On to Naples (and a recipe)

 

After the history and elegant pomp of Rome, Naples felt more real, somehow, and more gritty. The stylish and tasteful Romans made me wonder where those who weren’t so chic and slim were. Naples was bursting with exuberant fashion. Skintight, low cut, bright colors, sparkles, zippers, studs, snakeskin, leopard print and fur were on show and often many of those in one outfit. It seemed as if there were even more smokers than in Rome.

We stayed in the historic center, with narrow alleys and plenty of graffiti, something we didn’t notice in Rome.

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The entrance to our building was a smaller door cut into one of these enormous doors. We had to both step over and duck down going through the door.  You can see the outline of the small door in the lower right of the large doors.

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On our way to visit the Cimitero delle Fontanelle,  I saw this church and at first thought it was covered in mosaics. As we got closer, I realized the artwork was done in paint.

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The color scheme in the ossuary was more somber.

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Although it was cool and peaceful, I found it a little creepy.

Back at our apartment, I felt like a local, hanging our laundry out on the balcony.

Later we strolled Spaccanapoli and Tribunale, two long, narrow streets in the historic center of the city, tasting some of the delicious fried snacks as we went along. We saw a line at a counter like this, and joined it before we even knew what everyone was queuing for. The case seemed bursting with rice balls, potato croquettes, fried zucchini, fried eggplant etc. We soon learned everyone was waiting for a fresh batch of frittatine: deep-fried pasta formed into fat discs, stuffed with minced pork, bechamel sauce, and peas. Worth the wait.

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Our hostess, Maria, had encouraged us to visit her favorite pizzeria, stating it made the best pizza in Naples. She went on to say she believed Naples made the best pizza in Italy, and Italy made the best pizza in the world. How could we resist the opportunity to taste this amazing pizza?

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OK, the huge crowd outside Gino Sorbillo was a little disheartening. The wait for a table was over an hour. But we realized we could order it to go (or “take away”) and we had our pizza in about 15 or 20 minutes. It was a warm evening and we found a bench nearby to enjoy our traditional Neapolitan pizza all’aperto (outdoors). It was delicious and not at all like the the pizza I’m used to. The crust is quite thin with blistered, almost burned spots, the sauce on top almost soupy and the cheese was amazing. That doesn’t sound like much, but I wish we could have had it again.

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We finished the evening with gelato (of course) at Gay Odin, a chocolate shop and gelateria. They were closing up or we might have stayed to choose a chocolate or two. The pretty box, below, was part of their window display.

The next morning we couldn’t resist a return trip to Spaccanapoli for pastry, sfogliatella on the left and Baba au Rhum, on the right, two Neapolitan classics.

I discovered cannoli are not from Naples, but Sicily.  Lucky for me, some pastry shops had them for sale.  This crisp tube of fried dough was filled with sweet, creamy ricotta studded with bits of chocolate and candied orange peel.

Rem downing an espresso.

With our day off to a great start, we headed down to the waterfront and strolled along, enjoying the view of Mt. Vesuvius.

Eventually, we picked a seafood restaurant on a pier and had lunch here:

The waiter recommended pezzogna, a local fish, grilled with olive oil, salt and lemon, and a side of grilled vegetables.

In the afternoon we rode the funicular railway. Unfortunately, a taxi driver claimed that the two longest lines were closed until April (it was still March), and we didn’t know better. When I kept asking about the other two lines, he  finally said scathingly, “It’s a TOURIST train!” I responded with “And we’re tourists!” He did take us and then overcharged us but as we said at the time, it was all part of the authentic experience!

From the funicular we walked to Castel Sant’Elmo, a medieval fortress, and enjoyed the views.

That evening, our last in Naples, was the first time we cooked on our trip. We found some kitchens better equipped than others, but we took real pleasure in exploring grocery stores and markets and doing our best to create delicious Italian dinners.

