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Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

Image  Fresh air, salty breezes, great exercise.. a time to reflect on days gone by, explore the tidal pools and find what the last tide has left for us.  Beachcombing–I just love it!

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Some of my favorites Gifts from the Sea

There pretty near isn’t a day that passes that I don’t roam our local beaches.  Another season is coming to a close, and for me personally I’m thrilled!!  Don’t misunderstand me, I thoroughly love the warmer months, but in our neck of the woods, it happens to be a high tourist area. Droves of visitors come each summer to visit our lovely coastline.  Who can blame them?  But the off-season has always been my favorite.  Things slow down greatly, and walking along the beach in solitude is one of the many joys in my life.

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I can’t recall when I became a beachcomber, but then again cannot recall a time in my life when I wasn’t.  And over these many years I’ve collected pieces of this and that that were meaningful to me at the time in addition to many seashells, sand dollars, crabs, sea urchins, colorful worn pieces of sea glass and driftwood along the way.  Wherever I travelled–if it were near the ocean, you could pretty much always find me there looking for treasures to bring home.  And through the years I’ve been known to haul home some pretty odd items. 🙂  While traveling in the Outer Banks of the Bahamas I spotted some giant starfish in the waters as I walked…well, I wasn’t coming back to the states without one, and then neglected to scoop out all the inners before I wrapped it in an old beach towel and tossed into my carry-on bag.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget the expression on the kind customs office’s face when he opened up my bag~! What a smell!

While we were in Italy a few  summers ago  celebrating our anniversary and I found lots of sea glass and  clay pieces along the Positano coastline, including a fabulous piece of Majoca pottery tile tumbled smooth that had fallen off the duomo rooftop and into the ocean who knows when and washed ashore.. What a treasure!

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ImagePositano duomo

And then on a trip to Florida’s west coast as I strolled along the beach after a bad storm, I was extremely lucky enough to find a rare junonia shell.  Others on the beach actually offered to buy this gem from me and this was before I knew the history of this marvelous shell.   No way Jose! And I’ve treasured it for all these years.

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But in addition to my to my cherished shells I must admit–I just love sea glass, there is something so simple yet so special about it.  I’ve collected it ever since I can remember. Old mason jars line my shelf in my office filled to the brims with years of collecting.

Those tiny shards, or large hunks of weather worn glass have a story to tell.  Maybe they were part of an old rum bottle that sailed the seven seas, or maybe an old glass bottle which contained a message from someone shipwrecked on a desert island somewhere.Who knows? It’s always nice to dream.

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I’m always just drawn to the  remarkable array of shapes and colors, from soft lavender to bright neon green of the washed seaglass. No matter what the color, there is just something magical about an object that can endure the punishment of the ocean and instead of being destroyed, it becomes a piece of beauty to these old eyes..

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Jackson's watering hole

While flipping through some older shots the other day I came across a favorite of mine of our Bubba.. Jackson.  Though over or double exposed, it still remains one of my favorite shots of him, as it was a very special fishing day for us in one of Jackon’s favorite fishing holes. I think part of the reason this day remains so special in my mind, is Jackson’s happy go lucky nature and the joy he brought to us over the years..even when the fish weren’t biting.

As I flipped through more shots, I came across these three as well.  All three taken on the Isle of Capri, actually up on Anacapri we came across a splendid island hideaway and  lovely estate owned by Axel Munthe, whose book  La storia di San Michele–The Story of San Michele and a placque that  depicts my sentiments as well on dog wisdom from his book.

The estate located on the northeast side of Anacapri was an ancient imperial villa, whose ruins were preserved by Axel Munthe and are now to be found in their magnificent gardens.  In this area also were the remains of a medieval chapel later moved to its present position–well worth the visit in itself..simply lovely!  San Michele was Munthe’s residence between 1896 and 1910, and the fanciful architecture and master works meant as a perfect environment for the collections of its owner, and at the same time, serve to enhance the beauty of its landscape.  The buildings and collections reflect a romantic taste, typical of that century.

Capri, Itlay

San Michele-Alex Munthe's Gardens, Capri, Italy

Alex Munthe's Garden--Anacapri, Italy

 

Path to the chapel -- Anacapri, Italy

Dog Wisdom

” The dog is a saint..he is honest and straightforward by nature. “

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Returning from my walk, one Tuscan morning.  Sometimes you don’t need to look for beauty, it simply turns up in unexpected places.

Tuscan daybreak -- Rhadda in Chianti

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On a warm summer morning after peeling for what seemed like forever (and getting increasingly lazy in my efforts to keep the white bits off the peels), I ended up with this – two quarts full of lemon  peels in my jars.

Making Lemoncello

Making Lemoncello

Lemons will go bad quickly if left out without their skins, so either toss them in plastic bags and get them in the fridge right away (and plan to use them soon), or juice them and either use or freeze the juice immediately. I froze the juice, so I now have pre-measured juice all ready for a couple batches each of  frozen lemon yogurt  I’m dying to make.

Then, into the jars with all the lemon peels goes the two bottles of Everclear grain alcohol. You can’t see it very well in this picture, but the lemon peels are growing more and more pale, as the liquid grows more golden yellow.

