Posted by: jameshensman | November 19, 2009


Mucho excitement today at work. There was a horrible bwwooooo… sound as hundreds of computers simultaneously suffered power outage, followed by some serious shouting down the corridor (some people should learn to save their work, eh?). The emergency lighting came on (which looked indistinguishable from the regular lighting).

Cue boredom. A blackout, until somebody knocks on the door and says to Marco:

“Professore, fuoco in laboratorio, il mio projetto e in pericolo!” *

Cue fire engines, sirens, billowing black smoke.Well, whispy grey smoke. There were firemen though, (vigili del fuoco).  Apparently one of the power transformers caught fire. Nobody had any idea how long it would take to get power back, so we took the decision to continue the day’s work from home.

I love academia sometimes:

Professor1: “What no computers?”

Professor2: “We just can’t work without our electronic overlords! No matlab? No latex? No web-of-science?

Professor1: “But what to do? ”


In unison: Go to the pub!

*Okay, I’m elaborating a little here. This is roughly what happened.

Posted by: amywyles | November 18, 2009

General achievements

We have, yet again, been terribly remiss in our blogging this week.  We are very sorry and hope all our lovely readers who check the blog every day will forgive us.  We seem to have been rushed off our feet this week, but sadly I don’t have that much to report…  I’ll try to give a general update:

James has been working very hard at the politecnico (there was mention of gradients, but my knowledge and understanding is severely limited) and I have taken on two more English students.  Now I teach on a Tuesday evening, Wednesday evening (for two hours!  It even makes my head hurt), and on a Friday afternoon/evening (2.5 hours, but with a little 30 minute break in between).  I had my first lesson with my new students this evening.  One is 12 years old and her sister is 14 years old.  I may also start teaching their father some English too as he needs this for his work.  Another teaching challenge on the horizon!

So, to the achievements which I mentioned in the title:

1. Today I made farinata which is a kind of unleven bread made with chickpea flour.  Very tasty.  Very Italian.

2. Today I managed to (i) find the library (a major achievement in itself for me!); (ii) find the section in the library I wanted; (iii) find suitable books; (iv) get myself a library card (!!!!); and finally, (v) borrow said books!  Amazed?!  I was!  This is a very exciting thing, mainly because the library has English books (hurrah!) and also because they have a children’s section so I can borrow books for my teaching.  Brilliant.  I’m very proud of myself!

3. It’s been a busy day because.. .today I also made some very tasty coffee cupcakes with some espresso coffee left over from breakfast.  Mmmmm.

Tomorrow is market shopping day (Amy’s task whilst James is at work), so let’s just hope I’m as successful in the things I do tomorrow!

Lots of love to everyone.

Amy xxx (and James too, xxx)

Posted by: jameshensman | November 15, 2009

Tallegio con Jam di Peperoncino.

A few years back David made some chilli jam, and was kind enough to give me a jar. It was delicious, I ate the entire thing within a week, mostly with Davidstow Cheddar. Sometimes I had some form of carbohydrate with them, but usually ate just cheese and chilli jam. Mmm.

So, with a big bunch of chillies drying out in my kitchen, I decided to recreate it. I used this recipe (link), more or less. We don’t have a food processor out here, so I improvised with a soup stick. The result is, if I may say so, quite wonderful. See photos below.

Now, whilst Davidstow cheddar is a bit of a rarity out here, there is other cheese in a bun dance. For lunch today we’ve been eating:

Name: Tallegio

Producer: Difficult to tell from the packaging. It is DOP though (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta).

Appearance: Milky white, again. It comes in a square block, about 12 x 12 x 5 cm, with a thick mouldy blue rind. It’s pretty convenient for slicing into, say, a lasagne.

Smell: A little feety, smells like a cow.

Texture: Squishy, deforms elastically, no creep. Some ripply holes.

Tasting notes: Stronger flavour than the last cheese (Morlacco Toniolo), a little bit sour, slightly creamy. Excellent with chilli jam!

Bounce test: Aside from being square, this is a good bouncer.

Score: 9/10, a winner. Excellent for cooking with.

Apparently this is Rob’s favourite cheese. We’ll save you some!

Posted by: jameshensman | November 12, 2009

Cascate, Montagne.

The weather was a little improved on Monday afternoon, and much improved on Tuesday. We took the opportunity to venture out to the mountains.

