October through December, 2009

To read the CURRENT month, go to ITALY JOURNAL

We post to the journal several times a month, so if you'd like to be notified each time we post, send us an email: evanne@lavventuraitalia.com


October 1
Dino needs another blood test, so we drive up to the hospital in Orvieto, then to Tenaglie so that Dino can give me a lesson on how to open the place to renters. This next renter will arrive while Dino is on a driving marathon for Pietro and his guests from Norway. Va bene.

In Tenaglie, we have a chance to speak with the neighbor, who acts as a sidewalk superintendent while the roof of the building is redone. Our client's space is fine; their half moon window and its view has been saved, and no damage has occurred as a result of the work on the roof so far.

We stop to say hello to dear Mary and Don, and Sofi and I walk up to the bedroom to hang out with Mary for a few minutes. She's looking good and with the good weather continuing will probably enjoy this visit. We look forward to seeing Mary and Don in a few days.

Back at home, we see that our ad ran in Italian Notebook, but late for those living in Europe. So we're sure GB will run it again. It's a chance for friends to check in with us and let us know who has subscribed to Italian Notebook. Emails begin to arrive from friends...

Tonight is movie night at Candace and Frank's, so I'm making a fig and ricotta treat to eat while sitting with them in front of the grand TV in their den.

It's a fun evening, and Candace has fixed a fig dish as well. With Frank's special popcorn made with coconut oil, we eat our way through bowls of it while we watch a movie that we have not yet watched. Unfortunately for me, after two glasses of the best red wine I've tasted in ages, I sleep through about a third of it.

October 2
I'm made aware of a new news service, which I recommend: Inter Pres Service News Agency


Since you are aware that I am interested in gender issues, especially anything connected with the fight against violence against women, there is a wealth of information here:


Here's what they say about what they do: "IPS focuses on the developing regions of the globe, but within the context of globalisation and its impacts. IPS journalists write about economy, politics and social and cultural affairs. Development, environment, health, education, migration, human rights, democratisation, international co-operation and minorities are priority issues.

"Stories are written and edited from the perspective of the developing world. The overwhelming majority of the contributing journalists and editors are from developing countries, including those reporting from Europe, North America and Japan. IPS provides contextualised stories that focus less on specific news events than on the processes, institutions and trends in order to make those events understandable to readers."

We've subscribed to the free weekly newsletter. Except for the New York Times online, we have no U.S. news, and that's all right, too. CNN International gives us a worldview from their perspective, and that seems to be enough for us. If we want more, we'll look up what we want online. How about you?

The forecast is for rain, but there has been none. When we drive up to the borgo so that I can sign the piece that I painted on Sunday, we note that in the group there is a very good representation of subjects with different perspectives from the four borgos. Tomorrow and Sunday they'll be exhibited in the Comune in Bomarzo.

With Dino driving Pietro to a wedding mass in Tuscany tomorrow, Sofi and I will be at home alone together. If it does not rain, we might even lie out on the ammock (hammock).

I keep writing about it, but the strategy of the U.S. government regarding Afghanistan remains unchanged: "We proclaim moral principles when justifying our actions, but we wreak havoc and destruction on a backward, ancient world we do not understand," retired U.S. Army Col. and author Douglas Macgregor wrote in Defense News on September 28. He added: "Our troops are not anthropologists or sociologists, they are soldiers and Marines who have been sent to impose America's will on backward societies. The result is mutual hatred - not everywhere, but in enough places to feed what American military leaders like to call an 'insurgency' ..."

"I don't want any foreigners building roads or big buildings for me when I am cleaning blood from my home," a shopkeeper in Helmand Province, Haji Dawood Khan, told a Financial Times reporter in late September. The newspaper quoted a businessman from Kandahar province, Mohammad Karigar, who said: "The more foreign troops there are, the more people will hate them."

I'm reading Islam: A Short History a book given to me the other day by Don Salter. It was written by an American nun named Karen Armstrong. Before digging into the book, I read the chronology, and it makes sense. Now the difficult part...

"Yes," I replied the other day to a woman while speaking about what is happening to women in Afghanistan. "I would give my life if I could change the situation for the better". Perhaps that is what many of the soldiers believe, and unfortunately for too many of them the result is a loss of life with no one's life changed for the better.

Don't let the world and your life pass you by. Do something. Anything. Help make the world a better place.

On that note, I bid you a "buona notte" and a "dorme bene".

October 3
Lobbyists and right-wingers, read this from truthout.org:


If the medical systems in other countries are working so well and are deemed "socialist", as are the Veterans Administration and Medicare, why are so many people against it? Italy is not even included in its list, yet as someone who benefits by theirs, if coverage is better in other countries than Italy, I'd be hooting with joy if I lived in the U.S. and thought socialized medicine were around the corner.

I fix a banana bread that is hot just as Dino leaves to pick up Pietro for their trip to Tuscany. Pietro has been hired to officiate at a wedding, most probably for a Norwegian couple and has, in turn, hired Dino as his driver. Spiffed up in a sport jacket and slacks, Dino takes off with snacks of banana bread for the car, and Sofi and I have the rest of the day to us.

Dino calls later to say that Helga is with them, and they'll be back in a couple of hours. So let's not have a sit down pranzo...Sofi has chicken that I prepared just for her and I eat a piece of stale focaccia and a small container of yoghourt while watching Top Chef on T V. I'm not used to eating alone, and it feels almost sinful...

While Sofi snoozes in her bed, I paint and listen to classical music. It's a dreamy day, and Mauro's painted face looks much better. I have not told Dino, but do not want to visit the art exhibition in Bomarzo this weekend.

Dino wants to see it tomorrow, so he can attend by himself. I don't feel good about my painting of last Sunday, so will paint something tomorrow that I'll feel good about, instead. We saw all the entries last night at the Universita Agraria office. Life is just too short to let it get to me.

On this lovely afternoon, I'll either read or take a walk with Sofi. The garden is lovely in the late afternoon light, so we lie in the ammock (hammock) and I read. Sofi lasts about three seconds before she gambols across the garden to prance among the herbs growing under the giant olive tree.

Dino calls and they'll be back in time for cena, so he wants to eat out. Va bene. I've even had time to research cameras, thinking Dino wants a certain camera and I'm not sure it's good enough for what we need. He's a determined guy, so I do a little research, and come up with another camera with a better rating that is compared with the one he wants. Let's see what Dino, this time the salesman, has up his sleeve when I show him the comparison...

October 4
Simple? If you'll take the time to read this journal, why not take a look at a piece in the NYT, outlining ten steps to victory in Afghanistan:


It can be done. It's interesting that money that winds up in people's pockets can be spread around to help everyone. But that nasty word "greed" steps in, and when it's paired with "power" and the triple threat of "corruption", no wonder it's so difficult. My heart remains with the women, and I am hopeful that sound minds will prevail, just the same.

Dino wakes very early and watches the Formula 1 race in Japan, broadcast here at 7 A M. He is not one to miss any race, and we try to plan our activities around them during the season. Come no?

Here in the village it's a sunny morning, but there's no mass. There is a confirmation in Bomarzo attended by the bishop, so Mugnano will have no mass, for the first Sunday I recall in all the years we've been here. Perhaps there will be one in the afternoon, or so Rosina told us a few days ago.

We dress and drive to Bomarzo to see if there will be a mass in Cristo Risorto, but outside we see the twins, Cristian and Edoardo and their grandmother, but no mass.

"Why not visit Marsiglia while we're here?" I ask Dino, so we walk over to see Felice's widow and she looks great. A woman who lives above her is like a sister to Marsiglia, and we meet the woman as she arrives home after the mass in the Duomo, but we don't know her name. It's a joy to see Marsiglia looking so content.

She tells us that her brother in Mugnano, Giannino, feels fine but cannot walk. We saw him two days ago, sitting outside on their front step in the sun as we drove around Via Mola to visit Pietro. It is his leg that is his problem, and it is good to know that he is well, considering...

We bid them a "C'e reviddiamo"(see you again) and drive on to Il Pallone for cornetti glassata and cappuccinos and a quick stop at the market.

Sofi is with us and waits while we shop. I notice that she is acting very "needy", and hope that she will relax a little. Back at home, she wants to rest by my side while I write, although the weather is fine and it's a great day for chasing lucertole (lizards).

I've agreed to attend the exhibition in Bomarzo with Dino, but that will take place later this afternoon. Now I can take a look at Mauro's face, and although it looks good, there is something missing in his expression. Until I can capture it, the painting will be unfinished. Perhaps I need a break from it and will work on other parts of the painting later this afternoon.

Dino picked up some Porcini mushrooms yesterday on his Tuscany jaunt, and I think of fixing them in a batter of egg and breadcrumbs, sautéed in girasole (sunflower) oil. I remember having them fixed this way by Claudio years ago and Dino liked them, although tells me he does not like mushrooms cooked as though they are slimy. Sorry.

I do some research on the internet and find a caramelized onion and Portobello Mushroom soup that looks good. Although the word is pronounced "car-mel-ized", it is really "caramelized". Our mushrooms are Porcinis, but I treat them just the same as the Portobellos, use beef broth instead of chicken, and the taste is very rich.

A reviewer added a bit of balsamic vinegar, so I do the same. Dino likes it enough to have seconds, so tomorrow it will taste even better. This soup has softened his critique of mushrooms in general, so I suppose anything is possible...I have added the recipe to our site ... it is the 3rd one from the top on this linked page:


I can't seem to find the difference between Porcini and Portobello mushrooms, other than the Portobello are usually larger and have a shelf life of seven days, while the Porcinis are lighter in color, may have plumper stems and have a shelf life of two days. Portobello mushrooms, it is said, can be substituted for meat. The Porcinis worked well in the soup; lets see how it tastes tomorrow.

Outside, there are clouds in a blue, blue sky, but today is another beauty. I'm tempted to take a swing in the hammock while Dino dozes, but never get around to it. Outside butterflies light among the lantana and children romp on the paths below. It's a great day to be alive...

Dino appreciates that I have taken the time to research cameras, and he's not convinced now that he's chosen the best one. The search continues...

October 5
This from truthout.org about the medical system in the U.S.: "...where Congress seems headed.

"But it's nonprofit insurers who provide the coverage in Switzerland because health insurance is viewed as social insurance - as it is throughout Europe - rather than a means to make money. One fundamental reason a public option - yes, "option," not single-payer monopoly - is needed in the United States is to jump-start the idea that basic health care is a moral obligation rather than a financial opportunity.

"Another is to provide competition to private insurers and so force waste, excess and cozy arrangements out of the American system. Behind all the socialized medicine babble lurks a hard-headed calculation about money - all the profits skimmed from that waste and the big doctors' salaries that go with it.

"It's not over yet for the public option. President Barack Obama should still push it with a clear moral stand. He should have been clearer and punchier. A public commitment to universal coverage is not character-sapping but character-affirming. Medicare did not make America less American. Individualism is more "rugged" when housed in a healthy body."

The U.S. is the only developed country we know with such a screwed up medical system. Taking a look at the great care that people have in other developed countries should make anyone ready to stand up and cheer about the possibility of finally having a rational system.

With heavy fog in the early hours, sun has persisted and we are blessed with another wonderful day weather wise.

Catherine and Kees arrive for a visit and bring us a bag of tulip bulbs from Holland. How dear of them! We may put them in a container on rocks and "force" them to bloom indoors this winter, although we could just put them in the ground. They are white, so will be beautiful anywhere.

Perhaps they should be planted in the ground after all. We can buy other bulbs closer to Christmas and force them inside. These will be a wonderful harbinger of spring. We'll find a good spot.

While they are here, Silvia from Civitavecchia arrives to strip Sofi, and is by herself, but finishes the work in two hours. Her little dogs stay in her car and afterward I wonder if that was a good idea. I fell in love with one of the four dogs she has in the car...it's 8 weeks old and looks just like Sofi. But I could not imagine having another dog right now.

Here's Sofi after her stripping; she'll be fine until January and seems very happy with all the attention. She's a little heavy, so I give her less chicken for pranzo. It takes so little for Sofi to gain weight, and with her long back we must be vigilant.

We take a walk to the borgo, and run into Candida and Pepino, who ask us if we want to "prende un caffé". Dino says "No" and I respond, "Come no?" (why not?), for the socializing with these two wonderful people is always a treat.

While Candida puts on the coffee, Pepino takes us into his cantina (well, one of his cantinas) and shows us the giant tub of grapes that he pushes down three times a day for we think five days until it is ready.

He tells us that if we get too closer and breathe it in, it will kill us in three seconds. What does this mean? We'll have to find out. Vendemmias this year have been somewhat early and dependent on the rain, which surprises everyone.

We already know that Pepino makes the finest pecorino we've ever tasted (in November) and now he give us a taste of lardo (made in January and stored in a cool cantina for eight months) and a gocce (drop) of his wine from last year.

Although he tells me not to have it if I don't like the taste, I have a piece between two small pieces of bread and it is good, but just too rich. I ask him if I can take it "porta via" (take away) and he agrees. Then he takes out a pecorino and give us each a taste (I share mine with Sofi). This pecorino is not his, and was purchased in Celleno.

The more we learn from Pepino, the more I want to write a year's worth of contadino musings and photos, just about him. If only I could understand him more. Perhaps Dino can help.

On the way home, he tells me, "Verbs! You need to study verbs!" Evidently I don't use verbs at all when speaking with the neighbors, even though people figure most of it out.

Well, my plate is quite full getting ready for our November trip (making doll clothes will take up most of October and November and I still have to come up with a treatment for the tree to present on Thursday). Dino now tells me it's Thursday instead of Friday. Perhaps tomorrow he can help me untangle the info. And I can then begin the drawing, although think it might be easier to paint.

I spend an hour or so working on Mauro's face; I've lengthened his chin and worked on his eyes. It's better, but still not perfect. So I move on to Salvatore's jacket, and that is fun.

Vendemmias (picking grapes for winemaking) are going on all about us. Tiziano asked Dino if he'd participate in Enzo's vendemmia today and he declined, because there is too much for him to do. But as we walked down the hill, Enzo was just arriving with several barrels of grapes.

Take a look at Enzo and Nando:

We're both doing research about a new camera, and it's really confusing. Just when we think we've settled on one, we find something that changes our minds.

October 6
I have had an epiphany! Do you remember that I wrote a few days ago about pentimento? Well, if you don't, one of the descriptions had to do with a painter changing part of his subject mid-stream, and that's just what I'm about to do...

In the painting of Salvatore and his father, Mauro, I took the basic idea from two photographs, one of the two of them at Alzamaggio (the tree raising in the village) last year. I loved the way Salvatore looked, but his father did not stand next to him at the time; instead, a friend named Roberto.

So we asked Mauro if he'd pose with Salvatore to see if we could put the two together in one painting. I did not like the way Salvatore looked in the photo, but loved the original photograph. Dino tried to Photoshop them together and then we blew up the image so that I could make a cartoon, which is what I usually use when painting from a photograph. But Mauro's hand was still not right, and if I had realized it I would have tried to correct it at the time.

Now we have Salvatore and Mauro together, but Mauro's left arm does not finish with his hand where we want it, either on the rope or around Salvatore's waist. So I'm about to do a brave and possibly dangerous thing: I'm redrawing Mauro's elbow and arm, foreshortening them with the object of making his arm and hand reach forward at the correct angle.

Foreshortening is not easy. Wikipedia tells us a little about the history of foreshortening:
"Perspective (from Latin perspicere, to see through) in the graphic arts, such as drawing, is an approximate representation, on a flat surface (such as paper), of an image as it is perceived by the eye. The two most characteristic features of perspective are that objects are drawn:

* Smaller as their distance from the observer increases, or
* Foreshortened: the size of an object's dimensions along the line of sight are relatively shorter than dimensions across the line of sight.

"In the earliest art paintings and drawings typically sized objects and characters hieratically according to their spiritual or thematic importance, not their distance from the viewer, and did not use foreshortening."

About.com has plenty to say about it, too, as well as a way to look at it that is fun:

"Definition: Foreshortening occurs when an object appears compressed when seen from a particular viewpoint, and the effect of perspective causes distortion. Foreshortening is a particularly effective artistic device, used to give the impression of three-dimensional volume and create drama in a picture.

"Foreshortening is a technique used in perspective to create the illusion of an object receding into the background.

"An example of foreshortening would be when you look down a long straight road lined with trees, the two edges of the road appear to move towards each other and the trees look smaller the further away they are. Or if you're drawing a person lying on their back with their feet facing towards you, you'd draw their feet larger than their head to capture the illusion.

"Grab a straight-sided mug. Look at it from above: a circle. Now gradually tilt the mug. Notice how it forms a narrower elipse as you turn it sideways. Likewise, if you look at a flat book, you see a rectangle. Tilt it away from you and you see a trapezoid. Try sketching some simple objects from different angles to show how their shape changes. Drawing this effect is called foreshortening, the creation of an illusion of depth, and must be carried out with confidence to effectively trick the eye.

"Foreshortening is closely linked with perspective, although it usually comes into play when drawing the figure (or animals) when we must rely on the eye rather than constructed perspective. When you are drawing a more complex shape, the effect of foreshortening can be very difficult to achieve convincingly - you can end up with what looks like a very misshapen object. Practice, and trust your eyes, and practice - its not easy! The Old Masters loved using foreshortening to show how great they really were!"

Thanks to both sites for their help.

So I'm challenging myself to see if I can make Mauro's arm look as good as an old master would. The good news is that most of it will be located behind Salvatore's sweater.

The act of painting is the most uplifting activity I could possibly imagine, other than playing the violin like an expert, which we all know will never happen...So this afternoon I'm going to draw it and then paint it.

Oh. My treatment of the tree is due Thursday night, so I will put this activity aside for a few days and zoom in on the tree. I found a small canvas, and think I will paint it instead of drawing it out, the tree to look like those wonderful Disney dancing trees at Christmastime. I think they also appeared in Fantasia.

Let's stop and prepare pranzo. This time we have two gigantic tomatoes, both ready to eat, so I'll take out my trusty baked honey bread with fresh tomatoes and basil recipe.

What a fabulous story from today's NYT, and it's all about pentimento to the nth degree:


We need to have our flu shots before we travel to the U.S., so I ask Dino to call our good doctor to see if he can accommodate us. I'm not sure about the vaccine, meaning I'm not sure Italy has stocked the proper flu vaccine to deal with the epidemic.

It's nothing to be concerned about to a great degree; we'll take our chances and see what we can get. Perhaps because we will travel outside the country and are anziani (old people, ha!), we'll receive some sort of priority treatment.

I ask Dino to model for me so that I can draw and then paint Mauro's foreshortened arm, but the tree project takes priority over that; it is due Thursday evening. I want to paint the tree, but first we need to agree on what is going to be added to it to represent the people...

Dino and I sit around and try to unravel the complex picture of the families in Mugnano today and their relationship to one another. I have an idea of a treatment, so begin a painting that we'll show on Thursday night.

Now that I've begun to paint, I have no idea how I can finish the treatment appropriately by Thursday night. Paint needs to dry somewhat before adding new colors and we just don't have the time. Here I go again...

I hear drums in the distance, and that means the Soriano drummers are practicing for this weekend's annual Castagno festival. A number of years ago, we participated as two of Mugnano's orto (produce) vendors at the festival, and it was a front row seat to the action, including burning a heretic at the stake (of course it was a mirage; she dropped down through a false floor as the fire raged above.) Brilliant!

October 7
We begin the foggy day with my thinking of painting the tree and continuing with a vengeance! Instead there's that drat migraine, and perhaps the fog has something to do with it; yesterday's weather was just beautiful.

After two hours in bed, I'm feeling better, but realize that I won't be able to paint before we leave to pick up Don and Mary. Perhaps we'll have to postpone tomorrow night's meeting. Previously, I'd meet my commitments no matter the personal cost; now the quality of the painting is more important than the timeliness of the meeting. Am I becoming Italianized in my thinking? Va bene!

Pranzo is planned with Don and Mary at Castiglione del Lago; we'll miss today's program of Top Chef with Anthony Bourdain as a guest judge.

The television news we are able to watch includes CNN International, BBC and AlJazerra. The online news we subscribe to includes the NYT and truthout.org. Today's truthout.org blasts the NYT...

I love to muse in the shower, and this morning after checking emails, I muse about truthout.org's story about the NYT backing Bush's rationale for going into war in Iraq. The word "liberal" comes to mind in opposing the idea, and I think of the word liberal as a noun versus the word as an adverb.

When sprinkling something during cooking, the word "liberally" means as much as you'd like, but plenty, in other words, "generously" and right as a noun versus adjective, but when I look up the word, "left", I find the words "anarchist, sinister, lacking". Words are such interesting things, and these days we have plenty of time to muse.

