Sunday, July 24, 2016

Before And After 2016


  

  Now that I have my tickets in the bag for 2017, I can once again get excited about returning to Umbria. 
  (that is unless the entire world continues on it's way to self-implode, in which case I hope it waits until we are actually there, in Umbria, so we can at least experience the end with a glass of wine and a bowl of chips, sitting outside at Aldo's) 

  My idea of getting excited is to look at the photos I took from the past trip, and figure out what I want to share here on my bloggy. This is hard work.....I take way too many photos, and believe me, there are a slew of 'duds' in the mix.

  I have learned over the years to make little desktop folders for various ideas, which I put the photos in, and this is one idea I especially enjoy...
 "Before and After" refers to the amazing changes the local landscape goes through in the weeks we are visiting. We normally stay from late winter through mid spring, and every year I love watching the shift happen. 

  This area, above Lago Trasimeno and on the border between Umbria and Tuscany, is beautiful anytime of the year. There's the lake, the nearby hills and fields, and distant mountains beyond. It all changes, like everything.....
  



Close to home, a favorite spot to sit and stare.
Here at the start of our visit...




...and here at the very end.



  I can't get over how much the light changes...let alone the incredible lushness of the greenery...





Early days....



...and later.




  These shots, together like this, blow my little pea brain!








A slightly different angle,
but you get the point.



  After the seventh visit, you would think I'd quit taking the same shots over and over. I know, I know....but I just can't help myself. Plus, Every time we head out on our morning walk, I'll tell Johnny that I don't feel like taking my camera. He'll get all fussy and explain how peeved I'd be if I missed something (read: the elusive hedgehog sighting), and I'll hem and haw, and take the damn thing.
  Here's the rub....I never regret it. 




The classic 'Morning Walk' shot, early....




...and after all has filled in.
Ma, che bellissima!




  We were out for a drive in the nearby countryside when I spied this lonely, but beautiful tree, all in it's spring glory. I knew I would want to return to see how it looked after the fact.



Ooohhh...



A bit less impressive, but a big change over the whole area.




  I have done many posts and shared lots of pictures of the various astounding wisteria we see in the 'hood.
  These are so fun to watch, because when we arrive they are basically bare branches, then we watch as they come into amazing full bloom, which lasts about ten seconds, then they just leaf out into a lusciousness of soft green.

  There are several I obsess over, this being one, below...
   



Before full bloom....



...and during!





Same area, different angle, which shows the bottom half.




I can almost smell the sweet perfume, baby!



  Just outside, and to the right of our apartment windows, we watch this tangle of wisteria and a massive yellow banksia rose go off. 
  I love opening the kitchen window on a warm day to let the fragrance wander in....



Our windows are out of the shot, just to the left.
(Ciao, Diletta!)



Same spot, well after the blooms have gone.





  Just a couple more shots of wisteria porn…. in bloom.. and after the bloom is done..



Notice the caper plant hanging onto the wall, too.





  And just around the corner.....











  Our view outside the kitchen window is wonderful. The small public park...which goes through such a dramatic transformation, I have to post three stages of change!






Uno....



...Due...






...Tre!
Seriously green! Green on green!!






  Well, I guess one of my favorite changes is the one I create myself. 
  It would be the little garden I make every year. It gives me so much pleasure, and it seems to put smiles on the faces of folks who walk by. I look forward to doing this every year!




Plants just planted....




...looking all filled in as we are heading home.
I know the next guest will enjoy them.



  Next trip, I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for some good Before and After shots from some places I haven't seen yet.
  This will be a challenge I look forward to very much.

  See ya soon, Panicale...(not soon enough, though!).











Thursday, June 23, 2016

Vitalogy…Food And Friends In Piegaro




  
  Now that I am feeling more settled back home, I am ready to catch up on some posts I didn't get a chance to write while still in Umbria.
  Many will be 'food related', I think...This one certainly is.