First stop was actually the tourist information bureau, to find some nice places to visit. There’s a helpful leaflet describing the dozen or so national parks located around Turin. No information on how to get to said parks though. We ventured out anyway, with only the satnav to guide us…

On the first attempt, we didn’t find the spot we were looking for. The Italian government does not seem to think that its citizens require signage for the road network. We did find a pair of spectacular waterfalls though. They were absolutely amazing, the plunge pools were bright blue, and the water seemed to fall ever so slowly, it was such a long way down. Photos in the gallery below. Those two blue dots in the corner are Clare and Amy!

On Tuesday we had a more thorough look at the map before leaving, and managed to find the area we were looking for, despite some of the signs pointing the wrong way. We stopped in a little village called Foresto, next to the church, and proceeded to wander up the mountain. We came across an area where one used to be able to do Via Ferrate, but is now in disrepair, which is sad.

We didn’t quite make it to the snowline (hey – we started from the bottom of the valley!) but the view was quite spectacular. Here’s the proof.

Posted by: jameshensman | November 8, 2009

Mole Antonelliana

The tallest building in Turin is the Mole Antonelliana. Originally built as a synagogue in the nineteenth century, it was a monastery before becoming the Museum of cinema that it is today. Everybody here calls it “La Mole”, pronounced “mowlay”, and as well as the museum you can get the lift up to a viewing are and look out over Turin. I vaguely remember coming here in 2007 for a DAMAS conference, and going up to the viewing area at night, seeing the city lights stretching for miles. Will have to do this again before I leave. We went up in the daytime, and the view was quite spectacular, despite the mist.


Now, in order to get to the viewing area, one must take the lift. There’s no lift shaft though: the lift just goes straight up the middle of the building, in open space. Oh, and it’s a glass lift. This makes for a spectacular, if slightly nerve-wracking ride. I took a video on the way down, here it is:

Also, obligatory views from the top, in directions that include straight down. Check out the sideways picture of the Mole: this was the only way to get it all in. See that star at the top? that’s four meters accross! This thing is huge.

Posted by: jameshensman | November 8, 2009

Morlacco Toniolo

Long time, no cheese review. Clare is here, and we’d planned to either

a) Go skiing, or

b) Go for a walk at Roya.

Sadly, the weather has let us down. We had an okay day yesterday, it wasn’t raining but it was quite misty (obviously we had ice cream anyway). Today the weather is awful: it’s raining, really cold, grey and generally miserable. We figured that the best course of action was to entertain Clare with some nice food. This includes Chilli, cumin and tomato soup, home-made chocolate chip and walnut cookies – we’re making them this afternoon – and of course some cheese.

Name: Morlacco Toniolo

Producer: Carrefour

Cost: 10.50 euro al kilo

Colour: White and creamy

Texture: Creamy, very soft and slightly rubbery – think a cross between dairylea and Emmenthal. Small holes (approx. 5mm dia.).

Smell: Milky and slightly mouldy – like the rind of brie. The cheese isn’t quite as smelly as brie, but it’s the same kind of smell.

Tasting notes: Absolutely cheeseilicious, this one’s a winner. We ate it with some yummy crackers.

Bounce test: Fail. Definite splat.

Peelability: There’s only a thin layer of mouldiness on the outside of the cheese, and the cheese is pretty soft and squishy. Best peeled with a knife, else one would be in peril of both messiness and cheese wastage.

Score: 8.75.


Posted by: amywyles | November 7, 2009

Surprise Guest Entry!

James and Amy are busy getting energy to entertain me with a trip to the mountains tomorrow…so it is time for what I suppose will be the first of many guest entries.

Arrived yesterday, with only a minor misadventure, and the success of packing everything I needed for my trip into one hand luggage bag and avoiding paying extra with the orange flight provider.

We explored Turin today.   J and A learnt a useful phrase for the transport system, which should be learnt by all:

Get out of the way, I want to leave the tram at this stop and you are preventing me from doing so“…shortened to ‘permesso‘.

One of the exciting places to explore in Turin involves a very large and exciting market selling everything you could possibly want along fruit and veg lines.  There will be something to please everyone…tasty pumpkin, mounds of olives, and tonnes (literally) of clementines.  In the meat market, there will be something to make everyone squirm!  From horse meat to pig’s brains, it’s got it all!  Only the fish market requires more effort to locate.

