Under The Tuscan Sun

October 28, 2011


Karen, my mother-in-law who was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in December, has been feeling fantastic since she finished her chemo in early June.

In fact, she has been MIA because she was on a 10-day bike trip in Tuscany last week!!!

Her post-chemo scan in September came back all clear (yay!)… except for one small unrelated thing: an inflamed biliary duct. As a result, she had to have an endoscopy yesterday, which left her with swelling, pain and a case of pancreatitis*. Thus, she was admitted to the hospital for monitoring and pain management.

Matt and I went to visit her this afternoon to take over some magazines and provide some company. She’s in good spirits (as she almost always is!) but says she’s the sickest she’s ever felt. Pancreatitis is often a side effect of the type of procedure she had yesterday, so this is unfortunately common.

*Karen gave me full encouragement to blog about these events

After our visit and a trip to the bakery to close down for the day, we came home to make a Tuscan dinner in Karen’s honor – using the Italian Siamesi pasta she brought us!


No idea of bison meatballs are ever made in Tuscany, but we can just pretend : )


Matt made these with a combination of half a pound of ground local bison, 1 egg, 1/2 cup Cville Crunch bread crumbs (fresh), salt and pepper, and Garlic Gold’s new Herbs de Province flavor – which is KILLER!


He seared them in a pan with lots of herby olive oil until they were nice and brown. Then he drained out most of the oil, added some Whole Foods Green Pepper tomato sauce and simmered it all back together for a bit.


I was in charge of the pasta and salads!


Simple lettuce with olive oil (from Italy!), more Garlic Gold herbs and parmesan cheese


Absolutely delicious! Wish Karen could have been here for a taste.


Want to know a big blogging secret?

I’ve been using these amazing umbrella photography lights for over a year. I could not winter-blog without them!!! They are big and bulky, but worth every second of assembly time each night. I store them in our hall closet and bring them out as I set the table. I just love the shade of natural light hue they provide.


Tonight our dining room overhead light burned out, so you can see how dark it was above. The lights worked all of their magic – pretty good for a room with no light at night, don’t you think?


Look closely – there’s a ghost bulb trying to eat my salad in this photograph!



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{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

1 lynn @ the actor's diet October 28, 2011 at 7:52 pm

do you eat with the umbrellas open? i totally would!


2 Amanda October 28, 2011 at 7:54 pm

I hope Karen feels better soon. I’m not really familiar with pancreatitis, but it sounds awful. :(

Loved the sneak peak into your photography set up! I’m a total novice, I just happen to be married to a professional who’s teaching me how to use his fancy camera. Otherwise, my blog would be 100% iPhone photos!


3 chelsey @ clean eating chelsey October 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I hope Karen feels better soon!

And I need some sort of solution for photography during the winter. It’s horrible!


4 Kaila @healthyhelperblog! October 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm

My mom had made bison meatballs! They are incredible!!!

Keeping karen in my thoughts! Good for her for taking that bike trip though! I am sure it was a great experience!


5 Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga October 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Oh I would love to go on a 10-day bike trip in Tuscany. Now THAT is called living life. So happy for Karen.

I love that you showed your dinnertime/lighting setup. That is sooo helpful.

I have that very set of lighting, Cowboy Lighting, I think is the brand…you told me about it 6 or 9 mos ago or so and I bought it. But I confess I have only used them a few times. I am clearly not as fast at assembly and unassmbly as you are. I need to practice apparently. Just got a brand new lens today. So excited about that!

Enjoy your weekend :)


6 Katie @ Peace Love and Oats October 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm

I hope Karen gets well soon, that can’t be fun! But at least she got to go to Italy, how exciting!


7 Estela @ Weekly Bite October 28, 2011 at 7:59 pm

I hope Karen has a speedy recovery :)


8 Molly @ RDexposed October 28, 2011 at 8:01 pm

So sorry to hear-read-about Karen. I will admit the first thing that came to mind when I read “pancreatitis” was: Altered GI function related to pancreatitis as evidenced by NPO status. (I clearly need my upcoming vacay!)
Best wishes.


9 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 9:13 am

:) Any tips for her? It’s embarrassing how much clinical I have already forgotten..


10 Molly @ RDexposed October 29, 2011 at 10:55 am

Isn’t it scary how quickly it can go?? No tips. Pancreas needs to rest. My intervention for her would be: advance diet within 72 hours as medically appropriate; consider nutrition support if NPO > 72 hours. And then low-fat diet upon diet advancement of course.