  Johnny and I have a few favorite places in the area around Lago Trasimeno that we enjoy going to for a walk, followed by a glass of wine. We especially enjoy visiting the many near by villages, and always try to find new places to explore.

  A couple of years ago, we finally went to see the wonderful Glass Museum in Piegaro,  a village not far from where we stay. It was our first time in Piegaro, and we walked all through this small hill town.
  After our museum visit, we stopped into the small bar right in the middle of town. We chatted with the handful of locals hanging out, and really had a nice time.
  We put it on our list of "let's return to''. And we have, many times. We like the vibe...very local, not much English spoken, everyone friendly.

  What a great surprise to find out that the restaurant attached to this bar, which has gone through a few changes over time, was once again re-opening with a new chef, Moreno Moretti, from Siena, and some great energy from Chiara, the lovely woman behind the bar, and Omar, who I believe is partnering with the chef.

  Asking Chiara about it, we were told it would open soon...in just a week or two. Then, much to our delight, we were treated to a 'taste testing' of a few different pizzas they were trying out. It was very good timing to be there. We had just stopped in for a glass of wine. What luck!

  Of course, we returned for lunch as soon as we found out they were up and running.



A spanking new outdoor seating area is perfect for warm summer nights, no doubt.




They really have it fixed up nicely.



  The name of this new spot?

  Vitalogy Food & Friends.

  Hmmmm....

  Vitalogy:  A listing of human physiology and health, written in the early 1900's

  Also, a popular album by the band Pearl Jam. Hey, it works for me.




Ta-Da!


  On entering, you first come into a small bar area, which also has a deli-type case stocked with cheeses as well as large hunks of meat ready to be cut and grilled. 
  We enjoyed a glass of Proseco while chatting with Moreno and Omar. Nice.




Johnny in his happy place-
that would be anywhere with a glass of Proseco!


  The dining room is split into three small spaces, each with it's own charm. 

  There is a room with a nice long farm table for big parties, a room down a few steps that has wonderful stone walls and arched ceilings, and the front dining area which includes an ancient well and a fireplace which is used for cooking.



The Farm Table room...
(photo courtesy of the Vitalogy Facebook page) 




The lower dining room, with lots of simple charm....





Front dining room with fireplace and well.
Well, well, well....
(photo courtesy of the Vitalogy Facebook page) 


  The afternoon we were there for lunch, it was raining and a little dreary. We were thrilled to sit near the fire, just stoked up for lunch.





Perfect on a rainy day.



  After settling in with our Proseco, we looked over the menu. Moreno brought us a house appetizer selection, sans meat. I have a feeling that he does some nice cheese and charcuterie plates here, too.
  I was especially happy about the house pickled vegetables. The small onions were crunchy, sweet, vinegary and just a little spicy. Really excellent.




We could have stopped here, but why?
That is house made fresh mozzarella with the celery.
Dip the celery in the hot oil....yum.






   


 Now, back to that menu....
  As is the case with most menus in the area, there is an abundance of meat and often fish as second course, but we can always find a nice pasta to enjoy, and usually an interesting side dish of some type of vegetable. 
  



A good selection of starters and pasta dishes....




Lots of grilled meats on this menu.
Contorni are the side dishes.





  We ordered a bottle of local Grechetto, our favorite Umbrian white varietal, and got down to decision making.

  Here, we couldn't resist trying the Umbrichelli Cacio & Pepe. 
  This is a rustic hand made pasta with a cheese and black pepper sauce. The pepper is essential, and added with gusto.
  Imagine the best mac & cheese ever. With lots of black pepper....you get the idea.





Our pasta plates came out steaming hot, and the this shards of pecorino cheese melted as we watched...



  For our side dishes, we ordered two different types of local beans. 
  The ceci, or garbanzo beans, were dressed in the best olive oil, with a nice hint of rosemary and garlic. A classic local favorite. I make this at home sometimes...it's so good.





