Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Majesty of Mountains

Italy is covered by about eighty per cent with mountains. The Alps form a crown around her head and the Apennines ripple their way down her back.
They are friendly mountains, dotted with places to eat or drink, mountain lakes with pedalos and beach umbrellas, beautiful forests to walk through and escape the Summer heat, paths that wind their way from one eating place to the next, nature trails, glades for camping, meadows where cattle graze, and here I'm just talking about the Summer. In Winter there is a veritable wonderland of ski resorts, both down hill and cross country, ice skating, trekking, sledging and again many lovely places to stop awhile and have a warming stew and a glass of wine.

Sometimes in the Italian mountains, full of happy people passing by you on the trail, or bustling about on the terraces of the eating places, watching children play on the impossibly emerald grass it is easy to forget about the awesome, majesty of the mountains. You might stop and chat to other people out for an excursion and they will all talk confidently about the various passes and peaks, reeling off a list of exotic names, all united by a deep love for the mountains.
Whether you are puffing and panting on a mountain bike, walking along with a special stick and having a natter, there will be a moment when you pause at a bend in the road and have a good look at the scenery in front of you. Then it hits you, the sheer power and force of Mother Nature. It is she who is control here. vast expanses of steep  forests where only wild animals  venture, stark bare rock faces, meadows and banks full of wild flowers producing a mix of colours and textures that only an expert gardener could produce, cheer cliffs and all the time in the distance, layer upon layer of hazy blue and lilac mountain ranges. Landscapes that fill your heart with joy and delight, make you aware of the wondrous force of nature, you will feel enriched and a peace will come over you, your world will tilt back on course and everything will find a new harmonious perspective.

So many songs and poems have been written to the mountains, so many people have found inspiration there. Apparently Sir Edmund Hilary, when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest simply answered, 'Because it's there.'

One of the many eating places where they also make and sell cheese. Here is a display of the forms used to make cheese

A welcome break

Breath taking views at every turn

Lakes in the mountains keep the climate steady

Friday, 28 August 2015

Other People's Shoes

Two little girls, one can move, one can't

A lake looks quite different depending where you stand

Joan Baez told us loud and clear, 'there but for fortune go you or I'

Growing up in the sixties we had lots of music with a message, think of 'Wonderful Woodstock.' The words to Joan Baez's song 'There but for Fortune' are as appropriate now as they were then. We must always think about what it's like for other people, not to judge and to share a love for our fellow men, whether we are thinking about members of our family, our friends or colleagues or complete strangers.

Once I wrote  a post about a book that I read to my daughter called 'Walk Two Moons' by Sharon Creech.
One of our favourite quotes from the book was an old Red Indian saying
Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins.'
That's pretty self-explanatory isn't it?

Today I'm going to share with you a poem, written by my great-uncle and although I didn't know him I think that this poem expresses the feelings that have been so engraved on my heart from childhood.

Other People's Shoes

Before our kindred we condemn
And chastise or abuse
We should at some time stand with them
And maybe wear their shoes.

The world may seem a different place
From just across the road,
And we might run a poorer race
Beneath another's load.

To know just where and how it hurts
May change our view perchance
To feel the pinch that so perverts,
The pinch of circumstance.

Hope you like it.


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Poem of the day, To the evening star

There is something really special about the evening star. It's timeless magic and guiding light, a beacon in the sky for all to see. Wish upon the evening star.
Here is my poem for the day about the evening star by William Blake (1757 - 1827)

To the Evening Star

Thou fair-haired Angel of the Evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed.

Smile on our loves, and, while thy drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver, - Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw, then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares through the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flocks are covered with
Thy sacred dew; protect them with tine influence!


