Tag Archives: Italy

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

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!

A Lost Rocking Dog Fortnight In Pictures.

The Rabbit, Rocking Dog & The Wardrobe, Rocking Dog

The Rabbit, Rocking Dog & The Wardrobe

Where have you been Rocking Dog? Chasing my tail, yes chasing my tail! Broken sleep has meant writing my blog has been difficult to contemplate. That doesn’t mean to say I haven’t been busy, I have managed to find some creative fuel! So this post is dedicated to the lost Rocking Dog fortnight.

Last week I took my 86 year old neighbour clothes shopping in Bath. I hope I have as much style and verve for life as Molly if I’m still around at 80 plus! In between octogenarian Gok styling, I managed to nip into “Anthropologie”. I left Molly downstairs with a VERY patient and friendly member of staff whilst I legged it upstairs for knobs. Sale knobs were quickly chosen, Bloomsbury inspired ones for my Bloomsbury inspired painted doors and whimsical porcelain rabbits for a wardrobe (more on that later!) We ended our trip in Waterstone’s. Molly was so happy…with her bags of clothes and books. Good job!

Another morning was spent with another friend in Tetbury. We made a beeline for “Domestic Science” where we drank coffee and ate cake before perusing four or five floors of vintage loveliness. If I ever win money Andyman can head to the car showroom (isn’t that what every man would do? excuse the stereotype) and I would head to Tetbury for antiques. I spied a particularly lovely set of Swedish chairs, but didn’t even bother to glance at the price tag!

Other vintage moments included chancing upon “Rag and Bone” in Bristol. This just could very well be my new favourite shop. I bought a lovely set of bobbly brass curtain rings for £10, whether they’ll be used for curtains or incorporated into Christmas decorations remains to be seen. After “Rag and Bone” Liv and I headed to River station for eats. The previous evening we had eaten the first mince pie of the season, a little Harrod’s number. Sorry and excuse my boastfulness I still think Rocking Dog’s mince pies win hands down! No Michael, no, it really isn’t time yet.

Talking of pies I made chicken pies in traditional enamel dishes for a night with friends. A retro 70’s dessert followed, Chestnut Turinois. The wood burner was stoked and we celebrated the start of autumn and enjoyed the joys of friendship and the circle of life.

The daily walks with Real Live Rocking Dog have been wonderful with blue skies and a plethora of wildlife. Deer, the heron, kingfishers, moorhens and ducks intermingle with the joy of observing leaves turning to rust and copper hues. Just as Real Live Rocking Dog begins to enjoy his warm woolly coat he is destined for the dog groomers later this morning. He’ll need a sleeker cooler coat ready for his road trip to Italy later this week.

Poor Andyman is getting rather perturbed by the amount of stuff destined for Umbria. I seem to think his car is like a Tardis. Of course unlike Dr Who’s iconic Tardis, our car is not deceptively spacious! Included in the haul are oak shelves and paint, together with the rabbit handles to make a wardrobe into a larder cupboard. Is this genius or madness, only time will tell!

This week I am expecting 300 jars to arrive. At some point these will need to be filled with delicious things. Is it too ambitious to pickle and preserve this week, somehow I think so. Perhaps I can bring back prized Capri lemons to marmalade, preserve and pickle. I am enjoying the brilliant book “The Land Where The Lemons Grow” by Helena Attlee. I always thought a lemon was simply a lemon…..but it is simply not.

In December I am momentarily coming out of Heaven’s Cake retirement and am rustling up a vintage wedding for a lovely couple. Stupendous cakes, vintage china, steaming mugs of cranberry zinger and of course the obligatory pots of tea. It will be perfectly lovely, especially if there is a dusting of snow.

One of the loveliest tasks over the last week or two has been to work on a quilt with my brave friend. She gallantly cross stitched and embroidered panels to insert into a play mat. It now resides across the pond with her new scrummy little grandson. So much strength, so much love, so much care to behold. x

So there it is a potted history of the last two weeks- well the nicer bits. A John Lewis member of staff and I fleetingly talked about tasks such as laundry, cleaning, shopping etc.. being so damned time consuming and yet so annoyingly unconstructive. It always feels feeble describing how you have spent a few hours just doing domestic dross! However I am not complaining, hallelujah for automatic washing machines, dish washers and cordless vacuum cleaners, yes absolutely blooming hallelujah!

