Monday, 24 November 2014

Little things from home

You know what, we British do make good biscuits! In fact, I'd go so far as to say some of the best in the world. There I said it!! And last week I found myself missing the choice you can find on the UK supermarket shelves and for some bizarre reason ginger nuts in I decided to make my own (well, why wouldn't you!). Thank you, thank you Paul Hollywood for this fantastic Ginger Nut recipe...they tasted like the real thing and it was just what the biscuit doctor ordered!!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Wine time!

Cantina plastered and tiled
The Press after pressing!

It is that time of year again. I can't quite believe it, our third wine harvest since we've been living in Italy...where has that time gone! And this year, we are doing things a little differently.

For the first time we are experimenting with white, as well as red, wine. Already pressed earlier this week and starting to ferment nicely in our stainless steel barrel, we have just under 100 litres of organic white wine sitting, waiting and with any luck it will be as tasty as the red!

And this year the Montepulciano sat for four days in its skins instead of two with the hope of producing a deeper, heavier red. Let's see what happens.

Dougie has spent the summer reading about natural wine and every year we are learning more and more about the wine making process, as well as how to manage the vines during the growing season with the aim of producing good quality organic grapes. Susceptible to lots of diseases if the weather conditions are not spot on though, Montepulciano is not the easiest grape to manage!

Adverse weather early on in the growing season this year has led to reports that for the first time since 1950 France will exceed Italy in volume of wine production this year. No problem here though, luckily a couple of hundred litres should be enough for us!!!!!

The 2012 vintage!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Another Abruzzo autumn approaches

At the end of spring I didn't really feel I had anything to say on the blog, so I've taken a break for and a while. Now as autumn approaches, with a few things to write about  I have decided to reignite my blogging mojo! We have been living here now for over two years - where has that time gone! - and are happier than ever with that very big step we made back in June 2012.

We still have plenty of plans and projects for the house and garden: We are still making lovely fresh food with our organic veg grown in our garden, despite a relatively poor summer in terms of fruit and veg production, we have our third grape harvest fast approaching and Dougie's knowledge of organic wine making is increasing year on year, we are opening up our rental apartment for the winter season for the first time, we are improving our Italian language skills (although we do now have two personal translators in the form of Jake and Josh!), we are still trying to get to grips with how Italian systems work - but then we are reassured by the majority of our Italian friends that they too are still trying to work it all out after decades!  - and we seem to be slotting in nicely to our local community getting out and doing lots of activities.


So, autumn is on its way and we look forward to making the most of another year in this amazing region of Abruzzo.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A day of recycling

Today has been about putting some old bits and bobs to good use. Thank you to Katy for your donation of a pair of cords (which I have already used as Christmas stocking tops for my boys) and the old sink.

Now, the rest of the cords has been added to a couple of fabric scraps and an old mattress protector to make my new and funky sewing machine cover...

And the old sink has become my latest garden feature as a planter...

Happy recycling days!!

Monday, 31 March 2014

The climbing wall is finished!

The Easy Bit
Six days, a lot of measuring, drilling, hammering, lifting, painting and screwing and we have ourselves a fantastic climbing wall in our garage! But not just any old climbing wall, no...ours is an adjustable, tilting climbing wall...well, you know us by now, why do things the easy way!

In line with our efforts of putting everything to good use and reducing the amount of waste we create, the wall has used two old scaffolding poles we had lying around, left behind by the previous owners, to create the hinge and some bits of wood left over from building a partition wall in the cantina.

We would also like to say a big THANK YOU to Mick Cooke and the team at Entre Prises UK for their help for us climbing wall building novices. They thought of everything regarding the holds for our wall and their amazing speedy service was second to none.

The following photos show from the first framework going up to the end result - our very own tiltable climbing wall.

Enjoy...and come and climb...

The Centre Panel - Part 1 done...Parts 2 & 3 to go!

Just not enough power tools being used - get the grinder out too!

199 holes drilled...only another 140 to go!

Precision carpentry at its best!

And 199 T-Nuts hammered can guess the rest.

Hoorah (or phew!) works!

The highly technical threaded bar!!

The recycled scaffolding pole hinge

I'm sure the garage wall is strong enough to take it!

Part 2 painted while the man of the house works on part 3.

Ok - so it's all up.
So where do we put these then?
The exciting bit!
And it becomes a family affair!

Well, I had to try it didn't I?
The finished item!

