Villa Lucia Bedroom Stories Continue

Fixing breakfast early one morning I was joined by a guest asking for assistance. Shirley explained that she would not ask in Rome and waited  to speak to me at Villa Lucia.  Having forgotten her diaphragm  requested that I go with her to a pharmacy. Not familiar with diaphragms I ascertained  that they came in sizes. Unfortunately  our local pharmacy  did not have her size.  Disappointed I returned home but  while serving the other guests received a call from the pharmacist that he found  her size in Bologna.
wrong spot (1)

I regretted that I could not go to Bologna, a two hour drive,  when he answered there was no need to do so since he ordered a van to bring the medium size diaphragm to the farm. Sure enough within 2 hours as the other guests lingered at the breakfast table, the van arrived and the driver requested Shirley. Initially it was a private matter but the curiosity of the guests led  Shirley to share her problem which brought laughter to the others as they wished Shirley and  her embarrassed husband a wonderful evening.

Villa Lucia’s Bathroom Stories continue — farm jacuzzis


Saving electricity- ecological power

better jacuzzi

Villa lucia’s traveling farm jacuzzi in Tuscany

Jorge may love his  bidet but I love, when time allows, to enjoy an occasional tub soak which he doesn’t understand.  “You need a  Jacuzzi tub” Julie, an Italian  massage therapist visiting us said when hearing about my back pain.”  I’ll set up a portable unit that I have that works wonders in a regular tub”.  It was one of those weeks working around the clock without knowledge of  time of day unless reminded by the church  bells. She  informed me that she would place in my tub her contraction  with some nice bath salts and  bubble bath -relaxers before she departed for the evening. As usual, after cooking and serving I  joined my fascinating guests at the table  for a drink and stimulating conversation that as usual might continue into the early morning hours. Joe, a Californian new arrival, jet-lagged and tired, decided to call it a night around 2 AM.  As he started up the stairs to his room, he yelled  out to all of us at the table. “ Something funny is going on. I must be dreaming, jet lagged or drunk.” As we all  rushed to the stairwell, we were greeted by 6 feet high clouds  of vanilla scented  perfumed bubbles descending the stairs, having exited from the open bathroom door to my room.  Julie was right, it works wonders, especially if you leave the motor running for 2 hours in a tub of water and  many ounces of  perfumed  bubble baths

jucuzzu suds

As Desi would say, ” Luceee I am home, where are you ?”


After lots of prosecco, how are guests relax

An Italian-American, Candido Enzo Jacuzzi in 1949 invented the jacuzzi. When one of his sons  was  born with rheumatoid arthritis his doctor recommended   hydrotherapy for pain relief. Being that hydrotherapeutic therapy  was  only available in communal tubs at the time led Mr Jacuzzi to invent  a jacuzzi whirlpool to be used in his  private home designed to lessen the pain of his 15 month old son. The family continued with other related inventions leading to some 50 patents.

In spite of the fact that this Italian- invention spread around the world, when I came to  the farm in Tuscany in the early 80’s it was little known as an outdoor spa for relaxation, Making many phone calls and driving many miles  in my search led to various companies supplying hydromassage units for indoors. Nobody seem to understand how one could be used outdoors  or after skiing in the snow. Times have changed. Gradually farms began to adopt modified jacuzzis, so one could enjoy them outdoors. Not  what I was seeking at the time but actually  very effective.  Must inform our readers that we  no longer have these units.

Villa Lucia Bathroom stories continue — using depends


In spite of all the progress still there are times when bathrooms are difficult to find. When a group of girlfriends as  houseguests complained one evening, I surprised them at breakfast by replacing the usual cloth napkin with their own “depends” to be used.  This initiated a chorus of  laughter but they all reassured me they would not use them and certainly not need them at their age. They were all in their mid -60’s, believing that they would not be so desperate to find facilities as one might be at the age of 70 or older.  After breakfast we  started off for our sightseeing day beginning with the Tuscany medieval town  of  San Gimignano.

depends  AdultThongDiaper

In the car I jokingly told them that I was wearing my “depend” and they laughed along with me.  About  an  hour after viewing  the city of towers, the morning coffee had its effect. On the Chianti trail without any facilities in view I was asked to stop at a service station which unfortunately had a unforgiving sign explaining, the rest rooms were” out of order”.  I reprimanded the disappointed  ladies for not wearing their “depends” reminding  them that I felt fortunate to be wearing mine. That was all that was needed as their brains suddenly in unison signaled to their bodies the immediate need for bathroom facilities. I will discontinue the story her so as not to embarrass anyone that was present that day. Sufficient to say, the next morning I had 5 ladies asking me for their own “depends” before venturing out to the hilltop village of San Miniato for a truffle hunt with the truffle dogs.

mens depends depends


Life at Villa Lucia of Tuscany. Bathroom stories continue- flushing devices.


