Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Podere Il Casale(Organic Farm)

Driving southeast of the Villa on the one lane road, the driver would pull over & allow other cars to pass us as we traveled to our private excursion to Val d' Orcia.  It was going to be another sunny day in Tuscany!

After about 1 1/2 hours, we reached our destination of the organic farm.  We approached the farm with dust flying in every direction.  As we unloaded from the bus, we were greeted by the piercing call of the Indian peacock.  He strutted around displaying his extravagant royal blue & jade green plumage with the beautiful eyespots.

Uli, the owner greeted us and walked us to one of the most scenic views.  The Val d' Orcia region was breathtaking as we looked out into the rolling hills of vineyards and olive trees.  Parishes and countryside stone homes were seen in the distance as well as a volcano that has not erupted in over 200,000 years.

Uli told us a little bit about himself and his family.  In 1991, Uli and his wife, Sandra, left Zurich and moved to Podere Il Casale.  The 300 year old stone home needed lots of fixing up before they could start on their dream of building an organic farm.  The other buildings on the property were also renovated to be used as workshops, hayloft, stables, cellar & a dairy.

They have a small dairy, which is where they make their organic raw milk sheep's and goat's cheeses. The herd consists of about 200 sheep and 75 goats.

As Uli discussed his farm and the surroundings, the two donkeys felt very comfortable walking in and out of our group.  We toured the area of the goats & got to see the newborns, as well as seeing the sheep and pigs.

Uli discussed the cheese making process without using any chemical preservatives or additives.  He demonstrated the process of making cheese over a gas fire.  He said the three most important steps in making cheese were the temperature, rennet & curds/whey.

After the demonstration, we enjoyed a beautiful lunch of salad, pasta, cheese, wine & dessert, overlooking the valley of the area.

The day ended with us buying cheese, olive oil and wine!

Finding Firenze(Florence)!

As I crossed the Arno River into Florence, Italy, I knew that I would discover the true understanding of Renaissance art and architect.

Florence is a city which was founded in 59 BC, as a settlement for former soldiers, who were allotted land by Julius Caesar.  It is now known as the capital city of the Tuscany region.

As I was making plans to travel to Florence, several people had told  me that they would rather travel to Florence instead of Rome.  Florence's city population is approximately 400,000 verses Rome's city population at three million.  I visited Rome two years ago and I had enjoyed seeing the Vatican, the Coluseum and many other well-known sites, but there is something about the environment in Florence that I felt that I belonged.

Walking with the group on the cobblestone to the Galleria dell Accademia, it was hard to imagine that such great Renaissance men, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo di Vinci & Raphael had once walked along this same street.

Arriving at the Academy, our guide, Sylvia escorted us into the first room to discuss the sculptures & art work of Michelangelo.  She took us back to the 15th century to help us understand how the sculptures would sketch their work and then roll out the clay to begin to create their masterpiece.

It was interesting to learn that Michelangelo destroyed most of his sketches.  He completed his finest sculpture at the age of 29.

His well known sculpture was David.  The statue was fifteen feet and was completed in 1504.

After the Academy, we then proceeded to the Uffizi to see the works of Leonardo di Vinci, as well as Raphael.  It was interesting to learn that Leonardo died at the age of 32, as Michelangelo died at the age of 88(three weeks shy of his 89th).

The Uffizi is the most important and visited museum in Florence.  The Uffizi palace was designed and began in 1560 by the architect Giorgi Vasari.  The early years of painting was done on wood panels and not the canvas that we are accustomed to.  You could spend days going through the Uffizi.  We hit the highlights of the great artists, such as Botticelli, Giotto, Raphael, di Vinci and Michelangelo.

On day two of touring Florence, we adventured to the Duomo.  It was not completed until 1436.  The real glory of the Duomo is Filippo Brunelleschi's dome.  Brunelleschi's engineering feat was constructing a novel scaffolding method to complete not only one dome, but two, one inside the other.  He employed a new method of bricklaying, based on an ancient Roman herringbone pattern, interlocking each course of bricks with the course below is a way that made the growing structure self-supporting.

Leaving the dome, we headed to the Ponte Vecchio.  This is a medieval stone closed arch bridge over the Arno River.  Walking through the crowds of people, we saw the shops of jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers.  These shops were once occupied by butchers(in the early years).

Everywhere you turned, you saw so many unique sites.  We ended the day with walking through Santa Croce Basilica, which is the principal Franciscan church in Italy.  Michelangelo is one of the well-known buried here.  The magnitude of this church is something that you personally have to see.  The stained glass windows throughout the Basilica brought out the beauty of this church.

