Sunday, January 25, 2015

If Life Gives You Lemons....

"A person cooking is a person giving.  Even the simplest of food is a gift" Laurie Colwin

Life has given me lemons...literally!  Lemons are in season at the moment in Italy and I was lucky enough to get a sack of organic lemons from a friend who grows them (click here to read the health benefits of lemons).  After thinking what to do with all those lemons (other than lemonade) I remembered my friend Laura had given me a lemon cake recipe, that has now become part of my collection of recipes from around the world.   The cake was a big hit with my kids and other friends started asking for the recipe.  So here it goes,

1 1/2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of butter; softened
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of lemon extract
1/3 cups lemon juice
1/2 cup of vegetable oil

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  In another bowl, mix eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon juice.  Pour dry ingredients into wet ones, mixing and blending until smooth.  Add oil and mix a little more.  Pour the batter into a well greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.  Bake at 350 F (180 C) for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Lemon Icing: 1 cup of powder sugar, 2 tablespoons of milk, 1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract.  Combine all ingredients and frost the cake after it has cooled.  Let the icing set before slicing the cake.


Something else we are thinking of doing with our organic lemons is Limoncello, an after dinner liquor from the Sorrentine Peninsula that is simply amazing.  If all goes well, I will share the recipe in a following post.

Arrivederci for now,

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dressing Like an Italian: Winter Fashion

“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” Coco Chanel 

My time in Rome is coming to an end... unfortunately.  But I am taking advantage of the months I have ahead of me to enjoy this beautiful city as much as I can.  This week I took a day off my daily routine and went to the city center to sit, observe and take it all in.   I ended up at the Spanish Steps (near Piazza del Popolo), wondering how can a city be so beautiful.

As I was people watching, I noticed that the colder weather (mid 50s) is just another reason for Romans to dress-to-impress.  The "winter look" out on the streets it's pretty much a uniform around here, and here it goes, the Roman winter look demystified:

We'd all agreed with the fact that we lose body heat through our head and that it's a normal practice in cold weather countries to wear hats during the winter....but let me tell you, Romans take it to a whole new level.  Instead of taking about it, I'll share with you some images what I saw... 
#Fedoras, #beanies and #floppy-hats were all out in force.  If are ready to dig into the latest fashion trend, I suggest you buy a winter hat!  They are all in vogue.

People-watching is my second favorite pass time here in Rome, the first one being eating , of course (did you guess that one?).  And what a better spot to people-watch than sitting in the ancient Spanish Steps in the heart of Rome's fashion district.  A later post will concentrate on this magical spot.  Until then, enjoy the pictures and if you are in the northern hemisphere, wear a #hat to stay warm and look fabulous!

Arrivederci for now,

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Searching for the Sun: The Amalfi Coast

"Yea, tomorrow may rain, so I'll follow the sun" The Beatles

Hello there!  I am procrastinating a bit, by not finishing to put away all my holiday decorations. Now that the holidays are over, is it true all we have to look forward to is winter?  I guess I have to confess cold weather and my South American blood don't mix very well.  Every time I consider three months of cold days, I instantly start dreaming of warmer places, where the sun can give my skin a warm embrace and where I can take a deep breath of ocean air.

Since I am living in Italy, lets talk about the Amalfi coast.  Dreaming is free, and if you have a chance to actually get there you'll be amazed by its spectacular views and quaint seaside towns.  The Amalfi coast is a beautiful stretch of coastland of the Sorrentine Peninsula (South of Naples) comprised of several seaside towns, being the two stars of the show, Amalfi and Positano.  The winding State Road 163 runs along the cliffs connecting the towns between Positano and Vietri Sul Mare, the two ends of the Amalfi Coast.

Bookending the Amalfi Coast you'll find the town of Sorrento and the city of Salerno.  Sorrento, apart from its natural beauty, is known for its Limoncello, a lemon flavored liquor made with the giant local lemons.  If you visit, don't leave without buying a bottle to enjoy the Sorrentine flavor long after your trip.  Salerno, on the eastern side of the Amalfi Coast, is a big port city with enough charm to be worth the visit.  Being the bigger city in the area it also offers a wide range of accommodations.

