Category Archives: shopping

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!

Rainbow Saturday!

My friends alerted me that I should check out the sky. An amazing full double rainbow. Got my socks wet going out and taking photos!

Off to do marketing at the Saturday local market. Wet day but not raining right now. Pretty blue sky! The autumn veggies are gorgeous.

Soon this market will be sharing space with the town Christmas tree. I am excited the season is beginning.

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Our new apartment is on Via Fratta. We still don’t have a firm closing date. We are still waiting for the estimate from the moving people. The way the apartment is set up we have the top two floors. Essentially all the necessary living space is on the 2nd floor. On this floor we will put all of our current furniture that we are bringing. This means we will have a living room, dining room, kitchen and office. The bedrooms will need new beds and one mattress which we will order once we have our dates. The top floor, which I want to make into a great room with open plan kitchen, will have almost no furniture. It will be unusable at first. I hope to hit the ground running to get a kitchen, appliances, and furniture. We will need some construction. A small wall needs removing and the services for the sink and stove will need to be relocated. That means we need to hire a Geometra to manage the construction and installation.

Today we took a trip to Divani & Divani to look at sofas for the great room. I am torn. I want to buy soon so we will have the furniture without having to wait too long in the new apartment. I also thought to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. Today was the last day. But, I don’t have any measurements of the new space. Reluctantly I decided to wait. Next week we will make an appointment with our sellers to go see them with a bunch of questions. Also we will be able to take measurements. I think it is best to wait. I do know what I want to get now, so the trip was not wasted.
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I forgot to mention we picked up our new olive oil Thursday from our friend Fabio who always comes to the Thanksgiving feast. He has around 250 trees and I always buy from him since he has consistently had great oil. I bought 15 liters, and 6 half liter bottles which will be gifts.

Buona Domenica a tutti!

Furniture store name and location

Hi all. I thought I’d do this little addendum to my post today. I should have included the contact information for the store we went to. It is called Luigi Filippo Bastianelli . It is in the town of San Giustino. It is north of Città di Castello and south of Sansepolcro. I had several folks ask for this. Of course all y’all in far away places don’t need this but this is for those who live nearby.

Moving companies – traslochi

The electrician did come to install our lights on Friday, right on time. He came with the father, and owner of Sideform, the company that we dealt with to buy all our lights back when we had the house renovated. I think the older man just wanted to make sure all was well and the electrician knew what he needed to do. He installed the two lighting fixtures. I don’t think I will ever get used to how little these tradespeople charge. I am so used to paying through the nose in the US. I was prepared to pay this guy €80-100 euro. I asked him what we owed. He answered €30.

On Monday we had luck finding pellets for the stufa. It was where we used to buy pellets a couple years ago. The price of pellets has gone up 300% since last year. What cost €5 for a 15 kilo bag now costs €14. We were just glad to find some.

We are having the usual November rains now and I am happy to report the gutters are still draining well and consequently no drips inside. That fix cost more than I would have thought but it was very involved and dangerous too so we were glad to pay it. Especially since Fabio and Mario were so very responsive.

We now have an appointment with a Trasloco company in Perugia. They are coming Monday to give us an estimate for our move. They have the trucks and the equipment we will probably need to get out of this apartment, to include trucks with elevator cranes which go to the upstairs windows and move things out that way. Some of our furniture will not go down the stairs. This company is Traslocchi Zucconi. I am sure this will be quite the show for the old gent card players at Bar Mary when the Americani move house.

This morning I had a fun outing with our buyers to a furniture store. Mostly old furniture or repurposed old wood made into new furniture. The place is a huge jumble. It is really too much to take in. The eye bops from here to there and just cannot register everything.

We all loved this table. It is a pasta making or patisserie making table. It has a marble top and then there is a wooden top that slides out and was used to make pasta. It even has a place to store the rolling pin! Sophia, one of the family members told us her mom has one like it. She said that every kitchen used to have one.

Christie and Jane love the idea of a drop leaf so they can put it to the side in the dining room and save space. We loved this one but it was defective from birth we were told. Not sturdy… very wobbly, but so pretty.

I wasn’t intending to buy anything, but I loved this table. Narrow but long and versatile so it will work in our upstairs space. Very nice bones and pretty wood. It is the center table in the picture. The one with the rounded ends. It is even pegged rather than nailed. They will keep it for me until we move. I will buy chairs there as well. I want mismatched ones. They had some nice woven seat ones I liked.

