Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Beauty of Another Sort

While I transfer, adjust, organize and edit my Italy photos, please enjoy this breathtaking video.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Arrivederchi Pienza

We leave Pienza tomorrow, heading for a quick 24 hr stay in Florence before heading home Monday. It has been the most beautifully visual week I have ever had, shared wth the most warm and wonderful students. I truly have been blessed. I am looking forward to sharing it with you when I return home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tower Tracks

just wanted to share this photo so you get a sense of the tower stairs. Round & round we go.
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Mission Accomplished

One of my main goals on this trip to Tuscany was to get my own copyright free photo of this "famous" chapel. I did it, I did it! I feel complete. Of course as famous sights go, it's nowhere near as dramatic as the others these eyes have seen. Just today my husband and I climbed to the top of the Torre del Mangia, the City Tower in Siena. 300 steep marble steps to the top where you are rewarded for your effort with one of Italy's most dramatic views.
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It is hot here, and after that climb I was, shall we say, 'glowing' profusely. While we were standing under the lightening rod on the top of the tower, the thunder rumbled and the heavens provided me with a refreshing, cleansing rain. No worries (remember that phrase from Australia?), it was time to head back to the tour bus anyway. The mile walk back to the bus was broken up by a gelato stop and a visit to an actual art & craft shop - yes craft! I wanted an art supply souvenir of my trip and ended up with authentic Terra de Siena naturale. Add that to the vintage Italian linen fabric I scored at the market and this gal is going home, fabric and pigment.

Yet it's not time to leave yet. We still have 2 days of class and another field trip to Montalcino for their market day on Saturday. Then it's off to Florence Sunday for a whirlwind 24 hours there before we fly home on Monday. There so much to tell you and so many things to show you, including the gorgeous, to-die-for books my class is creating. I hope you can wait!

Monday, May 21, 2007


I'm here! I've only spent 4 days exploring Tuscany and yet it feels like home. That movie i so TRUE! You do fall in love with the country - at least this part of it. I have visited towns whose name I don't even remember. We packed so much into 3 days that i have to look back on my notes and mementoes to remember it all. Volterra, Montepulchiano and of course Pienza stand out in my mind. We arrived here around noon yesterday, dropped our bags so the car my brother-in-law rented wouldn't scrape the road and then headed to Montepulchiano. We were back here by 6 in time for dinner with my group of the most remarkable students. They hail from Norway, Scotland, UK, Australia and of course the US...especially Texas. There's a strong Texas contingency here, but only 2 travelled together. The others are becoming friends as I write.

I sit here in my gorgeous hotel room windows wide open to th evening air, watching the swallows fly. They don't stay in Capistrano... I had always heard of the colors of Tuscany and even made my journal in what I thought the colors were. But until you see it, you cannot understand, nor appreciate the beauty of it all. I have experienced too many things (movies, books, etc) that did not live up to their ledgend, but Tuscany does.

We have had our first day of class and other than being inside all day, it was perfect. I'm off to dinner now. Ciao, bella.
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Thursday, May 17, 2007


Today I depart for Italy ~ once a dream, now a reality. I am a sponge, ready to absorb it all. To drink in the color, the sights, the history and culture. This is my Italian journal, crafted with rich Tuscan color, luscious painted pages waiting to be filled with musings, memories, mystery and wonder. A simple book structure, really, able to expand and grow with me along the way.

I may have internet access. I may have time to blog. But then again, I may just be too immersed in the experience to deal with modern technology...Ciao, bella.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Moving Day

welcome back to MDThe Rileys have returned to Maryland - the Brian Rileys that is. They return one day and I leave the next for Italy ~ such is the life of Riley (anyone old enough to remember that show?) But I was here for the big day and that's what matters most to me. They arrived on Mothers Day, making it one of the best ever ~ I had all of my children here, something that becomes rare as they grow up and spread their wings.

Like a good grandma, I documented their arrival at their new house. They were eager to get upstairs and pick out their bedrooms. Annie had won the right to first choice and ended up picking the one that Emma didn't want. Everyone was happy! Then I made their momma & daddy even happier by whisking the girls off to lunch and my last-minute-before-leaving-town errands, so their parents could have a bit of time alone in the house - at least until the baby woke from her nap.annie chooses a winnerwelcome home
my new roomIt was a perfect day, even the weather deserved a standing O. It was a day that I will store in my heart as I travel across the ocean to another land of beauty. In Italy I will experience many more memorable days that I will tuck away. It's a good thing a heart never fills.