Have a great week and hope there is not too much domestic dross to deal with in your household.

Bloomsbury Knobs, Rocking Dog

Bloomsbury Knobs

Bloomsbury Door, Rocking Dog

Bloomsbury Door

New Haunt, Rocking Dog

New Haunt

Bobbly Brass, Rocking Dog

Bobbly Brass

Lovely Lunch, Rocking Dog

Lovely Lunch

Mince Pie Tasting!,Rocking Dog

Mince Pie Tasting!

Prefer Mine!, Rocking Dog

Prefer Mine!

Chicken Pie, Rocking Dog

Chicken Pie

Autumnal Daily Walk, Rocking Dog

Autumnal Daily Walk

Creative Hub, Rocking Dog

Creative Hub

Domestic Science, Rocking Dog

Domestic Science

Jars To Fill, Rocking Dog

Jars To Fill

Wedding Food, Rocking Dog

Wedding Food

Stoking The Fire, Rocking Dog

Stoking The Fire

Sewing Something Special, Rocking Dog

Sewing Something Special

Midwifery, Monograms And Mishaps

Written In Red, Rocking Dog

Written In Red

It feels as if I have always loved monograms. Perhaps my earliest memories of monograms were my Dad’s monogramed handkerchiefs in the early sixties. This was an age before the advent of paper tissues. Boxed handkerchiefs were a somewhat boring Christmas present staple for both women and men.

Much later when I was training to be a midwife in Cardiff I had an introduction to Italian monogram’d linens. I was doing a community placement with an experienced midwife, Rina. In her fifties, she was a glamorous, vivacious and busty Italian. One lunch time she took me to see a little Italian family and that’s when I was taken to see drawerful’s of truly beautiful monogramed linens. I was told that all the Italian villagers had come together to embroider household linens and nightwear for the couple as they started their married life together.

In many countries a monogrammed trousseau represented a display of wealth. The intricacy and elaborateness of the stitching and cloth denoted a families standing in society. In the 14th century 7 year old Isabelle of France received a trousseau when she became betrothed to Richard II. In the 19th century a Parisian department store advocated a trousseau should include 6 pairs of sheets, 2 dozen pillowcases, 3 dozen napkins, 3 tablecloths, hand towels, dishcloths and aprons.

For a long time I have loved collecting the odd piece of monogram’d textile to add colour and texture to the kennel. Perugia market on a Saturday is a good place to feed my monogram habit. Some linens I reconfigure into cushions, whilst others I simply covet!

I am no embroiderer myself, but really appreciate the handiwork of others. My lovely friend Stephanie M does amazing work with needle and thread. She loves using historic alphabets, wonderful linens and threads. If there are items to be filled, she stuffs them with the most amazing aromatic concoctions. Moth’s be very afraid!

Now for the mishap bit of the post! Dear Rina and I went to do a post- natal visit at a house in central Cardiff. We knocked on the door and were let in by two very smiley Bangladeshi ladies. We set our bags down on the coffee table, took off our coats and put on our aprons. We washed our hands and were kindly provided with soap and towel. We then asked the ladies to fetch the baby. Presently we heard them come down the stairs and re-enter the room. The “baby” was a seven year old trousered boy. We were in the wrong house! Laughter crosses any language barrier.

I find it somewhat disconcerting that some of the babes I delivered will now be in their early thirties. Sorry couldn’t resist a George link, I remember playing it on my Sony Walkman as I walked between community visits.

Characterful Curls, Rocking Dog

Characterful Curls

Love This, Rocking Dog

Love This

Book Inspiration, Rocking Dog

Book Inspiration

Wooden Letters, Rocking Dog

Wooden Letters

All In White, Rocking Dog

All In White

Block Capitals, Rocking Dog

Block Capitals

Matrimonial Nightwear, Rocking Dog

Matrimonial Nightwear

Beautiful Embroidery, Rocking Dog

Beautiful Embroidery

M&S Monogram, Rocking Dog

M&S Monogram

Our Very Own Olive Trees

Centuries Old Olives, Rocking Dog

Centuries Old Olives

Buongiorno from Rocking Dog! Anyone who knows me will know of the passion Andyman and I have for picking olives. For the last five years we have had the amazing privilege to stay with our gorgeous friends in Umbria and to help them pick their olives. They have generously shared their unctuous green and delicious olive oil, shared their friends, and shared all their favourite places with us. It’s been a truly wonderful way to see in the winter. Thank you Baz & Dee, together with Derek and kitty holding Wendy. xxxx

