I was thrilled recently to win a custom carved stamp from the lovely Holly of Two Cheese Please. I’ve been a fan of her stamps for ages so I was over the moon to hear that I could choose whatever I liked and she would carve it for me.
Don’t you love the way she has perfectly captured the shape and character of the leaves complete with little insect nibbles. And that tiny, separate olive stamp just about killed me when I saw it.
Look how lovely it is on paper.
I settled on an olive branch because to say that I like olives would be like saying the Pope is fond of God. Yes my friends, Christmas and I have divorced (see this post) and olives and I are now getting married. Because I LOVE olives.
I love their silvery green leaves and the deep black of the ripe fruit. More than that, I love what they represent. Metaphorically olive trees represent longevity, strength, peace and prosperity and olive branches represent peace. Then there’s the fact that olive trees also nourish us physically with their fruit which, when pressed, produces that miraculous health-giving nectar: olive oil.
Living in Italy I had so many magical olive experiences. One was helping a friend’s father harvest the olives from their trees on their farm in the hills just outside of Rome. They were pressed on another nearby farm in an ancient stone olive mill. The resulting oil was nothing short of sublime and I eked out the two immensely precious bottles we were given as though it was liquid gold. Which it pretty much was.
Before we left the farm, my friend’s parents fed us the most delicious lunch of simple homemade lasagne, salad fresh from their garden and their own red wine. After a fortifying cafe we set off for home, our heads spinning with the sheer Italian-ness of it all.
Here’s my handsome husband setting up the nets to collect the olives as we raked them from the branches. Look at those grape vines too. This was one of those days that gets as close to perfection as you can imagine. Pretty much every day of the whole 3 years we lived there was like that for me though.
Another beautiful experience occurred in another tiny hill town in Lazio (the region in which Rome sits). After Sophia was born we became good friends with our gorgeous obstetrician, Nico, and his wife and when we returned to Italy for a holiday a couple of years later they very generously loaned us their country house in the Sabine Hills for a few days.
One crystalline afternoon we had a picnic on the grass terrace outside. We sourced prosciutto, local salami, crusty bread, cheese, wine and, of course, olives from the tiny alimentari in the local town and then sat, as if in some gorgeous dream, and soaked up the stunning views.
It was November, olive harvesting season, and we could hear the voices of the workers from nearby farms ringing out over the valley that spread beneath us as they laughed and joked as they worked. After a while, some workers from the farm next door began to collect in the trees right on the edge of our terrace.
One man propped his wooden ladder against the tree and began raking the olives down as the other spread the nets beneath. After a quarter hour or so, a woman appeared with a basket from which she produced bread, a small flagon of wine and a hunk of cheese for the men. It was a rural Italian vignette unchanged for centuries and I held my breath as I watched it unfold. One of those extraordinarily precious moments in time.
I strongly regret not taking a photo of them but I was afraid to disturb the scene. Instead, here is one taken a little while earlier of our picnic laid out in the Autumn sun.
And here’s the sunset that night with olive silhouettes.
When we were house hunting for the house we live in now, I knew as soon as I saw the courtyard that had little but 4 beautiful olive trees that this was the house for us. Of course, I liked the rest of the house too but the olive trees just sealed the deal for me.
They do bear fruit and here’s a little one I spied hiding today.
We harvested them last year. This photo was taken just before we began our biblical brining: soaking them and rinsing them for 40 days and 40 nights.
And then there is my most amazing Olive experience of all.
Yep, I love a good olive. Thanks so much Holly. I just adore my stamp.
PS: You would be forgiven for thinking I had totally forgotten about my Valentine’s giveaway. In fact I haven’t, but it has taken me a little while to track down the winner and I didn’t want to make an announcement until I had managed to actually find her! Thank you all for your romantic comments. The lucky winner was Kelsea. Congratulations Kelsea. Your clip will be winging its way across the ocean to you very soon.