Monday, December 24, 2012


As James and I were unpacking our ornaments and decorating our tree I had a recollection of buying an ornament in Italy last spring. I mentioned it and James agreed that we did buy an ornament in a small shop right in the piazza in Panicale.
Where is it?

Opening another box of our carefully packed glass  and handmade ornaments that we have collected over the years, a pretty bag was tucked in there on top of them.
That's the bag from Panicale with the ornament from Deruta.
A good memory brought back from Italy and welcome addition to our tree this year.


Merry Christmas
Buon Natale

May we wish everyone a joyous, peaceful, healthy and a
happy holiday season.


James and Elizabeth

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Greens and Flowers of December

Simple greens surround our front door. We selected Western Cedar, a fitting match to our cedar shingles. The wreath is mixed greens and pine cones, as is the urn which also has Winterberry.
James heard that Winterberry is in short supply this year, whereas last year it was plentiful along the roadside and at garden centers selling holiday greens.

The red Amaryllis shout "December" as they share the already red room
with the delicate Paperwhites.

A nearly white on white composition with the light blanket of snow covering the ground outside.

Another red Amaryllis, a vase of holly cut from the garden sit on the table, the low winter sun  creating long shadows behind them. The mantle is dressed in greens brought in from the garden There are   pomegranates, and clementines from far off places and a ribbon of red cascading through it all.

 The house is simple but festive with things local and exotic

It all says, " Welcome Yule!"

And, might we all wish for a Kind and Peaceful New Year.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The White Mountain Breakfront

The White Mountain Breakfront with the doors closed.

Here it stands, the sum of all the parts that were in the previous post, The White Mountain Breakfront.
A collaboration by Furniture Master David Lamb and artist James Aponovich, a work that draws on the unique talents of each individual yet, the result of this pairing brings forth a spectacular piece of furniture.

A Visual Tour

 The doors open...
 revealed is an Aponovich painting, a still life set against an almost mythical White Mountain landscape that spans four seasons featuring winter in the central panel.
On the lower case there are four painted ovals that represent what Aponovich & Lamb refer to as the 'aspects' of New Hampshire, more about that shortly.

 As mentioned in the previous post, An Artistic Collaboration, David Lamb's attention was drawn to the designs created by frost on the windows of his house.

The beautiful exterior of the four upper doors is a translation in wood of that vision using crotch birch inlay to create the frost like fractal patterns that David kept noticing during the cold winter months here in New Hampshire. The  birch was selected for its natural patterns, color and the fact that it referenced the furniture making of Portsmouth, NH. over the past centuries. Lamb, the skilled cabinet maker  he is, was able utilize  all this character from the wood in creating these astonishing doors.

The doors of the Breakfront open and fold back to this remarkable Aponovich painting, a triptych with winter once again taking a starring role.
The left panel is warm with  the summer color  of daylilies from our garden, and a lush green landscape that transitions into autumn with apples russet oaks.  The central panel  takes us into winter white  and snow punctuated by the colorful basket of fruit. Here even the cloth takes on the white of winter and the sugar spilling from the sugar bowl brings to mind snow. Continue to the right and spring begins to emerge with  a vase full of lilacs and a landscape that begins to transition from early spring
 and return us to  summer.

Looking up, the carved frieze that spans the crown of the Breakfront is David Lamb's version of the 'aspects' of New Hampshire. The frieze is carved in both high and low relief.  Images that represent the mountains, seacoast, industry, agriculture, and Native Americans of New Hampshire are generally in low relief and the flora of the state that meander throughout are carved in a high relief. Above, pine cones of the  majestic White Pine are centered on the carved frieze where, from that point, the eye  travels across the Breakfront's crown.

James painted the 'aspects' on the four ovals that are inset on the lower doors of the Breakfront. The morning glories are set against  a seascape of the NH coast.
  Dating back to the China trade, the harbor of Portsmouth was, and remains, important to the economy of the state, with commerce, ship building and tourism all part of the mix.

Another oval  depicts the industry of the state, here the mills of Nashua that once gave rise to a textile industry and brought growth to the towns and cities along the Merrimack River.
A third oval represents the agricultural aspect, with a crop covered field and a farm. The fourth, a look to the mountains, so important to the economy and identity of New Hampshire.

