Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic
Scroll down for more photos!
I'm back to blogging after a bit of a hiatus to run a Kickstarter campaign and, you know, do a bit of paid work. Getting back into the game in one of the best ways possible, I think: With some posts about our trip to Italy earlier this month! It was my first time visiting Italy and, just as expected, I fell in love.

It was a whirlwind week-long trip with stops in Florence, the Tuscan countryside, Umbria and Lake Como. I'll blog about some of the other highlights in the next few days, but I wanted to start off with probably my favorite memory from the trip - a cooking class in Umbria at an agriturismo called Il Fontanaro. The experience was organized by Walks of Italy.

This is the second time I've taken a Walks of Italy tour and it definitely won't be the last. They do such a great job of tracking down truly authentic experiences that are more than worth the money. We were at Il Fontanaro for almost a full day of olive oil and wine tasting, and a hands-on cooking class.

Lunch was served with plenty of wine (made on the farm!) and overflowing plates of handmade tagliatelle and ravioli. They even urged us to kick back and swim in the pool after lunch! But, alas, we had to get back to Tuscany. I wish I could have jumped in!

There's an obvious amazingness that comes with a farm-fresh pasta and wine lunch (oh, with homemade tiramisu for dessert!), but my visit to Il Fontanaro was eye-opening for other reasons. Like my visit to Singh Farms in Scottsdale last year, I left Il Fontanaro with more of an understanding about how important it is to eat real, wholesome food. When we talk about "eating healthy" here in the U.S., it's so often associated with counting calories and depriving ourselves of certain foods.

But what if, instead of constantly telling ourselves "NO," we learned how to say "YES" to foods that are nutritional and delicious? Real meats, real pasta, real cheese, real fruits and veggies. I just feel like we have the cravings that we do for a reason and if you're filling your body with a balanced diet of non-processed goodies, there's nothing wrong with a bit of quality cheese for breakfast. Or lunch. Or a midnight snack. No?

Any way, I could go on about this topic forever because I've become passionate about it over the past few years, but I won't do that here! Instead, what I will say is that Alina (owner of Il Fontanaro, winemaker, olive oil sommelier and all-around bad ass) and her mom Lucia opened our eyes to just how easy it can be to eat real and homemade meals. When your ingredients are fresh, you don't really have to do a whole lot to them.

The day started a bit off-kilter because we were so late to meet our group (Italy traffic!), but as soon as we stepped out onto the gravel in front of Il Fontanaro's stone farmhouse, all panic and stress faded. Alina and Lucia were there with the espresso. There were hugs, genuine smiles...a feeling like I was having a reunion with family, not arriving at a stranger's inn. Alina and Lucia's family friend from the States, Carolyn, was there and hung out with us off and on during the day.

We talked life, travel, food (and wine and food). I felt like I knew them for a lifetime, not for an hour. There were a lot of laughs. Lots of hard work (beating eggs by hand for tiramisu takes muscle!), and a lot of reward once we sat down on the open-air patio to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Nothing but sun, trees, rolling hills and the family dogs and cat in sight. It was absolutely unforgettable.

I've done a couple of similar tours in the past for work, some have been amazing like this one at Il Fontanaro and others haven't been worth the trip. When you're coming into a person's home, especially, it can sometimes feel awkward. Or, occasionally you leave feeling like the experience wasn't worth what you paid. But that just wasn't the case here.

Alina, Lucia and Carolyn were so warm and welcoming. The wine flowed freely, there was cheese, olive oil and bread to snack on throughout the whole day, and our final lunch was more food than you'd get at any restaurant, that's for sure. Even at home, probably!

I honestly think this speaks to the quality of Walks of Italy. They really vet out every one of the experiences and tours that they offer. You can tell they have personal relationships with their vendors. The difference in tours I've taken with Walks of Italy and some other companies is astounding. I honestly can't say enough good things about them.

