What’s this?


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Yes, I braided the daffodils leaves.  Can you tell I have wayyyyy too much time on my hands?  Actually, not true.  Between Ben and Nerone ( one or the other always seems to need something) I get little bits of time but no block of two or three hours when I know for sure I won’t have to stop, clean my hands from what ever I am doing and go do something for one of them.  I believe that is a universal care giver’s dilemma. 

Back to the garden…of course

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I braided the daffodil tops so that the hosta could take more of a starring role.  They look really good this year. 

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This was in early May.  We have since had a good bit of rain. 

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And they are now HUGE!


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I also added some coleus which will take off once warmer weather arrives.  Costo helped me tame back the the two bushes.  The rose is doing very well.  I am real please with this bed. 


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One more pot of coleus will go towards the brick sidewalk.  I am waiting for the elephant ears to sprout and move out of the pot.  I like the freaky mix of red and salmon/pink impatiens.  Very happy with this bed. 



Sagra and Festa Posters


Just a look at what’s been happening or about to happen

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I’m feelin’ better now…


Guest Post:  By Nerone, the dog


Thanks for asking.  I’ve been REAL SICK!  Since New Years I’ve been in the hospital two times.  Drip IVs and lots of scans and X-rays.  And they still don’t know what’s wrong with me. But my doctor, Dr. Moreno Graziani at the clinic in Arezzo (Piazza Andromeda 22/B  Zona Pescaiola) is real good.  He speaks English to  She Who Must Be Obeyed and shows her what to do to take care of me. 

She Who Must Be Obeyed, says this would have cost a fortune in the US.  She says that it has only cost about 500 Euros so far.  Good thing I had some savings.  And disability insurance. 

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Up until last week I was still workin’.  Not a full schedule but enough to keep those cats in line.  Well, some fly (my Doctor calls it a mosca!)  laid eggs in my fur which hatched!   Ewwwwww, it was so gross.  I had to have an emergency procedure last Sunday.  But we caught them in time.  And a really bad haircut was involved.  Still I need to rest inside.  No going outside unattended for a while. 

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It’s a little borin’ just layin’ around.  But I am tryin’ to be a good patient.  She has to give me shots!  But She says that today is the last time for 3 shots a day.  Now I’ll just have my steroid shot one time a day.

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(She writing here.  The antibiotic shots comes in 2 containers.  I have to use a needle to suck the liquid from one vial and shot it into the other bottle which has powder in it and then mix.  Such fun!)

Nerone Again:  I guess I might need to take what She calls Zantac for ever.  It does make my tummy feel better.   And it makes me feel better.  I’m keepin’ a positive attitude.  Waggin’ my tail.  And lookin’ forward to summer when I can go back outside.  Might need some sun screen though until my hair grows back.  


Iris and others


Yes, more spring flower pictures.  We had a good bit of rain last winter so the spring flowers are really looking good this year.

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There are lots of patches of these white Sicilias (I think they are called) on the property.  This group managed to escape the fury of Costantino’s tractor.


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This is the group of iris right outside our door.  I had planned to take them out in the fall and put in a hydrangea and the azalea that you can just see in a pot near the base of the tree,  but then the hydrangea went missing so I decided not to expend any effort on this bed.  All winter when Nerone could barely make it out the door before having to lift his leg he has been hitting this spot. 


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Instead of a green paw, I guess Nerone has ‘green pee’.  See the freaky white one in the upper right.  That is what happens when I don’t shoe away the aphids and they eat the tasty purple flowers, leaving the white center.  I always thought that centers were the best of many things…. Hostess cupcakes, jelly filled doughnuts, rolled oysters, chocolate covered cherries…

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The iris really put on a show.  But the pansies have contributed too.

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This is a mid-April shot before I set the tomatoes out.  The tall red blooms in the center are my splurge plant for the season, a bougainvillea.  The lower red blooms are snapdragons that wintered over and just started blooming away.  So I guess the dominate color of the garden this summer will be red after the blues and golds of the iris and pansies are gone.

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After years of wanting to do this, I finally made time to paint the tomato stakes. 

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They sort of stand out now, but once the tomatoes have taken off, you won’t even see them. 

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Even the chicks are hanging out with the iris.


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Can’t let the iris steal the show.  This is the last of the amaryllis that have been blooming indoors since January. 

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An iris close up and to end, tulips.  These were at John and Richard’s house. 

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No doubt, more flower posts are in the future.

Daffodil Portrait


Long time readers of this blog will remember that I love daffodils.  Every year at the peak of the season I like to gather them up and force them to pose for a portrait.  My idea being, that in the fall when I think of buying more daffodil bulbs, I will refer back to these portraits and NOT BUY the same old same old.  Of course I forget to refer back.  But I really do try not to buy the same old ones each time.  Although I do think that when I buy new bulbs the containers have been mixed up and many times I end up with the same old ones that I already have. 

