Friday, October 28, 2011

buon giorno

Hello Friends--I am still in Italy, and have had limited computer access since leaving Yuri and Vera's, but have been taking lots of pictures and notes, and when I return will weave some of them into posts relevent to this blog which I try to keep (at least loosely) connected to the store.

Everywhere I turn I am inspired.
Castelvetro di Modena
I love the rustic simplicity of the medieval towns, and the importance of good food.

I want a Carpathian Wolf Dog. Meet Akeela, Yuri and Vera's dog. Half German Shepherd and half Carpathian timber wolf, and the sweetest, most soulful dog I've ever met. Sorry I didn't get a picture of her outside of the fence. (She has her own lovely, hilly acre where, when unattended, she can see everything that's going on and the neighbor's chickens, which are truly free-range, are safe.) Is it shallow of me to want to use the word Carpathian when referring to my dog? Such images the word conjures up.

I have been taking a lot of picture of walls

and missing the store. Here's a random list I made the other night when thinking of how to improve it:
Seamus Heaney/Robert Frost
the old barn
old-fashioned newsletter
Dylan Thomas
everything has a story
themes: botanicals, the road not taken,
country childhood
Slow Food

I am in Tuscany now--going to Florence this afternoon and so excited. I was there many years ago, and am hungry to see the Botticellis and Santo Spirito and to wander the small streets. I return home Tuesday and look forward to catching up with you.


Friday, October 21, 2011

in Italy, thinking about the store

                                                           in the village of Rocca Grimalda

I have been thinking about my store and particularly the name Country Weekend. When planning, I devoted a lot of time to the name, leaning toward something to do with nature, especially a bird name--perhaps Bluebird, the New York State bird, or Mockingbird because it was the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. However there are an abundance of stores with bird and bird-related names and I wanted to do something different. 

                             view from Yuri and Vera's house, Rocca Grimalda

My husband and I always refer to going to our house in the Catskills as going to the country. Saying that gives me a particular sense of anticipation--a blend of the smell of woodsmoke, the sound of the brook, bright stars, crisp air... I wanted to find a way to convey that in my name for the store--I knew that most of my customers would be weekenders. I don't think I was particularly successful. It's too long (I figured that out when having signs made), and it doesn't signal what kind of business it is. Is it a travel agency perhaps?

above: closeup of tiles from the roof below, on a building at the dairy farm in Rossiglione.

I've thought about changing the name. I'm probably going to close for a while this winter, freshen things up, so I could do it them. Maybe call it Fern & Moss or Forest. Or something clever. But I have my logo, my business cards, my signs, and it could be confusing to my present customers. So I will stay with it and make the best of it.

Outdoor wood-burning oven at Yuri and Vera's. 

Tonight for dinner we had pizza, lasagna and chicken all baked in this oven, and yes the lasagna noodles were hand-made and practically melted in my mouth. I am finding the country weekend state of mind in abundance here in Italy and hope that I will find new ways of thinking about my store, and my life, while I am here. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

dispatch from Italy

For the last day and a half I've felt like I was living in a movie. We are visiting our friends Yuri and Vera, who are semi-retired, and five years ago bought a vineyard here in the Piedmont region. There is a vast sprawling complex of very old buildings and many acres of grapevines. At dinner last night were an assortment of people who have led adventurous lives and speak many languages. Much good food and wine and wide-ranging conversations.

the house

the vineyards

Today we went to Ovada for lunch. It is the end of porcini season and the beginning of truffle season. The appertivo was a poached egg with a bright orange yolk, covered with a creamy sauce made from sheeps milk cheese, and white truffles shaved before out eyes by our waiter. The primi was first a hand-made pasta with fresh porcini, then pasta with truffles (all fresh of course, but I am over-using the word). By then I was full and happy, but it is Italy, and you must have a secondi. I broke the rules and had minestrone, but others had suckling pig and wild boar stew.  I did find room for green apple and raspberry sorbet for my dolce.

the restaurant


Then we went high into the hills to a dairy for milk and cheese. After such a lunch, dinner was simple and satisfying: fruit, cheese and bread by the fire.

The restaurant where we had lunch is run by two brothers, which reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Big Night, about two brothers from Italy who open a restaurant in New Jersey in the 1950's.

More soon.


Monday, October 17, 2011

leaving home

                                          Rocca Grimalda, Italy                 

Tomorrow I leave for Italy--my first time abroad in many years. We will visit friends who live near the mediaeval village of Rocca Grimalda, then to another mediaeval village in the Emila Romagna region, and lastly to Tuscany. This will be a journey through lightly touristed villages, small cities, cafes, good food, and vistas. You know--la dolce vitail dolce far niente, in other words, lots of dolce.