Since I awoke with a migraine, I slept in instead of painting and look forward to discussing the words I wrote just now with Don, who is a wordsmith of the best kind.

Dino is very unhappy; his old Palm has frozen, the iPhone is not yet in stock and now he's lost his data for the past several days. The shop in Viterbo does not yet have theirs in stock, so he calls the shops in Terni. They also are waiting for the next shipments from Apple.

We have pranzo with Don and Mary on the Orvieto side of Lago Corbara at Tenuta di Corbaba, which seems to be set in the midst of hunting grounds, with a spectacular view and great pasta and house wine. We'll definitely be back. There are plenty of hunters here, and a few of them laugh at little Sofi, probably because of her beard. Then they give her a hug, and she forgives them.

Back at home, I switch to drawing in the plan of the Mugnano tree, for painting the concept in oil will take too long for the layers to dry.

We drive to Tiziano's for his father Enzo's advice on whom was related to whom regarding a couple of specific families in the village. We agree that we will take a couple of families and chart them into the plan. Tomorrow we'll sit down and decide and then I'll draw it out in time for the meeting. We are not sure whether it will be Thurs or Fri PM.

Just as we get ready for bed we realize that Shark, our favorite series (I know, we watch shows years after they're new) has been cancelled. It appears we'll have three more episodes, so hopefully something new will appear on the horizon. We really have very few programs to watch at night; it makes for better reading, so va bene!

October 8
We're surrounded by fog as we awake, and the forecast is for more of the same. Similar to the weather in San Francisco, it's normal to have fog after several days of sun. Outside in their pen below us in the valley, the asini honk as if to say it's just another day.

Dino drives to Viterbo; since his Palm crashed some days ago, he's intent on buying an iPhone, but none of the local stores have a supply. Yesterday in a call to stores in Terni, he was told by one store that they expect a shipment in "un paio di journi" (a couple of days). That means they have no idea, but don't want us to shop anywhere else.

Is this ethical? Well, after hearing that Italy's highest court deemed its Prime Minister, Berlusconi, could not have immunity for prosecution from criminal acts, he's come out fighting. "It will take time from the running of the country, but I will fight it and I will win. God bless Italia...and God bless Berlusconi!"

The public's opinion is mixed; some think it's a dangerous thing, others think their belief in democracy has prevailed and it's a wonderful thing. Regardless, the people of Italy will move along just as before, planning their day around what they will eat for pranzo and where they will eat it.

In that vein, I'm to make a simple pasta, based on what we have in the dispensa (pantry), and since there are thirty or more bottles of tomatoes in the loggia, we're not concerned that we will run out this winter.

Yesterday, Dino gave Pepino one of our gigantic tomatoes, telling him to slice it and use it salad style, or by itself with a little olive oil and basilico. Next year we will have about a dozen plants of this type, all gigantis, and Dino will again shop for San Marzanos at bargain prices to make bottled jars for sugo. I think he likes the whole project, including using our machine to turn the tomatoes into pulp and take out the seeds and skins. That's my Dino, the contadino.

I draw the basic limbs and leaves of the tree for the village project on paper with colored pencil, and Dino takes it to Viterbo to blow up. I'm hoping he'll come home with a colored blowup, 70cm by 100cm. Then I'll put the pods and names of three or four families on it to use tonight at the meeting. If he comes back with a black and white, it does not really matter. Paola emails us to tell us not to forget tonight's meeting. We'll be there!

Sun comes out, and Sofi rests, as she does whenever we've put the monthly dose of medicine on her coat. This fall and winter we're advised by Silvia to use Advantix, so we put the drops on her coat this morning. It should keep the fleas and tics away. Speriamo.

There is much confusion and angst about what should be done about conditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So what is President Obama to do? Some days ago, I wrote about a ten-point plan to re-stabilize the country. Write to me. Tell me what you think. I believe I'm with the people who think we should give the people of Afghanistan better options than the Taliban, making them obsolete.

I've just finished reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist. By Mohsin Hamid. It was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2007. Now I'm about to read Islam by Karen Armstrong. As you can tell, I can't seem to learn enough, although if you're not interested, I'll continue to write anything about it in italics. Although I'm hopeful you'll take the time to read and comment on it to me, I certainly understand if your interest is only getting a taste of "La Dolce Vita" of Italia.

Tonight we have the meeting with Ecomuseo, and it's a friendly bunch with much chattering, mostly about software. It's agreed where the painting will go and that we/they will try the software Dino located.

Now we'll give our list of over 630 names to Paola, who will work on adding information of her own and to working with Francesco to come up with more names and to figure out how the different families are related through marriage. How perfectly wonderful!

That sound you hear is of us washing our hands of more legwork. Once they have gathered all their information, I will use the names like little pieces of a puzzle and place them where they relate to each other on the tree. I'm looking forward to that, and to conceptualizing the enormous painting (3 meters wide by 3 or 4 meters tall).

Just as we leave, I realize that Mauro is sitting next to me and we laugh about me staring at his face, for I'm in the midst of painting him with his son, Salvatore. His nose is pointed, and that makes sense. Otherwise, I think the painting is progressing well.

October 9
Fog gives rise to sun by ten o'clock, but there is an ongoing sound in the garden that I think means something has happened to the irrigation system. I'll wait until Dino returns from Bassano and Tenaglie and Orvieto to tell him about it. Since our irrigation system has been turned off, I have no idea what it means.

I make the few changes to the Mugnano family tree list on the computer (we're almost up to 640 names!); then forward it to Paola. I can't begin to thank the group for their willingness to be involved in making the project so achievable.

If you have the desire to email us for questions or help, do note that if you use Comcast.net, you'll have to add us to your address book; it appears any email sent through them winds up in email hell. Sorry.

Since it's a lovely day, Dino drives us to Narni to check out the Abbazia di San Giovanni San Casciano. We don't know of anyone who has ever been there, but the shutters are always open, so someone must live there. It's a great idea for an Italian Notebook story; one always sees it across the valley on the SS3 below Narni and we'd love to see what's inside...

But after a long ride on a stradabianca through beautiful forests, we reach the place and its gate is clearly padlocked. There's no sign of life, so we drive on...until we come upon a red and white striped pole across the road, telling us we can go no further. The mystery continues, so let's see if Al Gore's internet can tell us anything.

On the way back, we stop at Spazio Verde, a great vivaio (nursery) between Narni and the SS3. We find the melograno (pomegranate) tree we've been looking for; it's a lonely small one, lined up near twenty or more really large trees. It's a perfect fit in the car, and soon it will grace the raised orto above the parcheggio as the main focus there. We've wanted a tree of this type for many years, so welcome to our world, "Mello the melograno"!

October 10
Dino wants to remain at home today, so why not? I'd surely like to return to painting...Instead, I wake at 6 AM with a migraine, while outside a thunderstorm rages and Sofi whimpers until I put her on top of the bed.

"It is always a mix of idealism and realpolitik that can change the world," Norwegian Nobel Committee offers as it awards Barack Obama this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Later, I have a thought vaguely connected with President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps for his message of hope. Instead, my thinking has to do with women mobilized for peace around the world.

This is one of those "what if?" thoughts. What if every woman in the world joined together to bring peace to 'mankind' (strange word, eh?) in a kind of 'womankind' approach? What if all women were kind to one another and to everyone they meet, expressing hope and cooperation instead of the normal cynicism and doubt that more often than not flows off our tongues?

What if 'womankind' replaced the word 'mankind', not in a sexist way but in a globally peaceful way, changing the way people think of men and of women collectively as well as separately? It's just a thought...Tell me what you think. I'm still overwhelmed by the impression the book, A Thousand Splendid Suns made on me.

The storm ends early, and although we're spending the day at home, birdsong in the valley calls out to me. Perhaps that's because I heard a few gunshots a while ago. I'm not a sexist person, but it's the Italian man who loves to take his gun out and shoot, especially in a group.

By 11 AM there is plenty of sun. Let's paint!

It will probably sound quite strange to you, but one of our favorite pranzos consists of blt's (bacon, lettuce and tomato slices on toasted bread). We've finally found bacon at LIDL that compares to that widely available in the U.S.. So occasionally we treat ourselves.

Today I fix a salad to go with it and it's so good I'll add it to the recipes on our site. Recipe? We don't need a recipe; why not just "whip it up" and try it. It is a salad of drained canned cece (garbanzo bean) and chopped sedano (celery) and corn with snipped chives in a vinaigrette with salt and pepper, served in small bowls.

Pranzo is served late, for we watch Top Chef at l'una (one PM) and the program lasts for an hour. I'm always interested in cooking competitions on television, although you will never find me in one. You know...the competition thing.

While we eat, I take a look out of the kitchen window and see the sun hanging low on the horizon. We love these fall days, with the level of light lower in the sky during the afternoon giving us the feeling of a sense of calm.

Earlier, we agreed on the spot for Mello, the melograno tree. Dino will dig up the soft earth on the raised planter above the parcheggio and the tree will grow in the center of the area, with the huge tufa cliff as a backdrop.

Strange as we are, we like giving names to new additions to our property that are inanimate. We talk to them as we walk by. It's similar to one of my favorites: "What do YOU think, Sofi?" (If you don't know, Sofi is our little wire-haired dachshund). Now many of our friends use this phrase, too. If you take life too seriously, you're welcome to take up the phrase as well. It should put a smile on your face.

I remember reading about tree planting years ago, and read advice at the time to plant a hollow plastic pipe at an angle leading to the roots of the tree. That way, water can be fed through the pipe directly to the roots. Dino will put a cork in the top of it, at the level of the earth, and we'll see if that does anything to get the tree acclimated. We often think of doing this, after a tree has already been planted securely in the ground.

I return to painting this afternoon and wonder if we need Salvatore and Mauro to pose again for me. I'm not sure of the angle of Mauro's arm...should it be behind Salvatore or around his waist? If it's behind him, perhaps I should show extra darkness between them, signifying more space.

It's really interesting to have to figure it out myself, not knowing until later if I'm correct or not. I just love painting; it's an exploration of the impossible, improbable, and yet, everything is possible.

If you are wondering, "What was the Romans' contribution to posterity?", try this funny trail of answers:


Gee, the banging that must be taking place while answering this thread makes me wonder if any of the people on it threw their keyboard out the window. Lighten up!

Guns and more guns are heard as the afternoon wears on. Well, it's Saturday, and on the weekend people do things they would never think of doing during the week...

Dino asks me if I'd like a glass of Pepino's must, and why not? It's a lovely pinky-purple color after Dino strains it into our short glasses, and we cut an apple and eat slices of rich Pecorino cheese with it as well. The more of it I drink, the more decadent I feel. It's strong stuff!

Basta per adesso (enough for now)...remember, never take Italian lessons from another stranieri... it has gone to my head, so I chase it down with the laroxyl drops I take each evening. I hardly ever drink even wine anymore, so it makes sense that it has me wondering how much alcohol it contains.

I walk upstairs with Sofi while Dino watches a program on the Discovery Channel about Nazis and Montecassino, which was a disaster of gigantic proportions. While the Allies were working their way up the boot of Italy during WWII, Germans built fortifications all over the hill below Montecassino. No one wanted to bomb the Abbey, but a mistake in strategy changed the minds of the Allies, and they lost 15,000 men while destroying the Abbey, without taking a single German life.

How about the words of that popular 70's song: "War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!" Let's give those generals and gun-happy folks game simulations they can play against each other and put the guns away. Each time I hear a gun in the valley aimed at a little bird, I wonder. It's enough to turn a person into a vegetarian.

Dino thinks he's found a camera he wants to buy and asks me to do a search for it to reaffirm his choice. But the first review is a disaster...Two people actually reviewed the camera after taking it back! I'm not sure I'm ready to let Dino know his strategy did not work out. On a more positive note, he thinks he'll have his iPhone next week.

In the meantime, he's planted Mello and watered it and it's a pretty little tree. The next time you visit you'll see it as you walk up the parcheggio steps.

My brother does not want the painting I wanted to give him, so it's less to worry about and now there is nothing extra to pack. I love the painting, so am happy to keep it for now.

We take a walk after dark and see that Maria Elena's light is on, so we walk up to see her. She has just arrived and Sofi is over the moon with happiness, rushing around Maria Elena's main room and wagging her tail.

Next week we'll all have an adventure together and it is wonderful to have her here for an entire week. We're unable to fix her hot water heater, but someone has promised to come to adjust it, hopefully tomorrow. We leave wishing her an "A domani(until tomorrow) and dorme bene (sleep well)."

October 11
This morning is a good morning for church, and a new priest performs the Mass. We like him, for what's not to like? We enjoy Sunday mass; it's the time many of our neighbors gather together and it's a time to be thankful. The ceremony that we know, and the repetitions of the four hymns we sing, gives us a reassurance and a reminder not to forget our spirituality.

Afterward we drive to Il Pallone for cornetti glassata and to pick up groceries.

I paint for a few hours after pranzo, and will be working on Salvatore's face for some days. Dino tells me, "No wonder painters don't often "do" people; they are really difficult!" The ability to create an expression with a paintbrush that emulates a real person sometimes makes me feel as if I'm working a miracle.

It's even more difficult working from a photograph, than if the person is "sitting" for me. I don't like to inconvenience people and love the surprise of showing neighbors paintings of themselves. Now that I'm painting people we know, I'm conscious of their reactions and hope not to disappoint them.

Duccio & Giovanna pick us up in the late afternoon for a drive to nearby Attigliano to see the Ecomuseo paintings on display in the Comune. Sofi is with us, and after the mostra, we sit outside the café for cocktails of Aperol with a splash of Prosecco and a splash or two of tonic. Tiziano joins us to tell us all about a new project for him in Sippicciano supervising an excavation site where some shards have been discovered. If it's interesting, we'll tell you about it.

Duccio looks quite well, and we look forward to returning to our jaunts across the countryside with them to discover new places and revisit ones we love.

October 12
A grand storm is coming, and wind has arrived to tell us it will be a storm worth noting. We do some laundry, but move it to the loggia to attempt to dry it under dark skies. Dino works on the web site, while I paint and then make some corn bread; (try again, the NYT recipe of Sept 30th is a disappointment). After pranzo, I return to work painting Salvatore's face while Dino drives to Viterbo for appointments and shopping. He is hopeful that his iPhone has arrived, so will probably camp out until the salesperson relents and gives him one...

He calls later from the store for the phone in Viterbo to tell me that if one is unpacked and it is the one we want, we can have it. There will be more news tomorrow, as the shipments are beginning to arrive. I'm happy for Dino, for it will give him lots of hours to learn about it and to enjoy it, while the old Palm seems to be coming back to life. We put it on the charger to be sure.

The Palm won't really work, and the iPhone is not in stock, so we continue to play a waiting game and really appreciate the good things these hand held gadgets can do, now that we're using paper and pen to write notes.

May Elin arrives for a visit, and we start our first fire in the fireplace for the season. Amazingly, there is no smoke and the whirlygig atop the chimney revolves frantically, telling us it's all working.

Now that familiar smell of burning wood will follow us for months, but it is a comforting smell. The fire looks beautiful, too, and is one good sign of the colder weather. Tonight the temperature will drop to the single digits, for here in Italy, zero degrees Centigrade is the same as 37 degrees Farenheit.

October 13
Sofi has a new sopranome (nickname): Salvadora. I think she looks like Salvador Dali with her new boffo(mustache) and beardy hair framing her snout. Although she does not have his characteristic waxy curlicues at the end, she's adorable, so between us it's a name that brings on wags of her tail. Come no?

Its cold this morning; cold enough to put the heater on in the bathroom, but by noon we have lots of sun and warmer weather. If Dino can find some Porcini or Portobello mushrooms, I'll make more of the same wonderful soup we had last week in the next days.

It will be also be good soup to make for the family in San Francisco when we visit them, and the nipotini (twins) will like it, too. We're really looking forward to spending time with them, and it is possible that we will be cooking Thanksgiving dinner with Angie and Terence.

Tacchini repieno (stuffed turkey) with all the trimmings is a meal worthy of exaltation. I recall being in Hong Kong when I was young during Thanksgiving, and meeting at the Hilton with fellow Americans to feast on the classic American meal. Here Italians smile when we speak about stuffed turkey, and they usually like it, but don't serve it.

Today is a day to work painting Salvatore's hands. I like painting hands and their shadows and light. These hands also have foreshortening, and it's not easy, but I'll work on it day after day until I have captured the correct angle. He's holding his hands around a rope that comes to him from my left; his father does the same with his left hand behind Salvatore's, also holding the rope while standing behind his son. Two foreshortening exercises here! What a joy it is to paint!

After pranzo we think Maria Elena must be in her garden, so we walk over to it with a bag of grapes to share, but she is not there. Dino shows me around, and there is plenty of light after cutting back some trees. But the tufa above her lovely garden consists of several huge outcroppings that look fragile, and her spot could be very dangerous.

When walking back, Sofi and I try her house, but she is not there. She is at Giovanna and Franco's having pranzo and we can hear them, but don't interrupt. Giovanna is a good friend of hers, and a lovely woman. I should make an overture to her and sit and talk with her, but I am becoming such a hermit that I return to painting these days instead.

Dino works around the garden, and I'm not sure at what, so stop the painting and Sofi and I walk out to see...We know he's not clipping caki, for there is none this year on either of the trees!

October 14 This morning, Maria Elina joins us for a jaunt to the Dunarobba Forest above Avigliano Umbro. We've thought about making this trip for some months, but the weather has been too hot. This morning, it's cold; cold enough for me to take out my black coat. Ah, there are the black gloves I've been wondering about!

We drive through the town of Dunarobba and locate a site on the right with a modern building. Straight ahead is a huge brick factory. There are no visible "forests" around, so what is this?

We enter the tourist building and I'm already suspicious. There are t-shirts, books, bookmarks and other items to buy displayed all around the main room. Upstairs is the "museum". For €5 per person, we're told to follow one of the three women down a stradabianca (unpaved white road), who parks at the bottom of a hill and directs us to park close to her car, so that other cars can park as well.

We walk up the hill and below us is a series of A-frame structures; each "protecting" a portion of a tree trunk, planted in the ground. Now we're told that this group of trees dates back 2,000,000 (two million) years. What is the story, and is this a practical joke?

Here's the story:
During the Pliocene epoch, about one million years ago, the entire Italian peninsula emerged from the sea. Enormous basins of stagnating water were left in valleys that extended from Citta di Castello to the Terni basin. This enormous mass of water formed what was then called Lake Tiberino.

The Dunarobba forest presumably stood near the shore of the lake, and was often flooded. Sediments were deposited over time, which began to cover the trunks of trees; then later buried them entirely. Because they were covered in a layer of clay and mud at least ten meters thick, the trees began to die. However, the particular consistency of clay made the substance waterproof, which made the preservation of those trees possible for millions of years or more from weather's decay.

We walk around with the guide to various tree trunks, each one covered like a modified A-frame chalet to protect it from bad weather. I'm confused... If these trees have lasted 2 million years, why do they need protection now? I must be missing something. We leave the area and are told to return to the main building, where we're then told to visit the room upstairs to view samples of things found in the area where we've just been. Upstairs are huge paper models of dinosaurs and fossils in display cases.

We thank the people and leave, although I'm shaking my head. We'll have to ask Tiziano if this is something to believe or not. It seems far-fetched, more so because the guide told me that I need to have permission from the Superintenza to publish a story about it. What?

I know that Italians love to tell funny stories, especially at someone else's expense (usually mine, remember the fishermen of Marta?), but can't figure out how they could tell by samples of the clay that the trees can be dated that long ago. But what do I know?

We cannot find either Portobello or Porcini mushrooms to make more of that luscious soup, so Dino assures me that he'll return with some from Viterbo this afternoon. But we stop in little towns and villages along the way to ask fruit and vegetable vendors if they have any, or have any ideas.

Thinking that there are some little artisan vendors inside the walls of Amelia, we drive up the curvy hill and find Simona Pernazza's father asleep sitting on a chair right inside his "antique" shop door. Dino wakes him up by beeping the horn and asks him who might have them. Instead, Signori Pernazza tries to sell Dino a basket and tells him to take it out to the forest to pick the mushrooms himself. Boh!

We all eat pranzo at home, while watching Top Chef on TV, a cooking competition of professional chefs, now down to five chefs competing for the title of Top Chef. The behind the scenes action alone makes the show worth watching.

We heat up the baked pasta and have a salad while we watch, and Maria Elina is hooked enough by the show that she'll return tomorrow to find out about the finals. By then Dino will have returned with the mushrooms and we'll have a big pot of soup and some freshly made bread. Speriamo.

