October through December, 2010

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

"May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and in others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us." quote by Saint Therese of Lisieux

October 1
We greet the new month with heavy skies, although patches of pale blue try to push the clouds away. There! That's it! A fearless sun tells us not to worry and now and then we feel its power; a sky so bright we have to squint, reassured that the day will be sunny after all. Magari (if only it were true!)

I find two caki (persimmons) on the caki tree in the middle garden, just two. There are none on the tree on the terrace, so we'll have to find them from our neighbors to make our holiday puddings for them and for us. Do you remember the year we counted four thousand of them, all on one tree?

I caramelize thin slices of zucchini, and then a shallot, before adding a jar of our tomatoes, pepperoncino seeds and a special ground meat mixture from the macelleria (butcher) in Lugnano. Just as it's served, I add a few minced leaves of mint and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Dino has three, or is it four...helpings of pasta, while we watch a movie.

October 2
Dino drives to Tenaglie to replace a broken coffee pot for renters after we watch the Ryder Cup golf tournament on TV for a while...until soaking rain suspends the action. Sofi sleeps nearby while I rearrange the studio, wondering what we will do with all our paperback books, and there are hundreds of them.

I think SKY, our satellite television provider, is expensive at almost €70 a month, but it's a charge we'll have to live with. At least we do not watch television in our bedroom, and made a pledge not to years ago, choosing to read in bed before nodding off at night.

Consider the rest of the day a bit boring, as we begin to move things around and dispose of them. A domani(until tomorrow).

October 3
Since I write about all things Italian, it's time to think way back in time. While reading Thomas Friedman's "Third Party Rising", I realized I was not the only person thinking such an outrageous thing.

If you have not read it, or even if you have, it bears repeating: "A friend in the U.S. military sent me an e-mail last week with a quote from the historian Lewis Mumford's book, "The Condition of Man," about the development of civilization. Mumford was describing Rome's decline:

"Everyone aimed at security: no one accepted responsibility. What was plainly lacking, long before the barbarian invasions had done their work, long before economic dislocations became serious, was an inner go. Rome's life was now an imitation of life: a mere holding on. Security was the watchword - as if life knew any other stability than through constant change, or any form of security except through a constant willingness to take risks."

Are you nodding your head as I am? After telling a new priest after mass this morning that Mugnano is a piccolo paradiso, I return to think about what it would take for the world to become a paradise. The growth of a third party movement could go a long way toward a new outlook on all of our lives, that is, if it is based on peace and love of ourselves, each other, and the world in which we live. Think that quote before the beginning of this month's post...

Yes, that's me the dreamer again, but that's nothing new to you if you read the journal.

After pranzo, it is time for a rest; or time to read...and the weather is beautiful, so we lay in bed reading and relaxing until 5...Come no? (Why not?)

With the Ryder Cup on TV from Wales, we've been watching it; and it is very interesting. I don't remember seeing so many balls roll into the cup and out again...C'e peccato! (What a shame!)

We purchased the makings of a fine Fall minestrone (big vegetable soup...remember the letters "o-n-e" at the end of a word indicates it's big) earlier at Il Pallone, where Torbjörn and Annika came upon us near the vegetable display...They know this is the only place around that is open on Sundays. Our friends have just arrived from Sweden.

They'll probably stop by later during one of their walks around the Mugnano "track"; it takes about twenty minutes and covers all of Via Mameli and down around and over the street locals call Aqua Puzza (dirty water) and back up again. I have not walked it in a while and Sofi loves it; yes, perhaps tomorrow I'll begin to walk it a couple of times a week or more with our dear little dog.

Annika is the friend who emails me and asks, "Can I order pizza yet?" Well, we break the news to them. We don't even know if Stefano will arrive tomorrow to put in the peperino pavers on the pianorotolo. So the loggia roof project and the installation of the bread/pizza oven could be a couple of weeks away. We hope they'll be here to christen it...stay tuned...

At the end of today's Ryder Cup, the American team is lagging behind that of Europe; the commentator tells us that this is dangerous for the Europeans...Americans are at their best when faced with difficulty.

Which team do we want to win? For me, it does not matter, but I like Phil Michelson quite a bit and he has had a bad time of it this year at this tournament. After Tiger missed a very simple putt this afternoon I'm tending to forget about him...

How coincidental that Tiger Woods and Michael Schumacher of Formula-1 fame have been at the highest peak of their careers at the same time and now both seem to have forgotten how to swim.

I stand at the kitchen counter and chop vegetables for the minestrone while we watch the last holes of today's golf tournament, a tournament that will continue tomorrow. With an irrational decision to add some marvelous dry beans from Umbria without soaking them, I return right upstairs to check with Al Gore to see if I'm in trouble.

There are different opinions; some say the soaking removes the gases from the beans, but then one loses the flavor of the beans; others say of course soak them overnight; others say don't bother, but boil them hard and then turn the temperature down. I'm doing some of the third option...we'll see.

The soup turns out fine, especially served with crunchy bruschetta(toasted bread drizzled with olive oil); this time, bread that has been topped with grated Parmesan cheese before sliding under the broiler. Don't forget to serve a glass or two of red wine with minestrone when you have it, which we do.

We return to bed early these days; with a window open it's refreshingly cool. We love to read before nodding off...and there's purposely no TV in the bedroom! What a luxury!

October 4
There's plenty of sun this morning, although clouds tell us to not take the skies for granted; this afternoon we may have showers. Here's a photo of Bomarzo taken just now from our bedroom window, bathed in morning light.

Dino calls Franco, who tells him the columns will be ready this morning. We wait for Angelo, who is to appear any time now to lay the pavement for the pianorotolo and then hopefully the columns and top of the balustrade. Stefano told Dino yesterday that he may be detained for another week at the job he's working on out of town...

Last night in bed, I heard a grillo(cricket chirp); or was it tanti grilli(many crickets?) I realize that crickets probably chirp each night, but I do not always hear them. Is it possible that I tune them out unless I'm listening for their sound? Do you do the same?

Dino returns with the columns in the old Panda; they're too heavy for one person to lift. I'm pleased that he lets the workers bring them up. Before they've been here an hour, it begins to rain, so after attaching the two columns the workers leave and tell us they'll be back domani mattina (tomorrow morning).

Eagle eye that he is, Dino measures the peperino top that is waiting to be laid above the balaustras and has me measure again with him; he thinks they need to be moved by one centimeter. He is correct, and with a rubber mallet and a strong piece of wood, he is able to slide them ever so slightly until they are in their correct positions before they are completely dry. I'm so fortunate that he loves to do this detail work connected with any project. He'll ask Angelo tomorrow if that move compromises the two columns in any way.

Rain stops, although our satellite conks out a couple of times while we're watching the Ryder Cup golf tournament. This is some great golf watching, and I admit I don't really care who wins...I don't like the competition but love the art of the game.

Perhaps it's the weather, but I am so tired at 8 PM that I forego Coro practice and go to bed in less than an hour.

October 5
The day begins with plenty of rain; a rain so forceful we wonder aloud if it will rain all day. I have a headache, and we both think it is due to the sudden change of weather. I take half a dose of medicine and we leave to have colazione (breakfast) in Bomarzo before driving to Orte for a pedicure.

Dino and Sofi wait in the car while I wait inside for Giusy. She greets me from the other side of the sliding door, and in a few minutes, it's my turn. I love this woman, a woman whose kindness and generosity of spirit shows through and through, no matter whom she meets.

We pick a color for my toenails that reminds me of candied apples on a stick, and I describe the apples as mele candida, not sure if I'm using the right words. But candire means "to candy", so yes, I am. I pick the words right out of the air and this time I am correct!

The Italian language is such a sensible one; but then so many English words derive from the Latin...I tell her our doctor would not give me a prescription to go to a foot doctor, for he felt there was nothing wrong with the way I stand.

Giusy, however, tells me I have artrite(arthritis) in my left foot, especially my toes, and wraps tiny wool bandages around two of them, telling me to use dita separata (cloth that separates two toes from one another), and isn't that a sensible way to describe the little pads? My right foot is fine.

All of a sudden there is a commotion outside Giusy's little space, and an old man has been brought inside the parucchiere (hair salon) from the rain; he is soaked! The younger woman he is with has a voice so characteristic of many unsophisticated Italian countrywomen...loud and gravelly.

Giusy gets up and unplugs the tiny heater she keeps on the floor to help dry customers' toenails, and takes it outside to help the man dry off. The women in the shop find ways to warm him, including putting pieces of his clothing in a hair dryer. Come no?

A minute or two later I'm finished, so give Giusi a last hug, bid the women arrividerci and get into the car with Dino and Sofi. Before we drive home we pick up two rosettas (flower shaped rolls) characteristic of this part of Lazio. Has the shape and name come from the Orsini rose? We're not sure, but the panificio (bread bakery) in Orte makes marvelous ones.

Pouring rain continues, and does not let up when we're back at home. My headache continues, so I take a difmetre (migraine medicine) and also a nap after a pranzo of minestrone that is about the best I've ever made.

I have an answer regarding soaking the dry beans...for this soup, it's better not to soak them. They have a texture now to them, and are not mushy. The flavor is almost nutty; Dino loves it, and how often does a man love vegetable soup?

After a nap of an hour and a half, I wake to hear the sounds of Angelo and Michele outside with Dino. Blue skies smile down upon them, and happily my headache has disappeared with the rain.

With Sofi in my arms, we walk to the open front door to greet the men; Angelo lays the peperino tiles atop dry sand! Dino asks if this is correct, and Angelo tells him not to worry; that water seeps up from below, and that after the tiles have all been laid, they will water the top surface.

A few minutes earlier, they laid the large peperino top above the five balustras and two columns, while I stood back near the row of clipped boxwood at the front of the terrace and smiled to myself. Yes, this is the scene I have dreamed of, for at least a dozen years.

I like the fact that the two side support columns have a very subtle design on one end, almost indistinguishable; the structure as a whole works beautifully. We're also happy that we chose not to include seven balustras; five are just the right number.

An hour later, Angelo begins to cut tiles to finish the pianorotolo(landing). I close the front door and the kitchen window to keep out the dust from their cutting of the tiles, and come upstairs with my pal Sofi to fill you in on what's going on.

Dino remains outside to watch and learn and to document the work. He loves to stand with the workers and yes; Angelo uses one of McIver's spatulas to fine tune the grout on a corner of the pianorotolo.

But what of Michele? I think he's interning, for he hands Angelo a tool now and then and helps move things; otherwise he watches. Dino's father Leo's "watcher to worker" ratio is a bit lopsided here, but it's fascinating watching.

That reminds me of old Giovanni, who came here every day to watch the workers when Stefano and Luca put up the long wall and built the parcheggio(parking area). He so loved to watch...and now both Giovanni and Argentina have died.

I'm reminded of something Giuseppe told us at the bar last week in Amelia...He so misses being here. Back in England, no one in the little shops wants to have a conversation; here everyone is friendly and wants to talk, no matter whether they know each other or not.

Earlier, while waiting for Giusy, a woman of about seventy-five turned to me as she waited to be picked up and made a comment that caused her to laugh, and hoped I would laugh, too. I nodded and smiled; yes, Giuseppe, I know just what you mean. It is that way for us, too.

"Don't talk to strangers!" may be the unending cry of a parent to their child in America, but here adults love to talk to strangers; perhaps to them, no one is a stranger. It's another reason to love living here and to miss the place when one is away. I can see you nodding, Giuseppe...

Angelo and Michele leave at around 6:30 and the work is finished. From the window, I thank them for the bell lavoro (beautiful work), and indeed it is.

There's plenty of time to change and pick up Annika and Torbjörn to take them to Girasole for pizza. Yes, we like the place. It is simple and welcoming, even for Sofi, who will stay home tonight...

October 6
The top floor of our house has been in chaos since last week, and today we hope the assemblers will arrive from IKEA to install the 4 meters of new closets. Dino has already drawn out the template for the order in which they will be set up, reminding me that our main closets will be set up in the center; otherwise we would not be able to slide the doors and dress at the same time. What a guy!

We wake to fog, and it is not until 11:30 AM that Dino receives a call from the installer, telling him that they'll arrive at noon. We were told they would arrive as late as 11 AM. No matter.

In the meantime, the morning fog has cleared, and we've spent the morning in the garden. I've fed all the boxwood and orto (kitchen garden) plants, and since the earth is still quite wet, think the timing is quite good. Dino gets ready to replace two clipped boxwood plants with similar but healthier plants that had been growing in pots, and they are planted along the front wall of the terrace. Boxwood does not like to be moved, but in this case it's worth taking the chance. The existing two plants in the ground are in bad condition.

We've talked about the "secret garden" entrance to the middle garden, and the positioning of the fountain. I've weeded and enjoyed the time on the terrace with Dino today; we've each tried sitting on the balustrade to see if the height is right. (It is.) Tonight we'll christen the balustrade with Annika and Torbjörn.

Dino wants to serve something more interesting than the usual bean dip and chips. Perhaps a gorgonzola dip with smoked salmon on bite sized pieces of toasted bread, topped with wild fennel fronds. We have all the makings, so come no. (why not)?

As soon as the installers finish their work and we put our clothes into the new closets, there'll be plenty of room in the studio/guest room to sew. Yes, I know I have painting to do there, too, but the grand daughters come first, and I'm looking forward to sewing wire into satin and faille material to make yards and yards of Lady Gaga-wonderful ruffles to sew onto plain t-shirts and dresses.

I have no idea how to sew thin wire into the fabric, and Al Gore's internet doesn't write about it either, so I'll try to add the zipper attachment to the sewing machine and see if I can sew it that way. Think of wire ribbon, and I'd like the fabric to be as bendable as the ribbon. Perhaps cousin Rikki, who makes costumes for movie stars that are used in films, can help. It's a good excuse to catch up with her, too.

While I'm on the internet, I relook at Lady Gaga's outfits, and yes, her costumes are "over-the-top". The costumes I'm thinking of making for the girls are less trashy-looking, more elegant and feminine. Think Lady Gaga meets Margaret Mitchell (of Gone with the Wind fame).

The installers are here, and are working so rapidly I expect them to be done before pranzo. Guess not, but they are quick. Dino watches them work as do Sofi and I, now and then. As soon as they leave, I prepare snacks to serve Annika and Torbjörn and of course, Dino, to christen the balustrade.

But Dino is not ready to stop. He moves a shelf and a shelf rod and drives off to pick up an extension cord for the floor, since the closets have obscured one electrical outlet. I think he's done enough for one day and want to find a way for him to stop working. It's not easy.

We're still not rid of the blasted stinkbugs, but think that might be because the day is so warm and lovely. There is very good news, however. Stefano has called and he and his workers will be able to work beginning next week to build a new loggia roof. What does that mean, and are we talking Monday? We have no idea...but we'll be ready.

Annika and Torbjörn arrive to christen the new balustrade, and Annika sits on the far edge of it, while we serve cocktail food and prosecco to celebrate. There's a cocktail party in Orvieto at a bar I'd love to return to, even if just to hear the piano, masterfully played by the owner, a raucous jolly bit of a man in cook whites, sitting on a barrel used to ship Black and White scotch while he jams his agile fingers on the keys, in the style not unlike that of Horowitz.

With Sofi in my arms most of the time, I'm greeted by friends whose eyes are all on Sofi; she is a tremendous hit, although clearly in ragdoll mode, her head hanging down as if she's not really there.

Frank asks if we can feed Sofi a taste from the enormous groaning board, and pulls off a lean piece of prosciutto, feeding it to her while she looks lovingly up at him after devouring what is, to her, sacred food. For most of the evening, her expression borders on the dramatic, as if to say her owners don't feed her; if some kind person would only slip her a taste, promises with her eyes she'd be theirs forever.

We find our way home, and are too tired to rearrange the closets, leaving that for another day.

October 7
Is it only Thursday? I have lost all sense of days, following the journal and a desk calendar to guide me toward some sense of timing. After all, there are no "have-to's" in our lives here; instead, it's difficult to distinguish one day from another.

An email arrives from dear friend Joy, our maid of honor at our wedding so many years ago, and I'm transported back to those earliest days in San Francisco; days before I met Dino and she met her husband, John. As dearest friends, she and I shared so many ups and downs during those years. I love hearing about her life and yes, we are still the same persons we were then, although our circumstances certainly have changed.

There is light at the end of the tunnel with our reorganization project, but it came with a price...another series of migraines, leaving me somewhat lethargic. We move along just the same, and I'm amazed how many clothes from the U S we don't wear here. They find their way to donation bins, or the second hand store in Viterbo.

With old computers and printers stored for some reason, we're now looking for a place that reconditions them for future use, hearing that there is a big business in that in Nigeria. Perhaps there is a place we can donate them to, so that they will go to a good cause. I'd prefer them to be sent to women in Afghanistan, so begin a search for an intermediary. If you know of one, let us know. Thanks.

The day is lovely and warm. A long-term forecast is for rain beginning on Monday. Will the new construction project move on apace? I use the word "apace" as it seems to belong, although not knowing exactly what it means. Quickly is the answer, and that's about right.

We've worked in the studio to ready it for my projects, and moved the sofa into the bedroom, where it really belongs. I admit I'm excited about the sewing projects for the grand daughters, but don't want to give painting a back seat. There's always so much to occupy us; how could anyone growing older be bored?

October 8
It's Friday, and Dino has an appointment with our good doctor in Viterbo. He leaves early with a list of things to pick up; with his love of driving and managing projects, he'll enjoy the morning.

Here, Sofi and I spend time outside in the garden, and perhaps I'll make something with ripe bananas in the kitchen, but never get to it...

Outside the annual whirring of chain saws, used to chop wood from our valley for winter fires has begun. The sound bothers me at first; then drifts into my subconscious.

Perhaps the sound is most difficult for Annika and Torbjörn, whose house lies directly across the road from the open space where the wood is chopped. The Universita Agraria (local farmers coop) owns the land, and provides the wood for residents of Mugnano each year, for a price.

From the bedroom window, I watch dear Giuseppa walk down Via Mameli to her campo as a neighbor stops to offer her a ride. "Grazie, ma fa niente"...(Thanks but it's not necessary.) Good for Giuseppa, who remains in fine health, probably because she walks up and down the steep hill twice a day. Piano, piano (slowly, slowly); she takes her time, always with a smile of contentment on her face.

Italo and Vincenzo also love to walk, and this is yet another lovely day for these ninety-year young men to enjoy, just as they have for nine decades...See their photo in last month's journal.

October 9
Fall is really here, and the days have turned sunny even when we've experienced fog during the morning hours. Today we're going to fix a pot of osso bucco, and I don't know how to translate it other than to say it is veal shank; its bones filled with marrow. Locally, it's known as stinco.

We're fixing it today, for Frank is coming for pranzo tomorrow, and there won't be much time to cook after mass. I'm looking forward to it; but first, we need to make sure that the macelleria (butcher) cuts the meat correctly, and that it is from the shank, of the calf. I look up the word "shank", and it is the lower leg of an animal...how could that be delicious when cooked? There's hardly any meat there, I suppose, unless we're thinking of a cow...Oh, it's the calf...of the calf?

Pino is the man who owns the macelleria in Attigliano that we like. Here he is, standing proudly, a la Rick Stein's food heroes, with the shank.

He thinks it's enough for eight people, but I doubt that, even though it's more than eight slices of meat, each about an inch thick, with a round bone filled with marrow in the center.

Do you remember the time we gave Sofi an osso bucco bone and it became jammed inside her "canine" teeth and a neighbor, Giordano, had to use a hack saw to saw the bone in half, with Dino and I standing there horrified while Sofi looked at us, wagging her tail? Dino frowns when I tell him we'll give her a bone this time. I think he is afraid of having to saw this one off himself.

We'll have enough food to last for at least a few days, and I'm dreaming of serving it with papardelle noodles, although tomorrow we'll serve it traditionally with risotto Milanese.

Today I'll also make a chocolate cake, to serve tomorrow.

As if that is not enough to do for one day, we're going to dye a white bed skirt and a blanket cover with blue dye in the washing machine. Dino bought a dark blue dye, but I'm only interested in something pale, so we'll use 100% of the fixative but only 1/4 of the dye and one kilo of salt.

The last time we did this for the garden sling chairs, I think we used a lighter tone of blue and it came out quite well. This time we're also using a very hot temperature. I don't think it will shrink, but we can handle some shrinkage even if it does. Remember, life is an adventure.

What's the worst that could happen? The process takes 2 1/2 hours for the first wash, and the same amount of time for the second. So tonight we'll see the results wet, and only in the morning will we see what they will look like when dry.

The recent happenings feel like a sea change to me; it's as if we're living in a new house, with work to commence in a few days to connect the loggia with the house. Is it me, or is life filled with joy?

All about us signs of life abound. Peppino drives his gold ape up the street toward the borgo, the back filled with cut firewood. Grapes have been picked by neighbors all around us; they sit in cantinas, resting until next month when the new wine will be ready to be tasted.

While we experiment with the dying of a comforter cover and long bed skirt, I begin a cooking marathon. Slowly and systematically, I fix tomorrow's osso bucco, turning the meat over every twenty minutes or so. This process is made a little more difficult, because the meat must cook in one layer, and I use two pots for all the meat, cooking on two shelves in the oven. It all works out. The temperature is the same temperature I'll need to cook the cake, so when the meat comes out, the cake slides in.

Thirty minutes later, the cake is done, and so is the second round of washing the material. The color is a grey/blue, lovelier than I ever expected; the bed skirt paler, because the material was white to begin with. When the material is dry, I'll iron it and we'll set it all up.

"What else?" I'm thinking as I lie in bed later. Yes. The chandelier above the bed, made and inscribed with the date of 1900, shows its age. The six lampshades are fine, but the chandelier could use a little sprucing up...even with a bottle of silver spray paint. We can cover the part just below the light bulbs, for those are characteristic, and we'll have a new chandelier. Come no?

Time for dreamland...

October 10
Today in church, Laura turned around to tell me that our gate was open all night. I'm very surprised, and after thanking her, walk back to tell Dino. He was working on the front path in the late afternoon to do a big cleanup and evidently forgot. That hardly ever happens, but it's good to know that neighbors are vigilant.

There is a new priest in the church this morning. The various priests who come here to say mass fascinate me. Since Don Giampiero left for Chile, we've had a number of them, but none seem to stay. Don Angelo was here for a while, but there is a letter today for everyone from him, sent from his new post in India!

Little Andrea Perini is an altar server, along with Deacon Domenico, to assist the priest. He came in with Laura, his mother and Coro member; it is as if he has misbehaved and is doing penance. No other altar servers participate, nor are they in church. The little one looks wide-eyed around the church, as if he's never been here before.

When it is time to assist the priest before communion, he enthusiastically pours the tiny cruet of wine into the priest's chalice; then backs off for the deacon to pour the water and help the priest put water on his hands.

There is something very special about this boy; he is unique and unlike the others, although he fits in and plays enthusiastically with them. As he grows, there is much to learn...for him and for us.

Dino meets me after mass and drives me to Il Pallone, to Nando's, for the customary glassatas and cappuccinos. Afterward, we need very little from the store, so return home and I prepare for pranzo. The day turns lovely and sunny, and the afternoon is nothing but fun, with Frank here and lots to eat and drink. The osso bucco and chocolate cake recipes will surely find their way to the site soon, although the sliced fresh figs served with slices of prosciutto and washed down with prosecco are for your imagination to conjure. Thanks, dear Dino.

Sofi gnaws on one bone, and then another, from today's meal. They are small round ones, too small to become stuck in her mouth, so I'm not worried. She's in heaven, filling her mouth with one and following us outside as we sit on and beside the balustrade to have coffee.

Frank leaves, after he and Dino play with the windshield wipers on his car, and we're back to cleaning up and doing more reorganizing. I mention my silver paint idea to Dino about the chandelier and we agree that he'll take it down and we'll work to restore it instead. Va bene!

October 11
Dino thought we could leave the last load of sheets out overnight, so we did for the first time in memory. Yes, it rained; a slow sweet gentle rain, but he has to put them in the lavatrice (washing machine) again and to rinse and spin them before we hang them in the loggia to dry.

Dry? Unless the sun finds its way here, they'll remain in soggy-ville in the loggia on a drying rack. There's no word from the muratore, either, and that's expected, for they just won't work in the rain.

Dino takes the old Panda to Attigliano to pick up what I hope is spray starch to iron the newly dyed pale blue-gray bed skirt and no, I can't find that word in Italian. There is: maniera di fare colpazienti (bedside manner),
piaga da decubito (bedsore),
coperta da letto (bedspread),
ora di coricarsi, (bed time),
but no bed skirt.

I suppose bed skirts are not popular in Italy, especially since beds here are low to the ground and flat across the top, not high, deliciously full and even puffy as they are in other countries. I remember lying in the fluffiest bed imaginable while in Regensburg, the time Dino took me there to try to relive his happy times in Germany when he was stationed there in the U.S. Army. The bed was a wonder.

Our bed here is right out of The Princess and the Pea children's tale, its 54 cm high iron frame built years ago to hold up the mattress. Since the bed faces West, our middle garden, San Rocco and the hills beyond are in our view; it's as if we're sleeping on a cloud.

That's a long, very long, explanation of the reason why the use of a bed skirt is a good thing in our house. Since we store plastic tubs of seasonal things under the bed, too, it makes the effort worthwhile. Do you think living here is like living on a boat, with every spot thought out as it relates to every other?

We used the last bay leaf when fixing the osso bucco the other day, so Dino adds that to his list to buy. Before leaving, he opens his dictionary to see what the Italian is for it, and I think it's lauro, since it's from the laurel tree. Our laurel tree was cut down last year, as it encroached on the loggia, so he'll buy the leaves at the supermarket, and wants to know what to look for.

I try not to end sentences with prepositions, but since good friend Donald told me that modern usage turns incorrect grammar into every day vernacular, I suppose I should not worry about it. It's not as if Jack Beaton is going to correct my grammar...

I'm still angry with Jack Beaton, more than forty years after he gave me a "B+" in English Literature for the course in my senior year in college. Earlier that semester, he guaranteed any of us an "A" if we'd write a paper with more than 50 references in its bibliography.

I wrote about the influence of Nature over Man in Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native, and he did give me an "A minus" on the paper, correcting a typo that became a grammar error, although the bibliography was, indeed, ample. Efforts to contact him after receiving my grades were in vain. I still have the paper, for some reason, and it's about the only thing I've kept from those years.

I remember finding my father and mother's letters to each other from my father's time in the U S Army during WWII, and although they did not get along for many years, my mother kept those letters. I found them after her death and typed them up after reading them, to keep them as a way to see them as they really were and sending the originals to my brother. This journal is something like that; perhaps one day the daughters of my brother and our grand daughters will read this journal and learn about us.

Getting back to that bay leaf, the dictionary does call it lauro as it relates to botany, but refers to a vano or alcova or apertura del muro as a recess in a wall,
baio or latrato, latrare the "bay of a dog", or to bark,
or my very favorite: in una posizione disperata to be at bay.
Let's not forget: baionetta, or dare baionettate a for a bayonet. What a marvelous language this is!

Can you tell it's a rainy morning? When it rains, I happily sit here dawdling, and the dictionary calls it moving slowly, or more accurately, wasting time. Ha. Doing this brings me joy, and it's not as if I'm making someone wait for something I'm supposed to do...

Oh. I've just discovered another Italian word to describe a bay window: pancia, which is a slang word; men use it as a description of a woman's ample breasts, although it's also used to describe a man's ample stomach.

