Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dirty Little Secret

I have a dirty, little secret. Look what I bought today at Lidl! It's sliced, wholewheat bread. Shhh, please don't tell anyone -- especially any Italians. I came home right away and made myself a ham sandwich with mustard. My mind is reeling with the edible possibilities of other sinful delights. I think I see some french toast in my near future, smothered in Mrs. Butterworth's syrup, courtesy of my much appreciated, dear sweet mother.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Poor Persimmons

It's been snowing with freezing temps for three days... so far.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Salsa di Mele

I just made homemade applesauce for the first time and it worked! I had some gravenstein apples that after a few weeks in the refrigerator had gotten somewhat soft. I like my apples firm, like my coffee. Wait, that's not the saying. Anyway I've never seen applesauce here in Italy -- not even at Lidl -- and I'm so pleased to be able to make it fresh. Bring on the pork chops!

3-4 pounds of peeler, cored and quartered apples
4 strips of lemon peel
Juice of 1 lemon
3 inches of cinnamon stick
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of white sugar
1 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cover and boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes and remove from heat. Remove cinnamon stick and lemon peel and mash.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I (heart) Lidl

I love Lidl! Lidl is a Germany grocery retailer that provides me with international products. They feature food items from a different part of the world on a rotating basis. This is just a sample of what's been offered lately and the first time I have ever seen cheddar cheese in Italy! I bought two bricks. I suffer from the assumption that all this good food fortune could end tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Button Sprouts

I thought they were called brussel sprouts??

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Olive Tapenade

I was invited last minute, which is very common here in Italy, to join my neighbors for dinner last week. Not wanting to show up empty-handed I decided to create an olive tapenade from some leftover Puttanesca sauce I had on hand. I always thought my recipe would make a nice bruschetta topping and here was a chance to put my theory to the test. I put about 3/4 cup of the sauce into a mini electric chopper and added about 20 small, pitted olives, two anchovies, a tablespoon of capers, a large garlic clove, a drizzle of fresh olive oil and a small squeeze of fresh lemon. Flatteringly, the group declared it was a hit. I thought so too!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Painted Shoes

Don't even ask me, because I don't know. I saw these shoes outside a leather goods store in a hilltown in Tuscany, Montepulciano. Maybe they were a way to get people to stop and notice and then wander into the store to see what other oddities abound. In case you're wondering, I kept walking. Me, I'm more of a leather purse gal.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Chryanthemums always remind me of Thanksgiving.
Happy Turkey Day!!!
I'll be having roast duck here in Italy.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Angel Blessings

God bless my angel trumpet plant, it's blooming in November! It looks a bit like my persimmon tree all naked and bare except for its gift, these gorgeous and quite large white flowers. When I purchased the plant the nursery had no idea what color the flowers were. After several months, while I saw many other angel trumpet plants had bloomed I was still waiting patiently to find out what color mine was all the while secretly hoping it wasn't yellow although telling myself yellow would be just fine. Finally tiny, tiny green buds appeared that oh-so-slowly turned into long green closed blooms. Also arriving was some very cold weather and all its leaves were turning yellow and dropping and none of the many blooms were opening. I had little hope of finding out what color the plant was this year. Then miraculously and quite slowly the buds began to open, one by one. Unfortunately, they need some warmer weather to release the intoxicating perfume within. Next year, my uber garden year. Bring it on!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Difficulty Speaking

I've been speaking Italian long enough now that this shouldn't be happening, but every once in a while I have an air bubble in the brain... When recently asked to read something I responded in Italian "Without my ears I can't read anything!" What I meant to say was without my glasses, which are occhiali, I couldn't read anything. The word for ears is somewhat similar, orecchi. Orecchi, occhiali, either way, I still couldn't read it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy November

Happy November!
A belated Happy Halloween!
And Happy All Saints Day here in Italy!


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cash Crop

Look look, I lied! But not on purpose, I promise. Since these were hidden beneath the dirt, I didn't realize my garden had actually produced more than a handful of anything.  I had thrown a few small potatoes in the ground towards the end of summer as an experiment. You know, nothing ventured nothing gained sort of thinking. After a few days of rain here the ground was soft enough to put a shovel into so I did and this was my reward, buried gold! This should be enough to feed me and a mouse or maybe two!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Harvest

Not enough to make wine, but enough to be proud of! I was told that last year my two young grape vines didn't produce anything. I don't know what I did correctly, but I'm very pleased. This was about the most prolific thing my garden produced this year. I don't want to say that my garden was pathetic or anything, but it was. I think the most pathetic thing was me actually. When I was purchasing vegetables plants I only bought one or two of each type because I had high hopes of a megacrop yield. You know how a single tomato or zucchini plant can be and I'm a single person household. I didn't want to grow too much. Well other than these grapes, I didn't grow enough of anything to feed a mouse. Next year, that's gonna be my uber garden year!

