Category Archives: everyday life in Umbria

Spinach soup

I made this soup that is now one of my all time favorites. I am not sure if the broth I made, made it special. I will make it again without that broth to see. We save cheese rinds in the freezer. And when I get a big bunch I boil them for an hour or so. The kitchen smells like cheese. I strain out the solids and use the broth in soups. I don’t do it often because it takes a while to save enough rinds. Anyway, this soup used this broth. But any broth would do. All you do is chop an onion, carrot and celery and sauté until soft. Add broth. I used chicken broth and the cheese broth and then some water. I cooked it all together for about 30 minutes. Then I added pasta. The rice shaped one. (Did you know orzo is barley here! I wonder how the US started using that word for rice shaped pasta?) Anyway, I cooked the pasta and then put in a huge amount of washed chopped spinach. I did not cook it. It just wilted into the hot broth. Even a huge amount will practically disappear into the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. The soup was delicious, and so comforting…felt like chicken soup for the soul. Except…no chicken!

This is our picture window in our living room. It probably was the reason we bought this apartment. It brings real meaning to the phrase “picture window”. It changes by the minute. It looks like a painting. I never tire of it. I should have taken more photos like this. Oh well…

Lemon tree, very pretty…

Today is a good day. I am finished with my procedure and I am fine! A relief. I seem to think the worst will happen and at the worst possible time! Like now. In the middle of the big move. I went to the hospital in Città di Castello. They have a very nice new hospital with all modern facilities. People around here call the town just Castello. It is about 20 kilometers and takes around 25 minutes using the good, old E45 super strada that runs north and south through our valley. Once it was part of the Via Flammina. An old Roman road. But I digress. They were super efficient and fast. Even mindful of my modesty…many are not here. And the doctor and nurse were friendly. So, now I am done with that…I am dusting myself off and going back to the business of living here.

You all must know of my little lemon tree. I had always wanted to be able to have a lemon tree. One of the first things I bought was a small one from a local vivaio or nursery. I wrote a post about this little tree way back in 2020 when we were in the strictest lockdown because of Covid. It was titled Day 46 Covid 19 and I had a bit of fun with my lemon tree. At that time I was trying to keep myself entertained while being locked down. This post was just one day…I blogged for 83 straight days. You, my reader friends, helped me keep sane. This blog helped keep me sane. What a time it was. Anyway. If you’d like to read that post, here is a link — Day 46 Covid 19.

My tree is still flourishing. I am still pinching off all the leaves on the one side. And this year I got 19 —yes! — 19 lemons. She is doing very well and she is coming on our move. I will take off all the lemons to make her easier to move and take the weight off. She will love our new terrazzo and she will be getting a bigger pot. 🙂


As for news of the move, we are making forward progress. I’m making copious lists. Lists of things to leave here for Jane and Christie, things I need to keep away from the packers that I many need first at the new place, cat stuff (of which there is a lot), some clothes, our computers, wires, chargers, remote controls…on and on. We are using up all the food in our freezer. Sadly I’m going to have to throw away most of my frozen peppers. But I’ll just grow more! And we have a meeting with our sellers this coming Friday. We are bringing our agent friend Jim along. We have many questions and much measuring to do.

Ciao for now! 🌈

Off and running…

We got the new year off with a bang! We are only five days in, four of those were working days, and already I have received my renewed drivers license and our new Tessere di Sanitaria, health care cards. I think getting the later this fast must be a record!

I also have an upcoming unpleasant test to prepare for. I think most can figure out what it is 😏. For this I had to get blood work done and buy meds which my doctor said were over the counter. Got both of those things done yesterday.

We did a pleasant task today as well. Thank goodness sometimes we get to do fun things! We ordered two beds for our new house. We have only one mattress that we are bringing so we also bought a new mattress. We visited our old friend Sr. Tiziano. We bought a lot of things from him back when we moved into this apartment. He has a showroom with some furniture. But he also has books full of products to order. I leafed through the copious pages and chose two pretty iron beds. I really like their look. Clean and spare. We asked if he could deliver the same day as we move into our new place and he can. That’s good because I want to move in as soon as we can. A bed to sleep in is essential.

