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February 2009 Archives

February 1, 2009

Sunday Slow Soupers: Seafood Gumbo

sundayslowsoupersWell, my train has left the Slow Soup track! I jumped ahead and made the split pea soup when it snowed, so now I'm back-tracking to last week's soup, this gumbo. Actually it all works out fine because I'm happy to have gumbo on Super Bowl weekend. This recipe came from Sandi of Whistlestop Cafe Cooking, and it is so delicious and really a lot of fun to make.

I'm a southerner through and through (and so is Sandi, who created this recipe) but the "south" is very big and has regions, kinda like Italy. I didn't grow up eating gumbo and while I've had it in restaurants and at parties, I'd never made it before. I'd also never made a roux.

I'm glad I had Sandi's "how to make a roux" visual aid. It took longer than I expected, and there was one point when it started smelling like burnt popcorn and I almost took it off the flame, but it wasn't that dark yet so I turned the heat down and let it keep going.

A list of the other Slow Soupers is here. The recipe, my modifications, and a couple more photos are below.

Here's Miss Nosy Kitten, stalking the gumbo! Trust me, I DO feed this kitten but you might think otherwise since she keeps jumping into my soup photos.


Continue reading "Sunday Slow Soupers: Seafood Gumbo" »

February 2, 2009

Super Bowl Recap


I love Super Bowl Sunday even though I’m not a football fan, and I really don't care who wins. I’m all about the party, the music, the commercials, and the food! But this year, the game ended up being pretty exciting too.

I went to a big party with a bonfire outside and tons of food inside. It was potluck, and I took deviled eggs which only lasted about ten minutes (you can never make enough eggs). Other people brought things like shrimp, jerk chicken wings, buffalo wings, and guacamole (in fact, when Bruce Springsteen said “Back away from the guacamole dip” I was actually eating some, pretty funny). The big hit of the party was something called “Bacon Explosion” which was bacon wrapped in sausage wrapped in more bacon and then smoked for two hours on the grill. I didn’t eat any of that but folks were raving about it.

My favorite commercial, hands-down, was the Pepsi commercial, “Forever Young,” with Bob Dylan and will.i.am. I love Dylan, love that song, and really enjoyed all those nostalgic images. Overall, I thought the commercials were pretty lame this year. WAY too much cartoon-type violence with people flying through windows and men getting hit in their privates. Please!

I always love the animal commercials and this year, I liked the chimpanzees (grease monkeys) and all the Clydesdale commercials, especially the one about Daisy the Dancing Horse with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” playing. I think those E-Trade talking babies are pretty funny too.

The music was wonderful this year! I was very moved by Jennifer Hudson’s National Anthem – one of the best versions of that song ever. And then there was The Boss! I love Bruce. I don’t listen to him as much as I did when I was younger but when I was in college, we played the heck out of his first four records. I went to see him live at some point in the early 80’s and it was an amazing experience.

Continue reading "Super Bowl Recap" »

February 3, 2009



I found this relief with pomegranates next to a blue door near the newly rebuilt La Fenice opera house in San Marco.

Pomegranates are in season right now, and I’ve been eating them in yogurt everyday for breakfast. A few years ago when the pom fad began, my local grocery had a big display with a little instruction booklet that showed how to remove the seeds in a bowl of water so you don’t stain everything in the kitchen – it’s a bit of trouble but really kind of fun. And my cats love to drink the pink water after I’ve gotten all the seeds out – I figure the antioxidants are good for them too.

I was wondering why they might be on a building in Venice and found a bunch of info via google about their symbolism in various religions and cultures...pomegranates are connected to ancient goddesses and the myth of Persephone, they're mentioned in both the Koran and the Old Testament, they are a symbol of righteousness in Judaism, and of abundance, fertility and good fortune for the Greeks. Some people think that it was a pomegranate and NOT an apple in the Garden of Eden, and I’ve even got a Tibetan rug that has a pomegranate on it. I love symbols that cross cultures and faiths. It might be the Greek connection that brought them to Venice or maybe it’s just because they are beautiful. I like the blue doors too.


February 4, 2009

La Bottega di Pinocchio


Another sweet little corte with a shrine in Venice. The sign on the door next to the shrine says "La Bottega di Pinocchio"...Pinocchio's Workshop? I see the long-nosed wooden guy hanging there, under the bell.

I'd love to know the story of this place; it was like walking into a children's book. Found this in Castello on the way to the church of San Pietro di Castello


Continue reading "La Bottega di Pinocchio" »

February 5, 2009

I am an Uber Cool History/Lit Geek

NerdTests.com says I'm an Uber Cool History / Lit Geek.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get nerdy images and jokes, and write on the nerd forum!

