Monday, January 9, 2012

It's been a while....

Wow, it sure has been a long time since I have posted!  Sorry about that.  You know when so much happens that you just can't write about it?  That is what has been going on.  Just about every day I think, 'I need to blog about this!' but it doesn't happen.  Partially because I've had three laptops die within 6 months (seriously!), I've been busy, and I've been a bit lazy with the non-essentials. 

I'll write a super duper brief summary of what's been going on in the past six months.


I've developed an artisan bread obsession.  I made sourdough breads before, but starting about a year ago, I got really into it after reading the book 'Tartine Bread' by Chad Robertson.  It is amazing,and if you want to make some amazing, naturally leavened breads, it is a must-read.  I am having a love affair with my starter (shhh don't tell my husband), it's that good!  I've been using Tartine's cast-iron-pot method, which makes a great crust, as well as a wood fired oven!  Our good friends Herve and Cinzia finished building theirs this fall and we've been experimenting.  The first time the oven was too cool, the second time it was too hot (both times we got burnt bread, strangely), but I'm sure the next time we will get it right.  I've been experimenting with a number of grains, and usually make a mixture of white, whole wheat, rye, buckwheat, and sometimes things like barley and oat flour. 
From L to R: seeded rye, 5 grain fig and walnut (wood fired oven), rosemary olive   

Crumb of the rosemary olive loaf

2) Soap! And other cosmetic type things

I just realized that I have never written about soap in this blog, which I find incredible.  I suppose because it isn't Italy-specific, but that needs to change.  I love making soap.  I'm obsessed with that, too.  My newest endeavor is actually starting up a soap and natural body care business.  I make a lot of other things, too, like deodorant, lip balm, body balms, lotions, aftershave, lotion bars, etc.  My skin has been much happier since I've been using my own products!  Do you know the main reason I love making this stuff? It's just like baking.  You carefully measure good ingredients, mix the right way, let a chemical reaction happen, and it's a great pleasure to use afterwards!  But without the calories of a pie (which when made well is totally worth it).  I use only natural colorants (except for a few experiments), and essential oils to scent.  I use lots of heavenly shea butter! Here are some pictures of what I have been up to....but nothing recent, because my lastest batch of pictures was eaten by my dead hard drive.

Patchouli & Clary Sage soap with calendula.  I love how this one turned out.

Lavender soap, colored with alkanet root
Lotion bar... I love these things!  You just rub it into your skin after a shower, and it feels wonderful!

Deodorant...and it actually works!  I did months of research, and came up with this beauty
Lip balm!  Flavored with essential oils, and colored with alkanet root.
3) Farm Girl Class

Yes, you heard me right, I am learning to be a farm girl.  At least, that is what I call my class, because it is more fun than the real name, which is in French so I can't pronounce it.  In June I started taking this awesome class for unemployed women in the region to learn how to start a small farm.  It met every day until mid October, and we had some great internships, as well.  There were 10 of us in the class, and we still meet up.  A really incredible group of strong women!  We learned farming techniques, botany, and some business stuff as well.  We had a group internship at Genuinus, which is a great organic farm, and then three other ones in pairs.  I went to Ollignan (a farm run for/by handicapped people...they grow everything there!), AglioOlioPepperoncino (small vegetable farm, also make great jam), and Agrival (they make interesting jam...92 types!).  Once the class ended, we all started taking another class with the Institut Agricole to learn the beaurocratic side of farming.  Mostly, though, it is about how to get funding.  I don't know if I will actually start farming, but I might.  It would be really great if I could grow the herbs that I put into my soaps and body care products.  We will see!

4) 2011 Pie Party and trip to the US

In August we took our annual trip to the US.  Gianluca got to see NYC for the first time, and we were there for the 'hurricane'.  It wasn't as scary as I suppose they anticipated, but NYC was a ghost town!  And some pretty big trees did fall down in Central Park.  We were also in Richmond, VA when the earthquake struck, which was pretty exciting.  It was a tour of non-disasterous (at least where we were) natural disasters in the US!

We were also in Asheville for the Pie Party.  Some how I didn't end up with many photos this year, but here are some below.  It was pretty great!  I won my category (berry, if I remember), and Gianluca got most creative, again.  And I think I got 2nd with my costume, which I wasn't gunning for but I'll take it!  I swear, each year the pies just keep getting better!
My pie... lemon curd Italian merengue with a blackberry compote.  I ripped it from the cover of 'Bon Appetit'... pretty but too uppity

My mom's carrot patch pie.  So cute!

Me with my pie

My husband did it again.... made the most American pie he could think of!  Cheese grits, fried green tomatoes, and bacon.  I love it!

And of course everything ended with a bang...literally.  Mark's pie had a firecracker (he made it himself!!) in it, and it went off!

So, that is this past season in a nutshell.  A lot more happened, but those are the most exciting bits.  Stay tuned and I'll give you some recipes....  This year I also mastered homemade tortellini, so be prepared to eat good!