January through March, 2011

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


January 1
The new year brings a challenge for the neighbors...the road is closed just at Peppino's garage, for the sinkhole is finally going to be repaired. Funny, but we're the only ones who can drive up the first part of the hill, for our parcheggio stands just before Peppino's garden and garage.

But the road is closed by standards at the fountain, and we have to move them out and then back so that we can navigate home. This is the only way we can drive in and out. Yes, we're learning to be real Italians, and find our way around the rules. Take a look:

Skies are cloudy, and only Rosina and I participate in Coro for mass. There are plenty of "Buon Anno's" and Auguri!'s to go around, and I witness a real kindness in Don Angelo's face as he delivers his homily.

His expression is covered with sadness as he speaks about Afghanistan, and extends special wishes for members of the military, who press on as they are told. "Consider the family" he tells us; in Mugnano and around the world. Killing never leads to peace...and I agree.

We drive on to Nando's Bar in Il Pallone, then back through Bomarzo and a visit with our dear friends Duccio and Giovanna. We have missed them, and look forward to a driving adventure with them in the next weeks. Duccio wants to visit a church in or near Perugia, and that sounds fine with us.

There's some talk about this year's Giro di Italia's route this year through Bomarzo, and perhaps that means the road will be repaired...but perhaps not. The rationale for paving it becomes political, and with not much in Italy's coffers these days, it may literally be a bumpy road.

We use the new grill for salsice, and serve it with lenticche (lentils) and homemade applesauce. It is customary to serve lentils on New Year's Day, for the shape of the beans connotes coins, and it's thought that eating them will bring bounty for the year ahead. Come no? I am a big fan of home made applesauce; it is one of the food memories of my childhood that I recall happily. My mother used a Foley food mill, and I use the same one even today. I love adding brown sugar to it; and occasionally a bit of Amaretto.

Dino puts another coat of stain on the beams, and I'm a bit miffed that each beam has a kind of scorch mark from handling and bundling them. We'll ask Stefano what to do about them, for Dino could not sand the markings off.

While we're doing laundry and Dino does cleanup in the garden, a mist begins to descend, and it's now too wet to cover the beams. Let's hope tomorrow is a drier day. They are to be installed in the kitchen on Monday...

January 2
Well, there was a mist last night, and the beams stored on the terrace are a bit wet. Dino rigs up a kind of sail with two tarps, and anchors it against the two front-most beams where wisteria plants grow, its crossbeam adding even more strength. Hopefully it won't rain or storm tonight and the tarp will protect the beams until they are installed inside in the kitchen tomorrow.

Seven years ago today we were married in the Catholic Church at Scarzuola, in Northern Umbria, by our dear friend Don Francis. We've been married almost thirty years, but originally in the Christian Orthodox Church in San Francisco. If you know us well, you'll know the story.

Dino drives Sofi and me to Rome for a wonderful afternoon with our dear friend Stein Finstad and another dear friend, Titten, who serve us graciously in a flat reminiscent of the one we stayed at in Paris earlier this year on Isle Saint Louis, overlooking the Seine.

This marvel overlooks the Tiber River, and is right at the spot overlooking two merges in the river where spillways create soothing but rushing water sounds. In the near distance sit both the wedding cake monument and a bit to the left, San Peter's Basilica.

You know by now that I adore plane trees. Those flanking the Tiber along the Lungotevere, grace us with slim lacelike branches, the balls hanging from them here and there like ornaments when lit by black curved art deco light posts. It's all so sophisticated.

Looking below from a window, or from the marvelous roof deck, we watch Romans saunter to and fro; later in the afternoon the glowing sunlight casts shadows of drama as it wanes.

Traffic surrounds us everywhere; it takes us one hour just to follow the Lungotevere. We arrive home quite tired after dark, but have done enough moving things around inside the house that we think we'll be ready for the team of workers tomorrow morning. Or will we?

January 3
Guerrino and Cesare arrive first, but it is not until 9AM that work really begins. Guerrino and Cesare and Stefano Sr. work outside to repair the ripa (bank) while Jr. (I call them this to you to differentiate between the leader and his worker, both with the same names.) chisels holes into the thick tufa walls in the kitchen just below the soffitto (ceiling), where the beams will be installed.

Dino and I have removed the tarps from the beams on the terrace, and have opened new flimsy ones to cover the vetrina (glass front wooden cabinet) in the kitchen and the sofa. The TV and the baker's rack have been moved to the next room. Now there is room to move around in the kitchen, and I take a good look at the latest shade of blue and agree that it will work. Although I'd rather the finish is flat, we'll see.

Because I'm allergic to dust, and because there's nothing I can do to help Dino or any of the workers, Sofi and I return to the studio: me to paint and Sofi to lie in the sun and snooze while classical music serenades us.

Outside a bright sun shines happily; a shooting star (or is it a contrail), soaring high above? It's an airplane, and what a view for anyone riding in it. There is not a cloud in the sky. Leaving Sofi upstairs after a couple of hours, I enter the kitchen as Dino and I watch the ninth hole of ten chiseled into the soffitto where they meet the walls.

Once back on the terrace, I take a look at the wondrous glicine, already beginning to bud. Above the balcony, two groups of the fearless plant climb up the wall, poised to meet each other, perhaps even before primavera (spring). Perhaps we'll add an iron bar rising up each front corner of the iron railing, making a kind of roof for that as well, covered in spring by cascading pink and white flowers.

Back upstairs away from the dust, Sofi continues to sit in the sun. I add white, and white and more, white paint to Don Renzo's cassock. All the while I'm trying to determine how the light will angle from his light-filled staff. It's a painting after all, so perhaps the light itself on the staff will shine its light in all directions.

In the kitchen, there will be one iron bolt holding up each beam in the center, and each end will be anchored within the sidewalls of the kitchen. So Dino tells me we won't see any sagging until our sight is not good enough to notice anyway. Va bene!

The wonderful carved wooden chandelier will be hung from the middle beam, and we need to visit a tessutti (fabric) shop in Viterbo or Rome for the best fabric to use to cover the wires to it. I'm not ready to make a decision, and want to wait until at least one gray-blue wall is painted to determine the actual color and fabric. The paint will be opaco(opaque).

Dino agrees with me about the finish of the paint on the walls, and we'll pick this latest color up after the workers leave this afternoon. But first, Stein and Titten arrive in nearby Attigliano at the train station, and I'm elected to pick them up, while Dino continues to supervise the workers. Four beams have been installed so far, and the fifth will probably be installed as well before they leave this afternoon.

Next, the quick drying cement will be inserted where the sidewalls meet each beam, and when they return tomorrow, perhaps the ceiling can be painted. It's been a productive day for them.

Guerrino and Cesare finish putting coats of intonaco (plaster) on the wall where the stove and barbecue will be installed, and as soon as we find out if the ceramic tiles can be painted, I'll move on to that project at Elena's maggazino (workroom).

Separately, the workers have channeled drainage lines on the ripa (bank) and tomorrow they'll probably cover it with special material to keep the bank from decaying any more. Magari! They are also to work on the irrigation system for the stone fountain in the garden.

I return from picking our good friends up and dropping them off at Stein's, and as I open the gate with the clicker, Sofi runs out! Stefano is putting something in his truck and she runs after him. I made sure to drive front first into the parcheggio and it's a good thing, for Sofi is not used to being left on the property with Dino but without me.

All is well. The five beams have been installed, they are lovely, and the carved wooden cap for the wooden chandelier is exactly the diameter of the beams. Tonight we'll look for material for me to sew to cover the wires for it.

While the workers clean up, I take a look at the painting of Don Renzo, and like the way his face looks. Is he standing on the ground? I think so. Tomorrow I'll paint the definition of the floor and work a bit more on his cassock. I remember he wears San Francis type sandals, so perhaps his toes are in order and no, I did not study his toes. I fiddle with them a bit and then call it a day.

The workers leave and we drive to Viterbo to buy paint for the kitchen walls (finally we decide on a paint color and type) and to find material to sew as a cover for the electrical cords for the kitchen chandelier. I take the green sample we used before for size.

We visit two tessuti (fabric) shops in Viterbo, but their styles are troppo carina (too pretty). This is a strange description. Italian style is more overly fussed with, too bold or too bright. We prefer the style of France; more muted, less obvious. I'd love a set of heavy velvet theatre castoff drapes for the door to the summer kitchen, but they're not easy to find. Velvet is also very expensive here.

Perhaps we'll drive to Rome soon to see the Van Gogh exhibit and walk around Piazza Argentina, noted for its fabric shops. We'll know more about the color once we paint the kitchen walls and vetrina. Four workers are here today, and two repair the ripa (bank), one repairs the kitchen walls where the beams were installed and one is expected back shortly. Dino drives off for more supplies, and Sofi and I stay out of the way in the studio.

I decide that Don Renzo's cassock is not just right, so change the sides and bottom to work better with the figure. It will be another week before I am finished with him.

The weather is gloomy, and there may even be a shower or two. Dino tells me we won't be able to have pranzo here, so perhaps we'll feed Sofi here and go to a local Autogrille.

I agree with Dino. It would be good to be able to have at least the main kitchen finished so that we could get back to normal. Secretly I love being in construction mode...it means wonderful changes are taking place. These will probably be the last changes we'll make to the house, although I'd love a bathroom near the bedroom.

Now some Italian news: (to skip, scroll down past the italics)

State funeral for slain soldier held in Rome - Hundreds gather to pay respects

(ANSA) - Rome, January 3 - Hundreds of mourners gathered in Rome on Monday to pay tribute to an Italian soldier killed in Afghanistan last week. A state funeral was held for corporal Major Matteo Miotto, who was shot dead by a sniper in the western Afghan district of Gulistan on Friday morning. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa as well as senior military officials and members of the armed forces attended the funeral for the 24-year-old soldier in the Saint Mary of the Angels basilica in central Rome.

At the end of an emotional ceremony, six members of Miotto's Alpine regiment based in Belluno carried the casket, which was wrapped in the Italian flag. A crowd of people waited outside the packed basilica to pay their respects to Miotto, greeting the coffin with a long round of applause. Following a last salute outside the basilica, the coffin left Rome for Miotto's hometown of Thiene near Vicenza in the northern Veneto region. Thiene's mayor Maria Rita Busetti announced a day of mourning. The soldier's body will lie in state in a night-long vigil before it is buried on Tuesday.

"I would like to stress the great dignity shown by Matteo Miotto's family and the affection that, today, the entire city of Rome expressed towards him", said Defense Minister La Russa. The minister told journalists that he also planned to travel to Thiene, though he won't be attending the private commemoration in the soldier's hometown.

Berlusconi briefly spoke to the victim's parents during the religious function.

During the funeral sermon, military archbishop Mgr. Vincenzo Pelvi recalled a letter Miotto had written in November to Thiene's mayor about his experience in Afghanistan, where the soldier had arrived last July. The message, said Mgr. Pelvi, "unexpectedly became a testament, capable of condensing the great human beauty he left to all of us". From Miotto came a request "not to give in to discouragement and resignation", concluded Mgr. Pelvi.

Miotto is Italy's 13th casualty this year and the 35th since the Italian mission to Afghanistan began in 2004. US Commander David Petraeus recently praised the "notable success" Italian forces have had since taking over the area in the Gulistan Valley from the US earlier this year. Miotto was shot in the area called Box Tripoli. Miotto's death was the first since four Italian soldiers were killed in October in an attack that sparked renewed calls from some left-wing politicians for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. Berlusconi's right-wing government coalition rejected those calls and said Italy would stay the course alongside its NATO allies.

Libeskind to style Messina Bridge works -Ground Zero architect says will create 'place of joy' - 03 January

Top of Form (ANSA) - Rome, January 3 - Top US architect Daniel Libeskind is to design the starting-off point for a planned bridge connecting mainland Italy to Sicily across the Strait of Messina, the general contractor announced Monday.

Libeskind will style the nerve centre of the bridge's future complex on the Calabrian side of the strait, said Pietro Ciucci, CEO of the Stretto di Messina company.

Speaking alongside the US architect at a press conference in Rome, Ciucci said Libeskind's participation in the project would "open new scenarios" for the complex, which will house hotels, a shopping mall, a convention centre and exhibition spaces.

The architect, who is currently working on the Ground Zero site in Manhattan, will also give a new look to the coastline where the bridge will be anchored, Ciucci said.

Libeskind said he would aim to create "a place of joy and participation" for the general public.

"Such an ambitious and wonderful work must be able to talk to citizens and become a center for cultures to meet," he said.

Libeskind, 64, has designed Jewish museums in Berlin and Copenhagen as well as Dublin's Grand Canal Theatre and an extension to the Denver Art Museum.

His work has been exhibited at New York's Museum of Modern Art, the Bauhaus Archives, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. In 2003 he won the competition to become the master-plan architect at the World Trade Centre site in Lower Manhattan.

The Stretto di Messina company aims to start work on the bridge later this year and hopes to open the bridge to traffic in 2017. The company handed in its definitive project plan just before Christmas.

Aside from the bridge itself, it entails over 40km of road and rail construction. The plans included over 8,000 projects which meet the technical guidelines and budget set down by Stretto di Messina in 2003.

The definitive project must now be approved by the public works ministry, before it gets its final go-ahead from the inter-ministerial economic planning commission CIPE.

The government has yet to nail down most of the six and a half billion euros needed to build the bridge. The hunt for five billion euros in private financing has been tasked to Ciucci, who has been given special powers.

In November 2009, parliament approved the government's contribution of 1.5 billion euros required to get construction started.

The suspension bridge is touted to become the longest of its kind once it is built.

The brainchild of the previous government led by Premier Silvio Berlusconi, from 2001 to 2005, the project was shelved by the center-left government of premier Romano Prodi.

Berlusconi revived the scheme when he returned to office in May 2008.

Supporters hail the bridge as a huge job-creation scheme that would give Italy's image a major boost while bringing Sicily closer to the mainland in both physical, psychological and social terms.

But it has been opposed by environmentalists and dogged by concerns over its safety and fears of potential Mafia involvement.

The 3,690-metre-long bridge has been designed to be able to handle 4,500 cars an hour and 200 trains a day and would replace slow ferry services between the island and the mainland.

Team says they found why people remember dreams or not

30 November - (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".

Do you understand any more about remembering dreams after reading this last story? Beats me! My question is: "How?"

ANSA English News - 'No elections' says Berlusconi Premier confident of enacting key reforms

31 December - (ANSA) - Rome, December 31 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Friday vowed to keep his government afloat despite its wafer-thin majority and avert elections he said the country did not need.

"(Italy) needs everything except early elections," the premier said in a phone call to one of his TV channels, rebutting a claim by key ally the Northern League earlier this week that the government might not have the numbers to go on.

He recalled that the government had won two confidence votes in the last two months, albeit by only three votes on the second occasion on December 14.

"Everyone, from the Catholic Church to the business community, is urging us to make an effort to avert elections," he said, vowing to complete the government's reform program and last until the end of its term in 2013.

Among the key upcoming reforms, he cited a revamp of the tax system including a bonus for households with children and an institutional reform to boost the powers of the executive branch and streamline lawmaking by turning the Senate into a regional assembly so that laws would only have to go through the House.

Berlusconi said he hoped that relations between the government and the opposition will become "more serene".

"We can do it if we set aside useless polemics," the combative premier said, wishing Italians a Happy New Year.

Berlusconi also hailed this week's accord between Fiat and moderate unions to maintain production levels at its Italian plants.

Northern League leader Umberto Bossi again stressed the importance of the government having a solid majority in the House to pass its measures after a split by House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, once Berlusconi's heir-apparent, left the premier hard-pressed to survive the December 14 vote.

He said Berlusconi had assured him he "has the numbers". Bossi, whose influence on government was cited by Fini as one of the reasons for his decision to break away, reiterated his determination to see the League's long-cherished goal of fiscal federalism achieved so that most of the North's tax money is spent where it is generated.

The centrist Catholic UDC party, which has set up a 'third pole' with Fini's new Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) party, said it was "willing to work with the government" in key areas.

I can't help but roll my eyes at much of this news. I suppose it won't have much impact on our lives, but wonder if this means more involvement by mafia interests, especially regarding construction of the Messina Bridge to Sicily. Yes, there is a sordid underbelly that is Italy, but I choose to look up at what is beautiful, especially the wonderful art exhibits available throughout Italy.

Visitors to Rome will have to pay a new tax:

Tourists in Rome face new tax By Hada Messia, CNN - January 4, 2011 Rome gets about 30 million tourists per year. STORY HIGHLIGHTS
* The new tax began January 1
* It charges an extra fee at hotels and tourist attractions
* Rome hopes it will help protect its cultural heritage
* Hotels fear it could hurt their business

Rome, Italy (CNN) -- A new tax on tourists to the Eternal City is causing controversy, with hotels expressing fears it could hurt their business and scare tourists away.

As of January 1, nonresidents of Rome must pay the extra charge when staying at a hotel or visiting any tourist site, such as a museum, that charges admission.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno introduced the tax law last year after the Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi cut funding to Italian cities, including Rome, as part of austerity measures.

The new tax will cost 3 euros ($4) per person per night for four- and five-star hotels and 2 euros ($2.70) for lower categories. Small children are exempt.

The tax will also see an extra 1 euro ($1.35) charged at the city's museums and other tourist attractions.

The new law applies not only to foreign tourists, but also to Italian tourists and business travelers who are not Rome residents.

Rome had a similar tourist tax law in the past but it abolished it 20 years ago.

The city of Rome says the tax will generate around 200,000 euros (nearly $268,000) a day, for a rough total of 80 million euros ($107.2 million) a year. It has said it hopes to invest the money in improving its cultural heritage and other city infrastructure without taxing its citizens.

Outside Italy, I am disappointed by the growing number of women in Palestine taking up guns to fight against Israel. I thought women around the world were going to rally for peace instead of war. Sigh.

After a drive back to Viterbo to pick up a special fixative to use on the ripa (bank) and a quick burger at MacDonald's (What!?) we arrive back home at 1 degree above freezing (Centigrade) under those colorless skies again.

There's repair work on the ripa being done by Cesare, installation of the contratellaio (doorframe) for the back door, and a continuation of the work inside the kitchen. Outside on the terrace, Dino works sawing a shelf for the micronde (microwave oven) before painting and installing it. Go Dino! Vai! Vai! (Go! Go!)

Upstairs, I sew the blue-gray material we purchased yesterday to surround the wires between the kitchen chandelier and the ceiling. After consulting the machine manual in Italian, I change the tension and am actually able to sew the lightweight material perfectly. I love the color of it. If only we could find a matching linen or velvet...

January 5
We're up each morning these days at 6:30, and today we are without Guerrino, who has gone skiing for a week with friends. Cesare is here, working on the bank, while one Stefano helps us to put out more tarps in the kitchen and then finishes sanding by hand on the areas where he added intonico yesterday.

The senior Stefano works on the steps to our new main gate, which is really a side gate. But is it our front gate, if it is the main gate to our property? Who knows the answer?

An architectural site interested in feng shui (the study of architectural balance) gives the following counsel:

The Compound wall protects the site from animals, thieves, etc. and serves to demarcate the boundary of the property. Here, I have explained the Vastu Guidelines for Construction of the Compound Wall, and the possible scientific reasons and logic on which they were based, so that you an decide what you want to follow and what you don't.

Compound Wall construction: ...This should be built just before the construction of the House begins. The Reasoning - The purpose of the Compound wall is to protect the site and the material stored in the Storage shed, from the outside environment, from thieves, etc. However, if there are buildings all around the site, the Compound wall can be done after the construction.

Begin Compound Wall construction in South-East: Construction should begin on an auspicious day. The Reasoning - Since the Compound wall is meant to protect from the elements and thieves etc, psychologically the owner will feel that he will be protected if the construction is done at an auspicious time.

Northern part of Compound Wall to be built last: The Reasoning - The Northern and Eastern sides are to be left open to allow Sunlight into the House, and the building is to be built in the South-West corner. Therefore, it is advisable to build the North Compound wall later as it is easier to dump building materials in the Northern open space.

Compound Wall should not be higher than the House: The Reasoning - If the Compound wall is higher than the house, it will cut off light to the House.

Compound Wall should be higher and thicker in the South and West sides: The Compound walls on the North and East sides should be a foot (12 inches) shorter than on the West and South sides. If this is not possible, then the North and East sides should be a minimum of (3 inches) shorter. The Reasoning - The higher and thicker Compound wall on the South-West, prevents the hot evening Sun rays from heating up the house and the lower compound on the North-East allows the useful morning Sunlight into the House.

Compound Wall should be two-thirds the height of the main door: The Reasoning - The Compound wall should not be taller than the house but should be tall enough to give the inmates a sense of privacy.


Two gates are preferable: The Reasoning - It makes sense to have a big gate for the car to enter and a smaller gate which is easier to handle near the entrance.

Avoid gates in the extreme corners: The Reasoning - It is inconvenient to open and close a gate that is fixed to the corners of the wall.

Main gate and the entrance door should face the same direction: The Reasoning - For visitors entering through the gate, it is easier for them to notice the main door if the door is also facing the same direction as the gate.

Avoid a gate in the south side: The Reasoning - The south is not considered auspicious for an entrance, but obviously if your Site is a South facing one, the gate has to be in the South side.

Gates should open clockwise: The Reasoning - Since the majority of the population is right-handed, it is easier to push open a door or gate in the clockwise direction.

This all means that the original main gate for our property faced South, and was therefore inauspicious (bad feng shui). No wonder we were broken into three times! Now that the main gate faces East, life seems safer. But I'm not sure we adhere to the opening of the gates. I find this information quite fascinating, just the same. Hope you do, too!

Dino is sent for more supplies (this saves about an hour at least when a contractor leaves the site to do the same). He likes to stay involved, and his latest expense, a standing construction light, elevated him more, if it were possible, in the eyes of the muratores.

"What will you use the light for afterward?" I ask Dino. He replies, "...To photograph your artwork!" He certainly knows how to make a point...

Don Renzo's painting is changing in positive ways. His sandals are painted in; the diameter of the cassock is made narrower. Dino likes the changes, as do I.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, Stefano continues to sand the walls. Meticuloso! his boss confirms to me, when I walk out to see what the landing and step will look like at the main gate, which faces East. I'm going to refer to it as the "main gate" from now on instead of the "front gate", for in fact that is what it is. If you ever have to embark on major construction at your house, hope the guide above helps.

We drive to Orvieto to pick up something from a special pharmacy, and since our kitchen is still in a mess, eat paninis (sandwiches) at the Autogrille on the way back.

While in Orvieto, we stop at a pet shop and purchase a wonderful maglione (big sweater), complete with a turtleneck, and Sofi loves it. She is so crazy about it that after we arrive home I take it off and she lets me know that she wants me to put it right back on. She spends the rest of the afternoon napping in it, curled up like a little croissant.

Cement is poured on the two steps below the main gate, and Stefano (jr.) tapes the beams and begins to paint the ceiling. But he does not have enough white paint this time. I work on Don Renzo's painting, getting closer to the end, while Dino drives back to Viterbo for more white paint.

Cesare continues to repair the back wall of the summer kitchen, so that moisture won't collect behind the refrigerator. We're hopeful. The weather remains quite cold, but the workers press on.

Tonight there is pizza in the ex-scuola and a movie. Mauro is the pizza chef, and he'll be our mentor as we learn how to make the best pizza base. Let's see how far the muratores get this afternoon.

Young Stefano is the last to leave. He stays to finish painting the ceiling, which is about a half hour later than his two colleagues. We are blessed to have such a fine group of workers.

A great deal of dust remains in the kitchen, so Dino banishes me while he sweeps up under Stefano. The coat of white paint on the six panels of the ceiling between the castagno (chestnut) beams is finished, and tomorrow Dino and I can begin to paint the blue walls below the tape; that is, if we agree on the color.

Tonight I'd like to take Sofi to the pizza cena and movie, a movie a friend of Antonio's took at last year's tree raising on April 30th. It should be fun. But it will be noisy, so Dino convinces me to leave her at home, albeit in the kitchen with the heat on. I hate the thought of leaving her alone tonight, or any night.

We arrive at the event and the usual suspects are all here...well, most of them. It is a night of truly excellent pizza. It is confirmed that Francesco and Mauro will be our pizza cooking mentors and will join us at our first pizza oven festa later this season. The movie is great fun, with most of the stars here to celebrate and laugh at themselves and each other.

Below, Mauro and Francesco show their expertise in the kitchen at the new forno,

while Elena and her nipotina (grand daughter), Miranda, wait for the food to arrive in the main room, surrounded by friends and relatives.

January 6
It's Epiphany, and later today is the blessing of the relics in the main church in Mugnano. This is my favorite service of the year, but that's mostly due to Vincenzo's marvelous chanting voice. He's now ninety, so we have no idea how many more years he will act as sacristan.

Although we also have mass in the morning, I hope to spend much of the day painting the kitchen walls, and recall that in past years in California, I'd paint the bottom of a room and Dino would paint the top.

The painting of Don Renzo's cassock is almost finished, and it's the touches; the shadows of the garment, that need finishing, along with added impasto. When Don Renzo gives his concert later this month, it will be ready to give to him, if not before.

At about noon we leave for Tenaglie and then pranzo at Joan and Patrick's, and don't need to be home until we pick up Dino's confraternity garb and drive up to church.

All is well in Tenaglie as Dino reads the meter. Often, ENEL guesses the usage, so we keep track of the actuals to refer to when the bills come in. We manage these two properties, and later learn from another guest at pranzo that all properties are not the same. It makes for interesting discussion.

Sitting next to Joan at the table, where dreamy views are visible from each angle and every window, I share our experience with her...

Many years ago during our wedding ceremony, the priest said that from then on, whenever we would attend a wedding, we would think of ourselves becoming married all over again and experience a thrill. It was and is true; what joys we have had.

And now, when we witness the ups and downs of new residents with their new lives in Italy, we also share the joys and challenges along with them, especially with Patrick and Joan, as they navigate new adventures here, just as we have.

We have to leave before the cheese course, and look forward to seeing our newest friends again. Arriving just as Don Renzo drives up the Mugnano hill and waves, we leave Sofi to guard the house and walk up the area pedonale (pedestrian only walkway) to the little church in the main piazza. This is where the reliquie (relics) are brought out and to which we pay homage on this day. But where is Vincenzo to chant the names of the saints?

Sadly, he is not here. Perhaps at ninety he feels it is time to turn over the honor. So on this day, Mauro takes on the role, as Dino picks up each relic and hands it to Fabrizio, who then hands it to Don Renzo to honor. The three and Don Renzo stand before a very small group of Mugnanese, including Stein and his guest Titten and myself in the back row.

I tell Don Renzo as he leaves the church afterward that his painting will be delivered in about two weeks, when it is dry enough to transport. He is delighted. "Did you make me beautiful?" he jokes with an expression only Don Renzo can make.

Back at home, Dino paints a bit more in the area near the sink. We won't have workers here again until tomorrow, so relax in front of the TV until it is time for bed.

January 7
This morning the western sky shows a bright purple-y-pink light, but by the time I'm dressed and pick up the camera to show you, heavy clouds have laid their blanket over us. Sorry.

We eat breakfast and I return to taping kitchen walls and cabinets, then write down measurements for the peperino battiscopa (stone floor baseboards). Cesare and both Stefanos arrive, and I take Sofi upstairs to finish the shadows on Don Renzo's painting and to draw up the diagram of the placement for each piece of battiscopa. When here, they will be installed on the base of the walls of the cucina (kitchen).

Franco and his workers are still on ferie (vacation) at Tessicini until Monday, but I'll have the measurements ready for Dino to take to them then.

The doorbell rings, and Sofi rushes out to see whom it is, while young Stefano continues to sand places on the ceiling where he needs to and repaints a second coat of white on any areas it is needed. He is indeed meticuloso.

Dino remains in the room with him, painting the blue-gray on walls that have been taped and getting ready to install the shelf and micronde (microwave). We realize that now we need a new outlet behind the microwave, but the main power source lies above it, so that won't be difficult for Enzo the electrician to do and for Dino to repair and repaint.

Stefano the capo (boss, leader), and Dino walk behind the house, where the old barbecue used to stand. A fallen wall there will not be rebuilt, adjacent to a grotto (cave) where statues of six nanni (dwarfs) wait. "Dove settimo?" (Where is the seventh?") Stefano asks.

Just as Sofi is known as a basotto nano (dwarf (!) dachshund), the even smaller dachshund is called a canikin. Tanti anni fa, c'e la un socio nome "Liberi nanni!" (Many years ago, there was a local association called "Free the Dwarfs!" jokingly referring to all the Snow White dwarfs that appeared in people's gardens at the time.)

Dino told him that someone spotted what may have been the seventh dwarf on someone's steps in Bomarzo...Add to the list of things to do the documentation of the dwarfs we have to see if that is the missing one. These ceramic dwarfs came with the property, and although Dino loved them, I had them all moved to the little grotto behind the house where they really can't be seen. Boh!

Work in the kitchen has been suspended so that all three workers prepare the roof tiles and lay them on the tetto (roof). Old coping tiles will be used with newer flat tiles that look old, except for one row, laid upside down.

I'm not happy with how that row will look, but Stefano tells me that after they are through, I can spritz paint on this row (a la Jackson Pollock) to take on an older look. I agree with them. There is some reason they have to use these tiles on this row, but I am sure that it is necessary; Stefano has great respect for beauty and for doing the right thing. I trust him completely.

Will we have enough old tiles? One can only hope. I'm thinking that we should return to Orsolini in Soriano where the original new base tiles were purchased. I think whomever sprayed the tops of them to complement the old tiles can spray the bottoms of new ones, too, for us. We only need sixteen more. Come no?

I add final touches to Don Renzo's painting, and after it dries a bit, Dino will bring the new light upstairs and we'll photograph it for the journal and for the site. We'll bring it to Don Renzo in a couple of weeks. Soon I will ask Dino to re-photograph them all. This week and weekend and next week we're concentrating on the kitchen, so that can wait a few days.

By the time this is posted, you might be able to reference the beginning of our Italian Word Usage Guide. Well, let's wait until next month...

We've just begun to include the Italian words and phrases in the first half of January's journal. I'll work my way back in the archives, bit by bit, until I'm all the way back to June 2002 when we moved here full time. Yes, that's a long project, and it will be sandwiched between many other fun things to do. You'll be able to look it up on our site any time.

This afternoon, the new space for the old gate between the two giant cypress trees has been opened, and the old Philadelphus plant (it was here when we purchased the property in 1997) will be moved in front of the wall where the old gate stood. But its roots are long, so there is a possibility that it won't survive. We'll see. I walk out to take a look, and love the new entrance. Now where will the wonderful round marble table and iron chairs that sit in front of it live? One thing at a time...

Stefano laughs at Dino when he brings up the subject of our cemetery plot. We tell him it's a capella (chapel), with two spaces. Generally, capellas have at least six spaces in them for all members of a family, so we tell him it will be the size of Augusto and Vincenza's next to us. He knows he needs to complete that before moving on to any other project.

We are still waiting for the materials list so that we can take it to Franco, and if we have it on Monday, we'll give it to him then. I am anxious about having it built...if or when we pass on, we don't want our son Terence to have to do anything at all about it.

Dino has been busy: he installed the painted shelf for the microwave and has painted half of the back wall and half of the sidewall facing the fireplace with one coat of paint. This weekend, we can take the tape off the chestnut beams and clean them. If there's time, Dino can also install the chandelier.

As soon as the remaining workers leave, we return to Viterbo, for Dino does not like to shop there on weekends. I don't blame him. We return to our pals at Bonucci for two more bags of colored fixative for the bank, and Cesare has done a really fine job with it. As it dries, the color will lighten, but it is quite attractive even as it is.

January 8
Under a dark sky, where one bright opening shaped like angel wings reminds us how happy we are, we awake and begin a day of quiet work, with the sound of the tick of a little clock at our side and then one car passing on the sleepy street below. Yes, it's quiet here, as many Italians enjoy the last two days of vacation before returning to their jobs.

Finally loving the color and type of paint for the kitchen walls, I tape and Dino paints. Stefano finished painting the white ceiling between the castagno (chestnut) beams, and did a fine job. Today we pull the tape off the beams and around the kitchen where the white will meet the gray-blue (named Newport, how funny).

Although the color covers extremely well (Dino was instructed to add 40% water, but added much less than that), marks show through on places where intonico (plaster) was used to make repairs, and he'll paint a second coat where it needs it. They look like salt stains, but are not.

I'm itchy to paint the vetrina, but we don't have the right color. So after pranzo, Dino returns to his painting while I check in with you and return to Don Renzo's painting. The more I look at it, the less I am pleased with it. His expression is too tentative.

Sofi, at my side, does not like change to her routine. After pranzo, she wants to nap upstairs, so I'll paint for awhile. I make significant changes to Don Renzo's cassock, and now change his hands and expression to be more forceful as he looks ahead and off to his left.

ANSA English > News Fight between women brings cops to bedroom marijuana crop Businessman nabbed after bust-up between girfriends
07 January, 15:03 (ANSA) - Bergamo, January 7 - A fight between the current and former girlfriends of a businessmen in this northern Italian city spurred neighbours to call the police who found a marijuana crop in his bedroom.

The businessman was arrested after police discovered some 25 1.5m-high marijuana plants, a halogen-lighting system and an aeration plant.

Some 500 grammes of dried marijuana were seized along with 600 grammes of leaves awaiting treatment. Neither the businessman's girlfriend or his ex were detained.

Vatican teams up with Discovery Channel for exorcism series Holy See to give access to its case files 07 January, 17:03 (ANSA) - Rome, January 7 - Demons are set to take center stage on television as the Vatican joins forces with the Discovery Channel for an unprecedented new series on exorcism. "The Exorcist Files" aims to recreate stories of real-life demonic possession and will be based on cases investigated by the Catholic Church over the years.

For the ten-part series, the Vatican will give access to its archives as well as allowing its religious experts on exorcism to participate in the program. These specialists do not usually comment on their work about fighting back demons and are rarely seen on television.

The rite of exorcism involves a series of gestures and prayers to invoke the power of God and stop the 'demon' influencing its possessed victim. "The Vatican is an extraordinarily hard place to get access to, but we explained we're not going to try to tell people what to think", said Discovery Channel president Clark Bunting.

The series, set to make its debut this spring on the Discovery Channel, will explain among other things how a demon can inhabit not only a human being but also an inanimate object.

According to Bunting, "the work these folks do, and their conviction in their beliefs, makes for fascinating stories". If the series' first season is successful, the network hopes the Vatican will continue the partnership project, said the network executive. In the Catholic Church, all priests can in theory perform exorcisms but, in reality, only a select few are assigned the task. They have to be given an authorization to perform techniques and rites by their local bishop.

Exorcists say that contact with the occult is one of the ways the Devil can gain access to a person's mind, sometimes exploiting the situation to 'possess' that individual. While there are no official numbers for Italy, it is believed that over 300 priests practice the Vatican-approved procedures for casting out the Devil.

In recent years, a sharp rise in people's requests for priests to fight back the Devil led to the creation of ad-hoc courses aimed at trainee exorcists. For instance, each year priests can attend a week-long course called "Exorcism and Prayers of Liberation" at Rome's Ateneo Pontifico Regina Apostolorum, one of the top Vatican universities.

January 9
On this cold foggy morn, we drive up to church and I'm joined in the Coro by Rosina and Anna. Rosina and Anna decide what to sing and let me know when to begin to sing. These hymns are ones I love. I also like listening to Don Angelo, who looks right at me and speaks, as though I fully understand what he is saying. I concentrate as hard as I can and yes, I understand most of it.

I remember that in the early days, listening to the priest's homily was like using chopsticks to snip a word or two as it flied by me; things were very odd then, but wonderful just the same.

Bar Nando is closed for vacation, so we visit the new bar on the other side of the Superconti and it is quite good. There is also a cinema here, so perhaps one day soon we'll come to work on our understanding of the language by watching a film.

On the way home we stop at Elena's, and hope that on Tuesday we'll bring the more expensive tiles to be dipped. And then I'll work in her maggazino (little studio across the street), and I hope to paint all the tiles for the summer kitchen there.

Tiles for the pizza oven will come next, and the finish will be more rustic, for these more inexpensive tiles are more porous, and when baked, air rises inside the tiles and bubbles create little spots where the under-glaze is moved. We think it will be fine for the pizza oven, but that's a different design.

I read that George Clooney is going to be doing an adventure movie set in Florence, so if you want to see him, this year will be a good time to come.

After church I fix pranzo and then Dino returns to painting and taping the upper part of the walls while I return to painting upstairs. Making major changes, I'm more satisfied with how Don Renzo looks. I'll be ready to give it to him late this week or next.

Dino's knee is bothering him, and I think it's because he's been standing on his feet while painting. He's done some cleaning of the beams, and perhaps we'll put up the chandelier before the day is done.

Sofi did not sleep well last night, and I'm sure it's because of the disruption in the kitchen. Right now she's sleeping by my side, and I'm hoping she'll fare better tonight. It's so sad to see her frightened in any way.

We're putting the kitchen back together somewhat, and look forward to finishing it all, including repainting the vetrina, this next week. But then, I may spend most of the week painting ceramic tiles...We'll know more on Jan. 11th, when we check in with Elena.

January 10
Dino has an early appointment with the little yellow Panda, which will keep him at the dealer all morning. I'll be here painting and Dino has given me a list of things to have the workers do.

Today may be the last day that Cesare and Guerrino work. The two Stefanos will continue, and if we're lucky we'll pick up the materials list from the geometra for the cemetery project. I'm serious about completing it.

Sun begins to break through fog and clouds about an hour after the workers begin. I return to finish Don Renzo's painting; it should dry a week or so before we deliver it to him. We'll try to do that before his concert next weekend.

I bring up the painting we love of Felice, and repaint the black background; this time using plenty of Liquin. This is the first year I have used Liquin with each drop of oil paint, and it smoothes out the paint and helps to even it. It's time we framed the painting as well. Let's let the black dry a bit first.

Dino wants to paint second coats in the kitchen where it's needed, but does not get to it. There is too much going on in the garden. What he does do is hang the seven bishops' plates on the long wall. My, they look lovely. I'm frankly astounded with our choice of Newport opaque paint color on the walls. Remember it took six tries to find the perfect color? Well, we have. I'm thrilled.

Yes; I am thrilled by small things. I find myself taking instant photos in my mind of things of beauty, and they're almost always scenes from nature. I don't like to buy things, but I do love atmosphere, and the blue is like a stage set for the play that is "L'avventuraitalia."

The secret garden pathway is almost finished. You'll have to come to see it yourself. Once we show you, it won't be a secret...

January 11
Cesare and Guerrino work one more day, so I fix a special sour cream coffee cake to have with this morning's coffee. We serve it on the balustrade; but then that is where we serve cocktails later in the evening whenever we have guests and it's a wonderful place to congregate.