I learned about this "Nerd Test" from Chiocciola (who is a Uber Cool Non-Nerd).

Kim did it too (she's a Cool Nerd Queen). And Andasamo is a Slightly Dorky High Nerd. :)

After you take the quiz and get your results, you can cut and paste the results onto your blog. I have no idea how they score this thing or what the difference is between a nerd, geek, and dork, but the test is fun and some of the questions pretty funny. My results make sense to me too!

February 6, 2009

PhotoHunt: Bridge(s)


This week's theme is "bridges."

Venice has almost 500 bridges so as you can imagine, I have quite a few photos that would work for this theme. In addition to photos of bridges themselves, I have tons of photos that I took while standing on a bridge. So it was a tough choice but I narrowed it down to these two.

Most of the bridges in Venice are made from brick and stone; this one has an angel on it:


A more unusual wrought-iron bridge. This bridge is pretty small but it cast some cool reflections that day:


You can find more Photo Hunters and join the hunt here.

Have a great weekend everyone and Happy PhotoHunting!

February 7, 2009

Sunday Soupers: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

sundayslowsoupersNow I'm backtracking to a soup I missed in December when I was in Venice. I love butternut squash and it's readily available at my farmer's market right now, so I decided to go for it.

Last fall, I made this soup with a different recipe which called for peeling and chunking the squash and then cooking it in broth. This recipe is much easier since you just throw the squash in the oven and then peel it afterwards, plus I like the roasted flavor. It does take a while to roast the squash so I did that one night, put it in the fridge, and then made the soup the next night. Delicious!

Thanks to KHB of In and Out of the Garden and Edible Santa Barbara for this great recipe!

Recipe and my notes are below.


Continue reading "Sunday Soupers: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup" »

February 8, 2009

Weekend Update

It's still winter here in North Carolina as you can tell from all the bare branches on the oak trees in my yard:

winter sky

BUT...today was a beautiful 70 degree February day. I actually worked in the yard for a while (I moved my compost bin from the side yard to the back), and I saw some signs of spring (daffodil buds!):


Continue reading "Weekend Update" »

February 9, 2009

Shrines on Burano

I ended up spending so much time on the island of Torcello that by the time I got to Burano, there was only about an hour of daylight left. So I skipped all the shops and went on a speed walk looking for shrines to photograph before it got dark.

I recognized this one because I'd seen a photo of it in Trekcapri's Venice Rediscovered , a wonderful report from her 2007 trip to Venice. I was happy to find it because it's such an unique and photogenic shrine!



This one is tucked inside a little sotoportego. While I love shrines with these little "eternal flame" lights, they aren't easy to photograph especially when they are in a dark place. Sometimes I wish I had one of those "click on, click off" light thingys like Dumbledore had.


This one is on the side of Burano's one church, San Martino. This church has one of the many leaning towers in Venice although it looked like it had been straightened a bit since the last time I went to Burano. It's still tilting but not quite as much.


And this one is on the side of a restaurant, close to the main drag with all the shops.


While looking for shrines, I also found a large colony of cats! I'll post photos of them later.

February 10, 2009

Scrovegni Chapel (my ticket)

001 (2)

I've got so much to say about my visit to the Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni) in Padua (Padova) that I'm going to spread it out over several posts. But I thought I'd start with my ticket (scanned in above) and explain some of the logistics of getting this thing.

Does anyone else save their tickets? I have tons of them...concert tickets from back in high school, Tar Heel basketball games across the decades, and of course, many from Italy. As far as pack-rat-itis goes, they aren't a bad thing to save since they don't take up much room. And the Italian ones are often very beautiful; I have a few of those on my fridge. I might scan some more of them in soon.

Anyway, the scene on the ticket is a detail from Giotto's Last Judgment showing Enrico Scrovegni presenting the chapel he built to the Virgin. Here's a larger view of the scene (which is just a small detail of the large Last Judgment fresco that covers the entire west wall of the chapel.

Scrovegni chapel

Continue reading "Scrovegni Chapel (my ticket)" »

February 11, 2009

Giotto's frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel

Every painting is a voyage into a sacred harbour.
~Giotto di Bondone


My visit to the Scrovegni Chapel was a highlight of my recent trip but truly, it was more than that…it was one of the all-time great art experiences I’ve ever had. The chapel and the Giotto frescoes just blew me away.

Giotto lived from 1266-1337 and painted these frescoes in 1303-5. Before Giotto, most devotional art was pretty static - icons of the Madonna or the saints that were more like portraits than narratives. Giotto was the first great artist to paint the stories.

