Have you ever made a daisy-chain?

Have you ever made a daisy-chain?

As a child I can remember many sunny afternoons sprawling in meadows, chatting with friends making daisy chains and peeling grass. We’d sit silently willing butterflies to alight on the flower nearest to us or watch fascinated as bees buzzed noisily around collecting pollen in their sacs.

Petals would be carefully pulled off a flower while we seriously chanted ‘ Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich man , Poor man, Beggar man, Thief! ‘ to discover who we would marry! Thank goodness this was just a bit of childhood nonsense!

There would be snails to race and caterpillars to collect, identify and tenderly look after until the time came when we could witness the miracle of metamorphosis. Golden Buttercups would be held under our chins to discover if we liked butter! Inevitable everyone did as the buttercup always reflected a golden glow, not because we liked butter, but simply because of the cellular structure of the petals. So there’s another bit of childhood magic destroyed!

For us country kids, every day was one of learning and discovery. We knew the names of every flower and every tree, how many petals , the shape of leaves, which seeds came from which tree, the life cycles of just about everything. We watched fascinated in the spring as baby lambs and calves were born and joined in with the planting and harvesting at the local farm undeterred by the numerous rats and mice escaping from the machines and pitchforks!

The other day I took the short boat trip from San Feliciano to Isola Polvese . It’s one of my favourite places. A tranquil natural haven set in the magnificent Lago Trasimeno. At this time of the year its many meandering meadows are carpeted with buttercups and daisies and the green of the hedgerows is punctuated by masses of vivid red poppies.

Sitting amongst the long grass my hand naturally strayed to the daisies and began to make a daisy chain. I didn’t get very far! This process definitely requires the small nimble fingers of a child …. and the patience!

Daisies are often overlooked and outshone by their more colourful and vivid neighbour, the buttercup, but they have a unique and simple beauty. An innocence and purity. In Christianity they represent the tears of Mary and the Celts believed that they were the spirits of children who died at birth. God sprinkled daisies over the earth to make the families feel less sad. So lovely!

People also used to believe that daisies would stop the fairies from running off with their children!

Did you know that you should always join the ends of a daisy chain? This is because they represent the sun, the earth and the circle of life.

 

Once a country girl, always a country girl!

From Isola Polvese.
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow!

Sunrises here in Castel Rigone never fail to take my breath away. If there ever was an incentive to get out of bed in the morning then this is it!

Every dawn has its own unique beauty. Moody pink and blues, Purple speckled skies, Warm golden light. Today a sky on fire!

Hopefully this English proverb will not come true. I'm looking forward to an afternoon on the beach!!

'Red sky at night is shepherds delight but red sky in the morning is shepherds warning.'

 

 

Tom-Boys!

I saw the above shared on Facebook today . It's from the MINIONS QUOTES website. Should I tell them it should be 'weren't afraid ' and not 'wasn't afraid ' (the plural) ..if they are talking about girls ??

TOM-BOYS!

I haven't heard this phrase used much lately. Maybe it's no longer politically correct? Perhaps it's now considered to be 'Tom-ish' or 'sexist' or insulting to boys. Or maybe by giving a girl this label it is now considered possible that we will influence her future sex inclinations? What rot!!

I was, undeniably, a Tom-boy!
My poor mum tried. How she tried! Pretty dresses in palest pink or blue or white with pretty flowers and shining white sandals that showed the tiniest speck of dirt. Then there were those lengthy nighttime routines of hair-ragging which gave me the most beautiful Shirley Temple ringlets. But, despite all attempts I was happiest in dungarees digging up worms. ( I really had a thing about worms!) hunting out caterpillars or paddling in muddy ponds catching tadpoles!
 
 
 
 
 
My dad loved this and we had a great time in the Spring and summer climbing Billinge Hill and searching for the nests of skylarks. We never took any eggs but it was great fun searching them out. We'd also go tadpole hunting and in the autumn collect conkers.
During the evenings I would watch him, sat at our dining table, constructing wooded boats and planes from balsa wood and powered by rubber bands. It was great fun sailing the boats on the ponds but the planes were my favourite. They flew high into the sky then usually nose-dived into the grass and got stuck!
Shunning dolls and prams I became a dab hand with a rifle shooting crows (toy ones) lined up on the wall in the back yard. My other love was a bow and arrow and an Red Indian headdress ! I owned a catapult and had great fun with those metal cap bombs that made huge bangs when they hit the pavement.
Despite all these 'weapons' I have grown up into a peace loving individual … undeniably female …and my spare time isn't spent at a rifle range or on target practice! I don't even fancy contact sports, judo or kick boxing!
But what I have gained from those 'boyish ' pursuits is a practicality and resourcefulness and a spirit of adventure and I guess it's this spirit of adventure that led me here.
And, like it says in the quote, I'm still the girl '…who ran outside barefoot' and love kicking off my shoes and love the feel of grass under my feet…..and I still search for caterpillars when no one is looking!
 
