Saturday, May 14, 2011


I cannot believe I have not posted since February! Yikes! But in my defense I have had company and the chance to do a bit of travel. That's my story and I am sticking to it!
My daughter came with her boyfriend and then a friend of mine from when I lived in Japan came down from Germany to visit. Also, Jennie the dog was swamped with work due to the current "War Effort" on NATO's part. She loves working with the troops ... better than the kids I think as there in much less tail grabbing. And they will throw her frisbee for her which is about all it takes for her to be your friend for life. So on to my travels.
This is the Castle Miramare where the Archduke Ferdinand and wife lived for 4 years before he left to take the Imperial Crown of Mexico where he was executed by revolutionaries. It is a small but stunning castle surrounded by an amazing park. A true jewel by the sea located just outside of the city of Trieste.

This is the view from the Salon windows. Every view is amazing. Also, you can see here the eagle and snake motif which are the symbol of Mexico. Trieste also had the southern most concentration camp that the Nazi regime established along with the Facists here in Italy. When it was overthrown it was discovered that they had tried to hide their crimes by burning the bodies of prisoners in the ovens en mass. They were exposed and killed. It was a grim reminder.
Trieste is an old city and has some amazing architecture. They are currently excavating some from Roman times that were discovered in the heart of town. The port is busy and so on a food note ... the seafood is great!
Next up will be Rome. But give me a day or two...LOL.
On knitting .... not too much. I did do a big dyeing project of some silk hankies that I am going to try to draft out and knit into a pair of mittens. I am taking tons of pictures and will try to post most of it together. The colours are wonderful and rich so it is a project that I can hardly wait to start. Also, one of a pair of knee socks is finished. It is a project for the next What Would Madame Defarge Knit book. Why I am knitting knee socks all of a sudden I do not know ... but there you have it.
So, I am off to the market ... but I am back to writing. So there will be more to follow. Later ....

Have you ever seen
All the world in a raindrop
But falling ... falling

geesh... still spell checking in Italian only. I am a bad speller in Italian, apparently, since the whole thing lights right up. LOL

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Book! A Book!

Monday would have been Charles Dickens' 199th birthday, and on that day Cooperative Press announced that preorders for What Would Madame Defarge Knit? opened in honor of the author whose formidable character Therese Defarge inspired Heather Ordover's book. If it's been a while since your last literature class, remember that in A Tale of Two Cities Defarge knits and knits, secretly encoding the names of people she will have killed. Vive la revolution?

And why do I care?
Because I have three designs in the book!

Don't worry, there isn't a murder prerequisite to love this book! Ordover, the creator of popular podcast CraftLit, has assembled an inspiring and thought-provoking collection of 20+ patterns, as well as essays and other tidbits inspired by literature, illustrated by the talented Jen Minnis in a black-and-white woodcut style that pays tribute to Dickensian-era publishing.

And if you're reading this, chances are good you are a strong supporter of small independent publishers. You may be interested to know that this book will be the first Cooperative Press release where all designers receive a direct royalty share of each sale. Our Fresh Designs series, which will be out later this year, is set up similarly. Instead of a small, one-time payment for their work at the beginning (and not a penny afterwards, no matter how many copies the book sells), designers have an opportunity to earn an unlimited payment for their work.

Visit the WWMDfK? website for more about the book's contributors and other behind-the-scenes information. As of today's pre-release, the book is 200+ pages, illustrated.


Signed, with extras. This is a special creation and will be limited to less than 100 copies, numbered. Shipping is included, as is a PDF copy of the book.

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DIGITAL (PDF) + PRINT ($26.95)

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E-READER EDITION ($16.95) (For Kindle, Nook, Sony e-Reader, iPad, etc)

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Pursued by the Headless Horseman ...

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow has been a fireside classic for centuries. The tale of a gangly schoolmaster and the ghost of a Hessian soldier has set spines tingling the world over and spawned many dreaded fears of the dark forests. I myself loved the story and spent many childhood hours out in the forest with my father imagining all sorts of wild things happening around me.
Now it is JennietheDog who roams the forests of the Italian Dolomites with me. Wild boar crash through the undergrowth and the small deer that live here occasionally spring up and scare the daylights right out of me. But it is beautiful ... spring, summer, and fall. This soup recipe is seasonal here in Italy and served all throughout the Fall and winter. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.