Oh, the joy of eating lefti (left-overs) di osso bucco ; I'm not kidding...I really found it in the Italian/English dictionary sitting by the desk! That, plus servings of the chocolate cake were scrumptious, but all the red wine lefti from two bottles of wine left me quite ubriaco (drunk), and my head hit the pillow afterward like a rock.

Bouncing around, I want to write about biga. In Carol Field's seminal book, The Italian Baker, she writes about biga as: "Universal Starter" for making bread. "Many of the recipes for the classic regional breads begin with a starter dough made from small amounts of flour, water, and yeast, allowed an initial fermentation and then used to infuse the actual bread dough.

In Italy, bakers save dough made without salt from the previous day's bake to start new dough. I'm asking the same question you are thinking: the first biga must come from somewhere; think of the chicken and the egg...so biga is that somewhere...Would you believe the dictionary thinks it's a chariot?

Well, the English words in my dictionary bumble along from "big" to bigamist to big bellied, translated to Italian as panciuto.

So I've made a batch of biga, but she cautions that after about a week in the refrigerator, it gets a bit strong. I forgot about it, and it sits in the refrigerator, so tomorrow I'll make some loaves, and probably put more in than I should. Do you remember the I Love Lucy television episode when she made bread that rose so much it opened the door to the oven while it baked? Picture me as Lucy, with Sofi sitting nearby, cocking her head at me as I run around the kitchen, not knowing what to do...

(ANSA) - London, October 8 - Four tapestries by Raphael have been reunited with the Renaissance master's original designs for the first time in nearly 500 years for an exhibition in London.It's a long story, but to read about it click here:

www.ansa.it/web/notizie/rubriche/english/2010/10/08 ...

October 12
The Knights of Columbus, the world's largest Catholic fraternal group, chose to name today Christopher Columbus Day, partly because it saw him as a fitting symbol of Catholic immigrants' right to citizenship: one of their own, a fellow Catholic, had discovered America.

Thanks Wikipedia. Oh. In the U.S., three states and several cities, including Berkeley, CA, celebrate the day as Indigenous Day instead. It's celebrated on the second Monday of October. Why do I write about it? Well, Christopher Columbus was an Italian!

My note about the marvelous pranzo we ate on the way back from Ravenna a couple of years ago is published today. If you don't subscribe to italiannotebook.com, perhaps you should give it a chance. There are a hundred or more little notes from me published over the couple of years they've been describing the intimate character of the many facets of Italian character and culture.


This morning we drive to Viterbo to pick up the renewals of our residency permits; Dino tells me this is the policing and investigating arm, but is not connected with the arm that decides if/when we are to become citizens. Without one or the other, we cannot take advantage of their fine medical system, and that is important to us. Soon we'll have our annual flue shots, and at least for now, think they're worth getting.

I forget to bring my Italian Identity Card, so a dapper gent in dark blue, wearing all the Armani-designed gold braid uniform of his office, agrees to give me my permit, if I promise to bring my card in tomorrow. To be sure it is me, he has me fingerprint my thumbs, but the machine is high enough and I'm short enough, that the impression is farther back on my left thumb than it should be. So there is no match, and he calls over a supervisor.

Oh, great. This is right out of CSI. After some discourse, he asks me to do it again, and this time I rise up to my full height and depress the mid point of my left thumb proudly. This time there is a match. Do they wonder if I'm Clara Peller, about to drive off in her Ryder truck with all those rabbits?

My permit is for two years, while Dino's is for one. We have no idea why. But as we're about to leave, the really lovely woman who has helped us before walks out and we speak a little Italian with her. She was born in Naples, and studied English for two years. If I were ever to make a film about Italians, she would surely be in it.

Dino wants to make a shelf unit to store many of my paintings in the studio, and we stop at Centro Legno to have the pieces cut, then slide them into the car. With osso bucco served over papardelle noodles on the menu at home, we make a b-line for Mugnano, and Dino works on the shelves while I work on the food prep.

The shelves are great, and the studio looks more and more like a studio.

October 13
Under overcast skies, we return to Viterbo to turn in my permesso di soggi—rno, since I now have two, and Dino asks the woman at the window why mine is for two years and his is for one?

His is a typo, so we're to return in a couple of weeks to pick up his corrected one and no, there's no word on our citizenship applications. Might as well wait out the two years, and by then it will be Spring and time for new facets of our lives.

In the meantime, we'll need Dino's current permesso to file for our new health cards.

Dino is still determined to find legs that will tuck in under the table he wants to make for me to use in the studio, and at IKasa BRICO he's told there will be some arriving in about ten days.

In the meantime, there is no word about our construction projects, but Dino does not want to do anything about it. Va male (too bad), but that's just my opinion.

Golden leaves begin to fall from the glicine (wisteria) hanging above the balustrade, so before long we'll have much to rake up below, and a myriad of branches overhead coursing back and forth to show their true structure.

A colorless sky leaves us in limbo; the caki tree's branches shoot up straight with no copper orbs holding them down. I suppose you could say we are in suspense, literally and figuratively...

October 14
We leave under an overcast sky; before returning home for pranzo, there is a shower or two. Since we're going to be in Rome, we stop at IKEA to exchange a few things, then pick up Don and Mary to take them to Don's place in Tenaglie for a visit. It's always great to see them.

I can hardly contain my frustration at the slowness of the construction of our work to be done here at home. The amianto (asbestos) removal appointment is almost a week away; and there is no word of anything else to be done, even thought permits are complete for almost every part of the project. I'm thinking to myself, at least have them do the work on our cemetery plot; that's how I'm seeing the outcome affecting our lives...

We sleep most of the afternoon away, Italian style, and awake to the feeling of fall in the air. There will be rain expected each day except one in our extended forecast, so perhaps this will be another soggy winter. It's a good thing there are so many sewing and painting projects patiently waiting to look forward to.

Choir practice is fun tonight. At first, we all converge in the darkly lit piazza, for Livio is no where around and he has the keys for both churches, so where can we practice?

Serena's husband has a key to the ex-scuola, so we bring chairs into a circle in the corner and begin, a little late but the beat goes on....

An hour later I know Dino is waiting, so I stand up to leave and am cajoled back to sing Amazing Grace with all of my girlfriends. Not only that, they want me to stand where Federica sits and lead them.

Oh, how I love to move in tune with the music, and to raise my arms at the end of the second line of each stanza. No, I have no idea when we will sing it in public, but sure wish we had choir robes for when we do! Think of us as singers in an episode of Alley McBeal...

October 15
The day is balmy, with a little wind, some clouds, and later some sun. Dino spends the morning buying roofing for his workshop and fixing handles at Don's place in Tenaglie. He returns home to a pranzo he loves...the one with smoked salmon over rugghetta, slices of hot peeled potatoes (cooked for 18 minutes after water boils, as my Swedish and Norwegian friends counsel), slices of gorgonzola, chopped fresh tarragon, drizzles of olive oil, squeezes of lemon...

Dino now needs to purchase other roofing materials, but can do that in the next town. Since we're waiting until Wednesday to move further on the construction projects, might as well work on this one.

With so much to do, there's more cleaning up and carting away. I admit the process depresses me and shakes up my dander allergies. But what relief! Thanks so much, Dino, for your masterful legwork.

Tomorrow we will embark upon another series of dying, turning never used white embroidered sheets into something we'll actually put on the bed and also bleaching near-white things back to their original white.

Perhaps this will give you a prod, if you've been putting doing similar things off. There's that preposition again at the end of the sentence. Try this: Perhaps instead of putting things off, this will give you a prod. I don't like the sentence this way, either.

Outside, noises are a bit cranky, too. Pia moves along across the street with her weed-wacker; further below, someone uses a buzz saw to cut firewood.

With a couple of fillings missing from my mouth and some dust moving around while we rework the studio, a headache emerges. Our dentist in Rome, who could always take us whenever we wanted before, is now so busy that we cannot get an appointment with him before the scheduled one at the end of the month. Perhaps he has taken over someone else's practice.

We can't post with this somber close to the first half of the month, so perhaps there'll be something grand to write about before the evening ends...or stay tuned for better news tomorrow!

Annika and Torbjörn stop by for a farewell visit; the evening is mild, so we sit under the garden pergola and raise our glasses to toast them. Tomorrow, they will return to Sweden and probably won't be back in Mugnano until Pasqua (Easter), when we surely will have pizza ready for them.

We end the evening as the skies clear; tomorrow it surely will be sunny and mild. Last year, we turned on the heat on October 15th; this year, we may be able to hold off for a month or so...Magari!

October 16
Today is the feast day of Santa Maria delle Erbe (Saint Mary of the vegetable vendors). Sounds good to me, and when I ask Dino why it is today, he thinks it has to do with the harvest. I think the vegetable vendors surely need a day to celebrate; their work is hard, and not always successful, as there is plenty of competition for the daily fresh pickings from the ortos(vegetable gardens) all over Italy.

My headache continues, and I'm sure it has to do with work to be done at the dentist; he continues to be fully booked until our next appointment late this week. So in a related bit of research, I read that the FDA has approved Botox for treatment of chronic migraines.

Chronic migraines, the article continues, are headaches that continue for fifteen or more days in a month. So my glass is half full as I determine that my headaches are not chronic. Even if I have several migraines a month, they don't last more than several hours, thanks to the medicine I take for them. If I had migraines for fifteen days a month, I surely would end it all... Don't look for lips like Angelina Jolie's the next time you see me. I'm not a fan of Botox.

Although the revised forecast here is partly cloudy and for sun for every day except a week from tomorrow, there is rain when we do our first load of laundry. I move the drying racks inside, for it's another sign of fall. We continue what feels like a never ending round of reorganizing and suddenly there is more room in the studio, three more empty plastic bins, and it will be time later this morning to begin creative projects again.

This time, I set up the sewing machine and begin the creation of things to adorn the girls' wardrobes. In our cleaning out, I found more beautiful damask material, and perhaps it is enough to make two dresses for the lovelies.

Sun, beautiful sun! Skies are a bit gray, but no matter. There is sun, and more room in the studio, so I'm happy. So is Sofi, who wags her tail as I dance around the room.

The opening for the world's largest tunnel has broken through in nearby Switzerland. The tunnel will travel from Milan to Zurich and will be 57 km long, and will open in 2017, made of two tunnels, to accommodate a couple of hundred trains each day. Sounds scary...

Our reorganization of the studio complete, I open up the sewing machine while classical music plays, and contemplate the wonders of making special and wonderful things for the girls to wear. Since Lady Gaga has emerged on the scene, perhaps I'll make wild hats with them to wear, too. Ha!

Bye for now....

October 17
Six new saints are celebrated in Rome on this day, but here there's not a word of it. Our young priest, a Brazilian, studies the language and reads his homily; it cannot be easy to be transported to a country where one has to preach in a language not particularly well known to him. Before the mass, he sits in a pew and studies what he is going to say.

Imagine being a priest sent to a foreign land to administer religion in a new country, in a new language, and find a way to inspire the flock to do more for their church, have a more reverential way of living their lives. Our dear friend, Don Francis, is here administering in a language he knows completely well, and yet, since he was not born in the town, feels somewhat like a stranger.

After a lovely pranzo, I iron the embroidered sheets that we dyed blue yesterday. They are fine, and I'm ready to return to Don Renzo's painting, to finish it soon. I'm ready to move on with Don Francis' painting, with a style upon which we both agree. Since the studio is more of a workshop for me these days, with sun from two directions, it's a joyous place to be.

I write to friend Giuseppe that the leaves falling on the roads as we drive along seem to lead us, as if they know the way better than we do. Leaves in the fall tell a tale, or many tales, and are worth watching.

The magic of changing temperatures and access to the sun as it lowers in the sky alters the scene in its never-ending panoply of changing colors and hues, as well as the living organisms that rely on it. I suppose even the blasted stinkbugs are here because of it.

I listen to a TV evangelist, who agrees with us that Americans buy too much "stuff". Perhaps if we could slough off the need of desiring so much, as if it were dandruff, we could work less and enjoy life more. Is that too simplistic?

Oh how I'd love to return from our U.S. trip with empty suitcases... We are guilty, as there are practical things we love that aren't available here. This year: a couple of basic items of clothing we can't find and wear often, brushes for our Sonicare toothbrushes, Tylenol and Glucosamine, carpenter's tweezers, leveling wedges. So there.

By the time I'm ready to return to painting, it's too late. We do have embroidered blue sheets on the bed, however, and more put away. Let's go outside and enjoy the view!

October 18
There's a chill in the air, but Stefano the muratore calls, and will arrive tomorrow to begin our work. We did not prompt him, so we're especially pleased. He'll begin closing up the front entrance and do other work before the amianto fellows arrive on Wednesday. I'm so excited I'm going to make a sour cream coffee cake for them to have with their coffee. What joy!

While Dino sits at the computer, I work on the latest painting. "Do you know how to make a painting look old?" I ask him. "Add layers of what looks like dirt!" No, not literally, but by using a natural sponge and diluting the paint with a bit of diluente (diluting) and applying it with the sponge, it adds a darkness, an air of mystery. Then when I paint Don Renzo, he'll stand out like a jewel. I'll send a copy by email to Don Francis to show him that I know what he means.

We leave for Tenaglie with a little container of Sofi's pranzo in my pocket, but before we leave I try an experiment I've not done in the 50 or so years I've used makeup on my eyes...I add dark shadow on my eyelids.

Since I have deep set eyes, I always thought I should bring them out, but actually like the opposite result. So let me know when you see me if you like it. If not, just talk about something else. Yes, I'm a ninny; I'm sure of it after asking the dictionary that tells me it's an offensive term that deliberately insults somebody's intelligence, common sense, or effectiveness. Good choice of words, I'd say.

What joy to see Don and Mary! Dino drives us all to Il Caio, one of our collectively favorite restaurants, and as in all the other times, we're alone with the hunters, about a dozen of them. I think they're especially funny, as half of them leave their hats on to eat. Our waitperson is from Poland, and the former one who did not give us a receipt and probably kept the money herself is gone...This time we leave with our receipt.

Do you know that when given a receipt in a restaurant or in a shop in Italy that you must leave with it? It is conceivable that you will be asked by a member of Guardia di Finanza (a tax policeman) if you have your receipt...We were only stopped once at the famous mercato in Arezzo, and luckily had the € 10 receipt for a little painting a friend purchased. But be forewarned...

The subject of "Me and..." comes up again, as Donald of all people uses it when relating a story of going to a restaurant with a friend. He tells me it's part of the collective vernacular, whatever that means, and I'll ask him to tell me so that I can write it down and tell you. We speak about the word, "Like..." and he tells us it is used as a filler...more about this later.

We're back in the mid afternoon, and it's time to consider the painting, as well as determine if I'm ready to do the figure in the foreground. Let's do his face...if his face works, the rest will be easy.

There's Coro practice tonight, and a coffee cake to make first thing tomorrow morning. Yum.

Don Renzo stays for the practice, and my girlfriends are not happy that I leave when he leaves, so there is no practicing of Amazing Grace.

October 19
The day has finally arrived. Stefano and two muratore friends arrive, and now Dino is worried that the work will move too quickly. Ha! I make a sour cream coffee cake to celebrate that Stefano is back, and it is a big hit. Italians are always amazed by something American, as if the country is a Valhalla of sorts. Little do they know...


Here's the trio taking out five of the front steps, to be used to make a fountain in the middle garden. Fortified by the sweet and coffee, I'm hoping they'll return tomorrow when the amianto folks are here.

Dino agrees that he'll remain here all day, and drive late to Viterbo after they have left, to pick up the wood he needs for his roof project at the back of the house.

There is joy here; the land seems to sing... and all the while the workers are watched by a never-ending group of stinkbugs. I open the screens and watch them fly up, sending the smelly things down; I pick each one up and thrust it out, only to find the smell remains on my hands. Perhaps I should wear a glove? They seem so innocent; not even creating a fuss, when I pick them up. Make no mistake. They are not welcome here...

The caki (persimmon) tree is slow to turn its marvelous fall colors and it will remain, at least this year. Since we cut it way back it is not in the way, and the shoots it sends up during winter provide great kindling.

Back to painting: It's my first session painting Don Renzo's face, and moves right along. Day after day, it will take on the tones I'm looking for...speriamo.

Sofi is cattiva (bad) again...Enzo the electrician does not like dogs, as Dino later tells me, and Sofi knows it; when he arrives she rushes out and I think even tries to bite his leg. I think she needs a dog whisperer. She's fine with the muratoes, especially Stefano who loves her and gives her special attention.

Needless to say, Enzo does not stay long. There's an agreement about what the muratores will do with the front gate area that they are walling up; Dino will watch the electrical wires, and they'll be set aside. Once muratores finish blocking up the front wall, he'll return. Surely Sofi will be locked inside. Purtroppo (too bad).

The front path is loaded with supplies, and it's covered over in the event of rain tonight. They will not use earth to make the wall...it will consist of tufa bricks and cemento...with guina on the top to prevent rain from seeping down. Oh.

Dino has left for Viterbo and the muratores have left for the day. I just realized I'm particular about the color of the cement...it needs to match that of the existing wall and be a taupe color to work with the tufa colored bricks. Let's hope Stefano knows to match it. I think the color comes from sand and the tufa blocks themselves, but I am not sure. I will be by the time they begin, and they are to arrive at 7:30 A M.

The San Francisco Giants play at 1:30 AM our time; wonder if we can get the game on TV...Oh yes, and Dino watches it until midnight, when the score is 3-0 in their favor. When he wakes up at 2 A M, it is over, with the same score. We imagine Terence at the ballpark, having a ball...

October 20
It's one thing to learn Italian from a straniero (stranger), and another thing completely to learn it from a muratore (stone mason). To me, this is the most fun, and I scramble inside each time I learn a word or a phrase to jot it down and let you know.

This morning we learn about gramigna, which I think of as Bermuda grass. It has found its way into the tufa planters above the parcheggio, and as a result, we'll take the ten Medilland white roses out and all the rosemarino. We hope to save the roses in little pots for the winter and replant them; that is, if the grass has been obliterated and not found its way into hearts of the rose plants.

After consulting with Stefano, who does not agree that it's gramigna, and looking up Bermuda grass and translating it on Al Gore's internet, I learn that yes, they are the same. I also learn that this grass is the favorite of golf courses, and is one of the types of grass used when making turf. I suppose I should not be so disdainful of it, but it is a monster. Its roots seeming to stretch to China, its seeds airborne from who knows where.

Dino sees the porchetta truck drive up to the borgo, for it is market day in Mugnano. Guerino asks where the truck is from, and Dino tells him that it's Settimo's from Soriano; does Guerino know him?

Settimo? Non credo (I don't think so.) We ask him if the man's name comes from the fact that he is the seventh child, and he responds, "Oh, Settimi-o! Io penso Settimio".

There's more. Cesare, who is working on the front opening to wall it up, calls up to Guerino, and he's talking with us, so calls out in response, "Aspetta un attimo!" Ah! Wait a minute! That's what he's saying...I love it! I'll certainly remember that phrase, and so I stumble along, learning one more phrase...

The loggia room was probably built around 1930 or so with the help of Giustino, who claimed that he worked on the foundation of our house in 1930. Since he's no longer with us, we can tell you that the room was built without any regard to it being square. So every time we speak with a muratore about it, we learn this.

There's much discussion between Stefano and Guerino and Dino about how to compensate for it. Stefano suggests a jog in the roof, there is much furrowing of brows, and then I offer a suggestion: why not build the wall out wherever it needs it to make it square?

The men look at me incredulously, then Stefano stands upon the fragile wall we've built with old pieces of tufa and measures again. They all agree it's a good idea. I feel as if I'm on the SF Giants team and have just scored a run.

I've been working on the tufa planters, cutting rosemarino back. This type of rosemary did not do well, nor was it pretty. It will all come out, so the planters will be left empty until we replant in early spring. In the meantime, I cut roses for our table in the kitchen, and here they are. These low to the ground beauties are the very best roses we have, called Medilland White. I'd recommend them anywhere, and they bloom from early April to at least first frost.

I've been working outside for almost two hours, and stop. My excuse is a cough, brought on by dust. When I walk inside, I realize it's almost 11AM, perhaps even too late to serve a merenda (snack) and caffé. But I do, and the warmed torta and caffé is served on the front walk, in front of the wall, as Cesare has almost completed the basic work, and the snack is served on top.

The geometra arrives, and we are told that the permit has not come in to extend the roof line of the loggia, so we'll stop at the line of the house, and wait patiently until the permit is granted, probably from Rome. We've already waited for six months for it... We have what I want anyway...two wisteria plants held up by two beautiful beams and a third cross piece beam; it can remain suspended until the roof can be finished that will come out to meet it...whenever it happens.

Duccio emails us to recommend that we see the Bronzino exhibit in Florence. I know he's a special painter, living during the mid 16th century, and now that I've seen the exhibit online, will surely study him.

The amianto (sheets of asbestos that covered the loggia) is moved to the parcheggio until it is picked up by the experts (ha!), and Stefano and Dino suggest we have a glass roof, or at least a skylight. I respond with thanks but no thanks. Earlier, Stefano brought some wonderful roofing tiles from Orsolini in Soriano; tiles that are sprayed in an amazingly natural way. Si, certo! This is what we will have for the roof, to sit under the old coping tiles we have ready to use, especially since the price is very good.

As you know, Dino is a conscientious guy, and must have a space to store his hose reel, or it will remain out in the open, something that really bugs me. There is a discussion regarding the pizza oven. Dino wants it high enough that he can store the hose reel under it.

We realize that a box can be made on the other side of the loggia, facing front, as if to balance the pizza oven, and Stefano and Dino agree that the box will be made there, as well as running the water line to it. And so Dino and I will have a home for the hose reel. Funny, but these little things can lead to the biggest quarrels. Not here, and not today. I return to painting in the studio with Sofi happily hanging under my arm like a sausage when I walk up the steps.

Dino likes to be around the workers, and they like him. So he makes a new table by putting the former kitchen tabletop (the one that was replaced recently by marble and used in the kitchen), upside down on saw horses. He will screw in the new turned legs that we bought in Viterbo. He paints the legs chocolate milk brown, and tomorrow we will put a white wash on them. Perhaps the top will remain rustic and we will use it in the loggia.

There was a discussion in which everyone except Sofi had an opinion. The subject: how many steps we'll need to build to enter the loggia from the front. Dino measured at the side and Stefano measured at the front, and there was a 9cm difference. Stefano prevailed, and Dino wanted one step and then the second step to reach the floor of the loggia. That would consist of two steps at 22cm high each! I had Stefano measure the length of my foot and we all laughed, then we agreed that there would be two steps before reaching the floor of the loggia, or three steps of 15cm each.

Ours is what is called a design/build project, as most of Italian construction projects are. It's a good idea we're both around, for kindly Dino calls me down for final decisions, and I so appreciate that.

I love working in the studio and hearing them all below me, doing their work. I especially love it that Dino is in their midst; it's what he so loves. Give him a restoration project and he'll be happy.

Returning to the painting project is so interesting to me; I like to paint an area and then let it dry; the paint and Liquin seep into the canvas and only after returning a second and third time do I see the results of my work. Oh, I love to paint! It's when the characters come to life that I am truly content, and from the desk where I write I look over to see the skin on Don Renzo's face, its shadows and light, that tell me I'm on the right track, but it will take time.

October 21
Mise in place is something I learned recently about cooking. It is a French term that has to do with having everything available, and since my memory is slowly disappearing, as if it was this morning's fog over the valley, I like the idea when cooking.

To follow this, it's suggested that we take out a tray for each recipe, and measure out the ingredients in advance, placing them in little dishes or containers, so that we'll be sure we have everything we need and that it's right at hand on the tray.

I choose to waltz my way through this concept as if I'm a butterfly, instead of griping or getting upset. I feel a kind of levity about my life, as if I'm really outside myself sometime, and thanks to dear Dino I find that it's quite a wonderful way to get through the day. In other words, my memory is not what it used to be; but then, I don't remember what it used to be. Ha.

Today's sweet is cornbread, or torta di polenta.


In our new studio setup, the computer faces south, and all of a sudden a burst of sunlight turns my yellow turtleneck almost white. Oh. Yesterday there was a discussion of turtles, and Stefano wanted to know how to pronounce the word in English. In Italian it is tartuaga and Stefano tries to pronounce the word. It comes out as "tuhr-tool". Come no?

While the men were turning around the freezer and frigo
just now, so that we could use them during the roof building process, several gechi (geckos)
scrambled across the wall. They look prehistoric, quite different than lucertoles (lizards)
and somewhat larger.

While we're at it, Dino shows me the sewer pipe that existed when we purchased the property, and was used by the previous owners. He thinks that is where he heard a creature scratching, and thinks the creature was a...razzo (rat).

Are you thinking Razzo Rizzo (the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie Midnight Cowboy?) While I find the mere thought of the creatures repulsivo (repulsive),
I wonder about the word. I find repugnante (repugnant),
rettile (reptile),
repubblicano (republican)
right next to each other in the dictionary and no, I am not making a political statement, although it does make me laugh.

Are you thinking my dictionary of Italian words is pretty funny? If I ever do write a book, the words and especially the phrases, will surely appear. How about, "I smell a rat?" Subodorare un inganno is the verb to smell a rat,
but ingabbiare is to cage or jail, to build a framework of,
ingabbiatura is a frame or framework,
ingaggiare means to hire, to get tangled up,
and now it gets interesting. Infusióne is the placement of holy water....
Ingàggio is a bonus for signing up in sports.
Ingagliardire is to become strong or strengthen, and the excitement continues...

Ingannare is to deceive or cheat, to beguile or to be mistaken.
An ingannatóre/trice is an impostor,
ingannévole is to be deceitful or deceptive,
inganno is an illusion,
ingarbugliare is to entangle, to get mixed up, to become embroiled...
can you just feel the heat? Ingegnare (ingegno) is to manage or to scheme, and
ingegnère is an engineer,
an is a brain, genius talent,
ingelosire is to make or become jealous and
ingemmare is to adorn or stud with gems,
ingènito is an adjective for inborn,
ingente is something huge or vast,
ingentilire is to refine,
ingenulta is an ingenuous act,
ingènuo/nua is ingenuous, artless, an artless character,
and also an ingénue in the theatre.
Ingerènza is interference and
ingerire is to ingest, to swallow, to meddle.

Now how about writing a short story including all of these words, set in Italy? If I weren't so busy, I'd write one for you...Aspetto un attimo! (Did you remember from an earlier day? It means: "Wait a minute!")...Maybe later...

Back to Mugnano, Rosina cries out to me that she's always doing laundry for her children and grand children; this is common in Italy, for most adults work and the nonni (grandparents) are left to take care of the children and often, also do the laundry. We know that she is worried about the bank below her house; if it crumbles her home will be damaged.

We're worried as well, and when Stefano arrives we all confer about what to do about it, especially with the back corner of the loggia being rebuilt. We agree to close up the grotto (cave), and that means taking out everything we want to keep. For a moment I thought we were going to build a steel brace inside so that we could use it; the final agreement is that we'll close it up and spray intonico (plaster) on front, to seal it from rain seepage. Gianfranco and Marie next door have used the same treatment.

Before they are through, Dino finds the perfect barrel for burning small amounts. It has no bottom, but that's not important. So he has a find, and we can move forward. Later he finds a lightly rusted metal strainer to use for sifting grain and it fits right on top, perfect for burning. He is all set.

