That November 28, 29 and 30th, 2009 do not in any way resemble November 28, 29, and 30th, 2008. Now, that would REALLY suck! HA!
Monday, November 30, 2009
The bursts of rain continue. Meanwhile, a monster truck arrived with a monster crane and delivered the roof beams. A monster truck which crawled up a quarter mile drive --and around a hair pin turn -- backwards--then forward up through the second hairpin turn. A monster truck with a very good driver.
The boys scampered up to get the beams placed in correctly -- so that a tarp could be laid over them to prevent further water damage to the wine cellar.
Days like this, these kind of hard core, in your face, it-was-going-well-but-it's-not-right-now days, leave me only one option. To spend all my time doing this
(latte cup in the making as part of a commissioned order to go to Alaska)...
...and this....(bathroom backsplash mosaic tiles before glazing - I am up to 220 and counting)..
and these( candle sticks and dinner plates to go to South Carolina and Zurich on commission and a few for my new up and coming Etsy shop, thrown and painted, waiting to be glazed)....
I thank the heavens and the moon and the stars and the creator of it all for this small studio where I can leave cranes and monster trucks and cement and sand and flooded wine cellars behind. Oh, yeah, Gratitude Friday on Monday. You bet. Yes.
No, not the workers. The weather.
We knew it could happen, given the season. We prayed that it would wouldn't, but it did. THe roof is off, and we are in a turbulent weather pattern. Rain started yesterday afternoon. At around two in the morning, there was a thunderstorm which was so intense that it knocked out the power. Micha turned to me in the middle of the night.
"I'm really nervous," he said. He had good reason. There were 6 inches of water in the wine cellar at 7 am this morning.
He bailed out the water this morning, and we removed some of the more valuable bottles of wine. The rain should slow down this afternoon, and we should have two good days before more precipitation arrives.
We are trying to stay calm and and not let this get to us. I keep thinking this is the last time we will have to deal with this, that once the roof is on, life will get easier. We have been fretting about the collapse/flooding of this structure for six years now. We have bailed water and moved stuff around in this building more times than I ever care to remember. I just want it to be right.
And it will be. After this nasty joke from Mother Nature has run its course.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
It is very strange that I lead a life in which a blog like this has a place. Before this lifestyle, I was so busy that even if blogging had existed, I doubt that I would have read one, much less written one. I am probably even busier now in certain ways, but also there is a stillness to being here and this blog helps me to connect to a life that I once knew. One with happy hours and lunches with girlfriends, with a regular job and freeways and weekends at the beach. Speaking to you reminds me that those things still exist, even though they are not part of my everyday life anymore.
This year has been full of challenges for which I was ill-prepared. Maybe it was being out of America so long which finally came home to roost this year in my soul. It has been a year which posed more questions than answers, more stumbles than clear paths, more sharp edges than soft landings. But such years are certainly not without their upside. We learn from challenges, from being pushed to our limits and for pulling up those bootstraps as tightly and as courageously and as determinedly as we can, regardless of our limitations. And that is such a good thing, isn't it?
It is the day before Thanksgiving, and for the 16th year I am in a land where that means nothing to anyone but a few of us. But each of you with an American passport are celebrating, either at home or abroad, in your own way. And I wish each of you a day full of meaning, full of friends and good food, full of recognition for what is.
I thank you for coming back here, time and again, and sharing this part of my life with me. It is of great significance to me that you stop by. Wherever you are on this small planet, I raise my glass to you and wish you health and happiness.
Kim B. from Paris asked me why we are rotating the roof on the structure. I thought I would try to explain.
This building is narrow and deep.
Right now, the roof line runs parallel to the part of the building which is narrow. This makes the two roof eves much longer than necessary. To make matters worse, the roof line is off center, making one of the eves huge. Here you can see this huge eve from the back.
Having such a huge eve takes alot of usable space away from the room. The eved ceiling goes way down, close to the floor on that side of the room. By rotating the roof, and making the roof line parallel with the long side of the building, and by centering the roof line, there are no more low eves in the space.
This rotation increases the useable space in the room by 1/3.
An astounding amount has happened with our roof construction project. We have a whole new team working on this project; for a variety of very good reasons, we parted company with the last masons. Our new guys (I am gently knocking on wood here -- so gently that you might not even hear it) seem to be extraordinary. They came highly recommended. The job site is clean (!), organized (!), there is not alot of conversation and shooting the bull, but it's all about five guys working in an extremely co-ordinated way (!!!). The roof was demolished in about four hours - with the old beams gone, carried away to the recycle center. One guy is making the cement, one guy is loading the pully system with cement and bricks and sending up the scaffolding where three guys are taking the suppplies and creating the walls.
Here is where we started last winter:
This is where things stood in June when we stopped construction for the season:
The new team put up the scaffolding last Friday:
... and started working on Monday morning at 7.30. The job site is really well organized, and we can drive on and off the property without any problems.
