Monday, May 13, 2013


 There's always a breeze slipping up the hill rippling over the vineyard and zigzagging through the cypress trees that stand like sentries along the dirt road leading up to the farm in Armena.  For many years we've been blessed to find a low enough gear on our rental car to chug us up the hill to Fattoria Armena, high up in the Tuscan hills where we've taken our holidays on over a half dozen trips. A week here isn't enough. We always take two. Each year we've arrived cementing the bond  with the place and the people we share our vacation with. We've now sent groups of friends and brought relatives to Stefania and Alessandro Saraceni's beautiful villa and each visit I've recorded in a scrapbook. It's the gratitude for this opportunity that I'm sharing as we make our reservations for a trip six years in the making. It's been a long time, we've all grown, and aged and moved on, but the pull of this Tuscan haven will always tug at our hearts.

 I'm not sure if scrapbooking is too Martha Stewart or too the women who think they are Martha Stewart. This whole scrapbooking thing has become a cottage industry if one can call an entire area in your local hobby shop devoted to decals, borders, and bedazzling paraphernalia for putting together memory books a cottage industry. I hope I 've taken a different tact.
I've always collected things on every vacation we've taken: a book of matches here, a brochure there, a napkin from a restaurant where we had a spectacular meal. I'd come home with a bundle of ephemera wrapped in a rubber band and then not knowing what to do with it. I don't know if the idea came to me first or I stole the idea from seeing Martha do it but the scrapbooking idea seemed the perfect means for finding a home for all the things I'd collected from places I never thought I'd actually get to see.
Here are a few of my tips for putting together a scrapbook:
1. Don't buy a themed book with some designer's idea of what your vacation should look like. It may seem the easier way. You might tell yourself you're not talented enough to do it on your own, but no matter how rough around the edges it might be, it'll be truly your own. Buy a beautiful blank book and your set. Buy one with a marbleized cover and everyone will think you're a pro.
2. Don't be afraid to take a picture of a beautiful meal. Food is one of the biggest memories of a trip to somewhere you've never been before. There are so many entrees in our adventures whose presentation has been worthy of a photograph. It makes it so much easier to explain the appeal to everyone at home when you can show them a photo of what you ate before you ate it. A pizza lunch may not have been the most elegant of meals but when your sister's bad Italian ended up with ordering a pizza for everyone at the table a photo of the gluttony was an absolute necessity
3. I've been known to soak off the label of a great bottle of wine whose name I wouldn't have had a chance of remembering without the aid of a slightly tattered label.
4. Never rely on the first photo you take when you're doing pictures of little Ricky and all your friends at the local gelateria. It's always that second or third shot when they drop their frozen smiles and relax into a more candid and animated pose.
5. Bring a set of colored pencils and little sketchpad along with you. I'm hearing everyone out there saying, "but I can't even draw a straight line." First, no one needs to draw a straight line, in fact the more crooked and varied the line the more interesting the line will be. Then don't draw what intimidates you. Draw a beautiful door, a bowl of figs, the best slice of pizza you've ever had. Don't judge what you've done. Appreciate that it's yours.


If you're in New York between May 18-21 please stop by the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Javits Center and see our newest furniture line, The Mendota Collection, for Black Wolf Design. Designed by Rick Shaver and Lee Melahn for the Wisconsin firm, Black Wolf Design

Nel bulo di un temporale - Assisi, 1967
Elio Ciol, photographer

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