Just another few days in paradise

Early, Thursday morning March 5th (like 3 AM early) I woke up in our smoke filled bedroom to all this clanging.  Pretty fast I realized that the wind had arrived.  Because we do not have a clothes dryer, (unbelievably expensive to run) I watch the weather forecasts closely.  A sunny day is good.  A windy, dry day is good.  A sunny, windy day is the best.  Laundry dries so fast on a sunny, windy day.  I had seen that The Weather Channel was predicting windy but who knew it would be that bad.  It was a weather bomb. 

What is a weather bomb?  Well, this is how it was explained in the UK in a publication called The Week in December, 2014.

What is a weather bomb?

Known scientifically as an explosive cyclogenesis, the phenomenon occurs when cold and warm air meet and the pressure at the centre of the storm drops dramatically, usually by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. The lower the pressure, the stronger the winds become. 

Are weather bombs common?

Weather bombs are more ubiquitous than you might think. The term was first coined by meteorologists in the 1940s. The phrase was popularised in 1980 by Fred Sanders, an MIT professor who wrote an article in the Monthly Weather Review. He said "bomb" was appropriate because these systems develop "with a ferocity we rarely, if ever, see over land". The UK has experienced several weather bombs in recent years.

Where do they occur most?

These storms are known to occur in the eastern Pacific off the coast of Asia and the western Pacific. The North Atlantic is particularly prone to weather bombs thanks to the Gulf Stream, which pits a reliable source of warm air against cold. They often lead to severe blizzards in the north-east United States, called Nor’easters’.

Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/health-science/weather/43448/scotland-storm-what-weather-bomb#ixzz3Tsot0byK

I didn’t know all that at the time.  I just knew that the wind was howling and had blown out the flame in our stuffa hence all the smoke.  And something was going on with the damper in the fireplace.  It was being sucked up and then dropped back with a loud clang.  I cut off the stuffa.  Turned on our other source of heat (also incredibly expensive to run), aired out the smoke, worried about our car parked under a tree but decided to climb back in bed anyway.  Ben and Nerone, the dog, slept through all of this.  Sometime later, Nerone only woke up when one of the cats that lives on the property cruised past the house running his mouth and complaining about the wind.  So Nerone felt compelled at that point to wake up and run through the house barking to warn of us an impending cat attack.  Which caused Ben to wake up so he could offer Nerone a bone which I had to get up and get for Ben to hand to the barking dog who then joined us in bed.  (I mean, if there is an impending cat attack it is best to protect the folks who give you bones)    All this was followed a few hours later at 7 AM by the electricity going off.  The banging and clanging of the chimney damper is still going on but now it is accompanied by the beeping of the battery/surge protectors that are all over the house hooked up to protect various expensive appliances.  Again, I stagger around the house, now in the dark, crawling under furniture turning off the annoying beeps so that only the timpani of the chimney damper can be heard.  (Really, those annoying beeps were so distracting from the pleasure of listening to metal clanging against metal at odd intervals.)  And folks wonder why I sometimes look so tired.

So now with no electricity, no chance of getting any laundry done to take advantage of this wind, we get up to start the day, in our cold, dark house.  We have no power, no heat, no way to use the fireplace since gusts of wind are coming down the chimney, no running water and only 3 bottles of water.  I get Ben up and dressed and seated.  Nerone is petitioning to go out.  He is sure there are cats waiting outside the door.  He is ready to get them.  We start out on our walk, first picking up all that has blown and blocked the door.  The wind is still steadily blowing 30 to 40 miles a hour with these very forceful gusts that are making the tall, tall cypress trees bend alarmingly.  We round the curve and there are trees down in the drive.  With much difficulty I convince Nerone that maybe we should find a different way to walk.  It is even more difficult at the end of the walk to convince him that he has to come in the house rather than sitting outside as he usually does. 

Over the sound of the wind I can hear the chickens complaining and demanding to be let out of their house.  I’m really afraid to let them out because they are so light weight.  One gust and these chickens could end up in Florence.  Finally, it occurs to me that they are fairly low to the ground and their pen is protected by the house so it might be okay to let them out.  Of course they have to be fed.  Nerone wants to eat.  Ben is hungry.   I produce breakfast for everyone and finally get to have a nice cup of tea myself. 

