Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Good-bye Pig, Hello Sausage!

I watched fresh pork sausage being made the other day!

These are the pig's intestines.
They have been stretched out then wrapped around a hand into individual bundles.

After soaking the intestines in vinegar, they're cleaned all the way through with more vinegar.

Then a machine with a crank handle fills the intestines with ground, seasoned pork.

Finally, the intestines are tied off into sausages. I like mine grilled!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Buon Natale!

If you lived here this is what you would be getting from me for Christmas this year. FOUR different types of biscotti, a cute Christmas tree ornament and a fabulous storage jar! I don't suppose this is going to prompt anyone to move here, is it? Did I mention that I made the biscotti myself???

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bloody Mary Sunday

Of course Bloody Marys aren't only for Sundays, it's just that it's become a ritual for me to enjoy them on Sundays. Amore always grills something over wood coals in the fireplace while I enjoy a Bloody Mary -- or two, but no more than two (I swear.) This recipe was passed on to me from my dear friend Valerie who received it from a friend of hers and now I'm sharing it with you. It's the best! I'm not including measurements because that's subjective, don't you think? I like em spicy! Not everyone does. Weenies.
I start with half a glass of crushed ice and add
Horseradish sauce
Worcester sauce
Tabasco sauce
Muddle, muddle, muddle to mix well then add
Spicy tomato juice
Healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice
One more muddle
Top off with whole ice cubes

Note: You can also put in veggies like cocktail onions, pickled string beans or a stalk of celery as garnish. I like to just throw in a bar straw and enjoy immediately!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Spirit

Can you tell I ate five of these before I was able to snap a photo? My neighbor dropped these off for us today. How sweet, giving cookies just because. I'm making cookies also, but I'm giving them as gifts, not just because. Now I feel bad. I think it's a Catholic thing. I'm learning to get over it. I only feel a little bad.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Music Video Flashback

Paul Anka, Io ho in mente te. Or back in the states, You were on my mind.  Recognize it?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Standing Room Only

I really should have taken a "before" picture of the legnaia, woodshed (except it's not really a woodshed, it's below the house) when it was empty. It's two rows deep to the right and three rows deep in the center and to the left. I hope it's enough wood for the winter ....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful

Guest blogger sissie has arrived…that title is not about me; it’s my dog. The one that ate the buttons off the cushions (see last blog entry). I swear if she wasn’t so cute…how many times have I started a sentence with that? You see, our girl Bella, is a rescue dog. What, you ask, is a rescue dog? Sometimes it’s a dog that needs rescuing and sometimes it’s the owners that need rescuing AFTER rescuing a dog. Are we crazy? We are home #5. That’s right; FIVE different homes in her young life. We don’t really know/care why. All we know is a) she eats buttons b) cushions c) blankets d) POTTERY (I swear this is true)-only the terra cotta so far. Okay, okay, lets be fair. She USED to eat all of the above, but doesn’t anymore. She’s doing (as we say) “a lot better”. A lot better. People who know us ask us all the time, “How’s your dog doing?” In the next breath they add, “She is soooooooo pretty.” We cringe and cover her ears, knowing full well she has gotten by on her good looks and charm for much of her life. That and the big “P”…personality. My sister likes to say our dog has a big personality. Look closely at that tag. Can you read it? It says, “Good Dog.” Isn’t it the cutest? Unfortunately it lasted about three hours before she somehow broke it. It’s ceramic, adorable and made by the lovely and extremely talented Rae Dunn. I just checked her etsy shop and I didn’t see anymore. I bought this a while ago in Berkeley. I picked up one for my sister’s dog, too. Sydney Claire still has hers click here. I’m pleased as punch my dog eats buttons (okay, only sometimes)…otherwise my sister wouldn’t have this. The End. Posted by Zandra…….

Friday, October 15, 2010

Completed Project

It's taken months, but I have finally completed one of those projects that initially seems easy but turned out to be quite a task. God bless my sister who back in January brought me two feather cushions and their cases minus buttons which had been chewed off by her dog. More than once she has heard me complain about how difficult it is to find good cushions here in Italy so she lugged them across continents for me. I'm sure higher end stores here carry nice cushions but not the stores I frequent. It's times like these that I miss Marshall's... sigh. Well, I immediately purchased some adorable buttons from my favorite used store (told you I don't shop high end!) that looked as though perhaps they were previously on a military uniform. Unfortunately, they were too big for the button holes and the work of enlarging the holes wasn't anything I was interested in doing. My next button purchase was a bag of mixed buttons, different shapes and colors. How fun is that?!! Great idea, but I tried eyeballing the size of the button holes and it turned out that none of the buttons were the correct size. Then it finally dawned on me to find a single button that fit the button hole and put it in my purse as a measure. I put it in my coin purse so it wouldn't get lost. Do you know how many times I tried to pay for something with that button? Many, many. But it did finally pay off when shopping at another used store I stumbled upon two large bags of buttons and purchased more than I needed because by this time I had forgotten how many buttons I actually needed. Next came the tedious task of actually sewing on eight buttons. Here's my secret for completing tasks that are less than desirable. For every button I sewed on I read an entry of a favorite blog. Okay, it may take longer to complete a task this way but as Mary Poppins says "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down!" High five Mary! Or is it the pound thing now? Here in Italy they don't do either.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wild Pigs

