Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Holiday Shopping...

Happy Holiday Shopping can be a wonderful thing or it can be very frightening to many. Let's keep it very simple this year. I myself am not out doing the "Black Friday" crazy shopping frenzy at the stores which opened at pre-dawn hours.

Usually I am gathering gifts all year long as I see them for friends and family. It is what I have always done and it works well for me. Then of course I also buy last minute gifts that strike my fancy for someone.

This year our family is being extra cautious and careful as the urge to overspend is all too dangerous and none of us can well afford to do so. As a result many of our gifts are from the heart and are handmade. For those that do not sew or bead or craft they make something related to food or creativity in the kitchen. We luckily have lots of talent in our family and it comes from many generations back. Thank you Grandma and Mom for being so creative.

So for today I wanted to share with you a wonderful etsy shop that has unique items that are very affordable and fun to give. I have purchased from this very talented lady and I was extremely pleased with my items and with her customer service. Then my daughter bought from her also and she was very pleased. Therefore it is my pleasure to introduce you to for possibly your simplest shopping solutions. The photo above is one of Jennifer Nillson's wonderful drawings. Please visit her shop to see if there is something there for your gift list. You might use them as tags, special inserts to cards and letters mailing to out-of-area friends and family, or merely as stocking stuffers.

May your holiday shopping be serene this season.

Please let me know if you visit this link and if this post has been helpful for you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving...

May each and everyone enjoy a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Whether you spend it with family and/or friends make the most of your time together and savor the memories you will be making.

Stay safe and well.

A very Happy Thanksgiving 2009.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Field of Miracles...

This is the famous leaning tower of Pisa. Yes in Pisa Italy. This is a very shaded photo and hard to determine the actual lean of the tower. Years of engineering and straightening the tower and it still leans...dramatically! When you are standing near the tower it is amazing. If you wanted to spend the Euros, wait in a very long line, and climb a lot of stairs you could actually climb up the tower. I did not. However I can imagine the view.
This photo shows the actual dramatic lean of the tower as it sits in the Field of Miracles. The large building just in front of the tower is a church. The building to the left was a hospital.

This is me after a very long day of walking and my little piggies were not only tired but they were almost blistered. That cool green grass felt so good.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to stand amongst so much history in this world we live in.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Italian Bead Quest...

Oh the quest for beads in Italy began far before my actual trip took place. I searched on the internet, asked friends and travelers, chatted on line with recent returning travelers and it was looking very grim for finding beads and bead stores in Italy. I finally just days before departure found one bead store in Florence which was our first stop. This is me looking very tired and wondering in hindsight why we forgot to take any photos inside while we selected and made our purchases.

These are the handmade lampwork beads the artist makes. I merely bought an assortment not knowing what I was going to do other than make jewelry pieces for my etsy shop. The shop owner and artist actually graciously fired up the torch and made me a bead on the spot. It is the black and white one in the photo at top of the group. I was trying to convince my husband to learn lampwork bead making as I am too fearful of fire and burning flesh to do it myself. I did not succeed with that request. LOL

Purchasing beads in a foreign country is a wonderful pursuit as it breaks up the constant visits to churches and museums. Also the beads are very easy to carry and don't add much weight to carry-ons. They also lighten the bank account as the prices can really soar especially with the very high Euro to US Dollar rates we experienced.

Oh I feel so proud like I have just hatched the most beautiful creation.

This necklace is the first item for "Adorn Me!" jewelry design line I am adding to etsy. Please check out for more information.

It is titled "Night Lights on the Arno" and the photo at the top is the inspiration for it.

It was a magical and wonderful trip to Italy and one I shall never forget. Oh I do wish I had purchased more beads than I did.
Buona sera.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cinque Terra, Italy...

Welcome to Cinque Terra Italy. It is comprised of five small towns along the coast of Italy. They are perched high up on the cliffs and we arrived by train. This photo is the usual stance of me climbing stairs...lots and lots of very steep stairs. We actually had a variety of stairs, steep, long and low, spiral, concrete, brick, metal, wood and I counted 116 stairs to our room. WHEW! What an incentive to pack light and not have a ton of things to carry. There are no elevators!

How in the world these towns and buildings got built way back in centuries of yore is a daunting and back-breaking task of unimaginable size. They not only got built but are still standing and being lived in. Truly amazing.
Cinque Terra is some peoples very favorite magical place in the world. The water is clear and beautiful. The towns are quaint and charming. The food is so so. But some how when you are here you feel like you are on top of the world.
The colors are exactly what you would think and expect. Soft earthly tones.

Our hotel is near the tower you see at the very end of this cliff. We had one of the prized balconies and a view that was to die for. We could see forever. DH took this photo while on his hike from town to town. I did the short easy hike referred to as lover's hike. I am more of the strolling adventurer. Nothing too strenuous for me.

This is the largest town with 1700 population and is known as Monterosso. It is the resort town and is becoming quite the riviera of Cinque Terra. Note: The prices here reflect the status they are striving for.

This is Vernazza where we stayed for three nights. It was charming and beautiful. During the day it was overly crowded with day tourists that came in by the boat loads. However in the evenings after the day-trippers left it was quite pleasant. Watching the sunsets, sipping wine, eating pizza and gelato, watching the locals enjoying their tiny that is what a vacation is.
I am thankful I have been so lucky to experience such an incredible trip on this journey of life.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hungry for flavor???

While we were in Italy we tried to eat something unique each and every day. And you can be very certain that we ate very well. As you know dinner is served later than we are used to here in the USA. So after walking and exploring all day long we were always "starving" long before the 9:00 pm dinner time. We were usually the first to be seated at any restaurant and therefore early at 8:00 or 8:30 pm. In Florence I ordered Raviolini with drunk cheese and this is the picture of my dinner. What an unusual meal I had! The pecorino cheese is actually stuffed into grapes and left to ferment. The flavor is strong and quite tasty. The small dark flecks are the grape skins that actually petrify during the fermenting process. The waiter had quite a smile when he explained my meal to me in his broken english.

So for truly unique cuisine we went to a very posh restaurant in Monterosso which is one of the five towns in Cinque Terra. This photo is of the salted anchovies we ate for appetizer at lunch. Thank goodness for bread. Monterosso hosts an annual world festival dedicated to anchovies.
In Pisa we missed visiting the one restaurant we had pre-selected based on recommendations. Instead our hotel suggested Benys across the river. I must tell you that it was the best overall in our entire trip. Damiano and his wife (who does the cooking) were wonderful and ever so friendly and charming. He suggested the white wine and the red wine both of which were perfect. He had his wife make a special salad for us that was not on the menu.

This is porcini mushrooms with pecorino cheese and white truffle oil. The presentation was beautiful. The flavors were superb. Luckily for us it was mushroom season and we both enjoy mushrooms very much. This salad was original and yummy.

Then for the he-man hunger Damiano suggested the Chianna Beef stuffed with prosciutto and pecorino drizzled generously with a browned red wine sauce. My husband was in heaven. I had a bite and it literally melted in my mouth. Oh my goodness.
As I have said we ate extremely well throughout our trip. Luckily we did a lot of walking so it offset the immense food we so willingly ate.
No photos of gelatto but I did enjoy my share of this cool and creamy treat. My favorite flavor was the mascarpone e nutella I ate in Vernazza.
Okay...back to reality and regular food. At least we have our memories of such tasty treats.
Celery anyone???