Sunsets

 

I used to post a lot of sunset pictures.  Where we lived before I saw a dramatic sunset most everyday.  Now trees block my view so I don’t really see a great sunset, but every now and then catch a glimpse of what I know is superb, but by the time I could get to someplace to see it, it would be over.  So here are my glimpses.

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Tomatoes, To-mah-toes, ‘maters

No matter how you say it, I love them.  I wasn’t aware of how much I did love tomatoes until a few months after I married my first husband and he said “ Do we have to have tomatoes or tomato sauce tonight for dinner?”  I’m sure I looked shocked!  What???? It’s summer, we are supposed to eat tomatoes.  Then he went on to say that he could always tell what time of the month it was because all of a sudden, every meal would contain tomatoes in some form (fresh, sauce…) and a starch (potatoes, pasta, bread…).  I didn’t realize that either.  Well, those hormones that controlled my dietary needs have long since flown the coop but every now and then I still have this very strong urge for tomatoes and a starch.  So the other night it was home made potato chips to go along with sliced tomatoes. 

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A few nights later it was

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pizza from the pizza sagra, with fresh chopped tomatoes on top of it.

 

Why am I so focused on tomatoes?  Well they are growing all around us here. 

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Look at this one that weighted over 2 pounds.  I saw this at the Indian man’s fruit and veg stand.  And the other day I saw 2 large semis going past, filled to the top with freshly harvested tomatoes, on the way to becoming sauce.  Just like these.

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The other fruit and veg vendor that I shop at is full of containers and containers of them.  These are roughly 35 cents a pound.  I bought some and made the tomato jam recipe that was in issue #130, Aug/Sept of Fine Cooking magazine. 

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The ‘jam’ turned out okay.  I probably will like it better in the middle of winter when I don’t have fresh tomatoes coming from my garden. 

I have 3 plants, 2 of which are doing very well.  One beefsteak and one cherry.

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They have an honored place to rest, by the TV.

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And slice up beautifully. 

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The cherry variety are served in their own little bowl.

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And I have a tomato dish towel… so maybe I do go a little tomato crazy. 

 

 

 

Fabric Binge

 

Ohhh, I admit it.  I am a closet fabric hoarder.  I gave away a huge amount before we moved here.  And if fabric stores were easier to find or if the giant one that I know of outside of Florence would sell retail as well as wholesale I would have a lot more fabric here.  Fortunately those ‘ifs’ probably won’t change.  So I restrict my visits to the one fabric store in Arezzo and try to just buy fabric when I have a project in mind. 

 

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So I went in looking for a piece to use in the kitchen and got the one on the far left.  But then the one in the middle with the circles was nice and heavy and was screaming at me that it would be good for making window ‘quilts’ for winter.  And of course how could I turn down the blue remnants.  I could make summer tops out of those.  The paisley, well it was just so pretty. 

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Hmmm, blue and white cotton.  Who could refuse?  My fabric haul was 35 Euros.  Of course I did not use the piece that I went into the store for, finding an alternate choice that I hauled back from the US in my small stash here.  I am still pondering how I am going to construct and hang the window quilts.  I did make 2 blue and white tops and have one left to make.  But that paisley is still just sitting around looking pretty.  Don’t know what I’ll do with it…

Changes

 

Who remembers here?   

 

 

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Well if you do, come inside and  I’ll show you how things have changed.

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There’s a full kitchen in here now.

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The table is smaller and things are rearranged a bit.  What a transformation huh? 

A Mess of Squash

 

I don’t know why I  keep thinking and saying ‘mesh of squash’.  But I have managed to get a few from the plants that I am growing. 

 

 

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Along with a lot of tomatoes.  But as proud as I was of mine they were nothing compared to what Tania and Keith shared with me. 

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They had missed picking a few.  All together this was more than 5 pounds of yellow squash.  The smaller ones, along with a few from my garden became

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this big pan full of sautéed squash and onions  that we ate for lunch 2 days along with some fried chicken. (There were sliced tomatoes, corn on the cob, cucumbers and sweet tea too.  I can pull out the ‘Southern’ gene when I need to)  There was enough sautéed squash leftover to freeze, so that in some awful month, like January, we can enjoy it again. 

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On another day, using the three big squash, I grated the necks and made 1 batch of squash fritters (it’s that Southern thing again) and then froze the rest.  Glad I have a cast iron skillet.

 

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I added some squash blossoms in the batter to further ‘squash’ it up. 

Some of the  remaining big bodies were cut up, blanched and frozen for winter soups.  Four of the bodies were made in to ‘boats’ and stuffed with meatloaf, then frozen.   So from Tania and Keith’s generous gift we got a lot of meals.  Hmmmm, nothin’ like a mess of yellaw squash!

 

 

Ferramburger

 

It is a play on the name of the Italian holiday in August, Ferragosto, (a religious holiday that has to do with the Assumption.  Look it up online if you want to know what it is), America and hamburger.  Billing itself as a unique hamburger festival in the American style, we decided to get a big group together and go over to Castiglion Fiorentino and see what it was all about. 

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And it really was just hamburgers.  This plate was 15 Euros for a hamburger, good French Fries, a glass of beer and a chocolate muffin.  There were variations on hamburgers and a vegetarian ‘burger’ option.  That was it.  Limited menu, everything as a meal, nothing a la carte except beverages and other deserts. 

We  were a big group.  Filling a large square table in a wonderful park just outside the walls of the city.

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Ben was there next to me.

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Gian Carlo, Grace and George.

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Grace, Jules, George, Margaret and Howard.  Notice the squash.  That yellow squash really gets around huh?

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Margaret, Howard and Richard with Tania and Keith’s guests beside Richard. 

