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Updates – September

Another busy one….it started the first day of the month with mom’s birthday…..my daughter boyfriend contributed to the celebration dinner with this sooooo good appetizer, canapes with cannellini beans and bacon

my daughter with her famous zucchini and speck pie

I baked some mini pizzas….

a lasagna pan….

and some tasty asparagus

My mom baked her favourite cake, with pineapple and rhum.

One of my collegue, after years of partnership, decided to marry, so one day we had lunch all together to celebrate her…..for once, no problems, no resentment, no hierarchy, just happy faces….

The second-last day of this so very beautiful, unusual and interesting exhibition, my daughter and I hurried to visit, and I’m so glad we did! “A tea with Queen Elizabeth II” at the Glauco Lombardi Museum in Parma, is an idea of Marina Minelli, journalist and historian, with a true passion for crowned heads around the world. In the two ground floor halls of the Riserva Palace, more than three hundred pieces of ceramics (created by companies such as Wedgwood, Spode, Burleigh, Royal Albert, Mason’s, Churchill, Royal Doulton, Aynsley) tell the story of the royal family starting with Queen Victoria, Elizabeth II’s great-grandmother, whose long reign not only coincides with the exponential growth of manufactories in the famous Staffordshire district, but it also paves the way for the great celebrations both political and familiar of an ever-popular and beloved dynasty.
Memorials, or as they call it overseas, ceramic commemoratives are one of the key elements of this relationship. Mugs, cups and teapots decorated with symbols of the monarchy or with the faces of real royal characters favor the popular sharing of events related to the dynasty because through these objects the subjects can symbolically take part in a celebration and do it through the English rite for excellence: the afternoon tea.

On display there are objects dedicated to Edoardo VII, Prince of Wales for all his life, but king only for nine years, and then to his son Giorgio V, celebrated in potteries along with his very royal wife Mary, at the coronation in 1911 and later for the Silver Jubilee in 1935. By the end of 1936 his heir Edward VIII decided to abdicate to marry the woman who has been dating for years and abdication not only deeply marks British history but also risks sending the ceramic factories to bankruptcy. The production of coronation items has already begun and hundreds of manufactures must suddenly head back, store mugs and cups with the face of the former king and create new ones with the reassuring image of George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

(below, Marina, exceptionally present for the day, explaining to us what we were admiring)

Young Elizabeth II continues the heritage of the royal family after his father’s death on February 6, 1952, and his coronation on June 2, 1953 represents not only the beginning of a new kingdom, but the rebirth of a country that bravely endured Hitler’s bombs but still carries the heavy signs of a devastating war. The amount of memorabilia produced for the occasion is directly proportional to the popular enthusiasm for the new kingdom and it attests not only to the importance of the Westminster ceremony, whose ritual is unchanged from the Middle Ages, but also to the economic and social recovery of England and its industries after the nightmare of the conflict and the restrictions on rationing. Other items will be produced in the years to come for the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981, for the birth of their children and grandchildren, for the jubilees of the queen and for her nineteenth birthday celebrated in 2016.

There are also postcards, newspapers and magazines in English, French and Italian from the 1950s to the present, which help to rebuild the events of the period. In addition, some special services for the Coronation of 1953 and the Silver Jubilee of 1977 have been used to set up vintage tea tables and dining tables.
For this event – notes Francesca Sandrini, the museum curator – there is also some contribution coming from the collections of the Museo Lombardi, that made available two of its pieces, never exposed to the public and yet consistent with the exhibition proposed, such as a beautiful desk service decorated with jasperware medallions and a great print of Queen Victoria’s crowning in 1838.

(below, Marina explaining how to set up a true english tea table)

After the visit, all the presents were invited to have a real english tea, equipped with all the options….cakes, muffins, scones, biscuits and two classics, battenberg cake and clotted cream….

It really was an amazing experience, loving all that’s english as we do!

And then it was my birthday…..I celebrated it first having lunch with two of my collegues/friends at our favourite vegan restaurant…..

That night I had dinner with my family….and I got some gifts…..

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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Six – June

June, where summer really begins….

Near the river Po, there’s a village called Zibello, known all around the world for a culinary excellence, culatello….every year, the first week-end of june all the area celebrates it with dinner, concerts, games, markets and debates with italian top chefs…….could we miss the chance to eat something so good?

However, the best part of the dinner was the company, as always…….

The village was full of people, all the shops and tourists’ attractions were open………

and I just couldn’t pass the chance to visit the local main church…….

