Monday, February 22, 2016

COUNTDOWN..........Umbria calling

James and I are making lists. More items are being added to these lists than checked off! One of  the lists is all the things to do before we depart and the other is a list of things to pack. There is a third list to give to our house sitters with phone numbers, and other useful information that they probably won't need.

I just finished doing taxes. "YAY!" Now, I am hoping to finish and deliver a painting before we leave. 

When what you need can't be bought you gotta bring it!

I still need to get a raincoat, one with a hood, before we go.  James mentioned he wanted to pack 4 packages of yeast, 1 box of brown sugar, Advil, wash cloths, Dial soap, sponges, kneaded erases, and a special toothbrush.
His packing will be different from mine!
He already sent over, Worcestershire Sauce,  Light Soy Sauce, Frank's Hot Sauce chili powder, and vanilla......I say, "James, when in Rome?" Me, I am looking forward to Umbrian Olive Oil! So is he.

It seems that every year in the weeks leading up to departing I begin to feel we should not be going.
It is then that it is good to look back at the previous years photos and remember our time in Italy.

The water of Lake Trasimeno was very high after early spring rain last year. The lake is ever changing and more and more we enjoy spending time on or around the lake. Traveling to one of its 
islands or sipping a process at  bar on the shore.

The fields will be green, really green. I asked Katia what the crop was and she told me cereal, but what I think that really means is a type of wheat. Almond trees and apple trees will be in blossom. And there will be smoke in the air  coming from burning piles of pruned  olive wood.

High on the hill is Panicale, it feels like home.

On our walks we will be looking for wildflowers like these iris or tulipana. 

One of our first stops is to a local nursery to buy herbs and flowers. We make many visits to this place because I always need something else! James always obliges and drives me there!

A few weeks into our stay the wisteria will begin to show its color until it is full cloaked in purple and its perform fills the air. The wisteria here is gorgeous and  the pale yellow Lady Banks roses make a beautiful compliment  to the violet of wisteria.

Then there is the food!

Stuffed zucchini flowers

Mandarin  oranges, at least I think that is what they are!  Love the color!

Pecorino cheese many artichokes. I can't wait!


and wine.......

and more  Umbrian wine

This is a favorite view of ours from up in Panicle looking over the plane. It has shown up in several drawings over the years. Maybe I will paint it this year on one of the panels I am bringing.

and the people

We visit Bar Gallo everyday. Aldo and Daniela greet us ( and everyone else) coming in for the first caffe of the day. It is just so warm and lively there, although when we first arrive it will be quiet.That's OK by us after a year of work and stress!
We have met several of our friends here at Aldo's, and this continues.

Pure beauty.

James just came in to tell be he has added kitchen string  to his list of things to pack. I said that he can buy string at Linda's store, not the right kind, says he, and I just ordered a raincoat.

See you in the piazza soon, rain or shine.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Our Sunday morning breakfast.

It is not Dutch and hardly a baby, but it makes for an incredibly delicious Sunday morning treat.
At various times we make popovers, Yorkshire Puddings, and pancakes. A Dutch Baby is the best of all three of those baked into one, puffy, crispy, chewy, buttery, eggy....but then words fail this experience. This is truly food of the angels, at least those who aren't on the Atkins Diet. 

Scattered berries on top? A drizzle of honey? This is New Hampshire. To help forget the most recent political debate, this morning nothing is better than a drizzle (or more) of David Lamb's maple syrup to top it and a rasher of Vermont Bacon on the side.


All ingredients should be at room temperature

10" cast iron skillet .

3 eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
2/3 cup flour
1 teasp. vanilla
1/8 teasp. cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt

4 tbsp. unsalted butter ( for pan)

Preheat oven 400 degrees

Place skillet in oven to get hot.
Beat eggs until light in color then add the remaining ingredients ( except butter).
Mix until smooth.

Carefully remove skillet from oven, then add butter, let sizzle and melt then add the batter to pan.
Return  skillet to oven. Bake for 18 minutes. Do not open oven door while it's baking.
Remove skillet from oven, sprinkle the Dutch Baby with powdered sugar and serve at once!

