Thursday, May 28, 2009

Planning a trip to Italy???

OK, I am going to give away the secret...if you have been talking about a get-away with your Mom and your sisters...(you know who you are!)...or a romantic, restful week with your husband or a reunion with a group of 'old' friends check this place out! Gail (Gail's Great Escape) can organize all the activities - ballooning, cooking class, watercolor lessons, wine tours, dinner at Roberto's Taverna - and set you up with beautiful accomodations at the Villa Maddalena ( google it!) in the small hillside village of Montissi. You can fly into Rome or Florence (from London - Pisa), rent a car and truly experience Tuscany in May when the poppies are in bloom. When you get home and share the pictures and memories you will think you dreamed it!

What are you doing in May 2010?

ll Paradiso di Frassina

Just below the tiny hillside village of Montalcino we toured a unique vineyard........

What started as an experiment of music in the vineyards has become a phenomenal research project in farming without the use of pesticides...not to mention an award winning Brunello! Carlo Cignozzi was like a proud father showing off his family of wines and explaining the history of his music concept. Along with Bose - yes, all the speakers in the fields are Bose - and the University of Florence, Mozart in Vigna might just be saving our environment from dangerous pesticides. So the next time the bugs are swarming around you on the patio, just crank up the Mozart!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Citta del Vaticano...THE WEDDING!

Coy and Susan's wedding was at 11:00 in the Chapel of Sant' Anna inside the Vatican Gates. This particular chapel is used, and guarded, by the Swiss Guard for services and was ornately perfect for a small family wedding. The sun was shining on Susan and Coy- they looked beautiful and so happy for all the planning of this day to finally happen.

After the wedding we followed the happy couple down a side street to the restaurant for the reception - everyone clapped and sang along the way. It sounded like happy birthday to us but Father Riccardo told us it was a song of congratulations...after the delicious 4 hour lunch with wine at one of the Pope's favorite places, we were all ready for a nap! The party did not begin until much later in Piazza Navona....but that is another story!

We really enjoyed meeting all the family and felt honored to be part of this special event. Congratulations to Susan and Coy and happiness, success, and good fotune in the years to come......Heartfelt Hugs and Kisses!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cooking with Monisha

Monisha ("The UK's Hottest Cookery School") met us at the Houndslow West train station and we walked to her local market place where she talked to us about Indian food and introduced us to some of the seeds and spices; like cumin seeds, turmeric powder, chili powder and coriander seed powder. She talked about the regions of India and the fruits and vegetables used in dishes from those areas. Of course a large majority of people in India are vegetarians so freshness is a key and lentils and rice are served with every meal. She has written many cookbooks and is also a dancer...check out her website at

The menu we prepared was -
Jeera Pulao (cumin flavored basamati rice);
Murgh Tamater (red chicken curry with fresh coriander);
Goan Prawn Curry;
Tarka Dal (red lentils with spices and garlic);
Vantana usal (green peas tossed in coconut);
Red Onion and Tomato Raita (yogurt salad)

It was a great day and we all learned a lot about Indian food and spices. I must admit that we stopped back by the market and bought spices to fill our new tin AND a jar of ready-made garlic ginger paste....don't tell Monisha! I realized when I got home that I reeked of onions and garlic - we probably just added to the "perfume" of the underground tube, no one seemed to notice!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chatsworth House and Gardens

One of my dear friends, Carlton, is moving back to NYC in a few weeks and is checking off her list of "Things I Want to do Before I Leave" so we decided to meet at St. Pancras station early Friday morning and take the train to Chesterfield in an area known as the Peak District and spend the day at Chatsworth. Chatswoth is one of Britain's most impressive stately homes and it is where the movie "The Duchess" was filmed. In the movie Keira Knightley plays the 18th century aristrocrat Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. We just wanted to walk in her footsteps for the day.

Next to the room where period clothes were on display there was an interactive room with costumes and wigs to try on....a few of us could not resist. A little scary, don't you think?

It was time to treat ourselves to afternoon tea and a little shopping in the stables transformed into a restaurant and cute shopping stalls.

As the drizzle cleared and the sun came out we took one more walk around the lush grounds and then started the trip back to London...feeling a little closer to "the Duchess".

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bluebell Hike '09"

This annual hike is always planned for May at the peak of Bluebell season. The weather was glorious! We walked through the enchanted forests of Harrocks Wood, Dell Wood, Whippendell Wood, and, appropriately named, Merlin's Wood. We crossed a park, a golf course, a canal, a farm, a field, and took time for lunch at a picturesque pub. It is hard to explain the peaceful exhilaration that comes with being outdoors, chatting with friends, and taking in all the sights and smells and's enough to make me sign up for the next hike! (If the weather is good, and it's not too muddy or hilly, and if....)