American Pizza

Will someone please tell me as an American
the last time you ordered a pizza with corn on it?


Lost September

What happened to September?? I can't believe it's almost mid-October and about two months since I last posted. Can I play the "I've been busy" card? I was having too much fun with my dear sister Sandra who was here for three weeks in September. Included in the fun, we both were ill. Can I play the "I've been busy" card AND the "I've been sick" card? I think that should take care of two months of blogging inactivity, don't you?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Olive Grove

Random beauty on a foggy morning in San Martino.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Certificato di Residenza

Yahoo, I have my Italian residency!!! I inquired about residency at the town hall in Lisciano Niccone soon after I purchased my house last November. They required two documents, one from a plumber and one from an electrician, stating that the house was to code. As things move very slowly here in Italy, it has taken me this long to obtain both documents. This is a picture of the secretary Clara registering my name in the town hall records. I was so excited to finally have my residenza that I wasn't one bit embarrassed to ask to take her picture. I told her I was going to frame it when I arrived home. She laughed. I was serious.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

La Nostra Festa

Sunday evening we celebrated La Festa del Carmine here in Val di Rose at the monastery. I made two types of crostini and helped serve them at the antipasti table. Next to us was the dessert table and darling Giulia pictured here was helping. She was having so much fun serving slices of cakes and crostate that when her mother said it was time to go home, she refused. I didn't want to see her leave either because she was really doing a very good job, cheerfully serving while swatting wasps away from the trays. Once we told her we'd love to have her help us again next year, she beamed and put the tongs down. Step away from the table Guilia. A la prossima! Until next time!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Fresh Eggs

Talk about fresh, you can see chicken feathers still stuck to a few eggs!
(Note: These eggs were purchased in a supermarket.)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Campari Cosmo

I have a new favorite cocktail that I'd like to share with you, it's called a Campari Cosmo. The recipe is as follows:
2 parts vodka
1 part Campari
1 part orange juice
Generous splash of triple sec
Shake with ice and serve chilled.
The only hitch for me here in Italy is that I have yet to locate a store where I can score a bottle of triple sec. Diligent as I am, I do have a small supply I brought with me for kicking margaritas up a notch, but it's getting very low. (Big hint.)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Recent Guest

I almost had a heart attack when I came face to face with this toad in my garden! And I do mean literally "face to face".  My gardening table is almost at eye level.  I keep a tray with water in it, sottovaso, to keep hydrated the plants I've purchased that are waiting to be put into larger pots.  Imagine my surprise to find this guy snuggled in between the pots when I was filling it with water!  Here's a thought, maybe I should kiss it and see if it turns into a handsome prince! On second thought, I'm not that desperate -- yet.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Language Barrier

I was returning home from garden shopping with my dear friend and neighbor Uli when we both noticed a young girl walking on the side of the road rather enthusiastically shaking her hips back and forth as she walked, enhanced by something written on her pants across her derriere. I laughed and said "Can I get some fries to go with that shake?" Uli looked at me sideways, which is not uncommon, and I tried to explain in Italian what I had just said in English. Thanks to the infiltration of the McDonald's food chain in Europe, it was easy to explain the shake part. Unfortunately, the whole thing just didn't translate. Oh well. We stopped the car a little farther up at the local bar and together enjoyed a prosecco with Campari. A good cocktail, a universal language.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


The L'infiorata takes place on the Sunday after Corpus Domini in June. Fresh flowers are used to design a religious theme and are simply laid in a design on the streets, not glued or affixed in any way. In Italy, we pray it isn't windy on that day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

La Ballerina

This is my neighbor's darling daughter, Sabina. She just celebrated her 11th birthday. Here she is on her way to dance class. She pouted and didn't want her picture taken, but then all of a sudden struck her pose. That's Sabi. One minute drama, the next minute smiles. The ease and speed with which she can change her demeanor is a strong indicator that she's going to be a fine actress when she grows up. I went to see her perform in Le avventure d'Alice nel paese delle meraviglie, Alice in Wonderland. She played a lobster. It was her first performance and I see many more in her future. If not on stage, anywhere she is.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lemon Biscotti

As a 'thank you' to my mother for having mailed her cookie sheets from California to Italy for me, I baked lemon biscotti for her. I love making biscotti. It's so much easier than regular cookie recipes. No messy, sticky teaspoons and fingers and ball forming. You make the dough, divide it in half, bake, remove and slice, and re-bake! Thus the name, biscotti, which means twice cooked in Italian.  