Dino calls from Viterbo to tell me that the mushroom truck outside the cemetero is without its owner, and that his larder consists of a 1/2 box of moldy mushrooms. "Is it ok to buy moldy mushrooms?"

Of course not! He's told that the owner of the truck will return later, hopefully with fresh mushrooms (it has rained and there are always good mushrooms after a rain). So Dino will probably return home by way of Soriano, where he thinks there will be more of a chance to find them.

What an adventure! In Mill Valley, all we needed to do was to drive to Whole Foods Market...and to think they are Italian specialties...not easy to find in...Italia but easy to find in the U.S.!

In a little while Pietro and Helga will return from their train trip to Venice. It rained nonstop and Pietro stayed in bed with a fever, we're told by SMS message. Not a lot of fun...He'll be happier at home in front of a roaring fire, as will we. Our chimney is now perfect with the circular dome on top, and fires are easy to light and beautiful to enhance the room.

Dino arrives with one kilo of porcini mushrooms, at the scary price of €35! It makes enough soup to serve eight or so, but at this price it takes an everyday meal to another level. I'm distracted, so forget to add the concentrated broth to the soup, and it's not the usual full bodied meal.

Helga and Pietro arrive and tell us of their trip to Venice, especially the Tintorettos and Titians in the churches. How we long to return to Venice, and the high speed train from Rome is the way to do it. With only 4 stops, it's a delightful way to watch the countryside and relax, even for Dino, who loves to drive anywhere.

October 15
We awake to a beautiful but cool morning, and Dino meets Roberto to install Mai Elin's tettoio(little roof) over the door. She'll return for pranzo and to watch Top Chef, and this time the soup will be just right. I made a banana cake last night that was quite good, and we'll serve that for dessert. I like having something to do with overripe bananas, and like this better than making it into bread.

So you see, we have not abandoned what we have learned and loved about living in the United States; we just adapted our lives here to use what we like and blow the rest away with a kiss.

But oh, the dollar! It races out of control, even though the Dow is above 10,000. At a 1.491 exchange rate, we're looking forward to spending a little time in the US, where the dollar is a dollar.

We've put our summer thinking away, and are enjoying the Italian season of autunno, including the colors that change the landscape, even if the changes occur later here than in the U.S. The correct adjective used is 'autunnale'.

It's been a while since we've talked about Italian words, so let's talk about the word 'fall':

'caduta' indicates falling down; 'cascata' of water (remember Cascata Marmore, the waterfalls of Terni?); 'cataratta' indicates a cataract as well as a fall of water; of prices: 'ribasso'; to fall apart: 'farsi a pezzi'; to fall back: 'ripiegare'; to fall behind: 'rimanere indietro'; 'cadere' or 'stramazzare': to fall down. 'Cadere' and 'descendere' are intransitive verbs, (but you don't want to know...too complicated; remember there are fourteen tenses in the Italian language, and we're hard pressed to scratch one or two)...

Here are a few more, in case you don't already have a headache: 'scadere': to fall due to fall flat:, 'stramazzare': to fall for(slang, also to fall down - see above): 'lasciarsi', 'abbidolare da': or 'innamorarsi di': to fall for; 'crolare': to fall in (a building); 'imbattersi in': to fall in with; 'ritirarsi', 'diminuire': to fall off; 'accadere': to fall out; 'cadere da': to fall out of; 'cadere': to fall over; 'fallire': to fall through; 'rientrare in': to fall under. All right. You've given up? So have I...

Let's digress for a moment, for we do that well...
the dictionary tells me that a cataract, when literally used, "indicates a series of river rapids and small waterfalls with only moderate vertical drop, or a heavy downpour of rain or a great flood".

Oh. I thought it had to do with runny eyes. But that thing an 'anziani'(old person) gets in their eye is a cataratta, and that description is: "the lens of the eye or the membrane surrounding it that has become opaque as a result of disease". That is a bad thing. The good thing about that is that it makes one eligible for laser surgery for free in Italy. So is this glass half full or half empty?

Let's walk outside and enjoy the beautiful day...even Salvatore will have to wait for me to return to painting his face...

Dino has been interrupted twice from finishing the installation of his iPhone. I love the way he concentrates to make sure that any gadget he buys is properly installed right away. He does that with any installation.

I remember that whenever we moved, he ran cable for our speaker systems right away, even if it meant climbing out on a parapet, which he did on Green Street. Yikes! It's a good thing we've finished our last move, other than to the cemetery, but for that he'll have nothing to do. Don't get nervous...

Maria Elina arrives for pranzo, and this time the porcini and caramelized onion soup is grand. We drink some wine while watching Top Chef, and tomorrow will be the finale of the show. What will we do then?

Later in the afternoon, Dino and Maria Elina walk to her garden with Germano, the Mugnano handyman, to talk about taking care of her garden.

He tells Dino that he can paint the kitchen ceiling next week, so we've a lot of work to do to move everything out of the room. By now you know we're great project managers, so what's a little challenge?

October 16
The day is somewhat crazed, with a trip to Rome to take Don and Mary to the airport and then a return to pick up a van for Dino to use tomorrow.

We cancel my appointment with Daniele to redo the front of my hair and learn from Maria Elina that she and Giovanna use a woman in Attigliano for their hair. As loyal as I am, I have been unhappy with Daniele's work for more than a year. So unless something else happens, I'll use a woman in Attigliano before we leave for the US and try her out.

Our weather is warm in the middle of the day with a lovely sun, looming lower on the horizon, but with the late afternoon shadow, we're really feeling the cold. It makes for toasty fires and good sleeping and a transition from wine to olives in our conversations.

I really wish we had more time to spend with Mary and Don this trip. I treasure that woman, and wish I could do something to make her life easier. I also miss seeing her, so she has agreed to join SKYPE and then we can talk as often as we want. Don, you are the most amazing partner Mary could have, but because you read my journal faithfully, don't want to embarrass you. You remain in our thoughts.

October 17
I awake with a migraine, and Dino leaves early to pick up a group in Rome. I bring the cell phone along wherever I walk, in the event Kate's renters call. I am to meet them at Hertz in Orvieto around noon, once they know what train they will take.

After 11AM Dino calls and the renters have not called. So I agree to drive to Orvieto and we agree to meet up. The renters pick up their car and leave, so we have no idea where they are. I return to the rental and hide the keys, for my cell phone has lost its charge. When I arrive home they call, and there has been a misunderstanding. I will return there this afternoon to go over everything with them. Va bene.

The day moves so quickly that before I know it, Dino will be home and we will return the rental van. Then life will return to normal. It seems strange to have an entire day go by without our being together. We must be a good match...life is not the same when we are not... it's as if there's a hum inside that stays with me in his absence.

October 18
I awake with a migraine, take the cocktail of meds and return to bed. Dino attends church without me, and Sofi has a chance to sleep on top of the covers right next to me.

Rock star Bono has an interesting idea: "America is not just a country but an idea, a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man". Sure, I'm an idealist and a dreamer, wishing that more people would judge others less. Without Obama's messages of hope this past year, could you imagine how depressing the world would be?

Today we visit a quilt making exhibition in the Comune; it is exceptional. There are things for sale, and I ask if there is something Italian that we could bring back to our relatives in the US who are loving quilters. "No. All the material comes from the U.S.!"

I'd love to be involved in quilting when we're in the US, but here I'm full of painting ideas, and that's what I am meant to do.

There is a Formula 1 race late this afternoon, and Dino and I are at home for it. I sit with him and look over recipes to make on Tuesday for pranzo, thinking the race is definitely a testosterone thing; I'm worried people will be hurt and Dino is excited by the thrill of it all. No, he does not want people to be hurt; probably it is the chances people take that intrigues him.

I begin a cough, and take some flu medicine when we are back at home. It's really cold these days, and tomorrow we'll pick up the solution to put on one's hands to keep them germ free during this colder weather. I never paid much attention before to spreading germs from hand to hand; now I understand how important it is, and will be conscious of it while we are around our granddaughters.

October 19
It appears that people from the U.S. don't want to hear about Afghanistan; local ratings of TV news shows focusing on the country drop when announcing special coverage. That sound you hear is of me sighing.

It's cold this morning, but with our Southern facing view, the sun is warm at least in the middle of the day, so I can keep the window open in the studio while I paint, and that is what I do for a few hours.

Dino is in Tenaglie, doing things for clients and finding new suppliers. He really knows how to track them down. He'll return for pranzo, and we'll have a fire in the fireplace tonight, as we have had each night for almost a week. No headaches this morning, so I can't determine that the fires in our fireplace cause them...yet. Franco calls to tell us that it's an Italian law that heaters are not turned on until November 1. What? That's a fun law to ignore, but what are the ramifications?

According to Italian laws, you may not turn the heat on before November 1 or after April 1, even if you are freezing. There are "heat police" who will fine an owner for ignoring these laws, so if you are outside these dates and are renting a private residence, it is at the discretion of the owner whether or not you can have heat.

If you are vacationing in winter, be advised heating is about 5 times the cost of heating in the U.S. Please also be aware that Italians are very concerned about the environment and it's an affront to the owner if you turn up the heat and leave the house or fling open the windows".

I'm suddenly impressed! Good for us! You see, I consider us to be "Italians" as well as "Americans". That reminds me. It's almost been one year since we filed for Italian citizenship. Perhaps its time to see if we can check on the status...but then, it's not as if we're tracking a UPS shipment. The papers are probably floating around on someone's desk, while the person speaks to their friends on the telephone instead of helping us.

We are happy to be American Citizens, and will never change that. Becoming Italian citizens must be giving our parents up in heaven a real chuckle...they're probably all together sitting on a cloud, having a grand old time...

Let's talk about stinkbugs. We have them here in Italy, too! Almost flat, they are shaped like a pale green beetle, with skinny legs that move like crazy if they find themselves on their backs. Lazy critters, if we choose to snuff them out with a Kleenex they just wait for us. In the summertime they just give in. In colder weather, we are noticing, they "make a big stink"; a sour smell that lingers in the air, as if their last comment is "so THERE!"

"Generally thought of as an agricultural pest, stink bugs will readily take up residence around any garden or landscape rich with plants and flowers. They like homes that are warm and provide adequate shelter from rain, cold and other elements.

Stink bugs will work their way under siding, into soffits, around window and door frames, under roof shingles and into any crawl space or attic vent which has openings small (I think Al means large) enough to fit them. Once inside the home they will go into a state of suspended animation where they wait for winter to pass. However, the warmth inside the home will generally attract them and many will find their way inside." Thanks, Al Gore's internet.

They must burrow their way through the edges of our window screens. Now that the weather is cold, they do stink when we kill them. So we won't kill them anymore, for the smell is quite gnarly. We'll scoop them up in paper towels and help them fly out the window. I now see them in a Sci-Fi movie, giant-like and taking over the world...it just might end with a poof of smelly smoke. Pee-yew!

I return to painting after pranzo and am careful not to keep our windows open; that's if the "heat police" come to call. I wonder what kind of uniform they will wear... perhaps they're alerted by the stink bugs themselves, as a kind of "guardia di finanza" in miniature...Where there's a smell, is there a fine close behind?

October 20
During a pedicure this morning, Giusy talks to me about a trip she has just taken to Modena. Its cattedrale sounds marvelous, so we'll put it on our list. I feel such a bond with this woman; it is a joy to see her and to hold her, these days with joy. Her life is back to normal, and it's good to see her so content.

Bruce and Wendy Elam are our guests for pranzo; they are renting Kate and Merritt's lower property for the week. It's always fun to meet new people, and this time Wendy falls in love with Sofi and asks if there are other dogs like her in the US. Yes, we tell her; Sofi is a mini wire haired dauchshund and I find information and a breeder for her in Connecticut.

I'm interested in a column in the NYT by David Brooks about character, and his viewpoint on whether there really is such a thing as character. Our little Sofi has been described as a dog with a strong "character"; does that mean she is stubborn? Does it mean that she states her mind, cannot be swayed?

He tells us, "Psychologists and philosophers tend to gravitate toward very different views of conduct and whether we can truly say that there is such a thing as character.

"The psychologists ... tend to gravitate toward a different view of conduct. In this view, people don't have one permanent thing called character. We each have a multiplicity of tendencies inside, which are activated by this or that context. As Paul Bloom of Yale put it in an essay for The Atlantic last year, we are a community of competing selves. These different selves "are continually popping in and out of existence. They have different desires, and they fight for control - bargaining with, deceiving, and plotting against one another."

"The philosopher's view is shaped like a funnel. At the bottom, there is a narrow thing called character. And at the top, the wide ways it expresses itself. The psychologist's view is shaped like an upside-down funnel. At the bottom, there is a wide variety of unconscious tendencies that get aroused by different situations. At the top, there is the narrow story we tell about ourselves to give coherence to life".

So do we inherit our "character", or is it thrust upon us as a result of the maelstrom to which we emerge from our mother's womb?

The thought of "...bargaining with, deceiving, and plotting against one another"...astounds me. Why is it that the psychologists' viewpoint assumes that it is in our nature to behave in this fashion?

What does he mean by "tendencies"? Is our "branch" already leaning in a certain direction? If so, what is it that causes it to lean?

I choose to think we are blessed with a myriad of traits, forming while still in the womb, and at the moment of birth, those traits emerge to give us the "glue" that molds us together as one being. Something within us stays steady, whether a positive or negative attribute. At the rusty old age of 63 I can say that I believe that I am essentially the same person I was as a young child. But again, what do I know?

Annika and Torbjorn arrive just as darkness descends and we have tea in front of the fire and talk about their new grandchildren as well as catch them up on life in our village. The fire in the fireplace seems to wither, so I use Dino's copper pipe as a kind of bellows to stir up some wind, and it catches and burns brightly.

But when Dino returns he tells me I burned the fire too close to the front of the firebox and there is smoke. Yes, I can tell he's right when Sofi and I walk downstairs to meet him, fresh in from the cold. There is always so much to learn, even about the most basic things in life.

October 21
We drive to Orvieto Scalo to look at a bargain piece of marble at a second hand store, visit to the renters while Dino has a meeting with a prospective supplier. It is a "no" on the marble...we need a marble to work better with the travertine counters. Let it wait.

Annika and Torbjorn walk up for a visit before the fire. On this day, it's warmer outside than inside and we don't need a fire. After telling them what we've done to move Pietro's car, it's determined that our house is the stranieri "clubhouse" and the place where our friends arrive for help, a glass of wine, or help with projects for their properties or unraveling life's challenges in this country.

Deciding not to attend with us, they walk home when we walk up to the school for Lorenzo's first birthday party. When first here, I was reticent to attend the village get togethers. These days it is a joy. By the time we leave, the people who work every day in Rome are arriving, and we're sure the festa will last all evening.

It is so interesting to us that although the people have lived here all their lives, the occasion for a festa brings great joy. Tonight's pot of lentils and another pot of spicy cooked beans are the biggest hit, although the tremezzini are always popular.

Tremezzini are those white bread half sandwiches cut at an angle so that they form triangles. You can find them often at bars and also at Autogrilles all over Italy. Inside are a variety of simple things: tuna and a slice of tomato over a thin layer of Italian butter, ham and cheese, tomato and artichoke, etc.

This is the night I realize I have a major allergy to the beautiful sweater we purchased one year in England. I put it on once each year, and it's always the same thing. After two hours of it my eyes begin to itch and then my eyes swell up until I take it off. Let's put it away and mark the bag. It's a memory of our trip to England and Chipping Camden that we loved, but that's it for this sweater.

October 22
Dino drives to Tenaglie to locate the muratore to obtain a price for Merritt's painting project, but we have rain and wind; last night we lay in bed and watch the cypress trees and the giant olive dance furiously as if they're right out of the movie Fantasia.

The morning is calmer, and when Dino returns I'll fix a tortina with carrots and porri (leeks) to take to our movie night in Orvieto with Candace and Frank.

I'm encouraged by news from Rome that I read in the NYT:
"ROME - In making it easier for traditionalist Anglicans to become Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI once again revealed the character of his papacy: to reach out to the most fervent of like-minded believers, even if they are not Catholic. Yet some observers wonder whether his move could paradoxically liberalize the church - or at least wedge it open - on a crucial issue: celibacy.

"The invitation also extends to married Anglican clergy. And so some have begun to wonder, even if the 82-year-old Benedict himself would never allow it, would more people in the Roman Catholic Church begin to entertain the possibility of married Catholic priests?

"If you get used to the idea of your priests being married, then that changes the perception of the Catholic priesthood necessarily," said Austen Ivereigh, a Catholic commentator in London and a former adviser to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster.

"Married priests are permitted in the eastern Catholic rites, and one of Benedict's central goals is full communion with the Orthodox - and they, too, allow priests to marry. Anglican priests, married or not, are already permitted to become Catholic priests, but on a case-by-case basis. The new dispensation would for the first time allow in groups of married priests.

"Now we're opening up a whole structure within the Latin rite, within the Western rite, which will allow married priests to function," said Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Seminary at Georgetown University and a liberal Catholic commentator.

"The overture toward the Anglicans speaks to a central theme in Benedict's papacy: his desire to bring in traditional believers at all costs to help Catholicism become a "creative minority" in increasingly secular Europe.

"But he said there were differences between Anglicans seeking to convert to Catholicism and Catholic men who commit to a celibate priesthood and then decide "that they want to leave the priesthood in order to have a married life." "I don't think it's an insurmountable problem," Cardinal Levada said.

"For liberal groups, usually ignored by the church hierarchy, the Anglican ruling was a rare, if mixed, moment of hope. Allowing married priests, liberals noted, could go a long way to overcoming the deep shortages of priests in the developed world.

"I think it's very interesting and probably somewhat encouraging, in the sense of 'yes, there is a flexibility, there is an openness,' " said Sister Christine Schenk, the executive director of Future Church, a Catholic group based in Cleveland that favors married clergy."

Even if this pope does not allow priests to marry, it does open the door for the future, which I believe will be a wonderful thing for Catholics all over the world. When I was an Orthodox Christian, I loved the idea of our parish priest and his wife and children involved in our community. What better way for a priest to be able to understand and advise families with a wife and family of his own?

We all drive to Orvieto with our tortina to have a movie night, and the recipe for the tortina can be found in the November issue of La Cucina Italiana. It's quite light and tasty. I'll definitely make it again, and although it is a lengthy effort, I recommend it.

The movie is "Across the Universe" and we all enjoy it. Is it funny to see new generations loving the music of the Beatles as if they were a current group?... Just hearing their name brings back so many memories of becoming young adults when they were at the top of the world.

October 23
A warning of a headache made me take the cocktail of migraine medicine last night around midnight. This morning I sleep in and am fine, but all around us the rain continues.

I'm not surprised that for 73 year old Berlusconi, running this bewildering country must not be easy:

"ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he governs Italy out of a sense of duty and sacrifice, not because he enjoys the job.

"The conservative, flamboyant Italian leader, 73, says he actually doesn't like governing at all. But he stays in the job because he is considered the "only leader able to hold the center-right together." Berlusconi says there's nothing simple about the prime minister's job.

"He said: "I'm doing what I do with a sense of sacrifice. I don't really like it. Not at all." He added: "Very often there is a lot of dirty dealing, there is really the gutter press, worse than that, the shameless and sickly. It's a difficult life to be responsible for leading the government in a country like Italy."

Perhaps because he is a populist leader, the people of the country seem to accept him more and more as Italy's financial problems continue. There is no alternative; no knight in shining armor to rescue the country if he were not at the helm.

His center right party has a strangle hold on both chambers of deputies and the senate, and that, combined with the fact that its people always prefer the simplest way to achieve their goals, his popularity will probably not falter. He also makes for great storytelling, which Italians adore.

So are we living in a country, or in a fable? It's a country often best viewed while not wearing one's glasses...

After sleeping in late, I watch a Larry King show about incarcerated women, remembering the time I spent in San Francisco with the Coalition for Battered Women in Prison. I'm not made of strong enough stuff to confront some of those issues directly, but the causes of women remain in my heart, especially those bearing great and needless suffering. "If only..." I wonder. If it's up to the women of the world to stop war and anger and fighting, what do we need to do to begin? I'm ready.

Dino visits Pietro to help him get ready for his new shutter delivery, but the supplier does not show, and when he's called he tells Dino the shipment is held up by an accident closing the road. "You're wasting my time!" Dino snarls into the phone in Italian. "The next time you're delayed, call me!"

Rain continues all day, with dark clouds so heavy and low we're dreaming of blue skies and sun in the distance. There is a weather "front" sitting atop this part of Italy, and we hope that in a few days it will travel East and bright skies will return.

