Monday, February 28, 2011

I love Prato!

Prato is a town a few kilometres from Florence, and is essentially the garment district of Italy.
Most people I know dislike Prato rather strongly, particularly Beppe, who has an amazing aptitude for getting lost any time he's in the area. So if I feel the need to go there (and that happens often) I have to go myself, or con someone else into going with me.

Usually its for fabrics or notions, which I can buy wholesale and in bulk, and there are warehouses that stretch on forever with any type of fabric you could imagine. In short, Heaven.

Other reasons I love Prato is that its full of old factories (what goes on in there?) clothing outlets (less interesting) and loads of fantastic Chinese restaurants. Prato, I've heard, has the fastest growing Chinese population in Europe. Chinese workers were brought in for cheap labour in the 80's and are now running the show. So what isn't made in Chinese factories in China is now made in Chinese factories in Prato! But with the movement offshore of a lot of production, including most big name Italian fashion brands, Prato is losing relevance in the garment manufacture world.

It also has a castle, and this is my lovely friend Chelsea in front of the castle, in the rain.

We met up for a small antique fair, and while there was mainly jewelry on offer, I managed to find what i was looking for, and picked up some embroidered table linens, a small hand knitted rug and a lovely old dinner set, all of which I want to use in my new tour. Are you getting curious yet?
  I got it all for a great price, as there was noone around in the rain, and the seller even threw in an old teapot, which is missing its lid, with the advice to 'stick a flower in it'. I might just do that.

Here's a closeup of a teacup, with gold detail. Very elegant.

I spent the afternoon working on the website, adding this new tour and freshening it up a bit for Spring. No-one else is as convinced as me that Spring is upon us, but every now and then they sky opens up all lovely blue and the birds fly around and everything outside seems to be yawning and stirring. Seems to me anyway.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Flowers!

For today's Friday flowers, I'm going back two weeks to revisit the daffodils and anemones that were just pushing up then, and are all over the place now. Whats great about this time of year are seeing random people, usually of a very mature age, walking through a small town with a bunch of flowers that they've filched from some patch of public land. Those people really strike me as the day's winners, I think.  So here's my small bunch of daffodils and anemones. Not filched.
The daffodils are these funny, twisty variety. They look a bit deformed at first but are beautiful in an unusual way up close:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

4th most beautiful garden in Italy

Not ours! Definitely not!

Beppe and I today went scouting for a location for a special new excursion, to be launched once the weather warms up a little more. Its an absolute delight to have access to such a special place, and get to call it work. So here's a few photos from our day in the Florentine hills.

The garden's still sleeping, there was ice on the surface of the ponds, all the statuary was wrapped up and no flowers were to be seen, but even the forms of the hedges were beautiful.

                                                       Fancy a cup of tea here?
                                    Look at this view, over olives.
                              The other direction looked right down on Florence.

                           Even the streetscapes around the Villa were incredibly beautiful:
I'm really looking forward to this new project, and will reveal more when it's all set in motion.

On the way home we managed to indulge a favourite pasttime, checking out abandoned houses.
 Isn't it a beauty?

So thats all for our day in pictures, except bread:

Oven cooked with poppyseeds. Delicious!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Careful what you wish for- Baking

In the name of a chili eating bet centred around a sauce aptly called 'beyond death' we had 15 people around on Saturday night for a pizza night.

I spent about an hour kneading dough for pizzas and also for the bread I wanted to bake while the oven was still hot.

The oven, a 500 year old original, is huge, and the guys were preparing the fire from 4pm. An interesting note about the oven is the cross carved over the entrance, to bless the bread that was baked there.

Heres the pizzas in the oven:

The coals after raking the fire out for the bread, doesn't it look like a gallaxy of stars, or civilization from a mountain top?

and the bread, wholemeal and grano duro (I don't know the translation), delicious!

So yes, I've been getting all the baking in I could possible want, and more.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday flowers & baking

I was idly wondering what I could post for friday flowers as I walked home from visiting a neighbour, as there really isn't so many flowers out yet. Then I noticed these beauties sprouting up where they were planted last year by Dome and Alice. Crocuses, low growing, they won't last long but such pretty early spring flowers. Today's flowers are dedicated to Dome and Alice, whose flowers made my day.

True to my intentions, I've been baking too, with a recipe for cinnamon scrolls from my Mum's old NMAA cookbook. This book's great, and I've had it for ages. giving it a waterproof cover when it started to fall apart.

Yum! They could have done with a sugary glaze, but they didnt last long enough. Next time I want to put some strawberry jam in the scrolls with the sultanas.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The three terrors

Allow me to introduce the most hated and feared of our household.

They started off as yellow bundles of joy, chasing delightfully up and down the garden with their stubby wings outstretched.

Springtime arrivals

Then they grew into elegant white creatures, quite regal. 'Better than swans!' we cried and no-one would suggest the christmas feast that they had initially been intended for. 
The geese in summer

Now though, having escaped pre-christmas slaughter, these three lovely creatures have become ferocious and hissing mad things, stalking and running down anyone who dares leave the safety of the terrace.
Winter geese; I risked life and limb for this picture.

In their youth they were known as qui, quo and qua. Now they are just 'i stronzi'.

Their days may be numbered. Three baked geese seems like quite a dinner party, I'm thinking of a house filled with down pillows.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ah! Seasons!

So this post was supposed to be about how wnderful it is to return to winter in all its sleeping expectancy, but it seems the seasons have got the better of me, Spring is here, and I'm not at all sad about that.

Yesterday was shrouded in fog all day, and thinking today would be the same I went out to capture the daffodil buds and the grey serenity of the last days of winter. Well! The fog has not yet lifted from the valley, but I can see the blue sky above and there's still a chill, but I think today will be glorious.

Here are the daffodils peeking out:

And here are the first anemones:


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Summer to winter

Hello! Im back in winter! I hadn't meant to take a two month break from blogging, after all, I had just got started. But when I hit the shores of Sydney mid December all my good staying-in-touch intentions melted away. Catching up with family, friends and my new baby niece ( who is, no argument, the most beautiful child alive) also kept me away from the computer.

But now I'm back home in Tuscany and full of good intentions for the new year. Too late to be talking about the new year you say? Then you havent tried the rejuvinating properties of two months of summer in the middle of winter. Everything is cold and grey and dead outside, but I have sunshine in my bones, people! 
 With some friends at Christmas in Australia

So what are these good intentions? In no particular order they are:

  • bake more, particularly bread,
  • sew a new summer wardrobe,
  • raise three families of bees (I currently have one) and glean at least 30kilos of honey,
  • blog at least three times a week,
  • organise 3 excursions and events in Tuscany every week,
  • and finally, pay my rent by some combination of these things.

So there they are, good intentions. An the final intention, the one thats going to hold all these others together is: 
Do what I say I'll do.

This is even bigger than intention, this is my 2011 motto. (as an aside, my 2010 motto was: Creation! Not world domination, and that worked rather well for me)

So I hope your year has got off to a good start, let face it, I'm a little late to the game with this new year, so for all you up ahead, hope its all going swimmingly for you.

XX Andrea