Hats By Katrinka

Kate Brown Pernia is a Milliner on sabbatical in Switzerland. She has been designing hats and teaching millinery under her Katrinka label since the 1980s. Kate is also the founder of Houston Hat Net. View Katrinka hats and hat patterns at www.hatsbykatrinka.com.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What Else I Was Doing in Cortona

My first week in Cortona was for Nina's class. I made this little 4 x 5 foldout collage book in the class while learning a bit about working with metal. We drilled, stamped letters onto our copper covers, set eyelets, split mica, made wire hooks and loops, did some photo transfers and metal tarnishing and really had a lot of fun putting together our memory books.

Some of the items in my book I found at the Arezzo Fleamarket. Other pictures were torn from an old school book, the Prosciutto sack our lunch came in, old discarded maps, bits and pieces of fabrics and old papers that Stacey made available to us. Nilene found, bought and shared watch crystals that we turned into tiny lockets for our books.

Olga shared her double pocket copper mesh page technique with me and I added holy cards I purchased at Santa Margherita along with my clamshell from Siena (a later addition).
The handwritten scrap on this page is a list of poetry I found tucked into a children's book I purchased in Arezzo. The tiny metal box and glass vial contain seeds I found on my Cortona walks. Also there's a fig twig and a dry leaf I couldn't resist. The olive twig will probably lose its leaves over time but I had to include it in memory of our olive picking day.

Of course, we'd also brought little favorite bits and pieces from home to include. It was a good and challenging break for me from my usual routine and it did the trick in shaking up my creativity. I'm home in Switzerland now and back to work on some new projects. Stay tuned.

Thanks Nina!
K Q:-) Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 24, 2006

Our Hosts

We found Palazzina Cesira in one of Rick Steves' books and felt so lucky to have discovered it. Lucilla and Roberto are warm, lovely people who have a beautifully restored and comfortable 13th century home they share with their guests. You can peek inside by looking at their website at www.montalcinoitaly.com .

Roberto (who looks so much like Sherman's oldest brother it is amazing) gave us so many tips on what to see and where to go that we have no choice but to come back to Montalcino again. We sealed the deal by leaving our beautiful bottle of Brunello with them to age another year. We hope to share it with them when we come back.

This was dessert at my last dinner in Montalcino.
For our last lunch in Montalcino we went back to Taverna al Grappolo Blu for one last delicious pasta and a half bottle of this luscious Brunello ... a real splurge but a great way to say Arrivederci to Tuscany - for now.
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San Antimo

Here is an inside view of San Antimo lit only with light from the windows. There is a lot of alabaster used in the structure which I am told glows if the light is right. The order of monks who live and worship here are found in only one other place in the world at Mont St. Michel in France.

The place smelled of incense and the Sacristan was practicing his flute while we looked around. The acoustics are wonderful.

This lion forms the base of the holy water font at the door of the church.

Just outside the church are these ancient olive trees. Can you imagine counting the rings on this one? It must be 1,000 years old! I should have had Missy stand next to it for a perspective on how wide the trunk is.
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New Friends in Tuscany

Our first evening in Montalcino we met Bob and Missy Huggins from Atlanta who were also staying at the same B&B. They travel often to Tuscany and were great fun to talk with. Bob and Missy generously offered to include me on their second day of driving around the countryside to explore the wineries. Sherman didn't feel up to the ride on windy, unpaved country roads and it was certainly the right decision for him.

It was a beautiful drive with the countryside a riot of Fall colors. Many of the wineries were closed for the season. If we'd been a month earlier we'd have had more luck. Still it was a great day. We stopped off at this monastery, San Antimo, reputed to have been founded by Charlemagne around 800. The structure itself dates from the 1100s and was as simple as Siena's Duomo was ornate.

One winery we found open was Banfi owned by Italian Americans from New York. This was a large and beautifully appointed site which included a large tasting room, friendly staff and a glass museum as well as a restaurant where we could enjoy the goods along with a great meal.
This map gives you an idea of the number of wineries in the Montalcino Consortium. Don't know if you can see all the tiny red dots signifying wineries but they are also listed on the left side of the map. Another good reason to come back - perhaps in October.

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On to Montalcino

Our plan was to have a relaxed journey and not try to see all the sights this trip so we moved on to Montalcino. This is Brunello country and this ancient little town is full of Enotecas, many with lush views of the Tuscan countryside. We drank the most expensive and delicious wines of our life together here ... but then we've waited 14 years for this trip. I think we've earned it.

My heavy suitcase proved too much for my husband's back on the stairs at our B&B. His injury curtailed our plans for the rest of our trip. Instead we decided to linger here. This turned out to be a good decision as we couldn't get enough of Montalcino. Florence will just have to be another trip.

