Tag Archives: Umbria

Gosh! It’s Been A While.

Setting The Scene,Rocking Dog

Setting The Scene

Gosh! It REALLY has been a while since Rocking Dog blogged. We have been fortunate in having the opportunity to spend an extended break in Umbria. The beauty of having super quick wifi is that work things can be dealt with across the miles.

We started our trip with visiting more cemeteries for The Remember Me Project. By the end of our break a total of 38 poppies had been laid in near enough the same amount of cemeteries across France and Belgium. This figure includes the cemeteries visited in October last year. A dedicated post regarding my latest poppy laying trip will pop up on the Rocking Dog site in the next few days.

Eventually we left the Somme and headed close to the Swiss border for an overnight stop. The spectacular trip through Switzerland followed and finally after a bit of white knuckle driving through northern Italy we reached Umbria. The sun doesn’t always shine in Italy. We had rain, we had wind, there was the cold and the odd luxurious sunny day. Most nights we were grateful for the newly installed wood burning stove. With temperatures hitting in excess of 40 degrees in the summer affecting grape and olive harvests the Umbrian folk have now had to endure an uncharacteristically cold winter. Thick snow and temperatures dropping well into the minus’s, they have needed their famous down filled puffa jackets!

In November we had grass seed sown but unfortunately it has shown no desire to germinate and grow. The sowing will be repeated next week and hopefully with the warmth of an Italian spring we will soon have verdant green pasture. Fingers crossed! It is too early to tell whether there will be a good harvest of olives late October, but we are ever hopeful. We love the whole process of producing olive oil from our trees. There were weather weary shrubs to replace and new herbs to dig in, there were 15 barrow loads of pruning to put on the bonfire and jolly geraniums to pot up. Constructive time spent outside.

I was sad to have lost a very lovely friend somewhat unexpectedly and did lots of contemplative walking and lots of contemplative sewing. It’s taken so much of my life to realise that sewing really does soothe my sad soul. Beloved Bernina really is truly therapeutic. Can I ask what soothes your soul?

Flying back to Bristol for my friends Celebration of Life service, Andy was left to host ancestors of the farmhouse we now own a tiny part of. From New York, they were apparently lovely and really enthusiastic about the area and their kinfolks former home. We hope they’ll return and stop for longer next time. I’m sure they are going to be pretty busy as they have sold their home and are converting an old yellow school bus for a unique mobile home.

As ever there was gorgeous food to eat, starry skies to be amazed by and the odd Aperol Spritz to partake in by the lake. It is often the most simple things that give the most pleasure. I love the ancient olive tree just outside one of our bedroom windows. As dawn arrives, the tree fills with chirpy and busy little birds. They enjoy the olives which escaped the rakes of the late autumn harvesting. Such a perfect view and I absolutely know that we are truly lucky.

Back in UK there are sewing projects to finish, ongoing research for The Remember Me Project and a job to apply for. The garden of the damp woodland variety needs to be tackled and the dusty, crumbly house needs to be dealt with. Friends need to be loved and cared for, and the nest got ready for another little grandchild. Volunteering for Young Carer’s will restart and yes, there are really lovely things to come home for … just not the dusting!

Hope you have a good week. Love Rocking Dog x

PS Many thanks to Cliff at the British Legion, Frampton Cotterell for the box of poppy crosses. The box is sadly empty- each cross represented one young local soldier who fell or who died of wounds during the Great War.

Roman Rugby,Rocking Dog

Roman Rugby

Letting In The Sun,Rocking Dog

Letting In The Sun

Contemplative Walking,Rocking Dog

Contemplative Walking

Choppy Lake,Rocking Dog

Choppy Lake

Calm Lake,Rocking Dog

Calm Lake

Social Lake,Rocking Dog

Social Lake

Cake,Rocking Dog

Cake

Pasta....,Rocking Dog

Pasta….

& Projects,Rocking Dog

& Projects

 

Snow, Cake, Siena & Unexpected DNA!

Gilded Siena,Rocking Dog

Gilded Siena

Sorry it’s been so long since Rocking Dog signed on. A week of coughing and the lack of sleep that came with that didn’t really make me feel much like talking either verbally or in the form of written words. At one point I looked across at Real Live Rocking Dog and thought “boy, your breathing’s a bit laboured” however after a while I realised it was indeed me that was the one breathing heavily!