There is a gunshot or a firecracker explosion somewhere in the valley, and it scares Sofi right under the stove. For a week we've had the piece of wood removed from the front of it, and it is where she hides when she's frightened. I ease her out with a slice of cheese, and she slowly emerges to stay in my arms until Dino puts the piece of wood back. She's fine.

Dino paints the second coat of blue-gray in the kitchen while I "spot" him with the big construction light. He tells me that he does not know how anyone painting a room can do without a major light. I cajole him to finish so that I can fix pranzo, and it is only after cleaning up the kitchen afterward that I can return to painting in the studio. Each of the two paintings gets some attention, and then I'm finished painting for a while.

I'm ready to return to Elena's with 120 tiles to dip and paint. We'll do that after the workers leave this afternoon. Perhaps this means that tomorrow I'll be a real artisan, working in her little bottega to paint all the those tiles in the same or a variation of the same design to finish the tiling in the summer kitchen.

There is even an oven in Elena's shop; it was the first she purchased when she began her business. These days, she has a much larger shop across the street and business for her is good. She's a lovely woman and it's a pleasure to know her. Elena is generous and kind, doing parts of the projects (dipping and cooking the tiles), while I do the fun work of painting. It's certainly worth the cost she charges.

Sorry, San Pietro Martire, I really will return to your project as soon as I finish. I'll probably even leave painting the tiles for the pizza oven until I've finished the proposal.

I spend a bit of time researching the planting of anemone bulbs, concerned that they should have been planted earlier in the winter. Different experts prescribe different things, even planting them the second Wednesday, or are they suggesting Thursday, in January. It's too late to plant them earlier in the winter.

If it's a sunny day, I'll plant all the bulbs tomorrow in the new raised area right next to the summer kitchen. There are enough bulbs that I'll also plant some closer to the entrance gate.

So what's all that about painting ceramics tomorrow?

Right now, I'm listening to some really beautiful classical music (mostly violin) and Sofi sleeps peacefully in her little bed next to the desk. I hear the workers chatting outside and have to take a deep breath to remind myself that all this really is happening to our lives.

Earlier, I was confused when looking at a recipe that called for baking powder. Lievito in polvere is what it is called in Italy. We used to bring it back with us from our trips to the US, but these days we find Italian sources that are sometimes a bit different but accomplish what we need. Lievito in polvere is just such a product.

Two of the workers bring the peperino table top back into the kitchen corner now that we've finished painting in that area. It has been stored on its edge in the hallway, but they set it up wrong, so after Dino returns from an errand in the next town, they return and set it right.

On Friday, men from Franco's marble bottega will come to sand a spot on the marble kitchen table (we think it was made with lemon juice) as well as to separate the two huge peperino slabs that constitute the top of the garden table that sits under the middle garden's pergola. They will then turn them upside down, then re-attach them and sand the finished table top to perfection. The solution to the spilled red wine has been found...

Dino calls up to me to tell me that three rider-less horses are clopping down Via Mameli past our house. I scoop Sofi up in my arms and we reach the garden just as three muli (mules) move below us. They remind me of pack mules, and that is just what they are, used to help transport lumber that is cut down in the forest. These have no packs on their backs.

But why are they walking unsupervised from the village? It seems so strangely funny, and while all the workers laugh, Stefano calls the carabinieri to tell them to come to help. This is a good project for carabinieri, who usually don't get much respect in Italy. We're all concerned that crazy drivers could hit and hurt them. Well, we're not sure they would be hurt; it would probably be the car that needed help...

When the three muli arrive at the fountain, they turn up the hill toward the cemetery, as if they know exactly where they are going. A minute later, the tiny official Fiat car from Bomarzo drives slowly up the hill, only to turn around five minutes later. We suppose all is well. Muli! (Mules!)

Dino leaves to meet with the geometra, but before he does, realizes that both pieces of the peperino table should be turned over, for the earlier oil stain from an oil lamp formerly hanging above the center of the table is a problem, too. Enzo the electrician will arrive tomorrow...and the week goes on...

Coro is tonight, and I'll be able to tell Don Renzo that his painting is finished. We're to begin to rehearse for the Festa di San Vincenzo, which is held on January 22nd, for one of our village's two padronos (patron saints).

This next weekend is the benediction of the animals, but since it's no longer held in Mugnano, we won't attend. There are too many unrestrained dogs in Bomarzo at their event and that frightens Sofi, so perhaps we can bring Sofi to Don Renzo's when we bring his painting and he can bless her. Come no? Don Renzo is at Coro practice, and is so curious about his painting that he asks to see it tonight. He follows us home and approves. Here we are, with the painting of him in the middle.

We agree that we'll bring it to him on Friday, after it dries for a couple of days, and I ask him if he'd mind giving Sofi a benediction, for the benediction for the animals on the feast day of San Antonio Abate is in Bomarzo, and Sofi is afraid of all the commotion. He agrees, so we'll have a private audience. Sofi takes to him right away, and of course she does. He's delightful.

January 12
We do no planting, for it is gloomy and cold. Enzo the electrician arrives, and works for two hours. Dino hangs Felice's painting and the painting of the grapes, one that everyone loves. I love it, too. We're cleaning up both rooms and then I fix cocktail food. Pietro and Titten arrive to drink a bottle of prosecco and to cheer the project on. Sofi sits by my side and is strangely sad. I think there has been too much commotion for her.

January 13
It's a lovely day, so I plant 2 dozen anenomes and other smaller bulbs on the raised area just to the right of the summer kitchen. Stefano arrives to close up the wall for the micronde outlet and laughs. He tells Dino he is afraid of Evanne and Sofia, talking "tutte e due" (to each other). We all laugh.

Earlier, we drove to Orvieto hospital for a blood test for Dino; then to Viterbo to buy shelves for the summer kitchen to stand next to the frigo in the alcove.

I tell Dino that I think our new kitchen colors will be blue and green and white/off white. That will mean that the antique vetrina will stay green with its original bronze/gold trim.

I think I'd like the summer kitchen walls to be painted light gray, but we'll wait until Spring when the walls should be all dry.

There is bad news from Sgrina; they are not able to order the SMEG hood, for it is no longer made. With that, we drive to Soriano to Perugini and find an excellent hood at a comparable price. We'll give Sgrigna a day or two to see what they can find for us.

January 14
Dino drives to pick up the battiscopa (backsplash) from Franco and make an appointment for his marble technicians to turn over both halves of our peperino table in middle garden and repair a stain on the marble top table in the kitchen.

Dino will have to call him every day to bug him until he sends a team out. Va bene. it's not urgent; especially since we won't be spending time out there for at least a month or more.

Back at home, the installation of the battiscopa begins, with Dino at home with the process, McGiver style. He takes out the tools he'll need to cut the stone and whatever else he'll need and puts on the marvelous suede work grembulie (apron) that Don gave him some time ago. He really looks like the artisan that he is. Bravo, dear one!

I wake up with a monster of a headache, and after the usual medical cocktail and four hours more sleep, rise and sort-of shine. I fix a pranzo of red grapes and sausages and it is beyond delicious.


It's soon time to get my act together so that we can deliver Don Renzo's painting to him at home.

Sofi comes with us, for he has agreed to bless her personally, since she is afraid to attend the Bomarzo benediction di animale (blessing of the animals, in honor of San Antonio Abate). Two years ago, there were too many unruly dogs at the event that frightened her, and the blessing is no longer held in little Mugnano. I thought the Bomarzo event a bit strange, for Don Luca stood up on a metal bench to do the benediction, as if he was a bit afraid, too.

Don Renzo waits at his window and waves down to us when we arrive. He is such a joyous man, and loves his painting. I'm very much relieved. Yes, he will be moving on to another assignment in July, but does not know where, nor does he know who will arrive after him. We will miss him.

After our meeting and Sofi's benediction,

...we drive to order the termosifone (radiator) at Orsolini. Driving by her shop, we see that Elena remains ill; her bottega remains closed. We'll try her again tomorrow on the way to Viterbo.

I think it's possible that the Don Francis project may fall apart. Today, when we meet with Alessandro at Orsolini to order the termosifone for the kitchen, Alberto is there, and I ask him if he wants to advise me on the church project, since he was involved in restoring several churches in Orte in the not too distant past and studied this work at the university level, I think in Florence.

When I fill him in on the details, especially since the previous priest had every inch of the inside of the more than two hundred year old church painted over with white paint, he warns me. "Belle Arte" he tells me, "Won't allow you to paint over existing frescoes".

I think that makes a lot of sense, so email our good friend, who responds that he'll have someone in some kind of authority look over what was done this next week. That sound you hear is brakes screeching to a halt. I'm not sad about it. I'd rather Don Francis have what he agrees to with the authorities than get into a battle.

Yes, you may think I am behaving a bit cavalierly about this, after all the time I've put into the project already. It's the journey that I love, and this life without a lot of stress but with a bit of adventure now and then is what we love about living here. I'd love to do the project, but if it is meant to be, it will be...

We stop at a kitchen fabricator on the way home, and they show us a stove hood that is the size we need. So Dino gives our friends at Sgrigna in Giove a call for one last try. They were the people who found the SMEG hood we wanted, only to find it is no longer in production. "Give me one more day!" Gianpiero pleads with Dino, and we do.

We stop to see Pietro and Titten, and learn that he drove to pronto soccorso (the hospital emergency room) in Orvieto last night after running into us at TODIS and is fine. Now he knows the drill if he has a medical problem in the future while he is here. We wish them a good trip to Milano on Saturday and we'll see him back here in a few days.

I look up maglione in the dictionary, now that we know that that is what Sofi's sweater is called and learn some funny things. A maglione is a heavy sweater or jersey and a maglietta is a polo shirt or T-shirt, picture hook, buttonhole, or a buckle to secure a rifle strap! A magnete is a magnet. Maglia is knitting or a stitch or an undershirt or a sports shirt, but in historic times it was mail, as in coat of mail (metal shirt).

There's more: Lavorare a maglia is to knit, and a maglieria is a knitting mill, yarn shop or a knitwear store. Maglificio is a knitwear factory, but if you change the "l" to an "n" and take out the last "i", you have magnifico/ca which means magnificent, wonderful, splendid, but you know that. Magone is a gizzard, but avere il magone is to be in the dumps.

Magro/gra means lean, thin; meager, but magrezza is leanness or scarcity. Don't forget that a maglio is a sledgehammer and magnano is colloquial for a locksmith, also known as a fabbro. Magione is a home or a dwelling.

I'm not sure I understand why a blacksmith and a locksmith can sometimes be the same...I can't imagine Lorenzo picking a lock....

If you liked the last exercise, why not try to write a story using the words you've just learned above. Will all these words be included in a book called The World According to Evanne? You tell me. Now that I may not have to fret about a giant painting project, I may just look at that long list and take on something else.

Each morning and evening, Dino takes a photo of the sky and the scene around us, and here's how he sees it:

January 15
Elena has returned to work, and I'll begin painting the tiles for our summer kitchen next week, speriamo (we hope). It will be fun to have a little bottega to myself to work in, and she is very kind to let me use her old studio. They'll dip the tiles the day before I paint, so that they won't sit around, and I tell her to dip 25. I'll know after the first session how quickly I can work, since it's one design I know well and is painted in only two colors.

The cheaper tiles, made by hand, will be used above the pizza oven, and their characteristic look, with pits here and there, will be fine. Why are pits showing up in their final form? Well, the tiles are not as compact as the industrial ones are, because they are made by hand. That means that air bubbles push their way up here and there.

In the industrial method, there is no room for them to form in the first place. But the industrial tiles are as much as three times the price of the handmade ones, so we'll continue to use the industrial ones where we have used them in the first place, leaving the handmade tiles to be installed later over the pizza oven.

I'll complete the summer kitchen project first. Then we'll drive back to our source to pick up the cheaper tiles and only then will I paint the glicine (wisteria) on the handmade tiles to mirror the plants hanging nearby.

We drive to Viterbo and pick up stain for the giant beams in the summer kitchen, as well as "mdf" sheets to cover each shelf of the new unit next to the frigo in the room. Dino saws the corners off so that they fit perfectly.

There's a call from Gianpiero, and he has found the SMEG hood for us! We drive there after pranzo and after Dino has worked some more on the battiscopa. We order it, give them a deposit, and when it is in, Stefano will make the hole in the roof. We had drawn the image out on the wall, but did that before the intonico was finished, so will have to draw it again, but that is fine.

January 16
Tanti nebbia (lots of fog) appears this morning, but by the time we leave mass, the village and the valley are mostly clear. This will be another lovely sunny day here.

We shop at Il Pallone after cappuccinos at nearby bar Moon, but there is not much to pick up. So we spend the rest of the morning at home, continuing to put the house back together. There is work to be done on the beams in both kitchens, but that will happen slowly.

All the towns around celebrate the day of San Antonio Abate, even Paola's husband Antonio, who greeted us in the borgo this morning before mass. That means huge bonfires and the benedizione d'animali (blessing of the animals) for all but Sofi, who will remain home later while we take in the festivities; she is afraid of the bonfires and it's not fun for her.

Sun remains bright, even in midafternoon, and the glicine (wisteria) loves it; each day we are delighted to see changes in the growth of our ten (yikes!) plants. Soon, very soon, we'll have the first bulbs rising out of the earth and in the next week or so we'll have another load of breccia (gravel; crushed stone) delivered to clean up the front terrace after all the muratores' work.

With no major painting project in sight (oh, what about the ceramic tiles, silly?), it's time to think of the big painting of the Mugnano Family Tree. I'd like to think that after tonight and a meeting with Ecomuseo to go over the names and dates, we'll be ready to lay out the families and do the charts.

Since I'm most interested in the marriages, where two local families merge, I'd like to see if we can make transparent overlays so that I can work out the design. That will happen soon...I'd like to be able to present the painting this spring. Come no? (Why not?)

Dino has no idea how I will fashion a design based on the information that will be relevant, and I tell him it is all about the marriages. I think he'd like me to sit down and show him how it would work.

Instead, we agree that we'll ask to be put on the agenda at the next Ecomuseo Board Meeting, and find out what it is that they are looking for, and also a size and a place for the eventual painting/project. If there is to be an interactive portion, it will have to be done on Italian software, and our computer won't be compatible, although I'd be happy to input the information on someone else's computer.

There are a number of ways we could go: It could be a forest of family trees (not my favorite); it could be the tree we're imagining and have one date indicating the first year anyone in that family arrived or was born in Mugnano.

It could have all the dates and the names of all the people who are residents here, and all their Mugnano relatives going back as far as we/they know. The ideas are endless. Let's see what the group has to say, as well as if there is more information that any of them care to provide.

Dino thinks the final installation won't happen until August, but at least it's back in the forefront of our minds. Tonight we'll ask to be put on the agenda of the next Board meeting.

It may not sound like it, but I feel as if I'm beginning to wind down. Life is getting simpler, and I like it that way. Earlier in church, Don Angelo talked about the heart beating, and about paying attention to its beat. He tells us to not worry about how long we'll live; instead, try to pay attention to how well we live. I so believe that.

While we're sitting on the terrace talking to each other, in the borgo, the annual tree is cut down; the village blue and red bandiera (banner) is laid limply over a nearby stone balustra (balustrade), frayed as if its floating in the breeze for all these months has left it battle-worn. Look at any April 30th entry in the Journal Archives for the traditional story.

And now we understand that there is a second part to the tradition; on this day, the tree is cut down and used to build a giant fire. People are invited to gather round and watch the fire set ablaze, and then to warm in its glow as it burns.

About two hours after it begins, Peppino tosses small iron grates with iron feet above the heart of the blaze. When they are red hot and the embers below are ready, he and Antonio take the grates off the fire. The embers below are shoveled onto the pavement in specific locations, and the grates, now laden with salsicce (sausages) and braciole(pork chops) are set on top. This is, then, to be our cena, served with carafes of red wine.

In this village, the ceremony seems to honor the tree, as much as San Antonio Abate. Rina tells me, as I sit between her and Nonna Candida, that this bonfire has only been happening for several years, but this is the best fire yet. The credit goes to Ecomuseo and bless them!

I remember a tiny fire in front of the little old church in the piazza when we first lived here, and Livio and Gigliola cooking salsicce there on a grill after Don Luca gave a blessing on the front steps of the church. Did I frighten Don Luca into not returning when I asked him to hold Sofi for a photo that one year? From then on, he only blessed the animals in Bomarzo, so we may never know the truth.

That makes me think that traditions begin sometimes for the strangest of reasons, and often no one knows why. I suppose that's how those old stories emerge, sometimes with not even a glimmer of truth. But they usually end with a laugh, and that's all right with us.

Maria comes out to tell us that the tables are filling up, so I find two spots near the center of one table, while Dino takes out his camera again and helps to document the event.

We have such a good time that I hate to leave, but we do, bidding good bye to everyone and driving down the hill in the moonlight.

January 17
It's time to return to Attigliano to the parucchiere to try once more to talk them through the process of doing my hair. Why is it that dear Leah in Mill Valley can do it perfectly every time, and only one time in twenty does it come out well here. Yes. We've found something we have to do here that is a real nuisance.

Well, it took six tries to find the right color for the kitchen walls, and now we love what it has done. So perhaps this next time with the same hairdresser I've tried three times will be the charm. Parrucchiere is the word for hairdresser, but while I look it up in Italian, I come across more wonderful words and expressions to add to our word usage guide. Let's have some fun!

parrucca/che - wig; old fogey
partaccia -
fare una partaccia - to break one's word
fare una partaccia - to make a scene in front of; to rebuke loudly
parare - to adorn, to hang; to protect, to offer, to drive (as in cattle);
pararsi dinanzi - to loom up in front of
Dove va a parare? - What are you driving at?
parasole - parasol; sun visor
paralume - a lampshade
paramano - a cuff or a wristband
paramento - facing of a wall; an ecclesiastical vestment;
paramosche - fly net
paranco - tackle
parainfo/fa - matchmaker
paranoico/ca - paranoiac
parapiglia - hubbub
parapioggia - umbrella
parata - fence, bar;(soccer) catch
mala parata - dangerous situation
paraurti - bumper
paravento -screen
Parca/che - Fate
parcella - bill; fee; honorarium, parcel, lot (of land)
parco/ca - frugal; parsimonious; parking; parking lot
There's still more:
parcare - to park
parcheggiare - to park
parcheggio - parking parking lot
parco dei divertimenti - amusement park
parecchio/chia - a good deal of , a lot of
parecchi - several, a good deal, a lot
parecchi - a lot; rather
pareggiare - to level, to equal; to match

I'm hoping that learning the words in this guide will help you as you read along, especially if you try to write a funny quip using the latest ones you've just learned. Or not...

Today is Monday, so we don't even bother to see if the parrucchiere is open. Instead, we meet Elizabetta at the Ecomuseo office to pick up the two paintings that were recently displayed in the Orsini Palazzo. I'm thinking that if they'd like it, I'd like to give the one featuring Italo to Vincenza and Augusta's family. Italo is Vincenza's father.

Back at home, it is lovely sunny day, with clouds so thin they look like smoke. Dino works cleaning the edges of the kitchen beams where intonico needs to be cleaned off, while I catch up on some sewing projects.

January 18
WikiLeaks Unveil Vatican's Secret Approval Of GMOs
Despite this attempt to remain publicly neutral, WikiLeaks recently uncovered a transmission from Christopher Sandrolini, a U.S. diplomat to the Holy See, that demonstrates the Vatican's clandestine approval of genetically modified crops.

"Recent conversations between Holy See officials and USAID and EB representatives visiting the Vatican confirmed the cautious acceptance of biotech food by the Holy See. Vatican officials asserted that the safety and science of genetically modified foods would eventually be non-issues at the Holy See" reads the memo.

GMO Journal's Deniza Gertsberg writes that while in 2000, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences gave its preliminary approval, and more recently, some of its vocal members have openly endorsed GMOs, the Holy See, in its public communiquŽs, always went the way of Switzerland.

Despite the transmission's startling dismissal of scientific research that points to GMO's dangerous health and environmental impacts, it does acknowledge that their widespread adoption would be disastrous for farmers, especially those in developing nations.

"...the main issue for the Church will continue to be the economic angle of biotech food. Many in the Church fear that these technologies are going to make developing-world farmers more dependent on others, and simply serve to enrich multi-national corporations," the memo continues.

Gertsberg writes that rather than shocking anti-GMO advocates, the cables merely "reaffirmed what many already believed, namely that the Vatican supported GMOs and that a more hearty endorsement from the Holy See is likely in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, WikiLeaks cemented for many the understanding that US diplomats around the world are pushing GM crops as a strategic government and commercial imperative."

We're off to Rome for most of the day, beginning with the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit, which is overrun with school groups even at 10 AM but still interesting. We walked from a parking spot near Piazza San Francesco di Ripa in Trastevere, but return via a famous tessutti (fabric) shop in Piazza Argentina.

Since we've painted the kitchen, we're looking for three meters of blue/gray velvet to make a drape for the doors between the kitchen and summer kitchen. It will be held back on one side, but I love the look of them, as when it's pulled back, another treat is revealed on the other side.

We also pick up a piece of pure linen to make a hanging for the window over the sink, similar to the one we have over the fireplace. It will be quite simple and tailored.

We return to Sofi, all have pranzo and then drive to IKEA to pick up a set of track lights for the summer kitchen, and then all the way to Viterbo to pick up two more sets of castagno (chestnut) colored window hardware.

I don't mean to make light of our morning walk across parts of Rome. It was a joy. Here are some photos to give you a sense of the marvel of it all...

We're home after dark, and since I have Coro practice at nine tonight, there's no real time to fashion the drape. Tomorrow at 10 AM I'll begin to paint the ceramics, so here we go again. I'll try to give it a go tomorrow afternoon. Magari!

January 19
I need to remember that the painting of oil on canvas is very different from painting on ceramics; my first effort is disappointing. So I decide to use one tile as a prova (example), and because Elena and I are not sure which blue to use, hers or mine, I don't worry about it and use both blues on one tile.

She tells me not to worry about how this first tile comes out, for it takes a bit of relearning. The good news is that it will take a week to determine which colors I will use, so in the meantime I can work on other things.

Dino has already put up the curtain rod, so when we return home I take out the sewing machine and begin to make the drape.

In the meantime, Guerrino and Cesare work on putting in the peperino main steps. When we return to the house, Dino and Cesare leave in Cesare's camione (truck) to pick up gravel that will be used on the terrace in front of the summer kitchen, replacing that which is scooped up and put elsewhere.

There are also places where the breccia (gravel) aren't thick enough. Since the major cost of having someone pick up and deliver the breccia is that of paying the trucker for the truck, this is a smart choice, especially since we have also located a local source for the correct stone.

No, Stefano and Guerrino have not met with the geometra, but we are hoping Dino's reminder is enough to have them meet as soon as this week.

After Dino stains two of Jim Bolen's finials, we will use them with the velvet drape. I love having a memory of our dear friend in our home. Hello, dear friend. We hope you are enjoying watching over our lives here. You are truly missed.

Before preparing pranzo, I take out the sewing machine and attempt to put a seam in each side of the velvet fabric. Unfortunately, something is wrong, perhaps with the tension. But I do not have the correct manual, for the machine was purchased in Orvieto Scalo some years ago and I have not had an English manual for all this time.

After several tries, I find a manual and attempt to download it. It will take at least several hours, for it appears the company is in California, or someplace on the West Coast. So I fix pranzo; we eat, and then Dino walks outside to guide the workers on the use of our paranco (lift).

We've owned this lift for years, and it is helpful when we have to have material brought up to the terrace level. For many years we've used it to string lights in the form of a Christmas tree, but not for much more.

Now, Dino shows Guerrino and Cesare, who want to use it to bring up the gravel, how to put it together. Here the boys are, with Dino this time in the role of insegnante (teacher). Ha!

Outside our little village, a scandal rages across Italy. It's a movie just waiting to happen of the Prime Minister and the question is whether it's possible that he has been participating in roaring sex parties with underage girls, and whether he's more dead than alive. Take a look:

ANSA English : News
Media hunt for Berlusconi's girlfriend Ex models, party members touted as possible companions

18 January, Rome - Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi's assertion that he has a steady girlfriend as he sought to fend off allegations he paid to have sex with an underage belly dancer has sparked off a media hunt for the mystery woman.

Berlusconi said at the weekend his companion would never allow him to frequent prostitutes, after prosecutors said they were investigating suspicions he paid for sex with several young women, including a Moroccan called Ruby when she was 17.

The premier, whose second wife Veronica Lario filed for divorce in 2009, said he did not want to name his girlfriend because of the media attention this would expose her to.

Speculation that the girlfriend is Darina Pavlova, a Bulgarian former model and the widow of Iliya Pavlov, a billionaire businessman murdered in Sofia in 2003, was boosted by claims made by a Rome hairdresser Tuesday.

VIP hairdresser Massimo Topo told the Italian media his client and friend Pavlova had been with Berlusconi for about three years and was ''very much in love''. Among the other women touted as possible sweethearts is Nicole Minetti, Berlusconi's former dental hygienist and a Lombardy regional councillor for his People of Freedom (PdL) party who is under investigation for procuring prostitutes as part of the Ruby probe.

Another is a 26-year-old nurse and former Miss Turin beauty queen Roberta Bonasia.

Indeed, Minetti is transcribed as telling a friend in a telephone wiretap leaked to the media that Berlusconi had ''lost his head'' for Bonasia and was spending a lot of time with her.

The name of Federica Gagliardi, a 28-year-old who is part of the staff of the PdL's governor for Lazio and accompanied the premier on an official mission abroad in June last year, has featured in the guessing game too.

Francesca Pascale, a 25-year-old PdL councillor for the province of Naples, refused to deny rumours she was the girlfriend in an interview in Tuesday's Corriere della Sera, adding that she ''adored'' Berlusconi.

Italian bookmakers are giving shortest odds on the likelihood that the companion is an MP, ahead of the hypothesis of a model or showgirl, while the daughter of a foreign head of state is pitched as a long shot.

Here' s what The NYT/International Herald Tribune has to say about it:

Wiretaps of Berlusconi's Teenage Friend Emerge
Published: January 18, 2011
ROME - A tabloid tidal wave washed over Italy on Tuesday as newspapers published eye-popping wiretapped conversations from a nightclub dancer who said she had dallied with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as a minor, but whether it would sweep the wily prime minister out to sea was still anyone's guess.

The wiretaps emerged days after prosecutors opened an investigation into Mr. Berlusconi on charges that he compensated Moroccan-born Karima el-Mahroug, nicknamed "Ruby Rubacuori," or "Ruby Heart-Stealer," for sex at his villa outside Milan when she was a minor. In wiretaps, Ms. Mahroug said she had been attending parties at Mr. Berlusconi's villa since she was 16.

Mr. Berlusconi, 74, who denies all wrongdoing and says he did not know Ms. Mahroug was a minor, is also accused of helping to get her released from police custody when she was detained for theft last spring. Now 18, she said she had asked Mr. Berlusconi for 5 million euros, or $6.7 million, to keep quiet, according to wiretaps published Tuesday in the Italian press.

But Ms. Mahroug is apparently only a face in the crowd. Prosecutors said this week that "a significant number" of young women had prostituted themselves to the prime minister, obtaining cash or rent-free housing in exchange for sex. In Italy, where a facade of Roman Catholic morality masks a high tolerance for illicit romance, Mr. Berlusconi has weathered scandals for years.

But this time, with the prime minister facing possible criminal charges and with wiretaps presenting a picture of a sordid world of orgies and of blackmail by call girls, things are beginning to look different. Mr. Berlusconi only narrowly survived two no-confidence votes in mid-December, and could be forced to call new elections if any one of the allies in his shaky coalition pulled out.

Above all, Italians are increasingly alarmed by the divide between the country's ills and the prime minister's priorities.

"It's not important what he does privately, but what he doesn't do as a head of government," said Simone Calvarese, 41, a bus driver in downtown Rome, who said he had voted for Mr. Berlusconi in the past but like many Italians had lost patience.

On Tuesday, the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, expressed "grave concern" over the scandal and called on Mr. Berlusconi to clarify things, while the newspaper of the Italian bishops' conference, Avvenire, published a rare front-page editorial that decried a crude culture of "power, sex and money," implicitly criticizing Mr. Berlusconi's behavior, and called prostitution "morally indefensible."

Last week, Italy's highest court removed the prime minister's automatic immunity from prosecution, and he is holding on to his parliamentary majority by a thread.

But it remains to be seen if the government will collapse. On Tuesday, the opposition stepped up calls for Mr. Berlusconi to resign, but he can fall only if he loses his parliamentary majority, and for now his party loyalists are sticking with him.

"With Berlusconi, the rules from any other place or government don't apply," said Mario Calabresi, the editor of the Turin daily newspaper La Stampa. "It's hard to know if this will really be the last scandal that makes Berlusconi fall, because for him to fall, someone has to bring him down."

On Tuesday, Mr. Berlusconi said he would not resign. He said he was less the target of a judicial investigation than of "subversive" media attacks.

Indeed, splashed across the press, the wiretapped conversations have gripped Italy. Culled from a range of women, lawyers and associates, the wiretaps show the intersection of politics and the kind of reality-television culture that Mr. Berlusconi has helped create in his decades as Italy's largest private broadcaster.

In one wiretapped conversation published Tuesday in La Repubblica, Ms. Mahroug said the prime minister had offered to pay her to keep quiet about her detention for theft. "He called me, telling me, 'Ruby, I'll give you as much money as you want, I'll pay you, I'll cover you in gold, but the important thing is that you hide everything; don't tell anyone anything.' "

The scandal has a cast of characters that would fill an entire soap opera season. Also under investigation are Emilio Fede, 79, one of Mr. Berlusconi's oldest friends and the director of a news program owned by his company, Mediaset; and Lele Mora, 55, an agent for television personalities. The authorities are also investigating Nicole Minetti, 25, a former dental hygienist and now a politician for Mr. Berlusconi's party in Lombardy, who is accused of helping manage the young women in Mr. Berlusconi's orbit, including intervening with the local police when Ms. Mahroug was questioned about a theft last May.

Prosecutors say the three helped procure attractive young women, many of whom had appeared on the reality television shows that have been a staple on Mr. Berlusconi's television channels for years, for parties at Mr. Berlusconi's villas.

A parliamentary committee is expected to begin discussion Wednesday on a request by prosecutors to search some of Mr. Berlusconi's properties. Among these are offices near Milan that they say could contain documents indicating that some women were given rent-free apartments in a complex owned by Mr. Berlusconi in exchange for sex.

The wiretaps published Tuesday seriously damage the superman image that Mr. Berlusconi helped cultivate.

In a conversation published in Corriere della Sera, one young woman named by prosecutors in the prostitution inquiry complained about the prime minister's looks, saying: "He's more dead than alive. He's even become ugly. He should just give up. I hope he's more generous."

In another transcript published in Corriere della Sera, Ms. Mahroug compared herself to Noemi Letizia, a woman whose 18th birthday party Mr. Berlusconi attended in the spring of 2009, weeks before his wife filed for divorce, who said she called him "Daddy." "I call him Daddy, too, but she was his little darling."

Other wiretapped conversations told of parties in which Mr. Berlusconi, Mr. Fede and Mr. Mora would spend evenings with dozens of women, who would strip down to their underwear while the men watched.

In a televised address on Sunday, a tense-looking Mr. Berlusconi, his face plastered with pancake makeup, attacked the magistrates investigating him, defended his right to privacy and denied that he had ever paid for sex.

For the first time since his wife filed for divorce, Mr. Berlusconi also said he had a steady girlfriend - prompting a wave of speculation over her identity. Italian bookmakers put the best odds on her being a member of Parliament, but a former Miss Piedmont also appeared to be a contender.

Sitting against a backdrop of family photos and a small statuette of a bucking horse, Mr. Berlusconi added that his parties were all conducted with "the most absolute elegance, decorum and calm."

So why would the bucking horse mention be necessary? It would be sad if it were not so obvious. What makes my skin crawl is the thought that the Italian government would be in such a state that this could portend financial chaos here of biblical proportions.

There is no successor in the wings. The Prime Minister's enemies are so fractious that they are stumbling over themselves in their zeal to topple him off his "throne". For decades, the populace has scorned its government and taken matters into their own hands. Now when there is a real chance for change, no one seems able to ride this bucking bronco. Magari! (If only this were so...)

January 20
Today is the anniversary of our first date! 30 years! It doesn't seem as though we've been together so long, but then it feels as if we've always been together. We're so very fortunate to still be in love and enjoy each other's company so much.

There's rain, but no matter. Rina is not in her shop until next week, so no hair change will happen. There's plenty of time to work on the velvet drape for door and it is great. By the time we drive to Pietro's for prosecco, I'm almost finished. Tomorrow we'll be ready to hang it up and the finials look great, too.

Dino picked up his blood test results earlier and all are within the acceptable range. Va bene.

January 21
There's a magical property for sale outside Orvieto, and it's very unique. Both Colette and I think it would be a great place for a female couple to call its own. On either side of the altar in the attached deconsecrated church is a painting of a woman. What a grand location for a dining room!

Here's a photo and a link to the listing:


We're off to Deruta to see if we can find 10cm tiles for a reasonable price. Yes we can, and yes we do. We jockey the owner of the shop down to 40 cents a tile, since we want 200 of them. He's happy; we're happy.

The happiest is Sofia, who comes away from the trip with a brand new maglione (heavy sweater) in bright red! Take a look:

We're back home in time for pranzo, and in the afternoon I finish the hem of the velvet drape and Dino hangs it; I am quite tired, but decide to move on to making something for the kitchen window.

Dino stains the two remaining finials and after I finish sewing the linen, he puts it up. We try to insert wire in the top loop to stiffen it, but it won't work. So we'll continue to look for something that will give it body.

Maria Elina and her friend are here, but they don't seem to be around. Dino tries to find her to get her together with the geometra, and finally connects with her in time to take her to meet with Roberto and learn what she has to do about next steps with her property.

We're expecting ice tonight and tomorrow, but the plants that are susceptible are covered, and all is well. By the time we have our San Vincenzo mass late on Sunday morning, weather should be clear. Magari. (We hope so.)

With a couple of back spasms, I'm going to take it easy. Hope you're doing the same.

Do you know that it's National Hugging Day in the US? We think that's a good idea; we think hugging is a great idea, and not just today. So I ask you, "Have you given someone you care about a hug today?"

January 22
At around ten, Gianfranco and Roberto the geometra arrive to talk about the area where our property and Gianfranco's connect. The situation is a bit messy, for a former official at the Comune (city hall) gave him permission to build out a bit over our property, when he did not have the right to do so. So now we are all ready to fix the mess. Gianfranco wants his paperwork to be legal and we want to open up the area where he had workers place a column of tufa bricks in front of our ancient mangiatoio (feeding trough for animals) to support the building of a new room to his house.

Dear Paola agrees to help, for we are not sure of the local dialect and want to be clear about what is said. She arrives, and does an excellent job translating. Roberto the geometra agrees to do a drawing that, if we approve, will go to the Comune for approval. We're hoping for a solution that will work for us all.

Paola stays for caffé, and to catch us up on various members of her family. Sofi adores her, and when I ask her what her father (Peppino) would think of Sofi's maglione (big red sweater), she shakes her head.

When her dog Ubik was alive, she told us, her father told her that if she bought him a maglione, he would not take the little dog out for a walk. Wonder what he will think when he sees Sofi, who clearly is very cold these days without one.

We continue to work to clean up the kitchens and to make them work better for us, and I look forward to painting tiles again; that is, if I can recall the proper amount of water to mix with the paint, as well as the optimal touch with the brush.

I painted so many of these tiles with no problem, that I'm hoping I can pick the skill up this next week, especially since I can paint at her little bottega and the forno is right there.

Since it's only Saturday, I'm going to see if I can whip up a couple of special dresses for niece Sarah's little girls, Mary and Sadie. I do continue to be fascinated by design with beautiful fabrics and ribbon, so it's a good time to dip into the costume baskets to see what I can put together.

I am so very sorry that my fall during our San Francisco trip dashed my hopes of making costumes for dear Marissa and dear Nicole. Surely this November I will make it up to them. It will be interesting to see what they'll want me to make.

If we're really lucky, the family will come here for a trip this summer. If that happens, it will be a dream and a lovely surprise. Right now, we'll plan to see them in the fall. That's the best way to look at it, don't you think?

I read that Sargent Shriver has died, at age 95. Thanks to the NYT, He was the founding director of the Peace Corps, the signature success of Kennedy's New Frontier. He founded Head Start, created the Job Corps and Legal Services for the Poor, and gave us Volunteers in Service to America, which was the domestic version of the Peace Corps.

He served as president and chairman of the Special Olympics, which was founded by Eunice Shriver. Indefatigable and unrepentantly idealistic, Mr. Shriver may have directly affected more people in a positive way than any American since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Sargent Shriver had a different view of America - warmer, richer and more humane. A young Bill Moyers, who joined Mr. Shriver at the Peace Corps and eventually became its deputy director, said a crucial component of the corps was Mr. Shriver's deep commitment to the idea of America "as a social enterprise ... of caring and cooperative people."

Giving back is what we Americans are so good at. Whether it is at home or abroad, doing good things for others, helping those less fortunate than ourselves to find a way to support themselves and enrich their communities is what the United States of America stands for. Or at least that is what I think it stands for.

So I am amazed when people thing the government should spend its time and money only at home, and listening to George Clooney and his father be interviewed by Pierce Morgan reinforced my optimistic spirit.

Dino walks up to Maria Elena's house and meets the couple that own the property directly above hers. The husband is a Farina, and when he arrives home he adds one more bit of information to the Mugnano Family Tree Project. It's time to take that up again.

But first, I take out the girls' measurements and think of how to create little outfits for each of them. It will be a joy. Talk with you later...

January 23
This is the day of the San Vincenzo mass and procession, although his day was yesterday. No matter. I participate in the Coro and Dino in the Confraternità.

Later in the afternoon, Maria Elina and Olaf pay us a visit and Dino takes them around the garden to show them the changes.

We sit in the kitchen by a glowing fire while drinking prosecco and munching on treats I've just prepared while hearing about each others' lives.

Tonight is a very cold night...We're expecting ice and below zero temps for the next week or so. Brrrr

January 24
In the NYT online, Anthony Tommasini writes a list of the greatest ten classical composers in history not alive. I agree with at least half of his choices, but then giving Mozart the number two spot has me rolling my eyes.

Oh. I'm the only person alive who dislikes his music. I learn about a composer named Berg and his violin concerto, and am thankful to Mr. Tommasini for introducing me to a new piece of music of which I'll probably swoon.

Clouds overhead seem as if they are painted with water, appearing as a thin film below a celestial blue sky. Their bright white and the accompanying contrast make this a delightful morning to wonder in the glory of it all.

Dino so loves working on projects that entail at least a bit of detail, and today wants to change the way the door opens on one of the pieces of furniture we purchased unpainted for the kitchen and I painted and added faux. We store foodstuffs there that don't need to be stored in the frigo and we use often.

