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Monday, August 31, 2009

Glorious Gardens

The final P.S. to our Sabbatical Sojourn comes from beautiful Linville, North Carolina. Here are just a few exquisite splashes of color from the Master Artist.

Click here to see a slideshow of Flowers from Linville.

Monday, July 27, 2009

So long to Scotland - Ready for re-entry

How GOOD it is to be surrounded by English again and also to have to put on a sweater in July! We arrived in Edinburgh about two weeks ago and have enjoyed remembering our time here as students 28 years ago. With a friend's lovely flat as homebase (thanks, Tom!), we ventured into the city on several occasions and also explored the Islands of Iona and Skye and a few other key places.

Here are some random thoughts and lessons learned in Scotland:

  • Obey the parking signs. When they say "don't feed the meter", they mean it even when there's only an hour left before the parking is free!

  • Middle-aged men in kilts are not all that attractive.

  • Take plenty of allergy medicine if you go to Iona in July.

  • Like most Scots, carry an umbrella in one hand and sunglasses in the other.

  • Playing golf on an island next to the sheep is really neat and probably the way it was meant to be played!

  • Painting outdoors on an island in Scotland is tricky due to the wind and occasional rain.

  • Driving on the left side of the road will definitely give right side drivers ulcers and heart attacks especially if they happen to be in the passenger seat.

  • Sheep are not all that friendly.

CLICK HERE TO SEE A SLIDESHOW of photo highlights (Part 1) from Scotland. I have anther set of favorite photos from Scotland so check back later if you're interested!

We will miss Scotland and the wonderful friends here. There is so much more to see and do. Lord willing, we'll be back!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Under the Italian Sun

The warm but breezy summer days we spent in Italy are now a memory but here are some photo highlights (see link below) with captions to give you an idea of what we experienced. I now understand why people from the northern countries flock to the sun-soaked hills of Italy. There is something so restorative about being there - note the photos of Ed.

Just a quick recap on our Italian sojourn: I flew to Florence, picked up a rental car and found my way to Assisi where Ed was waiting on me at the Swedish Sisters' Guest House. It's funny but most of these Swedish sisters are from India I think! There we relaxed, read, painted, walked, had dinners prepared for us and went on short driving field trips to Cortona, Deruta, Orvieto and other places.

A week later, we said good-bye to the sisters and found our way (miraculously) to the tiny "village" - really a "spot" - called Bacio near Florence where I had found a place to stay called Fattoria Bacio (Bacio Farmhouse) situated in the middle of a big vineyard and olive grove. I believe it used to be a monastery about 150 years ago. The Fattoria Bacio offered several "self-catering" apartments where you bring in and cook your own food or eat out in the local villages. The setting was a painter's dream! Every way you looked there was a painting! Apparently other artists have found their way there and have used it for workshops. That's how I found it on the internet!

We drove in to Florence for Sunday worship service at an American Episcopal church and explored some of the city. The Tourist Information guide told us we HAD to drive straight to my favorite medieval walled city - Monteriggioni - because that was the last night of their huge medieval festival so, off we went! It was wonderful - hopefully the photos will tell the story better than I can.

Our farewell to Italy was punctuated by some of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen. Now, on to bonnie Scotland!

Click here to see the photo highlights of Italy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Two Weeks in France - Highlights

The French part of my "grand tour" is over and I've gleaned about 60 of my favorite photos and included captions here in a slideshow for those who are interested. Click here for the slideshow.

The highlight truly was the chance to be with daughter Catherine as she is beginning an exciting 6 month adventure of her own. When I planned my trip, I had no idea that she would have just arrived as I was about to leave and from the very same city! What a gift to have that short time with her and meet her French family and American co-workers!

With that particular highlight aside, the other highlights include spending time with 3 other talented, fun, smart and adventurous artists, meeting Jill Steenhuis who opened her artist's heart and home to us ( and finally, falling in love with France all over again! I can't wait to go back. Anyone need a translator and guide???

Monday, June 29, 2009

Breakfast on the Terrace - Monday, June 22

Sounds of the morning include...

...birds chirping from the tree next to the terrace that overlooks a forgotten courtyard, a gentle breeze rustling the leaves of the trees and sweeping over the sun baked terracotta tile roofs, church bells clanging in the distance, the rattling of a heavy metal chain that holds the gate shut, a cheery "bonjour, madame" from the nearby baker, the bubbling up of hot water and eventual "ding" as I heat the water to make morning coffee in the "French press" coffee maker, and finally, the incredible sound of crunchhh and craaack that comes from slicing into a fresh baked baguette!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Welcome to France!

Miracle of miracles we took the right exit for our destination and found our way to the little wine-growing village of Armissan in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France (the southwest coast of France close to Spain). Our "home" is a renovated old stone barn. It's roomy, up to date, private and has a large terrace that is perfect for painting on the afternoons when we're too tired to stand up any longer! The view which overlooks the vineyards and foothills is wonderful. The only (and very small) downside is having to climb (and haul our gear up) the 25+ stairs. The butcher and the baker are located just down the street (closer than the corner of my home in Birmingham).

