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These last couple of weeks have been a bit strange. With the ‘fossa’ and drainage in place and a flushing toilet sitting proudly in the house, and the ‘stufa’ puffing merrily away out of its new chimney on the colder days, we’ve found ourselves tackling some of the smaller jobs around the place and it feels most relaxing not having intense, full days of work ahead of us … we can stop every once in a while and enjoy the first signs of Spring that seem to be slowly creeping up on us.

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… and no fire without a chimney (at least if we want it inside the house and under control) so we had our next job on the list. The house when we bought it had no chimney, just a shiny patch of new roof tiles where the chimney used to be (a bit of detective work on our part as there was the old ‘stufa’ still in the kitchen with a flue pipe going into the wall and not reappearing again).

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I found a recipe in one of my old notebooks at the end of last year – a recipe I don’t think I’d ever made in England but which I must have jotted down from somewhere to have on hand for the right moment. That right moment is apparently during the restoration of an Italian farmhouse in below-zero temperatures.

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For the very observant of you out there you will see a new title squeezed in between the usual options at the top of the page. Along with ‘A little bit of history …’, ‘Contact me …’ and ‘Home’ you’ll see the sparkly new heading of ‘Rustico Renovation …’

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Happy New Year to all of you … those crawling from their beds nursing hangovers who are starting the day with a handful of peanuts and a slice of leftover Christmas cake for breakfast, and those who we all envy who’ve been up since 7am and already managed a couple of chores and a brisk morning walk. I fall into neither of these categories having got up at a sensible hour and only had two espresso coffees and no breakfast (but only because we finished the Christmas cake last night!)

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With the festive season finally upon us, ten of the twenty five tonnes of gravel shifted by hand as the motorised wheelbarrow decided to pack up on us for a couple of days, and not one but two Christmas cakes to marzipan and ice, I’m taking a couple of weeks break from Blogging.

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As you would probably expect here in Italy, the Christmas build up starts with food. Be warned: if you’re reading this on an empty stomach you may want to grab a little something to put you on, and I advise you to also have a tissue to hand – there are photos and descriptions of cakes and other sweet treats and I will not be held responsible if you drool on your screens or keyboards!

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