There is a challenge, or as Dino would say when he worked in sales, an opportunity.... He cannot seem to undo the part of the hinge that slides up and down. So he takes off the hinges and the door and drives to Giove to a falegname (woodworker), who can show him how.

We both love learning new things. Retirement is surely a joy, for when a person has their health, there are countless things to learn and to do. And as you can tell, we fill up our days with lots of this joy, pursuing independent projects we can do, usually in the vicinity of each other.

I'm excited about the dresses I'm in the midst of making for dears Mary and Sadie, the daughters of niece Sarah. Although I've never met the little girls, I can imagine them putting them on and swirling around and do hope they like them.

This afternoon we'll drive to Viterbo to pick up lining material, for the dresses must be well made. I owe this continuing fantasy to my mother, who took me to Miss Feltington's when I was three years old and purchased a black (!) velvet dress for me with gossamer pink pinafore rimmed in tiny lace that everyone told her was outrageous.

My father, a shoe retailer who shared some of her fantasy, found a pair of tiny black suede shoes with tinier gold braid bows, and these were worn over pale pink silk socks when I wore the dress.

Brava, Mama! The artist in you continues to thrive in me; your spirit is ever with me, and although you did no sew, you certainly had "the eye".

While I write this, a tiny fawn-colored bird lights on the windowsill, just for a fleeting moment. Is my mother saying hello? It's enough for the corners of my mouth to turn up and a ray of sun to reflect off a white sheet drying nearby. Here is another thing to paint; the folds and the curves and the crinkling cotton sheet; a ray of sun blocked by folded towels sitting on top.

Sofi lies nearby, wearing her bright red turtle-neck maglione (sweater), curled up like a croissant with one ear hanging over the soft side of her little bed in the studio, serenaded by classical music.

I stop to write to the woman renting her house to us in the Spring in Forcalquier; can she find a baker who will let me work for them free for a morning, or a day, to learn the craft of baking baguettes?

Dino returns to say that most hinges are "left" or "right", so these cannot be used on the opposite side of the door. Ronchini in Viterbo surely will have what we need, so we drive there; the trip full of little stops.

Great news arrives: the couple we're renting an apartment from in Forcalquier, France will find a boulangerie in where I can observe the art of making great French bread! Voila!

January 25
Brr it's cold. There's a pedicure appointment this morning, although we told Elena I'd begin painting the tiles today.

We stop at our favorite bar in Bomarzo, where one of the two baristas wears green nail polish. She tells Dino when he pays that the color green indicates speranza (hope). What a good idea!

We then drive to Orte, where Dino leaves me off and Giusy and I laugh for an hour while she does my toenails. I want green polish for my toes, but the color I like best is a blue-green, one she calls pavone (peacock). She mimics a peacock turning around and making a spitting noise and we laugh some more. I am to make this jesture to Dino when I see him and show him my toes. Ha!

That dance is too cold to do this morning, so perhaps tonight. We drive to Elena's, and yes, her shade of blue to use on the summer kitchen tiles is more accurate than the one I had, so she will buy more blue for me today in Deruta. We look at the sample tile I painted and is now out of the oven and agree that her color is the one I'll use.

I'll return there tomorrow morning to paint for an hour or more until Dino picks me up to drive to his doctor's appointment in Viterbo to go over his blood test results. It's also time I tell him the great news about my headache cure. I'm down to two drops a day with no migraines and perhaps I can just stop the medicine. We'll see.

After a quick pranzo, Dino takes me to Rina's in Attigliano, where I try once more to explain how she should color my hair. We agree on a process using Leah's note and her previous counsel. Year by year, I'm able to communicate better in Italian. Either that, or friends agree to put up with me.

I'm finished in two and a half hours, where before the deal took more than four. Rina asks me how I like it and I do, but tell her that domani, anche dopo domani.. (tomorrow and the day after tomorrow) the color will change. I'll return to her next week to take a look, and then we'll decide together how to do my hair in the future the way I'm happy and she's happy. Magari.

In my absence, Dino has wired a light over the summer kitchen sink. It looks fine. Enzo the electrician called to say he cannot come today, but will come tomorrow afternoon to work. Va bene. That will give Dino time to do some pre-wiring and trenching. Atta way Dino!

We stop at the geometra and he tells Dino that tomorrow he will meet with Guerrino and Stefano about the cemetery project. Only when that project has been completed will I feel we have been fair to our dear son, who cherishes the time he has with his father and hates having us so far away. If one/both of us goes, he won't have to make any arrangements. That's the least we can do.

Tonight there is Coro practice, which usually consists of us getting together, gabbing and singing each hymn once or twice. Va bene. If we're fortunate, Don Renzo will be there, too.

Back at home in the afternoon, Dino measures and then drives to Attigliano for electrical supplies, while I check in with you and return to the project of making dresses for Sarah's daughters.

Now that I have fodera (lining) for the two different fabrics, as well as some delightful trim, I'm ready to design in earnest.

First, for Sadie, the tiniest girl, I will use a special gold and pink heavy silk from Germany. We purchased the material years ago on a trip to Regensburg (Bavaria), and I've always loved it. It will be a skirt and gathered top with beautiful trim, fully lined, with perhaps a pale yellow insert for little sleeves.

There will be more of the material, so I'll see if I can fashion a skirt with a cape of the same material, fully lined for Mary, the older sister. I've never made a cape before, and capes present some unique challenges, but I'd love to do something special for each of them.

There is a piece of beautiful celadon green damask, purchased in Florence before we moved here. If I can, I'd like to make two similar dresses for them with headbands of the same material.

I have their measurements, but we're taking a bit of a risk, since they're not here to try them on. I'll try to leave some room in case they're too small, or hooks to make them smaller. We'll have to see. It's truly a gift of love, and I hope will bring a smile. I may even be able to make little purses for them to match...Come no (why not)?

January 26
It's very cold, but that's what to expect in January. We drive to Bomarzo and these days I drink what will be my natural drink in the morning: caffé lungo macchiato. The word lungo is Italian for 'long', and refers to the coffee made by using an espresso machine to make an espresso (single or double dose or shot) with much more water (generally twice as much), resulting in a stretched espresso, a lungo. There's more...

A normal espresso takes from 18 to 30 seconds to "pull", and fills 25 to 30 milliliters, while a lungo may take up to a minute to pull, and might fill 50 to 60 milliliters. The word macchiato (stain), indicates a bit of steamed milk on top. This is all served in a characteristic tiny cup, and to me tastes better on a daily basis than a cappuccino , which has lots of steamed milk and foam, and gives me a swimming feeling in my stomach afterward.

I've looked it all up to explain it to you, and while we're at it, I've learned that in French it is called café alongé. So when we're in France this spring, I'll know what to order there, too. But if you're in Starbucks country, they know all that already...

I spend a bit over an hour in Elena's bottega this morning, while Dino does pre-wiring at home in anticipation of Enzo, the elettricista (electrician). Painting ceramics requires an easiness with the brush and plenty of water mixed with the granules of paint. One thin line of the design takes a narrower brush than Elena or I have, so this afternoon she will purchase more of the correct blue paint as well as a narrow brush. That's just as well, for I can sew for Sarah's little girls this afternoon.

We drive to Viterbo to visit our good doctor, and since we're early I walk to the merceria (notions store), operated by Francesca and her mother. Ciao, Cara Francesca! Come va? Questa Novembre, volare con noi a San Francisco in nostra valige? (Hi, Francesca! How are you? This November, will you come with us to San Francisco in our suitcase?)

I pick out tiny bottone (buttons) in the shape of (cuore) (hearts), some elastico as well as bottone automatico (snaps) and ganchi (hooks). Yes, I'm late in putting all this into the Italian Usage Directory on this site...

At the doctor's office, Dottore Stefano is like a nursery school teacher surrounded by his adoring children clamoring around him whenever he comes out to the huge waiting room. We are all his children, and it is difficult not to adore him, for he is a really fine doctor.

When it's our turn, Dino's blood test results are "perfect" and I tell him I am also perfect, for my headaches are gone. How amazing! He recommends that I continue taking two drops of Laroxyl a day for a couple of weeks before ending the drops, and that's fine with me.

Dino tells him that I want to take the test for Alzheimer's, and I tell him about my memory lapses. He responds that he'll give me the test right now: "Count back from one hundred, in 3's". When I reach 88, he responds, "Fine. You don't have it."

I then tell him I can read upside down, and read for him. He laughs out loud. "This gives you even more points against the possibility of contracting Alzheimer's!"

He pats me on the back as we follow him to the waiting room, where his adoring children look up at him as if they're about to swoon.

I fix a simple pranzo, while Dino does more prep work for Enzo, and afterward Sofi and I retire to the studio for her to sleep and for me to sew. That is, when the power is not turned off...

My designs are almost all from my imagination, based on what material we have and what notions we can pick up. With the power off, I'm somewhat hampered by what I can sew on the machine this afternoon, but that does not deter me from imagining the girls spinning around in their new duds and cutting and pinning special lining for each piece.

The bright green grass of a week or so ago is more a celadon color; gossamer white ice crystals float on top as we drive by on these cold days. When driving back through Bomarzo, and the road flanked by dozens of my favorite plane trees, I decide to count them, one side at a time.

Driving down the road, I count about seventy-five on the left side, and that makes sense. If you have not driven here, and taken the Bomarzo off-ramp from the Superstrada toward Attigliano and the A-1, you have not seen a magical sight, not unlike that of the roads of Provence, flanked by the same but much older specimens. When you are here, you'll know what I mean.

Of course, the trees are not much to look at during winter time, but if you are here from Spring to Fall, you'll ride through as though hundreds of courtiers hold up their bandieras(flags) for you to drive beneath.

I hear a clanking of toolboxes outside, knowing that Enzo and Dino are working on the electrical projects, and wonder how much longer they will work. It's cold here this afternoon, for it takes the sun's rays for it to be warm here during winter time, and the sun seems to be hiding.

Italians are mad about cell phones, and although using one while driving is against the law and can result in 5 points taken from your driving allotment, it remains a real problem, with no real solution at hand.

I watch people talking on the phone while driving, and they really do not pay as much attention to the road as I think they do when they do not. It's not for me to judge, and I do not, but I am sad to think that people can be hurt, or hurt others, in this way.

In a message from Paola, Antonio has had his operation and is doing better. Antonio, you remain in our thoughts.

The power is back on, and I sew for an hour or so; it's as if I'm five years old and playing with my dolls. Now, I want to add ribbons and why not? It's dark outside, and has been for a while. So let's call it a day and spend the evening with Dino and of course, Sofi.

January 27
A day of sun begins early, with fog clearing as we drive up the Bomarzo hill for caffé before Dino and Sofi drop me off at Elena's bottega. I am able to complete painting more than a dozen tiles before Dino picks me up, and Elena tells me she'll dip another 30 or so before she leaves for pranzo.

But just as we leave, she comes out to the car to show me one of the tiles from the closed box we left with her. The tile is about the same size, but the back is different, with ridges, making it more difficult to clean off the smalto before painting them.

We're a bit surprised, but since the size is the same tell her to go ahead and dip them. But when we're back at home we remember back to the day we were in Deruta, and the box of tiles were ordered from the warehouse at Mondo Ceramica and we did not open the box to check. The tiles are wrong. What is worse, is that we now don't have enough tiles to do the work we want in the summer kitchen.

Elena told me she will be gone until Mercoledì (Tuesday), and we are unable to find the receipt, so we call her back but cannot reach her. Has she dipped the tiles? We'd like to take the box back to Deruta, but are not sure what to do now.

What do we do? We have pranzo, and then I work on little Sadie's gold and pink dress, with the beautiful gold and pink embroidered nastro (ribbon) that we purchased the other day in Viterbo. As soon as I have another measurement from niece Sarah, I will make a cape for Mary to go with her gold and pink skirt, in the same material. There's also a surprise, but if I share it with you it won't be...

I've looked back in our journal (see, it's often helpful!) and see that we purchased the box of tiles on November 9th of last year. Can we find the receipt? Of course, not. Dino reminds me that we did purchase these tiles, as the others were almost three times as much.

While we wait for Elena to return Dino's call, I continue to work on the outfits, making allowances for the girls to grow. Now that I realize these are the correct tiles, we don't have to worry.

After several hours, I stop sewing for the evening, waiting for Sarah's email to give me another measurement so that I can make a cape for little Mary. I'm tired, so spend the rest of the evening with Dino and Sofi in front of the TV.

January 28
While I return to painting the ceramic tiles in the bottega, Dino spends the morning with Stein and Germano and Mario, making sure the workers do what they are supposed to do at his property.

When they are through, Stein is happy. He has his new workshop with plenty of light, and when he is in Mugnano, he can work on anything he wants to do in his special studio.

Dino picks me up at noon and takes me home. I've spent the morning blissfully in Elena's bottega by myself, cleaning the bottoms of each tile dipped in smalto and then painting it.

So I cleaned nine, painted the nine with the brown line and then painted the nine with the blue leaves. That way, I don't use one color for another by mistake and feel a system to my work. If I were an inventor, I would invent a way to dip tiles in smalto without covering the backs. There must be a solution somewhere...

After pranzo, we drive to Viterbo and shop; me for tessuti, cordolo anche nastro (material, cord and ribbon) and Dino for felt backing and other things, including beer at LIDL. We shop for food on the way home; then pay Stein a visit. Tomorrow we'll have an outing together before he leaves for Norway again.

January 29
The day with Stein begins with prima colazione (breakfast) in Bomarzo, then a drive across the countryside to: Latera (is this what the little lake fish, the laterini, are named for?); then pranzo in Aquapendente, where we meet little Francesco who tries to play with Sofi.

We visit several churches along the way, including one in Aquapendente that we tell Stein to visit with wonderful statues of saints carved in wood that we've already seen. While we wait for him, we recall the pugnaloni, of which I've written a story for Italian Notebook. Take a look..

..and here is a photo recap of our day exploring part of Tuscia.

January 30
In church this morning, there are five of us in great form in the Coro, singing hymns we all love. Don Angelo is the priest, and week by week he becomes more and more a part of the community.

After pranzo, I do more painting in Elena's bottega, and it's a silent and sweet experience, with sounds outside of neighbors talking now and then. If I were an inventor, how would I invent a way to clean the back of these tiles after they are dipped? Would I find a way to dip them without dipping the back? I do enjoy the painting, and look forward to speaking with Elena on Tuesday about how I've done.

Tonight there's a concert of Don Renzo in Bomarzo, and he's really an entertainer. We enjoy it along with many others, and he seems to enjoy it, too. Although the concert is in Italian, he does sing one piece in English, and it's the final piece. From the movie Fame, it's "Out Here On My Own", and I sing it along with him; I've always identified with it. What a wonderful and talented priest!

January 31
Fog gives way to warm sun, but first I spend a couple of hours in the bottega to finish the tiles. That means that fifty have been dipped and painted. Tomorrow when Elena returns from a few days away, we'll take a look and see if we need to make any corrections or adjustments before putting them in the oven. I'm hoping Elena will dip more tiles, too.

The more she dips, the more I'll paint, for I have a couple of hundred at least to do and to cook for the summer kitchen and the front of the pizza oven. I surely wish there was an alternative for the raised design on the back, which is very difficult to clean after it's been dipped. Is there a way to magnetize the tiles and just dip them enough so that the sides are coated but the back is not? I doubt it.

When we purchased these tiles, there were tiles that were not as thick as these that we could have picked. Did they have flat backs? The next time we return to Deruta we'll surely check. With the church project in Isernia on hold, I can concentrate on painting tiles for a few hours a day. There's also time to sew special outfits for grandnieces and grand daughters.

No, this is not a lazy life, although we could be lazy if it was our desire. On this afternoon, Dino clips suckers from trees that he's pruned to use as fire starters. He places them neatly in lugs, "just so" as they're cut, and we have a tiny little building near the back of the house where they are stored.

I think there are two kinds of country fellows in Italy: those who love their gardens and trees and spend time working with them each day, and those who would rather sit around and talk with each other. Dino is clearly the first kind, and for that I am grateful.

Dino picks me up from the bottega and we drive Stein to Orte to take the train and then a plane to visit a friend near Warsaw before he returns home to Norway. We'll see him when we return from France later this spring.

The glicine (wisteria) is surely happy; I can see reddish buds growing on them a couple of millimeters a day or so. Perhaps tomorrow or later this week we'll plant cavolo (cabbage) plants from seed. I admit I want them in our orto (kitchen garden) because they are a beautiful blue and look wonderful in the garden; that is, if we can keep the snails away...Eating the food is secondary.

They'll grow through the summer and into fall, and I'm hoping a good spot for them will be to the right of the summer kitchen, when standing on the terrace and looking North toward the house.

After pranzo I fix a big batch of sugo (pasta sauce), and leave it simmering on top of the stove while I get the journal ready to post, although I feel a pull toward the sewing machine...

Instead, I slow down; this way, every project will be fun and not rushed. Sofi and I return to the kitchen while Dino gets ready to post...


February 1
The morning sky is worth a painting, so I take an imaginary snapshot and file it away with so many others, for another day.

Thanks to Wikipedia, in Finnish, the month is called helmikuu, meaning "month of the pearl"; when snow melts on tree branches, it forms droplets, and as these freeze again, they are like pearls of ice. We have had few of these hard freezes this year, thank goodness.

We drive across the valley as hundreds of sheep gather together to enjoy the sunshine once the fog clears. I watch them as we drive by, trying to define an expression here and there on their faces. Sheep are not very expressive, but I love watching them just the same.

On the way up the Guardea hill, we pass a crudely constructed shed and fence; behind, several hens stand looking out at us, as if they're singing the "Pick, pick, pick a little..." song from Music Man. Red hatted wonders, they are, each with a characteristic pattern on her back and tail feathers.

The mottled ones are so extraordinary, the pattern on each one of the feathers an exact repetition of each other. One fine day, I'll sit in a field surrounded by a bunch of hens, drawing my heart out. If I'm lucky, I'll have paints and an easel with me and will even paint one or two. Magari!

On this day, we finally connect with Lorenzo, and when we are at his bottega, Sofi joins us outside the car, but Telma, Lorenzo's sweet black lab, is no match for our little firecracker; she shows her spirit and disinterest in Telma's game with the basketball. Instead, she barks out loud; then sniffs around, as if the poor lab is not even there.

We agree with Lorenzo about the design and construction of the black iron faucet for the fountain; since it will be a recirculating fountain, the controls will be on the back of the stone. This way, the design can be a simple one, and I draw it out. We'll have it in a week or so.

We also drive to Soriano to look at characteristic roof tiles to replace the ones now on the row farthest away from the main house. After speaking with a worker, we decide we can buy just what we want at a construction yard in Guardea. Back at home, Dino demonstrates how they will work, and I agree. I was not happy with Stefano's original idea for the last row of tiles on the roof. Now we're both happy.

We also stop at the geometra's office, and he is there. He has spoken with Stefano, and we hope to get the materials list for the cemetery project this week.

There is also a discussion about Gianfranco's interest in finishing his project begun decades ago, and not really correctly done. The column must be maintained for safety, for before the addition was built to his house above us, the column was built. So it is too dangerous to take it out, no matter what kind of steel reinforcing we suggest.

What is suggested is a double arch, one on one side of the column and one on the other, opening up the view to the mangiatoio but retaining the structure's engineering integrity. I agree, for what choice do we have? Now if Gianfranco will pay for it and we can supervise the work closely, we'll agree to give him the documentation he wants in the event he wants to sell his property.

Some things are just not possible, and this is as good as we can get. Luckily, it's just a corner of our property. At home Dino asks me about the number of tiles yet to paint, and realizes that the location of the giant SMEG hood will necessitate three more rows of tiles, so we'll have to purchase about one hundred more to paint.

"Do I mind?" Dino asks me...no, not at all. Earlier, I realized that there is an easier way to clean the bottom of the industrial tiles that have been dipped in smalto: I will bring a couple of heavy plastic plates to the bottega, add water, and gently dip each tile in so that just the raised markings are immersed in the water. Lifting each one out, I'll then wipe the bottom off with a wet cloth. There are forty-nine of them, painted and ready for my washing.

After pranzo, Dino drops me off back in Bomarzo, and while I dip each tile, he drives off to purchase metano for the car. I finish cleaning the last one just as Elena walks in, somewhat shocked to see me standing there.

I ask her to take a look at my work and she does. She is not concerned about any of them, and will bring them across the street to her main bottega, where she will check them over before putting them in the larger oven to bake. Perhaps tomorrow, she'll dip another twenty or so.

When we return to Deruta to purchase another hundred or so tiles, we'll be sure that they have flat bottoms, even if it means that the tiles are not as thick as the first ones. Don't worry, Pat, I'll be sure that the thinner tiles are all put up in the same area, although it might not matter.

Back at home again, I return to sewing the little dresses, and now think up a design for the two dresses in palest celadon damask. The gold outfits are finished with the exception of Mary's cape. Once Sarah sends me the measurement I need, I'll line the rest of the gold and pink material and sew that one, too.

Each day, I can work on something to soothe my creative imaginary fantasies. Working on diverse projects delights me, and although ceramic tiles constitute the largest project at the time, I'm not overwhelmed. Only when I finish the blue and white tiles will I begin to tackle the glicine flowers and trunks to adorn the front and top of the pizza oven.

So it's a good thing that Don Francis' project is stalled, or on hold. I would love to work on the church, but for now have about all I can handle.

February 2
I think it has been two years since our chimney has been swept, but then wasn't it two years ago that the new lining inside the chimney was put in by Stefano? This time the work should be much easier. Dino gives up on thinking that Germano would clean ours, and calls someone he thinks has been here before, who works in a nearby town.

Dino waits outside for the spazzacamino (chimney sweep), cutting the smallest of the branches from the cachi tree for fire starters and placing them "just so" in lugs kept just for this purpose and stored in the tiny building behind the house.

We need a corporation yard, he told me yesterday, as I groaned to myself. It is a good thing Dino is a neat guy, for we've agreed we'll store things we'll use in a couple of places, including behind the serra, inside the new little room behind the summer kitchen and behind the house.

The spazzacamino arrives with a truck, but I don't see a tall ladder. He and Dino agree what ladder he will use of ours and how he will reach the chimney. I see him through the corner of my eye as I stand at the ironing board in the studio, but am all consumed with my latest project: sewing lovely dresses for little Mary and Sadie, out of beautiful pale celadon green damask.

Once the fodera (lining) is pinned and sewed into the piece that will be Mary's skirt, I pin pleats to gather at the waist, and then add a matching salvia (sage colored) cordolo (cord). It brings tears to my eyes just imagining the little ones dancing in them and I do the same for little Sadie, for the dresses will complement each other, although each will be a little different.

All the while, Dino and Lorenzo work together, inside the kitchen and out. Earlier, Dino and I opened a big garbage bag and taped it over the opening to the fireplace. We've done this before...

Once Sofi got over her initial barking, she returns to my side and lies in the warm sun coming in from the front window. Did I tell you it is a beautiful day? It's so beautiful and warm that we turn off the morning heat and I open both front facing windows on the bedroom level.

While Lorenzo sweeps the chimney, I laugh to myself while sewing just below him. Should I be playing Mary Poppins music?

Dino woke earlier with severe pains in one leg, and takes Medrol, a medicine he has taken before for shoulder pain. He does not want to go to the doctor, so we'll monitor the pain; I ask him to take it easy.

Oh, darn. This sun does not portend well for an end to winter. I read this from care2.com:
Groundhog Day is a holiday celebrated on February 2 in the United States and Canada. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If on the other hand, it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly "see its shadow" and retreat back into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks.

Since this is Italia, perhaps the same does not apply. We'll have to ask a neighbor if a similar legend applies here, too.

When I looked up spazzacamino in the new dictionary earlier, I could not find the word in English, but when I looked the word up on line, I was able to find the word in the Italian section of the book. I also found a new word, spazzaneve, and that is a snowplow. We never need one here in little Mugnano, although weather all over the United States and in most of Northern Europe. After pranzo, I return to sewing for a couple of hours, then walk up to the village for the blessing of the gola (throat). Dino waits at home for Enzo the elecctricista, for our power has bounced on and off and Dino can't seem to find the culprit.

There are thirteen of us at the beginning of the mass, but at the end about twenty neighbors in all are able to participate. It's a sweet mass, and I bring a candle home for Dino, as well as mine. We'll light them tonight.

Thursday is the day celebrating San Biagio, and on this day I'm wondering about the sanctity of it all. It surely has to do with good health and the hopes that we who are blessed won't be ill this winter. Rushing up the hill while I walk home is Maria, out of breath, for she has forgotten to attend the mass. Vergogna! (shame) she seems to say to herself. I tell her there are still candles in the big church, and she seems somewhat satisfied.

I'd look up San Biagio to tell you more, but Enzo the elettricista (electrician) has just arrived, and since some things work and some don't, the power and the lights turn on and off as if we're Mervyn's announcing a sale.

Sofi is so very happy to see me walk up the stairs, that she does not rush up to Enzo and try to bite him. The first couple of times he arrived, Sofi actually put her mouth on his pants to try to take a bite. Cattiva! (bad)

I'm imagining the front of the little dresses, and am not sure how to make a collar that will be just right. I remember Joy showing me how to make a round collar, so take out an old sheet and use it to make a template. It is not a good time to search the internet, but I am not sure what size collar to make. Since it's 6 PM, let's set this aside for another day.

Before I do, I'm thinking I can make the front and back parts quite easily. Oh, heck. Give it a rest! A domani (until tomorrow).

February 3
It's another beautiful day and I'm hoping more tiles have been smaltoed (dipped) so that I can continue painting. Dino drives me up and yes, there are about twenty ready for me.

Antonio is in the little magazzino (little workroom across from Elena's shop) and I comment about all the work to clean the back of the tiles. He tells me I only need to worry about the part that touches the surface, and all this time I've been spending lots of time to clean the back of each one, paying particular attention to each indentation. He tells me the first batch of tiles will be ready tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see how they look.

Dino picks me up and I tell Elena I'll return to paint dopo pranzo (after lunch). Va bene! she responds.

In the meantime, Dino picked up merluzzo fillets and I bread and fry them and fix baked potatoes for pranzo. I'm itching to return to Bomarzo to paint, and Dino takes me back there while the weather is still sunny.

I finish the twenty just as Dino pulls up, and Antonio tells me there are more in Elena's studio that have been smaltoed. Domani, I tell him. There's more fun at home in the studio with Mary and Sadie's dresses to figure out. I think there's also going to be a cape for one of the dolls, for it's probably too small for little Sadie.

While I have been painting, Dino has been sawing wood and building the first fire in the pizza oven. This is the first of 3 or so fires to temper the oven; each fire will be hotter than the last. We talk about the difference between cooking bread, a steak, or pizza, and he's learning to do all of it. Today's fire gets to about 105°C (about 215°F).

Tomorrow, he tells me, we'll have steaks cooked on a Tuscan Grill placed inside the mouth of the oven. We're no longer worried about the smoke bothering Signora Rosina who lives above us, for it dissipates before it reaches her...Magari....

While I've been painting a particular leaf detail, I'm reminded of teaching myself as a child how to draw a heart, with two matching sides. It was valentine season, and I loved the curves of the heart. I could not have been older than eight or so.

Cutting hearts out by folding red paper gave me the idea that if I drew one side and turned the paper upside down, I could draw the other side in an easier way. Is that a left-brain, right-brain thing? Perhaps it has to do with me also teaching myself to read upside down. Spending plenty of time alone as a child, I learned how to fill my time with things I liked to do.

One of my father's favorite phrases was "Learn everything!" And that has much to do with giving credit for learning diverse things. I'm still learning, although I can hear you thinking to yourself, "Why doesn't she speak Italian fluently?"

Serena and Augusta and MarieAdelaide sat on the stone benches right outside our parcheggio, greeting us as we drove in late this afternoon. Serena asked me if I was going home, and when I nodded yes, she said that I'm always home. It's funny the assumptions people make about their neighbors.

I read in the NYT online that... lawmakers and officials of the administration of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ...acted to put some political weight behind an ancient dish made with green, red and white ingredients, the colors of the Italian flag... A nation of pizza makers gave thanks.

The European Union may follow suit. As the continent is homogenized, the new law is a marketing tool to brand Naples forever as the cradle of pizza. Pizzerias that serve the approved brand are now stamped official.

Then details of the new national standards slowly started to be digested.

Under them, the pizza must be round, no more than 35 centimeters (13.8 inches) in diameter. The crust cannot be too high. The dough must be kneaded by hand. Only certain flour, salt and yeast can be used. Extra virgin olive oil is a must, as are tomatoes from the Mount Vesuvius region and bufala mozzarella. For cooking the classic pizza Margherita, only mozzarella from the southern Apennine Mountains is allowed.

Dino has taken this under advisement.I think he's going to love his new vocation...

In the meantime, the woman who is renting her house to us in Forcalquier, France emails me to tell me she has spoken with a local baker, who agrees to take me on while we're there as a trainee. Well, Dino wanted to stay more in town instead of gallivanting all around, so beware of what you ask for, dear Dino!

My French is pitiful, so I'll at least try to learn baking terms before then. In the meantime, I'm stymied by a complicated design on the girls' little dresses...lining does complicate the design, but no matter...I'll work and rework them until they're just what I imagined.

Dino comes up with a design for doors for the summer kitchen, and I'm hoping Lorenzo will do them, although we're also going to get a price from someone in Bomarzo. The room is really looking wonderful and is an important part of how we live, especially in the warmer months.

February 4


I told Antonio I'd be back there to paint tiles today, and there are plenty ready for me to paint. Dino took another box of tiles yesterday to the shop and we need to pick up yet another hundred in Deruta. At this rate, I'll be painting nonstop all spring.

I'm hoping to paint two hours a day, but that depends on the results of the first cooking of the tiles. I stopped painting ceramics some years ago, because it was impossible to determine what the final product would look like. Should I be concerned? No, just press on, no matter what.

Are you out of breath yet? I can't seem to slow down, and although I don't work on anything in a particularly rapid pace, I love the tasks and don't get sidetracked, although there is plenty to divert my attention.

Like the garden...and learning French enough to intern at the boulangerie in France for what I think will be a couple of days.

I paint for a couple of hours in the morning and return after pranzo to finish another fifteen total. It's slow going. The results are in from the first cooking, and I'm disappointed to say the least. When I painted the tiles for the summer kitchen a few years ago, the results were remarkably different. No matter, I'll press on, and since Elena can recook some tiles, I'll see what she can recook and if I can correct any of the tiles I'm not happy with. Magari! Back at home, Dino continues to clip plants and also keeps track of the pizza oven, which is now up to about 200 degrees. He wants to make pizza, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to take on a twenty-four hour rising. There's no reason to put it off, since I am going to be a trainee in Provence at a boulangerie in a couple of months. Better slow down; there's no need to stress.

Dino continues to have pain in his leg, and calls our good doctor, Dottore Bevilacqua, who tells him to take paracetemol, since he's allergic to aspirin.

Since we're back while there is plenty of sun, I begin to sew trim on little Mary's skirt by hand. Once that's done, I'll finish the top and then move on to little Sadie's. I hope to send two outfits for each of them in the next couple of weeks.

Better research pizza making a la Naples, the heart of pizza country...I find a recipe online that will also work for the French Provencal Pissaladiere, served as an appetizer.

I'm in the midst of this while the doorbell rings and Sofi goes nuts. I let the man enter the gate, and he's in a shirt and tie and jacket with a portfolio under his arm. He's a vacuum cleaner salesman!

I have to laugh, then send him on his way, while Peppino looks on out of the corner of his eye from his orto. Thanks, dear Peppe, for watching out for Sofi and me while Dino goes on an errand to Attigliano.

February 5
Will I paint at Elena's today? The last results were dismal, and we'll have to buy at least 20 more tiles than the additional 100 that we need to pick up in Deruta soon.

Later, I hope to visit Elena with all the tiles we've taken home to ask her what to do to replicate the work I have done before. These are worth dumping, sadly. So we may need fifty more! I'll be positive and hope she will advise me gently. It's the touch of the brush, I am thinking, that must be "just so". But then, I realize I'm committed to "learn everything", Dad, so as the neighbors say, "Sempre avanti!" (always forward).

It's a really lovely and warm day here, with one wispy flash of a feather-light cloud overhead. Dino works on the fire in the pizza oven, while inside I try to figure out what the equivalent is of a 25 gram cake of yeast that one can buy at any market in Italy, avoiding the inevitable moment of truth with Elena...

All the recipes I reference call for active dry yeast, and I've told Dino I'm going to try to make dough with a 24-hour resting period, so tomorrow at pranzo or cena we can try our first pizza in the outside oven. Here's what I find, thanks to: http://www.foodsubs.com/LeavenYeast.html

yeast Notes: Yeast is a one-celled fungus that converts sugar and starch into carbon dioxide bubbles and alcohol. This has made it a useful ally in the production of bread, beer, and wine. There are many varieties of yeast. Bread is made with baker's yeast, which creates lots of bubbles that become trapped in the dough, making the bread rise so it's light and airy when baked. A small amount of alcohol is also produced, but this burns off as the bread bakes.

active dry yeast = dry yeast Equivalents: One package = 2 1/4 teaspoons = 1/4 ounce Notes: This is the yeast called for by most bread recipes. It's largely displaced the fresh yeast our grandparents used since it has a longer shelf life and is more tolerant of mishandling.

To activate it, sprinkle it on water that's 105¡ - 115¡ F and wait for it to begin foaming (about five minutes... Always check the expiration date to make sure it's fresh. Dry yeast can be stored at room temperature until the expiration date--or within 4 months of opening--but it lasts even longer in the refrigerator or freezer. Always bring yeast to room temperature before you use it. It's important to keep stored yeast away from air and moisture, so use the smallest container you can find and seal it well.

Substitutes: fresh yeast (Substitute one cake for each package or 2 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast.) OR instant yeast (Substitute measure for measure, but don't dissolve it in liquid first. Your bread will only need to rise once.)

baker's yeast = baking yeast = bread yeast Equivalents: 1 tablespoon = 1 package = 1 cake Notes: This is used as a leaven in breads, coffeecakes, and pastries like croissants and brioche. It works by converting sugar into carbon dioxide, which causes the dough to rise so the bread will be light and airy. Yeast comes either as dry granules or moist cakes. It becomes less potent after the expiration date stamped on the package, so dough made with it may take longer to rise, or not rise at all. If the potency of the yeast is in doubt, test or "proof" it by putting some of it in warm water (105¡ - 115¡ F) mixed with a bit of sugar. If it doesn't get foamy within ten minutes, you'll need to get fresher yeast.

Dino tells me that we purchased a package of Fleischman's active dry yeast when we were in the US in November. So do I use the dry or the cube in the frigo? And how do I tell the water temperature to dissolve the dry yeast? Dino tells me our instant thermometer may tell me.

I'm somewhat distracted, since my folly this week painting tiles has shown dismal results. Will this be the same? I'm also reading a Norman Mailer book, The Castle in the Forest, and the narrator is a devil figure. Wonder if it has cast a spell on me. I'm now thinking that all the years that I've told myself that I'm superstitious have been wrong; perhaps an evil spirit, one that lurks in and out of each of us, has been prodding me. Read the book and you'll get the picture...

Roberto the geometra comes by with a tall surveying pole. I don't think Dino thinks to ask him what it is called here. It appears the front corner of our house is used to survey local measurements and a neighbor wants to have work done to her cantina.

While he is here, he watches Dino and his fire and recommends that he build the fire in the center of the oven; that way, the oven will heat evenly throughout. Sounds good to us. Thanks, Roberto.

No doom and gloom for me any more...let's fiddle with the flour and use a recipe from Clifford A Wright, my favorite new online source: http://www.cliffordawright.com

Yes, we have a jar of active dry yeast, not opened, and we'll keep it refrigerated now that we're opening it. Let's hope my pizza dough efforts will be more successful than my ceramics painting follies.

Kneading dough must be an acquired skill; I enjoy it, and find myself cutting the dough in three sections and kneading each one separately. They do have a good shape, so should I be concerned? Experts say the shape at the beginning will be all over the place. Hmmmm.

Dino cooks petti di pollo (thin slices of chicken breast) on the grill in the front of the oven. He's fascinated by the whole thing, and for that I am thrilled. He wants to cook bread there, too, and tells me that bread is best cooked after the pizzas have all been cooked. So tomorrow morning I'll get a loaf or two ready to rise before we leave for church.

Can't put it off any longer; Dino drives me to Elena's with the box of cooked tiles, and I find her painting in the back of her main studio. She is serious and I admire that in her; she is also kind, encouraging me to practice, practice, practice.

She asks me if I'd like to watch her paint a tile in my design, and Dino and I stand next to her table and watch her. Taking in her strokes, the way she dabs the paint against the drops of water, I understand more. She thinks the last batch I have done look better, so we'll see.

Elena knows I'm depressed about it, but tells me to get back up on the horse, so to speak. I will tomorrow, but don't have the heart to do it today; especially with her friend working in the room where I'll be working. The woman is practicing throwing pottery for a course she is taking in Rome, and is very nice, but I think she'd rather work alone, too.

I've sewed for a couple of hours this afternoon, and have the basic framework of what I think will be Mary's dress. Much of it from here on will be sewn by hand. So I look forward to sewing a bit when we're back home, as the sun sets red in the Western sky. It's beautiful.

While we're out, I ask if Dino will take me to Rina's. At least this is a happy visit; she's the parucchiere (hairdresser) in Attigliano, and I want to tell her the color of my hair from my recent visit to her is fine.

She and I are delighted. For now, I'm content with my hair, and Dino likes it shorter as well. It's easier to take care of, too. We drive home so that Dino can play with the fire some more, and he counsels me about bread making, now that he's becoming an expert and enjoying the craft. If only he would not want to buy a $100 infrared thermometer...

Back at home, I spend time sewing Mary's dress, and it looks lovely. Before stopping for the day, I turn to Sadie's dress, pinning the same detail at the waist. Tomorrow I'll work some more on each of them. At least this project looks good! Piano, piano (slowly, slowly). All is well, just the same...

February 6
I wake early to make bread, but cannot find the lievito (dry yeast) anywhere. It is only when Dino gets up that he finds it in the frigo, and I had forgotten that I used it yesterday and after it has been opened it should be stored there.

While scrambling around for it, I decided to make biga, which is the "mother" used to make bread from scratch. Once I had the dry yeast in hand, I quickly made a batch of dough to let rise while we're at church and shopping. Strangely enough, we're still not late for mass, and four of us in the Coro sing happily for Don Renzo.

Back at home, it's still early, but the bread that is rising looks particularly tough. So I knead it a little and put it back in the bowl to rise for several hours. Dino wants to make bread after pizza, and now that we've decided to make the pizza later in the day, we'll do both.

On the way back from shopping at Il Pallone, we stop in Bomarzo and Elena is sitting at the computer. I thank her for yesterday and tell her I'll paint after pranzo. There are at least twenty-five tiles for me to "practice" on, and I will use her technique.

