January through March, 2009

To read the CURRENT month, go to ITALY JOURNAL


January 1
Last night at midnight we awoke to the sounds of fireworks, but remembered to utter, "Rabbit, rabbit!" What a weird superstition. Somewhere in a hotel elsewhere in Italy, Loredana was thinking of me as the clock struck midnight.

She taught me yet another superstition (just for women?): baring one's backside to the moon as the clock struck midnight. But since she is in a public place and very proper, this surely only took place in her mind.

This morning on our way to church, a mass one half hour later than the usual Sunday mass, I think of still another superstition, this one purely Italian, but cannot remember what it means. It has to do with the first person one comes in contact with outside one's house.

A white car drives up, and it is our priest, Don Giampietro. A priest. Is that a good or a bad omen? We don't have any idea, but his charming smile and wishes of a "Buon anno" (happy new year) are heartfelt and we smile and wish him "Altretanto" (the same to you).

During the mass, our priest speaks about family and about love and generosity of spirit. A light goes off in my head and all of a sudden I feel as if a heavy blanket has been lifted from me.

All my life I have lumbered under the cloak of codependence; it is only when meeting Dino that I found myself clear of it. For some relationships it remained a focus, filled with worry.

Once free of it as it related to my mother, I was so sure that I would never be a codependent again that I found myself too strident in some situations. The pull and push of this condition resulted in plenty of hidden animosity.

And yet, the verses in Latin over our kitchen and living room doors from Cicero only reinforced it: "Be good to yourself; if you are well, I am well". Cicero wrote this at the end of all his letters to his good friends. It sounds like a codependent mantra; it's not so strange that I would have picked it, albeit subconsciously.

But during today's mass I realize that the one remaining former codependent relationship in my life no longer matters. I don't have to protect myself from it anymore. I know who I am, and it no longer matters what the person in question thinks of me or wants me to do for him.

I am also free of much of the worry that plagued me for years. Perhaps advancing age has something to do with it. Surely this treasured village and its people have plenty to do with it.

Speaking of that, we ask in church about Pepe, and he has been home from the hospital for a couple of days and is doing well. I also ask Anna about her father, Vincenzo, for he is not at mass, for I worried that he was ill. She tells me that he is at home, for today's mass is later than usual.

Livio reads the parts of the mass usually read by Vincenzo; perhaps Livio is stepping up into this new role. I do miss not seeing Vincenzo sitting in the doorway of the sacristy or leaning against the wall, listening to the priest during mass. But I cannot hold back time.

I think it is good luck to wish each person one meets on this day a "Buon Anno!", so after mass everyone sticks around to buss each other on each cheek and wish them well, including Candida, who does not want me to help her down the steps. Is the sentiment genuine or superstitious, or a little of both?

When Dino and I walk down the hill, the priest stops in his white car and rolls the window down, wishing us a "Buon Anno!" once more. I thank him for everything he has done for us and he is so modest. How fortunate we are to have him as our priest!

Back at home, Dino works on the stufa. The free firewood he has been picking up is not that good after all; it burns too quickly. Although we have wood for the rest of the year, I think he will search out sources of wood just in case.

In the meantime, we are firing up the stufa, for have hundreds of pressed wood blocks given to us as a gift, and they work very well in the stufa. There is also a vision of fire from the front door of it, so using the stufa instead of the fireplace is fine with me.

Most things are fine with me these days, but not so with Dino. He reminded me during mass that this Saturday night is the election of the Confraternity. The three highest vote getters are to run the group, and he wants no part of their leadership, although the present leadership thinks he'd be great.

I ask him why, and he's not comfortable having to rustle up members for events during the year, even though he would not have to do a lot of formal speaking. If he is one of the three, that means in the next few years he'll be the Priori, and for some reason is fearful of that. Va bene. I want him to be happy. That's what's important.

We have a simple but excellent pranzo, bucatini (hollow pasta) with carbonaro sauce. It's made with sautéed pancetta and fresh eggs, cheese and oil; a symphony with a frantic climax as the pasta water and freshly beaten eggs and cheese shake with the just cooked pasta and is swirled into hot pasta bowls. Buona!

Peggy and Mike gave us a wonderful bottle of Napa red wine when we were in San Francisco, and we drink it with the pasta. My, it is special, and we raise our glasses to our dear friends, wondering what they are doing on this day.

January 2
Stores are open, we believe; well, at least some of them are, So Dino drives to Viterbo and Sofi and I remain at home. I'm going to finish painting the cavolo and transfer the design for the Vincenzo painting. These days we're using the stufa instead of the fireplace for heat, so I'm going to paint the canvas as it stands against the front of the fireplace; it is that tall.

Convinced that my next painting, of Pepe, will now include his donkey Priscilla, I am relieved and may even paint that canvas before painting Tito. "Faces!" some people say to me. "How could you paint faces? I would be so afraid!" For some reason I am so comfortable painting in oils that I don't fear much of anything when I have a brush in my hand. I consider it all experimental.

But the blown up image of Vincenzo is wrong; his face is not life-sized. So Dino takes the smaller image with him and will return with an image I can work with. Before he left he sanded the canvas, and it is ready to paint.

My dear cousin Cherie asks what to plant in January, and I tell her that this is the month to get the garden ready for planting; its still too cold and there will be too much frost ahead.

Instead, this is the month I prune the roses, but tell her about "chitting" potatoes. It's a fun project, and digging up potatoes in May and June are so much fun and the little potatoes are really delicious to eat.

Mario has still not come by to dig up the tomato plants and ready the ground for spring. It's too late to plant fave seeds, but I want to do that anyway. It will still give nutrients to the soil, even at this late date, I am sure.

Dino calls Mario and Mario moans that he is in bed with a temperature of 38 degrees (centigrade). Dino responds by asking him if he'll come by when it drops to 37...He's a little pushy, don't you think? Dino thinks he's being funny. That's my boy...

We have bright sun on the terrace and will hang out some laundry. I love the feel of towels warm and just out of the dryer, but that is not to be. Clothes dryers are very expensive to run in Italy, so we're adapting well to the Italian clothes rack method of drying clothes. Va bene.

I have an aching pain, like a hard lump, in my upper back, and know what that means...the pain will move up to my neck and then become a migraine. Well, our doctor tells us that's not a migraine; it's a stress headache.

Then why does migraine medicine work? It's not supposed to work if the pain is not a migraine. Will we ever know how to treat whatever it is that I have had for more than three decades?

Dino finds a place in San Martino to buy cords of wood for the stufa and the fireplace before pranzo, and drives back in the afternoon. He's going to try to see if this wood is any good, concerned that our present wood supply won't last the season.

This is the first year he's paid any attention to the stufa. Now he's convinced that it works, and it really does heat up the kitchen well; so well that we're taking off layers of sweaters as the afternoon turns into evening.

While Dino was in Viterbo, I traced the design of Vincenzo and his pecora on the prepared canvas. It is really a tender subject, with the shepherd looking lovingly down at his favorite animal. That done, I know that the background and all around the two figures will be black, as is the Felice painting, so paint all around the canvas to outline the central figures in black paint and will let it dry to the touch, which will take about three days. When Dino returns, he will move the canvas to another room to dry.

This will be the second in a series of contadini (farmers) of Mugnano, people we hold dear. The list of people I want to paint is growing, and I'm hoping we'll have several or so to show at the village festa weekend in May.

Did I tell you that Dino and I have come to the realization that painting frescoes in the cemetery is a bad idea? Well, as usual, we came to the conclusion separately, but at the same time, albeit for different reasons.

Dino thinks I'll be afraid to paint standing on scaffolding or on ladders. I don't deal well with heights, especially climbing down from them. I think the ability to keep them from being damaged by the elements does not bode well. So that's about it for my latest fantasy.

These days, I'm happy with a quieter, gentler life, although friends tell us there is so much going on in the journal that the reader can hardly take a breath between the different goings on here.

Well, I scratch my head at the interest this journal has in different corners of the world; people tell me they read it faithfully. Perhaps it's a way to imagine themselves "in a far away land" away from the tumult in their lives. That pleases me greatly.

How could I forget to tell you that today is our fifth Catholic wedding anniversary? We have been married since 1981, but not in the Catholic church. That ceremony took place in the church at marvelous La Scarzuola on January 2, 2003. Look back at our archives if you'd like to read about it.

We don't do anything different, considering each day spent together as special. But it's wonderful to think back on that special event, just the same.

January 3
We wake up late, and Dino drives to Viterbo to pay the registration on Pandina and renew our ACI membership for the year.

We've slept in late, rising after 9 AM, and I've still to finish the cavolo painting and then work on a canvas I've had around for a while. I'm painting over a canvas with a woman's face; a painting I attempted before knowing Marco. It was very amateurish, and I'm interested in trying my hand at a landscape. But I don't get to any of it before pranzo.

I'm researching instead the possibility of finding a waterproof heating pad to use under the tomato seeds; January is the month we begin to plant them, and this year have none of the coco-peat or other mediums we previously used when mixing the soil for the seed plantings. But a heating pad must work with the electrical currents in Europe, and it's difficult to find one here. I send out emails to friends for ideas.

Egad. I've now begun another project. For today, the cavolo will have to wait...It's a family quilt project. For Dino and I it will be based on historical photos of Roy's grandfather, Arturo Barsuglia, who was born in Lucca, Italy, and immigrated to America in the early 20th century.

Now that the cemetery fresco project is on hold, niece Christine in California and I have come up with this Diner/Donohoe family project that will keep us busy and get my creative juices in a state of euphoria.

We're going to encourage family members to look over old costumes, letters, announcements, cards, photos, letters, and make quilts of their own, house by house, which will leave legacies for future generations. You can do that, too, along with us. Why not?

Christine and Isabel and Geneva have already finished a number of quilts, and I'd love to work on at least one with them. It's the coming up with items and then the ongoing process of sewing and matching them while in a group that I think is so marvelous. I'd like to find a way to share that with them, even from far away. We'll see.

Sorry we're so far away, but we'll find a way to share, perhaps on Skype. Now we'll go through the old photos and Italian documents. I've asked Christine to tell me what kind of fabric to use in the meantime...

Here is something I agree with the pope about:
"(ANSA) - Vatican City, December 30 - The Vatican will no longer automatically adopt Italian laws as its own when a new statute comes into effect on Thursday, according to Vatican daily Osservatore Romano.

"Jose' Maria Serrano Ruiz, president of the Commission for the Revision of the Code of Vatican Law, said the move was motivated by the ''exorbitant number'' of Italian laws, as well as their ''instability'' and frequent contrast with ''the irreversible principles of the Church''.

"Although the Vatican is an independent city-state, its residents are largely recognised as Italian citizens."

There are definitely too many Italian laws. Is that why Italians ignore most of them unless someone in uniform with a machine gun reminds them?

What a country! You must admit this is quite a place when a kind of benevolent anarchy rules. Family is everything in Italy, and I think that is a good thing.

Tonight is Dino's Confraternity election...He returns to tell me that although he tried to protest, he agreed to be Vice Priori. In Italian, the word "vice" is pronounced "vee-che". The term is for three years. So we'll see how things progress. I'm so very proud of him.

Next Tuesday will be my favorite mass of the year; it is the blessing of the reliquaries. This is the one mass that is held in the little church in the plaza, probably because of the way the altars are set up. Will Dino be participating? The way the village embraces us is somewhat overwhelming; in his new role, I suspect so.

January 4
Yesterday severe pains in the center of my upper back and neck continued, and during the night the pain was almost unbearable. The pain shot up to my head, surrounding it like a vise.

At times, bright lights seemed to shoot out from my eye sockets, even though my eyes were closed. Tonight, the pain centered at the back of my head, at the base of my skull. You know the drill by now. The journal includes those boring details, for Dino and I to refer to later if we need to. Just skip over them. Thanks.

Unable to get out of bed, I cannot attend mass. Ever steady Dino rises and walks up in the bright sun. Afterward, he drives to Il Pallone, both for cappuccino and dolci at the bar and to shop. Sofi sits on the bed, keeping watch and wanting to be near me. She always senses when I am not well.

Dino fixes a great chicken risotto and then works out on the terrace. He so likes to be kept busy. Inside, Sofi and I return to bed.

Hours later, we join Dino to watch a little TV. I take a second round of difemtre and tachiprina and in an hour am feeling good, if not a little woozy. I'll surely have wild and colorful dreams tonight. That's always the case with this medicine.

January 5
Dino is up early, driving to Montecchio to check out the house after renters have left. They've emailed us that they loved their stay, and the restaurant we recommended, Il Gelsi.

Sofi and I get up late, but there is plenty of sun streaming in the kitchen, and I'd like to work slowly on finishing details of the cavolo (cabbage). I'll probably paint a series of these vegetables, for we have photos of the red and the green varieties that have been planted in our raised orto bed.

Until the snails poked holes in their outer leaves (who wants to go outside with a flashlight to check on the critters after dark when they come out to eat?), these beauties were remarkable specimens. And the colors! How about pink and blue for the red ones, yellow and green for the green ones?

Did I tell you that we planted them just so that I could paint them? You'll see what they look like when I get around to them.... And yes, I will cook the cabbage.

I do work on the painting, and the more I work on it, the more I realize it's not a slap dash painting. My headache is not completely gone, but I spend at least an hour painting, then put together a baked pasta dish with the cold roast chicken. It's a hit.

Each afternoon, Augusta and Marieadelaide sit on our stone benches located on the front walk below the stone wall. I hear them today when I walk out to the loggia mid-afternoon. There is so much sun there, that even if it is cold the benches are a sweet place to sit and chat. And that is just what they do, each afternoon.

On warmer days, they are joined by other women. It's so good to know our neighbors are enjoying themselves in this little spot, set up just for them.

Dino decides to get up on the two-story ladder and begin to prune the cachi (persimmon) tree on our front terrace. It's a dangerous job if he's not careful, and Sofi is so worried that she cries out, then sits at the furthest corner of the terrace, by the gate to the parcheggio. I don't blame her.

I noticed him up there first when looking out the window while standing at the sink in the kitchen, and walk out to see if he needs help. "No" and then "Yes" is his response, as he jiggles a little and holds on to the tree to steady himself. This is about my most un-favorite thing for him to do, but there is no stopping him.

So I stand on the bottom rung of the ladder and he saws away. Since seeing how quickly and robustly the olive tree across the street grew back, I'm adapting to his cutting the tree back until it is almost nubby.

I'm especially fine with him cutting anything that will result in branches hanging out over the front path. It's just too dangerous to cut the fruit growing there during the summer months. But one never knows just how robust the tree will become then.

I hear a tapping and look up, to see Rosina at her open bedroom window with her martello (hammer), hitting a piece of metal that holds back a shutter. She's full of joy, proud that she can do this work herself. So I utter a "Buon lavoro!" and she waves the martello and smiles broadly at us.

As the afternoon wears on, the dull pain in the center of my upper back returns, and increases hour by hour. For the fifth day in a row I take a combination of Tachiprina and Difmetre. I hate to do it, but it is the only thing that will end the pain. Dino wants me to make a test tomorrow: after pranzo I'll lie down for a while and see if the pain will still return.

I take a look at the painting and its light and shadows are improving, so perhaps I'll finish it tomorrow. But for now, I'm returning to bed, although it is only 8 PM. What a drag I am to be around!

January 6
Just what IS the meaning of Epiphany, anyway? Well, Al Gore's internet tells me that it's a celebration in honor of the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus and signifies God's greetings to the people of the world. It is the oldest of the Christian festivals and is celebrated on this day around the world.

An epiphany itself is often described as a moment of self-realization or discovery, one that enlightens or reveals a person's character. Think of the expression, "Aha!" I've had a number of epiphanies lately, thankfully all positive experiences.

We have mass this morning, and my favorite service of the year this afternoon. This is the blessing of the reliquaries (relics), and Dino will be on the altar with the priest and Priori.

The morning is really cold, and everyone who walks or drives by us on our way up to mass asks us if we are cold. Weather is an easy topic to speak about to people who don't communicate all that well in one's own language. So people who don't have conversations with us often but would like to are given the opportunity to share a few words with us. Our response? "Si, ma non troppo (yes, but not too cold)".

I really do understand more of the homily than I have given myself credit.

Afterward, Tiziano tells us he wants to meet with us this week. Ecomuseo has questionnaires for everyone in Mugnano, asking them what they like the most about the village. Have a few hours for our answer?

He'll come by on Friday and will help us answer the questionnaires. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways" (I think to myself). Before Friday evening, I intend to write something for the Ecomuseo folks, to be given to them in addition to the questionnaire. It's similar to asking a hypochondriac how they feel...

While walking down the hill, we come upon Zio (Uncle) Pepe and our good friend, known locally as Pepino, not Pepe as we call him. No wonder Candida can't understand me when I ask her about Pepe. It is as if she's saying, "Why would you want to know about HIM?"

Earlier this morning, Zio Pepe told us that this morning's mass would be held at 10 AM, and not at the usual 9:30. He never goes to church, so others around us laugh with us at the comment. How would he know? The mass is at the usual 9:30. When we see him, we thank him for letting us know with a laugh.

We are very happy to see Pepino, who is walking carefully and tells us he is doing well. Yes, he is in pain, but he is doing better. Dino tells him we have wonderful photos for him of Christmas Eve, and he is pleased. I then tell him that I'd like to paint him with Priscilla, and he'd like that.

"Do you want to wear a hat in the painting?" I ask him, but he is not concerned. Whatever we want is fine. Now that I've been freed from doing any painting in the cemetery, my focus is all about the contadini of Mugnano and hope I can finish painting several of them before the festa in May. Now Dino is nervous. "All those canvases to prepare!" he moans, jokingly.

I want to bake some kind of concoction for today's pranzo dessert, and come across an anarchist cake on the internet that I play around with. Ha. Ha. No wonder I love the Italians. They listen (sometimes halfheartedly), then go off and do what they want to do anyway.

That's how I cook... similar to an anarchist, ignoring all the rules? What do we think of the result?...It's unorthodox and nothing to make a fuss over. I like the fact that it is easy, but it is too flat and lacks pizzaz. I'll try it again sometime, but will change some of the ingredients. After all, it's not a democratic cake.

I do not lie down after pranzo, but instead spend time on the internet, trying to figure out what all this pain is about. I find out that Difmetre is only sold in Italy, contains caffeine (no wonder I don't sleep when I take it), and is used often in combination with Tachiprina (aspirin) in doses of 100mg. Boh! When I have a migraine headache, I combine a compresse (pill) with 1000 (one thousand) mg. of Tachiprina!

We'll make an appointment with our good doctor tomorrow, for I don't find any answers that are helpful. But today is the day of the blessing of the reliquaries of Mugnano, and I so look forward to hearing dear Vincenzo chant and recite...

At the 4 PM service, Dino stands with Fabrizio (who is now the Priori) and Mauro (who is the Secretary and third member of the triumverate) on the altar. Mauro and Dino stand on either side of Don Luca. I sit in the second row with Gigliola. This is Dino's first "role" as Vice Priori. Va bene!

When it is time to take out the reliquaries, Dino stands at the back behind the main altar, handing each one in proper order to Fabrizio, who then hands each one to Mauro.

Don Luca sits alone in the front row, watching little Mauro hold each one up high as Vincenzo tells us which relics are in each one...a finger in one, a bone in another, and so on...The reliquary for San Vincenzo seems to have two of his fingers with a nastro (ribbon) around them.

I somehow remember that there is a church somewhere in Italy where nuns doll out fingers and things of saints, especially martyrs, to different churches. I am a little dubious of the whole thing, but after visiting Ferrentillo, the strange place north of Terni where perfectly preserved bodies have been on display for decades, I'm remembering that bodies will remain in tact if there are no preservatives in them.

Does this sound as if it's out of a C.S.I. program on TV? Let's see what the internet says about it all...http://www.baptistpillar.com/bd0396.htm It appears that every altar, in order to be consecrated, must include a venerable relic of some sort.

Here's a different interpretation, thanks to... www.dignareme.blogspot.com/2007_11_01_archive.html "The heretics of the sixteenth century profaned the tombs of the saints, under pretext of bringing us back to the doctrine of our forefathers. In contradiction to these strange reformers, the Council of Trent expressed the unanimous testimony of tradition in the following definition, which sets forth the theological reasons of the honour paid by the Church to the relics of saints. "'Veneration ought to be shown by the faithful to the bodies of the martyrs and other saints, who live with Jesus Christ. For they were His living members and the temples of the Holy Ghost; He will raise them up again to eternal life and glory; and through them God grants many blessings to mankind.

"Therefore, those say that the relics of the saints are not worthy of veneration, that it is useless for the faithful to honour them, that it is vain to visit the memorials or monuments of the saints in order to obtain their aid, are absolutely to be condemned; and as they have already been long ago condemned, the Church now condemns them once more. "Considering the unequal distribution of relics throughout the world, Rome has not fixed one universal feast for the essentially local cultus of these precious remains. She leaves the particular churches free to consult their own convenience, reserving it to herself to bless and sanction the choice of each." I'm still not sure I understand it all...do you?

Bu there is no "Ora pro nobis..." today, the chanting that may constitute a longer version of the service. Perhaps we have heard the last of this sacred chanting. It is quite sad. In time, we will ask why.

Back at home we're quite cold, so Dino continues to fire up the stufa. There is a lot of trouble between Russia and the Ukraine these days, for it is believed that the Ukraine has siphoned off substantial gas on its way to Europe from Russia from the pipeline that runs through it.

Since the Ukraine dearly wants to become a member of the European Union and Russia is absolutely against the possibility, we are a little nervous. As the winter chill continues, Europe will have trouble obtaining enough gas for heating and other uses.

Russia now wants to build pipelines that will divert its substantial natural gas reserves around the Ukraine, above and/or below the country that now "houses" the gas pipeline to Europe. It will take at least a decade and the cost will be exorbitant.

Since Europe consists of many countries living in peaceful coexistence with each other, all people living in Europe are concerned with each other's welfare. That includes us.

Thinking as Europeans gives us a very different geographical context than people living in the U S, who really don't spend much time or effort thinking about neighbors to the north or south of them, never mind those living in other continents.

Needless to say, we are somewhat worried about the possibilities...

I go to bed without my customary migraine and with less pain in my upper back.

January 7
We're greeted with more cold and no snow as we awake. I've been thinking about the Blessings of the Animals, events that take place all over Italy on January 17. Since we now have three asini (donkeys) and hundreds of sheep in little Mugnano, why don't we have Don Giampietro here for the blessing?

I'm not sure who owns all the sheep, but a blessing in Bomarzo hardly seems to make sense, especially since Mugnano is usually given equal treatment in the eyes of Don Luca. Dogs: Brik, Sofi, Ubiq, the wolfhound mix; three donkeys and hundreds of sheep, not to mention scores of cats. I'd say that's worthy, wouldn't you?

Now that Dino is Vice Priori, I'll be sure to fill his head with all sorts of ideas. The Ecomuseo leaders...well, that group is another to lobby for it, but we don't have much time. Let's see what we can do with Tiziano on Friday, since he's one of the leaders of Ecomuseo. If the mission of the group is to preserve Mugnano and its culture, this surely fits right in.

I mostly finish the cabbage, and move on to Vincenzo, painting his hat and beginning to work on his face.

January 8
The very cold weather continues, and when we look outside at around 8AM, is that ice sitting on top of the wooden pergola in the garden? Perhaps it is just frost.

I return to painting Vincenzo, and the SKY installers arrive an hour early to install the HDTV system. They're finished by 11 AM, and Dino still has time to go out to shop before stores close for the day at l'una. Grocery stores all are closed on Thursday afternoon in Italy.

I'm researching heating pads for the tomato seedlings, but since low cost alternatives to anything are important these days, we'll look for local heating pads, and will cover them with plastic bags if we don't find waterproof ones at a reasonable cost.

January 11 will be the next full moon, so tomorrow when we'll be in Viterbo we'll research Agri stores for waterproof heating pads. I'd really like to start the tomato seeds this next week. We're into our fifth year of growing tomatoes! (One year every seedling died in the greenhouse when our house sitter forgot to water them in our absence.) Let's begin!

For eight days I have had headaches and have taken difmetre plus 1000 mg. of Tachiprina. I thought today I would not have to take anything, but by 9 PM, my hopes were dashed. Since the Difmetre contains a lot of caffeine, sleeping is not easy. Tomorrow we'll talk with our good doctor, to see what we can do.

January 9
I'm feeling good, and we stop at a bar in the outskirts of Bomarzo before driving to Viterbo. At a large agri store, the manager takes us out back when we as him if he has any sterile potting medium for tomato seeds. I follow behind Dino and not a word is said by the old man, who silently trudges into an outdoor storage area, where he climbs around mounds of half-ruined boxes and bags of items of undetermined origin.

In my paranoid mind, we're outside Palermo, and the man leads us into the dark cavern behind the shop where we are disposed of like characters in a Tony Soprano movie. But we're in Viterbo, and nothing happens, other than we find a couple of huge bags of the stuff we're looking for. Not one bag is fully sealed.

