Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Hanukkah

It's early in the morning on Christmas Eve.  Tonight we will have a turkey dinner for friends who have no family here, or are alone this year.  My Etsy shop orders kept me busy until the last minute.  I tried to shoot a photo for our card, but it proved harder to get a photo of a  chicken in a santa hat than I anticipated.  :-)  It's been an exciting year.
Roma 2011
We got the chickens, which now number 23 hens.  The "coop mahal" was built and is working very well in the unseasonably cold weather we are having.  Travel was plenty with our trip to the National Parks and "home" to Rome for an extended stay.   We lost two elderly cats Francesca, and Columbo.  I spent 6 months in a cast with a broken foot. But now it's almost 100% and I am up and running.  For this I am extremely grateful.  My first walk around the block felt like a gift last week.
Bob and Fausto meet for the first time.
Last week I found 2 kittens as a gift for Bob for Christmas.  He missed sleeping with a cat in the bed.  And technically, they are to be his kittens.  I searched for a long time for a kitten who would "purr on contact."  The local shelters all got to know me well.  One ended up calling me last weekend to say she knew of 4 kittens that I would like, that would be available that day.  We got two 12 week old street cats.  Short haired, male, long bodied balls of purring fur.  One is named "Fausto" and the other "Figaro."  They are extremely friendly, and social.  Just what I was looking for.
Fausto and Figaro their first morning in our bed.
I also found out recently that my Grandmother from England was a Jew.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a latke party every year, and have lit a menorah on Hanukkah most of my adult life.  I am proud to be a Jew, if only by heritage.  Just as I was delighted to know I was a tiny bit black.  All of this was a family secret kept well hidden.  I continue to pursue our true genealogy in hopes of solving some other mysteries.  I feel a book is on the horizon telling the story of my Father's true father. Which looks to be a man we know as "Uncle Gus" who came to visit my Grandparents for 2 weeks.  He stayed for 22 years!!!  I imagine it's a long story.

Francesca and Columbo: their last photo together.
So tonight when I light the candles on our dinner table, I will be lighting our menorah.  My daughter and grandson arrive this week.  We will have our first latkes, and matzoh ball soup together.  I really look forward to celebrating all of my heritage with my kids. 
Columbo from Hanukkah's past
I wish you all a Happy Christmas, Beautiful Hanukkah, and a fantastic New Year!
Our tree from 2008. We decided not to get a tree this year with kittens.

Thanks for reading.  Each day is a gift, open now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finding Geppetto

The wall on the edge of Calcata

More from Italy.  The day we took the cooking class our chef took us to a town just 4km away from the class.  A town called Calcata that was built in the 11th century.  Artisans of all types live there.  Even a knife maker.  We stopped in a literal hole in the wall for shots of coffee (cappuccino).  The narrow cobblestone streets, wooden shutters and doorways looked like a scene from Pinnochio.  I joked with Bob that I expected Geppetto to pop up at any moment.  And she did !
Foot traffic only

House #14

I knew Pinnochio was here somewhere. At the cafe, it turns out.
Some of the many cats in Calcata
Calcata style door
A Dutch puppet maker  Marijcke van der Maden  was sitting in her shop.  Wood burned in her stove for heat.  The walls were carved into stone.  Everywhere I looked there were marionette parts, tiny clothes, and puppets hanging  from the ceiling.  In the back nook I found over a hundred puppets posed that I was told were part of her Nativity Scene she makes every year. She said she adds a new town member every year.  She doesn't say who it is, and surprises them.  Her shop was magical.  I would have spent more time there, if we weren't scheduled for our class.
Marijcke was carving heads

Part of the town Nativity scene.

Marijcke and her marionettes

A fave of mine.

The door handle to her shop.  I collect of course I swooned.
Thanks for reading.  Jet Lag has brought you this blog I can't sleep past 5am :-) Below is a link from the NYTimes about Calcata.
Each day is a gift, open now.
xo, Suz

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Filling Christmas Orders

Bob checking out the Gladiator's blade at the Colosseum

I am home, and slammed with orders.  Will write more later.  Here's a photo of Bob and a "Gladiator" at the Colosseum. :-D

Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Food is Life !

