Tuesday, September 30, 2008
After all, how many men are effected by Ovarian Cancer? Just every man who has ever lost his wife, mother, sister, friend, daughter, niece, aunt, cousin to this dreaded disease.... or has seen his wife, mother, sister, friend, daughter, niece, aunt, cousin suffer through diagnosis, treatment, and healing....
In short, one hell of a lot of men...
So, in a grand tribute to Ovarian Cancer Awareness, Jerry has put together a stellar O Menu for the O Foods contest. Go over to his blog and visit him! His blog is great, his food ideas are always superb, and he has a wonderful sense of humor as well.
Thank you, Jerry. Wish I could have sat down at the table for the O Feast!!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The Barbera vendemmia is in full swing -- tractors on the roads, the cantine are working around the clock to get the grapes crushed and in the vats.
The verdict this year for Barbera:
Very few grapes, but of a very good quality. This season was much more work than a normal season because of all of the rain before June 20th. This meant staying on top of the mold and keeping whatever grapes survived the deluge of water healthy. Some farmers didn't and have absolutely no grapes this year. Those who did were blessed with a good growing season -- and a good sugar content at harvesting. But not alot of quantity. So if the 2008's come out as good as they say, they might end up costing more because of limited quantity.
2007 -- Poco lavoro, tante uve -- not a lot of work, lots of good grapes (it was a very hot, very dry year)
2008 -- Tanto lavoro, poche uve -- lots of work, not a lot of good grapes.
And so it goes in the wine country!!
Friday, September 26, 2008
The past 48 hours have been packed in with so much bad economic news that it makes me reticent to hit the New York Times link on my own blog. It is a little like waiting for a flood to arrive, isn't it? We know it's coming, we hope the old dikes won't break, but we know in our heart of hearts that they've been broken for a long time. So we sit, hoping that when the waters recede, that there is enough left to salvage, and that our neighbors and friends and family are not left homeless or so devastated that they lose the will to start again.
I am not a doom and gloom person. But when the so-many-times-over-incompetent-President of the United States, who is leaving office in a matter of months and has absolutely no vested interest in working harder than he must, tells us the sky is falling and if we don't bail the economy out -- now---it's gonna be real bad, well, it's not a good sign. Normally he would just sandbag and let McCain and Palin (God forbid) or Obama and Biden figure the way out of the mess. But he's pretty sure he hasn't got that much time. He might be handing over an America with bread lines.
Thanks once again, George.
Of course, this is a President who has pulled the Chicken Little act before. And that time, America believed him and followed him down the path to a war which mortgaged our grandchildren's future. So when Democratic and Republican legislators turned around to him and said, forget it -- we won't approve this ridiculous plan to spend our great-great grandchildren's money without some guarantees that at least some of it will come back, or at least without some of the details being made clear, or without someone other than a presidential ally backing it, Bush must have realized that any minuscule remaining amount of political clout he imagined he had bought with the 2004 election had completely and totally vaporized. Into the very thin air.
So where do we go from here? And who in the world can make the right decisions? We have been moaning about the weak dollar for years now. What's coming at us is going to make us yearn for the good ol' days when all we had to worry about was the greenback. They tell is if there is no deal to release our great-great grandchildren's money we will be in a bad recession. What is it that America has been in for the past year? A good recession? I can only suppose that the word "depression" is pretty much taboo in Washington. So we will just have a really, really, really, really bad recession. You know, the kind of really bad recession where banks hoard cash, don't lend any money and people lose their homes? Welcome to the 1920's. That was a really, really, really bad recession, too, wasn't it? Yeah, it was.
So I am pretty sure that some kind of convoluted deal will be struck next week and the sky will stay intact over our heads for awhile longer. I believe this because I believe in the art of self-preservation in Washington, DC. They will keep us safe -- by mortgaging the future. Again.
My mood this morning was not made any more bright by going from NYT to CBS Online to view Katie Couric's interview with Sarah Palin regarding foreign policy. It was positively, hair raisingly frightening. If that woman gets into office, ever, the sky really will fall.
Note to McCain: Watch Couric Interview. Fire Palin. PLEASE. Take on Couric as running mate. At least she knows what the questions are that need to be asked.
Have a nice weekend everyone.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
The day we picked him out of the litter. The day we brought him home.
