Monday, June 30, 2008

Sad and glad dog stories

30 giugno
Ciao, it is a good news bad news type of day. 1st the bad news and a happy story. A few months before my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, he decided to buy an english setter which my mother said would result in a divorce. It didn't and just 9 months later my dad died and my mom became sole caretaker of muffin, the best possible companion for my mom, a dog who probably added a good 10 years to my mom's life. It was wonderful to watch the 2 of them together. As friends of my mother and I can attest, if you wanted to go somewhere in my mom's car, you road in the back while muffin took shotgun as her hair was too difficult to clean up prior. My mom was known throughout estes park as the owner of muffin, a really sweet, loving , small english setter. Anyway, the sad part is muffin has reached the end of her quality life and thanks a million to my brother and sister-in-law who cared for her after mom died.. Tomorrow she will be in doggie heaven, having spent 15 years adding to our lives here on earth.
The good news is the young pup Bacco who is 2.5 weeks shy of his 1st birthday went swimming on his own today. I was incazzato with the pool construcion guy who is 10 weeks behind schedule, and decided to take Bacco to the sea for a bit of exercise. He excelled at mountain climbing Sunday, so it was time for another type of lesson. I took him once into deep water to become habituated and we then took a 2 km walk. On the return trip, he jumped in the sea to retrieve a big piece of wood (he had 3 to choose from) and swam around a bit before having grand success capturing the big stick. Papa was very proud! I am including some fotos of our climb on Mt Vettore yesterday and the lentils, poppies and wild flowers all in bloom on the plateau of Castelluccio.
Enjoy and I hope you have good memories of all the best dogs in your life as i do of Muffin, Saxon I and II and now Bacco

Saturday, June 28, 2008

KC BBQ in italy

29 giugno
Yesterday for our guests we turned on the AC for the 1st time. Wow, was i happy!
Despite the best efforts of the rubs from KC Masterpiece and Gates, the poor quality of my pork ribs overrode the wonderful cooking skills of the chef and the prep from Kansas City. Not to say the ribs weren't "mangiabile" edible, but even with 5,5 hours of slow cooking, the result was not up to standard.
The last spinach from the garden cooked with red onions, garlic and guanciale was good as were my sorbettos with our passito from 2007.
My friend Lorie was just stung on the lip by a bee and is in misery, so in her honor, I am including a bit of our local apiary culture.
Bumble bees on lavender and sunflowers. We coexisted in harmony, so my lips are still too thin.
I must say that Lorie has that hot lips Houlihan look!
Also, I have thrown in a couple of pix of Bacco and I in the newly adorned vineyard.
Tomorrow, after we serve breakfast to our piemontese guests, Bacco and I may take a little walk in the mountains. Fotos to follow as always with my photogenic cane.

A Day at the Beach/Bacco's 1st swimming lesson

28 giugno
Feeling like my major battle with the vineyard weeds had at least yielded a stalemate, it was time to celebrate with a trip to Grottammare and a beginner's swimming lesson for Bacco. He loves water, but is not yet ready to just run in over his head and swim a couple of laps. I accompanied my student wearing my lifeguard t shirt and coerced him into trying a bit of paddling. He got better with every attempt until in the last picture, after the bathing and drying fotos, you see he is now practically an intermediate swimmer.
Around here, we have 2 rooms full with repeat guest returning from Puglia to Piemonte.
I am cooking ribs today with 2 rubs graciously ported across the ocean by Tom and Wanda; one from KC Masterpiece and the other from Gates. You Kansas citians know what i am talking about. They are slow cooking in the oven at low temperature with a bit of beer in the bottom of the pan. I feel like my sorbet skills have improved of late thanks to a tip from a guest who suggested I add a bit of gelatin and a bit of vodka, or other tasteless liquor to my fruit and it is indeed much softer after refreezing. My 2 latest capolavori are wild pear with white tea and our own apricots as the other one.
It has been quite hot here and unfortunately, the pool is not yet finished. In fact the "pool guy" and I mean that to sound like the "cable guy" was too tired to work today.
Our garden continues to turn out enough zucchini to feed half of Offida along with lettuce and just beginning are the tomatoes. The sunflowers are beautiful as well.
Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