Even though I have only seen 1 tree down I am sure there are probably others.  I am also sure we will be without power for a while.  So I go over to the garage to scratch around for the kerosene heaters.  The wind is still howling.  It comes through the broken windows of the garage.  The wind is full of pollen so my nose is running non-stop.  The boxes that the heaters are in have warped from moisture so it is not just pull them out of the box.  Nooooo, they have to be coaxed out.  I am able to open a new jug of kerosene and fill the tanks.  Haul both heaters over.  Install the tanks.  Get them lit and watch as they burn merrily.  But that joy is short lived.  Only one burns.  In one of them, the valve of the tank has corroded allowing the kerosene to flow in non-stop.  Not a good thing.  Shut that one off, remove the tank to the outside hall and hope that the other one isn’t that way too.  Fortunately it is not.  The heater is able to get the room temperature back up to a big 64 degrees.  But that is only 2 degrees lower than what the house normally is so it doesn’t feel that bad.

Next is the worry about water.  It is almost time for lunch and the dishes from dinner last night have not been washed.  I can not believe that I only have 3 bottles of water.  I used to live in an area effected by hurricanes.  I should be better prepared.  Of course it might have helped if The Weather Channel forecast had mentioned strong winds instead of ‘windy’.   Fortunately one of the other houses on the property is served by a different electric supply.  She still has power and running water.  So I gather buckets and pans and go to her hose bib and fill up, carting water through the wind storm back to my house.  Heat the water, wash dishes, make lunch, soup and meat loaf sandwiches, wash dishes again because I have no paper plates!!!!! And then start to worry about candles.  And it is time to walk the dog again, feed the chickens again, tuck the chicks in for the night and get more water.  So I am in and out and in and out in the wind all day long.  And it has not stopped or let up at all.  Good grief, time for dinner, Chicken thighs with mushroom rice.  No way I can wash dishes by candle light.  But I do have a nice glass of wine and think about all the times I had to do this same sort of thing in North Carolina.

Ben produces a Margaret Maron audio book that we listen to while snuggled in bed, with the dog, of course.  Did I mention that  on Wednesday night while I was making dinner Nerone threw up on our bed?  I didn’t see it for a few hours.  It was very watery, smelly vomit.  It went through the sheet on top of the duvet, the duvet, the blanket, both sheets and my pajamas.  So I had to change all of that before we went to bed on Wednesday night.  We were using make shift blankets because of that and now here we were with no heat (I was afraid of carbon monoxide so I had cut the kerosene heater off once I stopped going in and out) with minimal blankets, in the dark trying to stay warm with the dog hogging the bed listening to a North Carolina murder mystery.  It was actually one of the bright points of the day.

Friday dawned, still steady 30 to 40 mph winds with strong gusts, still no power, just a repeat of yesterday’s struggle to keep us warm, fed and entertained.  But of course, power or no power I had other responsibilities.  For several sets of friends I have ended up being the alternate local contact when they are out of town.  Late Thursday night, the security company that protects one of their houses called me.  The guy spoke very fast and all I got was ‘current’.  Thinking it was the power company I ran upstairs to my neighbor and let her chat with them.  We were both real disappointed when we figured out that noooo, they were not coming to turn us on, instead they wanted me to know that the power had just gone off at my friends’ house and what was I going to do about it.  Of course my neighbor just lit into the poor guy.  “The power just went off!  Well ours has been off since 7 this morning!  My child who is sick is cold!  NO, No one is going to drive 20 kilometers in the dark because the power just went off there!  Do you not know that there is a big storm going on here?  She will go tomorrow".  Well it was settled, on Friday, I was going over to see what was going on at our friends’ house.  Ben doesn’t want me to go alone.  So we go through the whole bit of getting everyone up and walked and fed.  The chickens are complaining that they don’t like mushrooms in their rice and it tastes funny.  Finally we are on the way a little after 11.  But already my neighbor has called.  “Have you been yet?  Is their house okay?”  Then the security company calls.  “Have you been yet?  Is the power on?  Has the cable been cut?”   Give me a chance!!!!!