Sleeping in front of the stufa. Guarding the homefront.
There is no greater sweetness than the love of a dog. Anyone who has ever been greeted by Max, toy in mouth, simply cannot not smile. He brings out the best in everyone. Even non dog people end up loving him.
I love you with all my heart, Maxie. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have a dog like you.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
It is absolutely, positively my favorite time of year. Yesterday I harvested the peperoncini, tied them together, and hung them to dry. The weather was cool-- a perfect day for being outside. In the evening, I prepared an Italian O food recipe -- Pollo con Rosmarino e Vino Bianco with a side dish of Zucca con Sciroppo di Acero ( Chicken with Rosemary and White Wine / Pumpkin with Maple Syrup).
Pollo con Rosmarino e Vino Bianco
6 chicken thighs with skin
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
Several Rosemary Sprigs
Flour and brown the thighs in olive oil.
Remove the chicken. Sautee the shallots and about a quarter teaspoon of chopped peponcino in the oil. Let the shallots become transparent, and add the white wine.
Put the thighs back in the pan, and add the rosemary sprigs. Let this reduce a bit over medium heat.
Place in oven, preheated to 200° C. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Add a splash of white wine as needed to keep the chicken moist. Salt and pepper to taste.
Zucca con Sciroppo di Acero
Cut up small pumpkin into slices and roast on a sheet while the chicken is cooking. After about a half hour, remove the pumpkin from the oven. Remove the skin, and cut into chunks.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add the pumpkin. Once it is sizzling, add about a quarter cup of water. Let the water boil off, and add about a quarter cup of maple syrup. Let the pumpkin caramelize to golden brown.
If you have a chance, skip on over to Michelle's blog, Bleeding Espresso to learn more about the symptoms and diagnostic tests for Ovarian Cancer.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
This phase of the renovation, which involved converting 90 square meters, or about 1,000 square feet of old stall into a kitchen, dining area, pottery studio, washing facility and heating room, took approximately 100 days and was finished the day before the first seasonal guests arrived on May 7th.
On day one of the renovation, we removed the first bricks from an interior wall to create a doorway between two stall areas. The vaulted brick ceilings immediately started to buckle and we had to run around, collect iron poles and support the ceiling, remove the entire wall, build and pour a rebar reinforced cement arch.
On day ten of the renovation, while digging the back of the building out of the hill it had been built into, it was quickly realized that the back of the building had no foundation. We lost the back wall of the building, and on the next day, the roof on that end of the barn.
Other than that, things went fairly well, and the result is fabulous.
We will start Phase Two of the Renovation in about 6 weeks. A new guest room, a new wine cellar and tool room.
Wish us luck!
Here is the slide show:
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Yesterday we cooked dinner at the B&B. Our guests were two great couples who didn't know each other before, from Canada and Germany. Everyone in the kitchen knew how to cook, and knew how to drink wine too. The menu we settled on was:
Chantrelle Mushrooms sauteed in Barbera Wine (Rob from Canada)
Fried Zucchini Flowers (Astrid from Germany)
Ravioli Plin with Sage and Butter (from the fresh pasta store down the street -- filled with prociutto, mortadella and roasted veal)
Pollo Saltimbocca (Tim from Germany) (an O recipe!!!!)
Roasted Mixed Vegetables (Susan from Canada)
Mascarpone Cream with Lemon, Lime and Vanilla (Diana) with Chestnut Cake (from the local bakery)
Costa dei Platani - 2004 Barbera Superiore
Massolino - 2003 Barolo
Forteta della Luja - 2007 Brachetto Passito
- and a wonderful Barbaresco which I will post later.
It was a fabulous evening, with great conversation and great company!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
This type of innkeeping takes time and a great deal of attention. Everything must be subtle, not obvious.
Flowers and fruit need to be in-season. Sheets need to be pure linen or cotton. Duvets are essential -- our guests' skin should be the first that touches a duvet cover's clean surface.
Curtains of silk and and velvet, and colors that relax.