In Roma we were delighted to have booked a cooking class with an Italian chef in a beautiful private home just north of Rome in the countryside.  Mazzana is a town that looked like something you would find in a storybook, or movie.  Our Chef was Monica who had an assistant Natalie. They met us in the center of Roma and drove us to our kitchen.  Monica also took us for a cappucino in a town nearby called Calcata. It was built in the 11th century on a big rock.  But that is another blog :-)
Monica and Natalie
Monica and Natalie had done most of the shopping, and were well prepared for our lesson. Although we picked up meat from the butcher, vegetables from the Fruititaria, and a few things at the "mini mart." :-)  We arrived in Mazzana and climbed through the narrow winding streets filled with beautiful doorways.  I expected Pinnochio to be around the corner.  I could have spent the day with my camera photographing. But we came to cook.
The "mini mart"
Starting with a fresh tomato bruchetta, then mushrooms, potatoes chopped.   We were making 3 pastas: pumpkin, sausage, and bechamel lasagne, artichoke ravioli, and ----with tomato sauce.  Pasta that is to be stuffed or layered is made with an egg.  It gives the noodle elasticity and strength.  Pasta that just gets a sauce is made with water. "Exact amounts of flour, and water are important.  We worked the dough by starting with a volcano of flour that we dropped our eggs or water into.  Kneading it until it did not stick to our fingers when squeezed in our hands.  Adding bits of flour if needed.  Then putting it through the pasta machine to make sheets.

The eggs pastas were used for the ravioli and lasagne.  The water pasta was rolled into tubes as big as a wooden spoon handle.  Then cut into pillow size squares that we stretched with 2 fingers into a shell shape.  I would have been happy to have stopped there.  But there were 3 chicken dishes: "Saltimbocca" which is translated "jump into your mouth. A pounded tiny piece of chicken with proscuitto  and a sage leaf held together with a toothpick.  That was cooked quickly in hot oil. Then we marinated chicken with balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, sugar and salt.  The 3rd dish was chicken double dipped in egg and seasoned break crumbs.  All this time we drank delicious local white wine: "Argento" Tenuta Ronci Di Nepi.  It was a young wine, and went down smooth.
Pumpkin, sausage, bechamel lasagne. My fave!
Finally we made Tiramisou....dipping bicotti cookies in expresso, and layering them with sweetened egg cream, a few chocolate chips, and topping with cocoa powder when served.  Bob and I ate as much as we could, tasting a bite of everything.  I took leftover pasta and dessert back to our apartment and ate it for breakfast.
Artichoke ravioli finishing in the juice from cooking the choke and parmesan cheese.Tomato sauce.
The ladies were a treat, as well as the fresh pasta, wines, and rich information about Italian cooking.  I know we have a new pasta machine in our future.  We were warned to get a good one that will last. I look forward to making these dishes for our friends and family to enjoy.
Tiramisu and our apron.
Ciao, and thanks for reading!
Each day is a gift, open now.

If you get a chance check out the website:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Greetings From Roma

Pompeii yesterday

Today is Thanksgiving in the US.  We are in Rome and probably will be have pizza at our favorite place here tonight.  Bob and I have been spending most of our Thanksgivings in Rome.  I must admit a guilty pleasure of not wrestling with the "bird" and not missing football a bit.  We were blessed with the good fortune of an apartment in Rome.  I think this is our last year here.  Although, if I could find a way to move here permanently, I would.  Italy is my most favorite place I have visited on the Globe.
Bob holds up Pompeii in one hand :-)

The Greeks, they are everywhere.

