Thursday, August 24, 2023

A Trip to Tuscany

 Hello, Dear Friends. 

I thought you might like to come along with me
on a lovely trip to Tuscany
 as we try to forget the many troubles
 of the day, for just a little while. 
 I've meant to share this trip from 2018 
so many times, but life got in the way.
Then, as we entered into Covid 19, and 
Italy suffered so, it just didn't seem to be a good time.
Now time has passed, and although we can never forget the trauma, 
we can try to focus on all the good that remains, 
including the resiliency and kindness of the Italian
people and their amazingly beautiful country
and culture. 

It was the trip of a lifetime for my family and I, as we made 
so many wonderful memories. 
To say it was magical is an understatement, 
but I will let you decide...

Over the next few posts, I invite you to join me
as I walk down memory lane in the beautiful hills of Tuscany. 

You can see my previous post, On the Road to Tuscany 
by clicking on the link. 

 I left off as we arrived at our destination, 
a 10- room villa 
in the hilltop village of Montisi
Click on the link to see the whole village
and information about this charming place. 

The doors to our villa are to the left. 
You would never suspect the delights of what lies beyond...

The back side of the Villa. 
You can see my son, Dustin and wife, Jen
on the balcony of their room. 

A wider view...

And the rest of the Villa to the left. 

This was the view...

 180-degree views. 

We arrived late in the day, and as the sun went down I took
these photos of the amazing, breathtaking view. 

We woke up to beautiful light streaming through the arched windows. 

Some fruit, veggies and wine we picked up along the way. 

This beautiful room was my favorite place. 

Along the back wall (out of sight) were shelves holding cookbooks
and lovely books with information about the area,
including books on birds, plants and flowers. 

This villa is a second home to a family 
that live in Seattle. Through a mutual friend, my eldest son, Gabe 
discovered that they rented it out to select people when they weren't using it. 

When I got home, I ordered one of the cookbooks through Amazon. 
It is full of simple, delicious recipes. 

A peaceful corner. 

Come along and I will show you the courtyard...

Looking back. 
A wonderful place to enjoy a meal under the cool of the grape arbor,
or have a glass of wine with candlelight in the evenings. 

A bubbling fountain streaming from a large earthenware pot. 

My sweet little grandson
loved feeding the goldfish that lived there. 

A lovely sitting area with the view beyond. 


Beautiful vines. 

View from the garden. 
The long table is straight ahead, hidden behind the greenery. 
To the right is the beautiful breakfast room and the fountain. 

Right past the fountain is this hidden, step-down enclave,
under a large fig tree. 

A nice place to enjoy a cozy afternoon, 
away from the hot Tuscan sun. 

The guys enjoyed a few cigars here. 

Daughter, Jennie enjoying the quiet in the morning. 

A lime tree. 

Ripening olives. 

Luscious grapes. 

One of several large rosemary plants. 

Beautiful pots. 
Beyond the fence, a steep drop. 

Inside this mysterious place...

Gardening tools. 
 And I think this is a well - hence the hanging watering can.  

I didn't look inside the ancient doors. 
I was a little spooked. 

_    _
*    *

Right above was the vine-covered balcony to our room. 

With its own private staircase. 

Next time I'll take you inside.

I hope that you enjoyed this little escape, Dear Friends. 

Thank you for coming along with me! 


Tuesday, August 8, 2023


Hello, Dear Friends, I hope that you are making the most of these final weeks of summer, 
as we enter the month of August with its rare blue moon event. 

'Blue Moon' is one of my favorite songs. 
My favorite rendition is by 'The Cowboy Junkies'. 

I took these photos with my Canon Power Shot SX740 HS. 
It's a small, point and click with a super zoom and the ability to 
take quick shots even while driving. 

It was a birthday gift from the Mr. last fall. 


With two full moons in one month, I guess we are in for a wild ride. 
 I hope that you are buckled in tight.

