Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Travels: Hints

Do you check airline seating? If you haven't, check out Seat Guru.

When getting ready to stand in the security line, do you check to see which is the shortest line? What if it really isn't the quickest line? Instead, check to see how the security screener is working. Is that person in training or is he or she zipping right along?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Travels: Getting Ready to Leave

Before you leave home, combine the addresses of places you will be, such as hotels, museums, restaurants, etc. Then send yourself an email with these addresses. That way, you will have them all in one place. No wi-fi? Send yourself a text message.

Before you walk away from your parking place at the airport, take a photo of it with your smart phone. You could also leave a voice mail for yourself or a text.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Travels: Travel Documents

Here are some tips regarding your travel documents.

Make copies of all your travel documents, including passports, tickets, license, credit cards, etc. You can keep a copy of these in the cloud using a service like Dropbox or Google Drive. This will protect your information as you travel, yet allow you to access it when you need it.

Here's another idea when writing credit card numbers...break up the numbers and call them something else.

You could call the first four numbers a password, the next three numbers a name, and the last numbers a phone number...or something like that. Whatever makes sense to you but not to someone else would work.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Travels: Check out this Event

Media Contact:
Joel Quigley, Jessup Cellars
(707) 495-0831 /

Jessup Cellars’ TasteMaker Forum, Featuring Acclaimed Photojournalist George Rose’s Rock ‘n’ Roll in Black & White, Launches March Exhibition

 Exhibition Runs February 28 - March 31 in Celebration of the Inaugural Launch of the Yountville Live! Music Festival Happening March 19 – 22

(Yountville, CA, February 5, 2015) — The Jessup Cellars 2015 TasteMaker Speaker Series kicks-off on Saturday, February 28 from 7:00pm to 9:30pm with acclaimed photojournalist George Rose’s Rock ‘n’ Roll in Black & White forum and exhibition. During a prolific 17-year career as a photojournalist in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Rose developed a remarkable and historic body of photographic work focused on popular culture. Images from this era are collected in the 2008 book Hollywood, Beverly Hills & Other Perversities by Ten Speed Press. Guest host Monique Soltani of Wine Oh TV will use her investigative prowess as a television broadcaster to extract Rose’s true-life stories behind capturing the greats of rock ‘n’ black and white. Tickets are $35 each at and include interactive forum, meet-and-greet, wine tasting and nosh.

Rose is a recipient of a 1987 World Press Photo Award for news, and was named California Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 1976 by the University of Missouri, School of Journalism. The Los Angeles Times twice nominated him for a Pulitzer Prize. He served six years as a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times. His independent assignments have been published in USA Today, Time, Newsweek and Rolling Stone. For the past twenty-five years, Rose has held four high-level public relations positions in Northern California’s Wine Country.

Rose’s Rock ‘n’ Roll in Black & White  exhibition runs February 28 through March 31 in celebration of the inaugural launch of the Yountville Live! Music Festival happening March 19 through 22. Festival headliners include O|A|R, Colbie Caillat, Matt Nathanson, Aimee Mann and Blue October. Presented by Volvo with supporting sponsor Sunset magazine, Yountville Live! combines the very best in music, wine, and food with the small-town lifestyle and sophisticated ambiance of Yountville. In its role as a supporting sponsor, Jessup Cellars will be hosting a series of intimate events featuring artists Scars on 45 and Jon McLaughlin during the festival. Visit for complete details and to purchase tickets.

High-resolution photographs and interviews are available upon request.

About The TasteMaker Series
The TasteMaker Series presents thought leadership forums staged in the Jessup Cellars Tasting Gallery in Napa Valley’s village of Yountville, just a block north of the famed The French Laundry. Each event is integrated with the launch of a thematic art exhibition, bringing together Jessup Cellars wines, food, art and people into fully realized sensory forums. Jessup Cellars Tasting Gallery is located at 6740 Washington St., Yountville, California. To learn more about Jessup Cellars and the TasteMaker Speaker Series visit Jessup Cellars or call 707.944.8523.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Travels: Classic Salad from Florence, Italy

Panzanella: a classical Florentine salad with painterly associations

Bill Breckon, from The Watermill at Posara in Tuscany, Italy, has sent me this tasty recipe which is The Watermill’s take on a classic slad from Florence, called panzanella.