 
 
 

 

 

Pancakes and Masquerades!

 

Is it Pancake Day or Carnevale …..?

Next Tuesday, the 17th, is Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, as we know it in the UK, but here in Italy it is called Carnevale. The Italians really put heart and soul into all their festivals and with Valentine’s Day just three days earlier it is confusing to know which celebration some of the advertisements,decorations and biscotti are associated with. Shops are full of costumes and masks and special fish menus for Carnevale and boxes of Bacci chocolates for Valentines Day. Hearts are everywhere, even on sugar packets.

Yesterday one of our lovely neighbours brought in a plate of melt in the mouth, homemade Biscotti, lavishly dusted in vanilla flavoured icing sugar (Italians seem to use this on just about everything), they are simple but very addictive.

Carnevale began way back in Roman Times and, like our Shrove Tuesday, was a day of wining and dining in preparation for forty days of fasting. One source describes it as a day when the lower classes could let their hair down and enjoy themselves. Now it is a time of parties and masquerade balls. The ones in Venice being particularly extravagant.

In typical stiff upper lipped British style our ‘feast’ modestly consisted of Pancakes, thus using up eggs and milk whereas the Romans appear to have had these humongous feasts! Maybe they had to give up more than us as, from what I read, the celebrating was one of food, wine and sensuous pleasures!

However , looking at English medieval feasts I reckon our original Shrove Tuesday was probably very similar to that of the Italians! We just don’t like to admit it!

But, seriously, to look back at the origins of our ‘pancakes’.

The word ‘Shrove’ is a derivative of ‘shrive’ which means to be forgiven of your sins. To gain absolution. I was telling one of my Italian friends how it is common in the UK to ‘ give up’ something for Lent. He was really surprised when I said that lots of my friends seemed to favour giving up chocolate. But then Italians do love their chocolate!

Here in England, as everywhere in Europe, this day was originally a pagan holiday. The ‘Slavs’ believed that the change of seasons was due to a struggle between the evil spirits of cold and darkness and ‘Jarilo’ the god of springtime and fertility. The celebration lasted a week, the most important feature being the eating of pancakes ! The round, hot, golden pancake symbolised the sun and they believed that by eating pancakes they would get the warmth and energy of the sun. I do feel quite energised today and the sun has been very strong so maybe they were right!

I really miss my kids most of the time but not on Pancake Day! Why? Well now I can make pancakes and enjoy them whereas before the mass production, a burning face and repetitive strain injury through tossing the pancakes, took away my appetite!!

Did you know that a Dr. Mark Hadley, has researched exactly how to perfect tossing a pancake? Well, it appears that it requires an exact altitude. So, next time you attempt to toss a pancake aim for a height of 0.5 metres. Your natural swing will give the pancake a velocity of 3m/sec which in turn spins it at just the right angle/speed and lands it perfectly back into the pan and not on the carpet! There is a series of equations to support/explain this theory but, equations make my head feel really weird so we won’t go into that.

I always eat pancakes dusted with sugar and liberally sprinkled with lemon juice. I also dry fry them without butter or oil so,they are light and thin and crisp and healthy!

Way back when I was about nine years old the desert ‘crepes suzette’ was very fashionable. This is a dish of pancakes in a boozy orange sauce. My first experience of this was nearly my last!

The occasion was a meal out with my lovely Uncle Johnnie. Uncle Johnnie, my mum’s youngest brother was, in those days area sales manager in the foot ware industry. He would sometimes stay with us when visiting retailers in the North. I really looked forward to his visits because he was great company and had a big car! I would sit and wait for him while he had meetings with clients and then we would visit a little cafe for an afternoon tea of scones with jam and cream.

One day Uncle Johnnie took me out for dinner. It was at the Brocket Arms in Wigan. A very grand place! It was an amazing meal. In those days we never went out to eat. It was very expensive plus there just weren’t any restaurants. Just hotels. I think I had a Prawn Cocktail followed by steak and chips for my main course and then chose Crepes Suzette for desert probably because it sounded very fancy! It was quite an experience. I remember the waiter frying the pancakes in melted butter over a burner next to our table and massive flames as the brandy was poured over and set alight!