He then takes us over to another area, completely open to the elements, and we read the back of a large bag that is also in English. This will do. He has tiny biodegradable pots for the seedlings, and a couple of different kits for indoor greenhouse setups. I like one a lot, but Dino wants to continue to search.

We meet with our doctor, who laughs at my email about Botox shots for migraines. He is such a knowledgeable doctor, that he tells us that there is only one kind of obscure migraine that successfully is treated by Botox. He laughs that if I have the treatment I will continue to have headaches, but will also have much fuller lips. Very funny...That done, we agree that I have both tension and migraine headaches.

What to do? We agree that I will return to taking Laroxyl drops (not more than 6) each night, continue the Xeristar each morning, take 1000mg. of Tachiprina at the onset of any headache, and if that does not work, the Difmetre.

The doctor looks very stressed and overworked. I tell him I will mail him a prescription. He needs a change of scene, for a week at least. This doctor is so kind and so serious about his craft that it seems to be eating him up. Let's see what we can do to add some calmness to his life.

He tells us he is an expert on advising colonoscopies, and after hearing that we're both due this year for them, tells us to put them off for at least a year, for the results of our last ones were very good.

I paint this afternoon, making headway on Vincenzo's face. At 5PM, Tiziano comes by, picks up Dino, and they drive to Roberto's office to figure out a problem for a small client.

When they return, Tiziano brings in the questionnaires from Eco-Museo for us to complete and return. We read them together, than have some tea. We're left to fill them out and bring them to Tiziano on Sunday at mass. I'm impressed that the four men came up with this questionnaire.

"What are you going to do with the information?" I ask him before he leaves for home.

"I have no idea!" he responds, and we all laugh. Well, I'm sure that at least Alberto Castori knows what to do. We're very happy that the group is moving forward, and the idea of preserving Mugnano for future generations is just what we have in mind.

I'm without a headache until I go up to bed at 9PM. This is better, but I still take the Tachiprina. Hopefully I won't need to take difmetre. We'll see.

January 10
We stop at a bar in Bomarzo on the way to the superstrada, and on the price list is the word "lievito" with a price of €0.80 next to it. I'm thinking that it is the word for pastry, a word often called "pasta" in Italian.

The young barista confirms it, and I eat a cornetto integrale (whole wheat croissant with a teaspoon of honey) and Dino eats a "girotte"(circular bun). Buono!

With the full moon one day away, we return to Viterbo to look at a few more shops for the indoor greenhouse. I'm confident that we'll come home with one. Tonight I'll soak the seeds, and tomorrow I hope to begin the 2009 season...

Dino tells me that this year, we'll plant San Marzanos for bottling and the heirlooms for eating. We'll also look for some nitrogen additive to add to the soil, for Mario has not returned and by now planting fave beans to enrich the soil is a waste of time.

We're still looking for a pad to place under the seedlings, and Dino thinks an electric blanket will work. But the cheapest one we find is €50...not an option.

We have the potting medium, and after visiting five or six locations, find what we want for €15 at OBI in Viterbo. It has two shelves and a zip-up front. We've also purchased two inexpensive fluourescent light tubes. It is Dino's idea to place them under the containers of seeds and thinks the heat from the light will be sufficient. We can find a growing pad nowhere, and the heating pad we do find is small and expensive.

Back at home, I fix pranzo and then do some research on the internet that reminds me that we are too early to plant tomato seeds. The best results happen when the period between planting the seed and transplanting them in the ground is 6 - 8 weeks. That means mid-February. So we have a month to find a heating pad.

It appears that in some years we have begun the planting too early, resulting in spindly plants. So in the next month we'll do research in England, and perhaps order a pad to be sent to us. We'll see.

In the meantime, we've been talking about the Eco-museo questionnaire, and each plan to spend quality time filling it out this afternoon.

Wanting to keep our village as it is, restoring the ancient elements and preserving its old customs for future generations that will see themselves as caretakers of this special place, I'm not going to share my thoughts with you just yet. That will all come in time. Actually, if you've been following the journal, you'll know much of it.

We each work on a draft, then sit down with cups of tea and discuss the subject. We decide that our views are so similar that we'll do one document for the two of us. Tiziano will have it tomorrow in church.

January 11
We wake to a bright sun, and although the temperature is cold, we happily enjoy our walk to mass. It is Giuseppa's birthday, and so I greet her to wish her a heartfelt "auguri!" She tells me that Catherine called her last night, and that she is in Germany with plenty of snow. Brrr.

One of the many things I love about our masses is that sometimes Giuseppa begins the hymn by herself, of course sung acapella. If Marieadelaide does not begin the piece, on tune, Giuseppa begins the first notes in a low tone, somewhat like the slow revving up of a small gas powered engine. Rrr-rrrrRRRR! By the time we all step in, we're five or six words into the hymn. All is well.

We've finished our questionnaire, but on the way to church realize there are several things that we did not add. After church we confirm with Tiziano that we'll forward the new document right after church. We're now excited about the prospects, but know that we need to temper our excitement, for there is never money to take on all the dreams of the people involved.

We've looked up a couple of new words when completing our questionnaire, and if we can use them in the next week, probably we'll be able to imbed them in our feeble brains. They are: siepe (hedge or wall), fa mestiere (to be necessary), luoghi (places), confine (landmark, border).

Dino has done an excellent job pruning the cachi tree, and since it is a sunny morning, he's excited to move down the line with the plum tree and then the small nespola (loquat) tree and then the big nespola tree and on and on... I continue to work on the painting of Vincenzo, and perhaps it will be finished for the feast day of San Vincenzo, to be celebrated this year on January 25th. Since I'm taking extra time on his face, I have no idea if I'll be finished or not. No stress. We probably won't do anything with it now, anyway. It just means that Dino has to get moving with the next canvas.

I'm about to color my own hair today with a store-bought L'Oreal package, so we'll see if it is a mistake. I'm not expecting miracles, but lets hope it does not turn out bright orange. Well, it's not bright orange, but not a success. So it's back to Daniele in a few weeks.

There's a full moon tonight, but it's been overcast for the past few days, so we don't know if we'll see much. But we'll know it's there...

Very late tonight is the Golden Globe Awards, but we don't know if it will be telecast in Italy. If it is, we'll watch it from our bed. What a luxury!

January 12
We wound up not watching the awards, but enjoyed some of the red carpet coverage on the TV in our bedroom. Once we're in bed, it's difficult to stay awake. We must be showing our age. Now if only we could stay asleep...The Laroxyl drops I've begun taking again help me sleep at least.

I paint for most of the afternoon, and the painting is finished...at least the first pass at it. It will take a bit of tweaking now, and I'll try to go to Marco's on Monday for him to take a look at it and give me advice.

Dino returns to Viterbo to exchange the serra for a complete kit. We talk about framing the large paintings, and will frame them in Orvieto. Tomorrow we'll get a price.

January 13
This morning we drive to the hospital in Orvieto for blood tests, and realize that when arriving there around 9:30 instead of at 8 AM, there are hardly any lines or any wait. So we're both out of there before 10 AM.

We take a drive to Tenaglie to check the inventory, and just as we reach Angelo's store a tow truck passes us with the burned out car that has sat on the curve on the way to Montecchio. Dino will have to ask Angelo about it. The car looks as though it belongs in Palermo, if you catch my drift. Brrr.

Dino sees Mari and finds out that Berlusconi did not buy the mansion after all. He or his men probably looked at it and that caused all the talk. We're happy for the town that he decided not to buy here.

We drive back to Orvieto and stop at a big Agri store, but they have no idea where we can buy a heating pad for seed germination. Their only suggestion is a good one; ask a Consorio Agraria. They direct us to the one outside Orvieto, but its gate is locked and it appears to be closed for good. Someone, somewhere, will give us advice...

We have a wonderful pranzo at Candace and Frank's, and learn that tomorrow Frank will get his cast removed. Early on Friday they'll pick us up and we'll take them to the airport for their annual trip to the U S.

Back at home Dino puts the serra together and it looks really good. He thinks the fluorescent tubes will work just fine, and will test them in a day or so to determine their temperature. We're giving up on the heating pad.

January 14
I'm the first one downstairs on this cold morning, and stand at the front step once the door is open. What do I hear? At first, a profound silence...and then, as if players in an orchestra, the sound of birds. Cue the gravel!

Enzo drives slowly down their stradabianca at about 2 o'clock in my view. That's it, and it is only about 9 AM. If we could bury the electrical poles, we could be set in a scene one hundred years ago.

We put the last of the holiday gear away, and cut another piece of linen for the next painting. Tomorrow in Viterbo, we'll pick up another frame.

Dino counsels me: "How about painting only those contadini who have died for this first May exhibition? If we include Pepe, someone who is still alive, the neighbors may take it as an omen."

"That's a good idea," I respond. Next year I'll paint people who are still around, but we agree that the whole idea of preserving what has come before us, that which we think is the essential element of Ecomuseo, should be the focus.

The subject moves to old Gino Lagrimino, and we have a great photo of him taken the last year he was alive, sitting in the piazza. I do want to paint his wife, sitting on the back of his little truck, wearing a babushka and hanging on, her thin legs dangling over the side. But we don't have a photo.

She died about five years before Gino, and whenever we attended the Day of the Dead mass in the cemetery, he'd be standing by her grave, wiping the marble stone clean and shedding a tear, wishing he could be with her.

What is it like, growing old alone? Yesterday we skimmed the surface in a conversation while driving from Orvieto to Tenaglie. If one of us passes away, will there be enough money to hire a Romanian or another stranieri to take care of the person who is left? We hope so. That beats throwing whomever is left into a state-run nursing home.

Dino is happy to take the long light that we used to use to grow the tomato seedlings to his shop behind the house. He so loves keeping busy, doing projects that make our property work better. Who would have imagined that I would be married to such a remarkable man?

Dino is Terence's webmaster, and I think the two of them cherish the relationship. It keeps them working together, something they both treasure. Need a secondhand car and live in the San Francisco Bay Area? Take a look at his site: http://www.tdautowholesale.com/ . If you have a vehicle you want to dispose of, he can also help.

Angie is now working in the San Francisco Hall of Justice with her Judge. It's an important step up for them, but surely not a great environment. At least they'll be dealing with misdemeanors as opposed to felonies!

Vincenzo's face is taking shape. Each time I work on the canvas, the paint settles in a bit, and now I can hope to craft his image to emulate the person he really was.

We've enough linen to make two or three canvases, and cut a piece for the next one. Tomorrow we'll buy the frame and Dino's job will begin. I hope to be ready to begin the third painting in the series in about two weeks. So it will either be Gino or Tito.

The four drops of Laroxyl, taken each evening these past several days, seem to help the shoulder pain and headaches. It's all such a mystery, but if the regimen works, might as well just follow it.

January 15
There is bright sun, so it's warm in the car on the way to Viterbo. At Klimt, they do not have the tellai (frame) we need for either Gino's or Tito's paintings, so we'll pick one up in Rome. By the time they have them (mid February), we may be ready for the fourth in the series. Va bene or va male, depending on how you look at it.

While at Klimt, we meet a new friend, John Ratner, who appears to be an accomplished artist, born in Berkeley, CA but living in Italy for 50 years. He surely has seen incredible changes in the landscape and character during those years, but tells us he was oblivious to most of it. We think not, and look forward to getting to know him.

With our pranzo, we eat a salad of puntarella with an anchovy vinaigrette, and think of Joan and Yan, friends from Cotignac we have yet to meet. Joan loves this salad, and I wonder if she planted the puntarelle seeds we gave them last year. How we loved being in Cotignac for a week! It now seems so very long ago.

Dino is itchy to drive, and wants to pick up more firewood, but I remind him that we have lots and lost of pressed wood blocks for the stufa, and he gives me a glum look. It's time for a good project for him to sink his teeth into...

I continue to paint Vincenzo, revealing more and more of his character as the thin layers of paint settle into the canvas. Earlier, John at Klimt told us he uses prepared canvases from the shop and no longer prepares them for himself. But when I look at the coarseness of the prepared frames that use stretched cotton, I wonder.

January 16
It's around 4 AM when Dino awakes and showers, and we're all ready thirty minutes later when Candace and Frank pick us up to drive to Fimucino to drop them off.

Happily, Candace gives Dino the car keys, and she and I sit with Sofi in the back seat while Dino maneuvers the roads to the airport.

We're back home by 7 AM and have the most delicious sleep for two and one half hours. I love those heavy sleeps, sleeps that take place when one awakes early, then returns to bed. This is one.

Today we're to pick up our permessos. When we wake it's no warmer than 5 degrees, so might as well drive on to Viterbo.

At the Questura, it takes no time at all to pick up our new permessos, in the form of identity cards. Dino asks someone behind the counter if we should keep them with us at all times, and she tells us to keep it as well as our passports with us. That makes no sense, for what is an Italian Identity card for, anyway?

That done, we do some shopping and return home to cold weather and grey skies. I paint and Dino cuts the suckers of the cachi tree into precise length to fit into his green lugs. These are wonderful starters for our fires, and we usually have enough for a whole winter's worth.

I work on painting Vincenzo's face, and also his jacket. I'm hoping I will be able to paint his features realistically before returning to Marco in another ten days.

January 17
It's cold again, and Dino begins research to find out where we can buy the tellaio (structure pieces to build the frame) for my next painting. It will take him a week or more to prepare it, and I am moving rapidly to finish the painting I am working on.

He wants to drive to Civita Castellana, where there used to be an art store. They do not answer their phone. This is a good excuse to visit the Outlet Mall at San Oreste, so the three of us get into the car and drive South.

The art store has closed. Dino speaks with the owner of the building, and they have not relocated. So our next bet is to call Arte Tre in Rome. He calls them, but their sister store who has them will only be open today until l'una (1 PM). Since we're going to the vicinity of the GRA (Gran Raccordo Annulare, or ring road outside Rome) for cena, we can drive first to Rome.

Dino calls his last hope, an art store in Trastevre, and not only do they have it, they will be open until 7:30 P M. Finalmente!

We decide at this point to not take Sofi with us, and leave her in her gabbia (cage) at just before 6 PM. We arrive at the store a little more than an hour later, and Sesso, one of the workers, shows us the frames downstairs, the tellai and also the rolls of linen, already prepared with gola di coniglo.

The cost is more that we would spend in Viterbo, but Sesso will make the frame, stretch and staple gun the prepared linen while we wait. This is a gift from heaven for Dino. It's surely worth spending a little more money to have the canvas prepared and ready to paint.

It's also less likely to warp, a condition we are encountering on the current painting. We are told we can re-stretch the canvas after the fact, but it's so much better to have it correctly stretched at the beginning.

There are also frames that are already stretched along the wall, and we pick up two smaller ones to try. On these three, the linen is brown. With my usual canvases, they are white after they have been prepared. So I'll work on one of the smaller canvases to test to see if we can forego using gesso on the new large canvas.

We're sure now that this store is the one we will always count on in the future, and later find out that it is the place that professional artists frequent in Rome. It is in Trastevre, and is called Pinno.

We drive across town to Yolanda and GB's home, and arrive while they are stirring a big pot of polenta. Their guests from San Francisco are a couple we have not met before, but are very enjoyable, and sit down to a wonderful dinner.

Surprisingly, our steamed persimmon pudding is dessert, along with a wonderful sliced orange and pomegranate seed dish, marinated in honey and quite tasty.

We arrive home just as the clock strikes midnight, and are tired. So we fall into bed for a few hours sleep.

January 18
Cold and fog continues. Fog seems to surround Mugnano, as it did yesterday. When driving to and from Rome, the fog dissipated when we reached Orte, then returned at the same spot when we drove home.

We walk up to mass, and one of the phrases I pick up on is, "Venite e vedrate" (come and look). Now by now we all know that it is dangerous to take Italian lessons from a non-Italian, but this phrase is clearly, "Come and look!" So I feel secure in giving it to you to add to your growing list of Italian words and phrases, many of which are actually accurate!

Tiziano and Enzo are at mass, but what has happened to Enzo? His eyes are swollen and surrounded by lines of dark blue. After mass I ask Tiziano what has happened to his father, who tells me that he fell off his motorino. Enzo tells me he is not in pain, and amazingly, the rest of his face, including his nose, is uninjured.

We have still to find out the name of Vincenzo's pecora, but as we begin our walk down the hill from the borgo, see Carla. We walk back to her and give her a hug, and let her know that we'll attend the anniversary mass for her late husband tomorrow morning in Grotte Santo Stefano, a nearby town.

After she confirms that she has the story and photo we put in her mailbox a few days ago, (the Italian Notebook story published that includes the photo of Vincenzo and his pecora), we ask her the name of the peccora.

She tells us it is "Occhi pinto" (painted eyes) and confirms that his eyes are a light blue. The peccora is an albino sheep, hence its interesting coloring. Now the painting will be named "Vincenzo e Occhi Pinto". Va bene!

We pick up Sofi and drive to Duccio and Giovanna's in Bomarzo for a visit. Sofi sniffs around but sits on my lap for most of the time, where I can watch her.

Before we leave, Duccio looks over our citizenship applications, and we are now confident that we know enough that we can fill ours out accurately. So in the next days, we'll submit out completed applications and wait...for as long as it takes.

We drive on to Il Pallone to shop, and return with short ribs and meatballs. After last night's spectacular sugo to be served with the polenta, I want to make a slow roasted sauce of the ribs. But first, Dino browns the meatballs and short ribs in a dutch oven.

I then make a red sauce. We'll have pasta today with some of the meatballs and sauce, and the ribs and rest of the meatballs will cook slowly, and be served tomorrow with polenta.

I also make a squash dessert with cubes of bread, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, half and half, raisins and other good things, then bake it for forty minutes. As you can imagine after this heavy meal, the rest of the day is a lazy one, sitting by the stufa, watching TV and sleeping.

We're beginning to watch the coverage of the Inauguration, and I'm particularly pleased that we can watch it on TV in our room, even if it is late at night our time.

January 19
It's foggy when we drive to Grotte Santo Stefano for the memorial mass for Vincenzo. So take this next with a grain of...polenta...

I ask Dino if there is a grotto in Grotte Santo Stefano and he puts on his professor hat, then tells me there are many... "Grotte" is not only the plural of "grotto", but the word in Italian is really "grotta", so is feminine. If a noun ends in an "a", it is feminine, so the plural ends in an "e". Are you impressed? I surely am.

Now, remember that it's not a good idea to take Italian language advice from another stranieri (foreigner). But now when we reach the tiny borgo, I will not look for a grotta.

We think we are about the first to arrive, but Carla is already in the aisle seat of the first row. About ten Mugnanese are with her, but she smiles warmly when we greet her.

The little church is really not so little, and has quite a number of very good paintings. We're not able to take a look around, but during the service we're very impressed with the members of the church choir, who recite the service from hardbound books in cooperation with the priest.

These people take their church very seriously, and when Vincenzo's name is spoken by the priest near the end of the service, we are sure that his memorial service has been one of great respect, and for that we are thankful.

We drive on to the Orvieto hospital to pick up our blood test results, and when we leave I realize that I have not been taking cholesterol medicine for a long time. Since my cholesterol is high, it's time to return to our good doctor and we're sure he'll prescribe my return to the medicine again.

Back at home, I cook the sugo for another hour or so, hoping the rib meat will fall off the bones. But it's getting late, so instead I fix polenta and we eat. Sadly, the only polenta we have is a box of the quick-cooking style, so I whip that up and we throw out the rest of the box. Today or tomorrow we'll pick up the authentic polenta.

Dino is happy with the pranzo, but I am not. There is no real taste to the polenta, and the sugo needs more time to cook. It's something to remember, for the quick polenta is not worth buying. Even if you're tempted, don't bother.

The US inauguration festivities continue on TV, while Dino drives to Viterbo to pick up a few things at OBI for the little serra building project to house this year's tomato seeds. He's also going to make copies of a recent drawing, so that I can paint it to try out the new canvas.

Marco told me that he has a way to easily paint a face, using dark and light colors, and although it resembles a paint-by-number technique, I am sure there is a way to finesse it. So I'll play with it before Monday, then take it to Marco's for counsel. Dino had copies made of it, so I'll trace the design it and begin it this week. I like having more than one canvas going at a time.

This afternoon I'm continuing to paint Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti (Painted Eyes). Do you remember that Italians do not name their animals the same names as humans? That's why the local names: "Brik", "Ubiq", "Pacca", "Pacco", "Spillo", "Maggiolino"...and "Priscilla and Sofia?" are all for animals in Mugnano. We're excused for giving Sofi a humanlike name, but can't vouch for that of "Priscilla".

January 20
It's the day of the inauguration of the 44th President of the US, and in that honor, we're hanging our US Flag from the flagpole. This is the first time we've flown the US flag, and we are proud to do so on this day.

The sky portends winds of change, with dirty clouds seeming to stretch across the skies. It appears a harbinger of things to come, difficulties to face, and choices to make. Here our life is quite simple, so our belief in giving to our community and finding ways to live a more Spartan life feels good.

I walk out in the early afternoon after a pasta and short rib sugo, the sauce continuing to cook for the third day. Now the ribs are tender and perfect.

There is an eerie silence, and I walk to the middle garden and look out at the cypress trees Dino loves to watch. He sees them dancing from his vantage point in bed when he cannot sleep, but today the whole earth seems to move.

CNN covers the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the US. Dino asks, "Will he be known to his secret service agents as "44" as previous presidents have been known by their numbers? I have no idea, but we are moved by watching the coverage, just the same.

Since Dino and I do not like to sit still for long, I spend the day working on Vincenzo's face, the canvas standing on the floor against the vetrina. Dino adds chain to the tomato serra, and it's looking quite good.

We do all this while watching the television coverage of the inauguration, and when President Obama begins to speak, he foregoes those lofty quotes that will live in history, instead concentrating on the collective challenges all Americans have to face.

"Just give me the ball!" he said during his campaign, and we're hopeful that his team consists of people who know how to "get the job done", in addition to being intellectual.

While watching Hillary and Bill step out into the crowd, Bill did not hide his feelings of anxiousness. Hillary has not yet been confirmed as Secretary of State, due probably to donations made to Bill's charity, and the possible conflicts of interest future donations might make.

I think Hillary would benefit by reading the well-known book, Codependent No More, but only she can make the decisions to be her own person.

Obama reveals his fine memory, as well as his kindness to his fellow man, when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court flubs the questions asked as he swears in the new president. Obama clearly knows the words by heart, stopping in mid-sentence to allow the justice to reword his phrase. Only a real gentleman would repeat the words in bad grammar, repeating verbatim after Justice Stevens wrongly reads the famous words.

We watch the coverage until almost midnight, then turn in. Tomorrow will be a new day, but what kind of day will it be?

January 21
We leave the house after breakfast, driving to Viterbo for a doctor's visit. It's raining, so Sofi stays at home. My cholesterol is high, but I decide not to take more medicine, for I'm told that I'm not a candidate for heart problems, and taking the medicine won't reduce that factor by much.

Since Dino has a history of high blood pressure, although his test results are good they are not perfect, so he will continue taking his medicine as before.

The doctor confirms that I have tension headaches, not migraines, so I give him the benefit of the doubt, for last meeting he agreed that I have both migraine and tension headaches. It does not matter what they are, but now I know that we know how to treat them.

Back at home, Sofi seems to have appreciated being left at home. Dino checks the temperature of the lights in the new portable serra, and they remain a consistent 22 degrees Centigrade. That' s just perfect to germinate the tomato seeds, but it's too early to begin. Let's try the first week in February...

After pranzo I want to continue to paint. I know I need to finish the cavolo painting, but I also want to begin the face of the painting Dino calls "Vanessa". I'll begin with the cavolo, then take a break by tracing Vanessa's lines on the prepared linen canvas with "carta carbone" (carbon paper).

So I finish the cavolo, and will look for an image to do the third in the series, this time 30cm square, since it is a white linen canvas we already have. But when I trace Vanessa onto the brown linen canvas we purchased on Saturday, the lines are too difficult to figure out. I think we need several layers of gesso, but perhaps we'll wait until Monday and take the canvas to Marco to see what he thinks.

I work on painting Vincenzo's ear. There are similarities to people's ears, but not each one is the same. Vincenzo's is a bit strange, so I'll wait until Monday to see what Marco thinks. I've studied ears in different anatomy drawing books, and just am not sure.

January 22
I paint the black background of Vincenzo this morning, then sit it in the dining room to dry until Monday afternoon. All of my contadini paintings have a pronounced black background, so this feature is an important one.

The cavolo painting is now done, and Dino wants to replace the painting I did for Cherie with this one. It's the second version of the same painting, but this one is called Cavolo Due. We have a different cavolo photo, taken from our orto in October, and will blow it up tomorrow when we're in Viterbo.

Dino has completed almost all his citizenship application documents, so I work on mine this afternoon. This morning he's been working on our tickets for next Thanksgiving's visit to San Francisco.

