Category Archives: Travel

The Ripening Hambrook Harvest

From Little Acorns....,Rocking Dog

From Little Acorns….

I escaped the kitchen and ALL that china for a brief while yesterday. I was surely succumbing to cabin fever or should that be soapy sud kitchen fever! Real Live Rocking Dog provides the perfect excuse to drop the tea towel and  get out on the Frome Valley walkways which hug our fortunate doorstep.

How lovely to walk in sunshine and have blue fluffy cloud skies as a gorgeous last day in July canopy. Along the walk there were burgeoning and ripening crops of sloes, bullace, elderberries and blackberries. I spied a particularly luscious crop of blackberries over a pennant stone wall. Alas, they were unattainable with the river a watery barrier. A host of birds and other wildlife will have a veritable feast with no humans able to access and pick this precarious crop. Other bird food is ripening ready for the colder less plentiful days of late autumn and winter. Haws, rosehip and holly will serve them well.

Family folklore suggests that my fathers maternal family may have been Huguenots. Have you ever witnessed how  many French folk behave on a beach, they are not sunbathing, they are not swimming .. they are foraging! They have pails and spades, nets and lines and going in search of lunch or to find bait to catch lunch! Mussels, whelks, coastal plants, shrimp and crab are simply not safe. I see ripening elderberries and think of their addition in a summer pudding, an apple pie or crumble, ice cube or stew. Sloes and bullace again are destined in my mind to immersion in vodka or gin. I love to use the bloated alcohol soaked berries in rocky road and in ice creams, sorbets and warming winter stews. Just maybe, yes maybe I indeed do have French foraging blood flowing in my veins!

I love the way the Italians celebrate and give thanks to every crop they harvest and every animal they hunt. There are ancient walled hilltop towns close to where we live in Umbria which annually celebrate the bread, the oil, the wine, the saffron, the wild boar, the sweet chestnut, and so on! In the spring we were treated to the most wonderful feast at the little village hall in “our” village. The valley was vibrantly yellow with Mimosa trees and so this tree was celebrated along with World Women’s Day. The men (with undoubtedly some help of the female kind in the background!) of the village cooked for the women. We sat down to plates of crostini followed by two pasta courses (one with a pork ragu sauce and the other a tomato sauce). Lamb, steak and locally produced sausages cooked on a wood fired brazier together with a delicious dressed salad came next. Finally a specially baked mimosa coloured iced cake was proudly bought out and served with Grappa. Throughout the meal we had bottles of very quaffable locally produced red wine and then it was time to dance. Bad dancing translates and is understood in whatever language you speak! The Macarena danced for the final time it was time to wearily and bloatedly stumble home. Each woman was presented with a branch of Mimosa as she left together with hugs and hearty “buona notte’s”. It was such a lovely multi generational community event and we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome. We do not celebrate anything enough in this country and unfortunately unlike the Italians many British would not embrace a party encompassing all generations.

Back to walking along my favourite Hambrook walk (nicknamed “Mr Badger walk” because of an old sett along its route) the earth was littered with crops that hadn’t quite made it. Amongst the carpet of last years autumnal leaf fall there were conkers, beech masts and cobnuts lying like jewels. They had simply dropped before their time or had been slain by squirrels not willing to wait!

At the stile there was a solitary doe eyed cow with Bully the blooming big bull. I couldn’t help thinking “poor cow!” Perhaps she’ll have her very own harvest in the spring.

Very soon it was time to return to THAT china … but I felt so much better after a brief but wonderful nature filled sojourn.

 

Future Harvest,Rocking Dog

Future Harvest

Ditto!,Rocking Dog

Ditto!

Unattainable Harvest,Rocking Dog

Unattainable Harvest

Too Early....,Rocking Dog

Too Early….

...Too Late!,Rocking Dog

…Too Late!

