Journal Archives
January through March, 2003

January 3
The day was quite something. Don Francis (Father Francis Tiso from Mill Valley, now of St. Thomas Moore of S.F.) and Salvatore, a friend of his, joined us in our car early Thursday morning. We were followed by Loredana and Alberto (no tin cans dragging behind) and stopped first at Attigliano at a florist for a last minute wedding bouquet and boutonniere. Five little white orchids with lovely fuscia centers in a nosegay and silver streamers were hastily crafted and a pink rose for Roy's lapel and we were off...including Nemorino dancing all over the back seat and Don Francis's black clothes.

We arrived at Santa Maria di Scarzuola in a light mist an hour later, and knocked at a huge wooden door to the courtyard. Brian Pentland met us in a long black cassock and was so "over the top" into his role, we could have been on a movie set. The door to the tiny church was open, and we followed past a deep rose colored drape. Candles were lit everywhere, and the background music and coldness of the day seemed to make time stand still. Pink walls, frescos, a collection of over 300 vestments and countless art treasures overwhelmed even Alberto, who swooned over a ceramic pitcher while the rest of us were treated to a showing of exquisite vestments, each one more elaborate than the last. .

We had brought the long wedding candles from our wedding at Holy Trinity Cathedral and Brian found two beautiful silver slim vases to put on top of a deep rose colored damask cloth, covering our kneelers. Somehow the wire ribbons we brought matched everything...the colors from deep red to light pink. .

Loredana and Alberto, as our witnesses, were elegant, she in her mink coat and he in his dark green Loden coat. They knew just what to do, and Don Francis thankfully explained some of the ceremony in English, although it was a formal wedding performed in Latin. Roy was quite at home, and knew what to do from his old altar boy days, letting me to know when to stand, when to kneel.... .

The ceremony lasted about an hour, during which Brian served Don Francesco to perfection, including bowing so deeply several times that his head touched the floor. He certainly kept me from tearing and at least twice I had to hold in a guffaw. The ceremony was incredibly serious and moving. Perhaps our devotion to each other and our years together were a conduit. It could not have been more perfect, except if you were there. .

Afterward, we invited Brian to join us for a wedding pranzo at a favorite trattoria in Fabro, where seven of us sat for at least two hours over plates of papparadelle with cingale or fungi and primi of roast pork medallions cooked in finocchio and sautéed chicory, insalata, much vino, and an incredible creamy dessert covered with fruita di bosco (tiny little berries tart and sweet at the same time). .

Don Francis and Salvatore returned to Mugnano with Loredana and Alberto, while we returned Brian to Scarzuola. In the back seat, Brian carried on with Nemorino. Perhaps it was the wine. Perhaps it was just Brian, but he kept on saying to Nemo, "You are a DOG! You are an ANIMAL! C'e successa?(What's up?)" We think even Nemo wondered what was going on. Perhaps Brian leads a lonely life and this was a chance for him to let himself go. .

January 9
After much gnashing of teeth and sparring with the mayor, we received a permit to do our wall repair work on November 15th, including adding a gate and hooking up to the sewer. But we were told that the permisso had to be filed with the Italian govt. and if we did not hear back in 60 days we could go ahead. Instead of filing the papers immediately, they were not stamped in at the govt. office until Dec 30th! So another meeting with the mayor and he agreed to come out to see the problem today. .

While he was here he gave us permission to start immediately and if there is a problem, everyone laughed that he will be put in jail. So we will start on Monday, taking down all the tufa and rebuilding the wall all the way to the end of the former Giustino garden(now ours) with a gate at the end for a car park inside and steps. Very nice design, you would be pleased. And of course the sewer hook up. .

We see Tia and Bruce fairly often, had Thanksgiving with them at Diego's. Diego made a wonderful turkey (tacchino) and Bruce and Tia are moving quickly on their project. Their house will be absolutely beautiful...they are using the lovely local stone outside the house, the red is gone, and everything is really tastefully done. They have become good friends and we thank you so for the introduction. You could not imagine a kinder or more giving generous and open. We think they are very happy here. .

Friends of Roy's sister ask her often if we are tired of Italy. That is such a silly thing. We can't imagine coming back...Well, we will come back at Thanksgiving and will certainly see you then. But for good...definitely not. .

Our little Norwich terrier is growing up and is a little devilish but very sweet. We look forward to him settling down. .

January 13
You were in our thoughts often last week...especially when Mario cut down the caki tree in our new yard...When we have our first fire with the cut wood, will it ooze all over the fireplace? Ah...we'll have fondue! The damn caki in our front terrace is still here, but ee has agreed we can replace it if we can find a mature shade tree...There goes Lindsey's business plan for our retirement.... .

Then we thought of you on Thursday when: the mayor, a big shot and a little shot from the gas company, our geometra, our contractor, our translator all arrived at our house to view the dancing wall. Our photos of everyone peering into the gas box while smoking cigarettes were not nearly as good as yours would have been... .

