Sunday, June 28, 2015


Over the last two months I've spent 9 days in the hospital here in Italy...I had gall bladder surgery.  The experience was most impactful because I was experiencing a completely new "hospital culture"....some of it was nurturing and caring, some of it was traumatizing.   Snapshots below.

*  Saturday night, emergency room, severe abdominal pain--the local hospital has 50 beds, a small guy.  They wanted to admit me for observation, even though no tests would be done until Monday.  I suggested I come back on Monday, but nooooo, they needed to reserve my bed-- with me in it.  WHAAAAT???

OH are expected to bring your own plates, silverware, glass, cup, toilet paper, towel, soap, and WATER, honest, I'm not kidding, WATER.

Luckily, my doctor, Dr. Garafolo, speaks English--she studied in NY and was a godsend.

*  My nights with MacBeth's witches:  I was put into what I call "the death room"...3 other patients, all over 90.  Who didn't sleep.  Who croned incessantly.  These women are not witches, but their voices, in tandem,  were a querulous cacophony, a symphony of pain, unhappiness, loneliness and dementia.  After my second night I told my doc I was going out of my mind...she changed my room.  3 nights to go. 

*  Each room has 4 patients.  The beds have no privacy curtains.  The walls have peeling blue paint.  The doctors' rounds are a public affair, unless you are a family member, in which case you are sent out of the room.  At shift change, the nurses stick their heads in the door, ask anyone if they have a fever and go on to the next room.  No one took my blood pressure the 5 days I was there-aside from the ER.

*  I couldn't eat for 3 days--they were prepping me for a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy.  (remember, nothing would happen until Monday!)

*  There was great celebration when they discovered my gall stones...from the ultrasound that wasn't done until Tuesday--I did have 3 xrays, however. 

*  Fabulous view from the hospital....Le Marche is stunning.

*  SURGERY SCHEDULED in two weeks, then rescheduled for 3, then 4.  ARRRRGH.

*  New hospital.  One roommate.  Check in the day before, not doing anything but chillin' while waiting for the next morning.  No privacy curtains. 

*  They took my blood pressure and temperature at every shift change.  The BP cuff was frayed and worn.  Nurses overworked and underpaid--I know cuz I had that conversation with one of the nurses.

**  here's the big one...I was rolled into the surgical theatre fully friggin' conscious.  Not kidding here...the docs were talking about lunch and what they did last night and I'm staring at those surgical lights and I lost it...I was trying to be strong and brave and grown up, but I couldn't do it any more...sobs erupted out of me, nurses told me to think of something beautiful, and then I got the shot.  shit....a little late.

When I met the surgeon for the follow-up I mentioned my fear, discomfort, and huge vulnerability. (I also told him in America no one goes into surgery conscious.)  He pursed his lips, tisked, shook his head and said, "this is how we do it in Italy.  The only ones unconscious going into the surgery room are babies."  (Me, Me, Me--I'm a baby!!)  Curiously, my friend, Germana, who lives in Bologna, said she never heard of such a thing.  My relatives in Rome said, "next time, you come to Rome.  We've got better doctors here."  (Next time???)   Our friend, Craig, an American who has had 3 surgeries here, said he's always been conscious when rolled into the surgical theatre. 
TOTAL TRAUMA--I couldn't even think about that surgery room for weeks without havin' a melt down.

*  After surgery I kept asking for more pain meds and the nurses told me I didn't need it, that I didn't want to be dependent upon it. FUCK, WHAT??  Where's my friggin' morphine drip????

*  Upon leaving both hospitals I had a list of questions for the doctors--NO ONE ASKS DOCTORS QUESTIONS here.  They were surprised, stopped, refocused on me before going to the next bed, and answered.  It was reminiscent of how things were in the US 40-50 years ago.

Three weeks later:

Okay, the surgery was a more gallstones.  I am slowly reintroducing heretofore disallowed foods into my diet and my body is digesting well.  The laparoscopic incisions have healed.  The incision at my belly button is taking longer to heal, it was more invasive.  And my belly button, well, my belly button is no longer mine.  It's a different shape.  That's gonna wreak havoc on my bikini modeling career.

