when we were young

For me, it's impossible to think of Vermont in the summertime without thinking of my friend Sophie and the zillions of hours we spent barefoot in fields, scavenging in the forests: generally completely unattended. We gathered twigs and branches, rocks and ferns, leaves and moss, imagining and constructing tiny houses and villages in tree trunks and shady hills. I don't know how much actual time we spend doing this, but my kid memory is full of these tiny architectural designs.

Like building sand castles there's something that I still love about pulling tiny bits of the world together to make a little home even if only for imaginary things.

Last weekend, Drew built a raised bed, and there was a large gap at the bottom which I was going to fill with a little stone wall.  I went into the woods with a big orange bucket ready to rustle up rocks, but within moments I was filling it with long branches and moss instead. This is how it goes. Moss, branches, ferns and me for the rest of the afternoon, 31 going on 7. Completely in heaven.


dear maple ice cream

You get it, we had a great time in Italy, we took a lot of photos and are thinking of culling the blurry ones and inviting you over to watch them on our basement wall.

But I digress, because it's summertime in Vermont. As a few of you know, there's no drug better than a Vermont summer. Mossy walks and crisp streams. Hot days and perfect outdoor evenings. It's lush and enveloping and a kind of heaven. Foliage and ski side nights are great, but nothing is better than summer here. Especially if you discover the one food item I would choose in the game of "if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?" Easy: Maple Ice Cream.

Specifically, Strafford Farms Smooth Maple Ice Cream. Where the cows eat alfalfa and are happy and make ridiculously delicious ice cream.

To hold the ice cream I got these adorable little bowls (that are much bluer than the photo lets on) at Anthropologie last weekend for .95c each.

All I want in my kitchen are white bowls. And white plates and white mugs and mismatched vintage silver.  And maple ice cream. Someday. When someone builds me this house to tuck into the woods. And I have tea parties again.



We've been trying to tuck the best parts of Italy into our every day lives. This means olive soap, daily espresso, and a few evening aperitifs. It has also inspired cookbook buying and recipe trying.

Today Drew sent me to the grocery store with an ingredient list for almond biscotti. Last weekend he made bread sticks. Hand made with rosemary & olive oil. Wonderful.

Plus he does the laundry and looks great in a pink linen shirt. In other words; a really good man.


Italy: questions you didn't even know you had

I'm going to answer the two questions you'll inevitably have about our trip to Italy:

1. Did we buy a Priest-of-the-Month calendar?
2. Did we see an Italian dog in a stroller?

I'm happy to report that the answer to both of those questions is: yes.

Proof of #1

Proof of #2

I don't think the two are related by anything other than sheer entertainment. But you're already a little jealous about #1, aren't you.

favorite things (five): a good pen is hard to find

You may have heard the same thing about men, but I guarantee, finding your soul mate of a pen brings a host of rewards in its own right.

Mine, these days, is Le Pen. It has a micro-fine plastic point that gives a great clear ink saturated line. We wrote our thank-you cards with these, I use them for most journaling, and the colors are fantastic. My go-to color these days is slate gray, though periwinkle is a close second.

You might notice the chewed end, which is not the result of love, but of accidentally throwing him in with the kids' marker bag. Luckily, Le Pen doesn't care where he ends up and mingles amicably with Crayola.  I, however, will end up at the stationary store buying another.

Do you have a favorite go-to pen? A pen you can't write without? Do tell.


Journaling Italy

The idea of keeping a diary never appealed to me. As much as I wanted to document, recording deeply personal and inevitably embarrassing letters to my diary ended in failure every time.  I was in my late teens when I discovered Sabrina Ward Harrison's journals-turned-books and her style immediately captivated me. Lush artwork mixed with poignant words and lists. I devoured her books and bought blank journals often, stuffing them full of scraps and ideas to remember until I had extended hours to paste, paint, write and arrange it all together.

