Thursday, 31 May 2012

mmm fruity!!

It's at about this time that fruit and vegetables really come into their own. Tasty tomatoes for example, and lovely juicy oranges. Yesterday, I was very kindly given a bowl of cherries. Unfortunately I'm not the biggest fan of cherries (gasp!), so I gladly shared them with the girls, who gobbled them up in no time at all. And while I didn't eat them, I was definitely in agreement about how great they looked...

And another thing- have you ever tried to tie a cherry stalk into a knot in your mouth? I had never even heard of this before but I must say..the Irish one was pretty good at it!!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Too nice to throw away!

Wrapping paper is something I am never too sure about. After spending a fair amount of time wrapping things in it, it just gets chucked in the bin immediately after. At best, it's appreciated for about 30 seconds before the chucking away takes place. So maybe you simply don't use it? But then the gift is totally incomplete without it. Use sheets of newspaper instead, as to not spend money and have to worry about your nice paper being unappreciated? Well, then you just look cheap. Use a gift bag instead? Sure, but I always feel the need to wrap stuff before putting it in the bag anyway. 

So, when the boyfriend's birthday recently reared its head, after toying with the 'homemade' idea, I caved in, and traipsed to the shops to get some paper. Well, my luck was definitely in. What did I find? Something cheap AND interesting! Have a look at this lovely paper:

The paper with the Caravaggio images is my favourite. Never mind for wrapping gifts, I'd put this up on my wall! And in case you're wondering, no, the paper wasn't really appreciated. The gift is always going to be the most important part! But the paper did its job- without it, there wouldn't have been a surprise. And I don't know about you, but I love surprises. Besides, this lovely paper can now also be appreciated by everyone who reads this! That's good enough for me :D

Sunday, 27 May 2012

La musica...

I've always been curious about how Europeans (or any non-native English speakers in fact) feel when they hear all the English and American songs on the the radio and on TV. Isn't it weird to listen, and indeed sing along to, songs that are being sung in a completely different language? Well, no, it isn't apparently. Not only are many non native English speakers learning English anyway and can therefore understand a lot of what they are singing, it seems as though it isn't even an issue. Italians seem to be so used to listening to songs in other languages (I've heard French, Spanish and Portuguese on the radio) that when asked if they find it weird, of course they say no, because it's so normal. I thought it best to try and have the same attitude towards Italian music. I may not understand it very well, but I shall listen and hopfully enjoy it despite this.

When you think of current Italian music, what springs to mind? For me, it was...well, nothing, if I'm honest. Vasco Rossi? Surely everyone knows him. But after that, I was stumped. I listened to some radio, asked around a bit and tried to discover what people were actually listening to. Italian music varies just as much as British music does. You can find rap, reggae, pop, and everything in between.Here are some of the songs and artists I am currently enjoying. What do you think?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Small town living...

The town where I live is, according to the locals, 'nothing special'. Some even say that it really is rather awful. I, of course, disagree completely. Ok, it's not exactly Rome, or Florence, or Lecce, or any other typically fantastic Italian city, but in my eyes, it has charm. The lifestyle is slow paced, the people are friendly, the gelato is excellent and some of the buildings are just beautiful. Some may be worn around the edges and starting to crumble slightly but this is what makes them special. I'll take small town southern Italy over big city living any day...

Ahhhh just look at that sky...

This one is my favourite

Definitely crumbling, but charming all the same

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

messy me!

Another amazing Italian food item to add to my (already enormous) list of things I love?  
The Panzerotto. 

 A filled savoury pastry with mozzarella and tomatoes, and sometimes ham too. Perfect for when you want something filling but don't want the traditional pizza. I had a couple of mini ones the other night, and they were DELICIOUS. Although a word of warning: if you decide to break them in half before taking a bite (or maybe it's just me who likes to pick my food apart?!)...BE CAREFUL. Hot, gooey mozzarella and tomato sauce WILL spurt out all over your shirt. 


Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Creative me..?