One For The Pan,Rocking Dog

One For The Pan

Late Summer Harvest,Rocking Dog

Late Summer Harvest

Christmas Harvest,Rocking Dog

Christmas Harvest

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow,Rocking Dog

Spring Harvest? Poor Cow

My 400th Rocking Dog Post

Exquisite Setting,Rocking Dog

Exquisite Setting

Sorry that there is no Rocking Dog gingerbread house or cake with the number 400 on it. Life has been busy shopping and preparing for a lovely wedding at the end of the week. Rocking Dog is going to be pulling out all the stops! The atmospheric photo heading this post is taken in the garden where there’ll be a marquee, an undoubtedly very glamorous bride and groom and a melee of equally gorgeous guests. I am slightly worried that my own outfit is all together rather Handmaid’s Tale – I’m just needing the bonnet! The garden this morning was young, fresh, verdant and with the happy sound of little children enjoying the first day of the summer holidays, yay! The borders are looking wonderful with Bears Breeches, Agapanthus, Hosta’s and other botanical loveliness. The old warm brick walls which formerly would have had lean-to green housing for the growing of lemons, pineapples and other “showy” edibles now hosts wisteria with its scented mauve chandelier blooms. There really is nothing like an English garden and this one is truly, yes absolutely truly lovely.

It has taken Rocking Dog 7 months to leap from 350 to 400 posts. There have been times where writing has not come easily. In fact reading doesn’t always come very easily either. I am ashamed to say that in June I read my first book in two years and that felt quite an achievement. The brain is such a difficult organ to fathom.

Importantly, there has been a new grandchild this spring and in turn the nurturing of new parents. The name Biddy (as in old) is becoming a term of endearment I really love. I haven’t given up leopard print or silver wedge shoes and yes, I know I will love him unconditionally even when he’s a grunting spotty teenager!

The seven months have seen Christmas glitzily come and go, and in fact come back again! Indeed, we hosted “Christmas in February” at the kennel and raised £550 (plus GiftAid) for Young Carer’s. We can do “Christmas in a Box” for families in need Christmas 2017. Wee Tam’, Old gout ridden Toby and Mrs Mack (the present from Fleetwood) are busy conjuring up the theme for next years Burn’s Night…watch this space!

There has been lots of walking to be done with Real Live Rocking Dog with a myriad of wildlife- deer, kingfishers, weasels, buzzards, swallows and even a Russian Waxwing! The white rabbits still seem to be multiplying in the field and I never cease to think that it’s some weird scene from Teletubbies! Real Live Rocking Dog also got to walk in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany and finally Italy this Spring. Like us he likes the Umbrian way of life and he is particularly partial to the sausages stocked in the village shop!

Rocking Dog has continued to make food, sew, gallantly endeavoured to tackle two unruly gardens, volunteer, homemake, care for friends & family and always tried to be cheery (for a half empty glass gal’ I acknowledge I am).

Seven months in a nutshell! Somewhat alarmingly the next fifty posts should take me to Christmas 2017! There’ll have been Young Carer’s Christmas Boxes to pack, a charity pop up restaurant night under our belts, an olive harvest to bring in (fingers crossed), Real Live Rocking Dog having walked in the snow again and lots of happy times spent with friends and family.

Love to all those who follow my blog, I appreciate you hanging in there with me

Love Rocking Dog x

PS. Yes, another phenomenon of the 7 months is the Rocking Dog Creative Huddle. There is a Huddle this Wednesday (26th). Homemade cake (fingers crossed) creative stuff, friendly chat and you’d be very welcome 7-9pm. Donations into the teapot for Fine Cell Work inspiring and supporting prison inmates to sew and embroider.

Winter Walks,Rocking Dog

Winter Walks

Mrs Mac & Wee Tam,Rocking Dog

Mrs Mac & Wee Tam

Christmas In Feb',Rocking Dog

Christmas In Feb’

Marmalade Making,Rocking Dog

Marmalade Making

Cushion Making,Rocking Dog

Cushion Making

Creative Huddling,Rocking Dog

Creative Huddling

Field Full Of Flowers,Rocking Dog

Field Full Of Flowers

Chelsea Flowers,Rocking Dog

Chelsea Flowers

Quilted Flowers,Rocking Dog

Quilted Flowers

English Wedding,Rocking Dog

English Wedding

Spring In Umbria,Rocking Dog

Spring In Umbria

Swim In Umbria!,Rocking Dog

Swim In Umbria!

Glitter Shoed Gardening In Umbria

Hanging The Hammock,Rocking Dog

Hanging The Hammock

Good morning from Rocking Dog. I had good intentions of continuing to garden at 5.30 am on my return to the kennel, but alas….! To escape the piercing heat of the Umbrian sun I did indeed choose to garden as dawn arrived in the garden. I was awoken by my own dawn chorus of naughty chattering birds flitting busily on the ancient olive tree outside our bedroom window. I gardened in linen nightie and glittery sandals and as a result my legs are in a scratched and sorry state! The Italian version of Sticky Willy is coarse, barbed and unforgiving.

