Thursday, October 1, 2020

Childhood memories of a long journey down to Sicily

The clear water of the Stretto from the Sicilian coast (ph. credits Corrado Salvo)

Sicily again... last summer my not anymore little niece lived the same experience that it's a sweet memory of my childhood. She drove by car, with her dad, my brother and her grandma, my mother, to the family house in Sicily. Definitely for her it was not the adventurous journey that I remember and not even a daylong drive as I always lived with my family.

 My father side of the family is a mix between Romagna and Sicily, the most hot blood people among the great variety of Italians. My grandfather was born in the Northern part of Sicily, the area of Messina, the town close to the Stretto, that sea passage so full of legends: Scilla and Cariddi. 

I remember when I was a child, we used to drive down from Rome taking a whole day to reach Sicily, we always took the ferry late in the night and my brother and I woke up when the car entered the boat. Everything seemed a bit mysterious and scary, I remember we were looking forward to jumping out of the car and run to the top ferry deck, breathing in the warm breeze and looking down to the black sea imagining that Scilla or Cariddi would come and grab our feet to take us down in the dark waves. Jiggling at our fears, we arrived in Messina too soon, ready to fall asleep for the last 40 km before reaching the family home. The sweet smell of jasmine that were grown on the Sicilian coast for the production of the essence, used for making perfumes, was the last memory before falling asleep again. 

If I close my eyes I can still remember that smell that to me means the beauty of Sicily.
Do you have a sweet memory of your childhood that you keep always in your heart?

ML xx

Saturday, October 19, 2013

a secret ingredient

Back after a while to my cooking sessions... in the last few months my kitchen was completely ripped off and redone with a bit of troubles but now it's working fine, and I'm back enjoying cooking for family and friends.

Sherry rich scones
I know my husband love to be woken up by the smell of baking cakes. He loves piping hot scones with home made raspberry jam, another specialty of the house :) (his in that case) so I really want to make him a surprise, if only...
I was kneading my scones when I realized there was no milk in the house, too late I was already hands-on and I had to quickly find a solutions because the dough would started to rise anyway. Add water? Boring. Add another liquid? yes, but which one... Sherry!! That is known among my English family as my "secret" ingredient, because I'm able to use it in almost anything: meat, mushrooms, cakes, fruit salad, never tried in a soup but you never know...

Here is the recipe, hope you give it a try ;)
the scones ready for the oven

225 g of self-raising flour
a pinch of salt
50 g of butter (I usually recommend to reduce to half the quantity of fat, but not in this case especially if you do without milk)
25 g of caster sugar
50 g of sultanas
1 medium egg. beaten with enough Sherry yo make 150 ml liquid

Pre-heat the oven to 220C and put some baking paper on a baking tray.
Mix flour, salt and rub in the butter till it is completely absorbed by the flour. Add egg and Sherry leaving a little aside from brushing the tops. I forgot that time as you can see from the photos, but they taste good anyway.
The dough will be of a lightly pink colour and should be soft and spongy but not sticking to your fingers.
pink dough
Knead lightly on a floured surface and roll out to 1 1/2 cm in thickness, cut out with a round biscuit cutter, if haven't any use a glass  or a coffee cup.
Re-roll the trimmings and cut more scones.
Brush the tops with the egg and cherry mix and bake in

warm oven for 10 mins or till they become golden brown on top.
the scones just out of the oven

Have them with home made jam, any red fruit will be good, but the raspberry one is my favorite.

Enjoy them with coffee or tea.
ML xx

Cantine Florio

Long time ago I promised I would have dedicated a post to Cantine Florio, eventually I kept my promise and here we are to talk about the visit of the famous cellars.
doors of the shop 

The visit of the Cantine Florio is a must do if you stop in Marsala, 10 euro well spent for the guided tour, there is also the opportunity to do it in English, our guide was Sarah, she is very good and jaunty, with a wide knowledge of wines and wine making.
The cellars are located in a huge baglio in front of the sea, on the outskirts of Marsala in an area where other cellars are located.
The cellars are enormous with packed-earth floor and lines of piled barriques that forms corridors  that went to America at the beginning of the XX century for an exhibition and few other stuff.
the cellar
where you walk through. Those cellars have been rebuilt after Second World War because they were severely damaged during the bombing of the area, unfortunately most of the Marsala production went lost, but they saved a huge barrel
The symbol of the Florio family - a sick lion in search of relief - refers to their main activity: they were chemists and they had the government permission for selling quinine to treat malaria a very common disease in the late XIX century in many areas of the South of Italy.
There are more memorabilia of Garibaldi and Mille's landing here rather than in the actual
the Florio family emblem
Garibaldi's museum in the town centre.
Going through we spotted a barrique filled the same day my husband was born, great coincidence!
a special barrique