Well, we arrive, after being stopped on the way by a fallen tree which was removed by a cement mixer pushing it out of the way.  At our friends’ house the power is still off, so of course the electric gate does not open.  I have to find a way to get on to the property.  The path I decide to take is not in Ben’s  sight line so he insists that I take one of his canes with me.  I forget to take the bag of cat food that I am supposed to be dishing up, but I have my cane.  So I scramble up through the brambles only to find trees down blocking the path.  Finally I make it to the house and am immediately confronted by hungry cats.  They were about to miss a meal!  Horrors!  And the food is in the car, on the other side of the locked gate.  No way I am going back down the way I just came so I scratch around and find some food for them.  I walk all around the outside of the house and it looks undisturbed.  I decide that it is probably fine to go in so I use my key and go in.  Immediately the alarm goes off.  I am stumbling around in the dark, pressing the alarm button to turn it off and my phone is ringing.  It is Ben.  “The alarm is going off”  ‘”Yes, I am trying to stop it.”  Ben and I finish our chat.  I am in the house looking for the key that I need to get into the room where the electric panel is.  No key.  My phone is buzzing with a message.  Back up the dark steps, back out into the wind, now the cats are curling around my legs vying for attention and the alarm company is calling.  “Yes, I’m at the house.  Yes, I set the alarm off.  Yes, the electricity is still off.  Yes, the wind is still blowing.”  Then the alarm guy spouts off a fast sentence at me.  I think he has said ‘parle veloce’, that he is speaking too fast for me and yes he is.  So then he repeats himself and in Italian says “Seriously, lady I need the parole veloce” the fast word, the code word that proves I am supposed to be on the property.  It is a popular song so I am singing the song and we both have a laugh.  Since I have proven that I can be there, the alarm guy says he won’t send out a car and we finish our chat.  

I decide to call another friend who lives nearby to get the scoop about  the  power since I can’t find the key to the mechanical room.  That friend tells me about all the damage that has happened in Tuscany. I tell him  “Yes, our friends’ power is off.  Yes, there is a tree down.  Yes, the cats are fine.”   His power is off and he thinks it will be a long time before it comes back.  Well, okay.  I lock up the house and set off towards the car.  This time I find a wild boar path and more or less slide down it on my butt.  At the car at last and out of the wind.  In the car, Ben has spread out a tangle of cords to rival a basket of writhing snakes and is charging electronics using the cigarette lighter of the car.  I report what our friend has said about the damage all over Tuscany.  My phone rings.  It is the owners of the house from 6 time zones away.  The alarm company has called them.  “Yes, I’m at your house.  No, there is no power.  How did the alarm go off?  Oh, it has a battery”…. should have clued me in.  “Don’t know when power will come back.  There is a tree down.  Cats are fine.”  Did I reset the alarm?  Oh no, I guess I didn’t.  “Okay, I’ll go back up.”


So I am out of the car, standing, trying to think of what it is I need to take back up there with  me when the phone rings again.  It is the owners again, the secret location of the key for the room where the electrical panel is.  Up the embankment on all fours, back in the house, the house phone rings.  (they don’t have power but the land line phone is working?)   I answer, ‘who’s this?’ the gravelly Italian female voice asks.  “This is Martha, who’s this”  I respond.   Oh ho ho ho this is … another mutual friend.  She thought the traveling friends would be back by now.  How is their house?  “Yes, the power is off.  Yes, there are trees down.  Yes, the cats are fine”.  By now I feel that I should just arrange for a skywriter to appear and broadcast all this news that everyone seems to need to know!    Stumble back down the dark stairs and find the key, check the breaker box, 1 breaker is tripped, reset that, lock the room up, lock the house up, turn the alarm on, slide back down the wild boar track and realize that I didn’t take up more cat food.  But at this point I can’t make the climb again and decide that we will just come back tomorrow.  So we go off for lunch.  

Finally after lunch, back at our house I start with the water hauling, dish washing, candle lighting, getting the heater fueled and lit, dog walking, chicken care  process again.  Shortly after nightfall we have a lovely dinner.  Observing Lent, we share a grilled lobster, an assortment of frozen tater tots (or what passes for them in Italy) and curly fries, bleu cheese slaw and strawberries.  Earlier in the day, when I went into the freezer to  search for the lobster I was delighted to see that it was still frozen solid.  We enjoy our Margaret Maron audio book with extra blankets (that I finally managed to air out) in bed. The wind is still howling and has not let up all day. 

march 2015 022

My kitchen in paradise by candle light

march 2015 020

Friday dinner, grilled lobster, tater tots and curly fries


Saturday, still no power.  But those chickens are not letting us down so I cook up 4 eggs, some bacon and fried bread.  Then we are off to check on the friends’ property again.  This time I am determined to get the bag of cat food up there.  When we arrive there is still no power so I leave the remote for the gate in the car.  Climb on all fours up the wild boar track, throwing the bag of cat food ahead of me.  Met by cats so delighted to see me and more food! Or is that, more food and that woman we know…. 

