Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On the farm in Upper Austria

And on and on it grows

In summer, when you travel off the main highway in Upper Austria or Oberösterreich, it's not long before you find yourself amidst the cornfields.  Corn to the left; corn to the right.

Cornfields close to Bad Hall, Austria

We recently went in search of friends who live on a working farm in Oberösterreich.  We followed our GPS, and we were soon traveling a very narrow winding road.  What the GSP correct?  Corn or mais was everywhere.  It was a corn jungle!

Reaching for the sky

In the U.S. we tend to think of corn as an American food.  After all, corn is native to the Americas.  But farmers in Austria have been growing corn on a large scale since just after the second world war.  I was surprised to learn that - after wheat - corn is the most important annual crop in Austria.  Corn is mainly used as animal feed and for the production of biogas.

Cornfields in Upper Austria

Small farms still exist in Austria.  You can see them as you travel the countryside.  The traditional Austrian farmhouse is built like a quad, four joined structures with a courtyard in the center.  These farmhouses are old, and they are lovely.

Our friend's farmhouse was first built in the fourteenth century.  It has been altered over the years.  Some of its building materials include stones from a nearby church.

From lower left: farmhouse courtyard, stones recycled from an old church, the corn cart, happy farm kitty

How fortunate to have experienced this part of Austria!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Upper Austria - A trip to Steyr

Along the Steyr River
Last weekend we visited Upper Austria and the city of Steyr, where the rivers Enns and Steyr meet.  Steyr is one of the best preserved towns in Austria.  It's square or "Stadtplatz" winds long and narrow like the adjacent Enns River.

Along the Enns River
We were lucky enough to meet a wonderful lady - a friend of a friend - who took us to view Steyr from the heights of St. Michael's Church.
St. Michael's Church, Steyr
The views from above were spectacular.
Steyr viewed from St. Michael's Church
We also entered one of the best preserved Gothic buildings on the Stadtplatz, the Bummerlhaus. To get there from the church, we had to descend a long narrow covered passage.

Descending to the Bummerlhaus
We knocked on the door and much to our surprise the caretaker let us in!  We discovered a lovely ancient courtyard inside.
Bummerlhaus exteriors (left) and interiors (right)
Another impressive structure, just across from the Bummerlhaus, is the Town Hall or "Rathaus", with its Rococo facade.  I particularly liked the creature suspended above the main balcony.  It looked like a lion/goat with flames burning from all orifices.  What is that all about?

The Rathaus of Steyr
The flaming lion/goat of the Rathaus
There are so many lovely details to discover in Steyr.  I have to share a few more!  For example, the house where Schubert stayed...

Schubert was here...

And the building with the cannon ball, a suspended relic from past battles...

The trapped cannon ball
Many thanks to dear friends in Upper Austria for showing us beautiful Steyr.  If you are ever in Austria, I encourage you to visit this picturesque city of red rooftops and rivers.

Walking path along the Steyr River
Do you have a favorite place in Austria?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tea Dye Tutorial

Before (above) and after (below) the tea dyeing process

Last week a client asked me to make a basket in the natural earthy tones of the Arts and Crafts movement.  I thought a lovely tea color would work well with the theme.  So, I found the darkest tea in my cupboard, a rich breakfast tea from Turkey, and went to work!

If you'd like to give tea dyeing a try, here's how to do it...

You will need:

10-12 bags of dark tea
1 yard of pre-washed fabric (cotton, linen, wool, and silk work best)
2 large bowls or pots (I used one 8-qt pot and one large ceramic bowl)
Boiling water

Dark Turkish tea - perfect for dyeing fabrics

Let's get started…

Place the tea bags in the bowl and add boiling water.  Let the bags steep for about 20 minutes, until the water is very dark in color.

Letting the tea bags steep

While the tea is steeping, place the fabric in the second bowl or pot and add cold water.  Wetting the fabric insures that it will take the dye evenly.

Wetting the fabric in cold water

Once the tea solution is good and dark, add the wet fabric.  I left the tea bags in with the fabric, which did not seem to cause any uneven color.  (Of course, you may want uneven color!)

Soaking for 5 or more hours

Let the fabric soak for about 5 hours, or overnight if you prefer.

After the fabric has reached the tone you desire, remove it from the tea solution and rinse in cold water.  When the water runs clear, wash the fabric in your washer, and then place the dryer for a short cycle.  This ensures that the color has set.

Voilà!  You now have lovely earthy tones, perfect for your next project!

Warm earthy tones

If you enjoyed this tutorial, check out my fabric painting tutorial.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pear and radicchio - a salad of contrasts

Radicchio - nature's art

Summer calls for cool meals.  This week I was in the mood for something sweet paired with contrasting sharpness.  How about pear with radicchio?

A salad of contrasts

Growing up in an Italian family, radicchio was a common ingredient to our salads.  As kids we often complained about its bitter flavor.  Now that my pallet has matured, I love the colorful and bitter leaf.  Not only is this wine-red leaf an antioxidant, it is also an excellent source of vitamin K, which is important for bone health.

A perfect pair


1 head of baby romaine
1/2 head of radicchio
1 pear
feta cheese (to taste)
1 tbsp dried cranberries (or raisins)
1 tbsp sunflower seeds


Layer the ingredients in a shallow salad bowl, in the order listed.  Add your favorite dressing.  I chose to drizzle with California organic olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Organic olive oil from Oils of Paicines

This recipe makes for a wonderfully refreshing salad of contrasts.  The pear and dried cranberries provide the sweet, while the radicchio and feta add sharpness.

Oh yum!

What do you think?  Are you ready to try it?

You may enjoy my other recipes.


Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (2007). Chow Line: Bored with lettuce? Be bold with greens. Retrieved from: http://oardc.osu.edu/4212/OARDC-Site-of-Tree-Climbing-Event.htm

Harvard School of Public Health (n.d.). The Nutrition Source: Vitamin K. Retrieved from: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamin-k/index.html

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cookies from home

I am sitting watching the sunset,
the sky orange and pink,
eating my biscotti with a crunch crunch crunch.

The sound,
and the taste - nutty and fragrant -
take me to days long past.

I am a kid again,
my hand wrapped around the long almond cookie,
looking down into the sugary coffee milk.

Down goes the biscotti,
into the caramel colored liquid.
Up it comes again,
drenched in warm sweetness.

I suck on it a bit,
then let the soaked cookie pieces dissolve in my mouth.