It was a drizzly Friday, when a few happy painters met 
at garden designer Kip Nordstrom’s to paint — 
one that put the WATER in watercolor. It also added lovely droplets to the roses!

Fortunately the giant fir trees served as umbrellas! 
When a few tiny droplets came through, they created interesting textural patterns. 
I did a demo of a brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ that I’d sketched…
… also these lilies and alliums in a looser style. 
What I love about journaling is it’s just for fun. No need to try for perfection here. 
Misty droplets on the edges make sure of that!
Kip made some yummy fresh scones that we had with tea and coffee 
up in her above garage studio — 
so well equipped that several of us decided that we could live there!
And then the mist lifted.

We scattered around and painted… 
what a lovely setting to work in, with color bursts everywhere

Kip, thanks for sharing your garden and your photos with us!
Painting at Bella Madrona!

No tour of Tuscany is complete without a culinary discussion. And not surprisingly, food is a reoccurring theme for us. Is it because the ingredients are so fresh that food tastes better there? Maybe it’s the artisan and farm to table fare? The sensuousness of the culture? The fine local wines? Or is it simply dining al fresco?


Whatever the reason, we all agree that food tastes better in Italy.
And Italians do amazing things with cured meats. Below are piled up samples or rustic meats and breads at the May food festival in Lucca, called the Anteprima.


Monica, who we met this year, is showing Helen and Tom the wool from her cashmere goats. She also sells wonderful mildly flavored goat cheeses, both hard and soft, which she makes very near our villa!


Here’s Giovanna, who sells our favorite olive oil — La Chiusa di Nanni — from her olive groves just below our villa. No one we’ve met in Lucca is more gracious than Giovanna. When we visit she brings out wine to share with us and home baked biscuits made with olive oil. This year she also prepared a wonderful Tuscan meal for us at her nearby cantina. It was a traditional Italian eating experience that spanned the entire evening, including home pickled vegetables, tuscan bean soup, prosciutto, strawberry tiramisu and liquors! We were joined by Kaegan and Sasha who were biking through Italy.


This menu is from the fabulous meal that was prepared for us by longtime friends Mary Lee Damutz and her daughter, Marina, who live in a small rural village, Nocchi. The raviolis were made from scratch in our kitchen while we watched. Marina had picked the nettles and borage for the filling that morning. Below, on another occasion, they are showing us how to make tiramisu!


We found these artichokes in Lucca at the
Saturday Market…
Below you see them on the table
with fresh pasta and salad! Yum…

The ambience and appetites improve as the shadows lengthen!  


Here’s rustic bread from the festival in Altopascio.
My favorite is the dark walnut bread
in small round loaves.

Tuscany is filled with small eateries that ooze with local color. Perfect for a lunch, or inspiration for a painting!

                                And then there’s Gelatto! Our favorite in Lucca is Venita.  

Another fabulous May in Tuscany!

Linda Nye and I had so much fun last year that we vowed to return — after all, there is NO POSSIBILITY you can see and do everything the first time you come to Italy! Returning is the only way. This year we brought two new groups of seven to paint, visit interesting places, take hundreds of pictures, walk in the hills and sample tuscan wines, olives, meats, cheeses and breads. Janet Parker, of Oregon Botanical Artists fame, joined us for the month to help with logistics.

So much to tell

Mary Lee took seven of us into Florence
for a tour on Saturday before the workshop started.
We spent a good bit of the time looking up,
and with our mouths open!

Part of the joy for me is seeing it reflected on the
faces of the people we bring.
Clearly, Janet is having an “Oh My” moment!

We couldn’t loose our leader in the crowd, wearing these bright yellow pants!

 at the Museo di San Marco

Above, Carol (right) takes the lead.

 It wouldn’t be Florence without the Duomo.

Trattoria Bordino

We stopped for lunch at a steak house across the Ponte Vecchio. The food was terrific and we taste tested their deserts. I think Linda expresses how satisfied we all felt when we left!

Mary Lee poses with me in front of the Ponte Vecchio

at the Bargello Museum

Below are Janet and Linda, to the right is Elvina, lost in a photo moment. 

Florence is full of characters

Parents wait while a portrait artist sketches their daughter…
Walking through street market, this dear girl was giving out free hugs. One side of her sign was in Italian, the other in English and she flipped it when she got a quizzical look!

These young men knew what we did not — that we were traveling with an Australian movie star, alias My Allred! They were convinced she was the real thing (and they are right, she IS sexy!)