Cooking Local, the Paper Plane and More: It’s the top 4

4 for August

It’s the top 4 for August, and what a busy month it has been. I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my favorite Italian secrets with you this month. I recapped our final summer workshop with Sif, we discussed the best kept antiques fair secret in Italy, and I may or may not have spilled the beans on one of my guilty pleasures.

I cannot believe it’s almost September and that in just a few short weeks, I’ll be boarding a plane back to the U.S. In the meantime, I’m going to soak up every moment I have left of my first summer at the Fortress. Stay tuned in September for some exciting content. You won’t want to miss it.

Here’s my top 4 August:

Cooking Healthy and Local Workshop

The Testament of Testaroli

The Paper Plane Cocktail Recipe

Melissa’s Tearoom and Cakes

xx Annette

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My secret mega obsession in Italy

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Hi I’m Annette Joseph, and I am a professional shopper…and I have a problem. Well not a problem exactly. More like a secret obsession. As you all know, I live in Italy about 1/2 the year, with Donald Trump in office, it will probably be more like 12 months out of the year…(not kidding).

I live here, therefore I live a normal life, and I need normal stuff like wrapping paper, light bulbs, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, glass jars, paper plates, and a mop and pail. When I first summered in Italy about 25 years ago, one had to shop at many specialty stores for those items. There were not giant conglomerate hardware stores like Home Depot, or SUPER markets like Whole Foods or even stores that cover it all like Target. We would go from place to place picking up mops here and laundry detergent there, meat at the butcher (which I still do) and wrapping paper…well there was no wrapping paper…none. I used to have to be super creative with birthday wrapping, or I would bring it with me from the states.

My point is like with all things, things change. It’s still hard to find everything in one place like Target, but the world is becoming more homogenized as the internet has made the world smaller and smaller. Something terribly clever is going on here in Italy. The inception of the catch all store. Mostly owned and operated by Chinese families, these mega stores have everything, and I mean everything. I am totally obsessed with them. Need cute cocktail straws or cute ribbon? Doggie poo bags or votive candles? Pots and pans, hardware or sunscreen? Here’s your place. They even have clothing, hats, cosmetics and perfume. The skus go on and on. Need a grill? Charcoal? A chocolate bar? Gum? Motor oil? You get the picture.

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I AM OBSESSED. It is something that has made living here nearly perfect. I know you’re saying what is she talking about? But these stores are literally life changing. It used to take hours to find wrapping paper, gift bags and even cocktail straws, and now with the Happy Megastore, I can get everything in one spot. The thing I like most is that the store is so unpolished, so utilitarian and almost kitsch. No sparkling photography of pretty people trying perfume or walking their perfect pooch. Just down and dirty racks with all sorts of useful items stocked up in obscene quantities.

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The biggest secret is when I am in a bad mood (yes one can be in a bad mood in Italy :-)), I go there for an instant pick me up. I buy a few items, a scented candle or a bag of charcoal for our grill, and I feel 100% better. Let’s face it: it’s cheaper than therapy, and one can pick up some useful hard-to-find items to boot. Next time you’re in Italy in a town, find the Happy Megastore or something like it. (Hint: they look like a Chinese container threw up on the sidewalk) Go in; you will be amazed. If you forgot to bring something from home, I swear they will have what you need. I know this is not the most Italian-ish romantic post I’ve ever done, but it’s a very important post because it documents the changes that have taken place as the world becomes a smaller place. It’s relevant and important and mainly, it’s my happy mega place.

xx Annette

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Melissa’s Tearoom and Cakes Sarzana, Italy

As you know from my last post, I am in love with the little right down the road from us town, Sarzana, Italy, and Melissa's Tearoom and Cakes is a gem. FullSizeRender 3

Ciao! As you know from my last post, I am in love with the little town right down the road from us town, Sarzana, Italy.  My sweet friend from Berlin, Heike, told me that I needed to check out this cute tearoom, Melissa’s Tearoom and Cakes, while I was there, and mostly I needed to follow her on Instagram, as she was a German sweets sensation. As I have said before, Sarzana is a treasure trove of hip and yummy places.

Melissa’s Tearoom and Cakes is on the main drag, and you cannot miss it. It’s the store front with the charming, super cozy hunter green facade, sparkly crystal lighting, and pistachio colored cafe tables and chairs in front. Inside the deep rich hunter green walls set off the glittery silver teapots on the back wall and draw you right in. Cake stands hold several freshly baked cakes, and cupcakes are displayed like delicious jewels in a vintage glass case. In Italy, there has been a invasion of cupcakes which to me is a revelation since Italians tend to like drier, less sweet pastries and proudly defend their territory as far as pasticcerias are concerned. But I like the fact that Italians are widening their horizons. Check out Melissa’s facebook page, and definitely follow her on Instagram as her feed is pretty yummy.

Don’t worry, there are still plenty of fantastic pasticcerias in Sarzana to choose from, but I love Melissa’s balls to the walls concept of tea and cakes in a espresso and biscotti driven market.

If you’re in the hood, stop by for a visual treat. Of course, it’s a treat for your mouth, too. Like I’ve said before, go off the beaten path and explore outside your comfort zone. You never know what you’ll find…maybe even a cupcake! xx

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Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Hi Everyone! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend here again bringing you your last minute Mother’s Day gift guide for any last minute shopping. Just in case you’ve forgotten, Mother’s Day is this Sunday, but with quick shipping, there’s still time to get her something special.

When it comes to shopping this week, think about places you can either pick-up a gift (I love the “pick-up in store” options so many places have now), or have shipped to you (or mom!) quickly. And of course, you can’t go wrong with flowers!

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1. This/That & Bits/Bobs pouches: Anthropologie always has such a great selection of little gifts and things. These pouches would be perfect for traveling abroad to collect loose change and foreign currency.

2. Photography Workshop: What mom wouldn’t love a trip of a lifetime to learn how to use her camera and explore Italy at the same time? Go in with your siblings (and maybe your dad, too) to gift mom one of Annette’s style+photo workshops!

3. Copper Tea Kettle: There’s something about sipping hot tea in the spring and summer that’s so refreshing. This copper tea kettle is gorgeous and can be kept out on the stove for extra kitchen pizzazz.

4. Pool House Candle: Candles are fun to gift because they’re something people rarely buy for themselves. These Lafco candles are large, so they make a great piece for a coffee table, but their size also means they burn for 90 hours!

5. Polish Set + Mani/Pedi Date: Give mom a mani/pedi with you along with a stunning collection of summer polishes to keep her toes beach ready all season.

6. Straw hat: A wide brim straw hat is perfect for the mom who loves to be outdoors. She can use it in her garden, at the beach, or anywhere else she’d like!

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms and moms-to-be out there!

xo, Nicole

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Spring Cocktails, A Day at the Races, & More: It’s the Top 4

Here's a quick glimpse at some of my favorite (and our most viewed) blogs. It's our top 4 for April. Stay tuned for May!

Here’s a quick glimpse at some of my favorite (and our most viewed) blogs. It’s our top 4 for April.  Writing blog content is something I love to do, and it’s always neat hearing and seeing what you like, too. Let me know what you’d like to see more of in the future. Stay tuned for May; I can’t wait to show you what’s up my sleeve.

Top 4 for April:

The Fortress: A Renovation Update from Italy 

It’s Coming Up Cocktails: My Favorite Spring Sips

A Day at the Races

Ikea’s Jassa Collection

xx Annette

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