Tomorrow is Epifania, Epiphany. It is a holiday here. The end of the Advent-Christmas season. I wrote a post about this and the beloved witch Befana who comes the eve of Epifania. It is an interesting story — check this link for the legend. All the Italian children wait for her to come and bring them gifts. Much like Santa. Anyway. I heard the town band playing and went to the window to see. They were coming down the street all dressed as witches! And one of them was dressed as Befana herself. She is the one in the scarf and checked apron.

We are nearing our move. I am doing some packing of things that I would rather not have the movers packing for me. Our guest room is piled with boxes. I have been purchasing some odds and ends that I think will come in handy. Like a hand truck. I love hand trucks. I used to manage all of the trade shows for my employer, back when I worked. I accompanied our big display booth, making sure it got to the show and back safely. I used a hand truck all the time. I decided it was just what I need now to move boxes around. I think Amazon knows how much I love hand trucks because they sent me two!

Ciao for now!

Capodanno!

Today is New Year’s Eve. New Year is called Capodanno in Italian. Everyone is wishing each other buon anno and auguri. Today is Saturday so I got to go shopping for the beautiful produce I needed for our dinner today and tomorrow. I also wanted to get a pork shoulder. My eating plans for the weekend are in step with the traditions of two countries, Italy today, and the US tomorrow.

In Italy, the tradition is to eat lentils on New Years Eve. The legumes are coin-shaped. So they are supposed to bring you wealth. They traditionally eat Cotechino at the holidays too. This is a traditional product made of minced pork, fat, and rind with salt, spices and wine. Since pigs were generally slaughtered in December, this sausage became a symbol of the holidays, accompanied by lentils and mustard or mashed potatoes. Super easy to prepare. Here are the ingredients.

So. I prepared the Cotechino as the box instructed as well as lentils. I decided a salad was needed for a green — I had bought some nice greens from the market today. I also added an egg. Here are pictures.

This was our first Cotechino. It tasted a lot like corned beef. It was pretty good. I am not a big meat eater. The small Cotechino was perfect for the two of us. I would do this again!

Tomorrow I will be doing Hoppin John. Carolina gold rice, black eyed peas and pork shoulder. Homage to my southern roots. The more luck the better for the coming year.

Buon anno a tutti and Auguri! 🎉🎊

Broccoli romanesco

A couple posts ago, I talked about buying one of the alien looking broccoli romanesci. It is a very delicious vegetable. And amazing to look at too! Romanesco broccoli is a stunning example of a naturally forming fractal, recurrent throughout the natural world. It is a mystery why…but I just wanted to eat it! 😁

I decided to try an Italian recipe. I used a head of the broccoli. I separated it into florets. Then I boiled it for ten minutes and drained it.

Then I placed it in a pan lined with carta forno, or parchment paper. I preheated the oven to 200C (400F). I sprinkled it with bread crumbs, grated pecorino or parmesan and chopped almonds. Then I drizzled our amazing olive oil over it.

I roasted it for 25 minutes. It was perfect just like that but the recipe said an option was to put cubes of cheese on it and put it back into the oven to melt for 5 minutes. I thought that sounded nice, and I had scored some white cheddar this week so I grated some on top, instead of the cubes. Then I put it under the broiler. It was terrific. It could be a main for vegetarians. It easily could be for me too. But we had it as a side dish.

After roasting

Even Luther liked it! 🙂 I hope you give it a try.

Winter Solstice

Today was a nice day. We got together with friends for a holiday lunch. Three friends, all of whom moved here since the beginning of the year. All near Spello. Roselyne and Steve live in Spello Centro Storico. An excellent apartment with great terraces which have country and mountain views and a front balcony above the main street going up the hill. Right in the action. Doug lives in a sweet house situated on Monte Subasio. I don’t know his elevation but it has views across the valley to die for. He is in the very beginning of renovations.

We chose to meet in Assisi. There is a nice restaurant there called Osteria Piazzetta dell’Erbe. It is just off of the main piazza which has the Assisi Comune. It also has the temple of Minerva and lots of cafes and shops. Today, it was empty. I don’t think I have seen Assisi as empty and quiet as today. The restaurant welcomed us. It wasn’t very busy. We have been going to this restaurant since a 2011 trip with my sister and her husband and another couple. It is still good. It is nice in summer as it has probably the only trees in Assisi. They have two menus, one Traditional and one Fusion. I love the fusion choices. Here are a few pictures. The first one is fried artichoke/carciofi in a cheesy sauce. Very delicious. It does look a bit phallic. Three of us got this.