So, there it is, a very brief story of two collaborators and The White Mountain Breakfront.
If you are in New England between now and January 6th, you might want to
 make a trip over to The Currier Museum of Art to take a look at this unique and incredible piece of American furniture created by two masters, who by the way, were both born and bred in New Hampshire.

But wait, there is a third collaborator in this story.

The third collaborator is the patron and in this case patrons, Tom and Shannon.
James painted this oval for the crown of the Breakfront to symbolize the four individuals with four maple leaves that came together to realize this project.
Tom and Shannon are true patrons that took the leap to make this happen.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An Artistic Collaboration

It has been in the works for weeks, months, years, this latest collaboration
 between artist James Aponovich and Furniture Master David Lamb. This project 
 is the result two of creative minds and four skilled hands coming together in this place called New Hampshire and in this time.

The concept for this piece, The White Mountain Breakfront, began to churn after a visit several years ago to Bretton Woods and The Mount Washington Hotel. James and David were both attending an Arts conference when their conversation about a breakfront began. 
A layer was added when David, who lives with his wife Janet in an antique cape, began to take note of frost patterns that would form on the original old windows of the house in winter.
James, who was NH Artist Laureate at the time (  David Lamb currently holds that honored title), had been traveling around the state doing drawings and paintings  as he revisited sites painted by artists such as Cole, Church, Kensett and Bierstadt.

A meeting of minds one might say.

The concept was born for the newest 'Lambovich' collaboration, The White Mountain Breakfront.
Like the artists of the Renaissance, this project needed an additional element, a third participant to havethe saws, planes and brushes to be put to work. 
As Michelangelo needed Julius II, ( see previous blog post) or the artists of Florence needed the Medici's to commission works of art, the Aponovich / Lamb concept needed a patron to bring it into being.

And so it happened!
David's saws were put to work cutting New Hampshire birch

In James' studio a small mock up, that they refer to as "Punch & Judy" ( a reference to a puppet theatre show), with painted sketches of Lamb's frost doors and Aponovich's White Mountain still life.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Seasons in New England came and went........
The bottom case of the breakfront began to take shape.

Lamb and Aponovich both share a keen attention to detail in their work.
Here, as the piece progressed you can see the graceful feet and the splendid use of different wood that will give this breakfront a unique brilliance.

Many conversations and ideas were exchanged during this collaboration.

In David's Canterbury studio the breakfront case was being made, wood was being cut and  carefully selected.
In Hancock, James was busy at the easel painting the panels for the interior of the Breakfront.  James and I made several trips to the White Mountains where he  gathered ideas and did sketches in each season preparing for this three panel triptych.

Aponovich's paintings are a blend of reality, concept and fantasy. A peek at the White Mountain landscape with cliffs, mountains and a river flowing through the valley.

A detail of the largest central panel with clementine, grapes and a plum all are painted in Aponovich's distinct style of real and imagined.

The crown of the Breakfront  shown nearly complete in Lamb's studio. Note the contrasting woods and golden crotch NH birch. Remember the picture of the snow covered birch logs that David had cut?  Those logs were transformed into the arch shaped birch pattern spanning the crown.The white oval will be filled with an oval painted by James. 
Reveal and conceal....
There are 5 painted ovals, one on the crown and one on each of four lower doors.
The Aponovich ovals and the frieze of carving by David's hand on the crown refer to the 'aspects' of New Hampshire.
More on that soon.

I cannot give too much away right now and I can only show details due to the fact that The White Mountain Breakfront is to be unveiled at The Currier Museum of Art on November 1st.

I can tell you this........The White Mountain Breakfront is stunning.

Once the piece has been unveiled, I will show you the sum of all the parts  and details.
Stay tuned.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Michelangelo in the Morning

The morning cleared after a rainy night. From the large window of the apartment where we were  staying on the Via Baccina, sunlight streamed in and created long shadows across the narrow Monti street. Voices  of passersby could be heard, the sweet sing-song voices of Italian children on their way to school, mothers with strollers, and the clicking sound of heels on the cobbles all established a feel of neighborhood here. More on the Monti neighborhood soon.