So….when the rare opportunity arose to buy a little property just across the path from our hosts, it was just simply too tempting! In the last sun setting days of August, Andyman and I found ourselves in the Notary’s office  in Castiglione del Lago to listen to twelve pages of deeds read in Italian, and then translated and read in English. There was even a special deed relating to the ancient pizza oven and the stone built laundry shed! We are now the excited owners of a bijoux  two bedded apartment a few minutes drive from Lake Trasimeno. Set in a small friendly village with one bar and one well stocked shop it’s not for those lusting after a noisy vibrant clubbing scene! The one bar is more likely to be the scene of a group of locals contemplating the first mushroom, the vines or the olive harvest. All these contemplations are done whilst nursing  a singular small beer over a card hand.

Andyman and I adore the peace, the starry skies, the food, local festivals, markets and the local wines. Then there is always the continuing exploration of charming sunbaked medieval hilltop towns.

Rome can be reached by train in 2 hours and Florence 1 1/2 hours. The beautiful cities of Cortona, Sienna, Arezzo and Perugia are even closer. For the athletic there is mountain biking, wake boarding, golf, a host of activities on the lake and even a  small water park for kids or those adults who simply don’t want to grow up!  Lazy days can be spent crossing the lake to one of the islands for lunch or simply staying at “home” by the pool. Gently swinging in a hammock or swing chair contemplating the views is always a blissful prospect after the bustle of a busy market trip.

I think visits to Medieval hilltop towns will have to wait for a little while, there is a large garden to tend, and living space which needs a Rocking Dog stamp put on it! There is also the small matter of the 2016 olive crop to pick, including six old trees of our own.

Andyman and I are so looking forward to sharing Number 5 with friends and family. We hope that we too can treat our guests to freshly brewed coffee and Panettone before they arise, and then to  share with them the numerous delights of Umbria and bordering Tuscany.

We are looking to do holiday lets for our little piece of paradise in 2017, so please contact us if you would like further details. lizferg@btinternet.co.uk

Stansted-Perugia (45 min drive to No 5) Bristol-Pisa (Approx 2 hours drive to No 5). Rome and other  Italian airports are also definite possibilities.

The biggest challenge lies ahead…..to learn Italian. A linguist I am not, but I really can’t get by with Ciao bella and Grazie forever!

....& Ancient Oak, Rocking Dog

….& Ancient Oak

Bijoux Upstairs Pad!, Rocking Dog

Bijoux Upstairs Pad!

Before Renovation, Rocking Dog

Before Renovation

Table For Two, Rocking Dog

Table For Two

Twilight Dip, Rocking Dog

Twilight Dip

Poolside View, Rocking Dog

Poolside View

Room With A View, Rocking Dog

Room With A View

Vintage Laundry, Rocking Dog

Vintage Laundry

Village Shop....., Rocking Dog

Village Shop…..

& Village Bar, Rocking Dog

& Village Bar

Local Hilltop Town, Rocking Dog

Local Hilltop Town

Lovely Lake, Rocking Dog

Lovely Lake

Local Crop, Rocking Dog

Local Crop

For The Athletic, Rocking Dog

For The Athletic

....& The Passionate Cake Eater!, Rocking Dog

….& The Passionate Cake Eater!

Gone To Check On the Olives

Olive Groves, Rocking Dog

Olive Groves

Italy bound for a short while.

Meanwhile there is lots going on here while we are away.

Our boy heads out to Rio with the Paralympians on Tuesday. Despite all the negative publicity regarding financial shortfalls etc.. the British athletes are looking forward to the games immensely. Working in Communications for British Athletics, Alex has had the immense privilege to witness first hand the incredible efforts these particular athletes in put in to strive for gold. Good Luck to you all.

