Vacanze Romane (Roman Holiday) with Stacey and Wendy

My oldest friend Wendy from L.A. showed up in Cortona last week. Our mothers were best friends, and introduced us to each other when I was two years old and she was one. We were the best of friends all through our childhood and saved each others’ asses in our respective dysfunctional households.  Our sleepovers were a torrent of constant giggling until our mothers would scream at us and threaten to separate us if we didn’t “settle down.” That just fueled the fire and hours of hysterical giggling would continue.


Modern Day Slumber Party in Cortona July 2013

So Wendy, after doing the European vacation of a lifetime with her husband and two grown sons, shipped them home, and came to me. We have not seen each other in 10 years, but we picked right back up from where we left off and regressed to our childhood selves immediately.  We have been laughing non stop.  IMG_8730


We decide it might be a good idea to go have a Roman Holiday for 24 hours. I was just there a minute ago, but why not? It will be a FUN adventure.


We arrive at our lovely Navona Palace Residenze di Charme, in the heart of Piazza Navona. It was fantastic, luxurious B and B,  great room, all was perfect.


Off to see the town. First stop: some incredible random Baroque church.


Madonna painting in a gilded frame. Looks like one of my books. Or my books look like a church. The lines are pretty blurry there, which came first: books or church. Who cares.


I am not a “religious” person, but I do enjoy getting into the catholic swing of things, crossing myself upon entering a church, and usually offering up a candle to whomever or whatever moves me in the moment.

Next stop: another form of worship, a chic Roman clothing boutique.



Beautiful clothes, beautiful store.  Another prayer entirely.

Since the previous clothing boutique was way out of both of our budgets, we head into ZARA, where if you pick and choose wisely, no one knows the difference.


We find matching striped linen jackets, and continue our mothers’ obsession: dressing us like twins. We each buy a matching striped linen jacket for 39,50 euro. Not bad.



Kind of Audrey Heburn-ish if one squints and ignores the current day autos and motorcycles.


We ran across these same stupidine tourists several times in various parts of town, Americans unfortunately, what an atrocity. How anyone could behave like such an idiot in an Italian city or anywhere else in Europe is an embarrassment beyond belief.


Wendy’s idea of high fashion. Just kidding.

15One more incredible ancient building.


The ladies are headed out for the evening.


The next morning with not nearly enough sleep, we hit the streets of Rome again, first stop, Piazza della Rotonda, home to the Pantheon.


Lunch at Di Rienzo, wonderfully elegant restaurant next to the Pantheon.


Antique souvenir spoons from Rome, one of my many obsessions and weaknesses. A true pleasure however, to come across.



Modern day Roman Holiday Vespa action.


The last few hours of our Vacanze Romane, an adventure in some obscure clothing boutique on the way to the train station.  We find countless wonderful dresses, entertaining the delightful Roman saleswoman while her stronzo boss stood up front, reading the newspaper, with a grumpy pout on his face the whole time.

We made her day with our antics. Wendy takes a pair of 1960’s mod pants in the dressing room while Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” is simultaneously playing. The dressing room curtain whips open and Wendy flies out doing a John Travolta Saturday Nite Fever Disco, whirling and twirling around the store.  The two Iranian customers’ jaws drop (they warmed up later and started giggling) the saleswoman had the best day working for the shithead/stronzo ever, and I am dying on the floor in hysterical laughter.


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This had to be one of the funnier experiences of my life.

We spend some money, tell the asshole boss that he has an employee that is made of gold and we race out of there, catch our train home to Cortona.

A long and twenty fours hours later, we arrive at Casa San Marco late Thursday night crawling up the steps to the front door.

FUN Mission Accomplished.

<p><a href=”″>MVI 3403</a> from <a href=”″>stacey mattraw</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Welcome to Rome

IMG_8523Rome is amazing.

I have been here two days, jet lagged, but happy to be here.

The adventure started with Luftanza losing Jesse’s bag. He was not happy. Per fortuna, I suggested to him that he bring a change of clothes in his backpack.  His bag will show up someday.

1IMG_8526Now he is a bit happier, Francesco and Micaela from Cortona have arrived.


Now, everyone is happy, having the first incredible meal of the trip, at my favorite local trattoria, Trattoria da Enzo (thanks Lisabette and Jaime!) Melt in your mouth Burrata (a type of mozzarella, insomma) Carciofi e fiori di zucca. Da morire- to die for. If you are ever in Rome, do not miss this place. This is not a heavily touristed trattoria, a good sign.


Day 2.

I am up at the crack of dawn and explore the neighborhood. There is a wonderful quality about being up early in any Italian city or town. It is a more local and authentic atmosphere. Here, Roman businessmen going to work in their elegant attire, shopkeepers  washing the sidewalk in front of their stores, workers slamming down the first caffe in the bars.  Not many tourists are up yet. Heaven.

