Thursday, August 30, 2018

Colorado and artist friends. . . . . . . . . .

Our recent trip westward didn't end with that amazing visit to Utah. . . . . . it 
continued into Colorado for yet another long awaited visit with a blog friend,
Michael MacVean, graphic designer/illustrator extraordinaire, 
SCRIBBLE PICNIC host and all around lovely, friendly, funny guy.
Visit Michael's blog HERE.
Today he's back posting about his move to Kentucky and 
plans for the future.

We flew from Salt Lake City to Denver, picked up a rental car and drove to 
Loveland where dinner with Michael was planned. We were running quite late
 due to the airport car rental place being a nightmare, but Michael, bless his polite
 English heart, waited for us. . . . . . . .thank goodness!

Michael and I have been blog friends for many, many years and he, like me
always seemed excited at the thought of meeting up someday. We decided this
 had to be the year - he's still young but we're getting long in the tooth!
 As Utah and Colorado are neighboring states we could do it quite easily.

There was just one hitch, lifestyle changes meant Michael and his wife,
 lovely artist, Alexandra were moving to Kentucky just before we were due 
to arrive in Fort Collins, Colorado!
Anyway all worked out as Michael returned to tie up lose ends on the dates
 we were visiting and we could get together. Sadly Alexandra was not able to
 come with him due to work commitments in Kentucky. . . . . but we look
 forward to meeting up with her another time.

The second day in Fort Collins we met Michael for a tour around the
 really great Old Town section of Fort Collins.  Starting with freshly baked 
biscuits, muffins, croissants (best almond one ever) and good coffee at
The Little Bird Bakery - which I know Michael and Alexandra will
definitely miss - we enjoyed walking and visiting so many interesting 
shops and viewing historic homes in the area.

I love signage and in Fort Collins Old Town area it was awesome.

Strolling around town on a beautiful day.

This was a great small batch chocolate shop - we each had a truffle and picked
 two bars to bring home. Gobbled up the truffles but the bars are here awaiting
 a special occasion for serving.

This collage shows some the pretty things for sale in the lovely shops Michael
 took time to show us. I did buy the French kitchen soap as I was out of it. 
The fox on the baby onesie in the center is one of Alexandra's illustrations. . . . .and
 I have to say the little dish with the sheep has a quote I totally agree with (Gina that
 one's for you!).

Michael thanks so much for making time to see us - we enjoyed it all so much.
Wishing you and Alexandra much happiness in your new home.
  Here's to the next time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

So hard to say "goodbye". . . . . . . . .

. . . . . so how about arrivederci, or just a good old plain cheerio!

Four days in paradise - such a fabulous time that even the kidney stone
is almost forgotten! The positive things about that unexpected episode were
 having kind friends who cared, and a nearby country hospital where ER service
was excellent and, after a few hours, I felt fine again and could return to the farm!

Those lovely days at Villa Vista were even more exhilarating and
 wonderful than expected.
Occasions such as this continue to make me realize just how great
 meeting blog friends can be. But for blogging our paths would never have
 crossed, and all those great times with special friends would never have
 happened in my life.

Above, me loving every moment on the farm.

We picked vegetables, we cooked, we ate both inside and al fresco, 
we painted, we toasted with champagne, we shared stories of life and travel, 
we met neighbors, we did a little sightseeing around town, we sat comfortably
 taking in such incredible views, we watched huge families of winged wonders,
 skid across the pond. . . . . 
. . . . oh yes, I did say we talked didn't I? In fact we never stopped!

All photos above taken at different times of day at the beautiful farm in the alfalfa field. 
As you can see, my time there was so special and I felt so very happy and peaceful
in this lovely place, surrounded by nature and with the most delightful hosts.
Be sure to visit Gina here at ART and ALFALFA to enjoy more stories, and 
her beautiful photos, from the farm.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Around the kitchen table. . . . .