Dino and I put a white wash on the table legs, and he'll put a couple of clear coats on them; then when they are dry he'll turn the table over, use wood filler and be sure the top looks great, paint a clear coat on that as well. Since it's expected to rain on Sunday and Monday, we need to finish this little project before Sunday.

Returning to painting, it's a slog for me today, primarily because the details on his face are so small. I need to wait between small changes, so sit at the desk and look at him now and then. The canvas actually changes when the paint and Liquin dry, so after a while he does look back at me.

Outside, there is quite a bit of chaos; the chopping down of old walls cuts down memories, too, and I wonder if Rosina was friendly with any of the previous owners. She looks sad, as if she does not know what will happen, and if it is her right to stop any of it.

We are very concerned about her welfare, and that is why we are going to close up the grotto, even though we could keep it for our use. We'll do our best to waterproof it as well. I hate to see her sad, and hope what we are doing will add to her view and please her.

Here's the emptied grotto, and it is a shame we have to cover it. No, it's less to worry about, and future generations can open it up again, if they wish.

Dino asks me to stand with him to tell him what I'd like to keep...clay pots, one green glass jug, the Tuscan grill... Everything else can go. There are enough plastic containers to give anyone a headache. Dino tells me he'll put three big ones out front, and if anyone wants them, they can have them.

We're still waiting for the amianto folks; this is the third time they've promised to come. They finally arrive after 5 PM, and while they are working in the parcheggio, Vincenza and Augusto come by for a quick visit.

Vincenza recommends that we use one or two of our balaustras in our tomb design in the cemetery. Good idea! We show them the conch shell, but while arranging the cushions, see that there are scores of tiny ants with wings. Vincenza tells us that they are formica volante (flying ants...remember the song "Volare"?) We decide not to sit there after all...

After they leave, we drive off to meet Mary and Don at Il Gelsi for pizza, and we wish we had more time to spend with them. The boscaiolo is what we order, and it is our new favorite type of pizza, containing mozzarella mushrooms and sausage. Only when one orders Boscaiolo Rosso will they get the same with tomatoes.

We've left Sofi in the car, but since it's dark and cool, she sleeps inside her Sherpa bag, still happy when we let her out as we leave.

There is a full moon out tonight, and we don't know what it means, other than to say it's been a pretty crazy day, and the cough of mine doesn't have to do with amianto dust. Speriamo di no (We hope not).

October 22
We're driving to Rome for our semi-annual dentist cleaning. We thought we'd return right away, but none of the muratores will be working this afternoon, Stefano works alone during the morning and then leaves for the day.

Our dentist is a newlywed, and beams a bit more than usual, but still has the same fine attention to detail. I have no cavities, but he wants me to get a mouth guard. Perhaps I can have one made in the U.S. later this fall.

Have you ever purchased a toilet? It's such a weird experience. We want to have a new one, and the choices are so wide I can hardly believe it. Dino gets down on his knees in the store to inspect them all, see where the connections are, and all that, while I stand back in wonder.

The seats are every bit as much of a mystery, and I'm wondering why there isn't a standard gabinetto (toilet)? In the US, there must be several hundred or more to choose from in many stores. In this big Mervyn Leroy shop in the outskirts of Rome there are at least 50 styles of seats, and at least that many toilets.

We choose one of each with the help of a young worker, and next week Enzo the hydraulico will install it. Great friend Don is still here, and since he's taking plumbing instruction for perhaps a future career when he retires from teaching, I jokingly asked him the other night if he wanted to supervise.

I can just see him now, taking out the old one to get ready for the new one. He'd be wearing his funny cap, leaning back and quoting Shakespeare while he works. As he's taking the gabinetto away he'd lower his head sadly and say, "Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well..."

Dino and I move the white armadio standing now in the loggia into the living/dining room, which is pretty full of all kinds of things, and measure all the distances in the now open loggia. Since we don't have a permit to extend the roof the entire way just yet, we won't add the tiles to the roof until we do. Will there be enough light? Should we put in a skylight? We'll have six months or more to figure that out.

On this, another full moon night, we turn in early. Tomorrow Dino will be up at dawn to watch Formula-1 trials on tv.

October 23
The Formula-1 trials over, we drive to Bomarzo to give our order for the new kitchen door to the loggia. Clouds seem to converge, as if there's a convention of clouds from all directions, and although sun streaks through, we're in the first stage of what promises to be rainy weather for almost a week.

The loggia frigo has been covered in such a way that we can open it and use it. We take down the wooden table and turn it right side up, so that Dino can fill holes of the old wood, sand it down and then add a stain, before putting a few clear coats on top. Before the afternoon is through, he has done most of the filling and sanding. Now the table is covered up with the rest of the things in the open loggia.

Did I tell you that we're going to whitewash the beams in the loggia? Whether or not we put in a skylight, the room will be dark. We're also going to try to use the chandelier we bought when we thought we would build a master bathroom off the bedroom. We're not sure if we will. If we do, it won't be soon.

We should probably drive to Deruta soon to purchase more handmade tiles. Then I'll ask Elena to dip them and I'll paint them to match the other dozen tiles we have waiting for a new project. Since the loggia sink is backed with these painted tiles already, might as well continue the design, or modified design, behind the stove, barbecue and on front of the pizza oven.

With all the rain expected for next week, it will be good to pickup the tiles then. I surely should paint a special design for the front of the pizza oven, using the existing blue and white design and modifying it for the front. It appears as though many other projects will take a back seat to that one... perhaps I'll do a little of this; a little of that. What fun the next month will be!

There is a memorial for Dino's brother Jim next spring, and we're trying to find a way to go for a week. Perhaps we won't plant any tomatoes, for the first time since we moved here. If we can find someone to stay here with Sofi we'll try to do it.

October 24
There is sun in the sky, and it's a hazy sun, so the forecast has changed. With only showers expected tomorrow, the muratores will probably work.

Six of us participate in the Coro this morning, and all is well. There is some talk about a cena (dinner) tomorrow night, but Rosina will tell me more tomorrow. My mind is all about painting, for the Extemporanea will be next weekend. I'm sure that I'll paint Italo, Vincenzo and Augusta sitting on the bench in front of Ernesta's little shop. Dino thinks I'll have a week to paint it, but even if it is only a day I will do that one. With such a long list of subjects to take on, this is one I surely want to paint. Perhaps I'll even use the canvas I prepared for Don Francis for it.

I'm thinking a lot about the nipotini (grand daughters) lately, wanting to do some special activity with each of them. While we drive in the car I'm so aware of what is around me. Yes, seeing with a painter's eye is a marvelous thing. Perhaps I can let the girls see for themselves how wonderful it is to see the world around them in that way.

We picked up a package of prepared large shrimp yesterday, and today I made scampi with herbs from the garden (tarragon, chives, Italian parsley) with capellini (little hat) pasta. I have no idea why that is the name, for it consists of long very thin strands of pasta, not hat-like at all. It's really a kind of vermicelli. You remember that it is against Italian food laws to serve cheese with fish, don't you? Dino loved it and no, there is none left for another day. I certainly did NOT serve it with cheese.

A brézza (breeze) continues through the afternoon, and while I'm looking the word up, because I am not sure of the spelling, there is a whole raft of new words to add to my growing, albeit somewhat irrelevant Italian vocabulary; words I'd love to share with you...

Bretèlla are suspenders,
brève is brief,
in breve means, "in a nutshell",
per farla breve is in short,
a bricco is a kettle or a pot, and
bricconata is rascality (what?), while
briccóne/na is a rascal.
Bricola is a crumb,
briciolo is a bit,
briga is worry or trouble;
attaccare briga is to pick a fight;
darsi la briga di is to worry about;
trovarsi in una riga, is to be in trouble,
brigante is a brigand,
brigare is the verb to plot, to scheme, and if I did not have so many wonderful things to do here I'd surely write a mystery novel using my very own Italian vocabulary.

I'd have a main character not unlike Inspector Brunetti in the series of Donna Leon mystery novels. Perhaps it would be a dumb American/ or a couple deposited in Italy and left to fend for themselves as they navigate bureaucracy and the sweet life that is Italy.

No, I think it would be an American fellow of Italian heritage who is just that side of being honest and spends his time as many Italians do, finding ways to navigate the system...

No wonder I have so many headaches...there is so much going on in there (not much of importance) that there's not enough room for memory or important things. But then, what IS important, anyway?

I think it's joy and respect of one's fellow man, and looking at the world with a painter's eye.

There are many changes in the painting of Don Renzo, and if we're in luck, I'll finish it by the end of the week. A fair amount of it is easy to do, once his face looks just right. Let's not even think of what's next, although it certainly is the painting for Don Francis' church.

Before dark, we rewrap the table Dino is working on, along with other things that will remain in the middle of the loggia floor during construction. We're hopeful that they'll be here tomorrow, although we'll miss half of the day taking Don and Mary to Ciampino Airport in Rome, for their trip back to England.

We never see them enough when they're here, but the few times we did spend together were a joy. Perhaps that's one of the reasons to take them to Rome and pick them up; we spend more time with them that way.

October 25
What a storm we had last night! I thought we'd have a gentle rain, but when we awoke we found lots of rain on the ground. Happy plants and trees!

Paolo the door fabricator arrives to talk with us about a new door. Yes, we're going to have the door made before having the muratore create a hole in the wall for it. We don't understand having a hole in the wall made and left open for a month while a door company fabricates the door. It's just not safe. With agreement from Stefano, we verify the measurements with Paolo.

Safety and fear, safety and fear, safety and fear seems to be the mantra all over the world, and I read that with that as their highest priority, Republicans in the U S were able to couch the invasion of Iraq in those terms to a frightened nation.

Sadly, Juan Williams was fired from National Public Radio for saying that when he's on an airplane he's afraid if there are Muslims on the plane. It's sad, but true. Invitations by Imams in the United States are inviting non-Muslims to their houses of worship for dialogues, and that is a wise thing to do. I'd like to attend one...

Speaking of fear, I am fearless when painting, as if I'm King Olaf with a spear tracking down whomever is in his path. Norwegian friends just celebrated his day, on October 17th, in Rome. Dear friend Pietro is just back from a round of guiding Norwegian tourists around Rome, the city he loves and knows so well.

Here at home, Dino takes a load of plastic and tin to the dump, which is open on Monday mornings. That's another thing to learn when living in a new country. Italy is becoming more sophisticated by the day, probably thanks to its membership in the European Union and its regulations. It's more difficult for Italians to slip things "under the rug"... here.

Light refracting from diamonds is something I am not sure about, so I confer with Al Gore's internet and print something out for Dino, so that we can talk about it. There is what I believe to be a diamond in the staff Don Renzo holds, and the light from it is difficult to determine, since the staff holds an imitation light, one that is not naturally lit unless light from a lamp shines upon it. So how do I show it in the painting?

I print out an article and Dino and I will do experiments to determine where the light should be, how much of it shows in relation to the things around it, and the light's placement. What fun!

The rain seems to have stopped mid morning, but there is no sign of a muratore, nor is there a call from Stefano.

I continue to paint for a while, then stop for the day and fix my signature risotto with leftover roast chicken and saffron. There is enough for two days, but then, Dino eats seconds and thirds and it is gone. Fa niente (no matter). I will make minestrone tomorrow, or at least that's what I think I will do. Ask me tomorrow what we will have then...

We pick up Don and Mary, and drive them to Ciampino airport for their flight back to England. It has been a good trip for them, although the weather has not been perfect and Mary is able to navigate fewer places these days. It's good they have a portable wheelchair with them.

Through it all, Mary is a star; without a complaint and a thankful heart that she is surrounded by love, which she surely is. Don is a saint, so concerned that everything be just right. Enough said.

Back at home, I change, and Dino and Sofi drive me up the street, where I meet my Coro buddies. All together we drive to La Lanterna a trattoria in nearby Vitorchiano, and although we are without Federica, who is not feeling well, the evening is fun.

Pizza seems to be the main thing on the menu, and I choose boscaiola. I know the word bosco means woods or forest, and a boscaiolo is a woodcutter. The "a" at the end probably means either it is the food of the woodcutter or is named after his wife. Che penso, Sofi? (What do you think, Sofi?)

Wherever I turn, there is more to learn. Here are a few more to add to the list:

Bosso is boxwood,
botola is a trap door,
botolo is a small snarling dog (Hi, Sofi!),
a botta is a hit; bump or rumble (of an explosion),
botta e risposta is give-and-take;
botte da orbi is a severe beating;

botte is a barrel, cask or casket,
bottega/ghe is a store, shop;
chiudere bottega is to close up shop;
bottegaio/gaila is a shopkeeper;
bottiglia is a bottle; but
bottiglia Molotov is a Molotov cocktail (yes, it is in the dictionary...what a dictionary!)

A bottiglieria is a wine shop or liquor store;
a bitteghino is a box office or lottery agency,
bottino is boot, spoil; capture, cesspool; sewage;
botto is a hit, bump; explosion, noise,
di botto is all of a sudden.

During the cena, which includes Angelina the choirmaster, and her husband and Don Renzo, I show the priest a photo of the top of the staff he carries in the painting and ask him the significance of the diamond. He tells me that it represents water, and the copper wires wrapped loosely around it represent wind. This all sounds rather pagan, and after just reading my Thomas Hardy treatise kept from college, wonder how this all fits...Believe me; it does in some mysterious way...

Serena and MarieAdelaide sit across from me, Rosina to my right. They ask me how to pronounce my name in English, and I tell them, "Eve-anne". Serena tells me Ivana is all right, but the name Evanne is beautiful. Perhaps I should think twice before telling Italians my Italian name.

I'm so happy to be home with my loves, and without any rain this evening wonder if we have seen the end of it. Magari! (If only that were so...)

October 26
Under a colorless sky (how many times have I written these words this month?), we're surrounded by two hydraulicos (plumbers), Fabrizio and Luca and three muratores: Stefano, Guerino and Cesare. The second steep stairway (one that we never use) is walled up, plumbing pipes are reworked in the loggia area and the new toilet is installed.

While all this proceeds, Giovanna arrives to give me change for the cena last night, and Vincenzo arrives to tell us he saw two strange men working outside our new main gate the other day. We introduce him to the muratores and he lets us know he was just watching out for us; how dear he is!

I made a banana bread with a recipe from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, but although it is tasty, the temperature given on the recipe was too high. It's a good thing I added half a cup of plain yoghourt to make it less dense.

Since there is no water and no gas, we have an electric oven, so I'm able to serve slices of just cooked banana bread and glasses of water. I can't do dishes; I can't make coffee, but all the men are gentlemen and tell me they don't mind.

I had no idea it takes so long to install a new toilet, but when he is finished, Dino has taken off to the hardware store for some advice. Fabrizio calls up to me: "Signora!" and I think tells me not to move on the toilet for a day. What? I nod and thank him and he leaves. What a terrible type of work to do for a living! And to think Don wants to learn to take up the work...

Dino and I stand in the middle garden and decide the form the fountain will take. Using the long stone steps that were set aside when we closed up the front gate, we pick out two, plus two short ones for the sides. Later, we will decide about the spout.

This will be a re-circulating fountain, and I think should be located at the convergence where all the various paths meet. There's room enough to get around it from any angle. Roy's statue from his childhood garden will stand there at one side, and it will be simple, but probably quite pretty, and not in a carina (too cute) way.

I spend all the spare time I have this morning painting Don Renzo, and rework his staff completely, now that I understand what is it's significance and how the reflection of the light from the diamond will shine.

Just as I think the entire thing is a mess, I walk away from it for a while. When I return, I understand it all, and the light shines the way it should. Now I can paint his white cloak, and with folds and folds and more folds; shades of light and dark and his two hands holding the staff, it should be quite nice.

Is the background too dark? We'll have to wait and see. Remember, it is oil paint, so I can paint over anything that does not look the way I want it to. I'd like to see if I can finish it by this weekend.

It's suddenly cold, and I bundle up, wondering if we'll have a fire in the fireplace tonight. The day becomes colder by the hour, and I think it's the moisture in the air that makes me think of being cold, especially with the grey clouds drifting across that colorless sky.

The last touches that I make to Don Renzo's eyes, adding tiny dots of Prussian Blue to them, has me wanting to get away from it for a while. It's time to sit and begin the journal's word usage dictionary. Where do I begin?

I need help with the table format, and it's a good time to stop and walk out to Dino, where he digs earth down about ten inches inside the border we made earlier for the fountain and puts the earth in the cariolo (wheel barrow). How could it be? I enter the word minestre, which I know is vegetable soup, but the meaning of the word before it is the verb... to urinate! Mingere is the word, if you cannot wait to know...

If you find yourself somewhere in Italy, and you really have to go, ask someone if you can use the servizi or fare un bagno (go to the bathroom....).

This exercise will have to wait for another day.

October 27
Under a vast blue-gray sky, clouds seem to stand still over Mugnano. It's amazing to me that colors can predict the weather; there's no way I can look out and not know it is fall.

This morning, we have a full crew. Stefano works on the ground laying rete(rebar) in front of the loggia, while Guerino and Cesare lay rete in the space above the former front steps that were used to welcome guests. Guerino wears a woolen cap on this cold day and we're sure we won't hear that the day is too hot. It must be good working weather.

Dino has rethought the fountain and I am quite pleased; it will now be a higher fountain, since we have plenty of stone steps to frame it. The pump he bought yesterday is perfect, and although I tell him the design of the fountain is his, I'm secretly pleased he now wants it to be higher.

We seem to have our best results when a project drags out; then, we are left with time to consider options that often lead to an inspired design. This is one. We have only to find the perfect spout.

Dino sits at the kitchen table and redraws the loggia plan on graph paper. The workers follow his design; he's so good at the fine details.

Sofi is happy. Her little body seems to dance as she rushes over to greet Stefano, who takes her in his arms and gives her a hug. If good weather persists, cement will be poured tomorrow afternoon. I'm wondering if the bank behind us just under Rosina will be sprayed with cement as well. That should please her. Yesterday, Pepino told Dino that he wants his campo cemented as well, so the cement truck will be busy in Mugnano on that afternoon, which we think will be Thursday.

I woke with a migraine headache, but the pain is bearable after a cocktail of medicine and prima colazione, or breakfast.
The word colazione itself also means breakfast,
but it can also mean lunch. If that's not confusing enough,
seconda colazione also means lunch, and if you take
colazione al sacco, it's a picnic.

While I'm sitting at the desk facing South, sun streams in the front window all of a sudden, or have I just noticed it? Clouds that twenty minutes ago seemed to hang overhead have flown, and it appears we'll have a lovely day.

Last night I wrote about Don Renzo's image, and after waiting a night or so for the paint to seep into the canvas, it is as though the character's soul has seeped into the image as well. But this morning, the face does not look like the man. What is it about his image that has changed? Now I think his eyes are too dark.

Stefano and Pepino and Dino are talking, and it seems Stefano can work in iron as well as be a master muratore. Dino asks Stefano if he's a great gardener, too, but Stefano shakes his head and puts out his thumb. "Polici neri!" (black thumbs) he responds.

We talk with Stefano about the grotto on our property, below Rosita. Instead of completely covering it, he will build three walls inside and leave the center open. There may even be a door. Outside, the front of the tufa outcroppings will be cemented over, so that weeds won't grow. Dino goes over the plan with our neighbor, Rosina, and she is happy.

He then asks her what the tufa rocks between us up almost at her level are all about, and she tells him that there were two grottos at one point, but that when a relative was trying to systematize them, they caved in. So what remains are those rocks as well as one huge free standing rock clearly visible on our property, near the tufa planters above the parcheggio. Rosita thinks it's brutto, and when Dino tells her it's like a monumento, she responds by suggesting that a statue be made of me to stand atop it.

I put my two cents in, and after saying that I don't think it's a good idea, change my mind and say, yes, especially if I die before Dino. Then his next wife will have to deal with a statue of me that she'll have to face every day. I can only laugh.

Sun facing us keeps the temperature warm enough to be out in shirtsleeves, but as the sun lowers on the horizon I remember how cold it was here last night. We drive to pick up the stemma (coat of arms) for the house (the initials of the man who built the house), and Lorenzo has done a fine job, as usual. We also look for paint to stain the restored table, but realize we should try the can of ebony stain we have at home and use it quite lightly. We're looking for a kind of gray wash.

Back at home, Dino holds the stemma over what was the former front gate. The area is now paved over with tufa bricks matching the rest of the long wall, and it will be fine.

He tries the new pump, and it will work fine, although the muratores, especially Guerino, think it should shoot up into the air. It's a man thing.

October 28
"Lo momento di verita!" (The moment of truth!) Dino tells the muratores as Massimiliano arrives with the giant cement truck. He's here for about two hours, and in that time five areas are poured with cement. The top of the second landing above the old gate, one we never use and is already walled up, is filled and now is at the same level as the orto where we grow pomodori and fave (fava beans). The base for the garden fountain is now level with the gravel, and when dry, it will be built using the old stone front steps. Dino throws a coin in for luck as cement whooshes down from the long tube.

The area in front of the balustrade, ending at the front wall, will be topped with guiana (a covering or sheath) and then gravel. The loggia steps and walkway have been filled in, the corner space between two back and side walls is filled, as is the floor of the grotto.

Speaking of guaina, guaito is a whine,
gualcire is to crumple, and
guancia is a cheek.
Although guanciale is a pillow,
dormire tra due guanciali is to sleep safe and sound.
I recall ordering maiale guanciale (pork cheeks) and they were quite tender and tasty.

While the operai (workers) continue, I make a polenta (corn meal) cake for their merenda (snack) to have with coffee and then a large copper pot half full of minestrone.

Dino stays on hand with the camera, and to come up with tools now and then. Davide, who is a local muratore, shows up to borrow something from Stefano, and borrows a tool from Dino while he's at it. Dino should have a sign-out for his tools; he's like a local lending library.

With the pour finished, the workers complete leveling each part while it is wet, and now there is silence, as Dino drives to the next town to pick up bread for crostini to have with the soup for pranzo.

It's so quiet after all the noise that my ears seem to ache, as the reverberation after two hours of solid noise settles down. The men are gone, and now I hear their voices in the valley below. They are doing a pour at Pepino's campo (field), where the asini (donkeys) live.

It's a really lovely day, without a cloud in the sky. In the next days we'll be able to sit on the front steps in front of the loggia, and won't that be a treat! I see myself sitting with the grand daughters there, and would love to see them here. I also see my two nieces here, perhaps with their children, and is that ever a dream to be realized!

Painting will have to wait until after pranzo, and I'm not sure whether to continue to work on Don Renzo's eyes or to do his cloak, waiting until it is dry to return to his face. Let's have pranzo and think about it.

Dino wants me to watch some of the baseball game from last night, because it is the San Francisco Giants vs. the Texas Rangers and the Giants won. So we watch a little, but Stefano and Guerino and Cesare are back from pranzo, and at least Guerino and Cesare eat under our garden pergola.

The rest of the afternoon is spent building the first level of the fountain, for working with cement that is still a little wet is a good thing. In this case, it is like having three bosses, since Stefano is the creative head, but the two others are the heads of their own small construction company. It's fascinating. Take a look:

We drive to Viterbo and blow up thr photo of three vicini (neighbors) for a cartoon. I will paint from it on Saturday, for the Ecomuseo event.

October 29
"C'e brina sopra la zucca!"(There's frost upon the pumpkin!) Dino tells the workers this morning after hearing them use the word brina. "Per che non usare la parola gelata?" (Why not use the word ice?) Gelo or gelata is the word for ice, but it was not a hard freeze.

This is the first time I remember hearing the word, and perhaps that's enough to kill off the flowers of my beloved plumbago plants...I look up the word "plumbago" in the dictionary, and it translates to...graphite! What?

I consult with our giant catalogue from Vivai Margheriti, and it is listed under the word "plumbago", as well as the word "capensis". I'll have to consult with our dear friend and garden mentor, Sarah Hammond. Her spirit lives here, as well as that of Alush, and I do miss their presence, even for an hour.

With showers or rain expected for most of next week, the roof project will be slowed considerably. But now, the fountain is the main focus, since all of the forms have been taken away from the various cement pours and the project is taking shape.

We're going to have something very simple built to top the fountain and function as the back of the spout. While Guerino and Stefano continue to build the second layer of the fountain, Cesare measures the front where the old stemma will sit. Dino and I want it po avanti (a little forward), and Dino sits in front of it to take a look. He is able to put his elbow atop the side curve and that's how it will be. Va bene!

Guerino and Stefano are meticulous workmen; they appreciate the beauty of good work, and make sure the blocks of peperino are set "just so". I tell Stefano he and Guerino are a buon squadra (good team) and he nods in agreement. When Dino returns from yet another errand for the workers, he sees Stefano cutting pieces of wood to act as levels for the stone.
"Stuzzicadenti (toothpicks)!" he calls out.
Denti are teeth,
spazzolino da denti is a toothbrush,
mal di denti is a toothache and that's enough for now...

There is a lovely glimmer of a moon in the morning sky, as if an angel can sit upon the curve of the space and look down upon us. With sun lower in the sky and the weather crisp, these fall days are a wonder. It's warm here because we face south, so we're all out in shirtsleeves as if we're impervious to the cold.

There's Coro tonight, and we're going to practice a new piece. But in the meantime, we're to decide the design of the back of the fountain, and after some discussion, agree on a simple curved top, where a faucet or spout will be placed. We're not sure if we want a working fountain, but love the sound.

We agree to put three large white rocks inside, so that the water can trickle over them. Dino finds a metal tabletop of the correct diameter, and Stefano and Guerino use it to make the outline. Then Stefano uses his electrical saw while Guerino guides the stone, chipping off pieces as they go. The result is masterful.

Enzo, the hydraulico (plumber) has the correct kind of tube for the fountain top, and Dino finds him in nearby Chia on a job site. He's there to bring back a piece of it, long enough for Stefano and Guerino to snake it through the hole Stefano just bored.

Yes, projects can work well, when the right people are involved and work cooperatively together. Dino knows how to put workers together, and loves to be involved. So while he has no projects for others these days, he can concentrate on ours. While he is gone, I mention to Stefano that Dino would love to be involved any time Stefano needs the kind of work he can do. His face lights up and he nods.

After a quick pranzo, Dino drives off, and I stop to tell you what's has happened on this busy morning. Now I can concentrate on painting Don Renzo's face, but realize his right eye is too close to his nose, so white it out and begin to work on his cape while the paint on his eye dries.

Rome, Italy (CNN) - "Pope Benedict XVI announced Wednesday that he would create 24 new cardinals -- putting his stamp on the body that will select his replacement when he dies.

The 24 senior Catholic clergy who will be getting their red hats next month include two from the United States, plus men from Egypt, Brazil, Poland, Italy, Zambia, Ecuador, Sri Lanka and Germany, among others.

Many of the incoming cardinals are already based in the Vatican as senior officials of Roman Catholic Church bodies. With the new influx, Benedict will have created 62 cardinals since becoming pope in 2005. It's the third time he has created new cardinals.

Known as "princes of the church," cardinals are the highest level of the hierarchy below the pope -- and when a pope dies, cardinals under the age of 80 vote on his replacement. When the new cardinals are created in November, there will be 121 eligible to vote for the next pope, according to a CNN count. The number will then decline steadily through 2011 as cardinals turn 80."

I can't help wondering what a pope feels when he's choosing cardinals, for their job is to pick his successor. Do you remember the time the cardinals met in Viterbo during the 13th century, and took so much time making up their mind that it took cutting off their food for them to decide...?