You can try it, too, if you go on one of The Watermill’s world-renowned painting, creative writing, knitting or Italian language courses. See for more details.

Bill says:
Panzanella is a famous Florentine salad, also popular in other parts of Tuscany (notably Posara!). Its basic ingredients are bread and tomatoes, dressed in oil and vinegar, but you can add all sorts of other tasty things.

Here’s the recipe:
Stale bread, torn up into small squares. Preferably crusty baguette-type bread. (You could use regular sliced bread, but I won’t lie – your salad will be rubbish.)
1 red onion, thinly sliced.
6 juicy tomatoes, roughly chopped.
A large handful each of capers, black olives and sun-dried tomatoes roughly chopped up small.
Fresh basil leaves, torn. The more the merrier.
Drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Glug of extra virgin olive oil.
Squirt of lemon juice.
Salt & pepper
Chop up everything (except for the basil) and throw it into a nice big dish. Drizzle, glug and squirt seasonings.
Leave it to rest for at least 1 hour, then scatter the torn basil over it. A bit of green makes the salad look great and basil is ideal for a true Tuscan flavour.
Buon appetito!
Bill comments: “This truly is delicious. The Florentine traditionalists probably forego the capers, olives and sun-dried tomatoes, but I am with Rachel in adding these. It is interesting that Florentine bread (but not the bread we use in Posara) is made without salt. The Florentines say it allows us to taste the flavours of the accompanying food, but I think I like a bit of salt in my bread, too. And it is noticeable that more recipes using day-old bread emanate from Florence than anywhere else in Italy!”
Bill adds: “Of course, if you were a real traditionalist, you wouldn’t use tomatoes anyway: they didn’t arrive from the New World until the end of the 15th Century and they weren’t used in Italian cooking until much later. (Difficult to imagine Italian cooking without tomatoes, isn’t it?) One of the first descriptions of panzanella came from the poet and artist Bronzino*, who wrote of a salad of onions, purslane (Portulaca oleracea) and cucumbers.”
*One of the great Italian painters of the 16th century, Agnolo di Cosimo known as Bronzino (1503−1572) painted glittering portraits of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany and their families. Here’s his portrait of Eleanor of Toledo and her son Giovanni de’ Medici. They don’t look like they’d enjoy day-old bread do they?"

We usually serve our panzanella at Sunday lunch during our painting holidays and creative writing courses. You can find out more about our painting holidays by clicking here. And about our creative writing courses, by clicking here. Below: More of the Watermill’s Sunday lunch spread. The panzanella is towards the back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Travels: Painting Classes in Tuscany

A little ‘first- aid kit’ for artists

Bill Breckon, from The Watermill at Posara in Northern Tuscany, where they run wonderful painting, creative writing, knitting and Italian language holidays, has sent me a “very simple but enormously effective first-aid kit” for painters. It comes from one of The Watermill painting tutors, Anne Kerr.
 She says: “I make no claims to its invention, but this little kit helps you sort out the tonal values in your paintings.” Anne adds: “Tonal values would be easy to see if everything around us was black and white: some things appear very dark, some not so dark and others very light, almost glowing. But we can’t help noticing the colour of things at first glance — and colour often gets in the way when trying to sort out the values or tones of the subject. 
When starting a painting, it’s a good idea to make a black and white copy of your reference picture.  If you are working on location, then just take a snap of your view on a phone or tablet.  You can then change the photo to black and white very easily using various computer programmes or on a photocopier.  This black and white photo will give you an excellent guide to the tonal values of your subject. You will easily see the darkest darks and the lightest lights at a glance. You can see this in my flower painting in the figure below:”
“Many people underestimate the importance of tonal contrast in their paintings.  I always try to visit local amateur art exhibitions whenever I can.  There are some wonderful and awe inspiring paintings out there.  There are also some paintings that, although beautifully done, obviously lack something.  I find that it is invariably a case of tonal values having too little variation.  A few quick alterations would have made their painting stand out with new dimensions.”
So what about the first-aid kit? Easy! You can make it yourself: “Draw a series of eight to ten squares and, using one colour only (Payne’s grey is a good choice) paint each square with an increasing number of layers.  The easiest way to do this is as follows: Leave square 1 alone and start at square 2. Run your brush all the way to the end. Reload, go back and start at square 3, run your brush to the end.  Keep doing this until you have completed all squares.   Square 1 will now have no layers of paint and square 10 will have nine layers.” See the figure below:
“Trim off the side of your paper so that your little painted chart sits right on the edge. Then take a piece of white paper or white card (about 5cm square) and punch a hole in it.  An ordinary office hole- punch is perfect. “When you are not sure of the tonal value of a section of your reference picture, first make a guess at the strength of tone you need then, to see if you are correct, do the following: “Put the little piece of paper with the hole exactly over the problem area of your reference picture. Put your little tonal chart next to the hole and move it from side to side until you find a match for the tone:
“You will probably find that you have nearly always underestimated the strength of tone you require for that part of the painting.”
Anne concludes: “This is a very simple little ‘kit’ but I find it invaluable.  It takes about ten minutes to make but you will not regret it.  If I have a painting that is ‘not working’, I go back and check my tonal values from my reference picture and this is usually where I find my mistakes. I always have this little kit with me when I am teaching a class.  It’s easy for me to tell my students that the tonal values in their paintings are not yet correct but so much nicer and more fun if they see it for themselves. “Happy painting!”
Anne Kerr, from Cornwall in the far West of England, is a professional artist with more than 30 years teaching experience. Her positive approach, her friendliness and her sense of humour ensure that every student feels really comfortable, whether a complete beginner or an experienced artist. You can find out about her course at The Watermill at Posara by clicking here.
At The Watermill they run painting holidays with expert tuition in watercolours, oils, acrylics, pastels and other media and you can find out all about all their talented and inspirational tutors and their courses by clicking here.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Travels: Italy and Painting...a Wonderful Match

More enticements to travel to Italy – and paint the wonderful scenery.


My friend Bill Breckon is owner of The Watermill at Posara, a centre of excellence for the arts in unspoilt rural Tuscany ( and his blog always has plenty of reasons why we should travel to that wonderful country. Not least are the paintings and painting tips by the inspiring tutors that come to take week-long courses at The Watermill. Like this one – a Matisse-inspired jigsaw from painting tutor Doranne Alden.

Our lovely watercolour Bill says: “Our painting tutor from Malta, Doranne Alden, is much influenced by the wonderful French painter Henri Matisse (and who can blame her?). You may remember we told you or her series of paintings Hommage to Matisse in a previous Watermill blog. You can see it again by clicking here.
“And she’s also been inspired by Matisse occasionally to work in a ‘jigsaw’ fashion or ‘cut-out’ style. Doranne says: “I find it is a novel way of working in any medium, though I do find that some media are better suited for this than others.” The colourful painting above is a result.
Doranne says: “Using my favourite watercolour inks in this painting, you will see in the step by step photographs below, that I did not use any masking liquid or any other masking method. In fact I worked round the shapes of the objects I was painting.
“The ink I used is very vibrant and unforgiving as the colours are all permanent and relatively fast drying, but after years of using them, I still find that they give me a sense of freedom of expression and thoroughly capture the mood and colour of whatever still life I set up in front of me.
“Hope you enjoy seeing the process as much as I enjoyed painting it.”

Bill Breckon says: “Doranne Alden is a professional artist, art teacher and graphic designer who particularly loves painting in watercolour. She now lives in Malta, but also worked for several years in Germany. Doranne is also a dedicated teacher, who has led many classes and workshops. She loves sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm, inspiring her students to produce their best work — and she’s happy to teach beginners as well as more experienced painters. Doranne Alden’s  week-long watercolour course will run from Saturday 9 May to Saturday 16 May. You can find out more about Doranne and her course by clicking hereWhy not bring your non-painting partner as well? There’s a generous £200 discount for him/her if they share a room with you.”