In the meantime, I'm beginning to put pieces together to sew clothes for our granddaughters' dolls. It may sound strange, but did you know that shops that sell fabric do not sell ribbons or thread or seam binding or other things related to fabric in Italy? A merceria is a shop that sells ribbon, thread, yarn, buttons and sometimes even intimate apparel, and certainly no fabric. The shops are not even close to one another.

So when I want to find fun ribbons and cotton lace and other things to use in making the doll clothes for Marissa and Nicole, we're sent to different places. Dino drives me around Viterbo and we find some of what I'd like to use. For the most part, I've set the paintings aside, to concentrate on clothes for their dolls. I'm hoping it will be fun to both design and sew; I'll let you know.

The days are warm but the nights cold, and most of today was overcast. The few showers that fell were finished by the end of daylight hours. It's a good thing we arrive home to a fire in the fireplace, set and ready to be lit.

October 24
Dino asks me to accompany him to take a look at possible stain colors for a client's new tables. We have three stains to choose from as campioni (samples), and take the wooden palate with us in the car.

Although there has been rain overnight, a few clouds remain here and there, and the air is fresh and even warm. With this warm wind, the clouds move about, shading the verdant green and gold hillsides, awash with fall leaves and olives nearing an optimal state for picking.

Gold is the color of the landscape, and it is this golden hue that seems to serenade us along with the mossy green velvet color of the olive trees that dance to shake off last night's raindrops.

Every now and then we pass local contadini in their apes (tiny three-wheeled open-backed vehicles) on the stradabianca (unpaved "white" roads), seemingly loving their simple lives, ruled by the weather and changing seasons. We never see a contadino drive quickly; instead, he turns his head while moving at a snail's pace, enjoying the fruits of the land around him. Perhaps that is partly due to the vehicle; it looks as flimsy as a doll carriage, ready to tip over in a stiff wind.

With grapes already picked and bottled, the last and perhaps most difficult tasks of harvesting the olives lies ahead. Our friend, Diego, spends from late October through February picking his 4,500 olive trees, and perhaps we'll bring our one lug of olives to him in December, if we don't get to him soon. He kindly turns them into oil for us, otherwise we'd not be able to process them at all; the local frontoio expects a great quantity before accepting one's bounty of olives and would certainly reject us. What an embarrassment!

After a visit with a neighbor of a client, we check the stain samples against a table Dino had made earlier, and take a photo for the client. Then we stop in Lugnano at the Comune on the way back, hoping to take a photo for a story I wish to do for Italian Notebook.

Not realizing it is Saturday, no one is in their office in the Comune except the Assessor, who kindly gives me a book about the story I am to write, and tells us to return to visit their Antiquarium when it is open in the afternoon. Va bene.

Dino calls in the afternoon to find Carlo. We're told he'll be at the Antiquarium or in the Pro Loco (tourist) office. We drive to Amelia to buy tulle fabric and ribbons at the mercelleria, and then return to Lugnano. Carlo is at the Pro Loco office, and tells us to return tomorrow, when a docent will take us around Lugnano and also the Antiquarium. It's always, "Domani!" when people don't like to work.

We drive back to Mugnano and check in with the mostra, held this weekend at the school. Marina is the only person there, and tells us that more than forty people visited this afternoon. I tell her I'll work with her tomorrow after our Lugnano visit. She's happy with that; I'll practice my Italian and she'll practice her English.

My bet is that little Marcello will win the top prize. He's about four, and if he indeed painted his entry, he's a real talent. A painting teacher in Giove wants to buy it and wants to mentor the boy. But when I look at it closely, I'm not sure its possible. No matter.

We walk by Paola and Antonio's house, but the lights are dark. So we continue on to Pepino's, where we find Nonna Candida in bed. How sad she looks; a bandage covers her nose and one eye. I tell her I'll light a candle for her in mass tomorrow, and hope that she will be all right. I hate seeing her like this; she is full of life and a strong woman, and lying in bed is not for her.

We have a fire at home, and it's still not cold. With three tomatoes still on one of the tomato plants, they may even ripen if sun reappears, as we are told it will. Let's hope we'll have a dry week. We've had enough rain for a while.

I turn in before midnight, with visions of ancient pagan rituals in nearby Lugnano in my head. Perhaps tomorrow we'll finish the story and submit it, and then hopefully we'll banish thoughts of it from our minds.

October 25
Maureen Dowd writes in the NYT: "In 2004, the cardinal who would become Pope Benedict XVI wrote a Vatican document urging women to be submissive partners, resisting any adversarial roles with men and cultivating "feminine values" like "listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting."

"Nuns need to be even more sepia-toned for the źber-conservative pope, who was christened "God's Rottweiler" for his enforcement of orthodoxy. Once a conscripted member of the Hitler Youth, Benedict pardoned a schismatic bishop who claimed that there was no Nazi gas chamber. He also argued on a trip to Africa that distributing condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse".

"The Vatican is now conducting two inquisitions into the "quality of life" of American nuns, a dwindling group with an average age of about 70, hoping to herd them back into their old-fashioned habits and convents and curb any speck of modernity or independence".

Of all groups to treat disrespectfully for all their efforts to help their fellow man...Just when I think the pope might be easing up, he wants Sister Michaeline Mary to take out her yardstick again. Ouch!

Don't mistake my levity; the concept is not funny at all; it's one more nail in the coffin of womankind. We really need to mobilize...

On a drive across Bomarzo to Il Pallone for our Sunday morning glassata and cappuccinos and shopping for pranzo, I'm somewhat overwhelmed by the richness of the landscape. Each day the hues become more pronounced: the golds are more golden, the greens are more vivid, the rusts are deeper, and even the brown earth has richness to it. The occasional red leafed plant has a pinkish cast, and I'm, hoping to find zucca (squash) in the market for soup.

Instead we pick up sausages and grapes, for Artusi's famous recipe; it's the shortest you'll ever see: "Take sausages, prick them with a fork, sauté them in a padella, and when they're almost cooked, throw in a bunch of stemmed and seeded grapes. Cover and let the grapes cook down, then serve in warm bowls".

That's just what we do, and although seeding the grapes is a bit of a pain, it's certainly easy.

After lighting a candle and mass this morning, we stopped to see Nonna Candida and give her a big kiss. The bandage remains on her nose, and I tell her she has plenty of color. We laugh at her comparison to an arcobaleno (rainbow), but I am worried. Dr. Biffaroni visited her yesterday, and she was taken for tests and x-rays. There is a spot on one lung, but we're hoping she'll get better with antibiotics. We all remain worried, for although she is a very strong woman, she is 88. She remains in my prayers all day.

This afternoon, we take Annika and Torbjorn and Pietro with us to Lugnano for a tour and story about the childrens' cemetery, so that we can take photos and I can finish my story to submit to Italian Notebook.

But first I have an hour to play with the fabric and ribbons for the bambole(doll) clothes for our nipotini (granddaughters). For the next month, that's where you'll find me.

We miss the connection with the young woman, but Pietro knows more about the incredibly simple and beautiful church than she might, and of course he explains it in English, which is easier for us.

Dino calls Claudio and then finds out that the Antiquarium is open after all, so we walk there, take photos, and it is all quite amazing. Now I have the photos for the story, but they are so moving and so sad that I wonder if the story will ever be published.

The abandoned villa where the cemetery was located in the 5th century sat between Lugnano and Attigliano, on a hill; we stop for a moment on the road nearby to pay homage. But now it is inhabited by a group of olive trees and probably another house on the other side of the hill, with a lovely view of our Mugnano.

Back at home, the plastic tubs for recycling are just being distributed by Ecomuseo, so after we take a look at the mostra and a last look at my painting, Dino documents the group responsible for our new recycling program.

Here are Antonio and Francesco and our plastic tubs:

October 26
Today is the beginning of what we think will be a beautiful weather week in Central Italy. Grapes have been harvested, and the leaves still on the vine have turned a burnished yellow.

Elsewhere, olives on the trees are turning a blacky-eggplant color, and soon the harvest will begin. We probably have enough olives for one lug ourselves, but it depends upon how busy we are when we are here in December, getting ready for Christmas and Babbo Natale's big night.

We drive to Amelia for more fabric and notions from the merceria (thread and ribbon shop). Strangely, notions are almost never sold in the same shop as fabric. I suppose it's a good business for a woman to have by herself, buoyed by the chance to gossip with the locals and keep herself busy.

Things are so inexpensive that I wonder if it costs more in electricity than they reap in profits. What's the old adage: "We lose money on every sale, but we make it up in the volume?"

I stop first at the little fabric store just inside the wall, and the woman is delighted to help me pick out a few things for "fare per un bambole" (to make for a doll). I've never done anything like this before, but the exercise should be a lot of fun.

Sofi waits in the car while we have a caffé, and then do a giro (drive around) to include stops in Montecchio, Tenaglie and Lugnano before arriving home for pranzo.

The afternoon continues to be beautiful, so I open the studio window and take out the sewing machine. This little room will be my little workroom for the next few weeks, and is it ever fun! I've been watching a clothing design competition on TV, and now I'll do a little designing myself, pretending that these are my dolls and I want to play...

Of course Dino is out, this time to Viterbo to meet with another supplier. Sofi lolls around while I begin...

With an off and on headache, I turn in early and look forward to a sunny week ahead and to designing "bitty" clothes.

October 27
La Giallina has her first checkup, while Dino waits for her in Viterbo. It's back to the sewing design shop for Sofi and me, and later to make a pear and rum cake, using ripe pears.

The cake is a big hit, but I don't get around to making it until evening. Instead I spend most of the day futzing with the sewing machine; every time I think I understand the tension, I'm wrong. Tomorrow Dino will go over the instruction book and figure it out for me.

I've just connected with Tracy Lash, who was my "little sister" almost 30 years ago! She was eight...or was she eleven when we were matched? I remember her standing with her mother at the back of the church when Roy aka Dino and I were married. She's grown into a beautiful woman. I took a chance and looked her up on Facebook.

I go to bed with a migraine and a cocktail of meds; perhaps it will disappear by daybreak. Speriamo.

October 28
It's an incredibly sunny and beautiful morning, unfortunately with gunshots ringing out in the valley. Birds safely in trees out of range chatter at what seems to be a higher pitch, and a lone dog barks. Sofi lies by my feet, not aware or not interested in any of it.

Dino drives to Montecchio to meet up with a truck carrying a few pieces of furniture to a friend's house. There is a site to contact for shipping within Europe in which companies bid on the work. It's a very cost effective way to move, we think. Let's see what Dino has to say about meeting them at the other end.

A senior diplomat resigns in Afghanistan, telling the media the people of the country are more upset at being occupied than they are at fighting terrorists. Will that be the straw that breaks Obama's resolve?

On another front, Hillary Clinton assures the Pakistan Government that there are no conditions to the billions we have pledged to them. So we're lining more pockets with money we don't have and ultimately owe to the Chinese government for being our "bankers". Enough said. Sigh.

Dino tells me he'll sit with me to see if he can figure out what the solutions are for the tension problems on the sewing machine. He's much more mechanically inclined than I am; my eyes cloud over when given too many technical options, but I'm tenacious in seeking an answer so that the girls will have something special.

I realize that I have enough fabric to make something for each of the girls to wear, and of course it will be something dramatic. Isn't dressing up what little girls love to do?

I've read the instruction manual before Dino arrives in the room, and he stands over me while I explain the use for what I think the tension knobs are used. (I'm really trying to not end sentences with prepositions, but it seems awkward.) He watches me try twice to sew, and both times the thread pulls right out. "Tomorrow," he tells me, "we'll return to the place where we purchased the machine and see if they can help".

Then he leaves with Pietro and Anselmo to drive them to Rome to the lawyer who will orchestrate the purchase (atto) of a piece of land and a small building next to Pietro's that is owned by Anselmo.

Sofi and I stay home, and with no sewing on the agenda, I open an old notebook with two stories inside. I'll put them into the computer in the event niece Sarah wants them.

Sarah tells me she'd like them, and the first two about my father's shoe store are a hit. There are so many fun things to remember, even if growing up was not always right out of Donna Reed.

Dino arrives around 7 PM, after four hours of driving to and from Rome and ten minutes of a meeting with the attorney and the Notaio. All is well, even if I climb the stairs with the start of a headache.

October 29
We take the sewing machine to Viterbo, and the Singer shop is on the Corso. So we park and Dino carries the box around the corner. We locate Paolo's shop and he tells us to leave the machine until tomorrow night. Va bene. I did not think anything was wrong with the machine, but wanted advice about the thread tension.

Research on Al Gore's internet didn't seem to help. We'll see what he has to say. I'm hoping we'll figure it out tomorrow so that I can return to making doll clothes for our granddaughters, to take to San Francisco with us.

Welcome Neighbor in Rome publishes the following information as the difference between the flu and a cold. You might want to know:

Difference between Cold and Swine Flu Symptoms

Fever Fever is rare with a cold. Fever is usually present with the flu in up to 80% of all flu cases. A temperature of 100ˇF or higher for 3 to 4 days is associated with the flu. Coughing
A hacking, productive (mucus- producing) cough is often present with a cold.
A non-productive (non-mucus producing) cough is usually present with the flu (sometimes referred to as dry cough).

Slight body aches and pains can be part of a cold.
Severe aches and pains are common with the flu.

Stuffy Nose
Stuffy nose is commonly present with a cold and typically resolves spontaneously within a week.
Stuffy nose is not commonly present with the flu.

Chills are uncommon with a cold.
60% of people who have the flu experience chills.

Tiredness is fairly mild with a cold.
Tiredness is moderate to severe with the flu.

Sneezing is commonly present with a cold.
Sneezing is not common with the flu.

Sudden Symptoms
Cold symptoms tend to develop over a few days.
The flu has a rapid onset within 3-6 hours. The flu hits hard and includes sudden symptoms like high fever, aches and pains.

A headache is fairly uncommon with a cold.
A headache is very common with the flu, present in 80% of flu cases.

Sore Throat
Sore throat is commonly present with a cold.
Sore throat is not commonly present with the flu.

Chest Discomfort
Chest discomfort is mild to moderate with a cold.
Chest discomfort is often severe with the flu.

We're both feeling fine, but tonight have an appointment with our doctor in Viterbo, and will ask him if we should get the swine flu shot, and where we can obtain the serum. Since we'll be traveling to the US before Christmas and there is an epidemic there, we should be prepared.

After pranzo we find out that the world series is being telecast on SKY, so Dino watches it while Sofi and I do other things. I began to watch it, but Derek Jeter grabbed himself and then spit, and that did it for me. No thank you.

The day is just gorgeous, so Sofi and I may take a walk. I'm not able to sew, but may lay out the designs I want to attempt. We meet with our doctor, who tells us we're too old to worry about Swine Flu; if we do get it its symptoms will be mild. See above for differences between flues and colds.

I notice that the olives are dark, dark and ready for plucking. Perhaps tomorrow, if the great weather holds.

November 30
Yes, it's a beautiful morning, and I begin and then finish picking olives off two trees, the lecino type, while Dino works on our giant olive in the middle garden. I finish by noon and come inside to prepare pranzo.

Sofi gambols about and watches as Dino finishes the last three trees. We have what I think is a perfect number of trees...enough to have the experience picking but not overdoing it, and enough for a little oil, for not much work.

All about us are the sounds of apes, tractors, birds and an occasional honk of a horn in greeting. Why do I think this is a tranquil village with all the commotion? Well, it is a quiet village, and those sounds are the intermittent sounds of contadini working their land. It's a day full of love here, as are most days.

But elsewhere, the same is not always true. In a welcome decision, a woman from Guatemala will probably be given asylum in California if President Obama has his way, under the new term "femicide". More than 4,000 women have been killed in domestic violence there in the last decade.

These killings, only 2 percent of which have been solved, were so frequent that they earned their own legal term, "femicide," said Ms. Paz y Paz Bailey, a Guatemalan lawyer. In 2004 Guatemala enacted a law establishing special sanctions for the crime. To learn more about this case, as well as the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, here's a site:


Sun continues to stream through the West facing windows, as below a tractor plows a field for planting. Are you thinking we have too much paradise? Well, this morning, while unlatching a screen in the bedroom window to let one of those flat green "stink bugs" out, I snapped the screen shut as about twenty fell on my head. Yikes!

Those little critters wiggle their way in through the sides of the screens, and from what I've read, they want to nest inside where it's warm until Spring, when they'll return to the garden. "Not on my watch!" I think. I'm not adverse to picking each one up and flinging it outside, but Dino chooses a Dust Buster to scoop up the army of them on our windowsill. There's a very faint aroma of gas from them, which is what their name probably comes from. I counteract it with a scrunch of a lavender wand, and move about my day. Enough said.

I think about Pietro and his daughter, Anna, looking over the little magazino on his new piece of land. She's an architect, and will work on a design to turn it into a little cottage. I'm interested to hear what she thinks; I think it's a little marvel, formerly a cow barn.

Late in the afternoon we return to Viterbo to see if Paolo has figured out what is not right with the sewing machine. I'm anxious to move forward designing and sewing the doll clothes.

Well, its been ten years or so since the sewing machine has been looked at, so I suppose €40 is reasonable. He did say that there were problems with the tension, both above and below, so it was not all in my head.

We're going on a gita (driving trip) with Duccio and Giovanna tomorrow to yet another Benedictine monastery; this time the destination is way past Gubbio. Perhaps Dino is planning on leaving me there, since I've been researching Benedictine monasteries these past weeks. Hope not.

October 31
It's Halloween, and we're ready in the event we have any trick or treaters tonight. Unfortunately, all of Italy has adopted this holiday, copying the over-commercialized U S model, and children will be after their sugar fixes...

But first Dino wakes up at dawn and drives to Diego's to drop off our lug of olives. That gives me a little time to get my act together and if I'm lucky I can put the sewing machine together and try it out. Don't count on it.

No, no time for sewing this morning. We leave early and pick up Duccio & Giovanna and drive to Fonte Avellana (PU), to the Monastero Della Santa Croce. It is quite a drive; past Perugia, Umbertide, Gubbio and on two lane roads continuing Northeast. At times, it is as if we are in a movie, with golden leaved trees to the left and the right as we whizz by. The colors are dizzying.

Once we pass the border of Le Marche, we ask, "What does PU stand for? It must be a province, but what province?" Always the genius with an answer, Duccio tells us it's Pesaro/Urbino. Those are the two of the largest cities in Le Marche, and it makes sense; somewhat similar to Terni and Perugia being the two Provinces in Umbria. What I mean is that one's Province is in Terni if they live in Southern Umbria and Perugia if they're in the Northern part.

In Le Marche, the stones are a pinkish peach. Alongside the rust and brown and green trees, the colors are too wonderful to be manufactured. So old stone houses have a pinkish cast to them. Le Marche is the next area of Italy to be "discovered", and although it's too cold for us in winter, for many people the Region will be just perfect.

We find the Monastery nestled within the Apennines with steep tree-covered hills bordered by deep valleys, all in the same vibrant color scheme. The weather is perfect; Dino tells us that winter will arrive...at 4PM.

We're too early for a tour, so are directed down the hill to a very good trattoria, Tony e Lucio, for local pasta and wine. We return for a 3PM tour that lasts all of 30 minutes. It's a disappointment after the marvelous Tresulti, but one ikon of the Madonna and Child makes up for it. I still want to make an ikon, and would love to try my hand at reproducing this one. What do you think, Sofi?

The photo quality is POOR because we could not use a flash!

With trick or treaters on my mind, we leave the abbey just before 4PM, but don't arrive home until almost 7. There is no sign that we've had any visitors, but we had none last year either.

So we end the evening and the month in a mellow way, catching up on the beautiful day with very good friends, including a ride back as if we were children on a bus, but this time singing Italian children's songs, along with folk music playing on the iPod.


November 1
I lay awake last night until I was sure it was after midnight; then whispered my customary superstitious words, "Rabbit! Rabbit!"

The day is beautiful and cool. I sit at the sewing machine and am able to finish one dress for the girls. The machine is back and working well. Let's get going!

Oh. There's mass this morning, and it's All Saints Day. So Sofi stays here while we drive up for a mass with Don Renzo. He announces that a choir practice will begin on Monday nights at 9:30. Yes, I love to sing and come no (why not), I'll try it out.

Candida is better, but did not attend mass this morning. We'll check in with her later. After glassatas (cornettos with sugared icing) and cappuccinos, we shop for pranzo and return home, where I cook until pranzo and then look forward to updating the journal and posting October and then returning to sewing.

It's a beautiful afternoon.