Walking the hilly streets we happened on the Museo Civico and wandered through the rooms of the former convent gazing at Gothic art from the 13th to 16th centuries. These beautiful pieces were close enough to touch but of course we didn't. It was lovely to have the place entirely to ourselves. No photos were allowed tho' I suppose I could have sneaked some. On the other hand we were being watched by cameras.

The Fortezza is 14th century and has an Enoteca inside. Since it involved a steep ramp up we opted for another one with a view and internet access.
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The Duomo in Siena

Awesome seems such a tired word by now but it truly describes this 13th century gothic cathedral in the heart of Siena. Two-thirds of the facade was covered by scaffolding since restoration work was in progress. Still we could appreciate the amazing decorative work.

No flash photography was allowed inside and my photography skills are still pretty basic so many of the inside pictures are dim.
The 15th century frescoes in this room are lit by natural light from the windows and tell the tale of Aeneas Piccolomini whom Rick Steves describes as "Siena's philanderer-turned-pope."
I love the wonderful headress on this lady inlaid in marble on the floor.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Shopping in Siena

The next day we did some sightseeing and shopping. This old building was an interesting sight. Parked under all the Roman statues were college students tapping away on their laptops. Apparently it is a hot spot.

I found myself drawn to all the boots and shoes in the store windows and began regretting that big can of olive oil in my tote bag. I did find a nice pair of suede gloves with tassels and discovered that I'm a half size. Think I'll be coming back here again. Look at the beauties this gal is wearing!

We found a little trattoria and had a delicious lunch of pasta with mussels and clams...the tiniest clams I've had yet...and so delicious. The shells were so pretty that I stashed one in my purse to take home as a souvenir. Perhaps I'll get to that necklace someday.

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Buon Giorno Siena

We arrived in Siena late in the afternoon Monday and headed for Il Campo to watch the world go by Sienese style. At first I found Siena a little bit claustrophobic after Cortona but Il Campo is a wide open space that relieves the tunnels between tall buildings. I knew almost immediately that we hadn't scheduled enough time for shopping in this little Paradise. I'll be back!

We settled into a sidewalk cafe for our first glass of Brunello di Montalcino and it was chilly so I warmed myself with a bowl of Ribollita, a Tuscan bean and vegetable soup. We heard more English spoken here than Italian. All the tour groups (even off season) seem to make this a rendezvous point. Here my Sherman is checking in with his office.

The brick buildings in Siena are made from the soil of this area and the color Burnt Siena in your paint or crayon box took its name from this place. K Q:-) Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Arrivederci Cortona

My Sherman arrived a week after me and we spent a lovely last weekend in Cortona. I hiked my IP attorney all the way to the top of the mountain to see the Chiesa Santa Margherita where Cortona's embalmed patron saint is on display above the altar. Unfortunately, the church was closed that Sunday afternoon for several hours after our arrival. No matter. Tho' the church is really lovely (no pictures allowed inside) the hike up is also spectacular. The Stations of the Cross are positioned along the roadside done in beautiful mosaic. Unfortunately, they are covered with plexiglass to protect them (I assume) from tourists so pictures are not so good as they might be.

Above Chiesa Santa Margherita is the Fortezza del Girifalco built by Cosimi I de Medici 1556-1561. This too was closed (we were travelling off season) but it was still quite interesting to hike around it and inspect the ancient walls.

Tomorrow Siena.

K Q:-) Posted by Picasa

At Work and Play

My first week in Italy was for a class with Nina Bagley in Cortona. These wonderful ladies were so inspiring, each with her own take on the art projects - a copper bound book of mini collages and a necklace. I never got around to making my necklace since I had my hands full completing my book. When I finish my binding I'll snap it - but mine paled in comparison to the others. It was new media for me but lots of fun.

Phyllis in the second picture is wearing a Nina necklace.

We had lots of time for relaxing meals and getting to know each other but we were also greedy for more art time. Nina generously volunteered another day to our projects before we settled in to enjoy this meal in Stacey's kitchen.

K Q:-)

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Another Dish

Another day after a full day of class Stacey treated Nina and me to a relaxed dinner at home including a dish I'd always been curious about but had yet to try. These are fried zucchini blossoms and what a treat they are! If you've ever grown zucchini you know that you can't give away enough zucchini once they start coming in so nipping the blossoms is a great way to control the harvest. You don't want to waste these beauties tho'.

Stacey made a light batter of flour and egg with sparkling water and dipped the blossoms in it. The trick is to have the fat hot enough to crisp the blossoms almost immediately so that they don't soak up excessive oil.

They were even better than I had hoped! K Q:-)

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