Books and cd's, a comfortable corner, and a tea pot. These are essential elements. Good lighting, large bath towels, robes and slippers. My thoughts go to: if it is a rainy day and someone wants to spend the whole day in his or her room, how comfortable will it be? It should be, well, very comfortable.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Sunday night, on TV, I watched Lehman Brothers employees trying to get into the building to get their personal belongings out before Monday because they were so worried that they would not be able to get back in to clear out their desks. This, from a pillar of the American finance world. All of those hard earned MBA's and finance degrees. Now they are parents, looking at their kids, wondering about health insurance, if the COBRA will kick in or if there will be enough to make the next three mortgage payments on a house which is no longer worth the debt which sits on it. My generation -- well, and the next-- I am afraid we are no longer going to be able to keep up with the Joneses. We won't even be able to keep up pretenses. We might, in fact, start not giving a damn. What was all of that corporate burn out for, why did we bother spending our life in a cubicle crunching numbers if this is where it is going to lead?
So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never seemed to help us at all
The thought, the principle that the next generation does better than the last is what America was constructed on. The immense sacrifices which were made by people coming over here - scared? Were they scared? Hell, they didn't have a Gameboy to keep the kids occupied in Steerage class on the monstrous Trans-Atlantic ships, did they? No, in fact they had a wing and a prayer and barely a change of underwear. And they worked. In kitchens, cleaning houses, in factories, in mines so that our parents, and eventually us and eventually our kids and their kids too would not have to. And now, we figured out how to get the educations, how to make it all work and we discover that instead of this social structure being firmly grounded in the strong wills of our grandfathers, it is grounded on a house of cards. Of our own making.
every child had a pretty good shot
to get at least as far as their old man got
something happened on a way to that place
they threw an American Flag in our face
So let's summarize.
Our generation. We've allowed ourselves to become entangled in a war which is costing, in financial and moral terms, our children's future. It is a war built on false pretense. A house of cards. It was designed to protect Americans from a terroist threat, but it's split the country, devastated the economy, and stunned us in to a hangover of realization that our intelligence just ain't that intelligent after all.
And who was wrong?
And who was right?
It didn't matter in the thick of the fight....
Even without the war, we've sold out our children's future by actually believing that we can own a house in which we have none of our own capital invested, that we can make interest payments on the entire purchase price and still have the right to call it "our house", and we are stunned when we find out that we will paying forever on an asset which is worth a fraction of the debt we financed.
And it seems such a waste of time
If that's what it's all about
If that's movin' up then I'm movin' out....
(Movin' Out - Anthony's Song)
At some point, it seems to me, lying to ourselves became a bit too easy. We let the promise of tomorrow feel like a garantee that things can only go in one direction: up? How else could we rationalize working fourteen hour days if we didn't at least hope for the best. It's not like we are a lazy generation. We work. We just want more than our paycheck gives us. And we want it now. Pronto. We didn't want to compromise our children's future. We didn't want to use up all the gas and the oil and basically ignore the inevitable. We just, well, forgot, kind of. Forgot that our kids? That they might want to have kids, too. And, funny enough, they might want their kids to do a little better too. I wonder what the chances of that are. I really do.
But we need to have something, don't we?
We need to look forward and see beauty, because despite everything, there is simply so much of it around. And we cannot simply allow the mistakes made along the way to take away the joy of living. We must enjoy ourselves and our lives and the lives of our children because these days pass so quickly and the most precious moments can never be recaptured.
This is the time to remember
'cause it will not last forever
These are the days to hold on to,
'cause we won't although we want to..
(This is the Time)
My message? Other than that Billy Joel is a genius? With all the horrible news out there, we should try to simplify our lives. We need to focus more on the love and less on the stuff. Forget shopping, remember that time is the commodity which is the great equalizer -- it makes the poor man rich and the rich man poor. And whatever it is that we pass on to the next generation -- for better or for worse --- it will be their job, their destiny to hand it to the next one. It will be out of our hands.
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning....
(We Didn't Start the Fire)
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
This was an absolute experiment this morning, for the breakfast table at the B&B. I have made a pear and thyme tart before, and have actually thought about making a wintery tart with caramelized oranges, but the contest got me thinking about merging the two ideas.
The verdict of the guests is that the tart is a keeper and I will be doing alot more experimenting with oranges as a result!
1 Pate Brisee:
Cut 2 cups of flour with one cup of butter in your mixer. Add a stream of 2-3 tablespoons of ice water, until it holds together. Put ball in the fridge for 1/2 hour at least.