I chose to have my surgery here...the biggest obstacle--which I should have anticipated, but did not--was learning an entirely new system.  Things are done differently's not what I'm used to and I was pretty vocal--in Italian, thank you very much. 

I learned I can survive and communicate my needs just fine, yeah me!  In a foreign country.  In another language.  My confidence got a heavy dose of "'atta girl."

My care was more than adequate.  The nurses responded to my needs, requests, demands with sensitivity and compassion, the doctors performed their due diligence, the job got done.

The surgery took a lot out of me (as surgeries are wont to do); It aged me.  I wonder if we too blithely succumb to surgery.  Hospitals house pain and vulnerability and deep, visceral fear.  The people who care for us face emotionally-charged situations every minute of every day.  My kudos to you for protecting us and caring for us and curing us.

My Gary was the hero of the day...he was vigilant, confrontive, supportive, vocal (also in Italian, thank you!) and he was by my side, holding my hand the rest of the time.  I couldn't have done it alone, and luckily, I didn't have to.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


I've gone into a freeze mode...I know the signs--sleep, sleep, sleep, do one thing and be done for the day, cuddle up on the couch with a blankey and stare at the tv, eat, not keep up with my communications, shut myself off from all but the necessary daily contacts, not do the things I love to do....

Easter Sunday, on the train to Amsterdam from Brussels, I was struck with intense intestinal cramps.  I assumed it was something I ate, and while seriously uncomfortable, it didn't seem serious-serious.  And it continued, all Sunday and Sunday night, Monday, Monday night, Tuesday, Tuesday night, and so on----You know the question:  What is your pain level on a scale of 1-10?  1 being low, 10 being high?  I was at a constant 5 with shooting intervals of 7-8.  Ugh...

3 AM Monday morning, I knew, with the unrelenting pain, SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE---so I rolled over and poked Gary.  I'm a firm believer in sharing my pain; no need to suffer alone.  Within minutes he was online (thank God we had internet in our apartment) looking for a Dutch doctor--he found an ex-pat clinic around the corner, we sent an email, waited, and in the morning got an appointment....

***a TMI spoiler***I also began to have rectal bleeding and, of course, I was sure I had colon cancer.

Long and the short of it, both doctors (I also went to Urgent Care because I wasn't satisfied I had all the information I needed) said it probably was food poisoning or an intestinal virus that led to a tear in the colon which resulted in the what I eat, if it continues for a week, see a specialist...Phew, great news, a lovely birthday present, although the celebratory dinner was cancelled.  Who could eat???

Throughout the rest of the week in Amsterdam I slowly rebuilt my strength and stamina and was able to see some of the sights and play with our friend, Kathy Brue.

I have never felt so relieved to be "home" as when we landed back in Italy; I breathed deeply and immediately felt better.  I know the system, the people, the language, where to go, who can help....The biggest lesson?  I feel at home here.  I have achieved a comfort level that allows me to face apparently insurmountable obstacles.  Whoa--a HUUUUGE positive lesson.

SOOOO, why the freeze mode?  We were in a strange country--not that The Netherlands is strange, it's just not home--we didn't know who to see, where to go; we didn't know how serious this was--hospitalization serious?  Go back to Italy serious?  Go back to California serious? It's serious now, but it'll pass serious?  I am now hyper-aware of any "movement," monitoring everything I eat, responsive to any tiny twinge of's an obsessive thing that's no fun.  It's getting in the way of living my life.  I don't like it.   So I freeze up.  I'm working on the defrost mode.

Some Fun Amsterdam Facts: 

**we paid out-of-pocket for all the medical bills---
*  90 euro to see the ex-pat Dr.-ON A HOLIDAY
*  26 euro for a blood test
*  200 euro for a lab test
*  100 euro for the Urgent Care visit (and only because we asked if we should pay as we left--we could have walked out and not paid a cent!)
*  0 euro for the phone consult
Total:  416 euro, 3 doctors, 2 tests, 2 clinics

**  We don't have private medical insurance while we're here; so far (knock wood), we've been able to pay out-of-pocket with little impact.