PS I have received a few comments on my unintended but meaningful misspelling of college in my last post. Instead of correcting it, I think I'll leave it - college IS a collage, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Betwixt & Between

dressed for Renaissance Day at schoolYesterday I took my daughter to buy a bathing suit ~ Memorial Day and the opening of pools everywhere is not that far off. Last year she was into coverage. This was bikini year. Not itsy bitsy, but a bikini nonetheless. As the mother of 4 daughters, I have shopped for many, many bathing suits over the years. I have watched and experienced the self-confidence and modesty issues that surround bathing suits - both theirs and mine.

I was surprised by the fact that she did not appear at all uncomfortable wearing a bikini. While I had the typical mother reaction of "too-much-skin," I was at the same time proud that she feels confident and secure about her body. With the pressure our society puts on young girls and body image, it is rare for a girl (or woman) of any age to feel comfortable in her body. As she was checking herself out in the mirror, I was debating whether to say something about too-much-skin. If I did, would it make her question her body? would her self-confidence melt? would it give rise to insecurity? I'm lucky that she is still at the age that she values my opinion, wants to please me and actually follows what say. She trusts me. I trust her. I don't want to upset that - the balance betwixt girlhood and between womanhood. Betwixt & between = my tween.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Altered fabric collageAs I prepare and pack for Italy, I cannot help but think of my next trip. I'll be heading back to Idyllwild, CA in July to teach a 3-day class on Fabric Collage.

You can read my initial impressions here. It's in July, the midpoint in the year, the half-way marker for this, my last year of teaching for a while. Being at Idyllwild feels like you are on top of the world. It is the highest point I have travelled to, atop a mountain in Southern California. The air is so clear and crisp, a refuge from the summer heat and smog in the cities below. Last year I shared its beauty with my husband. This year we are taking my 12 year old daughter, Kelly, with us. We are still such neophyte travellers, my husband and I. Each vista, town, locale, we see through the eyes of a child.

Idyllwild vistaMy oldest, Brian, backpacked across Europe during a semester off from collage so many years ago. Child #2, Sara, spent time teaching in Turkey and Nicaragua. Chris's talent with the soccer ball got him and his team to Italy & Brazil. And Sam saw Italy with a high school sponsored trip her junior year. But the parents? We had barely stepped beyond the familiar east coast until in recent years my art became the catalyst to expand our world. In 5 days we are off across the ocean to a land of ancient civilization. "O the places you'll go" pops into mind. And I say, "Oh the places I've been." I am full of wonder. Life is WONDERful.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

On the Road Again

El Naturalista travelling shoes
Yep, I bought another pair. One can never have too many comfortable shoes. This pair traveled to Chicago and Hampton, VA with me this past week. It was a whirlwind - Chicago Monday thru Thursday, home by 9 pm Thursday, throw dirty clothes in the wash (along with my cell phone), repack, get new cell phone and arrive in Virginia for Art & Soul by 5 pm Friday (a 3+ hr drive). Teach 3 days, then head home Tuesday by way of the Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery. Now it's time to prepare and pack for Italy.
contemplative angelThe cemetery is beautiful but a bit of a disappointment as there were hardly any angels there. But the ones I did find made the trip worthwhile. The cemetery is so named because of the proliferation of holly trees on the grounds. The only celebrities there are Presidents Monroe & Tyler, Jefferson Davis (Confederate States President) and several VA governors. I snapped a few photos and headed home ~ home sweet home.

time for reflectionI was hosted in Chicago by the lovely ladies of the North Suburban Needlearts Guild. Energetic Maggie Weiss arranged my visit and whisked me off after my lecture on Monday to see "the bean" at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. It was great actually seeing parts of Chicago. Usually I am stuck at the convention center and hotel but on this trip I actually saw the city and even had the chance to walk along the beach of Lake Michigan, just a block from my hostess, Jeanne Reed's home.

It was cold and windy on the beach, but I knew I would be sorry if I did not stick my toe in the Lake. It's my thing now, to be "in" as many bodies of water as I can, to mark my travels physically as well as mentally. I have a new awareness of travel and a sense of being in a place that I have not had before. In many ways, so much is happening in my life right now that I cannot absorb it all fast enough. It has not really, truly sunk in that I have been to Australia and New Zealand and in just 8 days, I am off to Italy. I want to ponder over and feel the wonder of all these experiences, yet my schedule and family keep me totally in the present moment. Lake Michigan majestyPerhaps this summer, or maybe not even until next year, the year I take off from teaching, will I find the open mental spaces for the contemplation time I seek.

I have been so blessed with all that has happened these past few years since I began to follow my heart and share with others the magic and wonder that comes from making art. I have met many beautiful, loving, open and giving people and seen worlds and wonders I never expected to see. To all of you who have been a part of it and have crossed my path, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.