Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Pod or no pod? Coffee/espresso combo? Was a milk frother important? I had no idea other than feeling that it had to be Italian-made.
Before I spent the big bucks on a machine, I decided to spend under $30 on a stove-top Bialetti. It's made in Italy, looks retro and sleek, and has a cute mascot on the front. Plus, you can get it at Target.
What a great cup of espresso! Dark, rich, and fast. The unit is fairly easy to clean, doesn't take up space on your counter, and looks cool enough to leave on your stove top.
So, if you are interested in dipping your toe into the world of espresso, this is a cheap and satisfying way to go.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
|Vernazza, from the high trail to Monterosso, April, 2011|
Posted by Katie Patrykus at 4:14 PM
Saturday, October 29, 2011
|Vernazza flooding (Photo credit Laspezia.menticale.it)|
And, here is a link to give via credit card through the Italian Red Cross. You can choose "Tuscany and Liguria Emergency."
Sunday, October 9, 2011
2. Change your Travelocity Farewatcher to monitor airfares only to Italy
3. Wear lots of leather and scarves
4. Attempt to smuggle in non FDA-approved cured meats
5. Call your cul-de-sac a piazza
6. Harass the wine guy at Trader Joe’s with obscure requests
7. Try to talk Nutella into hiring you as the West Coast sales rep
8. Turn your mid century modern ranch into a Tuscan villa
9. Buy a Fiat 500 for your family of 6
10. Start saying rocket instead of arugula
Sunday, September 11, 2011
I chose the moderate intensity level and found it was extreme for me. It'd be cool if you could input the ages of the children you'd be traveling with for more appropriate activities. You can adjust the weight of each item, for instance, make "garden" have the most weight or "museum." All in all, it's easy and fun, especially if you don't like flipping back and forth through guidebooks.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
California Mushroom Farms (now Modern Mushrooms) in Ventura, on Olivos Adobe Road. The hours are odd and it's hard to find, but you can get wonderful white, portabella, and more exotic varieties. The quality and prices are far superior to the grocery stores. A whole bag of giant portabella caps is a few bucks. They don't have every type every day, but whatever they have will be good.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Saturday, August 6, 2011
We took the tour that included the map room's secret passageway to Bianca’s eavesdropping chamber. Bianca was the mistress, and later the wife, of Grand Duke Francesco de’ Medici. He respected her opinion so much that he built her an eavesdropping chamber over the Salone dei Cinquecento, where important government matters were discussed. The peep hole is disguised as an air vent and gives you a great bird's eye view of the salon.
There are other tours of the patrol path (the crenulated area around the top) and also a "secret passages" tour. They also have workshops for kids and actors in period costumes. Check it out here.
Sunday, July 17, 2011
The Florentine. I doubt the Arno can be as intriguing as the Pacific Ocean. Cars 2 recently went European, maybe Italophilia has captured the creative team at Pixar. Who can blame them?
Saturday, July 16, 2011
|Kangaroo at the beach, Jervis Bay, NSW|
|Cove, Jervis Bay|
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Da Vinci and Columbus get a lot of respect. But, both drew inspiration from Brunelleschi’s designs.
One of history’s greatest architects and inventors, Brunelleschi is best known for Santa Maria del Fiore’s soaring dome in Florence, better known as “the duomo.” Finished in 1436, it took 16 years to build and still holds the title of the largest brick and mortar dome in the world.
Da Vinci sketched hoists and cranes that Brunelleschi designed to build the duomo, while Columbus used navigation technology gleaned from sun experiments atop the duomo. Filippo is also credited with the first patent and the invention of one-point linear perspective. He is fittingly laid to rest in Santa Maria del Fiore. This short, homely, unmarried, paranoid man is well described in Ross King’s Brunelleschi’s Dome. A quick and entertaining read for anyone that has climbed between the dome’s shells and emerged atop the cupola with all of Florence spread out below them. King does a bang up job describing the intricacies of his inventions without causing your eyes to glaze over.
Other significant Brunelleschi designs:
Oespedale degli Innocenti
Pazzi Chapel, Santa Croce
Basilicas of Santo Spirito and San Lorenzo
Monday, June 27, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Much of it is common sense, but it is a good reminder of why the Italians seem to be living simpler, more relaxed lives. If your life is totally out of whack, this is a great book. If you already lead a balanced life and have your priorities in order, you may not need this book.
She definitely makes a lot of generalizations, but you'd have to in order to summarize the lifestyle of an entire country. Worth a read when you feel like you are on the hamster wheel, buy it used.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
a producer in Ventura County.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Things I noticed about Italian women on my last trip:
1. Radiant, natural skin (no facelifts or breast augmentation for that matter, either!)
2. Curve-skimming feminine clothes, not terribly trendy
3. A few classic high-end accessories (knock-offs ok, too)
4. Scarves, scarves, scarves
5. Glossy, well-cut hair with subtle highlights if any, longish
7. Great leather items
8. Ironed clothes and polished shoes
9. Killer shades
10. Natural makeup
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
Trattoria Grappolo in Santa Ynez. The tortelloni di zucca was rich and fantastic - pumpkin, walnuts and a cream sauce. Nice selection of Italian wines, including a local Super Tuscan-style. And, they also share a few recipes.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
From the SlowTravel Forum, here they are:
Twelve by Terra Kiros (recommended many times)
Flavors of Tuscany by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
G.Franco Romagnoli - The Romagnoli Way
The Italian Country Table: Home Cooking from Italy's Farmhouse Kitchens
The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food
Tuscany: The Beautiful Cookbook
A Tuscan in the Kitchen
A Tuscan in the Kitchen
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Trip Report: Firenze, Cinque Terre, and Toscano hill towns
Tenth anniversary, April, 2011
Planning - including shoe strategy
My husband and I hadn’t really been alone together since our first child was born. It was our 10th anniversary and I had been hoarding air miles in my account since before our marriage. For some reason his mom graciously agreed to fly out to take care of our kids for 2 weeks. There were a lot of variables in play, much could go wrong, but it was worth a shot.