This photo I call my "eye of God" photo. I saw this on my first afternoon of exploring the area around Armissan. I felt like this was a "Welcome to France" present!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lunch in Spain, Breakfast in France!

In order to take the "romance" out of that title, let me quickly note that lunch was at McDonald's - but there's a reason! With heads still cloudy from jet lag and little sleep, Betty (Wentworth) and I turned off the autoroute on our way out of Spain (heading for France) in search of the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain. Good signage is lacking for such a major tourist attraction. Rather than leave, we stopped at a handy McDonald's to grab a bite and ask directions. I asked a darling Katherine Heigl look alike if she could help us and she jumped at the chance to be of assistance. We never would have made it without her and her fellow Latvian companions (actually one guy WAS Spanish).

The Dali Museum is in a word - WACKY! Wacky beyond belief. I really want to go back and take my kids. At the last minute before leaving the USA, my mom said she wished I could go to "her" museum. So I did! Thanks, Mom!

Click here for a few shots of the Dali museum.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On Your Mark, Get Set, ...

I am about to GO on my big adventure of painting in France for two weeks with 3 other artists, meeting my daughter's French "family" in Marseille where she'll be a church intern, traveling to Assisi, Italy to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary with husband Ed and finally, journeying to Scotland where we lived and studied for a semester after seminary 28 years ago. Wow! I can hardly believe this long-awaited adventure is upon me.

I'll do my best to keep this blog up to date over the next six weeks. The next posting should be from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France, Armissan to be exact! Bon voyage to me and bon été (good summer) to you all!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Not your regular blog entry...

What follows is a long list of some of the highlights of the first two weeks of our sabbatical. I'm still working on the format here. I promise to try to keep up with daily or near-daily entries. Will also post a link to an online photo album for viewing picture highlights.

Click here to see photo highlights of our time in Charlotte.

May 3, 2009 Sunday Charlotte – Hilton Head

Ed was a double hitter this morning – he attended First Presbyterian’s early service then we both went to Myers Park Presbyterian at 11:00. I loved the contemporary “Celebrate” service in the gym and Ed loved the traditional service. A new twist was seeing how they “piped in” the tivoed sermon to the Celebrate service.

A real treat was getting to have lunch with Dede and Peter McKay after church. We look forward to seeing them again later this summer in Linville, NC.

On the way to Hilton Head, we made a quick stop at the Columbia Museum of Art to see the visiting Davis Collection from Wales. Lots of wonderful impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.

Finally got to Hilton Head and stayed at the Ocean Palms resort in the Port Royal Plantation. LOVED all the wonderful wildlife just outside our door – dozens of turtles in the lagoon, blue herons, white egrets – and air that was incredibly perfumed with tons of blooming jasmine.

May 4, 2009 Monday Hilton Head

Couldn’t wait to get on the tennis court but soon discovered that my tennis elbow problem was not going away. Even Ed had a pulled leg muscle. It’s NOT fun getting old!!! Oh well, just more time to paint and read!

Found the cute lunch place Karon recommended – Signe’s Heaven Sent Bakery & Café.

May 5, 2009 Tuesday Hilton Head

And more time to bike! We found a place that rented bikes and took them out on the wide flat Hilton Head beach. I love the old fashion foot-braking bikes. Makes me feel like a kid again!

Harbor Town is located in the Sea Pines Plantation part of Hilton Head and is home of the red and white light house that shows up in a lot of PR materials. We parked in Harbor Town and rode our bikes all over that end of the island. At one point I saw a tacky alligator lawn ornament on the other side of the canal. I remembered my friend Karon said to watch out for real alligators and I looked around and only saw an odd piece of wood in the neighbor’s yard. After closer inspection I realized it wasn’t wood or a tacky lawn ornament but was the real thing! Yikes!

Back at Harbor Town, we found a little outdoor restaurant with live music and had some peel & eat shrimp in between a rousing game of (travel-size) Scrabble! Much to my delight a darling 9 year old named Matthew eagerly joined in!

And finally, we were treated to the most glorious sunset I think I’ve ever seen! One to rival Santorini for sure!

May 6, 2009 Wednesday Hilton Head

Another highlight was a visit to the Morris & Whiteside Gallery which shows work by some of my all time favorite artists – Karin Jurick, Peggi Kroll-Roberts, Dan McCaw, Ken Auster, etc.

May 7, 2009 Thurday Hilton Head

Finally broke out the watercolors and warmed up with some sketches.

Click here to see photos of our time in Hilton Head.

May 8, 2009 Friday Hilton Head

Had a fabulous dinner at Charlie’s Etoile Verte – country French cooking! Might have even surpassed Highlands Bar & Grill in Bham. Another wonderful Karon recommendation!

May 9, 2009 Saturday Hilton Head

Squeezed in one more bike ride on the beach near the Westin Hotel. I’ve learned my lesson not to leave my camera behind. We saw a guy on the beach reel in a scary-looking 4 foot sand shark and I didn’t have my camera!