It's actually the moon in my photographs, but it's what the evening star looks like to the naked eye

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Embroider your Life

A friend of mine enjoys doing embroidery with a passion. Watching the way she embroiders, threading the needle and concentrating on her work, the passion and care that she puts into it is like a life lesson.
How many of us grew up hearing If a job's worth doing then it's worth doing well?.
Lacksadaisical, slovenly, were the two words used to describe anything I didn't do well, from making my bed, washing up or brushing my hair.
The way my friend embroiders made me think of this as I tried to copy her.
At first I thought it didn't matter what the back looked like, after all no-one will see it, but she didn't agree. The reserve side should be nice to look at too. She showed me how to tuck in all the loose threads and make sure the crosses all went in the same direction.
As you embroider, knit or sew you put all the emotions that you are feeling into your work. So if you watch television while you are working then all the emotions you feel will go there, negative or whatever and you will not be concentrating properly so your embroidery might suffer.
If you make something for a friend or loved one then put all your love and care for them into your work, all your positive feelings and wishes will always be with them.
From now on I will concentrate more and make sure both sides look good.
Funnily enough I wrote a story on my short story blog called 'Threads of Gold' that is about making our lives like a tapestry.

Fish for Beginners

Eating freshly caught fish by the sea surely has to be one of the culinary highlights of summer.
 Back home you might like to try to recreate that  relaxed and special feeling.
 One of the most popular special fish dishes in Italy is Sea Bass, or Branzino.
 Find a good reliable fishmonger and get him to prepare it for you with care and you will be guaranteed to have a special meal. Just be careful with the bones, many a romantic evening has been nipped in the bud by fish bones stuck in throats.

Wash and dry the fish and try to remove as many scales and small bones as possible.
Tuck cloves of garlic and sprigs of rosemary inside the fish.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and lay on a baking tray.
Bake in the oven at 200 for 25 minutes then cover with foil and let rest for about ten minutes.

If you would like to add some spice to life try this rice as a side dish.
Gently fry some chopped onion and some cumin seeds then add basmati rice and cook as according to instructions on the packet. Add turmeric to give it a nice golden yellow colour and season with salt and pepper.

Prepare a tomato salad with chopped onion, chives and fresh parsley.
If liked make a salad of thinly sliced courgettes dress with lemon and olive oil and thin slices of parmesan cheese. Remember to always colour your plate.

Ready for the oven

When cooked sprinkle with fresh parsley and add lemon slices

Fry chopped onion fresh cumin seeds and turmeric to make a rice dish that will add colour and spice

Decorate your rice dish with more chopped fresh parsley

Side salads of courgettes and tomatoes add colour

Carefully prepare your fish

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Trees that Talk

On a sunny summers  day when the air is still you may become aware of the beautiful soothing sound trees make when their leaves rustle in the breeze.  So my poem for the day is inspired by that wonderful feeling of listening to the music they make dancing and letting the sunlight through their leaves.

Trees that Talk

Come and sit beside me
Lean against my bark
Let your worries fade away
Stay here until it's dark.

Lie upon the soft grass
Look up into my leaves
Hear me whisper gently
Swaying with the breeze.

I can tell you secrets
Of Summers long ago
Of kindly folk that sat here
As I did slowly grow.

Many people have enjoyed
The music you can hear
Close your eyes and listen
My magic is right here.

Silver bells are tinkling
The wind will make them chime
Dancing round the branches
That children love to climb.

Bubbling near my roots
Runs a pretty, sparkling stream
We'll sing our song together
While you close your eyes and dream.

So come and lay beneath me
Let my branches sweep away
All the pain and sorrow
That is in your heart today.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Wonderful Welcomes

What more joyous welcoming can there be than a small child running towards you with their arms wide open? What more wonderful display of affection than a baby giving you their first hug? A squeeze of your hand, a pat on your shoulder, a broad grin, all these tell you more than a thousand words.
Many people will be returning from their summer holidays. Il rientro, the grand return.
Setting off on holiday is an exciting adventure, coming home again hopefully batteries will be recharged, wonderful memories of new places, new friends will enrich hearts and brighten the winter days.

