Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beautiful junk

Click to enlarge!

Got an old computer in your attic? Polish artist Anna Dabrowska, also known as Finnabair, would love to smash it to smithereens. The artist uses the computer bits and pieces in her mixed media collages, along with buttons, metal nuts and screws, pieces of lace, photographs, and other ephemera, artificial flowers and occasionally some really weird things, like dead moths (ew). But as you can see, the end result is lovely, really. She says she loves to visit flea markets to find all those unusual objects. When all assembled on a canvas, Dabrowska paints it all in beautifully vibrant colors. I think this is the key to their success—the final touch that makes the collection of stuff a cohesive unit.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Avocado chicken parmigiana

photo, Diane Carnevale

Parmigiana—a short form of Parmigiana di melanzane—is a Southern Italian dish made with a shallow-fried chicken cutlet that's been layered with cheese, tomato sauce and baked until the cheese melts. Here's a totally different spin on it. I top my chicken schnitzel with a sharp Swiss cheese, squeeze lemon juice all over it, and warm it in the oven until the cheese melts. Then I top it with fresh slices of tomato and a lemon-drenched avocado. It's an amazing combination.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Oatmeal—kicked up

In Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, a young Oliver said "Please sir, I want some more." I bet Oliver's gruel was a sad, watered down oatmeal, and you can bet that it wasn't sweetened either. I love Irish oatmeal in the winter, and I kick it up with extra fiber and omega rich ingredients like ground flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, or any combo of them, then I sweeten it slightly with brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup. I always mix it up! Steel cut oatmeal takes 20-30 minutes to cook, and since I don't have time for that on rushed weekday mornings, I cook up a batch of it on the weekends and put it into individual containers that only need a minute or so in the microwave. For some texture and a blast of protein, I also add a few walnuts,  apple slices, and sometimes a maple chicken sausage (Alfresco brand, have you had these?...They're Delish!). It's a nice on-the-go breakfast.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The mascheran + sarte of Venice

The Carnevale in Venice is happening now! This year the festivities began on January 26th and will run until February 12th. The mascheran (mask makers) have been busy constructing mysterious masks, and the sarte (seamstresses) have been busy sewing elaborate costumes. Read more about this history of this annual event on my post from last year here

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Baby greens

photo, Diane Carnevale

This is the time of year that I absolutely lust for baby greens from my humble little garden. Sigh. It's such a perennial treat cool to be able to go out and snip a few leaves for a salad du jour. This photo was taken last spring and shows a cart full of various greens ready to plant in the garden. See all those colors and textures. Sweet. Just a few more months, right? ... Right?!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Deep greens and blues

Love those dreamy green and blue colors. I mentioned them last February on my Stealing from the peacock post, and these colors still enchant me. I have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to deep greens + blues, (click to see it). 

Goodnight you moonlight ladies,
Rockabye sweet baby James.
Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose,
Won't you let me go down in my dreams,
And rockabye sweet baby James.

To see more colors, click on the "color blocks" label below.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Boxed in

Feeling boxed in this winter? Cabin fever and all that? Well, it's hardly snowy here, but the cold temps are certainly keeping me inside. Artist Scott Hocking made an art installation with, well, boxes—wine boxes, to be specific. He calls this piece The End of the World, in which case I hope those wine boxes are filled with full bottles of wine, and that there's a cork screw nearby.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chilly day!

photos, Diane Carnevale

This is winter in New England—down in the single digits! I heard that it was colder here this morning than it was in Moscow! Brrr.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ooey gooey deliciousness

photo, Diane Carnevale

This was a fun treat—fried mozzarella balls! Picture this... a crispy crust, a savory, melted, ooey gooey cheesy filling, and a perky tomato sauce to compliment it. Oh, and a bit of basil. Just coat the bucatini sized mozzarella balls (the ones a little smaller than a golf ball) in flour, egg, then bread crumbs, quickly fry in some olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy. Mama Mia, pass the Chianti!!

