love with Italy a long time ago, and spent long, happy vacations here, so it was natural we’d retire here.

Our current, and hopefully our forever home, is a stone’s throw from the border with Le Marche, and only thirty minutes from the border with Umbria. A perfect place to live.

We had a delicious lunch and basked in the early spring sunshine. I drove back so hubby could enjoy a couple of beers with his meal. He was a happy man.

Norcia is a beautiful town, but unfortunately suffered greatly during the 2016 earthquake, and is still being rebuilt. Many stores have temporary wooden cabins just outside of the city, but they are making the best of it and love to talk about their wonderful meat, cheese, sausages and truffles. We will definitely return.

Home again now, and relaxing with a glass of wine, wondering where our next adventure will take us.

Retirement makes people happy. Yes you’re old, but you only have yourselves to answer to. Make the most of your golden years, they don’t last long.

Sights and Sounds of the season – Immagini e suoni della stagione

Villa Lempa is all decked up for Christmas, isn’t it pretty!

On Wednesday morning I did my last shopping before Christmas. We’re eating lunch at our favourite restaurant in Villa Lempa on Christmas day, so there wasn’t much to buy. Hubby can’t get through Christmas without a glass or two of Baileys Irish Cream, so I picked up a bottle. The grocery store was busy, but happy, and full of jovial shoppers. Even the cashiers were in good humour. Lovely! I feel that Christmas in Italy is more about family, and less about expensive gift giving.

The final work was done on our gas line today. Our drive looks like a building site, and we have to leave it that way until the soil “settles”. That is going to kill me because I want to get out there and put my garden straight again.UGH! Still, the gas line is in now, and I’ll be able to work on my garden in Spring. I want to make it colourful, inviting, and a mess of bushes and flowers…yes, I meant to put mess.

Hubby went to our neighbour Enzo’s house on Wednesday afternoon, to say “Buon Natale” and give him some of my Christmas baking. I stayed home because Piero was still working on the gas line, but wish I’d gone, I missed a treat. When he got back he was in very good humour because he’d been enjoying some excellent home made wine liqueur, along with delicious cheesecake and home made pannacotta. He came home with a full stomach, and a big smile on his face.

I managed to fit in an afternoon walk before it got too dark, and enjoyed the sounds of rural Teramo at Christmas. I never tire of hearing the sheep and goat bells and seeing the shepherd and his four legged helpers. The farm is just across the road from us, but the flock wander the hillsides, grazing all day. I came home to a blazing fire. Lovely day!

I do rattle on a bit don’t I! I just want you to share my journey, first in Colledimezzo, and then in Gabbiano. I want you to feel like you’re here with me.

Don’t you thing these two pups look like an old married couple who have been told they must dress up for Christmas?

Almost Christmas – Quasi Natale

We’re on our own this Christmas. I’m going to miss my daughter and her husband, but it is still Christmas, so I have to make it special. If I don’t keep myself busy I’ll be sad, so on Monday I began our Christmas countdown with two days of baking. I baked the Christmas cake in October, and have been feeding it with Brandy ever since. When my baking is done, I’ll share it with our neighbours, the people who have been so good to us since we moved here. Then it’s time to get out and enjoy the Christmas sights in our new area and maybe experience some new traditions.

On Sunday afternoon we enjoyed a lovely lunch with old and new friends. A spectacular feast, made even better by great company and lively conversation. We ate at Ristorante Colle Santa Maria. Usually the views from the restaurant are beautiful, but on Sunday it was wet and misty, so no photos. When we got home we watched one of the most exciting World Cup Finals I’ve ever seen. Nail biting right to the end, with Argentina beating France, and winning the World Cup for the the third time. Previous victories were in 1978 and 1986. Although I remember them both, the 1986 final is the one that sticks in my mind because of Maradona’s controversial goal. My mum wasn’t a great football fan, but she never stopped talking about “The hand of God”. It became her favourite topic.
“Maradona cheated, he used his hand.” She would raise her fist in the air to make her point. Bless her heart, she was seventy at the time. I do miss my mum. This will be Lionel Messi’s final World Cup I think, so I’m glad Argentina won. Sunday was a good day, it finally felt a bit like Christmas.

