What’s Important – Today It’s Back to Working on My Italian

So much has happened in our lives the past 6 months.  We returned from 3+ unbelievably rewarding months in Italy and came home to gardens and fall and wedding planning and holidays and then the actual wedding!!!  It was a wonderfully rich and busy few months.


I tend to get caught up in some sort of vacuum when there is a very large event or activity on the horizon.  That specific thing tends to become a gigantic focus that slows down all of my other goals and has me feeling overwhelmed by basically everything, including the things that I love to do, like cooking and decorating and entertaining.  Why is that?

After our daughter and son-in-law’s beautiful wedding things were clearer to me,  I was able to begin to focus on figuring out what the things were that make me happy; things that I needed to make sure were a daily part of my life.  I began searching the web and reading suggestions from different bloggers.  Many have great ideas and planning tools, but what I finally realized after reading a few excerpts was that I needed to determine the things that were important in my life, and realize that they needed to come first.

There are many things that are urgent in our day to day lives – and there is a difference between urgency and importance.  One site that I accessed is Maria Forleo’s site ( http://www.marieforleo.com/2015/01/prioritize/)  for women who want to create a business.  Now, I am not in that group of wanting to create a business, but I like her energy and a lot of what she has to say does relate to life in general.  She gives a simple video description of understanding what is urgent vs what is important.

Several other sites that I found online suggested thinking about and listing the things that are important ….so I came up with these three things – health/exercise….blogging….and continuing with my study of Italian.  Those are the three things I want to establish as consistent parts of my daily life.  I felt really good after I did that – more focused and happier. I’m hoping that making these things part of my daily life on a consistent basis will help me focus better when bigger things are on my horizon.  (Family is of course always important, and it will always take precedence.)

The health part of this plan will be the most challenging because my husband and I love to cook and we love to eat!  We eat as much organic and local as we can, and this time of year in northwest New Jersey the local choices are pretty much not available, except for some meats and cheeses.  While in Italy this past summer we were able to walk to one of any hundreds of restaurants in Florence each night – we would discover a little gem on our walks during the day and make sure that we returned at night for dinner.  The choices were never ending, and we loved every second of it.  The foods were local and fresh, and so healthy!  The portions are not huge like here in the states, and doggie bags are not the norm.

Stuffed zucchini flowers

stuffed zucchini flowers

Exercise right now includes using the treadmill and practicing yoga on my own or in a class as well as bi-weekly TRX workouts with a fantastic personal trainer.  My Italian lessons are small group and will begin again on Tuesday mornings with the beautiful Chiara.  I’m laughing right now because I spent the most amount of time talking about food – see, I told you it was the most challenging thing in my life to manage!

Ciao, Bella!

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First of all I want to give a thank you shout-out to a friend and past co-worker Brenda.

Last week I saw Brenda at a conference, and she told me how much she missed reading my blog.  Her encouraging words got me back in the saddle so to say, after a horrendous, absolutely mean girl on-line experience with a former reader of my blog.  So, I’m back and feeling creative and ready to blog!

FHFB and I are invited to a costume party tomorrow night at Galloping Ghost Farm, a beautifully restored and renovated stone farmhouse not too far from where we live.  I am not a great lover of wearing costumes myself, but I do love to dress kids, cats and dogs in all sorts of costumes!

So, for this party,  I’m wearing a simple elegant Venetian mask  and helping out with the costume judging.  I’ve also decided to dress up a very large, very black soft boot that I’ve worn for the last 7 weeks due to a torn tendon.  Here goes, what do you think?

Doggie costume on the soft boot I have been wearing for last 7  weeks long with a piggy puppet stuck in the front.

This little cowboy outfit is really made for a small dog, but it fits right around my boot.  The little pig is an old puppet of my daughter’s and fits snugly right between my leg and the inside of the boot.  Can you see the black boot at the base?  The lasso and hat were included with the costume, and the pink arms match the piggy puppet!  How much more perfect could he be?  At least I’ll feel part of the costume thing, limited but fun.

We are bringing along two bottles of wine, one of our homemade Brunello and one from a winery we visited this summer while we were in Florence, Castello Monterinaldi.   We had the most elegant lunch inside the elegant villa.

with Katie, Chris and Frank

with Katie, Chris and Frank


These simple white bags from Michael’s were decorated with free downloads from Pinterest and other shiny bobbles.

For Gary and Joanne's Costume. Party on 10/31/2014

For Gary and Joanne’s Costume. Party on 10/31/2014

Happy Halloween!

Ciao Bella! xxoo

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So many museums…so little time!


