Thursday, 28 February 2008

Watching TV Through a PC

I've finally found what looks like a kosher website for watching British TV live on my PC.

It's called UKTVLive and does what it says on the box! I'm currently on a 7 day trial after which I have to decide whether or not to pay a subscription of approx. £25/month to watch the Beeb and its competitors. I think SkyOne is also included, its 17 channels in total for the subscription.

The really bizarre thing about me even considering this is that for the first 8 months we were here we only had random freeview channels and then went for SKY Italia, which I'm very happy with. I also have Alice TV - by mistake, but I got the WI-FI with it so it costs next to nothing - which I rarely use even though the film catalogue is great, just all in Italian. So why am I even considering this?

Well, firstly I like technology and it feels really cool to be able to watch real time British TV along with my friends and family in the UK. Plus I really liked seeing the Ads in English, sad I know! And lastly, it was nice last night watching those ever so properly spoken presenters on Relocation, Relocation and Grand Designs, knowing that this wasn't some ancient programme from 3 years ago on Discovery. I'm a little fed up of hearing about the latest "Top Gear" exploit - they are still showing those from 2 years ago on Discovery, the new ones come onto YouTube faster (courtesy of the BBC, by the way!) or Dr Who that won't be on Jimmy or Prime for months! Is this worth £25/month? Well, I probably spend that on cappuccino and paste in the mornings and they aren't good for me either!

I'll let you know what I decide, but it's looking like a yes, unless I hear anything negative of course!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Three Posts in One Day! Oh, and Chicken Soup!

Don't get used to it! It's just that the things I wanted to blog about are all so very different, but if I don't do them today I will forget - old age and all that!

Anyway, you may have noticed I don't really do food on this blog - something which is quite unusual for one based in Italy, or so I have noticed. It's not that I can't cook, more I choose not to anymore. Pre-kids we had dinner parties every weekend and no recipe was out of bounds to me - if I fancied eating it, I would have a try cooking it. Most of the time it would work out! I still have a few foolproof recipes that I know will work every time, Lemon Meringue Pie, Bolognaise/Ragu sauce, most risottos (really!), fried egg and oven chips - you get the idea ;) !

So, here is a photo of my foolproof Chicken Soup.

I think that this is something that most people will have some kind of recipe for, but in favour of mine is that it tastes exactly the same each time I make it! Which, to me, is some kind of miracle! Oh, and it tastes good! A little sweet because of the carrots and celery, but I like that about it. If you are interested here goes:

Enough for 4 people:

1 Large skinned and boned chicken breast
3 carrots
3 sticks celery
1 large onion
olive oil
1 Star Classic stock cube (not the low salt kind)

Cut the chicken up into large cubes and fry in olive oil. Chop onion and add. Peel and chop carrots, add to pan. Wash and chop celery, add to pan. Let everything soften for a few minutes then add boiling water from the kettle to the pan, enough to cover everything. Add the stock cube. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. I normally leave this to simmer for at least an hour, you can leave it longer. If you have to top up the water, don't add cold, make sure it is already hot ( this is also the secret of a successful risotto).

I also add orange lentils and/or soup pasta for a thicker soup.

I have to say the secret is the stock cubes! I have tried making soup in the UK and it was bland even with stock, stock cubes and loads of seasoning. The Star stock cubes have just the right mix, for me, of ingredients. No doubt it is all MSG but never mind - it tastes good!!

Is Spring Finally Here?!

Judging by today, no! Yesterday, however, was a different story....

This is view from the bank opposite the Cascine Park looking towards the centre of Florence. It must have been about 20C when I took this at 4.30-ish! On the other side of the river you can see the Lent Market in full swing. These take place every Sunday from the start of Lent up to the last Sunday before Easter. They start about 9.00 a.m. and finish around 5.00 p.m. Last year we visited nearly every one of them. Every week the stalls were different! This year we have only been to one - already we are becoming blasé about living here!

A Truly Pan-European Company

I always assumed, for some reason, that Electrolux was a British company. It isn't, it was originally Swedish. However, it is now the owner/licensee for so many electrical brands that, without visiting the company website, it is not that surprising that I should make this assumption.

Why the sudden interest? Well, if you are in Florence and read the papers you will know that Electrolux are in the process of closing its branch here in Scandicci, resulting in the loss of 450 jobs. In a city where the stable population is tens of thousands this is a big deal.

However as you can see from the photos it was a very peaceful and colourful march in protest at the closure..

I don't think this protest is going to change anything. Everything is being centralised in Treviso, I believe (don't shoot me if this is wrong, I'm doing this from memory!) and I think some people have been offered work there as the original job losses reported in the papers were closer to the 650. Even so, this is a big blow to a small city and its inhabitants.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Ski-ing and My Birthday

Having been back at school after Christmas for precisely two weeks Alex returned home for a weeks half-term holiday! The more you pay, the less they are there for sure! Anyway, he and his dad arrived home on the Friday night and Saturday morning we picked up a hire car and set off for Abetone near Pistoia for a weekend's ski-ing. For Antonia, below, it was her first lesson ever - this photo is afterwards - she looks pretty confident doesn't she!

This is Alex's 3rd year of ski-ing and the second season he has been to Abetone. He also had a lesson but apparently it was more a fun thing for him, at one point the instructor was ski-ing down on one leg!! Not sure what that was teaching....

He looks very cool doesn't he?

When we returned on Sunday Antonia was exhausted and came down with the 'flu that week. She still isn't right now. We were supposed to ski again Thursday to Saturday but with her being ill and Stephen injuring his knee on the weekend ski we called it off.

We did, however, get to IKEA! The photo is to show what a gorgeous day it was, not of IKEA, honest. Even here in Italy you can't escape its clutches. I came home €300 lighter in the wallet!!

Anyway, instead of ski-ing we hired another car for the day on the Saturday and set off for "The Mall". This is a very small discount designer shopping centre. It was definitely worth a trip, as you can see from all the bags! The bargain of the day had to be my Ferragamo ankle boots - €85! Yup, and they are the real deal! The Sixty shop was also great value. Their brands include Miss Sixty, Energie and Murphy and Nye. T-shirts started at €8 and jeans from €25!

Finally, this is me and my cake. Note only 2 candles. Can't remember if my birthdate is on my profile, but I'm not about to announce my age! You can either think I look good for an old bugger or I've had a hard life! With two kids of vastly different ages and having had my first older than most, you can keep guessing! A small hint is the fact I will have been married 22 years this year..

As a Gadget Girl I was highly delighted to receive my wish list request of an i-touch. The i-phone isn't on contract with anyone in Italy yet and I don't make enough calls to warrant one, so this was the next best thing and boy, is it cool! I have already made purchases off i-tunes with it, downloaded audio books onto it, TV episodes, short films, photo's and of course music and music videos. I only have the 8GB one but I seem to have packed a lot on and still have over 5GB left! If it had a camera attached it would be perfect! Stephen also got me a pink silicon sleeve for it. Pink for 2 compelling reasons - it's Antonia's favourite colour and now Alex can't knick it without removing the sleeve ;)! Didn't stop him surfing YouTube for Top Gear though...

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Christmas, New Year and Carnevale

Everybody in my family has been sick! We didn't ski as Alex had tonsilitis followed by a sinus infection! I have had cold after cold and so has Antonia. If I say we are feeling better now it may only be for a few days!

The Nativity was missed as Antonia had a temperature and my son went back to school late because of his illness. Antonia was then sick again! I so look forward to Spring.

However, fun was still had and rather than doing a long post I'm going to let the pictures do the talking!