Tuscany, Florence and Pisa

The trip to Italy was about to leave Rome, and we were headed to Tuscany where the landscape changed. Even while just looking out of the window of the van as the country side zipped by you could see the beauty of Tuscany. Marco pointed out the olive vineyards and grape vineyards–both of them were beautiful. Another thing that we noticed was that cars were getting larger. In Rome it seemed like everyone drove something similar to a Smart Car and/or a scooter. On the way to Tuscany, the cars became larger, and scooters were not seen very much.

I’ve been to beautiful wineries in Texas, Napa and Mendocino, but Tuscany was always on my radar–it lived up to my expectations. From the moment we entered the gates to Tenuta Torciano I was in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. The only thing missing was Diane Ladd.

After being greeted and given the history of the beautiful property, we were off to our wine tasting. The setting let us know that this would not be your run of the mill tasting. First of all it was set outside under a huge tent. The tables were beautifully set with each setting having a plate that had food that you were instructed to match with each wine. I have always been under the impression that if you like it, then you drink it.

The tasting was a lot of fun with everyone picking out their favorite wine. Then we had the honor of eating even more when they bought out what the host called “his mama’s lasagna”. With this dish he served a wine that he called the “Big Boy”.

The wine, food, olive oil and balsamic vinegar were all good, but the host made the experience even better. We even had fun with another group that was from Canada. Good food, excellent wine and great conversation made for an amazing experience.

Our next stop was to the the quaint looking town of San Gimignano. It seemed that each store had some likeness of Pinocchio in their windows or showcase. It was here that I finally purchased items that were needed (my luggage was still somewhere else).

After a leisurely walk through the town, we were on our way Impruneta which is a few miles outside of Florence. We would stay at the Bellavista Hotel in Impruneta which was situated in a neighborhood that was easy to walk around and see the sights. The Hotel Bellavista had a great rooftop where you could enjoy a glass of wine and look out over the town.

Florence was crowded with people, but not all of them were tourist. As soon as we stepped out of the van, we ran into a protest–it was very organized and seemed more like a parade. Florence is filled with great sculptures many of which are located in Piazza della Signoria. Most people would probably say that the replica of David was their favorite, but I think that my favorite was the one of Neptune. It’s just how he is looking at David–you have to see it to understand it.

Now many people go to Florence to shop for leather and jewelry, and there was no shortage there. ln fact so many people in our group purchased items that they shipped them home. There was so much that it all seemed to go together. The crowds seemed to grow larger because there was construction and preservation work everywhere. One of the highlights to Florence was an amazingly simple salad that we had. It featured watermelon, avocado, red onion, feta cheese and a little something drizzled over it. It doesn’t sound like it should go together, but it did. I’ve even made it since I have been home. We did have a Russell Crowe sighting–I only saw him walking away.

After two nights in the Hotel Bellavista we would be on our way to visit the city of Pisa. Before we were to leave Imprueneta there would be a Farmer’s Market in this huge parking lot in front of the hotel. My cousin and I took a quick look at the Farmer’s Market as they were setting up. There was the most beautiful fruits and vegetables that we had ever seen. The stems were still on the plants. There were food trucks starting to cook their foods. You could purchase clothing, cosmetics, plants and so much more. Our one regret is that we had to leave before they finished setting up.

Our visit to the town of Pisa was just that–a visit. A choo choo train took us to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Cattedrale di Pisa, Piazza dei Miracoli and more. One thing that we discovered was that after we saw the sites, we could just walk through the lovely area around it which had horse drawn carriages, restaurants, shops and more.

We had experienced wine, more wine, food, shopping til we dropped, history and more. It was time to move on to our next stop.

There is a disclaimer that I forgot to mention. All pictures of me are makeup free–it was in my lost luggage. So remember “thisisyourbestyear” you can get a natural glow without cosmetics.

**A special thank you to Ms. Fallon Alford for allowing us to use some of her photos. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta, Georgia who freelances as a photographer.

Dior At The Dallas Museum Of Art

Imagine the most beautiful clothing that you have ever seen and then multiply it by 100. This is what it felt like at the Dallas Museum of Art exhibition of Dior: From Paris to the World. As the song says, “I can only imagine”.

The House of Dior was created by Christian Dior in 1947, and this empire still stands today. Since his death there have been six designers including Yves Saint Laurent, and recently the first female was selected to head the house, Maria Grazia Chiuri. Dior’s legacy continues with his wishes “to make women happier and more beautiful”.