There are 72 museums worth visiting in Florence according to this website, and at this point FHFB and I have visited 27 of them, with one of the highlights being, can you believe it, the Ferragamo Museum???

The first room of this museum is of course, rows and rows of shoes, dating back to the first third of the 20th century. The interesting thing is that any of those shoes could be worn today, their style really reaches far beyond the year they were designed.

In the rest of the museum, Ferragamo focuses on the intricacies and absolute value of feet for a human being, with the focus showing how we have evolved due to being able to stand upright. The museum is full of sculptures of feet in bronze, marble….photographs and movies of everyday people walking and great people on walks for causes. Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon is an ongoing video – it’s really a very fascinating museum and goes so much more beyond what I thought was going to be a ‘shoe museum’.

After leaving this museum we really had a new respect for shoes that are well made and understand how they’re structure and support helps the entire body.

I didn’t buy a pair of Ferragamo shoes….but we did find a fantasic shoestore called Casini –  Jennifer Tattanelli right across from the Pitti Palace – it’s a must for affordable, very comfortable Italian made shoes…….http://www.casinifirenze.com.

Here are some photos from Yahoo images of the Ferragamo Museum because photos are not allowed and some photos that I did take of the other beautiful museums, churches and chapels we’v seen…enjoy and check out all the other recommended Florence museums in the first link above.

Store and museum in Florence

Store and museum in Florence – Yahoo Images

Old Ferragamo hoe forms from famous movie stars

Old Ferragamo shoe forms from famous movie stars – Yahoo Images

Rows of shoes from the 1930's onward

Rows of shoes from the 1930’s onward – Yahoo Images

Inside of Ferragamo museum in Florence

Inside of Ferragamo museum in Florence – Yahoo Images







ceiling fresco

ceiling fresco

Frescos on wall of private room in San Miniato Church

Frescos on wall of private room in San Miniato Church


This room in San Miniato is one of the most peaceful places I know of.




Front of San Lorenzo

Front of San Lorenzo


Bapistry ceiling

Bapistry ceiling


Mosaic Floor of Bapistry

Mosaic Floor of Bapistry







North Doors by Ghiberti, Florence Baptistry, Florence,Italy, c. 1404-24.

North Doors by Ghiberti, Florence Baptistry, Florence,Italy, c. 1404-24.

Giotto's Campanile - Bell Tower at Duomo

Giotto’s Campanile – Bell Tower at Duomo


Dante Illuminating Florence with His Poem, painted by Domenico di Michelino

Dante Illuminating Florence with His Poem, painted by Domenico di Michelino

Santa Maria del Fiore

Santa Maria del Fiore

Cathedral of Santo Maria del Fiore from a side street

Cathedral of Santo Maria del Fiore from a side street

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Okay, the food…it’s just spectacular!

When we first decided to spend three months in Florence, one of the things we were most looking forward to was shopping in the local markets and cooking meals in the apartment.  There are two major local markets that are within easy walking distance from us, the San Ambrosia Mercato and the Mercato Centrale – we have shopped at each of these markets every week, trying not to stock up on too much fresh produce or pastas. Our at-home cooking has been pretty good, despite the fact that we constantly see new osterias or trattorias during our daily ventures into different parts of the city.  On average we have tried to cook at least one meal each day – two if you include breakfast which we always have at the apartment.

Link to some of the local mercatos: http://www.aboutflorence.com/typical-markets-in-Florence.html

But, alas, our will power is not the greatest!  We have probably enjoyed more meals out than in, but that’s okay….we will survive!  At first I was taking photos of everything we were eating, but I started looking like a real tourist (although I do take pictures of delicious looking meals where ever we are).  I thought I would share some of our at-home meals and out-on-the-town meals.  Enjoy and be happy that there is not one calorie in any of these photos!  Ciao…xxoo

Zuppa di Pesci

Zuppa di Pesci

Oven baked pizza at the Mercato Centrale Nuovo

Oven baked pizza at the Mercato Centrale Nuovo

roasting tomatoes at the apartment

roasting tomatoes at the apartment

appetizer with anchovies, bread, butter and vodka shots

appetizer with anchovies, bread, butter and vodka shots – Trattoria Garga

Pasquale's cappucino

Pasquale’s cappucino – Cafè Mingo

wild boar sauce

wild boar sauce – Bettola Vecchia


piselli – at Bettola Vecchia

At Cafè Libertà

At Cafè Libertà – Pear Tart

Frank's homemade chick pea soup at the apartment

Frank’s homemade chick pea soup at the apartment

At the apartment

At the apartment – Pasta è vongole

At Good Tastes of Tuscany with Chef Luciano

At Good Tastes of Tuscany with Chef Luciano – Panzanella




Posted in Firenze 2014, osterias, Panicale, ristoranti, trattorias, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

A Wonderful Little Farm in Panicale, Umbria

Over this past weekend FHFB and I spent some time with his cousin Mario and his wife Pam at their little farm in Panicale, Umbria.  The trip is about a 90 minute train ride from the Santa Maria Novello train station in Florence.


olive trees – beginning to flower

We visited a few years ago with our son Frank, but this time we were able to spend the night and wake up with the birds singing, sun shining and olive trees greeting us a savory ‘good morning’.  I think the best word for this place is ‘serene’ – it is quiet and so peaceful.



