Tag Archives: Tuscany

Style-Diet Shot – Manuela

“On matters of style, swim with the current. On matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

 – Thomas Jefferson

Manuela, from Italy and in Italy is wearing a beautiful blue dress with yellow accents.  The dress is Moschino (Made in Italy) which Manuela has had ‘da anni’  for years. Doesn’t look like it! I forgot to ask her about her bag, and shoes….  Maybe if she comes across this post, she can let us know?


The Style-Diet Shot celebrates individuals with unique style, wearing at least one article of clothing acquired via the Stephens’ Sisters Shopping Diet. It must be local, sustainable, second-hand/re-purposed, inherited or ethically produced. If you can’t find clothing fitting that criteria then it must be from a country with stellar human rights records.

Abito da sposa

Ceremony and traditions give sense of the definite to our relativity. They mark the passage of time with gravitas and levity. I welcome every excuse to celebrate life.  I became acutely aware of just how precious life is, having undergone major surgery in 2011.  How many more joyous events will I savour with my health intact and my loved ones around?

2013 has been the year of Weddings (with a capital W). It kicked off with an epic Indian wedding that spanned three continents and several cities. As more invites came in, I had to make gut-wrenchingly difficult choices as 2 sets of weddings were on the same day in different countries. Two of the years’ weddings have been Indian, one Italian, one Spanish-Turkish, one American and one Canadian. So much love from all around the globe, family and friends dizzyingly beautiful and crazy.  But of course, (said wiz a Frensh accent) that’s what weddings are all about.


I have sung at many weddings over the years. It’s an acutely emotional experience to sing at a wedding. The lifting of the human voice in song is primal, primordial.  It’s atavistic.  Couple that to the nervous bride and groom, atmosphere that is pregnant and about to deliver.  It’s a moment that will define lifetimes.  It’s a juicy dramatic concoction.  There’s the hidden anxiety (never so far manifested thank my lucky stars) that I’ll be overcome with emotion and weep half way through singing.  I’ve come close.

For me music has always been the most important part of a wedding.  But ask the bride and she’ll say The Dress. Each wedding I attended this year – and have ever attended – had the most beautiful brides wearing amazing dresses. It is rare that the dressmaker herself or himself is in attendance. Rarer still that she be a close friend of the bride. When I learned that Gabriella made Rossanna’s abito da sposa, it was an epic Style-Diet Shot!  Gabriella made this dress herself from the beautiful buttons to the cintura: the kind of belt, the drop-waist.  Note the detail: the beads and embroidery – the labour of love.



Below is Gabriella, wearing her own design in green silk. The Bracelet in Enamel is made in Tuscany by a local artisan.  Note the line, how the bottom of the shirt scoops upwards slightly.  Note the green fingernails and the bracelet.



Love how the warm glow of the Tuscan alters the perception of color.


Italian Scissorhands

“It takes about a year to grow the topiary in the form of a cone with the scoops of ice cream”

– Federico Elmi


Hand-made artesian gelato in Italy is such a labour of love.  We’ve met gelato makers who pick wild blackberries and figs in the morning and add them to their gelato that day.  Others grow tiny strawberries in their gardens to make their fragola gelato truly distinct – heck talk about secret recipe!  These wild strawberries taste unreal, like candy.  Like what candy tries to imitate.  Good gelato is about taking the best of nature and distilling it into pure delight.  It’s done with passion and pride.  When we lived in Italy we ate gelato almost everyday.  While visiting Italy, we aim for twice a day.  For old times sake.


Elmi Gelateria in Figline Val’darno is a place where the lactose and gluten free can enjoy gelato. Most gelaterie offer dairy-free fruit varieties.  However, only a handful use soy instead of milk. I was excited to find gluten-free vegan cones at this gelateria in addition to several varieties made without dairy and a few with soy milk.



Federico caught my eye when he was outside trimming the topiary.  We had a bit of a chat, while he was focusing on the hairy bush.  Federico is the third generation, proud of his family business.  He originally studied medicine but felt a pull for tantalizing tastebuds with his family.  Let food be your medicine Hippocrates said.  I think Federico chose well.


The love Italians infuse into their food makes me want to sing and bounce about.  They get so much right.  Recently three ministries of government in Italy have signed a ban on Genetically modified corn.  They cite “loss of biodiversity” as their main concern.  Diversity is the spice of the life.  But it’s more than the spice.  It’s the modus operandi of our planet.   If anything, in these times where human population has zoomed out of control, we should be making every effort possible to enhance biological differences, not reduce them.


Federico was proud of the vintage bicycle behind one of the three pots of topiary.  When I commented on his bike, he said that it is from 1959, made in the North of Italy near Milano.  He obtained it from a friend, in exchange for 3 cases of champagne.  He has a lock on it but doesn’t lock it up.  Viva Italia!