Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Scenes of Venezia (Venice)

Here I am... in Venice. What a wonderful city for photography.

I hope you enjoy a few of the images I have selected from my 'hundreds' of shots.

A shot looking up in Piazza San Marco and the pigeons there..

The famous Rialto Bridge (ponte Rialto)

Gondola passenger and driver...

A shot of one of the hundreds (or thousands?) of bridges in Venice

A popular drink in Italy, called a spritz. It is made with white wine and compari (or similar).

Design Extends... from Fashion to Wedding Invitations

Once you get involved with the design process, you will be surprised to see how much it extends from one area of your life to another.

For example, when I cook or prepare food, I always think about the colors, textures, and flavors and how they all work together. This is the same process I use when planning a garment, choosing fabric or yarn, and then techniques I want to utilize.

As I have developed more computer skills, I've been able to extend my design to other areas, and it was for this reason I wanted to design and create the wedding invitations for my sons wedding.

Here you can see a few images, recording the special moments:

The "mothers" busily assembling and stuffing the invites

Kendra and Blake, getting their first view of the final invitation

Second Attempt: Aida Opera in Verona

After my Carmen experience, was it safe to try another opera in 'iffy' weather in Verona? Well, I have often thrown caution to the wind.. (see the Blog entry for June 22nd)

The next night(June 20th), Verdi’s Aida played at the Arena, and this time, I went by myself, and Carl and Carol needed to prep for an early departure for Rome the next morning. The opera begins at 9:15, and I knew Aida was a long one, and would run to approximately 1 a.m. in the morning).

The sky was forebodingly dark, so I left the apartment with umbrella and multiple layers in my tote bag. The rain held off even with the rain clouds overhead. Here you can see some images taken during the performance. It amazes me how the sets can be changed in a day, but alas, this is a repertoire opera, and they are used to the process.

Here you have the stage as it was set. People are getting settled in their seats before the opera.

Here are two images taken during the opera. Ballet was included in parts of the story.

Note the large cast. There were soldiers with real torches perched around the top of the wall of the arena, and real fires burned in various places at entrances for the cast. There were well over 200 people on stage.

What has Susan Been Doing?

I imagine some wonder what I've been doing here in Verona.

Well, I use this time as a retreat to remove myself from telephone, internet (except when I need to have contact), and other distractions of normal life.

While I am here, I have been working on various Cochenille projects, and prepping new classes that I will teach for various conferences.

So... here is a brief list. I am working on..

New Styles for Garment Designer, using the Italian store windows and library research as my tools.

Updating the Stitch Painter manual.

Working on an Online Class for Patternmaking (gathering info from various sources here).

Prepping for a new class I am teaching at the American Sewing Guild, on Alternates to Facings. The Italian fashion has been excellent for this.

Photographing store windows at night for inspiration.

Software Development.

and other projects.

It has actually been very busy. I love the solitude I have here, and then I get to treat myself to a walk downtown, or to a park, to break up my day.

I am glad to have all the United miles that allow me to do trips like this. That is the payoff for all the travel in my past.

So.. new things are in the works.. from Cochenille

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Traffic Jams, Venezian-Style (Venice)

For Americans, used to the traffic of Los Angeles, New York, and other major metropolises, here is a traffic jam that will make you smile. If only life could be this simple!

A Yarn Store in Venezia (Venice)

Last week I went to Venice with friends visiting from California. It was their first trip and so we were all excited.

Last fall when I was here doing research while on sabbatical, I had seen a yarn store, but given the labyrinth of Venezian streets, I had little hope of finding it again, and I had been remiss in taking down the address. By chance, in our wanderings, we did come across the yarn store. It is near Palazzo Fortuny and beside Campo Manin. Fortuny was a designer of the early 20th century, and of course, his museum was a stop on our meanderings.

The yarn store is called Lellabella, and it is named after the owner Lella. The name of the store translates to beautiful Lella, and indeed Lella was. She (on the right) and her daughter Monica (on the left) run the business and they were delightful. Monica speaks very good English and Lella speaks some. As a team, they design and knit all their own models (samples) in the shop.