Here at home, Cesare continues to heat a torch and apply the sheets of guaina over pathways covered with cemento. Dino thinks we may need more breccia (gravel), although I know there are places where we have too much. Let's wait...

Dino returns with the plastic pipe and we stand and watch the two top pieces of the fountain as they are sealed into place. What becomes a guy-thing, is how they are going to thread the piece of pipe through the canal they have ground through the stone. Amid their laughter that it takes four men to figure out how, I take Sofi up with me to paint, for I don't want to hear their manly (I'm trying to be polite, here) comments.

Earlier, the supply truck arrived with four palates of tufa bricks and cement and sand, or at least that's what I think is there. Dino and Cesare guide Federico with his gru, and it's determined that the palates have to be moved farther back from the front terrace, for it's a great deal of weight to put just behind the wall. This makes me nervous. I pick up Sofi for support, and we watch Federico just miss hitting the fence with one of the palates. Cesare cut the cord on top of the palate and he and Dino move the tufo blocks, one by one, farther back on the terrace, until half of the palate is empty and it's easier to move where they want it. I'm not happy with Dino doing this lifting...it worries me.

The last palate is moved to the walkway between our property and Peppino's orto, for it is part of this project to systematize that area, even though it is owned by the Comune (city hall). We have permission to do it, and there will be steps a cavallo (low rise with 2 paces between the risers). I can't find the expression in the dictionary, but do find a number of things for our word usage dictionary for you...

We all know that a cavallo is a horse,
but did you know that the word also means a crotch in one's pants,
or that a cavvalléta is a grasshopper, and
a cavvalléto is an easel or a tripod?
A cavallone is a very big horse.
How about a cavadénti?
It's a poor dentist!
Cavarsela is to overcome an obstacle; to get out of trouble, and
a cavatappi is a corkscrew.

Did I tell you that that they finished the fountain stucture and we love it? We still have some finishing touches to do, but now that the materials are here, the muratores return to the more important project of enlarging the loggia and putting the new roof on!

The sky turns a cold, almost transparent blue while Dino makes the rounds of Attigliano, Orte and Viterbo for: construction supplies, our favorite coffee, and prescriptions from the doctor. Next Monday and Tuesday are not workdays here or for almost anywhere else in Italy. I stop painting and take in the wonder of the day.

Later, we bundle up and Dino and Sofi drove me to the borgo for Coro practice, and it was fun. The women all get along, and there is always a laugh or two. We're all sorry we don't have choir robes...perhaps the next festaroli committee will buy them for us....

October 30
There is heat for two hours in the morning, and it's a wonderful way to rise on a chilly morning; the towel bar next to the shower fluffs the towel and gives me a feeling of soft embrace as I step out on to the mat.

But then, this is the morning I am to enter the Extemporanea painting competition in Mugnano and surrounding towns. I'm filled with an overwhelming sadness, my heart so fearful of competition of any kind that I feel surrounded by a force pulling me down.

And yet, I want to be a good citizen of the community, and so tell myself as the vicini (neighbors) tell themselves and each other every day... "Sempre avanti!"(always forward) Strangely, as I type these words, I hear "Pomp and Circumstance" played on the classical music station, taking me back to Thayer Academy oh, so long ago.

Sempre amici (Always friends) is the new painting I intend to do, and its subject consists of three people for whom I have great affection in the village. Two of them are the eldest citizens of the village at age ninety: Italo and Vincenzo. Augusta is the third, and last summer we captured the three of them sitting on the same bench where old Gino sat in front of his daughter Ernesta's store before he passed away. We have Gino's painting here, and it brings pleasant memories when I see him smile down upon me.

Yes, we have another painting with the same name; it is of the two Andreas sitting on Livio and Gigliola's steps. I see these as two in a series of many; a series that includes: Felice, Gino and Vincenzo with Occhi Pinti and now Italo, Vincenzo and Augusta. I fill out the form, translate it into Italian, and Dino and I walk into the Universita Agraria office in the borgo, where the application registration takes place.

My memory winds way back to 1952 when, at age six, I won first prize in a town wide art contest for children. My mother and Karen, my next door neighbor, and I entered a great building that must have been the City Hall of Hingham, Massachusetts. Curved and wide wooden staircases painted in white flanked a balustrade below which, front and center, stood my little painting of an elf, standing happily in a garden in front of a tree, the sun shining down upon him.

Why can't I leave the thoughts there? I made the crayon drawing innocently enough, not realizing the result would stay in my mind almost six decades later, and it's been a rocking roller-coaster ride that I hope is slowing down...

We drive to Bomarzo for cappuccinos and then on to Il Pallone for groceries, but the fog around me just won't lift. On the way home we talk about the marvelous fountain fashioned for us by Stefano and Guerino yesterday, and the spout yet to be made. It will be a medieval looking thing, simple and un-ostentatious, I hope. Lorenzo won't be back at work until next Thursday, but we'll talk to him about making the spout in iron then.

When back at home, I sit sequestered in the studio listening to classical music as I ponder the painting. Don Renzo's painting is set aside for now, but will be finished for the rinfresco (refreshment gathering) to be held after mass on November 14th, where we will also sing "Amazing Grace" to Don Renzo for the first time. It is a piece he loves, and the Coro has loved learning it. If only we had choir robes...

The music helps me to push anxious feelings aside, and I clear off the table to prepare the cartoon. Oh. There is no carbon paper with which to make the cartoon. Dino kindly agrees to drive Sofi and me to Viterbo to KLIMT to buy more, and perhaps to keep my mind uplifted, tells me one of his marvelous ideas. We do not have a permit for the complete roof, that may take a year, but do have a permit to finish it as far front as the same plane of the house. Right now, three large beams with two of them upright hold two glicine (wisteria) plants closer to the front of the terrace, the plants' tentacles growing so fast that they now meet in the center between the poles.

Between the two planes, in an expanse 5 meters by almost three meters, will be a transparent material through which sun can stream into the loggia. Lorenzo will make the rods to hold them in place, and the design is not much different as that of the roof of the nearby serra(green house).

Our favorite fabro (iron artisan) is celebrating the Day of the Dead extended holiday; but we'll be able to meet with him on Thursday about this as well as the fountain project. Yes, Lorenzo's spirit is very much a part of this place.

Dino looks dumbfounded. He has no idea I would love the idea of a transparent bridge. And after pranzo his mind races while he puts a thin coat of blue stain on the table.

The cartoon for the painting is very detailed, so after an hour or so I stop to write, needing a break. It will take three hours or more to finish the cartoon; then I'll spray it with strong hairspray and let it dry. Only then will the canvas be ready to apply paint. I'll be able to work on this as well as Don Renzo's in tandem, for when I'm at the point on one where it needs to dry a bit to soak in the paint, I can turn to the "Sempre Amici" painting.

With lots of rain expected this next week, there will be plenty of time to paint, and yes, I will finish "Sempre Amici" by the deadline of November 7th. As I look at it, I have wanted to do the painting anyway, so this is a helpful nudge.

Tonight there is a benefit in Orvieto, and I'm particularly in favor of some of the services it benefits, so we'll get dressed and go.

The event was a dinner with friends all around at our table. Although we did not stay for the entire meal, it was good to be there, the weather clear with just enough chill to make the night air feel crisp. Now, isn't that a strange description, although you all know what I mean?

At home, Dino makes plans to wake up with an alarm after midnight to watch the World Series on TV.

October 31
With rain falling hours after we've turned in, we awake to wet windows and plenty of rain all around us. No matter, I've sprayed the painting of the three vicini (neighbors) and spend a couple of hours on the background and have enough time to put at least one coat on their faces before stopping to sauté meatballs for a sauce and cook pasta.

Rain continues; it's a gentle falling rain, and we're going to a Capocera funeral of Giuseppa's brother in Sipicciano this afternoon. We did not get up in time for church, knowing we'd attend a service later in the day. I did miss singing in church, but there will be services on Monday and Tuesday, so I can sing then.

After pranzo I return to painting for an hour. This week I'll be able to enjoy the work without being stressed, for I'm hoping there will be plenty of time to paint, especially with rain forecast for most of the week. But then, we do need to drive to Deruta late in the week to pick up more handmade tiles to have Elena dip so that I can paint them for the front of the pizza oven once it has been built.

We attend the funeral in a modern church in Sipicciano, but two paintings flanking the altar are really dramatic; we surmise they're from the school of Caravaggio. While we're waiting outside for the funeral to begin, Dino tells me that he thinks it's a proper day for a funeral. Skies are grey, but there is no rain.

Afterward, we return home and Dino works on our iPod music, re-categorizing some of it. He wants more country music, and I suggest he look up the group "The Band". I remember them from my Boston days in the early 1970's.

Before I stop, I've painted almost the entire canvas, and now it will have the night to dry. With no visitors tonight for dolcetto o scherzetto (trick or treat), we put treats away for another day and say goodbye to another peaceful month.

"May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and in others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us." quote by Saint Therese of Lisieux

November 1
Wintry skies greet us on this Tutti Santi (All Saints Day) in Italy and in Catholic countries around the world. What? Catholic countries? I am speaking about countries in which Catholicism is the predominant religion.

That brings to mind terrorist groups who are not really speaking for the Islam religion but act as if they're stinkbugs, boring into our lives and our consciousness. If we kill them, they let out a gaseous stink. Islam as a religion stands far apart from their beliefs and actions; how moving the religion and how dastardly the people who bend it out of shape to suit their brutal actions.

With rain gently falling, we drive up to church, and I realize all of a sudden that the Coro will be seated up front next to the priest when he gives his homily. I'm seated right below him, studying his features, but am moved by his countenance as he talks about the beatitudes, and especially, "Blessed are the poor in spirit..."

We have been so fortunate to have wonderful priests in our little village. Although they are stationed in Bomarzo or Viterbo, we are treated with equal attention as the bigger town to which we are a frazione (or neighborhood.) On this day, there is no preaching to those who only attend mass occasionally; to me it makes him that much more special. Instead, he acts as if to bless them, and us, as one and the same.

Earlier, just as he arrived in church, I asked Don Renzo for one more head shot with his face facing straight ahead but his eyes looking to the left. Dino quickly takes out his camera while Don Renzo laughs and tells the women around us that the photo is for his tomba tomb...

Later, we drive to Bomarzo for cappuccinos and then to the metano station for fuel for Giallina. On the way, the lovely plane trees in Bomarzo begin to drop their leaves, which by this time are golden in color. All over the valley, trees are doing the same, and we're drawn to the pioppo(poplar) trees framing the land below our house as they turn as well.

The day seems strangely silent; tomorrow we'll probably have mass in the church, for Don Renzo tells us if there is rain, we will not have the traditional All Souls Mass in the cemetery.

Suddenly, the silence is dashed as gunshots ring out and the sounds of men cheering in the rain as if they're celebrating something. As each shot sounds, there is a cheer, and there are many cheers, as if the hunters are drunk. No, it's the opening day of Cinghiale (Wild Boar) season. They are certainly a crazed bunch, and I can't imagine they are Mugnanese...

With lots of rain all afternoon, Dino sits at the computer to prepare the October journal to post, albeit a bit late, and I stand and continue to paint the three neighbors. Because I'm not using a canvas prepared in the normal way by the people in Rome, the surface does not absorb the paint readily. Layer by later, it begins to take shape, and I have a new concept. I may finish the painting on time but not submit it to the competition. That will relieve me of a bit of angst.

There's no sense doing projects outside, so consider this a lazy day.

November 2
It's Festa dei Morti (Feast of the dead, or All Souls' Day), and although we expect rain, sun streams in the windows as early as 8 AM, telling us that we will be welcomed in the cimitero(cemetery) for today's special mass.

Muratores arrive here and work continues, although we're not sure where the mass this morning will take place. After an hour it is evident that the mass will be held in the cemetery, as well it should.

I have not added the recipes I promised to the October journal, so will try to do that, and if we're in luck, it will be in time for the posting anyway. In a fit of angst, I prepare them for Dino to add. So click away...

Dino asks Cesare how the hunting went this weekend for him; he said it was not good. I smile and call out "Brava!" to all the uccelli (birds) who escaped his gun.

I walk down and then up to the cimiterowith Augusta and MarieAdelaide, and when Augusta becomes tired, I take her arm. "Dietro!"(my back) she laughs, and then I put my hand behind her, as if I'm holding her up.

We laugh some more, and find our way up the steep hill; a hill that so many villagers take every single morning and sometimes the afternoon as well. This morning's mass in the cemetery has a sweet sadness to it; people stop at the tombs of their genitori(parents), along with theirantenato (ancestors), and make sure the flowers adorning their tombs are "just so".

Don Renzo stands alone at the pulpit, and the intonico (plaster) on the walls behind him shows signs of wear. This is the spot where I wanted to do a fresco before realizing that weather would damage it almost as soon as it was done. The word translates to fresh or cool, and that's how the plaster is applied and painted on a wall.

Today his words are brief, but he tells us that this dormitorio(dormitory) is una finestra eternityà(a window to eternity). Yes, it feels that way. No longer does one's passing seem so final.

As Don Renzo walks around the cemetery giving his blessing to those there, I see Stein standing by himself and greet him. He walks me home and sees the work here in progress, but then walks home. He is well again after being ill for several days, and it is always good to see him.

Dino takes great pride in Celestino Natale's stema, mounting it himself as Stefano works on the pizza/bread oven and the brothers fit the grotto with tufo walls and support.

Dino asks Stefano if he is wearing new pants, and he is. He says they are too big and he should probably use bretelle(suspenders). Stefano begins to prepare the wall for Dino's hose reel and also for the pizza oven, as I watch steam rising from the stacks of tufo bricks. It is humid today, but perhaps there will be no rain.

The tufo wall that he is preparing is an old one. With an opening to be closed off, I notice how wonderful it would be for morning light to stream into the loggia. So I ask Dino and he agrees, then speaks with Stefano to prepare the space with intonico; it is possible we will leave the opening, even without a window, and it will be quite tall. We joke that it is the right size for one of the side windows in nearby San Rocco, but that is not to be.

The grotto walls are finished rapidly; the brothers work well together. By the end of the day, it looks finished. If we're fortunate, there won't be any rain to speak of in the next week or two and we'll be able to use the space for garden supplies.

I procrastinate about painting, and it is sure that I will not put the painting in the competition. If this is to be a work of love, I want to abandon any angst, and enjoy it.

After the men leave, we drive to Orte to a new hardware/garden shop. The shop is almost empty. Perhaps it will grow and be a better source for us some day.

Tomorrow should be a good working day here, and we should see some real progress regarding the pizza/bread oven. There is plenty to dream about...

November 3
Fog in the valley turns to sun in a sky devoid of color; soon we will see blue and we're happy for that. Good weather is expected here until at least Sunday, and the muratores have finished the tufo lining in the grottoand return to work on Stefano's bread/pizza oven.

A new supply of tufo bricks and calce arrive, for the last batch was quickly used.

I sauté onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms in olive oil in one pan, while the costole (ribs) in the main pan, then add wine to loosen what's left in the pot, add the vegetables to the pot with a large jar of pomodori passato and beef broth and put it in the oven until the meat falls from the bone.

We have to leave in a couple of hours; so will turn the meat off then. We'll reheat it when we return. Today our good doctor will give us our flu shots, and perhaps there will be a lot to see here at home when we return. Speriamo.

I just can't return to the painting; there is so much going on here. The three vicini wait patiently on the canvas, smiling out at me as I write. I like to have it here; it's as though I'm getting to know them all over again.

So here I am wearing leggings and my new €12 purple suede boots and a flowered garden jacket talking with Dino about the placement of the oven and barbecue in the loggia. I've prepared a merenda(snack) for the workers, and step toward the house, only to trip over a roll of guiana and fall like a fool, landing on my hands and knees. I'm too old for this.

"Signora!" Cesare calls out from what I call the gabbia (cage) where the oven will sit. Dino comes running, and I can only smile and say "Va bene"(I'm fine). Cesare picks up the roll and moves it, as though I've hurt something else other than my pride...

I laugh to myself; guaito means whine, while guaina is a protective covering, the covering used on the roof and under some of the breccia (gravel), and over what I tripped. (Don, this is one of those grammar rules, not ending a sentence with a preposition; that makes no sense to me.)

On top of that, just a spelling transposition makes all the difference between a whine and a roll of hard material in the Italian language.

Dino corrects me: the boots were €12.90. Ha!

Sofi loves to lie in the sun. She's lying next to me as it streams into the studio. Outside, the men are hot; it is that warm on our property, even when it is cool all around us.

My pride hurt, I paint for a while; then get ready to drive to Viterbo for our flu shots. Don't forget to turn off the costole (short ribs)!

At the doctor's, it's determined that Dino has a problem with high frequency sounds, but so does the doctor, so that's about it for the hearing problem I think he has developed.

He knows not what to do about his skin problem, something that is hereditary. He'll have to ask his brother Christopher if he has any ideas...

Otherwise, all is well, and we return home to my best short ribs yet...and this without a recipe. Yes, I suppose I can come up with one for you...do remind me if we don't post one in a month or so....

There's more to talk with Stefano about regarding the design, and the delicate back wall to the front of the grotto will be fortified.

It's just a shame that Gianfranco, who lives next to Rosina, built out over the grotto next to it over our land, where an enormous stone feeding trough is now surrounded by newer tufa bricks. With another pillar just in front of it, we're not able to use it for anything. The geometra tells us the addition to the building was not lawful, but we're not about to do anything about it. It's just a shame.

Bright sunny weather continues, and I'm encouraged by the painting of the vicini, but it is far from completion. I email Paola to tell her I will not compete, and return to it, with no pressure.

Before the muratoresleave, we discuss with Stefano what support beams we will need, and where they will be placed. Hour by hour, the space seems to change, and the only thing wrong with the day is that I close the windows upstairs while Dino lights the stufa in the kitchen, and a profusion of stink bugs drop down on the window sill. I forget to pick them up with a Kleenex, and now my hands smell of them. We hear they are everywhere...How strange and how recent the phenomenon!

November 4
It's another lovely morning and the weather will hold...until Sunday. Showers are expected all next week, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we won't have workers...

I don't like the canvas I've used for the painting of the vicini; it does not absorb the paint as well as a better quality canvas, even with the use of Liquin to even the paint and help it to dry. Now that I don't have to worry about finishing it by this weekend, however, I feel as if I'm Atlas and one of the giant beams for the loggia roof project has been lifted from my shoulders. Yes, I did feel the weight of the world when facing the competition. Now I can just love having the painting around.

We'll have short ribs again for pranzo, and they will probably taste even better the second day. But first, there is a drive to Lorenzo, to have him cut iron pieces for the fountain and talk with him about designing a spout.

One just has to love the Italians. We have oh, so many reasons, and a good one is this: Our good friends who live in Bomarzo and in Rome won't be nearby this weekend, as they'll be welcoming their son, a fine pianist. He is returning to Rome from Islamabad, where he is playing on this day for the Italian military to celebrate Nov 4th, the one and only victory of the Italian army in 1918! Ha!

The travi (beams) for the roof of the loggia will arrive tomorrow afternoon in a truck with a giant gru, (crane) and we'll be sure to document it all for you. Wit h showers and some rain expected next week, it's important to put the beams in place before then.

When I ask Dino if they will be stored on the terrace, he tells me that no, they must be placed and secured where they will live subito! (right away), and the gru is an important part of it all. We're sure we'll have lovely sun tomorrow for their arrival, and it is yet another reason to celebrate.

This morning I focus on painting Italo, whose smile is a constant reminder of his love of life; I believe that every moment for him is a joy. Layer by layer, the intonations of his expression come to life as I paint his face, and I suppose that is what is so wonderful to me.

With classical music playing as I paint, it sinks into my subconscious until I stop to reflect. And it is then that a single violin reminds me of the days I played one with joy. It may be a similar joy to that of Italo's.

November 5
We awake to fog, but by the time the huge travi (beams) arrive, we're surrounded by sun. The men are happy working here; each is an artisan in his own right. While they've worked, we've been to two locations for supplies (Attigliano and Soriano), stopped at the bank, then for caffé at our favorite place in Bomarzo, in Soriano to pay for the wood beams before they are delivered, and for metano in Bassano in Teverina. Dino picks up a very simple rubinetto (faucet), one we'll see if Lorenzo can turn into a spout and more characteristic faucet in ferro (iron) for the new fountain. Thanks so much, Torbjorn, for recommending that we build one!

Soon after we return to the house, Fabrizio arrives with a giant gru and all the wood needed for the tetto (roof). He's a very nice fellow, and tells me he has a short- haired basotto (dachshund) at home named Leo. These dogs are becoming increasingly popular in Italy, for they are such wonderful pets. We agree!

Here's the drama of the giant beams being lowered into place.

Dino pays Fabrizio and returns to the men to find out that he's overpaid a bit for the transport. The next time Stefano calls him he'll make sure the price is right...Dino is wearing a Tuscia in Jazz shirt, and Fabrizio told him he loves the festival as well. Next summer, we'll have to get together for a drink. When Dino tells me, I respond that we'll have to drink Dom Perignon...

The men stop for pranzo a bit early but are back at work before Dino and I finish ours. The few times I walk out to see what is developing, I see Cesare riding one of the beams, a la Doctor Strangelove, but there is a lot of discussion with not much happening.

Dino has a new hobby; he wants to share building terms with you, so will photograph different tools and tell you their Italian name as well as their purpose. He'll love doing this as much as I love painting.

Back in the studio, I've finished painting Italo's face; Roy's comment when looking at it is, "My God!" I guess that means he thinks it's good.

This afternoon I begin to paint Vincenzo's face, but turn back to Italo to work on his arms and hands, and then his shirt. I like moving back and forth while painting, taking on one thing for a while and then another. All the while, classical music plays in the background as if it's holding me in its arms and gently swaying.

The afternoon ends with the muratores leaving with little of the roof finished, and Dino letting Stefano know that we are not pleased with today's work. Today's work is especially important, due to the forecast for next week.

Rain is expected for most of the upcoming week; but then, castagno (chestnut) is very hard wood. Having it exposed to a lot of rain is not a problem. All of our appliances for the loggia sit under a huge tarp on the loggia floor, and we'll get by with things as they are.

The image of Italo is about 75 per cent finished, and Vincenzo's is half way there, as is Augusta's. I suppose if I wanted to finish the painting for the competition I could fret and knock my brains out to finish on Sunday, but those days of stress are long gone.

I so love painting this subject, and thrive on taking time with each character; it's as if I'm having conversations with them about their lives as I stand in front of them and put brush lovingly to canvas.

I'm sitting at the computer about four feet from the painting to take a break, and old Italo faces me head-on, as if he's about to let out one of his hearty "Ha!"s. Vincenzo sits back and gives me a gentle look with his head cocked to one side. He sits as many elderly people do, with one leg crossed over the other but barely, as if the upper leg folds right on top of the knee of the lower.

Augusta sits modestly, just waiting for me. Since I work from left to right, she'll be the last to be finished, although I see that she crosses her legs just as Vincenzo does. Italo, however, sits up straight, his knees apart, with one leg off the bench and one on.

I've never done a painting quite like this, and it's possibly my best one yet. With Don Renzo's painting in the wings and the rinfresco nine days away, I really need to give him some attention. Perhaps tomorrow I will paint his voluminous cloak, which will be a good beginning. After that dries for a few days, I'll work on his face again.

Rain, snow, hurricane, heat wave...they're all the same to me. I love to paint in any weather and in any season.

November 6
The forecast is not good: it's cloudy today and rain is starting tomorrow, continuing all week.

What happened yesterday reminds me that we spoke too soon about our happiness with the three muratores; only three boards were nailed into place on the roof of the loggia during the entire afternoon. They spent the entire time discussing the fact that the room was out of square. (Didn't we have them add to the thickness of the outside wall to make it square?)

Dino told Stefano he was not happy with what happened, trying to tell him that it was not rocket science, but the phrase did not translate, and now we have a space covered with a giant green tarp, and will so for up to ten days!

I have painting on my mind and laundry to do, but will begin by working with Dino to make sure the tarp is taut with no spaces where rain can form puddles. Let's see if we can do something that is more interesting to read about!

There is a tiny "room" right behind the back wall of the loggia, and I want the muratores to see what they can do about making it a space we can use. This morning it is helpful in securing the tarp.

In the midst of the morning, I hear a flutter, and it is a pettirosso (robin red breast), a little fellow who flies right through the ropes of our open doorway and up the stairs. This is a case in which Italian spells it succinctly like it is...

Dino does not hear it, and it takes me hollering for him to realize it's above his head. Chaos descends, with me closing the door to the studio where I am painting; and then somehow I find myself outside with the camera, while the little bird flies into the studio with Dino and a scopa (broom) right behind it.

One of the leaves of the front window is open; the left one closed. The frightened bird lights right behind it as Dino opens the screen, and before Dino realizes what has happened, the bird flies out, with me standing on the terrace and the camera poised, waiting for Godot!

It's been a lovely morning, and I paint with joy, now with Vincenzo and Augusta getting my full attention. No, the painting will not be finished tomorrow, for I'm having too much fun with it, not ready to give it up for at least a week....

Sofi sleeps in the sun streaming into the studio. Now and then she looks up at me, patiently but ready for pranzo. When she gets my attention, she lets me know it's time to feed her. Dino, meanwhile, drives off to shop. What a hermit I am!

Here's a photo of the glicine (wisteria) on the terrace, in full fall mode.

I return to painting, turning the canvas on its side to paint some of the lower part of the canvas, but cannot seem to keep my attention away from the faces. Hour by hour, paint seeps into the canvas, and it is only when it is dry that we can tell what the final outcome will be.

Lore and Alberto come to see what has transpired here with all the construction, and I ask her if what we are doing is proper. She tells us that it is. Each time they witness something we are doing to the property, I ask her, to be sure we aren't making any huge gaffe. So far, things look good.

Before they leave, Lore tells us a story about Prime Minister Craxi. (I think he was Prime Minister, but no matter). He was head of state in Italy and paid a visit to Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain.

She and he took a ride around the grounds in a horse-drawn carriage, and things were very proper until one of the horses let out an enormous fart. The queen turned to the Prime Minister and apologized. He turned to her and said, "No matter. I thought it was the horse..."

Dino shows me how to add HTML codes to recipes so that they can be posted on the site, and I find the exercise interesting. We are almost a week late in our posting for the end of October. So while he watches Formula 1 trials, I help out.

Pietro has been asked to conduct an Anglican service in Rome, and comes for a visit to let us hear him. He tells us his English is not good, but it is quite good, and it is then that we decide to drive him to Rome and witness the event.

There is always something happening at L'Avventura. No wonder our lives are always an adventure.

November 7
We pick up Pietro and drive him to Rome, parking at the lot above Villa Borghese. This is a good parking lot to know.

Sofi stays in the car, while we walk to the church, which is nearby. Following is a montage of things I love about Rome and we're back home before 5PM, so that Dino can watch the Formula-1 race on tv. It's been a great day, and Pietro did a remarkable job. Now he can return to that church now and then, feeling at home with a small but active congregation that so appreciates him.

Weather cooperated and we had no rain all day. It was a welcome surprise, for we were ready for the worst.