It tasted amazing but I felt so sick later!! Just far too rich for a nine year old’s stomach ! But I never said anything because Uncle Johnnie would have been really upset. He was always so very kind!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun!!

Sunday 8th Feb.

7.30am

We have sun !

 

After three days of snow showers and mist, this morning we can see the Mount Subasio Range and sun Is streaming through our kitchen windows bathing us (and bear) in a golden light.

The UK has fog! I know because we are watching the BBC news and weather on UK4g. The weather being the most interesting feature so far! I think they were really scraping the barrel today. Some more about the sad state of care homes which sadly has been ‘news’ for years, a retiring jockey and a muffled interview with Prince Charles. Still, it’s nice background noise over breakfast when the brain can just about cope with English but definitely NOT Italian!!

Isn’t the screen-shot facility brilliant on iPad!!

Isn’t the iPad amazing!
….and the computer and mobile phone and all this new technology! I just love it!
I would like to think that we all have lots of lives so I can be reborn and experience all the new technologies! I’d like to be a graphic designer, and go to the moon for a holiday. Maybe even try piloting a rocket although I don’t think it would be as much fun as flying a glider. That’s brilliant!
 
My dad loved technology too. He has missed so much this last thirty years. Our house used to be full of the latest gadgets. Some useful some not! Electric carving knives and tin openers. Milk frothers and crepe makers. Movie cameras and tape recorders . We often watched movies projected onto a white sheet pinned onto our lounge wall. How he would have loved steaming them from an iPad using Apple TV. I can just hear him explaining it to everyone who came to visit us, animated and eyes twinkling !
 
Although I love technology as a tool, I don’t like to see it replacing social interaction or to see people becoming dependent on it.
In Hong Kong last October, I was horrified to see all these people walking around the streets, crossing roads and in the underground totally obsessed with texting and even playing games on their mobile phones!
There are even signs and announcements in the MRT stations warning people to look where they are going and not at their mobiles ! The explanation appears to be that, in overcrowded places like Hong Kong, it is a way to remain sane! To escape from all the noise and stimuli.
How bizarre is that !
Last week I also saw a news item on this new craze in Korea. People are being paid to film themselves eating. This is not just your normal eating. This is plain gluttony. People stuffing themselves with humongous quantities of food. I think the explanation or excuse given for this was that many Koreans are lonely and the knowlege that others are watching them eat makes them feel better!
However! I think this video link tells another story. It really is worth watching. Technology gone mad!
 

Take a look at this video on YouTube:


http://youtu.be/DbhYE4Lf9xk

 

 
 
This glorious sun is also showing up my dirty windows! But, there’s no way I’m cleaning today. I’m off for a walk!
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Il Bagno

Chatting with friends yesterday about the humorous aspects of loos in different countries reminded me of an incident a couple of summers ago when one of my friends failed to return from a visit to the loo at a local bar. Being engrossed in conversation, the rest of us didn’t suspect anything was amiss but became rather anxious when, after twenty minutes, she had failed to return. What had happened?

Read on ……..

Toilets in Italy are ‘interesting’. Each has its own personality and, unless you regularly use the same one thus becoming familiar with its quirks, then you really do need to be prepared for every eventuality! Take note of the following guidelines!!

There are three options when choosing a loo.

  • One, find a public one. There you either enjoy a locked cubicle with one of those ‘French type’ squats or you use the disabled cubicle which has a ‘proper’ toilet but there is no lock on the door. They both will definitely be devoid of loo paper, hand driers and paper towels!
  • The second choice is to find the Commune Offices. Unknown to most tourists they have wonderful toilets with just about everything you could possibly want (light, a lock, working toilet, loo paper, water and paper towels )
  • The third and most popular option is to go to a bar . This also usually requires buying a drink in order to make use of a bar’s facilities, which in turn, means that you will be frequenting yet another bar when that drink works its way through! The modern bars have amazing facilities which are far superior to any English ones but if frequenting an older version there are some things to remember!!

Allow sufficient time. In other words don’t leave it till you are desperato!!

1. Be prepared with a bag containing toilet paper (for obvious reasons), wet-wipes (in case the taps do not render any water or you can’t work out which foot pedal to press), soap.

2. Don’t forget the screw driver in case the taps come loose , and yes! This has happened to me!

First you need to locate Il Bagno. They are not usually obvious or named and may even be outside. Of course one can always ask directions but this can be extremely uncomfortable if you are hopping up and down in the queue at the bar.