Before Cough (BC) Andyman together with youngest daughter headed out to Umbria for a very cheeky little break. Though cold, the valley was embellished with the dazzling spectacle that is Mimosa. Birds were busily enjoying the olives that had escaped the olive oil bottle and the countryside as ever looked verdantly beautiful. The following morning Liv’ and I planned to head to Rome. We awoke to snow and the hills looked as if they had been magically dusted with icing sugar. It really was quite surreal seeing olive trees with a cloak of snow, especially with robins in residence!

Alas our train to Rome was cancelled so we decided to take the next available bus or train to destination unknown. We ended up on a bus heading to the beautiful city of Siena. The warm bus wiggled through snow covered medieval hilltop towns and past vineyards, ploughed fields and olive groves. In just over an hour we arrived at the bottom of the city. In years gone by these Italian hilltop towns would have needed an arduous and lengthy walk to reach their summits. Recently most cities have become inventive with their transport plans and there are lifts, escalators, funiculars and the like. On this occasion we used a series of steep escalators to reach the architectural delights of Siena. We had a really gorgeous time simply wandering. The Palio where the famous bareback horse races takes place annually (July 2nd and Aug 16th 2018) was joyfully devoid of the throb of summer tourists. If you are in Siena at any point the Complex of Santa Maria della Scala is worth a visit. It houses several museums and is the site of one of Europe’s first hospitals. The frescoes were wonderful and I loved the thought that patients had such amazing art to gaze at from their beds.  I particularly loved the starry ceiling in the First Aid Room.

Cake, delicious wine, pasta, wood fired pizza and friendly folk made this whistle-stop trip to Umbria and Tuscany very pleasurable.

After Cough (AC)- it’s been difficult trying to shake off this irritable ailment. Real Live Rocking Dog has not been loving the snow so like me has been enjoying curling up beside the wood-burner. Trying to do something slightly constructive I baked a cake using new season Rhubarb from the garden, delicious! There have been bathroom planning decisions to be made, and cupboards to de-hoard. I have been contemplating cutting the fabric for my new summer coat… maybe this week. Pattern matching, I can’t decide whether it’s a pleasurable challenge or acutely sadistically stressful!

There have also been soldiers to research ready for our return to the Commonwealth War Cemeteries in France later this month. This week there will be poppy crosses to collect and route planning to organise. Eighteen soldiers graves/memorials will be visited in fifteen different cemeteries over the course of two days. Our travels will take us to Dieppe and Rouen before heading up to a cluster of cemeteries on the Somme. There is a solitary cemetery to visit just East of Paris where we will pay our respects to a soldier whose family lived in a house where really good friends of ours now live. On our route home we will head to the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres where we will lay our last poppy cross in France. Together with the cemeteries we are hoping to visit some manmade caves under a church at Bouzincourt. During a Time Team episode in 2010 some WW1 graffiti was discovered. One name belongs to a soldier, Alfred Flux who lived in our village. Alfred wrote his name and details onto into the stone in 1916. Serving with the Royal Field Artillery he was to later die in March 1918. Having no known grave he is commemorated at Pozieres. On our return home there will be the lengthy job of collating all the information and archiving photographs.

Now for the DNA news. As you may already know my girls thoughtfully bought me an Ancestry DNA kit for Christmas. In January I sent off my phial of spit and waited patiently. I received an e.mail whilst in the supermarket on Wednesday telling me my results were in. Mother in Law promptly posted home with her bags of cakes, drive home done, bags dropped on the kitchen table, computer turned on…let the show begin!  The results were given in the form of a wheel of cheese and imagine my surprise that the largest percentage of my DNA is Scandinavian! Not a whiff of the French Huegenots that I expected. Roughly a quarter of the cheese wheel was Northern English and another quarter paid homage to my Celtic roots (Irish/Welsh Scottish). I always suspected I had red and white gingham running through my veins! The only slightly sad bit of this is that because my Mum and Dad are both dead I can’t ascertain easily who was the Viking in the family. Was it my Dad who was Scottish or my Mums long line Yorkshire family? Anyway I am loving being Scandi’ and there’s even an 8% wedge of Iberian Peninsula in there for good measure!

Anyway I must away now I have got to put the Elk Casserole on and get fitted for my Scandinavian traditional costume!

Have a great week and I hope the big thaw is well underway wherever you are. Stay cosy!

