Trippin’ to Tuscany – Part 1

Are you ready for some history accompanied by pictures? Well then, get yourself a cup of tea, coffee, or if it’s that time, something a bit stronger and relax as I take you through some hidden Tuscany gems. This journey will be in a few parts. I tried to narrow it down the best I could regarding the pictures, and choosing those that represent the places we visited, along with objects or people as well.

Our road trip started from western Germany, heading south toward Austria, and then Italy—approximately a 15-hour drive. We arrived in the evening, so the later part of the journey through the mountains was in the dark, and when I say dark, I mean dark. There are no street lights to guide you on the narrow roads. And, as a warning, drive at your own risk. I believe Italian drivers consider speed limits are suggestions.

After a good night’s sleep, we woke to a sunny Tuscany. This is the place and area where we stayed.



We chose the town of Poppi in the Province of Arezzo, which is on the eastern side of Tuscany; east of Florence and Northeast of Siena. I pictured rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves, but Tuscany is more than that. Poppi is rugged with mountains and forests, whereas other parts of Tuscany taper off into the vineyards and olive groves. Ruled by the Guidi Family from the early 1000’s until 1289, Poppi’s medieval town still embraces years gone by.



First mention of the Castle of Poppi was in 1169.

A picture of an older couple looking out onto the hills

This man was painting over old lettering. I don’t know if this is a craft or what the process is called.


The next day we decided to do some hiking in the Pratomagno mountain range. The Arno River runs on both sides of this range and its highest peak is approximately 5,226 feet. Of course, we drove through the mountain range and walked 600 feet up.

This is my husband, his aunt, and Shakespeare hiking up the mountain.

And this is what we were walking toward.


There were wild horses roaming around. To my surprise, they were friendly and kept following my husband’s aunt because she had an apple in her backpack.

We did a day trip to Siena, which is about 2 hours from Poppi. The historic center is part of the the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like many areas in Tuscany, Siena was first settled by Etruscans, approximately around 900 BC, by a tribe called the Saina. Local legend believes the town was founded by Senius and Aschius, who were the nephews of Romulus whom Rome was named after. They fled Rome after Romulus killed their father.

This pottery store was built within a cave.


This is a sculpture on the wall.

This is the University’s courtyard.

And last, a tired Shakespeare ready to crash in the car.

And this ends this part of our trip. Stay tuned for a few more Tuscany travel posts.

Tuscany and Nature,
Baer Necessities

Food: Beef Barley Vegetable Soup
Daily Funny:Image result for funny thanksgiving

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An Israeli-Ukrainian Colorful Life

I’m thrilled to have Nik Krasno with us today. He has lived a colorful life through travels and historical experiences such as the ousting of the Ukraine’s president and an aggressive Russia. The beauty of writing is that we get to take our knowledge and relive it through a story we weave together with fact and fiction. These events were an imagination trigger for Nik. Please give him a Ukrainian Вітаємо, or a simple hello will do.

Nik KrasnoDescribe yourself in 150 words or less.

After long turbulent years of extensive traveling for business and work and after some more spent working in the law firm, nowadays I’m on my own and I have some downtime to dedicate to the things that matter. This extra time I use inter alia to write Oligarch series about rapid enrichment and its heavy toll, the Big Bang of the USSR, the Russian – Ukrainian showdown and many more in high-voltage thriller genre. Two books are out – ‘Rise of an Oligarch’ and ‘Mortal Showdown’ and the third one is in its final stages.

Which came first the pencil or the paper? Explain.

It’s one of those unanswerable questions, which luckily or not, lost its actuality, as both pen and paper are being superseded by laptops and similar gadgets. Everyone goes ‘paperless’. I only hope this tendency skips the toilets 😀

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

I’m at the pre-publication stage with the third installment, which should conclude the trilogy, at least for the time being, and it has a little surprise in it.