We SKYPE the nipotini and have a wonderful time seeing them online. Sofi sits on my shoulder and wags her tail each time Marisa and Nicole call out her name. We've all agreed to color the "egg people" drawings I've done and have a "show and tell" next Thursday. But while getting ready to do the call, Dino drops the computer and now something is not right with the automatic backup system....

January 23
We have no answers for our trip arrangements for next Thanksgiving, but drive in to Viterbo to make copies of our documents and take what we have to the immigration office relating to the application for citizenship.

When we're through, we've made more than one hundred copies, some of which are returned to us as not needed by the two women who help us. Although we've done a great job, there are a number of documents that we did not think would have to be translated.

At least we have all the documents we need. There is a place in Viterbo where the translated documents can be verified. Now we'll go home and begin the translation of the documents ourselves. We're not quite there...yet.

I spend the afternoon painting a cavolo from our orto. It is a small painting, 30cm square, and will paint the sides of the canvas as well.

Dino spends the clear hours continuing to cut wood out on the terrace. He has lots and lots of kindling for our fires, thanks to the pruning of the nearby trees.

We're still using the stufa for our heating during the day and evening hours, although I miss not having fires in the fireplace. Perhaps we'll have a real fire this weekend.

January 24
We hear a whirring noise from Pepino's orto and it's Saturday, so perhaps they're grinding grain to make their week's worth of bread. Each Saturday, Pepino and Antonio make up to ten loaves of bread for the family to use for the week.

Remember, this bread is not your favorite, nor is it made with salt. But it lasts for the week without getting mold. It's an acquired taste, a taste for those who have lived without salt in their food all their lives.

The dreary day continues, with a little rain. We're expecting storms and wind, and there is an outside chance of snow later in the weekend.

I fix leftovers, a pasta and chicken casserole dubbed "leftover madness", and Dino likes it, a lot. I'm not in the mood for lentils, and perhaps Dino will eat those left over from yesterday, tonight.

Today is a day of reading and research, and I spend a lot of it on two books about Leonardo DaVinci; the first is a book of his drawings, the second of his methods. I'd like to do more drawings, especially with chalk. I just don't know what to do with the pieces when they're completed.

Each time I walk by the door to the dining room, I look in at Vincenzo, gazing down at Occhi Pinti. The black paint will have dried sufficiently by Monday afternoon to take the canvas to Marco's for his once-over.

I am not sure about Occhi Pinti's eye in the painting, since he is an albino. So I look up photos of sheep faces and find an interesting bit of trivia. Take a look:

"You might think all sheep look alike. But sheep can tell one sheep from another. Scientists recently found that sheep are able to remember other sheep's faces for up to two years.

"Scientists in England tested sheep's ability to remember one another. Large photos of sheep were hung in a barn. The sheep would get food if they moved toward one particular photo. The sheep learned to go to that photo. Scientists tested the same sheep months and then years later. Each time, the sheep remembered which face got them food."

I also read that sheep can fall in love with other sheep. Thanks so much, Al Gore, for giving us the internet...

That reminds me; Dino has agreed to work on the new canvases, since we agree that they are not really "paint-ready" after all. They need coats of gesso, which will turn them white and hopefully smooth, in order for me to begin the third contadino painting.

But that will have to wait, for he's working on the translations of the documents we have not yet converted to Italian; he's making templates for our birth certificates and other things. I've input the English, and he will do a Google translation first, then we'll clean up what does not make sense. There is no need to pay for a professional translator. Then we'll take them to Viterbo to be authenticated; at least we hope that will be true.

The computer's automatic backup system is not working correctly, so Dino tries to find out what is wrong but has not luck.

When I awoke this morning, I had pain in my shoulders, and go to bed tonight with a headache and a compresse (pill) of Difmetre. Sigh.

January 25
Today is the day Mugnano celebrates San Vincenzo, one of our patron saints, other known as a Padrono. Dino will be on the altar in his confraternity garb, and I'll be somewhere with the many women in the pews. With the rain, we don't expect the normal procession, but if it clears we might.

Dark clouds loom overhead with a bit of sun trying its best to peek through for San Vincenzo when we get up for this late mass (11 AM), but with a few drops on the window we are not optimistic.

"What's that?" It's the Polymartium Band from Bomarzo, si certo! At just after 9:30 AM they begin their wakeup music, and who can't fall in love with this village on a day such as this?

Clouds begin to part as we walk up to the borgo, passing Don Luca as he tells us he expects a large turnout; or that is what we think he is saying. Inside the sacristy, Dino is given the special wooden bastone (cane) designated for the Priori, for on this day, Fabrizio is not here and Dino is the capo. He begins to sweat, as he has no idea how to give instructions to the other members of the confraternity, numbering about fifteen on this day.

In the church, I sit in the last pew, for Gigliola and Giuseppa (Giuseppe's wife) sit in our regular seats. Va bene. The church fills up from the back, and the Bomarzo choir arrives, filling special banchini (benches) placed at a right angle to the pews. Laura sits beside me and we find a seat for Candida, who arrives late.

Livio asks me to carry the bandiera (silver flagpole and banner) in the procession, and I agree. This is the fourth time in the past couple of years he's asked me to, so it's either an honor or no one else wants to carry it. I treat it as an honor, but am unable to find it in the sacristy when Don Luca tells us to line up for the procession. I ask Vincenzo where it is; he looks at me questioning and points to the middle door...the door to the bathroom?

"Oh, I thought you sad "bagno!" he replies, as I rush back out to find the silver pole. Someone brings it from the back corner of the church, so it has been there all along...

I know just where to stand...in the middle of the two lines of women. But Dino is not sure where he should go, and winds up in the front row of Confraternity members, instead of holding up the bastone and ordering us where to walk and how fast.

The women know their roles, and line up perfectly. So the procession moves on without a hitch.

We're walking around the bend below the borgo, the same place where the moving van was stuck a year a so ago, and I realize that what I am carrying is the Italian Flag! What? Well, it's bound in gold threads and has a blue banner of the government of Mugnano and the Accion Cattolica (women's Catholic organization of which I am a member); but it's made of three stripes: green and white and red just the same.

So after the mass and procession finishes, when Dino and I walk back to the little church with the bandiera to place it where it is stored, the sindaco (mayor) walks with us. Dino asks him if we should make an appointment with him, since we're ready to apply for citizenship. He tells us yes, on Thursday afternoon.

I can't help telling him it's a good thing, for I'm already carrying the Italian flag and am not even a citizen. He laughs and now we think we're going to work with him instead of with the bureaucracy in Viterbo to continue the process of becoming Italian citizens. Stay tuned...

Back at home, a meatloaf and roast vegetables are readied in the oven, while I sit and read a drawing book based on the work of Leonardo DaVinci. There are also a number of quotes and insights from him in this book. Here is one I especially like:

"Abbreviations do harm to knowledge and to love, seeing that the love of anything is the offspring of this knowledge, the love being the more fervent in proportion as the knowledge is more certain...Of what use, then, is he who abridges the details of those matters of which he professes to give thorough information, while he leaves behind the chief part of the things of which the whole is composed?

" It is true that impatience, the mother of stupidity, praises brevity, as if such persons had not life long enough to serve them to acquire a complete knowledge of one single subject, such as the human body; and then they want to comprehend the mind of God in which the universe is included, weighing it minutely and mincing it into infinite parts, as if they had to dissect it!" He's my guy...

Brooke Smith is on her way to Viterbo for a women's basketball game in her old stadium. We'll let Sofi guard the house while we watch the game, hopefully getting a minute to give Brooke a hug from her Mom. In the stats of the website on the game, she is named first, as the highest scorer. Way to go, Brooke! It will be good to see her play again, if only this one time."

It is a rout. Brooke's Como team beats GESCOM Viterbo by the humiliating score of 78 to 28. In the third period, the only points Viterbo was able to score were two from the free-throw line. She tied for high score and we are so happy for her.

Afterward, Brooke is presented with a silver plaque from her fans and friends in Viterbo in appreciation of the playing that she did for their team last season.

If things go well for her this summer, she will try out for the WNBA in the US Southwest. She's really a very sweet young woman, although her actions on the court show she can be a real tiger.

January 26
Cold, foggy, dreary; that's the weather we find when we awake. So I work on the translation documents, and when I do, I think of the lives of my parents, each born in a country outside the United States. My parents each faced immigration challenges when arriving from their respective countries, and ours are simple by comparison.

Dino is able to mock up a form to be used with the words I've been able to translate and transcribe. We're that much closer to applying for Italian citizenship. Now I have to write two letters of recommendation...

Finally I return to Marco's this afternoon, and spend the session working on details of Vincenzo's face. It's amazing how quickly the time passes. On the way home, Dino reminds me that Marco complemented me on the work I completed away from his bottega; he told me during the session that I am learning well. Since Marco does not give complements freely, I am quite satisfied.

Marco and I had a discussion about Vincenzo's eyebrows. Marco told me that Vincenzo looks sad, and I disagreed, telling him that he is just looking down at Occhi Pinti lovingly. He responded by telling me that the shepherd's eyebrows slant up toward his nose, a characteristic of someone who is sad. To illustrate, he stood in front of me making sad and then happy expressions, and the exercise was strangely helpful.

So what is it with Vincenzo? He is looking down at his friend with love, and perhaps sadly at the same time. Who knows what he was thinking at the time the photograph was taken?

There is great laughter in the room after Marco confirms that both Felice and Vincenzo have died, although Felice died soon after I began his painting. "Don't paint me!" he warns. How terrible it would be if people thought they would die if I would paint them...Brrr.

There is to be a major mostra in Viterbo in March, and I agree to enter Felice as well as Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti as my contributions. There will be an entry fee, so it depends on how much it will cost. I am hoping we can afford to do it. We'll see.

Dino buys the Viterbo paper, and there is a good-sized story headlined "GESCOM Humiliation!" The coach is said to have uttered, "What happened! We were outclassed!" Of course we'll send the article to Brooke and her mom.

Rain comes down in torrents later in the evening, and we are expecting a very windy storm tonight and tomorrow. Nonetheless, it is still paradise to us.

The backup system on the computer still refuses to function...

January 27
Dino has determined that fires in the fireplace work just as well as the little stufa next to it, and now wants a new cast iron plate for the corner of the fireplace, as the existing one is warped and we've had it about seven or eight years. There is a company specializing in cast iron in Viterbo, Fonderia Viterbese, and we'll see if making one to order is reasonable. I think we should wait.

While we're watching the news of the economic chaos in the US, I'm wondering how long it will take for Obama to appear in a political cartoon as Don Quixote with the windmill in connection with his interest in windmill technology.

Already there are angry Americans who are against his proposed push for those in the US to adapt new emission standards for automobiles. Yes, there will be many sacrifices to be made, but perhaps this is the very best way for the country to make a sea change in its respect of our natural resources.

Here in Italy we're behind in so many ways. A few years ago we were told that the main reason we were granted a construction permit was that the Comune was embarrassed that Italy was so far behind the US. But in some ways, Italy should be given a gold star.

For years they have had the custom of self-weighing fruits and vegetables and pushing a button for the price tag to pop out in grocery stores. Let me see...what else?

I just came across the word rassodare, and it means to strengthen or to harden. What a strange and wonderful sounding word! In my ever-increasing efforts to save and be good to the earth, I've switched to Oil of Olay, or Olaz as it's known here.

After decades using Lancome products, I'm happy to have this option. Is this where the rassodare word came up? Does that mean my skin will turn to plastic to "harden" it? Boh!

In connection with making an effort to save our planet, we're going to research buying a Brita type water filtration system. The Mugnano water is fine for cooking pasta and things like that, but we use bottled water for coffee and for regular drinking.

I've noticed that we are always throwing out bottles and bottles and more bottles, almost all plastic, when we take out the garbage. Switching to a Brita filtration water system will reduce the number of plastic bottles in the house; but will it make enough difference to make it very worth our while? The water is heavy to carry, and that's another reason. So Dino is behind this new effort, and we can honestly say we are doing something for our fellow man and the earth.

I paint three sides of the Felice painting to match the black background, and when they have dried (4 or 5 days), I'll paint the top and then repaint the artichokes, this time making them much bigger. We'll be ready soon to take it to the framer in Orvieto, and hopefully it is not too warped to frame.

The Vincenzo canvas is very warped, so I won't paint the sides, and after I have finished painting the front, we'll take it to Sesso in Trastevre and he can help us either restretch it as it is or buy new wood and stretch that right in the shop if it needs it. Evidently we stretched this canvas too tightly, and did not take it to Marco when we began the painting.

We have an appointment with Apple's Genius Bar in Rome tomorrow, and hope to have the backup system fixed by then. If you've sent us an email since January 22nd, it has been lost, so please resend it.

January 28
We spend most of the day at the Apple store in a shopping center East of Rome. The only "Genius Bar" in Italy is there, and while we wait and wait and wait some more for our backup to be run and rerun until it crashes and crashes some more...little Sofi waits in the car.

We take her for walks, feed her, but after we're home she's suffering the after effects of being alone in the car for an extended period of time. Usually she is fine with it, but on this day she is especially nervous.

We're all a little skittish, for have left the computer with the experts for a couple of days, using an old computer for mail and some journal notes. We're hoping we can pick our newer one up this weekend.

The big storm seems to have passed us by, and we've had plenty of sun today, or at least we think there has been plenty of sun, not that we've been outside to see much of it.

Jan 29
It's a beautiful sunny day; so beautiful, in fact, that I sit on the front steps listening to a bird on a tree across the street. There's no describing these warm sunny winter days. Well, now that I've said that, there is a kind of magic to them, an unmistakable feeling in the air.

With no leaves on the trees, I'm reminded of the April day in 1990 when my father's funeral took place. It was almost hot, but there were no leaves on the trees in that part of Massachusetts on that day. It was an eerie feeling then, but now I've a feeling of joy.

Sofi, however, is having a bad day. Her nerves from yesterday have her crying out and wanting to be especially close. We will just not leave her alone for any period of time again; it's too emotional for her. Perhaps we will find a friend nearby who will like to have Sofi visit with them on these very occasional times we need to be away from her.

Today, however, we have a meeting with Stefano Bonori, our sindaco (mayor), to ask him to write a letter of reference for us in connection with our citizenship application.

Dino agrees to go to the meeting by himself, and that's fine with me. He will probably find out more about how we should proceed once the letter and two translated documents have been verified. "Sempre avanti (always forward)" I say to myself. It's an old person's mantra and why not?

I do a test with the beets in the ground, and they are of different sizes, although they were all planted at the same time. I pull out about eight, and will leave the rest to get larger. Then I do a recipe search on the internet, and nothing really appeals to me more than the Turkish Borscht I made while we were in Provence.

The beets are quite beautiful, however, so why not paint them? While I've been puttering around and painting Vincenzo this morning, Dino has painted and sanded two layers of gesso on a smaller linen canvas from the Trastevre shop. It looks excellent, so I'll redraw Vanessa's face and will see how the paint soaks into the canvas.

"This is definitely the way to go," Dino comments, so there will be no more stretching of canvases for us. It's really worth the extra money to have it done perfectly right at the beginning.

Dino returns to tell me that the sindaco will write a letter for us and also have Don Luca sign it. We hope to have it within the next week. Everything takes longer in Italy, and our applications for citizenship are taking longer than we ever expected...just to get them ready to file.

January 30
Cold but beautiful clear weather continues. There is so much sun that we are able to open the South-facing windows and air out the house a little. I even sit on the front step with Sofi and try to locate the bird who is making all the noise in the neighborhood.

Dino can see the changes in Occhi Pinti's face, and I like this pecora (sheep) very much, continuing to paint his coat slowly, slowly. I'll let the canvas dry for a few days before adding more white.

In the meantime, I roast the just-plucked beets from the raised orto, clean the leaves, and make a beet soup. Dino loves it, and there is enough for another day. There are still more beets to pick, but some of them are quite small, so we'll wait a few weeks before picking more. With a dollop of what we fashion as sour cream on the top, the color is certainly worthy of a painting.

Dino and I take thick white cloth and re-wrap the lemon tree; before we do, notice that there are six or seven lemons on the tree. It must be quite hearty by now, for we don't take really good care of it, and somehow the tree survives in its pot, sheltered somewhat in front of the caves.

Dino continues to cut the felled tree branches and line them up just so in the plastic lugs. We'll certainly have kindling for at least a year...

Next week we'll return to Viterbo to have two documents certified, and that should be another adventure. I can't imagine that they will certify them while we wait, but anything is possible.

In the meantime, our mayor has agreed to write a letter for us, and to also have Don Luca sign it. We don't know if he'll volunteer to shepherd it along, or whether we'll take our chances with everyone else and file the papers in Viterbo.

Dino is unable to make a connection with the people at Apple, so our favored computer will remain there, at least over the weekend. So the journal posting will not be right on the first of next month. If you've sent us an email during the past week, please resend it....Sorry.

Dino sands and paints layers on two new canvases purchased in Rome, although he wants to re-stretch the Vincenzo canvas. I have my doubts whether it will work, and do not remind him. He thinks the warping is because the canvas is too tight. The more I think of it, the more I realize I must remind him. We need to try to fix it. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

January 31
It's another very beautiful day, but Dino is frustrated. The people at Apple in Rome won't answer their telephone, and it takes the entire morning for him to reach them and to discover that his computer is still not ready.

That's all right, for it's a day to be outside, and he pulls out his ladder and cuts back the smaller cachi tree and most of the cherry tree. Yes, the cherry tree has made it for yet another year.

Dino loves the "spaghetti" he cuts from the cachi tree, telling me that he can use every last branch for firewood. But he's wondering if he can fashion a basket from them, and I tell him to look on the internet. Perhaps basket making is in his future.

Tiziano comes for tea, and to look over some documents we have translated ourselves, but we've left an important one in the computer....

Earlier I read, or attempted to read, a local story in an Umbrian newspaper. It appears that in the city of Terni, separations and divorces are up by 40%...or is it that 40% of the people registered in Terni are either separated or divorced? Now I've lost the paper, so am not sure which is correct...sorry.

I have a thought that it has something to do with people falling in love with love. For the patron saint of Terni is San Valentino, and on February 14th of each year, hundreds of couples are married there. Let's not be cynical, but it's not difficult to surmise that many couples rush into marriage at the thought of being married on that day in the church of Saint Valentino.

To Italians, it sounds logical, for Italians are very superstitious. I wonder how those couples feel who later separate or divorce. The article has me wondering, for it is the first time I have read about this kind of statistic. Here we go, again, with stories about the "underbelly of Italy". We love it here, just the same.

Yesterday the movie, "Sicko" was shown on TV, and it was the first time we have seen it. It's perhaps the most telling statement about why we had no qualms about moving here.

We are fans of the Italian medical system, no matter how quirky. Now that we think we know how to navigate it, we have no problems with it. But it's mighty depressing to know how difficult it is to be treated for any serious medical conditions in the United States. The problem is really outrageous.

Speaking about outrageous, the current "stimulus" bill wafting through the U S Senate makes no sense to us. It's a laundry list of good programs, most of which have nothing to do with getting the economy back on track. I'm thinking like a republican these days, especially after reading the list of things on the bill.

With the two U S television stations we see here, CNN and FOX, full of reporting about what is wrong with the bill, certainly there must be a lot of reporting about this in the U S. Write your senators to tell them how you feel. Surely your hard earned money needs to be used judiciously!

As this month comes to an end, I'm thinking that it's time to prune the roses and get seeds ready to plant in the next week or so. Although we have plenty of winter left, it's time for hope. And we have plenty of that to go around.

If you've sent us an email during the past week, please resend it. Bye till next month! FEBRUARY 2009

February 1
We drive up to church, for it is raining, and afterward drive to Il Pallone for cappuccinos and brioches. The bar there has the most remarkable pastries. Some day, we'll have to try out the related restaurant, which must be quite good.

Weather continues to be overcast, but the worst of the weather remains in Northern Europe, where strong winds and snow and rain continue.

I fix a cacciatore and it is excellent. There's enough for another day, and it will be even better tomorrow.

Dino wants to experiment with the Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti painting, and I hold the frame while Dino loosens the canvas. Yes, the frame is warped underneath. I'd like to take it to Rome to Sepe in Trastevere, to see what he thinks we should do. If we need a new frame, we can buy it there and he will re-staple the linen...perhaps later this week.

February 2
We return to Roma Est to the Apple store, and I walk around the complex while Dino sits with the Geniuses at the bar...

They have replaced the hard drive, but we have lost all our emails since January 18th. So if you have emailed us between 18 Jan and 29 Jan, please resend them. Thanks. We think we have not lost any other data, but don't know.

Sofi was fine waiting in the car this time, and we drive home to work on the computer, still needing to take care of the translations of our birth certificates for our Italian citizenship application.

February 3
I have a pedicure with Giusy, and still can't believe our conversations. Spirituality is at the heart of them, mixed in with visions of angels in Napolitano churches. We really must visit this incredible city.

If you're not already suspicious of being ripped off by insurance companies, take a look at this: http://www.truthout.org/020209HA

Dino does not agree with me, but I think it's another reason to overhaul the US medical system. Last week we finally were able to see the movie "Sicko", and what the people in the film have to say about socialized medicine is true. It is quit a film.

Dino works outside cutting wood, this time splitting big pieces of the laurel tree that was cut last year. Take a look!

February 4
We're back in business with our computer, but all emails that have been received since January 18th have been lost. Someone from Canada has emailed us about a property, but their email has been lost, so we don't know how to contact them. If you're that person, please resend your email. Thanks very much.

February 5
I awoke with a headache at 4 AM and took part of my medicine for it, but it's still wreaking havoc with me late in the morning. So I take another dose, this time both the difmetre and tachiprina, and hope for the best.

Weather is dreary and overcast. I'm not about to paint this morning until my headache clears. It's too difficult to concentrate. Sofi remains by my side, however, happily snoozing while I get dressed.

This afternoon, "Grandpa Kittyhair" and I drive to Daniele; Dino gets a cut that is more of a shave with the electric zoomer. I ask him to alter the color (on my hair, not Dino's) to put in "piu cenere" (more ash) and he agrees.

At the appointed time, we SKYPE the nipotini, moving the computer to the kitchen. Who has the most fun? It's definitely Sofi, who wags her tail the entire time.

Email and SKYPE are definitely grandparent "things". With this technology readily available to us, we're able to feel close to the girls and have fun with them, each week. It's not the same, but the next best thing.

Later in the night, when I'm about to go to bed, I notice that my hair looks a little pink. I'm not concerned, thinking in the morning it will be fine.

February 6
I awake with a dull ache in my head, and it's surely a stress headache. A phone call on Tuesday related to a family thing on my side of the family has me churning and churning inside. This kind of stress lasts for days; each time I think I have it conquered, it raises its ugly head.

Speaking of ugly head, the front of my hair looks bright gold. It's time we show Daniele how the color of my hair changes after a day or so...I remember dear Lia in Mill Valley telling me to have him use 10.1, so let's see what he chose.

I'm thinking of family genes: the curl in my hair is from my father; the color of my hair is from my mother. I remember from photos when I was quite young, that my hair was actually white. It's not worth stressing about, there is enough stress going on in my head. So perhaps later we'll drive to Daniele for a "show and tell".

I return Lore's call and she and Alberto will arrive tomorrow for a week. We will surely arrange to get together with them while they are here. I told her that we are applying for citizenship and she offers to help us if we need anything. Other than knowing who approves the applications and walking them through, we don't know what they can do to help. But it's kind of them to offer.

"Everyone in Bomarzo and Mugnano knows who you are!" she tells me, and I suppose that's true. Italians are a curious lot, and now that I've been seen carrying the Italian flag in a village procession, I'm probably the talk of the town. Can you imagine that the only person in the entire village who should NOT be carrying the Italian flag is dumb enough to do so?

E fatto (It is done)! In 54 little peat cups, we've planted about 70 tomato seeds. A full moon arrives in three days, and in about a week or so, we hope to see the first seedlings emerge.

We've read that the pull of a full moon is advantageous for planting seeds, so we're hoping we're doing a good job by planting them a few days before the moon is at its fullest. We also use what we think is a special mixture of peat and other good things, instead of regular soil, as well as dabbings of soil enricher that we've used in prior years.

Yesterday, I filed an edge from each seed and soaked the seeds overnight in room temperature water. I no longer worry about segregating each type of tomato. Dino wants to buy tomato plants for putting up crushed tomatoes for winter use, so these are for eating and yes, as subjects for paintings. There is a good variety, chosen from 2007 as well as 2006 seeds, which are kept in the refrigerator all year. They are all heirlooms.

I have a book to document the tomatoes each year, and it's time to take it out again. Yesterday we watched an old movie, The Birdman of Alcatraz, and he became a noted ornithologist, keeping meticulous records of his birds, and how he took care of them.

My documenting is not so ambitious, but I do document how many we plant, how long they take to germinate, how many and when we plant them in the soil. It's really fun, especially when we're able to eat them in July and August and they are really delicious.