This time I turn off the alarm, go in the house, use my flashlight to get down the stairs, I have picked up some mail, picked some welcome home flowers  and am going to scribble a note to the owners.  Standing there writing, the power comes on.  Immediately the alarm goes off.  30 seconds later my phone rings, by now I recognize the alarm company’s phone number and just answer by singing the song.  And then explain that the power just came back on.  We laugh and hang up.  I lock up and go off to slide down the wild boar track to get to the car, because I have left the gate remote control in the car.   Of course!  But before I can get to the car, the owners call.  “Yes, the alarm went off.  Yes, you have power.  No, we don’t have power.  We  might come back and stay with you.  Yes, the cats are fine.  Have a good flight.  See you tomorrow.”

Well it has been two whole days since Ben has seen the internet so he is having serious withdrawal.  We have to stop at a bar that has wi-fi so that he can at least check email.  We do that, but I can see how late it is getting.  I hurry him along because we still have to stop at the store and buy ice.  But of course there is no ice for sale.  I manage to persuade the fish department lady to let me have some ice which she gives me for free.  Back home finally, but still not out of the wind, for it is time to haul in more water, heat it up, wash dishes before I lose the light in the kitchen, walk the dog and feed the chickens.  And then it is time for dinner, Fortunately our power comes back on as I start to cook dinner, lobster pasta, fresh strawberries and brighelle (the little cream puffs that only appear at this time of year). 

Our power was off for about 60 hours.  When I open the freezer I expect to find everything defrosted.  To my delight, nothing was defrosted.  We still had ice cubes.  The milk in the fridge had not even gone sour.  It is a very well insulated piece of equipment. 

The wind is still blowing on Sunday but now I have power and can manage to get 4 loads of laundry done and dry on a sunny, windy day. 

march 2015 013

Nerone making fun of me. 

Usually my  posts are more rosy and fun, ‘we went here’ ‘we ate this’ types.  And this was probably a bit whiny but every now and then I think folks need to realize that living in Italy can be just as difficult and tedious as living in the US.  A few days of no power makes you realize how much we rely on it and how stressful and difficult life can be without it.  And I’m sure I wouldn’t last long as a refugee if there wasn’t any wine. 




March 1, 1878 to March 1, 2015

This is an updated version that some of you might have read before.  Most everyday, I remember the ancestors that enabled me to be able to ‘live the dream of Italy’ full time. On my grandfather’s birthday, I like to remind others of him and all the folks, who either by choice or not, immigrated to America and helped to make it into a strong country.  If you are interested in more than my story I urge you to watch the series on PBS  http://video.pbs.org/program/italian-americans/.  While I don’t think that my grandparents had the same type of experience that happened in big American cities I think they had some of those experiences.

Sunday, March 1, 2015 is the anniversary of my grandfather (nonno), Antonio Iaccarino’s birth. He was born in mille otto cento settantotto or 1878 so he would be 137 years old. His parents were Ferdinando and Maria D’Esposito Iaccarino. Besides my grandfather, I know they also had 2 daughters, one, Concetta, (my Zia or aunt) who was 4 years younger than my nonno and another that I never met, Josephine who lived in Connecticut.

In 2003 I began researching my grandparents’ lives so that I could apply to become an Italian citizen. In the process of this research I have learned some things which have brought me closer to my nonno who I never met. He died before I was born. I always think of him when I hear the Simon and Garfunkle song that starts “I left my home and my family when I was no more than a boy, in the company of strangers…” My nonno was only 12 when he joined the merchant marines (Marina Mercantile Italiana). Whether he joined willing or unwilling I don’t know. I do know that at that time he and his family were living in a room or rooms in this house in Meta, Italy.


I have found this house because very dear friends, Tonino and Carmella Romano spent hours researching old town zoning records. It seems as if the town fathers in Meta like to rename and renumber streets all the time.  Only the Romano’s  tenacity helped me to find this place.

So my nonno went to sea. He signed on as a mozzo (a cabin boy). Fortunately, his seaman’s book is still in our family. The entries are handwritten in script that I can’t always read and understand. (Someday perhaps…) So far, I know he was promoted, learned great skills that he would use later in life and four languages besides his native Italian. From the log I can tell that he returned to and left Italy a good bit. Stamps in his book show that some of the places he went to were Greece, Liverpool, England, Marseille, France, and Odessa, on the Black Sea. Can you imagine sending off your 12 year old son and for the next 19 years only seeing him periodically? And he comes back with stories of places he has been to and things he has seen. This is the view leaving the port of Naples that I am guessing is relatively unchanged even today.


