Thanksgiving 2017 – Wednesday 11/22

We boarded Amtrak in Cary at 9:30AM (about an hour late due to heavy ridership). Comfortable, roomy seats with lots of leg room were a plus. We arrived at Penn Station @ 7:30PM, and grabbed a cab to Hotel Edison at W47th Street and 7th Avenue. A conversation in the lobby with a visitor told us security and long lines made viewing the balloon inflation impossible. After settling in, we began exploring Times Square. We soon were at Rockefeller Plaza and enjoyed some memories from long ago. (The first picture below is from Tuesday’s rehearsal). We found iL Fiorno in Hell’s Kitchen for dinner. Good meal. We walked back to the hotel and settled in for the night.

0Cary Community Choir assembling for first 2017 Messiah rehearsal - 47th Annual Concert

Assembling for our first rehearsal before heading to to NYC Messiah Concert in Carnegie Hall with a 400+ voice mass choir from around the USA and world.

image   Our Amtrak Route from Cary to Penn Station.


There is not much to photograph along the route. Here we are crossing the Potomac River going into Washington DC.


Blurry – but GRIDLOCK says it all, outside Baltimore, Maryland.


We are here and checked into the Edison Hotel – right in the heart of Times Square. We ventured out for a walk and ate our dinner at Il Fiorno Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.



Posted in Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission., Thanksgiving 2017 | 3 Comments

October 20, 2017 – Friday, Milan

October 20, 2017 – Friday, Milan

It’s an early start to Milano. The van loads the very heavy luggage, weighed down with delicious cheeses, wines, olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We don’t dare mention the ceramics, scarves and … there has to be something else. The van groaned as the driver stepped on the gas.

We settled in at Hotel Berna. Once settled, we took a more leisurely pace. There are only four of us remaining. Katie and Walt left us in Arezzo and returned to New Mexico, via Pisa.

We walked to the beautiful Duomo di Milano and wandered around that piazza, visiting the beautiful shops in the Galleria.

Then we headed to Peck’s where we settled into the coffee shop for our last bottle of Prosecco and tray of prosciutto, salami, and cheeses.

2017-10-20 Peck's b4 flight homeJust four of us remain by the time we get to Milano. We enjoyed our farewell at Peck’s and got set for the airport in the morning. That brings this blog on Italy to an end. I will return to blogging about art quilts again as soon as I get back into my studio and begin to create. Ah Italy. What a show you have given us…. never to forget.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. Arrivederci! Ciao!


Posted in Italy 2017 | 5 Comments

October 19, 2017 – Thursday, Cheese, Pork & Vinegar!

October 19, 2017 – Thursday, Cheese, Pork & Vinegar! – a dairy farm (Parmesan), a pork processor (prosciutto) and a balsamic vinegar distiller. This is the last of our long excursions, but these days have been a favorite of mine. I love seeing the countryside and experiencing a bit of the life of the locals, through their employment in most cases.

Off we go-first to the dairy farm.  -Azienda Agricola Biologica Reggiani- The address that came up on my iPad photos was this: Savignano sul Panaro, Nonantola & Castelfranco Emilia, Emilia-Romagna. Obviously, I had no idea where I was most of the day, but the hilly countryside with its narrow winding roads was delightful.

Milk the cows and then what happens? ( If the slides go by too fast, click on the vertical double bars between the arrows. This will stop the slideshow and you can advance or retreat at your own speed by clicking on the arrows.)


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once it is a solid piece, it takes super human strength to deal with it. I purchased two big chunks of cheese, one aged 36 months and one aged 24 months. I could have bought cheese that was aged for 60 months, but after tasting it, I thought it was too dry and strong for our use.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And now it’s time for BREAKFAST!!! Espresso AND wine?


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Into the van we go, and we are off to the balsamic vinegar distillery.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another stop – the Prosciutto processor – delicious to be sure.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But of course, it is now time for lunch! Who is hungry?


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Better yet. Just come and stay for a week or two!

CorteAibo copy

It took six slideshows to tell about this day. It was jam packed with interesting locations, delicious food and more wine than it is possible to taste. Once back in the van, we wander the roads back to Bologna where we pack up for the early start to Milano in the morning. I could not do slideshows prior to this page because the WIFI in the hotels allowed me only to upload one photo at a time….. slow agony. Only one day in Milano and then…. it’s home to the USA.


Posted in Italy 2017 | 3 Comments

October 18, 2017 – Wednesday, Onward to Bologna

October 18, 2017 – Wednesday, Onward to Bologna!

The most difficult part of the day was getting our suitcases packed tightly with all of the purchases we have made, and then moving them down the elevator to the van. Once that was done, our last breakfast was eaten in the common room, and we said our good-byes to Monica and her staff at Hotel  L’Aretino, we were “on the road again”!