So, off you go in search. With any luck you will find one tucked behind the slot machine game or behind a pile of boxes in the store room or down a dark spiral staircase in the cellar. It is likely however that the door will be locked with a notice directing you back in the direction you came to ask for the chiave (key).

It could be worse. The door could be open but WITHOUT a key. In this situation it may be possible to hold the door shut with your foot whilst straggling the loo but, if not you will need to go back to get spouse, daughter or son to stand guard.

I said you needed to allow lots of time!

But you may be lucky and easly locate Il Bagno. Beware those cowboy type swing doors! Very nasty if you get caught up in them! Also, don’t be too excited when you discover the light comes on automatically.

It will wait until you are nicely settled and then … it will go off ! That is why this loo (unlike the majority) still has toilet paper available. No one could ever find it in the dark!!

Health Warning! Do make sure you memorise the exact location of the light switch and door handle whilst the light is on. Otherwise you may be locked in there until someone else comes along …….

as my friend was!

 

Mama mia! Più Neve!

 
I can't believe that it's snowing yet again ! Large, floaty beautiful flakes.
So maybe we will be eating in again tonight?
Just in case there's a big bubbly pot of Chilli con Carne on one of our two hot plates and it smells divine ! I
I love making chilli because it's easy, quick, healthy and non-messy. It also freezes really well and so is a great back-up for those fast but nutrious meals.

The recipe for about 6/8 portions depending on whether you serve it with rice. I prefer it in a bowl on its own with a nice big chunk of bread.

In a very large pot:

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

2cloves garlic

1 chopped onion.

Peas ..about two cups

Chopped carrots . About 5 Big ones

If in the UK 2 tins of red kidney beans. In Italy they seem to come in tiny tins so you will need 4.

1tin of lentils.

A sprinkle of oregano and Marjoram.

Lots of paprika! I usually put in half of a jar which must be about 5 teaspoons.

2 teaspoons of mild chilli powder. (To taste really)

2veg. Stock cubes.

1 glass vino Rosso

2 cans of water.

Lean minced beef. 1tray. About 500gram.

Method

Just bring to the boil and simmer for two hours.

Adjust seasoning. You can add tomato purée if too thin.,

That's it!

 

 

Midges

 

 

We watched an old episode of ‘Faulty Towers’ ieri sera. SO funny! This must be the tenth time but it still had me falling about laughing. The episode was called ‘The Germans’. In it a German family visit the hotel and are subjected to Basil’s attempts ‘not to mention the war!’ with hilarious results especially since he’s just been hit on the head by a moose and is suffering from concussion!

So glad I bought the series (originally broadcast in 1975) because I don’t think a programme like this would be allowed now! We are living in such a politically correct world that it’s difficult to know what to say without offending some nationality, colour, sex or religion! I read somewhere that in California, I think, they are not allowing separate male and female toilets because it is confusing for tranvestites! I reckon that in ten years time we will have a choice of Male, Female, Homosexual , Lesbian, tranvestite, Bi, and Don’t Knows!

It’s probably a good thing we have moved to Italy because here its much more ‘laid back’ and I do have a tendency to ‘put my foot where my mouth should be’ as my mum used to say!

But it is difficult to know what to say these days. Many of the words I grew up with now have a completely different meaning. ‘Gay’ being one of them! When we said that someone was ‘gay’ it meant they were happy and lively and why on earth do we have now have to rub a mistake out with an ‘eraser ‘ ?

Currently I’m writing a series for pre school children which will be read, I hope, in the US as well as Britain but it is SO difficult to ensure that I get the correct meaning across both sides of the Atlantic! For example the words ‘a jumper’ to people in the UK mean:

but to people in the US they mean ….

 

So for someone like me who has a tendency to malapropocise (can I use this as a verb?) then life becomes even more difficult tackling a foreign language.

Italian has quite a few words which are very similar in construction but have very different meanings!

For example, it is very embarrassing to ask for a ‘bombola’ in a bar because bars generally serve up doughnuts (bombolone) and Not gas cylinders.

Equally although Italians do find any excuse for a festa they have not yet held one for the ‘ barbiere’ (barbers) but we do have one for the barbarians (Barbari)!

When I was little my parents used to crease up laughing when I sang the hymn line, “…visit us with thy Dalmatians, enter every trembling heart!’ You recognise the hymn??