In Italy, James and I get an early start on the day. Stepping out the door onto the shaded Via Baccina we walked toward the sun filled Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. We passed a a man sweeping and two woman standing in a doorway smoking, while at the corner a colorful delivery of flowers was made from the back of a tiny pickup truck  People in business attire on mobile phones, always on mobile phones, threaded in and out of parked and moving cars,vespas and bicycles with confidence and grace.

The day starts with a cappuccino at a bar. Our food saavy "landlord" Elizabeth suggested two bars, for coffee, we went to the one on the Via Serpente, Antica Caffe' Brasilia, where we found the cappuccino to be heavenly, and of course, we each had a cornetto to fortify ourselves for the day! It was there, standing at the bar drinking cappuccini that we would plan our day. James recalled something about a Michelangelo being in this neighborhood, I remember him saying something to the effect,  "Hmmmmmmmmm,
 I think there's a Michelangelo around here.... somewhere."

Our trusty Rough Guide map showed us a church, San Pietro in Vincolo, across the Via Cavour. This sounded familiar. Our cups emptied we began our hunt for Michelangelo. 
We passed a familiar Sicilian pastry shop, and resisted the temptation of those wonderfully colorful pastries that fill the cases. We were on a quest, and  anyway, we already had cornetti. We turned and climbed stairs that landed us on the Via Cavour. The map indicted that we must cross the  Via Cavour  and for this busy street, a cross walk was necessary.  Once across, it was only a short distance when the sign for San Pietro in Vincolo pointed us to the right and to a really long stair case.

Is everything in Rome at the top of a hill or long flight of stairs?

Well, the morning cappuccini  gave us the boost we needed to follow these stairs to the top to find San
Pietro in Vincolo, which I later learned means Saint Peter in Chains.
But, was there a Michelangelo here?
There were no crowds or lines, but there was a 'begger' on the steps, which indicted this to be a place people  regularly visit.

Indeed, here inside the church we found a Michelangelo.
Not just any Michelangelo, but THE Michelangelo, the project he longed to do his entire life, the Tomb of Pope Julius II.

The story of  Michelangelo and the tomb for Julius II goes something like this......
It was 1503, Julius II is elected Pope when shortly after ,in the original St. Peter's, he sets his eyes on a sculpture, a work of art that sweeps him off his feet, Michelangelo's Pieta. He summons Michelangelo from his hometown of Florence, where he has just completed the David to raves.
Julius II, thinks big, modesty was not a word to be associated with this Della Rovere pope, the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, to whom we owe the building of the Sistine Chapel. Well, Julius had it in his mind to have Michelangelo sculpt a tomb for him, a grand tomb, a tomb for the ages. A thrilled Michelangelo designed a tomb for Julius that would be 35 feet  wide and 50 feet high containing 40 life size figures topped by a ten foot high sculpture of Julius in papal attire, along with niches, pillars, arches and  architectural adornments, and a seated Moses. WOW! It would have made a pharaoh envious. Michelangelo goes off to Carrara to select the white marble and within months he sent back 90 wagons filled with marble to Rome.

 Michelangelo returns to Rome to find that Julius has put his sights and money on building a 'new' St. Peter's Basilica and the tomb gets put on a back burner. Michelangelo is crushed that his project has been overshadowed by the building of a grand Basilica and that he is no longer the darling of the Pope, that role has been taken by Donato Bramante, the chief architect of Julius' new legacy, St. Peter's.
Michelangelo flees Rome but an angry Pope Julius call s him back to his service, not to work on the tomb, but this time Michelangelo, the sculptor, is charged with painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

It is 1505, Michelangelo is thirty three
 and his life's ambition is to carve the  grandiose tomb for Julius, instead he finds himself painting the frescos of the Sistine. No small project, mind you. It is glorious! ( but if you go, take a private tour).
 Michelangelo lived a long life 1475-1564, he was 89 when he died. Often reported to be a loner and a rather cranky fellow that rarely removed his boots ( which could could account in his being a loner!). He carried the burden of this unfinished  tomb for 30 years.

