Tag Archives: workshop

Easy Flower Arranging

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While it might seem like a daunting task, arranging your own flowers can be simple yet stunning, and honestly, nothing gives me more pleasure than to arrange flowers for my own home or parties. If you follow a few easy steps, you’ll be arranging your own flowers in no time!

When beginning the design process, I start with what’s available at my local market (and even Trader Joe’s!), and I try to select a strong color theme like pink or even white. Selecting just one color flower, but choosing several varieties in that same color, is an easy way to pack a punch without a lot of thought. It honestly cuts way down on the stress, especially if you’re not quite ready for combining colors.

However, if you want to give it a go, follow these steps. For this arrangement, I selected a few colors that go well together like pink and lavender.

Step one: clean the bottom of the stems, and make a fresh cut.

Step two: place all the fillers in your container. For this arrangement, I’ve chosen a pitcher for my container, and Queen Anne’s Lace and Baby’s Breath as fillers. Pro tip: this pitcher from Ikea (one of my favs, as you know) is an ideal flower container!

Step three: add in your larger blooms. Here, that’s ranunculus and hyacinth. Be sure to work your way around the vase or pitcher. Either move around the table as you work, or spin your container to make sure your stems are even.

Step four: step back and fluff your arrangement as needed. Try to change the water every 2-3 days, and cut the stems on a diagonal every few days, too. This will keep your arrangement fresh and pretty!

xx Annette

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Everything you need to know about booking a trip to Italy

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It might seem hard to wrap your head around, but the time to book your summer travel for Italy is NOW. As a result, I am reviving an older post which includes everything you need to know about booking a trip to Italy.

I think of this as your go-to Italian travel guide, and a one-stop-shop for all of the information you need to know. It’s a FAQ page of sorts, and you can use it to reference to all of my tips for traveling to Italy for a workshop at La Fortezza:

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How to Get the Best Airfare to Italy 

What to Pack in your Carry-on

What to Pack in your Suitcase 

How to Spend a Layover in Milan 

Why Mother-Daughter Trips to La Fortezza are a MUST

I’ll be in Italy for a few weeks in March checking-in on La Fortezza and readying it for guests. Then, after a short stint home in the States, I’ll head back to Italy for the summer. Our 2020 summer workshops are shaping up to be absolutely spectacular.

There are only a few spots left, so if you’re planning on joining us, grab your spot soon! Don’t miss your opportunity to come to Italy for a once in a lifetime experience!

xx Annette

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Go Green with Arugula Ice Cream

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Does it sound too good to be true? It’s not! Today I am sharing a recipe by our workshop chef, Chef Philip Meeker. It’s one of his specialties, arugula ice cream. This dessert is the perfect way to get in some greens while giving in ever so slightly to your sweet tooth.

Arugula Ice Cream or in Italian, Gelato di Rucola

Chef Philip says, “This time of year there’s a lot of fresh arugula at the market. Buying it from the farmer is a totally different experience than getting it at the store. The nutty and peppery flavors that you get from farm-fresh arugula are as striking as any herb which to me is a great indication that it would go well in a gelato just like rosemary or basil would. But what to pair the gelato with depends on whether you use cane sugar or glucose to make it. If you use glucose, the sweetness will be so minimal that you can use it in salad, like a carpaccio di fragole (a.k.a thinly sliced strawberries) with balsamic, fresh arugula and olive oil. And don’t worry: while glucose may sound fancy and hard to get, the light corn syrup you use for pecan pie is mostly glucose.”

Arugula Ice Cream

You will need:
– 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
– ¾ cups whole milk
– 1 ½  cups sugar (or glucose or light corn syrup)
– ¼ cup cornstarch
– 3 cups puréed arugula (about 3-4 bunches of field arugula)
– pinch of salt plus salt for boiling arugula
Note: There is no acid in this recipe because it will destroy the green color

Blanching and Puréeing Arugula:

Prepare a bowl of heavily iced water. This will be used to immediately cool down the arugula after it cooks. Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Salt the water lightly. Throw in the arugula and let it cook for three to five seconds. Remove it from the boiling water and immediately plunge it into the ice water. As soon as the arugula becomes ice cold, about 20 seconds, put it into a blender. Don’t worry too much about water that stays with the arugula as it goes into the blender. This will help the arugula blend into a smooth purée. Add a couple of ice cubes to the blender before starting to ensure the arugula won’t heat while blending which will allow the beautiful green colors to be , preserved. As you blend the arugula to a purée, add water and ice to the blender as needed to ensure the arugula has enough liquid to blend. Store the arugula purée in the fridge until you are ready to add it to the ice cream mix. Keeping it cool will ensure that its color will stay green and that the flavor won’t weaken.