I've aways enjoyed sitting around casual kitchen tables of friends, sharing a mug of
coffee, a cup of tea, plus of course a natter and catch up of any news.

Here in Gina's comfortable kitchen in the farmhouse in Utah, it was even more special.
Besides chatting - we sent our men away to check out vintage tractors in the barn, 
plus a visit to Mr. G's friend who builds beautiful Windsor style chairs in their tiny
 farming community - we got out the paints, brushes and blank bisque tiles and
 I received an awesome art lesson in Italian Renaissance style ceramics painting.

Gina's painted kitchen cabinet and many of her colorful ceramic pieces.
Note the walls - Gina painted them and embedded straw for this special farmhouse look.

I was a little nervous. . . . actually a lot nervous!
Having worked in an administrative capacity in commercial art and advertising
 for several years, I've never considered myself an artist. I decided to paint
 something with figs and Gina, with much patience, showed me the steps.

My practice tile - manipulating and learning the brush strokes, shading, blending
 the colors.  When my fig tile was finished Gina kept it - the practice one also - to glaze
 and fire in her kiln. My finished tiles arrived a few days ago and I'm so thrilled with them.

I love how the colors have come alive and can see myself perhaps painting more
 if I can buy materials and find a kiln service in my area to fire the tiles.

This is a 6X6 inch tile - I'm using it as a coaster here in the gazebo. I love how it
 turned out and many thanks to Gina for taking time to give me such an enjoyable
 lesson. It certainly got my creative juices flowing after such a long hiatus.

Here's the link to Gina's Etsy shop where 
you will see more of her beautiful work. . . . 
. . . . . and that special kitchen table!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Una bella casa. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . yes, a beautiful home.

During my visit to Gina's lovely home I asked if I might take some photos to share
 with you and she kindly allowed me to do so. I didn't want to appear rude so tried
 not to walk about with the camera ever at the ready. . . . . . after all we were there
 to enjoy Gina and Mr. G's company, not for a photoshoot! The photos I did take
 inside the house show their exquisite work, from the Palladio architectural details, 
gorgeous tiled floors, and the colorful paint finishes, to the amazing collection of 
Italian accessories from lighting and art to Gina's own painted ceramics.

No further narrative required - please just look and enjoy these photos
of this beautiful home.

I will be posting soon on the art lesson Gina gave me and can then show you
 what I painted. I was really excited about this part of the visit.
Here's the link to Gina's blog Art and Alfalfa

Friday, August 24, 2018

A perfect late August morning. . . . . . . .

After all the rain, heat and humidity, last night was a lovely night.  
Turning the a/c off, sleeping with the windows open, feeling the temperature
 drop to the mid-fifties, and waking to a breeze. . . . . perfection!

 This morning, walking through the sparkling dewdrop grass in sandals felt good.
I went next door to feed Ms. Nala cat - doing this until Sunday when her person
 returns from vacation. Brushed her well, put her out in the sunroom where she
 happily watches birds and squirrels, and I will return early evening and take
 her in for the night.

I sat here on the front porch from 7:00 - 8:00 AM - watching the birds and
 squirrels active in the fig tree as I enjoyed my coffee - breathing in
real fresh air for a change.

 I found this newly hatched large moth or dragonfly (?) this morning - can anyone
 identify it please. Don't think it's a moth with those transparent wings. It's about 1.5" 
in length. 

Edited: Thanks Donna and Jane - this is of course a cicada,
 I'd forgotten those noisy creatures looked like this!

My hydrangeas were sad this Summer, very few blooms on any of the bushes.
Today I found this one which is usually blue but is now this color, pretty but I prefer blue.
Perhaps the pH of the soil has changed with so much rain - soil needs to be acidic 
with a pH of 5.5 or lower to keep the blooms blue. I may need to treat
the soil with Espona Organic Soil Acidifier which I missed doing this year.

The sunflowers from LIDL are still looking awesome. Today I need to
 change the water and add fresh greenery which will see them
  happily through the weekend.

