Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oh! October

My favorite month of the year! If you've been following my blog you'll remember my rather exuberant posting for the month of October last year.
October is when Fall really arrives in all its golden red hues and crispy, crunchy sounds and smells. And I love the fact that so many people, almost world wide, make such a big deal of my birthday! Oh wait, maybe that's Halloween? Anyway, be prepared for Fall foliage on this site for the next month.
My friend Jeanie, (linked here) inspired me with her city market photos and so I had to christen the season with my own visit. Enjoy all that Fall unfolds for you.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Morning Mist

Early Friday morning as I was walking through the house, I caught this sight of the backyard. It was misty and the morning sun was just beginning to peak through.

Fall is a Festival

If it wasn't enough that I went to Italy this September, I returned to Fall in all its glory! Fall is a festival unto itself. It doesn't really need decorations; it is one. It really doesn't need festivals either but some times they do enhance that nostalgic feel of fall.

I went to the Fallasburg Fall Festival today. I haven't missed this festival since my friend Sue took me three years ago. It is spectacular and sets just the right mood for welcoming in the season. I tell friends it is the quintessential fall festival.

The grounds of the Fallasburg Park are gorgeously arrayed in nature's spectacular color along with some human enhancement, the crowds are manageable, the arts and crafts are first rate, the food, cooked by local organizations, is as tasty as its temping aromas. Combine that with live music and the smell of burning wood from the lodge and it is perfection.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Honey, Let's invite the neighbors over to see our vacation slides. I know they're dying to see all 2,000 of them! It will be so much fun!"

Aren't we glad those days are over? I know Aunt Gertrude over on the left is!

I've uploaded some of MY photos, certainly not 2,00o of them, into a Picasa album if you'd like to check them out. You don't even have to oooh! and aaahhh or make small talk about how wonderful they are!

It's a start but I plan to replace and edit these as I organize my photos, so you won't always see the same things!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cooking in Cortona

From the movie set of Under the Tuscan Sun.
At the very top of the Cortona is the Albergo Ristorante Portole the sight of our Tuscan cooking class. The adorable Evan with the help of Dennyse our Cortonan renaissance woman (she runs her own travel agency, teaches cooking, drives taxi, and a multitude of other jobs) prepared with our assistance a wonderful of ( The real Bramisole and the movie Bramisole)
foccaccia with tuscan meats and cheeses, gnocci with fresh tomatoes, roasted herbed chicken, roasted potatoes, and a berry tart all the while plying us with wine, grappe, and limoncello.

Our drive down the hill took us by the real Bramisole from Under the Tuscan Sun and the church of Santa Margherita. (The photo of the pink house close to the road is the movie set house.

Sticker Shock Italian Style

I knew before I left that the dollar was down against the euro and that things were quite expensive in Italy. Of course I chose to ignore it figuring I would do just fine and not get too extravagant.
Ha! I had no idea how that would play out in reality, so let me give you some "for instances"...
Keep in mind that 1 Euro = $1.50 (ish) in US currency.
So a bottle of water at 2 Euro is actually $3.
In Italy tipping is not necessary; probably because you and your Euro are easily parted. Many restaurants charge a per person copertin (table fee) of $1-3 per person, water is not free so you usually buy a bottle for $3 , a fee for the bread they bring to the table (1.50 per person) is tacked on and that's before ordering any food. A bowl of soup? $10, dessert? $7.50,
At a Trattoria, my first day in Rome, Jeff (one of my photo class buddies) and I split a pizza, a salad, and each of us had one can of Coke. The bill? 38 Euro or $57!!! Turns out the cokes were $9 apiece.
The 4 mile taxi from the Terontola train station to the hotel? $27.
My advice? Wait another two years; economists are predicting the dollar will be much stronger than the euro by then. If you really can't wait; take a second job!

The View From My Window

The hotel Oasi is located at the base of the hill to Cortona overlooking Camucia and Lake Trasimeno. There's a fairly long description of the history of the hotel, once a monastery, but here are some pictures.

Back in the USA

Arrived back in America yesterday at midnight my time and 6pm your time. I had an amazing trip but I must say it is SO GOOD to be back. My first stop at the Amsterdam airport was the Starbucks!!!! I can't tell you how happy I was to see them. I have missed my daily latte from my FAVORITE place BEANERS (BIGGBY'S) but since they don't have a store in Amsterdam yet I had to "settle" for Starbucks. Make no mistake about it, Italy had GREAT coffee only too little of it. A shot of espresso (2 Oz) or a cappuccino (4 oz) that you drank standing up or if you wanted to pay more for it, sitting down. NO take away cups, no lingering over a full bodied coffee, no skim milk, no flavoring, no sitting.