Then we thought of you instead of crying when the gas guy told us we had a gas leak and he had his asst. cut off the gas to the house. We said, "that is not what we hand in mind when we invited you!" When he told us it would be a few months before the gas would be reconnected, walking down the path with the gas meter, the mayor stepped in and asked for a solution. If our plumber could stop the gas leak, we could get the gas turned on. So the mayor called the plumber on his cell phone. In five minutes the plumber was there. 15 minutes and €15 later the gas was fixed and reinstalled. .

Then the mayor said to us, "Forget that it will be 45 days for the permit to arrive from the govt. of Italy. This wall is too dangerous, start immediately!" If the govt. disallows the job, the mayor will now go to jail. We offered to make him a lovely cake. We love the mayor. He wants English lessons. We will gladly teach him anything he wants to say... .

Today we thought of you as "the wall came tumbling down...."One of the two lanes in the street is cordoned off in front of the house, as a kind of corporation yard. Good thing. Tufa keeps careening down off the path while cars blithely drive by and the two construction workers plod along knocking tufa brick by tufa brick while the earth full of water (it has rained and rained for the past two months) temporarily agrees to hold it's breath. If we are in luck, it will not rain this week. If we are not in luck, the Rains of Ranchipoor will arrive senza Liz Taylor and the elephants and we'll just slide down the hill to do our shopping. .

We thought and thought of what you would like the most for your birthday, and the enclosed picture is about the best thing we could think of. We realized the one thing that you don't have is a recent pic of our beloved Nemorino - who is getting snipped snipped on Wednesday!!! .

Gee, we hope you remember who we are. John Fernbacher emailed us and wants to get together to talk about him renting a house in Italy in July. Huh? We emailed him with an "earth to John" message. Did Ben Laden get to the SF drinking water? .

Have a fabulous day. .

January 15
Last October, Roy was granted an annulment of his first marriage, and we were married on January 2nd in a tiny private ceremony at Scarzuola, with Loredana and Alberto Roverselli and Father Francis Tiso, recently of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Mill Valley, now of St. Thomas Moore in S F. with us. Father Tiso officiated and before the ceremony we were treated to a "fashion show" of 300 antique vestments in a back room. I could see Father Tiso practically levitating as he ran his hands up and down the elaborate embroidery and ornate cloths. .

The ceremony was all in Latin in this tiny jewel box of a church, and Roy felt right at home, remembering his days as an altar boy at St. Rafael's and Saint Cecelia's...He even told me when to kneel and when to stand. I was quite proud and relieved, since we were the only people in the church except for Lore and Alberto and Brian, who is the "resident" altar server. .

Karen Mc Mullen has not returned to Mugnano. There is no heat in her house, so her friends have advised her to come in milder weather. Karina is doing well, working on doing more Rome tours, but not much else is new. We expect to have her come out for a visit and stay with us in a few weeks. .

Shelly and Claudio bought Dani a horse for his 11th birthday named Victor. He is a "mature" horse who had an accident before the purchase and comes to the family with a repairing back hoof. Claudio built him a wonderful corral and barn near the olive trees. He should arrive soon. Shelly has been very helpful translating for us with some of the construction workers and especially the young mayor of Bomarzo/Mugnano who we now understand wants to learn to speak English. He has been so wonderful we will certainly help him. .

That reminds many Italians does it take to change a light bulb? The street light above us went out for ten days before we met with the young mayor about our sewer problem. During the meeting, we asked him who we should talk to to get the light fixed. He seems to know how to do anything. He made a note and the next day it was fixed. The same thing happened last week. We went in to meet with the mayor to see if we could get him to come out to the house to see the precarious state the wall and gas meter are in. The project kept getting delayed and the rains have been non-stop. .

The street light in front of our house had been out for a week. We jokingly asked him. He arrived at our house two days later and the light had been fixed. He is quite a guy. He actually initiated an emergency order circumventing the Italian government so that we could start the project yesterday. Someone joked that if he is caught he will go to jail, so I offered to make him a lovely cake with a file in it. .

Speaking about the meeting at our house, you should have been there. On the front walk joining Roy and Nemorino and me were: the mayor, Francesco (our vigili urbani), our geometra, our contractor, Shelly to translate, and an executive from Camuzzi gas and his asst. They all huddled around the gas meter, smoking away! The executive from Camuzzi (a tall skinny officious bald man named Capelli (capelli means hair in Italian) demanded that our gas be shut off immediately and the meter taken away. It seems there was a gas leak. (We had complained to Camuzzi for two years. They sent someone out who said there was no leak.) This time, he said that the leak was on the OTHER side of the gas meter, so it was our responsibility. .

Once we brought out a plumber, and it might take him a day, he agreed that we could get that meter put back on. To get a new meter installed in the new property instead would take months. Roy said, "That is not what we had in mind when we invited you!" The mayor picked up his cell phone and called the plumber, who arrived in five minutes and the gas leak was fixed ten minutes and €15 later. The man marched back up the walk and reinstalled the meter. While all this gas leak trauma was going on, everyone, I mean EVERYONE except Roy and I were smoking, and one by one peering into the box where the gas meter is kept. They all shrugged and laughed when we cautioned them about the chance of a gas explosion. .