Second caffe of many to come this morning, Gran Caffe’ Santos.  A fitting name. It is truly a caffe of saints.

IMG_8531Castel Sant’Angelo.IMG_8482


The timbrificio, sign maker, complete with baby doll in the corner of his display window. Why he has a baby doll there is anyones guess, but it caught my eye immediately.


Just another fantastic courtyard that I saw from the street.

IMG_8535Newspaper man.


Piazza Navona. Usually crowded with people, a scene. This morning, practically no one.


Fontana di Quattro Fiumi by one of my all time favorite sculptors, Gian Lorenzo Bernini.


The church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone by Francesco Borromini.  Evidently the two artists/architects were rivals, and Bernini could not stand the atrocity that was this church across the way from his fountain. Bernini created this guy, with a gesture of his hand pointed towards the church clearly saying “Che schifo!” or what a mess! His expression is one of distain and disgust. A big fuck you from Bernini to Borromini. Love that.


IMG_8542And the wonderful Chiostro di Bramante, around the corner from where we are staying.


My third caffe of the morning at Caffe della Pace, a very old established caffe. I settle down at one of the outside tables, with wi-fi connection and proceed to write this post. Life is good today.


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Twenty Four Hours in San Francisco


  My boys

Jesse, Corey and I flew to San Francisco on Monday for to take an Italian exam, the CELI A2, an official language test to show adequate competency of the Italian language. With this certificate, one is eligible for a “CARTA DI SOGGIORNO” or a kind of Italian Green Card, permitting one to live in the country for five years until the renewal process,  instead of every two years, which we do now. For the past eleven years, we have to go thru this bureaucratic pain in the ass every two years, always an “adventure”, and completely stressed-filled and anxiety producing for me.  No one else in my family seems terribly bothered, my boys are just are annoyed they have to wake up early and go to the dingy government office building in Arezzo, the official headquarters of the Questura, the government branch that deals with immigration. That said, if we pass this test, it SHOULD reduce this ridiculous bi-annual procedure to every five years. Then the boys could only have to wake up early once every five years.

But to get this CARTA DI SOGGIORNO would be a major feat, a prodezza! What a dream it would be!

We arrived at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in downtown San Francisco and were met by Antonia F., who gave us the four hour exam. Once again, I am completely stressed out, knowing that these are high stakes, and we need to pass this test. The boys are non-plussed, having taken a million tests in the past many years, much harder than this.

I, on the other hand, have not taken a test in diversi anni (a nebulous, undefined amount of MANY YEARS, MANY!) I am sweating bullets, and it doesn’t help that the directions to the various sections of the exam make no sense, true to Italian form. There is no way to actually complete parts of this test properly. There is not enough information OR clear direction.

I am certain some underpaid government employee designed this test.

Or some professor that was in a hurry to get home to pranzo at 1 pm.

2 Jesse feigning a studious nature.

The worst was the essay question.

They give specific sentences with verbs that were not conjugated, you had to make up a story using ALL of their sentences and conjugate the verbs into “passato prossimo” or recent past. Well, that is easy. But the catch is, the story could be no less than 70 words and no more than 80 words.

However, all the sentences required that they give you added up to about 69 words. By the time you conjugate the verbs into passato prossimo, you can not possibly arrive at an essay under 89 words.  I know, I tried 7 different ways on scratch paper. Impossibile!

So my anxiety is thru the roof, I am tearing my hair out, trying to get this essay into 80 words and can’t, so I surrender, cut and chop words wherever I can, arriving at a final word count of 87, hoping for the best.

Jesse and Corey finished the exam an hour ahead of time, and went over to the comfy couches and did whatever they do on their Iphones. I finish up the test, with only seconds remaining, knowing that I made mistakes but praying that I passed the exam and that they passed it as well.

Antonia does not seem to know what percentage of correct answers one needs to pass to get the A2 certificate Italian Language Competency.  But she has only been working at the Istituto Italiano for two months. It is an official branch of the Universita’ di Perugia, and corporate offices are in Perugia, Italy. She then tells us she has not been paid by the Universita’ in her two months of working there.  Things move slowly in Italy. I thought I could get the results of this test in a few minutes and be on my way to my CARTA DI SOGGIORNO -the Grand Premio, or prize.  What was I thinking? Evidently, it doesn’t work that way. I may be waiting two months as well or when everyone returns from Ferragosto, the official Italian summer holiday where all work stops in August.

But the adventure was fun, and as always in Italy, things somehow manage to always out, so I think I will just believe that we somehow passed this test and someday, un domani, we will get our five year CARTA DI SOGGIORNO.