I sit in the sun and sew the trim on Sadie's skirt by hand, but it's so warm that I don't last long. Yes, my life is a flurry of activity; thankfully, it's mostly doing what I love to do.

Dino continues his love of the pizza oven, watching the temperature and adding more wood. For pranzo, however, he'll grill the chops on the grill.

After pranzo, I see that the biga is rising well, but the bread I hastily prepared for its first rise this morning is more like a rock. I knead it with my hands (was it a mistake?) and put it back in the bowl covered with a towel.

Dino takes me to Bomarzo, and for the next three hours I paint. Recalling Elena's guiding hand yesterday, I practice on these tiles, not worrying about the outcome but hoping they'll come out better. When I leave, there is more work to do on them, with eight finished and the rest partly completed.

Dino is ready to make pizza, and I took the dough out of the frigo right after we ate, to let it get to room temperature before stretching the dough and making the pizza base.

There are three rounds of dough, and here are the pizzas we fix: bianca, carmelized onions and blue cheese, buffalo mozzarella and carmelized onions and rosemary, thinly sliced red onion marinated in red wine vinegar...

Dino wanted bread to bake after cleaning out the oven after the last pizza, but it would not rise. So I cut it in chunks, roll it out, and use some of the toppings above. It's quite good.

We stand at the table in the summer kitchen, and sample each pizza with a bottle of beer for Dino and a glass of it for me. Of course, Sofi loves pizza and tastes the plain bread of each one. She sits like the lady she is and waits. What a doggie!

All in all, it's a good first try. It will be fun to have our friends here, trying new toppings and enjoying it all. Tonight the sky is clear and very blue. It's a great night to be outside, or quasi-outside.

Dino thinks we've set civilization back a couple of thousand years...did the Etruscans cook in an oven like this? Of course they did!

When you come here for a meal, we hope you like pizza...

February 7
Bright sun turns the sky palest gray-blue, and the air feels special. Dino takes drops of Fortradol for his leg pain, for the other medicines he took did nothing for it. I look it up online and he takes fifteen drops; fewer drops than recommended, for he does not like to take too much medicine.

I'm excited by the way the little dresses are turning out, and continue to work on them. Now that I have instructions for making the cape, I'll move on to that, before we send them to Massachusetts.

Now I'm concerned that there may be customs problems, so perhaps we can go to DHL or UPS to see if they can help. It would be funny and somewhat sad if duty had to be paid on something made by a relative...

The day continues to be sunny and bright. After pranzo Dino takes me to Bomarzo and drops me off to paint; after an hour I am ready to be picked up. He is in Orte and we drive to Viterbo to shop at OBI for shelves and brackets and LIDL for groceries.

At home, Dino reconfigures a double basket that hangs in the kitchen for onions and potatoes into a single, and I ask him to take the other and make one for the summer kitchen. Come no? February 8
It's another sunny and cool day, although we can be out in shirtsleeves until mid afternoon. I work sewing Mary's dress, reworking it so that it will be perfectly wonderful, and tonight I will work on it some more.

Dino works on the ancient wooden box where we store our jars of pomodori passato(processed tomatoes) from last summer. Right now, they are stored on a table inside, but soon they'll sit in the summer kitchen, where they should be. He sands it, stains it, and will put in iron brackets to hold it up on the far wall.

There is some talk about the blue figs I painted on canvas last year in San Remy; we've agreed where it will hang after it is framed, and Dino wants the folks in Orvieto to take the canvas as it is and do the framing. But he does not want to drive there today.

Instead, I fix up a new pasta sauce and after pranzo Dino drops me off in Bomarzo again to paint. He and Sofi drive to Viterbo to pick up a scalda bagno (under sink heater for the bathroom), for it takes minutes for the water to heat in the bathroom, while downstairs water is immediately hot with the same type of heater under the sink.

Elena has dipped more tiles, and today I finish painting the last sixteen of the 100 industrial tiles we purchased last November. Now I'll return to the thicker tiles that will be much easier to clean.

It's just as well, for I'm now getting into my stride. It takes a certain touch, a lightness with the panello (brush) and not too much paint, mixed with water. Almost every day, I'll spend a few hours there, and when we have enough of the blue design, I'll move on to the design of the pizza oven tiles. That means we'll drive to Deruta in a week or so to pick up more tiles...

Dino runs into Stefano, who tells him we can't begin the cemetery project yet; he will, however, give Dino the materials list soon, so that we can get preventivi (estimates) for the peperino (stone) material.

Earlier this morning, I opened the side window to the studio while Rosina spoke with Dino who was standing nearby. Coming down Via Mameli walk Laura and Serena, and all four of us wave to each other, then Rosina talks about how beautiful the day is.

She says nothing about her conversation with Stefano, in which she said she does not want to disturb us, but the smoke from the pizza oven bothers her. Now the geometra assured us that we could have the oven where it is, and the chimney where it is. All we can do now is put out a flag when we plan to use it, and invite her to join us any time the flag is unfurled. I like her very much and wish the smoke did not bother her. It's a shame. This information came from Stefano yesterday.

Back at home, I catch up with you and then return to reworking the waistline of Mary's dress in the studio. Sofi wants to be by my side, so sleeps in her little bed until I'm ready to return downstairs with her.

Dino remains in a lot of pain, and has an appointment with our doctor in Viterbo tomorrow. I worry about him, and try to get him to slow down, but he tells me that walking around is good; standing still is not.

February 9
Enveloped by fog when we awake, we are not concerned. Surely sun will appear by noon. Dino has an appointment with our good Dottore Bevilacqua this morning about his leg pain, and drops me off to paint more matonelle (tiles) at Elena's magazzino.

Now I'm using the better tiles; tiles with smooth backs. So cleaning the smalto by wiping the backs with a damp cloth takes far less time, and I'm able to paint sixteen before Dino picks me up to take me home for pranzo.

Dino's news is not great, but what we expected. The doctor gave Dino an injection on his rear and I am to continue this exercise for him each morning for a week. Evidently the Medrol medicine should be effective, but needs a jumpstart. These injections should do that. The bad news is that in a year or two, Dino will need surgery to repair a disc problem that has bothered him for decades.

I suppose for that we are grateful that we live here. I don't think we could afford an operation in the US, but here it should not cost much, thanks to the Italian medical system.

Elsewhere here in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi is expected to go on trial for paying an underage prostitute for sex. It's another sordid tale of our Prime Minister. But what's the country's option to this mega-mogul? We seem to be held hostage, with no viable candidate from the Center-Left to unseat him. It's no wonder that Italians hate their government...

We remain at peace with our choice to live here, pursuing our little projects and enjoying life within our little village. This afternoon, I hope to sit outside in the sun working on a little dress, but need to spend a bit of time in the studio on the sewing machine first.

Before I know it, it's 4 PM, and Mary's dress is complete except for some handwork on the front neckline. I'll do that work while we watch TV by the fire tonight. Then it's on to Sadie's companion dress, although the skirt of it is finished.

Once I finish the top of Sadie's dress and make a cape for Mary, there'll be little things like flowers made of the fabric to wear with barettes or headbands, and of course little handbags. I really miss not sewing for Nicole and Marissa...

While at Elena's today, two different women came in; one to fine Elena, who was not around and one who is a friend and wanted to use the phone. Both women seemed somewhat surprised that we live here and actually like it here. Both women seem to be beaten down by the Italian government; I think it is the bureaucracy.

In typical fashion, I kept my head down instead of chatting away, enjoying the fact that I have no more of the industrial tiles with the complicated backs to pulire (clean) before painting the fronts. I finished sixteen in the couple of hours before pranzo. Now it's time to do an accurate count of how many we'll actually use in the summer kitchen before beginning to work on the tile to cover the front wall of the pizza oven.

Although Dino continues to be in pain, he can't seem to stop puttering around. He put up the wooden box in the summer kitchen and I handed the jars of processed pomodori to him as he filled the shelves with what we have left from last year and then the empty jars waiting for this summer's harvest.

He builds a fire and Sofi and I move to the kitchen, to try to get him to sit down and watch tv. It's important that he enjoy himself, but I worry about him...I suppose that's the role of a good partner in life.

February 10
I must surely be worried about Dino; although I stopped taking the drops of Laroxyl for the first night in what must be a decade or more, I am sure that the pain in my face must be caused by worry. In the earliest hours of this morning, I woke up to take 1000 mg. of Tachiprina, but still felt pain at dawn.

Hoping against hope that this was not a migraine, I took a difmetre tablet, and lay for an hour until I dropped into a deep sleep. When I awoke, it was as if I had just been born again; such is the danger of becoming addicted to pain medicine. I am very thankful that I am not...

Dino is not in a good humor; he is in pain, and on a scale of 1-10, tells me he is at a 6. That is better than he was a few hours ago when I attempted to give him his injection; my first attempt resulted in the liquid running down his leg; the second time, the charm.

Let's switch gears: here is this morning's view of our narcissus bulbs in a pot from Provence.

Serena and Laura walk up this hill, instead of down the hill as they ventured yesterday. Calling up to Rosina on her balcony, they tell her that there will be Coro practice tomorrow night, because a grand-neice of Ernesta's will be baptized on Sunday. Dino thinks the mother is Paola.

Don't you think it's time you saw Rosina on her balcony? Here she is, loving the sun and ready for her fifteen minutes of fame:

They ask her to tell me and I call out; "Sono io!" (Here I am!) I walk out to the front of the terrace and they repeat the news to me. Va bene. Grazie.

Two men from the water company come to find out who and where to find the people who used to own our house; they want to collect a bill. We have no idea how to help, showing that our bill remains in our name.

I recall that friends who sold a property wanted to continue to keep the utility bills in their name; it had something to do with retaining credit until they found a new place to live. It had something to do with fooling the government; a hobby in which Italians take great pride.

When I awoke this morning, the sun was almost red; it appeared a fire-y harbinger, of what I don't know. If bad news appears later, we'll all be able to harken back to this. You see, it is a good thing to document small signs for later use...

Midmorning, we receive a phone call. I pick it up and call "Pronto!", into the receiver. A woman on the other end of the line rattles on in Italian, telling me something about a salon in Viterbo for salute e benessere (health and beauty) offering a free consultation. I ask her if she speaks English, and she answers by asking if I speak a little Italian. She is good at what she does! So I press on...

She asks me how old I am and I tell her that information is private. She asks again, ignoring my answer, and I respond by asking her what good a free consultation will do me if I won't understand what it says. Finally she gives up; it's not worth effort of a rope pull, with each of us at opposite ends.

With thoughts of niece Sarah and her little daughters on my mind, I imagine little Sadie jumping and spinning around in one of her dresses; let's make her last dress full of ruffles; the little half-sewn pieces from last night tiny matching purses for the girls. What fun! I hope the items are as much fun for all of them as they are for me.

Sofi sits on the old floor tiles in a sun-filled ray of light in the studio; soon she lies there to take a snooze, happy to wait and stay near me. I so love her!

Today's pranzo is chicken risotto with puntarelle salad; what a treat! Yes, we're able to have one more of these wonderful salads before they disappear until next winter...

I paint this afternoon for a couple of hours in Bomarzo and now feel as if I'm on a production line with the tiles for the summer kitchen. What's the rush? I do love the light and gentle sweep of the soft brush, and am beginning to wonder when to begin work on the new design for the pizza oven. Better find time to figure out the count at home.

Instead, I sew details on Sadie's dress in front of the fire while we watch Top Chef on TV, and then a movie. It's almost like being in California, or is it?

February 11
Is this weekend Presidents Day weekend in the US? Here it is just another weekend. Let's find ribbon in Viterbo to use for ties on the back of the little dresses...

Today is Day 2 of the injection for Dino's disc problem. He seems to be in less pain. I ask him why he does not ask to have the operation on his disc while he is younger, than waiting two years until the pain is unbearable? Lorenzo's surgeon in Rome is supposed to be quite excellent...

Sadly, neighbor Elisa died this morning at age 84. She was Donato's mother and our across the street neighbor at #4 Via Mameli. For several years she has sat, giving me hugs and kisses when I walk up to her sitting on a chair near their house. Here's a photo of her on Christmas Eve with her grand children and Babbo Natale.

Tonight is a Coro practice, because there is both a baptism (Ernesta's grand daughter) and Elisa's funeral on Sunday morning. I am so sad about Elisa that I can't seem to smile while singing the hymns. There is a special one I ask Federica if we can sing for her, but it is up to the priest. I'll ask him Sunday morning before mass.

After practice, I ask Dino to drive to their house and we walk in to give hugs to Donato, his sister and her husband, Otello. Everyone seems to be bearing up, including dear Donato, who arrives with groceries just as we are about to leave and has a smile on his face, although his eyes are sad.

So who was Elisa? She was a Vincenti, married to a Chiani, (Donato's father, who preceeded her.) Her sister is Quintilla, who is married to Marsiglia's brother, Gianino. Remember, Marsiglia is the widow of dear Felice and mother of Renzo. Got all that? Dino has it all documented in our Mugnano records.

February 12
Today we continue Dino's injections, and they seem to be working. Each day he is a little less stressed as he prepares the injection for me to jab into the back side of one hip or the other.

We drive up to Bomarzo and pick up Duccio and Giovanna, for a jaunt to Perugia, a city Dino does not like one bit. There is a 4th century (!) church Duccio would like to see, and it is Saint Michael the Archangel Church, the oldest in Perugia.

Despite maps and computer aiding, we get lost and find ourselves driving around in circles; at one point we're just up from the apartment we rented for that hellish month we went to language school at the Università per Stranieri in July, 2002.

The church is a wonder, with four capelli (chapels), one on each side of a tall expanse of mattonelle (brick tiles). Take a look:

Afterward, Duccio wants to eat at a restaurant in Torgiano, but it is closed; so we ask and it is recommended that we eat at a restaurant that looks strangely familiar; we ate there in 2002 with Peggy and Mike and Jess Murphy!

The food is very good, as well as is a deep red wine from nearby Montefalco that is new to us, although we love the town. I ask Dino to take a photo of the label and we'll ask our friends at L'Alchemista next time we are there.

We drive back down the E45 on the way home and stop at a not to miss Santuario di Madonna del Bagni.

If you like ceramics and want to visit Deruta, the mother lode of ceramics in Italy, you simply must take the back road from Deruta Sud (South) off the E45 to it. Once you reach the location, it's a climb up two flights of brick steps, but is definitely worth it.

Inside are hundreds and hundreds of ex voto painted tiles covering every wall, dedicated to the Saint. The initials P G R appear on many of them, standing for Per Grazia Ricevuta (for Grace received).

So what does that all mean? Well, for more than three hundred years, people who were quite ill and prayed to the Madonna for help, then were healed, gifted an ex-voto to the Madonna as a thank you for the miracle of their return to health, on which was illustrated the scene.

Others prayed for material things or actions, and the ex-voto was gifted for Madonna's intercession with God resulting in their hoped for miracle. We also found ex-votos here given in thanksgiving for blessings not even requested. We were told there were seven hundred or more of them, all in painted ceramics in keeping with the wealth of ceramic artistry for which the the area is famous. One we located on a sidewall was dated as recently as 2008. So the tradition continues.

I'll certainly write up a story about it for Italian Notebook, as well as the St. Michael Archangel church in Perugia. These are both wonderful off the beaten path sites, so don't roll your eyes as in "Oh. Another church. Blah, blah." These two are very unusual and definitely worth the effort.

Back in Bomarzo, Dino drops us off at Elena's magazzino, where I show Duccio and Giovanna what my tiles look like both before and after they are cooked in the oven. Dino drives home and works on projects for a couple of hours, then picks me up.

He's counted the tiles that are finished and tiles I still have to paint for the summer kitchen. Strangely, although I have painted about 150, we need somewhere between 50 and 80 more, just for this room. Only then will I switch to painting the tiles for the front of the pizza oven.

Sempre Avanti! (always forward), I tell myself, for these newer tiles are easier to clean and easier to paint. I do love the experience, and both Elena and Antonio are wonderful, dipping tiles in smalto, making sure the heat and the best lights are on while I paint...

Although we are paying for the dipping and cooking of the tiles and probably the time I am there, it's really worth it. In fact, Elena's style is characteristic and unlike that found in Deruta, so I tell her I will write a story about her for Italian Notebook and will interview her next week. I see it as Part Two of a double story beginning with the story behind the tiles at the Santuario di Madonna del Bagno....

If you come to Italy and love ceramics, as I do, her shop is worth the visit; you can find her near the Park of the Monsters (Sacred Grove of Bomarzo), and she is on the main road heading up the hill from the park. Her web site is: www.ceramichedielena.it. Tell her I sent you and watch her lovely face beam!


February 13
Dino seems much better, and although the skies are a bit gloomy, we're both doing well. We walk up to church early, and the Coro has special seating to the right of the altar. We do double duty this morning: one happy baptism, one sad funeral; one right after the other.

Sadly, the gathering scatters while some new people join those already in church to send dear Elisa on her way to heaven. Don Renzo officiates at both services, but apologizes that he cannot lead the procession to the cemetery; he has a mass at the Duomo in Bomarzo this morning that he must lead.

Dino and I walk in the procession as far as our gate and then stay at home for an hour or two to greet Sofi and have pranzo before Dino takes me to Bomarzo to paint for a couple of hours.

He picks me up around 4 PM, just as rain under a menacing sky scatters on the windshield; we move the newly cooked ceramic tiles into the summer kitchen and Dino makes a fire in the fireplace.

It's time to settle down and watch movies for a while. It seems a fitting day for Elisa, telling us all to spend quiet time at home with loved ones as she is readied for her move to heaven.

I don't feel like sewing. Sixteen more tiles are now ready for the oven, and while I painted earlier I noticed that the door of the little forno (oven) in the magazzino is closed, indicating more of my tiles are being cooked.

Let's do nothing for the rest of the day.

February 14
I'm reading Hillary Clinton's book: Living History, in which she speaks about graduating from Wellesley College in 1969 and the tumult over the Vietnam War. "If not now, when?" was the slogan so familiar to all of us who were around then.

We're having prima colazione (breakfast) at Bar Quadrifoglio (four leafed clover), when we take a look at the newspaper. It's headlines indicate protests taking place yesterday all over Italy against Berlusconi and for the dignity of women. "Se non adesso, quando?" (If not now, when?) was the cry, and in the words of Yogi Berra, "It's déjà vu all over again!" It's taken Italian women more than fifty years to follow women in America, but so what?

Berlusconi allegation triggers protest by women across Italy
Hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets across Italy on Sunday to demand better treatment for women, days after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi came under investigation for engaging in prostitution with a minor.

The nationwide protest followed the filing of a request by prosecutors Wednesday for Berlusconi to stand trial for allegedly paying a 17-year-old girl for sex and abusing power in trying to cover it up. The event was organized by a nonpartisan women's group whose members describe themselves on their Facebook page as "neither desperate, nor housewives."

"Women in this country are denigrated by the repeated, indecent and ostentatious representation of women as a naked sexual object on offer in newspapers, televisions and advertising," said protest organizer Ida Poletto, a married hotel manager who has two sons. "It's intolerable."

Demonstrators gathered in more than 230 cities and towns across Italy under the slogan "If not now, then when?" (Se non adesso, quando?) Protests were also organized in London, Brussels, Tokyo, Boston and Athens. Supporters said more than 1 million people attended the rallies. Police did not publish an official estimate.

The biggest were in Rome, where more than 50,000 gathered in the Piazza del Popolo, and Milan, where the crowd spilled out of the Piazza Castello into the surrounding streets and piazzas. Rallies in Naples and Turin also drew tens of thousands of demonstrators, where speaker after speaker defended the dignity of women and called on Berlusconi, 74, to resign.

Few women hold positions of power in Italy. In politics, while a woman served once as foreign minister, not one has ever held a higher ministerial portfolio than health or education. In business, women fill about 7 percent of Italy's corporate management positions, compared with an average of 30 to 35 percent in other developed nations, a 2010 study by the research firm Gea-Consulenti Associati showed.

- Washington Post and Bloomberg News

Dino drops me off at Elena's magazzino, and I quickly paint the seven remaining tiles. Antonio and Elena arrive, and I thought they were traveling to Deruta today. But first, they smalto (dip) another sixteen tiles for me, and before Dino returns with the new termosifone (radiator) for the kitchen, I've cleaned the bottoms of all of them and are well on the way to painting the lot, with no time to stop to read Il Messagero, which Dino picked up for me in the event I had to wait for him. Magari!

Plenty of tiles are ready to be taken out of the little forno in the magazzino, and we take them out and put them in a box to bring home.

I want to sit down for a bit to read the paper, wondering what I'll be able to decipher, but first look up the word magazzino in the new dictionary. It means warehouse, and when I write about where I paint, it's only a room with shelves for Elena's unpainted ceramics and an oven, in addition to one large work table, a couple of chairs, a potter's wheel and a tiny toilet and sink in a little room to the side.

I've been thinking quite a bit about the conversation I had with Duccio on Saturday. What if a woman replaced Berlusconi? Golda Maier, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel...there is plenty of precedent.

I found myself excited during that conversation as if I were young again, thinking that the people of Italy could bring the country out of its financial problems, although Duccio could not understand. He was skeptical that it was possible, and when I brought up the concept of recycling of an example of how Italians are doing their part, he tells me he does not believe in recycling!

I ask him why and he tells me that everything that is recycled is dumped in landfill, because there is no processing facility in Lazio. His comments sadden me, although I love the dear man like a brother.

For so many years, the Italian people have not been treated with respect by their government, and that seems to have resulted in Italians believing that family is king and the government is just something to put up with.

I'll have to email my friend Carol, to see what her ideas are about leadership seminars for Italian women given by prominent women in America. If only I was younger...I'm too old to take an active role, but oh, how I would revisit my university days and participate...

I'm feeling pressure in my jaw again, but a tachipirina is all I need for the ache. Those migraines are hopefully a thing of the past. This is Dino's final day of injections, so he's moving to Medrol tablets and searching for the brace he used to wear; a brace similar to the one that friend Enzo wears every day. Yes, adding years to one's life brings unexpected changes, but we'll deal with them.

The weather is sweet; tiny birds sing to me from the open window in the studio. It's a good afternoon to sit in the sun and read the paper, with a marker to underline things that I want to look up and don't yet understand.

Instead, we take inventory of the tiles and drive to Deruta to pick up the 100 more that we'll need to finish the summer kitchen and do the pizza oven tiles. On the way back, we stop at Spazio Verde and don't find what we want (edging for the curved path in the center garden from the secret garden gate) and decide to drive to Tufitalia tomorrow instead to pick up what we'll need.

The day ends quietly with a lovely fire and the three of us together on the couch. I've taken the newspaper out and underlined words that I'm not sure about on the first page. Yes, I'm finally getting serious about understanding the nuances of the Italian language. Sigh.

February 15
Tufitalia is our destination on this foggy, then sunny morning. The three of us drive down the A-1 and exit at Magliano Sabina. Tufitalia is reached down a long oak-lined stradabianca (white road, although there is no white to be seen...)

Sheep grazing, guarded by a shepherd and three Maremanno (large white indigenous) sheep dogs, add to the tranquillità (tranquil scene...I'm beginning to think in Italian!)

Tufitalia's dig itself is a wonder, and we learn that it was begun in 1973 and will end in about 4 to 5 years, with 2 meters left to carve out of the soft limestone-like stone. Tufa bricks and blocks are found in all manner of construction in Northern Lazio. Our little village is perched on a tufa outcropping, and there's a story there...

We can only fit 24 6cm bricks in the back of little Pandina, but Dino thinks that is enough to frame the little curved walkway in the secret garden.

We drive back, and are stopped just outside Mugnano by Carabinieri at a road stop; these men appear to be from Attigliano, well, the force comprised of men from Attigliano, Giove and Penna. We're not nervous of these stops any more, and Dino calmly takes out his patente di guida (Italian driver's license) and the car libretto (registration). It is taken back to their car, where the data is called into a central location to make sure Dino is not a criminal and that the car is indeed legal with all its proper documenti documents.

Is the reason for this stop the fact that it is a lovely day, and the men need to show their attention to their work? There are no questions this time; years before, inquisitive carabinieri (policemen) wanted to know where we were going and why we were here. No longer.

At home, Dino and I mark off the path, and he tells me he won't need to get down on his knees for much of the trenching. I'm not thrilled, wishing we could convince Germano to come to our house to work for us for a couple of hours to do this leg work.

After pranzo, Dino and Sofi take me to Bomarzo to paint; there are ten of the old more expensive tiles that I need to paint in the darkest blue to match the first painted tiles of several years ago. Then we will be finished with the tiles for the summer kitchen. Magari

Dino appears a bit miffed that the design for the tiles to cover the front of the pizza oven is in my head. "Don't you need to draw it out to scale?" he utters. I reply, "It will take me about an hour...Since there will be plenty of white tiles in the design, I'm not concerned.

Percorso:ANSA.it , ANSA English > News Berlusconi sent to trial over Ruby case Premier denies using underage prostitute, first hearing April 6 15 February, 12:07
ANSA) - Milan, February 15 - Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi was sent to trial on Tuesday to face charges of allegedly having sex with an underage prostitute called Ruby and allegedly using his position to get the Moroccan runaway and belly dancer out of jail after an unrelated accusation of theft.

Preliminary investigations judge Cristina Di Censo granted a request prosecutors made last week for an immediate trial and set the first hearing for April 6. Berlusconi, 74, and Ruby, now 18, deny having sex and she says money he gave her was a gift.

The case came to light when the premier phoned a Milan police station in May and enquired about the then 17-year-old, saying she was, as she had told him, the niece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

He said he did so to avoid a diplomatic incident.

Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, was released into the custody of ex-showgirl Nicole Minetti, the premier's former dental hygienist and now a regional councillor in Lombardy, the area around Milan.

Ruby, whose stage name is Heart Stealer, was supposed to stay with Minetti or go to a juvenile shelter but instead was handed over to a Brazilian prostitute.

Judicial sources said Monday the wider investigation into Minetti, Berlusconi news anchor Emilio Fede and talent scout Lele Mora for allegedly procuring prostitutes "should be closed by the weekend". Prosecutors say they have "ample evidence" from wiretaps that Ruby was a prostitute, as were a "significant number" of other young women who attended Berlusconi's famous 'bunga bunga' parties.

They say the body of evidence is so heavy that it warranted an immediate trial, skipping a preliminary hearing.

Using a sex worker under the age of 18 carries a jail term of up to three years.

Abuse of office carries a term ranging from six to 12 years. Like most cases regarding the premier, the Ruby affair has split Italy with demos for and against him.

The premier, who says he was spied by ''moralistic'' voyeurs as in pre-1990 East Germany, still has an edge in opinion polls.

He has vowed to punish what he describes as hostile prosecutors, resurrecting a wiretap bill that stalled in parliament when his former ally turned fierce critic, House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, withdrew his key support.

The premier's staunch ally, the regionalist Northern League, has vowed to stick by the premier and support his legislation, provided they secure their long-sought project of fiscal federalism, where more tax earnings remain where they are generated.

The Northern League agreed to back the Prime Minister for its own gains, and not because they believed he was innocent. Benvenuto a Italia (Welcome to Italy.)

In a separate article regarding this weekend's demonstrations...(ANSA) - Rome, February 14 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday said he had no intention of heeding calls to quit from Italian women who staged protests throughout Italy Sunday to express indignation at his latest sex scandal.

The 74-year-old said he would stay at the helm of government because he had not ''betrayed the voters' mandate'' and described Milan prosecutors' allegations he used an underage prostitute called Ruby as ''shameful.

Separately, under the title, "I can't remember if I already wrote about this" (ha)...
Percorso:ANSA.it , ANSA English > News Italian breakthrough in war on forgetfulness

New protein boosts memory, says researcher in US
11 February, 15:16 (ANSA) - Rome - An Italian researcher in the United States has made a breakthrough in the war on memory loss with potential implications for people who think their memory is going as well as sufferers from full-blown memory disorders.

Cristina Alberini of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York has discovered a protein that boosts memory by building stronger bridges between nerve cells, a possible boon for patients with nerve-wasting conditions like Alzheimer's as well as forgetful healthy people.

Cristina Alberini of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York said the IGF-II protein reinforces the formation of memories and makes them more lasting.

"We found that if IGF-II was administered to mice in the crucial phase of the formation and recollection of a memory, it boosts the memory, making it longer-term," Alberini told ANSA.

"As far as we know this is the first demonstration of the possibility of effectively improving memory via a natural molecule which passes without problems through the blood-brain barrier.

"It could be administered via an injection to reinforce memory in both patients with dementia and healthy persons".

Alberini's study, which focuses on the brain's memory centre in the hippocampus, was published in the journal Nature.

February 16
We wake to rain and grey skies. Inside, I'm researching glicine (wisteria) photos and beginning to map out the design for the front of the pizza oven. Yes, Dino, I do need to map it out, although many of the tiles will be white.

Today's a day for cece e rosemarino (soup of garbanzo beans and rosemary in chicken broth). If you make this dish, be sure to use only fresh rosemary, for the dried herb ruins the dish, as evidenced by a disaster when we were in San Francisco and I thought I'd make an Italian specialty.

February 17
Dino wants to lie the nursery cloth down for our secret garden path, so we slide out the long roll and find that we have just enough to complete what we need. We have owned the roll for ten years, and thought we would never use it all...but we did. Later today Dino will set it down so that its edges finish under the tufa blocks lining the path, and then hopes we'll have enough breccia (crushed stone, gravel) to fill it in.

Crunchy gravel under foot is one of the sounds that endeared me to Italy years ago (Enchanted April), and there is plenty of it on our property.

Here is the finished path....

A story of mine on a local wine, Est!Est!Est! (It is! Its is! It is!) is published today, so take a look: www.italiannotebook.com/food-wine/est-est-est

We drive to Viterbo for errands, including more nastro (ribbon) for Mary and Sadie's capes, and I can hardly wait to finish them. We'll have photos for you here, when they're ready to send.

Dino wants zucchini fiore (flowers) for pranzo with grilled pork fillets, so we purchase and flour them in a batter mixed with a bottle of beer and fry them in girasole (sunflower) oil so that they won't be too heavy.

I return to sewing the little capes before returning this afternoon to interview Elena for a story about her craft for Italian Notebook

Dino takes photos of the process in which Elena works to develop an ancient and complex craft only used in one other bottega in Italy of which she knows, and that one is somewhere in Tuscany. Yes, she is worthy of a story.

Later in the month, we'll show you the photos, for some will be before and after photos of things she has painted and have not yet had their time in the forno (oven).

Dino is searching for a part to rework the little bombola we purchased this morning in Viterbo. It will fit under the grill in the summer kitchen, but only if the fitting for it is reconfigured. Dino always finds a way...

We try a shop in Bomarzo, and also in Attigliano, to no avail. So the next time we're in Viterbo, we'll visit two places that might have what Dino needs.

Back at home, the sky has turned a deep cobalt blue; the hill in the foreground seeming to curl in on itself as if its darkness is more than darkness, giving off a feeling of foreboding...

Inside, Dino scoops up last night's ashes in the kitchen fireplace and builds a new fire. The night is cold, and later Sofi and I will snuggle under a lap robe watching T V. But now, my mind is all about the fashioning of little capes and ribbons.

February 18
A bit of sun, some wispy clouds, and the weather is perfect to do our annual tree pruning. Dino is ready with his tools, and the three of us saunter out through our lovely new secret garden path to tackle the peach tree first. I worry that in February one has to prune their peach trees in this area or the leaves and fruit will be covered with a blight you don't want me to write about. Needless to say, it's bubbly and ugly, and who wants to eat fruit that looks like that?

Dino loves this project, or I think he does, for he does it well. I have not researched our many garden books or the internet this year, for I want to see what we can do based on what we have learned in previous years. Dino's cuts are excellent, Sarah! We take in the tree a bit, for don't want the branches growing over the wire fence; the fruit is too difficult to pick there.

That tree done, we move down to the amerena (sour black cherry), and talk about the importance of sculpting the tree for future years. This tree has far too many branches...

The volunteer amerenaon the other side of the path frames our way to the eating area covered with, you guessed it, four more glycine. We don't have fruit on this little tree, and may not, but the tree is lovely just the same.

I leave him alone to prune the enormous fig; a tree with so big a trunk it reminds me of an elephant, and it's time for pranzo, so fix panini(sandwiches) of tonno (tuna); tuna is popular here, too.

After pranzo, I return to cape sewing and tell myself that the girls may not be able to wear the fashions for very long, but that's all right with me. It's the surprise on their faces and happiness the clothes bring them that gives me joy.

The capes are VERY complicated, but so what?

We walk up to Federica's to meet little Edoardo and give him a little outfit. He is dear and tiny, about three weeks old, not able to see yet but adorable just the same. We sit with Federica and Enrico, who tells us that IPERCOOP, the huge market where he works in Viterbo, is completely changing its store.

There are portable cellphone-like objects that members can take with them now and aim them toward the bar code of each item as they place it into their basket; at the checkout, somehow it all works out. Wonder what the checkers' union thinks about it...We'll let you know what we think the next time we visit.

We walk home, and on the way are invited in to see Anna and Franco's work restoring Argentina's little house. They've done a fine job, using all original tiles and huge beams.

She tells us her grandfather owned the property at the beginning of the 20th century and during the 1960's, the soffito(ceiling) was lowered in a modern style. Only when they opened it up recently did they see what wonderful "bones" the unit had. Bravo to them.

Dino sees Enzo and Luca getting out of their car, and asks Enzo if he'll come to connect the new termosifone (radiator) in the kitchen idraulico (plumber) and also to find out why our water pressure is so low. Next week, he'll do the work. Va bene.

As we pass Peppino's garage, he drives up the hill and asks us to wait. Out of his car, he hugs Sofi and picks her up; she dearly loves him. He also tells us that this weather, a two-week warm spell every February, is finto (a false) spring, so is dangerous, for flowers begin to bloom and then in March the frost and ice return, only to destroy the spring flowers and plants.

We return home and Dino returns to cut up kindling for the fireplace from the trees he pruned earlier today. I return to the studio to sew the capes and wait for Sarah's measurements for the blouses.

Earlier, Dino mapped out the tiles for the pizza oven in squares and I will use colored pencil to map out the design, once I have a place to lay the large expanse of paper out, probably tomorrow. He asks me to number them on the backs, so we'll see if magic marker will hold up during cooking.

February 19
It's a lovely cold sunny morning, and we're up early. While I wait to receive a couple of last measurements to fashion the tiny blouses, I conjure up a different slant on the second cape.

Fixing the bombola for the summer kitchen grill is high on Dino's list, but he hates to drive to Viterbo on Saturdays because the stores are too crowded! We also need to wait for Germano, who promises to arrive early with a bucket of cement to use to close up the electrical unit near the old main gate.Magari...(If only...or we doubt it!)

Germano does arrive...and on time! I was too tired last night to begin the short ribs then, so stay at home to cook them while Dino drives to Viterbo to pick up the part he needs.

I admit I'd rather be sewing, and now that it appears I'll have too many (!) capes for Mary and Sadie, look at taking the largest one and saving it for Nicole, and making the last one for Marissa. I'm feeling a bit guilty, since I did not sew for the grand daughters last November. The fall took all my energy.

So I'll add the special secret things for the littlest girls as well as the blouses and four outfits in all, and hope everyone will be happy.

I fix short ribs and put them in the oven for almost three hours, then return to sewing and doing laundry. The day continues warm and sunny, but the forecast is for change, so let's get all the laundry done today. Chug-chug-chug...we don't know how to relax, do we?

While I catch up with you, birds outside the window sing along, and we've missed not hearing them. They are a part of the reason that living here is so joyous.

Someone sends us a link to Jon Stewart's story on Berlusconi, and it is very funny. Look it up on the internet if you want to see it. Funny, if it were not so sad...

Marsciallo must be a word in dialect, for I cannot find it anywhere. Peppino used it yesterday, and I do want to learn what it means. So I email Paola, who has no idea...

February 20
The sky is overcast, and it appears to have rained last night, but it's clear when we drive up to church. But while we are gone, a person breaks through the far side gate and then breaks the wood on a closed shutter, then jams the window open. Luckily, Sofi is right there in her gabbia (cage) and in true form, goes nuts!

Her rage evidently works, for whomever it is rushes out, leaving the window and screen open and the gate to the now not so secret garden wide open...

We return to find nothing taken, but are bummed. Now I agree to the immediate installation of iron bars on the windows, and Dino will contact Lorenzo to proceed immediately. If you are the guilty person reading this, what did we ever do to you? Where is your heart? Where is your kindness of spirit; a kindness that we know you have somewhere inside you? There must be a better way for you to live your life...

So from now on, someone will be in the house all the time. No jaunts together, no shopping together; it's up to Dino to shop and me to guard the house alongside Sofi, who is the best guard dog and has the best nose around. Brava, Sofia!

I'll walk up to Coro practice at night alone when we have it, and only one of us will attend church on Sunday mornings. We call the carabinieri and Roberto arrives. He is a friend, and gives us some guidance that we appreciate.

I spend a lot of the afternoon and early evening sewing, and the results are wonderful. Thank goodness for projects, for we're both nose-deep into our own things, trying to keep busy and our minds off the intrusion. It would help if you don't email us about it, Don. Let's just move on. Sempre Avanti! (Always forward!)

There's a lovely fire in the fireplace this afternoon, for it is cold and rainy. Dino had seen a round grate on someone's fireplace way up near the ceiling, and wonders if it helps to keep the air circulating and smoke from wafting into the room. It's a good thing to keep his mind off this morning's event.

Mid afternoon, our projects are interrupted for a while when Tiziano and Alessia arrive to see the changes in the garden and summer kitchen. We also show them the damage. It's better to speak about good things, so we have tea in the kitchen beside the fire in the fireplace, and go over Dino's binder of the Mugnano family tree.

Alessia's mother is a Romoli, one of the two largest families in Mugnano, and agrees to ask her mother, who knows a lot about the different branches of the family and she thinks will be happy to fill in a number of details.

It's time to meet with the Ecomuseo folks, and we hope to do that soon. I've agreed to do a separate document to show how the families relate to each other, succumbing to Dino's firm belief that the only name to appear on the visual tree is the first person in a family who enters Mugnano. From there, we're hoping that anyone can go to a kiosk where they can type in their name and see the relationships there.

Antonio and Alberto can put together that part of the tree, with Dino's help. Dino can only find software in English, and we think what we need is a software in Italian...This has surely become a complicated project, with almost one thousand names in the database for a village of eighty people!

February 21
Dino leaves after prima colazione (breakfast) to meet with Roberto at the carabinieri office to file a denuncia (report) and will also call Alessandro our assicurazione (insurance) advisor, to tell him about the break-in but that there is little damage.

Sofi and I stay around. I catch up with you and work to finish the last of the little dresses for the nipoti (nieces). But before I'm finished, I also research glicine (wisteria) trunks, for I'm ready to begin to paint more tiles; these to appear on the front of the pizza oven.

