About lulu

I am a fiber artist with special emphasis on weaving, but I love working with threads and cloth in a variety of mediums. New ideas, new ways of connecting threads are the spice of life.

An Inside Look

Dario Castagno

Dario Castagno

When traveling I love being introduced to something totally unexpected, and that’s what always happens when we spend time with Dario.  We first met Dario Castagno 18 years ago during our first visit to Tuscany.  He is a bright, articulate man who can be depended upon to give you that something extra.  This time around he suggested we come to Siena for an inside look at his contrada.


The caterpillar just happens to be a silk weaver…I like that!

As he explained, Siena is made up of contradas or districts that date back to the late XII and early XIII centuries.  Today there are 17 in existence each of which has about 2000 members who are committed to maintaining old traditions and support the effort with their dues.  Dario is a Bruco or Caterpillar, and he gave us a fascinating inside look at the Caterpillar headquarters.

SienaEntering a modest doorway, it was surprising to find the interior opening to a lovely garden where many of the contrada’s social events take place.

SienaThe headquarters is home to sacred objects such as the alter piece depicting the Madonna that dates back to 1370.  The chapel is used more for ceremonial than religious purposes.

SienaAlso here are all things having to do with the Palio, the twice yearly fierce competition between contradas.  What a treat to get a closeup look at the costumes old and new done in the Caterpillar yellow and green with a sassy touch of royal blue.


Roughly every 20 years the costumes have to be replaced.  The elaborate reproductions are done by hand at great expense, and considering the workmanship it’s easy to see why they are so costly.

SienaDuring the Palio, some unlucky souls even have to wear armor that is so heavy I don’t know how anyone can bear it, especially in the heat of July and August when the event is held.  Me, I’d like to have a pair of the tights!

As we viewed each of the exhibits, Dario entertained us with tales of the Palio’s intrigue, something I’m thinking you won’t find in guidebooks! I’d love to tell you more about the ins and outs, the expense, the competitiveness, the gamesmanship between riders, but I’d have to write a book to include everything we heard and even then probably wouldn’t get it right!

SienaAccording to Dario, winning is everything and can come at great price that just might bankrupt a contrada.  What do you get for success?  A piece of cloth such as these awarded to the victorious Caterpillar contrada over the years.  Checking the dates, there are some real gaps between wins, but the Caterpillars have been quite successful in the 21st century.

SienaIt’s very interesting to see how the banner designs have changed over the  years.  The madonna is always depicted, but she is now part of creations with a more contemporary flair.

SienaThe caterpillar also has a new look design.

Our inside look made me thrill to the idea of witnessing a Palio.  Such excitement.  Such tears of joy.  Such emotion.  Such absolute craziness.  Dario’s presentation, however, may be as close as I get!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind


The Scoop

To Market To Market

Let’s get right to first things first.  Being in Florence for a month means we need food so top priority is going to a market.

Mercato Centrale/marketFirst, I went to the big market, Mercato Centrale, which had dizzying arrays of everything

Mercato Centrale/marketfrom pasta to cheese to meat to olives to sweets to seafood to fresh produce.  I was too far from “home” to carry a load so my purchases were few.

Sant'Ambrogio/marketMuch closer, I discovered Mercato Sant’Ambrogio, not quite as fancy nor as touristy.  There I plunged right in.

marketWhile food was the calling card, how could I resist buying a wonderful leather bag for only $20E?  It’s for my daughter, but today it came in very handy as a carry bag.

marketNow on to the produce.  I actually came prepared with a list so I wouldn’t be tempted to buy everything in sight.

marketEven so, I couldn’t pass up these little artichokes.  Now if I can just figure out how to prepare them.  Any suggestions?

marketTrying to decide what cheese to buy is always a challenge, but after sampling this soft gorgonzola the decision got a whole lot easier.  That is one of the best cheeses I’ve ever tasted.

marketI don’t know how many euros I ended up spending, but I felt like the market was a lot less than shopping at Whole Foods and twice as much fun!

market/PhilThankfully, the hubby was with me or I would never gotten home with all my purchases. Would you believe those two humongous bunches of flowers were 5E? I’m in heaven!

vegetablesGetting home and putting everything out was just as much fun as the purchasing.  Isn’t this a beautiful still life?

I can’t wait to get into the kitchen and  start filling the apartment with tantalizing food smells.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

P.S.  It’s hard for me to keep up with your posts right now, but I look forward to catching up later.

From Dream to Reality

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

For years I’ve dreamed about being in Italy, this time not in a country villa but in a town/city where I could immerse myself in everyday life.  Now the dream is a reality and Florence is where I’ll be for a month.  Why Florence?

FlorenceIt is one of the world’s most beautiful and intriguing spots



well known for the domed Duomo that can be seen from all over the city.

Santa Croce

Santa Croce

It is home to stunning architecture

David as he stands in Plazza della Signoria

David as he stands in Plazza della Signoria

and familiar works of art created centuries ago.  

FlorenceNow I’m sure to see much of those sites, but the real reason I’m here is to discover markets with all their temptations.

Florence/foodI want to buy fresh ingredients for meals we will eat at home

Florence/gelatoand sample every flavor of gelato. 

Coniglio stuffed with salami, spinach and fennel

I want to try as many authentic Tuscan dishes as possible.  In Florence, that should be no problem as there are thousands of restaurants.

FlorenceI want to explore tiny side streets hoping to find artisans at work

Florenceand when I need a break I want to stop at a sidewalk cafe for refreshment.

FlorenceIn the evening, I want to be part of the noisy crowds that eat and drink late into the night.

Hey, I better get started if I’m going to find out whether the reality is as good as the dream!  Won’t you join me for the adventure?

