Sunday, August 30, 2015

Italy 2015: Two Florentine Churches

Both Kevin (my husband) and I list Florence as our favorite city in Italy.  Kevin had been once before, back in 1999, when he and his best friend backpacked across Europe before attending  grad school.  He had fond memories of the city, and especially the Duomo, and couldn't wait to share it with me over 15 years later. 
 
 
 
Let's be honest.  The Duomo is pretty impressive.  It's big and beautiful.  To reach it you walk through small pedestrian-only streets, chucked full of 21st-century shops.  Then all of sudden it appears, a mountain of carvings, pillars and marble. 
 


The Duomo is actually called Santa Maria del Fiore - Saint Mary of the Flowers.  And flowery is the perfect way to describe its fa├žade.  It's not covered in flowers or flower images, but it is heavily decorated and "lacey" in feeling. 
 



History fact: The elaborate marble facade wasn't added until the 1800s, nearly 500 years after the completion of the church. 
 

 
My husband says this might be one of his favourite views in the whole world.  It moves him. Not religiously, but artistically and historically.  It reminds him that he is but one small blip in the  lifetime of the world. So many came before us - leaving their art, thoughts and emotions.  So many will come after, creating even more wonder in our world. 

Kevin and I took a selfie everyday, to prove we were both actually in Italy, together!!
 
 
 
Brunelleschi's dome was completed in 1463 and was built without the use of scaffolds.  No one knows exactly how he did it, but there is a thicker inner shell built inside the dome that acts a support platform for the dome we see outside. Difficult to do now - let alone 600 years ago!!
 
 
This simpler church, pictured below, is Santa Croce. 
It is much smaller and lesser known, but holds the tombs of some very significant dead Florentines. :)
 
 
 
Work on this church began in the 1200s and is built in the traditional gothic style of the era.
 
Inside the ceilings soar with colourful fresco paintings and the floors are covered in black and white burial stones, rubbed smooth by hundreds of years of passing feet. 
 
 
Kevin and I always take photos of our feet in interesting places.  This is where our feet have trod.  We have been here and left our footprints. 



As I mentioned before, many famous Florentines are buried in Santa Croce.  Famous dead people found here:  Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini.  Above is the tomb of Rossini.  As students of classical music, Kevin and I found this tomb particularly significant. 
 

 
This tomb is that of Michelangelo.  Across the bottom of the tomb are three figures representing the three areas of art he explored - sculpture, architecture and painting. 


I found this ceiling below  in the nearby Pazzi Chapel, attached to the cloisters of the church.  It was created by Brunelleschi, the same man who built the  Duomo.
I love the bright colours, looking just a fresh as the day they were painted. 
 

 
 And these are only 2 of the historic churches that rise up  in the gorgeous streets of Florence. Like I said, my husband and I are already counting the years until we can return to this city once again and  discover more of its highly significant - and lesser-known gems. 
 
 
Thanks for stopping by and indulging me in my travel photos.   More to share soon, I'm sure!
 
Hugs to all,
 
XOXO
 
Bronwyn
 
 
PS.  I am linking up over at Packing My Suitcase for Allane's "Monday Escapes"
 and Bonnie's "Travel Tuesday" on  A Compass Rose. 



 
 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer Sewing : My Flower Garden Quilt

 
I began this quilt way back in the early spring - back when the snow was finally melting and I was desperate for temperatures that were above the -35 degrees Celsius we had been dealing with during the winter. 
 

It was still too cold for daffodils and hyacinths and I was really hankering for some summer blooms and the green of my garden. 
 

 
We were in need of a new picnic blanket, too. Our old one had been left outside for a few days and had grown some nasty mold in the final days of summer 2014. So I set to work creating something new and colourful and flowery. 
 

At first I started cutting 6x6 squares out of fabrics that "matched."
You know - subtle prints with the same colour tones in them.  Then I got over myself and thought - if the colours go together beautifully and naturally in my garden, why can't they all "go together" in my quilt too??
 

 
So I went blissfully crazy. I cut squares out of every fabric I had in my collection.  I buy fabric because I think its attractive and "pretty" so, of course, pretty goes with pretty and it all works together, right?
 

And now that it is done - I LOVE IT!!
 
Flowers, and bugs and birds and fruit.... all the elements of a fine looking garden.
 