11 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

:) She is NPO right now – or was yesterday.


12 Gina @ Running to the Kitchen October 28, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Hope Karen feels better soon, so good to hear she’s cancer free though! Delicious looking dinner :)


13 Ashley J October 28, 2011 at 8:12 pm

A bike trip through Tuscany is a dream! How lovely would Italy be to bike through?


14 Linda October 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Does your food get cold?


15 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 9:13 am

No – I set up the umbrellas while dinner is cooking when I’m setting the table. When the food is ready I shoot in 60 seconds and eat.


16 kathleen @ the daily crumb October 28, 2011 at 8:16 pm

the bison meatballs look delicious. so happy karen is feeling better!

thanks for sharing your light trick. the winter is torture on my photography. dinner looks terrible unless i shoot at 4:45 before the sun sets! will have to look into these lights.


17 kelsey @ living the gluten free life October 28, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Those lights look AMAZING! I really need to get some sort of a light box going so I don’t have to go outside to take pictures, especially since it’s getting so cold now!


18 Lea @ Healthy Coconut October 28, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Having the umbrella in the pictures looks like a tv show set where the characters are eating for dinner.

My dinner food photography comes out yellowish tone. Thanks for sharing your secret.


19 Namaste Gurl October 28, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Great umbrella trick– I most definitely need me some of those! I was just yesterday complaining about day lights saving and how it diminishes my beautiful evening light for dinner. Arg.


20 Jennifer October 28, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I hope Karen gets better and feels better soon. She’s certainly been through a lot already. I’m so happy to hear her post scan came back clear, too. That’s fantastic!

Where did you get those lighting umbrellas?


21 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 9:13 am

Click the link in the post!


22 Jennifer October 29, 2011 at 9:33 am

Oops…I missed that. Thanks. :)


23 TeenyLittleSuperChef October 28, 2011 at 8:42 pm

You know you’re a food blogger when: your two favorite dining companions are your husband and two giant umbrella photography lights. Dude, that almost made me pee my pants I was laughing so hard. No wonder your pictures always look so good :) Way to be, Kath. Way to be.
Your dinner looks totally scrumptious, by the way. I’ve never had bison but I heard it’s great. I finally bought some Garlic Gold and it’s as wonderful and tasty as I thought it would be. Yahoo!


24 Megan S October 28, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Ha, I bet Amazon sees a spike in sale of these:) I’ve been dying to know how your photos look good in the winter! Beginning to wonder if you had dinner at like 5pm! Thanks so much for sharing, really helpful.

So glad Karen has been feeling better, hope she continues to feel better again.


25 Aimee October 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm

I know this is your job so I understand (kind of), but man, photographing and recording EVERY. SINGLE. MEAL. You’ve gotta admit, a little crazy, right?! Doesn’t your food get cold, and don’t you ever just want to, you know, EAT after you cook your dinner instead of setting up photography umbrellas and staging bowls?


26 Kimberly October 29, 2011 at 7:53 am

I always wonder the same thing! I thought that you just snapped a few pics of the food and then edited them later to make them look good. I didn’t know it was such an elaborate set-up. Doesn’t the food get cold? Do you feel like you’re always “working” without a day off since you photograph every meal you have? What about when you have guests or go out to dinner? Does everyone wait to eat until the photo session is over? Too many questions, sorry! It just really interests me!


27 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 9:15 am

Yes I admit it is crazy!! And if I weren’t making job-like income on it, I would not be putting in the time + effort that I do! Yes I’m “always working” but it also never feels like work.

That said, I absolutely love it.

My food never gets cold – I set up my shoot well before dinner is ready so when it’s time to eat I can shoot for 60 seconds and then dig right in. I always tell family members to dig right in and not wait for me.


28 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife October 28, 2011 at 9:06 pm

That is probably SO worth it–all that set up and stuff to get the nice photos. Nicely done.

Hope she (Karen) feels better soon!!


29 Deanne October 28, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Karen is a strong strong strong person.


30 Kim @ Spoonful of Sass October 28, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Wow that’s a big secret to reveal! As much as I knew you probably needed them, I never thought much about it. Knowing behind the scenes facts is so fun!


31 Madalyn October 28, 2011 at 9:10 pm

now wonder your pictures look so good!! I hope that Karen feels better!