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind


Your’re Gonna Love It Tuesday

Wow Us Wednesday

Share Your Cup Thursday

Thursday Favorite Things

High On A Hill

Thanks to the recommendation of a friend, we took a train from Zurich to the small town of Einsiedeln.

EinsedelnThere would be little reason to visit there were it not for the Benedictine abbey sitting high on a hill.

EinsiedelnApproaching the abbey, one passes the fountain of Our Lady fed by fresh spring water on the spot the hermit monk Meinrad chose to settle in 835.

EinsiedelnInside, the abbey is strikingly beautiful with painted ceilings and delicate sculptures centuries old.  I had taken one photo before seeing the sign that none were allowed, but this one will give an idea of the stunning interior.

EinsiedelnThe abbey is best known for its chapel with the Black Madonna which has an interesting story.  The original flesh color of mother and child darkened through the years because of soot from candles, incense and oil.  At one time, the images were returned to their original tones, but the Black Madonna had become so important to pilgrims that it was returned to its darker color, never to be changed.

EinsiedelnThe grounds are immense and sources of income are few.  Horse breeding contributes and effort is made for the abbey to be self sustaining.  A lady I chatted with said an idea is being floated that would require young people to do two years of civil service there to offset some of the maintenance expenses.

EinsiedelnAside from the abbey, I so enjoyed observing the monks and nuns who live there.

EinsiedelnThere was joy in smiling faces, and I couldn’t help but respect their commitment to living humbly according to Benedictine rule.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Zurich: A Quick Look

ZurichOn the way to our real adventure, we made a quick stop in Zurich.  Lovely as it is, it is one of the most expensive places I’ve ever been.  A beer and bratwurst served with fries $30….really!

We strolled the streets and while the following may not be in sight seeing books, here’s what caught my eye.

SteeplesSteeples standing tall against blue sky.

PeoplePeople taking time out to steal quiet moments in the sun

cell phone talkersand, more likely, chatting on cell phones, checking messages or whatever.  That’s fodder for another whole post!

muralsWorking from cartoons and using only spray paints, artists creating fun murals to hide construction sites.

ZurichSnow capped Alps providing a backdrop for Lake Zurich

Zurichand breathtaking sunsets casting a magical glow over Zurich making it a canvas only God can create and artists try to copy.

With so much to take in, who needs a guide book?

 i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

High On Art

Japan InspirationOver the years I’ve looked at lots of art.  I always enjoy what I see, but from time to time an exhibit sets my heart to racing.  So it was with Japan Inspiration at Kunsthaus in Zurich because it opened my eyes to a new way of seeing.

Japonisme was an unfamiliar term to me.  What it refers to is the period from 1860 to 1910  when Japan, after 200 years of isolation, opened to the world. The aesthetic and formal language of Japan and Japanese influences inspired the creativity of many European artists, and this exhibit shows how they impacted Gauguin, Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh and other Impressionists.  I was astonished to see the links between these artists and their Japanese counterparts.  Thankfully, I was able to take photos so you, too, can see the connection.

Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt

Mary Cassatt is one of my favorites, and her work depicting mother and child always steals my heart.

Japan Inspiration

How surprising it was to see a similar Japanese piece, the likes of which are said to have inspired Cassatt’s future work.Japan InspirationJapanese art often depicted women doing everyday things,



thus women doing the ordinary became subject for many favorite paintings by Degas.

Japan InspirationJapanese art was not modest when it came to showing intimate relations,



and a series of Picasso prints are equally as graphic.



Repeating landscapes was a habit of many Japanese artists and likely provide explanation for Cezanne’s recurring renderings of Mount Sainte Victoire.



Studying Japanese masters inspired Monet’s in-depth contemplation of nature. His water lily paintings are among his most familiar, but did you know the last years of his life were spent focusing totally on them and the reflective surface of his pond?

Toulouse Lautrec

Toulouse Lautrec

Japanese objects, such as the instrument in this Toulouse Lautrec painting, began appearing in Impressionist work.  I don’t know about you, but I never gave thought to the source of such images.



While I would not object to owning a piece by any one of the Impressionist masters, my preference would be one of Gauguin’s whose work did not escape the Japanese influence.

There is much more than shown, but this is enough to help you see the correlation between Japanese art and the work of many of the Impressionist artists whose paintings we so admire.  I hope it will help you identify Japanese influences when you next take a look at an Impressionist exhibit.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Packing Tips

We no sooner get to Maine than we are repacking our bags for a month away.  From my Delta flight attendant days, I learned that packing light is the best way to travel.

IMG_4409I find it helpful to make a list of everything that might be needed and as each item goes into the suitcase, check it off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlack and white are perfect for travel.  Add a pair of favorite jeans and with very few pieces it is possible to have an extensive wardrobe.  I won’t be seen by the same people day after day so what difference does it make if the same shirt or pair of pants is worn multiple times?

IMG_4411Knit tops that require no ironing are practical choices.  Tightly rolled and packed close, they take up minimal space in a suitcase.

Shoes are always the hard part.  Finding ones that are comfortable for walking and have some style is a challenge.

fitflopsThese days I go nowhere without fitflops.  They have good support and are oh so comfy except for the most difficult terrains.

IMG_4403For sturdier shoes, I’m crazy about  Nike’s Air Pegasus.  They are light, a little more stylish than traditional tennis shoes and perfect for a mostly black and white wardrobe.

IMG_4405For nights out I throw in a pair of sandals that are also suitable for walking the lesser challenging streets.

IMG_4412There you have it, a not quite full suitcase that leaves room for the treasures I expect to find!  

What packing trips can you share?

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind