Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nine Ladies Dancing...Happy Holidays!

A Lady Dancing

a lord -a- leaping

Our  freshly cut tree from Walker's Farm is festooned with Piper's piping, Swans- a -Swimming , a Partridge in a Pear Tree, a Maid -a- Milking  the the other 12 suspects of the Twelve Days of Christmas. A collection of hand blown glass ornaments and icicles sparkle through the
Italian ribbons that stream down from the Renaissance angel that sits a top the tree like a Filippino Lippi angel heralding from on high.

Out the window is the full Cold Moon of a few days past.  The blanket of fresh snow is bright from the light of the moon.
December has been colder than usual, but this is the first real snow we have seen this winter,

Inside, our wreath summons the image of the full moon and the mantle is covered by large magnolia leaves and crystal candelabras that were a gift to me from James many Christmases ago.

It is the Sunday before Christmas. The fire is cracking , cocktails are poured, there is pecorino and honey to be savored. The house is warm, a chicken is roasting in the oven and there is Bach to fill this large room with music. 

All this we are grateful for.
Welcome Yule!!

Buon Natale
Buone Festa

Happy Holidays!
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

NYC :Dinner at Teodora and shopping at Eataly

James' show at Hirschl and Adler is over now, but yesterday I was thinking about our October trip to New York City for the opening after an email from  friends that living in the city.

After a successful opening at Hirschl and Adler Modern, we joined friends for a dinner at Teodora .
James was eager for a cold Martini, he had really earned it after all.  He spent months, no years, of work at the easel putting together  work for , what I view as a wonderful exhibit....... he deserved that cocktail. When one is not enough and two is too many, well, not tonight. Our dinner was with our dear friends Judith and Robert, who had eaten here many times. Chicken livers, pasta, artichokes,  amongst other savories,were served along with Chianti and lovely bread.

James and I came to know of Teodora when we were in Rome. We were staying in the rental apartment of Elizabeth and Domenico Minchilli in Rome's Monti neighborhood. Having our morning cappuccino at Er Barretto at the recommendation of Elizabeth Minchilli .......who should walk in and join us but Elizabeth. Standing at the bar we admired the artistic cappuccino, but the better part was how divine the flavor was. After conversation, indulging on cornetti and brushing cornetto crumbs from my scarf we were prepared to begin the day on the boost of caffeine.  Elizabeth  put on a pair of sunglasses as talked continued on food  and "all the good stuff" she knows and writes about Rome. I had been looking for sunglasses  and tried on many pair, most of which were far better suited  for the glamour of Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida. I am more minimalist.....jeweled glasses, not so much my style. Elizabeth's sunglasses were simple and perfect. I had to know where she found them and the good news it was in Rome and not too far of a walk. Of course, James and I headed there directly. The store, Mondelliani is a family store where they create their own designs and glasses. I saw no other shop like this in Rome. The glasses are fabulous. I bought a pair of red sunglasses  and James bought blue-violet frames. Well, here is the connection.....sorry it took so long to get here, but the woman who owns the shop, we found in talking while fitting glasses, has a daughter in NYC that owns a restaurant. That restaurant is, you guessed it, Teodora on 57th St.

OK, lets get back to New York.

After dinner we walked back to our hotel  for a good nights sleep. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.


The next morning, after coffee, we grabbed a cab and headed south to Madison Square Park.  A quick look at the Flat Iron Building then to our destination, Eataly.

Temptation abounds here!
Cured meats.....what can't you find?

The map  of Italy tells you something about this place and everything that surrounds you lets you know the story here is food, good food.
It is overwhelming at times but it is hard not to grab a shopping basket and begin to fill it.

Looking for fresh or filled pasta?
Even if you don't think you are , buy some or you will regret it later !

 Fresh white truffles, we never see these at our local NH. grocer.
Yes, we did buy one, as well as some pasta  which came home with us for a feast!

The cheese counter is "eye candy" and allures us with the aroma and selection.
It is a tour of Italy in a case with nifty labels. we came home with a pecorino riserva and taleggio.

Take a look at this grana padano , looking like a huge melon .
What a gift that would make!!!

The vegetable and fruits here are perfectly precious and all  are still life ready!
A fine selection of wines from all over Italy are sold here as well.
Beyond the treasures I have shown you already, you can also find, chocolate, fresh meat, fresh seafood,
kitchen tools, cookbooks, dried beans and lentils, coffee, anchovies, etc etc., all here in one large, and did I mention crowded place.

If you like food , wine and / or Italy and don't mind crowds too much, you are going to love this place!
take time for a cappuccino before you start shopping, you'll need it, and end your experience with a glass of prosecco before going back out into New York City.

By the way, I love my red sunglasses!
and the pasta with white truffles was delish!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Brightly Colored Fall Harvest

Our local farm stand, Rosaly's, created a colorful still life with their harvest of pumpkins, squash and gourds.

James and I were coming off a few days in Manhattan so this very seasonal practice of selecting a pumpkin ( or two, or three) for the porch along with a number of squash for the pantry was just the right thing to do.

The first big frost hit  two nights ago so it is bye- bye to all the annuals, basil and cherry tomatoes until next year.  It was already dusk when we heard a report of the pending frost we moved quickly and  the pots of rosemary and figs made it indoors. With the days  shorter and colder 
the thought of a warm fire in the fireplace offers us a remedy to the cold and dark.
The brightly colored pumpkins on he front steps are a joyous greeting for us and guests alike.

I find comfort in having a variety of winter squash around the kitchen.
  I feel like there is always something to eat.  "Not to worry" I think, "we can cut a squash in half and roast it, or make a pasta with squash, sage and butter, or a soup, or just puree it. Plus winter squash are just so attractive.
While James loaded pumpkins into the car I  filled a basket with squash. The red Kabocha squash into the basket first, then Delicata, four of those, the Sweet Dumplings are perfect for roasting so a few of them are added to the mix. The ever heavier basket still had room for a Buttercup and Butternut....I always get those two names confused, so I just buy both. Enough, no, a Turban squash, just so pretty it cannot be left behind. I am happy. 

Well, anyways, enjoy the harvest  stock up and don't forget all the root vegetables besides.

Happy Halloween !!!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Evolution of a Painting : in more pictures than words

As I was preparing to write this post it occurred to me that it would be good to have James contribute or write this post about how a painting comes to life.
After some discussion we came to the conclusion that I would post images and write briefly about them here and that James would return to blog Aponovich52 and tell the more complete story of the Evolution of a Painting.

The concept sketch is the seeing, thinking and drawing all coming together on paper.

 The Underpainting
was created by James in one sitting, a very long day! It was vital for him to capture the energy of the moment. The warmth of the Burnt Sienna offers a balance to all the greens and cool colors that James used to paint the landscape and Agapanthus.
The Burnt Sienna will dry quickly allowing him to paint over it in a day or so. Time is of the essence!

Adding color
 James began with painting the flowers ( he complained a lot about them) since there is no telling how long the blooms will last. As he paints the blue of the flowers, he begins to paint the distant fogged in landscape of the island in order for him to balance value and color while creating the atmosphere he is seeking.

He begins to see the entire painting.

Almost there.
The painting is coming together. James lightens, darkens to push the distant landscape back and pull the terra cotta pot with agapanthus and the ivy covered wall  forward.                

 Agapanthus, Appledore
oil on canvas, 40" x 50", 2013
James Aponovich


To read about the Evolution of a Painting in James' words click on Aponovich52.

The painting is complete and will be included in James's upcoming exhibition at
Hirschl and Adler Modern
730 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY

all images copyright James Aponovich 2013
and cannot be printed or used in any manner without permission of the artist, James Aponovich

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

FIGS..........Sensual and exotic

The first time I had a fresh fig was on our inaugural trip to Tuscany about twenty years ago.
James was sent over to paint and I, along with our daughter Ana, joined him.

We were staying in a villa in the hill town of Barga which is in northern Tuscany. The landscape there is different than that of Siena crete region or Maremma area of Tuscany, but all are stunningly gorgeous! Barga was quite mountainous as it is in the Apennines.

 Behind the villa was a very large orto,vegetable garden . Often in the morning the gardener would come by to work in the garden and many times his young grandson would be at his side.
It was on one of these mornings when I was out hanging laundry that I went over to say hello.
The extent of my Italian was an embarrassing five words which left me with only to say buongiorno.

The young boy handed me a fruit that he had just picked from the big leafed tree that I had wondered about.

The boy said,"figgy". Ah! a fresh fig. I recall being a bit hesitant, but the first bit was astounding.
I had never tasted something so unique and wonderful.
Later that same day, wouldn't you know it, I had my second "figgy", it was a white (or green) fig pulled right from the tree in a friends garden in Barga.

Back at home some 20 years later.....

This fig  is one of two in our garden. They are potted and come indoors each winter. This is their third season and they are bearing a quantity of fruit this year.

We eat them fresh from the tree but we also cook them which brings out a deep  exotic flavor, a sensual experience either way. This will be dessert tonight!

Sauteed Figs

Fresh figs cut in half  lengthwise
Good Balsamic vinegar or better yet balsamic condimento

Heat saute pan, add a tablespoon of butter, when melted and hot add figs cut side down.
Let cook without moving, after about 10 min. turn to skin side and let cook for about 10 min.
Remove fro heat and turn figs back to cut side and drizzle a little honey.
Before serving drizzle with balsamic. serve warm alone, with Mascarpone cream or with ice cream

On that first trip to Italy we learned many things including:
1. about eating figs
2. to wear comfortable shoes
3. that white truffles are divine
4. that great art is everywhere
5. To learn some Italian before we return to Italy
6. That we MUST return to Italy   ( we do, as often as possible)

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Clock is Ticking......Work Continues In the Studio

Coming upon this photo was like meeting an old friend.
This picture of Sunflowers was taken in  James' studio in our old house.
My studio was in the room through the door way at back of the photo.

This room, James' studio, and the things in it feel all so familiar to me and the memory of taking this photo of the in progress painting with the sunflowers is vivid.
 I was interested due to the fact that both the canvas and subject matter could share the scene. On the canvas is an under painting put down relatively quickly in earth colors like Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber. So here the "process" of creating is captured.

Sunflowers, Appledore
James Aponovich
oil on canvas

As paintings progress they take on a life of their own. Comparing this image of the completed "Sunflower" painting it can be noted that James changed the shape of the vase. In terms of color he stayed within the same color family  as the flowers; he chose to use the yellow Busatti fabric. The landscape is coastal New England and in particular Appledore Island, one of the group of islands known as the
Isles of Shoals. The Shoals are interesting and somewhat mysterious or even could be said a haunting place that has attracted artists and writers for centuries. The landscape of the islands captured James' imagination.

James in his new studio.

The new studio is working out very well for James. Moving took some time away from painting and preparing for his upcoming show at Hirschl and Adler Modern, but he has settled in and has been painting up a storm!
The ceilings are high and the large windows supply good light, although the days have been rapidly getting shorter on light as they do this time of year. He is pushing through with his Kolinsky sable brushes, which by the way are getting impossible to find any more. Why?

The work he is creating is very exciting. He continues to use the inspiration provided by our garden and our trips  to Italy. The landscape of Umbria and Tuscany are very ordered. Looking at the paintings of artists like Perugino, Raphael and Lippi also leave their mark in his memory.
Many of the paintings are strongly American and influenced by the rugged coastline paired with the history of painters that have worked here before, Hassam, Marin, Harley and Kensett to point to a few.

Always carrying a sketch book and pencils, James works from sketches he draws on site, whether it be Appledore Island, Down East  Maine, Panicale Italy, Rome or our own garden. The drawings are the vision that fuels the painting.

Sometimes things just do not work out the way it was planned!
While James was sitting back and just looking he knew what he had sketched in with paint was not working. Too heavy. The bottom was not relating to the top. It was not at all what he envisioned for this painting. A long mornings worked wiped out in minutes. He knew immediately that the painting felt better, lighter.....more air to it.

I will keep you posted and let you know how this story goes.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Destination Cambridge

James has been busy at work in his studio preparing for his upcoming show at
  Hirschl and Adler Modern  that opens later this month. He has not taken a break. So about a week ago, on a Saturday we decided we REALLY needed to get out. 

We jumped into the car and headed southeast, destination Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The first quick stop was to Utrecht Art Supply for a few tubes of paint and some badly needed brushes.
This was the "work" part of our adventure.

We saved the fun part until last.

Our pantry was looking dreadfully empty, all that was left of the parmesan cheese was a heel destined for a minestrone soup and worst of all we had to ration what was left of the olive oil.

One of our favorite places to stock up on specialty foods and almost feel like we are in Italy, is Formaggio Kitchen.

Look at all of this!  I always have this urge to buy everything, James kept filling the basket, it is so incredibly tempting here. Cheeses from around the world piled high on the counter. There are always a few good pecorino cheeses from Pienza, Rome and Sardinia. We select a few to be wrapped us for us to take home. We also added  pancetta and  prosciutto to the basket, after all were are on the list. The guanciale, well I do not think that was on our list. But, who's to know?

Over in the pasta section there are wonderful pastas from Italy.  Italian pasta is the only dry pasta worth eating! We picked up  bucatini, strozzopreti,
tagliatelli and some great looking tubular pasta. 
Hmmmm, all the time thinking, "whats's for dinner?"
Plenty of time to talk about that on the ride home.

OLIVE OIL was at the top of our list, in large letters. This is where we buy good olive oil once we run out of the Umbrian olive oil that we get when we are in Panicale. The oil  we buy here is from Orvieto, which is not too far from Panicale.

 Our shopping list  included; carnaroli rice for risotto, anchovies, a jar of tonno/ tuna, smoked paprika,  pecorino cheeses, a good chunk of parmesan cheese, pancetta,  prosciutto, tuscan salami, large bottle of Umbrian olive oil, pasta and a bottle of wine, Dolcetto when they have it. We try something new each visit.  Capers in salt and a goat cheese from Vermont were not on the list but worthy of a go.
By the way, on weekdays they have a killer rotisserie chicken available.

Were we any closer to deciding what to make for dinner?

In another section of the store there is an area dedicated to fruits and vegetables. Everything looks beautiful and they carry items that are hard to find where we live like fresh fava beans in season,
 white / green figs,  and unusual mushrooms. Perfect little baskets of berries, Mandarin oranges, baby vegetables, colorful carrots, you just never know what you might find here.
Breads, all kinds of fresh breads, bagels, muffins arranged along a shelf. A window lined with honey...lavender honey, acacia honey, rosemary honey, any honey that bees can possibly create, are here. The varieties of preserves and jewel tone jams backlit by the window so colorful, call for your attention. Acacia is my overall favorite but the rosemary is perfect with sauteed carrots.

OK., one final temptation... just before reaching the check out counter is the flower vendor. Unfortunately, our baskets were too full and I had the overflow things in my hands , so we did not buy flowers. After all we do have flowers at home in the garden. BUT, the flowers here are superb.

Enough! Time to check out.
Time for one more stop before leaving Cambridge. I dash into Whole Foods to buy fresh fish for tomorrow's dinner. (We have a cooler and ice packs in the car).  James goes next door for a bottle of Amara ( Averno), and a bottle of Maraschino liqueur just to have on hand at home.

What did we make for dinner?
We made one of our best loved and simple meals, 
Spaghetti all' amatriciana , arugula salad  with a Chianti.
( it's a good thing we bought that guanciale!)
There were fresh white peaches for dessert.

A few tips before shopping at Formaggio Kitchen 
 First, be sure to have a shopping list! It is so easy to get carried away!
There is cool stuff everywhere....a treasure hunt.
The people  that work there are knowledgeable, so ask for help and advice.
The other thing I can tell you is at some point you must 
"Resist, resist," or your wallet could  readily be emptied!!!
Everything is just so delish!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nectar of the Late Summer Harvest

The nectar of which I speak is that of nectarines, the taste is the essence of summer.

James and I invited friends over for a harvest moon dinner. James spotted great looking beef short ribs in our market and that began the menu. The short ribs were braised in wine and served with a horseradish cream sauce on the side.  Puree of parsnips along with roasted asparagus rounded out the entree course that we were making.
Judith and Robert arrived with bounty adding an assortment of fine cheese to have with drinks as we chatted before dinner.
She also provided her famous tomato, avocado salad as well as a dessert of fresh ripe nectarines. Perfect.

The full harvest moon rose over the tree tops just as we sat down to eat.

Happily James and I were left with the remaining nectarines. The next morning they were put into a saute pan ( cubed with skin left on) and slowly cooked down.

As they cooked down some sugar was added. In this case there were the equivalent of 3-4 nectarines, which about a quarter cup of sugar was added and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Leaving the skins on the fruit makes for the beautiful color of the sauce.
Strain through a mesh strainer , discard skins and cool.

There are countless ways to use this  sauce. In a parfait glass add slices of nectarines or other stone fruit and maybe some berries, layer with mascarpone cream and drizzle with sauce. Pair the sauce with vanilla ice cream and the result is peaches and cream.

Before the nectarines disappear for the season you must try this.
It is true nectar of the gods.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Preparing for a Show...............Six Weeks and Counting

With a show on the horizon James has been spending a great deal of time in his studio. The painting that he is working on in the photo will be the largest in the show. The paintings are both Italian based with still lifes placed in an Umbrian landscape and American paintings with  the still life in front of landscape / seascape that are New England.

Preparing for an exhibition is an enormous endeavor. The resulting show is quite an achievement for any artist, but the work is all consuming. Each show is a requires years of work, but it is always the final months that prove to need that extra burst of concentrated effort, and that is the phase where James is right now.

In the morning a cup of coffee, a large cup, then off to the studio, which means a walk down the hall.
A break for lunch and of late that has meant tomato sandwiches at our table in the atrium, a walk then back to the easel.

Days are getting shorter that translates into studio time is also getting shorter. When brushes are cleaned then it's off to the market that is about 2 miles away to select what we are making for dinner. We return home to a glass  of wine while we prepare our meal, a favorite part of each day.
So there, James does get out of the studio!

People often ask him how many paintings he will need for his show. The answer to that is about 20, more or less. The other question often asked, "How long does it take you to do a painting?"
The line used in response by artists is, " a lifetime."  But the real reply is that each painting is different so that it is impossible to give a flat answer. Painting involves problems solving and balance and each require their own time, it's unpredictable. James will tell you that each painting takes on its own life, it speaks to you, so you follow.

James has about six weeks to complete the work that he would like to have included in the upcoming show.
Although James has had a number of shows in New York, this will be the first
 at  Hirschl & Adler Modern, the gallery that now represents him.

When James is working towards a show the amount of work it takes creates some stress but it is also extremely exciting.
The work coming out of his studio is most impressive and I look forward to seeing in the gallery , each individual painting and then the whole of the everything looks as a body of work.
In the studio, the painting on the easel and maybe one or two others  in various states of completion are the focus. When the work, created over the course of 2-3 years, maybe more, is put together in a show       the vision of the artist is better seen and understood.
Hirschl and Adler is an important  gallery with a beautiful exhibition space, and the people there are supportive.

 Let's face it New York  City is an thrilling place!
Maybe we will see some of you there!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Tomato Sandwich

One of the very best things about August is tomatoes. 
Sliced in salads, served with fresh mozzarella or  made into sauces, the tomato figures into many late summer meals. But, at our house a favorite  summer lunch is a  fresh off the vine tomato sandwich.

Sliced tomatoes, good bread and a little mayonnaise are all you really need to create a good lunch.


Sometimes a look in the garden or refrigerator can lead to more creative sandwich making, with the tomato the star.
Peeling the tomato, if you are up for this extra step, and marinate tomatoes for about 2 hours in a GOOD olive oil, with a little balsamic vinegar, sliced garlic, halved olives, salt and pepper.
Toast bread, rub the toasted bread with a clove of garlic, add the tomato, a few olives and arugula.
A big and delicious flavor!

Another variation is to make an aioli  and to spread that on the bread with tomato, arugula or any green you might have.
Just plain good.

For  a more traditional take on the tomato sandwich...the diner version, add cheese. Cheddar is a good choice going the traditional route, although a good blue or a goat cheese works really well for my liking.