32 Lissa October 28, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Please tell Karen she is being sent healing energy all the way from the Pacific Northwest. I wish her well.


33 Donna October 28, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Uncanny..I was wondering about Karen yesterday since she hadn’t been mentioned on the blog for awhile and how she was doing. Then when you talked about your morning yesterday, Karen came to mind. So glad to hear she is free and clear and hope that she gets through her latest challenge as successfully. She has the wonderful support of you and Matt and she’s a strong woman. Wishing her all the best.


34 Sunya October 28, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Sending well wishes to Karen! I know exactly how she feels. I had the same procedure last week to remove a lesion from my bile duct. I had the swelling and pain but was fortunate to not have pancreatitis. Hope she feels better soon! I am blessed to be on the up side now. Oh and I love your lights!


35 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 9:15 am

Hope you are feeling better. May I ask what a lesion on the bile duct is? Maybe it’s similar to what she has?


36 Sunya October 29, 2011 at 10:48 am

I have a congenital immune system disease. From this I have had issues w/ my liver and gallbladder. They believe that the lesion (kinda like a tumor but mine looked more like scar tissue) came from that. It was causing some blockage and I won’t get into the rest since this is a food blog. :-) It turned out that after of the procedure was way more painful than the blockage ever was. I love reading your blog for healthy food ideas because the better I eat the better my parts work for me. Best wishes to your family.


37 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Sorry to hear about your immune disease. Sounds like a very similar thing – I wonder if related her her suppressed immune system during chemo?


38 Hannah October 28, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Wow, kudos to your m-i-l for getting through her ca and getting the all clear. Exciting news! Pancreatitis…not so much. Prayers for her speedy recovery. (I’m an RN on a GI floor, so I know how that is no fun.)

Creepy ghosty bulb. Those umbrella photog lights really make the food look amazing, no doubt it is anyway.


39 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More October 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm

It’s so great to hear how well Karen is doing post-chemo. I hope she continues to feel better! I’m quite inspired by how strong she is.

No wonder your night time pics always look so good… 😉


40 Silvia @ skinny jeans food October 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Looking GOOD: Bison meatballs, pasta, cowboy lights! And quick recovery for Karen!


41 Kelsey October 28, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Awww. I hope Karen is okay!! She brought such great gifts!


42 Alaina October 28, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Ooh, freaky photo with the hungry lightbulb. :-)

That pasta dinner looks so good! I’ve never had bison meat before. I heard it’s really good for you!


43 Lauren @ What Lauren Likes October 28, 2011 at 10:22 pm

Looks fantastic! Hope Karen feels better :)


44 Chetney (Czesia's Adventures) October 28, 2011 at 10:24 pm

I hope Karen feels better soon. She’s such a strong woman!


45 [email protected] October 28, 2011 at 10:28 pm

So happy for Karen taking that trip! I hope she will share some photos, would love to see them. Tell her to take care
And I loved seeing behind the scenes, at least a little bit!


46 Meagan October 28, 2011 at 10:38 pm

HAHA. What does Matt think of the umbrellas?


47 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 9:16 am

Matt loves them because he is very thankful to have the blog as my job :) He loves the blog!


48 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 9:17 am

PS. My dad on the other hand got a little annoyed with them at Thanksgiving because they disturbed the candlelit dinner – but only for a minute until I turned them off. The joke is that they light looks weird at first, but when you turn them back off and the light gets all yellow again, you really do kind of miss it.


49 Mom October 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm

I don’t know why Dad gets grumpy about the umbrella. When you are here, I think it adds an air of excitement to see such funky lights in my old dining room.


50 Sarah October 28, 2011 at 10:46 pm

So glad Karen is cancer free!! I was just thinking about her the other day.


51 Angel7 October 28, 2011 at 10:55 pm

People like Karen who endure pain and still are in good spirits are such an encouragement!

Very crisp-looking salad, indeed!



52 LK October 28, 2011 at 11:06 pm

You’ve got to be kidding me wit those lights. Just the idea of dealing with all that every time you want to eat is making my head spin.


53 Elisabeth October 28, 2011 at 11:39 pm

Glad to hear that Karen is cancer free! The pancreatitis can be VERY painful – hope she feels better from that soon, but glad to hear it was just related to her procedure :)


54 Khushboo October 28, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Wow I was literally just thinking about Karen yesterday as you hadn’t mentioned her…didn’t want to ask and be intrusive- glad to know she is well :)


55 Lauren October 29, 2011 at 5:08 am

So glad Karen has overcome this. She is one strong and amazing woman. :)


56 Irina October 29, 2011 at 5:48 am

best wishes to Karen, she sounds like a very strong lady, hope she recovers soon.

