Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

To end 2016, I figured it was time for a recap of my favorite posts from this year!  Some months may have slim pickings in 2016, but it was a difficult decision for others.  So lets get started!

January:  A (very) snowy day (the blizzard of 2016)

February:  A Valentine's Tea (A trip to Sweet City Desserts for a birthday tea)

July:  Ruby Red

September:  Hawaiian Ti Luau

November:  Pantheon, Palaces, and St. Paul's Outside the Walls (Day 3 of my recap of a trip to Italy in 2015)

Thanks for joining me back down this trip of 2016.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Whovilation!

Welcome to 2016's Whovilation!

The theme for this year's Christmas party is probably pretty's Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

The focal point of the decorations--one of my new trees this year--a Whoville Christmas!

 If you've been following my blog, you might have noticed that I have a slight Christmas tree addiction.  I'm one of those people who has multiple trees--all with different themes.

But we're here for a proper Whoville feast fit for a Grinch with a heart (and stomach) that has grown three sizes...

First up, we have Roast Beast and Green Eggs

(or is it that I do so like green eggs and ham?)

Who Hash and Grinch Greens casserole

(Paula Deen's hashbrown casserole and green bean casserole)

And for dessert, Who pudding, Whovilation cupcakes, and Max's Biscuits

(Max's bone shaped Christmas tea cookies!)

(Watergate salad and spiced rum eggnog cupcakes)

I was especially proud of myself for getting the icing the have the green swirl successfully on the first try--there have been failures in the past...

Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day

Friday, December 16, 2016

Holly and Tanzanite

It was our favorite part of the day, this in-between time, and it always seemed to last longer than it should--a magic and lavender space unpinned from the hours around it, between worlds.
~Paula McLain

December's gemstone of the month is the tanzanite, a relatively "new" stone, discovered in Tanzania in 1967 near Mount Kilimanjaro.  This stone has both lavender hints as well as blue.

I have the stone matched today with my new teacup and saucer, a lucky find on sale--December from Royal Albert's Flower of the Month series, the holly.

But give me holly, bold and jolly,
Honest, prickly, shining holly;
Pluck me holly leaf and berry
                          For the day when I make merry
~Christina Rossetti


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Italy Day 7--Medici Florence

After the hotel's included breakfast,

(The bright breakfast room, which happened to be across the hall from our hotel room, so a very easy walk to breakfast)

we wandered down to the Academy to see Michelangelo's David (hoping to avoid crowds if we got there a bit before they opened). 

The Academy displays a few other unfinished Michelangelo pieces, including the Slaves.

Next we walked up to the San Marco church and museum, the top of the "Medici quartiere" in the area north of the main part of Florence. 

The church was lovely, and an organist started playing  just after we got there!  I love those unexpected experiences. 

Next we went next door to the church's museum, which was really the cloisters for the monks that lived there.

In in mid 1400s, when the Dominican monks arrived, the cloisters had fallen into disrepair and they asked Cosimo de' Medici for assistance (thus the Medici tie in). 

The leader of the monastery, Fra Angelico, was a famous medieval painter (circa 1395-1455). He had painted the cells of many of his fellow monks, which can now be toured. 

There were also some medieval manuscripts prepared by the monks on display, including music!

Next we turned around and walked back in the direction of our hotel, stepping into an old library, Biblioteca Marucelliana, opened to the public in 1752, that we came across along the way for a quick photo.

The library was along the way to our next stop, the Palazzo Medici (built 1444-1484).  The palace was a bit disappointing (I think the city is in the process of restoring it) except the courtyard was pretty, and the painted chapel. 

The Medici's rose to prominence in the 14th century with the creation and prosperity of their bank.  They controlled Florence, had 4 popes in the family, and a couple of queens of France (if you remember Catherine d'Medici from my France travels).

(Magi chapel)

(The Procession of the Magi, with Medici family members portraying the various magi-- Cosimo on the donkey (left), and potentially Lorenzo on the white horse (middle-ish right))

We then walked towards the Medici's family parish, the Basilica of San Larenzo. 