Michael, the oligarch, tops Forbes billionaire’s list only to find out that those, who really dominate the global economy, rule illicitly and stay away from public eye. It so happens that he needs to confront the “Old” money conspiracy in order to survive and to save his country… For good or bad, it’s extreme, radical, uncompromising, grotesque, action-packed and philosophical.

If you could meet any character you’ve written, who would it be?

I’d rather not 😀 They are all anti-heroes really. But seriously, I’d probably choose Michael, because he’s the mastermind, a very complex personality, whose virtues and vices all the time struggle with each other. Yet he’s an intelligent person with some sense of humor, so meeting him or someone like him would definitely be an interesting experience.

Tell us about your published works.

Rise of an‘Rise of an Oligarch’ is the first book in the series, written together with my friend and co-author – His Brilliancy Carlito Sofer. It’s serious thriller with elements of historical fiction in it, a sort of Ukrainian Godfather or Soprano. It follows Michael’s rise to power and wealth, while his associates try to figure out who was behind an assassination attempt, which left Michael in a coma.mortal-showdown

‘Mortal Showdown’ – is a sequel written all by myself in a snappy, action-packed style. It’s a more ‘mischievous’ project. It has a grain of intrigue, politics, and satire in it. Something like James Bond meeting Guy Ritchie :D.

Which superpowers would you want?

I’d take the US and leave Russia and China to others 😀 Ah, that’s not what you meant? Then, I’d go with …. teleporting maybe. Despite flying hundreds of time and even taking a piloting lesson, I’m kinda afraid of flying, so this power could come handy.

Where in the virtual world can people find you and/or meet for a chat?

I haunt Goodreads and check regularly my Facebook and LinkedIn pages. I’m always glad to meet/e-meet readers, fellow authors, bloggers and those interested in enrichment, social justice, USSR and post-USSR, boxing, football (soccer), traveling, booze and many other topics.

What specific moment or situation made you want to become a writer?

The main driver was probably the feeling of uniqueness about what was going on in Ukraine in its post-apocalyptic independence. I felt compelled to expose this phenomenon to the world. The transition from pre-communist Soviet republic to an independent, Wild West capitalistic, corrupted pseudo-democracy was ruthless and tragic to those who didn’t know how to adapt. On the other hand, these stormy times benefited some modest Soviet citizens, who were apt to grasp what was going on and use the new rules, or more precisely – total collapse thereof, to their personal favor and to amass billions of dollars in a relatively short spell. I thought these circumstances formed an excellent plot-line for a thriller series.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I’m not Leo Tolstoy or big authority to give writing advices, but I have one regarding the attitude. I say, make money elsewhere and come enjoy being an author :D. It’s really very nice to write books, to interact with people interested in your work or colleagues. On the other hand, for me at least, marketing and promotion are much less exciting. If one is anxious about sales, expecting to sell lots of books, this rarely happens. The faster disillusionment comes the better. There are instances when a book/series gains traction, but these are very rare and usually it takes considerable time, numerous books before it happens.

I asked Nik to send a picture of someone he’d like to interview or defend in court with an explanation. Here’s what he had to say:

El ChapoI’d interview El Chapo Guzman, but Sean Penn has beaten me to it -:), so I guess I’d defend him in court. Although I strongly oppose drug dealing and any other ancillary crimes, he’s a controversial enough figure to invoke public interest.

Writing, War and Imagination,
Baer Necessities

Coming of Age. Crazy Life. Savory Foods.

In early 2014, I created my own publishing imprint, Baer Books Press for others and myself. I offer some creative services, such as critiques, paperback / electronic formatting, and book cover design along with publishing through my imprint. I’m pleased to announce that Baer Books Press has published its first cookbook, La Folie Forty by Thierry Tellier and Jennifer Jones.La Folie Forty Full Cover for SitesThis book weaves snippets of Thierry Tellier’s life growing up in France, traveling to make a living for his family, and sharing some of his cherished recipes. To help Thierry tell his life, he befriended Jennifer Jones, who frequented Thierry’s café & bakery, Our Daily Bread. Thierry shared his stories with Jennifer, and she transformed them into heartwarming stories about life, travels, and food.