Did you know that "simony" is the buying or selling of secular things and "scourging" is flailing oneself with a whip? I'm studying a story for Italian Notebook that I need to write about yesterday's trip, and one of the hermits was guilty of simony. It sounds as though many people these days in Italy and other places are guilty of this. Wonder what the charge is? Whatever it is, it's just a terrible thing to do, don't you think?

A mafia character was arrested today, charged with a number of murders. After watching a story on the news a few nights ago where someone in Naples shot someone dead at point blank range in mid day and people ignored it, it's good to see the country is not totally in shock or oblivion. "What would I do in a similar situation," Dino asks. "I'd walk someplace private and call the police but not give my name". I'm not totally stupid. In the film, customers inside the shop hurried to hide behind the back shelves, hoping the killer would not identify them. Yikes!

This morning in mass, little Andrea Perini is an altar boy for the first time. He is so little that he borrows a cassock and has to cinch it up at the waist; then holds it up when he walks. Don Renzo smiles sweetly and all of us in the church love it.

Here the altar boys and Don Renzo smile for Dino. After he takes the picture, Dino is asked by Don Renzo how to pronounce his last name. When Dino tells him, he responds that he will remember it. He's quite a guy.

With the final Formula 1 race today, Dino is glued to the TV. Although the new world champion was decided before this race, it's at a new location, and even I am taken by the design aesthetics in Abu Dhabi.

I spend a lot of the afternoon sewing, and seem to be spending more time making fancy gowns that the girls can dress up in for play than working on the doll clothes. It will be an interesting couple of weeks spent on fashioning new designs and hoping they are a hit with the girls.

There is a brindisi (toast) at the Orsini palazzo early in the evening, and awards for the estemporaneo event held a month or so ago. I'm happy to have the event finished once and for all and no, I will not participate again. I am not a competitive person, and the experience was not fun for me. So we bring our painting home.

I work for another hour on dresses in a fabulous wide stripe silk, but the light is not good enough, so I'll return to the studio tomorrow to continue.

November 2
It's Day of the Dead, with a ten AM service in the Mugnano cemetery. Dino does not plan to join me, for he has work to do in Tenaglie, and Sofi has to stay at home.

But at sunrise, or what we believe to be sunrise, it is stormy and raining; all plans are off. I do not attend mass in the cemetery at 10 AM and Dino does not feel well, so he stays at home all day.

In the late afternoon, after sewing up a storm, I make a creamy squash soup and it is really excellent. There's nothing like soup on a rainy day. Dino feels better. Va bene.

All afternoon and evening we take advantage of a fire in the fireplace, but decide that I will attend choir practice at the little church in the borgo at 9:30. I hate the time, but love to sing; so we'll check out the practice and see who will be there.

The church is closed up tight, the borgo is wet and empty; we call Tiziano to find out that because today is a holiday, choir practice will commence next Monday. I'm still not sure I want to join, but we'll see.

Sewing today was a lot of fun, especially because the sewing machine worked well. My designs are looking a little "over the top", so I'll create a few things for the girls before making new dolls clothes. I recall wanting to dress up when I was young, and we have a bit of heavy brocade material, so why not make the girls princess dresses? Reading all those British Tudor novels has me wanting to create something reminiscent of those elaborate gowns.

Before getting into bed we call Aunt Elaine in Borrego Springs, CA, and it is really good to hear her voice, always upbeat and today is no different. Today was the anniversary of her wedding to Uncle Harry; it seems like yesterday that they were newlyweds.

November 3
The day is overcast, but we have no rain in the morning. By noon, there is even some sun. Dino does drive to Tenaglie, but Sofi and I stay at home, sewing away. I'm dreaming of being a little girl, and the outfits are things I'd love to wear at age 5 or 6. I will make things for the dolls, but first its dress-up time for the granddaughters and their good friends.

Sunday evening, Paola told me that their dog, Ubik (short for ubiquitous) died that day, and it was not unexpected. He had been sick for some time, but characteristic of Italy's medical laws, veterinarians will not put pets to sleep.

He died on the bed. Candida does not know, for she is sick herself. This weekend she cried most of the time, for she knew how sick Ubik was, but people don't want her to know yet. I will try to visit her soon.

I'm enjoying designing clothes for the girls to wear for dress-up and also doll clothes. For the next couple of weeks I'll be conjuring up all manner of costumes with material we have saved over the years and also with some newly purchased. The sewing machine works fine. It's a good activity with the rainy weather.

November 4
Dino searches for a muratore in Tenaglie while Sofi and I continue to sew in the studio. I work best when given a solitary spot with classical music playing in the background and Sofi resting by my side. This room is ideal.With no rush, I think of new additions to different items and add detail, which I love, as I picture the little girls trying them on and having tea parties with their friends where they all wear their new costumes.

Outside, cold weather continues with a dirty gray sky and even dirtier clouds just hanging as if they're waiting for a wind, or even a breeze, to keep them from languishing.

We have an eggplant, so bread it with eggs and herbs and it is really good. Tomorrow I may turn what's left into a parmesan treat.

Pietro leaves tomorrow, and we have hardly seen him this trip. We look forward to his return and to spending time together.

Yesterday and today I watch the end, and then the beginning of the movie The Mission. We have owned the soundtrack for decades, and yet I have never seen the film! Now I want to own it to play whenever we want. It is one of the few movies that I think holds up.

I'm particularly drawn to Robert DiNiro, then in his 40's, and a few of his expressions remind me of my brother and of my Uncle Herb, whom I loved dearly. We never knew our grandfather on my mother's side, and wonder if Uncle Herb looked like his father. I'll have to ask my brother if he has ever seen a photo of him. He died when my mother was 13.

Now I want to see more Robert DiNiro films, especially earlier ones shot around the time of The Mission. In this film, he plays alongside two of my other greatest loves in film: Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson. All right. Back to Italia...

This morning, Mario rang the bell and Dino took him to Pietro's, where he was to do some work. To work on the new property, he must pass a country lane owned by Donato, and Donato give his permission. It's a good idea that they get to know each other, for Donato knows how to take care of the grapes and can teach Pietro.

I'd like to see the little magazzino (building), after the land has been cleared by Mario; and look forward to learning what Anna has to say about how it will be restored inside. Formerly a cow barn, it still has the original feeding troughs. I'm sure it will be beautiful, and with more of the land cleared, a good view of the Tiber Valley. What history this land has witnessed!

November 5
We wake to news of the death of August Coppola, former Dean of the Cinema Dept. of San Francisco State University. He was quite a guy, and enthusiastically endorsed the scholarship to be awarded each year in the Cinema Dept. in Leo Diner's name after Leo's death. Leo was Dino's father.

I remember that August loved the phrase we conjured up about our annual "camp": "aspetta quello che non si aspetta!" (expect the unexpected), and thought we tied it to the competition, which was a great idea to inspire young filmmakers. Yes, he was a Renaissance man. Read his obituary:


Dino leaves to take Pietro to the train and attend meetings, while we return to sewing. The TV won't work for the fog is obscuring the satellite. We're hoping it will clear in time for Top Chef, our favorite daily program.

These days, weather has been so overcast and rainy, that the final two gigantic tomatoes on the vine are waterlogged and unusable. That's it for the year. The two last tomatoes are partially worth saving, so I'll fix something with them tomorrow. Today and tonight's menu is set.

It is mild today, but the sun never really shines, although Dino spends a couple of hours working in the garden while I cook. Candace and Frank arrive tonight for movie night, and we have a video of "the best of Dad's Army", a British comedy series about old duffers during WWII. It's a "laugh out loud" show, even for people like me who don't laugh out loud often.

I'll make cece (garbanzo) and pasta soup, a cheese soufflé and a ricotta dessert using Pietro's very sweet dark grapes. Other than the soup, in which we now know never to use dried rosemary (it was a disaster when made this way for our family in SF) the meal consists of things I've never made before. The cece soup recipe is on our site, and the others will be soon.

What's really fun, is that we can obtain many of the ingredients here that we would use in the US. So we can really embrace the Italian lifestyle while using a mix of Italian and non-Italian recipes. What's better than that?

I send Paola an email to ask her for a recommendation for a woman in the village who can teach me how to put in sleeves and attach collars to dresses. I know I said that I'd make dolls clothes, but first want to finish several "princess" dresses, so that the girls and their friends can play dress-up.

All the recipes worked tonight, so we'll put them on the site. The big surprise was the cheese soufflé. It was perfect. Take a look.

I also loved the red pepper sauce, and think it would be great on other things as well as a spur of the moment addition to add a special touch to a regular meal.

Frank and Candace brought their wonderful popcorn fixin's, and the cocoanut oil worked magic. We ended the evening watching a DVD of Dad's Army, gifted to us from our dear friend, Don Salter.

We're both tired as we wish our dear friends, "Tante belle cosi" (all good things). Dorme bene.

November 6
Sofi must have eaten a few pieces of popcorn last night. She cried during the night, even when put on the bed. But by the time we get up, she's a bit better, although does not eat her little breakfast treat.

It's overcast and rainy, and we all drive to Amelia for Dino's test for his foot. Sofi is better yet, so I sit with her in the car while Dino is in the hospital. He thinks he can take the results right to the Narni hospital. Speriamo de si.

Afterward, we return to the merceria to pick up a few more things, including buttons and ribbon and lace, then stop at the COOP to pick up a roast chicken. I wait outside while Dino drives around with the car, and a man from Africa selling socks and things out of a shopping cart asks me if I'll buy something.

I tell him I have no money with me. He is just trying to survive, and I know that, so I tell him that next time I'll give him something. I'd rather give him a little something than buy something, but appreciate his resourcefulness. Dino arrives and I ask him for €1. I give it to the man while taking his hand in mine and tell him I do want to help him and that I hope that he has a good day. I also tell him that I am an immigrant, too, and he nods. "There but for the grace of God, go I" Dino's mother would say.

Rain continues and we drive home, with lots in the frigo to heat up for pranzo along with a freshly roasted chicken. I heat Sofi's pranzo and she's much better, so an afternoon of rest by my side while I sew will help her to be better yet.

I love that dog dearly. The thought of being away from her for a couple of weeks has me worrying about her state of mind. She is too needy, and I know it. It's our fault, of course, but we seem to take very good care of her. So what's our fault?

Sewing is such a delight, as is coming up with design ideas, not to mention attempting to turn the ideas into something the girls will love. As dark descends, we're working on a shiny silver tunic with metallic sequins in hot pink and dark blue. More tomorrow.

November 7
The tunic is a marvel, and now I realize I should go all out, and line it in bright rose pink satin. Since I'm self taught it takes me longer to figure things out, but that's part of the wonder of it.

We have plenty of rain. Dino wants risotto for pranzo, so I fix plenty, and we'll have risotto left over for pancakes tomorrow. My mind is on sewing, and I'm happy staying at home, sewing away. I recall how much I love fabrics, especially heavy silk, and aside from doing paintings of people in flowing clothes, now I'm working with the fabric itself.

It's possible that this year I may sew, if Angie has a machine. Or perhaps we'll rent one, and spend the time making costumes for the girls to play in. Either way, there will be fun activities in San Francisco.

November 8
Rain, rain, rain and thunder all night; continuing this morning. We drive up to the borgo and park and realize that November 4th is the day the Caduti (fallen soldiers) are saluted, and this means the Bomarzo band, the sindaco (mayor) and Don Renzo, starting at the monument and continuing the mass in the church.

Candida is still at home, so after mass we knock o the door, and Paola lets us in. Dear Nonna sits by the fire, and when she sees me takes a minute to realize who I am. "Porca miseria!"(pig misery) she utters. That's a slang expression for "I can't believe it!"

Paola tells us that her grandmother still has a little something in her lungs, but no fever. She'll be taken to Viterbo for an x-ray tomorrow. She also tells me that Daniela is the best sewer in Mugnano by far, but that Franca also knows how to sew. I don't really know Daniela, but if she is at the gathering tonight at the school, where local wine will be tasted and chestnuts roasted, I'll try to ask her.

This afternoon we have a visit in Amelia at Judith's palazzo, and we have not seen it for a long time. We are sure it is "over the top" in Judith's Baroque style, which is fun, and look forward to seeing the changes. It seems so long ago that we found the property and, after a year, Judith fell in love with it when we showed it to her and decided it was her fate to own it.

After pranzo, I return to sewing, after shutting down the computer. Thunderstorms rage, and it's better to shut down the computer instead of risking having an electrical crisis due to a lightning strike. Va bene.

November 9
It's another overcast day, so I spend most of the morning making a squash and potato soup. After pranzo I hope to spend the entire afternoon and early evening at my new endeavor...designing exciting things for the grand daughters' to wear and use for fun. Since they wear uniforms to school, they'll probably be even more interested in changing into these frocks after school.

I must not forget the clothes for the bambole (dolls). Surely we'll fill half of our suitcases with them. Before we leave we'll photograph them for the site, so that you can take a look and roll your eyes at how insane I am. Friends are asking me to photograph them, so don't worry. You'll get to take a look...

The monastery at Trisulti is the subject of today's Italian Notebook, and is one I have written. If you have not already subscribed, take a look at the story and the site:


I'm able to return to sewing in the afternoon while Dino is out, and this time I've made a red velvet gown, fully lined, and will enhance it with a wonderful long ribbon-y strip of embroidered white flowers. I have an idea of how to finish off the top, but need to ask Angie for a couple more measurements. It's important to finish the dresses "just right".

I've decided not to join the choir at church; practice at 9:30 at night takes all the fun out of it. If they change the time to something more sane, I'll reconsider.

November 10
It's amazing, but we finally have a day without rain. I wake with a headache, and perhaps it has to do with the pillow I used last night, or the backache I had yesterday by standing up all day sewing. Otherwise, I'm fine.

With Sofi by my side, I sew my heart out before and after pranzo, and several of the outfits are either finished or ready to finish as soon as we try them on the girls and make a few adjustments or additions to them.

I want to line all the gowns and we're out of lining, so I'll try to go with Dino to Narni to make an appointment at the hospital about his foot, and then we'll stop in Amelia on the way back at the merceria (notions and fabric shop). I'm taking my time, but will have plenty of things finished before we leave.

November 11
It's not a holiday in Italy today, but tonight we have a meeting with the Ecomuseo folks about the tree project. I'm convinced that I want the tree to have 200 lights, and tell Dino that the tiny clear Christmas lights will be perfect. I think we should purchase them now, but we'll wait until our meeting and talk about it then.

Dino tells me that we need "L.E.D." lights, and I like that idea best of all. We decide that there will be a panel next to the tree with a list of last names. A person will click on the name and the family lights will light up, directing them to where the names appear on the tree.

We don't imagine that anyone has done any work since we turned in our list, so will suggest that we have a Christmas Tree/Mugnano Tree party. We'd serve Artusi's sausage and grapes recipe, which is more than 125 years old and is very easy. Then the Ecomuseo folks will get the residents to turn in their family trees and take more ownership of the program. By the time the holidays have passed, I should have the final names and can begin to design where they are placed on the tree. Only then will I begin to paint.

Dino tries to make an appointment at the Narni hospital, but is given an April 28 date. He responds, "By that time my foot will fall off!" and the fellow at the desk responds, "Then you won't need an appointment!" Ba DUM bum.

We decide to return to Attigliano after stopping in Amelia to pick up the last batch of lining and ribbons for my sewing project. This time, the computer is down. It's always something. We still think the Italian medical system is very good overall. Remember, one can always obtain an appointment in one day if they are willing to visit a private doctor...

Stopping at Lief and Kari's, we see that they have six lugs of olives. Their local mill will accept a small amount, and that's great for them. Wherever we look on this lovely day in the country, there are nets covering the ground under groves of olive trees, trucks parked willy-nilly and family members of all ages picking away. We see Pepino while parking the car, and ask if we will still make the Pecorino cheese on Sunday. Yes, but he'll confirm. I let him know that we want to document all of it, so we'll meet him at 7AM. Sounds exciting.

I fix another cheese soufflé for pranzo, and although I don't remember when I put it in the oven, it comes out perfectly. Take a look:

I can't wait to get back to sewing, so spend the afternoon in the studio, sewing while a bright sun shines in our South-facing view.

Dino works on paperwork after taking photographs of a few of the finished pieces.

I return to sewing, and this time it's handwork. Not everything is sewn on the machine, especially the finishes. I work on a long red dress with white embroidered flowers until the sun sets. There'll be plenty left to do tomorrow and tomorrow...

The Ecomuseo meeting is tonight, and it's all about software for family trees. There are now two versions, and we'll leave the project for them to sort out while we're away. Perhaps there will be a holiday tree party, and I tell Paola Dino's idea about Artusi's sausages and grapes for a cena. She likes it, and also thinks there should be a child's program one day. Sounds good.

Nonna Candida is still not well, and has been told that Ubik is very ill and at the vet. She has not been told of his passing, so when she is better there is plenty of time to let her know.

November 12
While the "Cash for Clunkers" program in the US sees hundreds of thousands of people turn in their old cars for new, our son in his niche market of people actually wanting previously owned cars, does a great business selling vehicles like this 1987 Cadillac Eldorado, alongside motor homes and Toyotas, Hondas and even an MG TD kit car!

Dino looks forward to acting as Terence's sidekick on our trip to San Francisco.

The day begins in thick fog, while Dino chases a supplier who has gone AWOL. All Dino's legwork seems for naught until the man's father comes up with the chairs he's seeking for a client, albeit at a higher price.

Later, Patrick arrives for coffee, and the two of them leave to pick up the chairs; the client somewhat circumspect about difficulties dealing with some of these people.

After a tasty pranzo, Dino leaves for the Patrick's house, where he'll supervise installation of shelving and a built-in desk by a master falegname (woodworker) and deliver a couple of the chairs that would not fit in Patrick's van. Sun has returned in Mugnano and it's a lovely but very cold afternoon; a fire in the fireplace burns all day.

I'm at work hand sewing embroidered white flowers on a red velvet gown for the girls. Patrick agrees that a "Dolce & Gabana" styled cascade of it at two angles is the way to go adorning the gown. They say genius skips a generation, and I am proof of that, but reliving childhood must be the same, without concern about what the parents of the grand children will think. We think Terence and Angie will approve of these shenanigans, just the same. Yes, we are blessed.

On these lovely fall days, leaves congregate, fallen against a sidewalk in luminous colors of sienna and gold. In the countryside, nets are everywhere; olive picking continues day after day, with those lucky enough to have the help of friends agree to be paid for their efforts with an abundant pranzo. We've so much happening that we're not able to participate this year, other than to pick ours. That reminds me. Diego must have our olive oil ready.

While sewing the red gown, I'm thinking of the little shops called mercerias all over Italy. Each shop has an assortment of colored threads and elastic, as well as ribbons and seam binding. Unfortunately, no one has the lace seam binding that I'm used to in the U S. But each shop has something special, so whether shopping in Amelia or Viterbo, I can always find something new to help create a new vision.

The pecorino project will take place on Saturday morning, beginning at 7AM. To do the story justice for Italian Notebook, we need to capture the entire process. It will be very interesting, and Pepino makes the best pecorino I have ever eaten...ottimo!

November 13
We drive to Viterbo, where we find a place to sew the bottom of my winter coat (replace the leather edging), after being told at another negozio (store) that they sell the material but do not do the job. Va bene.

At €15, it's a very reasonable price. It will be ready by Tuesday, so then we will take it to another place in town to be cleaned, and ready for the coldest part of winter.

These days, we're watching Hell's Kitchen in the middle of the day, a reality cooking competition starring famous chef, Gordon Ramsay, and arrive just in time to watch it.

I can't say I approve of his swearing, but understand some of what he is doing to motivate the chefs to pay attention and to respect the food. It's the "in your face" nastiness that I can do without. The show, it is said, is the most famous "reality show" on TV in the US. But then, you know all that...

In the NYT: "This week, the National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the Justice Department, released the results of a survey of more than 2,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, including troubling confirmation of languishing rape case evidence. In 18 percent of open, unsolved rape cases, forensic evidence had not been submitted to a crime lab.

This is a huge insult to rape victims, who submit to a lengthy and intrusive process to have the DNA evidence harvested from their bodies. It is also an inexcusable loss for law enforcement and justice. Testing of a rape kit can identify an assailant, corroborate the victim's account of an assault, exonerate innocent defendants and help prevent a habitual offender from striking again. New York City's practice of testing every rape kit has paid off in a 70 percent arrest rate for rape that is three times the national average".

I cannot begin to imagine what this has done to the lives of countless women, and also people charged wrongly for the crime. At least NYC has set the standard; let's hope the rest of the US follows.