One chapel shows the sky as it was on a date in the 1400s, scholars aren't sure why that date. 

The church complex

also includes the Laurentian Library sponsored by the Medici with stairs designed by Michelangelo.  He lived with the Medici when he was young and they served as his sponsor. 

Michelangelo also carved statutes for the tombs of those Medici with which he lived, which were placed in the Medici Chapels, the crypt for much of the Medici family in another part of the San Larenzo complex.  

(Entrance to the chapels)

(Madonna and Child)

(Night and Day)

(Dusk and Dawn)

After a bruschetta lunch across from the chapel,

and a quick rest stop at our hotel (really close to this church) we headed back out (walking south this time) for the second part of today's touring.  On our way, we noticed another church at the end of the small side street our hotel was one, Santa Maria Maggiore, and ducked in for a quick look. 

The church was originally constructed in the 11th century (Romanesque style) but was renovated in the 13th century in the gothic style,

It was really pretty with surviving frescos on the pillars holding up the church's roof.  

Next we continued on our way to one of the big piazzas in town, Piazza della Repubblica,

which has a vintage carousel!

We also walked a block up, past the big arch in the piazza,

 to step into the courtyard of the Strozzi Palace, the rival family of the Medici's in Florence.

The Strozzi had built this palace to show their prominence and perhaps to imply they were better than the Medicis, but Filippo Strozzi died in 1491 before it was completed...and Cosimo I de' Medici confiscated the residence for 30 years.

We wandered back under the arch,

on our way to our next stop, the Orsanmichele church. This building had been originally built as medieval gran market in 1337, but it was at a prime location so it was taken over to be a church in 1380,  the conversion completed in 1404.

The church had statutes on its exterior, including some by Donetello,

although today the originals have been removed to various museums and replaced by replicas. Each statute was commissioned by one of the guilds in the city, with each trying to out do the other (of course).

The interior is beautifully gothic,

with a gorgeous gothic tabernacle at the altar.  

We then walked down to the next major piazza on our list for the day, piazza della Signoria, and past the Palazzo Vecchio, the fortress looking building below that was once the Town hall, before Cosimo I de' Medici took it as his palace (notice a pattern?), but more on this palace in the next post. 

Our destination was the Uffizi Gallery--you can see a small part of this large U shaped building to the right of the palazzo in the picture above.  The Uffizi (Italian for "offices") was originally begun in 1560 by Cosimo I de' Medici to house the offices of the Florentine magistrates.   It's probably not surprising that the Uffizi itself is pretty opulent.

I was especially interested in the frescos of old Florence

But there I go getting distracted by the pretty rooms again.  Cosimo intended to showcase the Medici art collection in this palace, and, even after the Medici family ended, the art was bequeathed to the Tuscan state, and the Uffizi was opened to the public in the 1700s.  Today this is the largest art gallery in Florence and includes numerous famous pieces by multitudes of artists, with an especially large Italian Renaissance collection (in Florence, go figure).  Here are a couple of my favorites:

(Leonardo di Vinci's Annunciation)

(People admiring Michelangelo's The Holy Family or I might have just liked the statute, who knows?)

(Caravaggio's Medusa)

(Every room in the hotel we were staying at was named for a famous painting.  Our room was Musical Angel by Rosso Fiorentino)

One I was especially excited to see was The Birth of Venus by Botticello.

After being saturated with art and culture, we took a break for ice cream treat and a tea on the roof before heading back in for more. 

After our visit, we wanted back down to the square,

We wandered up the main upscale shopping street, via Calzaiuoli,
(I might have darted into the Disney store)

back towards the Duomo.  We had dinner at Scudieri

in their outdoor seating area in front of the Duomo.

Scudieri also had gorgeous desserts:

 I might have bought two mignons (mini desserts) a cannoli and a tart...second dessert was delicious!