Autumn’s Adventures

Italian Recipe #1: Pasta Freddo/Insalata di Pasta (Pasta Salad!)
June 26, 2010, 9:57 am
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I thought it would be fun to share the recipes I’m getting from the farm with you guys, so here is the first one I’ve written down.  Italian food is great because it uses simple ingredients to create super flavorful meals, and most dishes are really easy to make!  This recipe is one that Barb made up on the spot, and in the last moment decided to throw shredded coconut in it.  BRILLIANT!

Pasta Freddo/Insalata di Pasta


  • Bowtie Pasta
  • Diced Cucumbers
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Chopped Fresh Mozarella
  • Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Shredded Coconut (to taste)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (drizzle over top)
  • Sea Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper Spices (to taste)
  • Coriander Powder (to taste)

Ok, so basically you just gotta eyeball it like the Italians do. There were no measuring cups involved in this preparation, just hands and eyeballs.  So just mix all these things together and add the spices to your liking…

Obviously you need to prepare the pasta ahead of time and let it cool in the fridge.  Add a touch of EVOO to keep the noodles separated.

Serve cold and with a cute basil leaf on top!  Soooo yummy and so easy to make!

Where In The World Am I?
June 26, 2010, 9:38 am
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So I got a request from a reader and friend to put where on the map I am in Italy.  For the record, I am in Varese, Italy, which I’ve stated before but just casually.  It is a very small city 1 hour north of Milan in the middle of the lake district of the province of Lombardy.  It’s 1 hour by train to the famous Lago di Como (Lake Como) and the town of Bellagio is 2 hours.  The climate so far has been dry and hot but with frequent rain which makes it cold enough to wear a sweater.  I’ve been sleeping with thick blankets at night so all of my thin clothes that I packed, anticipating hot and humid weather, are rendering useless.


I am waaaaaaaay up north about 30 minutes to the border of Switzerland and the city of Lugano, Switzerland.

Here you can see how close I am to Milan!

So yeah…that is where I am.  When I get my shit organized, I’ll do another post with photos of the actual farm and people, describing who I am working with and what my space looks like here!


Lago Maggiore and Le Isole Borromean
June 26, 2010, 7:18 am
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So our plans to go to Lago di Como and Bellagio were foiled when my alarm clock didn’t go off and we ended up waking up 2 hours later than planned.  We were woken up by Rita, who said she would give us a ride to town at 9am but we didn’t end up leaving until close to 10:30.  She suggested we go to Lago Maggiore instead, since it was closer and doable in the time we still had left in the day.  So off we went.

We bought a day pass for the ferries that take you around the lake from town to town and to the Borromean islands.  The weather was just perfect and the ferry rides were really wonderful and the best part of the day (aside from the view of the beautiful lake).  Our first stop was to Isola Superiore di Pescatori to grab some fresh fish for lunch.  When we arrived (after an hour on the ferry) we asked for the most affordable restaurant which was right on the water.  We scored an awesome table with a fabulous view of the lake — it was totally romantic!  We shared a grilled lake fish platter that was 13 euros and plenty big for the two of us to share.  It was delicious too.

After our relaxing, super satisfying and wonderful lunch, we wandered around the island and took photos.  There was a small beach at one end of the island  and really narrow cobblestone walkways.  It was totally cool.

We caught a ferry to the next island, Isola Bella, 5 minutes away.  Our mission on this island was to find gelato, and luckily there were plenty of gelato stands to choose from.  This time I tried chocolate and hazelnut and I have to say it is my favorite so far!  We explored this island too, but didn’t stay too long because it wasn’t very big.  We hopped on the ferry and tried to go to Santa Caterina de Sasso, which looked cool from photos we had seen, but we took the wrong ferry and the day was getting late so we just decided to head home.  We had a full and awesome day off!

Damn you, Nettles!
June 22, 2010, 2:56 pm
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For some reason, Rita decided that we should wake up at the butt crack of dawn (for us this is 7:30 am) to be ready to work by 8:30 am.  It came as no surprise to us when no one was around at 8:30 to tell us what to do so we drank a coffee and waited for people to appear.  Rita finally showed up and told us to go down to the cow stables and scrape the poop, feed them hay and give them cornmeal.  I collected one egg from my chicken pen and we finished the cows in about 15 minutes.  Ale (Barb’s shy youngest brother) came down shortly after and told us to feed the other animals so we did and then just stood around for a while.  While cleaning the cow shit, I noticed this, which I found to be disgusting yet hilarious.