Doug’s next course was Strangozzi yakisoba. Fat spaghetti with shrimp. It looked great.
I had the salmon taco next.
For dessert three got the tiramisu. But it wasn’t your everyday tiramisu.
I got the gelato with caramel sauce topped by popcorn. The salty popcorn set of the caramel perfectly. Luther got a spoon…🙂

It was a really nice get together. We won’t be doing much this Christmas. Nothing in fact. Which is kind of sad. But it is what it is. Happy Winter Solstice, here’s to longer days…if not warmer ones!

This n that

It hasn’t been as cold but, boy! has it been rainy! The Tiber got very high and jumped its banks, but it has subsided. It is still running fast and muddy but staying behaved in it’s banks now. This morning I woke to sunshine. Nice for a change.

Out and about for a nice walk and visit to our local market. First I bought the vegetables I thought I would need. I got one of those beautiful romanesco broccolis. So pretty and so alien looking!

And I got beatole, the big meaty and leafy green I use in soups a lot. Along with a couple nice leeks. Now I have to decide how to use them.

I dropped off the veggies inside our door and went for a walk. I always like to have an aim for a walk and this time I wanted to replenish my depleted bay leaves. When I first came here I tried to buy bay leaves in the store. There were none. I was baffled. Eventually I learned that bay laurel trees are everywhere and you just pick off a leaf or a branch when needed. I went looking and sure enough, I found the town bay tree. You can see that the whole bottom of the tree has been sculpted as people pull off a branch or two.

Just next to the tree are a series of orti or vegetable patches. There are still a few hardy winter veggies like cabbages, but not much else.

I turned up-river and took a couple pictures. Tiber a bit high.

You can tell when we have had a lot of rain because this small “river” called a torrente, which is normally a trickle actually lives up to its name! Here it is joining its bigger brother the Tiber.

Last night I went to the Christmas open house at Books for Dogs – Libri per i Cani. I think everyone who reads this journal knows about this charity which supports two local canile which care for abandoned dogs. It was a nice little gathering. I saw some folks I knew, and met some I didn’t know. I snapped a couple, pictures in the town as I went home.

Ciao for now!

Eventide

Tonight, on my way back from my doctor appointment. It was about five-ish PM. We are nearing the solstice so our days are short. It was dusk. The sky turquoise. Is this not beautiful?

This next photo is going to be one of my all time favorites. You know why? Because of the Ape parked in the foreground. It is pronounced Ahh-pay. It is one of the ubiquitous Italian three wheel workhorse trucks seen everywhere here. Somehow it makes the composition just right. To me this photo is perfect.

Saturday

Today was our usual Saturday market. It poured rain all night. And continued throughout the day. Here is a picture of the Tiber which is muddy and full.

We went out because we needed a few things. It wasn’t cold at all. Just wet. We visited the Carrefour grocery a few steps from the Centro. We picked up some things we needed. I always laugh at the baby food when I notice. I bet you can’t get Coniglio, which is rabbit — baby food!

After the grocery we got some vegetables from the vendors in the pizza. Then I paid a visit to Books for Dogs to make a donation and also visited Laura at her ceramics shop, CeramicArte. You may remember her from posts last year. She is very skilled and will make things to order for you, personalizing them. I wanted to ask about buying a new Deruta ceramic table for our new house. We sold the round table we had made for our terrace with this apartment. The new place has a larger space with room for a bigger table so I thought it would be nice to get one that seats six. I got quotes from her and will drive to Deruta, probably next year, to the factory where she said there were lots of tables all ready to buy.

As always she has lots of great gift items in her shop. Here are just a few.

These are by another artist Carol Brannigan. A very different style, but very nice.

I love the snowman, which is a bell. She had several similar ones hanging on the mantelpiece. If you’re in Umbertide, stop by her shop.

We are told a frigid air mass will be hitting Italy starting tomorrow. Time to batten down the hatches! Buona domenica!