Our first stop was at an ongoing architectural dig, Komainu, where Etruscan artifacts and foundations have been revealed in recent years. The Etruscans lived here 2000 years before Christ with an advanced society that is surprising, as revealed by the artifacts. They were eventually conquered or absorbed by the Romans. Many advances credited to the Romans were actually developed by the Etruscans.

After a brief visit in this location, we moved on towards Bologna. Once there, we settled into Hotel Novecento – a beautifully decorated venue with art surrounding us, and delicious food choices always available for snacking and resting. One saying about Bologna is “la gross (the fat) é la dotta (the learned) e la russo (the red)”- the fat because of the food, the learned because it has the oldest university in Europe and the red because it was associated with communism for decades. We spent the late afternoon and early evening, strolling around the Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuna, checking out the shops and enjoying the architecture and the huge crowds of people who were just enjoying their evening outdoors with their families. We found another excellent place to enjoy a meal – lasagna for me as Beth says lasagna in Bologna is an essential taste.

San Petronia Basilica, the sixth largest church in Europe, is impressive in its distinctive style difference to other large churches we have seen. The façade has been described as a plowed field, and that is quite true, but it is still very impressive. We wandered about this huge piazza that has served as the gathering place and market for centuries.

We enjoyed an evening meal at Trattoria – Pizzeria La Mela where I enjoyed the lasagna.


Posted in Fiber Arts | 2 Comments

October 17, 2017 – Tuesday, Arezzo-Excursion #4-Romena, Poppi, Stia

October 17, 2017 – Tuesday, Arezzo-Excursion #4- Romena, Poppi and Stia

We have a very busy day today, as tomorrow we leave for Bologna. We visit three small hill towns and see some gorgeous countryside.  In the evening, we return to Chef Lalla’s for our 4th cooking lesson.

Romena: the unrestored Monastery of Pieve

Romena  is near the highest point in the Appenines, start of the Arno where water is clean and clear enough to swim – above the leather tanneries which pollute the river. The landscape is rolling hills and low mountains showing beautiful fall colors.

Stia – Pratovecchio area

We stopped for some shopping of woolen items in Stia and went on to Pratovecchio for another delicious luncheon. The scenery on our walk through the city reminded us that fall is on the way.

Poppi – we drove on after lunch to visit what appears to be a very livable castle on a hill, built by Count Guidi, dating back to the 10th century and maintained in the Guidi family until the 1440s. Battles between the Nobles and the feudal workers brought down this lifestyle. The Nobles could not hold their own against the feudal armies and eventually were simply eliminated. The site included a moat, a surrounding wall, a guard house, a courtyard, and a tower. The bells in the tower date from 1423 to 1722. Noted internal features include: a stone staircase, a balcony, original wooden ceiling, frescoes by Taddio Gaddi from the early 1300s, and especially noted is its library filled with medieval manuscripts and texts.

After a long day with rewarding vistas, we arrived back at our Arezzo hotel, Hotel L’Aretina, at 3:30 and were off by 4:30PM for our final cooking lesson with Chef Lalla. It was rewarding and delicious, as usual. Stuzzichini: Prosecco, melon balls wrapped in prosciutto, pear infused yogurt with peppercorns and cheese sticks.

Pasta: Fusilli – egg and flour pasta wrapped on sticks and allowed to dry; then cooked in water. After they have dried, the crew is busy removing the sticks before adding them to the boiling water. Nancy shows her skill by helping Chef Lalla stir the boiling noodles. The basil pesto is made and added to the fusilli. Oh my!

Meat: Veal, raised in a humane setting, braised and served with potatoes, riced and mixed with warm milk; then seasoned with salt and pepper.

After the veal is sautéed, the tomato sauce is made and it all comes together. The recipe is basic: butter, olive oil, garlic, diced tomatoes (canned). Let it simmer. The milk (latté) is heated to mix in with the potatoes.

Vegetable: The sweet/sour onions with raisins and pine nuts were delicious, as was the be-flowered salad.

Dessert: Vanilla pudding with carmelized almonds. Obviously, we saved room for this delicious treat.

Everything was served with appropriate wines. It was a long, delicious day, filled with historical buildings, scenic drives and ending with another wonderful evening of cooking, eating and drinking wine! La Dolce Vita!








Posted in Fiber Arts | 3 Comments

October 16, 2017 – Monday, Arezzo-Chef Lalla #3

October 16, 2017 – Monday, An Arezzo Walk and Chef Lalla #3

Today is my full day of rest, self-imposed. Beth took Andrea, Nancy, Katie and Walt on an expansive stroll around and up to the higher points in Arezzo – 9,000 steps according to Andrea’s Fitbit.