Dino returns with a copy of the denuncia and pranzo commences. He's called Lorenzo, who has cancelled another appointment later this afternoon and will arrive here to measure for the iron grates. He knows we're in a great rush.

Dino fixes the side gate and reinstalls it, and agrees that we can be together for ten minutes here and there in the car; this time for him to drop me off at Elena's to begin the new painting project for an hour or two.

The finished work on the front of the pizza oven will be fourteen tiles high, each tile 10cm x 10cm. I paint thirteen of them in a winding trunk, and tomorrow hope to work on the next row. I'm quite happy with the look, but recall that after tiles come out of the oven the result is usually a very different matter. Sigh.

Dino picks me up; he's been at home and we return home to no evidence of any visitors. I can't help returning to the sewing and finish the dresses. Niece Sarah emails me with the measurements I need to fashion the little blouses, and I hope to finish them in a day or so.

Lorenzo arrives and he and Dino take the measurements and discuss the work. I'd like to think that by the time you read this they've been installed, but that's asking for a lot. In the meantime, we're vigilant and one of us is always at home.

Sitting by the fire in the fireplace is a lovely way to end a busy day.

February 22
Dino has taken photos of the tiles, so that I can work out a template as I go, and prints the first five of them. My brain works better when I can design as I go along. Don't know what that means about me, other than I am joyous in the face of creating something, and fearless regarding attempts at my art.

I'm thinking of the painting Hildegarde, and perhaps it is a painting of a woman's will, courageous and fearless, that I so admire. I suppose it's no wonder my brother did not want it; he did not think it looked like or remind him of my mother. I love the painting and love having it here. It all worked out.

Dino drives to Viterbo to find bins and wood to make storage units for the large opening at the back of the pizza oven. Dino does not know how to relax, either. I'm happy that he'll bring back a pollo arrosto (roast chicken) from IPERCOOP. That means I don't have to do much prep work for pranzo.

I unload and stack all the finished blue and white tiles, but until I know the height and width of the back wall Dino has in mind, can't really lay them out. So let's return to the studio and make the tiny white blouses in a kind of crepe material, very chic.

After pranzo, Dino takes me to paint for an hour or so, and when we're finished he tells me the thinks he flowers are too small. It's a perspective from a distance, but tomorrow I'll paint five more with leaves and flowers in a larger size. Either way is fine with me.

I'm not sure I understand the "lost wax" method as it applies to ceramics, so we stop before returning home to ask Elena about it. She uses the process as a design effect element, and here is an example, where the design appears spotty:

... and now I understand. There is so much in life that is joyous, and much of it has to do with learning and trying new things. Yes, I fully understand the joy and passion with which my father repeatedly uttered, "Learn everything!" as he advanced in age.

I return to working on the blouses, and without a pattern it's a bit complicated. So I take my time and will return to it tomorrow. Since I'm at home most of the time these days, there's no rush.

Coro practice is cancelled for tonight, and for that I am relieved. We've been looking for Sofi's shot records, and realize Silvia may have them; Dino calls and yes, she coincidentally found them yesterday! She'll come by this weekend and drop them off, but it's too soon for Sofi's periodic stripping.

February 23
I spent most of the night fighting a growing pain in my face and head, and finally give in to taking Tachiprina and the more important Difmetré before taking a mostly cold shower and returning to bed to try to cool down and sleep it off.

Dino takes the opportunity to return to Viterbo to buy wood for his building project of shelves behind the pizza oven in the cucina estate (summer kitchen) and takes one of the capes for the nipotini to a merceria to buy sizing for its neck.

Sofi wakes me up two hours later and the day is sunny and very bright (perhaps its my imagination). I take down colored pencils to work on a life-size drawing of glicine flowers and leaves. If I'm up to it, I'll use it as a template to paint five more tiles to see if the final ceramic design will be larger, as Dino suggested after viewing the flowers I painted yesterday.

With Italy deriving one third of Libya's exported oil, we're bound to see an enormous spike in price of oil here. Russia becomes an even more important player, but will it have trouble getting it's oil to market?

Gaddafi appears on TV and we realize he has not escaped to Venezuela after all. He announces that he'll die trying to retain his hold on the government as a martyr. There is some talk that he will use warplanes to kill his people who revolt first, killing many thousands. Will he prevail? The media thinks his time is tenuous. He appears on TV as a cross between a rabid dog and Walter Mitty...

Dino returns with a dozen dark blue plastic lugs from the wholesale fruit market; lugs that will be used to store things in the alcove behind the pizza oven. There is also plenty of wood, cut to size, so he'll be busy this afternoon making the storage units to house them. Vai! Vai! (Go! Go!) That is what Italians say when they're encouraging someone to do something subito (right now).

He also returns with one meter of dura per collo (sizing for a collar) from a merceria in Viterbo, usually used to make shirt collars for men. It's what I will use to stiffen the collar of the nipotina's cape to mail to the girls for their birthday in June. If we receive their current measurements soon, that is what we'll do.

Gold and silver harem pants and filmy gold and silver starred dark blue long capes to wear with the pants will also go. Since the gold and pink cape and skirt I'm working on will probably go to Nicole, perhaps with a kind of lamŽ top, I'll then make an ornate and dramatic fishy scale skirt and top for Marissa. That means Nicole will get the gold pants and Marissa will receive the silver. Silver is more sea-like, anyway, and she's the happy swimmer. I believe that Nicole is more into drama. Let's hope these make them dance around and love them.

Being a grandmother is an amazing feeling. I am so filled with joy when I can make something for loved ones, especially if I've also created it. What's with the headache? I still have the medicine-y lightheaded feeling, but can't seem to stop sewing.

That's probably why I cut up the rest of yesterday's roast chicken and fixed a chicken and saffron risotto for pranzo. I am really tired, so Sofi and I find our way upstairs to catch up with you and then try to lie down.

Feeling somewhat better later, I work on Sadie's blouse a bit, but have little energy. When we go to bed, I am unable to sleep, so read for an hour or so before deciding to rest until dawn.

February 24
The day begins sunny and bright with a serenade of birdsong, but inside my head a headache rages. Time for a medicine cocktail again, and a bit of rest, before rising and slowly moving forward.

Dino drills through the back of the bathroom armadio (cabinet). This will make room for an instant water heater that will be installed any day. In the studio, I return to Sadie's blouse, and perhaps in a day or two the package will be ready to send to Sarah. I'll include photos here and wonder what it would be like to be a dress designer for specialty clothing for children...

Ha, ha. Once the photos appear, if the designs are any good, they'll probably be copied in Asia. Wouldn't it be funny to see the outfits being worn by children we don't know as we pass by? There I go, the dreamer... always the dreamer.

What a luxury to be a dreamer without consequence these days! At the very least, it keeps my mind off the throbbing of my head, as Sofi sits by my side in the sun, ever-watchful...

In the news, the strangest story...Ahmadenajad in Iran preaches to his neighbors to heed the cries of the populace in their countries. It's an example of "Do what I say, not what I do..."

(CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday urged Middle East leaders to listen to the voices of citizens who have taken to the streets in masses to demand a change in government -- though such protests in his own country have been crushed with brute force.

Ahmadinejad "strongly recommended such leaders to let their peoples express their opinions," the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

"He further urged those leaders of regional countries who respond to the demands of their nations and their revolutionary uprisings with hot bullets to join their peoples' movements instead of creating blood baths."

Huh? He seems to think that Iran will flourish as other neighboring countries fall under the weight of their oppositions...

Dino leaves before 8 PM to pick up Enzo for the confraternità cena (confraternity dinner) for Don Renzo, while Sofi and I sit on the couch and watch a movie. He returns later with photos.

February 25
After a cold and cuddly night, we wake to clear, cold skies. No, Mary's blouse has just been started, so the package won't be able to be sent until at least Monday.

We continue to be stressed about the break-in, although nothing was taken, and ask Dino if he can speak with a carabinieri in Bomarzo about watching the house while we're at mass to say goodbye to Don Renzo on Sunday.

Dino will be in confraternità garb on the altar in the mass to also welcome a new priest, we believe. I should be there in the Coro, but plan to tell Dino when he returns that I will not leave the house until the grates have been installed.

During the night I thought of ways to guard the house, including asking a neighbor who does not attend church to watch from Via Porta Antica above us to thwart any would-be intruders, fortified with a hot thermos of coffee.

I work in the studio on little Mary's blouse, and yes, it's also a complicated design, but so what? I love every minute spent on it, sending love their way as I sew. The fact that it's a design without a template, and she's not here for a fitting, makes it a bit more difficult. Thanks, Sarah dear, for emailing me the diameter of her head so that the blouse will fit over it easily.

What makes the design more complicated is that we don't have as much material as I had thought, so perhaps there will be ribbons in the sleeves to add a bit more width. Anything's possible.

Dino returns after confirming with Elena that they'll cook any tiles not painted, for we need white tiles as part of the design on the pizza oven. He asks her if there is any kind of pen that we could use to number the tiles to make sure the design is organized accurately, and she tells him she'll pick up a special pencil when they are in Deruta on Monday. I surely hope they will visit the nearby Santuario to see the hundreds of "ex votos" on the walls.

He stopped at a hardware store to buy a few more padlocks, and the owner tells him that people are buying locks these days. Perhaps we are not the only people preyed upon. Elena and Antonio were quite surprised to hear that thieves came to tranquil Mugnano.

I tell him I will not leave the house until the grates have been installed, including tomorrow morning. He sadly nods, and that's just the way it is. Lorenzo works nonstop on the grates, and we should have them quite soon. Bless him, we did not even ask for a preventivo (estimate), knowing that he will give us a fair price.

For all these years (fourteen this fall), I've fought against grates on the windows. These days, our peace of mind is more important. We have no idea if thieves are Italian, or if their movements throughout Central Europe and the Middle East and Africa have people looking for better lives or easier marks. We have little to take, and as Tom Maxwell used to say, "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff!"

Dino found agretti (a spring grassy vegetable) at the market, and I fix it with olive oil, minced garlic and lemon to have with grilled pork fillets and a salad. It's a wonderful vegetable, looks like long grass, but has a fresh and tender taste. I think it is more commonly called "roscano" or "barba di frate" in the U.S. Delish! Note: barba di frate" translates to "monk's beard".

I return to Mary's blouse with Sofi by my side, and add a new component that I hope will succeed to the sleeves. Hopefully I'll finish it tomorrow and post photos at month end.

February 27
Dino decides that it is more important for me to attend church this morning than he, for he can be replaced on the altar, but I cannot be replaced in coro.

I walk up the hill and all nine members of the group appear, along with Angela and Rafaello from Attigliano to augment our singing with his voice and keyboard and her monitoring of the beats as we sing.

Don Renzo arrives early, dressed in his Franciscan brown garb and sweater. He rushes over to us and kisses each one; it's a crescendo of emotion that leaves Federica and I in tears as we all practice singing before the beginning of mass. Neighbors gather and are treated to our rehearsal...that is, if you call listening to us a treat.

Don Renzo wears a priest's vestment over his brown habit, and tells us he is leaving for Frascati, but not to worry; priests are God's messengers and his leaving just means another chapter with another priest to meet. This one will be from the Viterbo diocese. He reminds us that he has been here eighteen months since September 26th 2009; what is the significance of the number 26? In my mind I know that in our lives it signifies the day we were married, and on our past anniversary he began his work in Bomarzo and little Mugnano.

In a stroke of genius, the last piece we sing is Salve Regina, a Gregorian chant Don Renzo taught us, and he leads us just above us at the edge of the altar. Oh, how I remember him teaching us the piece, and how wonderful it feels to sing it in this manner. Today is especially moving for all of us.

All the while, Dino and Sofi guard the house, with Dino ready with his camera to "shoot" any would-be intruders. No, he does not use a gun, nor does he need to.

I leave right after mass, not wanting to speak with anyone, and silently walk home under what appears to be the beginning of a soft and gentle rain. It is so good to be home, on this melancholy day under colorless skies.

With no need to shop, Sofi and I return to the studio. I catch up with you and turn to Mary's blouse for an hour, and to be alone with my thoughts.

The rest of the day is quiet, with the heat on in addition to the fire in the fireplace...it is cold inside and out!

I spend an hour or two sewing the last bits of Mary's blouse by hand, and covering a headband in matching material. All that's left to do are finishing touches...my imagination goes into overdrive...

Dino tells me that the other day Peppino spoke with him about someone breaking into our house. He said, "I'm sorry I'm not an American, because I would shoot him". (In Italy, it is against the law to shoot an intruder, we think.)

He continues, "I'd rather see someone break into our gate and find him in the garden. I'd scare him and hope he jumped over the side wall". Peppino's house is at the edge of a very steep cliff.

February 28
On this last day of the month, clouds hide any sun in the sky. Enzo the idraulico (plumber) arrives with Luca, but without Fabrizio. When Dino asks if Fabrizio is coming, Enzo lowers his head and tells him that Fabrizio is in the hospital, because of a fall. He may have an intervento subito (operation right away). Both men show their concern visibly, and I'm hoping their work here will help them to get through the morning.

Meanwhile in the studio, Mary's little dress on the hanger suspended from the open ironing board calls out to me as if to say, "Let's play!" With the basic sewing done, I fool around with things to add to the already elaborate outfits.

Here they all are. Hopefully soon they'll be dancing around, worn by two sweet little girls we have yet to meet. We'll send them off with love...probably tomorrow.

Dino's phone rings, and Gianpiero and his brother and father are arriving to install the large SMEG hood over the stove and barbecue in the summer kitchen. What a joy it will be in fine weather to cook and entertain and just plain enjoy life. Now if we could only slow down...

Stefano arrives to consult and to give Dino a list of things to purchase in Viterbo for the chimney and cap running from the SMEG hood through the roof.

Fabrizio arrives, with a small cut on his forehead. He looks a bit weak, but works just the same. He and Luca and Enzo take out the ghisa (cast iron) radiator from the kitchen, to allow them to install the new one.

When they take the old radiator they uncover the partially painted wall that Patsy and Glen did about 10 years ago...it also is a work of art. What do you think?

They also install a scaldabagno (water heater for the bathroom) that fits under the sink cabinet. Previously, it took as long as two minutes for water to heat enough for us to take showers. We're looking forward to wasting less water...

We thought we taped the Oscars last night, but it appears it was only the red carpet. Dino finds the repeat schedule online and tapes it, we think. So no news or tv until we hope to watch it later tonight.

Everything works out. Dino found a site where we can record the Oscars, and we watch them while eating microwaved popcorn as the month draws to a close.

MARCH 2011

March 1
So why, do you ask, has it taken us so long to post the second half of February?

Until the iron grates are installed on the door and the windows on the piano terra (ground floor), one of us will be here all the time. Well, we make an exception this morning for a pedicure appointment with Giusy, but arrive home in time to meet Lorenzo here to re-measure the door grates.

We have no idea if a ladro (thief) reads this journal, but don't intend to give him/them any extra information.

Giusy decides to give me a free massage of my feet, and can tell how stressed I am inside by the tension there. She really is an extraordinary technician, as well as a dear friend, and I so appreciate her kindness, not to mention the soulfulness with which she expresses herself to me.

Lorenzo and his assistant, Luca (how very many men have assistants named Luca here in this part of Italy!) bring the ferro (iron) doorframe to check the measurement just after we arrive home, and it is just a bit too tall. So by next week we'll have it installed and I really like the way it looks.

It will be VERY strong. In the meantime, Sofi will act as our anti-furto (anti-thievery) weapon. The window grates will be installed then as well as the door grates.

Dino drives off to purchase lettuce for a salad to eat with grilled chops and potatoes for pranzo, while I look around the studio and see that I have plenty to put away but no projects here to do...

Well, I have tiles to paint for the pizza oven, but until our grills have been installed I will not return to Elena's. Perhaps I'll paint a bit, although I've decided to attempt to make cushions for the wooden benches on the terrace. I realize that I know how to make piping, and how to attach it, so I'll ask Dino to look for heavy cotton fabric and will try my hand at it. Come no? (Why not?)

My mind will not stop racing, and I have ideas for making dresses for Marissa and Nicole this fall, if we have their new measurements. I'll need them for the harem pants and gossamer capes as well, but hope to send those for their birthday in June. How about turbans to go with them; one in gold and one in silver?

Dino wants me to make pizza dough again, and to practice the making of it, so that it's easy to do with guests arriving. Perhaps we'll do that later this week. Today I'd like to relax a bit and clean up the studio, organizing everything in this little house so that it works like a boat. So what was that about relaxing?

On the way home, we stopped for Dino to show the geometra official papers for the cemetery project that arrived in today's mail, and they look like a permit. Someone is waiting for him, so he'll have to try again.

Earlier, Giusy told me that someone entered a house in Orte with a pistola (pistol or gun) and aimed it at a resident. That is very unusual in Italy, and Dino and I suspect that it was not an Italian, for the penalty for armed robbery is far greater here than just breaking in and stealing things from a home.

I think to myself, "What would I do if someone entered our house and aimed a gun at me?" Well, until the cemetery project is finished, I'll cower. Once our capella (chapel) is finished, I think I'll smile and realize that if it is my time to go, so be it...but then there are so many things to sew and to paint and to create and so many people to love...

Let's think good thoughts and continue to not judge others...

March 2
We close up the package for Sarah and her girls and Dino takes it to the Ufficio Postale (post office) to mail. A post office in Italy is used to pay many bills as well, so it's a bit like a bank. That is why there are often long lines, but Italians are used to long lines.

Cold and dreary weather continues, but walking around the garden is lovely at any time of year. We agree that we'll probably put in three more slow growing cypress trees just under Rosina's balcony, mostly to hide the newly restored cave near the lemon tree, where garden carriole (wheelbarrows) and other tools are stored for easy use. The gravel path to the cave will remain; the trees planted just in front of it.

Dino takes his four liters of liquid tonight, to get ready for tomorrow's colonscopia (colonoscopy) at the hospital in Orvieto. Our good doctor has confirmed that injections are given at the hospital there to put patients to sleep during the process, so Dino won't have to be subjected to the horror I experienced in Terni a couple of years ago. He wants me to go with him just the same.

March 3
Risking a day away from the house to make sure no one tries to break in, Dino and Sofi and I drive to Orvieto for Dino's colonscopia. (colonoscopy). Strangely, I drive for a change; afterward Dino is well enough that we visit Lorenzo to recheck design of doorframe, although my dear husband asks me to drive. Dino did well throughout the procedure; the injection did not put him totally to sleep; he could watch the work on a monitor in front of him. Yikes!

Oh, sorry, Dino's colonoscopy was "clean", pardon the pun. They said to get another one 10 years hence!

Dino now wants to drive, and we are at home for rest of day, taking a long nap and then eating a light broth of tortellini in brodo. All the while, it rains outside, but no matter; in the early evening we're treated to a lovely fire as we watch tv.

March 4
We all leave early, despite the possible approach of ladri (thieves) in our absence, for we want to drive to Ripabianca to pick up three large pots and plants on the way back. Using our friends' station wagon will make this much easier and they'll return on Saturday, so this is the day.

We find three perfect pots, 60cm rounds that are 60cm high, at a great price (half of what we'd pay locally), for we've shopped here before, and stop at Spazio Verde on the way back for consiglio (advice) on what to plant that will not need room for roots to grow; the planters will sit on tufa (volcanic rock). Are cypress trees the right things to plant? We are not sure.

In the afternoon, after Dino and I maneuver the pots up the walkway and onto the place where they will live, we drive to our friends at Michellini Vivai in Viterbo. Lucia helps us, and we wind up with three large viburnum...

...we have had luck with this type of plant here, and it is sempreverde (evergreen). Back at home, Dino plants them and I think they look great.

Note - the white wrap on the right of the photo is our lemon tree wrapped to ward off the winter frost.

March 5
There is a message from Duccio that he'll be happy to speak about the water privatization project to ECOMUSEO, and since we trust him, hope that he will be asked to speak to/with them. He jokes to respond that he will, but since we are not yet citizens, we cannot vote. This is an important vote, and it's worth juggling the chains of the bureaucracy in Viterbo to see what is holding things up regarding our two year wait for Italian citizenship.

Dino sees Rosina, who looks down and mentions that there are now three pots with plants to look at from her balcony. I'm surprised she does not tell him she likes them, for it is like her to comment positively whenever we add something pretty to look at...but then, another muratore was here with Gianfranco to talk about the grotto project he wants to do to reinforce the ripa (bank) under his house, so her mind may have been on that.

If you recall, Gianfranco, to begin with, should not have built out his house over a bit of our land, for it was done without a permit but we suspect with just an approval by the former owner; an ancient feeding trough sits in the grotto. This is the second or third muratore to come to look, and we'll see what happens and when the work will begin. It must be done with our approval every step of the way, but at no cost to us.

After the muratores left, Gianfranco remained to tell Dino that twice someone tried to break into his properties; each time either taking a door off its hinges or leaving it open; nothing had been taken. We are surely doing the right thing by installing iron grates; it's a reality in Italia.

Italy has the most to lose by what is happening in Libya. A couple of years ago, Berlusconi struck a trade deal with Gaddafi, and at the time expressed that that was his finest hour. Italy is Libya's top trading partner and Tripoli supplies it with about a quarter of its oil and about a tenth of its gas. Since a great deal of our oil and natural gas comes from there, who knows what we'll soon face? Where is Berlusconi these days, anyway?

Berlusconi 'to attend his four trials'

04 March - (ANSA) - Milan, March 4 - Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi wants to attend all of his four trials set to move forward in Milan over the coming weeks, his lawyer Niccolo' Ghedini told reporters Friday.

Ghedini met with the president of the Milan court, Livia Pomodoro, on Friday to try to work out a schedule that would allow the premier, who denies any wrongdoing, to get to the three corruption trials and one sex trial.

Ghedini's apparent willingness to get Berlusconi into court would appear to contradict parliamentary moves to have the Ruby case taken out of the Milan prosecutors' hands and put before a special ministerial court, where it would likely be thrown out.

The lawyer indicated that unlike in previous cases, where the premier largely shunned appearances, Berlusconi would seek to battle against the charges in open court.

Experts said the move might be a reaction to recent polls which have given the center-left opposition a slight edge over his conservative coalition for the first time since he swept back to power in 2008.

A trial for alleged tax fraud on the sale of film rights by Berlusconi's Mediaset empire resumed last Monday but the premier did not attend.

However, Ghedini said Berlusconi would probably show up for the next hearing on April 11.

The case is the first of the graft trials that will see the premier facing charges over the next few weeks, while a fourth trial, for the alleged use of an underage prostitute called Ruby, gets under way on April 6.

The graft trials were reactivated after Italy's Constitutional Court in January partly lifted the latest of the premier's judicial shields.

The indictment for the sex trial, which was not covered by the shield, came after weeks of wiretap leaks that engrossed the nation.

Ghedini said earlier this week: "four trials in Milan for the premier is a situation without precedent; it is beyond normality".

Berlusconi, who has repeatedly vowed to press on until the end of his term in office in 2013, has claimed the Milan prosecutors are trying to oust him from office and he has announced judicial reforms to rein them in.

The second graft trial, in which the premier is accused of paying British tax lawyer David Mills for allegedly favorable testimony, is set to restart on March 11.

The third corruption trial, into alleged film-sale tax irregularities by a Mediaset unit, Mediatrade, starts from scratch on Saturday, March 5.

The Ruby trial is the most keenly awaited and the one that finally appears to have knocked Berlusconi's standings in the polls after months in which despite his judicial woes his ratings were buoyant.

The latest poll showed that, if an election were called now, the divided and fractious center left might be favorite.

In the Ruby case, Berlusconi is also accused of abusing his position to get the teen Moroccan belly dancer and runaway out of police custody by saying she was the niece of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

He has said he acted in good faith to avoid a diplomatic incident and believed what he had been told.

Ghedini has said he intends to call Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, to the witness stand because of "contradictions" in her statements to police.

Both Berlusconi and Ruby deny ever having sex and she says money she received from him was a gift.

Ruby made a splash Thursday night at the high-society Vienna debutantes' ball but has said she now wants to emigrate to Mexico with her fiance' to get out of the limelight.

Separately on ANSA, An Italian foreign ministry advance team arrived in Tunis earlier Friday to map out the ground for a refugee camp Italy hopes will forestall a feared exodus of migrants to Europe. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy was ready to earmark "almost a billion euros for the development of the southern side of the Mediterranean" and said he was "convinced Italy can play a decisive role" in the transition of many North African countries to democracy. Meanwhile Tunisian migrants continued to arrive on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than it is to Italy. Here at home: ANSA English News

Michelangelo's David 'threatened' by high-speed train

Florence statue could 'collapse' due to tunneling vibrations

(ANSA) - Florence, March 3 - Michelangelo's David could be toppled by reverberations from work on a new Italian high-speed train line, an expert has warned.

The famous statue, said underground architect Fernando De Simone, could "collapse" because of tremors emanating from tunnel excavation.

"In Florence, tunnels will pass about 600 meters from Michelangelo's statue of David, the ankles of which, it is well known, are riddled with micro-fissures. "If the statue is not move before digging begins, it will collapse," he claimed.

De Simone is an expert in underground construction from Padua who has been pushing the Region of Tuscany and the City of Florence to move the statue of David from its current location at the Galleria dell'Accademia to an underground museum he says should be built. "There is a high probability of (the statue's) collapse," De Simone explained. "The risk of collapse or slippage in the marble of the statue's lower joints will be very high if the resonance caused by excavation machinery for the high-speed train tunnel, as well as the vibrations of passing trains thereafter, are added to existing vibrations caused by groups of 60 visitors at a time...and oscillations generated by automobile traffic in surrounding zones".

De Simone added "it would be preferable to move the statue to a purpose-built museum, which would also protect it in case of an earthquake, and would allow visitors to see it from multiple points of view: ascending, descending, and from a spiral perspective, as Michelangelo wished and as (art critic and historian) Carlo Ludovico Raggianti amply demonstrated".

Michelangelo's masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture depicts the Biblical hero David. The marble male nude stands just over five meters tall, and was created between 1501 and 1504. Originally positioned in a public square outside the Palazzo della Signoria, it was moved to the Accademia Gallery in 1873, and a replica placed in the square.

And for you Ferrari fans... ANSA English News

Ferrari unveils revolutionary four-wheel drive

All 800 FFs for 2011 already sold

04 March, 15:12
(ANSA) - Rome - Ferrari is taking the grand touring car to unprecedented extremes with its Ferrari Four (FF), which debuted at the Geneva International Motorshow.

The roomy four-seater with a serious haunch is the premium sports car maker's first ever four-wheel drive, and has been called the most versatile vehicle Ferrari has ever produced.

Its name refers to its four seats and four-wheel drive.

Ferrari has already sold all of its FFs to be manufactured this year, Chairman Luca Cordero de Montezemolo said.

"Before today's presentation we already sold all the 800 FF vehicles we foresaw for 2011," he said.

Sergio Marchionne, head of the Fiat group that controls Ferrari, said he'd already ordered a white FF.

"I like it a lot. It's a beautiful car and a symbol on the US market," said the Fiat and Chrysler chief.

"The FF is one of the most innovative cars, breaking in an unprecedented way with the past, but it is a car that has Ferrari's DNA," said Enrico Alliera, Ferrari's senior vice president for sales and marketing, at the model's world premiere at the carmaker's headquarters in Maranello.

Ferrari claims its patented four-wheel drive 4RM system weighs 50% less than a conventional one, and keeps the car's weight nearly ideally distributed with 53% over the rear axle.

The system also works in tandem with the car's electronic controls to adjust the torque required for each wheel depending on terrain and conditions.

The 1790-kilo powerhouse can blast from 0 to 100km in 3.7 seconds, with a top speed of 335 km per hour, delivering the best power-to-weight ratio in its category. It is taking aficionados by surprise for also offering best-in-class cabin space and boot capacity.

The FF is designed to rocket four people and their baggage, in comfort, across all kinds of terrains and a wide range of weather conditions. A Ferrari-produced video shows the FF streaking through the ice and snow of a Finnish winter, and zooming across water-slicked asphalt in road tests as exciting as an action flick.

"The FF ushers in an entirely new GT sports car concept...the new car represents not so much an evolution as a true revolution," writes Pininfarina, the iconic Italian auto design company that conceived the FF.

Ferrari's new creation will replace the 612 Scaglietti, a grand touring vehicle produced by Ferrari since 2004, which drew inspiration from the 1954 Ferrari 375 MM director Roberto Rossellini commissioned for his wife, Ingrid Bergman.

"I wasn't sure initially how I felt about this Ferrari for families, but now I really dig it. It kinda makes me feel all funny inside, " wrote a fan on the Jalopnik blog.

I love this one...although his neighbors surely don't agree...

Priest acquitted over fervent bell-ringing

Court rules cleric using right to practice religion

04 March, 15:35

(ANSA) - Rome - A parish priest in a small northern town was acquitted of charges of disturbing the peace with his zealous bell-ringing on Wednesday.

The case went to court after residents of Sabbionara in the province of Trento complained about Don Ernesto Villa's chimes calling them to praise God every 15 minutes from seven in the morning.

A court in the city of Rovereto dismissed the charges, saying Villa was exercising his right to practice religion as laid down by the Concordat of 1929 agreement between the Vatican and the Italian state.

The sleep-deprived residents' lawyers had unsuccessfully argued that it was not necessary to ring church bells with such fervor to exercise religious freedom.

Speaking of sleeplessness, I spent some of last night in my sleeplessness thinking about planting something beautiful to grow in the ancient feeding trough, which receives light but mostly shade. Let's let that go for now...

I finish cataloguing our art books, and there are almost one hundred of them! I guess I am passionate about the books, ever interested to learn more. Soon, very soon, I will be able to sit and draw, draw, draw, with many books as guides.

Dino leaves to pick up Candace and Frank at the airport in Rome, and of course Sofi and I stay at home and guard the house. We look forward to seeing our good friends this afternoon, and will have a little celebration for Candace's birthday, which took place a couple of days ago.

It's so good to see them, for they are our closest friends in Italy. We ask them about our former hometown, one that we loved in California, called Mill Valley. Their reaction to the town, where they also own a home, is that it is "precious". Everything and everyone are precious. Model kids, model schools, model shops, model ...everything.

After they leave, Sofi seems to utter a sigh of relief. They are her godparents, but she does not want to leave us, or leave home. So here we are, stuck in this tiny paradise by the fire, snuggled all together and welcoming whatever comes our way.

March 6
Under wintery skies, Dino walks up to church. Sofi and I stay to guard the house, and although Lief and Kari arrive from Norway and want to take us out to cena, we cannot join them until the grates have been installed. Hopefully, that will take place this week...or at least that is what Lorenzo tells us.

The studio continues to be reorganized, and yet there is always more to do. As part of my new life I am now a coach to dear Christine, nephew Kevin's delightful wife, and hope I am "out there" enough to give her some insightful ideas on the work front, although it has been a very long time since I have worked at a job in the literal sense.

In Libya, there is such stress on the part of its people who want to migrate to other shores. With its 2000 or more kilometers of coastline, people from all over sub-Saharan Africa find their way to Libya, only to escape by boat to Europe.

With Italy as its closest neighbor, the country's future, as well as that of all of Europe, is in flux. Libya is a rich country in terms of its oil, so if the unrest is solved, we are hoping there will be little need for this chaos.

Why do I write about this? Well, aside from the affect it will have upon Italy as a country, living outside the United States makes us more cognizant of world issues. We recall that it was too easy to be insular when living in the U.S., thinking that problems or stories in other countries had little interest to us.

How much does the U.S. give in foreign aid?

Revitalizing Democracy Assistance: The Challenge of USAID

Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Report, October 2009

Democracy is largely stagnant in the world and a growing number of governments exhibit hostility toward international democracy aid. Faced with this daunting context, President Obama and his foreign policy team have so far moved only cautiously to formulate an approach to democracy promotion. Tackling longstanding problems with the basic structures of U.S. democracy aid would boost this effort. As the largest source of such assistance, USAID is an obvious starting point for deep-reaching reforms.

Key Conclusions

* With the Obama administration having launched major reviews of development policy, a critical juncture exists for substantial reforms of USAID and other key actors in U.S. democracy assistance, a domain that now consists of $2.5 billion a year of aid programs in more than 80 countries.

* Although USAID has a long record of positive contributions to numerous democratic transitions, its accumulated institutional woes lead to democracy aid efforts that fall short due to lack of flexibility, stifled innovation, and lack of institutional commitment.

* Fixing USAID's shortcomings will require determined, focused leadership at USAID, with active support from Congress and the Obama administration. As Congress and the administration take up the larger overhaul of U.S. development policy generally, they should not neglect the domain of democracy and governance support.


* Fight bureaucratization: The crushing bureaucratization of USAID's democracy and governance work must be reversed through a comprehensive series of reforms that simplify the procurement process, eliminate duplicative layers of oversight, reduce reporting requirements, and improve the evaluation process.

* Bolster local ownership: USAID should build more flexible funding arrangements with its implementing partners that encourage genuine partnerships with local groups and increase direct funding to local organizations.

* Strengthen the place of democracy and governance work within USAID: Ensure that democracy and governance is fully supported as an institutional priority and is well-integrated into other areas of foreign assistance, through clear leadership commitment at the top and numerous steps at other levels, such as strengthening the Office of Democracy and Governance and following through on new training commitments.

"A successful revitalization of USAID's democracy and governance work would be a telling signal that the Obama administration is forging significant institutional changes that will help the United States meet the serious challenges that democracy's uncertain global fortunes now pose." An interesting opinion, but what do we really give?

According to the Congressional Research Service, an estimated $55 billion was appropriated for foreign aid and diplomatic programs in fiscal 2010. The lion's share - approximately $47 billion in fiscal 2010 - of that sum is distributed as non-military aid.

These funds are distributed primarily by the State department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the government agency charged with providing foreign assistance for economic growth, global health, conflict prevention, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

Other distributors of non-military aid include the Department of Agriculture and a small group of independent agencies, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Peace Corps. The U.S. also contributes to multi-lateral financial institutions, including the World Bank and African Development Bank.

In fiscal 2010, $8.3 billion went to military and security assistance, including narcotics control and law enforcement, foreign military financing, and peacekeeping operations.

Here are the top ten recipients of U.S. aid, both military and economic, in fiscal 2010, as estimated by CRS: Afghanistan: $4.1 billion; Israel: $2.8 billion; Pakistan: $1.8 billion; Haiti: $1.8 billion; Egypt: $1.6 billion; Iraq: $1.1 billion; Jordan: $843 million; Mexico: $758 million; Kenya: $688 million; and Nigeria: $615 million.

Some of these positions have changed dramatically over the past few years. Aid to Haiti jumped in the wake of the devastating earthquake in that country in January 2010. Likewise, according to the Obama administration's proposals for fiscal 2011, aid to that country would go back to previous levels, around $360 million.

Last night, Frank disagreed with me about the amount of money the U.S. sends to foreign nations as aid, telling me the U.S. sends very little. What do you think now, dear Frank? ...

I hear from Tiziana and have been thinking about her...wonder if it's time to either pick up and play or sell the violin? She arrives for a visit and perhaps it is time to look for the right buyer for it.

With the studio completely reorganized, and different art supplies labeled in their proper containers, I must be in cleanup mode. Yes, a sturdy table which folds partly down when not in use from IKEA that Dino wants to purchase for the studio makes a lot of sense, instead of the sawhorses I now use. One of these days...

March 7
Let us not forget that International Women's Day has been observed by the United Nations since 1975 on March 8th. The celebration is aimed at recognizing the role women play in bolstering international peace and security. How far we have come and how far we have yet to go...

It's so lovely here this morning I could weep, with sun, lovely breezes and birdsong. I can't imagine that heaven could be much better....

We prune roses, but not as much as we have in past years. I think we have over-pruned some of the rampicanti roses, and now we clean up the five Lady Hillingdons on the path and do some trimming to the rose arch, the Alistar Stella Gray, but that's enough for one day.

Instead, I plant seeds on the raised bed on the East side of the summer kitchen: lupine and boca di leon, and more boca di leon on top of the two newest wisteria planters, along with some lobelia. My, the seeds are tiny!

We have more anemone seeds, this time white ones, so tomorrow will plant them near the lupine and the other blue anemones. We also weed the area nearest the main gate, where three ceanothus plants grow. Any lettuce and rugghetta will be planted in long pots somewhere else. That's enough for now.

Laura and Serena walk by and tell me there is a Coro practice in Attigliano on Thursday night. I tell her I cannot go, because we're waiting for the new grates to be installed, and it's a great excuse; I really love to be home.

Sun remains, but wind picks up, and it's sweater time. I'd like to read, and looking around the studio I'm amazed at how neat it looks!

I'm reading that I should varnish finished oil paintings, and have at least two that I think need some kind of finish, for they appear more dull than I'd like. One is of the figs I painted in San Remy last fall; the other is the large painting of Felice. The background, which has a lot of black, takes away from Felice's wonderful face, and I think this month I'll teach myself how to do it. First, we'll have to buy varnish and paint in Viterbo. Va bene.

I've come across an old photo of a woman in a turban, and of course I should make turbans for Marissa and Nicole to wear with their harem pants I'll make as soon as I have their new measurements. In the meantime, perhaps I'll come across a fabulous piece of costume jewelry for the front of each one.

I've fallen in love with the background of French tulips on the runway of Dior's last show, and am trying to find out if I can find a photo of it to inspire me to paint. When my mother died she wanted to be cremated and buried at the seashore. So I took her ashes, a bunch of glorious French tulips, and dug a hole on a knoll on Stinson Beach in California. I made her a bed of tulips and laid her ashes on top, then covered it all with quite a bit of find sand. I recall she used to sing, "I'm going to get you on a slow boat to China...", so hope she's enjoying her final resting spot.

Back to Italia....

Woody Allen 'to shoot next film in Rome'

(ANSA) - Rome, March 7 - Woody Allen will film his next movie in Rome this summer, La Repubblica reported Monday.

Shooting is set to start in July and before that Allen and his jazz band will play at Rome's Auditorium at the end of March.

ANSA English News
1,000 migrants hit Lampedusa, more on the way

Island's facilities swamped again

(ANSA) - Lampedusa, March 7 - A thousand North African migrants hit Lampedusa overnight with more on the way as the southern Italian island's reception facilities were once more swamped. Eleven boats made the short crossing from Tunisia between Sunday and Monday and one more was sighted.

The island's reception center, with a capacity of 850 beds, was flooded and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni OK'd the resumption of flights to take the migrants to other centers in southern Italy. Since the start of the North African uprisings thousands of migrants, mostly Tunisians, have headed for Italy.

Over in Tunisia, at the port of Zarzis, hundreds of migrants managed to get onto boats Monday morning and head off for Lampedusa, which is closer to Tunisia than to Sicily.

People traffickers were said to be charging 1,400 euros a head for those hoping for a new life.