We also have some Walla Walla Onion seeds and special carrots, so will plant those this year, too. They came free with the tomato seeds, and it will be fun to try to plant them. Oh, what about potatoes? I admit I did not do any "chitting" in January, so let's see if we have any laying around which may have been doing "chitting" on their own....

Before we go to bed, the temperature in the little serra inside the house is just under 20 degrees centigrade. By tomorrow it will rise a few more and then we hope the constant temperature will be just right.

An Italian woman will be given the right to die, and it has stirred up a controversy all the way to the Vatican.

If I were in the woman's shoes, I certainly would not want to be kept alive, and we luckily have living wills. But whether or not a hospital will agree here in Italy, we're not sure. The article does help set a precedent, however.

I mention it to Dino and he thinks we should talk with our doctor to find out if there is a special form we should use if the situation happens to either of us. We still do not have our little "house" built on our cemetery plot, so lets be Italian about it and hold off for a while. Italians will not even speak about death; they are so superstitious.

February 7
We're going to drive to Rome this afternoon at about 5, to reach Trastevere at 6, just as the traffic control machines are turned off. We're counting on Sepe at Poggio, the art store, to look at the warped San Vincenzo frame and help us to either straighten it or to re-staple a new frame under the existing canvas. It's a bit dicey, but we don't know what else to do. Prega per noi (pray for us).

The Italian government is trying to overturn the ruling that will let the parents of a comatose woman remove her feeding tubes after seventeen years. The action must take place by tomorrow morning or it will be too late. Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, says that he will do everything he can to save the woman's life.

(ANSA) - Rome, February 5 - "The Italian parliament on Thursday approved a measure requiring doctors to report illegal immigrants, unleashing a barrage of criticism.

The measure, which would lift confidentiality provisions for illegals who need hospital care, was contained in a crime bill passed by the Senate to the Chamber of Deputies.

The Italian association of hospital doctors has criticized the measure and said its members will not act as ''spies''.

The opposition described the measure, which was put into the bill by the regionalist Northern League, as ''racist'' and ''fascist''.

The Northern League continues its anti-immigrant stance, declaring that the rights of Italians are seen as secondary to those of immigrants. Let's get those citizenship papers moved along soon!

How dumb are we? Raoul is the talented and very kind fello at Poggio Arte in Trastevere. We have been calling him Sepe and he tells us that sepe are the little balsam looking plugs that are put into the corners of the frames to keep them in shape.

When we arrive he has a new frame all assembled for us, and we're sure this is not the first time he has dealt with a warped frame. He gingerly takes all the staples out of the frame and slowly un-attaches the linen from the wood.

He steps back and shows us how warped the frame is, and we are sure it was fastened too tightly before the gola di coniglo was adhered to the front. So bit-by-bit, he re-attaches the partially completed Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti painting to the new frame, and it is so expertly attached that we only have to add gola and gesso to a few centimeters at the very bottom.

We leave there quite thrilled that we could fix the painting, for we like Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti and will take it back to Marco on Monday. After that session, Dino will repair the bottom edge of the frame and then I will paint it. It's almost time to begin Gino's painting of him sitting on the bench outside Ernesta's little store. And of course we'll buy the frame and prepared linen from Raoul at Poggio.

After we drive away, Dino wants to buy bread and goodies from the Jewish bakery in the Ghetto. So he parks nearby and Sofi and I wait, until he returns with two giant chocolate chip cookies, two blueberry muffins for the morning, a cheesecake and a rye and carrot bread. Sounds like home?

Mid afternoon on Saturday is a great time to drive in to Rome; there is little traffic and many of the traffic controls have been turned off. We'd like to find a place for Sofi close to our home to hang out while we take a few hours away here and there, and Dino tells me he has seen a sign for an allevamento (breeder) of Bassotti (dachshunds), both pelle duro (wiry coat) and smooth coat.

We'll contact them in the next days to see if they know of a better groomer, and if they know of a doggie or two in the vicinity who can become Sofi's playmates. We do agree that she needs to socialize more; she is so easy to please, but we are sure she is somewhat lonely. Perhaps Sofi can even have a play date there once in a while. Anything's possible.

Just before going to bed I had a cocktail of difmetre and tachiprina, and as a result had some very vivid dreams.

February 8
I dreamt that someone was trying to murder me. He was a tall, wraithlike man who intended murder, probably by smothering me. After waking up and going back to sleep, I had the most wonderful dream.

In this dream, I had written a book of about 250 pages. But as I finished the first draft, I came across some marvelous illustrations. So of course I just had to illustrate my own book and what a joy, the mere thought of this. It's enough to write a book, I told myself after sadly realizing that I was awake.

Let's get on with the day, I thought, as the sun made its first attempt to wriggle through a sky full of dirty marshmallows.

Dino wants to drive Pandina up the hill to church. I know what that means...Cappuccino and brioches at Il Pallone Bar afterward.

Don Gianfranco is a marvel. Although I can't understand everything he is saying, I know that he is an exceptional priest. There is something about him, I know, he has duende!

Decades ago, the word "duende" was used to describe a person who had "that certain something" about them. Think Frank Sinatra; think Mahatma Gandhi; think Luciano Pavarotti; think Oprah Winfrey and yes, think Barack Obama. Yes, think Don Gianfranco. I look forward to the day I will tell him so.

After mass, Dino and Fabrizio, the Priori, chat a little and soon there will be a meeting of the "Dons" to talk about Confraternity plans for the year. We greet Loredana and Alberto, who arrived yesterday for a week, but it's time to drive on to the bar at Il Pallone for a kind of Sunday "brunch" ritual of cappuccinos and brioche.

We're in Pandina driving up the Bomarzo hill and talk about the huge frana (fall) of dirt and rock a month or so ago on a Sunday. It happened ten minutes or so after we had passed on our way up the hill, for on our way back we were just able to navigate past it.

We drive by and Dino notices that there is quite a bit of loose dirt near the bottom, but we move on and have our treats, then stop at the market.

But on our way back, we are blocked at the same place on the Bomarzo hill; huge rocks have fallen across the road and thankfully no one was hurt. We could have been in the path of those rocks, if it was "meant to be", just thirty minutes earlier. Thankfully, we were not.

Now we have to turn around. Dino calls Stefano, the mayor, but his cell phone is out of range. So we drive to the Carabinieri and Dino talks with them on the speaker. They know of the damage. Now which way will we reach home? Orte or Sipicciano?

"Come vuole," (as you wish) I tell Dino, so he tries to drive past Vitorchiano through Grotte Santo Stefano, but the road is blocked just below the Vitorchiano borgo. I am amazed at his road knowledge; he finds his way through a road closer to Montefiascone and through Grotte Santo Stefano and then past Sipicciano on the road to Bagnoregio and then home. Phew!

"All the roads are falling apart around us!" Dino called out on our across the valley adventure. Only last year, the road between Bomarzo and Attigliano was closed, the Sipicciano road was closed, and only the Bomarzo road was open. He thinks we need to activate the ferry between Attigliano and Mugnano (It's really Mugnano to Mugnano), and for now, the Bomarzo road is closed....

I have an idea that we should bring the folks to Mugnano who would repair our ripa(bank) if the Comune had the money and ask for two prices: one for doing it now and one for doing it after a frane(slide) that closes the road to Mugnano. Dino knows who the company is, so if he's in the mood he'll call them and have them come out for a quote. We will also take more photos of our bank, as more proof that it needs to be rebuilt. So much for the simple life...

It's almost a full moon tonight, and with that one amazing seed has begun to germinate, poking its head through the earth. The seeds were planted just two days ago, but a day before they were soaked overnight and a corner was filed off each one. We hope that this portends a generous and healthy crop as we trundle off to bed...

February 9
We wake to sun, glorious sun! This is one of those special February days when we're convinced it's spring. It's a day to be out in the garden, cutting back roses, moving plants and getting ready for the real spring.

We're doing major work on the huge nespola (loquat) tree beside our bedroom and deciding how to work on the Madame Alfred Carriere that Sarah planted ten years ago! But it's time for pranzo and then a ride to Marco's for an afternoon of painting and consultation.

I bring two canvases: Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti as well as Vanessa. Vanessa is here because Marco told me he can show me an easy way to paint a face by using colors side by side instead of feathering them together. It's a bold idea, and after working on Occhi Pinti's dirty coat, I switch to it.

By the time Dino picks me up four hours later, I'm not sure I appreciate the style of this little painting. Perhaps I'll begin with the style of painting colors side-by-side, which looks similar to a paint-by-number approach, then feather the colors together. I'll work on it during the next couple of weeks.

Our letter from the sindaco is not yet ready, but Dino will call him again tomorrow; the sooner we have the letter, the sooner we can submit our citizenship applications. It's time to think again of a dearly departed mentor, Augie, who told us he wanted to become an Italian citizen because he believed that stranieri (foreigners) would at some point not be welcome to live in this country.

If you're aware of the growing number of people from the North who believe in "Italians First!", you'll take a dim view of anyone who was not born in this country. It's true that every country has its radical elements, and Italy is certainly one of them.

Back in San Francisco, our son, Terence, is doing a gangbusters business, selling as well as buying previously owned automobiles, campers, and vehicles of all kinds. (He recently even sold a trimaran) In this depressed economy, it's certainly working to his advantage. Take a look at his site, and if you know of anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area, do forward the link to them if you think he can help them. Thanks.


February 10
Two more seeds have germinated and pushed their way through the earth. That's a count of three for today.

The day is overcast and cool, a sky so grey that the pale sun has no chance of even peeking through. With a headache arriving before I rise, I take the usual pill cocktail and am feeling better before pranzo.

The young comatose woman in Italy whose parents wanted her to be allowed to die, did die.
We're following the case, since neither of us would want to be kept alive artificially if we were in a coma. The next time we visit our doctor, we'll ask him what we should do in addition to making our wishes and living wills available to him.

Italians are very vocal and emotional about this and most other matters. We respect the ideas of others which are not our own, but hope to never be in that situation. Since I still doubt the concept of prayer as a way to give God a laundry list of things we selfishly wish for, it's time for a conversation with Him (I believe it's a He), though I'm not sure I'll be able to hear what He has to say.

It's time to also ask Don Francis what the difference is between a Don and a Padre, and to ask him which of those he is. He's told us he is officially a monsignor, hence our gift to him of the customary bright pink sash to wear on more formal occasions. We'll let you know.

We've been watching BBC's Master Chef on SKY, and it has me wanting to experiment with cooking recipes now and then. It's not that I want to enter to be a Master Chef, for I'm not a competitive sort, just interesting in the creative aspects of cooking. If I come up with particularly tasty dishes, I'll be happy to share them with you.

After watching a silly program about famous chefs who visit people who always eat takeout to try to convince them to eat healthy meals at home instead, we're interested to try a stir-fry. So tomorrow we'll shop in Viterbo and I'll whip up some kind of creation, based on things we can find. It should be fun.

I'm in the kitchen fiddling with the painting of Vincenzo's nose on the large canvas, leaving Occhi Pinti alone for a while, while Dino spends the afternoon outside. I have no idea what he is doing until he opens the door and tells me, "I think I'm just about finished. Will you come take a look at this tree?"

I put on a warm scarf and walk out to find one side of the terrace filled with loquat branches. When he's through, the height of the tree that once was as tall as the house, now tops at a height just under the bedroom window. I'm never worried about his pruning of the loquat tree, for it is so fast growing that whatever spaces appear will soon be filled in by new branches and leaves.

I hold up Sofi so that she can look through the window with me to watch Dino and his saw working on Pietro's two-story ladder. In my head I'm thinking, "If he falls, I'll drive him right away to Narni. That's the hospital that has a real expertise with bones. But in my heart I'm worried...very worried. Luckily, Dino is careful and there are no problems, just lots of wood to saw.

In a scene reminiscent of Robert Stack on television reporting to the American people about the "Untouchables", Tim Geitner stood on a stage in front of two huge American flags, to outline the latest U S stimulus package, which undoubtedly will pass, as soon as today. His stance, his demeanor and his expression, were right out of an Untouchables segment. If Robert Stack were alive today, he'd be a dead ringer for Mr. Geitner.

February 11
It's another somewhat gloomy day, and we drive off to Viterbo to buy ingredients for a stir fry. This may be boring to you, but to a palate used to Italian, Italian and more Italian food, any change in spice or seasoning or type of food is very appealing. So after watching a TV program last night, we've decided to do a beef stir-fry, using the best fillet of beef and fresh ingredients.

We're able to do quite well in the stores. Although not able to find water chestnuts or corn starch, we are able to find what we need. Do you know that you can substitute flour for corn starch?

Since it's raining this afternoon, I work on painting Vincenzo's coat, for we've purchased a tube of darker red paint for contrast. It needs to dry a bit for me to tell if the contrast gives off the proper sheen, but the change in color of his jeans works out well, too. In another day I'll be able to work on Occhi Pinti's coat with a technique learned at Marco's on Monday.

I'm still thinking about painting our front hallway, and will do it with sponges and other techniques in at least several colors and shades to give an old look to the walls. Yes, we'll fashion a scaffold for me from a ladder and a board against a stair, and I'm looking forward to the work. What a dream the work of painting is for me. It is not work at all; instead it's a therapeutic way to meditate.

There is a quick bout of thunder, but that passes. Otherwise, all is calm. Dino cuts back the big fig tree and works cutting up the loquat and fig branches strewn across the land as if we've had a tornado.

Today's count of sprouted seeds is...eight!

I've written that I've been confused regarding when to use the title of "Don" and when to use the title of "Padre". Don Francis spells it all out:
"In practice, it is more a matter of custom. However, diocesan priests and Benedictine monks are usually called "don" out of respect; it is in fact a status thing, because it means that one is officially regarded as being "in charge" of some aspect of institutional life.

"Padre is a term usually reserved for friars (Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, etc.) or for members of religious orders who are priests (Jesuits, Paulists, Scalabriniani, Barnabiti, Saveriani, ecc.). In the case of your priest in Bomarzo, he may have joined a missionary society, in which case he would most likely prefer "padre"; it may also be a simple courtesy or sign of affection. As a missionary priest, he would not have been in charge of an institution on Italian soil, recognized by the state, so the institutional status is different." That's exactly correct, Don Francis. The Mugnano priest was sent as a missionary to Romania; hence, the title Padre. We'll see if an example comes up and refer to this helpful information. Thanks so much.

On a totally different subject, there is a strange thing that country men do frequently on the country roads of Italy: they get out of their cars and sometimes walk over to a bush or two and relieve themselves, then get back in their cars. Sometimes they just stand by their car doors and do it. Am I jealous, or is it just weird? Dino never does it, or never when I am in the car, but when we drive by someone who is doing it, Dino honks his horn and waves. That's Dino for you.

I don't think I've ever seen someone do that in the United States.

February 12
It's a beautiful day, with wispy clouds and a blue sky. Dino will spray the fruit trees with rame sulfato (copper sulfate), for we are told this is biologic and the best way to be sure that the fruit and foliage of fruit trees are not covered with a blight that is common in this area in the late spring.

But first he needs to prune the trees. I return to Vincenzo, working on his coat and its highlights, while Dino works on the trees. I no longer stand and watch, for whatever he does is better than nothing at all, and he enjoys it.

Dino does not do the spraying, but does a thorough job pruning the fruit trees. We have a conversation about our giant olive tree and yes, it needs to be shaped and lightly pruned, but the time of cutting olive trees is not geared to the seasons. Farmers around here prune them any old time...so not today. Bruno tells us to spray and cut the olive trees in May. Va bene.

I'm thinking we should work on the Lady Hillingdon roses on the path, so after pranzo we do just that. While we're clipping away on the pot closest to the parcheggio, Snoopy scampers down and he and Sofi play around. He's just a puppy but is about Sofi's size, and they seem to get along well. That's great.

But in the midst of this, Brik saunters down like John Wayne walking into a saloon wearing a gunbelt. "Don't even think of messing around." He gives Snoopy a look and Sofi a buss on her snout; then returns to the front of Giustino's house, where he lies right in the middle of the road. People around here know and love Brik, so they slow down and just drive around him.

This afternoon the letters will be ready for us at the Comune, but since it's a lovely day we have a lot of pruning to do. But while we are having a potaro (pruning) day on the front walk, our sindaco drives by and beeps. Dino will meet with him later today to pick up our letters, we hope.

Neighbor after neighbor drive or walk by and make a comment or two, or just wave. There's: Francesco, Luigina, Enzo (two times), Nando, Natalino (two times), Stefano, Tommy, Carla...we know them all. Pia also walks over and asks who prunes our trees. By now, you're familiar with all these names.

Dino proudly tells Pia that this year, HE pruned the trees, but usually Mario does. Yes, we'll give her the number. Is tree pruning another job for Dino? I'm very happy that he does not offer.

By the end of the afternoon, we have fourteen seedlings that have popped out of the earth. It's been such a lovely day, that two decided to pop up since this morning's count. So pranzos around this house in July and August will be hearty and outrageously delicious tomato fare, for sure.

We have three more rose plants on the path, and plenty more in the garden, although the roses on the terrace have all been pruned. Domani, or dopo domani...

Dino drives to the Comune and Stefano does not have the letter ready, but promises to email it to us tomorrow. The letter will not have Don Luca's signature; the mayor tells Dino it will be better coming from him. What's another day?

We have a lovely SKYPE meeting with the girls and Kerstin, and they have their dog pictures all painted and ready. We show them ours and they also model the Carnevale masks we mailed them. Sofi just loves watching the two girls; it is as if they are right here with us; they are so relaxed.

February 13
We're driving to Tuscany to look at another property to list, and is it cold! This time, we start by driving on the a-1 to Orvieto and then past Allerona, Aquapendente into the Southern Tuscan countryside. What we find is a wonderful woman who either owns or have friends or relatives that own, a number of properties...We like them all!

After viewing several apartments and one large villa, she invites us for an excellent pranzo of pasta and chicken and salad and time to look around her artistic flat. She's an artist, and it's a snapshot of her life at this point in time.

We're especially intrigued by her ability to take simple paint and treat many walls with inventive methods: a sponge with a flat plate in front of it for a flat look, sponges and other implements on others. She also sews fabric elegantly, and when surfaces are not covered by paint, they are covered with samples of fabric in a kind of quilt and ribbon dance; meraviglia (marvelous)!

We drive home by backtracking, and while we drive Dino tells me that he wants to trade our car in while it still has some value. If some miracle happens and money appears, we'll see if we can come up with a better car. For now, I think we're keeping the Alfa.

We do want to return to pruning the roses and if we have sun tomorrow, we surely will. Tonight, we have sixteen tiny shoots from our pomodori seeds. That's a good number for one week's time, but perhaps tomorrow I will make camomile tea and use that at room temperature to water them (always from the bottom; actually we water the gravel on which the tiny peat pots stand).

February 14
This is the day that creates havoc in Terni; its padrono (patron saint) is San Valentino and scores, even hundreds of couples get married here on this date. Do you recall that 40% of the people who marry here are later divorced or separated? What a truly sad statistic.

It's a bright and sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky when we awake. So let's get out in the garden! There are fruit trees to spray, roses to prune, and the ground below the new pergola in the middle garden to get ready for more gravel.

Dino sprays the fruit trees, while I begin to paint by putting a coat of brown on Occhi Pinti's fur, then strip it back with a cloth and fingernail, to simulate hair. He does look natural, and pretty dirty. I'm not so sure I think this is a good idea, but in another week I'll have Marco take a look.

In the meantime, I'm going to begin to paint Gino, by having Dino enlarge a photo when he drives to Viterbo. It's time to fix the border of Vincenzo's painting, but that's Dino's job. Time to begin Gino, for I'm counting on having Gino and Tito also finished before the first weekend of May.

There's still plenty of sun after pranzo, so we return to cutting back roses in the garden. Earlier this morning, Dino and I finished the roses on the front path. Well, Dino needs to work on two of them, which need repositioning in their pots. I do another check on pruning, and realize that each year I do too much pruning to the Madame Alfred Carriere rampicanti rose. So I leave the rest of it. We're in good shape for spring.

Stefano, the mayor, still does not have our letter ready, and his phone is not turned on. Politicians all have their excuses, and we're fine with that; waiting a little longer to file for citizenship won't make a great deal of difference, and having his letter will probably help.

Speaking of excuses, we're fed up with what's going on in the U S with the so-called "stimulus" package. I wrote in this journal in November that I think highly of Obama but can't imagine he can change things in Washington.

On top of the other things wrong with it, the bill makes no sense and is just too expensive. Why should our children pay for our generation's greed? Tell me how someone can vote for a bill if they have not read it? We'll take our chances with the bureaucracy in Italy. If you're ready to join us in living in Italy, take a look at our properties page and let us know.

Today has been incredibly cold all day. But as the sun sets, I invent a chocolate dessert as a Valentine present for Dino. Hot out of the oven, it is feather-light, with a brandied cherry hidden in the bottom of each cupcake, and anything hot tastes incredibly good on this frosty night.

February 15
Mass on this sunny and very cold morning is with Don Bruno. While we're waiting in the church for mass to begin, Dino turns to me and tells me that the people talking in low voices at the back of the church sound like pigeons. Imagine someone trying to speak with their mouth closed; a kind of gurgle. That is what pigeons sound like to us, and that describes the sounds behind us.

Don Bruno is always a mystery. When he speaks the homily, he leans forward on the altar on his elbows and lowers his voice. When we least expect it, he ends the homily and in the same sentence begins the Creed: "Credo in solo dio..." (( I believe in God...)

In undergraduate school, I had a professor, a John Beaton, who droned on incessantly and then dropped a large book on the floor. In the next breath he would shout, "Am I speaking too softly for you?" Don Bruno reminds me of him; I think he is chiding all of us for not paying enough attention.

After mass, we drive to Il Pallone for cappuccinos and tiny brioches, passing the Bomarzo slide location without any crisis. Twice in the last month, our Sunday drive to Il Pallone missed a rock slide by just minutes. At the nearby supermarket, there are cacti for sale in the shape of hearts...how carina (cute), but no thanks.

We're soon home and it's still very cold but sunny. I'm hoping that while I fix pranzo that Dino will work on the corners of the Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti painting so that I can paint them black before we frame it.

Better late than never, I see some little sprouts on potatoes we like that have been sitting around, so cut them up in a few sections so that their sprouts show, place them on a baking sheet on top of newspaper and place the sheet in the living room under the portable serra, where the little sprouts will get plenty of filtered light.

When the sprouts are 2" tall, they'll be ready to plant in large pots or in the ground. The year we grew potatoes, they were delicious! Let's try again...

A month or so ago, I wrote in the journal, explaining how to "chit" potatoes. It's easy and really fun. Once the sprouts reach approximately 2", they are ready to plant in big pots with drain holes or directly in the ground. Give it a try and let us know what happens. Let's use this as an excuse to try something new in the garden.

Although it's cold, a meatloaf is in the oven (they're popular in Italy, too) with roast vegetables, and while we wait, we can clip more roses. Let's go!

It's a lazy Sunday; usually we have some project or other going on but today...nothing, except for fixing the corners of the Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti painting. While it sits outside to dry a little, we're inside enjoying the day, with a good pranzo and glasses of good wine, and afterward, a snooze.

The canvas is ready to paint, so tomorrow I'll work on the borders, but need to spend more time with Vincenzo's face and his jeans. Painting dirty jeans? That will be a fun exercise...I hope.

Still no response from the mayor...

February 16
There's plenty of sun this morning, but I'm wondering about the tomatoes. For the past three days, the count has held at 16; could it be that one type of tomato germinates faster than the others?

There is a call from the mayor, apologizing for the delay, and what he forwards is more wonderful than we ever expected. It's a letter that each of us can use for our citizenship applications, and is wonderfully crafted.

We never know what to expect from this Italian adventure, and are really pleased. It does not matter that we cannot file our papers today, for we will file them tomorrow, and then just sit back and wait...

Thank you so much, kind mayor!

The cold temperatures remain, so Dino cuts more wood and burns in the far property near San Rocco. I fix duck for pranzo, based on a recipe from a cooking show last week. It's the first time I've cooked anatra (duck), and next time it will taste even better. There is also fried rice cooked to serve with the duck, and that's better yet. So I really should do more experimenting with food.

Winter skies are very interesting in Italy. Leaves on the trees don't all fall off; instead, they turn a coppery-brown and when new leaves grow in the spring, they just pop the old ones off.

So although there are some places where trees are bare, plenty of color remains in the surrounding hills. Against the pale grey lavender winter sky, it's a sleepy picture. Rest now, for in a couple of months there'll be a riot of color!

Dino works too hard; it's as if he's running a marathon. Not everything has to be done at once, and he's tired and sore from too much tree pruning, woodcutting and other heavy-duty tasks. It's time to slow down, Dino. There's no rush, and your peace of mind is too important. XO

February 17
Today's the day! While I get dressed and ready, Dino makes more copies of documents, putting them in two folders. We're ready to apply for Italian Citizenship, or at least we think we are.