In the year 2000 the bathrooms became modernized,  tissues  of  better quality if someone doesn’t steel it and  the bathroom  lights  usually not on a timer. Most modern facilities now have automatic flushers even though at times they might  scare you off the seat like a high power Hoover vacuum about to suck you down the drain without  warning when it decides you should be done. Not sure what is worse.

Where is the flushing devise? Is it:  the  side level, wall mounted, vertical level,  cord hanging from the ceiling, electric eye or the  rubber floor pedal. I have seem them all.  Is it the  small ball to the side of the tank, the  handle on the unit or  the red spot on the water tank? Sometimes I could not find it at all. Might be the reason in the past  one would often find public toilets at times un-flushed.


Curtain cord

flushing cord

Wrong Cord




Recently seeing an old cord flusher reminded me of years ago as a college student one  morning when getting ready for my shower in a hotel room.I pulled a long cord which was often found to the left of the toilet.  Not paying attention to the absence of the sound of  water swirling down the drain, I looked up to a number of happy faces of  smiling men on the deck playing cards outside my window, glancing at  my stark naked 20 year old body.  I had pulled the curtain shade up thinking it was the mission impossible dam flusher. Thank  God that was yesterday. Today their smiles would be replaced with ugly frowns, frightened by the sight of my body  50 years later.

Life at Villa Lucia of Tuscany. Bathroom stories, using a bidet.

When traveling to Italy to work on our abandoned farmhouse in the 80’s, my neighbor Nina, upon my arrival and our customary cup of coffee together, would always ask, “ so you’re here again to add another bathroom. What do you Americans do in there?”  My objective in the first 12  journeys across the sea was accomplished having added 12 more bathrooms  to the house that had one. I believe today for most Americans it has become one’s  private sanctuary.  Managing the B&B  I have found guests  linger there indefinitely, missing buses and at times even  meals. It has become a reading room, a spa, a place to contemplate, be alone, and  often the only place to enjoy solitude. When out to a private home for dinner one night with a dear  friend, I became concerned when she delayed her return when using  the facilities between the serving of  antipasti and the main course.  As the host  family waited patiently for her to join us at the table, holding off the serving of the main course for 20 minutes,  I wondered,  did she fall in?  Finally, the dinner no longer warm,  Sally  appeared at the table smiling, unaware of her tardiness  whispered to me, “ I feel so good”. My answer, “ sure must have been a good one”.  “ Oh no”, she answered, I fell asleep on the pot”. Now this is something I don’t think many  Europeans would do. In the 90’s one  bathroom item always fascinated our guests. “Amazing how Italians  cater to babies. They put those little tubs for infants in each room”, I overheard  a B&B guest comment to another.” Oh no,” said the other, “  I believe it is to soak and wash your underwear ”.  As they debated the issue, a third guest overhearing them as he  came down for coffee,  laughing at their comments, informed them that they were both  wrong. “ It is a foot bath”. When I  explaining it was to sit on, and to be  used as a cleaning devise,  confused looking faces would then ask, “How do you sit on it, facing front or  back? “Well it would  depend what you want to clean,” was my answer to guest questioning the use of the commode that often is seen by the side or directly in front of the toilet in most |Italian bathrooms, the bidet. bidet 3 bidet Europeans like my husband are introduced to the bidet after being potty trained as a child, making life without a bidet incomprehensible.  Americans with an Anglo-Saxon heritage  might have been introduced to the bidet for the first time by viewing Paul Hogan  in the movie, Crocodile Dundee, when he  squirted the ceiling accidentally,  unaware of the bidet’s function as a cleaning  devise for one’s private areas .bidet 21396368014896 Apparently,  none of the questioning guests had seen the movie or might have  missed the significance of the popular  Italian bidet. I must admit,  although not raised using one in America since marriage, I have learned to appreciate this wonderful cleaning devise. I have been told that often foreign guests not familiar with this commode in the past would mistake it for a toilet creating a messy situation for chamber maids. Thank God they have been removed from most private room. I for sure would never have been in the lodging  business for 30 years, if not. baby bidet

Successful Truffle Hunt

Before starting our new season after a 5 month absense from Tuscany due to a family situation in California, I wish to note a wonderful group of fun attendees that ended our 2014 cooking week season.