Sometimes I think that the so-called “Greatest Story Ever Told” has been told (and painted) for so long and in so many ways, it’s become too familiar and often feels very worn out. At times I find myself in churches looking at paintings and feeling like, “Ho hum, another nativity, another crucifixion.” The thing that really blew me away about Giotto is that he made the story completely fresh for me which, considering that his frescoes are 700 years old, is so amazing and truly genius.

In the chapel, there are three bands of images. The top row shows scenes from the life of the Virgin and the bottom two rows are scenes from the life of Christ. The chancel shows the Annunciation, and the Last Judgment is on the opposite west wall. You can see these frescoes very well because the chapel is so small, and there’s all this cool and colorful architectural detail painted in between the scenes with some impressive illusionistic work and painted marble. Around the bottom, there are these funky little images of the Virtues and Vices painted in monochrome, and the vault is frescoed in sky blue with stars.

Continue reading "Giotto's frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel " »

February 12, 2009

Legends about Giotto

We don’t really know a lot about Giotto, but we do know that he lived to be about 70 years old and was a very successful painter who was much in demand all over the Italian peninsula. Giotto lived and worked in Florence and also traveled to Padua, Verona, Milan, Assisi, Rome, and Naples to paint frescoes, and most of his work has not survived because frescoes are fragile and so often short-lived. I have a book, “The Complete Works of Giotto”, and it’s not very long at all...pretty incredible to think about all that lost art.

While not a lot is known about him, there are some cool legends. The best is that Giotto was a poor shepherd boy, and Cimabue (the greatest Tuscan painter of that time) discovered the boy in a field drawing his sheep on a rock. Cimabue recognized his talent, and took him as an apprentice. Another story is that the boy apprentice painted a housefly on one of Cimabue's paintings and the fly was so life-like, Cimabue tried to shoo it away.

There's a legend that claims that Giotto was a horribly ugly and disfigured dwarf. This one is contradicted by another story that says that Giotto included a self-portrait in his frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel. See the fellow in the yellow cap, in the bottom row, second from the right. That's supposed to be him. This crowd scene is part of the “Last Judgment," and Giotto is part of the crowd on the “happy” side of the judgment. He looks like an artist to me.


Continue reading "Legends about Giotto" »

February 13, 2009

PhotoHunt: Nautical


This week's theme is "nautical."

Not the easiest theme in the world this week. I don't have any photos of sailors! But luckily I had this nautical relief that I saw on the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoon.


You can find more Photo Hunters and join the hunt here.

Have a great weekend everyone and Happy PhotoHunting!

February 14, 2009

Hearts ♥


I took this photo last summer and have been saving it for Valentine's Day!

A couple more Valentines from Mother Nature below.

Continue reading "Hearts ♥" »

February 15, 2009

Slow Soupers: Baked Potato Soup

sundayslowsoupersThis recipe came from slow traveler Anneo123 from Louisiana.

It seems that anything made with potatoes is comfort food, and this soup was no exception. It was perfect for a cold winter night. It's very easy to make and didn't take much time either. The recipe calls for a bag of frozen shredded potatoes (hash browns) and someone on the Slow Talk food board asked if you could substitute "real" potatoes for the frozen ones. I think that you definitely could but using the frozen potatoes is a time saver.

I had to tweak the recipe a bit because I couldn't find one of the ingredients but it came out just fine. Another great soup!

Recipe and my modifications are below.


Continue reading "Slow Soupers: Baked Potato Soup" »

February 16, 2009

A few photos from Padua

I didn't take a lot of photos that day because it was pouring rain most of the time but here are a few:

This is the Duomo and the Baptistry. We had a great lunch in this piazza at a place called Il Gancino. I haven't finished my Slow Travel reviews yet (and probably won't until next month) but I plan to review Il Gancino because it was a great little cafe.


This tower on the Palazzo del Capitanio reminded me that Padua was once part of the Venetian empire. The winged lion of San Marco is there and even the clock face looks similar to the one in Piazza San Marco, with bronze astrological symbols in a circle.


Continue reading "A few photos from Padua" »

February 17, 2009

Slow Soupers: French Onion Soup

sundayslowsoupersThis recipe came from slow traveler Sharon L from Silicon Valley, California. It's an easy and delicious version of this classic soup. It takes a while to brown the onions but you don't really have to stir every single minute or watch them that closely.

I made this with chicken instead of beef broth, and it was fine. I also skipped the bread and some of the cheese to lighten it up some. Recipe and my modifications are below.