Following the foundation of the marquisate of Zibello, Giovan Francesco Pallavicino, the first gentleman of the small state, before his death expressed the desire to complete the construction of the Dominican convent, which he started in 1494, and a church in the village that served as a family chapel; it was only in the middle of the sixteenth century that the work for the church was started, on the initiative of the Marquis Uberto Pallavicino, before he was forced to surrender the marquisate to the Rangoni of Modena.

The work was concluded around 1580 but the church was consecrated only in 1620; elevated to parish, assumed the functions of the church of the Blessed Virgin of Graces , until then it was dedicated to the saints Gervasio and Protasio. In 1673 the rectory was erected attached to the church, while the bell tower was built in 1677, at the wish of the parish priest don Gardini.

The imposing church develops on a three-nave plant, with three chapels in the absidial area and a baptistery beside the entrance. The symmetrical salient facade , made of red brick in Gothic-Lombard style, is marked in three parts by buttresses surmounted by high tented roofs; in the middle there is a large rose window framed by terracotta tiles made by Jacopo de Stavolis around 1484. On the left side of the façade, the baptistery rises with Renaissance tracts, on which an octagonal dome rises. 

Inside, the three aisles are subdivided by a high colonnade whose decorated capitals support elegant arched bows, whose solemnity is accentuated by ornamental motifs that frame them, and from high vaulted ceiling, repeated in the same shapes even in the lower aisles.

To the left is the baptistery, covered by an octagonal, featuring 19th century decorations by Girolamo Magnani, a scenographer.

The left chapel houses a particular relic of the patron saint of the country, Saint Carlo Borromeo, a piece of the robe he wore on the day when he was extraordinarily saved by an attack. 

The next day we had another culinary date in the city center…..the second edition of Gola Gola Festival, the first after Parma was nominated Unesco City of Gastronomy, so this year the foods stands were even more…

our friend A with two new friends….lol…

For dinner we opted for a very much loved abruzzo excellence, arrosticini

and obviously a little dancing was mandatory!

The night of June 23 is the magic night for excellence. There are, in fact, very ancient popular traditions and profound esoteric and religious meanings that Saint John’s recurrence is linked to the summer solstice that corresponds to the winter one that is remembered at Christmas. In conjunction with the summer solstice, when the sun reaches its maximum positive declination and then resumes the winter walk, begins the summer, so St. John is the supreme solar festival, the overwhelming victory of light on darkness, good on bad. But the most clear and eloquent explanation on the important and significant astral situation is provided by Maria Castelli Zanzucchi, a writer, a scholar of traditions and author of interesting publications: “The sun reaches the highest point on 23 June: it is common knowledge that the night of St. John is the best time for planets and zodiacal signs to give stones and herbs their virtues. It is a magical night, the night of the impossible, of wonders, deceit, evil influences and witches. “

In Parma and around, the traditions of the “rozáda äd San Zvan” (dialect for dew of Saint John) are countless: from the best known, such as the gastronomic dish “tortelli di erbetta” (chard ravioli), to those less well-known, whose origins are lost in the night of time. Preferably the “tortelli” are made to be enjoyed with the feet under the outdoor table, but inside is allowed too, as long as you leave the door and windows open to favor the benefits of dewy influences……better if with dear friends and surrounded by flowers and herbs collected the year before…

Another month gone, leaving great memories of food, places and dear faces……..

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Updates – Two – April

The begining of april was sunny and warm….suitable for early motorbike outings…

First of all, a day off with a former collegue of mine and her husband, at their seaside home in Lido degli Estensi….comparing the two new bikes…..lol….

….and after a short boat ride…..

to Porto Garibaldi for lunch……

the best catalana salad ever!

After that, a digestive walk………..

Easter Sunday lunch “chez maman”………..

…and the afternoon spent with our bikers/dancers friends at a local event in town…..

We decided that considering the good forecast for Easter Monday, we could give a try to a place we read about some time ago…..and the day for just perfect for bikes!

Chignolo Po Castle is one of the most sumptuous castle residences in Lombardy. The oldest part is the tower which was built to defend the Po river and the trading routes between northern Europe and Italy. The castle was built in the thirteenth century and transformed into a princely palace in the eighteenth century in an inventive stylistic reinvention of the building. Its present form is a majestic earthenware building surmounted by a hanging gallery held up by stone ledges.

