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MY GOD..WE SURVIVED WINTER!

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Ok..wow..we have pretty much been in blog hibernation for winter! But alas the sun has started shining..the buds are bursting..and spring has arrived and so I’m sure it must also be time for an update on what the Gherardi family … Continue reading

Festive Season

December

So the reigns of writing have been passed on to me (Roberto) for the next instalment of our family adventure blog….. Big boots to fill!

So the last month or so has been filled with….. ummmm…. Lots of food and eating, and a few other great experiences which we used to space out our foos and eating. First to rate a mention, in the end of November was a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, hosted by our good friend Alan (Emilio) Manly.

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He is a big, scruffy American, with a heart of gold, amazing wine knowledge, and has been such an indispensible help to us over the entire time we have been in Italy. So Alan invited around 20 people to his girlfriend’s parent’s house in Alba, and threw a Thanksgiving feast. The centerpiece was ‘una bestia’ of a turkey. Unfortunately the iPhone does not have a wideangle lens, so I was unable to capture the bird in all it’s glory. Suffice to say, the evening was fuelled with lots of good food, good wine and good people, which all added up to a great night.

Then on the 1st of December, we decided to head up to ‘our local’ ski resort, Prato Nevoso, which is only about 1 hr from home, and which had had regular snow falls since the middle of October. It was an interesting day where the fog (although seeing as we were on the mountain, I guess it could be the cloud) was so thick, that the visibility was only 15 or so meters. Lilly was so excited to see the snow that as soon as she had her gear on, she jumped straight into the nearest pile of snow, which was the bank of snow on the side of the carpark. This was also the first time that we didn’t have to force Daniella to put her gloves on, and cable tie them in place. She was more than happy to keep them on all day long. We had a great day playing on the sled, eating over priced focaccia, and enquiring about ski and snowboard lessons.

 

kids first day on snow..very hard for daniella to fall asleep on the sled with big sister dropping snow bombs!

kids first day on snow..very hard for daniella to fall asleep on the sled with big sister dropping snow bombs!

 

Obviously, with the onset of this colder weather, I have had to put up with working outside in the vineyard in these cooler conditions. I can assure you, that this little Aussie is definitly a warm blooded mammal, as I really did struggle with working in the early mornings and evenings, when the mercury started to head 3, 4, 5 and 6 degrees below 0. The first morning I went into the vineyard and saw this frozen puddle, I thought it was great. Now….. it’s not so awesome

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Bryanne, Kellie’s mum, also arrived at the beginning of December. After a nice acclimatization period to get over her jetlag (about 24hrs), we whisked her off the Valle d’Aosta for the weekend. The forecast was pretty chilly, particularly for the evening times when we were planning on hitting up the Aosta Christmas market, which is meant to be one of the best in Italy.

So we booked the same apartment we stayed in previously (Lilly was stoked as she got to sleep in the bunk bed again). The first morning, Lilly was up bright and early and giving Nanna Italian lessons in bed and she wasn’t letting her get away with any mis-pronounciation. Then it was story time with Daniella.

 

I got to leave the girls to play in the snow and head to one of Valle d’Aosta’s best wineries for a tasting later in the morning. Les Cretes makes some fantastic wines, and although I am sure it is not the only one, it was the first winery where I have tasting a great Chardonnay so far in Italy.

After another ice-skating lesson with our International Ice-skating Coach friends from Aosta, we headed to town to check out the Christmas markets. They were located in the heart of the old town area, and accessed through a narrow, fairy-light lit alleyway. Some of the definiate highlights were the wooden sculptures and carvings, vin bruel (mulled wine),  and novelty shaped salamis. 

 

After bedding down the girls and Nanna, Kel and I headed back into Aosta for a bit more of a look around. But as it was so cold, we pretty much just bar-hopped through town. I rediscovered a love of fine rum, we found a great little hole-in-the-wall wine bar, and ended up at a bar/club type place at the end of the night. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but kel is wearing about 5 layers on top, a couple down low, (fake) fur-lined winter boots, scarf, two beanies, gloves, and was still feeling  the cold.