Yum, cinghiale!!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Honey What.....

Did I mention I have an Italian boyfriend? Oh yeah, I do. Anyway, we were at the family garden (actually I would call it more of a "U-Pick Farm", it's a wonderland of produce!) the other day picking some corn, beans and whatnot when we came across this melon. Amore asked me if i know this melon. Not personally you realize, it's a language thing. "Of course!" I say, " It's green inside." After all it's an ordinary honeydew melon, right? He laughs at me and tells me it's orange inside and I brush this off as yet another of his infinite teases because it's humorous to poke fun at the Americana. Imagine my shock, surprise and utter disbelief when I cut into it and in fact it was orange! Huh?? Have I been living under a rock, or do we have these in California?

Friday, August 06, 2010

Love Seat

I want this oak tree in my yard.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Apologies

Sorry, I've been having a bout of blogger burnout. Hopefully, I've recovered and will resume with regular posts! While I was away I went to Abruzzo to meet my brother and his girlfriend and they took me to this small town called Sumona that is famous for making flowers and other small objects with candy-covered almonds called confetti. They're ... um ... interesting. But what the heck do you do with them?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stormy Skies

Stormy skies do make a lovely background, don't they? Every cloud has a silver lining.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

My beautiful strawberries are starting to mildew. There has not been enough sun and heat for the vegetable garden nor for my pots of flowers that are starting to get root rot. The unusually cold winter managed to kill several plants that have been with me for years. Now this rain and more rain. What's next, locust? I don't mean to complain, forgive me. I have so many blessings in my life. But it's starting to get to me. The sun came out briefly yesterday. As soon as I saw it I ran upstairs to change and go out for a walk. Minutes later as I raced downstairs and out the door, the sun was already gone again. I could not, would not, did not let this detour me. When I reached the top of the hill the skies opened up and it dumped rain on me for 10 minutes as I clung to a large oak tree hoping not to float away. I'm beginning to prune.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pitter-Pat Ka-pow

The other day I thought I heard a cat scratching furniture upstairs so I crept stealth-like up the stairs to catch one of them in the act. As I reached the top of the stairs I realized the sound was coming from the roof. Tiny little feet running back and forth across the tiles. This all seemed very harmless to me and somewhat amusing until I tried to light a fire in the wood-burning stove a few days later and the living room filled with smoke. It seems that something (the cats are off the hook here) had built a nest in the chimney. Now it's too rainy to have anyone go up on the roof and clear out the chimney so I sit in the cold and envision being the owner of a BB gun.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Music Video Flashback

Four Tops, Reach Out.  Makes me want to get up and move!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

How Lucky!

I have a clover plant growing next to my back steps with several four leaf clovers on it!!! That's right, I used the plural "clovers". I counted at least three. Maybe i should start playing the lotto.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Two More Reasons

There are many reasons I love Italy. Here are two of my favorites, prosciutto and salame! On the left is an etto of hand-carved prosciutto for which I paid 1.47 euro and on the right is an etto of aged salame seasoned with fennel that cost me 1.05 euro. I don't wish to sound like a snob BUT... the quality of the meat here in Umbria is amazingly good AND inexpensive. Praise the pig and pass the vino! Vegetarians, please forgive me.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

So It Begins

Very soon there will be entire fields filled with seas of red poppies!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Seriously Now

Did you notice that the price of this Heinz Classic Cream of Tomato Soup is 3.29 euro? Seriously now, who pays that much for canned soup? Mind you, it's not even a large can. I can't imagine that Americans are paying that much for a taste of canned homeland. Are Italians paying that much to sample American soup? I doubt that either when here there exists soups like ribollita and minestrone. I'm glad that this store is progressive enough to offer items like this but seriously now,