They have removed the old roof, poured the floor of reinforced cement with insulation, and have started reconstructing the walls out of bricks intended to carry the weight of the roof.
Remember the window I found down at Franco's place from this post? The guys are already installing it! It is going to be beautiful. I have to paint the frame after it's installed (and the roof is on).
Here is the structure from the front. The window you see will be in the bathroom.
Here is the bathroom window space from the inside. The interior wall cordoning off the bathroom will be built after the roof is on.
I am really feeling cautiously optimistic about this project. I really fretted about it before it started, not ready to deal with the chaos, dirt, and noise which has ruled every project we had done to this point. This one, so far, is very different. I am keeping my fingers, toes and eyes crossed.
So far, so good.
I am very grateful that this is going well. Very grateful.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
So much going on. So, so much.
I need to take a little vacation from my life right this minute so I am going to address the fact that I have found the last few of my blog post a little absent of color. Bright, splashy color. Oh, sure, there is talk of color, colored tiles, colored floors, colored lives, but color? Well, raw clay is grey, construction is grey and Piemonte this November is really grey (but thankfully not rainy)...
But today a splash of color arrived in the mail and today on my friend Allison's blog, color inspired me!
First, the blog. Allison at Campbell Soup Diary, one of the most lovely blogs out there from one of the sweetest girls out there, has been posting about quilting and has been very busy doing shows -- she makes gorgeous things -- jewelry, handbags -- and sells several lines of fabrics, from her studio in Hamburg, Germany. She is now heavily into future motherhood and quilting, and today posted some fabrics which made my heart jump. Why? Well, I am planning the design of a guest room here at the B&B and I am looking to use oranges, creams, chile reds, bronzes, celedon, pea green, olive and chocolate browns.
This photo totally speaks to me of the color and pattern world I am thinking of.
Second, I have been looking for a scarf for a very special occasion, with no luck. The dress I have. In fact, I have two, one black, one pewter. (That last one was purchased in a real wild moment. The only colors I wear in winter other than black is off black and really dark brown. Or a jeans jacket).
I am not very good at dressing things up or accessorizing. Hence, an emergency call to my friend and guru in all things fashion, Birgit. Birgit is tall, gorgeous, lives in Berlin (one of the hippest places on the planet), pairs mink with fatigues (successfully) and, well, let's just say she changes her purse - every day. The girl knows more about accessorizing than I do about making breakfast. So I sent her on a task -- to find me a Pashmina which would work with black. Or pewter (actually I never told her about the pewter dress, just the black one). She would be working at the Import Shop International Trade Show in Berlin, and told me she would take a look around for something that could work.
Today the most beautiful silk pashmina arrived at my doorstep. Rich russets and reds, and a flicker of turquoise which actually has a pewter-effect in this gorgeous scarf. It's heavy enough to be appropriate for a winter event, yet light enough to wear all evening.
Thanks, Birgit and Allison! You girls from Germany added SO MUCH color to my day, and to my blog!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Part one of Part two of last spring construction's project will start this week. The scaffolding went up on Thursday and Friday. The roof will come off of this structure starting tomorrow. It will be rotated 90 degrees, and put back on. In addition the walls will be built out of brick, insulation will be put in, and a dividing wall will be put in the room to divide the area for a bathroom off from the main room.
This part of the project should take 4-5 weeks with a little help from the weather. Part two of Part two would be the completion of the interior of the third guest room, the plastering of the outside of the structure and the finishing of the connecting roof terrace. I will be happy when the exterior of this part is done. It's by far the biggest eyesore of the upper part of the property and the roof was threatening complete collapse.
I, by the way, can be found in the pottery studio madly working on tiles for the bathroom, pottery dishes for guests, and a few new fun projects which I can't stay away from.
Friday, November 20, 2009
The Alps, from the road above our house
This time of year, when things slow down, food gets richer, and wine gets heavier, I like to write and think about what is coming down the road. When I was younger I walked by the Delaware River's edge, wrapped in scarf and gloves, and just thought.
I have often said that November is my favorite month. Not because life is easier and more fun. But because life is quieter and more introspective. The woods become a cathedral, the last few leaves fluttering to the ground. I come back to myself in November. Now I feel it more than ever in my life. The last guests leave sometime in the beginning of the month; I can relax my body and soul.
There is not November that has come along in my life that the lyrics of that Simon and Garfunkel song has not come to mind.