Ceci with extra virgin liquid gold, garlic and rosemary.



  The other bean dish was fagioli all'uccelletto. These are local dried shelling beans in a broth of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and sage. Just a little sweet, they are so much better than any type of baked beans I've had. The sage mellows everything out.
  It was a super filling meal, for sure, but on a cold and rainy day, what the hell?
  We were ready to fill our tummies.










  While we slowly savored our meal, sipping the wine and chatting with Omar and Moreno, we were also taking note that the fire was being stoked and watched over all the time...coals shifted about, more wood added.
  Of course! This sweet fire wasn't only for enjoyment! No...it was being prepared for this:
















  Yes, we are not flesh eaters. But...it was so interesting to watch this process. The coals were just so perfect....It made Johnny and I want to use the fireplace in the apartment to grill veggies, for sure! We just need a grill thingy!
  (For that matter, we need one for our fire pit here in California. I can just imagine pizzas, veggies, tempeh....so much better than on the Weber, I'm sure. True wood fired pizza. And foosball. That's a party.)

  Anyway, this hunk-o-meat was placed on a plate, set in front of a finely dressed fellow, liberally drizzled with Umbrian olive oil....and devoured. With a salad.
  I'm assuming this is done with the various meats on the menu, and also pizzas, or at least flatbreads, because there were tools by the fireplace, including a pizza peel. 



  As we finished up and went back to the bar in front to pay, we were introduced to a young man, I think his name is Alessio... that was bringing in some dessert wines to try. What luck...again!
  We were happy to do a little taste test, along with some sweet treats to end our meal. You bet!
  









  I love these fortified sweet wines after dinner. Just a small taste does it. This was deep, rich caramel flavor with nutty hints. Bellissima!
  I will look forward to having some next time we visit Vitalogy.



Thanks, Alessio...I hope I remembered your name right!
We LOVED the Fra Santo...Grazie!


    

  All in all, Johnny and I look forward to adding Vitalogy to our list of places we return to. I imagine that they are having a busy summer, and will hopefully be around for many years to come.
  It's always nice to support the local spots, and we are just the ones to do it.

  Thanks, Omar, Moreno and Chiara!!! Ci vediamo a presto!
  We will see you again as soon as we can return..Grazie!

  Buona Fortuna, Tutti!



A very dynamic duo...Omar & Moreno.
Bravissimi!


Vitalogy Food & Friends is in Piegaro, (PG) Umbria, Italy.
Try it!



Monday, June 13, 2016

In God's Country: The Cabin, 2016




  My Dear Readers, both near and far....This post will be long. 
  Lots of photos, and probably lots of waxing poetic, or at least attempting to...

  No mention of Italy(whoops...), just a long love letter to a place which I hold very close to my inner being...She that is always 10 years old, with bandaids on her elbows and knees, with dirt under her fingernails and between her toes...the girl who smells like smoke and pine pitch...the little sprite that is the color of a toasted walnut all summer long....
  I love this kid.

  This post is for we who love 'Camp Coyote', and who dream of it regularly....Adults now who want to be kids again, running through the woods and meadows, climbing the mountain, freezing our fannies off in the creek, sunning ourselves on the sandy banks of said creek, until we burn...Kids who ride bikes or walk to the store for ice creams after supper...who then sleep on the deck, under the stars, afraid that Yaki may come and steal us away one warm night. We awake to the wonderful perfume of smoke from the wood stove and coffee....
  
  As adults we have a new appreciation of the subtler offerings: The sounds of birds, the luxury of time spent doing absolutely nothing, the ever present drone of the watery creek down below us, the gentle movement of the pine trees in the wind...
  Then we stop. 
  We gaze upward and thank our lucky stars that we have this to come home to.
  We breathe and breathe and breathe some more.


  

The Cabin.
Grandma Dottie always referred to this as
God's Country".



