Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

.Christmas time in Italy is beautiful! Cold, but beautiful. Buon Natale a tutti!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Permesso di Soggiorno

.Anyone staying in Italy for more than 8 days needs to apply for a Permesso di Soggiorno, Permit of Stay. Basically, every foreign national needs to register at the police station. If you are staying in a hotel or vacation rental, they should register you themselves (this is why they record the information on your passport when you check in). If staying with family, friends or at your own residence, they you need to go to the local questura, police station and do so within 8 business days of arriving. I applied for my permit in mid-April of 2007. This process used to take a few weeks, but fortunately (not!) for me, the system was changed in March 2007. It has taken almost two years (slight exaggeration, but not much) to obtain my permesso. High five and Merry Christmas to me!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

La Parrucchiera

.This is my hairdresser, Cristina. She is amazing and amazingly beautiful. The first time she cut my hair I had her cut it in the style she was wearing at the time. This last time I went to get my hair cut by her, I was disappointed to see she had her hair pulled back into a ponytail. I thought she was going through one of those "growing it out" phases. Anyway, she asked how I wanted my hair cut and I told her I had wanted to see her hair. It wasn't actually a request, just a simple statement. God love her, she immediately started pulling out pieces to show me the lengths. She completely messed up her slicked back hair and didn't give a second thought to fixing it again. I love that. I love her. I now have bangs too, by the way. Oh-oh, am I a stalker?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cypress Trees

...Random beauty in Pischiello, Umbria.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Happy November!

.I love November, I always have. Oh sure, the days are shorter and a bit colder, but it's the month of my birthday, it has Thanksgiving, and this year it's when I'll be moving into my new home! Oh, and my mother will be inspecting -- i mean visiting me for two weeks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

La Stalla

My dear friend Suzanne visited me recently and at the recommendation of her mother, she wanted to go to Asisisi (photo courtesy of Suzanne). Assisi is a wonderful city to visit full of history and beauty, but for me the highlight of our visit was having lunch again at La Stalla, The Stables, a countryside trattoria. It was formerly livestock stalls and is made of stone walls and low-beamed ceilings with long, wooden communal tables. I had eaten there once before several years ago and it was a fun and memorable experience. Suzanne ordered the sausage with polenta and a ragu sauce, delicious. I had grilled lamp chops and polenta al forno, a baked polenta with sliced mushrooms and topped with a layer of gooey cheese. Ahhh....

Mustard Rabbit

Yes, rabbit. It's very common to cook rabbit here in Italy and it's very tasty. Of course you can substitute chicken, but it's really not as delicious. The next time I make this -- because this was my first time but I intend to make it often -- I am going to try adding mushrooms. Hmmm, porcini or champignon?

1 rabbit, cut into pieces with bones

2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 slices pancetta, diced

1-1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup white wine

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup cream

2 tablespoons flour
3-4 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Rinse rabbit pieces under cold water and drain well. Salt and pepper the meat.
Generously drizzle olive oil into a pot. Brown the pieces and put aside.

Fry onions and diced pancetta for about five minutes in the same pot the meat was in, stirring frequently. Add the wine and stock and bring to a boil while stirring often. Add browned meat and thyme leaves. Cover with a lid and cook over low heat for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Add cream and the Dijon mustard. Cook for a few minutes on the stove until the sauce is creamy. Remove about a 1/4 cup and mix in flour (more or less as needed). Stir until mixture thickens.
Serve over pappardelle noodles.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


.Well I found Shangri-La -- and I bought it! It's a 3 bedroom/2 bath home in a monastery dating back to the 11th century nearer to where I was before in Tuoro sul Trasimeno just north of the lake. "What!??", you say. "11th Century??" Yes, it's very old but it's been renovated about 14 years ago and they did a lovely job. There are three cellars beneath the house that I hope to one day make into a vacation rental. Did I mention that there is a pergola in the garden covered with passion flower? There are fruit trees too! Now please start clicking like mad on the google ads here on the site so I can pay for all this...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Black Truffles

.Tartufo! Mmm, what an earthy smell. Pasta with freshly grated black truffles is the most simple, yet elegant tasting dish to prepare. Flavor a generous amount of olive oil in a large pan with 1-2 bruised cloves of garlic. Remove them when slightly browned and add the grated truffle and a pinch of salt. Cook approximately five minutes and then add cream. Serve over cooked fettuccine noodles with some freshly grated parmesan.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Panicale Pastels

Random beauty in Panicale, Umbria.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Parking Meters