IMG_8383Tram ride back to the airport


IMG_8350Corey KNOWS it will all work out

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Sweet Last Day in Toscana

Even though it has been a month, I want to post about a most magnificent day right before I came back to the USA. I had been working non-stop on the photo shoot of Casa San Marco for 3 weeks, exhausted and desperately in need of some relax time. I had one day left and I asked my friends, Denyse and Claudio if they would take me to somewhere wonderful out in the Tuscan countryside, like maybe the little country church out near Pienza in the Val d’Orcia, Cappella di Vitaleta, one of the most quintessential country churches in Tuscany, and certainly one of the most photographed.  “Ma certo”, Denyse replied.  We headed out on Sunday morning, and I was over the moon excited, I have wanted to see this church since forever, having seen it in photos for years. They took me to an incredible lunch place at Bagno Vignoni, the weather was spring warm, beautiful, deep blue skies. I could feel myself letting down immediately.

Bagno_VignoniBagno Vignoni Thermal Springs


Denyse and Claudio



Around Tuscany_3 copy

Satiated, we headed for the next stop, Cappella di Vitaleta, I am rabid with excitement. The hills in the Val d’Orcia are the most incredible shade of emerald green, spring has arrived and trees are blossoming everywhere.

Around Tuscany_47

I see it in the distance long before we arrive. Can’t miss it.

Cappella di Vitaleta

We drive on a gravel road and finally get as far as we can via macchina. We climb out of the car and proceed on foot the rest of the way. This was what I saw.

P1070490 IMG_7650 IMG_7644

This is one of the most beautiful places I have EVER been to in my life. I am rested, restored, tranquila, and happy.

But that is not the last stop. One more surprise. We walk back to the car, with these emerald greens hills everywhere, hop in and head for the next church on the tour. I can not remember the name, but it is supposed to be pretty wonderful and it was sadly closed.


However, we wander around, and as often happens, I find some wonderful photo ops.

IMG_7679 IMG_7682It’s all in the details.

Upon some further investigation, I meander over to the graveyard adjoining the church and go poking around. There is a broken window up top, and I’m determined to look inside this chapel.


The round window is were I climbed up at least 12 feet on unstable roof tiles and thorny blackberry bushes. I didn’t care. I was obsessed with looking in through that broken window.


I hear voices approaching and scramble back down, over the tiles, nearly breaking my neck but who cares, this was an adventure in the making.


I make my way around to the front of the graveyard and see that there are two older signori talking with Denyse and Claudio, and the chapel and graveyard was totally open. (I did not need to climb up roof tiles to see in but the view was great) Of course, I need to enter. The signori have lived in this area all their lives and explain to us how a young woman , Giordana, mayor of the town, , had died back in the 1970’s and this little chapel was some sort of homage to her. They take me inside and show me a handmade journal/sketchbook that resides there on a little school desk, it is a guestbook of sorts, but it is dedicated to the woman mayor who had passed on. And it is in English, obviously written by a foreigner. I wasn’t able to get them to tell me who did this book and why it was in English.

It was simply exquisite. And it just lives there. I mean, a sketchbook/journal (one of my everlasting passions) just hanging out in some obscure graveyard chapel? How likely is that?




Un pensiero per Giordana. A thought for Giordana.






P1070517The signori told many stories, and were happy to have us as an audience.  These are the precious moments that are the richest in Italy. Having unexpected adventures with a couple of old guys in a crumbly graveyard chapel. Ordinary moments and sweetest of sweet.

I am so fulfilled, I have had my perfect day in the Val d’ Orcia. It could not have been more dreamy.

Grazie infinite Denyse e Claudio~

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2013 Art House Sketchbook Project; Il Duomo di Firenze (La Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore)

My fascination with the Duomo in Florence began in August, 1976. I arrived in Florence with 50 + other kids from California State University, to embark on a year long study abroad program that would be a pivotal point in my life, and set me on a trajectory that was completely unplanned and resulted in my love affair with Italy. Now, all these years later, Italy still has it’s sweet hold on me, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to live and work there several times a year.

On that August day of 1976, the group of us arrived in Florence, most of whom had never been out of California much less Italy. We arrived at the Santa Maria Novella train station, checked into the nearby Hotel Atlantico, our temporary housing accomodations on Via Nazionale, threw our backpacks into our rooms, and set off to see our new city. I rounded a corner minutes later to run headlong into this:


Il Duomo di FIrenze (Santa Maria del Fiori)

Stunned with disbelief, I was unable to move or speak for several moments. Time stood still. I had never seen ANYTHING this magnificent, but it was more than that.  I was transported into some other worldly place.  Florence and the Duomo were instantly signed, sealed and delivered permanently into my heart and innermost psyche. I was smitten. I was in love. I was hopelessly and happily hooked. I knew that this place would forever be a part of me.

I had arrived.

I had come home.