Meanwhile on the Tunisian-Libyan border preparations for an Italian refugee camp went ahead and the patrol boat Libra brought 25 tons of food, water, medicines, generators and water purifiers.

Italy is hoping the camp will help head off an exodus from Libya across the Mediterranean amid continued fierce fighting between rebels and the forces of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. Maroni has warned the collapse of North African regimes could lead to Al Qaeda-backed Islamic fundamentalism.

Lorenzo calls tonight to tell us the grates will be ready and he will install them Wednesday morning. What a dear man he is to rush them through so that we won't have to continue to worry.

March 8
We wake to another marvelous day with sunny skies. In case you do not subscribe, these beautiful clear days are described well in Italian Notebook:


Here in our little village, we face south and there is no wind today, but birdsong and brilliantly clear skies to cheer us. It's a perfect garden day, so I plant another pack of anemone bulbs, these all white, in the raised planter just inside the main gate, turning the soil and cleaning up the area again, with Sofi by my side...

What? She rushes down the stairs to the parcheggio and finds her way through the iron disc just big enough for her slim body to squeeze through. A pale yellowish Labrador mix dog rushes down the hill past her, as if she's not there, and we don't know who it is.

Sofi stands on the walk just by the gate and watches. I call out to her and see her from the front of the terrace, then rush to the gate, open it and call her. With the excitement over, she comes to greet me as I tell Dino what has happened.

"Cattiva!" (bad) he tells her while the folds in his forehead seem to make slits of his eyes. She happily meanders over to him, completely oblivious.

Sofi loves to be by my side, and as I enter the house to catch up with you, she lays in a shaft of sunlight on the cool floor tiles just a few inches away.

Dino, however, is very busy. He moves from window to window, taking off the beautiful blue shutters and wooden frames. Will the shutters be re-installed outside the grates? I am not sure. The house will be a fortress tomorrow; I know that for sure.

Dino wants to make Lorenzo's job easier.

Inside, I research French tulips and yes, Dino would say, "In France, they just call them tulips..." Some virus pops up, and Dino takes a look. I do find what I want and yes, French parrot tulips will be my next large painting. They are definitely my favorite flower, on my favorites list just above peonies.

With happiness abounding, it's surely time to return to drawing. In a day or so, I'll varnish a number of oil paintings and hope that I won't damage them in the process. The next time we drive to Rome, it will be time to pick up a new canvas, and I think this one will be on the wide side.

Thanks to:


, I find myself nodding in agreement to what David Brooks has to say. Is my time coming back around? I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about it; especially as it relates to the world around us and specifically the news in Egypt and Libya...

A..."growing, dispersed body of research reminds us of a few key insights. First, the unconscious parts of the mind are most of the mind, where many of the most impressive feats of thinking take place. Second, emotion is not opposed to reason; our emotions assign value to things and are the basis of reason. Finally, we are not individuals who form relationships. We are social animals, deeply interpenetrated with one another, who emerge out of relationships.

...the British enlightenment, which emphasized social sentiments, was more accurate about who we are. It suggests we are not divided creatures. We don't only progress as reason dominates the passions. We also thrive as we educate our emotions.

When you synthesize this research, you get different perspectives on everything from business to family to politics. You pay less attention to how people analyze the world but more to how they perceive and organize it in their minds. You pay a bit less attention to individual traits and more to the quality of relationships between people.

The two Stefanos arrive to do a little muratore work, closing up the holes in the walls for the previous termosifone (radiator) and something behind the summer kitchen. They also cover the paint samples on walls using intonico and a brush. Good idea...

Dino cleans out the cave with the ancient stone feeding trough, throwing away lots of things we've stored over the years...just in case. Soon the space will be a thing of beauty, perhaps with shade tolerant plants planted in the trough...Sofi is too short to feed from it, and until we get a goat it will have to do as a planter...ha.

I weed near the gate, and weeding through gravel and nursery cloth is pretty messy, but is possible. It's also time to scoop up any remaining leaves from the trees sitting on the gravel. It's not my favorite thing to do, but is such a beautiful afternoon that I don't mind it. Gardening in March is a joy...almost anywhere. It's a way to welcome Spring, and to dream of flowers and plants and butterflies....

Don't forget...there is still a threat of frost. So for another month, take it easy and better safe than sorry.

Oh, yes. Serena reminds me that I need to learn/relearn French cooking terms for my trainee gig in Forcalquier at a boulangerie this Spring. Mai oui! I look up and print a bunch of terms, just so that I will understand what I'm watching and kneading...what fun! In front of the fire and the tv, I study them, as I will each evening.

In the NYT, David Brooks writes about the new humanism. It strikes a chord...

We don't only progress as reason dominates the passions. We also thrive as we educate our emotions.

When you synthesize this research, you get different perspectives on everything from business to family to politics. You pay less attention to how people analyze the world but more to how they perceive and organize it in their minds. You pay a bit less attention to individual traits and more to the quality of relationships between people.

You get a different view of, say, human capital. Over the past few decades, we have tended to define human capital in the narrow way, emphasizing I.Q., degrees, and professional skills. Those are all important, obviously, but this research illuminates a range of deeper talents, which span reason and emotion and make a hash of both categories:

Attunement: the ability to enter other minds and learn what they have to offer.

Equipoise: the ability to serenely monitor the movements of one's own mind and correct for biases and shortcomings.

Metis: the ability to see patterns in the world and derive a gist from complex situations.

Sympathy: the ability to fall into a rhythm with those around you and thrive in groups.

Limerence: This isn't a talent as much as a motivation. The conscious mind hungers for money and success, but the unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence when the skull line falls away and we are lost in love for another, the challenge of a task or the love of God. Some people seem to experience this drive more powerfully than others.

When Sigmund Freud came up with his view of the unconscious, it had a huge effect on society and literature. Now hundreds of thousands of researchers are coming up with a more accurate view of who we are. Their work is scientific, but it directs our attention toward a new humanism. It's beginning to show how the emotional and the rational are intertwined.

I suspect their work will have a giant effect on the culture. It'll change how we see ourselves. Who knows, it may even someday transform the way our policy makers see the world.

I'm not sure of all those terms, but certainly identify with the content. What do you think?

March 9
Lorenzo arrives with his assistant to turn this house into a fort. The grates are quite beautiful and I tell him his is bella lavoro (beautiful work), but he counsels me to wait until the work is finished to tell him that. Yes, the Italians are a superstitious lot.

I make them muffins with apples, lemon zest, a dollop of sour cream and canella macinata (ground cinnamon), and serve them on the balustra (balustrade) in front of the house with coffee as a morning merenda (snack). Italians are always wide-eyed at the taste of something that is not typically Italian, but they tell me they like the taste.

Dino tells me they'll be delicious split and half and toasted with cream cheese tomorrow morning. Va bene!

I've played with the basic recipe, which I usually do, and like the result. Yes, I'd rather gamble with it and have it turn out less than perfect than fix the same old thing.

MacGyver style, Lorenzo tells Dino that he needs a special resina (resin) to theft-proof the holes where the iron screws are attached to the walls. C'e lo! (I have it), Dino responds. Si? Lorenzo does not quite believe it, but Dino does have it.

Elsewhere, I try to find information about what is going on in Libya. I don't really understand it, but then Gaddafi is difficult to figure out. I do know that it would be a disaster if Colonel Gaddafi managed to cling to power by butchering his own people. Please, I pray to myself, don't take the lead on this, America. Please?

Sun streams in the window of the studio as Sofi sits by my side. I've been studying French baking terms for my trainee experience later this spring, and now I can return to Elena's to paint more tiles for the front of the pizza oven. I'm hoping that today, however, Dino and I will drive to Viterbo to pick up vernice (varnish) for a few of my paintings. I'm returning to drawing and painting mode.

Last night, while reading a very interesting book, All Things Shining; Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age, I read a passage that really moved me. I'd like to share it with you...

If you really learn how to pay attention...(i)t will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

This is the real lesson Wallace wants to get across: that the choice to experience the world as sacred and meaningful - to do so by dint of effort and will - is a choice that is within our power to make. It is a choice that takes strength and courage and persistence of course; perhaps it takes even a kind of heroism. But it is possible, Wallace thinks. And more than that, it is necessary in the modern world.

If this passage moves you, I encourage you to pick up the book. For me, it reinforces my view of the world, giving me strength to continue, no matter how many cynics try to change my mind.

Dino tells me that the blue shutters will be reused after all. I love the way they finish off the windows, and Sofi and I walk down to see how they look as Lorenzo and his assistant continue their work.

It's Ash Wednesday, so this afternoon we drive up to the village with Sofi waiting in the car, while we get our ashes. We meet our new Parroco, Don Daniele, and he is gentle and kind. He tells us he knows that although Mugnano is little, it is a wonderful place, with its inhabitants faithful and loving...or something like that. We all nod our heads, for we know it to be true. I'm without my Coro book, but know all the pieces by heart, and sing happily. The ashes are sprinkled on our heads, one by one, as if we're each a dish now ready to be served at the table for pranzo...

Although Lorenzo wanted us to keep the grates open to dry any last minute touchups to the paint, we're closing the main ones. It's such a sunny day that we're not worried, about the paint or about the ladri (thieves). Marie, who lives with Gianfranco up above, told me that relatives in nearby Giove were also robbed recently. I respond in the usual, "Sempre Avanti!" (Always Forward!); for that is the stance we take here in little Mugnano.

We're feeling so confident that we drive to Viterbo, and one of the places we drive to is KLIMT, the art supply store, where the family is so friendly. I see the young father stretching a canvas, and they sell linen that is treated and ready to paint upon.

No need to drive to Rome for that, but how large a canvas can we get into the little Panda? I'm dreaming of painting enormous French parrot tulips exploding from the canvas, possibly even giving dear Felice a rest from it's place on the back kitchen wall.

We do ask about vernice trasparente (clear varnish), and pick up a container that is ready to use right out of the container without heating it up, as long as it is not cold. Daniele counsels me to do it in a way that is different from that found online: he tells me to use the brush strokes all in one direction and then go back and use brush strokes again, but after turning the canvas 90 degrees.

On the drive home it is approaching dusk, although days are longer and signs of spring emerge everywhere. Nearby the Superstrada, dozens of sheep appear like tufts of cotton, all huddled together. Stay warm, dear beasts.

Tonight, Sofi has seen her first lucertole (lizard) of the season, and now we wonder what we have created; she sits in front of the frigo out there in the summer kitchen but within eye reach, just looking and waiting. For more than an hour she sits, and cries out to me when I pick her up. It's as if she's waiting for a friend...but we know that's not really the case.

We're finally ready to post the last half of February, and in doing so will also post these first days of March, to fill you all in our latest adventures; adventures that caused the posting to be so late.

March 10
Sofi returns to the summer kitchen as soon as we open the door, for she smells something she's ready to hunt. I search but find nothing and pick her up after a while and put her out on the terrace to distract her.

Rosina appears on her balcony and I ask her what she thinks of the iron grates on the studio window. She covers her eyes and turns her head; she does not like what she sees, although agrees that we are safer. If we put the shutters back, perhaps she will smile.

Inside, Dino splits and toasts yesterday's muffins, and they are quite wonderful. Yes, I'll post the recipe on the site by the time you read this, speriamo (we hope so).

Dino has an eye appointment this morning in Orvieto, for he is developing a condition that may become glaucoma. He was told that when examined last November on our trip to San Francisco. Sofi and I will go with him and wait.

I'll take a sketchpad to try my hand at drawing the tulips I want to paint. First, we will take the canvas from France and see what the framer thinks. The canvas must be stretched before adding the varnish, or so we were told at KLIMT yesterday.

Oh. The framer is going to have a falegname (woodworker) cut a piece of lightweight wood for it and glue it before framing it. That was one of my ideas, but we thought we'd ask her advice first. It will be ready next week. I'd like to then pick it up and varnish it myself, although there is a gray stained wood frame that she suggests that I think would work.

Perhaps we'll then fashion it as the side of a cabinet instead of using a formal frame, for I fear the woman's application of acrylic paint before my painting lesson in Provence was not a good idea for something I want to keep for a long time; it might crack.

We're early for Dino's eye appointment at the Orvieto hospital, so Sofi and I wait in the parking lot, taking a walk near the car and for me, spend time drawing tulips for a while.

Dino returns to tell me the idea of shooting air into one's eye to examine it is passé; that is what this doctor thinks. So in some ways, Italian doctors are more advanced than some U.S. doctors. He wants to see Dino again in two months, for if he prescribes medicine, Dino will have to take it for the rest of his life. We agree that he is too young...

Back at home, after picking up some spring annuals, I fix pranzo and then plant some of them, while Enzo returns to fix the mistakes he made with our water pressure, which now only works for 10 liters at a time. Boh! He fixes everything, and although he is not inexpensive, we trust him and believe in him.

I love spring plantings of annuals; they say goodbye to winter and we hope they will survive a month or more. Tomorrow I will clean up and purchase and plant more annuals in at least a second wisteria planter; one that is now full of plants I'm not crazy about, but have survived the winter. Wisteria is tough...it does not mind little friends living nearby within its planters.

In the event you worry that we have too many wisteria, none are close to the house, and the bottom of each planter is open to allow the roots to grow down. Let's see what this April brings in the way of leaves and flowers, although some say that the type of wisteria flowers we have on the terrace should bloom until June. Only Mother Nature knows, and she's not about to let us know...just yet.

As Dino goes inside to light a fire and me to catch up with you, we hear neighbors sitting on the marble benches on the walk below the house. We love having people rest there on their way up the hill; in fact, it has become a kind of meeting place for neighbors.

March 11
No longer worried to leave the house, I'm going to see if Dino will take me to Elena's to pick up tiles we have left to cook and to Pinzaglia, the local vivai (nursery) to pick up more annuals. This afternoon, it's a good time to return to painting the ceramic tiles; that is, if Stefano does not arrive to install the tiles in the summer kitchen.

We have picked up the little spacers that are used to install ceramic tiles on the walls, and will set up the format of the design before he arrives. Dino tells me Stefano works from bottom to top, and the arrangement is important. Yesterday he told Dino he was sick, so we are not sure when to expect him. Va bene.

Taking out past-their-prime plants from the large square wisteria planters on the terrace, it's time for a Spring-cleaning, and that is what I do. The hundreds of terra cotta balls we purchased in Provence years ago to keep out weeds really work; so I sort them from the dirt and will reuse them after planting new annuals.

Dino then uses a passino (garden sifter) to separate them, and I have to laugh. The "auto spell check" on this computer changes the word to "passion", and how funny the transposition of two letters can be!

Paolo arrives to install a tempered glass back door and window to the summer kitchen, and likes the grates. Later in the afternoon we notice a palpable change in the amount of cold air that comes into the area from the rear of the property and the ripa (bank). This door was a very good idea...

Tony and Pat arrive for tea, and after walking them around, Tony tells us that he does not like the stone fountain. He thinks the top of it looks like a headstone. Each to their own, I suppose. Inside the kitchen, we continue to share some laughs over tea, and here they are:

The translation on the small square plate is "my wife is always right"!

It's too cold to drive to Elena's this afternoon, so we have a fire instead and sit and enjoy the kitchen. Tomorrow morning we'll drive to Elena's and ask her to smalto (dip) more tiles. It's time to return to painting them, after taking a look at the scale of wisteria I've already painted and are out of the oven.

March 12
Clouds greet us, along with blue skies, so we'd better do as much laundry as we can; tomorrow the rains are supposed to begin for five days....

We drive to Elena's, but she is not at her shop, nor can we reach her by phone. Painting more ceramic tiles will have to wait...

Instead, we return home and I plant all the things we purchased yesterday that were not planted, as well as a package of cavolo cappuccino cuor di bue grosso (cabbage that is blue (!) in color). I love the way it looks in the garden, and February and March are the months to plant it for summer harvesting. The little seeds are planted in the midst of all our other plantings on the East side of the summer kitchen, and in a few months should be worthy of a painting or two.

Is it strange that I planted them so that I can do paintings of them as well as to enjoy them in the garden? Well, I never did claim to be of the same mind as anyone else...at least here I can be happy with who I am.

Yes, Ruby, I am happier living in a country other than my own... (Ruby is an astrologer in California who told me that very same thing, years before we moved here.) "Oh, she's off the wall, she is..." you're thinking. Well, perhaps that's why you like reading the journal...

Dino continues painting the window surrounds beyond the iron grates, and we'll re-install the blue shutters after all. He loves these projects that are not too difficult but show good results. That's my MacGyver!

We don't expect much good weather for a week or so, but that does not matter. For the next five days we're to expect rain each day, and since we've planted annuals and fed the roses, rain is good. What's even better is that each day the thermometer is expected to pop up a little, until next weekend when weather is expected to be positively balmy. C'e meraviglia! (How wonderful!)

After a nap, Dino returns to find Elena at her studio, but the little magazzino where I paint ceramics is full of boxes; they are moving into their new larger location within the month. That means there is no space for me to paint there. Dino brings home tiles that have been cooked and tomorrow after church we will pick up more that are smaltoed (dipped) and I will paint them at home.

March 13
We wake to a gentle rain, and although I thought yesterday I might stay home and not go to church, Dino inspires me to want to continue our Sunday ritual. Sofi is silent next to me, dreading what is to come for her.

With feelings of security around us, we are not worried about leaving the property. Anyone who wants to break in would have to make a great deal of noise to get through the iron bars, and since only some of the neighbors attend church, it won't be easy to do. Our neighbors are decidedly watchful on our behalf, and we are so thankful to be surrounded by such kind people.

Under a light rain we drive up to the borgo, where only three of us are in the coro (choir): Marieadelaide, Rosina and yours truly. Don Angelo is the priest, and tells us there will be no mass next Sunday in Mugnano, for the installation of Don Daniele in Bomarzo will take place at the Duomo with the new vescovo, Lino Fumagallo (his cognome(family name) translates to smoky chicken). Instead, mass here will take place sometime on Saturday.

The homily is about the Garden of Eden. With Eva as my sopranome (nickname, pronounced Ava), Don Angelo has me thinking about my name as it relates to me as a person.

I have felt challenges directed toward me throughout my youth and young adulthood, and now see that it was as if those challenges were decided by a higher power. "Can she survive this? Can she rise above it? What choice will she make?" seem now to have been the mantra.

Because I did survive, and because the choices helped to make me a stronger person, I now understand the possibly subconscious choice for naming me after my grandmother Eva.

Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden, as everyone knows, but have I survived and become a better person for it because of the choices I have made? These days, spirituality is an important force for me, and the choices I have made, or were made for me, turned out pretty well, I think.

Don Angelo uses the common modo di dire, "Un sacco di... (phrase, a sack of...), and I'm reminded that Italians use the words "sack of" to describe a number of things together; think of it as if it's a sack of mail, with something to replace the mail.... For instance, if something is very expensive, an Italian might say that it costs un sacco di soldi.

An email arrived yesterday from someone I was close to decades in the past before meeting Dino, and if I had not waited, oh, how sadly things might have turned out. I am so very thankful. I had not thought of him in years, but am reminded not to forget that life is transitory.

This year, the 17th of March, in addition to being St. Patrick's Day around the world, is also the 150th anniversary of Italian Unification. So we'll surely attend the Ecomuseo pranzo in the village and will post to include that.

After mass, we drive to Il Pallone, for prima colazione (breakfast) and shopping at Superconti, the grocery store that remains open on Sundays.

The store is mobbed with people, but well stocked, so we are able to pick up more agretti and other goodies and run into Michele, cheery as usual, whom we have not seen in months.

On the way back, we stop at Elena's and pick up sixteen smaltoed (dipped) tiles to paint at home before returning them to her to be fired in one of her ovens. So in the next day or two I'll map out the final design for the front of the pizza oven and try my hand at pendulous glycine (wisteria) flowers that are life-sized. For the rest of the project, I'll be painting at home, so that time spent in Elena's magazzino is finished, at least for this project.

It is so good to be back home with dearest Sofi, and we spend the rest of the day there under gently rainy skies, napping and watching tv.

I spend an hour or two studying bread making in Tartine, a book written by a San Francisco baker. Making great bread is not necessarily easy, and I'm imagining myself at the boulangerie in France later this year, taking on sweeping floors and cleaning up after bakers while trying my hand at kneading dough and picking up tips. If you're interested in learning how to make great bread, the book is excellent.

Why, oh why am I taking on this serious project? We love the bread we buy and eat each time we're in France and want to learn what the secrets are to their marvelous bread making. The author of the book also spent time in France learning his craft, and so I will try my hand at his baguettes.

It appears that, no matter the type of bread, it's the first stages that determine the particular qualities that distinguish one bread from another. The author claims that once I try it a number of times I can perfect my own recipe; one that is not exactly the same as his.

There is also a recipe for English Muffins, and only if you live outside the U.S. will you understand what it's like to not be able to get them. There is so little we are lacking now...perhaps for one trip to the US we'll bring back...nothing! Magari!

Wind whips around the house tonight, and it's a wild wind. What will the wind and rain do to all our delicate plantings? We'll let you know. The tiles are still in the car, for until the rain stops, it makes not sense to bring them in the house to paint. L'avventura continues...

March 14
I wake up early, and look out from the bed to see the tiny lights of Chia (pronounced KEE-ya, remember the letters "ch" are pronounced "k" in Italian) twinkling before they are covered by fog...or do the lights automatically turn off at 7 AM?

More and more requests come in from new friends who want to be notified each time we post the journal. Yes, there are a lot of Italophiles out there who love to be transported here as if in a dream...

It is dry enough to take the tiles out of the car, and transport them upstairs to the studio, where Sofi and I spend the rest of the morning. Painting glicine (wisteria) flowers and leaves in large scale is my latest attempt.

Happy with the results, by the end of the day the tiles are ready to transport back to Elena to be fired in one of her ovens. I feel as if I'm on a roll, but would like to see how these turn out before painting the next batch.

Rain continues, and so reading and watching TV take up our evening. What is different here at this moment than anyplace else in the world? Well, looking up at the new grates on the windows has me imagining we are in a grand palazzo in Florence or Sienna, instead of in the kitchen of our tiny 1930's house at the edge of a medieval borgo. I no longer pinch myself; living here is very real.

I finish three stories for Italian Notebook and Dino adds the photos. They all take place in Roma, for there is so much to take in in that amazing city that friends tell us they have lived there for more than three decades and still have not seen all there is to see there.

March 15
"Beware the Ides of March!"

Fog begins to clear by the time we're having prima colazione (breakfast, but by now you know that term, don't you?) Those colorless skies are back, but as Sofi and I take a walk around the terrace and secret garden (ha!), we are met by signs of spring, including what appears to be hundreds of blossoms on the pesco (peach tree).

I'm laughing to myself writing this, for the Italian words for peach and fish are similar. (What?) How funny to use the wrong word here when speaking with a neighbor! A peach is a pesca (plural is pesche) but andare a pesca is "to go fishing"; although a pesce is a fish....Mamma mia! C'e strano! (My goodness! How strange!)

Have you ever visited a local fair in Italy? If you have, you'll come across a woman behind a table or at a booth known as pesca di beneficenza (lottery, or lucky dip!)

Before I've finished writing these couple of paragraphs, Dino returns with more tiles ready for me to paint before he drives to Lorenzo to pick up the new handmade faucet for the fountain. Perhaps soon the stone fountain will no longer look like it belongs in a cemetery, Tony...

The sewing machine is out of its box, sitting in the studio, so what do I do next? Make a new drape for the tiny window in the summer kitchen? Clean off the bottoms of the tiles and bring them upstairs? Put more recipes on the web site that I have been promising?

Perhaps I'll do them all before Dino returns for pranzo. What I won't do is take a walk with Sofi, which is probably the best thing I should do for my health; for my circulation. But then, you know I am a dreamer, and I don't have to do...anything. I count it as one of the blessings of getting old. Oh. That officially happens tomorrow, when I literally become an old broad.

Tony calls to wish me a happy birthday, but he's a day early. He invites us to come over to celebrate this afternoon. Hooray! I love to celebrate! In the meantime, Dino calls from shopping to ask me to get out our Italian flag. He probably sees it flying everywhere, although most Italians don't usually hang out their flag unless it's time to party. I can't find it, but hope to be able to remember to remind him to find it when he gets home for pranzo.

In the meantime, I'm painting wisteria on tiles "like it's going out of style"...Thanks, Hildegarde, for yet another fabulous phrase. Hildegarde was my mother, and on my birthday while she was alive, I never forgot to send her flowers. Why shouldn't a mother celebrate on the birthday of her child?

With an open window of the studio, I'm full of joy, serenaded by birdsong and the warmth of the day as I paint tiles and we wait for Dino; Sofi for her pranzo to arrive and me because I love Dino, love to see him and enjoy having him nearby.

Dino returns, finds the Italian flag and hangs it. Here it is, flying proudly. It's another sign we should be granted citizenship, don't you think?

After pranzo, I paint a bit more, and then we drive to Tony and Pat's in Lugnano, for a birthday celebration, including prosecco, which is a favorite celebratory drink in Italy and a crostata con marmelata albicocca (Italian cake with apricot jam).

I blow out the 61/2 candles without making a wish, but do manage to do it on the first try. I'm happy that no one has told me to "make a wish" first, for as you probably know, I don't believe in wishes. It's lovely to spend time with our friends who spent quite a bit of time here who have their main home in Ohio.

Back at home, skies look dim; it's not as if they're all that dark, but clouds form dirty swaths across the pale blue of it all, as if to tell us to expect dreary weather. The latest forecast is for a sunny day today (!), followed by rain tonight and tomorrow.

Before any rain falls, Dino takes eighteen painted tiles to Elena to cook. The design is fairly simple, now that I have a design that I'm happy with, and have come up with a way to paint each individual wisteria bud and leaf.

ANSA English News Probe opened into 'bid to change Ruby's birth certificate'

Berlusconi lawyer filed suit after newspaper report

14 March, 15:13
(ANSA) - Milan, March 14 - Rome prosecutors on Monday opened a probe into a reported bid by unidentified Italians to change the birth certificate of a teen Moroccan belly dancer Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi allegedly paid for sex.

The investigation was opened after leftwing daily Il Fatto Quotidiano last week reported that on February 7, two "emissaries" visited the small town where Karima el Mahroug aka Ruby was born to try to bribe a local registrar to move back her date of birth by two years.

That would have meant she was not 17, but 19, when prosecutors claim she had sex with the premier, between February and May of last year. Paying for sex with prostitutes is a crime in Italy only if they are under 18.

Berlusconi and Ruby deny having sex and she says money she received from him was a gift.

She has said she told him she was 24 when they met and he has confirmed this.

The Rome probe, into the possible crime of attempted bribery, was opened on the basis of a suit filed by Berlusconi's top defense lawyer, Niccolo' Ghedini. Ghedini last week said his client could be "seriously damaged" by the Il Fatto report, which had to be "cleared up". The lawyer noted that the reported bribe would have been a "clumsy and vain attempt at falsification".

"Anyone who knows Moroccan law knows that falsifying a certificate at a town council registry would be completely useless and laughable since copies are kept by several government authorities," they said.

"In any case, it is an affair which surreptitiously attempts to gravely damage Premier Berlusconi who is totally exempt of any possible illicit conduct".

The possibility that Ruby might be older than first thought was first raised by pro-Berlusconi newspapers.

On February 8 Il Giornale, a daily owned by Berlusconi's brother, reported that the premier's defense team was set to make a request to Morocco for her original birth certificate.

Italy debuts 40 Etruscan masterpieces in Cortona

Pieces on loan from Louvre

(ANSA) - Cortona, March 15 - More than 40 masterpieces of Etruscan art, never before seen in Italy, have returned to ancient Etruscan territory, in Cortona, Tuscany. The pieces, on an extraordinary loan from the Paris Louvre, are on show at the Etruscan Academy's Maec-Museum until July 3.

The exhibit, "The Collections of the Louvre in Cortona: The Etruscans from the Arno to the Tiber," kicks off a three-year agreement between the Maec-Museum and the Louvre, to show the complexity of Etruscan culture in light of recent discoveries, such as the now-celebrated terracotta figure Arianna of Falerii, which sat anonymously in a Louvre vault until just ten years ago. It was finally identified by one of the exhibit's curators, Francoise Gaultier.

Arianna of Falerii dates from the Hellenistic period (3rd century BC), and is a fragment of a much larger, monumental piece. It shows a bust of a woman decorated with jewels, a crown of leaves, and a sacred veil poised on her head. The veil reveals her identity as the bride of Dionysus.

Other highlights of the exhibit include the Fiesole Head, also from the 3rd century BC, and four Falterona bronzes, a set of votive statues discovered in 1838. A bronze vase in the form of a woman's head is thought to have been produced in the workshops of Orvieto, while a small bronze statue of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, has been traced to an area near Perugia. There are also exquisite examples of Etruscan gold work, as well as prime examples of Etruscan funereal arts: a portrait of a funeral banquet with the deceased lying beside the guests, and an urn for ashes.

Like much of the collection on display, including Arianna of Falerii, they were acquired from the great sale of the Campana collection in 1863. Giampietro Campana (1808-1880), a wealthy, cultured Roman dignitary, amassed one of the largest collections of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities of his century. The Papal State confiscated his collection and auctioned it off after he was arrested and condemned for embezzlement of public funds.

Most of the works ended up in major national museums, such as the Louvre, Russia's Heritage Museum in St. Petersburg, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The current exhibit follows one put on with the collaboration of the Hermitage two years ago.

The exhibit is also part of the Etruscan Academy's efforts in recent years to expand and elaborate its archeological offerings to the public, including the opening of the museum itself in 2005, and its expansion in 2008. In 1999, work began on an archeological park, giving visitors an itinerary of Etruscan ruins in Cortona. Work will begin soon to upgrade and unite the park, as a local canal and a provincial road currently split its attractions.

ANSA English News

Italy's plastic-bag ban may spread around Europe

Environment Commissioner to study similar EU-wide measure

Top of Form (ANSA) - Rome, March 15 - Italy's ban on non-biodegradable plastic shopping bags could be extended to other parts of Europe after the EU's Environment Commissioner said he wanted to study similar measure for all 27 EU member states.

Italy banned plastic bags as of January 1 to stop the lasting pollution they cause to the air, sea, rivers and forests, with research showing they remain in the environment as potential traps for wildlife for 15 to 1,000 years.

''Current industrial trends are unsustainable. The effects on the environment of the massive use of plastic bags, above all on the sea, are clear to everyone,'' said Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik.

Environmental organizations welcomed the prospect of the Italian lead being followed at the European level.

''Potocnik's intention to study similar measures gives hope for the future of the environment and, above all, for the future of the Mediterranean, where it is estimated that 500 tonnes of plastic waste are floating,'' said Stefano Ciafani of Italy's Legambiente.

Italians had been using a total of 20 billion plastic shopping bags every year before the ban came into force.

Shops and supermarkets now provide customers with biodegradable bags, although some outlets are still finishing off their stocks of plastic bags, with the government's blessing.

Producer associations have criticized the ban, arguing that the EU does not have specific regulations prohibiting plastic shopping bags and that they are not a threat to the environment because they can be recycled.

They have also pointed out that alternative, biodegradable shopping bags break more easily and are much more expensive.

Legal challenges to have the ban lifted in Italy and at the EU level have so far been unsuccessful though.

Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo expressed pride that ''Italy was the first country to implement a law which other member states, starting with Austria, have requested information about in order to imitate it''.

In news that strikes us as if it's a crime show turned reality show, the Italian Mafia marches on...

ANSA English News

Mafia hindering Italy's growth, Draghi says

Organised crime has stranglehold on south, expanding in north

(ANSA) - Rome, March 11 - Italy must combat organized crime to free the stranglehold it has on the south and stop its growing expansion in the north, which are hindering the country's economic growth, Bank of Italy Governor Mario Draghi said on Friday.

Speaking at a conference on the expansion of the mafia in Italy's prosperous north, Draghi added that organized crime risks dismembering the country's social fabric and poses a threat to democracy itself.

Looking at Italy's south, known as the Mezzogiorno, Draghi said the reason why it was economically underdeveloped was directly related to the deep, historic roots organized crime syndicates have in those regions.

Over the past 30 years, he explained, the control of organized crime in the regions of Puglia and Basilicata "is responsible for the loss of 20 percentage points in GDP due to lower private investment".

Turning his attention to the north, the Bank of Italy governor cited official statistics which demonstrated how organized crime was on the offensive in regions like Lombardy "where 80% of the arrests for mafia association were in the provinces of Milan, Bergamo and Brescia".

Italy was making some progress in cracking down on money laundering, Draghi said, but a greater role in pinpointing possible violations needed to be played by notaries and certified accountants, even if they were the most exposed to pressure from Mob figures.

The economic crisis of the past three years, the governor added, has contributed to the mafia's spread in the north because many companies found themselves strapped for cash and thus tempted to take dirty money and fall into the grips of organized crime.

And last but not least, the Journal celebrates Milan's exhibit in honor of camp royanee's "playwithyourfood" celebration.

: ANSA English News

Milan fetes 16th century eccentric Arcimboldo

Show highlights Leonardo's influence on fruit-and-veg-face man

15 March,

(ANSA) - Milan - After shutting its doors on an exhibit showcasing Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali', the Palazzo Reale in Milan has opened one on a homegrown forebear and influence, Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593).

The 16th-century Milanese painter, renowned for painting human physiognomies composed entirely of fruits and vegetables, is the subject of the exhibit, Arcimboldo-Milanese Artist between Leonardo and Caravaggio, which runs through May 22.

The show plants Arcimboldo in his own historical and cultural context, highlighting the profound influence of Leonardo Da Vinci's grotesque heads on Arcimboldo's own fascination with physiognomy, as his career flourished in the Hapsburg courts of Vienna and Prague.

Arcimboldo became court portraitist in 1562 to Ferdinand I in Vienna, and later to Maximilian II and his son Rudolf II in Prague. Most of his work remains in Vienna, and the core of the exhibit consists of loans from the Kunshistorisches Museum in Vienna, and has been curated by that museum's gallery director, Sylvia Ferino. Other pieces came from Stockholm, Munich, Madrid, New York and the Paris Louvre.

After his return to Milan in 1587 and his death, Arcimboldo was forgotten for centuries, and his paintings were anonymously attributed to the "Leonardo School".

While Arcimboldo's conventional work, based on religious subjects, remained lost into oblivion, his eccentric portraits were rediscovered about a century ago, becoming once more a source of fascination, and were regarded as a unique precursor to Surrealism. The first two parts of the exhibit are dedicated to an analysis of the primary cultural influences on Arcimboldo's training and early career.

On show are a number of Leonardo Da Vinci's drawings of grotesque heads, as well as drawings and paintings of many of Da Vinci's acolytes, which illustrate the master's influence on densely detailed physiognomy, flora and fauna. In the mid-1500s, during Arcimboldo's formative years, Milan was particularly famed for objects made from precious metals and stone, like gold, silver, crystal and gems, often destined for Europe's royal courts.

The second part of the exhibit displays sumptuous pieces made in Milan, like cameos, vases, precious arms and armor, fine textiles, medals and sculptures. The third part of the exhibit displays Arcimboldo's juvenilia and works of his teachers, while the fourth explores naturalistic illustrations of Lombardy, Italy, and exotic new animals and vegetables presented to European princes from the freshly discovered Americas. Arcimboldo's famous composite heads follow. Their intricate compositions of flowers, fruit and animals conceal a complex allegorical meaning, weaving events and cosmic aspirations of the Habsburg dynasty.

The eighth room concentrates on Arcimboldo's return to Milan. There is a self-portrait from 1587, the "paper head", which incorporates books and lines of poetry culled from literary friends. The last room focuses on the painter's masterful reversible heads and still lives. Among them is the painting that inspired one of art history's most celebrated still lifes, Caravaggio's "Fruit Basket", which is also on display.

Don't think we'll make it to the exhibit, but I'd so love to honor him with a painting or two, Archimboldo style...add that to the list of things I'd love to paint.

For some reason, Coro practice does not happen tonight. We don't know what happened, for we thought Don Daniele, our new parroco (pastor) from Bomarzo, would attend. He has a lovely voice.

Instead, we watch the movie Temple Grandin on TV, and are so very moved by the movie; the performances. If the smell weren't so ripe, I'd imagine myself lying down in the midst of all the cows; they seem so lovely and kind. I loved the gentleness with which she taught others to treat them.

And as the credits roll, I wave goodbye any vestige of my youth, as the hands of the clock turn close to midnight and I prepare for my entry through the door of old age...and the 65th anniversary of my birth.

March 16
Well, I don't look any older in the mirror, but there's no reason to hide my age. The good news for us here in Italy is that I'm now eligible to obtain medical care for free. Yes, free. Free medical care is one of the reasons we moved here, although it's more and more difficult to gain residency these days. Dino has benefitted by free medical care for almost five years.

I read that many people are trying to escape from Tunisia to Italy, but the country does not look favorably upon immigration these days. Does that have anything to do with our continued wait for citizenship? It's been two years since we filed all the papers, and perhaps in the next week we'll check to find out our status. That will mean we will have dual citizenship, for Italy and the United States both accept dual citizenship status.

Dino leaves to take more tiles to Elena to dip, and I'm looking forward to seeing the first batch of painted leaves before painting more tiles. Painting the glicine (wisteria) blossoms has been fun.

Rain continues outside, as I think of what to paint next. There is a black canvas, and perhaps I will paint a still life on that, after adding a recipe or two to the site before we post. In advance of "movie night" tomorrow, I'm first going to prepare sole in a white balsamic vinegar and golden raisin sauce, based on a recipe in La Cucina Italiana.

There is a lovely email from niece Sarah, who has received the package of all the dresses and purses for her daughters Mary and Sadie, and everything fits! I look forward to seeing the video soon. Look at the post for the end of last month to see the outfits.

Loredana called yesterday to wish me a buon compleanno (happy birthday), and I am thinking of her, for early this morning she underwent a foot operation. I hope everything goes well, and that the pain is not too severe.

In cleaning up documents on the desk, I see that glicine (wisteria) needs an annual feeding with a general garden fertilizer and after May, followed by a liquid tomato fertilizer every 14 days. Where have I been, or is this new advice?

I come across a panettone bread pudding recipe, and we will add it to the web site. It's a good thing to do with the packages of it lying around during holiday season. So I wonder if we can do the same with the Pasqua Colomba Tortas (Easter cakes in the shape of doves)? If we do, we'll need to add the dried fruits included in Christmaspanettone.

Here is the recipe:


During this Easter season, the Catholic Church writes about Quaresima in tempo di crisi (Lent as a time of crisis). It's a time of crisis for anzitutto (all old people). Oh...that includes Dino and now... me.

Sure, we're on a fixed income with little savings, but Dino shops carefully and I am able to stretch a meal into two or three days. Are you saying you're surprised after reading the journal?

If you read closely, you'll see that most of what we do is based on what we already have and our ideas. Buying "things" is not what we obsess about. Even the possibility of buying a Kindle is postponed; I suggest that we wait to see if new models include options that Dino would like to see.