The oldest part of the castle is the great tower, from which is controlled a long stretch of the Po (Cuneulus super Padum). It is believed that it was built by King Liutprando around 740 AD, when Pavia was the capital of the Lombards, in order to serve as a fortress of defense and garrison on the Po and the Via di Monte Bordone, later called via Francigena – Romea linking northern Europe with Rome.

In 1251, the Abbot of the Abbey of Santa Cristina appointed a Head of the Government of the Castle and the extensive territories attached to it. The castle, shortly since the thirteenth century, became one of the major Lombard fief, on which the Pusterla family first settled, until in 1340 that family was involved in an anti-Visconti conspiracy and fiercely exterminated. They were followed by the Federici and the Cusani, which maximize the power of the castle, also constantly receiving privileges and concessions from the King and the Dukes of Milan. From 1700 to 1730 it was expanded and transformed from a medieval fortress in a true eighteenth-century palace, where stayed popes, emperors, kings, princes and Archduke.
Artists from the school of Tiepolo was entrusted with the implementation of the stucco and paintings that adorn the rooms of the castle.
The works were done at the behest and funding of the owner at the time, Cardinal Agostino Cusani Visconti (1655 – 1715), who was Ambassador of the Pope at the Venetian Republic and at the Court of Louis XIV in Paris.
Following this impressive work, the Castle of Chignolo Po was called and known worldwide as the Versailles of Lombardy”.

Our guide before entering the castle, explaining us the history of the place and te rules (no photos inside, being that a private residence….well I managed to sneak a few…lol)

Below, the ceiling of the entrance arch…

The inner courtyard and a couple of painted ceilings inside….

The backyard (being in fact the main entrance, towards the village)

The complex is surrounded by a large English park, featuring a spectacular tea-house from the eighteenth century, and includes the Borgo, a series of palaces located behind the castle and built in 1600, which has a moat and four towers along the outer sides

We had a reservation at a cozy restaurant near the castle, along the river Po….

It was really a beautiful day, we had really a gret time with our friends, enjoying the good weather finally….

 

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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I’m back! ….for a one shot, at least….

It’s been ages since last time I posted something….and lots of things happened of course….here is a little re-cap of my life in the last few months….

First of all there was an event in mid-september to present the opening of the Parma branch of the dance school where our friends/cousins teach….

September was a busy month….One of my favourite events…a country night

…..then the wedding of dear friends of our daughter, a very nice celebration…….and their little boy was the center of all the attentions…

….. a day out at the end of the month, discovering a new place, to savour and taste a rural market, where our friends were selling their fruit and olive plants

It was a great place, near to us but left ignored for way too long, a very nice surprise, full of great buildings and lot of history behind those walls…

In october we had a night all together to say goodbye to a couple of our neighbours moving away….

Mid-october we spent a day in Murano (a very beautiful island in the Venice lagoon)  to visit the Glass Museum where maestro Vianello had some of his pieces displayed… (remember Mauro and my glass ducks?) It was a stunning visit……

Below, one of Vianello creations….

We did enjoy the sunny day to walk around….the beautiful Church of St Mary and St Donato….

…and another desecrated church, St Chiara, now a glass workshop….

I’ll never get tired of this beautiful place!

Usually we don’t take time off in fall/winter, but last october it was different. We just needed a few days off, after a very busy period renovating our daughter home, so we choose France for a short vacation. We had our hotel (below) in Salon-de-Provence, and we just drove around between Provence and Camargue…..

Salon-de-Provence was really a nice surprise….the old centere of the village was full of cozy and beautiful corners…starting with the fountains, all green and more like trees….

….or the clock tower, that signs the time of the residents since ages….

….every street and every square holding something to remember…..maybe a modern statue of Nostradamus who lived and died here….

A more classic statue of Nostradamus…

….beautiful mansions and gardens….

And obviously there is a castle….

We had a great time spending a sunny and warm day at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, being there after 20 years since the first time….

The first time we didn’t get into the church, it was closed for some event rehersal, but this time we did!

Can you tell the majority of the people living here are Gypsy from Spain?

One morning we decided to visit a “savonnerie” (soap factory) and we didn’t come out empty handed….

We spent the rest of the day between an old pirates outpost and the “salines” (salt evaporation pond)….

It was a nice trip, and we’d like to come back in the area next fall as well….

