There’s nothing quite like a smarty-pants e-mail.

What I mean by that is: when somebody sends you a message that seems innocent enough at a glance, but beyond the surface niceties, there’s an underlying smarty-pants attitude that can’t be denied. The reason I even bring this topic up is because I got one of those SP messages the other day. It was from our dear friend Scott who happens to be one of the best cooks I know. Yet, that doesn’t give him the right to parade his gifts in front of those of us less fortunate! (more…)

Whenever someone says, “Would you like to see the villa?” say yes!

First of all, let me clarify. The term villa has been used and abused in recent years as people have tried to attach romantic charm and elegance to contemporary houses. Well, don’t let them fool you. Even the largest and most expensive re-creations don’t measure up to the natural magic and inspirational quality of an authentic villa Italiana. Just take one step into the century-old gardens surrounding one of those gems and you’ll discover a peaceful calm like no other—just relax and soak in each delicious moment. (more…)

We just spent a delightful weekend under the “D” in the Hollywood hills. That famously gi-normous word that hovers on the side of the mountain, has recently been refurbished and is even more white, blocky and ever-present than before. Although it’s actually a rather crude and corny adornment, over the years it has become an icon known the world around as the symbol of star-studded glamor and movies that have changed people’s lives. (more…)

We were driving through the rolling hills and plains of central Indiana and southwestern Ohio a couple of weeks ago. It was smack dab in the middle of a winter freeze, so the patchy snow and the gray-brown horizon of leafless trees presented a rather somber welcome. In some strange way we hoped for an unusual blizzard, or a sudden ice storm to sweep through, as they can be incredibly beautiful . . . but those moments are few and fleeting as the winter months drone on. (more…)

Sometimes Mondays are all about Tuesday.

What?! Are you confused? Don’t be. Tuesday is the name of our daughter’s chocolate lab. No, Iris does not work in research at Hershey headquarters in Pennsylvania. No, she didn’t adopt her sweet puppy on a Tuesday afternoon, but we do celebrate Tuesdays as double days. They become Tuesday’s Tuesday. So here we are on Monday, and my grand-dogger and I went to the beach. What’s so special about that? Well, nothing really . . . yet everything! (more…)

On a winter day in 2006, the old oak tree in the back yard came down with a devastating crash. It had faithfully stood there shading the entire house and yard for over a century, stretching its incredibly strong arms in all directions creating an intricate canopy of jagged dark lines covered in lacy green leaves. (more…)

7:oo am, Thursday morning.

Phone rings.

The voice is unrecognizable to me as I groggily sit up in bed trying to figure out who this might be. They speak in familiar ways as if we chat this time every day, asking how I’m doing and when we got back in town. Slowly, fitting the pieces together, I finally hear a phrase and a tone of voice that gives it away—mystery solved. (more…)

Three brothers ran the local restaurant in Monteloro, called da Orlando, named after the most vivacious of the three. The ristorante occupies the entire “downtown” with a surprising quasi-Art Deco interior behind the traditional Tuscan facade. The site boasts a delightful valley view from the vine-covered dining terrace in the back. We had many meals in that favorite local haunt during the years while finishing our place on the hill. Orlando, being the most talkative of the three brothers, often stood by our table telling us jokes, stories and neighborhood gossip as he deemed necessary. He was so engaging and funny, it always felt like we should pay extra for the live entertainment. (more…)