29 August 2015

Hair trauma

Those of you who know me will know that I have a "hate" relationship with my hair.

Hair has always annoyed me, simply because it keeps growing. Having to go to the hairdresser is a gross inconvenience and a waste of my precious time.

With this attitude, I generally last about 6 weeks after a haircut before I take to myself with the scissors. I figure that I can never go too wrong; it will never take too long for it to grow back.

This has never been much of a problem in Australia. I butcher myself in the endless hope that I can avoid a trip to the hairdresser, end up at the hairdresser 2 weeks later, the hairdresser notices my foolishness and she/he and I have a good belly laugh over it.

Basically, Australia lets me butcher my hair if I want to; it's my hair and I'll do what I want with it, etc.

Well, it seems that this self-cut (self-harm?) behaviour is completely unacceptable in Italy.

Today I learned this lesson the hard (embarrassing!) way.

I cut the sides of my hair a week ago (the sides always seem to grow faster than the rest so they have the capacity to turn me into a desperate scissor-wielding lunatic earlier than the rest of my hair). At the time, I decided to delay a trip to the hairdresser even longer and be more drastic than normal.

Everything was going well and to plan until, immediately after my scissor job, I noticed that I'd given myself The Triple Stripe treatment on one side. This occurs when one cuts a little too severely and creates three distinct lines where there is no hair at all!

Clearly, immediate rectification was required so I attempted to create The Triple Stripe on the other side.

While this was a sudden and desperate decision, it was not a sensible decision as I now had two sides with bald stripes at different angles. I kept butchering away in a desperate and oblivious manner to make myself (if not actually look better) at least look "even".

Thankfully, many years of such behaviour has left me highly skilled at hiding these sorts of mishaps. For the next 2 weeks, I moussed, gelled and dragged the hair onto my face to hide my new very radical "soccer hero" hairstyle.

After 2 weeks, I decided that the sides had grown enough to fool the hairdresser.


The hairdresser immediately found my botch job.

If I had stripped naked and danced around the salon she couldn't have looked more appalled. I did my usual thing and had a little giggle at myself before realising that she wasn't giggling with me. This was not a laughing matter. She thought I was completely ridiculous! I suspect that, if I had a greater grasp of Italian, she might have told me never to return!

I was suitably subdued. Sorry, I said, I will never do it again.

After she fixed me up, I left the salon thinking that I will never do that again...at least not in Italy...at least not in the next month...after all, 40 years of behaviour is a hard habit to break...


22 August 2015

This 6 year old job is now finished...properly...

When we purchased the property 6 years ago, we had a swamp around the back of the house which was contributing to damp within the house. The improvement of this situation was a high priority and, since we were living and working in Switzerland at the time, we had to engage a contractor to do the work.

The scope of the job included digging out the swamp, gluing a thick membrane against the house, putting steel reinforcing down, pouring concrete, spreading sand and laying concrete pavers.

When we finally managed to get to Italy to view the work, we noticed that the contractor had stopped short of the required area by about 1 metre, which meant that the edge of the pavers stopped halfway across our pizza oven!

This has annoyed us for 6 years so a few months ago we decided to correct it.

We started by purchasing another 2 pallets of concrete pavers and transporting them up our little valley. We don't have the most efficient of logistic solutions here. Delivery trucks are too large and heavy to turn around at the house so we ask them to drop off at the beginning of the driveway. Then we attach our unregistered trailer to our car and drive down the driveway. We load the trailer by hand, then unload it by hand when we get back to the house. Grossly inefficient and exhausting but good for our fitness!

This lovely pile of concrete pavers has been waiting to be laid all summer...but a 2 month heatwave has procluded us from doing anything with them!

This week we have had the most glorious days; cool early mornings, sunny later, mid 20 temperatures, no humidity. Perfect for heavy activity.

When you're an amateur, digging and flattening out, spreading and smoothing sand, laying and tapping pavers and measuring levels on two dimensions takes forever! After an 8 hour day, we still hadn't finished and had to return to it the following day. By the end of that day, we had everything laid but had to go back for a third day to build a stone wall to support the path, cut pavers for the edges of the path and concrete the perimeter.

