21 December 2016

A Few Easy Gift Ideas Just in Time for Christmas

"And we've really no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....."

Christmas is more than rapidly approaching and the countdown is almost at ground zero. If you are in need of some inspiration for any last minute ideas, I just happen to have a few that mostly should be there in time for making an appearance under the tree or on someone's device. The wonder and glory of downloadable gifts or certificates. I don't know about you, but I love this new virtual world, most of the time at least. When you don't live close to many of your loved ones, the internet highway is a high speed way to get the message that I love you and am thinking of you done fast.
Many people think the internet option is too impersonal, but I love all the choices and possibilities on finds on line. However the look and touch of real books and other tangible items will never be completely replaceable, but there are some great options to there to be had.

The Framed Winter "Bella Baita View "
I have started to embrace the written word on electronic devices even though I don't have a dedicated reading device, I do have an ipad and that has made recipes in the kitchen a delight to use. I also have started to read fun novels and even a magazine or two on my iphone and ipad. It makes for an enjoyable read without more magazines and books around our small apartment. I have even taken to scanning or photo graphing some of my favorite cook book recipes so that the recipes are readily available. I have even found some cook book titles that have been on sale and so I have tried them out and that helps me decide if I want to have an actual hard copy of the cook book to my ever groaning cook book shelf. I do think there are limitations with cook books as they are sometimes difficult to get to the page you want in some of the formats that the authors have laid them out in, but still I love my little collection of mostly bread cook books and a smattering of various titles of cuisines around the world and my new expanded love of fermenting and culturing foods. It's been exciting learning all about foods that are alive and often feel like being a mad scientist. But I do digress.

I have gathered a few of my favorite reads at the moment and one fantastic apparel company with some suggestions for gifts that can give more than once and sometimes to different recipients. These are easy to purchase ( I guess that is the case in most purchasing now isn't it, although you can do it from the comfort of your home ) and easy to tuck under the tree, stuff in a stocking or have delivered to your designated device. Some of these ideas are so nice you may just want to some for yourself as well to enjoy as well. I hope you find something to intrigue and delight you this year. 
and visions of sugarplums danced in their head..

#1  First up  -  "Living in Italy The Real Deal" Stef Smulders

If you have ever thought you might want to chuck it all and live in Italy, run a B&B or some other type of business, then this is a book you cannot afford to miss! When Stef Smulders reached out to me to have a go with his newly English translated version of his ebook, Living in Italy - The Real Deal, I readily accepted. How lucky for me. His book about his and husband Nico's experiences of deciding to leave their native Holland to purchase a home in the Oltrepo Pavese region of northern Italy is a fun and enlightening read. You may think you have read this story before and maybe you have, but this book is a fresh and engaging story that has real benefits if you are seriously considering this very adventure. Stef's use of real  Italian phrases while telling their tale  will also be extremely useful as you will most likely encounter many if not all of these chapters in this process of buying in a foreign country such as Italy. He doesn't sugar coated their experiences here, and that is a good thing. You will find there is always a way through the morass of red tape and cultural differences that makes for light hearted entertaining reading and hopeful happy endings. Of course, the process is always a journey and Stef will have you enjoying the journey along with them. This really is an entertaining must read if you are serious about moving and purchasing a property in Italy. It is also a story that will have you scratching your head and chuckling along with them on their journey. 

You can purchase a copy of his book here  at Living in Italy - The Real Deal

You can also find our more information about staying with them at the destination at the heart of this book here Villa I Due Padroni. You can stay and let them point you in the best way to discover yet another worthy "off the beaten path" destination in Italy. I am sure they are very happy to share more stories about their whole adventure with you as well. Tell them Marla at Bella Baita sent you. 

Susan Van Allen's very popular book is a must read also for anyone wanting to visit Italy and doesn't know quite where to start. Even seasoned Italophiles will find much to discover on her website and in her book, blog and "Golden Day Series".  Susan has let me know that the book has been fully updated in the newest edition. 
You ca find her website here, and information as to where to purchase her book. 
You will find my blog Bell Baita View listed in the book's new edition in its Online Resources.

You can also read about what I consider a perfect day out and about in our beloved Val Chisone at  my post on her Golden Day series. 
You'll find it here.
Golden Day Fifty-Three: A Little Piece of Heaven in Serre Marchetto

#3 - Dream of Italy Newsletter and now TV Show

Kathy McCabe's website and Travel Newsletter is a wealth of information about traveling in Italy. It is a subscription service that also offer the subscriber many extra perks aside from the premium content that is on offer. There is also an abundance of free content  to entice you and help you make the most of any visit you might make to Italy. She now has a new TV Show in PBS about here visit and suggestions of Italian travel and you can find more information on the website here  and the this other link takes you directly to the membership page.
Dream of Italy - Travel Resource and Now TV Show

You can find us mentioned on her site on the Piedmont Page as well as on her  Cooking School page .

#4 - Some Cookbooks I have found of Interest this year:

These a few of the books that caught my attention this year. The first 2 titles are new this year, the third last year and the other two are older than these, but all are very worth discovering.  I know some of the authors from online and expats groups, although have not met them all in person.  

In a nutshell, I fell in love with so many aspects of this book. I have the hard cover and I love the look and feel of the matte finish cover, the recycled paper, the incredible photos and writing and lastly the recipes. I enjoyed the well researched history behind the recipes and the culture and history of Rome through its food. I read some critiques of this very fact that it isn't an exhaustive list of Roman dishes, but I found that I loved all of the recipes that made the cut in the selection process. I love that some of the classics are pure and some have a modern take and some simply are not something I would make, but still all entranced me and had me reading it like a series of short stories. 

