My aunt is an incredibly talented woman. Every Christmas there is usually something handmade from her—paintings, mostly, but my mom also has a hand-printed set of dish towels and an apron. And all of her Christmas/thank-you cards are prints of her paintings.
And this year it was a book!
My aunt Mary Ann loves to travel and has been doing ‘Untours’ trips for I don’t know how many years, each time spending several weeks in one area, really getting to know and enjoy each place and its small villages.
And each time she comes back with a sketchbook full of watercolor paintings, scenes of villages perched on the sides of cliffs or of fields of poppies or of cafes and stone-cobbled plazas. They are beautiful, the best memento anyone could have of a vacation and of time deeply enjoyed.
When I went abroad my aunt gave me a traveler’s set of watercolors and a small sketchbook (which were unfortunately lost/stolen by a hungover cab driver on my way to the Dublin airport) and which I wish I had used more than I did (for some reason I have a paralyzing fear of drawing, thus am a photographer instead).
But my aunt’s sketchbooks are tiny treasures, bright with colors and scenes that make you glad to be alive.
And a couple of years ago, she decided to turn them into a book.
Travels with a Blue Vase comes from her sketchbooks of her time spent in Provence, Tuscany, Umbria, and the Peloponnese. She also includes some wine labels and a few photos of herself while painting/sketching (my favorite is of her perched atop their rental car painting a field of sunflowers by the side of the road), as well as descriptions of the areas/scenes. One of my favorite lines is “Be sure to begin early to enjoy a gelato so you can try each of the many, many flavors.” Yes. One of my strongest memories of Italy are the gelaterias, and the overwhelming desire I had to consume as much gelato as possible.
The book is divided up into sections—one each for France, Italy, and Greece—and at the end of each section she includes recipes from each. I can’t wait to try making the French baguettes, the apricot jam (if fresh apricots are ever available around here that aren’t ridiculously expensive), and the wine biscuits.
Verdict: This whole book is a feast and will make you want to travel/live in Europe. Of course I recommend it, but right now you can only get it here.
BAWC Total Books Read: 10
BAWC Total Pages Read: 2990