Time, time, time, see what's become of me while I looked around for my possibilities I was so hard to please but look around, leaves are brown and the sky is a hazy shade of winter
farmer collecting the last cauliflower
Don't let these November days pass without going out and looking around. Let the breeze hit your face, go to the park, to the woods, to the river's edge. Go home and light candles, make some tea, give thanks. Let the grey days relax you, and enjoy the short sunny days for the beautiful long shadows that the sun casts around you.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
As I wait for a huge order of clay and glazing materials to finish up my orders from the past season, I decided to start a project which will take some time and effort: a bathroom backsplash and surface on which two bathroom sinks will sit. The niche is about 120 cm long. I will need a a wall mosaic which is about 55 cm high and 120 cm long, and then a table surface of about the same dimension. Above the backsplash we will attach a mirror to cover the entire rest of the wall.
The wall backsplash will be square 6x6 cm tiles with small round tiles separating them (see above). The surface will be just the squares. I am still playing with the colors, since the floor tiles have already been chosen (remember this post?) from materials I have restored. I am thinking of a bronze-silver glaze for the squares and chile red for the little dots, but that might change.
In the mean time, I have about four platters of these made and need to make about twelve more to cover the area. Isn't the little tool I have to make the little dots cool? Makes life alot easier!
Friday, November 13, 2009
As you could see with last week's Gratitude Friday, I am back at the wheel. With the season behind me, I get to go in the studio and do what I love the most -- make pots. With a pile of orders to fill, I am throwing, turning and painting soft, smooth engobes which will fire to blues and greens.
I just placed a huge order for a whole new group of glazes. Normally I mix my own glazes and colors, but these new pre-mixed glazes are for a different purpose. First they are low fire, which is the opposite of the glazes I make by hand. Second they are bright colors. With these glazes I will be making groups of mosaic tiles to do a whole new variety of projects. Stay tuned.
I have such a great space to work in, with an efficient heating system and huge windows. I am working on my discipline now: getting in there each day to move my art forward in the direction I want it to go.
It has been six years and this is the first year that I can actually do what I have always wanted to do: seven months of B&B, five months of ceramics. I am very happy to have things to this point, finally. Happy and grateful!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
This morning I woke up to a very dear email from Vineeta who writes the creative blog ArtnLight. She wrote a beautiful blog post about Baur B&B and said some very kind things.
Her blog is filled with inspiration and color and I suggest visiting her to get a dose of positive energy, just as the name suggests.
It never ceases to amaze me how people from all over the world can connect through blogging and be inspired by one another.
Grazie mille, Vineeta!
Monday, November 9, 2009
It is a week of remembrance.Yesterday was Rememberance Day in Great Britain, when the United Kingdom remembers those who have served and have passed in service of the nation. Wednesday is Veteran's Day in the United States, when we do the same.
And today? Today is the day we remember the freedom that all of those brave men and women have fought and died for. It is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Now, for many, this was a passing which is marked with pictures of people pouring through the Bornholmer Strasse crossing, as East German Volksarmee boarder guards looked on, perplexed and dazed. More pictures, people crawling on the wall, champagne, bananas, and oranges flying freely in the air - euphoria. For me, the meaning of today goes far beyond those images, which still reduce me to tears, over and over.
I married into a family that had lived, for forty years, on two sides of the Wall. My father in law, from Koblenz (west), met my mother in law during the Second World War. He was an injured soldier, sent to Leipzig (east) to recuperate. She, from Grimma (east), was a bank employee. They met and fell in love.
The war proceeded, and the Americans came in, saving the eastern part of Germany after having secured the western part of the country. Then, in the agreement between the Allies, America gave up Eastern Germany, in order to secure a section of Berlin, the capitol, which the Russians had already occupied. The Americans retreated, leaving a vacuum. The Russian soldiers came in, raped the women en masse, took over the homes and slowly started the strangulation of life in their sector.
And Germany was divided, for the next forty years, into four sectors: British (Northwestern), French (Southwestern), American (central) and Russian (eastern). Berlin, the city, was divided the same way, but was landlocked -- three "free" sectors and one communist sector in a sea of Communism, behind the Iron Wall.
My father in law returned home, and my mother in law could no longer leave her sector. He went over for her, though, and they arranged a wedding. Her friends got passes to travel to the Russian sector of Berlin (yes, even within the Russian sector, travel was extremely limited - and traveling to Berlin was tightly controlled because of the possibility of escape to the Western part of the city - this was before the Wall was even built), and brought cakes and precious wine back to Grimma.
They married. They could have stayed there but they had a chance -- since my father in law was from the French sector -- to escape. He could leave legally, but she could not. She was a bank employee, and she knew that the Russian soldiers were for the most part completely illiterate in their own language, much less the German language. She stamped her own passport with bank stamps, and signed them. They showed the stamped pass to the Russian soldiers, at three different check points, and they let her through.
At the final check point, however, was an East German soldier. He looked at the passport. He looked at her. He knew exactly what she had done. And he told her... to go. And she went. To Western Germany. To freedom. She was so brave.