I love onions and eat them almost everyday, but most of the time they are used as a backdrop to something else. I'd forgotten how good they are when they are front and center. I read recently that there's some evidence that onions may be beneficial to women in preventing osteoporosis bone loss and that's good to know.


Continue reading "Slow Soupers: French Onion Soup" »

February 18, 2009

Canaletto in North Carolina

Canaletto in NCMA

This painting by Giovanni Antonio Canal, called Canaletto (1697-1768), is in the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh and is called “Capriccio: The Rialto Bridge and the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore.”

The Italian word “capriccio” means whim or fancy. It could also be translated as “wait a minute, what the heck is San Giorgio Maggiore doing next to the Rialto Bridge?!?”

Canaletto was a native Venetian and while he painted many “straight up” scenes of his city, he sometimes moved things around a bit which is disconcerting to those of us who’ve been to Venice but just looks beautiful to those who haven’t. Canaletto’s paintings were much in demand by aristocratic British tourists and as a result, there are only a handful of his paintings in Venice but hundreds of them in the UK (the Queen herself has over 50 in the Royal Collection).

Continue reading "Canaletto in North Carolina" »

February 19, 2009

So much to do (and so many places to go)...


Several of the February bloggers have posted this list - I've enjoyed reading their answers so I decided to do it too.

Of the things that I haven't done, I'd like to visit Jerusalem, see the Grand Canyon and Old Faithful, go to Africa and the Great Wall of China...basically all the travel things.

I have no desire to bungee jump, sky dive, sing karaoke, or kill my own meat. :)

The things I've done are marked with an asterisk. *

*Started your own blog
*Slept under the stars
*Played in a band (in kindergarten)
Visited Hawaii
*Watched a meteor shower
Given more than you can afford to charity
Been to Disneyland/world
*Climbed a mountain
*Held a praying mantis
*Sang a solo

More below...

Continue reading "So much to do (and so many places to go)..." »

February 20, 2009

PhotoHunt: Warm


This week's theme is "warm."

A warm morning sunrise on Topsail Island, NC. I'm looking forward to seeing some warm photos this weekend (it is NOT warm here right now!).


You can find more Photo Hunters and join the hunt here.

Have a great weekend everyone and Happy PhotoHunting!

February 22, 2009


The districts of Venice are called sestieri (singular: sestiere) and there are six of them. It’s kind of goofy that some guidebooks and websites report that Venice has seven or more districts since the word sestiere means “sixths.” It would be like claiming that the USA has 54 states because you think that Texas and Alaska are too big!

Venice is so small that I think of the sestieri more as neighborhoods than districts. There are three on each side of the Grand Canal, and three of the six were named for churches.

Castello: named for a castle that used to be in this area
San Marco: named for the patron saint of Venice and his church
Cannaregio: named for the bamboo (canna) that used to grow in this area before it was developed
San Polo: named for the 9th century church dedicated to St. Paul
Santa Croce: named for an ancient church that was demolished in the 19th century
Dorsoduro: means “hard bone” – the land in this part of Venice was higher and more solid than others.

Each sestiere is divided into parishes, and each parish has a church. At one point, Venice was divided into 70 parishes (contrade) but after the fall of the Republic, the church organizational plan was revamped and today there are 30 parish churches. Getting to know the locations of churches (and learning to recognize their bell towers) is a great navigational tool – it won’t prevent you from getting lost but it will help you recover more quickly.

The island of San Giorgio Maggiore is part of sestiere San Marco while Guidecca is part of Dorsoduro. The cemetery island of San Michele is part of Cannaregio. Murano was also part of Cannaregio until 1271 when it was granted separate community status (which the other lagoon islands have too).

There's an article by Shannon on the Slow Travel site that describes each sestiere – it’s a great resource for people trying to decide where to stay. I don’t think there’s really any undesirable area in Venice, although I don’t think I’d like to stay too close to the train station nor would I want to stay in the San Marco/Rialto corridor in high season. Too hectic. So far I’ve stayed in four of the six sestieri – I haven’t stayed in Cannaregio or Dorsoduro yet. I don't have a favorite but I really love Santa Croce and campo San Giacomo dall' Orio.

This column is all that’s left of the demolished church of Santa Croce; it’s embedded in a wall close to the Papadopoli Gardens.

Santa Croce

February 23, 2009

Fall and Winter at the Market

This past year, I’ve done several blog posts about shopping at my local farmer’s market. Here are the previous posts in the series.