.Warning! Do NOT put your credit card into this machine! Here's my tale of woe. I was in a hurry and didn't have enough coins to feed the meter so I ASSUMED the slot in the machine where my credit card fit nicely was indeed intended for a credit card. So I put my card into the slot and nothing, absolutely nothing happened. After pushing every button on the machine several times without effecting any change, I decided to read what was written beneath the "credit card" slot. Apparently, the slot was for a parking card. So why did the machine accept my card then??? Something else to add to my "Only in Italy" file. I had to contact the police to retrieve my card.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Pink Doors

.Random beauty in Castiglion Fiorentino, Tuscany.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sweet Corn

Corn, glorious corn! Fresh corn on the cob! Beautiful sweet golden kernels! In Italy corn is grown primarily as pig feed. Pig is big here. Prosciutto, pancetta, sausages, and a few parts they use that you probably don't want to know about. It's hard to find fresh corn on the cob like this and when you do, you pay. 1,80 euro for these two! But I was willing to pay their extortionate prices because the cobs I have seen this year looked like they'd been on the shelf too long -- because Italians don't eat corn this way, they eat polenta -- and my craving was worsening. Guess what's for dinner tonight?

Sydney Claire

Yes, my dog has a middle name. I use it when she's been very bad, "Sydney Claire!!!" It's very effective. She has been my best friend and faithful companion for 12 years. My sister jokes it's too bad she can't get frequent flyer miles because she goes back and forth from Italy to California as often as I do. She's a trooper, this one. About four years ago Sydney developed diabetes and has to get insulin shots twice a day for the rest of her life. Yep, my little schmoopy really is a trooper -- and the best darn dog in the whole world!

Friday, August 01, 2008

La Nina

.Nicknamed La Nina, La Pinta, La Santa Maria, she's a whole lot o' cat. I'm not one of those pet owners who insists it's just fur, she's on the chubby side. Beloved dog Sydney and I found Nina in an olive grove in Umbria while taking a walk in May of 2002.  As always happens, she was alone, crying, tiny (she really was tiny then, I swear!) I tried to give her away for an entire month. Unfortunately, giving away a kitten in the Italian countryside is like trying to give snow to Eskimos. When I finally did find someone who wanted to take her, it was too late. I was attached. I hate how that happens when you're not looking.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monkey Zoey

Baby Monkey Zoey is her full name, but now that's she's a year old I'm trying to wean her off 'baby". I just can't seem to lose the monkey though. She stands on her hind legs and reaches up to be held still, like a little monkey. This is my willful child. That's a nice way of saying 'brat'. My beloved dog Sydney and I found her on one of our walks, alone and crying, eyes crusted shut, tiny little thing in some weeds outside a church in Tuscany. She had me at "meow".

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fabulous Figs


Fig trees are everywhere in this region of Italy and it's harvest time! I'm a huge fan of the fig and my fig trees are full. Life is good. I've been surfing the net for recipes. Some of my favorites I found are fig and banana smoothie, fig-lemon jam, fig ricotta pie, fig almond bundt cake, balsamic fig sauce, and how about fig tart with black olive ice cream! Then there's always my absolute favorite, fig with goat cheese and prosciutto. I can feel my pants shrinking already -- again...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lemon-Lime Squeezer


Look, it's a spremi limone, a lemon-lime squeezer! It only cost 1 euro AND it works! Put in your orders now before we run out of stock. Supplies are limited.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Baby Bird


Look what I found! A mass of down and pink parts. I discovered him hunkered down in the grass beside the house frightened to death. Too young to try flying yet, I think someone pushed him out of the nest. Okay, it could've been accidental. Either way, It's a good thing I didn't step on him or worse yet that one of my two cats didn't find him first! Everyone assured me that he wouldn't make it more than a few hours, but I put him in a cozy bed and covered him to make him comfortable. Every couple of hours I checked to see if he was still breathing and finally around 10pm I gave him some water mashed with canned dog food (I'd done some online research). We were sitting watching TV together, the bird cupped in my hand, when I heard the faintest 'peep'. At first, I thought it was something on the television, but I put him close to my ear and the little dear was actually periodically peeping. Hope! I went to sleep and woke the next morning, somewhat hesitant yet anxious to check on my patient. I slowly pulled back the cover and he was still alive! I already had an appointment by the vet at 4pm for my cat, but living here in Italy where animals serve a purpose -- you either eat them or they work for you -- I was sure they would snap his tiny little neck and throw him in the bin without a moment's hesitation. I had resigned myself to having to rear him myself, but not looking forward to trying to keep the cats away from him. I was soooooo pleased to learn that in fact there was a woman who lives in Magione who takes care of orphaned birds! Although I had already formed an attachment, I drove to Magione and handed him over. He's now in the good care of Ivania. God bless Ivania, and a shout-out to my peep!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Iced Coffee

