Day 11. Bucket List Trip

Missing Home Now Pass The Vino

Today these amazing men treated me to a private tour of the Chianti region of Italy.  We jumped in a Mercedes’s (as all cars here seem to be Mercedes) minivan with Angelo (our driver and guide) and we drove the hour outside of Florence to the wine country.

   Jonny and I were struck instantly at how much the area reminded us of our little home town in Northern California. With lush green sweeping hills and valleys of vineyards, it took us both back. (I got instantly home sick) Of course our hometown has no castles built before Christ nestled in it. Or the home that Leonardo  D’ivincci painted the Mono Lisa in. But, we could  sure see where he got the backdrop to that masterpiece and how beautiful of a setting it was for him to paint in. The entire region just dripped of ancient stories. We even went through the town where the writer of Pinochio grew up  

 We stopped at an amazing winery, Foggio Amorelli.   It was one of the oldest established wineries  in the area.  The owner and wine maker Marco, personally gave us a tour of his property, while they were in the middle of a crush. (Where they process their freshly picked grapes). Being an old winery employee in my home town, I knew exactly what they were doing and the smell of the barrel room just took me back to the years of working in that industry.

All Chianti wine made in the region is noticeable by the black rooster that can be found at the top of each bottle. Our guide told us how the black rooster became the symbol for the Chianti region.  Apparently, back before Christ, Florence and Siena were fighting over who’s land was who’s and where the property line for each region stopped and started. They could not come to an agreement on this. So, they each let one rooster free from the center of their towns and let the roosters run towards each other. Where the roosters met was the new property line. Hence the black rooster became the symbol for the region and if a bottle says its from the chianti region, it should also yield that rooster icon. 

  The wines here in Italy are amazing!  Having worked for a award winning wine maker for years, he raised my pallet, so I am now a hard woman to please when it comes to my Vino.  After the tour of the winery, The guys and I were then escorted upstairs to a room above the winery.  This is where they proceeded to let us sample their new And reserve wines, along with some amazing plates of food. My favorite being the final course of four different cheeses that needed to be dipped in any of the following provided for toppings; fresh honey, jam or balsamic. It was truly a stomach pleaseing, throat warming and soul healing meal. 




Day 10. Bucket List Trip

Not The Right Time To Be Frugal

I’ve  spent some time in Mexico this life.  I grew up watching my parents haggling over prices with the locals.  Years ago I went back and everyone I was with had me do their bartering for them.    This is a skill I’ve only ever used there or at garage sales in America. I would never have thought to try it here, but the street vendors will lower their prices if you walk away after showing interest.

Today I found a man who hand made Jewlery and I asked him his price for a necklace and he told me.  I really wanted two of them so I walked away and then came back and asked if he could make me two for a few dollars off each. The mans shoulders dropped a bit when I asked, but then he agreed to my price. 

I watched him hand make two necklaces just for me (special order).  He was so amazing in his craft. Elogunetly and gracefully making every single movement  without any hesitation or screw up. It literally only took him less than ten minutes to make my request a reality.  I watched him with aw and respect and thought to myself, “he deserves more money not less for his work”. 

While watching him work I noticed this Asien mans arm and saw he had a tattoo down his forearm that someone (or possibly him) had tried to Burn off. I then felt his pain and what was probably some heart felt pain from his history. I got the feeling he had spent some time in holding or something really horrible or that something bad happened to him early in his life. 

It occurred to me then that this was not a good time to be frugal. I had the funds to pay him full price for his works of art and he deserved it. I was being cheap and suddenly I was embarrassed about my own frugalness. When he finished making the items I requested I gave him his full asking price and told him, “I’m sorry I barderd with you. Your work is beautiful and you deserve full asking price. Thank you!” 

His whole demeanor changed and he got the biggest smile on his face and that’s when it occurred to me.  Yes I can never repay Johnny and Karl for this first class trip to Italy but I can certainly Pay It Forward in my own way. So, that is what I will do.  I don’t know how yet but I will come up with something! Something to bring some joy into someone else’s life, like the joy they have brought to me. 

Spread the love! Pass it on!

Day 9. Bucket List Trip

I’m on top of the world mom. 

The guys and I went to Boboli Gardens today.  It is nestled right downtown Florence and it houses several smaller  gardens as well. It was a nice break from all the people and noise. There were not a lot of flowers but ever green and beautiful with tons of Ancient Greek statues. 

We walked past a central pond with a huge statue in the middle and right there my heart began to ache. My chest very heavy and my throat became tight. I could feel I had been in that place before in another life but it was not a good life for me. I could feel the spirits all around me and Johnny felt them too. We wondered if we had been there together.  I wondered what happened to me? Was I a soldier who died in the war? Was I a pedant who died of the plaque? It was something bad I know that. 