News from Nascondiglio and Bruce Springsteen

26 June
Here is the latest from here. The pool now looks a little more like one, with water inside and a new border of antique bricks below the waterfall. It is still a mess which needs fixing, but day by day we see a little progress. In the distance now, you see we are putting in the poles for the vineyard so it will start looking a bit more like a vineyard as well. We will have about 4,100 of those when all is said and done. The last picture is of Raffaele's lovebird who is enjoying the heat of outdoors more than I did as I hoed THE LAST 4 ROWS of the vineyard today. Hurrah!! Time to start over.
If you can imagine, I took a bus from Ascoli Piceno to Milan-8 hours arriving at 1630 for a Bruce Springsteen concert which started at 2050. Unfortunately, my friend from London who was supposed to join me ended up in the hospital, so a ticket went wasted. They had more scalpers than buyers and i saw one person sell a ticket for 2 euros! All of my buddies in Milan were out shopping or not at home, so I couldn't meet up with them, spending the almost 5 hours people watching while drinking a beer and eating a sausage sandwich. In the end, though, I saw a really excellent concert. I saw the boss in KC 6 or so years back and he seemed much happier to be playing in San Siro stadium. Both were 3 hours long, but the italians were really into the music the whole time and that infectious energy transferred to the band. It must have been 90 degrees in the stadium which is home to AC Milan and Milan Inter, but on the lawn, they never stopped moving. It is embarrassing when the italians know more of the words to the songs (only the recent ones) than I did. Some of Bruce's songs are practically indecipherable even on disc anyway. I must say, it didn't seem like a Springsteen concert without Born in the USA for an encore, but this wasn't america. Afterwards, we had another 7.5 hour bus ride back arriving at about 730 the next morning. Once in a lifetime only please! But fun and a new experience.
Ciao for now. dds

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lost reservation

23 Giugno
Another reservation lost today because our geniuses building the pool are 2 months late. It is beyond frustrating. At present, we just smoulder and don't say anything and hope for the best.
I took a litltle trip to a wedding ceremony in Umbria this weekend and then visited a couple of wineries. For those in need of a good catering company in Italy check out Cuoco Inamorato. Wow. They made the colloseum out of Grana Padano cheese. Here ia a pic.
Tomorrow, I am heading up to our enologist to talk about the equipment we will need for the winery as the architects are in need of that info to plan the facility.
It is now summer here, whew, hot and almost impossible to work in the vineyard during normal hours, so today I worked after 6 PM. After 3 rows of extirpating our wonderful erba medica perennial, I was ready for another job.
Here are some pix of the pool in its present state. Our ever optimistic engineer thinks we need 3 more days to finish it. I think he is a dreamer.
Hope springs eternal. That's one of our sunflowers in bloom, happy with this sunny, hot weather! Very similar to the one in the previous post, a different angle, forse.
Stay tuned

Friday, June 20, 2008

Update on the concrete pond

20 giugno
Here are the latest fotos of the pool construction. You can see some progress with the tiling, wall work, etc. Yesterday we finally observed someone who knows how to work. He was lining the pool with the cream colored PVC you see and didn't finish working until 2100. I admire those with a good work ethic. He was definitely a throwback to the hippies of the 60's with long gray hair tied back in a ponytail and a tan like Ray Jones. :)
Cameli Irene is a new little winery in our neighborhood who would love to give tours to our guests and they have a consultant who helps with their wines, Marco, who is famous for Kurni', the most expensive wine from the Marche.
I tried their 2005 Sangiovese with homemade calzone last night and it was very good.
I hoed 3 rows of cab sauv. and 4 rows of pecorino this morning and now am off to Umbria and Tuscany for the weekend with Bacco. Buon weekend a tutti and thanks for keeping Joe in your prayers. He seems stable at present.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

