About lulu

I am a fiber artist with special emphasis on weaving, but I love working with threads and cloth in a variety of mediums. New ideas, new ways of connecting threads are the spice of life.

From Bud to Beauty

peonypeony: a type of plant with large pink, red or white flowers named after Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing

peonyCan you imagine this beauty being used to relieve headaches and help with asthma as it was in ancient times?

peonyFrom the time a peony is a tight little bud

peonyattracting ants with the nectar that forms on the flowers 

peonyuntil it drops its petals in a snowy mound, it is a thing of beauty.

peonyWho can bear to leave them outside to be weighted by rain and buffeted by wind

peonywhen inside, blossoms, alone or clustered, can brighten a room

peonyor add color and texture uniquely their own.

No wonder peonies are a favorite for so many people, and I am no exception.  Having them in my own back yard, at least in Maine, is a special treat and I savor each blossom from bud to finish during its short blooming period.  Not only do I relish a peony’s incredible beauty, I’ve even learned to pronounce  pe-e-ny rather than pe-o-ny as my great grandmother used to say!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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The Scoop

Tips and Tidbits

FlorenceThe month in Florence is over, and here I am back in Maine looking out the window on a gray, rainy day and trying to recall each of the things that made the adventure special.  I’m not quite ready to let it go.  Sitting here reminded me that a number of you asked questions, and I thought answering them would help me put it all in perspective.

Most often asked was why did I choose Florence?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWould you believe the inspiration came from Dan Brown’s book The Inferno?  OK, for a number of years I had dreamed of renting an apartment in a location in Italy where a car would not be required as there would be easy access to bus and train transportation for an occasional day trip. I wanted to be where I could walk and not tire of the sights around me.  I wanted the place to be steeped in history and have a relaxed, easy going culture.  

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

I like Venice, Rome and Milan, Ravello and Sorrento, but none of those places called out to me.  It was The Inferno that breathed life into my fantasy by making Florence come alive as a site for unexpected adventure.  Though my experience there would not be as thrilling, Florence seemed just the right place in which to immerse myself and live the dream. Now that it’s over it’s hard to imagine anywhere being more perfect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the way, there is an Inferno tour that visits many of the places cited in the book.  I couldn’t resist and booked here.  The tour was most interesting and having a delightful guide added to the pleasure.  It tickled me that she described The Inferno as a tour guide of Florence with a little adventure thrown in.  That is one way of looking at it!

Next question: how did I find the apartment? The simple answer is it took a lot of looking.  There are many places listed on the internet including a number by owner.    As you might guess, a deposit is required and I got a little nervous about sending money to an unknown party.  I guess too many stories about people purchasing from individuals online only to find out they had been duped made me a little jaded.  Anyway, I decided to go with an agency and chose Windows on Italy for the rather large selection of apartments they offered. I was quite surprised to find that a year in advance some were already booked during my preferred time period.  My best advice for renting is to start looking early, especially if you desire lodging for more than 2 people, and pay attention to location as that is most important if you plan on doing a lot of walking.

Over and over I’ve been asked if I would do it again.  Yes, but not in Florence because that dream is over.  Where the next spot will be or if there will be a next spot is not clear to me at this moment.  What is clear is the total satisfaction I had from the experience and a deep appreciation to the hubby for his willingness to go along with another of my crazy fantasies.  Maybe that’s what keeps life interesting for both of us.

aperol Now, if I could just find Aperol in Maine part of the memory could become a reality every day!

My final thought: if you have a dream, keep wishing and maybe, just maybe, it will become a reality.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

From My Tuscan Kitchen

One of the things I most enjoy about travel is sampling the local cuisine.  In Florence, I began noticing that something made with rabbit appeared on most menus.  Ridding my mind of the image of a cute, furry, flop eared bunny, I decided to give it a try.  Guess what?  I liked it!

Coniglio or rabbit done Tuscan styleAfter tasting such as this and a few pastas, I decided to brave it in my kitchen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst step was finding an authentic Tuscan cookbook for a clue how to start. The fact that this one read home cooking on the cover had instant appeal.

rabbitNext step Mercato Sant’ Ambrogio where I knew there’d be no problem finding rabbit.

rabbitMost people bought the whole animal, but I couldn’t bring myself to think about cutting it up and asked the butcher to do the deed.  I have to confess that when I got home I did throw the head away because I just couldn’t bear staring at the little face with its toothy overbite and sightless eyes.  I had to keep telling myself this bunny was a food source, not a pet.