  As we left that garden both johnny and I started to feel better. We then made our way up the hill to the castle that the walls that used to protect the city from soldiers came together.  It was so extraordinarily beautiful and sad.   

 Beautiful because of the landscape. You could see what looks like all of Florence. It was sad because you realize that men died there protecting their family and friends. The Italians did a very telling art instillation to remind you of this fact. 

 I felt very somber walking around this area. I felt as though I needed to walk softly as the entire location was what seemed the most beautiful grave. 

We continued up the hill to where we found a little cafe we were able to sit and see the city, while drinking champagne and eating chocolate ice cream.  

 I asked the server if he realized how wonderfully lucky he was to have the job with the best view ever and he said, “yes I know”. 

It was a beautiful day. I hope you all have a wonderful day too!


Day 7. Bucket List Trip

“Taking a three hour tour” ( let’s not end up like Gilligan’s crew)
This morning Johnny and I took off early, throwing caution to the wind and rain and got into another private taxi to head over to Murano where they make the most amazing glass sculptures and chandeliers. (I wish I could have taken pics of the show room as it was filled with the most beautiful works of glass art that I have ever seen).  

Murano , Italy

We had a private tour of the fire room where they actually produce such works by dipping a long metal rod into a specially blended sand. When torched at extremely high temperatures the sand starts to harden. The glass masters who train from the age of 12 and who are in a long list of generations of glass masters, are then able to perform their art.  


They blow into the cold end of the long rod and it balloons the developing glass into a bubble. Once the bubble is the size the like, they shape it using metal tools. To add different glass colors to the developing object they layout smaller glass pieces on what looks like a cookie sheet and role the boiling hot art their making over the top of the small pieces, which are instantly picked up and melt into the form.  

  the Fire Room 

They will do this process over and over again. Making the art work larger or to add more and more layers of color to the object. It takes a team of three glass masters to perform this task. Once the object what ever it may be, is shaped and colored just the way they want it, they snap it off the end of the rod and then place it in a fire burning oven to cool down slowly. To make one small drinking glass can take 8 minutes and three different men. Can you imagine how much time it takes to make one of their amazing chandeliers?  

    Formed glasses in the oven 

I’ve never been a big glass fan I must say, unless it is stained glass. When buying jewelry I have always preferred stones over glass. But, the intricacies of their work were so impressive I would have loved a necklace made from their beads. However, based on the amount of time and work it takes to make each piece the items for sell ranged from $20 euro for a small bead to hundred thousand euros for a large statue or chandelier. (Let me tell you, being the klutz I am, I was puckered the entire time I was in the showroom).  


 When we were done with our tour we made our way around the beautiful town. Pretty much all of the stores were filled with the same items and everything was glass. Even the art in the courtyards were made of glass, including this amazing sculpture. 

Luckily, unlike Gilligan and his crew, we made it back to our little hotel in Venice without getting lost at sea. 

Day 6 Bucket List Vacation

Americans Among The Masses

Johnny and I had the funniest experience tonight for dinner.  The clouds decided to wash the earth here today so instead of sitting in our typical outside seats at a cafe for dinner, so we can people watch, we had to stay in the hotel and eat inside. The restaurant was small, packed and so very loud.  We were happy when the other diners started to leave and we were one of two tables left.

The other table had two woman sitting at it,  that Johnny and I assumed were lesbians until they started talking to us from across the room. As it turns out, they were a mother and daughter from Scottsdale Arizona. Who coincidently used to live in my city in California in the 90’s and the daughter now works in Johnnys industry and they have a few mutual friends.  (Small world right?) 

We all hit it off swimmingly and took our impromptu party to the bar where Johnny and I introduced them to the wonderful Lemonchello and they introduced us to the secret caves behind the hotel. We called it “searching for Alice in Wonderland” as we explored a maze of paths through this secret garden of caves. After having two moments of silence for the obliterated snails I flattened with my flip flops we came into a completely stone dome, that we later found out is where the hotel,stores their cheese because of its constant cool temperature.  The dome had the most amazing acoustics I have ever heard and we all started to “OMMM” together and it sounded so beautiful. I couldn’t help bust out with a small portion of “Ava Maria” which I never do In front of people, but I couldn’t help myself the sound was so perfectly intense. 

We then found our way back through the gravely gardens maze, managing to escape slaughtering any more defensless snails ! And headed back to the bar where we were joined by a sweet old Irish couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary.  They said to us, ” we heard the loud Americans and just knew this was where the party is at.” To which we all laughed and were by no means offended. 

 We all sat and jaw jacked, laughed and had a wonderful time until the bartender kicked us out, as it was closing time.  It was at this point that the daughter from the mother – daughter combo told Johnny he was her new gay husband. I instantly said, “back off sister he is mine. Always has been and always will be!” Johnny was cracking up at the two of us straight woman fighting over him.  Then the old Irish lady pulls him aside leaving her husband with us and says to him about me, “She doesn’t love you.  Come home with me!”  I think she missed the fact that he is gay.