200th post dedicated to Joe Roh

18 giugno
Here is no. 200 since I started the blog from Nascondiglio di Bacco and I would like to dedicate this one to my old partner of 16 years, Joe Roh. Joe was one of the best surgeons in Kansas City and certainly in my case it was a better "marriage" with him than my real one, albeit celibate. Joe just had a major stroke and probably won't be able to continue as a surgeon. I hope he will rehabilitate enough to have a long and happy life, but we don't know for sure right now. Joe worked and worked and worked just like most of us americans, happy with our 2-3 weeks of vacation (usually one week at a time) per year and then we are penalized by more work, before and after the vacation (as make-up) than we would think possible. I quit the race 2 years ago and didn't know I was so stressed or unhappy until I spent one of the best years of my life at the University of Gastronomic Science here in Italy. My fellow classmates at UNISG said they could see the change in me inside of 2 weeks as I became less stressed and more like my old self which disappeared after residency I imagine. My buddy Doug, from Belton said it best, "When they quit hitting your thumb with a hammer, it sure feels good!" What I hope to impart here is we don't live forever and we don't stay healthy forever. There are so many more important things in life than work and money like God, family and personal well-being ("I am 3rd", alla Gayle Sayers). How many times have we watched a very successful, hard working person work hard and save all their lives just to contract a terminal illness just after their retirement?
I hope we americans can slow down a bit and take a little more time for ourselves to recuperate, rejuvenate and go forward with a new attitude and freshness. The europeans, almost without exception, take a month of vacation a year. With that and the mediterranean diet, we could live forever and happily, non?
I hope Joe and Lynn can come visit me here and recuperate a bit as there is truly no stress, noise or "have-to's" here at Nascondiglio di Bacco.
All the flowers above (Rose, citronella, sunflower and onion) are from our garden and for Joe who probably can't have real flowers in the ICU, but my prayers and thoughts are with you partner!
Guarisci presto, amico!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunset at Nascondiglio di Bacco

15 giugno
After two days of stormy weather, the sun returned to highlight our little zone of Ascoli Piceno. These photos give you a really good idea of where we sit nestled amidst the beautiful rolling hills of the southern Marche. To the left of the agriturismo is our vineyard (which you can barely see) and to the right, the olive trees of our neighbor. The little lane divides the 2 properties. Come visit and relax in the total peace and quiet here or party a bit and liven up our lives!

Happy Father's Day esp. to my brother Jim

15 Giugno
Happy Father's Day to everyone in the states and a special one to my brother-father of 4 girls!!.
My 11 month old and I spent yesterday in the altopiano or plateau near Calstelluccio taking pix of flowers including poppies, lentils and that yellow weed I keep having to hoe here at nascondiglio di bacco which is ubiquitous in the Marche.
We then drove on to Visso and bought some Ciauscolo salami, a full prosciutto for our summer guests who want lunch at the pool and a wheel of May vintage Pecorino cheese. The month of May yields the most flavorful cheeses of the year along with June and October as the grasses and flowers the sheep (or cows or goats) eat in those months are more flavorful and complex.
We keep getting little thunderstorms every day which makes hoeing impossible, so that prompted the mountain voyage. Today should be clear, so I will take Bacco for a walk this morning, feed our guests breakfast and then work in the old vineyard tearing away all the leaves on the vines below the grape clusters.
Raffaele and Elisa are visiting Genova where they witnessed Matilde's baptism. She is the first master's baby, the capolavoro of Teresa and Michele. Hopefully, I will get to see her as I head to Milan for a day later this month.
Here are the fotos from yesterday with Bacco stopping to smell the flowers.
PS You can double click on any picture to enlarge it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Marketing, marketing, marketing

I forgot to mention in my last post our site for Nascondiglio di Bacco merchandise which I am sure you will want to wear to all your formal events or take to Starbucks for your mug discount etc. Featuring our wonderful mascot Bacco and our surrounding countryside as well as our logo, check out and then search for nascondiglio di bacco logo stuff. Happy shopping and all our immense profits will go towards biological dog food for Bacco!

pool update?