Don't miss the tasting at the end of the tour: it's really emotional involving, I had shivers tasting those superb Marsala wines! Better to do in small groups as far as possible, you need silence to meditate those wines.
wine tasting

So don't wait any longer go and enjoy a glass of Marsala!
ML xx

Auditore - a little village on the boarder

Auditore Town Hall
If I'm back to posting on the blog I should really thank Lisa from Renovating Italy, her last post it's so emotionally powerful that really gave me the kick to get back and write something about my beloved Italy.

One day in early autumn I took my husband on a drive among those fantastic hills that are the border between Romagna and Marche, where my grand parents came from and where I used to go visiting older relatives or cemeteries with them at least once in the summer when I was I little child.
I don't remember the places but I absolutely cannot forget how my grand father got animated as soon as the car stopped in the village square and he jumped out and greeted the people who was coming to say hello to him. It was like being brought into the past and being a little observer who nobody took any notice of. I enjoyed that atmosphere which brought my child like being into an ancient past, I loved to hear their stories and I loved the smile on my grandfather face.

Anyway, going back to that famous trip with my husband, we didn't really plan to stop in Auditore, when I saw the edge of town sign on the road I immediately turned the car and stopped in front of the Town Hall (Comune). As I said, I really did not remember the place, but as I breathed the air every thing seemed  familiar.
the road up to the church belvedere
coloured houses 
We walked around the small streets of the tiny village, not coming across many people, but the noises from the houses kept us company. We arrived at the village bar (as far as I could remember just one in the main square under the church) and I loved the yellow curtain waiving in the breeze. We entered for a coffee but surprising nobody was there serving, two old men sitting at the table pretending to play cards but probably keeping an eye on the place, after we searched for somebody, eventually came in our help: "Go next door, you'll find someone". We exited the modern bar (what a pity they re-modern the old little bar osteria so full of colour, for an impersonal all granite and wood modern version of a bar) and entered a tiny little grocery and bakery with a wonderful smell of freshly cooked bread. First thing the man behind the counter told us, serving an old woman in front of him: "I'll be with you in a minute". How did he know we were in the bar craving for a coffee only a second ago? The two old men? a secret camera or bell informing him of any movement next door? No, there was no sign of technology in that little shop, he knew.
the bar and the bakery shop (the door with the yellow curtain on the side)
Eventually he made us a coffee which was at all memorable, in the mean time in the bakery we bought a slice of  spianata, an oily and flavorsome white pizza that is made locally with lots of lard (ahime'!). After our drink we both enjoyed the spianata sitting on the belvedere in front of the church, it tasted so good.

spianata with a view
Montefeltro hills

the village walls
a tiny window

buildings opposite the Town Hall
What did that unexpected stop leave in my memory and my heart? It brought back the stories my grandfather used to tell me about those places and his youth, which was nothing similar to mine. But it also made me enjoy fantastic views of
my beloved homeland.
Worthless to say, I'm in love with Italy. :)

Enjoy your journey in Italy every bit of that country is worth visiting regardless the bad propaganda the unhappy political situation of the moment can make.
Hope you enjoyed it.
ML xx

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Rainy days # 2

Even if a bit of sun came out in the last weekend it's still so freezing cold that summer and Italy in general seem so remote

In  my last post I was sharing with you a project I realized during that terrible cold and snowy season. Here it is another one, the bad weather kept me really busy at home!
Gone sailing