For many the highlight was the day of our most successful truffle hunt, 500 grams of white truffle. Leaving Villa Lucia in a rain storm I thought the day would be cancelled. When arriving in San Miniato, not only did it stop raining but the ground prove to be suitable for the truffle hounds to sniff out the subterranean tuber fungus prized around the world as the “diamond of the kitchen”.  The  grounds were  muddy, slippery and rocky in areas making the walk through the woods difficult at times, yet the prize well worth the effort even if we were not rewarded monetarily.

IMG_4496  IMG_4375 IMG_4111 IMG_4377image1


Great Guests in our Tuscany Kitchen

Every week is fun that it is hard to determine any particular group that is the best.  Our October cooking group of fifteen has to be one of the top for the year. Great people, lots of laughs,  good food, great wines and  stimulating conversations is hard to beat.  Tom, one of the  guests, shared a video he made  to be sure memories would never be forgotten.  Thank you Tom and all the others that have so enriched my treasure chest of memories.

Oxytocin and Sister Friends Across the Atlantic

A year ago I  dedicating my first blog to my mother at age 100, and today  we are celebrating her  101stbirthday. Unfortunately my  mother- in -law that I considered my second mother  passed away last month at the age of 106. God Bless These Ladies.  This  year I wish to dedicate my  blog to all my sister friends that have been with me through the years, without minimizing in any way the wonderful men in my life that helped me be who I am today, especially my husband, sons, and  family members. But there is something special  about  girlfriends.  Could it be that “feel good hormone called oxytocin?” Shelley Taylor In her book The Tending Instinct, seems to think that the need for a sisterhood of friends may be biological.  I do not know what it is but strong social ties with my female friends make me feel  good.


Our combined annual birthday celebration, thanks to our daughters

always there for each other











First and foremost are my two blood related sisters, Rose and  Mary who have been by my side through thick and thin and never let me down

Love this girl (1)

Laila, my roommate for 3 weeks while traveling together in August. Great time with my oldest grandchild, 13 years old,  the  new generation of ladies.

Sisters and nieces with mom

Our daughters continue giving love, attention and time whenever needed.

with me in tuscany

Fun with  sister-friends from Italy to California, I apologize to the many that are not represented here but are always in my heart.

Not a bad price for our new purchases, warm neck wear for one euro.

you can crash my party anytime Good hugger Have no idea who he is but that is ok. IMG_0522 lucyWe had the best week alone  in tuscany over  20 years ago

There is always a party planned for me when I return to the States. When I expressed my wish for no party,  Janet suggested at least a little breakfast group of close friends.   This is what happened.

Have no idea who he is? Honest Jorge I never met him before. Not sure if it was Julie Argyros or my daughter Michelle but following him as he walked into the house and  picked me up and  hugged me tightly were the two giggling ladies walking behind him.

Photographer Yana gets in the photo

Photographer Yana gets into the picture


tuscany sisters

Called the Tuscany sisters are my 5 Scandinavian sisters  and me who some 30  years ago got together and began this sisterhood of monthly meetings, membership closed, where we talk the night away discussing life happenings,  family, children, social life and problems  never to be discussed out of our  meeting. The meetings often end with Anita our psychologist giving a closing solution. Happy to say after all these years she asked me a few months ago for advice. I shall never tell.

We have been together In Sweden, Norway, ( suppose  to be visiting Karen in Denmark this year). We have all  been together in Tuscany a few times. I met Eva at the one and only medical wives gourmet group I attended in 1970. Both busy woman  we had no time for tennis that is, unless we could hit some balls at 6 in the morning which we did for a few years.  Then she introduced me to Mona, Anita, Berit and Karen and one night out for drinks was so much fun we decided we needed to do it every month.

karen joins me for an International, all expensive cooking week in Liguria

Karen joins me for a week long  international, cooking competition  in Liguria,


fun even on a rainy day2

Fun even on a rainy day

fun even on a rainy day1

Rainy day in Tuscany

Fun even in the rain.

Mary R and Barbro 2


Mary, who I always call when needing advise.

Different political views yet sister friends Mary and Barbro  for some 40  years

legs and legs great gals and friendsBarbara's bar


Who but  Barbara Venezia could have a bar like this?  Invited for a luncheon in my honor we had a great day with more wonderful friends.  Barb and I met when she interviewed me in the 70’s when I opened What’s Cooking Bistro.