 It is said that Julius, on his death bed, asked  that his remains be placed into the tomb and that the tomb, upon completion, be installed in the Sistine Chapel, so that he could rest under two great Michelangelo's, the sculptural tomb and the masterpiece of the painted Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Neither happened.  After the death of  Pope Julius II, Pope Leo X ( a Medici pope) was elected and the plans for Julius' tomb were radically scaled down. Leo did allow Michelangelo time and funds to return to work on Julius' tomb, but he also put him to the task of creating a painting for above the altar of the Sistine Chapel. As for the tomb,Michelangelo completed the sculpture of Moses, which is powerful and splendid, along with a couple of other figures that he may have worked on with skilled assistants.

The tomb was not installed as Julius had wished in The Sistine Chapel or in St. Peter's Basilica, it stands in a different St. Peter's, the church of San Pietro in Vincolo. And, to make things worse, the remains of Julius II are not  even in this abbrevited tomb. After Julius died, with the tomb incomplete, the body of Julius was put next to the remains of his uncle, Sixtus IV in his tomb in St. Peter's Basilica.

It might have been something extraordinary if Michelangelo could have created the Tomb of Julius II the way he had envisioned. On the contrary, one can't help but consider that if Michelangelo had continued with the tomb would he have been commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
James and I stood, nearly alone in front of this Michelangelo in San Pietro in Vincolo for quite some time, looking and wondering.

James and I went back out to the sunny Rome morning and walked up to Quirinal Hill. This is an area of Rome that we had spent little time in and we heard that the view from here was particularly interesting.

Due to the fact that the Presidential Palace is here in the piazza at the top of the hill, the cars go from small European cars to large  European power cars, I'm talking big black Mercedes and Audi's fill the streets.
Here at the top of the hill James and I spent time drawing. The sketch I made (above) included roof tops and a dome. The dome is that of St. Peter's Basilica. Late in life Michelangelo, under protest, was appointed Chief Architect of St. Peter's. He redesigned much of the Basilica including the dome.
It was years later and after Michelangelo' s life was over that under Giacomo della Porta the Basilica was at last completed  and the dome, somewhat changed
from Michelangelo's design, was finally erected.

And so went our morning with Michelangelo.
Only in Rome.

Time for lunch!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Figs Define the Season in our Garden

 Figs are as important as tomatoes, arugula, basil and spinach in our garden. We would be very disappointed gardeners if by September we were not harvesting beautiful ripe figs.
Granted this is New Hampshire and not Italy, but James and I have come to expect a fresh crop of figs in the late summer ever since our first taste of  figs picked off the tree in a garden in the Medieval  hill town of Barga, Tuscany  twenty years ago.

Eaten fresh off the tree one can best realize the true sweetness of a ripe fig, but a little time  in a saute pan over heat, with the addition of some butter can transform figs into a warm dessert when dressed with a drizzle of balsamic condimentoand for a cool contrast a small amount of gelato or ice cream.

 Cut the figs in half lengthwise. Heat a  heavy saute pan, add a little canola oil and about a tablespoon of butter, when the butter begins to sizzle add the fig halves cut side down into the hot pan. 
Over medium to medium low heat let the figs cook.....resist moving them for about 10 min.
Then turn the figs over and cook skin side down for about another 5-10 minutes. Drizzle a small mount of balsamico condimento over each fig. A very good balsamic vinegar can be used but the condimento is much better for this.
For added luxuriousness serve warm figs with  a small amount of gelato or  vanilla ice cream.

So just as apples, squash and pumpkins define the season in our garden and kitchen so do figs.

Balsamic Condimento is available at Formaggio Kitchen

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dreaming of Italy........Sogno di Italia

I received an email this morning that begins "Ciao Carissima", I broke into a smile and opened the note that I immediately knew was from our new friend Katia.
This got me to thinking about our most recent visit to Panicale and 'The Pink Palace".

