Monday, November 28, 2011

A Travel Journal......With darkness setting in early the travel plans begin!

Rome, the pines on the Palatine Hill

Now, with Thanksgiving behind us we move forward into the dark and cold part of the year. Although I must say that the temperature outside today is in the 50's, unseasonably mild and welcoming. With the darkness setting in early by late afternoon the light in the studio becomes too dim to paint. It is then that I work on travel plans for the spring trip to Italy. Later in the evening James will often light a fire and we dine in front of the fireplace. These are two remedies we have found to brighten this time of year.
I began this blog, At Home and Away, prior a trip to Rome when James was a Visiting Artist at The American Academy in Rome in spring of 2010. So in part the blog became our travel journal. This time the blog will again serve as our travel journal beginning with the planning and preparations for our trip.
Thoughts and suggestions are most welcomed.

When we travel it is to Italy. James and I go to look at art and gardens. We find the Italian people really lovely and kind. We love eating, cooking and certainly drinking Italian wine. The landscape of Tuscany and Umbria is breathtaking and Rome is an incredible city.
So, where do we begin? Where do we go this time that we have not gone in the past?
One change, on this trip our daughter and her husband will be with us for about two weeks.
James and I generally rent an apartment in Panicale, Umbria as a home base. Renting an apartment works well for us due to the fact that it is economical and we can cook. We are renting again, but the Panicale apartment is not available for our entire stay this year, so we have to consider other options for the remainder of our time there.

There are places we love that we want to share with them, Rome, Siena, Florence, maybe Lucca. There are small villages and hill towns to explore with medieval alleys to walk. There are cathedrals and abbeys of remarkable architecture filled with art. Palazzos with loggias and courtyard gardens. Gardens both hidden and small as well as the grand gardens to visit. Art, there is art in museums, but for us the best place to see art in the place it was meant to be, the place where it was created; a fresco on the ceiling of a Baroque Basilica or Renaissance fresco on refectory wall of an abbey. There are trattorias that cannot be missed. Always, always new places to find.

So, it is now the planning begins. The apartment in Panicale is rented, for at least a portion of our visit.
I am reading Rome, by Robert Hughes. I just completed a book on
the design genius of both Bernini and Borromini.
My notebooks and sketchbooks from past trips sit on my desk, pages open. Travel guides line the bookshelf for reference. My mind is filled with Italy...Rome, Tuscany & Umbria.
I will keep you posted.
Ideas to share? Know a great place to stay, a delicious trattoria, a place to see a remarkable painting, a quiet and hidden garden. Something not to be missed, let me know!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving

Bon Appetit, November 1980
Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey

This 1980 issue of Bon Appetit magazine helped to ignite our desire to cook. We were familiar with both Craig Claiborne from his New York Times articles and cookbooks and Pierre Franey from his cookbooks and history with Le Pavillion restaurant.
I am fairly certain we have prepared every recipe in the article from the Jalapeno Cornbread Stuffing, Kathleen Claiborne's Pecan Pie, Roast Fresh Turkey and so on. The article not only gave us recipes but taught us how to truss a turkey, and gave us ideas for wines to pair with the meal.
Remember, this was 1980. This was eye opening for us. Now 2011, the magazine remains part of our tradition. Some years we may use only one recipe that Craig and Pierre brought to us, or just have it on the table for a quick reference, but it remains a treasure in our kitchen.

We have a collection of Johnson Brothers "Wild Turkey" and "Barnyard Turkey" plates that we use on Thanksgiving. The fancier Barnyard Turkey plates were a gift to me from James, along with a large platter. The Wild Turkey plates, cups & saucers came from a church sale in Maine. I spotted the familiar trademark Johnson Bros. plates barely visible in a box on the floor where the white elephant sale items were. A great find!

The very first cookbook that James and I bought decades ago, was Craig Claiborne's Herb and Spice Cookbook. That took us to the New York Times Cookbook. From there we found James Beard, Pierre Franey, Julia Child & Elizabeth David. We collect cookbooks , and we read about food. When we find a recipe we always cook directly from the recipe, after that we often make changes....adapting it to our own needs and likes.
Cooking and eating well is important in our kitchen and dining room and garden. When the opportunity to dine in an exceptional restaurant arises we jump at it. We also love eating at small trattoria family run places.

But for us, Thanksgiving is about home and sharing food with family and friends. This year, along with our daughter and son-in-law, we will host 20. We will have sheep and goat cheese and eggs from local farms to begin.
Fresh organic Vermont Turkey will be the star accompanied by two stuffings, gravy (started with a great turkey stock). A puree of sweet potato with praline topping, mashed potato casserole a la NY Times Dining section, Cranberry- Lingonberry Sauce ( a nod to New England and my Swedish ancestry), haricot verts with pancetta, garden fresh multi- color carrots, and of course an assortment of pies will all be part of our feast.

As you can see this magazine is well worn. It has seen us through many Thanksgiving Feasts.

Keep cooking.
Be thankful for family, good food, home gardens and small farms that provide fresh food for us all to enjoy.

Happy Thanksgiving!