Berit never fails to organize a ride in the harbor for me and my friends every trip back.  Then there is the ladies luncheon to follow. Great food, conversation, beautiful setting, what more can one ask for?

just having fun old friends

It is impossible to not bond with these ladies that have experienced the vicissitudes of life with me since coming to California in 1968. We have dined  together, played  together, laughed together and cried together but always there for each other. Even when differences  cause disagreements it seems with true friends social bonding is only enhanced.

party time when I return silly moments are great memories


Surprise for me

They are always full of surprises like this. How can I not love them all?

To all my female friends of every age, from my mother, 101 today,  to the newest addition to our family, granddaughter  Kara Ann Luhan,  born on June 1, 2014, may I wish you all the best of  health and happiness .  I wish to thank everyone for all their kindness and friendship through the years. May you all have sister friends, that biological need in our DNA, that can help you through good and bad times . Let the oxytocin flow.

singing to mom on her 100th bd last year

Three sisters singing  to Mom a year ago  on her 100th birthday. Happy 101 Mom.


at 101 not to old to make ravioli (1)

Still making raviolis at 100


Kara Anne Luhan, one day old
















101 years difference in age, Kara Ann Luhan, born June 1, 2014.

A difference of 100 plus years



1970, our American-Italian table, continues… “Neophilia vs. Neophobia”

It is during the first five years that children basically accept what is given to them, and after age five, their environment begins to control their habits. It is in this environment that a child in an Italian or French family learns to use all of his senses, as parents encourage  him to taste a little of everything served at the table, working his way to becoming a neophile, a lover of the new and  unfamiliar. It is the food neophile who by experiencing a variety of ingredients and combinations of flavors learns to accept and perhaps even seek out new flavors. There should be no great distinction between adult and children’s food besides portion size unless for medical reasons.

Jason learned to enjoy chicken feet with his paternal grandfather and now ready to have  his children experience this specialty.

Jason learned to enjoy chicken feet with his paternal grandfather and now ready to have his children experience this specialty after a few hours of cooking and spicing.


Cleaning vegetables with grandpa.

Cleaning vegetables with grandpa.

Grandkids cutting vegetables.

Grandkids cutting vegetables.

When kids prepare genuine foods they tend to eat more of them.

When kids prepare genuine foods they tend to eat more of them.


Grandkids love their vegetables especially when they prepare them.

Grandkids love their vegetables especially when they prepare them.




All from grandma's organic garden.

All from grandma’s organic garden.


Picking them to can for the winter.

Picking them to can for the winter.

Lots of work but worth the time for quality canned tomatoes.

Lots of work but worth the time for quality canned tomatoes.

Some we roasted in the wood burning oven for pasta sauce.

Some we roasted in the wood burning oven for pasta sauce.












Wow wish we didn't pick so many cherry tomatoes.

Wow wish we didn’t pick so many cherry tomatoes.

So many so hung some for a later use.

So many so hung some for a later use.


Others we baked in our wood burning oven for a special  pasta sauce, It was worth picking.

Others we baked in our wood burning oven for a special pasta sauce, It was worth picking.


Many of my American friends are neophobes, not exposed to variety, having a fear of the new and set in their ways as to what they will and will not eat. There is now a movement to experience the new as a culinary treat by the trend-setting upwardly mobile class. Since eating is based on habit and tradition, certain tastes and pleasures have not been stored in memory and it is difficult for them to enjoy new flavor experiences.  A neophile rarely loses the tastes and smells registered in childhood and as an adult is able to recollect those tastes and smells and experience them all over again. Our foreign friends who often express their love of tripe comment that it is the chewiness of the item that they love. Serving tripe, the lining of the cow’s stomach to Americans may be met with rejection due to the unfamiliar texture.  The difference is only an experience stored in memory. It is up to parents to help their children develop taste buds and educate the palate by giving them new experiences.


Food culture must begin at an early age. Michelle at 3 months old.

Food culture must begin at an early age. Michelle at 3 months old. She continues to love quality bread.

Michelle enjoying convivio at age 3 months old.

Michelle enjoying convivio at age 3 months old and continues to enjoy time at the table.












In Italian and French families, these food pleasures begin in their youth. Food is tradition. Tastes and smells experienced in one’s childhood are recalled in adult life. Taste may be physically sensed on the tongue and palate, but after it is cultivated, it becomes a memory. If a baby is fed a bland diet and never experiences flavorful foods, it will be deprived of one of the greatest pleasures of life. Healthy habits formed and nurtured until a child reaches age ten often last a lifetime.

