Posts Tagged With: astrophotography

Successes, disasters and pasta making!

Buongiorno a tutti!

It’s an absolutely cracking day here. The weather has been changeable in the last week – it was t-shirt weather for a couple of days (not that you could actually wear a t-shirt in the t-shirt weather in Italy because it’s not officially Summer where the wearing of t-shirts is acceptable behaviour) and then there’s been a bit of snow. Anyway, I’m hoping it will start to warm up in earnest now because I’ve pretty much run out of wood for the stuffa. This year’s goal will be to get central heating!

I’ve had a productive week here…

One of my friends is an opera singer in her spare time. She’s absolutely brilliant, I’m very proud. She was in a production of “Suor Angelica” where she was playing a nun in the town of Fermo last week. I brought my camera along to take pictures of the town because it’s been an age since I was there. However, whilst taking a few snaps during the rehearsals, one of the actresses asked if I could take photos of the play so I ended up doing that instead. I loved it! It’s quite a satisfying area of photography which I would quite like to continue with and it was a success so hopefully I’ll get invited to do more. My pictures ended up in the Fermo newspaper 🙂

 

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The following day, was far, far, far less successful. The same friend was also starring (and directing) in an opera called “Gianni Schicci”. I’ve seen the opera before. It’s a great little introduction to anyone that hasn’t really experienced the opera before because it’s short and sweet. Less than an hour long, and it’s a comedy, and reasonably easy to follow (perhaps have a quick look at the story line first!). I was asked to do a video of it. I’ve never filmed anything. My camera is apparently good at taking videos so I agreed on the understanding it could be awful because of my lack of experience. And my word, was it awful… The opera builds up to a critical point in the play towards the end – the punchline. But during the punchline, the camera just stopped filming. No warning. I didn’t realise. The way to tell it’s filming is a little red light flashes. When I looked back at the camera, having enjoyed the crux of the opera myself, and noticed that there was no longer a flashing red light, I almost had a heart attack. It was a one-off production! I decided against recreating the missing part of the opera with my neighbour and our little cat colony and published it on YouTube with the missing part in the hope nobody will notice. If you’d like to see it and you promise not to notice, check it out here.

To continue on the creative streak, I went up into the mountains a couple of days ago to take star photos. I’m not going to do that again until it’s summer. Two days later and I can just about feel my fingers again not to mention that I give myself the ‘heebie jeebies’ each time I’m up there on my own (Have I mentioned on the blog that a couple of women went missing many years ago now in the mountains on a snowy night and turned up dead a few weeks later miles away?). Anyway, because of the long exposure times and the fact that camera takes a while to process the picture as well, I only managed one photo. Star photography is a challenge because it’s dark and you can’t see what you’re shooting. The picture that you end up with a few minutes later is a complete surprise!

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In other news, I’ve been progressing on the bike front. I’ve cycled to Sarnano twice now. I do a round trip. It’s about 8km and I manage it in about 50 minutes with a bit of walking up the steep bits. I can’t tell you how much the seat hurts! I’ve ordered special padded cycling shorts (I thought I had enough natural padding, but apparently not).

I also went on a long walk with a friend yesterday around Sarnano. It’s looking quite pretty here at the moment with the snow in the mountains.

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You can just about make out Sarnano – it was a rare “atmospheric” day yesterday – shame I didn’t take out the decent camera!

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Sometimes my cat and the neighbour’s dog come with me on the walks 🙂

My plan is to go cycling most days. I also go to a Zumba class a couple of days a week and I’m going to sign up for swimming lessons after Easter. I shall be super fit for the summer even if it kills me!

Yesterday I went on a pasta making course. I really enjoyed it! Pasta making might be my next thing. Last year my thing was bread. I feel somewhat limited on the bread making front because basically here in Sarnano I can use white flour, or I can use white flour. Then there’s white flour and if I’m feeling adventurous, I can use white flour. There are aisles dedicated to white flour in the supermarkets. I can buy 5kg bag of white flour for 75 cents. If I make an hour and a half round trip I might be able to get 500g of brown flour for 370 Euros (I jest, it’s a bit less, but still shockingly expensive given you’d think it requires less processing!). Anyway, I’m going to try to make more pasta. I’ve also heard rumours of a shop nearby that sells other types of flour so I’m going to head there this week.

 

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My beetroot ravioli making efforts

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And the green spinach blobs are my attempts at tortellone

I think that about sums up my week! I hope you all had good weeks too 🙂

xxx

 

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The Nine Circles of Hell, Sightseeing in Ravenna and Photo Expeditions!

Buongiorno a tutti!

How’s everyone? I’ve had a very good, though largely unproductive, few days!

I shall tell you what I’m supposed to be doing – I’m supposed to be editing my book. And yet it seems I’ve spent most of my time doing more interesting/inspiring things instead. I’ve only managed two editing days in the last fortnight. I must, must, must finish!!!

