Monthly Archives: December 2013

Natale, Competition Update and Blog Rebirth!

Ciao a tutti!

Has everyone had a good Christmas? I’ve had (and I’m still having for that matter) a lovely break back in the UK. It’s a shame I’ve missed Christmas in Italy particularly when I’ve heard such odd sounding things about it from the Italian kids at school. I had a very long conversation with the infants about what name we call our Good Witch in the UK. I can think of a few potential witch candidates. However, on further discussion it’s nobody I know 😉 On the 6th January, the Good Witch known as La Befana pops around to the houses to fill the children’s stockings (as in Christmas stockings rather than those of the tights variety). TWO present giving days within the space of 12 days! I’m still in the UK on the morning of the 6th. I intend to leave my stocking out (probably the tights variety because my Christmas one is in the loft. They stretch so I think it’s a better strategy anyway) and hope she makes it to the UK.


Thank you all so much for your lovely comments on the Expats Blog website article and the blog (to see the lovely comments, click here) – I was really touched by the number of them and the thoughtful things you said 🙂 Alas, I didn’t win. There were some great articles and Greg who won “Italy”, wrote a spot-on and very amusing article on “Top 10 Signs that confirm you’ve gone full Italian”.

But it’s OK because we had our Family Christmas Photography Competition and I submitted these, quite frankly, WINNING photos taken around Italy (click on the photos to see them in their full size STUNNING glory).


The kid version of the Big Tray Race back in the Summer


Pretty Poppies in Spring


Summer in Abruzzo


“Autumn” in Macerata (quotes due to the fact it was I think technically Winter)


Winter in Camerano

And lost that too! Competitions schmompetitions 😉


I love writing this blog. It’s an excellent way of venting! I got a couple of books on how to make money from blogging for Christmas (thank you SD and GD!) and so I’ve been reading up on those. I’ve decided to keep this blog going but set up a more serious “Le Marche” blog (Le Marche – for those that haven’t been paying attention, is the region of Italy where I live 😉 ).  I suspect the people following this blog aren’t waiting with baited breath to find out about how to buy train tickets over here or the best restaurants to go to so I might focus here just on the column aspect and use the other blog for Le Marche specific news.

For this other “Le Marche” blog – I think there’s a niche in the market. I’ve by no means travelled to all the regions in Italy (this year though I hope!), but I really think you couldn’t get a much better area. There’s great transport links between here and London, fabulous coastline, national parks, mountains for walking and skiing, quaint little hill top villages, architecture, history… But hardly anyone’s heard of the place back in the UK and there’s a distinct lack of information about the area. I’d like to promote the area a bit to the English-speaking folk (and the Italian’s to be honest but my language skills aren’t quite up to that yet!).

I’d like your thoughts and advice though! Bloggers make money from adverts primarily – who would want to advertise on either of the blogs? Any thoughts on what I should include or not? How could I improve this current blog? All comments welcome!

Happy New Year all!


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Competitions, Popstardom and Christmas


Greetings everyone! I hope you’re all well. This week: I’ve entered into a writing competition linked to the blog, my glittering career as a pop-star continues to go from strength to strength, I review questionable smartphone language apps and I shall provide a Christmas status update in Camerano…


Help! I’ve written an article for the Ex-Pats Blog website (click on that link to see it and write a comment) on learning Italian. The winner gets selected on the basis of comments so pretty please could you write a nice comment (apparently nasty ones don’t get published so apologies for that in advance!). Alas, it’s a bit of a faff to comment (I think to stop me from writing my own nice comments, pfft) but I would be very appreciative! I think it will want you to register and the comment needs to be more than 10 words so think of something intellectually insightful and thought provoking 😉 Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Return to the Big Stage

This week the infant school had their Christmas Show in a theater in Numana. I haven’t laughed so much for a long time. The kids were all over the place, waving to their mums and dads rather than doing what they were supposed to be doing and not getting any of the dances or songs right at all. Some of them only had to hold a glittery hula hoop over their head and even that they got wrong. One of them kept trying to run off the stage. Funny, funny, funny. I am still mystified that I was the only one laughing in the audience.