After receiving a handmade postcard that my Australian friend sent me a little while ago, I became inspired to have a go at making my own postcards (this 'inspiration' was also coupled with the fact that I had run out of nice writing paper, and couldn't be bothered to go out and search for some more...). As an avid fan of reading magazines (and subsequently not throwing them away when I'm done) I had, and have, more than enough material to keep me going for a while yet. I am a fan of all things arty in general, and decided to try and create something a bit modern, a bit abstract if you will. Hence the mixture of polo players, bananas and jumping dogs. I'd love to say that it all means something. It doesn't. But it IS my own special way of expressing some creativity... What do you think?

And I've also had a go at making my own envelopes too...

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Pompeii: wear decent shoes!

After my jaunt to Lecce a few weeks ago, I thought it was time to do a bit more exploring. So, I decided to take a trip to Pompeii. Pompeii is really quite marvellous, and a place that I first heard about back in primary school when we did a project on the Romans. In all honesty, I'm not usually someone who enjoys traipsing around ruins or monuments. If you see one part of it, you've seen all of it. And although for me, Pompeii was a little bit like this, you can't deny how fascinating it is to see this unbelievable place.

 Before going to Pompeii, I decided to read a little about the place to try and understand a bit more about it. At least, more than simply thinking 'it was a place in Italy that was covered with ash a good few years ago'. Pompeii was once a wealthy settlement and trading town, which was 'preserved' due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This eruption literally froze Pompeii as it was. The remains of Pompeii were discovered in 1600, but the real excavations began in 1748, and from these findings, archaeologists have been able to shed a lot of light on how the Romans really lived. As well as seeing the remains of Pompeii, you can also see artifacts, and even plaster casts that have been made from the shapes of bodies that remained in the volcanic ash. 

 On the site, you can see lots of different structures, many of which you can walk into and around. There is also a spectacular amphitheatre. We spent a good few hours walking around the city, in and out of buildings and along the (very uneven!) streets and pathways. Fortunately it was a beautiful, sunny day, but this also meant that we became rather tired. If you decide to go on a warm day, make sure you take water and some suncream. I left Pompei with a rather red forehead and nose. Not attractive. There isn't much shade either. Good shoes are also important- for the amount of walking you do and to cope with the uneven surfaces. I lost count of the amount of times we almost fell over. And another thing: get a map. We made a fatal error of not picking one up as we went in, so ended up wandering around with very little idea of where we were heading. There are maps dotted around the site but having your own is a must. 

See what I mean about needing decent shoes?

Hmmm, what could this have been I wonder?

The amphitheatre

Wish the inside of my house looked like this....
The entrance fee was €11 per adult, but my friend, who's under 25, showed her (non-Italian) passport and got a decent discount. Guides are available too, but the one who spoke to us made it clear that we needed to be a group of at least 10. There are also audio guides. In terms of finding something to eat and drink, your best bet is right outside the site, where there's a smattering of stalls and restaurants. We stopped at a little restaurant which had a nice shady area outside and had some pizza. There are also souvenirs that you can buy, but watch out for the pushy sellers! We drove to Pompeii and were initially a bit concerned about where to park, but there are places quite near to the site, and we found a space easily, even during the middle of the day. The train station is nearby too, so it's easily reachable, and trains go to Naples central station every half an hour. 

I would say that May is a great time to go. It's hot but not too hot, and it wasn't completely rammed with tourists. Always a plus in my opinion! Like I said before, ruins aren't always my cup of tea, but Pompeii has to been seen, just to be believed. It really is one of the most informative places in the world in terms of discovering how the Romans really lived. And even though we didn't find it due to the distinct lack of map, I'm also led to believe that there is a rather 'interesting' Roman brothel museum too. So if ruins don't float your boat...