November 8
Rain is forecast, but the crew arrives, and we're on our way to Citta di Castello to order more floor tiles (10 metri quadri, or 10 square meters). Maestro Del Cotto is the place we've used before and like them. So we return and they have none in stock. We want a small amount for a truck to deliver, but too much to take in Pandina, so they'll call this afternoon with a schedule and if there is a truck travelling South, they can deliver this along with other orders. We're not quite ready for them, so va bene

. When we return, the roof is almost all intact, so the worst of it is over...or so we think. Speriamo (we hope so). I see Rosina on her balcony, and learn that Coro is tomorrow night, so we're free for another night.

We take out the chandelier that we purchased thinking that we'd be able to put in a new bathroom next to our bedroom, but we're not sure if that's doable at this point. It will be used in the loggia(summer kitchen) and is a bit over the top, but why not?

We measure for the handmade tiles to go behind the stove, and then discuss tiles over the pizza/bread oven. I think we'll have Elena dip some handmade tiles from Deruta and then I'll paint them to work with the dozen we have left over. There is no great hurry.

In the meantime, there's an email from Antonio Monchini of Ecomuseo and also Paola Fosci. They want me to be in the competition, and if they let me turn a painting or two in on Friday I will agree to participate after all. I've emailed Paola to find out.

Outside the studio, the muratores work away to finish the crossbeams on the roof structure; perhaps they will even finish by the end of today. Tonight and tomorrow are really supposed to be bad weather days, but they're pressing on. They do want to work, for no work...no money.

November 9
A story of mine is published today in Italian Notebook:


If you're a regular reader, you'll recall the story behind our visit there. By now, Bambi has been reintroduced to the wild and yes, she is a dear....Boh!

A dear friend reads the note and responds: Not all is well in the world however.... I was at friends' in the countryside in Tuscany once, and very much the same thing happened to us... we found a little fawn injured by the side of the road. However, fierce debate ensued as to what to do. Calmer heads prevailed and off he went to the corpo forestale (like the Forest Rangers) near by, but not after almost ending up in the pot to become some pappardelle al capriolo. The name we gave him anyhow? "Ragu!"

Under intermittent rainy skies, the muratores return for half a day, but after we leave in late morning, fuggano (they escape) and don't return for the remainder of the day. That's to be expected, for we don't have the supplies they'll need for the next part of the project.

We'll meet them tomorrow morning at 7AM at the construction supply place in Soriano to pick out the fatto a mano piastrelle crude (handmade roof tiles), for we don't have the permit to bring the roof out to the front beam yet, so the roof will be finished as far as the front of the house for now.

CancelLater in the morning we drive to Deruta, and I add yet another project of love to the ever growing list; this time, it's painting handmade ceramic tiles to match or complement the tiles I painted several years ago. It's this madness that keeps me going, I'm sure, even if my memory does not follow along...

Now if only I could pick up a paying painting project to do when we're in San Francisco...magari! (if only that were so!) Perhaps I'll just have to hang out.

I realize the painting I'm struggling with has Italo's head looking larger than Vincenzo's or Augusta's, and although it's closer in proximity to us, it looks out of proportion, so I bring it down a little. In the meantime, I receive a positive answer to the concorso di pittura (painting competition). I take a difmetre (pain killer) to end a headache and lie down to wait for the medicine to take effect.

A bit foggy, I wake up a few hours later; then write to you and paint until it's time for Coro practice. Practice usually takes place on Mondays, when Don Renzo leads us. Since he is only available on Monday evenings, tonight's Coro choice may have to do with Don Renzo's surprise on Sunday morning. I'll let you know.

November 10
Rain is in the forecast, but skies tell another story, at least from our bedroom. Through a window in the studio there are some dark clouds moving east, so it's possible, but workers will be here, and Dino will meet them first and the tegole (tiles) for the roof will arrive with the workers.

Each morning, I walk into the studio before doing anything else, and look at the changes in the painting, and there are always at least a few major ones. This morning, there are expressions to alter and the bench they're sitting on to glaze, and then I hope to leave it for at least a day and move onto Don Renzo's.

Last night I wondered if the chimney for the bread/pizza oven could be vented into the fireplace chimney. Nope. Some things are better left unsaid.

Sofi and I drive with Dino to Orsolini in Soriano after all, and the tegole alla Romana (perhaps this is the Roman way of laying down flat tiles and curved tiles over the place where they meet) look weathered and will work fine with the old roof tiles we've had for ages.

Sun fights dark clouds, and we have good weather all morning. I tone down the faces in the painting and show sun streaming from upper left, behind the figures after darkening the bench, while outside the muratores bang away.

Inside the loggia room, ancient tufo outcroppings show through, and since the tufa is very old, I ask that they leave a bit showing. It's actually tens of thousands of years old, so is a moment of history. Stefano shows me how fragile the stone is, and how dirty to maintain, so we agree to drop the idea.

The painting takes on added dimension this afternoon inside the studio as the tiles have begun to be laid on the loggia roof nearby. We're singing inside and out.

It's time to tackle the falling ripa (bank) below Rosita's as well as Gino's house above us, and the geometra lets us know it's our land and tells us to take most of the earth out and spray it with a substance that will make the bank stronger.

But while the muratore "boys" are at it (that's how they behave when having fun tearing something down), Dino tells them we'll need to move the parabolica (satellite dish) and he is stressed. He cannot find any technician to come and move it. Everyone puts him off.

The muratores think they can do it, and "McIver", aka Dino, has a second pipe with which to mount the parabolica.

In the meantime, Stefano thinks he has taken all the earth and tufo he needs to, and Cesare and Guerrino have taken all the weeds off the bank. The lemon tree has been moved, and in its place is a high mound of dirt, an old spoon and miscellaneous roba (things, stuff).

Strangely, although rain has been forecast, it only rained once at around noon. We should be so lucky tomorrow...

With no tv to watch, we'll have to find something to do....

November 11
The forecast is for rain but we have sun! Yes, there are clouds of all kinds in the sky, but the sun fiercely wants them to know who is boss.

I wake early with a monster of a migraine, but after a cocktail of medicine and a couple of hours sleep I return to life. Outside, drilling continues; this time it's the inside of the back loggia wall, where ancient tufo outcroppings tell us that tens of thousands of years ago on this site, the eruption of a volcano deposited its wrath here. I hate to see any of the ancient deposit disturbed, but then, plenty of it will remain.

The bank will be treated after today's hammering is finished, I think with sprayed concrete in a similar color. I hate the idea of all the cement, but it's necessary. There's me again, wanting to be a helpful citizen of the world and guilty of the opposite. Without this work, the fragile wall would be in imminent danger of collapse, and that means Rosina's and Gino's houses would be in danger. So we're fitting the bill, but let's move on.

The painting is closer to being finished, but a few alterations remain. We're off to Viterbo to pick up Dino's permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay), for our citizenship application is probably still on someone's desk. Hope we're still around when it comes through.

We pick up what we need, including certificates for our doctor verifying that we have medical coverage by the state, and we'll have to renew them next year as well. We don't know yet if citizenship will allow us to not have to do this, but first things first...

Yes, we wait in line, but the lines are far more civilized than they were when we first moved here. Then, everyone crowded around one window, refusing to get in line. I'm sure the European Union had a lot to do with the order of things and these days life is easier for just about everyone here.

Feeling too tired to cook, I do the incredible: I ask Dino if we can eat at MacDonald's in Viterbo, which we pass by after leaving the Questura. he agrees, and we have cheeseburgers the Italian way, with Pecorino and rugghetta or Parmesan. We don't know if they are served outside Italy, but admit we really enjoyed them!

Back home, the pizza oven has a shelf, even if it is only the beginning of the structure. It now needs three levels of bricks before the elements of the structure we purchased can be installed.

Dino is stressed about not being able to use the parabolica (satellite dish), so Stefano tells him if we can extend the tube that holds it, he can install it on the side of the loggia roof. Dino rushes off to Lorenzo the fabbro and while he's gone, we can't find out how to turn the water off. We call Dino and he tells us. That's another thing he needs to let me know...

I paint for a couple of hours, and the vicini (neighbors) look more and more like themselves. It is the small touches that make all the difference, and I'm determined to have the painting look like them before turning it in tomorrow.

Dino returns with a newly fabricated and painted tube for the parabolica, but we're still not able to get it to work. With this weekend the final race of Formula-1 for the season, we must have it working, although Stefano invited Dino to watch it at his house in Bomarzo.

Roy takes a flashlight and looks at the work done today outside, and then we get ready to watch a couple of DVD's before turning in early again.

November 12
The question of the day is whether the technician who told us he would come prima 'ora di pranzo (before lunch time) will come.

I've been watching the leaves of the cachi (persimmon) tree fall to the ground, and they are really beautiful. Worthy of a painting or two?

Well, not everyone in the village loves us. Someone has complained to the Comune (city hall) about heaven knows what, and we're expecting someone to investigate. If they find something that is not exactly on the plan that was approved, the Comune and/or the Carabinieri (police) will issue what is called a denuncia and fine us. Welcome to the underbelly of Italia.

We have no bad things to say about our neighbors, for whatever is bothering them, we feel badly for them. We continue on with the project to keep our minds busy, and Giovanni has arrived from Attigliano to help us with the repositioning of the parabolica. It takes less than five minutes to set it in the proper direction and now Dino can watch Formula-1 this weekend and I can listen to classical music in the studio.

I'm about finished with the painting, but then there are always things I'd like to refine. I'll surely not win a prize, for the prizes are for popular vote, and we are sure that the persons with the most relatives and friends here will take home the prizes. Good! I'd only use the money to buy more art supplies...

I fix a stew for pranzo, after Dino drives to the market to pick up pancetta to sauté with the meat and vegetables. It's so good to have herbs in the garden to use any time, and we have enough rosemarino to take care of the entire village!

The stew is tasty, but not as tasty as that made with coscio. Although the temperature outside feels cold, a window in the studio remains open. Paola calls for the names of the paintings, and by mid afternoon I'm just as finished as I want to be with it.

Dino drives off again, and returns with supplies for the muratores. Stefano works on the oven, and it's going to be something for Dino to use...for it's too far back for me. But then, we'll have that long spatula similar to those that pizza makers have (come no?) so I'd like to give it a try. No, Annika, we're not ready for pizza this weekend!

Dino is happy, so I am happy. Tonight late, we take the paintings up to the Università Agraria office. The second painting is the one painted a couple of years ago of Gino. Although it is ineligible because it is too tall, they welcome the opportunity to exhibit it.

November 13
Friend Mary Jane Cryan has just published a new book, and we recommend it if you're an Italofile. Here's her site, so take a look at all she has to offer. She's a wonder.


The terrace is littered with cachi leaves and they are so beautiful. With not a fruit in sight, we can enjoy the tree without worry about cleaning up the gooey mess when they fall.

We attend a marvelous art exhibit in Terni with Duccio and Giovanna, but are back home in time for pranzo and for Dino to watch Formula-1 qualifying.

We speak of modo di dires (figures of speech), but can't remember what we said. That's typical of me unless I take a notebook around with me as if I am a deaf mute...

The day is so lovely and warm that I can't wait to get out to the far property to pick olives, and while I'm working on the third of five trees, Candace and Frank arrive on their way back from the Airport. It's great to see them, and they help us pick the last two trees.

The giant olive tree in the middle garden remains unpicked, and we'll tackle that tomorrow after church. I'll continue while Dino watches Formula-1, for it's the last race of the year and he loves it.

We sit around the kitchen table with our friends drinking a bottle of wine and catching up. When they leave, we watch a movie and settle in for the night.

November 14
This is the day we sing "Amazing Grace" to Don Renzo after mass... It's decided that it's not proper to sing it as the last hymn, so we sing Madre Fiducia Nostra instead. My Coro buddies then rush to the old school where we have our festas to set up, and the center of the big room is filled with a giant square table and many things to munch on. There is also a separate table for drinks.

We walk into the room to see the rest of the Coro waiting on the other side of the big table for Don Renzo, for as soon as he steps into the room we will serenade him. He does, and we do to great applause. I ask Dino to take photos afterward, but he tells me it's difficult because the people all have food in their mouths...

Back at home, we return to the middle garden to pick olives the traditional way, with nets under the giant olive tree. I stand on the big planter below it and pick, while Dino works with a giant plastic comb on a ladder.

I'm not thrilled he's on a ladder, but spend most of the time under the tree, picking olives and putting them in a bucket with a handle, while he works on the high ones. Before preparing pranzo, we stop to collect olives that have fallen on the nets and slide them into the big lug; a lug that is filling rapidly. We surely will have at least one full lug to take to Diego's later. Better clean them, taking out all the stems and leaves, too.

We finish for now, but Dino tells me that we can still pick tomorrow. He continues that it is all right to take olives to Diego that are wet; they just can't sit that way for long. Since olives are washed before they are pressed anyway, it's not a problem. So expect us to spend a part of tomorrow morning finishing up the big tree. This afternoon, however, it's all about watching Formula-1 on tv, at least for Dino.

I tell the painting of Don Renzo to have a good rest, for it's time to put all the paints away and set up the sewing machine to work on costumes for the girls. There is a Facebook message from niece Sarah that she forgot to get the measurements for her girls to me, so if she does I will do something for each little sweetie pie to have before Christmas.

Laundry sits outside, but skies look dismal; we'll probably have the beginning of a week of rain this afternoon. During a pause in the race due to an accident, we bring the laundry inside, and then I embark on a major cleanup of the studio, in preparation for changing into sewing mode.

Across the valley, the pioppi (poplar) trees have lost all their golden leaves; they look sad. Since we have no cachi (persimmons) on either of the two trees here, we'll have to collect them from Pietro, who has plenty. This afternoon, after the race, Dino wants to drive to Giove to the exhibition of the paintings; I'm feeling mixed about it, although would like to see the other paintings.

November 15
The extra part for the front of the pizza oven has not arrived, and it will take as much as a week for it to arrive at Franco's. It sits at the factory, near Frosinone, so Dino wants to drive down to pick it up as the muratores continue their work.

We arrive with five minutes to spare before they close for pranzo, and are back home by 3PM in a masterful turnaround by the incomparable Dino. I had no idea we could reach the factory, South of Rome by a bit, after leaving at 11AM. We even had time for mediocre dishes of pasta at an Autogrille on the way back.

Earlier in the morning, I tried to read the Italian newspaper article that spoke about a "scent of Mafia in Viterbo..." The word, "snood appeared in the article, and I just had to look it up. Here's what I learned...

Snodare (snodo) is the verb: to untie, to limber up, to loosen up
a snodo is flexible
sobbalzare is the verb: to jerk or to jolt
di sobbalzo means with a jolt
sobillare is the verb: to stir up
soccombere is the verb: to succumb
socchiudere is the verb: to leave ajar
soccorso is help
pronto soccorso is first aid
pronto/a is right away
mancato soccorso is hit and run driving
socalidalzio is a brotherhood or fraternity

So I'm still not sure what the article meant, except to say that someone in Civita Castellana suspected of having Mafia connections was arrested. I really do need to spend time with the article, but things have been so busy around here there is hardly enough time to keep things from falling into caos (chaos). Funny, but doesn't the Italian word sound more logical?

I'm not sure when we will update our Italian Usage Dictionary on the site, but part of its reasoning is to make it easier for you to write your very own mystery novel. Referring to books, the word giallo, in addition to the word yellow, means a mystery novel or film, but the word misterois the word for mystery in a dictionary. I'll have to ask someone what the connection is.

Last but not least for this post:
giallo dell'uovo is an egg yolk but a turlo is the yolk on an animal.

Soon after we're out of the car, we notice that those orange buckets that run down the side of a building to dump down building rubble runs down the side of our wall and into Guerrino's truck. They fill up a load and he takes it...somewhere.

The part we picked up is set on top of the pizza oven and it is...brutto! (ugly). We ordered it after the fact to have a front for the structure, but it is really ugly. We determine that if we find 6cm square tiles I can paint them for the surround. We have to drive to Deruta anyway to pick up paint, so will shop around, although it won't be easy to find a couple of dozen of them in such a small size. But then, with us, anything is possible.

We move on to the middle garden and spend all the time until after the men leave picking olives from the giant tree. We'll have half again as much as we picked last year, and if it does not rain tomorrow, we can pick the rest. For tonight, we put the two lugs inside the garden shed, and Dino drives off to take Pietro to the door fabricator in Bomarzo to pay him for Pietro's skylight. Germano promised that he would install it for Pietro, and we have no comment, although Dino did speak with him this morning.

The raised planter you'll see as you come up the stairs looks great; in fact, it's ready for planting fave beans, to give the soil nourishment for spring planting. I'm not sure what that means...but planting fave gives us a bit of respect from our neighbors as well.

November 16
Yesterday, as Dino stood up in the tree where three main branches connect, he stood there too long, and hours later he has a lot of pain in his instep. I've been waiting for some kind of trauma to come up, so this may be it. Let's hope he feels better in the morning.

Nope...Dino is in a lot of pain; his attempts to walk bring back memories of Chester on the program Gunsmoke.

There is a note that my grammar usage is incorrect, but when the software highlights the word, "nope", they suggest alternate words such as: pope and dope. Life is so very funny.

Stefano needs more supplies from Giove, the town on the other side of Attigliano, so we drive there and back. On the way, Dino tells me he needs to go to pronto soccorso (first aid, or the emergency room) at the hospital in Orvieto.

We planned a trip to Deruta for this morning, but that plan has flown out the window. Dino is diagnosed with a minor compression trauma on his instep, but is offended by the word "minor". The doctor on call does not suggest an xray; instead he writes out a prescription, which I pick up for him at the Orvieto farmacia near a big market. I also pick up whatever else I need to make osso bucco, which we both like a lot.

Red underlines appear on almost every word I write here. What's with that? Earlier, when the Prime Minister of England announced to the press that Prince William and Kate Middleton were engaged, he mentioned "Me and..." when speaking about he and his wife (ha, no red underline). You know how I hate that botched grammar usage...

With forecast for rain, there is none, and a pale green tarp hangs over the space from the front of the loggia roof to the three wooden beams further out on the terrace that hold up two more glicine (wisteria) and will be the front edge of the roof, a year or so from now when the permit arrives.

Cesare's intonico (plaster) work is just terrific, and now the frigo will have its own closet to leave the main part of the room free. Stefano and Guerrino work on the oven itself, and the pieces are very heavy. Here are a few photos.

I'm having trouble, convincing Dino to stop moving around; it's important that he sit down and rest his foot. I give up and come inside to write to you, and the spells of the osso bucco I've begun to prepare this afternoon wafts upstairs. Tomorrow we will do the slow cooking of it in the oven; then we'll have it for a few days.

There's Coro tonight and I'm exhausted, but somehow catch my second wind (what a funny phrase that is) when I'm there. It's a wonderful group; a group of friends who wish us well. Don Renzo even blesses me inside the little church and also Dino who waits for me in the car with Sofi.

November 17
Since a language other than that with which we are born is used every day, perhaps use of our native language presents stark contrasts when we return there to visit.

When we do, as you know, I am often bothered about the incorrect use of personal pronouns by adolescents, not to mention adults who should know better. Specifically, the use of "me and..." when "...and I" is correct.

Good friend Don, whom we are picking up tonight at the train station, tells me it's becoming common usage, and common usage "trumps" correct grammar. I think of it as what is courteous, namely, putting one's pronoun (me or myself) after that of the person to whom you are referring. Don will join Dino and me for pizza after we pick him up; not, me and Don and Dino will go for pizza...

Life is too short to worry about it, I suppose. I'll have to ask our grand daughters what they think, and what they have been taught.

The weather is not good, with rain or showers expected for the rest of the week. But today all is well, with some fog and some clouds and some sun. Workers are here, and they're working on the pizza oven. Dino thinks we should wait until it's finished before beginning to paint the tiles for the front of it. Va bene.

We take Sofi to the vet, and while we're waiting in the sala di attessa (waiting room), she shakes and shakes, then sits under my seat when we put her down. Inside an examination room, she continues to shake, but when the doctor and the assistant hold her so that they can take a vial of sangue (blood) from her neck to check for leishmania (I'm not sure, but think it's a blood disease), they also send some of the blood to a lab to check for thyroid problems.

The fact that she lunged at a couple of people in the last weeks makes our dear friend Angie think there may be something wrong with her thyroid. She has only done this recently, and not often, so we want to know what is wrong. Sofi is usually a very sweet dog, so I worry about her.

We're not back home until 3 PM, but in our absence the workers have been plugging along; this time they're inserting the chimney tube over the bread oven. It will be covered by mattone (bricks) and tiles will form an angle at the top with coping tiles. Don't show up this week for pizza; it will take two months for the oven to cure.

Sofi is very, very weak. She just lies in my arms and in the little bed beside the desk. I look up symptoms of thyroid problems, and dachshunds as well as other particular breeds of mid age (from 4 to 10 years...Sofi is 7) are susceptible. We'll know in a few days, but she does not show most of the symptoms. Let's think good thoughts.

I begin to take an inventory of fabric and thread colors, planning to make outfits for the little girls in our lives. Don Renzo's painting will wait, probably until after Christmas. It's time to sew, sew, sew...

Here's some Italian news. If you want to skip over it, it is all in italics:

(ANSA) - Rome, November 16 - Rome is feting the masters of Venetian painting, hosting a landmark exhibit which brings Titian, Bellini and a host of other greats to one of the capital's most prestigious venues. Four centuries of paintings are on show in the Renaissance cloister designed by Bramante, the Renaissance architect called to Rome by Pope Julius II to design St. Peter's Basilica. The exhibit, 'I Grandi Veneti', features over 80 paintings from the 15th through the 18th centuries, bringing together major works by Pisanello, Tintoretto, Lorenzo Lotto and Canaletto.

All are on loan from the Accademia Carrara in the Northern city of Bergamo, which has been undergoing major renovation since 2008 and will only reopen its doors in 2013.

Pompeii to get foundation after Gladiator School collapse 10 November, 13:30 ANSA) - Rome, November 10 - The government is to set up a new foundation for Pompeii after the weekend collapse of its famous Gladiator School, Culture Minister Sandro Bondi said Wednesday.

Rejecting calls that he should resign over the incident, Bondi claimed he had done a "good job" on Pompeii in appointing special officials for its upkeep.

"The collapse of one building can't wipe out the work we have done over the past two years".

But he acknowledged more needed to be done and announced a new foundation where the culture ministry would work with experts to better use the money that comes from millions of visitors.

"The problem is in the management, not in resources," he told parliament, saying the ancient site brought an average of more than 50 million euros ($70 million) a year. "We need management that uses the resources better".

"Therefore, the ministry is drafting guidelines for a Pompeii Foundation; the superintendents and culture minister managers must work together".

The new body, Bondi said, would "assess the state of decay" all over the ancient city and decide what action to take. Work would resume on five Pompeii houses including the famous Villa of the Mysteries "in the next few days", he said, denying reports that two other houses were damaged when the Gladiator School came down on Saturday morning.

(ANSA) - Naples, November 17 - Fugitive Camorra superboss Antonio Iovine was arrested on Wednesday after 14 years on the run.
Fugitive Camorra superboss caught; 'Beautiful Day' says Interior Minister Maroni

Iovine, 46, was caught in Casal di Principe, the town north of Naples that spawned the notorious Casalesi clan of the Neapolitan mafia whose criminal empire was exposed by writer Roberto Saviano.

"Today is a beautiful day for the fight against the mafia," Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told reporters. Iovine, who did not resist arrest when apprehended in a friend's house, was one of two Casalesi superbosses who have been in hiding for over a decade.

His arrest leaves Michele Zagaria, 52, as the only top boss not in custody. Iovine, like Zagaria, was on Italy's 30 most wanted list along with other superbosses like Cosa Nostra chief Matteo Messina Denaro.

Over the last two years Italian police have carried out a string of successful operations against the Camorra, Cosa Nostra and the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta. The arrest came amid a continuing dispute between Maroni and Saviano over a TV show in which the writer said 'Ndrangheta, whose control of the European cocaine trade has helped it expand north, was courting Maroni's Northern League party for public contracts.

Saviano is under round-the-clock police protection because of death threats from the Casalesi after his 2006 bestseller Gomorra (Gomorrah), which was later turned into an award-winning film of the same name.

Italian AIDS virus 'working' - 15 November Bottom of Form (ANSA) - Rome - A ground-breaking Italian AIDS vaccine appears to be working, researchers have said.

"We have seen the vaccine reach parts where drugs cannot go," said lead researcher Barabara Ensoli of the Higher Health Institute (ISS). It was "thrilling" to see the results, which have been published in the Plos One journal, she said.

"The vaccine seems to bring the immune system back into kilter". Testing is currently at the second stage and should be completed "with another 160 patients," Ensoli said. "Even so, we decided to publish now because we have achieved statistically significant results very quickly," said the researcher, who has been working on the vaccine for 10 years.

Ensoli noted that 48 weeks after the vaccine was given to the volunteers, "their parameters are still improving and it appears we have managed to stop the damage". ISS Chair Enrico Garaci said the results "corroborate our efforts" and "confirm our model of research, from the lab bench to the patient's bed". He made an appeal to private and public bodies for funding to complete the current round of tests.

The second stage of testing began in late 2008 in ten centers across Italy with 128 HIV-positive people between the ages of 18 and 55, both men and women. In 2006 Ensoli ended the first phase of research and reported that her AIDS vaccine had passed its initial tests with flying colors. She said all the Italian volunteers had shown a ''100% response to the vaccine by producing specific antibodies''.

Ensoli's vaccine is considered groundbreaking because it adopts a new approach to fighting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Traditional vaccines seek to bolster the immune system, the aim being to boost the body's ability to fight off the disease. This approach, however, has been relatively unsuccessful against HIV, a virus good at mutating and reviving itself.

Ensoli's 'tat-protein' vaccine, on the other hand, attempts to block the spread of the infection and prevent the reproduction of infected cells. Ensoli believes the HIV virus needs tat-proteins to be able to take root and spread. By targeting tat-proteins her treatment might be effective against all strains of HIV.

Colosseum opens gladiator pits; third story also reopened as Rome icon boosts allure

(ANSA) - Rome - The Colosseum has added to its allure by opening the undergrounds pits where gladiators and wild beasts waited before being winched from darkness into the light of the killing ground.

As well as revealing the bowels of the one-time blood-and-guts arena, the famed monument has also reopened its 33m-high third storey, closed since the 1970s, affording a breathtaking view of Rome.

The two new attractions aim to boost visitor numbers at the site, which is already Italy's single most-visited monument at some 19,000 people a day.

Fans of ancient bloodletting are allowed inside in groups of 25, strictly by reservation, to see its underground world.

According to Colosseum site director Rossella Rea, the gladiatorial areas are all the more fascinating because "they were completely buried in the 5th century AD and have been perfectly conserved". "They never suffered the depredation which the surface parts of the monument were victims to," she said.

The so-called 'hypogeum' (literally, 'under ground') has been restored in a multi-million-euro project that has also installed new, muted lighting effects.

Rea said the hope was to have recaptured "some of the atmosphere" of the breathless moments before the games commenced, when the armored or naked fighters and the wild animals were hauled up through 80 trap-doors.

The visit starts from the Porta Libitinaria, named after the goddess of the dead Libitina, through which the gladiators marched in and from which their corpses were taken out.

A broad corridor then leads to the hypogeum proper with its various rooms, some once used for storing the stage props and scenographical effects that enhanced the central combat. Roberto Cecchi, Rome's special archeological commissioner, said he hoped the boost to ticket sales would act as a "driving force" for the rest of the Forum, where he announced the opening, in December, of two other long-awaited sites, the Temple of Venus and the House of the Vestal Virgins.