**  English is the national language of The Netherlands; all classes are taught in English and there are English signs for everything..  However, the Dutch like their language...lots of Dutch spoken on the streets.

**  The Dutch of Amsterdam are bike crazy---there are more bikes than people (people, 800,000, bikes, 1,000,000).  The taxi and Uber drivers all say the bicyclists are anarchic--they truly don't care if there's a car coming or a pedestrian in the way, THEY have the right-of-way(!).

**  Amsterdam is a very clean city...very little graffiti, no trash in the streets.  It's lovely.

**  The tulips are in bloom and absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful.  The Van Gogh Museum is stunning, the Rijks Museum had a beautiful Rembrandt exhibit, and the Anne Frank Museum is a moving testimony to the indestructability of the human spirit.

**  Spring has arrive in Le Marche and I have nature exploding all around me.

With all this bounty, beauty and creativity around me, why wouldn't I set the defrost button???


Friday, July 4, 2014


In the last 14 months Gary has demonstrated at 3 different Makeup conventions...United Makeup Artists Expo in London, April, 2013, United Makeup Artists Expo in London, April, 2014, and International Makeup Artists Trade Show, London, June, 2014.  Each convention has been a different experience and with a little distance, I think I see a picture developing....


UMAE, APRIL, 2013:

This was Gary's first demo which he undertook because they offered professional photography portfolio pictures.  He spent about a month in preparation with a test run here in Italy before setting off to London to do the real thing.  In London he was set up in an area at the back of the convention hall, away from the madding crowds, with a makeup chair and a table....simple, efficient, adequate.  Nothing luxurious, nothing special.

Skye, Lizard Lady

VANILLA:  simple, unassuming, unsurprising, yet layered.  Gary's goals were clear:  create a makeup within a 4 hours period that was clean, film-worthy, stage-worthy, mettle-testing.  (oh yeah, and made great photos).  This makeup was about the art, the work, the makeup.  Like Vanilla, it was pure, clean, deceptively simple, delicious, unencumbered--both the experience and the art were Vanilla.

He successfully met his goals for he was asked by Chris McGowan, one of UMAE's organizers, to demo at the 2014 Convention, Duh, yeah!!

UMAE, APRIL, 2014:

Gary was asked to do two, count 'em, two demos this year!  An honor, and he was to do his demos in the MONSTERPOOLZA booth--wowee zowee!  When he arrived the first day, he was set up toward the back of the convention center, at the front of the MonsterPalooza Booth, next to the scary monster set with theatre lights!!

His Saturday demo was a zombie, with ever-faithful model, Toby...Gary had prepped the pieces, conceived a "look," and had done a test run in California a few months before.  His goals: create and apply a viable makeup.  Success!!

Toby, Zombie Man

Sunday's demo was a little more complicated.  With lovely Skye as model, Gary was using pieces he'd never worked with before, a forehead and muzzle piece donated by Neill Gorton's Millennium FX Shop.  He conceived and created the horns and wig piece to complement Neill's pieces and make the makeup uniquely his own.  With many messages back and forth, Skye brought a costume that fit the concept, Sian helped with the hair and nails, and viola!  a sexy demon was born. The Goals:  create a full character, use heretofore unused pieces well, make invisible seams, utilize new painting techniques learned at Neill's Bootcamp.  Success!!

Skye, Sexy Demon Woman

CHOCOLATE: rich and gooey, decadent, delicious

It was a heady experience, this one...the work was good, the complements flew, shoulders were rubbed.  Like Chocolate, it was a fuller experience, moving beyond the mono-flavor into a deeper, more textured, more satisfying palate pleaser.  The emphasis changed from simply creating a good makeup to creating a good makeup that attracted attention and elevated G's rep as a makeup artist.

A few weeks after the convention, Neill Gorton asked Gary to demonstrate at the IMATS in June.  This is a big whoop---first, because Neil asked Gary, second, because he'd be rubbing elbows with some heavy-hitters in the Special FX world, and thirdly, it was an opportunity to prove he has the chops to play with the big boys.