The day's full syllabus (yes, because you learn a lot as you go), included an olive oil tasting with tips on how to spot the good stuff, cheese and honey tasting (they just started caring for their own hives), pasta and sauce making, a brief tour of the farm, and of course the lunch and wine.

At one point Alina pulled out a truffle the size of my fist and asked "Are you guys OK if I shaved a little bit of this on the pasta?" and I almost fainted from happiness. I'm pretty sure I salivated. THE THING WAS HUGE.

Any way, Stjepan took so many great photos from our farmhouse visit and I had a hard time editing them down, so...there's a lot to see here. Enjoy!

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Cooking Class in Italy with Walks of Italy - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic


MORE INFO: Walks of Italy
PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic

Blogger Tricks

Friday, June 12, 2015

I'm on Voice of Croatia!

A few weeks ago I did an interview with HRT Radio in Croatia for a program about Croatians living in the U.S. They interviewed me about life in the States, and my work as a writer and about RUBY.

If you want to listen, follow this link to Croatia Today - Magazine, and hit the play button under the second image. My interview starts at 7:00.

I'm so happy with how it turned out!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Have You Checked Out RUBY on Kickstarter Yet?

Have You Checked Out RUBY on Kickstarter Yet? - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

By now you've probably all noticed that I've taken a bit of a break from my typical blogging calendar to share more about a BIG new project - RUBY magazine.

RUBY is an idea I've been playing with for a few years now and, while we've still got a road to launch, I'm really encouraged by all of the support surrounding our Kickstarter campaign. I expected to feel the love from family and close friends, but my colleagues, social media friends and even a lot of people that I don't know have stepped up to pledge in a big way. I am so grateful!

My goal for RUBY is to create a different kind of online woman's magazine - one that inspires from the inside out and sparks a sense of adventure. But, most importantly, RUBY's mission is to support sisterhood...to build female camaraderie.

I don't want to give too much away about the editorial lineup just yet (spoiler alert: travel will be in there!), but I can tell you this: We'll be looking to hire bright and talented journalists, photographers and videographers. I can't wait to see how it all comes together.

If this is something that excites you, please do check out the Kickstarter and make a pledge if you can. And of course, share it with all of your friends...shout it from the rooftops! There's also a comments section on the Kickstarter page where you can ask questions or leave feedback. I'd love to hear from you.

In the meantime, you can read EVEN MORE about RUBY on some of my favorite sites:

Monday, March 9, 2015

#ISawRed: Why Life Is Better When You’re a Girl’s Girl

RUBY Magazine

I haven’t always been a girl’s girl. As a teenager, there was the typical adolescent cattiness between me and my friends: Two of us would hop on the phone, call the third and try our hardest to pull out some piece of scandal from the unsuspecting girl.

Or, we’d buy the same pair of shoes and tell the other girl she wasn’t allowed to follow suit because they “just wouldn’t look right on her.” The next day, we’d switch alliances...it was my turn to feel left out, then it was hers, and then it was the first one’s again.

It was all very immature. Very Mean Girls. Very silly.

I assumed this haughtiness would fade as we all aged and, with my close girlfriends, it (thankfully) did. But even as those bonds grew tighter and more supportive, our relationships with females on the “outside” - that is, not within the cozy confines of our tight clique - remained icy at best.

Add in the pressures of work and dating, and you’ve got an entirely new level of unhealthy competition. To be completely honest, I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of ugly behavior...and then somewhere around my mid-20’s it’s like someone snapped me back to reality and I realized - life is much happier when you stop competing and start supporting.

I can’t tell you exactly what caused this “a-ha” moment, but it was there. It was very real. It was a tectonic shift. Opening my mind and heart to new female friendships changed my perspective. Life felt richer, fuller. Suddenly, I was no longer alone and on the defense. I was part of a team.

No one understands the ups and downs of being a woman as much as your fellow woman - imagine that! I know, it sounds so obvious...but it was a big revelation for me. In the midst of all of this, I was working as a freelance journalist, specifically in digital media. I was thinking a lot about what I wanted to do with my career.

