A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about an amazing experience we had while visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In that post, I shared photos of the riotous colors and fantastic mosaics we found all over Casa de las Ranas and the Chapel of Jimmy Ray, the property owned by artist Anado McLauchlin and his husband Richard Schultz.
As anyone who read that post can imagine, Anado’s creativity didn’t end with his fantastical wall mosaics and fanciful art assemblages; the doors, gates, and portals on their property were just as enchanting, playful, and full of whimsy.
Although these may not look like doors normally found on chapels, they are rich with a joyful spirit and offer a salvation from boring.
Don’t forget to head on over to Norm’s blog to view more of his beautiful collection of doors from Nova Scotia, then click on the blue frog at the end of his post to see what others have shared.
My husband and I went to a neighbor’s Labor Day party yesterday. There were about 25 people in attendance and, by my count, over half of us were no longer working at a regular, full-time job. Some of us are officially retired (as in no longer receiving a regular paycheck) and some are involved in a few part-time, money-making ventures out of want, not need (which still qualifies as “retired” in my book).
I remember when Labor Day felt like a final hurrah before summer bid adieu. Even though the weather might still say “summer,” school and work told us different. The Labor Day parties were always fun but bitter sweet. We enjoyed the company of our friends, but we also knew that it was probably the end of outdoor gatherings for a while.
Now that we are retired, Labor Day feels more like a beginning than an end. From now on, the roads will be a little less crowded, the beaches more accessible, and businesses less busy. Just like before, the weather will still say “summer” but there will be fewer people competing for space to enjoy it.
In addition to the joy of dwindling crowds where we live, we can also take advantage of fewer crowds when we travel. What are called “shoulder seasons” – typically spring and fall – are prime travel times for those of us who no longer live by someone else’s schedule. The weather is often still nice, but the crowds are lighter and the prices cheaper.
Last night at the party, the conversations we had with our neighbors and fellow retirees were full of stories of how we spent our summer and how we were planning to embrace the months ahead. We talked excitedly about travel plans we’ve made and interests we wanted to pursue, about projects we planned to work on and events we hoped to attend. What there wasn’t was any talk about school schedules, work piling up, or the end of another summer… and I think we were all grateful for that.
When planning a trip, especially one where we will spend a decent amount of time in one location, I often do a search on Instagram. Although guidebooks and general internet sources are fine, Instagram can be a great tool to scout unique and interesting locations. That is how I discovered Casa de las Ranas and the Chapel of Jimmy Ray, and decided we had to go.
Located a few miles outside of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, the house and gallery (which is really the entire property) is a fanciful, whimsical, and joyful celebration of color and creativity. The house, outbuildings, and grounds provide a canvas on which the fantastic mosaic and sculptural creations of owner/artist Anado McLauchlin are assembled and displayed.
To call Anado’s and his husband Richard’s home merely colorful doesn’t do it justice. It really was more of an explosion of creativity, artistic talent, celebratory color, and love. From the moment Anado greeted us just inside his gate to when the tour ended inside their home (where we had the pleasure of meeting Richard, an art historian and professor) we were embraced by their kindness, welcoming spirit, and their joy of sharing this magical place.
The property wasn’t easy to get to, but the trip was well worth the effort. Tours are by appointment only (email@example.com) and not all cab drivers were aware of its existence. Once there, we arranged for the driver to come back after the tour (which lasted about two hours) since it would have been impossible to find another cab where they lived.
During are stay in San Miguel we visited many of the locations that our Moon guidebook recommended and we very much enjoyed all that the beautiful colonial town has to offer. Sometimes, though, it was nice to get off the beaten path and be delighted by the unusual and unexpected. Casa de las Ranas and the Chapel of Jimmy Ray were a highlight of our trip and I am grateful to Anado and Richard for fully embracing their playful natures and for allowing us to explore their fantastical home.
One of the many things my husband and I love about Mexico are the public celebrations. Religious celebrations, wedding celebrations, birthday celebrations, and who-the-heck-knows-why celebrations are often at least partially held where onlookers are welcome to share in the festivities.
Every weekend during our stay in San Miguel de Allende, a wedding (or three, or four) was held in the stunning Parroquia church. Once the wedding mass was over, the bridal party and guests would spill out into the courtyard and onto the street in front of the church. A fancy car or horse and carriage would often be waiting to take the newlyweds to their reception, but not before the invited guests – and anyone in the area at the time – were swept up in the joyful celebration.
On our way to dinner one evening, we stopped to watch an expat’s 70th birthday celebration. Along with her and her partner’s guests, lucky onlookers enjoyed the revelry, which included a mariachi band, dancing in the street, and the antics of the giant mojigangas (pronounced mo-he-gan-gas) that were decorated to look a bit like the couple.