Liz aka Rocking Dog x

Before The Snow,Rocking Dog

Before The Snow

First Aid Room,Rocking Dog

First Aid Room

Coffee & Cake,Rocking Dog

Coffee & Cake

Snow & Metal,Rocking Dog

Snow & Metal

Snow Patrol,Rocking Dog

Snow Patrol

Monochrome Morning,Rocking Dog

Monochrome Morning

Stockholm,Rocking Dog

Stockholm

Penchant For Gingham!, Rocking Dog

Penchant For Gingham!

Scandi' Inspired Creativity,Rocking Dog

Scandi’ Inspired Creativity

Bake A Cake,Rocking Dog

Bake A Cake

Sew A New Coat,Rocking Dog

Sew A New Coat

Next Trip,Rocking Dog

Next Trip

Gosh It’s Been A While. Happy New Year!

 

Come & Sit At The Table,Rocking Dog

Come & Sit At The Table

It’s been a long old time since Rocking Dog signed in. Christmas has hurtled in and whistled out. New Year was celebrated very merrily on foreign shores and now 2018 has begun in earnest. So where do I begin as the famous song goes?!

Perhaps it’s just best to firstly wish all who are reading this a very, very happy 2018. I hope this shiny bright year brings lots of joys, challenges, good health and wonderful times spent with friends and family. Having just spent eleven days or so with friends in Umbria there isn’t anything quite so lovely as having nurturing friends who enjoy caring for each other, noticing when a glass needs topping up (!) and sharing wonderful plates of food and lively conversation. Andy and I feel very blessed.

It has been amazing how many folk have said to me how quickly 2017 came and went. So how do we make a year feel as if it actually lasts twelve months? Perhaps not allowing Christmas to filtrate shops in September might be a positive start! Setting goals and learning new things, visiting new places, and rather than saying “we must get together sometime”, just let’s do it, perhaps they’ll all help extend our perception of a year well spent.

I have one or two things penned on the calendar which I am looking forward to and perhaps one that fills me with apprehension! There are 24 massive Haggi to tussle with a week on Saturday. I am using my long drive brain tactics… if I don’t think about the drive- or in this case the 160 mouths to feed I am ok! Breathe, breathe, breathe Rocking Dog! After hopefully coming through the Rockpipes Burn’s Night in one piece I can then look forward to a workshop with a hero (sadly it’s a bit un-PC to say heroine) of mine. The artist Julie Arkell is running a sewing workshop and i’m debating whether to wear ALL my papier mache brooches and the watch made by her! I think i’ll leave off the one that alas has been the victim of a vicious wash cycle on two occasions. Sooooo sad.

Rather conveniently I have put to the back of my mind a social media day next week. I’m going to be queen of the tweets, retweets and insta’s by all accounts! I have felt a sense of inertia about blogging recently, apparently instagram is the way to go. I post a photo of scaffolding and get “followed” by a construction worker from Tehran, it’s a whole new world. Umbria saw me post one photo a day on instagram. It was rather liberating not thinking about what to write for a blog and just to seize the moment with a snap of a nativity, stunning view, plate of spaghetti etc… However, here I am writing.. and then I remember that I write so much of the time for myself. A few years ago I had a fairly crippling bout of depression which left me pretty much incapable of holding a pen, let alone writing. Many of you will know that if I can write I am doing just fine.

It seems a bit late to look back on the year that was. It was certainly a bit of a roller coaster! Lovely bits were the arrival of Doug’ and what a privilege it was to be in the delivery room to see my new grandson emerge. It has been gorgeous to witness Doug’s doting parents nurture him. I just wish I could take away some of their tiredness! There is another little baby due in May and i’m sure Alex and Kylie will be fabulous parents too. Exciting times.

We have had great times in Umbria in 2017 and have enjoyed sharing our tiny piece of paradise with friends, family and rental folk. Olives have been picked, hill top towns scaled, wood burner installed, stars gazed at, the cool of the pool gloried and the peace truly adored. I really do pinch myself, so very lucky.

Also on a positive note Andyman’s corporate legal case finally came to a conclusion. Basta, basta adesso! (Enough, enough now!) It’s all been pretty tedious, long winded and rubbish. Where’s Judge Rinder when you need him?!

Lastly I have immense admiration for so many friends and family who are travelling very unpredictable roads regarding health, relationships and difficult work situations. You are all SO amazing and thanks must go to the wonderful NHS staff, carers, and charity organisations together with the support of unstinting friends and family members.  Wishing all who have mountains to climb and rivers to cross a very fruitful and happy 2018. You know where we are, and I hope you’ll come and eat at our table very soon.

