|Not much swimming to be done in there.|
|Chunks of ice.|
|It took a good few whacks with the hammer to break through this stuff.|
|There was a pretty frost this morning too.|
|Even the water butt was frozen.|
After I'd smashed the ice for the geese, I went and got my bike and turbo trainer out for what felt like (and was) the first time in ages (too long). For various reasons - mainly logistical - I'd given the exercise regime a rest for a couple of weeks and over the last couple of days I had found myself really starting to miss it. Well, perhaps not missing the actual exercising itself, but certainly missing that feeling of satisfaction of knowing I've done something towards keeping my body fit and healthy, not to mention burning a few calories. It'll be a while before I manage to burn off all of our Christmas calories, and perhaps even longer until I start to feel toned again, but I was happy to make a start. And what a start it was! I sat on my bike wearing an exercise top, a long-sleeved base layer, a fleece and a tracksuit top, as well as gloves and winter leggings. Thankfully I soon warmed up enough to take off both the tracksuit top and the fleece, but the gloves and the long-sleeved top remained firmly on for the whole 45 minutes.
Exercise done, I went in to shower and change. I turned on the taps in the bathroom and the pipes started making very loud, very odd (and new) noises. When I turned on the shower, the water sputtered out, the pressure behaving very oddly and - most unusually - I actually felt hot water in the shower (as opposed to 'just warm'). The same thing happened with the tap in the kitchen - the water pressure seemed very low and there were lots of gurgling noises. It didn't take too long to work out that there must be ice in the pipes. Well, if a hot shower is one of the consequences of having ice in the pipes then I'm not going to complain (I'm choosing not to think about the other, less positive possible consequences)!
Stuart slept in until 10am, after which he got up and had breakfast while I washed up, then we headed for Pescia to take Reggie (who seemed to have a large excess of energy this morning) for a short walk and do a dash to the supermarket.
As we left the house, snow flakes began floating through the air again, and it looked grey and covered in cloud up the valley - we guessed that they would be getting another dose of snow. We drove into town and parked the car at the bins just along the road from Chris and Sue's, then started walking away from town, along the quiet road that runs along the side of the river. We had barely gone a couple of hundred yards before both Stuart and I wished we could turn straight back - the wind was bitterly cold, and there was no sunshine on our side of the river to warm us up. Nevertheless, we ploughed on, Reggie joyfully sniffing through the leaves, jumping up at the walls to see if he could peep his nose over and get a better view, and criss-crossing the road in his enthusiasm. Our enthusiasm for being out in the cold air was a little less than boundless though, so we made it a short walk (we were planning to take him out again this afternoon anyway) and hurried back to the shelter of the car.
|Looking back down the river towards Pescia.|
|Chilly man and dog.|
|We didn't get much further than this before the cold got too much and we turned around.|
Next stop was Esselunga - which proved to be as busy as it had been on 23rd December. Presumably this means that Italians have the same mentality as Brits do, and the threat of a bank holiday sends everyone into panic shopping mode. Or perhaps it was simply that everyone else had done exactly the same as we had, and had put off going back out to the shops after Christmas for as long as possible, and today was the first time that everyone's fridges and cupboards had run out of morsels to offer.
Despite being so busy, the shopping trip itself wasn't too traumatic, and we were soon back in the car and heading back up the hill, more snowflakes coming down as we neared the house.
Once home our two priorities were to light a fire and to make a dessert for tonight's festivities with the Phillipses. While Stuart collected firewood and built a fire, I started whipping up cream and creating a zuccotto - a creamy, cakey frozen Italian dessert that originates from the Florence area. We've actually made zuccotto several times before (Kerys and Ben even helped us make it on one occasion when we still lived in Abingdon), on each of which occasions it has turned out really well and been really delicious, so we hoped that our previous experiences would stand us in good stead! The first hurdle on making this dessert in its homeland was trying to find double cream in the supermarket. The supermarket offers one type of cream (panna). None of this single cream/double cream/whipping cream/extra thick double cream/clotted cream malarky that you get in Tesco/Waitrose/Sainsburys! Thankfully, the cream whipped up into soft peaks nice and easily, and after that it was all pretty plain sailing. The zuccotto went into the freezer just a little later than planned, so now it's a case of fingers crossed until it's time to serve.
After that, we had a quick lunch followed by a hot cocoa with a dash of home made chestnut brandy next to the fire.
This evening we have been invited to the Phillipses for new year festivities, and the invite has once again been extended to Reggie. We are hoping that Reggie will behave himself - he has been pushing the boundaries for the last couple of days, and we suspect he may be entering his adolescence. It's a good job he's so sweet and loving as without those loving moments to make up for the mischievous ones he might well be on a train back to Puglia!!
|"What?! I didn't do anything! It was the cats... honest."|
We plan to take a toothbrush and pyjamas to the Phillipses tonight, as they have kindly offered us a bed for the night so that we don't have to worry about driving back up the hill in the early hours of the morning - so, as long as Reggie behaves himself, it should be a fun and relaxing evening for us all.
We will of course report on the festivities - and on how the zuccotto turns out - in due course, but please bear with us if we don't get a new year's day blog post out straight away!
All that remains is for us both to wish everyone a very happy new year. Thank you for being with us (virtually) this year - here's hoping for an exciting, happy and healthy 2015 for everyone.
Buon Anno a Tutti!
Helen & Stuart