Umbria has had no rain for a few weeks now and the land is parched. It has been unusual to have such high temperatures so early in the summer season and there are real concerns for this years olive crop. The little olives have had no chance to develop before being hit by temperatures nearing 40 degrees. For those of us who pick olives as a pleasurable hobby a poor crop is sad but not an economic disaster. Meanwhile for those who depend on the crop for their livelihood a poor harvest is a severe body blow. Of course a poor crop trickles down to whole communities (pickers,olive oil pressing facilities, bottle & can suppliers,retailers etc…) Olive oil really is a way of life in Italy.

It is not only olives which have been affected, we witnessed vineyards blackened by fire and food crops struggling in the earth for moisture. A huge field of sunflowers have been planted over the garden fence and we hope that in a months time there will be a blaze of yellow on the horizon. Sunflowers are a rotational crop, so it may be a few years before the cheery yellow field reappears so close by.

Our grass resembles cattle driving prairie land. We hope rain will come soon. It was too hot to plant anything new, so leaf clearing and tidying was the order of the day. Planting will be done in October when we will assess what needs replacing after the sweltering summer.

We hung the hammock, added pretty lights and watered the thirsty geraniums. I found the most exquisite little nest on the path. It was truly an architectural masterpiece with grasses and soft pulpy seed heads. It was so soft, so delicate and tear jerkingly beautiful. I didn’t get to sit in my oak tree’d reading nook, nor use my telescope, the swinging chair remained un-sat in .. but getting close to unfamiliar plants was enjoyable.

And Suddenly it’s Evening by Salvatore Quasimodo

Everyone is alone on the heart of the earth
Pierced by a ray of sun:
and suddenly it’s evening.

It wasn’t all about work in the garden, we managed to fire up the ancient pizza oven after some remedial internal grouting. Of course the pool provided delicious respite from the unrelenting heat, and Michele’s provided the perfect escape for Prosecci and cake!

So, it’s back to verdant woodland management back at the kennel and I think wellies may be rather more sensible than glittery shoes!

Have a good week and at least the rain is on the way here.

Love Rocking Dog x

Watering The Geraniums,Rocking Dog

Watering The Geraniums

Garden Treasure,Rocking Dog

Garden Treasure

Unpromising Crop,Rocking Dog

Unpromising Crop

Lighting to Hang,Rocking Dog

Lighting to Hang

View To The Village,Rocking Dog

View To The Village

Early Morning Dip,Rocking Dog

Early Morning Dip

Escape For Cake,Rocking Dog

Escape For Cake

Fire Up The Oven,Rocking Dog

Fire Up The Oven

Back To Woodland Gardening,Rocking Dog

Back To Woodland Gardening

Gone For A Cooling Dip!

Cooling Pool,Rocking Dog

Cooling Pool

Signing off for a really wee while to go for a cooling dip. I will hopefully be signing back in soon with a batch of creative Rocking Dog bloggery!

Love Rocking Dog x

PS Next Rocking Dog creative huddle Weds 28th June. Please come for chat, cakery and makery!

Checking Our Olives,Rocking Dog

Checking Our Olives

Lunch Alfresco,Rocking Dog

Lunch Alfresco

Detour To The Shop,Rocking Dog

Detour To The Shop

Rocking Dog Antipasti,Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog Antipasti

Salami To Buy,Rocking Dog

Salami To Buy

Sunset,Rocking Dog

Sunset

Rocking Dog’s Taste Of Spring In Umbria

Eating Alfresco In The Garden,Rocking Dog

Eating Alfresco In The Garden

Rocking Dog went to check on the olives. In Umbria the land is awakening and Spring has arrived. Fields have been tilled, the rich earth is the colour of ground Cinnamon. Soon the land will be planted with sunflowers, artichokes, maize and pumpkins. Gnarled old vines have been viciously pruned and tied tightly to their support wires. Soon leaves will sprout and in the autumn the vines will hang heavy with luscious black fruit. In the groves there is the noise of tractors, the smell of bonfires and the clip, clip, clip of the olive trees being harshly cut back. There are the sound of happy voices from 8 until 1 when the workers head off for their three hour siesta.

Spectacularly yellow Mimosa trees are in full bloom and look heavenly against the impossibly blue March skies. Cherry blossom, Magnolias and Camelias ornament many Umbrian gardens. Vast patches of wild violets, flowering rosemary and spring bulbs add to the feeling that Spring has indeed arrived.