Once the stories were edited, they hired me to design the book cover and format the book for paperback. I received family photos and scanned recipes from Jennifer. After that, I fixed and designed the photos, formatted the interior of the book, and arranged the corresponding photos and recipes with the chapters. Jennifer provided me with the front cover picture, and I designed the rest. This process took about 1-1/2 months of collecting, formatting, and arranging to get it right.

It was a great opportunity to work with Thierry and Jennifer, let alone, on a cookbook. Living in Europe, I could relate to some of the places he talks about because I’ve been there. Jennifer did a wonderful job conveying Thierry’s stories, while at the same time, working in the savory recipes.

I’m so proud to announce that La Folie Forty is now available on Amazon. French Cuisine. Family Life. Coming of Age. This book is a wonderful experience. The reader watches Thierry grow up with the help of family photos, and we get a peek at some delicious recipes of baked bread, pastries, chicken, and more. While reading the stories, I found myself smiling or picturing myself cooking some of these recipes. This cookbook is a treat, not only for the palate, but to learn about a life so different, and watching an American dream come true.

If you’re into cooking, traveling, and family, you’ll enjoy the journey La Folie Forty takes you on. If cooking isn’t your cup of tea, then you might consider it a Christmas gift, which could possibly contain someone’s favorite future recipe.

What’s your favorite meal to cook? What type of sinful delight do you love most?

As for my enjoyment of cooking, I love making chicken noodle soup from scratch, using a whole chicken. While the chicken cooks with veggies, the both is created from the chicken’s juices and my seasonings. Then I break up the chicken so we can add it to the noodles and soup. And when it comes to snacking, I make popcorn the old-fashioned way—in a pot with peanut oil. Depending on my craving, either I’ll add Tabasco sauce to the oil for some hot popcorn, or after it pops, I’ll add salt, a little butter and a drizzle of maple syrup for my sweet tooth.

Recipes, Travels and Family,
Baer Necessities

Marches to the Beat of a Different Activity

I met India Daram on Goodreads, but I’ve gotten to know her through this interview. From what I read, she’s a strong woman who isn’t afraid of chances and change. In some ways, I can relate to India, who is an expat and loves to travel. “Upside, inside out [India’s] livin la vida loca”, so let’s welcome her with a hearty applause.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

I am a people person. I love meeting people and getting to know them. Listening to snatched bits of conversation on the tube, train or coffee shops inspires me. I tend to write at coffee shops and on the train, as I like the hustle and bustle of people and conversations around me. I like to cook for my family but hate the cleaning up and cook on the condition that my husband will do the cleaning up. Coming from Chennai, the beach was close at hand and I’ve had lots of fun playing there with my friends and family. Living in London, I am a bit of a landlubber at the moment as my wave-watching hobby is now a thing of the past. I love to travel. I have travelled across, Europe, US, Middle East, South America and South East Asia. And of course, having lived in India, I have holidayed all over the country.

Do you sing in your car? If not, where can someone catch you singing?

I sing while I cook and at parties. Let me hasten to add that I am an extremely mediocre singer but I don’t let that trivial fact hold me back. 😀

Tell us about your published works.

I have self-published two novels. My first one is called ‘Married in Name’.   It is the story of Married in Name Cover-Kindle-SizeRiyha that enters in to a marriage of convenience but falls in love with her husband and comes up with a ten step seduction plan to keep her husband. My second novel ‘Wedding in Vegas’ is about Thila who takes a brief holiday to Las Vegas just before she needs to Wedding in Vegas 02-Cover-Frontmarry a man in order to save her family business. Having met the hero during her flight to Vegas, she gives in to temptation and marries him in Vegas with the assumption that she can divorce him the next day at Reno. But it doesn’t work out that way. I like to write about strong and feisty heroines that have minds of their own. My heroes tend to be alpha males that have the self-assurance to deal with a strong heroine.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind of music?

I listen to a variety of music from hip hop to pop. Some of my mood lifters are the Spanglish version of ‘The Ketchup Song’ by Las Ketchup, ‘Livin La Vida Loca’ by Ricky Martin, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ by Elvis Presley to name a few.

Which piece of work have you written that’s your favourite?

I have just finished the first novel in the King Connection trilogy. The series is about the exciting experiences and culture shock that three men and women experience while marrying someone from a different culture. ‘What Happened in London?’ is the story of Maya that meets and falls in love with Kristoforo King who is three-fourths-British-and-one-fourth-Italian. The novel is an amusing journey in to the trials and tribulations of a typical Englishman trying to impress his Indian girlfriend’s family.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Writing is like a bug you cannot shake off. It still takes lot of discipline to sit down and write, to pour your thoughts into words. It still takes lot of sacrifice, as it could mean you compromise, or at the very least strike a balance, on how you spend your time. But it gives great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, especially when you see your completed work. What is key is to write daily. It maybe absolute gibberish that you end up striking out the next day, but then by writing that gibberish you have achieved two things – you have the ability to spot things that don’t work – and you now know where you want the story or character to go or do.

What’s your favorite restaurant and why?

My absolute favourite is the Restaurant Terrazza Danieli in Venice. The restaurant overlooks the canal. Day or night it is beautiful to watch the water taxis and gondolas go up and down the canal. My favourite time – dinner time at the restaurant, watching the sky turn pink. Needless to say, the food tastes like ambrosia.

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

I am writing the second novel in the King Connection. I haven’t named it yet. It is the story of Karlos King that ends up in a shot-gun marriage with Nisha.

When you’re not writing, where can people find you hanging out in the virtual world?

This is such a difficult one. I am generally online browsing, reading about places and people. I tend to read nearly as much as I write and visit Goodreads regularly.

When you’re feeling kinda down, what song do you put on to get you motivated?

Clean Bandit’s ‘Stronger’ is one of my favourites.

Thanks for stopping by to meet India and making her feel welcome.

Music and Writing,
Baer Necessities

Oy Vey! What an Interview!

Oneill's profile picToday, I’m introducing you to David O’Neill: geek, YouTube addict, and he enjoys brewing his own beer and wine. What’s not to like! While reading his interview, you’ll find yourself smiling, because … well, you can tell David loves life and everything he does. I adore people like that. Plus, he has Italy on his bucket list, and I love Italy. So let’s proceed with this interview. Beam me up, Scotty!

1. Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

I’m a geek, and proud! I love technology and SciFi, which figures, but I read anything if the story grabs my imagination. Over the years, I have learned to smile more than frown, laugh more than moan. I have two teenage kids, three step-kids, and 5 step-grandkids, with an extra one being baked as I type this. They are my life. I’m a keen musician, playing bass, guitar, mandolin, sitar and bodhran, but all badly. I love cooking and regularly make my own bread, pasta and brew my own beer and wine. Italian is my favourite food, with Indian and Chinese a close follow-up. I really enjoy good company and a good discussion with the occasional glass of wine to add lubrication. Life is for living, so live it. Be good, be kind, nice – and I promise you will get it back in every little grandchild’s hug.