The next step for the Colosseum itself is to attract private sponsors to fund a 23-million-euro scheme to clean and restore the entire time-ravaged site.

Rome fetes Fellini in anniversary show Exhibit traces the film director's extraordinary career15 November (by Romina Spina). (ANSA) - Rome - Fifty years after the release of "La Dolce Vita", widely considered one of the masterpieces of world cinema, and ninety years after Federico Fellini's birth, Rome is paying homage to the critically acclaimed film director in a new exhibition.

The anniversary show, on display at Macro Testaccio, features a vast body of photographs, videos, film reels, drawings, letters and notes illustrating Fellini's extraordinary career as an artist and filmmaker, from his debut as a cartoonist and screenwriter in the early 1940s to his death in 1993, shortly after winning his fifth Academy Award.

Aptly called "Fellini Labyrinth", the exhibition takes visitors on a journey to explore the influential director's work mainly through a blend of stills and movie footage.

Divided into two different sections, the show is constructed as a visual laboratory containing the raw material of Fellini's creative process, with references to the filmmaker's passions and obsessions that inspired the hallucinatory, circus-like depictions of modern life in his movies.

Italians pinpoint 'intensity' of dreams 22 October (ANSA) - Rome - Italian researchers say they have managed to pinpoint areas in the brain that enable people to remember vivid dreams.

"We've found the parts of the amigdala and hippocampus that are linked to bizarre and intense dreams, the ones people remember," said Luigi De Gennaro of Rome University, coordinator of a team that also included Rome's Santa Lucia Institute and the universities of Bologna and L'Aquila.

In a study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, the Italian scientists used the latest neuro-imaging techniques to get down to the "deep microstructures" in the two key brain areas.

"We think we've cracked why some people never remember their dreams and others have such a detailed memory you might almost call it film-like," De Gennaro said.

"It was possible to show that the volumetric and ultrastructural parameters of the two deep nuclei of the brain predict the qualitative aspects of every individual's dreams".

Bronzino gets first ever solo show Florence exhibit features most of his surviving paintings 22 October, 15:37 (ANSA) - Florence - The world's first-ever show devoted solely to Mannerist painter Bronzino (1503-1572) is drawing visitors to Florence's Palazzo Strozzi.

The exhibition features over 90 works by the 16th-century master, including three paintings on public display for the first time and several freshly restored masterpieces.

Over 80% of Bronzino's surviving output has been brought together for the exhibition, which cost 2.7 million euros to organize and over 700 million euros to insure. Speaking at the inauguration of the event, Florence Museums Superintendent Cristina Acidini said that although the exhibition had taken a long time to put together the effort had been worth it. "The works of Bronzino are breathtakingly beautiful".

The event is divided into seven sections, each of which considers a different aspect of the artist's life or art. Considered one of the most skilful portrait artists of the era, his work combined a kind of idealized elegance with a natural intensity and passion for detail that would influence the course of European court portraiture for a century.

'Bronzino. Pittore e poeta alla corte dei Medici' ('Bronzino: Painter and Poet at the Medici Court') is on at Palazzo Strozzi until January 23, 2011. Major life decisions made in lentil-sized brain spot 'Discovery ' shows promise for treating disorders', scientists say 17 November, 15:37 (ANSA) - Milan, November 17 - Major life decisions are made in a tiny, lentil-sized area of the brain called the subthalamus, Italian researchers say. Humans share this spot with other animals including fruit flies, frogs and birds.

The site is activated every time people have to take big decisions, said a Milan and Pavia team who believe their findings will lead to new treatment for a range of psychiatric disorders.

The study, published in the Social Neuroscience journal, used patients with electrodes already in their brains, deep down in the subthalamus, to treat existing conditions. The 16 subjects were presented with statements with escalating potential for provoking hard or conflicted thinking.

The first, "neutral" query was "the violin is the smallest stringed instrument"; the second, "non-conflictual moral assertion" was "everyone has the right to live"; and the third, "conflictual moral phrase" was "some crimes should be punished with the death penalty".

The third phrase "got the electrodes buzzing," the scientists said. "The results of the tests," said Milan Politecnico Hospital researcher Manuela Fumagalli, "show for the first time the role of the subthalamus in decision-making processes that generate conflict". "This is relevant to the development of new therapeutical approaches to disorders like compulsive shopping, gambling addiction and hypersexuality".

The study was conducted by a team from the Milan Policlinico; Milan University; two city institutes, Besta and Galeazzi; and the Mondino institute in Pavia.

Rome's biggest temple reopens Shrine to Venus and Rome restored over 26 years 12 November, 15:26 (ANSA) - Rome, November 12 - Ancient Rome's most imposing shrine, the Temple of Venus and Rome, has reopened after a restoration lasting almost 30 years in welcome news for a government under pressure since last weekend's collapse of Pompeii's Gladiator School.

Facing East and West to symbolize the sweep of the empire, the temple was built in the second century AD by Hadrian on the vestibule of Nero's Golden House, shifting the Colossus of Nero close to the Flavian Amphitheatre so that it got its better-known name, the Colosseum.

"We have restored to Rome one of the most powerful symbols of the power and greatness of the Roman Empire," said restoration chief Claudia Del Monti, who has been on the job for all but three years of its 26-year duration.

"My project was aimed at reading the temple as far as possible in its entirety," she said, recalling that it had once been split in two and was used as a car park until the 1980s.

Rome's archeological superintendent, Anna Maria Moretti, said the revamped temple "affords an extraordinary view, walking up from the Colosseum".

With majestic pillars and soaring arches, the Temple of Venus Felix (Venus the Bringer of Good Fortune) and Aeterna Roma (Eternal Rome) was designed by Hadrian in 121 AD, inaugurated by him in 135, and finished by his successor Antoninus Pius in 141. Damaged by fire in 307, it was restored with changes by Maxentius.

The temple restoration is part of the government's plans to open up more ancient sites, said Culture Undersecretary Franco Giro, deputising for Culture Minister Sandro Bondi who was fielding a fusillade of questions in parliament over Saturday's collapse of the school in Naples where gladiators trained.

Giro noted that the pits under the Colosseum where gladiators prepared for mortal combat have recently been unveiled and other temples, such as that of Antoninus and Faustina, are set to be reopened within the next year.

I include the information in italics because so many of you wax ecstatic over all things Italian, and many good things are discovered or appreciated here regarding medicine and art. Although the socio-political climate is somewhat eccentric here, the stories are worth a read and a raised eyebrow or two, or a laugh. Enjoy.

November 18
We have no rain, although skies are heavy and threaten the muratores, who return to close up the pizza oven and re-point the outside wall of the loggia. With bad skies expected for the next week or two, the work may stop, for the bank must be treated in good weather, and the floor tiles will not be ready until the first week of December. Let's use the time to consider the tile work and whether we should tile the roof before our final permit to extend it appears.

Dino takes me to Giusy for a pedicure, and when we return the work continues, with rain off and on for the rest of the day. I have much sewing to do, but this afternoon we participate in a program of Mary Jane Cryan's to publish her new book, Etruria. Dino and I are her readers, and it is a lot of fun. We are able to introduce Mary Jane to Serena from Castello Santa Maria and also Elsa and Gabriella from Palazzo Orsini in Mugnano.

We pick up our oil, 3 litres, pressed by Sacha at Castello Santa Maria, and drive home in quite a bit of rain. Dino sticks the bottom of a scopa (broom) up inside the tarp covering part of the terrace, while buckets of rainwater slosh down.

Since the handmade tiles won't be ready until the first week of December, the workers will temporarily stop their work tomorrow and pick it up again in a couple of weeks. They need several day of clear and sunny weather to treat the bank behind the loggia, so with rain forecast for the next couple of weeks, there is not enough for them to do here.

Pietro stops by for a visit and it is always good to see him. These watery days are full of time to reflect indoors, or to do projects inside. Sewing is on the top of my agenda, with visions of dreamy costumes for four little girls: Marissa, Nicole, Sadie and Mary. Let's see what tomorrow brings...

November 19
Fog greets us as the remaining leaves on the cachi (persimmon) tree seemed to fall all at once. What's left outside the window is a page out of a book on modern art, and now we are sure there are no orbs on either tree. The scene is quite dramatic when viewed with a background of fog, with nothing to interrupt the view.

I have a migraine this morning, but don't have a lot of plans today other than to see if I can make something fun for Sadie and Mary, niece Sarah's little girls, to wear.

Dino drives off to buy bricks to wall in the acciaio inossidabile (stainless steel) chimney for the pizza oven, so let's not forget the opportunity to show you some really strange and somewhat confusing translations:
acceso/sa is excited or aroused;
accesso is access or a fit of anger or coughing;
aceto is vinegar, but
accetta is a hatchet, and
tagliato con l'accetta is rough-hewn;
acchiappare is to grab, or catch in the act;
acciacco is an illness; and I like this one:
acciambellare is to shape in the form of a doughnut, or to curl up;
accidempoli is slang for 'darn it!';
accidentale is the adjective for accidental, and
accidente is an accident;
correre come un accidente is to run like the devil;
acc“dia means slothful or lazy;
ragazzaccio is a good for nothing boy;
accogdare is to line up, or queue and...
acciuga is an anchovy

So what do you think is the name for a doughnut? If you say ciambella, you are correct, and a ciambella di salvataggio is a life saver, and a
ciabatta is a slipper, also a kind of bread, and a ciabattino is a shoemaker.

No wonder I have a migraine! Sofi and I need to lie down for a bit....We wake in an hour or so to greet Pepino and Antonella and to show them the work that is being done. Any excuse for Sofi to get hugs from Pepino makes her happy.

We have the rest of the osso buco and I give Sofi yet another osso (special bone including the marrow inside). She's a very happy dog. Outside, clouds blow by in a beautiful blue sky, and the muratores clean up the site and get ready to abandon us for a couple of weeks until the mattone floor tiles are ready to be picked up and we have permission to tile the roof.

Much as I wanted to sew special dresses for Mary and Sadie, I don't have the correct measurements, so those frocks will have to wait a bit. Va bene.(No problem.)

November 20 - December 6
We leave the house "in the gloaming"...those still dark moments before the first light of dawn to fly to San Francisco and visit with Terence and Angie and the girls.

Full of anticipation, we fill the car and drive down the hill just as the barest light on the horizon comes into view as we turn East.

Sofi stays in Santa Severa, near the airport, with her groomer Silvia and about eight other little Bassottos, and she's wisked away by Silvia before she has a chance to wonder where we are.

Here is a mini diary in photo form...it is my vacation from writing, but not a moment goes by that I do not think of our little dog or take in the glorious and not so glorious sightings in Northern California. Enjoy!

We end the month still in California, so we look forward to catching up in a week or so...


December 1 - 6
We are still in California visiting our family. To see the photo diary of our visit, view the end of our November 2010 Journal.

December 6
It's good to be back! Arriving at Fiumicino, aka Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome at 9 AM, we drive to Santa Severa and knock on Sylvia's gate. How could eight or so little dogs make so much noise?

I can pick out Sofi's bark from the others, and in a minute we're surrounded by a sniffing, howling, tail-wagging group of little wire haired dachshunds, led by a crying-for-joy Sofi, who is the epitome of fare una festa. (The dog makes a party upon seeing its owner return). I could weep for joy myself.

Sylvia shows us the other dogs of Sofi's breed, and a couple of them are for sale. We're not ready to take on another dog, although I admit I'm weakening... They're sweet and very adorable.

We drive up through Viterbo, and Sofi and I wait in the car while Dino shops. I'm told to stay off my feet, and that's a good idea, for my foot remains swollen. So we hug and I give her a treat while we wait for Dino to return with goodies.

Back at home, every leaf on the cachi (persimmon) tree lies on the ground, as is almost every leaf of the six glicine (wisteria) plants on the terrace. It's somewhat of a mess, but we'll take our time cleaning it up. We're just too tired.

Too tired to eat, we put things away and get into bed for fifteen hours...Sofi does the same in her little bed nearby.

December 7
My foot is throbbing and remains swollen, so we drive to Orvieto to Santa Maria delle Angele Ospidale and drive right up the ramp to Pronto Soccorso (Emergency). I'm put in a carrozzella (wheelchair) and wheeled to an examining room, where we meet a doctor about one hour later. 8AM is the time for a shift change, so when Dino asks when we'll be seen, he tells the nurse it's better to wait for a medico fresco doctor just arriving on shift.

After x-rays, it's determined that there's not any real damage, so I am to stay off my feet, use warm compresses and ice packs. The ace bandage was not a good idea. Lesson learned...

I spend the rest of the day off my feet, while Dino fixes risotto for pranzo. He's quite serious about his new mission to take care of me, although I'd welcome some silliness to help pass the time.

December 8
This is another down day, spent watching TV, sleeping and reading. We've returned with a copy of the New Yorker, which is always a good read, and after I've logged in all our new books (the purchase of a Kindle is not in the cards this year after all), there is plenty to read.

Now and then I sneak out to wonder at the landing and the new construction of the loggia. Although there is more work to be done, it has completely changed how we will use the house, and it's thrilling.

I'm not thrilled at the terrace cotta color of the pizza oven surround, but it will tone down, and I'm planning the design of the tiles to surround it. There is no rush, for the intonico (plaster) is finished, and it will take a month or two for the oven to cure before we can use it. I should be able to paint the tiles and have them installed by Spring.

December 9
Roy meets with another Diego, this time in Roccalvecce, and picks up a property listing or two. It's another quiet day, and Dino plans two trips to Citta della Pieve to pick up the handmade tiles for the floor of the loggia tomorrow. Sofi and I will join him for the first trip.

Stefano calls and there is talk about returning to work next week. Magari. (If only that were so..., or a less cynical, we hope so.)

We're both still tired, so can't seem to get excited about doing any garden work. I do think we should buy a mandorle (almond) tree for the raised space next to the loggia, so perhaps that will come soon. I'll do some research about it in the meantime.

December 10
The pain on my foot continues, but I agree to take a drive with Dino to pick up tiles that are ready for us in Citta della Pieve. Sofi and I sit in the car in the sun while Dino and the workers fill up the car with half of the order.

It's important to have paperwork in case one is stopped by Carabinieri on the road, with proof of payment of what we have purchased. Since we drove by a Guardia di Finance (tax police) vehicle on the way, we are sure to have the document, but once we arrive home Dino realizes we are short 15 pieces.

He takes a photo of what we have for proof and drives up for the second load. Back at home, he confirms that we have all the tiles we have paid for and now sit in the parcheggio, waiting for the workers to return on Thursday. Unfortunately, the tiles won't match perfectly, as these are new. We remind ourselves that they will blend just fine in a couple of years, so let's not worry about it.

December 11
Still not able to get around easily, the day is one of rest. This afternoon Stefano comes to speak with Dino and tell him that the ripa (bank) behind our house is a danger, and the responsibility falls with all the neighbors, whether they like it or not. The job is up to the Comune (city hall) to decide if it should be reinforced, and who is responsible.

December 12
We so love living here; Dino takes my arm as we slowly walk toward the church. Today, we're welcomed back by many neighbors. "Bentornati" (welcome back) they call out and we gladly respond with the proper response, "Bentrovati" (It's good to be back). It surely is.

December 13
Cold temperatures and bright skies surround us, and I'm feeling well enough to walk almost painlessly. We talk about rearranging the kitchen once the doors to the loggia have been installed, and I'm looking forward to a clean slate...taking everything off the walls, repairing and painting the ceiling and a re-faux of the chimney part where cracks have appeared.

Dino wants to prune the cachi (persimmon) tree on the front terrace and I'm not thrilled with the idea. He is buoyed by his success yesterday pruning the plum tree while Sofi and I rested.

Today, I pick up the fallen branches while Sofi sits in the sun and watches Dino on a ladder up in the tree, but it's nerve-wracking. I fear Dino is going to fall, but it is a man-thing. He loves pruning; "hacking" away must give him a sense of ownership of the land.

Later, when I sit at the computer and Sofi snores by my side, I watch the branches of the tall tree shake to and fro from the window of the studio, as they wait their turn to be dashed. Across the street, Pia rakes leaves and sets a fire to burn them all. She is conscientious, staying right by the fire all the time it takes to burn. Thanks, Pia.

It's time to return to finish the Don Renzo painting, but it will have to take another day. I look at it and am still not sure of the background...

Earlier, I heard the sound of water, and followed it out to Gianfranco and Marie's house next to Rosina's. While looking up, water drops fall on me while Marie laughs; she tells me it's safer to walk there in the afternoon. Both Marie and Rosina hang out their laundry each morning, and the sounds come from the pipes behind Marie's wall.

I realize that this water causes potential long-term damage to the bank, although the neighbors don't say anything about it. The geometra and the technico will have their say, and possibly even the sindaco (mayor). Stefano, our muratore, is speaking with them, and we'll wait to see what they determine we all need to do.

December 14
Stefano and his new assistant, also Stefano, arrive and work on paving parts of the loggia and readying the wall for Enzo to move the plumbing around what will soon be double doors. Stefano tells Dino we don't have enough room for the doors we have ordered, but with some innovative problem solving, we decide to move the stufa back against the wall.

We'll also take out the peperino shelves to the left of the fireplace and install the barbecue and the stove on the opposite side of the wall in the loggia, situating them side by side, meaning that we'll find a hood to sit above them both. So we find a way to use the 1 meter doors after all; doors Stefano warned would not fit.

I have a concern about installing electrical outlets too high on a wall...I have for decades. Contractors like them installed at eye level, perhaps to enjoy their own handiwork. I think this creates an eyesore; it draws ones eyes to it, instead of other things more beautiful on the same wall. So Dino calls me in, and a new outlet is installed low enough to still be able to reach, but out of one's view. Va bene.

My foot continues to ache, so I try to stay off it as much as possible, but make a coffee cake, one that is highly received. Sure, we'll post the recipe for you...


Stefano affixes the mattonelle tiles around the loggia floor, and reminds us that they are new, and so they don't match. I ask him if we should wash them afterward with aqua sporca (dirty water) to help them to age. He laughs.

When were the original tiles installed? I look back in the archives to find that they were purchased seven years ago. It will take a while for the new ones to gain the patina that would work with the new pavers, but a couple of pieces of furniture will cover much of the space. It will all work...

Earlier, he called out to Dino, who was leaving the loggia, by saying, "Non fuga!" (don't escape), and later tells us that the new tiles we have purchased are not fatto a mano (made by hand); they are really fatto a piedi (made by feet). Ha! They are obviously not first grade, but he finds enough in good shape to use them. Since he is a master at what he does, he'll fit them to account for any imperfections. Speriamo! (We hope so!)

Earlier, the sindaco, the technico, Francesco the Vigili Urbani and the geometra, all arrived to take a look at the bank behind our house. Calling the bank area a protected zone, he shot down the idea of having it fixed by the neighborhood, or for us to do it ourselves. Not to be deterred, Francesco will apply to the Region, and if they agree that the work is needed, we won't have to pay anything to have the ancient bank fixed so that it won't crumble. That means, sit back and wait, just as we are doing on our citizenship applications...

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Berlusconi endures a confidence vote, and the vote in the Senate passes; the later vote in the Lower House also passes, but by only a couple of votes...

I'm so sad about the passing of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. Dino and I followed him for years, noting his skills in wresting compromise from warring factions around the world and his unwavering loyalty. Upon hearing of his death, Vice President Biden said that he was the most egotistical bastard he had ever known, but had just the right qualities for the role he played.

Yes, Holbrooke was tough, and made enemies; but there was "that certain something" about him, a quality that endeared him to me two years ago, or was it three, when I met him in Brussels, Belgium. I had been chosen to apply for a spot to represent Democratic delegates living in Europe for the 2008 presidential election. An avid Hillary supporter, I was drowned out by Obama's well-honed supporters who garnered more votes than hers did.

The highlight of the session was a private meeting with Ambassador Holbrooke, during which thirty or so of us sat in a room with him while he spoke about his heartfelt support of her candidacy.

"I diverted my trip, just to come here to speak with you about her", he told us. There is no telling what the ramifications of altering his schedule meant to him. And now he's left us; he's left when the going in Afghanistan and Pakistan appears particularly fruitless.

Without him, and with Iran's financial support of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, I fear we are on a slippery slope. We all seem mired somehow...even cagy Berlusconi is in trouble; his confidence vote today passed in the Senate, and squeaked by in the House. For who could take his place? Where oh where are the heroes, and what price would a hero pay to influence even a part of the world to become more peaceful?

There is so much to read about this giant in the press, but they all point to a man apart; he had an uncanny ability to see conditions as they were and was an unshakable force, ever striving to improve the human condition.

December 15
We're greeted by sun, beautiful sun, even though frost framing the windowpanes tells us the second bougainvillea is in trouble. Before mid morning, Dino and I wrap them both as Sofi sits close by, taking in the sun's rays.

There is something special about this place in wintertime; we're encouraged to spend time outside in shirtsleeves, taunting the cold but warmed by the sun. Yes, it's a blessing to face south, even though our land curves from south to west. It seems to open up like a fan, and I find myself walking across it from the new main gate to the far gate to look for Sofi; Dino finds her on the front path.

The main gate must have been opened to help Peppino, whose garden water pipe burst while we were wrapping the plants. Luckily Enzo's boys were working here to move our water pipes around the new doorway and were able to help fix the leak and find our little dog.

I bring a grotesque-painted vase out to young Stefano to show him another example of grotesques, for he asked about my humble examples standing upright in the serra (greenhouse). It is there where I store the remaining pieces from the years when ceramics painting took up most of my spare time. "What are they?" he asked yesterday. Later, Dino tells me he heard Stefano muttering to himself as he worked, "Grotesques, grotesques, grotesques..."

I've written about procrastinating too much; today I will work for several hours on Don Renzo's painting, especially his eyes, for it is his expression that will make the difference between just another painting and one that evokes an emotional response in the viewer. Magari...

Dino tells me that the pizza oven needs to have its first firing, so we don't know what that will mean...He agrees to take out the book from the manufacturer...I suspect Peppino can give us the best advice, but am leaving it up to Dino, since he will be the pizza maestro...

Houseflies are in abundance in wintertime. The characteristic hanging ropes that we use to keep them out during the summer months don't seem to work at this time of year. Instead of fretting, I diagram the spaces where we will need tiles, to determine the number we must buy and where they will be installed. This is all before the actual design on the front of the pizza oven is drawn out.

Oh. We still need more than 300 handmade 10 x 10 cm handmade tiles...but where can we buy them for less than €1 each? Our good friend Pat emails us that the price is good, especially since they are handmade and each one is handled separately. This is a case where smaller is not less expensive. Thanks, Pat.

December 16
We should have posted yesterday, but want to add that I wonder if the death of Richard Holbrooke could have sparked investigations into human organ trafficking in Kosovo more than two decades ago.

I wonder if moving the investigation further had something to do with him not being involved; perhaps that is what he was working on when his heart failed. He is most known for his handling of the Kosovo Peace Accord, but there is so much we do not know. In some cases, transparency does not help the cause. But in this case, all sides seem to want the investigation to go forward.

You remain in our thoughts, Ambassador Holbrooke, even in your passing.

On a funny note, Italian Notebook republished a story of mine yesterday that they originally published eighteen months ago. No matter, a growing number of its loving subscribers seem to have taken to our journal, asking to be notified when we post. Better send in more stories ...soon!

Dino drives off to pick up tarps...by Monday the crew will have drilled their way into the kitchen from the loggia and what a mess of dust we will have! I suppose the fact that the forecast is for rain for the next ten days... makes work easier for the operai (workers) when they don't have to contend with rain or snow. They'll work inside during this period, and perhaps one of those days will be our "one snow day a year day"...We'll be ready with our camera to let you know...

In the meantime, this place is truly disordine (a mess), with objects and books filling what we hope to become the dining room to the rafters.

But what a shock! The other word that we have heard country people use, really stands for "noisy" or ....a whorehouse! That word, casino, is a word that Loredana will not even use; she shakes her index finger at me if she hears it and lowers her head as if not to hear. But many country people use it just the same.

Other words to connote a dirty situation include: rovinare (to make a mess of) or perdersi in cosi inutile (to mess around). Why is it that this language seems such a funny one? All the translations are words we use, but somehow the way in which they are used here can't help but bring a smile to the lips.

Steel beams are installed over what will become the door to the loggia from the kitchen, but Stefano and I agree that the space will not be opened until after the door arrives. There is some question regarding the glass, for the door will arrive at the nearby shop (it's obviously not fabricated there) and only then will the vetro (glass) be installed before we can take delivery of it.

Stefano offers to bring the vetro to the shop to gain time, so perhaps that will happen. But to protect us from bad weather, but really ladri (thieves), the work will be done all in one day. You thieves out there, don't even think of breaking in on Sunday or Monday. We'll be ready for you!

With Stefano gone for the day, we drive North to Orvieto and then west toward Viterbo for a potential source of square tiles. What the artisan in a remote town nearby has are handmade, but each one needs to be sanded by hand; truly fatto a mano (made by hand).

He tells us the ones we have used are too uniform, but is it possible that they are factory made? We take one sample home to see if it's worth the effort. The price is 40% of the Deruta tiles, so after Dino takes sandpaper to it, we'll make a decision. If we buy from this supplier, we'll have to sand each one before dipping and painting it.

All along the route the grass is bright green; creamy looking sheep graze on the hillsides, the little ones visible with touches of pink skin. Somehow they all keep each other warm. On a shady rock cropping, icicles hang down in the sunlight, but there's no sign of drops; if we return tomorrow there will probably be more.

Back at home, Dino reroutes speakers and television cable and we rearrange the furniture in the kitchen. But the room really needs a cleanup, as well as paint on the ceiling. Let's take it one step at a time and wait until the new doors have been installed next week.

Tonight there is an additional Coro practice in Attigliano. I've been able to get in an hour of painting, but just that. The days are so busy that we'll hardly decorate for the holidays, but perhaps we'll get some of the outside lights up. That's if Dino and the two Stefanos do it together in the morning.

December 17
Local forecasts are funny. At 8 AM, the current Viterbo temperature reads -3°C on cnn.com weather, although the range for today is a high of 7°C and a low of 2°C! What?

Outside, a thin layer of ice crystals covers the cloth on the table under the kitchen window. A thick blanket of dark gray clouds sits over a pale gray-white burst of sun. In the valley, the bright celadon grass gleams, layer upon layer of hills in the distance a priceless photograph.

Do you take snapshots in your mind when viewing something special? A magical moment is just that; living from moment to magical moment is what I try to do these days. When faced with gloom I try to remove myself from the situation.

Yes, looking at life with a painter's eye is a gift you can give yourself. It's a less consumerist, glass more than half full delight. Today's new bracelet will later languish in a dusty corner, as if thrown there by a child bored with it. The snapshot you take in your mind fills you with awe if you let it, a priceless gift that enriches you more each moment of every day and becomes a part of who you are.

We turn on the TV in the newly arranged kitchen, and it won't work. It worked last night, although a red light appeared on the satellite box. Dino had spent hours rewiring the cable, and now he tells me he'll run to Viterbo for help... "I'll even take the car!" he laughs.

The TV works in the studio, so I sit and write to you instead of painting. Last night, both Anna Farina and Rosina Farina asked me if we would light the tree on our front terrace for Christmas. "Non lo so" (I don't know), I replied, telling them it's up to Dino whether to do the work or not. I tell him what they ask, and indeed I do not know.