James makes a knock out tonno ( tuna) sauce.
He made one for a veal loaf we had for dinner. The next day he put the tuna sauce on our tomato sandwiches. It was a little messy yet I will say it is my favorite version of the tomato sandwich yet!

Enjoy the harvest!

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Sweet Cherries
Elizabeth Johansson
Oil on panel, 8" x 10", 2013

James and I  food shop nearly everyday. Small markets are our favorite places to shop by far.
This being high summer the local fruit and vegetable stands and farmer's markets are rich with selection. The stone fruits, greens, herbs, and now the corn and tomatoes are filling the shelves
and bushel baskets of the markets. All these things and more to cook with making each day in the kitchen a mystery until we enter the market to see what is fresh.

On a recent outing to fabulous farm stand, Lull Farm in Hollis, New Hampshire, I found this basket of sweet red cherries. I kept looking at them. I have painted cherries in the past, so I suppose they are just something that I am visually drawn to. They came home with me. 
James had bought a small, gold framed blank panel for me awhile back. I had been waiting for the right thing to paint, and I had just found it, the cherries.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Rome Walk.....Via Margutta

It is official, here in New England we are in a heat wave. We have had three consecutive days of 90 degree temperatures. And as people say," it's not the heat it's the humidity", we have plenty of humidity as well.

As I often do, I checked the New York Times to see what the weather is in Rome today.
It is hotter in New England than it is in Rome........unbelievable. Even coastal Maine is hot.

All of this got me thinking about a cool walk James and I love in Rome, a walk on the Via Margutta.

Rome is beautiful.....the colors of the buildings glow with warmth. The colors must fill the Roman people, because they too are very warm and lovely.... well most anyways!!
The Via Margutta is a small  and quiet street, just off the Via Babuino, not far from Piazza Popolo in the heart of Rome. It is not far from the Northern Gate of Rome, where in ancient times Roman Emperors would enter through to the city. It is in a neighborhood that James and I really find irresistible, but then we could say that about almost every neighborhood in Rome. It is fair to say that we adore Rome.

The narrow street provides welcome after shade on a hot day, and a respite from the Rome traffic.
Pots of tress and vines cover building  that makes us think of hanging gardens.

Via Margutta is now home to restaurants, small hotels, galleries and upscale shops. It is also home to artists and artisans continuing a long tradition dating back to the Renaissance.

Here are a couple of trivia facts..........
In the Fellini film, Roman Holiday, the character played by Gregory Peck had a flat on
the Via Margutta, and Federico Fellini actually lived on this street.

A delivery of flowers to a restaurant. Once again it's impossible not to feel good surrounded by all of these warm ochres, pinks, reds and yellows of Rome......not to mention all the fragrant vines and flowers.. Italians respond to the aesthetic in life.

This is a neighborhood that has always housed artisans. There were also stables here, and saddle makers. This was an enclave of  marble cutters, wood workers, frame makers, leatherworkers, and artists. Many remain, but with rising costs, many have given way to pricer shops and galleries, which often happens to artist quarters!
I read that Picasso spent time painting somewhere on this street. I don't know, but perhaps.

Rome and water just go together.
The fountains of Rome have been immortalized in movies, art and music.
The grand fountains, like the Four Rivers, or Trevi, are icons.
But, there are many small fountains all around Rome that you can actually drink from, and believe us that after walking for miles on a hot day it is a blessing to come upon one of these water fountains!
Rome water is very good water, and always has been.

Above this fountain are the letters SPQR.
SPQR means  Senatus Populusque Romanus, or The Senate and People of Rome.

The bucket of brushes on the top are to represent the artists and artistans. The two masks adorn the fountain, one with frown the other with a smile are said to represent the two moods of artists......... or so the story was told to us.

It is easy to see why artists have always been drawn to this narrow intimate place with it's vine covered buildings and dark cobble stone street. With the Pincio, a grand park, just behind and the bustle of the city only a street away, it seems a perfect place to be at an easel.

Now it's on to Piazza Popolo !

(In the meantime the heat wave continues here in New England)