The sun is back after the rains

Last weekend the weather was really terrible.  however the rain was much needed and nobody with a large umbrella seemed to mind the soaking.  Today we are back to sunshine, the air is clean and refreshed and the autumn colours are just turning those honey golds so characteristic of Umbria.  Although not blogging I have been up to a few things, so to give you an insight of my days here goes;

I want to cover the pool and garden at Bellaugello Gay Guest House with a wireless internet signal, let’s face it everybody now has an iPad or Kindle.  I have been out researching WiFi antennas.  The proposed antennas are quite small and discrete.  I am told they have a range of up to 5kms – should be more than adequate!  I just need to clamber onto the roof to find the best point for the antenna and how we can discretely run the cable.

The other day a frenetic beeping of a van horn signalled the arrival of a box of samples for a new range of soaps and gels from Erbolario Toscano for me to test.  I would like to keep the Arran Arromatics lavender products we currently use, but I have big problems with the carriers not delivering so am looking at alternatives.  Erbolario Toscano is a high quality range of products using olive oil which is produced near Lucca in Tuscany.  Lightly fragrant and with an attractive artisan packaging, traditional Italian, the soap is really good I am really inclined to go with them for the suites for next year. (make the place more Italian hehe!!)

I am looking at an iPad mini.  I am a keen reader, I read in bed to send me to sleep however before the iPad mini  had thought to buy a Kindle Paperwhite.  I checked the reviews and was convinced, Paperwhite is the right model, the price is not bad and the book selection more than adequate, with the advantage that I will be able to buy English language books here on an Italian Amazon account.

Ok so proceed to buying process – NONE available in Italy until FEBRUARY 2013!!!!!!!!!!!!!  British Amazon has delivery for w/c 14 December aargh.  I heard on the BBC Brian Sewell being interviewed about his latest autobiography and I want to read it now, by February I will have lost interest.  Three months wait I think not.   So I thought why not an iPad mini?  I have other Apple products they could all sync together.  Ok they are more expensive than a Kindle but they also do more, I could use it for music in the dining room, checking emails and blogging, stream movies and yes, read books – oh I can justify it on many levels!  Delivery 2 weeks – that is reasonable, BUT NO ENGLISH FILMS on iTunes Italy so NO point in paying more. I REFUSE to watch Skyfall with Daniel Craig dubbed into Italian

Continuing on the same theme, I am looking at replacing my computer.  As an Apple man of long standing, indeed I have never owned a pc and still have trouble working on one I thought to a desktop iMac.  Wow how the prices have shot up starting €1,400…..  Anyway it must be done so onto my Apple account to discover delivery….   NOVEMBER are we not already in November?

A friend of mine in the UK has a company car.  Last spring his company car was due for renewal.  His car of choice is a Mercedes and being of precise nature he specified color, trim, wheels, engine etc and returned to work in hot anticipation of the new baby arriving.  Scheduled for late July in time to drive over to Italy for a holiday at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, the car when it finally arrived in late August was wrongly specified, and Mercedes wanted another two whole months.

What is it with the world?  One used to be able to go into a phone store and choose a new phone pay a few pounds and take it home straight away. I can remember walking onto a car dealer’s forecourt and choosing the car from a selection and having it ready to be driven away the next day.  A ten month wait for a Mercedes!  I know times are hard but have Mercedes suffered so much?  I have visions of the workforce reduced to one man assembling the cars under the light of an incandescent bulb hehe!  Yes, I did wait 7 years for the delivery of my Morgan sports car but that was in the 1980’s and very much hand made.  I remember DVDs played any language – buy them in Paris, Caracas, Lisbon or Berlin, they all had a choice of languages, so why in this modern day and age can the Apple Store not have original language films in all countries?  And have you seen their ‘original language’ bookstore on iTunes talk about un-navigable

And to why I have not been blogging lately.  It is all Apple’s fault. I have updated my software to a Mountain Lion, all singing but not all dancing it is now inordinately complicated to upload photos onto my blog.  What was previously a simple process of finding the photo, choosing and uploading is now impossible as the small dimension extensions have magically disappeared.  Now to upload a small format photo I have to export it from iPhoto and put it on the desktop, so duplicating it and taking up more disk space and then find it again and upload to WordPress, and as to videos, no way have I mastered that.