Stefano and Stefano only work for an hour this morning, leaving after I serve them café in the kitchen, where it is warm. We have left the heat on, which we hardly ever do, for it's very cold. I guess that means we won't have a tree lit on the terrace for folks who come and go to and from our village.

Dino returns with a roast chicken for pranzo, and afterward he works on the cable connection some more while Sofi and I return to the studio for her to rest and me to paint.

After an hour, I move the canvas closer to the window, for the sun is low in the sky...or is it? I turn to look out the window to see a blanket of white...it is actually snowing and blowing! I bring Sofi to the window and she is amazed. Dino won't take photos until he knows if there will be a real snow accumulation, but as we see it, there will be plenty. So what's with that forecast?

Oh. It's now 0°Centigrade and snow, with showers expected tonight and rain tomorrow. That sounds like ice to me...so let's not drive...

Snow continues until mid afternoon, with Sofi bounding outside twice, once to recover a favorite stuffed bear lying in front of the balustra. The sky is truly colorless this time, but she's fascinated by the stuff. Here's snow in Mugnano...

Sorry we have not posted yet this month. Today's happenings are another reason why...

December 18
Rain last night dashed every bit of snow in Mugnano. Instead, ice on the roadways, especially that on the Bomarzo hill, is treacherous, and no bus arrives at its appointed time of 7 AM. Midmorning, there is no sign of a car passing, and ice crystals glisten on puddles left by the thaw.

So we've had our one-snow-day-a-year-day, and this time it was early. What does that portend for Babbo Natale's walk on Christmas Eve? The latest forecast is for fog, with rain expected on Christmas day. Sempre Avanti! (Always forward!) is the proud march of the ageing Mugnanese, right hand held high.

It's almost definite that my headaches are a result of gritting my teeth. I feel tenseness in my neck and am hopeful that use of the new mouth guard will be the end of it. How funny that after decades of pain, and a long bout of research in the University hospital in Perugia, famous for its department dedicated to headaches, a simple mouth guard is the answer.

In the studio, there is much to change on the painting of Don Renzo's face; his eyes and nose are too low, even though I transferred the drawing to scale, or at least I thought I did; so much for being mostly self-taught.

Yesterday, Stefano the worker asked me where I went to art school. Whenever people who look at my artwork are not experts and praise it, I am reminded that people who don't speak Italian often praise me for my command of the Italian language. I am still a neophyte when it comes to either. It's the unstructured learning that I find so much fun.

The pump in the parcheggio is not functioning, and Enzo the electrician is not expected until this afternoon to look at it, as well as the other electrical work that needs to be done in the loggia.

I'm thankful that Dino will not need to leave at all today, for the roads are really treacherous. The road below our house remains silent. Oh. I spoke too soon. He tells me he'll drive to nearby Attigliano for something, and perhaps it is a man thing; he wants to prove that he can do it. Cold Arctic air has created chaos all over Italy in the last 24 hours, with snow even as south as Rome.

There are so many expositions to see currently in Rome, but will we travel there before the end of January? Speriamo. If you're an art lover and will be in Central Italy, here's what's available during the next month:

  • ROME - Musei Capitolini: Leonardo da Vinci's Portrait of a Musician (1490), loaned by Milan's Biblioteca Ambrosiana for first time ever; until February 27.
  • Museo Fondazione Roma: Rome and the Ancient World, more than 140 paintings, sculptures, other works including loans from Prado, Louvre, Hermitage, Victoria and Albert Museum showing how classical works fired the imagination of 18th-century Rome; until March 6.
  • Palazzo Venezia: The Two Empires, The Eagle and the Dragon; more than 400 works on Roman (up to Trajan) and Chinese (Qin and Han) empires, spanning second century BC to fourth century AD; marks Year of Chinese Culture in Italy and is paired with other exhibit at Roman Forum; until February 6.
  • Palazzo delle Esposizioni: The City of the Gods, 450 artefacts from ancient Mexican site of Teotihuacan (2nd-century BC to 5th-century AD), once the largest city in pre-Columbian Americas; until February 27.
  • Galleria Borghese: Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Other Renaissance; 45 works from major international museums; until February 13.
  • Chiostro del Bramante: Greats from the Veneto, 15th- 18th Century; Bellini, Lotto, Titian, Veronese, Tiepolo, Canaletto; 80 works from Accademia Carrara in Bergamo; until January 30.
  • Vittoriano: 'Vincent Van Gogh, Timeless Landscape, Modern City'; 110 masterpieces in first major Rome show in 22 years; until January 30.
  • Scuderie del Quirinale: '1861: The Painters of the Risorgimento', war scenes, Garibaldi's Red Shirts, leaders' portraits; to January 16.
  • Curia Iulia, Roman Forum: 'The Two Empires, The Eagle and the Dragon'; 450 works; until January 9.
  • Museo di Roma (Palazzo Braschi): The Risorgimento in Colour: Patriot Painters; to January 9.

  • Back in Mugnano, our sump pump problems have grown to critical proportions. Enzo the electrician arrives just after pranzo while Sofi and I are in the studio and Dino bravely works to see how he can get it going, dropping a tool into it in the process. They fix the alarm problem that lights up in the kitchen when something is wrong, and an hour later there is a discussion about why it happens periodically.

    In the meantime, Giovanna arrives selling raffle tickets, and we buy yet another three. In a couple of hours we'll join our neighbors at the Orsini Palazzo in the borgo for some kind of artist reception, and either another vote or a choosing of the winners. I hope a woman we have not met, who appears to be from a former Russian province, wins, for her piece is a wonder. I'd like to meet her anyway.

    The euro to the dollar exchange is better by about €.01 a day, and if it continues, we'll be closer to parity. Since we live on dollars, that's important to us.

    Outside the weather warms up, and blowsy clouds roll by. Inside, I continue to work on Don Renzo's eyes, and am trying to figure out how to capture the light from his torch. Perhaps I'll study a few books to see how the masters have done it.

    I learn that the technique is called impasto, the term for paint that is so thickly applied to a canvas, that the medium stands in relief and retains the mark of the brush or palette knife. Let's take a break and return to it tomorrow.

    There was an Ecomuseo event at the Orsini Palazzo in the borgo tonight, and the piece of art that I thought was the best did win first prize. The artist is a lovely Bulgarian woman now living in Italy, and is completing her study in Urbino. She tells us that she hopes to have a gallery showing after that. We met her and will certainly follow her. Here she is with the piece she won, along with an award of €1500. Perhaps sadly for her, Ecomuseo is its new owner.

    We're back home before 8PM, and happy to be home.

    December 19
    There are just four of us in church for this morning's mass, but later in the day we'll be featured in a concert in Attigliano, along with the Coros of Amelia and Attigliano. There is also a concert at a church in Bomarzo, so Don Angelo does not announce ours. Dino thinks that this is right, for a majority of the parishioners live in Bomarzo.

    This time, Dino sits in the audience and I sit on the stage with my eight Coro buddies. The children of Attigliano are clearly the stars, although Angela, the Attigliano Coro master, who also guides us, speaks about out little village where ten percent of the residents are in the Coro. I'm announced as "Ivanna di San Francesco" (Evanne from San Francisco) to applause! What?

    Serena sits behind me as we wait our turn to go on, and is nervous. I tell her to think of the audience senza vestiti (without clothes) and she laughs. That is a way for people who have to address an audience to help rid themselves of nervousness.

    Don Renzo joins the Mugnano Coro for Guardate e Vedete and then leaves for the Bomarzo concerto. He's dressed in his frate (friar) costume, for before he was a priest, he was a Franciscan friar.

    After we sing, Laura tells me she's sorry our singing is over, but the event continues. The children sing Jingle Bell Rock, and I sing along with it in English, while MarieAdelaide looks at me in open-mouthed awe and Serena tries to sing along. The song is then sung in Italian. At the end, we join the children to sing Adeste Fideles. Coros from Attigliano and Amelia are clearly more sophisticated than we are; their harmony and experience palpable. We're not deterred. We sing without harmony, but sing well; after all, we are a simple village, so sing what we can from our hearts.

    Back at home, we open a bottle of prosecco and raise a toast. Since tomorrow will be a noisy day of drilling, Dino reminds me that we have to tape tarps around the door opening tomorrow before the work begins, so we turn in early.

    December 20
    We're up early, taping around all potential openings on the kitchen wall to the loggia that we can. At 9:40 AM, the heavy drilling begins, and just before 11 we take out coffee to the workers. Stefano stumps Dino: he asks him for an old-fashioned oil can, the kind with a long narrow spout that is used to oil machines. "McIver" does not have one.

    "Malepeggio" (is a two-sided tool), indicating that one side is bad; the other side is worse. "Bad" and "worse" refers to the damage one could do to another if used as a weapon. The more common word for this tool is martellina. This is the latest in Dino's dictionary of Italian construction terms and tools. Look for it soon somewhere in the website. We'll tell you when...

    Tomorrow is the day of the winter solstice. A very good article in the NYT outlines it well, as well as its Roman influence. Take a look:

    Back in Mugnano, Stefano uses his malepeggio to strike through the wall. Before the day is done, we will have a door installed. Since there is plenty of light from the area of the loggia, we decide that instead of a door with glass at the top leading to the back of the property, it will be a wooden door with a clearstory window at the top. We want light, but there is nothing exceptional to look at there, so let's be practical.

    Sofi and I return to the studio, until I have to heat up the oven for pranzo (yesterday's spaghetti baked with olives and peppers and parmesan cheese and other good stuff). We want to stay away from all the dust. One Stefano opens the wall while the other takes the rubble away in buckets, probably to Stefano's bright orange truck.

    There's time to do a little work on the painting of Don Renzo. His eyes are improving, bit by tiny bit. I sit at the computer and to my amazement, the Babbo Natale story is published today. Here it is, in the event you don't subscribe to Italian Notebook:


    There is not as much dust in the kitchen, thanks to Stefano's careful work and Dino's masterful taping. So we're able to eat pranzo at the table while everything remains taped. This afternoon, we're promised that the door will be installed.

    Since the floors of the kitchen and loggia are so close in height, amazingly, we will not have a step, which pleases me. There will only be the slightest ramp, and I believe this will be much safer. It's easy to fall when one floor looks very much like the adjoining one, with one step between, and the person walking assumes they are both at the same level, looking across instead of looking down.

    I return to painting while Dino watches an old war movie and waits for the two Stefanos to return. He likes to be in the middle of all the action. Va bene. After a hasty pranzo, the workers return, but are not able to install the door by the time they leave. There is too much work to be done before the door is installed. Superstitious sort that I am, I ask Dino to not post until tomorrow, since only a couple of tarps close in the space. Dino tells me I can sleep in the kitchen with a malepeggio, but I'll sleep upstairs instead, with one ear poised for the slightest sound.

    Another decision is made, and it is Dino's. He twists my arm a bit and I do give in. The door to the back will be mostly glass, to let in as much light as possible. I think when the door is delivered that the artisan will measure the opening, but the door arrives and no measurements are taken...That's for another day.

    December 21
    There's a pedicure appointment this morning, but first let's see if we survived last night with no unwanted activity... Perhaps later, we'll drive to Soriano to check out the false beams for the kitchen ceiling.

    Yesterday, Dino asked Stefano if we should add more intonico under the five long strips of steel plates, each 4 meters long, that are covered with intonico on the kitchen ceiling and are starting to peel. Stefano tells Dino that that method won't work, and suggests we drive to a place in Soriano that sells false beams that look real and are easy to install. We'll surely do that, perhaps after the pedicure. But do they really look real?

    Yes, we've survived without a break-in, and today the door will be installed for sure. We leave for the pedicure and for dear Giusy to inspect the damage to my right foot. It looks good, and salt and water is good for it, as well as the cream. The remaining scar will probably pop off for Christmas. Sorry.

    Dino drives us to Soriano where we see examples of the beams, and then to Orsolini in Vallerano, but the person who handles wood does not answer the phone when Alessandro calls him. We drive home with no answer for the beams, but a preventivo (price) for the heating elements we want. Dino will share it with Enzo to see what he thinks. Remember that heating elements need to be low on a wall, for heat rises, so it makes little sense to have tall elements on a wall.

    Having these installed will probably take until at least mid January, but remember this is the week before Christmas...It's like Ferragosto (the iron days of summer, when everyone takes vacation).Come no? (Why not?)

    Don't be a grouch if the workers won't stop what they're doing (enjoying the holidays) to appease you. Why not wish them "Auguoni!" (Happy holidays!) instead and feel lucky you live in this magical and somewhat nutty country.

    Paolo, the fellow we ordered the door from, arrives to install it after all, and Stefano tells us we made the ottimo (best) choice of door and size. He's on his knees working on the ramp, and it's a bit delicate when wet, so grumbles sweetly while Paolo gives Dino instructions on how the door will work and moves some of the tiles a bit, since the grout is still wet.

    Paolo also takes measurements for a window in the loggia and the second door to the back. Stefano pushes him for the contratellaio (door frame) and if we're amazingly lucky it will be delivered before Christmas. There's that pushy business again...if Paolo's smart, he'll ignore Stefano....

    There is Coro practice tonight, sigh, and although I love the girls and love singing, I'm not a fan of going out on a cold winter night. So what. I'll be happy when I'm there.

    Stefano leaves for the evening, and we do cleanup and start the stufa. The stufa and peperino framed shelves to the left of the fireplace did not have to be removed after all. There's about a millimeter space left. Some things just work out. They are meant to.

    An intense tiredness washes over me, and I just cannot make it to Coro practice tonight. I'm in bed before 9 PM. Dino told me I should probably attend both the Christmas Eve mass as well as the Christmas morning mass, and perhaps that put me over the top. zzzzzzzzzzz

    December 22
    With rain outside, the forecast is for much of the same through Christmas. The two Stefanos are here to work on the tiles and the ramp, and the wall between the kitchen and loggia is so thick that even with the doors open they do not encroach on the kitchen! How will we have privacy here, if we want it? Italian curtain rods come straight out from the wall several centimeters, as if to account for doors and windows encroaching past the wall openings, and that's just what we'll do, with tie-backs when we want the light.

    Dino and I speak with Stefano about all the cracks that need to be repaired with intonico, and he tells us they should be repaired with siliconi acrilico and then repainted.

    Oh, all right. We've re-fauxed parts of the walls before, so we suppose we can do them all when we clean and paint the ceiling. Dino wants me to faux a peperino header and surround for the door opening and I roll my eyes. Sure, why not?

    To think of it, embarking on these creative projects is a part of who I am. When they are finished, I suppose so will I be.

    I still have an image in my mind of a pair of giant angel wings floating, and perhaps that is a sculpture. But oh, that's for another life. I can't seem to get my arms around all the projects I have right now. Back to the painting of Don Renzo...

    Dino drives off for supplies for Stefano, and then has an appointment in Viterbo with our good doctor. He'll take the satellite box with him, for this one does not work well, either, and that means erasing all of the programs we've recorded. No matter.

    I make coffee for the younger Stefano, and he will work until pranzo, adding grout to the new tiles. I notice that there is still a corner near the rear of the bread/pizza oven that does not have tile yet, and there is some intonico still needed on a loggia wall or two.

    Upstairs, I return to the painting of Don Renzo's cloak, and it will take many layers before it is finished. I'd like to change the background, but will not, for I need to move on to the presentation project on Saint Peter the Martyr in Fornelli di Isernia before the end of the year, and we're almost there...

    Dino returns, and after pranzo the two Stefanos work on intonico and laying tiles. I want to send out our Christmas Card, and perhaps Dino will want to sit down and figure out the photo mockup. If you don't receive one in email in a day or so, you'll see it here.

    Yes, I do want to change the background of Don Renzo's painting after all, no matter the time it takes. So with a stipple brush in hand, I change the background behind the image. Perhaps that is what was wrong with it after all. It will take a day to begin to sink into the canvas, and only then will we know if I've made a mistake.

    Unlike Gloria Swanson, Babbo Natale is really ready for his close-up; he's laid out all the gifts for Friday night and we're ready two days early. Later, we'll go out for some last minute shopping, but the annual steamed persimmon pudding marathon will have to wait...the stove in the loggia is not ready to be hooked up, and with all the steaming that is to be done, we've learned not to do that in the kitchen. That means we'll give our annual gifts closer to Cappo D'Anno (New Year's Eve).

    Dino has returned with the satellite box, and there's nothing wrong with it, so he'll have to call Gianni in Attigliano to come to figure the cable connections out. For now, the "my sky" function of recording programs is kaput.

    December 23
    Gianni does not arrive to fix our cable connections. The good news is that Dino figures out what is wrong with the connection himself. Bravo, Dino! The two Stefanos are here, finishing the pavement in the loggia and intonico on a loggia wall.

    Within the month, another loggia door will be installed to the back of the property, and then we will continue to enclose the loggia. If all goes as planned, there will be double doors between the loggia and the terrace to use in wintertime. Thanks again, dear Dad on high; this would not have been possible without you.

    Rain continues outside, and the painting of Don Renzo continues to change. There is so much wind that it howls against the house like a tease. No wonder little children are afraid of the bogeyman sounds...I hear "I'm coming to get you!" and now think of the sounds as silly.

    I'm imagining heavy dark blue velvet drapes with Jim Bolen's finials in the entryway to the loggia, tied back unless we want to block out the light or dark from outside during wintertime. They're used often in ancient palazzos here, and I'm imagining finding them in some antique market, but will probably have to make them myself. That's probably another project for dopo Natale, but there's such a long list. Yes, I now understand the comments from readers: "How can you do so many things? I thought you were retiring and slowing down!"

    There's a Jacquie Lawson Christmas card singing White Christmas that gives me a start. The photo at the end reminds me of the house where I grew up and was known as "Hellgate".

    Outside, there was a marvelous white spruce tree, so tall that we could view its blue holiday lights from afar. Yes, when there was snow for Christmas it brought tears to my eyes, although our little circle was never plowed well after big storms. There are so many memories, and I thank my parents for working so hard to make Christmas wonderful for us...

    After a bit of shopping this morning, we return home for a chicken and zafferano (saffron) risotto. There is a discussion about another trip to Citta di Castello, for Stefano told us before they left for pranzo that they don't have enough tiles to finish their work. It appears we asked them to pave a couple of details that were not in the plans.

    So when the workers return from pranzo, Dino questions then and then makes sure there are tiles at the yard for us to pick up this afternoon. Dino remembers that they made a second order by mistake, so unless they disposed of them or sold them to someone else, we'll be in luck.

    With all the mess on the terrace, Dino told the workers at the end of the work here to take away all the roba on the terrace and pick up a new batch of gravel in Stefano's little orange truck. In the meantime, it's wonderful to open a door and walk right out to the second frigo or frigoifero and put something away.

    Since I've been reading "Inside a Dog", I realize that dog's don't really look straight ahead, unless they're staring right at us. Their eyes, on the sides of their heads, look to the side, and this morning Sofi looked at the Christmas video on the computer with me, seeing it all the while, although her nose pointed at ten o'clock. Do read the book if you want to know more about how a dog thinks and responds.

    There's been a bombing in Rome at the Swiss Ambassador's office, and one person was hurt. "Sempre Avanti!" we Italians say to this startling news. To skip the news, scroll down past the copy in italics.

    Parcel bomb at Swiss embassy badly injures employee

    Man risks losing left hand

    23 December, 13:59 - Rome, December 23 - A male employee at the Swiss embassy in Rome was taken to hospital with serious injuries to his hands Thursday after a parcel bomb exploded at the embassy.

    The 53-year-old will be operated on at the city's Policlinico Umberto I hospital and risks losing his left hand. Police are on the scene of the explosion to investigate.

    Apparently the parcel blew up after the employee opened it.

    ''We express total solidarity with the Swiss embassy and all its personnel, who have been subject to a deplorable act of violence that deserves our firmest condemnation,'' said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

    ''Our sentiments of sincere solidarity towards our Swiss friends are accompanied by our wishes that the injured employee recovers fully as soon as possible''. The blast comes after what looked to be a makeshift bomb was found in an empty carriage of the Rome metro on Tuesday, although it later turned out the device could not ignite because it had no detonator and the material inside was not explosive.

    Earlier on Thursday there was also a bomb scare at a Rome city council office, although it was a false alarm.

    Tension has been high in the Italian capital following a series of a protests by students against the government and its contested higher education reform bill, one of which degenerated into a riot last week.

    However, Thursday's incident does not appear related to these protests.

    Rain, petrol strike threaten to spoil Xmas in Italy

    In a study by Milan's Chamber of Commerce, said most Italians plan to stay home for the holidays and that seven out of 10 are preparing a less lavish Christmas than in the past.The chamber said 39.1% are cutting down on gift buying.

    The average Italian will spend 284 euros this Christmas for a total of around 14.2 billion euro, it said. Health items top the list of Italians' gift request, with 48.1% wanting them, followed by clothes at 35.2%, toys at 11.5% electronic goods at 8.5% and books at 8.2%. The spending of just over a quarter of Italians, 27.1%, will not be affected by the recession.

    Around 4.5% of people in Italy, more than two million people, will not celebrate Christmas, 32.4% of these because they are not Catholics.

    I think that's funny, since I surmise that Catholicism is not practiced by a majority of people who celebrate the holiday.

    And now, get out your hankies; it's time for some Italian melodrama:

    ANSA English > News
    Berlusconi's daughter upset by sex scandals

    But 26-year-old Barbara still trusts her dad

    (By Romina Spina) (ANSA) - Rome, December 21 - Silvio Berlusconi's daughter Barbara said she was bitter at the recent sex scandals involving the Italian Premier but added that, while she did not agree with her father's conduct, she still trusted him.

    ''These events saddened me and it's difficult for me to talk about it,'' 26-year-old Barbara said in an interview to be published Wednesday by the Italian edition of Vanity Fair. ''I would like readers to put themselves in my shoes. ''I obviously don't agree with certain kinds of behaviour, but I also have to believe my father's side of things,'' Barbara Berlusconi said. Silvio Berlusconi has traded on a playboy image throughout his political career and has come through a series of recent sex scandals largely unscathed, boasting that he loves pretty girls and has never paid for sex. He defended himself from allegations this year that under-age girls were present and sex was involved at parties at his home, saying the call girl who made them and others who have made similar claims, had been paid to do so.

    In the interview, Barbara Berlusconi also spoke out against some women politicians in her father's entourage, expressing doubts about their abilities. She attacked Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna, criticizing her recent remarks denouncing political chauvinism she claimed to be victim of in Italy.

    Carfagna, a former model and television starlet who was made a minister of Berlusconi's centre-right coalition in 2008, should ''have the decency to shut up'', the premier's daughter said. ''If she feels discriminated against - she went from TV awards to becoming a minister - that is just preposterous''.

    Barbara Berlusconi added that "seeing certain girls in (government) staff cars isn't good for the country's image, because it's hard to grasp why they deserve to be there". Nevertheless, Barbara defended the premier saying that the Italian people voted for him.

    Barbara is the eldest of the three children Silvio Berlusconi had with actress Veronica Lario. In the past, she has spoken about her parents' divorce describing it as a painful affair for both. She spoke of her family as being ''a fine one'' and said she wanted to be close to both her parents.

    Asked if her parents had shared a ''great love'', Berlusconi replied ''I'm certain it was the case for my mother''. The premier and Lario became involved 30 years ago and had their children while Berlusconi was still married to his first wife. They eventually married in 1990.

    Lario, 20 years the premier's junior at 54, announced plans to seek a divorce in 2008 amid allegations of Berlusconi's involvement with other women. Lario lodged a request for official separation in November 2009. The couple must wait three years from the date at which the separation is legally recognized before a divorce can be finalized.

    According to reports, Lario was keen to ensure her three children Barbara, Eleanora and Luigi would be guaranteed a role in Berlusconi's business empire on a level with that of his children from his first marriage to Carla Dall'Oglio, Marina and Piersilvio. Barbara Berlusconi brushed off rumours of possible hereditary settlement issues between Marina and Piersilvio and Lario's children.

    Pope 'shocked' by extent of child abuse by priests

    Benedict XVI thanks those who sought to help victims

    20 December, 13:30 (ANSA) - Vatican City, December 20 - Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said that he and the Catholic Church were "devastated" by the extent of child abuse by priests and expressed his gratitude to those priests who helped the victims of this abuse.

    In his Christmas message to the Roman Curia, which assists the pope in the governance of the Church, Benedict said that the magnitude of child abuse by priests "was for us unimaginable," while the abuses themselves "totally turned the sacraments upside down.

    Under the guise of the sacraments young human beings suffered deep injuries and sustained damages which will remain for all their lives". Because of this abuse, the pope continued, "the face of the Church was covered in grime, its robes torn to shreds".

    "We must accept this humiliation as a call to truth and renewal. And I would like to thank all those (priests) who sought to help the victims of this abuse and restore their faith in the Church and belief in its message," he added.

    The pope then called on the Church as a whole to determine where it went wrong and how it can train its priests to be "immune from this sin and crime".

    "We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair, as much as possible, the injustice done. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our message, with the way we perceived being Christian and how something like this could have happened," Benedict said.

    "We must find a new resoluteness in faith and doing good.

    We must be capable of penitence. We must make every effort to do all we can, in training our priests, to ensure this never happens again," he added.

    Benedict went on to say that "in my meetings with the victims of this sin, I always also found priests who, with great dedication, stood by the side of those who suffered and who were harmed. "I would like to thank these priests who have demonstrated humility and faith in the goodness of the Lord and, in the middle of all this devastation, bore witness to the beauty of the priesthood, which has not been lost".

    In his message to the Curia, the pope also spoke out against the wave of attacks on Christians throughout the world, especially in the Middle East.

    The pope appealed to "all those with political and religious responsibility to work to stop this Christian phobia... they must stand up and defend refugees and those who suffer in order to revitalise the spirit of reconciliation".

    Turning his attention to the Middle East, Benedict said "violence cannot lead to progress and... has created the situation that exists today".

    Christians in the Mideast, he added, "are the most oppressed and tormented minority" and efforts made to protect them "have been too weak".

    Looking back at the pastoral missions he completed this past year - to Britain, Malta, Portugal and Spain - the pope said what what struck him the most was that "faith is not something of the past. God's power and goodness are present in many ways even today".

    Many of us have answers, and they include not making sex an issue at all. Just as the American Government will no longer set people apart who have different sexual orientations, a person's sex should have nothing to do with whether they have the knowledge and skills and mostly the passion to serve God in pastoral ways. Those who committed sins probably used sex as a weapon to tout they had power over weaker parishioners.

    Yes, that's me with my 2 cents worth. And now to everyone's favorite Italian passion: the mafia...

    Casalesi mafia clan's 'No.3' nabbed

    Sigismundo Di Puorto caught trying rooftop escape 20 December

    (ANSA) - Rome, December 20 - Italian police on Monday caught the suspected No.3 of the notorious Casalesi clan in the Neapolitan Camorra mafia.

    Sigismundo Di Puorto, 38, was caught in Casal di Principe, the town near Caserta north of Naples that gave the Casalesi family its name.

    Di Puorto, who had been on the run for about a year from an arrest warrant issued in the northern Italian city of Modena, was nabbed after trying to make an escape over the rooftops when police surprised him in an accomplice's 'safe house'.

    Police said he had moved from the Naples area and set up shop in Emilia Romagna, where he had been running extortion rackets.