We wanted art, history, views, active pursuits, food and wine, sun, sand, and charm. I’d studied in Florence 16 years ago, and had been trying to get back ever since. I ended up using these resources for my research: Eyewitness Guide: Florence and Tuscany, Rick Steve’s Tuscan Hill Towns and Cinque Terre, Slow Travel and Frommer’s Forums
Our itinerary boiled down to 2 weeks - 4 nights Florence, 3 nights Cinque Terre (Vernazza), 3 nights hill towns of Tuscany (Volterra, Siena, Montepulciano), and 3 nights back in Florence.
I booked the mileage award tickets 9 months out. We booked rooms in Florence and Vernazza (if you want a view room in the CT, book ahead) about 3 months out via the hotel’s own web sites (we were aiming for 70-90 euro places with a bathroom in the room). We decided to wing it with hotels in the hill towns. The other pre-booked items were the car through Autoeurope, Uffizi tickets (crowded even in April), a tour at the Palazzo Vecchio, and a Vespa tour of Chianti.
And shoes? This was my biggest challenge. How could we blend in and look like stylish Italians without killing our feet? I didn’t go as far as wearing 3 inch heels on the cobblestone streets like the locals, but did bring a few items that worked well: Born wedge sandals, Eurostep dark leather walking shoes, and Reebok black Simplytone shoes (felt like walking on pillows). And if you throw a classy belted trench coat over anything, suddenly you look put together. Additionally, Columbia’s wrinklefree travel dresses came in handy. My husband's black sport coat was used daily.
|Vespas in Chianti|
Firenze - 4 nights
The party started early as we arrived at LAX 4 hours before our flight. This is not a problem if you have access to the Air France VIP Lounge, where we drank champagne and ate brie with two British paratroopers. Flying business class made the journey part of the vacation as well. Thank you airmiles!
Our second day was a highlight, zipping through Chianti on Vespas. The van took 7 of us 30 minutes outside of the city, oriented us to the scooters, and off we went. Mixing it up with traffic, hills, gravel, and stopping along the way for fresh pecorino panini, gelato, and a stop at the Corsini Winery, where we toured the wine cellars and olive oil operation, had a wonderful wine tasting and lunch, and even saw the princess! A fun stop was the hotel where Machiavelli stayed while in exile. We would do it again in a heartbeat.
|Nap lawn, Boboli Gardens|
|Il Due Fratellini|
|Vernazza harbor from the trail|
Cinque Terre – 3 nights in Vernazza
After a 3-hour train ride to La Spezia, switching trains to the towns of the Cinque Terre, we emerged from the tunnel to see the Ligurian Sea. We stayed in Vernazza, near the trail to Corniglia, at Rooms La Torre. The room was spotless, new, and about the size of a king sized bed with a double bed, fridge, and bathroom squeezed in - comically tight for two people. The huge terrace’s 180-degree view included terraced grape vine hills, the pastel town, a castle (well worth the 1.50 euro), the harbor and sea beyond. Most everyone speaks English in the CT and everyone carries an embarrassing Rick Steve’s book. Try to hide it in your backpack.
|Vernazza harbor from the castle|
|Sicilian brothers at Il Pirata|
|Tuscan road signs|
The hill towns of Tuscany - 3 nights
The weather was starting to turn and our bright blue Alpha Romeo coupe was awaiting us in La Spezia. We had a wonderful breakfast in Sarzana at a roadside café off the autostrada.
|Artisan in Volterra|
The next day we drove to a rainy San Gimignano, it was full of tourists and we didn’t stay long.
|Eating panini in Monteriggioni|
We drove on to Siena, where we stayed at the clean and friendly nun-run Alma Domus. The staff was especially wonderful at this convent turned hotel just under San Domenico church, which looks awfully austere next to Siena’s main cathedral. The relic of St. Catherine’s mummified head is especially powerful.
|Stairs to Torre Mangia|
We expected to stay one more night in a hill town, but frankly, we were ready to be back in the city. We found that we weren't the "rent a villa in Tuscany"-type folks. We considered sleeping in Greve in Chianti but found it soulless and overpriced, although we did have good wine and a nice walk in nearby Panzano in Chianti.
|Another amazing panini at Il Due Fratellini|
Back in Florence - 3 nights
We got back to Albergo Merlini, which felt like home, had a tasty Sicilian dinner with ornery service at Trattoria Il Bargello after I Cche ce ce wouldn’t allow us to wait for a table.
Our last day in Florence was filled with a visit to the San Marco monastery with Fra Angelico’s frescoed cells (highly underrated site and not crowded), a fantastic, fast, and cheap meal at Da Mario (worth the wait), and a guided tour of the Palazzo Vecchio, focusing on the Medici family’s reign of power. The map room with the secret passageway to Bianca’s eavesdropping chamber was a highlight (tours are free and some are in English, book ahead at www.palazzovecchio-familymuseum.it).
We had gelato from about 15 places and our favorite was Carapina on Via Lambertesca near the Uffizi. Give the Vin Santo flavor a try.
|Street art, Oltrarno|
Early the next morning we left for the airport and my husband left his wallet in the cab. He realized it not long before our flight was to depart, ran back to the cab line, waited for a cab to show up, told them what happened, and somehow they got a hold of the cabbie, who raced through town in time to return my husband’s wallet and for us to make our flight. Thank you cabbie Signore Manelli!