Here's to a great weekend everyone - hoping you have lovely 
weather at your home.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Pleasures and Passions. . . . . . . . . .

Surely there is nothing more special in life than following your 
dreams and then fulfilling them with passion. Often it takes a lot of
hard work, even physical labor, to put those dreams on paper, to
design what you see and feel in your heart and head, and then
transfer your dreams to a surface.

Gina at ART & ALFALA has done just that over many 
years, decorating the interior walls of her beautiful home with
stunning paint finishes in warm Italian colors.

Here are some of the lovely surfaces in the light-filled guest 
accommodation on the farm, the carriage house, where we stayed. . .  
 . . . and I never wanted to leave! 

The delightful little kitchen area.

One of the two painted balconies on the carriage house. Note the grapes clambering
 up (home to a flock of tiny birds) which Gina tells me are now ripe for picking
 since we were there less than two weeks ago!

Morning coffee here was so special. Later, we crossed the courtyard to the
 main house for a delicious breakfast served on the porch - the chickens 
supplying the just laid eggs, and Gina's homemade jams and 
jellies - it was certainly the tastiest start to the day ever. 
More to come when I show you the lovely interiors of the main
 house where Gina started her painting passion many years ago,
and very special art lesson at Gina's kitchen table!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

First light . . . . . . ..

Today I awoke and was up before the sun - probably because Bob allowed the
 storm door to slam at 6:00 AM when going to pick up the newspaper!
It rained again during the night but no thunder or lightning, and now we are
 looking at some fabulous weather for the next week. Hopefully it will dry up
and we can enjoy outdoor time.
After being at Gina's farm in Utah, seen in these photos, with stunning scenery
 stretching to the mountains, and the shining pond full of large winged visitors,
 my landscape here at the cottage feels somewhat encroaching and dark. . . . . . . .  

. . . . . I loved the openness of the garden and surrounding fields, the light shining through the dancing water of the irrigation system. . . . .  

. . . . . . the cackling birds on the bell towers of the gorgeous barn - you can just see
 the outline of the mountains here. . . . . 

. . . . . . . and then the sun appearing to make the colors of the buildings positively glow.

Gina's 'green thumb' produces such gorgeous flowers.

Early morning view toward the main house from the guest house - 

 Life at the pond - this year's parents and their now grown juveniles.

Speaking of waking early - I had no idea that on my second morning on the farm
 I would be awakened at the ungodly hour of 3:00 AM in excruciating pain!
  I knew immediately what was happening. . . . . . . another kidney stone on my left side!  

After waking Bob with my groaning, crying and flailing around from bed to the lovely
 comfy sofas, and back and forth to the bathroom downstairs, for a couple of hours, 
ready to jump from the balcony and drown myself in the pond (if you've had a
 kidney stone you know where I'm coming from!), Bob said to start packing and he'd 
drive me to the hospital in Provo, the closest large city! 

Before that occurred, Bob told Gina what was happening - thankfully she and Mr. G. are
early risers - and she insisted in taking me instead to a small hospital just 5 miles up the
road. (Thank you again dear friend of being so caring and understanding, and not
allowing me to be embarrassed at my plight in your home).

What amazing service that little ER gave me. How kind and caring were the staff.
The physician - actually a PA - was the best doctor I've ever had treat me - all
others should take 'bedside manner lessons' from him.
The sweet nurse had me hooked up to pain killers immediately. Lab tests were done.
The CT scan was completed in 10 minutes - the x-rays sent via computer to be read
 at a major hospital in Salt Lake City - and that apparently tiny stone causing such
 havoc was located in my plumbing system!
Outside a medi-vac helicopter was revving its engine - thank goodness it
wasn't for me - another patient, a poor woman in even more pain than me -
was being airlifted to the city.

In a few hours I was back on the farm enjoying another spectacular day,
grateful for modern medicine. . . . . . . and wonderful friends.

More from Utah next time.