Anyway, the kids have been learning “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with me as part of their English lesson. My job was to provide the guitar accompaniment. I imagined this would be offstage whilst I mouthed the words to remind them. Instead, they plonked me at the front of the stage with a microphone. I think I used up all of my embarrassment/stage fright reserves a few years ago playing Robin Hood for the local amateur dramatics society (I don’t know how I get into these situations), so thankfully I pulled it off without a wobbly voice or shaky hands (I don’t know how that would work playing guitar). We even had a rousing audience participation chorus at the end.

You know how the soprano always gets a large bunch of flowers at the end of an opera? Well, it was EXACTLY the same. I got flowers (albeit two slightly dead looking ones that look like they’ve been sneezed on) at the end whilst everyone clapped and cheered and because I’m such a celebrity with the children in the Marcelli/Numana I got a few people shouting out my name too. Finally, I have some recognition!!! Wembley, here I come.


I have downloaded a free app called Duolingo for the smartphone for learning Italian. It’s GREAT. It gives you phrases in Italian for you to translate into English (and vice versa), it speaks phrases and you have to type out what they are, there are multiple choices and you can test out your pronunciation. It’s got everything!!!! I could have people test me ALL DAY without ever getting bored (some sort of personality default I think). Unfortunately, the result of that is that I’ve almost gone through all the levels on the app. It’ll be a sad day indeed when I get to the end. Anyway, I’m not sure how good it is for learning if you don’t have the grammar fundamentals but it’s definitely worth a go either way.

Meanwhile, my friend, recommended an app called “Memrise”. It works on the basis of giving you some words and a method of remembering them (usually a corresponding picture) and then tests you again (woohooo!). However, I’ve decided I’m too young and innocent for this app…


Uh huh.

Last week of School

SCHOOL IS OUT NEXT WEEK!!!!!! NO MORE SCHOOL FOR 3 WEEKS <insert celebration dance here>. I’m actually happier about school being out now than I ever was when I was a student.

I’m going to try and plan the next 5 months worth of torture teaching over the Christmas break so planning lessons doesn’t have to be quite such a weekly drain.


I’m not feeling very Christmassy at the moment, despite my door decoration…


Look at my nice door decoration 🙂 I feel like an adult! I know what you’re thinking… you’re thinking “where can I get that lovely shade of brown from for my own door?”

All the villages have their decorations up too. Nothing quite as spectacular as my door decoration but still…


Numana and the lights (and the ugly church)


Camerano’s lights in the fog

I’ve made mince pies (they don’t exist here). They seem to be going down well with people despite them being burnt looking (I’ve dutifully informed people that’s how they’re supposed to be). It’s been difficult to purchase icing sugar to cover it up  decorate them. Apparently this is because people just save up those little packs you get in panettone (panettone for those that don’t know, is what Italians have at Christmas instead of Christmas Pudding. Like all Italian cakes, it is dry. Nice, but dry. I don’t think they’d know a moist cake if it hit them around the face. If you dip it in your cup of tea though, it’s amazing).


MINCE PIES TAKE ONE (Test Phase). These were the results of the Test Phase. A lessons learnt workshop was subsequently held (with myself), and changes implemented for the Go-Live phase.


MINCE PIES TAKE TWO (Go-Live Phase). I want you to feel like you’re getting your monies worth from my blog so I’ve compiled the Lesson Learnt into a handy set of Mince Pie Tips (MPT).
MPT1: Don’t believe your oven. My one is hotter than the sun even if you set it at 150 degrees.
MPT2: Put a TINY bit of mince in otherwise it bubbles over and makes everything look burnt / even more burnt.
MPT3: You don’t need to butter the tin. It would save a lot of researching / waiting for mother to respond time if recipes just said that (though I acknowledge that recipes could be considerably longer if they listed all the things that you shouldn’t do…)
MPT4: Don’t try and put strips on the top – it looks bad.
MPT5: Get a cutter if you’re going to do stars. 
MPT6: If you enclose the lids then there will be no bubbling over-spill risk – pierce the top though.
MPT7: If you use egg to gloss the top, it looks too scrambled egg-y and unappetizing. Best to use milk I reckon.