photo, Dan Ryan

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Maché + frisée

Maché + frisée are tender, delicate greens that were just made for each other—I love them combined in a simple salad. Combined together, their unique textures pair especially well with avocado and citrus, such as grapefruit or orange (shown here). Maché is also called lambs lettuce, and frisée is from the chicory and escarole family, though not nearly as bitter. Both are somewhat difficult to find where I live, but I have my sources, and I can find them year round. For the dressing, I mix minced shallots, honey, an orange juice reduction, champagne vinegar, orange olive oil, and salt and pepper. Good stuff!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ode to joy!

How about a little classical flashmob to brighten your Monday?! 
Turn your speakers up, click the play button above, and enjoy.
know you'll be smiling by the end of the video!

Here's the back story. A bank in Spain—Banco Sabadell—celebrated their 130th anniversary with a flash mob orchestra and choir performing Beethoven's ninth—his ode to joy. More than 100 people participated in the flash mob from Symphony Orchestra of the Valleys and choirs, Lieder and Amics of l’ Òpera and the Choir Belles Arts. Very civilized and very joyful!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Of flightless birds...

Recently a friend of mine wrote to me and said he had an "extra" ostrich egg (long story, he's a slightly eccentric fellow), and did I want it. Um, yeah! I've always been intrigued by these enormous eggs of flightless birds, which I coveted for a piece of unusual home decor. You can see in this photo how huge the ostrich egg is, with its beautiful off-white color and slightly bumpy texture, lying next to regular chicken eggs! The shell is about an eighth of an inch thick, so I needed to use a power drill to poke the holes on each end to blow it out—no small feat, by the way. It's now sitting elegantly in an old metal urn. Thanks JC!

photos, Diane Carnevale

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bagels... oy!

This is what we need in the Hamilton area... a really good bagel shop! Nothing like a fresh bagel to nosh on while lazily perusing the Sunday paper... carbs be damned. My sister-in-law Norma actually makes bagels—from scratch! She's fun and I wish we lived closer, and not just because of her bagels. She says it's a two day process (OY!), and is only reserved for very special occasions, such as her oldest son's birthday (and served with lox). Now that's a labor of love.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tempus fugit

TIme flies! 

In the words of Willa Wonka... 
So much time and so little to do. Wait. Strike that. Reverse it!

How has it been so long since my last blog post? Life happens, I guess.
Henceforth, I'll try to do better.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The color cobalt blue!

Inspired by... the color cobalt blue.

To see more colors, click on the "color blocks" label below.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Easiest, cheesiest appetizer ever? Parmesan crisps, or Fricos in Italian (click here for recipe). It's a snap to transform the undisputed king of Italian cheeses—that's Parmigiano-Reggiano—into these cheesey crisps. You can also add in some herbs, such as thyme or rosemary (as I have done here), and it also works great with "wicked shaaahpp" cheddar cheese. Salty, savory, and fabulous with cocktails or a bowl of tomato soup.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Countdown to Downton (part deux!)

Downtonites... can you stand the anticipation? It's been impossible to miss all the buzz about the third season of BBC's Downton Abbey, kicking off tonight @ 9pm! The Emmy® and Golden Globe® Award winning period drama begins its seven week run in on January 6 and concludes with a ninety-minute finale on February 17. That means there's 9 1/2 hours of Eduardian-upstairs-downstairs drama ahead. What to look forward to... Let's recap the haps at Chez Crawley...