...This is SO delicious! I know it's nothing new to you Starbuck's, Peet's, Deaf Dog and other coffee boutique frequenters, but it's a revelation to me. I'm not a huge coffee drinker, but I am a coffee drinker. In the morning I like my latte. By the way, if you want to order it in a cafe in Italy it's called a latte macchiato, which literally means stained coffee. If you order a latte you'll get a glass of milk. I've seen it happen. Anyway, the temperature here has been hovering around 100 degrees for over two weeks. Although the air is fresh outside in the morning, it's still warm inside the house. Almost too warm to drink my daily morning latte. I only make it halfway through. This is what I'm doing with the other half! YUM!!!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Blue Shutters


.Just another random photo of something that caught my eye.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Outdoor Theaters


This is the outdoor theater in Castiglione del Lago in Umbria.  It's inside the castle fortress which dates back to 1247!  I've been to three outdoor theaters here in Italy.  My first time was in Perugia in the Giardini del Frontone, Frontone Gardens.  I think that's the first time I saw fireflies in Italy.  We used to have them back in Kentucky.  It was so enchanting to watch them spark about -- but I digress.  The other outdoor theater I've frequented is in Cortona in the park just outside Piazza Garibaldi.   Of course these theaters are only open in the summertime when the weather permits.   Many theaters in Italy offer viewing of films in their original language especially during the summer months to accommodate travelers.  It's easy to find a program, usually in town at the information office.  All the outdoor theaters have a little kiosk selling sodas and popcorn as well as wine and panini.  How fun is that!?  Regardless of the length of the film, it is always stopped halfway and there is an intermission.  Time to refill your wine glasses, signore e signori, ladies and gentlemen!    

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Flying Monkeys


I was watching a very interesting show last weekend on one of the five Italian channels that gives me "viewable" reception.  The white beach with it's clear, crystal water caught my eye.  We quickly moved inland to watch elephants forage for food.  There was a fruit very similar to a coconut but with a harder shell that the elephants couldn't crack open with their mouths, so they stabbed it with a tusk and then stepped on it.  Interesting.  Then we went into the trees to watch monkeys eating leaves and learned that although the leaves are poisonous to eat, the monkeys have enzymes in their stomaches to easily digest them.  These enzymes would kill humans.  Interesting.  Then we zoom across to the trees to a huge bird taking off in flight.  Back to the monkey eating leaves.  Back to the bird.  Back to the monkey being carried off by the bird still clutching the leaves in his tiny fist.  I have never changed a channel so fast in all my life.  I didn't think I was going to find what happened next to be very "interesting".

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Pasta Pomodorini (Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes)

1/4 Pound Spaghetti
20-30 Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves

Red Pepper Flakes (according to taste)

Fresh Parmesan

Cut tomatoes in half, add a pinch of salt and toss together in a bowl. Let sit. Meanwhile, smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and sauté in heated olive oil. Add pepper flakes. Sauté until garlic is lightly browned. Add chopped tomatoes and any liquid from the tomatoes. Add ½ teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook on very low heat until the tomato halves begin to fall apart, usually about 45 minutes. I open the lid frequently to check that the liquid hasn’t all evaporated and give the toms a smash to squeeze out the juices once they’ve started softening. Once they’ve started softening, start your pasta. When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the tomatoes in the sauté pan. Toss lightly to mix.
Top individual servings with fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 2

Note: If the tomato mixture gets too dry I sometimes add a little white wine while it's cooking or you can also add some of the cooked pasta water afterwards.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Poppy Field

Now that's RED! Isn't it beautiful? These poppies are everywhere this time of year!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Learning Italian


I’m sorry to report that there’s no quick fix for learning to speak another language. I wish there were because I’d be at the front of that line! In my experience, the only way to get there is by hard work -- and opening your mouth. I took a course at L'Universita per Stranieri, the University for Foreigners, in Perugia (pictured above) in 2000, but for a long time I was too terrified to open my mouth for fear of making a mistake. Then, I read somewhere that you don’t become a concert pianist the moment you sit down at the bench and it clicked. It takes practice and, oh yes my friends, mistakes to get there. Let's see, I’ve ordered a snack (spuntino) at the hairdresser’s instead of a trim (spuntatina) and fish (pesche) ice cream instead of peach (pesca) and in the early years when someone was trying to explain that their homemade wine was pure grapes, I told him I understood there were no preservativi inside, condoms. Those are only a few and I’m sure there are many more to come, but it's certainly amusing along the way.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

May Snow

Snow in May!!!
... and here's the culprit!

