In which we went up (quite a lot) and a three hour walk turned into a nine hour walk

Yesterday was our second day in Italy and we decided to take a walk up one of the mountains here in Belagio.  We were pretty well organised and had a shed load of water with us, a packed lunch and we’d covered ourselves in sunscreen.  The scenery here is beautiful and we chose a three-hour mapped walk up through the forest to the top of one of the mountains.  The ‘up’ started like this:

IMG_1017And there was plenty more of it – it was a beautiful walk (hard work, especially when you’re a little unfit like I am) but after about an hour we were halfway and reached a great panorama where we stopped to take pictures (and get our breath back), then continued on for another couple of hours.  The Italian path markers are a little scatty and the timings are  not quite as accurate as they might be, and so it took us longer than expected to reach the top but when we finally go there, the view was worth it:

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Our original plan was to take a bus back down into Belagio but the bus stop wasn’t immediately obvious and we were feeling brave so we decided to follow the path signs (“2 hours 10” – this turned out not to be entirely true) but we lost the path, marked by red and white slashes of paint on trees and rocks along the way, so we went on a detour through the forest until we found the path again.  Along the way we stumbled through a farm which was part of the pathway and made friends with some horses.

Once we found the correct path again, we found another beautiful vista at about 900m above sea-level, then worked our way back down through the forest.  The first part was so steep (and close to the sheer drop) that I climbed down almost on my hands and knees.  We descended 600m in about an hour so that gives you an idea of how steep the path through the forest was, but it was brilliant!  It got a little bit hairy when the sun started to set and we were still amongst the trees, but we made it out while the sky was still pink and with aching knees, ankles and hips (we’re not twenty-one any more…) we headed back to the apartment, showered and strolled – quite slowly and gingerly – to the local ristorante for a delicious meal and an Italian beer.  We tried out our Italian (“grazie mille”) and discovered that the owner of the restaurant had lived in Southend for twenty-one years so his English was perfect but he helped us with our Italian pronunciation before we said our buona nottes and strolled (less gingerly this time for the beer had worked some magic) up the hill to our apartment and into bed.

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Day twenty-five of the 30 day photography challenge – strangers

It’s far too easy not to really notice other people as we go about our business every day – I know I’m usually rushing about from one place to the next and always thinking about something as I go (although, oddly, I often seem to notice people’s shoes, no matter how quickly I’m walking…).

When we were at Silverstone in June, we had a brilliant time because there was so much going on but also because everyone there was also having a great time and there was a really friendly atmosphere.  It felt like we really did notice other people more, and there was a lot of friendly banter between us (even the people in the next tent who stumbled home in the early hours one morning and woke us up by shouting at the chap in the tent on the other side to stop snoring).

On the Friday night, we joined our fellow race-goers and campers in the Big Top for a bit of live music and in front of us I spotted a young dad with his little boy, enjoying a bit of guy-time.  I couldn’t help but take this pic because I thought it was adorable.  What do you think?

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Day twenty-four of the 30 day photography challenge – animals

I’m completely smitten by our dog George and think he’s beautiful but I stole myself away from pictures of him for this challenge and chose to share pictures of the gorgeous baby bunny rabbit I met at the petting zoo at the Duck Pond market.  As you can see, it took a few attempts to get him to look at the camera but we got there eventually!  Here he is, sitting on my lap and getting used to being papped:

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Day twenty-three of the 30 day photography challenge – patterns

I like the patterns found in nature and this one in particular appealed to me – it’s blue skies and sunshine, clouds, and aeroplane trails from the Red Arrows!  If you look carefully at the bottom right hand corner you’ll see a couple of flags from the grandstands – one of them a chequered flag and the other a Union flag (we were sitting amongst lots of other McLaren/Jenson Button/Lewis Hamilton fans that day).  If you look even closer, you’ll see that the bright white swirl in the middle of the picture is in actual fact five Red Arrows – but I just love the pattern of the clouds in this picture.  And it reminds me of English summers…

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Day nineteen of the 30 day photography challenge – something I want

I came across this picture on Pinterest (a bit of a guilty pleasure) and it struck me that this would be a really fun way of selling our fudge.  Ever since I was a little girl and I saw ‘The Lovebug’ I’ve loved old Volkswagen Beetles, and the idea of using one as a market stall really appeals to me.  I think it’s really cute.  What do you think?

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Day sixteen of the 30 day photography challenge – a good habit

I’ve got lots of habits but trying to think of one which is a good one, and more importantly an interesting one, is bit tricky (I suppose that’s why it’s called the photography ‘challenge’).  Taking a picture of me cleaning my teeth or putting everything in the dishwasher once I’ve used it seems very unexciting.  So I’ve decided to share a picture of something which I intend to make a habit – sitting in the new hammock we bought today while we were at the Duck Pond market.  We had a brilliant day (lovely weather, lovely people and we sold out of everything we’d made), and we treated ourselves to this one from the Well Hung company (see what they did there?).  It’s a double hammock which means that Simon and I can lounge in it at the same time, and even George hopped in and had a go…

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Having a bit of a love affair with caramel

Last month at one of our markets, a very nice lady asked us if we made salted caramel fudge which got me thinking (we always like to try out new flavours in our fudge recipes) so we decided to have a go at creating one.  I found a great recipe for salted caramel sauce (thanks Nigella) and I have to admit that it’s really easy to make (shhh don’t tell everyone…).   With a couple of experiments and a change in the salt we were using (flakes work much better than normal sea salt), we’ve now got a lovely salted caramel fudge which proved a hit at last weekend’s Duck Pond market.

