Monday, August 29, 2011

July's Travel/Wedding Goddess Pin

I finally got my July Goddess Pin scanned, although it's not the best scan I've ever done. She is too round to lay the way I wanted her to, with the central beads actually going down her center, from her waist down. Try to picture her that way. She has a lot of significance for my July, a real journaling piece.

I had actually finished her near the end of July, but we were in Europe and I couldn't find the time nor the place to have her scanned.

I picked the fabric due to the colors I wanted to use, red, white, blue, and green. First the red, white & blue for our 4th of July celebration, and those same colors for the few days we were in France. I used the countries' flag colors. The beginning of our European trip was in Switzerland for some sightseeing and a wedding, hence the red & white. Most of our trip was spent in Italy, therefore the red, white, & green.

Starting with her hair, I used the red flowers as there was an abundance of red flowers in window boxes throughout Switzerland, France, and Italy, and not just in flower boxes. I picked up the white stone I used for her face in Yvoire, France. I'm not sure you can tell, but when I picked it up I saw a face, the nose and two eyes (a bit darker on either side of the nose); she has her face turned slightly to her left. The piece of chain of pearls was left over from the necklace I made for the mother of the bride, one of our very dear friends. I used a heart as I love to travel. Amongst the line of beads from her waist down, there is a big square blue bead; that was a gift from one of the Servas hosts we stayed with who is also a beader. (See more about Servas after the rest of the description of my European/Wedding Travel Goddess.) Towards her bottom, there is a metal piece with a red stone, keeping with my colors. I found this single earring at a flea market in Panzano-in-Chianti, Italy, not far from where we were staying. I think it's the perfect piece to complete her.

Our trip continued into August, so you will see more of my travels soon.

Now to Servas. This is a wonderful organization. Here, in the States, it is US Servas. It a totally international organization started after WWII, as a peace organization, using the concept that one is unlikely to make war with people you break bread.  Once a member, you can stay with people for two nights, where they give you breakfast both mornings and dinner one night. You either take them out for dinner the second night or cook dinner at their home. I love to cook, so I tend to do that. You meet the most interesting people, who also may have time to take you around, or they may not, but they certainly will make suggestions of things to see and do. Some of the highlights of our trips have been because we stayed with Servas Hosts and they suggested we do something we hadn't planned on. After our first trip staying with Servas, we came home and signed up as Hosts. You don't have to be a host in order to be a traveler; there is no commitment to have people in your home. I can only tell you that we have had some really interesting folks stay with us over the years. If it's not convenient for them to stay with you, you can always say no when you receive a request. We usually stay with hosts about half the time we're traveling. If you love to travel, it's a great way to go!

Friday, August 26, 2011

3rd Blog for Europe with Pasta with Truffle Oil Recipe

Before heading to our rental in Montefioralle, in the Chianti area of Tuscany, we were in Lucca, also in Tuscany, for their organic Framer's Market. Here's a photo of what one vendor looked like; actually, it was only a small portion of their produce:

Everything was so fresh and delicious. Some of the best tasting tomatoes were the ones up front in my photo, which were not the pretty-looking ones. I usually buy tomatoes in the States and use them for both cooking and in salads. In Italy, you buy tomatoes for each and don't use the cooking ones for salads; therefore, I bought a lot of tomatoes. After we left the market, we drove to Montefioralle and our home for the next two weeks..

We spent those two enchanting weeks in the Chianti area of Tuscany, which is north of Rome. Tuscany was everything I imagined and more. The narrow roads meandering through the hills and valleys, surrounded by large patches of shades of green between the olive trees and grape vines laden with fruit. It was all interspersed with ages old stone buildings, some houses, stores, and many what they called castles, which were mainly the wine and olive oil tasting vineyard buildings.  I loved the medieval villages with their walking streets. The stores had contemporary merchandise in rooms with stone arches or other Gothic details. ( I wrote this before we returned and we're home now. I went to the Apple store today and now can upload photos. "One day, I will have to share all the fabulous photos I took but still can't seem to upload to my blog. Back to the Apple Store when we get return, for a lesson on how to use iPhoto.")

Here are a few of photos from different hill towns:

We've had so many wonderful experiences but too many to write about now. We'll talk when we get home about the fun things we've done.

