Welcome, Cassy Pickard, to Mary’s Garden. Please have a glass of wine, or whatever beverage you’d prefer and settle in and relax. Cassy is one of my blogging partners on Mysteries and Margaritas, if you’d like to find out more about her you can check our 10 things to know about us: http://www.mysteriesandmargaritasblogspot.com/2010/07/10-things-you-might-not-know-about-m.html
Mary: Today we’re not discussing writing a book. We may discuss a few related things. Mostly we’re going to get to know Cassy as a person, not as an author. Tell us a little bit about you, Cassy.
Cassy: Gracious, where does one begin? I am the mother of two daughters, both of whom are leading wonderful independent lives. My older one works in Washington, DC and my younger one is finishing up medical school. My darling husband of almost 30 years is an architect with an international practice. What this adds up to is my having a household that should be quiet but never is. My two Golden Retrievers always have a say in what goes on.
In my former life I was the associate dean at the Yale School of Nursing. I hold two Master's degrees and a PhD in research methodology. Are you asleep yet?
Mary: I hear you have a house in Italy, is this correct? Can you tell us where it is located? Is there a story behind how you found it?
Cassy: Yes, we own a portion of a house. It's in Tuscany about 25 minutes from Siena and 45 minutes from Florence. It's located within a wild life preserve of 4200 acres. There are about 14 houses scattered throughout the property. It's very beautiful and very quiet.
As for a story in finding the house, well, I've been going to Italy since I was 17 and was an exchange student. My husband and I spent a month in Cortona for our 25 wedding anniversary (first time we'd every vacationed for more than a week or two). We were exploring and found Castello di Casole, the property where we now own. It was love at first sight for both of us.
Mary: Sounds like a dream. How often do you visit? Do you find you are inspired in your writing while you stay there?
Cassy: In terms of getting to Italy, I usually go four to five times a year and have been doing that since I was a teen. I love joining my husband when he's on a stone buying trip to Forte dei Marmi or other spots. Now that we have the house, I will have been there a total of about 8-10 weeks this year, spread out over many trips. We had a grand Christmas this last year with a full house of family.
Yes, I love to write when I'm there. I go often by myself to have the private time. As you know, my mystery stories take place in Italy. So, I use time to do research as well as write. A few years ago I was in Rome putting together my last book. I literally ran the streets where a scene took place, timing how long it would take to get from one point to another. You can't imagine the looks I received- women don't run in Rome, they stroll.
In March I was at the house and we had an unprecedented snow storm--18 inches. I was stranded, alone, without power, heat, or water. I did have wine! But, was running out of food. That's not the real part of the story. My husband and I were back a few weeks ago and we were talking with one of the gamekeepers on the property. He told us that there had been a huge storm in March and would we believe? There was this woman, all by herself writing a novel, really alone in that (he points towards a hill) house over there. Jon and I laughed that evening multiple times about that crazy lady.
Mary: I remember when that happened. I was actually a little jealous you got to experience that! LOL. Italian wines are some of my favorite. Tell us about the area your house is in. Are their wineries? Have you ever visited them? Do they have tastings as they do in the states?
Cassy: Mary, there is more wine in Italy than water in the lake outside my door here in Connecticut. We joke that the definition of breakfast is the one meal without wine. There is a full vineyard on the property where our house is. It's a private vineyard, so the wine is only available to the owners and to lucky guests. I admit we have fully enjoyed it. In Italy the soil conditions and weather are such that olive trees grow alongside the grape vines. You don't see that here in the United States. So, I confess we also have wonderful olive oil to dip our bread in, of course with that glass of wine.
There are many many many vineyards in our area. Almost all offer wine tastings. You could have an entire vacation of going from one to another. And, given how the Italians drive, even if you had just a tad too much tasting, no one would probably notice.
Mary: If I lived there, I'd think I'd died and gone to heaven! What wine do you prefer? Or does it depend on the food being served? Is there any you’d like to recommend? Speaking of Wine, before you give us your answer, why don’t you pour yourself another glass.
Cassy: There are so many people who worry about what the pairings should be between food and wine. Truthfully we don't worry about that too much. When I was an exchange student, back at age 17 as I mentioned, I asked my "family" about that. The answer has lived with me. "Drink the best you can afford and don't worry after that."
Mary: Other than Italy, where do you like to travel? And how often?
Cassy: Italy has really been my prime destination. But I do travel other spots. Jon is the big traveler in our family, due to his business. One favorite trip was when I joined him in Malaysia for the opening of one his buildings. It was grand fun. We've been in multiple European cities. And, there is of course, our own wonderful country. In the last two months I've been in Des Moines, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Minneapolis, Miami, New York City, Houston, and Fort Worth. My dogs now hide when they see my roller board suitcase come out.
Mary: I envy you, your travels, if I had money I'd be somewhere all the time. I'd only come home to visit the grandkids! Oh and the kids. I love to keep my blog to themes along the lines of wine, obviously, wineries, travel and music. We’ve touched base on most of these. Except Music, so what about Music?
Cassy: Mary, you have me making a huge confession here. I really don't listen to much music. My husband has a huge collection of CDs, so I end up listening to whatever he puts on. I do enjoy Sara Bareilles, Jane Monheit, Steve Tyrell, and others of similar style. My younger daughter came home for visit and was shocked. The same CD was in the car's player that she had put there two months earlier. I fear I must disappoint a music expert such as you!
Mary: I can't even imagine, music is such a huge part of my life. I'm shaking my head! Is there anything I missed you want to tell us, something that might define you as a person?
Cassy: I'm actually a very private person, so a question about self definition is hard. Maybe there are only two aspects I can share. First, I care. The list is long about what I care about, but I care. Second, I like change. I've changed my career, I've changed houses, I've changed my garden, I've changed a long list of things over the years. But, not my family--that's back to the root of love and care.
Thank you Cassy for visiting me at Mary’s Garden I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.
Mary, It's been my pleasure.