Only once every four years do I get the chance to blog on 29th of February.  This evening it was pizza in our local town of Gubbio, celebrating a birthday.  I went armed with plenty of blue helium filled balloons, the car bursting at the seams, and into the restaurant where they fluttered merrily on the ceiling.   Delicious pizza, wholemeal crust, crisp,thin, laden with fresh vegetables and mouthwateringly good mozzarella di bufala, scrumptious, and ace company to boot, a really incomparable evening such as can only be done here in Italy.

Just how old is William?  Well that would be telling.  To me it seems so unfair to have a birthday on 29th of February, maybe for three years out of four there is no birthday, does on celebrate on the 28th of February or the 1st of March or like the Queen of England pick a random date for an official birthday, but then thinking about it logically when one gets old one can justifiably claim to be young.

It is really strange.  I have spent the past few hours re-categorising my blog posts and going through all the ‘at home’ posts sine June 2009.  It has been a surreal experience, one that was supposed to be done by the ‘fabulous’ web designers employed to make the website, but one of the many things that they just were too ignorant to do, so I have sat here doing their work, for which more fool me, they were handsomely paid.

I discover a whole list of posts in ‘draft’, they gave up migrating posts from my old website, and more alarmingly they have not migrated many of the photographs.  Of course the blogroll is now long migrated to this website and the photos can only be accessed by reading my blog on the old website.  If you want to see a particular photo drop me an email and I will send you the link.

I tried to change the caption ‘Blog’ on the head of the page, it should read: ‘Alec’s jottings
News, Updates and Random Rants from my Gay B&B in Umbria, Italy‘ but of course it does not, and just for now I am unable to change the heading, rats and double rats!  My current tech guy and I are currently working on some modifications of other pages so the website continues to evolve.  I apologise for the publication of the two liner rant, that has now been deleted.

To make up for these errors, put a huge smile on your face and to cheer a miserable grey February day here is a great photo I came across previously omitted from the Bellaugello Backs series. Enjoy!

enjoying the view, a moment of relax #eatbellaugello

In January and February the markets it Italy abound with citrus fruit driven up from Sicily and Puglia, and for me it is time to head to the market in our local town of Gubbio choose finest fruit and to get busy making marmalade.

Delicious unwaxed fragrant oranges and knobbly lemons were the fruit of choice for the last batch of marmalade.  Into the kitchen, I must admit that citrus marmalade is not one of my favourites to make, it involves a long and tedious procedure but the final result is delicious and knowing it will be served and enjoyed on our breakfast table throughout this coming season makes the effort worthwhile.

Fragrant oranges #eatbellaugello

The fruit washed, time to get the knife out, the zest needs to be pared from the fruit, zest of orange #eatbellaugello

and then the juice squeezed.  Then with a silver spoon pare the pulp from the bitter white pith, that is a really tedious job that does my hands no favours.

zested oranges #eatbellaugello

Put the zest, chopped pulp and the juice in the jam pan add a bit of water and turn on a low heat to soften the zest and reduce the liquid by one third.  This takes two to three hours.  To me this is the best few hours, the kitchen filled indeed exploding with heady perfume of fresh crisp fragrant oranges so redolent of the sunkissed fruit being tenderly plucked from ancient trees in rocky fruit groves overlooking the azure sea.

Then the sugar goes in,

making marmalade #eatbellaugello

and I stir madly to melt the sugar and combine with the orange mix.    Once brought to the boil and incorporated I turn off the flame, cover and leave the mixture overnight.  The following days jam jars and lids sterilising I add pectin.  Strangely enough for a Brit used to making orange marmalade in the UK this is a heinous crime.  We use ‘Seville’ oranges, those bitter tough oranges full of seeds but are just not available, they are Spanish not Italian so are not sold, which is why I use the fragrant ‘Tarocco’ oranges, but they have no pips so no natural pectin, so I have to add pectin.  This to me is a cheat but without the addition the marmalade will not set, it will remain orange soup.  Set to boil, a sweeter aroma filling the kitchen, before filling the sterlised jars, allowed to cool just a bit, with one very important extra ingredient, a good dollop of Whisky…

Johnnie Walker whisky #eatbellaugello

et voilà homemade whisky marmalade.

Orange Whisky Marmalade #eatbellaugello

All that remains to do is to attach the labels, a new exciting design this year and still at the printers, and Scotch whisky orange marmalade is ready for serving at breakfasts here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House, with smaller jars available for sale for you to enjoy back home.  #eatbellaugello

I’ve been advised that some of you have been clicking on the ‘Book Now’ button filling in your dates and the system shows no availability.  Of course in many cases this is true, we are getting busy, but sometimes the system gets confused and says there is none when in fact there are suites availabile.

If you have tried to book and found no availability, drop me an email and I will personally check for you.

A complete day of hot sunshine and I have been busy all day in the garden.  Amazingly for mid – February the fruit trees are in bud, indeed some almonds are already in flower, and one apricot tree is showing the most intense pink buds, ready to burst forth.

I spent the day pruning and lopping and chain-sawing, good butch work, exhausting but satisfying.  Lots more jobs still to be done.  Now darkness has fallen and I am back totally knackered and at the computer thinking if I can be bothered to prepare and cook dinner for myself.  Finally I have managed to sort out the rates page, now the website shows the entire 2016 season and the format is looking good.  When I have had my next lesson the table header will be tweaked just a wee bit, I would like the text in white.

Of course all this work in adding pages is for me a minefield, and it seems that in going live with the correct formatting in English we have lost the ‘Deals’ pages in the Dutch and Italian versions.  Even the tabs have vanished…  So I will be engaging in another exchange of emails with my technical guy forthwith.  In the meantime to see our current deals just change the site language to English and click the ‘Deals’ tab.  Remember Dutch and Italian guys the Deals are available for all!  Vergeet Nederlandse  jongens van de Deals zijn beschikbaar voor iedereen!  Ricordate ragazzi italiani le offerte sono disponibili per tutti!

Still some time away but as I walk round the garden and see the daffodils, primroses and violets my thoughts turn to Easter.

This year Easter is very early and we are opening the doors to Bellaugello on 24th March.

On Friday 25th enjoy tea and home made cake in front of the fire before heading off to see the mystical ‘Processione di Cristo Morto’ in our local town of Gubbio.  This very ancient procession starts in the early evening, fires lit in the piazzas, chanting, candles DSCN3759.JPGand medieval costumes, we always head into town to watch and I book a table for guests in a local restaurant, the procession continues through the evening:

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On Saturday we will be cooking dinner at Bellaugello, time to enjoy local food and meet your fellow guests.

Easter Sunday here at Bellaugello has become something of a ritual, we are always invited by neighbouring farmers in the valley to join them in their lunchtime party on their organic farm.  After breakfast when you have painted your egg, we head off across the valley for a very informal but utterly delicious lunch, we roll our eggs and eat astonishingly well.  My neighbours make no charge for their hospitality we only ask that you bring some food from your home country to share with fellow guests, the lunch is truly international.

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Of course throughout the weekend the sauna at Bellaugello will be operational.

No surcharge for the weekend, just please remember to bring some specialities from your home country.

Booking now just a click away!