Making Ice Cream Base:

To make the base of the ice cream, heat ½ cup of the whole milk plus the heavy cream in a small saucepan on high heat along with 1 cup of the sugar. Stir occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. In a bowl, mix together the remaining sugar and cornstarch with a whisk (mixing these two ingredients together ahead of time helps avoid lumps). Mix in the remaining milk.

When the dairy-sugar mix in the saucepan comes to a boil, mix a little of it in with the cornstarch mix. Then pour the entire contents of the bowl into the pot. Put it back over high heat. Mix it slowly while it comes to a boil. When the contents of the pot boil, mix it rapidly, carefully scraping the bottom to avoid scorching. The mixture needs to boil for 1-2 minutes until it lacks a starch taste.

Afterward, pour the mix into a sealed container, and store in the fridge to cool down.

Once cool, whisk the arugula into the dairy mix along with the salt. Spin in an ice cream maker to make ice cream.

*Tip: Make sure the arugula mix has enough salt in it to make it have maximum sweetness but not enough to make it taste salty instead of sweet. You do this by adding salt to the mix, little by little, tasting as you go. It will bring out the nutty, peppery flavor of the arugula.

*Suggestion: Create new flavor profiles by using other herb purées, such as parsley, mint, or tarragon. If a herb seems like it might lack flavor, steep the herb in the dairy mix after the dairy mix comes off the heat. Remove the steeped herb before it starts to turn color to something dead looking. I generally do a five-minute infusion.

Grazie mille, Chef Philip!

xx

Photo credit: Philip Meeker

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William Abranowicz 2019 Photography Workshop recap

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There are some people that just impress you. Bill Abranowicz is one of those people. He and I worked on a Rolex photoshoot together, at Augusta National Golf Course. It was a bit stressful as the masters location is much like visiting the Whitehouse. Think credentials, and lots of checks and cross checks. It’s like performing a military operation. But Bill was cool as a cucumber and sailed through the assignment. I liked his vibe from the start: super chill, sort of funny and very professional without being intimidating.

I knew I had to have him join us at La Fortezza.

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Bill arrived at Pisa airport with his striking wife Andrea in tow. Andrea, a location scout by trade, is chic, funny and endearing. To say she and I hit it off would be an understatement. The group of attendees was small but completely delightful. It was all men, and they were happy with everything; easy and amusing. I worked styling for all the attendees as they worked on their still life assignments.

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Bill’s powerpoint presentation was amazing. I must say one of the best I have seen. Bill told us about his influences and his early days as a printer (he printed for Horst). When he revealed that, I almost fell off my chair. He’s a humble guy who is completely focused on the work. He has so much knowledge that 5 days with him did not seem like enough time. Luckily for us, he returns in 2020 to do it again.

I can hardly wait for his return. He is truly a prince of a guy, and his wife ain’t so bad herself. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the master, at the ultimate masterclass at La Fortezza.

xx Annette

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Her Dark Materials Workshop, 2019 recap

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Sometimes, one just has a girl crush, and with Instagram out there, it’s more likely that these crushes occur. That sentiment pretty much sums up my feelings towards Ros Atkinson, the woman behind the gorgeous Carravaggio still life styled images “Her Dark Materials” on Instagram.

The Dutch masters had nothing on Ros; in my opinion, she is the master. Although her work is very much in these styles, she very much has her own take with her images. They are simply spectacular. Having said all of this I said to myself, “Why not ask Ros (whom I’d never met in person) to come to La Fortezza for a weekend? Maybe she would agree to conduct a workshop.”

We hit it off immediately as she has a smart sense of humor, she’s cute, and we both wear Jo Malone perfume. A match made in heaven! I talked her into showing me how she constructs one of her very complicated layered still life sets. I was mesmerized.

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This October, she arrived a day early, and we immediately headed out to buy all the fruits, vegetables and things she would need to style with her students. We had a lovely meal with lots of wine and headed to bed. Wednesday, we prepped the studio and all the guest rooms for our group. Everyone arrived excited and elated to work with Ros for the next 4 days.

We had folks from all over the world including our first ever guest from India. Our days were spent with Ros in the lead. The weather even cooperated; we had several very dramatic days of fog and mist covering the fields around La Fortezza, and the vineyard was bright yellow against a gray sky. We tromped around the property all afternoon, and although it was damp and cool, we did not mind. We photographed food with Ros in the kitchen with Philip.

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We visited Parma and got lost in a maze near the city center. We toured Parma and dined the most amazing stuffed pasta, and fried dough with prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.

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It was a magical workshop, and Ros is the most divine inspiration and teacher. She shared all of her secrets, and everyone went away feeling creatively revived. The good news is that she will be back next year in September. Check the site and grab your spot we have limited spaces, and they usually go fast. Thank you Ros for a perfect workshop experience. My Instagram crush has turned into a beautiful real-life friendship with the most amazing and talented woman, love you Ros.

xx Annette

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