Andyman and I worked enthusiastically on house and garden. Kitchen chairs were painted Macaw Green, Mister David and Drawing Room Blue, pictures were hung, Wifi installed and storage was tediously organised. In the garden hedges were trimmed and leaves swept. Olive trees were stripped of their suckers and Cypress trees worryingly counted (16). I think we need to make good friends with a tree surgeon and his cherry picker sometime very soon!

We did manage to escape to Rome briefly for the rugby and had a wonderful midnight stroll around the city. Bathed in atmospheric lighting and with an inky starry sky it was all very magical.

Somewhere along the line I completely forgot to eat ice cream during our two week stay….another time! We did however manage to eat one or two meals alfresco, it was an unexpected sun basked treat.

After the very long drive home it was lovely to see England verdantly spring like. Rhubarb, Tete de Tete, Japonica, Forsythia, limey green Spurge and hellebores are burgeoning after their winter slumbers.

I hope you have a great week and hope that there is chance to witness everything glorious about spring. Love Rocking Dog x

PS Looking forward to meeting our new close-ish neighbour Ed (Sheeran). Maybe he has a spare cherry picker kicking around!

Mimosa, Rocking Dog

Mimosa

Flower Strewn Bun,Rocking Dog

Flower Strewn Bun

Spring In His Step,Rocking Dog

Spring In His Step

Whispering Reeds,Rocking Dog

Whispering Reeds

Room With A View,Rocking Dog

Room With A View

Letting Spring In,Rocking Dog

Letting Spring In

Spring Night In Rome,Rocking Dog

Spring Night In Rome

Sunset .....,Rocking Dog

Sunset …..

& Moon Rise,Rocking Dog

& Moon Rise

Gone To Check On The 2017 Olive Crop

Laying The Nets,Rocking Dog

Laying The Nets

I may be a while.

Love Rocking Dog x

Rocking Dog & Andyman Head To York

Gloomily Lovely Hotel Wallpaper,Rocking Dog

Gloomily Lovely Hotel Wallpaper

It was a weekend full of the history of Viking invasions, William the Conqueror, birthplace of Guy Fawkes, snow, sun and lovely things to eat. A small group of us met up for the weekend in York, and all I can say is that the hotel was very appropriately named!

I loved the somewhat gloomy wallpaper in our bedroom. It was reminiscent of the drawings of Edward Ardizzone. Long ago this building was used as the lodgings for Judges who assembled twice a year in York. One of those visiting legal residents was Judge William Chapple who went onto have the notorious Highwayman, Dick Turpin hung in 1739.

Our first evening was spent eating at a wonderful Indian restaurant,
Coconut Lagoon. Specialising in dishes originating from Kerala we so loved the food, the Cardamom beer and friendly staff.

Saturday morning the group joined a three hour walking tour around York. Completely free, (though donations were encouraged and welcomed at the end of the tour) we learnt SO much. Alix our young, knowledgeable and eccentric guide revelled in telling us some of Yorks’ more grisly history. The Romans, Vikings, Civil War, the vandalism of Henry VIII and Jewish persecution all featured. I can really recommend a tour like this to  understand a city. The weather was perfect for walking atop the city walls, crisp with bright winter sunshine and blue skies.

The remainder of the weekend was less structured with meandering to be done in Yorks’ quaint cobbled streets. The Shambles, a maze of twisty lanes are the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. Mentioned in the Doomsday Book the Shambles in medieval times was a street full of butchers shops. Many of the timbered buildings still sport meat hooks in their timbers. Incidently the word Shambles originates from the Anglo-Saxon word Shammel, roughly meaning shelves. The meat sellers are no longer in residence, instead, tea shops, and independent retailers dominate this picturesque and much loved area of York. I adored the bobbled organic baby knits being sold by Natures Purest.

Duttons For Buttons, The Imaginarium and Make Your Mark were other shops that caught my eye.

Of course no trip to the North is complete without a trip to Betty’s. Sunday breakfast I enjoyed Betty’s Bircher Muesli with blackberries and apple. At 10am there were visitors already enjoying a cream tea, and as we left long queues had formed to gain a coveted table.

All too soon the weekend had disappeared and we were on the train heading south.

York is a really lovely city, with gorgeous architecture and very friendly people. I hope we will return soon.