We're now in Bologna, having arrived late yesterday afternoon. It's an old large city. I had thought that the streets were also walking streets, but you can drive through most of them. We parked before finding out that you could drive, so we did a lot of walking. The architectural details are fabulous. As you walk the streets, it is easy, as there are arcades on most of them, so you can walk out of the strong sunlight. It was in the mid 90s today. Talk about hot! This is about the hottest it's been since we arrived. Most days have been in the high 80s or as much as 90-91. I think the Spring would be a fabulous time to visit, as there would be fewer tourists. The last time we were in Italy, it was almost 20 years ago and it was November; a bit cool but less traffic and smaller lines, although we haven't had too many lines to stand in, only in a couple of places. Then, we had needed coats, scarves, and an umbrella, which we bought in Florence.

This weekend is the biggest religious holiday weekend of the Summer; it's called Ferragosto, which is Assumption Day. So many stores and restaurants take their vacations during this time. I can't even count how many places had signs up saying they are closed until late August. So, on one hand, it's a great celebration ending with fireworks at the shore, and on the other, it's a bit harder for tourists, although so far all the museums and churches have been opened to the public. They do have signs up saying they will be closed to the public during the festival, which is tomorrow, the 15th. So, we're planning on going to Ravenna and perhaps to Rimini as well to experience Ferragosto.

Ravenna is an amazing city. It's known for its mosaics; there are 8 UNESCO Heritage Sites there, but we only got to see four of them. Each was so different than the others and all are fabulous. It's mind boggling to realize that they have been there for over 1500 years and they mostly look brand new. Of course, there are areas that don't look brand new, but for the most part, they're dazzling. George Fishman, a friend of ours who creates incredible mosaics, gave us friends' names to look up; so, we did. Stephanie and Robert, Americans who have lived in Ravenna for over 15 years, met us for a cup of coffee, or in our case tea. We had lots to talk about. She is a tour guide and will put together a private week or longer tour featuring mosaics or anything else you want to see. The two of them create mosaics as well and do many installations of Art in public places in the States as well as elsewhere. We walked a bit with them and looked at one of the Heritage Sites, a Baptistry, which had mosaics producing transparency of cloth, which is kind of hard to do. Then, we went to see other friends of theirs and George and Nancy's; they're a young Italian couple who give workshops on mosaics and have created some really unusual contemporary themes and pieces. 

We left Ravenna and traveled another hour to see friends of our neighbor, Boni, who live in Rimini and own and run a small hotel there. JJ and Mirella come to the States every November and stay for a few months; they're Italian (he's actually American) snowbirds. We've met them in the past when they've been in. Art also wanted to see the sea, and since it was Ferraugosto, we thought there would be fireworks. However, we didn't see any. We had a lovely time with JJ and Mirella and look forward to seeing them this Fall and Winter. Maybe we left too early before the fireworks started.

Today, we traveled to Ferrara, a bit north of Bologna. It's a beautiful city with lots of pink marble. The Este Castle is incredible, huge, and the history is so interesting. I'm getting tired now, so I'm stopping for the moment. I hope to post this tomorrow after I decide which recipe to write.

Rice Pasta with Truffle Oil Sauce
We ate something like this in a wonderful restaurant in Ferrara.


  • 1 medium yellow onion- chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic- chpped fine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 stalk fresh rosemary- chopped
  • 1 teaspoon truffle oil-- white or black
  • 1/4 grated fresh good quality hard raw goat cheese
1. Saute onion-garlic and rosemary in olive oil. Make sure onion is golden-and garlic is not burnt.
2. Cook the rice spaghetti according to its package. I use a brand where they suggest it cook for at least 17 minutes and a couple of more minutes doesn't hurt it.
3. When done, drain pasta, toss with onion, garlic, rosemary. Add goat cheese.
4. Toss again and drizzle the truffle oil on top of each individual serving.
5. Garnish with fresh chopped Rosemary--just a pinch.

Delish. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2nd Europe Entry & Easy Recipe

The days are so full and the evenings short, as we’ve been eating at 8:30 or 9pm, rather late for us. Lunches have been around 2:30 or 3:00 due to sightseeing and traveling. All is good. However, after a late dinner, I’m not up to blogging, so I keep putting it off.

