The Chapel Run (Cherry Apple Challenge)

I thought it time to update on the challenge that we lay at friends feet when they come and stay with us – it involves running from the cherry tree up at the house, down to the apple tree at the bottom of our hill, and back up again – not easy!

Here is fennel’s step brother Henry afterwards – it can destroy even the fittest!! Henry did post a very good time!

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We have had quite a few take the challenge now – and we have now even had a ‘group run’ – part of which was ‘go-pro’d’ – I won’t show the after pictures of this likely lot as they were not pretty – but as you can see, we all take it very seriously!!

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Ok, maybe one of Jim following his run – chuffed with his time he wanted all to see……….

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So the leader had remained for quite some time – then my brother came to visit from Australia – and from knowhere – fitness showed and he is now the holder of the current record – 5 mins 32 seconds – impressive believe me!

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I can’t see that time being beaten, but we shall see! So the leader board now stands like this:

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Ciao, x




Missing snippets of 2014

We have neglected this site…..and it’s time to play catch up! Not least to finish off the happenings of last year.

As we have lots to update, especially with the start of this year already half gone, here are a few snaps from 2014.

roof The Olive Blossom bathroom was taking shape, and it was the final part of the build……….the roof! Freckle looking rather comfortable up there!


My half-brother Henry fancied a couple of days out in Italy, so we managed to persuade him to get his tan from the roof!


M&M (my parents) were less interested in a tan, but very keen to help on the sanding front. You were ace…thank you!

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In the meantime, our kitchen garden was in full flow of vegetables. These ‘cuore di blu’ tomatoes were enormous and deliciously sweet. They’ve been planted again this year as they were so good.


And as for Luca, she liked hanging out with the Aubergine’s…..also squash’s can make awfully great pillows!

marrowCompetition winner? Very chuffed with my marrow! My Gran visited at the magnificent age of 90, and she loved it too!!

lizardOlive Blossom yurt was erected, and these fine friends had a little scurry to check it out. More photos to follow.

table15We had lots of visitors this year, and at the end of August, eleven arrived in one day……..thoroughly enjoyed sitting around these tables!


After long lunches, a walk was definitely needed, and this is a picture taken from up the Majella.

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Robin and Sarah came to chill out, and they fancied a bit of orienteering…from very high up!

viewfromwalkinmajellaFinal picture for this post….the view from up the top of the mountain all the way to the sea! Not bad hey!


Bring on the Brazilian!

It was our very good fortune, that Emma (Spanish engineer who helped out back in June) – met Mauricio (Brazilian student) in Napoli – because he dropped us an email, and a week later we picked him up in Guardiagrele.

Such a nice lad, and really up for some graft – the perfect combination!

After a fun weekend (he overlapped with the Fins) – we got straight to work putting together the frame for the bathroom.

Wood Frame

Within less than a week, we had knocked together the skeleton – not bad for a couple of novices.

Wood frame from above

Wood Frame finished

Mauricio was part of the factory that churned out the cladding panels that converted ordinary pine planks to a more pleasing shade using the stinky vinegar mix.

Wood Stain

Mauricio was a huge help – and it seemed he loved every minute of it. He was on a summer European road trip in between terms whilst studying in Germany (don’t mention 7-1!!). In fact, he liked it so much that he came back for another week at the end of August to help finish the outside of the bathroom.

Clad bathroom

He even babysat little Wilfie one night for some friends of ours that came to stay – Mauricio, grazie tante!!

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Quattro Stagioni

Now, to most the title of this post is a pizza. And it is. And a very nice one too.

However – its literal translation is ‘four seasons’. Now, there are lots of ways of telling or feeling the seasons, but having now spent our third successive year in Italy, I have developed an unusual way of telling the time of year.


As I write this for example, our house is literally covered in green shield bugs!! They are everywhere – all desperately trying to find some cosy corner to hibernate under – or generally hanging out on all our washing that we dry on the roof.

When we arrive in April/May – we are blessed with the fireflies. June brings in the symphony of cicadas. July/August is busy bee time with the occasional hornet looking for a winter abode. In September the butterflies are everywhere in sight – and now, alas – the green shield numpties!

But I digress – and need to go back to the bee time – for it was then that we started defining, laying out, then building – the second yurt area.

We had some great help at this time from Natasha and Villiami – a Finnish couple – he was the size of a giant, and she has spent half her life in Scotland, so was up for anything!