Italy called for a new journal - a sweet red moleskine with a pocket in back and an elastic scrap to keep it all in.  Plus a red sticker reproduction of an old luggage tag.

Someday soon, I'll sort through everything stuffed within.

Do you have a trusted journal or favorite pen? Do tell...


Florence: I make friends with strangers and then make paper.

I was raised in a family that makes small talk with strangers. Enjoys it even. This terrified me as a child, embarrassed me as a teenager, and delights me as a grown-up.
As it should be.

I should start by saying that it's probably a stretch to consider talking to a shop owner as "talking to strangers." But it began in my broken Italian and lead to maybe the best restaurant recommendation of our trip and to me getting a special -I only had 100 of these printed- membership card to the store and an invitation to a papermaking demonstration and lesson the next day. And my husband was there, so I wasn't even flirting.

So I went to the store the next day:

for a Florentine marbleized paper-making demo

and I got to try too

Il Papiro is a sweet store and well worth a visit for gifts and to spark your desire to write real letters again.  Their paper is beautiful, though it was really the stationary and personal cards that stole my attention.

We're finally unpacking and I have a some wax and a scrolling letter E calling an envelope's name.


Florence: Street Art

Yesterday the boys made up a detailed game on the driveway involving sidewalk chalk, the mailbox, and targets. A good reminder that games, and canvases, are everywhere.

I don't really understand (and by understand, I mean like) the ubiquitous city caricature artists or street artists who, row-upon-row, seem to be selling very very similar works of art, as if they got them from the same factory. I mean, in theory, I believe in art regardless of the type. I'm grateful that beauty is subjective. In practice, I often dream of an aesthetic police force.

But this, I like:

Supplies needed: chalk, masking tape, a sidewalk.

This, like good street music, is where your change wants to be thrown. Trust me.


Florence: Bicycles

The Giro d'Italia was next on our itinerary following Florence. Though personally, this is more my speed.


Florence: knockers

My love for cataloging and synchronicity tends to go into overdrive when I'm in a new place. I think it's a subtle way of not going into sensory overload, but also, it's meditative and can tie a trip, a day or an experience together. I like that. I like threads and themes and 'like with like'.

In Florence there are endless things to photograph. Incredible churches, statues, views. We took pictures of these things too. But the best part for me was turning onto the first street.
I saw a door. And so it went:

Was it hard not to knock on these doors? Incredibly. And also, doors remind me of stories, brief moments, possibility. Here's one.

When I was 21 maybe, or 22, I was fixated on liminal spaces, thresholds and what's behind every door. I loved that period of time: my mind overflowing with every paralyzing possibility. It was age appropriate and appropriately exhausting. Smack in the middle of those years, I had an ex-boyfriend say to me: seeing you again is like a thousand doors opening and then there's light and then there's you.

 Before you get all worked up, let me clarify: I'm fairly certain he was drunk and speaking literally (ie: I walked into a dark room). It wasn't mean to woo me and I don't even think it was a compliment. At the time he was not, to put it mildly, my biggest fan.  Regardless, the line stuck with me.

I took my third trip to Italy during those years and after living in Florence for a semester in high school, I distinctly remember it feeling flat and underwhelming. That dull memory is what made this trip thrilling. I've probably passed by these exact doors tens of times (many were on my daily walk to school circa 1995) though I have no memory of them.

Yet here they are waiting, not willing me to knock or walk through them. Just being. Absolutely beautiful and brilliant. I get to scoop them up with the camera and dream, all age-appropriately, of how I can incorporate them into our next home.


dear reader. dear blogger

I don't know what Blogger is up to these days. I logged on today and one simple click to update the title photo spun me into an Alice-in-Wonderland twist of frustrating template updating. It's as if Blogger saw new blog sources appear and felt like it had to get botox to keep up.  I'm already yearning for the old simple look, but it won't let me go back.

So here we are all swooping lines, background images, colors and fonts that I had little control over. Not to mention an error message at every turn. Alas, I've done my best, and am signing off in a bit of frustration. The posted photos, title photo and words are mine and I suppose it's not a terrible new look, it just doesn't feel like mine.