Back to you, dear ones, how did you ever think of putting black dye in your reflecting pool? Brilliant unless someone tries to take a dive... .

Elizabeth is in a traumatic state once again. She has gone through several sets of undocumented workers and on January 1st a law was passed against having undocumented workers so she has none or will go to jail. We can't help feeling sorry for her. .

Thursday the excavation takes place for the new cancello (gate) and it is still cold and sunny. We have not had rain since last weekend and are hoping that the sun continues. The cancello will be a wonderful design we will copy from a gate inside the medieval center of Viterbo. .

Tia told us that Walter moved his business. I will check it out. I received the traditional rose brochure a couple of weeks ago and owe him a call anyway. He wanted to get together after we moved. Will let you know. January 18, 2003
Our wall project started this past Monday. Excavators were here for the past two days. (One looks just like George Bush and he has an American Flag draped backwards behind his front seat in his dump truck. We are going to send pics to David Letterman and let him know that GW is driving a dump truck in Italia.) .

The hole is HUGE! Not too many problems, except they broke through two water pipes on two different days after being warned. The gas line is safe so far and the front wall is completely down. Half of the street is blocked off as a kind of corporation yard for the contactor, and the tufa bricks are lined up like soldiers inside a make-shift plastic webbing. We looked up the weather on the internet and printed it out for our contractor, Stefano. It said that there was a 50% chance of rain yesterday and it should rain on Tuesday. He responded yesterday morning by saying that the computer has a long nose. .

Nemo had his operation (castration) on Thursday, and he took it all in stride. He still barks at horses on tv and dogs and cats anywhere but seems more subdued. Maybe it is the medicine. They also clipped his nails and took out one of his teeth (one of the dracula teeth, I call it, the little tooth growing in did not push the older one out, so he had two teeth growing in the same spot.) All that for €100. Can you imagine how much it would cost in the US? .

January 19
Nemo had his little castration a few nights ago, and is doing just fine. The doctor, a new one who we like very much, also cut his nails (he will not let us near them) and also pulled a tooth while he was under sedation. The tooth was his left big canine but the little tooth growing in behind it could not grow, so the doctor took it out. It was quite long. On the other side of his mouth his bite and his teeth are fine. So this tooth should move in just fine. The doctor has a wonderful reputation, so we are sure you would approve. .

Nemo seems calmer, although that may be too good to be true. He stays by me all the time now, and although he has an independent streak, wants to be close by. .

He appears to be housebroken (hooray!) The barking at other dogs continues but we are happy with small miracles, one at a time. .

We have two 16th century catapult balls on our front terrace, and he loves to jump up on one and perch. Roy will send a recent picture tomorrow. .

Hope everyone is fine and that you are enjoying the beautiful cold weather. .

January 20
Our long front stone wall, which is on the only street leading into the village, has been torn down and our new adjoining property excavated, so all the neighbors think we are building them a grande piscina (swimming pool). If it rains, they will get their wish. If it stays dry, we will have parking for 2 cars and a cancello(gate). .

The walls were badly built originally and have moved 30 cm in the five years we have owned our property. A gas line was embedded in the wall, so the situation became quite precarious. Piano, piano, everything will work itself out. The tufa stones in the wall are huge, and in watching the excavation, we have unearthed some wonderful treasures, which are from five to....? years old. It is tradition here to imbed them in a wall as mementos of the history of the property. We will certainly do that. .

Take care, hi to everyone, and thanks for keeping in touch. We'll be back next November....but only for a visit. .

January 30
There is a lot going on here. First my health has been in the dumps, some kind of virus I think, but a nasty family situation in Boston has stressed me out more than I thought it could and resulted in a string of major migraines, high blood pressure and depression. Our good doctor here speaks English and I'm on medication now, am sleeping less (was sleeping 16-20 hours a day) and except for a possible liver problem am almost back to normal, with normal blood pressure. We have stopped Italian lessons and Nemo training lessons for about 6 weeks, so that's what's been going on. Did not want to say much about it, but seems like it's important to do here. .

Through it all, we can't imagine living anywhere else on earth. .

Our wall project is in the midst of its third week, with two great men working joyously day by day. Linda, we now own the little piece of land next door, between our house and the village, and since the entire wall from our front steps to the end of that property had moved 30 cm in five years and was in jeopardy of falling into the street below, we had to have it rebuilt. We took the opportunity to merge that project into tying us into the village sewer system and also taking out a lot of earth and building a parking area for a car or two with steps going up to our front terrace. Carol, you will have to see it for yourself when you come. Lots of red tape and hilarity and I will write it up on the web site when I can (hopefully soon). .

Nemorino is growing up. He still barks like mad at other animals (even on tv) but he is a little calmer and a delight to be around most of the time. Roy is his trainer and does the tough stuff. I get to give him lots of attention and he is a Mamonie (mama's boy...typical Italian male). .

The hole dug for our project is so big that the people of the village think we are building them a swimming pool. It just started to rain, so perhaps they will get their wish. .

