Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I am saying good-bye for a while; getting ready to soak up the Italian countryside, drink up the Italian wine and spend time making art with new friends.
Our intention for this retreat:
To share our love of Italy, the Locanda del Gallo and the joy of painting and creating with others of like interests and inclinations.
Stay tuned for post Sketchbook Tours + Yoga Italian Retreat photos!! Ciao!

 ...thought you might enjoy seeing the crazy mad rush to get everything in the suitcase. My only saving grace...it's summer!!

 Mission Impossible

 One small suitcase and one carry-on...no purse!!! A must for train travel in Europe.

It's like magic!! See how I do it here
Happy Travels to All!!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

In Search of a Fox for Ryker

Yes, it is crazy town in my world, with Italy just days away but I was lucky enough to snag this lovely moment on the patio to work on a sketch for cosmic daughter and fierce chick, Chelsea. She has asked her loved ones to contribute artwork towards the creation of a baby quilt for her brand new baby boy. I love this process; she will take all the originals, transfer the artwork to fabric then quilt the whole thing together into a one-of-a-kind, wonderful quilt fit for a baby named Ryder!

The subject is foxes. Note the little fox on the table. Recognize him? He is the sweet fox from Antoine De Saint-Exupéry's "The Little Prince" and he is my favorite fox in the whole world. I will render him in watercolor and pen, just as the artist did, with his "special message" on the quilt block. I know he is "stolen" from Mr. Exupéry...but no other fox has a better message for a baby boy who will become a man, "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
...will post the finished work when I return!
Cheers and love to you Chels!

Yes, that little fox is standing on my "to-do" list...Italy is calling!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Carino's a Mini Review

If you live in a small town like we do, you know that finding a good restaurant with passable food can be challenging. If you find a corporate run restaurant with good food, well, that is a miracle. A new Carino's Restaurant just showed up in our little berg, we were skeptical, but desperate for a break from our Italy prep and for a meal out (a girl can only cook so much while she's packing!). What a pleasant surprise. We ordered off the lunch menu, which had a good choice of soups and salads and smaller portions of the evening entrées.
They start you off with a nice mini loaf of fresh baked bread and olive oil, garlic dip. Michael had the Caesar salad and the Green Chili Chicken Lasagna. The lasagna was a nice surprise, made with twelve full layers of Italian cheeses, and our own local spicy "hatch" green chilies, grilled chicken breast, finished with a spicy cream sauce and topped with fresh Roma tomatoes. He was smiling as he was eating...a very good sign! I chose the garlic potato soup and could have made an entire meal of it, but it was only part of the lunch special so I also enjoyed their homemade eggplant parmigiana. It was coated with a crunchy, tasty breading topped with a slightly spicy tomato sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese and served with a side of spaghetti. I thought the eggplant parmigiana was very good. The eggplant was firm but cooked through and full of flavor. I found the dish didn't really need the side of spaghetti, which was cooked a bit past al denté.  Our lovely wait-person suggested we order a "mini" desert, because they were, "just too cute". Well, cute and very authentic! We ordered the Tiramisu mini; a nice little "bite" of sweet for just a couple of dollars. All of this for less than thirty dollars! Okay, I know it is not real Italy, or all made from scratch...but some of it is! The Tiramisu was as good as many I have tasted in old country!
Carin's Mini Tiramisu ~ A great little presentation...I think I'll try this at home!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Spa Water or "How I Busted Some Fat"

I saw Dr. Oz and Kim Lyons on a talk show the other day and they were touting the benefits of a fat-busting beverage. I was thirsty, it looked good to me so I thought, what the heck, at the very least I'll be drinking more water!  There are so many people out there trying to sell their magic diet pills, drinks and such, I figure it is all hooha..but, Dr. Oz has some real cred...so, for the designated 10 days I drank a glass of this before every meal.

Good for you and pretty too!

You can find a video describing the benefits and the recipe for this Kim Lyon's "fat-burner flush" here 

Basically the recipe consists of:
Sliced grapefruit
Tangerine sections
Fresh Mint leaves 
You can find the written recipe by Kim Lyons on the Dr. Oz sight here.

I used about 1/3 of a grapefruit, 1/2 of a tangelo (no tangerines in sight), an half of an organic cucumber and fresh mint leaves from my garden. Dr. Oz says to use peppermint leaves but I used spearmint. You make this up fresh every morning, keep it in the fridge and drink one 8oz glass of water before each meal.
I liked it so much, I drank more than the designated amount...remember the tiling job?!! Also, this is the desert! 

My results were interesting. Of course, drinking 8 oz of water before each meal fills you up, so you eat less, but the drink really did help my digestion! I felt better drinking more water throughout the day. The drink is cooling and refreshing...and don't forget, pretty! 

The only negative was, after 10 days I felt like my body was overly acidic and I could "taste" the citrus peel in everything I ate. I realized I couldn't keep drinking it with the grapefruit hanging out in the water all day, so I started taking the grapefruit out after a few hours. I really had some great results though...less bloating, some visible fat-burning (!) better digestion and all the benefits of drinking more water.

