Minestrone for Marcella

Though it is forecast to be quite warm and summery this week, I looked at the vegetables in my fridge and decided it is a good day for Minestrone soup. Perhaps this was precipitated by the sad news that Marcella Hazan, the queen of Italian cooking, died yesterday. The soup that I make, and have been making for 20 years, is based on her recipe.

Marcella's Minestrone

Marcella’s Minestrone

When I was pregnant with my first child, 21 years ago (yikes!!), I had the incredible good luck, que fortuna, to move to Milan, Italy for my husband’s job. We arrived in Italy with our dog, a few suitcases, my chef’s knives and a copy of Marcella’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I figured that this was the only reference I would need to navigate the food markets and learn to make delicious Italian food. And indeed, in the three years we spent in Italy, in addition to having two children and learning to speak the language, I learned to think about food like an Italian and cook it too. My babies gnawed on a thick rind of Parmesan cheese instead of teething biscuits and Spaghetti Carbonara is still always requested on birthdays and special occasions.

Over the years, I have change the soup recipe a little. I leave out the Parmesan cheese rind (though it gives a delicious creaminess to the soup) and sometimes I skip the potatoes to make it lighter. But I still make it the way Marcella instructs, sauteeing onions, carrots and celery in a little olive oil and adding the vegetables one at a time, cooking them in the oil to caramelize them and give the soup richness and depth of flavor. It goes without saying that a steaming bowl of Minestrone makes a perfect Indian Summer dinner, eaten outdoors on this lovely last day of September. I am going to have mine with a glass of Chianti, sitting in front of my Fancy Fire Pit, and drink to Marcella. I did not know her, but she taught me much about cooking like an Italian and for that I am grateful.

Salute, Joy


Rainy Day Blues

Usually, I love a cool, rainy day in the summer. Mostly because I am a lazy gardener and rain means less work for me. The watering will have been taken care of, thank you very much, and weeding is much easier following a good soaking. But a rainy week with temperatures barely reaching 60 is a little too much of a good thing. I don’t doubt that my trees will have growth rings the size of a tractor tire, but a little heat right about now would be lovely.




In the absence of heat, I am going to pretend. Tonight, I am going to make myself a tropical cocktail, turn the heat up (I know, it is late June, but I still need it in my house!) and bask. Summer cocktails in my neck of the woods are sailor’s drinks, Dark and Stormys or dark rum and tonic with lots of lime. The latter is not really a sailor’s drink but it is one I love in the summer.  Let’s drink to a hot and steamy summer with a sprinkling of cool rainy days.

Happy Summer! Joy

Sisyphus and laundry

This post has nothing to do with lovely evenings spent around a fire pit or fabulous locations where I would like to place my next fire pit. But it is real and it is my life. My two daughters came home from school last week and my life is the laundry room. I know I should be letting them do it all and staying out of it.  But I am like the mom of the two-year old who can’t stand to let their toddler set the table or make the bed. It is just so much faster to do it myself. The whole project takes a long messy week and would probably take two weeks for them to do it and lots of annoyance on my part so…


I feel like sysyphus. With all three of my children home for the summer, the laundry becomes a constant chore that I have not missed this past year.  I am so happy to have them all home, even with the mess and the tripled grocery bills, but it does take some getting used to.

The next post will be back to interesting food and fun around the fire pit, I promise!

Happy Summer! Joy


Shake it up!

When my children were small, I used to make them smoothies for breakfast. It was so simple and healthy, filled with yogurt, milk and fruit. And they loved them. I haven’t pulled out my blender in quite a while, but lately I have seen lots of articles featuring milk shakes and I thought it was time for the blender to have a space on my counter again.  Summer is coming, or so I am told, and I love a dairy free smoothie for my own breakfast, made with silken tofu, soy milk and fruit. And who doesn’t adore a creamy, thick milk shake for an indulgent treat!

I am not one to sip a shake with my meal, but I love it as liquid dessert. Add a shot of something sweet and boozy and you have the perfect treat to enjoy around your Fancy Fire Pit. With that in mind, I whipped up a few adult milk shakes last night.

Getting ready for summer sipping!

Getting ready for summer sipping!

The beauty of milk shakes is the ease of them. Just pile ice cream, ice or milk, depending on how decadent you like your shakes, fruit or chocolate syrup, and a little shot of something, like Kahlua and Irish Cream, in the case of this one. Whir it up and you have something creamy and delicious.

The thermostat outdoors is still hovering in the low 60s, but when summer does actually begin, I will be ready! My fire pit is piled high with wood and my blender is pulled out and primed for action.