Your dinner looks lovely, but that bulb is creepy!


57 [email protected] October 29, 2011 at 5:52 am

I asked my husband to build me a lightbox yesterday, the umbrellas would be cool…but I can only imagine what would happen with the kids involved. But, I need to do something, winter lighting SUCKS!!!!


58 Antonia October 29, 2011 at 6:03 am

I hope Karen feels better soon and has a quick recovery!


59 Lauren October 29, 2011 at 6:54 am

Hoping Karen feels better soon…Cancer free is AWESOME news! Can I ask what kind of bulbs you’re using with your umbrellas? xo


60 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 9:17 am

Whatever came with them. I think they are either 100 or 150 watt with the light spectrum in the 5,000s – I think?


61 Hillary October 29, 2011 at 7:10 am

My biggest regret about my trip to Italy was that I didn’t bring back more pasta! This just made me remember that even more ; )

Hope Karen is feeling better ASAP.


62 Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin October 29, 2011 at 7:23 am

That’s such great news that her scan came back clear. I’m wishing Karen a fast recovery from the pancreatitis! :)


63 susan October 29, 2011 at 7:50 am

Wishing Karen a speedy recovery – it sounds like she had a wonderful trip in Italy and overall, is doing well! She has a lot of people thinking of her! Hope she’ll be out of the hospital soon!


64 Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count October 29, 2011 at 8:43 am

Pretty clever contraption! Where did you find the lights?


65 KathEats October 29, 2011 at 9:17 am

I provided a link in the post to Amazon


66 Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count October 29, 2011 at 10:23 am

Oops! I was reading quickly and missed it! Thank You!!


67 Hope October 29, 2011 at 8:45 am

I hope Karen feels better soon! My thoughts are with her. I’m glad that she had a great trip to Italy! Your pictures are beautiful! Dinner looks absolutely yummy as well. :)


68 Jennifer October 29, 2011 at 8:49 am

I need to know how that bulb got there!!!! :)


69 laine October 29, 2011 at 8:57 am

Get well soon, Karen!!


70 Michaela October 29, 2011 at 9:46 am

hope Karen will feel better soon!
and wow, thanks for sharing the tip! so cool!


71 Julia H. @ The Petite Spiel October 29, 2011 at 10:08 am

Umbrella lights? Wow, that is some SERIOUS blogger dedication. All for the love of food 😀


72 katie @KatieDid October 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

That sounds like such an incredible trip that Karen went on. I hope she feels better soon!


73 Natalia - a side of simple October 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Oh I would so LOVE it if Karen would do a mini guest post on her trip when she is feeling better. Pretty please ask her? That is also, of course, if you wouldn’t mind sharing :)


74 Cait's Plate October 29, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Ugh I’m so sorry to hear about Karen! I hope she makes a full recovery soon!! That is definitely no fun (but great news that the scan came back clear!!).


75 Zoe @ loseweightandgainhealth October 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I am catching up as I have been too busy to read blogs for a couple of days. Pancreatitis is very painful and totally wipes you out. The most painful thing I have had and the sickest I felt out of childbirth and appendicitis! Hope Karen recovers quickly.


76 ~Christy @ wonderofallthings October 30, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Best wishes to Karen! My dad just had a gall stone attack this weekend, so your descriptions play into the stories I’ve been hearing. No fun at all!!! And thanks for the lighting trick…fun to see behind the scenes! :)


77 Charise November 1, 2011 at 7:27 am

I hope Karen feels better soon – it is great to hear she is cancer-free! And so. jealous. of that Italy trip!


78 Lindsay November 2, 2011 at 8:38 am

Who knew…the umbrellas…brilliant! I hope that Karen feels better soon, but a big high five for her getting out and treating herself to that Tuscany bike tour, that is incredibly inpiring. What company did she use? And the meal…holy yums! If korea allowed spices to be shipped, I’d be all over garlic gold..until it is red pepper paste and kimchi kimchi kimchi:)


79 Halley (Blunder Construction) December 27, 2011 at 3:15 pm

This post inspired one of my Christmas gifts this year :) I have one lamp now, hoping to use it as efficiently at you do!


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