I have uploaded my photos and in the several days will edit my blog entries adding my own photos, updating the information and generally cleaning things up. The one computer at the Oasi was in a dark corner and I had to rely on guests walking through the hallway to activate the lights in order to see the keyboard. The key board was Italian and it took getting used too. I never did get the hang of using the @ key or the ".

If you have been reading the blog, first of all THANKS, and thanks for your comments. It really made my day to read your comments at the beginning of the day; a little connection to home.

I didn't have a chance to let everyone know that I would be blogging so I'll send out a group email and if you have some time on your hands you can check out the blog and see what I've been doing the past 2 weeks.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


How can I possibly sum up what the last two days have been like? It's a whirlwind and a blur but let me try.

We spent a day in Florence, well about 6 hours, not nearly enough time. We stopped in the most amazing working apothecary shop, sort of a ancient Bath and Body with a museum. The scents alone were worth the visit.

The first piazza we came to captivated us with its working carousel. My photography assignment was to "look up" Not hard in Florence when almost everything IS up. Then on to the Duomo in the center of the city. If you've watched the PBS series The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance you'll know the story of the Medici's and understand the significance of the completed dome. This is also the site of those famous gold doors. Unfortunately the crowds are huge and the lines snake for hours. An Italian style cafeteria, all the food is displayed in the case and all you have to do is point, easy and quick, was actually fabulous. After days of pastries and pasta it was nice to finally have some fresh fruit.
Most of the quick eating places have cut up fresh fruit gorgeously displayed.

The famous Ponte Vecchio, the bridge over the river Arno, was bustling with tourists looking for good deals on jewelry. Every one of the dozens of shops on the bridge sells jewelry. Sadly there was not enough time for more shopping or sightseeing

BTW...Love the trains in Italy.

After a day of shooting at Le Celli, (more later) founded by St. Francis in 1211, we headed to the top of Cortona for a cooking class (see entry).

Kindred Hearts

A word about my traveling companions, compatriots, and fast friends.

This was quite a leap of faith for me to go off to Italy, on my own, to take a workshop on photography (I take pictures not photographs) not knowing anyone on this trip,, with the exception of Jane Rosemont, the workshop director.
It took less than a day for this group to gel and form relationships. Ours is a tiny group of three but we seem to have known each other in another life. The other group of 16 or so, are here taking an assemblage class with artist Michael deMeng. For those who are not familiar with Michael or his process I have posted a few photos.

This group of people from all over the US, Canada, and one from England is not only fun to be with but all of them are so incredibly talented too. We have had a blast together. Although most times we go off on our photo shoots we regroup for sightseeing and meals. As soon as I get all the contacts I will link you to some of their websites or blogs.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Jug of Wine; A Loaf of Bread

Our first field trip out of the city took us to the ceramics area of Deruta. We spent an amazing morning on a private tour of one of the finest Italian ceramics factories.

Then off to lunch and to the home and business of a family run olive oil maker. The olive oil is harvested and pressed in the old style, not mass produced and it was exquisite. What we assumed to be a picnic lunch turned out to be another large Italian style lunch starting with olive oil drenched bruschetta, spelt with tomatoes and fresh basil drizzled with olive oil, mixed grilled vegetables marinated and drizzled with, you guessed it, olive oil, salad with olive oil vinaigrette, melon, biscotti dipped in wine, and finally 2 grappe soaked grapes as a chaser and wine, wine and more wine. Just roll me home in a barrel.

On to a winery. By then we were all pretty woozy but what can you do? The winery, San Lucca, formerly a a monastery, hence the name, again is a small family run winery exporting primarily to the Umbrian area. Their wines are wonderful blends of various grapes and the servings were liberal.

Finally home to Cortona for a much needed detox. But, oh it was well worth it!

My photography assignment for the day was reflections. Although I took snapshots my main goal was to shoot images reflected in other objects; a wine bottle reflected in a window, water reflecting images from a branch, light reflected off of a glass designed door , a clock reflected off a large window. It was amazing how many things there were to shoot and the incredible images I captured.

Tomorrow it's off to Florence