It’s almost too much but for the second time in two months we saw an all-time favorite musical – “Les Miserables”! A month ago Ed took me to see “Wicked” for my birthday and tonight we saw an amazing, top quality local production of “Les Mis” in one of the most charming theaters I’ve ever seen. The show was beautiful! Jean Valjean’s “Bring Him Home” was one of the best I’ve ever heard.

May 10, 2009 Sunday Hilton Head – Charleston (Folly Beach) – Birmingham

Time to leave Hilton Head and head for Charleston where we attached a rented trailer to our car and drove to Stuart’s beach cottage to pack him up for the big move to Birmingham. We enjoyed seeing his digs and were thoroughly impressed by how prepared he was to get going (in more ways than one). He begins the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (UAB) MBA program tomorrow. I know he’ll miss the beach but hopefully the beautiful Alabama lakes will satisfy his love of water sports.

Click here to see highlights of our time with Stuart in Charleston (Folly Beach).

May 11, 2009 Monday Birmingham – Sea Grove

Back in Birmingham we unpacked Stuart’s stuff, ran errands, picked up the dog, and packed for our stay at a friends’ house in Sea Grove, FL.

Got to see Catherine with friends Lucy and Bracie for about five minutes while they dropped off her stuff before heading for the RUF conference in Panama City.

And… we’re off again for the next phase our sabbatical! On to Sea Grove. One good long week down and about 11 more to go! What an amazing gift of time and rest!

May 12, 2009 Tuesday Sea Grove

A nice slow day. Photographed some of the local flowers and the beach. One goal while here is to do at least one painting a day in oil. It’s time to get back in the plein air painting mode to get ready for France, Italy and Scotland in a few weeks!

Finished a little painting of our friends’ cottage here in Sea Grove.

May 13, 2009 Wednesday Sea Grove

Biked about 3 miles down to Grayton Beach where we had lunch at the Red Bar restaurant. Stopped in at The Studio (art gallery). Nice weather – a little warm but breezy.

Tried my hand at a small painting of a favorite photo from a trip to Paris a few years ago. I hate to post this one (on the slideshow) but will just to show how hard it is to paint faces in miniature! Need to study how Peggi Kroll does it! This precious little Asian girl was strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens with her dad. Some photos aren’t meant to be paintings. I think this is one of them.

Ed is hard at work preparing a special shrimp dish for dinner. He said, “The hardest part about cooking is the preparation!” Should be yummy.

May 14 Thursday Sea Grove

Am loving this time to paint every day! Painting whatever comes to mind or strikes my fancy. Today I did a value study of a magnolia blossom and a view of the beach looking toward Seaside.

May 15 Friday Sea Grove

More painting, beach walking, bike riding, eating, sleeping, reading - is heaven like this???

May 16 Saturday Sea Grove (Laguna Beach)

Ed and I drove over to Laguna Beach to pick up Catherine who spent the week with about 800 college kids from all over the country who are involved with RUF (Reformed University Fellowship). Her group from Vanderbilt was the largest delegation - about 40+. I think she's ready for some home cookin' and we're ready to have a good visit with her before she heads out for an exciting six months of her own.

May 17 Sunday Sea Grove (Seaside)

Attended the Seaside Interfaith Chapel service that was led by a college minister from Tennessee this week. Although the building was beautiful, the service sure made us miss South Highland Presbyterian Church!!! Although I can't fully appreciate the challenges of ministering to the diverse and sporadic group of attenders, I do think their mission statement needs some work: "Our purpose and mission is to provide an environment for a meaningful, spiritual encounter with our Heavenly Father, sing a few songs and go to the beach!"

More painting (an olive grove near Bandol, France), reading (Guide to the Empty Nest and The Message) and eating (shrimp po' boy for lunch).

May 2, 2009 Saturday Charlotte

Had a ball doing a portrait photo shoot for little Liza J. Enjoyed working with Kathy Southerland on behalf of Portraits, Inc.

Met up with good friends Valerie and Davis Kuykendall (Ed’s best man!) who live in Charlotte. Had lunch with them at Panera Bread.

The wedding was such a sweet celebration! Ed tied a good knot and I appreciated the opportunity to read I Corinthians 13. Loved catching up with old friends from Monroe, Louisiana days.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Sabbatical Begins!

May 1, 2009

Birmingham to Charlotte

My motto: There's never enough time to do everything you have to do at the last minute!

Last night I got 2 hours of sleep. Moments before leaving the house for our long-awaited sabbatical, I discovered a "plumbing emergency" in the guest bathroom! Hemphill plumbers to the rescue and we're off - finally.

Most memorable person I met today: Ms. Pauline at a Georgia Wendy's gas stop. This delightful lady is a 10-year Wendy's employee (she showed me her pins) who makes it her business to make everyone feel welcomed and looked after. I'm guessing she's about 78.

We made it to Charlotte in time for the wedding rehearsal dinner of Jamie Pettway (precious friend and former baby-sitter from Monroe, LA) and Mike Mills. They managed at the rehearsal without us - a nice change of pace.