Jane and Christie bought a beautiful console to hold their TV in the living room. It is a new piece made from recycled old wood. I wish I had taken a picture. It will be perfect in that space. I love these junk shops. I have my eye on some of the blanket chests. They are seating in a bedroom and great for storage of, well, blankets! There is also a nice white wood room divider I like. It would be nice on the top floor of our new house to divide the area where we will put a sofa bed to make it more private. But it can be folded, or used elsewhere. It is in the picture above next to the wobbly table.

It is always fun to shop for a new house. I need to wait to buy a lot more since I need to be there to get a real feel for it. I am a nester so I must nest. And nest I will! Ciao a tutti!

Glorious sabato!

What a beautiful day. We are in a lull in our summer heat. We are totally enjoying it! Last night we had thunderstorms in the wee hours and nice rain. I woke to very cool temperatures — 61 F. And fog hanging in the valley. Refreshing. Here is a picture of the super moon rising over our Piazza.

Yesterday we took a trip down to Etrusco, our favorite butcher. We don’t get there often so we buy a lot when we go. We bought a beautiful Tomahawk steak, two fillet mignons, a flank and a skirt steak (I think? I am never sure), two tomahawk pork chops, sausages and hamburgers. He brought out big tubs of shrink-wrapped meat for us to see. For each piece of meat I bought, the butcher went to great lengths to tell me how to cook it. Mostly it involved holding the fatty edge on a hot griddle or pan and letting the fat sizzle and melt. Then cook one and a half minutes on each side in the rendered fat. He also was super proud of his lamb. I am excited to try it because he explained the lambs were two years old and castrato. This is a lot older than most “Lambs”. Perhaps it is the castrated part…I don’t know. He again told me how to cook it, even to giving me a big piece of fat to use. I know this butcher well. He only sources from local farms and knows that they were raised humanely, and treated well during their life. I prefer to buy meat like this. He wished a buon Ferragosto! Happy feasting.

The Saturday market was abuzz with activity. It’s high summer now and the produce is abundant. I probably got a little carried away. I bought a ton more of the wonderful tomatoes, green beans, baby zucchini, arugula (super bitter to go with the steak tonight), sweet new red onions, a pepper, friggatelli, eggplants and a melon. I visited Angelo to buy prosciutto crudo to go with the melon. A feast for a festa! This picture is only some of the bounty! I love our local market and am really happy I will still be able to walk to it from our new apartment. Not many towns have a market like this. I feel blessed.

I will take a picture of my dinner tonight if I remember. Here is a picture I took of my Rocky-cat helping me out while I am preparing dinner. I am constantly stepping over him or around him. He is very helpful!

Finally, an unbelievably beautiful sunset a couple of days ago.

Buona festa a tutti!!

Storms

We are having storms thoughout Italy. Some areas are getting snow. We expect rain. But the way the weather is moving through we are getting some very dramatic skies and mountain views. We expect heavy rains later today.

Yesterday we took a trip to the biggest shopping mall around here, Quasar Village. It is about half an hour from us. We were just doing a big grocery shop and knew the gigantic SuperConad store was there and we wanted to explore. It is an enormous store. Back in Virginia I was always intimidated by the big Wegmans stores. There was just too much to take in. This store was the same. I should have taken photos. I didn’t think of it. But some things were amazing. For instance, they had whole and half goats and lambs. Butchered and packaged for a feast. They even had suckling pigs! Butchered and trussed, ready to roast. The seafood was dazzling. The cheeses and charcuterie went on for blocks! I borrowed a couple of pictures to just give an idea. Next time I will take pictures, I promise!

The store was also chock full of Christmas. Decorations, chocolates, panettone, toys, and did I mention chocolate? Yes there was a LOT of chocolate. Plus champagne, all sorts of vino, grappa, brandy, amaro… such riches. Back in Virginia I used to hit the Costco in Arlington right before Christmas. It was like this. Every luxury item you’d want was there. Whole lobsters, entire beef tenderloins, prime rib roasts, champagnes, on and on. I enjoyed that trip every year. I can’t say it was quite the same at the big Conad, but it was close.

I had been yearning for a comforting pot of Coq au Riesling. Many years ago, we lived in Germany, but within driving distance of the Alsace region of France. One of the specialties there was Coq au Riesling. It is like Coq au Vin but with white wine (Riesling) instead of red. Also it has cream. I bought all I needed at the Conad and made it for dinner last night. I think I could eat it everyday, with crusty bread or egg noodle pasta to soak up the sauce. Mmmm. Heaven.