Wishing that the week is going to be a good one for you. Love a rather foot sore Rocking Dog! x

Whistle Stop Hotel,Rocking Dog

Whistle Stop Hotel

The Imaginarium,Rocking Dog

The Imaginarium

Make Your Mark,Rocking Dog

Make Your Mark

Glorious Minster,Rocking Dog

Glorious Minster

Betty's For Tea....,Rocking Dog

Betty’s For Tea….

..& Bircher!,Rocking Dog

..& Bircher!

Grim Tales,Rocking Dog

Grim Tales

Henry's Vandalism,Rocking Dog

Henry’s Vandalism

Plotters Birthplace,Rocking Dog

Plotters Birthplace

Duttons For Buttons,Rocking Dog

Duttons For Buttons

Babywear &...,Rocking Dog

Babywear &…

..Barrels In The Shambles!,Rocking Dog

..Barrels In The Shambles!

It’s A New Dawn, A New Day, The New 2017

But The Kid Is Not My Son!,Rocking Dog

But The Kid Is Not My Son!

Indeed it’s a new dawn, a new day, and the new 2017! Wishing everyone a VERY Happy New Year. I know it’s very rare for me to share a picture of me, I so stay away from camera’s, and please do tell me what a selfie is! So …this is my favourite portrait of the year, but the kid is not my son! Toby is my sons old school friend and we share the same wayward hair.

I am rather glad to be seeing 2016 out. It really has been a finger gripping twisty turny roller coaster ride, both world news-wise and for us as a family personally.

Who would have ever believed that we would be going into 2017 with Donald Trump soon to be residing in the White House? We are living in difficult and uncertain times. Somewhat unrealistically I hope that 2017 brings peace to Syria, a halt to terrorist atrocities and a real desire by worldwide leaders to utilise diplomacy, cohesiveness and wisdom.

Andyman and colleagues have had a difficult year, much too complicated to explain. However, with the rubbish of 2016 hopefully behind them, a new dawn beckons. I am so full of admiration for the group who stood up to bully boy tactics! We are gradually sleeping less fractiously and stress levels have subsided, phew!

There have been so many lovely things that have happened in 2016 and I am forever grateful for amazing friends and family. We have shared a wonderful wedding (Kylie & Alex), when the sun shone, bagpipes played, Motown band got us all dancing and the girls and I cooked for 120!

I loved my role as judge at the local flower show in July, though I did have to taste some rather unpalatable things. I hope i’ll be asked back, it was fun and made me giggle. I’m rather hoping in 2017 i’ll get to go to an together more prestigious flower show, Chelsea. Love it!

We visited lovely places both near and far. Cuba was a particular highlight, an amazing country where I had the humiliating experience of being kicked out of a Salsa class (my mother always said I had two left feet!). We enjoyed visits to Umbria culminating in buying some ancient olive trees with a little apartment close by to watch them grow. Incidentally if anyone fancies watching our olives ripen, it’s available to rent and i’ll post a link later this week. Feel very blessed.

The sewing machine has rattled through various projects (wedding coat, cushions, blinds, stockings etc..) and i’m about to start on my hollyhock quilt. I have fathomed that there are enough delicious vintage materials to make myself an heirloom quilt. How lovely that I have built up a few omnibus editions of The Archers- perfect!

Sewing this year has been a wonderful bonding and rehabilitative craft for a lovely friend who is currently in the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit at Frenchay. Her family have been truly amazing, and I have been humbled by their love, strength, energy and innovation. As for my friend I have no words to describe how brave and determined she is. 2017 there’ll be more sewing, fabric painting and the like with lovely friend. Wishing for progress and continued support and love for all.

Still on a bit of a sewing, crafty theme I really want to start a kitchen table group at the kennel- Stitch ‘n Bitch/ Knit & Natter sort of thing. Haven’t come up with a name- but one eve a month to bring a nodule of crafty stuff and to talk and eat cake, simple. I was thinking of hosting this the last Wednesday in the month 7-9pm ish. Anyone interested, please shout!

There is much to look forward to in 2017, as well as an absolute purge on the house and garden. Paint is flaking, weeds are a growing, damp needs to be kept at bay, a shed needs dismantling and the list keeps growing!  When most folk are in bed I hope to keep on blogging and hope the inspiration for posts keeps on coming.

Have a wonderful 2017, may it bring you and your families many lovely things.

