Thursday, July 24, 2008

Soul Food

Food became a huge preoccupation for us at Castello di Pergolato...and we thought this was a knitting and yoga retreat! What happened here? Luise, Meema, and Sybilla that's what. They cast a spell on us that not only kept us at the dining table for about 6 hours a day, but just when we thought we couldn't eat another bite somehow our stomachs started to growl and we headed right back to the table again.

Elizabeth and Meema

Luise is not only the manager of the castle, but she is an extraordinary chef. Every evening she would appear alongside the table to describe the menu to us. We must have looked starved because more than once she let out a low chuckle... One evening she actually gave us a choice in how the Tuscan beef would be prepared. In unison we responded, "Can we have both?!" Yes. Time stood still as we had our secondi piatti and then two rounds of the most succulently prepared steaks appeared as if by magic.

After a day and a half, Suzanne and I began to wonder how we were going to manage for 2 solid weeks eating like this. Every morning everyone met for breakfast which was completely unnecessary but out of sheer force of habit we came to the table. Thankfully, it was simple: homemade breads, scrambled eggs, bacon, the most amazing lemon marmalade that every grocery around seemed to be sold out of, and American-style coffee. We could have skipped this...but why? We needed our coffee, and it's so much nicer when accompanied by a slice of toast with jam. Maybe a little leftover Tiramisu from the night before...or perhaps some yogurt cake? I knew it was getting bad when I noticed my own anxiety after dinner one night when wondering whether or not all the cheese cake had been eaten. "If I get up a little bit early..."

After breakfast, yoga. Ok, some knitting. At last, LUNCH! Just to give you an idea what we were up against:

Mozzarella e speck / mozzarella with ham
Ravioli al burro e salvia / ravioli with butter and sage sauce
Verdure ripiene miste con ripieno misto / stuffed vegetables
Pomodori e cipolline / tomatoes with onions

...this was a typical lunch naturally accompanied by wine and of course, espresso at the end. Who would skip lunch? Besides, we could lounge on the terrace afterwards, float around the pool a bit before... dinner.

All kidding aside, the meals were stupendous. But it was the atmosphere, the conversation, and the care with which they were presented that made them truly memorable. Sitting at the table for 2 hours at lunch and another 2 1/2 hours at dinner doesn't seem that enticing, but time stood still. The conversation, laughter, wine, and music created an atmosphere of celebration that touched everyone of us. Now that the trip is over we have a newly formed group of friends from both groups who have found a common bond over these beautiful meals. Collectively they are recreating and sharing the recipes from these meals.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It's Deja Vu All Over Again...

OK, so it isn't 'deja vu' quite yet, but I know it's coming...
Going over my photos has brought back so many memories of our Monhegan Island retreats from years past. The people, dates, names, and places keep repeating themselves, so come September 21 I know just what to expect. Scrolling through this collection of photos will give you a very good idea of what to expect as well. Enjoy!


Setting out on the first morning walk of the week.

Knitter's Rock...
otherwise known as Gull Rock.

Squeaker Cove

Fairy houses of Cathedral Woods

Friday afternoon knitting and yoga on the rocks of Squeaker Cove.

Sunset walk to Lobster Cove

Saturday goodbyes....

...and the transition back to the mainland.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Memories of Monhegan

Yes, Tuscany was unforgettable but my thoughts are quickly turning to Monhegan Island...
It won't be long before summer is ending and the leaves are starting to change. September in Maine brings a fresh new crispness to the air and the light begins to sparkle, particularly out on the islands. It'a a time when everyone is trying to make the most out of every last precious day before the first snow. None, however, seems to glisten the way Monhegan Island does on a clear fall day. Perhaps this is why artists like Henri Bellows, Rockwell Kent and Jamie Wyeth have been drawn to the island for so many years. It must be the way the light bounces off the water because the colors are crystalline in a way I have never seen elsewhere.

Even more wonderful than the sunshine, cool air and fresh ocean breezes are the new bonds of friendship that are created on a retreat such as this. Joined by the common thread of craft, sharing of meals, and the both literal and figurative stretches of morning yoga sessions, it is no surprise that new relationships are born. Conversations over dinner, on a rock overlooking the ocean or on a big lazy rocking chair lend themselves to sharing life experiences and discovering that it just might be kismet that has brought you together.

Nothing adds more delight than shared laughter, or a challenge overcome with new friends be it a hike along a long wooded trail or the folly of trying to deliver ...relay style... a specially packed box of cookies to a group of hungry knitters on the far side of the island. And if the day couldn't get any more perfect, a sunset picnic. The entire week is a moment suspended in time that I hope to share over and over again.


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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ahhhhhh, Italy seems like a dream!

Oh, how sweet to spend long lazy days on the terrace of a castle!
Laughing, knitting, dipping into the cool swimming pool when the spirit moves you.
That is exactly how Suzanne and I just spent 2 beautiful weeks in Tuscany, surrounded by new and old friends who joined us to do just that.
There is so much to say about our experience this summer and the happy days we spent together with 26 of our newest friends.

Over the next few days I will start filling in the details so you too can share in our wonderful Tuscan Adventure. In the meantime, here are a few photos to give you a taste of our first week in Bargino.

Photo #1 was taken on Friday, our last full day of week 1. Rosey cheeks and smiling faces abound! All the fresh air, sunshine, massages and wonderful food has left us all feeling pampered and rejuvenated as no other vacation ever could.

#2 Part of our wonderful group relaxing and starting their color work knitting projects, a small drawstring purse. Many have been completed and I'll share those with you as well!

#3 Suzanne and a few yogis from week 2 participating in a slightly more advanced class out on the lawn. For some of us it was enough to sit on the terrace and enjoy the scene with the Tuscan hills and valley as a backdrop.

#4 Our adopted home, Castello di Pergolato. What an place. It really is a castle with a tower, a dungeon, steep stone staircases, a huge dining hall, private suites and living spaces scattered throughout. The castle was built about 1000 years ago and renovated in 1400 into a villa. We suspect it was renovated much more recently given there were beautiful private baths throughout!

...more to come!

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