Globally, blogs generally may be read less, with likes, comments, re-posts dropping off the radar but I do hope i’ll hang on in there during 2018. I’m sure there’ll be interesting things to say, lovely pic’s and creative inspiration, together with lots of moans and groans from someone who would like to be thirty again!

Wishing you all a truly wonderful 2018 and thank you for being with me on the Rocking Dog adventure!

Have a great weekend.

Liz x

 

Field Full Of Flowers,Rocking Dog

Field Full Of Flowers

Paradiso,Rocking Dog

Paradiso

Siblings,Rocking Dog

Siblings

Sporrans At The Ready!,Rocking Dog

Sporrans At The Ready!

Off To New Places, Rocking Dog

Off To New Places

Arkell Inspiration, Rocking Dog

Arkell Inspiration

December Comes In With A Flurry

Celebrating The 2017 Oil, Rocking Dog

Celebrating The 2017 Oil

With the advent of frosty mornings it’s hard to think that we were harvesting the olives in sub-tropical (well almost) temperatures a month ago. November saw us making the trip home with our precious olive oil cargo. Snow had fallen on some of the Swiss mountain peaks and there was a misty late autumnal stillness hanging heavily over the slate grey lakes. Travelling through Switzerland always makes me feel as if I am part of some spectacular railway set. Truly beautiful.

November has been busy. There have been some good things and some pretty rotten things. I’m always thinking of friends and family who have had very difficult situations to withstand. Some corners have been turned, whilst for others, corners still need turning. I hope the roads straighten out very soon for all those travelling somewhat perilous journeys. X

The good bits in November were a lovely trip to London to see Future Islands at the Brixton Academy. LOVED! I also managed to squeeze in lots of Biddy (as in old) cuddles with little Douglas, because put simply grandchildren are for cuddling! Sorrel, Doug’ and I also managed to squeeze a visit to the V&A. I wanted to see the Woman’s Hour Craft Prize exhibition. The prize was brought about to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in collaboration with the V&A and The Craft Council. I was particularly keen to see the winning exhibit by Phoebe Cummings who had made a botanical fountain from raw clay. As the exhibit has not been glazed or fired the water will gradually dissolve the clay, the fountain will therefore be ever-changing. Anyone expecting the water spout at Chatsworth or the fountains at Versailles may be slightly disappointed. On this visit I was fortunate enough to witness the once daily 2 minute water feature. Hmmmmm! it’s a watery dribble, however the clay work is truly exquisite.

There were 1,500 applicants for the £10,000 prize, and the exhibition showcases the twelve finalists. I particularly loved Celia Pym’s darning exhibit. Over the last ten years she has darned other peoples clothing and feels a real compulsion to try a jumper on that has been placed on the back of a chair! On January 6th you can go to the V&A for a free workshop with Celia to discuss how to tackle a hole in a favourite garment.

Romilly Saumarez Smiths work also caught my attention. I loved the cabinet of her treasures. The artist is fascinated by stories contained within found objects. Suffering from a neurological disease, she is unable to use her own hands and works alongside a trio of jewellers to translate her ideas. Smith uses precious metals and other materials to sensitively work in with items such as Roman pins, medieval thimbles and coral. Her exhibit was like being in a rather good sweet shop and being unable to choose one piece, you wanted the lot!

November saw Rocking Dog sew a batch of 2017 “Cabin in the Wood” advent calendars and stockings utilising vintage hand embroidered festive table linen. Beloved Bernina has been busy with other sewing projects and has been joined on the workbench by a snazzy overlocker. I will sit down and embrace its neat and clever functions.

There was a sale at Court House Farm, Portishead. What a beautiful event but just why oh why do I get so anxious selling?  On the buying front I desperately tried to resist buying more vintage baubles but alas my decoration addiction got the better of me!

There has been a Rocking Dog huddle, lots of chat, a little crochet and the first batch of Rocking Dog mince pies. Thank you to all those who came and dropped money into the jolly tea pot for Fine Cell Work.

The last day of November saw us sharing a special deal lunch at The Pig at Bath with friends. The food was lovely and I was particularly intrigued by some pickled Chinese artichokes. They looked alarmingly like caterpillar chrysalis’s, but were delicious. A walk around the walled kitchen garden with the sun fading was quiet and inspirational.

So December has indeed come in with a flurry, and SO the festive madness begins!