My Christmas baking began with a vengeance on Monday morning. It was bright and cold, and the perfect day to have the oven on. What did I create? Millionaires Shortbread, individual pear crumbles, and for lunch…cauliflower cheese soup. I know, I sound like a boring old fart, but I do like to bake.

Monday night was clear, perfect, and a little brighter than usual with Christmas lights twinkling on the horizon. The stars were still visible though.

Tuesday morning dawned bright and colourful…also a little chilly. We had a very early visit from some workmen with heavy equipment. The excavator was due to arrive at eight o clock to eight thirty, to dig the final trench for the gas line. At seven thirty I heard a noise outside…you guessed it, the workmen arrived early. Of course hubby was in the shower so I had to greet them in my robe (again). UGH! Standing outside, explaining I have “poco Italiano” and “fare attenzione a non scavare le linee elettriche per i cancelli” (be careful not to dig up the electricity line for the gates) was not in my plans for starting the day. My final Christmas baking started early and I made mince pies to go with the millionaires shortbread. Today I’ll be distributing them to friends.

Keep smiling folks, tis the season to be jolly.

Sunshine all the way – Sole fino in fondo

Friday was a gorgeous day. Twenty degrees centigrade with a slight breeze.

I know we’re retired, so every day should be the same…but it’s not. I still like Fridays because they herald the weekend (fine settimana), and even in retirement weekends are special. Friday morning was a real treat because it was bright, sunny and warm. After quite a few days of unusually gloomy weather, it felt good. We made our weekly shopping trip to the market in Villa Lempa to purchase veggies from my favourite stall. The price is always roughly the same €15, give or take a few cents. The fresh tasty vegetables last us for whole week and the stall holder always throws in some freebies, usually the extra ingredients to make a ragù. She likes to make sure we eat right!

The first photo above, is how Friday ended, and the second is how Saturday began. Since we moved into this big country house, there have been a few moments when I’ve wondered if we did the right thing, but when I wake up to these views each and every day, I know the answer. The year has been a whirlwind of activity with no time to think, so now I have more time on my hands, as usual, I’m overthinking everything. Maybe in ten years from now I need to worry about the place…or not! For now I’m just going to enjoy its beauty. Oh…and just to add to the charm, the church bells are playing Christmas carols at 9:00 am, noon and 8:00 pm. Magical.

Today we had our gutters cleaned because they were full of leaves causing them to overflow. Watching was a nail biting experience. The hydraulic basket with the workman perched in it was worrying, but not half as worrying as watching him walking on the roof without a safety harness. We also had a couple of dead trees cut down. They were blocking our view of the Adriatic. The wood didn’t go to waste, but topped up our firewood supply. Watching the work being done outside inspired me, and I did a little gardening. I know, its December, why do I need to be gardening? It never gets really cold here, and the soil was soft, so I dug a little and laid some more marble pieces which I foraged from leftovers someone dumped. I love working outside and creating things. It helps me to set down roots.

Sunday morning started gloomy, but the forecast is good, and from now until after Christmas, it looks like sunshine all the way.

The Good People of Italy – La brava gente d’Italia

Friday is market day in Villa Lempa. I always buy my fresh veggies from this market, they’re so good. Today I was surrounded by curious local women who’d picked up on my accent.
One asked me if I lived here or was on vacation. “Sei inglese? sei in vacanza?”
“No io vivo qui.” (I live here)
The conversation continued as they asked me where I lived and if my parents were Italian. They wanted to know why I’d moved here.
“Ho sempre amato l’Italia.” I told them I’d always loved Italy.
“Oh, sì, penso che sia a causa del cibo.” (oh yes, I think its because of the food). This made me laugh, just like everyone else, they thought I moved here for the food. Italians do love their food. I must admit Italian food is good. Not fussy and fancy like French dishes, just tasty wholesome food. The sort that keeps Italian sons returning to their mother to eat!
The ladies all told me how pleased they were to meet me and they hoped I’d be happy here. I was given a gift of celery, carrots, parsley and an onion, and told how to make a good ragu for pasta. I enjoy the people here so much.
My morning trip to the market was bright and sunny, but there was snow on the hills just above the little town.
After leaving my heavy bag of vegetables in the car, I went to the fish shop for pesce misto fritto, (fried mixed fish), which we had for lunch with warm crusty Italian bread. A feast which cost us less than €15.