He did not always leave from Naples. Meta, the town south of Naples, where he lived was at the time a fairly large port and had a ship building facility. Today it is not. It is a small town with a nice sandy beach and a bedroom community for surrounding towns like Sorrento.


Even though Sorrento and Positano have been popular tourist destinations since the late 1800s prosperity did not arrive until after World War II. Before that, a large number of people of all age groups emigrated from the area to the United States and South America. But our family name, a very common one still remains in the area.

From my nonno I think I have inherited my interest in other languages besides my native tongue. I do hold it against him that he did not allow Italian to be spoken in their house in America. My cousins have told me that he would scold my grandmother (nonna) if he caught her chatting with her friends in Italian (after they moved to America). He would say “We are Americans now, we will speak American”. (Italian men do so love to declare, dictate and proclaim, don’t they?) So my father never really spoke Italian. He never passed that on to me.

I also know, that from my nonno, the spirit of travel and adventure passed directly to my father and then to me. My passport is never locked up in a safety deposit box. I like to have it near me so if the opportunity to travel arises I can just go. And I have a very cooperative and loving husband. After I finally got my Italian citizenship he didn’t mind when I packed us up and moved us to Italy.

So little by little with research, the help of friends and the memories of my family I learn about my grandparents. On Sunday or when ever you think about it, please raise a glass of wine or a mug of coffee to my nonno and nonna who had the spirit and sense of adventure to try something different and create a new life for themselves. Most Americans have ancestors that emigrated. I have been lucky enough to be able to trace mine and fill in some of the blanks. If you have any interest in your own background you should try it.  You learn about the past and look what it led to for us.


Buon Compleanno Nonno!  And thank you from all of my heart!

Lunching Again

This time we were alone.  Ben had a late afternoon appointment in Sansepolcro, about an hour from our house.  Frequent readers know that the women’s college that I graduated from, Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, has a permanent study abroad program based in Sansepolcro.  So normally when we go there we stop in and enjoy lunch at ‘my college’.  So far this year, I have not seen any activity for this semester and sometimes they don’t have enough students signing up, so the program doesn’t happen.  (FOOLS!) 

Anyway, Ben pointed out that we could finally eat at the Chinese restaurant that we had walked past many times.  So off we went.

january 2015 036 

Hot and sour soup.  A disappointment.

january 2015 037

Steamed dumplings.  Hmmmm excellent.  Let me qualify that, these are most probably made off site, bought frozen and then microwaved to thaw before steaming.  No special sauce was served with them.  So by Hong Kong standards these were so bad but for here, pretty durn good.

january 2015 040

Our other dishes, I got carried away eating and forgot to take pictures, but there was a fried chicken bits, a seafood platter and mixed veg platter.  Most dishes are 3 to 6 Euros a dish.  Tasty, excellent by Italian standards. 

We will go back.

Ristorante Cinese Shanghai

Via San Puccio 29

Sansepolcro (AR)

0575 736560

I’m surrounded

Guest Post: By Nerone, the dog

Yes, indeed, Richard’s chickens are back for another visit.  And those ones that live near the big house come marchin’ down the drive every afternoon like they are comin’ to the land of milk and honey.  You know one of them saw She comin’ out the house with a big bowl of steamin’ rice for Richard’s chicks (why do they get a hot cooked meal?) and now they think She is gonna be servin’ them somethin’ like that?   Yeah, right, in your dreams. 

Anyway, She has to get all riled up about fixin a piece of furniture.  Puttin stuff in boxes, and laying down paper and paintin and stuff. 

valentine card 2015 014

This is what it looked like before She started paintin’.  Movin’ all this stuff around, that disturbs my chi you know.  I’m very sensitive to things like that. 

