Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hello everyone,

I'm sad to say it, but we are back home from Italy now.  Ya, real life is setting back in and we just want to go back to Italy...

So I'll go back in my mind while I blog about it.  :)

So last I left off, we were at Day 3 of the Creative Retreat and even though I blogged about dinner at Al Veluu, I don't think I posted pictures.  It was very hard to post pictures while we were there because the internet is a bit behind the times in Italy.  So here are some photos from that night:

Here we are by the ferry, ready to go over to Tremezzo for dinner

Some of the ladies admiring the gorgeous view from Al Vellu

I quick took the beautiful Jeanne Oliver down a little path by Al Vellu for a few minutes.  Doesn't she look totally in her element?

We were such a big group that they had to sit us in the outdoor portico 

My cute helpers...

On of our favorite meals...ever!  Al Veluu is amazing.

It was a perfect night dining al fresco at Al Veluu

Tuesday was an Excursion Day.  This is one of my FAV days of the whole week and I know the ladies loved it too!  I took the ladies on a boat tour of the lake, then we went to one of the most famous villas on the lake, Villa Balbianello, where many movies have been filmed. Maybe you will recognize it:

This is where Star Wars, James Bond, A Month by the Lake and other movies have been filmed.

The architecture is just stunning with all the gardens and beautiful vines...

It was a windy day and we tried to get some of the ladies up to the top to take this photo.

Then we were back on the boat to lunch... and a look around the lake.  here's Jeanne with her adorable hubby.

Sir Richard Branson's villa on the lake.  Maybe I can host an event here?  It will only cost me 140,000Euros for the week... lol

Lunch was at one of my favorite spots again... have a few of those now :)

Just imagine enjoying a gourmet lunch while in such a peaceful setting...

After such a great day, it was hard to go back.  But Tuesday night was my "Night of Artists" and I was beyond excited for this event!  I had asked a friend from the local area months before to help me with this.  My idea was to have local artists come to the GHVS and share their crafts with my ladies and the local people of Bellagio.  I want my events to be more then just me bringing people to Lake Como.  I really want the people I bring to get to know the people IN Italy.  That is why I opened up the classes to local people (more on that another day...) and why I wanted to have this event open to the public as well.  So the event room where my classes take place was transformed into a kind of "craft faire"  where 8 of local artists came and set up their booths and then at night we opened it up to the public to come, enjoy some wine and light snacks, a musician came and played music, and we enjoyed a night together and did a little shopping as well!  It was so much fun and I really want to make this a part of my event each year as it grows and more local people come out and meet with the people I bring...  

The musician played the piano in the salon first for a bit, then moved into the event room for the night.

Here's some of the first shoppers looking at all the handcrafted items.

Here I am with some of the artists later that evening.

This is Evelyn who helped me organize the event.  I know she did a lot of work to help this come together and I really appreciate it!

My lovely ladies... these are two of the NICEST people you will EVER MEET.  Love them and this week was so wonderful due to how AWESOME they are!  I will be having them back for sure...

I have SO many pictures to share and more thoughts from this amazing week, but they will have to wait for another time.  I miss all these ladies already and I can tell you that if you come some day, you will see first hand how wonderful Italy is and how fast you become lifelong friends with the people you experience this with.  We will all have memories to cherish for the rest of our lives.

If YOU want to share in that, I really do encourage you to think about joining us one of these years.  Next year is almost FULL so if you're interested in coming next year, just send me an email and I will see how many more I can fit in next May.  If that doesn't work out and I have enough people to do a 2nd one next year, you won't have to twist my arm to far!  hahaha  

I am thinking about the possibility of doing this next September as well.  So let me know and I'll start an interest list for next September.  I would LOVE to take you to this gorgeous part of Italy.  It's like stepping back in time to an Italy you dream about.  I was kind of talking about this with some of the ladies...  We all envision "Italy" a certain way and it is beautiful and there are unbelievable places all over Italy.  But the reality is that some of the places we DREAM about in Italy like Venice or Rome, etc... have a bit of "real world" in them as well with the traffic, the pick pockets, the people selling trinkets everywhere.  Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE those places.  But coming to Lake Como to me is like stepping back to a place that is what you "think" Italy should be.  You don't worry about a car, there's no traffic or barely any cars, no sidewalk trinket stands and it's just you and Italy and enjoying the beauty that is there around every corner.   I could probably talk about it all day long... so just think about it.  

Email me if you want to come and I will do my best to always bring you here.  

Even if you wanted me to organize a small group of your own friends or organize an event for you here.  I am organizing my husbands Sales Reward meeting here in September!  So I know the places that aren't talked about it the travel books and I love this place like my 2nd home.  

Have a GREAT day and I hope to MEET you some day in the beautiful place.



Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Well, the week has sadly ended for the 2nd Annual Creative Retreat and today I thought I would share some of the pictures from the week and my thoughts about everything while it is still fresh in my mind...

Like I said in my last post, this "Creative Retreat" was a dream of mine that started in 2010.  We were traveling as a family to Lake Como and staying for a week in Bellagio.  I fell completely in LOVE with this place the summer before when we can for a few nights for our 20th Wedding Anniversary and was THRILLED that my daughters also fell in love with this place in 2012.  Lance and I were talking about maybe someday having a business retreat for his business here and that's probably what got me thinking about doing my own retreat here.  (It was also because Lance said he didn't want to come back again for a while and I knew if I wanted to come back, I needed to find a way :)

So when I asked the hotel about hosting events here, they showed me one of the event rooms and we talked a bit about how it works and what I would need to do.  I remember thinking that it would be an AMAZING place for a "artsy" retreat but how would I actually have the guts to go forward with it??  It was just a DREAM.  How do you take a dream and turn it into something REAL...

