At the Apple Orchard

At the orchard

One of the things we love about where we live is that there are very few Americans.  That might sound bad, but we really hope to take full advantage of our time here in Italy by immersing ourselves in the culture and community.


We have been blessed with having wonderful neighbors on either side of us and we’ve especially connected with one family.  It’s actually the Grandma and Grandpa that live next door but as with most families here, their children and grandchildren are there very often.   They own the flower shop in our town and part of that shop is a 200 tree apple orchard.  Their apples are primarily used to make vinegar however this year they are also making something similar to prosecco.  (YUM!)

This weekend was apple harvest weekend and we spent our Saturday morning picking apples.  It was such fun. Not only were we able to enjoy the gorgeous early Autumn weather but we made connections with our friends and neighbors.  (And helped them out in the process).

Apple blossom in Autumn

Wins all around. (And clearly some of the trees are a bit confused as to the time of year.)

A and M at the orchard


Pear butter

This year, we decided to take our first steps into the world of canning.  Jeff’s mom and grandma passed on a huge love of, and tradition for, canning (My MIL’s pickled green beans are to die for as is her sauerkraut.)

While we’ve done some preserving in the past,  this year we’re stepping up.  Thankfully, Jeff is all in when it comes to this endeavor.  I even bought him a pressure canner for his birthday and he was thrilled.  In fact, if anything,  he might be even more into this than I am.

This past weekend was busy in our kitchen.

We have five pear trees in our yard and they were ready to be picked and processed.  This caught us a bit off guard as it seemed early but our Italian neighbors assured us that now was the time to get started.  Jeff started Saturday off with a batch of pear butter and then I wrapped it up with a double batch of pear sauce.

Basil for Tomato Basil Sauce

Prepping for Tomato Basil Sauce

I was so motivated to keep going that on Monday I hit our local market and bought 9 kilos of roma tomatoes (at .79 euro per kg!!).  I knocked out a double batch of Tomato Basil Sauce from Ashley English’s  “Canning and Preserving.”  I also got a batch of Pomodori al Forno into the oven.  Both are great but please, make the Pomodori al Forno immediately.  Jeff and I scheduled a mini date night at home with it, some crusty bread, goat cheese and  prosecco.  YUM!  I regretted not making up a double batch immediately.  (Though I did chop up the two remaining tomatoes and mix them with my scrambled egg the following morning.)


Up next, pickles and salsa.

On Summer

We are having a great summer but I must say, whomever named it summer vacation clearly wasn’t home all day with their three children.  Yes, we are doing fun things and it is great to have time off from the school routine but having my three home is not a vacation.  In fact, after having seven hours home alone, this is work.  I’m getting glimpses of the early years without the diapers and nursing but replacing those with attitude and fighting.

That being said, we are indeed having a great time.

One of our favorite places
Pizza festival.
Jack climbing.  All of the kids were so much more confident this time.

Exploring the Adriatic.

This is what summer is made of.  We’re enjoying it (even in spite of some grumpiness) and I’m thankful.

How Our Garden Grows :: June Edition

It is simply unbelievable that the end of June 2012 is here.  Our little Italian garden is plugging away though we’re dealing with many more pests than we have had in recent years.


Slugs slaughtered our first group of lettuce.  I’m hoping that having these in the whiskey barrel will help protect them.  Maybe the pinwheel will help, too.

Do you see what I see?

I spy with my little eye, something red and tasty.  Soon.  Very soon.

Main garden

This year we’re mainly growing tomatoes with canning in mind.  We have a few onions, melon and peppers thrown in for good measure.  Next year we’ll expand.

One of our girls

The girls are getting nice and big.  There is some thought that we may have at least one rooster which we are not up for so chicken dinner may be on the menu soon.  In happier news, the eggs should start appearing in August.



We have tons of fruit trees.  Lots of pears, kumquats and persimmons are in our future.  Of course I have no idea what to do with kumquats or persimmons.  The neighbors say they make good wine.  Hmm…


Front porch sunshine.