  Though it has changed some over the years, including a new bedroom addition downstairs, The Cabin is still the same. 
  It's so much more than a structure.
  I wrote a post about The Cabin several years ago, promising to return soon.
  
  Thing is, I have to visit The Cabin every once in the while. I need to touch base with my young girl soul, and this is by far the best place on earth to do it. 

  

Sitting here at my desk, I swear I can hear the creek.

  Well, we just returned from a week at The Cabin. Finally....

  This is the first time in eight years that we have spent more than a day there. 
  Lately, the only time I've spent there is to help 'open' or 'close' it, which takes a couple of hours...always rushing to get back home asap to get back to work. Jeez.
  As I say every time on our return...
  What took so long?
  Life has gotten busy and complicated. It's hard to justify taking more time off when we have such a long get-away in the spring (ok, Italy is being referred to).

  We promised ourselves back in October, after Johnny helped Dad 'close'  The Cabin for winter, that we would go. Just make it happen.
  Go figure...we actually did. We booked the second week of June.

  Almost backed out, too. It's busy here at the gallery...lots of challenges facing us, and we'd just returned from 'you know where'  three weeks ago. What were we thinking?!? We can't leave again so soon!
  But .....but. Life is short, times are, ummm, wacky.....and who wanted to be around those days leading up to the Primaries? There were over twenty political messages on our machine when we got back!
  Run away! Run away!
  So we did. And we liked it!

  This is going to be a long post.

  So.
  
  After waking up at an ungodly hour, we zoomed our way up North in record time. I wasn't speeding, we just made a very smart choice to leave on Sunday morning, crack-o-dawn.  No traffic. Sweet. 
  Once there, we unpacked, walked around touching everything that is all important to touch, put stuff in the fridge, and settled right in.
  First things first, a quick trip to town for some vittles, etc. Then back home to spend the first evening relaxing with a glass of wine right here:

  
Sigh. Big old sigh.


  For the following days away, our routine was pretty much like this:

  Wake up early to see the sunrise, enjoy a cup of coffee in bed while reading a book, take a long morning walk, come back to get some cleaning and other chores done, have a nice bite to eat, take another shorter stroll here or there, come back to take a nap, go to the river in the hot afternoon, do a few more chores....
  Then wine, some street badminton, dinner and another walk...lastly reading and bed. And sleep like the dead.

  Ahhhhhhhh. I could get used to it, I'll tell you what.




Sunrise.
You have to imagine the sounds of a zillion birds waking up.
And the creek raging below.


  As you know, we love our morning walks, and at The Cabin, they are quite lovely.



This road. Oh, this road.
You know what I'm talking about, dear ones....



Walking past "The Water Pipe".




'Natural Landscaping' at it's best.





More natural landscaping...wow.




Mountain meadows near Hanna's Ranch.






Hanna's Ranch.






This grass knocked me out.






After turning around at the stop sign, we head on back.
Another beautiful morning walk in my life.




  Heading back that first morning, I noticed that there were loads of new trees coming up, with lots of fresh, tender growth. So nice to see this after all the years of drought.
  Both Lassen and especially Shasta, had lots of snow. Shasta is covered...all white. Yes! This is good for the forest's baby trees.....



Stumps are all around, but it's great to see
all the new trees coming along.



More babies in the forest.



Wonderful new growth!


  The last few times we have visited The Cabin, and spent actual time, it was in September. Always September. Usually for Mr. J's birthday. It's a gorgeous time to be in the mountains, and there aren't many people around.
  This time we chose to come in June, because the first two weeks of June are slow here at the gallery, and the autumn is our busy time.
  Anyway, the big surprise were all the wildflowers! Of course..it's still late spring at five thousand feet above sea level...

  Spotted on our walks:




What we call Snow Flowers are actually
'Sarcodes Sanquinea'




Meadows filled with I don't know what, but they sure are pretty.




Native Columbine make a nice picture.




This native white flowering ceanothus was everywhere...






  There was always one smoking rock dude, now there are two. These guys are big, too.