Ciao y’all!

CeramicArte — Deruta ceramics in Umbertide

On a street nearby, Via Cibo, is a shop called CeramicArte. The lovely young woman, Laura Tomassini is the proprietor and the artisan who creates these beautiful ceramics. She is affiliated with one of the ceramics workshops in the town of Deruta and she paints traditional Deruta patterns, using traditional pigments.

First a little history of Deruta and it’s famous ceramics. Deruta is a medieval hilltown in Umbria and is mainly known as a major center for the production of painted earthenware since Renaissance times. Production of pottery is documented in the early Middle Ages but there are no surviving pieces until about 1490. It reached its artistic peak in the 15th and early 16th century. It was the first Italian center to use lusterware pigments, usually yellow, ruby or olive-green.

Laura is following in the footsteps of centuries of artisans. A noble endeavor. I walk past this shop often. Always, there she is, creating beautiful works.

Laura at work
The shop

She’s been busy with Christmas things. Ornaments, jewelry. Take a look at these! Bellissimo!

All white cutout ornaments
Gold leaf
These are pendants…they come with a chain. She also makes tiny earrings like these. Nice gifts.

Our recent guests ordered some of her ceramics. She makes things to order. You pick the design and what you’d like. Two years ago, I commissioned a bowl for my niece Rachel and her soon-to-be husband Alex. Here’s the bowl. Peacock design. I picked the red and black. Laura will inscribe the back for a special present. Like the back of the bowl below.

When they were here they commissioned a plaque with their house number for outside their front door with the same pattern. That will be a unique addition to their house!

Mike and Anne chose some salt and pepper shakers. Mike, once he was here for a while, got very into our Italian coffee. Yay for him. When he got home Rachel and Alex gifted him an espresso maker. Of COURSE he needed espresso cups which he ordered after he went home… Pretty!

These are on their way to the US. As I posted in my last post I bought a luminary. And I also have a couple of pretty lamps the same type of design. If you come to Umbertide, be sure to visit this unique artisan, and her shop. And if you like, you can also commission things using her email below and she will ship to you.

CeramicArte is a treasure in our town. I’m happy they are here and if you come visit, you can commission some for yourself!

Buona Domenica a tutti!

Autumnal Umbria & Rocco Ragni Cashmere

I cannot tell you how beautiful Umbria is in the fall. Breathtaking. These two were taken by Barbara Roy Chawk Skinner a virtual friend of mine who recently visited Umbria. They were taken from the Montefalco wine region. Exquisite.

Looks like it is not real. But it is!
Sagrantino grape vines turn bright red in the fall.

On Monday my friend Susan and I went to the Rocco Ragni outlet shop. Did you know Umbria is well known for the manufacture of quality Cashmere? Well it is. There are many high-end, as well as lesser known, manufacturers here.

I’ve always been curious as to why it is produced here in such quantity. The raw material comes from goats in Kashmir. It is the undercoat they produce to survive the very harsh winters there. Super fine stands with air pockets for insulation. I read it is called duvet! Hence the name of our warm covers!

At the end of the eighteenth century this material – thanks to the English and French trading companies and then to the subsequent textile revolution in the following century – took on an ever-increasing value. These were the times when cashmere shawls cost more than a horse carriage, when queens and empresses would confirm the noble qualities of this material by wearing large and rich cashmere capes and cloaks. So it became very profitable to produce. I still don’t know how Umbria started to produce this material.

Rocco Ragni is a famous producer. We happen to have one of his three boutiques in Umbertide. He also has an outlet store in Compresso. A little Borgo of 1,500 people. It is in an impressive old stone building and this is also where they produce these fine products. The family lives in Compresso, and the Headquarters is there. They also have a showroom in Milan. I will say, although their sweaters are not cheap, the prices here are not exorbitant like some of the more famous houses. This is where the outlet store is. Would you have guessed? Sometimes things are hard to find here!

After I bought three sweaters….😁…then I took some pictures of the outside scenery. This place is up in the Umbrian hills and quite remote, hard to find, but amidst very beautiful, perfectly Umbrian, landscapes.

Enjoy the season!