Are any of you using other blog creators? I'm starting to hear Tumblr calling my name.

Florence: Market to Market

For a girl who likes collections and color, Florentine markets are the place to be:

bags, belts, scarves, hats.
rows and rows.
broken italian.
selections and negotiations.

I still don't know why I didn't get one of these delightful straw hats, though space in my suitcase was at a premium and flat things held sway. And sometimes, in the face of endless possibilities, I grab a gelato and call it a day.


Florence: Love Lock

I have a soft spot for displays of affection that border on public nuisance. Like the Montpelier Valentines Day Bandit and John Cusack with that boom-box, so it's only natural that I was pretty into these chains of locks hanging on a Florence street near the Ponte Vecchio.  

Despite having no idea what it was, there seemed to be a romantic undertone which today's search confirms.

This little 'ok' was my favorite. In a sea of weighty symbols of love, I like the nonchalance.

It may be worth noting that we went to Italy with: plane tix, reservations for 10 nights at 6 hotels and a rental car reservation. We had no other plans and no itineary.  No museums, tours, or must-sees. These love locks were between a famous bridge and a famous museum, both of which I think are incredible - I love paintings, statues and frescoes up close and in person, but I just can't shake the feeling that something is lost when you're stuffed in a hot room after a long line with a gazillion other people. So we forwent the plans and focused on the sweet (and savory) stuff in between.

We brought a camera. We forgot our padlock.

Florence: the sweetest things

The 48 hours following our return trip to Vermont included: overnight flight delays, sleeping, overflowing suitcases, napping, celebrating Drew's birthday, napping, eating, snuggling with the kiddos, napping, stocking our kitchen (enter: cured meats, cheeses, nutella, bread and olives), napping, mowing the lawn, a visit from the tooth fairy (reporting in for a double-header of a tooth loss), napping, making espressos, waking from napping and groggily realizing we had to go back to work. Basically in that order.

Yesterday, Drew told me he took a break from work to just look at the photos, and I couldn't blame him. Except I did because he has them all on his computer. I had none. So I began the process of transferring them. This is decidedly less fun than taking photos so I'm starting you off with the best antidote I can think of: a series of some of the sweetest things from Florence.

All you have to do is step outside and cafe doors open to the street with cases of incredible desserts. Row upon row.

 Many (arguably not all) streets in Florence smell amazing, in part because there are waffles being made. On the street. If it were up to me, this would happen far more often.

These popsicles were my favorite. I didn't have one, only because I already had a gelato in one hand and a camera in the other.

And then there's the gelato. Heaping piles of something you may know as icecream in a gazillion flavors, with cones galore exploding from case tops. Oh gelato.

Somehow we don't have a photo of the actual cases, which are literally these swirling lovely piles of flavors garnished with giant chunks of whatever flavor they are (melons, coffeebeans, coconut chunks, etc). Probably because there's no time to photograph when you're in the agonizing process of choosing a flavor. In any event, here's the first, and so certainly not the last, gelato of the trip:



a broad goes abroad: oh, hello Italy!

We left for Italy on May 26th. Our itinerary: Rome to Florence to Ponte di Legno to Verona to impromptu stops in both Sirmione and (one of the five) Cinque Terre before heading south to Tuscany, Sorrento & the Amalfi coast and back up to Rome. It was a darn near perfect trip.

We took nearly 2000 photos and in the days and weeks ahead I'll chronicle a few of our new and reinvigorated loves including but not limited to: espresso, olive trees, vineyards and everything derived from them, gelato doorways and door knockers, mozzarella and tomatoes, coastal towns, boats, pizza, prosciutto & melone, little cars and sweeping vistas.

We'll begin with the first view: my feet on my carry-on (that's right, we carried on - we did not, however, carry-off) at the Burlington airport. The vistas get much better and a bit more panoramic.