Rose bud

The roses continue to bloom and the hydrangea is thriving.  I added a bit of sunshine to the front door and hope to get some window boxes planted.

Here’s to a colorful and delicious July!

Week in the Life {Wednesday}

After making tortillas

Our girls

About ready to climb in and call it a day.

Wednesday was much less exciting around here as it was just me, the chicks and a sleeping Jeff all day.  Most of the day was spent studying though we did run and grab lunch (was enjoying the sun and forgot to take a picture) and I made tortillas for our bean burrito dinner.  The kids came home and it was the usual routine of homework, dinner, showers, game and bed.

Just a normal day.

Week in the Life {Tuesday}

I’m a huge Ali Edwards fan.  I’m not a scrapbooker but I love her perspective on life and how she documents the daily things.  Last week she documented a week in her life.  I noticed several people doing the same via their blogs and I thought I’d follow suit.

I have no grand plans of documenting what we do each minute or even every hour.  My hope is to catch a glimpse of our days for us to remember and share.

Games at dawnI

The light coming through our rolldown shades always makes such cool shapes.  Plus it makes the messy areas look better.

My boys

Jack was up much of the night with a cough.  Connor had a school holiday.  They hung out all day.

Always laundry

Laundry, always laundry.

Headed to the bus stop.

This was my view as I walked to the bus stop to get Morgan.  Pretend you can feel the 80 degree temps.

Jack, a book and a 35 year old blanket

This boy of ours loves to read.  See that blanket, it was made for me when I was born.  Yes, 35 years ago.  That’s vintage, right?

Dinner prep, Morning edition and homebrew

I love to listen to NPR’s Morning Edition on Oregon Public Broadcasting (yahoo iPad) while I make dinner.  Tonight I also had some home brew.

No words.


No words.  I just love them.

One Little Thing

One of the downsides to vacation is that I tend to get behind on the daily tasks that keep a home (and a life) running smoothly.  My desk has been evidence of that as the mail, both paper and electronic, piled up and waited (mockingly) for me to deal with it.

So, I did one little thing to get things back in order and streamlined for the future.

I unsubscribed.

Most of the email that I get is junk.  Sure, at one time or another (usually after an online purchase) I subscribed to each of the many newsletters and updates but that quickly turned into 20+ emails each day telling me that I needed to buy the latest shoes or coolest new toy.

Except for a few of my very favorites, those are gone.   (By the way, I maintain two e-mail addresses.  One for personal, real life contacts and the other for online shopping.  That helps a lot too.)

Jeff and I also each canceled a couple of paper magazines that we had continued to receive mainly out of habit.  More often than not they never got read and the information just wasn’t relevant for us any more.

Not only did these simple things help to get things back in order after a crazy few weeks but they’ll help simplify my life in the future.

**This image is from before vacation.  I’m working to get back to that space of beauty and peace.**


The past few weeks have been very full.  Not only have we been in the midst of a major change in Jeff’s work schedule but my sister and her family have been visiting for three weeks (with one more to go!).  We’ve been busy traveling, playing, adjusting and living.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Slowly and steadily, I’ll be returning.

Bean Roasting


We’re a DIY family when it comes to most things.  Especially things of the food and drink variety.  Jeff has home brewed beer since 2000(ish) so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he set his sights on other projects, including coffee.

In a recent beer supply order, he added a pound of green coffee beans.  He did a bit of reading, some Facebooking with my brother (I love how country crazy seems to run in the family!!) and he was on his way.

Bean roasting

It was so easy, done before before work, using our air popper (retired after our WhirleyPop acquisition) and finished off in a cast iron skillet over a camp stove.

Freshly roasted beans

The final result was delicious with no bitterness.

First product, home roasted beans

Is it worth the effort?  I think so.  The price per pound is about the same and the satisfaction of finishing it off just so is priceless.   Besides, how many people can say they roast their own coffee?