Then there was a long and insightful wander around the city, a large proportion of which involved looking at squares and trying to find an icecream shop that hadn’t given up due to the cold weather and was now just selling hot drinks.  Grom provided.  I must say that A and J are not exaggerating when they say the true wonderfulness of the icecream here.  Chocolate and Hazelnut and the Glace Chestnut icecream were very tasty, and I’m sure when you come, J and A will be able to recommend a flavour that will tickle your taste buds.

Then was a trip to the highest point in Turin, the Mole Antonelliana, which was the highest stone-clad steel structure in the 19th Century.  The ascent is best described as not for the faint hearted, nor for those with objections to queuing, but the view over the city was pretty.

Unfortunately, I am not a techy officianado and am unable to put the pictures on this blog, but am sure that A and J will oblige with their next post.  As for me, my photo’s will be a surprise when they are collected from the developers…gone old-school with a disposable camera.

That’s all from me (unless large demand requests it before Wednesday!)…James and Amy will be back shortly with another post and, if I can persuade them, another taste test.


Posted by: jameshensman | November 6, 2009

Clementines da Piemonte

The problem with a cheese diary is that one must consume cheese. Not a problem, you’re thinking: who wouldn’t want to eat a different cheese every day?

It’s not that we don’t like cheese, it’s just that occasionally it needs to be interspersed a member of another food group. Chocolate, for example. Or sausages. Wine. Beer*.

And just very occasionally, we eat some fruit. A visit to the market tells us that clementines are in season. There are some stalls selling nothing but beautiful beautiful clementines. So we took a gamble on our 2 euros and bought a few kilos. We’ve had to add a few new categories to the usual review scheme, in light of having peeled close to 5 kilos of the little buggers now.

Name: Clementines.

Producer: Some friendly piedmontese farmer, we’re assuming. In truth, could be from anywhere in the world, but we like to think they look local, with the leaves on and all.

Colour: Bright orange, see picture.

Smell: Amazing. When people are eating these at work you can smell it wafting down the corridor. It’s the kind of wonderful, pungent smell that would go really well in a throat lozenge. GSK, if you’re reading, I’ll take 25%.

Taste: As above. All that we’ve bought have been really juicy, not at all pithy.

Texture: Not a seed in sight!

Bounce test: Quite good! I got a 0.1m bounce from a 1m drop. that’s a bounce coefficient of 10%!**

Peelability. 2/10. These little things have the thinnest skin of any citrus fruit known to man. Really.

Score: 9/10. If only we had some kind of monkey servant to peel them for us?

Now, anybody got a good recipe for a glut of clementines? Clementine marmalade?


*Yes, wine and beer are food groups. Shh.

** Not real science.

clementines close up

Posted by: amywyles | November 5, 2009

Bonus post: Ice cream picture

Here’s the extreme ice cream James told you about a few days ago. Cafe con Cioccolato Fondente.  I just wanted to share my photo with the world (well, with everyone in my world – readers of the blog!). xxx

amazing icecream picture

Posted by: jameshensman | November 5, 2009


As regular readers will know, I’m helping a delightful pair of children with their English. They are Marco and Katriana, both 12. Their English is quite astounding – when asked to name an animal for each letter of the alphabet, they came up with things like ‘hummingbird’, ‘antelope’, ‘beaver’. Wow. I was rather concerned that they would end up teaching me things…

… Until they suggested ‘Ippopotamus’, for the letter I. I kindly pointed out this was missing a vital ‘H’. Yes, even when you shorten it to ‘Ippo’. And, no, you can’t have it as a correct answer even though you have spelled the remainder perfectly. I’m a hard task-master.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that at least one of the children speaks with an American twang. I can accept this – she has been to summer camps (there we go, it finds its way in so easily!) in the U.S. and it has obviously helped her English enormously, which is brilliant. However, I keep hearing a lot of American-English-isms and as I’m teaching English (in a Mary Poppins style), I’ve decided to try to put a stop to this. James and I have been compiling a list of Americanisms for them to avoid. Here it is so far:

It’s film, not movie

It’s football, and certainly not soccer…

Pavement — Sidewalk

Fringe — Bang

Noughts and crosses — Tic tac toe

Holiday — Vacation

Biscuit — Cookie

Sweeties, confectionery — Candy

Trousers — Pants

Crisps — Chips

Chips — Fries

Shop — Store

Shopping centre — Mall

Fizzy drink — Soda

Can anyone think of any more? Please leave a comment if so!

With lots of love from,

Amy xxx

p.s. I attach a picture which shows the inspiration for my style of teaching…

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