I had downloaded Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, an updated combination of  her The Classic Italian Cookbook and More Classic Italian, to my Kindle, so I was ready to go.  The small Carrefour grocery up the street was very well stocked with beautiful pastas, cheeses (I got a hunk of Parmigiano at a great price and carried it with us all the way to Venice) and produce, including the zucchini blossoms that I couldn’t resist.

Pasta with Sausage and Peppers

Barely adapted from Marcella Hazan

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

12 to 16 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 red or yellow bell peppers, diced (I bought a giant one, so only used one)

salt and pepper to taste

1 can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes with their juice

1 lb. pasta (she recommended wide pappardelle noodles, but we used orecchiette or little ears)

1 tablespoon butter

1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, saute about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the sausage and brown, breaking up large pieces as it cooks. After the sausage is lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes, add the peppers. Continue cooking another 6 to 8 minutes
  3. Add the tomato with juice, breaking up large pieces. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no longer watery.
  4. In the meantime, cook pasta according to package directions.
  5. Drain pasta and toss with butter, sauce and cheese.

Big success. This is an easy and delicious recipe.

The zucchini blossoms were less of a win. I stuffed them with a little luscious ricotta cheese and planned to make a thin batter and fry them, but I didn’t want to purchase a whole bag of flour so fried them without any batter. Good but not what they could have been.  Still, it was nice to be cooking in our “own” place.

We enjoyed a good little slice of Naples but the next morning it was time to catch a train to Florence.

Thanks for coming along.

 

 

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First Stop: Rome

Rem and I went on an awesome honeymoon to Italy and I’m finally feeling caught up after struggling with jet lag and the mundane business of normal life when we returned. I’ve been wanting to share some of our photos.

I took a journal and some art supplies with me. I wasn’t planning on doing much crafting during the trip, but I wanted the option. It wasn’t until we were on the flight home that I actually put them to any use. Here’s my little mini crafting kit.

The first photo and this one, below, show my opening layout, done on the plane. I collected quite a bit of ephemera on the trip, and I’m using the bits of collected tickets, maps, postcards, candy wrappers, etc., that I saved to illustrate the journal.

Our first stop was Rome.

We arrived in the evening and crashed at our Airbnb.

The next morning Rem figured out the Moka pot, for his morning coffee, and we headed out early.

Everything looked amazing. The streets were sparkling clean, the window displays were colorful and amusing, the good looking people passing by were beautifully dressed (though many were smoking) and the buildings were grandiose or simple but all seemed to have lovely architectural details. It felt a little bit like we were in a Disney set version of Rome.

Even though the day was overcast, we were happy to be on vacation in a new place, exploring both the simple neighborhood flower shop, and the famous sites, like our selfie atop the Spanish Steps.

(I always forget where to look when I take a selfie).  You can see St. Peter’s Basilica behind us.

We walked for miles that day. We had Pizza Bianca: thin, chewy baked dough with oil and salt but no sauce or cheese, at Forno di Campo di Fiori, then walked through a small Farmer’s Market on our way to the Vatican.

It was a Wednesday, and the Pope had spoken to the masses, but was done and gone before we arrived.  Crews were dismantling the platforms where he’d been seated, and loading up the rows and rows of chairs.

We had our first pizza a taglio, sheet pizza, sold in squares by weight.  It was SO good! This pizza is usually sold at stands or small shops for take away or to be eaten at the counter.  Pizza at a pizzeria is usually individual round pizza and it is most often eaten for dinner, with a knife and fork.

We took care of the business of purchasing Italian SIM cards for our mobile phones, rode the metro, people watched and, later, went out for dinner at ‘Gusto Osteria, choosing several small plates with bread so we were sure to have room for gelato.

Tagliere di Salumi, 5 varieta (5 kinds of salami and other cured meats)

Fiori di Zucca, fritti (fried zucchini flowers)

Carciofi alla Giuda (Deep fried Jewish Style Artichokes)

The most amazing and delicious dish was the artichoke, which was warm, crunchy, salty and kind of nutty.