Because Nigella’s salted caramel sauce is so delicious, I began to wonder what else we could use it in.  The first (and most obvious) thing that came to mind was salted caramel cupcakes – my mum had asked me to make some cakes for her – and all it took was a simple cupcake recipe with the caramel lightly stirred in, a cream cheese frosting and a load of caramel sauce drizzled on top (according to my husband ‘a load’ wasn’t quite enough – the caramel sauce was that good!  Again, thanks Nigella).

Salted caramel cupcakes and salted caramel fudge

Salted caramel cupcakes and salted caramel fudge

I’ve spent a little bit of time today looking for different salted caramel recipes and so far I’ve found:

Salted caramel hot chocolate (going to try this one tonight using a bit of caramel sauce I’ve got left over)
Chocolate fondant with salted caramel brittle and caramel sauce (yum)
Salted caramel brownies
Salted caramel brandy butter (this one sounds perfect for Christmas, poured over Christmas puddings or home-made mince pies)

Something tells me that this love affair might last for some time…

 

 

Things which have made me smile this week

At the moment I’m counting the hours until the summer holidays, not because I don’t enjoy my job – I do – but because it means two things: 1) I get to see my husband during the day before he trundles off to work in the evenings and 2) I get to spend more time focusing on the Little Lemon.  Actually, three things – 3) I get to spend time in the garden (trying) to make it look nice and catching some sun and Oh four things – 4) I get to walk George twice a day, go for runs and get fit.  Actually, the more I think about it, there are plenty of things being on summer hols means and I plan to make the most of it.

This weekend was our sixth wedding anniversary and we celebrated it by taking the Little Lemon to the market.   The sixth anniversary is represented by sugar so I suppose selling fudge was quite an appropriate way to spend the day!

In between customers at the Duck Pond market, surrounded by fudge

In between customers at the Duck Pond market, surrounded by fudge

We always take a moment to wander around the market when we’re there to say hello to some of the other stallholders we’ve made friends with, and I always pop into the petting zoo for my fix of fluffiness.  This week I played with a piglet (he squealed a lot) and sat with a tiny bunny on my lap.

Cute!

Cute!

Several of our friends and family popped down to see us which was brilliant and our friends Janine and Steve whom we haven’t seen since Australia three years ago came along too.

On Wednesday last week I went along to the press night of Dirty Dancing which I thoroughly enjoyed – it was nice to be back at the Piccadilly Theatre and to see old friends.

An incredibly pink Piccadilly

An incredibly pink Piccadilly – picture shared from Charlotte Gooch

Last weekend we had some friends and family round for a barbecue in the garden as a sort of early anniversary celebration – Simon did all the cooking and even made us an enormous Eton Mess for dessert (one of the many reasons I love my husband – who doesn’t love a guy who can whip up an Eton Mess at a moment’s notice?)

Simon eating his Mess straight from the bowl (this is not a flattering view of the garden - hoping it will look better in the coming weeks)

Simon eating his Mess straight from the bowl (this is not a flattering view of the garden – hoping it will look better in the coming weeks)

And we discovered that some of our neighbours who had lost their black cat have found him again (phew).  They posted notices up on trees and fences to let us know:

Found him!

Found him!

Here’s to another week filled with things to make us smile!

 

If you go down to the woods…

… then make sure you have a decent pair of gardening gloves and a stout heart.  This is what our garden looked like until last weekend:

Not exactly the suburban idyll

Not exactly the suburban idyll…

Although I really like the ‘meadow’ style of garden, this was taking things a bit too far and it wasn’t ever meant to get this bad! (I do love that we provided a home to lots of interesting creatures like the little hairy ginger fella on the right though).

Last year Simon’s brother Philip, who’s a horticulturalist, took care of our garden for us but with a new baby imminent he’s rather got his hands full and with the upkeep of the garden left to us… well, you can see how it ended up.  With all the rain we’ve had this year, and with the two of us out of the house working all hours and running the bakery, it always ended up further down on the to-do list and we watched with horror as our neat garden grew and grew and grew.  To make things worse, our neighbours have a lovely, well-tended garden which made us look like lazy slobs.

So, last Saturday while Simon was at work, I covered myself in suncream, put on a sun hat and my (brand new and hastily-bought-in-Homebase) gardening gloves and got to work.  It took three hours, but I managed to cut back most of the overgrowth that was hiding our lovely flower beds and had all-but-strangled our rosemary bush.  On Monday, Simon got his gardening groove on and attacked the lawn (is it still considered a lawn when it’s two and half feet tall and the grass has its own buds?) with first the strimmer and then two goes with the lawnmower.  Of course the grass is utterly knackered and rather yellow but at least we can get out there now in the sunshine before it disappears. This is what it looks like now:

A little yellow but much less wild!  I rescued some of the wild flowers for the coffee table

A little yellow but much less wild! I also rescued some of the wild flowers for the living room

There’s still a lot more to do, and George definitely misses snuffling around in the long grass, but I’d really like to fill the garden with wild flowers and at least keep a little bit of a haven for the butterflies and ginger crawlies.  And today I noticed that our other neighbours’ garden looked like this:

neighbourSomehow I feel a little bit better now :)