We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Leopold strikes again!

While we had our first lunch of the season out in the garden, Leopold, our Corgi, decided to keep himself busy--digging! Yes, he is completely enjoying his life in Venice!!

Wisteria in Giardino

We were treated to the luscious smells of wisteria this morning when we opened the back door to the garden. Just yesterday, it had not yet bloomed. Ours is a little late this year, I think all the other wisteria all over Venice is already in full bloom.( Could be because Mike trimmed ours back at the end of last season. ) Happily, he didn't completely kill it off! This plant is very old, and climbs right up the nearby tree. Spring has finally arrived !!!

Lunch in Campo Giacomo dell'Orio

The other day, I had a disastrous morning, but fortunately the weather was good and we were able to salvage the afteroon. We stopped to lunch at Al Prosecco in Campo Giacomo dell'Orio , and ordered this piatti di affettati misti (platter of sliced meats) to share. A glass of prosecco was the perfect partner for this delicious plate. Yummmmmmm.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


During a recent trip to Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, I made a stop on the Amalfi drive to purchase fresh lemons at a roadside stand. I had read somewhere that lemons from the Sorrento/Amalfi area were the best. With that in mind, I had a notion to make a batch of limoncello at home!

The first photo is the stand I bought the lemons at, on the Amalfi Drive not far before reaching Positano. The man there told me the smaller of the two kinds of lemons you see there are the best for limoncello. Yes, those other lemons are huge, aren't they? Francesco, our guide for the day, explained that those big lemons are grown as a joke for Americans. He says that Americans always say that they have the biggest everything- bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger yards. So, now Sorrento has the biggest lemons!

My husband Mike and I had taken a limoncello making class back in Little Italy, in Baltimore. The recipe we used is wonderful, but called for 100 proof Vodka, which we have been unable to find here. With a little internet research, I located another recipe, which instead used Everclear alcohol and lemons straight from Sorrento!!! The alcohol we could obtain here, we decided to give this new recipe a go. It's very similar to the one we had used.

First, you wash, and peel the lemons, being careful only to use the yellow portion of the peel, not the white. Put the peels and 1 liter of alcohol into a tightly closed glass container. Leave this to brew for 8 days, shaking the container every once in awhile.

At the end of the 8 days, drain the liquid from the lemon peels, and discard the peels. Make a simple syrup (6 1/2 cups of sugar, 6 1/3 cups of water). Let the simple syrup cool, then mix together with the alcohol, and bottle. Store the limoncello in the refridgerator. (Note: Other recipes indicate you need to now brew this mixture in the fridge for up to 3 weeks before drinking, but this new recipe says you can skip that part and drink immediately).

Here's our completed batch of limoncello, ready to go in the fridge. Between the lemons straight from Sorrento and the Everclear alcohol, this is some of the best limoncello we've ever tasted!! Definitely, this was well worth the trouble of hauling the lemons all the way back home, and I think there is a "Return to Sorrento" in my future!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A celebrity sighting today

Venice get's it's fair share of celebrities, that's for sure, but through all of our visits here, and now 2 years of living here full time, I've seen none. That's right, none, until today.

And no,it was not Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie, who are actually IN Venice for 3 months filming The Tourist. You'd think I would have seen one of their shoots, at least.

None the less, I am happy to report that about 10 am this morning at the Rialto, I spotted Rick Steves, by himself, speaking with an Italian looking woman and making notes in a little notebook. I was sure it was Rick Steves, and confirmed that as soon as I heard his voice. I waited for a minute until they were done talking, then asked if I could interrupt for a second. I asked if he was Rick Steves, he looked a bit surprised I recognized him, then smiled, said, yes, he was, and shook my hand.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name, Rick Steves is well known in America as a travel writer. He has published numerous books on traveling through Europe, and does many TV shows and specials. My first trip through Italy was done with one of his books in hand. OK, so not an actor or actress, or royalty, but still a celebrity.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trouble in the Guggenheim

Many of you may recognize this famous sculpture Horse and Rider by Marino Marini on the front terrace of the Peggy Guggenheim Gallery in Venice. The Guggenheim is one of our favorite spots in Venice, we get here often, so much so that this year we became "Friends" of the museum.