One event that is unique to San Miguel is Dia de Los Locos (day of the crazies), which is an annual celebration that takes place in June. Los Locos has deep religious roots but much of the festivities appear to be completely secular. Although the day begins with a mass at the San Antonio church (which was just a few blocks from our housesit), once the participants head out to the streets where the crowds are waiting, all vestiges of religion fall away.
As the flamboyant procession moves along the main avenue, onlookers are treated to wild (and often delightfully politically incorrect) costumes, loud music, dancing, and hard candy projectiles being tossed their way. Over 10,000 participants join in the parade costumed as cartoon characters, politicians, clowns (both friendly and scary), and fantasy figures, while an even larger crowd watches from the sidewalks that line the route.
Celebrations and festivals are an integral part of Mexican life. In San Miguel, barely a day goes by that does not commemorate a patron saint, a beloved chapel, or a revolutionary hero. And then, of course, are the personal celebrations like weddings, anniversaries, or birthdays. We were very grateful to not only be there when many of these celebrations occurred, but also grateful to be able to join in and share the joy.
My car is boring. It has the standard four wheels, hood and trunk, and interior with front and back seats. It is dark gray. Big whoop.
I saw my first Art Car many years ago in the parking lot of a local grocery store. I was on my way home from work and, since it was winter, it was getting pretty dark. In my hurry to get home, I might not have noticed the car except that it was all lit up – both inside and out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera with me, so I wasn’t able to take a picture of the chassis-mounted Christmas confection.
Several months later I was thrilled to see the car again, parked on a frontage road. This time I had my phone, so I was able to snap a picture. It was daytime, so it didn’t have the same magical quality, but I was pleased to capture its wonderfulness nonetheless.
I’ve seen a few Art Cars since then and have discovered that they are an actual “thing”. A simple search on the googles results in tons of information, including amazing images, locations of Art Car parades, and instructions on how you (yes, you) can create your own Art Car.
Wikipedia defines an Art Car as: “a vehicle that has had its appearance modified as an act of personal artistic expression. Art Cars are often driven and owned by their creators, who are sometimes referred to as “Cartists”. Most car artists are ordinary people with no artistic training”.
Maybe many of these cartists have no formal artistic training, but they do have an abundance of creativity, a playful spirit, and the desire to share their masterpieces with others. This VW van, below, was on display at a local Tiki celebration weekend.
My latest Art Car encounter occurred just this past week. As I was out running errands, I saw this glorious vehicle out of the corner of my eye and had to stop. Not only was I able to see another of these cars up close, but I had the pleasure of meeting Jesus Garcia, the cartist, and all-around good guy. He was nice enough to spend about half an hour with me showing me his car and patiently answering all my questions (“Why did you decide to start decorating your car?” “What do you use as adhesive?” “What was the first object you placed on your car?” etc, etc, etc.).
I will almost certainly continue to own conventional cars. Introverted me rather likes driving around without attracting much attention. I also try to avoid dings and scratches that mar the surface. On the other hand, I love that not everyone is just like me. I do so very much appreciate people who view their autos as very large blank slates begging to be decorated. I am grateful that they have the creativity and courage to pick up that first piece of whimsy and glue it to their car.
A beautiful spring day, temperatures in the low 70s, a cloudless blue sky, four friends who have known each other since elementary school, and a -0.81 low tide making the beach wide and the tide pools inviting.
I am grateful for the beauty of this day and the company of dear friends.
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you probably know that I’m all about having experiences instead of acquiring stuff. At this point in my life, I certainly don’t need many more things to make me happy. Of course, if an experience happens to result in a beautiful item I can brag aboutshow off display, that would be OK too.
Over the Christmas holidays, my husband and I were treated to a glassblowing session given by an artist whose studio is in the beautiful Northern California town of Benicia. My brother and sister-in-law – the givers of the gifts – joined us for this extraordinary opportunity to play with fire that was raging inside a furnace operating at temperatures around 2,000 °F (1,090 °C).
Warming things up a bit
Adding the color
Blowing the shape
Look what I made!
Playing with fire
I’ve always admired art glass and have acquired a few small pieces over the years, but I never thought I could actually be part of the creative process. Although David, the studio owner and master glassblower, was with me every step of the way, I came away feeling that the glass ornament was truly my creation. I got to pick and apply the colors, I manipulated the molten glass, and I blew into the pipe to expand the bulb to the correct diameter.
Adding the hook eyes
Our finished creations
The four of us had such a great time. Our individual lessons not only resulted in four beautiful ornaments but gave us a deeper appreciation of the art of glassblowing. I don’t think any of us is destined to become a professional glassblower, but who knows? Retirement is supposed to be a time of discovery and we all had fun discovering a new way to express our creative selves.