We loved St. Paul de Vence in the mountains above Nice. It’s another medieval city, with all up and down pedestrian streets. We’ve been getting a real workout. We Floridians prefer flat terrains. Oh well, I guess it’s nice for a change. We liked St. Paul even more than Eze. Each has its own flavor and both are charming, but St. Paul had a whole plethora of art galleries with tons of bronzes, each shop showing totally different works, as well as other interesting art. That’s only one of the reasons for our preference.

Our next stop was Cinque Terre, a group of five medieval towns, south of Genoa, nestled into cliffs that go right down to the water. So, we were finally in Italy and were lucky in that the weather was beautiful and the sea relatively calm; so, we were able to travel to the towns by boat. Friends, who were at the wedding, had been to Cinque Terre before joining us in Switzerland, and couldn’t go by boat, due to rough seas; they traveled by train, short hops between the towns. It was great being out on the water. I had thought that we’d ride the train too, on the way back, but the timing was good for boat rides, so that’s what we opted for. It was so picturesque arriving by sea, seeing the buildings getting bigger and bigger with more details visible with each passing moment. Each town was so different as we approached. We took the boat to the furthest town, Riomaggiore and got off there. After walking the town and finding some natural suntan lotion, I had left mine in our room and I really needed some, we walked between  Riomaggiore and Manarola, the next town, along the cliffside on a walk called Via dell’ Amore, Lover's Lane. Going onward to the next town after exploring Manarola and having lunch, we took the ferry to the next town and thereafter.

We stayed near Bonassola, about 10 minutes from Levanto where we caught the ferry, only two nights and then went on to Lucca, the northern part of Tuscany. We loved Lucca, which has a walled medieval city, all on flat ground. Our kind of town. Yeah! We didn’t get the chance to explore as much as we wanted to, as part of our time was taken up working on our communications, phone and internet. We’ve decided to go back so we can browse around some more. That evening, we went to a concert at the greenhouse in the Botanical Gardens within the walled city. The singer sang in English and talked in Italian between songs; it was a bit strange but wonderful. We decided to stay in Lucca so we could get to Greve-in-Chianti, near where we are staying, for the Saturday market which was only open until 1PM. However, plans changed, as Lucca had an organic farmer’s market; so we stayed and went there instead, arriving in Montefiorella closer to 5pm than 1pm. We’re in a charming little one bedroom villa, attached to the owner’s home, a young family with a two year son. Lovely, warm, welcoming people; Simone’s father gave us gifts of small bottle of home made olive oil and gorgeous delicious tomatoes. We are smack in the middle of Tuscany, amongst olive trees and vineyards. I will be downloading my photos soon and hope to post a few so you can share the eye candy we’ve been enjoying.

Today we went to Panzano-in-Chianti, about 9 minutes away, for their farmer’s market, as I still wanted a few items. The produce is gorgeous and delicious. It's another delightful town and has a small triangular town square, where the market was held; the older part of the city is up a steep hill.

We are having difficulties with our internet connections and phones, so we’re off to Sienna tomorrow, Monday, to take care of it all. We don’t have internet service here at the villa, but we had bought an internet key, which was suppose fix that. It hasn’t. Hopefully, by tomorrow night, we will be set with communications the way we want them. Sienna was on our list of places to go, so it’s now first on that list. We plan an early start so we can sightsee too, as it’s an important medieval city to visit.

Did I mention all the wine and olive oil tasting places in each village or town, and in between them as well? I’m olive oiled out. We bought a bottle for cooking, a plain but fruity one for salads, and one with truffles in it for salads as well. All delicious. We could spend a fortune on olive oils! Art has enjoyed all the wine tastings. I’ve had a bit too. 

A fast recipe, originally from Denise, my dear friend (actually from her daughter-in-law, but I got it from Denise). It's perfect here in Italy with all the wonderful olives.

Olive Tapenade
1 jar Kalamata olives (always use good olives)
2-3 cloves garlic (or more to taste)
Olive oil

Put the olives and garlic in a food processor and as you're blending them, slowly add a bit of olive oil to smooth out the mixture. 

It's easy and delicious. I serve it with both gluten-free crackers and with veggies.