Anyway, to the recipe which was pretty simple except for shredding the meat off the bones.  There are lots of little areas with only slivers, kind of like a chicken back.   The challenge was totally worth the effort as the sauce turned out great. It might have been just as good with ground meat, chicken or Italian sausage substituted.  Hmmm, that would have defeated the purpose, wouldn’t it?

Pappardelle sul Coniglio

1 lb. pappardelle

1 small rabbit (liver reserved)

chopped aromatic vegetables (onion, carrot, celery)

rosemary

1/2 c. white wine

32 oz. can of tomatoes 

olive oil

salt and pepper

grated parmigiano

rabbitIn a skillet, warm 5 T. of olive oil.  Add the aromatic vegetables (seemingly a must in Tuscan cooking) and rosemary.  Cook until the vegetables are soft.

Add the rabbit (cut into pieces) and brown on all sides.  Deglaze with the wine, season with salt and pepper and cook until the wine evaporates.  Remove the rabbit from the skillet and shred the meat off the bones.

Chop the liver and add to the skillet along with the shredded rabbit meat.  Add tomatoes and cook for about 30 minutes.  (Don’t leave the liver out thinking no one would like it….you can’t even taste it.)

Cook the pappardelle in salted boiling water until al dente. Spoon sauce over the pasta and serve with parmigiano.

Six of us were at the table the night this was served, and I didn’t reveal the ingredients until after plates were clean. A little sneaky perhaps, but judging from the fact there were no leftovers no one seemed to mind.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Full Plate Thursday

Foodie Friday

Florence My Way

From the beginning, my intent was to immerse myself in Florence not as a tourist but as an explorer.  I wanted to capture this magnificent city by finding beauty in the ordinary, by wandering streets and paying attention to its sights, sounds, smells and people.  Here is Florence my way.

FlorenceFlorence was walking the same street and seeing it differently each time. 

Florence4It was observing people working in small shops, the market, on the street.

Florence8It was coming across artists sketching 

Florenceor creating street art too beautiful to be no more than temporary.

Florence9Florence was marveling at graffiti, seemingly on every bare surface.

FlorenceIt was appreciating the beauty of Santa Croce any time of the day or night

Florence1and shooting the Duomo over and over without ever capturing its real majesty.

Florence11It was the unexpected surprise of spotting remnants of art created on buildings hundreds of years ago.

FlorenceIt was going from one side of the Arno to another on lovely bridges 

Florenceand stopping to notice that the real beauty of the Ponte Vecchio was the richness of color on its back side.

Florence2It was exploring quirky flea markets

Florence5and one street market after another.

Florence12Florence was noticing people taking photos with selfie sticks.

Florence7 It was being fascinated by doors with character

Florence6and door knockers that could waken the dead.

FlorenceIt was enjoying sidewalk cafes,

Florence gelato again and again and again

Florence3and at the end of a day’s exploring, an aperol and an antipasti plate at home.

FlorenceIt was taking in Florence and all its glory knowing that the experience will fill my heart with memories for years to come.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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The Scoop

It Started With a Book

Florence: Walking Through Food and Culture

Florence: Walking Through Food and Culture

I’m not quite sure where to start this story, but let’s begin with the book, this one that I bought because I liked its cover.  Too, the title seemed so appropriate as walking Florence through its food and culture felt exactly like what I had been doing. 

Florence bookThen, when I opened the book and saw it described as an emotional guide to Florence, I was hooked as so much of this adventure was one filled with emotion for me.

OK, now let’s fast forward. My daughter, her girls and I were off to Sant’ Ambrogio (see here) to shop for a few more bags and have a bite of lunch.  Though the market is supposed to be open daily until 2 PM, it was closed this day as unbeknownst to me it was a national holiday.   Just my luck when everyone was hungry and getting a little cranky.  What’s a mom to do?

I wasn’t too familiar with the market area meaning I had no idea about a place to eat, but I suggested walking the opposite direction from where we had entered at the same time saying a little prayer there would be some cafe or trattoria close by.

FlorenceWe got lucky and in a few minutes took outside seats at Cibreo Caffe.