Love divine, all loves excelling,

Joy of heaven to earth come down;Fix in us thy humble dwelling;

All thy faithful mercies crown!Jesu, thou art all compassion,

Pure unbounded love thou art; Visit us with thy salvation;

Enter every trembling heart.

Of course it was probably also because I was, and still am, completely unable to get a note let alone hold it.

On our first day at St. Thomas’s infant school in Ashton us five year olds were asked to sing one line of ‘The Lord’s my shepherd’ . Following my rendition I was told not to join in with the assembly hymns!! A fantastic way of boosting a child’s self esteem!

I’m pretty useless too at getting our English sayings correct. For example, ‘A rolling stone gathers no moths!’ and once wrote in an English homework that ‘only having one wife is called monotony’. Maybe some men would agree!

Unfortunately I seem to have passed this on to daughter C and she once came running in from the garden saying that ‘ lots of ‘midgets’ were chasing her!




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Lie Soup

I've just made a second batch of our favourite 'Chuckit' soup. First made by accident but now with precision! Every ingredient being noted as present and correct by my husband who often moans that I can never produce the same dish twice because I haven't a clue what I've put in it! This wouldn't matter if it was something he didn't like but unfortunately it's usually something he's really enjoyed.

The ingredients are as colourful as the soup itself is delicious.

Red pepper, cauliflower, carrots, potato, rocket , peas and an onion. (Quantities can be judged from the picture below). Simmer these in water with a vegetable stock cube and about a quarter of a teaspoon of crushed chillies then pop in the blender with half a pint of milk' check seasoning and you will have something quite sublime!

 

As you've probably guessed the name came from the original potful when I had lots of bits and pieces languishing in the fridge in dire need of eating. So, I 'chucked it' all in!

 

When I was very little I refused all soup unless it came out of a 'Campbell's' tin. Homemade was refused. Heinz didn't get a look-in. It had to be Cambell's Condensed Soup. Chicken. Very strange!!

One day my mum gave me a new variety of Cambell's soup called, 'Lie Soup'. It would appear I ate this with gusto and asked for it again and again. It was many years later during a conversation with her about my own daughter's food fads, that the truth suddenly dawned!

And, talking about daughter number two's food fads!!! My own mum did at least suggest that she was not entirely telling me the truth. But I blatantly lied! Swearing that no, there were no vegetables in the bolognese when I had secretly blended them into the tomato sauce!!

Strange she should grow up and become vegetarian!!

 

Washing

It’s a bit tricky this washing!

Well, not the actual washing. The washing machine takes care of that. It’s more the drying.

So, what does one do with a load of wet clothes and no garden or backyard?

Well, we have the answer right here!

 

String a line from window to window or across your terrace or even across the street!

Without applying for a permit to erect scaffolding and temporarily closing the road, (our house fronts right onto the road. No pavement or grass) it was impossible to follow the above example exactly but we do have a cable stretching across the top of our house under the gables. Not sure what it’s for but it makes a good anchoring point for coat hangers!

I am careful these days about which items I hang out of the window and I’ve developed a good knack with the shirts. The trick is to keep one sleeve inside the window bars so they are held when the window is shut! The neighbours are really good returning items that have fluttered their way onto the hedges opposite but, for this reason I prefer to confine my undies to the tumbler drier!

For the first few years of my life we had neither a washer or a tumbler drier and I can remember my mum and nan pummelling clothes in a big metal wastub and then putting them through the ‘mangle’ to extract the water. Once mum put her fingers too near to the rollers and got them trapped. That must have been so painful.

Fortunately it wasn’t long before the ‘twin-tub’ washing machine arrived, This now would seem like torture but must have been a godsend after the ‘dolly-tub’ days. Washday then was literally a whole day. Usually on a Monday, all the women in our street would be tied to the house, wet and often cold because there was never any heating in the ‘scullery’. First shirt collars would be scrubbed with a block of soap and scrubbing brush to remove the stains. Dirty articles would be soaked. Whites bleached . Then there would be the tedious and physically draining job of washing numerous loads in the tub, putting them through the mangle followed by pegging out in the back yard.

 

So, thank goodness now for my automatic washer and tumbler drier!

If you want to see what washing for like before electric washing machines arrived, this is a very good site.


http://www.1900s.org.uk/mangle.htm

 

 

 

And, if you really want to turn what is normally a pretty boring chore into a social occasion………why not synchronise your washdays (and your washing lines) with your neighbour and then you can have a thoroughly enjoyable social experience!

I love these people. They really do know how to make the most out of life. La Dolce Vita!