As always, there is never enough time to see everything.  I will have to return to Firenze and walk the cobblestones where the Renaissance began!  Ciao!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Discovering Tuscany!

My adventure began on Friday as I headed to the Denver airport to catch my flight to Detroit to meet my friend, Linda.  We would then catch a flight to Paris, France to meet the group.  And then fly to Florence, Italy 🇮🇹.

Linda & I had traveled with this group two years ago.  We toured Sorrento, the Amalfi coast, Sicily(where we traveled to Palermo, Mt. Etna & Taormina) and then to Rome.  In Rome, we attended The Vatican & saw Pope Francis & all the other great sites in Rome.

Back in December, Linda called me & said the same lady who facilitated the trip in 2015, was putting together another group for Tuscany, Florence, Portovener, Turin & Alba.  I said "sign me up".

One of the things that intrigued me on this trip was that we were going to stay in a Villa in Tuscany.  All I could think about was the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun" with Diane Lane.  She was a writer, who impulsively buys a villa in Tuscany in order to change her life.

After almost twenty-four hours of traveling, we arrived in Florence. Andrea, our bus driver was patiently waiting for us as we came through customs.

All fifteen of us loaded up in the van & began our forty-five minute trip to the Tuscany area.  Driving along the highway, I observed the rolling hills of vineyards.

Along the road, I saw so many villas.  I wonder which one would be ours.  We finally pulled up to the rock gate of La Canonical Di Corrine Estate.  The bus was not allowed into the estate.  The staff greeted us and told us they would get our luggage.  

Villa Affresco is a magnificent classic Italian villa dating back to the 15th century and comprises part of an ancient Tuscan castle.  It is located in the heart of the Chianti countryside.

As I walked through the gate, I felt I had arrived into another era.  The whole world seemed to have changed and there were no worries before me.

Eliza, our Italian interpreter,  began to hand out the keys to our rooms.  She then began to show us what our accommodations would be for the next seven days.

The ceilings are about twelve feet tall.  One wall was painted a teal color with a medieval drawing.  There were floral accents throughout the Villa.

We proceeded outside to the gardens of white roses and then to the pool area.

From Linda & mine's room, we opened the eight foot windows to smell the surroundings, see the vineyards and hear the chattering of the birds.

Words can't even describe our dinner.  The two ladies started cooking about five p.m.  You could smell the aroma of olive oil and other spices.  We would be eating outside.  The ten foot table was covered with a beautiful blue tablecloth & napkins.  The dishes were light green with olives sketched on them.  The homemade pasta & their own wine made the meal extra special.  

I enjoyed conversing with the others, hearing the laughter and watching the sunset in the distance.

Tuscany was everything I thought it would be & more!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Broken Angel's Wing

I know that summer is not official until June 21st, but today was summer for me.  The clear blue sky and the eighty degree weather with the gentle wind made it official for me.

As I was out and about today, I looked into the sky and the shape of the clouds reminded me of a broken angel's wing.  In the summer, there are always so many clouds and the clouds take on such different shapes.  It is good to use your imagination.

As I looked at the broken wing, I thought of a recent devotion that I read written by Charles Swindoll.
The devotion was about how we all have skeletons in our closets.  We all have done something that we wouldn't want anyone to know about.  We all live with a past.  A lot of that past is covered by the sands of time.

We feel as if anyone finds out about our past that people wouldn't want to be a part of our life anymore.  That is not true.  Always remember, God used so many people in the Bible that had a past. Joseph had a prison record, but later became prime minister of Egypt.  Moses murdered someone and he delivered his nation from the slavery of Pharaoh.  Rahab was a harlot in Jericho, but God used her to rescue the Israelite spies.  There are so many more examples of how God used men and women that had a past.

Chuck Swindoll said "Mark it--when God forgives, He forgets.  He is not only willing but pleased to use any vessel--just as long as it is clean today.  It may be cracked or chipped.  It may be worn or it may have never been used before.  You can count on this--the past ended one second ago.  From this point onward, you can be clean, filled with His Spirit, and used in many different ways for His honor."

As you enjoy this new season, summer, remember that God has a plan for your life.  Something that you can't even comprehend.  Even with a broken wing, He can give you a new life.  Allow Him to use you in a mighty way!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Indy 500

As I got out of the car, I could hear the roaring of the race cars on the track.  People were rushing pass me to get to the gate to purchase their "Practice Ticket" to see the drivers as they began to qualify for the Indy 500.  This event is billed as the "Greatest Spectacular Racing".  It is considered part of the Triple Crown of Motorsports.