 
As you can see form the photos above, the kids have been using it already.  The dog loves it too.  In fact -he napped on it for nearly 2 hours the other day!
 

 
And how is it for picnicking?  Absolutely perfect - as seen above on our jaunt to our town's central park the other night.


  
And I can't bare to put it away between picnics, so it has found a semi-permanent spot on our living room sofa.
Casey the beagle/shepherd doesn't seem to mind one bit!!
 
 
Much love to you all!
 
XOXOXO
 
Bronwyn

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bake Along: Molasses Oat Nut and Seed Bread

 
 
Hi All! I am linking up with Amanda at Rhyme and Ribbons for her weekly GBBO baking link-up.
 
 
This week on the Great British Bake-off, the bakers were challenged with bread-making. 
I am a baker. I bake a lot.  But bread is not my forte.  I'll admit it's because I haven't practised enough mostly because of the time it takes to make bread - ingredients, proofing once or twice, and then baking. 
You've got to have a lot of time set aside for bread-making and in my busy life, I don't have that time. 
However, after spending the three hours it took to make this bread, and loving EVER SINGLE MORSEL as I consumed the loaves afterwards, I could be convinced that it really is worth the time!! 
 
(Recipe modified from Canadian Living Magazine) 
 
 
Molasses Oat Nut and Seed Bread
(Makes 2 loaves)
 
Ingredients 
 
1-1/4cups(300 mL (300 mL) boiling water
3/4cups (175 mL)  large-flake rolled oats
1/3cup (75 mL) fancy molasses
2tbsp (30 mL)  butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1tsp (5 mL)  granulated sugar
1/2cup (125 mL)  warm water
1tbsp (15 mL)  active dry yeast
3cups (750 mL) all purpose flour, (approx)
1cup (250 mL) whole wheat flour
1-3/4tsp (9 mL)  salt
1 -1/2 cups mixed seeds, nuts and/or dried fruit

 

 
 

Preparation

In heatproof bowl, stir boiling water with rolled oats; let stand until absorbed, about 15 minutes. Stir in molasses, butter and egg.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water; sprinkle in yeast and let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Stir in oat mixture. Stir in 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) of the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and salt to form sticky dough.

Turn out onto floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary, about 5 minutes. Knead in the seeds/nuts/dried fruit in small handfuls.  Distribute theses add-ins evenly by kneading them into the dough.  Place in greased bowl, turning to grease all over. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
 
 Punch down dough; divide in half. On floured surface, pat each half into 11- x 8-inch (28 x 20 cm) rectangle. Starting at narrow end, roll up into cylinder; pinch edge to seal. Fit into 2 greased 8- x 4-inch (1.5 L) loaf pans. (Or shape each into round, stretching and pinching dough underneath to smooth top.) Cover with tea towel; let rise in warm draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
 
Bake in centre of 375°F (190°C) oven until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottoms, about 40 minutes. Let cool on racks.
 
 
Oh yes - here comes the money shot:
 
 
Doesn't that look divine?  And the scent - to die for!!  
The molasses adds a sweetness that fills the house with the smell of...autumn or gingerbread or maybe even Christmas. 
I don't know.  But it's good!
 
The first loaf was consumed very quickly - 2 slices before bed right after it came out of the oven, then the rest of the loaf at breakfast the next morning.  (Don't worry - 5 people live in my house.  I didn't eat it all by myself!!)
 
Looking forward to seeing what kinds of bread everyone else has made this week.  I've been bitten by the "bread-baking bug" and I cant wait to get started on a few more loaves!
 
 
Hugs to all,
 
XOXOX
 
Bronwyn
 
 
 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Views From Above: Sorrento

 Thank-you to everyone who left  lovely comments on my Biscotti and Lavender Farm posts. Really and truly, each and every comment you take time to write brings joy to my heart!
 
I'd love to share  a few more of my favourite photos from our trip to Italy.  How about  a few views of the beautiful coastal town of Sorrento? ?  Yes!  Wonderful.  Scroll on down!!

 

We arrived on the Bay of Naples, high above the town. Our driver stopped at a roadside parking area and we had the perfect view of the town, far below us.  And what a sight it was!
 

 
It was a hot and sunny July day and being a Sunday, thousands of Italians had fled the city and headed to the sea.  Every parking lot was full of small little Italian cars and every beach was swamped with chairs, umbrellas and towels. 
 