We finally bought a tv and have a satellite dish, so can get CNN, lots of movies and some of them are even in English. Roy is doing a fabulous job communicating in Italian with everyone, and I just blurt out a word or a phrase or two whenever I can remember it. We are quite a pair. .

We got married in the Catholic Church here on Jan. 2nd. Roy's annulment was final at the end of Oct. and our friend, Father Tiso from Mill Valley, flew over on Dec 31st, so he stayed with us and we were married in a tiny church in Umbria. It was lovely. .

I'd like to say we're never coming back, but we miss all our friends and relatives (especially Terence and Angie) too much, so we'll be back in November, and will stay with Terence for part of the time and then see if we can house sit or something. .

Sorry if we worried you. .

Give our regards to everyone and no, we are not tired of living here. Not one spec. .


February 1
Wall is proceeding beautifully. The workers are masterful, and are using only the very old tufa stones on the whole front wall expanse. The newer stones will be used inside the parking area. We found wonderful beige tiles (new but hand made) and they will be used on the top of the tufa walls. We are using something called "roto", which are broken tiles from the same yard, to do the parking surface. They will be set in cement, which I will supervise for cement color. I have seen this done and it will be just what we need, with a border of the beige tiles. You will approve:) .

(excerpt from email message)
We are thrilled that you approve of the garden changes, and even more so that our picture graces that wonderful stand on your kitchen counter. I can see you both at breakfast, with big spoons in your mouths, gazing at the photo and dreaming as we dreamed all the days and months we were in California instead of our beloved Mugnano. .

Almost all of the lavender plants moved well. It is too soon to tell, but they seemed to survive. We moved six of the boxwood (in Italy they call it "box") to the left of the path going up to the gardener's cottage, and they are turning yellow. Everything else did all right. I am hopeful the box will return to health. We had to temporarily move all the boxwood that you planted on the left side of the terrace looking out, because of the wall project. Most of them are under the caki and loquat tree near the lavender garden. They are thriving. Perhaps all the kaki mess that decomposes makes a wonderful compost. Then again, Nemorino loves the kaki so much that he spent much of his time during the fall eating away at the gooey mess, so probably there was not much to decompose. .

We found some fabulous tufa planters, 100cm x 37cm x 27cm (don't know if I told you in our last email) but they will go above the parking area, with flat rosemary growing down to break up the tall tufa wall. And what else to plant there? Roses? Box shaped in globes? What would you like to see? Perhaps we'll wait and email you photos as we get closer. .

Yesterday we had guests from Portland. He is a magazine photographer and she is a stylist. They are also budding opera singers, and spent a Christmas with us about three years ago. Last night the plastic temporary water pipe froze, so we had buckets of water from the garden tap to heat and no hot water until the sun blessed us at about 10am. They are wonderful and it was fun. .

There is a very special vivaio near Viterbo (not Michellini) which only sells peonies, and we believe people also come from the Orient to buy them! So I am anxious to find them, and will check them out this spring. Do you think we can handle some peonies? If so, where should they go? Not a fair question, as you have not seen photos of the new land. Photos will come, as we get close to finishing. .

Did I tell you that we bought 5 Jude the Obscure roses last fall from Michellini? Their perfume was really something and the roses were the most beautiful color. Against your better judgment, we planted four on the balcony, two on each side, in plain hand made terra cotta planters from Sienna. They were the same colors as the house (yellow with peach) and looked very dramatic. They are in their winter sleep right now, but we will see how they do growing up the side of the house from the balcony. We will send photos. If you really hate them we will take them down. We really care about your opinions at L'Avventura. .

Roy said, "How wonderful that we will see John and Sarah this summer." I thought, "But not with Alush?" We would love to see you all. If you decide some winter time when things are quiet to come (best fares are then) with Alush, we would be thrilled. .

Yes, we are also thrilled about the cypress trees. The two on the terrace are almost as tall as the house! We hope to add a few the new property? We will wait for your counsel when the construction is complete. .

February 4
We have loved everyone's holiday cards and photos. Many of them came in January, which extended the holiday for us. Patty and Christopher also sent their traditional soup, senza(without) glass jar. It is cold and rainy today, and we just might stir some up! Thanks. .

Roy's downstairs taking his afternoon siesta. Pranzo (lunch) is very tiring. He has become quite the dictator with Nemo, who thinks he is a snapping turtle and loves to pretend to bite me on the nose and then give me a kiss instead. It is pretty scary, actually, although Nemo thinks it is lots of fun until Roy hollers and throws him off the couch. .

(excerpt from an email message)
Thank you for your warm and prolific welcome.

We are Norwich owners since October, a pup from the fabulous Helene Gisin of Little Tramont kennel in Switzerland. His name is Nemorino, or Nemo for short, and he is black and tan. .

We moved here in June from California, and Roy wanted a rugged looking, friendly little dog we could take on a plane with us when visiting the U S. I wanted an affectionate pal. We live on the edge of a medieval village of less than 100 people, most of them over 70. It is tranquil, except when Nemo gets into a barking "jag", which he does often. .