Armed with a wonderful letter from our mayor and all the documents, we drive to the Procura in Viterbo, and Sofi sits patiently in the car while we walk down the hill.

There is no wait. When we walk up to the entryway, Lorella opens the glass door for us and welcomes us. We have spoken with her before, and she makes us feel relaxed.

The mayor's letter sits on top, and she reads it all the way through, smiling when she reaches the bottom. Dino thought she would not accept it, as it is not a required document, but she does.

By the time we are through, she has two copies of each document for her files, and we have one, stamped officially by her, using a stamp pad and an old clunky stamp. She leans back in her chair when we ask her "What's next?" and she tells us to wait...perhaps for two years.

Driving home afterward I ask Dino, "Do you feel an emptiness, as if something is missing from your life all of a sudden?" He smiles and nods his head. We have worked toward this day for more than ten years, and now that the work is done, what now?

I sew two short curtains; one for the firebox and one to hang above the sink, made of wonderful material we purchased years ago in Germany. After trying them in the places where they will hang, I need to make them longer, but have more material.

Now that we have a short curtain to bring the front of the fireplace down ten inches or so, Dino thinks we can burn again in the middle of the fireplace, instead of in the corner. It looks beautiful, but there is quite a bit of smoke.

I'm hoping this will be temporary, but there is so much smoke that even Sofi runs to the dining room to her cage, to be away from the smoke that probably burns her eyes.

Good idea; I pick her up and take her upstairs. We'll spend the evening in the bedroom and hope that Dino can either figure a way to get rid of the smoke or move the fires back to the corner of the box. There is always something to deal with, even in paradise.

February 18
There is a notice that our power will be off today until 2 P M, so we'll drive to Aquapendente; I noticed a very interesting fabric store a few days ago when driving from Proceno, and we'll have no power, so why not? Today is also the anniversary of Felice's birth, and I'd like to visit Marsiglia, but Dino does not like to go; perhaps I will visit her this afternoon.

Berlusconi, ever landing on his feet, has escaped prosecution from a bribery case, but the English lawyer lands in jail for almost five years. Take a look at Berlusconi...is he sleeping?


Dino wants to sell the Alfa; he's looking at options. So in the next month I expect we'll be making a change. But not today...

We drive to Viterbo and then North to Aquapendente, stopping at one of our favorite churches, San Flaviano, so expect a story about it on Italian Notebook soon.

Since we're driving on, we stop at San Lorenzo Nuova for coffee. Dino wonders, "If there's a San Lorenzo Nuova, there must be a San Lorenzo Antica"...so we stop at the Comune to ask.

Find out about San Lorenzo Nuovo, etc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Lorenzo_Nuovo

Luisa, a local policewoman, tells us that what is left of the ancient town is a ruin, so we follow the Strada Antica, or Via Francigena, for about three kilometers. She tells us that we will find it there on the right, in a field.

By the way, the story about La Via Francigena is also very interesting. In Italy it is mostly Via Cassia - one of the gret Roman Consular roads:


After a few false stops, we find it, or what is left of it. We think it's worth another story. It's called San Lorenzo alle Grotte and the church pictured here is what remains of San Giovanni in Val di Lago. What do you think?

We reach Aquapendente, and find that the office of the Tourist Information is nestled right in the building that originated as the gate to the town.

We ask a fellow inside, "Where does the name Aquapendente come from?" He tells us there is a falls, right outside town (think aqua - water...pendente - pendant) that we can see from the road. But we cannot find it, no matter how long we search. Some stories have a basis in fact in this country, but only that. Perhaps this is one...

It's time to drive back home, for although there is quite a bit of bright sun, it is very, very cold (0 degrees Centigrade and below) and there is plenty of wind.

Dino pulls the car over outside the Bolsena War Cemetery, for he's determined that we write a story about that cemetery as well as the one outside Orvieto. He thinks they're forgotten cemeteries, but worth visiting. Perhaps that's because he's a WWII buff; perhaps it's because he served in Europe for the Army. Is it a "guy thing"? I'm not sure.

I think a story about the Anzio cemetery is worthy; when we visited during a gita (pilgrimage) to a nearby religious site, there was time to stop at Anzio. Italians followed us around, wanting to tell us how thankful they were for the Americans who liberated them.

The experience at the time was quite moving, for during the war, dead soldiers were not returned to the U S; instead they were buried in local cemeteries, as was "Unclecalvinwhodiedinthewar". I'm sorry my uncle died before I was born; he was buried in Holland. I remember my grandmother visiting his grave with the Goldstar Mothers and telling me about all the tulips.

Back at home, there is sun on the terrace and the temperature rises to about 5 degrees Centigrade...it's a veritable heat wave.

I remake the short drape for the firebox, to bring the opening down to help prevent smoke entering the room, and this time the length is just right.

Finally, the fireplace works the way it should. It has only taken us ten years to be able to build a good fire in the center of the firebox. We're pensionati (retired), so why rush it?

Take a look.

February 19
We have another canvas ready for me to paint the third contadini of the series, 80cm wide by 140cm high, and his name is Gino. The photo I'll work from was taken of him the year he died at age 96. I don't know if I like the idea that people in our village live to their 90's...perhaps one has to be born here to live that long.

Although it's very cold today, the bright sun has me wearing a visor while sitting at the computer. Sofi likes to sit outside against the house on these sunny days and relax; that is, when she's not right by my side. She spends most of the morning hours doing just that.

The fabric I used for the kitchen works so well that I'll make curtains to hang below the sink. There's enough left for that; but I'm spoiled by the iron-on tape from IKEA, so I'll wait to sew them until we take our next trip South. I admit I do like to sew, especially when the outcome is that good.

Now that we've spent half a day driving around and Dino is out for a few hours, it's time to write more Italian Notebook stories. We admit that we're still "goal" driven; even though we lead lives without stress for the most part, having a story as a goal makes any trip in Italy fun and more of an adventure.

While doing research for a story, I come across information that brings me back to wanting to design a stemma, or crest, for our village. It tells what it calls a victory of the "joie de vivre": two branches, one laurel and one oak; and those will figure prominently in the bottom part of the crest, for sure.

Yesterday, I found what I thought was a bug on Sofi, under her chin. It was dead. But tonight I decided to investigate and looked up "dead ticks on animals". I'm horrified to say that she was bitten by a tick, and it was an adult female, because there was a large (for an insect) milky colored sac attached to it. Now I'm worried.

Dino thinks he can find it in the wastebasket in our bedroom, and tomorrow we'll take Sofi to the vet to find out more. I'm overly worried now, thinking that something on her stomach that I don't remember could be a small one. It doesn't come off easily, so we leave it, and tomorrow we'll let the vet figure it out for us. Sorry.

I turn in quite worried about the little dog, but she seems fine. Lets have happy dreams and deal with it tomorrow, along with getting her next rabies shot. This simple life can become complicated very quickly...

February 20
The vet opens at 9:30, and we arrive soon after that. Dino has the tick and shows it to Mario, who thinks it's nothing, even though it's an adult female. "It's not like the ticks in the U S", he tells us, so don't be concerned. But next time, spray Duowin on the tick instead of removing it, to make sure that the whole thing comes out. It will fall off by itself...va bene. The other little thing is nothing at all.

We stop at the FIAT dealer, and think we want to buy the new Panda, since there is 0 per cent financing for five years, if they allow a good amount for the Alfa. Dino imagines a wooden crate for my canvases to transport them on the luggage rack, so the distance available inside the car is not a real factor. He'll make the crate himself if we wind up buying one.

There is not a cloud in the sky after pranzo, and Dino returns to Viterbo to meet up with the man who sold us the Alfa six years ago; he is now at a used car place in Viterbo, and we liked him very much. Dino is not one to let grass grow below his feet when he's on the prowl for something.

With our finances they way they are, I've decided to write an article for the U S market about our decision to move here, based in good part on the viability of living more cheaply in Italy. It's amazingly quite true.

February 21
I wake up with a headache, take my medicine cocktail and return to bed for an hour. Since it's a beautiful day, I'm fine when I do get up; all around there are sounds of people working their land. The sounds are music to us, even the occasional weed-wacker, although I remember the fights those noisemakers would create with neighbors when we lived in California.

GB called last night to check in and to talk about a project we have in common. He's quite a guy, always thinking of how to make Italian Notebook a better site for its readers.

Dino is outside cutting more wood, and worried that we've run out of dry wood for our nightly fires. All the firewood for sale in the area is new. Somehow we'll manage.

Before and after pranzo we both work outside, with Sofi scampering around and sticking her nose into things. She weighs so little that she damages hardly anything, unless the lizards are out and she's chasing them under lavender bushes and boxwood. That won't happen for another two months at least.

With a whole bag full of rose clippings (never burn rose clippings, for any disease can be airborne when they are burned), Dino moves it onto the hand truck and we walk it up to the closest bin on our street.

Rina and Elisa sit on a bench in front of Giustino's, and watch Sofi chase a cat under a car. Augusta and MarieAdelaide sit on the benches on our path, in their usual afternoon spot. The air is pleasant, although clouds begin to congregate. We always enjoy exchanging pleasantries with our neighbors, and perhaps one day we'll join them on a bench, just to sit and watch the day go by. Not yet...

We've received a bill from SKY, our satellite TV carrier and it is very high, so Dino calls five times until he finds someone who is helpful. Surprisingly, the bill is wrong...€100 too high! So we do check invoices and call if we think there is a question. Today the answer is in our favor. Va bene.

February 22
This in from truthout.org about Richard Holbrooke:
"The veteran diplomat convenes a "trilateral meeting" between Pakistan, Afghanistan and America.

"In his heyday as a negotiator in the 1990s, Richard Holbrooke was known as "the bulldozer." When Bosnia's civil war looked intractable, Holbrooke brought all the parties to Dayton, Ohio, where he essentially locked them up until they arrived at a deal. Later, as United Nations ambassador, Holbrooke managed to patch things up between two groups almost as hostile to each other as the former Yugoslav factions were: Republicans in Washington and U.N. bureaucrats in New York. In each case, stagecraft was a big part of his strategy: orchestrating grand meetings that would force hostile factions to talk at length in the same room."

Well, that's a strange but possible option. It reminds me of the conclave to elect a pope in the 13th century in nearby Viterbo...the conclave went on so long and the cardinals had such a good time that it was determined that food should be denied them until they made a decision and...viola!

But is it the best way to achieve a long-lasting outcome? It's not up to me to decide.

I wake with another migraine, and the sky is not cooperating; it consists of hazy sun and a sky that looks like pale smoke. Smoke...that could be a real contributor to my headaches, since we've moved the firebox to the center of the fireplace opening I've had a headache each morning...

As the morning brings more sun, a cocktail of medicine helps to dissipate my headache. In the meantime, we attend mass with Don Bruno, and La Domenica, the liturgy of the mass for this week, contains some interesting information...

Within the Salmo Responsoriale (oral response to the psalm) are the words, "con il tuo perdono" (with your forgiveness). Say the words out loud: "con il tuo perdono" (con-ill-two-O-pehr-doh-no) three times as fast as you can and watch your mouth contort in the mirror.

Just before the beginning of the mass, Don Luca walked by us in church and gave us a smile out of the corner of his mouth that looked as though he considers us as adventuresome children, with always something going on in our fertile imaginations. Yes, that's who we are...

After mass, Tiziano tells us he is taking yet another exam; this time it's to give him the ability to teach Latin to high school boys. We're sure he'll pass, and it's so difficult to find work, that we're hoping it will help him.

In the meantime, I remind him that we need to work together to help him to raise funds to put a roof on his archeological dig in the valley. If you have any ideas, let us know. Thanks.

Paola greets us in the piazza, telling us she wants to get together soon. We agree. Dino tells her about our paintings for Ecomuseo and she agrees to speak with Antonio, her husband, to confirm what we are doing. I should look for some kind of grant to help us financially with it, for it's getting expensive, even for the materials.

We drive in Pandina to Nando's bar at Il Pallone for cappuccinos and brioches; then shop at the market for food for pranzo.

While in the car, we confirm our ideas regarding the best subjects for my paintings: This year, they will consist of neighbors of the past, with Felice, Vincenzo, Gino and Tito. Next year, they will consist of the present: possibly Vincenzo, Gino, Pepino, Giuseppa and others to be determined.

The following year they will consist of the young people of the future of Mugnano. We're not sure whether these subjects will be of young children or of adults of the next generation. Yes, Ecomuseo is a grand and wonderful premise for preserving the character of the village. We look forward to our continued participation.

Back at home, the sun is glorious. Because we face South, we're able to play outside in shirtsleeves in the sun, even if the temperature drops to almost freezing.

We've decided to buy a new Fiat Panda, one with dual gas tanks for both metano and regular gasoline. Metano is much cheaper, and better ecologically, but there aren't as many stations in Italy.

Since it's easy to switch tanks back and forth, and since the financing for cars with metano is excellent, we've decided we can turn the Alfa in or sell it ourselves and wait for up to a month to obtain the car we want. We'll know more tomorrow morning, when we have an appointment to drive one.

How many years will it take us to figure out when to prune which plants? Today we're wrestling with plumbago and mock orange. So the plumbago gets cut way back almost to ground level, at this time each year.

The philadelphus, or mock orange, gets cut after it has flowered in late spring or early summer. So of course we missed that and now Dino cuts back every third stalk to the same height as the plumbago, leaving the other two to hopefully flower.

With the Academy Awards show on television at midnight, we should take a nap this afternoon. Good idea. I'm a bit shaky from taking medicine three days in a row, so after pranzo, Sofi and I take naps.

We at first decide to skip watching the awards, and go to bed around ten. But Dino wakes up just before 3AM and turns on the TV in our bedroom. Yes, we watch the rest of it, for we know the red carpet coverage will be repeated tomorrow.

February 23
We have an appointment in Viterbo with a FIAT dealer to drive a new Panda, but it takes us almost an hour to actually get to drive one. Dino cautions me to not expect customer service the way it is done in the U S, with auto salesmen hanging out the doorways to cajole people inside. Here it is lucky to find a salesman at all...

Earlier, when driving to Viterbo, Dino saw that we were early, so we drove to our friend Mario's used car lot. Mario worked for Central Auto in Terni when we purchased the Alfa that we drive and love, but now is a partner in his own lot. If we want a Panda, he can order just what we want and give us an even better deal. Va bene!

We bring our price from the dealer to Mario and yes, he will buy the Alfa and yes, he will give us a much better deal on a new Panda. Unfortunately we will have to wait for up to 60 days to purchase one with the options we want, including side and overhead air bags.

We agree, determine we will put the Alfa in the parcheggio until we bring it in to sell, and will drive around in Pandina for as long as we need to. We trust Mario, and will be able to pay the car off at zero interest for 60 months! In addition to that, the Italian government is subsidizing €3500 for persons purchasing automobiles running on metano. It's a very good deal for us.

Back at home, the skies cloud over, but that's fine. I have stories to write for GB and Dino always has projects to keep him busy. I do want to paint, but not today.

February 24
It's Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, so today we'll consider whether to "give up" something for lent. I'm stuffing mushrooms and making a carrot and squash soup for today's pranzo, while Dino shops for any ingredients we don't have...any excuse for him to drive makes him happy.

So what makes a dish "Italian" or "Greek" or "French"? I believe sauces and spices available locally have a lot to do with it. In Central Italy, we have orange squash, ginger, sage, thyme, garlic and on and on. If I make a soup with these ingredients, is it "Italian" because I'm cooking it in Italy? Hardly...Many of the well-known chefs who extol classic Italian cooking use simple ingredients.

Italians we know are afraid to try anything new...when I fix a borlotti bean dip, it takes one brave soul to try it in order for another to taste the smallest soupcon. Try this yourself and you'll get raves: http://www.lavventuraitalia.com/experience/food-antipasti.php

When Italians speak of their willingness to try foods other than those they've grown up with, they say, "Sure...each region of Italy has it's own way to cook pasta." Really!

That also means that many things I'd like to cook, things I loved to fix when living in the US are difficult, because the ingredients are not available here. Castroni in Rome has made a name for itself by stocking hundreds of these international items, like pancake mix and maple syrup, spices and teas and coffees from all over the world.

We used to look forward to entering Castroni to find things we missed from the US, but now we don't even put the store on our list when driving or taking the train to Rome.

I miss heirloom tomatoes, so we buy the seeds in the US and plant enough here for summer salads. We can't find Ziploc bags here, or good aluminum foil. Yesterday, while watching an Italian cooking show on Gambero Rosso, the cooking channel, a famous chef used Italian aluminum foil to cover a roast. He had to use two sheets of it to cover the dish, and even then the results were not as good as if he used one sheet of US aluminum foil. We also can't find glucosamine condroitin, so we stock up on those things on our annual trip to San Francisco at Costco.

Today's soup and stuffed mushrooms are very tasty, made with local ingredients, so we don't always have pasta and don't always cook the same dishes our neighbors do. It's easy to live here and eat really well.

We don't even miss Mexican or Thai or Chinese food these days; after the first several years here our taste buds stopped longing for them. I noticed on this last trip to San Francisco that we ate out less, perhaps only taking in Japanese noodle shops for lunch and an occasional burrito.

We're still amazed at the low cost of excellent health care, and perhaps that more than any other reason is the determining factor for living here. I think we might write something on our site or in connection with Italian Notebook about navigating daily life here. Let us know if you think it's a good idea, or if you'd like to know more.


February 25
President Obama spoke this morning at 3AM our time, but after we awake we leave to drive South to IKEA for iron-on tape. We can't seem to find the tape closer to home, and it saves a lot of sewing time.

We pick up some fabric and the tape, and when we return, after fixing pranzo, I sew the new curtain to hang over the kitchen window and Dino likes it. I'm not sure what I think, but for now it will be fine.

Back to President Obama, we watch the stream of last night's speech on the computer, but it stops so many times that we give up after almost two hours to walk up to Mass for our ashes.

I remember the first time we attended mass here for cenere, or ashes. At the time, I was so disappointed because Don Luca sprinkled mine on top of my head, as if he was seasoning a sugo.

Since I've not been a Catholic for that many years, while in the US, I wore cenere thumbprints on my forehead with great honor. Since I continue to be unhappy with the color of my hair, I laugh to myself, thinking I should ask him to put the cenere on the front of my hair, instead.

We meet Enzo when walking up the hill, but he is alone. So when leaving the church I ask him, "Porta via per due stasera?" (Take-out for two this afternoon?) It strikes Enzo so funny that his eyes well up with tears, and he'll certainly bring the news home to Rosita and Tiziano, since they're not here with him.

I have not painted for many days, so tomorrow will be a painting day, after drawing Gino and the bench he's sitting on with carbon paper and pen.

February 26
What a beautiful and sunny day! Dino drives off to Viterbo while I begin to trace Gino onto the canvas prepared just for him. I've been reading about roses, and instead of buying any new ones, we'll move some of the ones we have to new spots. Remember if you plant a rose in a space where another has grown, you must take out all the surrounding soil and replace it.

We've agreed on plants to be moved in the middle garden, and are hoping the irrigation system will make our lives easier. So all that we need to purchase is one wisteria Macrobotys and a few lavender. There are a few roses that I cannot identify, so I'll read back through old journals to see if I wrote down what we moved where during the past two years.

Dino is cleaning the inside of the car, for his friend Mario in Viterbo wants to show it to a couple of possibly interested buyers. But we'll not sell it if we do not buy the panda. We'll see.

The weather continues to be glorious. Inside, the tomatoes are so healthy that we've taken the plastic tops off the containers holding them; I've sprayed the leaves with chamomile spray and fingered them with my hands.

I'm told the leaves thrive under that type of care. Although there are only fourteen, possibly fifteen, plants, they all seem very healthy. Clearly, the serra has made a difference. There is a great amount of humidity that is kept in, thanks to its zippered openings.

It really does feel as though Spring is just around the corner, although we know that there will be many frosty days ahead. No matter. It's lovely here, regardless of the weather.

I've just about finished drawing Gino, after using carbon paper and tracing much of it. Because his hair and skin are so light, it was difficult to blow up the image, so now it's my job to pencil in the details where the blowup would not portray him clearly. I'm enjoying that. Later, when I've finished with the pencil, I'll spray the canvas with strong hair spray to hold the lines in place until the painting is done.

It's Thursday, so we have a SKYPE call with Marissa and Nicole and Kerstin. It is morning there, so we call before they have lunch and leave for school. Today there is a show and tell about their artwork, and it's wonderful to see how interested they are in drawing...in expressing themselves. Kerstin is an exceptional au pair in our eyes; she's positive and fun and seems to enjoy the girls, so that makes us very happy.

February 27
Today we're taking the Alfa to Viterbo for Mario to have for a few days. That means I'm driving it, while Dino drives Pandina.

I could count on one hand the number of times I have driven a car in Italy. Why is that? Well, Dino love to drive, and if I'm with him in the car, I'm fine if he drives. Pick your battles, I would say about this. So when I'm not with him I'm at home, usually painting.

Today I enjoy the experience, the sense of freedom (not that I could not take the car out any old time) and since there are no cds in the car, I listen to talk radio, determining how much I can understand. Today the talk is all about children from other countries who want to be Italian citizens. In a way, I suppose they're talking about us, too...nothing new here.

We drive back home and work in the garden, although I sneak looks now and then at old Gino, who stands, or rather sits, in the kitchen waiting for me to transform him into what I remember of him.

Dino moves the four iceberg roses closer to the Madame Alfred Carriere. Yes, Sarah, we're conscious not to plant them in spots where roses have grown before, and are moving the Mary Rose closer to the big olive tree. It's not been happy for several years. Perhaps that's because a giant lavender is sapping its water and sun.

February 28
Is it the end of another month? This month fairly flew by. Unfortunately, it also ends with a migraine and a dose of medicine...

This morning, I began painting the sides of Gino's canvas, and realized that the angle of the bench he is sitting on is not perfect. So I place it on the table and undertake a kind of operation, with Dino facing me; using his calculator, he helps to determine the perspective and angle of the bench slats.

An hour later, we solved the puzzle, and then I propped the canvas back up onto the cavallo (easel) and sprayed it with strong hair spray. That's correct. Hair spray sets the carbon and pencil markings, so that they will not smudge or rub off during the painting process.

After pranzo, I began to paint three sides of the canvas black, then move onto the front. It will take the sides more than a week to dry, and the bottom edge of the painting will be painted...later.

Sofi waited at home while we took Pandina to Viterbo to pick up the Alfa. Mario thinks he has a buyer for it, but we told him that we cannot sell the car unless the financing from FIAT goes through.

Since there is an amazing promotion taking place throughout Italy now for new cars, FIAT is backlogged. So Mario thought it will take a few more days. Since by law Mario has to give the buyer of the Alfa a one-year guarantee, the buyer will be very happy with this wonderful automobile.

I drove the Alfa back home, playing an Eva Cassidy cd and opening the windows. I will really miss this car...

Mario is interested in one of Terence's cars on his website, for we gave him the web site information yesterday, so perhaps they will do some business together, importing special used cars to Italy. Wouldn't it be funny and terrific if that transpired? As we end the month, it gives us all something to look forward to and yes, another adventure...

Dino has laid a fire in the fireplace, but it is too warm for one tonight. He tells me, "Perhaps we've had the last fire for the year." I want to say, "You think so?" It's a wonderful phrase that Angie's mother uses with Angie's father when he thinks something is going to happen and she is sure it will not. Those three little words say so much.

But just before going up to bed, a light goes off in my head. What if fumes from oil paints give me a headache? "Marronne!" as my father used to say. I don't know how to translate the word, but the word marronata translates as a blunder. What a nightmare! Let's figure out how to put a positive twist on that one...I have no intention of giving up painting with oils...

MARCH 2009

March 1
It's the first of March, and while driving to Il Pallone for our Sunday breakfast of special cornetti and capuccini, we see the first mimosa trees in flower. It's strange, but I did not notice them yesterday. These flowers, known as acacia in the US are hated by those who are allergy prone, but are prized by Italians, who give them to women on the Festa della Donne in March each year. Achoo!

Mugnano's own Festa della Donne will be held at Mola Solis restaurant on Sunday, March 9th. We'll attend and it should be fun. So I call Lore and Alberto in Rome to see if they want to go with us, and leave a message. I've called them on SKYPE, and if you have SKYPE and want to talk, just let us know.

Today we purchase the first of twelve volumes of cookbooks for making Italian desserts, sponsored by Corriere della Serra, the local newspaper. Dino tells me I'll have to prepare one recipe each week before we buy the next.

This will be an interesting series to collect and to understand...I'm expecting that it will improve my language comprehension and enable me to understand more of the Gambero Rosso programs on the food channel here.

Desserts? What ever possessed us? We don't care for the typical Italian dry crostadas...each bite sticks to the roof of our mouths...and now I'm learning how to make them from scratch. What's wrong with this picture?