Zuppa di Zucca
(Pumkin Soup)

You will need:
olive oil
1-2 T. butter
1 small kubocha or a nice size butternut squash
1 sweet potato
1 small onion (diced)
2-3 cups of a good vegetable or chicken broth
1-2 t. of maple syrup or honey (optional)
Garnish with creme fraiche, sour creme, or roasted hulled pumpkin seeds and a sprig of chives.

Preheat oven to 350 F. or 175 C.
Cut the sweet potato in half. Cut the pumpkin or the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Lightly coat with olive oil on the inside and the outside and roast, cut side up, for about 1 hour or until very tender. Allow to cool.
While that is cooking sweat the onions in the butter over very low heat till clear but not browned.
Once the squash and sweet potato are cool enough to handle scoop out the flesh and add tothe pot along with enough the onions and enough of the broth to cover. Simmer for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Purre in small bahes in a blender or use a hand blender and ouree in the pot. Add salt and taste. If you would prefer it to have a bit more sweetness add the syup or honey. Serve hot with a dollop of creme fraiche, sour creme, or roasted hulled pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Pumkin Seeds

Lay a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of a cooki sheet and lightly coat with butter.
1/2 c. hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 T. butter
1 t. sea salt ( I like the bits of salt but you could easily use kosher salt)
roast till they bigib to turn golden.
In a sauce pan boil 1/2 c. maple syrup  for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the seeds and a pinch of smokey paprika or cayenne pepper. Boil for another 3 minutes and pour out onto the buttered piece of parchment paper. Allow to cool and break into bits.

We eat these as a snack quite often which is why there are none in the photo above. Sorry, just imagine little golden brown toasty bits perched on top. There you go!

Brewing the Love Potion ...

The story of Tristan and Isolde was very popular here in Italy and many cantari or oral poems were presented in the public squares all over the country. Love potions hidden in wine have been around for ever. Here, in Italy, the famed Medici were experts at all sorts of potions and poisons. This spiced wine is served in the winters at all of the Christmas Markets here and is a trade mark of a celebration called "the Bufana" which is a fire celebration held the night before Epiphany.

Spiced Wine (for the Bufana)

1 bottle of good red wine
3/4 - 1 cup of sugar
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
the zest of a lemon and an orange
3 cloves (for the three wise men)
and a few cardamon pods (optional but I love them)

Combine all of the ingredients in a pan and gently heat. DO NOT BOIL. After 30 minutes strain out the zest and spices and it is ready to serve in some good sturdy mugs ... or your favorite magical chalice.
This can be made ahead and reheated when you are ready. I keep a bottle of it in the refrigerator all winter ... just for medicinal purposes.


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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tasty Goodness

The last week or two have been cold. And foggy. And did I mention it was damp? How damp you ask? Well we did have some very pretty frost:
The spider has been missing in action for months but her web is still hanging out on the gate.
In spite of the cold I have been trying to get some yarn dyed and up in the shop. Drying takes forever here and I have been forced to employ the de-humidifiers. Here are some pictures of last weeks work: "Squash Blossom" for Brenda Dayne's Driving Miss Daisy gloves, "Walnut" ( a beautiful rich colour with hints of gold) and "Silver Sage" which is a delicate silver green ... just the colour of the sage brush at home in Idaho.

To combat the chill I decided to make barley soup. I love soups but for some reason barley has never been my favorite ... that is until I had it while I was up in Bolzano in December. They made a soup that was amazing. I had tried to make it in January and came up quite short in both the tasty goodness category and in the filling/satisfying category. And then I read a cookbook that mentioned cheese broth. That was when I realized that the amazing flavor in the Bolzano soup was, in fact, a cheesy flavor. So I dragged all of the cheese rinds that I had stored in the freezer and set them to simmer for 3 or so hours in a pot of water (to cover the cheese) on the stove.