Finally, it’s  time to finish making the limoncello. The next step is the combining of the sugar and water. It’s not necessary to heat this mixture ..but gently warm it to even a simmer, as long as you keep an eye on it and the sugar is completely dissolved.

And here we are with the finished product! Save all those empty bottles.. they make excellent limoncello containers. Once poured, store your freshly made lemoncello in the freezer.

Note: Limoncello is strong cordial, please use caution! The first sip will warm you down to your toes.. the second sip is very smooth.. the third you will feel a bit fuzzy and not even taste the alcohol in it.. only the delicious lemon! If you do a few shots, let me just say.. you will be the life of the party! Salute!

Lemoncello

Lemoncello

Lemoncello Recipe

  • 2-750 ml bottle of Everclear pure grain alcohol
  • 16  lemons (make sure they’re organic and not sprayed, you’re using the peel!)
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar

Directions:

  • Wash the lemons thoroughly.
  • Using a peeler, take off the skins being careful not to get any of the white lemon “pith” onto your peelings or it will add bitterness to your limoncello.
  • Put the peels into two 1 quart canning jars, with the alcohol and seal the lid tightly. Be sure to date the jars.
  • Put the jar in a cool, dry place for 3 weeks or even longer – once a day, shake the contents well to remix everything. You’ll notice the color of the liquid changing to deep yellow and  lemon peels fading.
  • Once the base liquid is ready,  dissolve the sugar completely in water by heating it on the stove. Do not boil the sugar syrup. Then cool the sugar-water mixture to room temperature.
  • Strain the lemon peels out of the alcohol.  They should snap very  crisp almost as a potato chip and then mix the alcohol with the sugar-water.
  • Pour the mixture into bottles which can be sealed tightly and store them in the freezer. Limoncello makes a wonderfully scrumptious gift.

After a long coastal trip from Tuscany via Enzio, Naples, Sorrento to finally Positano.. we stopped for some dinner at a small family run restaurant.. Antonio’s. Our dinner was absolutely delicious and conversation with the owner refreshing. As we were about to say our goodbye’s Antonio asked us to stay a bit longer and disappeared into the restaurant kitchen. When he reappeared he was carrying a very chilled bottle of homemade limoncello, made from his courtyard garden lemon trees. I was so thrilled and told him that we have also been making our own limoncello at home. This seemed to please him even moreso than our generous tip! 🙂 He shared his tips with me and I with him. Antonio gave me a bottle of his limoncello to ‘ bring home’.. and I lugged that bottle all over Italy for the next month with me! It was great fun comparing notes, and a great first night spent on the Amalfi coast. I still use this same decanter when I make my limoncello and just smile to myself thinking back on that wonderful meeting. Salute Antonio!

Salute Antonio!

Salute Antonio!

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I was very fortunate to visit Italy a couple of years ago for a month’s holiday and have so many fond memories of our time spent there. Part of our stay was spent in the Tuscany and Chianti region.  The vineyards…it’s hill towns…Rhadda, Siena, San Gimignano, Cortona, Panzano, Limole, Cortona were lovely and we visited them all!

One day while roaming the cobblestoned streets of Cortona,  I came across the lovliest villa & took nearly 100 shots of it as it as I was just drawn to it’s architecture & stunning gardens!! Hedges of rosemary and lavenders framed these lovely grounds.

Frances Mayes Villa Bramisole

Frances Mayes Villa Bramasole

Come to find out I had fallen upon Villa Bramasole.. ( the real one) from the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. It was fun to see how they used the area & sets for the movie and yet sub in the home itself. I met the caretaker the day I spent there who was a very pleasant man and quite knowledgable re: the history of this grand villa. Frances Mayes.. the American owner & writer had already left for the summer.. so I was a bit bummed not to have been able to meet her.. I was told she’s quite an extraordinary woman and fun to chat with.

Remember the famous balcony in the movie where Frances would watch this sweet old man come each morning to visit the stone shrine while  paying his respects to someone he apparently loved very much and left fresh  flowers?

Bramisole Balcony--Cortona, Italy

Bramasole Balcony--Cortona, Italy

In Italy, you will find many of these shrines either by the side of the road or nestled into the outer walls of their houses, dedicated to a loved one and always a special saint.. these little works of art can be found scattered around many of the hilltowns and countrysides  for all to see.  I wasn’t about to leave Bramasole without at least one shot of  Frances Mayes shrine built into the side of her entryway stone walled gate to the villa.

Bramisole Shrine

Bramasole Shrine

Bramisole Shrine

Bramasole Shrine

It’s very easy to see how easily she fell in love with Cortona & the region.. it’s truly simply gorgeous. I was really pleased with my shots and thrilled to have gone off wandering that day.

And so as Easter approaches this weekend and in the recent wake of the tragic earthquake in L’Auila, Italy where deaths, a multitude of injuries and thousands left homeless, please remember these families in your prayers.

Have a safe and healthy Easter!

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On the way to Montepulciano

On the way to Montepulciano

Not the golden arches we are accustomed to..

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I fell in love with this cutie pie on a farm we rented in Tuscany.. Mona Lisa..  doesn’t she just make you want to smile?

Mona Lisa - Bolognese pup

Mona Lisa - Bolognese pup

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