Now to the stars of the show:

Amalfi: The beauty of this town is undeniable; its Mediterranean landscape is a combination of cliffs, ocean views and unique architecture built along the natural terrain.    Let's not forget the fantastic food that will knock your socks off (Try DaMaria Restaurant).  When eating in the Amalfi coast, go for their seafood dishes.  They are spectacular! And for dessert, try their Delizia di Limone.  You won't regret it.

Positano: Another quaint town, with restaurants overlooking the ocean, a rocky beach and enough charm to make a permanent impression in your soul.  White linen clothing is sold around their narrow cobble-stone streets and their local jeweled sandals are also typical of the area.

Ravello:  Its location overlooking the coast makes it wonderful for panoramic views, amazing sunsets and moonscapes.  A photographer's dream!  Ravello hosts a yearly festival featuring classical music, film and arts.  For information on this event, click here.

The towns are connected by a ferry system called Traghetto in Italian.  Also a bus system is used for reaching the nearby towns as well as the cities of Naples, Sorrento and Salerno, again, remember the roads are narrow and high on the horizon and traffic has to stop sometimes to let buses go through tunnels.  It is also possible to rent a boat and to sail from one town to the other by sea.  If you are experienced and intrepid I recommend this method of transportation.  You "park" your boat right outside the beach areas and for 5 euro the boat "taxis" will pick you up and drop you at the pier.

If you are crazy for ceramics make sure you stop at the eastern tip of the coast in Vietri Sul Mare.   Ceramics are everywhere to buy and to admire.

I was lucky enough to visit the area in off-season times, I imagine it is jammed packed during the summer months.  Of course the Amalfi Coast is a prime destination for romantic getaways.  And after looking at some of the pictures you can just imagine why.

Arrivederci for now,

Monday, January 5, 2015

Fun Things Happening in January

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been” Rainer Maria Rilke

Happy New Year!  I'm back home with my batteries re-charged, ready to share many more tips with you!  If you are coming to Italy this January, there are a couple of reasons to smile a big smile for choosing the beginning of the year for your trip.

First of all, the amount of tourists this time of the year is at its yearly minimum.  So you will have a lot less crowds to fight at the sights you've been waiting to see.  Also, you will still catch some of the holiday cheer since the holidays here don't end up until after January sixth.

And January 6th is a date to remember here in #Rome.  It's the celebration of the "Befana".  My first year in Italy I took a stroll in one of the most renown piazzas (squares) of Rome, Piazza Navona.  There, a Christmas market has been setting up every year for as long as the city cares to remember.  They sell all kinds of pieces for your Nativity Set and an array of goodies related to the Holidays.  During my first visit to Piazza Navona, I noticed something that was out our place in the vendors' carts.  A witch was adorning every stall at the piazza.  In my brain "witch=halloween", but what was she doing being around during Christmas time?  So I asked, and I learned.  It is not a witch, but the #BEFANA.  The Befana is an old lady who leaves candy for the kids in an old stocking on January sixth.  Ahhhh, I said, and that very same second, my kids demanded we celebrated the day of the Befana every year.  Of course, who can resist candy?!  Any reason is a good reason to get candy!

Today, the day before the Befana day, I went to the store to get "coal" for my boys; yes, the Befana brings candy to the kids who've been good all year and "coal" to the ones that have misbehaved.  Of course, nowadays the stores and pastry shops make coal-candy to be given out to the naughty kids, including mine ;)

The kids' stockings are filled, but what about the moms'?  Don't worry, January is the month of the SALDI, for the adults.  What does SALDI mean?  Sales!!  Yes, after the Christmas rush, Rome and many other parts of Europe are in Sale Time!  Here sales don't happen every weekend or every holiday.  They are found after January sixth and after the summer vacation; only twice a year the merchandise is on sale and the sales only apply to the items from the season that's coming to an end.  So make a side note in your budget and allocate some cash to the SALDI.  Leather goods, cashmere, you name it, it's all on SALDI!

If you are in Rome this January don't forget to celebrate the Befana and take advantage of the SALDI!

Arrivederci for now,