I arranged for a babysitter before I knew what the evening agenda was. My husband knew and that was all that mattered.

The night before our less-than-ordinary evening away, Gabe handed me a glassine envelope thick with papers. In years past these strange and lovely envelopes have included cards for no reason other than to say he loves me, plane tickets to catch our dinner reservations in San Francisco and a simple note inviting me to lunch on top of a parking garage where we would be seated at the vintage table I had been eyeing in the window of the Antique Mall.


Tonight the envelope held two thick card stock brochures. One had “CALDER” printed in bold primary colors down the right edge and the other had a flawless rendering of a male face, pensive, in agony or joy – I can not tell from the partial sketch. The name Michelangelo in bold and all capitalized letter was printed under the drawing. Museum tickets were attached to the brochures with the help of a gold paperclip.


To see two artists that I admire in such completely different ways, joined together by a paperclip was both odd and thrilling. In the midst of unpacking boxes and setting up our home I had no idea that merely a couple miles from our new home the museum was temporarily housing the works of these two masters.


While I admire the imaginative and playful work of Calder it was the thought of viewing some of Michelangelo’s sketches that brought a joyful tear to my eye.

Seven years ago I studied Michelangelo’s art while standing right in front of it. While traveling in Italy I mimicked his masterpieces in my sketchbook while reverencing the beauty of his chiseled style. His muscular figures intrigued me as I would often wonder if women were indeed that buff in those days and/or if men actually found that attractive. If that’s the case I have some serious iron that needs pumping.


Arriving at the museum we quickly rode the escalators to the fourth floor – bypassing the permanent collection to spend our limited time viewing the mobiles of Calder and the sketches of Michelangelo.

Gabe and I would weave through the pieces loosing each other as we felt drawn to different places. We would reconnect in front of a masterpiece to share our latest insight with excitement and inspiration in our voice. He carried his sketchbook and took copious notes – which I found highly attractive in a nerdy art student sort of a way.

As I entered the Michelangelo exhibit I briefly noticed an enlarged sketch that was printed on the wall marking the entrance. In my mind I thought “that looks like a grocery list.” I laughed and questioned my own sanity. “Not everything has to be about food Ashley.” I scolded myself.

Boy did I prove me wrong. Walking up to the actual sketch it indeed was a list of food. In this drawing Michelangelo was telling his servant what he wanted to eat. Many servants, at that time, were illiterate so he was aiding the translation by communicating in the language he had perfectly mastered – drawing.

On the left side of the sketch a list of dishes penned in Italian that I was trying like mad to translate. The informative museum note next to the piece said he was asking for things such as wine, bread, anchovies, fennel soup and more wine. On the right side were corresponding images of the food items he desired.

Michelangelo saw himself as a sculptor which is evident in his paintings. The figures are chiseled, refined and seem to possess 3-D qualities. But the sketch of his breakfast, lunch and dinner is very relaxed. While his perspective is still as precise as the real thing the lines hint at what the object is meant to be. They are merely a few strokes of the quill that shows playfulness and incredible skill.

Of course I loved this drawing because of the subject matter but also it showed the reality of Michelangelo that I had never seen. He never intended for these sketches to be public. It was his desire that people saw his creations as being divinely inspired rather than carefully planned and practiced. It is in his humanness that we can truly celebrate the master that he was.

I left the museum flooded with the inspiration I came seeking.


Further inspiration was found in dessert.

We continued on the theme of Italian masters and dined at Spinasse in Seattle, renowned for its interpretation of traditional Italian cuisine specific to the Piedmont region in Northern Italy.


While dinner was a progression deep developed flavors, fresh, local ingredients and the creamiest polenta that I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating – it was the dessert that was as inspired as the sketches that left me changed.

Gianduja semifreddo served with dark chocolate and feuilletine. Creamy and sweet, matched with bitter and crisp. Simple flavors, executed flawlessly and served in an unpretentious manor. There was no need for fancy squiggles or two tone sauces blending into one another in concentric patterns with the help of a toothpick – each bite was perfectly balanced and exciting.

What I’m taking away from this evening, 1. I must re-create that nutty and chocolate filled dessert.  2. From here on out my grocery lists will be sketched – they’re so much more fun that way. 3. Life is filled with masterful people. Honor the beauty they create by humbly learning from them that you too might someday have the privilege of being an inspiration and have the opportunity to reflect the ultimate Beauty.


15 Responses to “Masters”

  1. Optimista

    This is one of the most moving, beautifully-written, beautifully laid out blog posts I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

    Much as you found inspiration in these masters, myself and others are finding the same inspiration in your lovely blog. Thank you.

  2. nina

    This post speaks volumes about love, appreciation, passion, communication, happiness and a relationship made in heaven!!! I salute you both!!!

  3. Jocelyn Teo

    your husband is such a darling. 🙂 cheers to the wonderful relationship of you two, and i am so curious how the ‘grocery list’ looks like! 🙂

  4. Brandi

    That sounds like such a lovely evening. I am just floored by your husband’s thoughfulness and your writing — so romantic. It’s absolutely inspiring.

  5. Anna

    I love the way you describe everything — the words you choose and the way you tell the story. So glad I got to read about this!

  6. Sara

    soooo sweet. I love dates so much and when they start off with sweet notes and lil drawings, even better. Sounds like such a perfect evening and you are so descriptive, great post.

  7. Katherine @ NightOwlChef

    This was lovely to read! Your husband has a knack for devising incredible dates! Calder is my favorite artist, so I wish I could have seen that exhibit! I’m dying to go to the new Calder museum opening up in Philadelphia (soon? There have been many delays…). His work is certainly mesmerizing, isn’t it?
    Please post a grocery list sometime – that’s brilliant! Oh, and the scones…

  8. Tina Francis

    “He carried his sketchbook and took copious notes – which I found highly attractive in a nerdy art student sort of a way.”

    I agree! Bravo Gabe!

  9. nita

    i just stumbled upon your blog recently; this was a fantastic post of such a lovely evening! thank you for sharing with us!


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