I can remember growing up in Texas and going to the car races on Friday night with my dad. The stands were always packed. The dirt from the racetrack would fly into the stands and the noise was so loud, you couldn't hear yourself think.

I had arrived in Indianapolis in the afternoon and I had decided that I would take Uber and head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  When I go to a new city, I always want to see a site that the city is known for.  To me, that site is the "Indianapolis Motor Speedway".

When I think of the Indy 500, I always think of the movie "Winning" with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner.  Paul Newman's character is a person who would do anything to win the Indianapolis 500 and that meant losing his family.  A lot of the movie was filmed at this racetrack.

As I paid my fee to get into the Speedway, I walked to the Museum.  This museum displays the history of racing and the various cars and race drivers of the Indy 500.  One of the major exhibitions is the "A.J. Foyt Exhibition".  A.J. Foyt was the 1st four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500s.  He won in 1961, 1964, 1967 & 1977.  The cars that he drove to win those races are displayed at the Museum.

The first Indy 500 was on May 30, 1911(Memorial Day). The track was in an open muddy field. There were forty cars in that race.  The winner was Ray Harroun and he won $25,000.  On that day, there were 80,000 spectators that attended this event.  People's love for car racing began on this track.

Before I left the museum, I had my picture taken in a race car.  I had to climb in and sit so low to the ground. I could almost feel the excitement that the drivers have as they slide into the car to begin the race.  Maybe one day I will get to drive a race car around a racing track.

As I left the museum, I headed towards the stand to watch the trials.  Even though, the race is almost a week away, the area was buzzing with vendors, participants and spectators.

After about an hour, I headed back to the hotel to begin to set-up for the Cosmetic Training Event, which was the next day.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Where is Spring?

It has been several weeks since I last posted.  My life for the past three weeks has been filled with visiting family, celebrating my husband's 60th and finishing up Training Seminars for the Spring Season.

This past week Colorado received an abundance of snow.  Here it is the week after Mother's Day. This winter storm(which was named Valerie) dumped 40+ inches of snow in Colorado and Wyoming. It has been recorded as the heaviest late spring storm in 74 years.

What a contrast to see the white snow covering the green grass and colorful flowers.  After the storm, as I drove around I noticed so many tree limbs broken due to the heavy wet snow.  It is already warming up, the snow is melting and the grass is even greener(from the moisture) than it was a week ago.  I enjoyed my walk today as I looked upon the foothills to see the white snow in the distance.

I do hope this is the last snow until November!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Asking God Why

Today was a nice spring day!  The snow from Saturday has already melted and the grass is very lush and green from the moisture.

As I was looking through my photos today, I came across this picture of the yellow hibiscus that I took in Hawaii about a year ago.  Seeing that picture put a smile on my face.  I know that summer is right around the corner.

As I reflected on the various seasons, I thought about the seasons of my own life.  The roller coast of life.  There are those stormy days as well as those bright yellow sun shiny days.

The sermon on Sunday was the continuation of suffering.  The pastor stated "that we sometimes think that falling apart in the midst of suffering demonstrates a lack of faith--that those who trust God most fully won't feel hurt, depression, frustration, disappointment, hopelessness, anger or "Asking God Why".  In the Bible we see that God welcomes honest expressions of sorrow.  Expressing our sorrow and grief isn't a sign of unbelief.  It is a bold demonstration of faith in a God who welcomes us as we are."

The other day I read a story about a woman whose son was killed in a plane accident in 1947.  She just couldn't understand "why this accident happened".    A note from her son arrived a few days after his death.  He had written a note to his mother on a piece of paper he had picked up in the terminal. The paper was a piece of an advertisement with the single word "WHY"? written across the center. The son had written his note to his mother around the "WHY"?

We all have asked God, "Why".  Nothing can ever prepare us for moments when we are devastated from tragic news.

Remember Job.  He lost everything; his children, his livestock, his servants, etc.  He even broke out in boils.  Why?

God is all presence and all sovereign and He is always present!  Keep asking Him.  He is listening. God can handle everything for us.  He wants us to come before Him.

Such as Job, the mother stopped asking "WHY"? when she saw the "WHO"? behind all circumstances.

One day we will know.  Just trust Him.  You will see the light at the end of the tunnel!