Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


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Being a groupie…

In preparation for our trip to Rome, we researched blogs that might give us hints on how to navigate the “big city”. We found Parla’s Rome and also got Katie Parla’s app that recommends restaurants for our phones. On one of our first days here we stopped for lunch at one of her suggested restaurants in the Ghetto.

We had been visiting the museum and Temple and then she walked in the restaurant. We knew what she looked like because we had watched a podcast she did after recently visiting the headquarters of Google to give a talk on Roman food. this day, Terry started gesturing and saying to me “There she is!” He was kind of animated (if you know him that is kind of unusual…) She came over and said “hi” to us and then after lunch I asked her for a picture. Highlight!

Evidently, Anthony Bourdain likes the restaurant, too. Look up Nonna Betta if you are ever there.

I am a Pete Souza groupie, too. He has an Instagram feed that I follow. He is not only a terrific photographer, but he has a sense of humor that makes me laugh out loud some days. He has been official photographer to two Presidents and a photojournalist. He also shares his knowledge often explaining the type of camera, lens, and processing he uses. Last week he mentioned that he shot a beautiful picture he posted of a desert chollo cactus. He said it was taken with an iPhone 8+ using a filter (vivid warm). I had no idea you could shoot with filters with an iPhone and even though I only have a 7, I made a mental note to try it sometime. So there I was standing in front of the Roman Coliseum as the sun set and I finally remembered to give it a try.

Pete Souza is also a friend of Brandi Carlile and I am definitely a groupie of hers! Sometimes he posts pictures of her, too. It is nice to know that is is never too late to be a groupie. Don’t know why I waited until now.


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Angels, Colossus, and a Poet

Terry and I arrived in Rome Wednesday for a two week stay after which we will go to Venice for two more. We have an apartment in Trastevere close to the Tiber River.

We walked across the bridge to Castle Sant’Angelo with the other Untours participants for our event on the first day. I felt all eyes were upon me…not real eyes but these eyes…

Even lovelocks!

And inside was a big colossus.

Almost to the top of the castle was an angel by Raffaello da Montelupo that had been at the very top until it got hit by lightening and was moved down. It had my favorite wings.

Then at the very top is the bronze Michael the Archangel by von Veuschaffelt done in 1753.

As we left we used our eyes to view the Vatican in a display.

As luck would have it, each time we take the bus we are watched by this neighborhood poet. (Belli)

And sometimes, just random guys….


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Basics…

Yesterday I was motivated to work on mixing my own watercolors. The stars were aligned and I finally had all the supplies I needed. What had delayed me was not having watercolor half-pans to store the finished mixes in, but the last time I ordered a book from Amazon I remembered to order the little, white pans.

On our travels I had collected dry pigments as souvenirs. The first time was when we visited Roussillon in Provence back in 2013. (This may have been what spurred me on, also: we are taking an OLLI class through CAL—six weeks of talking and reading about Provence. It is bringing back lots and lots of memories.) In the Fall of 2015 when we were in Venice I visited a store that, among other things, carried pigments.

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Roussillon

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The red cliffs around Roussillon

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Venice

colors

My paint! The larger bottles are the pigment from Venice. (No, I did not have to carry those jars in my suitcase. They came in plastics bags and I put them in the jars from The Container Store after I got home.) The small vials are from Roussillon. The pigments are mixed with gum arabic and a bit of honey on a sheet of glass. Always wear a mask because the pigment in powder form is bad for your lungs. My only trouble now is I have already used up all the available half-pans so have to get more. Did not even get to experiment with my yellows and reds, yet…


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Goats…!

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…

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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…)

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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.

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

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

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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…

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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.


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Under the Tuscan sun…

Terry and I, with the support and help of our friend Marcie Beyatte, are making plans for a sojourn in the Tuscan countryside (25 minutes from Florence) next September. If you would like more information or to join us, Marcie has posted information on her blog site here: http://prontomarcella.com/2014/04/11/join-me-in-italy-in-september-2015-for-nature-and-art/

She includes pictures and descriptions of accommodations, activities, and excursions as well as contact information.

Very exciting!

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Looking back, looking forward…

Even though my middle name was chaos these last few weeks, I was able to make an iMovie compilation of my year in pictures. When I got it together, I was struck by how many birds there were because of all our field trips. It turned out I even forgot to take pictures of my classmates at my high school reunion…just got the peacock strolling the grounds. I am glad I took the time to do this movie because, except for a sad thing near the end, it was a very good year. Although I am a little belated, Happy New Year to you and may your 2015 be stellar!!

Don’t forget you can watch the movie full-screen by clicking the small box on the lower right hand corner…