Next time, we will make this with strawberries and serve it as a dessert!

Monday, February 1, 2016

New Kitchen.....well, almost!

A burner on our 1980's era electric cooktop gave out. The big problem was that it was the last of the four that was sort of working. This, my friends, for the two of us who like to cook was an issue that had to be dealt with.

There it is the cooktop and as you can see work has begun, the demolition of a once dreadful granite back splash. I took this just before the cooktop was ripped out as a reminder of what once was.
And, by the way, who puts a cooktop in a corner? Farewell ye ol' cooktop!

The old sink, bye-bye!

The cooktop....gone along with the granite countertop. Did I mention our sink  and faucet and how much we disliked it?  With the corner freed up we planned on putting a new cooktop into the island.
That was not going to happen. We called in David Dubois, a cabinet maker we have worked with in the past. James and I designed a pantry to add storage to the galley kitchen we were creating. As far as we know when this house was built in the 1950's there was a galley kitchen, so, in fact we are just going back to the original concept.

The entrance from the dining room was made smaller to retract the open concept plan, and Mr. Dubois designed a long counter that would accept the range top we wanted. Yes, it is a six burner gas Wolf with red handles and all! Now, we also needed a vent hood and a counter top for this baby !
The snowball was rolling and getting bigger and moving faster daily.

The upper cabinets were coming down and would be repurposed in the pantry. In the meantime everything had to come out. John Kendall, friend and our builder fit us in his schedule for this unexpected project, so we never quite know when is would and will show up. So when we he showed up to remove the  upper cabinets we had to clean them out in haste! It looks like it, and it stayed this way for weeks.

There's John at work putting in the vent hood.

David's lower cabinet installed and it's beautiful along with the new range top.
This was prior to the gas line being hooked up, so we could only admire the new gas beast and please  notice our plywood countertops that we lived with from Thanksgiving through Christmas!

The oven was the same 1980's vintage as the former cooktop. This kitchen was designed in 1983 by a Boston designer. We could never understand why this oven was installed so low. It was backbreaking to get a heavy cast iron pot out , not to mention a sixteen pound turkey at Thanksgiving. James and I could only surmise that former owners used the microwave above the oven, which we never use.

In the dictates of the 'might as well' we decided to take the plunge and buy a new oven, that turned into double ovens. We are really home cooks and prepare almost all of our meals here in our kitchen, so it was easy to justify 2 ovens!

( Excuse the interruption but John just showed up, really! We had to 'conference' for a few minutes on what he was working on for the next two hours!)

Turns out he is here to put another skim coat on in the pantry.

The pantry in the rough.
The black box on the wall, that I insisted be saved, is the maids call box. Each room in the house has one. The problem is that when you push a buzzer no one comes with a tray of tea and little cakes.
So unfortunate!

This is how the pantry looks now. Just a little more work on the walls and then James and I will prime and paint them. Love this work space and now we can begin to reorganize and clean up the mess.

Counter tops being installed. James and I had decided on Carrera marble. The same marble that Michelangelo  chose to carve out his masterpieces.
James woke up in a panic one night with a fear of Carrera marble being stained by red wine or etched by lemon juice after hearing so many dire warnings of marble's demise.
We went back to RE Granite and Marble and since they had not gotten to the point of making templates for our counters there was time to make a change.  James and I selected Absolute Black granite.
Go ahead James, open that bottle of red wine!

We must not forget there was an electrician, Tim Twitchell, involved in all this and a plumber too.
The snowball keeps on rollin' gaining size, cost and momentum.

This is where the kitchen redo is to date. At last, new counter tops, new range top, ovens, and a big single sink and faucet. David refaced our old cabinets with cherry ....still waiting on the corner lazy Susan.  We kept the existing tile floor, and as I mentioned reused the cabinets in the pantry.

The best part is that we can cook again, together.

There is still work to be done. Slowly, slowly, or as they say in Italy, "Piano, piano!"

I will keep you posted on the progress, but for today.......

Soup's on!