Panicale is a hill town in Umbria south of Lake Trasimeno and quite close to the border of Tuscany, a location that gets us to Montepulciano, Cortona, Assisi, and Siena quite easily, plus it is a good old medieval hill town.
It is through Katia that James and I rented Sogno Panicalese a.k.a. The Pink Palace, for our stay, mind you, James and I normally stay in a small one bedroom apartment, nice but cozy. This time, with the thought that our daughter and her husband Chris might be joining us for a week we wanted something a little more spacious. Did I say a little more spacious?
As usual, we wanted to stay within the walls of the town and required a workable kitchen, washing machine, two bedrooms and hopefully two bathrooms

Sogno Panicalese is an entire in- town villa that is spacious and pink, but pink only on the outside.
Yes, it had several swell bathrooms with tile showers and fitted with tubs to lounge in, but it was in the kitchen that we loved and where James and I spent so much of our time. Face it, anyone that loves to eat and cook loves Italy, but if you are staying in a hotel without a kitchen in sight how in the world can you go to the markets to face the temptation of all the wonderful ingredients and not want to buy them and make a meal. Impossibile! Baby artichokes, porcini mushrooms, guinea hens, wild asparagus and phenomenal pastas speak to us as we shop at the frutta e verdura or at Linda's, Marconi La Bottega.

To be really happy we need a well equipped kitchen at home and away. This villa was so much fun and had so many plates that we were even able to have guests for dinner. I can still hear Cecila Bartoli signing Vivaldi as we prepared dinner for eight one night.

Time for a picnic, but first a cappuccino at Aldo's, then some shopping at the La Bottega for a few ingredients.
Vorrei un po'di pecorino e un ette di salumi, e un po di proscuitto, per favore..... I would like a little pecorino.......
Linda asks," affettato a mano o a macchina?", sliced by hand or machine?
" A mano," I reply, "e meglio, si. " By hand, it's better, yes.
We also needed a can of tuna, neither of us knew how to ask for that in Italian. We looked around and found it, but how about the capers? James somehow came up with the Italian word for capers, and we were on our way.
Everyone is tolerant of my slow Italian and fortunately they politely correct my errors that I am certain to repeat.
We had bread, leftover roast guinea hen from last night's dinner, and tomatoes. All we needed was the tuna sauce to create an unbelievable sandwiches for our picnic.

Tuna Sauce

1 3oz. can of Italian tuna in olive oil (drained)
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, diced
stock, such as chicken stock ( a small amount as needed)
1 anchovy ( optional) mashed into a paste

You can blend this in a small food processor but for this amount by hand is better.
Shred the tuna then mix in all ingredients leaving the stock until last. Use as much stock as needed until the tuna sauce is the consistency of heavy cream.
For sandwiches use it as you would mayonnaise.

The classic preparation for this sauce pairs it with poached or roast veal. We use it with poached chicken and roast turkey as well. It also is a nice sauce on sliced tomatoes or artichokes hearts.

A picnic in Umbria. The perfect sandwiches. An afternoon drawing. Does it get better? yes it does.......
Back at the villa we pour two glasses of Montefalco Rosso and talk about the day and about *Pietro Perugino and Luca Signorelli and their paintings. James asks, " How about dinner?" After a glass of wine, and by the way the clock on the wall with the dead batteries always reads 4:45, we go out for our evening passeggiata around the outside of the walls, then come back through the gate and walk to the top of the town for a look over Lake Trasimeno where we can see as far as Cortona on this clear evening.
As for dinner, a walk over to ask Andrea if he has a table for the evening on Masolino's balcony so we can dine and watch the sunset over the lake.
A day to dream about.

Man, that sandwich with the tuna sauce was really good!
Dinner at Masolino's was delicious
and James did at last put the new battery in the clock on the kitchen wall.

A few notes:

*Pietro Perugino ( 1446-1524), born in Citta della Pieve.
In the church of San Sebastiani, Panicale, there is a fresco by Perugino, The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian.

Luca Signorelli ( 1445-1523), born in Cortona ( Tuscany,on the north side of Lake Trasimeno).
We recall a climb to the top of Cortona to see a Signorelli painting in the tiny San Nicolo. The painting, hanging over the alter, is also painted on the reverse side. If you are fortunate there will be someone there that can push a button to move the painting away from the wall and reveal the painting on the verso.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Basket of Tomatoes From the Garden (Panzanella Salad)

"The Yellow Brandywine are winning the tomato contest this year," James declared, "and they are much more handsome, remember last summer they were all 'gnommy' and truly ugly."
A basket holds the contents of our lunch and beyond as the tomatoes are ripening at a rapid pace now. The perfectly shaped tomatoes are fit for slicing to create that essential summer treat, the tomato sandwich where two slices of good bread, a touch of mayo and a slice of tomato are all that is required for mid-day eating bliss.