It's difficult to capture a good picture of this fluff in flight, but it literally fills the air on even a slightly windy day. I'm not exaggerating. Driving in your car, you instinctively want to turn on your windshield wipers. And if you open your windows or doors for more than a moment, it's everywhere inside your car or house. It makes me want to sneeze just looking at the photo!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Good Morning

I had raisin bran this morning! It might not sound exciting to you, but I've been having a craving for it. I went grocery shopping at one of the largest grocery stores we have here hoping I could find it. The closest I found was bran flakes with chocolate bits, hmm. So, I bought plain bran flakes and put raisins in myself and although it wasn't officially Post Raisin Bran, my craving was satisfied! Now, how do I make Lucky Charms cereal....

Isola dei Famosi


Isola dei Famosi
, Celebrity Island, is a reality show inspired from the format "Celebrity Survivors" which I guess you could call a spin-off of the original "Survivor" show. Out of curiosity I did watch almost the entire 2003 season. At the start of the challenge, the contestants were dropped offshore and they swam to the beach where their bags have already been dropped. The first thing the women did when they reached their bags, was to pull out their hairbrushes and begin primping. Do they do that on Survivor?

Stumbling Around

I love just driving around and stumbling upon places like this! This is Il Porto in Umbria. I chose to take an unpaved, pot-holed backroad, not really knowing where I would end up, and arrived at this beautiful backside view. Actually, Il Porto is better viewed from the backside I discovered.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spaghetti alla Fornaia (Baker's Spaghetti)

.This is an easy recipe that you often see on the menu at the restaurants here in Umbria. I gathered the walnuts on our walk, but you can purchase them any time of year here in the larger supermarkets. The packaged walnuts I've seen here are from California. Go figure.

1-1/2 cups walnuts
3 garlic cloves
1/2 extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces fine dry bread crumbs
1 pount spaghetti
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley

Chop the nuts and garlic finely with a knife.
In a skillet over low heat, warm half of the olive oil. Add the nuts, garlic and bread crumbs and fry until the garlic is just golden, about five minutes. Season to taste with salt.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring at least six quarts salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about seven minutes. Drain and tip into a warm serving bowl.
Add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and the nut sauce to the spaghetti and toss well.
Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.

Serves 6
Lorenza de' Medici's Tuscany, The Beautiful Cookbook

Note: I like lots of sauce on my pasta, so I used less pasta.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Vantage Point

.Living in a hill town has its advantages, or should I say it has its vantage points? This is the southern view from my back balcony. I don't think I could ever be happy living in the low lands. Never say never, but probably never...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Snow Day

.It can get cold living in a hill town! Since I moved to Monteleone in November, it has snowed and hailed several times. A few days before Easter, it snowed ALL DAY LONG! It was soooo cold, my hands froze going out for just a few minutes to the wood pile to retrieve logs for the fire. I stayed in my pajamas all day long (shhh!) and enjoyed the wood burning stove while outside life was at a standstill. A friend commented that she thought this picture was in black and white... it's not.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Road Trip

.This is my me 'n my nephew, Colin, who came to visit me from California in September of 2007. We joined my brother Dan and his girlfriend Kathryn on a road trip down south to stay at an agriturismo, farmhouse, in the Maremma. It was a lot of fun to spend time with family, we went to the thermal baths at Saturnia and also visited some Etruscan tombs dating back to around 500BC! Not only is it a fun picture because it was a fun time, but right now I like to look at it because although it may be snowing outside here in Monteleone, we were warm in that picture!

P.S. Isn't he cute!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Lamp Thing


I have a thing about lamps. I also have a thing about shoes, a thing about coats and a whole lot of other things, but today the subject is my lamp thing. I'm going to have to purchase a large home with many bedrooms for all my lamps. There are small ones, medium ones, big ones, old ones, new ones..... This one was purchased from the local flea market in Passignano which is held every third weekend of the month, but the shade is courtesy of Ross (yes, Ross as in "Dress for Less" and buy a $2 lamp shade!)