Now, we still have lots of books on backlog in our bookshelves, although Tony tells us the future will not include sales of books unless they are downloadable into a Kindle or similar device.

Things change here in Italy, just as they do in the major developed countries. We see neighborhoods of Bomarzo being developed as new communities with brand new housing, and that is the world of the future. So while we embrace much of the past, the convenience of the future is not to be ignored. Still, the dreamer of me imagines beauty in our views.

The Sunday La Domenica counsels us:E se versiamo in stato di disagio, saremo in grado di capire meglio chi sta peggio di noi. Per poter vivere cristianamente la Quaresima e necessaria una "conversion".

Per la conversion e necessario l'ascolto della Parola di Dio. Per ascoltare la parola di Dio e necessario il silenzio. Quindi nella Quaresima deve trovare spazio il silenzio: e questa il digiuno necessario nella nostra societa del frastuono; sara un digiuno disintossicante, dopo l'indigestione di parole, di messaggi martellanti, frastornati e fuorvianti. Nel silenzio potremo ascoltare sia la Parola del Signore, sia il grido dei poveri.

The translation is something like this: "And if we are in a state of distress, we can understand better who is worse off than us. In order to live a Christian Lent, it requires a "conversion".

"For the necessary conversion it's necessary to listen to the Words of God and find space for silence. Then in the space of silence as we fast: we will detox from the indigestion of words, pounding posts that leave us dazed and misled. In silence we can listen to the word of the Lord; it is the cry of the poor".

Yes, it's time for reflection, if you are so inclined.

It's also time for more words to add to your Italian vocabulary:
frastornare - to daze; to befuddle
frastuono - hubbub, din
frate - monk
fratellastro - step-brother; half-brother
fratello - brother
fratelli - brothers; brothers and sisters
fraterno/a - fraternal, brotherly
fratempo nel - in the meantime, meanwhile

Thanks, dear Dino for a lovely pranzo, and for bringing back more tiles for me to paint, probably tomorrow.

I show Dino the recipe for sole that I wanted to make for movie night tomorrow night, realizing that it is served at room temperature, so will be easy to make. While he's in the kitchen, I encourage him to fix the fish himself, as it is not difficult to prepare and can sit in a baking dish in the frigo for a day and then sit on the counter until we leave for Orvieto, where it will be served at Candace and Frank's.

March 17
Today is the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, and celebrations abound everywhere. Here in little Mugnano, we'll attend pranzo with our neighbors.

While walking up to the borgo, we see red, white and green striped flags fly happily, and why not? Goffredo Mameli wrote the Italian National Anthem, and this street is named after him, as is the anthem "Inno di Mameli".

Don't worry about the rain; we're soon inside with our neighbors and Mugnano friends. It's wonderful to see Augusto, who seems much better after his operation. I tell Vincenza that we'd be happy to give the painting to them of her father, Italo, sitting with Vincenzo and Augusta, and she'd like it.

A certo punto... (At a certain point), a familiar piece of music begins as everyone stands. The Italian National Anthem is sung by each citizen and the sound is as if we're listening to the chorus of Il Pensiero; we are incredibly moved by the experience.

Of course, Dino is thinking of Formula 1 races; when an Italian finishes in at least third place and the anthem is played while the racer proudly looks on. One day, we hope to repeat the singing of this as we celebrate our citizenship here. But not today.

We meet new folks who are in Mugnano when they are not in Rome, and near the end of the festa, during which each course is in red and white and green...

Each table is given a two page questionnaire about the Risorgimento (the tumultuous period of time in Italy from about 1800 to 1861, when the actual unification took place) with ten questions. The table that wins the most answers wins...a bottle of prosecco. Would you believe our table wins, and with two stranieri lowering the odds at that!

Here's the questionnaire, translated (roughly) into English. See if you know the answers, and email us your answers if you want to know.

A Quiz about the Risorgimento of Italy

(Note: if we remember, we will give you the answers at then end of March.)

1) In 1815 the European powers met in Vienna, deciding to divide Italy in seven states and Austria to concede two of its most beautiful regions:
a) Lombardy and Piedmont
b) Trentino and Friuli
c) Veneto and Lombardy

2) To give subjects a severe example, Francis IV, Duke of Modena punished Andreoli harshly; he was a priest guilty only of being a Carbonaro. In 1831, however, Modena was the, center of a new revolutionary movement. The Duke, had him arrested and, shortly thereafter, sentenced to death, one of the main cospirators was:
a) Pellico
b) Ciro Menotti
c) Giuseppe Mazzini

3) A group of animated Mazzini followers, guiding two young Venetians, Austrian naval officers, landed in Calabria in 1844 with the hope of succeeding at raising the population's fervor. Due to the betrayal of a friend, however, they were all caught and paid with their deaths. a) The brothers Pisacane
b) The brothers Mameli
c) The brothers Bandiera

4) The Italian patriots had made reforms and statutes, but their joy was cut short by a pattern of pain and regret; because Austria still occupied the territories of the North, it was necessary to make war on Austria. The opportunity came in 1848 when the citizens of two Italian cities, taking advantage of upheavals that occurred in other European cities, rose up and drove out the Austrian troops.

a) Florence and Bologna
b) Milan and Trieste
c) Milan and Venice

5) "[...] I was going in the morning to glean
when I saw a boat in the sea;
was a boat that was steam
and raised a flag.
The island of Ponza has stopped,
has been a while and then returned;
has run and came back to earth
They went down with arms and we did not make war.
They were three hundred, were young and strong and are dead ![...] "
"The gleaner Sapri" is inspired by the company attempted in 1857:
a) Carlo Pisacane
b) Luigi Settembrini
c) Federico Confalonieri

6) In 1848 the Republic of Venice and Rome was proclaimed. Roman citizens and volunteers from all regions rioted, after which the Pope left the city, preparing to face the armies of four foreign countries. This army was commanded by:
a) Giuseppe Garibaldi
b) Giuseppe Mazzini
c) Ippolito Nievo

7) In April of 1859 the Second War of Independence broke out, the regular soldiers of Victor Emmanuel II and Napoleon III and the volunteers of Garibaldi, with a series of brilliant victories, liberated the whole of Lombardy. The war ends abruptly with the 'Armistice:
a) Vignale
b) Villafranca
c) Curatone

8) The thousand landed at Marsala, Sicily teams of young rebels, the Picciotto, reinforced their ranks with a brave and desperate bayonet attack, managing to scare off the enemy and to conquer the summit of a hill and then they opened the doors to Palermo:
a) Teano
b) Volturno
c) Calatafimi

9) After releasing Naples, the partisans were hoping to soon resume the march for Italy to Rome, but were forced to stop:
a) the death of Anita Garibaldi
b) because Napoleon III, an old ally, had made it clear that absolutely did not want that Rome was taken to the Pope c) because now exhausted troops were unable to continue the battle

10) Between 1867 and 1870 the cities of Rome and Venice were liberated. Which was the last of the two:
a) Rome
b) Venice

Stefano the muratore is here with his daughter, Corinne, and I show her how to draw egg people. Marissa and Nicole loved doing this with me, and now it's Corinne's turn, although she's pretty shy. We all agree that Stefano will bring her one day and she will draw with me.

Do you recall that I wrote about egg people as the way my father taught me how to draw? If you want to teach a little one to draw people or animals, use the shape of an egg as a guide, and make each part of the body in a shape similar to an egg: head, neck, chest, upper arm, lower arm, hand, etc. Later, each of those eggs can be developed, but it's a very good way for a young child to gain an understanding of how different parts of the bodies relate to each other, instead of using sticks.

We walk home in the rain, and Sofi is happy to see us, although she has no interest in going outside. She returns to my side as I catch up with you and rests; later we'll all party.

We're back at home in enough time to take the fish out of the frigo to bring it to room temperature before taking it to Candace and Frank's for movie night. This is a good dish to bring, for it's served at room temperature, which means we won't have to spend a lot of time there, fixing food and queue-ing up for the movie. Magari!

Rain pounds against the windshield as we drive North to Orvieto, and soon we're safely inside Candace and Frank's house.

What do we think of the recipe? Well, we like it quite a bit, so we alter the recipe to make more of the saor to sit on top an soak into the fish. Dino has cooked the fish well, but would like to try it with thinner fish, ideally sole.


We do watch a movie after all, and it is Bon Voyage; in French with English subtitles.

We love the food, including Frank's spinach and mushroom side dish and of course, Candace's always perfect lemon meringue pie; she whips the meringue by hand with a whisk in a metal bowl and in just a few minutes the frothy whites of the eggs sit on top of the pie, which is then put in the oven for six minutes at a high temperature.Buono! (Delicious!)

Sofi has fun with her favorite people in all the world surrounding her, although she's quite happy to return home. Skies are clear when we reach Mugnano, and we are told we will have lovely weather for the next week. We get into bed and realize we won't be around for the next time this event is celebrated, probably in 2061...but wonder what the world will be like then....

March 18
Yes, there is sun and birdsong, and today I'll certainly paint the sixteen tiles as Dino continues to work on the blue shutters.

I'm imagining asking Stefano to pick up the large canvas I'd like to buy from KLIMT when he's in Viterbo, for it will fit in the back of his little open camione (truck); I don't know what Dino will think of the idea, but I'll ask him when he's in a relaxed mood. He does not like to ask others to do things for him.

He reads this and tells me the truck will be quite unsteady, so once we figure out the size of the canvas that will fit in the little car, probably 1 meter by 1 meter or 1 meter 10cm, we'll purchase it in Viterbo and have it stretched before bringing it home.

Since the weather is mild, I clean the bottom of the tiles and paint them right in the summer kitchen; that makes it much easier to transport them. By the end of the afternoon, they are painted and Dino transports seventeen of them to Elena's.

She will bake tomorrow and I think we'll have them on Tuesday. Then, I will figure out the rest of the design, for I think there are more tiles to paint, although we brought her sixteen this morning as well as one with my name and this year's date on it for the bottom right of the design.

What is going on in Libya and nearby countries frankly surprises me. There are calls everywhere for democracy; what happened to the U.S. as the great evil of mankind? Just a while ago Libya announced a ceasefire, although fighting continues in Bengazi and other areas. It appears we are not sending our fighting forces, and that relieves me a great deal. France and England seem to want to take the lead since the United Nations Security Council voted positively on a no-fly zone.

Although people say it will take some time, I have a feeling that operations will take place as early as tonight.

March 19
For the first day in quite a while, the weather is balmy. We spend a lot of the morning in the garden, and there is so much to do that Dino agrees to call a woman we met recently who is looking for gardening work.

She'll be here at 2:30, ready to work. If she has a weed-whacker, there'll be even more to do; so lets get her started and see if she's the one for us. I do worry about Dino's lessening ability to do work that causes pain to his legs and back. If it's not enjoyable or somehow rewarding, don't do it!

The loquat trees are the messiest ones now in the garden, and now that they have finished their winter blooming, the spent flowers form bunches that dry up and make a mess on the gravel. So I take my clippers and a stepstool and clip what I can, which is not very much.

I read that flowering trees should be fed in April, so let's ask Cristina when she comes what she thinks, and also ask Bruno, who owns the shop in Attigliano where we'd probably buy the food.

We bid Rosina a buon giorno and she is happy that we are returning the blue shutters to the outside frame of the window that she sees, but encourages us to paint everything! There's something about the patina of the house that we find particularly charming, especially since the quote from a house painter a few years ago was more than €9000 for this little place.

Outside, birdsong and weed-whacking continues, and I'm thinking gardening is the thing to do with the day. Sofi agrees, especially since she can search for her friend, Larry the Lucertole (lizard) all over the terrace and garden.

Blasted stinkbugs! I make a bowl of potato salad and another of tuna to have for pranzo, and think that fresh estragon (tarragon) would be a good addition to the tuna. We grow it in a pot outside the front door, but when I walk out to clip a bit, there's a stinkbug resting on a tall shoot.

I pick it up and cast it out, but before I do, it gasses all around, so the tarragon smells like the bug. I cut up the leaves, thinking their fresh scent will return, but nothing doing. Has this little brat spoiled the entire plant?

Dino returns from Elena's with plenty of painted tiles, as well as sixteen more that are ready to be cleaned and painted. The leaves on the cooked tiles look just right, but how did the leaves look that Dino took to Elena's yesterday? We'll try to print the photo, but I just may paint more leaves. Yuk. I think I smell like a stinkbug.

Dino puts on his serious face and tells me that we need to number the grid for the design of the ceramic tiles for the front of the pizza oven, and I agree. We'll number the backs of each one, after numbering the squares on the grid on the large sheet of paper.

I read that Nitrofoska Gold breaks down when stored at temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius, and since it has been stored in the serra (greenhouse...ha!), it must be totally decomposed; temperatures inside that place are like an oven in summer time.

Dino returns to Bruno to buy soil, in the event Cristina does some planting this afternoon, as well as to pick up more Nitrofoska Gold, a general garden food rich in nitrogen. He tells me our good friend Giuseppe called from Rome to tell us he misses being in Italy more often, and we miss him, too!

Cristina arrives, and after a tour of the grounds takes on cleaning up the area where we plant our tomatoes. She appears to be quite serious about her work, and cleaning is what she does for us today in different parts of the garden.

There is a special mass today at 4PM, and Dino stays at home while I walk up to participate with other members of the Coro. This is a special ingresso for Don Daniele, and with him are other dignitaries from the Diocese of Viterbo, whom we are unable to name.

One, a very senior member of the Church, gives the homily, and I sit quite near him on the front row of the Coro. He frightens me for some reason, perhaps because he is so passionate in what he believes. Don Daniele, on the other hand, is so incredibly sweet and kind that I really look forward to getting to know him. Sad as we are to see Don Renzo leave, this man appears to be a wonderful successor.

I walk home, and as I walk in the main gate, Dino is busily putting the shutters back on the two front windows of the house. They look wonderful; it's as if we're in Provence, while living in Italy with the people we love in the country in which we choose to live, regardless of the bureaucracy.

Cristina is a good worker, and works for four hours. When she finishes, the tomato garden and the area above it are in excellent shape. We'll indeed use her to do the legwork for planting the tomatoes, and now that we know she likes to work here, we may put in more tomatoes.

She'll return tomorrow, and Dino will show her two other gardens in the village that we supervise, to see if she'd like to work there, too.

Since I'm dressed, I ask Dino if he wants to go out for pizza; he does, so I won't change.

"The responsibility to protect" is a mantra of the United Nations, and an important meeting took place today regarding Libya. The Arab League has suspended Libya from its membership, and agrees to the "no fly zone" adopted by the U N Security Council. I write about this, because no matter where one lives, these events affect us all.

So happy to be living in this little place, I walk from garden room to room, enjoying every space. Yes, it needs a lot of work. But day-by-day the place becomes easier to manage, and we are a bit less precise about it all. It takes people coming here for a visit for us to sit and relax, and we should entertain more, if only for that.

Tonight, while French planes fly overhead Bengazi, the U.S. wants the Arab League to literally get involved. The idealist in me thinks about a better world with people living peace and democracy, where the citizens have a stake in their government. If less money is siphoned off in these countries, wouldn't there be more jobs; money for projects to help the land, the people...why not dream of the ideal?

March 20
Cristina returns to work in the garden. Her work is slow but thorough, and areas of the middle garden spring to life. Since we don't have mass to attend today, I clean and paint 36 tiles, so we are practically finished painting them. In a few days the other tiles will be ready to be picked up, so by the time Stefano arrives to do the tiles in the summer kitchen, he can continue and put these up as well. Dino continues repairing and repainting the shutters and window surrounds, and tomorrow that project will be finished as well. With these beautiful days, it's a joy to be working outside on the property.

We've picked up new recycling boxes that will live in the summer kitchen, so the front hall is devoid of any temporary cestini (baskets with handles) or bags to hold recycling until Dino takes them to the main recycling area on the way out of the village.

March 21
Spring is here, and it's a beauty. Cristina arrives promptly at nine, and works all morning performing cleanup in area by area. One of the areas that has been a concern has been one of the tufa planters above the parcheggio where wind blows seeds of germiglia (a sprouted seed that is similar to what we'd call "Bermuda grass" or "crabgrass") into its shallow earth; The weed has found its way into the roots of several of the white "Medilland" roses that I love.

We ask her to clean a few of the plants where grass seems to linger only at the edge; for the others, where the dastardly roots look a bit like bamboo shoots and have wound their way into the plant's very root, we tell her she can have the plants. These are about my favorite roses, next to the Paul Lede, of course. So they deserve their own attention.

While Dino and his happy helper (me) put the shutters back on the studio window, Rosina looks down and laughs, telling him they are storto (distorted). She is really pleased, for they look beautiful and no, they are not distorted, but from the angle that she sees them, they are.

Dino repairs a stucco wall where it meets a window where he is re-installing the blue shutters, and realizes the window needs some real muratore work. He calls Stefano, who agrees to come sometime in the next days, and perhaps he'll be able to install some of the tiles as well. Tomorrow Dino will finish installing the last shutter. Bravo, dear Dino!

It will take until tomorrow to determine if we need to paint more tiles to be installed above the pizza oven, but for today I have nothing to paint. After a tasty pranzo, I return to the studio to catch up with you, and skies are now cloudy with more wind. It's time to dress more warmly and yes, I am happy I am not a professional gardener; I am too much of a wimp.

Cristina does a fine job, and we will bring her back again. The tasks she performed for the past couple of days are manually tiring and detailed; well worth having her come. We also give her a job to take care of a garden for a person with a garden who does not come here often; it is good for each of them.

Dino sprays the bank of herbicide; it is a dangerous bank because it is made of tufaceous rock, which can crumble if weeds latch onto it and are pulled out with force. He will also spray the tufo planter above the parcheggio and let it sit for a couple of weeks. That will make sure that any gramiglia hiding in the cracks is morto (dead) before replanting with white Medilland roses and rosmarino . Tomorrow we will also cut all the pieces of wood lying around to use for firewood; this is a good spring cleaning session, and gives us a feeling of accomplishment wherever we look.

But most importantly, we're going to Viterbo to find out what is going on with our citizenship applications. A friend tells us she's moving back to Mill Valley, CA, because she's tired of the bureaucracy. We take it with a grain of salt, and don't believe that the country's slowness is a reason to leave. We love it here, but then you know all that...

March 22
Writing in the journal is one way to know what day it is; otherwise, the days waltz from one to the next, with hardly a need to know.

Cool weather continues, March style, with sun and light clouds. Just when we think Spring is here, the sun moves behind a cloud and we're made aware that it's not time yet to unwrap the bougainvillea or lemon trees.

We drive to Viterbo to the Prefettura and park almost right in front. A woman at the next desk recognizes us, and it's a good thing, for the man who ushers me in while Dino parks the car is very curt and in no mood to be helpful.

The woman, who also helped us more than two years ago, writes down the website for us to use to find out the progress of our applications. There is no other way to find out, nor did she offer to look it up while we waited. This is of course another way for the Italian Government to streamline their operations. Aren't I being kind?

When hearing comments from other stranieri (strangers, aka foreigners) who are disenchanted with living here and want to leave, we show no emotion. With all its foibles, we love living here, and perhaps our village has something to do with that.

Actually, I'm so happy I'll now have free medical care that I could shout it from the rooftops! Oh, yes. I can get discounts at movie theatres here and in the U.S., too.

Back at home, we have no luck figuring out our citizenship status online, and forward the comments to dear Duccio for his counsel. If we become citizens...then what does that mean? I've been wondering how it would change our lives here, other than to be able to vote here as well as in the U.S.

Now I'm thinking about the majority of Italians who don't have respect for their elected officials, and wonder how we can make a difference. Of course we will vote.

I'm also thinking of the power of the internet, and of how conditions in the Middle East are changing because of the people who want to change how their governments are run into a more democratic society. It's especially poignant, after all the America bashing we've listened to over the past decade or so.

I'm so very hopeful that changes will be positive, but hear nothing about how people in the various countries are putting up slates of potential leaders. Right now, it all sounds a bit like anarchy.

We're happy that President Obama is determined that the U.S. not take the lead in any of the hostilities, but it appears that the air strikes could have been a mistake. Were they well thought out? We'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime back at home after pranzo, I spend a bit of time on the front terrace with a passino (hand sifter), separating dried leaves from gravel. It's a painstaking process, and seems a waste of time, but Dino hates the aspirapolvere (garden vacuum cleaner). I think it's the easy way to keep the gravel clean but is too heavy for me to use.

After a while he walks out of the house and I tell him I think using the passino for this is not the way to go. He tells me he (now) agrees, and that the blowing of the machine works fine...but where will it blow to?

I recommend that it blows the leaves off the gravel to a particular spot and again he disagrees, telling me he thinks he should blow the leaves right under the boxwood globes at the front of the terrace, providing mulch for them. Va bene, Dino. Blow baby, blow!

Frustrated, I leave the terrace to catch up with you. He's off again for errands instead, and to pick up thirty-two remaining tiles that have been dipped. I've laid out all the others, and with these remaining tiles painted by me tomorrow and returned to Elena to cook will finish the project. By this weekend, we'll probably have the tiles back and ready for Stefano to install. Hooray!

Are things looking up? Is our citizenship almost in place? Are the tiles going up on the walls in the summer kitchen and above the pizza oven in the next week or so? If so, all that will be left will be to...PARTY!

Let's get to some Italian news I think you'll want to read about:

Italy hails crucifix ruling

'Historic', Vatican says

18 March - (ANSA) - Rome, March 18 - Italy on Friday celebrated a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which overturned an earlier ban the court imposed on crucifixes in Italian classrooms.

"I welcome with great satisfaction the decision taken by the ECHR's Grand Chamber to acquit Italy of the charge of violating freedom of thought and religion," said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who campaigned strongly during Italy's two-year appeal. "Today the popular sentiment of Europe won, because the decision interprets the voice of citizens in defence of their values and identity".

Frattini's sentiments were echoed by Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini, who called the ruling "a great victory for the defence of an essential symbol of our country's history and cultural identity.

"The crucifix encapsulates the values of Christianity, the principles underlying European culture and Western civilization.

"It is a symbol that does not divide but unites and its presence...does not represent a threat to the secular nature of the State or religious freedom".

Gelmini joined Frattini in calling on Europe to enshrine Christian values in its framework, saying "finally, thanks to this sentence, Europe and its institutions have grown closer to the ideas and deepest sensibility of its citizens". In its 15-to-two ruling, the ECHR concluded that the presence of crucifixes in classrooms "cannot be regarded as indoctrination on the part of the state".

The cross "is an essentially passive symbol" and its influence on schoolchildren cannot be compared to that of teachers, the ECHR said in overturning its 2009 verdict in favor of a Finnish-born mother-of-two living near Padua, Sonia Lautsi.

"The effects of the great visibility that the presence of the crucifix attributes to Christianity in schools," the court ruled, is counterbalanced by the fact that religious education is not compulsory in Italian schools.

'HISTORIC' SAYS VATICAN. The Vatican hailed the ruling as "historic".

Voicing "satisfaction" at the verdict, Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in a statement the decision was "strongly binding".

"It makes history," he said.

"It recognizes that the culture of human rights must not be placed in contradiction with the religious foundations of European civilization".

The Vatican is also happy that the principle of subsidiarity, whereby European decisions are made at the lowest possible level, had been upheld, according to Father Lombardi.

"It is right to ensure every country has a 'margin of appreciation' both regarding the religious symbols in its cultural history and national identity and regarding their display, as has also been recognized by recent sentences of supreme courts in other European countries".

Msgr Aldo Giordano, the Vatican's representative at the Council of Europe, the human rights body which set up the ECHR, said the ruling was "a page of hope for the whole of Europe". "I believe the Court showed great courage and wisdom...in interpreting the feelings of people in Europe who are worried about their traditions, values and identity".

Italian bishops news agency SIR said the verdict "brings order to an area, that of rights and identities, fundamental for the development of Europe, in which a nihilist drift appeared to have become dominant".

The Italian Federation of Evangelical Churches (FCEI), on the other hand, voiced disappointment at "a decision that does not fully realize a secular state" as enshrined in article 3 of the Italian Constitution.

FCEI argued that crosses are not an expression of Italy's common heritage but "baggage from a society dominated by Catholic culture".

"Crucifixes will continue to be present in schoolrooms and courtrooms, but for the minorities who won religious and civil rights 150 years ago, such as the Evangelical Churches, these crosses do not convey a common sense of belonging".


Sonia Lauti's husband, Massimo Albertin, said he was "very disappointed, because the first sentence in this case was outstandingly clear".

But he said he wanted to read the Grand Chambre's ruling to understand it fully.

"It appears to be linked to the 'margin of appreciation' whereby the Court may decide to leave more discretion to individual states in some areas". "But here there are rights to be respected. I don't understand why (rights) in Italy can be different from those in France or other European Union countries".

Luigi Tosti, a Jewish ex-judge recently sacked for refusing to hear trials with crosses in the room, called the verdict "grotesque".

And in the continuing Berlusconi sex saga...

ANSA English News

Berlusconi's lawyers request sex trial postponement

Time needed to examine fresh evidence, says defense team

17 March, (ANSA) - Rome, March 17 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi's lawyers have requested the first hearing of a trial into allegations he used an underage prostitute be postponed from April 6 to give them time to examine fresh evidence from prosecutors.

''We have requested the April 6 hearing be postponed because they have recently presented 20,000 pages of new documents that we must read,'' said Piero Longo, who is part of the premier's defense team.

Berlusconi denies paying to have sex with a Moroccan runaway and belly dancer called Ruby before she was 18 and also rejects charges he allegedly abused his position to get her out of jail after an unrelated accusation of theft last May.

On Wednesday prosecutors said the new evidence showed the premier paid for intercourse with 33 alleged prostitutes after so-called 'bunga bunga' sex parties, including Ruby, who they say he slept with 13 times after she was allegedly recruited at a beauty contest at the age of 16. The premier has said the allegations are absurd, not least because of his age.

''I can't fathom such a barbarous use of justice, so far from reality,'' Berlusconi told Rome-based daily La Repubblica. ''I'm (almost) 75 years old and although I'm naughty, 33 girls in two months seems a bit much even for a 30-year-old.

It's too much for anyone.

In the Ruby case, he risks maximum prison terms of three years for the sex charge and 12 years for the abuse of office charge.

What will we do without him? I suppose he could rule from jail....

ANSA English News

'One-year nuclear freeze under review'

Moratorium mulled after Japan crisis

(ANSA) - Rome, March 22 - The government is mulling a one-year moratorium on its revived atomic power program after the Japanese nuclear crisis, well-informed sources said Tuesday.

The news came a day after Industry Minister Paolo Romani announced a "responsible pause for thought, as other European countries have done," with the immediate priority being to review security around Europe.

Romani said Monday he "hoped" to get "enough information" on EU stress tests to the Italian public before a June 12 referendum but "did not know if we'll have time" since the tests are set to run until the end of the year.

He said Italy had asked the testing process to be "accelerated as much as possible".

Italy last year announced plans to restart a nuclear programme abandoned following a referendum a year after the Chernobyl disaster.

Four latest-generation plants are planned as well as a waste site but locations have not been decided and Italy's regional governors have issued a fresh refusal to have them after the problems in Japan.

Last week Romani said the plans would go ahead as long as safety concerns were resolved but Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said the program would be sunk by the referendum.

The opposition Italy of Values party accused Romani Monday of insincerity in seeking to allay public concerns while secretly being resolute about a program the government has said is essential to Italy's energy budget.

Things are not all a bed of roses here in Italia. If you recall, disposal sites that are not far away are a concern, and this underbelly of Italy shows a dark side fraught with three dangerous cohorts: collusion and money and power.

My response to this next story is, "Yikes!"

ANSA English > News

Lampedusa crisis deteriorates, govt reveals migrant plan

UNHCR calls for more transfers from packed island

(ANSA) - Milan, March 22 - A humanitarian crisis on the southern island of Lampedusa grew worse on Tuesday as the Italian government announced new measures to deal with migrants arriving from turmoil-hit North Africa.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on the government to speed up transfers of around 5,600 mostly Tunisian migrants who have more than doubled the small island's population and are enduring miserable conditions. ''The humanitarian situation on Lampedusa is deteriorating,'' the UNHCR said Tuesday after three boats carrying a total of around 290 more people arrived at the island between Tunisia and Sicily.

''We call on the Italian authorities to increase the number of transfers from the island to other parts of Italy to alleviate congestion on Lampedusa and allow its reception centre to function normally''. Around 2,000 people are packed into the island's reception center, designed to hold 850, while the remaining migrants have been forced to sleep rough, with many complaining of a lack of access to food and toilets.

Despite increasingly critical sanitary conditions, Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio said Tuesday that ''at the moment there are no immediate health risks or epidemics''.

The UNHCR said the excessive number of migrants on the island is fuelling tensions, both among migrants and with local people. Lampedusa residents have protested at the heavy influx of North Africans by obstructing boats trying to let off new arrivals. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has pledged prompt action to evacuate the migrants and said Tuesday he had reached a nationwide deal with regional governments and other local authorities to accommodate up to 50,000 refugees.

Maroni said 50,000 was a ''realistic'' estimate of the number of people likely to arrive, with a United Nations-sanctioned mission seeking to stop an offensive by Muammar Gaddafi's loyalists against rebels in Libya.

Some governors, however, stressed that their regions were only willing to take political refugees, not economic migrants. Italy has not been hit by the mass exodus it feared at the start of the recent wave of uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, which toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

Nevertheless, Maroni said Tuesday that 15,000 undocumented migrants have landed on Italy's shores so far this year, compared to 4,000 in the whole of 2010. He will visit Tunisia, the country of origin of most of those migrants, on Wednesday to discuss ways to halt the stream of arrivals.

''Tunisia is a friendly country and I'm optimistic about the chances of solving the problem,'' Maroni said.

''A question mark remains about Libya, with refugees fleeing from a dramatic situation there''. Maroni has complained that the European Union's reaction to Italy's appeals for help in dealing with the crisis had been ''unsatisfactory''.

His request for 100 million euros in emergency funding received a cool response from other EU member states.

So what will Italy do if no funding is forthcoming from the EU? It's not a pretty picture. Perhaps this is not paradise, after all...

Revamp water use to slash urban hunger, says FAO

Rome-based UN agency intervenes on World Water Day

(ANSA) - Rome, March 22 - The world needs to revamp the way it manages water in cities to ensure fast-growing urban populations have safe, adequate supplies, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on World Water Day Tuesday.

The Rome-based UN agency said that 60 percent of the world's population will be living in cities within 20 years, hiking pressure on urban water supplies for drinking, washing and cooking. Satisfying this demand will require non-conventional alternatives, such as rainwater harvesting in cities for urban agriculture, it said.

''Right now, farmers and cities are competing for water.

Cities are using water then putting it back out, polluting the environment,'' said Javier Mateo-Sagasta, a specialist with FAO's Water Unit.

''It would make so much more sense if more of the water used in the cities was then cleaned and reused in agriculture.

''Doing so would reduce water scarcity and free up more of the precious resource for urban and peri-urban food producers, who would not only spend less on acquiring water but also on buying fertilizers, since treated wastewater is rich in nutrients''.

FAO is promoting urban agriculture as a powerful tool to combat hunger among city dwellers in developing countries.

FAO says it can increase the availability of healthy and affordable food - fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs and dairy products - for the urban poor, and provide them with surpluses they can sell to neighbors.

Italian farmers association CIA, meanwhile, said Italy was the ''champion of waste'' when it comes to water management in its message for World Water Day.

It said the country's water-distribution system was in desperate need of modernization, especially in the south, given that almost a third of the water that runs through it gets lost before reaching the end user.

This sounds like a great idea; lets hope it happens...soon!

March 23
It's another marvelous day; not a cloud in the sky. This morning, I try to figure out if I've painted all I need for the pizza oven; Dino prints out photos of the tiles at Elena's waiting to be cooked and we take a look. With thirty two tiles here ready for me to clean and paint, perhaps I'll paint some to use for a table top, or a tray, or both; that is, if we have all we'll need for this project. Come no?

This in from dear friend, Don, a professor in England who also has a holiday home here, and loves to write:
Dears, Glad to read the Journal, as always! Many connecting thoughts: your "furto" must be the same as our "furtive", and your "sacco di soldi" is like our "bags of space" when parking, say, as is the Italian "sacco di spazio" I think. Also, your "Mia moglie..." you will know is an echo of the inscriptions all over Italy in the time of Mussolini "Il Duce ha sempre ragione" which D.H. Lawrence commented upon and also Allied soldiers saw on landing in Sicily. I am also reminded of the phrase (in translation from the German) in Grimm's Fairy Tales: "a bushel of money". (In the U.S. I believe you still use the "bushel". Half a hundredweight at 56lbs?

There is a distinction, we are sure, between the use of British English and American English...all those "u's" after "o's" (colour, favour) used by the Brits, I mean...

I'm reading History, a marvelous book about Italy, and Don reminds me about Mussolini; here's an interesting excerpt:
After years of civil war in Russia, ending with the victory of the revolutionaries, the new state, the USSR, has been formed. It is to represent the symbol of hope for all the "wretched of the earth," who from the war-lost or won-have gained nothing but a worsening of their trials; whereas it is to represent the famous "Specter of Communism," now menacing Europe, for the Powers and for the landowners and industrialists, for whom the war has been, mostly, a great speculation.

In Italy (headquarters of one of their most sordid branches) they join their servants and some ill-assorted objectors to the mutilated peace in a desperate fight to save their own interests. And they are not long in finding a champion and suitable instrument in Benito Mussolini, a mediocre opportunist, a "compound of all the flotsam" of the worst Italy. After having tried to launch his career under the banner of socialism, he has found it more advantageous to shift to the opposite side of the Powerful established figures (property owners, the King, and later also the Pope). With a platform consisting only of a guaranteed anti-Communism, truculent and vulgar, he has founded his fasci, a collection of vassals and assassins of the bourgeois revolution. And in such company, he defends his employers' interests with the terrorist violence of poor action squads of bewildered mercenaries. The King of Italy (a man with no title to distinction except the inherited title of king) gladly turns over the government of the country to Mussolini.

If this is not enough for you to want to buy the book right now, I'll be surprised. The book is a marvel, and although I am still near the beginning, have a difficult time putting it down and returning to the glorious morning sun.

Dino works on the glicine growing on the balcony, and its leaves are indeed sprouting boldly. Down below, we've just stopped our efforts at plotting out the design of the tiles above the pizza oven, and will wait for two days for the rest of the cooked tiles to be returned from Elena to decide which particular tiles still need painting, or re-painting. More are still to be done, although the design is taking shape.

Sofi lies near me on the cool tiles in the morning sun as I research and define a basting solution for the Portobello mushroom caps, purchased yesterday in Viterbo and planned for today's pranzo.

What's the recipe I settle upon? Well, it's a little of this, a little of that.

Yesterday, Dino returned from his rounds with a stick of citronella for me to put on my face before I work in the garden. I am susceptible to bites from tiny animali (insects) almost too small to detect. They make my face and body swell with welts, and it's enough to keep me out of the garden, although I love it so. What a thoughtful thing for Dino to do!

With two tables of tiles sitting in front of the kitchen window on the terrace, we're in a high state of euphoria. Birdsong heightens my excitement, and Sofi and I fairly dance around the place, so happy to be alive.

Dino moves methodically from place to place, serious but content. Like his father before him, he must have something to do all the time.

These days, his excitement heightens as well, as Formula 1 begins this weekend and he'll be glued to the t v, which is the only time he slows down. I suggested yesterday that he find a way to view it in English, instead of in Italian. That's another project, and he does loves his projects.

Before pranzo, Dino reworks the freezer for it to open on the right side, and wants me there by him just in case as he unscrews and screws the door again. We then find places for the pizza oven tools and the drying racks at the back of the pizza oven, but the inside kitchen doors to the front hall; ones we took off weeks ago, will have to be hung at the back of the house until we deem we no longer need them.

At first, Dino was a bit miffed with me. He wanted the drying racks to fit against the back wall of the summer kitchen; when I balked, he simmered. Why we would take so much care to make the room look wonderful and then put an eyesore in clear view is beyond me. So we jockeyed a bit, and the place where the kitchen doors were formerly stored is now the place where the drying racks will be stored until they are used on weekends, when we wash clothes.

We have a bit of material for two valances to hang against the back summer kitchen door and on the little window to let light in, of the same blue and white striped material as the other fabric in the room. So I meander on to the studio to sew them up, while Dino tells me he'll get the rod for the little window while I work.

He's come up with another idea to hang all the pizza making equipment on an iron rod that he'll have Lorenzo make. It will hang just outside the main kitchen door, high enough to be out of the way but low enough that the pieces can be reached. Oh, how I love so many of his solutions!

He knows by now that the solutions need to be attractive; well, more than attractive. Remember, this is our dream; making our dreams come true is what we're about, and is that brave or careless? Is it foolhardy or practical? When we're lying in the cemetery, what will be told of our lives? Did we end them living life simply and well? Did we love our fellow man? Did we open our hearts and share our love with our neighbors? Only God will know, and you will have to wait to find out.

The Portobello mushrooms, deemed "Bruno" here in Lazio, are marinated and brushed with butter, minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and fresh thyme leaves before putting them on the grill...8 minutes on the bottom side down side and six minutes or so on the reverse. We eat them with the rest of yesterday's polpetti (meatballs) in sauce and a salad. What could be better than this? Oh. Enjoying the meal with friends! So we will!

Dino likes them so much he wants to return to IPERCOOP and pick up more, then invite Candace and Frank for pranzo tomorrow. Since the tiles won't be ready until Friday, when I can paint the tiles we'll need to finish, the place is in a bit of chaos, but so what? Having friends around gets us to sit down and relax, if that's possible.

A bit of my childhood died today along with Elizabeth Taylor, who passed away at age 79. Her voice as a child in National Velvet is one I will never forget, nor will I forget her eyes, both strangely violet and deep.

We're getting up there, chums, so make peace with your loved ones and grasp your sweet memories with them while you can. Remember their hands; the shapes of them, the stories they tell. Remember their eyes, now crinkling at the edges, and the lines; ask them to tell you their stories. Where were they when...what were they thinking; how did they feel about it? Later will be too late; you will ask yourselves questions about them and there will be no answers if you don't ask them now....

Dino calls from Viterbo to tell me Candace and Frank will come to have pranzo here tomorrow; he likes the grilled Portobello mushroom so much he wants our dear friends to enjoy them, too! Lucky for us, there were more at IPERCOOP.

He returns by way of Lorenzo's to give him the iron post project for the oven tools. What would we do without Lorenzo to fabricate our little quirky things?

I can't help rolling my eyes as I read this latest bit of Italian news...

ANSA English News -
New agro minister sworn in despite president's reservations

Romano probed for alleged Mafia links, no charges made

(ANSA) - Rome, March 23 - President Giorgio Napolitano swore in Francesco Saverio Romano as Italy's new agriculture minister Wednesday despite saying he had expressed reservations because Romano is under investigation for Mafia crimes.