The next day,when the bread is stale, take the perfectly ripe tomatoes, add cucumber, red onion
garlic and a dressing of olive oil and vinegar and there it is, panzanella salad.

My first taste of panzanella salad was in Italy and came by way of Aldo and Daniella Gallo in Panicale.
It was our second visit to Panicale and we were once again renting an apartment from Aldo and Daniella, the beloved owners of Bar Gallo.
We had just arrived in Italy the day before but fell right into it's rhythm. That evening as James and I were just beginning to cook dinner, after an extended sit on the small balcony overlooking the Umbrian landscape with the swallows graceful overhead and sipping an apertivio the buzzer rang. The buzzer, who could that be?
It was Aldo. Aldo with a bowl of Daniella's panzanella salad. How nice was that... and you wonder why we love this small town so much..... this is exactly why. In that bowl was a blend of all the simple elements in perfect harmony forever to be remembered.
Mille grazie!

Since that first taste of panzanella I was captive and have ordered it many times in trattorie in Italy. Making the salad my challenge is to find that balance of flavor and texture in Daniella's salad. The bread in Umbria and Tuscany does not have salt, so that creates a unique flavor, but here in New Hampshire, I find a good rustic bread to use from a small artisanal baker that works well. The only time to make this salad is when ripe tomatoes are available. It will not be the same with those icky, pale supermarket types...don't bother! Good olive oil is also a must.

The recipe requires the best ingredients, the amounts are variable depending on personal taste, size of tomatoes, etc. Everything is more or less to taste.

Panzanella Salad

Day old rustic bread, torn into pieces
2-3 ripe tomatoes, cored and seeded, chopped
cucumber, peeled and seeded, chopped
1/2 red onion diced
1-2 cloves garlic minced
parsley , finely minced
basil, leaves torn for garnish
salt and pepper

red wine vinegar ( about 3 tbs.)
good olive oil ( about 1/3 cup)

Make the vinaigrette.
Place the torn bread into bowl, sprinkle and toss with a little water to soften
the day old bread, set aside. Put the chopped tomatoes in a bowl, add about half the minced garlic, drizzle with a little olive oil, toss and set aside for about ten minutes.
Prepare the remaining ingredients.( If there is any excess liquid in tomatoes spoon it into a small bowl for possible addition to salad later if needed). Add the bread to the tomatoes, add onions, cucumbers, parsley, salt & pepper, toss ingredients and slowly drizzle in the vinaigrette using as much as necessary. Remember, this is all about balance of flavor and texture! Put into an attractive serving bowl and garnish with fresh basil.

The salad is perfect lunch or primi for dinner. How can anyone resist with all these juicy ripe tomatoes hanging around!

The work is not done yet. There are more tomatoes, San Marzanos to be cooked down into sauce and put away for winter dining and cherry tomatoes to be roasted. And then our daughter's favorite, tomato bisque to be made to be served with grilled cheese sandwiches.
Our kitchen is perfumed with cooking tomatoes. Nice!

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Essence of Summer

Nasturtiums and Cherries, Sebasco, Maine
James Aponovich
oil on canvas, 2011
*week # 27

Nasturtiums, cherries, and moist ocean breezes speak of summer. The painting, Nasturtiums and Cherries, was painted by James last summer on a trip to Maine to visit friends in Sebasco. Today feels much the same as I remember that day a year ago.
The Mid-Coast area of Maine is remarkable and has enchanted artists for decades. Countless artists like John Marin, Edward Hopper, Marsden Hartley have found their way up the coast of Maine to capture the raw beauty and life on these rocky peninsulas that into the sea. James found the same thrilling visual attraction to this stunningly rugged place.

James and I spent many summers on the coast of Maine what remains from our experience is a strong connection between time and place. This is where that memory thing 'mnemonics' comes forth connects summer to Maine.
When I look at this painting done at Sebasco it is the sound of the gong buoy I remember.The clarity of blue sky and flowers swaying in the salty breeze and nasturtiums stretched out across the stone walkway with their orange flowers held proud,the smell lobsters steaming and a neighbor appearing a huge bucket of peonies for our table are all vivid images I keep.