We recently took a drive to Mt. Rainier National Park
with my son, wife and grandson. 

It was peak season for tourists, so we had to wait about an hour
to get through the gates. 
Mt. Rainier gets over 2 million visitors a year from all over the world. 

The immensity of 14,410 ft. Mt. Rainier can't be seen when you 
get close to the peak, but the scenery is spectacular. 
Mt. Rainier is the highest peak of the Cascade Range in the United States. 
The Cascade Range runs from southern British Columbia in Canada, 
to northern California. 

We stopped for a little break at the National Park Inn. 
There is a restaurant and rooms to rent with a gorgeous view
of the mountain. 

This is the general store, which I was hoping to browse through, 
but we had just come into the park gates and were excited to move on.
 So, I snapped this photo as I reluctantly walked away. 
Or should I say, dragged myself away...
There's nothing I like more than a cute little shop
and lots of time to browse. 

Ramblin' Man with his grandson, already getting so tall. 
You can see the physical resemblance.

They can eat anything and not gain a pound. 

The Nisqually Glacier which feeds the Nisqually River
 that flows to Puget Sound.
It's very low this time of year. 

The path it takes through the Nisqually Valley. 

Here is where we had our picnic. 
It was a beautiful day - but very hot and crowded!
Luckily, there was a nice breeze 
(which was blowing my hair all over my face!).  

We ate in the shade of a large fir tree.  

My son, wife and our grandson. 

A Stellar Jay kept us company. 

Steep and rugged terrain. 

A hidden lake surrounded by wildflowers. 

You can easily get disoriented from the slope of the land. 
All the trees are slender and weather-beaten. 
This area gets an average of 53 ft. of snow per year! 
Of course, not all at once, but you can imagine how deep it gets. 
The red flowers are Indian Paintbrush. 

My favorite photo as we head back down in the late afternoon light. 

Even though we seem to live so close, it is a long, 
winding, 3-hour drive to actually get there. 

Back home, I still have a few blooms to round out the summer. 
Rugosa Rose. 

Phlox, with impatiens on my windowsill. 

Hydrangea that I grew from a cutting. 

I've been carefully tending a second bed of tansy that I grew 
from seed. Tansy is a long-lived perennial. 
I harvest and dry the pungent leaves for moth sachets
every year. They are great for the pantry, too. 

The button flowers are pretty in dried bunches for 
arrangements and wreaths. 

It's been hot and dry for weeks, but we have had
a little bit of rain in the mornings for the last few days,
 that I am so grateful for. 

This was a gift geranium from my daughter at Easter. 
The cilantro is growing against it. 

This was the cilantro a few weeks ago. 
The bees and butterflies really loved the flowers. 

And now I have a good crop of seeds forming for next year. 

Succulent blooms.
Aren't they amazing?


These are so fragrant. 

These unusual petunias are still blooming.

Jasmine that I have growing in a large pot on the deck. 

Impatiens in the sun. 

I am growing miniature pumpkins
for the grandkids in 2 wooden tubs down by the playhouse.
The flowers are so pretty. 
 So far, the deer haven't bothered them, 
and I am hoping that holds true. 

The deer are beautiful, but the bane of my existence. 
As soon as it gets dark, they daintily make their way
around, sampling the offerings and having a little party.


 Kai always kept them on their toes, but we have hit 
a snag in that department. 

Yes, a snag. 
We are now, in the doghouse. 

And it's because of this innocent-looking fellow. 

Remember him? The adorable, kid-loving, happy-go-lucky
guy we adopted because we were looking for a new dog, 
and he needed a home.

Yea, that guy. Maverick. Ricky for short. 
Otherwise known as 'Shorty'. 

Turns out, he takes his job of 'watchdog' very seriously. 

There are so many strange sights, scents and sounds.
It's a big adjustment for our little apartment dog. 

So, we were working on being patient, 
but, as it turns out, my neighbors aren't so forgiving. 

