Sunshine, small birds, and good friends – Sole, uccellini e buoni amici

Thursday’s sunset was calm and soothing. A perfect end to a busy day.

The locals tell me that 2023 has brought the wettest spring in over twenty years. It’s certainly nice to feel the warmth of the sun again.

On Friday my day was interrupted by a very young swallow that seems to have fallen from its nest. Hubby said it was hopping around on the path on Thursday too. It hadn’t learned to fly, and as the day progressed, it got visibly weaker. Because it was a very hot day, I tried to figure out how to give it some water. Eventually I managed to get it to drink drips of water from the end of my finger. Its little beak opened and it gobbled the water down, opening up again for more. I carefully placed it in a safe, shaded place in the garden, and kept checking it was OK. The water seemed to revive it a little and soon it began chirping at some birds close by, hopefully they were family. Poor little mite, I wasn’t sure what else I could do.

Bird report – I walked around the garden early Saturday morning, looking for my little friend! A swallow landed on the garden wall close by, chirping loudly. I went across to where it sat. It chirped a few more times, and then flew away. It was very tiny, and I truly hope it was the one I helped the previous day, but I’ll never really know.

On Saturday afternoon we met, and had lunch, with our great friends Thora and Hlynur. They live in Reykjavik, but are staying in their holiday home in Colledimezzo. So much fun to catch up. We only get to do this once a year, so have to make the most of it. So much to talk about, I wish they lived closer. Lovely afternoon. We had a delicious lunch and chatted up a storm, we always have so much to talk about. We’ll have to plan another get together soon.

While in Chieti, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of one of the local Carabinieri! Their uniforms make such a fashion statement. Italian style!

Here comes the sun – Ecco che arriva il sole

So happy the weather has settled into a nice warm pattern. On Tuesday morning I took advantage of it and went for a bike ride. It was beautiful. I had a near miss with a sleepy snake that decided to surprise me, but no harm done to either of us. Not a big snake fan!

Wednesday was so warm we decided to visit the coast. We wandered around the colourful market in Martinsicuro, before strolling by the beach. People were swimming and sunbathing, it felt like summer. The driftwood that had accumulated over the winter was being scooped up by huge machines. The seafront at Martinsicuro has had a lot of work done, and is gorgeous. Nice to see it before the tourists arrive. We were going to stay for lunch, until we noticed ugly thunderheads looming over the mountains. This made me a little nervous and reminded me of a severe hail storm we got caught in last July, when we first visited Martinsicuro. Climate change brings all sorts of surprises. Not wanting to tempt fate, we headed home early. The storm didn’t materialise, but better safe than sorry. My daughter called us while we were on the way home. She was at the airport, waiting for a flight back from Kentucky. So lovely to hear from her. I miss her so much.

Unfortunately I had a gloomy hour in my afternoon, due to a long call with the Social Security Administration in the US. They decided to reduce my pension because of some information they didn’t receive. It takes mail a long time to travel between Italy and the US, and sometimes that can be a problem. The gentleman on the phone was very nice and told me to give it time, and it would be fixed. Time and patience right!

Patience is not my strong point, but I’m trying.

Feeling Tropical at Villa Joanna – Sentirsi tropicali a Villa Joanna

The hot sun, combined with the recent rains, made Sunday positively steamy. I did a little gardening and was soon shedding garments. It’s been a while since it was this warm. Raking the shale to level the driveway gave me a great workout, and soon I was ready to sit on the terrace to enjoy the view across Le Marche. Hubby joined me and we remembered why we moved here.
“Just another day in Paradise”, was his favourite saying when we first moved to Gabbiano and enjoyed our al fresco lunches every day. Food is something else I want to talk about, but in another blog.

This house is going to keep us busy in our retirement. We’ll always be stacking wood for the winter, cutting the grass and pottering in the garden, just like the locals. While we’re out there working, someone always stops by to chat, and because they’re a little nosy and want to see what we’re doing. We still have a fairly big landscaping project to tackle at the back of the house, but I’ve come to realise that this is what we were looking for in retirement, something to keep us busy. We travelled Italy extensively before we moved here, and visited most of the places on our bucket list. There are one or two places we’d still like to see. Sicily, and maybe Sardinia, but there are so many places to explore here in northern Abruzzo/southern Le Marche, that I’m not too bothered about going much further. Italy has always called to hubby and I, and we answered it’s call, by retiring here. Traveling isn’t a priority now, other than visiting our daughter in the US. I wish she was closer.

Retirement means different things to different people. Some retirees are on one long vacation, relaxing, reading, traveling, but everyone is different. To us it is becoming part of a community, enjoying and sharing our home, and making it a place we want to return too. I think we got it right this time.

Our home!

Wish you were here? A moving story! – Vorrei che tu fossi qui? Una storia commovente!

It was a marvellous walk on Friday. Green and beautiful! The Italian countryside at its best. Lets hope the rainy days are over for a while.

Thank heavens I walked on Friday because Saturday dawned gloomy and wet! The rainy days certainly weren’t over. I’d hoped to work in the garden, but even if the rain stopped, it would be much too wet. I baked instead.