Upstairs... By now we DA fans know that the Countess of Grantham (Cora's) out-spoken and carefree American mother (played by Shirley MacLaine) will arrive at the Abbey and no doubt will try to shake up her in-laws. Look for some witty exchanges between her and the Dowager countess (Dame Maggie Smith, the DA queen of one-liners). Lord Grantham learns that he's lost the "lion-share" of Cora's money in a bad railway investment (YIKES! Very major news); Lady Mary and Mathew Crawley are slated to marry—she'll be a gorgeous bride and she won't even have to change her name or monograms; Scruffy voiced Lady Sybil has eloped to Ireland with the waaay too passionately political-minded chauffeur Branson, and we just learned that she is expecting a child; Lady Edith, the unfortunate awkward middle child is pining for a much older man with war wounds. She is a bit of a bitch, but surely she could do better. Time will tell what karma has in store for her.

Downstairs....Rumor has it that Carson has to break in a new butler; Mr. Bates is still falling on swords and behind bars for something else he hasn't done, leaving a loyal Anna back at the castle  (this story line bores me a bit, I must confess); Ditzy Daisy is still trying to work her way up the downstairs ladder; And what trouble will the wickedly evil former footman Thomas stir up this season? I hear it has to do with his sexuality, and the equally O'Brien is the one stirring up the pot this time. Oooh! The plots thicken. Should be a fun season—Thank you, Julian Fellows!

Isis... Good dog!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The season for dreaming

This is the season for dreaming. I've planned most of my garden spaces on cold, quiet, wintery days, flipping furiously, curiously, and endlessly, through heaps and heaps of garden books, magazines, and catalogs. Inspiration leaps off every page—and lists are started of plants to get, what do dig up and divide, move or give away, and new areas to plant are sketched and resketched. Garden images are pinned on Pinterest. That longing for spring... the day when I can go outside and see the buds on trees swell and smell the earth coming alive... that's what keeps me pushing through these winter days. These stacks of books are barely a quarter of the garden books I have tucked about, here and there, in my little house. I couldn't make it through a New England winter without them. Think spring!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Raspberry salad

Like ruby jewels strewn over a bed of green velvet—this salad has so many outrageous flavors going on that it's a shame to just call it a raspberry salad. Also included are pomegranate seeds, sweet and spicy candied pecans, a salty blue cheese, and onions, all tumbled over a bed of baby romaine and spinach leaves. For the dressing, I tossed minced shallots, champagne vinegar, grapeseed oil, raspberries (picked from my raspberry bushes last summer and frozen!) salt and pepper, and a spoonful of crème fraîche, all into a blender, then whizzed it up. The salad is fresh and zesty in the summer, but especially festive for the holidays. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Duomo de Milano

Photo uncredited... wish I knew who took it!

Here is an enchanting winter photo of the Milan cathedral, or the Duomo de Milano, Italy. Dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan, currently Cardinal Angelo Scola. Standing proudly at 45 meters high, the Italian Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete. The architects were Francesco Maria Richini, Fabio Mangone, and Simone da Orsenigo. Dan and I have been there a few times, and while on our honeymooon back in 1993, we even explored the intricate roof area, surrounded by slate shingles and myriad statues. We were never lucky to see it on a snowy day, all lit up like this. Simply magical.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Greek Vasilopita bread

Happy New year to all! 

When I was growing up, our Russian neighbor Manishka (who was married to a very Greek man) used to deliver a Greek vasilopita bread to our family on New Year's day. It was round, plain, unadorned, and it was neither sweet nor savory. It was somewhere in the middle. It was slightsly citrusy, with a dash of anise-like spice, and definitely buttery. Ring-shaped cakes and breads symbolize wholeness and the completion of a full year'’s cycle. I searched the internet and most vasilopita breads that I found were all gussied up with any combination of sliced almonds, powdered sugar, dried fruits, or even the new year etched into the cake. Manya's bread was just very plain. But to us kids, it was both tasty and entertaining. According to Greek tradition, Manya would hide a coin in the batter before baking it. On New Year's day my father would etch an X on the bottom of the bread with a knife (to represent the cross) and slice the bread into as many pieces as there were family members around the table. Whoever was fortunate enough to get that coin in their piece of bread was blessed with good luck and prosperity throughout the year!