Sunday 21 November 2021

Artwork, crochet and my favourite TV programs

 In the recent weeks I was very involved in art exhibitions and charity auctions and produced a significant amount of artwork for these events. I have many pictures I made in the past thirty years or so, but I wished to add some new work. I used to paint in oil and tempera in the past and then acrylics. In Italy I attended workshops at painters’ studios and experimented in pottery and papier-mâché as well as making masks and objects inspired by primitive art. When I moved to England, I attended several art classes in the north west with interesting artists who taught me watercolours and different techniques with mixed media. I learned to be looser and I believe my work became more interesting. In the north west I took part in Silverdale and Arnside Art and Craft Trail and now in the south I joined the Woking Art Society ( ) 

and am part of the Surrey Artists: 

and of the Surrey Artists Open Studios:  

I visited the artists’ exhibitions around Surrey last month and will open my studio in the next exhibition in June 2022. I have already booked a large room in Chobham Community Centre where I will exhibit my artwork and craft work and will offer workshops for children too. It is impressive how children can be creative and original just using paper, pencils and some colours or glitter. I will advertise everything on my website ( ) and on my blog and it will be on the SAOS website as well.

In the meantime, I took part in the outdoor exhibition with the Woking Art Society in Mercia Walk last September and managed to sell a few things. I also exhibited my folios at The Lightbox in October and my work is currently displayed at the Pop-Up exhibition at the Peacock centre (between the iStore and Milletts) until the 28th of November. I am so happy that some of my pieces were appreciated, especially my new work with loose watercolour flowers, and people bought my cards too. This stimulated my creativity even more and I produced more pieces from photos I took in the north last summer and flowers in my

garden. Working from photos is all right but it is also important to see what you wish to paint so you can feel it and keep it in your memory. Fashion inspired me too like Salvatore Ferragamo’s iconic shoes and Alexandre McQueen’s outfits I saw at exhibitions at the V&A some years ago. Watercolour wet on wet, mixing oil pastels and watercolour, tempera and gouache, biro and ink are my favourite techniques that I use in a free style. I follow some steps however, starting with the selection of the subject and then the paper, the board or the canvas deciding the size and thickness. Choosing the media is the next step though I am not so strict with it. I feel free to add other techniques in the process of my work. I prefer paper to canvas at the moment and I have all kinds of papers from the expensive handmade ones to common cartridge paper. I have recently gone back to tempera to paint a portrait of my son, daughter in law and granddaughter Violetta from a photo they took at an Indian wedding last summer. They are so beautiful in the photo that I couldn’t help doing it. My final steps are the actual painting starting from choosing the colours and filling the surface and then proceeding with the details which may imply erasing, adding and/or changing what I had planned at the beginning and maybe using a different technique. The process is important and the final aim is to produce an interesting piece which is not totally complete but is at a good resting point. For this reason, towards the end I stop looking at the subject I chose and look at the painting from different angles.

Stewarding at the Pop-Up exhibition, I could also appreciate my fellow painters’ artwork and speak with the public. I found that the viewers who visited the exhibition were genuinely interested and sincerely praised the pieces on display. 

It is very encouraging that the sales are going well. I especially like the works of Hannah Bruce:  

Yana Linch: Basieva Art 

Stella Mariash: 

Ron Willcox: 

and Louise Rowe:  

I bought some work by Hannah, Stella and Yana for me and to give as presents to my friends in Italy. I also posted my work on social media and received many likes and nice comments from my followers. 

I am taking part in charity auctions as well, both online and on site, such as The Rotary Club of Redhill Redstone, 


and The Prostate Cancer Project: 

In February there will be one more charity auction at The Lightbox, Replacing Kitty: An Exhibition of Canal Artwork. It sounds very interesting; the Basingstoke Canal Society is collecting money to replace an old boat (the Kitty precisely) and they asked for pictures inspired by Basingstoke canal. So, I took some pictures of the canal near the centre of Woking and am in the process of producing new work probably in tempera and/or watercolour. I usually make one piece several times in different techniques and then choose the best one or the most interesting. For me an artwork doesn’t need to be perfect but needs to be original and appeal the viewer; it should be inspiring in some way and make people think or dream, that is, stimulate their imagination. This is what art can do, and that’s why we love and need it.

I am also part of the Chobham Art Group. We meet at the Valley End Institute Hall every Tuesday afternoon. The place is green, quiet and spacious and the people of the group are friendly. I feel very comfortable to paint with them. They give me good advice on my work and I can easily concentrate on my painting. I can paint at home too, of course, but it is always nice to meet fellow painters and share ideas or just have a chat. I recently bought a new set of watercolours from Cornelissen and my daughter gave me some metallic watercolours for my birthday which I am using extensively.

Next weekend, I will also take part in the Christmas Craft Fair at The Lightbox in Woking (Woking GU214AA) on Saturday 27 (10.30 am-5 pm) and Sunday 28 (10.30 am-4 pm). Here is the link: 

My stall is ‘Carla's Favourite Things’ on the first floor. I am selling some things I made during the lockdown but also new pieces I made for Christmas. I have women’s clothes, some new some second hand, accessories (bag, jewellery, scarves, belts), Japanese pottery, crochet work, silk haori from Japan and Italian bags and clothes.

And my artwork, of course. I am looking forward to it not just to display and sell my work but also to meet other people, see the reactions and feedback from the public and taking contacts, networking. I post my activities on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook every day just to share what I create in pictures, poems, videos, songs and stories and enjoy seeing what other people do and imagine. There is so much creativity bursting from social media, so many interesting people that I am impressed by the vitality and renovation we all show despite the bleak perspectives related to the climate change and global warming. 

The results of the COP26 were encouraging but not definitive. I believe there is still so much to do. The representatives of the different nations need to meet again and update the documents next year and probably the year after too. They came to some agreements, but I wonder if these deals are enough to reduce drastically the dangerous gas emissions. The event certainly emphasised the urgency of the problem as well as other devastating issues such as deforestation and plastic pollution in the oceans. For me, the great amount of garbage we produce, especially in western rich countries and that mostly ends in the oceans, is a major issue. I recycle as much as I can and follow all the recycling guidelines very carefully, but I still wonder if it is enough and how many people are actually doing the same.

While I paint at home during the day or do my crochet work in the evening, I usually watch TV or listen to music from Youtube. My favourite TV programs at the moment are Strictly Come Dancing and Giallo series, that is, detective or crime stories. There is a channel on the Italian TV, Canale 38, that broadcasts only crime stories from Midsomer Murders to Miss Marple, Elementary (American TV series), Astrid and Raphael and Balthasar (French crime-thriller dramas). They are our favourite ones and if there is nothing on, we watch old episodes of Columbo as we have the complete series on DVD.

In the morning I usually listen to songs while I read the news online. I often listen to Yves Montand’s and Adele’s songs. I love Montand rhythm, his mesmerising voice, his ‘Frenchness’ (though he was born in Italy and his parents were Italian), that is, a mixture of tenderness, casual self-confidence and great charm. His style is unique and never faded. Here are some good songs:

La tête a l'ombre

Faubourg Saint Martin

A Paris

C'est si bon

Bella ciao

Mon manège à moi

Adele’s new album is a hit at the moment. What strikes me in her music is not only her beautiful voice but also the emotional content of her songs, the sadness and the hope; we can survive and grow despite traumas and failures. 

Here is ‘Easy on me’: 

and more links to her songs:

Someone Like You

Set Fire To The Rain

Make You Feel My Love

When We Were Young

To Be Loved

Love Is A Game

Hold On

I Drink Wine

Woman Like Me

Cry Your Heart Out

Oh My God

Can I Get It

Last but not least, I have recently come across an interesting review of Linda Nochlin’s essay ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ (London Review of Books, 4 November 2021) which can be found here: 

It is true that there are very good women artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi, Käthe Kollwitz, Berthe Morisot, Barbara Hepworth, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keeffe and many others, but none of them can be considered at the level of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Picasso, Cézanne or Van Gogh. The reasons are, of course, institutional, as Notchlin remarks. For centuries women did not have access to workshops, professional training and academies. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656) was an exception. Her father, Orazio Gentileschi, was a painter; he trained her, supported her and believed in her talent. Even contemporary women artists do not seem to reach the level of the masters. I follow women’s art on Twitter ( ) and though the artwork they post is impressive it is not at the level of the greatest men artists. I believe that women artists need time.

For centuries they have been denied the access to education and art; they cannot catch up in a few decades or even one century.  They need time and opportunities to develop their practices and thoughts. In order to paint a fresco such as The Last Judgement by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel or paintings like La Gioconda by Leonardo, you do not only need artistic skills but also the knowledge of what other painters are doing and notions of philosophy, theology and literature. You need the education and contacts with the wider world that women could not have. This kind of dedication and awareness cannot be achieved in a relatively short time but needs generations to be accomplished and developed. I wonder if there is enough space for women today or if we still need to fight inch by inch to achieve the place we deserve.

Sunday 7 November 2021

Recipes from the summer and beyond

 The first thing my husband asks me when he comes back home from work is “What are you preparing for dinner?” He is starving; he leaves at 6 am and comes back at 6 pm, sometimes later, with no breakfast and a light lunch. Dinner is ready by 7 and I usually plan the weekly menu in advance, or I forget what to make. For the weekend we have pizza for lunch and richer dinners with pudding in the evening. I try to diversify and make balanced meals with pasta or minestra (soup) for the main course and vegetables or salad together with eggs, mozzarella or burrata, or we can have meat with potatoes in different versions, and fish on Friday. 

Reading Stanley Tucci: My Life Through Food, I felt deeply connected with his Italian food heritage. What he describes in his book, which is a memoir of sorts, is more or less what has happened and in part still happens in my family. We take time to prepare food, choose the ingredients carefully and the type of pasta needs to match with the sauce, as Tucci remarks. We used to make passata (tomato sauce) for the whole year too, cook the tomatoes in a cauldron in the garden and seal the sauce in jars. It was a ritual where the whole family was involved. About the Christmas dinner, the menu is long and challenging too, we start at lunch and end in the evening with short breaks when we play cards and tombola (a game similar to bingo) and nibble pieces of torrone or panettone in the meantime. Preparing and savouring food is part of Italian identity, it gives us joy and nurtures the family too. For me, Italian food is the best, even the simplest dishes such as pizza margherita and spaghetti with aglio, olio e pepperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli) are superb. 

Tucci is a well-known actor; he acted in successful films such as The Devil Wears Prada, Prizzi’s Honor, The Terminal, Big Night and many others. He won four Emmy Awards and published four cookbooks. His passion for food doesn’t stop to Italian cuisine, he also quotes English, French and even Icelandic dishes in his cookbook. His grandparents moved to US from Calabria and his parents, Joan Troppiano and Stanley Tucci Sr., maintained Italian cooking traditions. He grew up in Katonah (NY) where they had some grounds with a vegetable garden and raised chickens and goats.

In his memoir he says that preparing, serving and eating food were primary activities in his family. The mother used to fill her children’s bags with Italian products when they went to visit her. I must confess I do the same with my children when I go to visit them or when they come south. I always prepare a bag or two full of pasta, sweets, biscuits and passata I buy at the Italian Deli shop and add some home-made products too. In Tucci’s book there are family conversations, which sound very realistic. I was intrigued by his good, simple recipes such as how to make chicken stock or egg with tomato and more elaborated ones such as Tucci’s ragù (Bolognese sauce), his way of pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans), timballo or timpano (casserole of sorts wrapped in dough and filled with pasta, eggs and potatoes), and his popular Negroni cocktail he defines as ‘sun in your stomach’. Balanced meals, creativity and feeding your family combine in Italian cuisine; it is a way to express care and have fun too.

Tucci is happily married with his second wife, Felicity Blunt. His first wife, Kathryne Spath, with whom he had three children, died of breast cancer when she was only 47. He was devastated by her death and after some years he was diagnosed with cancer too. He had a big tumour at the base of his tongue and recovered after a long cancer treatment. This gave him side effects and he couldn’t swallow. When he improved, he appreciated the taste of good food even more than before. His successful TV program for CNN, ‘Stanley Tucci searching for Italy’ ( ), is a journey in different parts of Italy discovering habits and recipes and having gorgeous dinners. He remarks that Italy is a small but diverse country where food and wine change from region to region, and there are twenty regions so there is a lot to explore.

I find Tucci’s approach clever and easy-going; he is never pretentious and the recipes are just right. Here are my recipes that I experimented during summer and autumn. We enjoyed all the dishes and cakes and I hope you will enjoy them too.


You need: half an onion, 2 carrots, a stalk of celery, olive oil, tomato passata, salt and pepper, 1-2 courgettes, peas, spinach, broccoli, 2 potatoes, 2-3 tomatoes, a tin of borlotti beans and one litre of stock (chicken or vegetable stock). 

Grind the onion, celery and carrots in a blender. Fry the mixture in a large saucepan with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil for 2-3 minutes covered with a lid. Add the courgettes, broccoli and potatoes cut in chunks and the peas too. Stir and let them simmer for 5 minutes. Add the borlotti beans and the stock with one or two tbsp of tomato passata. Let it simmer for one hour and serve warm adding grated parmigiano. You can just have the vegetable minestrone or add pasta (ditalini or small macaroni) if you wish.

Feta and broad beans salad

You need: 200 g feta, 100 g broad beans, 2-3 tomatoes, 200 g pearl barley, rocket salad, dry oregano, salt and pepper, olive oil.