I think that about sums up this week. Right, lesson plans here I come…


ps) I’ve been using the american spelling of tyres (tires). I keep making the same mistake over and over. I acknowledge that will be annoying for people and would like to take this moment to apologise 🙂

pps) I still haven’t changed the tires. Tyres. Tires. Tyres…. TYRES.

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Epic Journey of Boringness, Heavenly Bathing Area of Delight and the Walk of Treachery…

Well this week I bring you the Epic Car Journey of Boringness, an Ice Pool of Death update and I shall recount the Walk of Treachery. First up…

Epic Car Journey of Boringness to Piacenza

Some of you may remember the Saga of the Broken Clutch where the car broke down in Switzerland on the way back from the UK to Ancona. It meant that we (myself and my driving buddy, let’s call him Victorio) couldn’t make use of the hotel that we’d booked and paid for in Piacenza.  They wouldn’t give us our money back but as Victorio was back in Italy last week, we decided to get our money’s worth. I was to meet him there.

There were two methods of arrival – car or train (having already ruled out going by helicopter or skateboard). I weighed up both taking into account cost, effort and time. I decided to go by car – it would be long but would work out cheaper and I’m on a money saving spree.

Was it in fact cheaper? No, no it wasn’t. It was a lot more expensive. STUPID TOLL ROADS! 48 Euros it cost me just in tolls! I had completely forgotten to add that into my equation so not only did I have an exceptionally boring 4 hour journey each way, but it cost me more than the train. There, er, may be a slight chance I may have incurred additional unforeseen costs as well (STUPID SPEED CAMERAS!). Anyway, the hotel was lovely – very nice. I recommend Best Western in Piacenza.

Piacenza itself is nice too. There wasn’t much too it from what we saw – there’s a little shopping high street with some nice shops, a market and a piazza where the cathedral was. We spent a couple of hours looking around and then I started the 4 hour trek back.


The main shopping street… There’s lots of people with bikes with baskets on in Piacenza. Cute.


View from the shopping street into the piazza where the market was…. they’ve got their christmas decs up 🙂


The market – lots of crafty stuff there! Also cute…. The cathedral’s in the background.


Driving is MUCH better now – I don’t feel the urge to write home to tell my family I love them every time I get in the car now.  I can’t imagine that it’s because the Italians have all started to drive like sensible people. In fact, I know that not to be true. I think I’ve just developed a Near Death Experience Filter which helps to regulate my heartbeat when someone pulls out in front of me at speed.

4 hours is the longest time I’ve spent driving in one go by myself so that felt like quite a feat of accomplishment given I’ve been so nervous of driving for such a long time. I still haven’t managed to amend my Sat Nav’s “if at all possible, go on roads suitable only for tanks” setting.

Car tires

I’ve still not changed them to “winter tires”. Il Polemico showed me his snow tires the other day. They look unimpressive. The difference is they have “snow and mud” written on the side and there’s some tiny, barely visible little slits in the tires. I know I have to get them but it just doesn’t feel satisfying enough to warrant the money. Admittedly I may feel more satisfied if they stop be slipping down hills in the rain but I would have preferred if they had large spikes and perhaps were a different colour. I did ask my local garage about getting them changed and he pointed me in the direction of a local “gommista” who will change my tires for me. I will do that soon. I will. I will I will I will.


I HAVE HEAT!!!!!!!!  And the Ice Pool of Death (the bath) is now The Heavenly Bathing Area of Delight! I can’t put into words how happy I am about being able just to turn the tap on and have hot water. The problem? The boiler pressure was too low. I should have moaned about it before. It took about 20 minutes to sort out. Annoying.


I received my first Christmas present 🙂 A doll, a “pigotta”. It’s a doll that’s handmade and the money used to buy it goes to poor kids in Africa. I was very touched! And I got some other bits and pieces too. People are so lovely here.


