Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…



The Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm was on our agenda of visiting places while in Tuscany. A wildlife-friendly farm with 300 goats and 12 large, white Pyrenees-type dogs protecting the herd from wolves.

Listen up, I am in charge here...

Listen up, I am in charge here…

Oh, I do not think so...

Oh, I do not think so…

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The goats are grazed on these hills of neighboring farms supporting the organic nature of the vineyards…

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There is a retail store with yarn, soaps, and woven items…

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The owner, Marcie’s friend, Nora, told us about the processing of the cashmere. (Of great interest to me, a former spinner and weaver. I even used to teach my art students how to spin wool using a knitting needle and a russet potato as a drop spindle.)

This was a very nice excursion.

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And the doves were nice, too.

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Where have…

Where have you been? Sorry, blog, traveling again, but with weak access to the internet, so my plans to blog were scuttled when the iPad wouldn’t save and I only managed a few flics on Facebook the whole time.

We went to Italy (not a big surprise) and for eight days we were in an agriturismo in the Chianti region of Tuscany near Florence. After that we took the train to Venice and stayed for two weeks in an Untours apartment. This was the general outline…

The People…


From the left: Marcie (also known as Marcella when in Italy), I have known since our thirty-year-old sons were in third grade. Around ten years ago she left Northern California and moved to Florence. She now lives in Toronto, but she still has masses of friends in Italy and she was the spark behind the first eight days of the trip. Next to her is Carol who has been on the same shift at the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital with Terry for years and years. (Carol’s husband is not retired, yet, so he did not join us.) Giovanni who owns the agriturismo where we stayed, (also, he drove the van). Bill and M’Liss are on the far side of the table. M’Liss I have known since the thirty-year-olds were three and we were in a baby-sitting co-op together.


Giovanni by the van (maybe the greatest host ever!)

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The agriturismo had skies like you wouldn’t believe and we were supplied with olive oil and wine from the fields surrounding our farmhouse.

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Nobody actually went in the pool. (No time, we were off seeing the sights!)

The places…

First morning (we got there on Monday and our first full day was Tuesday)…some went horseback riding at the Vecchio Texas Horseranch in the direction of Sting’s property and vineyards. (If you pay Sting enough money you can harvest his grapes for him!) The rest of us went to the market in Figline.

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That afternoon, (after a great lunch that included pici pasta (long and thick) and cinghiale ragu over tagliarini) we headed to the Chianti Cashmere Goat Farm. Three hundred goats are guarded against wolves by twelve Pyrenees-like dogs.)


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Great sky there, too…and then a quick stop in a lovely little town called Radda in Chianti.



Then on Wednesday, there was wine tasting in Panzano and a cooking class in Greve.


Oh, yes, there was a lot of eating, too…

On Thursday, we drove to a nature preserve at Montepulciano and then spent late afternoon walking through the hill town of Montepulciano.


There was a group that went off on a bike ride (or maybe it should be admitted that they got lost on a bike ride…)


The clock tower in Montepulciano.

Friday was our first day in Florence with a hike up to Fiesole where Leonardo is thought to have tested his flying machines and then while most of the group toured the Uffizi with Marci’s friend Anna, Terry and I visited the Brancacci Chapel in search of frescoes. That evening we had aperitivos with more of Marci’s friends (Christina and Luca) in two different places. One a converted prison and the other the top of a hotel with a 360° view of Florence.


Saturday we harvested grapes for Giovanni and his family and they gave us a fabulous al fresco lunch.


Dinner that night was Christina and Luca serving us venison and polenta…


Sunday was a hike with another friend, Malo, who is a basket maker and artist. She led us over to her house where she gave us a “snack” under her grape arbor…

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That is a fabulous candle holder made out of two wine bottles…


Dinner was in the local restaurant…

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Monday was the big day! We climbed the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo…Carol got her portrait done by Kelly the street artist…and we visited Piazzale Michelangelo for some great panoramic views of Florence (cold wind, though)…

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Our last day, in this part of Italy, we spent visiting another hill town, Volterra. That night there was a big BBQ cooked by Giovanni and attended by lots of Marci’s friends from different parts of the world. Much toasting to the great week.