If you get a chance to see this wonderful exhibition I suggest that you attend one of the talks and/or movies that are shown before some of the tours of the exhibition. The talk that I attended was “Dior: From the Inside Out” by Anita Becker. It gave a synopsis of what it takes to create a garment for the House of Dior. If you can’t make any of the talks or movies, there are many on YouTube including the highly acclaimed “Dior and I”.

The beautiful exhibition is divided into sections with the culmination being the breathtaking “From Paris to the World” and “Ladies in Dior” room. It will literally take your breath away. Just a hint–when watching Ladies in Dior” turn around and look up. You will understand when you get there.

All seven who have headed the House of Dior are featured with some of their fashions that show how they steered fashion in their own direction.

Even though some of it looks like the clothing worn to the Met Gala, you see how beautiful it is. It’s kind of like a good mystery movie–you need to go back because you know you missed something. You have until September 1, 2019 to see this glorious exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art.

When it comes to fashion make your own personal fashion statement–remember “thisisyourbestyear”

Fashion, Food, New And Old Friends

What do you do when you are on your way to one of the most amazing runway shows this side of New York or maybe Paris? You make a stop that has been on your to do list.  First of all you take back the rental car and exchange it for a pickup.  We like to sit up high (thanks Enterprise Rental), and then we hit the road to Austin, Texas to cover Austin Fashion Week–Fashion X Austin and their Celebrating Texas runway show.

On the way we decide to stop at Magnolia Farms and see what Chip and Joanna have done to the place.  After window shopping for a while we were a little thirsty so we decided to go get some original Dr. Pepper at the soda shop next to the Dr. Pepper Museum.  Yes, it does taste different than the regular ones.  Then we were off to Austin, Texas.

This was our second time covering a show at Fashion X Austin, and this was being presented at the Austin American Statesman building.  At first glance you think that it can’t be a lot of difference between Austin and Dallas, but there is.  There were vendors in the gallery, free food and drinks and even photos to be taken.

All of the vendors, food and drinks were staged along the walls of the room which made it seem easier to walk.  The runway was set in the middle of the room with raised seating on each side which made it easier to see and even to take pictures and record the show.

Now most shows don’t want you to talk, but not Austin, they want you to be loud, show your love for the designers and all of their hard work.  The people who came to celebrate the designers of Texas did just that.  It kind of reminded you of the excitement of Friday Night Lights–no band, but still great music.

From the beginning it was not your typical runway show.  The first models to come down the runway were not professional models, and Texas designers did not dress them. They were modeling for the ARC of Texas and Nordstrom’s Department Store provided the outfits.  Austin was electrified.  Showering the models with love and respect.  It was great.  Even those who were so shy as they started their walk down the runway gained so much confidence as they continued their way.  We love Austin for this part of the show.

The excitement continued as each designer sent their models down the runway.  There was no polite applause, there was stadium sized enthusiasm which made it a great experience.  Austin does fashion different than most, but it is a good difference. 

After the show there was a party given at a local hotel with the models, and designers among the many guest.  They did it Texas style.

Since we were in Austin, we wanted to eat like the locals, but semi healthy.  Friends told us to go to Jack Allen’s a farm to table place.  It was funny, but we knew we couldn’t go wrong when our server informed us he was from Fort Worth. Great food and great service. While eating we were still discussing our favorite designers from the night before.

After lunch we decided to see the sights of Austin, but not the usual sights, we decided to walk the trails of Mount Bonnell which overlooks the Lake Austin portion of the Colorado River.  They say it is a popular tourist attraction, but neither of us had ever been. 

We met up with old friends.  Some we were able to see and sit and talk with for a while.

On Sunday we were going to sleep late, and then catch breakfast and head back home, but we were invited to attend church at Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and we accepted. It was a spirit filled service lead by Rev. Gaylon Clark. A big church with a small church feel.  Meeting the minster and the members was a blessing that we enjoyed.  Then off to lunch with a friend for more great conversation.  Finally off we went–home. 

We saw great fashion at Austin Fashion Week, ate great food at Jack Allen, fun exercise at Mount Bonnell, wonderful church at Greater Mt. Zion Baptist, and did we forget to say wonderful bed pillows at the JW Marriott. I could go on and on about the pillows since I have not slept on one for over 10 years until Friday.  The best pillows ever.

Remember “thisisyourbesyear”.  You can put a lot of enjoyment into one weekend. Work can be fun!

At The Texas Conference For Women–Women Rock

It is always great to be in the presence of women, especially smart women.  The Texas Conference for Women has so much to see, hear and do that it is hard to decide which way to go. That is why you see me rushing almost running in the halls of the Austin Convention Center with my two bags, comfortable shoes, and phone. I was off to races.