Love Rocking Dog x

Alex & Kylie, Rocking Dog

Alex & Kylie

Sorrel & Pete,Rocking Dog

Sorrel & Pete

Our Liv',Rocking Dog

Our Liv’

Places We Went,Rocking Dog

Places We Went

Cuba,Rocking Dog

Cuba

& Closer To Home,Rocking Dog

& Closer To Home

Glamping....Rocking Dog

Glamping….

...Umbrian Pad,Rocking Dog

…Umbrian Pad

Flower Show Judge,Rocking Dog

Flower Show Judge

Maker Of Coats...Rocking Dog

Maker Of Coats…

..& Cushions...Rocking Dog

..& Cushions…

....Quilts...&,Rocking Dog

….Quilts…&

Helping Others To Make,Rocking Dog

Helping Others To Make

House To Spruce,Rocking Dog

House To Spruce,

& Garden To Conquer!,Rocking Dog

& Garden To Conquer!

The Love Of My Umbrian Kitchen

Sorrel's Laden Table,Rocking Dog

Sorrel’s Laden Table

With the cold and dampness of November in the West Country it’s lovely to remember the warmth of recent winter days spent in Umbria. Andyman and I were keen to put our stamp on No5 and spent four days climbing ladders to paint our bijoux apartment throughout.

We went to an amazing local paint shop for a vat of white emulsion. Sheets of gold leaf, glittery paints, floor paints, colourful paints, matt, gloss, egg shell, and we came out with bog standard white. Next time, yes next time!

Though Andyman’s Italian is progressing at an impressive rate it didn’t quite manage the technicalities of paint “speak”. In hindsight we rather think that the colossal vat of white was supposed to mixed with a significant quantity of water. No worries, the paint went on like PVA glue. I suddenly became a very unsplattered painter and the coverage was superb, no second coat required!

The boring bits done, we could get on and add pops of colour. As planned, the wardrobe was moved into the kitchen and transformed into a larder cupboard. Oak shelves, paint, handles and  wallpaper remnant all played their part in this up-cycle. I estimate the makeover cost just over £100 as opposed to £1,500 upwards for a JL or M&S version. In time it will have a blackboard, some hanging hooks and other larderesque refinements. Meanwhile a little bedroom table acquired with the apartment was reassigned for use as a kitchen workspace. Paint and a new handle was all that was required. Voila! my kitchen was evolving and growing.

Before leaving for Italy we commissioned  a local metalworker to make up two simple curtain poles and a batterie de cuisine (approximately £60 for the three items). Utensildom sorted!

The lovely timeworn rusty lanterns did not “make the cut” for the trip, the choice was to take the lanterns or Real Live Rocking Dog! In the event we decided on a local Italian chef/boffin to create a bespoke twisted copper light source for our living space. The lanterns do not need to look forlorn, they will be “plumbed” into Rock House at some point.

Finally the lovely frouing bits kept me busy. How often have you stayed in a holiday let with four forks between six of you, a chopping board that has seen better days or chipped plates galore? No5 therefore is definitely going to be a cooks kitchen.

We have rarely as a family done a hotel holiday, in part it’s because we all like to cook. I well remember, staying in a hotel overnight in readiness for an early morning flight and our youngest on walking into the family room asking “mummy where is the kitchen?!” Then there was the year we had a last minute deal to Madeira and by day three I was crawling the walls wanting to get my hands on a knife (a cook’s one obviously!). With a market brimming with fish and local fruit and vegetables I was desperate to whizz something up! This utter desperation may also have been slightly influenced by the retro 70’s pudding buffet on offer at the hotel. I had never witnessed such a display of wibbly blancmange, jellies, bavarois, creme caramel and other rather nasty gelatinous delicacies. Frustratingly there were banana’s growing everywhere on the island, but seemingly not one to be had in the hotel.

In our kitchen there are knives, matched china and glassware, cutlery (and yes cutlery phobic son there is some “Dragon” cutlery in the drawer) baking tins, scales, serving dishes etc..etc.. I tested the oven by baking a cake and made a little list of kitchenalia yet to buy. Cooking generally leads to eating, and so at times with the nights getting shorter and more nippy we ate inside (Sorrel and Liv’s laden table was a seasonal, locally produced highlight), but there were sunny warm opportunities where eating outside was simply perfect.