So many English words are derived from Latin. Vitriolic is a description fitting a telephone conversation today, during which a person ranted and raved while I sat silently, luckily on SKYPE, so that I listened hands free as I closed my eyes in disbelief. In Italian, their speech is indicated "di vetriolo".

Let's leave it at that, other than to say vitriolic also describes sulfuric acid, and in this case, sharp or bitter speech, as if one is foaming at the mouth.

The Latin word is "vitreous" which also means glassy, as in a "vitrine" or glass case. We have a wonderful one in the kitchen, quite old, and when we purchased it from a dealer right after we purchased this house, it was used to store scientific instruments. After it was sold to us, the man wanted to renege, but it was too late.

I feel somewhat relieved to have the situation "over and done with", and am reminded of the line from the Rolling Stones, "You don't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need".

I think of Hell, and of that person's Judgment Day. It's enough for me and I smile, returning to the studio and creating a gown lovelier than I thought I ever could. Hopefully I will move on to making the sleeves tomorrow.

I have no idea how I should be proceeding, but step-by-step thing seem to come out well. I am strangely inspired, or is it the gown of "Cruella de Ville?" Ha ha.

Yes, it is a strange "Friday the 13th", but in Italy, Friday the 17th is bad luck, or sfortunato. Since I consider myself more than a bit "Italian", I don't let his vitriol get to me. I guess I just feel sorry for him for thinking he needed to behave in this manner.

I end the day still sewing, loving the gown and looking forward to working on it tomorrow.

November 14
It's 6AM, and we're awake, for at 7AM we drive with Pepino to nearby Sippicciano to meet a pastore (shepherd) to obtain sheep's milk right from the source. A meeting originally scheduled for tomorrow, the sheep are to be moved to another location (no more grass?) then. So today is a must, if we are to document the making of Pepino's fabulous Pecorino cheese.

We're surrounded by fog, and travel in La Giallina, with Pepino in front and Sofi and I sitting in back. Pepe tells us that many years ago, as many as eighteen people traveled back to Mugnano from Viterbo. I have no idea what this means, so there is a story somewhere. Put that on the list to ask Paola or Tiziano about.

Our dear friend and now mentor wears a cotton quilted dark blue baseball cap with flaps that fold down to cover his ears and back of his head. This appears a practical alternative to the somewhat silly baseball caps we are both wearing.

We talk about what to drink on a cold day, and Pepino tells us to heat up wine and add sugar. The alcohol burns away and it's a remedy for a fever as well. We tell him about our drink of hot water, lemon, honey and freshly grated ginger and he approves. It's a great drink if you have not tried it.

"Seconda me..." Pepe begins often... that mean "according to me..." We think that belongs in the "a certo punto (at a certain point) camp" of sayings that are thrown into a conversation and may or may not mean anything.

He views the photos of our nipotini (granddaughters) and, with a smile, calls them "fanatica" about dance. Si, certo!

Hunters are all about, and our mentor confirms that hunting season lasts from November 1st to the last day of January. The noise of the rifles is so loud in the valley; I cringe when I hear it, which takes place sometimes once or twice a day at this time of year.

At Lungomare Nanna, near Poggio del Castagno, we hear the pastore (shepherd) holler out, "Stai zitto! (be quiet)" to his dogs. There is a stradabianca (white road) near our destination, so our little car sitting high off the ground is perfect for the bumpy path.

We meet young Pietro Zizi, and learn that his family was originally from Mugnano. Later we meet his mother, a very friendly Maria. Paolo's father, Matteo, sits alone and drinks, "comé Sfingo" (like a Sphinx), not moving, ever...The family is Sardinian, and a person from Sardinia is called a Sarda. "un brigante Sardo" (Sardinians are sometimes referred to in this way).

"Wuff! Wuff!" Huge white aggressive Maremenna dogs flank the car, running alongside as we follow Paolo to the pens where hundreds of sheep move to and fro, as if they're attached to the car with Velcro.

During the process, several of the dogs, including the mother (Anuke) of little cuccolo (puppy) Jimmy, wait patiently, eyes fixed on the sheep. They know their jobs well, and, like Secret Service agents, are ready to pounce at a moment's notice. I look at the little butterball and call his name: "Jimmy!" and the next instant he's by my side. Little Sofi, why won't you do that?

The sheep in their pens adjacent to the long milking truck have been there for several hours to make them somewhat hungry. Paolo presses a button and the first batch of sheep run forward up a ramp into the truck, as if they're horses lined up at a race, with little stalls containing door flaps for each one. Once they've lined up, we notice there is now a little food to eat in front of each nose, so they must remember this.

Once the stations are full, any that are left back up and turn back down the plank, waiting their turn. With each group, a little one now and then is boxed in, but tries to hide under an adult. These little ones must still be fed by the adult females, but what do I know? I obviously was not raised on a farm.

Mamma Maria attaches the plastic and rubber hoses to the udders of the sheep, and once they've all finished giving their milk, the hoses are unattached, chutes open onto the opposite side of the truck and the animals scramble down to their next pen.

Near the front of the truck is the machine holding the milk, and Pepino puts his 30 liter container down underneath it to receive his milk...about 15 liters of it. There are two handles on the container, and Dino and Pepino each take a handle and walk it back to the car, as if they're Jimmy Durante saying "Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash..." at the end of the show.

Here's another genealogical lesson about Mugnano as we turn left onto the Mugnano road: Andrea Cozzi, who owns the sporta pesca (fishing pond) across the road and the orto at the corner, is Luca Cozzi's father. Luca is the man who will someday paint our house.

Listen up, you genealogical historians: Luca's mother, Andrea's wife, is the sister of Franco Monchini, one of our neighbors.

Back at Pepino's house, Sofi licks milk off the side of the big plastic container, while Pepino takes the giant copper pot, owned previously by his mother, to clean it up after the last user burned something at the bottom.

I'm not sure if he's talking to us or to himself when he lowers his head and says, "La madre degli imbecilli Ź sempre incinta!"...... ("the mother is an imbecile, and always pregnant".)

As if that were not enough, he cannot find his special thermometer to check the temperature while we heat up the milk in the giant copper pentola (pot). Ah, he lent the thermometer to his cousin, Antonella, to use with her young children at school. In a few minutes, he's back, having borrowed another from a neighbor. Here in Mugnano there are many contadini (farmers), and sharing resources and helping others out is what we do.

The thermometer is inserted in the liquid until it reaches 35 degrees C before adding rennet...A scaccia di ornello (utensil) is used to stir the liquid, and if the utensil has spines (legno di spina), all the better. The milk is stirred always in the same direction, and rennet (caglio liquido) is added: 1 Tbsp. for every 10 liters, mixed with a glass of water. The rennet is made from vegetables and flowers (?).

When out in the countryside, a pastore (shepherd) uses his finger or his eye while standing over a fire to tell if the temperature is just right. A passino (strainer) is used to gather pieces of anything that is not milk. After the rennet is added, the mixture is stirred rapidly.

At 41 degrees C, it is ready. Pecorino are the solids on the top of the mixture; it is pressed down to be hardened into a mold and the ricotta is made with what's left, stirring until the temperature reaches 68 degrees (F?) to mix the rest of the milk that was set aside. When the temperature of one liter reaches 68 degrees, stop stirring. "Se fortuna, sei cagli" (if we're lucky, it will be cheese) and the process takes twenty to thirty minutes depending on the milk to make it curdle. Now we have ricotta, and a fuscella (strainer with holes) is used. Pepino tests with the back of his finger...when the finger comes out clean with no residue, the curd is ready. During the process, steam rises like fog; you can see the texture forming, like an erupting volcano. It's like cottage cheese, but the higher the temperature, the harder the cheese becomes. "Che cosa non perfetta non troppo bene" (When it's not perfect it's not very good.) He used a finger to achieve an impronta (indentation imprint or finger print) Gioncatta is the cheese after it has been left. . Back at home, I spend most of the rest of the day on one beautiful gown for the girls, fully lined, and later I'll work on elaborate sleeves for it.

Dino has been with a client and showing a property, so we have pranzo mid afternoon, including pasta with a fresh ricotta sauce, from this morning's cheese making. It's really good, for I've adapted a very bland recipe to add some punch to it. Some day I'll add it to the site. Right now, it's all about sewing for our darling granddaughters...time is running out.

Dino goes to the rescue several times today on the phone with a couple who might be interested in purchasing Kate and Merritt's house. They are one more couple that rely on GPS navigation, and in their case, they spent three hours trying to navigate back from a simple jaunt on country roads. He guides them on the phone to the A-1 and meets them to bring them to our house to relax by the fire with some wine and cheese.

We're tired when they leave, and I'm too tired to return to sewing; I'll begin again first thing in the morning.

At church I light a candle for Candida, and we stop by to see her afterward. She does not look good, and I give her a little backrub as she sits by the fire, wrapped in sweaters. She is so tired; she just wants to be in bed. This is not the Candida I know and love, the woman walking each day to their orto next to our property. These days she's not able to walk at all.

I spend a lot of the day sewing, and enjoy it greatly, but standing all day takes its toll. We do know that we will have many things for the girls to wear and play with, and Angie confirms that they have a mini child's sewing machine, used for hemming, I imagine. So it will help if I need to make adjustments, and I'm sure there will be some.

These days the the leaves everywhere are golden; I'm especially pleased with the wisteria on our front terrace; it's really beautiful. I'm hopeful Dino will take a photo and share it with you here.

November 16
I do love the sewing, and have fun with some more doll dresses. We'll share them with you soon.

Dino is out for most of the morning, this time with a client who is having a terrible time building a house. Yes, there are stories of disaster in Italy, with foreigners being taken by unscrupulous characters, and we've been brought in late to the table here.

But in this case, the technico (engineer) of the Comune in Montecchio, shoulders some of the blame. For the past several months, Dino has made inroads working with local suppliers to deliver what he and the client specifies. At every turn, there are complications. We feel for these people, who are smart and resourceful themselves, but are caught up in a bureaucratic snafoo.

November 17
I have a pedicure in the morning, and afterward we take Sofi to our good friends in Orvieto to stay with them while we are gone. I hate leaving her, and we have put off packing to minimize her stress, but she is a knowing soul, and thankfully Candace and Frank love her and she loves them.

There are at least two gowns to sew from scratch, and last night I began the first one. The material is ivory damask, and the lining is a dark teal blue. There is enough material to make a stole for each one, with blue on one side and the damask on the other. For young girls, the stole will be fun additions. Sounds as if there will be a fashion show on Thanksgiving day, with all the young girls modeling with their new gowns and the dolls.

I realize there is enough ivory damask to make yet another princess gown, so I'm going to make it, although it won't be lined. If someone decides to get married in the family, there'll be a bevy of little angels all ready to march down the aisle in front of the bride.

Sun blesses us on this day, and the leaves from the kaki(persimmon) tree are just beautiful, falling rapidly on the terrace and interspersed with delicate golden wisteria leaves. Without Sofi by my side there is an emptiness, but she was so joyous at the thought that she'd see Candace and Frank that I'm happy she'll have a good time.

After a haircut for Dino on the front terrace (by now I'm becoming more comfortable with his razor), it's back up to sewing. I've put together a few things for him to pack, but don't intend to take much. We always take too much and wear the same things, so let's see if we can really pare down.

November 18
We leave at 5:30, driving the car to the long term parking at the airport. The flight from Rome to Atlanta takes 10 hours, Atlanta layover 6 hours then on to SFO another 6 hours. Dino's finger is of grave concern, so we find the Health Clinic at Atlanta airport, where a fine doctor drains and puts a dressing on his finger. Speaking of finger, here's Dino giving it to the doctor, in jest, of course. The doctor is really a fine one.

The first flight to Atlanta is a gruesome one, with the entertainment system not working. More than ten hours in length, we're each given a $100 voucher toward future trips as we leave. We're then able to get on an earlier flight, so instead of arriving at Terence's at about 1AM with the rental car, we're there just after 10 PM. Since we've been awake since before 5AM Italy time, which was 8PM San Francisco time, we'll have traveled more than 24 hours! That's the usual length of time.

By the time you read this, we'll have returned home to Mugnano and will fill you in on the first December posting, around December 16th.


(If you haven't guessed - the girls are our twin grand daughters, Nicole and Marissa, age 5½.)

December 1-7
We've been in the U S, visiting our family. Here are some pix to prove it!

December 8
We are awake for most of the night, and land in Rome at just before 7:30. All our luggage arrives intact, and the long-term shuttle brings us to our car.

After stopping quickly in Mugnano to drop off the luggage, we drive on to Orvieto to pick up little Sofi, who barks noisily as she sees us through the glass panel at the bottom of the door. All is well, and after many kisses from Sofi and tea with Frank and Candace, we return home.

By about 3:30 PM we're showered and in bed. Despite waking up at what we thought was 7:30 AM and wondering why it's dark outside, we are able to sleep pretty well for the rest of the day.

Rosina stands on her balcony and welcomes Dino and me home. It's so good to lie in our own bed. In our absence, the only problem was electrical; there must have been a strong storm that turned our power off; both frigos and the freezer have defrosted, leaving a mess.

The phone won't work, but after awhile Dino coaxes it back. Generally, we've had an easy return.

December 9
We sleep in late; then have capuccinos and toasted panettone. Dino tries several times to leave for Viterbo, but returns home each time to pick up something he forgot or to defrost the outdoor freezer...Finally he is on his way.

I remain somewhat groggy, but spend the rest of the morning sorting through recipes we've collected in a binder over the years. It's a project I've ignored for a long time, but today is the day. We'll finish the project after Dino buys more plastic sleeves and a new binder. These are recipes I use and like and have printed out to use in the kitchen. The best ones we'll add to the site, but that's another project for another winter day.

Around the time we arrived in Mugnano yesterday, Rose Barberini died at the age of 88 of a heart attack. She had worn a pacemaker for several years and died at home. Hers was the second-to-last four-generation family in Mugnano; living with her daughter, Renata and husband Tonino, near her granddaughter Serena and husband Mauro, great granddaughter Erica and great grandson Salvatore. We think her sister, still living, may be Francesco and Pia's mother.

Here is a recent photo (31May2009) of Rosa, great grandson Salvatore and daughter Renata.

We walk up to the funeral, with Dino's confraternity garb over his arm. He and Enzo participate in the mass, while I sit in the last row with Loredana. Afterward, I join the women at the front of the procession to the cemetery.

The family takes Rosa's death hard, and while we walk to the cemetery after the mass, we recite the rosary beginning, "Santa Maria, madre di Dio, prega per noi.."; these are the same versus uttered yesterday on the day of Maria's Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Renzo is one of the pallbearers, as Rosa was an aunt or a cousin. His mother, Marsiglia Nulli, is a first cousin. So we can add the date of death to another of Mugnano's own, thinking of the families that are so intertwined as Dino and I walk home together from the cemetery.

The weather has been wonderful and warm, with a bright sun reflecting off the pale gravel on the terrace. Rosina shows me the tiny white lights on her balcony and asks us if we'll light our "tree" again. I tell her tomorrow. She smiles and tells me the weather will be good.

Since it's almost dark, we agree that we'll "raise" the tree tomorrow on the terrace, and watch TV until 11PM, when we happily jump into bed.

December 10
It's after noon when we awake, and what a sleep we've had! I'd still like our morning espressos and a piece of panettone, so we have breakfast at the time we'd usually have pranzo, then work on putting up the lights on the terrace and pulling weeds.

There has obviously been a lot of rain; Peppino's garden below is a bright green, as is the grass in the entire valley. So no wonder we have weeds; some as big as small bushes.

Neighbors happily comment on our lighting project on this beautiful and mild day as they walk to and from their ortos or the cemetery, and we confirm that the tree is meant to welcome people to Mugnano and to greet them again when they leave.

It's now a tradition; one that the neighbors all like. Marie tells us she's missed the activity below her house while we were away, and Rosina tells us the tree with all its lights is..."Benissimo!"

At one time when we were first here, we were told that Rosina was "nosy", and to watch out for her. But we think of Rosina and Marie differently; we like them looking down upon us and don't consider them nosy at all. They're friendly neighbors, and what's more, what's to be nosy about? If we want privacy, we'll entertain in the middle garden under the pergola.

We're going to sell prints of Moona Lisa online, and a new friend in California agrees to make the prints for us and to ship them out. As soon as we figure out what to do and how to do it, we'll let you know.

We feel as if we have really been missed while we were away, and are so happy to be "home". Everywhere we look, we see wonderful and familiar images: Peppino walking Maggiolino and Spillo on their land, the women walking to the cemetery (on this day, the daughter and grand- daughter of Rosa join the others as they make their first solo visits), cars coming and going of people we know, the borgo of Bomarzo, Tiziano's archeological land, the mighty tower of the village, Peppino's orto (this time without a visit by Candida, who remains at home)...

We eat our main meal of the day at just before 6PM, a tasty pasta dish with pieces of yesterday's roast chicken, and settle down to our regular daily activities. After watching Obama's acceptance speech for his Nobel Peace Prize, we wonder about how he will use this award to forward the cause for peace. God bless him, is all I can say...

Tomorrow, I'll talk about current things happening in Italy.

December 11
Norman Solomon writes about Obama's Nobel Prize Laureate speech: "The oratory sugarcoats the poisons, helping to kill hope in the name of it." I still have trouble with his concept that war can be justified in the name of peace.

I have no idea what day it is. This morning I slept in until 11, when Paola called from work in Rome. Earlier, unable to sleep, I went downstairs and read from quarter of four until quarter of six. Watching first light is such a lovely thing; I wanted to sit outside to watch the light unfold, but realized it's too cold.

Back in bed, I did conk off, although Dino got up and drove to Tenaglie to check on a property. One client wants to take their property off the market, another wants to put theirs back on. The more things change, the more they stay the same...

After pranzo there is some raking of leaves on the raised herb bed in front of the loggia, and Dino wants a haircut. Va bene.

We notice that Pietro has plenty of persimmons ripening on a tree in his garden. So let's talk about the Persimmon...

Persimmons are in season now through January. The persimmons we grow are an average of three ounces and we are told provides approximately half the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, and is high in potassium. Calorie wise, it's about 77 calories.

Our persimmons, called kaki in Spain and Italy, are of the Hachiyas variety. They are considered delicious only when very soft. To pick one, be sure the skin is intact, for when ripe it feels as if it is full of jelly. This is the consistency to use when making persimmon puddings. If you pick one that is not quite ripe, it can ripen at room temperature to soften.

Some people put their kaki in the freezer, eating them when partially thawed with a spoon as if they are a sorbet. It's time to begin the puddings, so we drive over to Pietro's to pick up a few...

We stop to pick up several persimmons, and tomorrow the marathon of steamed puddings will begin for Christmas. It's a tradition here, and now that we can steam them in the loggia with lots of air to circulate, it's not such a problem; people really love them.

Tonight we visit Giordano's art opening in Bomarzo; he also has a show in the Comune in Attiliano. Since the subjects are so diverse, he decided not to show them together. We're looking forward to seeing photographs of his people from India tomorrow. Here he is in front of his tulips.

Suzanne arrives at the gallery and catches us up with Prue's situation. We think she's getting better, after a stint in the hospital for something to do with an old appendix surgery, but have a feeling she's going to return to the U S to live. We're not sure, but hope Prue lives wherever she is happiest.

December 12
I think we're getting acclimated to the time zones, after a few rough starts. Sun greets us early, and today we'll begin making steamed persimmon puddings, our holiday gifts for friends and neighbors.

While Sofi sits outside in the sun, and it is a beautiful day, we ready the loggia for the two-hour long process of steaming the puddings. Using Pietro's kaki, for he is away and has plenty on his tree, we finish our first three before pranzo, a frittata made with spaghetti and caciota cheese. If you've not tried this, it's a foolproof idea for left over spaghetti or pasta of any shape.

Frittata Macherroni

This easy recipe is from Paola of Palestrina, whom we have not seen in ages. It can be served hot or at room temperature.

Cook up a batch of pasta, any kind will do; leftover pasta is fine. Mix the cooled or cold cooked pasta with about a cup of grated cheese and five eggs to a box of cooked and cooled pasta. In a large pan, put butter, then half of the pasta mixture, then layers of prosciutto and cacciotta cheese. Paola tells us that mozzarella is fine, as is just about anything else. "The more you add, the more you have!" she tells us. Add the rest of the pasta mixture and press down.

Cook it slowly on top of the stove, until it turns golden brown on the bottom. Put a large platter over it and flip them both, then slide it back into the pan, cooking the other side until it is crunchy as well.

That's it. Serve it hot, serve it warm, serve it cold.