Claudio, who runs the news stand outside Il Pallone, tells us he'll save one for us each week...as the series moves on, he'll be given fewer copies. Now I know we have to step up to the plate and collect them. Va bene? Now I think I'm a character in the latest Diane Keaton movie. I must be insane.

It's not a particularly nice day, with grey sky and drops of fine rain, but Dino is not deterred. He's out in the garden, continuing his winter projects.

Earlier, after mass with Don Bruno, I gave Enzo and Tiziano an assignment to come up with a location for Tito's engineered photo, resting against a tree stump. Enzo will be the body model, the "corpo" as Tiziano tells him, and we have photos of Tito's face. Sometime in the next month we need to begin this, the last of the four contadini portraits to be exhibited as part of Ecomuseo during the weekend of our village festa in May.

March 2
There's rain this morning, so Dino spends it retooling the web site while I begin to paint Gino's face. After a couple of hours I stop with pain in my neck, but the paint needs to sink into the canvas a little anyway. I notice that when beginning to paint a prepared canvas, the paint shrinks a tiny bit, so probably tomorrow I'll work on it again.

Now about his eyes...I'll visit Franca to see if she can come up with some colored photos of his extraordinary pale blue eyes. I remember that when Sarah visited us, she mesmerized Gino; was it her striking blue eyes? They stared face to face with each other on the street while Gino asked her if she was married. Later she and I had a laugh about it. He was probably 94 at the time.

With rain continuing all day, I work on several stories and submit one to GB at Italian Notebook. If you subscribe, you'll see them soon. If not, give the free subscription a try at: www.italiannotebook.com

March 3
It's raining again, and I imagine the ripa (bank) between our house and San Rocco filling with water and getting ready to sliiiiiiddddddddeeeee down onto Via Mameli, blocking the road to the borgo. The Comune tells us they have no money to repair it, we have no money, so we'll just hope that the bank holds. I am afraid of the sindaco's recommendation that we wait until it slides down and blocks the road and then there'll be money from Lazio to repair it.

Inside, I work on Gino's face and hands, as well as painting several old tiles imbedded in the wall near his head. I'm learning not to paint more than a couple of hours at a time to protect my back and neck from more pain.

I'm hoping to finish several more stories for IN, but some need more photos before they are ready to submit. There are so many stories in my head, so many things to see and do within driving distance, that it just takes a little concentration to polish them off.

March 4
Yes, rain again, and a headache. I take a cocktail and Sofi stays while Dino and I drive to Viterbo. Our new favorite shopping is on the road between Viterbo and Montefiascone, where bargains abound.

Before returning home, we stop at Klimt, the local art supply store, and run in to Marco as we walk in. I ask him what to do about the petrolio problem possibly causing my headaches, and he and the people at the store come up with a much more expensive solution, but one less dangerous. Let's give it a try.

The headache drags on but in the afternoon I work more on stories. It's good to send at least a couple along. I'd like to return to painting, but know it's not a good idea.

March 5
In my quest to understand Italian cooking recipes and to share some of them with you, I am flummoxed; do you like that weird word? It somehow applies. Let's stay with that a minute. It means: confused, bewildered, stumped, or baffled. I certainly am all of that, and by now you will know that I am an American by birth and lived there for most of my life, for I do not understand the metric system of measurements, although we are getting more comfortable with it each day.

Dino wants me to prepare something from our newest cookbook, and to do that I need to understand the measurements when I translate the recipes.

The first one is a "dl". I am going to make a "crostada di riso" because we loved the little torta di riso we were served at Rulli in San Anselmo in Northern California. Dino sits with me, holding a calculator in his hand, for he is the family expert in conversions. What in heaven's name is a "dl"?

Thanks to Al Gore's internet (I still think it's so very funny that he actually thought he invented it), we find that: 1 UK pint is about 6 dl or .568 litres. So 7,5dl is... .71 liters (710 ml?) or about 3/4 of a litre. Somewhere else we find that one "deciliter" is a metric unit of volume equal to one tenth of a liter. "deci"...ten...dieci...So why didn't they SAY that?

My eyes glaze over at that, although for some reason if 6 dl equals 1/2 litre, why would 7.5, just a little more, equal about 25% more (3/4 liter)? I think I'm going to be ill. Ah; if a deciliter is one tenth of a liter, then of course 7.5, or as the Italians write, 7,5 is of course 3/4 of a liter. But it's not really 3/4, but .71 of a liter, so who's to quibble over a few drops?

This recipe is for a whole crostada, but I think it should be soft in the center and a little gummy; yummy. Since it's a really gloomy day and my head has not entirely cleared, let's make the crostada instead of painting...at least for now.

I use one of the characteristic Italian premade pasta sfoglias (pie crusts, rolled up so that when unrolled sit on the cutting board in a...rectangle?) I then have to cut the corners and roll the pastry out in a kind of ring to put it all in the baking pan.

It's cooked for twenty minutes, and then the rice mixture, which has cooled and two egg yolks have been mixed in (do you know that egg yolks are called tuorli?). is put in the pan and it is cooked for another fifteen minutes. Left to cool a bit, I'm sorry I've used the premade crust, but for a test it will be good with tea.

Well, I asked for gummy, and that's what it tastes like. Did I cook it long enough? For dessert tomorrow, I'll add cinnamon and thin chocolate and cook it a little more. I remain skeptical of Italian desserts, especially the crostadas.

March 6
We're hoping to find the material for the fireplace, similar to the cotton we purchased at IKEA, but the two local shops don't seem to have much, and nothing close to the color we need. Since we have a trip to Rome scheduled for next week with our dentist, we'll stop at IKEA on the way and pick up the meter we need.

I put two slices of the crostada di riso in the oven, with cinnamon and chocolate, and we have it after tuna sandwiches. Dino wants us to adhere to meatless Fridays during lent, so that's fine with me.

The crostada is not much better, so we throw out the rest. We'll purchase the chocolate cookbook premium this weekend, the second in the series, but probably not the remainder of the series.

We work on the last rose, a Madame Alfred Carriere that we replanted a year or two ago against the side of the loggia. It's quite healthy, and will soon find its way over the rose arch.

We also agree to drive to Chiusi to pick up the last of four wisteria macrobotrys this month for the garden pergola built by Dino last year, and will plant the pod we were given by Pietro in the same hole...why not? I've read the pod will take 20 years to turn into a plant, so in the meantime there'll be lots of activity. Everything is showing buds.

I've ignored the beets planted during the winter, as well as the cavolo(cabbage), which I wanted to use as paint subjects, so harvest most of what remains in the raised orto and will make beet greens and black Tuscan cabbage flowers sautéed in olive oil and garlic tomorrow as a vegetable. I'm not in the mood to make soup.

Did I tell you the potatoes I "chitted" are a disaster? I don't think they received enough sun, for nothing has sprouted, and they are more wrinkled than Gino's face. So we'll either buy plants from Bruno or not plant potatoes this year. Can you tell I'm not as enthusiastic about planting, other than the tomatoes, in our garden? There's just too much else to think about or dream about, and that what our lives are about here, happily.

The painting of Gino is progressing, and although it needs many more layers, just for his face, it's coming along. Painting a human face seems similar to creating a human body...layer and layer and layer of important components, tendons and muscles and veins in light and shadow...all necessary before adding or painting the skin.

Perhaps that's why I think painting is heavenly work. The process of painting is like dreaming to me, and sometimes the dreams come true. I'm happy to take my chances that in time, more and more subjects will arrive at near likenesses and capture that certain something that makes each of them unique.

I haven't written about Italian news lately, but in today's ANSA recap, there are two stories of note:

Bari, March 5 - Police on Thursday busted a major human trafficking racket whose members referred to the immigrants they shipped from Libya to Italy as 'tuna fish', 'crates of tomatoes' or, if they were minors, 'school satchels' during telephone calls.

Rome, March 5 - Rome is mentioned as a possible site for future Formula 1 races; the track is said to be around, or near the historic EUR (think Mussolini) city. Excitement is growing, but race organizers want to be sure that nothing is taken away from the Monza Grand Prix, which is held each year.

Dino will want to attend, I am sure. Perhaps if it happens, Terence will find a way to join him.

March 7
The weather is clear , and it's a gardening day, well, for at least a part of it. Dino spends more time than I, moving old lavender and readying the area under the pergola in the garden for more gravel and a flat plane.

Wisteria shows little sign of growth, and the cachi (persimmons) show no growth at all, but the roses, ah, the roses are happy and shooting out bursts of green and red. It's time for the March dose of special food, and we'll pick it up next week in Narni. All season long we use the local food recommended by our friends at Michellini, but the special osmocote is also important. We'll get to it in the next days.

I paint for a few hours; this time it's mostly the bench Gino is sitting on, although I do spend some time on his face. His skin is looking muddy, but no matter. We have layers to go before painting the final skin and lights and shadows. Now we're painting the base, as well as getting the eyes and the lines in his face correct.

For pranzo, I pull up the beets and cut off the flowers from the black Tuscan kale. The beets are too small to cook, but their greens are delicious, sautéed with the kale flowers in garlic and olive oil and afterward, wine vinegar. Dino eats them, so they must be good.

Late in the afternoon, we take a book up to Paola and Antonio in the borgo, with Sofi gamboling along. The book is one that the Ecomuseo can use for ideas for written records of the language and character of Mugnano. Preserving all that is what the group is all about, and we're happy to help.

Paola asks us, "Do you still like Mugnano? When we speak to Americans we always talk about you and of how much you love Mugnano".

"We love Mugnano as much as ever, and could not think of ever leaving here..." we respond, as Sofi wags her tail.

We look around to see if Franca is sitting in the piazza, but she is not. We'll ask her tomorrow for a picture of Gino's face. On the way down the hill, Miriam and Elena are walking the newest baby, little Miranda. Showing off one's baby is all the rage around 5PM, the time of the passegiatta, and she is beautiful, looking just like her older brother, Valerio.

Elena tells us that the grand children missed "Babbo" this year; they were in Rome and were taken to see Santa Claus in Piazza Navona, but it was not the same.

"Maybe this year", Dino tells them. As we walk back, Signora Elisa sits in her kitchen window looking out, and waves and smiles at us as we walk by. It's probably too cold for her to sit outside.

The fifteen tomato plants growing in the inside serra (greenhouse) are so happy and growing so quickly that I have to move the lights higher up every couple of days. They should be really full and tall at the end of April, only seven or so weeks away.

There is a dinner tomorrow night at Mola Solis for women in Mugnano, but neither of us really want to go, so we will make our regrets tomorrow after church. We'll attend the Vetralla museum talk and show in the afternoon, and that should be enough festa for us.

March 8
Today is the Festa delle Donne, or women's day in Italy. Don Luca does not give it even a mention in church, but afterward at the bar at Il Pallone, little violet plants are given out to women. I pass on one, although think that it is a kind gesture.

This afternoon, we join my colleague Mary Jane at a very funny talk at the Civic Museum in Vetralla. Although we don't understand the jokes, and there are many funny stories, the tales of living in Vetralla are spoken, and sung, by four jolly men, one of whom is Mary Jane's dear friend, Fulvio.

Sitting next to us is a Finnish woman who lives in Viterbo. On her lap are two basotto (daushund) puppies, born on Christmas Day. She already has two at home, and wants to sell them for only €150 each; she cannot keep them all. She is a good friend of Mary Jane's, so I tell her we'll post their photos on our site, as well as let friends know that a puppy is waiting for them. They do not have a pedigree, that's why we think the price is low. Let us know if you'd like to hear more.

I'll write up a story tonight for GB, but don't know if he'll publish it. He never wants to offend anyone. I'll let you know. Before arriving in Vetralla, we parked outside the baths at Bullicame, and Dino walked over nonchalantly with a camera on his neck and took a few shots.

Since it's Women's Day, I've been thinking about a BLT sandwich, and we have found some thin bacon (it's very hard to find here), so BLT's it is for a simple cena. Buona!

March 9
There are new friends to meet, Michele and Nicola, and a new property to view for possible listing on our site, so we drive past Proceno to a really special spot, and Dino will work up the property today for a listing on our site.

There's a house, room to restore parts of it, ten hectares of land, 100 olive trees, a spring with no dearth of water and a separate piece of land with a spectacular view of Monte Amiata with the possibility of building a 200 sq. foot house.

There are four dogs, and at first Sofi does not want anything to do with them, but after awhile she and Ginny, the one year old Jack Russell and the other dogs have fun. I fall for a one year old white dog, named Placido, and she wants to give him to us, but he is an outdoor dog and needs lots of land.

If you're looking for such a dog, let us know. He's small and sweet, but the owners have many other dogs and a small house to move to, so Placido will have to stay behind in Italy.

It's another story reminiscent of yesterday's woman with the two basotto puppies who needs to sell them cheaply. So I ask: why won't Italians "fix" their dogs, especially the females, if they don't want to take care of more of them? In this case, we understand the couple's plight, and hope we can help. Luckily Placido is off in the field somewhere, or I would lose my nerve and tell Dino I want to take him home.

At the Autogrill on the A1 earlier this morning, we stopped for cappuccini and a snack, but they are featuring bagels with sesame seeds, mozzarella cheese and prosciutto as sandwiches. We get them "porta via" (take-away) and heat them up to have for pranzo after we drive home. The weather began as mostly cloudy, but turned sunny as we arrived back at home. There is more wind than usual these past days, but it is almost Spring and we're looking forward to it.

Nicola, the owner of today's house, talked to me about planting potatoes, for she stores lots of them in a dark cave. There's no need to "chit" them, she tells me, for once they are planted in the ground in April they will sprout naturally. Our hopeless "chits" are thrown out, and we hope to plant potatoes either this month or next.

March 10
It's time to have Mario return to weed-whack the grass and weeds; bulbs are growing and signs of life are everywhere. We could not imagine a lovelier place to live or a better time of year. No matter whether we have a cold snap or not in the next month, spring has arrived in Mugnano.

We drive to Narni to Spazio Verde to pick up Osmocote for the roses and a different gravel to hopefully keep the weeds at bay. This gravel is brown but at least is all the same color. We will use it around the plants to hopefully keep our weeding at a minimum. The area that we have tested is working well, with no weeds popping up, even though there is no nursery cloth underneath. It's a good sign.

There are more plants to cut back, and unfortunately we forgot to cut back the plumbago in the fall, so we don't know what will happen this summer with it; we are hopeful, as we always are.

March 11
If I were to suggest an ideal place to settle in Central Italy, and I DO think the ideal place to settle in Italy is in Central Italy, it would be in the countryside just outside a village or small town. I have what you might think at first to be a strange concept: that a stranieri, or foreigner, would pick a place where the people are all native-born and no stranieri have yet settled.

In that way, it is possible for a person to be embraced by the inhabitants as extended members of the "family"...and Italians are all about family. Then we hope that they'd embrace the culture, attend the masses in the local church, or at least volunteer for any festas that are planned.

Most of all, to be "accepted", it is a good idea to work an orto, or vegetable garden, planting the local specialties. In that way, there is something to talk about with the neighbors and learn their local dialect. Even better, ask their advice, which they will love to give.

By doing this, neighbors will often volunteer as well as bring you fresh eggs, freshly picked asparagus and zucchini flowers and give you recipes for mixing these up in a padella (pan) for a simple pranzo (lunch).

If at first they stare at you, it is because they are a bit curious, and Italians are a very curious lot. "Why would Americans/English/Australians want to settle in this place, when we've been trying to get out of it all our lives?" That's what they'd be saying to themselves, although they know they love where they live and there is no place like it on earth.

It's important to learn how to say, "Buongiorno!" in the morning and "Buona serra!" each afternoon. Smile and greet people where you settle each time you see them. Soon they will smile back and, bit-by-bit, will begin to speak with you. Friends who live in Rome as well as our little village told us that they lived in our village part time for twenty years before they realized that all they had to do was to smile and greet their neighbors to feel welcomed.

One word of caution: if you move here, please don't try to Americanize, or Anglo-size the place; the Italian culture is so precious that when you change it you'll wonder why the place you dearly loved when you arrived has become just like any other place where you used to live, with the addition of a few old buildings around. More on this tomorrow...

On this glorious morning, birds greet us, busily chatting with each other. Since Dino wants to drive to Viterbo to pickup a freshly roasted chicken for pranzo, Sofi and I take a walk on the loop below our house.

It takes twenty minutes, unless we stop to chat with the neighbors. Not needing a coat, we begin walking down the hill to the fountain, waving to Argentina's daughter and son in law as they drive up to visit her, as well as the kind people who run the porchetta truck, here for Mugnano's tiny Wednesday morning market who make a wide turn at the corner.

No one is at their ortos on this street this morning, although we're wishing Vincenzo would be at his, near the fountain, to greet us. So we take a left down the stradabianca and I am amazed by how much is growing and smelling sweetly after all the rain. Sofi loves to stop to sniff all kinds of things, just happily prancing along nearby.

We come across Dino in Pandina, for after dropping off the garbage he's taken the loop in the other direction to say hello. It's as if we've always been here...

There's Annika and Torb's house, closed up but soon to be full of life. Then we turn left, and someone high up in an olive tree is working the land that was Felice's. Sigh. It's Gianfranco, so there's time to stop for a few words and then we continue along past the building for the chicks, who seem to be in hiding; let's not forget the sound of barking from Gianfranco's dogs.

There's the sound of a car crunching across gravel and it's Donato in his old red panda, window down and grinning as both hands leave the steering wheel while he waves. He's just come up from the lane toward the river, so who knows what he's been up to; probably checking out one of his little parcels of land.

We begin the climb, noticing the house on the corner, a sweet house that is only visited once a year. This is the area where old tufa cantinas remain, left alone for the present.

There are so many olive trees in Mugnano; we're not sure if the oil is good, although every person in Italy thinks that theirs is the very best. We are able to produce two liters of oil a year, mostly from one giant tree and six others, and really don't remember how it tastes, other than wonderful because it is from our trees.

There's Pietro's house on the right, soon to be open for the Spring by our great friend.

The road gets steeper as we take the bend at Quintillia (isn't that a fabulous name?) and Gianinno's; a key is in their door but he is not sitting outside...is his health failing? He is Marsiglia's brother.

We round the bend at the little lane where Felice used to have a cantina; I remember the day he invited me in for a glass of his wine, laughing in his gravelly way as if we were doing something cattivo (wicked). I miss him so...

We're back on the flat street, and it's market day, so there are long tables filled with kitchenware and towels, then the porchetta truck, and then a table with washing and cleaning jugs, it's owner standing by and gabbing with a friend.

People at these stands don't expect to make much money, but the market day is a constant for every town or village, as well as the larger cities; it is here where people congregate and learn the latest news of the village.

Luigina is here, showing me a little plastic tote that she might buy to gather her fresh eggs, as are a few people here part time who we know but do not know their names (we'll have to ask Tiziano).

I stop Quintillia, asking about Giannino, and she sadly shakes her head. I ask her to give him our good thoughts and she nods her head, then walks home. It's not a good sign.

Italo's cantina is open, and he's working on his freshly bought plants from Bruno. There are pomodori (tomatoes) and zucchini, about a dozen each. That means lots of zucchini...just two are enough to feed him for the season!

Maria the Sarda (from Sardinia) comes by for a hug from Italo. Her cousin from Rome has just died and she is in tears. She's very nice but a little dramatic for these calm Mugnanese. As she walks on, I tell Italo that we have grown our tomatoes from seed and his eyes open wide to hear how tall they are.

Felice would be so proud...We'll have to invite Italo up to see them, for sure. It would be good to have Italo come by often, just as Felice used to after he was too old to help us work our land.

We walk on home, and it's so beautiful we take the box of osmocote we purchased yesterday and feed the roses on the front path their first meal of the season. Later we'll feed all the others...more than forty of them!

So that's a snapshot of what a morning might be like if you lived here. We have so many properties on our site that we'd be happy to help you to find your very own piece of heaven; just ask.

Click away: http://www.lavventuraitalia.com/realproperty/properties.php

March 12
There's that sun again and yes, we're sure Spring has arrived. When stopping to listen, yes, there are hundreds of birds chatting away just outside our window.

Today we'll drive to Rome to visit our good dentist for our semi-annual cleaning; prices for dentists are comparable to those of the U S, purtroppo (unfortunately), but ours speaks English and if we need anything special treats us well. Today's damage is €150. for the two of us.

I wrote yesterday about settling in Italy, and if we can help you to find a property, we can also guide you through all the red tape and challenges of just living here day-to-day.

Having written that, I have no idea why I call them challenges, for now that we've lived here full time for more than six years, we've jumped so many hurdles that when looking back we think we could sail over them the second time around.

There's a "knowing", a security of having done something before and having it turn out well that gives us comfort. These days, when coming across carabinieri(police) on the roadside, I look them straight in the eye and smile or wave.

At first, we tried to skirt them, praying they would not stop us. But now we have our Italian drivers licenses, our permessos are up to date, the car has all its permits and we've paid the fees, so we consider a stop more an opportunity for us to practice Italian.

"Where are you going?" they ask us. "Where are you from?" Early on, I'd want to get out of the car and salute. Now we just tell them what town we're going to, and it makes them feel they're doing their job.

"Why are you here?" they ask on occasion. Remember that they are usually from another district, or they'd know us already. The local capo, whose name, Zamponi, translates to "pigfoot", was transferred and the new man, whose name we do not know yet, looks like the little king character in the old funnies...all he's missing is his long cape trimmed in ermine.

We've made a list of expenses here vs. what we'd be spending in the US from time to time, and although house and car insurance and trips to the dentist are close to what it costs in the US, other things cost much less.

I suppose the cost of medical insurance is the biggest nightmare for Americans; there is no comparison to what it costs here. The equivalent of $500 a year will cover medical insurance (no deductible) for two, and with a $500 umbrella to cover worldwide major medical, we're about done. I've written about it before, but it bears repeating. It's a reason to move here all by itself...

The ride through Rome today was a dream, passing through thousand year old arches, rows and rows of Italian Pines framing the wide streets, liberty style palazzos, each one more delicious than the next...

Back at home, the silence almost hurts our ears, but we understand why people who live in Rome think it's a good place to visit but too noisy and crowded to live there. I suppose so.

We've agreed that we are going to turn the guest bedroom into my art studio, so except for the few times a year we have people stay, the room is unused. There is plenty of light and air, so we'll give it a try.

March 13
There is plenty of sun and a few clouds when we awake, so we do a few errands in the car and come home for pranzo and to rework the guest room into a studio for me. We have either moved or accumulated too much, even for this tiny house, so it's not possible for me to use the entire room, which is fine, too.

It's time to go over what things we have that we have not used since we moved here in 2002, so I think there will be things to take to Moviusato in Viterbo, the consignment shop. I certainly hope so.

I'm itching to return to painting, so while Dino has an appointment in the afternoon, I move some of the canvases and paints upstairs. I thought it would be years before I had my own studio, if ever, so this is a surprise and a delight.

This means that we will be able to turn the sala di pranzo back into the room it was meant to be from the beginning. For a dining room table we will move the kitchen table, and Dino wants to make a table for the kitchen.

He has seen turned legs in Viterbo at Centro Legna which are quite inexpensive, and will fashion a sheet of thick plywood to attach them to. Then we'll get a thick piece of marble from Franco for the top surface. I'll be able to use that to make pastry as well as to use as a regular kitchen table.

Is life for us any different for us than it was in the US? Probably not, actually, although there is much less opportunity to shop, something we are both grateful for. Saving and not spending is what we do these days, as well as making things work that we already have.

Friends think they want one of the basotto puppies, for they love Sofi and know what a great dog she is. So we'll know more in a week or so. If you're interested in one, there are two available for €150 each, an amazing price, but they don't come with a pedigree.

March 14
We wake to a blanket of fog, but there's that bright sun peeking through again and it won't take long to clear. The entire morning and half of the afternoon is spent cleaning and getting things ready to give away or throw away or take to the consignment shop in Viterbo. It feels so great to have things cleaned out that we never should have moved here to begin with!

The day turns out to be a beauty, and we leave in the late afternoon for a visit with Giovanna and Duccio and then an art opening in Viterbo for some of my buddies at Marco's; the exhibit was costly, or I would have exhibited. Let's hope it's successful for the friends who did.

The mostra mercato in Viterbo is very large, with at least a hundred rooms of art, all modern. Dino parks in customary fashion in a spot that is right by the front door, as if was left just for him.

I hoped to be inspired, but Rita's work was the best in the show and yes, she inspires me. I suppose my taste is more classical than modern, and there was a fair amount of what I perceive to be expensive work. It will be interesting to find out if any is sold by our friends.

We hope so, and leave them with a "in boca al lupo" (in the mouth of the wolf) and Rita answers "crepi!" (and that the wolf dies). It's a superstition in Italy that one never uses the phrase "good luck"; instead this phrase is used.

We order pizzas on the way home and pick them up from Girasole, located in the square in Attigliano. We like their pizzas very much, for the crusts are thin and crispy. Yes, we still hope to have our own pizza oven one of these days...or years.