Look how close all of the deck chairs are!! 
Sit down, enjoy the sun ,and don't move cause you'll lose your spot!!
 
 
 

I love how close I was able to zoom in with my new camera.  These people were on the farthest beach, and I can almost see their facial expressions - as well as the details on their bathing suits! 
 
 

These floatie-boats we strung between two of the rocky juts that reached out into the bay.  What a refreshing place to relax - in the sun and in the water!


So far up - these people look like sun-bathing ants. 

 
 
It was so hot!  Kevin and I wished we could refresh ourselves in the water, too.  We were heading down into town and we were sure we would make it to the beach, but without a bathing suit, the most we could do was put our feet in!
 

This must be the Bay of Naples - because there's Mt. Vesuvius!
 

This is one of the few pictures of the two of us together on this trip.  I try to pose as often as I can, but hubby isn't really a photographer - though he tries very hard. :)
 
 
 
I have lot of pictures of the town of Sorrento, too.  We enjoyed lots of lemon-y foods (a specialty of the region) and ventured up quiet back streets to see the less tourist-y part of this seaside idyll.  I'll do some more photo sharing next week!
 
Have a wonderful weekend everyone.  I'm back in my hometown for a few days, catching up with old friends and hopefully hitting the beach with my 3 crazy kids. 
 
 
Take care of each other,
 
XOXO
 
Bronwyn

PS.  I am linking up over at Packing My Suitcase for Allane's "Monday Escapes"
 and Bonnie's "Travel Tuesday" on  A Compass Rose. 






Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Memories of Italy : Triple Chocolate Toffee Biscotti

I haven't done a baking or recipe post in ages.  Which I think is kind of funny because I cook and bake all the time! In fact, when it comes to baking, I bake 2-3 times a week and I usually take pictures of what I have made! 
 
Like everyone else who has access to BBC, I've been loving every minute of the this season's Great British Bake-off.  Last week's theme was Biscuits, or Cookies, as we call them on THIS side of the pond. 


We returned from a trip to Italy less than a month ago and my hubby and I are still raving about all of the food we consumed there.
 
(If you want to read an earlier post strictly about the Italian food we ate on our vacation, CLICK HERE.
 
 
So, in homage to our recent trip abroad, I picked Biscotti as my "Bake of the Week."
 
The Recipe
 
300g or 2 cup all-purpose flour
1  1/2 tsp baking powder
1  1/2 tsp salt
100g or 1/2 cup brown sugar
40g or 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
40g or 2 tbsp. golden/corn syrup
3 tbsp. oil
2 eggs
 2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup of chocolate chips
1/2 cup Skor baking bits
 

 
 
1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
 
2. Whisk together syrup, oil, eggs, milk and vanilla in another bowl.
 
3.  Combine the 2 mixtures in the larger of the two bowls, stirring until no dry flour mixture can be seen. 
 
 
 
4.  Stir in the chocolate chips and Skor bits until combined. 
 
5.  Bring the dough together into a ball, wrap in cling-wrap and refrigerate for one hour. 
 
6.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees F or 150 degrees C.    
 
7.  Transfer dough to a parchment covered baking sheet.  Lightly roll the dough into a log about 2 1/2 inches wide, and 1 inch high.
 
8. Place into the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is hardened, and when tapped, feels sturdy inside.
 
9. Remove from oven.  Cool for 30 minutes.
 
10.  Cut the baked bar into 1cm (1/2 inch) wide pieces.  Rearrange these pieces on their cut sides on  the cookie sheet and bake for an additional 30 minutes, turning over once at the halfway point.



 To add the third layer of chocolate, I melted 1/3 cup of white baking chocolate.  My plan was to drizzle it gently over the twice-baked cookies for a light, stripey effect. 
This went well until my decorating bag popped open at the tip end and flooded my cookies with white goo!!
 
See below:
 

 
 
Oh well.  And as my daughter said,"Don't worry Mommy.  More chocolate is ALWAYS better than less!" 
 
That girl was speaking truth!


 


I am linking up with Amanda at Rhyme and Ribbons for her weekly GBBO baking link-up. 
 
Happy Baking  Everyone!!
 
 
XOXOXO
 
Bronwyn