That is the cheese broth in the picture above. The whole house smelled great. Then I strained out the cheese rinds and refrigerated the broth overnight. The next day I used some of the fat from the top to saute the veg for the soup, threw the rest of the fat out and made a very tasty soup. Here is te recipe I came up with:

Bolzano Barley Soup

1 onion diced
2 carrots diced
3 ribs of celery diced
Sweat these in a bit of fat from the cheese broth or (for the unbearably health conscious) in a bit of olive oil
Then add 1 c. pearled barley
the cheeese broth
and 3 or 4 cups of good chicken stock (start with the lesser amount and add as needed)
add a pinch or two of oregano and basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer for an hour or so stirring frequently and adding broth as needed. The soup should be thick and creamy. Here, they add a smoked ham called speck, diced fine, but if you want to add meat to it any ham would work. I'd show a picture of the finished soup but to be honest we ate it all. LOL
I am sorry for typos in this or any other post but I have given up trying to convince blogger to run the spell check n English. It is absolutly convinced that I want everything spell checked in Italian. It wins.

Caught in a tree branch
The moon's cloud veil is pulled free
By the morning breeze.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What's For Dinner ...

I opend a bottle of CastelVecchio this evening and set down to have a glass. No sooner done than the DH wandered in and ask "what's for dinner?". A deep and abiding silence followed this question and then I blurted out "soup!". So here is a good "emergency" soup to make up when all you really want for dinner is that second glass of wine.

Two Potato Soup

knob of butter
1 yellow onion
1 rib celery
1 t or so of salt
26 oz. chicken stock
1 sweet potato (peeled and diced)
2 or 3 white or gold potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 bay leaf
pinch or so of:
ground thyme
smoked paprika (you can use regular if that is all you have)
black pepper
ground chipotle pepper(you can use cayenne)
1 cup milk or cream

Chop up the onion and celery and put in a heavy pot with the salt and butter and sweat over very low heat for about 30 minutes. Add the chicken stock, the potaoes and the spices and simmer till tender. Remove the bay leaf.
Using a hand blender (or a counter top food processor - being really careful and working in small batches) blend till smooth and thin to desired consistency with the milk. Serve with sour cream and crumble bacon or pancetta.

I totally made this up on the fly. Feel free to tweek it to your hearts content. And here is the culprit that started it all. Not sure where it is available but if you see it give it a try!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Last of the Christmas Holidays

Here in the part of Italy where I live there is a big celebration the night before Epiphany called the Bufana. This is based around a legend of the Three Wise Men ... who, like most men, were able to become so lost on their way to adore the Christ child that they ended up here in northern Italy instead of Bethlehem. Finally a miracle occured and they stopped to ask directions at a small cottage ( I know I know ... go figure). When the old woman answered the door they offered to take her with them to Bethlehem. She showed them her broom and told them she had too much housework to do to go wondering off (with three King who were obviously directionally challeged) but she gave them directions and sent them on their way. A few days later she realized that she had missed an amazing opportunity and so she left her home in search of the Christ child herself. Not knowing how she would be able recognize him she gave gifts and candy to every child she met in the hopes that they would turn out to be the Child she was searching for.
Here she is still giving candy and gifts to the children in the village. But wait! There's more! Here in the Friuli region where I live every village and farm builds the biggest bonfire they can (it's a bit of a competition) with either a cross or ... get this ... a witch on top. Why they want to burn the person bringing the gifts is beyond me but anyway about half of them do. The bonfire comes from the old pagan ritual meant to remind the sun to return but this being a Catholic country they have a priest come out and say a prayer and bless the pile of debris with holy water and voila! it is all ok. Then, while what looks like half the village is burning, the spectators set off firecrackers and drink vin brulee (hot spiced wine) and eat roast pork and a special cake that is a combination pumpkin bread/fruit cake.
It was an amazing amount of fun going out and seeing all of this with my friends. And on the drive home we all kept pointing out the fires along the way. Next year I will have to go and do this again!
Midwinter whiteout
Only the sound of the birds
Hidden in the trees.