                                                               my living room armchair

Leaving home has always been hard for me. And at some point I developed a fear of flying, which I have gradually gotten over--this trans-oceanic flight is the last big hurdle. I keep trying to be braver, less fearful, to be calm and open.

                                                              my bedroom armchair

It's time to stop being an armchair traveler. I hope to be able to dispatch a few posts, read your blogs and comment while I'm gone, but don't expect me until you see me. Ciao, my friends.


Friday, October 14, 2011

a peanut butter and jelly store

Back in August, when I posted a picture of this table--yellow top, green legs--and the four green chairs that go with it, Mise commented, "The yellow table looks indomitably cheerful, as though it were waiting expectantly for a group of happy children for sandwiches and jelly." Since then, I think of it as the peanut butter and jelly table. Soon after that, the town flooded and I almost closed the store and then decided to keep it open, and have been constantly thinking about how I can make it better. Sometimes I wish it was cooler, or hipper, or more elegant or stylish, or something.

Those thoughts arise when I'm not in the store--when I'm there, it makes me happy. It's a peanut butter and jelly store. The peanut butter is a supermarket brand, but the jelly is from the farmers market--your choice of raspberry (with seeds) or strawberry. The bread is freshly baked---sometimes whole grain, sometimes a baguette. Some days it's served with soup. A bucket of crayons and pad of paper is at hand.

Getting tired of the metaphor? Me too. What I want is to create a store that is more than just a place to buy things. One that feels like home, but is also interesting and inspiring. Filled with creativity, and humor, and beauty, and nature. One that continues to evolve, so every week there's something new. The store's been open a year now. Sometimes I still can't believe that I'm doing it. Nothing in my previous lives pointed in this direction Have you ever done something completely unexpected, but once you've done it, it feels so right?.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

last weekend, in the catskills

a sunny autumn weekend 

lots of people out and about--cows too

where there are cows there are barns

I fattened up the field bags display

fussed around with seasonal decor

and themes

and other, more enigmatic aesthetic/styling decisions.

We went to dinner in Andes and saw the most amazing Italian street artist:

He is wearing a knight's helmet! Read more about it here.
It was a good weekend.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

getting ready for the weekend

put together some farms in a jar

got field bags in new designs
want one of your own? go to Happy Family on etsy

ordered these
i don't usually carry new books, but this one is made for my store (i think)
you can see a lot more pictures of it and also the artist's process on design sponge, here

it seems to be a no punctuation kind of day--breezy and autumnal 
travel tip: if you ever want to see fall foliage go to the catskills.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

auctions are my social life

I always feel a little hungover after a big auction night. My favorite auction meets twice a week--Monday mornings and Fridays evenings. I went to both this week (which I guess seals the deal that I'm not closing the store). It's a very friendly and social (meaning people talk while the auction's going on and the auctioneer doesn't yell at you) auction with good food cooked by Bonnie who spoils us with veggies grown in her garden and down-home baking. Don't get me started on her corn chowder. Perhaps it's a sugar hangover--that brownie was huge. It's a full evening--Fridays I leave around 4, drive an hour on back roads, then I have an hour to preview and chat and eat. I've become a regular there, not on the inner circle of old-timers, but comfortably on the fringes. Regulars are an eccentric lot, which makes me feel right at home. The auction starts at 6 and goes until about 9:30. Then it's pay and load the car,  and drive home by which time it's late, but I'm too keyed up for bed. That's a big Friday night for me--no high heels involved. I only go on the weekends I'm not in the Catskills, which is plenty. I need room in the garage for the cars. Winter is coming.

But you are probably wondering about the above-pictured chalkware cat. I did too--was it was meant to hold an ashtray or perhaps a beverage? The auctioneer enlightened us. It's for a goldfish bowl! That got my hand in the air, for it seems the embodiment of whimsy. I am tempted to keep it, though not certain I want to get into goldfish maintenance. I could put flowers in the bowl, but that just wouldn't be the same--it so obviously needs goldfish. Actually I would love to put it on the checkout desk in the store, but then I'd need to hire a goldfish babysitter, which isn't in the budget.

See my lovely hydrangea shrub in the background?

I also bought these child-size Adirondack seats. 

And a box of doggie prints. 

Some may be be original pencil or pen and ink drawings--I have to take a closer look.

This one is titled "Lost".

So what do you think? Should I buy a goldfish?