More walking so we could see the Trevi Fountain at night. We weren’t the only ones with this idea.

Gelato and then up the four flights to our apartment. Our first day had been a long one.

Our visit to Rome was brief, but we still had a few hours before departing. Breakfast, a visit to an art supply store so I could pick up an Italian glue stick, packing and more gelato. We’d seen an article listing top ten gelato’s in Rome and #1 in the story was actually the gelateria a few doors down from our apartment! We obviously couldn’t leave without a taste.

A quirky doll-repair shop and another beautiful produce stand.

Art store treats: washi tape, fat graphite pencils and a glue stick, all of which are perfect souvenirs for me.

A taste of honey-basil gelato (good, but didn’t want a whole scoop), then off to catch our train to Naples.

Grazie mille for your visit. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

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Blue Haired Mermaid

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When I started this piece, I didn’t have any image in mind. I started by collaging around the sides, leaving space in the middle for a face. Most of the collage elements were eventually covered but they’re still part of the process and add texture.

Next, I started on her face. Coming back to work on it fresh one evening I had this clear thought “I’m going to give her blue hair!” You could say it came out of the blue.

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After I finished her blue hair, I decided she just might be a mermaid. So I put bubbles into her hair and added a seahorse and a fish.

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I noticed that some of the textured paper I used in the collage looked kind of like a sand dollar, so I used paint to enhance it.

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I decided to extend the collage and paint onto the edges of the canvas board. I was so pleased with how it turned out that I went back to an earlier piece and did the same thing.

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The little snippet of music includes the lyric “…found me…”. Love that.

No mantra has occurred to me yet. I love her wild blue hair and her strong, steady gaze. She speaks to the Pisces in me.

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For now she is in my office, on a shelf over my computer, so I see her all the time. She looks at everyone who comes into the office.

As always, I appreciate your visit.

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Love One Another

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This angel painting was created for my sister, Kathleen. She asked if maybe I had a painting sitting around she could put up in the office at her new job. Since I give the pieces away, I didn’t have one on a back shelf, but I offered to make one for her.

Her next question: could I do an angel painting of her dog, Stella? Hmm. I suggested I could try including Stella, but wanted to incorporate a guide as well.

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I used this picture of Stella after a rainy hike for inspiration.

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The simplest, most basic mantra “Love One Another,” is a good reminder to everyone these days.

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As usual, it is a mixed media piece with collage, paint, rubber stamping and oil pastels.

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I love all the layers and texture.

I’m also really pleased how the angel wings create the look of a wing on Stella.

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I think I would be comforted if a guide or angel made herself known to me and she was carrying a puppy.

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Coming soon: a blue haired angel. Or maybe she’s a mermaid…

Thanks for the visit!

Here’s a bonus Stella picture, from her puppyhood.

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You Are Awesome!

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My 2017 Valentine’s were inspired by this patchwork wall in Kelly Rae Robert’s new home studio.

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Of course I was working on a much smaller scale. Instead of cutting, scoring and folding card stock for my mini cards, I bought place cards from the Paper Source.  To fit in small glassine envelopes, I cut 1/4 inch off each card to reduce it from 3.5 x 2.5 inches, to 3.25 to 2.5 inches.

I love how intricate they look. I create them by the page, then cut them into smaller sizes to layer onto the card fronts.  Cover a sheet of plain copy paper with adhesive (I like Tombow adhesive) and start building up your patchwork.

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Cover the whole page, going off the edges.

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Trim the edges evenly, then cut into the size needed for the cards. In this case, I cut then into 3 inch by 2.25 inches and used some vertically, and some horizontally.

These pictures show the page, above, as I trimmed it to smaller sizes, embellished the pieces and glued them onto little cards.

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I enjoy uses as much of the page as possible, piecing together almost every scrap.