Mario and Pam keep this property looking incredible – between the rows of olive trees, plantings of various fruit trees, flowers and vegetables – everywhere you look is a feast for the eyes!


sloping field and gardens at Panicale


Plums, persimmons, quince, cherries, loquats, and peach trees stretch out over the gentle slope of the field, and the vegetable garden is brimming with peas, beans, tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, onions and herbs – pots and pots of herbs and herb seedlings all over the place.




plums growing like clusters of grapes in Panicale



persimmons – just flowering and beginning to show their fruit – they will be ready to eat sometime in November-December











a really large rosemary bush growing on the hillside behind the farmhouse – Panicale


sitting and chatting, looking out over the gardens, with a bottle of homemade wine – does it get any better??


geraniums love the sun in the front of the farmhouse


more geraniums and herbs


looking out towards the persimmon tree


front steps to the top floor of the farm-house 

Shanti is the mascot of this little farm, keeping us laughing with her antics and keeping a sharp eye out for jack rabbits and wild boar!

































Ciao for now!  Leave a comment!  xxoo

Posted in family, Firenze 2014, fruit trees, gardens, Panicale | 3 Comments

Trattorias, Osterias and Ristoranti

According to WiseGeek,http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-trattoria.htm …

Trattoria is an Italian term for a fairly casual, mid-priced restaurant. Less formal than a ristorante and more formal than an osteria, the trattoria is traditionally a family-run establishment that offers simple fare and a relaxed atmosphere. Outside of Italy, the term can be applied to any type of Italian restaurant, which can lead to considerable confusion of expectations.

Restaurants in Italy focus on atmosphere nearly as much as food, providing the visitor or resident thousands of choices for every dining experience. At a trattoria, the mood is meant to be relaxed and fairly informal. While ristorantes may offer a wide range of antipasti and several courses of food, trattorias prefer to offer a few, well-executed entrees. Wine is often less expensive and served in a decanter, as opposed to by the bottle.

In terms of cuisine, a trattoria in Italy will frequently offer regional, local, and family specialties on the menu. The focus is generally on the best of local Italian food, rather than adopting a global cuisine. Wines and other drinks may be from local producers or even family vineyards. In family owned versions, recipes may be centuries old and be a tribute to the long history of great Italian food. Eating in this type of restaurant while traveling in Italy can give a tourist real insight into the neighborhood and region.

This may indeed be the case, and I will need to pay more attention as to whether or not we are having our meal in a trattoria, osteria or ristorante ( I could actually just look at the name of the restaurant).  Our meals have been varied, from simple wood fired pizzas and a glass of wine at the New Mercato Centrale to full course meals at our favorite restaurants, Trattoria Garga http://www.garga.it.

Every corner in Florence seems to have a coffeeshop or pasticerria –  they are great spots to stop off for a cappucino and cornetto.  They also offer little paninis, made with all sorts of local meats and cheeses – simple and perfect!

Forgive the limited text here, but I am still learning how to navigate working with the text and photos on Word Press.  The rest of the post is really a feast for the eyes….some photos of the meals we’ve had out – either at a trattoria, coffeeshop, osteria or restaurant.

This little sweet dessert was delicious, made with pears and a homemade buttery crust.

We had this delicious chocolate torte after lunch at Trattoria Palle d’Oro, and I remember that I saw the waiter walk by with a piece and just knew we had to try it.  The slice was served warm, and was one of those chocolate desserts that you just want to roll around in, it was that good….and I am not a chocolate lover like some of my friends.

Georgette from the Girl in Florence blog shared a great post about the Osteria de L’Ortalano…so we just had to give it a try, and it’s practically around the corner from our apartment. She describes the following dessert, among many other things, much better than I could, so check out her blog to read more about it.




Another delicious food that we tried at Osteria de L’Ortalano was an apple and pepperoncini jam with cheese.  This little osteria has a booming business of homemade condiments as well as many other things.  Two jars of the apple and pepperoncini jam are coming home with me!