March 15
It's the Ides of March, but usually my bad luck falls on the following day. So I'm about to hold my breath for 24 hours, and then I'll relax. Yes, I'm superstitious, but that's nothing new.

I know. You want to know the real story of the Ides of March, so here it is, thanks to Toastmasters, who explain it well on the internet:

Beware the Ides of March

The Ides of March takes place on the fifteenth day of March. It is the day that Julius Caesar was warned against 2000 years ago. He was celebrating his victory over his adversary Pompey, when a stranger pushed through the crowd, pointed at Caesar and warned, "Beware the Ides of March."

So what happened on the Ides of March? It is a tale of treachery and intrigue; of false friends who would pat your back in front of your face, and slit your throat behind your back. Let me take you back in time....


The year is 44 BC. The 15th day or the Ides of March is ushered in by a violent electrical storm. The superstitious citizens of Ancient Rome fear that the storm is an omen of impending doom.

Julius Caesar, ruler and dictator of Rome, is preparing to leave for a Senate meeting, where it has been rumored he is likely to be proclaimed as king.

His wife pleads with him, "You mustn't leave the house today. I've had a dream. Something terrible is going to happen."

Caesar scoffs as he fastens his purple toga.

"Don't go," begs his wife. "It's the Ides of March. Remember, the soothsayer warned you, "Beware of the Ides of March."

"A lot of nonsense," laughs Caesar, but he feels uneasy and calls on his priests to make a sacrifice to foretell his fate.

When they examine the entrails of the sacrificed creature and find its heart is missing. This is very bad omen.

"Call Antony," orders Caesar. "Tell him to dismiss the Senate."

The Plot

Meanwhile, a treacherous plot is afoot.

Cassius, who has a history of jealous malicious acts, has spent the stormy night persuading Caesar's friend Brutus to take part in an assassination plot. Brutus agrees that for the good of Rome, Caesar must not be allowed to rule.

They send a messenger to ensure that Caesar goes ahead with the senate meeting. The messenger talks Caesar out of his fears. "What will your enemies say," he asks, "if you postpone the senate until your wife has better dreams? You should at least appear and adjourn the Senate in person."

Caesar feels reassured until on the way to the Senate, he meets the soothsayer - the very one who had warned him, "Beware the Ides of March."

As he passes, Caesar calls in jest, "Well, the Ides of March are come."

"Yes, they are come," says the soothsayer, "but they are not past."

At the Senate

The Senate is held in the theatre of Pompey. As he crosses the marble courtyard, Caesar glances at the imposing statue of Pompey. He and Pompey had ruled Rome together, until Caesar defeated Pompey and caused his death.

The Senate rises to show respect for Caesar. His most trusted senators - those, who have taken oaths to protect him with their lives, stand around the chair where he is seated. The folds of their robes conceal the daggers they grasp in their hands.

Someone comes forward with a petition. Caesar impatiently waves him away, but the man boldly approaches, takes hold of Caesar's shoulder, and rips his robe away from his neck.

"This is violence!" shouts Caesar.

The Attack

Another man slips behind Caesar and with a sweep of his dagger, stabs him just below the throat.

"What does this mean?" shouts Caesar. He grasps the blade in both hands. Another dagger pierces his breast.

He is enclosed on every side. - whichever way he turns he sees daggers levelled at his face, his eyes, his throat. Blood splatters the frescoed walls. Even his attackers are wounded as they all lunge at him with their daggers.

Caesar resists and fights with all his might. He calls for help and dodges to avoid the blows.

Then he sees Brutus - his old friend - with dagger drawn and a look of evil intent in his eyes.

"You too, Brutus?" cries Caesar. He covers his face with his robe and falls into the spreading pool of blood at the foot of Pompey's statue.


Brutus turns in triumph to address the Senate, but the crowd has fled in panic.

Throughout the city, people are running. Some run away. Others run to see the spectacle then run back again to report the news. Shops are hastily closed and houses shut up. Caesar's friends go into hiding.

The entire city of Rome is in shock.

The Funeral

But when Caesar's will is read out, it is found that a considerable legacy had been left to each Roman citizen. This galvanizes the city into action. Caesar must be given a hero's funeral.

They heap together a pile of benches, bars, tables - whatever they can get hold of - They build a funeral pyre three stories high. They place the body of Caesar on top and set it on fire.

Then the mob takes burning torches from the fire and burns the houses of the conspirators. Some run up and down the streets trying to find these men so they can tear them into pieces. But they are all in hiding.

It is a tale of treachery and treason. It is also a tale of retribution. Later, after a defeat in battle, Cassius commits suicide with the same dagger he used to stab Caesar, and Brutus kills himself with his own sword after seeing Caesar's ghost.

"Beware the Ides of March." The phrase is now used as a warning against impending calamity.


It's a beautiful day, and Don Bruno is in good form. Whatever happened to Don Giampietro? We'll have to ask Livio.

There is a notice of someone who has died, but we don't recognize the name. Dino asks Mauro after mass and hears that the man who died is Marino's brother. That makes a lot of sense.

Yes, he was born in Mugnano but died in Rome. That is why Maria "the Sarda" was in such a fright the other day, telling Italo her "cugino" (cousin) died. Is "cousin" the same as "brother-in-law" in Italian? We'll have to ask.

The word is "cognato" for brother-in-law, so I thought she told Italo it was her cousin. The words "cognato" and "cugino" sound similar, especially the first time one hears the word. Well, at least the first time I heard the word I misunderstood. I thought to myself that she must have been very close with her cousin. By the time I figure all of this language out, I'll be in another world...

We never knew Marino's family name. Now we know that it's Fattorini. Again and again, we are introduced to people whose family name describes something either to do with one's work or where they came from. Italian is really a simple to understand language after all.

We drive after mass to Il Pallone for Nando's cappuccinos and their special brioches, empty inside but with a glassy sugar coating on top. Today's are fresh out of the oven and still warm; I can say without equivocation that mine is the best I have eaten...ever.

We walk over to the market, which is buio (dark), but the doors are open. Something is wrong with their electricity, but people still walk around, shopping. Tranquillo (tranquil) is the scene, not the usual bombardment of noise. When we leave I tell Dino that they should probably give away all their frozen items, for they won't be worth saving if they do not fix their problem...subito.

Back at home, I call Lore and she tells me to plant the greens she sent by way of Vincenza yesterday. They are from Africa originally, so should be planted in full sun and in the middle of summer we will have yellow and orange flowers. We have no idea what their name is, but if she told me I'd probably forget anyway...

We find a pot to plant them in, and I fix pranzo while Dino plants the succulents and works on the irrigation system, making sure that it works in all areas of the terrace and garden. This is definitely a day to be out in the sun, and we all will be as soon as pranzo is finished.

Earlier, before mass, Franca gave us a mass card with a color photo of her father Gino on one side. It shows his eyes as vibrant but a darker blue than I have painted. There are more details on this photo that I can use, so I look forward to painting in my studio...very soon.

I want to make a first pass at clipping the boxwood, for there must be at least 60 of them, so Dino takes out the electric clippers and I work on a number of them. While working on a few in the middle garden I tell myself that I must be crazy to work with electric clippers on the Ides of March. Somehow I survive, without any calamity, even though I slice through the cord once. Dino patiently reattaches the cord and I continue.

This is the first year I have worked with the electric clippers, for previously I clipped each box by hand, three times or so a year during the growing season. So this year I'll do a little of both. Sorry, Sarah.

Dino works putting together two sides of an old wooden table. When we purchased them, they were to be used as bedside tables, attached to the wall and sliding about five inches in each direction, depending on where they were needed.

Now that the guest room is my studio, we have no need for the tables at the bedside. So we'll have the table to use as a table, and it's really a pretty little thing that I can use, even with an oilcloth on top to store my brushes on.

There is a flurry of activity outside: some one is weed-wacking in the valley, a neighbor or two is walking to the cemetery or sitting on the bench next to the parcheggio and watching the world go by, hundreds of birds are calling to each other and yet it all seems so peaceful, so content. Perhaps that is because we are.

Our windows are open, the tomatoes are shooting up in the serra and reaching for the sun, and Sofi lies nearby, taking a rest after chasing for the first lizards of the year.

I admit we are not very smart, for we lie down for a "dolce fa niente" (sweet nothing, or nap) after 4 PM and the next thing we hear happens merely ten minutes later; it's Maggiolino, baying in Pepe's orto. Might as well get up, although I'm really enjoying reading the book Perfume and Dino has been laying beside me reading a great book of his own: The Kindness of Wolves. Can I talk Dino into a walk into the borgo, so that Sofi can run around with Snoopy? I'll give it a try...

Not today, for we're continuing to organize, throw things out, set things away to donate or take to the consignment shop. I'm really enjoying the studio, where I can iron, sew, paint, watch tv, read, and Sofi can be by my side in her little wicker bed. Whenever Dino wants to loll around, he can join us. That lolling thing is happening more these days, and I must admit it's what life is all about.

March 16
After a midnight headache and cocktail of pills, I awake a little drowsy but happy to be alive. It's a beautiful day, so after breakfast and kisses from my pals, Sofi and I walk the loop below the house. The air is fresh, trees are full of flowers, and there are greetings for Donato in his car, Terzo tying up his grapevines and Laura hanging out her laundry. Few cars are around.

Dino works to fix a table while I sew upstairs in the studio. By the time Dino calls me for a pranzo that he has specially prepared, I have the curtains to hang under the sink almost finished, except for the final measure for length.

It's been lovely not having to fix anything or do anything this morning, so I sit down for a festive pranzo, finished with crepes filled with sliced strawberries and a sauce of Cointreau and maple syrup. Dino loves to fix crepes, and today's are especially delicious.

I finish the curtains, make another to hang below the fireplace mantel, and consider going outside, but it's turned cool. So instead I return to setting things aside to take to the consignment shop, donate or throw out.

The afternoon cools off, but the sky is still a bright blue. I tire of getting rid of things for the day. Since it is my birthday, I've decided to stop.

Dino wants to pack a chair that was left here by the former owners that we do not need or want, into Pandina. Tomorrow he'll take it to Moviusato, but there's that small detail of finding a way to put it into the car. Pandina is a hatchback, so it's taken down the stairs on the hand truck.

While the two of us are maneuvering to fit it in and Sofi is trying to get out of the upper gate to be with us, we are saved by Donato and Pepino, who are walking toward Pepe's garage next door.

"Aiuta?" Pepe calls out. (Do you need help?) "Si." There is no way we can fit it in.

"Perche non chiarmi...?" (Why didn't you call me?) Dino responds by pointing to me and the men give me a "Boh!"(loosely translated as you must be kidding).

Giro, giro (turn, turn...) and after a few macho thrusts, the chair fits, even if it means Dino will drive the car with a higher voice than usual...his seat is as far forward as possible under the circumstances. Va bene!

Tonight we eat BLT's, which is a very special treat here. There is hardly any bacon to be found, although there is plenty of pancetta, which is not bacon at all. Dino found some at LIDL, the German supermarket, and they are really delicious.

March 17
I'm relieved yesterday is over, and we wake to lovely sunshine and choruses of birds. Dino brings the car down from where it is parked, loads the two old bed frames and clothes and drives to Viterbo.

I open the windows, put on classical music and finally! I can paint!

March 18
My story about Santa Christina is published today in Italian Notebook: http://www.italiannotebook.com/places/santa-cristina/

The beginning of GB's map is available, which will show the locations of stories written. Once fully operational, you will be able to use the map when planning trips here, to visit sites often not in the tour books.

It's a beautiful day; so beautiful that Sofi looks at me with a mixture of hope and despair. Of course we can take the loop.

Today, Luigina's husband Alberto parks his little pickup at their orto, and gently takes out a six-pack of lettuce to plant. We stop to greet him and notice at lease eight cats hanging around the front door of the cantina. They know where they can get food.

Just below, Vincenzo begins to turn over the soil in his orto. He sees us and it's his excuse to stop. It is too sunny for him to spend much time working, so I hope he'll not do more today. Soon we will visit him and take his photo, if he does not mind.

The new house by the ancient cemetery looks almost finished from the outside, and what sounds like stranieri workers holler to each other; they are certainly not vicini (neighbors). One day we will walk there to introduce ourselves; but not today.

We turn left and Sofi leads me down the hill toward Annika's. This is one of the loveliest parts of the walk. We take a left at their house and we're in shade for a while; two of Giuseppe and Giuseppa's hens are visible, but all is tranquil.

The road rises up, and far ahead of us we can see Zio Pepe. He's wearing his cotton hat, the yellow one with the local agri-store advertising on it. He slows down and we trudge on until we are close to him. He turns to see who is there and I wave. It's an excuse for him to stop and wait for us.

With someone to talk with, the walk seems shorter. So I ask him where his nephew Pepino (the friend we call Pepe) is, and he tells us he's been waiting for his nephew, who is in Giove buying plugs of barbietola (sugar beets), but is this the correct time to plant them in the large field below our house?

Here is a quick lesson about the crops, from Washington State University, to help you the next time you visit the Italian countryside in Spring and wonder what is being planted in the fields as you drive by:

"Potatoes, sugar beets and wheat are often planted in rotation, year by year, with the planting of wheat important to rid the earth of disease brought by the planting of potatoes and sugar beets, carefully chosen based on pest management. Other combinations of rotation crops with sugar beets are: corn, sweet corn, dry bulb onions, carrots, dry beans and alfalfa.

"Different planting combinations are chosen based on pest management strategies, difficulties in seedbed preparation for subsequent crops (crop residue management), soil fertility issues (nitrogen levels), and economic returns.

"The current trend in field preparation is to shape the ground into steep rows in the fall that will be leveled off for planting in the spring. This method helps reduce wind erosion and, because the row top holds winter moisture, results in more rapid seed germination when the fields are planted in the spring.

"During March and early April, the sugar beet crop is direct-seeded in 22-inch rows using 1.25 pounds of treated seed per acre. All sugar beet production is cultivated for weed control, and, where applicable, to remove winter cover crops.

"Sugar beet harvest begins in late September and continues into November. Harvest begins by removing the beet tops (topping) and then digging the roots and loading them onto trucks to be stockpiled for processing later.

"Following harvest, the beet tops and small beets remaining in the field may be utilized as livestock forage."

Pepe will undoubtedly use a top saver to remove the tops and save them for fall and winter livestock forage for his asini (donkeys). I'm beginning to understand why he wants to keep animals.

"Since fall cover crops are often planted in sugar beet fields to control erosion, the fields are cultivated to remove the cover crops and to control weeds. Tillage during seedbed preparation controls many early-germinating weeds.

"Weeds are controlled between the rows by cultivation prior to the crop reaching full canopy cover. The last cultivation prior to canopy closure is called "lay-by."

This morning Pepe turned the soil over with his tractor and will then plant the seeds. So a tractor is a "must", for otherwise the work would be backbreaking. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is your farming lesson for non-farmers for today.

Here's Pepe's land before it is seeded.

Here at home, Dino replants two of the roses on the path, for the soil had "sunk" and he also removes weeds in the planters that were having a field day. Now that the irrigation system is working well, we're actively pulling weeds, feeding the plants and enjoying the beginning of spring, even though we're a few days early.

I'm squeezing in painting between catching up with the journal and weeding and feeding the plants and also feeding Dino and Sofi. The pace quickens and we're obviously finished with our long winter's naps...

After a tasty pranzo, we take a look at the pomodori in the serra, and they are so tall that we will repot them and stake them. By the time we are ready to plant them, they will have overtaken the serra completely. Now, most of them are over one foot tall each!

I have a number of stories partly written for Italian Notebook, so sit down to finish at least one more, although we still need more photos. While I'm in the midst of writing, the document disappears, but thanks to our backup system, we're able to find it. Bravo to technology, at least for this save.

I look out the window to see Luigina on the back of her husband Alberto's wagon driving up the Via Mameli hill below us; little Michela sits beside him in the front. It makes me think of Gino Lagrimino's wife, and I wish we had a photo of her.

Pepe has finished his sixteen tractor rows, and they are precise and beautiful. Now Antonella and Pepino and Zio Pepe are dropping the seeds by hand, as if they were mother birds, feeding their young in their nest. It's a touching image to hold dear. "Hold back the night!" I think, but that's just not possible. So I bless the image and smile.

Dino begins to touch up the paint on the iron pergola while standing on a ladder just below our bedroom window, and the timing is perfect; in a short while the wisteria will begin its growth for the season. In time, we won't be able to paint the iron, but by then it won't matter, for the wisteria trunks and limbs will cover it with its gnarly wood.

March 19
Today Spring officially begins for us, for we pick up Stein at the airport, and he is the first of the spring and summer neighbors to share our lives with us. We've missed him, and it will be good to have him nearby again.

The sky is overcast, with touches of blue trying to find its way through. Dino takes Stein's car to Attigliano to make sure it is ready to drive, and returns to pick us up to drive to the airport.

A few drops fall on us as we drive South, but all is well at the airport and we're back home in good time. With a sprinkling of rain, we drive out again right away, for it looks as though Sofi has a small tick next to her right eye.

At the veternarian's office in Viterbo, a young woman shows us how to dab at the tick with a q-tip, and tells us to do that several times in the next few hours, until it falls off. We use the Duo-win spray to dab at Sofi, and she is very docile, letting us work right next to her eye.

We always have time on Thursday afternoons to SKYPE with the grand daughters, and this time there is a revelation from Nicole. She intends to be both a heart doctor and a ballerina, and intends to perform both activities at the same time.

"Will you wear a tutu while operating?" We ask. "No." "Will you wear a white coat while dancing?" "No." Perhaps she'll take on different duties on alternating days of the week. Nonetheless, we're impressed with this five-year-young dreamboat. Her sister, Marissa, is still shy, but is an excellent painter, so she will probably be a dreamer and a painter, which is just fine with me.

Tonight, I fix a simple pasta cena with bruschetta to start the meal with Pietro and Dino and we share a good bottle of red wine. The pasta sauce is made of Gorgonzola cheese, cream, broken walnuts and grindings of black pepper and salt. It's really good, and we'll definitely have it again.

It is wonderful to sit around the kitchen table and get caught up with our dear friend, and we look forward to many meals with him in the near future. When he leaves the rain continues, so there won't be a need for Dino to do any watering for a day or two. That's good news as we go to bed.

March 20
With a brightly overcast sky, it feels like spring. Workers at the new house on the hill are noisy, and a crane and a backhoe are working the land. It's really a good sized space, but right under major electrical lines, so only time will tell if it's a dangerous place to live. We hope for their sake that it is not. There are ancient caves, so we wonder if they are respectful of them.

Yes, times are changing, and building at the edge of the village is bound to happen. So the more we can do to preserve the character of this village, the better. Do remember that if you move to Italy to be mindful of the character of the place in which you settle. Can you imagine a Starbucks on every corner? If that's the case, why bother moving?

Well, for one, the economy. Italy has faced economic crisis after crisis, so this one is just more of the same. No one here seems particularly phased by what is going on in the economy, but since we live on dollars, we're certainly mindful. After a few weeks of the exchange remaining around 1.25, it leaped to 1.36 today. We are not happy with this news, but it's a fact. Let's paint instead...

Earlier, we opened a bottle of Rose from Provence; we recall enjoying the light taste of the wine when visiting Southern France, and each taste brings me back. Whether it's trendy or non-trendy, we really do not care. But we like the rose from Provence better than the local varieties, of which there are few, and mostly frizzante (sparkling).

Dino takes Pietro, aka Stein, to the train and although I thought I'd have an afternoon of painting, I'm trying to finish ten or more stories for Italian Notebook. I take my role as a Contributor seriously, and now we need photos to finish many of the submissions. Within the week we'll have time and great weather, and I'll feel better after having sent the stories, giving GB more to choose from each day.

Now that I have a studio of my own, I'd like to try something modern, but there is too much work to do on Gino and on Vincenzo with Occhi Pinti to take on something new. At the beginning of next month we'll add Tito to the equation, so let's have fun with the canvases we have...in a day or so...

March 21
Spring arrives today, but who would know? It's really cold and cloudy. I spend the morning writing and this afternoon we leave to pick up Candace and Frank at the airport.

Sofi's tick has not fallen off, despite five or six sessions of dabbing the spot with Duowin. Dino thinks it's dead, just the same.

What he's really excited about is the Women's World Bocce Championship to be held late this month in Bevagna. He wants to attend at least one game, and although he cannot play, at least he will wear his shirt from the Marin Bocce Federation.

"I'll take my award!" he tells me, and I laugh. Yes, he was a member of a champion team the last year we lived in the US. Although he has a bocce set, he has not played here. Mugnano does not have a court, nor is it considering it.

The old court is now used for the little parking the borgo has for cars. Here's another example of how progress has replaced tradition. Luckily, it's one of the only examples in our village.

We take the Cassia from Viterbo to Rome, to take a few photos for our IN stories, then drive across town to the IKEA complex to shop at the AUCHAN grocery store. We must be crazy, for it is Saturday afternoon, and even lucky Dino has trouble finding a place to park.

The shopping there is really not worth it after all, so we drive along the GRA to Fimucino, to pick up our dear friends. It is good to have them "back home".

It feels like Winter instead of Spring; perhaps tomorrow we'll have more sun and the beginning of a real Spring. We love this time of year; well, we love any time of year here, but the warm fragrant days of early Spring are particularly delicious. There are so many surprises in the garden, and although we are running on slower clocks as we grow older, the days just fly by.

March 22
If this morning was a portent of Spring, no thank you. It was cold, very cold and windy. Don Giampietro has returned, and as he gets out of his car we greet him, telling him we have missed him a great deal. Needless to say, the mass was wonderful. He has a joyous spirit, and brings such love to the church, that it's difficult not to Believe when he's here.

We have our favorite capuccini and brioche at Il Pallone, then shop for pranzo. Soon, very soon, the nearby famous Chinese (!!) peony garden will be in full flower. That reminds me; our peony tree is ready to flower, and it's quite early for that. In a walk around the property, I don't find much of anything else ready to flower.

Sofi's stomach is not doing well; we've left her alone for a couple of hours and she does not like to be alone. Now that we're back for the rest of the day, she's increasingly peppy and content.

I've finally returned to painting in the studio, and I'm not the only one who is painting. Dino stands on a ladder on the terrace repainting the 10-meter long pergola built against the front of the house. While I'm upstairs with the window open, I hear an "OW!" from below, and Dino has hit his head. Thankfully, he puts on a baseball cap and works away with no complications.

I stop painting after a few hours and take a look at Dino's work, which is great, si certo! He's unhooked the wisteria from it, except from one corner where it's tightly wrapped and carefully laid it down where it won't be damaged while he paints and then the paint dries. It will be interesting to see if he wants the pergola to dry over night. It's now 5PM, and there's still plenty of sun...

Sofi is much better, of course by my side, and perhaps the dose of Enterogermina we've dropped into her water bowl has taken effect. It's remarkable medicine, also recommended for dogs. Did you know that pharmacists in Italy also treat dogs? That's where we buy any medicine we need for her.

The paint on the pergola has dried quickly, so I work with Dino to rewind three of the wisteria across the freshly dried form. Soon, very soon, he will be doing his daily inspection and retying of the shoots. It's a fun spring and summer activity.

I cannot imagine that we will have flowers this year, but one never knows. In a week or two we'll pick up one or two additional wisteria plants for the pergola in the garden; last year we found the Macrobotrys variety, but only three of them, and one does not look well. The others look fine.

March 23
So what was I looking at...or not looking at? Dino tells me to come and look at one of the wisteria in the middle garden and there are pods, or at least significant buds of flowers on one of them. Hooray! What did I miss yesterday? Now about the other wisteria plants on the front terrace...

I look up feeding wisteria on the internet, and our regular general food will be fine, but there are varying suggestions: either right now or after they flower are the two suggestions most in conflict. I'll think about it tomorrow.

But what I find about the growth of wisteria is that it wants to grow in a clockwise fashion against poles or other structures. Dino tells me that on the terrace one is growing clockwise, but the other three are growing counter-clockwise. The site tells us that when wisteria is wound counter-clockwise it takes a lot more energy, because the tendrils want to grow in the other direction. Then again I read that Japanese wisteria winds in one direction and Chinese in another. It's more confusing than ever!

While Dino continues painting the pergola on the terrace it is quite windy; so I tell him what I have learned and he thinks the trunks are too far along to rewind them. So I tell him that when he refastens the woody branches to guide them in a clockwise manner. He loves tending the wisteria on the terrace, so I consider it "his baby".

I work in the studio, which I love, painting the canvases of both Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti as well as Gino this afternoon after pranzo. We're expecting a priest to show up with Livio to bless the house. In the meantime, I work on Occhi Pinti, for he is looking authentic but dirty. There's nothing endearing about a painting of a dirty sheep.

I've come to realize that oil painting is all about the journey; layers and layers and layers of paint, returning to a canvas again and again and again is when I turn out my best work. I like standing back and having a silent conversation with the subject. Thinking about it awhile helps me to focus to bring out that certain expression that reminds us of the real person or animal within.