Barb then came around and asked us if we wanted to help cut the grass and do some gardening since Ale wasn’t giving us anything else to do.  Amber hates gardening so I took to the weeding while she mowed the lawn.  Part of the garden was really overgrown so I had to pull some huge ass weeds.  Most of the weeds are these nasty plants called nettles and when they touch your skin it feels like a million tiny needles poking you and burning your skin and it lasts for a while.  I was covered from head to toe but those awful plants still managed to touch my wrist where my glove and sweater didn’t connect.  Mind you, the weather today is 75°F and I’m working in jeans and a sweatshirt and thick plastic gardening gloves.  I was sweating some serious balls trying to avoid those nettles!

Amber ran into a snake while mowing and she screamed and froze and then turned off the mower.  It was funny.  She thought she’d be able to avoid the snakes by not gardening but I didn’t see a single snake! poor girl.

Around 12 we decided to stop for a few hours, to stay out of the hot sun at its prime and to relax.  Amber has been the little sewing machine these last days, fixing her pants, sewing the holes in my sweatshirts and then adding elastic to one of my pants.  She spent a good hour in the sun sewing and then started to feel light headed and nauseous so she took a nap.

At 4pm we were supposed to be ready to garden again but Barb had an appointment with some advertising guy that lasted until almost 6 so Amber and I hung around and waited…not knowing what to do.  When she was finally finished with her meeting she told us to go ask her brother what is left to do for the day so we did and he is so shy that he said “we will feed the horses” and he ran away for about 30 minutes.  We didn’t know which horses to feed or what to feed them and we thought he was going to get the food but every time he reappeared he had no food and said nothing to us so we stood around for a good hour and then as we were heading back to the house Rita said, “wait girls, Ale is going to feed the horses with you.” So we waited and he came back and he got the food for the horses and in the end we fed 4 horses (actually he fed 3 and I fed 1) and that was it!  It was kind of frustrating because we just didn’t see the point in us waiting if he was going to do it himself.

Today was a bid unorganized and unproductive so we are hoping tomorrow is better.  I did make a delicious mozzarella/tomato and mint pesto salad tonight though. Yum YUM!

Exploring the Town of Varese
June 22, 2010, 5:42 am
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For our first day off this week we decided to go to Varese city center and do some exploring.  Rita (the mother of Barb) was going to town so she gave us a ride in the car.  First she made some pit stops at the bank and ceramics place and some other random place so we didn’t actually get to town any faster, had we decided to take the bus.  But it was ok because we were in no hurry.

Once we arrived, Robin showed us where the tourist info center was so we could get a map of the city.  Today was her last day on the farm/in Varese so she was doing her own thing and then hopping on a bus to Luxembourg.  Amber and I collected a bunch of pamphlets about the city and the events for this summer.  There are outdoor film festivals, jazz festivals and a ton of other stuff so we are going to make a wall calendar and mark off the things we hope to see while living here.  The maps we got were really shitty and had no street signs on the smaller streets so we kept getting lost on the cobblestone walkways.

There is gelato everywhere so when the time was right Amber and I decided to take a break and eat our first gelato in Italy.  I got the flavors Bacio (some type of chocolate with hazelnut) and berries and Amber got mint and chocolate.  We both decided that the berries flavor was too artificial and the mint just tasted gross.  But bacio and chocolate got two thumbs way up.  Next time I am going to get dark chocolate and maybe just plain old vanilla.

After the ice cream we walked around some more, taking photos of the buildings and the cool graffiti and decided to get some lunch.  We found this cute little trattoria or cafe that served paninis and salads.  Amber and I each got a tomato and mozzarella salad and americano coffees.  I got tuna on the side for some protein and Amber got some milanese (breaded chicken).  Overall it was delicious and only cost us 11 euros total. YUM.

To make our day complete, we took the bus to Sacro Monte, or sacred mountain, to get a great view of Varese and the neighboring towns below.  We got off at the wrong stop at first and had to wait 40 minutes for the bus to come again and bring us to the tippy top.  Once we got there we ran over to take photos and then ran back on the bus so we didn’t have to wait for 40 minutes again.  The view was nice but you couldn’t see the lakes, only the mountains, so I wasn’t that impressed.