In the afternoon, we make three more steamed persimmon puddings, but I burn the palm of my left hand while moving a pentola (pan) sitting on top of the stove, so that's it for a few days. I'm really fine, and after holding it under running cold water, realize it's not much of a burn at all; just enough to get out of doing any dishes for a few days.

December 13
Under gloomy and foggy skies, we drive up to church and agree to have coffee with Candida and Paola and their family afterward. There is a new priest; one who seems friendly. We look forward to getting to know him, although he is not our official priest.

At Peppino's, we see that Candida is not ready for us, so agree to return in the afternoon, which means around 5PM. We drive on to Il Pallone to Nando's for cornetti glassatta (melted sugar covered airy croissants, just out of the oven...too fabulous for words) and cappuccinos.

Dino's favorite meatloaf is today's pranzo, and later we return to Peppino's, where Candida emerges and looks...so much younger! Our dear Nonna Candida sits at the table across from us and tells us she's afraid of...nothing! We can't get over how young she looks. Her family takes such good care of her...feeding her a banana and giving her medicine before we leave. It's impossible not to love this woman, who is almost 88 and looks 60...

Paola and Fulvia and Mario sit with us to go over the Pecorino story, and since Peppino is not around, she keeps the draft to ask him a few questions about it. We agree that I'll submit the story to a few magazines and see if we can make Peppino famous for fifteen minutes...

Back at home, it's as if I'm seeing things for the first time; I love our house and this village so, that each scene I take in makes me smile: the piopi (poplars) across from us in the valley having lost their leaves but stand tall and delicate against the dark green evergreens, the hills that remind us of the hills in Carmel Valley, the far hills around Ferrentillo, covered with snow...everything is delicious eye candy.

Unfortunately, there is something afoot regarding a fosso biologica somewhere between Mugnano and Giove that appears to have sinister connections. Antonio and Alberto of Ecomuseo are upset, and Francesco affirms his vigilance to get to the heart of the story.

Michelle Noon raises our concerns, but there is nothing we can do at this point. She tells us that the owner of the land told her that in time he'd burn whatever he wants there. Here we are in the underbelly of Italy, again; this time closer to it than we'd like.

With a roaring fire in the fireplace, we settle down for an evening in front of the TV. It's so good to be home, no matter the news.

December 14
Berlusconi is taken to the hospital, after being hit in the face at a rally. His proverbial smile has been damaged; we'll try to find out more.

The weather is overcast and gloomy, and that's what we're to expect for most of the next week, which means plenty of time for reading. Waiting for our return from our trip is a book I've ordered, Write me a Poem, Baby, by H. Allen Smith. I've found, after much internet research, that the phrase my mother used often, "Useless to talk, said the French spy", was noted in this book.

Yes, the phrase is there, and it was originally written in a book by Norman Mattson, entitled, The Box that Would Not Open.

But in this case, the reference is not really explained, except to say that the phrase has taken on a life of its own. "Whenever any troublesome situation arises and it can't be resolved by sober discussion, someone in the family will finally shrug and say, "Useless to talk, said the French spy." The very speaking of the line usually restores good humor and clears the atmosphere, and the problem at hand is quickly solved."

That's not how I interpret the line; I have used it during a discussion when there does not appear to be a satisfactory conclusion and my opinion does not hold weight. The line is a powerful one, if only powerful to me personally: I am passionate about my convictions.

Dino thinks I should sew a damask cloth we've hung over a rod to hide our luggage for some years. I agree to take out the sewing machine and finish it correctly, once we've measured it off. These days, sewing on the machine is an easy task.

After pranzo the sewing and re-hanging is easily done, and I put things away; it is then that I find a purse we've been looking for. We have not found the grey and white striped cloths for the loggia, though, although Dino will give it a try when he arrives home from Viterbo. This house is so small that it is difficult not to find what we are looking for; sometimes we just seem to overlook things, just the same.

There is choir practice tonight and I'm not a fan of traveling out at night in bad weather. We'll see how I feel later; I do love to sing in church, so it may be fun.

We travel out, and for an hour I sit with neighbors and sing a few hymns. I don't know if we're any good as a group, and Don Renzo is not a choirmaster type, so I think I'll see if I can find my metronome to take to the next practice.

We're to sing at Christmas Mass, probably Adeste Fidelis and Silent Night (in Italian). We have word tonight, but no music. This tells me we're on our own. We'll practice again later in the week and I like the group a lot; it will be fun.

December 15
With things put away, it's time to return to painting; I think I know how to fix Salvatore's face below his eyes and soon that painting will be finished. I'm going to try to use Liquin more prominently, as Patrick tells me that it gives a better texture to the paint and evens it out.

I don't return to painting, for Dino would like me to sew two wind guards to go inside the front door and the door to the balcony. I come up with an idea, and we'll need fabric and whatever we use to stuff it.

We drive to Viterbo to find material, and land at the shop near OBI. There are not a lot of people there, and a young woman helps us sort through aisles of fabrics, wide enough to make what I'd like. After half an hour sifting through bright colors, we find a salvia (sage) damask, quite heavy, that will complement the fabric upstairs I've just sewn and work downstairs in the front hall as well.

Back at home I work on the fabric, and decide to make four "caps"... two for each one. We wrap up the inside and cut and tie it; then I spend an inordinate amount of time making the round caps. The day ends with me wanting to watch TV instead of finishing tonight. It will take most of tomorrow to finish, so why rush?

The weather is overcast and cold, cold, cold. With fires in the fireplace, we're cozy and warm and lazy for the rest of the day, except for a SKYPE call to the nipotini (Marissa and Nicole) to check in. They are so much fun.

December 16
There is trouble with the computer, it's fan motor sounds loudly at odd hours, so Dino makes an appointment with the Genius Bar at Apple in Rome, and leaves for a few hours.

I work a little on the fabric project; then stop to fix a squash and potato and carrot soup with fresh ginger and stuffed mushrooms for pranzo. Everything is tasty, and I'm energized to finish the two wind guards for the doors this afternoon. Can't remember what they're called in Italian, but when I find out, I'll let you know...

I'm finished sewing by 6 PM, and we sit for the evening by the fire, watching TV and drinking hot water, lemon, fresh ginger and honey. Yes, I have a cold, and hope I can shake it.

December 17
This in from truthout.org: "Two weeks earlier, in Italy, Cardinal Bertone, responding to the controversial ruling of the European Court of Human Rights that determined that the presence of the crucifix in Italian public schools violated both a student's right to religious freedom and parents' right to educate their children in accordance with their own convictions, said: "This Europe of the third millennium leaves us with only the pumpkins of Halloween, and takes away our most precious symbols."

"These sentiments were echoed by Italian authorities and the Italian Episcopal Conference, which issued a press release declaring that the crucifix was not merely a religious sign, but also a cultural marker that symbolized the fundamental role that religious values have played in the history and heritage of the Italian people. Vatican spokesperson Father Federico Lombardi agreed, adding that "religion is an essential component of our civilization; for this reason it is wrong and myopic to want to exclude it from the reality of contemporary education."

I see both sides of the argument, but here in our village in Italy we want to do whatever we can to preserve the character and culture of the place in which we live. Since we are fresh off a plane from the U S, where the homogenized culture of sameness is prevalent, we would hate to see the crucifix taken down in public places, although we do understand the importance of the separation of church and state. For us it is a cultural as well as a religious symbol.

So what about people coming from other lands and settling here? Would it be wrong for them to not display their cultural symbols? I'm glad that I do not have to wrestle with that. It's a very difficult issue.

I'm having enough trouble dealing with a head cold, which has me lolling about and wanting to stay in bed to deal with it. That means I won't attend choir practice tonight. I'm sorry for that.

December 18
After a night of hacking cough and not much sleep, whatever I have continues. We're beginning to think I have allergies, and will see if I can make an appointment with someone Candace has used and recommends.

I fix a red cabbage for pranzo, along with mashed potatoes. I'm ready to make more loaves of delicious bread, and the recipe I like the best calls for potatoes. Without thinking I add some cream and butter to the mashed potatoes, so that will probably nix my idea for using it to make bread...but perhaps not. I'll try to use the potatoes tomorrow... what's the worst that can happen?

After pranzo I return to cooking the persimmon puddings; Dino thinks this can be the last three, but we've run out of sugar. To the rescue, Dino drives off to Il Pallone to pick up more.

Earlier I used the rest of the green damask material to make a smoke deflector for the fireplace, the same size as the one that hangs there now. Since we have the fabric, it adds a little Christmas-y touch...especially since we don't really decorate for the holidays. Now I can put the sewing machine away and return to painting, which I have missed a great deal.

December 19
I'm somewhat feeling better, but continue to take the medicine. I still have not returned to painting.

After breakfast, I begin to make a loaf of bread, or two loaves, depending on how much dough there is, with no real recipe and a few ideas. I'll wait a day or so before trying the bread made with our mashed potatoes, a bread that is really excellent.

There's finally no rain, but the temperature is cold. There's time to finish the book, Casa Rossaby Francesca Marciano, and I recommend it highly, although it left me feeling quite unsettled. I do want to know more about the author and to read more of her work and would you imagine? She's written a book about Afghanistan!

I want to know more about her, so I read an interview with her in which she comments about the Italian book, "to a certain extent, the story of these two sisters can be read as an attempt to understand how ideology is a consequence and not a cause."

It has me thinking of passion and youth, and wishing we could educate the growing young people of the world to be guided by peace and respect for one another instead of leaving them to take up causes that seem to satisfy their current thinking or the thinking of their peers, no matter how dangerous or destructive.

Here there are flowers budding on nespola trees and on succulents; I'm hoping they'll do well this winter. We've not had bad storms, although much of Europe is bundled in snow.

We're invited to a holiday party at Kay and Csaba's in Orvieto, and it's great fun. We pick up Candace and Frank on the way, and Dino stops to hang a light fixture for them first. There are friends at the party we have not seen for a while and new friends to meet. Home before midnight, we can't wait to get under the down comforter....but is that one of my enemies as I try to figure out what I am allergic to that keeps me awake and coughing every night?

December 20
It's Sunday, so we drive up to church and I'm invited to sit up front with my choir buddies, so Dino watches me from behind. We all sing loudly, albeit not always in tune, and it's a good feeling to feel a part of a "pack". This one is full of life, as attested by Serena, who shakes her head at Laura Perini, who talks often during the mass. She's obviously the reason her son, Andrea, is such a ball of fun.

I'm asked if I'll play the violin for San Vincenzo's feast day in January, and I'm skeptical. Later Dino tells me "No way!", sternly confirming that my arm has moved the bow for the last time. It's a good thing, for I would have taken the violin out and probably injured my arm, just wanting to help.

I do have a little metronome, and take it out later and dust it off. I'll bring it to choir practice on Monday night to see if it can help us to be more of one voice. The tick-tick-ticking of it may work. We'll see.

Afterward, we drive to Il Pallone and have glassata and cappuccinos at Bar Nando, then shop for a few things in the market. Sofi greets us back at home, and we take her photo to add to our holiday card, and send it out. If you're on our mailing list, you've received it by now. If not, look at the December 24th posting to see it.

We read a little and stay warm before the fire in the afternoon and evening. Candace gives me information about a doctor of hers near Marta who is a great allergist. I'm somewhat skeptical, for she claimed Candace was just about allergic to everything. Candace was able to cure an ongoing problem, however, so we'll see if our doctor will give us a prescription to visit her; otherwise it will be a private visit.

December 21
Did I speak too soon? The weather plunges to -5 degrees C, and that means the lemon and kumquat trees are in danger of freezing to death. It takes until noon for us to be able to get hot water, but no matter. We're in front of the fire for most of the day, and I'm hopeful Dino will purchase the white fabric so that we can cover the tree before nightfall.

December 22
We've had the material to cover the lemon tree all the time, but there's so much going on that during these days of getting ready for Babbo's big night and choir practice and holiday meals, nothing seems to get done.

December 23
We've had rain off and on, and below freezing temperatures, especially yesterday, but today the weather is warm and balmy with a crazy wind, somewhat like the last minute out of control revelers on a big night out.

We make a last batch of kaki budinos (steamed persimmon puddings), which have become a tradition here, and these are given out to our closest friends and neighbors. Since we've moved one stove to the loggia, this work is so much easier.

It's time to make my traditional holiday applesauce for the Christmas meal, which is a tradition from childhood. It's made with the Foley food mill my mother used, so the "Foley" is probably 75 years young and still works perfectly. I love this applesauce, made with lemons, sticks of cinnamon, chodi di garafano (cloves) a bag of apples and brown sugar cooked in the big copper pot my mother gave us soon after we were married. Sometimes we add in a liquor, but it's just as good without it.

The applesauce brings fond memories of cooking in the kitchen with my mother, who was a remarkable chef when she was in the mood for it. I remember laughing and dancing to holiday music with her. Who were her favorites? James Brown and Jay and the Americans; Jay for singing Cara Mia Mine while her dog, Jezebel, put back her head and howled at the high notes. James Brown was saved for the midnight hours, when my mother danced to his music in front of the TV in the sunroom.

Family traditions are important, so I'll stop to get an email off to niece Sarah, to see if she knows how to make the applesauce and let her know if she does not. She's so appreciative and will love hearing about it.

December 24
It's the witching day in our house, between getting gifts ready for Babbo Natale (Mugnano's Santa Claus) and preparing for tomorrow's holiday meal.

This morning begins with Joan and Patrick stopping by for cappuccinos and glassatas and a visit. After they leave, Dino drives off to Lugnano to the butcher to pick up the roast for tomorrow. Back at home, after pranzo, we work on the gifts and arrange them in the big wicker basket.

There is rain off and on, and although it is not cold, tonight we'll have rain. So in addition to Babbo's rounds, which include a stop in Bomarzo for the twins and below at the Gasperoni's by car, we walk all around the village in the rain.

After gift distribution, we return home, change clothes, and return to the borgo, where I sing in the choir at mass and Dino is on the altar as a Confraternity member. Let's take the next few hours slowly...

Cabbage in red wine...check; applesauce...check; stuffed mushrooms...check; squash, carrot and potato soup with ginger...check; steamed persimmon pudding...check; wrapped gifts for the children...check; we're ready to brave the rain for Babbo Natale's big night.

After a merry and wet round of toys and goodies, we're back in time to change clothes and return to mass. This time, Dino is on the altar and I'm in front with my coro (choir) mates; we're not all that good, but plenty loud. Va bene.

There's some discussion afterward among us, begun by Serena about a few members chatting through the mass, but I stand and just look straight ahead. At least no one blames me, for obvious reasons (what would I say?)

Before mass, we're greeted by the new priest again, who tells us his name is Padre Angelo and he speaks a little English! "One time we'll have the mass in English!" O dio! "Non necessario!" I retort. I don't think that's a good idea...

Padre Angelo is a friendly but wordy priest...his homily continues on and on. I don't mind, but I do mind not being able to take communion... It appears the coro (choir) sings through the communion. Tomorrow I'll find a way. It's just not right...

We stop for a minute at Vincenza's to give her a photo of her when she won the baking competition last summer, but they're all tired. So are we, returning home, at midnight.

Auguri and tanti belli cosi! (Holiday greetings and all good things to you!)

(If you haven't guessed - the girls are our twin grand daughters, Nicole and Marissa, age 5½.)

December 25
It's Christmas morning, but in church, the event is anti-climatic. Don Renzo arrives and takes the four Advent candles away from the altar. He knows the right thing to do.

There are six of us in the coro, and there is chattering in the front row during mass. When it is time for communion and we finish singing, Don Renzo stands and waits for Rosita and I to go up to take communion. I think everything is fine until the mass ends; Rosita let's fly with condemnation of those in the first row of the coro, for this is serious business and they should not be talking during the mass.

I stand silent. Rosita leaves and the women in the front row giggle like children. This is a somewhat unruly group, and why not? The village is full of spirited people. I agree with Rosita that it would be good to be respectful and silent during the mass, but people are what they are.

"You can only be you, and I can only be me..."; this a line from a piece of music I love by Eva Cassidy. It is so true; if I do not judge others on this day, or any day, that will be a good thing.

We drive home after mass; it's very windy but there is not much rain...just a drop or two. The temperature is quite warm. Actually, this is headache weather, so I'll be vigilant.

Back at home, there's the roast to prepare by heating a little oil in a heavy pan and browning it partly on all sides, then putting a breadcrumb and herb crust on it after covering it with Dijon mustard. Once in the oven, I can do what is left to prepare the rest of the meal and enjoy the day.

We stop for a quick breakfast and cappuccinos and a few words of love and then the wind hastens us on our way to preparing the rest of the meal before Frank and Candace arrive.

Here's the menu:

-Hildegarde's cheese spread on celery (traditional)
-squash and carrot and potato soup with fresh ginger
-roast pork rib roast in herb crust
-homemade applesauce (traditional)
-stuffed mushroom caps
-red cabbage in wine
-two great red wines
-ripe tiny red pears stuffed with gorgonzola and walnuts; -steamed persimmon pudding flambé with Contreau

The weather is warm and windy; it's too warm for a fire, but we add candlelight for atmosphere as well as sprigs of fresh laurel from our tree.

It's a sweet and wonderful afternoon with our good friends, Frank and Candace, whom Sofi loves, and why not? They are her godparents...

As the sun begins to set, our friends leave for another festa and we clean up the kitchen and put leftovers away, then sit and relax by the TV.

I'm left with the thoughts of Don Renzo, our parish priest, who reminded us during mass this morning that today is the beginning of another liturgical year, and instead of wishing others "Buon Natale" (Merry Cristmas), he suggests that we wish others "Santo Natale".

For me, I love the phrase, "Tanti belli cosi!" (all good things to come your way). The response is "Anche voi"...the same to you.

That's what I hope for you...

December 26
Today's another holiday in Italy, Santo Stefano. It begins with rain and sleeping late. There's no reason to do much of anything, so I read and Dino putters. He makes a fire, we watch a movie we've just rented, and hang out. We did not attend mass this morning, but will tomorrow. We enjoy a lazy day, and hope you are, too.

December 27
Happy Birthday, Dad. You've been gone for almost twenty years, but you remain in my heart. These days, I tell Dino he is becoming more like you and he agrees to trim his beard...ha!

I light a candle before mass for my father, and also one for my brother. Only later do I realize I have not lit one for my mother, and this is the day that the family is celebrated during mass. I will light a candle for her on another day, but today, my thoughts are with my father, and also with my brother. I do not judge others on this day, or hopefully any day, but my brother needs blessings.

While waiting for mass to begin, sitting next to Giovanna, she tells me that there is a traditional Christmas dessert in Mugnano, and how could I not know about it? She makes hers with thin tagliolini, but it can also be made with short pasta. She cooks her pasta and lays it out straight after it is mixed with noce (nuts, probably hazelnuts), melted chocolate, cannella (cinnamon). Sounds good, so we'll try it today, and I'll add raisins (why not?) Here's what it looks like:

Oh. I don't get to it...I'll make it another day...

The coro (choir) sings at every mass now, and Giovanna wants to sit on the aisle. I'm hoping I can take communion, but think I can go up after everyone else finishes. To my right is Livio, who returns and kneels, so I'm stuck.

I ask Giovanna to let me out and she's a bit miffed, and moves forward. By the time I am on the aisle, Don Renzo has left to return the host to the tabernacle. Sigh. Remember not to judge. Count to ten and then after mass talk with Don Renzo and ask him what to do...

We sing Alleluias, Astro del Ciel, and a couple of others, then mass is finished. I enter the sacristy and wait my turn. When I have Don Renzo's attention, I tell him that taking communion is very important to me and I was not able to reach him in time during mass.

He has a great idea: take communion before singing. Communion is more important. Si, e vero (yes, it's true). So that's what I'll do next time, moving to the right away from Giovanna, not to disturb her.

My coro partners chattered away, before and during mass this morning, but I silently looked straight ahead. I'm no one to judge. Remember, it's just God and me. Nothing else matters.

After mass, Dino drives me to Il Pallone, where we have cappuccinos and cornetti glassata at Bar Nando, then grocery shop for a few things.

On the way back, on the side road, we pass many hunters lined up against their cars that have parked on the side of the road. They're in hunters' garb, so this is a day to hunt cinghiale. I want to know more, so upon reaching home, I ask Al Gore's internet about both the oak trees, which never seem to lose their leaves, and about hunting cinghiale. Here's more than you every want to know about both:

Most oaks will replace 95%-100% of their leaves every year. Some will go bare between leaf drop and new growth; others push off the old leaves with new ones. So leaf drop will be equal to how many leaves are on the tree.

But then, how many leaves does a tree have?