Just another normal evening in LoLa-land. 


Day 5. Bucket List Trip

The Gondala Ride 

Today’s adventure had Johnny and I experiencing another bucket list item, the gondola ride.  He paid for the extended tour of the smaller canals and longer ride so we could enjoy the full experience.  ( he so fricken sweet). 


The Gondala ( not us in it)

Our gondola captain was a second generation, as his father did the same thing his whole life.  He told us that there used be many more people living on the island but because it is so expensive to live here many people have moved away, leaving roughly 60,000 locals on the island.  Tourism is their biggest money maker and in their busy season they can have up to 140,000 tourists in Italy at a given time.  

The large stone building that resemble small castles used to be owned and Inhabited by one family each.  Now do to rising costs they have divided these large homes into multy family apartments. Sometimes three or four to a home.  The rents on an apartment on the main canal is $10,000 euro a month. For a apartment off the main canal is roughly $5000.00 euro a month.  For a small room in some back alley apartment is $800.00 euro a month. 

It was lovely getting the download from our Gondala driver and then having him sing to us in his deep baritone voice.  Not once did he run into anything during our trip.  Which surprised me because the Gondala was so long and the canals are so narrow. Do to the fact that all of the streets are water there are many small bridges that help you get around town.  We traveled under at least 25 of them and each time the driver had to duck to avoid slamming his body into it. He told us that they are unable to work during high tides because there is not enough room to get the boats under the bridge. 

Sometimes there were multiple boats coming toward us and yet they all seemed to know exactly what to do. They use boats for all of their food deliveries, their ambulance or just as a car to get from A to B.  Here is one of the boats we passed, both Johnny and the Gondala driver thought this was funny.  

He looks beat. Hell I would be to if that was my job. 

Day 4. Bucket List Trip

The Arrival

Johnny and I landed in Venice today, after years of me having “go to Italy” as my number one bucket list item.  I can’t even express to you how wonderful it is to finally be here!  It’s literally a dream come true! It appears to be all that I had hoped it would be and more. 

We took a private water taxi from the airport, right to our hotel door.  We giggled the entire taxi ride like little kids waiting for Christmas.  I think we were both so shocked we were actually there. And then humored by the fact that they have this huge open ocean for which to travel on and yet the locals have designated a “highway” (if you will) by using tall wood posts to mark out a certain path that they are all to follow.  It struck me as odd they didn’t just go where ever they wanted to. 


Johnny and I in the water taxi heading into town for the first time.

We chose to sit In the back of the boat we were on, where it was open. As opposed to inside the cabin, where you were protected from any spray from the boat crashing onto the wakes. We know it’s not the cleanest water in the world but we just didn’t care. We just wanted to see it all and experience every sweet moment of our arrival into this city on the ocean!  

The closer we got to the city the bigger our joy became. How perfect is this place for me, The ocean and water lover that I am?  I feel like I will be at complete peace and harmony the entire time I am here, since the ocean is my happy place.  I can’t wait to soak it all in! I just hope I am willing to leave? 

first glimpse of Venice

Day 3. Bucket List Trip

It is The Calm before the storm.  Even though it is infact my birthday.  I am taking it easy today. Before I have to travel 7.5 hours Accross the pond. I am flying to Venice tonight.   A place that has been number 1 on my  bucket list since college! 

I am blessed to be best friends with a man I have known since I was 13 years old.  He is a man that is so kind and so giving, I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate him. He has gifted me so many wonderful life time experiences with his fortune, that I don’t know how I would ever even begin to repay him. 

All I could ever do is just always be there for him mentally and emotionally if he were ever to need anyone. I offered up my ovaries to him and his love long ago.  I would give birth for him if he ever wanted a child. If he ever needed a kidney I’d give him one of mine without thinking twice. He is one of my soul mates and we have never even kissed. Just goes to show you that soul mates come in all forms. 

This whirlwind trip to NYC, Venice, Florance and Rome has all been gifted to me as a birthday gift. He is even sending me to Tampa when it is all over, so I can go see my best friend and my adopted family. I have been in such a state of shock I still don’t think its real and I’m already in NY. I wonder if it will ever seem real?  Will I be in Italy wondering if I’m really there? Will I be begging someone to pinch me? 

Hell pinch me now! So I can fully wake up and appreciate and be aware of this amazing gift.  Next post will be from Italy!