Texas Conference 2 Photo by Getty

I was able to snag two great interviews with two amazing women.  My first interview came as a surprise.  We just struck up a conversation, and I knew women would love to know about her company “iFundWomen”.  Below is the interview that I did with the CEO and founder of “iFundWomen”, Ms. Karen Cahn. For women who are looking for ways to fund their startup, she is the person to know.

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My second interview was with the Emmy award winner, Ms. Gaby Natale.  She is the host of the Emmy award-winning show Super Latina, and now the author of the book El Circulo Virtuoso.  Her story is one that a lot of people can identify with. She is inspirational.  My interview with Gaby is below.

Both women are successful entrepreneurs who have found their passions and turned them into their careers.  As each would tell you it has been a journey that has taken some unexpected turns.  They epitomize the women that attended and participated in the Texas Conference for Women.  This year there were 7,500 women in attendance from all over the United States.

Each of the women had their own schedule to adhere to and knew which sessions they wanted to attend and why.  All of us were able to hear the three keynote speakers, Ms. Anita Hill, Ms. Sheryl Sandberg, and Ms. Viola Davis.  Their presentations were informative and more.  You can see some of Ms. Anita Hill’s talInstagramFacebook Page–thisisyourbestyear, Instagram–thisisyourbestyear and Twitter–@mariciajohns.

If you have never attended this conference, you should think about it for next year.  There is something for everyone from, pitching your product to QVC, working on your Linkedin Page, coping with grief, fitness and much more.

This is one of the highlights of my year, seeing and hearing the speakers and meeting up with other bloggers, photographers, and other media again.  Hope you will take advantage of this great gathering of women.  Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

To find out more about how to fund your business go to the “iFundWomen” website.

www.ifundwomen.com

If you would like to know about Gaby Natale, and how to contact her for speaking engagements, book signings and more please visit her website.

www.gabynatale.com

Join me on Instagram!

We’re on Instagram as @thisisyourbestyear. Install the app to follow my photos and videos. https://instagram.com/download/?r=380485317

You can also follow us on Facebook–thisisyourbestyear, Twitter–@mariciajohns and of course our website–www.thisisyourbestyear.com.

          Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

There Will Be No Paper or Plastic…

I’ve decided that there will be no paper plates or plastic ware in my house.  Yep, you heard me right.  The only thing used for eating and drinking that will be paper will be napkins, and that’s because I hate to iron.

A couple of years ago I decided to give my daughters part of their inheritance so that I could see them use it.  To my youngest, she would get my mother’s beautiful china which I can still remember the day my father gave it to her.  This was something that she had wanted forever, she was beyond excited, she was ecstatic that she could now serve special occasion meals in beautiful dishes.  I was ecstatic too because I wouldn’t be allowed to wash the china–too clumsy.  On those special days we would polish the flatware that was never used, iron the napkins, wash the china and crystal and place them on the dinning room table that only saw food on special occasions.

To my oldest, I wanted to give my china that was given to me by my father.  I remember when he started buying it. I was only a sophomore in college living with my sorority sisters, but I was excited. Visions of special dinners popped into my head.  I would set this beautiful table, and my mother and grandmother would iron the napkins. My father passed away before all the pieces were purchased, and I could never find the sugar bowl and creamer at any replacement site.  On one of my many trips to San Antonio to one of my favorite antique shops I ran across both pieces.  I was ecstatic.

Neither of the girls took me up on my offer.  The oldest one informed me that she already had a set of china which she does use some of the time (mine looks better).  If it didn’t go in the micro wave the youngest one didn’t want it. I tried the sympathy plea– “You will always have something to remember Granny Ruby by”.  It didn’t work.  I was informed they would always remember her.

What was I going to do with two sets of beautiful china, delicate crystal wine, champagne and water glasses?  The champagne classes are not fluted, they are the kind you see in the movies and they stack them. I had flatware and napkins that had nevfer seen the light of day. My husband solved the problem because he had a problem.

One day after a weekend of family as the dishwasher was humming along, he didn’t have a clean plate, and there were no paper plates.  What was he going to do? Stop the dishwasher and remove a half cleaned plate?  Go to the store and buy paper plates? No, just reach up there and get one of those china plates. From that moment on I decided there would be no paper plates or plastic ware used in my house.

That moment made me realize that I was going to use each and everything in my house.  So when you come to dinner you just might have your takeout/delivery on fancy china with paper napkins.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  Everyday is special.

Looking For A Great Girls Outing–Try the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament

First of all let me give you this disclaimer before you read any further.  This will be the last year that the Byron Nelson Golf Tournament will be held at The Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas.  It will now move to Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.