I cooked a rainy day lunch of lamb braised in red wine and then baked a lemon pound cake. Finally, I sat down to write. Below is a snippet from the first chapter of my book.

One chilly afternoon, in March 1994, my nine-year-old daughter and I were watching a TV show called “Wish You Were Here” hosted by the well-travelled Judith Chalmers. That particular episode was was about a train journey through the Rocky Mountains between Canada and Colorado. The scenery along the way was breathtaking.  Joanna, my daughter, was unusually silent and couldn’t take her eyes away from the television. Finally, she spoke, and her words changed the direction of our life.

“Mum, the Rocky Mountains look like a really good place to have an adventure, can we move there?”

In a nutshell, we moved from the south of England, to the US, because our daughter watched a travel show and put the idea in our heads. We aren’t crazy…just a little insane, but look how much fun we’ve had along the way.

Judith Rosemary Locke Chalmers OBE (born 10 October 1935) is a British television presenter who is best known for presenting the travel programme Wish You Were Here…? from 1974 to 2003.

Time may change me – Il tempo può cambiarmi

Time may change me, but I can’t trace time. Yes, its a lyric from a David Bowie song. I know lots of them by heart. I thought about this one as I watched hubby eating his breakfast this morning. We’ve been married for almost forty six years…where did the time go? How we’ve changed. It’s not just the wrinkles (laugh lines), but as we age, we think a little differently. Things that were important, no longer are. When I was a teenager I struggled to establish an identity, eager to be a little different, but also needing to fit in. My teenage years were difficult, emotional years. I’d spend hours and hours in my room, playing music and trying to fathom things out. I don’t think I ever really did. There’s no doubt in my my mind that David Bowie helped me through those years. He was definitely different, but he also fitted in. He was part of that era, and helped shape music…and me. One of my favourite Bowie songs is on his Hunky Dory album, and called “Kooks”. If you haven’t heard it, go look it up, I still remember all of the words.

Now time is winding down for me. I’m the wrong side of sixty five and no longer struggle to find my identity. I know just who I am, and where I’m going (it’s unavoidable). I feel as though I’ve been on the worlds fastest roller coaster, and suddenly it stopped…in old age.

I still have one more big thing to do, and that is finish my last book. I’d better get a move on!

A Home Vacation in Villa Joanna – Una casa vacanze a Villa Joanna

I’ve never been a fan of selfies, but I’m always the one taking the photos, so its the only way I ever get a photo of me. Not that I need a photo of me, but there are times when you must wonder if I exist, or if I’m some sort of blog writing robot! On Friday I was enjoying a bit of terrace time, while hubby worked the beams for the roof of his wood shed, which he hopes to finish next week.

It was a gloriously sunny end to a busy day. Dr. apt in the am to discuss my rib x-rays. All is good, just takes time to heal. I wandered around the little market in Villa Lempa and, purchased a lovely rose bush, some veggies, and a very expensive sweater. It was an astounding fourteen euros, but I was only charged thirteen because I’m such a good customer. I enjoy my trips to the market, and stop to talk to many of the stallholders, even if I’m not buying anything. It gives me chance to practice my Italian.

On Monday the technicians turn up to tackle our woodworm problem. Our living area, on the first floor, is bare because we had to move everything to allow them to work. I feel like I’m moving again and its quite stressful.

I’ll be very happy when we’re rid of these pests. Our beams aren’t riddled with holes and insects, but most likely would be if we didn’t tackle this issue right away. We don’t actually see the insects/woodworm, but we know they’re about. Occasionally sawdust is pushed out by the exiting beetle, and when its quiet, they make a kind of tapping noise. I don’t hear it because my tinnitus (yes..I’m going deaf too), drowns it out. Last year we did see one of the beetles after hubby got a ladder and went rummaging above the beams. The ugly thing landed on his shoulder. We didn’t realise what it was at first. I seen a couple of the larvae (UGH). The problem isn’t in every beam, just confined to a couple of areas, but it would spread if not treated. If our beams weren’t so huge, we could have tackled this ourselves, but any treatment we tried would never penetrate these mighty beams. Photos above show you what I mean by BIG.

We’ll be testing out our (soon to be) Bed and Breakfast area on the ground floor next week. Not at bad idea, at least I’ll know what it’s lacking, and fix it before we open up for business next year. Watch out for B&B Villa Joanna, its coming soon.

Remember Basil Fawlty? I believe Fawlty Towers is coming back for a new series this year. I promise you’ll get a better welcome at Villa Joanna than you would at Fawlty Towers…have a lovely Sunday everyone.

Rain jokes are no longer funny – Le battute sulla pioggia non sono più DIVERTENTI

Why are holidays always wet? I’ve lived in England, Germany, America, and now Italy, and in each country, holiday weekends were often ruined by rain. Monday May 1st, Labour Day in Italy, was no exception. The morning was dry but by noon the rain started, lightly at first, then the heavens opened. Glad I hung the washing out early!
With time on my hands, I made my own version of “Le Virtù” for lunch. It was not the masterpiece shown above, but made with the same principal, and tasted pretty good.