Here is this year’s group.

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When we visited Amsterdam I did make an effort to go to the famous flower market and buy some daffodil bulbs there.  I was not impressed by the selection.  Honestly, I had a better selection in the US.  I was after these.


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Which have a delicate pink/yellow center.  These are the ones that I planted at John and Richard’s house (the first place where we lived).


And here is this year’s special crop from Amsterdam

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Hanging out with their friends the asparagus ferns and the hydrangeas. 


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Not the rose turning to gold center that I was hoping for.  Still pretty.

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Okay, that’s the end of daffodils for this year.


Not quiet, 


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This one popped up.  Now, I’m happier with this year’s crop.


We do eat Italian food, sometimes…


I know I post a lot about non-Italian food.  We like Italian food, especially Tuscan.  But really, not all the time, not every meal. 

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Our friend, Grace, makes good Italian food.  Well sure, she would, even though she grew up in America, she was born in Italy and had Italian parents.  This is her manicotti.   Hmmmmm. 


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Spring is asparagus time here in Tuscany.  I grill it.  We have fake eggs benedict with asparagus on top.  (a good way to use up all those eggs when Auntie Martha’s Holiday Hen House has guests)


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I got on a kick  of cleaning out the freezer and using up what was in there which lead to a baked pasta with asparagus.  Used up the pack of shredded mixed cheese from France.  The package is the shortcut way to make fondue. 

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When I make things like this and

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and trim the rosemary plants so that they are more hedge like, I realize that in the US I probably could not afford to make pasta dishes like that or to throw away that amount of rosemary. 

I can’t imagine what all three of those French cheeses would cost in the US.  And I know that is at least $10 worth of rosemary that I am throwing away.  (the pot is stuffed full of it)   My asparagus is local.  I paid about $3 for that bunch.  What does local North Carolina asparagus cost? 

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Festa and sagra season has started!  Ben and I went by ourselves to one of the first of the season.  Festa delle Rocche in Guazzino. 

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We realized that we have been coming to this one since 2008.  We have watched this young woman grow up!  Every year, working with her father, serving tables at a community event.  What wonderful lessons she learned, what wonderful memories they will have together.  That is one of the things about going to the festas that make them so special for us.  Truly a local event that is welcoming to outsiders and there is good food too.

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Another father/daughter team.  I am fairly sure that his wife/Momma was working in the kitchen.  I saw her come out and bring him a roll with prosciutto stuffed in it.  No one else got that treatment. 

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Probably won’t see something like this in the US. 


In years past this event has had a very limited menu.  There must have been more volunteers this year.  Just a little bigger than in the past.

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The night we were there it was fresh pasta instead of a dried one that was being offered on the menu.  This is a big change, there is a pasta dish that a vegetarian would eat.


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Another change, the antipasto which in the past has always had a crostini with cream cheese and chopped peanuts did not have that one this year.  We have noticed that being aware of food allergies has become more the norm, even here in rural Tuscany. 

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As you can see the steak is still tasty.  We managed to have enough left over for steak subs the next day. 

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Who’s the happy man??????



Just before Easter, Ben’s daughter and I made a quick trip to the Cortona/Camucia area.  They have a big market on Thursday.  There are two cut fresh flower vendors at the market. 

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I picked up a lovely bunch of orchids for 10 Euros.  Orchids like this always remind me of Hong Kong.  At the flower markets there you can buy bunches of orchids like this, in all colors, for next to nothing.  But these orchids had a job to do.

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Being an inspiration for my three orchid plants.


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Two of the plants have buds.  I just want to make sure that they open. 

Early last summer I thought I had neglected the plants and killed them.  I could not bring my self to dispose of the bodies so I just chucked the big container of all three plants outside and ignored it.  Then in the fall, I looked at them and they were thriving.  Had put out new growth.  So I brought them in for the winter.  Bought some fertilizer for them.  Started watering them regularly.  They have rewarded my efforts with buds.


And now a few weeks after I started this, the buds have opened.


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Turned out well didn’t they?


Spring Entertaining


(written in late March)


Fairly, reliable warm weather arrived the last week of March.  And with it, ‘Spring Cleaning’ has bubbled over in Ida, our upstairs neighbor. 

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Not content with pursuing every iota of dust and dirt in her apartment, she has started on the outside too.  Sanding and oiling the doors.


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Getting new stones delivered for the path.


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Together, we collaborate on the ‘wreath’.  My idea.  Her umbrella and paper flowers.  The wind was battering the fresh flowers.  Her paper ones are a better choice.

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We are still using our heater which vents out at knee cap level just below the ‘Egyptian’ plaque.  That is why this table is there.  To keep anyone from walking into the vent.

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I try to hide the ugliness of the vent by keeping fresh flowers on the table.


There are those among us, who still don’t think it is warm enough to be outside, one of those being my husband.  So when Grace came over for lunch we sat inside.

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Grace brought over a lovely shrimp and vegetable salad which we enjoyed.

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The last week of March, Lorenzo, the youngest son, finally celebrated his birthday.  It was earlier in the month but weather, busy schedules and other things prevented a large outdoor, boy, girl celebration.  Ida did it up right!

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15 teenagers for lunch and an afternoon of games.

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This weekend, Ida will be hosting another BBQ lunch on Sunday.  Ben and I have some nice marinated pork tenderloins that I will throw on her grill when she finishes using it.  And Carlotta and her sisters will be back to visit Auntie Martha’s Holiday Hen House in a few days too.  Busy April….




A Gracious Lunch


When we first moved to Italy, we rented from John and Richard.  We lived on the upper floor of their very old Tuscan farm house.  The lower floor was cleaned up but was still configured as stalls, animal pens, places to store farm equipment.  We moved out.  They returned.  They had a lot of work done on the lower level. 

Since Annalisa had visited us when we lived there, they wanted to have her over to see all the changes.

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Ben (seated) and Annalisa enjoying a pre-lunch appertivo out side with John and Elizabetta.  Behind Annalisa is the old forno or oven that has been left untouched. 

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Richard closes it in for the winter and uses the space to shelter his lemons and geraniums. 

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Bulb beds that I planted there still look good.

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Elizabetta is a bit more feisty than she used to be, but still enjoying life. 

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The kitchen is now on the ground floor in the large room which was near the front outside staircase.  Richard had set the great farm house table for lunch.

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The kitchen is a nice mix of sleek polished surfaces like the fridge and rough, natural finishes seen in the cabinets that Richard built from reclaimed wood that was originally part of the house.  It is a very comfortable and stylish space. 

We had a grand lunch.  I know that Annalisa enjoyed seeing the all the work that they had done and how well it turned out.  Thanks John and Richard for having us over.



Just Call me Iris



When I was growing up, my grandmother had a cousin, who for some reason we called Aunt Lou.  Aunt Lou had white hair which she wore in ‘marcel’ waves.  Sometimes her white hair had a little tint of blue to it.  You know ‘old lady blue hair’.  I was, of course, fascinated by this.  Even though Aunt Lou was on my mother’s side of the family, she did not have ‘Gudgel’ hair.  My mother had ‘Gudgel’ hair.  I have cousins that have it.  My brother has it.  I have it.  ‘Gudgel’ hair is baby fine, which thins out as you get older but never really turns completely grey.  Couldn’t get my father’s wonderful Italian hair, lots of it, that turned a nice salt and pepper and then white. Noooo, I got ‘Gudgel’ hair.  Can you tell that I dislike my hair?

Anyway, a while back I stopped having my hair colored to let it grow out and see if maybe, just maybe there would be a lot of grey or white.  (I was only coloring my hair to give more of a sense of volume,  “Chiaroscuro (English pronunciation: /kiˌɑːrəˈskjʊəroʊ/; Italian: [ˌkjaroˈskuːro]; Italian for light-dark) in art is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition.”  (thanks wikipedia))  But no such luck.  Only a bit of white around the edges.  Not enough to give any sense of volume. 

In December, my hair dresser (Fabrizia at Idea Donna Di Fabrizia, she’s on Facebook) and I decided to try adding a bit of blue to it.  Ohhhhh, I thought, my chance for old lady blue hair.  Well, it didn’t turn out well.  Kind looked like a black dye job gone bad.  Just wasn’t what I hoped for.  So I went through this fantasy period of thinking that I would just let my hair grow and kind pile all the length on top of my head and be done with it.  That didn’t last.  I finally realized that I would be totally miserable trying to grow my hair.  It would just take too long and while trying to grow it out I would be forced to use a hair dryer and stand winding it around a brush and all that.  Didn’t want to do that.  I made an appointment with Fabrizia.

‘What are we going to do Martha?’  Fabrizia asked when I arrived.  She knew that I was not happy about the blue/black failed experiment.  ‘I just got a new line of color!’ she offered.  We decided on a color.


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Yes PURPLE!!!!!!! 


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So as we approach May and my 65th birthday, can you tell that I don’t intend to age gracefully?  Heck no, I’m going kicking and screaming down that slippery slope with my hands in the air and purple hair!


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