Roll out to the size of your pastry plate.
Caramelize 6 very thin slices of orange:
Sugar coat the slices and place in a hot pan. Turn once. Allow sugar to brown.Arrange slices of pears and the sliced orange on the rolled out pastry shell. Add fresh sprigs of thyme and dot with butter and sugar.
Bake at 200° C for 30 minutes.
Let cool, decorate with powdered sugar.
Women bloggers (and some guys too!!) are joining to support a very worthwhile cause!
are starting a contest today in support of Ovarian Cancer Awareness. I am participating both as a woman and as a good friend to Gina DePalma. Here are the specifics of the contest (digging through my recipe book as I write!!)
O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of Gina DePalma, author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen and Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy, Jenn of The Leftover Queen, and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are asking you to donate to the:
and then, out of the goodness of your hearts and to be eligible for the O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Contest, please do the following:
1. Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato) and include this entire text box in the post;
2. If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word about the event and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
3. Then send your post url [along with a photo (100 x 100) if you've made a recipe] to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on September 30, 2008.
We will post a roundup and announce prize winners on October 3.
- 1 Recipe Prize for best “O food” concoction: $50 gift certificate to Amazon;
- 1 Awareness Prize for only publicizing event: Copy of Dolce Italiano cookbook.
From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:
- Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
- The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,650 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S. in 2008 and about 15,520 women will die from the disease.
- The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose. There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
- In spite of this patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
- When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
Please donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
and help spread the word!
Monday, September 15, 2008
From upper right: Gluten Free Rice Frittata, Gluten Free Corn Crunchy with Ricotta Lime Cream.
From lower right: Strawberries in Balsamico with Lavender, Salami, Müsli and Yogurt;
Insalata Caprese with Prociutto.
Stay tuned tomorrow for an announcement about a delicious contest....
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
The summer is coming to a close. You can feel it in the air, the cool morning breeze, with a bit of dew on the ground, the trailers now left in the vineyards in preparation for the vendemmia, the pool water which makes people squeal when they try to get in, the nightfall which lands earlier and earlier.
I treasure this time of year, of putting on wool socks for the first time, of walking during the late afternoon and seeing the farmers outside, tending their vegetable gardens, at this time full with broccoli. Kale. Cauliflower.
In a few weeks, we will be coming home from our walks, and lighting our wood burning stoves for the evening. I will be starting to cook stews and osso bucco and bresato and polenta.
My herb garden is cut back now, as are the lavander plants, in preparation for the winter. The last of the tomatoes came off the vine today, it's getting too chilly for them to ripen outside.
The porcini stands are starting to pop up on the back roads near the woods. Old men selling their wares found in secret locations between the trees.
The peaches are all but done, I am starting to prepare caramelized apples to eat with goat cheese at breakfast.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I am posting this under the condition of anonymity. Read on:
Several folks have been asking me about Sarah Palin and I've been thinking what to say.
1. I have never voted for her.
2. I admired that she had a fight with her state party leaders – they do have ethical problems. On the other hand, I don't think she has had much effect on the state party: the chairman who had to resign his Oil and Gas appointment is still the chairman; Senator Ted Stevens is under indictment; Representative Don Young is under investigation; a few of our Republican state legislators are in jail; and several are still under investigation.
3. She does require loyalty around her similar to a current President we know.
4. She definitely has strong religious convictions that in my opinion lead to a narrow view of the world. So far she has not been pushing that agenda at the state level because she wanted to take care of business first and I think she understands that bringing up abstinence only, abortion, creationism, etc would be very divisive.
5. While she has worked hard to get a gas line and restructure the oil taxes, she needed to do it with Democratic support – many in her party did not.
6. The ethics legislation that she takes credit for was based on Democratic legislation.
7. She is a smart, hard-working politician and is very personable and connects with people well. I'm not totally against her but I will always be sad that our state picked her as our first woman governor when we had the opportunity to vote for two others (Arliss Sturgelewski (R) and Fran Ulmer (D)) who were intellectually stimulating and had a broad vision for Alaska.
I will be voting for the Obama-Biden ticket because I believe that the Supreme Court has become dangerously ideological. I am hopeful that a President Obama, who was a constitutional law professor, would select candidates for their intellectual curiosity and dedication to the Constitution. I also think that Obama and Biden will use diplomacy with more effect than McCain. If Obama becomes the President of the United States, he won't solve all our problems but I think he will be more inclusive and reflect on the diversity of our country and our people.