There must be a reason that there is a saying in English, travel east and travel west, going home is always best.

Even though my parents weren't living in the same country as me they were always happy to know I was home, it made me a phone call away again and we felt closer. That was before we all had cell phones of course.

Welcome home, just landed, can't wait to see you, miss you, on our way, nearly there, lovely to be on holiday but oh so lovely to see you again.

So Buon rientro  to you all and run towards each other with open arms.

Show me the way to go home

Show me the way to go home,
I'm tired and I want to go to bed,
I had a little drink about an hour ago,
And it's gone right to my head.

Wherever I may roam
O'er land or sea or foam.
You'll always here me singing this song,
Show me the way to go home.

You might have seen in the news recently about a bedtime story that uses certain words and is guaranteed to make children fall quickly off to sleep. Bath time, bedtime and the bedtime, are a wonderful time of day when you have small children. Sweet smelling, warm and relaxed, it's a chance to cuddle up and show how much you love each other.
The song above was one of my mother's favourites and it sent me off to sleep like magic, feeling safe and loved. Just the thought of being safe at home was enough. It was years later that my son singing it to his own children pointed out that it was about a drunk trying to find his way home, it didn't take the magic away, we all want to find our way home at some time.
I'm going right of at a tangent now. I was thinking about homes and how varied they can be, a high rise flat, a small cottage, a villa, a mansion . I came upon a small house on holiday in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by flat countryside, a lagoon and marshes, but there it was.. Number 10 and home to someone. So I asked if I could take a photo and what was it like living there in the middle of nowhere.  My questions were met with enthusiasm and a strong sense of belonging there. The address, Number 10, in the middle of nowhere, a wonderful place to come home to.
Number 10

An interesting little home

The next door neighbour

Sunday, 16 August 2015

A Sprinkling of Flowers

Like confetti at a wedding
Like sugar strands upon a cake
Flowers grace the path I'm treading
All the way around the lake.

In a garden frilly roses
Ready for the ball tonight
They will be the fairies' dresses
Turned to silver in starlight.

Purple thistles soft and warm
Bending gently in the breeze
Standing proud and full of promise
For any hopeful passing bees,


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Stars in my eyes

These lovely starlit nights full of shooting stars have gone to my head. I've been thinking about stars, looking out for stars, making wishes for my nearest and dearest looking at the stars and thinking about all the songs I know that mention stars.

1 When you wish upon a star, Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, Walt Disney
2  Twinkle Twinkle Little star
3  Starry Starry Night, Don McClean, about Vincent Van Gogh
4  I was born under a wandering star, Lee Marvin

and then a memory came to me from when I was little girl and I loved Perry Como singing 'Catch a Falling Star', it just seemed so wonderfully magical and perfect to be able to have a star in my pocket ready for a rainy day, I imagined the star there tucked in my pocket, plucked from the sky and me giving it to my mum and her face lighting up. She told me I used to give her the bits of fluff from my pockets as though they were precious gifts, so a star, wow.

If you aren't able to look up at a starry sky then look at the most famous starry sky in the whole world, that painted by dear Vincent Van Gogh, didn't he just capture all the magic to be held there? and make a wish too! and bounce a long with a spring in your step humming Perry Como in your head.

The deep blue sky was flecked with clouds of a blue deeper than the fundamental blue
of intense cobalt, and others of a clearer blue like the blue whiteness of the Milky Way. In the blue depth the stars were sparkling, greenish, yellow, white, pink, more brilliant, more sparklingly gemlike than at home - even in Paris; opals you might call them, emeralds, lapis lazuli, rubies, sapphires.