Hoping you all have a wonderful weekend. Wrap up warmly and stay cosy! Love Rocking Dog x

PS Alright Michael it is time!

Umbrian November,Rocking Dog

Umbrian November

Umbrian Moon..,Rocking Dog

Umbrian Moon..

Hambrook Moon,Rocking Dog

Hambrook Moon

Making Calendars,Rocking Dog

Making Calendars

& Stockings,Rocking Dog

& Stockings

Court House Farm,Rocking Dog

Court House Farm

Delightful Darn,Rocking Dog

Delightful Darn

Dissolving Clay,Rocking Dog

Dissolving Clay

Little Boxes,Rocking Dog

Little Boxes

The V&A Cafe,Rocking Dog

The V&A Cafe

Biddy's Boy!,Rocking Dog

Biddy’s Boy!

Go Girl!,Rocking Dog

Go Girl!

Pigging Out,Rocking Dog

Pigging Out

Legendary Mince Pie, Rocking Dog

Legendary Mince Pie

Let The Madness Begin!,Rocking Dog

Let The Madness Begin!

Rocking Dog Holiday Snaps

Salami In Spello,Rocking Dog

Salami In Spello

A while ago I promised a white post. It seems really on trend to produce beautiful faded pearlescent blogs. Rocking Dog loves colour but I challenged myself to do a post using less eye poppingly colourful snaps! With temperatures in Umbria hot enough to want to whip off the pool cover, there was certainly no shortage of colour. Skies were lapiz blue, ploughed farmland rich terracotta and trees were clinging onto their beautiful yellow and rust cloaks.

In my collection there are many photo’s of gaudily lovely geraniums, harvests of rosy apples, pomegranates, sun dappled buildings and of course THE olives! Yet this post shows off timeworn hand painted ceiling friezes, ancient stone masonry, Umbrian autumn mists and delectable Umbrian produce.  Also included in my white post is the pristine white marble
Flying Services Memorial at Arras, France.

In this post I think I should have included our poor garden. With the intense heat of the summer the “grass” resembled Texan buffalo herding scrubland. Soon it will be seeded with a coarse and very hardy Argentinian grass. We are hopeful it will look green and verdant when spring arrives.

During our stay we used the chainsaw, electric hedge trimmer, branch lopper, wheelbarrow and rake. Alas the hammock remained unused and the telescope never got to view twinkling constellations. One day!

Number 5 now has a beautiful wood-burning stove (thank you to Firebox, St Werburgh’s for supplying our Mendip Woodland, it looks great). The stove installation necessitated  the building of a new chimney. I couldn’t help thinking that the style of chimney probably hadn’t changed since Roman times. Testing the stove for the first time, felt like watching for the smoke from the Vatican when choosing a new pope!

In between heavy duty gardening and olive picking there were opportunities to explore “new” hilltop towns, to take part in the bread & oil festival and to come together for the village halloween party. There was also the small matter of partaking in a number of wine tasting evenings in preparation for an Umbrian wedding (the daughter of good friends). It was such a good excuse to sample Umbrian grapes in a glass.

Friends and family came to pick and to ultimately taste the new olive oil. It was lovely to share the sun and spend time enjoying autumn in Umbria. Real Live Rocking Dog very quickly realised that he could gather extra food rations if he hovered under baby Douglas’s high chair!

We had a truly lovely time and the village couldn’t have made us feel more welcome. It really is time to learn the language. Ciao!

 

Arras Memorial,Rocking Dog

Arras Memorial

Fortress, Cortona,Rocking Dog

Fortress, Cortona

Morning Walk,Rocking Dog

Morning Walk

Lovely Lighting,Rocking Dog

Lovely Lighting

Timeworn Numero,Rocking Dog

Timeworn Numero

Ceiling Whimsy,Rocking Dog

Ceiling Whimsy

Cheese,Rocking Dog

Cheese

Gelato,Rocking Dog

Gelato

...& Aragosta!,Rocking Dog

…& Aragosta!

The Olives Are Picked & Rocking Dog Is Back At The Kennel!

Before They Became Oil,Rocking Dog

Before They Became Oil

Yes indeed the olives are now picked and made into divine olive oil.The nets have been put away for another year and the 1,300 mile journey back to the kennel from Umbria has been completed.The linen has been traded in for woolly jumpers and the wood-burner has been stoked. Brrrrrrrr!