Summer memories are found here in our garden where certain flowers whether by color or fragrance, tell us it is summer. Pansies shout out when spring has arrived. Nasturtiums appear as we roll into mid summer and will stay until they have all been cut for vases, salads, as objects for paintings... or until the first frost claims them.
We have tall phlox in our garden that came from our decade ago garden in Maine. The phlox came to our New Hampshire garden, by way of Maine, a gift from my gardening mentor Julia Martin. There are several plants in our garden that were gifts from friends or in some cases that came from a special place, each recalls that place or person as they hold a unique spot in our garden.

The Tomato, an icon of summer.

Garden tomatoes and fresh basil with olive oil from Panicale.
Believe me, nothing is better! One worry though, our can of Panicale olive oil is nearly empty....could that mean it is time to go back to replenish our supply?

There are always tomatoes in the garden, Red Brandywine, Yellow Brandywine, San Marzano, and Sun Gold are just some of the varieties we grow. By the middle of August we are gathering tomatoes daily. The routine of making tomato sandwiches, BLT's, panzanella salad, and tomato bisque is well under way.
There are pots tomato sauce on the stove as the kitchen fills with wafting aroma of tomatoes simmering.

Our year round friend and summer neighbor Judith makes a knockout tomato salad which we adore. It is heaped full with chunks of avocado, blue cheese, scallions and wedges of ripe tomatoes in a perfect classic vinaigrette. It is all about the quality and balance of ingredients.
A salad that says, " it must be August," in a big and flavorful way!

James is in the kitchen right now.... he should be at his easel......but the lure of ripe Roma tomatoes and a bounty of fresh herbs has taken him into the kitchen to roast .

There are times during our short New England summer when it is difficult to sit still; there are the flowers in need of attention, the tomatoes calling to be brought into the kitchen, and the sunlight that beckons us out the door.
Road trips for seaside lunches are a must. Then there are the visits to farmer's markets, we went to one last weekend that sells heirloom Berkshire pork as well guinea hens
(a reminder of what we cook in Italy). I can't forget the frequent trips to Lull Farm to fill bags with sweet corn, cherries, peaches and to eat a freshly picked plum, immediately!

The season's finest combined in all the images, aromas, tastes, people and places
that get stored in our memories as

Right now....the aroma of roasting tomatoes and herbs has made it's way out of the kitchen and into my studio. Now my only thought is "what's for dinner?"

*The painting, Nasturtiums and Cherries, Sebasco, Maine, by James Aponovich
was done as part of his year long project Aponovich 52.
It was painted for week #27.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Time Out To Enjoy the Garden

The sun is setting which is a good indication that our workday is over. Our studios have become too dark to push a brush around the canvas and the shadows in the garden have become long.
I recall reading the wisdom of the garden writer, researcher & professor Allan Armitage reminding us all to put down our garden tools and enjoy our gardens. We take his advice on this perfect summer evening and ignore the weeds and the hose not put away, take off the garden gloves, and spend time in the garden.......with a cocktail, but of course!

This lovely red drink is an Americano.......more about this as our walk continues, but first the garden.

Borgo Pinti Garden

Our garden is made up of a number of individual garden areas which we have assigned names to. We did this for our own convenience to distinguish between the areas when we are discussing them. To the western side of the house is the 'Borgo Pinti Garden', named for a street in Florence where there is a hidden garden that we borrowed ideas for this design. The pea stone paths announce each footstep as we move slowly through this shady garden.

Squirt's Garden

Sipping our drinks we continue our evening stroll south along the path to the front terrace to view a distant mountain that remains fully in the light of the day's sun. Again, we take time to watch as the shadows begin to slowly rise up the mountain. The citrus aroma of the apertivo pairs well with the warm setting sun!

We enter a garden in re-creation. Formerly a rose garden.... that is until I could no longer deal with blackspot and the disgusting hordes of Japanese Beetles every season. We knew that the roses had to go. The next part of this re- creating experience was the question of what to do next. I will say that it was a difficult decision to part with the roses from this garden. Roses remain in other areas, but for the past decade this was a garden dedicated to roses.