But she did not go without paying a price. She left her father, her cousins, her home. Her family was well established in Grimma. She left every single thing behind. She and my father in law started again, in Koblenz, then in Mainz, to build a life together, with other family members that managed to escape. It is the home in which she lives today, alone, at the age of 89.
My mother in law would only see her father a few more times in her life, on approved visits - the last time he would no longer recognize her, his mind taken by dementia. On the last visit, for his funeral, she was taken into custody with her two small children for several hours at an East German check point, a move intended to intimidate a grief stricken young mother.
This is what comes back to me today, this most important day, when that wall came down in peace and euphoria. I will never forget how my family felt, the wall having come down too late to help my mother in law or her father. But both my mother in law and father in law were finally able to visit Grimma, see her family home which had been lost to the system, and close the circle.
This is a video of "Winds of Change" by the Scorpions. It was played at the Berlin Wall after it came tumbling down. This particular version was recorded later with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. To me, it holds all of the emotion and promise of that time in history. A time which was the most important of my generation - when barriers fell, lies were disclosed, systems folded, and people peacefully walked towards the light.
Freiheit. Pace. FREEDOM.
Die Dinge kommen ganz anders als du denkst.... things always happen differently than you think...
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The pottery wheel. Quietly whirling, always centered. Once you are pulled in by its magic, it is hard to let it go. There is no end to the lessons of the wheel. As soon as you think you have mastered it, it humbles you. As soon as you are humble, it lets you make something breathtaking.
People are always amazed how very difficult it is to throw a pot. It's difficult. It's even more difficult to throw a good one, or to throw ten that somewhat look like each other.
Becoming a master can take a lifetime.
But still, you try.
If you are working on the wheel, and you forget to focus, even for a minute, the clay goes off center.
The wheel demands, over and over, that you stay in the moment. Focused. Centered. It will not forgive you if you forget this. It will make you pay.
With a big pile of wet clay that you have to rework.
The wheel is my tool for finding my center. It's been that way for years now. If I work at the wheel, I forget everything. I only see clay gliding smoothly under my wet fingers. I only feel the moment. I only imagine getting as much clay as possible off the wheel and up into the air. To form a new pot. A new bowl. A new plate. A new rice bowl. A new vase.
A new me.
The wheel is all about
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
We were both craving a healthy dinner last night, and by Giorgio, we got one. I started with ceviche, the creation of which was inspired by Jamie Oliver's recent series about his road trip around America and his obsession with the culturally interesting dishes he found there. The series was fantastic - showed my country from its heart and soul and highlighted the ethnic diversity, the survival mentality and the unbelievable flavors -- of both food and life -- which can be found there.
He found ceviche being made in an illegal restaurant in Queens, New York where South American immigrants could affordably get the flavors of home in someone's living room. For our ceviche last night, I used Vietnamese Pangasius (I know, I know, I live an hour from the Med, but it was the best looking white fish I could find at 4 pm last evening in a grocery store) which is in the cat fish family, the juice of three lemons and three limes, a good tablespoon of course salt, a peperoncino, thinly sliced red onions and a handful of parsley (I have decided to proceed with recipes calling for cilantro even if I don't have any on hand since I only grow it intermittently, and substitute boring flat leaf parsley instead of crying in my ceviche).
I marinated chunks of the fish, the onions and a halved peperoncino in the salt and citrus juices for about 30 min. I drained it out to serve it and topped it off with the parsely. Done. The verdict? I will be making it again. Soon.
For our main course I opted for the great Amateur Gourmet's Ginger Scallion Noodles. I did not make the cured cucumbers, since they are not in season right now. It's a great recipe, and I suggest you go over and take a look at it. The big surprise was how delicious the skillet browned cauliflower tasted; really made the dish special. It is a great left over dish as well, since the buckwheat noodles hold their form in the fridge.
Very healthy and very tasty!
Monday, November 2, 2009
As our season closes, I found it wholly appropriate that our lovely German guests requested a degustazione di Barolo, which was held last evening. My husband chose three small wineries and three different years, from 2005 (which was released this year) going to 2003, and then finally a 2000, to experience the rounding of flavors and softening of tanins which takes place over time.
We specialize in wine tours and tastings from vineyards which are considered small production; under 120,000 bottles, and in most cases, under 80,000. The owner is always personally involved every aspect of the wine, from picking to bottling. We know these people and count them among our friends. Our personal passion for the wines of the Monferrato and the Langhe makes for a highly intimate experience and a real connection with a very special product.
I served four different cheeses with the wine -- a pure goat robbiola, moderately aged, a slightly longer aged sheep/cow robbiola, a relatively fresh Sardinian peccorino and a slice of Fontina from Val d'Aosta. To that there were grissini, hand made in a small factory here in Acqui Terme.
A lovely way for us to say goodbye to the 2009 bed and breakfast season.