Yesterday we took a day tour to Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast.  Stopping for lunch in Positano.  My brief walk on the beach in Amalfi was filled with sea air, and beach glass.  I have collected beach glass from all over the world, and stones that I keep in 2 glass jars next to my tub.  I call them lovingly: "my travels in a jar."  When I soak in the tub, I look at them and remember where I picked them up.  Pompeii also rewarded me with a stone of gray lava tucked in my pocket. 
"De Cappo de Canne"

There should be a photo book for all the dogs we saw in the ruins of Pompeii.  They lay on the marble stones sunning themselves.  All wearing collars and tags, which tells me they belong to someone. They were all rather large dogs, and well fed.  I petted one (much to the surprise of our hand sanitizing tour mates), and he quietly followed me for the two hour tour.  He kept a polite distance.  It was all I could do to keep myself from kidnapping him.  In Positano we were greeted at lunch by many local dogs who hang out where we ate lunch.  Of course the Corgi was the boss, barking at much bigger dogs who tried to sleep on the public benches.  With just a few barks....she commanded their obedience and was successful. A calico cat posed under a terra cotta urn.  She knew it was the perfect backdrop. 

Happy Thanksgiving to my American buds celebrating today.
Afternoon sweets and wine.

Ciao, ciao.  Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift, open now.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Frances and Good Bye

Frances with our farm in the background. 

Our 18 year old brown tabby Frances made her transition today.  She and her brother Columbus have traveled many miles with me.  They came to us as "barn cats" when we had our farm.  They were not allowed in the house as my ex husband was very allergic to cats.  Frances was the prettiest kitten I have ever had.  She would be an indicator and a messenger for me and my kids.

As the marriage was ending, and I was becoming more and more desperate for safety in my own home.  I used to use Frances and Columbus as "Cat Irons" holding them upside down by their legs and ironing my very allergic husband's pants and shirts with their dander.  The beast would put on his clean golf shirt and start to sneeze.  "There must be cat somewhere!" He would exclaim, and storm out of the house.   I would smile the smile of the just when he left.  Eventually, he would be asked to leave with a court order, and Frances, Columbus, and others were allowed in the house.  It  was a joyous day to have kitties sleeping on our beds again.
Frances in better days on the deck of my studio.
Frances was about 6 months old when she met a large stray black male.  They took one look at each other and walked into our field together.  She returned in 3 days...and I knew.  She hadn't been spayed yet, and now it was too late.  Frances spent most of her pregnancy outside.  Until the OP was in place.  Then, she spent most of her time in front of the fridge.  Waiting for some turkey lunch meat.  She cried every time we opened the door of the fridge. She earned the name: "Frances the talking cat."  She grew so big that we had to put wood blocks under her dishes, as she could not reach them over her belly.  Our UPS driver saw her and said: "Lady, I think this cat is pregnant with a dog."  Little 7 pound Frances looked like a Macy's Parade balloon on Thanksgiving morning.
Frances' 7
The 2 day trial came, and the "beast" was trying to revoke the order of protection that kept him out and the cats in.  When the judge said: "I am not going to let you back in that house with that beautiful family"...I cried.  My teenage daughter left the court to pick up her little brother.  I came home after her.  She greeted me at the front gate: "Mom, Frances is having her kittens!"  I assumed Frances had found the boxes with bedding I had placed around.  But nooo, she was having them right on the front door rug for the world to see.  For me, 9 kittens was a big enough flare.  Signs come in all different ways. This one told me he would really never be back.
You can see how wide her belly is when she is not pregnant. Maine Coon.
9 kittens was too many.  2 did not make it.  7 kittens was enough to give us hope.  We delighted in watching their growth, her first time mothering, and "Uncle Columbus."  Uncle Columbus liked the kittens too.  He would take them from their box and put them on a big wing chair. He'd bathe them from head to toe.  Frances the talking cat was really not amused.  So she began hiding them in places every night.  Behind the washer and dryer was her favorite.  Columbus at 22 pounds couldn't fit back there.  Every morning my son and I would play "let's find the kittens." 