3 cups flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

2/3 cup butter

1 cup sugar
3 large eggs

1/2 tsp. lemon extract

Zest from 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix until smooth. Divide dough in half and roll into two logs about 12 inches long. Flatten top. Transfer logs to cookie sheets and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Let logs cool down slightly, then carefully transfer to a cutting board and cut crosswise into cookies about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer individual cookies back to cookie sheet. Bake again for about 5 minutes or until just dry. Makes about 40 biscotti. Yum!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cherry Tree

The cherries are here! The cherries are here! From my tree (smile).

Best Mother Ever

I have the best mother ever, she mailed me her old cookie sheets!  I've been dying to have them because you just can't find that quality anymore. It took her two attempts at the post office but yay for me she succeeded! Bless her for not giving up the first time after what it cost her! 

She didn't tell me she made a second attempt at sending them and it was the nicest surprise to find the package waiting for me at the front door! When I picked up the package, I could feel it was the cookie sheets inside.  I threw back my head and laughed with joy. I brought the package upstairs and was delighted to find a double-sided page of photocopied recipes also included!  How sweet is that!??  It made me cry and feel so very lucky that I have the best mom in the whole world.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fun Sister

This is my fun sister. No, she is not just now graduating high school. Her second son is graduating high school tomorrow. And no, she doesn't normally wear glasses -- except to read and don't we all after age 40? She's just fun and being goofy. We're silly together and call each other "sissie". She's coming to visit me for three weeks at the end of August alone without her boys, one of which is her husband. I am so looking forward to her visit and have been making lists of dishes to cook for her, places to visit with her, and chick flicks to watch without anyone interrupting her!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Morning Web

Random beauty in the corner of my pergola after a hard rain.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Simple Math

Cypress Tree + Ivy = Christmas Tree

(And no, it was not trimmed to that shape.)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Is This Heaven?

Is this heaven? Am I dead? I feel like death warmed over. I cut the grass in my yard entirely by myself for the first time -- and I can feel it. I've had a cold for a week now, but the grass didn't care. It needed to be cut. My entire body felt like cooked spaghetti the next day. You know, all flaccid and wobbly. Please note that I am unable to include in one photograph the entire area I mowed. Now my arm hurts again from patting myself on the back so hard.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Carrello Progetto

I was several minutes into my carrello progetto, cart project when I had my first (and I'd like to add only) mishap and decided I should document this event with a photograph in the event I was actually able to complete it. The mishap was nothing major, I had used the wrong screws to attached the bottom shelf to the side pieces and had to unscrew all of them. For someone who isn't particulary handy you have no idea how intimidated I was when I emptied the contents of the box onto the table to begin. Everything unidentifiable except the metal baskets. I had no idea that's how you make a drawer!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Scratch 'n Sniff

Can you smell that?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tuna Sandwich

This open-faced sandwich was sooooo good -- and sooooo simple to make! I titled it "Tuna Sandwich" but there's much more than tuna going on here. I first toasted a slice of hearty bread and then sliced fresh tomato onto the bread and sprinkled a bit of salt on the slices. Then a layer of fresh basil leaves, some buffalo mozzarella, a sprinkling of tuna packed in water (minus the water, of course) and then some finely chopped red onion. oh, and the real clincher is to drizzle e.v.o.o. (how foodnetwork is that?) and balsamic vinegar on top before enjoying.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Chiesa San Niccolo

This is the inside of my little church Chiesa San Niccolo, Church of Saint Nicholas. Hey, this could be Santa's church. I digress, it's on the end of the monastery structure that contains three apartments, one of which is mine. Although it's open every Sunday for prayers and/or viewing, mass is held only once a year on Christmas Eve. I have yet to see anyone inside this church on a Sunday other than my cats and the neighbor's dog, Leo.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Spring!

Ahhhh, now THAT says Spring!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Spring?

It's the first day of Spring! Or wait, is it Christmas again??

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gardening 101

Look, I have a vegetable garden! Well it's not an actual vegetable garden yet, but it will be soon! After a little hoeing and weed-pulling and planting and watering and more weed-pulling and watering....

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Brat Cat

This is my willful one, Zoey. She has always preferred drinking from my water glass as opposed to the designated animal water bowl that's on the floor. Knowing this, I usually move an unattended glass of water to a place that's out of her reach. Where there's a will, there's a way. Note that she's standing on her tippy-toes to reach the glass that's almost but not quite far enough left of the chair.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

While taking my usual walk I came across this empty 1.5 liter bottle of wine with two plastic cups set atop on the side of the path. Isn't that romantic... sigh.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Small Splurge

.Cream-filled doughnut, devil be thy name. Doughnut, a nut of dough. Sounds appetizing doesn't it? Or let's consider the variation in spelling, donut, which to me resembles "do not" quite a bit. Once a year around this time I take a trip to California for an extended period. I visit family and friends, purchase supplies, and eat cuisine not readily available to me in Italy. As you can see, although doughnuts are available in Italy there is certainly not the variety we have back in the states. Once a year I usually treat myself to something decadent like an apple fritter or a glazed buttermilk or who can resist a chocolate old-fashioned doughnut! This year I am unable to make my pilgrimage and I'm starting to feel the affects. A boring sugar doughnut that tasted like a little bit of heaven/California.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Family Outing