I did not have a vocabulary or even consciousness for the experience then, but what I do believe now, is that I was having my own personal epiphany or spiritual awakening. No doubt about it. The feelings and electricity that coursed through me then were too extraordinary to be anything but. I still have those sensations today in Florence, when I come around any corner and there it is again, Il Duomo, timeless and unchanging, no matter what is going on around it. The reconnection to this place never fails to thrill and send me into a state of ecstatic bliss and grace.  Years later, when my boys were old enough to take instructions, I told them that when I die, I want my ashes to be scattered off the top of the Duomo. Period.  No discussion. Climb the 463 steps.

As an artist and an obsessively passionate flea/antique market shopper and collector of all things old, distressed and discarded, I have collected antique images, postcards, guidebooks and ephemera of the Duomo and of Firenze for years. I have boxes of the stuff.  And I always buy more when I find it. I always will. I can’t stop. I don’t want to.

When it was time to participate in the 2013 Art House Sketchbook Project, it was non troppo difficile or difficult to figure out what I would do.

I would make an artists book utilizing and exploring images of the Firenze Duomo.  The parameters of the project were loose: a 5 x 7 book, no more that 1 inch thick. You could use the Art House Sketchbook that they provided, OR anything else, provided the size requirements were met.

For the 2012 project that I participated in, I worked with the Art House Sketchbook as my book form but completely altered and covered it. You can view my 2012 Sketchbook here.  This year, I wanted to make my own book, within the size restrictions.  I wanted to use the covers of an old book , deconstruct it and put it back and then reconstruct. I collect old books, I have LOTS of them, and nothing I had felt quite right.

So I searched Ebay and the perfect book(s) appeared. A pair of antique green and pink marbled paper books. The colors of the Duomo. Perfect size.

I have found time and again, that when I am in the creative zone working on a project, connected to my artistic flow and some force higher than me, items that are the perfect element for what I am working on just “appear.” It happens over and over.

And so it was with these marbled book covers, the colors of the Duomo facade. How likely is THAT?

AND a pair, no less.  With the Sketchbook Project, once you submit your book to the Art House, and it then lives in the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Art Library. You never get it back. Now I could make two versions, one for the Sketchbook Project, one for me. The deadline this year was January 15, 2013.

And in my usual procrastinating modus operandi, I did not begin the book until December 30, 2012. Hey, two weeks is plenty of time to pull off this ambitious project  right?

No, it isn’t.

Not when you get hit with the worst flu/cold one can imagine on January 3, and can barely get out of a bed for a month. I have not been this sick in years.

But, I was determined to do make this book, so I pushed myself into art/book making and I pushed hard.

It was not a pleasant experience.  It was actually kind of horrible, except for the ah-ha moments that I would occasionally have when a page would evolve in a magical way and I would lose myself in the creative zone and process. But most of the time, it just sucked.

But I persevered, coughing, sneezing and often with a high fever. And it got done.

By the afternoon January 15, the deadline date.  And I must say, even though it was not fun AT ALL (and only because I felt so crummy) I am really happy with how it turned out.

CoverThe two covers which I deconstructed and then I inlaid antique frames, mimicking the round windows on the cupola of the Duomo. I fixed wire grid hardware cloth on the backside to the “window” to echo the actual metal rebar grid system that holds the real stained glass cupola windows in place.


Real Window


Book Window

2 3 Front page

6 Signature Inserts from a 1969 Florence book

7Giotto’s Campinile- Collage with antique Postcard and scrap of antique wallpaper taken from Vescovile Restoration Project in Cortona, Italy.  Grazie Fabio and Fiorello~

8 Original Photo of Cantoria-Museo di Opera del Duomo/ Collage of Firenze City View with antique documents and papers

10Antique photo of random Signora seated at the Duomo combined with antique documents,

papers and stitching

12 Antique postcard, document and antique daguerreotype fragment

15 Original photo transfers with clear transparency of same photo

15aOriginal photo transfers of Cupola details, with printed transparency photo overlay/Original painting

Original photo of exterior Duomo marble detail

17 Signature page made from 1969 Florence book

19 Original painting of cupola/Transparency of original drawing overlaid on Duomo floor plan

20 Duomo floor plan from antique Florence Guide Book

21 Antique Italian Prayer Card

25 Tags made from antique postcards housed in transparency photo pocket

26 27 Antique Postcard Collage/Antique Stereo View Card of Duomo

33Antique Duomo Souvenir Spoon

32End page with antique Firenze fold out map



Finished and photographed 50 minutes before the postmarked deadline of 5 pm on January 15,2013

sending 1Skating in at the last minute. Relieved, happy, sick, but so glad I did it.

sending 2Now, four months later, I have finally started on Version II of the Duomo book. It is similar in construction and cover, but as I have started working on the pages, I am making them different, even though it was my original intention to do a carbon copy of the first version. But what fun is that? I am loving doing this Version II however, I am NOT sick anymore, and I get extremely grumpy when I can’t get to my studio to work on it. Just ask my kids.  I should have it done in another week, because, as always, I have a deadline to finish it in the next 2 weeks. More about that later.