Me and daughter spent a day in Milan for a job interview…..and nope, she didn’t get the job. At least, we had a very good lunch…

Mid-november we had dinner with some friends, savouring a very tasty bistecca fiorentina

At the beginning of december my daughter boyfriend’s parents came to spend a few days with him so we got the chance to know each others and have lunch together with my mother too…

Last december with some of our friends, we resurrected what used to be a Christmas tradition for some years, the making of “spongata“…..beside having something to give as a gift, the tradition was just to have fun and spend some quality time all together, having lunch as well…

The final result ready for the oven….

And then it was Christmas time…Eve’s dinner at home as usual…

To celebrate the arrival of the new year, we had dinner out with some friends (with daughter and her bf/friends in a nearby table….lol) in a unpretentious place, but very good…

First event of the new year was the classic, by now, Epiphany on bike….to bring gifts to the Children Hospital’s patients…

Another classic already, the charity dinner for our friends’ son in Brazil….

Finally, after some time we had the chance to meet with our friends from Modena….obviously at lunch!

Our friend S with a partner, opened a tex-mex restaurant….we were there for dinner one night of course….

And this is all, at least till the end of january…..but two big event took place among all those above…hubby retirement (at last!) in mid-december, celebrated at his workplace with all his collegues….including gifts and jokes…

…and daughter M finally moving to her new home in january…

So now we’re officially empty nesters…..and we miss her so very much….but that’s life, right?

Till next time, take care….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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A heavy, lond and difficult renovation….

At the end of june of last year, my mother-in-law was admitted in a nursing home. It was a painful decision (I promised myself never again – after the difficult experience with my father – ) but it was a necessary one considering what she needed most of all, was a daily medical assistance, not possible at home anymore. We are glad we took that decision, because now, at 88, she’s well taken care of, and her conditions are really good considering her age. She’s a little confused and at an early stage of Alzheimer, but she still knows who we are, and we are grateful for this.

A few weeks after she left home, we started to get rid of her things, now useless. We donated clothes, bed covers, curtains and some other things to charity organisations. Some furnitures, pictures and other stuff were sold. Some things were kept. We knew the house needed heavy cleaning and some fixing, but after it was decided that it would have become our daughter new home, things took a completely different turn. A deeply restoration was in order….

Between sellings, discarding, and giving away, the house looked like this….

Then it was time for deciding what the new house would be like, to chooce the look, the colors, the furnitures…….and it was also the time for the first heartache, thinking about the money this would have costed!!!!

At the end of february this year, the bricklayers, the plumber, the electrician took the matter in their own hands….. there were a wall to knock down and rebuilt, floors to be removed and  replaced, pipes and cables to be fixed, and to manage them all we needed a very brave and able man, a surveyor, who luckily for us matched our expectations!

Finally, at the end of march, the floors were ready to be placed, and also the bathroom and the kitchen tiles were up….

After all that, the painters arrived to fix the walls and the ceilings….

…… not without some problems….

Finally we were ready for the furnitures to be moved in….the first was the kitchen

It needs some details yet to be fixed, but we have already the chandelier ready to be put in place…

It’s been hard to choose what was needed in the bathroom, but now it’s almost finished (less the curtains)…

The bedroom too is almost ready….

The curtains are yet to be fitted to the window but they are alredy here…

Ikea was of great help as you can see….(not its final destination I guess, this would move…)

The second bedroom (and the kitchen table) is still a workshop for the furnitures my daughter wants to fix herself….an old mirror newly painted…

a recycled closet painted in the same color (as many other things…my daughter ‘leitmotiv’ at the moment)

and my mother in law old chest of drawers now matching each other…

This is a little table she made out of pallets…..

The second bedroom will be finished when the rest of the house will be ready for living in it, and it will be a study/office….for now it owns only a lamp…

The living room is lacking curtains and lamps but the furnitures are in place…

The place of honor is taken by my father in law rocker….

A lot has to be done to have it finished completely (curtains, lamps, pictures and photos on the walls, a couple of shelves….) but we’re on the downhill run now…..

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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March – part two

A while ago, I found an old photo of me and one of my aunts, too early taken from us. I shared the photo on the WhatsApp group of the “cousins”, and to some it was new ….thus the idea of getting together one day to share family photos and stories. The occasion presented itself the saturday before Easter, and my cousin S invited us for lunch……Three were missing, one living in the US and two being abroad for a short vacation…We had really a great time, sharing memories….adjusting memories…. sharing a meal and so much love….just us, no children, no partners, just the inner circle of us….

God….I’m blessed!

Easter morning, a walk through the streets of Fontanellato, but the Street Food Festival didn’t met our expectations for a different Easter lunch…..

so instead we called a aunt who previously announced she would have been thrilled if we were going to lunch……..glad we did!