It was long time that I really wanted to repaint the bathroom, it started out as a plain white toilet, which looked like an hospital one, plain white, spartan, the only touch of colour was the shower curtain that recalls the mixed blue mosaic floor. Recently I decided to be brave and try a bold colour on two of the walls, not all of them because it's a tiny room and it will look even more tiny with colorful walls. I chose an aviation blue that never turned out to be the same every layer of paint I put. It really annoyed me and I was determined to go back to white and do not bother with it anymore, but white looked so terribly sad...
 5 cm masking tape 
There is a little boat hanging on the bathroom wall, a lovely decoration I bought in an amazing art gallery in Cromer, The Garden House, the striped sail give me the inspiration. Moreover, I'm always been a bit obsessed with stripes, I love them, they remind me the summer, of the colorful beach seats that you can find in Italy.  So I began to figure out a possible stripe solution, not easy to realize, I have to be precise and neat, so a put it off for a while, thinking of different solutions, but none satisfy me.

work in progress

After a lot of thinking, and a lot of drawing I finally fully dedicated myself to it. It only took a day and a half, and the big job is putting the masking tape up, for painting I used a sponge I found in my husband painting kit, I wanted an uneven white since the blue never came out even in the first place.
I love how it looks: so summery, fresh and romantic with the old mirror, my mother in love gave me.

the old mirror

Have you got any decoration ongoing?

Rainy days # 1

I keep on putting off my posting sequel about Sicily, because with such a bad weather it's really hard to look at the photos taken when I was on holiday and don't feel miserable...
Yes miserable weather till now, no plan to go back to Italy at the moment and plenty of energy to spend in the house restoration.
before - outside
Therefore I'd like to share a couple of projects I realized recently.

There was that old box that was of my husband grandmother, apparently she used to carry around her stuff, when as a young girl she used to work as a cook. It must have been forgotten for many years before it arrived at our house, when it already looked battered and well worn out.
My husband kept on telling me that it was originally used to keep a dinnerware completed with all the necessary cutlery, not the modern versions with no serving dishes that you can find in the shops today, but rather an ancient version plenty of dishes and serving tools that nowadays we don't even know what they are made for. So I started to look at that old box with renovated interest.
before - inside
It was covered in a thick material painted in a sad brown colour, which at first looked like a well worn out leather. Cover it again in leather would have been too costly, so I went for some material in neutral colour, which perfectly matches the colour palette of the house. Ripped off the old material I discovered a nice sturdy wooden box with quite a strong personality, a real pity to cover it up! But the inside was a real disaster, in order to be used it really needed a complete restyling. When I bought the material to cover the box I matched a bold toile de jouy in cream and black with gallantry
after - outside

after - inside
 scenes, because I really wanted something that stood out from the severe shape of the wooden box.
I completely covered the inside with the toile, trying to give continuity to the pattern An inside shelf at mid height  was missing, my husband cut a thick piece of MDF to size and it fitted perfectly as shelf, I covered with the same toile and...voila' it's finished! Perfect to store table linens and possibly a new dinnerware, still undecided between transferware or botanic decor.
Do you like to recuperate old family piece of furniture? Have you done any recently?


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dad's Day in Italy

This morning when I opened Facebook I read so many post on my friends' walls dedicated to their fathers. I was nicely impressed, it seems that family is still important in everybody's life.

Dad's day used to be a great celebration when I was a little child, at school they made us prepare a little gift for our dads, I was always thrilled by the moment when my dad, back from work in the evening, would have opened it and said how lovely it was, but I was always secretly producing my personal version of dad's gift to give to him afterwards and enjoy his surprise, that one was the one most appreciated!
Then for a while the celebration was moved to the first of May, celebrating in conjunction with Labour's Day, but I wanted a special day to celebrate my dad! Eventually, it came back on the 19th of March, but time passed and I was not anymore producing a gift at school. I miss that age, because I miss my dad.

Every dad is special but mine, was SO special. I adored him, this photo is probably the second photo I took in my life, he was in the garden of the house in Sicily, near the succulents corner he created that is not anymore there, with Tell, the English setter he really adored. I remember him worrying that the dog was in the shot.

He taught me to think out of the box when a teacher was imposing her point of view, he taught me to speak with people listening to what they have to say, he taught me to love animals, the great passion of his life. He taught me that honesty is the most important thing to pursue in life. He taught me to enjoy the beauty of nature, to appreciate art, to read a lot because we never stop learning.He taught me to love chocolate...
I miss him so much.

Happy Dad's day wherever you are