The original 'Smoking Rock'.....


...and his Jabba -the- Hut look alike brother.
I'll admit, I am responsible for this one....





  There is plenty of wildlife, though most I am unable to capture with my camera...


Always deer coming around.
There are about five or six that come by each day.




I've never seen these large and quite vocal
birds. There were these parents and two young ones.



This funny fellow puffed himself all up to scare me off.
Sorry little guy, I played with snakes and lizards all my young life.



  What a surprise to see about two or three hundred cows go by one morning!
  They do this cattle drive every year about this time...I remember seeing this once when I was a kid. The moms and babies and two rather frightening bulls took about an hour to move on through. What fun! I can't believe I was so totally entertained watching this...
  They were making a pretty good racket, too. Lots of bellowing.
  And poop. Lots and lots of poop.




Moooovin' on by, baby.



The cowboys were cowgirls. Very cool.





  And then there was Johnny….. 
  My most dear husband is not known for his great love of the wilderness...he doesn't swim, doesn't ever wear shorts or even short sleeved shirts... no way would you catch him in a bathing suit...Not a big fan of getting all funky in the woods. But bless his heart, he went right along and was game for almost anything I wanted to do.
  Had it been up to him, we would have just kicked back with books all the live long day. 
  I get it, I just tend to revert to my ten-year-old self at The Cabin, which means..
  Go, go, go!
  Then read books when it's wine o'clock.

  So, enjoy these shots, because these don't happen often!



Umm, yes, those are Crocks.
They belong to someone else, of course.
Ranger Apodaca!



Please don't fall in, love...you don't swim.




Oh, yes he did.




Ahhhh. Now this is more like it!





He does enjoy the BBQ, thankfully.




  So, yeah, we do bring it down a notch come evening. We like to relax after a game of street badminton with a glass of wine and just enjoy the sounds of the forest.
  Dinner is done outside, on the grill.
  Vegetarian, of course.




Freeform pizza. Oh joy!.




Margherita. Tasty.





Dinner with a view.




Another night, another pizza..
This one is grilled red onions and mushrooms, with zucchini and fontina.








Sides of grilled scallions and romaine.
Oh, yes please.




Grilled corn, zucchini and red onion salad
with avocado bread and grilled seitan.





Why we walk miles and miles every day.

  



  

 We eat, we walk, we do some chores, and then we play at the creek. 
  Although it's really a river in June, I must say. Wicked fast and wicked cold.


That's Mt. Lassen back there.


When we were kids, we'd fish for trout in these nearby rivers.




Another view I dream of, often.


  There are lots of spring bloomers at the creek, too.
  Who knew?




















  I was just cruising along when I came across this odd and fascinating scene, below….
  Look close at the near bottom center of this shot. I've never seen this before.






Ooooooh!
Just dancing in the wind.




  Because I'm me, and I like to play in the water (even when it's freezing because it instantly cools you down), I find things to create. This time it was another 'Red Damn', ala Andy Goldsworthy.
  I had to stay in the shallows, because the creek was big and fast and cold.

  It's fun to look for rocks along the banks that will show red when they are wet. Then it's just a matter of spending a few hours putting them together in a nice way.
  Plus, it's a great way to stay cool in the hottest part of the day.
  And try to get a little nut color going on my pearly white legs.


















Finito!
 This will only last a moment, but maybe my brother Rich and family will see it before it's gone.
 




Well, what else can I say. I love The Cabin. I love all it stands for, which is fifty plus years of memories for me, and I will try my best to get back sooner this time.
  Which is what I always say, but never seem to do.
  Maybe now is the time.....




Watching the sun go down.




Looking up at the trees I have looked up at for decades.



  I mean, if right here and right now isn't the perfect time to just decompress at The Cabin, I don't know when is.
  I'd say we'll be back before the year is out.
  Who wouldn't want this?

  Peace Out for now, Dear Cabin.