Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A day among the vineyards

Visiting local vineyards gives someone the opportunity to basically taste the land. Sounds odd to word it that way but that is essentially what you're doing. You're sipping in the air and the dirt through the wines. The hard work of the vineyard staff, the lengthy amount of time and the process from which a seed turns into a glass of wine is so impressive. Hopefully you're touring a vineyard with a knowledgeable staff member and you hear a little about all that goes into the method. It's so impressive and kept me in awe.

A particular cantina we visited had such an effect on me. Claudio Quarta near Lizzano, Puglia. From the turn into the vineyards to walking through the stone walls and seeing the natural beauty all around, I was utterly amazed. Jaw-dropping kind of amazed at the sheer beauty of the place. Our tour guide was very well informed, spoke of the process, the wines and the land with such heart. The wines were also very delicious, always helps out with a wine tasting too.

But what I loved the most. Almost more than the wines, the herbs. When you entered through the stone entrance, you passed first through a massive and aromatic herb garden. You could smell the basil, the rosemary and the lavender from still steps away and it swept me up. I could have spent such more time just in that impressive herb garden alone. Taking pictures of course, but just running my hands through the various herb selections and taking in each and every beautiful perfume.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Matera for the day

Not too far from Mesagne, in the Southern region of Basilicata, is the town of Matera. An extremely old and beautiful town, but wait, aren't they all in Italy?! Matera is made famous for many things but probably most known for the Sassi. The hilltop "home structures" carved right into the rock and stone that served as dwellings for the townspeople when they were forced to flee the main city, many, many years ago.

We took a day trip with my in-laws while they were in Puglia this past summer and while it was one of the hottest days of the summer, it was worth every drip-drop of sweat beading off our heads. Nothing a hat, occasional shade and water breaks every five minutes can't cure.

Oh and the views. The views help a lot too when walking around in the blazing sun.

One beautiful church after another...

views of the town from every angle to take your breath away...

and the food. Helps that the Southern Italian cuisine is spectacular and exactly what you need at any time of day. We ate a very lovely meal on our day trip to Matera, smiles all around.

My kids had never been before and I loved being able to show them another part of Italy. Not too far away, a pleasant drive from Mesagne and well worth the roadtrip. Especially when you get faces like these...

Monday, October 9, 2017

An afternoon in the City of Brotherly Love

On a rainy Sunday when cross country and family photo sessions get cancelled, Olivia and I headed out into the city for a couple hours to see what we could see. Due to the weather it wasn't great walking tour thru Philadelphia, so we drove around and checked out the mural arts which Philadelphia is pretty known for, Broad Street and all its theatres and of course, Geno's. Had to stop for some fries!


It went from raining to just basically spitting, so we decided to go down South Street and take in the mosaic wall art too. Such a diverse street with shops of all sorts but the art there is my favorite. Trash cans, utility units and walls so beautifully decorated. Makes for great conversation with an 8-year-old.

Peek-a-boo Olivia!

My girl is so creative and artsy that I just knew she'd love this little section of Philadelphia. A couple hours out of the house, making the most of the inclement weather and some delicious fries to boot - could you ask for anything more?!?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Oh honey!

Straight from the bottle, added to tea or mixed with lemon and essential oils for a sore throat, honey is everything. The beauty of living near farms that sell the good local stuff!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fall is here!

Fall just may be the best time of year. School is underway, summer tans have just about faded and flip flops stowed away. It's pumpkin time! And I'm not a pumpkin flavored anything kind of gal either. I like the scent of pumpkin muffins baking in the oven and the occasional non-overwhelming pumpkin candle but that's about it for me. Apple cider, pumpkin and chocolate chip bread and bringing out my scarves.

Mario and I are loving our time to ourselves. Now that he's begun school I cherish the time we do have together. It'll go quickly and I'll take what I can get right now be it staying in at home and playing, running errands together or taking a special morning trip to the orchards.

A great shop to browse through complete with fairy garden accessories that he loved rearranging. And rearranging again. And their park! It's amazing and he has so much fun there running from one thing to another. The best set of wooden structures made sure to bring a smile to my little man's face.

And then the animals too! We fed the ducks, clucked at the hens and watched as people fed the horses. Just near the sign that said "Please do not feed the horses."

Peek-a-boo Mario!