Full, we had to digest all that, so we rejoined daughter and bf, to explore the area around….A nice surprise was the old, deserted Church of San Carlo, dating back from early 1700, but very sadly almost completly ruined…..and in spite of our search, not too much was available to learn more about it….

but all the magic was there………..such a waste!

Then we drove to the near village of Roccabianca. The Rossi Castle was open and for free………

This imposing stronghold was built between 1450 and 1465 by Pier Maria Rossi as a gift for his beloved Bianca Pellegrini. Originally surrounded by a moat, it has a rectangular structure with two bastions and a high central tower and despite the damages of time, it still preserves its forceful appearance. On the ravelin, it displays the coat of arms of the Rangoni and Pallavicino families that took possession of the castle after the collapse of the Rossi family.

 

 

The interiors once boasted a cycle of frescoes depicting the Life of Griselda, inspired by the 100th novella of Boccaccio’s Decameron. Little remains today of it: the walls and vault of the room, together with the Pier Maria Rossi astrological cycle attributed to Nicolò da Varallo and his school have been detached and reassembled in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. Thanks to long restoration works due to the last owner, cavalier Mario Scaltriti, the castle has been recently reopened to the public.

Tastings of typical products of the Road of Culatello and free tastings of local homemade liquors are also available by prebooking as well as (for children) the marvellous world of Fairy tales.

Easter Monday, up in the hills, we met with a couple of friends in another little village around a castle, Torrechiara.

It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve been there, the charm is still there…..and I guess it will ever be…

Last time I entered the little church at the foot of the castle, was for our friends’ wedding, 31 years ago….I didn’t remember it at all….

Back to our friends home/farm (he produces and sells olive trees and olive oil along with some fruits plants), just above the castle, where we had dinner together….

So April, bring it on….will you live up to March?

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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December

Early in the month we finally got the chance to meet with our friends from Modena…..obviously sitting around a table….

For once somebody else (our friend S) was taking the pic and I’m in it this time!!!

Salame di Felino and the king of them all, the very special culatello…..

Mariola with smashed potatoes and home made mostarda….all sooooo good!

All the food in the restaurant is home made, the desserts are all served as single-portion, hubby had viennetta

and I opted for warm zabaione with rice and almonds biscuits

After lunch the discussion was of course about netx spring/summer bike rides….

Then it was time for my daughter to fix our Christmas tree….

and this is the version with the lights on and a few gifts already under it…

We heard that our favourite band was helding another show at the usual place just outside town, and we gladly drove there one night to have a great time…

The sunday before Christmas with a couple of friends we drove up the hills to the little village of Bazzano, home of the most famous nativities exhibition in the region…..

and the villagers creativity and imagination have no limits….The setting can vary a lot, from traditional figurines placed inside a wooden spool for hoses….(and I don’t know why the apples…)

a more traditional one setting in a porch under a tree covering a door (hoping no one has to use it soon…)

one carved in a log….

one made using wine bottles and jugs, the cave being an old corking machine….

a traditional one, but made of plasticine….

there were also two with the Minions…………

A very elegant one, all in white….

one made on roof tiles….

one hanging from a tree inside a glass house….

a modern one made with paper…

one hung on a wall made with glued grains….

just opposit a bakery with its own, all made with bread….even the woods in the fireplace are bread-sticks…

this one is made of carved polystyrene with pebbles and woods glued on it….

I guess who made this likes to travel….

another one hung up a tree….

and this is a one-dimension….

the one below is made with colored children’s pens

I saved for last my favourite, a nativity scene set inside a doll house, victorian style….

In the village there are also Santa home and office….

We were so lucky to see the old man itself…..

(for my previous visit see here). At the end of the day we were cold and tired….not enough to go home to have dinner….I had the most fabulous gluten-free dinner ever!!

This year my daughter gave her best to fix Christmas’ eve dinner….three different appetizers….

a very good fish and veggies lasagna

octopus salad with potatoes and olives and a potatoes and anchovies terrine…

The only thing we bought was the dessert….

After Christmas we met with friends at our favourite place to spend the evening together…..

New Year’s Eve we were just the two of us, me and hubby, because I got a bad flu and I wan’t really in the mood….so it was just a traditional dinner….

It’s been a very intense year, with its usual ups and downs, for us and for our extended family and our  friends…..there are still some situations pending, but luckily all will end well (fingers crossed)….

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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