12 Giugno
Here is a bit of a pool update. The bottom lounge area has been poured and the steps from below to above and then down to the locale tecnica or pump house. Also a little stairway with a step to nowhere was built to arrive at the lawn level, but it is a step to far so to speak and they need to take one away.
Unfortunately for pool building, it is raining every day here, just enough to prevent placement of the tile glue. I am guessing with divine intervention, the pool might be ready the 1st of July now.
All the montepulciano rows have been weeded successfully and next will be the merlot where the perennial erba medica refuses to go away. But that will have to wait for better weather.
Since outside work is difficult, it is time to go shopping for a gift for Matilde's baptism ( the new baby girl of Michele and Teresa, our classmates ) and subterranean water containers for collecting rainwater from our roof to water the yard and for placement in the valley to collect well water after we have replaced the 2 old wells which were here in years past.
The "tutors" or iron poles to place beside every single grapevine have arrived, so we have 30,000 new chores to do. I think we will need some help!
That's about it for now.
Here are pix of our engineer surveying the recent work and some of our workers and always Bacco.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

It's our 1st anniversary today!

8 June
I almost forgot. It is the 1st anniversary today of our ownership of Nascondiglio di Bacco.
Thanks to all who read our blogs, all our guests and friends who have wished us well and visited our little hideout!
I hope we can continue to improve our B&B and make it an even more pleasant place to stay and relax.
Grazie mille!!
dwight and raffaele

Fun week with friends

8 giu.
Buon weekend everyone.
I have had a wonderful time visiting with friends from KC here at Nascondiglio di Bacco! Tom and Wanda came in Wed. night and just left yesterday for San Remo and we explored the local sites including Offida, Le Caniette (one of my favorite local wineries), Ascoli Piceno and a bit of the seacoast as well. Dan came in night before last after surviving a wedding in Florence and trying to keep up with a bunch of late 20 somethings. I can relate after the master's program. He has now caught up on his rest and will head back to Florence today and then back to Milan to fly home. We all went to a great seafood restaurant in Grottammare called Don Diego where the fish is all extremely fresh and wonderfully prepared. The owner, who I have met through his mother, showed us all around his little property on the beach which also rents lounge chairs and umbrellas. He has all sorts of herbs and flowers which he uses in his cooking to great effect.
Giorgio, our fellow UNISG grad also came in day before last to attend the Juvecaserta-Jesi basketball game. It is part of the finals to advance into the Italian major leagues of Series A and unfortunately, Caserta lost, but lead the series 2-1 and need to win one more. The next game is tonight.
After Gio and Dan leave we have a sack of work to do. Finish cleaning practically all the rooms, clean the front patio of all the gravel which is its carpet right now as tomorrow they will pour cement as a base for the ceramic tile. Then, of course, there is always the hoeing which is constantly available.
I will feel better when i finish the next 6.5 rows of montepulciano, then i can rest a few days before tackling the pecorino.
The pictures are weak today, but include a faint rainbow to our east and southeast from a couple of days ago at dusk, the continuing pool saga, the patio before (after to follow in a week or so) and "cheap toys are the best, dad!"
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave comments whenever. I had to put a little control on there as I was getting comment spam!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What to do?

4 June
What am I going to do now, read now, think about now that the Democratic primary is over. All the fun and games of the last 7 months finished! I guess I will have to read Hollywood gossip and wait for the birth of the Brangelina twins!
The concrete pond is moving ahead and by now everyone knows my frustration. My advice, which I was to ignorant to heed, is to put a penalty for late completion in your pool contract. It is now looking like late June for the grand opening.
For those with a really great memory, Michele and Teresa have had a little girl and the baptism is coming up in 10 days. Exciting stuff for us UNISG grads.
I am still hoeing the vineyard and making some progress, but there's still a month of solid work ahead along with the B&B jobs. We currently have 19 people staying with us which will increase to 21 when Tom and Wanda arrive today. It is impossible to house more than that without some folks in tents or on the floor.
The pictures show the new retaining or sitting wall which will be stuccoed and you can see the drop for the infinity pool water and in the middle, the slot for the waterfall to the lower pool. Also at the far left is the subterranean room for the filters and pumps.