Finally all the boys get a go.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Sneaky Sunday morning coffee, juice and cakes while we wait for Daddy to come back from the Rugby in Rome!

Building our climbing wall!

The panels have arrived (thank you Luca for you help),
The garage has been cleared
...let the build commence!

Soooo excited!!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Spring is here!

Blossom on the peach tree!

Spring has definitely sprung.

The blossom is out on the peach trees. We have pruned the vines, the fruit trees, the raspberries and blackberries, we've planted more fruit trees in our mini orchard (apple, pear, peach and cherry), planted out the cuttings I took from the Laurel in October to make the hedge round the guest garden, planted the onions, garlic, and new strawberry plants. We've sown the spinach, lettuce tomatoes, carrots and rocket. So, all in all looking forward to another year of bumper crop in the Reid household...without quite so many cucumbers this time!!

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Chicken saga episode 2: Demise of the chickens!

We spent hours watching the antics of our chickens in 2013. In spring, Dougie was in full swing with his new rotavator (interesting how outdoor kit is slowly being superseded by farming kit in our household!) they ran after him, in front of him, following him all through the vines and the veg patches, to the extent that some nearly met a very grisly end under the rotavator blades - that however, was not to be their demise!

They darted out in the mornings and followed Dougie everywhere, his own Harem - although his idea of having hoards of women flocking to him is perhaps slightly different to this rustic reality!

In summer, we  sat under the trees in the back garden, while the boys cooled off in the paddling pool, where they would be pecking around. Then they'd take sudden notions to race across the grass chasing a small fly or butterfly and then see another one and sprint in completely the other direction, more often than not catching absolutely nothing. Bonkers!

In autumn, as the grapes in the vineyard began to mature, they even learnt to jump to reach the fruit hanging down in juicy bunches from the vines. For a couple of weeks we resorted to limiting their free range hours for fear of a decimated grape harvest (wine supply versus free range...there really is no choice)!

We looked into the chicken house at night when we shut the doors and instead of perching on their nice natural wooden perches that we had lovingly made for them, they would pile on top of each other in one corner like total idiots.

Then, one fateful cold and wintery December day, Dougie was back in the UK working for a while and I was here juggling work, children, a boiler that set itself on fire on a regular basis (a whole other story!), log burners and the rest of the daily duties, I came home from work after dark, having picked the boys up from their friend's house, put the boys in bed and went to close the chickens doors and hatches.

As I got to the door and listened in to the hen house all seemed unnaturally quiet. There was none of the usual shuffling and rustling of feathers, or clucking and chattering I would normally hear. With fear and trepidation rising inside me I ran back to the house to get the head torch and then returned to the hen house. When I shined the light inside the sight in front of me made me freeze - plumes of black, brown and white feathers scattered around the floor of the hen house and five of my crazy chickens all lying together by the door as though they had cuddled up to each other for warmth and comfort in their last moments on this earth.  Three had been taken away completely, and there was no sign of them anywhere when I looked in the daylight the following day. Poor things!

So, what had killed them? Naturally this was the main question. It could have been a fox? Or, a random stray dog? But no, none of the above. Instead, something much more exciting - we found some hair from the guilty animal at the entrance hole to the chicken house, caught in a piece of metal and was WOLF'S HAIR!

Just a couple of weeks earlier, following an unusually early dump of snow, we had been lucky enough to see a wolf trotting through our vines - undoubtedly taken by surprise with the snowfall it had been pushed lower down the mountain in search of food. Little did we know at the time, it had its beady eye on our chickens! One thing is for sure though, there are not many people that can say they have had a wolf to dinner in their back garden. And boy what a feast it had!

The Abruzzo Wolf

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Climbing fund raising mountains! The first steps.

Quick-Fundraising-Tips-ThanksI am pleased to announce I have climbed my own first fundraising mountain. Yes, I have started a mission to raise funds for Josh's preschool that goes beyond the Italian standard of parents just handing over their hard earned cash week in, week out.

You would not believe what a big deal this was for me. Fund raising initiatives, whilst common place in UK schools and preschools, seem almost unheard of here in Abruzzo. I was extremely nervous about starting this project as I didn't want the other parents to label me as the Brit do-gooder, interfering with my fancy ideas. I didn't know who to ask for advice, who to turn to for support, who I needed to speak to for permission...but then again, it hadn't been done before, so nor did anyone else!!

Just seeing what an amazing job the parents and staff at Dartmouth preschool do though, I knew so much more could be done here and this spurred me on. I fought my fear of being laughed off the school grounds and went for it

So, I am officially raising funds. My path is laid...