Now onto some of the fresh salads, primi and secondi photos…





















The dish below is full of fried anchovies and zucchini flowers, served with many of the locals at Alla Vecchia Bettola.  While I was searching for the restaurant’s website I found that Ina Garten has a delicious looking pasta recipe from the restaurant on the Food Network site http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/nick-and-tonis-penne-alla-vecchia-bettola-recipe.html – I think we might make it one night for dinner.















Home made wide pasta with Wild Boar (cinghiale) sauce – not sure where we had this.









Piselli alla fiorentina








After all of these photos from trattorias, osterias and ristoranti, we are actually cooking home tonight.  FHFB is busy making a delicious white clam sauce, and we are serving it with homemade linguine.  As some side dishes (contorni) we are serving a fresh tomato salad, wide Italian green beans, and  Tuscan beans cooked with garlic and rosemary on grilled crostini.  Yes, it’s a lot, but there will be leftovers for lunch tomorrow~!

I hope you enjoyed reading (looking at) this blog post.  Some ideas for future posts include the gardens and balconies we are seeing here and some of the wonderful shopkeepers we have met here.  If you have anything that you’d like to know more about just let me know and I’ll try to include it.

Ciao, xxoo


Posted in Firenze 2014, ristoranti, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Mangia Salvatore!!”

For some reason my dad always says “Mangia Salvatore!!” whenever he sits down to a huge Italian dinner.

FHFB and I have been busy downsizing our ordering out at restaurants –  feeling less anxious if we don’t always order a primi and second – knowing  we can always go back and try the other dish next week, or tomorrow!   As you can imagine, managing the restaurants and trattorias is truly a challenge here in Firenze.  By manage I mean getting to all of them, which is quite impossible since there are thousands already in existence and new ones opening all the time.

Having a large apartment with a complete kitchen was one of the things we were looking for when we found this apartment.  Our kitchen is small, but it has everything we need to make some delicious local recipes, as well as a quick cappuccino, although it is much more rewarding to walk across the street to Cafe Mingo to have a chat and caffè with Pasquale and his brother Antonio.


We have put together some very delicious dinners for two as well as some welcome lunches for friends and family.  After going through all of my photos this morning, labeling some and deleting some, I thought it might be fun for you to see some of the food we have been enjoying here in Firenze.  Sidenote: Florence is for foodies…you must savor everything with as many senses as possible!

Let’s begin with some of the meals we have enjoyed in the apartment.  Right down the street there is a wonderful little pasticceria where we found some small but delicious little handmade – fatto a mano – pizzas.  They make an interesting addition to our store bought cheeses and salamis. IMG_3319As you can see, there are several different toppings:  grilled zucchini, green and black olives and roasted red peppers.  These are just a few of the options – other toppings include onions, chicken liver – “crostini di fegato” – a Fiorentine staple – as well as many other toppings.  Strawberries are just coming into season here and get sweeter with every purchase.

Our first welcome lunch was created for Frank’s niece Nerina.  She visited for a few days, all the way from Sicily.  Our table included melon wrapped in prosciutto, burrata with honey and almonds, a tomato salad and our go-to chicken breasts over crispy arugula greens.  Flat Italian green beans and some panini from Cafe Mingo were also included.  This type of lunch is great because the leftovers make for great pickings later on with a Spritz or bottle of delicious local red wine.




Our second welcome lunch was made with love for Chris and Katie’s arrival from London to Firenze.  Nerina was already visiting from Sicily so we put her to work with us that morning.  Together we put together a menu with homemade pasta with a marinara sauce, chicken breasts, salami and cheese, a tomato salad and some Tuscan bread.  It’s been a little difficult getting used to unsalted bread, and if you want to learn more about why the bread is unsalted, check out this link:http://www.charmingitaly.com/article/tuscan-unsalted-bread-origins

One thing that isn’t pictured was the dessert that Nerina made, with cannolli shells all the way from Sicily.  She simply combined mascarpone cheese with Nutella and almonds and created the most delicious cannollis that were enjoyed by everyone for the next days.


The morning here has moved quietly into the afternoon, and after a small lunch here FHFB and I will head out to the San Ambrogia area, to explore some of the streets and shops that are past the San Ambrogia mercato.  After that we are heading to the city’s archological museum to learn about some of the Etruscan history in Cortona, the beautiful little town from the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”.  Cortona is only a short train ride away from us. There is so much that is nearby – and so far the trains and buses have been a reliable and fairly inexpensive way to travel.  Our travel plans for the next two months include Panicale in Umbria, Bellagio and Lake Como, Rome and Sicily.  Ciao for now!  xxoo

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