He is now almost 9 months old, and any advice you could forward our way regarding his passion for barking would be wonderful. He is wonderful with people but not with animals of any kind. He even barks at animals on tv and recently even barked at a cartoon figure on the side of a building. Sometimes he barks, just because he thinks he is funny or to get attention. .

We have taken him to dog training. We have tried an Anti Barking System, a collar with a citronella spray that goes off when he barks. It has a microphone near his throat and when he barks it shoots a spray of citronella and he jumps as if to say, "What was THAT?" We are told to get a spray bottle and squirt him with water when he barks. We have yelled at him in an authoritative voice. We just had him castrated. Nothing seems to work. I am sure this is not new to any of you. I am ready to try a dog psychic. .

February 5
Christopher emails us that gas is over $2. We wish it was that cheap here. We pay approx €0.88 per liter - so that's $3.30 or so per gallon for diesel which is about .20 less per liter than reg. unleaded - so reg unleaded in Italy costs about $4.20 per gal!!! .

The snow was beautiful, and thankfully that was that. It has completely melted, and no chance to make a snowman or even come up with one juicy snowball. .

The wall looks wonderful, and if we have two more sunny days the front wall will be almost done. Then the side and interior walls and parking area and steps are to be done. Piano, piano (slowly, slowly). The project is really going well. The two young workers are doing a masterful job. .

Tomorrow we begin Italian lessons again, this time only two hours a week. .

It is cold here, around freezing, and the other night the temporary water pipe froze. It was a little like Little House on the Prairie. We had three guests overnight (Phillip Thompson and Donna Pizzi and their friend Doug), and we hustled around the next morning to get water from the garden faucet which does NOT go thru the city meter!!! heated for baths. The pipes defrosted by 10 A. M. but by then the guests were gone and it was back to our usual quiet. .

Nemo is called "Batteria" by the construction workers, as he got into a barking "jag" with a local dog and faced him nose to nose, barking away and bouncing up and down with each bark, like the Energizer Bunny. .

February 15
Last night we went to Shelly and Claudio's for pizza. She was intent on showing us how to make pizza like the professionals. It was fun and tasty, but somehow the pizza from Naples still is the best. .

Weather is cool, but the front terrace is so sunny that even in temperatures of the high 30's we can go out in our shirt sleeves during mid day. Garden projects are a delight. Pruning, building the compost heap, raking the new property and designing the new pavement for the project take up our days and our dreams...Somehow we fit in our Italian lessons, which are going very slowly. We hope we have another 30 years or so to learn it. .

February 26
The weather here has been amazingly sunny. This am it was freezing, but the sun on the terrace made it feel much warmer. Most days we are out in the garden or on the terrace in shirt sleeves, although the temperature is around 40 the sun makes it feel much warmer. We are weeding and cutting wood from the tree pruning done at the beginning of the month. This is a slow time of year out in the garden, but there is always work to do. .

Our front wall project is moving along very well. It has been going on for about 5 weeks and we anticipate several weeks more...moving the gas line, putting in the stairs, building a sewer connection and tying us in to the village sewer, putting in the electrical, adding the gate, putting in the pavement for the parking area...just like in the U S. We are sure it is much cheaper here to build. There are two workers who we like very owner and his friend. They work hard every day and every day they enjoy the work and laugh and chat with the neighbors who walk by. We don't think they are doing "girl talk", but then again the only "girls" who walk by are over 70...They also don't play music or wear hard hats... .

We are having behavioral challenges with Nemo and he will possibly go back to the breeder for awhile to see if she can figure out what's up with him. He is quite cute and when he is not barking like crazy at any animals who are close by he is fun. .

MARCH 2003

March 13
I am drawn to the farmers with gritty hands, the women who shuffle by our property on their daily visit to the cemetery in the afternoon in their slip-on slippers. They look up and bid us "buona serra" and it is paradise to me. .

March 16 (excerpt from an email message)
Dad/Roy is building me a table this weekend out of old found wood to use near the raised vegetable planter in the new property. It will be used in the little room previously known as the "chicken coop" that looks out over the new parking area. .

Two weeks ago we planted heirloom tomato seeds from California in planters in the second bedroom window. Every one (and then some!) has come up and in a few weeks we will plant them in the ground. We are finally seriously getting into composting, in the area below the lavender garden, and the tomatoes will grow against a wall facing the sun down there, too. .

Days are spent in the garden or doing little projects on the property, and we are trying to keep life as simple as possible. We are very happy, although wish you were here enjoying life with us. .

March 17 (excerpt from an email message)
Today we sat on a bench looking over our abandoned construction project and thought of you. (The contractor left in the midst of the job to do a nearby project for the father of the first Italian man in space. We think the son became an astronaut to get as far away from his father as possible.) Anyway, we sat and laughed about something silly (actually we were discussing our obituaries) and thought of how funny the conversation would be if you were both here with us. .

The caki tree is getting ready to blossom and heirloom tomatoes are beginning to sprout in your bedroom window. We brought the seeds from California and think the tomatoes will give the neighbors something else to talk about. Right now, our first batch of compost is thriving on top of the sprouting seeds. Also thriving are a few flies, so you must be pleased you are not here. .