Now, I make this up without the citrus. It's like a spa in my fridge. I am enjoying the cooling mint and the refreshing cucumber and when I remember to drink it before a meal...well, all the better.

Of course, you should check with your physician if you plan to alter your diet significantly...just my little disclaimer...

Hey, this is easy!! Let me know if you do this and if it works for you. Enjoy!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Italy is Eminent!

I am now on the "pre-Italy" watercolor retreat emotional roller coaster ride. It goes something like this: one day UP, calm, with a sense of confidence ("hey, I've done this before, what's the big deal?!"), next day down, "Oh my God! What if I forget how to paint!" Since this happens every year without fail, I have taken to writing myself a letter of encouragement at the end of every retreat, a little love letter of sorts, and placing it in my schedule book so I will run across it while planning the next retreat. Like the Zen tale of the master who is always startled by the daily ringing of the noon temple bell, I am always surprised. It goes like this: Trust yourself Victoria, you will remember Italian! Michael will be right again! You will remember art and how to watercolor. Ciao Bella!! Discovering it is like finding a gold doubloon. When I start to feel panicky, I pull out that piece of gold and calm my nerves. This year I am challenging myself to turn my anxiety into excitement by focusing on the lovely experience I am about to have.
Italy is Eminent!
Sketchbook sketching and watercolors at leisure!

Bella Papaveri!

Rejoicing in the progression of our students

Delicious Italian Cuisine S-L-O-W Dinners, Lazy Lunches

Watching Michael Relax

My spot...the chaise with the book....

Turkish Steam Room...calling to me

My room with a View

Studio Eccezionale!

...like coming home

Secret daybed


...watching Michael mugging with my mom!
 Fascinating historical and beautiful hill-top towns

....making new friends, oh the wonderful friendships!

Okay, I feel better now! How do you encourage yourself through the fear? Time to pack!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Officially HOT!

Summer has arrived in the desert, and by that I mean it will be stinking hot from now until October! Of course, "it's a dry heat". No mold growing on these bathroom walls! (which, by the way, goes on my "things I like about the desert" list). Most of the people that live in the "land of extremes" could win a season of Survivor without blinking. It is also helpful if you have a good sense of humor or at least a spouse with one; Exhibit A: Husband Michael, keeping me laughing, same as it ever was, thanks honey and thank God!

"Does this look natural?"

 Kiss Yourself!

 A Personal Survival Moment in Cortona, Italy

 "Here's Espresso in Your Eye"

 Armed and...dangerous? Nice bandoleer

 Do we need to see that?

 Steam-punked Out!

 Yes, that is a Jesus bandage...

My Innovator...."hand drying" paintings in Italy

Don't ask...

 And finally...what's a man without his Tinkerbell ears....!

Who cares if it's 100° out, I'm laughing on the inside. 
Stay cool!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Collaboration & a Love Letter

"If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas." - George Bernard Shaw

What a great week of hard work and collaboration. Thank you Rick,  for sharing your expertise, your brawn, your humor,  and most of all, thank you for your unconditional spirit of giving. We love and appreciate you! Vic and Mike

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cake, the Great Motivator

Mary Jane's Lemon Buttermilk Cake

Every year Michael and I head to Tucson to help our good friend Mary Jane with a giant charity/book sale event. The set-up can be grueling, but MJ has figured out one great method of motivating volunteers, cake! She makes three of her most fab Bundt cakes; Poppy Seed, Spice and my favorite Lemon Buttermilk, sets them before us like jewels and...it works; or rather we work, like crazy, and then reap our rewards in cake.

Of course, you know where I am going with this; feeding my volunteer work crew has been this week's theme. So, I turned to my favorite. This delicious cake is no-fuss, with a rich pound cake consistency. Thanks Mary Jane! It works!!

Lemon Buttermilk Cake
Mary Jane McKitis

Preheat oven to 350°
Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan

In a large bowl, sift together and set aside:
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
In your stand mixer, combine and cream together until light and fluffy:
1 cup unsalted butter (2-sticks) softened to room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
Then add, one at a time:
3 large eggs - blending after each addition
Next, alternating the flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 additions, add:
1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
Flour mixture
Stir into the mixture:
3 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of two lemons

Turn into a prepared pan and smooth the top. Give it a good whack on the counter
to make sure there are no air bubbles in the mix.
Bake for approximately 1 hour, test with cake tester at one hour. (My cake is always done at 55min....altitude?)

To prepare the glaze - mix together until dissolved:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar

When the tester comes out clean, remove cake from the oven, let stand for about 5 minutes then turn out onto a rack that sits on top of a jelly roll pan so it can catch the lemon glaze.

With a pastry brush, brush the glaze all over the top and sides of the warm cake. Let stand at room temperature until completely cool.
Keep in a cake-keeper three days, (and then some in a dry climate). Freezes well.

This is a perfectly balanced lemon cake, but sometimes I make a double batch of the glaze and drown it in the stuff, mmmm....lemony goodness!! Enjoy!

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