La vita e bella

Put an accent mark over that e for me, will you?

As the nights get cooler (41 last night), the days become clearer and this morning is the first morning we see all the way to Cold Mountain. We find that fitting, Cold Mountain, as in, when it’s cold we see that beautiful peak all the way from here, on Little Mount Pisgah. As the nights get cooler, the birds eat more and more at the feeders each day. We literally have hundreds and they empty 3 full feeders 3 times each week. Yesterday we stopped at Wild Birds Unlimited and picked up one bag we had in storage and bought several more during the Fall seed sale and left them there in storage. That works well; we use the free storage plan and don’t have so much of it piled up in the garage for little meece. Give those mice an inch and they take a mile, moving in to scout through the various wools for some luxurious bit to line a nest. It must be like shopping at Luxe Home, finding what is stockpiled here in the way of fleece. McCloud, however, continues to be a great mouser despite his age and slow decline in renal health. Speaking of critters, the bear waltzed across the deck last night. We weren’t fast enough to see anything but her retreating rump once she triggered the motion lights but we think she has figured out that those are only on one side of the house. She made a second pass back on the other side sometime in the wee hours, knocked over the locked can of bird seed and ate most of the new bag, leaving the remains spread all over. She has wiped out three ground hornet nests thus far and we thank her for that, but it’s clear that we now need to pull in the feeders at night and keep the can in the garage.

Speaking of fleece, friend Kristen from BCMA came for a few days last week while Rich was in NYC meeting with ESPN. We had a wool frenzy of sorts, with piles of it all over the studio, the kitchen, the media room. We had the drum carder going a mile a minute, making delicious batts of various fine wools, silks, bamboo, some glitz for sparkle. From there we used the batts for felting and spinning. We did some dyeing (if I were to get near a doctor now she would surely think I’m on the way out; the blue cast to my skin and nails is something to behold) and at night we watched television, vaguely, as Kristen was spinning and I was knitting.

All that effort meant that we a) didn’t get out of our pajamas for 3 days and b) had to stop periodically for fuel. Kristen loves to cook as much as I do. One night we made Killer Shrimp, basically a large bowl of the biggest jumbo shrimp and artery annihilating spicy buttered broth with a crusty soft loaf from Ecce Panis for dipping. The fennel seed (from our garden!) and red pepper make it so tasty and warm. Use really jumbo shrimp or prawns; it’s worth it. Here’s the recipe:

2 tbl rosemary
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 cup white wine
2 quarts chicken broth
8 oz clam juice
3 oz tomato paste
1/2 lb butter
2 lbs shrimp or prawns, tails on


Combine rosemary, fennel. Lightly chop the spices with a chef’s knife. In the end there should still be recognizable pieces of the rosemary, etc.

Place all ingredients except wine in a large pot. Simmer for about an hour.

Add wine. Continue to simmer for a total cooking time of no more than 2 hours.

Just before serving, add raw shrimp. Simmer until shrimp is done, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve in large bowls, each person gets a lot of broth. Eaten with fingers. Wear bibs. Serve with french bread for dipping in broth.

Another night, Kristen made a limoncello semifreddo, which was basically the creamiest lemon-lime frozen custard ever. Look up a recipe online and you’ll see what I mean. Kristen will be back again in a couple of weeks; we are getting ready for a local holiday craft fair, which we affectionately refer to as the “arts and craps” show. Although it’s clear (to us) that we create the finest fiber art ever, we want to recoup some of the money we’ve spent on wool this past year because, after all, there is a big fiber fair here in Asheville at the end of the month and all new opportunities to stock up. So we are making items that will sell. Felted catnip kitty toys!

All of this good food is putting me in mind of Italy. Today I am packing for our “honeymoon”, never taken because we have been such busy bees, and this time next week I will be enjoying lunch on a hilltop outside of Parma, en route to our ultimate destination in Tuscany. There we will park ourselves at Daniel’s and Manuela’s olive and vineyard estate and enjoy day trips all around the area. One night we will enjoy 5 star dining at La Frateria di Padre Eligio in the convent of St. Francis and drink a toast to our marriage and (arrghhh) my sixtieth birthday. La Frateria is part of Mondo X, an organization that speaks to me; I think you’ll enjoy reading about it.

We were a bit anxious about the timing of this trip because there was another major life event looming on the horizon, one I haven’t told you about as I erred on the side of caution. We are grandparents! Rich’s Anna had a son 2 weeks ago today. This is our first grandchild and although we wanted to be proudly broadcasting about it, the circumstances haven’t been appropriate until now. Anna has been in a rough place in her life with many challenges that made having a baby especially high risk and we were very worried, often extremely discouraged. She considered adoption briefly but decided against that and, in the way of many grown children, advice was neither welcome nor heeded as she moved through her pregnancy. Anna went into labor a month early and as I was fretting and fuming, Abby admonished me, rightly so,  to snap out of it, that this was a new life, a gift, a child to be welcomed and loved, a mother to be supported. Baby Kellan wasted no time and came after 3 short hours, weighing in at 5 pounds. A new baby breaks down barriers and changes lives and now, two weeks later (a lifetime!) Anna and her husband and baby Kellan are doing very well at home. He is still on a monitor for apnea but he’s gained 12 ounces and stretched out 2 inches and reports from doctor and visiting nurse are very good. Anna and I chat online about feeding schedules and sleep patterns and those whimsical little newborn smiles and she seems perfectly in tune and madly in love. This has reminded me that babies and parents don’t usually get to pick and choose and that makes life all the more interesting. It has also reminded me that many times parents are able to rise up and do for their children what they can’t do for themselves. We are very, very proud of the start Anna has given Kellan and we can’t wait to hold him as soon as we get back. He looks very much like Rich did as a baby and we think he’s beautiful!