Hope you are having corned beef and cabbage tonite and of course a beer. We won' corned beef.....but we'll think of you. .

Hope your birthday was grand. .

Nemo is going back to Switzerland next weekend to live with his family. We are sad but he was very high maintenance. That reminds me. Some weeks ago, when the two construction guys were here working, they laughed at Nemo when we tried to get him together with another dog in the village. The other dog, a sweet male, stood in the street while Nemo barked wildly and tried to attack him. Nemo has a strange, loud bark. When he barks, his little body bounces up and down like the Energiser Bunny. .

One of the men said, "batteria!" and we all laughed. From then on, when Nemo barked in the vicinity of the workers, I'd turn and say, "Batteria!" and they would look at each other and laugh. Come to think of it, Roy was usually somewhere else at the time. A few days ago, our friend Karina was here and heard me yell out, "batteria!" to the men. She grabbed me and said, "Mi dio! You cannot say that" I said, "why?" and she responded, "You are saying..."Lets have group sex!" Needless to say, I don't use the "b" word anymore. Perhaps that is the only reason they continued to work here. Now that they think we are just normal people, perhaps they have gone on to more exciting work....then again, are we normal? .

Hope you are having some fun and enjoying yourselves. .

March 19
...with our piddling stash of lavender (50 plants), we can't imagine an actual business coming of it. We're far too busy sitting on our bench in the garden and waiting for our neighbors to walk by on their daily passegiata (walk) to the cemetery. Looks like we won't wind up there, however, as plots in these Italian cemeteries are going for €20,000 or more! Just give us a singe in the oven and sprinkle us under, yes, that's the ticket....the lavender! .

(excerpt from an email message)
Last week we repotted the lemon tree in a big, squat, handsome beige terra cotta pot from our favorite factory in Ripabianca. It sits in front of the two exposed caves next to that great tufa wall in our new property. Sarah, do you remember the big wall covered with tiny white flowers? Well, yesterday the people living in that ugly terrace above us above that wall hired two young muratores (masons) to take down the vine. It looked terrible and spidery, all dead looking arms strangling the beautiful rock. The summery white flowers hid a deadly secret... .

The vines have roots that have been growing for decades. It appears that when the terrace above was built, there was a little plot of land next to it above the rock and they left that. So the dirt on that spec of land fostered the roots. Quite a bit of tufa came down, as well as a lot of soil. Just below is a wonderful big raised planter that our muratore rebuilt of old tufa stones. Roy had emptied that planting bed to get it ready for new soil, which comes today. Instead, it is now full of the dirt from the hill and tufa. Luckily the tufa and roots were on top, and the neighbors who did the job have removed the tufa shards and roots and spidery arms and now we have gorgeous soil to spread around and use for our vedura garden. .

Inside we are sprouting heirloom tomato seeds, which are growing beautifully. We think every last seed has sprouted, so there will be plenty of plants to give as gifts as well as plant. .

So about the lemons....Felice helped Roy to repot the lemon. He loves it. Remember that last year he rigged up a copper wire to hold the lone lemon intact? Our entire crop...Roy hopes to double our crop this year. So Felice tells us to feed it sapone (soap). We know soap can clean the leaves, but no one we know here knows of feeding soapy water to a plant or tree. Do you? We will continue to explore this phenomenon. .

It appears a sculptor wants to buy San Rocco. He has a house in the village near the old church and seems very simpatico. The mayor, Francesco the Vigili Urbani (local policeman) and he appeared yesterday. The man is trying to get the commune to rebuild the wall on the outside of the path so that it will be safer for pedestrians. We love the idea of an artist having the church and restoring the roof. He will most certainly preserve the architectual integrity of it all. .

On Sunday, Roy took Tia and I to our favorite restaurant for dinner. It was my birthday and Tia's was yesterday, so it was a mini celebration. Bruce was in the US for a short trip. We surely like them both a lot, and thank you again for the introduction. .

Last week, while weeding around the lavender, I thought of you, Alush. I don't know if you realize how much happiness you bring to other people with the work you do, and the kindness you show to everyone you come in contact with. .

There are countless people, like Roy and I, who stand in our gardens, take a deep breath of their fragrance and be thankful for being alive. To be able to feast on a beautiful garden that is one's own is a special gift. Many of us do not have the ability to dig and plant the way you do, caress the plants and trees the way you do, and keep everything thriving, the way you do. Sarah is, of course, the leader and composer and conductor, but you are the musician and the music comes from you. And we speak for others as well in thanking you for your beautiful music. .

Blessings to you, .

March 21
Things are calm here. We went to see someone in Viterbo, our provincial capital, yesterday to make something for us and they laughed when we told them where we lived. "Tranquillo! Molto tranquillo!" Most people think our village is one full of old people who just limp around and sleep. Sounds good to me. .