These were the steps we built, leading down to the yurt – Villiami mentioned, when we met them in the pub before coming over – that all he wanted to do was ‘move rocks’ – well – careful what you wish for…..we had to line each side with very large rocks – no easy task!


We then also ‘began’ the process of building the second bathroom – this time from wood (we are inadvertently mirroring the three little pigs – straw, wood….next bricks?)

Even before we had put the frame up, we knew that we had an awful lot of work to do to the bits of wood that would (see what I did there) clad the building. Fennel found an ingenious way (on youtube) to stain bits of wood – that involved lots of cheap vinegar and some fine steel wool.


The result of this cocktail stinks to high heaven, but it works!! You will see the results on the next post.

We effectively started a factory for the wood panels – they needed to be sanded, badgered (knocked about with a steel rod and an angle grinder) then stained.


These planks of wood got a lot of love – thank you ‘The Fins’ – we hope you enjoyed your time here!

Is there truffles on our land?

In July, which is a good month here for the black truffle, we called on the local truffle man to visit us with his lovely truffle dog.


Totally equipped with nose, we had a wonder around the land through our forest to see if truffles could be sniffed out. To much amazement, 30 minutes later……..’Dick’ the dog found a smelly spot.


Truffles are usually found near baby oak trees where not much else grows. They are found a few centimetres under ground. Our incredible new friend managed to sniff out what we were looking for. Very exciting indeed!.


No we weren’t looking for Jono……but if you can see the little tiny brown thing he is holding in his hand…this is a very small black truffle. Wonderful stink, and tasty too!

Dick not only found this one……..


Much to Luca’s annoyance. She wasn’t as happy as we were!


Popoli Canoe Trip

After much hard work, a day off is cherished, and we fancied a relaxing trip up the River Tirino. We heard a few rivers in Abruzzo you can canoe or Kayak, and Tirino is one of them. We thought we’d combine an afternoon canoe with a trip to Popoli. So off we went, about an hour north from us.

Popoli is famous for it’s trout and crayfish. This obviously is right up my street, Jono however is less amused not being a big fan of fish. The town itself was a multitude of colours, with old churches and little back streets.

popoli colours

There is nothing like wondering around a peaceful old town soaking up the history. We found a church dating back to the 11th Century….pretty old don’t you think!


We popped into a local restaurant and had a quick panini before heading to the river. The River Tirino apparently, is the coldest river in Europe that doesn’t freeze over. It is 12 degrees all year round.


We had booked ourselves on a canoe tour with Il Bosso who arrange various walking, cycling and canoeing trips in this area of Abruzzo. 18 euros each, and we got ourselves our own personal guide on our very own canoe.


She canoed with us as we went up stream, and pointed out all the flora and fauna not only in the river but also on the banks of the river. It was very peaceful, with mountain back drops and only the sound of the various moorhens looking after their new chicks.

Growing in the river was celery. Yes….I know….unusual, but true. It was celery that tasted of celery and carrots put together. We all had a go at eating it, as well as getting in the river. Too cold for me…….yes i am a wimp…..but Jono managed to stay in for at least 2 minutes!


No picture, but i did manage to eat some delicious trout in the evening. Recommended restaurant nearby is Antica Taverna. Near the town of Navello which is famous for it’s fields for growing saffron.

Many hands

As I write this, it is now August and the summer has finally arrived in Italy. We have had so much rain, that the fields around us that would normally be scorched yellow, are vivid green and covered in wild flowers!!

Although the rain does get in the way of a days work, back in June we still managed to get loads done with two volunteers that came – Tim an English post-grad in neuro-science and Emma, an Engineer from Madrid.

Once again we got stuck into work down the hill – Tim and I managed to shift over 450 roof tiles from my neighbour Toms house, down to the first bathroom – no mean feat!

We all cleared and beautified the first yurt area once again, ready to put it up – part of which included having a big fire at the end of the day to clear all the growth.

Burn up

We have now put the yurt up 3 times, and although it does get a bit easier each time, it is still quite tricky and fiddly!!

Putting up the yurt

Here is the lovely Emma – she did her fair share of sanding while with us – this is a door that we made for the first bathroom.

Emma Sanding

On the rare evening that it did not rain in June, we also managed to have a cheeky supper up on the roof – tis a lovely spot to enjoy some good food and company.Dinner on Roof