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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mein Sonntag Strauss


Lilacs

So prolific this year.

(smash stems with hammer before putting them in water)








Lilac "Sensation"







Unlike Lilacs, Iceland Poppies and Salpiglossis last more than a week in water. 
(singe stems of poppies before putting them in water) 

Wishing you a great week ahead. 

Gina 




Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Italy, the beautiful, Part III


Grandeur revisited,



and life goes on in the small town of Suvereto






and in the large metropolis of Livorno by the sea.  





Where the Grand Hotel Palazzo provides just the right amount of old world glamour and luxury. 






Where old and new live happily side by side.





And where a stroll along the promenade at evening time, takes advantage of the gentle evening breezes.  






Two days of splendor and luxury is just about right for I gladly give it up for a visit to Maestro Mario's factory. 







I asked the Maestro if he would paint an Arlecchini for me.
He let me select the design.  Maestro Mario begins by transferring the design on to a plate by brushing charcoal through tiny holes.  

Martina, Mario's daughter, who is also a fine ceramist, tells the story of the Arlecchini in her blog post of 2013. 
See below:

http://ceramichemori.blogspot.com/2013/01/arlecchini-from-montelupo.html








 No trip to Italy is complete without my taking a few painting lessons.... there is so much to learn.  



  




The designs are painted with powder pigments mixed with water.  
They have a chalky appearance.  







Mario in his studio when I visited with him in 20014

Maestro Mario paints with pigments first and then completes his design by outlining it with a very fine brush.   







Once the designs have been fired in his large kilns the colors become vibrant and permanent.  



Montelupo is only a 30 minute drive west of Florence.  It has a very fine Museum of ceramics with a large collection of Arlecchini.  

 http://ceramichemori.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-pottery-museum-of-montelupo.html




The Maestro tells me that this particular design, the Arlecchini (Harlequin), is his favorite subject to paint.  He has designed more than 500 different scenarios. 

The Mario workshop is one of the only studious left who still produce the Arlecchini designs.  







Maestro Mario loves his art.  He even goes to his shop on Sundays. where he happily works by himself on whatever pleases him. 


Thank you for stopping by.  

Have a great remainder of the week, dear friends.  

Gina  


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mon Bouquet du Jour



It's Lilac time in Spring City


Ordinary, single, old fashioned Lilacs
and 
Salpiglossis 


Note: Don't forget to pound the bottom of the  Lilac stems..Lilacs will last much longer.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Italy the beautiful, Part II




Is it work or is it play?


How many Chefs will let you into their kitchen and knead dough for the evening's dinner guests?  

Chef Marina of the Relais Sant'Elena, Bibbona, Italy did just that.
http://www.tenutagardini.it/ 




Ready to go to work.





We began by combining ingredients for their famous
 Ragu'Di Chianina. 
Made with  meat from the famous white Cattle of which the Relais has a large herd.

Ingredients include olive oil, carrots, onions. celery, tomatoes, tomatoe paste, salt and pepper, cook for about an hour.  






Ugo the bull and his heifers usually roam the countryside but it was a little too cool for the young ones. we were told.

Chianina are one of the largest and one of the oldest cattle breeds.







They have been raised for at least 2000 years and have been used not only for the famous bistecca alla fiorentina but also for agricultural power.  








The Totelli dough should look like this after about 20 minutes of kneading. .
For the Tortelli Maremmani we used Semolina Flour. I was surprised how difficult it was to knead this dough.  I am used to kneading my bread dough made with whole wheat flour.  
It is much easier.  






Now the fun begins. 
Rolling the dough through the machine on the first setting. then on number 3 and finally on number 7.  
Filling is made with cooked chopped spinach, ricotta cheese, eggs, parmesan cheese, and a little nutmeg.  






Place 1 TB of filling 2 inches apart and between 2 layers of dough and trim with special wheel.  Let sit for a little while and boil in water for about 10 minutes, and just before serving. 






For dessert we made Tiramisu.
Chef Marina soaked ladyfingers in very strong, hot coffee.  
She then added a mixture made up of whipping cream, muscarpone cheese, eggs and sugar. 






She layered these ingredients into a glass dish and placed it into the refrigerator.




And speaking of eating...
internet 
remember when I told you about the Marina di Bibbona 
fishing shack?  It held a secret. 

It has received a Michelin Star.  






 It wasn't easy but we were able to make reservations for Dinner. 






Chef Luciano Zazzeri of  "Ristorante La Pineta" is a Fisherman turned Chef and now a famous chef. 


What we didn't realize is that the restaurant serves only fish.  

There were several Antipasti courses all containing raw fish.

Then a Primi Piatti of fish, then a Secondo Piatto yes, you guessed it, of fish. 

I like fish, but in moderation. 






internet

The Secondo Piatto served is known worldwide as a gourmet delicacy. 
Black Squid Ink Pasta, a dish I will never forget.







RelaisSant'Elena

Back Home at the lovely Relais Sant'Elena. 
http://www.tenutagardini.it/
Happy Mother's Day dear Friends,

Gina 




Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Italy the beautiful - Part I




Have you flown into Firenze?



The airport is new and small. Easy to get around. 
Picking up a rental car is not so easy, nor is landing on a short runway.  
Just before landing the stewardess will tell you about the short runway. 
She will also tell you that the captain sometimes, in the last minute, decides not to land the plane. 
But he will try again and (maybe) again.  

Once the decision has been made to land you better hold on.

And when it's time to leave for home the plane may not fly until the fog clears. 

And you will miss your overseas flight home.  



So simple yet so beautiful.  

For all those reason you might want to know about 
Podere Gattabigia, Lustra a Signa, Firenze, Italy. 

It is only 30 minutes from the airport.
The perfect first night stopover. 
You can get a good nights sleep and tackle the driving and new rental car the very next day.   






The Podere is owned by young interior designer.  
The gardens are beautiful and so is the bountiful breakfast. 
Many people stay here for several days.  

We had a date a little further south.  






2 hours later we reached our home for the next week, outside of
Bibbona, Tuscany, Italy.






Blue arrows point to Marina di Bibbona and inland to the 
 Relais Sant'Elena.






 The stunning Relais Sant'Elena. 
Located in a very quiet valley, surrounded by undulating hills,  offering total relaxation. 
http://www.tenutagardini.it/ 




We stayed for a week.







Spring vines and flowers were just beginning to bloom.





Soft woolly blankets ready for cool evenings.






One of the many patios outside of our room. 






And always authentic.





Breakfasts are legendary. Truly unlike anything we have experienced on any of our many trips to Europe. 





  Interiors are stunning.





We loved our suite 






Appointed with fabrics that I love. 






It is peaceful and if you are hankering for the Sea it is only a 15 minute drive to Marina di Bibbona. 






Sant' Elena is perfectly situated for exploring ancient Etruscan villages.  Suvereto is one of the most charming.  But there are many, many more within an hours drive.





Picturesque villages with tiny streets and shops.





 When you have seen one too many medieval villages, 
you can come home to one of the 15 luxuriously appointed rooms
filled with antiques and furniture covered in rare fabrics. 

And  have I told you about the staff of Relais Sant'Elena?  
They are the Best, the very, very Best.  

An outstanding 4 star Country Inn.

Already thinking about booking for Fall.  

Have a great weekend dear friends. 

Gina