This is Barbara the Pigotta


I went to a lovely cake shop in Senigallia with a friend last week. I think I have the name wrong so I wont write it here, and then we ate out at a very quaint restaurant which didn’t have a name outside either. Here’s a photo of it so if you’re ever in Senigallia and you want to go, you can pace the streets until you find it 🙂


Mmmm cup of tea, piece of cake…. Mmmmmm


Lovely nameless restaurant in Senigallia…

The Walk of Treachery

I had my most exhausting walk for quite a long time with Il Polemico last weekend. The original plan was to go walking in the Sibilini Mountains. Alas, there’s snow there now and apparently a guy died there recently of cold when he got stuck there overnight, poor man. I’ve just bought a book with walks around this area in so we picked another safer walk around the hills in Macerata. It was a ring walk from Cingoli. It started off well but there’s been a lot of bad weather in Macerata the last week or two and so we found ourselves climbing over several landslides…..



Then the guide book seemed to indicate that we should walk up a waterfall/river.


I would not recommend the route we took. There was no path, only a foot or less of space at one or other side and that kept falling into the river every time we set foot on it.

Having slipped are way to the top, we followed the route down the other side of the mountain where we got lost. Il Polemico has a problem with seeing “tracks” where there aren’t any…


This was not a “track”. Thanks to Il Polemico for the photo.

And then it was getting late and the sun was getting lower, we were in the middle of nowhere and there was no way of getting back apart from the Waterfall of Danger. Then we heard hunters in the woods shooting wild boar. Wild boar are apparently dangerous and so need to be shot. Personally, I would prefer to take my chances with wild boar than people randomly shooting into the woods where I’m walking…


No photos of wild boar I’m afraid but here’s a picture of some mud with a boar footprint. Ray Mears would be proud…

Anyway, we found where we were supposed to have been going and headed in that direction at a speedy pace. And then, unbelievable I know, we got lost again. And then we trespassed into a sort of water reservoir place…


The reservoir (grazie al Polemico)

A man came to inquire about our trespassing (we didn’t look very apologetic). The man let us out (otherwise I think we’d have just stayed put at the reservoir!) and then we found a road and decided to stick to that given the hour and our propensity for getting lost. We ended up doing 10 miles in the end and apparently we gained “608 metres” according to Il Polemico’s magic walking tracking device.

Anyway, it was a  lovely, spectacular but stressful walk…


Look at how pretty it is here!!!!

Ok, have good weeks everybody! 🙂


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Liquor, Ice Pool of Death & Planning


Come stai everyone? Not much to update on this week and nothing particularly Italy related either but here’s what’s been going on:

Liquor progress

The liquor is going well I think. Alcohol is an amazing preservative. I thought the corbezzoli would be all mushy and horrid by now but they’re pretty much exactly the same as when they went in (I wonder if I spent my life immersed in alcohol whether it would prevent me aging/becoming mushy and horrid). The colour from the corbezzoli has gone into the alcohol now though. They’ve got another 15 days or so to be soaked and then I need to make some syrup thing and mix it together. EXCITING.


Next up: steep myself in alcohol to test its anti-aging properties…

Teaching “progress”

Well Monday went marginally better than it did last week – the one nightmare class was only a bad dream compared to normal nightmare levels. I’ve learnt to use “colouring in” and threatening them with not playing “Simon Says” if they don’t stop being horrible. It partially works.  They like Simon Says and Colouring in.

When I was at school, the adults around me would say “kids don’t have common sense these days”. Well, I’ve discovered something. Kids THESE days don’t have any either. And, what’s more is that I think my common sense levels are ok so, I’ve come to the conclusion that it probably comes with age in fact. As an example of their common sense deficiency levels:  one of the activities I get them doing is to produce a table which has their friends names in and a column for various food stuffs. They have to ask if their friends like the various food stuffs and put yes/no in the boxes. I draw the table on the board for them so they can see what it should look like but if I don’t stipulate exactly how many little squares in their exercise books they should use, they allow about 2mm to write their friends names in. When they start writing the names down, they don’t seem to think “hmm. I have totally underestimated how much space I’ll need” and instead write microscopically. Excellent for paper saving but I will need to buy a magnifying glass if this continues. Honestly, you should see the “wordsearches” that I have them doing – it puts a new perspective on it. Before you even get to the words you have to search for the thing in the first place! I might try and take a photo next time (hmm that should probably be something for the anonymous teaching blog).