And lastly I want to close this post by acknowledging the person who made so much of this experience in Florence possible in 1976, our beloved Duilio Peruzzi, who was the resident director of our program that year. Duilio was born in Cortona,  Italy but immigrated to California at some point in his youth and went on to become head of the Geography Department at San Jose State University.  He remained very connected to his family and home town of Cortona, Italy over his life and went back and forth frequently. Each year, the California State University system sends a professor from California to be resident director of the Florence program. The gods were smiling on this motley crew of 50 + students in 1976, because Duilio Peruzzi was selected for OUR GROUP, and it was the most memorable, inspiring, incredible year for all of us, and all due to this incredible man. Duilio was and is a mentor, a father figure, a friend, a confidant, our anchor, then and now.  He partied with us all though out the year, and although he was THE authority figure, he was also one of us.


Duilio Peruzzi at California State University, Piazza Independenza, Firenze 1977

In the 30+ years following there was never another group as cohesive and connected as ours. We have continued to hold reunions and gatherings over the years, 3 of them in Italy at 10 year intervals.  We all love him with our collective hearts and I credit him for instilling the love of Italy in me and eventually getting me to Cortona, years later. (Another story for another day)

So today Dr. Peruzzi, celebrates his birthday, on May 2.  In a few weeks, most of our group will meet up with him in Santa Cruz to celebrate our everlasting friendship with each other.  I wanted to write this blog post on his birthday, in honor of him and the richness he has contributed to all of us. AND I have 21 minutes until midnight, and then it isn’t May 2 or Duilio’s birthday anymore. I had better finish this up.

Buon Compleanno Duilio and grazie infinite for one of the best years of my life, and the most certainly THE YEAR which changed it all.  Ti vogliamo bene~ stace e il Gruppo

Dr D compleanno 2012 copy

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How Taking Sogni to the Vet for Her Daily Cookie Landed me in Italy 9 Months Later

vetI take my silly dog Sogni, on a walk to the vet in my neighborhood every day. The ladies love her and she  gets a treat, a cookie every day, sometimes 2 or 3 depending on who is working. This is her dog park, her Disneyland.

At the Vet

Sogni and Chiara with the daily cookie

About 9 months ago, I was working at home and Sogni was particularly anxious to get to the vet.  I did not want to leave at that moment (lazy), but some little voice whispered, “just go”.  So I did.

I arrived at the vet, and I remembered that the groomer who had bathed Sogni the day before, had not given her a “sanitary shave” back in her behind regions, and it was causing some serious “problems”. I asked the ladies if someone in the back could trim her a bit. They said sure, and led her away.  As I was waiting, I noticed a lovely woman on the bench next to me, with her dog, and she was visibly distraught.  I asked her what was wrong and she told me that her other dog, had passed away the week before, and she was now bringing her second dog, Gino (the brother) to have a check up, as he had been quite upset over his brothers untimely passing.  She went on to tell me that she was out of the country when her dog passed away, but her boyfriend had been able to hold the phone up to her doggie, and she was able to say goodbye. My heart hurt for her, I have been present for all of my animals passings over the years, and it is always heartbreaking.

Gino  Gino ©

I asked her where she had been when she was away.


My radar went up  as it always does when Italy,  the love of my life is mentioned and I asked, “What were you doing there?”

She explained that she was Italian, from Rome, originally, but she had been living in America for the past 15 years and this was her first trip back to Italy and to see her family in 9 years.  As we spoke further, I told her of my connection to Italy, to Cortona and how I had roots and a home there.  I saw that the vet was getting ready to lead her to an examining room with her dog,  and some voice in my head told me to ask her for her number. She gave me her card which read,  Alice Falzone, Mosca Photo, Wedding Photography. (or something like that)

I recognized the name, I realized I knew her website, as my brother, Mitch, is a wedding videographer (Cabfare Productions) in Seattle and he is always sending me various NW links to wedding photographers and videographers to check out. I knew I had seen her website somewhere  in this context. I commented on this and we agreed what an amazing small town this is and made promises to stay in touch.

We did stay in touch, got together at my studio a few weeks later , and our friendship was born. A few months later, I came up with the idea that I needed to get back to Italy at some point and take some professional photographs of my home, Casa San Marco, in Cortona, Italy to update the 10 year old website. The house does not even look the same as it did then and I have done much restoration and interior design work. The house is finished, spectacular and I was feeling like I wanted to shoot amazing photographs of this house with a photographer that would “get it” and understand the heart and soul of this house.