That being said “the last round” was an amazing girls getaway for those that love golf, like golf, kind of like golf and those that don’t know anything about golf.  There is so much  more to a golf tournament than golf.

At the beautiful Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, maybe it was because it was the “last round” everything was done to perfection.  Even the parking was convenient.

For those that love golf, there were the top players on the PGA participating with some surprises along the way.  There was so much to do, see, eat, drink and enjoy.

Let’s get started first with the resort.  If you were fortunate enough you may have been able to snag a villa with a view of the course from the balcony.  We saw quite a few ladies and gentlemen doing just that. Some had their cocktails and food to enjoy while watching the tournament.

Just walking around was peaceful and beautiful.  The weather for the most part was very nice.  The sponsors tents were great places to stop and enjoy food, drink and great conversation while watching the action on the course. The Grey Goose tent had signature cocktails for enjoyment with cute giveaway glasses. While you sipped your cocktail there was always someone to discuss golf on every level–learning can be fun!

Of course there was the fashion to take in as there is every year at the Byron Nelson; though this year the fashions seemed to be more individualized (no set pattern).  The city of Irving had great events from pictures, to prizes.  You could go inside the AT&T booth and drive a simulator and much more. Cadillac, the official car had their newest models on display for your viewing pleasure.

There were activities in the hotel for those that wanted to relax a bit more.  There was the Well and Being Spa in the hotel. If you felt that you didn’t get enough exercise walking the course they have 4 indoor tennis courts, a massive workout facility, squash courts and more.

The Byron Nelson Golf Tournament at The Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas in Las Colinas has something for everyone.  It made a great girls getaway. For those that don’t know a lot about golf, it is a great way to learn–it’s as easy as talking to the person next to you.  You might even enjoy it.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

Put On Some Pink For A Great Cause

It’s time to put on your pink and get ready to see some great fashion, participate in great raffles, but most of all get ready to help the women of North Texas get the medical attention they deserve.

“Puttin on the Pink”  is hosted by the Kupferle Health Board of the Texas Health Resources Foundation.  The proceeds from this fashion luncheon helps fund their mobile unit.  This mobile unit is the doctor’s office on wheels that provides much needed service to women who might otherwise not have access to healthcare.

This year’s event is co-chaired by Sharon Crockett and Heather Senter.  These ladies have worked hard to make sure this years event continues the legacy that the volunteers started years ago to raise awareness of the mobile unit so that all women in the North Texas area have the opportunity to get the services they need.

Sharon became involved in the Puttin on the Pink when she learned that her best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.   She soon realized that almost everyone knew someone who has been affected by some form of cancer.  Realizing that some people don’t know about the medical exam they should take, or they knew but didn’t have resources they needed to attain these services she knew she had to try and make a difference.

At the luncheon many men and women will learn about the services the mobile unit offers–these people will get the information out to many more people.  They will be able to tell that the mobile unit does:

  • Breast Cancer Screening Mammogram
  • Clinical Breast Examination
  • Cervical Cancer Screening
  • Sink Cancer Screening
  • Colon Cancer Screening
  • There is also Prostate Cancer Screening for men

This years’ Puttin on the Pink fashion luncheon will be held at the Fort Worth Convention Center on April 5, starting with a reception at 10:30 with the fashion luncheon at 11:30.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  Put on your Pink for a great cause.

Just For A Laugh

It is official as the nice man delivers yet another package to my house–I am married to the online shopping lady except she is a man. A man who never liked shopping before. As a woman of a certain age I have seen my hubby of many years have many habits, and this one is one that I could never imagined he would have.

When he had to fill out forms and send them in he wouldn’t order a lot–it took time.  The kids and I would get a few crazy gifts, you know the kind that don’t look anything like the picture. The kind that are supposed to be just as good as the nationally known product.

But lo and behold he is now kind of sort of computer literate–he discovered the internet.  We finally got him to stop opening all of the email he receives, and printing off all of the crazy information that is out there.  He now shops.

You know that lady that buys the purse in all 16 colors, 13 sizes and 14 materials all of which are fake–that’s him.  Need something to help you with a flat tire, ward off attackers, look like a diamond, ruby and/or emerald, whiten your teeth, stretch your shoes, shrink your shoes, kill mosquitoes, and so much more?  We have it.

The delivery people and the postal service know us.  In fact I’ve told them to stop coming to my house.  I run to the door as soon as they ring the bell because there is no need to sign for it, they just ring, drop and go.

The good news is that I’m going to have a great garage sale.  Remember “thisisyourbestyear“. What’s one man’s junk is another one’s treasure–yeah right.