And so, years later, my work and my personal journey with female relationships led me to this: RUBY magazine - a new online lifestyle publication I’m launching whose biggest mission is to promote female camaraderie, support sisterhood and inspire women to make a difference.

I’d like to invite you to check out our Kickstarter campaign, which is raising startup and launch funds for RUBY. More importantly, I wanted to invite you to the conversation.

Coming to the realization that championing my fellow female was better than competing with her was my “I Saw Red” moment, meaning I learned something very valuable that changed my perspective.

So, I want to know: What was your “I Saw Red” moment? What life event changed you into a girl’s girl? Was it a particular interaction with another woman? Or was it just a personal epiphany like mine?

Leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter using the #ISawRed hashtag to tell me about your experience. (I’m @Little_K) I’d love to hear all about it! I hope that you’ll also take a moment to read and hear more about RUBY and maybe even contribute to the cause.

Donations will build an inclusive and supportive online environment with one goal in mind: To lay the foundation for future generations of confident, motivated and inspirational women who make it a point to champion their fellow female.

Because if we don’t do it, who will?

Donate to the RUBY Magazine Kickstarter!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Check out RUBY Magazine


I've been working on a really exciting passion project for a long time: RUBY magazine. It's a new kind of online woman's magazine that will promote female camaraderie, support sisterhood and inspire women to make a difference in the world. To help raise start-up funds for RUBY, I'm launching a month-long Kickstarter campaign Monday morning. Here's a preview of the Kickstarter video. I'll post the link to the campaign once it's live early next week. I hope that you'll follow along and help spread the word about RUBY!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

I've spent most of the post-holiday season trying to avoid winter. There have been a lot of Netflix and red wine marathons in the apartment. And anytime I go outdoors, it's usually underneath three layers with my chin tucked in and eyes on the ground, trying to avoid slush and ice. (Well, except for yesterday...yesterday was beautiful, slush and all.)

But a couple of weeks ago, we decided to embrace winter with a quick getaway to Winvian in Connecticut. I've been wanting to visit for a long time, so it was really nice to get the chance to stay here. It's a quick drive from New York City - just under 2 hours - and really a perfect spot to enjoy the season as it's meant to be...quiet, with feathery snowfall and a real wood-burning fireplace.

It's so easy to get caught up with the busyness of the city and forget just how different the rest of New York is from Manhattan and the other boroughs. You drive about 45 minutes northeast of our apartment and the scenery changes entirely. Highrises are replaced with towering pine trees and the snow turns from gray sludge to brilliant white powder.

Even without the signs, it was easy to tell when we crossed from New York into Connecticut. We opted for a path with no tolls and it led us through some of the most charming small towns I've seen. Really, there's something about Connecticut that just makes you feel like you're in a movie set. There's also so much history in that part of the country. It's pretty awe-inspiring.

Speaking of history, Winvian's definitely got it. It started as a family home and the original structure was built in 1775 - a year before the Declaration of Independence made the United States of America its own country. Later, in the 1940s, the property and surrounding land was purchased by Winthrop and Vivian Smith (he was a founder of Merrill Lynch and she was a model). They turned it into a working farm and summer getaway.

Now, Winvian is a collection of 18 luxury cottages, each with their own design, plus the Hadley Suite, which was the family's home. It's still owned and operated by the Smith family and you're likely to meet them during your stay.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

We stayed in the Woodlands Cottage, a spacious cabin with tall ceilings propped up by towering tree trunks...one of which doubles as a chimney! There was so much beautiful detail in this cottage and I'll never forget the warm, calming scent of pine. I loved the placement of the bed. It served as the divider between the bedroom and bathroom and on the back of it is a trickling waterfall.