We are home cooks so an herb garden seemed like a logical and delicious direction to go in. It would be an apothecary garden of sorts with medicinal, ornamental and culinary herbs. Hmmmm......a sudden inspiration!
This plan changed, thank goodness it was only on paper, after a return visit to Tuscany and the
garden at La Foce in May. Simplify and take a lesson from this Tuscan garden. Create space and edges with boxwood, cypress and lavender. Well, unfortunately we cannot have the cypress, but the box yes, and lavender we already have established.

Once home from Italy we planted sixty young boxwood that will in the future create a low hedge to delineate the edges of 'Squirts Garden'. The area around the pool is planted with herbs, so we did not entirely do away with that earlier plan.

The two Adirondack chairs that are on the freshly cut lawn. We sit back and notice what seems to be hundreds of dragonflies circling over the meadow just to our left. It is quite an amazing site like a dance, whirling and swirling as they fly in and out of this cosmic rotation. A few pass overhead as they exit the arena. Nature is staging this magnificent show here in our garden and we are the audience so fortunate to see it.

(Allan Armitage, you are so right... take time to enjoy the garden)

As the dragon flies migrate towards the lower field we return to the lavender walk which in June is a haze of fragrant blue violet, but now that color has quieted and two unique daylilies call attention to themselves by their form and colors.

Shadows are growing longer.....we walk on to another Italy inspired garden that is called by us 'The Aurelian Garden'.

We walk down the granite steps into the Aurelian Garden. A weed is spotted, we both ignore it,resist, resist! Quickly we move across the pea stone to the iron benches. We watch the shadows draw out long as in a Surrealist painting. It is perfectly silent once we stop walking.
On a stay at the American Academy in Rome, we had the opportunity to linger and draw in their illustrious and grand garden at the Villa Aurelia at the top of the Janiculum Hill.
We repurposed our terraced area from a garden we saw in that Rome garden. The Rome garden was based on a chequered parterre pattern with alternating lemon trees. No lemon trees here.... but our scaled down interpretation uses boxwood with lilacs on standards.

Returning up the stairs, we notice the mountain is now in shadow save for a streak of sunlight at its's peak, soon to fall into darkness as well.
With little but orange slices remaining in our glasses it is time to cook dinner...

..But before we forget first a little about this cocktail or apertivo as it is called in Italy.

The Americano is a favorite apertivo whether in our garden or in Italy served ice cold. An apertivo is meant to slow the day and prepare the palate for dinner. The classic and a few variations on the recipe.

1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Rosso Antico ( sweet vermouth)
1oz. soda water ( club soda)
slice of orange

James' Americano
1oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
3 oz. club soda
a squeeze of orange
slice of orange

For a bigger blast...... try a Negroni
1 oz Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1oz. gin
orange slice
(sometimes a squeeze of lemon on rim of glass)

a little lighter without gin and bubbly.... Negroni Sbagliato (negroni wrong)
1oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1oz. prosecco
orange slice

When we are in Panicale ( Umbria) we start our day with a cappuccino or caffe latte
at Bar Gallo. Every day begins this way. Aldo engages James in conversation. Daniella always remembers a little sprinkle of cacao to my cappuccino. Friends and familiar faces are around, Katia and Massimo are always there with their young children, as are their parents, uncles, aunts etc. They all stand at the bar with their espressos. Artist friends and new acquaintances are seated outside. This is a warm and friendly gathering place and the coffee and 'tall drinks' are splendid.

Later in the day... 6:30 or 7:00 we often stop here for an apertivo before dinner.
It could be prosecco, a Negroni or an Americano.
I have learned to order an Americano cocktail...... twice in Rome I ordered an Americano and was served coffee, American style!
Here at Bar Gallo Aldo makes a perfect Americano cocktail . Here we sit an enjoy the piazza and the people before dinner.

Back in our garden......
The morning will bring a new day with plenty of time to pull weeds, water and plant another row of arugula.......but for now I am happy we have taken the time to spend time with the garden.
James suggests we do this again tomorrow. I agree.


Note: Allan Armitage is a Professor at the University of Georgia, Athens. He is a garden expert, lecturer, and is the author of several books on the subject of gardening.