Our front wall project will cost much more than we first thought, as the septic system that we were told was installed in 1995 was never installed! We remember it clearly, as the realtor proudly told us at the time, "She seats twelve!" We need to put in a new septic system AND a system to tie into the sewer system of the village. In the middle of our project, we heard from the Italian government that something was wrong with the paperwork submitted by our local commune. It arrived one day before their deadline (59 days had passed since the submission) and the papers must be re-submitted and the 60-day process started all over again. So we met with the mayor who promised us we could move ahead and promised us that he would go to jail if there is any trouble. .

It is funny that being an American has helped us in strange ways. The Italians are embarrassed about their antiquated systems, and want to appear more sophisticated. So on occasion we get away with something or are better treated. .

Roy has built a new compost area and is really getting into gardening and puttering outside. He built me a wonderful potting table for my birthday out of old wood (an old trunk top and chestnut poles) and it is just perfect. It will go in the converted chicken coop right next to the raised bed where we will plant our vegetables in about a month. I am weeding with a wonderful tool that is part hoe and is on a long pole, so I don't have to bend over to weed. .

I have decided not to teach. The money is piddling and the amount of time to prepare is quite a bit, the students a handful. Life is too short. I am busy smelling roses and hoping to learn a little Italian. .

It feels so good to write. And especially to you, dear one. I imagine you being here next to me, sitting on a bench overlooking the lavender and just gabbing. It will come to pass one day. .

I wish the news were happier, but as we draw this period to a close, Nemo gets more anxious. We just can't figure out what is going on with him. .

Tonite, Roy took him to the Vet to get his nails clipped, so he'd be done before Nemo sees you. Unfortunately, the vet was unable to do Nemo's nails, despite repeated tries with Roy both in and out of the room. A few months ago, the vet was able to shake Nemo and get him to hold still. This time it would not work. We have tried repeatedly in a gentle and firm way to get him to allow us to clip his nails. Never any luck more than one or two back nails. So he is coming to you with very long nails. We are sorry for that. .

Again, we do not know what is wrong with him. He was frightened from the first night at the agritourismo, and never seemed to gain his confidence. We are sure nothing happened at the agritourismo...we were with him all the time. We are hoping that your experienced and loving hands can get to the heart of what is bothering him. He is so sweet, and at once seems so unsure of himself. .

March 24
Just arrived back this PM from taking Nemo back to the breeder. I cried some tears, more than I thought. It is not because I am sorry for us at all. It is because I want him to not be scarred by us taking him back to the breeder. We could not have a better place to take him. From the first instant we saw Helene and Leo at the dog show yesterday, I knew we had done the right thing. We stopped at a little church this A. M. and lit a candle for him. .

Yesterday, upon arriving at the show, we were told to put him in the open top cage with his father, who won best of breed and is now an intl. champion. Nemo was very quiet at the show, but tried to get out of the cage to come into my arms a few times. Helene just shushed him down kindly but firmly. She feels we are the problem and she is right. We were just not firm enough with him. It is not in our nature. She agrees he needs special training right now and thinks she even has a new home for him. I was hoping he would live with her but trust her instincts. .

When we left him to walk around the hall, we returned in a direction he could not see us. I started to cry and Leo told me not to cry there, to leave. So we left, with Nemo sitting quietly looking in the other direction for us. .

On Wednesday we go to meet with a different breeder near Rome for an even smaller dog, a miniature wirehaired dachshund. They have little whisker like beards and big eyes and wiry coats, otherwise look like the regular dachs. They are supposed to be affectionate, docile and easy to take around "off leash". Sorry for the long dog talk. We are so very sad. .

The war is just the worst. What is this... us blaming the Iraqi for abuse and humiliation of the prisoners? How about what we did to theirs...showing them hour after hour being told to bend over while we cuffed them and then photograph them walking down the road single file with their hands up? I'm not for the Iraqis, but jeez, where is our sensibility and sensitivity? .

Very lovely and warm today. It is good to be home. .

March 25
Dearest Nemo, .

On the third day of Spring, you began a new life with your real family. .

We miss you more than we can say, but know that you will be so happy gamboling on the hills and meadows of Switzerland with your relatives and wonderful Helene and Leo. We treasure the six months you spent on vacation with us. .

We lit a candle for you in a church on the way back to Mugnano, and pray that your happiness will be boundless and your life filled with treats and adventures. .

Love and more love and more love, .

March 25
We took Nemo back to the breeder on Sunday. We arranged to meet her at a dog show in Reggio-Emilia, where both her dogs won. She is a remarkable woman and couldn't have been nicer. .

Helene told us that she thought the problem was us, and we agree with her. We are just not firm enough. Nemo has a strong personality, although exhibits many signs of insecurity. We are sure this is because he needs to socialize more with other dogs, something we were not able to do with him enough. We think he will be a wonderful pet for someone. Helene agrees, and even at the show was able to easily get him to do exactly what she wanted (stop trying to get out the cage). .

He really needs to be someplace where he can run freely all the time and have masters who like to roughhouse with him. My response to his trying to roughhouse with me was, "Only kisses. Only kisses." .

How do you determine this at the outset? Don't know how you can. .