I called Alice,  proposed the idea of the two of us going to Cortona together and collaborating on this project. I remember the phone call well. I was standing  huddled outside in the courtyard of  Peet’s coffee in the Pearl district of Portland, and I remember Alice’s squeal of delight as I made the proposal.  YES, Si, Si, Si and YES was her answer and the following months were devoted to the conception of the project.

I poured over interior design books, magazines, gathered props, vintage prom dresses, antique baptismal gowns, artists paintings, and a slew of other found treasures, put them in a box and sent them to Cortona, to be used for the staging of this photo shoot. It was not enough to simply go in and take some basic “real estate” photographs of my house. I wanted photos worthy of a design book.  To accomplish this, much effort was expended.

I arrived on March 20, and went straight from the Florence airport, to IKEA to load up on way to way too many church candles, pillows and any other thing I could possibly think of that we would need for this project.

ikeaItaly’s IKEA feels exactly like ours except for this scene that I witnessed below.

I am not in Portland anymore, or anywhere close.Nuns IKEA

In the chaos of IKEA, I felt immediately relaxed. I was back in Italy.


Hit Cortona running, set to work, sewing pillows, creating scenes, making vignettes.  My Cortona neighbor and good friend Patrizia and I , made several trips to Emmaus, the secret thrift store in Arezzo, where we collected more treasures to create the moods and scenes.  We cleaned, we arranged, we created.


Patrizia at Emmaus

I even scored this credenza for pennies, 1950’s era, and apparently everyone’s Italian Nonna had one of these.  This was and is so primo, and the Emmaus guys had fun (ha) walking it down the mountain, since they always arrive with furniture deliveries in a truck too big that can’t get through the city arched walls.carica emmaus

Alice arrived a week later with her dear friend Michelle.


Michelle and Alice

Alice, Patrizia, Michelle and I  worked our tails off for one week straight, staging, photographing, staging some more, eating , laughing and having an amazing time. I had not allotted enough time to pull this project off in a manner that would be a bit more “tranquila”, so I was on the move from 6 am each day until midnight, fussing and fixing and arranging and vignetting, along with Patricia and Michelle, who were an invaluable help with Alice following close behind with the camera, shooting on an average of 200-500 photos of any one room. I am so appreciative and grateful to these women for all of their help, their artistic and creative talents, I could not have pulled this off without them. Grazie mille a tutti!

And although it hard and exhausting work, it was well worth the effort, Alice Falzone is a brilliant photographer and artist, she “got” Casa San Marco, better than I could have possibly hoped for, and gave me a realization of my vision that far exceeded my expectations. Words can not express the gratitude I feel for the gift she has given me in documenting my artistic vision of Casa San Marco, the art project closest to my heart ever. I am ecstatic with the results. I certainly got the photos worthy of a interior design book. Grazie infinite Alice!

I have a few detail photos that she has shared with me, which I will pass on to here on the blog,  and there are more on my newly created Facebook Business page: Casa San Marco (thanks Alice, for the encouragement and guidance to start the page!). The editing process of these hundreds and hundreds (thousands) of photos will take some time, and I will post them as they come…In the meantime, you can see more photo details here.

The moral of the story is this.

Pay attention to those small voices that tell you to take your dog to the vet for her cookie.  Or whatever that whispering little voice is telling you.  You just might end up in Italy or somewhere else. But whatever or wherever you end up as a result of paying attention, you will most certainly experience magic. No question. That is how it works. Every time. No exceptions.


Bathroom Detail
4937-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webMaster Bedroom- Vintage Prom Dresses


Dream Bathroom
3483-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webBedside Table
4976-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webBlue Master Bedroom with all the treasures
5031-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webLa Madonnina – Patron Saint of Casa San Marco, who guides and protects all who visit
5143-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webstudioStudio Worktable


A page from The Firenze Book that I am making- in my studio
4665-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webBathroom Detail
3738-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-web-1Dinner Party


Making pici with Ivan. I did not do well with the pici at all. Not my thing.
3826-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webDream bathtub
4192-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webFireplace Mantel
4762-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webPink Room
4216-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webDiscarded Chandelier
3611-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webAnother Rosary
4938-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webMaster Bedroom
5480-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-web-2View from La Terrazza: Chiesa San Francesco
5369-lifestylephotography-cortona-tuscany-italy-moscaphoto-webLa Fine (The End) So happy with it All.
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Spoils of the Alameda Antique Market

Part 2- I set up my treasures from the Alameda Fair in a vignette for you all to view, upon returning back to Portland. I love my finds but even more, I love the memories of the day. Junking and antiquing is for me a grand adventure, the thrill of the hunt, the visual stimulation, the acquisition of the objects, the stories that they carry. I then create a story over the history of whatever the find is, my own story of the finding of it. It creates a collage of sorts, these layers of story.
I have a terrible memory about some things, but with all my junking finds over the years (and there are thousands) I usually can remember how and where I acquired it, and if not the precise details of where and when, I ALWAYS remember the feeling of finding that treasure, and THAT is the treasure in and of itself, that delicious memory of the experience.