Sorrel and Pete celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary whilst we are away. I couldn’t ask for a lovelier and more caring son in law. Sorrel’s not so bad either!! Many congratulations lovely folk.

I can’t leave out little Liv‘, she has been working on Christmas 2016 from just after Christmas 2015. A copywriter for Harrods, the Christmas department is just about to happen. Oh no it isn’t, Oh yes it is!! I loved my gift of fig baubles last year…. i’m not expecting…but…I do NEED a few more decorations!!

Another member of the family to mention. Real Live Rocking Dog is going to be 9 while we are away. Maybe Dougie will allow you a piece of his precious Pek if you are not TOO grumpy!

My lovely niece Iona opens her GCSE results today. Hope you are happy with what’s printed on the paper Iona. Exciting times for the three nieces. We love you all.

Finally, I don’t like being away from my gorgeous friend who has had a monumental challenge to face. You are doing so well, and I am truly in awe of you. Your gorgeous family are… well… frankly gorgeous. I will be back soon with hopefully new things to chatter about and items for you to look at and hold. So love you x

Much love to all Rocking Dog blog readers, thank you for hanging on in there. I really will come back soon with fresh inspiration and the impetus to sew and create. Enjoy the sun x

London 2012, Rocking Dog

London 2012

Wedding Anniversary, Rocking Dog

Wedding Anniversary

Doggy Birthday, Rocking Dog

Doggy Birthday

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Andyman’s Lovely Limoncello Meringue

Frou'd And Ready To Eat, Rocking Dog

Frou’d And Ready To Eat

I was trying to be VERY good but then the weekend came and two lovely eating treats beckoned! We were lucky enough to receive some vouchers at Christmas for the Michelin star “Pony & Trap”, so Saturday was earmarked for that. We then had a delicious invite to join friends for lunch on Sunday. We offered to make pud’, so Andyman made Limoncello Meringue. We first ate this with friends in Italy, with Charlie having made his own Limoncello. Truly delicious.

It’s a little bit of a cobble of two recipes. So here goes :-

Meringue
4 large free range egg whites (use the yolks for scrambled egg or panna cotta)
200g caster sugar

Lemon Curd
125g butter (preferably unsalted)
175ml lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
450g golden caster sugar
4 large free range eggs, beaten
50 ml Limoncello (optional) commercially made or homemade.

Cream filling
300ml double cream
small tub mascarpone

Oven 140 C Fan 125C

1. Whisk egg whites until in stiff peaks.
2. Continue to whisk as you add spoonful by spoonful the sugar. The Meringue should be thick and glossy.
3. Turn the meringue out onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. A rough circular nest is great.
4. Pop into the oven for 25 minutes and then bake for a further 1 & 1/2 hours or so at 110C.
5. The Meringue can be left in the oven once switched off to dry out a little further. Remember to leave yourself a little note on top of the cooker to remind you of the meringues current home! I have burnt too many meringues than I care to remember.
6. For the lemon curd, place the juice and zest, butter and sugar into a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water on a low heat.
7. Once the butter has melted and sugar dissolved, whisk in the beaten eggs. Continue to whisk over a low heat until the mixture is thick (approximately 10 minutes)
8. Strain the curd through a sieve and once a little cooler, fold through the Limoncello, cover and place in the fridge.
9. Shortly before serving whisk together the cream and Mascarpone until thick and in soft peaks.
10.To serve, dollop the cream mixture over the meringue base and top with the lemon curd. Grate over a little lemon or lime zest.

SHORTCUTS- Shop bought meringue, and a jar of good quality lemon curd would do the trick perfectly.

Andyman did a wonderful job but I could NOT stop myself from doing just a little frou’ing! I walked upstairs and said to him “you are going to be very cross with me”. He immediately knew i’d been dabbling with his delectable dessert (p.s love this link, sweet memories) and yes he was just a little bit everso cross!

Primroses, wild violets, pansies, raspberries or pomegranate seeds would all be lovely to add the final gilding to this gorgeous pud’. I can hear Andyman stamping his feet angrily!!

We ate pretty pud’s and other lovely things at The Pony and Trap. I loved the Figgy Pudding ice cream and the Bristol Cream Pickled Shallots.

Back on the straight and narrow, no more gastronomic misdemeanours for me!

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