Because this invitation came on the heels of the Prosthetics Boot Camp, Gary decided to incorporate all the steps and techniques learned there to create his makeup.  (Those of you who follow him on FB are intimately familiar with the step-by-step process he used to create his makeup, so I won't detail those steps here.)   His concept was an aged Klingon Warrior-turned-Soothsayer--blinded after he sustained a wound.

There is a back story here---20 years ago Gary had the opportunity to show Michael Westmore, Star Trek Makeup guru, his Klingon makeup.  Mr. Westmore gave G some advice, told him to do it again, then bring it back to him.  Gary never followed through--(the Road Not Taken?)--and he has regretted it ever since.  His major goal at IMATS was to create a Klingon Makeup Star Trek worthy, oh yeah, and play with the big boys.

The entire process took about 6 weeks, almost every day, all day, for six weeks.  This included researching, conceiving, utilizing new techniques, coordinating costume pieces (thank you, Skye!), buying fur, designing hair for the head and the eyebrows and mustache, finding people willing to help.  He knew he couldn't do it alone...and people stepped up. 

**Note about Gary** he HATES to ask for help, he HATES not being able to do everything himself, he HATES being beholden to anyone for anything....soooo, the fact he asked, and that people stepped up, was a major event for him.

But...things he had depended upon did not materialize, people who had committed to helping, didn't, people who should have supplied support, wouldn't.

So he kicked it into gear--unplanned things happen, you've always got to be ready with 2-3-4 back up plans---among those plans was to ask makeup artists attending the convention if they would step in and help.  So Guilia, Daniel, Carl and Ina  jumped in, gave of their time, their talents, their advice, and committed to the goal.  Testing professional mettle means solving problems....yeah Gar!  Problems solved!

Guilia, Gary, Daniel working on Toby---
who says he feels like he's getting a Spa Treatment
when he's modeling. (Carl in the background)

Gary and Toby with finished makeup

Toby, for a moment, out of character!

CHOCOLATE-CARAMEL SWIRL WITH CASHEWS:  complex flavors, contrasting textures, salty and sugary and smooth and crunchy.

This experience was like life, full of contrasts and contradictions;  enervating and uplifting; valuable and debilitating; frustrating and fulfilling; painful and joyful; exhausting and energizing; satisfying and unsatisfying. 

Were his goals met?  Mostly.  Was the makeup a success?  Yes!  What's next???  We don't know....

What I do know is this adventure has brought my husband joy and pleasure and validation and confidence.  I'm not sure you can expect a hell of a lot more from any adventure...I'm looking forward to the next flavor!
Eat Well, Travel Often

Monday, June 23, 2014


It's been a tumultuous weekend.....

Our neighbor, Claudio, died on Friday of an unexpected and brief illness. 

Claudio was a robust, full-hearted Marchegiano--(of our region, Le Marche)--and he was the heart of our little burg.

He always greeted us with a full-throttled, "Buon Giorno," and he loved to talk---drifting in the window, his conversations were a comforting backdrop to summer breezes and daily life.   These last few days I've missed his voice---and what a voice!  A distinctive, thin, high-pitched, nasal voice--full of life and vigor and energy, uniquely his.

He was curious...about our visitors and flying in an airplane and what it was like driving in London and what Paris was like in spring and what we eat when we're in California.  He wasn't sophisticated or well-travelled, but he was a good businessman, a good man.

Claudio was emotional: he still teared up when he talked about his wife who died 20 years ago and was speechless when he saw his great-grandchildren.  He was proud of his son, Silvano, and daughter-in-law, Laura, the new house they've built from scratch, and of the successful business he conceived and grew to support his family.

But mostly, Claudio was kind.  He was unassuming and grounded and quirky and full of life.  We will miss him.


The funeral service was on Saturday at our local church, L'Abbadia di San Ruffino; it was a full-on Catholic mass and the church was packed, which made my heart happy.  (I guess living in one place for 80 years you get to know a lot of people!)

Trying to follow the liturgy (it was all in Italian), my mind drifted off--watching the other mourners, looking at the church (in existence since Roman times), and feeling the calm of the service and the people.  Not being of any particular religious persuasion, I am fascinated, curious and moved by the comfort ritual brings to those in pain.  Ritual provides calm in the midst of chaos; it brings the known to the unknown; it provides the strength, compassion and will to move ahead; Rituals offer solace and succor.

