31 October 2010

Not Halloween

Tonight might be Halloween in America and other parts of the world. But in Italy, it is just another day. However, it is a long weekend because tomorrow, November 1, is Ognisanti or Tutti i Santi (All Saints' Day). It is a religious holiday celebrating all known and unknown saints. And the day after tomorrow is All Souls' Day, which commemorates the departed who have attained the beatific vision.

So for Italians it is a long weekend, and the streets are packed with local tourists from the south and elsewhere.

Look at all those people waiting to get into the Uffizi! That is why I recommend making a reservation in advance. Think about all the gelato you would miss out on if you spent hours waiting to enter the museum. With a reservation, you just walk in to the museum at your reserved time.

Last night we turned our clocks back an hour, and this weekend officially marks the beginning of the holiday season. From now until early January, there will be one holiday after another. What I remember from last year was the challenge in keeping up with which days I needed to shop in advance of the closure of stores and for how many days in advance did I need to plan if I wanted to eat each and every one of those days. Obviously, I don't like to miss my meals. Coming from America, I was in shock when there were a couple weeks where everything was closed five days in a row, then they would open for two days, and then close again.

Maybe I should consider taking up canning ... like right now.

30 October 2010

Getting Close

Here's the thing.

I am a freak for geometry, not in the sense of mathematics -- I did not get beyond pre-algebra -- but in the sense of shapes, patterns, forms, lines, and angles. I love the abstract quality of getting in close to something and seeing its beauty from a different perspective.

When it comes to technology, I am a bit challenged. I have this camera that frustrates me. It has been decided and proven that in the case of my current camera and photography, it is not only the operator that is defective but the camera itself. So it is not completely my fault that my pictures are often not sharp or crystal clear. That being said, the macro feature seems to be working well. And I am pleased with the results of this beautiful little flower.

In the grass grows in abundance these beautiful flowers that are smaller than an inch (< 2.5 cm) in size.

To many, these wildflowers are considered weeds. Weeds are usually thought of as a plant growing in a place not intended or desired therefore having little value. I value these weeds and consider them flowers.

Considering that the flower is so tiny in size and I photographed only a portion of the flower, I like what I see up close.

In two of the photos, you'll find an insect or some type of fly -- it has wings -- that I did not notice before loading the photos on the computer. Hopefully, you are not bored seeing the same flower many times. I love the color and details and couldn't decide which photos to leave out.

Simple pleasure.

27 October 2010

Voices in the Dark

A man's voice resonates from outside my closed windows.
After minutes of his anguish, my attention is caught.
I relate.
His outward expressions; my internal vibrations.

25 October 2010

Spin Cycle

Spinning is how I feel I often pass through this life.
Like my photo, often looking at an object as a whole,
yet my eyes are fixed in the distance in soft-focus mode.

More houseguests and colder temperatures sent me to the new laundromat in my 'hood to dry the linens and bedding I washed at home. After six dry cycles, a bit miffed, and many euros lighter, I carried the heavy, still-wet laundry all the way back home.

-- Josslyn
Firenze, Italia

23 October 2010

Autumn Thought

Consuma, Casentino, Toscana, Italia  (ottobre 2009)

"The leaves fall patiently
Nothing remembers or grieves
The river takes to the sea
The yellow drift of leaves."
   - Sara Teasdale -

-- Josslyn
Firenze, Italia

21 October 2010

Biscotti - Cantucci - Cantuccini

When it comes to food, wine, and vinegar, there is much to be learned in Italy.

Remember last year when I was trying to perfect my biscotti? Without preheating the oven, I have recently made a head start. The outside temperature has cooled off considerably, and I am nearly ready to once again resume perfecting my authentic recipe.

While at lunch with family and friends a few days ago, my Lucchese friend explained to me (100% in the Italian language) the difference between biscotti, cantucci, and cantuccini. Biscotti (twice-baked/ cooked) is the generic term for any cookies that are twice-baked and loosely used for any type of cookies. Hence my head start. So I am not incorrect when I call my cookies "biscotti" since I do bake them twice, but isn't that a bit general when I want to be specific? In the States, most of us think of biscotti as the hard cookies we like to dip into our coffee or hot chocolate. Previously, I was under the impression that cantuccini referred to the miniature version of what I used to think was specifically, not generically or generally called, biscotti and baked only in the town of Prato.

No, no, no. Let there be no more confusion for me, nor for you. Biscotti are any twice-baked cookies or cookies in general. Cantucci and cantuccini originated in the town of Prato, possibly made famous by Antonio Mattei, and they always have almonds. The diminutive "-ini" means little. So cantucci are the larger cookies, and cantuccini are the smaller, fit-the-whole-cookie-in-your-mouth-at-once, bite-size cookies.

If your biscotti has raisins, figs, chocolate on top, or some other variation, you are not eating cantucci nor cantuccini; rather, you are eating biscotti.

In the States, we typically have our biscotti/cantucci/ cantuccini with a hot drink to dip the cookies into. In Italy, either cantucci or cantuccini are served as dessert with vin santo, a sweet desert wine, not an espresso.

In the coming weeks and winter months, it is cantucci I will be perfecting. And if I get really good at it -- which type of yeast is best to use? eggs or no eggs? how long to bake the second time to get the perfect crunchiness? -- I hope to end up with cantuccini, meaning the smaller cookies. Last year, my goal always was to bake the smaller cookies, but on the cookie sheet, the dough would spread and make the larger version.

Soon I will put on the apron and heat up the oven because, for me in Florence, it is approaching biscotti - cantucci - cantuccini season. Mmmm........

-- Josslyn
Firenze, Italia

08 October 2010

Perspective from a Rooftop Terrazza

Santo Spirito
Looking SW at my old 'hood Santo Spirito, San Frediano
Santo Spirito

Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio

A hand-held-in-the-pitch-dark blurry foto attempting to show the terrazza from where I shot the fotos with Palazzo Pitti in the background

-- Josslyn "Giosalina"
Firenze, Italia