My Fall Bucket List: 

- Pumpkin pie for a surprise mid-week dessert
- Visit a new-to-me orchard for fresh apples
- Fall foliage photography - OF COURSE! 
- Scones! Maybe cinnamon or pumpkin 
- Appreciate the sunset against the colorful Fall trees 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Simple Banana Bread

I don't stop baking once the weather gets warm, I love to bake and so I bake. But in the Fall, I LOVE to bake. Something I bake all year long is chocolate chip banana bread. Everyone enjoys it, it doesn't last long in this house. I enjoy trying out new versions of banana bread also, turning the recipe from muffins to bread or from bread to muffins, using brown and white sugar vs just one over the other, adding vanilla, adding more or less mashed banana or applesauce vs honey to the mix. I'll try it all and have little taste-testers at the ready. Helps to always add mini-chocolate chips to the mix, they are sure to try it then!

This recipe I found awhile back on my favorite go-to, Pinterest. The blogger used this recipe for muffins but I just increased the bake time and made bread. DELICIOUS! The house smells so inviting, I wanted to dive right in minutes after I took it out of the oven. But I will be patient and wait for the kids to come home and then I can put them to work taste-testing a new-to-us recipe.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Strawberry Oat Bars

These are the tastiest and simplest anytime treat AND loaded with the oats and strawberry preserves makes you feel that perhaps it's a little on the healthy side too. Thank you to the Pioneer Woman for the inspiration! View link for her easy recipe, you won't be disappointed!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sunset in Porto Cesareo

A favorite town to visit is Porto Cesareo. A beautiful ride through farms and one small town, not too far from Mesagne and you're on the beautiful Ionian coast. Porto Cesareo isn't small but it's not a big port town by any means either. A pleasant walk through the downtown showcasing boutiques, souvenir shops and a multitude of cafes and restaurants.

The kids and I enjoyed a very fun and relaxing evening there this past summer. We were celebrating the girls finishing up their summer camp in Mesagne. I was so proud of them to try something new AND they loved it. A little nervous the first day but I went to pick them up and loved their BIG smiles on their beautiful faces. At the end of the camp, I wanted a special night out with my kids. So to Porto Cesareo we went...a walk along the boats, of course pictures of the breathtaking sunset, pizza, gelato and time at the park. It was an amazingly fun night!

My little model posing in from of the tower and the luna peeking from just behind.

View from the pizzeria we ate at that night...delicious food, great chats, proud mama!

Sunset is my favorite color...

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Spoil them with chocolate

I love seeking out meals, skimming through cookbooks, browsing Pinterest for new-to-me recipes and experimenting with my own take on the recipe. I love to cook healthy meals for my family and love the looks on their faces when they really enjoy something I've made. The "eww, I'm not eating that" face is pretty funny too just less motivational for me sometimes. As much as I enjoy cooking, I LOVE baking.

I love baking cakes, muffins and cookies. A favorite I always go back to are chocolate chip cookies. EVERYONE loves chocolate chip cookies and if you don't then that's just odd. I went for a few years experimenting with any chocolate chip cookie recipe I could find and "forced" my family to try out the finalists. It came down to one recipe above all the others though and I've stuck with it for a couple years now. Never fails and always sure to bring smiles when I put the butter on the counter to thaw to room temperature and bring the big cookie sheets out.

Kudos to Williams Sonoma for delivering on the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie. If you haven't tried the recipe, you should.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Highland Orchards Fun

Maybe it was the fall chill in the air or the fact that Tuesdays Mario doesn't have preschool, but on a whim we set off after breakfast for a favorite Fall stop to Highland Orchards. The first of what will be several trips I'm certain to this local orchards and farms was just what we needed. No crowds to contend with as it's still early in the Fall season, field trips haven't begun yet to this popular destination and so we had the run of the park, animals and shop. Perfect for my little man and myself.

Mario loved the goats, the only animals out today. We watched them for awhile, he chatted the entire time about what they were doing and picked one for himself...

Allow me to introduce Goatie. He's not too inventive with the naming of things yet. He's very practical, my boy. Goatie was sweet and fun to watch. But stinky so no bringing her home with us.

Sweet little spot not too far from home, great shop for produce and their bakery is just amazing. I wanted one of everything, but settled on a chocolate chip M&M cookie for him and Apple Cider donuts for me (and some to bring home to share).

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