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Look in front of these finished cards to see the tiny bit left over from one 8.5 x 11 sheet of copy paper, covered with patchwork and cut into pieces.

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I used gold trimmed Christmas cards and glittery calendar pages for some of the punched heart embellishments. It makes me happy to reuse paper ephemera and give it new life.

The greeting inside is created with a rubber stamp from Oh, Hello Friend:

You are Awesome, Loved, Wonderful, Beautiful & Adored!

A good thing for everyone to hear every once in awhile.

I was watching a Kelly Rae Roberts video while I stamped Valentine’s.

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After I sign the inside and put my initials on the back, each one goes into a little glassine envelope. It looks a lot like wax paper – kind of glossy and transparent at the same time. I stamp the front and use washi tape on the back. I like how the colorful cards looks in the translucent envelopes.

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20170212_170851Here they are spread out:

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…and stacked up.

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Wishing you all lots of love.

Speaking of love, this is the sign I made and carried when I participated with my sisters and nieces, in the rain, at the San Francisco Woman’s March last month:

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Happy Anniversary!

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So, I’ve really been meaning to share my happy news but things keep getting in the way.  Like going to the DMV to get a new drivers license. Twice. I finally got online to write a post and learned today is my SIXTH anniversary of blogging.  So it seemed like a good day to post.

I know 2016 was not a good year for a lot of people and for a lot of reasons. But in spite of many terrible things, it was the year that Rem and I got married.

Back in July, 17 years and 5 months from the day we met, we tied the knot. We had a very simple, low-key ceremony at the Marin County Civic Center with one dear friend as witness, and it was perfect. The building is designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  We took some pictures before and after our vows both to commemorate the event and also to honor the beautiful space.

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We also blew bubbles and had some delicious marble cake. The cake toppers are toys we found while geocaching: a plastic lumberjack and a wooden matryoshka doll.

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We continued our celebration playing tourists in San Francisco.  A little dim sum, a visit to the Dahlia Garden in Golden Gate Park, gorgeous mosaic stairs, soft tacos, amazing ice cream, and murals in the Mission and the Golden Gate Bridge on the way back home.

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We shared our news on Thanksgiving and had a little celebration/reception between Christmas and New Year’s. The lighting was not great for photos, but I’d still like to share a few.

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We decorated the tables and mantle with eucalyptus leaves, apples, acorn squash, grapes, mandarin oranges, kumquats, pomegranates, pink pepperberries and twinkle lights.

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My sister found a length of rope in her car for the front of the firescreen and tied a knot in the center. Perfect! I also used blue jars with battery votive candles inside, and heart strings throughout the room.

Thank you for being a part of my life and for reading my posts these past six years, six months, or for however long you’ve been reading them.

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Nativity Sweater

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We had a holiday potluck at work, paired with an “Ugly Sweater” contest.  I got the idea to create a felt Nativity and hot glue the characters to a sweater. I found the sweater at a thrift shop and spent several very happy hours crafting away the little figures.

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Of course I needed an angel and a star.

Two wise men decorate the back. Aside from $6 spent on the sweater, I spent $1 on felt (on sale, 5 squares for $1.) I had some felt but needed more color variety. The hot glue, tacky glue, washi tape, sequins, beads, buttons, and other embellishments are from supplies in my craft stash.

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Shepherds and sheep were also included.

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I must say, I love the sheep! The shepherd boy is on one sleeve.

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A donkey is on the other.

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And here’s Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

I think Joe looks a little befuddled by the whole thing.

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I also included a Wise Woman.

She would have asked for directions and arrived on time. She would have gotten the stable cleaned up, and brought some practical gifts (in the shopping bag). Perhaps some diapers and blankets.  Maybe a casserole or some nourishing hot soup.

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Those two wiseguys? They’re still on the back, trying to follow the star.

(Results not yet in on the sweater contest).

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Thank you for the visit.

Peace on Earth.

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