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John, Keith and Tania.  John and Richard were kind enough to drive so that I could enjoy more than one beer.  It was a fun evening. 

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And I was finally able to get the picture that I have been trying to get for years… the setting sun turns the stones of this bell tower a beautiful rosy color.   Yes, that is what we are doing here in Tuscany. 

 

Summer, 2014

 

As we roll into Labor Day weekend in the US I thought I would write a little bit about the weather here in Italy this summer.  We have actually had rain.  About every 10 days or so.  And not just a few drops or a quick shower, actual puddle making rain.  In the past I have seen summers with 60 to 70 days of no rain.  Instead of the usual ‘Tuscan Gold’ that this place normally is, it is green.  (Where do you think paint makers get the names for these colors?  The over whelming impression of this place in summer normally, really is, gold and dried up dirt, terra cotta colored)   Grass is still growing.  I am so glad that I don’t have to cut grass anymore because it just did not stop growing this year.    

And the temperature has been cooler.  All the windows in our apartment have interior shutters.  I keep them and the windows shut all day long.  Somewhere between 7 and 8 in the evening (depends on the clouds and how far the sun has set) I start opening windows and shutters and turn on the ceiling fans.  (smartest thing we have done all year, buying and putting ceiling fans in every room).  That brings the cooler air in.   At night when we go to sleep I turn off the fans and close every window in the place except the two in the bedroom and that fan.  Some nights it has even been so cool that we have closed one of the windows or turned off the ceiling fan in that room.  Yes, it’s cool.  (I think the highest daytime temp around here has been about 90 degrees and many nights in the mid-50s.)   Then somewhere between 7 and 8 in the morning when the sun rises over the roof of the garage I stick my foot out from under the covers and give the shutter a whack so that it swings shut and blocks the sun.  And we start the whole thing all over again.  Trapping our nice cool air inside; moving it around during the day with the ceiling fans if we need to.  I am sure that it helps that we don’t put a lot of humidity into the house during the day by running the dishwasher, washing machine or taking showers.  I don’t turn on the oven,  Inside, neither one of us does anything too strenuous so that we are breaking a sweat.   So all and all it has been a pleasant summer.  But,  I have to qualify this by writing that we are on the ground floor of a free standing house in the country.  That means we have windows on all 4 sides.  Folks in the city or even in a village where the houses share a common wall so that there are only windows on two sides are probably much hotter.  And even last year when we were upstairs we were much hotter just being close to that clay roof baking in the sun.  I never understood why the woman who lived down here always had the place shut up tight.  Now I know why.  It really is much cooler with the windows shut during the day. 

 

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And you can see, I manage to combine two very American activities, tailgating and grilling.  I use the back of the car as my work area while grilling.  That way if I need to walk away, I can pull the back down and keep out inquisitive chickens and cats.  Plus there is a handy shelf for my glass of wine.   Hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday. 

 

99 is a Good Reason to Celebrate

 

In early August, we were at the house of our friends, Grace and Gian Carlo, to celebrate her Mother’s 99th birthday. 

 

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Grace and GC pulled out all the stops for the event, with over 40 folks attending.  Not only was there a DJ but…

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our friend, George was there to sing and play.

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Here is the birthday girl surrounded by her extended family.

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And here she is looking forward to another happy year.  We are all glad that she has joined us here in Italy.  Can’t wait to see what Grace and GC will do next year.

Let’s see how this looks

 

Well it seems that the version of  MS Live Writer that I am using will support the new theme that I have picked out….

This is a test run

 

spring and maria starting school

 

Here is Ben’s daughter and grand daughter on the first day of school in New Orleans last week.

 

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Ohhh look how big I can make the pics

 

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And I can do a little rotating too.

 

Can I change fonts too?

 

I guess we will see….

Okay, I have tinkered with adding/deleting  a few links in the sidebar and cleaning it up a bit.  I don’t like the spacing at the top in the header but I think I have taxed my poor laptop enough for the day so this is all the changes I will make for now.

 

Let me know what you think.

 

A Flurry of Posts

I use a software program called Windows Live Writer to write my posts on my computer at my leisure, inserting pictures from my computer into the post and then when I am ready publishing it to my blog.  I usually write several at a time, maintaining a backlog.   That is why many times, posts are published weeks after something happens. 

 

There are other ways to do this same thing.   Many folks sit down each day, go online to their blog, write a post, hit the button and publish it.  I don’t like that way, because I have to write when I feel like writing, not every day, certainly not at the same time each day…horrors!  I also don’t like the whole process of storing my photos online and grabbing them from somewhere to insert in a post.  I guess the years of having a poor internet connection shaped the way I like to do things. 

 

My laptop is 7 years old now.  It is slow and cranky.  Yesterday and today I have worked on deleting as much as I can.  I backed it up.  I defragmented my disk.  And finally I have gained a bit of space on my hard drive which really helps it move a  little faster.  All this is in preparation for making a change to my blog.  Sometime in the last few weeks I published my 1500th post.  Whoooo hooo! This fall,  I will have been writing this blog for 6 years.  It has pretty much looked the same the entire time.  In those six years smart phones and tablets came along.  With the template that I use my blog doesn’t always look the best on a small screen.  So I felt like it was time to make a change to the  template or look of the blog.  I am not entirely sure that Windows Live Writer will be compatible with the new template that I have chosen.  Ergo the flurry of posts.  I wanted to publish my backlog, change my template and start fresh with the new look.  So now, my laptop is speedy fast (HA!); the backlog is published below; I will make the change to the new template; write about what we have been doing and premier my ‘new look’.    I have no time line for this.  It could be easy or frustratingly maddening.  But most things with WordPress (the service I use to publish my blog) are fairly easy.  So I am optimistic. 

 

And now, you, have something to look forward to. 

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