    Police union Siulp hailed Di Puorto's capture, saying it was a tribute to the "great professionalism and spirit of self-sacrifice" of the Caserta police who were continuing to "dismantle" the "bloody Casalesi clan" despite government budget cuts. Di Puorto's arrest came a month after that of the Casalesis' joint No.1, Antonio Iovine, arrested on November 18 after 14 years on the run.

    Investigators say the Casalesi are now being run by Iovine's fugitive co-boss Michele Zagaria, and by another mafioso-in-hiding, Mario Caterino.

    The criminal empire of the Casalesi was exposed to general readers by writer Roberto Saviano in his international bestseller Gomorra (Gomorrah), later turned into an award-winning film of the same name.

    Over the last two years Italian police have carried out a string of successful operations against the Camorra, Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta.

    Yes, we returned again to Citta del Pieve for 30 more mattone (tiles), and while we were there, Dino asked them about the 10cm tiles I'll need to paint. Yes, they have them in stock, and we won't have to sand them. After we meet with Elena to make sure she agrees and will dip them for me and then fire them after I've painted them, we'll return for the 300 plus that we need to buy.

    On the way back, we stop at a place in Orvieto Scalo for fireplace tools, and find the three that Dino will need. The handles are a pale wood, and I imagine them turning darker with the oils from Dino's hands, to a chestnut color.

    Happy that we've had two excellent stops, we return home to send out our Christmas Card by email. If you have not received one, here it is. Enjoy.

    We decide to celebrate our purchase of fireplace tools for the pizza/bread oven with pizza at Girasole, the nearby pizza place within Hotel Umbria in Attigliano. The chef is very kind, giving Dino pointers about the oven, and me information about temperatures in which to cook bread.

    Better turn in early...tomorrow's the busiest day of the year here!

    December 24
    "All I want for Christmas is You," and Darlene Love's version of "Christmas" (Baby, Please Come Home) are the two holiday songs I sing and move to way out loud. "Whoa Mamma! Look-ie here! She sure done move those hips!" is what my imaginary angels on high tell each other and laugh. Sofi just hides her head.

    Isn't it about time you learned the words to Darlene Love's version? All right-ie now! Turn up the volume and here are her very words, along with those of her background group. For the real fun, get friends to sing the word "Christmas" and you can sing the main lyrics yourself.Come no? You can be "Diva for a Day", so put on the song and let her rip!

    "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home!)"

    Snow comin' down, (CHRISTMAS!)
    I'm watching it fall (CHRISTMAS!)
    Lots of people around, (CHRISTMAS!)
    Baby, please come home!

    The church bells in town, (CHRISTMAS!)
    Are ringing in song (CHRISTMAS!)
    Full of happy sounds! (CHRISTMAS!)
    Baby Please come home!

    . They're singin' "Deck the Halls,"
    But it's not like Christmas at all
    'Cause I remember when you were here
    And all the fun we had last year.

    Pretty lights on the tree. (CHRISTMAS!)
    I'm watching them shine. (CHRISTMAS!)
    You should be here with me. (CHRISTMAS!)
    Baby, please come home!

    Saxophone solo here

    They're singing, "Deck the Halls,"
    But it's not like Christmas at all
    'Cause I remember when you were here
    And all the fun we had last year.

    If there was a way (Christmas!)
    I'd hold back these tears (Christmas!)
    But it's Christmas day, (Please!)
    Please! (Please!)
    Please! (Please!)
    Please! (Please!)
    Please! (Please!)
    Please!......Baby, please come Home! (CHRISTMAS!)
    Baby, please come home! (CHRISTMAS!)
    Baby, please come home,
    Baby, please come home.
    Baby, please come home......
    Oh yeah yeah...
    Baby, please come home!

    Skies are overcast, and there is a little rain, but after errands and word that Enzo the electrician won't be here after all, Dino takes out his drill and works for a little while I get the journal ready to post, once we add the rest of the day's adventures after midnight...

    Babbo's costume sits on the bed, along with his helper's antlers. I fix a pasta with gamberi (shrimp) for his "carbo loading" pranzo and we have plenty of time to get ready for Babbo's Attigliano festa for sixty children, although it's raining. I'd like to take Sofi, but the rain proves a problem.

    I sit at the computer to read welcoming holiday emails, and it is then that I notice that we typed the wrong year on the card. No matter; we can use the same card next year. Ha!

    Tiziano and Alessia pick us up. Babbo Natale drives in a white Fiat pickup truck all by himself, and Alessia and Tiziano and I go our separate way...Gifts are piled into the white truck, and all the while it continues to rain. Fa niente. (No worries.) The gifts are all in red holiday plastic bags.

    At the hall, Babbo Natale and friends unload, and the momentum builds inside. This is a Nonno and Nonna event, and in advance gifts were purchased and wrapped for each grand child. On cue, Babbo Natale enters the room to a screaming, squealing group of children and their parents and grandparents.

    The young sindaco (mayor) is there, as is the owner of the white truck, sixty or more children and also an assortment of parents and grandparents.

    As the children all gather around, it is decided that first the children get to ask Babbo Natale questions, and there are many. Babbo Natale tells the children that he only understands a bit of Italian, for he lives in the North Pole, so Tiziano is recruited to translate, and whispers in Babbo's ear after each question. Here are a few:

    * How did you get here?
    * Where did you park?
    * What are the reindeer's names?
    * What is your wife's name?
    * Do you have a dog? What is its name?
    * How old are you?

    It's present time, and Babbo Natale speaks into the microphone to read each name. Someone takes a photo of every child with Babbo Natale...

    ... and here are photos of others involved in the event, too, from setting it up to taking photos.

    Back home, we rest for a few hours, before it's time to brave the rain and sludge around the village. Don't get me wrong; we love to do it.

    There is just a bit of mist when we step out of our house, and we take our walk to the same houses and for mostly the same folks, except sweet Signora Elisa, Donato's mother, who went to bed at 8 PM.

    Afterward we'll walk home and change for mass, finally climbing upstairs to the house around midnight...Buon Natale! Auguroni and tanti belli cosi to all and to all a good night!

    December 25
    We sleep in; is it ever magical to do so! With no need to attend church, since we did attend in the last hours of Christmas Eve, on this Christmas I take time to cook. A roast pork, stuffing, applesauce and mashed potatoes are served with a 1998 Brunello that was a gift five years ago from our dear friend, Michelle. Dessert waits until later in the afternoon....

    We've defrosted one of last year's Steamed Persimmon Puddings, and yes, it is still good after one year in the freezer, but has lost a bit of its taste. Dino heats up brandy and lights it, then pours it onto slices, and we enjoy it with the rest of the prosecco.

    Hanging out, watching movies, lighting candles and enjoying a fire in the fireplace all afternoon are a quiet joy, and just what we needed.

    In a call to Terence and the family, in Orange County with Angie's parents, Nicole tells Dino that her very favorite gift was a Madame Alexander doll. I could cry, for that was my very favorite Christmas gift as a young girl, and three of mine were saved and given to nieces Sarah and Elizabeth.

    I wonder if Sarah's girls have them now. There was a bride doll, a lovely skater, and one other that I do not recall. But those dolls were beautifully made, and certainly were of a quality that would last for generations.

    Sofi enjoys new presents, a holiday collar and a toy ketchup bottle, but now that I realize that dogs don't relate to the color red, but to blue and green, the impact seems more dull to me, but what do I know? It's how Sofi relates to it that is important.

    Yes, I'm continuing to read and learn from Inside a Dog, a recent book. It's worth reading if you have a dog or have ever had a dog. It gives me new insight into how Sofi thinks and reacts, and I'm especially conscious of her looking at my face, when her nose faces nearby.

    Notice that many dogs' eyes sit farther back on their heads; that is if they have long snouts. They have 270 degree vision, as opposed to a dog like a pug, whose eyes face front and cannot see as far back without moving its head.

    With email cards from friends, and a few even in the mail, we think of those we hold dear on this day and bless our lives here. I particularly think of my dear friend Joy, and treasure her friendship now more than ever, even if mostly from afar.

    December 26
    We arise for mass, for it is Sunday, and four of us sit in the front row, representing the Coro, with Don Angelo as our priest. Before mass, he shakes my hand and wishes me a "Good Morning!", for he speaks English.

    As he begins the mass, Don Angelo holds up the reliquary of Santo Stefano, for this saint is celebrated on this day. A few days ago, Stefano the muratore told us about today as "Santo Io" (Saint me), to laughter.

    In his mass, he speaks about the pope's Christmas homily in which he encouraged embracing one's family as well as other families around the world. I'm reminded of the greeting in our own Christmas card:
    May your lives be blessed with good health, great friends, and a love in your hearts for all mankind. Here in Mugnano, the numbers in church are small, and Dino surmises that Italo and Vincenzo and Augusto are all probably celebrating in Parma with Ivo's family. It makes sense, for perhaps Ivo's family in Parma will be the center of their extended family from now on, with Andrea, his son, as the youngest of the group.

    We drive only to Bomarzo for cappuccinos and brioches, and then back home under the sunniest of skies, hanging out sheets to dry in the sun and to eat yesterday's leftovers and relax some more.

    Before we realize it, dark clouds form overhead and the rest of the day is cool. Inside we're relaxing, doing not much of anything. It feels great.

    I suppose I'm not the right person to just hang about all day, so in the evening while Dino and Sofi watch an American football game on TV, I do some research on a story I am writing about relics.

    The idea is to do a story about them for Italian Notebook, but then there is so much information that I just may write an article and submit it somewhere...where? Non lo so. (I don't know.)

    December 27
    Happy Birthday, Dad. If you were still with us you'd be 105 today!

    The two Stefanos return, and Stefano the senior leaves to work with Enzo the plumber on a project at Peppino's. Stefano the junior remains, filling grout, repairing cracks in the walls...

    This afternoon we view a new property for sale near Porano, and it's a beauty. Want to own your own deconsecrated church and turn it into something special, as a part of your home? This rectory and church is a marvel, with parts of the building dating to the 1200's, 2 hectares of land including an Etruscan grotto. It's ten minutes from Orvieto and 15 minutes to the A-1 Autostrada.

    We return to see some work done at home, and soon afterward Enzo the electrician returns to fix a small box, then leaves until after the first of the year.

    December 28
    The fellow we affectionately refer to as George Bush arrives with his giant truck, and it appears he has been hired to fix the sinkhole in the street right in front of Pepino's garage and garden next to us.

    We're off to Viterbo to find lights for the summer kitchen to be installed above the stove and barbecue, and have determined that only then will we have the copper hood made. I'll do some research and try to come up with a simple design for the hood.

    We should stop at Elena's to speak with her about the ceramic tiles. Her bottega is the place where we hope to dip and then bake the tiles after I have painted them. It's possible she will be away for a week or so, and if she gives me access, I can do all the painting of the tiles right there in her shop. That's your friend the dreamer, again.

    We greet our girlfriends, Angela and Donatella at ACI and attempt to renew our insurance, but it is too early. The renewal date is December 31, but it is not possible to pay until January! Va bene. After a discussion in the car, we arrive at Bonucci in Viterbo to see if they have fake beams. They can order them, but they are too expensive here, too, so we decide to order real beams and have them attached.

    In the meantime, we agree to paint the kitchen a pale blue/gray, and paint the ancient vetrina (glass front cabinet) a darker blue with gold trim. We purchase three cans of different blues to try on different walls and on the side of the vetrina and then drive home for pranzo.

    Alessandro is still working on road just up from our house, but the boys from the Comune have done their work. We have to move the signs blocking the road, for we live before the sink hole and are sure we can get into the parcheggio. Their project is larger than I suspected, and a huge cement truck is dropping its load while Alessandro and Marino spread it around. Behind them and waiting is a big truck of sand.

    What big happenings in our little village! While we are eating pranzo, Joan and Patrick call and are driving up from Rome. They arrive in the midst of the big event of the month in Mugnano, other than Babbo Natale, and it's the repairing of the sinkhole, with 40 to 50 cm of cement poured. The road is closed for all except us (we're the only house before the sink hole), so va bene.

    We try the two blue paint samples on a couple of walls, and will also try the one sample on the side of the vetrina in the kitchen. I'm determined to change it from green to blue, and look forward to the change.

    We also measure in the outdoor kitchen for the hood over the stove and barbecue, and are thinking it may be made of zinc instead of copper. The price from our friends in Viterbo is much more than we thought we'd spend.

    Dino still needs to confirm the pipe size and the fitting of the heating elements in the kitchen with Enzo the plumber, but if we do not order it before the end of the week, we'll have to wait ten days until Orsolini returns from vacation.

    December 29
    For the last several days, early in the morning, the bright coral-y-pink and purple swashes against the dark sky, lit by the warming sun, were miraculous. Each day I wanted to write about them to you; each day I found myself mired in other projects. Sorry we don't have photos; if similar skies appear, I pledge to get out of bed and pick up the camera to record it for you. Speriamo.

    Yesterday's paint tests showed that the two colors were wrong for the walls. One color will be fine to paint the vetrina, although we need to have it mixed with a satin finish. The smallest size available, 3/4 of a liter, will be enough, although I think we need a base coat of white over the existing green. Dino wants to make sure that I repaint the gold trim around the glass. Si, certo!

    For the walls, a much lighter tone of the same color might work, and we will carry it outside. Since the tiles in that room are white with blue, I think it will work fine. Dino put his foot down when I mentioned an off-white.

    Stefano is not here, but we think we'll get his assistant to paint the ceiling, using that off-white. Let's hope the taping we do to separate the two colors will not peel off the paint. If it does, a touch-up won't be that difficult.

    Last night's Coro practice was cancelled, and I was pleased. Instead, I got into bed early and finished the dog book.

    There's that dark buttermilk sky this morning, and if Stefano arrives, we'll speak with him about the beams for the kitchen ceiling. Dino thinks they should be ash, a lighter wood, that we will stain in a castagno color to mirror the cabinets framing the sink and window. Stefano will affix them to the steel rods, after the ceiling has been painted.

    So about those "What will you do all day?" questions so many of you asked us before we moved...

    Before we drive to Viterbo, Dino puts the grill together, and wants to set it up where it will live, so that we can more accurately measure the cap for it that will also cover the stove. We've moved from rame (copper) to zincato (zinc), for it will be lest costly and also work well with the blue.

    Once the stove has been re-hooked in the summer kitchen, We'll begin to make this year's budino di caki, or steamed persimmon puddings. They are a big hit around here, and we told our friends our holiday gifts would be late...

    Poor Don Renzo's painting. The copy of a photo of his face is beginning to curl, and I don't see myself returning to it this morning. Perhaps I'll return to it this afternoon, when Dino and the geometra walk to a nearby garden to assess the possibility of building something this next summer for a friend...

    We continue to love the new addition to the existing kitchen, joining it to the summer kitchen by a glass door. Friends here yesterday for a visit agreed.

    But now I want the kitchen painted a darker blue gray, and although we picked up samples in a lighter color, I'm hoping to convince Dino to go dark.

    Elena is in her main studio when we return from Viterbo, and we ask her what she thinks of the cheaper tiles. They look a bit rough, but she'll dip one and fire it while she is gone. We'll have until the end of the first week in January to learn what the next steps will be, and whether we will have to sand each one, or if these tiles will even work.

    Great news is that she will let me work in her initial shop, now a maggazino (store room), where there is even a mini fornace (oven), where I can bake about 70 tiles at a time, whether her main shop is open or not. In her main oven, I can bake all of them. This is great news, for I will do all of the painting work there, making the possibility of damage in transport much less. The tiles merely have to be transported across the street.

    Back at home it's cold, and time for a batch of cece e pasta zupa (garbanzo bean and pasta soup) in chicken broth with fresh rosemary. With a fresh loaf of ciabatta (slipper bread) to dunk and more puntarelle salad, what's not to love?

    Dino and I make some measurements for the hood, but still are not sure how far out it will come, and he has to leave before we finish our conversation. When he returns, he'll paint some samples for the kitchen wall and vetrina. I like it that we chug along, project after project, but am not happy that I have not painted much these past days.

    We drive to our friends at Sgrigna and come up with a hood we think is great and is made by our friends at SMEG. The fan is very powerful and it is the design I've imagined all along! Now, how will the electricity be attached to it? Specifications on the internet show...nothing.

    December 30
    Both Stefanos are here, but the senior Stefano leaves while Dino tries to speak with the folks at SMEG to figure out what to do about the hood to be installed over the barbecue and the stove in the summer kitchen area. He's adept enough in Italian that he speaks with Italian technicians on the phone, but finally finds one who agrees to look up the model and call him back. He's not sure where the electricity needs to be installed for the motor.

    Guess that means we're going to buy the SMEG hood from our friends at Sgrigna. It won't arrive for about a month, but in the meantime Stefano will drill through the roof and get the cap ready for it. After researching it on the internet, I advised Dino that we buy an all in one hood, for having one made to our specifications would be more complicated and expensive.

    We're still not sure if we'll need other lights in the area, and I'm in favor of two appliques (sconces), while Dino would rather see track lights that could be aimed anywhere. We'll put off the decision for now for more lights. Dino does put up the paint samples to test; samples we purchased that we hoped will work better with the tiles that I painted that are in the summer kitchen area.

    They don't work better. Dino takes out paint we used for the shutters, and although it is satinato, the tone is better. This is a 500 series; the former were in the 400 series, so I wonder if we could find something in the 300 series. Nothing works all that well with the painted ceramic tiles. Sempre Avanti! (Always forward!)

    Stefano the younger works all morning to repair cracks in the kitchen, and at least the paint we purchased for the soffito (ceiling) looks good. But the latest sample, one that comes from paint used a year or two ago for the shutters is oil based, so won't come off the wall! At least we can paint over it.

    I paint this morning, and just can't rush it. I love the face, but does it appear too young for Don Renzo? Here's some local Italian news from ANSA:

    Father Christmas cop nabs suspected Mafia collector

    Undercover police officer pounces after handing out sweets - 24 December

    Guarda la foto 1 di 1 (ANSA) - Catania, December 24 - An Italian police officer has given a suspected Mafia protection-money collector a nasty Christmas surprise by arresting him dressed as Santa Claus. The undercover Carabinieri officer detained Salvatore Politini, 37, shortly after he allegedly took protection money from a shopkeeper who had been a victim of Cosa Nostra extortion for over a decade.

    The fake Santa gave out sweets to children just outside the store in a village near Catania where the money changed hands.

    The officer dropped some candy just as Politini, a suspected member of the Santapaola clan, was about to board his getaway car and then pounced to make the arrest. He was aided by other undercover officers, who arrived shortly after. The extortion victim did not know he had been placed under surveillance, but admitted paying protection money after the sting.

    The Carabinieri had placed hidden cameras inside and outside the shop.

    The officer had been dressing up as Santa and distributing candy on the sidewalk for several days.

    The victim had been paying the mob a monthly protection fee of 260 euros for over 10 years, judicial sources said.

    At the time of his arrest Politini was found with another 200 euros in cash, as well as a valuable ceramic dish and a panettone Christmas cake, the fruits of extortion at a neighborhood bar, Carabinieri said. Italian police have staged a series of successful operations over the last two years that have hit the Sicilian Mafia and its Neapolitan and Calabrian cousins, the Camorra and the 'Ndrangheta.

    These include last month's arrest of top Camorra mobster and convicted murderer Antonio Iovine, whose capture after 14 years on the run was celebrated by police like that of Cosa Nostra boss of bosses Bernardo Provenzano four years ago.

    Effort to stop Naples trash-fireworks mix turning explosive

    Around 1,400 tonnes of rubbish uncollected in southern city - 28 December

    (ANSA) - Naples, December 28 - Authorities are working to prevent Italy's traditional New Year's Eve fireworks bonanza causing massive blazes in Naples by setting light to the piles of trash lining its streets. Around 1,400 tonnes of rubbish still lie uncollected as the latest in a series of refuse crises to have hit the southern city rumbles on.

    The fireworks-trash mix is a big concern as Neapolitans are particularly enthusiastic about Italy's New Year pyrotechnic mayhem that regularly results in hundreds of injuries.

    Cabinet Undersecretary Gianni Letta held an emergency meeting with local officials in Rome on Tuesday.

    Italian media reported that firefighters may douse the trash in water on Friday to stop it being flammable.

    Several military units are helping with the clean-up operation after being called in to deal with the accumulation over the Christmas holiday weekend.

    Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who won kudos inside and outside Italy for resolving a similar crisis shortly after coming to power in 2008, has blamed local authorities for the crisis running on for months.

    He has said the local councils have not kept commitments to open new landfill sites and construct new incinerators.

    The authorities are facing stronger hostility to dumps many believe are toxic than they did two years ago in the southern city and its surrounding province, which has had waste-disposal problems for many years.

    Plans to open some new dumps in the area have been shelved after violent clashes with local residents.

    Young Stefano continues to sand and repair kitchen walls after returning from pranzo, and we agree that after he leaves for the day we will return to Viterbo to once again try to find the right paint. It's not possible to find any answers on the internet, either. So it's more trial and error, with lots of 3/4 liter cans with which to store and then dispose. Sigh.

    In the meantime, I paint while Sofi snoozes nearby. Stefano the boss returns, and speaks with us about the changes we want to make next. It's mid afternoon, and he convinces us that the way to go with the beams after all the searching of alternatives is to make them of 10cm by 10cm by 4meters 5cm long each. Any less would tend to sag. He calls Paoluzzi in Bomarzo and they have them.

    Ten minutes later they call him to tell him they have the five in stock! He leaves in his little orange truck to pick them up, while his helper continues to sand and repair kitchen walls. He's also agreed to paint the ceiling for us, commenting that he'd like to. Va bene!

    Chaos continues, and we're not concerned, so happy are we with the changes to date. The contratellaio (doorframe) for the back door is not ready, but then, it's not an important door.

    Dino looks around for sawhorses, for the beams will sit on top of them, while we stain them. Or will we put a white wash on them instead? You know me by now. The answer could go either way, but we'll be happy whatever we do...or we'll change it later.

    I spend more time on Don Renzo's cloak and his hands, and have found a way to add brighter light to the wand he holds in his hand. By using the technique of impasto some more, the bright white of his garment stands out brilliantly from the fabric in shadow. I so love to paint!

    Dino drives to Attigliano for more supplies, probably for Stefano, and I continue to study the painting, while we wait for the five long beams to arrive. They are quite long, longer than we need, but that is fine, and they are not expensive. That's more good news.

    Stefano continues to sand and repair cracks in the kitchen, and after he finishes we drive once more to Viterbo to the paint store, and pick out stain for the beams and yet another color for the walls. Sigh.

    Since the doors to the hallway have been taken off for the repairs to the walls, our kitchen is filled with smoke when Dino lights a beautiful fire in the fireplace. It is only later that Dino figures out that when we close the doors and have a fire in the fireplace, there is no smoke. This way, the smoke travels all over the house, instead of just flowing up the chimney. It's worth noting.

    We go to bed in the midst of a happy chaos, and in the morning we will test one more wall color and stain the beams outside; that is, if it does not rain.

    December 31
    The only color I can find anywhere is inside the house on one wall of the kitchen leading to the new space, where a carnival of blue colors sit waiting for their close-up. It's as if the skies do not exist and the rusty oak tree leaves in the distance sit gloomily, hoping for even a ray or two of sun.

    The two Stefanos arrive, the peperino tabletop and base are moved to a safe place and the repair work begins on the kitchen walls once more. Dino takes all the hooks off the walls, and I don't know if he realizes that far fewer things will return to be hung there. I've planned to re-arrange the storage in the studio to store them museum-style, although the painting of dear Felice will be rehung above the couch and the wonderful plate from Perugia will be rehung above the fireplace.

    Upstairs in the studio, where Sofi and I hang out for the next several hours, Don Renzo's painting takes on a new light. The impasto treatment worked wonders on his white garment, although the fingers of his left hand look too small. I'm sorry that I did not keep the original blowup for reference. No matter.

    As in most things, I'll experiment and also use the Leonardo Da Vinci drawings of hands for examples. Yes, I am patient when it comes to painting, more interested in the wonder of it all as I try new things than fearful of what might be wrong; I fairly dance to the symphony music playing in the background, the task is so joyous.

    Painting the ceramic tiles is another thing entirely. The process frustrates me incredibly. So I email a good friend who is an expert in the US for advice. Let's return to the painting of Don Renzo...

    Dino comes up to the studio and tells me that the painting looks more like Don Renzo. I'm now repainting his left hand. Once the first coat of light paint dries, I'll redo the details.

    Outside, it is cold and dreary, but Dino presses on, staining the beams a real castagno (chestnut) color. In the midst of it all, he drops the can, losing half of its contents. But he thinks we'll have enough to stain the sides, even if he has to paint the bottoms after they have been installed, hopefully on Monday.

    We take a look at the newest paint, and although I like it, it's too dark. So perhaps the second color is best, unless there is one that is grayer and lighter. We're just talking the interior kitchen here, although I'd like the same to be used in the summer area as well. The paint store closes at 1PM and won't open again for a couple of days, so we drive back to Viterbo, and I'm surely looking at something lighter but more gray.

    With the paint store in Viterbo closing at 1PM for the holiday, we drive back to them, and Dino picks up one more can of stain. We really like the color. But the wall cover is another matter.

    Dino is appeased, for we can have pranzo at MacDonald's. The owner and two workers are alone in the store, and we're given a €12 euro discount on an order of €42, so the owner knows we've already spent a bundle of cash in the last week alone in his shop. We leave with another can of stain, some special sponges to clean the walls and yet another sample of paint; this time, satinato in a grayer shade of blue.

    I have to laugh. Dino wants satinato paint, asking if we can wash the walls if we use this type and they answer in the affirmative. "When have we ever actually washed down all the walls?" I ask him.

    Outside, a mist hangs over Viterbo, and we drive to Unieuro and buy a micronde (microwave); it's the first one we've owned for more than twenty years! We've softened our dislike for them since reading that they cook polenta easily!

    After a noisy pranzo at MacDonalds, we return home to a dusty kitchen, with fine white particles left from Stefano's sanding of the walls sitting atop the tarps. They're gone until Monday.

    Outside, the beams need covering, for the mist continues there, too, and we're expecting cold showers tonight. "Will you want me to set the alarm so that you can bare your backside to the moon at midnight?" Dino asks me.

    Perhaps a darkened balcony is the place to do it. By the time you read this, even if you can see our house, the deed will have been done. I really am a superstitious sort, so although I'm writing this in advance, I surely hope to. Perhaps writing this down will give me courage...

    Dino and I cover the beams with tarps and bunji cords and we put the kitchen back in some kind of shape for the weekend. On Monday we expect the beams to be installed in the kitchen. Everything here is a"rigmarole," but then, we've fallen in love with the silliness of it all.

    In the NYT online today, two philosophers argue for living life by riding the unexpected whooshes that come along, whether at a sporting event or in church. I like the idea so much that I've ordered the book. Sounds like a good idea, don't you think?

    How amazing is this? The Italian government is outlawing the distribution of those ubiquitous plastic bags so popular in recent years. In a further step toward recycling, it is allowing shops and stores to continue the use of plastic bags until their current supplies run out. So how will fishmongers wrap their fish?

    We watch a movie, "Hachiko", that has us both sobbing. It's a story about a dog and his unquestioned loyalty, and has me worn out. I'm thinking about next year, and my pledge to not judge people again this next year continues, for it is a lofty goal.

    With a big hug, we turn in, not even setting the alarm for midnight; perhaps we'll hear the local fireworks...or not. See you next year!

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