We had a blast the following day when we visited our friends again for lunch and we all got to have play around in the park which was now snow covered. This is the same park as is in the last blog, but now looks wuite different. We sledded, built a snowman, snow-swinging, and generally had a blast in the snow.

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The following week, Kel and Bryanne were to head off to Barcelona for the weekend, so I decided to drop them in Milan, and keep heading North to Valtellina and visit Ornella and Elio again. It so happened that on the night before, and morning that we left, Monforte D’Alba had it’s first snowfall.

We were snowed on all the way to Malpensa airport, with regular texts saying to expect delays. But Kel got away ok, with only about an hour delay, and the girls and I eventually got up to Albosaggia. We had about 30cm of fresh snow overnight which pretty much closed down Albosaggia and Sondrio for the first half of the day. So the girls and I went sledding on the road out front of Ornellas, built a snow man, and basically spent the weekend eating and playing and catching up. The place certainly looks different being  covered in snow and not all green , which is the only colour I have ever seen it having only visited in summer.

As we couldn’t have our usual pre-christmas Garden/Pizza/Lilly’s birthday party, we threw Lilly her very own little party in the apartment. With fairybread, homemade sausage rolls, plenty of other junk food, games, balloons, music etc. The stage was set for a real Australian style kids birthday party. And then, only two of her friends from school turned up. Fortunately one of them brought her older brother, so there were three kids). So we all pitched in and danced, passed parcels, pinned tails on donkeys, ate fairybread and then helped devour Kel’s best birthday cake creation yet.

For Christmas, we had an apartment full of people, which was great fun, if a little cosy. Our friends from Swizterland (Jen, Fabrice, Zoe and Livier, and Lou Lou the bulldog) came down for a few days. We also had Kel’s mum, and Michelle (Kel’s best mate) over from Australia. For Christmas day, a couple of other stray Australians in Piemonte (Dave, Elle and Gigi fFetcher) came for lunch as well. We spent the morning opening presents, with the kids (particularly Lilly) going bananas over Santas gifts. After a quick coffee and skype session in town, it was back to get lunch ready. Kel and I had planned a special roast, with the idea coming from the Turducken (deboned chicken inside a duck inside a turkey), but rooted in Piemonte. When I described the idea to Bruno, our local butcher, he said I was crazy. So we started with a Filleto di Vitello (veal fillet) stuffed with Noccioli (hazelnuts) and 100% cocao chocolate. Around this was a a deboned local rabbit and layer of rosmary and bread stuffing. Around this was a deboned local chicken with a layer of liver, thyme and sage stuffing. The plan was to put a layer of pork belly around this, but once I got to the chicken layer and did a check on the webber-q (as we don’t have an oven!!), I realized that with an extra layer of pork belly, the roast was not going to fit. This was roasted for a few hours with regular basting using Baladin beer. What can I say, it was a delicious success.IMG_1207

 

 

 

We kicked lunch off with another novelty shaped salami made by Bruno, which he did for fun, but kel talked him into selling it to her.

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Thanks to Michelle, we were able to finish on an Australian bought Plum Pudding. Again the point was proven that good food, good wine, good beer, good friends equals good times.

 

Post Christmas, we have been able to hit the slopes a bit. One day, Bryanne and Jen looked after the kids, so a group of us went to Prato Nevoso sans-children. WooHoo! We had a blast, but there were some sore butts, elbows, knees and prides coming home in the car that evening.

With raging hangovers (again) we also had some more subdued celebrations for Daniella’s 2nd birthday. We headed to the pizzeria in La Morra (one of the best ones around) for a birthday dinner.

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Well to finish up here are some more random pics taken over the past two months…enjoy and hope you all had a fantastic festive season too!!

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Aside

Its been a pretty busy couple of months…still loving it here…the seasons are changing so fast and now I find myself sitting in the local cafe with half the town all hibernating from the elements outside. I have not seen the temperature much over ten degrees in the past few weeks but for some reason it just doesnt feel as cold as ten degrees back at home. Most days we are now greeted with the most phenomenal veiw of snow on the mountains and the crispness of the countryside is spectacular. The autumn colours here are just that little more in your face as we are surrounded in vines and we have been in amongst it in the forrests quite a bit looking for porchini mushrooms and exploring the local tracks around town.