Hope that this little note gives you one Alaskan's view of our Governor Sarah Palin. Think, listen, read and don't forget to vote!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
But my thoughts move away from the events of 2001 and move towards the events of September 11, 1949. It was the day my parents married.
My sister and I driving and ferrying to Copenhagen from Hamburg when the planes hit the towers. As we checked in at the Phoenix hotel we could not help but notice a somber mood, but did not know yet about what had transpired. My cell rang, and a friend from Hamburg told us what had occured, through gasps and sobs. We turned on the the television, and saw the first set of replays of the second plane hitting. I screamed. My sister sat there, paralyzed, for the first time experiencing the awful sensation of being very far away from home when some horrible event has taken place in the world.
I immediately got on the phone and tried to call our parents. My biggest worry? That on their anniversary, number 52, that this news might impact adversely on my father's already frail health. They assured me on the phone that they were fine, and would be ok. My parents come from a generation when getting through things like this were simply part of life.
In the years that followed, especially the first one, the drama and emotion and horror of that day overshadowed my parents' anniversary. It pained me, and still does, that something was robbed from them in this way, somehow the freedom to be completely joyous on September 11th. I know the day is much bigger and all encompassing, and is not just about an elderly woman and her now deceased husband. But the fact is that they were two people who really did love each other very much and September 11th was always important to them.
So I know today that my mother is probably at the cemetery, celebrating her anniversary in the way she feels most able to.
The picture above is the last picture taken of my parents together, in October of 2004. I was home visiting and had just bought my Nikon D70 to do the photos for the b&b website. I snapped this one to get a feel for the camera. I am so very happy that I did.
Happy anniversary mom and dad. It is still your day.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
The first question, well, it's a toughie. Sorry. That ol' pesky Roe v. Wade thang. Since we finally got away from those nasty coat hangers and back street butchers, do you really think we want to part with reproductive alternatives all that fast? Now, I know, we should ALL be able to bounce two babies (and there will be two) on our knees, answer the RED phone, fire the secretary of state AND never let our first dude forget he's a man but you know, gov (mind if I call you gov?), just because we should all be able to do that, does it mean we have to? I mean can't we have a -- a ---- choice? OHHHH SORRY. I did not mean to say that dirty six letter word. SOOORRY :) I won't do that again. Don't go getting all pit-bully on me now. Geez, it was just a question.
Oh, just wanted to give you a tip. When thinking foreign policy, think about your pretty ears. Not your enchanting eyes. Because it is EAR-rack and EAR-ran and not EYE-rack and EYE ran. You are focusing on the wrong organ. You are very welcome in advance!! I am sure at this point you can use all the foreign policy tips you can get LOL. Oh, geez. Relax, gov, don't get so defensive. Oh, yes you are! You should see your face right now. That soft little grin looks like it's gonna take out my jugular. Good thing you'd only be biting into a computer!!!
Just a reminder - Foreign policy ? Think Ears. That's all you really need to know!!
Now, since you people up there in Alaska seem to reproduce like rabbits, well at least in YOUR household (just kidding, kind of LOL), you all are gonna need a lot of fuel to keep you warm. I would like to hear what you think we should do after we blasted the North Slope and all that stuff is gone. God, you are going to be in such a bad mood when that happens. First dude'll be spending alot of time down at the watering hole LOL.
The Mortgage Crisis? I think you just better ignore this one, gov. It involves the middle class, and you know they are a bunch of bleeding heart Volvo driving nutcases. They over leveraged their houses and now they are all sad and depressed. Same thing with health care. Just tell them to buck up. If they get whiny, give them the same look you gave Levi after finding out the Blessed News!! That's it!! Ms Pitbull with Lipstick!!! That a girl!! I knew you could do it.
If you need any other suggestions, I am right here, feel free to stop by any time. Good luck with Charlie, and tell him I said hi.
PS: here and here!! What fun!! Everyone's writing about you!!
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Saturday, September 6, 2008
The Forteto is several things. It is a home, a vineyard, a large garden. It is also a World Wildlife Federation Oasis. The wines made here are organic. The fields and vineyards and buildings are of indescribable beauty. The location of the Forteto makes all fo this possible: it sits directly on the vortex which divides the Monferrato region from the Langhe region. From this mountain top position outside of the picturesque village of Loazzolo, one can see Alessandria and Nizza Monferrato to the northeast, Canelli straight ahead, and Barbaresco to the northwest. To the south, the Appenini guard the door to the Mediterranean, and if the weather is clear, the view all around is that of the Alps. All of Northen Italy lay at the door of Forteto della Luja.
But no matter how beautiful a spot is, it does not live unless there is a soul. And the soul of Forteto della Luja is the Scaglione Family. With a property which has been in the family since 1826 Giancarlo, Silvia and Gianni Scaglione are passionate about their home and their legacy.
One arrives at the Forteto not quite knowing what to expect. Down the gravel road, one comes to the first buidling, which is a bit hidden and topped with photovoltaic solar panels. Around the curve, you arrive at the main house.
Because the hills are so steep, it is impossible for a tractor to climb during the vendemmia. So Gianni has another solution for this problem. His name is Amadeus. He is a Haflinger, which is a breed from Austria, and he can climb vertical surfaces and carry the grapes up to the top of the hill.
I told you this place was Paradise. Maybe now you are starting to believe me.
In the wine cellar, Gianni explains the production methods.
Moscato Passito is a wine pressed from dried Moscato Grapes. The fermentation process takes up to two years. The result is an exquisite passito for which Loazzolo holds the DOC. By the way Loazzolo is the smallest village in Italy to have a DOC. And it is for this Moscato Passito. This is a very rich, smooth sweet wine, with an alchohol percentage of between 11.5 and 12.
Moscato Passito is the perfect partner to middle-aged goat cheese, preferrably from the Roccaverano region.
Loazzolo is part of the Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG growing region. the DOCG, however, is only for the sparkling version of Brachetto, which has only been produced since after the second World War. Before that time, the area only produced Brachetto Passito, and this is the only Brachetto which the Forteto makes. It is pressed from dried Brachetto grapes in a similar process to the Moscato Passito. The result is a completely different sweet wine than the Moscato Passito, more amber in color and extremely fruity.
Brachetto Passito is the perfect partner to drier dessert cakes, such as chestnut or hazelnut cake.
Barbera d'Asti DOC
Forteto della Luja's version of this clean classic is one of our favorite Barberas that we have found to date. It is a straight forward wine, and can be drunk with every course, from antipasto through to the end of the meal. It was this wine which first got our attention and brought us to the Forteto in the first place. The wine is aged in steel and passes briefly through oak casks before being bottled and sold in the fall of the following season.
Monferrato Rosso DOC
This is the Forteto's blend of Barbera and Pino Noir. Gianni explained to us the reason they make this blend. The two grapes are complimentary. The Barbera, relatively high in acid and low in tanin, recieves the Pinot Noir's low acidity and high tannin content well. The rich color of the Barbera compensates for the Pino Noir's less full color. The wine is aged for two years in oak and for six months in the bottle. The blend is wine which is best enjoyed with a hearty meat-based main course and is, of course, one of my preferred wines (I have to say I do tend to enjoy blends a bit more than Micha who is a bit more of a purist).
And, from the Le Grive pressed grapes, they also produce an extremely smooth and round Grappa.
This is another example of our neighbors here in the Monferrato. The Forteto welcomes guests by appointment and distributes its wines on a limited basis internationally. It is actively involved in WWF projects, and... is truly an oasis.
Thank you Gianni and Christina, for a beautiful afternoon!
Thursday, September 4, 2008
haven't got a clue what I am doing
don't worry about wasting paint, marble powder, or spackle.
I always have to remember to change my clothes, because I like making a good mess. What could the fun be of painting if you can't get it in your hair and on your shoes? Organized, neatnick artists give me anxiety. No, I am as messy at painting as I am in real life.
I have some rules and regulations about my artwork, so let me get those out of the way.
1. There is no hidden meaning. No the blue blob does not signify life and the red blob my dark side. They are really and truly just blobs.
2. I like painting houses. I might start out painting a cloud or a flower, but it usually ends up being a house after awhile. I have no idea why, except that it probably has to do with the 22 moves I have under my belt.