It’s good to be back with fresh verve and inspiration and I look forward to seeing friends for walking, chatting and simply being with. Watch out for new Rocking Dog posts including my trip to fifteen French and Belgian cemeteries over 2 days for the Rocking Dog “Remember Me Project” It was the most incredible and poignant experience.

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY– Rocking Dog will be selling Christmas Loveliness together with other wonderful crafty and artisanal foodie folk at the seriously fandabidosi (my Italian is really improving!) Court House Farm, Portishead on Sunday 26th November and Sunday 10th December 10-3.30.

It’s now time to shut myself away like a little elf in my workroom and create some creative and very festive magic!

Love to all, and hope you have a good week. A wine fasting Rocking Dog x

Soundtrack Of A Holiday

Brando Lives On! Florence,Rocking Dog

Brando Lives On! Florence

Having just arrived back from Umbria I still haven’t been able to rid myself of the soundtrack of the holiday! Do you find that there is always a tune that is playing whenever you jiggle radio stations, or step into bars or cafes? Often these songs are slightly annoying or indeed very annoying. In years to come you hear the tune again and it immediately transports you back to the holiday destination where you couldn’t help humming or singing it at full pelt. Our soundtrack this autumn in Umbria was somewhat embarrassedly Bruno Mars’s “Versace on the Floor”! Billy Swan’s “I Can Help” takes me to my teenage French exchange trip and to a cafe with a juke box. Newquay, “I’m In Mood For Dancing” by the Nolans, and my first holiday with Andyman in Umbria (1981) Barclay James Harvest’s album “Eyes of the Universe”. There were holidays with The Proclaimers “Lord, I Want To Be a Christian”, All Saints with “Never Ever” and The Bangles “Eternal Flame”etc.. I expect it will be a few days before I lose Versace from my head. Very hopefully I won’t lose the memory of our girls dancing around the Umbrian kitchen with baby Doug’in arms!

We found our Umbrian garden incredibly parched and somewhat resembling Little House on the Prairie. We have been reassured that our “grass” will somehow green up again. The poor Italians have had a scorchingly hot year and it has had a devastating effect on the crops. Vines hung heavy with fruit which I photographed last year tell a very different story this autumn. It has been difficult for the locals to irrigate crops and many wells have completely dried up. In our garden we are lucky to have some olives to pick when the start of November comes. There was leaf clearing to do and a pomegranate and fig tree to plant. Thankfully heavy rains came on our last day and watered those tender new trees. Alas with all the botanical tidying there was no hammock swinging, no sitting in my oak leaved reading nook and no star gazing. One day!

Wonderfully there were little toes in the pool, an inflatable avocado, some luxuriating, and serious lengths done in the cool of the pool.

There were vintage linens to launder and dry in the sun, a chimney to chat about for the woodburning stove, and lovely food to eat both at home and away.

Liv’ and I ventured to Florence and we all loved the lake (Trasimeno) especially the bonfire set up for a wedding. There were delicious custard filled Aragosta’s (lobster claws) to eat, thank you Michele, and refreshing Aperol Spritz’s to drink at Bar Gallo in Panicale. There is the small matter now of working off all that delicious Vongole and Scampi Gnocchi eaten at da Massimo’s! Why is Umbrian food just SO delicious?!

It really is lovely to be back to the green of England in September, with fresh inspiration for new projects.

Have a great week Rocking Dog x

PS Happy 30th Birthday to our boy Alex’. Have a wonderful time celebrating in France. At least there is no embarrassing cake today Alex! In a year gone by (16 years ago) I was seriously inspired by a trip to Amsterdam, in particular a visit to De Taart Van M’n Tante (My Aunt’s Tart). Many of their cakes were bold and risque. What possessed me to think it was appropriate to send a boxed cake with Alex on a geography school trip which was topped by a rubber gimp doll?! Sorry Alex.

Apartment In The Sky,Rocking Dog

Apartment In The Sky

Tiny Toes,Rocking Dog

Tiny Toes

On Dry Land,Rocking Dog

On Dry Land

Vintage Laundry,Rocking Dog

Vintage Laundry

There Will Be Oil!,Rocking Dog

There Will Be Oil!

Chimney Chat,Rocking Dog

Chimney Chat

Down At The Lake,Rocking Dog

Down At The Lake

Cake Break,Rocking Dog

Cake Break

Planting For The Future,Rocking Dog

Planting For The Future

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

Rocking Dog’s Alternative Wedding Snaps

Let The Feast Begin!,Rocking Dog

Let The Feast Begin!