Rob’s work day is long as it incorporates the two hour lunch break and as its too far to come home, he is away from half seven till half six so it’s not ideal for family time which is why we have made a pact to make every weekend count and to get out and see as much as we can. We spent a weekend up in the Val D’Aosta which is only a two hour drive from here and right at the foot of Mount Blanc. We went for a couple of walks, ate some hearty polenta, and reunited with a gorgeous family we met in sardinia..who took lilly for her first ice skating lesson…Image

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Im not sure if this was the highlight of the trip for Lilly or if it was sleeping in a bunk bed for the first time? She loved spending time with the girls again and even though there is still a language barrier the girls were very sad to say goodbye again. We enjoyed Val D’Aosta so much that we have already booked a return visit. The next trip up here will be the first week of December to go to the christmas markets and so we are looking forward to going back again..and it will be interesting to see the girls play each time we reconnect as Lilly is fast building her Italian! She is still loving school and I have finally got my head around my neally four year old at school all day Mon to Fri and totally content…I feel like one has left the nest already! On the up side it has been a treasure to now spend lots of quality time with Daniella and without her chatter box sister around she is starting to finally have a few words to say herself !ImageImageImageImage

The following weekend, against all odds !!!(forcasted snow/storm,3 degrees, missing our train then having to drive to Turin, arriving two hours early) we made if to the international slow food festival, Salone Del Gusto, for a day of tasting tasting and a bit more tasting. It was a convention center filled with all the gastronomic delights of each of the regions in Italy…Not a bad way to spend the day! And just looking at the photo now below I would like to add that we are NOT in fact expecting another baby…that is pure appreciation of italian life!ImageImageImage

With the public holiday in the beginning of november, we took the opportunity to head off on a four day trip and drove up to Lyon in France, working our way down to Nice then home. Packing the kids up and closing the shutters before we left at 7pm we had our first glimpses of snow falling…when we started driving the ice warning alarmed in the car…mmmm are we the only crazy people about to head out on a road trip! At midnight whist driving over the Italian-French boarder up in the mountains, coming out of a long tunnel we were greeted with snow…lots and lots of snow!!!! A quick pull over on the side of the motorway while the kids were sleeping..a quick run around in the snow, a hurl of a snow ball and we were very quick to get back in the car and keep moving. Driving in the snow, going around snow ploughs is all a bit novel…at the moment!

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What you dont see in this photo is the 20 people standing behind Rob when he took this photo of me landing fair on my arse with the kids!

So Lyon was just a gastronomic delight. Other than checking out a couple of awsome catherdrels we pretty much just went from food market to food market, cafe to bar to restaurant. So to sum it up I think frogs legs taste like chicken, I don’t think you can eat too much fois gras, there is nothing wrong with drinking wine and oysters in public with kids at 9amImageImage, likewise there is nothing wrong with having a platter of jamon with a glass of SPanish red for morning tea, macaroons make the best car snacks and when you order chocolate mouse and it comes out in a litre sized preserving jar your stars are aligned!! French food rocks!. We had some phenomenal dining experiances and had a great introduction into France. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

And so, the next few weeks will see a couple of friends come visit and then in the first week of December Nanna arrives..we are all very excited to have mum come visit, lots of stuff planned for December looking forward to some colder weather coming and the commencing of ski season! 

Food … Oh glorious food!

There is really no need for words in this blog…bliss!!

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Vintage Widow revived!!

 

 

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Well its been a hectic month and trying to find time to sit down and write a blog has been challenging… Challenging because Rob has worked most days over the last month and of course…we still have no internet..Im starting to get the feeling that Im just going to slowly forget how convienient it is to have access to the internet…and friends and family at the touch of the fingers!! I have absouloutly no idea on any world events and most gossip on Facebook is old and dated by the time I see it but alas all is well and if I have to go out at night..buy a wine or two at the local wifi cafe then things are not to bad!

So vintage has gone well for rob..certainly not the hours they work for vintage in Australia and it was dispersed with some interesting work activities…like porchini hunting.Image

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There have now been a few hunting trips and ridiculas amounts consumed..fried.. stewed..Image

Yum yum Yum!!!

So it hasnt all been work and no play. We had a surprise visit from Dad…’Im coming for the weekend ” has got to be the quote of the month!!! We had a wonderful time with him and am stoked that he can now picture where we live and what we are up to!! Mum has just confirmed a visit for a month over xmas…bliss …so excited!

We have started to get out doing a few treks  with the girls to make the most of the autumn weather and colours. Words totally dont do justice to these areas….all an hour or so from where we live..

….and the power button is flashing on the computer!!!! to be continued!! in the mean time the photos from the last month

Sun, sea,sand…Sardinia!

It was kind of an accidental holiday.. Spare of the moment, not enough thought process when Rob and I decided to head to Sardinia for a week. Rob thought he may only be able to come for a couple of days but after all the glorious sunshine the grapes were ripe and vintage was upon us..aka.. Rob had to start work.
So with a little apprehension, and a couple of mind changes I decided to fly solo and take the girls for a sunshine sea holiday to Santa Caterina on the west coast of Sardinia.
The kids were absolute gems whilst we took on getting to the airport ( thanks Samantha!) getting through Ryan air with a whisker over luggage allowance and a two hour wait for flight. Luckily the flight was only just over an hour.. As soon as we were up we were on our way down.
So nice to be greeted with a friendly face, picked up by Gpaoulo and his mate Marrow,who much to Lilly’s disgust was not princess Martha as I had promised. Didn’t take long for her to come round and she spend the 11/2 hr ride to St Caterina chewing his ear off!
Total bliss is all I can say on arrival at our apartment..full ocean views , 100mts from the beach, beautiful gardens. Perfect all for $ 60 a night.

So every day for the last week has pretty much been the same.. I have taken the girls for an explore early most mornings on foot as decided not to hire a car. The coast line here is spectacular ! There are ancient Spanish towers build on all the headlands, the white limestone cliffs are an awesome contrast to the blue waters..and the caves along the cliffs are begging to be explored! I have had a lot of weird looks and today I was even shouted from above when taking the kids down a couple of goat track.. The Italians are extremely precious of their kids and I am sure this little town may recognize me as ‘that crazy mother’!
So after the early adventures it has been coffee & hot choc down at the local cafe with way too many fresh brioche con creama…yum
Then its down to the beach for the day..this week Lilly has started to snorkel,swim underwater, build palace like sandcastles with full marinas! But most importantly she has found two beautiful new friends.
Luck would have it that I bumped into an Italian lady who happened to also be holidaying solo with her two girls who were close to Lillys age and so new friendships have been formed and as this family only live a couple hours from us back on the ‘mainland’ we are making plans to catch up in the future.

Beach watching has been quite entertaining that’s for sure…though at times I have most definitely felt as though most eyes are on us.. The girls are almost albino blonde now…and decked out in their super safe sun shirts and hats.. And lilly in her life vest they may as well be off to the moon as the Italian kids tend.. lIke their parents to wear the briefest of briefs!

If I had one euro for each time someone came up and touched Daniella’s hair Rob wouldn’t need to work! She sure has been working her charms. I’m sure she inspired a random act of kindness from a guy having a coffee at the local cafe one morning as when I went to pay he had already paid for us…she had spent the whole time that he was sitting next to us, looking at him and giving him the best coccadoddledo like the rooster outside the cafe! To cute!

It’s been wonderful to reunite with our Sardinian friends again and although they were working everyday that we were here they still managed to take us out to fiestas in nearby villages, meet for pizza at night and take us to the resort where Gpaoulo works as a life guard!…in a golf buggy!
It had truly been the most relaxing cruise holiday I think I have ever had and whilst I can’t wait to go home tomorrow to see rob and reunite the family.. It has been very special to hang out with the girls and I’m sure I will treasure these moments forever.
So the suitcases are now packed, the kids are in bed and we leave first thing in the morning.. Thanks Sardinia it’s been swell.. Be back next year with bells on !!

Sea sunshine Sardinia!!!..coming soon …

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