Happy Sipping! Joy

Green Acres

Can you tell it was a long winter?  I am not normally this excited to see the grass turn green and start to grow. One of the benefits of travel, even if for pleasure, is that I can always look for new spots to put my Fancy Fire Pits! Just this past weekend, while on a yoga retreat, I found the most lovely spot for a fire pit.

What a perfect spot for a Fancy FIre Pit!

What a perfect spot for a Fancy FIre Pit!

It had all the necessities, endless green lawn, peaceful vibe and fabulous view of the mountains and lake. Since it was at a yoga center, there will be no drinks served around the fire pit other than herbal tea or fruit juice but we can enjoy the beauty all the same.

Happy Spring! Joy


Yesterday was the first day of spring and the snow in my garden looked suspiciously like the snow that was there in January and February. I do love snow, winter sports and warming, boozy beverages, but I am a little tired of winter.

The first day of Spring!

The first day of Spring!

I am ready to start thinking about outdoor living. Not the kind of outdoor living that requires you to keep moving in order to stay warm, but the kind that encourages long periods of sitting and enjoying balmy breezes. I am in for quite a wait.  In the meantime, with the steady rate of calls and orders I have received for Fancy Fire Pits,  I know garden centers and shops are starting to think about spring. If we could just get mother nature on board, it would all be good!

Here’s to warm and sunny! Joy

What a Difference a Day Makes!

On Thursday I was happily tucked into the Boston Convention Center at New England Grows Trade Show, surrounded by gorgeous flowers and a plethora of trucks, tools and fertilizers to help your garden grow.

The following night, I was in the dark with a blizzard swirling around my house.  You have to love New England!!

Despite the fact that we were without power (and mighty chilly) for two days, I did get caught up on some much needed sleep and some much loved reading. And I had a chance to reflect on how incredibly dependent I am on electricity.  When the power finally came back on, I could barely wait 5 minutes to start the dishwasher and throw in a load of laundry. And then I spent this morning cleaning up the mess we made, trying to cook in the dark and live in front of the fireplace.  I am currently reading two books, one takes place in 11th century England and the other takes place in 16th century England.  While I shivered in my house for just two days, all I could think was how cold people must have been all the time without heat and the luxury of fleece layers! The wool capes they wore were undoubtedly more elegant than puffy down jackets and fleece pants but not nearly as warm!

But I digress. Happy Snow! Joy


Fantasy Island Part Two

I have been fortunate enough to have two vacations this winter in warm places and each time, I have looked around and found a perfect place for a fire pit. I promise this is the last post of this sort as I am now staying put in the frozen North for the duration of the winter. So indulge me this one final fantasy island photo, taken on the Caribbean coast of Panama.

Now isn’t that just the perfect spot for a Fancy Fire Pit?? I might even design one specially for this location with an island theme, palm trees, pineapples and the like. There certainly was no shortage of downed palm trees and leaves to burn and we had delicious red snapper and local spiny lobsters cooked on a fire with said wood so it clearly works quite well. Just imagine yourself enjoying this view, wearing a Panama hat and drinking a Panama Cocktail. Truthfully, the cocktail seems more like dessert  but Panamanian beer is also very good! To make a Panama Cocktail, combine equal parts white creme de cacao, brandy and cream and serve well chilled – delicioso!!

Stay Warm, Joy


The Winter Blues

Making and selling fire pits is warm weather stuff. Looking out over my snowy backyard with the temperature in the single digits does not bring up thoughts of warm summer nights around the fire pit. Though maybe this is a good way to get through our long New England winter.

Winter is here to stay!

This is actually a very busy time for me, not in the actual making of the fire pits, but in the planning of how to sell and market them.  It is fun to think about warmer times to come and to think about sales trips to garden centers.  And I love dreaming about summer evenings spent around my own fire pit, now buried in snow.  So for now I will stay inside making soup and working away on this computer and drawing up new designs for the summer to come.

Stay Warm! Joy

New Day, New Year

I walked outside of my door early Wednesday morning and the sky was so beautiful I had to go back, get my camera and take a picture. I can’t decide if the camera on the phone is great or awful because everyone, including me, thinks they are a photographer!

A beautiful start to the day!

Either way, it was really special and a great way to start my day. In fact, I like to think of it as the start of my year. I kind of missed New Year’s Eve and I certainly didn’t make any resolutions. Even two weeks in, they would be down the tubes already. So I am going to be different and start my new year on this beautiful morning in the second week of January.  And I will make one resolution that I know will stick- walk every morning. My dog is so happy!

Here is to beautiful sunrises and sunsets, Joy