Friday, 18 May 2012


Lunches can last a long time here. Especially when there's something to celebrate (and believe me, the Italians always find something to celebrate). But even 'normal' lunches are an occasion for the family to come together and enjoy each others company. Seeing as we are suffering from a lack of family, me and the girls often eat lunch together. Nice big bowls of pasta or something else fairly stodgy, and, as of fairly recently, a little dessert of some kind. Yesterday was my turn to cook, and following the pasta, as a little sweet something, I offered a Time Out chocolate bar. What did this do? Well, yes, it gave us a lovely sugar rush. But it also sparked an interesting conversation about chocolate bars. Which ones we like, which ones we don't, 'vintage' chocolate bars from our childhood, and chocolate bars you can't buy here. I thought I'd share some of our points of view with you..along with some hunger-inducing pictures...
The biscuit, caramel, nougat filled wonder that is BOOST. A definite favourite. I like picking the chocolate off this before I attempt the middle bit!

The classic Cadbury caramel. Simple, yet effective. We may have a lot of super sweet treats over here, but you can't beat Cadbury chocolate.

We also talked about sweets. The Welsh one has a weakness for these...

...and these. Personally, I much prefer chocolate to sweets (but I still wouldn't say no to a bag of skittles). You can't buy them here, much to the Welsh one's dismay.
I haven't had a Crispy Roll for YEARS, but it was agreed that they are really quite AWESOME. Perfect snack size!

You simply HAVE to lick the chocolate off this one first! In my opinion, any chocolate bar with honeycomb in it is a winner.

Our vintage fave, the Gold bar. Brings back memories of snack time at primary school!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

I see seashells on the seashore...

What do you do when you go to the beach? Eat an ice cream? Do a spot of sunbathing? Maybe have a swim in the sea if it's warm enough? Forget to apply enough suncream and get unsightly bikini bottom marks on your rear? I do all of the above. In addition to this I also enjoy having a mosey along the beach to see if I can see any nice shells. Childish perhaps. But it's a bit like building sandcastles: it's always rather fun, no matter what age you are. I squealed with delight as I found some lovely shells in the sand, and proceeded to pick them all up and put them into my bag to take home and, well, look at. And maybe arrange nicely somewhere in my apartment so that I can, well, look at them some more. However, I noticed that one of the shells had a little hole in it, right at the top. So what did I decide to do? Make a nice necklace out of it. So now OTHER people can look at it too. Who knew I would be able to 'make' my own jewellery?! ;)


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

the LASAGNE...

As well as pizza and pasta (yes, all kinds!), one of my favourite Italian dishes is lasagne. This Italian version is different to any lasagne that I ever made in the UK, and it's absolutely delicious. 
You will need the following: (please forgive my vagueness with quantities, with things like Parmesan some people don't like to add too much , whereas others can't get enough of it)

These ingredients should be enough for 4 people, but you may want to make extra because  it's just SO. GOOD. And I often go back for seconds. So, the first thing you need to do is fry the onion and mince with a little oil in a pan, until the meat is cooked. Add the wine (again, how much or how little is at your discretion, but I prefer a nice big glug of it...) just as the meat reaching it's cooked state. When the liquid has evaporated, add the tomatoes, and turn the heat right down. Leave it simmering away happily for about an hour to get the best taste. I always get impatient and don't leave it more than 10 minutes, but trust me- the longer it's left, the better. Keep tasting and adding salt depending on how much is needed.

Meanwhile, cut up the mozzarella and ham into little pieces.

 When the meat sauce is ready, take a lasagne dish, and first put a layer of meat sauce. Then, place the pasta sheets on top, followed by a layer of bechamel sauce (I, and as far as I know, other Italians use the ready made stuff. It saves time and prevents me from getting mad when the flour and milk and butter don't do what they are supposed to be doing...). Then sprinkle on some of the mozzarella and ham and some Parmesan. Repeat all of this again on top, so you have 2 or 3 layers.

Finally, pop into the oven for about 20-25 minutes at about 200 degrees C (but of course, it depends on your oven, you may want a slightly lower temperature, especially if you have a temperamental fan oven like my mum's!). When it's done, It'll be bubbling on top and the pasta should be soft (test by sticking a knife in- it should go in through the pasta sheets easily). After you have removed it from the oven, leave it for a few minutes to settle. And then of course, there's nothing left to do but tuck in. Buon appetito!