The weekend before last I went to see “Dante’s Inferno” in the caves in Camerano where I used to live (to be clear, I used to live in Camerano, not the caves!). It was probably one of the most unusual plays I’ve seen – rather than sitting in one place it was a sort of group walking tour of the 9 “circles” of hell. As a quick summary, Dante and Virgil (of Roman poetry fame), take a tour of hell which is divided into 9 circles with increasing levels of torment in line with the increasing seriousness of the sins committed. In each larger cave (they’re all connected by small candlelit passageways), there were two or three actors that would recount what was going on in that specific circle of hell. Anyway, it was very good, though in a very difficult form of Italian (passato remoto – it’s not very common and more often used in the written form!) so I had to fill in the gaps with trusty Wikipedia after the performance.

I was also invited to Ravenna last weekend by my lovely neighbour to stay with her just as lovely family. I think it’s probably my most ‘full-on’ Italian language experience to date. I think I have a sort of weekly brain usage quota and as a result, I feel pretty brain dead – I’m unable to string more than a couple of words together now. Ravenna is absolutely spectacular though. I didn’t know anything about it before I went but it’s in Emigia-Romagna, the region north of Le Marche (the region where I am), and on the coast. It’s well-known because it has an extraordinary number of mosaics, some of the oldest in the world and most of them are in the churches. Ravenna is basically built upon a massive lagoon. If they hadn’t filled it all in over the years and sucked out all the water, it would have been like Venice. As it is they’ve had to keep building Ravenna up because it seems the entire city is suffering from subsidence! As a result, when you go around the old historic sites, you kind of walk down to them. It’s got a fascinating history; all recounted by my neighbour, her niece and niece’s partner. This sort of knowledge and patriotism about the area you live in and its history and artwork is something I love about Italy. Alas I have a terrible “in one ear, out the other” tendency for all things of historic importance, which is un-reflective of my level of interest so apologies for my lack of educational information on this blog but have a look here if you want to look into it! If you visit Ravenna yourself it’s well worth buying a sightseeing ticket which will get you into the main sights (tombs and churches mainly!) for just under 10 euros.

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Mosaic somewhere in Ravenna – I should have made a note! Perhaps we can call it an interactive, “guess where this mosaic is?” sort of competition. The winner gets credited in the caption.

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Now…. this is in the tomb of Galla Placidea. I was thinking about having my tomb decorated similarly. There is solid gold in all of these mosaics. SOLID GOLD!

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SEE THE GOLD!!!!!! GOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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This is the Mausoleum of Theoderic. He was a big deal in Ravenna. He was worried about getting captured so there’s rumours of a secret tunnel that goes from one of the churches in Ravenna to this mausoleum (they liked to build their mausoleum’s whilst they were still alive – I guess if you want to make sure something is done right, do it yourself!) and at that point, it was right on the seafront so he could have made a quick get away.  It’s very difficult to imagine how Ravenna must have looked a few hundred years back!

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And here there were a collection of mosaics dug up from around the area…

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And, you guessed it, more mosaics – this mosaic covered a massive area in a large church… all telling the history of Jesus.

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And this is in the crypt of another church. I said how Ravenna was built on a lagoon – well you can see here how it’s been quite difficult to keep the water out!!! There’s actually fish swimming around in it!!! It makes me feel better about the damp problem in my house at least.

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And there’s a little ferry that takes you across the river to get to the harbour…

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And this is the harbour…

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And this church is still in Ravenna but further out. It was my favourite – nice setting (you have to pay 5 euros to go in. The churches in Ravenna must make a fortune). The mosaic around the altar was amazing. Still with solid gold – the churches in Ravenna it seems are wealthy!

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This is a close up of above the altar. All these mosaics must have taken decades!!!!

On a different note I was up in the mountains taking pictures of the stars last week. It’s a lovely idea in theory – it’s absolutely stunning up there at night. But there is NOBODY around and the problem with star pictures is that you have to leave your camera out taking photos for half an hour (because it’s so dark you need to have a long exposure so that you can get enough light in). So I ventured into the pitch blackness, set up the camera, waited in the car and then started worrying that there might be an axe-murderer on the loose. Next time I’m going to take a photography buddy with me!

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I also got up at the crack of dawn the other week to take photos at the beach in Civitanova. It feels like I’m always awake at the crack of dawn but I usually stay in bed willing myself to go back to sleep. But the sunrise was so lovely it inspired me to actually get up early again (for all of about half an hour).

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Yesterday I was very cultured and went to a Schubert and Chopin piano concert in Macerata. Very good indeed.

Finally, it’s chestnut season!!!! I’ve been having a great time harvesting stuff this month. My friend who has a house nearby has been visiting for the last week or so and we found a great spot a couple of days ago for chestnut picking. So, inspired by none other than Frank Sinatra, I have been roasting my chestnuts on my (non)open fire. They’re EXCELLENT!!!! I still have to perfect the timings but the recipe largely goes: 1. Score the chestnuts, 2. Put them in a tinfoil little parcel with a spoonful of water, 3. Chuck it in the stufa/wood burner for 20 minutes, 4. Peel and eat them. I think Mr Sinatra would have been impressed. Mmmmmmmm.