Fabio Picchi

Fabio Picchi

As we were looking at menus, one of the girls said, “Lulu, you know that book you have?  I think the guy on the cover is right over there.”  I looked up and there was Fabio Picchi and we just happened to be sitting at his restaurant!  Now there may be some people who would seek this place out because they knew it from a guidebook or a blog or whatever, but we’d ended up there totally by accident and without knowing he had a restaurant or, as it turns out, three!  I hadn’t gotten that far in the book.

FlorenceHowever we got there, it was a very good thing as the whole experience was a delight.  I ordered a sampling of antipasti expecting it to be the usual combination of meat, cheese and melon for which I had become so fond.  Not so,  there were tasty new bites, each served on its own little plate so as not to get the flavors confused.

FlorenceJust as we were taking our first bites, one of the many accordion players that stroll the streets of Florence appeared livening up the experience.

IMG_4833It would have been perfect enough had it stopped right there.  What finished it off was this dessert which was so good we had to order another and if it looked like anyone was taking more than their fair share, he/she was in danger of getting a fork in the hand!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOK, now here comes the true confession.  I have the book, right, but it’s not with me, so I text the hubby asking that he join us for lunch and, oh by the way, bring the book.   I just couldn’t help myself, I asked Fabio to autograph it.  Others may have their own autographed copy, but I’m betting in not a so round about way.  

Such are the moments that make life so special!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind 

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Out and About

One of the reasons for choosing Florence as a base for our month long adventure was its convenient access to bus and train terminals which made day trips very doable.

TuscanyOne of our favorite days was again with Dario for wine tasting and lunch in Castellini in Chianti.  

Monteriggioni

On the way we made a quick stop in Monteriggioni, one of my favorite hilltop towns.

TuscanySmall though it is, there are some very cute shops with items a little more unique than in Florence’s street markets.

Tuscany/weaving Would you believe there was a weaving studio, too, which this weaver could not overlook!

TuscanyArriving in Castellini, we were met by Dario for what was a fascinating few hours during which we learned much about the history of the area dating back to the Etruscans as well as about chianti and the differences between the various blends.

Tuscany I won’t go into all the details except to say that, according to Dario, Italians drink what is from their home area without making a big deal about nose and bouquet which they think is bunk!  Quite honestly, I rather like that approach as it makes wine selection quite simple.  From what I observed there are none but Italian wines on Tuscan shelves and those include a lot of wine priced less than $10 E!  I wish we could buy in the US more of what is available in Italy.

TuscanyHad we done nothing more than take in the beauty of the place, it would have been enough,

Tuscanybut a shared lunch  of mixed bruschetta and risotto made it even better.

TuscanyReluctantly, we left Dario and Fattoria Fregole to head back to Florence with a stop in San Gimignano.  

TuscanyIt, too, is one of the many towered hilltop towns that at one time served as fortresses. TuscanyIt is a popular destination, and this day it was so crowded that meandering was almost impossible.  That made us want to tarry only long enough to have a gelato!

Tuscany/familyAll in all, this was a most enjoyable day with the best part being getting to share it with one of the daughters and her family.  I like those times that go into our collective memory bank.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Florentine Style

tablescapeTables in Florence are just my style: simple, set with no fuss.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Occasionally, tables were covered with a cloth or table runner,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbut most had nothing more than a paper mat.

tablescapeAt home in the apartment, it was easy to follow that lead as there were no linens.  Adding simple arrangements of flowers from the market was about as fancy as it would get.

tablescapeThough I rarely use paper napkins (everyone has their little quirks), they became the norm for our dinners at home which more often than not were for 6 as friends and family joined us. Tied with a scrap of ribbon and with a sprig of rosemary cut from the balcony, paper was quite satisfactory.

tablescapeSometimes a napkin was simply folded on the plate on top of which was a small dipping bowl for olive oil.  The bowls also served as place holders, terra cotta for guys, blue flowers for the ladies.

tablescapeOnce I found wonderful napkin rings in the shape of various herbs, I couldn’t resist using them as a special touch.

tablescapeI rather enjoyed having just one set of dishes which took all the decision making out of setting a table.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, there was never a time when even the simplest food didn’t look quite appetizing on a white background.

tablescapeAfter a month of experiencing Florentine style, I’ve found that I quite like its understated, comfortable simplicity that is quite a contrast to the city’s beautiful and ornate architecture.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Tablescape Thursday

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