3. Art is a means to an end. And that end is getting a room decorated. This goes back to point one. There is no hidden meaning.
4. Scale and Proportion are my religion. If there is one thing I hate, it is a big wall with a postcard sized painting on it over the sofa. It makes me agressive and nervous. Look at the wall. Get a bunch of pieces of newspaper and hold them up to said wall. You will know when you find the right size the painting should be. Sheesh. It's that easy.
So here are the paintings I did that day on vacation, for my coffee bar area in my new kitchen. On this day I was playing with Klee instead of playing with clay, like I normally do. I sort of imagined him in front of me, looking at my paintings, busting up laughing and running off.
I love our electricians. They are three guys who work hard and do what they say they are going to do. When they gave me the estimate for running power down to our gate, a distance of about 500 yards, I nearly fell over. How could it be this expensive, I asked. They shrugged. It's alot of cable!
Well, they were right, weren't they! These are the first two spools. They had to drag the wire from this point near the house, manually, all the way down to the bottom to our gate. Along the way, they hooked up lights for the road.
I wanted the big spools to make mosaic coffee tables, but they get recycled!
Yanking the cable down the driveway. This was a huge job. I mean, I get fatigued if I have to slap an extension cord on my vacuum cleaner and drag it around.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Great-aunt, she asked, is it always important to follow your dreams?
The old woman thought for a moment. Yes, she said, it's always important, but sometimes it is a road fraught with difficulty.
But if the dream is so difficult to pursue, then why pursue it at all?
The old woman put her book to the side. Well, she said, because of course you would always wonder about it if you didn't at least try.
But, you, great-aunt, you pursued your dreams. Aren't you happy you did?
I had no choice, said the old woman. Destiny led me down the path. Some people are like that. They can't leave a door unopened, they can't pass by a chance encounter. I was like that, for better or for worse. But don't make the mistake of thinking that I was always strong, or I always knew, or that I was always happy, or that I didn't miss anything in my life. That would be a mistake, my beautiful great-niece.
But look at all the people that never even try, great-aunt. They never had the gumption to open the door.
Or the wind did not blow it open for them at the right moment, said the old woman.
The young woman thought about this. For all that you did, great-aunt, tell me what you missed that was so important.
I missed your uncle's wedding, my sweetheart. I missed it when your grandmother's dog died and she needed someone to make her some soup. I missed when your mother graduated from university, with such honors. I missed your christening, darling. I missed walking on the river, alone, in the fall.
Don't get me wrong. I lived a beautiful life. I saw foreign lands, I ate wonderful food, I drank the best wine. I learned languages. I met interesting people. I saw remarkable art, and created some myself. I challenged myself in many ways that I never thought possible.
And I was loved, very loved, by a special man.
But there is a price to pay for every decision we make. When we make one decision, we turn our back on many other possibilities. But, in this life, we only can follow one path at a time. And we have to allow ourselves to be satisfied with that, or we will be too sad about the things we missed.
The young woman sat in front of the fire and thought.
I am going to make us some dinner, great-aunt.
That sounds like a very good idea, darling, said the old woman, and picked up her book again.
The stage for a perfect cup of coffee is set in the perfect cup and saucer. This is a new design which I am working on, based upon a Japanese ceremonial teacup design. The bowl shaped saucer allows for the placement of a biscuit or a sugar cube.
Creative Structures was the name I gave to my art studio which I opened in Hamburg, Germany, in 2000. I only had the studio for two years before closing it in preparation for our move to Italy. I had completed the first part of my ceramics apprenticeship and needed a place of my own to find my voice. Those were two important, difficult years for me. I had my first exhibit back then, and learned what it was like to work, day and night, months on end, to create some sort of a cohesive program which could be viewed as a statement. That exhibit was in fact not at all cohesive, it was chaotic as hell now that I look back. But in reality, it was the kick that I needed to start the transition for the new life which I would be plunging myself into here in Italy.
The words Creative Structures worked for me then, and I have decided, they work for me now. The art which I do -- those are creative structures, as are the buildings I have redesigned, plates which I throw on the wheel, the gardens I tend. They are all structures which require creative input in order to flourish. This blog will reflect this, I hope, even more than my old one did. It's time to break out. Break out and create something new.
I hope you join me, on this journey as I move forward.