We've received a couple of - ahem- 'complaints'. 

And I get it.
 Listening to a barking dog is no fun. 

The first complaint was a voice-message
only a few days after we adopted him. 
I replied and tried to explain the situation,
that no, we weren't on vacation leaving the dogs 
alone, that we had just adopted a new dog, 
and that we were working on it.  


Every day was getting a little better. 
I've been using positive reinforcement, with praise
and treats, and it seemed to be working.
Except we were getting lots of company. 
And there were deliveries. 
And the grandkids were coming over and 
the dogs were getting excited. 

That brings me to the second complaint. 
And I have a bit of anxiety about it.
It gave me a bad migraine. 

It came as a type-written note, 
with no return address or signature. 

So, I have really gone into serious bark training. 
I want to be a good neighbor.
I like peace, too. 

On a happier note, we had friends over for a little dinner on the deck
last weekend. 
It was a lovely evening, warm, with a little breeze so that we could 
catch the scent of the jasmine and petunias now and again, with a few notes
from the windchimes. 
It was so nice to spend time with old friends, laughing 
and catching up on life with kindred spirits. 
We watched the sky turn a lovely shade of rose to end a beautiful day. 


I made these nut and candy dishes out of martini glasses
 a few years ago,
and thought they would be perfect for
some mixed nuts to go with our fruit, cheese and local wine. 

Each glass tells a little story. 

Complete with illustrations. 

I used old Reader's Digest Condensed book pages
to decoupage the outside of the glass.
I used mod-podge in a matte finish. 
You need a martini glass with straight sides, not rounded
to avoid wrinkling the book pages. 

I used gloss black paint on the base. 

The pom-poms were applied with hot-glue. 
Naturally, these are a wipe clean
with a damp cloth sort of thing. 

We had a little picnic out on the deck with barbeque chicken
sandwiches, potato salad and cucumbers.
I made everything in advance so I could enjoy myself
instead of being stuck in the kitchen. 

It's simple, but so delicious. 

I made strawberry shortcake for dessert. 

The Mr. finished up painting the workshop. 
We are pleased with how it turned out, 
except for the color of the doors. 
They are a little too orange. 
But we will have to leave that to another time, 
as we have too many things to do. 

Summer is a time for getting projects done 
and taking care of the property, while the weather is good. 
Especially painting projects. 

The Mr. painted the front steps, too. 

Do you like my new doormat? 
I found it at HomeGoods. 

A flea market find. 

The Mr. made some compost bins out of barrels. 
They seem to be working beautifully. 
I can't have open compost bins because they attract 
wild animals. 
Nobody wants a bear rummaging around the compost bin! 

We just layer dirt, food scraps (no protein) and grass clippings,
and keep it all nicely stirred up. 

While one barrel is active, the other is 'maturing'.

We keep them enclosed in a high fence. 

We've had lots of creativity going on with the grandkids, too. 
Dominoes are always fun. 

The dogs love when the kids come over. 

A Peppa Pig and Little People swimming pool. 

Complete with kinetic sand beach. 

The 'towels' are pieces of fabric.
Drink umbrellas are perfect. 

A Lego float plane and Hot Wheel boat. 


Legos are always fun! 

Puzzles, too. These were done by one little guy who refused 
to pose for the camera - but I'll catch him next time! 

Jurassic World. 

Some yummy treats we baked. 
Sprinkles are always the best part. 
As you can see, we've been very busy! 

We even had a downed tree over the driveway! It took out 
a big maple branch and one of my wild plum trees. 
What a mess! 

Ramblin' Man cleaned it all up that afternoon and added it to the woodpile. 
He's handy to have around. 

This sunset on the hills at the end of a cloudy day. 

I'm actually looking forward to fall and the cooler, shorter days. 

I've even started collecting some dried grasses and pods. 

Although, I will miss the fresh peaches and plums. 

What are you doing these last days of summer, Dear Friends? 


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