I believe we all need to believe in something greater than ourselves; but I also believe that something is different for everyone and we are responsible for finding that something for ourselves.


All this before noon on Saturday.....

then we had a meeting scheduled with the plumber and the builder for the bathroom renovation project @ 12:30....they were late, it was, I walked around the garden and saw our family snake...yep, you read that correctly.  I've been talking to everyone about this friggin' snake and told them it was a meter long and looked exactly like a viper (me and Google are very good friends on the VIPER SNAKE SEARCH) and EVERYONE, to a person, pats me (figuratively or literally) on the head and tells me to stai tranquilla, stay calm, we don't have meter-long snakes in Italy.  And, vipers don't get that big....don't get hysterical you American woman who knows nothing about snakes.

So there was my snake--I got my camera and took the picture below....

Creepy, huh?  and at least a meter long!

 I took my trusty camera to dinner with me that evening and showed my snake around...Luciana, the chef at the restaurant, called in a local snake expert.  Our snake, I think I'll call him Creepy, is a water snake.  They're not dangerous, but will bite if provoked---I'm not getting that close.  But I will check daily to see if Creepy is still sunning  himself so I can sto tranquilla.


Sunday Morning:

Think of it as a Rose Parade Float on the ground...Servigliano, a medieval walled town close by, celebrates The Feast of Corpus Christi by laying out flowers on the streets around the main piazza.  When the mass is over, the celebrants walk out of the church, in a procession, and through the flowers.   We went early and caught the residents mid-decorating, a communal labor of love.  A beautiful counterpoint to a tumultuous few days.

People are responsible for decorating the street in front of their homes.
People ask me all the time, what do you do while you're in Italy?  We live.  We go to the grocery store and the gym, cook, have guests over, go to our book club, take walks, go to the beach, make paper....This last weekend has plunged us into Italian life fully, encompassing the joys and the sorrows.  We live.  We grab every minute and squeeze tight.  We live.

Eat Well, Travel Often

Tuesday, April 22, 2014



Falmouth, Cornwall, UK, March 29-April 4, 2014

“Fantastic,” “Amazing,” “How does he do that?” NOTE: An English accent adds the correct cadence to this….now, read it again. See? The mundane is elevated to a new level…why does an English accent do that??

We were at the informal inauguration of the Gorton Studio in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK; a preface to Gary’s week-long Boot Camp/Master Class in Special Effects MakeUp. Neill Gorton was doing an old-age demo and the invitees were makeup artists, wanna-be makeup artists, community members, spouses (that would be me), and friends.

The energy was a combination of laid-back informality (help yourself to a sandwich or a glass of wine), awe-struckedness (is that a word?)—BAFTA awards on the wall --, awkward-wanting-to-connect-but-not-be-too-eager-ness, and egoism (be real, this was a room full of artists). But, of course, the main attraction was Neill. (for a full bio of Neill's work, go to or --both his companies-- worth a read!)

Neill doing an old-age makeup
(in red)--notice the intense looks!

more rapt-ness
Neill and his wife, Lisa, are lovely people--gracious, generous, kind and consummate professionals.  I've always thought the people with whom one surrounds him/herself reflects basic, essential character...and the people who work closely with Neill and Lisa--Danny, Hazel, Anthony--are talented, hard-working, gracious, generous professionals.  And Gary got to spend a week in this rarified company---Makeup Heaven!!
Which takes us to London, April 5 and 6, to the United Makeup Artists Expo--Gary was scheduled to do two makeup demos (if you're following him on FB, you've got the whole scoop!) and it was fascinating to be on the outside looking in....Reflected Glory
Gary attracting a crowd

Makeup #1: Zombie--
model, Toby

Toby in full-on makeup

Makeup #2--Demon
Model Skye sans makeup
first prosthetic piece applied
(Large prosthetic pieces sponsored by Neill Gorton)