I was so relaxed and ready for our third, five-hour cooking lesson and meal with Chef Lalla. She greeted us once again with stuzzichini (cheese with fig jam and crescents rolled around a sausage mixture) and prosecco. Now down to work. Our pasta tonight is pici – a thick spaghetti. The dough is simply semolina flour and water, no eggs. It is Walt’s birthday, and his choice was to go to Chef Lalla’s to cook and eat. I think a surprise awaits him.


Then in usual fashion, we served as sous chefs as she prepared the remaining dishes. Side dishes are cooked carrots and spinach in butter.



The main dish is pork with peppercorns, along with pici in a tomato, butter and garlic sauce. Can’t you just hear it sizzle and smell the garlic and tomatoes?


Now to end the meal… A salad and a dessert fruit cup…


And a special wine with the birthday cake! Happy birthday Walt!







Posted in Fiber Arts | 3 Comments

October 15, 2017 – Sunday, Arezzo-Siena

October 15, 2017 – Sunday, Arezzo-Siena

Sunday was an unexpected free day, so we boarded a bus and headed out to Siena, home to Il Palio, the famous horse races held in their piazza, del Campo, with the tall bell tower, El Mangio in the Palazzo Public. The art gallery featuring El Palio in a painting is Galleria D’Arte.


Andrea took a wonderful panoramic shot of Piazza del Campo. Can you imagine horses racing around the edges of this piazza?


After you climb the hill above the Piazza del Campo, you catch a glimpse of the beautiful Italian Gothic cathedral, Siena Cathedral.


Looking for our lunch place, where I had cheese-filled ravioli in sage/butter sauce, we crossed paths with another ceramic shop. Oh. Oh.


It took many steps to find our bus back to Arezzo and a good night’s sleep. All the steps were well worth the day filled with adventure and vistas.


Posted in Italy 2017 | 3 Comments

October 14, 2017 – Saturday, Florence Food Tour

October 14, 2017 – Saturday, Arezzo-Florence Food Tour

The train station is quite close to our hotel, so we hopped aboard for a short ride to Florence. We met our guide and began the walking food tour. Little did we know that we would walk 17000 steps before we dropped into bed. We were saved by stopping for food and beverage quite often.

Let’s start with a pastry!

Now for the coffee…

Just passing by…

Now some wine and bruschetta… (Procacci 1885)

Now into the Mercato Centrale.

Can’t leave without sampling balsamic vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

How about some Tuscan beefsteak?

Some lunch, perhaps? But of course, we need to have gelato.

Nancy, Andrea, and I took a later train so we could shop. We visited a fancy paper shop and a hand-painted ceramics shop that had been in existence for 7 generations. Then we returned to the outdoor mercato. Some scarf merchants were very happy when we left.

Seven miles of walking and an hour on the train brought us back to Arezzo, but there was an International Food Festival occurring in Arezzo, so we toured through that on our way to L’Hotel Aretina, stopping in a German booth to have a brat! Then back to the hotel, where we were so glad to just sink into bed. Every step worth it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.




Posted in Fiber Arts | 5 Comments

October 13, 2017 – Friday, Arezzo

October 13, 2017 – Friday, Arezzo

Italian language class in the morning. After some free time in the afternoon, the van/driver took us high above Arezzo to an organic winery. We were quite melancholy as we looked across the rows of grapes as we had just heard about the fires in Santa Rosa. Andrea and I have such fond memories of that region of CA.



Podere di Pomaio is the only vineyard and winery in Arezzo. The property had been abandoned and neglected after WWII. The family bought it in 1972 and have built and upgraded it ever since. The foundation for cellars and walls are stones harvested off their property from the Etruscan era. Notice their private selection of wines stashed between the rocks.

They now have their family homes as well as two guest villas that they rent to visitors, in addition to the winery and tasting facility.

My friend Nancy and Andrea and I took advantage of the good light and shadows to shoot some portraits in this beautiful place. It was sunny when we arrived, but dusk settled over us, so we enjoyed the beautiful transformation from day to night.

We ate dinner at a Trattoria across the street from the Hotel L’Aretino where we are staying.




Posted in Italy 2017 | 6 Comments

October 11, 2017 – Wednesday, Arezzo-Cooking Lesson #2


October 11, 2017 – Wednesday, Arezzo – Chef Lalla #2 Cooking Lesson

Italian language class in the morning – Italian cooking class in the evening. Ravioli plus. Click on each picture and/or arrows to read commentary.

MOLTO BENE ! Oh so delicious!

Posted in Italy 2017 | 2 Comments