Le Virtù – The preparation of this dish is connected with the arrival of Spring. At the end of April, Abruzzo housewives used to clean up all the leftover dried legumes and various types of pasta that had broken or remained unused during the winter. The “virtuous” and ingenious women would skillfully combine all these winter remnants with the first fruits of the season. April 30 is the date considered to be the watershed between the end of the rigours of the winter that has now ended and the arrival of spring.

Spring may have arrived, but it certainly didn’t bring the sun with it. It isn’t cold, but it’s rained for almost two days. Tuesday morning was dry, for a while, but I didn’t venture far. I popped into Villa Lempa, which is less than five minutes away and visited our favourite pasticceria, as well as the supermercato, for a few bits and bobs. I don’t need my usual shopping this week because on Sunday we’ll be moving into the rooms on the ground floor (no kitchen there), while the woodworm exterminators do their thing. We inherited a problem in our big oak ceiling beams on the first floor (our main living area). You really wouldn’t expect to have a woodworm problem in a house that is only sixteen years old would you? The previous owners really didn’t take care of this lovely home. Not to worry, the problem will soon be resolved, onwards and upwards. One thing that brightens the process up for me, is we’ll have to eat out every single day. What a hardship! How will I find good restaurants here in Abruzzo and Le Marche…I’m kidding of course. We are surrounded by the best food in the world.

I’ll drown my sorrows in pasta, and hopefully, our home’s unwelcome guests will be gone soon.

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!

Making Friends in Italy is Easy – Fare amicizia in Italia è facile

Very short walk on Thursday because I was exhausted. Beautiful wild flowers along the way though.

I developed a problem with my left hip a few months ago. Maybe I stepped wrong, just overdid it a bit, or maybe my body is aging more quickly in certain areas, who knows. I ignored it for a while, hoping it would go away. Unfortunately it didn’t magically disappear. (Lesson to self, never ignore pain). I asked my good friend Gabriella if she know a good masseuse in the area, and she introduced me to a marvellous physiotherapist. I’ve been receiving treatment from him three times a week for the past three weeks. . On my first appointment my hip was pretty much frozen in place, but slowly, he twisted, pulled and coaxed it to move a little more. I managed to talk (with my not so perfect Italian) to the therapist while he manipulated my poor old joints, and is seems he lives pretty close to us. On Wednesday we talked Trump, Putin, and pizzas. Apparently he has a wood fired pizza oven at his home.
“Vengo a suonare alla tua porta d’estate e tu e tuo marito venite a mangiare la pizza con me” (He is going to ring our bell and invite hubby and I to have pizza with him in summer).
“Sì, per favore, sarebbe meraviglioso.” I accepted his offer immediately.
“Pizze alla napoletana.” He added.
Even better, my favourite type. I love the friendliness of the Italian people. They open their hearts, and homes too make us feel welcome wherever we go.

On Thursday, our trusty plumber Pierro, began installing our new boiler. I think it was giving him problems because he was talking to himself a great deal. Even seemed to be arguing with himself at one point. I tried to make a joke with him and ask him if he was almost finished. I knew it wasn’t, but wanted to try and cheer him up a little.
“No, finisco domani. È molto complicato.” he responded, clearly irritated. (He’ll finish Friday).
I took a short walk Thursday afternoon, but was too tired to go far. I’d risen and showered very early in preparation for Pierro arriving at 8 am.

Next week is not going to be a very restful week either, but we’ll talk about that in another blog.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone and respect your plumber (Idraulico).

Striving for Perfection – Alla ricerca della perfezione

This “almost perfect” home is slowly coming together. Our new boiler is being fitted this week. The old one still works, but it’s a sixteen year old combi boiler, and struggles if more than one person is showering. If we decide to open the ground floor of our home for Bed and Breakfast next year, I need something a little more efficient.

Gardening is now at the top of my long list of hobbies! I’ve already brightened up the outside space with flowers and shrubs, but I’d like to add quirky things that I pick up along the way, just to make it interesting. I want the garden to be an inviting retreat for our guests. I knew retirement wouldn’t slow me down. I think my life is busier now than it ever was. Keeping busy helps me forget how much I miss my daughter. I love Italy, but wish it wasn’t so far away.

I managed a short walk on Tuesday afternoon (between showers), and as usual, pottered in the garden a little before I went back inside. I just can’t help myself. We decided against going to the Liberation Day celebrations because the weather was so unsettled. Ascoli Piceno celebrates with a local food festival until May 1st, so I think Saturday may be our day to indulge. So much going on here as summer approaches.

As some of you know, one of my hobbies is writing. I’ve published three books already and I’m currently writing an amusing, and sometimes tearful, book about our move to Italy. My story is approaching the time period when we left the Old Olive Mill in Colledimezzo and moved to Gabbiano. It’s fun to put my story into words. The previous owners of this lovely house weren’t totally honest with us and we soon discovered they hadn’t taken care of it very well. Maintenance had been completely ignored. Hubby had his work cut out for a while. Although I haven’t really blogged the hiccups we had to overcome, I’m going to mention it in my book, but in a light hearted manner. I want this to be a fun book to read…and I also need to decide on a title.

Have a lovely day everyone and keep a smile.

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