 I started small - in the run up to Christmas we sold tea towels with self-portraits of the children on them.

Never before seen here, it was received well...even with enthusiasm, and I was humbled to get thanks from the parents and staff for my efforts. I am proud to say that we raised €110 for educational toys for the preschool with our first foray into the fundraising quagmire!

I have lots of ideas of where this could go next with the support of the other parents (who have also become good friends over the last few months) and despite the economic difficulties the people in this region face every day, I can honestly say we are lucky to be surrounded by amazingly generous, kind hearted people who go out of their way to help you when you need it.

My question now is what will be step 2? Is this first mountain to become just the foothills?

Share your fundraising ideas with me and who knows where it could take us! I'll keep you posted along the way.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014


There is something quite satisfying about digging up your own potatoes for your roast dinner...even if it isn't Sunday!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The egg Mafia!

 The chickens in their run!
Our crazy chickens have provided us with hours of entertainment in the last 18 months, and through them we have also created some entertainment of our own! Some of you will already have heard of our egg antics, but I felt it was time I shared some of them with the world.

Set the scene: two British immigrants, a Sicilian door lady, a bunch of Italian school teachers and six chickens - what could go wrong?

It started one day with an innocent question to a member of staff at the boys' school. Dougie asked after her chickens and during a short and animated conversation we found ourselves bamboozled into bringing 20 eggs for said member of staff (who it turns out we'd mistaken for someone else and didn't have her own chickens at all!). And so egg-gate begins...

"How much are your eggs?" "Err..20 cents each?" we tentatively replied, not having a clue how much we should charge, never expecting to sell our eggs, but knowing roughly how much we had paid for free range eggs in the UK. The response we got was not what we had expected. "20 cents, you CAN'T sell them for that. That's not enough! You HAVE TO charge 30 cents per egg." "No," we said backing away, slightly scared of the Sicilian door lady, with images of godfather movies flashing through our heads,"30 cents is too much. 20 cents is plenty." "Absolutely not, we are paying you 30 cents per egg." So much for the eggonomic crisis I thought (sorry couldn't resist!).

After much discussion and obligatory Italian hand waving, we agreed to meet half way and we accepted 25 cents per egg. I think it is the first time I've ever heard of increasing prices due to consumer pressure.

The following day we went to school with our twenty eggs. Believe me, we had no idea what lay ahead. A request for another thirty eggs...word was spreading quickly about the availability of good quality, local free range eggs. We offered a possible further twenty (six chickens lay quite a lot more eggs than a family of four can eat!) which would use up our stockpile but explained we didn't have enough to bring thirty. No problem, we naively thought, customers satisfied and they will lay another 6 tomorrow and the day after, that will be plenty for us this week.

The next day we presented our twenty remaining eggs, to be met with a demand (and I don't use this word lightly!) for forty more eggs - "no," we explained, "we don't have 40 more eggs" "But the other Maestras (teachers) want them," says our Sicilian door lady, in a tone that means don't mess with me, "and they will be paying 30 cents an egg." "Uh, but it's impossible. The chickens don't lay that many eggs - we only have six of them." "Oh, they only lay one each?" "Yes, one each per day maximum, if they all lay." "Oh, how many can you bring then?" "Uh, none - we don't even have any for ourselves." "Oh...when can you bring forty then?" "Well, we can't!" "Can you bring 20 then?" "We can bring 20 next week." "Next week! Can't you bring them before then?" " No, we need some eggs for ourselves and we need to wait until we have 20 to bring." "Then you need to buy more chickens!"

And so the discussions continued for several weeks! Every time we brought eggs in to school we were asked for more, while we explained over and over that they only lay one egg each per day so we would bring what we could. We got to the point of tossing a coin as to who would take the boys into school and face the wrath of the egg mafia. Eventually, we crumbled under the pressure of the constant demands and increased our chicken flock to 8 , with a couple of losses along the way (there will be another post about that) and yet the demand continues. Long live the egg Mafia!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Just another manic Monday!

Sore shins, burning thighs, glowing face and a huge smile only means one thing in our season is here!

A few blues, reds and blacks were the perfect start to the day. This is one of the reasons we love living in Abruzzo! Hope you like the phots:
Our own private ski slope!

Sun coming up over the mountains.

Aremogna in the sun.
If you want to find out more about skiing our 'secret slopes' read what The Independent had to say: