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Monthly Archives: June 2012

England v. Italy

Our house is England v. Italy every day.  I like tea, he likes coffee.  I like mash, he likes pasta.  I’m a good driver *honestly*. He’s a crazy Italian driver.  The list of our differences is endless.  The biggest difference, obviously, is the allegiance to one’s country.

As we led up to the England v. Italy match this week, so many people have asked me “so, who will you be supporting on Sunday?”.  This comment, every time, was met with a squinty eyed, creased forehead scowl.  Which country will I be supporting? Are you serious? I’m “married” to an Italian.  I’m not Italian.  I’m ENGLISH.  So, I reckon I’ll be supporting ENGLAND.  More to the point, not only I am English, I am Liverpudlian! Football is in my soul.  I was brought up to live, eat and breathe You’ll Never Walk Alone until I was eighteen years old.  Yes, that does make me “a red”, not “a blue” and in that also, my allegiance is never-failing.

Tonight, as my second home plays my real home, there is no question in my mind where my loyalty lies – and on this occasion only, my loyalty is not with my husband! Forget matrimony – tonight, I’m Steven Gerard, I’m married to my team!

As much as I love Italy; the food, the beaches, the fashion, I’m afraid to say that their national team is absolutely unfortunate looking, facially.  I mean, I might have been drip fed LFC as a child but I am female after all and if I’m honest, I know more about mens legs than I do about the off-side rule.  The Italian team is so unfortunate looking.  Therefore, they lose on two counts: England are going to win, fact.  England are better looking, fact.  Controversial but true.

So, as Bambina lays asleep in her cot after me having eased her out of a 38 temperature, the Italian has sworn his allegiance to his country by going to a friend’s house to wave his hands repeatedly and shout obscenities at my men at every given chance.  I’m glad he’s out.

Oops, half time. Must go make myself a nice cup of Early Grey.  Long live the Queen.  It’s good to be British.

C’mon England!!!

 

X-O-X

*Credit:Punt365.com

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Italian Job

 

Italians only work for nine months of the year. Discuss.

I often have to endure relentless whining and moaning from the Italian about how cold and wet it is in England and how hot and dry it is in Italy.

My response every time is “go back to Italy if you don’t like it here!”.

Obviously we have spoken about a potential, permanent move to il bel Paese (The Beautiful Country) as Italians like to call their homeland. However, there are no jobs. This whole business about the state of Italy’s economy and it’s involvement in the collapse of the euro zone only proves that jobs are scarce and general living, as in most European countries, is hard and expensive.

Yet, when I read an article in The Telegraph recently, my head spun and I suddenly pictured myself with my little famiglia, on the beach, for three months of the year. How so you may ponder?

Well, according to a junior economy minster, Gianfranco Polillo, the average Italian only works for nine months of the year while pretty much the whole of Italy religiously takes off the month of August. This is as well as, for the luckier and richer Italians, “Una Settimana Bianca” (White Week) when they down tools to go skiing. Meanwhile, we Brits have to make do with a few measly rainy grey bank holidays! Where’s the justice?

I must mention though that this study was carried out amongst factory workers only. Not that I’m knocking it because these days a job is a job no matter where you live but if I worked in a factory I would want three months off too! Not least, if I worked in a factory and lived in a country full of gorgeous golden beaches, bright blue sea, amazing food and constant summer sunshine without a hint of grey, I would absolutely want three months off! Why the heck not.

While the economic climate, like most of us, has forced Italians to spend less and not travel abroad, the incentive to work more just isn’t there. Polillo claims that the nation has “become accustomed to leisure” and suggests that if the nation gives up just one week of holiday per year, GDP could be boosted by one percent.

I can see the factory workers all rushing to hand over their sun loungers now!

In the region of Friuli Giuliani Venezia, where the Italian is from, factories are plentiful. Yes its near Venice, yes there are vineyards and mountains and all things pretty but there is another side. Rows and rows of industrial , streets show casing its factory made wares. There is Electrolux that makes AEG, Zanussi and Indesit fridges, washing machines and tumble driers. There is Ideal Standard that make toilet systens and basins and there is Jacuzzi that make, well, jacuzzi’s.

Could you stand making washing machines or toilet parts for nine months of the year if it meant you could relax and sunbathe for the other three months? I’m actually not that sure that I could. Would I be totally brain-dead from boredom? Having worked at Electrolux himself in his younger days, the Italian tells me that the factory jobs are quite well paid and he isn’t surprised that people can afford to take so much time off but I just don’t see us assembling the latest 8kg machine drum for a living.

Perhaps I have to wait for Signore Polillo to carry out a study on more professional jobs that will allow me three months on the beach and a week of skiing! Then, and only then, will the Italian consider moving to Il Bel Paese.

X-O-X

Credit: www. delawareonline.com

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in London

 

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Italy in a Car Park: Brockley Market

As my in-laws are sunning themselves in forty degrees heat in Southern Italy, the Italian and I decided to cheer ourselves up by cooking a nice Italian lunch for friends. What perfect opportunity to head out to our local farmers market in search of ingredients.

We had driven past Brockley Market lots of times but today we finally made an effort to pay it a visit. I’m so glad we did!

There was lots of really good street food to choose from: Mexican omelettes from Dias de los Muertos (although they call themselves ‘muerto’ without the plural ‘s’, not grammatically correct but apparently they’ve been told a million times so.. I digress!) , burgers from Mother Flipper. There was grilled mackerel and BLTs, cakes, breads, olives and even squid! There were fruit and vegetables, fish and chicken and even juices from Serious Smoothies made with Peruvian Macca!

Amongst all of this merriment we managed to get excited about a few Italian items that we could use for lunch. Here are a few photos that I took to prove that it’s not hard at all to find a bit of Italy in a South East London car park!:

Brockley Market, Saarf East Landon

We found an amazing Italian sourdough ring at Aston’s which was to die for and our friend from Rome said its the best bread she’s tasted, ever! (outside of Rome that is.. of course)

From Olive Branch we found amazing Olive Oil and..

a Tuscan tapanade which I couldn’t stop eating with the free grissini..oops!

The best buy of the day was without a doubt the fennel salami and the red wine and hazelnut salami from Moons Green Charcuterie. These pork Gods are from Kent and what they don’t know about meat is not worth knowing. I swear, and even the Italian agreed, that when tasting the fennel salami you never ever know it had been made in England! Amazing.

Although not for our lunch, I also bought some of these gorgeous white baby aubergine to go in the vegetable lasagna that I will be making for Bambina.

All of this with lots of tastings and a fabulous coffee, the best in London as far as I’m concerned, from Dark Fluid, and a wonderful morning was had by all!

Now I just have to remember to take more money with me next time I go as the stall holders only accept cash. I did spend a small fortune but if you want to eat well you need to spend well!

Yum Yum in my tum!

X-O-X

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in London

 

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Coffee Set No Match

The judges have spoken, the fat lady has sung, Tea&Biscotti did not get through to the final of the Lavazza Wimbledon #CoffeeSetMatch challenge.

It’s a shame and I won’t lie in saying that I wasn’t disappointed. I actually rather enjoyed myself. However, for the making of a few measly cakes Lavazza has rewarded me with a limited edition Wimbledon A Modo Mio coffee machine and a year supply of the brown stuff, that’s enough coffee to sink the Concordia!! (again).

I am truly grateful for my rewards and wish the best of luck to the two finalists Mulia and UtterlyScrummy. I can’t wait to see what masterpieces you both come up with…the heat is on ladies! Well done.

So, after weeks and weeks of coffee, I can now sit back and relax with a good china cup of Earl Grey!!

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X-O-X

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in London

 

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Is Lavazza really Italian?

Midnight tonight sees the close of the Lavazza Wimbledon #CoffeeSetMatch challenge.  My three competitors and me can down tools for a while until we find out who has been lucky enough to be catapulted into the final with a chance of winning two tickets to the Wimbledon final and a trip for two, on Lavazza, to Turin.  So far, we are all winners as Lavazza has very generously gifted each contestant with a supper duper shiny sparkly brand spanking new A Modo Mio coffee machine specifically designed for Wimbledon.  Well, what with them being the main sponsor and all!

We’ve seen the recipes, we’ve tasted the cakes and we’ve downed the drinks but what do we actually “know” about Lavazza? That its Italian, yes.  That they are a brand of coffee, yes. That they produce coffee, well of course, yes, but not in Italy.

Let me fill you in on a few facts before sharing with you some of my own very treasured and very personal coffee experiences.

Lavazza was founded in 1895 in Turin Italy by Luigi Lavazza.  The brand started in a small grocery store and today, as the fourth generation of the Lavazza family continues to run and expand the brand, it is known world-wide.  I wonder what Luigi would think about that?!

Whilst 16 out of 20million families in Italy prefer Lavazza as their coffee of choice, it is distributed to approximately 80 countries around the globe.

In 2008, Lavazza stretched as far afield as India when it bought the entire Indian coffee market by buying out the Chennai based Sterling Infotech Group, that which runs the chain Barista.

In an attempt to promote sustainable agriculture, protect the environment and working conditions of employees, Lavazza developed the !Tierra! coffee brand, now known as the coffee that represents the sustainable agriculture programme.

Lavazza imports its coffee from several countries; Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Vietnam and Uganda to name but a few.

Colombia is now where I want to take you – come with me for a coffee on a trip down memory lane!

Some years ago, when I was younger and carefree, I quit my job and headed off into the sunset with my closest friends.  One friend convinced us to go to Colombia to meet up with friends of an ex-boyfriend of hers.  CRAZY! Colombia – its dangerous! NO WAY! Yet, with a little convincing and a lot of dutch courage, we found ourselves on a plane across the Amazon from Manaus in Brazil to Bogota in Colombia.

Dangerous? Are you kidding me? It’s as safe as houses.  Colombia is the most beautiful surprise.  In fact, I’ve been 3 times! The people are amazing, the food is to die for, the scenery is breath taking, the beaches are phenomenal and the coffee… well, the coffee is abundant!

After partying hard in Bogota, we headed on an over night bus to Periera.  At least 8 hours into the mountains through the night and then some more.  When we woke, we were surrounded by lush green plantation fields filled with little red berries as far as the eye could see.

Let me share with you some of the pictures I took of coffee in its most natural form.  This Ladies and Gentlemen, is how Lavazza coffee starts its life cycle:

The plantation fields of Periera

And all those lovely little red berries is indeed coffee!!

As pure as the day they were born.

When Lavazza was only a child, growing up in its small grocery store in Turin, Colombian coffee transporters were travelling for days by donkey and horse to deliver beans.  This tradition dates back more than 400 years.  The bag in this picture, carried across the body of the man, is known as a Carriel.  The bags are known to contain at least 50 secret pockets in which they carried on they journey the following: to protect, the claw of a large animal; to entertain, a pair of dice and a deck of cards as well as a love letter from a sweetheart.

 As you do on holiday, I hooked up with a friend of my friends ex, (not the guy in the photo above, I hasten to add, that was purely to explain how coffee was transported in Colombia back in the day!), whose parents had their own coffee plantation on their Finca (farm house) in Arbelaez, about 3 hours outside of Bogota.  On my second trip to Colombia, I went to stay at the Finca just at the time when the coffee beans were drying out in the sun, before they were to be roasted.

(Let me add that my third trip to Colombia was to the wedding of my friend and her ex! And we all lived happy ever after… all say aaarrhhhhh *big smiles*).

They look almost like peanuts, not like coffee at all.

Ah, now they look a bit more like coffee, with that distinctive coffee bean line.

 So you see, Lavazza might have been born in Italy, it might have an Italian heart but the truth is that its soul comes from where ever the coffee bean grows.

Now, after so many words about coffee, let the taste do the talking…. Lavazza!

 To see a modern range of Carriel bags, please visit CarrielUK.

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Bambina’s Battles

Bambina had her first cat fight.

What actually happened was that she was attacked, right before my eyes.

We arrived at our local library just in time for nursery rhymes and found ourselves a comfortable spot close to the singer. I was sat on the floor with my legs crossed, Bambina perched in the well as though sat on her throne.

She was wearing a Hello Kitty! clip in her hair and it was this that I think attracted the attention of Lara.

Lara, an eighteen month old, was there with her twenty-something ‘im-more-interested-in-applying-a-billionth-stroke-of-mascara-to-my-fake-lashes’ mother. Lara was working her way through the baby crowd whilst her mummy titillated her face, paying no attention to her.

As Lara approached us I said hello as she stretched out a hand to stroke Bambina’s face. Yet, with one fell swoop, she hooked a finger in Bambina’s mouth and yanked her top lip! Bambina let out an almighty scream which startled Lara’s mummy into looking up from her compact mirror to see what the commotion was.

Lara, feeling the glare of her mummy’s eyes through the buckets of Rimmel weighing them down, turned to see what, if any, would be the consequence of her actions. None.

I was astounded! Before I had chance to beckon the mother to come constrain her child, Lara slapped Bambina across the face!!

With that, the Liverpudlian in me kicked in, the veins filled with venom and through gritted teeth and squinted eyes, I yelled at Lara’s mother from the across the room “I think you should put your make up bag down and come remove your unruly child!”.

Bambina, still screaming, clung on to my neck for dear life. Lara’s mother came over to view the damage and instead of apologising merely asked Lara in her mousiest voice possible “why did you do that baby?”.

I was half livid that someone, another baby, treat my daughter like that, and half aware of not to show myself up as a screaming fishwife in front of the other mummies who sat looking on in bewilderment at what had just happened.

The whole thing took about twenty seconds and then was over. I still don’t know if I was more astonished at Lara’s outburst or at her mothers refusal to acknowledge it.

Later as I was recounting the tale to the Italian, he told me “you’a jus’a wait till’a she’s start’a school’a!”.

That’s it. I’m going to have to enrol her in a martial arts class ASAP so that she can karate chop her way out of lip pulling and face slapping by the time she’s two!

That’s the moral of the story isn’t it – it will, without a doubt, happen again.

Has this happened to any of your children? How did you approach the culprits parent without looking and sounding like wailing banshee? How do you encourage your child to stick up for themselves without teaching them aggression?

I would love to hear your stories, drop me a line!

X-O-X

*Picture credit: www.parentreviewers.com

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in London

 

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IHeartHerman

Ten days ago I was handed a Tupperware box by a friend that contained an odd-looking mixture.  “Look after that, it’s a friendship cake, it will be ready in ten days”.  Oh dear Lord.  Ten days of babysitting a cake?! Have I not told you already that I am the worlds worst baker – I don’t have the patience to wait, I open the oven door way before its due so that the cake collapses, or, I completely forget there is something in the oven and then it burns, all that time and effort waisted.  Now my friend wanted me to nurture a cake, for ten days! Yet, for the love of the job, look after it I have.

The Friendship cake was discovered on a blog called hermanthegermanfriendshipcake and a friend passed it on to a friend, who passed it on to my friend, who passed it on to me.  Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I immediately saw a novel opportunity to include this in my Lavazza Wimbledon #CoffeeSetMatch challenge, and accepted Herman’s challenge with both hands.

The cake is made of sourdough and apparently, according to Herman, dates back from the Amish people who made it by the truck load to give out to the needy and the sick.  The cake needs to breath and leaving it covered up would kill it as the yeast would die off.  I stirred and stirred well every day to ensure that it stayed with us, bubbling away and then the time came to add more ingredients.  I stirred and stirred again for a few more days until yesterday, day 10 in the Tea&Biscotti house had arrived.  It was time to put my friendship with Herman to the test!

As with all my Lavazza challenge recipes, I usually give an idea as to “What you need” and “What you do”.  However, for the purpose of nurturing Herman’s cake, I have copied his instructions verbatim.

Here goes:

 I am a sourdough cake. I’m supposed to sit on your worktop for 10 days without a lid on.  You CANNOT put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling, I am dead.

Day1 – Put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel.

Day 2 – Stir well

Day 3 – Stir well

Day 4 – Herman is hungry. Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk. Stir well.

Day 5 – Stir well

Day 6 – Stir well

Day 7 – Stir well

Day 8 – Stir well

Day 9 – Add the same as day 4 and stir well

Divide into 4 equal portions and give away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Keep the fourth portion.

Day 10 – Now you are ready to make the cake. Stir well and add the following:

 1 cup of sugar (8oz or 225g)

2 cups plain flour (10oz or 300g)

half tsp. (teaspoon) salt

2/3 (two thirds) cup of cooking oil (5.3oz or 160ml)

2 Eggs

2 tsp. vanilla essence

2 cooking apples cut into chunks

1 cup raisins (7oz or 200g)

2 heaped tsp. cinnamon

2 heaped tsp. baking powder

Optional – ¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup melted butter

Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin. Sprinkle with a quarter of a cup of brown sugar and a quarter of a cup of melted butter. Bake for 45 minutes at 170‐180C. Test the middle with a clean knife; you may need to cover in tin foil and bake for a further 20 minutes to make sure your Herman is cooked properly in the middle.

When baked, Herman can be frozen.

To keep the Lavazza  challenge tradition alive I soaked the raisins over night in Lavazza Qualitá Oro Espresso with a shot of Sambuca Caffé.

When the cake was done I was amazed at how delicious it is – the only way I can describe it is that it smells and tastes like a sugary Christmas!  Im really REALLY proud of myself for having seen this through and even prouder that my friendship with Herman survived – now, I must go and eat him!!

If you want to start your own Herman Friendship cake cycle, please go here.

 To make friends with Lavazza and win a prize of your own, you should look out for promotional cups on take away Lavazza coffees, or enter online.  Prizes include six pairs of tickets to Wimbledon, 90 Lavazza A Modo Mio Favola Plus Wimbledon Limited Edition coffee machines and 500 sets of four exclusive espresso cups created especially for the tournament.

X-O-X

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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