Lois Reynolds Mead

Art and a pink monkeyflower in a native plant garden…


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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

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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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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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Favorites…

It is almost time for another trip and I find that I never really wound up the previous one. Last October we went to Umbria and Venice. I was telling the tale here and then the holidays happened, life got busy, there were family complications and I never got back to the thread of the story of our trip. Last week I went back to look at the pictures and decided to pick out a few of my favorites that I had not ever processed in order to apply a few apps to them. I came across a group that symbolized our week in Venice. They are my favorites of the experience of Venice because I took them from our second floor apartment window where we looked across at the Frari Church and down onto the small canal below the window. Every day around 4:00 two gondolas would appear and the gondoliers would discuss their price with customers. On the last afternoon we were there we succumbed and took our own ride. I loved Venice…

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Photos taken with the native camera of my iPhone and then processed with these apps: Snapseed, Waterlogue, Image Blender, Vintage Photo, and Stackables…


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Detour, 2…

I did not take many video clips when I was in Venice. It was mostly when something that depended on motion to impart its interest presented itself. I did not start out trying to tell a story. For this class I was urged to make a short movie with only video clips, no stills. I was flummoxed at first because I had no linear story but I managed to put things together and am very excited that I also learned to split a clip and detach the sound track from one clip and duplicate it to use it with another. I did not have to spend any time on finding a soundtrack for this movie because Venice provided its own.

Here are vendors in San Marco throwing lighted balls into the night sky and gondoliers checking their text messages. We were standing in the entrance level of the Palazzo Querini Stampalia Museum where you feel like you are almost in the canal with it lapping at your feet. Our early morning venture to the seafood market where the fish are so fresh they are still moving. The traghetto, a gondola that only goes back and forth across the canal…tourists sit and natives stand. The last master craftsman in a long family line that does not know who to leave his gondola making business to because he only has daughters. Restaurants and, of course, street musicians…here is a sample of Venice…

Click the square next to the word vimeo (in the lower right hand corner) to make it full screen or you might miss the details…


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Detour…

I did try very hard to keep in chronological order when blogging about our recent trip to Italy. Here I must veer for a bit because I just got lost in my photos of the third week of our trip when we were in Venice. I had to do something with them. I will get back to the Umbrian hill towns, but I just can’t help myself…the visual was so rich there. This iMovie is a teaser of things to come.

We left our Ettore apartment near Spoleto at 8:00 a.m. because we had to be at the Venice Airport by 2:00 p.m. with our car turned in. We were to meet our Untours host Denny Jennings who would get us onto the transport (water taxi) and guide us to our apartment.

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I was navigator and here is Garmin with our list of cities to look for so we were sure we were going on the correct road. We saw some beautiful scenery on the way…and made our rendezvous on time.

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We boarded our water taxi and as we approached the city, Venice rose up out of the lagoon. What I was seeing knocked my socks off, and around our house, now, when someone is distracted, forgetful, or late for something we throw out the phrase “What are you, lost in Venice?” Most likely we are…

We disembarked the taxi and made our way to our apartment across from the Frari Church (and very close to GROM Gelato). Looking out the window we saw the full church and looking down we saw a small canal with two gondoliers waiting. We had entered a world without a single car after having spent the previous two weeks dodging small cars on small streets  in hill towns (I love you Fiat!). Here in Venice it was all about the water. I don’t feel that the water and moisture seeped into my bones and joints, but I do feel that the city seeped into my soul. My iMovie is of the first few hours we were in Venice…(click to make it full screen)

After unpacking our suitcases, we wandered out in search of dinner. Got lost (the point of being in Venice, afterall) but eventually we found Dona Onesta…all the food was permeated by the sea…

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That seafood risotto was maybe the best thing I ever ate (I do say that about lots of things…but…it was really good!)

When we left the restaurant we promptly got lost, again. We were saved by a young, English speaking woman with a map. Thinking that the Frari Church steeple would be a good landmark did not take into account that it is not lighted and doesn’t stand out in the night sky, plus Venice’s streets tend to be corridors in caverns so what is a landmark going to do for you? We found home and we knew we were smitten with this city.

I was lost in Venice…I want to be lost in Venice, again…I am lost in Venice…


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Battered suitcases…

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”—Jack Kerouac, “On the Road” (1957)

Yes it is true, we are hitting the road again. This time to Umbria and Venice. When I return I will finally use the book I made in the “Ticket to Venice” class I took many long months ago. It will hold all the ephemera I collect and photos I take. (Classes are on sale right now, hurry, before Mary Ann Moss gets back from Amsterdam!)

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My journal turned out too big for a suitcase (or I am getting smarter about packing), but in the interim what will make it into my valise is this:

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The cover is laminated paper I made (lots of scraps layered with gel medium) and it has a soft, flat binding.

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The inside has Fabiano Artistico paper and inserts from Gelli prints I have been making. (We will be quite near the Fabiano factory!)

Some pages have stencils gessoed on them (you won’t be able to see it until I watercolor on top. I have been a virtual dervish of rubber stamp carving so there are stamps put on with StazOn ink and then water colored inside.

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A pocket on the back cover holding extra watercolor squares and tracing paper.

The next few weeks will not be filled with nuages, wine labels, and Deux Chevaux. Instead they will be filled with nuvoli, wine labels, and Fiats. Two weeks near Spoleto and then a week in Venice. The really fun part is that we will be meeting old friends Chris and Darrell from Pasadena (we met more than thirty years ago when we lived one house away from each other in Redlands, CA.) The last few months, every time we have communicated we have signed off by saying, “See you in Orvieto, in front of the Duomo at 10:00.) It will be this coming Friday. Excitement! (Oh, the best thing ever…TM on this, our fifth trip, has given me the gift of Economy Plus…the BEST 5 inches ever!)

Busy packing, but here is a collage I made after our trip to Italy two years ago (that time it was Florence and Tuscany, but we hopped over the border into Umbria for a day trip so we could see Orvieto.) Think of us on Friday, standing here in front.

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I will be blogging, hopefully a little easier this time as both apartments have Wifi. You will be happy to hear that I have new music selections for my movies…I know, I know…relief!

One of my favorite columnists in the San Francisco Chronicle (Leah Garchik) has a section called “Public Eavesdropping”. I leave you with this item from her column:

“Do you speak English?’

“Why yes, certainly.”

“Oh, good. I wonder, could you direct me to the Renaissance?”

—Conversation between two female tourists at the Piazza di Santa Croce in Florence by Roberto