Large pieces on
2nd prosthetic piece

plus horns

finished Demon Makeup

I had fun bein' the wife (and official Gary photographer):  I got to be in on the process (Gary making the hairpiece the night before), I got to watch both makeups come to fruition (from concept to reality), I got to relish his success, I got to meet a bunch of interesting people, I got to stay outside of the hustle and bustle while all-the-while being firmly on the inside.  Gary's reflected glory rubbed off on me---

So when I began this blog entry, I was critical, nay dismissive and disdainful, of this thing called Reflected Glory; I felt above it, better than it, beyond it...and when I honestly tried to put words to feelings, I was blocked.  I was conflicted.  I wanted to be above it and beyond it, but in this modern world people are attracted to people who are successful.  For oh-so-many reasons.

So I embrace it.  I enjoy having successful people in my life.  I like being a part of something bigger than me.  I like being in worlds larger than mine.  And I know I'm not alone....I'm just luckier than most.

Gary and his Demon, Neill with his Flying Monkey
the week began and ended with Neill
Eat Well, Travel Often


Monday, March 24, 2014


First of all, I want to thank all of you who keep asking about my next post---wowee, even I was surprised at how long it's been since I published something.  My friend Karin asked me why I haven't been writing lately and my response?  Life is good and I'm happy.

But we've just had a fabulous trip to Thailand and had many, many adventures--if I don't get some of them down on paper, I'm afraid I'll lose them!  With your indulgence, installment #1.



The first leg of the trip back to Italy was Bangkok to Istanbul, 11 we settled in with books and movies and airplane food, girding our loins for the duration---you know the feeling, the timeless, interminable, other-worldly suspension of reality--we were rested and happy and aglow from our trip, so no matter how long the flight was, we were in the Zen-zone.

Dinner service was erratic and the crew seemed distracted, but we chalked it up to Turkish temperament (contrasted to Thai smiles and graciousness) and forged ahead with red wine.  Then came the announcement, "Is there a Doctor on the airplane?  If so, please talk to the nearest steward."  Always distressing.  But as I looked around, things were calm and apparently under control.

An hour later another announcement:  "Due to a passenger in need of medical care, we will be making an unscheduled stop in Delhi."  Then they showed the map of the flight and THAT was disconcerting---the plane literally was making a U-turn.  Craned necks, whispered chatter, purposeful movement, the doctor with his stethoscope, heads together in confidential talk, and closed curtains before us....and the passengers never once groaned or whined or winced or complained--NOT ONCE.

The medical emergency added 3 hours to the flight; our 11 hours turned into 14 and we landed in Istanbul at 9 PM with nerves shattered and tired and cranky and stiff--our Zen was long gone.  The Greeks were angry with the Turks for having to buy Visas to stay overnight in the country, we all had to manipulate the huuuuge Istanbul Airport and get through passport and immigration, and then Gary and I had the challenge of a surly Turkish taxi driver who didn't know where our hotel was.

We had a few ugly moments when we landed in Istanbul---that tired, cranky thing---but get through it we did.

And on the other side of it was a reminder of the universal humanity that connects us.  I'm sure every single passenger on that plane couldn't help but think, "What if that was me? What if it was my husband or wife or child?"  In the end, no one begrudged that sick passenger the 3 hours; no one resented the loss of sleep or a missed connection; everyone applauded the action and need to save a life.  We do what has to be done; the bigger issues overshadow minor inconveniences.

We lost our Thai calm and found our connection to 500 strangers.  It was a good flight home.

Postscript:  We never knew what was wrong with the passenger and we will never know if he or she survived.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


This last month has been a whirlwind of travel...I think Ryanair should pay ME for flying with them! But now that I've had a moment to breathe, the things that stand out from our trips are the Artists and Artisans we met, discovered and rediscovered along the way.


The first heart palpitation hit when we were in The Little Museum in Dublin and came across a photo of Samuel Beckett--that in itself set my heart a-beatin'--but the accompanying post card sealed the deal....

     The homework assignment:  write a letter to a person who lived in your house before you did    (remember those assignments?)  Well for this kid, it was Beckett!  And he, Beckett, responded--

"If you ever meet my ghost in house or grounds,
give it my regards...yours antiquatedly, Sam Beckett"
Don't ya love it??  Generosity of spirit peppered with a sense of humor and lots of heart....ahhhh.