Today I got a bracelet with a flower on from one of the kids though. That was cute. I actually got a kiss on the cheek from one girl today.


My bracelet…

We’ve started singing my revised We Wish You a Merry Christmas song. I really do need to start using a capo (for non guitar players – it’s a sort of gadget thing you put on the guitar to raise the tone) – as it is, the song is either insanely high or insanely low. I have a perpetually husky voice at the moment due to a never-ending cold so though I can do somewhere approaching insanely high, I’m much better at doing insanely low but the kids can’t sing at insanely low levels (I think basically it’s just me with my cold and Barry White that can sing that low) and well, can I get them singing insanely high whilst I sing insanely low? No, no…it makes for a very painful lesson and it’s probably why my voice remains husky. I need to rest my voice – I always thought pop stars were being wimpy when they said that but no, it turns out it’s true! I am EXACTLY like a pop star.


My car is acting suspiciously. When it rains and if I’m on a hill and I want to turn a corner, it judders and seems to try and go in a different direction or just goes back down the hill. It has a mind of its own. It’s either the tires (it doesn’t look like it’s the tires), or the clutch (I’ve just had a new one – how could that be?), or it’s haunted. I hope it’s haunted – it would be cheaper and less daunting. I’m going to ask the friendly but slightly pervy man (he has naked women calendars up in his office) at the local garage if he could put new “four season” tires on for me.


The apartment is FREEZING. FREEEEEEEEEEEZING. This could be another factor in my cold never going. I was hoping to conduct an experiment into money saving by not turning the heating on. I was scared off by an old student telling me that it cost her something like 80 Euros a week for heating this flat. Others have also confirmed heating is extortionate here. So I did what any other miser would do – I decided that I’d live like we did in the old days and not use heating. However, on further reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t think of any “old days” that didn’t involve some form of heat. Even cave men had fires surely? I’ve decided I don’t want to provoke the “natural selection” process and kill myself off by freezing to death so I’ll probably turn the heating on and live with the consequences.

Meanwhile there’s supposed to be hot water. However, the hot water isn’t even tepid and takes approximately 45 minutes to rise to not-even-tepid and I swear it’s getting worse. The bath is massive, metal and seems to have liquid nitrogen properties; freezing anything that comes into contact with it be it water or skin. I used to look forward to having a bath (particularly given the shower has one of those flesh clinging shower curtains) but it’s just unbearable now – I’m going to start calling it The Ice Pool of Death instead.

So this week’s task will be to work out how to put the heating on and to raise the matter of The Ice Pool of Death with the Landlord.


I’ve been doing some planning for next year – I will NOT be teaching at state schools again. No-sir-ee. Instead, I’ve worked out I can have a reasonable frivolity fund if I do 4 private lessons a week. I want to sell some paintings, and I want to sell some articles to magazines, and I want to do some portrait drawing. I’ve set myself what I think are reasonable targets and hopefully I’ll supersede them e.g. become author of a bestselling series of novels which are subsequently turned into blockbusting movies. However, I am keeping expectations and budget setting in check (i.e. one bestselling novel and blockbusting movie in the first year).

In other planning news, I shall be doing snowboarding locally in January/February. I shall be doing some travelling in June. I will be driving the Haunted Car back in August for it’s MOT. I shall be buying a house of some sort here in Autumn. I shall be making money doing something that does not make me want to jump off the balcony and that concludes my planning…

Ok. Onwards and upwards. The Ice Pool of Death awaits <sigh>.

Have good weeks!


Ps. News in Slow Italian – it’s great! It disappointingly costs money. You can get some free stuff. I might have a go at that and if I keep it up, then I’ll pay for a subscription ($44.90 for 6 months for a basic membership which I think would do for me)

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