Vincent Van Gogh

Slow Food from Puglia. Frittata

Conversation with a friend from Puglia always turn to food. Her face is aglow as she tells you what she made over the weekend. She is so expressive you feel as though you were sitting round the table with her. She kisses the tips of her fingers and mimics her husband's enthusiastic response to her culinary masterpieces. She makes it sound so easy and quick. She's always got a pack of frozen prawns in the freezer, she's always got cheese from Puglia ready grated and frozen in little bags, she's always got lots of oregano, the proper sort from her grandma's garden, and lots of olives and capers.
Yesterday she reeled off in quick succession the amazing meals she had produced over the weekend. I could hardly keep up. Then as an after thought she told me that on Sunday evening she had made the most wonderful frittata with three sad-looking courgettes, some eggs that needed eating and other bits and bobs. Her husband's reaction was as complimentary as ever, squisito, delizioso, ottimo.

So for supper last night I looked in the fridge and I also had three sad-looking courgettes and three eggs so I tried to make frittata alla Pugliese.
All over the world housewives are busy cracking eggs into bowls, whisking them up and making them into omelettes, pancakes, tortillas, frittatas. Omelettes are considered an important test of culinary skill. You have to be quick and flippy.
Frittatas on the other hand are slow and leisurely. There is time to do other things while they are cooking, like prepare the salad and a bowl of peaches with lemon. Turn the heat down low and cover the pan and allow at least half an hour.

Courgette Frittata

Serves 2-3

3 courgettes, washed and diced
3 eggs beaten
1 small glass of milk
1 heaped tbps of flour
grated cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Gently cook the courgettes in a little butter and olive oil until slightly golden.
Mix together the eggs, flour, milk like you would for a pancake and stir in the grated cheese. Season to taste.
Add the egg mixture to the pan and stir gently so the courgettes are evenly distributed.
Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat down low.
When the underside is cooked and golden slide the frittata onto a plate and flip back into the pan.
Cover the pan and let cook until puffed up and cooked through.
The advantage of frittata is that it is nice cold the next day, whereas omelette is not.

ps. my husband's verdict, no enthusiastic kissing of his fingertips, he said it tasted just like my other frittatas and omelettes. But it did have a taste of Puglia to me.

Bon appetito

Monday, 10 August 2015

Wish upon a star tonight Buon San Lorenzo

On the 10th August many people will be looking up at the night sky hoping to see a shooting star. It is the Notte of S.Lorenzo, the night of St.Lawrence and the probability of seeing a lucky star are high. When you wish upon a star as Jimminy Cricket sings to Pinocchio it is a wish to carry on, not give up hope and to keep on looking for the bright side.

May you see three stars tonight
Up above shining bright
One full of hope to keep you safe
Even when you don't feel brave
The Star of joy with smiles for you
Laughter, fun and friendship too
The brightest Star I wish for you
So all your dearest dreams come true.

Happy Star gazing everyone  Buon San Lorenzo

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Heaven is a place on Earth

 Belinda Carlyle told us that  heaven is a place on earth and that in heaven 'Love comes first'.  There are  moments when all is harmony around you, the earth meets the sky with a kiss on the horizon, flowers grow like colourful blankets, small creatures appear from the bushes and little birds swoop down around your feet.
  There are lots of places on earth where man and nature seem to be in perfect agreement, and looking after each other. These areas need to be protected so there are Nature Reserves, Conservation areas and UNESCO heritage areas, National Parks and  Green areas, to name a few. I expect many of you on holiday will come across these areas and appreciate their unspoiled beauty, and you will be sharing these moments with people you love. Maybe Belinda Carlyle will start singing in your head, like she did mine.

People who plant trees

This post is a thank you to people who plant trees. Trees for pure enjoyment, not for the fruit they yield or for the use they have when they are chopped down or felled. Trees that are planted for their beauty, for the shade they give and that make the landscape a prettier place.

I love places where there are a variety of trees all growing happily together in a small area. Magnolias, pine trees, fir trees, and lots more.
A friend of mine likes to hug trees. She says you have to close your eyes and think of the tree growing up to the sky and the roots going down into the ground and feel at one with the earth and the sky, so try it today, maybe when no-one is looking.