Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…

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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.

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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!




Our morning walks are still functioning as our beacon for each day. Out the front door at 6:45 (daylight savings time has made it dark when we start), but each day we can see better as we take off. When we return we feel wide awake and enthused for the day. These are random photos that I applied a bit of app-work to because I am still experimenting with DistressedFX App (not all of the birds you see were actually in the original image and sometimes I just go through a phase where I use my iPhone as a playground or sketchbook to alter, erase and bring a little bit of serendipity into my life. Who knows what might happen (evidently I am into blur)…






Then one morning we walked through the playground of the school and it looked like this:


and I thought with some underwear and a teddy bear it would look like my favorite picture I took when I was in Tuscany, Italy for the first time…


I guess walks help with time travel too…I could smell the cappuccino and taste the brioche…

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Year end review…

Personally, my favorites are any entries from Italy or France. I hope for you that your knees stay strong and they walk you to your favorite places this year. Happy New Year and have a wonderful 2013!

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Pot pourri…

When we were in Italy last October I took one random segment of video. I have no clue as to why except that it was a beautiful clear day, I was overwhelmed by the environment, and I wanted to remember the music I was hearing. I have been carrying around this one and one half minutes ever since, not knowing quite what to do with it. Almost trashed it many times. Then, for the final project of the Xanthe Berkeley class I was taking we needed to combine video and work with “ducking” sound. I finally had a use for it and I made this memory of Italy from my iPhone photos. It was a fun project to try to find coordinating music for the rest of the movie.

Made a strawberry and ricotta tart after the Chandler strawberries came into the Farmer’s Market last Sunday.

Also came across rhubarb at Whole Food’s. Pulled out my favorite recipe from a book I got many years ago written by the proprietors from a Cafe in Paris. I am going to now have the opportunity to visit this cafe in person.

The black and white striped French fisherman’s shirt I ordered from LLBean has arrived in time for its trip to Paris.

The signatures for my travel journal are ready to be sewn into its cover.

It happened again: before we went to Italy I discovered a magazine I had kept for at least ten years. It was an issue devoted to Tuscany and one of its articles was a list of paper stores in Florence. I had a fabulous time searching for all the stores while I was there. A couple of weeks ago, I went to storage to get some furniture for my daughter who was moving apartments. There was a random box that was labeled papers so I brought it back home with the intention of sorting and recycling. The box was filled with old magazines that had belonged to my father. An example was Life magazine from 1943 talking about the war in the Pacific. (My father had been on a destroyer in the Navy.) There was also a copy of Holiday Magazine from 1948. (I was two!) The table of contents said the magazine had an article about the circus, but all the pages for that were neatly cut out. Most of the rest of the magazine was devoted to Paris! So now I have some wonderful graphics for my travel journal.

The most giggle inducing event is that a long-time friend (we met in fourth grade) and her husband are going to be in Paris at the same time. Happenstance is a powerful thing…if we had tried to actually plan this it never would have worked out. We are like school girls, school girls I tell you…

Still have to do the trial run with the suitcase and apply the Murphy rule. Pack it, then unpack and leave half of the contents at home. Counting down the days…

I no longer say ciao, I have switched to au revoir…


Pienza and The English Patient…

Pienza…ahh, Pienza…you swept me away…the smallest of the towns we visited and maybe my favorite…because I could see myself there in a small artisan shop in an ancient building (inviting all my friends to come visit, of course…will you?)…working on art, chatting with customers. Long meals, lovely days…but first the lay of the land…











The most important order of business was the morning cappuccino, but when I saw this chocolate fountain I was quickly seduced in another direction…



Then to the church (which allowed pictures) and the town museum (which did not). This church has foundation problems, but being a true Californian I thought about earthquakes a lot while I was inside…and wouldn’t you know the day we got home two above 4.0 quakes happened on faults near our house…yikes…







The cracks…



The above is a glass insert put in to measure amount of movement.
Best of all were the alter boys getting ready for service…looked about sixth grade age


The stroll to find lunch in a cafe with three tables and many wine bottles and tasty sandwiches.

Looking for artisans




We found a potter

A fabric artist

And a watercolorist…her bookmark/business card and some delightful watercolors I bought…they are 2″x2″ and now so many miles away, they make my heart skip when I look at them…



On our way back down the road from Pienza we opted to explore a dirt road that takes you to a monastery named Sant’ Anna In Camprena. It was the setting for the Italian part of the movie The English Patient and I figured that it was the closest I would ever get to Ralph Fiennes. (Since we have been home we rented the movie to watch again and were amazed at how young the actors looked. Luckily we were alone while we watched because we kept yelling out things like…I stood next to that cypress…we were right next to that wall…remember those crosses…)
This is where Juliette Binoche met Willem Defoe for the first time…










My driver noticing that we couldn’t go inside because it was 2:00 and it was closed from 12-3:00 in the fashion of the country. Love the colors of this facade…

You may note black dots in many of my pictures. These are Jackdaws similar to our crows and always flying around the towers we saw in Italy. (From Wikipedia)



Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Our Untours leader in Tuscany (Harriet Gussoni) had us meet her for an orientation and lunch at the abbey called Monte Oliveto Maggiore. We were then given a tour of the inside of the monastery and its incredible frescoes. The restaurant was entered through a drawbridge with a Della Robbia sculpture as a greeting.

Harriet giving us driving and hill town tips for the week.

This was the most interesting plant growing out of the brick wall started by a seed blown into a crack.

Creating this beautiful flower-the flower of the caper plant.


After a lunch that included pane dei Santi and vin santo, we walked down the hill to the monastery.

Constructed in the 15th century it includes this loggia.



Inside the arches are frescoes that depict the life and work of Bernard Tolomei who founded the order in 1319. The frescoes were created by Luca Signorelli and Sodoma.

Pictures were allowed and we were close to them but I am only going to share some charming snippets.








Benedict leaving home.

This is thought to be a self portrait of the artist, Sodoma.

We also saw the refectory.


The library.


And the church.

Which has a choir covered in wood inlaid stalls.

A mosaic done in 1980 of Benedict created by a member of the community.

A closer view of the modern statue in the courtyard.

And another Della Robbia as we passed out through the 16th century drawbridge.