The MP is being probed in Palermo over alleged Mafia association and corruption to assist the Mafia.

Napolitano said in a note the gravity of these crimes had prompted him to express reservations to the government about the appointment.

Romano has not been charged with a crime and the fact he is being probed does not necessarily mean he will be indicted.

He replaced Giancarlo Galan, who is the new culture minister following the resignation of Sandro Bondi, who had been heavily criticized after a series of collapses at the Pompeii archaeology site last year.

Romano is the first of a group of lawmakers who changed sides in recent months to support the government to have been rewarded with a cabinet post.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi survived a crunch confidence vote in December by just three votes by luring a few opposition MPs to the government ranks and has since bolstered his majority by winning over several others.

Berlusconi's majority in parliament was slashed last year when House speaker Gianfranco Fini split from the People of Freedom (PdL) party he had co-founded with the premier after months of wrangling and formed his own group.

Romano left centrist Catholic party UDC in September and is part of the self-styled ''responsible'' group of lawmakers who have defected from various opposition parties and are now supporting the government.

Why am I not surprised?

Libya: Italy to command NATO sea operations for arms embargo

Rome in charge of 'maritime component of mission

(ANSA) - Brussels, March 23 - Italy will play a key part in NATO's mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya, commanding sea operations, a spokesman for the alliance said Wednesday.

Italy will "command the maritime component of the Libya mission" enforcing the embargo, said Colonel Massimo Paniz, spokesman for the head of NATO's military committee, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola

Navy ship at Lampedusa to ease migrant tensions

San Marco will take hundreds of Tunisians to Sicily

(ANSA) - Lampedusa, March 23 - An Italian navy transport ship arrived at Lampedusa Wednesday to start easing tensions between migrants and the outnumbered inhabitants of the Mediterranean island.

Italy sent the San Marco into action amid a humanitarian emergency among the 5,500 mostly Tunisian migrants, many of whom are sleeping rough after an 850-bed reception center overflowed.

According to the Italian media, some younger Tunisians have gone on hunger strike and started to self-harm to put pressure on authorities to get them off the island.

The San Marco is already taking Tunisians on board and will ship them to Sicily later in the day where the majority are expected to be repatriated.

"The Navy vessel is able to carry up to 600 people in absolute safety, and this transfer of the Tunisians on Lampedusa will take place today," said Defence Minister Ignazio la Russa. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni flies to Tunis later Wednesday to firm up agreements to stem the flow of migrants and take them back faster.

The minister reached an agreement with Italian regional chiefs Tuesday night to share out an expected exodus of 50,000 refugees from war-torn Libya.

Italy, which has set up a migrant camp on the Tunisian border with Libya, is urging the European Union to share more of the burden of receiving refugees.

After an overnight lull, 80 more Tunisians arrived on Lampedusa Wednesday on board a rickety boat.

Sicilian health authorities on Wednesday doubled the number of first-aid doctors, nurses, ambulance and medical helicopter staff at Lampedusa to avert a health crisis among the migrants.

Lampedusa, closer to Tunisia than to Sicily, has seen some 15,000 arrivals since the start of 2011 compared to just over 4,000 in the whole of 2010.

March 24
There is a problem with our sump pump in the parcheggio, and Dino has found a place in Viterbo where the pump can be fixed if we take it out first. Dino attempts to remove it and is unsuccessful, so he calls Enzo the idraulico (plumber), who responds that we'll have to have it cleaned out first.

Dino tells him he'll do it himself, for it costs €300, and Enzo tells him he'll do it with him. What? How much will he charge? Yes, you want to know what our lives are like here, so we're letting you know.

The good news is that it's a beautiful day.

I do something our doctor tells us not to do: I look up the causes of night sweats for people over (!)65. Having experienced them for a month, I wonder what they mean. I read that it's possibly the symptom of something else...

At first, I'm oblivious to the meaning, and we drive together to shop for food, since the tiles are not ready to be picked up to determine what else I'll need to paint to finish the project.

On the drive over country roads, I want to put out my arm and embrace every leaf of grass as it passes through my fingers; that is, if my arm were long enough. Each thing we pass takes on new meaning; I love it all.

At the parking lot to Superconti, I tell Dino about my internet search and admit for the first time that my symptoms may lead to lymphoma. Dino does not respond. I understand. We have an agreement that we will not keep things from each other, so we move on.

On the way back, I become anxious all of a sudden. At home, the birdsong almost hurts my ears. I want to catch up with you, but what am I to say?

There is a funny email from Duccio, whom we've asked to translate our Italian citizenship applications status. He begins by saying, "To the best of our knowledge (but nobody really knows the ways of Italian bureaucracy)...." We think he doesn't understand what the bureaucrats have written, either, so in a few days we'll return to the Procura in Viterbo with the messages and have them explain. It has something to do with being submitted for final signature, after determining if all the needed affidavits have been obtained. For me, my papers are in their final stage. I suppose that means, Va bene! We're looking for someone to drive Don and Mary to the Fimucino airport when we're not here, and ask around. I hate the idea of Mary having to navigate stairs if they are forced to take the train.

Dino paints the frame around the door of the balcony, and we agree that we'll then work together to cut up all the various pieces of wood that have been lying around the property to burn them. We'll then continue our spring cleaning, for things are looking so good here that we're inspired.

I take out the passino and pulire la breccia (clean the gravel) on the front terrace. Piece by piece, I stand and separate leaves from stone, placing the leaves in the sacco di giardino (garden sack) and dropping the gravel on the ground below me. It's tedium, just as is Dino's repainting of the balcony shutters while he sits on a little cushioned stool near the pizza oven.

The day is lovely and quiet, and we're in no great hurry to do anything; we're each in our own private space, silently next to each other, with our own separate thoughts.

Today I'll make a risotto with chicken and zafferano (saffron) to eat with our left over chicken. We have salvia (sage) growing in the garden, so perhaps I'll add a bit of that, too. I love making risotto, perhaps because it always turns out molto buono (very good). It's one of things I do in which I feel completely confident.

'We hoped Gaddafi would go' says Italy

Frattini welcomes unified NATO chain of command

(ANSA) - Rome, March 23 - Italy wanted a peaceful solution to the Libya crisis and hoped that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi would go into exile instead of defying the international community, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Wednesday.

"We hoped that Gaddafi would choose exile, a hypothesis raised by many to avert the massacre of civilians," Frattini told the Senate, adding that the "only precondition set by the international community was that Gaddafi should leave power".

Because of the "friendship" tying Italy to the Libyan people, he said, "we wanted a peaceful solution to the crisis". On the UN-sponsored mission, the diplomatic chief said: "It's not a question of making war, but preventing war" and the slaughter of civilians. Frattini welcomed the fact that operations were set to come under a unified NATO chain of command. He stressed that the NATO umbrella was needed "because we want to avoid the risk of being co-responsible for unwanted actions" by other countries. The foreign minister also recalled that Italy had frozen Gaddafi-linked assets worth "some six-seven billion euros".

Libya is too close to Italy for us not to take this conflict seriously. If Gaddafi's now frozen assets held in Italy were used to help the people of Libya by providing ways for them to make a living, how wonderful that would be. We remain watchful.

This next bit is too funny and unfortunately, too true.

Berlusconi documentary "Silvio Forever" sparks debate

Trailer for 'unauthorized autobiography' censored by RAI

(ANSA) - Milan, March 23 - A documentary on Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, to be released March 25, is already ruffling feathers in Italy. The national public television network RAI refused to air its entire trailer of Silvio Forever, calling it "inopportune".

Italy's other major broadcast network, Mediaset, is majority owned by Berlusconi, leaving few alternatives for the film's promoters.

Thus a ten-minute segment about the film will air on the relatively unknown satellite station Current, an independent, uncensored television network founded by Al Gore. Current Italia (Sky 130) will show the original trailer refused by RAI, extra footage in which the film's creators explain the title, and the ending theme song, written by Berlusconi's personal lyricist, Loriana Lana, Wednesday at 20:00.

Silvio Forever traces the life of Italy's most famous billionaire and politician through film and video clips, images and interviews that have taken place throughout his life. It is called, ironically, an "unauthorized autobiography", as it largely consists of footage of Berlusconi talking about himself.

"It is not an anti-Berlusconi film", declared the film's creators at a press conference.

This comes as a surprise, given the scandals that have showered on the premier in recent months, because the documentary was written by two of Italy's star muckrakers. Journalists Sergio Rizzo and Gian Antonio Stella wrote The Caste, a sensational bestseller in 2007, detailing graft and corruption in Italian politics.

"This film may disturb the Left which expected us to attack (Berlusconi). We wanted only to make a film on an amazing personality who, with his magic, has an incredible rapport - like no other - with the gut of Italians," said Roberto Faenza, one of the film's two directors.

A one-and-a-half minute trailer posted on YouTube offers a poignant, fast-paced portrait of Berlusconi's oversized personality: his charisma, his uncanny self-confidence, his attention to pretty women. The images and videos are embedded around a video interview with Berlusconi's late mother, Rosa Bossi, who died in 2008.

She is quoted saying, "Silvio is good and generous. One never sees photos of him running around with women or others," words that have taken on new meaning in the light of criminal charges Berlusconi now faces related to private parties he held with dozens of women guests.

The implicit irony of the Bossi interview is why RAI balked at the trailer, judging it to be poor taste.

"Images and words of a deceased person are twisted to satirical ends", RAI said.

My story about Donne in Campo (women in the field) is published today in Italian Notebook:


I so respect and honor these women; women who are counted upon for their strength of character as well as limb, and am sad that they are not given more honor in this country of male dominance. Is there a woman in Italy who can run the government to replace our Prime Minister? There must be, but she is not making herself known. Perhaps this is slowing my application for citizenship down, but so be it.

The afternoon continues to be glorious, and we work together outside putting things away and taking on small gardening tasks. One of my seeds has sprouted a blue flower, but this, as well as the three Ceanothus plants, lacks the vibrancy I'd like to see in their blue hues. What is that all about?

Here's a Ceanothus guide:
From mid March to late April Feed your Ceanothus. Scatter a couple of handfuls of bonemeal around (but not touching) the base of the plant and cover with a mulch of well-rotted compost. mid April Prune summer and autumn flowering ceanothus early June Prune spring flowering ceanothus after they have flowered. mid August Take semi-ripe cuttings. See below for more detailed information on cuttings mid October Plant your new Ceanothus. Container grown examples can be planted at any time of the year but the soil warmth and moisture at this time of year gives the best start. So can one buy bone meal in Italy? We'll ask Bruno. What is it called? In the meantime, I see that it adapts well to the same food given to rhododendron plants. Va bene. There are many rhododendron plants in Italy, so we'll be able to figure it out, and if I remember, I'll let you know.

"Se non puo, non puo" (If you can't, you can't.) is what Rosina responds to me from her balcony when I ask her if I have to go to Coro practice tonight in Attigliano. She tells me that she and Anna can get a ride from Franco, Giovanna's husband, so I don't feel bad about not going.

I have been working around the corner of the house with Dino, cutting wood. Well, he has taken out his electric saw, which scares the heck out of me, and his stand that he has to cut wood is right in front of him. I feed each plank of wood to him "just so" and the pieces fall below the machine as he finishes each cut. He wears gloves and is careful and methodical, not taking any chances to do it himself.

We make a lot of noise, but there's a lot of wood to cut, and none of it can be used for other purposes. We'll have plenty of wood to use for the pizza oven as well as the fireplace. Sorry for the noise, vicini (neighbors).

We finish, and I step up under the giant loquat tree, which is as tall or taller than the house, and pull weeds in that shady spot against the tufa outcropping and rake the hundreds and hundreds of leaves mulching around it.

I fill the garden bin and run out of steam. Dino tells me to stop working anyway, so it's a good excuse to come inside and catch up with you.

Dear GB of Italian Notebook has changed todays' note to reflect who wrote it, and he's a dear. It really doesn't matter who gets the credit; but I love the organization Donne in Campo (Women in the Field) and love what they do.

Rosina's comment above has me wondering the derivation of the word puo. It is potere, which means power. Let's spend a minute or two on the word: al potere means "in power", aka Berlusconi.
Non e potere venire (He wasn't able to come). Here's one you'll surely use here: Posso entrare? (Is it possible/may I come in?) Here's one we've heard many times and had no idea what it meant: Puo darsi (perhaps); Puo molto per noi (He can do a lot for us.)Non ne posso piu (I'm exhausted/ I can't take any more.) Is that how you feel? Va bene! Basta! All right. Enough!

March 25
Palest blue clear skies greet us this morning, and the temperature is quite cool, although we expect a warm and lovely day. Enzo the idraulico arrives to help Dino take out the pump located under the parcheggio tiles, but Dino is not happy; we're expecting Candace and Frank for pranzo, and Dino will have to take the pump to Viterbo right after he and Enzo finish. That means, well, you know. We'll have to call our friends to tell them to "go" before they come here. It's a good thing they're good friends and will understand.

Why don't we put it off? Well, if a worker tells you he'll come, don't tell him no, for the next time you expect him he may not come, although Enzo is reliable. I encourage the work to go ahead, to get it done.

On his way back from Viterbo, I'm hoping Dino will pick up the cooked tiles; since I'll have pranzo staged and ready to prepare after our friends arrive, I expect to paint until the last minute.

I find an article online at ANSA about causes for marital infidelity in Italy. Some years ago, a dear friend commented the adage, "Italian men cheat on their wives and retreat in battle!" In this article, Italian women are as likely to show their dissatisfaction this same way. Do you want to know more?

ANSA News -Sexual apathy drives Italian couples to stray

Appetites down at home but booming outside, study says

15 March (ANSA) - Milan - Italian couples increasingly seek to satisfy their libidos outside their union, reports the Italian Matrimonial Lawyers Association (AMI).

Married couples and domestic partners split almost as often due to sexual apathy at home as they do on account of insufferable in-laws, who, the AMI reports, are responsible for 30% of marital separations in Italy.

"The sexual activity of Italians has not diminished at all. It has, if anything, decreased within the couple, creating so-called 'white marriages', which are unions characterized by the absolute or relative absence of sexual activity, either from the beginning of the marriage, or after the first seven years of its celebration," explained AMI president Gian Ettore Gassani.

In Italy, zero or insufficient sex between partners is behind 20% of marital separations, according to recent studies overseen by the AMI, the Italian Andrology Society, and CENSIS, a sociological and economic research company. In the vast majority of these cases - roughly 70% - it is the male who suffers the proverbial 'headache' or finds other excuses to avoid sex with his female partner.

A growing number of wives are also unfaithful, however, according to the studies.

"There are cases where wives are apparently insensitive to sex within the context of the marriage, but then show themselves to be particularly active and imaginative outside the home," reports Gassani.

The phenomenon is particularly diffuse among new spouses, and not seasoned ones, notes AMI. Separation and divorce papers often demonstrate that "the spouses lacking sexual appetite within the couple are not at all insensitive to sex (in general) and that many manage even more than one extramarital relationship".

Does this have something to do with how the world is changing in general? It surely makes one sad, but thought you might want to know.

Since I can't clean inside, for there is no water, I might as well play outside with Sofi while Dino and Enzo trudge nearby.

March 26
Today's local forecast is for a high of 14 and a low of 5 degrees Celsius, CNN online lists the current temperature at 16 (!) degrees Celsius. What? It feels cool, with plenty of clouds in the sky. Should we not rely on CNN for our forecast?

I move the smaltoed and unpainted tiles to the spots where tiles need to be repainted in the final grid on the front terrace, and at 12:30 am finished painting the thirty one of them, in time for Dino to take them to Elena before pranzo. I can't imagine that all the tiles will come out perfectly, but we'll have to wait for midweek to see. In the meantime, I put the supplies away, and get ready for pranzo. Dino is happy; this is the second day of Formula-1 broadcasts, and he's ready for tomorrow's first race of the season, when Weber gets pole position at the race in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Today's race was shown at 7 AM, and he happily set his alarm.

When Dino is happy, I am happy.

In the U.S., the priest scandals continue, and I'm wondering if there will be an agreement to allow priests to be married and serve in the church. I'm sure that will take forever, if ever, but it seems like a logical solution.

It feels strangely cold and a bit windy, so I layer on more clothes. Any dark clouds seem to have drifted right by, and the rain we're expecting tomorrow does not appear early.

I take the passino to the area above the parcheggio and sort leaves from breccia (gravel) with a blue bucket. Commenting to Dino that it's really tedious, he recommends that I stop.Va bene Anna Farina walks by on her walk to the cemetery and reminds me to turn our clocks ahead one hour tonight.

March 27
We're surrounded by fog. Dino arises early to watch the first Formula-1 race of the season. When we get up, conditions remain foggy. I check the weather online with CNN, and they show that it is Friday! It's a good thing they also have a ten day forecast, which tells me today will be partly cloudy. That's more like it, but no matter.

Weekends are laundry days, for the cost of using energy on weekends is much less. So we put a load of laundry in the washing machine before we leave for church, since it will take 1 hour and a half to complete its cycle. As you may know, we have no dryer; dryers are not commonplace in Italy, use a lot of energy and don't do as good a job as most of the dryers in the U.S.

Don Daniele is the priest, and apologizes for being late. No matter. He's a lovely man and we're fortunate to have him. It's evident that he gives his all and what more could one ask?

Today's mass is in honor of the dead here and all over the world. Don Daniele has no place in his life or his mind for war of any kind, and tells us so. As a matter of fact, I think he talks about lent also as a time of reconciliation. Do give it a thought if there is someone in your life with whom you do not get along.

I can say with my whole heart that refraining from judging one's fellow man/woman is the greatest gift one can give oneself. Since I've made that commitment to myself, it has changed me, as well as lowered my stress level by a palpable amount.

I'm really tired at mass, and Dino and I think the best thing we can do on this overcast and cool afternoon is get into bed and read. By it's already after 3 PM by the time we eat and clean up the kitchen and watch one hour of Prime Suspect on T V.

We've taken a look at the table top at the back of the house, and it is going to be great as the outdoor table we use in front of the kitchen window. We'll take the shutter blue paint, mix it with water and do a wash upon it. First, we'll have to find sturdy legs, and there is a place in Viterbo that will sell castagno (chestnut wood) to use as legs.

Since I have a doctor's appointment in the morning in Viterbo, we'll stop at Centro Legno first to see if they have what we want.

Those nasty Borgias will appear, it seems, on SKY TV here soon in a 9-part series. Its characters, whom you've probably read about, in real life were famous during the Renaissance; the series may appear to be a kind of "Sorpranos get dressed up and make friends with the Church" kind of soap opera.

That reminds me. It stars Jeremy Irons as the pope. I fantasized about Jeremy in a Judy Garland kind of way for years until I saw him in a movie carrying around a catheter bag suspended on a pole. My image of him, or was it my image of myself, was immediately dashed.

We sometimes receive emails from folks in China who don't know how to spell, but pretend they know English. If someone wants to sell to the U.S. market, don't you think they should at least know how to spell check?

March 28
It looks as if there is a dusting of snow on the farthest hills in our near distance; can that be possible? I woke ready for rain and now I see that there is no snow in front of me; instead, the row of trees have a colorless background showing paleness between their trunks! As we leave Mugnano for Viterbo, we pass a striking fagiano (pheasant) along the tall grasses next to the road. Although we don't know what it's called in Italian at the time, we look it up later to let you know.

We're driving to Viterbo, so prima colazione will be at Bar Quadrifoglio(four leaf clover); remember, Italians are a superstitious lot and luck is very important to them; hence naming their bar "Four leaf clover".

With Sofi in the back seat, we drive on to Viterbo to find heavy legs for our big wooden tabletop that will sit outside the kitchen window. But first, we drive to the Procura, to ask them to look at what we printed after viewing our names on the website for people waiting for citizenship. The still dour fellow behind the desk tells Dino and I that we are close to being accepted; we are waiting for signatures of some person sitting behind a desk somewhere in Viterbo.

From there, we drive for an appointment with our good doctor. I tell him about my night sweats, and he wants to see if I am having a reaction to any of the medicines I am taking. I think that is weird, for I have been taking the medicines for a long time, but he thinks it is still possible.

I then tell him I did what he counseled me not to do: I looked up night sweats on the web. He said that lymphoma is the possibility only after all other possibilities have been exhausted. At least he knows what I know. So we agree that I'm going to experiment by taking half the dose of xeristar for a couple of weeks, and then drop it altogether for two more weeks. If I don't have night sweats during that time, xeristar is the culprit.

He asks us if our water is all right, and shows us an article about arsenic in the water of many townships around. If you recall, Orvieto had a major problem with it a year or two ago. From what he can tell, we are not in any trouble with our water, but we will monitor the situation. The article had to do with towns around Lago di Vico, south of us.

We thank him and drive to pick up the table legs and then to a local wood fabricator, to purchase lengths of wood to encase the tops of the table legs into a frame. The legs will be stained a wood color; the top will be washed with pale blue and white. Now Dino needs special screws, but thinks he may have them at home; hence his MacGyver sopranome (nickname).

As we approach the lumber yard, we pass a Circus tent and a few pens of circus animals.

It has rained off and on all morning, but now skies are blue with dusty white clouds that radiate light where they face the sun; how lovely!

After pranzo, I get domestic behind the ironing board; I iron our sheets and then do some house cleaning. It's too wet outside to garden, but I also research roses; Dino agrees that we will purchase one large climbing rose; to grow in front of the three viburnums east of the summer kitchen.

My idea is that it grows to form an arch over the back gravel path in front of the caves and then grow up the tufa wall, spreading out in gay profusion under both Rosina's and GianFranco's houses. There is a deep shade of pink that will be perfect against the brown tufa cliff. Time for more internet and book research before picking a rose plant up at Michellini from our friends later this week.

Dino tells me that it is his interest this summer to concentrate his gardening time on the terrace; mostly ignoring the middle garden aside from the irrigation systems he has put in place. I think that's fine, for the simpler we make this place to manage, the happier we will be.

I do the research and make a list of climbing roses, and we'll take that with us when we shop this week. Meanwhile, Dino leaves to change something about the wood for the table, while below us someone takes advantage of a lack of rain to weed whack. I think the ground is too wet, but what do I know?

I count at least three hundred glicine (wisteria) buds on the first four plants on the terrace; the newest two seem devoid of much growth at all. So look for a great profusion next month, when the first four should be at their peak.

I have not checked the four glycine (wisteria) plants in the middle garden, for we've been putting a table together from old hard castagno (chestnut) wood planks and new legs and braces. This is a project made for Dino, and I help him steady things; otherwise, he's happily on his own.

We will put a white/pale blue wash on the top, and now I'm wondering if the metal chairs we have been using on the terrace are just too formal. That's for another day. Right now, we'll stain the legs and put the wash on the top, liking the way an old wooden table looks in a French magazine. I think the chairs in the kitchen would look just right with it, actually.

Rain stopped earlier, and any dark clouds seem to be moving quickly by. GianFranco stops by to tell us that Armando will be here tomorrow morning to begin work on the ancient tufo arch above the mangiatoio (animal feeding trough). That will be interesting to watch, and we will be here...

I recall that pigs and goats and sheep lived in Mugnano up until the 1950's, some in the bottom floor of the houses, and this area must have been one of the places where some of them lived and ate. We're thankful that those days are long past, but look forward to the area restored to some sort of characteristic order.

Thankfully, our house was definitely not one where animals lived...the original floors still here from the early 1930's are too slippery... There is Coro practice tonight, and some new hymns that Laura loves, so I look forward to learning them along with my Coro buddies.

Don Daniele arrives late, but with a Yamaha keyboard; he can play well as well as sing well...well, well, well...

The session lasts longer than usual, with Dino and Sofi patiently waiting for me in the car. We learned some new pieces to sing for Pasqua, and it was wonderful to see our priest standing in front of us in his black jeans, black v-neck sweater and grey priest's shirt with a white collar, just in front and to the side of St. Joseph, who was on one knee, looking lovingly down below him.

It reminded me of St. Joseph the Worker statue. Do you know they are used successfully to sell one's home? I'll tell you all about it tomorrow; I'm too tired.

March 29
Today I drop my Xeristar daily dose by half and should continue to take 30 mg. of it for two weeks, then stop it entirely to see if the night sweats end. Remember this journal is a reminder for us as well as we hope some fun for you. So do bear with us. Thanks.

So about St. Joseph the Worker...
When we were unsuccessfully trying to sell our Mill Valley California, house before moving here, we purchased a small statue of St. Joseph the Worker. Instructions were to bury it in the ground, face down, with his head facing the house.

We followed the instructions, but did not make the hole deep enough, so his head snapped off as Dino pushed it in to the hole. We glued it and reburied it the next day and said a prayer to him to help us. If you're going to do this, don't forget the prayer...

An offer came in within days, but there was a problem. The buyers backed out, but we were left with their deposit. (I think that was because his head snapped off the first time.)

Another offer came in soon after, and we sold with no problems or contingencies. Our house had been on the market for months, and this was an interesting turn of events.

When you sell your house, dig up the statue and take it to the new place where you'll live. We have ours here, but don't expect to need it. Our next property we already have... in the Mugnano cemetery, and this property will pass down to Terence and his family.

This should give you a laugh and perhaps even make the sale, if you need it.

Back to Italia...

The crew arrives, and there are four of them; Dino thinks the work will be finished in a day or two. We're used to having a construction job go on and on, for our favored team has two workers. They promise a beautiful job and two arcs over the ancient mangiatoio (feeding trough).

Luca, who worked with Stefano years ago here, is part of the team, and he was a favorite of Sofi's; now she does not really remember him.

One of the workers is an Ippoloti, a Mugnano family, so Dino works on the family tree for them, and tells me he will give him a print out of what he has prepared so far for the family, asking him to take the document to his family and insert some dates and more names, if he can get them for him. The Albero Geneologico di Mugnano (Mugnano Family Tree) Project continues...

Birdsong and clouds and sun abound, and at least it is clear and mild. Dino works on the table, staining the legs a beautiful color, and I help him with the top, which is put on saw horses to repair a few spots before we put a wash on it. You'd think this place was in Provence, with all the blue and white. That place gives me inspiration; this place gives me joy.

There is a term anti tarlo (anti termite), and it is used to protect wood against termites. My brother had a girlfriend in prep school whose cognome (family name) was Tarlow. I wonder what he and more-so she, would think if she knew what her name meant.

The workers leave early for pranzo, and while they're away, Dino makes a copy of the Ippoliti family tree for one of the workers. As soon as they return, the cement mixer grinds away, and since the grotto has been completely cleaned out, perhaps the entire job will be finished before they leave today. Come no? (Why not?)

In the meantime, Dino returns to work on the table. I'm looking forward to putting the blue and white wash on the top. The workers bring the iron supports for the arc, and they are at once characteristic and brilliant; the arc is set below the arch and the tufo blocks are set above them, using the curved support for...support! If you don't know, an arch is the strongest support you can have. We'll be sure to take photos. Why do they use them? Well, they always have, even going back centuries. So what better answer is there for a muratore to give?

Perhaps more of my tiles are cooked, and later Dino will drive to Elena's to find out if I need to paint more. Perhaps he should take some tiles in the car, just in case...

In the meantime, he puts a coat of anti tarlo on the bottom of the tabletop. Since the three planks are made of castagno (chestnut) wood, they are very, very strong. So the fact that one of the planks is a bit out of line makes it quite difficult for Dino to correct it. Since this is a simple country table, we were never expecting perfection. Somehow it will work out just fine.

Nearby, the team of four plus Gianfranco, (who won't leave for a moment and helps inside the cave by throwing trowel by trowel of intonico on a wall to protect it) chatter away as if they are singing chickens in the Music Man ("Pick, pick, pick a little...").

Parts of both the middle column and the left side are chiseled out, as Marie shudders above, fearful that the entire back of their house will cave in. Below, the workers are more fearless, with plenty of machismo to go around.

The smaller support is then shoved into place, and the tufa bricks are inserted with intonico in between. This arch is located a bit further in front of the larger arch, as if they are steps, and the look is wonderful. Two small ancient pieces of ceramic found on our property (a handle and a more rectangular piece) are inserted into the intonico as details.

There is more work to do, including work on the bank, I think, and the team will arrive at 8AM tomorrow. I'm hopeful they can put some kind of strong intonico on the bank to keep the weeds away; that is a real problem during rainy season, and the bank is a definite problem for Rosina as well as Gianfranco and his wife, Marie.

Bummer. At the end of the day a headache looms, with ringing in my ears as well. I'll tough it out for a few more days, taking 1000mg. Tachiprina and 1 Difmetre tonight. Perhaps the change to a lower dosage of Xeristar (60mg to 30mg) was a shock to my system. Let's hope conditions change tomorrow. Buona notte.

March 30
I continue the Xeristar 30mg, and have no headache this morning. Fog clears and the muratores are late; the 8 A M time seems to have drifted along with the fog. An hour later they are here, doing a masterful job of the arches, with GianFranco right in the middle of them with a ladder. I call him Romeo, climbing to his Giuliette, aka Marie.

What I later see, is GianFranco on the ladder, adding slaps of intonico to the bank with a trowel. He and the muratores and Dino all agree that weeds growing in the soft tufa bank, spread by airborne seeds, are a danger, so he takes advantage of the workers' prepared intonico (plaster) to put protection onto the bank. That will be a great help, we think.

Elsewhere, on the terrace, we've moved the wicker conch shell back from the front of the entrance to the formerly secret garden, where we are putting down thick tiles as a base on which the wicker sofa and ottoman will sit, protecting the bottom of the furniture from rain. We call it a conch shell, for it is shaped with a back and sides that come up and over where people sit, and is big enough for two adults comfortably.

We'll have to decide today its permanent location so that we can put the tiles down on sand. Not wanting to take advantage of the muratores , Dino drives off to pick up sand himself, and while he's at it, drives to Il Pallone to shop for pranzo.

But first, Marie (GianFranco's wife) arrives to look at the work done below their house, and I invite her to look around the garden and for the morning merenda (snack) given to the muratores. We have a good time walking around and she stays for caffé and muffins.

Dino and I turn the table top over that we are working on and add a blue checked cloth, to serve the food and drinks upon; the men especially like the muffins, a creation from one of my made-up recipes. Sure, it's now on the site.


After the men go back to work and Marie leaves to shop for their pranzo, I look up in amazement at how beautiful the day is here. We've uncovered the tabletop and I can't wait to put a wash upon it.

Dino has repaired a number of cracks in the wood with an Italian product called Sintolit, and I'll have to ask Dino to explain what it is; it has repaired cracks in the wood nicely, as though it's the kind of transparent epoxy used to fill in holes of Travertine marble. (Dino says that is the correct explanation of sintolit).

I so love living here, and in a conversation with Marie before she left about the people of Mugnano in which she spoke about the different factions of the village, I responded that we don't judge anyone for any reason, and perhaps that is why we get along with everyone. I add that not judging others makes a person's life happier, and she agrees. It's a possibly acquired attribute that I recommend for one and all, and it's never too late to acquire it.

The muratores finish and leave, while GianFranco remains on his ladder, slapping trowels of cement on the back ripa (bank) under his house to deter weeds and protect the bank from any more water damage. We'd love him to continue to work on the entire ripa, but Dino does not expect him to, nor does Dino have an interest in doing the same on our adjacentripa. Marie did tell me she loved flowers and likes the idea of a climbing rose of ours growing upon the ripa under their house, so soon it will happen.

Dino drives off to buy sand, and returns for pranzo with three big bags of it, which he'll put down on the area we've measured in front of the secret (?) garden. The tiles await, so as soon as the sand is put down, we can put the tiles down and then the two pieces of wicker furniture.

Above, clouds form, and we expect a bit or rain tonight, followed by lots of sun for the next week or so. Hoo ray! This afternoon, we'll put the wash on the tabletop, and I can't wait!

The wash is a great success, and we think we're going out to pick up a piece from Lorenzo to use to hang our pizza oven tools in the summer kitchen, but we hear that the new priest, Don Daniele, is going to bless the houses in Mugnano this afternoon. Boh!

We scoot home after looking at the house of a friend who is not here but has water damage caused by her upstairs neighbor. At home we'll talk with her on the phone to see what she wants to do about it.

In Italy, if several parties own a building, they are each responsible for care and maintenance of the building; that means that roof expense is borne by all. So the people who created the damage to her flat want to repair the roof where the damage exists but want her to share the expense.

While we wait to speak with her on the phone and to greet Livio and the priest, Dino does fine sanding on the table and then puts a clear coat of satin on top. It will be a table for outside use, so needs a protective coating. I can't wait to use it!

Glycine continues to sprout in both the terrace and the middle garden; even the smallest and feeblest of the glycine in the middle garden sprouts leaves. Not all plants will flower, but the ones that do will create a grand profusion!

Don Daniele and Livio arrive to bless the house, and we learn that the priest paints ceramics, so have a bit to talk about. Sofi is an angel in my arms, lying like a doll with her head hanging down as the blessing is said. She is one very good dog, and as a treat, Silvia is coming on Friday to groom her. Yesterday I noticed that with all her hair she was very hot in the sun, and that's not all right.

After they leave, we drive to Lorenzo's to pick up the iron stand for the pizza tools to hang in the summer kitchen. He makes it as we wait, and I am horrified that he does not use any protective glasses at all. One spark could ruin his entire livelihood. I hope he changes his mind and wears something to protect his eyes and face.

Back at home, the new blue table top is a beauty, and if weather is good tomorrow, we'll put it outside where it belongs, when Dino will put one more clear coat on top to protect it.

Where oh where is Stefano? Dino called him last week and he was told our favorite muratore would arrive "In these next days" to install the tiles in the summer kitchen and repair a hole on the back kitchen wall. Now we are ready for the tiles for the pizza oven to be installed as well. But no sign of the man.

There are just two tiles that are smaltoed and not painted, so I will do some kind of design on them, perhaps for a small tray, and we'll take them to Elena in the next day or so. Otherwise, I'm ready to put all the ceramics supplies away and study bread making, a la Francese.

Whenever I'm outside on the property, I'm bending down to pick up loquat leaves; there are three trees including one giant, and this is the season they shed mature leaves and grow new ones. Perhaps tomorrow I'll do more cleaning of the gravel on the terrace, and that seems to be a lifelong activity; I need to find a fun way to do it.

While we're in the car, we pass plenty of men and some women, just sitting on chairs on their property, or on a bench, passing time. Whenever will we do that?

This afternoon while we put down the tiles for the conch shell, the wind picked up and we thought we would have storms; somehow that did not happen, and the clouds and wind just blew away. So there is no rain, and tomorrow we look forward to lots of sun. GianFranco wants to return early to finish his work on the ripa and to pulire (clean). When he's finished, I look forward to setting some of the big green glass bottles and a hydrangea or two on the mangiatoio in the shade.

March 31
It's the last day of the month already! What a busy month it has been, and so many changes have occurred to the property! The table is more wonderful than I expected, helped I'm sure by last night's dreams.

What(!?)...you say? Well, about two hours after turning off the light, a monster of a headache took hold of my head as if my temples were in the grip of a vise. As if that were not enough, pain shot up the veins on the back of my neck until I pushed myself out of bed to the solace of my headache cocktail.

Once asleep, the most marvelous dream occurred, in which I was surrounded by fabrics of differing weights and colors, all blended in party style just for me. It seemed friends I did not know had all come to party at our house, and each brought a sizeable piece of fabric; one more marvelous than the next, piled on a table before me.

By the time I awoke, still somewhat dazed, the next step in my fantasy real life took shape as I determined that fabrics I've collected over the years and made into tablecloths and napkins will now become covers for chair and bench cushions; all to work wonderfully with the new table on the terrace.

Of course upon descending to the bottom floor, I moved to the vetrina where they were stored, taking out a black plaid with pastel flowers and a blue with red flowers, just to get a sense of it all; and yes, there will be many of them. "Take your pick!" we will say to guests, as they sit upon the black iron chairs and settle in to rest on their special cushion for a day.

This is my second day of taking xeristar 30mg. The night sweats continued last night...

Muffins it is for prima colazione; the ones I fixed for the muratores yesterday, so tasty that even GianFranco took one, although it was against the advice of his doctor...sometimes one has to just take the chance when the perfume of a thing pulls you in...

We move the table outside, just where it will remain for the rest of its days, we think; especially if we are permitted to continue the roof above it to the two newest glycine (wisteria) below the newest wooden pillars. This afternoon, Dino will put a second coat of polyurethane on top to protect it.

Once smitten by the taste of the muffins with cappuccino this morning (as usual with a macchiato for me), Dino agrees to take me to pick up the climbing rose for the East side of the summer kitchen. I already know the color, and have the list of possibilities plus the John Scarman Rose book for reference. If you love roses, this book is a fine reference guide, and you can find it used on Amazon.

Do I make my own piping for the cushions?? Let's see what the mercerias in Viterbo have to say....

Well, I've done some research, and am not ready to cut bias cloth for the piping of the cushions, so purchase some cord already attached to sew into the material on the edges. I also buy bias cloth in a couple of colors, but can't remember what Italians call it, and Dino will take me to a merceria in Orte later this afternoon for cordone (cord) to use inside it. It's as if I rule my life these days by an imaginary devil who teases in a whisper, "I bet you can't, I bet you can't"...Might as well see what I can do. It's all a fantasy life, anyway.

Sofi is excited because we're on our way to Michellini, the wonderful vivai (nursery) in Viterbo, where after consulting with Tiziana, we agree upon a Zephirine Drouhin climbing rose, as well as five Medilland white and five cascading rosemarinos. These last ten will be watered quite a bit for the next few days and then transplanted into the tufa planter above the parcheggio closest to the house, where everything has been removed and sprayed to get rid of the tough grass that grows into every plant and is a devil to destroy. We've used these marvelous roses and rosemarino plants there before, and they also grow in the companion planter nearby, which has no devil grass problems.

We stop to pick up a roast chicken and we're back home, where sun shines brightly; it's time for pranzo.

This afternoon, I cut foam into rounds for cushions for the iron chairs, and fiddle with fabric that we already have to decide which to use on which cushions. Not until we pick up the cord will I finally decide, and that will happen later today.

Stefano won't be here to work until early next week, but we'll be ready for him. In the meantime, some of the glycine flowers are more than an inch long! the rest aren't far behind.

I research the Zephirine Drouhin rose we've just purchased, and think it was a good decision. Now I must turn my concentration to pizza making, for our first April guests will arrive in a week or so and Dino told them we'd serve pizza. I also can't forget to study bread-making terms. I want to sew; I want to paint; I want to just sit and listen to the birds, but look at me! I'm on my way out to the garden to pull weeds and clean gravel...but I'll be listening to the birds...

It's a grand way to end the month, with plenty to look forward to. Hope it's the same with you....

Oops. That message was written a few hours ago. The month ends in less than two hours and I end I with another throbbing headache and a medicine cocktail. Sigh.

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