"It depends on the tree's species and age, but a mature, healthy tree can have 200,000 leaves. During 60 years of life, such a tree would grow and shed 3,600 pounds of leaves, returning about 70% of their nutrients to the soil."

Why do most trees lose their leaves each fall, but some keep them over winter?

"In spring, new leaves and twigs grow out together and are firmly attached. In fall, a specialized layer of "abscission" cells form between each leaf and twig, cutting off water to the leaf and killing it. Then the abscission cells die and the leaf falls off. In young oak trees, however, for reasons that are unclear, abscission cells form but do not complete their work. Therefore, oak leaves often stay connected to the twig until pushed off by new leaf and twig growth in spring."

When fallen leaves dry out, they don't weigh much. Researchers have found that 25,000 dry, oak leaves weigh less than 70 pounds

"Why the trees lose their leaves
A Cherokee Legend

"In the early times, the trees and animals were always able to talk to one another. They lived close to each other and shared many things; but every year, the cold time came and the birds would fly south to where it remained warm and would return with their families in the spring, when the warm season returned.

"One year, as the cold season approached Sparrow was injured. He would not be strong enough to fly to the warm lands with his family by himself, so he made his family fly south to the warm lands without him.

"Injured, he knew he would not survive the cold season. So he sought the help of the trees. He approached Oak. "Oh, Oak, I am injured, and cannot fly, the cold season approaches, and if I do not find shelter before then, surely I shall die. Please, Oak, let me shelter among your leaves and branches during the cold times, that I may heal and greet my family on their return in the spring."

"But Oak was a crusty old tree, and did not relish the idea of having a guest in the cold time, so he told sparrow: "Sparrow, go find somewhere else to spend the cold time. I do not wish you to spend the cold time with me."

"And poor Sparrow was hurt in his spirit to be turned away.

"So Sparrow went to Maple and asked her. "Maple, I am hurt and not able to fly to the warm lands with my family for the cold season. Please let me shelter among your leaves and branches during the cold time, or surely I will perish. And Maple, though a very sweet tree, did not enjoy the thought of a guest for the cold time and she too, turned Sparrow away. "You, go ask someone else to shelter you, Sparrow. I do not wish you to spend the cold time with me."

"And again, hurt in spirit, Sparrow was turned away.

"Sparrow went in turn to each of the trees and asked each for shelter in the cold time; and each, and every time, Sparrow was turned away... until there was no tree left to ask, except Pine.

"With no hope left..., but not willing to accept death..., Sparrow approached Pine.

"Pine, I am injured, and not able to fly south to the warm lands with my family. If I do not find shelter before the cold time, I will surely perish. Please... let me shelter among your leaves and branches during the cold time..."

"Pine thought to himself, ("I am the least of the trees, what can I do?") ....but his heart heard Sparrow's plight. "Sparrow... My leaves are tiny... more like needles... my branches are not as many as other trees... but what I have you are welcome to share."

"And so, Sparrow spent the cold time with Pine. And when the warm times returned in the spring, Sparrow's family returned also. And Sparrow had healed over the cold time and flew to greet their return...

"Creator had seen and heard all that had happened between Sparrow and the Trees. And Creator called a great council of the Trees and spoke to them... "You, who were given so much..., who had so much, would not share the least of what you had with Sparrow in his need. Because of this, from this day forward, when the cold time is upon the land, your leaves shall wither and die and blow away."

"Creator then spoke to Pine. "Pine, you, who had the least of all the trees, gave so much, have touched my Spirit. When the cold times come, You of all the trees shall keep your leaves; they shall remain green through all the seasons for the gift you have given me, through Sparrow."

"And that is why, to this day, that when the cold time comes to the land, all the leaves wither, and die, and blow away.... Except for Pine"


And so it is that the tree that I use to represent sweet Mugnano in Teverina is a Cedro (cedar) from the Pine family, one that does not shed its leaves...

This next one also from the internet, but on the mark about cinghiale(wild boar) hunting in Italy...

"It's wild boar hunting season here, and that means that twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays, we have to be very careful where we go for our camminate (walks) as it's not just the cinghiali (boars) that might get shot, those hunters use some pretty serious hardware to bring down their quarry. Luckily as we live next door to one of the hunters he can usually tell us where they will be doing their battuta (beat) so that we have less chance of being shot!

"The contadini (farmer/peasants) have always seen the chinghiale as destructive, and in fact with their large tusks set on a powerful head, and weighing in at between 100 - 200 kg (220 - 440 lbs) the wild boar can do a lot of damage to crops, vineyards, stone walls etc. as they root around for nutrition. But it has been the reduction of their habitat together with the virtual extinction of their natural predators that has pushed the cinghiali out into agricultural areas.

"In fact within their natural habitat, i boschi (the woods), cinghiali have a beneficent effect. Their large tusks are used not just in self-defense but also to excavate for the roots, insects, and even small animals that make up their diet, and it's pretty awe inspiring to see an area that has been ploughed up by these creatures, almost like someone has been at it with an industrial digger! This rooting around helps to bury seeds and destroy harmful insects thereby nurturing the woodland.

"The cinghiale has a thick bristly hide with few blood vessels. This helps to protect it from injury and infection in the Macchia Mediterranea (the typical scrubby Mediterranean vegetation) and from the bite of animals such as the viper. The males in particular have a thick layer of protective fat, especially in the mating season when they frequently fight with their rivals, (men huh!). The female excavates a tana (den) and camouflages it with bushes and other vegetation, rearing her young in February and March. She usually gives birth (in Italian we say dare alla luce literally, give to the light) to between two and four cinghialini (little boars), but in a good year she can have up to eight, what a handful!

"The usual social structure of the cinghiale consists of branchi (packs) of females: the mother and her new babies plus those born in the previous year. The young males leave these packs after two years and live a solitary life or join up with other small groups of males (sort of a men's club) until the mating season.

"Cinghiali are common throughout Italy, from the Valle d'Aosta in the north to Calabria in the south, and the islands of Sicilia and Sardegna. We often see their impronte (hoof prints) and excavations when we are out walking or searching for funghi in the woods but, as they are quite shy and well camouflaged, we very rarely see the animals themselves".

When asked if a cinghiale will live a long time, hunters tell us: "Si, loro mi sopravviverà" ("Yes, they'll outlive me") they'll reply".

It's time to make the traditional chocolate Mugnano dessert (a good Italian eats pasta every day of the year), so let's see...

Oh. Well, yes, we'll put that off for another day or two or more...there are so many leftovers...

December 28
It' another dreary day, but no matter. I realize I have not had a migraine headache for...weeks! Perhaps I've finished having them...magari (if only that were so)!

We do a masterful cleanup of our bedroom from top to bottom and rearrange the studio to give me more room to paint and sew. In this small house, there are so many things to put away or give away...perhaps that is why I don't want to buy...anything. But still, there are projects...the Mugnano family tree project, paintings to complete and to begin...all before the first week of May...

Tonight, Sofi and Dino and I are invited to cena at Patrick and Joan's house outside Montecchio. "Be sure to wear your Wellies!" Patrick warns. Construction problems abound, there is plenty of mud; Dino has helped with some projects for them, but the main contractor remains a problem. We look forward to a fun evening, just the same.

We do have a happy evening with our friends before the fireplace in their beautiful casale while Sofi gambols around on the handmade tile floors with her little reindeer toy. It's not a surprise that in their limited time here they seem to have met all the Irish expats or semi-expats in the area.

We hear for the first time that Tenaglie is a "hotbed" of therapists and I have to laugh. Even Merritt, our client and a retired minister, who owns property in Tenaglie is a part time therapist. Sounds like Mill Valley, California, eh? Perhaps they should be "sister cities".

December 29
The NYT has a piece about the impasse between the governments of the US and Cuba. Here's an inflammatory thought: What if democracy is not the only way for another culture to thrive? O.K. That sound I hear is the droning of missiles heading my way. But think for a minute. Is our culture all it could be?

"There are some Cuban politicians who use the isolation to their benefit," Mr. Varela said. "But I do not believe that anyone in Cuba could stand in the way if the United States decided to open relations. If the United States did that, the change in Cuba would be unstoppable."

In my usual bouncing around mode, this time in which I look for a diversion, I spend some time researching cedar trees for the Mugnano tree project, and am not sure of the actual relationship between cedars and pines...phylum, family, genus, species...I remember some of that from high school.

There are several cedars in our village, and I want to use the cedro(cedar) for the Mugnano family tree, but ask dear Sarah and Alush to be sure. It's good to have an excuse to send a note to them, happily ensconced in New Mexico.

I also send them the story (see the December 27th journal entry) and am advised to be careful when translating an Indian tale, "where humility is such a factor". So I copy the tale verbatim.

Overcast weather continues, so evenings before the fireplace become a welcomed activity.

December 30
I subscribe to IPS, and receive a weekly email regarding gender issues around the world. I suppose it is one of the reasons I'm so passionate about helping women in underdeveloped countries. Women are so marginalized around the world. Take a look; this time IPS includes a piece about how women in Italy are addressed and portrayed:

"Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), the world's leading provider of information on global issues, is backed by a network of journalists in more than 150 countries. Its clients include more than 3,000 media organizations and tens of thousands of civil society groups, academics, and other users.

"IPS focuses its news coverage on the events and global processes affecting the economic, social and political development of peoples and nations.
Women in the News - The New IPS Gender Wire

"IPS wants to redress a huge imbalance that exists today: only 22% of the voices you hear and read in the news are women's. Elections, health, education, armed conflicts, corruption, laws, trade, climate change, the global financial and food crises, and natural disasters. IPS covers these frontline issues asking an often forgotten question: What does this mean for women and girls?

"IPS Inter Press Service News Agency

"GENDER/LANGUAGE: Rejecting the Derogatory 'Feminine' By Miren Gutierrez and Oriana Boselli

"ROME, Dec 26 (IPS) - What happens to language and the way women are addressed when they start to occupy positions of responsibility? Well, it depends on the language.

"In Italian, most women prefer the masculine titles, because the feminine version (when it exists) is considered ludicrous, even derogatory.

"In Spanish, a related language, this is different. So, is this a grammatical issue or a social one?

"The problem is not only Italian machoism, but the lack of awareness and directives as to how to address women correctly," says Angelica Mucchi-Faina, psychology professor at the Perugia University.

"Is Spanish discriminatory?

"My conclusion is that it is so," says JosŽ Luis Aliaga JimŽnez, professor in Linguistics of the Universidad de Zaragoza. "It is so in the conservative resistance for the formation of feminine nouns; in the rejection of masculine forms when men start doing jobs that were traditionally feminine, such as 'azafato' (hostess), 'amo de casa' (househusband) or 'ni–ero' (baby minder); and particularly, in the use of the masculine form as a generic."

"On the masculine form as a generic, Aliaga JimŽnez coincides with politician Luisa Capelli, but from a linguistic point of view. "My research has led me to believe that the supposedly generic character of the masculine when applied to mixed groups isn't a linguistic quality at all, but a pragmatic interpretation that ends up in a discursive suppression of women and their achievements," he says.

"In the feminist theory and sociology," he adds, "it is notorious the attitude of women who, having reached an important public job, try to blend in the dominant group (of men), and deny the discrimination that goes on, including the linguist discrimination... It is usually accompanied by statements such as: 'I have never felt discriminated against', which are the toll some women believe have to be paid to be accepted in a masculinised public realm."

"Spanish philosopher Amelia Valcarcel has described this as the "dynamic of the exception".

"It is in that context in which you can understand the preference for the masculine professional titles, which is found in the Spanish-speaking world, although to a lesser extent than in Italian or French," he concludes. "A language is the mirror of its society. Until a few decades, all positions of power or public responsibility were occupied exclusively by men. So those roles were defined 'in masculine'," says Mucchi-Faina.

"Modern English lacks grammatical gender, whereas Indo-European languages, including Italian and Spanish, can distinguish between masculine and feminine.

"The linguistic discrimination against women is realised through multiple conduits," says JosŽ Luis Aliaga JimŽnez, professor in Linguistics of the Universidad de Zaragoza. "The configuration and functioning of grammatical gender in languages like Spanish and Italian is not the most important, but it is the one with deepest symbolic reach."

"When it comes to titles of importance, in Italian, you find yourself reading about "il ministro Mara Carfagna" - even if Carfagna, the minister of equality, is a woman. In contrast, in Spanish there is no option but 'ministra', ending in the feminine 'a'.

"Says Mucchi-Faina, "Most countries issued recommendations to avoid sexism when addressing women. Also in Italy, in 1986, the Presidency issued similar recommendations. But instead of being taken seriously and implemented, they were an object of jokes, and eventually forgotten."

"Contrary to what has happened in other countries, in Italy there is no general rule and everyone can pick and choose whether to use neologisms like 'ministra' or the traditional 'ministro' for women," says Mucchi-Faina.

"Politician Luisa Capelli, from L'Italia dei valori party (The Italy of Values), thinks that "leaving behind the supposed universal neutrality of the masculine form is an essential passage so that the feminine experience gets respect."

"It is not true that these feminine forms (for positions of power) do not exist in Italian: there are plenty of examples from feminists, linguists and semiologists who have made a number of proposals," says Capelli. "You can say 'avvocata' (lawyer) and 'ministra', but nobody does. Although many of us use those words, we are ignored. To change the symbolic order is hard work that requires a consensus based on the profound convictions of people."

"Sexism in language was identified as a global problem during the first world conference on the status of women, celebrated in Mexico in 1975. Many proposals and directives followed. In 1989, UNESCO issued the booklet Guidelines on Non-Sexist Language, aiming at helping "authors and editors avoid writing in a manner that reinforces questionable attitudes and assumptions about people and sex roles."

"Since the '80s, Spain and Italy have gone in different directions. While in Italy ...

"Actually, they are still debating whether the gender of titles is strictly a grammatical issue. But some disagree.

"Language is never neutral. A language represents the society that uses it. That means that a society that represents women in a discriminatory way is a society that justifies and shares such discrimination," says Irene Giacobbe of the association, Power Gender.

"Like professor Angelica Mucchi-Faina of Perugia University, Giacobbe thinks that the issue of how to address women in positions of responsibility has already been settled in Italy, although only in theory.

"However, "many women say that their titles sound badly in the feminine, they don't want to be an 'avvocata', although it is the correct form," she says. "What happens is that even observant media make mistakes calling them 'avvocato' or use the pejorative 'avvocatessa' and 'presidentessa' deliberately, because they cannot be so ignorant as to using a pejorative ending without realising it. And you end up in 'humorous' situations where you read 'il ministro indossava una gonna vaporosa' (the {male} minister wore a vaporous skirt)."

"As in Spanish, in Italian the feminine ending 'essa' has pejorative connotations indicating a position of a lesser category or the wife of the real person in power.

"In the Italian Switzerland," she says, "there is a tragicomic difference in the use of news agencies. Even if ANSA (the state Italian agency) has guidelines to avoid sexism, most of its stories from Italy use the masculine form for women's titles, while when it reports from Switzerland and Germany they use correctly 'cancelliera' (chancellor), 'ministra' and 'avvocata'."

" 'Manual', published by The Association of Women's Historical Studies of the University of Malaga, Spain, summarises the common sentiment: "Languages evolve to respond to the necessities of the communities that use them. In a society like ours, where there is a demand for equality, language, as a social product, not only has to reflect equality, but it also has to promote it."

"However, while having popularised the feminine for titles of importance, Spanish has not eliminated discrimination in the language ...

"This apparently dull issue of feminine titles jumped to the front pages recently, when Bibiana Aido, Spain's Minister of Equality, used the word 'miembra' (member) in public.

"What's the big deal? The word doesn't exist. Yet.

"In most personal nouns," says Aliaga JimŽnez, there is a correlation between grammatical gender and the referential meaning of 'sex'. It is a culturally significant correlation... All nouns referred to a person end up with a gender variation, sooner or later. And it is in that context that the words 'miembra', 'testiga' (witness) emerge, since, following the common rule in Spanish, the final 'a' is interpreted as belonging to the feminine."

'Testigo' and 'miembro' are so far exceptions to the common rule and have no official feminine variation.

"The people who don't know the history of language are the ones who get outraged by neologisms while accepting other words that caused scandal in the past," says Aliaga JimŽnez. "The idea that language only changes for the worse has no linguistic basis."

"According to Irene Giacobbe of the association, Power Gender, the difference with Spain is that "there has been a clear position and a positive reaction from (JosŽ Luis Rodr’guez) Zapatero's government."

"But we are late in everything," she says. "Italy modified family laws in the '70s. The fascist law that considered rape a moral violation, and not a crime against a person, was changed only in 1996. This is a country in which the historic phobia against women has been masked with a great deal of care for the mother, and a lot is needed to dismantle it."

"What is needed, then?

"The problem is the scarcity of women in positions of power," she adds. "This is the country with one of the lowest numbers of women managing companies and in Parliament... Girls and boys think they are equal while they remain in the school. They discover the difference when they enter the world of labour; girls find out that even when they graduated with the best scores in less time than their male colleagues, the system doesn't reward them ... All this has been studied and analysed. It remains to be part of the public debate."

I remember being a young adult in the '60's, thinking that the next generation might be more mindful. Of course, that was not the case. It is still not the case. I do, however, get a chuckle out of calling myself a "dottoressa", which I technically am in Italy, since I have a degree. Of course I never refer to myself as such, thinking this title is ridiculous as well.

Here I am, right back where I started, thinking that "WE" are the answer, and that every one of us needs to speak up and speak out. I'm ready...are you?

It's more than a dreary day here; grey skies and a Brigadoon fog cover the far hills, with not a spec of sun in sight. I'm reminded of a conversation last night with Patrick about the fascination with light and shadows. When one paints, they become so much more aware of light, or the lack of it. So are the skies "grey"...or do they lack color? I think the latter.

December 31
There's mass this afternoon and a quick rehearsal before hand. As in last year, there is also a heartfelt holiday wish from Miriam and Gino, and Roy wishes them well as he greets them on the road below the house.

I come upon a piece in the NYT online by Daniel Gilbert and it sums up how we feel about the country we were born in: "But maybe we've reached nostalgia's end. "Nostalgia" - made up of the Greek roots for "suffering" and "return" - is literally a longing for the places of one's past. And lately, it has become harder and harder to find things to miss about America's places".

I've fixed a few dishes for Christmas made from my mother's recipes of my youth, and now they are a tradition here. But there is little to miss about "places" in the US. Nostalgia conjures up a sadness for me, and it is only when I think of our neighbors here and life in our village that I'm joyful about "place" and "time".

I end the year wondering about a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, and now a stable and prosperous Yemen. My heart aches for our world of hate and killing and impoverished peoples with nothing to be joyous about.

On this last day of the last month of 2009, I glance at the falling nespola flowers on the tree outside our window and think... "It's yet another season for our beloved trees. No living thing remains the same and yet..."

In the more than ten years we have been here, life has unfolded with a natural richness beyond compare. Each flower and plant on our property has grown and altered, just as our lives have grown and altered, and yet remained somehow the same.

Some years we have cherries to pick and make into jam and some years we do not. Most years we have kaki (persimmons)...as many as 4,000 (!) of them, and this year we had none. Each year the roses bloom in different ways. And each year we gain added insight into ourselves and our community.

This next year will draw to a close our research on the Mugnano family genealogical tree as well as its literal translation into a grand tree noting its inhabitants in tiny lights. I think of that as my gift to the village and the end of my major contributions to Mugnano.

For it is sadly true. I realize my memory is drifting away, and I'm just not capable of pressuring myself to remember more. That just sends me into a black chasm.

I remain positive and look forward to continuing to do paintings of our neighbors just the same; aside from the two uncompleted canvases in my studio of Salvatore and his father, Mauro and Andrea Filiberti and Andrea Perini, I imagine another of Luigina holding her granddaughter, Michela, close.

Luigina is the first neighbor in the village who welcomed us warmly. She is also the first person to climb our stairs and hug me after our robbery a few years later, telling me she was sorry and that all our neighbors were sorry, blaming themselves for our loss. Her heartfelt emotion speaks volumes.

So I end the year with a hope...

If we can all refrain from judging others as well as ourselves and move forward with a genuine respect for one another, that will be a great step.

And if any of you want to join me in my quest to help the women of the world gain the respect they so rightly deserve, contact me and send me your thoughts. It's up to us to change the world and I'm ready.

"Tanti belli cosi... (All good things to you...)" in the new year, and in every year.

That's me, bearing my backside at midnight to the moon; it's an Italian superstition learned from Loredana and you know that I am a softie for all things Italian.

May 2010 be one of rediscovery and respect for man and womankind around the world as well as in our homes and lives.

Evanne Brandon Diner
31 December, 2009

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