I came across this book a bit too late in my preserving season to truly put it to good use this year. That's ok, because I now will have the winter to read through it and make a plan for next year. I have quite a few favorite recipes for preserving fruits and vegetables the Italian way, but there are plenty of recipes here to delight and try out. The syrups, liqueurs and fruits have quite a few that have my attention as well as some interesting variations on vegetables that are sure to ratchet up the flavor profile. It has a wide range of preserving methods and some recipes using what has been for later use. A very enjoyable book that portends well for putting food by the Italian way. 

I have made a number of Letizia's delicious recipes from her fabulous "Madonna del Piatto" blog, so when I heard she was making a cook book I was excited. This cookbook is exquisite in its beauty and feast for the eyes, much as they view from her kitchen offers. Her recipes are classically simple and yet refreshingly diverse with flavor. and surprises She is generous with her knowledge and that is helpful when making an unfamiliar dish. I think this would be a welcome addition to anyones Italian cookbook repertoire. 

This is the latest gorgeous book on the subject of Italian cooking close to this authors heart. Long before she moved to Tuscany full time and started her organic olive oil farm and holiday apartments, she has written numerous cookbooks on Italian cuisine. This volume celebrates the simplicity and splendor that is simple Italian cooking that elevates what is on hand in the pantry to exquisite new heights. The Italians are masters of this; making much from virtually nothing. That is the beauty of Cucina Povera. There are stories and background to put the recipes into context and for me I love this aspect of cooking, as it often brings a deeper appreciate for the dish. These type of recipes rely even more heavily on the quality of the ingredients to elevate the dish to memorable so no scrimping there. There is a very reasonable priced ebook available to might convince you that a hard copy os the way to go as well. E-cookbooks help preserve your hard bound cookbooks from the drips and splatters that happen along the way when cooking with them in the kitchen, an added bonus. 

This book is usually the bellwether and standard for which most people refer to in reverential tones when one talks about the revival of fermenting and culturing food and drinks that has exploded on the scene the past few years. I had no idea about so many of these foods until more recently when Kombucha and the revival of milk kefir seems to have taken the US by storm, and brought to light all the places where this tradition never completely went away. It's a fascinating and delicious journey that like so many disciplines, seems to be endless and that, actually, is a good thing.  The book is full of sound advice based on science and easy to glean the information. The Cultures for Health website is a treasure trove of resources to get you started and access to start this culinary journey. There are a goodly number of free ebooks on the various culturing disciplines for merely signing up for their newsletter. This community is generous with their knowledge and very helpful when needed. Just ask. 

#5 A New Active and Casual Athletic Apparel Company, 
whose goal is to empower women....

What can I say except I love this concept, this idea, these products, these 2 women who are making it happen, following their dreams and working hard to bring other women along with them. Their company was founded so the 20% of their proceeds, "supports and funds a wide array of non-profits that directly impact women who are aspiring to do more." What is not to like about that?

Founded by Hanna Bowden and Laurel Kasel, friends and basketball team mates from their years at Colorado Mesa University playing college basketball and all the other sports that Colorado has on offer. Their years in the women's sports field inspired them to found their company.
Hanna spoke about their motivation in an interview she did last month with "The WON - Women's Outdoor News" publication in which she noted,
" Mpowher was born from the fact that we saw a lack of empowerment of women from all our years playing team sports to working in corporate America. This lack of empowerment was everywhere."
All I can say is they are producing a great looking product line of casual active athletic apparel that does more then keep you comfy and styling. Have a look at their products and support this small business to reach their dreams and achieve their goals in which they realize a business that is about empowering women more than merely making money. Refreshing perspective in this world today.
Go Hanna and Laurel!  

** Full disclosure...I have known Hanna since she was a twinkle in her parents eyes. Her mother is a dear friend that dates back to our days working together at the Sunshine Cafe in Silverthorne, Colorado and her dad when he was a snow cat driver at Keystone. This family knows a thing or two about sports. Hanna and Laurel came and stayed with us a couple of years ago on their whirl wind tour in Europe. They were a delight to have stay with us and we are just so delighted to see them really doing something that stands out in their industry. they are starting from where they are and I am sure they will be very successful. Please encourage them on their journey!**  Marla
Fabrizio, Marla, Laurel Kasel, and Hanna Bowden- May 2014

# 6  Last but not least - Take an online class and learn a new skill or craft

I discovered Craftsy a few years back when Peter Reinhart offered his bread baking class on this site and discounted it to boot just before Christmas. I just checked now and there are a lot of classes on sale on the site right now. Very worth checking out. There are hundreds of classes to choose from. I also bought a cheese making class as well. They are great, because you have a lifetime access to the class, there are recipes to download, video to watch at your leisure and over and over again if you like and an online forum where you can ask questions of the teacher or other students and share your triumphs or less than stellar attempts. It really is a nice format. There are also a number of free classes on a wide range of topics too.

Speaking of FREE.... Skill share is another site where most all of the courses are free and as wide ranging as learning to paint to learning how to code computers. there are some cooking classes and design classes and all sorts of interesting topics that people are willing to share for free with you. There now is a premium feature that gives you access to more involved , but there really is a wealth of free classes to choose from and probably something to interest most everybody.

Christmas tree in Naples bar
With love from Marla & Fabrizio 
at Bella Baita Italian Alps Retreat

Wishing everyone, everywhere a very special 
Winter Solstice, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas
and any others you care to celebrate in peace. 

"Peace on earth, goodwill toward hu-mans!"
Our Bella Baita View - Winter Version

No comments:

Bookmark and Share