March 27
The theatre of the absurd continues in Mugnano, with everyone giving his opinion. Today, the subject is the lemon tree, which was a piccolo pianti when we bought the house and last week transplanted it into a terra cotta planter. Now it has grown as tall as Roy and sits in a place of honor in the new property. But our vicino (neighbor) above us tells us it is a bad tree, needs to be grafted, because there are no flowers. .

"What have we taught the stranieri today?" must be the phrase of the village. We are willing ragazzi (students), and there is so much to learn. .

March 27 (excerpt from an email message)
Nemo is back with his breeder. It was such a sad experience but the right thing for him. We went yesterday to see a new breeder in Rome of miniature wire-haired dachshunds. They have beards and eyebrows and big eyes but are very small, affectionate and cute. If we agree on the breed, we will definitely get a female. I thought I really liked a black Scottie who was available from the breeder until we found out that Bush has a Scottie. That was enough to quash the deal. We realize the Norwich Terriers are just too rambunctious for us. .

Your father is out moving the parabolica (Satellite dish)...good luck and he has just been doing some tree branch cutting. He is quite the gardener. After a long, leisurely lunch with friends, we are ready for a nap. But the day is too lovely, so we are out puttering. .

Worries about Chris and the war. We think it will be a long war. Embrace each day and each other. These are difficult times....times to treasure what we have. .

March 29
All around us the trees are waking up and bursting with buds. This is the first time we have been here in March, and our pear and plum trees are flowering beautifully. Each day we spot new shoots and hear sounds of familiar friends we have missed...the birds have returned. Some of their voices sound a little rusty, and we hear them like creaky old boards, repeating their refrain again and again. One we call "Bing Crosby" for his long and wobbly warble returned last week. We will get out our Peterson European Birds book, but it is so difficult to discern which is which. We so look forward to hearing them. No, we will not restart our "life list of birds", an activity we started in Mill Valley until we realized there were so many birds to check off that we'd never make a dent. Now we just listen and try to imagine what they look like. Most of them are tiny little guys. We now know that their sounds are sounds of protecting their turf. We like the fact that they consider our property "theirs". They are all welcome here. Yesterday, flowers and plants arrived from our favorite vivaio, Michellini. Roses: eleven "white" to cascade over planters called fiorieras, four climbing Lady Hillingtons for the path and two climbing Crepescules to grow over the rose arch at the top of the stairs looking down on the parking area. We also received one peach tree, already in bloom, which we just planted above the lavender field and nine cascading rosemary plants, also to cascade down the parking area walls. .

We cannot plant until Stefano does an acid wash on the tiles. Then Mario will come to roto-till the new soil that was dumped early in the week and we will plant everything. Over a month ago, we had truckful after truckful of soil taken away to build the parking area. Now we are buying some back. It is a long story, but saving the soil elsewhere on the land was not an easy alternative. .

We moved half of the boxwood before the project started near the lavender field, and that will be moved back. We still need twelve more boxwood, but the boxus sempervirins is hard to find at the right price. When we find them, they will go on either side of the stairs facing the front door. .

March 31
Today, Enzo the hydraulico (plumber) and his assistant installed the pumps in the parking area just inside the columns, for the septic system. We drove to the next town for a meeting with our insurance agent, and when we returned he was ready to test. "Stand back!" the assistant warned. We stood over the cement box holding the pump and watched as test water from the hose filled up the cavity. An automatic switch tripped and water shot out of the pipe like an elephant playing in a pond, snout raised in playfulness. The septic system is ready for the commune to hook us up. That will take months, at least until the end of our festa during the first weekend in May, to open up the street. In the meantime, we can cover up all the pipes on the terrace on a temporary basis. We are thrilled. .

We have two areas that have been covered by nasty asbestos roofing sheets, a wood shed and the loggia (formerly the outside room). We have found some tin undulating sheets which lock onto one another and on a temporary basis Roy will take off the asbestos and replace it with tin. He tells me not to worry, that stiff asbestos is not dangerous. I must have faith. If these projects go well, he'll then tackle the roof of the converted chicken coop, now covered precariously by two sheets of plywood. .

Today he will work on the woodshed, a little building near the back of the gardener's cottage. If that is easy, he'll move on to the loggia. We have wanted to get rid of the asbestos roofing since the beginning. We will see if Stefano will take the panels away. The Italians do not make a big deal of asbestos. Some things they just raise their shoulders and close their eyes at. This is one. .

Last night we went to Bruce and Tia's to watch the Academy Awards. Bruce had taped the show, actually a BBC1 version with no commercials! We brought appetizers, a home made green olive tapenade covered by salmon and caper mixed with onions and lemons and crusty bread for bruschetta and a bean salad with garlic, basil, onion, pepperoncini and mustard served on wilted radicchio. Tia served a lovely first course of sliced ripe pears, rughetta and marscapone with toasted walnuts in a vinaigrette dressing. Bruce and Roy grilled veal chops and vegetables. Yes, we are now eating veal. I had boycotted veal for decades. Now veal chops have entered our diet. Am I becoming like the Italians, turning my head and shrugging my shoulders at things I insisted against in the U.S.? .

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