Finally, She got finished and put everything back together.  She made doors for the boxes and what do you think She painted on them?  CHICKENS!!!!!!!  What’s wrong with a nice friendly dog face?  Really!

chick furniture 003

She told me that one in the lower left is called “Grand Dad’s Funeral, Look We Had Him Roasted”  Then it took her a whole other day to get everything unpacked and all.

chick furniture 006

Anyway, She is all happy that it looks organized.  And then She got another bed to replace the one that was here. 

chick furniture 011

And I’m thinkin that it is gonna be a nice comfy spot for me to lounge but there are all these chick pillows up on it.  And finally, Richard, you know sometimes I don’t think he is a good dog boy, anyways, he brings her some picture of his home place in Ireland with chickens in it so she has to hang all these chick pictures on the wall.

chick furniture 009

Man, I just hate it when she gets on these benders of doin’ things.  Everything goes to hell in a handbasket exceptin’ the project She wants to work on.  Do you know my dinner was LATE, two night in a row!!!!!!

january 2015 016

Ohhh, sometimes it’s just so hard to be a dawg!  




The spider is still around

I spotted this web one morning as we were leaving

january 2015 007


january 2015 003

Very busy that spider was, but were there any bugs to catch?


Shall we lunch?

In the winter it really takes a lot to get me to agree to go out of the house after dark.  I don’t like wearing a coat, hat, gloves, trying to move in them, drive in them, and all.  So the idea of going for lunch on a sunny day is quite appealing. 

Our friends Dinah and Allen had been the week before with Grace and others to AKA TAIYOO in Arezzo.  We could not go because we were waiting for the plumber.  (what we did for the better part of January)  Dinah and Allen enjoyed it so much they were ready to go back.  So off we went.

As you might guess it is Japanese.

The set lunch, which I had, starts with a bento box

january 2015 008

which included miso soup, a salad, rice and a piece of grilled tuna.  Now, I don’t eat much fish or seafood but this is one of the best pieces of grilled tuna I have ever had.  Really good.  Poor Ben, he knows that he can usually count on me passing over a large portion of any fish I encounter but not this time.  (the sauce in the shell dish is to die for)

This was followed by

january 2015 010

what I had selected which was Katsudon, a thin pork cutlet which is breaded and fried.  I have made this at home for a number of years but have never eaten it at a restaurant.  So I was pleased to try it and it was really good too.  All this was 10 Euros.  A very good price.  There are about 6 other choices on the set lunch menu, all of which include the bento box and whatever ‘main course’ you pick for 10 to 12 Euros.  Very good value for the money. 

Others had bait, or you might call it sushi, said to be very good too. 

All in all a wonderful lunch and some place we will be happy to go back to.

AKA TAIYOO Nippon Restaurant

Via Alessandro dal Borro 32

52100 Arezzo

Phone 0575 27780

The reindeer continue their tour

The reindeer have moved on from Paris to Holland

january 2015 030


I had so much fun with the reindeer during the holidays that I decided to let them start traveling around using many of the ‘trinkets’ that we have picked up in our travels.  And it is a good way to cover up the ugly stuffa that sits right inside our front door and is the first thing that anyone sees when they come in.  The stuffa is left over from the previous tenant and I can’t get it moved by myself and really should not have to since the previous tenant should have disposed of it if she didn’t want it.  It does offer a measure of protection for the door that it sits in front of and blocks the chilled air from coming in, so it isn’t too bad to have it there.  And now that the reindeer are using it, all the more exciting. 

It is also a way for me to have and enjoy fresh flowers.  I really like them but can’t have them in our apartment because of the pollen.  And since the space is not heated the flowers last a long time and bring a bit of color to our day.  And of course there is always the excitement of what will she wear next?

What are the reindeer up to now?

When last we saw the reindeer they were celebrating the holidays in Florence.  They seemed to have moved on the Paris.

january 2015 013


january 2015 014

I’m sure she thinks she looks good in that hat….


Celebrating New Years

I have not over looked Christmas.  We had a wonderful lunch at our friends’ house, Grace and Gian Carlo.  It was a multicourse affair featuring home made ravioli.  All very tasty.  Unfortunately I was in one room and my camera in another.  So no pictures.  Trust me, it was memorable. 

For New Year’s Eve we were at Dinah and Allen’s house in Lucignano.  They have a large, well suited for entertaining space and they enjoy giving a party.  The food was catered by the restaurant next door, Il Gochino. 