Frances was really not a social kitty.  She was much shyer than her extrovert bro.  When I left the farm it was in an ambulance.  Orders of protection don't always protect.  I never returned, it was too dangerous.  I was only allowed 2 cats in my temporary home.  When asked which two, I knew Frances and Columbus. Columbus was extraordinary, and no one could find Frances to adopt her.  She would only come to us.  The 2 cats traveled cross country with me to our new life in one cat carrier to New Mexico.  As you know Columbus succumbed to cancer last year.  Frances spent his last month sleeping with him in "his box", then howling for days after he passed.  I hope they are together again.  Thinking they are, gives me great comfort.
Columbus and Frances days before his leaving us.

Where Frances spent her last days.
Frances was a cat who would not sit on your lap.  However, she liked to be turned on her back and held like a baby.  After Columbus died, she became more social.  She started sleeping on the rug under Buddy's dish.  Using his dish as a pillow.  As ever, she'd meow constantly for food if you were near her dish.  She slept between Bob and my pillows until this last month.  Her bladder had thickened and the discomfort, and urgency to be near her litter box left her to live in a 5 sq. foot radius of her own making.  The medicine helped her pain, but made her a zombie.  Last week I was petting her. She had been laying in the same place Columbus had spent his last days.  Never moving except to eat and potty.  She lifted her head when I started petting her, and gave me "the look."  "Enough" she was saying.  Cats are stoic creatures, silent to the end.  After that, I realized keeping her going was meeting my needs, not hers.

Today I let her go. With her goes the last piece of my farm. 

Thanks for reading.  Each day is a gift. Open now.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Simple Idea

The first version offered in my shop.

A brief post about an item in my shop.  I have always loved pennants, buntings, Christmas roping, Day of the Dead paper flags,  and anything strung together that I can hang.  As a kid I made those construction paper chains, and hung them everywhere my Mother would allow.  2 years ago my friend in Germany sent me a handmade bunting that said: "Happy Birthday."  I hung it over the bed between 2 posts on our bed. 
Christmas....wish I had some other green options

Fall Harvest....the most popular

In my THE Polkadot Magpie shop I started offering pennant necklaces. They were perfect use of the scrap from bigger pieces.  The triangles are usually only 3/4" long.  I recently cut them out of silver and are offering them soon in my original shop Polkadot Magpie.  I can personalize them in my smaller type face.  Stay tuned, as they have been a huge hit in the first shop!
To be personalized with hand stamping.

For my chicken followers...16 eggs a day, the girls are laying.  I started selling them to a few folks...they now can pay for their own food, and feed me.  The cat and the dog are still scratching their heads trying to figure out how they can compete. :-)
Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 4 of The "Rock Tour"

We had breakfast in the El Tovar.  One last meal, in one of the greatest lodges ever built.  There was a "paint off" contest on the rim that morning.  Artists had 2 hours to paint their view of the canyon. Which must be difficult because the light changes dramatically in short periods of time. The artists were hiking along the rim like pack mules with their easels, paint, and grear scouting their spot.  Many had set up their easels and brushes.  I wished we weren't leaving.  I so wanted to see what they rendered.
I looked through the same scope when I was 8.

We all loaded onto the bus for a short trip to a look out tower that was designed by a woman architect: Mary Coulter  who was in love with Native building styles from local materials.  Our view was good. I hobbled around...but skipped the stairs to the top. The helicopter ride the day before gave me a view I will never forget.  It was hard to top that.
A tree posing to frame the moon.

Desert View Watchtower
Off to Lake Powell past the Glen Canyon Dam.  Bob walked the bridge, and I stayed in the bus.  We were scheduled for a boat ride at 5pm on Lake Powell.  This leg of our tour was not my favorite.  Growing up on Lake Michigan has spoiled man made lakes for me.  We have them in New Mexico.  They are just holes with water in them.  We'd seen so many amazing things.  We began to call our trip "the rock tour" as we saw lots of rock formations.   I was having a great time, and needed a day to rest my still broken foot.  In the morning we would go to Monument Valley.  I felt like it was Christmas Eve, and tossed and turned all night. 

The Rock Tour Continues
The highlight of the boat tour was this boy and his dog!

Thelma and Louise: I'm coming!  A lifetime of imagining would become reality tomorrow.  :-)

Good Bye Lake Powell

Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.