Monday, April 12, 2010

Key Ingredients

Smoked pancetta, fresh garlic and dried red peppers are my secret weapon in the kitchen. These are the key ingredients to a guaranteed crowd-pleasing dish. They add a spicy richness to any pasta sauce, soup, frittata, you name it. Another secret of mine is that I first flavor the olive oil with the garlic. This is done by crushing the clove with the flat side of a knife and then allowing it to saute slowly over a low heat, browning it slightly. Then add the diced pancetta and pepper flakes. When the pancetta is starting to brown, I often add a splash of white wine and cook until it's evaporated. Now you're off and running! Get cooking!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Phase One

This is the year of the uber orto! I hired someone to help me so I won't be taking the lion's share of the credit but I am very excited about doing it right this year and having a decent yield. My gardener is a little, old guy named Giovanni who sometimes makes the scrunched face at me when I speak Italian. So far, the dirt inside the garden has been tilled and we're planting this week because it's the correct phase of the moon. I'm allowed to purchase beans, onions and lettuce. It's too early for tomatoes although they're available in the nursery now and I drool at them as I walk past. Apparently I'm at too high of an altitude. I often notice when I go down near the lake that things are already in bloom long before they bloom up here. But I figure I'm closer to heaven so it doesn't bother me. I can wait.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Merry March??

We had a blizzard here yesterday!!! This was the view out of my kitchen window, if you can call it a view. It started snowing with gale winds at about 10:30 in the morning. I've never seen anything like it. My neighbor Uli said in her 20 years here, neither had she. The few times I ventured outside my footprints were covered again in snow within minutes, as though I'd never been there. At around 6:30 I decided it was time to baton down the back door for the evening and there was dear Uli clearing the snow off my steps so that I would be able to get firewood the next day! I invited her in for a drink by the fire to warm herself inside and out. I warmed myself a little too... Please Lord, never let her move away.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Merry March!

Look what's popping up everywhere in my garden!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Snow Again

What a surprise, it snowed again! It snowed more this year than last, but nothing really to complain about. Mostly it's usually just a light dusting of snow like this. What's more annoying is the ice! I actually keep a box of rock salt near the backdoor to melt the ice on the stairs. It's amazing how that stuff works. You can actually hear it working. Hmmm, another video? My little neighbor Sabina and her best friend Anna made this drawing on the pavement in front of our church. The amount of snow was just enough to write in, but their snow angels didn't come out very well....

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rescue Plant

Marina Fa Mercato is one of my favorite places to shop. It reminds me a bit of Target, one of those stores that has a little bit of everything. At the entrance is their plant and flower section. As usual upon entering I glanced around and saw an almost empty flat of bulbs, save for this one. The first hyacinth of the season, I immediately snagged it! After walking around the store a little while with it in my hand I noticed it was damaged, which was probably why it was the only one remaining in the flat. The buds were still closed, but I noticed it was smashed on one side and leaning badly. I didn't want to put it back because I felt sorry for it, but I really didn't want to pay full price for it either. I chatted up the salesgirl a bit and got it for half price, 50 centesimi! Am I for real or what? It still leans a bit to the side, but the perfume from this white beauty definitely says "Thanks for rescuing me!" every time I inhale it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Weather Conditions

Wow, look what my camera can do! Can you tell it's been raining for days and I have a touch of cabin fever? Tomorrow I'm baking... and probably reading more about what my camera can do.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Cat Comfort

Oh yeah, that looks comfortable. Nina likes to sleep in the wood basket. She had her eyes closed before I snapped the shot, but it's difficult to get near her without her opening at least one eye to watch what you're doing. No matter what the wood size and arrangement is in the basket, she finds a way to work her ... voluptuous frame in there. But are you really sure you're comfortable??

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Best Day

I am having the best day. I was supposed to drive my neighbors to the train station today and then do some grocery shopping but it's snowing! The weather forecast called for snow in the early morning, turning to rain by midday. It's almost 5pm and it hasn't stopped snowing. So, I made a fire in the kitchen fireplace, put on my 3 CD packs of 60's, 70's and 80's and started making soup. There was a lot of chopping vegetables involved. I think this is called labor intensive, or at least that's what I call it. As if I wasn't enjoying my day enough already, being all cozy inside, watching it snow and listening to the oldies, when I opened the door to let the cat in I was extremely pleased and surprised to see a package my sister had sent me for Christmas had finally arrived! That was around 1pm. I still haven't ripped into it to see what's inside. How's that for will power? I'm odd that way (and many other ways also). I just like looking at it, knowing I have a package to open. Makes me feel all cozy and warm and smiley inside knowing that I'm loved and not forgotten. Thank you to all my friends and family who go through the effort for me! XOXO

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy Holidaze!

A belated Mary Christ-mas to you and manger New Year
be filled with beautiful and unexpected joys!