A number of folks who follow this blog enjoy seeing the food pictures so here they are. 

christmas new years 2014 032


christmas new years 2014 037


christmas new years 2014 038

Numbers in the pictures below correspond to the numbers on this list.

christmas new years 2014 021

5.Pecorino Bavarian with fava beans, sort of a light room temperature cheese mousse  Very tasty!

christmas new years 2014 022

4. I can’t read the description, but it was a light shrimp mousse wrapped in a light noodle


christmas new years 2014 023

3. Salmon crème brulee

christmas new years 2014 024

9. Broccoli with a saffron eggy/souffle bite. 

christmas new years 2014 025

8. Cured meat with a little cone of chopped fruit.  Very Tasty.


christmas new years 2014 026

10 The chef’s presentation of a traditional Tuscan dish, pinzimonio, a seasoned olive oil with raw vegetables.  Very tasty too.

christmas new years 2014 027

6. Brioche and foie gras with an onion compote

christmas new years 2014 028

2. Scallops with a potato puree and pistachios


christmas new years 2014 031

1. Scallops with avocado. 

christmas new years 2014 029

7  Traditional Tuscan New Years dish, lentils and pork

christmas new years 2014 036

The countertop was wearing its yule log.

christmas new years 2014 034

It was a dress up occasion, stylish foot wear was worn.

christmas new years 2014 039

Even the renaissance reindeer were wearing bells. 

It was a lovely evening, topped off with a fireworks viewing on the terrace of the whole valley welcoming in 2015.  Thanks for including us. 

My Madeline

Our friends, Grace and Gian Carlo had a large number of us over for Christmas lunch.  A wonderful multicourse/many hour long affair.  My camera was in one place and I was in another so no shots of all the wonderful food including the home made ravioli.  Sorry.  There were multiple deserts including a cookie plate.  On the cookie plate were what call ‘Springlees’. 

Growing up, many times during the year, but especially at Christmas, my father would stop at an Italian bakery Ruschiellos (maybe?) and bring things home.  At Christmas, my father, lover of all things licorice would bring home these anise flavored cookies. 

christmas new years 2014 043


The minute I saw them on the platter, tears came to my eyes.  Here were the cookies that I had eaten every Christmas of my childhood and they tasted exactly the same!  It was just so wonderful to have one again and be reminded of my father.  Truly, it was one of the moments that made the holiday special.  Thanks Grace.

If you want to read more about them here is the wikipedia reference about them.


The major ingredients of Springerle are eggs, white (wheat) flour, and very fine or powdered sugar. The biscuits are traditionally anise-flavored, although the anise is not usually mixed into the dough; instead it is dusted onto the baking sheets so that the biscuit sits on top of the crushed anise seeds.

Traditional Springerle recipes use hartshorn salt (ammonium carbonate, or baker’s ammonia) as a leavening agent. Since hartshorn salt can be difficult to find, many modern recipes use baking powder as the leavening agent. Springerle made with hartshorn salt are lighter and softer than those made with baking powder. The hartshorn salt also imparts a crisper design and longer shelf-life to the Springerle. To make Springerle, very cold, stiff dough is rolled thin and pressed into a mold, or impressed by a specialized, carved rolling pin. The dough is unmolded and then left to dry for about 24 hours before being baked at a low temperature on greased, anise-dusted baking sheets.

The leavening causes the biscuit to at least double in height during baking. This "pop-up" effect may be the source of the name in German, and produces the characteristic "foot" along the edges, below the molded surface.

The baked biscuits are hard, and are packed away to ripen for two or three weeks. During this time, they become tender.

Another method of making Springerle is to not chill the dough at all. Commonly, after mixing all the ingredients together, one would cover a surface with flour, and use a regular rolling pin (also covered in flour) to roll out the dough to about half-an-inch of thickness. Flour would be spread over the top surface of the rolled-out dough, and also on the specialized Springerle rolling pin. One would whack the Springerle rolling pin against one’s hand a few times, to dislodge any flour caked into the designs on it, and then proceed to carefully but firmly roll out the molds. One uses a knife to cut out the small, rectangular cookies (often 2×1 inches), and place them on a wooden board to dry overnight (or for at least twelve hours). As this process is repeated, the dough gets more brittle due to the added flour and doesn’t hold the molds as well. Therefore, it is important to roll the dough out in small batches (instead of all at once), to keep the moisture in so the cookies hold together. Anise seed is sprinkled on the baking sheets just before putting them in the oven (about ten minutes is usually sufficient, but the cooking time also depends on thickness). 1-2 teaspoons of anise extract can also be added to the dough to increase the taste (which is rather like licorice), and the amount of cookies varies on the thickness. The usual recipe with 4 eggs and 3-4 cups of flour can yield anywhere from 60-144 cookies, depending on thickness and the experience of the maker.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 259 other followers