To give you and example, recently we went up into the foothills of the Apennines behind our local town of Gubbio, within 20kms you find yourself in the Monte Cucco Regional park a wonderful place for hiking, well marked tracks meander hills and valleys  that are like entering a land that time forgot.  Stupendous scenery, isloated villages, smoke curling limply from soot blackened chimney pots, old men (and some cute younger ones) standing outside the only bar, I expected the only cigarettes available to be Gauloise untipped.  Here and there a lonely church or ancient monastery clinging to a craggy outcrop high up on the valley wall, and Chianina cattle wandering freely in the upper pastures, their bells jangling.  It was all happily reminiscent of the film “the Sound of Music”.   I half expected a Christopher Plummer lookalike to come tripping gaily down the mountain.  But no it is actually 2012 and amongst all this nostalgia there was a 3G phone signal, and with my iPhone camera I could take video and record sound which I di to upload  through my WordPress app.  But no, the video would not upload to my phone, and back at home synced with computer it still does not upload, indeed iPhoto mucked up the format, and I wasted hours trying various ways to share the delightful sounds with you all to no avail.  To my mind technology should be simple and efficient.

Back to business, I am making a few alterations to the dining room and kitchen at Bellaugello and was out shopping for internal doors yesterday.  I need two plain doors, smooth un-remarkable.  The quote came in this morning €187,00 + iva each and that is just the doors, no handles…..  My friends in the south of France posted recently on Facebook photos of delightful antique double doors for their drawing room that they picked up in an architectural salvage yard, cost €300,00 including brass handles and finger plates.  To add insult to injury there is a lead in time of ten weeks for these unremarkably dull but expensive flat doors.

Ok this has turned into a rant which was not the intention, I leave you with a photo of one of the cattle, you will have to make the sound effects yourself, just hit a saucepan lid or two together to imagine the delightful sounds from the bell, I am off to string two empty baked bean cans together, I need to speak with my neighbour over the hill!

 

 

the approach of winter

Not that it has been especially cold, but I have had the heating on here for a few weeks now.   I just love walking around with toasty warm feet, the joys of underfloor heating!  The sun still shines bright, but the evenings are decidedly cooler, so heating ever more important.

Today has been a day of rest (for me at least!) from the olive harvest and so time to catch up on indoor chores – I still have mountains of leaves to rake up but they can wait a day or two!

This afternoon I joined friends at a local farmers’ produce market, wonderful healthy looking vegetables, several cheeses including a pecorino laced with truffles, and a couple who have restored an old watermill and are now grinding corn and other grains producing a fabulous range of flours, they will be in my store cupboard.  Being a bit of a glutton I ended up by the wood oven feasting off fresh home made pitta style bread liberally doused with new olive oil, sheer ambrosia.  As I drove home to check on Edo who is still weak, the drive was a delight, the autumn foliage intense, the sun sparkling on the newly ploughed fields and that special autumnal light that intensifies as the sun begins to set.

This evening I went to the boiler house to check on the wood and pellet biomass boiler that great leviathan that heats the house to discover that whilst it is working perfectly the display on the control panel has all but vanished… I cannot read a thing, the display is too faint.  Evidently they are not using Kindle E Ink!

At least the house is good and warm, but I have added to my “to do” email list to write for a repair or replacement to Gilles in Austria the boiler manufacturers – new potential customers beware!

Now my thoughts turn back to nicer things and the Quince Jam I am in the process of making.  Whilst quinces are not my all time favourite fruit they have the most heavenly aroma and make delicious jam.  I am using a new recipe from a friend here in the valley, co-incidentally the quinces or melacotogne as they are called here in Italy were a gift from her, and as I write the sitting room is filled with the perfume of quinces bubbling on the stove next door in my kitchen, I had best go and attend to them, I want to adapt the recipe and reduce the cooking liquor to further intensify the strength, and maybe add some nutmeg too??

Tomorrow we head off to the Frantoio to press our olives.  The olives look good but for us the quantity of olives is down this year, still there will be enough for our cooking needs for the year and to have some bottles for sale for you guys to take home as gifts or souvenirs which is all I require.   I am joining my olives with friends from here in Valdichiascio, neither of us use chemicals or pesticides, the trees grow naturally and going to what for me is a new frantoio.   The olives will be pressed at an old fashioned traditional mill using actual stone grindwheel and wooden separators as seen in the photographs of the post this summer on the tour of the Abbazia of Montelabate.  I cannot wait until tomorrow evening to light the fire and sample bruschetta drizzled with Bellaugello virgin olive oil 2012