Cook the barley in salted water. Cut the beans and tomatoes in chunks and cook them in a frying pan with olive oil. Add salt, pepper and oregano and let it simmer covered with a lid for 10-15 minutes. Add the barley and mix for 5 minutes. Finally add the feta and the rocket salad and stir. Let it rest for five more minutes and serve. 

Fettuccine with tarragon chicken and cream

You need: 250 g of fettuccine or pappardelle, 50 g of butter, one tbsp of olive oil, one clove of garlic, 200 g of broccoli head finely cut, salt and black pepper, 300 g of chicken breast, fresh or dried tarragon, 150 ml of double cream, half a glass of white wine.

Prepare the sauce melting the butter with the oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and broccoli. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes then add the breast filet cut in small pieces. Add salt and pepper and stir. Let it simmer for 10 minutes covered with a lid. Add the white wine and cook them for 10 minutes. Prepare the fettuccine cooking them in boiling salted water. Add the cream and the tarragon to the chicken sauce and let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Finally drain the fettuccine and toss them in the frying pan mixing with the chicken sauce.  

Cake with amaretti

You need: 250 g of self-raising floor, one tsp of baking powder, ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda, three eggs, 100 g of amaretti, 100 g of unsalted butter, 250 ml whipping cream, some milk to wet the cake.

Beat the yolks of the eggs with the sugar for about five minutes, add the flour, then the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Warm the butter in the microwave and add it to the cake mixture. Whip the whites of the eggs stiff and add to the mixture. Bake the cake at 180 C for half an hour-45 minutes. Crush 80 g of amaretti and keep the rest to decorate the top. Whip the cream with a tbsp of sugar and mix it with the crushed amaretti. When the cake is cool cut it in half and wet it with milk mixed with water. Spread part of the cream and amaretti on the cake and cover it with the other half. Spread the rest of the cream on the top and the sides of the cake and decorate with amaretti. 

Cherry frangipane cake

For the frangipane pastry you need: 100 g of butter, half a glass of milk, 250 g of self-rising flour, one egg, 100 g of sugar.

For the frangipane you need: 100 g of butter, 100 g of sugar, two eggs, 100 g of ground almonds, 50 g of flour, some drops of vanilla extracts.

For the cherry jam you need: one kilo of cherries, 300 g of sugar, the juice of a lemon. Keep a few cherries to decorate the top.

Some almond flakes and icing sugar to decorate.

Prepare the jam removing the stones from the cherries and cook them in a saucepan with the sugar and the lemon juice. Let it simmer till the jam thickens and then let it cool.

Prepare the pastry mixing all the ingredients and bake it in a greased cake tin at 180 C for 20-30 minutes.

Spread the cherry jam on the base of the cake and then prepare the frangipane whisking all the ingredients and spread it on the jam. Scatter some pitted cherries on top together with some almond flakes. Bake at 180 C for 30-45 minutes and finally dust the top with icing sugar.

Pumpkin spice cookies

You need: 250 g or self-raising flour, 100 g of dark brown sugar, 50 g of oats, 50 g of granulated sugar, 100 g of pumpkin pulp, 100 g of butter, two eggs, some drops of vanilla extracts, a pinch of salt, 1/2 a tsp of ground cinnamon, 1/2 a tsp of ground nutmeg, 1/2 a tsp of ground ginger, 1/2 a tsp of ground cloves, some sea salt to grind on top.

Cook the pumpkin pulp cut in small pieces in a saucepan with the granulated sugar and some water. Let it simmer until the pumpkin is soft. Then let it cool. Beat the eggs with the brown sugar and add the rest of the ingredients as well as the pumpkin pulp. Knead the dough then prepare the biscuits making small balls and pressing them on a greased oven tray. Finally sprinkle some sea salt on top and bake at 180 C for 15 minutes.

Pumpkin tart with maple syrup

You need: 100 g of oats, 200 g of walnuts, 200 ml of double cream, three eggs, 50 g of sugar, three tbsp of maple syrup, 50 g of pumpkin pulp, ¼ tsp of ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp of ground ginger.

Cut the pumpkin pulp in pieces and bake it with the syrup, the sugar, the cinnamon and the ginger at 180 C for 45 minutes. Let it cool and prepare the base of the tart mixing the ground walnuts with the oats adding some water and milk to form a dough. Press the dough into the base of a spring tin cake. Mix the pumpkin with the beaten eggs and the cream. Pour the mixture into the tart and bake at 180 C for 30-45 minutes until it sets.