As you can see here from photos, the yarns are scrumptious, the owners are “bella”, and the samples are great! Make sure you visit with them if you get to Venice!


Calle della Mandola (Della Cortesia)
Venezia 30124
San Marco 3718
041 522 51 52

Some of Lelle's and Monica's original designs

Views from inside the store


Monday, June 22, 2009

What is Italy without Gelato?

Once cannot visit Italy without becoming addicted to the gelato here. Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, and it is much different than our North American version. Here is a little lingo
Gelato - is the singular form of ice cream, so I will have a cup or cone of gelato
Gelati - is the name in plural, so I will walk the city in search of gelati.
Gelateria - is the name of an establishment that sells gelati

I have felt it was my duty to forge the path and test gelato whenever possible, while here in Verona. This means, that I must test different flavors, and of course, different gelaterias. Of course, this has been over the course of four trips to Verona, and I only allow myself a cone or cup of gelato if I have been faithful to walking, and if I skip lunch or come up with some other means to justify the indulgence.

I have narrowed down the list of great gelaterias in Verona, but there is one that stands out. The name of the business is Gelateria Artigianale Ponte Pietra, and it is located in a wonderful little neighborhood at the foot of the Ponte Pietra (bridge). You know you are getting close to the gelateria as you will pass people holding cones or cups of gelato. All have this wonderful content look on their face. It is a secret language.

Gelateria Artigianale Ponte Pietra
Via Ponte Pietra, 23
37121 Verona
340 4717294

Gelateria Artiginale is owned and run by two brothers; Mirko and Stefano. They have owned the business for the past ten years. Stefano makes the ice cream, and Mirko oversees the running of the gelateria, dealing with the public.

Each day, Stefano begins to make the gelato at 7 a.m., and continues his work until about 3:30. He has developed his own recipes, and flavors which include pistachio, nut, vanilla, cream, various fruit flavors, chocolate (in various forms), yogurt, and so on. In a typical summer day, he may make up twenty-two flavors, and the gelateria can sell up to forty containers (which is a LOT of gelato). Some of the gelati have a topping of some sort, (for example, a syrup). Some have additional ingredients mixed in with the cream (such as fresh fruit, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, etc.). I have grown fond of the yogurt version which has a blueberry sauce on top, and is sprinkled with a type of granola.

The price of gelato in Italy generally ranges from 1 to 1-1/2 Euro for a single scoop (currently about $1.50 to $2.25 in U.S. dollars). As you add scoops, the price goes up. You can choose if you want your gelato to be served in a cup (which you eat with a small gelato spoon), or if you want a cone. I have found that the size of the scoop varies from gelateria to gelateria, and the closer you get to the main Piazza’s of the city, (i.e. the tourist districts), the higher the price, and the smaller the scoop. This, I must say, is what first impressed me with Gelateria Artiginale Ponte Pietra. Their single scoops of gelato were larger than most shops double-scoops. But the real draw, was not the amount of gelato, but the flavors that were offered, and the taste. As I have said, it became my goal to become a connoisseur of gelato. I believe my Italian title would be “una intenditrice del gelato”.

Below are some images taken in the gelateria. I am hoping to see how it is made, and If I am able to do so, I shall report.
~Susanna~ (while in Italy)

cones.. and gelati spoons..

and of course... two happy customers

An Opera Adventure: Carmen

Once upon a time…
There was an opera by Bizet, Carmen, set for the opening night of Verona, Italy’s 87th season. It was a special night because Placido Domingo was conducting the orchestra.

It was also special because friends from California were visiting with me, and we had arranged to go to the opera together. This would be their first opera experience. We purposely chose to purchase seats whereby we would be able to sit on the ancient steps of the Roman arena. Imagine, sitting on a structure that was commenced its construction in and around 50 A.D. It is mind-boggling. The history simply seeps through the stone seats as you sit there. Here you can see the arena as it fills with people.