Our windows are open wide, the breeze is fragrant and cool. There's just enough sun to make things pleasant, while we wait to have our house blessed. I won't forget to ask to have the tomatoes blessed as well. Did I tell you the tallest ones are 17" tall?

The wind picks up and we close a few windows. Livio arrives with Diacono Egidio from Viterbo; for some reason this diacono (deacon) is blessing our house. Va bene.

Once they take a look at the pomodori, Livio tells us they should be planted in the ground. But it's too early in the season. He's concerned about the roots because the plants are so tall. I can't imagine planting them now, but wonder if we need still larger pots. The house is blessed in this room, so if all goes according to plan, they'll be fine.

Since we keep Sofi's cage in this room when it's not in use, she sits in her cage with the door open as we recite the lord's prayer, obviously listening and looking up at us; then comes out and sniffs the legs of Livio and the diacono while the other prayers are said. I have to stop myself from bursting into a grin. The others try to ignore her, but it's a very funny scene.

Egidio tells me he knows me from my painting of San Vincenzo; so of course we have to show him the three in the works for the festa. First, we take them into the kitchen, and Livio knows right away that the painting on the wall is of Felice.

Upstairs in the studio he laughs at the site of Gino, but it takes a minute or two for him to know Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti. It's strange, for Vincenzo was one of his closest neighbors; Livio and Gigliola live on one side of the tiny church in the main piazza of the borgo and Vincenzo lived with Carla above Ernesta's Tabacchi. Is it because Vincenzo never went to church? I doubt it.

They leave, and Dino finishes painting the pergola on the terrace. I still can't believe the flowers on the other wisteria in the garden, so Sofi and I take another look at them. They're a wonder.

A woman is coming from Civitavecchia to strip Sofi on Thursday. The woman we called from Soriano who has at least one basotto (and we think breeds them), has spoken with the woman, who will groom her dog or dogs in the morning and Sofi here in the afternoon, for not more than we paid in Viterbo. We're hopeful that she will be good and that we can use her on an ongoing basis.

March 24
Dino drives to Montecchio for an appointment and I'd like to paint, but the wind outside is so strong that I think it would be a mistake to open the windows in the studio. I'm concerned about the fumes from the solvent I use if there is no ventilation, so Gino and Vincenzo and Occhi Pinti will have to wait.

The wind is almost frightening; it whistles around the windows, batters against the shutters and bangs against the trees, with a warning to expect an immense storm. The tall cypresses are battered at an angle that makes me nervous; somehow they always seem to survive even the strongest of storms. We hear that rain is not far behind.

I'm curious about Livio's cautions about the size of our tomatoes yesterday, but the internet guide that I used this year indicated that their tomatoes were 2 to 3 feet in size when planted in May and producing in June! Since ours are 17" tall at the end of March, it is possible that we will have tomatoes in June! What a joy!

With fifteen flower buds, some as long as an inch, on one wisteria and signs of buds on one other, we're pretty excited, but surprised to see on the tag that these may be Chinese wisteria. The tag is not clear. I'm pretty sure that the four wisteria on the terrace are Japanese, so it will be interesting to see how the different varieties do.

We have an appointment with the doctor tonight and see him after 6 PM our time, but he is interesting and interested in us; no matter that he's been bombarded by patients all day, he does not make us think that we have to rush.

Since I have not had a colonoscopy since 2002, he tells me that I could have one now, or wait. Because of other intestinal issues, I want to have one now. So we leave with a prescription and tomorrow Dino will see if I can have the procedure in the next month. "Be sure to be sedated!" he tells us, "Otherwise it's a pain in the a--!

March 25
This morning is bright and sunny, so I forego painting for a bout of weeding on the terrace. By the time I'm done I've finished half of the terrace in front of the house, but don't imagine I'll return to it today.

Instead, there is the Nitrofosca Gold to feed everything, lobelia seeds to plant in pots and carrots and walla walla onions to plant in front of the serra.

After reading about the lobelia, it appears that it's not the easiest to grow from seed. But since it thrives on light during germination (I know that sounds weird), I'll figure out how much space is left in the indoor serra and see how they do side-by-side with the tomatoes, which have made a kind of forest in their little "house".

While I'm outside weeding, Marie from up above and I talk about the day and how beautiful it is, although we're expecting rain tomorrow. She responds dolefully, "Inverno ed estate, inverno ed estate, solo li"(winter and summer, winter and summer, only that), indicating that our weather turns from cold to hot with no time in between.

I refuse to believe her; instead, revel in each day that presents sun. I love to stop to listen to the sounds of birds, sounds that escape me while I'm meandering through my day. How blessed we are!

Dino drives to Attigliano to try to get me an appointment for a colonoscopy in Orvieto. Since I don't want to wait until mid June (there is always a wait for procedures in Italy), I can have one in few weeks in Terni. Tomorrow Dino will return to get that appointment for me; I hear that the hospital is excellent and it will be a good test to see how they treat me.

I open the lobelia package and am amazed at how tiny the seeds are. I plant them in one rectangular pot and three round ones, and they all fit fine in the serra with the pomodori, who I'm hoping will treat them like little sisters and watch over them. If nothing happens late in April, we'll buy lobelia from a mercato. It's a good test.

Meanwhile, Dino takes the weeds out of the tall planter in front of the outdoor serra and arranges the soil in long mounds, front to back. "Three rows for carrots, three rows for walla walla onions (I know, they're not native, but this is another test)...

Whatever else should we plant? Arugula and basil, but the basil will be planted in front of the loggia. So what else? Dino wants to know what likes plenty of hot sun to grow.

Sunflowers! We have a space against the ancient tufa wall of the raised planter, where we never plant. It's unused space, and sunflowers would be beautiful. Why not? I read that sunflowers will turn to face the sun during the forming of the head, and then when they begin to bloom they will face east. Sounds spiritual to me...va bene.

Against the side tufa wall we'll have a trellis of cucumber. I'd like to also plant asparagus, so we will see what is available in the local market as a plug, although we have tiny wild asparagus growing in front of the loggia already...two or three slim stalks that will find their way into an omelet very soon...

The seed grower Franchi is popular here, and online there are a variety of sunflowers to choose from. This sounds like fun!

Once the sun lowers in the sky this afternoon, it is cold. With a quick walk up the street with Dino and Sofi I can't wait to get back home to put on the kettle for tea. What has happened to Spring?

Sofi gets stripped and groomed tomorrow, right at home. She seems fragile, needing to be near me all the time. I wonder what's going on inside her? Let's hope the groomer is a wonderful woman and gentle.

March 26
The day begins bright and cool, so while Dino is out, Sofi and I walk out on the terrace to...weed. With the Spring rains, weeds grow happily. Since we have nursery cloth and gravel in most areas, the weeds are from airborne seeds, so picking them out is not difficult; it just takes time.

This afternoon, the groomer from Civitavecchia arrives to strip Sofi, and we like her very much. She arrives with Petra, a new friend from Soriano who also raises Basottos (dauchshunds), both wire haired and smooth haired.

It takes almost three hours, but at the end Sofi really looks beautiful. She has put on a kilo or so; in the next weeks we'll be taking more walks and she'll be eating less. When she is slim it's also better for her long back.

After the grooming, the groomer has three of her own basotti in her car, so we invite them up and the four of them run around sniffing and doing their business. Sofi loves having them here, and we're hoping Petra will visit us with her basotto so that Sofi can begin to play with others her size on an ongoing basis.

We'll also use the groomer again; even though she is more expensive, she does the work on the terrace, so we do not have to drive anywhere to take her. I am also considering having a birthday party for Sofi on May 16th; that is if we can get these other Basotti to come for a festa. It will be wonderful for Sofi to have others to play with. Can you imagine ten or so basotti running around the village?

Sofi appears delighted with the results, and the women were so gentle with her that she hardly uttered a whimper. While she was getting groomed, Dino and I worked in the middle garden. I pulled up so many weeds!

Tomorrow we may be able to finish the gravel area below the pergola in the middle garden. Sometime soon, we will pick up one more wisteria macrobotrys; it seems overkill that we now have seven wisteria plants, but they are in two different spaces and when mature we'll have shade from the hot summer sun and beautiful flowers and leaves. It's an excellent investment, for not a lot of money.

March 27
Sure, there's some sun, but it is cold and windy. Since we're expecting lots of rain this weekend, it's a day for Dino to work in the garden finishing the "floor" of the garden pergola.

Yesterday while Sofi was being groomed on the terrace, I stood and watched him shovel earth from the space under the garden pergola and take it by wheelbarrow to the far property. "It seems like yesterday that I was taking the soil from THERE and bringing it here." Soon we'll be ready to lay down nursery cloth and bring in more gravel. Some day we'll have a pepperino stone table here...some day.

Dino does an errand for a client while I paint, working more on Gino's eyes and his hair. I keep the front window open for the fumes, and Sofi lies in her wicker bed near my feet. She looks so cute and is blissfully happy. Now we realize that it is her long coat that depresses her. Since we have a great groomer, we will be sure to have her come more often.

Since she needs to lose a little weight and we need to be concerned because her breed has a long back and added weight can damage their spines, I feed her less than usual. Dino agrees to weigh her by stepping on the scale without her and then picking her up to see what they both weigh. Va bene. Sofi weights 6.5 kilos, which is too much for a basotto nano. Ideally, she'd weigh 5 or 5.5. We're hopeful, especially now that it's Spring.

It's too cold and windy for a walk, or I'd walk the loop with her below the house. I call the International Bocce Federation in Rome to find information about their championship next week in Bevagna to cover it for Italian Notebook, and the organizer of the event speaks English.

I call her directly, but am surprised by her tone. I email GB and tell him we'll cover it and write a story to publish later, and after he hears about how she treated me on the phone, responds, "Sheesh, people like that... che palle!"

Here's your Italian lesson for today: Bocce is played with balls known as palle and a smaller, golf ball-sized ball called a pallino. The word, "che" translates to "what" Use your imagination. Since we know a couple of people who will be there from the US team, we'll find out what we need from them and not bother her. She follows up the call with very good photos, so perhaps she was having a bad day...

A client in Orte has lowered the price of their property outside the town; they need to buy a place in town and have chosen to lower the price instead of taking out a mortgage on their new property. This one is now priced below value, at €400,000, so if that's in your price range, it's worth a look. With some cosmetic updates, it could be a special property, and has lots of room.

March 28
Today remains cold and grey, so we'll forego working in the garden. Inside, I take a chair slipcover apart to see if I can redo it myself; the original was made for a larger chair.

Once it's in pieces, I realize it's a complicated job, and we have six covers, although we don't have six chairs. We have two chairs, and may purchase more; but for now we'll concentrate on these two, and see if someone in the next town can fix them reasonably.

I begin to sneeze, and how could I forget? I am allergic to dust, and we've had these covers since we lived in Mill Valley more than ten years ago. That also means it's really the beginning of Spring for me, and time to return to taking allergy medicine. Sigh.

I do some writing for Italian Notebook and put a story together about the Women's World Bocce Championship, to be held next week in Bevagna. We will attend once, but I'm thinking it's more fun to watch on TV.

GB tells me he can run the story on Monday, the 31st. If you're a subscriber, you'll find out. If not and you bother to read my journal, why not join Italian Notebook? It's probably a lot more engaging...

I'm not sure if I'll write a story about the International Pizza Championship in Salsomaggiore Terme. It's too far to drive there and back in one day and the finals take place on Wednesday.

This afternoon we drive to Orvieto to attend a concert in the Duomo with Candace and Frank. I really don't want to leave Sofi; she is fearful of being left by herself for a period of time. The concert is conducted by Zubin Mehta, who now conducts the Concert Orchestra of Florence. Being a real classical music fan, I would love to see him conduct.

The concert is the first in a series entitled, "Festival Assisi nel Mondo" . We realize that the beautiful Duomo is a terrible place for a music concert, for the arches and cavernous space, totally made of stone, make it almost impossible to hear the sounds of the various instruments with clarity. Luckily for all involved, all the rest of the season will be located in other Umbrian cities.

I never thought I could enjoy the music of Wagner, but Dal Gotteredammerung is a brilliant choice to play in the space. Unfortunately the following piece from Brahms is a disappointment. We enjoyed the music just the same; at times I closed my eyes, or stared up into the vast ceiling, just feeling the music surround me. Even though there are hundreds of people filling up this space, it is freezing cold. Sounds like a place to visit on a hot day...

We leave our friends at the front door, and drive home to Sofi. We're back at home by 7 PM to see her greet us with great joy. It's so good to be home.

Rain has been falling for the past couple of hours, and wonder if I'll attend church in the morning. But Dino, ever the virtuous Catholic, asks me, "Did you say you won't go because I'll be late, watching the Formula 1 first race first?" Of course I'll go. If I did not go, I'd be disappointed. It's good to know Dino still wants to attend faithfully.

March 29
The race is not over, but Jensen Button is in the lead and Ferrari is nowhere to be seen in the beginning lineup. We attend mass, and dear Don Giampietro is our priest. I can understand that he tells us to follow God, to serve, and...I can't figure out the third verb...

He talks about Spring as the time when life springs from seed and I'm wondering if his homily is aimed at a farming community, which we are, as opposed to a cosmopolitan community...a priest in a city...how would one use examples of growing from seed? I can't imagine he'd talk about grain, but again, what do I know? I do know that I love this priest in the very best way.

We drive to Il Pallone for cornetti and capuccini and to the supermarket, and run into a number of friends from Mugnano. Sunday morning is the time to be here...and it is a very good market.

This week for sure, we'll stage a shot with Enzo on their property to use as a model for the painting of his father, Tito. We're getting down to the last weeks before the exhibition, and I'm hoping I can finish all four. If I'm meant to finish, I will.

Jensen Button wins the Formula-1 race in Australia. For me, the amazing driver was Lewis Hamilton, who was dropped to 18th place in the starting lineup because his team had to change his engine between the time trials and the race. He struggled his way to fourth place, was bumped up to third because someone else was penalized.

The wind picks up, and although there is no rain, we're expecting it, and perhaps a major storm. It makes us sleepy, and although we hardly ever take in the customary afternoon napping also referred as "dolce fa niente", we take in a good long snooze. The rain arrives and we hear it tapping on the windows as we lie like lazy lizards in bed.

I awake to hear that my story about the Women's World Bocce Championship will appear tomorrow. Hope you like it.

March 30
We leave to pick up Don and Mary at the hotel outside Ciampino; let's remember to take a photo of the Appia for our story on Roman roads.

Well, how do we take photos of the Appia Antica with three hefty prostitutes posing in the middle of the road? We work around them and drive off to pick up our friends.

After dropping Don and Mary off at their home in Tenaglie, we drive on to Bevagna to the World Women's Bocce Championship in Bevagna.

Put this under the "if we only knew..." category:
Yesterday, opening ceremonies took place in Bevagna in Olympic fashion; teams from twenty-six nations wore their country uniforms, held their flags, and marched through the center of little Bevagna. Friends who were there told us that they cried, the ceremonies were so moving.

People who love bocce really love the game, and anything that has to do with the sport. Lifetime friendships are made on these teams, and even a woman from the Team USA who was injured before the trip came along to cheer her team mates on.

Team USA lost one and won one match today. Tomorrow they play at 8:30 AM, so we'll leave the house at 6:30 to be there in time to cheer for them.

We spent a little time with Diane from San Rafael, and she and two other women laughed when they saw Dino is his Marin Bocce shirt. We'll spend more time with them tomorrow after their game, and of course we'll be cheering them on!

That reminds me...Dino is a person who wants to know where he is supposed to show up, so we drove from Bevagna to Foligno this afternoon to be sure that we could find the court tomorrow morning. Team USA will play in Foligno at an indoor bocce court.

We were told that the court was near the train station, so we drove to the station and then drove around and around. We asked a kind man for directions, who began with hand gestures and then I knew we were in trouble.

He said, "Once you pass the "dopo lavoro"....and we knew we were sunk. We drove past a construction site, and Dino turned to me; "Do you think this is what he meant??"

After driving around and around some more, we drove into a parking lot behind the ferrovia (train station) and a man told us to follow him. A light went off in Dino's brain, and it was then that he realized that "Dopo Lavoro"(After Work) is a club for railroad workers, a place where they go after work...We have seen the sign in Orvieto right outside the train station. Ha. Ha. Ha. The laugh was on us.

We found the place, including a lot of men sitting around outside what looked like a... "club". Then it was time to drive home and relax until early tomorrow morning, when we'll know just where to go.

There is a comment on my Italian Notebook story about the bocce championship that was published today. A woman wants to know more about the participants: what do the players do when they are not on the team? What is it like in Bevagna during the games? I respond and say to read my journal...I'll interview some of the players from different countries and let you all know here.

So today's note in Italian Notebook is fine, but it is not the story I wrote. Here is the story I submitted:
"We're off to the Women's World Bocce Championships in Bevagna, Italy, where teams from 30 countries will participate, all in search of that little white ball... Final winners of the international competition will be chosen on Saturday, but elimination rounds begin today and there will be plenty of excitement all week.

So what's the game all about?
The goal in bocce is to roll your team's balls closest to the smaller, usually white ball, the pallino, on a long court. Think bowling with smaller balls, and snuggling up to the pallino is the object instead of knocking over ten pins.

Finesse is the key to rolling your ball along the court, just far and fast enough to tap the pallino. If you're a "ringer", you'll lob your ball through the air instead with brut force, knocking your opponent's ball further away from the little pallino. That way, your partner can toss their ball closer to the pallino. The closest ball to the pallino once all balls have been thrown wins the point.

Bocce is a game where the participants act as the referees; one has a measuring stick to decide whose ball is closer. The rules, oh the rules! Let's find a team and cheer them on... http://www.federbocce.it/

March 31
We're up early and in Foligno in time for the 8:30AM game. The USA team is comprised of Maria Naraya, Rena Harel, Colleen Randazzo and Debbie O'Sullivan and their coach, John Ross. Diana Pellegrini is here as a spectator, not able to play due to injury.

Team USA wins the doubles and triples, but loses the singles matches. No, bocce is not like watching grass grow. It is a sport of focus and finesse, of brain and brawn. We're used to watching raffa, a game where people mostly roll the ball toward the pallino.

When someone is particularly focused and can put force behind their throw, they will do what's called a volo, (volare is the verb, to fly), aimed toward a ball on the court of their opponent that they want to knock out of the way, and as the ball lobs forward, there is a thunderclap as the ball literally knocks the opponent's ball out of the way if the thrower's aim and speed are just right. Maria is a master of volo.

Before each game, the fine sand on the courts is brushed with a wide broom-like tool; I'm reminded of someone who stands in front of the mirror and combs their short hair slowly and methodically to make sure every hair is in place.

Bocce players, especially at this level, take their game seriously. One of the players told me that she did not have a good day yesterday; she was too stressed. So today she relaxed and told herself she was going to have fun and the results for her were especially rewarding.

It's fun to sit on the sidelines with the players and learn about their lives. The USA team players have very stressful day jobs: a labor attorney, a nurse, a home health-care professional and a customer service technician at AT&T. I'll say these are stressful jobs, won't you?

With these stressful jobs, bocce is an excellent counterpoint; we are surprised that more people don't take up the sport. In San Rafael, CA, where Dino played during the last year we lived in the US, there are now 144 teams in the league and the sport is played all year long. If you'd like to learn more about the sport, or to join a local team, here's a site to check: http://www.bocce.com/

I sit next to Danny, the President of the American Federation, who explains a few of the finer points of the game to me. He's from Chicago, and when asked how he got started, his story was something like this:
When he was in high school, his father owned a grassy field across from his bar/restaurant. Friends encouraged his father to put in a court or two and he complied, beginning to play himself.

Danny was chosen as the "laborer", taking on most of the work and returning each day after school to manage the project and do any work that was needed. He soon began playing.

The courts were so popular that Danny's father had a second story built onto his building and built indoor courts as well. Naturally, Danny played more and as the years wore on, becoming interested in the sport nationally. He's now President of the U S Federation.

So how does the U S Women's team stack up against other countries? Well, unfortunately for interested US players, the government does not subsidize their team players, as Russia, China and Brazil do. That means that players from other countries play after work or on weekends. Naturally, the teams from Russia, China and Brazil wind up at the top of the charts.

Italian players are paid by sponsors to play, rotating every six months. That's somewhat better, but still not perfect. All together, players from: Italy, China, Switzerland, Brazil and Argentina to some degree, either have private sponsors or have their play subsidized by their government.

When asked about success on the court, I'm told that it's all about the "feel" for the court. Similar to pitching baseball, the sport is a mind game, with stress, pressure, mental decisions all converging at the moment of play.

If you're playing and know your opponent has difficulty at the end of the court, you'll want to take advantage of that. If your opponent always rolls to the right, when you're in control of the pallino, you'll throw it to the left to begin the game.

How does one gain control of the pallino? Well, they win the last point. Once they have the control of the pallino, the goal is to maintain control of it.

Here, a referee is called an arbitro. Their job is quite complex, for if a ball is moved incorrectly, that arbitro must move the balls back to their preceding positions. To help with that, they put cross marks in the sand.

In these championship games, if you want to volo (fly your ball through the air), you must say so, and let the arbitro know what ball you're aiming at. If you hit the wrong ball, it's put back in play.

Massimo is an Italian who is the event Arbiter of Rules, and sits by me for part of one game. I notice that when the first set begins, someone puts the pallino on a specific line. Trying to use my Italian I ask him, "Massimo? Un domanda. Per che le pallino li?" (Why is the pallino put there?) He looks at me very matter-of-factly and responds, "Per che regola!" (It's the rule.) Ba-DUM-bum.

I never do find out the answer, for when I ask the President of the U S Federation, he tells me the answer is very complex. The rule is new. Welcome to Italia...

A man leaves the stands after talking with his friends and calls out, "Buon divertimento!" (Have fun!) I like that!

The match ends with Team USA winning triples and doubles, but losing singles. Tonight they play Russia, who has not lost one match...Here's a pic of the USA Team with their coach and a player from Chile (in the red).

After a forgettable pranzo at a tiny place in Foligno, we meet Andrea Pinchi (pronounce pinkie). Andrea takes us to his family's factory in the industrial area of Foligno where we meet his sister, Barbara.

We've seen very special organs installed in the Duomo of Arezzo and also in Todi,

...and we're here to research the history of the family for a future Italian Notebook story.

The family owns three locations in Foligno; one is a music shop, there is the old factory, and the new factory. We begin at the old factory, with a giant Pastore Tedeschi (German Shepherd) pacing back and forth behind the fence. Inside, much of the space under the stairs is filled with huge sacks of dog food. Other than that, the space is mostly empty.

Since the family is in the midst of moving to the new facility, we follow him there. Inside we are treated to hundreds of years of history...

The town of Foligno is famous for its tradition of organ manufacturing. Records as far back as the late middle ages confirm that the town was famous for excellent organ buliders and their instruments, as well as the subject of the famous Palazzo Trinci 14th century fresco "La Musica" in Foligno.

For centuries, the same schools of excellence produced such famous builders as the Fedelli family, renowned throughout Italian and abroad from the 17th century until 1929. In that year, Zeno Fedeli, the last member of the family, died, who was a teacher of Libero Pinchi (1905-2000). The next year, Libero became founder of the Pinchi family firm of organ manufacturers in the same location.

We're treated to the sight of a magnificent antique organ, small and elegant. For the price of €18.000 or so, it could be yours...

We're taken to a number of keyboards of organs in various states of restoration. The finest and hardest wood (as opposed to ivory) is used, and strangely boxwood is the type of wood they prefer for its tight grain, finding it wild in the hills above Foligno. They cut it in the dark of night, on a crescent moon...Remember I told you that Italians are a superstitious lot...but believe it or not, it has something to do with the grain in the wood being optimal during a crescent moon.

Anyone who is an owner of a boxwood plant knows that it grows incredibly slowly. Perhaps that is one of the tests of a great wood. We are told that keyboards 400 years old and made from this wood are still fine to use. Strangely, only organ builders use boxwood; its not sought for any other craft.

Andrea tells us that acoustics are critical to great sounding organs; there is a problem with chalk walls of many modern buildings for their dead sound. He prefers to work inside old churches of stone, although some stone is better to work with than others.

We're introduced to Attila from Hungary, who gently works with a small set of pipes on a wooden table.

Behind him on the wall is a proverb that translates to: "To reach wisdom, be prepared to meet many obstacles". I'd like to know the Italian, so will certainly ask Duccio to help. I'll share it with you soon, for I do love proverbs...

In the next room is Ivan, from the Ukraine, who is the master woodworker and is a third generation craftsman in his field. Dino tells him my father was born in the Ukraine, and I can almost hear the bones crack as he shakes my hand.

It's been a wonderful visit, and as we drive back home we look at each other and exclaim, "I can't believe it's only Tuesday!"

Sadly, Team USA loses to Russia, but it's been a wonderful week. We may return this weekend to see some of our friends at the final match...

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