I think that about sums it up.

I hope you’re all having an excellent week. Buona giornata da Sarnano!

xxx

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Methane Cars, Zumbing and the Free Time University!

Buonasera a tutti!

How is everyone? I’m pleased to report that I’m doing well! I’m finally feeling settled.

I have bought a car! It’s a little nippy Fiat Panda like my old Nanmobile. It’s called Nanmobile 2. It runs off methane! METHANE!!!! Imagine!!!! My experience of methane comes from scientists years ago worried about the effects of global warming caused by the release of methane from cows. However, in Italy they run cars off the stuff (I was half expecting the methane filling station to be overrun with cows but not so). And it’s great! Rather than spend 50 euros on petrol, I spent 10 euros for the same miles per gallon. Bargain.

The car buying process in Italy is an exemplary demonstration of Italian bureaucracy  – at its worst though. It’s also not easy to find a decent car, or certainly not in the area where I live. I have ‘brain dumped’ my lessons learnt here for anyone interested in buying a car in Italy! On a less specific car purchasing experience front, my nerves are only now getting back to normal after what has to be the most stressful car buying experience ever. Alas, my mother/editor has warned me about ‘ranting’ on this blog on more than one occasion so I shall leave it there 🙂

I have enrolled in a zumba class! I’m on a mission to try and be svelte and fit at the moment. I’m exercising lots and eating healthily(ish). However, since my mission started a fortnight ago, I have put on weight. It really is very annoying. Anyway, Zumba is amusing. Generally I seem to sort of chuckle my way through getting all of the moves wrong whilst everyone else seems to do it all with serious looks (which usually makes me chuckle even more!).

I have also signed up to do some teaching. As many of you will know, I dislike teaching. However, I’m actually excited about it this time around. I’m going to be teaching adults as part of a set of courses for “l’universita’ del tempo libero”. But because they pay a pittance, I get to go on as many of the other courses as I want free of charge. I LOVE COURSES! I’m going to do them all!!! Well maybe not ALL of them but I’ll try. I’ve also signed up for an online drawing course and of course there’s still my nude person drawing class starting at who-knows-when in November to look forward to.

It’s absolutely freezing here at the moment. The house needs a bit of warming up so today is going to be this years “stufa” (wood burner) inauguration day. I’m really looking forward to it but unfortunately I only have about two weeks worth of wood left at the moment to last me for the next few months.

In other news:

  • I have finally checked out the local swimming pool  (I love it, it’s absolutely empty!). It was embarrassing though – the lifeguard asked me if I had a helmet. I laughed thinking he was joking of course. I mean, who wears a helmet swimming? Who wears helmets indeed… what he actually asked is if I had a swimming cap.
  • I’ve been to a couple of lovely new restaurants and investigated another cinema nearby.
  • I’ve been making bread.
  • I’ve been scavenging for nuts and fruit.
  • I’ve been going for walks.
  • I’ve been commissioned to make an old damaged mirror look marginally better!
  • And taking pictures of the stars.

Here is the evidence…

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So I have discovered several walnut trees and a hazelnut tree near me and a sort of abandoned apple and plum tree. And the green stuff is called mentuccia (a sort of minty oregano). It took me hours to shell the walnuts. I was just getting to the end when my neighbour gave me a million more. I made a hearty apple & plum crumble with the rest. There’s something cockle warming about foraging I think.

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This is Lago di Fiastra taken from a new angle for me – I’d never been to this side of the lake before a week or two back.

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This is the Lame Rosse. I went on a great organised little hike to it with a group from Jesi 🙂

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And I found a new walk from the house with some great views of Sarnano and the mountains.

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And THIS little church was built on top of this rock in Roccaporena where Santa Rita used to go regularly to pray. From what I can tell, Santa Rita is famous for such miracles as having spineless roses that never die and a slow-aging corpse.

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And this is the church in Cascia where Santa Rita lays in a glass box. Not wishing to cast doubt on the slow-agingness of the corpse, but I would have found it useful to have a regular corpse aside her for comparison purposes.

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And look at this little goat from Cascia! Cutie. Though I do worry about the ethics of a chained up goat gimmick.

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And this is the main piazza in Cascia. It was a cute little town all in all.

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And there some fabulous views in Cascia too.

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Including this one…

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Sourdough mission complete.

And this was the commissioned pimped up mirror to cover some damage at the bottom of it.

And this was the commissioned pimped up mirror to cover some damage at the bottom of it.

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My first attempt at trying to get star trails! Since that night it’s been cloudy very frustratingly!

I think that about sums up my last couple of weeks. I shall leave you with this picture of my cat looking sweet.

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Batfink is not allowed in my bed. He knows this. We’ve been through it. Generally he’s an obedient sort but after a mystery disappearance following a bath last week, I managed to locate him. He wasn’t told off on this occasion because he’s been having a bad time of it with his dad, poor puss.

Hope you all have a good week!

x

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