Tag Archives: friends

Zippy Summer Dessert:: Espresso Caramel Sauce

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Today I’m sharing a zippy summer dessert recipe for espresso caramel sauce. I made it for friends in Italy a few years ago, and I might have to recreate it again soon. It’s a quick and easy recipe for all coffee lovers out there, and you know how I love my coffee, especially espresso. I like to serve this sauce on gelato, but since it’s a caramel topping, it’s great on almost everything…especially chocolate desserts!

Espresso Caramel Sauce:
serves 6 to 8 on ice cream or pound cake
You will need:

– 1 cup sugar
– 1 shot of espresso
– 1 cup of heavy cream

To prepare:

Place sugar in a small sauce pan on medium heat.

Watch the sugar carefully, with a silicone spatula brush down the sides of the pan until combined and the sugar turns a deep amber color.

Pull the caramel off the heat and add the espresso while stirring until combined, it will bubble and spit this is normal. Next add cream very gradually while stirring the entire time until combined. If there are any lumps don’t worry they will melt once you put it back on the heat.

To Finish: Place the pan of caramel back on low heat, stirring continually until the caramel starts to slowly bubble not boil. This takes about 3 minutes.

Pull from the heat and place into a glass or ceramic container with a spout, place in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Warning: With all hot sugar be extremely careful so as not to burn yourself. If you’ve ever burned yourself with hot sugar you know it’s very dangerous. This is not an activity for children.

xx Annette

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Italy Workshop excursions :: Custom Textile Studio in Florence – meet Margherita Pandolfini

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One of the many wonderful things about conducting creative retreats in Italy is all of the available talent around our area. Florence is about 2 hours from our doorstep; it’s a beautiful drive or train ride, so the time just speeds by.

I was contacted by the lovely and talented textile designer Margherita Pandolfini, and she invited me to bring my workshop to her gorgeous studio on the outskirts of Florence, located in the middle of the most beautiful courtyard I’ve ever seen. Sometimes opportunities appear that are just unreal here in Italy. Margherita, greeted us at the meticulously handpainted door which foreshadowed the magical storybook journey through the courtyard up some rickety stairs into her surreal world high a top a centuries old building. The loft studio had the most glorious view of the Villa courtyard and gardens. It was a courtyard that could inspire anyone to create beautiful, whimsical, playful patterns of her and her partner’s company MK Textiles and Atelier. Sometimes the wonky creative spaces are by far the most inspiring to me. This space was one of those places that spoke to me.

Margherita, set up painting stations for our attendees, and then gave a brief demo, so we had plenty of time to paint our own cloth bags. As the birds chirped and the sun shined on the incredible view, we happily painted away all morning long.

Please make sure to visit their site and if you have the chance schedule a time to visit.

I have invited Margherita and her partner to Atlanta to speak at Americasmart, too, so please stay tuned for those dates.

In the meantime, look for these beautiful textiles out and about in London and Florence.

xx Annette

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Strictly Styling Workshop June 2018 a recap

As many of you already know, we have been working like crazy to get the Fortress ready for upcoming workshops. Our maiden run was last week for our strictly styling workshop. Needless to say, I was a little anxious to see how our new guest quarters stacked up. I painlessly attended to every detail. Sticking to the idea that less is more and that the ancient walls would speak for themselves. Making sure the beds were comfortable, and the sheets were soft and inviting. Crossing fingers that our bathrooms – which are wet rooms – worked the way we wanted them to. They did.

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Our attendees were a super talented group that consisted of a florist, bloggers and foodstylists, and the stylish owner of a PR firm. This group instantly bonded, and the bond grew tighter as I watched them help and advise each other throughout the their days together. Our team building event of hiking into a waterfall was such fun, and it really showed off the natural beauty around us. We had a picnic, and we chatted and shared our goals and desires throughout the week. All the our days were filled with endless possibilities and inspiration.

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This time I tried something a little different and incorporated a textile painting workshop into the mix. We traveled to Florence for the day to meet Margherita Pandolfini at the studio she shares with partner Karl Jorns.

We had an amazing visit, painted textiles and then headed for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Florence. La Menagere.

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After an absolutely stellar, lunch we met up with our tour guide and walked all over Florence with our group ending up at the David. I had not seen the David in so many years; it was fun to see him again.

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We grabbed an aperitivo, and then ended our visit to Florence attending a Sunday Supper’s Sobremesa is a global dinner.

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We ate in what was a former glove factory, with a gathering of creatives from all over the world. The lovely Gaia Cozzi and her adorable father prepared everything and were the perfect hosts. We had a great time with everyone and ended the evening with lots of stories to tell and a fun ride back to the Lunigiana recapping our day.

The workshop was a huge success making it hard to part ways. My hope is all of our workshops will be like this one, and the creative juices will keep flowing.

If you would like to join us in the fall we have a couple of places left in our workshops. They are closing end of July so think fast and join us in September and October. Sign-up here.

xx Annette

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Greetings from Italy!

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Ciao everybody! Greetings from Italy! If you follow me on my instagram feeds, you know that I have been BUSY!!! Honestly, that’s an understatement. Busy getting everything in ship shape for our upcoming workshops and photoshoots.

It feels like I have been here for 3 months, but it’s only been 2 weeks with all that we have accomplished on getting everything from the new renovation ready for guests and attendees.

The guest quarters are ready to house everyone all comfy and cozy. It’s been a lot of fun pulling all the decor together with a little (a lot) of help from our friends. Steve and Jill McKenzie helped with styling touches and great advice. Look for their guest post coming up soon! Let’s just say we are excited to welcome them back in September for Steve’s abstract painting workshop in the Italian countryside. We had some great brainstorming sessions as we were busy fixing up the guest quarters.

The commercial kitchen is ready for some cooking action. Here’s where we will cook, offer cooking lessons to workshop attendees and of course have breakfast every morning.

Teri Mammini, our private chef, and I worked our tushes off to make sure the kitchen is perfection. We are really going to enjoy working in this beautiful place all season.

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To say that putting all of this together was daunting is an understatement, but it has been worth every bit of sweat every step along the way.

Our Strictly Styling Workshop is underway. Head to my instagram account to check out all the best bits. I will be back with a recap of every adventure and workshop experience soon on the blog.

xx Annette

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Recipe:: Easy Pesto Pasta for a Crowd

This recipe for Ligurian pesto pasta with green beans and red potatoes is a fantastic dinner that’s perfectly suited for feeding a crowd. If you have leftovers, it also makes a great lunch the next day. Pesto is one of those easy sauces that people often forget about, but not this Italian girl! Basil grows freely in my garden, so you can be sure I’ll be whipping-up this easy pesto pasta this summer.
Easy Pesto Pasta for a Crowd
You will need: 
– 4 tablespoons olive oil
– 4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
– 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
– 2 cups green beans cut into 2″ pieces
– 6 small red potatoes cut into quarters, skin on
– 1 box of dry mini penne pasta (or pen shaped pasta)
To prepare:
Cook pasta until al dente, about 15 minutes.
Add the beans and potatoes after pasta has cooked and cook for 5 minutes until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.
Reserve 1/4 cup of the hot pasta water to lighten the pesto sauce consistency. Drain and pour into a large bowl.
Toss pasta, beans, and potatoes in 4 tablespoons olive oil. Add reserved water to the pesto in a separate bowl.
(Note: pesto should be fluid, but not runny). Add pesto to the pasta and toss until incorporated. Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.
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