Catching up

We took a drive Monday up to Arezzo in Tuscany. We visited a big grocery there that we like. We drove the Porsche which hasn’t been driven since January. The trip takes around 40 minutes. It was nice to see new scenery for a change. And to stock the larder with food.

Over the weekend we were awakened at 5am by our resident Hoopoe. Our bedroom window was wide open and he perched on the clothes line just outside where he proceeded to sing his (loud) two note song which is the origin his name, they say. Oddly, just last week I opened a bottle of wine which had a glass stopper rather than a cork. I noticed something painted on it. It was a Hoopoe! It seems every time I turn around I’m reminded of this cool bird.

Saturday local market was cheerful. We still have mostly winter vegetables. But I saw asparagus today. Also, everyone has piles of fresh eggs. The chickens lay more eggs in the spring apparently.

Plant booth had some pretty plants but I was going to take a trip up the hill outside of town to the big greenhouse so I just admired his flowers.

I’m happy to see both of the bars are welcoming folks.

San Giorgio, the restaurant across the piazza from us. They are happily serving lunch and dinner again.

I went out to the nursery just outside of town. I bought petunias and a bunch of herbs. I still need the sweet alyssum I normally plant and couldn’t find. I guess it will become a quest! This is the view up to Civitella Ranieri, the castle that hosts fellows in the art world. They were empty last year so I hope all goes well this year. Isn’t the sky pretty and the winter wheat so green!!

Spur of the moment we decided to have lunch at Patrick’s Enoteca. I’ve missed it. The “clown” train passing on the tracks across from Patrick’s.

Lunch.

So that was my week. Oh, except I locked the key to the door of our garage inside the garage. So now we can’t get to the car! And we were going for a ride today. Oh well. We are trying to figure out how to get in! This was the very thing I reminded myself never, ever to do…and I did it 🙄
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Italiano phrase…”era un bellissimo sabato”. In English “it was a beautiful Saturday”. Pronounced — era une bell-ees-see-mo sah-bah-toe.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Slowly, slowly…our supplies dwindle

I’m sure you’ve all read here in the blog if you’ve read for a while, that there are some things we love to get in the US and bring home to Italy. Things like spices and ethnic ingredients not available here. Although many things ARE available here and I’ve learned over the years how to find stuff, there are still a few things that MUST come from home.

Last week I used the last bit of my “Fish Fry” coating for fish. I looked it up, as I always do, on the internet and are there are many recipes for “do it yourself” fish fry. So OK maybe I can make it. We will try it and see. But I’d rather just have a new supply from the US 🙂.

Today, I opened my penultimate bag of Carolina Gold Rice, also called Charleston Gold. I keep it in the freezer until I need it. And there is one bag left. Italy, of course, has many very good rice varieties. Most notable are Carnaroli and Aborio rice. A short grain rice used in risotto. I also use it for regular rice. There are also readily available, basmati, brown and multi-grain rice. All good. But none are Carolina Gold.

I learned, years ago, about Carolina Gold rice from a Low Country cook book. Of course I ordered some to try. It was probably the original rice brought from Africa by the enslaved to America. These people also brought the knowledge to grow it. The labor it took to grow, was intense, and were it not for the enslaved, it would never have been possible to cultivate it. A hard life. So it wasn’t surprising when the rice died out after the Civil War. Until the 1960s, when a couple of people bought old plantations and slowly revived the rice. It is now cultivated and sold by these plantations.

What? you may ask, is so special about this rice? Rice is rice, right? But not this rice. It is nutty, and buttery, and has a distinctive aroma when cooking and when on the plate. It doesn’t need any gravy or enhancement to be enjoyed. Both Luther and I adore it and I never have to say “this is Carolina Gold” Luther always knows. It is the aroma.

Anyway. We really love it and bring back pounds of it in our suitcase (much to the amusement of the TSA). Just another casualty of the Corona virus. Unable to go home, and having no guests to bring some we will carefully nurse this rice and hope it can be replenished in 2021. Believe me, there are many other things that are going on my shopping list for when we can go home. 🙂

We rejoice there is now a vaccine, and it will protect our health care workers. And then, later, the rest of us. A light at the end of the long tunnel we’ve all been traveling this year. I have very high hopes for next year. I am itching to have some guests! My guest room has lain fallow for more than a year. It wants friends to come. And we are excited to also begin to plan travel. All in good time. First a quiet and lonely Christmas for most of us. It has to be. We will live to see NEXT Christmas…Stay COVID safe…live to see another year! 🌈