Sorry to anyone wanting to see photo’s of the bride, bridesmaids, knickerbockered page boys and a murder of monstrous hats. Alas, there is no such frippery in this post….it’s all about the food! Rocking Dog came out of catering retirement (yet again) to provide a feast for a family friends wedding. I was given free rein with the menu, the only request came from the groom asking for chocolate brownie and hot salted caramel sauce. You wish will be granted young sir!

Rocking Dog came up with a cunning plan a while ago and bought back a wonderful stash of salami’s and Pecorino (plain, with truffle and with red peppercorns) from Umbria. These were sliced and put on rustic boards together with truffle flavoured crisps, parmesan biscuits and olives to eat on arrival in the garden. Bubbly was flowing and the boards were offered to some spectacularly dressed guests.

The sun tried to shine and the guests truly marvelled at the gloriously verdant garden. After an encounter with a drone taking overhead film of the waving crowd it was time to venture into the beautiful guy roped marquee. The sides of the marquee were jubilantly up and there were wonderful views of the gardens very own lake.

The feast kicked off with a mezze plate, it was rather strange to be eating my own food, for today I was a guest as well as being the cook and chief bottle washer! Delicious sourdough bread from Harts was served in Rocking Dog hessian sacks and there was no buffet line up, everything was put on the table. It was all very relaxing and sociable. The majority of the food on the mezze plate came from recipes in Skye Gyngell’s book “A Year in My Kitchen”. Thank you Skye I love this particular book.

Moving on to the main event I turned to Yotam Ottolenghi and did recipes from “Jerusalem” and “Plenty”. I was trying to think of a way of serving the spice rubbed slow cooked lamb and accompaniments. Just a few days before the wedding I had a light bulb moment and decided to serve it takeaway style in foil boxes atop a rustic wooden board. The large flat breads from “Bristol Sweetmart” were given sewn paper bags made from M&S Adventures in Food. Guests seemed to love the informality of the presentation.

The piece de resistance were the eleven brown card pudding boxes which were each magically frou’d by Rocking Dog. The flat pack boxes were bought in Ikea and then given tops of artificial grapes, vegetables, ribbons, bird houses, pom poms and the like. Very scarily I had to buy nothing, all the frou was scavenged within the kennel. The boxes were packed with three types of meringue, local strawberries, a tub of clotted cream, brownie and mini kilner jar’d rosewater & cardamom panna cotta’s. There was also cheese and biscuits as well as a baby milk bottle of Liv’ made salted caramel sauce. Oh! I forgot to mention each box was lit by fairy lights and the lid had a calligraphy’d “Raindrops & Roses, whiskers on kittens etc..” verse stuck on the underside of the lid. Kitsch or what!

Finally there was coffee and Rocking Dog chocolate salami.

It really was a wonderful day. The bride looked absolutely amazing in a completely unembellished, un-blingy dress. Understated classy elegance. Beautiful, as were the flowers.

“My” trusted team were really Trojan-ly wonderful, Liv’s app showed she had walked 8 grassy km going to and fro from kitchen to marquee. Thank you to you all from the bottom of my rusty old heart. I missed being with you all but I was tied to the chair under strict instructions to be a guest for the day!

We left the reception leaving the bride and groom together with young friends happily dancing in the rain. Magical.

The fall out of the day still resides in my kitchen with washing up still to do and china to sort, organise and put away. Yes, I now vaguely remember why I gave up wedding catering!

Have a wonderful week and thank you for tuning in.

Love Rocking Dog x

Ps For the record there were no knickerbockered pageboys, murders of hats or indeed bridesmaids!

Starter Menu,Rocking Dog

Starter Menu

The Feast Kicks Off,Rocking Dog

The Feast Kicks Off

The Main Event,Rocking Dog

The Main Event

Wedding Takeaway,Rocking Dog

Wedding Takeaway

The Aubergine,Rocking Dog

The Aubergine

The Rice,Rocking Dog

The Rice

The Tomato & Lemon,Rocking Dog

The Tomato & Lemon

Bread Wrapper,Rocking Dog

Bread Wrapper

Piece De Resistance,Rocking Dog

Piece De Resistance

Boxes To Delight,Rocking Dog

Boxes To Delight

Rocking Dog Frou,Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog Frou

Grooms Food Of Choice!,Rocking Dog

Grooms Food Of Choice!

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!