Coming from Argentina, Jorge knows well how to barbecue as well as how to roast a whole animal, He always has the kids give him a hand, marinating the meat, controlling the barbecue and of course relishing the meat down to the bone while enjoying convivio  with family and friends.

Advantage on the farm, you can eat with your hands, down to the bone.

Advantage on the farm, you can eat with your hands, down to the bone.

Love grandpa's Easter lamb,

Love grandpa’s roasted lamb.

Roasted in the wood burning oven.

Roasted in the wood burning oven.

 No meat left on this bone.

No meat left on this bone.

Love the meat around the bone.

Love the meat around the bone.

I  am saddened to see how in today’s hurried lifestyle, the pleasure of eating, the time at the table and the tastes and smells coming from a mother’s kitchen are often not experienced in youth. As Julie Child said once to me at a culinary meeting in San Diego, “In our society there is a fear of food that brings about the fear of pleasure.”  She noted that in France, as in Italy, there were no menus for children. What is its purpose other than to provide the child with a less expensive meal—a meal which was in fact, less nourishing and usually containing something breaded, salty and fried. Not being exposed to better foods, it is no wonder that they often continue to please their palates in adult life based on their food experiences in childhood. As adults, after learning about nutrition and the importance of eating genuine food, it is still often very hard for people to change. As noted earlier, eating right is like learning a language; the best and easiest way is total immersion in childhood, with the parents setting a good example.

Julia and Lucy

Julia and Lucy

Next week, children having fun in the kitchen.


The 70s: My American-Italian Table —New York, New York

“Food is not only taste, but also atmosphere. Food is about family and friends.”

Living on the salary of a medical resident required a very stringent food budget. It was not difficult for my husband and I. We  never felt  deprived having been raised on a diverse  diet eating nutritiously and economically. Although born thousands of miles apart, we  were both raised on similar cuisines highlighted by the importance of the table and appreciation of genuine foods. This is what we wished to teach our children by having them experience with us a world of foods that may not be popular for most, but nourishing as well as able to meet our budget. We also agreed that children whenever possible should help prepare different foods, see how dishes are made  to be able to enjoy fully the genuine dish along with an enriched table experience. Children raised with  food culture are more appreciative of quality and are more apt to seek this quality in their adult life. They also would be less likely to seek foods prepared out of the home when they can eat nutritiously and economically at home.

1. 1978 our children cleaning fish with their dad on a Sunday afternoon 2 Thirty years later, their children  cleaning fish with their dad and the children's grandpa on a Sunday afternoon 3 Children helped bake a  whole fish in the oven, ummm good 4 comparing the size of  heads. 5  Cleaning mussels, for a great seafood pasta sauce 6 Laila and Bo buying fish they will clean and cook 7 fresh this morning and now on the grill

When our first child was born in 1968, we were living in a studio apartment in New York City. Jorge had received a residency in plastic surgery at New York University Medical Center. I nursed for six months and then proceeded to give Michelle small pureed samples of our table food.  Reading baby food labels and discovered that the baby food industry was basically adding salt and sugar to baby food. So I followed my mother’s way of doing things and made my own baby food.

8- 1 preparing as grandpa taught our  mom 8 -2ready for the barbecue 9 The kids bought, and cleaned the fish, now to enjoy the dish 10 Laila sucki;ng the fish out of the shell 11 Raised with food culture, children learn early to  enjoy  snails, 12 Grandma Lucy with Dante and Luca enjoying fried smelts. 13 The kids ate it all up heads and tails. 14 Dante and Luca will always love clams,storied food  memories 15 Yes, Dante ate them all and calls it his favorite food.

Michelle’s first solid food was mashed bananas which was great while traveling through Europe by car. Bananas were followed by mashed sardines, nourishment that fit well into our budget. For less than nine cents a can at the time, we could get four jumbo Portuguese sardines, in either a tomato or mustard base. This was one canned item my mother did buy, provided she could see the whole sardine from head to tail. Years later, as a mother herself Michelle, who still loves sardines, asked me how I managed to get her to eat them as an infant, considering that she was unsuccessful with her daughter Laila. I reminded her that when she was six months old she had no options. She ate what we ate and watched our excitement as we made a big thing out of each new addition to her diet.

16. Ok grandma says we should never deprive ourselves of occassional treats, especially when parents are not around.