Farmer’s Market Report #1 (March 2008)
Spring at the Market (May 2008)
Summer at the Market (September 2008)

I just realized that I skipped the Autumn post (even though I took a photo for it) so I’m going to combine fall and winter in this one.

Here’s the Autumn photo – taken the weekend before Thanksgiving. As you can see, there were still plenty of good things to eat even though it was starting to get colder.

Spinach, scallions, Swiss chard, several colors of peppers, a turban-shaped pumpkin, and butterbeans in the bag. I made soup out of that pumpkin and it was awesome.


And here is winter, taken the last weekend in January. This time, I bought eggs, Italian parsley, radishes, Swiss chard, spinach, scallions, goat cheese, and a cabbage (Maria the kitten is partially blocking the view of the cabbage).


There was tons of lettuce at the market in January too as well as collards and other greens. And lots of potatoes, both white and sweet.

Not pictured is the potato, lemon, and farmer’s cheese empanada that I bought at the market and ate immediately!

Continue reading "Fall and Winter at the Market" »

February 24, 2009

A Day at the Museum of Life and Science

Last summer, my nephew Davis spent the weekend with me, and one of the things we did was go to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC. I’ve been taking the boys to this museum for years – they love it and so do I. It’s a very large museum with both indoor and outdoor exhibits, and is a great place to hike around and take pictures!

Davis had just gotten a camera for his sixth birthday, so we were both snapping lots of shots that day.


We arrived right when the museum opened and decided to do the outdoor stuff first, and then go inside later when it got hot. First we walked through the “Farmyard” and saw all those animals, and next went to the “Explore the Wild” section where we were very lucky to see one of the four black bears taking a morning swim. We also visited the wolves and the lemurs.


Davis was very patient about posing for me. :)


Continue reading "A Day at the Museum of Life and Science" »

February 25, 2009

More fossils in the floor

Last year, I wrote about how I like to look for fossils in church floors when I'm in Venice. This past December, I found this very unique double fossil in the floor of the church of Santa Maria Formosa! Kinda reminds me of a mother and child.

Santa Maria Formosa

Speaking of church floors, here's a scan of a postcard that shows a few details from the floor of Basilica di San Marco. I've seen aerial photos of the Basilica's floors and they are so amazing, but unfortunately much of that floor is covered with protective mats. I'd love to see more of it.

BSM floors

February 26, 2009

Deviled Eggs


In the comments on my Super Bowl recap post, Girasoli of shave ice and gelato asked for my deviled egg recipe, which gave me another topic for our February Blog Challenge (thanks and we're almost at the finish line!).

I'm the go-to egg person in my family and end up making these things for every holiday and family get-together. I've made them so many times I can just about do it in my sleep. And it's funny because when I arrive for Thanksgiving or whatever, the first thing my brother always says is "Where are the eggs?" and he grabs the container and everyone starts eating them the minute I get there. They seldom last until meal time unless I make a ton of them.

eggcookbookA few years ago, my mom gave me this cookbook for Christmas: Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy by NC food writer Debbie Moose. It's a great book and is lots of fun to read. There's even a dessert recipe in there (made with cocoa powder), but I haven't been brave enough to try that one yet.

Everyone I know has a slightly different way to make these eggs and they are really hard to mess up (I've never had a bad deviled egg). I've tried a number of variations but always end up going back to my classic recipe, which is below.

Continue reading "Deviled Eggs " »

February 27, 2009

PhotoHunt: Thankful


This week's theme is "thankful."

There are so many things I'm thankful for, and it's been fun to count my blessings this week as I tried to figure out what to post for this theme. Family and friends, good health, my home, freedom to travel, faith hope and charity, Obama, my cats...

Then I got this classic old hymn in my head and decided to go in this direction:

"For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies..."


You can find more Photo Hunters and join the hunt here.

Have a great weekend everyone and Happy PhotoHunting!

Continue reading "PhotoHunt: Thankful" »

February 28, 2009

Slow Soupers: Lentil Soup

sundayslowsoupersThis recipe came from Kim of What I Really Think. Actually it's Kim's mother's recipe, and it's a good one.

All bean soups are great but lentil soup is particularly easy because you don't have to soak the lentils first, and they cook more quickly than other beans. Recipe and my notes are below.

And it's the end of our February Blog-Everyday challenge! It's been a lot of fun, and I've enjoyed reading everyone's blogs and making some new friends this month. To me, blogging is all about sharing and community, and I'm very grateful to everyone who's read and commented on my blog this month.


Continue reading "Slow Soupers: Lentil Soup" »

This page contains all entries posted to Churches in Venice in February 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2009 is the previous archive.

March 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.


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