So with LOTS of prayer and even MORE HARD WORK & PLANNING, I took the plunge in 2011 and started going forward with my 1st Creative Retreat.  It was a LOT of work and I really think I was just focused on THAT event.  I wasn't thinking long term.  I'm not a big name in the "creative" world, I don't have a lot of followers and I only teach locally.  How was I going to get the word out there?  So to be honest, trying to get enough people to know about it and want to sign up for it and GO was not easy.  But it happened.  My hard work paid off and it was a week full on new experiences for me and for all the ladies that joined me.  We had a WONDERFUL TIME, the ladies LOVED this place, loved taking the classes and enjoying the area around Lake Como.  And then I dreamed even bigger...

Why not do it EVERY YEAR here?

Now my event was getting some word of mouth,  teachers were hearing about it and it was easier to plan things with the different people and places here in Italy.

So fast forward to last Saturday, June 22nd.

Day 1, 2 and 3:

With more people coming this year, and the teachers spouses, I had 3 places they were all staying at.  Rushing around town last Saturday morning with baskets of food, goody bags, special items for their room and big water bottles and Gazzoza, the girls and I were getting ready for our 2nd Creative Retreat!  But we made it in time, was able to greet most everyone at their hotels and then enjoyed some down time until we all met up at the Pergola at 7pm.  It was SO great to welcome everyone, spend some time together and get to know each person a little bit.  This group of ladies (and a few guys) really "gelled" from the start.  It was great getting to know where everyone was from, what they do and who they came with.

Then we all went on the Torchlight Procession to the San Giovanni.  When do you get to have a chance to be a part of a local tradition with the townspeople welcoming you to take part?  That is a "bucket list" thing for sure and a big reason why I planned this years retreat on this week.  I'm SO glad I got a chance to share that with this group!

Sunday I gave everyone a "day of rest" so they could adjust to the time change and just have a little down time to do what they wanted before the classes started.  Luckily this was the case, because while they were enjoying their day, I was sent to the HOSPITAL!  So as my hubby and little Isabella left to go home to the States, I was getting in a taxi to the hospital in Lecco.  I had woken up that morning with a terrible pain in my right side and after calling a doctor to come check on me, he told me it could be my appendix and I needed to go get x-rays and some blood work.  All I could think of was NOOOOOO....  I don't have time for this.  I have a week long retreat to be in charge of!  But I figured I had to get checked and so there I went to Lecco.  Fast forward 6 hours, I was back in a taxi, back to Bellagio.  Did I get checked?  NO.  Was I still in pain?  A little, but not much.  But after waiting in an Italian ER for over 5 hours with NO end in sight, I asked them how much longer I needed to wait and they said maybe 4 or 5 MORE hours!  I just couldn't do it.  I figured if my appendix was going to burst it would have happened, and if it did after I got home, them I'd be taken by ambulance and get right in. :)  So back to the hotel I went and stayed on bed rest for the night.  My girls, who came as helpers, really stepped it up and organized the dinner that night and everyone was happy to hear I was OK and very impressed with my girls!  So everything worked out, I'm feeling fine and the event went on as planned.

Monday, I was supposed to teach the 1st class but with my stomach still in a bit of pain from the day before,  Jeanne Oliver said she would teach first and then I would teach the afternoon class.  I was happy to oblige and excited to have Jeanne teach!  She is an AMAZING teacher of mixed media art and the girls were in for a real treat.  I know this is "out of the box" for some of the ladies, but I could tell they were so open to it and really enjoyed the process.  Jeanne is so great with telling the story and explaining the process of mixed media/collage.  I love her style of teaching and I know the ladies did as well.  She really is a true artist and having her here was just fantastic!!  I always wanted this Creative Retreat to be more then just a scrapbook retreat and having all kinds of "art" is my goal each year.  Jeanne really made that happen with her classes!  After her class we went down to the restaurant by the pool and had a nice lunch by the water and enjoyed a nice break.  It's such a beautiful place for lunch and so peaceful to look at the pool and lake while eating.  Then it was my turn.  I taught my Travel Journal class and showed the ladies how to start the journal so they could use it through the week to put all their thoughts in it, keep their ephemera in it and put their photos in it when they get home.  I really enjoy making one of these every time I go on a big vacation and it was fun to share my ideas for a travel journal with them and watch them turn it into something special for each person!

Monday night was a special night for dinner.  I took them to my FAVORITE restaurant in Italy!  (maybe the whole world)  Al Veluu is a special place over in Tremezzo that has a beautiful patio dining area overlooking the lake and Villa Balbianello.   We took the ferry over to the other side and then we all got into 4 taxis and they took us up the hill to this restaurant.  Al Veluu has one of the best views of the lake and our friends Luca and Cheryl have an amazing place!  So we all enjoyed a delicious meal together with a gorgeous view as the sun set on Lake Como.  Good food, great people and a beautiful view... you can't get much better.

It is very slow internet here so I will have to post more when I get home.  We have decided to stay a week longer that planned, so we are enjoying a bit of rest and relaxation.  It was such a wonderful week with all the ladies though and I can't wait to share more about our week together!