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The next day (Wednesday) we were on the train to Venice for two more weeks of adventures, more great skies, and meet-ups with friends.

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This is the outline and I plan more posts with greater detail. If you want to see the week in Chianti from Marci’s perspective you can go here for her blog.




Today was Cliff’s last day. After a month of extreme decline it became the time. We got him when he was around eight and now he was seventeen and many of his parts just wore out. He was a fine old Maine Coon cat. Mouthy…he would stomp through a room complaining the entire time…like: why weren’t we doing what he wanted/demanded. Never a lap cat, he would appear on the couch next to me and head butt my side until I would stroke his head and when I stopped he would reach out his white paw and pull my forearm over until I scratched his chin. Mr. Cliff (he demanded respect) will be greatly missed, here, but we are eternally grateful for the humor he blessed us with all these years. He was fun, funny, and a good friend to all who lived and visited here.

Our dog, Katie was very hard to photograph because she was entirely black with only a slight bit of red where her eyelids sagged, but not Cliff. He was majestic with a big mane and quite fancy whiskers. He was lazy and sedentary by the time he came to live with us, so he was perfect to try out new iPhone apps on. He always held still for his close-up. Hence, he was the subject of lots and lots of photos. These are some of my favorites…


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Oh, yes, and he did this…


We are pretty sure that as soon as he ran across Katie again he whacked her across the nose. Oh, Cliffie, we will miss you…

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Report from the field…

Anniversary dinner a success…

Not only a stroll through San Francisco but a very good approximation of tapas in Barcelona.

The restaurant…


is located a half block from the Trans-America Pyramid…

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and the food was like this…



Jambon and the bread!

Jamón and the bread with tomato!

Kale salad and pepitos

Kale salad and pepitas

Patato Bravo

Patatas Bravas

Shrimp with preserved lemon

Shrimp with preserved lemon

Espresso flan with salted caramel

Espresso flan with salted caramel

Goat cheese

Goat cheese custard

The walk back to BART was not too shabby either what with strolling through the Embarcadero Center…nice night!



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Now, we work on the next forty-one!




There we were…hopping into the ’68 Datsun station wagon that had stood the test of miles, freshly married, dirt poor, (but no debt after law school…you could do that then), enthusiastic about what life held for us. In it together for forty-one years. Tonight we are off to a tapas dinner in San Francisco trying to recreate that lovely trip to Barcelona a few months ago. Onward and upward! (This morning we were awakened by a 4.0 earthquake! Just shows you how earth-shattering August 17 really is!!)

Here is how I made this image…

I walked through my garden to take these pictures…

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Then I started to combine them all using the ImageBlender App…


Put the last one through Waterlogue App to get this…

Took an iPhone photo of an old wedding photo….


Gave it some touch ups (after all these years, the colors on all the wedding photos are really altering) and a frame in Snapseed App…


It was added on top of the flowers and angled by using ImageBlender…


A frame was added to the entire image in Snapseed and then text was laid on top with Over App. Fin

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Day trips from Barcelona…number one…


Girona, which is about 60 miles from Barcelona, is a short train trip away. It has an annual flower show in May. Our trip coincided with the last couple of days of the festival, and we decided to exercise our train skills and spend the Saturday in this picturesque town when it would be festooned with petals. The entire town has floral displays…shop window displays, entryways, nooks and crannies, empty vestibules…you name it they stick a flower in it…even the river has its displays. We wandered and wandered, up church steps, across cobblestones and bridges, peeking into entrances. It was a lovely day, but windy. Catalan flags (the election was a week away) were furiously flapping. After getting off the train we followed green stenciled foot prints on the sidewalk up to the old part of town, passing community created floral displays (kids art!) and gazing at the town from a picturesque bridge (one of many). The town even has a bridge built by Gustave Eiffel…in the famous color of the Golden Gate.