Johnny and I in a cab in NY

Day 2 Fashon or Bust

Yesterday had a very real theme of rich spicy food and tons of alcohol. Starting with the cheddar and jalopena stuffed tator-Tots and sloppy joes nachos for breakfast.  Then lunch was some salted Carmel vegan ice cream. Bringing us to dinner of barbecue meats and homemade mac and cheese. But, that is not really what I want to tell you about as I sit sick to my stomach this morning. (Gee I wonder why? Could it have been the fried shrimp deviled eggs? )

In the middle of our rampage of consumption through Manhattan we also went to the underground gallery at FIT (Fashon institute of technology). Which is not some top secret gallery. No it’s just located underground.  They were displaying looks by Suzanne Bartsch. Which was a perfect venue for her looks considering she was a fashonite from Switerland originally but then she moved to London and then opened a clothing boutique in SoHo of what people considered, underground Fashon. 

Underground Fashon eludes to self expression and transformation through Fashon.  It is distinguishable from mainstream Fashon because it is creative and can border on performance art.  Her style and the looks she brought to America brought the downtown gay, straights, Fashon forward and art enthusiasts together.  She was amazing at pulling together looks from items you may not consider clothing. Such as deer skulls for hats or Barbie legs as a pho-Mohawk.  

I was shocked by her looks. Not living here or being a big Fashon fan I’ve never heard of this woman but when looking at some of her ensembles it seems she is probably a real fun person to know. 

These were the looks that greeted me at the door of the exhibit.  

Susanne it’s seems, is stylish at all times, but the looks pradomently show in her exhibit were her club (nightlife) looks.  Most of them had a lot of skin showing or exaggerations of the female form, with fake rubber nipples added in or not much covering her backside. 

She feels, “style is about expressing yourself. You can be whatever you want to be- a silver screen star, a Marie Antoinette baroque creature, or a Victorian punk. I love that about Fashon and makeup.” 

 I was shocked by the use of materials. I saw one dress where the boobs had old change purse clasps sitting above each breast. Only then to realize the bra part is actually the fabric pouch of the chain purse.  And yet as weird as that all is, it still looked great. She has a way of still looking stunning and provacative even while sporting a makeshift feed bag. 

I wish I had this woman’s eye for Fashon. I also wish I had her seemingly endless funds to make it all a reality. Being able to work with famous designers to collobarate on looks would be an amazing experience. 

She worked with the famous “Mr. pearl” on one of his first ever corsets. (Seen above)  I was struck by the detailed work and beauty of this piece. The hours that must have gone into making it. It is a piece of art and I almost feel needs to be hung in a museum or art gallery. 

If you live in New York and you love Fashon. I suggest you check it out. 

susanne Bartsch

Day 1. Captains Log

Day 1. Captains Log

No seriously. Haha that’s how I feel though

Ok let’s try this again. 

Day 1. Bucket list trip

I left the west coast for the east coast yesterday.  Once at the airport in NYC, I grabbed my luggage and jumped in the cab. After the 30 minutes it took to deal with the traffic on the Williamsberg bridge, we we’re heading into the west village. I’ve been here before so nothing shocks me.  The fact that I heard more horns blare in 30 minutes then I have in two years where I live, was noted but not surprising.   You could tell it was Friday night in the city. There were people everywhere, it was a flurry of fun and entertainment.  I almost thought it would be better to just get out and walk to the restaurant because people would walk past my cab and it would take us 5 minutes to catch up to them. 

Once finally at the restaurant I met up with three of my guys (gays) that I hang with while I’m here.  They had been at the restaurant for hours already but stayed a few more hours so I could finally get a meal in me. It was now about 11 pm New York time and 8pm California time.  I don’t know how many drinks I had.  The guys just kept ordering them.  But our bill was over $500. I was thankful someone else paid for it or I would have had to go home already for spending all my money. Lol/ cry

We finally grabbed my suitcase and walked to their Fifth floor walk up. First stopping for more booze. We proceeded to talk and laugh, hypothesis and strategize about Fashon and trends for hours in their small kitchen. Only to determine in our drunken state that Fashon trends are much like the weather and you can’t depend on knowing what’s gonna happen at all.  

Somewhere around 4am we all decided it was time for bed.  I don’t remember going to sleep.  But I did wake up at 8 am this morning on the couch with my sleep mask next to me instead of over my eyes and my nightshirt was inside out and backwards. It was  fun night in NYC and I’m already exhausted. I’m sure tonight will be much of the same. 

Just another NY minute in LoLa-Land

Previous Older Entries

Coloring Project – The Frog


2010 Summer Reading List

Sookie Stackhouse, the complete stories A touch of Dead
Finger Prints & Facelifts
His First Wife, Gracce Octavia
The promise of happiness, Justin Cratwright
Silk & Shadows
The Honey Thief
The marriage
Ya ya Sisterhood book # 3
The Other Boleyn Girl
Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher
3 book flower series by Nora Roberts
The Kept woman
Twlight book # 4
twlight book #3

Coloring Project – The Swan