Here are the Bakelite Lady’s hair combs and sticks. I did take them out of the package. But just to set the stage. I’ll do the French hair twist another day.

This painting of the ballerina was my best find.

Typically, in most of my junking adventures there is one item that I spot, that makes me nearly faint with desire and connection to the object. The ballerina was the one. I spotted her off in some corner of someones booth from several hundred feet away, she was a beacon that called to me, saying, “Come closer…”. Upon more careful investigation, I examined her, and LOVED her odd, androgynous face, and the overall creepiness of her. She also is a dead ringer for a woman whose vintage photos I acquired last year at the Cortona Antique Market in Italy. There was a stack of vintage photos of this one woman, throughout her life, I created an altered book around these photos and invented a story about this woman. I called her Liana. This ballerina is Liana, the physical similarities are astounding and the serendipity of the find is not lost on me. This often happens to me when I am junking.  Magical things appear that show me something, or are the perfect vehicle for an art piece. Liana is one of those finds. Now that I have her in the ballerina painting, I will share photos of the book that I made of her. Oh and by the way, she was $40.  A steal. I love her.

What does Liana say to you? Who is she?


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San Francisco Alchemy

I had the opportunity last weekend to make a quick trip to San Francisco, for the purpose of doing a workshop of some folks that I’ve been following for a while. Remember Law of Attraction? Yeah, those guys, Abraham-Hicks, the real deal with Esther and everything. I’m not going to get into it much here, but the basic premise is that our thoughts create our outward reality, our physical experience. You can go to their website and read all about it here.  I’ve studied metaphysics most of my adult life and always subscribed to this stuff, and when I discovered Abraham-Hicks a few years back, I realized it was the same truths I had always believed, just re-packaged and reformed.  A few months back, I decided I needed a little jump start to get me moving in the direction that I wanted to go next. Nothing prepared me for this most profound experience I had at this workshop, and I couldn’t tell you a thing about it, cause I don’t remember the “words” but I do remember the feelings and the subsequent feelings I have had all week since, and I can tell you, it is pretty great. Best week I have had in years. Seriously, I am NOT kidding.

Check it out if you want.

law of attractionI then went on to stay with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Annamarie, who was my cohort when we moved to Italy in 1976 to embark on our grand adventure of living in Florence for a junior year abroad, an experience that defined and set all 5o kids onto a very different life trajectory then they would have imagined.

Annamarie asked me if perhaps on Sunday if I’d like to go to the Alameda Antique Fair that happens once a month. Would I? Are you kidding? Junking at the Alameda Antique Fair? I can’t think of a single thing more delicious. I had never been, and I’ve been a hardcore junker for most of my life, this flea market was over the top AMAZING! We had a MAGNIFICENT DAY!

Picture this: Out on a point in the East Bay,  jutting out into the San Francisco bay, overlooking the city, beautiful sunny day 65-70 degrees and several football fields worth of antiques and junk of the best kind. I’ve not seen anything like this in a while. I was swooning and wondering where have I been all this time?


Annamarie and I quickly split off, having a rendevous point at the garbage dumpster every hour on the hour, so we could do our own thing.  I zeroed in immediately on fashion, stumbling upon the Bakelite Lady, Pam Lee, quite infamous I know now but I did not know that when I straggled up to her booth. She had the most impressive collection of bakelite jewelry I have ever seen, but that’s not what got me.

It was the French vintage hair combs and sticks, all glittering and shiny and vintage and well, FRENCH…with the promise that if I used these hair accessories, I could look French and chic too. I was hooked, captured.  This woman Pam, has to be probably the best saleswoman I have ever encountered.   I would drink her Kool Aid any day…She whipped out those hair sticks and combs and had my hair up in chignons, french twists, braids , you name it, she did it and all the while telling me what beautiful hair I have, how I need to accessorize it, and I will be ever so French and sexy. Just sign on the dotted line.

Yes ma’am.

I will do whatever you say. If it means I will look younger, more beautiful, sexy and attractive, take my wallet and all my credit cards and my first born son while you’re at it. You can have the second son too.

bakeI looked over next to me and saw a fabulous looking woman with GREAT style that I could see was getting caught up in the Bakelite Lady’s magic as well. I loved her hair and her clothes and I will ALWAYS talk to strangers (usually women) about their clothes…We quickly became partners in crime, and let the Bakelite Lady sell us probably too many combs and hair sticks but what the hell, it was fun.

Meet Yolanda, my partner in crime. I studied her look carefully cause thats what I do, all the way down to the skinny H&M white jeans with the black skirt and suede boots. I now have a similar look going in my closet, I just need to get to H&M for the white jeans. Yolanda has been using her combs and sticks everyday and loves them. (We have been texting) I love my combs and sticks too. And they are still in the bag, unopened. I have not had the courage to get them out and become French quite yet. It will happen.