That’s it for now and I need to hustle to get the indoor plants in for the winter and take care of all those things you need to do before you leave on a big trip; for me that’s every single thing from estate planning to sorting through 30 years of photos but in the end I’m lucky to find my passport in time to head out. Have a great week.


16 responses to “La vita e bella

  1. Don’t forget you will also, at the very same time, be in our olive orchid. Sunshine today and some weird energy field we wondered it has me dazed. For real about the energy thing. Just posted.

  2. Kellan is beautiful and I love his name and the way he curls his legs up (as I bet he did in the womb.)

    I think I would do whatever it takes to make your place unhospitable to the bear.

    I know you can’t fail to enjoy your trip to paradise, but be safe and watch out for the warnings.

  3. The new baby is absolutely adorable! Congratulations to the new parents… and grandparents!

    I hope your trip is wonderful and restful and spectacular! Have a great honeymoon!!! You certainly both deserve it!

    Here, I hope we have a few more weeks before I have to determine what to bring in and what to re-pot and what to snip off and try to root to keep through the winter and so on. My fennel did not ever have enough flowers to make seed… the black swallowtails ate the foliage and flowers as fast as they appeared. We have a local osprey now and our hawk has reappeared for the fall and winter as well.

  4. Congrats on becoming grandparents! Kellan is beautiful.

  5. CONGRATULATIONS!!! So glad everyone is fine.

    Yep, we bring in all the feeders at dusk and then close the garage door. Small price to pay since the bears can climb even second-story decks.

  6. Congratulations all around. Have a wonderful trip. I loved italy when I was able to travel there back when I was young. I’m sure that you will enjoy it to the hilt.

  7. I’m glad the Limoncello Semifredo turned out so well Vicki and the view of Cold Mountain is beautiful – I can’t wait. I’ll even share it with the bear!

  8. A baby!
    What a cutie.
    Have a fabulous safe trip.
    My goal is that you will have datil sauce waiting when you return.
    (I haven’t forgotten)

  9. Do you think the bear will come around when I am there later this month? Do you think Kristen will cook for me too? Can’t wait even if neither come true. Beautiful wool. The scarf is coming along wonderfully. It should be done by the time you get back from Italy. Baby Kellan is delightful. Is that a part of Anna’s name?

  10. You lead a charmed life,
    As you surely know.
    Lovely yarns and grandbaby;
    What a dear little beau!

    Your life fascinates;
    There is so little drudge.
    Even your bears waltz;
    Ours merely trudge.

    Amazing photo of your mountains,
    So mellow!
    Do I eat Ecco Panis Angelicus
    Or play it on my Limoncello?

    Shrimp is pinkish-red;
    Your scarf, GREENish-blue.
    As I listen to Puccini,
    I’ll think of you.

    Happy Birthday,
    You adorable pixie;
    With your heart’s desires and yoga
    You will love being 60!


  11. Oh my –a life in full. Bears on your porch (I’m jealous); marvelous food (I’m ravenous); felted cat toys (my cats are avaricious); a trip to Italy (ok–this one I can identify with–been there, going again); and finally a grandchild (oh, you have no idea how jealous I am).
    BUT–you deserve it all, and I am thrilled for you.
    La dolce vita.

  12. I was going to write a poem EXACTLY like Bonnie’s, but somehow she beat me to it. I am very excited for you. So many happy life events. And that Abby? She’s a smart one.

  13. You know, I was thinking. I bet the nuisance bear is really a problem for the HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATION!

  14. So much happening there… beautiful vistas and bears… visiting friends and woolly adventures. But a grandson… now that is a surprise. How truly wonderful for your family. Congrats to everyone, and a hearty welcome to the world to the very beautiful Kellan.

  15. I’m going to get one of those in four months. Grandson, that is. Reading this now, it makes me more eager for the moment.

    If it gets too cold there, some of that wool looks like it would make good insulation.

    While I was reading this, a telemarketing student from Michigan State called wanting a donation to the parents fund. Explained my son no longer went there, so could she take me off the list. But now as I think about it, I would have pledged twenty bucks if she would have sung a chorus of Hail to the Victors right then and there. Wish my son luck this weekend. He’s an usher in the Big House and some MSU wags are threatening anarchy in his section.

  16. Congratulations to all and welcome to the world, baby Kellan! The shrimp sounds wonderful! Enjoy your trip, Vicki! Can’t wait to hear all about it.

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