These are my shadows, Zoey, Sydney and Nina (front to back). I can't go outside without the entire troop in tow. Don't get me wrong, we all need fresh air and exercise and I do enjoy their company, but taking a walk with this group is more painstaking for me than it is beneficial. I have to keep a constant eye on everyone since we are surrounded by forest, not to mention they have to stop every few feet and check out every little smell so I wait and watch much more than I walk. Yesterday in order to take a brisk walk by myself I had to discreetly put on my shoes, sneak out the backdoor, tiptoe down the path beside the church, walk along the brush behind the neighbors cars and then make a mad dash down the road all the while looking over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't being followed. I'm a fugitive.


Pasta Puttanesca

This is one of my favorite pasta sauces and best served with penne pasta. It's thick, rich and spicy and although I've never tried it I'm sure it would make a good bruschetta topping!

1 and 1/4 cups finely chopped onion
1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
12 Nicois olives, pitted, chopped
1 28-ounce can diced peeled tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 and 1/2 tablespoons drained capers
1 and 1/2 tablespoons chopped anchovy fillets
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Add onion and garlic to olive oil in a large skillet. Reduce heat and simmer until onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, partially cover pot and simmer sauce until thickened slightly, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the cooked sauce in skillet. Toss lightly to mix.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Got Wood?

.When I moved here in mid-November I asked the prior owners how much wood to order but by January it was apparent I needed more. My second wood delivery arrived Friday, a father and son business. Because it's late in the season, it was mostly new wood so the father said he'd bring by a bag of kindling for me the next day with this wife to help fire up the fresh stuff. I asked how much and he said nothing, maybe a coffee or a glass of wine. The next day he arrived with his wife and THREE large bags of kindling! I had made lemon poppy seed bread to serve with wine or coffee but they couldn't stay. They were meeting their daughter and didn't want to be late, or maybe were just too shy to come inside. I raced upstairs and brought them down a hunk of the bread I made wrapped in paper napkins, I wish I could have offered more. As they were leaving I thanked and kissed them both (as is customary here, the double cheek thing) and told the wife she smelled nice (she actually did). She laughed and told me she'd been working with the sheep all day and that's what I was smelling. I'm so touched and grateful that I have experiences like that in my life -- and that people like that exist.

Monday, January 19, 2009

That's Cold!

.This is how cold it is at my house. I don't want to say they're mortal enemies, but Zoey kitty has blindsided Sydney Claire enough times that she's not usually allowed at this close proximity. It should be noted that it's not too difficult to blindside Sydney since she doesn't see well anymore.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Double Take

.There is a weekday game show here in Italy called "Uomini e Donne", "Men and Women" and it's sort of like The Dating Game but with yelling, a popular form of Italian communication. I only watch as a means of improving my language skills, of course. Ahem, well anyway I first saw Serena a few months ago on the show and she hooked up with an ex-boyfriend hottie soccer player after a long, bad break-up. They were madly in love again. I was quite surprised to see her on the show again last week and they kept referring to her as Elga. I thought to myself, who are they kidding? Did she break up again with the hottie soccer player and needs anonymity now? It turns out Elga is Serena's identical twin. As if one of these gorgeous women on the planet isn't enough? God is a man, I'm sure of it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gentle Giant

.This is Leo, he lives next door. He is a Maremmano, a breed of sheepdog that originates here in Italy. This breed is said to be a fierce wolf slayer. He's also a big baby and hates to be left alone. When my neighbors leave he sneaks inside my house and waits in the hallway at the top of the stairs all the while watching the door and listening for their return. This time he brought a snack with him. A small chunk of bread that he had tucked inside his cheek and set gently down at his feet to begin his watch. How cute is that?

Monday, January 05, 2009

No Complaints

.Random beauty a few minutes from my house towards Passignano.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Outrageous Prices

.Almost 7 euro for a box of cookie mix!??! Who pays that much?? I don't even want to think what that box would cost in U.S. dollars with the current exchange rate. This is why I keep an ongoing 'wish list' of food items and household products that I would like from the states either because they're too expensive to buy here or they're simply not available and when friends and family comes to visit me I ask them to transport goods. Actually, I don't have to ask. They are usually kind enough to ask me what they can bring. Someone like myself, who always travels with my bags packed to the maximum weight, can really appreciate what it's like to lug around two full suitcases. A big "Thank You!!!" to all those folks who love me enough to carry those extra few pounds -- or 50.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Buon Anno!

.Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Year filled with Joy and Love,
from my hearth to yours!