IMG_6628Annamarie and I meet up and ooh and ahh over each others finds, we take pictures so that I can write this post.

IMG_1067 IMG_1071IMG_1074I saw a million things I wanted to photograph so that I could really paint a picture of the day, but I forgot my IPhone in Portland, (I survived for 3 days without a phone, incredible!) so I had to rely on Annamarie’s phone for photos. It worked fine but I didn’t really want to be using her phone all the time as a camera. Just as well. Forced me to just be in the moment.

IMG_1082IMG_1088Finally it is about 3 pm and all the vendors are leaving because it is Super Bowl Sunday and for some reason I find hard to understand, most people want to watch a silly football game rather that pound the pavement til midnight at the Alameda Antique Fair.  Annamarie and I closed the place down at 4 pm, there was maybe 2 lone vendors left in this enormous parking lot…we just wanted to stay a little longer, please??? But we left, satisfied and happy with our magic day…a day made in paradise.  Stay tuned for the spoils of the Antique Fair.


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January Full Moon

I get updates in my email box when Britt, my yoga teacher posts on her blog. A few days ago she had a wonderful post about the full moon tonight. Whenever I practice yoga with her, approaching a full moon, she reminds us of setting our intention for our lives during the full moon, it is a powerful manifesting time. To see her post about the full moon, go here…                                                                                                                                              

I  did NOT do everything she suggests for this evening, taking a hot bath, turning off cell phones, TV’s (hey, the was Blazers vs. Clippers, Corey would have killed me and besides, it was a great game) … I did however make a killer flank steak dinner for Corey and Andre, with brownies , warm raspberry sauce and ice cream for dessert. So I got the dinner/dessert thing down that she recommends.

But I was also determined to do SOMETHING to set those intentions in alignment with the full moon…so after dinner… coughing and hacking (yes, still sick)  I trudged up the hill behind my house, looked up at the winter moon in all her stark , crisp, glory amongst the  barren trees and contemplated  about what my intention is for the coming months.

Full Moon and Intention

This is great, I feel, well… so accomplished! Or something.

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Sick. Just Plain Sick. Or…Acceptance and Surrender. Part 1

I have been sick since January 7 or so. Full blown all out sick, fever, flu, cold, bronchial junk, whole 9 yards. At first I relaxed into it, but then the discomfort overcame any relaxing I was doing. I have not been this sick in years.  Thought I was getting better, took off for a great weekend with beloved old friends, bonded, reminisced, laughed.  Came home and relapsed back into the sick zone.

It is JANUARY 23rd!!!

It is a new year, not only is it new but it is POST 2012 and we didn’t perish in the Mayan Apocolypse that I was so certain of for years! I am ecstatic! I want to dance a jig!

I had all sorts of plans. New Years resolutions, intentions, exercise and yoga plans for every day of the week! Meditating every morning.  Create a big social network.  Learn salsa dancing! Make daily blog posts. Go to the studio and make art 5 days a week.  You get the idea.

I haven’t done a thing.  Not only have I not done a thing but I’ve beat myself up and ripped myself a new one over my lack of accomplishments.

The negative self talk has been fairly extreme.  So tonight, I managed to drag my sorry ass off to yoga with my dear teacher Britt, who had some time to spend with me before class. We talked about real stuff, got into it quick and the lightbulb went off.  Maybe, just maybe… this is exactly what was supposed to happen. Maybe it’s just ok to be sick, make Corey dinner, REST, watch the rain,  watch the Blazers, the Lakers , the Miami Heat, or whoever is playing tonight and curl up with a bowl of Ragu Pasta by the fire.

and its OK.

I don’t have to make 100 new friends this month, do 40 yoga classes,  or hurl myself into anything else except for maybe my bed or the couch. Horizontal for sure.

So tonight, that is exactly what I did.  Phew. Best night in weeks. Even feeling sick.

Thanks Britt.                                                                                                                                        Om.

RaguMade the perfect Ragu Bolognese this time.  Perfectly silky, slippery, scivoloso.  I guess I did accomplish something in my misery.

IMG_6544Can you believe this pasta is gluten free? Looks like the real thing, even tastes like it if you squint or whatever the equivalent gustatory pretend perception would be.

IMG_6539IMG_6542Yes, this is me. Watching a Blazer’s game. I watch them all now. Every night. Stranger things have happened. If you know me well, you know that first I never sit still long enough to watch anything except maybe Dexter and Homeland and Fringe. But a Blazer game? Very unusual behavior indeed.Not heading out for any big events tonight.

No sir-ee.  This is just fine.

Acceptance and surrender. The big E-tickets in my book.  Stay tuned for Part 2.

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