We started our morning in the train station…note: there are ham stores everywhere in Spain…

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This is Girona…


A slide show of bridges, churches, flower displays and the highlights of the lovely town: (don’t forget to click the square in the lower right hand corner to play it full screen)

I know I said I would not post any more food pictures, but in Girona it was the only time we went to something as unusual (for us) as a gastrobar. So really I am compelled to share. (I have to admit that I have been known to watch the Food Network…you know, foam…)

The restaurant is called Bubbles…


We started with Cava…


Their “award-winning” tapa that included a poached egg, froie gras foam and thyme bread…


This is coca bread, served and eaten at practically every meal in Catalona. Coca bread is spread with garlic, fresh tomato drizzled with olive oil, and lightly sprinkled with sea salt. So good!

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Croquettas, steak, flat bread with tuna, and quacamole…yes, we kept walking…trying to assuage our guilt…luckily, we had more of the city to see and it was a long way back to the train station for the trip home to BCN.



Miró and tapas….

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Before getting to enjoy the balcony with double pillars in the front of the Palau de la Musica Catalana, we were treated with a small exhibit of the work of Joan Miró.

From the website describing the show…

The interview Miró granted to Georges Charbonnier in 1951 gives us a few key clues to understanding the essence of his work. To the question of whether the artist “has to put down roots”, Miró replied, “The roots of the land. The roots of the earth. Without in any way taking the earth to mean the motherland. I am talking about the earth that makes trees, a flower, a vegetable grow.” This point of view meant he attached great importance to popular art: “A plate made by peasants, a pot to eat soup from, are for me as wonderful as a piece of classical Japanese porcelain displayed in a case in a museum.” And from a taste for objects to sculpture is only a small step: the artist is driven to sculpt “for the direct contact with the earth, with stones, with a tree. When I stay in the countryside, I never think about painting. On the contrary, sculpture is what interests me.”

The pieces on display in this room, from the Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona, are these words made solid; both the photographs by Joaquim Gomis, taken in the studio on the Passatge del Crèdit in Barcelona and at the Mas Miró in Mont-roig, and the sculptures by the artist himself. The former because they are visual testimony to Miró’s love for the elements of nature and for everyday objects, and also to his first pottery and sculptures, created from 1944-1946 onwards. And the latter, the sculptures, because a decade later Miró started out once again from objets trouvés to construct, by casting them in bronze, what are in fact assemblages of the objects he gathered and collected with such passion.

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Then our group was led out onto the balcony and, when I looked over the side, I could spot the restaurant where we had eaten lunch. They have a very good deal and excellent food…so, here come my pictures of food!


Tosca seems to serve just about all day long, but for lunch they have a fixed priced meal where you get to choose three choices from their tapas menu and since there were two of us that meant six tapas to share, plus drinks.




Patatas Bravas








Seafood Risotto

Really, I am only going to make one post about food…but since the topic is Miró, it brings me to my memory of strolling down La Ramble to one of the Barcelona markets (there are markets all over the city, but this was our destination walk to possibly the most famous). Just outside of the market in the middle of the walk way  is a large mosaic in the street done by Miró.


(Plus, there was this really cool building that contained remnants of when it was built. Originally, it was a store to buy umbrellas and it still contains umbrellas and a dragon on its facade…mosaic, of course). A pause in our stroll for the umbrellas:

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The entrance to the Mercat de la Boqueria:

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Yes, there was quite a hustle and bustle and we were even there early. We made our way toward the back (Rick Steves says the food stalls at the back are less expensive than the ones near the entrance.) We found two stools so we could slide up to the bar and started to order. Lots of chaos around us, good service, and lots of fun.

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The menu above where they are preparing the food.


Our waiter






Another day, another order of calamari, this time with a caprese salad

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I loved the food in Spain, but being at home I am having a difficult time going back to no starches. While in Spain the starches were balanced by all the walking so there was no discernible damage. Unfortunately, at home it doesn’t quite work that way…Miró and tapas are not really connected, but if you are in Spain it is hard not to experience both repeatedly.


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