When my mother and two sisters were here visiting us the beginning of this month, we spent a pleasant afternoon in the Guggenheim. I discovered during the course of the afternoon that my older sister had been here many years ago when she traveled throughout Europe right after college, and she remembered actually seeing Peggy Guggenheim in the living room of the house. In those days, it was a private residence, not a museum, but Peggy opened certain rooms to the public a few days a week to view her private collection. Can you imagine? I was envious, to say the least, that my sister had witnessed this herself.

Another revelation that day was the discovery that my mother had never been in a modern art museum before. She took it all in, stopping at each piece, reading, and observing. Mom, going on 83 this year, took us all by surprise. (She declared later at dinner that she didn't really care for modern art, but it was interesting to have seen it--- a better result than we ever expected, honestly).

But, the best part of this particular Guggenheim visit is this: while Mom was taking her time going through the museum with my older sister by her side, my younger sister Denise and I were ahead of them, and stopped in the dining room to wait up for the others. There we are, just chatting away, when the docent in the room came up and told me to not lean on the dining room table! Yikes! I hadn't realized I was slightly touching it with my side as we were talking. Totally accidental, mind you. My sister heard this, and in the blink of an eye she yells, "I'm going to tell Mom!!!!!".

Yes, that's right. She RAN off and tattled on me, just like the clock had rolled back and we were 10 and 5 yr olds again. That would be just like her! We're grown women, with grown children, and my sister even has two grandchildren! I spent years getting in trouble for stuff that Denise ratted me out on, or embellished upon in order to get me in some sort of hot water for her amusement. Now, we are quite a few years older, and have not spent the better part of our lives together after I left for college many moons ago, so you can imagine how astounded I was as all this was going down in the Guggenheim!

There was nothing I could do. I was right behind her , but she reached my mother first, and blurted out : "Mom, Karen got in trouble in the Guggenheim!! She was SITTING on the dining room table and got in trouble with the docent." Oh, my God!! I fully expected my mother to come running into the dining room prepared to give me a good spanking! Instead, my mother lets out one of the funniest lines of the whole visit, we'll be remembering this for the rest of our lives. She says, "Oh, for goodness sake, and I can't even bail her out today, they don't take American money here."

What's particularly funny about this is that Mom had arrived in Venice 2 days earlier with a few Euros in her purse, and more American dollars. She wanted to pay for dinner the first nite, but we went to a small Osteria that didn't take credit cards, and she didn't quite understand why her American dollars wouldn't fly either. Every place we went into all the next day she would ask, "Will they take my American dollars?" It just wasn't getting through, so we just let it go after awhile. And here, in the Guggenheim, she finally got it!

For the rest of the day, we got a good laugh out of this. The leaning on the table soon became sitting at the table waiting for Peggy to come serve me a cup of tea. By dinner time, it was lying on the dining room table taking a little nap while I waited for everyone to finish up in the museum. Trust me, this incident will be rehashed for years to come.

Yup, Karen got in trouble in the Guggenheim.

P.S. One week later I also got in trouble at the Dolce and Gabbana Kids shop in Sorrento. Fortunately for me, Mom was not with us, so Denise was not able to run tattle. Spared in Sorrento!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Buona Pasqua - Belated

Happy Easter and Buona Pasqua, tutti!!

Each holiday season there is something new and glorious to experience here. Shop windows all over Venice have been filled with Easter eggs small and large, but none surpassed this one in the front window of Dogheria Moscari. This g-inormous chocolate egg stands about 2 1/2 feet tall and I feel like a kid again, wanting it for myself as I stand and admire it every time I pass by the shop. Life is good.

As a kid in New Jersey, I remember my mom getting an egg like this at Easter time, I don't remember if it was shipped over from her family still in the "old country", or if there was an Italian bakery in the neighborhood producing them. I have to remember to ask her, see if she recalls. I clearly remember seeing an egg like this in the house with "Auguri " written on it. We were the only kids on the block with an egg like that. Years have gone by. I haven't thought about those eggs for the entire duration, and here I am, drooling over those fantastic eggs again. I'm in a little bit of heaven.

I know, this post is about a week late - Easter was this past Sunday. I've been busy with the visit of my 82 yr old mother and two sisters from America!!! This is not their first visit to Italy, but it is their first visit to me since I've moved. I've been excited to share my new home with them, and my new city for a few days. After 4 days here in Venice, they all went on to La Spezia for a few days visit with old family members. I spent Easter Sunday on the train to Rome where we all met up to continue the next leg of the vacation. More about all that in upcoming posts.