At night you could watch the sunset from all around and, in the morning, I could see the blue sky and icicles peeking in from windows placed just below the roof. Everything about the cottage was relaxing...it was exactly what you'd want in a woodsy retreat.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

We toured a couple of the other cottages that weren't occupied, including the Beaver Lodge, which had the coolest bed I've seen in a long time! A winding staircase led up to a loft area where you could play a game of chess with the snowy branches as your backdrop. Every cottage at Winvian has these kinds of thoughtful details.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

The details extend into their public spaces, too. In the main house, where you'll find the bar, restaurant and games, walls and shelves are decorated with old American art and Smith family photos. When we first checked in, I felt like I was coming to a friend's house to stay for the weekend. We played some pool and shuffleboard, drank some wine and then got ready for dinner at Winvian's restaurant.

I wish I had photos of our dinner, but the restaurant is just so quiet and intimate that I didn't want to disturb the experience for anyone. There are a handful of small dining rooms with just a few tables in each. We sat in a dining room with three other couples, in front of a roaring fireplace, and were treated to what I can only describe as a "beautiful" four-course meal.

Winvian's menu is pre-fixe and you can do three or four courses. Almost everything the restaurant serves - about 80 percent of the ingredients when we were there - comes from their own onsite farm. They grow produce and raise their own livestock. It makes sense, given Winvian's farming history. The selection changes almost daily.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

One other thing I don't have a photo of for blogging is the spa, which is more modern than the main house but still really cozy. I booked a facial with Susan and am so glad I did because her facial massage skills, I'm almost positive, cured my congestion-fueled headaches.

Winvian was beautiful in the winter, but I'm sure it's equally enchanting during other months, too. In the spring and summer, they roll out free lawn games for guests and I can only imagine the brilliant foliage in fall.

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

Where to Stay in Connecticut: Winvian - Style Jaunt by Katarina Kovacevic

MORE INFO: Winvian
GOOD FOR: Weddings, Romantic Retreats
PHOTOS BY: Stjepan Alaupovic

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Oh, Hi, 2015!


I thought it would be fun to take a look at the 5 most-popular blog posts from 2014. I know you're all on the edge of your seats...
Wow, putting that list together was actually a pretty fun look back at my 2014 travels. What a ride it was! This year is shaping up to be a great one, too. In the next few weeks alone, we're heading to Connecticut to stay at Winvian and then later this month flying to the British Virgin Islands.

And then the trip I'm most excited for: Back to Arizona for a few days to celebrate my brother and sister-in-law's Baby-Q. YES, the first grandchild on our side of the family is due to make his appearance 4th of July weekend. (As my SIL pointed out - how beautifully ironic that the little half-foreign babe may share a birthday with America.)

Winvian is a sweet setup. I first wrote about it a few years back for SheKnows when I did a piece on hotels for music lovers. It's got a really cool lineup of themed cottages - even a tree house! - and I'm looking forward to a peaceful overnight in the Woodlands Cottage. All I can think about is snow falling out the window and a quiet, wintry night.

Winter just doesn't have the same charm here in the city, where the snow comes in several shades of gray, yellow and brown, but not so much powdery white.

And then of course our trip to the British Virgin Islands is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum: Sandy beaches, blue water and hopefully a lot of warm sun. I'm still in disbelief that we're staying at Peter Island and am really interested to see how the B.V.I compare to the US Virgin Islands, which we visited last summer.

But, mostly, I'm just trying not to jinx myself here because there have been so many travel delays in and out of NYC this past month. I just hope we make it down in time!

Other than that, still working to flesh out the travel schedule for this year. I have so many places I want to go and many potential trips in the works. I can't wait to see how it all comes together.

In the meantime, I'm putting the final touches on a Kickstarter campaign for a really exciting passion project of mine that I've been working on for the past year or so. I'm actually launching a new online woman's publication!

It's all about female camaraderie and supporting sisterhood. I can't wait to share more details in the upcoming week. Stay tuned.

It's going to be a very exciting New Year, indeed.