The images were burned to my eyelids.  My head was pounding.  My blood sugar was low...I couldn't do another Dali without food.  We had to break up our visit to the Reina-Sofia's traveling Dali exhibit into two 3 hour blocks to maintain our connection to the real world.  The ants, disintegrated phones, dismembered bodies, monsters, real and imagined, cascaded, one upon the other, grabbing me by the throat and thrashing me about.  It took me days to shake off the impact....To give you an idea, after the Dalis, we went to see Picasso's Guernica---I gotta tell ya, it is tame (but certainly powerful) compared to Dali's Premonition of Civil War....


All in one day, all in one place...both Dali AND Picasso...master works of each?  Madrid is a wonderful city!!

Then we had the pleasure of discovering---for us it was a discovery, for Art Historians not so much---Juaquin' Sorolla and his home which has been converted into a lovely jewel box of a museum, also in the heart of Madrid, away from the Museum District.  Sorolla combined the artistic aesthetic with a profound home life which informed his work, his studio and his vision.  Whether it was the lovely, sunny day or the relief from assaulting images or the delicious garden or the adventure of finding a new place in a big city, it was a perfect Sunday afternoon.


We decided long ago to stop buying touristy crap...I have no room for it in my house and it gets stuck in a corner and gathers dust only to end in the trash in a year or two.  Instead, we search for local artists and artisans whose work is specific to the place and we can either use or look at regularly, i.e. we bought hand-painted Cypriot bowls in which we serve ice cream and we hand-knitted sweaters in Ireland to wear on cold, cold days.

So, how excited was I to see a sign, "Milliner," in Kilkenny, Ireland, right across the street from the castle.  (We like castles in my family and stop for every one we see!)  I've never visited a real, live Milliner before.  Rebekah Patterson makes hats- yes, she makes hats.  Who makes hats these days?  Many of them are works of art, spun sugar and lace and feathers and yes, I was seduced.  I bought one of her hats.  She is a charming, warm Irish woman dedicated to her craft, bringing fantasy and frivolity to your head!

   See the sign?? The hat?   It's a sculpture--we thought of displaying it on a pedestal.
                                                                                                          Cute hats, huh??
You can find more of Rebekah's work at
or The Wishing Bone Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland

Add together an English ex-pat, a Laguna Beach-type village, the wild, untamed Atlantic off the shores of Connemara, Ireland, and you've got...Art, fused glass art.  The Connemara Blue Gallery, run by Ben Cross, who, by the way, is on his 3rd or 4th career, found something that fed his passions--the beauty of Ireland, the inspiration of Miro', and firing glass.  An intimate gallery that features his glass creations and textiles made by his wife, The Connemara Blue Gallery offers the visitor unique, one-of-a-kind pieces.  Yeah, we've got several small ones--we were, unfortunately, guided by flight restrictions.
You can find out more about The Connemara Blue Gallery and Ben Cross at
And now to the artist/artisan closest to my heart, my husband.  Gary attended the United Makeup Artists Expo in London the first week of April where he was demonstrating a new piece.  Weeks, he (and consequently me), spent weeks prepping for this convention.  First the design phase, the trial phase, the finishing phase, the test phase....getting the model phase, putting the makeup on, taking it off (not an easy phase), and what about the costume phase?  Gary was working without most of his supplies (because they're in California), so it was "MacGyver Time," finding creative ways to make non-theatrical makeup things work on prosthetic/silicone pieces.  The piece?  A Lizard Woman.  The concept?  Melding beauty makeup with creature makeup to create a new being.

I am unspeakably proud of Gary's work...he has the courage to know when his work is not perfect and the strength of conviction to commit to redoing it until it meets his standards.   His new-found humility provided him opportunities, opportunities that allowed him to see the makeup artist he wants to be, and the strength to explore that heady realm.

Art and Artists fed our souls this last month.  We looked into the heart of beauty and rage and love, we saw the worlds of family and nature through new eyes, the creative spirit sparked discussion and envy and insight.  We are fuller and richer for it.