2. Tell us about your published works.

The Oui Trip is my first published novel, and came about after a discussion with my best friend and his wife. I was just about to finish off a Fantasy novel and had the sequel planned and ready, so I put the idea of The Oui Trip on a back burner. But, as time moved on, the characters started to take root in my head and, before I knew it, they were demanding to be noticed. What can you do when that happens, eh? So I stopped everything I was doing and wrote about Bob and Joan Younghusband’s exploits. Their adventure in France was slightly based on experience as I love the country, having visited it Dave's Book Cover (1)on many occasions. Their situation, though, just exploded into my mind and I will be honest, I laughed at their misadventure as much as my readers have. People may think a writer plans every last bit of the text, but that isn’t always the truth. Sometimes the story writes itself in the interactions between the characters and the author is the one privileged to capture the moment. That was what it was like with Bob and Joan, and the same when Ballard and Stephan decided to join the fray. Their story wrote itself and I was unable to do anything else while it was developing. Have I told their full story? No, not yet, and more is to come later. While it is still a full story on its own, there are a couple of unanswered questions that need dealing with and the sequel is being written as I type this.

3. Do you belong to any critique groups?

Yes I do. They are without a doubt the best way to develop your skills and if you aren’t part of a writer’s circle then I exhort you to join one. I belong to a couple and each offers a different viewpoint, which has helped me get the best out of my writing. They have also helped me hone my words so that by the time you read them you can rest assured others have winced at my mistakes first and smoothed out the worst of errors.

4. Is there anything in particular that you love to write about, such as sex or mannequins?

Ooh, what a good question. The trite answer an author can give is, yes, everything. But reading into the subtext of the question, can I say I like writing anything that is a bit avant-garde? Take sex, for example, a taboo subject to most, understandably, which makes it hard to write about, but is a subject that nearly every adult will indulge in at some point in their life (okay, nuns and priests excepted!). I like to take it apart and look at it as it is conducted by real people, not those glistening bronzed bodies you see in porn films. We have more curves, more handles to be gripped than we are shown, and there are more ‘sounds’ issued during the act than one can admit to without blushing. Let’s face it, if it wasn’t taboo it would be quite funny. For me, I like to write about people and how they interact.

5. Name one thing on your bucket list.

Go to Italy and eat real Italian food.

6. If you were in a band, what would be the name and what kind of music would you play?

Opus would be the name. And the style of music? I love Prog Rock, such as Pink Floyd, Spock’s Beard, Hawkwind and so on, so it would have to be playing bass in a proper Prog Rock band. Yep, that would be good.

7. What character from your fictional works best resembles you and why?

It has to be Bob from The Oui Trip. He is a caring person who wants everything to be good, but sometimes life throws curveballs in his direction that he has to dodge.

8. In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

I am just finishing off a Fantasy book, The Gates of Hell, which I wrote before The Oui Trip, and I am also working on the sequel to The Oui Trip, which has already started to dominate my waking life, so I may be publishing that sooner than appreciated.

9. Where in the virtual world can people find you and/or meet for a chat?

I am visible in Goodreads.com so feel free to drop in and have a chat. In fact, my Fantasy novel, The Gates of Hell, is being put up a chapter at a time on Goodreads.com, and any comments are gratefully received.

10. Right now, what’s your favorite Youtube video?

My favorite YouTube video? That’s a hard one to answer as I will look up various bands and play their music online. I don’t have a specific fav, I’m afraid, as I use YouTube all the time.

The below picture is a favorite travel picture of David’s.

Dave OeillsHere’s what he has to say about it. My favourite travel location is the Vendee, down on the west coast of France. I won’t profess to being a photographer and hope that you can see, in this picture, the intense blue of the Atlantic Ocean, washing against sand that is warmed by a sun that drips like molten gold from a sapphire sky. The beaches are long, wide and clean, and for the most part are pretty devoid of people. The food is wonderful and the wine is delightful. I take my kids there and we stay in a campsite just up the road from this location, surrounded by tall pine trees that dapple the shade. I have been going there for many years now, and our memories are rich with horse riding, picnics and laughter. Even as I write this I cannot help but wear a wistful smile and wish once more for the feel of the warm sand beneath my feet. Ah, well, there’s always next year.

I’d like to thank David for sharing a little bit of his life with us, and hope to see and hear more of him.

What are your favorite YouTube videos?

Writers and Interviews
Baer Necessity