While we were at it, we laid a whole new path in front of the fienile and re-laid one of 2 stone walls that needed to be elevated.

Tonight we celebrate the end of a job that has taken 6 years.




20 August 2015

Retaining the tastes of summer...

This week our friends Mardee and Mal gave us a bag of figs from their organic trees. Neither Stu nor I had ever eaten a fresh fig but we are now converts!

But we already had a house full of fresh fruit, including 2 crates of organic peaches that we had purchased from a little roadside hut near us!

So I turned to my cook books for inspiration and found several interesting recipes which would allow us to retain the taste of these summer treats and enjoy them in winter.

Over the last few days I have made 4 jars of spiced fig chutney, 6 jars of spiced plum chutney, 10 jars of plum jam and 4 jars of pickled cucumbers!

Even after all this cooking we still have heaps of peaches left over for our bircher muesli during the week...


11 August 2015

Dangerous work

My oldest climbing rose is proving unstoppable.

The little plastic tag that was attached to it five years ago stated that it would reach a maximum of 6 feet.

But it apparently doesn't know this...it's at 15 feet and still climbing!

And while I don't have the heart to cut it short of what it believes it can achieve (who am I to destroy dreams!?), it is making pruning quite a challenge...


08 August 2015

The painting "expert" leaves a mark

Before Dad started work on the new pergola, he warmed up on garden bed borders.

Behind the house, we have maintained a stack of old timber, hoping one day to do something more useful with it than burn it as firewood!

Enter Dad.

While we were working inside one day, Dad sneaked out to play with the stack of timber. Before long he had pulled down several chosen logs. We had heard dull thumps as they fell to the ground and immediately went out to assist with carting the logs to the garden. Then the three of us spent an hour or two flattening the ground around the garden bed, selecting logs and placing them. We also put a border along the edge of our driveway turnaround area which will now encourage us to create a lawn beyond the logs.

After Dad returned to Australia, I took to a rather huge tin of stain and treated the timbers against wood-eating insects and harsh weather.

The pergola and borders really enhance the property and will last for years...



02 August 2015

Much more than a "helping hand" from an expert...

For the last two wonderful weeks, my father has been with us.

At 79 years of age, he's a ball of enthusiasm and energy.

During the first four or five years of his life, my grandfather worked on the construction of the coastal railway north of Christchurch in New Zealand. My grandmother had to make do with a very rustic life in temporary bush camps...but those times were always some of her happiest memories. Dad has a similar leaning towards nature and minimalism and I suspect that our simple non-consumerist life here in the valley reminded him of his earliest days.

He was relaxed, happy and very active. He walked everywhere. Fast. He absorbed everything. Sponge. He looked for opportunities to experience something new. Discovered.

But nothing prepared us for his utter commitment to a building project while he was here! Our heating room, which contains the caldaia equipment (used for heating and circulating warm water to our radiators in winter) had started to "move" a few months ago and we needed to shore it up quite urgently. For this purpose, we had gratefully accepted some old roof timber from a friend and we had been storing this lovely old cedar behind the house specifically for this project.

Enter Dad, who took an instant liking to the timber and couldnt wait to "play" with it!

During one hot afternoon, Dad designed a pergola arrangement which will hug the heating room, thus support it. Dad is a professional draftsman and carpenter/builder and he normally uses CAD so it was lovely to see him switch easily to the old-fashioned drafting tools of pencil and paper.

The next day, we dropped into a hardware shop to buy threaded rod, plates, nuts and washers for the building project and early the following morning, Dad, Stu and I were up and ready to work.

Dad was chief designer and tradesman, Stu was a tradesman and I was a labourer.

In a few short hours, I watched (and laboured, of course!) as Dad carried wood, climbed ladders and bent over to measure, saw and chisel like a young thing!

We now have a beautiful and strong framework, which is a lovely reminder of Dad's holiday as well as his capability, enthusiasm and energy...