There are still bits to do. The kitchen table has had its legs painted in jolly “Mister David” and it awaits equally cheery chairs to join it in the spring. I loved some ladder back inspiration in Lerici. Andyman and I went to relive our youth there momentarily. It was 35 years since we were last in the pretty coastal town, back then we camped, ate frozen calamari, drank Lambrusco, sweltered in the scorching heat and got bitten alive by mosi’s!

Last night at the kennel I could not find the can opener for love nor money. Somewhat frustratingly I know a drawer in a far off land where I have two!

 

 

Paint Those Chairs, Rocking Dog

Paint Those Chairs

Ladder-back Inspiration!,Rocking Dog

Ladder-back Inspiration!

Let's Think,Rocking Dog

Let’s Think

Little Black Book,Rocking Dog

Little Black Book

Workspace,Rocking Dog

Workspace

Wardrobe To Larder,Rocking Dog

Wardrobe To Larder

Utensildom!,Rocking Dog

Utensildom!

Kitchen View,Rocking Dog

Kitchen View

Breakfast Spot,Rocking Dog

Breakfast Spot

l

The Umbrian Cake Trail With Rocking Dog

Sugar Rush!, Rocking Dog

Sugar Rush!

What better way to restart the Rocking Dog blog than a post about cake! We finally returned home from Umbria on Monday evening after a 1,300 mile drive through Italy, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Belgium. The highlight was seeing Lake Como, Lugano and Lucerne by night. It was so reminiscent of an elaborate model railway layout. Truly enchanting.

In between painting No5 throughout, dismantling bunks, building a bed and reconfiguring furniture, there were small windows of opportunity to go in search of cake!

I am always curious about how people create holiday itineraries. There must be those who go in search of rare birds, those who try to select the most idilic poolside for sunbathing, and those who seek out dangerous sports for an adrenalin rush! My itinerary seems to centre around food. Markets, food festivals, local speciality shops all hold tremendous appeal. Even the humble supermarket is always more exciting far away from home. The solitary shop in the village is an Aladdin’s cave of Umbrian goodies. Locally butchered meats, local vegetables, buffalo mozzarella, Umbrian lentils, it became part of my daily routine to walk Real Live Rocking Dog there in the morning. I believe in the philosophy “use it or else lose it”

We found some spectacular cake shops in Assisi (approximately a 1 hour drive from our little place). Meringues, pastries, Pannetore, bombes and gelato it really was a sugar rush! Interestingly, although I love taking photo’s of the sweet treats I much prefer a savoury plate. Italian cheeses and salami’s are my downfall.

On my first day away from UK I realised just how much I missed Marmite. A mean 150ml jar will need to be stashed in my hand luggage when we return to Umbria in the spring.

Locally, there is always Michele’s with an amazing array of full size and amuse bouche sized cakes, desserts and pastries. My favourite has to be the aragosta (lobster tail). It is a shell shaped horn made up of thin layers of light crispy pastry which is filled with a flavoured cream. The original pastry was created in the monastery of Santa Rosa in the province of Salerno in the 17th Century. Later the recipe was acquired by a pastry chef from Naples called Pasquale Pintauro. He started selling these pastries from his shop in 1818. Michele’s aragosta’s contain a delicious rich creme patisserie. Delicious! Interestingly the girls spotted Nick Ross heading into Michele’s, I wonder what his favourite is!

Wednesday’s and Sundays it’s up to Paciano for a coffee and pastry at Lo Scoiattolo (The Squirrel). Sitting in the family kitchen you can eat delicious bread and pastries from the wood fired oven. Fausto makes a divine cappuccino whilst Lia deals with the Italian/German influenced yeasty loveliness. Our first weekend there, a local town was hosting a Saffron festival. In honour of this amazing local flower product, Lia made delicious saffron buns with a dusting of rose petals and cornflowers, much too good for Real Live Rocking Dog! Later in the week some of the Borgo degli Olivi residents went for a baking masterclass with Lia … more about that in a later post.

Now it’s time to go on the straight and narrow after three weeks of bread, cheese, charcuterie, wine and just the odd aragosta here and there!

 

Window Shopping, Rocking Dog

Window Shopping

Gilded Treats, Rocking Dog

Gilded Treats

Piped Loveliness, Rocking Dog

Piped Loveliness

Michele's Amuse Bouche, Rocking Dog

Michele’s Amuse Bouche

Take Me Home!, Rocking Dog

Take Me Home!

Too Good For RLRD!, Rocking Dog

Too Good For RLRD!