I managed to fit in a 4 kilometre walk before the evening mist swirled in, collecting my daily bundle of kindling as I walked. Life is simple now. Nothing to hurry for.

I think about the reasons we moved to Italy. We can all agree on one thing, Italy is one of the most beautiful, artistic countries in the world. Its beauty is everywhere, in every town, village and city, as well as the stunning countryside. Our main reason for moving here was the people. Yes, the Italians are very emotional, but that isn’t a bad thing. They are the most caring people I’ve ever met. They are friendly, curious and love to chat. When I shop on the market here in Villa Lempa, I’m greeted like and old friend. When I went for my blood taken on Thursday I was relaxed because the young lady chatted to me as though she knew me. I’ve never felt as welcome anywhere in the world as I do in Italy. Just wish it wasn’t so far away from my daughter.

Such a picturesque day to walk today, mists swirling in from the sea and creeping along the valley. It helped take my mind off my blood test results…you guessed it, high good cholesterol, but also very high bad cholesterol. What can I expect, I live in Italy?

Good job I walk every day. Maybe I’d better work on a healthier diet too!

It’s five o clock somewhere! – Sono le cinque da qualche parte!

If only I could relax, so jealous of people who can sit around and do nothing, seriously! I wasn’t feeling great on Saturday, just felt “off” and a little tired. How I’d love to be able to rest, but it’s not in my chemistry. Instead I busied around the house, did a bit of gardening, went for a walk, made pizzas, won my battle with an annoying house fly, researched surrounding villages, found a place to get a passport photo taken…and then worked on my next book (which is coming along nicely), then my blog. Finally I poured myself a glass of red wine to help me slow down. It was only 3:38pm here in Italy, but it was five o clock somewhere.

Of course on Saturday night the clocks went back. It seems like we just moved them forward. We went to bed a little later than normal, hoping it would help with the adjustment, but not for me. I sleep with the shutters open because of our glorious view. At 6am on Sunday morning the golden pink glow of dawn woke me up. Not a bad way to start the day, and much better than an alarm clock. In retirement alarm clocks are only used once or twice a year, and usually when we have an early flight to catch.

At around ten thirty we drove to San Benedetto del Tronto. The weather was gorgeous, upper twenties and perfect walking weather. We strolled along by the beach and then into town, where we found a place to sit and enjoy a gelato. I’m smitten. I think San Benedetto del Tronto is my favourite Adriatic resort, and only forty minutes from home. After a couple of hours just hanging out and enjoying the tropical feel of the palm trees and clear blue Adriatic, we headed home for a late lunch and a little Prosecco!

All was good! I even took the late afternoon earth tremor in my stride. It’s the second since we moved here. Our very first earthquake was at the end of September. It was a 4.5 on the richter scale. Our house, being newer is built to withstand tremors, but 4.5 sounded like an explosion in the earth below us. Scrambled my brains a bit. This one was a mere 2.3. I looked at hubby and said
He nodded and carried on reading. A second, very small tremor, followed about a minute later. Let all of my earthquakes be small!

The evenings are getting a little colder now, so we’re hoping Piero returns soon to fix our fireplace. The authorities here in Italy have a mandate of when we can switch our gas heating on in an effort to save energy. Putin, of course, isn’t helping the situation and gas is mega expensive, as well as being in short supply. In Italy we aren’t far away from that lunatic. Our region doesn’t allow gas heating to be switched on until November 7th (brrr), so in the evening we are snuggling in blankets to watch the TV. Of course when the fire is fixed, we’ll be fine, no restrictions on burning wood, and the fire heats the radiators and water too. I’d rather suffer a little discomfort than give in to the crazy Russian.

A fresh beautiful smile to start the week.

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