So, meet Carol (Caroline) and Carl (Carlo), friends from San Diego. We arrived early to get a better choice of seats, and we brought wine along to celebrate our adventure.

And then… (poi, in Italian)

We watched the arena fill with people from all over the world. Using binoculars, we were able to see all the gorgeous gowns of the women beneath us. There was one in particular that caught my eye. It was an off-white satin, in the style of the 1930’s, featuring beautiful drape, bias cut, and a figure-hugging silhouette. The woman was stunning. Here you see the dress of a young opera fan. She was lovely.

The opera began. The lights went down, and Placido Domingo came to the conductor’s stand to receive an amazingly warm welcome from the Italians. If you look below, you can see him in the white jacket. (sorry about the photo, it was dark)

The curtains were quite unique, a series of cloth structures on poles. To open the curtains, various men came and lifted the poles and walked the curtains, in sections off the stage. It was all part of the exciting moment about to unfold.

The overture began, and the stage was filled with people. We witnessed life in the streets of Seville, Spain. There are peasants, gypsies, soldiers, and the women who work in the tobacco factory. There are also children who run around and perform a song where they mimic the soldiers. At one point, Carl counted around 200 people on stage. There were various “scenarios” unfolding themselves simultaneously in different parts of the stage. You could watch the gypsies dancing, the soldier’s talking, the children playing, and various other vignets.

Soon, we get to meet the mesmerizing gypsy Carmen, and she lives up to her reputation, as a woman no man cannot fall in love with. Yet, she is a vamp. She knows her charm and power. She tells the men in song that “ love obeys no known laws”. She throws a flower at the one man who pays no attention to her, Don José, and of course, he falls under her spell. As the scene progresses, Carmen is to be taken to jail, and Don José is given the task of taking her there. Under her spell, he unties her, and she runs away. Don José is arrested. And so, ends the first act. Now, I must say, that near the end of the act, lightening and thunder has been threatening.

Intermission. People stood and stretched. Some went out for a glass of wine or a cup of gelato. Others remained in their seats, anxiously waiting to follow the life of Carmen.

The second act commences. We open to a scene where Carmen and her friends are entertaining the soldiers. We are only a few minutes into the act….

It begins to rain. It was almost an act in slow motion. We watched a wave go through the crowd, starting at the other side of the arena, and moving in our direction. (imagine “the wave” as we know in our sports events). Carl, Carol, and I look at each other and we wonder what the general procedure is. People seem to be putting up their umbrellas, and waiting to see how long it lasts, and so we follow suit.

The rain begins to come down harder. Now, some people are starting to leave. We still wonder what to do, but we decide to sit there and wait a bit longer. So, at this point, I will let you in on a bit of my “stupido”, not being familiar with the workings of Roman arenas. I ask you, if you are sitting on stone steps, and it begins to rain, and rain, and then rains some more… where do you suppose the water from the steps above you goes? You have it. Yes, all of a sudden, we were greeted by a wave of water that was working its way down the steps, and we were drenched. Even with umbrellas in place. So, begins the rush for cover.

We get in queue for the exit. When we finally get to the first part of the exit, and shuffle with the crowd down some pretty steep steps. All I could do was laugh, as even if we weren’t sure if the opera would continue, this was certainly an experience I had never had before. The ushers were standing up high, singing to the crowd and urging them to move ahead so others could get into the shelter afforded by the thick roman walls in the bowels of the arena. I was still in awe of the building.

We waited with the many others for about 15 minutes to see if the rain would stop. It did not, and eventually, Carmen was officially cancelled. All we could do was look at each other, laugh at how completely wet we were, and begin our walk home. That in itself was an adventure, as we met many interesting fashion statements... such as the latest in black plastic dresses (on young women from Atlanta, Georgia), and in footwear (on a beautiful Italian woman). I kept thinking of the woman in the beautiful silk dress. How did she fare? Not well, I presume. My guess is the dry cleaning establishments in Verona would see a boost the next week.

Thus ends the story of Caroline’s and Carlo’s first opera. (although, we abated our disappointment with Tiramisu and Café on the way home).