On our way back home we ran a few errands in town and then chilled out for the rest of the night.

It’s a sheep shearing, cow molesting kinda day…
June 19, 2010, 3:38 pm
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So my day started with some heavy loads of shit…and lots of them.  Normally I scoop cow shit which is soooo smelly but not really that heavy.  Horse shit on the other hand, is not so smelly but oh so heavy!  And with about 25 horses, I was neck deep in the doo-doo today, breakin’ my back shoveling their shit from the past week.  I’m not gonna lie, I loved it.  All the sweating and heaving and stinking really makes the workout worth it all.  And I feel a sense of accomplishment — something I don’t feel when I work out at the gym.

When lunch rolled around, Barb informed me and Amber that the sheep shaving guy would be coming any minute and we should go down and watch them buzz the hair off.  “It only happens once a year!” she said.  Of course I couldn’t miss this!  So we ran down there just in time to see him starting the first sheep.  Barb’s 2 younger brothers ran around the sheep pen trying to catch the sheep.  Once they did, the shaver grabbed the sheep by the two front legs, drags it in between his legs and starts shaving it’s belly.  This guy totally has a system.  First he starts belly then works down to the balls, carefully holding the little sheep penis (or utters, if it’s a female), then he does the tooshie and the tail, and he pops back up and does the neck and face, then he flips it around and does the back in one giant fur pile.  It’s crazy, sexy, cool.  Here is a video I took of the shearing.  Barb’s nephews were visiting that day so I took a lot of cute photos with the youngest boy, Eduardo, who really took to me.  I could totally rock the farm with a baby on my hip, no?

After this awesomeness, Barb then tells me that the vet will be coming to check on the cows to see if they can be inseminated.  Of course I wanted to be there to watch this!!! So I brought my camera along and watched the vet do this for 5 minutes straight.  Ooh la la was it a sight to be seen! For the record, they won’t be ready “to be fake f*cked” as Barb calls it, for at least 12 days.

All of this excitement for the day exhausted me so Amber and I did some low-key donkey and sheep feeding before we called it quits for the night.  But before I called it quits I ran to the chicken pen and collected my first batch of eggs.  It really made my day!

I finally edited this video I took of random farm animal footage so check it out if you want.

Sunshine and Risotto
June 19, 2010, 10:12 am
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The sunshine is finally here for the first time since we arrived.  It was so nice — 73°F!!!  We started the day with the normal farm tasks — feeding the animals, letting the horses run free, scooping the cow poop, laying the hay…its just awesome.

For lunch, Barb’s aunt Marinela made Risotto and fried eggplant and we all ate together outside on the porch.  Barb brought out a lot of maps and tourist booklets and she pointed out a few cool places to go in Varese and surrounding areas for our next days off on Monday and Tuesday.  Amber and I are already getting used to hearing Italian and we are understanding quite a lot.  So we sat there for a good 2 hours listening and chatting with the family, getting to know them more.  We also gave them some good ol’ western NY maple syrup as a thank you for inviting us into their home and Barb was so excited.  So tomorrow we will make some food to accompany the syrup.

We had the whole afternoon off so we sat on the porch and chilled with our computers and then Amber went into the sunshine and did some sewing/repairing of her pants and my only sweatshirt.

At around 7pm we started to help Barb in the kitchen, preparing for the 2 dinner parties that were coming into the restaurant that night.  This was my first time serving to anyone so I was a bit nervous, especially since they spoke Italian — not English!  I also looked like a doofus wearing black capri pants with white socks showing from my black shoes (and to add even more humor to the ensemble, my white socks had Italian flags on them!).  The first dinner party was a couple.  They were so cute and in love and very nice so it was easy.  They also spoke English so that was good.  I wasn’t very perceptive and I kept forgetting to grab certain things off the table when they were finished or leaving forks or checking the water.  But it is a learning process.

The second party was a group of 6 people in their late 20’s early 30’s.  They were really loud and asked a lot of questions.  It was very nerving because I had to reach over people and carry lots of plates and get more water and wine and bread and blah blah blah.  And the worst part about them is they kept ordering and ordering and they wouldn’t leave!  It was 11:30 by the time they left and I was just exhausted waiting for them. But I had a really great time in the kitchen with Barbara and the family, trying all of the foods they sent out and just joking about everything.  I’m really learning a lot from them and having such a wonderful time.